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the Caged Birds of Kirayama

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Kageyama dreams he is sinking.

Cold presses around him on all sides, a frost biting deep into his bones, an icy envelopment. There is no sound, and there is nothing to see, opened eyes seeking light and catching aught but the curtained call of night.

He can't breathe.

It suffocates him in a way that no dream should, not by any means, an anxiety so stifling that his chest jumps as his heart throbs wildly in panic. Like a caged animal he thrashes, fear instinctual and deep, limbs so slow to move, encased in the bitterly cold water. Where is he, he wonders? An idle thought in a sea of nothing but aching terror bubbles up, a question he can't seem to answer. There's no one here to answer his empty cries.

It's dark and he's afraid.

Static builds up in his ears, an air-splitting shriek finally bursting forth from his lips. There's something hot trickling down his face, tears, maybe, a burn that leaves scorched lines where they rest too long. The water disappears, just like that, the numbing terror escaping him in one hot breath.

He stands now upon a mountain, watching the sun rise up over grassy hills and tall, autumn forests. The sight should soothe him, but instead a different kind of dread builds in his throat, a scream he can't scream. His body stands frozen, chilled to the bone. There's nothing wrong with the vision before him, all warm tones and gentle beauty, but a voice inside of him tells him that it is wrong, all to the contrary, the vision a lie and the beauty so very ugly in reality.

The static reconnects and rebuilds, a slow winding hum that heightens in volume to a shriek that should not be, coming from just beside him. His bones are frozen, still, from the cold of the lake, and he can't seem to move his head nor his eyes to catch just what is making that noise. He cannot move, not even as it comes closer and closer to him, unrelenting and constant in its noise. A cold, white hand stretches out in front of him, a warm voice drifting in through the static. It is terribly familiar, and so very earnest.

Kageyama? Where did you go?

A chilly wind sweeps over him, starting from the plains stretching before him, a simple whisper of the storm to come. Dark, heavy clouds roll in from a place so very far away, a place so truly numinous he can't imagine it. It is a calling to the thunder that buzzes above, achingly plain. Lightning strikes, terribly, terribly close.

He wakes up in damp, sticky sheets, tears leaking from his eyes. His room is cold and so peeling the sheets from his skin causes a shiver to trickle down the back of his neck to end at the base of his spine. A gross feeling creeps up on him, even as he sits up and pulls his shirt off. An irrational anger makes him swear, hissing at nobody, scared for no reason at all.

It's just a dream, he tells himself. He hops in the shower and drowns his fear in the hot, scalding water, rubbing away the memories where they sit, burned on the back of his lids. It was just a nightmare. Not uncommon, yet not common enough to plague him like this. There's an innate desire in him to call for his mother, to sit somewhere warm and brightly lit, like it'll chase away the terrors of the night. Warm milk, a kind embrace. That's all he wants.

Instead, he chases it away with a hot shower, a white, fluffy towel, and a cold glass of water. He downs it in the darkness of his kitchen and then he goes to bed and sleeps lightly, fidgeting and uncomfortable. He is unable to hide from his dream, and it takes him far longer than it should to fall asleep.

Even in the morning it lingers, hovering over him like a cloud. It comes out in unfortunate ways, in him yelling at Hinata more often than called for, in his lack of concentration on his schoolwork, and in his failure to commit properly to his sport. It lingers and lingers until Takeda, their teacher advisor, calls them over during their evening practice.

"Good news, everyone. I know it's cutting it a little close, but... after talking it over with coach Ukai and the others, we've decided that, if you all agree as well, we'll be having another training camp."

The cloud splits as though cut with a knife, and like smoke, the dream disappears. Kageyama's excitement mounts.

"Of course, we need to take as many opportunities that come to us as possible, especially before the nationals. For this reason, I think it's the right decision. Coach Nekomata and Takeyuki accepted our invitation, and— well, it’s a bit small, but I figured that it could work. What do you all think?"

Daichi looks around to the team, and Kageyama finds himself nodding as their eyes meet. A silent agreement occurs between all of them in the space of a second. "Of course. When is it?"

"Actually," Takeda seems bashful, now, ducking his head and rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly as he explains. "That's the problem. Their teams have agreed to come, but it's over the upcoming summer break. It's really cutting it close, and I had worried that some of you might have already made plans..."

"As if," Ukai grunts from his side, smirking. "They're all volleyball freaks."

"Well, I don't think anyone has any plans," Daichi mutters, glancing behind him at the team. Kageyama keeps his eyes forward, already too aware of the fact that his family doesn't have anything in mind, mother having left for Sendai not long ago. "You guys?"

No one speaks up, and even Tsukishima shrugs. Kageyama recalls a conversation he'd overheard between him and Yamaguchi in the club room and on their way home. My brother was going to come in and visit for the holidays. The realization that Tsukishima is choosing practice over family matters surprises him, and he finds his eyes glued to the other boy, who catches on quickly, returning the stare with a furious furrow to his brow.

Kageyama averts his gaze.

"Seems like we're all clear," Daichi says, a smirk slowly slipping onto his face. Takeda seems immensely pleased, pushing up his glasses with an excited grin plastered all over his face. Hinata jostles Kageyama's arm, and he startles, looking down at him, raising his eyebrows. It is clear that he's holding in his own excited blabbering. He suppresses the urge to jostle him back.

"Then we'll be heading out in a few days, on Monday— there's a few more minor details that I need to work out with the others, but we have a place and a time. I'll fill you all in properly after that," he concludes neatly, slapping his palms together to signal the end of their meeting. Ukai inclines his head to speak to him in hushed tones as the team quickly turns to babble with each other.

Kageyama finds himself occupied with Hinata, who clings to the sleeve of his jacket like a child, hopping up and down in place. "Did you hear that? It's like a private training camp for our three teams! Just us! How cool is that?" he urges Kageyama's agreement, glimmering, wide eyes staring into his.

"Don't tug," Kageyama reprimands him, prying Hinata's hands off of his arm. "It is cool. I didn't think it would be possible for such a last minute camp before now."

"Yeah!" Hinata fidgets in place, placing his hands politely at his sides. "But, I just hope my mom agrees! After all, I think she wanted to do something."

"Oh yeah," Kageyama nods, mindlessly. His attention lingers elsewhere, a strange disconnect to the current scenario. There is happiness, a sort of vague giddiness, and laying just underneath it is unease. It is perplexing because it is an emotion that he can’t understand; it’s not something he should be feeling right now. It irritates him, an insistent thorn in his side.

Hinata shakes him free of his distracting thoughts, again jostling his shoulder in his excitement.

"What's with that look, Kageyama? Don't tell me you actually have plans?" Hinata asks, a mocking pout curling his lips. Kageyama's instinct is to hit, so he does, smacking Hinata lightly upside the head.

"This is just my face," he snaps, irritation not much more than smoke, a cover for his bizarre anxiety. "And what would be so weird about me having plans? ... it's not like I do, but even if I did, volleyball is more important," he mutters, sour gaze flitting over to where their coach and their teacher stand, speaking seriously about the camp.

"Haha, that's true! You're such an airhead, I thought for a second that expression meant something bad, but I guess you'd pick volleyball even if you had a girlfriend," Hinata laughs like he's told a good joke, and Kageyama swats at him again, an attack that is easily evaded this time.

"Shut up," he barks, slight annoyance blowing over into anger, as it does, always, with Hinata. "What the hell do you know?! My face is my face!"

"Hey, you two," Daichi calls from beside Sugawara, startling them from their bickering. "Kageyama, Hinata. Neither of you really have plans, right?"

They drop the argument in order to address their captain. Hinata is first to speak. "I don't. I'll still have to check with my mom, but... I don't really think there'll be an issue for me. Kageyama might have a date, though," he says, all joy in his teasing, and Kageyama barely restrains himself in front of his upper classmates, who fix him with a worried stare. The fact that they take anything Hinata says seriously at all ushers in an anticipatory anger that pushes out his apprehensions, chasing his worries deeper and deeper into the back of his mind.

"I don't," he hisses, wanting to smack him again. "I don't have any plans, and my parents don't, either. I'm coming."

"Oh? That's good. You had such a serious expression on, even for you, Kageyama. I was worried," Sugawara explains, eyes twinkling mischievously. It is as always, reassurance easy to find in the familiar interactions of their team. He nods to his upper classmate, and he and Hinata bow respectfully before they are ushered off to help clean the gym before they head home.

Hinata steps aside to speak to Yachi when she nervously calls out to him, and the two speak to Takeda; Kageyama doesn't wait for him, opting to walk home by himself. He wonders over what it could have been about, but tosses those worries aside, deciding it isn't any of his business. It's not long before he arrives home and receives a text message from Hinata.

Yachi can't come. She has plans! And I don't think Narita or Kinoshita can, either. Why didn't they speak up!

Hinata is probably disappointed, even if his message is unexpectedly mature.

Too bad for them, he thinks.

He forgets the dream. The feeling of foreboding lingers, now no cause but a breeze in the distance, the chill of some ghostly winter wind. It's an inexplicable feeling that loses its reason— the dream— and becomes terribly indistinct.

It's a rather cold day for August.

The heat picks up later on in the week, temperature rising to unbearably high degrees along with the humidity. The sun blazes down on the gym where they practice, turning it into a sauna. The evening brings a kind breeze along with a drop to the heat, but it still lingers, pressing in on Kageyama, suffocating him.

It's three receives into the five that they cycle through for practice when his mounting annoyance finally peaks, senses dulled from the overbearing summer heat and the exhaustion that comes after a hard day's work. There's a flush to his skin that clings like a fever, and he finds himself snapping at everything and nothing, displeasure causing his typically violent temperament to escalate even further. It's unwarranted, he knows as much. That doesn't stop him from lashing out.

Hinata bears the brunt of his anger on the other side of the net, flailing to receive the balls sent flying his way with increasing power and speed, unable to keep up. The third ball flies off to the side, Yachi squeaking as she walks by, barely avoiding it. Hinata falls on his ass with a strained yelp, hands flying out to catch himself.

"Pick yourself up!" he finds himself shouting before he can help it.

"Shut it!" Hinata yelps indignantly from the floor of the gym, all furrowed brows and puffed up cheeks. "I'm trying, can't you see?!"

What Kageyama can see are the signs of Hinata's own irritation, but he finds himself continuing to chastise him anyway. "Come on, use your whole body! Are you scared of hurting your arms or something?!"

"I said shut up," Hinata bites back and stands, dusting off his pants with a grimace. "You're being such a bully today, Kageyama! What's up with you?" he barks back.

"Bully?" Kageyama repeats, cocking a brow. He wipes away the sweat above his brow and approaches the net, unaware of the rest of the team's watchful eyes. "I'm trying to help, here. It's not my fault you can't pay attention."

"You're acting like a jerk, though!" he says, going and pointing at Kageyama for emphasis. "What's wrong with you? You've been moody all week! I mean, you're usually pretty picky, but not like this!" he continues to shout back, his own frustrations finally coming to a head. "Bully!"

Tanaka starts toward them as the atmosphere begins to pick up, all tense shoulders and twisted brows, but Daichi throws an arm out to stop him, giving a subtle shake of his head.

"I'm not," Kageyama says, but his resolve is beginning to crumble, clear in the way he pauses, hands clenching and unclenching nervously. "... I'm not," he repeats, shaking his head.

"You are," Hinata says, an exhausted sigh escaping him in a huff, dropping his pointing hand to instead cross his arms. "Did you not even realize it yourself? ... aren't you just being an airhead right now?" he asks, this time being the one to cock a brow.

Kageyama slouches, casting his gaze aside. He realizes that everyone is watching him, and he flushes, turning his angry glare back to Hinata. "I'm not..."

Nishinoya snorts, somewhere to the other side of the court, breaking the tense atmosphere easily. Kageyama wipes the sweat from his brow and averts his gaze with a pout.

"You are," Hinata wags his finger at Kageyama, and the others return to practicing, the bickering pair eventually getting back to it as well. They continue like that, with the back and forth, until Kageyama trails off into a grudging silence. Though he'd argued, his serves do get softer and thus, they're easier to receive. They're sweat soaked and miserably tired, but they work hard at their sport until Ukai blows the whistle on practice and they begin to clear out.

Takeda stops them after the cleaning is done with, waving them over eagerly. The gloom around Kageyama doesn't dissipate, and Hinata nudges him with an elbow, as if to chastise him for his lingering bad mood. It makes his stomach lurch unpleasantly, but he has a feeling it's something else.

"Good work, everyone! I know you're all eager to get out of here," he begins, fanning himself with a sheet of paper in his hand. "But as promised, I have more information for you concerning the upcoming training camp. As you know, we'll be heading out from tomorrow, August 8th, to the 14th. We'll be taking a rental bus west, over to Kami, where we'll head up to Kirayama, and..."

Kageyama finds his attention beginning to drift despite his best efforts, nausea creeping up the back of his throat. Takeda continues to talk.

"... with Nekoma and Fukurodani. Some of the players can't make it, since they had plans, but..."

He slaps a hand over his mouth.

"—Kageyama?" Hinata's hands are on his upper arms, easing his downward descent to his knees. Takeda's informative spiel has ended, replaced with worried stammering that Kageyama doesn't pay much attention to. His head spins as he wills away the urge to vomit. His ears are ringing and he knows if he moves a muscle now, he'll end up with the contents of his stomach on the gym floor. Hinata does not speak to him so much as he blubbers, absolutely panicked. "Kageyama! He's so pale! Captain, can we get a bag?! He's going to be sick!"

Kageyama grabs onto Hinata's wrist when he begins to rise from his position beside him. "Just wait," He heaves, voice muffled against his palm. Hinata freezes up and then his hands are squeezing Kageyama's shoulders, shaking him.

"Don't die, Kageyama! Coach Ukai, what should I do?! He's shaking!"

"Hinata! You're the one shaking him! Let him go and step back," Sugawara's voice drifts in, muddling up Kageyama's swarming thoughts further. The frenzied panic surrounding him makes his gut clench and he squeezes his eyes shut tight, curling in on himself. Sugawara is talking into his ear, voice gentle but hands firm as he gets him on his feet from the floor where he kneels.

The noise dissipates, all of a sudden, and the oppressive heat of the gym fades away to clean, cold air, light touches guiding him from gawking stares and muttered concerns to the sanctity of the open darkness outside of the gym.

"... Kageyama? Here." He's handed a paper bag, and he shakes his head like he doesn't want it, bunching it up in his grip. Sugawara is beside him now, silent as he walks him from the gym. Now that he's outside, the nausea passes as quickly as it had come.

"I'm sorry," he manages eventually, slow to come to comforts with removing his hand from his mouth, as if afraid a spare breath would have brought his sickness out of him. "Sorry, Sugawara. I didn't realize—"

"It's alright," his upper classmate shushes him easily, palms rubbing circles into his back before withdrawing, wary not to become anything inappropriate. He hadn't even felt it earlier, but now that Sugawara has stopped, he already misses it. "It must be heat exhaustion. It's not your fault, but you do need to be more careful with your body. You really threw us for a loop there. I thought Hinata was going to throw up, himself."

"Is he okay?" Kageyama mutters, catching Sugawara's eye. "Hinata. I had a bad feeling..."

"Hm?" Sugawara tilts his head, polite, but curious. "Hinata? He's fine. He's just worried, like everyone else. We'll head to the club room for now, okay? Takeda will finish filling you in tomorrow."

"Where's Hinata?" Kageyama asks, a sinking feeling of dread settling in the pit of his stomach. "Is he okay?"

Sugawara's gaze turns skeptic, and he pauses in leading him to the club room, instead turning to press the back of his hand to Kageyama's forehead. He scrunches his brow like he dislikes what he feels, and Kageyama is embarrassed, now, on top of sick and worried. "You're still awfully warm," he murmurs, considering. "Come here."

He leads Kageyama to the stairs up to the club room to sit, allowing the cool of the evening to relax him. Sugawara heads up the stairs and Kageyama puts his face in his hands until he's roused again by his upper classmate, who hands him a water bottle and a cloth to wipe his brow with. He chugs the water and presses the cool fabric against his forehead, unsteady.

Bit by bit, he regains his senses. His previously bleary embarrassment expands but Sugawara shushes him, again, and urges him to change now, before the others return. As gracious as Kageyama is to have been pulled away from the gym, there's still a nagging, aching worry in his heart, biting deep into his bones. It's a discomfort he can't shake, not as he changes, not as he walks home with promises to text Sugawara on the way, and not in the comfort of finally returning home.

It is unfounded and it is, above all else, bizarre. Kageyama shakes himself out of his meaningless trance and goes to bed without a shower, hot skin long having chilled. He's tired, after all, stressed after practice and after the heat stroke. It's hard enough to remember to type out a quick I got home safely to Sugawara, who sends a reply he doesn't immediately see. He chooses to drop his phone and close his eyes.

He dreams about a blood red sun setting over a mountain.