Shouyou’s feet toe through the sand, his soles comforted by the familiar sensation of grains sliding along his skin. The dark sky is broken only by the shining moon, reflecting its glow on the calm waves.
There are very few times in Rio when it is quiet. In a city full of life throughout the day and night, it is rare that Shouyou can find space to think, to reflect.
This is one of those times.
It is the day before Shouyou flies home to Japan. In less than twenty-four hours, he will be heading back home, to see if his efforts were worth it. In a few months, if he makes a V-league team, he will face off against Tobio in their first official match since middle school.
Along with the excitement, there is a deep-seated fear that reverberates in Shouyou’s veins. He tries to ignore it and put it aside. But it’s hard, to have his dreams within sight and wondering whether or not it will work out the way he’s wanted.
Because there are a lot of things Shouyou wants. He wants to defeat Tobio, to face him again and again; he also wants to be with him on the same team, battling powerful players with their attacks and knowing there is strength in their trust on the court.
There are a lot of things Shouyou wants; some of them, he doesn’t touch. He lets them come as passing thoughts before shoving down, deep down. Better to deal with them later. Or not at all.
Shouyou lets his toes touch the water, warmer than he thought it would be when he first got here. Now, he’s used to it.
Tobio messaged Shouyou asking if he could come greet him at the airport. In fact, Tobio has asked to meet with Shouyou a few times throughout his time in Brazil, and Shouyou has declined each one. He’s declined this one, too, because even though he’s in the best shape of his life, he wants their first meeting to be special. To be before the court.
So maybe Shouyou is sentimental. That’s okay, as long as Tobio doesn’t know.
He will only be a few months in Japan without Tobio, and then they’ll visit and talk in person and maybe reform their friendship with each other on the same side of the globe. They’ll probably play volleyball, if Shouyou is honest. For now, he wants to wait just a bit longer.
Shouyou has waited this long. He’s wanted this for so long. He can delay a few more months.
Shouyou drags his feet in the sand. He turns on his heel and begins the trek back to his apartment, soon to be Pedro’s and a new roommate’s. His last night in Rio, in his home of two years. Life continues to change around him and Shouyou, well. He hopes he changes with it.
He wonders what it will be like to finally be back in Japan, what it will be like to one day see Tobio again.
Shouyou is walking to the bathroom in Sendai Stadium, singing his favorite bathroom song. It’s a little jingle he made up years ago, and one that he is in the habit of singing when he needs to use the facilities.
As he turns to open the door to the bathroom, a low voice behind him speaks.
“Not gonna have any bowel issues today, are you?”
Shouyou turns, and stares, to meet his gaze. Tobio is before him; he’s in his team outfit, as is Shouyou. But that’s not what has Shouyou’s breath caught. It’s the smile around his lips, the softness in his eyes, the teasing expression that is lined with competitiveness.
An expression reserved for Shouyou only.
It’s so completely Tobio, the same and different as the years have passed. Shouyou can see the growth in his muscles but also the warmth and the confidence in his posture, how he’s moved past the awkwardness that shrouded him off the court. In this Tobio, there is no shyness. He stands before Shouyou with a smirk and knows what he wants.
And of course, of course. The first words Tobio says to him in person in years is about his bowels.
Shouyou can’t help but smile.
“I’m not the kind of guy who gets stomach troubles before games anymore,” Shouyou says, mouth pulling at the edges.
“You’d better not.” Tobio’s expression softens further, his smirk turning into a small grin. He opens his arms. “Now get your dumb ass over here.”
Shouyou rolls his eyes, before launching himself against Tobio’s chest. They hold onto each other tight, and Shouyou ignores the wetness around his eyes. It’s only because it’s been so long, not for any other reason.
They release and Shouyou smiles up at Tobio. He gets a small one in return.
Shouyou’s heart dips in his chest.
And he shoves that feeling back down, as he has so many times before.
He thought he was past this. Should be past this. But he adapts, if that includes simply ignoring the feeling rising in him.
“I bet I could beat you in an arm wrestling contest now,” Shouyou says, to disperse the tension in his chest.
Tobio’s gaze sharpens. He holds up his arm in reply. “Wanna try me?”
“What are you doing with my spiker?”
Atsumu, blessed Atsumu, saves Shouyou from Tobio and his blue eyes—their party grows and grows and Shouyou finds himself laughing at the MSBY and Adlers’ antics, such a wild and weird amalgamation of people, from Sakusa to Ushijiima to Hoshiumi, a reunion of high school rivals of sorts.
But Shouyou is here. He’s finally here.
He finds his gaze drawn again and again to Tobio’s, analyzing his form and his expression. Shouyou notes the similarities and differences from how long it's been since he’s seen him in person; the way Tobio still shakes his head to rid himself of the fringe that’s no longer there and the wry grin that is now brought to his lips more often.
Shouyou finds a feeling of longing in his chest. To know this new Tobio as much as he knew the previous one.
But they’ve been apart for so long. Shouyou wonders if they’ll ever return to how things were before.
“I’m here!” Shouyou shouts, the smile splitting his lips and resounding through his soul. He hears a laugh and a “took you long enough”—Shouyou knows those words are meant for him.
He’s made it. To the first stage of his promise to Tobio.
And when Shouyou turns to look at Tobio, he sees a bright smile on his face, one that Shouyou has never seen before. It’s filled with exhilaration and excitement, matching the energy that’s rushing through Shouyou’s blood.
It sets Shouyou’s heart aflame. He wants more of those smiles.
The game continues, and the energy grows in Shouyou’s heart. The rapid beating and the pulsing, screaming crowd, reacting to his saves and the points that are counted on the board.
“I’ve got it!” Shouyou says, receiving the ball. It passes in a long arc to Atsumu.
“Nice one, Shouyou-kun!” After Sakusa slams a wicked spike to the other side, the three of them slap each other’s hands, albeit, somewhat reluctantly for Sakusa.
When Shouyou looks to the other side, he sees a bright, wide grin on Tobio’s lips. One that is tinged with a hint of wistfulness.
In fact, throughout the game, Shouyou notices how happy Tobio is. His smiles are free and feral, wild with the pressure the Adlers apply against the Jackals. He’s watched Tobio’s games before, but he’s never seen him this visibly joyous, serving once more in Shouyou’s direction.
Shouyou receives the ball cleanly, again. And instead of disappointment, Tobio laughs, like he’s ecstatic that the game has Shouyou in it.
When they’re both at the net, Shouyou decides to bring this up.
“You look happy,” Shouyou says, waiting for the ref to call an end to the technical timeout.
“I’ve been waiting for today,” Tobio says, eyes bright and warm.
“It’s everything I’ve wanted.” And this smile he gives Shouyou is small, intimate, for the two of them. Not the stadium, but for the man in front of him.
It stabs a sharp knife to Shouyou’s soul. He offers a weak grin in return, as the ref whistles the serving time.
Because with that smile, the one for him, with each following set, spike, and receive, Shouyou realizes: he wants to be the one to make Tobio happy. To be his reason for excitement in their everyday lives. He wants to surround himself with Tobio’s smiles and know that he was the one that put them there. That he is the source of them.
The thought cuts deep.
It’s during the third set, when Shouyou spikes another point for the Jackals, that he figures out one, unavoidable theory.
It’s silly, stupid even. Tobio says something to Hoshiumi who sticks out his tongue in response. And then Tobio sticks his tongue out, and Hoshiumi is so surprised he laughs and slaps Tobio on the back. Tobio rolls his eyes and—fuck. Fuck. Shouyou pinches his eyebrows with his left hand.
He’s a goner.
He wants Tobio. In all capacities.
There’s no turning back from this discovery. And really, how long has he ignored what he’s known? How long has he tried to push this down and pretend his feelings were merely platonic? Shouyou shivers, and returns to the game, but his focus is diverted, between Tobio and his own spiraling thoughts.
The game is at match point, and in the final seconds, everything slows down. Shouyou is lined up with Tobio, and he hits the ball against Tobio’s block. But Shouyou won’t let it fall. He catches it with his foot. Atsumu covers, and Shouyou runs. He runs like his life depends on it, using the whole width of the court.
The blockers trail after him, and he jumps.
And then Bokuto is at the other end, with more space because of Shouyou’s decoy—Bokuto slams the ball down on the Adlers’ court.
The crowd screams. Shouyou clenches his fist. He screams with them.
When he turns to the other end of the court, he catches the tail-end of Tobio’s blinding smile. Despite having lost, he looks happy to have played a great game.
It’s after the final whistle that Hinata knows: maybe he won’t ever be satisfied with how much he has of Tobio.
He can’t just be rivals. He wants more. Shouyou has always been greedy, but he never knew how far that greed spread.
Shouyou shakes the hands of the Adlers’ team with confidence, but inside, he’s been left adrift, wondering when he will see land again.
As he reaches the end of the line, he glances back at Tobio and sees his smile has grown into a feral one. Shouyou’s heart thumps pathetically in his chest.
Be normal. Normal. Be normal, Shouyou.
“You made it,” Tobio says, eyes sharp and narrowed.
“Yeah, I’m here.” Shouyou smirks. “That’s 1096 wins for me and 1100 losses.”
“Huh?” Atsumu says, from behind. Shouyou turns. “That’s how many times now?”
“Yeah, you guys have played that many games?” Bokuto asks.
“It’s games and practices and all the other contests we’ve had since high school.” Shouyou smacks his hands together. “Oh wait! I haven’t added in my beach volleyball games yet. Should I add in the pickup games, too?”
Tobio frowns. “If you do, I'm adding my scrimmages.”
Shouyou laughs and flashes him a cheeky grin. “Hmm, we’ll have to renegotiate our rules about competitions.”
Tobio blinks, and laughs, high and bright. His eyes are burning with something in them when he responds:
“I look forward to it.”
Shouyou smirks once more, before waving goodbye.
See? He can be normal around Tobio. This was just another obstacle he would face; he could get through it.
He jogs to the other side of the court to do his cool-down stretches. Sitting down, he crosses his leg over in a twist with his hand outstretched, the burn softening his sore muscles. Atsumu moves over and joins him.
“So,” Atsumu says, and Shouyou can hear the shit-eating grin in his voice. “Tobio-kun?”
“Atsumu-san, I don’t think you want to go there,” Shouyou replies, swiftly. He pulls his leg even further, ignoring Atsumu by concentrating on the stretch.
“Oh, I think I do.” Atsumu laughs. Shouyou concentrates on the lights on the gym ceiling rather than on Atsumu’s words. “Meeting up before the game? Keeping track of your wins and losses since high school? C’mon, Shouyou-kun, I thought you played with hearts, not that you already gave yours away.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Do we keep secrets from each other?”
“Ouch!” Atsumu brushes it aside, similar to how Shouyou wishes to shove his uncomfortable feelings for Tobio away. “I just think you should talk to him.”
“Not going to happen,” Shouyou says. His heart tugs. He swallows. “I can’t.”
“I just can’t,” Shouyou says, short and colored with anger. “Please let it go.”
Atsumu sighs, running a hand through his blond hair. “Alright.”
Shouyou releases himself from his stretch, moving to butterfly. And then Romero is coming to him and he’s distracted by his son, but lingering in his mind is the thought that he’s been too transparent. And that, he needs to stop his affections for Tobio in their tracks.
He can’t reveal them, and he certainly can’t let them develop further.
It leaves a sour taste in his mouth.
Shouyou is sitting on Sakusa’s black couch, sipping a mixed drink of strange origin—the origin being Shouyou slamming a bunch of juices with vodka and hoping it turns out okay. Around him voices get louder and softer, the ebb and flow of conversation murmuring around him. Romero is speaking with Meian and Inunaki, the earlier rivalry forgotten beneath the calm atmosphere. Ushijima seems to be having a good time with Hoshiumi, who is gesturing animatedly.
Shouyou’s head is spinning, and not from the alcohol. Finally allowing his years-long pining to stand at the front of his brain has made him want to binge late-night anime and eat take out that would make his nutritionist frown. He’s hungry, he’s tired. He wonders when he can get back to his hotel room and pass out for a few hours.
But of course, that is wishful thinking on his part. There’s a party, a celebration to be had. Having so many of his high school rivals together convinces them that they absolutely need to have a party at Sakusa’s Sendai flat—and why he has one there, Shouyou doesn’t know and won’t pry—but because of Atsumu’s suggestion on Sakusa’s behalf, they’re having a party with the Jackals and Adlers.
Really, winding down would normally be something Shouyou is into. Talking with Romero about his son, the clinking of ice in cups and glasses, and the loud thrum of voices speaking to each other in laughing tones. And Sakusa’s apartment is nice, with high-end furniture that is still comfortable, pieces that don’t feel stiff or informal.
Alas, Shouyou is sitting on Sakusa’s nice black couch, swirling a cup of liquor and doing what Yachi would call “brooding.” Shouyou should be happy with his game debut—and on some level, he is—but all he really feels like doing is sitting and avoiding all the people he’s supposed to be talking with tonight.
Atsumu had walked up to him at the beginning of the party, trying to start a conversation again, but Shouyou wasn’t in the mood. After loudly declaring him a bummer, most people have left him pretty much alone.
Shouyou sinks into the couch, crossing his left foot over his right. He is just thinking of announcing his need to wash vegetables and beg off for the night when he catches the eye of the very person he’s intending to avoid.
Kageyama Tobio. In the flesh. He’s wearing a shirt with sleeves rolled up to his forearms and god, Shouyou can’t stop staring at them. Tobio shakes his head and Shouyou’s heart squeezes at the tiny reminder of his old fringe.
He looks about as awkward as Shouyou feels; he stands to the side of the room, not talking to anyone, his body not settled like it was earlier before the game.
Shouyou smiles. Perhaps there is still that awkward high school boy beneath his confidence in the volleyball world.
And maybe it’s the light thrum of alcohol in his veins or because of how Shouyou hates himself but he waves to Tobio. When he responds with a raised eyebrow, Shouyou pats the couch next to him. He makes his way through the bodies and settles down next to Shouyou, perched on the edge like he’ll run at any startling movement.
“You come here often?” Shouyou says, because he’s an idiot and never considers the words coming out of his mouth.
“No, I’ve never been to Sakusa-san’s apartment before,” Tobio replies.
Shouyou doesn’t know whether he wants to kiss his lips or laugh at him. He swirls his cup once more, his mouth twitching lightly.
“What did you think of the game?” Shouyou thinks he knows—but there’s a part of him that needs to hear the words left unsaid.
“It was good,” Tobio says. And Shouyou’s mouth curves upward, despite the blandness of the words. “I had fun.”
“Me, too.” Shouyou sips his drink. It tastes better than it did a few minutes ago. “I didn’t take you for the party type.”
Tobio shifts his weight on the couch, sinking into the plushness. “Ushijima said I should go. He’s good friends with Sakusa-san.”
“Are you glad you came?”
“I don’t know.” Tobio frowns, a pinch between his brows. “I’m tired, to be honest.”
Shouyou laughs. The sound reaches deep within his chest. “What, you don’t think you could play another match right now?”
“It’s less that, more that it was tiring mentally.” At this, Shouyou tilts his head in consideration. Tobio continues: “It felt like I was on top of the world. It’s exhausting coming back down.”
“But you lost.”
“Yeah, to you.” Tobio gives him a half-smile. The chatter of voices around them fall to the wayside, as Tobio leans closer. His next words are quiet: “You kept your promise.”
“Don’t think it ends there,” Shouyou says; his voice shakes on the last word. He clears his throat, and smirks. “We still have a long way to go.”
“Wouldn’t miss it.” And Tobio flashes a small smile to Shouyou. His heart punches into his throat, and Shouyou decides to get them back onto safe ground.
Shouyou asks Tobio about his team, what he thinks of Hoshiumi and Ushijima and his captain. He provides him with a small analysis, how he has to consider each spiker’s technique and height, which Shouyou asks further questions about. They fall into a light conversation, one that doesn’t threaten to choke Shouyou, talking about their current teams and their past.
“Remember that time Noya-san got ice cream in Yachi’s hair?” Shouyou laughs. “He felt so bad I thought he might buy out all of Sakanoshita to repay her.”
Tobio smirks. “Not as bad as the time you threw up over Tanaka-san’s lap in first year.”
“Hey! I was nervous!”
“Well,” Tobio smiles. “It seems pre-game nerves are nothing to worry over anymore.”
Shouyou softens into a smile of his own. “Right.”
The night grows long around them. In it, Shouyou thinks that the lines between them disappear, slowly, one by one. The world feels as if it is only them, that Shouyou can exist in this space and time meant for two souls who wish to reunite. The borders of their relationship dissipate and Shouyou wonders how they got here. It is easy, not as terrifying as he thought.
He doesn’t think it’ll last, though. Something will shift, and Shouyou’s feelings will pour out of him. He’s always been one to reach for more than what he has been given. It is only a matter of time before he fucks things up for good.
He tries not to let it get to him. He only lets himself enjoy the moment for what it is. Being with Tobio and enjoying his presence.
At one point in their conversation, Tobio turns his body closer to Shouyou’s. He tilts his head to the side. “Did you think the game would turn out like this?”
Shouyou frowns in confusion. The ice in his glass clinks together. “Like what?”
“I don’t know,” Tobio looks around the room, at their teammates, at Bokuto smacking Meian’s back; his eyes avoid Shouyou’s own. “It felt different.”
“Yeah.” Tobio stares across the room.
It’s weird, Shouyou thinks. He thinks he agrees with Tobio—the game, it was like the culmination of years of work, like the final step in their promise together. He wants to tell Tobio this, but he doesn’t know the words to say it.
He settles for this: “I think it’s been my favorite game yet.”
Tobio turns to him and Shouyou swears he can see the sparkle in his gaze. There’s a wry tilt to his lips. “It was only your first. It would be pretty boring if the rest of your games went downhill.”
Shouyou laughs. “I just meant so far! Who knows.” Mischief gleams in his eyes. “Maybe our best game has yet to come.”
As they talk, Shouyou realizes that they’ve drifted closer, with small shifts of their body. Tobio leans his weight into the couch, but his torso is open and his shoulder is touching him. Shouyou has curled up on the couch, his socked feet toeing Tobio’s thigh. It’s like they’re relaxing in Shouyou’s apartment, in their own world, rather than in a party filled with other people.
Warmth trickles through Shouyou’s blood. He sighs, looking at Tobio’s blue eyes, and notes his strong cheekbones. As Tobio talks, his lips distract Shouyou. They’re wet and plump and look very soft, if only Shouyou reached out and touched them.
Shouyou shakes his head. No need for that.
Even though Tobio’s body language is open and welcoming, Shouyou doesn’t want to break the atmosphere. It’s been too long, their timing is off, he’s tired tonight; there’s a thousand reasons not to, and no clear reason to go for it, no reason to gauge Tobio’s interest, especially in front of their teammates. Shouyou will simply sit here and enjoy the moment; he won’t reach for more.
But then, it happens like this: Tobio’s hair is falling forward against his forehead. It probably wouldn’t even bother him but—
In the next moment, Shouyou is pushing the short fringe back with his fingers. His hand lingers on Tobio’s jaw.
Their eyes meet. Tobio is frozen.
And suddenly, Shouyou realizes what he’s doing and—it’s too late to backtrack.
He whips his hand away, pulling it back to him. “Uh.”
Tobio stares back. There’s a light blush on his cheeks.
Shouyou stands up from the couch and shifts past the other bodies in the room. When he gets to the other side, he slides open the door to the balcony, where—thankfully—there is no one else.
Breathing in the cool fall air, Shouyou leans against the railing. The light pollution and clouds prevent him from seeing the stars, but that doesn’t matter. He just needs space to breathe.
He’s only there for a few seconds before the door is opening again.
And out steps Tobio.
Shouyou turns his gaze from the door, looking out over the streets sprawled below. Tobio walks up next to him. He doesn’t lean his body weight as close as he was earlier in the night.
The distance makes Shouyou’s heart ache.
“Are you okay?” Tobio asks, and Shouyou knows he wants to smooth things over.
“Yeah, fine,” Shouyou says. He doesn’t attempt to say anything more than that.
There’s something buried between them. Something they won’t acknowledge.
Shouyou buries his feelings for Tobio with them.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” Shouyou says. He doesn’t wait for Tobio’s reply before he’s walking through the apartment.
Atsumu is standing in the kitchen with Sakusa. Shouyou waves as he takes his shoes from the genkan.
“Are you leaving, Shouyou-kun?” Atsumu asks, his eyebrows raised. Sakusa doesn’t comment.
“I’m tired,” is all Shouyou says in response.
By the time he closes the door, Shouyou has abandoned any hopes of ever having a normal conversation with Tobio ever again.
Shouyou doesn’t avoid his problems. He sets them aside for later, to deal with at a better time. That’s what he tells himself he’s doing, as he ignores Tobio’s calls and texts and any prying questions from friends. It’s unfortunate, though, as Yachi’s disappointed stare is not any easier to handle over FaceTime.
It’s easier to avoid him as a professional athlete, though. It’s the start of the season, so Shouyou has limited time, from trainings to games to PR events. He doesn’t have time to analyze his emotions, to figure out what he will do next with Tobio.
So he’s not avoiding his problems. He’s putting a pin in it to look back and analyze later. Mature and adult-like of him, honestly.
Only, it’s not so easy, when your problem is an annoying and living human being.
Because Tobio is persistent. Becoming a world class athlete proves he doesn’t take shortcuts. He asks after Shouyou, through his messages, through their friends, and Shouyou gives him a precursory response that he is just busy. Not enough time, but he’ll call back later, promise.
Eventually, because of all the questions, Shouyou cracks. Tobio asks how his lunch is that day and Shouyou responds:
> I just need space right now. Please let me have it.
Tobio responds: Of course.
The pressing messages stop after that. His friends leave him alone, too. Yachi looks sad when she mentions Tobio, but she quickly brushes it aside. Atsumu doesn’t know everything but Shouyou can tell he’s trying to encourage Shouyou without pressuring him. To which, Shouyou would like to tell him to kindly fuck off.
When Shouyou gets back to his apartment after a long practice, he throws himself on his bed and groans into his pillow.
The issue with the… incident after the game is—well, Shouyou has never felt like this before. Sure, he’s kissed and slept with people, but he’s never been in—he stops himself there, refuses to even think of the word.
But that’s what makes it different. Shouyou cares for Tobio, like he’s never cared for anyone else in the world. If he gets within a few feet of Tobio, he’s not sure what will happen. Will he jump him, attack him with kisses? Shouyou is pretty sure that’s illegal, especially without asking for consent, or knowing his feelings are reciprocated.
Shouyou inhales, rolls over on his cotton sheets.
And that’s another issue. What does Tobio feel? Does he feel the same way as him? Or is it merely a platonic conundrum, where Shouyou cares for Tobio in ways that he can never reciprocate? It wouldn’t be an issue, they could still be friends, relax into their banter eventually, but the precipice of the known and unknown terrifies Shouyou to no end.
What if he wants Tobio more than he wants him?
Shouyou doesn’t want to lose his friend, and maybe he wouldn’t. But there would be a distance between them that can’t be crossed. One that Shouyou doesn’t know how long it would take him to get over.
Shouyou groans. He can’t deal with this right now. He’s going to get some rest.
Shouyou arrives to practice the next day, a little groggier than normal. He changes in the locker room, listening to Bokuto laughing with Atsumu, which makes Sakusa roll his eyes and leave them behind. When Shouyou gets to the court, the other team members are huddled together, with their tiny manager on the left of the group.
Mika, as she insists on being called, looks to Shouyou and Atsumu and Bokuto, and she nods her head. “Good, everyone’s here. Let’s get started, then.”
Meian tilts his head. “Go ahead.”
“We need a representative to do a Q&A session with an Adlers team member,” Mika says. At the team name, Shouyou’s heart drops. “As the top two teams in the V-League, they want to interview key players to their success in the sport.”
“I nominate Shouyou,” Atsumu, the bastard, says.
Mika just jots down a note on her papers. “Any others?”
“You’re the most sociable out of us,” Sakusa says, for some reason, agreeing with him. “Atsumu is rude and Bokuto always says too much, plus Inunaki hates interviews.”
Meian chuckles. “Yeah, and I don’t want to go either.”
“But!” Shouyou needs to get out of this sinking hole. “What if I don’t want to?”
“What makes you want to object?” Atsumu asks. He turns to the side. “Also, Omi, I resent that I’m rude.”
Sakusa shrugs. “It’s the truth.”
Shouyou turns to Mika. “Which member of the Adlers is participating?”
“Oh.” Mika shuffles a few papers together. “They chose Hoshiumi-senshu.”
The tension strangling his shoulders releases, and Shouyou breathes a sigh of relief. If it’s not Tobio, then… “Okay, I’ll go.”
Hoshiumi was a good friend and rival, Shouyou’s sure it won’t be too miserable. They’d just talk and then be free to go home. Besides, Mika tells him the PR event is in their area, so he won’t have to travel. It would be okay.
As the team walks to the court, Atsumu smiles at Shouyou. “It shouldn’t be that bad, Shouyou-kun.” He smirks as he did the other team members. “If you’re going to avoid Tobio-kun, you should be in the clear.”
Shouyou throws his dry sweat towel at Atsumu, who simply laughs and dodges.
He has terrible teammates.
Powder is brushed against Shouyou’s cheeks. The make-up assistant is kind, complimenting his hair and skin, which yes, Shouyou does use SPF and moisturize every day. Nice had instilled that habit into him, thanks for noticing.
It’s a simple event. Reporters will ask them questions and figure out whether they can sniff out any information out from them. Shouyou can skillfully dance around them, flash a smile and misdirection, hopefully continuing to live in the relative obscurity of a professional volleyball player; it’s everyday he’s thankful he is not as popular as other sports athletes.
Shouyou closes his eyes as the make up artist dusts powder on his cheeks and highlights his features. It’s a nice, comforting sensation, a hypnotizing luxury Shouyou is not often allowed. Someone to take care of him and ask for nothing in return.
He’s getting lost in the small, soft brushes against his cheek when he hears a voice behind him.
Shouyou freezes. He clicks his neck over two paces. Opens his eyes.
Of course, when everything is going right, the chance to breathe is snatched from Shouyou and he’s forced to confront what he tries to avoid. For standing in his awkward, confident glory, is Tobio, once again showing up uninvited into Shouyou’s heart.
“What are you doing here?!”
Tobio shuffles his feet forward, in his team attire; the movement looks awkward on his big body. “Hoshiumi said he had a practice match that he needed to attend. Our PR team asked me to fill in.”
Shouyou grips the arms of his makeup chair. Of course, if Tobio and Shouyou are volleyball idiots, Hoshiumi is a volleyball junkie. Why he’s playing a pickup game—and is that even allowed? as a professional athlete?—without the rest of his team is completely in character, and a little morally conflicting for Shouyou; he wonders if he could’ve ditched and joined him.
Alas, he is going to have to deal with Tobio—and with it, his own uncomfortable feelings—today. He sighs and opens his mouth to respond to Tobio.
“Stop moving, please,” the makeup artist says.
Shouyou closes his mouth, stops shifting his body and allows the artist to continue her work. He hears the squeak of sneakers against floorboard and orders for Tobio to sit next to him.
They’re not able to speak, and Shouyou can feel the discomfort settling in around them. The weight of their words exists in a tangible space, and they cannot seem to get out of it. For some reason, Shouyou dreads the silence and envies it, he hopes he can speak with Tobio and also, to avoid him for all eternity. He wants to resolve their issues but knows that if he does, he will be unable to hold himself back from the truth of his feelings.
The time passes, as the makeup artists do their jobs, only a far-off sound of music filtering around them. Eventually, the artists declare their work done and pack up their equipment.
Tobio and Shouyou are left alone. Still, they don’t break the silence. They simply sit in it and wait.
Shouyou tries to figure out what to say. What do you say to somebody you love but can’t tell? Especially when things have become awkward between them, the last thing you said being a request for space.
And Shouyou, too, wonders why Tobio was asked to be Hoshiumi’s replacement. He’s not the most sociable person, far from it, and can often be considered cold and mean in interviews. It wouldn’t necessarily help their PR to have him there.
Maybe it’s because of that? To use Shouyou’s exuberance to cover for Tobio’s faults?
Or maybe…if Shouyou thinks about it, it’s a well-known fact that he and Tobio are high school rivals. Did the PR teams think it would make good publicity, to interview them together? Is their connection that obvious?
His stomach clenches. He needs a distraction. And the opportunity comes in the form of the man next to him.
Shouyou opens his mouth to start with a simple, “hey,” but then the producer comes out and tells them it’s time to start.
Shouyou wipes his hands on his pants and hopes that everything will end up okay.
The room they’re led towards is a simple stage, with an audience of foldable chairs. It is evident that the room is not meant to be an auditorium of any sort; it’s only a temporary space for this event. Shouyou settles on his own metal chair and folds his hands on top of the cloth table.
Tobio sits next to him and they face the crowd, together.
There is a diverse array of people in the audience. There’s an old man in the first row, sitting next to a younger woman who appears to be on the edge of her seat with a tape recorder in hand.
Shouyou smiles at the audience and resettles in his chair.
Their PR manager comes out and clasps her hands in front of her chest.
“Hello everyone! Today we have Hinata Shouyou and Kageyama Tobio to answer a few of your questions, two players from the top two teams in the league.” The PR manager turns towards Shouyou. “Let’s start with a question for Hinata-senshu.”
Shouyou straightens up and flashes another winning smile. He hears titters in the audience and hopes that they’re good ones.
He doesn’t want to let his team down.
The young woman in the front row raises her hand in quick fashion. Shouyou blinks, and the PR manager points to her before handing Shouyou a microphone.
“Hinata-senshu,” she says. “As your first season on the MSBY Black Jackals, what do you think of the team dynamic?”
Shouyou tilts his head to the side and crosses his arms over his chest. “I think that I was able to join the team’s cohesion after a few practices. Working with Atsumu as my setter helped me gel well with the team. Bokuto and Sakusa were really helpful in figuring out plays and gelling with the attack and defense of the team. Inunaki and Meian have been great in helping me get to know the others, and get used to the dynamic.”
The reporter’s eyes light up and she presses further. “Do you think you’ll stay with the team after this year?”
Shouyou laughs, the sound reaching deep within him. “Well, my contract doesn’t run out for another year or so.” He thinks of warm beaches and cool water, the fervor of a nation who loves volleyball. "Who knows where I will end up next."
The woman sits down after nodding to her assistant, and nearby, another reporter pops out that Shouyou has seen before, after matches, his spiky hair and glasses making him recognizable. "Kageyama-senshu, are you going overseas next year?"
“I don’t think I’m supposed to say anything about that.” Tobio’s mouth pulls forward in a curious pout.
And maybe it’s that, that small reminder of Tobio’s mannerisms, that makes Shouyou speak.
“What, Kageyama, can’t share a little secret with us?” Shouyou says, his eyes twinkling with mirth. There something about Tobio that always makes it natural to tease, despite everything between them.
Tobio’s lips twitch up at the corner. “I have a PR team too, you know.”
“Bakageyama, you’re no fun!”
The questions continue, with Shouyou and Tobio fitting into their roles as teasing each other whenever the opportunity arises.
“When I first met Kageyama, he was always yelling and screaming all the time.” Shouyou fake-gasps and glances at him out of the corner of his eye. “He was pretty scary!”
“Meanwhile, you sucked at volleyball.” Tobio shakes his head. “I didn’t understand how somebody so talented could let his skills go to waste.”
“Gosh, Kageyama, you’re so rude!” Shouyou pulls at Tobio’s sleeve. Tobio raises a brow. “This is when you would say I improved, right?”
Tobio rolls his eyes. “You still need work.”
“You’re just trying to save face!” Shouyou puffs out his chest. He knows his worth. “You probably think I’m amazing!”
Tobio smiles, but he doesn’t say anything else after that.
One reporter, the woman in the front who asked the first question, gets a curious look in her gaze. She takes notes, and let’s other people asked more questions. Shouyou notices her focused attention, but he instead focuses on the others firing off pressing inquiries.
But then, she stands up near the end of the session, straightening out the hem of her shirt: “Hinata-senshu, would you say Kageyama-senshu are good friends?”
Shouyou stiffens somewhat, reminded of the turmoil in his heart. He knows reporters can ask personal questions, but it reminds him of the issues he’s been tactfully ignoring. “Yes, I would say so. We’re friends.”
“It just seems like you guys are more than just friends. Like rivals, too.” She tilts her head to the side, pen propped and ready. “Did that start in high school or is it a more recent thing?”
With their tenuous relationship on the precipice of their feelings, Shouyou hesitates with his answer. Because, yes, he is Tobio’s rival, but when did his feelings change onto a different route?
It’s dangerous territory, but he decides to answer anyway: “We’ve been rivals since our first middle school match.” Shouyou grips the bottom of the metal chair. It bites into his hand. “I think I always knew I wanted to defeat him. As soon as I saw him, I wanted to take him on.” He inhales, looks at the reporter instead of Tobio. “Even when we were teammates, it was different when we faced each other; we always knew, or at least I did, that we wanted to face each other at the edges of the world.”
Shouyou is unsure of everything, but he turns to Tobio anyways. “Isn’t that right?”
Tobio’s expression is unreadable. He looks at the reporter. “Did you have something for me, too?”
The reporter scrunches her brows at Tobio’s insistence. “Uh. Yes.” She pushes up the glasses on the rim of her nose. “Why do you consider Shouyou to be your rival?”
Tobio takes in a deep breath. Shouyou freezes in anticipation. “Someone once said— promised me that there would be other players out there who are stronger, who made it fun to play volleyball. And in middle school, in our first match, this terrible player faced off against me, and lost.” Tobio’s eyes flit to Shouyou, his mouth agape. “He shocked me with his potential, but he didn’t stop there. He said something I’ll never forget: that one day, he would beat me.” Tobio smirks. “And for some reason, I believed him.”
He directs his gaze on the crowd. “I chose Hinata, back then, as a person who would challenge me.”
Murmurs echo through the crowd, as reporters take their notes. But Shouyou can’t hear them. All he hears is a thrumming of his heartbeat in his ears, and the blood rushing through his veins. Shouyou looks to his left but Tobio turns away, and they can’t meet each other’s gazes.
“Next question?” Tobio says.
After that, the interview passes in a haze. The words filter around Shouyou but he can’t hear their meaning. All he can think about is Tobio’s last words, that echo in his brain.
He knows the Tobio wouldn’t lie about this. But, who could have said such important words that stuck with Tobio throughout all these years? Especially ones that connected them together, that made Tobio believe in him. What made Shouyou special? How did Tobio know that Shouyou would be his someone better? What did he do to make him worthy of such praise?
Shouyou still offers his trademark smile to the crowd, laughing or answering questions when appropriate, but his mind is distracted. When the reporters finally dwindle in their questions, the end of the interview drawing near, anticipation bubbles in his stomach.
He needs to talk to Tobio. What once felt so monstrous in effort now makes him want to do something about right this very second.
He’s always been impatient, but today it feels excruciating to endure.
At last, the PR manager calls the session to an end. After they thank the reporters and hand off the microphones, Shouyou follows Tobio off the stage. They stay silent as Tobio leads them to where they first began, in the makeshift makeup area. Tobio stays quiet as he packs up his bag and pulls it over his shoulder.
Shouyou knows he can’t let him go. If he does, he doesn’t know when they’ll be able to sort everything out. Or if Shouyou will be brave enough to do this again.
“Kageyama?” Shouyou fiddles with his hands. “Would you like to come to dinner with me?”
Tobio freezes, in the middle of zipping up his bag. He restarts, and finishes putting the bag together. He turns towards Shouyou. “Okay.”
Shouyou smiles, and then he grabs his own bag.
“Let’s go then.”
Shouyou flits around his apartment's kitchen with practiced movements. Surprisingly, Tobio is able to help him with the task. Shouyou didn’t know that Tobio knew how to cook, but he is grateful for the help. He always imagined he was clumsy in the kitchen, but, perhaps, it is indicative of his own growth.
They speak more with their bodies than with their words, Tobio chopping vegetables and Shouyou throwing them into the pot, letting them simmer.
Dinner is a delicious soup and rice combo, the two chowing down after the draining day of PR. Tobio eats more than his fair share, and so does Shouyou.
Finally, after they clear everything away, they sit on Shouyou’s couch. The TV is off, but Shouyou stares at it instead of looking at Tobio. The night outside grows darker, and the lights in the apartment illuminate shadows on the carpet.
Shouyou, steeling himself, finally asks: “Who promised you that?"
"What?" Tobio frowns. He tilts his head when Shouyou looks at him. "What did I say?"
Shouyou bites his lip. He shifts on the couch. "What you said. At the Q&A."
Tobio's expression softens, but there's a hint of sadness there. His gaze becomes far off, as if looking at his memories of the past. "My grandfather.” Tobio’s mouth twists. “He passed away in middle school."
Instantly, Shouyou feels guilty for even bringing it up. He makes an aborted motion to get closer to Tobio, but ultimately decides against it. "I'm sorry."
Silence drips in the space between them. Then, Tobio asks: "Why have you been avoiding me?"
Shouyou stiffens. He didn't think this far ahead, trying to find an escape route as he toys with the cloth of a pillow. "Have I?"
I'm not an idiot, Hinata." Tobio shakes his head. His frown deepens. "If you don't want to be friends anymore —"
"No, no." Shouyou can't bear to hear those words come through his lips. "It’s hard because—I don't—you—"
“Hey,” Tobio says, a furrow in his brow that shows he’s worried for him. Shouyou can barely take it. “If you can’t say it now, you can always tell me later.” He shuffles on the couch. “As long as we can stay friends.”
“Kageyama,” Shouyou says, hoping he doesn’t fall off the edge. Into what, he doesn’t know. The shadows on Tobio’s face make it easier to say. “Have you ever wanted something so badly, but you don’t know if you deserve it? If you can even get it?”
“If I want something, I work hard to get it.” Tobio shrugs, as if it’s a simple matter and not what has been plaguing Shouyou’s mind for weeks. “Like training.”
“Yeah, but outside of training.” Shouyou sighs; it’s big heavy thing that unveils the emotions he’s been keeping at bay. He puts a hand to his chest. “It’s like my heart hurts whenever I think about it, and maybe I can get it, but I don’t know.” He wets his lips. His eyes flicker to Tobio. “I–I think I’m scared.”
Tobio reaches for Shouyou but stops halfway. He does shift closer to him, however. “It’s okay to be scared.” He clenches the fabric on his knees. “I’ve been scared before.”
Shouyou turns his eyes on him. Catches light in his eyes. “What did you do?”
The night seems to grow darker, safer, a comforting weight on them. Tobio focuses his gaze on Shouyou’s own. “I think about how good things can be if I’m brave for a few seconds. If I ask for help. If I go for it.”
And maybe that’s what makes Shouyou slam their lips together.
Tobio freezes, but Shouyou doesn’t stop there. He slots their mouths with a tilt of his head and tastes Tobio with his tongue. Shouyou wants to sigh, and relax into it, but Tobio is still stiff in his movements, and it makes it uncomfortable.
Tobio pulls away and holds Shouyou at arms length. His eyes bulge wide. “Hinata?!”
“Call me Shouyou,” Shouyou goes up to kiss him again before he says: “I mean, if that’s okay with you?”
“The kissing or the name?” Tobio shakes his head as if to relieve it of the fog. “Either way, both are good.”
Shouyou grins like a shark, ready-to-eat. “Good.”
He smashes their mouths together again, their teeth crashing and lips bruising. It takes a minute to adjust themselves with their posture, as Shouyou crawls into Tobio’s lap. He clenches his thighs around Tobio who groans at the contact.
Their lips slide slick against each other, hot breath coming in between the gaps. Tobio grips Shouyou’s ass, who leans into the touch. Heat builds in his core with each press of their lips, Shouyou releasing to lean down and begin giving attention to Tobio’s neck.
“Hina—Shouyou.” Tobio gasps when Shouyou bites his neck. “Is this why you’ve been avoiding me?”
Shouyou’s eyes darken when he pulls away, breath coming fast. “I didn’t think I could be next to you without attacking.”
“With my lips, Tobio.” Shouyou shakes his head fondly. “I realized how far gone I was, that there was no going back with how much I wanted you.”
“You want me?” Tobio’s eyes widen with wonder.
Shouyou leans close to whisper against the shell of his ear. “Right now, I want your dick down my throat. Do you want that to happen?”
Tobio inhales sharply. He nods his head fast. “Yes.”
And then, there’s not much talking at all.
After, Shouyou is lying his head on Tobio’s chest. Their legs are tangled, and Shouyou is tracing a mark he left on Tobio’s neck. It’s red, turning into a purple, and Shouyou feels smug with its appearance.
It’s nice to know he can affect Tobio in such a way.
He leans his weight into his chest, listening to Tobio’s heartbeat and smiling to himself. Shouyou doesn’t know how his lasted this long without Tobio, beneath him, warm and inviting, breathing in his presence.
Tobio is asleep, his eyelids close shut. His pout is no longer, just blank slack of his face that looks so peaceful. Shouyou wants to kiss his mouth, but he doesn't want to wake him up.
He wants to exist in this moment for all of eternity, with Tobio; he'd even get rid of volleyball for it.
Well, maybe not that far. Still, this moment will exist in his brain for many moments to come. He takes a mental snapshot to memorize Tobio’s body, and the deep satisfaction in his bones.
Tobio’s eyes flutter open, a brush of eyelashes against skin. His frown comes back into focus. “Shouyou?”
Shouyou nuzzles his head against Tobio’s chest, and Tobio responds in kind, pulling him closer with his arms that have regained their strength.
Shouyou sighs, content and fulfilled. A sense of cheekiness rushes through him. “Was this better than our game?”
Tobio’s brow furrows. He considers.
“You’re supposed to say yes!”
“Well, I love you and volleyball, so it’s hard to compare.” Tobio tilts his head as if taking it under serious consideration.
Shouyou laughs, a bright full thing that takes up all of his energy, filling him with light. Honestly, for him, playing against Tobio in volleyball and their sex earlier is… Hard to compare. But he lives to tease. “Of course, the first time you say you love me it’s along with volleyball!”
Tobio blushes. “Shut up dumbass.” Maybe he tries to save face, because he continues: “I love everything I do with you. Including sex and volleyball and whatever is next in our future.”
Shouyou’s eyes glisten, but he ignores them. He thinks of distance, and time zones, and the chaotic nature of an athletic career. “It’s going to be hard.”
“So is becoming a professional volleyball player.”
“Wow.” Shouyou sighs fondly. “Who knew Kageyama could be such a sap.”
“Only for you.”
Shouyou’s mouth twitches at the corners and he doesn’t bother to keep it down. “I can’t believe I was so nervous to kiss you when you treat me like this a few hours into our relationship.”
“Get used to it.” Tobio slides his hips to readjust Shouyou on him. He traces a spot on Shouyou’s skin, the dark shadow of night clinging to their bodies. “Were you really worried about telling me?”
Shouyou inhales sharply. He shifts his gaze, focusing on the hair on Tobio’s chest. “I don’t know. I just thought—well. I thought my feelings would overwhelm you.”
“Shouyou.” Tobio uses his finger to tilt Shouyou’s chin towards him. To look into his eyes. “Did you really not know how I felt?”
Tobio shakes his head. “Of course not. Too focused in that head of yours to see outside of it.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been it for me,” Tobio says, eyes warm and soft. He tucks a strand of hair behind Shouyou’s ear. “My rival, my best friend, my—everything. I’ve waited my whole life to find you.”
“I’ve been here all along. Waiting for you to catch up.” Tobio flicks Shouyou’s forehead. “Waiting for you to notice how much I care about you.”
Shouyou’s eyes water, and not from hurt. It’s just—he thought he would overwhelm Tobio, push him away, ruin their friendship. But now, he’s the one who is overwhelmed. With affection.
He leans forward to kiss Tobio. “Thank you for telling me that.”
Tobio grins, one of the stupid, goofy, over-the-moon types, one that Shouyou put there. He leans to capture Shouyou’s lips with his own.
Shouyou has all the time in the world to make him smile like that. Again and again.
Shouyou is on the beach, toeing his feet through the sand. Only, this time, he’s in Japan, not Rio. He can hear Tobio calling Kindaichi, the sound drifting on the wind, asking when he and Kunimi will arrive.
The last time he was on the beach, Shouyou had shoved his feelings for Tobio down. He can’t imagine not feeling as liberated as he does now. As full and free as he does, the love he feels allowed to pour out.
And how, all this time, he didn’t notice that Tobio was waiting for him to catch up. To notice him, in turn.
Shouyou chuckles to himself, smiling at his stupidity. He thought Tobio didn’t feel the same, even when Tobio looks at him, every time, Shouyou can spot the warm adoration that sends his insides into disarray, tingling with happiness.
Well, sometimes he just needs a push in the right direction. And sometimes he just needs to know that Tobio has waited just as long for him.
Shouyou wipes his face, hiding the smile against his lips. God, he’s become such a dork.
A shout draws his attention, and Shouyou turns to it. Tobio is beckoning him over, saying that their friends are arriving.
And Shouyou doesn’t hesitate; he runs, feet pounding against the sand.
He’s waited long enough.