Atsumu is quoting Shakespeare.
No. More accurately—Atsumu is absolutely butchering Shakespeare, and Sakusa has to bear witness.
Atsumu is dramatically down on one knee in the locker room, hand on heart, demonstrating to Bokuto how he should propose to Akaashi.
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day, Bokkun—" Atsumu drawls, "—hot."
The uproar that follows in the wake of this terrible, terrible proclamation gives Sakusa an instant headache.
Bokuto is beaming with pride.
"That's so COOL, Tsum-tsum—do another one! Another one! I gotta tell Keiji this!"
"—at the very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly at your SERVICE ... ACE!"
Bokuto roars in enthusiastic agreement; back thumps and jeers from the other jackals follow. Atsumu makes deliberate and perverted eye contact with Sakusa over the ensuing din, and Sakusa's headache intensifies tenfold.
"You don't strike me as someone with a brain for Shakespeare" Sakusa remarks, later, keeping a careful arms length away from where Atsumu is finishing up his post-practice stretches.
"Maybe I don't," is Atsumu's uncharacteristically subdued reply. Then he continues, cheerfully—
"—maybe someone who studied literature in college can explain it to me sometime."
He winks, smiles, and ambles away before Sakusa can even pull together a coherent thought.
The next day Hinata Shouyou joins the Black Jackals. He bursts into the Black Jackals locker room shining like a thousand suns. He's magnetic, radiating affection and goodwill. He draws the attention of the entire team, who somehow manage to look as if they're staring up at him in adoration when Hinata is a head shorter than most of them.
"SHALL I COMPARE THEE TO A SUMMER'S DAY, SHOYOU—" Bokuto bellows, thundering towards Hinata arms outstretched. Meian-san cuffs him violently across the back of the head, stepping in to shake Hinata's hand with a pleasant smile. Bokuto's pained whimper is drowned out by the genial sounds of welcome from the rest of the team.
"Welcome to the Black Jackals, Hinata Shouyou."
Hinata looks utterly and enthusiastically confused.
"Thank you! I'm so hlad to be—I mean—happy! To be here! And glad!"
They do a round of introductions, and head to the gym for practice.
Sakusa watches Atsumu watching Hinata, sees him grin, sees his eyes light up at the prospect of taming this new monster spiker.
A hot flash of something sparks through his heart.
Atsumu's first successful quick set with Hinata sends a mild shockwave through the gym. They holler and high-five, and even Sakusa feels like the air in the gym is fresher, moving a little bit faster now. He can't help but keep half an eye on Hinata and the way he seems to hang in the air mid-leap.
Half an hour later during a water break, Atsumu ambles up to Sakusa.
"Saw ya' watchin'. Who ever loved that loved not at first sight, amirite?"
Sakusa feels his eyebrows cramping up. He is physically in pain.
"Why do you do this. Why."
Atsumu practically preens.
"Why, Omi-kun. Been stayin' up late thinking 'bout what makes me tick, hmm?"
"Also, that's very prejudiced of ya', Omi-kun. According to NO-SWEATING-SHAKESPEARE dot com, Shakespeare ought'a be more accessible to us uncultured masses."
He's right, damn him.
It is completely against his will and somewhat beyond his understanding how exactly he ends up squeezed in Bokuto's living room three weeks later with the rest of the Black Jackals, watching one of Akaashi's recordings of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
"Akaashi says this one is the best! He studied literature at college too, did you know?" Bokuto enthuses to the team in general.
Sakusa does, in fact, know. Akaashi Keiji had won his reluctant respect on the court as Tokyo U's second string setter, and his immediate animosity as fellow dean's list competitor.
"Only one person will win that department-wide book prize, Sakusa-kun", Akaashi had said, on one of the rare occasions the conversation had strayed away from volleyball plays. "I'll be rooting for you."
Sakusa hates Akaashi. Hates him and his ridiculously fashionable hair and his awful taste in men and Shakespeare (Macbeth being clearly superior to A Midsummer Night's Dream). He especially, specifically hates how he gets drawn into the love quadrangle unfolding onscreen anyway.
On screen, the unfortunately named Nick Bottom has his head turned into a donkey's head. The jackals hoot and cheer as the donkey-man on screen snorts and brays, ugly donkey ears swaying in confusion.
"Oh look," he mutters to Atsumu, "it's you."
"Been thinking about m' ass, have you?" Atsumu shoots back, not even tearing his eyes away from the screen. He's transfixed by the unfolding drama, grinning and groaning in turns as the four lovers bumble through the woods.
Sakusa, offended, can't help being transfixed by him in turn. In the darkness Atsumu's eyes are glowing, his characteristic loudness subdued as he pays attention to the show. The TV casts green light onto Atsumu's cheekbones as Hermia wanders through the forest calling for Lysander, who no longer loves her.
Sakusa thinks about love, and wandering, and getting lost.
After the show, Sakusa slips out of the living room and nearly walks right into Bokuto.
"Oh! Didn't see you there—just got off the phone with Akaashi, Omi-kun. I call him every day!"
"I didn't ask."
"He says he hopes you're doing well!"
Sakusa says he's fine, thanks, and morosely wonders out loud how the hell Akaashi and Bokuto even got together.
"Akaashi says, reason and love keep little company nowadays," Bokuto informs him, eyes glowing with sage wisdom.
Sakusa can accept this.
"Also, Akaashi says I'm hot—" Bokuto continues, and Sakusa does not accept this—
"—and I have the charisma . . . of a star."
He is thankfully spared from responding by the appearance of Atsumu himself, sliding open the screen door of the living room and stepping out into the corridor.
"'m heading off with Shouyou-kun! Thanks for having us, Bokkun! Omi-kun, you coming?"
There is no physical way Sakusa can walk back to his apartment without going the same way as Atsumu and Hinata. Caught between a clown and two fools, he opts for the lesser evil.
And so Sakusa finds himself walking home with Atsumu and Hinata, talking about Shakespeare.
Atsumu is glowing with the impatience of a man who has just acquired new knowledge and cannot wait to use it.
"Get lost, you dwarf, you tiny little weed, you scrap, you ACORN—" he hollers at Hinata, shoving him off the sidewalk.
Ah, the two pillars of Shakespeare, Sakusa thinks bitterly. Love and insults.
"You PAINTED MAYPOLE." Hinata shrieks back, attempting to kick Atsumu in the shoulder. His boundless energy is truly amazing.
"—if anyone's the maypole here it's Omi-kun, don'tcha think?"
Atsumu leers at him, hovering his hand just high enough above Sakusa's head to count as not-touching.
Hinata laughs, bright and happy into the night.
Sakusa thinks, if they're assigning roles now, that he's definitely Hermia, and Atsumu is Lysander, and Hinata is a nasty little thief of love. Not that he cares.
"—please don't drag me into this," he finally says, too tired to snipe.
They see Hinata off at his apartment and continue on, the mood decidedly cold.
Atsumu has never been one to falter in the face of silence.
"Why d'you hate A Midsummer Night's Dream, Omi-kun? I thought it was pretty good."
Sakusa, tired but determined not to let Akaashi (via Bokuto) influence Atsumu with inferior opinions of Shakespeare, starts laying out an entire exposition on the merits of the tragedy (specifically, Macbeth) over comedy (specifically, A Midsummer-freaking-Night's Dream).
Atsumu listens quietly to Sakusa's rambling, for long enough that Sakusa thinks he can't possibly be paying attention.
But Atsumu is listening, and the realization makes Sakusa feel lost.
"Why do you like Shakespeare, then." Sakusa offers, when he thinks he's talked enough.
"I like the way they talk," Atsumu had confessed. "S'different. Like me."
And then, later:
"—don' really get why that's such a big deal, y'know, what Bokkun said—the whole "reason and love keep little company nowadays" thing. I mean. I guess it kinda makes sense, but—nowadays? When have people ever fallen in love for good reason?"
When indeed, Sakusa thinks. They're almost at the junction where Atsumu takes a left and Sakusa goes right.
"—have ya' ever fallen in love for good reason, Omi-kun?"
Under the yellow glow of the street lamps, Atsumu's eyes are very warm. Sakusa doesn't have an answer.
At practice, Sakusa wanders from drill to drill, trying not to default back to watching Atsumu watch Hinata. It's a futile effort.
They end up standing together on the sidelines, watching Hinata sync up with the second-string setter. Hinata leaps up into the air, suspended for a beautiful moment.
"But soft, what light through yonder window breaks," Sakusa murmurs, irritation flaring at the way Atsumu can't look away.
Atsumu looks absolutely d e l i g h t e d at this turn of events.
"Quotin' love poetry at me, Omi-Omi?"
His grin widens even further as he turns to Sakusa, and something sparks in Sakusa's chest.
"I was talking to you. Not about you." He sneers back.
"Oh?" Atsumu shoots him a heavy-lidded look of pure delight. Then—
"Methinks my lady protests too much," Atsumu says, eyes sly, and how dare he. How dare he.
(How dare he watch and quote Macbeth at you because you said it was good.)
"Things base and vile, holding no quantity—" he retorts, because Atsumu is nothing if not a base, vile man. Then he stops, because the second half of that is not what he means to say. At all.
(—love can transpose to form and dignity, Sakusa's brain perversely plays over and over. The sparks in his heart feel like they're multiplying, like they're a bit of kindling away from setting his whole body on fire. Love can transpose to form and dignity. LOVE can transpose—)
Atsumu isn't saying anything, but his eyes are very, very bright, and his smile is glowing with bliss. Sakusa can't look away.
Then Hinata finally manages to sync up his demon quick with the setter on court, sending a perfect spike thundering down onto the other side of the net. It breaks the moment between them. Atsumu whoops and slaps Hinata on the back as he jogs on court to swap places with the setter; Sakusa turns away and tries to extinguish the stuttering sparks in his heart.
Practice is over, and Sakusa is torn between evading Atsumu, and confronting him. To wait, or not to wait—?
Hinata makes the decision for him, popping up in front of him with amazing speed for someone with their shoes half on.
"Wait for us, Omi-san! Let's walk home together! Atsumu-san says he wants to go to the conbini! Come with us!" Then he zips off to put his shoes on, and Sakusa resigns himself to his fate.
Glancing over to check if Atsumu is ready to leave, Sakusa finds Atsumu already looking at him, smiling wickedly.
"Gotta buy ya' a treat for all those beautiful spikes today, Shouyou-kun," Atsumu says, making unnecessarily diligent eye contact with Sakusa over Hinata's crouched form.
Hinata, struggling with his shoelaces but still an absolute angel, will not stand for such preferential treatment.
"You ought to buy something for Omi-san too! His spikes are AWESOME, SO AWESOME. I think you're awesome, Omi-san."
"Thank you," Sakusa feels obliged to say. It is truly difficult to hate someone like Hinata.
Somehow, he survives the inane chatter all the way to the conbini and the ridiculous pressure of being coerced into picking a snack so Atsumu can pay for it.
Then they see Hinata off at his apartment and continue on, the mood decidedly warmer.
Atsumu is the first to break the silence.
"Knew ya' loved me deep down, Omi-Omi," he gloats, eyes crinkling warmly. This is what it feels like to die of shame, Sakusa thinks. He fights the sparking, smoldering thing in his chest down.
"The lines you used on Bokuto were really shit. Just so you know."
"Omi-kun," Atsumu croons, "I wouldn't have used those lines on you."
Sakusa levels him with what he hopes is a disbelieving, judgmental stare.
Atsumu beams. Sakusa immediately regrets encouraging him.
"You are—beautiful," Atsumu proclaims, fists clenched tight around the strap of his duffel bag, right over his heart.
"—and therefore to be wooed," Atsumu plunges on, undeterred, "—to be won—"
"Please stop talking."
Atsumu laughs, face flushed with joy, voice unbearably warm—
"—to be loved."
Sakusa's heart burns.
The evening sun is blazing all around them, and everything is gold. They've stopped at the junction they usually part ways at, and Sakusa thinks he will remember this moment forever. The wind, the quiet golden light, Atsumu's joy blazing brighter than the sun as he bids Sakusa farewell.
"See ya'," Atsumu says, smiling softly. He turns left.
Sakusa goes right, and all the way home he turns the memory of those words over and over again until they sit in his heart like warm glowing embers.