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Kageyama Tobio is twenty-four years old. 

It’s not a specific or special age; he’s been better ones.

He is twenty-four years old and solidly lodged (stagnantly lodged) into that age, that point of being, not really looking forward or back on the regular, at least not consciously. A few years ago you might have called him ambitious or said he had some forward-thinking determination but now, there’s really no purpose for any of that. He exists. It’s all right. There’s security, at least, in being solidly lodged.

Then he is in Sendai Station at eleven o’clock in the morning on a Thursday in the fall and his watch gets stuck. 11:04, it reads, the hour hand right on the nose, the minute hand just left of the first notch from the center. He disembarks the train, starts weaving through the crowd. A few minutes pass.

11:04.

He stops to glare down at it. Taps the face, his nail against the glass, snap snap snap. He hopes to dislodge whatever gear has gotten caught. He holds it to his ear and listens for a tick and hears nothing. He checks the time again.

11:04. 

Fucker.

He shakes his wrist in immediate, debilitating frustration, trying to remove the watch and maneuver himself away from the sea of people moving through the station center, glancing up just long enough to dodge blurs of clothing and dark hair linked to suitcases, everyone a stranger to him.

Except one. 

It’s the hair. The sight of the orange hair bobbing about 162 cm from the floor, just barely visible through the forest of normal-height shoulders and chests. He stops short, waiting for another glimpse, the broken watch in his fist. 

It can’t be, he decides; Sendai may be their home but it is still a large city and such encounters are unlikely. He unglues his feet and keeps on toward the exit.

But the orange blur does it again, scrapes the corner of his vision, and this time he flinches out of his skin, unsettled, unstuck. 

 

 

 

 

 

The last time they shared a meal, they were weeping into their bowls at the pain of a final loss in the Spring High.

Now they are splitting food at the most secluded table in an unpopular izakaya, and the memory floods Kageyama of the way Hinata Shouyou’s hands shook while he ate that mourning supper, even as the present, older, different Hinata sits there easily stuffing his face, his eyes dry. The watch Kageyama uses in place of his broken model declares that it is thirty-two minutes past eight o’clock in the evening.

“Six years,” Hinata had exclaimed when they crossed paths in a train station not forty-eight hours ago, and he says it again now. “Six years, that’s so long but it feels like—”

“Like nothing,” Kageyama supplies around a bite. He can hardly believe time has passed at all, like someone has just plucked up eighteen-year-old Hinata Shouyou and replaced him with this strange, disconcertingly manly imposter. A grin spills over Hinata’s lips.

“I was going to say ‘even longer,’ that it feels like forever!”

“Oh.” A moment of clumsy silence passes between them, Kageyama blinking at the spread of dishes they’re sharing in this dim, quiet restaurant, a favorite haunt of his for those features alone. The university athletic complex, where he has spent the past six months as an assistant coach, is a short walk away. Makes for a decent drinking spot on his way home: they never really look him in the eye, or think to ask questions.

Hinata overcomes the pause with a series of cheered mastications, bobbing a little in his seat at each mouthful, and making Kageyama want to eat more, too. So he does, watching Hinata carefully over the table. In the twenty minutes they’ve sat here he has caught himself stealing every available glance. It must be the haircut, considerably tamer than it once was, the dollop of orange waves now tapering off down the sides and back of his head. With more hair on the top it draws attention to the soft natural waves, reminds a person of sweets with cream on top, that kind of thing. And the clothes, the t-shirt and athletic shorts—iconoclasts of his high school days—discarded for jeans and a plaid shirt and what appears to be a leather jacket, though Kageyama is half convinced that must be the light in here. Hinata in a leather jacket. Kageyama takes a long sip of beer. He’s wearing his jersey still.

“So you like coaching,” Hinata says, not quite bothering to make a question out of it.

“Yeah.” 

“Me too. I mean, just what I do, coaching Natsu’s team at her high school. Hirose, not Karasuno—I know.” Hinata lifts his drink to the little smile playing around his mouth. “She didn’t want the commute. She’s a third year now, and captain. I think she’s embarrassed of me.”

He almost says, she should be, you’re embarrassing, but it’s funny: Kageyama is not actually sure that this Hinata, this haircut-sporting, leather-jacket-wearing, leanly built young man, is embarrassing. Kageyama does feel embarrassed, his stomach squirming suddenly, but… but it’s not that. Huh. He stirs awkwardly in his seat, nudging a plate away from him, just for something to do with his hands. He is always looking for things to do with his hands. He misses setting.

“At my work I get teased for spending all my time on high school girls’ volleyball.” Hinata doesn’t even glance at Kageyama as he muses. “But I think it’s fun. And they’re really good, too. I’m positive Natsu will get a scholarship after the Spring High preliminaries.”

Kageyama contributes, feeling and sounding stiff, “You work at…”

Hinata swallows his bite. “Sporting goods store. It’s fun.” Fun. Everything is fun to him, Kageyama had forgotten this. Even a probably objectively shitty retail job. Hinata sticks his hand through his hair and leans back with a contented sigh, displaying the smooth sculpted sweep of neck from his jaw to the collar of his shirt.

“How have you been?” Kageyama asks, licking some salt from his lips.

Hinata’s eyes fall closed. “I’ve been good. Well, I’ve been a lot of things in six years. Ooh,” he lights up, sitting forward. “I was engaged!”

“Engaged,” Kageyama echoes. The weight of the word presses on his chest. Hinata nods.

“Yeah! We lived together for a whole year, and then we got engaged, but I decided marriage isn’t for me. We’re still friends, though. She’s the best.” Hinata hums into his beer, Kageyama staring at the foam around his lips. She’s the best. She. So Hinata… Kageyama taps the table absently.

“Have you dated a lot of women, then?”

Hinata’s smile fades. Kageyama’s heart rate picks up—what did I say—shit, he never listens, he needs to listen to the way things sound in his head first, but it’s so hard to remember. His mouth just, opens. 

“I date people,” Hinata mumbles; his cheeks are dark in the izakaya’s bad lighting, a blush that Kageyama finds comforting—it reminds him of old Hinata, Hinata of the fainting and nervous stomach. “A lot—I don’t know about that, about ‘a lot’—”

“Sorry.” He doesn’t really know how to specify within the apology, but Hinata’s shoulders relax, so he gets the feeling that maybe it got through anyway.

“So what about you?”

“I date men.”

Kageyama is not sure what to make of Hinata’s next emotional gesture, the intense widening of his eyes, the way his mouth falls open with a precious lack of grace. On some other plane of thought, Kageyama decides that he likes the haircut, even though it’s different. “You do,” Hinata squeaks, shifting in his seat and then fumbling not to knock over his beer. “Wow! Huh!”

“Wow?”

“Well, not—I mean—”

“You don’t know any men who date men.”

“No,” Hinata snorts, rather than says, jarred out of his surprise by amusement. “Not that at all, it’s just—” He extends his arms toward Kageyama broadly. “You’re Kageyama! I guess it’s hard to imagine you dating anyone.” Alarmed but doing his best not to show it, Kageyama glances down at himself, half expecting to find a DO NOT DATE sign plastered across his front. He feels a sting of uncertain hurt at the plain, familiar sight of his chest and lap and thighs, another emotion he does his best not to show, but he glances up at Hinata and their eyes meet and he knows he’s caught. An apology comes tumbling out of Hinata at once. “Not like that, not like there’s anything wrong with—you were always so much more devoted to volleyball than other things, you know?” Kageyama is not sure that makes him feel any better, and Hinata seems to sense that. He lowers his voice. “And anyway, I date men too, so.”

Kageyama had begun to glare at the table but now he lifts his head. Hinata is giving him an encouraging smile. The same way he smiles at the girls learning how to serve? But it has the desired effect: Kageyama feels better. Hinata is probably a good coach. Feeling obscenely vulnerable, Kageyama clears his throat and says, out of nowhere, “That makes sense.”

“Makes sense?” Hinata repeats, nose scrunching.

“I always assumed you were.” Hinata sits back, open-mouthed, like he can’t believe what he’s just heard; shit, I did it again, Kageyama thinks miserably, lamenting that none of the chopsticks seem sharp enough for stabbing himself in the leg. Being around Hinata, he senses his own regression, back into the ineptitude he’s fought for years. Or maybe I’m just nervous. But Kageyama Tobio doesn’t get nervous, does he?

“Maybe you knew before me,” says Hinata with a weak attempt at humor, before burying his face in his beer again.

“Maybe I did,” Kageyama agrees, nodding, the motion absorbing all his embarrassed energy.

 

 

 

 

 

Hinata drinks better than him. You wouldn’t expect that, because he’s so small, but Kageyama watches that small man knock back beer after beer over the next hour and a half, between long-winded stories about his job and family and men and women. Kageyama gets elaborate updates on everyone he ever played with at Karasuno, and has to suppress some confusion at how on earth Hinata has kept up with all those people. He even starts in about the kids from Nekoma, and has to remind Kageyama who some of them are; Kozume is the only one he can recall. 

Hinata will drink a lot and belch and then give a coy smile and apologize, which is bizarrely endearing. He mentions that he thought Kageyama would play professionally, for sure. Kageyama’s reply is to order them shots.

He tries to match Hinata’s pace with the drinks because he can’t with the people, and so by the time they step out into a nippy evening he is not sober, swaying slightly with each step. Hinata faces him, and under the streetlamps and the glow from the izakaya’s lanterns Kageyama can see the pleasant flush of alcohol in his cheeks. His stomach lurches—surely the fatal combination of beer and liquor—and they start walking together without agreeing on a destination. Jozenji-dori, the tree-lined street at Sendai’s urban center, is up ahead, half-dark and bustling with nighttime traffic. 

“It was good to see you,” Hinata says, or rather gushes. Kageyama glances up and there are trees above him, his vision swimming. They’re lovely during the day, those trees, and especially good at night in the winter, with white lights winding up their branches. 

He thinks, faintly, that no one should be so excited to see him.

“Mmm.” Drunk. It’s a drunk noise and it sounds like one.

“Do you want to…”

Kageyama means to say, want to what? But the words stick in his throat. He wants to look at Hinata but can’t remember how to turn his head. 

“Nevermind,” Hinata then mutters, voice shrinking. They have stopped walking. Buses pour by on either side of the avenue. 

“Don’t sound so defeated.” He hears these slurred words in his ear but can’t remember deciding to say them, or place the impulse to correct Hinata’s tone.

He manages to shift himself sideways enough to see Hinata’s face again, though that proves regrettable. He is frowning, deeply, and glaring too. Is he upset. Oh no. Kageyama is a fucking idiot, probably. 

“Have a good night, Kageyama-san,” Hinata says gruffly, as if garbling his words to scrub away some other emotion, before he vanishes. Kageyama manages to grunt a goodbye of his own, then stumbles to a bench where he sits down hard with his head in his hands, hoping to sober up.

 

 

 

 

 

I am here to apologize.

That is all. It’s not strange.

Hinata’s voice echoes off the tall ceiling of the gym, along with the bounce of the ball against hard wood. “Send it to the setter when you receive, Sasaki!” Kageyama slumps in the bleachers, tugs his hat down further, adjusts his sunglasses. It hasn’t occurred to him that hiding his face while attending a high school girls’ volleyball practice makes him look more, rather than less, suspect. 

He’s hunkered down far enough away from the court that he isn’t sure whether or not Hinata’s realized that their audience of one is him, Kageyama Tobio, in the flesh. The other man is aware of his presence, at least, if not his identity—he has seen those round brown eyes flick toward him every so often, but Hinata keeps his focus on the scrimmage. The fact that the presence of a stranger at his practice doesn’t startle him seems… wrong. Like he should be staring and sweating and weak in the knees. Hinata stuff. 

He was right about the girls being good. His sister, who hasn’t grown much since Kageyama last saw her, has his natural athleticism and jumping ability, and it’s clear she’s been afforded the three years of training and experience that Hinata missed through middle school, in addition to abundant high school play. 

And he was right about Hinata being a good coach, too. Rubbing at his shoulder, he finds himself torn between watching the strong performance of the team’s young setter, and watching Hinata. Oddly, he still doesn’t look right, even now in his athletic gear. It must be the haircut, again. The places where the hair has been clipped down on the sides and back of his head are probably soft to the touch. Kageyama realizes there is a part of him waiting for Hinata to leap in the game and hit a spike, but he never does. He just stands on the sidelines with his hands on his hips and hollers instructions and praise. It is nearly six o’clock; they ought to be done soon. Kageyama checks his watch, though he knows what it will say.

They finish their practice game and Hinata assigns the team stretches and a route around the gym for laps. And then he bounds up into the bleachers, toward Kageyama, who slumps further toward the ground. This isn’t strange. I’m here to apologize.

“Kageyama-san.”

So much for the disguise. He rips off his hat and glasses as Hinata comes to stand in the row below him, eyes narrowed and the tiniest smile on his face. 

“It’s not an open practice, you know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Some people would say it’s weird to come to a high school girls’ sports practice, even if you’re gay.”

Kageyama blinks—up at him, which is a new experience. He doesn’t look very different from this angle but the idea of it is shocking enough. “Let me buy you a beer.”

Hinata raises an eyebrow but brightens after a moment. He doesn’t come off as upset over their previous encounter, but again, this is not Kageyama’s area of expertise, and he can feel himself tightening up at the frustrated uncertainty. There is no way of knowing what Hinata really means when he chirps, “Sure, give me half an hour to finish things up here.” Hinata is mysterious and Kageyama doesn’t see the irony in his thinking so; he only sees a good explanation for the way being around this person again makes him feel, like he is digging for treasure without a map.

 

 

 

 

 

“I thought maybe we were done sharing beers for a while,” Hinata laughs, falling into a seat at the nearest izakaya. He waves two fingers at a staffer with the ease of someone who has been here many times before. This pub does fit him: it is better lit than Kageyama’s favorite place, a little noisier, a little more colorful. 

Kageyama shoehorns himself on to the bench opposite Hinata. “I got too drunk. I wanted to apologize to you for being rude.”

“You wanted to apologize for getting too drunk by… buying me a beer?” Kageyama’s cheeks go hot and he ducks his head. “It’s all right, it’s not bad,” Hinata reassures him, waving a hand. “I like drinking with you, so it’s good, it really is.”

Kageyama only blushes harder now. He hates that, the way his face is so stoic sometimes and so obvious others, and rarely either when he’d desire them to be.

The beers arrive and he occupies himself with the foam atop the golden drink, finally an excuse for his not meeting Hinata’s eye. 

Hinata’s voice drifts over to him, lightly like this means nothing at all, “Why did we ever fall out of touch?”

Falling out of touch… yes, they had done that, though he doesn’t remember ever having the thought that they were doing such a thing, falling out of touch; he only remembers that he was eighteen and leaving Miyagi; Hinata was eighteen and staying. They had their goodbye at a fork in the road on the way home from the graduation ceremony, and watching Hinata pedaling away with a diploma pinched between the handlebar and the palm of his hand, Kageyama had thought, so that’s it? He did not believe the finality of their parting. Almost as if he knew there had to be more, and not a half-friendship conducted through phone calls and texts, types of communication at which he’d never excelled. Their electronic conversations dwindled into silence after the first two or three months of university.

Eventually he came around to the idea that it was over. The obvious thing finally occurred to him, that he and Hinata had only ever had one thing bringing them together. 

He says simply, because he believes it to be that simple, “We fell out of touch because we stopped playing volleyball.”

The smile on Hinata’s lips doesn’t disappear, but his eyes flash with something other than mirth. Immediately Kageyama is reminded of that expression he would sometimes get during games, the sort of look that inflated his presence, earned him a place as the small giant’s successor. When he got like that he had every eye on him, Kageyama’s included. “You’re here now, though.” Kageyama’s brow contracts, not getting what that has to do with anything. Hinata tips his beer to his mouth thoughtfully and glances at the ceiling. “I mean, if it’s only about volleyball—you came to my practice. How did you even know—”

“You said you coached at Hirose, and I figured out about when and where the practice would be,” Kageyama says through his teeth. This is preposterous. Why is he on trial all of a sudden?

“You have my number in your phone.” Hinata points a thin finger toward his pocket and Kageyama puts a hand over it defensively, his face warming again. “You could have called. Apologized that way.” Why had he decided to go to the gymnasium? He can remember there was a good reason. I was there to apologize. No, a better reason than that—he is sure of it, he just needs to dig it up from the recesses of his brain, to remember— “It’s okay, Kageyama-san, don’t be upset,” Hinata says, leaning toward him, and Kageyama is overcome by anger at the sympathy and understanding in his voice. He doesn’t need sympathy, or understanding, there is nothing pitiable about this. As Hinata leans in, he leans away.

“I just wanted to apologize,” he says again. His tongue feels clumsy in his mouth. 

Hinata’s frustration with him grows obvious, the sweet line of his mouth deepening into a frown, his eyes pinched into a scowl. “Then apologize for being creepy, if you can’t even explain this.”

“Creepy,” Kageyama repeats, a scoff, unsure what to make of how serious Hinata seems about that accusation. “I don’t mean to be creepy. I don’t.”

“Then what do you want from me?”

“Want from you…”

“So, if you’re right about our—” Hinata tosses up his hands, exasperated with the concept. “—friendship being only about volleyball, then what do you want from me?” He makes a move to stand, to get up from the table. “Can I just leave?”

“Don’t.” The word slides out of Kageyama too easily. Hinata’s expression softens in puzzlement.

“Why not?”

Kageyama’s mouth hangs open but ultimately the only response he can spit out is, “Because. Don’t.”

Hinata hovers over the table, hands splayed across the worn wood, nostrils flaring as he looks down on Kageyama for the second time today. Finally he lowers himself back into his seat, slowly, then with a plop. His face has gone blank. “You really haven’t changed much, have you?”

“I think I have,” he mutters, hunching over his beer. Hinata looks at him, long and hard, as though he too is searching for something; and then he smiles.

“Maybe, but you’re still Kageyama.”

 

 

 

 

Sometimes physical sensations stick with him better than other parts of his memories, little anchors in the tangible. His arm giving out during a match in his third year of university, the way it didn’t quite hurt but seemed to come unhinged. The angles of Hinata’s upper body slamming into his stomach, that summer he was fifteen and they fought. 

You don’t really notice how little you touch someone until you’re touching them, he’s found. The hot twist of his fist into Hinata’s shirt and that angry shoulder thudding into his abdomen—he remembers these things years later, he remembers them lying in bed right now. It’s weird to be nostalgic for a fight, a cool, logical voice tells him. He faintly misses the days when that voice ruled his subconscious, though maybe he has exaggerated his perception of that time—maybe he was never a volleyball robot, despite his best efforts. Too hotheaded. 

But back then, at fifteen, he didn’t know himself. It took all of university and then some to learn.

He sighs and rolls over. It’s 2 AM, according to the clock radio. His old watch sits uselessly on nightstand, discarded there after that day in the train station. He’s been meaning to get it repaired. 

Robots don’t need sleep, but Kageyama needs sleep. A volleyball robot… how stupid. He thinks of Hinata’s shoulder pricking his side, of Hinata’s smooth arms folding around his waist and slamming him backwards. Why would anyone be stupid enough to think a teenage boy could be a robot?

He left Hinata after the izakaya and walked down Jozenji-dori by himself. He had nodded at the we should do this again sometime, but he doesn’t know if they should.

Another echo of Hinata in his head, this one verbal:

What do you want from me?

“I don’t know,” he murmurs, to the dark silence of his bedroom. 

He feels strange, he feels pent up, he wants—to kick the sheets off his bed. He does. The air of the room is cool on his skin, which he hadn’t noticed overheating. 

Hinata’s shoulder. His arms. 

Hinata’s new hair cut, the clear view of hair curling on the back of his neck.   

Telling himself it’s unrelated, that he just needs to relax and this is the fastest, easiest way, he slides a hand down the front of his shorts. 

 

 

 

 

“Are you ever going to learn to call?” Hinata snorts, this time plunking down beside him in the bleachers, while Natsu and her peers head outside for laps. 

“Why should I? I know where you are.”

He feels Hinata eyeing him sideways, but keeps his gaze trained on the net below. Hinata shrugs. “At least you gave up on the disguise.”

Kageyama nods shortly, on edge; he is waiting to be asked that question, the one Hinata posed so angrily in the bar a few nights ago. But Hinata doesn’t speak, he sits by Kageyama’s side and absently runs his hands up and down his thighs. Kageyama watches the motion, closely at first, and then more discreetly upon catching himself. Hinata has stopped paying attention to him and pouts at the scoreboard on the opposite wall.

Kageyama’s stomach coils until he demands to know, “Why haven’t you asked me why I’m here?”

Hinata’s hands slow. He folds them, almost shy, into his lap, before he turns to Kageyama with pursed lips. “Why, do you have an answer now?”

“No.”

“Then… I don’t care.” Hinata turns back to the court and swallows. The apple of his throat shifts and Kageyama stares at it. So annoying to be preoccupied with a neck. “I looked up here and saw you in the bleachers and I didn’t mind, so I guess I don’t care. Whatever your reason is.”

“You don’t think it’s odd?” Kageyama asks suspiciously.

“No, I do. But you’re an odd guy.” He half-smiles. “I always assumed you were.”

Kageyama shrinks at the force of his own words thrown back at him, and his jaw tenses. They sit in silence for another few seconds, Hinata’s calm disconcerting him, frustrating him. Yell at me, he wants to say. Tell me off. Hit me again. Give me something electric. He is praying for a spark. 

A question sneaks out of him, soft and tempered. “Do you agree with what I said before?” Hinata glances at him.

“What did you say?”

“About us falling out because we didn’t have volleyball anymore.”

He shrugs, narrow shoulders lifting. The shoulders… Kageyama inhales. “I guess I agree. I never really meditated deeply on it or anything.” Kageyama’s fists tighten. That seems unfair, neither of them being sure. “I was asking you because I wanted to know what you thought.”

“But you don’t hate me.” This catches Hinata off-guard and he turns to better stare at Kageyama, his eyes huge.

“Hate you!”

“You did before we played together.” He has always harbored the feeling that his would-be rival’s first opinion of him was worse than his first opinion of said would-be rival, and maybe he never really shook that feeling—the sense that his affection toward Hinata ran deeper than Hinata’s affection toward him. That he had given Hinata tosses but Hinata had given him… everything. A team, a life. That first year at Karasuno had made him, dragged him down to earth, and Hinata Shouyou was the gravity in the fall.

Does this mean that he is wrong? That it is not only about volleyball as he’d said with such uncomplicated confidence a few nights ago? But back then volleyball was his life. So it makes sense: that which was about volleyball was about Kageyama, too, the core of his being. 

But now.

Volleyball isn’t his core anymore, it can’t be. He is coreless but still, there’s Hinata. Then what do you want from me?

“Hate you,” Hinata repeats again, dissolving into laughter. “Hate you! Bakageyama.” Embarrassment swells in the pit of Kageyama’s stomach, he feels so foolish. Still laughing, Hinata lifts a slender wrist and flicks his ear, and the hand hovers there afterward, knuckles brushing Kageyama’s quickly reddening cheek. Such an innocent gesture, but Kageyama’s entire body retracts into itself at the tickle of pain from Hinata’s touch, at Hinata’s touch itself, a travesty in concept and practice.

Hinata sees the look on Kageyama’s face and it chokes the laughter out of him.

He jerks the hand away. “Sorry! Sorry.” But the damage is done, Kageyama’s heart pummels at his ribcage, screaming for something. He is rising to his feet, tripping out of the aisle and down the bleachers. “Kageyama, sorry!” Hinata calls after, panic in his voice. “I didn’t mean—I’m sorry, okay!” But there’s no calming panic with panic. Kageyama storms across the gym, shoes squeaking noisily over words.

Just outside there’s a courtyard that vaguely reminds him of the one at Karasuno. He finds the nearest spigot, kicks it open, thrusts his head under the spray of water and waits to feel right again.

He half-expects Hinata to join him, as Hinata always had. He would come out, with that earnest glare on his face, a good face, a lovable face, the kind of face that it’s surely normal to think of on occasion, even after you have fallen out of touch. He would berate Kageyama for taking everything upon himself, or failing to listen to others, or some such thing, always what he needed to hear, even if Hinata didn’t always get it exactly right. But his voice ran on the perfect frequency for worming into Kageyama’s head—when Hinata spoke, he turned to listen.

But instead of that voice he hears the shuffle of running shoes and girls’ voices, trickling past him into the gymnasium. Hinata won’t come out to find him and force an encounter; Hinata is an adult now, with responsibilities. 

He shuts off the spigot and sits there in the grass with water running off his hair and down his neck and soaking the ring of his shirt, making him shiver in the cool fall air. His watch says he’s missed the six o’clock bus, so he’ll have to walk home like this. He squeezes his eyes shut and staggers to his feet. Bakageyama.

 

 

 

 

 

“Do you think it’s weird?”

“Niichan, you’re getting food everywhere.”

“I want to make sure you and the other girls are okay with Kageyama being there,” Hinata says, plucking the offending rice from the tabletop. “Like, if there’s just a guy at your practice sometimes—”

“You mean Kageyama-san isn’t there to help you coach?” Natsu glares at him over her breakfast bowl. Morning in their tiny kitchen, Okaasan already gone to work, he makes them tamago gohan to share like every day.

“No? You think I need help with coaching?”

“Kageyama-san is a volleyball king, right? Why else would he be there?”

Hinata pulls a face at that question, hating how ruthlessly insightful his sister can be sometimes without trying. And it’s only gotten worse now that she is seventeen and has opinions on things. “I was just thinking,” he mutters, poking at his food. “He seems to like sitting in on practice, and he’s—well, I think he’s upset with me right now, and I thought if I invited him to come to more practices, maybe he’d stop being—”

“I didn’t even know you were still friends with Kageyama-san.” Her glare has faded and now Natsu munches more thoughtfully than anything, as though the fact of him and Kageyama being friends were truly curious to her.

“We… aren’t,” he says, unable to keep the curiosity out of his own voice. “I guess.” He is, as best as he can be, everyone’s friend. Not a holder of grudges, not one to search out the flaws in others. He prides himself on that—being personable. But Kageyama had never wanted his friendship, he thinks. It became obvious after they left high school and Kageyama dropped out of his life that what they’d had, no matter how Hinata began perceiving it over their three years together, was a partnership. Not a friendship.

It hurt a little to realize, but not too much. In a way he cherished the idea of partnership over the idea of friendship: he always had an abundance of one and a drought of the other. Kageyama took on a role that he’d spent all his middle school career wanting to see filled. 

“Oooh,” says Natsu knowingly. “So you want to get him to come and help us train for the Spring High prelims?”

“What? No.” They are more than prepared for the preliminaries, he’s been working toward that for months, since even before the summer tournament. 

Natsu frowns. “Then why are you trying to make up with him?”

Mouth hanging open, he shifts in his seat, made only more uncomfortable by how uncomfortable this question makes him. “I don’t… know! Why are you always asking so many questions!”

“You were always so weird about him,” Natsu says, rolling her eyes, a new talent.

You’re weird,” is Hinata’s best comeback.

“Why does he even need to come to our practices?” she continues grumpily, ignoring him and loudly scraping the last of her breakfast off her bowl. “I thought he was a big professional player.”

“No, he just assistant coaches at the university.”

“Really? He doesn’t play?”

“No.” The expression of incredulity on Natsu’s face startles him into awareness—it is bizarre that Kageyama isn’t still playing, isn’t it? He had gone off to school with a sports scholarship and a lot of buzz, one of Japan’s most promising young setters, everyone had said so. Hinata remembers the glimmer of pride he’d felt every time he heard Kageyama’s praises sung, and the memory alienates him. Hard to imagine feeling that way about Kageyama now. “I wonder why he quit,” he says, annoyance creeping into his tone. To think, quitting with that talent and skill and everyone on your side. It’s sort of disgraceful.

“Quit,” Natsu giggles. “Kageyama-san quitting would be like you quitting.”

“I would never quit!” This defense bursts out of him, he knocks the table sitting forward, and Natsu keeps laughing. He would never, never, never quit volleyball, not even now, he’s got the girls and the Neighborhood Team Association and he’s always there whenever there’s a tournament on at the big gymnasium—

“See!” Natsu waves her chopsticks at him and then plunks them into her empty bowl. “He was the only one who was ever obsessed with it like you.”

Hinata sinks back, his heart still pounding at the thought of giving up volleyball for any reason. “Yeah,” he manages. So either Kageyama had changed as a person or something had forced him to stop playing; both options leave Hinata feeling chilly.

Natsu climbs to her feet and waves wildly to get his attention. “Niichan, come on, I need you to take me to school.”

 

 

 

 

 

That night, long after his mother and Natsu have gone to sleep, he lies up once again thinking how he should really move out already, how he definitely will once Natsu graduates and goes to university, because Okaasan won’t need his help anymore. 

He partly suspects that Okaasan had been relieved when they called off the wedding; she welcomed him home with such enthusiasm and put him to work caring for Natsu right away. But he can’t bring himself to be upset with her about that, not when he had watched her struggle with single motherhood for all those years, desperate that they should be deprived of nothing. And they weren’t, he can only remember being happy. Late at night like this he has errant thoughts about how one day, when he has kids, they’re going to feel the same way he does about his childhood, how he’ll make sure of it.

Finally fed up with being restless, like there is a thought he wants to pursue but can’t quite locate, he flings himself out of bed and tiptoes into the kitchen, where he flicks on the light and hums a pop song through the process of getting himself a beer. 

He plops down at the table with the drink and his computer and is about to flip it open when he glances across from himself, and remembers his conversation with Natsu that morning. He had sat in this very spot, and she suggested in her excruciatingly reasonable way that Kageyama quitting volleyball was as likely as him quitting volleyball. Which was, of course, not very likely at all.

Hinata flips open the computer, but continues to stare at Natsu’s empty seat. He swigs the beer. He hums a couple more notes.

Kageyama didn’t seem so different—Hinata had said this himself, that it didn’t seem like he had changed much. He did look different, but not in any way Hinata knew how to describe. Maybe it was his face or something, just seeming older, more lined. It wasn’t a bad look, for Kageyama. Having seen photographs of him in middle school, Hinata could safely wager that aging improved him. And… and perhaps he was a little more dour than he’d once been, but Hinata could understand this, since he had stopped playing volleyball.

Hinata raises the beer for another sip and it nearly slides from his fingers, crap, and he grapples to recover it before it dumps everywhere, over his computer and the table. He had just been staring off into space, not paying attention, consumed with thoughts of Kageyama. He wipes a little splash of alcohol from the screen, and gapes at the streak it leaves, brushes the stickiness from his fingers against his shorts. 

The muddled confusion he feels surrounding Kageyama’s bizarre behavior at the gym turns, at this pin drop, to anger. 

Kageyama, swinging back into his life uninvited, being rude about his love life, showing up at his practices but claiming to have no investment in their relationship—and then, and then, daring to monopolize his attention? To make him drop things out of carelessness, and worry about upsetting him? He pouts at the electronic glare of the computer and starts clicking furiously to rouse the browser, determined to distract himself. He won’t sit up thinking about Kageyama, not when Kageyama is probably conked out in his bed on the other side of Sendai somewhere, never once dwelling on him.

But. There’s one thing.

Why had he stopped playing volleyball, anyway?

 

 

 

 

 

Hinata Shouyou: Missed Call (2).

Kageyama blinks once, twice, then sticks his phone back in his gym bag and grabs a towel from the dispenser to mop sweat from his face and neck. This is the second day in a row Hinata has called him multiple times, the second day in a row he’s ignored it. He figures that maybe now Hinata is older, he’ll know a lost cause when he sees one. He would rather not consider the alternative, that he’s going to be deleting voicemails from this guy for the rest of his life.

It’s not about the ear flick/cheek brush or anything, because that’d be too much or a little insane of him, being so upset over that. Rather, the incident leaves him with a decent excuse for a choice he should have made a while ago, to forget they ever ran back into each other. Otherwise he’s just prolonging the inevitable.

He sheds his smelly workout gear in the locker room and dons his sweats and jacket over fresh clothes, preferring to shower at home, away from the students and colleagues who share this complex. Since he moved back to Sendai and started here, he’s barely interacted with any of them outside the normal demands of the workday. He keeps his head down and stays quiet. He’s firm with his advice, but never aggressive. Doesn’t control anyone or anything. He likes to think of this as growth as opposed to weakness grown out of fear. 

On his way out of the gym, his phone starts buzzing in his bag, and he lets out a string of swears as he fumbles for it, emerging into the corridor.

Once the phone is free the ringing becomes loud and clear and grating. Hinata Shouyou calling. “It’s been twenty fucking minutes,” he seethes at the screen, and he squeezes the button to end the call so hard his finger aches.

“I wouldn’t keep calling if you’d just pick up one time.”

Kageyama must sink inches into the ground at the sound of that voice behind him, very real and in person, making him wish suddenly he had chosen the vibrations and grating ring days ago.

He turns and there is Hinata, leaning against a window in the hall, his own phone in hand. He is wearing the leather jacket again, like a show-off, the little bastard. The look on his face isn’t quite as smug as you’d imagine but he still looks irritating, to Kageyama’s flustered eyes.

“You stalking me?”

Hinata shrugs. “You came to my gym, I came to yours.”

“What do you want?” Kageyama demands, before he hears the irony in that question. But Hinata doesn’t miss it, judging from the smile that breaks over his face. 

He opens his arms and lifts his palms, a sunny gesture. “Let me buy you a beer!” Kageyama tries to decide if he is being mocked. He stands there glaring and after a beat, Hinata lowers his hands, sliding them into the front pockets of his jeans. The movement rivets Kageyama, the way he holds himself rivets Kageyama, and—and fuck, he needs to stop letting himself think about Hinata when he’s jerking off. It’s horrible. His only consolation is that he didn’t figure this out when he was fifteen or sixteen, and suffer through it at the peak of puberty.

“Buy me three,” he croaks, stomping toward the exit. It's only fair.

 

 

 

 

 

At the izakaya from their first meal together, the one Kageyama likes, Hinata leans back into the cushy seating of their booth and lets his eyes flutter closed. He looks especially soft in the lighting here.

So, I’m attracted to him.

That isn’t unnatural. He likes men, Hinata is a man, and a good-looking one. Physical impulses can be subtracted from emotional involvement. Even if he has never personally experienced a divorce of the two, there are first times for everything. So this could be his first time wanting someone without wanting to be with them. Maybe.

He sits with his chin on his fist, mashing the skin of his jaw, while Hinata burrows and sighs.

“Don’t you think it’s weird that we drink so much together,” asks Hinata, conversational. Kageyama shakes his head. “Really? I feel like in high school I never saw you outside of the gym or the club room. And here we are at an izakaya again.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

Hinata stretches his lips over his teeth, but he is no good at forcing smiles. “What is that attitude, Kageyama-san?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kageyama says, under his breath, but Hinata doesn’t lower his voice in kind.

“Yes you do! You make no sense.”

He can’t help matching the volume of Hinata’s words, now. “I don’t make any sense?”

“You stalked me and then refused to answer my calls!”

“You said you wanted to leave and then you insisted on calling me!”

Hinata’s mouth pinches at the middle, and he snaps: “It seems like we’re both going out of our way to be confusing about this.” This, Kageyama hisses to himself, what is ‘this’, there is no ‘this’ for us. “Guh, I hate it in here, it’s so claustrophobic,” Hinata wails suddenly, squirming in the booth. “Let’s nix the beers and go for a walk.” He snaps a finger at Kageyama, whose head had been sinking closer and closer to the table. “Come on.”

Kageyama gives the wait staff an apologetic bow as they leave together. The sun is sinking but hasn’t set, and it dusts the street in orange. After a minute of trailing Hinata he realizes that he’s being led to Jozenji-dori, where they had gone at the end of their first reunion, and he feels a stab of apprehension. Like Hinata might be taking him there to perform an elaborate prank and humiliate him. That’s foolish, he quickly realizes, steeling himself. Just an instinct left over from being fourteen and impressionable.

The trees lining the avenue crane toward one another and their branches knit the sky over the path, quilted and insular and comforting. “Can we talk?” Hinata asks, with his back to Kageyama.

So there is a reason Hinata came to see him, not like when he came to see Hinata; Kageyama has trouble ignoring the nagging pain in his throat at this realization. And when he says, “Yeah,” in reply, he can hear that he might sound choked up, a little, if you knew to look for it in his voice. 

Hinata’s narrow shoulders tense up, but he doesn’t turn to look Kageyama in the eye. This is perhaps mildly insulting, and Kageyama can feel himself tensing up too, because of the insult, yeah. Not because of anything else. 

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t just tell me about the injury.”

And it’s now, now of all moments that Hinata chooses to to wheel himself around and lock eyes with Kageyama, who freezes over. If you held him to your ear, you wouldn’t hear a tick.

“I looked it up online,” Hinata continues, sliding his hands into his pockets in that way that makes Kageyama duck his head to avoid seeing it. “This article about a really talented setter getting hurt in a college game, and it was you. Your sub—sub…”

“Subscapularis tendon.” The phrase comes out of him in a wisp. He’s heard it so many times the syllables are relatively meaningless until he starts thinking about them.

Hinata nods and squirms where he stands, frowning at a family passing by them. “Yeah, that. I looked it up and it says they should heal in like, twelve weeks? So why—”

“I played through it.” The coach had come to the hospital just to scream at him. How could you be so stupid. We needed you. He lifts his head to frown at the trees with their tangled branches. “Fucked up the tendon. And then it gave out, and it’s never been right since. And even if the rehab had gone better, I missed my window to go pro.” He’s lucky, to have the coaching job, to be making a living off his only skill. Occasionally he even stoops to consider it a blessing: professional athletes need charm, and he’d never had any of that. 

He lowers his gaze to meet Hinata’s, swimming with confusion, and maybe hurt. He has the most infuriating impulse to kiss him, to kiss that look off his dumb, round, precious face. It seems impossible that he should be made to feel so much anger and affection toward a single human being, and such a small one at that.

“When I read that it was like reading about somebody I didn’t know.”

“So?” He throws this clipped reply between them, a grenade to keep himself from wandering into no-man’s land.

“So… it makes me sad!”

“I apologize for not living up to your standards.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Hinata shoots back; like when they were kids their tempers flare in tandem. A couple on a bench nearby is looking at them, and Kageyama bristles self-consciously.

“I don’t want to talk about this,” he announces, and takes a step forward to shoulder by Hinata, but a small hand twists into the front of his shirt. Strange to be on the other side of that.

“Don’t walk away from me angry again!”

He makes the mistake of looking at Hinata’s face after he spits out this demand—that impulse from earlier, the thought of a kiss, doubles and triples and multiplies into infinity—this one would be different too, passionate, ungentle and unrestrained. Kageyama shuts his eyes until it’s gone.

“I just wanted to know what happened, okay?” Hinata says, not letting go of him. Kageyama moves to step away and if anything, his grip tightens. “You were incredible and I believed in you and I couldn’t—I just didn’t understand! Now I do. And I’m sorry.” There it is, the fingers loosening, letting him go. “I’m sorry it happened to you. It’s a shame.”

He pries open his eyes: Hinata is turning away, moving up the path again, his expression hidden. “Yeah.” He checks himself, trying to hear himself tick—is he less stuck than he was at the train station at eleven o’clock in the morning on a Thursday a few weeks ago? Does it feel good, being free, if he is? He isn’t sure he knows. When you’re popped out of being solidly lodged (stagnantly lodged) in an age, and the past and the future open up around you like vacation spots never considered, you could really end up anywhere, and he hasn’t quite landed yet.

“Kageyama, I have a proposition for you.” 

That jerks him out of the metaphor. “What?”

Hinata is peering back at him over his shoulder, caught in the fiery orange of the setting sunlight escaping into this crowded city street. “I think you should help me get Natsu’s team to the Spring High.”

“No,” he says instinctively, grumpily, shoving his hands into his jacket. A furrow crops up in Hinata’s brow.

“Kageyama Tobio saying no to volleyball?” He glares and Hinata gets that self-satisfied smirk he wears when he knows he’s on to something. “What,” Hinata goads; the way he leans into Kageyama’s side as they trudge down the street makes his heart race for all the wrong reasons. “Are you afraid of losing?”

 

 

 

 

 

“This is a good exercise…”

Kageyama glances at him over the heads over a dozen girls clustered along the side court; Hinata gives him a thumbs up.

“To increase the precision of your serve,” Kageyama finishes, sounding a little more confident. He raises a long arm, indicating a yellow water bottle positioned at the corner on the opposite end of the court, just in bounds. “You do this a dozen or two dozen times.” He lifts a ball in his other hand, slowly positioning himself to toss for a serve. “You’ll start to notice what makes your serve lean to the right or left. And you can correct it.” He eyes the girls, and then glances at Hinata again. He seems nervous. Hinata chews his lip.

“Show them your serve, Kageyama-san!” he says, raising his voice to drown out Kageyama’s hesitation. “It’s really incredible,” he tells the girls; Natsu eyes him over her shoulder. She’s been throwing him looks like that ever since he’d dragged Kageyama into the gym at the start of practice, and announced they would have a new assistant coach for the preliminaries. “In our third year, this was the best serve in Miyagi, I swear. Probably all of Japan!” He gestures wildly for Kageyama to go on, and the girls turn back to the new arrival with raised eyebrows. He wishes they could be a little more subtle in their skepticism.

Kageyama clearly registers the tough crowd, but at Hinata’s encouragement he swallows visibly and trots out of bounds, establishing a run-up for his jump.

When Kageyama takes the first step forward, Hinata reminds himself that he doesn’t really play anymore, and he could very well be rusty, and that Hinata has no right to be disappointed if this serve isn’t everything he remembers—he has been teaching himself to manage his expectations, of others and himself, with varying success. It’s healthier not to fall prey to nostalgia, not to let it wind a mirage of perfection around Kageyama as a player. It makes Hinata feel old to control himself, kind of, but it’s better than believing really really hard and then being really really disappointed. Maybe he’d needed that blind optimism in high school, but as an adult it’s been more harm than help.

But in this case, it’s not a problem. Kageyama’s serve is as breathtaking as ever.

The stroke passes quickly but Hinata registers every detail, even if he doesn’t realize them in the moment. Later that night, though, he will find himself remembering things: the confident form, the wealth of muscles contorting in his arm and over the rest of him too, the way that brute strength turned to intense precision and power in the hands of a master. His shirt flying up in the jump and the glimpse of definition in his stomach—this detail, he wishes he hadn’t noticed. But once he does there’s no shaking it.

The ball slams down right on the water bottle and sends it spinning out of the court. 

The girls erupt into applause and then, a second later, they are looking at him, some laughing, Natsu horrified. Kageyama too stares, having come down from the serve, his expression inscrutable. Bewildered by their reactions, Hinata notices his throat is stinging and his hands—his hands slow, he had been clapping. Very, very enthusiastically. And the strain on his voice would suggest he had made some kind of noise as well. Judging from the looks he’s getting, it wasn’t dignified.

He blinks rapidly and smacks his palms to his burning cheeks. “Okay! Time for serve practice! Say thank you to Kageyama-san, wasn’t that great?”

“You sure thought so,” comes Natsu’s grumble from the dissipating crowd of girls, and a couple of her peers giggle. The team gives Kageyama a round of thanks as they head off to retrieve the balls and water bottles and begin warming up.

Hinata flops on to the courtside bench, feeling strangely winded, and after recovering from his stare Kageyama joins him. Stop it, he thinks, at his face and body, refusing to cool off. Stop it stop stop it. He can feel his lips moving with the words as he squeezes his eyes shut, not wanting to acknowledge Kageyama’s presence beside him. A large presence, but of course, all that muscle—the serve muscle—he may have stopped playing but certainly, he hadn’t stopped working out—

“No, I work out every day.”

Wha—Hinata’s eyes fly open and he cranes his head to gape at Kageyama. “Did I…”

“You were talking to yourself.” Kageyama addresses the floor while removing his shoes to pull on kneepads. “You said, ‘Stop it. Kageyama is there.’” He repeats Hinata’s private thoughts made public in an effortless monotone. “‘He’s large. That’s muscle. It’s why his serve is so powerful. He stopped playing but he didn’t stop working out.’ And then I said that I work out every day.”

Wilting, Hinata tugs his shirt up over his head, so that just his face alone peeks through the neck hole, which seems to confuse or maybe fluster Kageyama. So at least he’s not smug about it. Not that Kageyama has ever excelled at smugness. 

He stays in this weird pose when he says, “You’re not supposed to strength train everyday.”

“I don’t,” Kageyama snaps. “I got all of Ukai’s lectures in high school, same as you.” Hinata feels the corners of his mouth turn up, a knee-jerk response to thinking back, and when he lets his shirt fall back to normal Kageyama seems to relax too, his blue eyes clinging to Hinata. Kageyama has such an interest in his moods, lately—or maybe Hinata had gotten so used to it when they were teenagers that he’d stopped noticing, and now he feels disconcerted by how closely Kageyama watches him, with a little squint, deciphering. He doesn’t think of himself as a difficult read, but you wouldn’t know it from how hard Kageyama seems to work.

It clicks with Kageyama, finally, that Hinata is staring right back at him. He quickly goes back to fussing with his kneepads. Hinata smiles again. “Do you not coach serves at the university, at all?”

“No… sometimes. I mostly work with the setters. Why, does it seem like—”

“You seemed really nervous.”

Kageyama’s face darkens, and for an instant Hinata expects him to lash out, to jostle or shout at him, but the darkness recedes as fast as it came. Maybe he’s not the only one learning impulse control. “I mostly do one-on-one. I don’t like groups,” Kageyama says instead, slouching gruffly. 

“Do you want to work with our setters?” They haven’t talked much about how Kageyama’s assistance will work over the next three weeks. Kageyama nods.

“Your regular is good. I noticed her the first time I came to practice.”

Hinata glances at the girl in question—Ito, their third year setter, is laughing at something Natsu whispers in her ear. “She is good, isn’t she? She and Natsu have been friends since middle school, they have the whole setter-ace trust thing down.” He belatedly spies Kimura, Ito’s first year understudy, struggling with an armful of water bottles. They could both use Kageyama’s help, probably. “I’ll set aside some time for you to work with the two setters, then,” he decides.

“Hm, yeah.” Kageyama starts digging through the bag at his feet, and pulls out a notebook. “I’ll start coming up with a regimen.”

“A regimen,” Hinata laughs, thinking he’s kidding. It quickly becomes evident from the look on Kageyama’s face that he is not kidding.

“You don’t create regimens for your players?” Hinata shakes his head. “Do you plan your practices at all?” Kageyama demands, glaring, as though this were an insult to the volleyball gods.

“I mean, I usually have an… idea of what we’re going to work on,” Hinata answers weakly. He can feel himself getting red again.

“And you think you’re going to the Spring High?” 

At that he gets redder, but it’s not embarrassment. “I know we can go to the Spring High, okay!” Kageyama leans away, oozing disapproval. “You’ve seen them play and you never said anything about not thinking they could do it. And I know you, I know you’d say something if you thought so!”

Kageyama’s eyes fall to the notebook in his lap, his scowl fixed, but after a moment’s contemplation his shoulders relax. “There’s a lot of work to do. We need to make the most of the next three weeks.” He flips open the notebook and clicks his pen. “We need to start a training plan right away.”

Hinata blinks at him. “Like now?”

“No, focus on this,” Kageyama says, gesturing across the court. The girls are chanting through their stretches, and soon they’ll be ready to play—he makes a good point about this not being the ideal environment for strategizing. He doesn’t look up at Hinata as he starts to scribble in the notebook. “After you take Natsu home tonight, come to my apartment and we’ll get started.”

Hinata blinks again. “Tonight?” He is doing math… it’ll take him half an hour to drive Natsu there and back, but only if Okaasan doesn’t have words or chores or food for him, which seems unlikely, so— “That could be late. Is that okay?”

Kageyama still doesn’t look at him. His pen moves so fast, his handwriting could be gibberish. “It’s fine, I don’t care.” Hinata has never lived alone, so he supposes this is a weird luxury, having guests over all hours.

“Okay.” A clamor of voices sounds as the girls break up their stretch formation; it’s time for him to coach. He casts Kageyama another glance, waiting for more reply or instruction, and it takes Kageyama a minute to notice and lift his head.

“What?”

“I’m gonna…”

Go.” Hinata hops off the bench as if stung, but can’t help grinning. It’s weird. “And send me your setters in twenty minutes,” Kageyama calls after, as he jogs toward his expectant team. 

 

 

 

 

 

When Hinata arrives at the apartment building he doesn’t go in right away, but stands in the sidewalk staring at the stories stacked atop one another, impressed that Kageyama could live in a place like this. It’s so tall and imposing, the windows climbing up and up and glittering against the dark sky, but then again, perhaps that’s the most fitting thing for Kageyama. A king in in his castle. He bites back a smile while he waits for the elevator.

He knocks at the door of Apartment 803 around 8:45 in the evening, backpack slung over his shoulder, changed back into his street clothes. It was chilly outside, really chilly for the first time this fall, and so in addition to his jacket he’d wrapped a scarf around his neck before he left.

Kageyama opens the door in sweatpants and a t-shirt. He looks loose and comfortable and Hinata winds tighter in his attempt to keep warm; it’s a strange reversal for them. The whole night is strange, he thinks. The air feels thinner up here on the eighth floor. Kageyama doesn’t say a word when he steps out of the way to let Hinata slink inside. 

He peels off his shoes and jacket by the entrance and watches Kageyama out the corner of his eye, his slouched figure padding into the living area and kneeling at a table covered in papers. 

“I like your place,” Hinata says, tiptoeing to join him with backpack in tow. The apartment is small, the entryway and kitchen and living space making up a single room, and one glance down the hall into a little bathroom and the bedroom and he knows he’s seen all of it. The decor reminds him of a nice but generic hotel room, and everything is still and quiet. He almost feels like he should whisper.

“Thanks. Did you bring the roster?”

“Yep!” He sits down hard at the table, claiming a side directly adjacent to Kageyama so they can look at things together, and digs into his backpack. The other man’s gaze stays buried in his papers until Hinata offers him the slightly crumpled sheet with the girls’ names and positions. Kageyama plucks it from his hands and starts annotating immediately, leaving Hinata to blow air through his lips and poke around at the plans and formations scattered everywhere. It looks like Kageyama has been at this since he arrived home from practice. “Have you eaten?” he inquires, examining a diagram of tempos.

The question earns a momentary scowl from his companion. “I ate on my way home.”

“Okay, good.” Off Kageyama’s squint he explains, “I wouldn’t want you to be distracted by hunger or anything.” Kageyama shrugs, returns to his work. Hinata puts his chin on his fist and sighs, his knee shaking absently under the table. “Are you going to ask me to do anything at any point?”

Kageyama’s pen pauses over the roster. “Yes.” There’s mediated anger in his voice, which gives Hinata a vague feeling of annoyance. He’s the one sitting around doing nothing, after trekking all the way here late at night, so Kageyama has no right to be upset with him for asking. “I need a few minutes to organize things.”

“Then can I put on some music or something? To stay awake?”

“You can’t stay awake past nine?” Kageyama deadpans.

“Not when I’m bored,” Hinata shoots back, leaning over the table and very much into Kageyama’s personal space, at which point the war appears to be won.

"All right, fine.” Kageyama waves him off, in the direction of a speaker system beneath the television. “Hook your MP3 player up to the speakers.”

Humming, Hinata hops up and obeys, plugging in his phone and sliding through the music library, the upbeat mixed bag of genres he collects. He has his back to the table and he wonders if it’s Kageyama’s gaze nudging between his shoulder blades, creating an invisible weight; a quick glance over his shoulder and Kageyama is ducking his head suddenly, caught gawking, and the strangest mixture of self-consciousness and satisfaction stirs in Hinata’s belly. He picks something cheerful to shake off the excess of what he’s feeling, and returns to the table with Kageyama.

The first ten seconds of the song bop by. Kageyama stops working to listen, eyeing the digital display on the speaker system listing the track and artist. “Who is… Elton John-san?”

Hinata had been humming along, and now he squints. “Kageyama, you don’t know Elton John?”

“No,” Kageyama replies, ever indignant. “Should I? Why do you expect me to know some random English person?”

“Elton John is not random. You don’t know this song?” Hinata bobs in place, singing along, “So don’t go breaking my heart,” and then in a higher voice, “I won’t go breaking your heart!”  He can hear himself slurring the pronunciations but it doesn’t matter, Kageyama was never good at English in school, he won't know. 

Kageyama stares at him, his face scrunching in what appears to be intense concentration, though what he’s concentrating on is less clear—not smacking Hinata upside the head, maybe. “You don’t even know what the song means,” he says shortly, jamming his pen against the table.

“I do know what it means! It’s about being in love.” And… hearts… and… something.

“Most songs are.” Hinata pulls a face, but the exchange has definitely broken the ice over their conversation. Kageyama thrusts a paper toward him. “Here, read this, it’s a list of things we need to go over.”

The words swim a little, so Hinata sticks a hand into his backpack, rummaging for his glasses case. He pulls it out and pops them on thoughtlessly, then tries the paper again. Now he can read. Strengths and weaknesses - offensive/defensive. Roster run-down. Opponent assessments.

“What are you doing?”

He glances up to find Kageyama staring at him in abject horror, like he’s just started leaking blood out his ears or mouth or something, and Hinata instantly feels his face for damage. “What? What is it!”

“Those things,” Kageyama spits, shoving a finger right toward the bridge of Hinata’s nose, and it clicks.

“My glasses?” He pulls them off and frowns at the simple, greenish translucent frames.

“Since when you do wear glasses?” Kageyama demands, still worked into an incredible tizzy, so much that Hinata finds himself suppressing a giggle.

“A few years ago I started getting headaches when I was looking at the computer.” Kageyama sits back, shaking his head. “What, you’re super offended? Because my eyes went?” He slides the glasses back on and sticks out his tongue when Kageyama flinches.

“Your eyes aren’t supposed to go until you’re 40 or 50.”

“Well, I’m sorry, Kageyama-kun.”

“You look so different now than you used to,” Kageyama huffs, looking down at the roster like he’d prefer to return to work but can’t manage the focus, so plagued is he by Hinata’s appearance. “I don’t understand that. You cut your hair too.”

His hair? It’s been a couple years since he did that. Hinata lifts a hand to the back of his head, touching it protectively. “What’s not to understand?”

“I don’t…”

“Most people don’t keep the same haircut they had when they were fifteen.” Not that this has stopped Kageyama, who itches his temple compulsively. “Kenma said it looked good and I trusted him because he has cool hair,” Hinata announces, sticking up his nose.

“Kenma has always had a crush on you, and he’d say anything you did looked good.”

This statement drifts down in the space between them. Hinata rolls his teeth in his lip. His eyes feel itchy. “You’re jealous,” he realizes, voice going soft.

“Is there something to be jealous of?” Kageyama demands, cloaking what sounds like legitimate curiosity in petulance. A smile creeps onto Hinata’s lips. 

“The fact that I stayed friends with him and not with you.”

“Were we ever friends?”

He should be angry with this, probably.

He should be angry because it is a petty thing to say, because the way Kageyama says it is easy and defensive and cruel. He should be angry to hear the past belittled, everything that they had accomplished together simplified and sidelined. He should be angry that Kageyama can be a fucking asshole, sometimes.

But he can’t manage anger, maybe because he’s older now and values his capacity for joy over his capacity for rage, maybe because the emotion he does feel overwhelms him: pity. He pities Kageyama, for the effort he puts into shoving others away and his pathetic wrangling of intimacy. Had he forgotten everything he’d learned at Karasuno those three years? Or perhaps he thinks those lessons apply only on the court and now that he’s defunct as a player, he must return to the dysfunction in other corners of his life. 

Hinata softens to these possibilities. Bakageyama, he could never see the most obvious things. He protects himself from nothing, stays up all night to guard against the ghosts of old enemies he imagines circling his camp.

“Do you like my haircut, Kageyama?”

Head down, Kageyama shuts his eyes. His mouth, pressed closed tightly, flinches and wobbles. Struggling. The stereo plays on but Hinata doesn’t hear it. He reaches across the table and hooks a finger under Kageyama’s chin, lifting his head, and their eyes meet.

“Maybe you should get a haircut too.” Grinning hesitantly at the expression of wonder and bewilderment on Kageyama’s face, he pushes some of the thick black hair off his forehead, revealing the furrow in his strong brow. Hinata presses his thumb into the crease and smooths it out, Kageyama’s mouth falling open at the gesture. “See, if it were shorter, like this, and you swept it to the side, you’d see your eyes better.” Kageyama’s lips move like he wants to say something, but no words come out. “Or, I would see your eyes better, I guess you don’t really look at your own eyes too often. Which is too bad.” Kageyama could be handsome, in the right light, if you cleaned him up a bit. Hinata has a wayward, unwanted thought, What am I doing? But he lets it go just as he lets go of Kageyama, and leans back into his own seat. For a moment he doesn’t seem to get any further from the blue eyes and mussed dark hair, and he realizes Kageyama has tilted forward, following him. His heart thumps hard enough it surges into his throat.

But as quickly as Kageyama had leaned in, he moves away, scrambling to find his pen under all the papers while Hinata nearly chokes on his own spit from salivating. It’s probably not worth teasing him for blushing when Hinata himself is fiercely red. “Let’s get started, we don’t have all night,” Kageyama says, his voice cracking, so that he has to clear his throat two or three times before they can move forward. “Strengths. Offensive. Natsu and Ito’s quick.” Hinata pushes his glasses up his nose and settles in to listen, palms against his cheeks to hide the blush.

 

 

 

 

 

After another couple late night meetings, Hinata thinks Kageyama might actually be growing comfortable with him.

Either that or he dives into coaching so deeply he can’t pause in observance of any tension between them. He works so hard, throws himself into the game, even Hinata who has always enjoyed coaching finds it mesmerizing—he’s only ever felt that degree of passion about playing, but Kageyama’s love of leading as a setter translates easily into his love of leading as a coach. And he has the same skill for it, too. Hinata tells him one night, laughing, “You remind me of the janitor in that American movie, who does math, but with volleyball.” Unsurprisingly, Kageyama doesn’t get the reference.

In the lulls of their work Kageyama’s comfort makes itself known; he asks questions like, “What ever happened to your fiancée?” And once Hinata’s told that story, an even bolder inquiry, “And what about you and Kenma?”

Kageyama’s interest in that piece of his history makes Hinata feel… strange, a little squirmy, but he does his best to explain—how yes, he had dated Kenma for a while, but he was still really young then, and he fucked it up, he knows he did, and he had long since begged Kenma’s forgiveness. They’re okay now and see each other for dinner whenever one of them visits Sendai or Tokyo. He still considers Kenma his best friend, even if he had lost the right to that title for a little while.

“So you broke his heart?”

What a discussion to be having two weeks into their coaches’ meetings, over the half-finalized starting rotation for their first match. It is nearing eleven o’clock, and Hinata slumps forward over the table, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. “It was more complicated than that.” Kageyama’s head tilts to the side. “I hurt him. Badly.”

“It sounds like you broke his heart.”

Hinata’s lip curls, but Kageyama’s tone isn’t malicious so much as matter-of-fact. “It’s just a different word for it, it doesn’t matter.”

Kageyama raises his head an inch, from where he’d been buried in his notes. He doesn’t look at Hinata but stares off somewhere, not entirely present. “I was just wondering if you’re the kind of person who does that. Breaks people's hearts.”

Eye contact or no, Hinata can’t stop staring at him, the softness of his features under the dim light. “Not anymore,” he mutters. Kageyama nods, and signals his return to work by pulling their little dry erase board for plays toward him across the table. Hinata tugs his knees to his chest, wondering if one day he should ask a question about Kageyama’s romantic past, or if he has already learned all he needs to know. 

 

 

 

 

 

They leave the gym at the end of the tournament's first day trailing the girls, who sing songs about victory and loop their arms around one another’s shoulders.

These games are more stressful to watch than to participate in, Hinata has quickly realized. Even now, with both their matches for the day won, he bounces on the balls of his feet and sweats lightly and thinks he could do five or six laps around the block just to get himself feeling normal again. He can’t help wondering if Kageyama finds this easier, having been a coach longer than him—he doesn’t look too worked up as they help load the bus, but his eyes keep darting over the ground, like his mind won’t stop running through the plays they’d made and messed up.

Back at school, it takes him twenty seconds of trying to get the car unlocked with shaky hands before Natsu snatches them and does it herself. He manages to do the rest—get settled behind the wheel, put the seatbelt on, stick the key in the ignition—but he squeals when something taps at his window. Someone.

He rolls down the glass to talk to Kageyama, who holds up a DVD case.

“I have the tapes of both matches, and of our first opponent for tomorrow.”

“Ah, okay. I’ll come over after we eat.” He thinks he hears Natsu make a noise from the passenger’s seat, but when he glances over she’s glued to her phone.

Kageyama nods. “Text me when you’re on your way.”

It’s silent between him and Natsu as he backs out of the space and rolls into the street, but he can’t stop eyeing her, wondering what judgement his sister bears this time. Lately it’s been all raised eyebrows and smirks from her. Except now, when she seems devoted to ignoring him.

“Did you want to say something?”

Natsu lowers her phone, and blinks at the dashboard. “You’re going over to Kageyama-san’s again.”

“So, yeah!”

“So, the tournament is already started.” She sighs and folds her arms over her chest; she must be exhausted, she’d played so hard and well today. “It just seems like… like you’re going to watch three games, you’ll probably be there until midnight.”

“Watching the tapes is a pretty normal thing for coaches to do after a big game,” he says, nails digging into the leather of the wheel.

“Okay, Niichan, whatever you say,” Natsu mumbles, going for her phone again. He tries to shake out his shoulders without it ruining his steering.

“Do you not think me and Kageyama working together has been good?” To him, they won today because of Kageyama: the transformations in the past three weeks had organized their fundamentally strong team, reduced the margins for error. He has already thought several times about accepting the faculty advisor’s offer to stay on after Natsu leaves the club, including for the March tournament, if it means they’ll hire Kageyama too. And if they made the Spring High… if they made the Spring High it would only make sense for him to have Kageyama along. They’d go together again, just like old times. He can remember sobbing so hard after their last loss that his hands shook all the way through dinner.

Natsu sighs, rolling her neck. “No… I don’t think the tournament would have gone as well as it has so far without him.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

They come to an intersection and he slows to let a few pedestrians cross. Natsu swallows before she twists in her seat to look at him, and he glances between her and the road, biting his lip. “Sometimes you rush into things,” she says evenly. “And I don’t want to see you get hurt, even if it’s just because you feel so bad for hurting somebody else.” He gapes at her. The pedestrians finish crossing, but he doesn’t press the gas.

“Are you…” What does he mean to ask? What do you say in reply to that? I hadn’t even thought of it. Doesn’t that just prove her point?

“Just pay attention to what you say and do for once,” says Natsu, with finality in her voice, probably realizing that if this conversation continues he’ll be disabled as a human being. Imagine, getting advice like this from your seventeen-year-old sister. 

“Okay,” he answers breathily, lingering in a momentary daze, until the car behind him starts honking for him to just go already and he hits the gas, taking them home.

 

 

 

 

 

Sisters are the worst. Being aware of oneself is the worst.

Twenty minutes ago he and Kageyama had sat down to watch the first of the game tapes, on the floor with their backs against the sofa, and he had accidentally (certainly it was an accident, these things always are) made his spot too close to Kageyama’s, so that whenever he sits forward to make a note of something and then sits back, he leans into Kageyama’s shoulder. He apologizes profusely the first time, but Kageyama just says, “It’s fine, I’m comfortable.” And at some point Kageyama put his arm up along the couch like a backrest, so that even when Hinata isn’t accidentally leaning on him, he gets to feel like he has Kageyama’s arm around his shoulders.

How long has this been going on? he wants to demand, but he is not sure there is anyone but him who can answer that question. He knows the dance, he’s done it plenty, with varying levels of awareness—maybe he wouldn’t mind, even, it’s been awhile since he dated and he misses that, going on dates and kissing and sex stuff.

But this is Kageyama.

“Did you see that serve?”

He twitches. Kageyama is looking at him. He shakes his head, no, he had missed it, because... 

To his surprise, Kageyama doesn’t seem angry at his carelessness; he dutifully rewinds the tape, and crouches toward Hinata to point out the play. “Look at this girl’s serve. Do you recognize it?” Hinata does, but has also briefly lost his power of speech, paralyzed by how truly low Kageyama’s voice gets when he’s close to you.

“A jump float,” he manages, after a moment.

“That’s right.” Kageyama straightens up, and lets the tape play again at normal speed. “That one’ll be tricky. I don’t think the girls have ever had to receive a jump float before.”

“Yeah…”

“We’ll talk to them. I’m sure they’ll figure it out.”

“I’m sure they’ll figure it out,” Hinata agrees, pulling his knees to his chest.

 

 

 

 

 

“We’re going to have a toast. Order beers, Kageyama.”

“We can’t drink with the girls here.”

“We can and we will.”

“No one minds, Kageyama-san,” says Ito loudly; laughter follows her comment. The team lines the restaurant table they’d reserved in advance, win or loss, and Kageyama murmurs the drinks order to a waiter who disappears.

In the meantime Hinata gets up and drags over a stool to stand on and they all laugh. Even Kageyama laughs a little, though it hardly feels natural. He laughs at funny manga and game show humor, not other people.

When the beers arrive Hinata accepts his from his makeshift podium, grinning broadly. “Okay, you all drink water, and Kageyama and I—” His gaze finds Kageyama sitting a little ways down the table and the twinkle in his eyes, fiery and delighted, makes Kageyama's chest do a strange thing. “We’ll drink these.” He raises his glass, and his audience mimics the gesture. “To Hirose Volleyball Club, representing Miyagi Prefecture at this year’s Spring High national competition! In Tokyo!” And he tips the beer toward his mouth with a boisterous, “Kanpai!”

Kanpai,” the group echoes, and Kageyama takes his first sip, lips moving noiselessly with the salutation. He doesn’t know where his voice went, but he thinks maybe he can feel it sliding down his throat with the beer. 

He stares at the sticky print his mouth leaves on the glass. A thought occurs to him, blurry as the smiling faces of the young women around him.

I’m not as happy as I should be.

Elation usually accompanies victory, an airy feeling that warms him from the inside out, but tonight his chest echoes. So he is empty, though that’s a foolish and overdramatic way to put it, and he scolds himself for his own hyperbole. It really isn’t so bad, and since when did he care about these things? 

The meal passes and the only silence is from him. He keeps his eyes on his food, mostly, occasionally returning smiles when necessary. One of them goes to Hinata, who he catches staring, and he gives a little wave that Kageyama mirrors weakly. And then he doesn’t want to look at Hinata anymore.

The girls shuffle out altogether, leaving a mess of empty bowls and plates in their wake. They eat just as much as he remembers Karasuno eating, if not more. “You’re not taking Natsu home?” he asks while they take care of the check.

Hinata shakes his head. “They’re all having a sleepover tonight. We aren’t invited.”

“I’m not surprised,” Kageyama says heavily. Hinata laughs, in that hysterical, dorky way of his. Kageyama grits his teeth and digs a nail into the table.

They leave the restaurant and stop in the sidewalk outside, and for some reason his pulse picks up. When Hinata turns to him he nearly acts on the urge to start marching away from whatever is coming. It’s quite cold out, he can see his breath in front of him, and Hinata’s face shines in the medley of lights from the restaurant and street.

“Kageyama,” he says, rocking forward onto his toes. “Can I walk you to your bus stop?”

“Sure.”

This is better, walking together, so he’s no under obligation to make eye contact. “So we did it,” Hinata offers after a moment. He sounds hopeful, Kageyama wonders what he is hoping for, when he already has what he wanted. You should say something to him, a little voice complains, and he swears inwardly and swats it away. 

“Yeah.”

“We couldn’t have done it without your help.”

Something terrible swells in Kageyama, and his feet move faster as he realizes he might be fighting tears, because he is more than just not as happy as he should be, he is… sad. Devastated, even. He swallows several times to shove down the reflex and then speaks sideways to Hinata, who easily keeps up with his stride, still fast after all those years. “My contract with the university says I’m not allowed to do any outside coaching, so I’d appreciate if you could not spread it around too much.” 

“Oh,” says Hinata, and Kageyama can hear his little brow scrunching in confusion. “So—”

“If anyone asks why I was at the tournament, lie.”

“So this means... ”

They round a corner and the bus stop comes into view, and he can see the very number he needs to catch rapidly approaching. “Shit,” he seethes, breaking into a run, which his companion also matches.

“No more volleyball?” Hinata cries. 

“No more!”

“But, Kageyama, we should—”

Kageyama starts to feel like he is trying to outrun him, but maybe that was always the plan. No more volleyball means no more excuses, no more entertaining ideas that have no chance of succeeding.

He makes it just as the bus pulls up to the curb, and falls into line behind the other boarding passengers, which gives him no recourse but to turn and face Hinata when he says, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” His voice contorts painfully, he will probably cry on the bus. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, there is so much weight and significance tied up in such a tiny phrase. He wishes he had the guts or even just the patience to parse out what he means. Hinata looks up at him with confusion brimming in his huge brown eyes, or maybe not confusion, maybe… injury—but whatever, right? Sometimes both people get hurt in a head-on collision. He has to do better at not feeling guilty for things done in self-protection. 

Is he ticking yet? Has he gotten stuck again? So much of his life lately feels like a freefall, and he's just waiting to hit the ground. He clears his throat enough to add, “Congratulations on going to the Spring High again.” Even if you’re going alone. The line moves up enough for him to climb on the bus, and standing at the bottom of the stairs he turns to wave. “I’ll pull for you when it’s on television.”

The expression on Hinata’s face dies and rots, and he sinks closer to the earth, sliding his hands into his pockets. Resignation. Kageyama loses half his words to the closing of the door, but he thinks it sounds a lot like, “So see you never, I guess.”

 

 

 

 

 

On December 21st, at fifteen after nine o’clock at night—less than three hours before Kageyama’s 25th birthday—snow starts to fall in Sendai. 

This annoys him. He’s coming home late from the athletic center, after a recruitment meeting that had gone on two hours past schedule. It’s already fucking freezing, and then the snow comes in blinding flurries. He had meant to go to the jeweler after work and get his watch fixed, finally, after two months of staring it down on his nightstand, but the shop will be closed now. He pinches the leather band in his pocket, where he’s shoved his hands to stay warm. At least he’ll get on the bus and be out of the snow.

Except that he turns a corner and watches the bus driving away from the stop, and he swears loudly in the empty, white street. The next one won’t be for another forty minutes—he can walk home in that time, so he turns on his heel and starts trudging through Sendai, the city’s usual noise and bustle dampened by the weather’s gentleness.

He doesn’t register Jozenji-dori until he’s walking down it. The lights have been strung along the tree branches and they drip golden glow on to the sidewalk, turning the snow warm shades of glittering yellow. It is ethereal, like being in a film, where the light would leak across the screen as a metaphor for something. He doesn’t know what that something is, if anything, in his very real life, and he doesn’t feel a strong desire to find it out; he only knows that his footfalls slow here without thinking, and the anger at being kept late and the jeweler being closed and missing the bus, all that recedes. He opens under the glow, lets the atmosphere do with him what it will, and it’s the cool air seeping into his chest and brushing up against the metallic gears and chains that makes him feel, for the first time, that something in there might be broken. But maybe this is snow madness. Though it comes awkwardly to him, a smile stretches over Kageyama’s lips.

He stops in the path down the center of the avenue, relishing the way his shoes smash the snow under foot, and pulls the watch from his pocket. The hands remain unmoving. He tries to make sense of the numbers—they should read 11:04, as they have for the past three months, but he can’t quite puzzle them into that formation.

Instead, the hands indicate, 9:23.

“That’s now,” he says out loud, to no one in particular, and he glances up quickly to see if anyone is nearby to hear him talk to himself. 

But the only person in this part of the avenue sits at a bench some ten or twenty feet ahead, with his head tilted back and his eyes closed, letting the snow melt when it hits his skin.

Sendai may be their home but it is still a large city and such encounters are unlikely. However. 

He hasn’t seen Hinata in two months, but the sight of his seated figure reaches for Kageyama and pulls him along the path by the collar of his shirt, chasing a better look. Hinata has a messenger bag over his shoulder, and wears a beanie pulled down over his ears and a heavier coat than the leather one, but his hands are bare, like Kageyama’s, and shoved under his arms.

At the sound of footfalls crunching the snow in front of him, he opens his eyes.

You should say something to him, a voice tells him, reminiscent of one he’d heard a while ago. Hinata gazes up at him with his mouth hanging slightly open, looking sleepy, as though roused from a dream. The sound of cars and trucks rushing by on the avenue has dwindled in Kageyama’s ears; to him it’s quiet enough to hear a pin drop, or a watch ticking.

He should say something to him. It doesn’t have to be eloquent or romantic, Hinata would never expect that of him, Hinata will know exactly what it means if he can get out a single word. There are snowflakes on the orange of Hinata’s eyelashes, as he climbs to his feet, gripping the back of the bench for support. He watches Kageyama for a moment, searches his face, and with every second that ticks by as they stand in silence his mouth sinks deeper into a frown.

Hinata bows his head, wincing. He turns and takes a step up the path. Meaning to go. Fuck.

“Hi,” Kageyama blurts, a last ditch effort, the leap from the deck of a sinking ship to the lifeboat below. It’s stupid, it’s not good enough, it fails all his requisites for an appropriate thing to say, but it’s something. And he hopes that, because this is Hinata, these deficiencies can be forgiven. He’s never known anyone else with such a forgiving soul as that. 

Halted by the sound of his voice, Hinata stays frozen for a moment with his eyes on the path ahead, his skin gold under the light from the trees. He twists back around just enough to meet Kageyama’s eye. His gaze flicks up and down Kageyama’s figure, making him shiver, and then a grin cracks his mouth.

“Kageyama-kun. Hi.”

“Don’t walk off,” he says, the fear in his voice more obvious than he’d expected. And it’s not a fair request, either, not when Kageyama had done just that the last time they saw each other.

“I’m not going to.” He reaches for Kageyama’s hand and Kageyama seizes up until he realizes—the watch. Hinata pries open his fingers and makes a face at the timepiece, then at him. “What’s this?”

“My watch… it’s broken. It’s stuck.”

Hinata leans forward, examining the glass streaked with melted snow, the chilly leather band. “It looks fine to me.” Eyes widening, Kageyama lifts the watch to his ear.

Tick. Tick. Tick. 

The time reads 9:28. Five minutes later than when he last glanced at it—about five minutes ago.

“It broke the day I saw you in Sendai Station,” he thinks he says, because his voice vibrates in his throat, but his ears are ringing.

“And now it’s working? Are you sure you didn’t get that from a shoujo manga, Kageyama-kun? Here,” Hinata adds purposefully, taking the watch and slipping it around his wrist, small clammy fingers struggling with the clasp before securing it. His touch lingers on the inside of Kageyama’s palm. “It’s been a while since I saw you last, hasn’t it,” he says, holding Kageyama’s hand with both his own as though it might break, the light from the trees reflected in the shine of his eyes. They’re both under the glow, so does Kageyama look like he’s made of gold too? The privilege seems as though it should belong to Hinata alone, like the night was made dark so he could shine a little brighter.

“Seeing you.” (This might be the first time he has spoken in years, with the way the words scratch his throat.) “I feel…”

“Good?”

“Yeah. Sort of…” He lifts his free hand, meaning to gesture out his lightness, but only manages a vague wave.

Hinata laughs, biting back a grin that could power the city. “Happy.” Happy. Kageyama nods. “So just say, ‘I’m happy to see you, Shouyou.’”

“I’m happy to see you, Shouyou,” he says, and Hinata slides his hand into Kageyama’s larger one, their fingers shaky and wet and cold but better for being together. The chill stains Hinata’s cheeks red and melting snow leaves a sheen on his lips and Kageyama could kiss him right there and then, in public, with an eyeless world looking on. 

But he doesn’t, for all his brashness he is shy. Hinata, maybe sensing this, tugs on his hand. “Come on. Let’s walk.”

“Where are we going?” he asks, but follows dutifully as he’s led down the path.

For the first time during this meeting Hinata tosses him a look that’s not completely sweet—it’s a smile, sure, but in the way his eyes narrow and one corner of his mouth turns up he says, you should know, and Kageyama gets the idea.

They walk for the next fifteen minutes, slowly winding their way out of the city center and into the quieter residential streets that ring familiar to Kageyama even under the layer of white. The storm has almost let up, he thinks, at least for the time being, the snow only falling in scattered dustings and blowing around in the road. But it’s still cold, cold enough that the most they speak is to get into an argument about how they’re both freezing holding hands without gloves, and eventually they agree to shove their respective hands back into their pockets, so they walk side-by-side with Hinata’s shoulder brushing Kageyama’s arm.

He knows it isn’t far now, but they come to a side street and for the first time since they ran into one another, there isn’t another soul in sight—not a car or a bus or a pedestrian, all the curtains in the buildings are drawn. Blood pounding in his ears, he grabs Hinata by the jacket and tugs him into the alley between two buildings.

“What are you doing?” Hinata giggles in surprise, clinging loosely to Kageyama’s jacket. Kageyama can feel that the look on his own face is one of hysterical concern and Hinata stumbles when he sees it. “What’s wrong?”

“I wanted to kiss you before, but I wanted to be alone,” he says, stupidly urgent. “Can I kiss you?”

“Of course!” Of course. He makes it sound like it were nothing or expected and—that’s good, Kageyama realizes, staggering into him.

“I’m going to do it now,” he announces.

Hinata tips his head back, ready, with an open-mouthed smile. “Okay.” Haircut or no he looks young just then, maybe sixteen or seventeen, like back when Kageyama first felt the thing that’s setting him on fire right now.

Hinata’s lips and nose are like ice but his tongue is warm. Kageyama makes a noise when it slips into his mouth, Hinata’s frigid fingers coming up to lace through his hair and tug him down, deeper into their kiss. Hinata moves fast like in everything he does, the little machinations of his lips and teeth energetic and spontaneous, so that Kageyama just falls into his rhythm. This is hot, he realizes, stunned by the epiphany, and how quickly his breathing has grown heavy. 

He breaks away gasping, Hinata’s hands sliding down his neck. “I didn’t…”

Hinata pants too, and leans into his chest, making Kageyama seize up like he’s just been tossed a live bomb—he carefully wraps his hands around Hinata’s shoulders. “You’re the one that wanted to make out in an alleyway.” His voice is muffled by the thickness of Kageyama’s jacket, but then his head pops up and he peers at Kageyama with his chin still nudged into the fabric. It is probably, objectively, the cutest thing that Kageyama has ever witnessed, and he feels as though he’s been shot in the chest.

“What’s wrong with this?”

“Teenagers make out in alleyways, Kageyama. Your apartment is like two blocks from here.”

Kageyama glares down at him, internal gears whizzing, and then he hoists Hinata up by the waist. “Let’s go there.” And they leave the alley not a moment too soon, as lights start to come on in buildings at the sound of Hinata’s wild kicking and shrieking laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

“I was going to come home after close, but…”

Kageyama peels off one wet, cold sock at a time. He hadn’t even noticed the snow soaking through the fabric of his athletic shoes.

“I ran into a friend.”

His feet are freezing, clammy, and he pads into the bedroom to find fresh socks in the drawer. Hinata’s voice drifts down the hall from the kitchen. 

“Ah, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.”

It’s much better with them bound up in thick dry wool again; he returns to the living area and falls on to the sofa, hugging a throw pillow to himself instinctively. He can see Hinata’s back in the kitchen, the dark plaid of his shirt. His head bobs along to whatever the person on the other end of the line is saying.

“Just don’t wait up. I might just stay here tonight, the weather’s getting worse.”

He turns around and, seeing Kageyama over the kitchen island, smiles. Kageyama smiles back, fighting some flurries. He can hear the voice on the phone surge in volume, and Hinata hangs his head.

“Okaasan, I’m twenty-five years old.” A laugh bursts from Kageyama. He’d almost forgotten that Hinata has six months on him. “So, I’m not going to come home tonight.” Hinata pauses enough to stick his tongue out, and Kageyama descends shakily into laughter. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Tell Nacchan goodnight. I can tell you… I’ll tell you about it then, Okaasan! Bye!” And he hangs up quickly, sliding the phone away from him down the counter and making a run for the couch—he lands on Kageyama hollering, and Kageyama is sure he makes some kind of noise of protest in return, the whole thing is a whirlwind of boyish chaos. “Don’t tell me your mother isn’t like that too,” Hinata declares, eventually settling down to straddle Kageyama’s hips, arms around his neck.

“Of course, that’s why I don’t live with her.”

“Shut up,” says Hinata, grinning. He’d ripped off his hat as soon as he got inside, and his hair is a mess, wet at the edges where the snow had found it, what’s stayed dry sticking every which way. “My clothes are wet too,” he adds, since Kageyama’s hand had somehow lifted to stroke the damp strands beneath his ear. “You’ll lend me something to sleep in?”

Kageyama blinks, retracting the hand. “Yeah, let me…” He makes to get up, but Hinata doesn’t move from his hips.

“Not yet.” He beams, and Kageyama reflexively narrows his eyes. The innocence in Hinata’s expression seems… feigned. “We’re not going to sleep yet, are we?” Kageyama sort of chokes on nothing. Why would you want him to be innocent right now? He’s staying over. He’s staying over. His stomach does something funny, and the rest of his body starts to creak into life, shaking off the winter chill.

Now that he has finally, belatedly, ecstatically realized what’s going on, affection for his old friend and partner bowls him over, and he lifts his palm to Hinata’s cheek, still flushed from the cold. Hinata shuts his eyes at the touch, and exhales. “Why were you sitting like that tonight?” The question is asked before he understands why he wants to know. “At Jozenji-dori.”

Hinata’s eyes flutter open. He peers at Kageyama, nose scrunching. “I don’t know. I like the lights this time of year.”

“Me too. But you don’t go there often.”

“No? Why…”

“I just don’t know the odds of us running into each other there. Of all places.”

Making a face, Hinata lets his head fall back for a moment, which strikes Kageyama as all kinds of endearing, and then a thought straightens his neck again. “I know.” He reaches for Kageyama’s arm and lifts it, indicating the watch on his wrist, that he’d placed there earlier. “Time stops when you’re running away from me.” He grins, he’s kidding, but Kageyama’s chest aches. “Because we’re fated, Kageyama.”

“I know,” he replies, totally serious, and he leans in just as the grin slides from Hinata’s astonished face.

He means it to be a light kiss, caring, maybe even closed-mouthed, but it seems like he and Hinata are incapable of that; not two seconds pass before he feels teeth on his lip, and he presses back hard, sucking in air through his nose so as to keep their mouths sliding together like that, the sound of wet suction bringing sweat to his skin, his temperature crawling upwards. He drags Hinata’s bottom lip with his own teeth and a little noise bleats from his partner’s throat, and then again when he repeats the motion, and as he tugs Hinata’s hips towards his own the little whimpers rain down, increasingly frantic, making him hard. Oh, he jerks out of the kiss, seized by uncertainty. “Wait, wait, do you…” Hinata pulls back, his lips red and swollen and gorgeous and welcoming, and Kageyama suppresses a groan. “Am I doing it to you, or are you doing it to me?”

“Huh?”

“I mean.” He gestures weakly over his shoulder, to the bedroom. “When… Do you want to go in there?”

“I do,” Hinata answers, gleeful.

“So when we… You or me?” Hinata’s eyebrows lift, now understanding, and he stares down the hallway emptily. The embarrassment wilts Kageyama, he can feel his face growing redder than it’s been all night, even in the midst of all this. In movies no one ever asks, and maybe it was wrong or unsexy of him to do so, maybe he should have just let things play out—there’s something tragically fragile about moods, isn’t there, you’re not supposed to be so direct. But he doesn’t know how else to be.

“You don’t have a preference?” Hinata finally asks, keeping his voice low. Kageyama suddenly wishes he hadn’t turned on all the lights when they came in, like they ought to be having this conversation in darkness.

“Not… both, or whatever, for me.” Either way they’re together—shit, it’s coming back to him how long it’s been since he did this, and Hinata, well, looking at him it’s hard to imagine he has dry spells.

“You’re not just asking to be polite.” Hinata says this like it’s just dawning on him; Kageyama glances up, he had been staring at the button on Hinata’s jeans, avoiding his eye. Unnecessarily so—a soft expression greets him, understanding and focused. Just then Kageyama thinks that he likes this man very much, deeply, even—not love, but its natural predecessor. “I did have a sort of idea how it was going to go.” Hinata tangles his fingers in the hem of Kageyama’s t-shirt, nudging it up so he can feel the room’s air on his stomach. “You know, I haven’t been with a guy in long time, so.”

“You want to do it to me,” Kageyama fills in, nodding, figuring Hinata will cleave toward the comfortable like he would, but he has to start shaking his head when Hinata does the same.

“No! I meant that I haven’t been… fucked in a while.” His mouth folds shyly around that word, fucked, and it occurs to Kageyama for the first time that Hinata’s language sometimes rings as soft as it did when he was fifteen. “I miss it. Is that okay?” He pokes his nose toward Kageyama, who smiles a tiny little smile. 

“That’s okay.”

Hinata returns his smile with a splitting grin. “Plus,” he says, louder, his hands diving between them. “I want to see you do all that work.”

“What?” But any answer he may have deserved gets lost to the palm on the front of his sweats, kneading his half-hardness without abandon, his eyes squeezing shut so that he hears Hinata’s cackle especially bright in his ear. The groan that he’d buried earlier claws from his throat as Hinata goes from palm to fingers, and—his lips at the base of Kageyama’s neck, sucking and scraping mercilessly, until that half-hardness is complete and clogging his brain, with… with thoughts once hazy but solidified by their conversation—with thoughts of fucking Hinata. 

It’s astonishing he even finds his power of speech, but what makes more sense is the single word he produces: “Bedroom.”

He has thought of this often, really, or at least more often than he’d care to admit. He remembers all that, the late-night contemplating, as Hinata releases his neck and climbs off him, making sure to drag the shirt over Kageyama’s head as he goes; the garment gets tossed away and catches the corner of the television, where it hangs, a reminder to be laughed at in the morning. He’s thought of this in the very bed to which he leads Hinata, encouraging him to sit, kneeling on the ground between his knees. He undoes one button on Hinata’s shirt at a time, kissing the smooth soft skin he reveals, the planes of his chest and stomach.

“You like slow,” Hinata mutters, as Kageyama presses his lips to the spot just beneath his belly button, and then a smidge lower.

Hinata stirs at the warm air that curls from his mouth when he speaks there, right against him. “Sometimes.”

“Sometimes,” Hinata agrees. Kageyama gets the message—he pulls him into a kiss, letting them build the pace the way they have every other time, with their lips and tongues. That’s miraculously natural, it makes perfect sense.

As often as he’s thought of this, he has never done it justice. Perhaps he doesn’t have enough imagination for the details: the snug blackness of his bedroom around them with the light from the kitchen spilling over the threshold, the snow building up on the windowsills, the occasional honk of a horn in the street below; the exact texture of Hinata’s hair under his fingers, or Hinata’s hands winding into the linens of his unmade bed, the heat from the two of them mingled with the fading patches of icy skin around noses and toes from their walk home; the way Hinata wiggles out of his jeans and takes Kageyama’s hands and puts them on his body, a plea for him to touch; the exact sounds that drip from his lips when Kageyama hunches over and puts his mouth to the front of his boxers, sucking him through the fabric, and then tugging off the underwear altogether to take his reddened cock in his mouth. Hinata likes to tug on hair—to take fistfuls of it and twist—but Kageyama likes it when he does this, too. He could never have imagined that.

He releases Hinata, sliding free with an obscene sucking noise, more pornographic than erotic; Hinata leans back, catching his breath, and Kageyama takes the opportunity to nudge him to lie back on the bed while he wipes the dribbling excess of fluid from his mouth, some slick mixture of the two of them. The next thing seems obvious—Hinata knows too, he lies there waiting for it.

“I’m rusty,” he announces, trying to avoid any awkwardness with this confession but failing, because Hinata’s dick remains mostly in his face and it’s hard to hold a conversation like that. 

Hinata props himself up on an elbow, peeking down at him. He seems to know exactly the issue, like he always does. “Do you want me to do it?”

“To yourself? Would that… you said you wanted to see me do the work.”

Hinata laughs lightly. “Not that work. You could watch me.”

Kageyama sits back. The image flashes in his head, of how that might look. “Okay.” Hinata gives him a smile, luminant despite the darkness, and pulls himself up to sit on his knees on the bed, glancing around.

“Where’s—”

“Bedside drawer,” Kageyama supplies quietly. Hinata crawls over and fishes through the drawer and retrieves a little jar of lubricant, and then a condom. Giggling, he flicks the wrapper across the bed—it hits Kageyama right under the eye and he yelps. “Bingo!”

He hurls the rubber back at Hinata and scowls as he climbs up the bed, Hinata dribbling lube on to his fingers and smirking at him. He slots his knees between Hinata’s, spreading him a little and stroking the soft skin at the inside of his hips; the smirk on Hinata’s lips fades into an anxious grimace as he slides his hand down on himself and around, ducking his head as his position grows increasingly awkward.

“Are you just going to stare at me?” he murmurs, and shivers—Kageyama wonders if he’s brushed up against his entrance, the first touch can be so cold.

“You said I could watch.”

“I didn’t think you’d sit so close to me,” he admits, with a tiny nervous chuckle.

Kageyama lifts a hand from his hip and slides down Hinata’s arm, until he finds the narrowness of a wrist and leaves his fingers there, like a brace for Hinata’s hand as it works. Hinata lifts his little chin and pants at him—they could hurry, they are both achingly hard and Kageyama is still in his sweatpants, of all things, his underwear sticky and uncomfortable—but this particular moment defies that urgency. Sometimes they like slow.

“Tell me that you like my hair.”

Kageyama snorts, rustling the lick of orange falling down Hinata’s forehead. “Really?”

“I want to hear you say it!”

He leans in and sighs against Hinata’s neck. “I really like it.” A kiss to the curve of his collarbone. “You should wear your glasses when I fuck you.” 

“You’re a pervert,” Hinata gasps, collapsing into laughter (though Kageyama was not kidding, whatever), his nervousness evaporated; he kisses Kageyama hard, pulling away only to concentrate on the finger he slides into himself, Kageyama’s hand laying easily over his smaller one in support. With this his sounds deepen, whimpers made groans by the new sensation, and Kageyama loves them, kissing him fiercely like if he could consume them he would, like he is starving and Hinata’s arousal keeps him satiated. There’s a second finger and then a third, their kisses growing messier the more Hinata becomes intent on preparing himself, until Kageyama finds himself just pressing his lips to the corners of a open mouth as his partner sucks in deep breath after deep breath, rocking against his own hand.

Kageyama makes to nip his shoulder, at which point Hinata bodily shoves his face away, with a spluttering exhale, and Kageyama feels him retracting his fingers as well. “Enough, I’ll—I’m ready.” Ready. Kageyama tenses—Hinata is pushing him back to get at his sweatpants, complaining under his breath, “Get rid of these, I hate them, why can’t you wear pants like an adult? I haven’t even seen it yet.” It floors him, really, after his shyness at fingering himself, the confidence and hunger with which Hinata strips his lower half and rips the condom open and rolls it on, drenching him with an excessive amount of lube and using his palms to knead his erection. It makes Kageyama realize how long they’ve been at this and how little he’s been touched in comparison, and if Hinata didn’t stop a moment later he probably would have lain back and taken a handjob the whole way, thoughts of fucking forgotten.

“Here, here.” That’s Hinata, tugging at his shoulders, encouraging him to open eyes he hadn’t realized were closed. He’s being pulled over the other man’s smaller figure in the center of the bed—on top of him, on top of Hinata, who squirms in the messy sheets, getting comfortable. He’s going to look good like that, Kageyama realizes, a strangely fearful thought to have—he could become too overwhelmed by the sight of Hinata flushed and writhing under him and need to stop, the possibility is all too real, except that he’s being dragged into another one of those kisses that chases all thoughts from his brain.

He goes down on Hinata again, to lick and suck him back into the full hardness lost to the discomfort of the fingering. And then he slides back up, an arm on either side of Hinata’s head, gazing down at the blown pupils and grin of lazy, heady arousal. He runs a thumb over Hinata’s bottom lip, thoughtful, but gets an incredulous squint in reply.

“Can you start, already, please?” Kageyama glares, his mouth falling open with a half-formed insult that doesn’t arrive. “I want to come,” Hinata whines, throwing his head back, and it’s hard to argue with that. 

Kageyama brings their hips flush, and finds Hinata’s entrance with the pad of his finger, earning a sigh from his partner. He lines them up, trying to quash the sudden memory of how long they’ve known one another, how they met, what they’d said and done and been to each other. How he knew Hinata when he was getting to know himself, and this man, with all his noise and silliness and the things he once thought he hated but now knows he envies, had been integral to the discoveries of that time. If he thinks too much about this, he’s certain he won’t be able to perform at all, and so he has to tell himself, even for a second, that it’s just sex. A mechanical thing, a technicality. He meditates on this just long enough to push himself in, Hinata stiffening underneath him; otherwise he has the weird feeling that he might cry, and he’d never fucking hear the end of that.

Hinata, stupid little Hinata, he had expected him to be tight but not like this—not so tight it drags a groan from his lungs as he sinks in. Small hands come up to wrap around his shoulders, then one skates down the length of his side, lingering at the small of his back. They stay there like that for a moment, locked in quiet desperate breaths to recover their senses. Hinata’s eyes are closed, a smile playing around his lips as if they moved with unsaid words. Kageyama swallows, watching him, memorizing that sight, and then he steers his hips an inch forward in a test—fuck, yes, and Hinata’s eyes fly open, he must have felt it too, how good it’s going to be when he starts to move. So he does. 

It’s good sex. He knows that for sure, this impression is not the product of how long it’s been since he was with anyone, nor an ode to sex in general. He has had some astoundingly shitty sex, he has had mediocre sex made better just by the fact that it is at least happening; this sex is not like either of those experiences, he can’t quite categorize it except to say it’s exceptional, which makes him question whether he has ever really had good sex, truly. That’s annoying, and of course Hinata would be the one, to sweep in and invalidate his entire sexual history. The difference is nothing he can locate, not precisely; it’s somewhere in the way Hinata’s back arches every time Kageyama pushes into him, and the wanton flush in his cheeks, and the syllables stumbling from his tongue. Ka, Ka. He can’t even say Kageyama’s name, stupid, dumbass, but in all fairness Kageyama doesn’t know if he could make an noise more coherent than a moan. He is making a lot of those.

Getting close, the depth and the friction and tightness aren’t enough, they start clawing at each other—maybe some marks are unavoidable at times like these—and Hinata, he’s especially determined, his hands locking around Kageyama’s arms and dragging his ear toward his mouth. “Roll over.” The most he can give in answer to this is a disbelieving groan, but he obeys, carefully rolling them together with Hinata’s guidance, so that he’s on his back and Hinata rises over his hips. His head swims at the change in angle, the way Hinata shifts around his cock as they move, and… and the fact that he starts riding him into the mattress the moment they’re situated, and jerking himself off too. He is sweating, the sheen on his skin catching the white light from the street outside, his hair slicked to his forehead and his eyes closed in deep focus as he grinds down on Kageyama’s cock and pumps himself to climax.

With that to watch, it’s not long before the growing pressure in his abdomen becomes unbearable and impatient, and he starts fucking up into Hinata’s hips until he comes in a series of uneven thrusts, stammering out unintelligible cries that began in his head as a given name. Hinata, glaring in concentration and at the intensity of his own nearness to release, lets go of himself to grab Kageyama’s shoulders and ride him firmly through it, which is satisfying but probably not as satisfying as it would be if they were kissing right now—next time, he promises himself, next time he feels that blinding pleasure he’ll do it with Hinata on his lips. His head falls back against the pillow and he wishes he could do more, that he wasn’t breathless and spent into nothing, so that he could help Hinata now, as he bows his head and resumes stroking himself. His narrow chest rises and falls in rattling, focused breaths. 

Weakly, he manages to raise a hand and wrap it loosely over the one working around Hinata’s cock, so at least when Hinata finally seizes up and comes messily over his stomach, they’re together in some sense. The expression Hinata makes isn’t exactly unfamiliar to him, in the years they knew each other he’d seen that round face contort in every manner of way, but he almost laughs to see it repurposed here where he finds it so hot and compelling.

Hinata slumps forward over him for a moment, catching his breath, and Kageyama grabs his hands to lace their fingers together in the space between them. They stay like that for a while and he aches, wanting so badly to bury his face in the crook of Hinata’s neck. Finally, finally, Hinata heaves a deep breath and pulls himself up and off, both of them hissing.

Hinata collapses onto the bed beside him. Illuminated by a beam of light peeking through the curtains, steam curls off the skin of his shoulders. Kageyama hastily does away with the condom, and then tangles their hands together again.

He turns his head on the pillow, to watch the smile creeping over Hinata’s lips. “I forgot to tell you, I’m really good in bed.”

“Dumbass.” But he is grinning.

“It’s been awhile since I heard that one,” Hinata squeaks, as Kageyama pulls him into a headlock, and they tussle with Hinata making double the noise he’d made during the sex itself. They fight to kiss and be kissed, because it’s fun to touch each other, because he likes Hinata in his bed and wants to milk it for all it’s worth. In what seems to be a recurring theme, the wrestling match ends with a hard-earned makeout session. 

He’s objectively disgusting—Hinata too, but mostly him—and so he drags himself away from the kiss and sits up stiffly. Right away Hinata wraps around him from behind, whining, lips on his neck.

“Where are you going?”

“You came all over me, I’m going to rinse off.”

“Can I join?” He looks over his shoulder at the bright eyes peeking at him, the mouth pressed lightly against his skin.

“Of course.”

He has never showered with anyone before, so he doesn’t know what it’s like for other people, but after the round of handjobs that inevitably happens his favorite part is when Hinata wraps around his torso and lays his cheek against his chest, and lets out the tiniest of sighs as his eyes fall shut in contentment. Kageyama stands there watching this, not knowing what to do with his arms or really any bit of himself, except to stare at the amazing little creature latched onto him. The water pelts Hinata’s temples and mouth and runs all the way down, soaking him but never staying. It’s minutes later before Kageyama can bring himself to shut off the water, though they finished cleaning up forever ago.

When he shakes the excess water from his hair, Hinata shrieks, “You’re like a dog!” And the comment leads to an argument that lasts all the way through the process of getting dry and dressed, the borrowed clothing falling tent-like around Hinata’s frame. They strip down and replace the linens at Kageyama’s insistence, he won’t sleep in a bed that smells like that. Then finally— “Finally,” Hinata groans, throwing himself into the fresh bed so hard he bounces a little.

Kageyama crawls in after him. He doesn’t lie back right away, but pauses to peek through the blinds over the headboard. “It’s still snowing,” he mutters. 

“Okay. But come here.” Hinata tugs him down to the bed, tossing a leg over him so he can hang above his shoulders while they kiss. When Hinata rolls off he lies on his side, facing Kageyama, who stays on his back and stares up at him. Does he stare too much? Is this a problem? But wondering that doesn’t stop him from tucking his palm against Hinata’s cheek. It earns him a smile, one of those grins only Hinata could achieve, where it’s not just in his lips but an expression of happiness from the bottom of his soul. He must tap a source of light burning in his chest, powering him. It has always seemed like the only explanation, to Kageyama’s eye.

“We are so stupid,” he mutters, thumbing Hinata’s cheekbone. “As stupid as everybody always said. So fucking dumb.” Hinata sighs and shakes his head.

“It’s fine now. You can’t fix it.” Kageyama isn’t sure that does make it fine, his not being able to fix it, but it’s certainly true. He glares at the ceiling.

“I was fourteen when I met you. That’s ten years ago.”

“Ten years,” Hinata echoes, laughing, astonished and delighted. “A whole decade… Our relationship is going to middle school next year, that’s exciting!”

“More than ten years—I’m…” Sitting up suddenly, he reaches over Hinata to grab at the clock radio. “It’s past midnight, it’s my birthday.”

“It’s your birthday?” Hinata shrieks, with the surprised horror of someone discovering after the fact that their night of passionate confession-laced lovemaking also happened to be the eve of their lover’s birthday.

Kageyama flops back into bed, deciding to ignore the look on Hinata’s face. “Yes. I’m twenty-five.”

“I’m older than you… I can’t believe I forgot that.” 

Shrugging, he settles into his pillows, intending to force himself to pass out. He has never enjoyed birthdays. Expecting others to celebrate him always left him disappointed, ultimately.

“Well, happy birthday, Kageyama Tobio.” Hinata leans over and kisses the side of Kageyama’s nose, which wrinkles reflexively, and then kisses his cheek too, before they snug together, ready for sleep. “Welcome to a new age.”