Tobio generally doesn’t think of himself as a good person.
No, he really doesn’t. He’s neither friendly nor helpful, isn’t attractive or cute enough for people to at least like his looks, and his classmates repeatedly tell him that his face is scary when he’s making even the faintest attempt at a smile. Tobio doesn’t mind their whispered talks or obvious hints at his overall bad-guy looks that much. Not anymore, that is. Nothing they could say could ever be as horrible as middle school, with its loneliness and fear, where nobody caught his tosses or sat with him during lunch breaks,where all he could do was squeeze his volleyball, legs pulled close, and sit in a corner as he watched his classmates play and run, his vision blurred through the darkness of lashes too heavy from tears.
Now he has his team to protect his back and stop him whenever he tries to fight alone against the world. He’s not on his own anymore. He’s changed, a strange transformation from a scared child with too much anger aching in his chest to someone who can trust, laugh, and even lead.
It doesn’t matter that he’s scary or weird. Because there’s a certain ray of sunlight that always has Tobio smile to himself, in secret and shy, hoping that nobody will see how his cheeks go red.
Hinata is his friend now, and nothing can hurt Tobio ever again.
He’s not a king anymore. Hinata took his crown, the heavy jewels and crimson cape, and smashed them to the ground with a smile that tore a hole in the rain that rampaged in Tobio’s heart.
With Hinata, he doesn’t have to worry about anything. Everything is natural, smooth, as if he was born to clear the path for Hinata’s hard spikes, for Hinata’s victory. They still bicker and fight, of course, and it will never stop; Hinata races him to training every day and Tobio still teases him about his height. It’s good.
It’s the feeling of Hinata making him immortal, invincible, that ties Tobio closer every day.
He now has a whole team behind him, but Hinata is much more than just support and bright, golden light. He’s…
Hinata is the laughter in his life.
And that’s why Tobio is really fucking bothered when one day, Hinata’s smile dies.
Hinata doesn’t come to morning practice that day, and that’s how things start to go wrong.
Tobio feels that his tosses are off, their flight path into Asahi’s hands not as perfect as usual. Nobody notices but Daichi, who stares at him with a strange expression; his teammates are all busy whispering about the missing Hinata through warmup. Everything else is usual – sounds of volleyballs slamming into the ground, loud calls of “nice receive!” or quick praises between switching positions.
And still, something’s so fucking wrong.
Tobio bites his lip and murmurs a soft “sorry” to Asahi when his next toss is more than a few inches off again. He runs to pick up the ball, not even hearing what Asahi says behind his back. Probably that it’s okay, but it’s really not. He shouldn’t be that irritated by a missing bundle of agitated sunshine. No tiny, soft steps following him around, no excited voice calling for another toss, one more! –
Tobio stares at the ground, volleyball in his hands, his fingernail dragging along the material. His head orbits around Hinata’s smile, his laugh – is he okay, will he be fine, what if something happened –
“Kageyama.” A dark voice startles him. He hasn’t even heard Daichi come closer, oh God, he failed that toss just now so badly.
“I – yes?” Shit. Tobio turns around with the ball in his hands, fingers digging into the strained material. He hasn’t even paid attention to warmup, and now he’s been caught messing up another toss for Asahi and staring into space like a dumb idiot.
Daichi crosses the court towards him, brows furrowed and mouth thin around a displeased twitch. Tobio’s heart shrinks in his chest, an apology already on his tongue, that he just isn’t himself when –
“Do you know where Hinata is?” Daichi stares at him, his glare narrow and sharp.
Tobio swallows and shakes his head. “No. I don’t know. He’s never late to practice.” And if Daichi’s asking him, then he doesn’t know, either. At least this isn’t about his horrible string of tosses just now. But somehow, Tobio would rather fail completely at practice than not know what’s up with Hinata. Hell, he’s an idiot.
“We can’t wait for him much longer.” Daichi rubs his chin, sighing, and looks over to Sugawara, who just shrugs.
“Maybe he’s sick?” the vice-captain suggests.
“Never,” Tobio hears himself say through the fog around his mind. “That idiot would drag himself over here even if he had the flu.”
There’s a faint assent from the team, and Daichi pulls Sugawara aside to discuss the issue in low voices – probably whether to wait or start already. Something stings in Tobio’s chest, and he clutches it with nails digging deep into his skin through the sweat-damp shirt.
This isn’t normal. Hinata is always the first at practice, bouncing on his toes for the gym to be unlocked so he can dig his small feet into the beloved ground of his everyday battlefield.
Daichi calls the whole team over. “I’m sorry, but we have a tight schedule and it doesn’t seem that Hinata’s going to show up,” he called out in his captain’s carry. “We’ll just have to start without him.”
Tobio doesn’t reply when the others agree with faint disappointment. It’s hard to give so much as a nod when his throat is constricted this tight and raw. Hinata’s absence has something missing from his chest, like his pulse slowed down to that ancient lonely feeling, a dark, horrible trepidation again.
“Alright, everyone, let’s get to work,” Sugawara says and claps his hands.
Tobio forces his legs to move. His bones ache, and walking behind his teammates takes a giant rush of energy from his body.
Daichi shoos Nishinoya away from pulling Asahi’s ponytail and only throws Tobio one last questioning glance. No, I don’t know anything, Tobio thinks while glaring onto the floor and following his upperclassmen onto the court for a practice match.
He doesn’t know what’s wrong, but he’s going to fucking find out.
Practice doesn’t feel right without Hinata. Nishinoya gives Tobio a suspicious glance before he squats down and receives a jump float serve by Yamaguchi, and the rest of his team keep looking at him during breaks, eyes following his movements with unhidden curiosity.
It’s like they’re assuming that Tobio would know about Hinata, but that’s just stupid. As if Hinata shares every part of his life with – well. Not every part, but there’s a lot of… things between them. As in talking to each other, that kind of stuff. Nothing else, nothing that’s weird in any way that may have Tobio blush whenever Hinata touches him. It’s not that Tobio spends every minute of his daily life either sleeping, eating, or with Hinata.
Shit. He has to find out what’s going on, and maybe that’ll solve the issue of why his heart always roars like a storm in Hinata’s presence as well.
Tobio forgets to buy his milk during lunch break. He’s not even hungry, and his bento stays untouched in his school bag when he storms out of class as soon as the teacher ends the lesson.
Nishinoya waits outside. “Hinata’s not sick, his classroom teacher said he just came late to class. But, Kageyama, you shouldn’t-”
Tobio doesn’t need to hear anything else.
“Thank you, Nishinoya-sempai,” he says, forgetting to bow as he brushes past his teammate and runs. Nishinoya calls after him, other students turn around and give Tobio a weird look, but he ignores all of them. His feet hit the ground as if they could unleash his anxiety into the earth, far far away from the chaos inside his aching chest.
Hinata skipped practice. The words echo through Tobio’s head like a broken record, slurred around the edges, over and over again. His skin crawls, the inside of his mouth bitter and foreign.
It’s cold when Tobio finally escapes the building. There’s a freezing slash of wind whirling through his hair, sunshine hidden away behind a mountain of clouds above his head. A storm’s coming up.
The break isn’t long, so Tobio runs as fast as his lungs let him.
He chases over the school grounds, peeks around corners and into other classroom’s windows. Hinata’s bright hair is easy to recognize; Tobio bites his lip when there’s not a trace of him in the crowd of chattering students. He tries the same route again, repeats his desperate run around the school. Nothing. It’s not until a group of girls points at him and whispers something that he realizes what he’s even doing. Fuckin’ shit.
Tobio stops dead in his tracks and stares back at them, and this time he’s using his frightening smile with full intention. His breathing is heavy, air cutting into his throat, and the muscles in his jaw twitch from biting his teeth down hard, holding in the feeling of being lost and lonely.
The girls squeal, and Tobio almost has to laugh. It’s so weird how they think he’s scary when Hinata regularly teases him about how his eyes shine like a kid’s when one of his tosses hits home. It’s amazing how well that strange bundle of sunshine can read all of his movements, the emotions he doesn’t know what to do with. How Hinata knows his secrets and dreams – that Tobio has trouble sleeping at night and secretly loves it when Hinata sends him a few messages on his phone to exhaust him.
Oh God, not that again. Tobio drags both hands down his face and turns around. He barely hears the girls’ eager whispers about ‘isn’t he usually with that redhead?’ as his feet carry him back to the main entrance.
The school is quiet during break, so Tobio doesn’t get disturbed in his search. His heart still pounds insane, warmth spreading through his veins and sparking his blood. Hinata, it’s always Hinata, wherever he goes. It’s like Hinata’s presence orbits around Tobio, a sun that only belongs to him, a constellation of stars and planets that are all bright, gleaming red and warmth and somehow, a comfort he’s never known before. Now that it’s missing, he’s alone and cold and this really, really sucks.
Tobio almost hates Hinata a bit for turning him into such a mess. That guy’s got to explain what he did to him, what kind of weird Hinata-magic he performed on Tobio.
He checks the toilets – no Hinata – and then returns outside to sit in front of the closed gym, legs pulled close and chin on his knees. He’s searched everywhere, including the teacher’s room where he took a daring glance inside, but he still hasn’t found Hinata.
What a stupid day, Tobio thinks and bites on his thumb, teeth scraping over a hangnail until it rips off. It’s an embarrassing habit that returns full-blast whenever anxiety overcomes him like a wild animal.
Maybe it’s his fault. Tobio drops one hand to the ground and starts to draw into the dirt. “Where are you, dumbass,” he murmurs and presses his cheek against the bone of his knee. His finger paints a small wing, feathers spreading on the ground besides his sneaker. It’s a crow with a far too tiny body, and Tobio smiles a bit when he scribbles a open-wide beak onto its head.
Then there’s a faint whisper from somewhere, and Tobio’s finger jolts across the sketch.
“Are you sure he’s gone?”
His voice is softer and more fragile than Tobio knows from the depths of his stupid heart, but it’s definitely his. He wants to jump up and storm over – the voice is coming from just around the gym’s corner – but another person speaks up. Tobio freezes and listens, blood pumping in his head.
“Yes, I’m sure, don’t worry.” Suga. That’s definitely Suga, talking to Hinata hidden behind the gym. The sting of jealousy that surges through Tobio’s body shouldn’t hurt so much. What are they doing? “Noya sent me a message, he’s somewhere around the toilets, looking for you. He probably went for the gym first, so I suppose he won’t be coming back again.”
“You have to promise me that you guys won’t let him find me before practice.” Hinata sounds like he’s about to cry, and something about his voice is strangely off. It’s small, a little bit broken. But that’s nothing compared to the sharp sting he feels when he hears Hinata’s words.
So it’s his fault, after all. Tobio has no idea what he did wrong, how he fucked up things this time, but Hinata wants him to stay away. His heart ricochets into an abyss, falls down and splinters.
“Hinata,” Suga says, the gentleness in his words everpresent, “I really don’t know what you’re scared off. Kageyama wouldn’t make fun of you, not for something like that.”
What, Tobio thinks, and then, Why would I ever make fun of him? Hinata’s amazing, he’s cute and –
“Sure. He’d laugh his ass off. And anyways, with these things I won’t ever be able to ki-” There’s silence, and then – “I’ll see him in practice. I don’t have to talk to him then, right? I just have to play. He doesn’t have to know.”
Suga takes a sharp breath, Tobio hears it even around the corner. “That’s a bad idea. Communication is important for you two if you want to improve, and volleyball relies on-”
“Suga-san, please. I can’t – I… please. I don’t want to talk to him.”
And now, Tobio finally recognizes the vulnerable softness in Hinata’s voice.
The kind of softness that only comes from tears.
Hinata’s crying because of him.
Tobio forgets how to breathe. He has to press both hands against his mouth to stay quiet, to keep himself from jumping up and running around the corner to scream at Hinata.
“Just keep him away from me. Just until practice, Suga-san. I’ll play, no problem, I just don’t wanna talk to him. Please just help me, please!”
Suga says something else, and Hinata’s voice cracks on nothing. Tobio runs away, a violent roar of pain throbbing in his chest.
He doesn’t know how he gets back to class. He doesn’t remember sitting down and burying his face in the darkness of his arms, the world somehow still turning even though Hinata just said that he doesn’t want to talk to him anymore. The school day passes by in grey and white.
And then, during the next break, Hinata vanishes behind the gym with Suga again, and Tobio feels like he’s in middle school once more and the court behind him is empty. He’s alone.
Tobio squeezes his eyes shut, bites his mouth until the blood insides pulses against his teeth. He spends break sitting under a tree, fingers dragging through the earth and painting skewed birds with spread wings.
Hinata doesn’t even look at him during afternoon practice.
The whole team is quieter than usual, and Tobio feels the heavy ache of their eyes resting on him. It’s like the world’s been turned upside down. There’s no smile when Hinata hits an exceptionally fast toss from Tobio, no obnoxiously happy yell when he lands smoothly and the ball crashes down on the court’s other half just inside the lines. It was a perfect spike, and Tobio’s chest hurts so much that he wants to reach inside and just rip his stupid heart out.
And what’s worse is that Hinata stops smiling.
There’s not even a glimpse of the usual cheer on his face when Tobio gives him a particularly precise toss. There’s no excited yelling when Nishinoya performs three ‘Rolling Thunders’ in a row, grinning at Hinata for some kind of reaction. Even Tsukishima frowns when Hinata slams a spike against his block once more and doesn’t do more than shrug, brushing off Tsukishima’s praise (“nice, you almost got it through”) by turning away and chasing after the ball.
Daichi doesn’t scold Hinata for skipping morning practice. Instead, he pulls Suga aside and they both whisper about something behind the cart of spare volleyballs. When Tobio tries to eavesdrop, he gets sent to toss for Tanaka and doesn’t manage to hear a word. Everyone seems to know what’s going on, and they’re all somehow trying to comfort Hinata in their own way. And they all seem to know that it’s Tobio’s fault.
Nobody tells him what’s going on, and after one hour into practice, something in Tobio’s brain simply fucking snaps. He’s done.
The volleyball he was about to toss drops to the ground, and Tobio storms towards Hinata. He doesn’t leave him the slightest chance to escape, catching his wrist and pulling hard.
“You’re coming with me, dumbass. We gotta talk. Sorry Suga-san, Daichi-san!”
“What the – let me go, idiot-!” Hinata’s protest is a weak squeal, and he actually fucking ducks his head so Tobio can’t see his face. Incredible. The anger in his stomach flares, red and raw.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, it won’t take long!” Tobio’s grip may be too harsh, Hinata’s wrist is so fragile and soft under his touch, but he still pulls him out of the gym.
Someone says, “I doubt that,” before the door slams shut behind them.
He drags Hinata behind the gym to where he talked to Suga earlier and pushes him against the wall. Hinata immediately ducks away from being cornered, doesn’t say a word, only pressing his small hands into Tobio’s chest with a desperate, tiny whimper – and that’s just too much, he can’t take it anymore.
Tobio lets go, steps back. His fingers curl into fists and he takes a deep, shaking breath.
“Uhh… huh?” It’s not even a word, just incoherent mumbling coming from Hinata’s mouth. And it sounds strangely off again, like he’s holding something insides his cheeks.
He tries again. “I’m sorry for whatever I did,” Tobio says and forces his back into a bow. “Whatever I did to make you hate me, I – I’m sorry. Just stop avoiding me like that, you dumbass!”
It’s about as much emotion as he can put into his words, and they still sound stiff and weird. Shit, Tobio’s so bad at talking, Hinata’s doing a much better job with all his enthusiasm and cute blabbering and God, the way his lips move when he smiles at Tobio for once –
But he doesn’t, not anymore.
“Uhm, so. What do you say?”
Hinata doesn’t do anything. He leans back against the wall, arms wrapped around his body, head of sunshine tucked between his pulled-up shoulders. He looks even tinier like that, and when Tobio reaches out to touch his hand, just to get him to look up, Hinata flinches.
“Say something.” No, he’s not begging. His voice also doesn’t crack at all, doesn’t sound desperate for a reaction. Anything. “Tell me what I did. We – we’re-” It’s so hard to say it, but he does anyways.
Hinata doesn’t move, but his fingers dig into the soft, naked skin of his arms. He shuffles his feet, and even Tobio knows he’s uncomfortable. But shit, they have to talk about this, and he has something to say, a last thing.
“We’re a team, and I’m your setter. You… you can trust me.”
Hinata’s breath hitches. Tobio can see his mouth move a bit, and a quiet noise bleeds from his lips.
Tobio waits, nails digging into the hollow of his curled fists, and then he bursts out, startling Hinata into a squeak. His hands slam against the wall, left and right of Hinata’s neck, and Tobio is so close that he can almost feel Hinata tremble – no, it shouldn’t be like that, never.
“Please, I’m sorry, I don’t know what I-”
“’s not your fault!”
Tobio blinks. Hinata finally looks up at him, and his cheeks are red and strangely – full? It’s hard to describe, and Tobio frowns. What’s wrong with him? He looks a bit like he’s permanently pouting and blowing out his cheeks. But at least he’s talking again.
“Uhm, c-could you…?” Hinata says.
“Too – too close. You’re really, um. Close.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“I-it’s fine.” There’s a bit of awkward shuffling, and Tobio takes a step back to give Hinata the space he needs. Hinata licks his lips, breathes in. Tobio stares at his mouth like some kind of lovestruck girl, like he really wants to kiss his lips and find out if he tastes like the candy he eats every lunch break.
He has it so, so bad.
“Are you going to talk to me now? I heard you and Suga-san during lunch break. You're avoiding me.”
Hinata jolts and stares at him, wide-eyed, before rubbing at his neck. “Oh, I. Yeah. That was pro’bly really stupid, ‘cause-”
“Okay, what’s wrong with your mouth?” Tobio frowns again and squats down, glancing at Hinata from below. It’s hard to understand him when he’s slurring the words like that.
“Th-that’s what I didn’t – promise that you won’t laugh! I can still play just fine!”
What’s this even about? Hinata’s face is dark red, his shoulders shaking, and he presses back against the wall. But at least he’s not avoiding eye contact anymore.
“Of course you can play. Tell me what’s wrong already.” Tobio doesn’t even try to comfort him with a smile, but he stands up straight and awkwardly pats Hinata’s shoulder. It seems to help, because Hinata relaxes a bit, and the darkness fades from his actually kinda gorgeous eyes.
And then, Hinata gives him a shy smile. It’s the first one since yesterday. Tobio’s heart combusts, his head too warm, because Hinata’s totally fine and not hurt or anything. He’s just really, really cute right now, because – well.
Hinata’s smile is adorned by tiny silver wires over his teeth.
Tobio swallows, hard. Hinata has braces.
He has metal strings that stretch from one edge of his mouth to the other, sunlight reflecting off their little hooks in a distracting brilliance.
Shit. Tobio’s got it so, so bad.
Hinata shifts – shit, he was staring. He moves forward a bit, and Tobio feels a shy touch at his shoulder.
“Just laugh at me already, and then we can go back to playing volleyball, okay?”
Tobio’s feet act on their own.
“I – I think it’s… cute.”
There’s a new light caught in Hinata’s smile. Tobio’s heart thunders, his blood warm in his cheeks. He tries to find words, fails. Hinata licks his lips again, only one of the infinite cute gestures that make him unique, that make him… him. And he’s blushing so hard, God that’s cute. Tobio will always remember how Hinata looks with embarrassment shining on his cheeks.
“Are you making fun of me? Because that, that’d be really mean, even for you-”
“Dumbass,” Tobio says, his forehead touching Hinata’s. “Next time, trust me a bit more, okay?”
“Oh.” And then, “oh.” Hinata is only inches apart, and then Tobio’s mouth touches his cheek, shy and trembling, lips ghosting over the softness of Hinata’s skin.
Hinata shivers, and stills.
He’s really doing this. Tobio wants to pull away, oh God, what if Hinata hates this, hates him – he’s probably fucked up again, ruined everything. But – no.
A warm hand slides into the curve of Tobio’s neck, sending wild sparks flying through his veins, perfect and new and bright. Hinata’s breath shudders against his mouth, a soft little brush of air.
“Sorry,” Hinata says. His other hand finds Tobio’s, fingers lacing up like they were meant for that. They fit into each other’s broken edges like they had been born for each other’s touches. “I’ll trust you from now on.”
“You’d better, dumbass.”
“Idiot.” Hinata smiles, sunshine and happiness returning to his lips with a splash of light, and Tobio closes his eyes because really, this is too much.
“I like them, you know.”
Hinata shoves him a bit and quickly presses his mouth against Tobio’s cheek. “Okay, I get it. You’re totally into braces.”
No, I’m into you, Tobio thinks. It’s all you, it’s always been you.
“Guess I am.” He can’t keep a stupidly happy grin from spreading over his face. Hinata stares at him for a moment, confusion reflecting in his bright eyes, and then he gives a little giggle. Cute, so cute.
“I was-” Hinata starts, and then he buries his face into Tobio’s chest, small fingers hooking into the fabric of his shirt. Tobio thinks that he’s going to burst into flames any second now.
“I was scared. That you’d hate them. That we could never – never do what we just did. ‘Cause they’re strange and my mouth looks weird and I sound strange and. Kageyama, are you listening? Kageyama.”
“I think it’s going to be fine. Here, see.”
And for once, Tobio’s right.
It’s more than just fine when he holds Hinata against his chest and finds out that yes, he tastes a bit like candy, and he’s warm, and his fingers feel better against Tobio’s skin than throwing a perfect toss.
Nobody says a word when they return to practice with Hinata’s small hand resting inside Tobio’s, but Daichi gives him a wide grin after Hinata hits a toss and finally smiles, bright and beautiful, jumping in the air like he’s just won Nationals.
“Look, Kageyama, did you see that?”
His mouth tingles from the memory of Hinata’s lips. Tobio touches it with his fingers, and then he smiles a bit before running over to Hinata and ruffling his hair.
Hinata smiles for him all throughout practice and once more on the way home, when he leans into Tobio’s awkward embrace and tiptoes up to catch the soft kiss of his setter.