"Hinata. Let me go." His voice came out cold and detached, sharp enough to sting, but Hinata does not loosen his grip. Tsukishima can't find it in himself to pull away—Hinata's arms seemed to wrap around him like ever-growing vines, twisting and weaving and growing until the boy held him firmly within his grasp with no chance of escape, present enough to remind him he was trapped, but warm enough to make Tsukki want to stay.
And oh, does he want to. But he can't. He always kept his pain to himself. Only he had ever beheld himself in his vulnerability, usually hiding his weakness by flaunting his snarky remarks and biting jeers and a seemingly uncaring demeanor, taking away the spotlight from all his insecurities. But now Hinata was here; the stubborn sun incarnate, outshining every spotlight and showing no discrimination as he shed light on everything, lighting paths and dancing with shadows like they were old friends. In his wake, no secret was safe.
And now, they were here. Spiker and blocker. Tall and short. Sun and moon.
Because of the redhead's energy that was usually bursting with fervor, Tsukishima felt discomfort creeping into his bones as all he received was silence. Where was Hinata's rambling? His endless words, his attempts at comfort, even his lame insults would have made Tsukishima less tense. When Hinata was booming and loud, he knew what to expect. But the silence to contrast the tight, warm embrace—it was unknown territory. Tsukishima didn't know what to do.
He tries to steel himself, mustering up the remains of his pride, his confidence, his snark. "H-Hinata." He had to swallow down a sob that threatened to burst from his lips. His eyes began to sting from behind his glasses, hinting at the approach of tears. "Let..." He bites his lip harshly, forcing himself to steady his breathing in an attempt to withhold the emotions that bubbled beneath the surface, threatening to overflow. His fingers twitched and trembled, like they could feel the mental strain Tsukishima felt from desperately holding himself together. It felt like trying to push back water with his bare hands.
"Let me go."
But despite Tsukishima's best efforts, all the water comes flooding past, and soon enough, Tsukishima crumbles.
The sentence comes out as a quivering plea, and Tsukishima abandons all attempts at keeping himself together as he releases a choked sob, tears already falling down his cheeks. "Let me go. Let me g o . "
Still silence. Before Tsukishima could force himself to pull away from the redhead, he feels him press his face against his back, and the small gesture is more comforting than Tsukishima thought would be. The warmth, the grounding pressure, Hinata's presence in its entirety was a comfort to the tall blonde.
And suddenly, Hinata is singing.
"Let's go in the garden." It's soft, and quiet; so unlike Hinata that Tsukishima's eyes widen in surprise. Despite standing still, the tall boy feels glued to the spot. "You'll find something waiting."
He feels Hinata take his hand hesitantly, as if testing the waters. Tsukishima lets him, as he continues. "Right there where you left it, lying upside down."
"When you finally find it," Tsukishima finds himself bending to Hinata's control, allowing the small boy to fiddle with Tsukishima's long, slender fingers like he was trying to soothe them both. "You'll see how it's faded."
"The underside is lighter when you turn it around." It was English, Tsukishima faintly notes. Maybe it was meant to be a cheerful song, but Hinata was singing it so slowly and quietly that in that moment, it sounded more like a lullaby. It was... calming. Not that Tsukishima would ever admit that.
"Everything stays. Right where you left it," Tsukishima hears a slight quiver in Hinata's voice, like he was losing confidence in his singing. He finds himself squeezing Hinata's hands back, like he was encouraging him to continue, because if he didn't, then Tsukishima would have to run away from his problems again.
"Everything stays, but it still changes."
And Tsukishima was, quite frankly, tired of running.
"Ever so slightly, daily and nightly,"
Call it cheesy, but Tsukishima felt that Hinata understood that, even if he had only squeezed his hands. He didn't want Tsukishima to run away either—and with that vote of confidence, Hinata continues.
"In little ways, everything stays."
And it was beautiful.
"Ever so slightly, daily and nightly, in little ways..."
It was an English song that Tsukishima could just barely understand. But somehow, with Hinata singing the song—so quiet, so slow, so gentle and patient—Tsukishima didn't need to know the lyrics because he could just understand.
And just like that, Tsukishima finds that he was no longer crying. His breathing was steady, his mind was clear. All thanks to Hinata. His ears burned with embarrassed realization as he remembered that of all people that could have witnessed his breakdown, it had to be Hinata. He was always so rude to the shorty, always insulting him and teasing him. He didn't even deserve the comfort. He had wasted the redhead's time. He makes one last pathetic, half-hearted attempt at escape,
"Let me go."
And the both of them already know that his attempt is futile.
"No," is Hinata's prompt decision, and Tsukishima faintly feels himself relax a bit. When he really thought about it, and if he was being honest with himself, he didn't actually want Hinata to let go. He wanted Hinata to pry the truth out of him; he was tired of lying. He wanted Hinata to make him talk about it; he was done with staying quiet. He wanted to pull the boy close and bask in his seemingly eternal warmth; he was sick of being cold. And there was also a certain appeal, simply because it was Hinata; but Hinata didn't need to know that.
"B-Because when a pot of water is boiling," Tsukishima feels the smaller hands tighten against his own, soft and tender against his rough and scarred. "You're supposed to take it away from the heat."
He can't bring himself to look down at where their hands were connected, feeling like doing so would be a sign of surrender. Hinata squeezes his hands tight, as if attempting to ground Tsukishima, trying to remind him that it was okay, that it wasn't a sign of surrender because there was nothing to surrender to.
"I don't see a pot of water anywhere," Tsukishima deadpans, and his lips twitch upwards as he hears Hinata huff from behind him.
"I used a metaphor, Stingyshima, you better appreciate it!" Tsukishima could hear the pout in his voice. The shrimp was probably puffing up his cheeks indignantly and turning up his nose.
"Oh, and you even performed a musical number for me," Tsukishima teases, and he could almost feel the way that Hinata's cheeks reddened. "Why thank you, shrimpy. It was truly touching."
"I was trying to get you to stop crying!" Hinata huffs, roughly pulling himself away from Tsukishima, turning his back to him and crossing his arms petulantly as the blonde turned to face him. "Stupidshima! Cryingshima! Trashing all my efforts like this!"
Tsukishima finds himself hesitating, but he shoves all his doubt away because he needs to make himself clear right now because he doesn't want Hinata to misunderstand. "I'm serious. I liked your singing."
Hinata puffs out his cheeks again. "Stop making fun of me!"
"I'm not making fun of you. It was nice. I could fall asleep to it."
Tsukishima can't help but be amused as the redhead slowly turns his head to face Tsukishima, narrowing his eyes and biting his lip like he was trying to deduce whether or not it really was the same pushy, mean blonde he had as a teammate. "I'm can't tell if that was an insult or not," Hinata scrunches up his nose. With his puffed cheeks, Tsukishima couldn't help but think he looked like a chipmunk.
"Don't think too hard, shrimp. Your pea brain will evaporate."
"Don't ruin the moment, Stingyshima!"
Tsukishima couldn't help it. His emotions were all over the place because of that mental breakdown, and his thoughts were scattered. That would be his excuse if anyone asked just why he was laughing so hard.
By the end of his laughing fit, Tsukishima finds Hinata closer, staring at him with wide brown eyes, mystified by the blonde's laughter like it was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
"Can I hug you?" The shorty suddenly asks. Tsukishima almost immediately turned him down, but he saw that Hinata genuinely wanted contact. And, well, Tsukishima wasn't t o o against that hug earlier. So he opens his arms hesitantly, and the little ball of fire leapt into his embrace.
"I know you feel like you're drowning." Hinata murmured against Tsukishima's chest. "But I'm here now. I want to save you."
Tsukishima sniffled a little, and then retorted weakly with, "You can't swim with that height. You'll bring the both of us down, shrimp."
"At least I know how to swim at all! And besides, who said I was going to swim to save you?" The redhead looks up at him, and Tsukishima finds himself forgetting to breathe a little as he comes face to face with the smile that could challenge the sun. "I'll just part the damn ocean."
Tsukishima remembers the existence of oxygen as he rolls his eyes. "The waves would tremble in your presence," Tsukishima snorts.