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well, maybe i'm a crook

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The thing is-- Hinata is in love with Kageyama and everyone knows it, including Kageyama.

It’s not like this knowledge makes him any more prepared to deal with the situation. He’s awkward around him, civil but distant, friendly but in a way that lets Hinata know they’re not actually friends. Sugawara and Daichi exchange worried glances pretty often around them, or maybe they’re sad, or maybe they’re tremendously sad, Kageyama doesn’t know, but he thinks maybe it tugs at some part of him he’d been determined to keep cold and distant and unmoved for a long time.

Kageyama has never had anyone in love with him before. A few girls have confessed to him, cornered him after class and asked him to please consider them, but those are only crushes. (To be perfectly honest, the idea of someone actually falling in love with him has always seemed sort of impossible to him. How could someone look at him and be near him and find something they want to hold close? Why would somebody want that?)

Kageyama hates talking about feelings, especially these kinds of feelings, so he never says anything. He doesn’t say anything and neither does Hinata and sometimes things feel normal up until Hinata gets too embarrassed or too eager or clings to his arm and suddenly Kageyama is faced with sunny smiles and wide amber eyes staring into his and a shallowness in his breathing that sends his heart skipping.

|/|

Kageyama likes to go by the park that’s on his way home after practice sometimes. He likes to sit at the top of the hill and watch the kids who play at the bottom push each other into the grass and throw stones into the small pond, too uncoordinated to properly skip them. He’s tempted, sometimes, to teach them how to skip stones, but every time he’s about to gather up the courage to do it, some adult yells at them to cut it out and stop harassing the ducks there, and the kids take off running and giggling.

Hinata comes with him sometimes, and the two sit there and talk, or don’t talk, but either way they sit too close and for too long.

Hinata is in love with him, and Kageyama doesn’t know how to make him stop.

///

Hinata has been in love with him since pretty early on. Kageyama knows, because it was only after they had played against Aobajousai for the second time, and lost, and Kageyama found him later in the week at school sitting alone where he thought no one could find him, staring off with slackened features and no trace of his normal sprightliness.

Kageyama had said some embarrassing things. He told Hinata how they would never lose against them again. He told him that they were invincible together. He touched his shoulder and looked down at him, trying to peer into his face, trying to make him stop taking all the responsibility of losing alone.

Hinata had turned pink when Kageyama tried to, in his own fierce, roundabout way, console him. It wasn’t unusual for him to get embarrassed about these things, but it was the way his eyes looked up at Kageyama, the way he stared at him, open and affectionate and trembling, that made Kageyama swallow hard in fear, that made his fingertips pressed into Hinata’s uniform jacket burn.

\\\

It’s not a terribly big deal, Kageyama thinks sometimes.

Hinata is so full of love. He loves everything and everyone, and he’s never been shy about it. He yells every day after practice about his love for food, and he tells the dog they see during their walk home from school how much he loves him, and he talks about how much he loves this stupid cartoon show about superheroes that comes on every Saturday morning that he watches with Natsu.

And it’s this thought that gets Kageyama through most days, the knowledge that even though Hinata loves him, he loves so many other things as well it shouldn’t matter.

They’re sitting at lunch with a few of Hinata’s friends (he has so many friends, Kageyama thinks, he’s so well liked by everyone, how) and talking about some dumb new movie when Hinata groans, “Man, I wish I didn’t have so much to do this weekend. I wanna see that movie so bad!”

“What do you have to do? Like homework and stuff?” One of his friends asks.

“Yeah. And volleyball,” Hinata adds, excitement in his voice as he nudges Kageyama in the ribs with his elbow (they always sit side by side).

“Man, you’re really in love with volleyball, huh?” Someone says, and Hinata goes weirdly still for a second, no, half a second, so quick no one else on the entire earth would notice besides Kageyama, and then he’s laughing sheepishly, grinning his crooked grin.

“I’m not in love with it,” Hinata stretches out his fidgeting hands and fingers over his head, casually shooting a glance up at everyone. “That’s different.”

Kageyama doesn’t say anything for the rest of the lunch period, and he doesn’t finish his food.

|||

Nishinoya and Tanaka joke around about a lot of things.

They make fun of Yamaguchi for following Tsukishima around everywhere, calling him a duckling following his mother. They don’t even stop when Daichi yells at them to cut it out, they just snicker behind their hands and throw an arm each around Yamaguchi to let him know they're kidding, really.

They make fun of Kageyama and his shitty smiles. They make fun of Kageyama and how bad he is at socializing and talking to other people. They make fun of Kageyama a lot, to be perfectly honest, although they’re never mean spirited about it. It’s nice, Kageyama can’t help but think sometimes, to be in on the joke.

(He thinks about what it felt like to have everyone make fun of him behind his back. The way they would mock him and organize behind closed doors just to throw him off in the middle of games. He thinks about it and he can’t even justify the hurt materializing as a lump in his throat because he knows he deserved it. He deserved it.)

Nishinoya and Tanaka joke around about a lot of things, which is why Kageyama is appropriately surprised when they don’t laugh at Hinata when he turns red, sometimes, after Kageyama compliments him. They don’t laugh when Hinata buys him and Kageyama snacks after practice, or when he whines during practice about Kageyama coming over to his house, or when he tries to subtly suggest that Kageyama should walk him home because it’s late, really, he might even get lost and if he gets eaten by wild animals who will spike Kageyama’s tosses?

They don’t laugh when Hinata rushes to Kageyama’s side after he takes a nasty fall on his ankle and hisses in pain. They don’t laugh when he runs out of the gym and into the first aid supplies they keep in the club room and comes back out of breath and apologizing because holy shit, that looked like it hurt, are you okay?

They never make fun of him. Kageyama wishes he didn’t know why.

///

Sometimes Kageyama gets angry, and when he does, Hinata gets angry right with him.

He’s yelling about something Hinata did, asking him why he’s so useless and stupid, it’s always him who does something stupid, and Hinata looks upset, maybe more so than usual, and maybe Kageyama is being harsher than usual, but then Hinata is screaming that Kageyama is a cold, heartless, dictator and Kageyama swings a punch before he can stop himself.

He misses, because Hinata is tiny and quick, and he ends up getting thrown to the ground, with Hinata hovering over him, and he’s crying, and Kageyama feels his heart stop.

He breaks, biting his lip and pounding his fists on Kageyama’s chest, and he’s trying to breathe through his tears but he can’t, he can’t stop the hot anger rolling down his cheeks that lands on Kageyama’s face. And then Kageyama is sitting up and wiping Hinata’s nose with his sleeve and pulling him to his chest without saying a word.

“Why do you do that?” Hinata says hotly against his shirt, his face pressed against Kageyama’s collarbone. He’s small like this, but he’s still fire, he’s barely contained righteous anger.

Kageyama feels like his chest is going to explode. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be so cruel to me, you know, you know I--”

“Yeah, I know.”

Hinata’s breathing is uneven for awhile longer, and Kageyama holds him until his legs go numb and the parts of Hinata under his palms become too familiar.

The next day, when he sees Sugawara at morning practice, he looks at Kageyama like he knows, like he’s hurting for him, like he’s hurting for them both and it breaks Kageyama, a little bit.

///

“You know you can talk to me about anything, right, Tobio?”

Kageyama looks up from where he’s sitting on the couch, watching the fifth consecutive episode of that dumb superhero cartoon, and eating his third bowl of cereal. His mother is looking at him with concern but she’s wearing a pretty sundress, and oh, right, it’s summer, he should be outside. He should be going for a run or meeting up with some guys on the team or going to the park and watching those kids throw stones but instead he hasn’t been able to leave his house in days.

“What’s it like to be in love?” he blurts out, and she gives him a look like she’d been expecting that question for awhile.

\\\

“So, even though the person doesn’t know if the person they like feels the same, they’re still in love with them?”

“Sometimes. Other times, the pain of unrequited love is too much to handle, and you just kind of. Well, you fall out of love.”

“Oh.” Then, “What if the other person hasn’t told them they don’t feel the same way.”

“Why not?”

“...what?”

“Why haven’t they said anything yet?”

|||

A week later, “What if the other person doesn’t say anything because they don’t know.”

“Don’t know what, Tobio?”

“They just. They don’t know.”

“...everyone needs time to figure things out, Tobio. I’m sure they understand that.”

\\\

Kageyama starts to dream about his dad pretty often.

He thinks maybe he’s always dreamt about him, in some way or another, but the dreams become longer and leave such an impression in his heart that he actually remembers them when he wakes up. His father leaves them, yes, this is normal, this is expected, but he starts to talk. Right before he grabs the doorknob and walks out Kageyama’s life forever, he pauses and turns back and although he’s faceless in his dream, Kageyama knows he’s looking right at him. He tells Kageyama he doesn’t love him and he can’t stand to be near him, he’s a bad child, he’s an unlovable child and Kageyama can’t help but think he’s probably right. He wakes up feeling like he’s falling, sometimes, but mostly he wakes up with a tight, empty knot in his chest that makes it hard to breathe, that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning, and some days, even the afternoon.

\\\

“Mom.”

“Hmm?”

“Did you and dad fall out of love?”

There’s a long beat of silence as his mother slowly looks up from where she’s washing dishes and turns herself to look at Kageyama, standing in the doorway of the kitchen, his fists clenched and his jaw clenched and his shirt untucked.

Kageyama feels like he’s choking. “Was it because of me? Because I’m unlovable?” he says, feels his skin prick and catch fire in shame.

His mother drops her arms to her sides, and takes a step towards him, but then stops, collecting herself first.

“Tobio,” she says, her voice low and serious and careful. “Don’t you ever, for one second, think that anything your father did is your fault. Ever. Your father made his own choices because that’s what adults do. And the choices we make aren’t always good ones.”

She swallows, hard, and tries to keep her breathing even. She walks forward until she can put both of her hands on each of Kageyama’s shoulders, until she can peer into his face properly. “And you are the most lovable child on this earth. You are caring, and hard-working, and wonderful. I love you more than I have loved anything or anyone. Don’t you ever call yourself unlovable again, understand?”

Kageyama nods his head jerkily, but he feels a hot prickling sensation behind his eyes, and he wants to leave the room right now, but his mom is pulling him to her chest and holding him close to her heartbeat and he feels so, so young again.

\\\

There’s something to be said about how good Hinata is at navigating the complicated hallways of Kageyama’s, nominally, immutable stubbornness.

Regardless of the circumstances, although it helps if they’re both fatigued from an intense practice, or riding high from the success of a well-done quick, Hinata can essentially bend Kageyama to his will every time. Not that Hinata manipulates Kageyama into particularly awful favors; it’s mostly, “come to my house, Natsu wants to show you a flip she learned in gymnastics, and if you don’t come she will cry, and probably, like, hate you forever” or “this one time I walked home alone and saw a bear, no, seriously, it was probably hungry too, hey, are you listening? A bear! Walk me home, stupid Kageyama!”

Admittedly, Hinata’s attempts at subtle persuasion, and their effectiveness on Kageyama, probably said more about Kageyama than Hinata’s skills of coercion.

Hinata’s saying something about going over to his house, and Kageyama hates it. He hates it because Hinata will get his way, and he needs to stop this, now, he definitely does --

“Are you listening?” Hinata’s cocking his head to the side, inspecting Kageyama’s pinched expression with mild curiosity.

Kageyama nods, nails digging into his palm, and tells Hinata he can come over.

It’s normal, like it usually is, and when the last dregs of sunlight fall over the trees and the thickness of cold washes over the night like a blanket, it’s expected for Kageyama’s mother to suggest Hinata stay the night.

Hinata, like usual, perks up and then looks over at Kageyama for approval, cross-legged with his elbows on his bruised knees. Kageyama shrugs, looks down and picks at the carpet. His mother smiles and tells Hinata she’ll get the extra blankets. As she leaves the room, Hinata turns to Kageyama with apprehension.

“Hey, Kageyama,” Hinata mumbles. “Do you even want me to stay over? I don’t have to.”

“I want you to,” Kageyama lies, and Hinata smiles like sunshine.

Kageyama lives closer to their school, and his mother gets weirdly concerned about Hinata walking through the mountains alone at night, so he’s used to this. Hinata sleeps over sometimes. It’s fine.

At around 1 AM, in the middle of their third bag of chips, Hinata pauses the game they’re playing and rolls over onto the carpet. “Kageyamaaaa,” he whines. “I’m tired. We have practice super early tomorrow, too. Can we go to bed?”

Kageyama shrugs, bunches his shoulders up high. “I guess.”

Hinata is up and bouncing to his bag, digging around furiously. “Uh, Kageyama…”

“I have some spare shirts in the top drawer of my dresser,” Kageyama says, sighing and wiping a hand over his face.

Hinata smiles sheepishly, “Thanks, I didn’t bring anything to wear to sleep. Your shirt will probably be like, fifty times too big, though…”

“Do you think I’m a monster?!”

“No, more like a freak giant,” Hinata says thoughtfully, and scowls angrily when Kageyama kicks him in the ankle. “Hey, I’m just being honest!”

They change quietly, then, and Kageyama uses all of his might not to let the silence get him too anxious. It happens sometimes, usually when him and Hinata are alone, the silence turns into a tension inside his bones and he feels like he’s going to evaporate right into the atmosphere. It’s probably not healthy.

“Ugh, my mom doesn’t believe me,” Hinata mumbles suddenly, glaring down at his phone in aggravation. He done changing quickly, like usual, and Kageyama is still folding his clothes.

“Doesn’t believe you about what?”

“She doesn’t think I’m really doing homework, or whatever,” Hinata’s face looks warm, suddenly, and Kageyama watches as he glances up at him quickly and then looks back down at his phone. He’s embarrassed.

“What does she think you’re doing?” Kageyama mutters, smoothing out his folded pants. He’s not usually this neat, but whenever Hinata is around, he likes to focus on organization. Structure.

“I don’t know!” Hinata whines. He rubs the back of his neck. “She might think… I don’t know. She’s super suspicious of me lately. She says I’m acting ‘fishy’ or something.”

“You are pretty weird.”

“Says the guy who just spent like ten minutes folding his pants.”

“At least I know how to fold! You just scrunch up all of your clothes into a ball,” Kageyama says, rolling his eyes and standing up. He goes over to his closet and pulls out the extra futon he keeps in there specifically for when Hinata stays over. “Look,” Kageyama’s voice is teasing, “Now I’m setting up your futon for you, too. Do you need people to take care of you all the time?”

Hinata sticks out his tongue at him and goes back to texting his mom. He looks annoyed, though, by whatever they’re discussing.

Kageyama ignores him for the most part, as he walks around the room, pacing and groaning at whatever him and his mother are texting to each other.

“Hey,” Kageyama says, breaking Hinata out of his focus, mid-text. He finished setting up the futon minutes ago. “You can go to sleep now.”

“Oh,” Hinata says, looking down at his phone. “Yeah.”

Kageyama gets in his bed and Hinata in the futon, and it’s silent except for the tapping of Hinata’s fingers against his phone screen.

There’s a weight over Kageyama’s chest as he lays in bed, breathing, focusing on absolutely nothing. It’s still overwhelming, somehow.

“Hey,” Hinata whispers into the darkness. Kageyama remains silent, goes still.

“I know you’re awake, stupid.” Hinata huffs, sounding annoyed. “Anyway. My mom thinks I’m dating someone.”

Kageyama blinks at the inky blackness all around him. Oh.

“Oh,” he says.

“Yeah.”

“If you deny it she’ll just think it even more.”

“Exactly! I’ve denied it so many times now, that she’s positive I’m dating someone. She thinks I have a girlfriend.” Kageyama hears him shift, probably move so he’s on his side. “She thinks it’s Yachi, most likely,” Hinata mutters.

Kageyama frowns, sits up on his elbows. “Why Yachi?”

“She’s met her before. Yachi came over to help me study once, and she got stupidly excited about me having a friend who’s a girl. I don’t know. Parents are weird about this stuff, you know?”

Kageyama doesn’t know, actually. He’s only ever started talking about these kinds of things with his mother recently, and she hadn’t asked Kageyama any questions about his own feelings. He thinks maybe she knows him well enough not to ask, or maybe she thinks he’s completely uninterested.

“It’s whatever, though. I’m not dating anyway and she’s gonna realize that eventually,” Hinata says, and he sounds kind of put off about it.

Kageyama bites his lip, tries not to let any panic stirring in his mind spread to the rest of his body. “Yeah, she’ll come around,” he says softly, and he doesn’t know what else to do. He feels like Hinata is expecting something more than that, but he doesn’t know what. It’s sort of terrifying, sometimes, talking to Hinata, never knowing if he’s doing enough.

“You don’t get it, your mom is cool,” Hinata whines, and he sounds normal again. “I wish my mom was as cool as yours. She even offered to give me advice, earlier.”

“What?”

“Oh,” Hinata says and then pauses. “Shit. Sorry, maybe she didn’t want you to know? She, uh. When you went to the bathroom, she heard me talking to my mom on the phone and told me some stuff. You know. Told me I could talk to her if I, like, wanted to.”

Kageyama thinks about his mom, how concerned she always is about Hinata, how she fusses over him whenever he’s over, asks about him nearly every day, makes sure Kageyama isn’t too mean to him.

“She really cares about you,” Kageyama blurts out, intending mostly to reassure it to himself. He’s hoping Hinata hadn’t heard him, when Hinata rolls over again and sighs.

“Yeah, I can tell.” He sounds happy, kind of longing. “She’s way nicer than you.”

“Shut up, dumbass,” Kageyama mumbles.

“See?”

Kageyama rolls his eyes, throws his arm over his face and tries not to enjoy the simple lightheartedness around them right now. His chest feels tight, airy.

They talk a little bit more after that, mostly pointless, stupid things, until Kageyama hears the telltale sound of Hinata’s breathing evening out and then the stupid sniffling snores he makes. He can’t fall asleep for a solid twenty minutes after Hinata falls asleep, and then he’s immediately dreaming, immediately immersed in the overwhelming picture show he’s been viewing every night for the past few weeks.

His dips in and out of the dream, slipping through various other parts of his psyche, and eventually he’s alone, in a dark room, and there’s nothing there except him and a creeping, cold loneliness that causes him to physically ache. He tries to talk, but nothing comes out, and he tries to move, but he’s frozen in place. There’s a weight on top of him, an inescapable presence clinging to his back, his neck, the space between his joints. He is heavy but also nonexistent.

He is heartrendingly alone.

His father turns his back, suddenly, because he’s there, but not really. He’s already gone, but his back still faces Kageyama. There is a slow crawl of a shiver working its way down Kageyama’s spine. It hurts, all of it, it’s manifesting as a piercing deep inside of him and he can’t take it, he can’t be this alone, he can’t have no one. It hurts.

Suddenly, he’s being shaken, and he blinks into the darkness of his bedroom, acutely aware of how absent the pain is. There’s someone hovering over him, pressing into his side, and the dip in the mattress squeaks when they lean closer to him.

“Kageyama,” Hinata’s whispering. “Are you okay?! You were, like, whimpering.”

Kageyama breathes out for long seconds to give himself time. Once he remembers, yes, Hinata slept over, yes, it was only a dream, he groans, rolls over until he can bury his face into the pillow. “I’m fine,” he mutters. “Just… bad dream.” He’s not sure why he admits it, maybe it’s the lateness of the night, or the spirit-crushing fear of his dream still gunning off under his skin, but he can’t do anything besides tell Hinata the truth.

“Oh,” Hinata says, and the panic of his voice earlier lingers, strangely. “I’m good at listening to dreams.”

Kageyama snorts. “Go to sleep.”

“Seriously,” Hinata continues, settles into the bed. “You’ll feel better if you talk about it. Remember when I kept having that dream where I was being chased by volleyballs with spider legs? And I talked to you and the team about it? I never had that dream again afterwards.”

Kageyama opens his eyes and suppresses the sudden urge he feels to run out of his house and not stop. He sits up until he can just make out Hinata’s face in the near-darkness of his room.

“I had a dream about my dad.”

Kageyama has never explicitly said anything about his father before, to anyone, but it’s not as if the man’s absence goes unnoticed. He knows, more than once, maybe, Hinata hinted at them talking about it but he’d flipped the conversation before things could go out of hand.

“Oh,” Hinata breathes. Kageyama can tell he hadn’t expected that answer. “Do you-- um. You never talk about him.”

“Because he’s gone.”

“Hmm,” Hinata hums. “Do you mean… he passed away?”

“No.” Kageyama considers, briefly, if he can actually say that with absolute certainty. It makes his stomach coil and his hands clench into balled fists. “... I don’t think so.”

Hinata doesn’t say anything. Kageyama hears the ticking of the clock that hangs over his desk, wonders what time it is. It can’t be any later than 3 AM.

“Do you want him to come back?”

Kageyama scratches, roughly, at his head. “No,” he whispers. “I don’t. But he’s already in my head, so it’s not like that matters.”

“What happens in your dream? Is it the same dream over and over again?” Hinata is serious, there’s no trace he’s holding back. He sounds investigative, but motivated by his concern, his unfailingly bleeding heart. It’s unnerving, the way he’s loyal through everything, no matter how difficult it is. He never lets Kageyama go through it alone, whatever it is, and it’s terrifying, it’s almost as painful as the feeling from his dream. Kageyama needs to throw Hinata out of his room and tell him to never come back, just do something. This is dangerous.

Beside him, Hinata cocks his head and lays a hand on his shoulder.

Kageyama bites his lip and juts his chin out.

He tells Hinata everything about his dream.

Maybe twenty minutes later, they’re both laying down, Hinata beside him. He isn’t talking anymore, but the effort of doing so, of actually explaining his heart has him drained and tired. He doesn’t tell Hinata to go back to his futon, and he doesn’t bother putting any careful distance between their sleep-soft bodies. He breathes, Hinata’s palm moving soothingly around the space between his shoulder blades.

It’s embarrassing, and sweet, and it’s maybe the final push that drops him into a dreamless sleep.

///

Kageyama goes to the park the next afternoon.

Practice had been hectic; stressful and tense. The energy had been all weird, him and Hinata had been off since the moment they both entered the gym and Kageyama made it clear he wasn’t going to maintain eye contact. The feeling of Hinata’s arms loose, but real, around his waist hit him like a freight train and after that it was all over.

He goes to the park and the children are at the bottom of the hill, chaotic and noisy as ever, all sunkissed skin and sticky fingers. He folds his legs up and pillows his chin on his knees. It’s only mid-afternoon and yet the sky is a sunburst of pinks and oranges, softening into a sherbert behind wisps of white.

He hears someone drop down beside him, out of breath and disentangling themselves from their belongings. All the unease of practice rushes back into his body at once.

“Kageyama,” Hinata says, voice at odds with his resolute words, “Stop ignoring me. It’s fucking annoying.”

“I’m not--”

“Don’t deny it, you ass.” Hinata pulls off his backpack and takes a minute to catch his breath. He must have ran here, Kageyama thinks. “First, you don’t say a word to me in the morning, all because we woke up hugging. Is that so awful? It’s a hug, idiot. Then, you act all lame at morning practice and go off with Asahi-san to do god knows what, all so that we don’t have to practice our quick, and then you don’t even show up at lunch! Where did you go, stupid? Did you fucking hide? I’m so. God. I don’t even know. I’m beyond pissed, though.” He pulls out a water bottle, swallows down quick gulps before he goes off again. “And then, you just check out completely for afternoon practice. It’s like you weren’t even there, Kageyama. I’m,” Hinata runs out of breath at the same moment he runs out of words. “I don’t understand.”

Kageyama stays still. He imagines the water from the lake rising, rising, until it washes them both away.

“Do you even have anything to say?” Hinata asks him, voice weaker and searching.

Kageyama has a lot to say, honestly. He wants to say how much he tried to focus during practice, how hard he worked with Asahi because every nerve in his body was on fire, how he hates the way Hinata is looking at him, like he’s an enemy, like he’s pushing him away. He wants to say that Hinata listening to him talk about his dad was something cathartic, and real, and precious to him. He wants to say that there is no one else in the entire goddamn world he would trust to spill his heart to, no one else he would let comfort him, hold him throughout the night so that they woke up tangled up in each other’s sweat-slick skin. He wants to say sorry, I didn’t mean it, sorry, I’m trying, sorry, sorry, sorry. It’s like raindrops pattering against his skull. He wants to say that and more, much, much more buried down in his throat.

“You’re in love with me,” he says instead, and suddenly it’s there, it’s out and it’s done, Kageyama’s every breath creating movement that punctures the stillness of reality around them.

There’s several centuries of quiet, entire lifetimes of maybe’s and what-if’s, before there’s a slice in the atmosphere.

“Yes,” Hinata breathes, the paper-thin lilt of his voice carried away in the wind. He turns his head and glances at Kageyama, lips parted to say something, but instead his mouth shuts tight and he ignites into red, from across his nose to the tips of his ears. He looks speechless, for once, Kageyama thinks absently.

“Yeah,” Kageyama repeats. “You’re in love with me.”

“Shut up!” Hinata shrieks, suddenly bursting into action. He’s bringing his hand up to his face, as if it’ll hide his flushed skin. “If you knew why didn’t you say anything?!”

Kageyama shrugs, embarrassed. He doesn’t have a good answer for that, and maybe Hinata can sense that, because he huffs and slumps beside him. He crosses his arms and resolutely does not make eye contact with Kageyama.

“It’s not a problem, if that’s what you’re worried about. Like, with volleyball. Or other things. I have it under control.”

Under control, Kageyama thinks with awe, wonders what that could possibly mean, ponders what it would be like to have anything under control, least of all this.

“You’re an idiot,” he blurts out, and immediately regrets it when Hinata goes still and taut beside him.

“It’s not like I want to be in love with you,” Hinata hisses back, and he looks hurt, somehow, but the bite of his words leaves Kageyama with his hackles raised and a sour heat that climbs from his pounding chest to his temples.

“Then don’t be,” he nearly shouts back. “No one is asking you to!”

“You’re such a piece of shit,” Hinata spits at him, voice odd, closing off. “As if that’s how this fucking works!”

This is wrong, Kageyama thinks, distractedly. This isn’t what I want to fucking say.

“I just don’t understand,” Kageyama feels himself speak but he doesn’t feel in control, and he can’t stop the whirling in his mind or the betraying honesty of his tongue. “I don’t. What does being in love with me… -- how does that work?”

Kageyama immediately feels himself flush in embarrassment. He feels his palms start to sweat and his legs are dead weights, pulled tight to his chest, a shield. There’s people down at the bottom of the hill, and one of the kids is flying a kite, but it’s too windy and it keeps bobbing and threatening to blow away, out of his hands.

Hinata is very quiet next to him, and he’s not laughing. He reaches up and tucks a curly lock behind his ear that the wind’s been swaying in front of his eyes for the past few minutes. He sighs like it hurts.

“I guess… it means I want to always be with you. Or like-- I feel like I have to be with you. It doesn’t feel right when we’re not together,” he mumbles out the last bit, tucks his face into his shoulder, away from where Kageyama can see him.

Kageyama’s tongue is sandpaper. “So it’s like a need?”

Hinata takes in a deep, shaky breath. “I just. It’s everything, you idiot. I like the way you move, and the way you’re honest, even though it means you’re an asshole most of the time. I like it when you do something cool, like a really nice dump shot, or something like that. And how, sometimes, when you do something you’re really excited about, I’m the first person you look at, and you just. You look really, really happy and it makes me feel really stupidly happy, too.”

Hinata buries his face in his hands. “I hate you for making me say that, though. Just so you know. I currently hate you.”

Kageyama feels his body collapse, a little, and he folds down on himself, succombing to some great force. There’s a heavy weight in the space between his eyes and he can hear his pulse drumming in his skull. He clutches his face with his hands and doesn’t even notice that Hinata’s talking again because he feels like his brain is short-circuiting.

“I never expected you to feel the same way,” Hinata’s saying, but he sounds practiced. He sounds far away, already.

Kageyama is shaking his head and he doesn’t even realize it until Hinata says, “Kageyama?”

He collects his breathing, slowly, and lifts his head, lifts his body, vertebrae by vertebrae. He can’t look Hinata in the face, because he’ll collapse again, so instead he looks over at the kids in their game and says, “I’m sorry.”

Hinata nods, slowly, different, and pangs of genuine anguish flicker across his face. “It’s fine.” It isn’t fine at all.

“No,” Kageyama is choking out, trying to manage, but his mind is firing into chaos, “I’m, I’m sorry, because I want to love you, but I don’t know. I don’t think I can.”

Splashing-- the children at the bottom of the hill are ankle deep in the lake and kicking at each other, squealing in delight as their game becomes more perilous.

There are fingertips pulling at Kageyama’s shoulder and his body feels hypersensitive, too aware of all the space he occupies. Hinata tugs until the two face each other, and his expression is perplexity at war with resolve, and Kageyama has never seen him look so serious, not ever. There’s a shiver running down his arm, starting at where Hinata grips him securely.

“What does that mean,” Hinata licks his lips, “‘I want to love you’, what does that mean.”

Kageyama is trembling. “I don’t know.”

“You do know. What does that mean.”

“I don’t know!”

“Try, then, goddammit!”

“It means why the fuck are you in love with me!” Kageyama is yelling, his face is hot and his fists are suddenly tight and heavy. “It means, how, how do you get everyone to like you so much? I don’t get it! I don’t --- I’m not like you. People don’t just love me. I don’t know how to do something like this! I’m going to make you hate me, I will!”

Hinata is frozen. “Kageyama, that’s not--”

“I’m unlovable!” he shouts, and it echoes, all the way across the lake, to the other side of the world.

There’s a difference between knowing something and saying it out loud, crying it out, and when he’s done and his chest is heaving, Kageyama thinks maybe that difference is what holds him together, because he feels like he’s unraveling, like he’s falling apart one molecule at a time.

“You held me all night,” he says, and he’s blinking away something on the cusp of spilling. “Who does that?”

Hinata is staring at him, openly. There’s hurt, and worry, but mostly that tender affection that Kageyama’s grown to resent.

“I held you because I love you, you idiot,” he says, defensively. “And this isn’t some, like, fucking arbitrary thing to me. I mean what I say.” He swallows, posture uncomfortable. “You’re overthinking this. Like usual. Stupid Kageyama.”

“It’s not stupid,” Kageyama says, and Hinata must sense how serious he is because he sighs and shakes his head.

He shifts suddenly, gets up on his knees so he hovers over Kageyama by a few centimeters, his hands carefully holding touching his jaw. Hinata bites his lip, shifts his eyes all over Kageyama’s face. “I can’t… guarantee anything to you. I wish I could, but I can’t. And I can’t force you to love yourself enough to trust me, Kageyama. But I can show you how much I care about you.”

He presses his lips against Kageyama’s cheek, at the space just below his eye, and his eyelashes flutter against Kageyama’s. He breathes in, eyes closed, and Kageyama feels like he’s saying a lot without trying to. He pulls back after long seconds that leave the black-haired boy dizzy.

“Um,” Hinata says, face red and blotchy, and Kageyama can tell he’s trying hard not to cover his face. “So yeah. That’s how I feel. And you, I mean, it’s fine if you don’t feel the same. That’s not why I’m telling you all this, it’s just. I want you to know you’re important, and -- I don’t know, jeez, most people are happy to hear that someone is in love with them.”

Kageyama blinks. Hinata’s face is so close to his he can feel the warmth of his blush pressing into his skin; he can count the flecks of gold in his eyes; he can feel his breath fanning across his cheeks.

Kageyama blinks. When he leans forward a little he can press their foreheads together. As he does, Hinata’s breathing quickens, his pulse firing off rapidly. Kageyama looks up at him until their eyes meet, and he lets out a quivering sigh, lets the weight of his head press into Hinata’s.

“I’m scared,” Kageyama whispers, voice barely not cracking on it. “I’ll disappoint you. You’ll fall out of love with me, and then what? It’s scary.”

Hinata shakes his head, slowly, presses his lips to Kageyama’s forehead, and once too-sweet and not enough. “It’s scary for me too, you know. But I think it’s worth it. I want to work hard and conquer the world with you. No one else.”

Kageyama grips Hinata’s arms. “Would that make you happy?”

“Yes,” Hinata says, without hesitation. “Would that make you happy?”

Kageyama’s eyes are hot and prickling. “Yes.”

Hinata stills, and then slowly brings his hands up from Kageyama’s shoulders to press into the back of his neck. “I want to make you happy. All the time.”

“I can’t--”

“You already do.”

Kageyama bites his lip painfully, lets the choked, quivering words die in his throat. He closes his eyes, thinks about the lightness in his chest, the boy working fingertips up and down the skin disappearing into the back collar of his shirt, the sound of water crashing and slapping against skin as the kids at the bottom of the hill play. “Can I kiss you?”

Bright peals of laughter ring clear as day, from the bottom of the hill to the ends of the city, to the sands of the beach.

Hinata breathes in sharply, awake, and then he’s nodding his head quickly, desperately. “Yes,” he says, voice sharp and high, and Kageyama knocks their mouths together before he can think of a reason not to.

It’s uncoordinated, and mostly all Kageyama can think about is how chapped his own lips must feel, but Hinata is holding him so closely and so tightly it makes him feel like his heart’s skipping rope under a warm summer day.

When they part, Hinata is looking down through his eyelashes, shifts from his knees to sit next to Kageyama, the fit of space between them no larger than a centimeter. They probably fit more perfectly than anyone else, Kageyama thinks to himself. They breathe for a minute, Hinata still flushed and warm, Kageyama trying not to dissolve.

“I want to fall in love with you,” Kageyama says, and he thinks of Hinata’s arms wrapped tightly around his waist, thinks of the painful way everyone looks at them like they’re fighting something inevitable, thinks of the enormous thrill that runs through his body everytime he looks across the court and sees Hinata already staring straight at him. “Is that okay?”

Hinata’s answer is a smile like sunshine, and a laugh that reverberates back to Kageyama’s heart.