Atsumu’s focus was not on the recorded Adler’s game on the screen of the dorm’s television nor did he even really register Bokuto’s snoring from the other end of the couch. Instead, he was hyper-aware of the less than an inch of space between him and Shouyou. Inside that distance lay an electrical field that threatened to fry Atsumu if he tried to upset the gap.
At first, sitting so close had made sense. Sakusa had claimed a whole couch for himself until he grew tired of the game. Likewise, Inunaki and Thomas, who were staying in the dorms in anticipation of the busy weekend, had taken up the remaining chairs. When they pressed play, the closeness had felt like camaraderie.
Now, in the darkness of the night, it felt too intimate. Besides Bokuto sleeping sitting up with his neck bent at a painful angle, Atsumu and Shouyou were the last people awake in the dorms.
Atsumu could hear every noise Shouyou made as he tracked the movements on the screen. He sighed; he made cute, puzzled noises every time he saw a unique play. Worst of all were his sharp intakes of breath that Atsumu interpreted as wonder when Kageyama displayed his true setting prowess.
On one level, Atsumu believed he was a better setter than Kageyama, being older, wiser, and still a better communicator despite the lengths Kageyama has gone to improve himself. On a very different level, he wondered what Kageyama had that Atsumu didn’t that made Shouyou stare on the screen with equal parts competitive fire and what Atsumu could only really describe as hunger . It was the hunger that bothered Atsumu. It threatened to send his thoughts careening off the tracks, leaving an unsalvageable mess in its wake.
He wondered what he would need to do in order for Shouyou to look at him like that. Atsumu was familiar with hunger. He had felt it claw its way up his chest the first time he saw Shouyou’s spikes in person. In that moment, he had glimpsed the powerful potential they could have together if they were on the same side of the net. The resulting hunger had goaded him into promising Shouyou that he would set for him someday.
Cheers went up through the televised crowd as Kageyama managed to nab yet another service ace. As subtle as he could manage, he looked at Shouyou out of the corner of his eye. His hands were laying on top of each other like they would be if he was receiving; his forearms seemed to twitch. Was he imagining how he would bump such a crazy fast and hard serve?
Shouyou shifted his attention to Atsumu for a moment, catching him. He stiffened when he realized what Atsumu had just seen and crossed his arms. As he slid further down the couch, the space between them disintegrated. Atsumu felt the unbelievable heat of Shouyou’s arm against his own.
Atsumu’s head felt like a pinball machine in a bonus round. All of his thoughts were pinging and hitting buttons that led to different, more dangerous ideas. In a millisecond, he thought of how good it felt when they embraced on the court after a good play. In the next, the pinballs hit against the knowledge that Shouyou was not going to stay with the Jackals forever. That he would follow Kageyama, continue to fight against Kageyama, and find other setters that would give him the ammunition to take him down. He tried to catch the thoughts before they fell, working the levers of his brain. Instead, they shot back up to slam against the adoration he felt for Shouyou. Atsumu wondered if it was love.
At the start of the fifth set on the television, the phone in Shouyou’s pocket began to vibrate. It made them both jump, bringing them back from the precipice of sleepiness. Bokuto snored right through it.
Shouyou pulled out his phone, looked at the caller id, and stood up. He answered it saying, “Kageyama, what’s up?”
Atsumu offered to pause the game, but Shouyou shook his head, telling him to keep watching without him. He watched Shouyou head down the hallway toward his room, speaking softly. Atsumu couldn’t decide if it was fondness or out of respect for his sleeping teammates.
To Atsumu, the game on the screen lost its color. He didn’t want to keep watching Kageyama’s stupid face racking up service aces and incredibly quick plays. He grabbed the remote and turned off the television.. He felt wound up too tight and knew sleep would elude him. Walking ever before him but never in arm’s reach.
In the greater darkness of the night, Atsumu stretched. Without the noise of the television, he could hear the telltale pitter-patter of rain outside. Excited, he walked over the window near the television and pulled the curtain aside. The rain came down in fat drops. They splashed against the window, creating rivers and streams across the glass.
Unsure of how long the rain would last, Atsumu ran to the door, put on his shoes, and tried to close the door behind him as quietly as possible. In his rush up the stairs to the roof, he realized his sweater was insufficient for standing in the rain, but he continued upwards regardless.
As he pushed open the door to the roof, the wind and rain instantly hit his face. Step by step, he felt the droplets charting their courses down his head. Even before he reached the railing, the pinball machine in his head powered down. All he could hear was the rain; all he could feel was the light breeze carrying it.The lights of the city smeared against the sky like an impressionist painting he saw once on a high school trip to a museum. It felt good to think about things that didn’t matter.
With his hands stuffed into the pockets of his dripping sweater, Atsumu didn’t know how long he stood by the railing. Time didn’t feel like it existed. He didn’t need to know what day it was nor where he was. He closed his eyes, allowing himself the gift of just existing in silence.
“We have a game tomorrow, you know.”
Atsumu opened his eyes and found Shouyou standing next to him. He had an open umbrella leaning against his shoulder, shielding only himself. He didn’t try to offer it to Atsumu.
Atsumu ran a hand through his dripping hair. “If you cared, you’d offer to share the umbrella,” he tried to joke. It had sounded more funny and less desperate in his head.
Shouyou smiled, anyway, like he always did when Atsumu fumbled. “And I think you would have brought one for yourself if you wanted one.”
“Alright, you got me there,” Atsumu admitted. He pulled his hands out from his sweater and wrapped them around the railing, enjoying the bite of cold metal.
With what he hoped was a winning grin he asked Shouyou what brought him up to the roof.
Shouyou twisted the umbrella’s handle, sending water flying with the movement. Soaked as he already was, Atsumu didn’t mind the spray. He enjoyed the times Shouyou indulged in childish habits.
“I wanted to look at the lights,” Shouyou said, but it didn’t seem sufficient. Instead of elaborating, he turned the question on Atsumu, “why are you risking pneumonia?”
Toeing the line between banter and flirting, he responded, “was hopin’ you’d nurse me back to health.”
Shouyou laughed and twisted the umbrella again, the raining pinwheeling off of it. “You definitely don’t want that,” he warned, “one time Kageyama-” he stopped and laughed again, sounding nervous. He didn’t try to finish. Usually, Shouyou could go on forever talking about his old setter. It didn’t sting at all.
Before his brain could catch up with his mouth, Atsumu asked, “what’s got you so shy?” He nudged Shouyou with his elbow, even as his whirlwind thoughts tried to rev back up. He voiced his fear with a teasing tone, “did he finally ask you out? Dump him, if he asked out over the phone, what a scrub.”
Shouyou lifted the umbrella to reveal more of his face. He raised an eyebrow as if to say really? He rolled his eyes and sighed. “No, I don’t-” he paused. After a deep breath, he tried again. “Kageyama doesn’t see anyone like that.”
Atsumu shook his head, trying to maintain his light air, even though his heart hurt for Shouyou. “A real volleyball-head, huh? Geez, why do the rest of us even bother,” he lamented. Truthfully, he had thought himself to be the same way, thinking he would never want anything other than friendship. Atsumu had thought he would only love volleyball until he met Shouyou.
He twirled his umbrella again, and Atsumu counted that as a win. So, he pushed a little further, “d’you want me to beat him up? It’d be easy.” He flexed for emphasis.
Shouyou bopped him on the shoulder with the side of the umbrella in retaliation. “We should keep it on the court! Nothing feels better than shutting him up with your tosses. Plus, that was a long time ago.”
Atsumu’s heart skipped a beat as he peeked Shouyou’s devilish grin hiding under the umbrella. He could have stared at it for hours if not for the rain running into his eyes. Atsumu desperately wished he could bottle that smile for nights when it wasn’t raining. He could uncap it and feel warmth when he felt alone with his yo-yoing brain.
But, Shouyou’s light wasn’t something that could be contained. Often, Atsumu would think about Shouyou’s vitality and how he fared in comparison. If Shouyou was light in its purest form, then Atsumu figured he acted as a prism, allowing that light, that potential, to manifest. Well, on the court, he could be that kind of support for Shouyou. He could soak up that brilliance as it made Atsumu shine just as brightly.
Here, on the roof, he felt the distance between them, like he had on the couch. This time, the distance felt colder, less alive. Atsumu hated it.
Atsumu didn’t realize how quiet he had been until Shouyou asked, “What are you really doing up here, Atsumu?”
He didn’t have the time to mentally prepare to hedge his answer. “It helps me sleep.”
“Don’t fall asleep out here,” Shouyou chided, sounding worried. “You’d totally die!” The concern in his voice made Atsumu warm despite the chill taking hold of his bones. The darker, more dramatic part of Atsumu’s overactive imagination wondered how Shouyou would react if he died. For a moment, he let himself fantasize about faking his death. When the moment passed, he hit himself on the back of his own head.
“No, I mean after, not in the rain, dummy,” he told Shouyou.
“Oh,” he sounded pleased that Atsumu wasn’t going to sleep on the roof. “As long as you dry off properly.”
His quick and dirty reply threatened to surface. To fight it off, Atsumu bit his bottom lip hard. His traitorous brain whispered to him that it wouldn’t be so bad to ask Shouyou the right way to dry himself off.
“You know what?” Shouyou whacked Atsumu again with the umbrella. “Actually, I don’t trust you!” Shouyou’s face was hidden by the lip of the umbrella again. He grabbed Atsumu’s hand off the railing and pulled him toward the door. The dry warmth of Shouyou’s hand clutching Atsumu’s drenched and cold one made him shiver.
When they were under awning above the door down from the roof, Shouyou collapsed his umbrella. Atsumu was shocked to see Shouyou’s face was painted with a blush deep enough to see in the low light. His brain tried and failed to divine the meaning of Shouyou saying he didn’t trust him.
Shocking him again, Shouyou took his hand and led him down the stairs, back to the entrance of the dorms. As soon as they stepped inside, Shouyou dropped Atsumu’s hand. He narrowed his eyes, telling him to stay put. Atsumu put up his hands like he was being robbed at gunpoint. At this point, that would be less stressful for him. In the quiet, he couldn’t hear Bokuto snoring on the couch. The big dummy must have finally crawled back to his room.
Shouyou came back down the hall with a big fluffy towel. With Atsumu still in the genkan, Shouyou threw the towel over his head. Atsumu reached up to grab the towel, but Shouyou smacked his hand.
“Ow,” he complained.
“Give me a second,” he said. Soon, Shouyou was forcefully rubbing the towel over his head. Atsumu’s mind and heart flatlined. He reveled in the sensation of Shouyou’s hands on him, even through the towel. When Shouyou stopped and removed his hands, Atsumu felt dizzy.
Shouyou took the towel in his hands again and lifted it off Atsumu’s head like a veil. Below his blush, He looked like he was concentrating. Atsumu’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Pulling the towel completely off of him, Shouyou wrapped it around Atsumu’s shoulders instead.
Finally permitted to step out of his shoes and into the dorm, Atsumu let Shouyou lead him by the hand toward his room. His sweater clung to him in a slimy, awful sort of way. Despite the towel, Atsumu’s wet pants left a trail of water in his wake. Well, what Sakusa didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
Shouyou opened the unlocked door of Atsumu’s room and pulled him inside. Once the door closed, he took the towel off of Atsumu’s shoulders. His voice wavered when he said, “we should take off your sweater.”
“We?” Atsumu asked, his voice coming out higher than expected.
Shouyou rolled his eyes, “I don’t trust you. You need to take care of yourself better.”
Atsumu nearly jumped when he felt Shouyou’s fingers grip the end of the sweater and pull. Not seeing how Shouyou would be able to get it over his head without help, Atsumu angled his body and put out his arms. Together, they removed the heavy, soaked sweater and the shirt he had been wearing beneath it. It fell to the floor with a smack.
The towel returned to Atsumu’s shoulders. This time, Shouyou’s hands smacked him through the soft fabric, soaking up the remaining moisture. When he was done, Shouyou squeezed Atsumu’s shoulders and moved down his arms, repeating the motion.
When he was done, he covered his eyes, saying, “you should change.”
Atsumu wanted to laugh; they had seen each other in the locker room all of the time. But, he knew better than that. This moment felt intimate and fragile, feeling like something easily broken. It made Atsumu feel cared for in a way he hadn’t been cared for in a long time.
As he changed into pajamas, he kept looking up to see if Shouyou was going to leave. Instead, he stood ramrod straight, only his head bent as his palms pressed against his eyes.
“Alright, ‘m done,” Atsumu mumbled.
Shouyou removed his hands from his eyes and gave Atsumu an appraising look. When he found he was satisfied, he nodded. “Are you still cold?”
Atsumu shivered for a different reason altogether. “I guess I am.” He rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment.
Atsumu threw a thumb behind his shoulder to point at his bed. “I’ll be okay as soon as I get into bed, Shouyou, don’t worry ‘bout me,” he said.
Shouyou’s mouth scrunched up to one side like he was trying to make a decision. He took a step closer, and Atsumu had to fight the urge to take a startled step back. After closing the space between them, Shouyou wrapped his strong arms around Atsumu’s middle and squeezed. He pressed his face into Atsumu’s chest and mumbled something.
Atsumu’s short-circuiting brain registered it as words. “What was that?”
Shouyou moved his head so his chin was propped up on Atsumu’s chest. He wore a look that Atsumu knew well, that hunger. He had just never seen it directed toward him. He didn’t know where to put his arms.
“I said you better not get sick.”
Atsumu tried to answer, “I-uh-” Shouyou squeezed him again. All of Atsumu’s breath flew out of his lungs. After a deep breath, he said, “I promise.”
Shouyou let him go and took a step back, letting Atsumu get into his bed. Slipping into the covers, Atsumu thought that Shouyou would go now that his work was finished.
Atsumu rolled onto his side facing Shouyou, who didn’t look ready to go. He wondered what he could say to unravel what had just happened between them. His brain was tired, too tired to make the endless laps it was wont to do.
He didn’t second guess himself when he said, “what, you still don’t trust me?”
The challenge snapped Shouyou into movement. He approached the bed and put a hand on the edge of the covers. Atsumu pressed his back against the wall to make room for Shouyou.
Shouyou lifted up the covers and climbed into Atsumu’s bed. When his head hit the pillow, they faced each other. “I lied,” Shouyou confessed, “I trust you.” He put a hand in Atsumu’s wet hair. “I think we should have dried it better…”
“Yeah? I kinda like it like this,” was the only thing Atsumu could think to say with Shouyou incredibly close.
Shouyou shook his head, rubbing his hair into Atsumu’s pillow. “It should be more like this,” he said, taking one of Atsumu’s hands and bringing it up to his own hair.
Atsumu let his fingers dance through Shouyou’s orange waves. They were as soft as his smile, just as dazzling. Shouyou closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling.
“Shouyou,” Atsumu tried to say, but it came out barely a whisper.
“Hmm?” Shouyou’s eyes fluttered open.
“I trust you, too,” Atsumu said, shifting slightly closer.
Shouyou’s eyes opened wider. They darted toward Atsumu’s lips. His grip in Atsumu’s hair tightened a touch. His other hand reached out to grab the front of Atsumu’s shirt, trying to pull him ever closer.
All the lights were turning green, but Atsumu still slammed on the breaks. He wanted Shouyou so much, he didn’t know what to do with the feelings bubbling up and outside of him. What brought this on? What was making Shouyou act like this?
“What’s wrong,” Shouyou whispered. He had stopped trying to pull Atsumu to him, but his grip stayed just as steady.
The words came out of Atsumu in a pathetic rush, “Am I your rebound?”
Shouyou scoffed, “What the hell?”
“Like, I don’t know, are you acting like this because Kageyama rejected you?”
Shouyou looked confused and then disgusted, “I said that was a long time ago.”
“But the phone call-”
Shouyou groaned, “I’m not in love with Kageyama, you’re so stupid. Why do you think I’m in your bed, Atsumu?”
“‘Cause you’re lonely?” That was the only thing that made sense. Atsumu was lonely, too.
Shouyou seemed to reach the height of his frustration. He hissed out an aggravated breath, trying to control his volume so late at night.
“I am in your bed trying to kiss you, because I like you. And now, I know you like me, too.”
The connectors in Atsumu’s brain continued to be absolutely useless. “How do you know I like you?”
“When I answered Kageyama’s call,” Shouyou explained, “you looked like the world was burning.”
“Oh,” was the only thing Atsumu could choke out.
Shouyou rolled his eyes and tugged at Atsumu to bring him closer. Atsumu removed his hand from Shouyou’s hair and moved it to rest on the slope of his neck. This time, Atsumu let himself be pulled into orbit.
When their lips met, Atsumu’s still cold and Shouyou’s blazing with heat, he remembered how he wanted to bottle Shouyou’s smile. Now, he felt like he was drinking that eternal light. Their movement together gave him a peace the noise of the rain could never compare to. Now, he only wanted to be bathed in this warmth, more precious than the light of the sun.
Shouyou sighed against Atsumu’s lips and pulled away, still close enough to share breaths with. Atsumu felt like he was floating in space.
Shouyou leaned in for one more short kiss. Their lips fit together, and Atsumu enjoyed the blissful feeling until it was gone. Shouyou wrapped his arms around Atsumu.
“We should get some sleep,” Shouyou said, but Atsumu stayed up the whole night wondering how to best go about loving a celestial being.