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by this time next year

Chapter Text

Kageyama gets scouted first.

A man with a clipboard and a red baseball cap shows up to the final match of Tohoku Regionals, his cell phone glued to his ear. Hinata notices him right away and thinks unfriendly thoughts at him for wearing something baseball-related at a volleyball game. If he's going to watch their match, the least he can do is wear Karasuno's colors. The red reminds him of Nekoma, and he jumps harder, higher than before and feels frustrated when he slaps empty air because Kageyama sends the toss to some second year wing spiker.

That same second year spikes the ball into the net, and Kageyama gives him a dressing down that leaves him wobbling and teary-eyed. But when Kageyama sets for him again, Hinata notices the ball goes fast and smooth to an opening even Noya-senpai would have been hard pressed to cover.

And that's when the guy in the hat snaps his cell phone shut and walks away, pushing through the cheering squad and chants of go, go, let's go, let's go, Karasuno!

They win that game, because of course they fucking do, and Hinata doesn't give the man in the red hat a second thought until mid-July when Takeda-sensei leaves in the middle of practice. In theory, Hinata should be done with volleyball after spring, but their senpai that first year had started a new tradition, a new legacy, and now everyone knew third year volleyball club members stuck it out until graduation day. Hinata is ultra curious why Takeda-sensei would leave like that, so Hinata's watching when he runs back in about ten minutes later, bright-faced and ecstatic. Takeda-sensei leans up and whispers in Coach Ukai's ear, and they spend a while talking too much with their hands, and Hinata gets hit in the face twice for not paying attention to practice.

"Kageyama," Coach barks when practice ends, beckoning him over.

Kageyama looks at the broom he was getting out and puts it in Hinata's hand. Hinata squawks at him, hops up and down and yells about passing off work and team effort, and Kageyama ignores him. Hinata pouts at his back for a moment, then squares his shoulders and darts off with the broom and a yell, determined to finish the floors so fast he can jump on Kageyama's back and demand to be involved in their stupid, secret pow-wow.

He doesn't really have to wait long to figure it out, though, because all of a sudden Kageyama's yell of "Yes!" and pumped fist take over the gym and everyone is trampling over to see what's going on. It's the same noise, the same gesture he makes after a really awesome quick set. Hinata himself is there, bouncing and half-draped on Kageyama's shoulder, saying, "What is it? What is it?"

Kageyama shrugs him off with the smuggest asshole grin of all time and says, "Nothing."

"Kageyama!" he whines, and Tsukishima and Yamaguchi are--well, not wheedling, but glaring and saying, "Come on, Kageyama, tell us," alongside him.

Coach and Takeda-sensei exchange a glance and then nod, and Kageyama's grin, if possible, becomes even more obnoxious.

"I got offers from two universities," he announces, pointing at his chest with his thumb. "I'm going to play volleyball at Keio this spring."

"You still have to pass an exam, even if it's an easy one," Takeda-sensei hurries to add, although he is beaming and bursting with pride at his fluffy little crow chick taking off to play volleyball at a university level.

"I'll pass," Kageyama says with the same kind of confidence he uses when he tells Hinata he'll get the toss to him. He looks straight at Hinata, and Hinata jerks and turns red, wondering if maybe Kageyama knew he was daydreaming about something as stupid as the way Kageyama talks to him during a game. But then Kageyama just points at him and says, "You'd better get in, too."

Hinata, stupid, naive, idiot that he is, grins wide and nods and says, "Yeah!"

He doesn't know what he's in for.

* * *

To celebrate, Coach Ukai takes the team to a karaoke bar as Takeda-sensei harps on about the importance of responsibility.

"Don't worry, don't worry, I won't let them order anything alcoholic," Coach says, but he winks at them over Takeda-sensei's ruffled hair. Hinata isn't surprised when Kageyama's drink comes out with a subtle red straw in it and Coach is very, very careful about making sure it goes to Kageyama and Kageyama only.

"Lemme try," Hinata insists, sprawled on the cushion next to him as a second year warbles along to kpop and Yamaguchi tries to coax Tsukishima to pick out a song.

Kageyama scowls a little but hands the drink over. "Don't drink all of it."

So of course Hinata does just that, hollowing out his cheeks as he sucks up the whole drink, snort-laughing and batting Kageyama away as Kageyama tries to steal it back. It tastes subtle, Hinata thinks. A good choice for Kageyama, who wouldn't be caught dead drinking anything pink or umbrella'd. It's just Coke with something a little stronger, a little burn that slides down his throat and goes down smooth. The straw slurps as it hits only ice and Hinata pulls off with a loud, refreshed "ah!" and Kageyama smacks the back of his head.

"Dumbass. What did I just say?" He shakes his head and waves at Coach, who looks both impressed and concerned that Hinata drank it so quickly. He picks the phone off the wall and murmurs something into it. When the waitress comes back with a drink tray, there are two 'Cokes' for both Kageyama and Hinata, and Coach grins and gives them a thumbs up.

The thumbs up doesn't escape Takeda-sensei's notice, who squawks and fusses like a mother hen until Coach ruffles his hair and puts the microphone in his hands.

Takeda-sensei sings a rousing rendition of the Love Hime opening as Hinata and Kageyama cover their ears and laugh. The laughter feels a little hollow for Hinata, even though he's happy for Kageyama, he really is. But he'd be lying if he said he wasn't a little jealous, too.

"I'm gonna get scouted next," he says loudly and boldly. The waitress pops in with a tray again and leaves some kind of pizza, which Hinata takes great glee in devouring faster than anyone else. Kageyama picks up a slice before it's all gone and just holds it with both hands, staring at it.

"You'd better," Kageyama says eventually.

"I will!" Hinata swallows and almost chokes because he's eating too fast. He washes down the pizza with another huge, cheek-hollowing drink of whatever the hell Coach is sneaking them. "Just you watch. And it's gonna be by Keio, too, or--or maybe somewhere better!"

"Keio is the best," Kageyama deadpans. He takes a small bite of crust and smiles, just a tiny bit.

"You'll see," Hinata says. He reaches for another pizza slice, but Tsukishima smacks his hand away and says something about not getting scouted if he gets fat.

Coach sneaks them another round of drinks, and then Takeda-sensei cuts them off and insists on walking them home.

* * *

Hinata's first clue that he may have signed himself up for an impossible task comes right on the heels of a school career survey. He fills out his top three schools, Keio appropriately at #1, and hands it into his homeroom teacher. When she reads it, she jerks like she's been shocked, then she recovers nicely and says, "Hinata-kun, can you come to the office after school?"

"I've got practice," he says automatically.

Sensei looks a bit surprised. "Isn't volleyball practice in the mornings?"

"Yes, but." He squirms, shoots a look at Kageyama, who is staring at him. He lowers his voice and says, "I'm practicing extra now."

"I see." Sensei's eyes scan down Hinata's survey and come to rest on his chosen profession: professional volleyball player, written cramped in the margin because there was no box to check. Not the normal response of scientist or teacher or whatever.

Hinata grips the side of the desk and says, "But we could meet at lunch!" overly loud and enthusiastic.

Sensei says okay, and Hinata is released, allowed to file back to his desk. Kageyama smacks the back of his head without any real malice and says, "What was that?"

"I don't know," Hinata says, because he really doesn't. He's just got a bad feeling, some tense, anxious feeling low in his gut.

* * *

Kageyama glares at him when he makes some excuse about not being able to sit together and talk game strategy at lunch. He waves his hand and says, "Sorry, it's not my fault! Sensei wants to talk about my future or something."

"Don't miss practice," Kageyama scoffs, and gives him a piece of melon bread.

"You're in the volleyball club, right?" Sensei asks as she pulls Hinata's survey out of a folder and places it on her desk. "You want to play professionally?"

"Yes!" Hinata says like there's no other answer in the world. To him, there isn't. Other teachers' heads poke up over the cubicle walls and glare at him, and he realizes he's yelling.

"Okay," Sensei says with a look on her face like she's eaten something sour. She taps Hinata's list of school choices and says, "Keio is a very prestigious university."

Hinata nods rapidly. "Yeah."

She hesitates. "The way your grades are now, there's no way you can get in."

Hinata nods some more. He already knows this. "I'm going to study really hard!"

"Hinata-kun…" Sensei pulls her glasses off her face and sighs. The sour look intensifies. "There's no delicate way to put this. I'm not sure if you're capable of passing the entrance exam. If you're really serious about this, you have to go to cram school. You should have already been in cram school, actually. You might even have to give up volleyball."

"No way!" he says. More heads poke out over cubicle walls and scowl, but he doesn't see them. The answer to what do you want to do with your life? has been haunting him, stealing his sleep. He's been thinking about it since Kageyama got scouted, probably even before then. He doesn't think he can spike a ball that isn't tossed by Kageyama, as stupid as that sounds. There is only volleyball, and he will follow it wherever it will take him. He will clip his bangs back and tie motivational bandanas around his head and drink too much coffee and read English books until his eyes bleed. He will follow Kageyama if it kills him, if only to prove he's good enough.

Sensei sighs again, like she's going to deflate entirely and blow away, and picks through another stack of folders on her desk. She plucks out a neatly-printed list on white paper and hands it to Hinata.

"Here," she says. "These are the cram schools I recommend for someone aiming for Keio. If you put as much effort into studying as you put into volleyball, you might have a chance."

"Sensei," he says in awe. He feels like he's going to tear up. He wants to hug her.

Perhaps sensing this, Sensei scoots her chair away and says, "You're dismissed. There's still time to eat lunch if you hurry."

"Yeah," he says, remembering the melon bread in his satchel. "Thanks!"

"Hurry up, then," she says, and Hinata scrambles out before she can sigh at him again.

* * *

There are three possible ways Hinata can spend his time: playing volleyball, studying, or sleeping. Sensei recommends studying and sleeping. Coach Ukai and Takeda-sensei recommend playing volleyball and sleeping. Kageyama doesn't recommend anything because he's an asshole.

Hinata considers himself an unlimited bundle of energy and potential, so he opts for studying and playing volleyball. No sleep. Not until March, anyway.

In the morning, he wakes up and runs to school to open the gym. Half the time Kageyama's already there, the lights on and the net set up, practicing jump serves in perfect form. Those times Hinata likes to sneak in, set his bag down silently, and then roll onto the court yelling, "ROLLING THUNDER!" and send the ball back to him. Kageyama usually snorts, which is his version of a laugh, and they both smile at the memory of their energetic senpai.

Then the rest of the team filters in, in groups and pairs, and they stretch and start practice properly. Kageyama is team captain, only because he's a dick and tripped Hinata when they raced for the position, and Hinata is vice captain. They act like Daichi and Suga without quite realizing it--Kageyama scaring the shit out of the new recruits and Hinata calming them down and giving pep talks. It works for them. This morning, reassuring a first year that Kageyama will not actually throw him in the river if he can't receive every serve he sends him, he thinks to himself that cram school will be worth it even if it's utter hell. Everything will be worthwhile if he can stand on another court with Kageyama and guide another shaking kouhai to the bench.

When practice ends and Hinata zooms down the floor with the broom, Kageyama stands on the sideline and 'supervises' like he's hot shit and says, "What cram school are you going to?"

"I'm--going to--two," Hinata says, adding a word or two on each pass. "English--and--regular."

Kageyama opens his mouth, but then a volleyball hits him in the side of the head and a chorus of screams rises from the other side of the gym ("You idiot! He's going to kill us!"). A gaggle of second years duck behind the bleachers. Kageyama says, "Hold that thought," and stalks down the court with an aura of murderous intent.

Once all the brooms and balls and nets are folded in the closet and the club room is properly locked, it's time for class. Hinata digs the piece of paper out of his satchel and hands it to Kageyama, saying, "I'm going to the two on top."

They act like it's a coincidence when Kageyama shows up to the same cram school the next week. When Hinata feels like his eyes really are going to bleed if he has to learn one more English phrase, he passes Kageyama notes. Doodles of the teacher as a fire-breathing dragon, questions about who should be on starting rotation. Kageyama unfolds each one with his stupid half-smile but never writes back. Hinata doesn't stop sending them though.

* * *

"Wake up!" Coach Ukai snaps.

Hinata tries to blink his eyes open. The best he can do is open one halfway. He's distantly aware that he's swaying, standing on his feet in his practice clothes in the gym. A volleyball rolls past him.

"Hmmmrghrrr?" he says.

Coach slaps him on the back. "Hinata-kun, look alive! Why are you so tired?" He leans close and whispers, "You're not hungover, are you? I haven't started a whole big fuckin' thing, have I?"

Hinata's brain tries to process that. They're on break, but they still have volleyball practice for hours every day, and he still goes to cram school and forces himself to study until the sun comes up. He prides himself on his crazy stamina and refuses to take a break. He definitely hasn't had time to do anything fun like drink.

"I'm not hungover. 'm just tired."

"Tired?" Coach yells, apparently satisfied he hasn't turned the vice captain of the volleyball club into a tragically underage drunk. He looks like he's gearing up for a tirade on the weakness of sleep, but Takeda-sensei interrupts by handing Hinata a few hundred yen coins and saying, "Why don't you get a coffee, Hinata-kun?"

Coffee. Coffee is important. He finds himself nodding, and his feet shuffle toward the hallway, disconnected from his body. Coffee. He has to find coffee.

"You're pushing yourself too hard," Kageyama's voice says from inside the vending machine.

"Eh?" Hinata stares at the vending machine. He taps the front and says, "Kageyama?"

Kageyama appears from around the other side. "What're you doing? Are you talking to the vending machine?"

"I thought you were inside," he says, so tired he's not even aware of how stupid that sounds. He tries three times to slide in a coin before Kageyama sighs like he's the biggest burden ever, wrenches the coins out of his hand, and puts them in the machine for him.

"What do you want?"

"Coffee," he says, watching Kageyama's fingers hovering over the different options.

Kageyama rolls his eyes. "I assumed. What kind of coffee? Milk? Sugar?"

"Milk and sugar." He's distantly aware that Kageyama is kind of taking care of him, and normally he'd be more excited about this show of companionship, but right now he's too fucking exhausted to care. He's gotten a grand total of six hours of sleep so far this week, and it's Wednesday. He's considering propping his eyes open with matchsticks to get his way through this week's assigned reading of classic Japanese literature.

The vending machine spits out a cold can of coffee. Kageyama picks it up and Hinata accepts it, grateful for the cold, slightly bitter taste on his tongue, warding off the intense August heat.

Kageyama watches him for a moment, eyebrows drawn together, stern and maybe a little worried. "You don't have to go this far for me."

Sleepily, Hinata squints at him over the top of the can and says, "Yeah, I do. Who else can hit your toss?"

It's the most intelligible thing he's said all day. Kageyama has no reply.

* * *

In August, before Inter High, everyone gets the week off from practice and cram school for Obon. Hinata thinks maybe he'll finally get the chance to catch up on sleep, to remember what it's like to not feel completely exhausted, to stay in bed until the sun blazes in through his window and wakes him up naturally. He's looking forward to it.

Then his mom shakes him awake at the crack of satan's ass saying he has to help clean the house and buy vegetables for the offering, and that dream goes right out the window. On the way to the market, he stops and buys another coffee from a vending machine and presses the cool can against his forehead for a while. He falls asleep standing up for a few minutes until a passerby accidentally whacks him with a plastic bag full of convenience store food, and he gives himself a good shake and hunts down the fruit and vegetable stand.

As he's walking back home, drinking a second coffee from a vending machine, he pulls out his phone and sends Kageyama a mail.

Subject: obon
Text: does ur mom wig out over obon like mine does?

He's not expecting a response, so it makes him feel kind of giddy when his phone dings and there's a reply from Kageyama.

Subject: idiot.
Text: mine is worse.

Hinata wants to ask about that, but a second later he gets a picture mail of Kageyama's scowling face next to a bucket, a brush, and a gravestone. He checks the time and sees it's not even nine yet but Kageyama's is already cleaning the family's graves.

Subject: ok
Text: you win

He hits send, then tucks the phone away as he walks up to his house.

"I'm home," he yells, filled with the vigor of too much caffeine, and kicks his shoes off in the genkan.

His mom and Natsu have finished cleaning the house and decorating the butsudon with flowers, so all that's left is cleaning up the graves. The smell of incense in the graveyard is overwhelming and immediately gives him a headache, and he walks behind his mom and Natsu as they lead the way to his ancestors.

He finds himself getting distracted looking for Kageyama's crabby face among all the others at the graveyard. He never finds him, and he doesn't get any more texts.

And it doesn't matter, anyway, because his mom yells something about respecting his ancestors when she sees him checking his phone instead of pulling the overgrown ivy off of grandma's tombstone.

The second day of Obon, he finally gets some fucking sleep, and he pries his crusty eyelids open after twelve glorious hours of sleep, feeling mildly human. He grabs his volleyball before his mom can ask him to help with the lanterns and spends the whole afternoon smacking it against the wall outside until he's called back in to get ready for the festival.

Hinata's yukata is dark, solid blue and slightly too big for him. The obi is tan and a little crooked, and his mom fusses over it endlessly, saying he has to look presentable in front of the ancestors. They both know she doesn't actually believe in that crap, and Hinata suspects it's an excuse to parade him in front of the neighborhood like, 'look at my son Hinata, he's all grown up now and vice captain of the volleyball club, don't you wish he was your son?'

A little bragging isn't the worst thing in the world, so he suffers through it with minimal whining ("mooooooOOOOOOOOoooOoom!") and watches with sadistic glee as Natsu's bow is fluffed and primped and an eye-searingly brightly patterned fan is stuck in the sash. She has ribbons in her hair and a little patterned bag dangles from her tiny wrist, which she swings back and forth like she's trying to fling it into the sun. The pink flowers on the yukata clash terribly with her hair, but she still looks adorable somehow.

"Are we all ready?" his mom asks brightly, clapping her hands together. Her own yukata is dark blue, like Hinata's, but peppered with lighter geometric patterns throughout.

"Ossu," Hinata says automatically, forgetting he's not at practice. His mom gives him an amused look and ushers them all out the door.

The festival is being held at the shrine, and Hinata sees the light of the lanterns long before they reach them. They hang in strings from the gates, swaying gently in the wind. A raised stage stands in the center of the shrine, filled with taiko drums and dancers and bright colors. The sound of the drums resonates in Hinata's chest, all the way to his bones, completely energizing him.

He finds Kageyama standing as far from the festival as he can while still technically attending, and he yells, "Mom, I found Kageyama, bye!" and runs off before she can ask him to stay with Natsu.

Kageyama is wearing black, because of course he is, and he's also wearing a hat that looks really stupid on him. Kageyama is probably aware of how stupid it looks, because as soon as he sees Hinata coming he rips it off his head and throws it into some bushes.

"Go away," he hisses.

Hinata ignores him, springing onto his back and latching on like a monkey. "Kageyamaaaaaa!"

"Hinata," he grunts. "Get off me."

"No way, you're being so boring over here by yourself. Did you put your lantern in the river yet? Come dance!"

"I do not," Kageyama says, prying Hinata's fingers off his shoulders, "dance."

"It's less dancing and more like walking really slowly and moving your arms," Hinata insists. He allows himself to be pried off, but then he grabs Kageyama's arms and starts tugging. When Kageyama digs his heels in, Hinata busts out his trump card, narrowing his eyes and saying, "What would your ancestors think?" in the tone his mom used the day before.

Kageyama sighs, looking like he just bit into a yuzu thinking it was a pork bun, and throws his hands up. "Fine. Five minutes. But don't say I didn't warn you."

Hinata refuses to believe that there wasn't a time Kageyama, young and wearing his first yukata, didn't squeal and run to the circle to dance with the others. He can imagine that small, chubby Kageyama following his mother, mimicking her smooth movements. Crying when he missed a step and lost his geta in the crowd.

Every kid dances at Obon, and Hinata knows you never, ever forget how.

That's why he feels no guilt shoving Kageyama into the circle and jumping in front of him, already leaning into the moves, grinning at the old man in front of him with his equally old wife and the tiny grandbaby toddling alongside. The kid takes one look at Kageyama's face and gulps and hides behind the grandparents. Hinata laughs so hard he thinks he's going to piss himself.

"This is stupid," Kageyama says.

Hinata grabs him and anchors him to the dance circle. "Don't! You have to dance for at least three more minutes. You said."

"I'm horrible at this," Kageyama mutters.

"It's soooo easy," Hinata says. "You just copy what the people on stage do."

Grinning, Hinata lets him go and takes huge, bounding steps forward, 10000% more energetic than everyone around them, moving his arms in huge arcs. He gestures for Kageyama to do the same.

Kageyama, inexplicably, blushes.

Kageyama suffers with dignity for three more minutes, then cuts away from the stage as though the lanterns have fallen and set it ablaze, hiding by his bushes again. Hinata stays and dances a while longer. He sees Natsu and his mom in the crowd, laughing and smiling, and he waves at them even though they don't notice.

Once he's had his fill of dancing for dead people, he wipes the sweat off his face with his sleeve and finds Kageyama. He insists on buying them matching Pikachu masks, which he arranges on Kageyama's head at a rakish tilt, and makes him eat half an order of dango with him.

It's a nice night. It's also probably the longest they've gone without talking about volleyball in two (going on three) years. Hinata turns to comment on this, finds Kageyama staring at him, and abruptly forgets what he was going to say.

Then his mom is yelling for him, saying Natsu is tired and they're going to walk home now, and would he please be a dear and give Natsu a piggy back ride?

"Ummm," he says, staring back at Kageyama. He points toward his family. "I've gotta go. Text me about starters before practice next week?"

"Yeah," Kageyama says. He nods a little belatedly. "Bye."

"Bye."

Natsu is like a sack of adorable but heavy potatoes on his back as he and his mom slowly walk home. It gives him lots of extra time to think about volleyball and Kageyama. He should really spend the weekend studying, he thinks grudgingly. He doesn't want to, but if he slacks off, there's no way he can go to university with Kageyama. And that, he's starting to realize, for whatever reason, is the worst thing that could possibly happen.

* * *

Saying Kageyama gets scouted first implies that someone else gets scouted second. That person is, predictably, Hinata. But the school isn't Keio.

The return of school and volleyball also means the return of sleep deprivation, so at first Hinata thinks maybe he's hallucinating the guy in the Waseda University jacket on the second day of Inter High offering him a spot on the volleyball team. But then Coach Ukai gives him this look like, 'well, what's your answer?' and he realizes this is actually real, like, holy shit, he could go to Waseda University if he fucking wanted to.

But then he looks across the court at the back of a cranky head setting up spike after perfect spike, pretending like he's not attempting to eavesdrop on Hinata's conversation.

"Ummm," he says, tangling his hands in his sweaty T-shirt, under the intense gaze of Coach Ukai, Takeda-sensei, and the guy in the Waseda jacket. "That's a nice offer, but…"

"But?" Waseda jacket says, incredulously.

"ButIwanttogotoKeio," he spits out, red-faced. He dips his head and his sweaty bangs cover his eyes so he doesn't have to look at them anymore.

"KEIO?"

Hinata cringes. Waits for the taunt, the 'that's too prestigious!'--the 'you're just a dumb jock!'

Instead, Waseda guy grits his teeth and slams his fist into his open palm and says, "Our eternal rivals. I won't let them have you."

Hinata blinks at him. "What?"

"I'll convince you to come to Waseda," Waseda guy says, nodding--to himself, to Hinata, to the crowd of onlooking club members. "I'll be back."

"Ummm," Hinata says again. He looks around and sees Tsukishima and Yamaguchi clutching their stomachs, laughing. Kageyama is staring at him intensely.

"You're serious about Keio?" Kageyama asks after Waseda guy leaves, promising to return and steal all the talented recruits before Keio can get their grubby, stuck up, snotty hands on them.

"Of course!" Hinata fists his hands and holds them in front of him earnestly. It's kind of weak and he sways a little.  "I'll go wherever Kageyama goes."

On the other end of the court, Tsukishima and Yamaguchi laugh even harder. "Don't make it gay, Hinata," Tsukishima says, still chuckling.

Hinata puffs out his cheeks and then regrets it when Tsukishima makes a blowjob face and Hinata realizes just what puffing his cheeks out looks like.

"It's not gay," he mutters, mostly to himself, and picks up the volleyball. He turns it over in his hands, staring at it, and says it again: "It's not gay."

They don't win Inter High, but it's okay, because they got there, they really fucking got there. And they still have Spring High that winter.

* * *

In cram school that night, Hinata passes Kageyama a note with a crude stick figure drawing of Yamaguchi blowing Tsukishima. The speech bubble says, "Don't make it gay, Yamaguchi."

Kageyama laughs and then looks surprised about the fact that he actually laughed. For the first time, he writes a response and tosses it at Hinata casually, like this isn't a huge fucking step in their cram school alliance. Hinata unfolds the note, practically vibrating with excitement.

It says: "You're an idiot."

Hinata reads it three times, then smiles to himself, re-folds the note, and tucks it in his pocket next to his phone. They're supposed to be playing some flash card vocabulary game that's already hurting his brain. He can't concentrate, can hardly read the words. His eyes keep slipping closed until the teacher slams her hands on the desk in front of him and he jumps so hard he falls out of his seat.

Kageyama and the teacher laugh, and the teacher sends him outside to wash his face and, presumably, wake the fuck up. He takes a little nap with his head pressed against the wall, then splashes cold water on his face and digs his phone out of his pocket, mostly to check the time. He almost drops his phone when he sees a text from Kenma.

Subject: no subject.
Text: whats up

Kenma has been distant since he went to university last year. He hardly ever texts anymore. Hinata tries to type an intelligible response through slitted eyes and gives up correcting his typos after like the twentieth one.

He ends up sending:

Subject: stiuing.
Text: in cyam schiolwhat are yiu doig>

The reply doesn't come until he's back at his desk next to Kageyama. The buzz is extra loud in the silent room (the teacher looks at him darkly and slides out of her chair) and Hinata reads:

Subject: no subject.
Text: did you have a stroke?

Then the teacher confiscates his phone and locks it in her desk.

"No cell phones during class," she says in English.

Hinata scrunches up his forehead and says, "Huh?"

"No--cell--phones," she enunciates exaggeratedly, wagging her finger.

"She means stop texting and start studying," Kageyama says.

"Right!" He remembers he's here for a goal, as ungodly boring and horrible as this class is, and sits up straight with renewed purpose. He flips a flash card and immediately sags when he has no idea what it says. He wants to sleep. He wants to marry his bed. He wants to curl up under his blankets and when he wakes up he wants to be on a university court with Kageyama.

It's not until he's zombie-walking home late that night that he remembers Kenma followed Kuroo to Waseda University, and there wasn't anything weird about that.

Fuck Tsukishima, anyway.

But not in a gay way.

* * *

In September, Hinata passes all his midterms for second term.

It doesn't sound like much, but the fact is Hinata doesn't normally pass his exams. So it's a big deal when he gets 60's in Math and somehow, unbelievably, a 65 circled in red ink at the top of his English exam, his worst subject by far. He turns in his seat and yells, "Kageyama!" and holds it up, grinning and pointing, practically bouncing in his seat.

Kageyama looks surprised, then smirks, and holds up his own exam. 60 in English, 64 in Math. The rest of their subjects are both average.

It's a short-lived victory when Hinata remembers Kageyama doesn't have to worry, since he gets an easier exam with his offer from the volleyball team. Hinata still has to work his ass off, but, with passing scores after three years of barely scraping by, suddenly everything seems a little more attainable.

* * *

It's mostly routine after that. He wakes up, practices, attends school, practices some more, goes to cram school, and then studies until he literally can't keep his eyes open anymore. Most mornings he wakes up face-down on his desk, ink smeared on his cheeks and hands, and an awful crick in his back. There are typically at least a couple mails on his phone from Kageyama, things like,

Subject: idiot
Text: are you up yet?

and

Subject: wake up
Text: don't be late!!

Kageyama is usually waiting outside the club room for him with a coffee from the vending machine. Hinata always accepts it happily and loudly, declaring it to be his life blood, and warms his hands on it as the weather turns colder and the vending machines start stocking the hot kind.

For a while, practice games are the only deviation from the routine. Hinata lives for practice games. He lives for screaming encouragement and listening to the cheer squad, Yachi's support, Takeda-sensei and Coach Ukai overreacting on the bench every time something unexpected happens. Mostly, though, he lives for that moment when he and Kageyama just know, and Hinata runs and jumps and his palm hits the ball.

And that's pretty much how it goes for two months. Warm, balmy days turn to a crisp chill as the leaves turn red and orange. In November, it's time for the Culture Festival, and that's when everything changes.

"It should be a haunted house!" Hinata yells when the class rep asks what the class display should be. Others yell things like "maid cafe!" and "speed dating!" and it comes down to a vote. Haunted house wins by five, and Hinata whoops and punches Kageyama excitedly.

"You can be one of the scary attractions," he says, jumping up and down. "All you have to do is smile like, gwarr, and everyone will be like, ahhhh!"

Kageyama glares, but there's also fondness behind it. Hinata can tell.

"Kageyama-kun will not be an exhibit," the class rep says with a frown, pushing his glasses up higher on his nose. "Since this was your idea, Hinata-kun, you and Kageyama-kun can be in charge of the prop designs."

"What," says Kageyama.

The class rep shrinks away from Kageyama, most likely mistaking his default expression of displeasure for a death threat. (He wouldn't be the first.) "Well, at least some of the designs?" he says.

Kageyama stares.

"It's a class effort," says the class rep helplessly.

Hinata takes pity on him by slapping Kageyama on the back and saying, "It's okay, we can handle it, right?"

Kageyama turns that heavy gaze on him, but Hinata's not intimidated by it. He looks right back with his big, stupid grin plastered on his face, wagging his figurative tail. He knows Kageyama will crack if he looks at him like this long enough. He always does.

"Fine," Kageyama says, breaking their stalemate--his cheeks turn pink and he glares forcefully at his desk.

"Yesss," Hinata says, throwing his arms in the air. At the front of the class, the rep looks so relieved he might faint. He adjusts his glasses again before moving onto the next order of business, which Hinata tunes out because he's already busy doodling ideas for Class 3-1's Super Awesome Haunted House Extravaganza (working title).

He's so engrossed in his feverish planning that he almost misses Kageyama muttering, "But if your receives or your grades start suffering, we're dropping out."

Hinata puffs his cheeks out like he's offended Kageyama thinks he can't handle it, but there's a little patch of warmth in his stomach that says he's pleased by his concern.

* * *

Kageyama's concern isn't unwarranted.

Every day after class, he and Kageyama stay behind in the empty classroom to work. Their project lives in the corner, scattered paint and tarps and cardboard, which absolutely drives the homeroom teacher batty--pun intended; Hinata is very proud of their little construction paper bats. Each day, they shove the desks into the corner to create a workspace, drag their creation out, and sit with way too many craft supplies spread between them as Hinata's vision takes shape.

It would be a lot easier if Hinata wasn't literally delusional half the time.

It's very impressive that Hinata has any free time left over between studying and volleyball. At first, it seemed like the only part of his day he had left to give up was his very limited social life, which merely consisted of texting Kageyama about volleyball, but he refused to give it up. So because he's a dumbass, he is now sleeping even less, and whatever tolerance he developed, whatever stockpile he accumulated during Obon, has now been depleted.

"Hinata," Kageyama says one day, his knee comfortably bumping Hinata's thigh as they sit on the classroom floor together. He's cutting out pieces of cardboard that are eventually going to make a zombie standee. Maybe.

"Yeah?" Hinata says. Or tries to say. He really just says, "Mmm?" and blinks at the string he's trying to attach to a paper mache ghost. The ghost looks awesome, or at least he thinks it does. Sometimes the whole world looks a little blurry, a little smashed together, and what he thinks is a perfectly acceptable serve ends up in the net and suddenly both Coach Ukai and Kageyama are jumping down his throat for 'not taking care of himself properly'--

"Hinata," Kageyama barks.

Hinata's head jerks up so fast he almost gives himself whiplash. "Wha?"

"You're gluing your fingers together. Give me that, stupid." Kageyama makes impatient grabby hands at the tube of extra-strength adhesive Hinata is holding.

Hinata looks down and sees that yes, indeed, the string and paper mache have both slipped to the floor, and he is arduously attempting to attach nothing to more nothing. His thumb and forefinger are covered in glue and stick together when he touches them. Whoops.

"You're a lost cause," Kageyama mutters. He takes Hinata's hand and carefully sets the tube on the ground, then gently starts wiping Hinata's hands down with one of the rags they used earlier to clean up a spill. Bits of thread stick to the places the glue is already drying, and Kageyama sighs, picking at the fibers with his fingernails.

His hands are warm, and Hinata allows him to help, letting his eyes slip shut.

"Did you sleep last night?" Kageyama asks after Hinata's hands are clean.

"I dunno." He pries his eyes open, sticky like he'd been accidentally smearing glue on his face, not on his hands. "What day is it?"

Kageyama gives him this I-can't-believe-you're-this-stupid look and says, "It's Tuesday."

Hinata keeps staring at him.

"The 11th," Kageyama clarifies.

"Mm," he says. He tumbles sideways and curls up in a ball, right on top of their grand sign that says, CLASS 3-1 HAUNTED HOUSE EXTRAVAGANZA. Title no longer pending, as they have committed it to permanency in sloppy, amateur calligraphy. "Right. Only somethin' more days 'til Halloween."

"Twenty. It's the same day every year." Kageyama eyes him critically, the way he eyes a volleyball before deciding where to send it. "Take a nap."

"But--"

"I said take a nap. I'm Captain, so you have to do what I say," he says decisively. A moment later, he shucks off his jacket and throws it at Hinata's head.

"You only won the race to decide Captain because you cheated," Hinata whines, pulling Kageyama's jacket off his face. He wants to keep complaining, but even more than that, he wants to give in and sleep. Kageyama's jacket is soft from constant wear, and it smells good, like soap and clean sweat. He bunches it under his head and falls asleep almost immediately.

When he wakes up, the sun has just recently set, some murky purple-orange tendrils still grappling on the horizon. He sits up and stretches, feeling almost human, and watches out the line of windows as the world goes dark. Inside, the fluorescent lights buzz overhead, and Hinata eventually finds enough mental wherewithal to unwind Kageyama's jacket from its tight ball, intending to lob it to him across the room.

Except Kageyama isn't where he's supposed to be. He's gone. And in his place are a pile of complete props, stacked neatly against the wall, way more neatly than Kageyama ever puts away volleyball equipment--the cardboard zombie silhouette, a blood-splattered tarp that says 'welcome to a night to dismember', and a plastic jack-o-lantern with a bad wig they've been trying to make jump out of a trash can.

"Wow," he says to himself, scuttling closer. He holds Kageyama's jacket around his shoulders because it smells nice, kind of calms him down, and because the temperature has dropped a little without the sun steadily streaming in.

"Don't touch it, stupid."

Hinata jumps and whirls around to find Kageyama sitting on the teacher's desk, legs dangling and fingers flying over the keypad on his phone.

"You did all this while I was sleeping?" he asks, eyes wide.

"Obviously," Kageyama snorts. He tucks his phone away in his pocket and slides off the desk. It's then that Hinata notices that Kageyama is covered in paint, his cowlick is sticking up helplessly, and he has somehow managed to glue a googly eye to his cheek. The effect is surprisingly adorable.

He wants to make fun of him, but he smiles instead, wide and genuine, and says, "Thanks!"

Kageyama ducks his head and shakes his hair into his eyes. "It's just so you don't fall behind."

"That's right," Hinata says, humming as they make their way downstairs to their shoe lockers. "I thought you said you'd make us drop out if you thought I couldn't handle it?"

Kageyama slams his shoe locker and mutters something.

"What was that?" Hinata says.

Kageyama glares fiercely at his shoes as he puts them on. "I said, this is important to you. I can take on a little more and you can do--whatever. Sleep, maybe."

Hinata promptly forgets how to tie his laces. "You, um. Don't have to do that. For me."

"Yeah, I do, or else you won't get into Keio," Kageyama says to the ground.

Hinata doesn't know why, but those words make his cheeks burn. He's grateful his face would have turned red in the November chill anyway, as they collect their bikes and stand together awkwardly, both looking away like they have something to be embarrassed about.

Kageyama clears his throat. "So. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yes!" Hinata nods rapidly. "Practice in the morning."

"And studying after school. I'll handle the props." Kageyama's mouth twitches like maybe he's going to smile, his hands tightening spasmodically on the handlebars of his bike. "Actually sleep tonight, dumbass."

"I will! After I study!"

Kageyama waves goodbye after that, and it's not until Hinata's halfway home that he realizes he's still got Kageyama's jacket draped around his shoulders. Kageyama has to be freezing biking home tonight, no sunlight and nothing to guard against the wind as he zips downhill. That fucking idiot.

It's ironic that he can't sleep at all that night, even when he finally climbs into bed, exhausted down to his bones and joints. His brain is swimming with formulas and useless trivia, but what really keeps him up is thinking of Kageyama's stupid face when he told him he'd handle the props.

Sometime before dawn, he bundles Kageyama's jacket underneath his head, and the familiar scent is like a lullaby, sending him drifting to sleep almost immediately.

It's the same the next night, and the next night, and the next. He can't sleep--not until he puts the jacket under his head. Kageyama doesn't ask for it back, and Hinata doesn't offer.

* * *

November third, Hinata and Kageyama are the ones running the haunted house while their classmates, stick-up-his-ass class rep included, get to run around the rest of the festival like assholes. Hinata would say he minds, but it's actually kind of fun putting zombie makeup on Kageyama, drawing a gash in his cheek and painting the white of his teeth showing through. Hinata himself is just going for dead--"I'm a ghost, not a zombie," he insists to Kageyama repeatedly--and is pale, almost blue, with dark circles under his eyes and ratty clothes hanging limp off his small frame.

Despite all their hard work and awesome costumes, not a lot of people show up. Hinata blames the fact that Halloween was Monday, and people are already burnt out and looking forward to the next holiday. Kageyama doesn't blame anything; he just glares at anyone who comes close.

Come to think of it, maybe it's Kageyama's death stare that's keeping people away.

Hinata is going to comment, but then he sees a pair of familiar faces in the crowd and punches Kageyama so hard he almost falls over. "Kageyama! Look!"

He points, and they watch Daichi and Suga ambling down the hall together, taller and stubbled and more muscular, but still inherently them. Suga especially has that same calm, soothing smile that he shoots their way as Daichi sees them and starts waving.

"Senpai!" Hinata hops up and down like a moron until they hug him, and he hugs back so tight and so hard he thinks he hears Suga's back pop. "Did you come to see our haunted house?"

"We came to see you," Suga says, looking at Kageyama. They don't hug, but there's this connection there, a little tilt to Kageyama's mouth and a shine in Suga's eyes that says they're both really pleased to see each other.

"And the school," Daichi adds. He's looking around the classroom, scuffing his shoe over an old mark on the tile, a little dazed. "Hasn't changed much, has it?"

"Are you kidding?" Hinata squawks. He gestures behind him at the amazing mass of cardboard, spray paint, and pure man hours that make up the haunted house. There was too much sleep sacrificed, too many googly eyes belatedly discovered in unmentionable places, and too much paint involuntarily huffed for Hinata to allow anybody to ignore it for even a second. "We have completely transformed this room. It's gonna terrify you!"

Daichi tilts his head back and looks at the front of their exhibit with a critical eye. He frames his chin with his thumb and forefinger and rumbles, "You think so?" in a tone that sounds more amused than suitably frightened.

"Definitely," Hinata says. He's already pushing them toward the black-painted cardboard entrance. "Go on, go on. Tell us what you think when you get back."

Suga smiles kindly. "Okay, Hinata-kun."

"If you get back, I mean," Hinata adds with some very evil-looking finger wiggles.

"Right," Daichi says. Hinata thinks maybe he rolls his eyes, but before he can comment, they're disappearing behind the black curtain draped across the entrance.

Hinata bounces on his feet, waiting for the screams.

And waiting.

And waiting.

"I don't think they're doing it right," Hinata says after five painful, eternity-long minutes have passed and nobody has come running out of the door in sheer terror.

Kageyama grunts, which Hinata takes to mean, I know, right?

"We should check on them," he decides, tugging on Kageyama's sleeve. "Maybe they went the wrong way."

Kageyama doesn't brush his hand away, but he does say, "Just wait," and refuses to budge even an inch, no matter how hard Hinata pushes at him. He's in the middle of spouting some very choice words about puberty and unfair height advantages--even though he had that growth spurt in second year, Kageyama still towers over him, the asshole--when Daichi and Suga emerge from the exit, pulling fake spiderwebs from their hair.

"Senpai!" Hinata yells, as though there's anyone else in this room and they could possibly miss him. He makes to tackle them again, but Kageyama holds him back, gripping the back of his shirt. Hinata's used to this and charges forward anyway, dragging Kageyama behind him. "How was it? Were you scared?"

"Umm," says Suga, scratching the side of his neck. His eyes are crinkled in that way he gets when he's trying to politely say something awful. He daintily flicks one of the spiderwebs to the floor.

"It was terrible," Daichi says.

"What!"

Suga elbows Daichi. "It wasn't that bad. It was very--"

"Terrible," Daichi finishes. "Was that pumpkin wearing a Weird Al Yankovic wig? It might scare the elementary school students, but not us."

Hinata's eyes narrow. "So you're saying now that you're at university, you're too good for our haunted house?"

Suga's eyes widen. He waves his hands back and forth urgently. "No, no, we're not saying that at all. What we're saying is--"

"You're saying it's so bad you're at a loss for words?" he cuts in, face darkening, the sunlight going out in his smile.

"Hinata," Kageyama says, exasperated, and pulls on the back of his collar. "He's not saying anything, because you keep interrupting. Shut up and let him talk."

Hinata pouts a little, but keeps his mouth shut as instructed.

"Thank you," Suga says. He appears to choose his next words carefully. "Have you--gone through it yourselves? Since it was--finished?"

"No," Hinata says, with an expression that clearly says, Why would I?

"Maybe you should," Suga says, and Daichi is nodding as though that explains everything.

"Are you saying our haunted house is so bad you can't believe it until you see it?" Hinata says, arms crossed.

"Not exactly," says Suga.

"Yes," says Daichi.

"Challenge accepted," Hinata says. Without hesitation, he grabs Kageyama's arm and frog-marches him behind the black curtain and into the makeshift house.

And immediately regrets his decision.

"I don't know what they're talking about," he says, sticking to Kageyama's side like one of the many googly eyes they found affixed to their faces during the span of the project. The fact that he recognizes their projects as they pass by them doesn't help at all. He knows that jack-o-lantern is going to jump out of that trash can, he knows it, he knows it--and it still makes him jump sideways in surprise.

Right into something faint and feathery, cold ethereal tendrils drifting across the back of his neck.

"It's a ghost!" Hinata screams, launching himself at Kageyama for protection. He squeezes his eyes shut and digs his fingers into Kageyama's strong biceps and waits for his untimely demise.

"It's paper mache," Kageyama deadpans. His palm rests on the small of Hinata's back for a moment, light and warm, then flits away. "We made it last month. Remember?"

"Eh?" Hinata cracks open one eye in disbelief. A white blob sways back and forth. Upon closer inspection, he sees the dopey face he drew on in permanent marker on one of the rare days he was actually allowed to help, its string dangling somewhat obviously from the ceiling.

Holy shit, he's an idiot. He's torn between embarrassment and laughter. He looks up to declare his ridiculous idiocy to Kageyama and ends up nose-to-nose with him. When they both blink in surprise, Hinata can actually feel Kageyama's eyelashes fluttering against his cheek, and Kageyama's warm breath hits his face.

"Kageyama?" he says.

"Uh," Kageyama says, looking just as bewildered as Hinata feels.

Strangely, neither of them moves away. Hinata would say he doesn't feel like he can move at all, except for how his lips are slowly gravitating toward Kageyama's--or is that Kageyama's mouth coming closer to his?

The question leaves his mind as soon as they make contact, because then all he's thinking about is how warm and soft this feels, how hot Kageyama's hands are when they frame his face, how his chest aches pleasantly and his toes curl up in his shoes. He's thinking of maybe reaching up and tugging Kageyama's collar, or holding his shoulders, or pulling on that stupid forelock Kageyama always fiddles with when he's really, really embarrassed. But he doesn't get to do any of these things, because someone screams down the hallway and they both realize at the same time that they are at school, standing openly in the hallway kissing in a shitty haunted house, and they are inevitably going to get caught.

He leaps away from Kageyama as quickly as he initially attached himself, red-faced and furiously scratching the back of his head.

"My bad," he says, a little too loud, like he wants someone to come find them and prevent that from ever, ever happening again. And at the same time, his mouth feels forever changed, and he can't help wondering what it would feel like to kiss him again. Like, immediately. Like, maybe forever.

"Uhh," Kageyama says, stuttering, stumbling over his words. He spouts some gibberish in between rubbing his mouth and staring at the wall like it at some point grievously wronged his ancestors. "It's okay. Don't--don't worry about it."

Hinata doesn't know why, but that feels wrong.

"We should probably go back," he manages, not wanting to examine that little feeling of 'wrong' too closely. Or that feeling where he wants to touch Kageyama's mouth again. Or anything, really.

"Yeah," says Kageyama in a voice that's entirely too relieved for Hinata's liking. Does that mean he hated it? Is he mad? Did he just ruin their entire friendship, their rivalry, their team?

Does he even want Hinata to go to Keio with him, now?

Hinata makes it a point to stand as far away from Kageyama as possible as they hustle through the rest of their display, stiff and uncertain. He keeps thinking maybe he should say something, maybe he should try to patch things up, but he breaks into a cold sweat every time he really imagines it.

So, remember that time we sort of accidentally kissed in a haunted house? Like five seconds ago? Yeah, what was all that about?

Its entirely possible he's just afraid to ask questions he doesn't know the answers to.

"Woah," Daichi says when they emerge from behind the black curtain, both wide-eyed and pale. "I stand corrected. I guess it really is scary for some people."

"I-it is," Asahi agrees, hiding behind Daichi's back. Apparently he'd been spooked by the spiderweb Suga threw on the ground earlier and was the source of the scream that disrupted the--whatever.

"You don't count," Daichi says. "You're scared of everything."

"I am not."

It takes Hinata a few moments to pull himself out of his own personal hurricane of negative thoughts and realize that Asahi is here, and this is like four people from being a full team reunion, and they should call Noya and Tanaka immediately.

He's vaguely aware that he should be much more excited about this, and he forces himself to call a greeting to Asahi and latch onto him in the same kind of bone-crushing hug he gave Suga, but it feels hollow. When he glances at Kageyama, Kageyama jerks and frantically finds something else to look at, someone else to talk to. Anything and anyone but Hinata.

Well, fine. That's just. Fine.

"Asahi-san," he cajoles, hopping at his side with an energy he doesn't feel. "Are Noya and Tanaka free?"

"Why does everyone think I know their schedule?" Asahi says, even as he pulls out his phone and taps out a mail. His phone chimes almost immediately. "Ah, they're with Tsukishima and Yamaguchi."

Tsukishima and Yamaguchi are just down the hall, wearing butler uniforms and running some kind of stupid cafe that Hinata refuses to admit is doing way better than their haunted house. In fact, Daichi and Suga are the first willing victims they've had all day, even though Kageyama worked so fucking hard on the damn thing and Hinata thinks it looks absolutely incredible.

"They already found Tsukishima-kun and Yamaguchi-kun?" Suga says, brightening. He turns to Hinata and Kageyama with that calm, sustaining smile and tilts his head. "Could you leave the haunted house for a while, do you think? We should all walk around together--get some food or something."

"Umm." Hinata looks up at Kageyama, questioning, then remembers what happened and pointedly looks at the ceiling instead.

"Probably," Kageyama says.

"Yeah, we can get someone to cover," Hinata agrees. He's already wondering where to find the class rep and how quickly he can be guilted into taking over for them the rest of the day.

"Great!" Suga puts one arm around each of their shoulders and sweeps them out of the room en masse, Daichi and Asahi following with varying expressions of amusement (Daichi) and terror (Asahi, still trying to kick the spiderweb off his shoe).

Kageyama ends up glaring the class rep into submission, and they wash the paint off their faces and spend the rest of the day with the full Karasuno dream team back together, eating omelettes in Class 3-4's butler cafe and kidnapping/rescuing Yachi from cosplay hell.

Hinata and Kageyama orbit around each other, slipping off track, drifting farther and farther apart throughout the group, and they don't talk about the kiss.