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When you paint an evil thing, do you invoke it or take away its power?

 

 

 

The morning bell rings, shrill and winding.

A reminder that there are places to be, classes to be missed, or possible tardy slips to be received.

Crisp uniforms swiftly bustle to and fro the long hallways, intermingled with idle chatter of yesterday’s news. There’s talk of upcoming sports matches, physics finals, and outrage over spring dorm assignments.

It is the white noise of academia.

The late November chill has clung to everyone’s shoulders, making it more unbelievably dreadful to be on campus grounds.

But misery loves company, so the idea of collective suffering is what holds everything in place.

Alongside that, comes an urgency to be expected when the year is almost at an end.

This palpable anticipation for the two-week break with less readings—it’s a shame holiday work is still a monstrous thing— no professors breathing down your neck, but most importantly: year-end parties.

But before one reaches the elysium of bliss, one must first endure the grueling underworld.

And for a journalism student like Hinata with deadlines up to his neck, a laptop always in tow, and interviews set by the tens, Hades takes the form of week-long tailings of the extracurriculars.

He’s in charge of the sports article this year so that means he has a week to suffer through the obnoxious chatter of jocks and locker rooms, just so he can get his scoop, and god forbid he has to be trapped in that room filled with explosive testosterone alone.

This is where he comes in, he thinks, as he watches the boy who is swiftly making his way towards him raise his brows in mock exasperation.

They are only a few minutes behind but that is an eon by his standards.

Atsumu checks his watch for the third time since he’s been within Hinata’s sight.

On the other hand, the redhead waves back gleefully.

“It’s like you’re trying to miss pottery,” Atsumu tells him in a tone that rings quite like Hinata’s mother, delightfully nagging. Though his voice carries no true weight, his eyes playfully fleeting to Hinata in accusation.

Hinata rolls his own as Atsumu gingerly grabs his wrist to tug him along.

The smaller boy lets him do so for the most part because it amuses him, this grating need of Atsumu to always keep him on his toes, and also because he honestly wouldn’t know where he would be without him.

“Tell me again why I agreed to take pottery first thing in the morning?”

“...something about it being good for the soul?” The tall blond offers, haphazardly sparing Hinata a glance before proceeding to smile politely at the year 2 girls they pass by.

They’re peering outside of their classrooms similar to how bamboo trees bend, strands of dark hair swaying along the air with uncertainty, just to catch a short glimpse of Atsumu.

He slows down his stride just a tad, although Hinata is the only one who openly notices, to allow the kohais their morning greetings. A few seconds afterwards, though, the redhead simply can’t resist the laugh that bubbles from his lips.

“Your fanclub’s growing larger by the day,” he teases, winking at the remaining younger girls before they turn the corner. “Soon enough, they’ll fill the whole auditorium.”

They hear the girls cheer behind them, at that. Hinata’s voice truly isn’t a contender for the quietest.

“Shut up,” Atsumu bites, looking like he’s resisting the urge to curse at the smaller boy if only out of embarrassment, but the warmth that rushes to his ears says the remainder of what he tries to hide.

Finally being able to match his brisk pace so that Hinata’s not so far behind him, making the taller boy hold his wrist at an awkward angle, he adds, “Was it because of your nasty home run last week?”

“Maybe... but can’t it also be that they just think I’m charming and very approachable?” Atsumu asks, shrugging, a winding pout in his voice. “Maybe they just want to be friends.”

“Oh, please. You’re dense if you don’t acknowledge that any one of them would fight for your hand the moment you ask,” Hinata pulls at their linked arms for emphasis, and to support his point.

“Besides, the friend spot is already taken.”

“By who?” Atsumu looks back at him with a grin now, moving his hand down to intertwine with his as the two of them arrive at the classroom door.

And it’s only then that Hinata really sees him that day.

His bleached golden hair is a familiar mess— only because he has this torrid habit of running his hand through it— but in the most pleasing way possible. There are strands that have grown longer, his natural dark hair peeking through at certain angles, but somehow it all works.

It’s unfair, really, the way everything about him seems to fall perfectly in place.

Every thread and nonexistent crease of his blue coat and cream vest, his keen fox-like eyes, and the slight of his smirk. One would not imagine the likes of him to wear a uniform well, but he does. There’s a reason why he’s on the roll to be the school’s representative.

Because.

Who wouldn’t want to be him?

Hinata truly has no clue how the star player of the baseball team ended up being the biggest dork in the world— and even more damning, how he ended up as his best friend. Though everyday he thanks his lucky stars for it.

“Promise me you’ll help me interview the football boys. You are still friends with that lot, right?” he finds himself saying instead, the words coming out of him in a rush, before Atsumu notices he’s been staring for way too long.

He wordlessly puts his hand, fingers still intertwined with Atsumu’s, against his other palm, as though to put him in between, leaving him no room to refuse.

“I’d love to,” the blond replies cheekily, tilting his head to the side.

“But only if you help me make a fuckin’ vase.”

 

 

 

 

Apparently Tuesdays are make-or-break days on the field, because it’s the day game dates are announced. That or the lack thereof.

Hinata hears one of the guys swear like a sailor before a crash rings through the locker room, large and loud as they are, and he’s compelled to announce a silent prayer to himself for all the helmets and other breakable equipment these frustrated, stunted-child-men have handled in their careers.

He’s watching with wide doe eyes, stationed at the door. As Atsumu makes his way to the sorry crowd for him, gathering high-fives and chest bumps easily as he strides past, like they’re all part of some clique.

And perhaps through the lenses of collegiate sports they are, but as Hinata sees them, they’re more akin to a juvenile cult.

It’s still jarring to see the blond so comfortable around the massive jocks, his lean stature being around all the muscle and bruteness, though Hinata’s reminded that there are parts of him that fit right into the role.

The wicked glint in his eyes when he’s completely passionate about something, the bandages on his knuckles he tries to hide on some days, the way he always likes to be in control—

“It’s a bust,” he walks back to Hinata at the door, snapping the redhead out of his thoughts.

“I know you only need like two dudes and a few sentences, but they’re all shot—” he pauses, a finger on his chin like he’s remembering something.

“….ass-fucked, is the word they used for it.”

Hinata has to try not to be too annoyed at the outcome, and instead focus on the way the word sounds almost laughable from Atsumu’s mouth.

He shakes his head. “Let me guess, their game got cancelled?”

“Yup. Something about the principal making way for a school charity day,” The tall boy shrugs, walking past him to get to what seems to be the utility room, where Hinata automatically assumes there’s empty benches to sit on, or something that intrigues Atsumu one way or another.

“I’ll give them about a week to get over it.”

He walks off into a direction without a care in the world.

“I don’t have a week, ‘Tsumu,” The smaller boy groans but follows his lead anyway.

“We’re a football-centered school for fuck’s sake– how the principal could cancel the most important game of the season is beyond me.”

“Football and baseball-centered,” Atsumu points out flatly, as though offended, using a key from his pocket and a heave to open the heavy door that leads into the utility room.

For a moment Hinata thinks he’s hit a nerve there, but Atsumu carries on wordlessly, and he’s reminded of how the blond has close to none. It’s almost funny, the way he lets Hinata push his buttons but nothing about his character seems to have the capability to explode. That or he just doesn’t want to show it. At least not to him.

The redhead has curiosity hardwired into his bones.

“He probably needs extra funds for the holidays,” The blond pulls a switch somewhere and it makes a click.

Suddenly the room is bathed in a light yellow glow.

“What?” Hinata looks around the dimly lit space and finds a bunch of old sports equipment; soccer balls, bats and climbing ropes strewn about the dusty floor, seemingly untouched for years and wordlessly aging. It’s quite apparent that no one comes in here these days. Maybe not even the maintenance crews.

Then what on earth are they doing there?

“You know the principal’s like, … like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s obviously only doing all these charity events to take a cut from the money,” Atsumu continues passively, as though they were out on a stroll, reaching for a box that’s up on one of the shelves. Their two pairs of feet leave faded footprints on the chalky linoleum.

“And I’m the one with the bad mouth,” Hinata says unbelievably, recalling the past teachers who had reported him as a sort of foul-tongued fiend to his parents, when Atsumu has been right there beside him for more than a decade. He’s sure that the tall boy’s ability to be so blunt that it passes off as simple commentary rather than a jab should be some kind of crime.

“Aren’t you scared he’ll cancel your game too?”

“Oh, he could try,” Atsumu scoffs, amused at the idea, leaning back against the wall with his arms crossed in front of him. The yellow light illuminating his face makes him look like a fox in the middle of mischief.

“Is it just me or are you getting more daring by the day?” he raises his brows at the blond accusingly, to which Atsumu just chuckles, disappearing between the rows of declining shelves that fill the room. “Hey! Come back! What the hell are we even doing here?”

“We’re here becau—

The loud grating of the door opening cuts his sentence short.

Hinata’s head snaps to find one of the volleyball coaches, her neon green sports jacket a blinding beacon in the barely lit room, who is likely just checking in from seeing the light from outside. She is alarmed at the sight of the redhead, as much as Hinata is to her, and she’s quick to survey his surroundings, critical eyes scanning the boy up and down.

“How did you get in here?” she asks, voice thin and lilting. Her high ponytail swings back and forth behind her like a makeshift pendulum. She raises a brow. “This room was locked. Where’d you get the key?”

Indignation rises from within Hinata at her brash implications, but he pauses, realizing.

Wait, how did he?

However, before Hinata could even open his mouth, similar to flipping on a switch, Atsumu returns.

He steps in front of Hinata, a mediator between him and the woman, his deep voice coming out measured and easy. The sight of him visibly makes the volleyball coach relax.

Oh, of fucking course.

“It was open when we got here,” he shrugs, blatantly lying but ultimately just sounding bored. “I was just looking for old bats I could use for practice.”

It takes a moment of her gaze fleeting on the two boys, before she finally gives in. She nods as though she’d expected his explanation in the first place and had even known all along, gingerly looking over the rotting equipment in the dilapidated room with faux familiarity. Hinata resists the urge to scoff.

The thing is, though, he can hardly blame her for trusting the blond’s word so easily. He has that kind of air to him— the sense of safety, or is it beguiling?— that makes you want to trust him. Well, Hinata wonders to himself, how could you not?

What with Atsumu, on a great day, having the tendency to smile at you like you’re the only person in existence. His rough voice mellowing out into a sweet thing when he wants to, honeyed-eyes bright and gleaming, that you’d think, this boy couldn’t hurt a fly, now can he?

And it works. Because it’s him and it always works. The volleyball coach smiles at the two of them politely before she wishes him luck on his upcoming game.

When she’s gone, Hinata turns to him and sighs:

“Really?”

“It was half-true,” he says smugly, showing Hinata his arms filled with old baseball bats and dust.

 

 

 

 

It’s a day after that whole fiasco with the footballers when Hinata decides to scrap the original prompt in exchange for writing about the baseball team’s popular centerfielder instead.

His chief advisor agrees as soon as she hears Atsumu’s name, and just like that it’s settled. As though the original football piece was never even a thought to begin with and she wouldn’t have had it any other way. (“Why didn’t you tell me you were such close friends with him?”)

Hinata has a rough time trying to decide whether this outcome is for the better.

“I know this whole newspaper thing is important to you, but what’s there to write about?” Atsumu asks quizzically, eyes fleeting to Hinata who’s sitting across from him at the library table, before retreating to his chemistry book.

His Science final isn’t until next week but he’s been studying in preparation for three days straight, and he’s determined to make Hinata suffer with him at every step of the way. Making him tag along to wherever his long legs decide to take him.

The blond flips through the pages with one hand, the idle one flat on the table, visibly shaking. Hinata fixates on the tremor like a hawk.

He looks around at the other students invested in their own studious hellscapes, thinking about how one can miss so much of what’s hidden in plain sight, his lonesome in what feels like exclusively Atsumu’s world.

The call for nicotine is a beckon he hides well, but not well enough. Not from Hinata at least.

Though it makes the redhead wonder if there’s anything else Atsumu’s managed to conceal, what he hasn't already figured out from all their years spent together. It’s inviting, this challenge.

What’s there to write about?

“Plenty.” he assures him.

 

 

 

 

He’s an oxymoron; in the flesh.

“What would they say if they knew that everyone’s favorite boy smokes reds?”

It’s golden hour.

The two boys have found their way to the very top of the campus’s parking garage, sitting on one of the concrete blocks that are scattered about the roof.

“No one’s going to believe you,” he smirks in a way that makes him look even more enticing than he should, the smoke exiting his nostrils in a stream. Hinata takes a drag of his own cigarette.

He watches their self-made fog envelop them, thinking about how the scent will stain Atsumu’s perfectly ironed clothes (his own too but he’s never cared for himself) wondering how everything bad about the blond just happens to be invisible and elusive.

How later anyone Atsumu meets will just think he’s been hanging around someone who smokes, most likely Hinata; how all things good come so easily for him.

The view of Atsumu’s face against the auburn sky, surrounded by their clouds of grey and the effervescence of his duality, is a sight Hinata has become accustomed to, though every time, it still manages to take his breath away.

It strikes him how peculiar it is that he recognizes so much of the taller boy with eagerness, fixating on his little quirks and habits, ticking them off like there’s an existence of a list somewhere in the back of his head. He considers the prospect.

Though feelings are the last thing on his mind, and the idea of love almost comical to Hinata; for when it comes to Atsumu, it’s hardly ever a shock to be so enamored.

To most people, he’d imagine it would be more of a surprise if you don’t adore him.

And in the simplest sense, he does.

Adore him, he means.

Although he sees Atsumu as less of an infatuation, but rather more of a—

“Am I your new muse?” he cuts Hinata’s train of thought, noticing, of course, how obviously he’s been gawking at him, committing the lines that make him, to memory.

Though he’d leave it to the blond to think it’s only because of some silly art block. He’s completely inane to any matter outside of academics. He doesn’t know how infinitely fascinating he is.

“I haven’t drawn anything in ages,” Hinata pointedly reminds him, though he feels his own fingers twitch slightly at the sore subject.

The movement draws Atsumu’s attention like an instinct. He was already expecting the mannerism from the redhead, his smug grin saying enough, but he stays silent. For as much as he’s oblivious to his own devices, he seems to have Hinata all figured out. Is this their curse?

“You have a very picturesque face, is all,” Hinata says simply, hoping to resign from the topic at that.

Someone said artists can’t help but want to immortalize a lovely thing, and it’s that same fear of being unable to capture that loveliness that holds Hinata hostage.

Though the sight of Atsumu now, the cigarettes and boyishness, all the liquid gold, and the smirk plastered on his lips, makes Hinata think he could conquer it.

“So draw me.” The blond says, smiling like the sun.

Maybe Hinata would like to try.

 

 

—-

 

 

Atsumu tends to scold him about his unhealthy sleeping habits; the way he wakes up ten minutes before class, how he bravely stays up until morning to finish a show he likes, and his complete and undying love for midnight road trips, but you see, the blond is a hypocrite.

And his hypocrisy hasn’t rung louder than any bell than tonight.

It is 1 am when Hinata arrives at the baseball field to haul him out of his hubris.

The night air is just cool enough to not be biting, still, he crosses his arms around himself as he approaches the field.

The bright floodlights make it seem as though the square Atsumu’s standing in is a different world apart from the pitch-black midnight. As though it’s the only place he exists in at the moment. A diamond stage in which to present.

He’s standing in front of the pitching machine with dirt all over his white uniform-clad knees and ankles, sweat lining an arch over his brow and dripping down his jaw, his golden hair tousled waywardly in clear frustration. The old bats that he got from the utility room lay scattered about the bullpen, as though they were meticulously placed around him in a haze.

Hinata can hear his heaving breaths even before he gets close.

Atsumu is one thing when he’s in the halls, clean-cut, smiling and full of charm. Then another when in front of the guys and the sunsets, laidback and easy. But here, in the face of empty bleachers and the night sky, with no one to serve as witness, he is a whole different person all together.

He blinks at Hinata’s direction once, but pays him no attention, and the smaller boy hardly expected any amount of recognition to begin with. He becomes indiscernible when put in his element, both to others that surround him and even to himself.

Hinata wonders if he could ever hope to be an exception. He shakes his head quickly at the thought, foolish and pointless.

On the other hand, Atsumu continues what he was doing, seamless and undeterred, practicing his right swing. The redhead watches him do a couple, all hitting high and far, although the blond’s tsk’s after each one lead him to believe none of them were good enough. Though if he were him, Hinata would guess nothing ever is.

After another twenty minutes of the smaller boy attempting to bear a hole in Atsumu’s baseball cap, he realizes the idiot’s aiming to swing until his arms fall off, that or for hell to freeze over, so he decides to draw the line in the sand. Quite literally.

“That’s enough,” he says, running across the dirt to get to where the blond stands.

Atsumu ignores him, valiantly walking past the redhead to reload the machine, his hand that’s still holding the bat lax at his side. Hinata darts in front of him impatiently, trying again, and this time grabs his arm that’s loading the baseballs.

For a second, he doesn’t do anything but stare at Hinata’s hand wrapped around his wrist, like he’s surprised the redhead had the nerve to do it, to dare affront him so callously. And then he chuckles darkly.

Atsumu turns to him with a brow raised in loathsome.

“Shouyou, quit it with this annoying bullshit.”

“You are not staying here all night again.”

“But I need to practice.”

“I doubt there’s much you could change.” Hinata means it as a compliment.

He’s been practicing everyday for a week, going home later than the last, so he tries his damn best to match the taller boy’s gaze to indicate that this has to be the final straw. The blond tilts his head back, nodding with his tongue in his cheek as though Hinata’s the one being stubborn, and all the redhead can think about is: if only the girls could see him now.

Like a boy who’s finished throwing a fit, Atsumu yanks at his arm once and Hinata lets go of it if only for the purpose to face him properly.

The bat in his right hand is raised to his shoulder, as he takes sordid steps closer, his height towering over Hinata. The smaller boy thinks of saying something but he’s not entirely sure on what, so he just watches as Atsumu’s knuckles turn white as he grips the bat with so much strength that Hinata half-expects him to break it in half.

“You aren’t my mother, you know.”

It’s rare for him to be angered over a simple thing. But it isn’t a complete impossibility. Hinata can count the instances in one hand, but he thinks he’s seen this before.

“Then stop acting like a child.”

Offense is something he’s unaccostumed to, even from Hinata himself, so it takes a moment for him to register what the redhead said. A part of Hinata thinks of stepping back, in retreat, but he ultimately decides he’s already too far in it now.

Why not go all the way? All he could hope for is that this time he’s pushed the right buttons.

Atsumu’s eyes narrow into a calculating, hawk-like stare, as though he’s trying to get into Hinata’s head, looking for a way to destroy him; some place tender to stab at. It’s a staggering contrast to his usually lazy yet beaming eyes. It’s almost as if he’s hungry.

The thought sends a jolt through the redhead’s skin.

And perhaps Hinata should be afraid, terrified of the bat in his hands and the glowering look on his face, but all he can think about is how he so badly wants to capture that expression, that side of Atsumu that would appear to be a fluke, a mistake to a common person, but surprisingly isn’t. Not now anyway. Not to him.

Hinata feels his own fingers twitch as Atsumu lifts the bat so it’s level with his head.

He doesn’t know what he expects to happen next, as he looks into the pools in the blond’s dark eyes, but he thinks, here it comes. All the rage, the severity, the pent up emotions one must have to keep concealed to appear perfect all the damn time.

Hinata anticipates the swing, the whoosh of the wooden bat cutting clean through the air, and the hit. The pain that blooms stars.

Ache will arise from Atsumu’s hands, and here Hinata is wholeheartedly leaning into it.

But then it doesn’t.

“You’re right,” The blond says suddenly, sounding apologetic now as he looks straight into Hinata, the bat still raised where it was before.

The redhead realizes he’s been curling his own fists the entire time, his nails have embedded dozens of red crescent moons on his palms.

“Let’s go home.”

Just like that, it’s gone.

 

 

 

 

The boys’ dorms are just a short stroll away from the field.

Atsumu walks in front of him, a black duffel bag at his side and his hands stuffed in his pockets.

The streetlights cast an amber glint over the campus pavement, and Hinata watches it be painted by their shadows as they stride past it.

The roads are still. Quiet. Everyone, even the ones who have exams to study for, has finally gone to bed at this hour. The air is just a little before freezing, and Hinata buries his chin inside the jacket Atsumu had lent him. The taller boy striding along the November night in just a tank top and sweats. The thought is amusing to him and invites a point of criticism but for some reason, he can’t bring himself to say anything at all.

The sight of Atsumu’s face saturated with fury is still plastered in Hinata’s head, like an itch he can’t quite get rid of.

“Thanks for saving me— you know, from myself.”

The blond suddenly turns back to glance at him, his gaze soft, and Hinata thinks about home.

“Anytime.”

 

 

 

 

The baseball game gets cancelled.

They find out about it the next morning, sitting in pottery.

Atsumu is right beside him, listening intently to a lesson about glass making.

At once, every phone inside the classroom lets out a ding; the school has made an announcement.

And Hinata gets to see firsthand, how something opaque breaks.

His face twists into a spiteful thing, for a mere moment, though it’s gone as soon as everyone in the room turns to him, looking to see how the school’s famous centerfielder reacts. Hinata reaches for his hand under the table that’s been curled tightly into a fist, covering it with his own albeit their difference in size.

No one in the class says a word after that. The lecture resumes.

 

 

 

 

It takes one day for Hinata to write an article about Atsumu that’s good enough for the school newspaper, and one whole all-nighter to make it any real good (for his own pride).

Knocking at his dorm room at dawn, because he’s still somehow that type of person even though they’ve been inseparable for years, Atsumu comes to fetch him with a large hot coffee in one hand and his heavy chemistry book in the other.

He finds Hinata at his desk with his legs pulled up to his chest and the finished article in front of him.

“You just missed him,” he greets as Atsumu hands him the coffee that’s as black as his natural hair, just the way Hinata likes it.

“Who?”

“My roommate,” he swivels back around to face his laptop. “You know how much he loves you.”

Hinata hears his bed creak under Atsumu’s weight behind him, as he takes a seat while the redhead goes over some final edits.

“Ha-ha, funny,” he says sarcastically, bringing a smile to Hinata’s face. “I know that Kageyama dude hates me for being here all the damn time.”

“He’s one of the rarities,” he hands the blond the article, then takes a sip of the coffee. Atsumu crinkles his nose at him because caffeine is something he swears against strongly, saying it tastes like gasoline, though he keeps a pack of cigarettes on him at all times in the same breath.

“Read it!” he exasperates in reply. The taller boy rolls his eyes but starts reading anyway.

He watches him brighten up and then go dim. Afterwards when he’s done, he stares at the screen, almost as if he’s trying to find his voice.

Idly, Hinata goes to open his closet to fish for a sweater.

“Do you really see me that way?”

“Of course,” He’s fumbling with a hanger. “How can I not?”

Atsumu sounds bashful when he says, “That guy in your article sounds too good to be true.”

“You are.” Hinata replies.

Feeling a sudden bout of awkwardness from his blunt profession, he quickly leaves the blond staring at the floor to go change clothes in the bathroom. When he returns, he finds Atsumu with this look on his face that’s as though he’s wounded him with his words.

“What?”

“Nothing,” The blond shrugs, a forlorn smile painting his lips.

“I’m sorry,” Hinata blurts out, thinking that’s the reason. “About the game, I mean. I knew how much you prepared for it.”

“It’s not that,” he shakes his head, almost wistfully.

“Then what?”

“You make me want to be good, do you know that?” he says, amused. “It’s all you.”

 

 

 

 

“I’ve got new intel,” he seizes the numerous books in Hinata’s arms to carry for himself. Atsumu sometimes has the habit of ambushing the smaller boy in the hallways. “The game’s back on.”

The blond skips down the rickety stairs with glee as Hinata calls after him. “Wait— what? How did that happen?”

“I’m not quite sure,” he steals his eyes away from the redhead to rest the stack of books on the railing, visibly giddy with excitement, then goes back to looking up at him again. “But apparently the principal didn’t turn up for the charity meeting, so they called it off.”

“Huh.”

Hinata means to say something else, to question the situation, but he finds himself hesitating at the way Atsumu’s face is split wide with so much plain joy. Thinking it should be enough to be an explanation.

It’s enough for him at least, Hinata thinks, as Atsumu stares up at him with his bright, childlike eyes.

 

 

 

 

The principal doesn’t turn up for the next charity meeting, not the day after that, or the week that comes.

He doesn’t come back to campus at all, speculation about how he’s gone to vacation early this year hanging around the air, rumors of him and his ‘charity’ work getting tossed in the mud.

 

It’s been a week since anyone in the school board has seen the principal, when the eagerly awaited baseball game takes place.

Hinata sits in the bleachers, surrounded by peppy students donning our blue and cream colors, the facepaint, all the palpable excitement and the whole nine yards. He holds one of the school cameras on his lap for the occasional snapshot for the paper.

He finds Atsumu easily on the green. The numbers 13 splayed on his chest in bold black letters.

The contrast of the white of his uniform to his golden hair is even more striking now, as Hinata watches him in an official court.

For a second, he figures it’s silly to think Atsumu would look but he watches the blond scan through the crowd with expectant eyes, until they ultimately land on him. Atsumu’s face breaks into a wide smile, reminding Hinata of daybreak, as he raises a hand and waves.

The row of girls sitting behind him squeal loudly, figuring it was for them, and he laughs before returning the gesture. Wishes him all the luck Hinata could give.

The night is full of stars and hope.

 

 

 

 

They win by a landslide, as they always do, and it makes one wonder what Atsumu was so worried about in the first place.

Hinata looks for the man of the hour in the locker rooms as soon as the game ends, unable to pull himself from the sheer pride he feels for the blond to not be the one who congratulates him first. But he’s quick to realize that he’s nowhere to be found.

Pushing past the throngs of happy baseballers blocking the locker room door as he exits, he notices the door of the utility room slightly ajar.

Bet he’s thanking those old baseball bats for his win tonight, he thinks, laughing slightly, because it sounds like an exact thing the idiot would do.

Then, he finds him.

In the old disheveled room, under the dim yellow light, with blood in his hands, on his face, and this jarring, broken look in his eyes.

And of course, as these stories go, there is a body. A body on the grey linoleum floor.

It’s covered with a sort of plastic, mangled in a way that one of the tied up legs rests unnaturally, and blood as dark as wine is seeping from it, spreading everywhere.

There’s so much blood.

Bile rises to Hinata’s throat as the realization of it all dawns on him, and he has to resist the instinct to vomit as he desperately looks to the blond for an answer.

Atsumu can only confirm everything with the way he exhales disappointingly.

He’s acting like he’s missed a train departure. As though Hinata discovering this, whatever amalgam of horror that sits in front of them, is simply an inconvenience to him. Something to be annoyed at and not ashamed of.

At that, Hinata tries to bolt for the door but in a blink of an eye, Atsumu’s holding him by the shoulders, using his weight and height advantage to keep him in place.

Shouyou.”

The name from his lips normally sounds like a comfort, something good and warm and delightful. But when he says it now, he says it like a clear signal. To get Hinata to stand still and listen, to try and understand what he has to say.

And Hinata is struck so severely with how unfair it is, because he knows what it does to him, this blatant misuse of their familiarity— Atsumu knows just how to play him like a fool.

“Listen, Shouyou, I can explain,” he says quickly, even now his voice remains unnervingly clear. Hinata feels a chill go down his spine. “He’s still alive.”

“Alive? What the fuck, ‘Tsumu?” He almost screams at the blond, before deciding to turn to a whisper, suddenly aware now of how easily anyone else could have walked into the room. “H-He’s lost so much blood—

“That’s just his leg, I had to— I had to break it,” he grimaces as he explains, if only because of Hinata’s own reaction, reaching behind the smaller boy to push the heavy door shut and lock it. “He’s just passed out from shock.”

Hinata gives him a look like he’s grown two heads in the last three seconds. “Do you hear what you’re saying right now? Are you insane?”

“He doesn’t even know it’s me,” he promises, as though it makes this any better, and it’s only then that Hinata notices the blindfold wrapped around the principal’s face. “He thinks terrorists have got him, like he’d ever be that fuckin’ important, but I’m damn sure he wouldn’t put two and two together. Not when—”

“Not when it’s you?” Hinata doesn’t recognize his own voice, has never heard it so spiteful towards the blond before, but he thinks the words came from his mouth. What with the way Atsumu’s staring at him with his mouth agape in surprise.

Of course, Hinata thinks in the back of his mind, even this, he does so well. He stares at him, unsure whether he should be terrified or morbidly impressed.

“Oh for god’s sake, don’t be like that.”

“I have to tell someone.”

No, no you fuckin’ don’t,” he almost laughs, as though Hinata had told him a joke. “I got this whole thing under control. I have a plan. Can’t you see?”

“What I see is that you’ve beaten the school’s principal to a pulp. He’s been missing for days.”

This seems to hit something in the blond, but Hinata’s mind is moving far too quickly to register what it is. There is no time to analyze his every move without allowing himself to be prey.

“So what are you going to do, huh? You’re going to snitch on me? On your goddamn best friend?”

Atsumu registers the look of true apprehension on Hinata’s face so he turns and lightly pushes the redhead backwards until he hits the wall, any chance of the smaller boy escaping him disappearing as fast as the coolness of the concrete spreads through Hinata’s shirt.

“Haven’t you heard of backing a dog up in a corner, you leave it no choice but to bite?” Hinata tries to sound as threatening as he can muster with his heart pounding deafeningly in his ears.

Atsumu puts a finger on his chin as though pondering the thought, his white baseball uniform haphazardly strewn about and ruined by all the blood; making him look unstable and dangerous. It’s the unruliest he’s ever been.

Tilting his head to the side, he says “Isn’t it a cornered enemy has nothing to lose?”

Hinata watches him with careful eyes, not wanting to betray any of his emotions, but it’s no use. He has Atsumu to lose.

And the blond knows it, too.

“But you aren’t my enemy, now are you?”

He’s right, of course. Whatever an enemy is, Hinata’s the farthest from it. He’s spent his life being the complete opposite. One could even argue he could be an accomplice. The thought makes Hinata’s head drawl. When did he do it? Maybe I could’ve

But it’s all too late now. The blood has marked his skin.

It would be witless to think Hinata could have done anything differently to prevent it. Maybe that’s what hurts the most.

And besides, even if he did tell anyone—

“No one’s going to believe you.” Atsumu says it again, the line from the roof, reading Hinata’s mind, only this time his voice carries a twinge of reproach.

Hinata watches Atsumu’s eyes go from blank to deadly in a snap, and thinks about him with his straight As, his perfect attendance, perfect everything really, the lines of girls who would listen to his beck and call, his playful charm that’s so alluring.

How could have anyone seen this coming?

But then Hinata is reminded of the flashes of his curled fists, the great rage bubbling just under the surface, the force of the bat hitting flesh and his glare that could cut through ice.

Hinata thinks about anticipating the strike, the tempered hit, tenderness of his own bone and tissue, and wonders will he do it this time?

In the time he’s been trying to make sense out of all of this, Atsumu has gotten so close to him that he feels the blond’s breath against his eyelashes. The splatter of blood that stains his cheek makes his eyes pop, the crimson making everything about him darker than they are, framing a crazed, haunting expression. He looks like a wolf. The comparison lights a thought in Hinata’s mind.

“You’re the one wearing the sheep’s clothing,” he whispers.

You’ve been pretending all along.

There’s a flicker in Atsumu’s gaze that softens it, if only for a moment, but it's enough to break his anger.

His want to prove Hinata wrong, to salvage whatever’s left of his character in the redhead’s eyes, is far greater than any of his need to inflict rage.

“I want to know what happened,” Hinata offers it as a plea, though the apparent shake in his voice betrays him.

Atsumu pays the tremor little to no mind, or so he tries. The idea of the smaller boy being apprehensive to him makes his head spin in the worst way.

“I didn’t plan to do it,” he says the words slowly, like he’s explaining it to the both of them. “We were talking about the game, and then he was a complete asshole, I mean—

“What could he have done?” To deserve this?

There is a pause. He doesn’t want to tell.

“Atsumu, I need to know.”

“He told me he was going to cancel the release of the school newspaper,” he says the words in a string, so swift that it takes Hinata a second to decipher what he means. “He said that it was a waste of time, a waste of the school’s money. You should have seen how he laughed when he said that, and I just wanted to crush him, I couldn’t let that happen, I just wanted nothing but to destroy hi—

Hinata’s limbs are frozen in disbelief. But his mouth works faster than any other part of his body.

“No, no—” he jabs a finger at the blond, looking up at him in incredulity, completely aware now of what he’s implying. “Do not do this to me.”

He did it for you.

“Look, okay, fuck! I knew how much it meant to you and so I had to.” he stops there, looking utterly exhausted, and letting go of his grip on Hinata to sit on the dusty floor. The redhead's chest aches like he's been stabbed himself.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he exhales painfully.

“You should see the way you’re looking at me right now,” he laughs but it’s the kind that’s sardonic and empty, making the smaller boy’s nose flare.

Hinata opens his mouth to reply, only to close it again indecisively.

“Tell me, Shouyou,” Atsumu says to the floor, voice still as powerful as ever but edging on a break. Whether it’s with venom or betrayal, Hinata can’t quite discern.

“Tell me you aren’t afraid of me.”

Hinata’s chest seizes up in silence. He finds himself unable to say a word.

Atsumu chuckles darkly after that. A gesture saying I knew it.

Hinata thinks he’s being unreasonable, how he's expecting him to still be on his side when he’s left him no choice.

And though Hinata is terrified, he’s just as foolish as the blond because he doesn’t want to be.

He watches Atsumu look up at him carefully after a while, like the redhead’s a bomb he didn’t want to explode. Oh how they’ve switched places.

And after a somber beat, he realizes Atsumu’s not entirely impenetrable to this, that there’s a tenderness only akin to fear there. No matter how good the blond tries to hide it.

He’s hugging his knees to his chest, and to Hinata standing across the room, he looks so small.

Atsumu’s eyes carry a sort of hesitance that Hinata doesn’t recognize, not from him at least.

And for once, he sees Atsumu as a boy, not something to put atop a pedestal. A boy that's aware that he’s made a callous mistake, unsure who to ask forgiveness from.

It’s the youngest he’s looked in years.

 

 

 

 

Hinata ends up sitting beside him with a washcloth trying to wipe away all the traces of blood from his freezing hands, as though maybe if he scrubbed hard enough he could make Atsumu clean again, spotless.

The blond watches him do so with gentle eyes, all the viciousness forgotten, and in its place is something akin to vulnerability. It is the rarest of rares.

“I’ve always wanted to know where to hit you where it hurts,” Hinata confesses silently, watching the taller boy’s hands that shake slightly in his hold, wondering how something so beautiful could reap so much harm.

He thinks of Achilles. His greatness, his beauty, and his heel that cost him everything. How some argued that his mother had never once brought him to the Styx, that the heel was and always had been Patroclus.

“You’d know exactly where my weaknesses lie if you look in a mirror,” Atsumu says simply.

“You hold all the reins now.”

Hinata looks at him wordlessly then, his pretty face painted with a look so bruised, so defenseless. He’s unrecognizable.

As though for the first time in his life, in the years he’s known him, Atsumu’s laying all his cards on the table.

For him.

He decides there, quick and without a second thought. He reaches in his back pocket for a pack of reds and a lighter that was supposed to be a congratulatory present. The night truly has taken a turn he would have never expected it to.

He pulls one out and puts in his mouth to light it.

Atsumu watches him take a drag with hooded eyes, as Hinata grimaces at the taste, exhaling the smoke in the air in front of them.

Then, he takes the cigarette out of his mouth, nestling it between his two fingers and offering it to Atsumu.

So, what was your plan exactly?”

 

 

 

 

The next day, the principal turns up in a hospital twenty miles from their campus, with no recollection of anything that had happened to him. Or of anyone. It’s ruled a mystery.

And Hinata’s article about the baseball team’s wondrous centerfielder becomes a smashing hit among all of the students.