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View From Under the Crown

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For someone whose words got so jumbled and always seemed to catch in his throat being able to write out his thoughts was a kind of godsend.  Putting words down on paper and being able to stop and rearrange them as needed.  To erase and rewrite.  To be able to make his thoughts make sense.  It was a way to unwind, to spill thoughts of the day onto paper and get them out of his head.  

School, teachers, classmates.  

Volleyball practice, teammates, games.  

Everything could be pulled out of his mind and placed on the pages onto neat clean lines.  It was like wringing out a washcloth of thoughts and hanging it out to dry.  It was the last thing he did before falling asleep: open up his journal - little more than a notebook he had set aside just for this purpose - and fill it with his thoughts so he could drift off to sleep with an empty head.

But then he became the King.

Kings - he slowly discovered - don’t have time for writing.

The day his teammates abandoned him he had sat down with his journal spread open on his lap, sure he’d fill a dozen pages with the thoughts crowding in his mind, and stared at the blank page, eyes glazing over and pencil hanging loosely in his fingers for hours until his legs were nearly numb from sitting so long and the sun low on the horizon had turned into the moon high in the sky.

The words wouldn’t come.  It was like someone had stuck a cork in his mind.

He tried.  Again and again.  Weeks went by and he’d open his journal and settle onto his bed.  Only to wake up in the morning grumpy and tired, empty, crumpled pages mocking him from the floor.

He stopped trying.

If the safety of his journal couldn’t bleed the thoughts from his mind he only had one choice: focus on volleyball.  It was the only thing left.  The only thing that hadn’t turned it’s back on him.  The only thing he had any worth in.

His journals collected dust on the bottom shelf of his bookcase, half hidden under a stack of sports magazines.

He didn’t like being King.  But he loved volleyball.  Even when it felt more like work than any sort of fun.  He loved it.


He graduated junior high and moved onto high school.  Karasuno.  It wasn’t Shiratorizawa but he could still play volleyball.  He still had worth here.  Even if he got off to a less than stellar start.

But somewhere between Hinata declaring Tobio to be his rival, practicing for the 3-on-3, and Tsukishima’s grandiose declarations that an abandoned King would be a sight worth seeing he found his words again.  Somewhere between Hinata hitting the toss aimed just for him and Sugawara’s determination to not lose the cork was yanked out.

That night he sat down, fingers still twitching with energy from the 3-on-3 and the feel of the ball thumping into the ground echoing behind his ribs, and for the first time since he became the King abandoned by his people he picked up a pencil and felt that urge to write.  He felt the pull to grab a notebook and start laying his thoughts out.

 

Hinata Shouyou - orange, like waking up too early to the sun in your face, loud, fast, so fast, stupid fast

Tsukishima Kei - far, locked away from everything, rough edges and thorns, above the others, maybe he should be King instead

Yamaguchi Tadashi - unsure, can’t read him, indifferent but not, confused and not sure where to go

Sugawara Koushi - silver, soft eyes that see more, setter’s eyes, caution signs that everyone ignores

Sawamura Daichi - solid, rigid lines and unbreakable foundations, the calm in a storm that somehow is the storm

Tanaka Ryouunousuke - exciting, excited, sweeps along and gets swept away equally, a mouth with a backbone to back it up

Karasuno - crows, club, team, they ask for me, ask for my thoughts, trust? do they trust me? do they want to?

Do I want them to?

What’s a King with no one to support him and no one to support?

 

It feels good to write again.  To get his thoughts down.  It helps during practice and games since he needs his head clear to focus on everything: the court, his team, the opposing team, the ball, everyone’s energy, his energy, the points.  He needs as much room in his head for the game he loves as possible so he shoves all his other thoughts onto the pages of his journals when he can.  It’s not just before bed anymore.  He jots down things between classes, before practice, during rest breaks between matches.  Anything he needs to prune from his thoughts so he can focus on volleyball.

 

Nishinoya Yuu - vibrant, setting suns against clouds, exciting, flashing across the court like lightning, not afraid of being left behind

Azumane Asahi - glass, crystal pendants sparkling in the sun, can’t touch, steel hiding in plain sight

Volleyball is a team sport, we are a team, we’re the Crows and we will fly.  I can help us to fly.

Hitoka Yachi - warm, like falling asleep in a field on a sunny day, amazing, everyone wants to protect her and she wants to protect us in return, princess

Kiyoko Shimizu - strong, polite, kind, a true queen looking out for her kingdom, will stand in the way of anything out to hurt us and push us forward

 

He fills pages with random thoughts.  A teacher had spotted it once and thought he was writing poetry.  Tsukishima teases him about it, saying that he’s a hopeless King pretending to be educated.

He never expected to find friends in the other first years.  To feel like he has a place among them even when they’re off the court.  It’s not as strange to find himself wedged between Hinata and Yamaguchi at lunch as he would have thought.  Or to find himself being drug along to yet another movie night with Tsukishima rolling his eyes as Hinata clamors and hurries them along the way to meet the rest of the team.

 

Hinata with a sugar high is a kind of hell I don’t want to face again.  Tsukishima laughed, he flat out laughed, when Hinata tried climbing onto my shoulders on the way home.  It’s all his fault too!  That’s the most annoying part.  He’s the one who gave Hinata those cookies and all that candy.  Just because Yamaguchi wasn’t here today he was in a foul mood.

Tsukishima has a nice laugh when he’s not trying to be an asshole about it.  It’s a little scary.

 

 

As much as he loves the intensity of a good heart pumping game sometimes days like this are the best.  They’re playing for fun, mixing the teams up, jostling positions around.  There are no real rules except to just play.

Yamaguchi serves.  Asahi receives.  Nishinoya sets.  Tsukishima spikes.

Hinata receives.  Ennoshita sets.  He spikes.

It’s chaos.  In the best way.  When practice is over he feels a little like he does when he’s spent an hour filing his thoughts away into his journal.  His mind is clear and he feels ready for anything.

 

Hinata still sucks at recieves.  He’s getting better, he can’t get any worse after all, but he still sucks.  Watching Tsukishima and Yamaguchi trying to set is funny.  Tsukishima gets this look of concentration and it makes me want to laugh remembering all the times he bit out comments about me focusing.  Yamaguchi always looks a little panicked, like if he screws it up we’ll be mad.

But it’s just goofing off.  It’s just fun.  Why get mad about fun?

 

Of course things go wrong.  They hit rough spots.  Stumble across potholes in their teamwork that can’t be fixed with a quick slap of a bandage across it.  Trip over the loose ropes tying them together.  They all want to be bigger, be better, be more and sometimes they accidentally trip each other on the way.

But they come back.  They’re Crows.  They’re a team.  They’re a family.

 

Kuroo Tetsurou - sneaky, sly, dark smiles trying to hide a bright heart, like Tsukishima but more comfortable in himself

Kozume Kenma - slight, powerful, carries his team even as they carry him, how, how, how?

Cats, Crows, Owls - fated rivals?  friends?  

Q: If one comes out on top what happens to the others?
A: They help the others help themselves get back up.

--

I didn’t even think Yamaguchi could yell.  But I’m sure I heard him.  Maybe he won’t be so afraid now.  Won’t be so worried we’re going to leave him behind.  No one wants that.  I finally understand that.  Even if we can’t follow the same paths our destinations are the same and we will see each other to the end.  Even if we have to double back and get lost on the way.  We’ll all stand there at the end and come out stronger for the trip.

 

Studying will never come easily to him.  Never in a million years.  He’s not stupid, he knows this.  He just doesn’t have the room in his head for school work.  Not with volleyball taking up so much.  People like Tsukishima just don’t understand.  Tsukishima can snicker and snark all he wants but that won’t help the words in the textbook in front of Tobio stick in his brain any better.

“Seriously,” Tsukishima says as he props his elbows on the table and slides the page of homework questions back to Tobio with a sigh, “I swear it’s like you’re getting them wrong on purpose.”  It’s their third study session this month.  The other first years had left an hour ago - Hinata having to babysit his sister and Yamaguchi heading home to leave on a family weekend trip - and honestly Tobio had figured Tsukishima would have kicked him out by now.

“Shut up,” he snaps.  He shouldn’t rise to Tsukishima’s bait this easily.  He really shouldn’t.  But it’s gotten to be familiar.  It’s just a thing they do.  Tsukishima pushes, prods, pokes around under his skin and he bristles and snaps back.  Teeth and claws nipping at Tsukishima’s smugness.  “I just don’t learn the way you do.  I can’t remember the same stupid stuff you can.”

“Obviously.  But honestly.  You can remember dozens of play styles, analyze opponents nearly as well and fast as Sugawara, have the patience to work with Hinata and set up signals for your freak-quicks,” Tsukishima shakes his head and snags a cookie from the plate between them, “but History kicks your ass?”

Tobio growls at him and drops his head onto his textbook with a sigh.

“I just want to play volleyball.  I don’t care about history.”

“Not everything in life is about volleyball, King.”

--

It’s really his own fault for looking.  He shouldn’t have really even been curious.  It was just Kageyama’s notebook.  But it was Friday night and his parents were out and Yamaguchi was on a family trip and Kageyama had forgotten his notebook on the table and it was just sitting there and he was bored.  He figured that if nothing else he’d get a kick out of how crappily Kageyama took notes and maybe get something else to tease him about.

He was shocked when he opened the notebook and the first thing he saw was his own name in Kageayama’s messy handwriting.

 

Tsukishima is such a nerd.  Smart.  Good at studying.  Good grades.  Likes dorky things like dinosaurs and science.  But he likes strawberry cake too…. Nerds aren’t supposed to be cute like that.  Such a weirdo.

 

He skims through more pages.

 

Tanaka and Nishinoya tried to prank Sugawara today.  I don’t think I’ve seen Sawamura that mad since the wig incident.

Sometimes I wonder how Oikawa is doing now.  If Iwaizumi is still taking care of him like he did in junior high.  That’s normal right?  I know he’s more or less a rival and he hates me.  But….

 

There’s a picture of a poorly drawn dinosaur a few more pages in and Kei snickers until he reads the sentences surrounding it.

 

Tsukishima was rampaging around the court today.  All “grr” and “grawr” as Hinata said.  He looked tense and uptight as usual but he also looked tired when he thought no one was watching.  I wonder if I should tell Sugawara.  He probably noticed already.  Sugawara is good about that.

Maybe it had something to do with Yamaguchi being gone today.  Tsukishima seems to get pricklier than usual when Yamaguchi isn’t here.  Hinata doesn’t notice, I asked.  Some days I don’t think he notices anything that isn’t a volleyball he can hit.

 

Kei can feel something in his stomach churning.  He remembers that day.  He had been in a crappy mood because Yamaguchi was sick.  Yamaguchi was sick because he had been out far too late practicing and had ran home in the cold even though Kei had told him to quit hours before.  Kei had been tired because he had stayed up until Yamaguchi texted him saying he was home and going to bed finally.

He starts flipping through the pages, scanning for his name and knowing he really shouldn’t - it’s rude at the very least and totally an invasion of Kageyama’s privacy - but now that he’s seen a few thing he needs to see what else Kageyama has written about him.

He needs to see how close Kageyama has gotten to him without him even noticing.

 

Tsukishima actually looks pretty cool with his sports glasses on.  Less of a nerd and more of a professional.  But he looks okay with his regular glasses too I suppose.  Is it strange he’s the only one who wears glasses?  Or do the others maybe wear contacts?  Or maybe…

 

I wonder if Tsukishima realizes his eyes change color in the light.  Hinata’s do too but not as much as Tsukishima’s.  Sometimes his eyes look like honey and sometimes they look kind of like those amber pendants I saw at the museum that time.  Hinata’s just remind me of a box of chocolates.  There are a lot of people with brown eyes on the team…

 

I don’t get how Tsukishima likes strawberry shortcake.  It’s far too sweet.  Maybe he needs the sweetness because he’s usually so sour…

 

Even when the others leave after studying these last couple times Tsukishima doesn’t kick me out like he did those first times.  Does he not hate me so much?  That would be nice.  He still calls me King which pisses me off but at the same time something about it now doesn’t hurt the way it used to.  Almost like he’s not trying to hurt me with it, not trying to turn me inside out.  He’s just trying to get a little rise out of me for the fun.  I wonder why…

 

And there, smack in the middle of a set of names - lists of names with random thoughts behind them is something Kageyama seems to make rather frequently if the quick skimming of this journal is any indication - Kei feels his stomach jump to his throat.

 

Hinata Shouyou - still fast, still stupid fast, always moving, always going somewhere, always reaching for more but never greedy

Sugawara Koushi - strong, selfless, proud, a pillar of strength even as the ground crumbles away, far too aware that he’s only human yet somehow forgets the same thing

Tsukishima Kei - prickly thorn in my side, oasis in a desert, sharp mouth, sharp tongue, soft eyes hidden behind clear glass, sees too much except what’s right in front of him

Nishinoya Yuu - sharp, cuts through the fog like a beacon for lost souls, can’t be forgotten because he refuses to be…

 

Kei’s fingers are curled into tight fists, nails digging into his palms, and he has to force himself to unclench them.  He feels open, exposed, raw nerves flinching away from contact.

He can’t tell if Kageyama likes him or hates him.  He’s not entirely sure which option is worse.

Because now that he’s been made aware of it… he’s not entirely sure if he likes or hates Kageyama anymore either.

--

Tobio had panicked a little when he couldn’t find his journal at home that weekend.  But he had assumed he just left it in the club room or maybe mixed it in with Hinata’s stuff.  He didn’t even think of any other possibilities until Tsukishima strolled into his classroom Monday morning, as smug and composed as ever but without Yamaguchi with him, and tossed the journal onto his desk with a smirk.

“You’re so forgetful, King.  Good thing your loyal subjects are so kind as to return your things to you.”

He stares up at Tsukishima, unsure of what he’s supposed to do now, what to say.  He has no idea what Tsukishima knows about the journal.  If he had read anything.  Tobio can’t even remember what all he had written in this particular journal that Tsukishima might have been able to read.  He’s expecting, well, something other than the almost satisfied look on Tsukishima’s face, like he’s just figured out an answer to a problem that’s been bothering him - a look Tobio’s seen him get on the court after blocking or tricking a particularly stubborn opponent.  Tsukishima lets out a huffy laugh that settles somewhere in Tobio’s chest and fills him up.  “You really suck at drawing dinosaurs.  Just so you know.”  Tsukishima states and then turns to leave as the first bell rings, pausing at the door to glance back at him.  “But the view from under your crown certainly is intriguing.”

 

He’s pissed at first when he flips his journal open and sees Tsukishima’s neat handwriting criticizing his own messier words.  But then he skims through and sees some of the stuff he had written about Tsukishima.  He sees his words about potential friendship and the number of times he had called Tsukishima cute and he knows Tsukishima saw them too because almost every time Tsukishima is mentioned he has left some comment or another in the margins.

But he had still talked to Tobio.  He hadn’t been upset at all.  In fact he had approached him with an almost pleased look on his face.  

He flips to the end of the pages he had already filled and flushes when he sees Tsukishima’s handwriting accompanying a crude sketch of what he can only assume is supposed to be him judging by the crooked crown and frown on the face.

 

Kageyama Tobio - stupid, annoying, thinks about volleyball way too much, spends too much time with Hinata - can stupid be transferred when he smushes Hinata’s head?, sees far too much about other people and not enough about himself, growing, always growing always challenging himself and others, pushes everyone to join him where he’s going, caution and recklessness rolled into one, careful consideration followed by boundless energy, can he see what he does to others? what he does to me?

Kageyama Tobio - King