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Even so, I dream

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This is really just the worst.

Kageyama Tobio is in the shower, hot white steam clouding up the glass. He’s leaning against the tiled wall, eyes closed, head back. Loses himself in the heat. The spray of the showerhead burns, but he doesn’t move to adjust it.

He can no longer keep up with the late nights. The early mornings. Maybe it's the pounding headache, courtesy of yesterday's company goukon. Maybe he's just not as young anymore. 'Yeah,' he thinks, twisting the knob, letting his ears situate to the squeak of metal. 'That might be it.'

The letter on the kitchen table is left sealed but he's already guessed the contents. He's read the email, at least. His hair drips as he walks out of the bathroom, leaving behind a trail of water snaking from the tub. Drags his ass to the closet. Pulls out a black suit and tie. They’re the ones he bought just in case for occasions like this. For when his parents and relatives kick the bucket.

If things aren't so grim, he might just laugh.

To be honest, (and if there is something Tobio knows how to do better than play volleyball, it is not to be honest) he’d rather not step foot in Sendai again. Ten years seem to have a mellowing effect on people, and he is no exception.

It’s not as if he hates the place. No, definitely not. There were many good memories. Kageyama still warms to the feelings of victory and pride as they won their last set against Shiratorizawa. Still feels his heart pound and his blood catch fire as his teammates slammed the ball down with a vertical shot, earning them the game. They were a formidable team. Even with the rest of their senpai gone.

It'd been hard, yes. Frustrating, even. Would've been even harder without Tsukishima and Yamaguchi, both whom were scouted to prominent teams after Karasuno's revival. And then, there was him, his partner, his friend...("One more toss!")

But while the rest stayed in Miyagi, Kageyama took the first ticket out to Tokyo.

He pops a couple aspirin into his mouth. The pills lodge into his throat, staying there no matter how much he swallows.

Call it luck or a curse, but he will never forget that guy’s face when he showed him the Tokyo-bound ticket. The way he absolutely deflated, the confusion, betrayal, then defeated acceptance in his eyes. Worse yet the ticket was dated right after graduation.

Back then, he tells himself, he had no choice. If Tobio stayed any longer, if he didn't wean himself off the friendship...he grimaces, pulling his arms through the sleeves of the suit. 

The cuffs are a bit long, and he frowns, folding them to the right length. Smoothing out the wrinkles that don't exist. Within minutes he's out the door. He boards the Touhoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Sendai and sneaks in a nap for the three hours it takes to get there.

Ten years seem to come and go like nothing. The city is just as he had left it, streets bustling with life and rustic appeal, roads clean and tidy. It's almost as if he never left. Like if he turned the corner to Karasuno high school, he'd see his classmates again, Tsukki and Yama and - the pounding's back, spurring cold sweaty palms to rub the sides of his head. Kageyama hails a cab for the funeral home when it suddenly starts to rain.

How fitting.

After about twenty minutes of being stuck in traffic - the bus in front hasn't moved an inch for minutes – he bids the driver farewell and uses his backpack as a makeshift umbrella. Sprints out into the rain. There's a pressure in his head, all stiff and tight, and he starts seeing little white blotches in the distance. He dashes through the streets as the downpour is starting to let out, slowly cruising into a drizzle, and he's almost there, just a few more meters and he'll be there -

"Shit!"

Torso collides with torso. The sheer force and velocity knocks over the poor unsuspecting bastard. The stranger tumbles onto the sidewalk, arms flaying madly, umbrella twirling in a whirl of orange and green. He's unable to make out the face of the other; Tobio's bangs are wet and getting into his eyes. He snaps out of towering over the shorter guy stupidly. Reaches out a hand to pull him up.

"I'm sorry!" The taller man hugs the backpack to his chest, bending over in a quick bow. Maybe he should get a haircut, 'cause he really can't see right now.

"That's okay."

"Excuse me." His back is soaked and he wonders if there's a dryer in the building. Probably not. Probably got to sit in the dampness for hours.

Kageyama tries not to, but his thoughts keep flashing back to the stranger he had collided with. Something about him seems familiar. The short stature, the husky tenor. Shut up. He bites his lip, tasting saltiness, metallic copper. ("You and me to the top of the world!") Shut up shut up shut up -

"W-wait." His footsteps drown out the other's words. They drum down hard and slosh the puddles as if purposely making noise. Yet the funeral house is just right ahead, all white, and shiny, and not at all pure -

"Kageyama?"

He probably should clear his ears too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listening to the quiet mumbles of the crowd is tiresome, even more so than standing out in the rain. The viewing lasts longer than he can remember - and for one reason or another (probably courtesy of Kageyama Ritsuko's will) the whole thing is happening outside. Her face is pale and relaxed, arms folded by her chest, and if Kageyama didn't know any better he'd think any second now she'd pop up and grin. The gray clouds above swallow up the horizon. Before long the procession starts.

He doesn't follow. The streets are too familiar, the air too suffocating, and instead opts to retire into a nearby hotel. He'll get shit for this later; karma’s gonna take a huge bite off his ass, but right now all Kageyama wants to do is rest. Close his eyes, tilt his head back. ("So long as I'm here, you'll be invincible!") God, he really needs another aspirin.

Once in the hotel room Kageyama takes a hot shower and sleeps for hours. Tosses and tumbles, toes fanning into the sheets. Mind trapped in a loop, reliving the past he tries so hard to run from -

His phone rings and Tobio welcomes the distraction. Hohh boy. It's from his mother asking why he hadn't gone to the burial service. Why he didn't say a word before running off. 

The top button to his shirt pops, and he spends a few seconds reaching beneath the bed. Scrambles his arm wildly in the dark. But no matter how hard he tries, no matter how he struggles along the cold shadows, he could not get it in his grasp. Tobio gives up when his stomach rumbles. He stalks for the front door. 

A breeze rolls by, and before long there are little goosebumps popping up from his skin. Kageyama rubs them a bit absentmindedly as he jogs over to the nearest convenience store. The bright glow of the "Lawson" sign illuminates the fog like a shining refuge. Driven to it like a moth to a flame when there's a push and a shove, limbs jutting and wheels of an overturned bicycle spinning in the air. His umbrella is knocked out of his hands, hot stinging pain in his ribs and torso, vision once again clouded by the drizzle.

"Watch where you're going, asshole!" he growls.

"Kageyama?"

And then his whole world stops.

There, standing in front of him, next to the forgotten bike, is Hinata. His hair is shorter, no longer the messy nest of orange and fire, and splays damply above his forehead. His amber eyes are bright as ever. But Kageyama can just make out the soft glow of maturity where the twinkle of fearlessness once shined. A sharper jawline. The last bits of baby fat are a distant memory of the past. And he's looking at him, staring, unspoken secrets on his face.

"Hinata." The word burns in his mouth; it’s been ages since he last said it. They don't move, seconds trickling like running water from a faucet. He must be seeing things, must have hit his head while reaching for the button because now he's standing there gawking. The redhead smiles.

"Long time no see! How about we get inside from the rain?" His voice is low, but there's no bite to it. Just surprise and fatigue.

Kageyama nods. It comes out a bit stiffly, awkwardly. There's no way he could bring himself to believe that he'd run into the last person he wanted to see on earth. But Tobio can't deny the little beads of joy spilling out from his heart, can't keep the bubbles of hope from expanding -

"Are you coming?"

Dark blue eyes widen, and he swallows. Flinches. "Right."

"Jeez, you're just as awkward as ever, aren't you Kageyama-san? Well, at least some things never change." They head inside the convenience store, folding their umbrellas and shaking off the excess water. Hinata chains his bike to a nearby rack. Flashes him a thumbs up.

No matter how strong of a front he puts up, inside he's just a mess. A big mess of a coward. He's insecure, and dishonest, terrified of being alone. That's why Kageyama didn't stop messaging his old teammates even halfway through college. Even if he'd been the one to start the distance in the first place. But everything changed after that email.

("I'm getting married!")

His bangs are getting in the way again.

"So," he starts, wincing. Because he has no idea where to begin, no way Tobio can ever know where to begin, "how is everything?" His answer is a loud chortle of laughter, Hinata throwing back his head to crow like a rooster.  He feels his eyes narrow. Face reverting to a scowl.

"What?"

"I'm sorry!" The shorter man stifles his mirth, shoulders still shaking but not as much. "It's just, wow, you sound like you're trying to hold back a shit." The white lights on the ceiling suddenly seem too bright, and the taller man blinks a couple times. They've got nothing on Hinata's smile, though.

"I've been...okay. How about you? What brings you back to old Sendai? And what was that this morning, you ran off and totally ignored me!" His ex-teammate spits out a full frontal attack, brow crinkling and lips protruding in a way that Hinata probably thinks is threatening. What an idiot. Kageyama included.

Back then it'd been a shock, learning that that small baby-faced Hinata was the earliest of the bunch to get hitched. Well, not as surprising as the fact that he'd only been twenty then. 

But this was inevitable. Kageyama knew one of these days that guy would settle down with a nice girl. Stare into her face with those bright amber eyes, eyes full of love and pride while they kiss on the altar. They would have a nice little house, have two nice kids because that's what their parents would want. He can't imagine that guy quitting volleyball, so he'd probably try going pro for a couple years, then take an offer as a high school coach, preferably nearby so that he can go home to his family every night. This was just the normal course of things. Kageyama knew better. He hadn't responded to the other's message and opted to stare at it for hours on through, willing his heart to stop knotting in his chest and crusting like a rose past sundried.

Needless to say, he'd changed emails after that.

"I came to attend my aunt's funeral. Sorry, I was in a rush and didn't hear you." Kageyama runs a hand through his wet locks, sneaking a glance at his side to the shorter man. Deep breath, heavy sighs. It's warm, so warm. It needs to go, because Hinata's happily married, has a nice little wife, and two nice children -

"You've gotten leaner."

“...And you’ve gotten taller.”

“Right? My head comes up to your nose now!” A bright, victorious grin followed by a fist pump. “No longer high and mighty, are ya?”

“I was never high and mighty.” A pause. “Okay, maybe a little.”

The conversation stalls. Hinata's browsing the deodorant isle, and Tobio just standing there sucking in his breath. His heart is beating so loudly and he looks around, wondering if other people can hear it too. If they can see ten years worth of hypocrisy from his stature. Tobio's hands tremble by his side, and he locks them together, trying to stop the shaking.

"How's your...wife?"

"Ah, the missus," caramel orbs dim, soft orange locks framing his face like curtains. "She's in a better place now."

Huh. He doesn't say anything to that. Instead, Kageyama reaches into his pocket, pulls out a wrapped candy. Hands it to the ginger.

"What, am I a little kid or something?"

"Sweets are good for stress." He feels sick that his heart is starting to thump even more loudly, it's so disgusting of him to feel hope. Bites down hard on his guilt. Hand slipping into back pockets. The pads of his fingertips meet with the cool of stainless steel, and he pulls out a worn lighter. Rolls the sparkwheel to the ignition button with his thumb. 

"You smoke?"

"Used to. Stopped when I broke off my engagement." The clink of metal. He stuffs it back into his pockets. Thin auburn eyebrows quirk upward.

"You got engaged?"

"Well, you got married. And yeah, but it didn’t really work out." She was nice, and he liked her, but not in the way that she wanted. It wasn't fair to Yoko, no matter how much Tobio's parents had pushed for him to tie the knot already, so after a year of living together he finally let it out. That it was him, not her, and that she should just get the hell out of there and find a better man. The worst part was that Yoko had known.

Probably what they call a woman's intuition.

"Wow, I didn't know you had it in you. No offense, but you don't exactly come off as a relationship sort of guy."

"What the hell does that even mean?" He's trying hard to fight back a blush. It's something his teenage self would have failed at, but the adult age does wonders for keeping up appearances. Yet Kageyama can't deny the surge of happiness surging through his form at this moment. Hinata had been looking at him long enough to form opinions of him. Even if they were only half-true.

And half they were. He's not a relationship sort of guy because every person he's ever dated wasn't allowed to cross over the barrier of his heart. Some came close, but not close enough. It was never close enough. And all because Kageyama kept unconsciously comparing them to the man standing right next to him. It could never be Hinata. But it could only be Hinata.

All of his past lovers never stood a chance.

"Just, your face is always so scary, I can't imagine you smiling or holding hands." There's a gentle sort of teasing in Hinata's voice, mischief flashing in his eyes like lightning. "Ah, see you're doing it right now!"

He's scowling, but only because he's afraid that if he smiles now, all the dirty truths and secrets would spill out and Hinata would see. Would know. All of his deviancy that he's trying his best to hide.

"S-shut up," He feels his ears tingle with warmth. He's so warm right now. "So...you're okay?"

"Yeah, as much as I can. I mean, two years is a long time."

"Ten years is even longer."

"Now that you mention it," caramel orbs pierce into navy blue, crackling like fire. "what happened? You stopped replying to my messages."

Pause. But his face shows nothing.

"My email address was compromised. I had to get a new one." It's a lie, but he doesn't need to know that. Hinata stares at him for a good second before retracting his gaze, probably satisfied with his statement.

"You're such an idiot."

"Why didn't you call me?" The death of a loved one, and he hadn't even been notified. Kageyama likes to think they were close, real close. Well before he singlehandedly strained their friendship, anyway. Maybe that itself is his answer.

"I don't know, actually." He could venture a guess, though. Hinata had probably been too afraid of his own voice. Too afraid that it would betray all the grief and loneliness in his heart. Perhaps it was good that he didn't call; Tobio would have dropped everything to rush back to Sendai, and perpetuate his obsession with this impossible dream. Oh, kinda like how things are playing out right now. "Why didn't you call me?"

"I don't know," says Tobio.

"Exactly." Hinata chews down hard on the candy, splitting it into sweet crumbs. "What happened to us, Kageyama." It isn't meant to be a question, more of an introspective statement, if anything. The taller man swallows. There's an alien lump at the back of his throat, and it's heavy, bitter.

He's staring.

"I don't know."

They stand in between the isles of the store, huddling in rows of deodorants and shaving products. Seconds tick by without either moving. There. There it goes again. He feels his heart clench in his chest, struggling to swallow the bitterness. When did these feelings start? Kageyama doesn't know. It could've been the first time they performed a successful quick. Hell, it could've been their first match against each other back in junior high. What he does know is how deep-rooted these emotions are, and how little the fire dimmed over time, if it had dimmed at all. The joy and surprise is starting to fade, and Tobio is beginning to sink, into his thoughts, into that deep dark place where he'd never escape -

"Ah, shit!"

"What?"

The ginger flashes a sheepish smile, clapping his hands in front of him. All of the previous moodiness seems to be wiped off the face of the earth.

"Sorry Kageyama-san, but I should really get going now! My daughter's waiting for me alone at home." His hair is frazzled and there's a new spring to his step as he rushes past the sliding doors.

"You have a daughter?"

"Yep, and she's such a little angel! It was great to bump into you again. Like, really." He waves, prompting the other to wave back. " See you later." And he hops on his bike, ready to go.

Kageyama watches Hinata slowly disappears into the gray, fog and mist swallowing the figure whole. There's a voice in his head begging, screaming for him to start chase, but the logic and common sense are locking him down. Forehead crinkles. Shoulders quake.

"Hinata!" The tires squeak, and the bike stops in its tracks. His ex-classmate turns his head.

"Let's trade email addresses!"

Tobio's shaking now, a mad sort of desperation flashing in his eyes. He shouldn't have done that. He really shouldn't have called out. His face is so red that it's probably even visible in the night, and the street lamps don't make it any better. The redhead stares, lips shifting into a small smile. And it's wise, knowing even. Gives a chuckle.

"Sure."

He can't keep his heart from pounding in his chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He's really such an idiot.

Kageyama is staring at his cellphone, the page with Hinata's email address displayed. His fingers are restless, continuously tapping the backspace button, brow furrowing in a wrinkly mess. Not good. It's been a week since he exchanged emails with the ginger and he still hasn't sent a single message. He still hasn't received a single message either. With a groan, he throws his head back on his chair, letting the screen flicker into darkness.

"Something troubling you, Kageyama?"

He looks up and sees Iwaizumi towering over him. The man has grown taller since his high school days, but Kageyama still boasts a few millimeters over him. He remembers just starting off in this printing company six years ago, a bit nervous on his first day, and the surprise to find his middle school senpai in the same department. Iwaizumi had shaken his hand with a smile. He'd taken him under his wing.

Kageyama studies the older man. There's a sharp to his gaze, a quirk to his brow, and he thinks it's admirable.

"I'm fine, Iwaizumi-san. Just restless."

Iwaizumi narrows his eyes. "Go take a break, then. We can't have you messing up." He tosses him something, and Tobio catches it. It's a wrapped candy.

"Thanks." The green foil glistens in the ceiling lights.

As he's sucking on the sweet in the designated smoking room, he pulls out his phone one last time. Types a message.

To: Dumbass

\It was nice seeing you again.                                                                                                             

Can we meet sometime soon?                                                                                                           

There’s something I'd like to talk about./

And...sent. He prays this doesn't sound too weird or desperate, and waits a couple minutes for a response, slumping into the oversized cushions. The smell of tobacco surrounds him and he feels his mouth water, closes his eyes and breathes out. Probably a sign to leave already.

Three days ago he received a letter of transfer from the upper echelons, and was given a week to affirm to the outward promotion that was basically a demotion in disguise. Or, resign. Kageyama had been furious at the decision, until he actually read the contents. The transfer was to one of the branch offices in the Miyagi prefecture. In the city of Sendai, more precisely.

Hours pass without a single response from Hinata, and soon it's time to clock out. Kageyama bids farewell to his co-workers, sneaking a glance at the section manager's office. Iwaizumi is still there, head buried in stacks of paper, probably pulling another over time shift. He's probably got a large family to feed.

As he steps out of the warm and stuffy building, Tobio closes his eyes and loses himself to the autumn breeze. His work place is right next to an elementary school, and he sees little kids with bright backpacks being picked up by their parents.

Being a homosexual man, Kageyama knows that there are some realities that are blocked off from him. He can never have kids, for example, even though he has a soft spot for the little twerps. It's a secret, one he didn't know until he realized his sexuality at the age of sixteen; the saying "you don't know what you have until it's missing" seems to be the bastardized version of the situation at hand. Yes, adoption is an option. But Kageyama can't bring himself to believe that it would be the same.

His phone suddenly vibrates in his pocket.

From: Dumbass

\sure are you free next friday?

after 8 pm =^o^=/

His heart's pounding in his chest and he feels a searing heat on his cheeks. Oh, crap. The man with the slouch to his walk, the grump in his face, is beaming like high schooler in love. Oh crap oh crap oh crap -

He should not be so happy right now. He can't forget the reason why he created the distance from his ex-teammate in the first place. That guy is obviously straight; he's gotten married and had a kid, for god's sake. There is no mistake about it. No reason to stupidly raise his hopes up.

So why is he sitting in a restaurant booth now, right across from Hinata?

"It's really loud in here," says the ginger, eyes sparkling in a teasing way. His hair is slightly parted to the side, tangerine tresses spilling over in waves. He's also wearing a suit, and Tobio wonders if he's gotten himself an office job too. What a shame how they both ended up.

Kageyama leans back into his seat, eyes scanning the grey lines of the menu. He's passed by this place a couple times during high school. Back then, it was still new, and wasn't very popular. He can't say the same about it now.

"The food's pretty good." Ears glow in the dim yellow lighting. "I think."

"So what did you want to talk about?"

The taller man blinks, smoothing out the pages of the menu. He should have known Hinata would get straight to the point. Well, doesn't matter. It actually makes things a lot easier to explain.

"Uh, well I'm being forced to transfer."

"Ah," He watches as the corners of the ginger's lips dip into a frown. Shifts his gaze a little lower, and sees a small beauty mark on the corner of his chin. Now, when did that get there? "That really sucks. They're not decreasing your pay, are they?"

"They're not. But, I'm starting to wonder if I've had enough of that company."

"You want to quit."

"I want to start over." Dark blue eyes peer into amber orbs. "I'm thinking of studying to be a daycare instructor."

"You with kids?" And here's that signature crow again. Hinata's laugh overtakes all the chatter in the background. And Tobio finds that he can only look at him. Always him.

"Wahaha - sorry. Wow, who would've known? That grumpy kid from high school, the one where with one glance and you've got kids running to their mother's skirts, wants to work at a daycare?"

"...I knew this would be a mistake."

"Wait Kageyama!" A strong grip is on his shoulder. It's forbidding him from leaving the restaurant. "I was just kidding. That's really great, it's an admirable dream." Blue eyes narrow. "I-I'm serious. Look, if you really become a daycare worker, I would even entrust Haru to you."

"...Haru?"

"That's my baby girl."

"I see." A small quirk of his lips, too small to be called a smile but big enough not to be ignored. He slinks back into the seat. Hinata bursts into a bright grin in response, brighter than the sun, and the taller man feels himself falling again.

"I'll probably accept the transfer for now. My parents aren't getting any younger, and besides I missed the clean air."

"Why can't you just admit you missed me?" It's meant to be a joke, and Tobio knows it, but he just can't help but feel the little spark of hope sprout in his chest. The little, traitorous spark.

"Do you still talk to any of the others?"

"You mean, from Karasuno volleyball? I've saw Suga-san the other day, and spoke to Tanaka-san on the phone a week ago." The shorter man's folding a star with the straw wrapper. "The three of us go out for drinks sometimes. Can you believe he writes for a magazine now? Didn't even know he liked writing." 

"Sugawara-senpai works for a magazine?"

"Ah, no, no I mean Tanaka-san. I'm not sure what Suga-san does, actually." Hinata takes a sip of his glass of ice water, making a show of chewing some ice. "How about you?"

"Uh, no one, really. Well, besides you of course. And Seijou's Iwaizumi is my boss."

"Huh." Amber eyes widen. "And wow, how is that going for you?"

"He's nice. Strict, but nice. Gets things done."

After their meals arrive, they spend another twenty minutes eating. Hinata squirms in his seat when he's done. Sneaks a peek at his watch.

"Well, it's time for me to go. Gotta pick up Haru from the babysitter’s."

"Is that why you chose a family restaurant?" Figures, no drinks mean no staying out late. Kageyama bites into the inside of his cheek. That's okay. He wasn't expecting anything else, anyway.

"Hm? Yeah, pretty much." The ginger shoots him another grin, pats him on the back after they split the bill and part ways. As the shorter man melds into the crowd, he watches the retreating figure until it disappears. His back still burns from where Hinata touched him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The transfer goes flawlessly, and Kageyama ends up moving within a week. It had been both a little embarrassing and overwhelming attending his own farewell party, and he looked for Iwaizumi for guidance through all the beer and confetti. All he received was a pat on the back and permission to call if things ever get messy.

It’s strange how different the touches had felt. They were both applied on the same place, had approximately the same strength, but while Hinata’s had burnt and brought shivers down his spine, Iwaizumi’s felt, well, like a pat.

He finds a nice little apartment by an izakaya, a bit noisy from the crowds of customers across the street, but nothing a firm shut of the window and noise-canceling speakers can't help. The bedroom's larger than the one in his previous place. The kitchen's smaller. It's a bit annoying since Tobio likes to cook for himself. Fewer chemicals, more care for preparation. He can't complain about the price though; the place is a good 20% cheaper than the other apartments around, and he's starting to wonder if it's haunted.

The only things that came along with him were his mattress, a closet full of clothes, and a set of pots and pans. Nothing else. All of his furniture belonged to the previous renter of his old apartment. It didn't feel right to take them along with him, although it would have saved him a bit of money. It's not like he's disturbed by the past of the furniture; he's living in a haunted apartment now, for god's sake.

His doorbell suddenly rings, and Kageyama wonders who it is. Maybe an overexcited neighbor, who's carrying a welcome pie or something like that. Maybe the police, since this place was the scene of a crime - he is definitely not scared of ghosts. Definitely.

As he hooks the chain and unlocks the door - there is no peephole - he finds himself staring at a familiar set of brown eyes.

"Sugawara-senpai!"

"Ah, Kageyama!" The look of surprise is quickly chased off by a genuine smile. Tobio glances down, and sure enough there's a pie in his hands. Blueberry, from the look of it.

"I had no idea that we'd be neighbors," says the peppered hair man. He's gotten a bit fuller, still sharp around the jawline and wears his hair in a short ponytail. Kageyama was always a bit envious of his senpai's people skills, of how Suga could lighten a room - or, a badly losing set - by just stepping in. They were like two sides of a coin. Kageyama's the sharp tornado just dripping with talent, and Suga's the soft drizzle of rain molded from hard work. It was annoying, but the younger man can't find it in himself to dislike the guy.

"Same."

"Can I come in? I would give you a hug, but my hands are a bit occupied." A laugh. It sounds like a tinkle of bells. His own laugh sounds like a car crash. That's what Hinata's told him in the past, anyway.

"I like what you've done with the place. Feels like a lot of thought has been put in," says Suga. The younger man blinks. Was that meant to be a joke? He shoots his glance at the other's face, and sees a sweet smile and a flash of pearly whites and angels. Yep, definitely a joke.

"I don't suppose you bring pies to all your new neighbors. And how has everything been, Sugawara-senpai?"

"Please, just Suga will be fine. We're no longer in high school." There's that smile again, not even a little bit strained.

They're sitting on the floor of the living room now, two cushions Kageyama had managed to find right beneath them. Suga settles into a textbook-style seiza, while the other folds his leg in a pretzel like normal folks. Two cups of tea sit on the cold tiled floor. The steam brings a small fog over the surface.

"Suga-san," he tries again.

"Better. And I've been good. Started my own business, actually. In fact, I was looking to recruit a couple people." A flash of something zips through his brown eyes.

"And that's why the pie."

"That's why the pie. Of course, it's not like I won't run a background check after they show interest. Call it a first step, if you will."

"And you tried your neighbors first, so you can keep an eye on them even after the workday ends."

"My my, Kageyama. Aren't you insinuating a lot?"

"Just brainstorming."

"You were always my favorite." The shorter man brings the cup to his lips, taking in a small, dainty sip.

"So, what kind of business is it? Not a hitman service I hope?"

"Ten years and you seem to have grown a sense of humor." The soft, gentle smile is replaced by an impish grin. "Actually, it's a daycare service."

Huh. Suddenly, the funeral and his transfer seem like the work of a higher power. Tobio squirms on his cushion, trying not to sweat. Trying to keep his eyes from widening in his sockets.

“A daycare.”

“Yep! I’ve already rented out a small space and am in the process of interviews.” Another laugh, a sideways glance. “Could it be that you’re interested?”

“That’s…” He thinks of Hinata, eyes bright but with the slight touch of fatigue from working long hours and being a single dad. Thinks of Hinata, eyes soft and full of laughter as he brings his daughter to a hug. “I’m interested.”

Suga doesn’t seem too surprised, sticking a hand out to him, a gentle note to his face. The taller man takes it.

“Congratulations. You’ve passed the first part of the interview.”

.

.

.

“What?”

"Ah, I would love to stay and chat, but I've got a prior engagement to attend to. Here's my card. It really was nice seeing you again, Kageyama." Suga brings himself to his feet, pushing his weight to his knees and then shifting it to his toes. The brunet follows suit to the front door, brain still not computing, not functioning. A smile so sweet, it’d rot teeth.

"Bye bye!"

"W-wait - " The door shuts.

He was wrong, Kageyama realizes. It is Suga that is the tornado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Since when did you wear glasses?"

"When I could no longer see ten feet from my face. I usually have contacts, but does it really matter?"

"Kageyama does not wear glasses."

"Well get used to it," he growls, middle finger pushing the frame by the nose bridge to adjust it.

He just arrived at Hinata's apartment, back sweaty and hair in a mess after sprinting from the train station. Didn't even have time to change his clothes. He received the text less than an hour ago from the shorter man, asking if he could come over to do a favor. Before he knows it, he is already by Hinata's door.

"It's just so different from my memories of you. I kinda like it." And with those four simple words, Kageyama's out for the count, face flushing and reminiscent of a tomato.

"S-s-shut up, i-idiot!" He feels the steam from his head. Hinata just laughs, and throws a glance over his shoulder.

"Ah, looks like the little princess is here. Come on, go greet Papa's friend."

A little thing peeks from the comfort of the living room doorway. Her eyes are wide and hair glows like fire.

"Come on, baby. It's okay, this guy doesn't bite." The chubby cheeks retreat, now only a tuft of orange visible. "She's a little shy," says Hinata. "Doesn't really do well with strangers."

The favor is for Tobio to watch over and play with Haru while her father cooks dinner. For some reason or another, the shorter man doesn't feel safe leaving her alone to play by herself while he's working in the kitchen. Hence, why Kageyama is standing stupidly by the front door.

Kageyama blinks, studying the teeny figure that is now hiding behind Hinata. She sure is tiny, standing a little over three feet, and he wonders how big of a monster he might seem to her. So he opts to bend down crouching. Sticks his hand out for a handshake, face doing its best not to scowl from nervousness.

"Hi there, I'm Kageyama. I'm a friend of your papa from high school." He swallows. "What is your name?" Seeing the shy little thing sort of reminded him of himself, back when he just started elementary school. His face had been unaccommodating back then as well, contrary to his want to make friends. It'd been hard.

"...Hawoo." Tobio smiles, as much as he could without seeming like a demon, and shakes the small hand. It's really soft and smells of babies.

"Nice to meet you, Haru."

Claps from the background. Both the little girl and the tall man jerk their heads to the source of the sound, which was from, low and behold, Hinata.

"Wow, amazing! You actually did it!"

"What?" growls Tobio, but not too harshly since there's a child around.

"Wad!" chirps Haru, copying her new best friend.

"It was a such a gamble, but Haru actually warmed up to you." Bright eyes and even brighter smile.

"And what if she hadn't?" asks Tobio, a little nervous and hair smelling like sweat. Hinata's rummaging in the coffee table, pulling out a couple coloring books and crayons.

"Hm, well then I would have asked you to leave."

"...You've really gotten nasty over the years, haven't you?"

While the ginger prepares dinner in the kitchen - homemade curry with a side of rice and gyoza - Kageyama plays and talks to the little girl. She’s a chip off the old block appearance-wise, orange locks, bright smiles, though missing one of her front teeth.

"Kag-kabe-"

"Kageyama."

"Kaga-ka-"

"Just call me uncle."

"Unco!"

"Yes," he says, trying not to snicker.

"Does unco have a mama?" She's scribbling on a clean page, a page with rainbows and unicorns, trying her best to keep the pink crayon within the lines.

"Yes, I do," says Kageyama, not sure what the child's getting at. Maybe she's wondering where her own mother went...

"And a papa too?"

"Mm."

"How about a baby?"

Eyebrows quirk, but otherwise his face betrays nothing. "No I don't. But I would like to have one."

"Then why not?" Haru looks up from coloring in the butterflies. Gazes expectantly at the man. He nods solemnly.

"I'd need to find a wife."

"How come you don't? Papa found mama reeaaal young."

"Some people take a lot longer to find their soulmate. And some don't find them at all." 'Though in my case...'

"But dats sad!"

"It's okay. I mean, I've kinda gotten used to it -"

"No! Hawoo be your baby too then! Papa can share!"

Kageyama stares, lips twitching into a small smile, impressed by the fire in big amber eyes. He can see where she gets it from.

"As much as I appreciate it, I'm not sure that's how it works, Haru." He brings a hand to her hair, ruffling the strands. They're soft and fluffy to the touch. "But thank you."

“Looks like two little kids having fun.”

“Hawoo is not little!” She beats him to the punch. Kageyama summons twenty-eight years of maturity to not rise to the bait.

“You've finished with dinner?”

“Yup! Just set the table too. Come on guys, it's time to eat!”

“Eat!” says Haru.

They break into a clamor, passing out the curry and gyoza. Haru and her dad fight each other over the last piece of cake (that Kageyama had managed to buy in between sprinting to the apartment). It's loud and exhausting, and the taller man thinks it's nice. Almost reminds him of a real family. Once finished eating, Hinata tucks the drowsy Haru into bed.

Kageyama sits by the hallway, slipping on his shoes and retying the laces. His back is to Hinata, the latter who just came from the bedroom and is waiting for him to get up.

"Thanks for having me."

"No problem. I mean you were doing me a favor." Soft laughs. Tobio feels his heart flutter. Takes a deep breath, closes his eyes:

"Can I come again tomorrow?"

He’s right by the door now, about to stick his feet out. Amber eyes widen for a fraction of a second, face breaking into a polite smile.

"What are you talking about? I wouldn't ask you to look after Haru on a weekend. You're busy with your own work and study."

Ah, I see. Kageyama steels himself for the incoming emotions. Watches as the other turns away from him, not even maintaining eye contact while he spoke. The door locks with a click, the hallway devoid of Hinata's scent, and he closes his eyes to beat of his heart.

He was just rejected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next time he sees Hinata is in the following week, this time being asked out for drinks. Kageyama accepts the invite without a word and they meet at a pub right out of town.

He's glad that the ginger is all smiles and waves at him like normal. He's grateful for the semi-peace. But he's also slightly annoyed, though he's not sure why. Probably just one of those things.

"So how's your studying going?" Hinata's hair is left down and unstyled, orange locks falling in between and grazing his brow. He's wearing a tee-shirt and some jeans, and looks a hell of a lot younger than twenty-eight. Tobio himself is in a button down and feels old and haggard sitting right next to the shorter and older man.

"Good. I'm taking the qualification exam in a week." Brings the glass to his lips and sips. It's bitter.

"Nice nice! Looking forward to pawn Haru over to you sometimes."

"I thought she was your 'little princess.'"

"Well, duh. But sometimes I'd like to have some me time. Kind of like now, but longer." They're leaning in close to talk, shoulders brushing side by side, the loud buzz of the bar swallowing them whole. The brunet stirs his drink with the bendy straw, watching as the other gulps the burning bitter liquid.

"So what do you do?"

"Took you long enough to ask. I sell cars."

Tobio's eyes pop wide.

"S-shut up! It's not a bad job - puts bread on the table! Plus the owner is nice and gives me free food."

And feels his eyebrow quirk.

"Does this 'nice' owner happen to be a fifty-year old widow with a penchant for younger men?" He nearly snickers at how low Hinata's jaw drops.

"A-are you saying - what the - AIZAWA-SAN IS NOT TRYING TO PICK ME UP!" The people on the counter all turn to look at Hinata, and the man suddenly slouches into his seat, lowering his voice.

"And she's sixty, not fifty-something!"

"Does that make it better?"

"Shaddup, you." He brings the glass to his lips, and chugs it.

"Hey -"

"I'm fine. I'm no lightweight. Unlike someone." Hinata glances at the man next to him, caramel orbs glistening in playfulness, the incredulity from before totally dissipated. Kageyama feels his cheeks burn. Though from the embarrassment or the liquor, he doesn't know.

"Shut up." As if to say to 'screw off,' he downs the drink in a single gulp. The sides of his throat burn like lava, but he's definitely not gonna let it show on his face -

"Wahaha! You look like you're dying!"

"Master, another!"

"Woah there, partner. Don't you think you've had enough?" Hinata places a palm on his shoulder, then waves a hand to cancel the order. "I didn't think you'd get this smashed by three drinks."

"S-shut up! I'm fine." And then he tries to get up off the bar stool, and instantaneously starts slumping onto the floor.

"H-hey!"

The next thing he knows he's passed out on the backseat of a cab, getting poked in the ribs by a certain ginger.

"Hey, Kageyama."

"Nngh..."

"We're here. Get up."

Kageyama slowly lifts his eyelids, brain trying to recognize the surroundings. That's strange. Doesn't really look like his neighborhood.

"We're at my place, since I don't know where you live. Now, can you please get your ass up?"

"Mmmkay," he slurs.

Once outside of the car Tobio feels his head clear. The night sky glows a sorrowful navy, its solid hue only pierced by the scattered lights of airplanes above. He feels the wind in his hair, picking up soft black locks into flight.

Hinata is quite strong. He's carrying the other man up the stairs and into his apartment. He throws him on the couch,  the taller man sinking into the soft cushions. Brings him a glass of water from the sink.

"Drink this and try to sober up. I'm going to take a shower." Hinata leaves the side of the couch. Turns his head. "You can stay here for tonight. The storeroom's nice and cozy and only has a few roaches."

"A f-few?" But he's already disappearing into the bathroom.

In between the rise and fall of the cushions, Tobio falls into a lopsided slumber. His ears catch the squeak of the faucet, the spray of the shower hitting plastic curtains. Throws his head back, mind wandering the universe. It's been a while since he's felt this calm.

"Hey there, big guy. You okay?" The floorboards creak as Hinata approaches the ball of snores. He's instantly awaken, dark blue eyes half lid and staring at the man in front of him. Floating.

"Hinata."

"Yes?" He can't really make out the other's face, but the husky tenor is nice, calming even.

"I'm so glad to see you again."

"...What the hell? Say that when we first met, idiot." Playful smile. Kageyama drowns in orange and caramel and light.

"I didn't think I'd be back."

"Yeah, well I didn't think you'd come back." The shorter man peers into the glass."I'll go get you some more water."

"No, you don't understand, I -" He reaches out a hand before he knows it, pulling the man closer. And then they are very close. Time seems to freeze around them; there are only the stars in Hinata's eyes and the galaxy of his breath now. Kageyama feels his eyelids shutter, eyelashes flitting, slowly inching towards the shorter man and...

...sees the look on Hinata's face.

Oh. This is not a dream. There's a droop to his eyes, forehead crinkling like trenches, and a sad, apologetic smile where the ginger's mouth should be. This is reality.

There are no words shared, Kageyama slowly crawling from the couch and Hinata frozen on his seat.

He stumbles into the store room where a futon is laying, collapses into the sheets, a shameful heat on his face. Covers his head in the blanket.

This is reality.