Kei hadn’t even wanted to come here. As soon as he’d gotten an invite—which was just Hinata yelling at the end of practice for everyone to come to the bonfire he was hosting this weekend—he’d decided that, no, he was not needed nor particularly wanted there.
And yet Yamaguchi had convinced him to come, despite his incessant rationalization that they already saw their teammates too much as was, and thus they didn’t need to go spend more time with them, which he still stood by. But Yamaguchi had retorted that they had nothing better to do (though Kei could probably list a few things), and plus they hadn’t gone to the last three team bonding things, and Yamaguchi didn’t want to fall out of the loop. Kei thought that he himself would rather come to an unsightly demise than go to anything referred to as “team bonding.”
Still, here he was, sitting on a bench that was… precariously close to the warmth of the fire that Daichi had spent five minutes lighting while Sugawara laughed at him, but it was cold and Kei hadn’t brought gloves, so precariously close was hardly close enough. He held his hands out towards the flames, the heat licking at his palms.
If Kei ignored the ever-escalating voices of his more wild teammates (which he did), he was surrounded by soft conversations. Daichi, Sugawara, and Asahi all sat together on a bench, and in terms of gesticulation, it appeared as though Sugawara was telling the other two a story. Kiyoko handed Yachi a pair of mittens, and the latter thanked her profusely. Ennoshita, Narita, and Kinoshita huddled together, laughing about something someone (probably Tanaka) had said. They all spoke softly enough for the slight wind to carry their voices away.
And, Kei thought, maybe he could’ve been having a decent time, if Yamaguchi had actually shown up. Which he hadn’t.
Kei glanced down at the empty spot on the bench next to him, and he sighed. Yamaguchi had spent so much time convincing Kei to come, so he’d thought that he would’ve at least found it of interest to come himself. Instead, Kei had spent the first half an hour after he’d arrived explaining to questioning teammates that no, he didn’t know where Yamaguchi was or why he wasn’t here yet.
Kei didn’t have long, however, to ponder the emptiness of the seat beside him. Tanaka sat—more like slammed—down on the bench and, much to Kei’s dismay, threw an arm around Kei’s shoulders as some sort of comradely gesture.
“Tsukishima!” he exclaimed, much too loud and much too enthused, “You’re tall, right?”
Kei stared at him, unamused.
“You are,” he continued when he’d gotten no response. “So, you can reach,”—Tanaka’s eyes shifted up to the branch of a tree that hung over their heads and he lifted a hand to point at it—“that.”
Kei’s gaze followed to where Tanaka pointed, and a packet of marshmallows sat in the crook of the branch. Kei blinked.
“How did that happen?”
Tanaka scratched at the back of his neck. “We were practicing.”
“With a bag of marshmallows,” Kei deadpanned.
“At least it wasn’t open, right?” Tanaka laughed, and Kei looked back over his shoulder to see Kageyama, Hinata, and Nishinoya all staring at him with a certain expectancy in their eyes. He glanced back up at the marshmallows in the tree.
“Tanaka-san, I’m not six meters tall.” Kei waved off the request with a flippant flick of his wrist. “Plus, if Hinata tries really hard, I’m sure he can jump that high.”
Hinata eyed the marshmallows and began to bend his knees, as if he were seriously considering it. Kageyama smacked the back of Hinata’s head before he could jump, and Kei let out a slightly amused puff of laughter.
“Looks like the marshmallows are lost forever, then,” said Tanaka dejectedly, as if it’d get Kei to change his mind and suddenly grow four more meters of height.
“Looks like it,” Kei agreed, mimicking Tanaka’s wistful tone. “The wind might—”
“Wait,” Hinata suddenly interjected, “Tanaka-san! I think I have a stepladder!” Hinata proceeded to bound off towards his house before anyone had acknowledged his revelation.
Kei glanced over at the third-years, to see if they’d been listening in on the conversation. They hadn’t, but Kei was sure that if they had, they’d have told Hinata what a terrible idea it was to balance on a stepladder right next to a fire, especially when it was windy like it was. And, well, they’d notice soon enough, probably. Kei held his hands out towards the fire again, thinking that maybe it was time for him to leave, before someone died. (It wasn’t like he was needed here, anyway, besides to apparently get marshmallows out of a tree, which he couldn’t even do.)
Sighing and watching as his warm breath puffed out into the cooler air, Kei stood from his spot on the bench and stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets. He’d taken a grand total of five steps before he was stopped.
“Tsukishima-kun,” Yachi spoke from behind him, so he turned to look at her. She wrung her hands together in front of her. “Are you leaving?”
Kei shrugged. “There’s nothing for me to do here.”
A small, knowing grin spread across Yachi’s face, “Because Yamaguchi isn’t here?”
As Kei opened his mouth to respond, Daichi started to yell for Hinata to get off the stepladder (just like he’d predicted would happen). After Hinata had shamefully dismounted the ladder with no marshmallows in his hands, Yachi spoke again.
“It’s early. He might still show up.”
She was right, really; it’d only been an hour since Kei had arrived, and Yamaguchi could have been running late. Perhaps something had come up, but he’d still make it here, eventually.
Kei sighed (again). He couldn’t have Yamaguchi showing up to find Kei had already left. “Alright,” he said, “I’ll stay a little longer.”
“Good! Hinata and I were just about to get the food.”
After nodding at her, Kei retreated to his lonely bench. Maybe Yamaguchi was right, and Kei was already “out of the loop.” Or he’d never been in it.
Hinata came around with food shortly thereafter, and Yachi trailed behind him with drinks. Kei wasn’t particularly hungry, so he just took one of the juice boxes Yachi offered. He poked the straw through the film and held the box up with both his hands, resting his elbows on his knees. He wondered if his team thought he looked weird sitting there alone.
The sun had recently set, and traces of light were still left in the sky; the stars had not yet come out and the wind rustled the dying leaves in the trees. Kei decided to text Yamaguchi, which he’d been holding off doing in case Yamaguchi were to show up right when Kei sent the message. The more time passed, the less plausible this outcome seemed.
‘Are you planning on coming?’ he sent.
As he waited for a reply, he fiddled with the bendy straw of his juice box. It was hardly a couple of minutes before Kei received a response: ‘omg tsukki your text woke me up i was just taking a nap’.
Kei blinked at the screen. A nap—he wanted to laugh. Of course Yamaguchi had accidentally napped too long, it was only his nature. That boy fell asleep any and every chance he got. It was sort of endearing, except when Kei had to clean Yamaguchi’s drool off of his clothes, or when he was left alone at a bonfire with all his teammates as a result of it.
‘No one here is talking to me. You’ve made me into an outcast, Yamaguchi.’ Kei replied, neglecting his juice box on the bench beside him as he texted with both hands. He didn’t notice when the wind blew the box to the ground.
Yamaguchi’s quick response was honest, at least: ‘or you’re talking to no one ? you’ve made yourself into an outcast tsukki don’t blame me;;’. And, Kei couldn’t deny that Yamaguchi was right. Kei had barely any time to think about that, however, as a second text came in rapid succession: ‘but worry not! i’ll be there soon’.
After replying with a quick ‘See you soon’, Kei found himself thinking of Yamaguchi’s bedhead (that he was sure to have at that moment, just waking from a nap). Kei had seen various versions following their countless number of sleepovers, but that was mutual—though Kei’s bedhead was more tame considering the length of his hair. And in turn, Kei imagined Yamaguchi attempting to flatten his kinked hair in the mirror before getting frustrated at that one ever present flyway and giving up. Kei had long ago become accustomed to Yamaguchi’s mannerisms, and unlike most people’s, which he found bothersome, Yamaguchi’s were… natural—comforting, even.
Kei shook his head. Enough of that.
He averted his attention up to the bag of marshmallows that sat pitifully up in the tree. He absentmindedly wondered how long they would be there when someone speared a stick up towards them and missed, causing Kei to jump as the stick clattered to the ground not a meter from him. He looked down to see Nishinoya with a bundle of sticks in one arm, aiming another stick with the other. He stuck out his tongue and closed one eye as he aimed, and Kei decided to promptly get out of the way before he were to be impaled.
Yamaguchi would be here soon, anyway, Kei thought as he stood off to the side alone, his hands again stuffed in his jacket pockets. He watched as the fire flickered back and forth with the wind and ashes swirled up towards the sky, where all signs of the previous day were gone. Stars peaked through the branches of the trees. Kei’s gaze flitted back down to his teammates, and he didn’t quite understand how this was “team bonding.” Everyone just hung around who they were already “bonded” with, anyway. He’d be sure to tell this to Yamaguchi so that he’d never have to show up to another of these ever again.
“Tsukishima.” Sugawara’s voice and soft touch to Kei’s shoulder to get his attention caught him by surprise, as he hadn’t seen Sugawara approach. “Any news on Yamaguchi?” Before Kei had time to respond, Sugawara assured, “Not that we don’t like to have you here alone—!”
“It’s fine,” Kei responded, his pointer finger tracing the edge of his phone in his pocket. “Actually, he’s on his way now.”
Sugawara smiled one of his knowing smiles that made Kei feel unnaturally exposed before he spoke lightly: “I thought so.”
One of Kei’s eyebrows involuntarily shot up.
“You look—not antsy, but…” Sugawara trailed as he began to justify himself, “impatient? You’re waiting for him to show up.”
Kei blinked, “It’s that obvious?”
Sugawara scratched at back of his neck, and the wind ruffled his hair. “You’re standing off out here alone, and you’re fondling your phone in your pocket… It’s not too difficult to guess what you’re waiting for.”
“Ah.” Kei frowned.
“Ehh—Was that crossing a line?” Sugawara took a half step backwards.
“No,” Kei said, waving his hand in front of his face. “It’s fine. But yeah, he’ll be here soon.”
Sugawara looked past Kei’s shoulder for a moment, a grin spreading across his cheeks. “Speaking of…” he said, nodding back to where he was looking.
Kei turned as Yamaguchi was only a few steps from him, and he let out a slight sigh of relief upon the sight of him. Yamaguchi’s hair was only slightly more messy than usual—though that was probably to blame on the wind, and not Yamaguchi’s prior nap—and he held a folded purple blanket in the crook of his left arm. (Kei had a matching one back at his house, and he felt the tips of his ears heat at the thought of it. Kei’s mom had made the blankets for them when they were eleven.)
“Waiting for me, Tsukki?” Yamaguchi asked with a impish grin, coming to a stop next to Kei. Kei scowled; apparently he needed to stop being so obvious. Yamaguchi snorted at Kei’s expression, but then turned to greet the other awaiting him: “Sugawara-san, good to see you!”
“You too,” Sugawara replied, his smile not leaving his face, “It’s nice of you to finally show up.” His tone was playful, teasing in a way that he didn’t speak to Kei.
Yamaguchi grimaced, “Sorry, sorry. I fell asleep!”
Kei thought he’d feel more in place once Yamaguchi had arrived, but so far he felt slightly more outcasted. Yamaguchi was friends with everyone on the team, after all—he didn’t even need to go to “team bonding” things because, somehow, he already was bonded with the lot of them. Perhaps this was something to which Kei should’ve aspired, but he had no inclination to do so. He’d much rather stand off awkwardly to the side than humor Hinata as he spoke through onomatopoeias or Nishinoya and Tanaka as they cried about Kiyoko. Kei only had a capacity for so much, and even being around them sometimes was pushing it. He supposed Yamaguchi was the mediator.
Before Kei even realized what was happening, Yamaguchi had grabbed hold of his jacket sleeve and had started pulling him towards the others.
“C’mon, Tsukki,” he said, “Let’s go sit.”
Kei followed as Yamaguchi approached the fire, teammates greeting him upon sight. Yamaguchi didn’t let go of Kei’s sleeve until they found a seat.
They sat together on the same bench that Kei had before occupied alone, and Yamaguchi set his blanket in his lap. Kei noticed that he was wearing mittens. (Smart, he thought, with his hands still buried in his pockets.)
“What’d you do while I wasn’t here?” Yamaguchi suddenly asked, turning his attention from his other teammates and to Kei. “Not just sulk, I hope.”
“You did, didn’t you?” Yamaguchi laughed. “Sulkyshima.”
“I didn’t,” Kei argued, a moment too late.
“Hm,” Yamaguchi hummed, twiddling the thumbs of his mittens together. A gust of wind blew and Kei’s abandoned juice box rolled into the fire. “Don’t know if I buy it, Tsukki.”
“To be fair,” Kei started, watching Yamaguchi’s hands, purposefully not focusing on how ridiculous (and fairly endearing—which, no fair) Yamaguchi’s hair looked because of the wind. “if I did, it would have been reasonable. You convinced me to come and then weren’t here, and it’s cold and windy, and people are loud.”
“You’re cold?” Yamaguchi repeated back, frowning.
Kei shrugged. He was, but it wasn’t really something to be worried about. Nonetheless, Yamaguchi began to unfold the blanket in his lap. He held it in front of him and shaked it out a bit, before he turned to Kei and draped the blanket over his shoulders.
Kei stared at him. “Thanks,” he said as Yamaguchi pulled the ends of the blanket close together in front of him. Kei took his hands out of his pockets to hold the blanket closed.
“Better?” Yamaguchi inquired, a faint blush dusting his cheeks. Kei just nodded, turning his gaze back to the fire. He hoped none of his teammates had been watching the exchange, but Yachi tore her eyes away as soon as Kei looked to her. He held the blanket slightly tighter.
And at the next gust of wind, Kei heard a thunk from behind where they sat. He turned to look and—sure enough, the marshmallows had fallen out of the tree.
Tadashi squinted at the bag before looking around for a culprit to have thrown them, but no one else was near enough. Kei let out a chuckle.
“It fell out of the tree,” he said, his gaze drifting back up to the crook in the branch where the bag had before resided.
Yamaguchi blinked at him. “Do I want to know?”
Kei shrugged, but stood from the bench and walked over to the marshmallows, picking up the bag with one hand as he held Yamaguchi’s blanket together with the other.
“The half-brains got it stuck in the tree by playing volleyball with it,” Kei explained as he sat back down, setting the bag next to him on the bench.
“I’m being generous.”
Yamaguchi let out a snort-ish kind of giggle and Kei wished it wasn’t contagious, but the corners of his mouth turned up regardless. Yamaguchi looked softer, somehow, with the light of the fire flickering over his face.
It wasn’t long after that Yamaguchi reached around Kei’s back and Kei’s breath caught momentarily in his throat, but Yamaguchi just grabbed the bag of marshmallows on the other side of Kei and retracted his arm. Kei cleared his throat as Yamaguchi ripped the bag open.
“Tsukki, I’m going to make you a marshmallow,” Yamaguchi declared, scanning the ground around them for sticks he could use to roast the marshmallow on. He found one fairly easily thanks to Nishinoya’s prior spearing attempts.
“You know I don’t like them burnt, though,” Kei said, knowing full well that Yamaguchi had never not burnt a marshmallow in his entire life.
“Picky, picky,” Yamaguchi replied, waving a hand at Kei before shoving the hand into the bag of marshmallows. After he’d taken one out and stuck it on the end of his stick, he got off of the bench and squatted nearer to the fire. “I won’t burn it this time,” he turned back to Kei and said, but his stick was already pointed into the fire and—
“Yamaguchi,” Kei refrained from laughing, “It’s already burning.”
“What? No way,” Yamaguchi looked back at the stick he held out towards the fire and sure enough, the marshmallow had already caught on fire. “What?!”
“Tch,” Kei clicked teasingly, “I guess you’ll have to eat that one.”
Yamaguchi stood up and blew on the marshmallow until the flames dissipated, leaving a charred product in their wake. He frowned at it, but pointed the stick at Kei, anyway.
“Don’t discriminate against the less fortunate marshmallows,” Yamaguchi commanded, pushing the charred marshmallow closer to Kei’s face.
Kei set his hand on where Yamaguchi held the stick and pushed it away, shaking his head. “I won’t eat it.”
Yamaguchi melodramatically rolled his eyes mumbled something about Kei being “ungrateful” by not accepting his “gift,” which he’d worked “so hard” on, but he snorted at his own words after he’d said them and Kei couldn’t help but reciprocating the amusement.
Following, Yamaguchi took off one of his mittens and pinched the marshmallow off of the stick, pressed the charred sweet into his mouth. As he closed his mouth, a bit of the marshmallow oozed out and onto his lip.
“It’s good, Tsukki,” he said, his tongue swiping out across his lip to clear the remainder.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Kei responded, watching as Yamaguchi ignored his statement and grabbed another marshmallow out of the bag.
“I’ll get this one right,” he said, poking it onto the stick.
He didn’t get it right. After a mere eight seconds—Kei had been counting—the marshmallow set ablaze and Yamaguchi groaned after blowing out the flame.
“Never mind it,” Yamaguchi grumbled, his prior enthusiasm lost, “If you’re going to be picky about your marshmallows, you don’t get one.”
Kei shrugged. “Of course, you’re just saying that because you can’t get one not to burn.”
“Maybe,” Yamaguchi admitted, wincing slightly as he tried to grab the second burnt marshmallow, but it was still too hot.
“And anyway, Yamaguchi,” Kei spoke, and Yamaguchi turned to look back at him at the cue. “How is this even considered “team bonding”? We haven’t talked to anyone else for… at least twenty minutes.”
Yamaguchi blinked, and then looked around at his other teammates. “Being honest,” he whispered to Kei, his face contorting into a guilty grimace, “I forgot they were even here.”
Kei involuntarily let out a relatively loud bark of laughter, but as soon as it’d come out he lifted the blanket in his hands over his mouth to hide himself. Some of the nearer teammates instinctively directed their attention to Kei, and Yamaguchi stared at him with his jaw lack.
“Tsukki!” Yamaguchi eventually (a few seconds later, probably, but to Kei it felt like substantially longer) smiled widely, once he’d gotten over the initial shock of it, “What was that!?”
“Shut up,” Kei said, shaking his head and lowering his hands from his face. “I laughed.”
“Cute, Tsukki.” Yamaguchi’s smile didn’t fade, and the heat Kei could feel spreading across his face surely didn’t, either.
“Whatever,” Kei replied, clearing his throat. “Give me a marshmallow so I can make a good one.”
“Good is subjective. But sure, Tsukki.” Yamaguchi took one out of the bag and tossed it to Kei, who picked up the stick Yamaguchi had used and shoved the marshmallow onto it.
Kei held the marshmallow what he thought was an appropriate distance away from the base of the fire, a distance at which it wouldn’t burn. He turned the stick so that the entire marshmallow cooked to a golden brown, and then when he’d achieved so, he held it out for Yamaguchi to see.
“That’s a good one,” he said, and Yamaguchi looked at it for a moment before his gaze flickered up to Kei’s eyes.
“They match,” he said.
“What?” Kei questioned, sitting back down on the bench and holding the stick out in front of him. The blanket slid off of the shoulder closer to Yamaguchi.
“Your marshmallow and your eyes,” Yamaguchi clarified, “match.”
“Hm,” Kei hummed, before squeezing the marshmallow off of the stick and putting it in his mouth.
“Maybe that’s why you like them like that,” Yamaguchi said.
“Or, I like them like that because they’re better that way,” Kei reasoned once he’d swallowed the marshmallow, shooting a teasing smirk in Yamaguchi’s direction.
“Whatever,” Yamaguchi spoke in the same tone that Kei had used earlier, but Kei paid no mind to this, considering that Yamaguchi had also grabbed the edge of the blanket that had fallen off of Kei’s shoulder and wrapped it around himself, pressing himself to Kei’s side. “Are you still cold, Tsukki?”
Kei couldn’t really feel any parts of his body besides his burning cheeks and the parts which were touching Yamaguchi (shoulder, hip, thigh, knee), so he couldn’t really tell if he was cold or not. All he felt was hot, hot, hot. He might as well have thrown himself into the fire.
He shook his head.
“Oh,” Yamaguchi replied, “Good.”
“Mhm,” Kei hummed, his throat tight.
“Is this okay?” Yamaguchi suddenly asked, his eyebrows slightly creased in concern of crossing a line.
Kei hesitated, thinking of his image, but shook the thought away. “It’s fine.”
“And this?” Yamaguchi set his head on Kei’s shoulder.
Except, Kei then realized, he’d fallen victim to the same thing Yamaguchi had admitted earlier—he’d forgotten that they were surrounded by people. A blessing and a curse, he thought as he glanced up to see multiple sets of eyes on them.
He decided to ignore them for a little while longer.
“Tsukki,” Yamaguchi spoke, and as he did his jaw moved against Kei’s shoulder. “I read somewhere that when there’s a full moon, there are about ten thousand people looking at it per second.”
At the statement, Kei instinctively looked up at the sky, his eyes drawn to the full moon as it shone through the branches over their heads.
“That’s interesting,” he finally replied.
“Yeah,” Yamaguchi agreed, sounding almost breathless.
And Kei thought then that maybe he didn’t regret coming too much, because Yamaguchi was as warm and as sweet as always and the stars above them barely shone as brightly as the ones in their eyes—and ten thousand people might’ve been looking at the moon at that moment, but only one was looking at it with Kei right there and then, and that was what really mattered.