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Give Them Time

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Kageyama never imagined that he’d suddenly become the captain of the volleyball team. Stoic, at times aloof, even antisocial, he thought others were more fitting for the role. However, with a knack for the sport, and a keen eye for his teammate’s condition on the court, he was unanimously chosen for the position.

That eye for his teammates, however, felt like a curse. Time in and time out two such players threatened to make his already hectic life a living hell. Uncoordinated and unfocused, he couldn’t figure out what their problem was. Even now, as he spit and sputtered just as a volleyball that felt like it was rocketed at him from point blank range hit him upside the head, he wanted to scream. And that he did as he turned around, now reflexively, with eyes instantly glued to the only idiot who would do such a thing.

“Dumbass, pay attention,” he shouted to the resident shortie dumbass, Hinata Shouyou.

“It was a mistake! Good god Kageyama, calm down,” Hinata grumbled as he took offense from the harsh words of his captain.

Temper rising, Kageyama ignored him as he approached and refuted his claim. “Do I need to stay back here and show you how to serve for the millionth time. When will you ever learn to properly serve, its been three long years and you still suck so bad. You’re so lucky we have better players who’ll cover your dumbass mistakes.”

“Yes, yes, my esteemed king.” Kageyama rolled his eyes so hard as the tall smartass Tsukishima Kei, strolled up beside the suddenly quiet and frozen dumbass and assumed his characteristic mocking tone.  It was so irritating especially when combined with how he smartly stared at him through his sports goggles. His eyes gleamed with mischief. And his smirk, it was so infuriating.

“May we never forget your mercies towards us oh king. Need I remind you that none of us can ever hope to be such a paragon of volleyball excellence like yourself.” Tsukishima spoke coolly as he purposefully annoyed him with that god-awful nickname he earned during his selfish volleyball days in junior high. He’d have marched up to him to shut him up, if the vice-captain, Yamaguchi, hadn’t gotten in the way.

“Tsukki, Hinata, how about you take five,” he urged as he sidestepped to keep in pace with Kageyama who tried to go around him.

“Oh, but his highness didn’t command us to,” Tsukishima chirped as he stepped closer to Hinata. Hinata shuddered and stepped back as he watched Tsukishima approach him. When Tsukishima's eyes briefly flashed his way, Hinata stopped mid gait as he quickly gulped and swallowed any and all comments as he focused his gaze on a crack in the the ground as if he could scurry into it so he could avoid that striking and beautiful Tsukishima gaze.

Kageyama, meanwhile, pushed Yamaguchi and the frozen dumbass out the way but the lanky teen reached for his arm and pulled him back, stopping him in his tracks. Glaring disapprovingly at him, he spoke to the others without looking at them. “Just go, I think I need to have a talk with him first.”

“But Yamaguchi.” Hinata whined as he angled his head towards Tsukishima, unable to muster the courage to even stare at him.

Though Yamaguchi cast him a knowing and understanding glance, he persisted anyway. “Please Hinata? Kageyama is having one of those moments, you know how he is.”

Hinata groaned as he pouted. “Fine, and I was really feelin’ it too.”

Kageyama cocked his head and stared condescendingly at him. “Do you want me to give you something to feel dumbass? Will that finally get you to properly serve the ball for once?”

“Kageyama that’s enough. Cool down and give Hinata a break. Tsukki too. We talked about this before, you’re scaring the new players,” Yamaguchi interrupted him with a stern voice as he pulled him closer.

Tch. Kageyama glared in annoyance.

Used to his mannerisms, Yamaguchi softly chuckled before he lowered his voice and spoke softly, sincerely, and gently, as if the others weren't even there. It was the usual voice that always relaxed Kageyama. “Come on Kageyama, lets take this to the bench, get you some water, and just talk? Okay?” He said.

Sensing they were no longer welcome, Tsukishima stepped closer to Hinata.  “Come on pipsqueak. Clearly the king and his loyal attendant have something intimate to discuss.”

Hinata was speechless as he listened to Tsukishima laugh to himself, however, he suddenly perked back to life as Tsukishima bent over and tossed a spare ball his way. Catching it, albeit pretty clumsily, he cast Tsukishima a questioning glance as if the very idea of it was out of character for him. Though with his fingers spread out, urging him to follow along, Hinata hastily followed him.

Kageyama sat on the bench beside Yamaguchi and stared at Tsukishima and Hinata practicing receives. He looked at Yamaguchi with uncertainty on his face, as he watched Tsukishima smile fondly at the boy in front of him. It was a far cry from the mocking look Kageyama received moments earlier.

Tsukishima maintained his look through each toss, even as he strained at times to receive it. And Hinata, where his serving basically sucked so much it would make any noob look like an expert, he was now back to normal. While it was messy and left room for improvement, it was decent enough that it would pass for any game.

“The dumbass and the smartass are on point when they’re on their own but on court, mistake after mistake. I don’t get it.” Kageyama admitted as he reflected. Tsukishima, while still a force to be reckoned with during those clutch moments in games, was steadily losing his edge, blocking fewer and fewer balls. And Hinata, though his performance was always shaky and sloppy, was more prone to rookie mistakes. 

“I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about,” Yamaguchi answered as he lightly bumped him on the shoulder. “Give them some time.”

“You said that the last time we had joint practice and look where we ended up.” Kageyama complained as he rubbed his knee. The memory of their endless dive and dig practices from their numerous losses that weekend was still fresh in his mind. 

“Maybe it’s the pressure of working with the MVP of the entire prefecture.” Yamaguchi smiled admirably as he reached and grabbed his hand, squeezing it reassuringly. “I mean you are pretty amazing, and we don’t want to hold you back. You push us to do our best, and we want to do our best for you, you know?”

Kageyama couldnt resist smiling from the praise and look of admiration he received. There was something about the way Yamaguchi flashed his eyes at him fully charged with awe and wonder that left him feeling warm and incredible. Still he couldnt help but comment about the scrub that was Hinata. “You really think the dumbass cares about that, all that’s in his head is crickets and a volleyball if that.”

Yamaguchi genuinely laughed at the suggestion. He and the others wondered if he realized he was just like the dumbass. Volleyball on the mind 24/7, he still struggled with anything that didn’t involve it. “How about you just, lay off for a bit and we wait and see.” Yamaguchi gave him a quick double pat on the shoulder before flashing him a smile and jogging off to help the new kids with their jumping float serves.

As Kageyama watched the umpteenth ball fly straight past the dumbass giving the other team yet another free point, he couldn’t help but yell an obscenity at him. Either Hinata didn’t hear him or he was totally out of it as he ignored him and kept his eyes on Tsukishima, as if he was stunned by whatever he happened to say to him during the middle of the game. Before Tsukishima could reply, Kageyama was already shouting as he marched up to them. “Dumbass, I’m talking to you.”

 Tsukishima spoke before Hinata could. “Oh how honored we are that his highness has decided to grace us with his presence.” Tsukishima bowed, prompting Hinata to laugh.

Kageyama glared at them. "Cute the crap!"

“Lighten up Kageyama. It was funny. Why are you always making a stank face?” Hinata asked sincerely as he somewhat calmed. “Your face is going to get stuck like that.”

“Idiot, that’s not even possible. And stop trying to change the subject. I’ve had it up to here with you and your dumbass tendencies, why do you keep missing the ball?”

Hinata looked at him as if he’d taken his milk carton and squashed it. Offended, he complained.  “Why do you keep sending it where none of us can even reach, we’re not superheroes. We can't fly.”

Kageyama’s scowl deepened. “Excuses. Everyone else hits it just fine. The only people who’ve missed have been you and Tsukishima.”

"What?" They said in unison, clearly confused.

Kageyama was honestly confused as it was pretty clear neither had hit any ball he set for them that day. Even the vice-captain had mentioned it as well as some of the first years. Just as he was about to remind them about this, they were off in their own world discussion who knows what. He was going to yell and angrily fill them in, however the timeout whistle blew signaling it was time to get back in the game.

Though confused, Kageyama wondered if they did get something out of his short talk with them. The balls he sent to Hinata always went across the net. Hinata’s serves, though still embarrassing and weak, cleared the net, and his receive game was decent. 

Feeling like he was on the top of the world, Kageyama positioned himself in the backline ready to work as the final line of defense if the ball got beyond the shield known as Tsukishima in front of him. He’d never tell Tsukishima to his face because he hated his guts, but he was honestly impressive when he wasn’t half-assing things like he often did. He more than made up for the scrub's weaknesses beside him. Hinata could only be trusted as a distraction for the other team. It was a miracle that he at least flailed his arms so that no one targeted him.  He just looked so dumb, even now as he watched him, he wondered why he was still standing when Tsukishima just told him to jump.

Realizing it too late, Kageyama yelled at him. “Dumbass Hinata, what are you doing?!” He shouted, distracted, as he suddenly forgot he was in the middle of the game.

“Kageyama!” Yamaguchi screamed in horror. Though just as Kageyama turned to look at him, the ball barreled into the side of his face. He was knocked off his feet, rolled backwards, and face-planted the floor.

Up in no time, he was furious as he stared murderously at Hinata. Hinata quickly ran and hid behind Tsukishima. Peeking from behind him, he squirmed in fear as he realized how horrific Kageyama looked. The scowl combined with the blood dripping from the cuts to his lip and eyelid, and the bruised eye made him look terrifying.

Ready to put an end to it, Kageyama wasted no time confronting him by yelling. “Spill it dumbass, what’s got you so distracted.”

“N-n-nothing,” Hinata squeaked.

“This is nothing?” Kageyama pointed to his face.

“You, that’s, you weren’t paying attention, stupid Kageyama.”

“Nah, you think.”

“It was an honest mistake,” Tsukishima said flatly.

A mistake. An honest mistake. Furious that they honestly believed it was a simple mistake, he realized that his patience with them was gone. “Fine, if it was a mistake, then maybe it was my mistake for trusting you two with the starting position on the team. Get off the damn court and don’t come back!” He shook in fury as he pointed at the door.

They stared at him like he’d totally gone bonkers and would take back what he said, but when he remained motionless they realized he was serious.

“Well, it seems the tyrant king has finally awoken from his long slumber,” Tsukishima said somberly as he walked off.

“It was a mistake Kageyama, you don’t need to.”

“Can it shortstuff,” Tsukishima interrupted. “The faster we leave, the better. I’d rather spend the day with you than spend a second more with this ruthless overlord.”

Hinata looked at him as if he’d grown two heads. It wasn’t until Tsukishima beckoned him to follow, that he was brought out of his awe. Smiling, beaming even, he happily followed him out of the gym.

Just as they left, Yamaguchi was at Kageyama’s side with an ice pack. Glaring daggers at him he shook his head disapprovingly at him. “What?” Kageyama asked.

“You know what, totally uncalled for and rude. You didn’t have to do that.” Yamaguchi harshly slammed the ice bag on his bruised cheek and stomped away.

Kageyama enjoyed practice without Hinata and Tsukishima there. No balls were aimed at his head, none to his face, no free points during matches, the list could go on and on about how problem free volleyball was now. Apart from the glares the vice-captain sent him, practice was fun again.

It wasn’t until the coach mentioned that the first game of the newest tournament was coming up and two total noobs would be taking over Hinata’s and Tsukishima’s vacated starter spots that Kageyama realized the mistake he made. His championship dreams would be dashed if the dumbass and stupidass weren’t there. Even at their worst they were still better than some untrained rookies. Silent the entire practice, he wondered how he could fix things and get them to come back. He walked to Yamaguchi for help.

“You got yourself into this mess, and you’re gonna have to get yourself out of it. Sorry Kageyama,” Yamaguchi apologized as he quickly walked away. However, Kageyama grabbed his hand, anchoring him.

“I said no Kageyama.” Yamaguchi tried to wrench his hand out of his.

Gripping his hand tighter, Kageyama begging earnestly. “Please Yamaguchi.”

Yamaguchi sighed. “Please what? Please tell you how much of a dumbass, jerk, and idiot you were to your friends, your teammates, for what, for a volleyball game? It’s been two months, why now? Just because you need them? Is winning all that you care about?”

Kageyama winced as his grip weakened. He deserved the harsh words, he deserved the criticism, he deserved it all. Maybe he was the real dumbass after-all, the one that valued a sport more than even his teammates and friends. Just as his hand was all but ready to fall out of Yamaguchi’s grip, Yamaguchi tightened it and pulled him in close for a hug.

“You deserve to look like that,” he whispered soothingly as he noted his boyfriend’s pitiful face. “But, you’re still you, and I’m glad you’re at least trying to make this better. Sure, it’s like way late and all, but, anytime is better than never. You know where to find them.” Yamaguchi pat his back before he pulled away.

Softly smiling at him with sudden gratitude, Kageyama nodded. Though just as he scurried away he turned around. “I don’t. I don’t deserve you either, but, thanks for giving me time and sticking with me.”

Yamaguchi suddenly wore a goofy looking smile as he nodded. It was as if it was so rare to receive such a word of affection from him that he was sent to cloud nine. Happy, excited, and beaming even, he turned around and ran off enthusiastically shouting orders to the practice squad and dodging any and all questions about what the captain did before practice to make him looks so happy.  

When Kageyama reached the tree where their group used to sit together before he cast them aside, he blanched. He saw Tsukishima and Hinata sitting under it, much closer than he’s ever seen them before.

“Something’s in your hair Tsukishima, lemme get it,” Hinata said as he leaned over and picked it out of his hair unaware of their spectator. Taking advantage of the sudden closeness, he draped his arms over Tsukishima’s shoulders and give him a quick hug and squeeze of affection.

Tsukishima chuckled. “If you wanted to snuggle all you had to do was ask. You don't need to lie.”

“I wasn't lying! There really was something there, I think." Hinata quickly denied before pouting.

"Aw poor baby, I was only teasing you," Tsukishima playfully cooed. 

"Shut up!" Hinata hugged him tightly before he loosened up and let go. Settling his head in Tsukishima's lap, he bashfully answered his question as he averted his eyes. "It's not like it's easy to ask...whenever I think about doing that, my heart feels all funny, and I can't help but, you know, just not ask. What if you say no or something. You can't say no if I'm already hugging you.” 

Tsukishima laughed in a genuine way that Kageyama never heard before. “You, my love, are always so fascinating. Even when we're together you still think that way. Tell me, have I always made you feel butterflies in your stomach?”

Hinata’s face reddened so fast that it was unreal. Stuttering and hiding his face with his hands, he struggled to say anything sensible. Tsukishima laughed at his boyfriend’s sudden embarrassment and teased him, pulling his hands and arms away and staring down at him.

“Come on just admit it, the sooner you do the sooner our king may let us play again. If only he knew you were so out of it because you were in L-O-V-E with your Tsukki,” Tsukishima singsonged as he squeezed the boy’s cheeks.

Hinata squirmed and squealed as he weakly swat his hand away, but he was only pulled in close and smothered in affectionate kisses. Falling into laughs and affection, they were seemingly plunged into their own world left to their own devices. Kageyama grumbled as he stepped away.

“Dumbasses, I’m surrounded by dumbasses,” Kageyama declared as he left them to whatever they were doing and casually walked back into the gym. Completely stunned as the greatest mystery was finally solved, he could only mumble to himself. “I can’t handle this, I can’t.” He said as he took a seat and put his head in his hands.

Yamaguchi, sitting beside him, wrapped an arm around him and pulled him closer.  Rubbing his shoulder in understanding and comfort he spoke softly to him. “You should have believed me months ago. I told you they’d handle it, but no, you didn’t want to believe me.”