At first it just sounds like his name and nothing else. Kageyama doesn’t even fully register it, not focusing enough to pick it out of the crowd. He’s gotten used to having many people crowding around him trying to catch his attention – after every match there are always variations of ‘Kageyama-san’, ‘Kageyama-senshu’, and ‘Tobio-chan’ coming at him from all directions. By now he’s learned to filter out most of it as he works his way through the usual selfies and autographs.
He catches it, though, eventually. It’s definitely an anomaly that stands out above the murmur, something that grates on his attention a little bit, and when he looks up to search the crowd he finally recognizes it for what it is.
Kageyama turns around, swivels in direction of the shrill voice, and he spots the hair first of all – or rather, the color. His vision zooms in on those bright tangerine curls and his brain short-circuits for a moment, immediately jumping to conclusions and quickly forming an expectation in his mind, even though he knows it’s impossible.
What he heard was his given name, after all… and on top of that the honorific was ‘niichan’. There’s only one person in the whole wide world that would ever call him that.
At last Kageyama spots a frantically waving Natsu in the crowd. Next to her are a couple of girls he doesn’t recognize and then her mother right behind them. He tells his teammates to go ahead without him and crosses the court.
Hinata’s mother and little sister have often showed up at his Sendai matches, ever since he started playing professionally. When he was still in high school the Hinata family kind of became his family too, always offering a meal and some company whenever his own parents were away for long periods of time. He’s always been thankful for their support but it never fails to surprise him.
“Hinata-san… Natsu...” Kageyama approaches them with a small nod. “I had no idea you’d be here. Um… thanks.”
“We wouldn’t want to miss it, Tobio-kun,” Hinata’s mother says and smiles. “Congratulations on a great match.”
“See?” Natsu turns to her friends, a look of triumph on her face. “Told you guys I know Adlers’ setter.”
Her friends, a couple of teenage girls, peer at Kageyama with a mix of curiosity and admiration while Natsu rummages through her bag. She quickly pulls out what is unmistakably an Adlers shirt with his name and number on it.
“Sign this please!” she grins and holds it up for him.
“I’ve already signed several shirts for you,” he points out. “What are you doing, selling them or something?” He sighs, a little exhausted, but he still takes the pen he’s offered and signs his name in an uneven scribble right across the number 20, like he’s done so many times before.
“You’re on a break now, right, because of New Year’s?” Natsu continues. “You should go home to Miyagi and come with us to the shrine!”
“Uh – the shrine…?” Kageyama repeats, taken aback.
“Yeah, my friends and I are going! You should come!”
“Nacchan,” her mother scolds her mildly. “You can’t just make plans on Tobio-kun’s behalf, that’s rude.”
“But, Mom –!”
If Kageyama’s honest, the thought of going on an outing with a bunch of fifteen-year-old girls doesn’t strike him as particularly appealing in any way. He’ll probably become the designated chaperone and, thanks to his height, a walking landmark for Natsu and her friends to navigate the crowd by. And ultimately, as much as he likes everyone in the Hinata-family, it’ll most likely turn out be a waste of his time.
Still – he promised Hinata that he’d look after his little sister while he’s gone. And he’s not the only one; Hinata kind of made all his friends promise that Natsu at the very least wouldn’t have to miss having an older sibling around. Kageyama is sure Natsu can look after herself just fine and that she has many friends of her own, but he can’t help but admire the way Hinata always takes his role as big brother seriously. Plus making a promise, no matter how half-assed, and then not keeping it bothers him immensely.
“Okay, fine,” he says with a shrug.
Natsu lights up, for a moment resembling her brother very much. “Really?!”
“Please don’t let her talk you into something you have no time for,” her mother adds apologetically. “You know how persistent Nacchan can be.”
“Nah, don’t worry,” Kageyama assures her. “I don’t mind going home for a bit. I haven’t seen my parents in a while anyway.”
“Natsu’s got a crush on you, I think.”
That’s what Hinata had said, a few weeks before high school graduation. Kageyama had frowned at that, not really knowing what to do with that information. He had tried to think back on a moment where he might have noticed this himself, a time where it was obvious, but he couldn’t think of anything (not that he’d ever paid any attention whatsoever).
“Does she even know what it means to have a crush?”
“She’s twelve, duh. Do you know what it means to have a crush? Bet you don’t.”
“You got a death wish or something? Dumbass.”
“Relax, it’s superficial – kinda like with those idols or whatever. Natsu’s got a crush on them too, but I’m sure she’ll grow out of it. Although I can’t imagine anybody looking at you and actually finding it enjoyable.”
At the time Kageyama had reacted like he’d usually react to most things Hinata: he yelled an insult and grabbed at his head. He might have also wrestled him into the ditch. And then the topic was never brought up again.
But – walking Natsu and her friends back from the shrine reminds Kageyama of that conversation. He wonders, for the first time in years, why Hinata would even bother telling him something like that, so out of the blue. The Hinata he knows couldn’t possibly care less about stuff like romance and crushes.
Kageyama buys meat buns for himself and the girls at one of the food stalls and ends up trailing behind the group, zoning out of their endless chatter and drifting back into his own thoughts. It was honestly annoying, the way Hinata had talked about crushes. It was annoying because Hinata went out of his way to make it annoying, and because Kageyama knew perfectly well what it was like to have a crush on someone. After all he’d been secretly crushing on his best friend ever since their first year and it was so terribly annoying to realize that Hinata seemed completely oblivious to it (never mind the fact that Kageyama was a big coward who had never found the courage to actually confess).
“So what’d you wish for?”
He stumbles in his trail of thoughts and looks up to find Natsu falling into step with him. Kageyama shrugs.
“Becoming V.League champion again.”
“You’re just like my brother.”
“Say, Natsu…” Kageyama looks down at the last half of his meat bun, hesitating. “Did you have a crush on me when I was high school?”
In hindsight, he realizes he maybe should’ve reconsidered before asking her that in such a straightforward manner. Natsu almost chokes on her food and immediately turns bright red, her brown eyes wide and borderline furious as she looks up at him.
“Why would you ask that directly of me?!”
“Uh…” Kageyama blinks, confused. “I’m sorry…?”
“Boys are always so stupid and insensitive!” She turns away with a small, offended huff, once again resembling her brother on the dot. “If you must know then yes, I did. But I was much younger back then and didn’t know any better.”
Kageyama frowns, too slow to immediately catch the subtle insult thrown at him. “Oi.”
“It was just a crush anyway,” Natsu clarifies and rolls her eyes at him. “It’s not like I was in love with you or anything. It honestly passed real quick.”
Kageyama gives it a thought. He can’t exactly say his feelings for Hinata have passed. He hasn’t really grown out of them either – if anything he’s sort of grown into them by now. They’re still there, sometimes in the shape of a good dream, sometimes nagging him as an irritating afterthought. So in other words there’s a difference between having a crush and being in love. He’s simply in love with Hinata, then. He’s leveled up without even knowing.
“Why do you ask?” Natsu interrupts, eyening him suspiciously.
He opens his mouth to reply before realizing he doesn’t have a good answer to that. “Uh, I –” he splutters, embarrassed. “It was just something Hinata mentioned before.”
Natsu’s suspicious frown turns into a glare. “As if niichan should be the one talking,” she mumbles into her scarf.
“Nothing.” She quickly glances away, looking a little guilty. “I just… Niichan shouldn’t be the one talking about my crushes when he’s no better. That’s not fair.”
“So…” Kageyama tilts his head, slowly piecing together the meaning behind those words. “Who does Hinata have a crush on…?”
Natsu whips her head up to stare at him, almost accusingly. “Are you serious right now?”
“Yeah…?” Kageyama’s gaze flickers unsurely. “Why?”
Her stare makes another transition, and for a second she looks extremely delighted, before she shrugs.
“Well, unlike my brother I’m not telling. Ask him yourself if you’re so curious.”
It suddenly dawns on Kageyama that he’s actually discussing these things with a teenaged girl, and he’s being embarrassingly into it as well. He almost has to bite his tongue to keep himself from cringing too hard.
“Forget it,” he snaps, face burning. “Not my business anyway.”
“Who knows,” Natsu says cryptically and leaves it at that. “We’re gonna find a place to eat now, by the way. Wanna come?”
“I’m fine,” Kageyama mutters, thinking he’s had his share of company for the day. “You guys go ahead.”
“Okay!” She grins widely and gives him a small wave. “Thanks for today, Tobio-nii!”
Kageyama watches them leave and then heads in the opposite direction, taking his phone out of his pocket. There are no new notifications or unread messages. The group chat has been quiet since yesterday. He checks the clock, wondering if now would be an inconvenient time or not. Japan is quite a few hours ahead of Rio – like, ten? or maybe twelve? He pulls up his contacts, scrolling through the list of names – until he has a sudden change of heart and promptly locks the screen.
Kageyama pockets his phone again, scowling. He doesn’t have time to dawdle like this, honestly. He should pack his things, hop on the first train to Tokyo, and get back to volleyball – the sooner, the better.
A couple of months later Kageyama is walking home from practice when the group chat suddenly pings with a new notification. He knows what it is before he even unlocks his phone and pulls up the app. He’s known about this for several weeks already and he’s been waiting for it just as long.
Hinata has finally landed in Japan.
Kageyama watches as the ‘welcome back’ messages instantly begin flooding his screen in real time, creating a long thread that eventually pushes Hinata’s announcement up and out of frame. He hesitates, his thumb hovering over the keyboard, but the seconds tick by and he quickly loses sight of the conversation. At this point the others have started asking questions – about Hinata’s trip, about Brazil, about souvenirs – and it seems kind of stupid to send off a greeting now, several minutes after everyone else. Kageyama was never great at contributing to conversations in the first place, and especially not in this fast-moving format. Most of the time he’s just too busy to check his phone anyway, and sometimes he even forgets altogether. He’s always a bit left out, whether he wants it or not.
But it’s okay. He slips his phone back into his bag and considers calling or sending a separate message directly to Hinata when he gets home. Or maybe Hinata is thinking the same thing; maybe he will be the one to contact him. And then they can catch up, just like old times. That would be nice.
Except Kageyama doesn’t do any of that. In the end nothing happens. He goes to bed with a disappointed heart and uneasy thoughts, his phone facedown on his nightstand, silently blinking with messages that aren’t aimed at him.
He’s still popular, though. His phone has really been going off lately – it’s always ringing with various endorsement offers, with information about upcoming national team gatherings and club training camps. His manager wants to talk, his coach wants to talk, it seems everybody wants to talk – except Hinata. He hasn’t heard any updates from him in days.
Kageyama straightens up from the team huddle, feeling just about ready to go home. Tonight’s practice hadn’t felt as rewarding as usual. He realizes he needs to do something about his current state of mind before it takes over completely and starts affecting his play. So far in his professional career he’s done well in separating his sport from literally everything else; being out of shape for a day or two usually means there’s something off about his physical condition and not some mental crisis. He never brings any worries onto the court. Maybe he should take that a step further and stick strictly to volleyball and volleyball only, just to make things easier from now on.
He wipes the sweat off his face with his bib and wonders if it’s possible to stop being in love with someone in the same way you apparently stop having a crush.
He startles out of his thoughts, immediately following up with a cringe he barely manages to suppress.
Every once in a while his club schedules late evening practices like this, which are also open to the public. Most supporters don’t bother with them unless they’re super loyal, but lately more and more people have been showing up – young female fans especially. Kageyama always finds it a little bothersome and embarrassing. He feels a lot more on display during these casual practices than in an actual official match.
He reluctantly makes his way towards the small group of girls waving at him, not really saying much besides ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m fine’ as he accepts their little presents, signs his autograph, and lets them take pictures. He always keeps in mind that he must be polite with his fans, that he doesn’t want his reserved attitude to accidentally be mistaken for rudeness, but sometimes it’s easier to get things done without paying attention. And sometimes he’s just tired and wants to go home.
The crowd disperses, the supporters leaving little by little, and the last person in line hands him an Adlers shirt with his name on it.
“Sign this please, Kageyama-kun.”
Kageyama reaches for it without even looking up and is in the process of uncapping his pen when it suddenly dawns on him, several seconds later, how familiar that voice sounded just now. He frowns, tilts his head up – and his knees almost give out.
Standing in front of him, sporting a handsomely tanned face and sun-bleached fiery hair, is the one boy who’s been camping out in Kageyama’s thoughts and dreams for years now. Except he’s right there, looking like a flashback from high school and a wholly new person, all at once.
“Yep!” He grins widely, eyes creasing into half-moons, his cheeks pink. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“What –” Kageyama swallows, his mouth sandpaper dry. “What’re you doing here?”
“Just gauging the competition.” Hinata says it casually with a little shrug but his expression betrays him; it’s pure excitement and ambition and it immediately sends an impatient chill racing down Kageyama’s spine. “You guys look strong.”
It’s so strange. It’s so strange to suddenly have Hinata within hugging distance after years of him being an entire ocean away. Kageyama knows what he’s been up to, they’ve kept each other updated, but it’s not the same. Pictures sent to his phone are nothing but pixels in the end. And this – a moment in actual real life – has turned into something that almost seems too surreal to be true. He doesn’t even know what to say.
“So…?” Hinata hesitates, nods in direction of Kageyama’s hands. “You gonna sign that for me or not?”
“Huh?” Kageyama looks down and realizes he’s still holding the shirt, all crumpled now in his clammy fists. He instantly blushes, fumbling. “Oh – I – well – turn around then, dumbass. Give me a surface.”
It’s impossible to miss how much broader Hinata’s shoulders have become. He carefully smooths the shirt out against his back, feeling the muscles underneath his palms, firm and strong. Maybe he hasn’t grown a lot taller – not compared to Kageyama anyway – but he’s definitely not wasted any time while he was in Brazil. He’s really taken care of himself, both physically and mentally, and if it weren’t for his tongue being so firmly glued to the roof of his mouth Kageyama would’ve praised him for it.
He clears his throat and quickly writes his name down. Maybe it’s just as well; his brain seems to be lagging something awfully right now anyway.
Hinata turns around, accepts his newly signed Adlers shirt, and holds it up, frowning at it.
“I see you didn’t practice your signature,” he remarks. “Your handwriting still sucks.”
“It’s fine, all autographs are unintelligible.”
Their conversation is brought to an abrupt dead end, reaching a point where there’s no obvious continuation. This isn’t a typical scenario, to have one of them on the court and the other one on the sideline. It’s not typical at all for someone who used to be partners. Kageyama doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to this – and he’s sure he’s not the only one who feels this way. He opens his mouth to say something – anything – before the silence grows too long and awkward, but Hinata beats him to it.
“Where do you live?”
The question is unexpected, to say the least. Kageyama blinks at him, unsure whether or not he heard him correctly, and his heart stutters a little. He feels so off-center at the moment, things are happening all at once but not at all, and he hopes he isn’t coming off as distracted or uninterested in the midst of everything. He’s just constantly getting caught off guard.
“Um,” he begins haltingly, “like, a ten-minute walk from here maybe. Why…?”
“I’ll walk you home, then!” Hinata declares, grinning. “I have to catch the last train but there’s still some time left. Let’s talk more!”
Kageyama almost turns him down out of sheer surprise. He bites the words back, stumbles on his tongue, trips over his heartbeat, and ends up accepting the offer with a shrug and a nod. He hurries off to the dressing room, changes into clean clothes at record speed, grabs his things, and nearly crashes into a couple of his teammates as he sprints out of the venue.
It’s stupid but there’s a small part of him that fears he might’ve dreamed up that whole encounter, that he’s been soaking in his thoughts and feelings for so long that it finally manifested in a very real hallucination. There’s also another, bigger part of him that fears Hinata was there but then just left the very moment Kageyama let him out of his sight.
Deep down he knows he’s worrying for no good reason, and he knows Hinata would never do something like that to anyone, but that doesn’t stop him from being flooded with relief when he finds him waiting outside the main entrance – the same boy that once left for another country and came back a young man; changed yet familiar.
“So where to?” he asks as Kageyama jogs down the steps to join him.
“Right this way.” Kageyama points down the street. “It’s just three or four blocks.”
“Not surprised that you live within walking distance of practice. As expected of a volleyball nerd.”
“Shut up, I was lucky when looking for apartments.”
Hinata falls into step beside him and gestures at the logo on Kageyama’s team jacket. “So the Schweiden Adlers, huh? I remember you mentioned them as one of the teams who recruited you. You guys are number one in the league, right?”
“Goes without saying.”
“Hey, that’s so arrogant!” Hinata exclaims, lightly scolding him. “Show some modesty!”
“But it’s true,” Kageyama shrugs. “With or without me, Adlers was always a strong team.”
He thinks back to when he joined the team three years ago, only eighteen years old, and what a culture shock it was compared to high school. Pro league wasn’t just one level up from high school; it was several levels, several jumps, several divisions above high school. Kageyama had always wanted to reach that goal, he was ecstatic about it, but his first year proved to be full of difficult challenges and adjustments. Even with all his talent he was still a rookie. In the end he dealt with it just fine, though. He knew this was nothing compared to whatever Hinata was going through, all alone in a foreign country, starting from scratch.
Hinata used to say all the time that Kageyama was the amazing one, but Hinata was always the bravest one out of the two of them. It’s Hinata who’s amazing, in Kageyama’s eyes.
“Well, I’m gonna beat you either way!” Hinata proclaims, cutting loudly through his memories. “So just you wait!”
“You’re talking big now but you need to make it on a team first.”
“I know that! And I’m aiming for the Black Jackals, just so you know.” He puffs his chest out proudly. “They’re the best team running tryouts at the moment.”
“Black Jackals…” Kageyama repeats thoughtfully. He knows that name and a few of the players well; they’ve played against them – and beat them – a couple of times. “That’s Bokuto-san’s team.”
“Yep, and Miya-san’s, too! Miya Atsumu!”
“I know,” Kageyama hums, frowning, his insides stirring with something that makes his stomach flip. “Guess you better make it, then. So I can beat you.”
He expects an immediate response to that challenge, maybe even a bet, but Hinata just glances up at him and smiles with something that looks a lot like fondness. It’s bright and warm and Kageyama has to quickly look away so he won’t reveal his blushing cheeks and undoubtedly be teased for it.
“Isn’t it weird how this is the first time we’re actually seeing each other in years?” Hinata continues, thankfully none the wiser. “I saw you on TV during the Olympics but it’s obviously not the same.”
“Why didn’t you watch any of my matches in person?”
Truthfully, Kageyama never intended to say that out loud. It was in his head, it stayed still long enough for him to process the meaning, but it must’ve slipped before he realized it. It wasn’t supposed to make it past his lips. All of a sudden he’s fifteen years old again, he blurted out something he didn’t mean to, and on top of it all he had sounded disappointed, even a little entitled.
“Well, I –” For the first time that evening Hinata seems taken aback, slightly spellbound for a second. “Um, I’m sorry…? I couldn’t get off work, to be honest. And… it was harder to get a hold of tickets than I thought it’d be.”
“Never mind,” Kageyama mutters, embarrassed. “You don’t have to apologize for it.”
There’s a quiet inhale, a waiting question, and Hinata looks down at his feet, his face disappearing in the shadows.
“Why didn’t you come see me?”
Kageyama snorts, amused at the thought. “I doubt anyone would allow me out of the Olympic village, let alone loose on the streets of Rio. That one’s pretty obvious.”
“I’m not so sure about that…” Hinata shrugs. “You probably could’ve snuck out on one of your off days. If you messaged me I’d come meet you, no problem. I’d make sure to have you safely back home by eight,” he adds, but his lighthearted tone doesn’t match his expression and the joke falls flat between them.
They’ve reached a quieter part of the street and at this point the mood has definitely changed. What Hinata said didn’t sound like an accusation but it wasn’t exactly a suggestion either, and Kageyama has no idea how he’s supposed to respond.
“Don’t worry about it, Kageyama-kun!” Hinata says brightly, even though his face is still hidden in the darkness. “It was two years ago anyway, it’s no big deal!”
He waves his hand reassuringly and skips a couple of steps ahead of him, his uneven shadow blurred out by the streetlights and the cold neon glare from the shop windows. The sight of his retreating shape sparks something to life in Kageyama’s chest, something similar to frustration, like when he’s on the court and knows he has to change strategies in order to turn the game around, but just can’t find the solution.
“Why would you say that in the first place?” he asks, finally finding his voice. “Should it have been a big deal? Should I be worried?”
Hinata slows down to a stop but doesn’t turn around. The sparse lights have turned his hair a ghostly pale yellow, digging dark grooves between his shoulder blades, into the broad of his back. He’s clearly hesitating, which is weird – it’s not at all like Hinata to hesitate about anything.
“I… wrote a lot of messages for you while I was away.”
Kageyama frowns, confused. “What – like in the group chat?”
“No, they were just for you.”
“Okay? Then – then they must’ve not gotten through or something…”
“They didn’t because I never sent them. I deleted them all.”
At this point Kageyama is completely lost. He has no idea what just happened that made everything change so drastically. It’s like he had a few seconds’ amnesia and now there’s a whole missing gap in the conversation. This definitely isn’t the direction he expected it to take.
“Hinata, what do you mean?”
The silhouette ahead of him is dark and immovable, lit up faintly neon blue. He squirms a little, runs his hand through his hair, fingers slipping between soft curls that have been cut a little shorter than before.
“I mean exactly that,” he says. “Almost every night, before I went to sleep, I wrote a message for you. And then I deleted it without sending it. I never even drafted any of them.”
Kageyama grabs his bag tightly, in want of something to hold on to. “Why?”
Hinata’s shoulders tense up in response. He makes a move as though he wants to turns around but changes his mind last minute; Kageyama only catches a veiled glimpse of his profile.
“I think,” he begins, his voice distant, “that I could’ve told you what was in those messages if only I’d seen you face-to-face. Even if it’s about something difficult or scary it’s easier to say it in person, rather than writing it down. I’m just not good at expressing my feelings in a message.”
Difficult things? Scary things? Kageyama can’t exactly say he’s confident in whatever it is his gut is trying to settle on. He swallows, his throat parched and dry, and when he speaks his voice comes out sounding hoarse and scratchy, like it’s on the verge of cracking.
“Then face me now, dumbass.”
“I –” Hinata’s breath hitches. “I don’t think I can. I don’t want to.”
Kageyama stares at his turned-away back. Had Hinata been a teenager in this moment he’s sure he would’ve been less hesitant, less restrained, less nervous – no matter what the issue. Whatever he’s struggling to say right now he probably would’ve shouted out back then, loud and clear at the top of his lungs. He always used to be extremely straightforward, especially when talking to Kageyama.
But Hinata isn’t fifteen years old anymore. He’s turning twenty-two in only a couple of months. Kageyama can’t tell if he’s just being mature or if it’s a sudden lack of bravery – or if he’s projecting his own fears onto him and getting all of this wrong. He could walk over to him, he could take those three steps and close the gap between them, but he can’t bring himself to do it and he doesn’t know why. This strange situation is nothing like them at all and that fact scares him deeply. He had always thought things would stay the same.
“So message me, then.”
At first it’s just something he randomly blurts out on instinct, something to follow Hinata’s reluctance, because that’s what you do in volleyball. Every serve, every spike, every receive – you have to follow to make the ball connect. But then Hinata’s shoulders respond to his words with a surprised twitch and Kageyama realizes he actually said something that kind of sounds like a solution, however stupid it is.
“Yeah. If you can’t turn around then send it to me now, while you’re standing there. Call it a compromise or – or something.”
“You… think that’s fine?” Hinata asks after a thoughtful pause.
“We’re not getting anywhere like this.”
And so that’s how they end up standing there, in the neon nightfall under the streetlights, with their phones clutched in their hands and their hearts racing fast. The clock pushes midnight by minutes, then by seconds, and somewhere in the distance the last train for the day is getting ready to leave the station. Kageyama wouldn’t know. He doesn’t even know if any cars or people have recently passed them by – all he’s focused on is Hinata’s slightly hunched shoulders and the distant tapping of his keyboard.
“Are you writing a whole essay or what?” he snaps, his knuckles whitening around his phone, nerves almost getting the better of him. This is much worse than the first time he was waiting to know whether he’d made the national team or not. “Just get it over with, you idiot!”
“Alright, alright!” Hinata retorts. “You don’t have to yell, geez.”
A few more seconds tick by before Kageyama’s phone lights up with a new message. It vibrates against his palm, almost slipping right out of his hand, and with trembling fingers he blindly swipes at the screen before the notification can spoil him.
Only one unread message sits in his inbox, sent from only one person, consisting of only one sentence.
I’m so in love with you I can’t stand it.
Kageyama’s entire body goes numb, almost to the point of his soul literally ascending. He reads the message over and over again, repeats the words until he’s sure he truly understands what they mean, until his vision start to blur and his phone screen dims. When he finally looks up he finds Hinata has turned around to face him at last. His cheeks are burning an anxious red, his hands wrung tightly around Kageyama’s signed shirt, which by now has been reduced to a shabby rag.
“My first year away I learned that sticking to a daily routine helps when you’re homesick. Get a part-time job, play a lot of beach volleyball… that kind of stuff. It worked when LINE wasn’t enough and I was missing family and friends extra badly.” He pauses, takes a deep shaky breath, and manages a small smile. “But it gets complicated when the one you’re missing is also someone you’re in love with. There’s no cure for that. There’s no cure for you.”
Kageyama realizes he hasn’t moved or said anything in a while. He isn’t sure if he’s even breathing. But he knows that if he could rewind time all the way back to high school, wipe out everything he’s achieved so far and start over again differently, then he would’ve done it without question. Maybe then he wouldn’t be giving himself and Hinata so much unnecessary misery for three whole years. And if everything should still end up the same then maybe he’d at least be able to understand the hints Natsu was dropping back at the shrine.
“God…” he mutters and squeezes his eyes shut, annoyed with himself and how entirely dense he’s been all this time. “This is so stupid…”
“I’m sorry,” Hinata says quickly, and it’s the panicky edge in his voice rather than the apology itself that makes Kageyama open his eyes again. “I – I totally should’ve said something about this before I left, while I was still in my gap year after graduation, even before that. I just… I couldn’t. Because this is pretty weird, right?”
“Yeah, weird,” he rambles on, hardly pausing. “It’s weird and awkward and you’re my best friend, you suddenly had so many amazing things going for you–”
“And I didn’t wanna bother you or ruin things between us or get in the way of your opportunities or anything–”
“Will you just shut up already?!” Kageyama shouts, so loudly his voice echoes down the quiet street, and something inside his head snaps free off its hinges. “I feel the same way, you dumbass! I have for years! So don’t fucking stand there and apologize!”
The blush on Hinata’s cheeks pales considerably and he sucks in a sharp breath, his brown eyes widening. “What…?”
It’s already late spring but right now the evening breeze seems too hot for this time of year. Kageyama’s heart is drumming up a rhythm that’s so loud in his ears he can’t even hear anything else. It’s like he just came back from playing five straight sets, no substitute, and he’s possibly never felt this stupid before. He clicks his tongue irritably and closes the distance between them, leaving all hesitation behind as he pulls Hinata into a hug.
“I always had a crush on you,” he mutters into his hair. “But we separated so easily after graduation. We said goodbye and that was it. I figured we’d grown apart, that our partnership wasn’t that important after all. And honestly… I didn’t think you’d miss me all that much anyway. So I never said anything.”
His words drift away into silence and neither of them moves. Hugging Hinata is like holding a furnace in his arms, like he’s burning up from a fever. This is probably what it feels like, all the time, when love turns out to be requited.
“I always thought about you, every day,” Hinata admits quietly, murmuring into his jacket. “I also thought you maybe wouldn’t wait for me anymore. That’s one of the reasons I had to see you again so soon. I had to make sure nobody else had gotten to you before me.”
Kageyama can’t help but smile at that. It’s possibly one of the stupidest, most ridiculous things he’s ever heard in his life. As if he’d ever allow anyone else to push Hinata down from the special place he’s occupied in his heart. He’d always wait for him no matter how long it takes.
“So – what?”
“So… I guess you’ll have to stay over at my place now?”
Hinata leans away a little and looks up at him; his face nothing but a pure question mark before it melts into a soft, glowing smile. He nods, breathes out the faintest ‘yes’, and then tilts his head up and kisses him.
If the sky was torn open above them in that moment, or if buildings were collapsing all around them, or if the whole world was turned on its head, completely flipped upside-down – then it wouldn’t have mattered to Kageyama. He wouldn’t have noticed a thing anyway. His senses are occupied, fully wrapped up in Hinata and everything that he is, everything that Kageyama has wanted and missed for so long. He gathers him against his body, embraces him extra tightly, allows himself to be completely enveloped in relief and warmth and tentative happiness.
“I caught up to you in the end,” Hinata whispers against his lips.
A soaring sensation shoots through Kageyama’s gut at those words, his heart a squeezing fist in his chest, and he has to hold himself back from swooping down and kissing him breathless again.
“You can’t even catch a cold,” he snorts.
“And you can’t catch me,” Hinata responds, a mischievous grin spreading on his face, and Kageyama knows by competitive instinct alone that in a split-second from now he will be chasing this dumbass down the street at breakneck speed.
It’s fine, he thinks, as he’s sprinting half an arm’s length behind Hinata, the wind in his hair and laughter bubbling in his chest.
It’s fine if neither of them manages to catch up completely. Now that they both know where they stand, now that they're together again, it’s totally fine. They’ll continue to keep the score anyway.