The sunflower is a gift from Atsumu's mother.
He'd been considering getting a cat after breaking up with his ex-girlfriend. When he'd voiced this sentiment out loud, Osamu had given him a look, and suggested a pet rock instead.
"You'll take less lives that way," he said. Atsumu threw a shoe at him.
In the end, Atsumu had settled for one of his mother's potted plants, determined to keep it alive if simply for the sake of proving Osamu wrong. And also because a part of him knew that he truly wasn't responsible enough for anything with legs.
Two weeks later, his sunflower is still alive. It's thriving, actually—sunlight always seems to find Atsumu's balcony. It's leafy and green and well-hydrated, because Atsumu is a good, responsible plant owner, and he sends pictures of it to Osamu and their university friends' group chat every week. He even finds himself spending more time on the balcony just to look at it.
it won't bloom, he complains one evening to Osamu over text.
you know, Osamu responds, if you talk to plants, they grow faster.
no, they don't. And then, really?
no, dipshit. A pause. go make some friends already
Atsumu feels himself scowling. piss off, he texts, and puts his phone away.
"God, what a dick," he says out loud. He turns to the sunflower. "Am I right?"
The sunflower neither agrees nor disagrees with him. Atsumu is fine with that.
"I have friends," he tells the plant. "They just—they aren't here."
Silence. Even Atsumu winces at how sad he just sounded. With a sigh, he goes back inside the apartment, sliding the door shut behind him.
Atsumu can tell—Osamu's worried about him. So are his parents. They think he's miserable and lonely, which is decidedly untrue. Atsumu is just fine in the city, even though none of his friends and family are with him anymore, and his new girlfriend broke up with him after two months because she didn't feel like he'd actually liked her. Admittedly, maybe he hadn't—maybe he'd just been desperate for some kind of connection. But all the same, it had been fun, and he'd made a few friends with her acquaintances who'd lasted as long as his relationship.
His mother keeps telling him it's okay if he wants to quit and come home. But Atsumu's worked his ass off to get where he is, and he'll be damned if he runs all the way back home just because everyone thinks he's miserable. Because he's not. It's not like he's sad all the time or anything—he has fun sometimes, even. But then again, he can't quite say he's happy, either. He's just… there. Going through the motions. Keeping his head above water. Talking to a plant.
"I make a lot of money, you know," he tells the sunflower. "I could water you with Fillico water if I wanted to."
The sunflower is, as usual, silent. A good listener. Maybe it's impressed.
"Yeah, you heard me," Atsumu says. "Fillico. But not for free. You can flower, and then I'll give it to you."
Almost as if in response, the sunflower's leaves rustle in the evening breeze, a sound as soft as laughter. Atsumu smiles.
Sometimes, Atsumu wishes his coworkers aren't as nice as they are. His superiors are surprisingly good to him, and his peers are open and friendly. Granted, he's been doing his best to keep the awful part of his personality in check, and he's great at what he does. But it just means he doesn't have much of an excuse for not being close to any of them.
It isn't for lack of trying on their part, but Atsumu had been lukewarm at best when he first started working. Closed off. Maybe from the stress, the nerves. He'd never been nervous until he moved away from home.
"I was just—tired," Atsumu says, sitting beside the sunflower. He's learned to keep his voice down, because he feels like his neighbour has started to look at him funny. "I'm still tired. I don't know why. Maybe I should eat more protein."
The spring evening is a lovely one. The birds are beginning to sing their dusk serenades.
"And now—well, I've burned those bridges," Atsumu says. "Not that they hate me or anything. It's just—too late to be friends, that's all." He closes his eyes. "That's okay."
His voice is small, so small in the wide expanse of the darkening sky. Atsumu sighs, closes his eyes, and wonders how long it's supposed to take for a sunflower to bloom.
"It shouldn't take too long," his mother says. Her voice is a little unclear over the phone, and Atsumu turns the volume up.
Lately, he's always felt a strange sense of trepidation—a quiet discomfort—when he calls his family. Maybe it's because they all pity him, or think he's a martyr: oh, poor Atsumu, going all the way to a big city to make money. But his mother gets antsy when he goes too long without calling, so here he is on the balcony, phone in hand.
"It's been weeks," Atsumu says, eyeing the plant. The leaves are as healthy as ever, but even the largest bud is tightly closed.
"Well, don't be impatient," his mother says. "You can't rush a plant all too much. Even with fertilizer."
"Hey, is that Tsumu on the phone?" Osamu calls in the background. "Tell him to stop dating his plant. It's illegal. They can't give consent."
"Don't be rude, Osamu," their mother says.
"Mother, tell Samu he can choke," Atsumu says.
"I very much will not," his mother says, indignant. "Goodness, I didn't think I'd have to put up with this nonsense after you boys turned twenty."
Atsumu laughs. "Sorry," he says.
His mother huffs. "How many buds does your sunflower have?" she asks.
Atsumu crouches down, takes a close look. "Two," he says.
"Oh!" his mother says. "That's wonderful. Dwarf varieties like yours are nice because they can have more than one. The big kind is usually a single-flower deal."
"Ah," Atsumu says. "I like mine."
His mother chuckles. "I know," she says. She pauses, and Atsumu almost knows what's coming. "Atsumu, you know you can come home whenever you want, right?"
It really shouldn't hurt. But it does all the same—the gentlest form of rubbing salt into his wounds. "I know, mom," he says. "I'm telling you though, I'm fine."
Another pause on the line. "Well, if you say so," his mother says.
"I do," Atsumu says, the feeling of discomfort threatening to overflow. "I have to go, mom. Tell dad and Samu to take care."
"Ah, okay," she says, sounding a little regretful. "Talk to you soon. Love you."
"Love you," Atsumu says, and hangs up.
The sun has set; the sky is dark. Atsumu can no longer see the vivid green of the sunflower's leaves, and there's an uncharacteristic chill in the air.
He's tired. God, he's so tired.
Atsumu's a few months into the job when he messes up for the first time.
It's more embarrassing than it is damaging, because he has to go ask his superiors for help. After an hour of trying to fix it by himself, Atsumu runs to Sugawara, who is silver-haired and angelic and unbearably kind.
"Don't worry, Miya-kun," Sugawara says when Atsumu runs to him rambling about the giant flaw in his code. "Calm down. Let's take a look."
In the end, Sugawara stays late to help him, never uttering a word of complaint. When they finally finish, it's nearly two in the morning, and the office is empty.
"I'm sorry," Atsumu says, as they wait for the last train. He bows his head. "I'm really, really sorry."
Suga smiles. "Relax, Miya-kun," he says. "We all make mistakes. Just join us for a meal sometime, yeah?"
When Atsumu gets home, he feels like he's about to cry. Instead, he walks onto his balcony and slides down the wall to sit next to the sunflower. The stars are out; the moon shines pale and cold.
Atsumu rests his head in his hands. When he speaks, his voice is muffled.
"Maybe I really should go home," he says.
He turns, looks at the perpetually silent plant.
"God," Atsumu says. "I wish you could talk."
The sunflower does not talk.
"And I wish you'd flower already," Atsumu says, actually a little pissed and somehow already past the point of being embarrassed of how pathetic it is to talk to a plant. "What're you waiting for? It's been weeks, dude. Don't blueball me like this. I didn't get a sunflower to look at leaves, you know."
He waits for a response, because he's officially lost it. When he doesn't get one, he somehow finds the energy to stand up and stumble into bed.
He passes out almost right away.
Atsumu wakes up to see that the sunflower on his balcony has finally blossomed, and that there's a stranger kneeling next to his bed.
"Hi," the stranger says. He's very attractive, in a boyish sort of way. He's also naked.
Atsumu screams and punches him in the face.
It takes a few minutes of negotiation and clarification—of undignified, scared shouting from both parties, the stranger shielding his face and yelling out explanations that are neither understood nor heard, of Atsumu threatening him with a vacuum cleaner—before they manage to establish that neither are there to harm the other. Atsumu throws some clothes at the nude stranger.
"Who—who the fuck are you?" Atsumu demands as the stranger gets dressed. His voice is shaky. He's still brandishing his vacuum, just in case.
The stranger looks at him. He looks just as confused and disoriented as Atsumu is, and Atsumu is tempted to drop his guard. "This is going to sound crazy, okay? Okay?" the stranger says. He licks his lips, nervous—his eyes are wide and brown and dangerously pretty, his hair a soft sunset colour. "I think I used to be your sunflower? Maybe? You—you wished I could talk last night, didn't you?"
Atsumu stares at him. "Please get out of my apartment," he finally says.
To his credit, the attractive, delusional stranger leaves rather easily, maybe because he's so disoriented. He doesn't even have shoes. Atsumu lends him a pair of very old flip-flops from his high school days, which are still too big for him, but there really isn't anything better. Watching the man leave, Atsumu decides to get a better alarm system. He also wonders what kind of new-fangled drugs people are on these days, and silently vows to stop talking to plants out loud. Frankly, he's pretty shaken by the whole thing.
A few minutes later, Atsumu peeks out again, wanting to satisfy himself with the stranger's disappearance. Instead, he sees is an unmoving, collapsed body on the curb of his street with the same shock of orange hair he'd seen just moments ago.
Oh my god, he thinks, flashing back to punching the man in the face. Oh my god, he's dead and I've killed him.
Atsumu does not deal well with pressure. He's used to doing things so well that pressure isn't really a thing. So in situations like these, he doesn't think all that thoroughly, which is why he bolts out the door to the stranger's side. Luckily, it's early and there are barely any people about.
The man isn't dead, thankfully, but there's a sickly pallor to his skin and a cold sheen of sweat, and he's wheezing, coughing up scarlet.
"Are you okay?" Atsumu demands, heart in his throat. "Oh my god, I'll bring you to the hospital, hold on—"
The stranger touches his wrist, says something unintelligible.
"What?" Atsumu says, completely freaked out at this point. God, it's way too early for this. Is this divine retribution? For ruining Osamu's shoes that one time? They hadn't even been new in the first place. "What'd you say?"
"Home," the stranger grits out, fingers clenching in a spasm of pain. Atsumu blinks, confused. "Your house! Take me back, I need—" He's looking out behind Atsumu, and Atsumu turns to see what he's seeing.
On his balcony, the single sunflower bloom is wilting rapidly right before his eyes, the newly unfurled petals falling like rain. In the moment, Atsumu doesn't even know what he's seeing, barely makes the connection, but he grabs the man and books it back to his apartment. It's hard—Atsumu's been slacking on the cardio lately—but he makes it, and by the time they get inside, the stranger has somehow recovered enough to launch himself like a cat out of Atsumu's arms, scrambling to his bedroom.
"Wait!" Atsumu calls, winded. "You're hurt—where are you—" He hears the sliding door to the balcony open, the stranger's laboured gasp.
Atsumu follows him through the bedroom onto the balcony, and stops in his tracks.
The stranger is on the ground, breathing hard and curled around the potted sunflower, which finally sports a single bloom after weeks of stubbornly withholding it. Like the man, the flower is recovering, raising its head. And its petals—
Its petals are a striking orange rather than traditional sunflower-yellow, precisely the same sunset hue as the stranger's hair.
Atsumu considers himself a pretty logical person.
Yes, he has his bouts of irrationality, which usually come when he's feeling competitive. But he's in programming, and he likes to think the logic of the field has rubbed off on him a little. All the same, he's finding it difficult to think logically now, as he sits across from a man who might also be (part of?) his houseplant. Even if the stranger isn't actually Atsumu's flower, there's undeniably a connection between the two of them—they need each other close to live. And then there's also the matter of how the stranger had refused food, insisting instead that Atsumu simply water and fertilize the sunflower a little. And miraculously, he’d regained his health.
"I'm sorry for kicking you out," Atsumu says, feeling a little sick from the guilt. "And punching you."
The stranger shakes his head. He smiles, bright and forgiving. Everything about him seems warm—his hair, his brown eyes, his smile. Had Atsumu met him under different circumstances, he'd probably be smitten immediately. "I don't think anyone can blame you for that."
"I almost killed you," Atsumu protests.
"How were you supposed to know?" The stranger shrugs. "Even I didn't, until I did. I'm just sorry I scared you so much."
"No," Atsumu says. "No, it's okay. We were both scared."
"We were!" the stranger says, laughing. He gets up from the chair. "Well, thank you—for everything. Being a person is pretty fun so far!"
It is? "You're welcome, I guess," Atsumu says, still reeling a little.
"Well," the stranger says, "I can get out of your hair now, if you'd let me take your flowerpot."
"Wait," Atsumu says, taken aback. "You're leaving? To where?"
The stranger shrugs. "I'll figure it out."
"You don't have to," Atsumu says. "I—I wished for you, I guess. I'll take responsibility for you."
"I'm plenty responsible, though," the stranger says, amused. "I think. I'm not a kid!"
He's not—he looks at most a few years younger than Atsumu, but all the same—
Atsumu's expressions must be pretty easy to read, because the stranger smiles. "Will you water me with Fillico if I stay?" he asks, teasing. Atsumu feels like he's been punched in the gut—oh god, this is real. "I'm just joking! I should go; this is your home—"
"No!" Atsumu says, with a surprising amount of force. The stranger jumps, and Atsumu winces. "Sorry. Please stay. I'd like it if you did. Or at least, please don't leave right away."
The stranger blinks. "Are you sure? You shouldn't have to share your home with me just because wishes are a wonky business."
"You're not a stranger," Atsumu says. "Not really. Who are you?"
"Oh," the man says. He smiles, sits back down. "You can call me Hinata, Atsumu-san."
For the first few days, everything feels a little unreal. Thankfully, it's the weekend, so Atsumu has more time to work things out.
Initially, Hinata's careful not to stray too far from the flower, perhaps a little traumatized from his first experience, but eventually, he starts to test his limits. He also doesn't eat, doesn't drink ("It doesn't feel right—it's like trying to eat with your ears or something"), though he does sleep and dream quite a bit. He's adamant about taking the couch and not the bed, so they move the couch into Atsumu's bedroom, which is closest to the balcony. Scientifically, none of him makes sense, but Atsumu supposes wishes coming true doesn't make sense either.
So far, he's learning more about Hinata than where he came from. Hinata likes to talk, likes to laugh—one of those naturally kind, cheerful people who are easy to get along with because they genuinely like everyone. He's just as curious about Atsumu as Atsumu is about him. Atsumu supposes it's to be expected of a sunflower, of all things.
"So why were you so upset that night?" Hinata asks over their second lunch together. Well, Atsumu's lunch, at any rate. Hinata just waters the flowerpot a little.
Atsumu grimaces, still a little sore about that particular subject. "I messed up at work," he says. "And I realized how sad my life is."
"Whoa," Hinata says, eyes wide. "I'm sorry about that."
Atsumu shrugs. "Eh," he says. "It's fine." Honestly, he'd almost forgotten in all the chaos. It seems like such a small problem now.
"Are you feeling better?" Hinata asks.
"Well—" Atsumu thinks. "Yeah, I am."
"That's good, then," Hinata says, smiling. God, it's a bright smile. "I'm glad."
Atsumu blushes a little at his candour. "Thanks," he says, a little gruffly.
A moment of silence.
"You know what?" Hinata finally says. "I think I will stay here, actually." Atsumu looks up, surprised. "But only if it makes you happy. Is that okay with you, Atsumu-san?" He's smiling again. Warm and bright—a solar smile.
Atsumu finds himself smiling too. "I think that'd be nice," he says.
It's surprisingly easy to settle into a routine with Hinata. He's a good roommate on the whole, a little loud and energetic sometimes, but mostly considerate and interesting. He's also very attractive, but that's not important. It's just nice. Really.
There are moments where Atsumu remembers that Hinata isn't completely human—he seems to be unfamiliar with certain concepts, but learning comes to him easily. He gets the hang of household chores very quickly. It's kind of like he's remembering instead of learning anew. Strangely, he gets the hang of video games even faster.
"How are you doing that?" Atsumu complains, after Hinata beats him in Smash for the third time. "You haven't even played before, right?"
"I don't know," Hinata says, looking a little mystified. Atsumu is almost too impressed to get tilted. Almost.
He still goes to bed a little frustrated, fingers itching to practice, but it doesn't last very long when he sees Hinata sleeping, softly illuminated by glow of the streetlamp outside.
Strangely, Hinata is rather fine with being in the house most of the time while Atsumu's out. He does the chores, even though Atsumu says he doesn't have to, because he wants to feel useful.
"Can I cook for you?" Hinata asks one morning, before Atsumu leaves for work.
Atsumu blinks. "No, no," he says. "You don't have to. I'd feel bad, because I'd be the only one—"
"It's fine," Hinata insists. "I want to. You're taking care of me, so I want to take care of you, too. Is that not okay?"
Atsumu's heart skips a beat. It's not fair. Of course he can't say no. "I mean, it's—" he sighs, resigned. "Well, if you really want to. There's some stuff in the fridge and the freezer."
Hinata brightens noticeably. "Okay, thanks!" He gives Atsumu a quick hug. "Have fun at work!"
"Thanks," Atsumu says.
He thinks about the hug for his entire commute.
Hinata's cooking turns out to be pretty decent, considering he doesn't taste any of it. Unfortunately, it's also kind of a messy ordeal, and they team up to clean the kitchen afterwards.
Atsumu enjoys every second of it. Who knew cleaning could be so fun?
Atsumu wakes up to his phone ringing. It's a Saturday, and he's a little irked at having his sleep interrupted. The couch is empty—Hinata is already up. It smells like breakfast.
The display on his phone says that Osamu's calling him. Atsumu considers not responding, but picks up eventually.
"Hey," Osamu says. "I'm coming over, okay?"
"Couldn't have given me a warning yesterday?" Atsumu says. "Fine, but I have—" He pauses. "I have a friend over."
"Wow," Osamu says, voice instantly mirthful. "Wow, what? Now I really have to come!"
"See you in a few hours," Osamu says, and hangs up.
Atsumu rolls his eyes, annoyed. "Hinata-kun!" he calls.
Hinata's on the balcony. He pokes his head inside. "Oh, you're awake, Atsumu-san? What's up?"
"My brother's coming over," Atsumu says.
"Ooh," Hinata says. "Your twin?"
"My evil clone," Atsumu says.
"I thought you were the evil clone, Atsumu-san," Hinata says, grinning.
"When have I ever been evil?" Atsumu says, smiling lazily. "You wound me."
Hinata points at his cheekbone, where the remnants of a faded bruise can barely be seen. "Does this count?"
"Oh my god," Atsumu groans. He stills feel guilty. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I am evil."
Hinata laughs. "I'm just kidding, Atsumu-san. Come talk to me on the balcony—the weather's nice."
"Isn't it chilly?" Atsumu calls out.
"You've got a blanket, don't you?" Hinata calls back.
So Atsumu bundles himself up in his duvet and makes his way to the balcony. Hinata takes one look at him and bursts out laughing.
"What?" Atsumu says defensively, suddenly self-conscious. "You told me to—"
"Yeah, but I didn't think you actually would," Hinata says, grinning widely.
"Evidently, you don't know me well enough yet," Atsumu says, fake-haughty.
"Evidently," Hinata echoes, laughing.
They're both smiling at each other, and Hinata blushes after a moment, breaking eye contact. It makes Atsumu's heart skip a beat. Are they flirting? This is flirting, right? He's flirting with his human houseplant? God, he doesn't even know anymore.
"Anyways," Atsumu says, trying to recover from that train of thought. "What'll we tell my brother?"
"Not the truth?" Hinata asks.
"He's concerned enough for my mental health as it is," Atsumu says.
"You mean it's not normal to have your houseplant turn into a person overnight?" Hinata asks, eyes wide. "Wow."
"It's a little scary how self-aware you are," Atsumu remarks.
"I'll take that as a compliment!" Hinata says. He stretches. "Why don't we just tell him we met at your workplace?"
Atsumu nods. "Sounds good to me. Hinata-kun from work."
"I'm a very good employee," Hinata says. "The best, really."
"Hmm," Atsumu says. "Don't see how that's possible, considering I work at the same place."
Hinata laughs. "Cocky, cocky!" He nudges Atsumu with his shoulder. "Get dressed and have breakfast!"
"Should I keep the duvet?" Atsumu asks, a little desperate to stay out with Hinata just a bit longer.
Hinata is really good-looking when he smiles. "Obviously," he says.
Osamu comes bearing food.
"God, your place is clean," is the first thing he says. "That's unexpected."
Atsumu rolls his eyes. "Nice to see you too," he says.
"Hi!" Hinata says, popping out from the kitchen. "I'm Hinata! I'm from work."
Atsumu watches Osamu give Hinata a once-over, suddenly aware that Hinata's still wearing his shirt. They'd ordered some smaller clothes for him online, but Hinata had seemed to like wearing Atsumu's old shirts, which are comfortable because they're oversized for him. Atsumu doesn't complain, for obvious reasons, but he realizes now the implications that come with this behaviour.
"Nice to meet you," Osamu says. He looks as composed and unexpressive as ever, the usual façade he puts on for strangers. "I'm Osamu. The original, if you're wondering."
"Ah," Hinata says, smiling. Atsumu watches with a sort of satisfaction as Osamu blinks, momentarily taken aback by pure friendliness and goodwill. "I always thought so."
"You'd betray me just like that, Hinata-kun?" Atsumu asks, mock-hurt.
Hinata grins at him, mischievous. "I'm gonna go on the balcony for a bit," he says. "Call for me if you need me!"
When he leaves the hall, Osamu raises an eyebrow an Atsumu. "Where can I get one of him?" he asks. "And how'd you land that, out of all people?"
"Shut it," Atsumu says, taking the onigiri from him. "He's a friend from work."
"Friend," Osamu says. "Okay."
"Yeah," Atsumu says. "And—I'm attractive, okay? I don't know a lot of things, but I do know that."
"Okay," Osamu says.
"We basically have the same face," Atsumu says. "You can't shit-talk my looks."
"No, but I can shit-talk your personality," Osamu says. He looks around. "Your place really is clean. Good for you."
"Yeah, I'm not dying," Atsumu says. "You can tell mom. Take pictures if you want."
"Will do," Osamu says. Then he pokes his head into Atsumu's bedroom. "Why the hell is your couch here?"
"Hinata stayed over last night," Atsumu says.
Osamu gives him a look. "Weird," he says. "So you really didn't screw him?"
"No," Atsumu mutters. "Keep your voice down."
Osamu grins, realizing. "Oh, so you didn't, but you want to, huh?"
"Shut up," Atsumu says. "No, he's a friend."
"What, has that ever stopped you?" Osamu asks.
Atsumu rolls his eyes. "If that's all you're gonna talk about, you can leave," he says.
"Damn, relax," Osamu says. "Okay. Wanna have lunch together? Hinata-kun can eat too."
"Eh, he already ate," Atsumu says, not skipping a beat. "But I'm sure he'd like to talk to you."
Hinata and Osamu get along like a house on fire. It turns out that Hinata's a bit of a natural, genuine kiss-up, which is kind of what Osamu needs to open up to strangers. By the end of lunch, Osamu's actually started displaying emotions.
"You're Tsumu's only friend here, you know," Osamu says to Hinata. "That means you have a monopoly on friendship, which in turn means that you can charge him a lot more than you currently do."
Atsumu hits Osamu gently on the head. "Oh, ha ha. Hinata-kun, kick his ass in Smash and break his spirit like you did mine, would you?"
"You guys are really fun," Hinata says, looking rather delighted. "I wish I had a twin!"
"No, you don't," Atsumu and Osamu say at the same time.
Hinata does end up breaking Osamu's spirit in Smash. By the time they're done, it's almost evening, and Osamu has to head back.
"It was nice to meet you, Osamu-san!" Hinata says, waving.
"Likewise," Osamu says. "I'll see you sometime, Hinata-kun." And then he steps out, Atsumu following. Outside, the sun is setting, painting the sky in fiery hues.
"Thanks for coming," Atsumu says. "Tell mom and dad and Suna I say hi."
Osamu nods. "Be a good friend, Tsumu," he says, uncharacteristically serious.
"I'll do my best," Atsumu says, and watches as Osamu gets in the car and drives away. He lingers for a moment outside before Hinata pokes out his head.
"I like Osamu-san," he says.
"You know, so do I," Atsumu says, reaching out to ruffle his hair. "But you can't tell him that, okay?"
Hinata laughs. "I'm sure he already knows." And then he opens the door a little wider. "Come inside, Atsumu-san. It's getting chilly."
Lately, Hinata does a lot of standing on the balcony and just staring longingly out. Atsumu doesn't blame him—there's only so much you can do holed up inside the house.
"Hey," he says, walking up to stand beside him. "It's not like the plant's stuck in the ground, you know. Wanna go out?"
Hinata brightens up. "Really?"
So they go on a walk to the nearest park, Atsumu insisting on carrying the sunflower in his arms. It's really kind of inconvenient, but it's worth it to see the look on Hinata's face as he looks at everything around him. There aren't too many people out, but there are a few kids kicking around a soccer ball. They settle down on a bench and watch.
"Soccer?" Hinata asks.
Atsumu nods. "How do you know so much about—about people stuff?" Atsumu asks. "Weren't you a plant?"
Hinata shrugs. "I don't know," he says. "It doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?"
One of the kids accidentally kicks the ball near their bench, and Hinata gets up to return it. He's got a pretty good kick. Not that Atsumu's surprised—he's seen Hinata when he comes out of the shower (and he's enjoyed it, but nobody needs to know that).
"Hey, mister!" the kid yells at Hinata. "Do you wanna play with us?"
"I—" Hinata turns to Atsumu, eyes bright. "Do I? Can I?"
Atsumu laughs. "Do you?" he says. "I'm not your dad; don't ask me."
"I do!" Hinata says, grinning, and then he's off, racing towards the soccer game like a miniature gazelle.
Seeing him surrounded by shouting children, animated with pure joy, Atsumu can't help but laugh. There's a pleasurable, warm thrill in his chest. It takes him a moment to figure out what he's feeling, and then he stops laughing.
"Ah," Atsumu says. He looks up at the sky. "Fuck."
Atsumu doesn't fall in love very often.
Lust, sure. He's been in lust with Hinata since day one. Sue him. But falling in love is a whole different beast entirely, something he doesn't really have any experience with. Frankly, it’s a little terrifying, because it's been only like two weeks, and the whole plant thing is… weird.
But despite all that, everything feels right, so Atsumu closes his eyes and just lets himself fall. It's not like he could stop if he wanted to, anyways.
"You're different these days, Atsumu-kun," Sugawara notes one evening. Yes, Atsumu's started going out for drinks with his coworkers. No, it doesn't have anything to do with Hinata telling him he should.
Atsumu blinks. "I am?"
"Well, you came out with us, aren't you?" Sugawara says, amused. "In the beginning, we thought you just hated everyone. Right, Kiyoko?"
Beside him, Shimizu nods. She and Sugawara are good friends—Atsumu's heard that they went to the same high school. "You kept to yourself a lot," she says.
"What?" Atsumu says, stunned. "No, I—I was scared, that's all. And then I missed the timing to be friends, so—"
"Missed the timing to be friends?" Sugawara echoes, amused.
"I mean—" It sounds stupid now that he says it out loud. "It made sense at the time."
Shimizu and Sugawara share a glance and laugh. "You're an overthinker, huh?" Sugawara says.
He is? "Maybe," Atsumu says. "I wasn't before, not really."
"Well. Either way, I'm happy to know you didn't hate us," Sugawara says, smiling. "So what's going on with you, anyways? Why the change of heart?"
"Well," Atsumu says, and figures it won't hurt to be honest at this point. "I think I might like someone."
"Oh," Sugawara says, eyes widening, and looking very interested. "Bravo! Really?"
"That's unexpected," Shimizu says, smiling a little. "But nice. Congratulations, I suppose."
"Yeah," Sugawara says, with laughter in his eyes. "I hope things go well."
"Thanks, I guess," Atsumu says. "Me too."
"It's a little annoying to lug around this flowerpot around all the time," Hinata says, sighing. "My arms get tired, so I can never go far by myself."
"Hmm," says Atsumu, and buys a wagon in the same hour.
It's a little too big for just one flowerpot, but does its job just fine. Hinata is delighted. "Now I can go for groceries by myself!" he says, grinning. "And I won't even need a cart."
Atsumu wonders when he'd started feeling ecstatic just at the sight of Hinata's joy. Dangerous, dangerous. He's in so deep he even can't see the surface anymore.
Flower boy, they start calling Hinata after a week or so—the shop attendants, the people at the park. If only they knew how unintentionally accurate they are.
Hinata endears them all to him. Atsumu's never talked to so many strangers in his life on a single walk ("Taking your flower on a walk again, flower boy?" they'll call out, and Hinata will grin and wave). Hinata's basically a miniature celebrity in his neighbourhood at this point, and it'd barely taken him a week.
Flower boy, Atsumu echoes silently, watching Hinata sleep at night, and thinks about how long sunflowers live. He wishes he knew more. Hinata is fleeting. He knows this, though it's all too easy to forget in the bliss of their everyday. If Hinata's life—or existence, or half-life, or whatever it is—is tied to the sunflower on the balcony, then—
He's sure Hinata thinks about this too, though he never talks about it. But sometimes, Atsumu will wake in the middle of the night to see Hinata standing on the balcony, looking up at what little stars they can see. In moments like these, he seems like someone else—quiet and thoughtful and searching—and Atsumu's fingers itch to touch him, to bring back the warmth and laughter inherent in Hinata's usual existence. But for some reason, his voice always catches in his throat, and he never dares to call out. So Atsumu turns away and tries to go back to sleep, even as his chest aches dully.
But what's there to be done, really? What can he do?
"Atsumu-san," Hinata says. Atsumu looks up from his laptop. "Are you busy?"
"Not really," Atsumu says. "What's up?"
"Wanna watch a movie or something?"
So they do. This is a pretty routine thing for them, but lately it's turned into more of an excuse for Hinata to fall asleep on him than anything. They're hyperaware of physical contact with each other, even though Atsumu knows that both of them would usually be the touchy type. But there's something about the sweet, thick tension in the air that makes just touching Hinata feel as intimate than a kiss. So watching a movie while Hinata sits close to him and rests his head on Atsumu's shoulder is both the highlight of his week—so much adrenaline!—and the most terrifying part of it. Hinata is warm against him, and Atsumu tries very hard to think pure thoughts. At this point, he wouldn't be able to tell you what he's watching if you asked him.
Hinata is also just the right height to use Atsumu's shoulder as a headrest, which he does so often during times like these.
"I like how tall you are," Hinata murmurs, out of nowhere. His voice gets uncharacteristically low and soft when he's being quiet.
Atsumu clenches his hand into a fist. Don't pass out. Don't get a boner. Formulate a sentence and respond like a human. He sneaks a sideways glance at Hinata, who is staring resolutely at the screen, but there's a rosy, endearing tint to his cheeks. "Thank," Atsumu manages. "Thanks."
Hinata meets his eyes for a fleeting moment and laughs softly before turning back to the movie, leaving Atsumu to do some breathing exercises to slow down his heart rate.
At this point, Atsumu's fairly sure Hinata feels the same way, which both excites and scares him. They have so many little moments, like when they hold each other's gazes just a bit too long after laughing, or when Hinata catches him staring and blushes. It feels like they're on the verge of something, threatening to fall, though it's not the dangerous kind of falling. If Atsumu were a braver man, he'd have made the first move long ago. He's a bit of a shameless flirt—or at least he used to be—but when it comes to sincerity, he's as much as a coward as anyone else. And surprisingly, Hinata, for all his boldness in other matters, is shy about it too. So they close the distance slowly, sweetly. As if they have all the time in the world.
Atsumu doesn't get a warning.
One morning, he wakes up and Hinata is nowhere to be found. Atsumu is distraught, wrecked, feeling like the universe has cheated him, because the sunflower remains leafy and green and healthy. And then he realizes, hopes: flower boy. Flower. The plant's first blossom has wilted.
But there's still another bud, on the cusp of blooming. If Atsumu is right, then this is not the end after all. Over the next while, Atsumu tends to the flower obsessively. Watches the bud like a hawk. Talks to it.
"You know, I was in—" Atsumu stops himself, takes a breath. "No, I want to do this properly," he says, voice hoarse. "Please—can you come back soon?" His voice shakes. "I miss you."
A week. A week's worth of pain and regret and anxiety. And Atsumu finally understands: I'm lonely. God, I'm so lonely. It's the worst feeling in the world.
One day, Atsumu wakes up once again to a bloom on his balcony and Hinata kneeling at his bed.
"Atsumu-san," Hinata says, voice quiet in the early morning. "I'm back. I’m sorry I went away, I—"
Atsumu's breath catches in his throat as he drinks in the sight of Hinata before him, and he finds himself almost unable to breathe. What is it, this wave of pure, overwhelming emotion that washes over him like a tide? Atsumu has never felt like this before: raw and desperate, heavy with want. He could cry.
Wordless, Atsumu pulls Hinata down and kisses him. Hinata gasps into his mouth with something like surprise, but then he kisses back, opening his mouth to deepen the kiss with a sort of desperation. It doesn't take long for him to climb into bed with Atsumu, for Atsumu to pull his body flush against his own, for them to do what they'd both been dreaming of doing for a while now.
"I'm sorry," Hinata says afterwards, when they are clean and drowsy and Atsumu holds him tightly to his chest. "I didn't know it would happen."
"It's not your fault," Atsumu says, and kisses the top of his head. He's a little addicted to kissing Hinata already.
"I wouldn't have been able to bear it," Hinata says, "if we never had a chance to say goodbye."
"Me neither," Atsumu says.
"Well," Hinata says, pressing even closer. "Now we know. We don't have a lot of time left."
Atsumu knows, but it still hurts to hear. "Yeah," he murmurs. And then, "I'm in love with you, you know?"
At this, Hinata smiles widely. He glows with delight, and Atsumu wonders what the hell he'd been so afraid of before. "I know," he says. "You're pretty obvious, Atsumu-san."
Atsumu shifts to nip Hinata's neck, making him gasp. "What, and you aren't?"
Hinata's fingers curl in his hair, trying to wrest him off playfully. He's laughing. "Who said I was in love with you? I don't even like you, you big baby—"
Atsumu raises an eyebrow, smirks. "Liar," he says, and kisses Hinata's throat relentlessly.
"I don't like you so much," Hinata says breathily, cheeks beginning to flush again as Atsumu lavishes his attentions on him. Atsumu's learned from earlier that Hinata's wonderfully sensitive, responsive to touch.
"Tell the truth," Atsumu rumbles into his neck, playful.
"Or what?" Hinata asks, still trying to be rebellious even as his eyes flutter closed.
Atsumu smirks, devilish. "Or I'll stop."
"No!" Hinata protests, almost sitting up. He meets Atsumu's eyes, and smiles a little shyly. "Fine. I like you, okay?"
"And I love you," Hinata says, face scarlet. "I like you and I love you. Happy?"
Atsumu cannot help the stupidly wide grin that spreads across his face. "Very," he says.
They take nothing for granted.
In the coming weeks, they indulge in each other whenever the feeling hits, never resisting. Atsumu commits every little part of Hinata to memory: the softness of his hair, the warm weight of his body, the sound of his laughter. He feels like he has never known the meaning of the word bittersweet until now.
The approaching end of summer hangs over their heads, threatening and relentless.
Hinata dreams a lot more these days. He shifts in his sleep, murmuring things that Atsumu can't catch, and wakes up with a jolt, shivering until Atsumu wakes up and holds him close.
"What do you dream about?" Atsumu asks quietly one night, tracing soft patterns on Hinata's shoulder. A beat of silence. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
"No, it's—" Hinata meets his eyes. He looks sad, almost haunted. "You know," he says. "I used to think the first thing I ever remembered was hearing your voice, when I was still asleep, inside. But now—" He swallows. "I dream about things that feel real. Things that came before."
This doesn't quite come as a surprise to Atsumu, though hearing it out loud is jarring. He's long suspected that Hinata is more than he appeared to be, that it was never as simple as wishing a friend from a flower. "Like what?" he asks gently.
"A sister," Hinata says, sounding like he barely dares to voice the word out loud. "She's pretty. She looks like me. Sometimes she cries, and it makes me sad. But I don't—I don't even remember her name—" His voice shakes.
"It's okay," Atsumu says, holding him closer. He presses a kiss to Hinata's forehead. "It's okay."
Hinata takes a deep breath before continuing. "And there are other people, too, like—someone who's teaching me how to play video games. He's quiet. I think he's my friend. And all the time—" He swallows. "I fall. I'm always falling."
"I'm sorry," Atsumu murmurs. He doesn't know what else to say.
"Atsumu-san," Hinata says. His eyes are bright with tears now. "I think—before this, I died. And after—after, I think I'll die again. For real this time."
Atsumu closes his eyes, feeling the pain wash over him like water, feeling like he's drowning. "I'm sorry," he whispers again. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." His words are nothing, useless—he doesn't even know what he's apologizing for. His tears are hot on his cheeks.
They fall asleep like that, holding each other like they are the only two people in the world.
"Do you want me to find out?" Atsumu asks in the morning, when they are bleary-eyed and their faces are still a little swollen from crying. "About you?"
It hurts him just to ask: he doesn't want to see proof, doesn't want to know. It'll be difficult, too—all they have is the name Hinata, and they don't even know whether it's first or last or even real. But if Hinata wants to know, then Atsumu owes it to him to find out.
"No," Hinata says. He exhales quietly and reaches out for Atsumu's hand. He turns to look out at the balcony, the fading summer, the bloom of a sunflower just past its prime. "No, it's—it’s too late. I just want to be happy for now."
"Okay," Atsumu says.
"Stay with me," Hinata says, turning back towards him. His eyes are pleading. "Until—" Until the end.
Atsumu kisses him on the forehead, his heart aching. "Where else would I go?" he says.
These days, Atsumu’s been working from home most days so he can be with Hinata—his boss is surprisingly alright with it, since he does good work, and it’s not really necessary for him to work at the office. He goes out less too: Sugawara and Shimizu have been busy these days, travelling back and forth between the city and their old hometown since one of their friends isn't doing so well lately.
This leaves a lot of time for him to be with Hinata. They try to silently accept the state of affairs, the strange rules the universe has laid out for them. In the end, while it’s still quite easy for them to be sad, it’s also strangely easy to be happy: after all, they’re together.
“Put on a jacket, Hinata,” Atsumu calls out from his bedroom one morning. As always, Hinata’s favourite spot is the balcony, but these days it’s getting a little cooler.
“I’m not cold!” Hinata protests, turning to look at him.
“Do it anyway,” Atsumu says, because he’s not taking any chances, not at all. “For me, okay?”
“Fine,” Hinata calls back, grinning. He grabs a jacket—one of Atsumu’s—from inside and puts it on, then heads back out. “I’ll do what you want, evil clone.”
Atsumu narrows his eyes, mock-angry. "You'd better watch your mouth while you're under my roof, Hinata-kun."
"That just makes you sound more evil," Hinata says, laughing. He sobers. "But—fine." He picks up the flowerpot. "I'll leave. I didn't stay here for no freedoms—I’ll move in with Osamu-san."
"No!" Atsumu says, playing along because he knows that Hinata is just teasing, but he’s internally terrified at the prospect all the same. He strides over to Hinata, hugs him—flowerpot and all. "Don't leave. Especially not for my brother—that's the worst. You can say whatever you want."
Hinata laughs again, bright and sweet. "I'm just joking, Atsumu-san."
"I know," Atsumu says. He still doesn't move, revelling in Hinata's warmth.
"Atsumu-san," Hinata says after a moment, amused. "Can you let go of me so I can hug you back properly?"
"Fine," Atsumu says, and lets Hinata set down the sunflower. Then Hinata hugs him, and Atsumu feels like his heart is both leaping out of his chest and expanding. He tells Hinata this.
Hinata laughs into his chest. "Doesn't that just mean you have to go to the doctor?"
Atsumu huffs, insulted. "I'm trying to be romantic, okay?"
"I know, I know," Hinata says. "Sorry. I like it, really." He looks up and tiptoes to press a kiss on Atsumu's cheek. "You make my heart feel funny too."
Atsumu almost melts. "Maybe we both have heart conditions," he remarks, grinning like an idiot.
"That'd be a hell of a medical bill," Hinata murmurs, the timbre of his voice wonderfully low. And then, incredulous and amused at the same time. "Atsumu-san, did you just get a semi? From talking about medical bills?"
Atsumu pushes him away, cheeks flaming. "No!"
"Oh my god," Hinata says, starting to grin. "You totally did."
"No," Atsumu says. "Your voice—"
But Hinata's running away with the joke now, and he can't be stopped. "You should ask your doctor to print out a few extra copies of the bill next time," he says, giggling. "So you can occupy your time if I'm ever too tired—"
"Oh my god," Atsumu says, and goes back inside the apartment.
"No, wait, Atsumu-san!" Hinata calls as he follows after him, laughter in his voice. "Come back! I'm sorry!"
Atsumu lets himself be caught, and Hinata hugs him from behind.
"Atsumu-san, don't be mad," Hinata says, trying to whittle down Atsumu with cuteness. It almost works. And then Hinata tiptoes to whisper in his ear, finishing him off. "I'll blow you, okay?"
Atsumu is only a man. "Fine," he says, as if all his blood didn't just go rushing southward from Hinata whispering four words and he hasn't lost most of his rationality in a fraction of a second.
Hinata grins, devilish, the look that makes Atsumu weak in the knees. And then he whispers, "Before I start, do you know how much a physical exam costs?"
"Oh, piss right off," Atsumu says, pushing him away gently, and Hinata laughs so hard he falls on the couch. Atsumu starts laughing too, even as he descends on Hinata and kisses him stupid—it's all so ridiculous. They're ridiculous. He loves it. He wishes it would never end.
"It's okay, Atsumu-san," Hinata whispers to him after they finish, spent and satiated. "I think tax forms are pretty hot, personally."
Atsumu groans. "You need to stop," he says.
"Make me," Hinata says, grinning. And well, okay, maybe Atsumu isn't totally satiated.
When Atsumu was younger, he’d assumed there was a limit to how much you can love someone—that you’d probably hit it after a few months together. But now, as he watches Hinata fall asleep curled up against him, he realizes he’s never once stopped falling.
One day, Atsumu wakes up, and he just knows.
Hinata is awake already, sitting up in the bed. His face is paler than usual, and his eyes are so sad that Atsumu's heart aches. Neither of them say anything at first, but Atsumu takes Hinata's hand and kisses his knuckles.
"Come on," Atsumu says, making himself smile. "Let's do something fun today."
The day feels simultaneously like a dream and the most real thing Atsumu’s ever experienced. Everything is the same, and yet nothing is. We will never do this again, Atsumu finds himself thinking absently when they go out for a walk and Hinata smells every single flower they come across, pets every single dog. He looks at the wagon he's towing behind him, carrying its precious cargo of a wilting sunflower. What will he do with it after? Store it in his house, where it'll sit and collect dust? Give it to his mother when he goes home?
"Hey," Hinata says, bringing Atsumu back to the present. "Come back to me, Atsumu-san."
"Sorry," Atsumu says, apologetic.
Hinata gives him a sad smile; he knows exactly what Atsumu's been thinking. But he stretches, grins radiantly. "You know, I love the sun!" he exclaims, exuberant and honest. "God, I love it so much."
Atsumu does not look away. "Me too," he says.
The day is beautiful, much too beautiful for what's happening. But they still enjoy it, revel in the soft autumn breeze and the clear blue sky, in the way they look at each other, the way they love.
They don't really end up doing anything out of the ordinary. When they go home, Hinata helps Atsumu cook, and then Atsumu eats while Hinata waters the plant, one last time. They cry a little, because it can't be helped, and then they laugh because both of them are kind of ugly when they cry. Afterwards, they kiss for a good while—just to remember the taste of each other—and do everything that comes after, and by the time the sun is beginning to set, they're already in bed, unwilling to move. Everything they do, everything they say, sounds like a goodbye.
"Are you hungry?" Hinata asks, a little sleepily.
Atsumu is, but he's not going anywhere. He shakes his head, holds Hinata closer to him as if that'll make him stay. They lie together like that for a while, and then Hinata speaks again.
"Did I make you happy, Atsumu-san?"
Atsumu swallows. It's still soon—so soon. "Yes," he rasps. "You did. You do. You saved me."
Hinata beams at that, eyes bright. "I'm glad, then," he says. And then, a little teasingly, "So you owe me one, right?"
"Anything," Atsumu says seriously. He brings one of Hinata's hands up to kiss his knuckles.
"Then promise me," Hinata says earnestly, "promise me you'll keep being happy, okay? Even after—after this. And smile! You're very handsome, you know?"
Atsumu cannot deny him, even though he is shattered and happiness seems worlds away. "Okay," he whispers. "I promise. Please, just don't go yet, please—"
"I'm glad I got to love you, Atsumu-san," Hinata says quietly. There are tears in his eyes, but he's still smiling. "Even if it was on borrowed time. And—if I can ever find you again, if I get another another chance, I will. I promise."
Atsumu is breaking, terrified. He's not ready; he never will be. "Hinata—"
Before Atsumu can finish, Hinata leans in and kisses him, tenderly, sweetly. His lips are soft and warm, and Atsumu melts into the emotion, the familiarity, closing his eyes. There is a soft gust of wind from the balcony, and Atsumu feels Hinata disappear before he sees it happen: the warmth vanishing from beside him, the mattress shifting.
When he opens his eyes, he is alone on the bed. There are petals in his hands, soft and fragile and the vibrant hue of sunset.
Afterwards, everything hurts. Like an absolute bitch. Atsumu feels like—like someone has opened him up and hollowed him out, discarding everything he'd kept that was good and pleasant and beautiful. He hurts all over, but strangely, he’s also numb at the same time. He doesn't really feel sad, per se. He doesn't really feel anything for a while.
"You look a little tired these days," Sugawara tells him. "Are you okay?"
Atsumu rubs his eyes. "Yeah," he says. "Sorry. I don't know."
Sugawara pats him on the back. "Take a break, okay?" he says. "If you ask, I'm sure you can get the rest of the day off."
"Thanks," Atsumu says. "But I think—I think I'm okay to keep going." He needs the structure of work, the distraction.
Sugawara frowns. "I didn't want to say this because it's rude," he says, and his tone is simultaneously cutting and concerned, "but you look awful, Miya-kun."
Atsumu blinks. Sugawara's never really talked to him like this before, and it's a little jarring. "I—sorry?"
"You look like death," Sugawara says. "Take a break. Go home."
Well, Atsumu can't disobey orders. He's too tired to resist, really. "Okay," he says, a little taken aback. And then, "I'm sorry."
Sugawara gentles. "Don't apologize," he says. "We all have bad days.” He smiles. “Go outside or something! The weather’s nice today, you know?”
So Atsumu goes home in the middle of the day. He really must look awful, because his boss doesn't raise a single complaint. As he makes his walk from the train station, the sun is high in the sky, suffusing everything with warmth and light, making the autumn chill bearable. And for once, he can't help but remember: I love the sun. God, I love it so much.
It really is beautiful. Atsumu feels a lump in his throat, feels a dam break quietly inside him. He's crying before he even gets to his apartment, the tears streaming down his face relentlessly. It’s the first time he’s cried since Hinata had left, and it feels like everything he’d suppressed—every single feeling, every single thought—comes bursting out of him. He’s despairing, angry: why him, why us? I just want him back, that's all I'll ever want again—
But more than anything, louder over the rest: I loved him. I loved him. I love him.
After a while, the tears stop. Atsumu sits on his bed, drained and sore, feeling like an open wound. But there's a strange calm in his heart, a strange reassurance in finally mourning and letting himself mourn.
Keep being happy, Hinata had told him, and it sounds so stupidly impossible right now. But the least Atsumu can do is try. If not for his own sake, then for Hinata’s—Hinata, who’d cared for him, who'd loved him wholeheartedly. But he knows he can’t do it alone. Not in this darkening apartment, in this city that doesn’t know his name.
Atsumu wipes his tears with the back of his hand, exhaling, then takes out his phone. He calls.
“Hey, mom. I think—I think I might come home for this weekend, if that’s okay. I—“ his voice cracks. “I’ve been having kind of a rough time lately.”
Osamu drives over to pick him up. One look at Atsumu's face, and he gentles.
"Do you wanna talk about it?" Osamu asks in the car before they leave. There's music playing quietly from the speakers, rain falling onto the windshield. Everything feels blurry around the edges, soft.
"I just—" Atsumu doesn't know what to say, how to explain. "I'm just so tired." He feels himself tearing up. "And my sunflower died, and I—" God, he sounds so stupid. Osamu will laugh.
But he doesn't. "Hey," Osamu says. His eyes are gentle. "It'll be okay, Tsumu. You'll be okay. Breathe."
Atsumu takes a deep breath and tries to believe him. "Okay," he manages.
Osamu smiles. "Alright," he says. "Let's go home."
It's been a long time since Atsumu's set foot in his family home—his stubbornness and pride had kept him away since he'd moved. But he can't help but feel like an idiot for that now, surrounded by people who'd done nothing but love him his whole life. His parents cook for him, Osamu banters with him over video games like they're fifteen again. Even Kita drops by momentarily with a bag of high-quality rice and a few words of encouragement.
"I'm sorry," Atsumu says after dinner. "I've been so stupid, I—"
"No," his mother says. "No. You're—you're good, and clever, and we're all so proud of you." She smiles. "We just want you to be happy."
Atsumu swallows. "I'm going to try," he says, and means it.
When he leaves for the city the next day, the pain in his chest is still there, but it feels a little duller. More distant. Atsumu's not expecting it to go away anytime soon—he loved too deeply for that—but that doesn't mean he can't try to live his life in the meantime.
The sun is out. In his mind's eye, he can see Hinata beaming at him, as if to say, took you long enough, Atsumu-san!
So Atsumu starts living again. It's still hard sometimes, unspeakably hard: sleeping alone is awful, especially in the winter, and his apartment is so quiet sometimes that he has to turn on the television to feel less empty. So he does his best to go out more often, to see people, and finds that it almost always makes him feel better afterwards. He goes home more often, too. Talks to his family more. Reconnects with his old friends who he'd been out of contact with for a while.
"Hey," Gin says one day in winter. "You're single right now, right? Want me to set you up with my cousin for the new year?"
Atsumu smiles, shakes his head. "I'm not really looking for that right now," he says, "but thanks."
Gin shrugs. "Suit yourself," he says.
Atsumu smiles. If he really wanted to tell the truth, he'd say that he's still a little in love with a person as radiant as the sun. That he'd given his heart away entirely over the course of a summer, and he's not sure he can ever do something like that again.
Maybe Atsumu will be ready to move on one day. It's not like he's opposed to the idea. But for now, he's perfectly content as he is.
Sometimes, in moments of weakness, Atsumu wonders: had any of it been real? What if he'd just had a strange lapse in sanity? But then he remembers the sound of Hinata's laugh, the warmth of his eyes, and he smiles. There's no way he'd dreamt up someone that beautiful.
Eventually, the chill of winter melts into spring. Atsumu gets a few flower seeds from his mother—he's trying to plant them himself this year. It's not like he's really hoping for anything: in his heart of hearts, he knows that Hinata was a once-in-a-lifetime encounter, a brush of fate. But it's fun, anyways, to see the sprouts poke their tender green heads up through the soil, and if one or two of them are sunflowers, well. They're beautiful, after all.
His plants are on the cusp of blooming when Sugawara invites him to a gathering of sorts at his apartment. At first, Atsumu is a little hesitant, because it sounds almost like a high school reunion kind of thing, and he's not really sure he'd fit in well. But Sugawara is so warm about it, and Atsumu's never really not had fun when he's with Sugawara, so he gives in eventually.
"Great!" Sugawara says, brightening. And then, "And you're single, right?"
Atsumu laughs. What is it with friends trying to set him up these days? He's grateful, if a little bemused. "I mean, yeah," he says. "But I—"
"Cool," Sugawara says happily. "I think I know someone you'd like—I'll see you on the weekend, then." And then he's gone, leaving Atsumu a little taken aback, but not altogether unpleased.
Atsumu shows up to the party—because it is a party, no matter what Sugawara says—a little cautiously, with a nice bottle of wine. In retrospect, he probably should've asked Osamu to come with him, but it's a little too late for that now. Actually, it's a little late in general. Atsumu doesn't know why he can never show up on time to anything.
"Miya-kun!" Sugawara says, greeting him at the door. He takes the proffered bottle. "Thanks! Come on, I want you to meet someone."
Atsumu barely has time to take his shoes off. "Sugawara-san, I—"
But Sugawara is already taking him by the arm, pulling him through the apartment. There are already people gathered in the living room, and Sugawara pauses as if looking for someone.
"People, this is Miya-kun from work," he announces. "Miya-kun, this is… people." He looks around again, narrowing his eyes.
"Hi," says Atsumu, a little nervously. He does his best to smile.
There is a chorus of greetings and smiles—everyone looks pretty friendly on the whole. Shimizu is there too, sitting on the couch with her knees hugged to her chest. She waves.
Sugawara looks frustrated. "Where's—"
"You looking for Shouyou?" a small man with wild hair says. Atsumu feels his spine tingle, though he's not quite sure why. "He's on the balcony, taking a break." The man gestures to the room behind him.
"Oh, good," Sugawara says, and takes Atsumu by the arm again, leading him onwards. He looks a little drunk. Maybe he is. "So this guy, he was in the hospital for a few months last year," Sugawara continues, grinning, "but the best ones always are!" And then he cringes. "Okay, no, that came out really badly. Please forget I ever said that."
“Hospital?” Atsumu asks absently.
“Mountain climbing,” Sugawara says, by way of explanation. He grimaces. “It’s a dangerous business. Why are my all my friends so damn gutsy? Anyways, I really feel like you guys would complement each other well. If it doesn't work out, then sue me, but I've almost never been wrong about stuff like this—”
They enter the room leading out to the balcony. Atsumu looks out at the solitary figure standing there, and his breath catches in his throat. It can't be, no, there's no way, but at the same time he's absolutely sure he's right—he's seen that silhouette so many times, much too many to be wrong.
“Excuse me,” Atsumu says to a bemused Sugawara, and fairly runs to get to the balcony.
“I was literally taking you there!” Sugawara calls after him, confused, but makes no move to follow.
Atsumu feels wild, almost hysterical as he scrambles out onto the balcony, into the warm summer evening. "Hinata!" he calls out, voice breaking.
Hinata turns, and Atsumu's heart races. Hinata's almost exactly the same—radiant smile, sunset hair, eyes as warm as summer. But his hair's a little longer, and he's a little thinner too, maybe from his stay at the hospital. At the sight of him, Atsumu cannot put his feelings into words: he has never felt so much in his entire life. He is overcome, overfull, on the verge of tears. How fragile his heart is; how easily broken.
"I'm sorry," Hinata says, polite. He tilts his head inquisitively, the gesture so familiar it makes Atsumu’s stomach flip. "Have we met?"
"Ah," Atsumu says. His words are dying on his tongue, his hope evaporating—what had he thought would happen, anyways? "No, sorry. You just—you remind me of a friend."
"Oh," Hinata says. He smiles. "That’s fine! Sorry, I just wanted to make sure. They say my memory's fine, but I did bang up my head pretty badly, so—"
"No," Atsumu says, breathless. "No, it's okay." He has to make a conscious effort to speak. "Sugawara-san said—mountain climbing?"
Hinata nods and laughs. "Stupid reason, isn't it?" he says brightly. "I just—slipped. And when I woke up, it was September. Scared the hell out of everyone."
September. Atsumu's mind is racing. What if—what if—
"Ah, sorry," Hinata says, after a moment of silence. "That's a little depressing to hear about, huh? Probably shouldn't have opened with that." He smiles again, reaches out a hand. "Well, I'm Hinata Shouyou. It's nice to meet you!"
"No, it's—" Atsumu's mouth is dry, and he's almost afraid to touch Hinata, afraid that when he does he'll feel nothing but the soft emptiness of petals. But he forces himself to shake Hinata's hand. It's warm and solid, dizzying. "I'm Miya Atsumu."
There's a flash of—of something across Hinata's face when he hears Atsumu's name. Confusion, or even recognition. "Miya-san?" Hinata says, almost a question. And then he shakes himself. "Atsumu-san?"
Oh, how familiar it sounds—those syllables, that voice. Enough to bring Atsumu near tears. "Yes," he says, voice hoarse. "Either is fine."
"Atsumu-san," Hinata says again, as if tasting the name. Tears start to fall from his eyes, even though he doesn't sob. He barely seems to realize that he's crying.
"Hinata," Atsumu says. "You're—"
"Oh—" Hinata says, touching his face and seeing his hand come away wet. He looks confused, at a loss. "I'm sorry, I—I don't know why this is happening, I just feel—"
"No, it's alright," Atsumu says. He's trembling, but he reaches out a hand to wipe away Hinata's tears. "It's okay."
"I don't know why—why I'm so… happy," Hinata says, looking up at him. He places his hand on Atsumu's. "And you—"
Atsumu can barely dare to hope. "Do you remember me?" he whispers. Please, please.
"I feel like—" Hinata is trembling, holding Atsumu's hand tightly in his like he's never letting go. "I feel like I know you—I feel like love you—why do I love you? Who are you, Atsumu-san?"
Atsumu is smiling, smiling so hard even as his tears fall, unbidden. "Shouyou-kun," he says, "I have the strangest story to tell you."