Daichi was not having a good day. That seemed to be the theme of his college life. In fact, the more he thought about it, he realized how truly exhausting college had been. Between his roommates genuinely needing help (or them just being stupid), being a full-time college student and a college athlete Daichi was constantly getting closer to the edge of his rope. His very frayed and worn rope.
And today had been a moldy cherry on top of melted ice cream sundae. He’d somehow managed to sleep through both his alarm clock and phone alarm, making him late to his English class. And because of his rush he’d forgotten his essay at home. True his teacher had been very understanding, and seemed more worried for Daichi than upset at him.
But Daichi couldn’t help but feel guilty. Sure, other students had turned in late papers, some had even gotten extensions on their papers. But for Daichi it felt like just another mess up on a long list of them. It was as if he was saying he couldn’t handle it. And he was just waiting for someone to say those dreaded words to him, for someone to say “You can’t handle it. You aren’t good enough.”
Daichi hated those words. Hated being told he couldn’t handle or do something. It was part of the reason he’d been so determined to make Karasuno fly again. To no longer be called flightless crows, fallen giants. And he had.
He’d poured everything he had into Karasuno, and they had soared. Soared through match after match until finally they stood on the national stage and had continued to soar, they’d shown everyone what they could do together as a team. But now he was a crow without his murder. And he was struggling.
Karasuno he hadn’t had time for self-doubt. Looking after eleven other volleyball players, himself, his mother, and his dog had kept him busy. To busy, Daichi reflected. He hadn’t allowed himself time to think about how he’d have to adjust to University. Having his semi-helpless roommates had helped in a very unorthodox way. They usually needed someone who, if not responsible at least had more common sense then 3/4th of them put together did. Daichi had common sense a responsibility down pat.
But they were all brilliant. In volleyball and in life they all excelled beyond what he could ever hope to be capable of. Despite needing someone to help they still managed to show him up in other ways. And if that wasn’t like salt in a wound that had never quite healed.
He knew members of his volleyball team questioned his position. Whether privately or quietly to each other he knew. Questioned his scholarship and his skills. None of them did it spitefully, they were all just thinking of the good of the team. And he couldn’t really blame them. Daichi was good at many things, but he never had been, or ever would be brilliant or naturally talented like some of them. And when rooming with geniuses’ and insane athletes it just became more and more apparent how out classed Daichi truly was.
Daichi had given his all for Karasuno and had seen how his hard work had helped them soar. But going back to square one and having to reaffirm his own belief in his skills, having to fight his self-doubt in a completely different environment with completely different people was beyond difficult. And knowing that others were just waiting for him to falter, to misstep, to fail was almost more than he could handle. Daichi had always been a path of most resistance sort of guy. But he had limits and he was terrified failing because of them.
Daichi didn’t usually feel like that. His sports scholarship proved that he had talent and the brains to be here. But since before high school Daichi had become very aware of his shortcomings.
Unlike, say, Oikawa who could study for twenty minutes and still get A’s, Daichi had to spend hours constantly going over material if he wanted it to stick.
He couldn’t run off 4 hours of sleep and whatever godlike energy Bokuto could and still have energy for homework, volleyball, and a social life.
He couldn’t meticulously plan his papers and strategies, then throw them out without a second thought for an even better idea like Kuroo.
He couldn’t simply go with the flow and accept the changes or be completely unembarrassed asking for help when he couldn’t understand something like Ushijima.
Daichi was very much a background player. He had a strong receive and unwavering resolve, but was ultimately forgettable when next to truly talented people like his roommates. He was a foundation for others to stand strong on, but was ultimately forgotten in the grand scheme of things.
Those thoughts and feelings stayed with him all day. It had decided to rain for 5 minutes when he was traveling between buildings and had stopped as soon as he walked in the other door. He’d done much more poorly on a quiz than he thought he did, so much so he was debating re-taking the quiz or asking about extra credit possibilities.
And because he’d been in such a rush earlier that day he hadn’t been able to locate and lay his volleyball gear. So, he spent way too much time trying to find his knee-pads and left shoe than was acceptable by anyone’s standards. He finally caught a break and managed to make it to volleyball practice on time and didn’t get yelled at by the coach.
Practice went well for the most part. Daichi could feel his spirits lifting as he played the sport he’d dedicated so much time too only for it to go all downhill.
Daichi was getting ready to leave the locker-room room when his phone rang. Daichi pulled it out of his gym bag and glanced at the number. It was his mother. Daichi frowned in confusion, his mother didn’t have the best track record remembering Daichi’s schedule. She usually waited for him to call her because of that.
Daichi on the other hand had had his Mothers schedule memorized since he was ten. It simply made it easier to figure out the grocery list when he knew which meals would need enough food for two people.
Daichi shrugged to himself and silenced the phone. If it was important she would leave a voice mail and he could get back to her after he walked back to the dorm. No point discussing in front of all his teammates and potentially having to deal with their curiosity. He’d made that mistake at Karasuno, Tanaka and Nishinoya had never let him forget it.
He double checked to make sure he had everything when his phone started ringing again. Daichi stared at his phone slightly torn. While he would prefer to answer back in the privacy of his own room, it must have been bad enough to warrant a second call. He glanced around and judged the probability of getting over heard judging by the volume of his teammates and roommates. His teammates were all laughing and talking with each other, shouting across the room, and noisily putting their gear away.
Daichi glanced at his roommates, who were all terribly curios about anything relating to personal privacy. Bokuto and Kuroo were running around the locker room snapping each other with their towels and pretending to do parkour off the benches (Bokuto hooted with laughter and nearly banged his head on a locker when Kuroo tripped over his shoe lace and face planted into a gym bag).
Oikawa was meticulously inspecting his knee brace and other volleyball gear for any signs of wear or tear while Ushijima was engrossed in conversation with another 1st year about the pros and cons of soy versus regular milk. Deciding he had about a fifty-fifty chance of being overheard Daichi cautiously answered his phone. “Hello?”
Daichi’s stomach dropped. His Mom very rarely used her old nickname for him. Only when she had something she really didn’t want to tell but couldn’t figure out how to avoid.
“Mom? Is everything okay?”
‘Daichi I’m so sorry. I was taking Riku for a walk and I stopped to talk to Makoto-san and I wasn’t paying attention and Riku ran into the street. He…he got clipped by a car and I’m at the vet right now and she’s performing surgery, she says she isn’t too worried but because Riku is an older dog we should keep our options open and think about what’s best for him.”
The noise suddenly turned to static in Daichi’s ears. His heart skipped, his lungs stopped takin in air and he felt true panic take over. Riku was his Dachschund. A dog his Grandmother had gifted him on his eighth birthday. He’d been Daichi’s constant companion and best friend. Riku had been with Daichi when his home life had turned…less than ideal and had been his only source of comfort for longer than Daichi cared to admit.
“I…you’re at the vet right down the street from home, right?! I can board a train and be there in a a few hours, I- “
“Dai-chan I’m sorry the last train to Miyagi left already I checked before I called you. The earliest one is at 6am tomorrow. The vet said she let us know if anything changes but for now we shouldn’t be to be worried but should stay cautious. I know you want to be here Dai-chan but we can’t afford to have anyone drive you out here and Riku is in good hands.”
Daichi did not feel any better. His Mother was trying but she couldn’t understand, Riku was his dog. I was hard enough leaving him behind in Miyagi when he left for university. Finding out he was hurt and Daichi couldn’t be there for his own dog was heart wrenching.
“Mom... I… take care of him okay? I’m going to try and come home tomorrow morning I’ll let you know when I’m on my way.” Daichi said bitterly.
“Okay Daici. I’ll text you when the vet is finished with surgery and let you know what she hast to say. I’m so sorry Daichi. I truly am.”
“… I know you are Mom. Keep me updated okay?”
“Of course, don’t worry Daichi I’m sure he’ll be fine. Goodbye.”
“… Bye.” Daichi somberly said into his phone before hitting the end button. His slightly better mood had completely dissipated and left him feeling lower and more upset then he had in ages.
“Mura-chan? Are…are you okay?” Daichi felt a cool hand press gently down on his shoulder, gently turning him around to stare into Oikawas confused brown eyes.
Daichi had completely forgotten he was in the locker room. The very open, very not private locker surrounded by upperclassman and the other freshman.
Daichi quickly glanced around the locker room. His breath eased when it appeared like no one was paying them much attention. Everyone else was still caught in their own conversations. All except Oikawa Tooru who continued to stare at Daichi.
“Mura-chan?” Oikawa prompted, his eyes darting from Daichi’s face to the cell phone he still had clutched in his hand’
“I-I’m fine Oikawa.” Daichi said uncertainly. Oikawas eyes narrowed in suspicion he looked like he was about to say something when Daichi cut him off.
“It’s been a long day and I kind of just want to go to bed and rest.” Daichi said finally, walking quickly back over to his volleyball bag and slinging it over his shoulders. Oikawa followed close behind him looking even more suspicious.
Daichi could not deal with this. He might have opened to Oikawa if it were a more private setting, but seeing as it wasn’t there was no way in hell Daichi was going to say a word on the subject.
So, without so much as a glance backwards he made his way to the locker room exit. He gave a slight wave to those behind him as people wished him good night before he briskly began his trek back to the dorm.
Normally, Daichi and his roommates would all walk back together after practice, unless someone had a group project to get to or was staying later they made it a point to walk, talk, criticize, and encourage each other afterwards. Daichi was the first to break the tradition.
The walk back to the dorm was a blur to him. His mind to full of worry for his dog, and to full of such bitterness towards the day he’d had. He barely even noticed when he got to the building. He would have blown right past it if his gym bag hadn’t gotten caught on one of the handrail leading into the building.
Cursing a little louder than usual, Daichi made his way into the building and began climbing the three flights of stairs it took to get to his dorm.
He flung the door open and practically stomped his way into his and Ushijimas bedroom. He could feel hot tears burning at the corner of his eyes, but he quickly brushed them away with the back of his hand.
He had homework to do but no will to get it done. Truthfully, he was mostly caught up in his classes but suddenly every little assignment seemed so much larger and more intimidating than it had originally.
Daichi briefly contemplated calling Suga or Asahi but dismissed the idea. Suga was at his own volleyball practice and a large presentation tomorrow while Asahi was on a date. When Daichi and Suga had demanded to know who it was, the long haired former Ace had straight up refused to say who with but Daichi had a sneaking suspicion it was a former teammate of theirs.
Daichi shook his head before stripping down and throwing his dirty cloths in the general directions of his cloths hamper. He quickly secured his towel around his waist and grabbed a fresh change of cloths from his dresser before walking to the bathroom for take a shower.
The locker rooms had their own showers to use, but Daichi had always preferred cleaning himself in the comfort of his own bathroom. There was far less risk of getting pranked that way. Or to be more accurate, of getting caught in the cross fires of one of Kuroo vs Bokuto vs Oikawa’s shower wars.
The latest incident had left most of the volleyball running out of the locker room half naked with tears streaming down their faces and coughing from being gassed with cans of axe body spray Oikawa tapped open then released into the open.
Daichi let out a sigh of relief as the luke-warm water hit his body. The showers we’re notorious for being perpetually cold and the slight temperature change made it slightly more bearable. Even so Daichi didn’t stay in there for very long. Knowing his cotenants would be arriving home soon and would want their own shot at the bathroom made him finish quickly.
Daichi quickly dried himself off before changing into his most comfortable black sweat pants that were so faded they were almost grey, and his old Karasuno high volleyball t-shirt. It brought a tiny amount of relief wearing his old shirt, if only for the memories he had attached to it.
Daichi quickly stepped out of the bathroom toweling his hair as best he could, he had just lowered his arms to his sides when he felt a pair of strong arms wrap themselves around his arms and torso. It left him with his arms pinned and his face pressed into the persons chest. Another pair of arms swiftly followed, this time from behind him, and he found himself incased by two separate people. Both of whom seemed to be doing their best to simultaneously hug the air out of him and try and make him feel secure.
Daichi blinked in confusion before craning his head backwards and trying to look around. Bokuto was the person in front of him, and he was looking at Daichi with such concern and sincerity Daichi found it difficult to keep eye contact. A familiar mop could be seen out of the corner of his eye and he knew Kuroo had decided to glomp him from the back
“Ummm guys? What are you doing?” Daichi asked uncertainly. Kuroo and Bokuto were the most huggy out of the five of them, but they usually stuck with cuddling each other or their respective significant others. True, he’d walked in on Oikawa and the two of them huddled together on the couch but that was almost as rare as Ushijima skipping his morning run.
“We’re hugging you Sawamura. You looked like you really needed one when you left practice like a bat outta hell and who’s better at giving hugs than us?” Kuroo responded, sounding almost mocking if one didn’t pay attention to the slight concern lightly coloring his voice.
“Yea Sawamura, we give great hugs!” Bokuto said happily squeezing Daichi a bit closer to him, “And Oikawa said something happened in the locker room and that something was definitely wrong, so we decided we could maybe make it a little less wrong.”
The logic was very childish, but then again, both Kuoo and Bokuto were very touch oriented people. For them, giving affection through touch was one of the best ways to comfort themselves and others. It was a physical link they could grasp and offer. And Daichi was incredibly touched by the gesture. Daichi unwillingly felt his eyes growing hot and blinked rapidly to try and fight them off.
“Thanks guys, I really appreciate the thought, but I got- “
“You got to sit on the couch, cuddle your friends, and tell us what’s wrong” A new voice said from the living room. Oikawa suddenly appeared from behind Bokuto, hidden by the larger boys’ broad shoulders.
“Ushiwaka is making hot chocolate and I'll be making cookies later, don’t think you’re getting out of this Mura-chan. After forcing me to ‘take it easy’’’, he made quotation signs with his fingers, “I’m certainly not letting you get away with it,” Oikawa finished, his eyes glowered and Daichi and a slight sneer showed on his face.
Daichi opened his mouth to rebuff him, before slowly closing it glancing at the ground. Bokuto and Kuroo both released their tight hold of him, but each left an arm strung over his shoulders or around his waist.
Daichi glanced at the two of them before sighing again. All three had that stubborn ‘Captain’ look on their face, they weren’t going to let this go. Daichi knew because he’d had that same look on his face with each of his roommates.
Daichi let himself be led into the living room and let them gently for forcefully seat him in the center of the couch. Bokuto crawled slightly behind Daichi and gently pulled him back so that he was secured against the side of his chest with Bokutos arm wrapped around his shoulder. Kuroo did a similar thing on the other side of Daichi but didn’t put his arm around him. Instead he leaned back pressed the side of his arm along Daichis.
Oikawa had walked into the kitchen and returned with Ushijima in tow, toting five mugs of hot chocolate each made to the persons specific taste and in their favorite mugs.
Oikawa took Kuroos other side whilst Ushijima squeezed himself next to Bokuto. They all sat in compatible silence for a while, sipping their hot drinks.
Daichi, over the top of his mug, watched Oikawa elbow Kuroo and look pointedly at Daichi. Kuroo, in retaliation, kicked Oikawas leg and stared at him. Oikawa rolled his eyes before again elbowing Kuroo. Kuroo huffed before carefully moving closer to Daichi and Bokuto, he stared at Bokuto for a moment before he pinched his arm with his free hand.
Bokuto jolted and almost spilled his hot chocolate. Bokuto pouted at Kuroo before turning his attention to Ushijima. Ushijima seemed almost oblivious to Bokutos stare, until he lightly tapped Bokutos shoulder and gave a pointed look back to Oikawa. Making Oikawa huff irritably.
Daichi couldn’t help but smile helplessly to himself, here they were a bunch of technical adults, sitting around drinking hot chocolate, while 4/5th of them had a silent argument with each other. It was rather endearing in a rather childish way.
“Sawamura,” Ushijima finally said, breaking the comfortable silence that so rarely visited their dorm. “I wanted to thank you again for helping me the other night. I know it was rather early by most standards, but it was still incredibly kind of you.”
Daichi stared uncomprehendingly at Ushijima for a moment, surprised by the thanks and at his boldness of speaking of the moment in front of the other three.
“It wasn’t any trouble Ushijima, I know you don’t want to talk about it but-“
“I do.” Ushijima interrupted bluntly, glancing at the other three before continuing, “I simply did not have the words before.”
Daichi processed that for a moment before nodding his head. Ushijima was usually very careful about what he said, it would make sense he wouldn’t speak of something if he didn’t know exactly how he wanted to say it.
“I used to suffer from night terrors rather frequently when I was a child, I never knew why I did and my Mother could offer no explanation. As I grew older they became less frequent but occasionally they will reoccur, and I am unable to do anything about them. My Mother was never the most…sympathetic women. She and my Father separated when I was young, and he moved over seas. It has been a while since I had anyone to offer any comfort after one occurred, it was very comforting having you there Sawamura, if only as a silent show of support.”
Daichi blinked and stared at Ushijima. Daichi had never known anyone who had had night terrors before. The closest was Asahi and his occasional panic attacks and even then, they were vastly different things.
Daichi glanced around him again to gauge the other threes reactions. Kuroo was looking thoughtfully at Ushijima and slightly nodding to himself. Bokuto was staring at Ushijima mouth slightly open, probably as equally surprised at Ushijimas confession as he was surprised at at how much Ushijima had just spoken. Oikawa was looking appraisingly at Ushijima, as if trying to find his angle he was playing by telling them all that.
“The reason I say this Sawamura, is because you were there for me when I greatly needed someone. Unintentional it may have been you still helped, and as your teammate, roommate, and your friend I would like to do all I can to help you now.” Ushijima finished, looking Daichi dead in the eye as he spoke.
Daichi opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying and failing to find something to say to that. Not only had Ushijima thanked Daichi again in front of their roommates, he’d called him his friend. I word Daichi had purposefully not used to describe any of them before.
“Yea Mura-chan,” Oikawa said suddenly, leaning across Kuroo and grabbing Daichis face with his hand so he could look him in the eye better. “You’ve been so busy with school, volleyball and taking care of these three idiots you haven’t done the same for yourself. We’re worried about you Mura-chan, and I’ll have you know I don’t like worrying about my friends. Gives me wrinkles and pre-mature aging.”
That startled a laugh out of Daichi and Oikawa winked jauntily at him in return, before looking Daichi in the eye. “But in all seriousness Mura-chan, we are worried. You looked real torn up earlier and we want to help.”
“Sawamura!” Kuroo exclaimed, shoving Oikawa back so he could have Daichi’s full attention, “I know you made me miss volleyball practice cause you thought I was sick,”
“(You were sick.)” Oikawa said blandly looking unimpressed with the cat like blocker,
“But you did it out of the goodness of your heart," Kuroo continued as if Oikawa hadn't spoken. "You made me soup and tea and I didn’t get food poisoning like that one Bokuto tried to help,”
“Quiet bro, but if that doesn’t show you care I don’t know what does. Let us help you out, one friend to another.”
Daichi opened his mouth to try and say something but before he had a chance to his face was grabbed again and he was turned towards Bokuto.
“When I was having a really bad day you didn’t make me talk until I was ready. I know we all want you to tell us what’s wrong, so we can help, but if you don’t want to that’s okay too. You’ve taken care of us so much Sawamura and we just want to return the favor. But if you’re-“
“My dog got hit by a car.” Daichi blurted out, interrupting Bokuto before he lost his nerve.
Silence rang out throughout the apartment but Daichi didn’t stop, he’d started and there was no point in holding back now. Once Daichi admitted something was wrong the floodgates opened and he found himself telling them all about the genuinely shitty day he had had.
He talked about his doubts and he talked about his loneliness, he talked about his problems with Suga being to far away and he talked about missing his Karasuno murder. He talked about the phone call, and how his constant companion of ten years had been hit by a car about how the vet had said ‘keep all options open’. Daichi didn’t cry, and by that he didn’t sob. A few tears of frustration did leak out though.
Frustration at his mother’s carelessness that had gotten his dog hurt, frustration at himself for not being able to be there, and frustration at his school and volleyball load that were wearing him down.
His teammates let him rant and rave and swear until he felt so emotionally done he threw himself back on the couch he had stood from in his anger and just let himself drop.
His four roommates let him breath and catch his breath before moving.
Bokuto and Kuroo gently nudged Daichi around until he was practically sprawled across their two laps; Bokuto began to soothingly run his fingers through Daichis hair and Kuroo lazily drew patterns on Daichis knee.
Oikawa got on the floor and sat by Daichis head, leaning his own back so that it gently touched Daichis shoulder. Ushijima stood and made his way into his and Daichis shared room. He retuned with some extra blankets and Daichis cell phone. At Daichis look he shook his head. Still no word from Daichis mother then on how Riku was.
Ushihima sat on the ground by Oikawa, his body tilted so he could still see Daichi and speak with him. “Thank you for trusting us with your troubles Sawamura, I’m sorry you’ve had such a trying time.”
Daichi felt himself smile. He felt lighter than he had in a long while. He was still worried sick about Riku but it was less painful than it had been only moments before.
“Thanks for listening guys. I…I really needed that.”
The other four boys smiled at him in return, Kuroo opened his mouth to reply when Daichi’s phone beeped. Suddenly very nervous Daichi sat up and nearly headbutted Bokuto in the face trying to look at his phone. Ushijima graciously handed Daichi his cell. Daichi saw his mothers name and swallowed worriedly before opening the text to read it.
Daichi felt a grin spread across his face. He turned to look at the others, his grin was enough of an answer and suddenly the apartment was filled with noise. Oikawa cheered loudly, throwing his arms in the air, Kuroo whooped and nearly threw Daichi to the ground as he jumped to his feet. Bokuto re-attached himself to Daichi hooting and shouting for joy while Ushijima gave Daichi one of the sincerest smiles he’d seen on another person’s face.
Daichi let himself smile, laugh, and let himself get dogpiled by the others (Kuroo dragging Ushijima along for the ride).
It was still a shitty day. His dog was still hurt. He still had homework, and people would continue to doubt him. But he wasn’t so lonely anymore. These once rivals and now teammates were proving to be better people…better friends than he’d thought they would.
He knew they would drive him crazy, and chances were, they’d be back to acting like children and he’d have to be the adult (or Grandfather as Oikawa said) but at the end of the day, they were there for him. And he really couldn’t ask for too much more than that. Well, besides one more thing…
“GET OFF ME! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HEAVY YOU ALL ARE?!” Daichi shouted from the bottom of the dog pile. Friends they may be, but he certainly wasn’t going to suffocate because of them.
“You love us Dadchi!”
“Not the word I would use cat!”
“Mura-chan! Don’t be mean! We’re bonding. Except for you Ushiwaka-chan, go away you’re to heavy.”
“That’s hardly fair, Bokuto should be made to leave as well if we’re going by size.”
“What?! Ushijma did you just call me fat?”
“No bro, he’s just saying you’re muscular!”
Daichi hollered. Yes, they were all dependable and good people and Daichi was genuinely happy to have them in his life. But they certainly didn’t make it easy to remember.