A year ago, Shouyou had asked him, “If you could ask for anything you wanted, anything in the whole world, what would it be?”
And Tobio had stared at him, turning the question over in his head, trying to find an answer on his tongue. The words were like cracked glass piecing itself together to form something coherent out of it. He’d always known Shouyou was a little strange, eccentric at best, and there was always something slightly off about him—like a special glint in his eyes, the way his shadow never seemed quite right, the heat of his hands lingering on Tobio’s skin even days after contact. Shouyou was a little odd sometimes, a boy with the sun kept in his chest, but he also loved volleyball as much as Tobio did so it balanced things out, really. That, and Tobio found of Shouyou’s odds and ends all strangely endearing in a way.
“Hm,” he said, and thought to himself. Shouyou looked at him with expectant, curious eyes, and Tobio wondered if he’d ever be satisfied. If Tobio’s words would ever be able to fill their bodies and the inevitable space between them. He took a deep breath, and settled on saying, “Well, I think I’d ask for the stars.”
“The stars?” Shouyou asked, blinking at him, eyes wide. “Why?”
“They’re supposed to help guide you home, right?” Tobio answered. “That way I’d never get lost. And they’re special, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Shouyou said slowly, considering it. His hand found Tobio’s, fingers intertwining. “If you gave them to someone, they’d know they’re important to you.”
Tobio nodded. “What about you? What would you ask for?”
“Oh, that’s easy.” Shouyou smiled slowly, unforgettable in its wake, and to this day Tobio still wonders what it meant, what it was supposed to tell him. “A meat bun.”
But Tobio hadn’t known then, just as he still doesn’t know now. So he had shook his head and smiled, a whole lot smitten with the boy next to him. “Dumbass,” he had said, and he wondered if Shouyou heard the fondness in his voice, or if he felt the way Tobio’s heartbeat had a way of skipping around him. “We can get some on the way home.”
“Ooh, meat buns with Tobio! Does that mean we can go home now?” Shouyou asked.
“Yeah,” Tobio said. He tugged on Shouyou’s hand, feeling the immediate warmth that came with it. “Let’s go home.”
And sometimes, Tobio will look back at this moment, at the way Shouyou had smiled at him and posed a question so easily, so casually, that Tobio will almost forget what came next. Instead of loss, he remembers the way their hands stayed together, never too far apart, and how the world had shifted to grace the likes of two countryside boys. Heartbreak and its sting are replaced by a memory of the sky painting itself with pink streaks to tally their numbered days, how the wind whistled its goodbye. Instead of the hurt, he remembers the taste of Shouyou’s lips on his when he said good night, like meat buns and rice and long summer afternoons. He remembers, remembers like it’s the only thing he knows how to do, remembers like he’s running out of time, and remembers like he knows all too well what it feels to lose something you swore to the heavens you would try to keep. Remembers, until it’s all he has left.
(They’d both agreed it was for the best, after all. Some things just didn’t work out the way they wanted it to.)
Sometimes, he gets caught up in all of it, in all the moments that kept him warm on the loneliest nights, that he almost forgets about the day Shouyou left.
Because Tobio had known from the very first day, from the moment he met him, that Hinata Shouyou was nothing but a postcard promise. He was a firecracker shotgun, shining so bright and burning just as quickly. He’d known that strange boys like Shouyou, with the world’s wonder in their eyes, were never meant to stay.
But that was all a year ago. Tobio hasn’t seen him since then, and he’s not entirely sure he ever will. Maybe it’s best if he stopped thinking about it. Maybe it’s best if he stopped calling him Shouyou.
The train makes one more stop, and the doors slide open. People scramble out, others in, and Tobio finds himself standing in the middle of the station. He wraps his scarf a little tighter around his neck to fend off the cold. There’s a slight chill in his bones, and Tobio shivers.
It’s just a short walk home.
He’s about to begin moving when he hears it. It stops him in his tracks, and he stands there, frozen in place. The world slows down for the briefest second, and he catches himself, caught in the crossroads of past and present. There it is—a little bit of laughter, but loud enough for him to hear it. A laugh he could recognize anywhere, even with all these strangers around. A laugh he’s committed to memory, one he’d always know in every lifetime, one he’d fallen in love every time he heard it.
It used to make him so happy, just seeing him smile.
Tobio’s eyes search the crowd frantically. There’s a flash of orange, he swears he sees it, like lightning, but it disappears before he can get a better view. It’s gone before he knows it, and Tobio is left alone once more.
And it couldn’t have been him, anyway, he tries telling himself. Because Hinata is a trick of the light, and he always has been. Never one to stay in any place too long, and never one to remain grounded. Meant for the heavens, that unbelievable boy. Too fast for anyone to catch, too blinding for anyone to properly see. No one could keep pace with him.
Once, Tobio had believed he was the exception. But that was a long time ago.
There’s supposed to be a meteor shower tonight.
News channels have been broadcasting it for the last two weeks or so, highlighting that the stars will come falling tonight. But what makes this one more special than all the other times, he knows, is how close it is to the new year, and people have waxed poetic on how symbolic it seems to be, a million wishes for the next three hundred days to come. Tobio’s not sure if he can follow such sentiments.
It’s been a while since he looked at the stars.
Hinata used to take him all the time to watch meteor showers. He’d bike all the way to Tobio’s house and drag him outside to a wide field, where they’d lie down under the great expanse of the sky above them. Fireflies danced at their fingertips, the buzz of cicadas filled his ears until the only thing he could focus on was Hinata’s voice. And it would be breathtaking, listening to the way he would ramble on and on and Tobio never got tired of it, his favorite song the sound of his best friend’s voice.
And when the first star would come, Hinata would already be watching the sky, pointing it out to Tobio excitedly as more and more came, falling all around them. And it was breathtaking, he recalls, how they filled the world and disappeared a few seconds later, one after the other. Nothing more, nothing less, and Tobio would turn his head to watch Hinata stare at the sky, eyes wide and positively beaming—easily the brightest thing in Tobio’s whole world.
And he’d just look on, staring at this beautiful boy he gets to call his, if only for a while, and it would only be until Hinata asked him if he made a wish that Tobio would realize he’d forgotten to. Why would he need to, he’d think to himself, if everything he wants is already right here with him?
Hinata would laugh at him, call him dumb for forgetting, but Tobio would just smile at him, hidden, only for Hinata to see. He wouldn’t burn, not like the stars, because love like this would keep him alive. He didn’t need the stars if the sun was already here. He’d see the way Hinata’s eyes crinkled when he laughed, and Tobio would have no other choice but to kiss him to feel the heat of Hinata’s smile against his own lips.
And as he did so, smoke would trail the sky in the wake of the falling stars, just as this memory would go up in smoke, too, ready to be forgotten.
Tobio doesn’t let it. Refuses to, even until now. He’s always been a bit stubborn that way.
He still hasn’t watched the stars since Hinata left, but well. None of it really matters anyway. The stars couldn’t give him what he wanted.
Tobio sighs, and switches the TV screen off. There’s no use dwelling on old flames, not when he’s got so much to do in the present. And though he can’t help but hope, Tobio knows that some things were always going to change. Time is funny like that, leaving you alone before you realize it, before you can even try catching up. It is a liar and a thief, and Tobio really ought to learn how to lock his door by now.
There’s a pile of mail by the table, and he stands to pick them up. Electricity bills, water bills, insurance advertisements, the usual sort. He thumbs through them quickly, the white crisp envelopes familiar and neat. But then there’s one at the bottom of the stack he doesn’t recognize—a little crumpled and not even sealed in an envelope.
It’s a picture of the sun rising on the horizon, stretching over hills. Wish you were here, it says, in capital, bold letters. There’s no address, only a stamp with a crow on it and the scrawl of a messy handwriting. Six words, a single question. Tobio would recognize that handwriting anywhere.
He blinks. What does it mean?
Tobio sets the postcard down on the table. There’s something there, something about promises, something about summer afternoons, and he’s told himself not to forget, and he hasn’t, but he’s a little too afraid to acknowledge it. It takes him back to when things were simpler, to when love made young boys like him happier than anything else, to when train stations were places of reunions and not separations. To first and last times, to good memories and bad. To when they were young, and too smitten to know any better about love and loss and what it meant to have both. He knows his answer. He always has.
It’s almost like a wish he didn’t know could ever be granted.
Tobio looks out the window. Maybe he’ll end up watching the meteor shower tonight after all.
Do you still?
As the last star falls from the sky, there’s a knock on his door. He goes to open it, a little weary and confused, because surely, no one normal would be out looking for him at this hour. Maybe it’s just a drunk neighbor, or someone who needs his help. The strangest things always happen at night, he supposes.
Tobio opens the door.
And in front of him stands Hinata Shouyou, carrying stars in his arms.
“Hi,” Hinata says, and his cheeks flush pink. He still looks like how Kageyama remembers him, like he’d come fresh from a dream, candlelight features ablaze with the risk of hoping. “I know I shouldn’t really be here and it’s been ages since we last saw each other, and I’m sorry for coming to you like this, but I was watching the meteor shower, and it reminded me of how we used to watch it together, and then I remembered something you told me before, about how you wanted the stars, so I couldn’t help it, I kept thinking about you, and I. Well, I went and got you these.”
He holds out the stars in his hands. Tobio stares at them. They’re bright and golden, glimmering even under the fluorescent lights of the hallway. Each one is about the size of his palm, small, little things, that Hinata’s bundled up in his arms. They’re sort of what Tobio expected stars to look like back when he was a kid—not the balls of gases that they’re taught at school, but the kind with five points, the kind you put when you’re drawing the night sky with crayons and the world seemed so much smaller then than it does now. Somehow, he thinks these seem even realer. How odd they are, he tells himself, and what an unusual gift. Tobio wouldn’t expect anything less from this boy.
Hinata’s always been a little strange, sure, but these are—they’re stars. Hinata caught the falling stars for him. That’s something else entirely.
If you gave them to someone, they’d know they’re important to you.
“You got me the stars,” Tobio says, and he still can’t quite wrap his head around it. “I—um—”
“You don’t have to keep them if you don’t like them!” Hinata blurts out, looking nervous and panicked. “You could just throw them up into the sky and they’d go right back to where they were. And then you could just pretend this never happened.”
“Why would I do that?” Tobio asks him. “I…I like them. They’re from you.”
“Oh,” Hinata says. Then a small smile grows on his face, slow and blinding, and a sun bursts inside Tobio’s chest, warm and easy and familiar. He missed Hinata, he really did, more than he could probably ever put into words. “That’s great! That’s really great.”
Tobio shuffles his feet awkwardly. “Do you want to…do you want to come inside? We could put the stars up.”
“Really?” Hinata asks, like he doesn’t believe that Tobio is saying these words either. “I mean—um, yes. Thanks.”
Hinata steps into his apartment, and suddenly everything feels so much warmer. He’s always had a way of doing that, Tobio noticed. He made places brighter, a little more homey, and he always made Tobio feel like there was a bit more of sun within him.
Hinata throws the stars up gently into the room, and the stars position themselves above their heads, floating gently a little below the ceiling. Man-made constellations, an entire universe inside his home. Tobio stares at the night sky he gets to keep for himself.
A gift from Hinata.
Do you still?
“I, um, I got your postcard,” Tobio says quietly, careful not to cross too many lines. He picks up the card from the table, and holds it up for Hinata to see.
Hinata’s eyes widen, and he takes the postcard from Tobio’s hand. He clutches it, staring at the words, then back up at Tobio. “I never thought—I never thought you’d actually get them.”
“Them? You mean, there’s—there’s more?” Tobio asks, and there his heart goes again, a slow crescendo building inside his ribcage. “You wrote to me?”
Hinata blushes and looks away. “Well, yeah. I didn’t really know how not to,” he says, laughing a little nervously. “I didn’t know where you lived anymore, so I’d kinda just send them up to the sky, but I didn’t actually think they’d get to you. I figured if they did, then great. But if they didn’t, then, well. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.”
But the thing is, and this is a vital, unforgettable truth that they both now know: the postcard had been sent, and Tobio had read it. It wasn’t that they weren’t meant to be, or that fate had decided that they shouldn’t be together. They had to move forward from here, from when they stood together as postcard promises, to now, suspended between strangers and best friends and past lovers.
“So,” Hinata says softly, and he takes a step forward, a little closer to where Tobio stands. His hair catches the starlight, and Tobio finds that he is still completely enamoured with him. “Do you still?”
Strange lights dance in Hinata’s eyes, forever sprinkled with stardust, and something about the look on his face causes Tobio to take a step closer too. He thinks about them, and the year that has grown past them and the distances they’ll need to overcome, the way his days felt longer and the nights seem colder. He thinks of old memories on the way home, long afternoons, and nights watching the stars. He remembers the fighting and the loss and heartbreak, but he remembers the happiness just as much. He looks at Hinata, at his summer eyes and sunshine heartbeat, and thinks about trying again. About starting over, doing better and a resolve to go where Hinata goes, and to stay together this time around. Because second chances don’t come easy, and Tobio knows it must count for something, that he’s given another shot. It must mean something.
Perhaps, it’s that, somehow, even after all this time, some small part of Kageyama Tobio is still a little in love with Hinata Shouyou.
“Yeah,” Tobio says finally, but it never really was a question, he knows. Another step closer, and with one hand takes Hinata’s hand in his, and the other reaches out to press against his cheek. Hinata holds him there just the same, and his eyes close for a brief moment. “I do. And I don’t think I ever stopped.”
Hinata smiles, and his eyes are bright bright bright, and Tobio will never be able to stop looking at him. “That’s good,” he says. “Because I still do, too.”
Hinata presses a light kiss against Tobio’s cheek, and lets go of his hand. “Do you want to have lunch tomorrow? We could catch up and stuff, if you want.”
Tobio nods. “Yeah,” he says slowly. “Yeah, I’d—I’d like that. A lot. And maybe we could…we could, I dunno, get some meat buns or something. That’s what you wanted before, remember?”
“Yeah,” Hinata says, and the smile doesn’t leave his lips. “I suppose it was.”
He walks Hinata to the door, the warmth of his skin still lingering on Tobio’s hand. He wonders what would happen if he reached out, if he held him close, kiss him, maybe—but he figures that now is not the time for such things. They’ve never been too good at going slowly, but some things still take time.
He wonders if it’ll still be like last time.
Just as Hinata is about to leave, Tobio clears his throat and swallows down his nerves. With shaking hands, he dares to voice something that’s been lingering in the back of his head since Hinata showed up at his doorstep.
“How long are you staying?” he asks, lips pressed into a thin line. A month, Hinata might say, or maybe a week. And if it’s just like last time—it won’t ever be enough. Maybe they were never meant to last.
But Hinata smiles, just like he had that night, slow and unforgettable. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here to stay.”
“Oh,” Tobio says, and he smiles, too, because Hinata’s the only one who ever really made him smile so easily, so freely. Here to stay.
“So lunch tomorrow, then?” he asks. He looks a little brighter now, a little bit happier. More hopeful, like nothing’s changed at all between them. Maybe nothing hasn’t, not really.
When Tobio nods, Hinata grins, wide and genuine and it’s reminiscent of starlight. Tobio had almost forgotten what it felt like, to have that smile directed at him. “See you later, Kageyama!”
And there’s a million words that Tobio wants to say to him, a whole year’s worth of words he’s thought of and tried to use to fill up space, words he thought could fix things. Words on his tongue, words that could never fit in a postcard, and they threaten to spill out but he holds them back. Because if there’s anything he’s learned from all of this, it’s that words can only help you if you speak them, that they aren’t just used for filling up space, and there are times to let them go and times to hold them a little longer for safekeeping. Because here to stay is a promise—a promise that he’s got time, that they’ve both got time, and Tobio knows not to waste it.
So instead, Tobio just smiles, and says, “Yeah,” and it feels like coming home. “See you later.”