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Run away with me

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“I think I’m going to run away.”

Kageyama Tobio thought he wasn’t serious. He couldn’t be. After all, this wasn’t the first time he had said something like that. For as long as Tobio had known him, prince Hinata Shouyo had always liked to dream of escaping, of getting out of the castle, of going far, far away. Tobio was convinced that he would have tried to jump out of the window and fly at that very moment, if he knew he could survive the fall somehow. And a tiny part of him was almost certain that he would have succeeded. Hinata had always seemed to know how to fly.

Still, despite knowing it was impossible, that he would never, could never do it, Tobio asked, “When?”

The prince, still leaning on the ledge of the tower’s huge window, turned to look at him, his eyes shining and a huge smile on his face. Even though it was dark outside, and the moonlight couldn’t possibly blind him, Tobio averted his eyes from him. He couldn’t look directly at him.

“I don’t know,” Hinata replied and Tobio rolled his eyes. Always the same. “Someday.”

“Dumbass,” Tobio whispered, dropping his head on the wall.

He wondered why he could get away with treating the prince like that. When Hinata laughed, he found his answer. Tobio couldn’t have been gladder to be in the highest tower of the castle, away from the royal family, from the rest of the guards, where no one could hear them.  He was sure that if Sugawara or Sawamura heard him insulting the prince he would get an earful. But Tobio couldn’t help it. And Hinata… Hinata just seemed grateful that someone was finally treating him like he wasn’t special, like he wasn’t the prince.

“Oh, don’t say that just yet, Kageyama,” the prince said, with a glint of mischief in his eye, and dropped back down onto the ledge, suddenly looking somehow… heartbroken. Hinata never let anyone else see him when he was so vulnerable.

Then, just as Tobio was about to ask him, Hinata turned his head towards him. “You’ll come with me, won’t you?”

Tobio felt his heart skip a beat. It wasn’t even a question. Hinata was simply assuming that, wherever he was going, Tobio would follow.

Tobio was about to answer him with a new insult, but… but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not when it was true. It was in those moments, when Hinata looked at him like that, so hopeful, so scared of the world, so terrified of the thought of going out there completely alone, that Tobio forgot everything he had been taught. He wasn’t supposed to agree to a proposition like that, he was supposed to stop him.

“Yeah,” he replied, his voice barely audible. He wanted to reach out and bury his fingers in the prince’s hair, but held back at the last moment, just as he smiled at him again. “I will”.

Tobio couldn’t let him run away alone.

 

Tobio didn’t quite know at what point Hinata’s nightly visits to the tower had become a habit. Especially considering that before Tobio had been promoted, the prince and he hadn’t exactly gotten along. Tobio used to despise him. And he thought Hinata hated him too. At least, that was what he had forced himself to believe until he was assigned the most important mission he would ever receive in his life: protect prince Hinata.

So that was what he was going to do. He would protect him, he would give his life for him, even if he couldn’t stand to be in the same room as him. At first, he had considered it his duty.

That all changed the first time Hinata wandered to his tower at night.

“What are you doing here?” snapped Tobio, forgetting the formalities, that he should refer to him as "Your Highness” or “Your Majesty”. He couldn’t care less at that moment.

Hinata stared at him, confused, or rather, stared at the ball Kageyama held in his hands, with a longing Tobio couldn’t identify.

“I got lost,” the prince lied.

Tobio nodded and waited for Hinata to say something else, to order him something stupid —as he had been doing since they had appointed Tobio as his personal royal guard—, but he just stood there, eyes fixed on the ball, on Tobio himself, so Tobio stood up and threw the ball towards him, as high as he could, hoping the prince couldn’t reach it.

Prince Hinata was not very tall, never had been. Now, even after growing taller during his teenage years, Tobio still managed to get a few inches on him. That was why he had always thought he was stronger, faster, better than the prince. But that was because he had never seen him jump.

At that moment, Hinata took his feet off the ground, and Tobio felt a shiver. He looked… he looked like he was about to take flight, light as a feather, strong and accurate as an arrow. Then the prince caught the ball and, smirking, returned it to Tobio, with a power he had never expected from the prince.

“That was fun,” Hinata said and now it was Kageyama who looked at him blankly, squeezing the ball tightly between his fingers. Where had that boy come from? Hinata smiled again. “I should come back another day to play with you.”

After that, the prince left, and Tobio returned to his position by the window, keeping watch, while playing with the ball. Somehow, he thought that that run-in had been nothing more than a dream and that the prince would never return to the tower.

 

Well, apparently, he was wrong. The prince came back. At first, he only showed up once a week. And Tobio was grateful. He had never been much for change. As if he had known it, the prince came into his life little by little, gradually, as if he didn’t want to upset the natural order of things.

For the first few weeks, they spent their time passing the ball to each other, practically without speaking. Tobio could tell on the prince’s face, almost as if it hurt him, that he couldn’t bear to be silent. But his expression changed completely, he even stopped biting the inside of his cheeks, whenever Tobio passed him the ball. It was in those moments that Tobio saw him happy. He thought he was happy too.

Later, when his visits started to become a little more frequent, Hinata stopped making absurd requests to him during the day. Well, almost. He tried, at least. However, the prince started to be… nice to him. Tobio pretended not to listen to the other guards when they talked about the change in his relationship with the prince, and when they asked him directly, Tobio would simply brush them off. People changed, he would say.

Whenever they left the castle, Hinata was always near him, or maybe it was Tobio trying to keep the prince from getting too far out of his sight. Although, if that happened, it didn’t take Tobio too long to spot his bright orange hair, and Hinata would always come running back to him, as energetic as a puppy, excitedly showing him his latest discovery.

Once, a couple of months after Hinata had started frequenting the tower and when his visits had increased to at least three times a week, a small accident happened in the market.

It was just the two of them, as Hinata had insisted that today was the only day they brought his favorite meat buns to the market and please, Kageyama, we just have to go! Obviously, Tobio hadn’t been able to say no to him.

It happened in the middle of the market, after Hinata had bought three huge bags of meat buns, when he was too busy deciding which one to eat first. Tobio saw the reflection of the knife just a second before it was too late.

However, when he reached out his arm to stand between the prince and his attacker, he didn’t think that he was doing it because it was his duty, his mission, because he was the prince’s defender. The only thing Tobio wanted was to protect his friend, the first person who had ever trusted him, who had been able to catch the ball he had thrown at him in one leap. He couldn’t let anyone hurt him.

“You got hurt because of me,” Hinata told him that same night, in the tower, as he hugged his legs with his arms. He looked even smaller that way.

“What part of I’m your personal guard don’t you understand? Dumbass.”

Hinata shrank even more, not taking his eyes off Tobio’s bandages. It had been nothing, for just after Tobio had received the stab wound to the arm, the soldiers patrolling the market had taken the attacker away, and Tobio had been able to walk out of the infirmary just a few hours later. Almost as good as new.

“It’s my fault,” the prince repeated.

Tobio rolled his eyes, hiding a small smile, and smacked his head gently. “It’s not.”

Hinata still didn’t dare look into his eyes, as they were still fixed on his wound, as if he feared he was going to start bleeding again at any moment. Tobio said nothing to him and let the prince continue to watch the wound, only because it seemed that it could make him feel better.

That night, Tobio realized that he had never truly known the prince. It was that night that Hinata told him for the first time that, someday, he was going to run away, to leave everything behind. However, he didn’t ask him to go with him.

Then Tobio learned as well that Hinata had never hated him before, not really. The prince had always wanted to be free, just as he thought Tobio was. Though Tobio didn’t have that freedom the prince craved either.

“I’d do it again, you know?” whispered Tobio, as Hinata made his way to the door, eyes heavy with fatigue, almost closing.

The prince turned to him, a confused look on his face, as he run his hand through his tousled hair, and he beamed. “I hope you don’t have to. I don’t want to lose you.”

Tobio didn’t understand why his heart was racing at that moment or why he wished Hinata didn’t have to leave every night he went to see him. The only thing he could understand was the promise he made to himself. He was going to take care of that boy.

 

After that, Hinata started going to see him every night. He would come into the tower after dinnertime, when everyone thought he had gone to his chambers to rest and would leave in the early hours on the morning. Some days, he would go just a short time after arriving. But he kept coming back.

Why did he keep going there? Why did he keep letting him?

Tobio couldn’t explain it, but Hinata’s presence in his tower had become routine by now, just as it was to watch the surroundings every night or protect the prince during the day. Tobio hadn’t really been aware of how much he had grown accustomed to having him there every night, to listening to his constant stories, his strange way of expressing himself, all sounds and meaningless words, not until the night the prince didn’t come to the tower.

Tobio waited for him, the ball dancing between his fingers, his gaze lost in the forest stretching around the castle, his ear attentive to any noise heard near the door. Tobio waited. And waited. Until he finally fell asleep on the floor, his head leaning against the wall in a position that was far too uncomfortable. He hadn’t even bothered to lie down on the bed.

Still, the prince, throughout the next day, acted as if nothing had happened. He kept laughing at Tobio, constantly daring him to do impossible challenges — I bet you anything I can climb that wall a lot faster than you, Bakageyama—, but even so Tobio couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong, something he wasn't telling him. He did not ask him throughout the day, for he only really felt free talking to him during the night, sheltered in his tower.

During his life, many people had told Tobio that he was insensitive, that he needed to pay more attention to others, that he needed to notice things. But Tobio had never understood, because he did notice the things that really mattered. He knew when the other guards needed a break in training, he knew when someone’s ankle or wrist hurt, and he knew there was something bothering prince Hinata, because of the way his gaze kept getting lost in the horizon, as if he was really thinking of leaving that very night, or even right then and there if he could. Just when Tobio was about to ask him, just like that, in broad daylight, Hinata gave him a beaming smile and it was as if all was right in the world.

Tobio waited for him again that night, but Hinata didn’t show up. What if… What if he had really left this time?

Never before since he had moved to the tower had he performed his job as lookout better, so thoroughly. He wasn’t about to let absolutely nothing slip away. Hinata Shouyo wasn’t going to leave that castle. At least not without him.

When Tobio saw a glowing silhouette lose itself in the shadows, he nearly threw himself into the forest from the top of the tower. However, he shook his head and, heart pounding, headed for the door. That stupid prince. He was going to pay for this. How dare he? How could he leave without saying anything? How could he leave after asking him to run away together? How could he—

As soon as Tobio flung open the door to the room, he was met by prince Hinata, hand outstretched forward, as if he had been about to knock, which was strange, because Hinata had never felt the need to knock before.

Tobio, still panting, didn’t know exactly what to do when he saw him there, smiling, wrapped in a giant blanket, looking him in the eye at last in what had seemed to Tobio like years without seeing him. They had been together a few hours ago, though. But it was during the night, in his tower, when he could be with the real Hinata Shouyo.

He just wanted to hug him, to tell him how glad he was to see him there, that he hadn’t left, to ask him to please not leave without him. But all he could do was step aside to let him into the room and close the door behind him.

“Where were you going?” asked Hinata, plopping down on the floor in front of the window.

Tobio figured there was no longer any point in lying to him or trying to hide the truth from him. “To look for you. I thought you’d left.”

“Left?” he said, wrinkling his nose. “Where would I go?”

Tobio didn’t answer and sat on the ledge, in the same position he had taken the last few nights that allowed him to watch the outside, as well as Hinata.

“Hinata,” Tobio called out to him, and he made a little noise in response, not bothering to move. “Is there something bothering you?”

“You mean yesterday? When I didn’t come to see you?”

“Yeah.”

For a few seconds, Hinata didn’t speak. Tobio could see him fidgeting with the folds of the blanket, as if searching for the right words.

“They say I have to get married.”

Tobio felt his heart shrink and, with a strange lump in his throat, he could only say, “Oh.”

Hinata added nothing more but pulled the blanket over his hair and continued to look ahead, at the forest, at the world, perhaps searching for the most suitable way to escape.

“With whom?” Tobio finally asked, the lump lowering now to his chest.

“A princess from the closest kingdom,” he whispered, still not looking at Tobio.

Tobio nodded. “Maybe… maybe she’s nice.”

“She is,” Hinata replied, almost without thinking. “I’ve met her before, a few years ago.”

However, even Tobio was able to understand that this was not the tone of a person excited about getting married. Hinata sounded tired, crushed.

“So what’s the problem?”

Then the price dropped the blanket over his shoulders and stopped looking at the forest to fix his eyes on him. Before speaking, Hinata tucked himself in even tighter, as if the blanket could shelter him, protect him.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to love her, not like that at least.” The prince lowered his head. “Besides, she’s in love with someone else too.”

Even the always insensitive, dense Kageyama Tobio could understand how difficult it must be to be forced to marry someone you didn’t love. Then he thought that he had been wrong, maybe he was indeed somewhat freer than prince Hinata.

He was about to ask him then. Run away. Run away with me.

But then Hinata grabbed his wrist and Tobio wasn’t able to say anything at all, the words frozen on his lips. The prince wasn’t looking at him, still totally focused on the forest, but he kept holding his wrist tightly.

“Can I stay here tonight?” whispered Hinata.

Tobio would let him stay forever if he asked.

 

During the day, it was easy to forget that Hinata was getting married. Why should it even be a big deal? After all, Tobio had no say in the matter. Hinata was a prince, and just as Tobio’s duty was to protect him, Hinata’s was to protect the kingdom. Tobio was aware that one day he would have to protect the princess as well.

However, during the night, when Hinata came to see him in the tower, Tobio kept thinking about it. He’s getting married. He’s getting married. Tobio shouldn’t care.

Hinata didn’t seem the least bit affected and kept talking about the world beyond the castle, beyond the walls, the world that stretched out into the forest and much, much farther. He still held the crazy idea of leaving and kept repeating it to Tobio over and over again, every night. But he still hadn’t left.

Tobio didn’t know why he was waiting. Maybe he had never wanted to run away, not really.

Maybe he had changed his mind about the princess. Tobio had met her briefly a couple of times, when she came to visit Hinata. She did seem nice. And also, very pretty.

“Thank you so much for taking care of Hinata, Kageyama-kun,” she told him the first time they met.

Tobio nodded, for he knew that was his duty. But when his eyes slid to Hinata, he knew that not everything he did for him was because he was obliged to. The princess somehow seemed to know this, and she looked at him with a huge sadness in her gaze.

“I’m so sorry,” she muttered to him when Hinata started to walk ahead without her, and Tobio raised an eyebrow in confusion.

“What’s the matter, Your Highness?”

“I’m sorry, really,” she repeated, looking at Hinata’s silhouette. “It’s just… I wish I could change things.”

Tobio nodded his head and understood what Hinata had been referring to that night. Before rejoining the prince, the princess’s eyes stopped on one of the soldiers, who gave her a weak smile, and the princess reddened. Tobio had never seen her act like that when she was with Hinata.

“It’s okay,” Tobio merely replied, and the princess nodded, giving his arm a squeeze.

It wasn’t okay, but Tobio didn’t know why or how to fix it. Maybe the princess knew. Maybe everyone else knew it too. Maybe that was the reason why, every time she came to visit, all the other soldiers looked at him with pity, as if they were feeling sorry for him. It was as if the whole palace shared a secret, and no one had bothered to tell Tobio.

Even Hinata noticed.

“Is there something bothering you?” he asked him one day when they had gone for a walk in the gardens, crouched by the lake, sticking his hands in the water.

Tobio didn’t know exactly what to say. Because there was something, of course there was. But he didn’t know what. It wasn’t the princess, for she looked exactly as miserable as he did, as Hinata did, as the soldier who looked at her as if he could never reach her did. The problem was…

“You deserve to be happy, Hinata.”

The prince nodded weakly and stood up. For a few seconds, his eyes slid down Tobio’s arm, the same one that had received the stab, and the corners of his lips turned up slightly. “I am happy, you idiot.”

Tobio rolled his eyes, as he wasn’t really sure whether the prince was lying.

“Come on, I’ll race you to the castle,” Hinata proclaimed, breaking into a run before Tobio could refuse.

As he ran, about to catch up to Hinata —no matter how much of a prince he was, Tobio wasn’t about to let the little brat win— he saw out of the corner of his eye the princess, who was smiling at the two of them in the distance, while talking to the same soldier as before. Then Tobio turned his gaze back to the front, to Hinata’s back, closer and closer to him, his hair fluttering in the wind.

As Tobio ran past him, he turned his head to give him a smirk, and Hinata bit his lower lip, picking up the pace. His eyes sparkled, just as they did at night, in the tower, when he looked out into the forest.

Maybe Hinata hadn’t lied after all.

 

Princess Yachi began to spend more and more time in the castle. She never asked Hinata where he disappeared to every night, or why he did it, and Hinata never asked her why she kept coming back there either, even though the wedding was still a few months away.

Yachi’s visits becoming longer meant that Hinata and, by extension, Tobio, started to spend more time with her. Although, for one reason or another, in the end it was Tobio who ended up keeping the princess company, while Hinata was busy climbing trees. Or chasing the castle dogs. Or almost falling into the lake. But Tobio didn’t mind, because the princess’s company was very pleasant. She never talked too much and never asked more questions than she should. Tobio liked her.

One day, however, he was the one who had to ask her something. It was just the three of them, Hinata, Yachi and him, walking around the castle grounds, and Hinata had run ahead again. When he reappeared, he had a ball under his arm, just like the one Tobio kept in the tower.

“Kageyama!” shouted the prince, excitedly. “Let’s play!”

Yachi waved her hand for him to go with Hinata. And Tobio played ball with him all day, though it seemed like minutes to Tobio. Playing with Hinata was never boring.

He asked her later, when Hinata, his hair sticking to his forehead from the sweat, ran back into the castle, screaming about something he didn’t catch. Yachi, not holding in her laughter, watched him walk away.

“Yachi-san,” Tobio said. “May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Is there something I don’t know?” Yachi cocked her head, confused. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while and… everyone in the castle is looking at me like…” Tobio tried to find the words to describe it, as it had happened several times that same day while he was playing with Hinata. Some soldiers had walked past them and in all of them Tobio had found the same look, the same sorrow. Identical to the one he was seeing on Yachi’s face at that moment. “Just as you’re looking at me now.”

“I’m sorry, Kageyama-kun,” she said, sitting down on a garden bench, perhaps to wait for Hinata. Or the soldier. Then Tobio felt that maybe he should be looking at her the same way. “I think you’d better talk to Hinata about this.”

Tobio nodded and sat down next to her.

“Do you” —Yachi began to speak, lowering her gaze —“do you ever feel like you want to run away?”

He sighed. “Yeah.”

Without looking at her, Tobio felt the sadness in her voice. “Me too.”

 

Tobio thought about asking Hinata that very night, about finally asking him why everyone kept looking at him like he was about to die. Hinata was the prince. He had to know.

But this time, when Hinata arrived at the tower, he didn’t burst open the door and plop down on the bed — which he had begun to do over the past few weeks. Instead, he sat down on the window ledge across from Tobio.

“You okay?” Tobio asked.

“Did you mean that?” snapped Hinata, clenching his hands.

“Huh?”

“What you said when you met Yachi,” the prince replied, and Tobio arched an eyebrow. “That thing you said. That I deserve to be happy. Did you mean that?”

Tobio wrinkled his nose and let out a snort. “What’s got into you? Of course I did, you idiot.”

What the hell was the prince doing?

Hinata continued to clench his fists and Tobio stopped watching the outside to focus on him.

“And do you think I’ll be happy here?”

Tobio also heard the question he didn’t ask. Do you think I’ll be happy if I marry Yachi?

Tobio supposed that, somehow, this was the conversation the had wanted to have. However, he didn’t feel ready for it. Not when he still didn’t understand everything that was going on around him.

“Do you want to marry her?”

“I asked you first.”

Tobio let out a snort and rubbed his eyes with his hand. Could they ever be happy, Hinata and Yachi? As he thought about it, he remembered the princess and the solider, how nervous they got every time their hands unintentionally brushed, how much she seemed to light up every time she saw him. And he knew that Yachi, as much as she might love Hinata, would never be truly happy if she married him. And Hinata… when he thought of Hinata being happy, he didn’t see him with her. No. He saw him free, in the forest, running around with a ball under his arm, laughing and asking him to toss him the ball until their arms fell off. When he pictured Hinata being happy, he pictured himself by his side.

“No. No, I don’t,” Tobio finally replied.

The prince nodded his head weakly. “I see.”

His voice sounded… it sounded like when he had told him he had to get married. Sad, as if he had just had his heart broken. Had Tobio said something he shouldn’t have? He was supposed to be the prince’s protector, he was supposed to defend him. He had never imagined that he could also hurt him.

Hinata remained speechless and Tobio began to worry. What on earth was wrong with him? He was just there, his back leaning against the wall, sitting on the ledge, his posture mimicking Tobio’s. But, while Tobio was staring at him, the prince had his eyes fixed on the forest.

“Didn’t you say you wanted to leave?” said Tobio suddenly, angry for a reason he couldn’t grasp. Hinata looked up and, seeing his eyes full of little red veins, Tobio’s heart broke a little. “Why are you still here? Why… why don’t you just leave? You're always saying that. You always say the same thing. You should go.”

Hinata ran his hand over his nose and let out a sort of a laugh and this time he didn’t take his eyes off Tobio when he answered. “Do you really want me to leave?”

He didn’t. At least, not without him. But he couldn’t bring himself to say that.

“If you want to leave so badly, you should do it.” And he should just shut up. He knew he shouldn’t be reproaching him for all these things. But… but he still needed to understand. “Why haven’t you left yet?”

At first Hinata answered something in a low voice, so low that Tobio wasn’t able to hear it.

“What?” he asked.

He looked at him and the prince stood up, eyes suddenly flooded with tears. “Because of you, asshole. Because I was waiting for you.”

Hinata just stayed there, standing in the middle of the room, and Tobio couldn’t move.

“Why?” asked Tobio, his voice barely a whisper.

He didn’t get it. Not when he had already promised the prince that he would go with him anywhere. Wherever Hinata went, Tobio would follow.

Hinata, face drenched in tears, gave him the saddest smile Tobio had ever seen. “Because I love you, idiot.”

It was then that Tobio understood it all. The looks, the pity he saw in Yachi and everyone else. It was all… it was all because he… because he…

Barely conscious of it, Tobio stood up and let his legs carry him towards the center of the room, where Hinata was. Hinata. Who hadn’t left, who was waiting for him, who loved him, who wanted to be with him.

“I thought I told you I’d go with you,” Tobio muttered, resting his hands on his cheeks to wipe away his tears.

Hinata closed his eyes and leaned against his palm. “I thought you were just laughing at me.”

“Dumbass.” And he dropped his forehead against the prince’s, who still hadn’t opened his eyes.

Hinata let out a small laugh, and this time Tobio knew without question that the prince was happy. Tobio smiled before kissing him.

When Hinata kissed him back and Tobio felt fireworks in his chest, he figured it all out. Everything. He loved him too, had loved him for a very long time. Since that first moment when he had sneaked into his tower, since he had seen him jump. The prince had entered his life slowly, carefully. But that hadn’t mattered in the end. Not when Tobio had fallen for him all of a sudden, without warning. 

“Run away with me,” Hinata asked him.

“Anywhere.” And he kissed him again.

 

They left that same night, before dawn. At the wall that separated the castle from the rest of the world they met Yachi and her solider. Kageyama recognized him from training. Yamaguchi.

“Good luck,” she wished them, giving them each a quick hug.

“You too.”

Then Yachi and Yamaguchi started running, hand in hand, deep into the forest.

Tobio turned to Hinata, who was looking the other way, towards the path that led to the ocean, his eyes shining.

“Are you ready?” asked Tobio.

Hinata nodded, puffing out his chest, and, perhaps to remind himself that it was all real, that it was really happening, he entwined his fingers with Tobio’s. Tobio thanked him silently.

“Let’s go.”

And they left. It was just as Tobio had pictured it. They were free, freer than they had ever been. And so, watching Hinata run through the trees, tugging at his hand, laughing, eyes wide and completely elated, Tobio was glad that Hinata had waited to run away with him.

He wondered how he had been so blind before. Tobio knew now, more than ever. Wherever Hinata went, he would go there as well.