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“Thinking that I might go crazy. How am I supposed to breathe now, baby? You burn this whole thing just maybe/ So, you ask me how I'm on fire. All I do is turn around and smile. Baby girl not everyone can fly.” – Fools, Wild Child

-☼-

When Ushijima Wakatoshi first encountered the oddball duo on the street, he thinks nothing of them. They were just rowdy competitors who thought that they could find holes within Shiratorizawa’s functionality, in their defense, which he readily tells them they would not. He’s heard of the strange quick strike the two have in their arsenal for Karasuno before, heard their names in passing, but he didn’t bother paying them much mind at the time; he didn’t see the point in wasting energy on a greedy setter that was rejected by his school, and a nobody middle blocker who never made it to the court until high school. He knew his skills and that of his own teams’, and he was confident that this was not going to be the year Shiratorizawa crumbled from the force of some second-rate, ragtag team.

He finds it almost pitiful, looking at the two; the redhead seemed to be lacking in skills—at least the indoctrinated mantra from his coach would deem the kid unfit anyways, seeing that height and power was the law that defined a players usefulness on the court, something that the smaller of the two obviously lacked. What he missed in tactic he definitely made up for in his brazen tenacity, though it was ultimately useless on the court as a player, so Ushijima deems him useless. However, his dark-haired companion, Kageyama Tobio, would actually pose as functional; he knows about the ravenette, knows him by name (generally from Oikawa claiming to hate his obnoxious kouhai), and knows that he’s somewhat of a genius setter, though still rough around the edges. The younger boy could always be trained and molded to something of excellence, to something that would harness his skills to their fullest potential, much like his own skills that had been nurtured and utilized by his school’s team.

But, even as the evidence was laid before him, he still felt the need to snuff out that small little flame of resilience and valor he knew burned within the smaller boy, and with a mask of controlled indifference, he let them follow him to Shiratorizawa, if only to prove his point.

He didn’t predict that the two would keep up with him on the jog back, and he definitely didn’t predict the redhead to be almost recklessly confident, outwardly challenging his core ideals; he didn’t like unpredictability—it left a bad taste in the back of his mouth. He was the school’s ace, of course the team made use of his skills more than anyone else’s—he required each team members full devotion to him; it’s what made him strong, their team strong.

“Seeds have to be placed in the right soil to get the most bountiful harvest possible. If placed in a barren land, their potential is wasted, and they most definitely will not thrive. It applies to a team. If a player doesn’t serve the ace, doesn’t bring out the skills of their strongest members, then they are weak, he had stated to them simply. It’s just what had always made sense to him, and he has yet to be proven wrong.

The smaller boy had just snorted out a chuckle and scoffed, taking a few steps towards him, which startled Ushijima further; he didn’t understand where the humor in his statement was. He turned his blazing, piercing, calculating gaze on Ushijima, a sharp smile stretching across his lips, “Well, what does that make us? Concrete?”

The ace only has a moment to be taken aback by the younger boy’s statement before the familiar, resounding ‘thwap’, of a stray ball declaring it’s course toward them. Without a moment’s hesitation, he jumps to retrieve the ball, long arms outstretched and reaching, knowing this would be the final sliver of proof needed to snuff out the last futile attempts to dispute his place as the ace of Shiratorizawa, as the superior player.

Ushijima underestimated his opponents—later he would realize he would just underestimate Hinata. It takes him by surprise, when the ball that should have fit snuggly in the palm of his hand was ripped away from him, now in the small arms of the sunny-haired boy; his brain had only a moment to decipher what had just happened, and when it did, he couldn’t help the feeling of bewilderment that displayed across his face. It should have been almost impossible for someone with no apparent skills to reach the ball, especially since the ball’s natural course was headed right for Ushijima. The younger boy had also been behind him… it was impossible for someone like him to fly.

His sharp eyes flickered from the smug looking Kageyama to the boy who stole the ball from him, immediately captivated by the look he was given; the boy looked like he was on fire—the orange and pink hues of the setting sun filtered through slightly curly, auburn hair, appearing to look like a gold-spun halo that caressed the pale crown of his head and sides of his face. His eyes ensnared Ushijima in place, sticky, amber-like in color, causing the boy to feel like he was drowning, suffocating in the intense depths, completely encapsulated by the fossilized coloration.

He looked ethereal.

“I’m Hinata Shōyōu…” he had said with a firm tone, taking a step closer, and Ushijima had to resist the urge to step back from him, “…and I’m from the concrete.” His small hands jutted the volleyball into Ushijima’s chest, gaze and tone still unyielding and tenaciously unafraid. He took an impossible step closer, and Ushijima almost forgets how to breathe, Hinata’s voice dropping into a saccharine whisper, “You should remember my name. I’m going to beat you.” He steps away fully, walking to join his teammate, the two turning their backs and leaving the way they came.

Wakatoshi feels his breath rush back into him, and he blinks rapidly, mind ridding itself of his mesmerized fog, head whipping to watch the retreating backs eventually disappear from his sight.

He didn’t like things that were unpredictable; it left things airy and uncertain, not like the concrete, tangible patterns he is used to seeing and expecting—it left room for error, for surprise, for defeat. Ushijima was not keen on the idea of someone like Hinata Shōyōu existing as a competitor, because in terms of predictability, he was a monster.

But he was a new challenge, and he did not back down from challenges, especially not on one that is so incredibly different from the norm that he has engrained in his very soul; it would be a chance to break from the almost menial process of winning, from defeating team after team so easily. He knew that the spitfire redhead wouldn’t go down without a fight, and it excited him.

A wolfish grin splits across his lips and his head tilts back, eyes scanning the skies’ retreating ochre and fuchsia hues as night shades into twilight ceruleans, reminding him of the other-worldly looking boy.

Hinata Shōyōu.

He didn’t like unpredictability, but even so, he knew Hinata would be worth a change in pace.

He had looked like a god that was going to give Ushijima rapture.

Ushijima would be waiting.

-☼-

Tendou tells him that he appears to be distracted.

He pauses in the action of taking a bite of his lunch, gaze flickering over to his teammate, olive eyes narrowing slightly, “How so?”

Tendou uncrosses his arms and taps at the side of his chin, lips pursed as he searches for the words to describe Ushijima’s ‘off’ behavior. “Well,” he starts, “it’s not entirely noticeable. But it’s like you’re…spacing out more…?” he trails off, eyes squinting as he tried to gage any reactions from stoic third-year, “Is it from those two first years from the other day? They didn’t get you into trouble did they?”

Ushijima sighs and inwardly curses his over-perceptive friend; he has been somewhat distracted. He knows it would be childish to push all of the blame onto him, but he does correlate his state of mind with the new presence of the first-year. The younger boy has recently occupied the forefront of his mind, and it was beginning to get irritating, though he would never really admit that. It was even more irritating since he couldn’t entirely pinpoint why the kid has taken priority above all other thoughts; he had even gone through the motions of looking into his playing habits (though there was little data available, which wasn’t much of a surprise). He’s never felt so compelled to look into a competitor, a team, that wasn’t on the same tier as him—that posed no actual threat – so why he bothered, he didn’t know. But it was enthralling, catching small recordings from previous games of the strange duo’s intense strikes—to hear the excitable whispers of the crowds, to see the familiar looks of bewilderment on the opposing teams faces, just as he had worn in the same fashion upon their first encounter.

He sees no point in lying, Tendou would definitely know if he did, so he says, almost resigned, “Yes. I find them strange.”

Tendou cracks a mischievous smile, “Oh ho, is our ‘Miracle Boy’ Ushiwaka scared of losing to some little kids?”

Ushijima makes an affronted expression, “I’m not scared. I just don’t understand him.” He sniffs and looks back at his lunch, trying to signify he was done talking, but it was to no avail, Tendou was much too intrigued in his ace’s defensive tone of voice.

“Him? Wasn’t there more than one? Oh, oh! Is it the shorty you told me about? It’s okay to be scared of him, he sounds like a monster,” the blocker says with a sympathetic nod.

He sighs, “There was two of them, and his name is Hinata Shōyōu. I said I wasn’t scared,” he says firmly.

Tendou fixes him with a calculating look, “Sometimes things you don’t understand can be scary…” he pauses, waiting for Ushijima to say something, which he gets no response besides a flat look.

Satori hums and ticks his long, boney fingers against the cafeteria table, using his free hand to scoop up some of his lunch, chewing thoughtfully. A thought crosses his mind and he pauses in his chewing, face scrunching up as he looks to Ushijima, as he speaks around a mouth full of food, “Wait, Hinata? You remembered his name?”

Ushijima blinks and pointedly looks anywhere besides Tendou’s scrutinizing stare. “Yes,” he clears his throat, immediately regretting speaking as Tendou perks up.

“Well that’s new. You don’t bother remembering names of player’s not worth your time.”

Ushijima thinks of his previous encounter of Hinata—billowing curls of gold, eyes made of amber, soul of smoldering embers, pale skin, and stolen breath… The young man swallows thickly, the familiar crawl of heat gracing his cheekbones. “…he is unforgettable,” he mumbles mostly to himself.

A moment of silence stretches between them and he turns his head to see Tendou gaping at him. His eyes flicker around the cafeteria, seeing nothing out of the ordinary happening around him, “What?”

Tendou leans forward, dropping his voice to a pressing whisper, “Did you just blush? Oh my god, what on earth is happening!? Do you like the shorty?”

“Do I…like him? No, of course not. He’s my competition…Why would you think I like him?” he asks, confused.

Tendou quickly shakes his head, “No, no, no. Wakatoshi,” he stresses, “Do you like him, as in have a crush on him?”

Ushijima’s mind stalls, his expression dropping into bafflement. “A…crush?” he mumbles.

Tendou throws his hands up in a sign of exasperation, before shaking his head. He steeples his hands on the table, leaning his head upon them, sighing wistfully, “You’re hopeless. Do you feel something other than a sense of competition or that you want to be something other than friends? Then you probably have a crush on him, man.”

Ushijima shakes his head, feeling exasperated with his friends antics, “How would I even know how to discern that?”

Satori clucks his tongue, “Well. Do you think about him a lot? Are you interested in finding out more about him? Like, why he plays volleyball, or how he got to his level of agility? Do you think he’s cute? Or pretty? Both?” he pauses in his list when the ace looks completely lost. He backtracks, thinking on how to put it simply for the other boy. “Okay, so you know how you said you didn’t understand him?” a nod of the head, “Well, do you find that you want to understand him?”

Ushijima blinks, something appearing to have finally clicked inside his head, “I…” the formation cut off when the rest of his team began to file into the table.

“Good afternoon!” Reon greets politely, settling besides Ushijima. Tendou responds with an energetic peace sign, schooling his features from irritation at being interrupted, to pleased at seeing his team.

Reon looks between his two teammates and raises an eyebrow, picking up on the heavy atmosphere from their conversation. “Everything okay?”

Ushijima begins to open his mouth, though Tendou quickly interjects, “Yeah, yeah, of course. I was just asking him what kind of dog he had as a kid, and its’ name and all that small talk stuff. Right, Ushiwaka?”

His expression sours at the nickname but he nods mutely. “Oh, I see…” any other further questioning is quickly tossed out of his mind as the rest of the table begins to pick up conversation. Ushijima tries to listen along, and is thankful for the fact that they don’t expect him to interject much, since they know he’s not much of a talker. He finishes what he could of his lunch, his stomach feeling strange and knotted, pushing his tray a bit out of his way, so he could lean an elbow on the table.

He thinks over what Satori had said to him, going back over the checklist, seeing of anything was applicable to his situation. He did think about Hinata a lot, though he’s convinced just because it was just due to the posed ‘contest of will,’ the shorter boy presented. He was interested in understanding him—why he’s so quick, so determined, so competitive and confident… so hard to understand and so unearthly beautiful.

He pales at the thought and dares a glimpse over at Tendou, who is looking at him knowingly, a look of ‘we’ll talk later’ evident on his features.

In that moment he knows—he knows—that without a doubt, he’s fucked.

-☼-

He sees Hinata again at the Spring High Preliminaries. Ushijima is leading his team inside the gym, as Karasuno is warming up, and he can’t help the flutter of unease and excitement that settles in his chest when he spots the younger boy stretching next to his arrogant setter. Karasuno stops in their ministrations as the bleachers dominate in sound and cheers, their remaining teammates, cheer squad, and alumni sending their name reverberating through the entire building. He schools expression into that of total control, his aura of prowess and comfort on the court permeating his surroundings; he knows he looks intimidating, and he almost feels giddy when he catches Hinata watching his team, a look of wariness pinched on his features.

‘Good’, he thinks to himself, ‘I don’t want him looking baselessly self-confident.’

They’re in the process of warming up when Tendou stops besides him, hands on his hips, nodding in the direction of Hinata, “That’s him right? I can see why you’re interested in him. He’s cute.”

The auburn haired boy is stretching and chuckling along with what appears to be his libero and another one of his teammates. His cheeks flush from laughter, nose scrunched and eyes crinkled, and all Ushijima can think is cute.

Ushijima grits his teeth but nods anyways, lining up for another round of spikes. He puts his exasperated irritation behind this spike, and sends the ball skyrocketing into the bleachers, silencing the crowd besides with the harsh ‘thwap’, of his hand meeting the ball and its course against the hard gym flooring.

He knows the first-year is staring at him, he can feel it boring into the back of his head, and it invigorates him.

The announcer sounds over the com system, the players are introduced, and the game—the battle of whims—starts.

-☼-

He knows his team is initially blown away by the short middle-blockers agility, and even though he has seen this up close before, it still takes him by surprise—still takes his breath away.

It quickly turns infuriating, not having Karasuno give up so easily—even after his relentless domination set after set— and even more so when he gets blocked, he gets received, and when they actually start winning.

He tells his team to send the balls to him.

They switch courts, and he feels it again, that stare. Ushijima turns to face Hinata, who is positively smoldering at this point—an insatiable fire stoked till there is nothing but embers and ash and passion; he’s completely spellbound, and wants nothing more than to be the center of Hinata’s rapt attention, just like this.

He swallows around the lump that is building in his throat, mask of indifference in place, as he towers over the younger boy, even over the other side of the net.

“I thought you’d be better at receives and blocks. Since you were so confident, back then,” he states to the middle-blocker. He receives a couple of stunned blinks in return, a look of offense scrunching up his nose. Ushijima realizes he has just offended the younger man, and he immediately feels like an idiot. Before he can get an apology out, Hinata is glaring, sharp and dangerous, “I’ll just have to prove you wrong then. Just you watch,” he stalks off, leaving Ushijima behind at the net.

He joins his team back over by the benches, where Tendou was waiting for him, thin, red eyebrows raised, “What did you say to him? He looked pissed,”

Ushijima just shakes his head and sighs.

They start again, and Hinata does everything to prove Ushijima wrong.

Ushijima’s sharp eyes widened as the sharp thunk of his spike meeting flesh resounds against the gymnasium walls, and he realizes that Hinata blocked him.

He blocked him, and now he’s bleeding.

Wakatoshi immediately wants to go over to the boy and see he’s okay, to apologize for the harsh receive; he watches as the redhead just dismisses his teammates concerns, wiping the blood away from his face, eyes fixated on Ushijima from across the net as he does so, a smug smile of victory plastered on pink lips stained red with clotting blood. He quickly averts his eyes, the next play taking position.

Hinata doesn’t stop him again, but he does manage to serve up several more one touches, deterring the predetermined course Ushijima had in store for the volleyball, the smile stretching wider and wider each time he succeeds. He runs faster, jumps higher, endures the blistering on his palms from the smack of the ball, and the throbbing bruises that start to molt and turn into ugly blue blossoms on the length of his forearms; the ace almost feels proud of the younger boy, for enduring it all, and he knows his team is starting to feel frazzled.

Shiratorizawa calls a time-out to regroup. They remark about Hinata’s sudden and drastic improvement—ask if he’s some kind of demon, or a monster—and he tells them not to worry, a sincere grin on his face, he’s getting into it. They’re shocked and simultaneously riled up at seeing their ace this way, and they go out and play harder, sharper.

As a result, their powerful plays end up sending their blocker out of the game, snapping his fingers back. The team relaxes and returns to their previously indomitable state. Hinata is proving more and more unpredictable, unstable, and unstoppable each passing minute; he knows that this is what makes him a strong player now, and he can’t help but scowl. His concentration begins to sharpen, when their middle blocker returns, not letting the surprising return of the blond shake his team’s foundation. Ushijima really wants to win this, wants to beat Karasuno, beat Hinata, and his unwavering, chaotic willpower.

Hinata quiets down, directing his unfathomable energy into concentration and he becomes a terrifying force to be reckoned with.

Shiratorizawa’s defense doubles and is almost crippling, the pressure to break free from the oppressive nature of the ace and their blockers overwhelming—Hinata can feel himself suffocating under the forceful, downward push of Ushijima’s impregnable domination, and he desperately tries to thrash free, undeterred by the older boy’s fortitude. The last few points are a struggle, as Wakatoshi fights to snuff out the last flickers of insufferable, defiant flames—the last flickers of hope for victory.

He almost doesn’t see Hinata setting up to spike the last determining point of the match, focus drawn from the decoy, and he curses himself for not noticing their ploy. He curses himself for feeling the same draw to the boy as he almost flies through the air, appearing timeless and weightless as his small form bends and snaps back at perfect angles, muscles coiled tightly and readily for their pent up release of energy. The ochre locks reflect the harsh overhead fluorescents, the curled pieces swelling and fluttering at the edges, looking as though the sun’s eternal flames were present in the gymnasium. His eyes blaze, pupils dilated to sharp pin pricks, revealing the poisoned honey irises that drew him in like a fool—their sticky sweetness betraying the sharp intensity that lay beneath the surface, swirling flavors of strength, chaos, and victory lingering in the depths, waiting to ensnare and capture the next poor soul who dared get close to his flame. He watches as the small body seemingly floats back down to earth, the ethereal soul contained back into milky, mortal flesh and strong, pale bone.

Ushijima finds his rapture.

He doesn’t need to confirm Karasuno’s victory by turning around and watching the ball roll off to the side, signifying the match point. He knows they won, and Ushijima yields, body heavy and dissatisfied by being proven wrong—by being beaten.

The young man watches as Hinata is rushed by his teammates—all hugs, tears, and snot— over their victory, indiscernible feelings of fatigue, gratitude, and elation much too difficult to formulate in words.

They line up to thank the other team, bowing respectfully, each eventually going their own way. He can’t stop thinking about the first-year, and he desperately wants to talk to him—what he would say, he haven’t a clue, but nevertheless, he lets his eyes search through the crowded gymnasium for any trace of auburn hair. He sighs to himself and addresses his team, tells them their weak points for improvement, and thanks them for their strength and unwavering trust.

He’s walking to board the bus, making his last round inside the complex to check for any outlying members, when he spots the oddball duo. He feels his pulse quicken as he approaches them from behind, booming voice calling out, “Hinata Shōyōu, from the concrete.”

The startled heads of auburn and black hair turn to peer over their shoulders, tracks immediately ceasing when they realize who called out to them.

He stares straight at Shōyōu, watches him fidget under the scrutiny, large doe eyes peering at his setter, who just shrugs and nods for him to step forward, his own steps retreating a bit away so the two could talk for a moment alone. He silently nods his thanks to Kageyama, who nods back, expression tight.

They share a moment of awkward silence, both unsure of how to begin. Ushijima clears his throat and runs a hand through the prickly brunette strands of his short hair, sharp yellow-y eyes meeting Hinata’s once more. “It appears as though you have proven me wrong. I shouldn’t have underestimated you.”

His eyes widen, a nervous smile twitching at the ends of his lips, and he scratches at his cheek, “O-oh, uhm—“

“It won’t happen again. Next time we meet on the court, I will be the one that walks away victorious.”

He watches Hinata’s nervous smile melt away into a wide, beaming grin, rows of pearly teeth bright against pink lips—watches the corners of the boy’s eyes crinkling pleasantly at the force of his grin; he ignores the gnawing in the pit of his stomach that tells him to step forward and run his fingers through the length of each soft looking, auburn curl.

“You can count on us beating you again! We won’t just let you win easily, you know!” he exclaims excitedly, playfully, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. Ushijima almost smiles, a slight twitch of the lips, and observes the never-ending enthusiasm the boy possesses.

‘It’s why I like him…’ his brain short-circuits for a few moments after the thought, and he breathes in sharply through his nose and busies himself with digging in his gym bag. He clears his throat once again and holds out his hands, fingers wiggling to beckon the boy to do the same, “Hold out your hand for a moment,” he tells the boy.

Hinata looks confused, but obliges slowly, opening up inflamed, angry-looking red palms that were attached to tender, bruised arms. He grasps at the smaller hand, marveling over their size, softness, and surprising strength—he can see the hard work evident in his hands, each pad of his digits decorated with calluses, his palms littered with flecks of scar tissue and fissure marks. He places a small container of capsaicin muscle rub gently in the divot of his palm, curling his larger fingers against the presented gift in affirmation.

“It’ll help your arms,” he murmurs bashfully, feeling the heat rise to his face the longer he holds onto Hinata’s hand.

The boy flushes, a pretty dusty rose pink fanning across his nose and cheeks, eyes wide as he grips the container in his hand, obviously shocked at the offering; Ushijima finds that he likes that flush very much, and he wants to be the one to put it there from now on—to keep it there.

“Th-thank you! I mean… are you sure you don’t need it…?” he trails off, clutching the container to his chest with both hands once Ushijima had begrudgingly let his hands go.

The taller boy nods firmly, and that’s all Hinata needs to know he’s sincere. He’s about to open his mouth to day something further when Kageyama strolls towards him, hand grasping at Hinata’s elbow, “Oy, dumbass. We need to go.”

The ravenette’s stormy gray-blue eyes narrow at Ushijima’s sharp glare, hand still keeping an insistent grip on his elbow. The auburn boy pouts, eyes flickering between Ushijima and Kageyama, sighing dramatically, putting his special jar of muscle rub in his bag. “Right, let’s not keep them waiting,” he turns to Ushijima with another beaming smile, “Thank you. And until next time…” he trails off, a sign of an unspoken promise to meet again laced within the silence that followed his words. Wakatoshi nods and watches as the pair turns away, watches as Kageyama never lets go of his elbow, and watches as Hinata halfway turns to ecstatically wave goodbye at him, same pearly smile plastered on his cheeks.

Watches as he walks away from him, and out of sight.

-☼-

Unbeknownst to Ushijima, Hinata sits on the bus, surrounded by his snoring teammates, all tuckered out and fatigued from their fierce battle against Shiratorizawa, the small jar that was gifted to him resting snuggly in his palm; his amber-honey eyes unfocused and far away as he stares out the window he curled against as he travels through the veins of his city, a small, dreamy smile on his pink-bitten lips.

He thinks of Ushijima Wakatoshi.

-☼-

Wakatoshi’s crush festers, and he’s beginning to go stir crazy. He sees things that remind him of Hinata literally everywhere—when he’s outside walking his familiar streets, when he’s playing volleyball, even when he’s eating. He starts to see Hinata’s golden hues in his dreams— his pale skin, small hands, and wide eyes flushed and driven half-mad by Ushijima’s insistent mouth and exploring hands. He imagines his smell, light and airy, though tainted by Ushijima’s scent of earth and the gifted muscle rub, adding an undertone of healing spice to his sweat-slicked skin. Ushijima always wakes up just before Hinata cums, his name on kiss-swollen lips, and he lays in bed, half ashamed and embarrassingly hard.

He knows it’s unlikely he’ll see the boy anytime soon—that the boy would even share the same feelings, and no matter how much he logically rationalizes these thoughts, the essence of Hinata would never leave him be; the boy’s existence seared into every portion of his mind like a brand—painful, permanent, and pleasurable.

Even though he knows he wouldn’t want it any other way, he knows he needs to do something about it, though he has no idea how to handle this new type of feeling. Tendou has been a huge help, he couldn’t ask for a better friend, and the spiky-haired boy is a genius at creating distractions for Ushijima—going to the gym, taking walks, going to the arcade (though he’s sure that’s just Tendou wanting to make fun of him for being terrible at videogames)—and they help, if only for a short time.

It’s reached the last few weeks of December, and together as a team, they travel to visit the local mall to shop around for presents for the upcoming holidays. They’re huddled together for warmth on the train; each player bundled up in several layers of jackets, hats, mittens and scarves, laughing and joking in companionship, enjoy the last remnants of the third-years time on the team. It’s strangely melancholic, though jovial at the same time, and it fills Ushijima with warmth at having a strange family in his teammates. He feels his lips turn up into a half-smile and he wraps himself in it entirely, letting himself be consumed by something else besides auburn hair and honey eyes.

They walk along the sidewalk, careful not to bump into the hoards of other shoppers as they weave along the given path, boots crunching against fluffy piles of ice and snow.

Ushijima doesn’t have many gifts to buy, besides those for his friends and his parents. He takes his time in finding the right things to buy for them, carefully thinking on everyone’s likes and interests, surprisingly sentimental in his gift giving.

They find themselves in the food court a few hours later, eating a late lunch, when the topic of the training camp Shiratorizawa is holding is brought up.

Goshiki holds his head up proudly, proclaiming that he’s going to be the best player there, though Semi Eita and Tendou happily remind him that Karasuno’s middle blocker, Tsukishima Kei is going to be attending as well. His ego deflates and he puffs up his cheeks in irritation at the reminder. Ushijima perks up at the mention of Karasuno, and even though he’s disappointed in knowing Hinata wasn’t invited, he couldn’t help but be interested in the rival school’s team.

He knows why Hinata was breezed over in the invitation process—it goes back to his coach’s idealism, that height and power was the law that defined a players usefulness on the court, and even though Hinata is a constant that throws a wrench in that teaching, he believes he wasn’t invited out of spite, rather than based on his actual skills. He wants to argue against the decision, though he knows that’s useless and rather suspicious, especially after the team beat them at the preliminaries, so he keeps quiet, much like always when things don’t concern him.

He leaves those thoughts behind when he sees Tendou’s hand trying to sneakily steal pieces of his hayashi rice, forcefully swatting his hand away from his favorite food.

The conversation moves to that of university and he leaves thoughts of the redhead behind for the rest of the day, mind taking a reprieve as he briefly explains his university goals, blessing his friends for the distraction.

-☼-

His thoughts on Hinata come back full force as he steps into the gym that morning, a few days later, and his eyes land on the familiar shock of orange hair. He volunteered, as well as Tendou, to help with the underclassman’s training a couple times that week, but he never thought that Hinata would actually just show up here uninvited.

Though, if he’s honest, he’s not entirely surprised. Hinata is a loose canon, a wildcard, and he definitely was going to do whatever he pleased, especially if it was a challenge. He’s quickly given the details on the boy’s presence by an obviously irritated Goshiki, who gives him an earful about how he’s allowed to stay as a ball boy, and how Hinata never gives up, and actually seems happy just watching and picking up balls.

Ushijima turns his back to Goshiki, busying himself with his equipment to hide his growing smile; it’s so like Hinata to do something like this, to be excited over an opportunity like this, and he finds it incredibly endearing.

He goes through the motions of helping out, watching spikes and correcting form, as well as practicing his own spikes to help the others tighten up their defense. He would occasionally glance over and watch Hinata, who seemed to be intently observing every movement that happens on the court, and he finds himself naturally drawn to the boy once more, interested in finding out what the other sees, in finding out how he concentrates that intensely. Sometimes, he catches the boy staring at him, the gaze warm and intense, tracking every muscle movement and drop of sweat that rolls down tanned, olive skin. He heats under the gaze, stares back and catches those honey orbs in his own yellow-y, olive-green eyes. The boy squawks and startles, quickly adverting his gaze and busying himself once more with what’s happening on the court.

They pause for a break a couple of hours later and Hinata quickly sets to work handing people water and towels, making his way down to the two third-years. He hands Tendou and Ushijima water with a wide grin and Tendou mischievously grins back.

“That’s quite a cheeky move, just showing up here. I’m surprised Demon Coach didn’t try and kick you out harder than that.”

Hinata chuckled nervously, peering up through long, dark lashes at the older boy, “Honestly, I am too. But I want to be here, need to be here…” he trails off into a dark mutter, scowl screwing up his face, “Besides, it’ll show that idiot, Kageyama, that I’m not useless.”

Tendou quirks up a thin eyebrow, eyes glancing over to Ushijima, a smirk in place, “Oh? Kageyama, your setter? Is he your boyfriend? Having a little trouble in paradise?” he teases, his underlying question veiled perfectly under the jab.

Wakatoshi whips his head around to look between the two, his heartbeat pounding out an uneasy rhythm against his ribcage, his blood rushing in his ears, dread settling like rocks in the pit of his stomach as he waits for the redheads answer. It makes sense, when he thinks about it, and he feels like an idiot for not connecting the dots sooner—the possessive grip on the elbow, their playful bickering, and the concentrated glares sent his way while he talked to Hinata that day of the preliminaries… he had just thought him not to be a people person, much like himself, though now, as his thoughts race, he’s not so sure.

Shōyōu squawks indignantly, nearly choking on the air he was breathing, hands quickly waving in front of him in a sign of disagreement. “No, no, no. He’s just a friend and my teammate. He’s also a raging asshole sometimes. Besides, he’s like, my biggest rival!” he exclaims, face flushed in embarrassment.

Ushijima visibly relaxes, huffing out an exhale of relief when the redhead denies them being a couple; a little sliver of hope wiggles in between his ribs and into the spaces of his heart—hope of there being a chance.

“Rival, eh? But you’re teammates…and I thought Ushiwaka here was your biggest rival?” Tendou asks, clapping a hand on the taller boy’s shoulders. Ushijima raises an eyebrow, looking back to Hinata who seems to be confused.

He cocks his head to the side, his hair shifting and fluttering at the sudden tilt, expression open and sincere, “But, I beat Ushiwaka already,” he says simply, innocently, as if it was obvious that he wasn’t a rival anymore.

Tendou balks at the shorter boy, looking between Ushijima’s barely concealed amusement and Hinata’s puzzled innocence, before bursting out into laughter that reverberates of the walls of the gymnasium, startling the other players into looking over at the trio in curiosity.

The hand on Ushijima’s shoulder keeps him anchored as he doubles over, other hand clutching his stomach through his fit. “O-oh my god! That was just savage! A-a-and with such a straight face!” he cackles, wiping at the tears streaming down his cheeks.

Hinata takes a second to connect the pieces together, and when he does, he immediately grips at his hair, shaking his head, panic raising his voice into a shrill squeak, “Oh, shit! No, no, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it like that!” he doubles into a bow before rising once more, his flush returning full force, practically glowing. He steps forward and places a hand on Hinata’s head, ruffling his hair, enjoying the brief contact and the silkiness of Hinata’s hair (how soft it looks versus how it actually feels is unreal), his deep rumble firm and soothing, “Hinata, it’s okay. Don’t freak out. I appreciate your honesty. You did win against me after all. But, don’t forget who’s going to win against you next time.”

Hinata looks up, the large hand still laced within his curls, his beautiful blush still stained in place, and smiles, eyes lit with the same competitive fires the older boy has grown to adore.

“Right!”

-☼-

The second day of the camp ends in a flurry of blisteringly cold snow and torrential piles of ice.

“You’re not welcomed to stay. Go home,” his coach had said to the redhead, who bowed respectfully and gathered his things, no trace of worry for the weather, or disdain for the senior’s rudeness visibly evident. It makes Wakatoshi uncomfortable though, and even Tendou and the other players to an extent, each sharing a slightly worried glance at the prospects of sending the small middle blocker out into the extreme weather, on a bike to the neighboring town, at that.

They’re sharing whispered plans on how to smuggle the kid into the dorms when Ushijima offers, “He’ll stay with me.”

Every pair of eyes turns in shock at his proclamation, never expecting such an offer to come out of the third-year captain; they would have thought there would be some kind of bitterness that resided within the young man, after losing to Karasuno, though they were incredibly far from the truth.

“I have y own apartment that isn’t far from here, and that would leave everyone else free from worry about getting into trouble over smuggling Hinata into the dorms. It just makes sense,” he says with a nonchalant shrug, heartbeat picking up at having the redhead stay with him overnight, at having him hangout and eat dinner with him; he was borderline giddy under his stoic indifference.

They all nodded in agreement and begin packing their things, saying their farewells and promises of tomorrow. Ushijima quickly gathers his things and finds Hinata outside, visibly shivering in his layers as he waits for the storm to die down. He walks to stand next to the other, hands in his pockets, bag slung over his shoulder. “Would you like to come stay with me? I don’t think the weather will calm anytime soon, and it is already late,” he offers.

Hinata’s mouth forms into a small ‘o’ of surprise, eyes light with promises of avoiding frostbite and a warm place to rest. “Are you sure? I don’t want to make your parents upset, or intrude…” he says politely, rubbing his hands together to warm them up.

Wakatoshi shakes his head, “I live by myself, and I have extra space. There’s no intrusion.”

Hinata positively beams at him, “Thank you so much, Ushiwaka!”

He returns the smile with a small nod, “Anytime.”

The walk is short, and they do so in companionable silence, the click of Hinata’s bike—which he refused to let Ushijima take and steer home—almost unheard in the onslaught of the storm, the wind whipping their hair against their faces, the ends freezing with small snowflakes, each breath a puff of moist condensed fog. He directs Hinata on where to place his bike once they arrive, waiting for him to lock it into place with clumsy, numb fingers, before walking inside the lobby and into the elevator, their bones and flesh thawing in the comforting embrace of warmed air conditioning. He leads him to his apartment, a uniform wooden door with an engraved, bronze plaque reading Ushijima W. by it’s right side, unlocking the door and allowing his guest and himself inside.

He hears Hinata shuffle out of his shoes as he murmurs a ‘pardon the intrusion,’ then cooing out a fascinated ‘ooh!, and ‘waah!’ as he takes in Wakatoshi’s apartment. He’s surprised at the boys wonder; he knows he has a nice place, it’s modern and new, with matching furniture and neat adornments and accents, though it’s hardly decorated—only a few family photographs and potted plants placed here and there—which Ushijima picked up from his mothers sensibilities; stern, clinical and practically sterile. He smiles nonetheless at the boy’s exuberance, shucking off his own shoes and heading towards his room to drop off his stuff. Before he turns the corner to head down his hallway he says over his shoulder, “You can drop your things in my room.”

Hinata’s small steps shuffle against his floor as he catches up to Ushijima, head still craning around to see every detail he possibly could. He flicks on his lights and drops his bag by the door with a ‘thunk’, and he rolls his shoulders in relief at finally dropping the heavy weight. He turns to Hinata who is currently oogling everything in his room, eyes greedily drinking in the sight of every award and framed picture, fingers tentatively touching the edges of the lacquered wood-bases, small name engravings, and silky ribbons tied perfectly symmetrical around championship trophies.

“I’m going to shower and then start dinner. I’ll save you water to get one after, so you can warm up,” he rumbles, rifling through his closet for a change of clothes; he wants to leave Hinata be for a moment so he can be nosy and look and explore around his room, like he obviously wants to do—his curiosity makes him smile. He clicks the door to his en suite bathroom closed, making quick work of stripping off his gym clothes and throwing them in his laundry basket, stepping under the heated stream of water and scrubbing away his days’ work. He clicks the water off after a few minutes, not wanting to waste warm water, making sure to leave Hinata plenty for his shower. He scrubs a towel over his body and through his short, choppy hair, not bothering to pat the disarray of still-damp strands down into submission. He slides a plain white t-shirt with a maroon inscription of his team’s slogan on the back, reading ‘Intense Force’, and a pair of jogging style sweatpants that were loose and comfortable, slung low on angular hips.

He steps away from the warm mist of his bathroom and into his room, spotting Hinata perched on his tiptoes, looking at his scarce photographs. He pads quietly over to the boy, peering over his shoulder at what he was looking at.

“What’s her name?” the smaller boy asks.

He looks at the photograph, edging closer to the boy, almost to where he’s pressed up against Hinata’s back. He hums and smiles softly of the old picture of him as a child and his favorite dog—a German Shepard with glossy brown and black fur, and a maw stretched open to reveal sharp teeth and a lolling tongue, appearing to smile just like the small master pictured next to him. “I called her Number One Girl, because she was. She was very smart and very sweet.”

Hinata coos, “That’s adorable and she’s beautiful! And look how cute you are! It’s nice to see you smile sometimes!” he teases, turning his head to scrunch up his nose playfully. Ushijima forgets to breathe as Hinata’s face is turned only inches from his own, the boy standing on his toes giving him an extra boost in height. He can see the mirth swirling and dancing behind the golden honey of his eyes, and he can spot the flecks of copper fanned within his irises. He notices the light freckling that dusts his rosy cheeks, appearing like star patterns against creamy skin, and he briefly wonders if they darken during summer, if he has them littered somewhere else on his body. He notices the tilt to plump, sugary lips, edges of his white teeth peaking underneath each swell of wind-chapped looking tissue, and he wonders how it would feel to kiss him, to nibble on the cupids bow, what they would look like wrapped around—he inhales sharply, stepping back, ripping himself away from the searing heat that seemed to transfer by convection from Hinata to his own being, his stomach roaring with stoked fires of desire and need.

He learns to breath again and says in an even voice, olive eyes flickering over to the confused looking auburnette. “There’s plenty of hot water left for you. Do you… need anything before I start dinner?” he asks.

“O-oh…uhm. Could I possibly borrow a shirt…?” he asks almost shyly, “I-I have a spare pair of shorts, but my shirt is dirty and this one is wet from the snow…”

Ushijima nods and walks into his closet, grabbing the first shirt he saw, just plain navy blue and well worn, the fabric soft and pliable between his fingers. He hands the shirt to the middle blocker who utters a quiet ‘thank you’.

“Take your time. There are extra towels under the cabinet. I’ll start dinner,” he says quietly, shutting the door behind him with a gentle click.

He breathes a sigh out of his mouth, rubbing a hand through his drying locks, walking into his kitchen to distract himself from his previous thoughts of the boy. He already has an idea on what he wants to cook, omu-rice, so he sifts through his pots and pans, pulling out his materials and ingredients, setting to work once he hears the shower turn on. He sets rice in his steamer, and begins washing vegetables. He then slices up his few pieces of chicken and sets the chunks to sear in his warm skillet. He’s lost in his thoughts, wondering if inviting Hinata over to stay had been a mistake, seeing as he can’t keep his feelings for the younger boy under control; he feels like an idiot, and he’s beginning to wonder if Hinata thinks the same of him. He’s in the middle of chopping onions when he hears the bathroom door open and the soft footsteps of Hinata approaching him. He looks over his shoulder beginning to say, “Food will take a bit to finish do you want something to drink—“ his sentence stalls, almost chopping his fingers off, when he sees the auburn boy—he’s absolutely gorgeous. His hair is tousled and darker stained, the strands impregnated and heavy with water droplets, dampening the curls down into pleasant waves. His skin is glowing red from the heat of his shower, and he can see the residual warmth spread across his cheeks, down the column of his throat, and into the cleft of his exposed shoulder and collarbones. The smaller frame of the middle blocker is practically swallowed in Ushijima’s larger shirt, and he briefly blesses the heavens that Hinata forgot his shirt, as he gets a peak at the smooth skin that is revealed from the fabric that flows off his body. Though, as he peaks lower, he feels his skin flush and he flounders, mouth opening and snapping shut several times, trying to formulate words.

Hinata notices the stares, and looks down at his legs and squeaks. “O-oh! I have pants on, I swear!” he yanks the shirt up, revealing skimpy looking volleyball shorts that cling to the warmed skin of his thighs; the explanation doesn’t help—olive eyes widen at the sight of toned, muscular thighs and calves flexing with each shift of Hinata’s body, and the shorts edge towards the edge and swell of his perfectly round ass.

Ushijima continues to stare, and Hinata begins to get anxious, nervously tittering, “I-it’s a funny story really! The team thought it would be a funny prank to switch my shorts out with a pair of women’s volleyball shorts! I actually didn’t notice at first, actually…” he pauses to chirp and squeaky giggle, “…just noticed I could run around a lot easier,” he chuckles nervously, covering his mouth as he snorts out, “You should have seen their faces, though! I just kind of keep them in my bag, just in case… since they fit and all…” he trails off, eyes flickering back up to Ushijima’s.

He blinks a few times, a grin twitching in the corners of his mouth and eyes, which he then covers with his hand, shaking his head and chuckling. “Right…that’s funny,” he turns back to his cooking once he sees the boy grinning at him, moving the simmering pieces of chicken with a spatula.

“Do you need any help?” Hinata asks, stepping into the kitchen and by Ushijima’s side. He shrugs and hands Hinata a knife and a few carrots and onions. The boy gives an excited titter and sets to work, expertly peeling the onions and carrots and chopping them with ease into chunks. Wakatoshi raises an eyebrow, to which Hinata just hums, responding with, “I cook all the time for my family. My mom sometimes works late, and my dad isn’t in the picture, so I was left to look after my sister. I quickly learned how to cook for us. It’s actually probably one of my only skills,” he says with a snort and an easy smile, “Us country-folk aren’t always the brightest, but we know how to cook!” he says with a playful eyebrow wiggle, setting his chopped vegetables in the pan to sauté with the chicken. Ushijima rolls his eyes, though is surprised at the boy’s abilities to be so open and carefree; he asks about his sister, which launches him into an excitable tirade on how she’s the cutest little thing, even if she get’s a bit annoying, whinny, and is a bit of a schmooze, a trait which his mother is convinced he passed along to her.

They talk through dinner, enjoying each others companionship, and they don’t stop—not even when their voices grow raspy with overuse, not when yawns interrupt their sentences every few words, and not even when the clock breaches early in the am pm, twilight stars overshadowed by whispy, gray snow clouds. The pair had shuffled into his room at some point, where they’re tucked against the wall on his bed, still talking about anything and everything; it seems as though every topic is touched on—family, past pets, the love for volleyball, favorite teams, foods, music, and places, their teammates and their goals and aspirations; it’s the most Ushijima thinks he’s ever talked in his life, and he contributes it to just being Hinata. The boy has some kind of magic about him, that breaks down walls faster and more efficiently than anything else in this world—he’s just easy going, excitable, and always interested, which makes him fast friends with just about anyone he comes in contact with, and Ushijima adds this to the list of things he adores about the boy.

Their conversation dwindles when the redhead begins to slump against Ushijima’s broad shoulder, eyes heavy with fatigue and comfort, a small smile gracing his lips as he slips into the endless embrace of sleep. He allows himself to smile sincerely at the sight, brushing some of the curls away from his eyes. He gently shifts away from the boy and allows him to lie down fully, pale arms seeking out something to cuddle, grasping one of Ushijima’s pillows and burying his face into their softness. Wakatoshi wishes he could stay up here with him, to pull the smaller body against him, to share his warmth and bring the boy a sense of contentedness and nirvana as he drifts into dreams, though he knows he can’t do that, not yet; it’s not his place to over step boundaries, so he simply covers him with his duvet and wishes him sweet dreams.

He shifts off the bed and walks to his closet to pull out the spare futon, setting it up quickly and falling onto it rather ungracefully, a sleepy huff escaping past his lips. His heavy eyes slip up to where the lump of Hinata is resting easily and smiles once more, eyes sliding closed, a sense of fullness, of warmth, and of home resounding comfortably in his chest.

-☼-

Ushijima is roused from sleep to the smell of cooking food, his sleep muddled brain wondering briefly if his parents were home, before remembering he lives by himself. His eyes pop open when he remembers whom he had over last night and he turns to look over at his bed, where one Hinata seems to be missing. He stops at the bathroom to freshen up, use the toilet and brush his teeth, stepping out to a happily humming Hinata at the stove, setting pieces of fried eggs and ham on two plates. He beams when he sees Ushijima emerge from his room, chirping a good morning when the older boy sits down on a barstool, groggily watching the boy skip around the kitchen. He glances at the clock on the stove, reading 6:30 a.m., remembering how the boy is an early riser, due to the long bike ride to his school from his house.

‘Cute’, he thinks, watching the boy set a bottle of juice and a plate in front of him, his clothes and hair still ruffled and skewed from sleep.

“Thank you. You didn’t have to cook, you know.”

Shōyōu waves a dismissive hand. “You let me take your bed last night! It’s the least I could do.”

He’s chatty in the mornings, inhaling his breakfast just as quickly as he talks, the boy excited for another day in the gym. Ushijima thinks how he could get used to this, waking up to the sunny boy, to another person in his usually quite home, to the warmth the boy offers that easily fills the hollow in Wakatoshi’s life.

He invites him to stay the week. After a moment of silence, and a couple of texts, he agrees.

Yes, Ushijma could get used to it.

-☼-

It’s easy and synergistic spending time with Hinata, and he feels almost saddened when the end of the training came arises at the end of the week. He helps Hinata gather up the sparse collection of things, sending him home with one of his shirts and hoodies to wear in the mean time, not wanting the smaller boy to return home cold. He’s saying goodbye at the door, almost closing it shut to walk back into his strangely quiet home when Hinata whips back around, back in front of Ushijima, a blush spreading on his face, eyes wide and hopeful, “Go on a date! With me!” he huffs, breathless, tacking on, “Please!” He swallows thickly around the lump that has formed in his throat, small chest heaving around hyperventilating, nervous breaths.

Ushijima’s eyes widen and he blinks, “W-what?” he asks, unsure if he heard the words that came from the redhead correctly.

Hinata takes a deep breath, steeling his nerves, as he says again, “Please go on a date with me? U-unless, of course, you don’t want to, then definitely say no. I mean, why would you?” he chuckles nervously, bouncing on his feet, suddenly flighty, “I know I’m only going to be a second year, and you’ll be really busy with university. Oh god, yeah, no nevermind, I’m so stupid! Just forget it okay, I’ll just go—“ he turns quickly on his heel in hopes of darting out of the hallway, though a firm hand on his wrist yanks him back, preventing him from escaping the situation.

“Hinata,” Ushijima’s solid voice says gently, though commanding, keeping him in place, “I’d love to.”

It’s then Hinata’s turn to balk, “Uh, what?”

He rolls his eyes, freely smiling at the younger boy, “I’d love to go on a date with you. Now let me walk you to the train before you’re late.”

Hinata stares at him, a slowly forming smile shining absolutely radiant on his features. He bounces forward, wrapping his hands around Ushijima’s middle, burying his face in the taller boy’s coat and squealing, “Thank you, Ushijima!”

“Anything for you.”

-☼-

They have their first date that following weekend, exchanging numbers in the meantime to remain in contact, in which Hinata texts him constantly, filling him in on his days, sending him small pictures of his town, of his team, and of himself, to which Ushijima is happy to read and reply to, saving the pictures to his phone, doing the same in telling him about his day, or snapping him pictures of passing dogs on the street, or of him and Tendou and his team. He had asked what their date is going to be, but Hinata refuses to tell him, saying it’ll be a surprise.

So, when the weekend does arrive, Ushijima rides the train to Hinata’s small town in Miyagi, where he was told he would be escorted back to Hinata’s home. Once his train lets out, he scans the surrounding area, looking for the boy. He spots him nervously ringing his hands together as he rocks back and forth on his feet, bottom lip sucked between two teeth. He looked good, dressed up a little more than usual, though still thoroughly bundled up in his winter coat; he had on awhite button up shirt that was nestled underneath a black, scoop-neck sweater, the collar and shirt tails peeking out underneath. A pair of black jeans with frayed holes in the knees were form-fitting and snug, their edges tucked into a pair of dark brown, leather Doc Marten boots with colorful socks pulled up past the rim of the boots’ edge. His hands were stuck in a heavy, military-green peacoat; a thick knit scarf wrapped snuggly against his throat to top off his look. Ushijima felt almost plainly dressed, in a simple gray sweater and black wool scarf, dark-wash straight jeans, boots, and a heavy, beige wool coat.

He wasn’t left with much time to contemplate his fashion choices when his olive-toned eyes caught that of ochre-honey, and he smiled, giving a little wave, which was returned a thousand fold, a one-million-watt smile brightening his nervous features as he jogged over.

“Hey! Was the ride okay? I know it gets a little boring…” he asks.

He nods, “It was fine. You look nice.”

Hinata blushes bashfully and rubs a hand through he unruly hair. “Thanks…you do too! Though, I had a little help from my teammates…” he chuckles.

“Oh?” he asks, and Hinata launches into the story as he begins leading Ushijima towards his home on how he told a few of his senpai’s about the date ‘on the down low’, who enthusiastically volunteered to help dress him up. Apparently half of the things he was wearing weren’t even his—the scarf and sweater was Sugawara’s, the boots were from Tanaka, and the jeans and button up were from Nishinoya. He chuckles as the boy says with a shrug, “The socks and coat are mine, at least.”

They walk in silence the rest of the way, Hinata occasionally interrupting the companionable silence to point out his favorite places to eat and shop, their hands brushing occasionally as they walk side by side, which prompts Ushijima to interlock their pinkies together, glancing over to see the boy shyly smiling at him. He begins to swing their intertwined hands together, a hop in his step.

He pulls Ushijima to a stop once they reach his home, and he’s surprised by how close to the mountains he lives; astounded by the natural beauty, the modest home, and the quiet serenity that encompasses his town.

He’s invited inside and says a polite, ‘excuse the intrusion’, that gets drowned out Hinata’s yell of ‘I’m home!’, and a childish squeal of delight that resounds from a small little girl that goes barreling into the redhead’s side. The young man scoops up the flurry of orange in his arms and swings her around easily, even if the girl is already half his height; they looking strikingly similar, each having their own version of a volatile smile that could rival the sun, a shock of perturbed auburn hair, and large, doe eyes.

“Natsu, say ‘hi’. This is Ushijima Wakatoshi. He’s…my special friend. We’re going to hang out today,” Hinata says to her, turning them so the little girl could wave her pudgy little hands and smiling full force, yelling out a delighted ‘hello!’

She’s as cute as a button, probably around six or seven years old, missing her front teeth, dressed in overalls and a striped pink shirt, mismatched socks on small little feet, and her puffy hair pulled back in two pigtails, secured with pink bobbles. Hinata sets her down when Hinata-san steps through the archway that he assumes leads to the kitchen. He bows respectfully, saying in his deep lit, “Hello, I’m Ushijima Wakatoshi. Thank you for having me in your lovely home, Hinata-san. It is a pleasure to meet you and your daughter.”

Hinata’s mother gapes at the boy and looks between him and her son, “Goodness, what a polite young man. Sho, you really should learn something from him!” she teases good-naturedly, wiggling her eyebrows at him.

He squawks indignantly, huffing temperamentally, “I’m getting the stuff from the kitchen, I’ll be right back. Don’t say anything embarrassing!” His mother and sister just giggle at his warning, calling back, “No promises!”

Ushijima’s lips twitch into a sincere smile, and he ducks his head to respectfully hide it. The littlest Hinata shuffles up to him and holds up her arms, “Up,” she says in a command, voice stern and expression unwavering.

“Oh, Natsu, don’t be so bossy—“ her mother begins to scold, though Ushijima waves her off. “It’s fine, I don’t mind.”

He scoops her up easily, resting her small body on his hip. She ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ much in the same way Shōyōu does, and it makes him chuckle. “Is it neat being this high up?” he asks, twirling her around in a circle before dipping her low and back up.

She squeals in delight, crooning, “It’s like I’m flying! Mama, I wanna’ be this tall!”

Hinata-san smiles warmly as she watches the two play, “Maybe one day, sweetie.”

Natsu leans in close to Ushijima and asks innocently, her head tilted to the side, “Ushi-chan, do you love Nii-chan?”

He pauses at the question, sparing a glance over at the boy’s mother, who raised her eyebrows at the question, awaiting his response.

He clears his throat, awkwardly asking, “Uh…I…Why do you ask?”

She taps her small fingers against her chin, “Well…when I watch movies with Mama or Sho-chan, there will be two people in love, and they look at each other like you and nii-san look at each other!” she says simply, shocking the older boy at how perceptive the youngling was.

“Well… in that case, yes I do,” he murmurs to her softly.

She leans in to whisper, suddenly very serious, “Does he know?”

He shakes his head no. “Can we keep it our little secret?”

She nods a serious, affirmative yes, making a zipping motion in front of her mouth that makes him chuckle. He dares another look to his mother, risking to see the look of abject horror or disgust on her face, only finding a sincere smile, full of loving warmth and acceptance; the look of a mother witnessing her baby growing up to love—it makes his heart swell and yearn to treat her son like the god he believes him to be.

Shōyōu peeks his head out from the entryway of the kitchen, a picnic basket in tow, backpack slung over his shoulder. He chuckles when he sees Natsu up in the air, playfully scolding her for being such a schmooze. She childishly sticks her tongue out at him, the younger boy mimicking the action, before she’s set back down on the ground.

He turns to Ushijima, “Ready to go?”

He nods, “Lead the way.”

Hinata-san gives a kiss to the eldest sons curls, leaning in to whisper, ‘He’s a keeper. Hold on to him,’ to which her son enthusiastically nods and smiles at him, mouthing a ’I will. I promise.’

Ushijima gives another polite bow to Hinata-san, to which she just scoffs and lets out a hearty laugh, drawing the boy into a warm hug. “You’re too polite, no need for that here, okay? Come by for dinner sometime, yes? You’re always welcome here,” she pauses to lean in for a whisper, ‘Be good to him.’

He nods, murmuring back, ‘I will. I promise.’

She sends him off with a wink, bidding the two farewell and to have fun.

Shōyōu smiles at him, “My mom and sister like you. Hopefully they didn’t say anything to embarrassing.”

“Good, and no, not really. I like your family.” he says simply, lacing their hands together. Hinata’s smile impossibly widens, and he tugs on their hands, leading him down a well-worn path, informing him that he has cooked a picnic and that they will be eating it down at the coastline, in one of his favorite spots, since the day was nice and sunny, if just a bit on the cold side.

It takes them a handful of minutes to arrive, and when he does, he’s taken away once more with how pretty Miyagi is. The water is crystalline and incredibly blue, the waves crashing into each other to form foamy whitecaps, bits of melting ice floating easily in the stirring of the water. The sun sheds heat down on the sands and park benches that are placed around the makeshift beach, warming the surrounding air into a pleasant chill, the breeze salty and crisp, rustling the crisp grasses that grow in hoards around the docks and sidewalks.

Hinata picks a nice, sunny spot on the ground, lay out the blanket he packed for them to sit on, setting his basket down, unloading all of the goodies he prepared for them, popping each of their lids off to reveal their contents.

“You… made hayashi rice for me?” he asks, blinking at the delicious looking hashed beef stew.

He grins, “Yeah! I know it’s your favorite. I also packed some sweet bread and tea,” he chirps, unscrewing the lid to the thermos and pouring the steaming liquid into two teacups.

He takes a moment and stares at the spread, mouth slightly open in wonder, eyes bright and shining in appreciation for the younger boy. “How long did this take?”

Hinata shrugs, “I don’t know. Does it matter?” he hands him a pair of chopsticks. “Go ahead and eat before it gets cold.”

He takes the chopsticks and glances at Shōyōu, face warm from the swell of endearment he feels towards the boy. “Thank you.”

They spend the day together, Hinata chatting and enthusiastic, pushing pieces of sweet bread towards Ushijima so he could munch contentedly, nod and listen along, offering small replies, questions, or snippets of advice when needed. He enjoyed it, spending his time like this, free from pressure of performance or the need to speak, happy to let Hinata ramble for hours. He could abandon any worry of the future, and he was free from his definition of family—free to find his own version of home; he finds it in Hinata, he has for a while, the boy being like a candle in a window that beckons for him to find solace and comfort within him, gentle and serene. They stay until the blues of evening begin their descent into electric pinks and all-encompassing purples, dusting off any residual sand and folding up the blanket, stuffing it back into his bag; the stars of the country much brighter and jovial than in the city when they come out to litter and bespeckle the sky.

He walks home with Hinata hand in hand, being a gentleman and carrying his picnic basket for him, only trading it off once they reach the front door to Hinata’s home.

“Thank you for agreeing to go with me today,” Hinata says, giving his hand a squeeze. He happily squeezes the warm palm back, an honest smile on his lips, “Of course. Anything for you…I was honestly…very happy when you asked.”

Hinata cocks his head to the side, “Oh? Really?”

He nods, warmth spreading across defined cheekbones. “I have…liked you for a very long time,” he says slowly, embarrassed on confessing his feelings rather brazenly.

Hinata then smiles, positively radiant against the backdrop of expansive night sky, illuminating the surrounding darkness with his light; he never fails to take Ushijima’s breath away.

“I’ve felt the same—“ he reaches behind him, into his backpack pulling out the old jar of muscle rub Ushijima had originally given him back at the preliminaries, “—ever since you gave me this.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You knew you liked me when I gave you a used jar of smelly muscle rub?” he asks in disbelief.

Hinata bites on his lip to prevent a goofy grin from spreading on his lips and nods, “Yeah…”

Ushijima chuckles and scrubs a hand over his face with a sigh, “Can we pick a different time? That’s not very romantic.”

Hinata giggles and shakes his head, “Nope!” he exclaims, popping the ‘p’ for emphasis.

The share a moment of silence, each laughing at the silliness of the other, before Ushijima steps forward, hand brushing the stray curls away from Hinata’s face and behind his ear. “I’d like to kiss you,” Ushijima murmurs to the redhead, who nods enthusiastically, pressing forward to step on his tiptoes.

Ushijima cups Hinata’s face and presses forward, lips pressing against Hinata’s; they taste sweet, like the fresh baked bread he made, and something else entirely that was just Shōyōu, like aerated sweetness, with tones of rich spices, like cinnamon and cloves, and earth, the flavor sharp and hot on his lips and tongue. It was stiff, awkward, enthusiastic, and perfect, leaving the two boy’s gasping for air and rosy cheeked.

When Ushijima whispers, ‘Be my boyfriend, please?’ all Hinata could do was nod and respond back with another passionate kiss, small arms wrapping around his neck.

Never, in all his life, has Ushijima ever been so full of happiness, so full of love, and he knew, without a doubt, there was nowhere else he’d rather be, than with Hinata—no place he’d rather be than home.

-☼-

It has been three months since the two had started dating, the winter months melting away into slushy puddles of mud that welcomed spring flowers to bloom in the icy wakes—fresh and beautiful like the blooming relationship between the two. The holiday’s fly by quickly— he ships the gift to his father over seas, and saves the gift for his mother for New Years, since she was busy over the holidays at the office. It’s nothing new, and this year, it doesn’t bother him, finding that he enjoyed spending it with Hinata; neither one bothered to do anything particularly special (besides cooking copious feasts and adding on winter pounds as they sat and watched movies), enjoying the time spent together more than anything else, and Wakatoshi finds a quick new home within the Hinata household. The pair has never been happier, easily finding equilibrium, a special type of synergism, that leaves the two satiated and at ease—leaves the two hopelessly in love.

It’s three months, when Hinata finally says it to Ushijima.

They were cuddled on the couch, the smaller boy pressed against his chest as they stared mindlessly at a movie that was on the television. Hinata had been even more fidgety than usually, going from bouncing his foot back and forth, and chewing on his nails—which Ushijima would then swat his hands way from his mouth with a pointed look—and it had begun to worry the older boy. He was wondering what had his boyfriend in such a state of anxiousness, and it was even more worrying when asked, Hinata just waved the concern away, saying it was nothing. He was about to ask once more, when Hinata ceased his fidgeting, taking a deep breath and rushing out “I’m in love with you!”

Ushijima froze in place, heartbeat rapidly picking up in his ribcage, breath stalling in his lungs, “What?”

Hinata rolled around, perching himself on top of Ushijima, his smaller thighs squatting over Ushijima’s lap. “I…love you, Wakatoshi. I have for a long time, I think. And I just wanted to tell you… You don’t have to return them, it’s okay! I know it atkes time, and we haven’t been together a really long time—“ he’s cut off, breath stolen and words swallowed by Ushijima who surged forward, capturing Hinata’s mouth in a heated kiss; the kind that leaves Hinata gasping, panting, and holding on to Ushijima to keep him anchored to this world. Ushijima’s hungry lips seek out the column of pale throat, feeling the pulse points jump from the insistent teeth and lips that work butterfly shaped bruises into the expanse of his skin at the junction of his shoulder and neck; Hinata’s lips purse like a flat-lined heartbeat to prevent a moan from escaping his mouth.

“I have loved you--” he pauses to kiss a searing trail from his neck to his ear, pulling the skin of his lobe between his teeth, hot breath whispering, “--ever since I saw you fly. Ever since you looked at me, like you were a god sent here on fire, and you burned me. I never stopped thinking about you, and I don’t plan to. You proved everything I knew wrong, turned my world upside down, and I adored you and every second I spent with you—every time you smiled at me, every time you laughed, every time you were angry, and every time you relentlessly pitted against me,” he pauses to let out a breathy chuckle, “You smoldered so bright, and I knew that I never wanted to live without you, that I want—that I need to make you mine,” he moves to push their foreheads together, hand cupping the small, rosy cheeks. “I love you, Shōyōu. Please, can I make you mine…? Can I make love to you?”

He pulls his head back when he hears a hiccup, startled to see small tears clinging to long lashes, a dazzling smile full of love and warmth on his face, “You’re such a sappy romantic, ‘Toshi. God, I love you, yes, please Ushijima, I want to touch you—“ he’s silenced once more when lips crash into his own, all tongue and teeth, eager to claim and take—to love.

Ushijima sits up and pushes the boy back slightly, using his strong hands to wrap Hinata’s muscled legs around his hips, lifting him with each from the couch and carrying him to his bedroom. He gently deposits the boy on the bed, hovering over him as his hands trail across every expanse of exposed flesh as the boy pants to catch his breath. He pulls at the edges of Hinata’s borrowed shirt—a fact that makes him smile—asking for permission to remove the article of clothing.

The boy responds by practically ripping the shirt off of himself and tossing it aside, leaving his bare, lean chest on display. The ace is pleased to see that he does have freckles besides those on his cheeks; they’re splattered everywhere—patches of the darkened melanin covering the bits of flesh that receive the most sunlight, like his shoulders, back, abdomen, and even on the upper parts of his thighs. Wakatoshi barely stifles a groan as his calloused fingers trail against the spots, eventually down to his toned abdomen, gently pushing the boy backwards to lie fully on the bed. He crawls over the smaller boy, settling between pliant legs, and at the nape of his neck, he makes his descent down to his chest, lips pulling a pert, dune nipple into his mouth and sucking. Hinata positively keens, arching against the touch, hands flying to Ushijima’s locks, fingers threading in the short strands and tugging, causing the older boy to groan against his flushed skin. He gives each bud a suck, a kiss, and a lick of his tongue, before trailing lower to his abdomen, placing light, ticklish bites across sensitive skin.

When he reaches the edge of those accursed, short volleyball shorts, he slips a finger in their waistband and glances up at a fully flushed, panting Shōyōu, who mutely shakes his head in encouragement. Ushijima smiles and places a tender kiss on each of the boys jutting hipbones, finding the way they wiggle against him endearing, and the way the skin is drawn taut into a firm ‘v’ shape alluring and beautiful. He mouths the outside of Hinata’s aching erection, eliciting a whimper that shoots pleasure straight through his core. He pulls down the shorts in one sharp tug, not entire surprised that he’s not wearing underwear underneath, his smaller cock springing free.

Hinata gasps at the presence of cooler air, the head of his member pearly with precum and swollen red with the influx of blood to his groin. The younger boy finally finds himself bashful at being spread flat and vulnerable, his knees moving to try and hide his body from sight. Ushijima ‘tsks’, and delivers a sharp bite to the outside of his thigh, causing his knees to spread once more. “Don’t hide, you’re beautiful.”

His mouth then glides wet and hot over Hinata, and he gasps, breathy and airy, and sweet, a sound Wakatoshi wants branded into his memory. He swallows around him, inch by inch, hands resting on twitchy hips, keeping the boy firmly in place. He adjusts to feel of Hinata on his tongue before hollowing his cheeks and sucking.

Ushijima revels in he noises he draws from the other boy, head bobbing in a steady rhythm, pleased he can drive his lover closer and closer to the brink with just his mouth and tongue. He buries his nose in the boys’ curly pubic hair, the full length of Hinata pushed back against his throat before he pulls off of Hinata with a wet ‘pop’. Hinata groans at the loss of contact, head lolling to the side, lips kissed swollen, hair splaying against Ushijima’s pillow like a golden halo, his eyes glassy and foggy with need; it’s breaking his resolve, seeing him wrecked and starved with desire for him and him alone. He chuckles and hovers over the boy once more, who eyes his still-dressed form in playful betrayal.

“Off,” he commands, hands insistent as they peel off each piece of clothing, tossing them aside as if they personally offended him. Once he reaches the waistband of Ushijima’s jeans, he looks to Ushijima, who nods, breath escaping in breathy gasps. He sits back fully, allowing Hinata full access in removing his pants and underwear; the sight of Wakatoshi’s member makes the redhead absolutely drool. Ushijima groans and throws his head back once he feels Hinata’s small hand wrap around his straining cock, thumb smearing the precum over the head and down his shaft. His eyes flutter shut and he gasps when Hinata twists his wrist and strokes, leaning forward, mouth slightly open as he concentrates on his actions. After a few strokes he leans forward, lips sliding over the swollen tip and down, down, down, taking in as much as he could before triggering his gag reflex, his hands covering the rest that couldn’t fit in his mouth.

It takes all of Ushijima’s self control not to fuck up into the wet heat that was Shōyōu’s mouth. He peeks an eye open and just about comes undone, seeing Hinata’s sweet lips stretched obscenely around his cock, head bobbing in a smooth rhythm up and down, wrist flicking the base on his movement up; it’s almost sinful, watching Hinata make eye contact with him through his long lashes, the young man’s moans sending pleasant vibrations through his erection. The sight was better than any dream he has previously concocted in his dreams, and he made sure to drinking in the sight greedily. His hands find themselves in Hinata’s hair, using the curly strands as a tether to this world, Hinata seemingly dead-set on pushing him to the edge of nirvana when the head of his cock is glided to the back of Hinata’s throat. The auburnette pulls off of him at his insistence, much to close for his liking. He stifles another moan as he watches Hinata lick at his lips, lapping at the saliva that dribbled down the sides of his mouth and to his chin.

He beckons the boy to him, instructing him to lie down on his back; Ushijima rifles through his drawer, pulling out a bottle of water-based lube and a condom. “Just relax and take a deep breath. It’ll be weird. Please tell me if it hurts,” he says soothingly and the boy nods in affirmation, taking a shuttering breath and he hears the bottle pop open, and then a warmed up, slicked finger press at his entrance.

His mouth opens in a silent gasp as the finger wedges itself inside of him; it feels strange, though not unpleasant, and he finds himself wanting more soon, needing friction desperately. Ushijima hums in a placating gesture as he glides a second finger inside, giving him a moment to adjust to the extra digit before slowly stretching the apart, pumping them in and out, curling them against his inner walls, searching for the prostate; he briefly marvels at how such large, calloused, rough hands handle him so delicately.

Hinata is gasping, voice cut off into a shattered moan when he finds it, fingers pushed against the bump of flesh, the digits curled and pressing even more against it, sending electric pulses through Shōyōu. His back arches and he whines, tossing his head side to side, urging Wakatoshi to give him more, he wants more.

He happily obliges, continuing his assault on his prostate, easily adding a third finger to his entrance and opening him further. He pumps his fingers in and out at a fast pace, Hinata’s body bouncing against the push of powerful fingers against the hilt of his pelvis. He moans, “Ushi-ushi, Wakatoshi, please, please, pleaseplease—“

Ushijima shushes him, removing his fingers fully from the young man’s entrance, much to the dissatisfied whine of the boy. He rips open the condom and slides it on his throbbing cock, slathering it with lube before lining up with his entrance once more. He takes a deep breath and places a soothing hand on his lover’s sweat-slicked belly, the firm thighs wrapping around his middle, locking in place to keep Ushijima there, pressed so close. He rubs the head of his cock against the puckered hole before slowly, achingly pressing in, careful not to push in too fast or hard, wanting to allow the boy to adjust inch by inch to his considerable girth and length.

Hinata’s fabrication begins to fray, thoughts and words incoherent, besides ‘Please, Wakatoshi, please’, back arching off the bed, head craned to the side. Once he’s fully buried to the hilt in Hinata’s warmth, he allows himself to moan, head dropping onto the crook of the redhead’s shoulder.

“Fuck, Hinata—Shōyōu,” he rumbles, “You feel amazing.” The redhead moans is response, wiggling his hips in encouragement for Wakatoshi to move. He obliges, hips retreating almost fully out of the young man before slamming back into the tight, wet heat. He picks up that rhythm, pulling out and pushing back in, hips snapping against the swell of Hinata’s ass, the wanton moans of his name and faster spurring him forward. His hands travel down the sides of Hinata’s face as he drinks in the sight of Hinata completely ravaged; his legs are spread wide for Ushijima, cock bobbing with each thrust, the tip profusely leaking precum, his whole body being moved up and down with each powerful push in and out. His eyes are wide open, pupils blown wide as saucers, skin pleasure soaked and flushed. A possessive growl rumbles form his throat and he leans down to bite at the already red hickey, sucking on it once more to make sure it stays in place, to let people know the redhead was taken by him; his free hand leaving bruises on pale hips.

He feels the familiar coil in his gut, signifying that he was close to cumming. He gives Shōyōu’s cock a few quick pumps, leaning in to whisper in his ear, ‘Cum for me, Shōyōu.’ The young man loses himself, his climax ripping through him white hot, the name of his lover on his lips. Ushijima fucks him through his orgasm, sending waves of pleasure as he continuously hits the place inside of him that makes him sees stars, and he groans when Hinata’s walls clamp and tighten around him, milking him of his own orgasm. His hips stutter and he pushes one last time, fully into Hinata, burying himself completely in his lover as his cock gives it’s last few twitches as he finishes cumming.

The two catch their breath and he pulls out, placing a tender kiss to his lover’s cheek, rolling away from Hinata to dispose of his condom in the trash and wash his hands, gathering a damp rag to clean his boyfriend up with. Hinata gives him a lazy smile, which he returns happily, curling himself around Shōyōu, fingers running soothingly through his sweat-slicked locks.

“I love you, ‘Toshi,” the younger man murmurs.

“I love you too, Shō,” he replies, happily burying his nose and breathing in the mixed smell of Hinata and himself—sweet, earthy, and homey.

It’s bizarre, if Ushijima thinks about it, how quickly he became consumed by the gravitational force that is Hinata’s nature—how quickly he accepted it. He never would have pictured them like this, each other becoming special pieces of their niche, locking together like puzzle pieces, or two forms of molded clay; perfectly designed for one another, and entirely encompassed by the other’s world. It was scary and beautiful, a clashing display of emotions that led him here, it left him breathless and starry eyed, never once wishing to go back and fix any of it—and he finds himself entirely thankful to a jar of muscle rub for bringing him this gift of intimacy.

They doze like this, completely wrapped in each other, whispering sweet nothings to each other as they drift in and out of consciousness, completely unaware of the outside world, only concerned with each other. Ushijima looks at Hinata like the world is good, and the world is new, and Hinata’s voice sounds like liquid birdsong against the side of his face as he places small, sweet kisses against every dip and curve of skin and bone, skin glowing like milk and honey against the darkness that seeps in through the window.

They both know that they have built a home together, inside of each other—something organic, safe, and serene, and they know, wholeheartedly, that there is no other place they’d rather be.