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This Is for Your Own Good

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“Why are we doing this?” Tobio demands, knowing perfectly well that whatever answer he gets is just going to piss him off more, but asking anyway. Maybe out of masochism.

“Because Mom said we had to,” Hinata explains. Or fails to explain, as the case may be.

“Why is your mother making us do this?”

Hinata shrugs, unconcerned. “She likes people to be happy.”

Tobio is starting to darkly suspect that Hinata’s mother is the cause of everything that’s wrong with Hinata.

He’d never met the woman before a week ago, and when he did meet her, she’d seemed so nice. Calm. Normal. He hadn’t thought she ever came to games, hadn’t thought she knew who any of them were. And now it turns out she’s been stalking the entire team all along. Stalking them, and also…having opinions about their love lives. And not stopping at opinions, either.

It’s creepy and it’s weird and Tobio doesn’t like it.

“We’re doing this to help Sugawara-san,” Hinata concludes firmly, because he was raised by a deranged, interfering person (what is his father like? No, never mind, Tobio doesn’t even want to know), and now lacks all perspective on what is and is not his business. “And it’ll make the captain happy, too.”

Tobio would like to argue about this, but since he also doesn’t want to think about it ever again, it’s tough to formulate an argument. “You’re an idiot,” he says instead, because that, at least, is always both safe and true.

Hinata turns to him with big, sad eyes. “Don’t you want the captain and Sugawara-san to be happy?” he asks, looking like he might just cry depending on the answer.

Tobio panics.

The thing is, despite what that Tsukishima asshole thinks, Tobio can actually read people. He can read them pretty well, even. He knows when people are mad at him, he knows when they’re disappointed, he knows when they’re about to cry because of him. He just never knows why, and he never knows how to fix it, either. And so he gets mad at them for daring to be upset (Sugawara-san says this is not the right response), or he ignores the whole weird situation (Sugawara-san doesn’t like that one, either), or he panics and flails ineffectively (Sugawara-san seems to prefer this, which makes just as little sense as the rest of it, but fine).

So he panics and flails ineffectively at Hinata.

Hinata rolls his eyes in exasperation, but at least he doesn’t look upset anymore. As usual, Sugawara-san is right about everything. Which is kind of the point, here.

“Sugawara-san doesn’t need our help,” Tobio insists. “He’s really good at…people stuff. And he knows the captain better than anyone. He’ll be fine. They’ll be fine without us messing with things that are none of our business!”

Hinata nods thoughtfully, but then, as usual, goes haring off in the exact opposite direction from where Tobio wants him. “Mom says Sugawara-san is good at handling everybody’s problems except his own.”

Tobio feels like screaming in rage and confusion. And then he goes ahead and does it, because this is Hinata, and he won’t care. “Fine! Whatever! But I don’t understand how any of this is supposed to work. We’re just doing a bunch of completely random things and somehow it’s supposed to fix everyone’s lives. What the hell?”

Hinata smiles with annoying serenity. “Mom knows what she’s doing. It’ll be fine. Even Kenma said he’d help! Don’t be such a spoilsport, Kageyama.”

Tobio is aware that he has a tendency to try to use Hinata as a mindless extension of his own will when it comes to volleyball. It never occurred to him that maybe Hinata tolerated that for as long as he did because he was used to it.

As if reading his thoughts, Hinata says, “This is only bothering you because you’re such a control freak.”

Tobio scowls, but knows there’s no point resisting—he’s part of this stupid plan whether he likes it or not. There’s no fighting Hinata when he’s determined about something, and his mother shows every sign of somehow being even worse. God, and she really had seemed so normal.

At this point, Tobio makes the mistake of letting his mind wander to other people who scare him. And then he spends the rest of the day silently, fervently praying to the universe that Hinata’s mother and Oikawa never, ever meet.

* * *

Sugawara Koushi spends a lot of time wishing he could hate people. He never quite manages it, though, which is disappointing. He understands people too well, he thinks, for hatred to be an easy thing.

Take Kageyama. Now there’s a classic example of a person he’d like to be able to hate—certainly Oikawa has no trouble managing it. The genius first year who waltzes onto your team and takes your position and most of your pride along with it.

The problem is, Kageyama would be horrified to know Koushi felt that way. Truly horrified. He might even, conceivably, refuse to play until Koushi graduated if he knew, which would absolutely break Hinata’s heart, and handily prevent Karasuno from winning any more games as well. But Kageyama would do it. He has ambition, of course, but not that kind of ambition. It’s a purer kind—to be the best player he can be, whether or not he’s seen to be the best. Also, he has legitimate trauma from his whole middle school volleyball team disaster.

This is all very, very irritating to anyone trying to hate him.

And that’s without taking into account the fact that the poor boy has all the social skills of a particularly awkward duck. Worse, even, because it is clearly really difficult for him not to be an asshole. It takes everything he has, and he keeps backsliding despite his best efforts. Take now, for example, when Koushi is attempting to convey the concept of cheering on one’s teammates.

“If you notice someone doing a good job,” Koushi explains slowly and patiently, “you should mention to them that they’ve done a good job.”

“But they’ll know they did a good job,” Kageyama argues, frowning.

He is honestly not doing this to be difficult. He genuinely doesn’t understand. It’s hilarious.

“Maybe,” Koushi agrees, trying not to laugh. “But they’ll feel better to have someone else confirm it. Like, sometimes you think you’ve done a good job, but it’s nice to know that your teammates agree with you.”

Kageyama nods earnestly. He obviously still doesn’t understand, but he’s willing to accept these strange notions on faith. He’s apparently decided that Koushi knows how to people better than he does. This is true, of course. Everyone knows how to people better than Kageyama does, even Coach Ukai. Koushi’s still touched by the show of faith, even if it is a little strange. Kageyama’s never come to him specifically for help dealing with teammates before—not in so many words, anyway. Usually Koushi has to deduce Kageyama’s problems, mostly by analyzing the content of his angry complaints. Occasionally from oblique comments about volleyball techniques, even.

Well, maybe Kageyama’s growing as a person.

It would be easier to believe that, though, if he weren’t acting so shifty whenever he catches sight of Hinata. Still, that doesn’t tell Koushi anything except that this has something to do with Hinata—and, when it comes to Kageyama, that is never not true.

Poor Kageyama. He does his level best to never listen to Hinata at all, and yet Hinata has probably taught him more about human interaction than the rest of them combined. Which is likely related to something else Kageyama hasn’t noticed—the fact that he’s at least three-quarters in love with Hinata. Koushi dearly hopes to be around the day Hinata figures that out, because it should be a beautiful fiasco. And Hinata will figure it out, likely months before Kageyama does.

So yes, they may be annoying baby prodigies, but they’re also ridiculously cute, and undeniably good entertainment.

* * *

Most of the time. They are good entertainment most of the time. Some of the time, however, Koushi would cheerfully push them both into traffic. Now is one of those times.

“…and then he said that people who can’t even aim their serves don’t deserve to be treated to lunch,” Hinata concludes his fifteen-minute long rant indignantly. “He’s such a…Kageyama.”

This rant would be exhausting enough if it were actually about what Hinata thinks it’s about, but it’s not. What he’s really complaining about is the fact that Kageyama doesn’t want to spend every hour of every day with him. It’s simultaneously frustrating and sad.

“He is a Kageyama,” Koushi agrees absently, wondering, not for the first time, what in god’s name Kageyama’s parents are like. Are they awkward ducks, too? Tragically neglectful? Or perfectly normal people who somehow ended up with Kageyama as a son through some kind of cosmic mishap?

He’s not even brave enough to wonder about Hinata’s parents.

“He’s the worst,” Hinata grumbles on unhappily. Cranky because this guy who is ‘the worst’ insists on having a life independent of Hinata. Wow, someone needs to stage an intervention here.

And, realistically, no one else is going to do it, so…

This is exactly how Koushi ends up in ninety percent of the stupid situations in his life.

“Would you…” he begins, then pauses to consider how best to phrase this. It is honestly like speaking a different dialect if not language with these two. “What do you think of the way Kageyama looks?”

“His looks?” Hinata repeats, obviously baffled.

“Humor me,” Koushi tries.

“…Okay? Um. I mean, Kageyama’s beautiful.” Completely unashamed and equally unaware, he says this. He’s giving Koushi a headache. This is worse than Daichi.

“Okay,” Koushi agrees, but Hinata scowls and starts ranting again before Koushi has a chance to go on.

“I mean, of course he’s beautiful, right? Because he’s so perfect at everything, with his perfect serves and his perfect height and his perfect setting. Why shouldn’t he have a perfect face, too? The big jerk.”

Koushi could point out that Kageyama has terrible grades and is nearly the most painfully awkward human being he has ever met, and that’s a long way from perfect, but he restrains himself, because he’s making a point, here. Even if he’s going to have to swim upstream all the way to make it.

“…Does the fact that he has a perfect face make you feel anything in particular?”

Hinata squints at him suspiciously, and then, because Koushi should know better than to ever think he can predict a damn thing about Hinata, says, “What, you mean like wanting to hit him and kiss him and feed him and steal his shirts and wear them everywhere and all that stuff?”

Koushi breaks momentarily and just hides his face in his hands for a while. But he’s stronger than this. He can do this. He takes a deep breath and faces Hinata again, trying to brace himself for anything, knowing he can’t possibly. “Yes. That.”

“…Is it bad?”

Oh no, and now Hinata’s looking worried and guilty, which is the opposite of what Koushi wanted.

“No! Not at all. I just wanted to be sure you’d noticed, because it seemed like things might get strange if neither of you knew.”

Hinata grins, reassured. “He’ll figure it out eventually,” he announces blithely and offhand, talking about his crush like no high schooler ever talked about a crush in history, Koushi is sure. It’s almost unfair. “He always figures stuff out eventually, you just gotta give him time. But don’t worry! We can play even when we’re totally not talking to each other at all.”

“We’d all prefer you to be talking to each other, Hinata,” Koushi says, exasperated.

“Well, we may have to fight about it first, though.” Hinata shrugs. “But someday I am definitely going to steal his shirts and wear them everywhere, and that’s how it’s going to be. It just may take some time for him to deal with it.”

Koushi wonders if it’s actually their collective lack of intelligence that makes things so easy for these two. He wishes again that he could hate them, and knows he’ll be wishing it even more when they finally get together. Because they will. He’s familiar with that look on Hinata’s face—the universe bends for that look. Kageyama doesn’t stand a chance.

* * *

Being sempai to a bunch of rowdy, unpredictable, accidentally infuriating first and second years would take its toll on a saint, which means that sometimes Koushi has to take a step back and leave it to Asahi and Daichi, both of whom are more likely prospects for sainthood than Koushi will ever be.

Anyway, it can be good to take a step back. He supposes he owes Kageyama for this—the knowledge that sometimes, stepping back and watching the whole court gives you a better feel for what’s happening than being on the court does. They’ve come to have a more or less symbiotic relationship, Koushi and Kageyama—always teaching each other new things. Though it’s anyone’s guess whether Kageyama’s noticed.

Koushi finds himself standing beside Kozume Kenma in a quiet corner—the only available quiet corner, in fact, as the rest of the gym has descended into howling pandemonium. Hinata is pointing accusingly at Kageyama and yelling, Kuroo is laughing at them and threatening to involve himself, Nishinoya is running around waving Tanaka’s abandoned shirt like a flag…and that is all Koushi needs or wants to know about the situation.

At any rate, it’s not the bad kind of pandemonium, so Koushi feels no need to step in. Daichi can handle it. And Kozume obviously never feels the need to step in. Koushi respects and envies that.

“How do you stand it?” Kozume asks in a quiet monotone, not looking up from whatever game he’s playing.

“The chaos?” Koushi asks, keeping his eyes on said chaos, as he gets the idea it makes Kozume uncomfortable when people look at him. He catches Kozume’s shrug out of the corner of his eye.

“Mm. Shouyou’s…thing. With people.” Koushi waits for elaboration while Kozume clears a level. “His…there are always people around him. Kuroo found a team and stopped. With Shouyou…there are always more. And he’s always changing. Always new. It’s interesting, but…exhausting.”

“Ah.” Koushi supposes it is fairly exhausting. “I guess I don’t mind because Hinata’s not my responsibility.”

Kozume side-eyes him dubiously. “Everyone is your responsibility,” he points out.

“Yes,” Koushi admits, because god help him, that is so true. “But Hinata’s not…my personal responsibility, if that makes sense. Like, well, like Kuroo is your personal responsibility, and Asahi and Daichi are mine. But Hinata is Kageyama’s—and vice-versa. So it’s mostly Kageyama’s job to keep up with him and keep him in line and monitor the eight hundred people he knows. I only have to step in when something’s gone really wrong.”

Kozume gives an intrigued hum. After three minutes of contemplative silence, he abruptly murmurs something that sounds like oh, right, and then says, “I can’t tell if Shouyou and Kageyama are dating or not.”

Koushi laughs. When it’s not Hinata making his life surreal, it’s Hinata’s friends. “I have it on good authority that when they are, we’ll know, because Hinata will be wearing Kageyama’s shirts at all times.”

Kozume smirks almost imperceptibly. “Is Shouyou your good authority?”

“Yes. Yes, he is.”

Kozume nods, apparently satisfied. And that’s all the talking they do that day.

Hinata’s friends are very likeable, but also so, so weird. Koushi’s not sure how to feel about the fact that he’s probably one of them.

* * *

It’s a Thursday in November, a couple months away from the Spring Tournament, and Koushi and Michimiya Yui are having coffee and discussing their mutual Daichi problem, as they have almost every Thursday after practice for the past two years. It’s therapeutic.

Well, discussing the Daichi Problem was how it started, anyway. These days their range of complaints is broader, as Michimiya has somehow managed to become one of Koushi’s best friends, which is confusing to them both. And yet undeniably the case. Today they started by complaining about classes, then moved on to volleyball. Michimiya despaired of next year’s leadership and the way the boys’ team was suddenly making the girls look bad, and Koushi nearly broke down on the subject of Hinata and Kageyama’s…everything. And that’s what finally brought them around to the Daichi Problem, which poor Michimiya apparently bravely tried once again to solve on Tuesday. Without success, of course.

“And then he said he was so glad we were friends,” Michimiya moans, clutching at her hair and looking dangerously close to crying in frustration. “God, I don’t know why I’m even surprised. Last year I gave him heart-shaped Valentine’s chocolate, Sugawara, and he said he was glad we were friends then, too! What can I even—?!”

Koushi reaches out and pats her sympathetically on the shoulder. “I once gave him a half-naked massage, and he didn’t notice that, either. He’s the worst.”

“The worst,” Michimiya agrees emphatically. “And at this point I can’t do the confession-by-letter thing, because I’ve spent years making fun of people who do, so he’ll only think I’m joking. No, one of us is just going to have to corner him somewhere private, strip naked, and say, ‘This is what’s on offer! Do you want it or don’t you?!’”

“You know,” Koushi murmurs thoughtfully, “one of us really should try that. Because I’m morbidly curious about whether he could find a way to misinterpret that, too.”

Michimiya gives a despairing little laugh.

“What if he’s just completely asexual?” Koushi speculates grimly. “What if this is all a massive waste of time because he’s never going to be attracted to anyone ever?

“At least then we’d know it wasn’t our fault. And I would take that, Sugawara. At this point, I would take that and be happy about it.”

They both sigh. Koushi orders a piece of cake for them to split. They deserve it. It’s Michimiya’s favorite, though, because she made the effort this time, which means she deserves it more. She notices this and smiles at him.

“You should really call me Yui, you know,” Michimiya suggests after the cake arrives. “We’re love rivals. We have a special bond.”

“…I’m not sure we’re doing love rivalry correctly.”

“Yeah, you’re right. It’s not even a rivalry, is it? Because I would be so proud of you if you actually got him to date you. So proud!”

“Right? I would take you out to a celebratory catching-Daichi dinner.”

“I would buy you celebratory catching-Daichi flowers!”

“So…Yui-chan?”

“Yes,” she says firmly, reaching past the cake and grabbing hold of Koushi’s hands. “Call me that, that’s perfect. Maybe it’ll even make him jealous!”

“Suga, Michimiya,” says Daichi, popping up beside their table like the punchline to a bad joke and eyeing their clasped hands with interest, but no apparent jealousy. Damn him. “I didn’t know you two were dating.”

The ball is apparently in Koushi’s court on this one, because Michimiya has let go of his hands and collapsed laughing on the table, and is thus unable to speak.

“We’re not dating,” Koushi explains. “We’re commiserating.”

Daichi eyes him oddly. “About…?”

Koushi hesitates, and things might have gone differently if Hinata and Kageyama had not chosen this exact moment to pass by the coffee shop.

Hinata is walking backward, beaming, chattering about something, and towing Kageyama along by the front of his jacket. Kageyama has his usual Hinata-specific expression—like he can’t decide whether to be completely charmed or violently annoyed. And Hinata is wearing a long-sleeved shirt that is clearly too big for him.

That is Kageyama’s goddamn shirt, and Koushi refuses to stand for this. He refuses to lose to the first-years in any more aspects of life than he already has.

“We’re commiserating about your stupid face,” Koushi announces, because screw everything, he’s done. And maybe this is one more thing he’s learned from Kageyama and Hinata—sometimes you just have to go for it, and if it all ends in fire and destruction, you find some marshmallows to toast.

Michimiya abruptly stops laughing and stares at him with very wide eyes. He shrugs at her. He’s sorry to drag her under the bus along with him, but really, the situation is way past ridiculous.

“My face?” Daichi asks, puzzled and slightly offended. “What’s wrong with my face?”

“It’s perfect,” Koushi explains. “Your stupid, perfect face is ruining our lives. Be honest, Daichi, who are you attracted to? Boys? Girls? Anyone? Is there something wrong with us specifically? Please just let us know and break our hearts officially. We can’t take the suspense anymore.”

“…You’re joking,” Daichi decides warily.

“Daichi,” Koushi says, deadly serious, “I’m really, really not.”

Daichi does at least know Koushi well enough to recognize a flat-out true statement when he hears one. His jaw drops.

Michimiya continues staring wide-eyed at Koushi while Daichi splutters incoherently off to the side. Then she frowns, viciously slaps her cheeks, shakes her head, and turns to Daichi with a look of terrifying determination. “If you’re having trouble choosing because you like boys and girls,” she says, “and if you like both of us in particular, then Koushi-kun and I would be willing to split up the week.”

Oh, so he’s Koushi-kun now, is he? He hides a smirk behind his coffee cup. “I’ll take weekdays, you get weekends?”

Michimiya nods agreement. “Absolutely. We’ll just have to go to college close to each other. And then it would be best if you two get a job at the same company.”

“We could scandalize everyone.”

“People would be too horrified to tell me about my husband’s wild weekday existence.”

“Meanwhile, your kids would be calling me Uncle Koushi.”

“The neighbors would die.”

They beam happily at each other. This is not the first conversation of this kind that they’ve had. It’s definitely the first they’ve had in front of Daichi, though, and he appears to be going into some kind of apoplectic fit.

Well, at least he’s not oblivious anymore.

“But…but…”

Wow. This is as close to flailing as Koushi has ever seen Daichi. That alone is worth the price of admission.

“I always thought you two would end up together!”

Michimiya and Koushi stare at him for a while, then turn to blink in bafflement at each other.

“…There has been no evidence of that, Sawamura,” Michimiya points out severely.

Daichi scowls and waves impatiently at the table, then makes a gesture that is probably a bad pantomime of hand-holding.

“That was today, Daichi,” Koushi tells him. “You had no evidence until today.”

“You eat together all the time! And you always come here. Alone together!”

“To talk about you.”

Daichi shakes his head, frowning now, almost suspicious. “I’m not good enough for either one of you,” he says firmly. “So I can’t see why you’d be interested in me.”

Oh, God. Of course he would come up with the most adorable reason in the world to be annoyingly oblivious. Michimiya buries her face in her hands and makes a helpless, dying kitten sound. Koushi absently reaches across the table to pat her on the head.

“You’re going to have to let us be the ones to make that call, Daichi,” he says. “We’ve been gone on you for years, anyway, so it’s too late for us to reconsider.”

“But…Michimiya’s been my friend since grade school.”

Michimiya is now making a noise like an enraged coffee grinder, so Koushi fields this question for her. “And she had a crush on you by middle school,” Koushi explains with the last of his patience. “And by now she hardly knows any other way to live.”

“And Suga, you spend much more time with Michimiya than you do with me,” Daichi continues, ignoring any and all rebuttals.

Koushi sighs. “Firstly, that’s not true, although it’s interesting that you think it is. And secondly, I’m just not attracted to women, Daichi.”

“But…Shimizu!”

Koushi throws up his hands in frustration. “Shimizu doesn’t count! Everyone is attracted to Shimizu! Whatever your sexuality is, there’s room in it somewhere for Shimizu because she’s a perfect human. It doesn’t mean anything!”

“That’s true,” Michimiya obligingly agrees, finally looking up again. “Even I’m attracted to Shimizu. And honestly I think I have a better chance with her than either of you do, so. There’s that.”

“Really?” Koushi asks, side-tracked and intrigued. “You think?”

“I do think. She only blushes when she’s talking about her emotions or to pretty girls. Especially pretty, older girls.”

Interesting.”

Daichi looks utterly appalled.

Koushi is starting to suspect that he and Michimiya have gotten into the habit of being a little too honest with each other. It’s a shame he didn’t notice this until Daichi was around to be scandalized by it. Then again, there’s something maliciously satisfying about having Daichi at a complete disadvantage for once.

“That aside,” Koushi declares, back on task, “Daichi. You need to make a decision here, because we can’t take it anymore. You’ve got the options of either one, both, or neither. We’d be fine with any of those choices. Just choose.”

Daichi grabs a chair and manages to collapse into it rather than onto the floor. Koushi is proud. “You’re serious,” Daichi says, apparently only just accepting this.

“So serious,” Koushi agrees.

Daichi props his elbows on the table and puts his head in his hands. Koushi would feel bad, except that this is basically how he’s been feeling about their relationship for at least a year. And Michimiya agrees. He can tell by the way she’s smirking.

“You can’t expect me to believe you’d really be alright with sharing,” Daichi insists, head still in hands.

This is a useful comment, as it lets them know what Daichi wants, which is something that has been extremely unclear up until this very second. “We really would,” Koushi tells him, keeping his voice as calm and reasonable as he can. He’s starting to feel some hope about this, and it’s terrifying him, and he does not want to communicate that terror to Daichi.

Daichi looks up and scowls ferociously. “It would be unfair on you, Suga. Because Michimiya and I could date and be together and get married and no one would think anything of it. We could never admit to you. It wouldn’t be right.”

Of course he goes from zero to ten years down the road. And sure, Koushi and Michimiya did the same thing, but they were mostly joking. Daichi, on the other hand, seems completely sincere. No, seriously, why does he have to be adorable?

“Oh, Daichi,” Koushi says, smiling. “I don’t think I’m the marrying kind. Whether you take me up on this or not, I’ll probably end up being somebody’s disreputable thing on the side. The idea of a full-time relationship with a house and a dog and whatever…I can’t imagine that. Even living with my parents is getting too stressful. When you live with people all the time, you constantly have to watch out for them and worry about them and clean up after them—I need a break sometimes. That’s why Yui-chan and I came up with our amazing plan in the first place. So it’s fine. Don’t worry.”

Daichi still seems extremely dubious. He turns his doubting little face to Michimiya.

“I have always wanted a scandal of my very own,” she informs him brightly. “Also, Koushi-kun and I share well.”

Koushi nods. It’s weird, and he’s still not sure how it happened, but it’s true.

“But I can’t…You really…? Wait, of course you do, you always mean what you say, that’s why you’re both terrifying to know. God, how am I going to explain this to people?” Daichi groans and rubs his forehead.

Koushi and Michimiya beam at each other, because that is the sweet, sweet sound of capitulation.

“Asahi will never be able to look me in the eye again. Oh, God, Kuroo can never find out,” Daichi rambles on in a very tiny, very horrified whisper.

It’s too bad he feels that way, because Koushi estimates that Hinata will figure them out the moment he lays eyes on any of them, and then, because he can’t so much as spell the word discretion, he’ll instantly tell Kozume, which means Kuroo will likely know within the hour.

But there’s no need to further stress out Daichi by mentioning that.

“You worry too much, Sawamura!” Michimiya says brightly, violently punching Daichi in the arm.

“You may as well start calling me Daichi, too,” he replies. “Also, ow.”

It occurs to Koushi that he and Michimiya are both, well. Mildly violent people. Poor Daichi is going to be wandering around with light bruising basically all the time.

And…that thought should definitely not be turning Koushi on, but there it is. He wants to suck a bruise onto Daichi’s chest and then take a pen and label it his. There’s probably something wrong with him. And he doubts Michimiya is any better.

Daichi has no idea what he’s signed up for. But he did sign up for it, and that means he’ll just have to deal with the consequences.

On that thought, Koushi decides to test Daichi out a little, because this still seems too good to be true. He wants to kick the tires on this new phase of their relationship before he decides it’s safe to be happy about it. Luckily, the tables in this café are all surrounded by low walls, so no one will know what they’re up to as long as they stay seated and quiet.

Well, no one except people walking by on the sidewalk—presumably that’s how Daichi spotted them in the first place. But this is a quiet street, and most people don’t stare in the windows of cafés, and anyway Koushi’s just about run out of the ability to care. So he decides not to worry about it and starts slowly trailing his fingers up Daichi’s arm.

Daichi jumps and stares, but he doesn’t flinch, scream, or flee, so that’s promising.

Michimiya, not to be outdone, starts trailing her fingers up Daichi’s other arm with an alarming grin.

Daichi doesn’t seem to know where to look or how to behave. Still, he doesn’t seem unhappy, either, so Koushi just keeps going when he reaches Daichi’s shoulder, sliding his hand across Daichi’s back and under Michimiya’s hand, because she’s kept on mirroring him. He thought she would. They keep going until they’ve got Daichi pretty firmly wrapped up between them, and then Michimiya kisses his cheek at the same time Koushi kisses his neck.

Daichi still isn’t reacting to any of this, possibly because he’s frozen in shock, but his breathing has gone fast and hard. Koushi and Michimiya pull back enough to smile at each other in mutual, cat-like satisfaction.

It’s at this point that Koushi catches movement out of the corner of his eye and turns to see Hinata and Kageyama’s horrible little faces pressed up against the glass. Kageyama just looks deeply confused, but Hinata is grinning like a pumpkin. Why.

“KAGEYAMA! HINATA!” Daichi bellows abruptly, extracting himself from Koushi and Michimiya and charging out of the café, ignoring the widespread murmuring among customers and complaints from staff that follow him.

Kageyama’s eyes go wide, Hinata mouths, Oh, shit, and they both bolt down the street with Daichi in hot pursuit.

“Ah,” sighs Michimiya happily. “Romance.”

Koushi beams at her. “I believe I owe you a catching-Daichi dinner, Yui-chan. Shall we?”

He holds out his arm and she takes it, beaming back at him. “I’ll bring you your catching-Daichi flowers tomorrow, Koushi-kun!”

They walk calmly out of the café in perfect harmony, firmly pretending they had nothing to do with any of the recent chaos.

* * *

The bad news is, Sawamura-san isn’t the captain for nothing—he chased them for miles. The good news is, no one on the team has better stamina than Shouyou and Kageyama, and they lost him eventually. Even if they are totally exhausted now, and halfway to Shouyou’s house, besides. And that means they have to walk all the way back into town so Shouyou can get his bike. And also so Kageyama can, you know, go home. What a pain.

But true love won out! That has to count for something, even if the captain is totally ungrateful and Shouyou is so, so scared to go to practice tomorrow. This is all his mom’s fault, and it makes it worse that she’s only going to laugh at him about it.

“I hope you’re happy. Because tomorrow we’re going to die,” Kageyama hisses bitterly, still breathing hard from the run.

There’s something about Kageyama breathing hard. Shouyou isn’t sure why, but it makes him feel funny in a good way and he likes it. So he smiles, even though that will definitely irritate Kageyama. He likes irritated Kageyama, too. “We were a big help!” he insists. “We made sure the captain went to that café today.”

“Yeah, because we lied to him.”

“We did not! We said Sugawara-san had something to tell him, and he did.”

“It doesn’t count if Sugawara-san didn’t want to tell him.”

“Except he totally did want to tell him, he was just scared.”

“He was not.”

“Was too.”

“God, shut up.”

Kageyama is a very ungracious loser. And he’d be even worse about it, except that they’d agreed at the beginning that this was Mom’s game, not Shouyou’s, so it didn’t count against anybody’s win/loss totals.

“I still don’t get how you and me pretending to be dating helped at all,” Kageyama complains, because he can always find something to complain about. He’s creative.

Shouyou blinks at him, considering, and then smiles his very evilest smile. He’s proud to see that it makes Kageyama look a little worried. “Who said anything about pretending?”

Uh oh. Looks like he straight-up broke Kageyama with that one.

Right, so maybe he pushed a little fast with that, but he’s in a hurry, okay? He’s only got so long before his mom notices he wants Kageyama, and then…well, then he’ll have Kageyama, and neither of them will know how it even happened. It feels like cheating, is the thing. He wants to talk Kageyama into liking him on his own, by himself. It would just…it would feel more real that way. Anyway, he never used to think about it when he was little, but these days the way everything he wants just shows up before he hardly knows he wants it is starting to creep him out.

Well, things show up as long as Mom thinks they’re good for him, anyway. If he wants something Mom thinks is bad for him, he can equally quickly forget about ever, ever having it.

Natsu handles Mom so much better than Shouyou does, and she’s not even ten. It’s hurtful.

But yeah. All this is probably why, even before volleyball, he was so into sports. Mom can’t exactly hand him athleticism, can she? And he talked her out of helping him find teammates in middle school because he wanted to do it himself. (And look how that turned out. Not that she ever said a thing about it. She almost even seemed proud? It was weird.)

Anyway, he’s gotten Mom to agree that sports are all his. But romance has always been all hers, and that’s why he’s been dreading puberty for years. Kageyama, though—he’s a grey area. Like, does Mom consider Kageyama sports territory or not? God, Shouyou hopes so.

For now, he just pats Kageyama soothingly on the back and promises it will all make sense in the end. When three minutes go by and Kageyama’s still freaking out, Shouyou rolls his eyes, grabs Kageyama by the elbow, and drags him to the gym. If he’s so determined to have a meltdown, he can at least make himself useful while he’s doing it.

Kageyama seems relieved to play, too. Setting, he understands, but people honestly seem to scare him sometimes. Like everyone’s just such a big mystery, and Kageyama’s always walking around in the dark, crashing into things, never able to tell what’s coming next. But volleyball’s safe. Except for when people ruin that for him, too. Man, he should have done some kind of individual sport.

Shouyou always tries to be easy to understand—for everyone’s sake, not just Kageyama’s. Lots of people appreciate predictability and stuff. Shouyou knows this because he lives with his mom, who is impossible to predict and scares even him sometimes, and that’s with him knowing for sure that she loves him. He doesn’t want to scare people like that. No, Shouyou’s more like his dad, and he likes it that way—totally unable to hide his feelings. (Though, unlike Shouyou, Dad’s feelings are usually just a mix of irritation, exasperation, and fondness for his family. So he’s like a better-adjusted Kageyama, basically.)

So yeah, being easy to understand is a good plan usually? But sometimes obvious is maybe not best. Like now, when Shouyou went straight for the jump-scare with his feelings, and it turns out he should’ve been all sneaky about it. Oh, well. Too late now.

He jumps up and spikes one of Kageyama’s perfect, perfect sets, and it’s hard to feel too upset about anything. He’ll figure out this relationship stuff soon enough, and they’ll be fine. They’re always fine in the end. Kageyama always waits for him.

And hey, maybe he’ll ask Sugawara-san for relationship advice. Seems only fair.