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1. Hinata Shouyou

Hinata’s experiences with toilets at volleyball games could charitably be described as treacherous. When he’d been absent “in the bathroom” for almost twenty minutes, Yamaguchi finally decided he’d had enough and told Kageyama to fetch him on account that their next match was starting soon.

“Why me?” asked Kageyama. “You’re Captain.”

“And you’re Vice,” Yamaguchi responded, with an eyeroll that had been stolen right off Tsukishima Kei’s face. Yamaguchi had really grown into himself, as Captain. Kageyama had a lot of feelings about that, most of them smug, because watching Yamaguchi terrorize opposing teams who made the mistake of thinking him soft and weak would never not be funny. 

“Besides,” Yamaguchi continued, “I have to deal with that.” He pointed to where two of their new first-years were trying to strangle each other with their bare hands. 

Kageyama did some rapid mental math and decided he was probably coming out of this with the better end of the bargain. There was a limit to how much trouble Shouyou could get himself into in a bathroom. He had probably got his foot stuck in the toilet bowl or something. The first-years, on the other hand, had escalated to re-enacting a samurai battle with their water bottles.

“I’m going,” said Kageyama. 

He found Shouyou in the first-floor men’s bathroom, the one that smelled faintly of lavender. He screwed up his face as he entered, because he didn’t really like the smell of lavender. It always made his nose itch.

“Hinata,” Kageyama started to demand as he opened the door, “you moron, how long does it take to—”

He stopped. Shouyou hadn’t gotten his foot stuck in the toilet bowl. No, Shoyou had gotten his volleyball bag stuck in the hands of another player in a cream-and-gold jacket, who was holding it above Shoyou’s head and taunting him.

“Fucking give it back,” Shoyou snapped. His face had gone red, an unflattering contrast to his hair. “I need to get back to my team—”

“Aw, what are you going to do about it?” mocked the other player, who Kageyama dubbed ‘That Thug’ in his head. “You’re so short, you can’t—”

Shouyou bent his knees and made an impressive jump for the bag; That Thug looked briefly shocked before yanking the bag away. “Too slow!”

Kageyama realized that at some point he’d entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him. He’d also, at some point, taken several steps forward. That Thug dodged another of Shoyou’s jumps, which put him very firmly in Kageyama’s space. His elbow knocked Kageyama in the sternum, but Kageyama hardly even felt it. Suga-san’s motivational karate chops had been much more forceful.

“Watch it,” That Thug snarled, turning around to face Kageyama. His sneer faltered once he saw that Kageyama actually overtopped him by a few centimeters. 

Kageyama scowled at him. Yachi had once told him the expression could make small children cry, and he very much wanted to see if it worked on large children as well. By the way the other boy froze, Kageyama thought he had fairly good chances. 

“I’m just—” That Thug started. He’d gone pale.

“Give it back,” said Kageyama. 

That Thug handed the volleyball bag to Kageyama. He even gave it a small pat, as if to say, see, no harm done

Kageyama watched Shouyou’s face return to a healthy hue. They both remained silent as That Thug edged his way nervously out of the bathroom. 

“I didn’t need your help, Bakageyama,” Shouyou said once he’d left. “But thanks anyway.”

Kageyama stared down at him, knowing with absolute certainty that Shouyou would not have been able to get his bag back by himself and probably would have remained trapped in the bathroom until the end of eternity. “Okay,” he said. “Whatever, dumbass.” 

“Don’t call me a—”

Kageyama dumped the bag back into Shouyou’s arms and lunged for the door. “Race you back,” he said, just to hear Shouyou yell.

 

2. Tsukishima Kei

Kageyama just wanted his milk from the vending machine. He didn’t think that was too much to ask from the universe at large, or even from the two girls in front of him, who were gossiping loudly and holding up the line.

“Like,” one of them said, “he’s so unapproachable, you know? Cold. Arrogant, even. He just thinks he’s so smart.”

“Oh, yeah,” the other girl agreed. “He hardly talks to anyone, except that freckled kid and the rest of the volleyball team. It’s probably because he thinks the rest of us are so beneath him. Literally,” she added with a mean-spirited snicker.

Kageyama stared past the both of them, trying to make out the labels on the milk cartons through the glass. He could get strawberry, but he’d gotten strawberry yesterday. Perhaps chocolate? Today felt like a chocolate kind of day.

The first girl made an odd gesture, which Kageyama only belatedly realized was a crude mimicry of pushing a pair of glasses up the bridge of her nose. “My name,” she said, in a deep, mocking voice, “is Tsukishima Kei. I don’t talk to other people because I think they’re all pathetic idiots.”

As impressions of Tsukishima went, it wasn’t actually an inaccurate one. She’d gotten the derisive sneer down perfectly. Kageyama decided he was upset about it.

“Hey,” he said.

Both girls turned around. The second one put her hands on her hips and tilted her chin back to look at him. “What do you want?”

“Stop doing that,” he said. 

She wasn’t stupid; she didn’t ask him what he was referring to. An incredulous look flashed across her face, followed by an archly superior expression. “You’re seriously defending him? Have you ever spent any time around Tsukishima? He’s a stuck-up bastard who thrives on being a jerk.”

“Yeah,” said Kageyama, because most of the time Tsukishima was a stuck-up bastard who thrived on being a jerk. Especially to Kageyama. “But you can’t say that.”

The first girl exchanged a glance with her friend. “Oh, really? Why not?”

There were a thousand answers to that question. Because neither of them had ever seen Tsukishima after a lost match, something defeated in the line of his shoulders no matter how much he tried to say it didn’t bother him. Because Tsukishima hadn’t dragged either of them to a passing grade in Japanese Lit, complaining all the way. Because neither of them had ever stood on the court with Tsukishima, and trusted him as a person and a player and a friend, and had that trust returned to them tenfold.

Kageyama settled on: “Because he’s our stuck-up bastard.” Ours, as in Karasuno Men’s VBC’s—who were also the only people on earth who got to mock Tsukishima Kei. It was an earned privilege, not a right. He pointedly shifted his gaze to the vending machine behind the two girls, signaling his disinterest in continuing the conversation. They took the hint and walked away; why, Kageyama wasn’t sure. It might have had something to do with the way his hands had curled into fists. 

Kageyama finally stepped forward, having decided on chocolate milk. His finger had just depressed the button when he caught sight of the reflection of the person behind him in the vending machine’s glass. He sighed. 

“I don’t care what you heard, I still don’t like you,” he said, in preparation for whatever bitchy comment was about to come out of Tsukishima’s mouth.

“Nah,” said Tsukishima, adjusting his glasses. His shit-eating smirk was out in full effect. “You just want to protect me from people bad-mouthing me. How cute.”

Kageyama retrieved his milk and stabbed the straw through the top with a violent motion. “Fuck off.”

Tellingly, Tsukishima didn’t.

 

3. Yamaguchi Tadashi

Kageyama didn’t really understand the purpose of trash-talking. Tanaka-san and Noya-san had once claimed it was an engaging pastime, a way to intimidate the enemy, nay, an art form , but Kageyama had never really bought into any of that. What use were words when the stronger team would eventually be proved on the court?

It was a pity other people didn’t share this sentiment. If they did, maybe Kageyama wouldn’t be stuck listening to two middle blockers from Horikoshi loudly discuss Karasuno’s failure as a team. 

They were being very distracting, Kageyama thought, and very rude, because he was trying to pay attention to the match going on below them but he couldn’t, because half his brain was being occupied by pitched comments about how freaky Hinata’s quick attack was. Kageyama wanted to tell them to go somewhere else. The stands were supposed to be for strategic observation of other team’s playing styles, not intimidation tactics.

“Yamaguchi,” he said. “I’m—”

“No, you may not go over there and tell them to shut up,” said Yamaguchi. He and Kageyama were the only Karasuno members who’d yet made it back from the lunch break they’d been given between matches. 

“But—”

“No,” Yamaguchi said again. “Focus.” He wasn’t looking at Kageyama, but he didn’t need to. Yamaguchi had a particular way of setting his jaw that communicated, very effectively, don’t even try it. 

Kageyama subsided with a glare. The teams playing below were more interesting, anyway. This year, Fukurodani had a wing spiker with a monster of a left-handed spike. He watched intently as the ball slammed down onto the court.

“—hear about Karasuno’s Captain?” one of the Horikoshi middle blockers sneered. “He wasn’t even on the starting line-up last year. I don’t know how he expects to lead. He’ll just end up benched again, anyway. How pitiful.”

Kageyama stiffened. Yamaguchi had to have heard that, but he hadn’t reacted at all. He was calm, and collected, and unshakable under pressure, and that was why he’d been made Captain.

Yeah, Yamaguchi was Captain—but Kageyama was Vice. And while the Captain’s duty was to look after the entire team, it was the Vice’s duty to look after the Captain. Kageyama shoved himself away from the railing of the stands. 

“Kageyama,” Yamaguchi said in warning, but for once Kageyama didn’t listen to him. He turned and approached the two middle blockers. They were waiting for him with identical nasty smirks. 

They probably had a whole script for this sort of encounter, Kageyama thought. They’d bait him into a verbal pissing match, and then make him look stupid with pointed jeers and superior wordplay. Kageyama wasn’t exactly known for his communication skills. 

Kageyama decided that the best way to combat this and take away their advantage was to rip their script into pieces and throw it in the trash. He strode right up to the bleachers the two were reclining on, and seized the one who’d made the comment about Yamaguchi by the front of his team jacket. 

Holy shit ,” said the other, and tried to crab-crawl away. Kageyama ignored him. 

“He’s a good Captain,” Kageyama growled. He was close enough to the other boy that he could watch the way his pupils dilated. “It doesn’t matter that he didn’t start last year, all that matters is this year. And this year, he’s going to take us to Nationals. Now take it back, and then shut the fuck up.”

“I t-take it back,” stuttered the terrified middle blocker. “Yeah, okay, I’m sorry, I take it back.”

“Good,” said Kageyama, and dropped him down into his seat with a loud thump. He immediately scrambled back up and fled, tugging on his friend’s sleeve. 

“Hmph,” said Kageyama. 

When he returned to Yamaguchi’s side, the other boy’s mouth was twitching. “I don’t need you to defend me.”

“I know,” said Kageyama, because he’d watched Yamaguchi strike fear into the heart of many an opponent with only a glance. 

“Did you mean it, though? About Nationals?”

Kageyama watched Fukurodani’s ace hammer a spike home. “Yeah,” he said. 

Yamaguchi’s shoulder, when he leaned it into Kageyama’s, was strong and steady and warm. Enough to bear the weight of a team. “Thank you,” he said sincerely. “I’ll do my best to be worthy of that trust.”

Kageyama ducked his head, and thought, you already are .

 

4. Yachi Hitoka

Cats didn’t like Kageyama. The feeling, unfortunately, was not mutual, as Kageyama did in fact like cats. They were soft and sleek and low-maintenance: the perfect pet. He regularly tried approaching strays on street corners in hopes of luring them home, offering gentle pats or handfuls of fish-flavored treats as bribes. But it was like Kageyama was some sort of bizarre cat repellent: most of them took one look at him and legged it. 

This one, though. Kageyama took great satisfaction in the fact that this one couldn’t run away. 

Kageyama crouched in front of the pet store at the mall, staring in through the glass at a long-haired Persian with white fur and blue eyes. The pet store kept the cats on display at the front, probably intending to entice customers. Kageyama hoped that some forced proximity would endear him to the feline. 

The cat chose that moment to bear her tiny, needle-sharp teeth at him in a hiss.

Perhaps not. 

Kageyama glanced over his shoulder, finding Yachi still loitering in the stationery store. She’d announced last practice that she needed supplies for the club posters she was going to make this year, and someone to help her carry those supplies. Tsukishima had somehow disappeared in between the phrases “I need” and “someone to go shopping with me,” leaving Kageyama as the closest person to Yachi and therefore the tribute, but he didn’t mind. The mall wasn’t so bad.

Kageyama watched idly as Yachi made to exit the stationery store, clutching bags full of pens and special paper she’d absolutely insisted on having. On her way out, she nearly collided with a blonde boy, who laughed and helped her retrieve a notepad she’d dropped. 

He then tried to flirt with her, Kageyama could tell—nothing else could explain that horrendous smirk. Kageyama hoped Yachi turned him down. Privately, he thought the boy was not very attractive at all. His features were fine, but there was something about the way he stood that Kageyama didn’t like. 

Yachi did end up turning the boy down, shaking her head gently and gesturing to the door. She tried to step around him, but he frowned and shifted into her path. Her smile faltered, and grew forced.

Kageyama stood up. 

“C’mon, just one date,” the boy was saying. “Just one, I promise I’ll change your mind—”

“I don’t really think—” Yachi said carefully. They both stopped talking as Kageyama arrived, and Yachi’s shoulders slumped a little in relief as Kageyama angled himself so that he was half a step in front of her.

“Leave her alone,” he said. 

The other boy smirked at him. “What, are you her boyfriend?”

“No,” said Kageyama. Yachi was his friend. 

“Then I don’t see why you’re involving yourself. This is between me and the lady.”

“She said no,” said Kageyama. He locked eyes with the other boy, who eventually deflated once he saw that Kageyama wasn’t going anywhere. 

“Whatever,” the boy muttered as he slouched away. “You’re not even that cute, anyway.”

Yachi shook her head as he left, but Kageyama thought she still looked a little upset. “You’re, uh.” Kageyama’s ears began to burn, but he forced the words out, fervently glad it was just the two of them. “I think you’re cute.”

“Thanks, Tobio,” she said, and grinned up at him, proving his point. He felt her free hand slip into his. “I thought he was never going to leave me alone. Now come on, we still have to get glitter glue.”

He hesitated.

“We can come back and see the cat later.”

“Okay,” said Kageyama. She tugged on his hand, to draw him along, and Kageyama was content to be led. 

 

5. Okamoto Seiichi

Kageyama was single-mindedly competitive by nature. He wanted to win, especially when it came to volleyball, and especially when it came to volleyball with Shouyou. 

Being the first person to arrive at the gym for afternoon practice was just another way Kageyama proved himself the superior athlete. He’d used to win their unspoken race by climbing out the window of his last class, at least until Tsukishima had spotted him clambering down the drainpipe one day and told on him to Yachi. Kageyama had been forced to find another shortcut after that—namely, a route that took him through the science building and dumped him out in a small courtyard near the gym. 

Kageyama tore through the chem labs at speed. There was no one else around, so he felt justified in slamming out the exit door and rounding the corner like he was Tanaka Saeko late to her brother’s game. 

Unfortunately, he didn’t have Saeko’s luck, and almost crashed into the three boys loitering at the mouth of the courtyard. 

Kageyama skidded to a stop, muttering an apology, and made to pass them, except he realized the three boys were bent menacingly over a fourth boy who’d already been knocked to the ground.

Kageyama recognized the kid on the ground. It was one of the new first-years that had joined the volleyball club two weeks ago at the start of term, Oka-something. He wanted to play setter. He wasn’t very good. But Kageyama had watched him during practice, and he had passion. 

Kageyama didn’t bother to announce himself or his intentions. He seized the boy closest to him by the shoulder and hauled him to the side, shoving his way into the circle. “Go away,” he said, once he’d turned so that he was facing the three boys. They didn’t seem like much—scrawny second-years looking for people smaller than themselves to push around, if Kageyama had to guess.

The boy who Kageyama had shoved leaned into his space, scowling. “This isn’t any of your business. Just leave the little shrimp.”

“No,” said Kageyama. He set his stance a little wider.

The two other boys looked at each other disbelievingly. “You’re seriously going to do this? Over him ? He’s new, he doesn’t even matter,” one of them said. 

Kageyama didn’t move. It might have been a bond of a bare two weeks, but that was Kageyama’s teammate, on the ground behind him. Of course Kageyama would fight for him. On the court, off the court, he was still Kageyama’s underclassman.

Two years ago, Kageyama had spent every Friday night wondering why Daichi would spend almost his entire allowance for the week buying the whole team meat buns from the corner store. He hadn’t understood then. He thought he did, now. 

It was a very brief scrap. At the merest sign of resistance on Kageyama’s part, the three would-be bullies broke and ran. Kageyama turned and helped the first-year to his feet.

Okamoto. That was his name. He had clear, dark eyes and a shy smile that was currently nowhere in sight. Kageyama poked him, just a little, to make sure he wasn’t going to fall over. The boy was still shaking.

“You can have practice off today,” Kageyama decided. Being that pale was probably unhealthy, right? “I’ll tell Yamaguchi.”

“No!” Okamoto burst out suddenly. His hands were in fists at his sides. He looked more upset than he had when he’d been cornered. 

Kageyama stared at him. “Or I won’t tell him.”

“No, it’s not, it’s not about, I want—” Okamoto wrung his hands. Kageyama waited. 

“I want to practice, please,” Okamoto shouted. “Even if I can’t play today, I can sit on the bench and watch, right?” He was scanning Kagyema’s face, looking for—something.

“Sure,” said Kageyama. He realized abruptly that Okamoto thought Kageyama was kicking him out of practice. He frowned. “You can—you can still play, if you want. I’m not telling you not to. Just be careful.”

“Thank you,” Okamoto said, bowing at the waist. “Thank you, and thank you for—for earlier—”

“Sure,” Kageyama said again. Okamoto straightened up and started for the courtyard mouth with a spring in his step. Kageyama reached out and turned him around. “This way.”

“Oh,” said Okamoto. “Right, of course.” He scrambled to catch up to Kageyama, who was speed walking despite having already given up on being first to practice. That would make the score 122–124, in Shouyou’s favor. 

Kageyama stuffed his hands in his pockets, pretending not to notice the way Okamoto kept stealing glances at him out of the corner of his eye. He took a deep breath and thought very hard about the particular tone of voice Suga’d used when he was pleased. “So,” he said. “Tell me why you want to be a setter.”

Okamoto smiled shyly, and began to speak. 

 

6. Kageyama Tobio

A training camp in Tokyo couldn’t really be called a training camp in Tokyo if there wasn’t a fair bit of chaos involved. In Kageyama’s first year, there had been the barbecue, which had spawned three fist fights and three dozen new friendships. In his second year, there had been a small fire set in the kitchens, the culprit of which had never been identified, though Kageyama personally had his money on Seijou’s then-Captain Yahaba. 

In Kageyama’s third year, it was looking more and more like there was going to be an all-out brawl.

For the most part, the teams at the training camp got along. Nekoma and Fukurodani and Karasuno, Johzenji and Seijou and Wakunan—they’d settled into a fierce, comfortable rivalry that drove them all to greater heights. But this year the coaches had invited Ichikawa, and they’d been nothing but trouble since the moment they’d stepped off their bus. 

It had started small: missing water bottles, oversalted food, gum stuck to the bottom of shoes. Easily ignored, easily dealt with. But by the end of the week, it had escalated, and the tension in the camp had slowly ratcheted up to a breaking point. Just yesterday, Kageyama had seen Lev have to physically restrain Inuoka from jumping on an Ichikawa player for deliberately tripping one of Fukurodani’s first-years after a match. 

For his part, Kageyama was simply trying to keep Tsukishima from going to jail for murder. Yamaguchi was better at talking him down, but Kageyama had discovered early on in their third year that Tsukishima viewed it as a blow to his pride to lose his temper before someone as hot-headed as Kageyama, which meant essentially that as long as Kageyama kept his cool, so did Tsukishima. It was an advantage that he’d exploited many times as Vice, and he was using it to its fullest extent now.

The squeaking of shoes on wood alerted Kageyama that he was no longer alone in the fourth gym. He raised his head from where he’d been refilling his water bottle near the bench, fully expecting his visitors to be his fellow teammates, or maybe those annoying second-years from Jozhenji who kept demanding he toss for them. 

It was neither. It was practically the entirety of the Ichikawa team, and Kageyama scowled to conceal his sudden sense of unease. He told himself he was being ridiculous. They were at a training camp for volleyball; it wasn’t like they could murder him and hide his body without someone noticing he’d gone missing. “What do you want,” he demanded flatly.

The Ichikawa Captain smiled at him, and Kageyama twitched. Kageyama had hated him immediately. He was the anti-Yamaguchi, a boy who led through intimidation and bullying rather than gentle perseverance and unshakable faith. “I know you,” he said. 

“Not surprising,” said Kageyama.

“No, no,” the Captain continued, waggling his finger in Kageyama’s face. Kageyama repressed the shockingly strong urge to bite it. “You misunderstand me. I mean, I know you. From junior high.”

Kageyama’s hands tightened around his water bottle, and he forced them to relax. “Still not surprising,” he said. He had, after all, been one of the best junior high school volleyball players in the prefecture. 

“What was it they used to call you?” The Captain turned to his Vice, a whip-thin rail of a boy with a nasty grin. “King of the Court, right? Because you were such a tyrant as a player. I heard all your teammates turned their backs on you, in your final match. Is that true?”

Kageyama met his eyes squarely. “Yes.” It was his past; he had to own it, or there would be no moving past it. 

The Captain faltered a moment. Kageyama thought he was probably not very accustomed to honesty. But he was back on his game in the next moment, miming putting a crown on his own head. “I’m honestly a little taken aback that your current team deigns to play with you at all. With that kind of behavior, there’s no real reason they need you.”

Kageyama stayed quiet. He didn’t have a reply to that, not when the words were simply a reflection of all the insecurities that battered at him in his worst moments. 

“I think—” began another boy—the libero?—but he was interrupted by a commotion at the door. 

“KAGEYAMAAAAAA!” Shouyou’s familiar wail echoed off the gym walls. “WHERE ARE YOUUUUUU? I WANT A TOSS!” He tumbled through the open front door a moment later, and froze when he saw Kageyama surrounded by the blue-and-black jerseys of Ichikawa. 

Go away , Kageyama thought. For once in your stupid little life, be smart and go away.

Shouyou did not go away. He puffed himself up, like one of those birds that tried to make themselves appear bigger than they were as an intimidation tactic, and approached the Ichikawa Captain with his elbows thrown out belligerently. “What are you doing to my Vice Captain, huh?”

Kageyama had once heard that trouble came in threes. He believed it as he saw Tsukishima and Okamoto slip in the door after Shouyou—Tsukishima, who’d been dying all week to really lay into someone, and Okamoto, who seemed to view any affront to Kageyama as an offense punishable by death. 

“I’m not doing anything,” the Captain said with false innocence. “We’re just having a friendly little chat.” He turned and winked at Kageyama. 

“Oh, really,” said Tsukishima. “What about? Kageyama’s not exactly known as a stunning conversationalist.”

“Just this and that,” one of Ichikawa’s middle blockers said, sizing up Tsukishima with a gleam in his eye. “The value of teamwork, mostly.”

“Ah,” said Tsukishima. “Then yes, I do see why you’d come to Kageyama here.” It was actually a compliment, not just an insult disguised as one. Kageyama decided that if Tsukishima did end up murdering someone before the week was through, Kageyama would probably cover for him.

“Why’s that?” The libero, again. “It’s not like he’s known as a stunning team player, either.”

“That’s not fair,” said Okamoto hotly. “Kageyama-san is a great team player. He’s teaching me how to set.”

“Didn’t know royalty deigned to teach peasants,” muttered the Vice Captain. “Is that so, King? Are you really stooping so low as to taint your nobility with the rest of us commoners?”

A hand came down on Kageyama’s shoulder and he startled, because he hadn’t noticed Yamaguchi come in, with the rest of the team gathered like a thundercloud behind him. 

“Don’t call him that,” said Yamaguchi very quietly. He knew—all the third-years knew—how much that name affected Kageyama. How much he hated it. It was only Tsukishima who’d ever used it against him, and he’d stopped somewhere in the middle of their second year.

“What?” said the Captain. He was grinning as he said it. “King of the Court?”

The tension broke like a wave. What was not surprising was that Shouyou threw the first punch; what was surprising, however, was that Yamaguchi threw the second. What was even more shocking was the careful way Tsukishima folded his glasses into a pocket before wading into the fray. What nearly sent Kageyama to another plane of existence was Yachi’s rolled-up sleeves and determined expression before she elbow-dropped the libero. 

“Guys, wait,” Kageyama tried to say, but he was drowned out by the first-years’ collective war cry as they surged forward en masse to join the fight, led by Okamoto. The second-years, not to be outdone by their underclassmen, and inspired by their upperclassmen’s truly terrible example, were quick to follow. 

“Stop it,” shouted Kageyama. “We’re going to get in trouble and then we’re not going to be able to play!”

How had it come to this? How had he ended up as—however briefly—the most reasonable person on the team? He seized hold of what he thought was Hinata’s ankle and yanked, but it was like trying to pull apart one of those Chinese finger traps, where the more you pulled the more resistance you encountered. Hinata’s leg flailed and Kagyema lost his grip and fell backward, landing on his butt a meter away from the writhing mass of volleyball players. He glanced up, intending to shove himself back to his feet, and made eye contact with Coach Ukai standing open-mouthed in the doorway. 

“What the hell,” said Ukai flatly. Kageyama was inclined to agree. He disappeared momentarily, and when he reappeared, it was with a hose from outside that he aimed with all the grimness of a cannoneer. Freezing cold water managed what Kageyama had not. The two teams separated, still glaring at each other, but now sopping wet. 

“On the bus,” said Ukai. “All of you. Now.”

Ukai yelled at them for about thirty minutes about the values of cooperation and respect before telling them he was glad they’d at least seemed to be winning the fight, and those punks from Ichikawa had deserved it anyway. He then passed out in the front seat of the bus and Kageyama took that as his cue to turn around and glare at the rest of his team. He’d chosen a spot near the front so he could see them all when he rose up on his knees and leaned over the seatback. 

“What,” he hissed, “was that?”

His teammates stared back at him with varying levels of faux-innocence. Yamaguchi met his eyes squarely, without a trace of regret. He had a bloody nose that Kageyama thought he was perhaps a bit too proud of. “That was defending you.”

Kageyama ground his teeth together. “I don’t need—why would you—”

“You’re not the King of the Court anymore,” Shouyou said, with typical Shouyou-logic. “You’re better now. So they shouldn’t call you that.”

“They were mean,” said Yachi. “And rude.”

“And liars ,” said Okamoto. 

Tsukishima rolled his eyes and said, “I just thought they were annoying.”

The rest of the underclassmen nodded along fiercely, and Kageyama felt his eyes prickle with tears. He turned around quickly so they wouldn’t see him cry. “Thank you,” he said, a little muffled and a little quiet, but he knew they heard him.