From the moment the ball hits the court and the final whistle blows, for a long, timeless moment, all around Shouyou is nothing but silence.
His feet touch back down on the floor. The final score lights up the scoreboard. The referee folds his arms over each other in a cross. For a brief second, there is nothing but the air being dragged in and out of his lungs and the blood pounding in his veins.
Then there’s a thump, of the hot and sweaty body of Bokuto, who crashes against his back and wraps sturdy arms around his chest in a messy hug. He could be yelling, or crying, or laughing, or maybe all three. Shouyou doesn’t know, he can’t hear anything at all.
Someone else slides into view and then Atsumu is crowding him at the front, sliding his hands into his hair and ruffling it, and through the haze that’s slowly filling Shouyou’s vision, he can see the setter’s crooked grin. Sakusa slinks up next, and he does not touch, but his face is as satisfied as Shouyou’s ever seen it – mouth forming words he cannot discern but those dark eyes are suspiciously bright.
The rest of the team gathers round, and there are hands raining down on him, on his back and through his hair, grabbing at his hands to shake them and raise them up in the air.
Through it all, it was like someone had come along and stuffed Shouyou’s ears full of cotton, reducing the world to nothing but wavering colours and white noise. He’s smiling, he’s sure, his cheeks hurt from the pull of it, and his skin is damp with something other than just sweat. But even as his breathing levels and his heart settles, his nerves don’t stop singing. The fire in his blood still burning, unyielding.
Slowly, the sea of black and gold parts, until the hot press of bodies moves away like a curtain. In the gap between them all, at first all he can see is the net. His barrier, his yard stick, stretched across the seemingly infinite orange arena of the court. Then he sees someone walk forwards from the other side, until they’re ducking down and lifting the netting with one hand to step underneath it.
Shouyou’s knees wobble, and maybe there’s a push of calloused fingers against his back, and then his feet are stumbling. Tripping over themselves in an ungainly stagger, until his balance returns and the totter becomes a jog. He has just enough time to see a pair of arms spread wide to reveal an open expanse of a white-covered chest before he is launching.
The flight is short lived, and Shouyou is no sooner airborne than he is colliding with Kageyama and winding his arms around broad shoulders. He feels the setter’s own arms come up and hook themselves under his armpits and tighten across his back, strong and unwavering. He ducks his head forward, pressing his face into the juncture between Kageyama’s shoulder and his neck, and breathes him in.
The tang of his sweat dampened skin is like a switch, and then sound and sensation return all at once; a cacophony echoing all around them.
“I won,” he whispers into salty skin, and he doesn’t even really mean the game.
It’s the fact he’s standing here at all. It’s going pro, it’s making it to the highest national level, it’s winning his first game. It’s technique, it’s training. It’s victory.
It’s a promise fulfilled.
The arms around him tighten just a bit more and Shouyou becomes vaguely aware that he’s dangling off of Kageyama. His toes are just brushing the floor as the setter holds him close. There’s a puff of air by his ear where Kageyama has his face turned and then the other man is laughing. That odd little thing he does where he doesn’t laugh with his voice so much as his chest – tiny whoofs of air shuddering against the shell of Shouyou’s ear.
Suddenly, the world spins and tilts, and Kageyama is turning them in a clumsy circle, Shouyou’s feet swaying as they twist. A soft, bubbly noise escapes his throat as they spin, and Shouyou isn’t sure if it’s a sob or a laugh of his own. Kageyama’s arms shudder once the revolution is finished, his strength waning, and Shouyou loosens his own grip to drop neatly back down to the floor.
He’s aware, vaguely, that they’re standing in the middle of a court after an official game, and there should, technically, be some sort of after game procedure. They’re supposed to shake hands, say thank-you, and return to their respective sides. He’s aware they’re holding everything up.
He doesn’t really care.
How can he, when Kageyama still isn’t pulling away even when his feet are back on the ground, and he’s looking at him with eyes like that? Deep, endless blue as always, but there’s nothing about them that shows disappointment. The Adlers are the reigning champions, and Kageyama hates to lose, though to look at him now you’d think he’d just won the league for the fourth time in a row.
Shouyou’s tongue peeks out, swipes across his lips, as suddenly his mouth goes dry. He’s supposed to be crowing. He should be babbling – did you see my receive? Did you see that spike? Did you see how no-one went to get that last service ace?
And on and on, like he used to.
But he can’t, someone’s choked off his throat and squeezed it tight and rendered his vocal chords useless. It leaves Shouyou feeling dizzy, light headed, as the weight of what has just happened coalesces all at once. He lets go of the back of Kageyama’s jersey, where his fists were twisted in the fabric, to press the heels of his hands against his stinging eyes.
“I won,” he whimpers again, eventually, the words just squeaking past his swollen windpipe and the gaps in his palms.
“So you did,” Kageyama murmurs back, “finally,” he adds, as if in afterthought.
Shouyou gulps down air to fortify his voice and loosen his throat, the breaths just hitching ever so slightly. “I told you I would. I told you I would beat you,” he croaks, and a smile manages to wobble its way across his face. “Did you see-“
He can’t even finish his question, whatever thing he had chosen to badger Kageyama about first, before the setter is interrupting.
“Of course I did, dumbass, I saw everything. I was right there.”
The words are abrupt but the tone is not. It’s soft and fond and proud, and Shouyou feels his heart flip over itself in his chest. Kageyama has let him go now, and he’s vaguely aware of other players in his periphery making their way towards the net. Time, they’re running out of it before they can talk again.
“Oh yeah?” He shoots, trying for teasing, but falling a little at the first hurdle. “How was-“
Shouyou blinks, shocked, before he whispers, “what?” And there it is, that warm, heady feeling he’d always been chasing after, he can feel it now.
Kageyama cocks his head at him, with that crooked smile of his, and says, “what were you expecting? You didn’t spend all that time on the beach to come back anything less did you? Of course it was perfect.”
Abruptly, Shouyou feels the need to crouch low on the floor and curl up, press his face into his jersey to soak up some of the emotion that’s threatening to burst from him right now. It’s not that he doesn’t know that he’s good, he does, he can recognise that you don’t get to stand on the court at five-foot-seven if you’re not good, but this is different.
This is Kageyama saying it. Kageyama, who has never said anything like this to him, ever, and oh how he’s been waiting. It’s like they’re in the Karasuno gym that first week all over again, with that very first set.
I believe in you, I was waiting for you to get here.
Shouyou wants to croak something out, wants to do something other than stand there and tremble and make terrible faces, but he can’t. He’s so indescribably happy, he cannot move.
The cooked smile on Kageyama’s face wavers then, replaced by something both shy and wanting all at once.
“Play with me again,” he blurts out, as the buzz of the other people on the court draw nearer.
“Well, there’s always the next game, Yamayama,” Shouyou teases finally, the demand loosening him, but his voice comes out a little thick and his eyelashes are too slick with tears to try for a wink.
“Not like that. Well, that too, but,” Kageyama rambles, then takes a step closer. The clatter of volleyball shoes against the floor halts, as though Shouyou’s teammates sense there’s a little more to be said.
“Play with me again,” Kageyama repeats, low and urgent. “Will you let me set for you?”
It can only be a second, but feels like an eternity, as everything in Shouyou’s mind whites out all at once.
Kageyama had made many demands of him over the years: do this, do that instead, get faster, get better.
Never, not once, had he asked so simply if he could set to Shouyou. As if it would be an honour to, as if he’s been waiting for and wanting this almost long as Shouyou has.
“Give me all the best ones,” Shouyou says, once his senses return, a grin spreading so wide on his face his cheeks hurt.
Those blue eyes shine bright, full of anticipation and excitement, and that mouth tilts, happily crooked, and then Kageyama is turning on his heel to join his team.
The end of game routine passes in a blur. Shouyou bows, says his thanks with everyone else, clasps hands with someone across the net (Ushijima, opposite to opposite, who shakes his hand firmly and nods in solemn acknowledgement) and lines up with his team for the final debrief. Everyone around him is buzzing, high on the thrill of victory, but Shouyou is alight for all of that and more.
It’s like someone reaches in and stuffs the cotton back into his ears, until the noise around him fuzzes away again. He’s so caught up in how he feels like he could vibrate out of his own skin, he doesn’t register the approach of several rivals until he’s suddenly encircled by both black and white.
The monsters jeer and poke at each other, taunts and something resembling honest praise being batted between them. Shouyou cannot join in, joy has wrapped itself around his ribcage and made it hard to breathe, let alone form words. But he’s content to stand there, let the hum of muffled voices soak into him.
Someone presses close by his elbow, and Shouyou swivels his gaze up to find Kageyama standing by his side, resolute. The setter isn’t looking at him, though, his eyes focused elsewhere, looking oddly hopeful.
Shouyou follows his line of sight and spots a man, who strolls towards them with purpose. The monsters around him stop murmuring in favour of dropping their heads in respect and greeting, and Shouyou tilts his head, confused.
The man continues forward, until he stops in front of Shouyou, and holds out his hand. He introduces himself as Hibarida Fuki, and he’s the coach of the national team. He congratulatulates Shouyou’s play, in a quiet, firm sort of voice, and then drops an invite Shouyou honestly thought he might never hear.
If it wasn’t for Kageyama standing so close next to him, his knees might have crumpled. Shouyou trembles there, shaking with the force of what he’s been offered, as the fuzz of noise increases around him but loses even more definition. Everything around him blurs into a kaleidoscope and he’s vaguely aware he might be crying again so he forces his useless, thick tongue to curl itself around some stumbling words of thanks, and folds at the waist.
The motion is sudden enough to send his fuzzy head spinning, and it’s only through Kageyama’s touch by his elbow that he manages to right himself without falling over. Hibarida is smiling, through the blur, saying things Shouyou should possibly be paying attention to but cannot focus on.
His attention is drawn, as always, to the man by his side. His setter, who wants to set to him again. Who can set to him again. The world stage, it beckons.
Kageyama looks down at him, with an expression he cannot discern because none of his senses are working properly, and thinks of the promise he’d told himself before this game started.
Bet your whole life on your play.
Time to take it. And then his lungs suddenly crack into life as he sucks in air sharply, everything snapping back into focus.
“Excuse us,” Shouyou blurts out, once everything comes back online again. There’s a barrage of confused blinking from not only Hibarida, but also from their teammates, but Shouyou ignores them all. He reaches out, grabs Kageyama’s hand firmly, and tugs. Pulling insistently until his setter follows and then they’re both moving.
“Hinata, what-“ comes Kageyama’s distant question over his shoulder, but Shouyou doesn’t reply. Keeps walking and pulling and ignoring the various people who try to clamour towards them. He marches forward, Kageyama in tow, until they reach the players’ entrance for the Jackals’ side. The game has ended, and the public are starting to stream towards the main exits or as close as they can get to the court. If they want privacy, it has to be here.
They’ve both spent many matches, hours (days, really) inside the Sendai City Gymnasium. They are both intimately familiar with its layout. It doesn’t take long for them to disappear into the corridors where the players stand in the wings, waiting to enter onto the court, and find somewhere secluded.
“Hinata-“ Kageyama says, loud and insistent now that they’re alone, but his voice is cut off by Shouyou reaching for his jersey and tugging him down so he can kiss him.
Kageyama goes from frozen shock to returning the favour in two seconds flat, and in no time at all there’s a pair of large hands cradling Shouyou’s jaw to improve the angle.
They’ve done this before. In their third year. In snatches during the year just after they graduated. Just before Shouyou stepped onto a plane to Brazil.
But only this.
And Shouyou wants more.
He thinks of Brazil, of Heitor and Nice, of a match on the beach and a declaration of intent, and feels a fire start to burn in his belly.
He crowds Kageyama until his setter shuffles backwards, his back thumping against the wall, neither of them parting as they move. Shouyou shifts his hands from Kageyama’s shirt to slide them up into his hair, relishing the silky feel of the strands between his fingers. He lets the kisses die down in intensity slowly, until they’re just soft pecks, the lightest brushes of lips. Then he nuzzles his nose against Kageyama’s, their air shared, pausing until he finds the words he wants to say.
“Stay with me,” he whispers.
He feels Kageyama’s frown against his own forehead.
“Stay by my side, always,” he reiterates, low and urgent. He doesn’t have the ring that Heitor had, or the perfect speech that Nice did. It’s okay, Kageyama will understand. He always does.
His setter tilts his head back just a tiny bit, just so he can meet his eye a little better. “We can’t always be on the same side, though…”
Shouyou slips his hands down a little so they’re cradling the back of Kageyama’s neck and the base of his skull. Rubs his thumbs over the short hairs there. “I don’t mean volleyball,” he says simply.
Those blue eyes narrow in a slightly suspicious squint.
Shouyou tries for a laugh, but it comes out wobbly, more hiccups than laughter. “I’d get down on one knee, but I think they’re too shaky,” he murmurs, voice trembling just as much as his exhausted legs are.
He watches the suspicion and confusion clear from Kageyama’s eyes, and lets a grin bloom across his face in return as his setter’s goes completely slack in shock and awe.
“Did you just-“
“Did you just propose to me?” Kageyama wheezes.
“We aren’t- we’re not even dati-“
“I know,” Shouyou says cheerfully, snuggling close again, pressing himself against Kageyama from chest to toes. He rubs his nose against his setter’s bridge and dances his fingertips across the nape of his neck. “I don’t care. Marry me anyway.”
It’s rushed and reckless and greedy and all of the things Shouyou is not supposed to be, but this one time it feels right. He doesn’t care they haven’t been dating in the true sense of the word. He doesn’t care he’s skipped several of the usual steps before you ask someone to marry you.
He doesn’t want to be with anyone else, and he’s always been in love with Kageyama, he thinks. Even from that first day, if only just a little bit.
It finally feels as though the pieces of his career are starting to fall into place, and the jigsaw is almost complete. Now he just needs to slot that final section home.
Kageyama blows out a long breath, one that ruffles both his hair and Shouyou’s, shaky and tremulous.
“Please?” Shouyou adds, with a cheeky smile.
The huffing not-laughter returns, puffing against his cheek as Kageyama suddenly folds and buries his face against his shoulder. Shouyou hums happily and slides his greedy little hands over his setter’s upper back, his shoulders, his neck. He feels Kageyama’s own hands slip from where they were trapped between them to loop around his torso again, squeezing tight.
The damp patch by his collar gets a little wetter with something other than sweat, and Shouyou tips his head until it’s resting against Kageyama’s and lets his own stinging eyes slide shut. He could crumple right there, he thinks, from exhaustion and all of the things that have just happened, and maybe Kageyama could too. But here they stand, propped up by each other in the middle of a hallway.
“Is that a yes?” Shouyou pipes up into the silence, after a few long, silent minutes.
Kageyama shudders in his arms and then he’s suddenly lurching upright, tilting forwards so their lips crash back together again.
“Dumbass,” he snarls against him in between kisses, arms clamping around Shouyou even tighter. “Yes, of course I do. Idiot. Who proposes in a hallway to someone he’s not even-“
Shouyou slides his tongue into his mouth to shut him up. There’s a few beats where neither of them say anything, too wrapped up in each other to form any words. And once Shouyou is satisfied his setter is sufficiently pliant against him, he lets the happy flame burning away in his chest spread through him. An energising, heady fire that sets his nerves singing and gives his muscles new life.
He hooks his arms securely around Kageyama’s torso, braces his now not-so-shaky knees, and lifts.
Kageyama makes a soft, startled noise, but it’s drowned out under Shouyou’s fierce giggle as he lifts his setter clear into the air, staggering back a bit under his weight. Large hands scrabble at the back of his jersey and there’s definitely some sort of undignified squawk, but Shouyou can’t focus on it enough to tease.
He’s too busy lightly swaying his new fiancé to and fro in the middle of a hallway that, judging from the noises echoing down towards them, is about to become a bit less secluded. He allows himself a few more seconds of sheer, undiluted bliss, of the weight of everything to seep into his very bones, before he slowly lets Kageyama back down to the ground.
He’s played his first professional game. He’s won his first game. He’s been offered a spot on the national team.
Kageyama is going to marry him, going to set to him again.
He opens his mouth to say something sappy in his happy delirium, but then Kageyama is, as always, beating him to it.
“I love you.”
“Huh?” Shouyou blinks, stunned temporarily, as he stares up at that handsome face. At the rumpled hair and the twinkling eyes and the wet tracks down his cheeks. At the smile, soft and tilted, until it hardens into something more like a victory smirk.
“I wanted to say it first!” He blurts out, indignant, and Kageyama snorts, albeit wetly.
“You just did,” he says easily, and reaches for the hem of his jersey so he can drag it up to his face and try and scrub off the wetness there. Shouyou tries his very best not to let the fire in his veins simply combust on the spot.
The voices down the hall get louder, until they can be picked out individually, and the nostalgic familiarity of them sends a new, different sort of thrill zipping down Shouyou’s spine.
“I think our friends have found us,” he says, more to himself than anything, but then a large hand is slipping into his and gripping tightly.
Shouyou spins his gaze up at Kageyama, and tilts his head in question at the sudden, intense glint he sees there.
“Do you really want to marry me?” Kageyama demands suddenly. Then the words seem to catch up with him and he visibly falters, the grip on Shouyou’s hand loosening slightly.
Shouyou changes the grip so their fingers are interlaced instead, relishes the feel of perfectly maintained nails and callouses dragging across his skin. Clamps down hard and presses their palms flush against each other. “Of course I do, idiot,” he returns, immensely fond. He swings their hands lightly. “I want to be beside you forever.”
Kageyama looks down at their hands, up at the end of the corridor where their old teammates are rapidly approaching, and then down at Shouyou. A beat, a sigh, and then a grin, bright and fierce and victorious, splits across his face.
Shouyou’s hand is held tighter, and then tugged, until he’s being pulled by his setter towards their friends, to get the celebrations for the rest of their lives started, side-by-side.