Kageyama was getting used to hiding it. Of course, it got harder and harder the longer he held it in, but it wasn’t that bad. As long as he didn’t hurt himself in front of someone it was okay. Once he was alone in his room, he could finally let the stress from the day take it out on his body.
He couldn’t tell anyone about it because they would think it was self harm. Kageyama never wanted to hurt himself. Never in his life had he struggled with that. He couldn’t control what his body did to him, even if it was slamming his head against the wall. It was completely out of his control.
His family knew he had Tourette’s Syndrome. It had come completely out of the blue in his third year. He had gotten a professional diagnosis, but somehow he was still being accused of faking. His mom had told him that if she found him hurting himself again, she would send him to the psych ward. She thought he was losing his mind.
Kageyama was grateful everyday that she didn’t get home from work until late. As soon as he entered the house, his verbal tics started, forcing him to repeat random words over and over again. As soon as he was in his bed, he let his arms and legs kick and flail, knowing that this was the only part of the day he could let them show. His fear from his mother returning usually forced him into a nonverbal state for the rest of the night. On worse days, he would also become partially paralyzed. It was an endless cycle of slowly losing control throughout the day until he finally lost all bodily functions. It was exhausting.
About two months after this all started, Kageyama’s principal pulled him aside to explain that he was failing most of his classes.
“We have resources to help you and kids with similar needs. We have after school tutoring programs you could join. Your teachers only want to see you succeed.”
Kageyama couldn’t bring himself to go. If his mom found out how much he’d been struggling she’d probably start to pay more attention to what he was doing in general. What if she found out that he was still hurting himself? What if she found out that all his new bruises were actually from his tics instead of volleyball practice? What if she found out that he had been skipping practice for weeks just because of how mentally exhausted he was?
No. As much as he appreciated that his teachers wanted to help him, he knew he had to raise his grades on his own.
Kageyama turned his head to see the shortest redhead in the world running up from behind him. Kageyama knew this was a cry for attention. He understood that Hinata only wanted to provoke him, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to let him win.
The two of them raced each other to the seating area outside where they usually had their lunch. Although Kageyama was feeling much more sluggish that day from his tics keeping him awake the night before, he still managed to reach their table first, sliding into his usual spot. Hinata was there not a moment later and the two of them simply sat there, doubled over in some attempt to catch their breath.
“Okay, let’s call that one a draw,” Hinata said between gasps.
“A draw? I clearly got here first.”
“Yeah but I got a head start.”
“You’re an idiot, Hinata. That doesn’t help your cause.”
“Yeah maybe,” Hinata said, pulling his lunch out from his bag.
There was a short pause as Kageyama studied him for a second, only fully processing his words a moment after they had been spoken. “What did you say?”
“I said maybe I am an idiot.”
“What would make you say that?”
Hinata played around with his food, not really bringing any to his mouth. “Well you know how there’s that game next week? Coach Ukai says I can’t play in it unless I pass this upcoming history test. I’m completely screwed.”
“That doesn’t make you an idiot, Hinata. You’re one of the most capable people I know. Besides, I’m the one that’s probably gonna fail that test anyway. I was confronted by the principal about it this morning. He suggested that I go to some after school tutoring thing.”
“Oh, yeah I’ve heard about that before,” Hinata replied, finally taking some bites from his food, though Kageyama still hadn’t unpacked his meal. “Maybe we should go together. If we both pass then we can both go to the game.”
Kageyama grimaced. Hinata knew he couldn’t. Although he could hide a lot of his more violent tics while at school, it was still obvious that something was wrong with him. Even if he was only experiencing minor flinches or shaking, it was enough that he didn’t think he could play in a game. He couldn’t be the setter for Hinata unless his movements were exact.
“Hey, you don’t have to play yet if you’re not ready,” Hinata said in response to Kageyama’s silence. “I know this is going to take time, but we definitely still want you by our side. Even if you’re not the one setting for us right now, it would mean the world to have you back.”
“I’m really trying, Hinata. I’m just tired.”
“No worries. Let’s still try to go to the tutoring thingy after school today.”
Kageyama tried to argue, remembering that he couldn’t have his mom finding out about his grades. However, he was interrupted by the ringing of the bell, signaling that it was time for their next period. Before he could even come up with an excuse, Hinata was already bolting in the opposite direction.
Kageyama was much more jittery than usual in his classes that day. His nervousness at Hinata’s plans made his tics much more prominent than he would have liked and he had to exit his classes several times only to go to the bathroom and let out his screaming. It was so embarrassing.
By the end of the day, Kageyama was considering just slipping into the crowd and sneaking his way back home, but he knew he couldn’t do that to Hinata. All the stress that had built up from that day was beginning to swell in his head, making it hard to focus on anything in particular. He barely even noticed when Hinata came up from behind him and started ranting about some bug he had found in math class.
“Hey, are you sure you’re alright?” he asked Kageyama for what must have been the third or fourth time.
“What?” Kageyama tried his best to keep a calm demeanor, but his head was still racing with possible excuses of where he had been if he were to be confronted. “Yeah, I’m definitely okay. It’s back in the history room right?”
“Yeah,” Hinata said, though he seemed uneasy by Kageyama’s delayed response.
The tutoring program ended up being more like an extra class at the end of the day. Kageyama and Hinata sat through another history lesson almost identical to the one they had sat through earlier in the morning, only this time there was more time for open discussion and asking questions. Although Kageyama was still uncomfortably confused, he realized after a few days that it was slowly getting easier for him to understand.
However, even after days of staying late to study, neither of them managed to pass their tests.
“Aw, I’m sorry, Kags,” Hinata said when they compared their scores. “I was really hoping we could go to the game together.”
“It’s fine.” Kageyama replied, though he wasn’t at all worried about whether or not he was attending the game. What would his mom say when she saw his score?
“Hey, how about you come over to my house tomorrow and we’ll watch the game on TV? If we have time after, we can study more for the remake test.”
Again, Kageyama tried to protest, but Hinata was already leaving. Why did this keep happening? Of course Kageyama appreciated that Hinata still wanted to spend time with him even when he was like this, but he was beginning to get more stressed than he could handle. Sure, Hinata seemed okay with at least his less violent tics, but what would his family think? He had never met him before besides watching him playing volleyball before he had been diagnosed. What if his tics forced him to say something embarrassing? Or what if he accidentally broke something?
The fact that he was already in his own head before he even got home meant that he became nonverbal much sooner than usual. Normally this wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but as he approached the front yard of his house, he saw that his mom’s car was already sitting in the driveway. She was already home from work.
“Hey, honey!” Her voice called out from the kitchen as he walked through the door.
He had no reply to give.
“Tobio?” She turned her head to look her son up and down. “Oh I see, you aren’t talking today, huh?” Her warm tone immediately turned stern and cold when she realized that she wasn’t going to get a verbal response out of him.
Kageyama’s fists clenched, his head growing hazy from trying to stop himself from hitting something by accident. He was so tired. He wished he had somewhere to go that wasn’t here. He wished that his mom would leave him alone. He wished he didn’t have to hide it anymore.
Or better yet he wished he didn’t have Tourette’s. If he wasn’t like this he knew that his mom would still love him. She would be so proud of all he had accomplished if only he could just act normal. If only he could just answer her like she wanted, enough to just tell her about his day. All she wanted was a capable son, but he knew now that he could never be that for her. He would never be enough.
It took Kageyama a moment to realize that he was crying. His head was clearing just a little, enough to see his mom staring at him from afar with an expression of distaste at his shaking.
Dropping his school bag where he stood, Kageyama made his way up the stairs to his bedroom, already feeling his arms begin to freeze up. As soon as he made it to his bed, he could no longer move any part of his body.
This is why no one likes you.
Kageyama still wasn’t able to talk the next day. Even though he knew his mom would be mad, he decided to skip school. He had never come to the situation where he wasn’t able to talk at school and he was terrified of what the other students might say to him when they found out.
Luckily, Kageyama had regained mobility over his limbs that morning as soon as he had woken up. Still, after eating a small breakfast, he decided to just stay in bed, letting his tics control his body instead of his mind. It was relaxing. As his body moved comfortably without him giving it much thought, he realized that his movements became much less violent and they bothered him much less.
Halfway through the day, Kageyama heard the sound of light rain begin to fall on his roof. The gentle rhythm over his head soothed whatever more anxious thoughts he had going through his head. Eventually he became calm enough that he was able to fall into a dreamless sleep once again.
Kageyama was awoken by loud knocking at his front door. At first he thought he was imagining it, knowing that it was still the middle of the day and his mom shouldn’t be home for hours yet to come. However, when he peeled back the curtain of his window, he was surprised to see Hinata standing out there on his front porch, drenched in the rain.
Oh shit, he wanted me to come watch the game on TV with him. How am I supposed to tell him that I'm nonverbal right now?
For a moment Kageyama considered just pretending that he wasn’t home, but just at that moment, Hinata lifted his head and made eye contact with him through the window. Kageyama dropped the curtain over the window again as an instinct reaction.
Stumbling out of his bedsheet covers, Kageyama grabbed his phone and opened the Google Translate app. The settings were already set to translate from Japanese to Japanese.
After stumbling down the stairs, Kageyama opened the door, motioning for Hinata to come in out of the downpour.
“Kageyama! I missed you at school today, are you sick? You never texted me back.”
Kageyama looked down at his phone to see that had left it on silent while he was sleeping. He quickly turned his notifications back on and saw that he had 12 new messages from Hinata.
Kageyama did his best to ignore the awkward pause as he typed in what he wanted to say into Google Translate. He noticed Hinata standing on his toes in an attempt to see what he was doing on his phone.
I didn’t come to school today because I am nonverbal. I didn’t know what else to do.
Kageyama felt his cheeks grow warm as he listened to the lady on the app say his words for him in the most monotone voice possible.
“Oh, was that all?” Hinata asked in surprise. “I’m sure you would have gotten by in school just fine. And if anyone said anything mean, I would have made them stop. But it’s alright, you should still come over to my house to see the game! I kind of already told the rest of the team that we would be watching it together.”
Kageyama was taken aback. Hinata still wanted to hang out with him even though he couldn’t talk? He didn’t mind that he would have to use his phone to communicate? He really didn’t see him any different than usual?
Kageyama thought back to all the times that his family had ignored him when he had tried to communicate. He remembered all the times that he was told to speak up, or use his words. They always treated it as if he had an attitude issue and was refusing to talk. And when he would “refuse” to talk to them, they wouldn’t talk with him either. That’s what he had come to expect from everyone.
You still want me to come?
“Of course I do! I mean, this doesn’t change anything for me, as long as you’re comfortable coming over. My family really wants to meet you too.”
His family wanted to meet him. Huh.
And so it came to be that Kageyama and Hinata were running down the streets of their neighborhood in the pouring rain. Knowing that the game was starting soon, the two of them bolted through the flooded roads, barely noticing the water from the puddles splashing up onto their legs. They probably looked ridiculous, but it was worth it for how much fun it was.
When they finally made it to Hinata’s house, they were completely soaked. Kageyama entered sheepishly through the front door after Hinata, all too aware of the water and mud they were tracking into the house.
“Oh, careful! Don’t slip!” Kageyama heard a voice call from the other side of the room. When he looked up he saw that an energetic red-haired woman was rushing over to them with two large towels. Kageyama took one gratefully, bowing in response. He hoped it was enough.
Kageyama busied himself with drying himself off while he let Hinata explain his current situation of not being able to talk. His mom didn’t skip a beat but immediately told Kageyama that he was welcome in their home at any time.
Once they were dried off, Hinata led Kageyama to his bedroom to find a dry set of clothes.
“Most of my clothes are going to be much too small for you but I have some extra clothes in here that my mom keeps insisting that I’ll grow into. Maybe those will fit you.”
Kageyama looked down at the folded t-shirt and shorts that Hinata had just handed him. They appeared to be around his size, but the fact that Hinata’s mom was still hopeful that her son might grow was comical to Kageyama. Although he couldn’t deny that Hinata had grown a couple inches since they had first met, he was for sure done by now.
Once he was done drying off and changing, Kageyama found Hinata already settled in the downstairs living room. He was curled up on the coach opposite the television which was already fixed to the correct channel. Right next to him was his little sister who was snuggled against his shoulder.
“Ah, good the game’s just about to get started,” Hinata said as he met Kageyama’s gaze. “You can sit anywhere. Natsu, this is Kageyama. He’s the setter for our team, remember him? Oh, and he has Tourette’s like you.”
Kageyama froze where he stood. Did he hear that correctly? Did Hinata just say that his little sister also had Tourette’s?
Kageyama came back to himself after a moment, realizing that the other two were looking up at him curiously. He quickly took a seat next to Hinata and pulled out his phone.
It’s nice to meet you, Natsu. Hinata, you never told me that your sister has Tourette’s.
“I didn’t?” Hinata’s eyes widened. “I guess you’re right. I never really thought to bring it up before.”
It could have saved Kageyama a lot of stress if he had known. He was worried that Hinata’s family was going to be judgemental if his tics got out of control, or that they wouldn’t understand when he went nonverbal. It made a lot more sense now that Hinata had never been phased after Kageyama had gotten his diagnosis and started to show more symptoms. This was something that he was already used to seeing in his daily life.
After this encounter, Kageyama automatically felt more relaxed. For the first time in a long while, Kageyama let his tics show in front of people without worrying about what they were thinking of him. He and Natsu actually had a lot of the same tics. Sometimes they would end up repeating after each other, getting caught in a loop of a couple words, but overall it wasn’t that bad. Especially considering what it was like back at his own home, Hinata’s house seemed nothing less than a perfect calm. And since he was comfortable, and partially distracted from watching the game, he noticed that his tics stayed reasonably peaceful. He didn’t end up hurting himself the entire time that he was there.
Karasuno ended up winning their game to which Hinata celebrated by doing cartwheels around the living room. Kageyama had to catch him before he almost knocked over a fairly expensive looking lamp. It was beyond him that Hinata could still have so much energy at such a late hour.
Although Kageyama reassured him that it was all right, Hinata insisted on walking him back to his house. “C’mon it’s pretty late, Kags. I don’t want you to get lost or anything. I’m used to coming this way after practice, but this is your first time.”
Eventually Kageyama gave in. Although he would never admit it, Hinata was probably right in that he could have gotten lost on his way home. It was already dark by the time that they left Hinata’s house, and the roads that led back to Kageyama’s place were filled with unusual twists and turns.
Just as they were approaching Kageyama’s street, Hinata stopped him in the middle of the road. “I want to talk to you about something really quick before we make it back to your house, is that okay with you?”
“I saw that you were so much more comfortable at my house than you have been at school. I saw that after you settled in and met everyone, your tics calmed down a lot too, which I assume was because watching the game with us relieved some stress. I don’t really know what it’s like back at your place but I just wanted to let you know that my house is always safe. There’s never anything going on besides when my sister has friends over or something. You’re always welcome there. Please come over if you need a change of environment. Even if you’re just coming to take a nap, it doesn’t matter. I care about you so much and I want you to know that you always have a place to stay with us.”
Kageyama had a million thoughts running through his head. He knew that Hinata would probably never understand just how much this meant to him. It was true that he had felt so secure with Hinata’s family. They had all treated him normally even though he hadn’t been able to talk the entire time. They never laughed at his tics or made any rude comments. They were the most genuine people he had ever met. Kageyama could tell that Hinata was serious when he told him that their door was always open.
Kageyama didn’t have the words to express how much it meant to him. Instead, he reached out to give Hinata a hug, which was a rare gesture for him to initiate. He hoped it would be enough to show Hinata how thankful he was for his kindness.
After that night, Kageyama started going over to Hinata’s house more often. At first they just met up to study together and slowly redeem their History grades. After that though, they continued to spend a lot of their time together outside of school. Kageyama opened up to him more about what it was like back at his place, and Hinata encouraged him to ask his doctor about medication for his tics.
Between taking his new medication and generally having more support than before, Kageyama gradually saw his mental and physical health begin to improve. Although it took some time, Kageyama was even able to get back into volleyball again. To his surprise, he found that it kept his focus long enough that he could stop ticking for hours while playing. As soon as he came to this realization, joining back with his team became a relief instead of something that made him stressed. It had taken forever, but volleyball was finally something that made him happy again. And what mattered more was that he had Hinata by his side.