All it takes is one glance. One glance for the onslaught of unwanted thoughts to start invading his mind. One glance for the tears to finally spill over. One glance for him to realize that this is real.
It’s real enough for Takahiro to start to believe the words that storm into his mind. Real enough to realize that he loves Issei so much and it hurts to see, touch, hear, taste, and smell. Everything physically hurts so much, but inside, the thoughts almost distract him from the crushing disappointment. Almost.
All Takahiro can see is the shaking of Issei’s shoulders and Takahiro is instantly reminded of every time Issei cries. He doesn’t want comfort, maybe later, but for now, he needs to be left alone. Takahiro turns away. It’s a mistake. A mistake to turn away from his anchor. A mistake to turn away and let the thoughts scream at his mind.
This is your last game with him. This is your last game with them. You’re never going to get another chance. You’re never going to win again. If only you had worked harder, practiced more. Practiced receives, serves, spikes. It’s all your fault. Your fault we didn’t win. Your fault. Your fault. Your fault.
Takahiro wants to scream at them to go away and shut up, but it’s hard to when you’ve lost your voice and all that’s left is a breathless scream.
The coaches herd them back to the bus before Issei allows himself to speak. “Takahiro,” he says.
They’re sitting side by side, in the last row, Tooru and Hajime in front of them. He knows that everyone is tired. Tired of crying and tired from something- thankfully- simpler. The thrum in their bones is gone, replaced by lead. Soreness finally settling in; it’s nothing compared to the tired frustration and sludgy disappointment.
Takahiro’s answer is the squeeze of their fingers together and the thud of his head against Issei’s shoulder. His eyes are closed. If someone looked far away, they would see a quiet couple enjoying each other’s company. They wouldn’t be wrong, but they also wouldn’t be right.
They talked about it. What would happen after the games. They knew that everything would eventually come to an end. They knew that they’d have to separate and go different paths. What they didn’t expect was for the end to come so quickly. Issei didn’t want his time with his teammates to end. He didn’t want his time with Takahiro to end. They would still see each other, of course, but the ache they would feel when the other was gone, Issei wasn’t ready for that.