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Happy Birthday, Idiot

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“That ends the practice!” Daichi announced loudly, followed by a few cheers. It really turned out to be exhausting today. Hinata was completely out of breath, spreading on the floor like a star on the bottom of the sea. Cold parquet soothed his burning skin, cooling it a bit, and draft between windows and doors ruffled his hair, relaxing him only slightly. He closed his eyes, inhaled and exhaled deeply. Hinata suddenly heard some gasps from the side and turned his head to have a look — it was Kageyama, leaning onto the wall and covering his mouth with his hand in attempt to hide coughing. His eyes were shut tightly and it looked as if he was in pain. Hinata frowned. Kageyama acted weird today — he was late to school, avoided contacting any people (well, okay, that wasn’t particularly unusual) and even tried to stay out of the 3-on-3 match they held a few minutes ago. He seemed to be more annoyed and irritated yet more tired than ever. Hinata has never seen him like this; basically nothing could suppress his passion towards volleyball. He was about to voice his concerns when Kageyama finally stood straight, clearing his throat, and… left. He just sneaked into the cloakroom while nobody was watching. Did he want to get a head start or something? Not likely. Kageyama never objected Daichi, and they only could go away when he allows them to.

Maybe he was sick?

Hinata shook his head. He hasn’t known Kageyama for really long, but he did seem healthy and immune to different minor illnesses, which always troubled Hinata during winter. He didn’t even seem human to begin with, though.

Hinata waited for him to come back and listen to Daichi as they usually did after each practice (coach Ukai was absent today, along with Takeda-sensei) when he remembered there was another way out of the gym from the locker room. So did he really leave like this?

“Oi, Hinata, you’re gonna catch a cold! Get your ass over here!” Tanaka shouter, and Hinata noticed that everybody had already gathered in front of the net. He stumbled up and ran over there, still wondering about what made Kageyama go away.

“Where’s Kageyama?” Nishinoya asked curiously, and everyone looked around making sure that the setter wasn’t around.

“Oh my, our golden boy left the practice without a permission,” Tsukishima grinned, and Hinata couldn’t help but clench his fists. Yamaguchi gave him an apologizing glance.

“Hinata, did he tell you anything before he left?” Daichi asked and the whole team looked his way. If anything, Kageyama was spending more time with him than with anyone else, so they all expected him to know him better. The feeling of not living up to their expectations was… pushing him down.

“N-no, he didn’t,” he managed, feeling his cheeks pinking. And it was certainly… weird.

“Well, we’re lucky then, I guess,” Daichi said lightly, grinning a bit. All teammates raised their heads, simultaneously tilting them to the right just a bit, like some nosy confused crows. Team spirit truly is a wonderful thing.

“How come?” Ennochita wondered.

“Because he’d better not hear a word of what we’re about to tell you,” warned them the Captain, still smiling innocently. 

The hint was received.

“So what’s going on?” Asahi asked.

“It’s Kageyama’s birthday tomorrow,” said Suga, causing a wave of different reactions flow through the team.

“He has a birthday?!” Hinata blurted out. How could he have not known when Kageyama’s birthday is?! He never gave it a second thought; yet again, Kageyama didn’t really like talking about himself and always changed the topic somehow whenever Hinata wanted to find out something about him. But he was stubborn and always kept trying.

And now it was such a shock — for the fact that it’s Kageyama’s birthday the next day to be suddenly shoved in his face, like all those balls he actually managed to get with it.

The whole team looked at him questioningly, although it seemed they had roughly the same thought on their minds.

Kageyama has a birthday.

“It’s all thanks to Kiyoko who was looking through the files and noticed it,” their manager nodded, holding some papers close to her chest. Yachi was absent because of some short one-day trip with her mother, and their current manager seemed… a bit more absent-minded and worried than usual. “And we have to decide how are we going to congratulate him and celebrate it,” Suga finished, after waiting for the first initial astonishment to pass.

“Do we really have to?” Tsukishima asked with a hint of boredom in his voice, but Asahi shot him a glaze that made him swallow the unwanted words back into his throat. Being all softhearted and easily scared, their Ace tended to let people forget how actually big he was and how frightening he could be when it came to standing up for the Captain or his teammates. Hinata smirked.

“Yes, we do,” Daichi commented, already noticing the change in Tsukishima’s mood.

“We’ll throw a party!” Tanaka shouted loudly with his arms up. Before Daichi could object or say anything at all about this idea, Nishinoya jumped in with a ridiculously wide grin on his face.

“Yeah! A party! Sounds awesome!” he gestured wildly. “We can invite everyone from the club and some girls…”

“No strange girls, Nishinoya.”

“…and we could bake a cake and do karaoke…”

“Bake? And how exactly are you…”

“…and get some petards to launch ‘em from the school roof…”

“What? No, no way we’re going to…”

“…and watch a scary movie…”

“Why? Why in the world would you…”

“…and grab some pizza…”

“Silence!” Daichi declared a bit louder than usual. Tanaka and Nishinoya were almost jumping in excitement in front of each other, shooting out the ideas, while Hinata’s eyes lit up. They could actually make it happen! They could celebrate Kageyama’s birthday, give him a nice present and maybe, maybe erase that dreadful glare from his face for a while!

They both shut up instantly. Daichi looked at them sternly, but didn’t tell them off.

“It sounds good,” Suga pointed out. He laughed and added: “Except for the petards and the scary movie, of course.”

Disappointed whines escaped Tanaka and Nishinoya’s mouths. But Hinata was truly relieved. He remembered how did the last scary movie evening with Karasuno go, and he remembered too well what happened afterwards. Plus he was absolutely sure that Kageyama wouldn’t approve it as well. Thankfully.

“We can arrange everything right here in the gym, instead of or after the practice,” Yamaguchi suggested.

“I— I could bake a cake if you want,” Asahi offered quietly, his face pinking a bit. Hinata gasped. Asahi could bake? His admiration towards their Ace fired up with growing insistence.

“Don’t worry, I can help you with that,” Suga patted his shoulder. “I know something about it, too.” Tsukishima, Tanaka and Nishinoya were choking while trying to swallow back their laughter, but Daichi’s penetrating glare made them stop.

“I can bring karaoke,” Tanaka snickered. “I’m an excellent singer, ya know.”

The third-years’ twitched, their expressions clearly saying: We’re dead.

“Pizza is on me!” Nishinoya declared loudly, as if challenging anyone who might’ve wanted to object. “I’m his senpai, after all!” Hinata grinned. Nishinoya would be a senpai for everyone who called him so. And although Kageyama rarely did, he was still his friend and teammate.

“Kageyama doesn’t really seem like a party person, you know,” Tsukishima suddenly interrupted, causing a wave of confusion and shock ripple across all the Karasuno members. His face flinched as he awkwardly readjusted the glasses, covering his cheeks for a few seconds. Something was definitely off with people today.

“It’s not that difficult to notice, mind you. He doesn’t seem to like any human interactions apart from volleyball whatsoever. Do you really think his idea of a birthday celebration is a party?”

Hinata couldn’t help but admit that he had a point. No one could be sure about how Kageyama would react to that. What if he doesn’t like it? Or even worse — what if he gets mad? Then his running skills and small size would actually turn out to be quite handy. Even the slightest memory of Kageyama’s face after that serve into his head still gave him creeps and beads of sweat on his forehead.
Tanaka and Nishinoya grinned loudly.

“Don’t ya worry about that!” Tanaka shouted with confidence.

“That little jerk just hasn’t been at our parties yet!” Nishinoya yelled. Hinata, being all excited and amazed by his senpai, ignored “the little jerk” coming from Nishinoya.

“We’re going to make him love it,” they both finished in unison, smiling like maniacs.

Well, that was scary. Ennochita and Yamaguchi even stepped back unconsciously.

But Hinata liked it.

“I’m in!” he announced happily. He trusted Tanaka and Nishinoya and everyone else, he knew they’d find a way to make it an awesome celebration! And he was ready to do everything he could to help.

“That’s the spirit!” Nishinoya clapped him on his back, Tanaka just laughed creepily. Tense atmosphere dissolved, and Karasuno all nodded in agreement.

Daichi exhaled, relieved.

“It’s set, then. But,” he instantly interrupted surging cheers and fussing, “we still have to decide about the present.”

That caught the team’s attention. Hinata frowned. That was probably the most troublesome aspects of all. The thing is, he had no idea what to give him. Not at all. He wanted it to be special, something reminding him of volleyball as of his main passion, yet connected to Karasuno as well.
He might as well smack himself with a ball in his face to make his brain finally work!

Oh.

Oh.

“You look as if you’ve swallowed a lightning bolt,” Tsukishima noticed. “What is it with all this shining on your face?”

“I—“ the words stuck in his throat, because he couldn’t get over the fact of just how brilliant he was sometimes. “I think I have an idea,” he finally brought out, capturing the team’s attention instantly.

“We’re all yours,” Suga encouraged him, stepping closer with an interested smile on his face. Hinata took a deep breath and started explaining what he had on his mind.

 

About thirty minutes later Hinata was already outside, unlocking his bike. They discussed their plan, divided the responsibilities, contacted Takeda-sensei and decided to meat on the morning practice as usual to finish preparations. Everything was going to be perfect. He gasped when a gust of cool wind washed over him, flapping his t-shirt and gently touching his wet feverish skin. He inhaled fresh air, slowly exhaling it afterwards while getting on his bicycle. It smelled of ozone, and the ground was wet, so it probably rained a bit while they were discussing the further plans for Kageyama’s birthday. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Hopefully the weather won’t be bad tomorrow.

Sounds of pedaling calmed him down a bit. They saw to everything — food, place, time and a present. Oh, Hinata was just beyond excited about it! He was itching to see Kageyama’s expression when he’ll get his gift! It was quite promising!

He couldn’t help but get a bit worried, though. Some bad feeling was bothering him, gnawing his mind and painfully tugging his chest. He didn’t like it. His bad forebodings didn’t have a habit of coming true, but this particular one was just chomping his head to pieces and prickling under his skin. That’s why he wasn’t actually riding home — he asked Kiyoko-san to give him Kageyama’s address from the club files after almost everyone else was gone. She didn’t hesitate for a moment, just wrote it on a piece of paper and handed over to him, for which he was really grateful. He still wasn’t sure about the whole idea of coming to his place without an invitation, Kageyama could just kick him out. And Hinata really didn’t want it to come to that, but he just couldn’t rest until he finds out what’s going on. Maybe Kageyama will even tell him why he left earlier.

It was drizzling a bit, and cold drops seemed to pierce his skin with every touch. He winced but kept pedaling. Kageyama’s house was practically in the opposite direction of his own, but not that far from school. So after a few minutes of biking and rushing through different unpleasant thoughts in his mind he was incredibly glad to hide from the empowering rain under the roof. He sneezed, almost dropping his bike to the ground. Ouch. Hopefully he wouldn’t get a cold or something.

Hinata parked the bicycle and ran up to the door. He checked the address twice. When he finally raised his hand to the door it froze in midair for a few seconds; he was really unsure about what in the world was he doing, but since he did come here, it was kind of stupid to leave even without trying. So he inhaled deeply and knocked four times.

Hinata didn’t hear anything except for the soft calming murmur of rain, yet after just a few seconds the door opened and he saw a woman standing in the doorframe. She was quite beautiful and reminded him of Kiyoko a little — dark hair and dark blue eyes, but he instantly realized that she must’ve been Kageyama’s mother; they were much alike, but her expression was more welcoming and gentle then his. They had the same sharp features and Hinata also noticed the way she narrowed her eyes, just like Kageyama when he was annoyed, suspicious or studying someone.

“Um, hello,” she said, breaking the awkward silence. Hinata probably looked too stunned and messy, with his wet hair sticking to his head and his pants a bit dirty because of the muds he was driving through. “Who are you?”

Hinata finally woke up from his daze and bowed clumsily, trying to be polite, but almost fell and managed to hold on to the doorframe. Kageyama’s mother helped him up.

“S-sorry,” he managed, chattering with his teeth. “I’m sorry f-for an unexpected visit. I’m Kageyama’s friend and…” the way her eyes widened and her eyebrows suddenly bent in an arch made him stop. Did I say something wrong?

“You’re what?” she repeated, totally confused and lost, judging by the unbelieving expression on her face. Hinata gulped. Kageyama’s mother seemed to have a hard time believing him and… and that was like a punch in a stomach. Didn’t Kageyama at least tell her about him? Something? Anything at all?

Or was in the fact that he called himself Kageyama’s friend?

“I’m his friend,” he repeated stubbornly. “I’m in the same volleyball club with him.”

Her expression darkened like the sky before the storm. Hinata was at loss of words. It was like stumbling through the minefield; one wrong step — dead. And seeing how much Kageyama was alike his mother he probably took his glares after her as well, and Hinata didn’t feel like experiencing them.

“Oh,” she gasped. “Oh wait, aren’t you Hinata? Hinata Shouyou?”

He signed in relief. Hinata was just about to open his mouth to confirm it but his nose suddenly itched and he sneezed loudly.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, come in!” she urged and basically pushed him in. Hinata stumbled into the hall, mumbling thanks and rubbing his face. It was pleasantly warm inside after the coolness of rain and icy wind needles. Plus the lights weren’t too bright. He didn’t get a chance to look around when Kageyama’s mother took his arm and lead him to the kitchen, grabbing a towel from the bathroom on her way there.

“Here,” she threw it at him without even looking back and he caught it on a reflex. It was soft and nice against his cold skin. He tried drying his hair a bit too, then put the towel aside and thanked the woman.

“You’re welcome,” she said, gesturing him to come to the table where there already was a cup of hot tea waiting for him. The sight of vapor above the cup made him want to grab it with his hands and warm his fingers up. “Come on, get over here,” she told him, pointing at the seat in front of hers. Hinata hesitated.

“I’m very grateful for your hospitality, missis, but I'm afraid I can't stay for long…” it was already darkening outside of the window.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to take long,” she told him gently and smiled. Maybe Kageyama looked like her, but their characters had nothing in common. “You’re shivering. Have a cup of tea, or you’ll follow the steps of your friend, now lying in bed feverish.”

Something broke inside Hinata’s chest.

“He fell sick?” he asked, and was genuinely surprised by the tone of his voice it came out with. He might’ve as well asked how many people died after the Apocalypse like that. Kageyama’s mother seemed to notice it as well, her expression softening and… being astonished? He didn’t really get it. Why would she be?

“Yes, quite so,” she agreed, as he made his way over to the table, climbed onto the chair and took the cup in his hands. Small sigh of relieved escaped his lips — the porcelain was pleasantly hot and made blood move in his fingers again. “He barely made it here, I though he was going to cough himself outside out. He’s been sick for a while, and I asked him to stay out of school, I told him to, but he’s too obsessed with the practice. Well, now I’m going to keep him suspended from it for a week, and that’s at least,” she sounded annoyed and upset yet a bit… mischievous. And Hinata thought Kageyama was the only one weird in his family.

“Is it really bad?” he asked, forgetting that he actually wanted to drink some tea as well.

“I think the worst stage will pass tonight. It’s just a cold, nothing serious, but he was putting up with it for too long. And I was too busy at work to actually lock him inside the house and keep here.“ She was definitely blaming herself for what happened, and Hinata couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. This woman raised Kageyama and has been living with him for years, so she was automatically his hero.

“He can be really stubborn sometimes,” he grinned with the corners of his lips, when she pointed at the cup and reminded him to drink. The tea was sweet and tasted of honey and wild berries. Hinata relaxed a bit more. Hot liquid was filling his body, providing him with warmth and rest. His thoughts went a bit dizzy.

“Oh yes,” she nodded. “Trust me, I know it better than anyone else. His father is away on a business trip and dealing with him on my own can be a torture sometimes,” there was an awkward pause and Hinata wondered why was she even telling him that. “But he wasn’t always like this.”
Oh. Here comes the topic.

“Junior high?” he asked, looking up and meeting her eyes. Eyes full of pain.

“Did he tell you about it?” Kageyama’s mother asked, studying him carefully. It didn’t exactly help him to open up, but words just spilled out of his mouth when he was talking to her.

“No,” he shook his head. “But everyone knows the basics. The nickname. The last match—“ the woman winced as if chewing something bitter. The tea lost its taste in Hinata’s mouth.

“He never tells anyone,” she signed. “That’s too bad. Those three years were… the hardest, I suppose,” Hinata stayed quiet, silently urging her to keep going. “I guess I shouldn’t talk about him behind his back, but he did tell me about you,” their eyes met again, and Hinata saw genuine curiosity glistening in the blue orbs. “And so did Daichi. I didn’t dare expect him to find such a good teammate and friend in high school,” she smiled sweetly, making Hinata’s cheeks burn. What exactly did Kageyama tell his mother about him?

“He can surely be a great pain in the ass sometimes,” he blurted out, but then shut down. “I’m sorry. I mean… yes, he has a difficult character, but… I just… I don’t care as long as he plays with me and tosses to me,” he raised his head, and the words were jumping right from his tongue without even going through any sort of brain control. “The rest will come. And he’s not even that bad, you know — he’s an incredible player and I kind of look up to him and the way he tosses is just so amazing and unbelievable and…” he was interrupted by soft laughter flowing from the woman’s lips. She looked amused and delighted, you couldn’t even imagine her being always grumpy Kageyama’s mother at the moment. Hinata just stared at her, feeling his cheeks prickling with heat. He should really control his tongue better. “I—I’m sorry, that was too much—

“No-no, it’s fine!” she assured him. “You are just so adorable, Hinata,” she smiled yet again. “I’m really glad that my son has such a nice boy beside him. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

It somehow made Hinata feel proud and… embarrassed. He didn’t quite know what to say, but she saved him.

“So why did you come?” she wondered. “You didn’t know he was sick and he didn’t invite you, as far as I’m aware.”

Hinata definitely wasn’t going to tell her that he had a feeling that something was wrong and rushed here because of it; he didn’t admit it himself. He just wanted to make sure Kageyama will be able to come to celebrate his own birthday tomorrow and probably ask him why did he leave early, that’s all.

But now he was finally struck by a realization that all the preparations were practically in vain, since Kageyama obviously couldn’t attend any party tomorrow.

And they only just arranged everything. It seemed so unfair. His fists clenched, and Kageyama’s mother took notice of that.

“What’s wrong?” she asked gently. He got his courage after a few seconds, trying to keep his voice steady.

“It-it’s his birthday tomorrow, and we wanted to celebrate it with him and the whole team, we planned everything and prepared but…” his throat betrayed him, making some subdued whimpering noises. The woman’s eyes lit up.

“How did you know about his birthday?” she asked, utterly shocked.

“Um, our club manager found it in the files.”

“And you wanted to celebrate it? Together? With the whole team?” she might’ve as well been asking him if they were going to fly in outer space.

“Well, yeah,” Hinata answered. “Why not? Didn’t he celebrate his birthdays with his friends and teammates in juni…” it hit him even before he finished his question. What an idiot he had been all the time!

That’s why Kageyama’s mother reacted in such a way. Kageyama had neither teammates nor friends in junior high; he didn’t have anyone to celebrate his birthday with apart from his parents. They only put up with him on court, and not all the time. They called him the King, but the only thing he did own was that stupid crown put on his head by the others. Hinata used to consider it a cool nickname, then he knew about some certain downsides of it, but only now did he realize the actual point. The crown hadn't only separated and emitted him on the court, but it also isolated him in real life. That’s why his mother was so surprised when he called himself his friend without even thinking about it. That must be more than a great deal for her. And that was the reason why Kageyama was sometimes so… Kageyama. In a bad sort of way. That’s why he wanted to be capable of playing alone, not relying on anyone and not cooperating. He was afraid that everything would be the same in high school. He was scared that he would put some hopes into people, and they will turn all his expectations in ashes yet again.

But Hinata wouldn’t say that Kageyama considered himself a prodigy. He might’ve been arrogant, but not that proud. He only…

Jump higher! Move faster! Match my tosses if you want to win!

…thought that the others weren’t trying hard enough.

Hinata was so engrossed in thinking about it over and over that he didn’t even notice when his hand relaxed and dropped the cup on his laps.

“Aaarghhh!” he cried quietly, and Kageyama’s mom instantly took the cup away from him, soaked another towel in cold water and gave it to him. Hinata pressed in against the burnt skin of his knees and caviars where the tea spilled, but it wasn’t that bad since the liquid had already cooled down.

“Are you alright?” the woman asked with pure concern in her voice, and Hinata nodded.

“’m sorry,” he told her.

“It’s okay, you didn’t even break it,” she shrugged.

“No. About… about Kageyama. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

She didn’t say anything for a while, holding the towel on his leg.

“I’m just glad that Karasuno is different. I’m glad that you are different,” she took the towel away, blew on his reddened skin softly and stood up. “He might change with you around as well. You have a good influence on him, it’s already visible. Just…” it seemed like she was plucking up her courage as well. She sat in front of him and took his hands in hers. “Don’t leave his side, please. I know he can be difficult sometimes, but he’s better with you around. I only wish for him to be happy, and he can hide it as long and as hard as he wants, but I know that he’s happy while playing volleyball, and even more happy when he’s playing volleyball with you,” her grip tightened a little. “He didn’t tell me much about you, Hinata, but it’s obvious for a mother. I know a caring person when I see one,” she looked him straight into the eyes, and his body went numb. On one hand, her gaze was soft and gentle, not pressing, but on the other… determined and stubborn just as Kageyama’s. “And you care about him, don’t you?”

He didn’t have the guts to lie. There was so much hope in her eyes that she could’ve drowned him in it. And she didn’t seem like a person who’d betray his trust. She truly wanted Kageyama to be happier.

And so did Hinata.

“Y-yes,” he murmured, nodding very slightly and feeling as if his cheeks were on fire. She smiled satisfyingly and pulled away. Hinata exhaled and accidentally glanced at the window.

“It’s so late!” he jumped up from the chair, searching for his phone. “I have to go home and warn the others…” his hand finally touched smooth surface of the screen when Kageyama’s mother called out:

“You could all come here, you know”. Hinata almost dropped his mobile on the floor.

“We could?” he asked doubtfully.

“Of course I wouldn’t allow you to have a party or hang out over here,” she said sternly, “but you could all congratulate him, I don’t mind. In fact, I think if you could manage that, it’d be wonderful for him,” she smiled her sweetest and honest smile, and Hinata gasped happily.

“Really?!”

“Really,” she nodded, but then suddenly furrowed her eyebrows. “Although, that might not be my best idea, since cold is contagious after all, and…”

“No-no-no, it’s fine!” Hinata protested, fishing out his phone out of the pocket. Falling sick because of Kageyama was the last thing he worried about, and he was sure that his teammates would agree. They wouldn’t be able to stay for long anyway. “I gotta call them all!” It seemed like some wheels in his chest started moving again. They could still manage to celebrate it somehow! And give Kageyama his present! And maybe even help him to get better!

“Shush, please, keep it down,” Kageyama’s mother asked, pressing her index finger against her lips. Hinata nodded enthusiastically, covering him mouth and calling Daichi. He explained him the situation, got his approval after a few minutes of persuasion, since Daichi was afraid to bring Tanaka and Nishinoya and bother Kageyama that much, and asked him to warn everyone else.

“Yes!” he exclaimed, hanging up. “We’ll come tomorrow in the evening!”

“Nice!” Kageyama’s mother cheered. “Thank you for arranging this, Hinata.”

“U-um, thank you for letting us come!” he grinned widely and bowed fast, making the woman laugh. It was interrupted by a loud thunder peal, followed by a flash from the lightning cutting through pitch-black air of the night.

Oh right. He still had to bike home.

“I-I’m sorry, I should really go now—”

“What do you mean?” she asked. “It’s so late and there’s a storm outside. You can sleep over here.”

Oh-oh.

“I don’t really want to disturb you—“

“Of course you won’t disturb me!” she urged. “We have a spare futon in the room next to Kageyama’s, I’ll make it for you. Besides, you two had a sleepover already, so it’s not a big deal, right?”

Hinata flinched and tensed, feeling as if all his muscles suddenly turned into stone. He forgot that Kageyama actually called him mother when staying at his place, and he did call Hinata his friend, but hearing about it from her… It kind of came out in a wrong way. His face must’ve been expressing some utterly mixed emotions, because Kageyama’s mother was fighting a smile.

Still, the potential ride home through the storm in the night or staying for a sleepover in Kageyama’s house… He wasn’t even sure which option was actually more dangerous.

He didn’t want to refuse; yet he definitely wasn’t planning on staying here when he came.

“I-I don’t really know—“

“Just call your parents!” she told him while disappearing around the corner, apparently, going to make him a futon.

Oh well. At least he wouldn’t have to bike through the storm and possibly die because of that. But he’ll definitely have to leave early in the morning before Kageyama wakes up.

He didn’t need to warn his parents since they were away for a few days, staying over at their aunt's. His house was empty. Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t possibly imagine biking under the heavy rain with thunder and lightning for like forty minutes and then having to sleep in a deserted house. He’ll simply wake up earlier than Kageyama tomorrow, that’s all.

He was nervously curling and uncurling his toes while waiting for Kageyama’s mother to return and took that time to feel the interior and the atmosphere of this place. It was cozy, yet neater and more balanced out than his own home. That roughly lived up to his expectations. Every thing was where it’s supposed to be, all in order and clean.

He wondered what Kageyama’s room was like.

“Done!” Kageyama’s mother proclaimed, entering the kitchen. “It’s over there, second door to the right. Bathroom is the one to the left; I put there a spare towel and a toothbrush. I also chose some of his clothes — well you’re definitely not going to sleep in that — I think it’d fit you. The smallest I’ve found,” she grinned softly. “Do you need anything else?”

Hinata was just standing there, completely overwhelmed with what was happening. Kageyama’s mother took such care of him it was just too much to take in; and here we was, ready to go and actually sleep over at Kageyama’s place, basically in the next room.

“N-no, thank you very much!” he bowed again. “And, um, please wake me up earlier tomorrow, I don’t want to surprise him this much.”
Hinata would simply be embarrassed to death if Kageyama found out.

“Sure! Good night!” she waved him.

“Good night!” And Hinata headed to the rooms. 

 

It felt so weird that Hinata could barely believe it was actually happening. He paid his first visit to Kageyama’s house, uninvited, without even Kageyama himself being aware of his presence, and there he was, staying for the night. Hinata was trying to grasp the situation while walking to the bathroom. He was actually really physically tired and mentally exhausted by all the emotions still roaming through him, so he was grateful for a possibility to stay here. Although there were some thoughts in his mind that if the lightning couldn’t strike him in his head now, Kageyama was still capable of that in the morning.

Not that he intended to let him know that he’s here, right?

Hinata didn’t notice, but he held his breath when passing by Kageyama’s room. Everything was quiet, only his shuffling steps were breaking the silence. He crept into the bathroom and locked the door.

Hinata found a promised towel with a toothbrush, along with some pajamas. He took those and discovered a warm dark blue shirt and trousers; nothing really fancy, but clean, still smelling of soap. He wasn’t sure if he should really wear it — it was Kageyama’s pajamas — but the latter’s mother was probably right. Hinata definitely didn’t want to sleep in his cloth, dirty and wet after the rain. Perhaps Kageyama wouldn’t be mad about that.

Of course he wouldn’t, because he doesn’t know, Hinata told himself, pulling a shirt over his head. He quickly changed his trousers as well, stretching his arms afterwards and looking in the mirror. The sleeves were still a little too long, and the trousers went almost to the ground, tickling his heels. The fabric was soft, and he liked the color. It reminded him of Kageyama’s eyes a bit.

His own eyes widened as he realized what he was thinking about. Hinata turned to the tap and splashed some cold water across his face in order to cool his buzzing nerves. That was something new, when did he grow to like Kageyama’s eye color? The pajamas became surprisingly heavy on his shoulders. He had very mixed feelings about the whole situation, he couldn’t get himself together, even his own thoughts scared him. And now this. He should just go to sleep already. It was probably the lateness of the evening and the tiredness that kept pushing stupid ideas up to the surface of his mind. Sick tugging feeling in his stomach didn’t have to do anything with it at all.

Hinata brushed his teeth as quietly as he could (yet he still managed to splash the mirror, although he did try to clean it afterwards) and crept out of the bathroom. The door to Kageyama’s room looked like gates to forbidden gardens of something; he was wondering what’s inside, how the atmosphere feels like and, most importantly, what was wrong with Kageyama. He didn’t want to admit it, even to himself, but some part of his brain just kept telling him don’t be such a fool and stop denying the obvious, so he just decided to let it go for now. Silence in the hall was pressing him; Kageyama's mother probably went to sleep already. Darkness, which was sipping through the corners, and quietness around him made Hinata think about that very sleepover, mentioned earlier. It wasn’t the best time, but his ears pinked. He remembered waking up particularly good — he somehow managed to nuzzle into Kageyama’s chest and throw an arm and a leg over him. Jeez, that was embarrassing. He could only thank the gods for Kageyama being asleep back then and hope that he didn’t wake up through the night. But when his trail of thoughts reached the cause of that sleepover in the first place — and that was the goddamn horror movie — Hinata’s instincts kicked in and he crept to another room, sneaked in it and closed the door carefully.

His room, at least his for tonight, was quite cozy in a way, but seemed abandoned. The futon caught his gaze first, and the blankets looked so warm and welcoming that his eyes started to close instantly. But Hinata bravely shook his head and decided to check the room first.

There was a table near the window, filled with lots of paper, books, notebooks and all sort of things that he would usually associate with school. A cupboard stood near the table, also piled with different books. Maybe it was a working place of some sort? But there were slight trails of dust — perhaps Kageyama’s mother cleaned it just a few minutes ago while preparing the futon? Hinata came closer to have a look at the paperwork — he found a few Kageyama’s old exercise books, his father’s business notes with lots of stuff he didn’t understand, cooking recipes and much more. Kageyama’s notes took his interest. His handwriting was surprisingly neat (according to the dates, it was 2 years ago he wrote there), although Hinata knew that he had difficulties with studies as well. What if it was different back then? Hinata didn’t know, and Kageyama never told him. He was scrolling through the notebook and found lots of volleyballs drawn by pens and pencils on the fields — no, apparently, Kageyama was never really interested in history or maths. Sometimes he even turned letters and numbers into something volleyball-related — two numbers “one” were connected by a net, “five” somehow turned into sport uniform and “shi” (し) was transformed into arms of the player receiving a ball. It actually turned out… kind of… realistic? Hinata didn’t know Kageyama could draw that good. He must’ve been dying from boredom.

From the corner of his eye Hinata noticed the boxes, which were standing along the opposite wall from his futon. There weren’t closed, so he took a few steps towards them as his curiosity took a superior priority. He wasn’t going to rummage through them, of course, he just wondered what could possibly be there. So Hinata glanced into the first one — it was filled with medals, diplomas and even two small cups. All volleyball ones, no doubts. Hinata made sure that they all belonged to Kageyama, and were almost all dedicated for his individual setter skills since he ever started playing. The cups were from junior high, and they were meant to state that Kitagawa Daichi won the prefecture play-offs two years in row.

But what about the third year?

Hinata gave it a thought. That was probably the hardest months for him, according to what he’d heard. Especially that last match… now that he more or less knew what was all the fuss about, he wished he’d be there for Kageyama during that game. He was familiar with this feeling — a desperate wish to stay on the court as long as possible, being needy to touch and spike the ball, to jump higher than any net and to be overwhelmed with victorious joy after taking the set. But being benched for lack of skills or mistakes is one thing; being betrayed by your own teammates is a complete another one. He couldn’t imagine it in his worst nightmares; tossing to someone, trusting someone and experiencing such a horrible humiliation and shock.

Kageyama must be really strong to handle this situation and carry on playing with such ease. And Hinata wanted to believe that he helped him as well.

He put the cups back into the box and chose another one nearby, fishing something that looked suspiciously like an album out of it. He opened it, still feeling like he was breaking into Kageyama’s personal space, shoved his doubts deep down and started scrolling through the photos. There weren’t many; some from his trips with parents, some from the games, but mostly from his childhood and life before school. He was always either alone in the shot, for example, on the match, or with his parents — they stood side by side with him, smiling and wrapping their arms around him, while he kept his stoic and collected expression no matter what. He was always serious and a bit grumpy, literally on each and every photo; Hinata even suspected that he was just born that way. Kageyama was skilled in hiding his true emotions. Hinata took a glance of all the photos, and one thing bothered him the most.

Where are his friends?

He might've had social difficulties in junior high, but… Was it always like this? Didn’t he have friends in children garden, or in his neighborhood when he was a kid? It never occurred to Hinata that Kageyama was that reserved for strangers. He never initiated any unnecessary contacts and preferred to stay out of any interactions possible.

And that made Hinata mad.

Why was he behaving like this? Why wouldn’t he just talk and open up to him? Not that Hinata was a good adviser or anything, but he would try his best to help him. They were friends, after all. Kageyama shouldn’t have even thought that the situation would stay the same in high school. His mother was right; Karasuno is different. They have amazing senpais who care about them and are always there to give you a shoulder to lean on at your worst days; second-years did their best to give them a proper training as well, often organizing some fun activities and inventing new games for the practice; and the first-years — even Tsukishima, who’s really annoying and apparently wants to get a punch in his face one day — are nice, you can always have fun with them (in any way possible). So why would Kageyama even think that the team wouldn’t accept him and treat well? Have they done anything to shake his trust?

Obviously, Kitagawa Daichi has.

Hinata slammed the album closed and threw it back into the box. He truly wanted to help Kageyama to get through his fears and doubts, but he just wouldn’t let him. And now Kageyama hadn’t told anyone that he wasn’t feeling well and ended up in bed with fever.
Nevertheless, Hinata wouldn’t be Hinata if he weren’t stubborn as hell. He’ll search the whole wall Kageyama had built around himself if needed; and he’ll find a crack, break through it and make him talk.

His fantastic plan was interrupted with a wide yawn, while Hinata tried to cover his mouth and shush himself. He really needed to sleep. His body still ached after the practice and being under the cold rain and demanded rest. Hinata simply couldn’t resist anymore — he slumped on the futon, wrapping himself in the blanket tightly and taking a deep breath. He instantly felt his muscles relaxing and practically melting in the warmth; it was so nice and comfortable after an exhausting day. His thoughts flown into one endless stream, blurring and wavering through his mind and making him fall asleep even faster. The blankets and the sheets smelled of Kageyama, or so it seemed. The scent calmed him down, reassured and promised to carry him all the way into a peaceful sleep. He turned on his side, clutched the soft fabric of the blanket, nuzzling his face into it, and drifted off in a matter of seconds, thinking about what a glorious day tomorrow was promised to be.

 

Hinata couldn’t register a moment when his eyes snapped open — they just did. He blinked a few times, trying to understand why in the world was he even awake in the first place. His eyelids itched, desperately wanting to close again, so he rubbed the rest of the sleep out from them. Hinata set up and yawned, immediately shivering because of the coolness of the air. The window was opened only slightly, and it became a bit stuffy in the room, but he got used to hiding under the warm blanket. Hinata stretched his arms and legs, wondering what woke him up. It was quiet, only rain was tapping on the roof and the ground outside. Hinata was a heavy-sleeper; it took him longer to wake up than anyone else in the family (especially when the school was concerned). But why, then?

At that moment did he realize that his heart was racing, his palms were sweaty and his forehead — feverish. He tried to steady his breathing, but to no avail. Something was aching in his chest, pulsating under his rib cage and not giving him a rest. This pulling sensation was familiar to him, but he couldn’t remember how. Maybe he just wasn’t feeling well after the hard practice? Hinata decided to go to the bathroom and cool down with some cold water.

He walked out of the room and was just about to enter the bathroom when he heard some noises from the next door to his. From Kageyama’s room. Oh.

Hinata took a few hesitating steps towards it and pressed his ear against the gap. He could definitely hear some struggling and fussing over there, as if someone was trying to get comfortable in bed but in vain. Was it Kageyama being feverish? He wasn’t sure. But he definitely couldn’t do anything about it, and apparently wasn’t going to wake him up. His mother said that the worst stage was supposed to pass tonight. He barely had any idea what was the worst stage about, especially in Kageyama’s case, since he didn’t even know he could actually fall sick; so he just pulled away and wished him good luck, trying to ignore how much it hurt him to do that. And Hinata was about to head to the bathroom when he heard it.

A cry.

He froze in front of the door, utterly stunned and confused. As far as he understood, Kageyama was actually having a very bad time; maybe even a nightmare of some sort. But what was he supposed to do? Go and hold hands with him? Even sick Kageyama was still a dangerous Kageyama. He definitely wouldn’t like having Hinata in his bedroom, even if he meant well.

But that shout was so clearly oozing with despair, fear and misery… how could he leave him like that? What sort of friend would he even be? Hinata wasn’t going to abandon Kageyama like his previous so-called teammates did. He clenched his fists, took a deep breath and entered the room as quietly as he could.

The first thing to catch his eyes was, of course, Kageyama himself — he was lying on the bed in the corner of the room near the window. Hinata’s attention focused solely on him while he made his way over. The blankets were crumpled and wet a little; it was really hot in the room and Kageyama’s face was stained with red spots because of the heat. Hinata quickly ran over to the window and opened it a bit wider. He knew it was risky, but it seemed that you could actually suffocate in there. And lack of oxygen was the last thing Kageyama needed right now.

Hinata came closer, kneeling on the side of his bed. Kageyama was half uncovered — he had probably unconsciously thrown the blankets away — and looked generally horrible. His face, hair and neck were beaded with sweat, he had dark circles under his eyes, and it seemed as if you could really cut yourself by touching his cheekbones. Kageyama’s expression wasn’t sullen as usual; it was scared, confused and full of pain. His breathing was often and shallow, and his head turned from side to side a little. His lips were slightly parted and he was mumbling something incoherent, but definitely important and disturbing.

Hinata was right — Kageyama was having a nightmare.

He looked so exhausted and sick that it scared him to bits. But he felt anger boiling up inside the very next second. How could this idiot have allowed himself to spit on his health for so long? Was he even thinking at all? How long would he carry on if it weren’t for the rain? If he didn’t care about himself, maybe he should’ve at least thought about his teammates? What would they do if something worse happened to him? What would Hinata do? How would he play without him?!

Kageyama groaned painfully, sticking him cheek to the pillow and grabbing the blanket so tight as if he was to tear it to shreds.

Hinata realized that he happened to be on verge of tears somehow and bit his lip, trying to hold everything inside. It wasn’t the right time to tell Kageyama off or accuse him. He needed help right now, not arguments, he needed Hinata.

He sniffed and reached out, grabbing Kageyama’s shoulders carefully and gently shaking him.

“Kageyama,” he whispered. “Kageyama, wake up.”

Kageyama shifted, trying to turn on his side, and murmured something else. His brows arched in surprise and his breathing slowed down.

“Kageyama, it’s just a dream,” Hinata said, leaning closer. “Wake up, everything is alright, it’s only a nightmare.”

He tightened his grip on his shoulders, watching his reaction carefully, and finally noticed something in the corner of his eye that definitely didn’t look like sweat. He was so surprised that his muscles went numb, he couldn’t think, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything — just silently watch as a single tear crossed Kageyama’s cheek and disappeared behind his ear.

“Why,” he heard his whisper and unconsciously moved closer to hear what he was saying. “Why don’t they jump?” he asked someone, probably himself, isolated in his own mind. Kageyama was murmuring it again and again, his face crossed with pain and shock and pure despair, his breathing getting shallower and his voice breaking but never shutting down. His fingers twitched and his arms shook under his grasp, his chest was just rising and falling aimlessly, shivering on a gust of wind that flew into the room through the opened window.

Kageyama was hurt.

Hinata’s vision went black and he felt as if he was about to faint. The image of Kageyama being so powerless, helpless and ill, pinned to the bed and captured by his worst memories, burned in his mind like a fire, deadly and incredibly hot. His own hands shook as he tried to make some calming rubbing movements with his fingers but failed, not even being able to control it. He was struck with shock — confused, lost and without any idea what to do. And being helpless in protecting people whom he cared about was probably the most painful feeling Hinata has ever experienced. He wanted it to stop.

Tears sprayed out of his eyes when he closed them tightly for a second and then reached out with one hand to support Kageyama’s head while keep holding his shoulder with another one. He shook his own head ferociously, getting rid of all odd thoughts and concentrating on one simple task: wake Kageyama up.

“Kageyama!” he called louder this time. Hinata was a little afraid of waking up his mother, but he had no choice. “Kageyama, you have to wake up! It’s only a dream, you’re safe and sound, you’re at home! Listen to me, it’s not real!” his voice didn’t sound really promising, so Hinata cleared his throat and added some confidence in it, because he was telling the truth. “It’s just a nightmare. I’m here,” Hinata’s voice jumped an octave higher when the memory of that toss from the three-on-three game flashed in his mind, but he tilted his head down, forcing his sobbing and terror to shut down. “Kageyama, please, wake up,” he pleaded, not restraining his emotions inside anymore and cracking up word by word. His forehead almost touched Kageyama’s nose. He so desperately needed Kageyama to be okay it was unbearable to see him like this. Hinata felt his eyes welling up with tears, which flowed down to his chin and nose and dripped on Kageyama’s chin and neck. Hinata sniffed loudly, feeling that his dam was just about to break, when he suddenly felt something smashing into his forehead with enormous and completely unexpected power. He screamed quietly, straightening his back and covering his face with his hands. Now that was unpleasant. But when his brain finally proceeded the accident and output causal links, Hinata instantly threw his arms backwards and stared at his partner in shock.

Kageyama was awake.

His expression would’ve probably made Hinata laugh if he wasn’t so concerned and worried about him. And Kageyama looked so weak and pathetic that it was probably a sin to tease him like that. Not that Hinata wanted to. He was just overwhelmed with joy of finally seeing him awake and saving him from that goddamn hell.

Kageyama looked at him as if he’d dyed his hair in green or tattooed “Queen of the Court” right on his face. His blue eyes were wide open, expressing all sorts of different mixed emotions — shock, fear, confusion, anger… relief? There definitely was a hint of that. The thing is, Kageyama woke up suddenly, threw his head up and crashed into Hinata’s. His nose had to hurt, but he wasn’t paying any attention. Kageyama’s arms stopped in midair along his sides, stretched out to Hinata a little, as if wanting to grab him like a lifebuoy and never let go. The air seemed to be sucked out of his lungs and now he was slowly regaining the oxygen back into his body, still cautiously watching Hinata like expecting an attack from him or something.

“Y-you okay?” Hinata decided to break the silence; maybe Kageyama couldn’t trust his voice yet. The latter swallowed, not taking his eyes from him, and squinted.

Here comes.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Kageyama asked, the murderous intent in his voice clearer with each second. Hinata pulled away unconsciously, but managed to hold his gaze and not turn away. Kageyama seemed to get his composure back sooner than he expected.

“It’s hard t-to explain,” Hinata admitted, not having any desire to tell him anything. He could’ve even given away the birthday party and ruin the surprise. He’ll have to improvise. Somehow.

“You have all the time in the world to do that,” Kageyama hissed, and Hinata was about to say his farewell to the living. But then the setter coughed violently, folding in half while trying to cover his mouth. Hinata’s chest ached when he rushed to his side, gently stroking his spine in circles to make it easier for him (he didn’t actually know what to do at all, because Kageyama wasn’t Natsu whom he was used to take care of, so he just tried acting on an instinct). With Kageyama’s each cough Hinata felt like getting stabbed with a rusty knife in his stomach. His partner wasn’t supposed to be like that; he was strong, morose and self-confident, not sick, weak and exhausted.

When Kageyama finally fell silent, Hinata pulled away a little again to give him some personal space. He cleared his throat and shifted his weight onto one of his arms that supported him in a sitting position. Looking at Kageyama again, he seemed even more tired and apathetic.

“You’re going to catch a cold from me and get sick too, dumbass. What have you been thinking…” Kageyama almost crumbled to the left in another cough attack, but Hinata managed to rush forward in time and keep him sitting. He supported him, holding his side with left hand and pulling him upright using his right hand. Kageyama must’ve felt horrible, because he actually allowed him to help and leant onto him, laying his head on Hinata’s shoulder. Hinata didn’t comment it at all — it might’ve been a bit awkward, but he didn’t care, he only wanted Kageyama to feel better. Plus he was still struck with his latest replica, You’re going to catch a cold from me. Kageyama was in such a terrible condition yet he was still telling him not to get close because he was contagious, goddamn contagious. What has he been thinking? Did he suspect that Hinata would abandon him at that time? Like, really?

“Sometimes I wonder who is actually a dumbass from two of us,” he mumbled, barely audible, but of course Kageyama heard it. He pulled away, evened his breathing and stared at him with a what-the-hell-did-you-just-say gaze. There was no escape, so Hinata decided that it was probably for the best to tell him… at least something.

“I— you left the practice quickly and didn’t warn anyone… I worri—“ Hinata really should regain the control over his own tongue. “I didn’t know what happened and decided to come and check on you.”

Now that sounded pretty lame. Kageyama watched him carefully, probably pondering his words and looking for some loopholes in his farfetched lie (well, not a complete lie, but without some really important details), but he didn’t seem like a person who was capable of complicated thinking processes at the moment. He narrowed his eyes, as if trying to make Hinata uncomfortable and spill everything out.

“How did you get my address?”

“Kiyoko-san.” Hinata felt bad for setting their manager up, but Kageyama wouldn’t do anything to her, would he? And Kiyoko-san could take quite a good care of herself. More lies would only make his words less plausible, and he was already having some hard time handling Kageyama’s poisonous gaze.

“That still doesn’t explain what are you doing in my room in the middle of the night.”

“Um… Well I came here after practice and I met your mom,” Kageyama’s eye flinched. “She’s wonderful, you know! And we talked for a while and it was raining outside, so she offered me to stay here not to bike home in such weather.” Hinata saw some sort of worry reflected in Kageyama’s features — huh, he was probably wondering what did they talk about. Hinata knew the feeling of being embarrassed by parents ever since Natsu was born. “My futon is in the next room, and I was sleeping, but then I fe— heard!” his eyes widened and he realized his palms were a bit sweaty already. “I heard you fidgeting over here and… came in…” Hinata was waiting cautiously for Kageyama’s reaction, but there was none. Even if he did have something on his mind, he wasn’t going to let him know. Kageyama nodded tiredly and gestured towards the door.

“Go to sleep, then.”
Cold goose bumps danced over Hinata’s skin. Kageyama’s voice seemed dry and tranquil as usual, but he could hear slight trembling echoing through it as he spoke. Kageyama needed help, most likely both physical and mental, yet he still refused to admit it and ask for it for the sake of his pride and dignity. It appalled Hinata to no extent, and lit up a spark of offense in his chest. Maybe it wasn’t his best approach to a sick person, but he just couldn’t bear it anymore. The feeling of being unwanted wasn’t any new for him, it haunted Hinata in the past, and he definitely didn’t want to face the same problem again, to face the wall again in Kageyama’s stubborn personality.

“What’s your problem?!” he suddenly asked, clenching his fists and almost shaking. Kageyama just stared at him, not understanding what was all the fuss about. “I’m trying to help you, I really do, but you just won’t let me! What’s the deal?!” Hinata felt tears filling his eyes again, but that didn’t even matter anymore. “Why are you trying to play in a strong loner who doesn’t need friends? The guys from Kitagawa Daichi spit on you and left broken and unwanted? Well, you’re not in Kitagawa Daichi anymore, goddamn in!” His eyes and cheeks itched with heat, so he just closed them tightly. “You’re not in junior high anymore, you’re not in that school anymore, you’re in Karasuno now! And it’s not the same, it’s not as you’re used for it to be! It’ll never be!”

Hinata’s eyes opened as he tried to descry what was up with Kageyama in front of him. He was actually shaking, his fists almost tearing the fabric of the blankets. Hinata gasped slightly, definitely unprepared to such a sight. All the words that were burning his chest suddenly died out, as he didn’t quite know what to do now.

“What do you know about it?” Kageyama managed, his voice quavering with pain. “What do you know about what happened to me in junior high? How can you tell me about it?” he seemed like he was about to cry, but was holding everything in surprisingly good. “You have no idea what’s it like! You with your goddamn naïve optimism and enthusiasm!” Kageyama sounded as if he wished he had some of that too, as if he was jealous of being capable of staying yourself no matter the odds. “You don’t know how being betrayed by your own teammates feels like! When all you want is to help the team, to improve their techniques and push them to the right path in the game, when all you want is to win the game with them— And then getting discriminated because of being too diligent! Of all the reasons! Because of giving them everything I had, tossing to everyone and trying to get them into a challenge that would make them want to develop even further…” Kageyama’s head tilted forwards, but it was no good — Hinata could see the tear crossing his cheek all too clearly. He probably went too far in this argument, but it’d be useless if he doesn’t make Kageyama finally understand.

He opened his mouth to say something when Kageyama coughed yet again and fell backwards, clenching his throat. What the hell kind of cold was that? Hinata ran to the table where he saw a glass of water. It wasn’t as warm as he’d like it to be, but it’ll do; he grabbed it and brought to Kageyama, who accepted it with hands shaking and almost spilled everything. Hinata lifted him up with his right hand, wrapping it around his chest, and helped him to drink with his left hand, closing it around Kageyama’s fingers in order to help him keep hold on the glass. Kageyama gulped all the water in a matter of seconds, visibly relaxing afterwards. Hinata placed the glass on the floor and laid Kageyama back in bed gently, noticing how red his face was. He wondered if that was the fever or something else, but Kageyama was, in fact, really hot. And the whole situation felt… almost too intimate, too personal, yet calming, comforting and nice. But probably not for Kageyama himself. Hinata looked at him, trying to identify any hint of emotions, but to no avail. He set on the edge of his bed and took a deep breath.

“Kageyama, listen to me,” he met his eyes and flinched from a sudden wave of… totally messed up feelings, but kept talking. “I know it’s hard to believe in what I’m saying, especially for you, but if you want to get over the junior high, you’d better do. And it isn’t any supernatural stuff, just the simple truth, okay? Karasuno is different; different from any team I’ve ever seen. It has wonderful people and the best teammates anyone could’ve ever wished for. Me included. They never expel someone without a damn good reason, they accept everyone and are willing to play with everyone and help everyone. The only thing that can interrupt the process of blending in is you,” he exhaled and shrugged a little. “You have to let yourself become a part of the team; you have to learn how to rely on them, trust them, believe in them… it’s essential for any team game, especially for volleyball where it’s so important to know that the ball will be kept in play and tossed and spiked. You can’t and you don’t have to do anything alone,” Hinata expected Kageyama to protest and state that he knows this, but he kept quiet. “And it’s not only about the game; a team is no team if you only tolerate each other on the court. I hate it when we don’t get along. You’re… you’re supposed to understand your teammates, you know? That also helps when you’re playing, and I’m sure you get what I mean. And what I’m trying to say is… stop isolating yourself this much, taking everything on your shoulders and being constantly on guards. You don’t have to work the hell out of you like this. You needn’t have…” Hinata swallowed, the words stuck in his throat. “…needn’t have nightmares like this. You only have to tell us how can we help, and we will. That’s what friends are for, right?” The last sentence slipped of his tongue like something natural, something essential; although he wasn’t sure how would Kageyama react to a monologue like that. It must’ve sounded really cheesy, and Hinata only hoped that Kageyama wasn’t actually trying to listen carefully, yet still getting the general meaning.

Both were silent for a while, unsure of what to do. Kageyama was watching Hinata is a way the latter wasn’t used to — his gaze was hopeful, relieved, amused and… just a little bit happy. That was something hidden deep-deep inside, but Hinata wouldn’t be Hinata if he wasn’t able to catch that. And the mere sight of this feeling in his partner’s eyes lit up Hinata's soul and made his heart do a flip. Now that was exactly what he was going for in the first place.

“T-thank you.”

Hinata almost choked on whatever was left in his throat after a long tirade. Well, it made sense now: he got sick too and was having some acoustical hallucinations. That was the only explanation. He tried to keep his face stoic as he looked down on Kageyama. He was facing the ceiling, but Kageyama probably felt Hinata’s drilling gaze after a while, so he tilted his head forwards a little and their eyes met; he was looking at him with some sort of… embarrassment crossing his face? Yet his dark blue eyes were shining with genuine endless gratitude, which he was most likely having trouble with putting it into words.

Holy shit, Kageyama's fever must be really getting to him.

Of course Hinata would never say that aloud — he was so honored to have really talked Kageyama into thanking him in such an awkward situation. And he definitely wasn’t going to tease him about it or anything, no — it was a first step on an incredibly long path. The path they were meant to walk together.

“You— you’re welcome,” Hinata replied, too quiet but apparently enough for Kageyama to hear and to nod slightly. They were still looking each other in the eyes, and somehow managed to have a silent conversation. Kageyama was ill after all, this whole debate tired him and he had to sleep.

Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

“I’ll go bring my futon,” Hinata said, but got nothing in return. Not surprising. Kageyama averted his gaze and closed his eyes; there was obviously too much heart-to-heart talking for him in a few minutes, and Hinata couldn’t blame him. His own heart was racing like mad, his palms were sweaty and his face was literally burning. He could only imagine how screwed Kageyama was. Yet Hinata’s soul hasn’t been feeling that delighted for quite a while. He couldn’t help but smile a little when he got up and carefully ran to the next room, picking the futon up and grabbing the blankets. Hinata looked at the boxes, remembering the album, the diplomas and the cups, but then just shook his head and kept going. That was only the past, and the past Kageyama’d better forget. He doesn’t need it anymore — not with Karasuno by his side.

Hinata returned to Kageyama’s room and laid out his futon on the floor next to the bed. Kageyama wouldn’t let him… um, sleep with him, since he was too insistent on being contagious (that was given from the very beginning), plus the situation was strange and awkward enough as it is, and no one wanted it to get even more complicated, so they mutually and silently decided to settle down like this.

Hinata noticed that Kageyama already covered himself with his blankets roughly, turning on his side and facing the wall. He was a bit curled up and it suddenly hit Hinata why. He looked at the opened window and then back at Kageyama. There was a better solution than getting rid of the only source of fresh air.

He came up to his bed and pulled the blankets away, revealing his shrink and shivering figure. Kageyama definitely lost some weight. He turned back and looked at Hinata, fazed and without any idea what the hell was that dumbass doing (at least that’s what his face was signifying), and then his eyes suddenly flew wide open when another blankets was thrown at him — the ones Kageyama’s mother gave Hinata the previous evening. He also had two, a bit smaller, but softer and dryer. Kageyama was still gazing at him, demanding an explanation.

“Your blankets are wet, right? It was so stuffy here so I opened the window a little when I came,” Hinata waved at the mentioned window with his hand, but Kageyama didn’t seem to care. “You need to keep warm if you want to get better and play soon,” he pointed out, dropping Kageyama’s blankets on his futon. Kageyama opened his mouth with an intention to tell him off, apparently, but Hinata saw that coming.

“You—“

“Oi, shut up,” he said, sitting down and diving into the nice sooth fabrics. His eyes started to close already, anticipating the long-awaited sleep. “A thank you was enough.” Hinata reached down and pulled the blankets, wrapping himself in them tightly and trying to get comfortable. They were wet because of sweat caused by Kageyama’s fever, but… that wasn’t really important in the moment. He burrowed his nose further, deeply inhaling Kageyama’s scent. It reminded him of volleyball, of the taste of victory, of every good moment he ever had.

Memories flashed though his mind — jumping right into the gym and screwing Kageyama’s serve so that the ball hit him right into his head. Hinata was shocked to react back then, but it was hilarious. Kageyama’s first toss to Hinata — he was on his limit already, feeling as if all his insides were burning and muscles were trying to rip their way out of his skin, and when his eyes registered the position of Kageyama’s arms he didn’t dare to believe it at first. Yet when the ball leapt high into the air, his whole body and mind were overwhelmed with joy and happiness as he easily ran forward and jumped to hit the ball, to feel the sweet familiar sensation in his palm, to get the toss of a real setter he looked up for. Hinata didn’t mention it, but he saw Kageyama’s light smile and nothing would convince him otherwise, not even Kageyama himself. The latter wiggled on his bed, changing the pose, and Hinata unconsciously shifted, too. He thought about how he managed to make Kageyama do a back toss — he wasn’t even thinking, just acting instinctively, because he knew that he had to change his partner’s mind, to show him his trust and faith into him. And their quick was the best way to prove it. Hinata still saw Kageyama’s expression after he made it, even though his own memories were fuzzy and based on emotions alone — utterly shocked, confused and refusing to believe in what they just did. His face was priceless, especially when Hinata was arguing with him, telling that he told him not to watch the ball in the first place. Kageyama seemed… what’s the word… amused? Yes, amused by Hinata’s stubborn childish straight thinking, like, Don’t watch the ball — Okay, I’ll just close my eyes. When he was looking back at it now, it did seem funny, but that was his only option on the 3-on-3 match and the their best shot. And it lived up to their expectations, even lived over them. That stupid serve right in Kageyama’s head was practically burnt into his retinas. He was never scared that much in his life. Yet Kageyama didn’t murder him but helped and pulled his spirits up, which Hinata was eternally grateful for, since he was very ashamed of acting like this during the first set against Aobajosai. And then there was a game against the neighborhood association and their senpai, when he also couldn’t get himself together, struck by his admiration towards Asahi-san and embarrassed of being a small decoy. It seemed so stupid now. But back then he totally owed his recovery to Kageyama, who put so much effort in putting sense in his dumb mind. Hinata was confused, his head hurt, but he can clearly imagine Kageyama at that moment — he was trying to convince him so hard that he was out of breath by the moment he finished. The memory of their first successful new quick was the most fresh and bright one — Kageyama’s eyes were just shining with joy and stubborn delighted victorious spirit, Hinata never saw him this happy, but he totally understood the feeling. It was probably one of the happiest moments in his whole life. And he was unbelievably glad to share in with his fellow setter and best friend. Hinata nuzzled into the pillow, enjoying the familiar and calming scent which has already surrounded him. Kageyama didn’t move anymore, he must’ve fallen asleep. The more Hinata thought about it, the more grateful he was to whoever or whatever got him and Kageyama to meet on the court. His partner really was incredible. Maybe that day and that game weren’t particularly pleasant, but they put a start to something brand new and amazing. And Hinata was beyond excited to see where would that lead them and what would result.

Hinata was so engrossed in his own thoughts that he only realized that he had turned on his right side when something flickered in front of his face, making him blink and focus. It was a hand — Kageyama’s hand — hanging from the bed. As it turned out, he managed to lie on his stomach, head facing Hinata’s direction, and his right hand fell down. His fingers were slightly curled in a semi-cup form, his cheek was a bit squashed from being pressed to the pillow. If only a few days ago someone had shown Hinata a photo of Kageyama like this, he’d never have believed that it’s him. His expression looked so peaceful that Hinata couldn’t suppress a light happy smile tugging his mouth’s corners. Nothing made him feel better than seeing his friend sleeping pacifically, gotten over his nightmares and sickness. Hinata was absolutely sure that

Kageyama’d get better soon, really soon. And that was a nice thought to hold on to before falling asleep.

He leant onto his left arm, reached out and grabbed his hand gently, as if to shake it. That was a risky move, but thank gods Kageyama didn’t react. Hinata squeezed his long, wiry fingers slightly, giving him all the reassurance he had through his grasp, and whispered:

“Good night, Kageyama.”

His carefully pulled away and lied back on the futon, wrapping himself in the blanket tightly and allowing his mind to be washed away to the calm desired sleep. Hinata was near Kageyama, he helped him, and he felt delighted, safe and relieved. That was only a start, only a beginning. He smiled to his own thoughts, already slowing down, and bit-by-bit got absorbed in the sweet oblivion. He never knew, but…

Good night, Hinata.

…he wasn’t the last to fall asleep in the room.

 

Kageyama was still sleeping when Hinata woke up; he was clinging to the blanket and almost nuzzling into it. His breathing was evened and steady, chest rising and falling in a slow rhythm.

Hang on a second.

There was only one blanket covering him. Hinata looked down, expecting to see the second one on the floor, probably thrown away in the night, but no such luck. He searched around questioningly and only a few seconds later realized that he was the one with three blankets on his futon.

That idiot.

Hinata grinned and got up, stretching his arms up and smiling, seeing the sunlight making its way through the window. The weather definitely got better today, and just on time. He rolled up the futon, took the blankets and carefully covered Kageyama with one of them, placing the rest near his feet in case he gets colder. He didn’t even stir, so Hinata felt free to tuck him in a little, a smirk playing on his lips — it was actually not a big difference from taking care of Natsu when she was sick.

He smiled and took a last glance towards Kageyama when he was leaving — he was so unlike himself while sleeping it was astonishing. You could almost mistake him for a human.

Hinata laughed at his own thoughts quietly. Maybe Kageyama’s tosses were supernatural and given to him by some aliens from outer space, but his feelings and needs were just like anybody else’s. Especially needs in loyal friends, reliable teammates and an awesome birthday party.

Well, Kageyama might not have known about the last one yet, but it wasn’t that long left until he finds out.

Hinata smiled again, grabbed the futon and closed the door behind him, careful not to make any noise as he made his way to the next room to leave the futon and then downstairs.

The beginning of the day was wonderfully promising already.

 

Kageyama lazily opened his eyes, moaning quietly from the sunlight blinding him. He tried to cover his face with the blanket at first, but then it got stuffy in his shelter and Kageyama understood that hiding was out of options. He sat up, stretching his arms and shoulders, trying his body. Surprisingly, he felt way better than yesterday and almost the whole week before. His muscles were aching just a bit, his head stopped being a red-hot oven and his thoughts were more or less clear. The cold wasn’t over for sure, but at least he didn’t feel like shit anymore.

As Kageyama took in the situation, the events of the last night suddenly flashed in his mind like billions of sparks, setting everything around on fire. Kageyama instantly looked at the floor, but found nothing particularly unusual there — not even a futon. He couldn’t help but sign in relief — was that relief, though? Some small stupid part of his brain was claiming that it’d be better if Hinata was still here, but Kageyama just snorted and shook his head. It was just the cold messing with him, nothing else.

Kageyama was about to get up and go to the bathroom when his feet came across something big and soft in the end of his bed. He glanced over there and saw crumpled blankets, hanging off the edge a little. His brows arched in surprise and a snicker escaped his mouth.

That dumbass.

Kageyama woke up once during the night to drink more water and calm his burning throat. He couldn’t really help but notice how small Hinata actually seemed on the futon, all shrank and shriveled under the poor blankets that definitely weren’t of any use by that moment. He was hugging his knees and pressing his chin against them, and even sneezed once. Kageyama was embarrassed for causing troubles already, and his conscience bugged him to no extent, returning his gaze to Hinata’s shivering figure again and again. He couldn’t stand it and basically threw one blanket at him, hitting the boy right in his face. Hinata didn’t mind, though, he didn’t react in the slightest. Kageyama cursed under his breath and came over, carefully lifting the blanket, straightening it and returning to Hinata, covering him. When he tried to spread it better near his neck, Hinata suddenly shifted, grabbing Kageyama's left hand and pulling it under his cheek. Kageyama froze, scared by the unexpected movement, and Hinata used his confusion to tighten his grip and nuzzle into his palm, whiffing some warm air around his fingers. Kageyama’s right hand twitched as if willing to slap his partner in the face painfully, but he managed to calm himself down somehow. He watched Hinata, afraid that the latter would wake up, but he didn’t, seemingly enjoying his new pillow. Kageyama held his breath and tried pulling his hand away, but Hinata turned even further, his nose touching Kageyama’s wrist. Kageyama paled and prepared to change his actions to more drastic ones, but then his eyes stopped on Hinata’s face for too long, and his determination melted away. Kageyama tilted his head, watching his partner’s chest rise and fall in a strong even rhythm. He looked so unusually calm and… not jumping-on-the-walls-and-yelling like he always was that it knocked him off guards. Kageyama supposed that when Hinata even looked… adorable, sleeping like this and enjoying his palm’s warmth.

Kageyama’s eye twitched with the realization of what he’d just thought.

This has to end right now.

He slowly managed to free his hand from Hinata’s grasp without waking him and returned to his bed. Kageyama’s own thoughts scared him tonight. Well, he did consider Hinata his friend, his closest friend if you say so (only not aloud), yet he couldn’t help but build some restrictions to his behavior and even thinking process. Not that it pleased Kageyama, but the absence of the rules he's been using for a few years would not only make the whole situation more awkward, but also cause discomfort of his own. Besides, Kageyama knew that Hinata understood everything, and now he was even more reassured that he doesn’t really need to change himself in order not to lose his trust. Hinata only wanted Kageyama to trust and rely on him more. Huh, easier said than done.

But Kageyama has already decided that he was going to try.

His legs were still wobbly, but he managed to go to the bathroom and brush his teeth. It was probably because of the goddamn storm that hewas feeling so awful yesterday and dizzy this morning. When he went back to the bedroom, his mother was already waiting him there, opening the window wider. She heard creaking of the door and turned around to greet Kageyama with a warm smile.

“Good morning!” she said, grinning wider. Kageyama unconsciously narrowed his eyes. His mother wasn’t usually this cheerful, especially when he did something wrong like falling sick. So that happy morning mood was… weird.

“Good morning,” he nodded uncertainly, trying to determine what was going on. It was nice, of course, seeing his mother delighted, but suspicious.

“Don’t be so grumpy on your own birthday! Breakfast is waiting for you downstairs,” she noted, taking the blankets from Kageyama’s bed. Some sort of a mischievous light sparkled in her eyes, and it was really bothering Kageyama. Could it be…

“When did Hinata-kun leave?” she asked, trying to fight a not-so-innocent smile on her face. Kageyama instantly felt his ears warming up as he mumbled:

“I don’t know.”

His mother laughed, as if mocking her own joke, leaving him confused yet again.

“So he did come to your room in the night!”

Well damn.

Kageyama’s face must’ve been utterly shocked and red, because when his mother looked at him, she laughed even louder. Kageyama thought she knew about it. How could he had been so stupid?!

“Don’t worry, son, your secrets are safe with me.”

“Mother!” his cheeks seemed to be on fire, but she was only amused by his behavior.

“Sorry-sorry!” she raised her hands and then stormed out, reminding him to go have breakfast again.

She will embarrass Kageyama to death once.

He just signed, cooling down already. Ever since he entered Karasuno she liked teasing him like this a little. She used to be serious almost all the time, so it was good to see such a change, but on the other hand there’s… this.

Kageyama made his bed and went downstairs, meeting his mother with a cup of coffee in her hands. She cooked him an omelet and a bowl of rice, but omelet will probably be enough.

He sat on the chair, took his fork (although his arms were still trembling a bit) and started chewing his breakfast without any appetite whatsoever. But he had to admit that it was tasty and melted in his mouth.

“How are you feeling?” his mother asked, sipping her coffee and sitting in front of him. Kageyama tensed a little, but this question was normal.

“Fine,” he said and corrected himself. “Much better than yesterday,” he didn’t want her to worry after all. She nodded, swallowing her drink completely and setting an empty cup on the table. Kageyama tried to seem interested in studying the yellow and orange patterns of his omelet. They fell silent for a while — Kageyama expected to hear more questions, but he didn’t. In the end he couldn’t resist but break the silence with what bothered him most:

“How did he even end up staying here for the night?”
His mother grinned, as if she’d been waiting to hear this. Kageyama remembered what Hinata told him, but he wanted to know his mother’s version.

“He came here yesterday evening when you were already sleeping and called himself your friend,” Kageyama felt his cheekbones going pink. But to be fair, he was the first to call Hinata his friend in front of his mother, so… “He told me that th— you left practice earlier without explaining anything, so he was worried about you.”

Hmmm. Well, they said the same things, but something still itched in Kageyama’s mind, something telling him that it’s far from this easy. Maybe he was just paying too much attention to the whole situation? Perhaps he should just ignore that and let it go?

“And you offered him to stay here?” he asked, as if voicing out the worst idea anyone could’ve ever thought of.
“It was storming outside, and you said it yourself that he lives in the opposite direction, far from school. How could I let him go alone?”

Actually, Kageyama agreed with her, it was a wise decision — definitely smarter than biking through the storm after the practice. But he was just too stubborn to admit it fully.

“He’s not a child, you know,” he mumbled, and the corners of his mother’s mouth jumped up a little, but the smile was suppressed. She was probably reading him like an open book.

“Sure,” she stood up and washed her cup. “I’m going to go by a cake, just have some rest, sleep or watch TV.”

“Can I at least go walk outside?” She turned to look at him with an are-you-kidding-me glance. Kageyama didn’t have to ask twice. When his mother was determined in something, she wasn’t a person to argue with.

They didn’t have any special plans concerning his birthday, which, oh really, was today. His father was on a business trip, and he managed to get sick, so they’d just eat the cake and celebrate it together quietly. Kageyama was fine with that.

“I’ll go to the supermarket as well, do you need anything?” he shook his head. “Alright then,” she grabbed her purse and walked out. “I’ll lock the door. Don’t forget to wash the dishes! And call me if something happens or if you feel bad again.”

“I will,” Kageyama murmured, standing up and seeing his mother off. He locked the door, finished his breakfast, washed the plates and returned upstairs, trying to figure out what to do. He didn’t like watching TV (especially after that scary movie evening with Karasuno), and he didn’t want to sleep yet. Kageyama wondered along the hall when his eyes fixed on the door next to his own — Hinata was supposed to sleep in that room. Shrugging slightly, Kageyama made his way forward and entered it, shutting the door behind him.

He looked around and realized that he hasn’t been here for a while, since they mostly use it just to keep stuff. There were lots of boxes and paperwork on the table — probably, his old exercise books as well. Kageyama fished out one and lazily scanned a few pages. Stupid maths, which he never really liked. When his attention was suddenly caught by something red, he returned a few pages back and recognized the familiar spots left after drops of blood. He traced them with his finger, his brows furrowing a bit and his cheeks rising up, narrowing his eyes, as the memories began flashing through his mind. Only then did he realize that it was an exercise book from his last year in junior high — his last year with Kitagawa Daichi.

 

Maths was the last subject for today, and he would go to the practice right after it. Finally. Kageyama couldn’t think of anything but their last match with Aobajosai. His thoughts returned to it no matter how hard he tried, because they really were on edge yesterday, they barely managed to pull off the second set. Their opponents had good blocks, and the only secure way around them was to made as many quick attacks as possible, to make them break out of rhythm and to destroy their timing, but the guys didn’t seem to get it. They didn’t even seem to try hitting his tosses, although he was slowing them down enough already, but it was hopeless. They had an argument with Kindaichi in the end and it left a bad feeling setting in his stomach. But he believed, he knew his way was the right one, and he just wanted the others to accept it. Kageyama will do anything to make them see.

“Oi, Kageyama.”

He lifted his head to find the mentioned teammate standing in front of his desk. Had he forgotten that he still had one lesson to attend?

“What is it?”

“Let’s go out, we need to talk,” without any further explanation, Kindaichi turned around and left the classroom. Kageyama had no choice, so he followed him, already roughly guessing what the conversation was going to be about.

He was waiting for him near the window a few meters away from the door. As soon as Kageyama stopped, he heard the strict and clear ultimatum.

“You must stop trying your quick tosses.”

Kageyama was too stunned for a few seconds to answer, trying to collect himself to voice out his thoughts. Was he mad? Stop trying his quick tosses?

“Maybe you should just stop trying to spike them and do it already,” he snapped, glancing at Kindaichi murderously. He seemed to be astonished for a second, but then sighed, obviously annoyed.

“No one can spike them, how can’t you understand? You’re a great setter, but what use are you if we don’t use your tosses? Can’t you make a high toss close to the net? It’s not that hard and exhausting, and easier for us to aim at.”

“But it makes easier for the blockers to aim at you! How can’t you understand! I slowed down my tosses already, you should all just try harder.” Kindaichi seemed to be on edge, and Kageyama felt that he was getting too close to the certain line.

“Well, not all of us are prodigies, Your Royal Highness,” he spat, and it took Kageyama’s breath away. What the hell was his problem? They could defeat any team using his quicks, they just had to learn how to use them.

“It isn’t a matter of being a prodigy, it’s a question of trying hard enough,” he said, regaining his calm mask.

“So you want to say that we’re lazy asses who don’t even try?”

“I don’t need to say anything, the result does it for me.”

Kindaichi looked at him with such pure hatred in his eyes that it appalled him and caught completely off guards. Why did he look at him like that? He didn’t do anything wrong, he was just trying to give him some useful advises and…

The blow came unexpected.

Kageyama stumbled back, covering his jaw with one hand and grabbing the windowsill with another not to fall. Kindaichi didn’t move, his arm still in midair where it hit Kageyama’s cheek. Kageyama stared at his hand in shock, studying his bloodstained fingers, and then looked back at Kindaichi. Why was he behaving like that? What the hell is wrong with him?

“You know nothing, Kageyama goddamn Tobio! Your tosses may be good, but like hell I’m going to let you spoil the team spirit! You make everything rot with your freaking arrogance! Go take your crown and wear it anywhere else but not in this volleyball club!” he way yelling so loud that many students ran out of their classes to see what was all the fuss about. The teacher held him back, although he didn’t make any attempt to hit him again, and lead the guy away. Kageyama was just staring at his back, shocked expression practically burnt on his face. Someone touched his arm, probably persuading him to go to the doctor, but he just shrugged off and went back to the class, still a bit dizzy and not fully realizing what just happened. He has never been on good terms with Kindaichi, but he never knew that he hated him. Kageyama collapsed on his chair, still holding his hand on his cheek. A few drops of blood dripped on the paper, crushing into it and launching some smaller drops around. It hurt a little, but not as much as the subtext of it.

His own team was fed up with him.

 

Kageyama closed the exercise book and threw it back onto the pile. He should’ve known it would end like this. Of course, their coach made Kindaichi apologize for that on the next day, and he did, but it was never the same since then. Kindaichi was still grumbling at him for his tosses, just like the whole team, but their bark was worse than their bite — the club just probably didn’t want to lose a skilled talented setter, that’s all.

Kageyama went out of the room and returned to his own, coming up to the bed and sinking into it. He laid his head on his hands and stared at the ceiling, pondering everything that happened to him for the last few months. Losing and not getting to the Nationals as he desired to, being betrayed by his own teammates, and then entering Karasuno High School… that was perhaps the most important of all. Kageyama didn’t regret losing the play-offs anymore, he was just glad that he chose this place after all. In the beginning his plan was to train under Coach Ukai’s observation to become even more experienced and technically skilled, but then it turned out that he wasn’t going out from his retirement. Kageyama was mad at first — that was the whole point of coming to that school. But it was too late to go back. He enrolled the volleyball club, expecting the history to repeat itself, but no such luck. Kageyama blew out his hair from his eyes, shifting and trying to get comfortable. If it wasn’t for Karasuno, he’d probably never know what being a member of a team feels like, but now he did. And it was a really nice and warm feeling, illuminating him from the inside. He’d probably never get a chance to play with Hinata — a guy who is actually enough physically gifted to spike his quick tosses. And a guy naïve, childish and kind enough to trust him to get the ball right into his hand with his own eyes shut tightly. It was hard to believe that was actually possible, but his eyes didn’t lie. Hinata enjoyed it just as much as Kageyama did, even if he didn’t really show it. But getting on well on the court is one thing — actually seeing him coming to his place uninvited to check up on him because he was worried became like the whole another one. Kageyama thought he was still dreaming. He couldn’t possible imagine visiting a sick teammate before — why would he? Kageyama only had to ensure that ball on the court finds its way from the receiver to the spiker, nothing else. Yet Hinata definitely had some other thoughts on this matter. And it stunned Kageyama, because his life principles were truly crumbling under his partner's bright overwhelming aura. He had fallen so low.

Kageyama smiled at his own thoughts, finally getting some peace. The weather was better today, just like Kageyama’s general condition — gentle wind whirled into his room, bringing in some fresh air and soothing coolness; birds were singing on the nearby tree, yet not annoying as Kageyama usually found it, but sweetly and pleasantly, gratifying his ears. His heart gradually slowed down along with his breathing, and his mind insensibly slipped into the world of peaceful sleep, finally free of all the nightmares and fears.

 

The next time Kageyama woke up it was a bit darker outside, yet not pitch black. He rubbed his eyes, feeling the cool touch of his fingers against his warm eyelids. The fever probably wasn’t gone completely. Kageyama signed. He didn’t know what to do, still not feeling alright, but definitely oversleeping. Perhaps he should go and practice tossing against the wall?

The boredom was killing him. The headache was killing him. And now even his mother left for the cake. That was some hell of a birthday.
Not that he expected a party of anything, but at least some tasty dinner with painkillers for him goddamn head would be nice.

Kageyama closed his eyes again, trying to sort out his confusing thoughts and decide what to do next, when he suddenly heard some noises and fuss downstairs. His ears flinched, and brows furrowed. Kageyama was lost — his mother couldn’t be so rowdy. It was too early for his father to come back from the business trip. So what in the world was going on over there?

“Ryu, stop sniffing it, your saliva is flying everywhere already!”

Kageyama’s heart skipped a beat.

No way.

“Could you all be a little quieter? What if he’s still asleep?”

No way in hell.

Kageyama jumped into sitting position, his mind still trying to process the situation. What were they doing here? Why did they come? Today, when he was sick, and on his birthday. They couldn’t possibly know about it, Kageyama didn’t tell anyone. Although there was a slight possibility that…

Mother.

Kageyama growled in annoyance and rolled his eyes, reclining back on the bed. What was he supposed to do now? First of all, his cold was contagious, didn’t they know? Kageyama wasn’t sure if they actually came because of his birthday, but that was the most sensible reason anyway. Yet on the other hand… he wanted company, didn’t he? Kageyama was sick, bored and… alone. On his own birthday. Wasn’t it was Hinata was talking about? Relying on the team outside the court and stuff? But he didn’t know how to hold such celebrations, how to treat guests or… anything else. And he definitely didn’t want them to get ill too because of him (even though he still tried to assure himself that it wasn’t his number one reason).

Perhaps pretending to be asleep was, in fact, the safest option he had.

BA-AM!

Kageyama jerked up, close to flying into the ceiling from a sudden slam in front of him. The first thing for his eyes to catch was his shortest senpai’s head, twinkling in the doorway and apparently trying to block everyone else behind him. He was bouncing up and down just like a volleyball; even his flock of hair above the forehead suited the description. Kageyama caught a glimpse of Daichi, failing at calming the libero down (which wasn’t that surprising, it was really crowded in the hall). But his attention suddenly focused elsewhere when a mop of familiar bright orange hair flickered close to the doorjamb, scrambling his way into the room past Tanaka and Tsukishima.

“Rise and shine, sleeping beauty!” Nishinoya cried out, running into the room and letting everyone else in. Tanaka caught up to him before Kageyama could even blink.

“We’re gonna light this place up!” he bellowed, patting his friend’s back. “Right, Noya-san?!” Nishinoya nodded ferociously and looked at Kageyama with pure excitement on his face.

There was, however, someone else behind them whose gaze instantly caught Kageyama’s full attention as he spluttered:

“And I think Daichi-san is going to light you up, Tanaka-san, Nishinoya-san.”

The duo suddenly froze, smiles on their faces ridiculously skewed and mixed with animal fear. Kageyama tried his best to suppress a snicker. Daichi truly was frightening when in rage, but for once he wasn’t the one Captain was mad at. His throat still made a swallowing movement when he accidentally looked him in the eyes. Scary.

Tanaka and Nishinoya, feeling the danger with their very fibers, turned around in a wink and ran out of the room, crouching to the floor not to get captured in the process, yet surprisingly quiet.

“We’ll help Asahi-san and Suga-san in the kitchen!” Tanaka added as they stumbled down the stairs, almost knocking each other down. Daichi just signed tiredly and sent an apologizing smile to Kageyama, which fortunately wasn’t supposed to freak him out.

“I’m sorry for this whole mess, Kageyama,” he shrugged lightly, as if saying, These two. “Are you feeling alright?”

Kageyama just nodded in return, still not exactly believing that almost all his teammates were actually in his house right now, on his birthday.

“Why did you come?” he asked suspiciously, even though knowing the answer. His mind refused to take in the situation, that was too much for his senses to handle.

“Don’t worry, we won’t stay for long,” Tsukishima inserted, standing in the doorway and turning around, followed by Yamaguchi who smiled at Kageyama reassuringly. Something weird was definitely going on with people today. “I’ll be back soon.”

They left, and Kageyama couldn’t help but notice that Hinata clenched his fists.

“To celebrate your birthday, of course,” Daichi confirmed. “We’re not going to light anything up, I assure you, I’ll get them down if needed. And if you feel bad — just tell us, we’ll leave.”

That was some tempting suggestion, but Kageyama guessed that it was impolite. They came to congratulate him after all.

“But why?” he blurted out without even realizing it in the first place. Kageyama felt blood rushing to his cheeks as his Captain laughed softly and Hinata smiled, closing his eyes and looking all smug as hell.

“What do you mean why?” Daichi asked, studying his expression as if he was a little curious baby asking an amusing question. “You’re our teammate and our friend, of course we’d celebrate your birthday with you. If you want, of course.”

Kageyama would most likely sit utterly shocked in his bed until the end of eternity if it wasn’t for Hinata, who was watching him expectantly with a typical I-told-you-so gaze, trying to hold his laughter inside with all his might and main. Kageyama probably looked ridiculous, still in his pajamas, astonished expression on his face, but Hinata’s reaction snapped him back to reality. Karasuno or not, he must not loose his cool. They’ll just eat cake, that’s all. Kageyama ate cake with his parents all those years before; this time wouldn’t be really different from those, would it?

Some small sensible part of his brain burst into laughing deep inside.

Yet Kageyama managed a barely noticeable nod. Hinata’s eyes seemed to shine even brighter, and Kageyama didn’t know why, but that made something weird stir in his stomach.

Daichi grinned approvingly.

“Just give us a few minutes, we’ll come up here. I’d better have a look at what are they doing in your kitchen…” His Captain’s eyes blinked in concern as he made his way down, closing the door behind him. It took Kageyama a few seconds to realize that he was the only one left in the room. Along with Hinata.

“You knew.” Kageyama said, trying to put some anger in his voice but not quite succeeding. His head was spinning, seeking some sort of an explanation to everything that was currently happening; yet it just wasn't there. Hinata looked at him with a sorry-not-sorry light smile playing on his lips.

“Yes, I did,” he admitted. “But it worth being a surprise, right? It’s so awesome that we can celebrate it together! With the team!”

Kageyama couldn’t help but feel a small fire of anger finding its way from his chest to his mouth. So awesome. He was goddamn sick! They could all get sick because of him! And they didn’t even warm him, didn’t give him any hint at all! And of course now he’s left to deal with it on his own as usual. Kageyama didn’t know how to behave, what to say and how to react. It was just… too overwhelming and unexpected for him.

And that little shrimp didn’t even think of helping him to avoid such an awkward situation.

Hinata must’ve seen rage filling Kageyama’s eyes, and he looked scared for a moment, but then suddenly giggled. Kageyama stared at him and raised his eyebrow. Hinata laughed again, louder this time. Kageyama tilted his head to the side. What the hell was his problem?

“And what is so funny, share with me, I want to laugh too,” he hissed, sending a murderous glance his way. Hinata’s snicker died out in a squeak, but then he suddenly sat on the floor, hiding his face in his hands and giggling uncontrollably. Kageyama wanted to strangle him on spot, and he noticed that his own lips’ corners twitched up, failing their battle to Hinata’s contagious laughter that was dissolving tensed atmosphere. Kageyama used his strong will to kill the smile on his face before it was even born and looked at Hinata sternly.

“What is it, idiot?!” he demanded, clenching the blanket in his fist. Kageyama felt the insuppressible desire to stick a volleyball in Hinata’s mouth to shut him up, but unfortunately he didn’t have one nearby.

Meanwhile Hinata finally stopped his tirade, wiping a few tears away using the sleeve of his Karasuno jacket. Now that Kageyama thought of that, they were all in Karasuno jackets, so they probably came here right after practice.

“It’s just,” Hinata interfered his speculation, trying to learn how to form sentences again. “You look so funny you have no idea!” he blurted out, giggling again but regaining his calm sooner this time. “Your head!..” Kageyama’s horrified expression finished Hinata off completely as he tumbled to his side wildly cachinnating. Kageyama didn’t have a mirror in his room (since he accidentally broke one while tossing against the wall a few weeks ago), so he just raised his hands and touched the vertex, covering it with his palm.

Nothing particularly unusual, just his bed hair he got every time after waking up. It annoyed him to bits; there was no help but a hairbrush. Kageyama cursed under his breath, watching Hinata’s failed attempts to calm down.

“Stop laughing at me, dumbass!” he snapped, and Hinata managed to hold himself down after all.

“You should’ve seen your face. When you try being all scary and have this on your head…” Hinata snickered and raised his arms. “Sorry. I’m done, I’m done.”

They fell silent for a few seconds, but then there was some rumbling from the kitchen, a bit of swearing and Daichi’s innocent voice, followed by agonized shrieks. Kageyama winced. He’d definitely have some explaining to do when his mother comes back home.

Which lead him to another bothering question.

“How exactly did you enter my house in the first place?” Kageyama wondered. Hinata settled down more comfortably, obviously remembering that he should’ve explained that to him a while ago.

“Oh, we met your mom on our way here!” he proclaimed, and Kageyama had to suppress and angry growl surging through his throat. “She gave us the keys and told that she’d come soon, too.”

“And she told you about my… birthday?” It felt strange — saying this word out loud. Kageyama couldn’t explain that, it just… did.

“No, Kiyoko-san found it in her files,” Hinata replied, suddenly seeming taken aback and ashamed a little. But Kageyama could blame no one — he was an idiot to forget that their manager has everybody’s profiles, and of course there were dates of birth as well. He should’ve just written 31st of June or something.

“And who else came?”

“Um, let’s see… Kiyoko-san with Yachi-san, Asahi-san, Sugawara-san…” Hinata looked at the ceiling, counting something while only moving his lips. “Yeah, that’s right; ten of us plus you.”

Kageyama desperately wanted his head to finally stop spinning but it was no use. Ten people came here to congratulate him, ten teammates of his. It was too much to even realize, much more to take in.

“Hey, you alright?” Hinata asked, looking at him cautiously. Kageyama managed a nod since he didn’t really trust his voice at the moment. Hinata smiled really wide, confusing him even more. “Cheer up! We’re going to celebrate your birthday, not attend somebody’s funerals!”

Kageyama just nodded again, shocked stoic expression still there, on his face. Hinata grinned and got up to his feet.

“Wait a second, I’m gonna go check what’s down there,” he said and ran out of the room, leaving the door just a bit opened.

Kageyama just sat on his bed for a moment, breathing deeply and getting himself together. He couldn’t allow himself any weakness now, when so many people came to him. It’s just eating a birthday cake together, he can survive that. He survived far worse.

Clattering, screaming and cursing from the kitchen were doing a great job convincing him otherwise.

Kageyama got up and went to his wardrobe, fetching black shorts and blue t-shirt — at least better than pajamas. He changed, but it felt cold after the warm sheets he’d been sleeping on, and the fever was still there, so he randomly fished out a coat of some sort and pulled him on his shoulders. When Kageyama finally noticed the familiar warm black, it hit him that the jacket on him happened to be the one from Karasuno Volleyball Club. He looked at his sleeves and torso, amused by the coincidence, but decided that he’d better change it. And then…

SLAM!

“Oh for gods sake, Tanaka, who taught you to open the door?!”

“My sister!”

“Well that explains a lot.”

“What did ya just say?!”

Kageyama just closed the wardrobe as he was pulled away from it by a pair of strong arms, judging from the roughness — Tanaka’s.

“Oi, cut it—“ Tanaka released him the next second, looking around and examining the surroundings. Kageyama never had so many people in his room, that was kind of odd and pressing, but he could manage. More of his teammates were filling the room, but not all of them. Kageyama counted seven. Who stayed in the kitchen, then?

“Kageyama, join us!” he turned his head and saw that everyone has already settled on or beside his bed, gesturing him to come too. Kageyama was a bit surprised by how free they felt themselves in an unfamiliar environment. Yet he had no choice but to go over there and sit in the middle between Hinata and Daichi. Kageyama’s only wish at the moment was for the world to stop turning all around him and make sense again. His shoulders rubbed against Hinata’s and Daichi’s, and it gave him some confidence. Everyone was looking at him with some excitement hidden deep inside their hearts, and Kageyama didn’t quite know what to do with it. The whole situation was completely different from the interactions on the court — he knew how to handle players, not… friends.

Thankfully, Daichi was the first to break the unsettling silence.

“Asahi and Suga will come soon, just as Kiyoko with Yachi,” he said. “They still have some things to arrange.”

That made Kageyama’s heart race up. What in the world were they planning?

He looked around. The bed was occupied by Tanaka, Nishinoya (who couldn’t care less while sitting on Tanaka’s laps with his legs crossed), Hinata, Kageyama himself and Daichi, while Tsukishima and Yamaguchi were sitting on the floor. It was so goddamn awkward he was just trying to get over his stunned condition and go back to his normal previous self (well, normal for Karasuno anyway), but that took much longer than he anticipated.

“So, how’re you feeling?” Nishinoya asked cheerfully, shifting to get more comfortable on Tanaka’s knees and almost falling, but leaning onto Tsukishima’s head and saving himself in time. Kageyama couldn’t help but feel a bit happier and relaxed when he saw Tsukishima’s annoyed glance towards their libero. Hinata, Daichi and Yamaguchi smirked. Some things never change.

“Fine,” Kageyama answered. What else was he supposed to say? Kageyama actually didn’t feel well, but there was no point in persuading them to go away, so he’d at least stay quiet about that. Another fuss would only make things worse.

“We wanted to throw a real party, you know,” Tanaka interfered, “but you, little asshole, managed to get sick! How did you even pull that off?”

“Tanaka—“

“It wasn’t on purpose,” Kageyama mumbled and mentally slapped himself. Why was he explaining himself like this in the first place? Karasuno definitely had some bad influence on him.

“But we’re still going to congratulate you!” Nishinoya declared.

“We even have a gift—“ Yamaguchi said, and Tanaka tried to kick him in his knees, but Daichi was fast enough to block him somehow.

“That was supposed to be a surprise!” Hinata wailed.

“Sorry,” Yamaguchi mumbled, rubbing the back of his head.

“Kageyama was supposed to be surprised that he gets a present on his birthday?” Tsukishima asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Shut up!” Hinata followed, clenching his fists. Kageyama shook his head, Yamaguchi’s words still echoing through his mind. A gift. They were actually going to give him a present from the whole team.

“What is it, king?” Tsukishima turned to him, mocking smile playing on his lips. “You didn’t please your servants enough to deserve a happy birthday from them?”

Kageyama’s mouth formed a thin line as he collected his nerves together and found some strength to shook his head again. He didn’t even want to argue with that bastard, it wasn’t worth it. Tsukishima’s eyes widened behind his glasses — it was barely visible, yet Kageyama noticed that he seemed taken aback. Why would he?

Yamaguchi muttered something to him, but Tsukishima just waved him off, not saying anything else. Hinata looked at him as if he wanted to punch him in the face, but stayed where he was.

Everyone fell quiet again, staring at the floor. Kageyama couldn’t even handle it anymore. It didn’t seem right, it didn’t seem natural, and definitely wasn't… deservedly. His head lowered as he thought about what to do next. Kageyama was confused beyond possible, although he did feel better after his small quarrel with Tsukishima. It helped him to realize that the situation basically wasn't as different as he suspected it'd be outside the court; everyone behaved just as us they usually did (particularly, like complete airheads). His tensed muscles relaxed slowly, his breathing evened, and he discovered some warm tugging feeling unraveling in his stomach. Being around your teammates… could actually be nice.

“Oi, look out, Kageyama is going for the kill!” Nishinoya laughed, followed by a few more giggles. Hinata covered his mouth, shaking silently, and Kageyama looked at him furiously, slapping his head and almost making him tumble to the floor.

“Am not!” Kageyama answered, causing another snickers. Tsukishima readjusted his glasses and looked at them with what-a-bunch-of-idiots gaze on his face. Hinata glanced at him sullenly, patting his nape and squeezing himself in between again, but he didn’t complain. On the contrary, he looked… reassured.

“But seriously, Kageyama, how do you usually celebrate birthdays?” Tanaka asked, returning everyone to the unsettling silence position. Kageyama looked around, calculating his possibilities and mentally sighing. Why were they all so nosy about his life? It was his after all. Yet ignoring the question was out of options — considering all the eyes on him and the whole state of affairs… It wasn’t anything shameful anyway, just probably not what they usually expect to hear.

“With my parents,” he said. “We eat some cake together, go out occasionally.”

There they were — pitiful and slightly surprised glances his way. Kageyama hated them, it made him feel weakened and complaining about his life. He didn’t like that. He wasn’t supposed to be like that in front of people, any people.

Kageyama wished someone would just finally say something.

“Look, the pie!” Daichi announced, rising from the bed. The door creaked, and then everything happened at once.

Everybody turned to see their Ace with a big tray in his arms, opening the door with his foot gently and carrying something in. Tanaka leapt from under Nishinoya towards the long-awaited tasty treasure, jumping over Tsukishima and running towards the door like it was the last goddamn cake in the world. Too late did he realize that the room wasn’t big enough for running; Tanaka crushed into Asahi, still crouching to the floor, and the Ace cried out in horror, instinctively throwing the tray away from him.

The time seemed to stop.

Something flashed in front of his eyes, awaking the long forgotten memories of his first encounter with their libero, when he suddenly appeared in front of the ball out of nowhere. Nishinoya took off (or so it seemed) before Kageyama could even blink, throwing himself to the flying tray and reaching out with his arms. The tray landed directly in his hands as he clutched it tighter and crushed chest-first on the floor, thumping with his elbows and knees. He stopped moving in front of scared to death Asahi, fascinated Tanaka and freaked out Suga, who were still standing in the doorway. There was a complete utter silence for a moment before Nishinoya let out a small sign and yelled at top of his lungs:

“Kageyama, cover!”

Kageyama flinched, hearing the familiar words, and it hit him that there was no ball to catch. He tilted his head and realized that his hands actually rose into air, fingers spread apart, ready for tossing. Everyone stared at him and his stunned expression, and in no time the whole room was filled with loud tremendous laughter.

Kageyama looked around him, his thoughts and emotions mixed in a complete mash-up that was going on inside his head. Daichi and Suga were chortling softly, amused by the actions of the younger ones, Tsukishima was grinning and pointing at Kageyama (he attempted shooting him a deadly glare, but that bastard just turned around and laughed louder along with Yamaguchi), Asahi was giggling nervously with his eyes closed, as if apologizing and expecting some more trouble coming, Tanaka was basically laughing his ass off on the floor together with Nishinoya, who did his best not to roll around since he was still holding the tray and just shook silently, trying to hold everything in). Kageyama turned around a little to see Hinata — he was smiling ridiculously wide and laughing happily, but his gaze was actually glued to him. When their eyes met, some weird golden sparks in Hinata’s irises danced around, lighting his face up with delight even more. He seemed to be saying, Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t Karasuno amazing? Hinata was enjoying the situation, but he was cautiously watching for Kageyama's reaction at the same time.

And it wasn’t long before he got one. Kageyama’s face unconsciously cracked up in a fast smile or grin (or probably something in between), but he cooled down as soon as Hinata’s face started shooting fireworks all around. His cheeks seemed to be on fire, thank gods no one except for the carrot-headed idiot was watching him.

When Karasuno finally calmed down (and that took a while), Suga took the pie away from Nishinoya while Tanaka helped him up, and everyone’s attention was focused back on Kageyama. But now their eyes were lit up with pure childish excitement (but not Tsukishima’s, gods forbid. He was just hungry after the practice).

“Time to eat!” Tanaka shouted, but Daichi looked at him sternly, calming him down.

“Let him make his wish first,” Suga protested, coming closer to the bed followed by others. Fortunately, the cake didn’t have candles yet, but Asahi fished them out and let Nishinoya stick them in, giving Kageyama a chance to study it.

The cake was black, apparently poured with chocolate, and it had bright orange lines all over it, entwining in a beautiful composition. A blue-and-yellow volleyball was assembled from the small glazed globs in the middle of it. And on its edges there were dark chocolate raven feathers inserted in the pie — eleven of them.

Asahi must’ve noticed Kageyama staring at the cake and blushed a little, smiling shyly.

“It’s not a masterpiece, I know, but still something, right? Suga helped me a lot. And sorry for that,” he pointed at a blank spot where a feather was supposed to be. “Tanaka ate it.”

“That was Noya-san!”

“Stop blaming me, Ryu! We all know that you can kill for a cake!”

Daichi came from behind unnoticed, putting his hands on their shoulders and smiling kindly.

“Are you two done?”

“Yes,” they muttered in unison, trying to get away from the angry captain.

But Kageyama barely paid attention to any of that. His eyes were still on the cake, looking at it again and again but still not believing in what they saw.

“Y-you baked it yourselves?” Kageyama asked, desperately trying to control his voice, which was on the verge of trembling. He wouldn’t lose his cool for the cake after all. Not in front of his team.

“Well, Asahi did most of the work,” Suga said, his smile bright and warm like the sun. “I just helped a little.” He probably saw Kageyama’s confused and lost expression and decided to help him as well. “It looks amazing, doesn’t it?”

Kageyama nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. “Yeah. Yeah, it does.”

Asahi looked surprised at first, but then he smiled, encouraging him.

“I’m glad you like it.”

“You have no idea how tasty it must be!” Tanaka was about to cry at that point, being so close to the pie but not allowed to try it. “Asahi-san’s cakes are the best cakes.”

“He can’t make any ordinary cakes, but when it comes to something like this — voila!” Nishinoya laughed, embarrassing his larger friend to bits. “He only bakes freestyle.”

“That’s true, but we can’t start without the girls,” Daichi protested, followed by new moans from Tanaka, but he didn’t make any attempts of rebellion.

Knock-knock-knock-knock.

The door opened, and Yachi’s happy face flickered in the chink.

“We’re back!”

The whole team turned their heads simultaneously when their managers entered the room, carrying a box in their hands. Boys wanted to help, but Kiyoko shook her head and came closer with Yachi, placing the box on the floor. It didn’t seem heavy, why would they even carry it together? Kageyama just watched them, his sense already somewhere far away from him to react healthily. Karasuno really prepared a present for him, it wasn’t a prank or anything. The way Hinata tensed and radiated excitement next to him assured him of that. What could possibly be inside? He heard something rolling, but everything inside his head was ringing and he couldn’t fully rely on his ears right now.

“So, let’s give him the present first?” Yamaguchi asked. The girls sat on the couch together, on Tanaka’s ex-spot (since Daichi stood up, Hinata and Kageyama moved over and gave some space for the managers).

“Actually,” Tsukishima pointed out, “we’re already too close to eating the cake with wax.”

Every person in the room immediately looked at the pie, with candles already burning and wax slowly leaking from them.”

“SAVE THE CAKE!” Tanaka cried out wildly, causing a wave of confusion to ripple through the team. Suga nearly dropped the cake, because Tanaka was basically shouting into his ear, but managed to avoid the crash.

“Alright, Kageyama, you’d really better make a wish now,” Suga pointed out, still wincing from Tanaka’s screaming. It snapped Kageyama back to his senses as he leant forward and loomed over the candles, their warmth gently tingling his skin. Everyone else watched him carefully, and just as he inhaled to blow the fire away, the realization hit him: he didn’t know what wish to make.

Kageyama held in the air for a second, wondering what would he even wish on such a celebration. It turned his expectations upside down, torn to pieces every stereotype that he believed in and left him recovering like this alone.

Oh, he made one mistake over there. In the alone part.

That could be crossed out from now on.

Kageyama looked at the fire dancing on the tips of the candles, so warm and comforting, with a beautiful shimmering aura around it, dimly illuminating the faces of his teammates, and blew out the candles.

Everyone cheered, Tanaka being the loudest, already with a knife in his hand and a maniac smile on his face. Suga put the cake on the chair brought by Yamaguchi in front of Kageyama.

“He should cut the cake himself,” Kiyoko said. “It’s for him, remember.”

It seemed like everyone just wanted him dead today. He’s never been too emotional or sensitive, not at all, but that was the sort of a situation he was absolutely not prepared to deal with — kindness, friendship, trust, taking care. That confounded him and made his tongue go numb every time.

It took Kageyama a few seconds to realize that Tanaka was holding the knife out for him, so he reached out and took it. That’s true, he always cut the cake on his birthday, but it definitely wasn’t the same this year.

The tip of the blade carved into the pie easily, cutting it softly, but Kageyama could feel his hands shaking and handle slipping out of his fingers. Somebody collected the extinguished candles and Kageyama’s hand with a knife in it suddenly went right beside it, freaking him out. He has to calm down somehow, or he’d ruin the cake. And embarrass himself. And possibly leave someone too impatient without fingers.

“Hey, let me,” he felt a gentle cooling touch on his skin, which surprisingly didn’t take him off guards. Hinata carefully pulled a knife from his grasp, unraveling his fingers, stood up and happily cut the pie. He was acting gracefully, with a smug grin on his face, as if he’s been doing it for his whole life.

“I always cut cakes for Natsu,” he explained, finishing his work and quickly removing the remnants of the cake from the knife using two fingers and licking the cream from them.

“That piece isn’t neat,” Tsukishima pointed out, his annoying voice returning Kageyama back to reality.

“Kageyama screwed it first!” Well that was about it.

“Did not!”

“Did too!”

“Oh would you two stop?”

“Would not!” they shouted in unison, their eyes widening and cheeks pinking. Everyone around laughed again, pressing atmosphere of the room dissolving completely. The team was at ease again, just like on the court while playing. And Kageyama liked it this way.

“Okay, since it’s already late, we’d better give you the present now,” Daichi heralded, and everything quieted down. The team was staring at the box — some as if there was a bomb, some as if there was another cake. Kageyama had strongly mixed feelings. Tanaka sniffed disappointedly but quickly refocused without any odd whining. Karasuno settled everywhere around him — the girls and Hinata set on the bed with him, the rest had to occupy the floor. The sat in a circle around the cake, fidgeting to get comfortable and fussing around until Daichi reached out for the box. Kageyama’s breath was taken away. He felt himself a child again, curious and excited. It shocked him to bits, but there was no time to think about it.

“Being the Captain, I’ll start.”

Daichi pulled something out of the box…

A volleyball.

Kageyama’s eyes narrowed and his head tilted just as he registered something scribbled all over the ball in various handwritings. His heart stopped, chest unmoving.

No way.

Kageyama looked at Hinata, who was shining like the sun itself, smiling so wide that his face should’ve cracked by now, but it didn’t. No, he smiled even wider seeing Kageyama’s astonished expression, grinning softly, as if encouraging him to go on, check the gift out. Kageyama kind of wanted to strangle him on spot for such an unexpected hit below his belt, but at the same time some very, very small part of his brain was whispering him to hug the boy and never let go. He cared about him to the extent of arranging this, of bringing everyone here, despite the possibility of catching cold too, and he even remembered their conversation from that sleepover, when Kageyama definitely wasn’t in his right mind asking such things. Neither was he right now, not at all. He looked back at Daichi, who spun the ball in his hands and then stopped it, pointing at one of the black writings on it. The silence in the room was overwhelming. The Captain smiled and broke it, speaking quietly but firmly.

“We’re sorry for not having time for anything else, but this should be a good present, right?” he grinned, obviously enjoying Kageyama’s reaction. He wanted to curse them all for… for being them, but his tongue just wouldn’t work. “We all wrote something we like and enjoy about you here, something in only one word — so ten words in total characterizing you as a member of Karasuno and our friend,” the word kept ringing in Kageyama’s ears, he heard it so many times today. “This one is mine — reliable. As both a setter and a person,” Daichi noted, smiling. “Whenever we want a ball to be, it’ll come, because you’d toss it in exactly the right place in exactly the right time. I have to agree with Tsukishima, it might be creepy sometimes,” the Captain grinned, but not in a teasing way, more because of being amused, “but it’s wonderful and very helpful for the whole team. And I personally thank you for that,” he nodded, and Kageyama tried to thank him, but only some muffled noises came out of his throat, so he just nodded in return. Kageyama probably still wasn’t breathing, he couldn’t even tell, but he didn’t care at the moment. Everything and everyone who mattered were the people around him, that was the simple truth of it.

Daichi tossed the ball to Suga, who found his own writing a few moments later, showing it to him. This one definitely shocked Kageyama even more, if that was still possible. He might've expected some bright epithets, but not this.

Encouraging,” Suga said, gently stroking the ball and meeting Kageyama’s eyes. “This may not sound like something I’d say about Kageyama, but it’s true,” he looked around, as if challenging anyone who would object. “And yes, you have… your own ways,” he laughed tenderly at that, “yet they proved themselves to be just as effective as mines. We all remember Hinata on the match against Seijo, and that one against the Neighborhood Association,” now everyone was giggling, but Hinata kept quiet. “You can encourage people, challenge them and help them to develop, to try something new. It’s an essential quality for a team member, and I’d like you to keep it,” Suga was very good at smiling with his eyes, which he did, seeing Kageyama’s speechless expression. He’d never even think that someone would call him encouraging. Sure, he could bump some sense into Hinata on his worst days, but he didn’t know that it was actually being encouraging. When Suga tossed the ball elsewhere, Kageyama finally got himself together a little and muttered:

“T-thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he replied, and then Kageyama noticed that Asahi held the ball now, nervously twirling it in his hands. He found his word and showed to everyone.

Inspiring,” their Ace said, smiling awkwardly. “Y-you was the one to finally make me realize why did I want to go back on the court so much. You helped me to play again and to stop being afraid of spiking,” it was hard to say in a dim light, since it was already quite dark outside and no one turned the lights on, but Asahi’s face seemed to go red a little; he was probably still embarrassed of being such a coward and giving up in the past. “You told Suga to toss to me until I score, and I really appreciate it. Thank you,” he muttered, lowering his head a bit and passing the ball elsewhere.

“The cake is very cool,” Kageyama said in return, trying to ease Asahi from remembering the past, since he knew better than anyone else how it feels like, and he sighed satisfyingly seeing a light smile on his face. Kageyama didn’t even understand where his concern was coming from, it just did, even though of course he wouldn’t show in to anyone.

The next to speak was Kiyoko, who was sitting near Asahi. She quickly located her adjective and pointed at it.

Watchful,” she voiced out. “You have a strong concentration on your goal and good abilities in collecting and analyzing information. On the court,” she added, her eyes sparkling. “All boys are dumb when it comes to being thoughtful and noticing each other’s feelings.” It wasn’t meant to offend him, and Kageyama raised his eyebrows, trying to get the subtext. Kiyoko just shrugged, a mischievous glint in her eyes as she gave the ball to Yachi, who nearly dropped it, but their current manager caught it, covering her trembling palms and squeezing them reassuringly.

“Not only boys,” Nishinoya whispered to Tanaka and they both giggled, awarded with a calm yet sharp glare from Kiyoko, which shut them up immediately.

“M-my word is determined,” Yachi squeaked, finding it and offering to Kageyama. “You are very determined, you know how to get your way and you do what you love doing, l-like playing volleyball,” she was as red as a boiled lobster, and Kageyama felt his ears heating up too. “That is a very important and good thing about you, stay like this forever,” she blushed even more a second later when she realized what she said and tried to recover herself. “I-I don’t mean forever forever, j-just as long as you li…”

Kageyama knew better than trying to smile and freak her out even more, so he just nodded to give her some confidence. They didn’t really interact much, but Yachi seemed like a nice girl, craving of developing and learning, kind and never annoying him. The last aspect was the most important on his list.

It was Yamaguchi’s turn. He showed his word to Kageyama as well, before starting to talk.

Talented,” he said, laying the ball on his knees. “Your tosses are really amazing. So accurate, fast and useful,” the fascinated glint in his eyes told that he wasn’t exaggerating in his admiration. “And you train so much, expanding your talent even further, it's unbelievable. There is no useless effort, remember that,” he finished, and Kageyama thanked him aloud, slowly regaining control over his own body. The fever seemed to bother him even more, but he could barely feel it. What was happening around overwhelmed his senses completely, but he could handle it. He was Kageyama after all.

He nodded to Yamaguchi and shifted his gaze to the next person. Tsukishima held the ball firmly in his hands, his mocking arrogant expression not going anywhere. Kageyama tensed a little, feeling the familiar spark of rivalry. Not even rivalry, more of a... mutual hatred and being pointlessly annoying to each other.

And like hell Kageyama was going to stand down to him.

"You'll see the word yourself," Tsukishima said, causing a wave of you-gotta-be-kidding-me snickers across the team. Kageyama snorted at that. So predictable. "It's skilled." Yet again - to be expected. Although to be fair Kageyama was surprised enough that Tsukishima took part in it in the first place. It's probably Daichi who made him. Tsukishima winced under the stern (and one particularly intimidating) looks from his senpais and carried on, seemingly trying not to roll his eyes. "You're a skilled and technically evolved setter, your tosses are very accurate and handy. It's nice having you on our team."

It took Kageyama by surprise how sincere that actually sounded. Tsukishima's slightly shaken look seemed to be taken off guards by that as well.

"I block better than you too." Kageyama blurted out, totally meaning it. He didn't try to make the situation less awkward, not at all, because he did, in fact, block better than that cocky first-year.

"In your dreams," Tsukishima answered way too fast, smirking and readjusting his glasses. "You're shorten than me."

"Consider it your head start."

"My block is wider than yours."

"Look out for the wind, mill."

"Tsukishima—"

"Don't get trampled, rake." That idiot was beyond Kageyama’s understanding.

"Why the hell rake?!"

"Stop it already, you two!" Daichi interfered, shutting them both up. Tanaka leapt forward and grabbed the ball from Tsukishima's hands, throwing it into the air and then catching again. He grinned at Kageyama, smug that the ball was finally his.

“My turn!” Tanaka announced, quickly throwing the ball up again and then catching it in a way that his word was facing Kageyama. “Hilarious. Because for gods sake, Kageyama, your bed head is just…” he erupted into a tremendous laughter, followed by giggles of a few people who also saw it earlier today. Kageyama could feel his face heating up.

“It was you and Nishinoya-san who slammed the door open without even knocking, Tanaka-san.” Kageyama was still a bit angry for that. He was in his pajamas and his hair stuck up into different directions as if after an explosion, he knew that very well. His mother made sure of that.

“I know, sorry, but…” Tanaka rubbed his eyes, trying to calm down. “That was awesome, man. Just don’t try to look intimidating in the morning if you don’t want me to laugh my guts out,” he shook again, and Hinata laughed next to Kageyama quietly.

“See?” he whispered. “It’s not just me.” Kageyama just hit him with the edge of his palm in the ribs without even looking.

“But it’s not just that,” Tanaka said, finally becoming a bit more serious. “Maybe that sounds weird, but those stupid things you do and the way you behave on the court sometimes puts the team at ease and lightens the mood. And gives us many opportunities to extend our lifetimes, because that freaking serve in your he—“ Tanaka couldn’t even finish speaking as he and the whole team burst out laughing. Kageyama’s nape itched. It was funny, now that he remembered about it, and it wasn’t embarrassing anymore or anything (why would it? It was Hinata who totally screwed up), so it was kind of good to have something funny to remember. Back then he wanted to strange anyone who would even dare mentioning it, but now it was different. And it felt better.

“Thank you, Tanaka-san,” Kageyama nodded. Tanaka grinned and tossed the ball to Nishinoya, who caught it with his left hand and carelessly found his own inscription.

“Decided to leave the short ones for the last?” Nishinoya demanded, but the smile on his lips ruined the furious shade he was trying so hard to paint his voice with. Some players simpered, but quieted down when the libero lifted his head. Nishinoya looked kind of pensive and solemn, which usually wasn’t like him. Kageyama only saw him like this when they were trying to return Asahi on the court.

“My word is fundamental,” Nishinoya disclosed, surprising Kageyama. He expected something light and minor from his senpai who was known for bouncing off the walls and being extraordinarily noisy, but here he was. “Because you’re a foundation of our team in your own way.” Everyone was so quiet you could determine who sits where just by listening to one’s breathing. Kageyama’s heart accelerated. “Everything starts at the receive, that’s true, but… but when the going gets rough, when the receive is tenuous and the team is in disarray, the setter with his focused and accurate toss returns the rhythms, gets up the spirits and helps the team to recover and Ace to spike. You have enough confidence, enough durability and fortitude for that, you don't kneel in front of any impediments. You’re the core of the team, and it’s amazing to have such a trustworthy and stubborn player and person by our side.”

The silence deafened everyone for a few seconds, and then Tanaka suddenly wept, tears streaming from his eyes.

“Noya-sa-a-an!” Nishinoya jerked up and looked at him as if Tanaka just proposed him, completely lost for a moment, but then grinning complacently.

“Didn’t think I can be serious too if I want, did ya?” he whooped, throwing his fist up into the air, and the whole team laughed airily, amused and amazed by their libero. Kageyama was the only one to stay quiet. The core of the team? He was used to being the seventh wheel of the team, not the basis of it. And hearing such words, especially from Nishinoya… he couldn’t help but feel relieved and worthy at the same time. Even if he didn’t show that, it was very important for him to know that his teammates needed him, because what’s the whole point of volleyball if they didn’t? The setter is a connecting link between two players, and if the gears don’t work together, the whole combination would fall apart and the attack simply wouldn’t happen.

“Thank you, Nishinoya-san,” Kageyama muttered, still fazed by his words a little. They kept roaming through him mind, filling his body with pleasant warmth. “Thank you.”

Nishinoya snickered and tossed the ball Kageyama's way, and his reflexes told him to catch it, but it was about time Kageyama remembered that there was still one person who didn't say his word yet.

Hinata grabbed the ball, staring at it and looking a little surprised, as if he's already forgotten that he wrote something there too.

"Shouyou, it's only you left!" Nishinoya proclaimed, leaning forwards on his arms with his legs crossed. It took Hinata a few more seconds before he realized that everyone was waiting for him.

"O-osu!" he shouted, too loud, and then turned the ball, finding the spot where all blue lines flowed together - the top - and turning the ball to Kageyama in order to show him how he decided to characterize him the shortest way possible.

Kageyama narrowed his eyes, but then they suddenly widened and his heart stopped, his breathing becoming shallower with every new gasp he made.

"Incredible," Hinata said, his ears barely pinking, yet somehow he managed to look Kageyama in the eyes. And it pissed him off. "That's what comes to my mind when I think of you. You're an awesome setter, a very gifted one, your tosses are the coolest to get and the most effective to spike," something short-circuited in Kageyama's memory, the words of his former teammates from Kitagawa Daichi: Your tosses are useless, too fast, we can't even spike them! "Your presence on the court is undeniable, and quite scary when you're all fired up, to be honest," he smiled slightly and grinned. "But that's what makes it unique and powerful, that's what draws your allies closer to you." The game would be better without you anyway! You're nothing but a distraction! "Because they know that you're secure, they know that the ball will come exactly where and when needed, and they trust you." How can we even play with you when we never know if we'll be able to get your next toss? "And you're a very good person," Hinata nodded, swallowing something as if to calm his buzzing nerves down a bit. He wasn't usually showering Kageyama with compliments, on the contrary, he liked complaining about him and mocking him, but today it seemed like the words were just flying out of his mouth, slowly wrapping around Kageyama in a safe cocoon, along with all the other speeches he heard on this birthday. Hinata told him everything he actually meant behind all their arguments, fights and swearing towards each other; everything he really thought about him, he told him just today. Because today was special and completely different from all the other days. And today was the best. "You really can inspire and encourage people when you're not smiling like a maniac or trying to smile like a normal human,” he grinned. “I probably know that better than anyone else," Hinata blinked, letting those words settle in his own mind and tilting his head forwards slightly, looking down. "You are confident, persistent, strong and... a very good friend. You're the best teammate and friend I could've ever wished for," the last sentence practically drowned in the trembling of his voice, so quiet yet so bright and attractive, like a string of light somewhere in the darkness. You can’t even be a part of the team, not to mention be somebody's friend, you’re too egocentric and arrogant for that, Your Royal Highness. Kageyama was still facing him, desperately wishing for something to happen — a loud noise, a sudden flash, a touch — anything, because he couldn't believe in what his ears were hearing, he just couldn't. Nobody ever said something like this to him, not even closely, and now it overwhelmed him to the extent when all his senses went numb, feelings and emotions mixed all over his body, tearing it apart and completely shutting his mind down, leaving him stunned and unable to do anything but listen, listen carefully, fiercely craving to assure himself that what Hinata was saying is true.

You might be talented, yet you’re nothing but trash on your own.

Hinata suddenly lifted his head, offering Kageyama the ball and meeting his dark blue eyes with his bright yellow ones, sparkling, like they were wet a little, gasped and then spoke, his voice still quivering with all the emotions hidden inside, but firm and certain, saying something natural and absolutely true:

“You really are incredible.”

Kageyama came to the point when everything he had been trying so hard to hold in just spilled out. He didn’t mean it, he didn’t want it, but Karasuno’s influence and presence finally got him. Kageyama couldn’t find any words, he couldn’t even thank Hinata properly or something. He just took the ball, so light in his palms, but still reassuring, claiming that he wasn’t dreaming — and looked at it carefully, examining each and every inscription. They wrote their words on eight blue-and-yellow strips the ball had; Nishinoya and Hinata scribbled theirs on the top and the bottom. He traced the springy sooth fabric of the ball, gently touching the writings; it couldn’t have been true, but black lines felt warmer and tingled his skin. Every word had a signature under it — ten in total. Kageyama stared at it, turning the ball and not taking his eyes off it, determined to never let it go, when Tsukishima snickered.

“Look at it, turns out kings can cry too,” somebody shushed him sharply, and only then Kageyama noticed a couple of small drops on the leather. They slid down slowly, and Kageyama raised his arm, rubbing his cheek with the back of his hand.

Huh, Kageyama was crying.

“Oi, Kageyama—“ he heard Daichi talking and shook his head immediately, snapping to his senses and tightening his grip on the ball. What in the world was he even thinking? Now Kageyama wouldn’t hear the end of it from that blond four-eyed bastard. He should just calm down already and eat the goddamn cake so that they’d finally…

Oh.

Kageyama opened his eyes after he felt someone wrapping his arms around him tightly and nuzzling into his shoulder, pulling his coat down. His breathing was taken away and his eyes widened in shock, and he saw that the whole team was startled, but wasn’t really fazed for long by that, smiling joyfully a few seconds later. Kageyama turned his head to see an unmistakable orange mop of hair clinging to him, and the grip only tightened. His arms were above Hinata’s small figure, tensed and frozen, since he didn’t know where to put them, and his very first reflex was to shake Hinata off him, avoiding an even more awkward situation, but that didn’t seem quite right. Kageyama didn’t want to offend him, but he couldn’t allow them to stay like this in front of the whole team.

The thing is, he didn’t have to. Because there was Tanaka on their team as well.

The mentioned senpai jumped forward, barely missing the cake and crushing into them both, hugging them strongly and almost strangling the boys. Kageyama coughed in a desperate attempt to break free from Tanaka’s embrace, but he only just weakened it a little so that they could breath. Hinata’s face went seemed to have gone blue a little, but he managed a light smile.

“Tanaka, you’re going to squeeze them both to death.”

“I’ll help!” Nishinoya leapt from his spot to the trio, practically flying on Tanaka’s neck and flipping over them, forcing his way into the hug (Kageyama couldn’t even understand if he was going to help them to escape or Tanaka to strangle them at first). It’s good thing that he was small. Nishinoya clapped Kageyama’s back and he felt as if he was going to cough his guts out, because he still wasn’t fully healthy, but that didn’t matter at the moment. Kageyama physically felt like shit, but it was okay.

Kageyama saw Suga nudging Daichi from the corner of his eye and they also made their way over, piling up their gathering and blending in easily. Kageyama’s cheeks were probably on fire by now, but it was getting stuffy closer to the center of their crowd, and he couldn’t really tell. Hinata clung to him even more, pushed deeper by third-years. Asahi joined them right after, smiling light-heartedly as he climbed onto Kageyama’s bed to Nishinoya threw his arms over almost all of them. Kiyoko and Yachi exchanged amused glance and entwined in their manly company, when the third-years gave them some space. It seemed weird, staying together for so long, and a bit hot (but hugging was strange and unfamiliar to Kageyama in the first place), but nobody seemed to mind. Yamaguchi signed, his face beaming gently, as he stood up and then remembered about his friend, the only one left sitting. He looked at him in a motivating way, impelling the taller guy into action, and although Tsukishima's expression was clearly saying hell no, Yamaguchi just grabbed his shoulder and pushed him up, startling Tsukishima enough for him to push him to the group to get caught by Daichi and Tanaka. Tsukishima sent Yamaguchi, who laid his arm on his shoulder a few moments later while smiling innocently, a dirty glare, but said nothing.

In the end, when it all settled down, Kageyama was in the center, surrounded by Hinata, Nishinoya, Kiyoko, Yachi and Tanaka (who was also squeezing Hinata) — he had no idea how they even managed, but everyone seemed eager to get closer to each other. Asahi embraced Nishinoya and Yachi, being careful not to push the girl too hard, Suga wrapped his arms around Kiyoko and Yamaguchi, while Daichi held Tsukishima in place with Tanaka, using his other hand to bring Hinata deeper, circling his back. It was getting uncomfortably hot inside, but everyone smiled (except for Tsukishima, who only came here for the cake, of course) and laughed, grabbing each other even tighter. Kageyama never felt so overjoyed, even if he wasn’t going to show it, even if he was sick; he was surrounded by his teammates and friends, friends who cared about him, who wanted to help him and accepted him with all his bad and annoying traits.

They could only deal with him on the court, tolerating him for his tosses, yet here they were — congratulating and embracing him despite his cold.

It wasn't entirely pleasant, but it felt … promising. Kind of nice. Very strong, and very warm. ©

The silence was broken by Daichi's mischievous whisper:

“On the count of three.”

Kageyama lifted his head a bit, trying to predict what was going on. Tsukishima rolled his eyes, as if being the only adult amongst children.

“One…”

“Two…” everyone gasped, and the pressing of arms around Kageyama increased.

“Happy—“

“ACHOO!” Kageyama’s first instinct was to jump to the ceiling, just as the rest of the team’s. He nearly had a heart attack when something exploded so loudly right beside him. Karasuno looked at him frightened, but then something shifted near his chest and Hinata lifted his head, rubbing his nose and snuffling.

“ ‘m sorry,” he said, stroking the tip of his nose in order to stop the next upcoming sneeze. It worked, and he sighed blissfully. Kageyama’s eye twitched as he felt the insuppressible urge to smack his partner and beat some sense into him.

“I told you that you were going to—“

“ACHOO!” Hinata didn’t see that one coming, and neither did Kageyama — Hinata sneezed right into his face in the middle of the sentence. Kageyama winced when an unpleasant airwave washed over him, and then opened his eyes, unable to hide his murderous intents anymore. Hinata seemed to get the hint as he pulled away, his face crossed with fear.

Karasuno cachinnated in front of them, Tanaka and Tsukishima being the loudest. Hinata took no chances as he hid behind Asahi’s formidable back. Kageyama just snorted. He acted like a baby, so immature.

“Alright!” Daichi said, calming Tanaka and Tsukishima down by patting them roughly. “Let’s eat some cake, it’s late already.”

Tanaka instantly forgot about Hinata’s storm sneeze and looked at the cake with such a gaze that’d make Kageyama really freak out. Yes, it was about time they finally ate the damn cake.

Karasuno turned the lights on and sat around like they did a few minutes earlier, Kiyoko and Yachi brought the plates with spoons from the kitchen, Yamaguchi took care of tea and they divided the pieces cut by Hinata amongst them. The cake actually turned out to be very tasty, everyone admitted it, praising Asahi every now and then. Kageyama didn’t have a very big appetite, but even he couldn’t help but eat a piece, savoring the delicious sweet aftertaste it left after being swallowed. Hinata looked way too much alike a hamster, munching over his part of the pie and turning around every few seconds, still taking in the atmosphere. Well, he’s probably used to such things, unlike Kageyama, right? His mind hung on to that thought as Karasuno kept chattering all around, and in the next second they were interfered:

Knock-knock-knock.

“Tobio?”

It was his mother’s voice. She entered the room, all smiling and shining and beaming even more when seeing the whole team spread around the remnants of the cake. Everyone greeted her and Hinata offered her his place on the bed, but she just waved off, as if being too impatient over telling them something.

“Guys, I just wondered if you could do me a favor and take a photo together?” she smiled innocently, just like Suga or Daichi when they told their kohais to do something in an you-don’t-have-any-choice tone, but gentler, as if allowing the probability of a refusal. She raised her arm, and there was a camera hanging from it. Kageyama tensed, his cheeks pinking again. This was getting out of hand.

“Mother—“

“Sounds like a good idea!” Suga interrupted him, standing up and clapping his hands. Daichi got up as well, finishing the last bite of his cake portion, and springing the team into action.

“What are you all waiting for?”
Everyone stumbled up, already a bit dizzy and sleepy after having a tasty pie with some tea, but they obediently went to Kageyama’s bed as he glared at his mother, furrowing his eyebrows. She just shrugged, still smiling like an angel from heavens, and walked over to stand in front of the bed. She peeked at them through the camera and gestured with her arms.

“Sit closer, you're not making in the shot!”

Everyone started shifting again, stomping over each other’s feet and hustling around, until after a few minutes later under Daichi and Suga’s intent observation they finally settled down and decided how to sit.

His mother changed some settings in the camera and nodded satisfyingly, showing thumb up with her free hand.

“Okay, that’s it!”

Everyone around him stiffened, and Kageyama tensed a bit as well. That was just a stupid photo, and he was definitely being overdramatic about it.

“One.”

His arm shifted as Hinata fidgeted a little, trying to get more comfortable in a frozen pose. He couldn’t sit still even for a few seconds, could he?

“Two.”

Kageyama felt giddy. So many things happened to him — good things, unexpected, astounding and absolutely breathtaking. His heart seemed to lose its battle against the stress, slowing down and calming him bit by bit. But it was nice — he felt surprisingly comfortable at the moment, incredibly peaceful.

“Three!”

And the flash went off.

 

Kageyama walked into the gym, inhaling the nice scent deeply - scent of leather volleyballs, recently washed smooth parquet and Air Salonpas, so familiar and reassuring. It was the first time he came here in a few days, but it seemed like eternity. Good thing is, his mother allowed him not to go to school just today but participate in the practice, only if Kageyama would keep it down and not get too exhausted (she even called Daichi to make sure of that, embarrassing her son yet again). But Kageyama was still grateful for an opportunity to finally leave the house and do what he likes most — play. Now that he thought about it, they haven't practiced quicks with Hinata for a while, and that idiot must've relaxed already. Most of his teammates had a soft spot for him, and Kageyama couldn't actually explain that.

Kageyama was the first to enter the gym, so he practiced some serves while no one was around. He was lucky that it was opened, or he'd simply have to wait outside. But it wasn't long before Kageyama heart a familiar chattering and bustling, mixed with some laughter and Captain's stern voice (also some weird gurgling sounds as if there was a murder attempt going on), which meant that Karasuno Volleyball Club has entered the dressing room.

Kageyama collected all the balls he'd been using, throwing them back into the basket. He couldn't help but feel just a little excited before playing again, because tossing against the wall got really boring back on the second day. He's been waiting long enough.

A few seconds later the door opened, and Daichi with Suga were the first to come in, followed by everyone else. They all cheered when seeing Kageyama (well, except for Tsukishima of course), and Tanaka ran over, grabbing him with one hand and patting his head with another. Yet there must be some boundaries after all.

"Tanaka-san—"

"Our first-year setter is back on the court!" he proclaimed. "And the decoy is back in game!"

Kageyama somehow managed to escape his grip, and Nishinoya snickered nearby. He glanced at Kageyama as if he wanted to do the same thing as Tanaka, but his height wasn't really helpful with that.

Kageyama instinctively looked around, searching for a familiar bouncing wad of energy, but Hinata wasn't around. He took a better look and was about to ask what the hell is important enough to linger him, when Asahi joined them from the cloakroom, calling their Captain at the same time:

"Daichi, it's your phone."

Daichi apologized to Takeda-sensei and ran off to the dressing room to pick up the call. Kageyama was unconsciously watching him, bad feeling settling in his stomach already. In a few moments Daichi's went out, phone still near his ear, covering it with one hand while speaking to the team.

"Hinata fell sick, he won't come today."

That caused a wave of disappointed moans and mutterings ripple all over the gym. But Kageyama barely heard them, the sentence still ringing in his mind. That idiot, that goddamn idiot managed to get himself sick after all. It's a good thing he called Daichi, because Kageyama would probably just yell at him for being a complete, irresponsible and selfless airhead without any sense in his stupid head. Kageyama told him that'd happen, but nooo, that dumbass was too stubborn to listen. And now they couldn't practice together again, all because of his idiotic urge to help him even though he knew that it was most likely going to harm him as well. How can such idiots even walk on Earth?

"Tell Hinata to stay off the court for a while, Daichi-san," Tsukishima snickered. "Not that I worry for him, but if comes soon, the king would serve into his head until he dies, and I'm not going to scrub floors afterwards."

"Huh?!" Kageyama snapped to reality and turned to him sharply, a murderous spark in his eyes.

"Maybe he wouldn't hurt a sick person," Yamaguchi suggested.

"Hinata said that's probably for a week," Daichi replied. Something inside Kageyama's chest broke and fired up at the same time, his desire to strangle Hinata with his own hands rising up ferociously.

"You think so?" Nishinoya asked Yamaguchi, giggling quietly.

"Yeah, he's here," Daichi said to the phone, laughing. It hit Kageyama that the Captain was talking about him. "Don't worry about it, just get better soon. And you can always call us if you need anything, right?" Daichi smirked after hearing something Hinata said and hung up. Almost everyone looked at Kageyama, knowing approximately what was on his mind right now. And he really didn't like such attention.

"It's not—"

"Let's start, then?" Suga interfered before Daichi could say anything. "Hinata will go back to the practice as soon as he's fine again, but we won't relax while he's away, will we?" There was a moment of silence, but the team recovered fast:

"Osu!" Karasuno shouted, already a bit less devastated by the second player loss in row and spreading around for the warm-up.

"And if he doesn't get better soon, we'll make him get better!" Tanaka screamed, followed by some approving nods and cheers.

Kageyama didn't have any time or chance to beat himself over what happened at the moment, because the practice started.

 

 

It was surprisingly easier today (yet again, probably because Kageyama's mother called Daichi earlier), but Kageyama was still out of breath by the moment they finished. Those few days at home haven't done him any physical good whatsoever. But the tiredness felt nice anyway, like something essential and absolutely natural, Kageyama enjoyed it and needed it. He was just about to go to the changing room when someone tugged his arm gently — definitely not a player, then — catching his attention. Kageyama turned around and saw Kiyoko standing in front of him, a timer and some papers in her hand and some piece of paper in another. She reached out, offering it to him. Kageyama's eyebrows furrowed as he took the paper and studied it, not quite getting the whole meaning of her gesture.

"Um, what is it?" he asked, utterly confused. She tilted her head a bit, as if surprised to hear such a question.

 

"Hinata's address," Kiyoko answered, her voice calm and collected as usual. Kageyama's breathing rhythm, which he tried his best to even, was distracted again. The paper seemed to burn against his skin, suddenly seeming heavier and more solid.

"Why did you give that to me? Why do I need it?" Kageyama asked, still attempting to understand her intentions. Kiyoko didn't seem fazed in the slightest, as if she was explaining something to a child.

"Hinata asked for yours when you were sick," she told him, turned around and went away, leaving Kageyama startled under the net. He looked at the address again, remembering when Hinata told him that Kiyoko gave him his address. But why would Kiyoko think that Kageyama needed his address now? It's not like he was going to pay him a visit or anything.

Kageyama folded the paper and shoved it into his pocket, shaking his head and setting off to the cloakroom. He'll forget about it soon enough, and right now his goal was to make it home as early as possible so that his mother wouldn't think that he practiced too much. She was usually okay, but if angry... Kageyama wouldn't risk playing volleyball, no. Too dangerous and too important.

He couldn't help but unwillingly touch the paper and yank it again and again on his way home, feeling the rough surface tingle a bit with his fingers.

 

 

Kageyama's mother appeared to be staying at work late, so he just ate something he found in the fridge, showered and went up to his room. The first thing to catch his eyes was the ball, lying on his pillow. Kageyama tumbled onto the bed, taking the present in his arms, spinning and studying it again. Even after all these days, he still couldn't believe he was actually holding it, the gift from his team. It felt warm, rubbing against his skin, warm and pleasant, and smelled of fresh leather. Of course Kageyama remembered that sleepover of his when he stayed at Hinata's place, because that was probably the most embarrassing experience in his life (well, at least until his birthday), but he never would've thought that Hinata was actually going to arrange him a celebration and give a present on his next birthday, such a symbolic one. He didn't seem like a particularly organized person, and Kageyama almost screw things up falling sick, but it turned out okay. No, even better than okay.

I'd give you something much cooler, obviously. Turned out, Hunata wasn't exaggerating in the slightest.

Kageyama's eyes went all the way to the head of his bed where a photo in a frame stood. He reached out and took it carefully in his hands, taking in the atmosphere of the picture. It was from his birthday as well — their team photo, which they took not really long before everyone had to go home.

And well, everything on the photo was a mess — typical Karasuno.

Kageyama was sitting in the center on the bed, holding the ball tightly in his arms, clutching it unconsciously, and smiling for gods’ sake. Kageyama truly didn't know he could smile like this, without freaking everyone out. He was shocked when he saw the photo for the first time. It was like looking into the mirror and seeing someone else reflected — weird and unsettling, but… curious. To the right there was Hinata, his face overthrown with joy and something between smiling and screaming. Asahi sat next to him, grinning softly and trying to avoid Hinata's flying hand slapping him in the face. Daichi sat with Kageyama on the other side, scolding Tanaka, probably reaching out to grab him and apparently wanting him to stop doing… whatever the hell he was doing. Suga was smiling soothingly just as usual, tittering awkwardly and patting Daichi in attempt to calm him down (if anyone, Suga always managed somehow). Yamaguchi was sitting behind him, giggling over the situation, and Tsukishima settled beside him, facepalming as usual with a what-am-I-even-doing-here expression (his face wasn’t fully visible behind his palm, but that was most likely what it looked like). Although it also seemed like he was doing his best to suppress a mocking grin. Yachi and Kiyoko were behind them in the middle. Yachi was smiling widely and throwing up victory signs with both hands, while Kiyoko couldn't help but smile innocently as well, putting bunny ears over Kageyama's head. Tanaka and Nishinoya were on the floor (who would’ve thought), and the libero was just laughing his ass off, trying not to fall on his back and kick Tanaka at the same time, who was in front of him, kicking in return, yet his face was clearly saying that he already saw Daichi’s reaction to their mess and he backed up just a little, desiring to get away from the Captain’s wrath. Kageyama totally got that, but it was Tanaka’s fault anyway.

When he saw the photo first on his mother’s camera, he suggested retaking it, but she just winked and got down to download it on the computer. Nevertheless, Kageyama never regretted leaving this particular shot. It had such an atmosphere in it that every time Kageyama looked at it he found himself back on his birthday, surrounded by a whole lot of friends and being utterly emotionally overwhelmed. It characterized Karasuno so well he had some hard time believing that it was possible to convey everything what was happening ever since he entered the high school volleyball club, but it was, and Kageyama was holding it right in his hands.

Like hell he was going to tell anyone about it, but this photo was Kageyama's favorite from now on.

He wondered why was he so overdramatic about it, but at the same time it couldn’t be otherwise. Kageyama entered high school without any far going hopes for the new team and classmates, determined to give his best to his own trainings, getting more experience and advancing his skills, but he was actually getting new ones all the time, although it wasn’t planned.

But entering such a team was a good surprise. Playing became easier and way more enjoyable, Kageyama was even more motivated to give his best to every move he did in order to win another score with his teammates. If in junior high he had to work with them, in this case he wanted to work with them. And it changed the whole process in an almost unrecognizable way, a better way. Kageyama’s a bit rushed choices proved to be the best choices he has ever made.

Kageyama traced along the figures with his finger, and it stopped on Hinata’s face. Kageyama tilted his head, taking a better look and trying to sum up everything what has been going on in his head for a while, which was quite difficult. He actually had strongly mixed feelings towards Hinata, and that hasn’t changed, but after his birthday they… sort of mixed in a different way. It all started when he only saw his physical abilities; but then it turned out that Hinata was willing to win more than anyone he’d ever met, and that amused him, even making him respect the guy a little. And not only that — Hinata was also immune to losing, he could get up and carry on with even more determination. He really was worthy of tossing, even if his basic skills were worse than shit. But that could be trained, could be achieved. Kageyama was even more shocked when Hinata actually tricked him into making a back toss — he was, in fact, afraid to do that after that last game with Kitagawa Daichi. No, he was frightened to bits. But that goddamn idiot just jumped, without even knowing if he would toss to him, and yelled for the ball. Hearing I’m here was just the last drop, because that was the moment Kageyama’s reflexes kicked in — knowing that there was a spiker in front of the net, waiting. His legs turned him and he managed to make a good toss, even though he was angry at himself afterwards. And the way he spiked his quick… Huh, that was just something out of normal. Sure, Kageyama told him not to watch the ball, but who in the world would go for spiking with eyes closed?! Kageyama thought Daichi was kidding at first. And Hinata looked just so childishly happy, admiring the toss and the feeling in his hand and something, Kageyama didn’t even remember. He was ruined back when Hinata told him that he had no choice but to trust him, and he really did, not just said. Kageyama thought he’d never understand what pushed him so far, what could possibly make him jump high without knowing if the ball would come, if he would be able to spike it, if the setter would do his job. But now it seemed like he was slowly getting it after all. Because he believed Hinata, trusted him completely — and it was an incredibly weird and stupid thing to discover, but as much as Kageyama tried to hide it somewhere deep down in his mind, it just wouldn’t work. Although as long as it stays within his head, it’s fine. Fortunately, Hinata didn’t need any explanations anyway.

B-Z-Z-Z-Z. B-Z-Z-Z-Z.

Kageyama almost forgot that he had a phone, and when it rang in the silence he flinched from a sudden noise. He wondered if that was his mother, calling him from work to warn that she’s going to stay even longer, because who else would call him so lately? Kageyama put the photo and the ball between the pillow and the wall, got up and came over to the table, grabbing his mobile and flopping back on the bed without even looking at the screen and accepting the call.

“Hai?”

“ACHOO!” Kageyama nearly dropped the phone on the floor, his eyes widening as he quickly calmed down again. Perhaps he was getting used to that. Somebody snuffled on the other end of the line and gasped for air, evening his breathing.

“Sorry,” he muttered, and for the first few seconds Kageyama couldn’t even get whose voice was that. But the sneeze was unmistakable, Kageyama was introduced to it far closer than required.

“Hinata?” Kageyama asked, confused a little. Why would he call him now? Was the cold that bad? That made something stir painfully in Kageyama’s stomach, since he was still blaming himself for getting Hinata fall sick.

“Of course ’m Hinata, d’you think I changed my name?” he tried to seem annoyed but failed, while in general… his voice was just awful, hardly recognizable at all.

“You sound awful,” Kageyama blurted out, without even thinking about it. But that was true, he was actually appalled by how broken and weak his voice was. It wasn’t even Hinata’s.

“Thanks, Captain Sunshine,” Hinata coughed but recovered in the same breath. “Your encouragement’s appreciated.”

“Are you alright?” This question just flew out of his mouth before Kageyama could even process it, since it was the most important one. Kageyama just hoped that Hinata was in no condition to tease him about this. The ball rolled down to his side and Kageyama put his hand on it, tracing the lines carefully.

“Do I sound like ‘m alright?” Hinata smirked, and Kageyama winced; his voice seemed so tortured that something squeezed in his chest. “But it could’ve been worse, really. And I survived worse.” He snuffled again. “I just wanted to say ‘m sorry.” Hinata seemed sleepy too, but that wasn’t surprising.

“What for?” Well, there were many things Kageyama hated Hinata for, but nothing happened lately? They haven’t seen each other for a while, and Hinata was the one to celebrate his birthday with him, so… Kageyama never really held any hard feelings, even if he seemed mad and tried killing him once or twice. Hinata was surely annoying, but not to the extent of actually murdering him. Not yet, at least.

“For not coming to the practice,” Hinata mumbled, embarrassed. “I was there yesterday, you had to come a day earlier!”

Kageyama smirked. Even when ill, Hinata was still so impudent and straight.

“If you didn’t come to school yesterday, maybe you wouldn’t feel like shit today. It’s not my problem that you don’t know what brains are used for.”

“I caught this cold from you, you know!” Hinata shouted, and everything fell quiet. That had a point. Kageyama’s mouth formed a thin line as his hand rested on the ball numbly, his head tilting forwards slightly. His cheeks rose, narrowing his eyes, and he winced. Kageyama didn’t need another reminder, not at all. He knew too well that it was his fault to begin with. He could’ve kicked Hinata out after all, but he didn’t, and he fell sick. Because sometimes his will and self-discipline failed him at the worst moments possible.

“Hey, forget that,” Hinata’s voice was soothing and… more like Hinata’s now. Pure regret was flowing from it, although it wasn’t really useful in forgetting his previous replica. “Kageyama?” he sounded concerned, and it astonished Kageyama how actually selfless one person could be.

“I-it’s me who’s supposed to apologize,” he managed, not quite believing that he could say such things. “You did fall sick because of me. And it’s my fault that—“

“Are you actually an idiot?” Hinata interfered, as if he was hearing something sincerely ridiculous. Kageyama wanted to insist, but he didn’t get a chance. “You think I didn’t know I could catch a cold? You think I regretted coming to your place and helping you? You dare thinking that I regretted arranging the whole thing and bringing Karasuno in?” His sleepy voice probably made his challenging tone sound funny, but definitely not to Kageyama. “I can survive a simple cold, it’s not a big deal. But you never had a birthday party, didn’t you? Eh, that wasn’t a party either way, but it was you who got ill in the first place. The next year we’re going to do something better, something cooler, so that all the second-years will be able to come and—“

“Hinata,” Kageyama broke in his speech, ignoring the fact that he didn’t really want to. His fingers closed around the ball, clinging to it, as his palm laid on Hinata’s inscription on the top. There was a lump in his throat that made it difficult to speak with every second, and Hinata asked him first:

“Yeah?” It was even more awkward and stupid now, but Kageyama had to do it after all, since he actually owed Hinata for all of this. And he had to show him that he liked what he did for him, that it was extremely important, totally new and incredible. Somehow. Without saying what he thought aloud.

“The next time you’re falling sick because of me and your idiotic stubbornness, I’m going to mix all the medicine I find and make you drink it.”
Hinata was silent for a moment, but then he suddenly burst into some sort of a weird mix of coughing and laughing, startling Kageyama even more.

“T-that was lame, Kageyama,” Hinata was still giggling, and Kageyama felt heat rising to his cheeks as he gripped the phone tighter. Of course it was lame, Hinata was doing his best to make Kageyama feel like he was stepping through the hot coals.

“Shut up, dumbass!” he told him, trying to paint his voice with some anger. Hinata giggled a few more times and calmed down, sneezing again.

“Sorry. Took the medicine some time ago. Kicks in, I think,” Hinata mumbled something else, accompanied by some random noises in the background. But it was still kind of… quiet? Not that Kageyama had ever visited Hinata’s house, but if Hinata also had a younger sister, he imagined it as a pretty rowdy household. And Kageyama also felt sorry for their parents. Very sorry.

“Is everyone asleep already?” he asked, mentally slamming his head against an imaginary wall. Why was he even asking such things? What the hell did he have to do with that?

“Uh-uh, they stayed on at our aunt’s for longer,” Hinata explained, yawning. Kageyama gave it a moment to take in. Hinata was so clumsy and feckless that it made him wonder if he could even take care of himself properly. No, no, he wasn’t a child after all, of course he could.

Kageyama heard some rumbling and clatter through the phone as Hinata seemed to fall down somewhere, growling under his breath.

“What’s going on over there?” Kageyama asked as the noises died out a little. Hinata moaned, getting up and picking something from the floor.

“I fell,” he said.

“I could hear that,” Kageyama parried, annoyed.

“Didn’t notice a box with jam from our grans.”

“How can you not notice an entire box?” Kageyama asked, as if telling him off.

“Watch me!” Hinata sighed, apparently back to bed as his voice grew calmer and quieter.

“Kageyama?” He seemed to be checking up if he was still here.

“Yeah?”

“Don’t come over to my place.” Kageyama nearly choked, so self-confident Hinata was!

“Why would I?” he wondered, trying to keep his voice steady yet feeling his heart racing up.

“Heh, I don’t know, it just came to my mind,” Hinata giggled. It must really be the medicine getting to him. Kageyama exhaled as he took the ball with one hand and placed it on his laps.

“You should go to sleep if you want to get better soon and play again. You must’ve forgotten how to do quicks already.”

“Yeah, yeah…” Hinata muttered and then suddenly added. “I mean I’m gonna sleep. I still know how to do quicks, you don’t just forget such things, Bakayama.” Kageyama’s eye twitched as he suppressed a geyser of exasperation breaking through him, but at the same time he liked the feeling. It was one of the things he associated with Hinata, something reassuring and always reminding him that everything changed since he entered high school. It was a pleasantly itching annoyance, the one Kageyama got used to. And he could definitely live with that.

“Just go to sleep already!” Kageyama told him, not even expecting to hear any response, but Hinata still tried to mumble something. That idiot is going to fall asleep with his phone, how reckless could he even be? “And I’m immune to cold for a while now, you know.” Kageyama’s heart stopped as he became conscious that he said that aloud, but everything was quiet in the mobile, he could only barely hear Hinata’s even breathing echoing through his room. It was alleviating and consoling, bringing up his memories about their sleepover after Karasuno decided to watch a horror movie in the late evening (well, not Karasuno but Nishinoya, and only he along with Tanaka enjoyed that). He’d rather swallow a volleyball than admit to anyone (even accepting it was hard enough), but he actually felt self sleeping back-to-back with Hinata. Secure, warm and needed. Kageyama shook his head slightly — it was still gawky to think about that. He was about to hang up when he heard a weak gasp and Hinata’s soft soothing voice:

“Good night, Kageyama.”

Kageyama felt his mouth’s corners going up and managed to hold in back in time. He still had a reputation to maintain.

“Good night, Hinata.”

But at least this once he’d say that aloud.

 

Kageyama settled the photo in the head of his bed, in front of the pillow, and laid down, diving under the blanket, holding the ball in his hands. He was on his side, leaning onto his left arm and spinning the ball with his right hand. Ten words to characterize him, ten signatures, ten friends who came to congratulate him with his birthday for the first time. If he could travel to the past and tell Kageyama from like two or three years ago that in high school he’s going to enroll an awesome volleyball, have friends and get a birthday present from them, that Kageyama from the past would call him a nutcase, ignore and go away. And of course that wasn’t surprising. But still, it was so nice to realize it, so stunning and new that it’ll take some time before he finally accepts it to the fullest. Kageyama had three years ahead of him anyway — the third-years and the second-years would graduate earlier, and it wouldn’t be the same without them, but they’ll all move on, and so will he. He still had an irritating Tsukishima to beat at everything, even blocking, Yamaguchi to help with the technique (although he was doing some fine job on his own) and Hinata to keep an eye on. They would invent even more quicks, so that their opponents can never catch up and win them. Kageyama was going to give his best to these three years, he was going to give them everything he had and make it work. There is no useless effort, there has never been, and now he had a whole team to prove it with. Kageyama wasn’t going to fail them at whatever costs, he was going to make sure that they go as far as possible, get to the Nationals and even further, because there is no limit — you can only make yourself one. And they can outplay anyone at all, as soon as they practice and train enough. It wasn’t a dream or anything, it was a goal. And Kageyama was determined to achieve it. With the incredible loyal team supporting him.

Crows are meant to fly. And they will soar up to the highest skies — together.