Being an empath wasn’t exactly a particularly fun experience, so to say; most of the time, it was pretty all right. Bearable, at least. Easy to ignore if he tried enough. But there were times when Kageyama physically couldn’t ignore it, no matter how hard he tried to, and a few of those times included during major sports events—or, rather, any place that happened to be prone to injuries.
And that was the worst part about his stupid ability or whatever—sports were painful. Kageyama wasn’t really a clumsy person, and he tended to avoid getting hurt himself most of the time. But other people weren’t as lucky, and he ended up taking the blows for them more often than not. It was easy to ignore, at first, when he was younger because younger kids didn’t break bones and get concussions as often as higher school-level volleyball players did, so he could deal with the occasional scraped knee or bruised arm that came with the territory of playing any sport.
But as he moved into middle school volleyball, it got worse, especially around the third years. He wasn’t just dealing with the team’s occasional bruise or fall; he was dealing with the reckless way they all pushed themselves, to the point of passing out, running until their legs felt like they were going to give in, reaching and tumbling head first for receives as often as possible, trying to get stronger and stronger and making Kageyama weaker in result. It wasn’t that he was weak to begin with, really. But the weight of everyone’s injuries, exhaustion, broken bones and bruise-covered bodies—the collective weight of 25 teenagers' and kids' negligent attitude and desire to win was heavy, heavy, heavy, and there was only so much a 14 year old boy’s body could put up with until he passed out in the middle of practice and ended up in the hospital.
The doctors were baffled by his lack of physical injury despite the pain he had so obviously been in. Once he’d left the vicinity of his teammates, the pain had died down considerably, and they’d let him go home within two days. When he gotten home, he could feel his mother, whom he’d inherited his (completely useless) ability from, radiating anger—and he was pretty sure he would’ve been able to even without his power.
She yelled at him for a good while, telling him off because why didn’t he tell her he was in so much pain from practice? He’d promised it wasn’t that bad! And he should’ve stopped when it got worse!
Kageyama knew that once she found out how painful it actually was, she would make him quit the team, which was something he never wanted to do. And he was right in this assumption because a week later, he was forced to resign with some excuse about his mother worrying about him—not the truth but not a lie anyway. It was ten times more painful than anything he’d gone through during practices.
So Kageyama spent the rest of his third year in middle school, as well as his first in high school, sulking and withdrawing even more than he already had been. He’d never been particularly good at making friends, and he wasn’t friends with any of his teammates to begin with, but at least it had been an excuse to not be alone all the time. The one thing he looked forward to—volleyball—had been taken away because of his stupid power, and he didn’t even have anyone to talk to about it because his parents made him promise he wouldn’t tell anyone.
Not. That there was anyone to tell. As mentioned, he wasn’t good at relationships. He could sense what people thought of him most of the time—fleeting feelings of fear or annoyance or dread or hatred. People didn’t like him. His teammates, for the most part, hadn’t liked him, and he’d never needed to feel that to know it. They told him more often than not, especially the other first years, but he’d always been able to deal with it because he could feel jealousy laced in there somewhere between all the hatred and anger that was sent his way, something green buried deep under sharp glares and sharper words.
But whatever, he thought dismissively. They didn’t matter anymore. He wasn’t their teammate any longer, so it would only been good for them. He’d felt their relief when he resigned, their happiness on his last day when he’d gathered his things and left finally. The excitement of his absence only served to make him isolate himself further.
(Not that he would ever admit that to anyone, of course.)
Class was a lot easier than practice had been. Most kids didn’t come to class banged up or hurt horribly, and if they did, it was usually only one or two kids, overenthusiastic in their after school activities and oblivious to their peer’s distress in response.
Except…for this one kid.
There was this one damn kid in Kageyama’s Algebra class who walked in every day with new bruises, aching limbs, and a smile much too bright for someone who was banged up so badly, all red hair and an overly eager personality. It didn’t help that he happened to sit right next to Kageyama due to their teacher’s assigned seating arrangements; the pain got worse whenever the redhead was near, and he could feel him much too heavily to be normal. Kageyama could feel too much excitement, too much optimism, too much happiness for the average person.
And it was annoying.
One day, the boy came into class more hurt than usual. Like, way more hurt. Kageyama couldn’t for the life of him guess what the fuck he’d been doing to get so goddamn beat up, but it was there, and the guy wasn’t even taking care of any of it. The pain was making it hard to concentrate during class, making it hard to think at all, and that plus the boy’s overenthusiastic emotions were putting Kageyama in a particularly sour mood, so he really couldn’t be blamed when he snapped something sarcastic at the teacher and got detention in response.
He glared at his desk, knowing already the look his mother would give him when she found out, blaming the boy next to him more than anything, because this could’ve been avoided if he’d just taken care of himself, goddammit—
The day passed and the pain subsided as he sulked from class to class, already dreading the trip home after detention. The end of the day found him sitting in the middle of an empty Biology classroom, already trying to get comfortable, getting his headphones out and leaning back in his seat as he waited for the teacher. The end of the day also found him with his mood dropping remarkably as a particular redhead entered the room and sat down a few desks over.
Oh good lord.
No other students showed up, and a few minutes later, the teacher entered, setting his things down and saying something halfheartedly about no phones, no talking, he’d be a few rooms down and would check back in regularly, so they better not try anything. Kageyama silently thanked him for the distraction against the pain that was hitting his shins, back, arms, stomach (literally what the fuck) like needles now.
He was gritting his teeth by the time the half hour point had passed, the redhead completely ignorant to the situation the other was struggling with. Occasionally, he would glance at him and Kageyama would sense something like interest, curiosity maybe, and a little bit of fear when Kageyama glanced back, but he couldn’t be bothered to worry about that when he was clenching his fists so hard he was afraid he’d break skin. The redhead was still just sitting there, swinging his legs back and forth in his chair, looking like he was only pretending to do his homework.
“That’s it,” Kageyama announced suddenly once he’d taken all he could handle, standing up abruptly and nearly knocking his chair over. The redhead jumped and snapped his head over to him, a moment of fear flashing before it returned to confusion and a vague sense of anxiety. “We’re going to the nurse.”
Kageyama didn’t have time to notice the weirdly cute head tilt he’d make whenever he was confused because he was already yanking him from his chair a little harsher than necessary, the pain unfortunately increasing while the two made contact. He figured it was necessary to get him to follow, though, so he grit his teeth worse and put up with it for the sake of tugging him along behind him as they strode out the door.
“What’s going on?” the redhead demanded, too loud. Kageyama shushed him.
“Dumbass, don’t be so loud! The teacher’ll hear and come back to check on us,” he scolded, not looking at him as he scowled at the hallway in front of him.
The boy struggled until he was able to wiggle out of Kageyama’s grasp. “What the fuck?!” he blurted, and Kageyama felt something like embarrassment for a moment before panic.
“Nurse’s office,” Kageyama offered in explanation, itching to get there already so he would stop hurting so damn bad. When he only received a blink in response, he sighed in exasperation and elaborated, “I’m taking you to the nurse’s office.”
Kageyama’s eyelid twitched. He was struggling to keep his cool; he could already feel a migraine starting to form from the pain he’d been in. “Because you’re beat up as fuck.”
Another blink—confusion, then defensiveness. “Am not.”
“Oh my god, I’m not doing this with you right now, just come on!” He turned back around and started marching down the hallway, hearing reluctant footsteps following behind him and assuming it was the boy. He was still in pain, so he figured the other was still there.
It only took a minute to get on the down floor and find the nurse’s office—which was completely empty. Kageyama cursed loudly and began rummaging around drawers to find some sort of First Aid Kit, and once he’d found one, he tossed it to the boy and ordered him to sit somewhere and start cleaning out his cuts, seriously, they were going to get infected if they stayed like that.
The boy bristled but did as he was told anyway. “I knew that,” he mumbled. Kageyama rolled his eyes and went to find a bag of ice.
Once he’d gotten back into the room, arms now full of ice and paper towels, the boy was nearly done cleaning out the ones on his knees, wincing as he did so, and Kageyama winced with him, unintentionally focusing his senses on what the other was feeling. Annoyance, sort of. Nervousness. Confusion. Thankfulness. But no fear anymore, or panic. So that was good. Probably.
“Here.” Kageyama sat next to him on the bench, setting a bag of ice between the two. The redhead picked it up and pressed it to a particularly large bruise on his arm, nodding in thanks as Kageyama cleaned up what mess they’d made for him.
“How’d you know that I was hurt?”
The question caught Kageyama off guard—although he figured it was something he should’ve been preparing for, at least something that should’ve crossed his mind. But it hadn’t, because at the time he’d been so focused on getting the damn pain to stop that he’d not thought about an excuse.
So he was left floundering for a response for a moment, opening and closing his mouth like a fish and feeling the curiosity radiating off the boy next to him. Finally, he blurted out, “What’s your name?”
“Hinata.” There was that smile again. “What’s yours?”
“Kageyama.” He avoided eye contact for a moment, pretending to be busy rolling the unused bag of ice up and closing the First Aid kit. “Ice that bruise once you get home, too,” he advised.
Hinata huffed quietly. “I’m not stupid, you know. I know how to take care of a dumb bruise. Besides, it wasn’t even that big of a deal, so I don’t know why you were so freaked out about it. I mean, I’ve had worse.”
Kageyama opened his mouth to respond with something like, Yeah, but you’re not the one dealing with that plus literally everyone else’s, before remembering that he couldn’t say something like that. “…Whatever.”
Hinata's voice was its normal level of overly enthusiastic, but Kageyama could feel his lingering panic. “Oh, and you never answered my question! How’d you know I was hurt? I mean, I guess you can see some of the bruises, but you couldn’t see my scraped up knee ‘cause of the uniform pants, so how’d you know to get the First Aid kit? Also, you better realize that we’re both gonna be in a lotta trouble if that guy ge—“
“Yeah, okay, geez, I get it, you don’t want us getting in trouble. Fine. We’ll head back soon, there’s nothing to freak out about, stupid.”
Hianta squinted. “How’d you know I was freaking out?”
“Um.” Kageyama was starting to look like a fish again. Damn his inability to think ahead of time.
“And the thing I said before that—answer me! I wanna know! Can you see the future or something?”
“Dumbass, how would seeing the future help anyone with that? You already have the bruises!”
To Kageyama’s surprise, the smaller actually laughed a little, a shock of amusement overcoming the confusion and skepticism that Kageyama’d been sensing for the past few minutes the conversation had been going on. “Okay then, Mister I Know Everything, if you can’t see the future how’d you know? I didn’t even know your name until just now!”
After a brief scowl-off between the two, Kageyama finally huffed and looked away, blowing a piece of hair from his face and already feeling himself regretting this decision. “You’re really annoying.”
“I’m an empath.”
For the second time, Kageyama was surprised by the reaction Hinata provided, which happened to be a few blinks and the tilt of his head. “Huh?”
“Jesus fucking Christ.”
His cheeks heated up. “Sorry for not knowing what that means, Bakageyama—“
The embarrassment was replaced by a sense of pride, apparently in his word choice, but he seemed to swallow it in favor of demanding, “Tell me what it means.”
“Ugh,” Kageyama rolled his eyes. “It means that when someone gets hurt, I can feel it.”
There was silence for a good two seconds before Hinata gasped, apparently in recognition. “No way! You've got like, super powers? That’s so cool!”
Kageyama felt his own cheeks heat up. He didn't think the "super" deserved to be there, anyway. It was mostly a (literal) pain in the ass. He stood up abruptly and picked the First Aid kit up to put back away, busying himself. “Yeah, well, it’s less cool when you come to class fucking covered in injuries!” He snapped.
“So that’s why you were glaring at me all day,” Hinata mused in realization.
“Yes, so if you could try to not be such a dumbass and get hurt every two seconds, that would be great. And what do you even do to get hurt that much?” The darker haired boy shoved the kit back in a drawer and threw some now-damp paper towels away, half hoping to leave and avoid the rest of the conversation.
Hinata perked up immediately, realization to passion and excitement. “I’m on the volleyball team!”
Kageyama stilled where he was throwing something away.
“Oh,” he voiced.
Hinata made a noise in confusion. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Kageyama said, probably a bit too quickly. “Let’s get back to detention before the teacher realizes we’re gone.”
“You’re upset about something,” Hinata commented, sounding nonchalant but radiating a tinge of worry and curiosity as the two began to head back upstairs. “Do you not like that I play volleyball?”
“No, it’s nothing. Just drop it.”
Hinata narrowed his eyes at the taller of the two, the image of suspicion while he set his hands on his hips and said, carefully, “Whatever you say, Bakageyama.”
“Oh my god.”
He only received a snicker in reply.