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A Dri-Fit named Desire

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man playing in Div 1 VLeague, must be in want of Hinata Shouyou. This holds true even for some of those already in relationships.

Sakusa had witnessed it time and again over the course of his first season with the Black Jackals. Opponents and teammates falling over themselves trying to get Hinata to notice them. If it wasn’t Kageyama going out of his way to purposefully serve at Hinata, it was Hyakuzawa somehow finding a way to launch his 6’8 frame even higher to block him, or Goshiki yelling challenges at him from across the net. Even Komori hadn’t been immune to his charms, and up until now Sakusa had always assumed his cousin was straight.

“Sooooo...” Komori started, giving Sakusa a significant look over his tea. They were out for coffee together, the day after the Jackals had crushed the Raijin in their second match of the season. Sakusa was in the process of wiping down the lip of his coffee cup, flicking a glance up to indicate he was listening before returning to his task.

“Welp, no sense beating around the bush with you” Komori said cheerfully, waiting for Sakusa to bring his drink to his lips before he asked “Is Hinata-kun single?”

Sakusa nearly inhaled his sip of coffee, discreetly coughing into his elbow. Clearing his throat, he gave Komori a dirty look, knowing full well the cheeky bastard meant to do that. “Are you coming out to me?”

He would be supportive, of course. But Sakusa was not really very good at giving well meaning advice or emotional support. If Komori wanted to come out to family he should have done it first with their cousin Kimiko. She was much more understanding than him. Perhaps Komori could have just sent him a text? Sakusa would have answered ‘Thank you for trusting me. I’m happy for you. Many happy returns’ and that could be the end of this interaction.

“Could you be any more blunt Kiyoomi?” Komori asked with a roll of his eyes, and then he went a bit pink in the cheeks. Sakusa frowned. “I’m not asking for-” He flapped a hand, the motion not conveying anything meaningful “-just, I’m curious if he’s dating anyone, right now. Is all.”

“Why?” Sakusa watched a myriad of expressions spasm across his cousin’s face, before he settled on irritation.

Komori wiped a hand down his face, making Sakusa wrinkle his nose. That hand had touched Komori’s cup - handled by a busy barista, the table, his phone, and the door handle to the shop. Sakusa pressed his fingers into his jacket pocket, reassured by the telltale crinkle of packaged wipes. Maybe he’d give one to Komori for his now compromised face.

“He just seems like someone who would be really popular, I’m just honestly curious” Komori said, giving Sakusa a strained smile.

An understatement. When Sakusa had been in high school he had thought Iizuna Tsukasa was absurdly popular, having his own dedicated fanclub at school, and several of his own teammates slightly in love with him, Sakusa himself included. And then he’d gone to his first Inter-High Nationals tournament and met the Miya twins on the court, encountering their even larger fanclub, full of shrieking girls who wept every time Miya Osamu spiked a ball. Even Sakusa had his fair share of fans over the years, though for the most part they viewed him with a mix of awe and fear, rather than undying devotion.

All of that paled in comparison to the sheer magnetism of Hinata Shouyou. Sakusa had never seen anything like it before. The fanclubs he’d witnessed around players like Iizuna, Atsumu, and even Bokuto were drawn to an idea, an energy, a playstyle, or even an aesthetic that each player represented. Whereas it seemed regular people really were genuinely in love with Hinata. His magnetism was not just exclusive to half of the players in the league.

Hinata was constantly being approached before and after games, fans coming to express their heartfelt and oftentimes tearful appreciation for him. Or old friends coming to cheer him on. Even old rivals who no longer played volleyball coming to tell Hinata how much they loved watching him. Hinata’s most ardent devotees however were always other players. Now that they were nearing the end of the season, it had become quite apparent just how much every other player in the league enjoyed playing against Hinata in particular. There was not a single team that didn’t have at least someone who’d developed a crush on Hinata after playing a match against him.

The Black Jackals locker room frequently suffered visitors from the opposing team, inevitably having lost because the Black Jackals were on an unending winning streak, lurking outside waiting for Hinata. Sometimes they wanted to express admiration for some play of his. Sometimes they wanted to see if he was free to catch up over food and drinks now that their game was over. The most obnoxious though were the ones who came to trash talk in an obvious attempt to flirt. Anything to get Hinata to pay attention to them for just a little bit longer.

Fan gifts have always made Sakusa uncomfortable, disliking mystery items from strangers that could be carrying who knew what in the ominous crinkle of plastic and shiny paper. It had gotten especially bad after Volleyball Monthly had published an article about him before the winter break announcing his favorite food. Sakusa had been on the receiving end of many homemade pickles that he summarily donated to food banks, fearing the potential for botulism.

His pickles had nothing on the gifts Hinata received. There hadn’t been a game in the last two months where Hinata hadn’t walked back onto the bus without a bouquet or two of flowers, various teddy bears, and at one point a custom painted Black Jackals game console. Amongst all the other items he received, Hinata would also be given dozens of letters filled with confessions from fans. Hinata diligently read each one and sent his admirers a response letting them down easy, conveying to them that he appreciated the sentiment all the same. Because Hinata was just that nice. It was sickening.

Sakusa had once tried to explain to him that this was how you developed stalkers and that Hinata was very likely going to end up murdered in the back of some van one of these days. Hinata had just laughed and said if it hadn’t happened to him in Rio, he didn’t think it was any more likely in Japan. His optimism about people, and his carefree nature in this particular dimension had always been extremely grating on Sakusa.

Part of this devotion for Hinata was bred from the type of player he was. There wasn’t anything on the court he couldn’t do, meaning his play style could be for literally anyone. His underdog story, both of being the shortest non-libero in volleyball, as well as his travels to Brazil made for a compelling narrative that people just wanted to root for. He also happened to be the friendliest and most approachable player on the team by miles. Even Bokuto sometimes intimidated people with his size and his loud laugh before new people softened to him. Not so with Hinata, you looked at his open and expressive face, and you immediately knew to trust him. It also helped that he had a preternatural gift for remembering names and faces.

For Sakusa when he met a fan, unless they egregiously made him uncomfortable, he didn’t bother logging the interaction in his mind, not caring to recall faces let alone names. Hinata on the other hand greeted every person he’d ever met before like he was greeting an old friend.

They’d been in Tokyo in early January attending a fan signing event, something Sakusa loathed with a passion. After chattering away with every single person who approached his table for the better part of an hour, Hinata had given a delighted gasp, drawing Sakusa’s attention from his hunched signing posture.

“Haru-kun! It’s so good to see you! How’s your receiving coming along?” Hinata chirped, beaming at the ten year old and his mom in front of him. The kid looked like he might pass out, he’d been so happy. The mom looked half in love with Hinata, ready to leave her probably much less attractive husband for the man in front of her, doting on her son.

When they were gone and the team all got a break, Sakusa had approached Hinata to ask about the kid “Someone you know?”

“Yeah! That was Haru-kun. One of the kids from the Aoba Junior League team, we met them in November when we played the Adlers” Hinata grinned.

“You met that kid once?” Sakusa asked, a bit mystified. He’d thought that this was a friend's kid, or maybe even a nephew or cousin, based on the quality of questions Hinata had asked. Not someone he’d had a five minute interaction with over two months ago.

Hinata just grinned, shrugging his shoulders “People like to be remembered” like it was the most obvious and easiest thing in the world, before wandering over to the snack table to grab himself a drink.

It was things like that that made Hinata so unbelievably lovable. That and his endless well of passion and intense love for volleyball. It brought out the best in their team, and also drove their opponents slightly insane. Meian had once described it as their opponents kind of wanted to “Be Hinata, play with Hinata, and crush Hinata all at once. Kind of a lot of emotions for a volleyball freak to have at once, right?”

The irresistible magnetism of Hinata Shouyou had never managed to sink it’s claws in Sakusa though. He liked to think it was because he already played with Hinata. He’d once seen what a crushed Hinata looked like when he’d still worn Karasuno orange years ago, and it was not an experience Sakusa cared to witness again. And as for wanting to be Hinata, Sakusa could do without all the trouble of being beloved by all the people around him. As well as not wanting to lose fortunes favours, like his wrists and his height. No, Sakusa was secure enough in his own identity that he’d never had reason to fixate on Hinata in any particular way.

And he’d have said the same for Komori until now.

“I don't believe Hinata is dating anyone currently” Sakusa informed him, taking a quick sip of his coffee, lest Komori try to make him choke again.

“Really?” Komori seemed genuinely surprised. He squinted “Not even Kageyama-”

“No”

“Okay, but what about that cute blond girl he posts on instagram so much?”

Yachi. Hinata was the type of person to believe the concept of a best friend was a category and not a singular person. If Hinata were made to rank order his category of ‘best friend’ Yachi would likely come out on top, but only after a lot of hemming and hawing and guilt. Sakusa had initially suspected the same thing, that they’d just never confessed to each other. Yachi disabused him of that notion though, explaining she had been madly in love with the beautiful older sister of a friend of theirs from high school. A half Russian woman. Yachi had shown him a picture once, and Sakusa had a hard time believing such a person could exist. Haiba Alisa had been almost unearthly in her beauty.

“No, they’re friends”

“Huh” Was all Komori could say for a moment, shaking his head in disbelief “Why?”

This, Sakusa knew the answer to “Because volleyball isn’t a person, and he has no interest in marrying anyone else” This was Hinata’s favorite joke when the team complained about love problems.

Komori breathed out a relieved sigh “Oh, so he’s a big weirdo then, thank goodness” Sakusa scowled at him “No just, he’s too perfect, in his imperfections you know? You can’t help but pay attention to him. If his first and only love is volleyball, that’s okay” And then Komori switched the topic of conversation away from volleyball to some other mundanity. Sakusa was grateful, he’d rather not contemplate the magnetism of Hinata anymore than he had to.

--

Lathered up in sunscreen, face obscured by an over large sunhat, Sakusa scowled from behind his sunglasses at the endless vista of Okinawan ocean and sand laid out before him. Sakusa hated the beach.

One of the MSBY Black Jackal’s biggest sponsors was a European hospitality company looking to expand business into Asia with upscale resort-like hotels along the beach. One of these overlarge resorts was set to officially open to the public in two weeks time on the eastern coast Okinawa, and the Black Jackals had been asked (and then voluntold) to attend the super exclusive grand opening celebration. Who better to help open this resort than the best volleyball team in the nation?

When Sakusa heard the news he briefly considered retiring from volleyball altogether, rather than face what was effectively a publicity stunt/photo op nightmare on a beach of all things. For perhaps the hundredth time since Hinata had scored the game winning point against the Adlers in the cup finals, Sakusa regretted the Black Jackals conquering the league this year.

Perhaps Sakusa could have been a bit less ungrateful when Coach Foster and the team manager, along with their PR manager, had announced their plan. However something about the phrasing, as if they were doing them a favour flying everyone out to Okinawa to celebrate their win for a compulsory team vacation! Didn’t that sound lovely? Had all left Sakusa feeling a little bit skeptical. In spite of the rest of his team certainly thinking so, excitedly chattering amongst themselves.

Next to him Hinata had practically vibrated in his seat, his eyes glittering as he looked around the room promising to teach everyone how to play beach volleyball. Sakusa was disgruntled to see that was exactly what the PR manager wanted out of Hinata. Beach volleyball photo-ops with everyone's favorite Black Jackal. Gross. The PR team really liked to leverage Hinata’s ninja nickname to embarrassing degrees in marketing materials.

Unable to bare it any longer Sakusa’s hand shot up, giving their leadership team a flat look “Can you call it a vacation if the travel and attendance are compulsory for our jobs?”

His question was met with dead silence, before the PR manager started blathering on about celebrating hard work and necessary rest. Sakusa interjected “Will we be required to wear MSBY branded clothing the whole time?”

No of course not! There is of course plenty of other helpful sponsors who would simply love to donate to the cause of everyone looking their best on the team. Especially if there will be photos taken, we want everyone to look their most photogenic and presentable.

“So on this compulsory work trip to appease a sponsor, will we be allowed to bring a plus one?” Sakusa asked, tipping his chin up to look down his nose through his mask at the PR bastard slowly getting agitated at the front of the room.

“Sakusa-kun, I wasn’t aware you had a partner” The PR monster cooed at him, their patience wearing thin.

“I do not” But then he threw significant looks at Meian, Barnes, Bokuto, and the most crestfallen in the room: Tomas and Inunaki (new girlfriends, who they’d been looking forward to bikini season with).

To his utter satisfaction Sakusa managed to stir up some discontent within his team at this ‘harmless’ plan, because really, how could you expect Barnes to leave his wife and two kids at home? He still had to go on the damned trip, but at the very least team management were willing to make some concessions. Like no candid photo shoots. And not forcing Sakusa to remove his hat and mask while he was outside. Among many other less important things.

The hotel was nice, the flight to get there fine. His room was clean, Sakusa never having ever slept in a hotel room that had never been occupied before - it was kind of a thrill. But he could very much do without the sand. And most of the other people here. The Black Jackals were unfortunately not the only ‘celebrities’ invited to this PR stunt. Several idols from both dramas and the music industry were milling about constantly with their brightly coloured entourages surrounding them.

Sakusa would have stayed in his room for the duration of this trip, pretending to suffer from an extreme bout of hypochondria, if it weren’t the promise he’d made. Of everyone on the team there was one person who was absolutely effervescent to be here, and Sakusa made the mistake of agreeing to let him teach him how to play beach volleyball between landing in Okinawa and squirreling himself away in his room.

Hinata had practically skipped out of the airport, arms open wide as he spun, tipping his face up to the sun with his eyes closed. Like he was the star of some dramatic romantic movie or something. Ridiculous. And then he’s opened his eyes, looking like some sort of sun spirit embodied in human form as he gave them all a glowing smile “Doesn’t it feel great to have the sun on your skin” Closing his eyes and lifting his nose, he took a big whiff “And I can smell the ocean” He said dreamily, smile so wide it hurt Sakusa’s cheeks to look at.

Later Hinata had been boggled to learn that Sakusa didn’t like the beach when they’d reached their hotel “I thought you were only asking all those questions to make sure leadership didn’t take advantage of us!”

Sakusa looked at him sidelong “Why would I do that?”

“Because you’re secretly a caring and thoughtful person” And then Hinata pressed a finger to his own lips giving Sakusa a wink “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me”

Sakusa only rolled his eyes.

“So what exactly about the beach do you hate so much?” Hinata asked after they’d been given their room assignments, asked to return in an hour for their first staged ‘welcome’ photoshoot in the lobby after freshening up.

Sakusa sighed, explaining that he hated the grit of sand on his skin, the way it stuck to you especially when you got wet. That people allowed dogs to defecate in the sand like it was no big deal. All the potential yeast and microbial infections that could come from the ocean. Particulate flying through the air to hit your eyes. Sakusa would give Hinata credit, he listened thoughtfully the whole time as he explained everything wrong with Hinata’s second favorite place in the world. Second only to a volleyball court, of course.

“Maybe it’s about recontextualizing it?” Hinata asked, lips pursed, stopped outside his hotel room door. Sakusa waited for him to continue “Wellll, I know you really like volleyball, so maybe if you learn to enjoy volleyball on a beach, you won’t hate it so much” He tilted his brows innocently as his eyes widened hopefully.

“You just want me to agree to play beach volleyball with you”

Hinata grinned, not the least bit chagrined for having been caught in his weak manipulation “Yeah, I really really do Omi-san”

Something about that honest must have tricked him somehow because the next thing Sakusa knew he huffed, turning his head away “Fine. Teach me to play” Pointedly ignoring the way Hinata’s eyes sparked with excitement and the way his cheeks flushed.

“Okay!” And then because Hinata was working on not showering Sakusa with too much of his exuberance, he unlocked the door to his hotel room and disappeared inside, calling a soft “Seeya later Omi-san, I’m looking forward to it” before the door clicked shut.

Sakusa frowned at his door an extra moment, knowing full well he should have just walked away. At least this way he didn’t have to deal with Hinata’s relentless badgering while they were here. What could the harm be?

--

Beach volleyball wasn’t the worst.

It was very different than indoor, but running across the sand in pairs really put into perspective why Hinata was so good on defense. If he’d had to protect the whole court with just himself and a partner, it was no wonder Hinata was an absolute demon paired with five other players and solid ground underneath him.

Sakusa could do without playing barefoot though. And he hadn’t enjoyed the time he’d forgotten to smack sand off the ball before tossing it up for a jump serve, getting sprayed in the face by unexpected sand in the air. But overall he’d been having fun. Sakusa certainly got a kick out of watching his teammates tumble and faceplant as they tried to move in ways the unstable ground beneath them wouldn’t allow. Also watching Hinata sail higher than even Barnes could reach, as the only person who understood how to jump on sand, had been downright hilarious.

Sakusa could also do without the mooning and cow eyed looks everyone was giving Hinata too. Tomas had taken a ball to the face, resulting in a nosebleed from an effusively apologetic Hinata, toddling off the court to sit between Inunaki and Sakusa. He had a rag pressed to his face to staunch the bleeding while Inunaki asked him what the hell happened. A bit dazed Tomas had looked up at him and mumbled “Shouyou’s shirt rode up”

On the beach Hinata was all about wearing tank tops, sometimes with larger gaping arm holes, a backwards facing cap and wayfarer sunglasses, looking every part the cool and relaxed beach bum. He also seemed a bit more haphazard about pulling up the hem of his shirt to wick away sweat. Or perhaps it was intentional and Hinata was fully aware of the effect he was having on his teammates. Who could say? Either way, it was leading to everyone on the team to start questioning their sexualities just a bit.

Sakusa understood the appeal academically, however in application it made him feel very little. Yes Hinata was tanned. Yes he had very nice shoulders and arms. Yes he did kind of look like a beach soaked god with his sun kissed skin, shirt blowing in the wind, standing barefoot in the sand. However Sakusa had been in the showers with Hinata before, as had the rest of them, where you could get a much larger eyeful of what Hinata had to offer. He didn’t understand why the beach setting and a few loose tank tops suddenly made all his teammates a bit stupid.

Until abruptly one morning, Sakusa did.

Sakusa had been doing fine. Really fine. He’d listened to the complaints of his excessively hormonal teammates, describing in too much detail Hinata’s arms and shoulders. How nice his thighs looked. Have you seen his tan lines? His hair is even brighter, but in a good way isn’t it? Sakusa bore all of these forlorn observations from Atsumu, Tomas, and the others. Even Meian had been envious, or enthralled, it had been a bit unclear. And yet Hinata and his tank tops and his shorts and his tan really didn’t do anything for Sakusa.

Sakusa knew intellectually that Hinata Shouyou was an attractive man. It wasn’t only his personality that captivated people, or even just his very nice smile. No, Hinata was aesthetically pleasing. Atsumu would say Hinata was stacked. Inunaki would whine that he’s too hot. Bokuto would forlornly sigh that Hinata was boyfriend material. Sakusa knew Hinata was attractive, just not in a way that appealed to Sakusa.

Hinata was a sweat pants and t-shirt kind of person. He valued comfort and convenience over aesthetics, and it was something that Sakusa respected him for. It was honest, and fit into Sakusa’s mental model he’d built for Hinata: a pro athlete who diligently took care of himself, and was disinterested in devoting time to things that took away from the sport he loved so much.

Beach Hinata was much the same, only that his sleeves disappeared and his shorts rucked up his legs a bit more. He was still the carefree and relaxed creature he always was, just with a little bit more intensity about applying sunblock. Watching Hinata hound their teammates in the last two days about sunscreen had probably been the closest Sakusa had felt to attraction when it came to Hinata. And that was more of an appreciation for Hinata’s caring nature than his aesthetic qualities.

Just yesterday Hinata had even handed Sakusa his own personal bottle of SPF for personal use. It was airtight and had a pump “Because it keeps bacteria out” He’d chirped, and then added “And it smells really good too” before wandering off to goad Bokuto into some competition or another. Sakusa had been touched. And he did like the smell. Coconutty and clean.

He figured it was the gift of sunblock and it’s nice smell that influenced the predicament he now found himself in. The fragrant coconutty smell must have impacted his brain chemistry in some unanticipated way, such that he was primed for the most unexpected moment of Sakusa’s life.

He made his way out onto the beach that morning, having liberally applied the gifted sunscreen half an hour ago, a light long sleeved sport shirt covering his arms to reduce the amount of sun exposure. Hinata was going to give them another crash course on beach volleyball, promising that he wasn’t going to go ‘easy’ on them today.

At dinner last night Hinata had leaned forward on the table, slow grin spreading across his face “I think it’s time you guys learn why they used to call me a Ninja” And then the team promptly booed him for being a smug little shit, teasing him for his big words. Sakusa had been intrigued. If Hinata in the last two days had been going ‘easy’ on them, what would serious beach Hinata look like?

When Sakusa saw what serious beach Hinata was wearing, he nearly self-immolated on the spot.

Hinata wore a black long sleeved sport tee under a white t-shirt. Long grey board shorts that hugged nicely at his hips and flank. He had a white hat on, tufts of orange hair escaping at the back, sport sunglasses balanced on his nose. His white t-shirt had the characters for ‘Fly’ on his back, Karasuno’s old motto. He stood barefoot in the sand. His back was to Sakusa while he chatted with Barnes and Tomas, the stretch of his shirt highlighting the breadth of Hinata’s shoulders.

Sakusa’s mouth went dry as he stared. Hinata was a picture of the well prepared beach player. Somehow, it was the single sexiest thing Sakusa had ever witnessed. Some might call him weird for finding Hinata more attractive wearing more layers of clothing, but the vision in front of Sakusa fit his image of Hinata perfectly, like a puzzle piece finding its way home in a larger picture. That thought alone nearly made him faint.

The entire outfit screamed ‘Diligence. Conscientiousness. Dedication.’ All a part of the larger picture that made up Hinata. To cover his arms, as extra precaution from the sun, because you can’t do receives on sunburnt skin. The sunglasses to protect his eyes from flying sand, to better keep his gaze sharp. The brim of his hat to keep the sun from his eyes, to better assess the court. His bare feet, to claw into the ground to leap higher and further than the rest of them.

The man in front of him cared about how well he would play today, as well as how he would play tomorrow and the next day. Sakusa knew these things to be true about Hinata in general. When they’d joined the team Sakusa had quickly found it necessary to supplant his mental model of the foolish, brash kid Hinata had been, into the hardworking adult Hinata now was. Hinata was still loud and obnoxious, still goofy and playful. But he was also careful and thoughtful. And the outfit he’d decided to wear on the beach today symbolized that like poetry in motion.

Had dri-fit long sleeves ever looked better? The way the fabric clung from wrist until it disappeared under the white of Hinata’s tee. The way the wind caught the hem of his shirt, lifting enough to showcase the way the black fabric was tucked into his shorts. How could shorts, longer than anything he’s worn the last two days set Sakusa’a blood flaming. Was it the anticipation of a flash of thigh that had him feeling so light headed? Would it make it all the more exciting? His heart beat too hard in his chest as he imagined, eyelashes fluttering as he took in the perfect vision before him.

Sakusa was snapped out of his thoughts by Bokuto coming charging by, stopping short when he saw Sakusa hadn’t moved. “You okay Omi-Omi?”

Sakusa blinked, gave him a flat stare and settled on “Don’t call me that” before joining the others in Hinata's lesson in how to play beach volleyball, trying and failing not to openly stare at Hinata as he played across the net from him.

Later that same night after their duties for the team had ended, Sakusa returned to his room and laid awake unable to sleep. He stared at his ceiling trying to push thoughts of Hinata in THAT outfit out of his mind. For one thing, this made him just as pathetic as half of the V League. For another, it was extremely inconvenient to be so attracted to a teammate. One who he regularly hung out with.

If Sakusa were to say he had a close friend on the team, he’d likely have named Hinata first. Sakusa found him to be the least grating of everyone in general. Despite Hinata’s ability to be loud and attention seeking, he also peculiarly had a tendency towards quiet intensity. Sakusa had marvelled early on in their... friendship, the way Hinata’s gaze would sharpen inwards as he would stretch and warm up, never cutting corners, even if it resulted in him being late to other commitments. Needing to finish the job when it came to volleyball before he’d let himself experience anything else.

Hinata’s energy still sometimes seemed limitless, especially now that Hinata was far too careful to test his boundaries. Sakusa would have thought him someone to constantly be flicking around and bouncing, wiggling in his seat - much the way Komori had when they’d been in school together. Instead Hinata could be so silent and still, it brought to mind a placid ocean with a screaming riptide underneath. Funny that Hinata loved the beach and ocean so much, when Sakusa had always wondered if Hinata had more depths than he could have ever imagined.

Sakusa tried to reason with himself. Yes, Hinata was attractive. He already knew this. Had known this for a while, and Hinata’s aesthetic qualities had never been particularly eye-catching for him until now. And his smiles had always been nice, but they had never made Sakusa feel twitchy and made his face feel hot until they were paired with the vision of a beach player who takes care of himself. Sakusa had even had to mentally scold himself earlier today for nearly reaching out to poke the tuft of hair escaping the back of Hinata’s hat earlier, which would have been deeply embarrassing for everyone involved.

But Hinata wasn’t only attractive. He was also kind and thoughtful. Sakusa tilted his gaze away from the ceiling to look at the bottle of sunscreen Hinata had bought him, with the special pump to keep bacteria out. He was always sure to grab an extra umeboshi onigiri from Onigiri Miya just for Sakusa. To hold doors open in a careful and casual way, not drawing attention to the act. To bully the rest of the team towards a cleaner and more safe restaurant when going out for team meals.

Sakusa blinked.

Fuck. Perhaps he’d had more of an attachment to Hinata than he’d thought. It just took an extremely attractive outfit in a very particular setting to get the rest of him to catch up to what he’d already been thinking.

Hell. All he had to do was tamp it down and repress it like he’d apparently been doing before. It should be easy, right?

--

After two more nights without adequate rest, Sakusa cursed Hinata and his apparently never ending supply of long sleeved dri-fit shirts, each new one sending a distracting thrill up Sakusa’s spine when he saw them. At least this compulsory vacation from hell was finally ending.

The team was loaded into three separate transport vans on their way back to the airport. Away from sponsors. Away from the beach. Away from Hinata looking criminally attractive in his stupid long sleeves. As if to punish Sakusa for finally realizing Hinata’s sex appeal had an effect on him, Hinata had worn them the following two days as well. Worse, at dinner last night he’d worn a compression shirt underneath one of his tank tops with the gaping arm holes. All Sakusa had wanted to do was press his fingers underneath the hem of the taut spandex.

Sakusa’s favorite, cringing only slightly at the thought that he apparently had favorites, had been the long tee with a high collar, stopping half an inch below Hinata’s adams apple. Sakusa had gotten to play with Hinata at one point while he wore it and flubbed more receives than he cared to admit, so distracted by the strip of skin separating black fabric from Hinata’s brighter hairline. Watching sweat bead down Hinata’s neck and disappear into the black fabric might be one of Sakusa’s new favorite pastimes. He’s never felt so well and truly fucked in his life.

There was nothing for it. Pining was going to impede his ability to focus on the court. This attraction was going to be a distraction, therefore Sakusa was going to do the thing he always did when he developed inconvenient crushes. He’d inform the object of his affections about his crush, deal with being told that they couldn’t reciprocate or that they weren’t interested, and then he could accelerate the process of getting over the person. Simple.

In his first year at Itachiyama, when he’d realized that he’d developed a crush on Iizuna, he had promptly pulled his setter aside and confessed to him. Iizuna had been embarrassed and a bit surprised, apparently Sakusa’s feelings had not been as obvious as he’d thought they were, and regretfully told Sakusa that he had a girlfriend and he was very happy. Sakusa had been a bit relieved, concerned that he’d have to manage growing feelings while on the court, happy to know that he didn’t have a chance. He thanked Iizuna for his time, and went back to playing like normal, Iizuna doing the same within a few practices. As if nothing had ever happened.

It was all he needed to do with Hinata. Their apartments were within a few blocks of each other, so once they returned to Tokyo he should have ample time to inform Hinata of these inconvenient feelings and then he could move on with his life. At the very least get a full night's rest. Lack of sleep led to a suppressed immune system and Sakusa would not tolerate getting a summer cold of all things.

Mind made up, he was almost giddy as they boarded the plane for the short flight to Tokyo. Perhaps this entire conflict could be resolved before he even decided what he’d have for supper tonight. What a delightful thought.

This sleep addled giddiness carried him from the airport all the way to the train station. His change in mood must have shown through his mask because as he and Hinata stepped off the train for their stop he looked up at Sakusa with a questioning grin “You seem happy”

Sakusa blinked, adjusting the strap of his bag over his shoulder “I’m excited to be home” he stood in the middle of the escalator stairs as they ascended to the ground level.

“Though that’s not the only reason why I’m in a good mood” There was nothing quite like resolve to make you feel better. Decision. Action. It always felt much better than endlessly fretting.

Hinata tipped his head to look at him questioningly. Sakusa flicked a glance around. They’d come out of an exit that opened up onto a large park and playground. It was just after lunch time on a weekday so the only families present were those with kids young enough to not be in school. Sakusa heaved a sigh. This was as good a place as any. He gestured to Hinata to follow him so they could stand just off the park entrance, out of pedestrians' foot paths.

Settled he figured there was no course but to be as direct as possible. That usually made things easier. “I have come to the realization that I am attracted to you Hinata” Sakusa began gravely, looking at a point over Hinata’s shoulder.

“Eh?”

“It occurred to me during our trip, while we were playing beach volleyball” Sakusa continued, still looking at a point over Hinata’s shoulder, watching people walk in and out of a nearby konbini.

“What?”

“I felt it important to let you know so that it doesn’t create tension on the team. We’re both grown ups and I am sure we can agree to ignore this period of lapsed judgement-”

“Wait! What?” Hinata asked sharply, leaning into Sakusa’s line of sight, hands flapping in front of him. Hinata’s face was flushed bright red, and Sakusa was pained to admit that it looked quite nice on him. His eyes were wide too, but his brows were knit together.

“I’m informing you that I find you attractive”

“No, I got that part, I’m just really confused about why you sound like you’re reading an obituary?” He bit his lip and Sakusa was frustrated to find that he also liked that too. Hinata was making this all very difficult. He just needed to keep quiet for a moment so he could finish saying his piece, Hinata could reject him in what was probably going to be a very gentle and kind way, and then Sakusa could get on with his life.

“That’s not what I sound like” Sakusa said, nose wrinkling in irritation, not that Hinata could see it behind his face mask.

Hinata squinted at him “Mmmm, kinda”

Sakusa narrowed his eyes at him “As I was saying, I wanted to clear the air because-”

“Wait, wait, you have to let me process it for a moment! Don’t just keep talking, it’s like my brain has white noise running in the background going FSSSHHH and sparkles going TWING at the same time, so just give me a minute” Hinata held a hand up, his face still red as he stared at the zipper on Sakusa’s jacket. He looked a bit shell shocked.

It was probably a testament to Sakusa’s newly discovered attraction that he found those sound effects charming rather than egregiously annoying. “In my experience it is easiest to explain myself quickly so that we can get on with our days”

“In your experience...” Hinata repeated faintly, eyebrows bunched on his forehead “How many times have you done this before”

“You would be the third” Iizuna, Ushijima, and now Hinata. Perhaps he was destined to always develop crushes on teammates. He ought to talk to someone about this phenomenon. Though Hinata had kind of hit him out of left field. The others had been instantaneous fixations, where Hinata had grown on him like a slow creeping vine. Or like mold. Sexy mold in shirt sleeves.

“Huh.” Was all Hinata said for a moment, “Wait, what do you mean we can get on with our days?”

“You being you, I figured you’d have some sort of social commitment this evening”

Hinata’s mouth opened and then closed a few times, like an adorable gaping fish, before he pressed a knuckle into his forehead “Omi-san, you’re really kind of weird, you know that?” His expression was fond when he said it though, so Sakusa chose not to take it as an insult.

“I have heard” He said dryly.

“Why would I do whatever I had planned tonight when you just admitted to me you like me back?” Hinata asked, looking up at him through his lashes, biting his lip again. Sakusa hoped Hinata curbed that expression in front of him in the future, it would make tamping down his attraction harder if he had to deal with it regularly.

“Because, you rarely if ever cancel plans with people-” Abruptly he stopped talking.

Sakusa narrowed his eyes, looking off at a point above Hinata’s head, rolling through their conversation in his head. Something was strange. ‘You like me’ was missing a word. ‘You like me back’ is what Hinata had said. And then in an endless loop the word ‘back’ cycled through his brain. Back as in the expanse of Hinata’s back? Back as in stepping away? Back as in the end of? None of those fit the context of the sentence as a whole. Therefore when Hinata had said ‘you like me back’ had he meant ‘as well’? As in Sakusa liked Hinata, and Hinata liked-

Eyes going wide, Sakusa’s gaze locked with Hinata’s, who was looking a bit amused. Now he found his own cheeks heating, unprepared for this eventuality. He hadn’t thought it possible. Not him, surely. Everyone adored Hinata. Everyone. Why would Hinata choose Sakusa, when he could have literally anyone else?

Tongue feeling thick he managed to mumble “You like me?” If he sounded incredulous, it was only a fraction of the turmoil boiling in his brain and guts right now.

Hinata huffed a laugh, grin going a bit lopsided as his cheeks flushed “Yeah, I just never imagined you’d like me back”

Sakusa briefly wondered if he ought to faint, because surely this was a world gone mad, where his fantasies he never bothered having because of their extremely low probabilities occurred. He flicked a glance at the street and saw several instances of gum caked into the pavement, and willed himself to stay upright. He could faint when he got home to his spotless apartment. He’d just have to figure out how to walk there on wobbly legs.

“Uh, Omi-san, you’re looking a little light headed, should we go sit down?” He had his hands out, as if he in all his 172cm glory would bodily carry Sakusa to the nearest bench. Sakusa knew what he could deadlift, so Hinata could definitely do it. The thought set Sakusa’s skin on fire.

Sakusa stared at the proffered hand, still wondering if this was really real, or if he’d just had a psychotic break. Sakusa opted to ground himself. He reached out the fingers of his right hand and tentatively pressed them into the open face of Hinata’s left palm. They both breathed in sharply at once. He slid his fingers up, tracing the hard wrought calluses on Hinata’s hand, eventually settling for pinching Hinata’s index finger between his own thumb and middle finger. Sakusa lifted his gaze from their hands up to Hinata’s face, watching his expression. When Hinata caught the tilt of Sakusa’s head he looked up from their hands with a tentative smile.

“This is real” Sakusa breathed.

“Uhuh, yup”

“Okay” He suddenly felt far stupider than he ought to. What had been the point of going to university if his brain stuttered to a stall when faced with a different reality than the one he was expecting? Perhaps he could blame it on the sleep deprivation brought on by Hinata and his stupid sexy shirts.

“Hey Omi-san?” Hinata asked, getting Sakusa to look up from their joined hands again. “Do you wanna get dinner together tonight?”

He felt his chest nearly cave in on itself at the sudden pressure of that question. His mind reeled. “Just us?”

“Yes, like a date if that’s okay?” Hinata was giving him hopeful and earnest eyes. Sakusa was revisiting his policy about fainting on dirty ground, just so he could stall from having to answer for a moment.

In lieu of answering Sakusa narrowed his eyes suspiciously, still holding Hinata’s index finger in his grip “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Hinata gave him big innocent eyes, which Sakusa was beginning to suspect might be a stalling tactic. He knew Hinata wasn’t dumb, for as loud and obnoxious as he could be sometimes “About what?” And there was a twinkle in his eye that was just on the wrong side of impish that Sakusa knew he was being a little shit.

Sakusa was almost relieved, he no longer felt the need to lay down on the filthy ground, or cover his face in ice packs to cool his cheeks “Why didn’t you say that you liked me? For how long?” He stretched his fingers to capture all of Hinata’s fingers in his hold, squeezing maybe a little too tight to let the handsome gremlin know Sakusa was onto him.

Hinata’s grin was wide and a bit teasing “Mmmm, I think I decided I liked you the first time you called me Hinata and not just ‘hey you’ or ‘Mr. Doesn’t take care of himself’. It had been a struggle to get you to respect me, so once I had even a liiiittle bit of your approval I decided I wanted it all. Your approval is my favorite.” Sakusa realized that perhaps he was staring at a bit of a masochist and he wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the thrill that sent up his spine.

Hinata’s grin turned impish again “Though the first time I thought you were hot was definitely when Atsumu-san’s team beat you at nationals in your third year of highschool.” He leaned in a bit, his fingers pressing into Sakusa’s palm “I didn’t know your face could get that mad” And then he shrugged, trying to sound casual “One of the great joys of my life is getting to play on the court with you and see your naked face regularly”

His brain momentarily going on autopilot, Sakusa used his free hand to tug the bottom of his mask down, tucking it under his chin and staring down intently at Hinata’s face, taking in his every expression. Hinata sucked in a breath, before he breathed a soft “Oh”

“Why didn’t you say anything to me?” Sakusa asked, watching intently for every twitch of his brow, curl of his lips, colour in his cheeks.

Hinata’s eyes were wide as he flushed a bright red “Okay, you looking at me like that is almost too much”

Sakusa’s browns knit together briefly “Do you want me to put the mask back-”

Hinata’s hand squeezed his sharply “No” He said hastily, holding his other hand up in a stopping gesture “No, I’ll get used to it” and then he swallowed, flicking his gaze down at their joined hands, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth.

“I didn’t say anything because I was worried you’d think I was gross or annoying and then we couldn’t be friends anymore” He glanced up through his lashes again, and in that moment Sakusa resolved he was going to dinner tonight if it meant Hinata was going to keep giving him those looks, even if it was at the filthiest chain fast food restaurant they could find “And I want to keep being your friend, even it means I couldn’t have you”

“Ah”

“Ah?”

“I’d like to go to dinner with you” Sakusa told him, his lip turning up at the corner.

Hinata’s grin bloomed across his entire face “Okay, that’s great” And then he gave Sakusa’s hand a squeeze, and tugged Sakusa forward to continue their walk back to their respective apartments.

Sakusa looked down at their joined hands in mute fascination. This was something he’d never actually done before, holding hands with another person. It felt nice. Sakusa’s arms were long enough to sit evenly with Hinata’s palm. Curious, he slid his thumb over the knuckles of Hinata’s hands, feeling every bump and ridge, digging the pad of his thumb into the callus splitting the edge of Hinata’s palm, the boundary between the softer sun kissed skin and the weapons he used to help win them games. Fascinating.

“You have very nice hands”

Hinata audibly gulped “Omi-san, if you’re going to be this forward from now on, please warn me now so I don’t die from exposure. I need to fortify myself”

Sakusa blinked “Do you want me to stop?”

Hinata stopped abruptly, tugging Sakusa with him. He looked at Sakusa with that ferocious intensity he usually only got on the court “Never”

Sakusa was beginning to see what Hinata had meant earlier about it being too much, to have him look at him that way. A thought occurred to him. “Hinata?”

“Mm?”

“Make sure to thoroughly brush your teeth before we go for dinner. Also maybe shower when you get home.” Hinata stared at him blankly, tilting his head in confusion.

“I’d like to make out with you”

Hinata stared at him wide eyed as Sakusa watched a blush bloom from his cheeks to his nose, up to his ears and down his neck. Sakusa vividly imagined the blush creeping down under one of Hinata’s long sleeve dri-fit tees. He would like to see that very much. Hinata slapped his free hand over his eyes, not letting go of Sakusa’s hand “Yup, yeah, mhmm. Tell me what I need to do because yes”

Another thrill thrummed up Sakusa’s spine at his words. Not that yet, but soon. Hinata did always aim to please. Feeling his lips curl into a pleased smile, Sakusa tugged Hinata along, flicking a heavy eyed glance at him “Good”

Perhaps he ought to message Komori later to let him know that Hinata was in fact dating someone now. He was certain the V League was going to be absolutely devastated.