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Icarus

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When one lives in a cold, rainy city, you get used to pulling your coat up and protecting yourself from the wind.

 

And it was a cold city, inhabited mainly by people who weren’t used to the chill. They flocked under umbrellas every morning, jackets pulled tight to shield their cheeks from the wind that rained down for five months out of the year. Kageyama Tobio hated the cold. It reminded him too much of being homeless -- but, fortunately, he was used to it. His skin had grown to be less responsive to the wind and his hair no longer frizzed up at the brush of a drizzle against his head.

 

It was a cold morning, and he had what could have been classified as one of the worst attitudes in Tobio's whole life.

 

Not because it was cold, no that would be ridiculous. The morning was awful because of literally everything else that seemed to happen to him.

 

The night before, Tobio had done paper work and looked over patient charts at the hospital as usual, he had a small mocha from a local cafe brought to his office by one of the hospital's interns, and had downed half of it before he realized that the drink he had just chugged was not, in fact, hot chocolate with two shots of espresso, but a dark roast black coffee. Just his luck, Tobio was incredibly susceptible to caffeine.

 

Needless to say, he had fallen asleep at four in the morning.

 

Sunlight dripped through the blinds covering his window. He could hear the birds chirping just outside, where they flocked around his roommate’s flower bins. There was the pitter of a sun shower against his windowsill. Tobio opened his eyes and saw the pastel yellow light against the ceiling of his bedroom, felt its warmth across his face. Last night was cold -- his toes were still tangled in the throw blanket he had wrapped around his feet just before falling asleep, but it was stark contrast to the sunlight against his cheeks.

 

Tobio sighed, rolled over, and snatched his phone up from his bedside table.

 

The time blinked at him, almost taunting him with electric brightness in the dim morning light. The clock read seven thirty am. That left him with a whooping three and a half hours of sleep and a really shitty attitude to work with.

 

Tobio despised the ground his interns walked on.

 

He pulled himself out of his bed covers -- his sore feet stung against the low carpet, his eyes still blurry from sleep. The back of his throat felt swollen with dehydration. Tobio peered at his desk and found a pile of papers stacked, leaning haphazardly against the wall. He frowned. Normally, he left all of his work at the hospital for confidentiality reasons. There was no reason for him to have brought any home, anyway. With how late he stayed the night before, any paperwork that was due would have been filled out and completed, in a file, ready to be processed by the hospital staff.

 

Tobio stood up and stepped over to the wooden desk and squinted at the papers. They weren’t notebook or printer paper, but pale yellow-beige, with sets of five horizontal lines running across the pages. Music sheets. He noticed little scrawls in the margins and notes scratched into place -- he turned around and peered at his keyboard. It was uncovered, the music stand was up, and his desk chair was tucked underneath the small table it rested on.

 

He ran a hand down his face and sighed. He hadn’t worked on music in a few weeks -- his fingers were practically itching to run over the keys, to pluck some sort of melody from them. Even if it was an improvisation, he felt a draw to play something.

 

He ignored it, and stepped out of his bedroom into the kitchen.

 

He was exhausted, and at this rate, he was almost going to be late for work.

 

And yet, despite even this terrible fate, karma took no chances. His own coffee machine had decided to break down right when he needed it the most. His shoes were soaked down to the sock because of the puddle he had failed to see until it was too late the night prior. He was going to have absolutely no energy until three o'clock, when he could order an intern to pick him up coffee. He was miserable, his patients were probably going to be miserable too.

 

Tobio was having a miserable day and it wasn't even eight in the morning.

 

One would suspect the great force of karma to have some sort of brilliant turn around for him, but oh boy, would they be wrong.

 

His cab was late, his feet were soaked through, and it was freezing outside. Never before had a day left him in such a bad state.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The cab dropped him off in front of his place of work as it usually did. He payed the driver to the exact cent and stepped out of the vehicle, thankful that the sky was still relatively clear, the sun still out, turning what would be a cold and dreary day into something cool and crisp. The sun showers still rained down against his shoulders. Tobio sighed, and hefted his umbrella higher up on his shoulder. In hopes of protecting his uncombed hair from becoming an even bigger mess.

 

The eleven story hospital building loomed before him, bright white against the backdrop of the dreary sky, gray with clouds that would soon blow over them and the reflection of a drizzle of rain.

 

Tobio gripped his umbrella and shoulder bag and trotted back to the employee’s entrance.He made his way to the third floor and tossed his bag to the floor of the employee’s lounge.

 

“What have you got for me today, Sugawara?” he asked the empty room around him.

 

A loud, exasperated voice called from across the hall, “You’re late Kageyama! Again!”

 

Tobio glanced down at his watch and rolled his eyes. “Only by ten minutes.” he muttered.

 

“I still had to clock you in early.” A flash of silver moved through the corner of his eye and something hard knocked against the back of his head. “You’ve got patients waiting, get to your station. I prepped room three for you, there’s a small family that’s been waiting for you to grace them with your glorious presence.”

 

He glared at the man, detecting the bight of sarcasm, taking the stack of charts from his hands and leaving the room, not without ruffling Sugawara’s brilliant silver hair.

 

“Professionalism!” Suga called after him.

 

“Then maybe stop dying your hair a different color every week.” Tobio shot back.

 

He left him standing there with a raised eyebrow and turned the corner. He glanced at the papers before him. The patient had an injured arm -- probably fractured. Wouldn’t take long. If only he had enough time to get coffee before clocking in. He took in a deep breath, blinked hard, and swung open the door to patient room three.

 

“Good morning,” he murmured, taking in the sight before him. A little boy with his right forearm clutched against his stomach, his face contorted with discomfort. His mother hovered over his shoulder with an arm around him. Kageyama brought himself to full height and set the chart down at the computer desk in the corner. “So,” he addressed the boy. “You broke your arm?”

 

“Hurt it,” his mother corrected. The little boy looked at the ground and didn’t say anything.

 

“Well,” Tobio muttered. He pulled the chair out from underneath the desk and sat down, holding both hands out. “Fumiya-san, can you hold your arm out for me?”

 

The little boy nodded and did as he was told. Kageyama pulled two gloves over his hands and took his arm gingerly, tilting it just slightly. His skinny wrist turned a quarter of the way before the boy winced and sucked in a breath.

 

Kageyama hummed and let go of the boy’s arm.

 

“There’s a fracture. No bruising, so it must not be a clean break, but he’ll need an x-ray and a cast.”

 

The mother looked surprised. “But --”

 

“Let me get a few nurses to give you an x-ray to make sure it’s not healing in the wrong places. I’ll put the plaster on in a few minutes -- I can prescribe you some pain medication to take so it doesn’t hurt, but it will make you drowsy, so you should only take it at bedtime.” Tobio addressed the little boy. “Is that okay?”

 

He nodded slowly in confirmation. His mother looked shocked. Tobio looked up at her, sighed silently, and left the room.

 

Working with children was like that more often than he liked. Parents rarely ever trusted what their child said, to the point where it was absolutely ridiculous how much a child could go through before their parent took them to the hospital.

 

It was the main part of the reason he had decided to become a doctor, really. His own parents didn’t care for anything of what he told them. The Kageyama’s were a traditional family -- children were important, but not special. And certainly not intelligent.

 

It was part of the reason he decided to become a doctor., but it was also the only reason that he hadn’t contacted his family in six years.

 

The first time Tobio Kageyama ran away from home, he was sixteen.

 

He didn’t spend much time on his own -- the police found him sleeping in a park after a week, detained him, and forced him back home where his parents waited.

 

Tobio wasn’t ashamed for why he chose to run. At the time, it was the only feasible option. He could stay there, in an unappreciative family, and work at their convenience store with his father, or he could...he could do anything else. Any other option would appeal more.

 

Things now are very different.

 

The rest of the hour went by quickly. Luckily for the both of them, the kid’s arm wasn’t healing incorrectly, so he was wrapped up and sent on his way. He dealt with an infant with a cold (“not colic, I promise ma’am”), a teenager with a concussion, and filled out a couple files worth of papers to put a dent in his nightly workload. Tobio was about to make his way back to the break room for lunch when his pager went off.

 

It still startled him, even after this much time working at the hospital. Where he worked, in pediatrics, he rarely had major emergencies that required summoning -- when he did, it was a major problem. At the sound of the alarm, Tobio’s heart started racing immediately. Blood rushed to his ears, the sound of his pulse pounding in his head. He dropped his clipboard. He didn’t even need to check his pager, the noise coming from the commotion alone led him through the halls, all the way through to the lobby of that floor, where quite a scene was waiting for him.

 

From what he could tell, a child had collapsed. The skinny frame of a teenage boy, maybe thirteen or fourteen years old, was hoisted onto a rolling bed by a handful of nurses. People were gasping -- Kageyama even heard a boy sobbing -- and in a muted panic, he almost froze in place.

 

Tobio clenched his fists and let his eyes fall closed for a split second.

 

He set his teeth and forged forward, sprinting up to meet the bed head on. The kid was out cold, pale and pasty, a few dark freckles showing up against the pallor of his skin. His mouth was hanging open. Tremors ripped through his whole body until it looked like he was having a seizure.

 

“Room three’s open, c’mon!” Tobio called out, his voice coming out steadier and louder than he had anticipated. The nurses did as told without hesitation.

 

The boy’s shaking hadn’t yet ceased -- in fact, it seemed to have gotten worse in those few moments.

 

They wheeled him into the room and started hooking him up to heart and other body monitors, running their hands under his jaw and wrists to find some sort of source for his ailment. “What’s wrong with him?” Kageyama asked a gruff older nurse to his left.

 

“No idea. Another kid brought him in, shaking with a fever. He collapsed in the waiting room. His friend doesn’t know what’s wrong.”

 

Tobio nodded grimly. “Get his shirt off now and check for marks, and get an IV in here, sugars and fluids. He could be going into shock. Maybe an allergy, just get him conscious as soon as possible.”

 

The nurses got out of his way, while two others pulled the boy’s shirt gracelessly from over his head.

 

He pulled on a clean pair of gloves and watched the boy’s pulse on the monitor. There wasn’t any swelling or redness, no rash. His brow furrowed. Upon further inspection, Tobio saw that the kid was older than he had expected. Sixteen years old, about. His frown deepened, teeth worrying at his lip. The kid was unresponsive to any of the treatment. His gaze flew over him.

 

That’s when he noticed the scars on the inside of his elbow, the puncture marks on his hipbones.

 

“Overdose,” he whispered. And then again, louder. “He’s a druggie, some form of injection. We need to get him aware, he could have overdosed.”

 

An bag of fluids flew past his ear -- the drip. Kageyama grabbed the stand and located the tube, readied the needle and prepared to insert it into the vein on the kid’s wrist --

 

“Stop, STOP!”

 

Kageyama’s head whipped up and he met large, brown eyes filled with fear and determination. A short intern shoved into his side and yanked the IV away from him. In his hands, there was a small box with a few clear tubes attached to it.

 

The intern had to practically climb onto the bed to reach the patient’s hip bone, but when he did, he inserted a small needle into one of the holes. “What the hell are you --”

 

The intern looked up to Tobio with a terrifying amount of determination for his size. His mouth opened, his expression morphing into one more thoughtful. Tobio expected something rational and intelligent to come out. Instead, he got...

 

“He’s diabetic, you absolute dumbass.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

If you could say one thing about Kageyama Tobio, it was that he wasn’t easily surprised by people’s actions.

 

He grew up in a home filled with very unpredictable people. When living with parents whose moods could change at the drop of the hat (and who had little care for the emotions their children felt) one had to learn to predict things. He had to learn to lock himself in his room when his dad got drunk, to tell his mother that he was going on a walk when her knuckles got white, to make dinner and wash the dishes without being asked when his brother came home late.

 

But this time, Tobio’s jaw dropped.

 

The box in the intern’s hand was rectangular, green, with a small gray screen. Insulin. He pulled another couple of items from his coat pockets -- pricked the boy’s finger, squeezed a drop of blood out onto a thin strip of paper, tested it, and started fiddling with the buttons until a steady flow of liquid passed through the tubes into the boy’s blood stream.

 

Tobio let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding in. The intern seemed to know what he was doing. A few of the nurses were holding their heads in their hands, scolding themselves. Of course, he was going into sugar shock. Those marks weren’t track marks, they were needle wounds. Tobio hadn’t seen them on arms before, but on the hip…idiot, he could have made everything worse!

 

Or. Tobio’s eyes flicker over the face of the intern, how his brows furrowed together in the center, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration.

 

Someone else could have better communicated with the group.

 

He turned towards him. The intern had rushed away as soon as the boy had collapsed -- he could have told them, could have warned them not to use the IV, could have said anything instead of running off on his own. He saved the kid’s life, sure….but the protocol breaks? Tobio would be writing a report, without a doubt.

 

When the patient’s heart rate started returning to normal, Kageyama left the nurses to do their job and grabbed the intern by the collar. He tugged him backward towards the doorway and pressed him against the wall, face burning and heart just calming down from the stress that only occur during a life-or death situation. “Just what the hell do you think you were doing?”

 

The intern paled considerably. He looked shocked. “My sister’s diabetic, she hates pricking her fingers so she uses her arm. Only problem is that it scars there -- I saw the marks and the symptoms and didn’t think there was enough time --”

 

“There’s always enough time to...to shout something over your shoulder, something, anything. Especially if it means keeping someone alive. We communicate with each other -- those are the rules. If you can’t follow them, I don’t care how intelligent you are, you aren’t fit to be a doctor.”

 

All the life left in his eyes drained out at those words. His mouth fell open, drooping, his cheeks appearing, for a moment, sunken in and sallow instead of round and healthy.

 

For a moment, Tobio regretted saying anything in the first place.

 

The collar of his coat crinkled underneath Tobio’s fingers. The intern spluttered, mouth flapping open and closed like a fish. Tobio sighed loudly and let him go. It was only then when he realized the patient's friend was staring into the room with his eyes wide in shock.

 

Hinata turned around -- and immediately shoved himself away from Tobio and planted his hands on his knees so he was level with the boy. He was only taller by an inch. The boy wasn’t tall either, if he were a year or two older, the intern wouldn’t have had to squat.

 

“Hey, shh, your friend is going to be okay,” he soothed.

 

The boy gulped. “Take...I didn’t know what was going on, he just started shaking and he wouldn’t tell me --”

 

The intern shook his head. “He’s safe now, buddy. You did the best you could. I wouldn’t have done any different.”

 

“But…” The boy swallowed again, wringing his hands together. “Why didn’t he tell me? I could have helped him.”

 

The intern stood up and ruffled the boy’s hair affectionately. “Maybe he was embarrassed and took his device out so you wouldn’t see. It doesn’t matter -- you’re his friend. Now that you know, you’re going to have to remind him. Tell him you love him even if he’s embarrassed, look out for him. He needs you. Think you can do it?”

 

Tobio watched with interest. The little boy stared up at the intern, fascination written across his face, a slight blush to his cheeks. “Yes!” he said, looking at him in adoration.

 

“That’s great! Now go to the front office and call your mom, and Take’s mom. They’re probably worried about you.”

 

He nodded, and ran off. The intern smiled after him fondly.

 

For some reason, Kageyama found himself softening. He struggled to maintain the anger he held for the intern.

 

That was when he realized -- this was the same intern.

 

“You….you fluffy little dumbass,” he muttered.

 

The intern turned around, his whole body shaking. “Uh...Hinata?”

 

Hinata. So this was the name of his newly sworn enemy. “Hinata...go buy me a mocha. A mocha, not a double caf black coffee. Can you hear?”

 

“Y-yes sir!” he squeaked.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The rest of the day went by much faster with the proper amount of caffeine in his bloodstream.

 

He finished logging Take, the diabetic boy into the hospital’s system, lectured him on the importance of wearing his insulin monitor at all times and doing his blood work responsibly, dropped him off with his mother, and returned to his other patients.

 

By the time his list was clear and he was allowed off for lunch, he was starving. Tobio wandered up to the staff room, grabbed his wallet, and took the elevator back to the first floor. He barely remembered walking to the closest bento store, only that the smell of his own food was distracting him as he tried to find the quickest path to the park.

 

It was sunnier out today; the clouds had dissipated enough for light to travel through, and what little light there was filtered through the branches of the trees and reflected along Tobio’s path. For once, it was nice.

 

The weather, however, was still freezing.

 

He nuzzled his shoulder in an attempt to regain feeling in his nose, but his face remained cold and red despite his efforts. As he got closer to his favorite spot in the park his stomach began to growl like a lion.

 

And, when he finally arrived, Tobio saw a tuft of orange hair over the top of the park bench and sighed. Not now, he thought. I don’t want to deal with this.

 

But he drew himself taller, and kept walking. He turned the bench’s corner and sat down with a plop, as if daring the kid to say anything. He didn’t. Tobio did his best to ignore him and cracked open his bento, fingers clutching at the disposable chopsticks that came with it.

 

He had finished half of his lunch when a warm weight fell on his shoulder.

 

Tobio nearly jumped a foot in the air. The intern had collapsed against his side. When he looked closer, he realized that Hinata was fast asleep.

 

His head rested against the fold of his jacket’s hood, propped up against the bench’s seat back. With his legs tucked underneath himself, his face lax and open, long auburn eyelashes dusting his cheeks, he looked like a young teenager. Tobio’s frown softened. He almost looked...endearing.

 

With a roll of his eyes and a sigh, Tobio brought his chopsticks back to his lips -- Hinata made a loud, inhuman growling noise that nearly startled Tobio from his seat.

 

“What the hell,” he muttered.

 

And then he realized -- his stomach was growling.

 

Tobio jostled his shoulder, just enough to shake the kid, and poked his cheeks with two fingers. “Oi,” he muttered. “Wake up.”

 

Hinata’s eyes snapped open and he fell to the ground, a loud cawing noise leaving his throat.

 

He rolled a ways away before he managed to pick himself back up, watching the ground and air around him with wild eyes. He looked terrified. Like a frightened child.

 

“Are you okay?” Tobio asked.

 

Hinata’s eyes landed on his form and his back shot up, straightening like a ruler was taped to his spine. “Fine!” he squeaked. Tobio noticed how high his voice got when he was scared. “I’m fine, thank you for asking! What are you doing here?”

 

He watched, curious, as Hinata began to rock back and forth on his heels, looking expectantly up at Tobio.

 

“I eat lunch here. You?”

 

“Oh! I, uh, I come around here sometimes to eat.” A loud, feral growl bubbled up from Hinata’s middle. He rushed to wrap his arms around himself, as if he could hold back the noise from escaping, but it was too late. Hinata looked at the ground. The bright reds and oranges of the fallen leaves matched the color of his hair. Tobio noticed a leaf still stuck in Hinata’s hair. He had a strange urge to pluck it out and smooth down the wild curls. “I mean...I didn’t come to eat lunch today, but I have come here to eat. Today I just -- I forgot! Yeah, I forgot to bring a --”

 

His voice tapered off, the words falling from his open mouth as he stared. Tobio had offered his lunch box to him.

 

“You’re hungry.”

 

He said it not like a question, but a fact that Hinata couldn’t escape from. Hinata winced. In a small, very young-sounding voice, he responded, “Yeah...I guess I am.”

 

A soft noise of surprise fell on Tobio’s ears, as he shoved the box into Hinata’s chest.

 

“It’s fine.” he murmured. “I wasn’t going to eat it anyway,” he lied, averting his eyes in an attempt to look less intimidating.

 

Hinata nodded. “Are you sure?”

 

“Just eat it, dumbass.”

 

He didn’t need to be told twice. He plopped back into his seat on the bench, picked up the chopsticks, and began scooping the rice and salmon into his mouth as fast as possible.

 

Tobio sat back, and observed. Hinata was wearing a threadbare, sherbert orange sweater, with the sleeves pushed up his wrists, and dark washed jeans that seemed to slip further down his hipbones with every breath he took in. He was incredibly skinny. Kageyama didn’t know how he could be so skinny, the way he wolfed down the food, as if it was the first meal he had seen in weeks, and the last one he would receive for another span of time.

 

After only a few moments, the box was empty and the chopsticks were discarded, Hinata’s head thrown back against the bench in bliss. “Gah!” he called. “Kagayama-san, that was so good!”

 

Kageyama felt his face grow hot. “Wh-what? Don’t call me ‘-san’, it makes me feel old. Plus, we’re probably the same age. It’s stupid.”

 

“The same age?” Hinata frowned. “But -- you’re a doctor! I’m still taking classes!”

 

A sigh passed his lips. “I’m twenty six. You?”

 

Hinata’s mouth dropped in shock, for the third time in Kageyama’s presence. “I...I’m twenty four.”

 

Kageyama shrugged. They sat there, in silence for a few moments. Hinata quickly broke that silence. He furrowed his brow and shoved his own shoulder against Kageyama’s. “You’re lying to me, aren’t you? I knew it! You have to be, what, thirty? You can’t be this young and already have a good position at a hospital. It’s impossible. No one would have hired you for a full blown job at twenty-five --”

 

His position went ignored. Kageyama simply leaned forward, rummaged around in his back pocket for his wallet, and pulled his license out to hold in front of Hinata’s face.

 

Just as he suspected, Hinata’s jaw dropped again.

 

“But…” he whispered. “But you’re…”

 

“Ugly enough to pass as thirty years old?” his voice came out gruffer than he expected.

 

“No! You’re amazing!”

 

Now this, this startled him. One could probably count on two hands how many times Tobio had received such a sincere compliment. Sure, in high school, he had received a few confessions from girls his age or younger, telling him he was tall, or attractive, or good at sports, but his parents never thought of him as having any worth. Until his third year, no teacher had ever congratulated him on his school work unless in a vapid, poor attempt to excite him about minor improvements in his grade. The look on Hinata’s face, the sincerity in his voice...it warmed Tobio’s chest. It was strange and uncomfortable -- but he couldn’t say he disliked it.

 

Tobio fiddled with the zipper of his rain jacket and looked at his lap, suddenly fascinated in his short fingernails and the tapping of his hands against the fabric. “Why’s that?” he asked. He tried to sound as though he had no care in the world. It only partially worked.

 

Hinata grabbed his shoulder and squeezed, a friendly gesture, but Kageyama shrank away. Hinata didn’t seem to notice. “You...you just...you must have been amazing! I’ll bet you aced all your exams and memorized whole pages out of your textbooks. That’s so cool! I wish I could be so good at school. The only way I’m going to get a job right out of school is if a miracle happens or some god picks me to give mercy.”

 

Tobio gave his shoulder a stiff pat in attempts to console him. “It’s okay. You do well at the hospital, I guess.”

 

“You guess?

 

Hinata sighed. His shoes kicked at the leaves on the grass, knuckles going white as he clenched and unclenched his fists. His shoulders fell forward, and he brought his knees to his chest, hugging them closer as he tugged the sleeves of his seater down past his fingers.

 

“I’m okay but…” He stuck his hands out in front of him, as if grasping for words he couldn’t find. “I’m not going to be able to do it as well as you. I’m not calm. I can’t relax.” He put his hand at his chin and pretended to rub at a beard, mocking Tobio’s voice by dropping his own to an exaggerated low pitch. “I can’t be mister stoic like you.”

 

Tobio rolled his eyes.

 

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed goosebumps crawling along Hinata’s exposed clavicle and the back of his neck, where his sweater drooped and didn’t cover.

 

“Cold,” he murmured.

 

“Hm?” Hinata looked up at him.

 

“You’re cold. Why aren’t you wearing a coat? This city’s freezing.”

 

Hinata smiled, rubbing the palms of his hands up and down his arms to get his blood flowing. “Oh this? I’ll be fine, it’s no big deal. I’ll be okay once I get my coat on inside.”

 

“We should walk back, then. C’mon, you’re done eating, let’s go already.”

 

Hinata looked up at him like he had just suggested they rummage through the trash to find dinner.

 

“What?” he asked. “Let’s walk back together.”

 

“But I thought you didn’t like me! I almost hurt that kid, and I’m a mess, I’m bad at being an intern!”

 

Kageyama ruffled up his hair and flicked him on the nose. “Do you want to walk back with me or not?”

 

With another small smile, Hinata jumped to his feet.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

That night, Kageyama fell asleep easier than he had in weeks.

Chapter Text

This was getting annoying.

 

Shouyou had woken up twice in one week in a good mood, only to have it soiled as soon as he went to work. The first time, for reasons he wished not to think about, and the second, to be shaken down by some know-it-all doctor twice his size who thought he knew everything.

 

Really, the nerve he had! Accusing him of being a shitty doctor when he was just trying his best!

 

Shouyou rubbed the space between his eyebrows with his thumb. Of course, he was a shitty doctor. His grades told him that much…

 

But nevermind that. He could study more at lunch, if he was up for it. The hours he had spent looking over his textbooks and his notes the night before had left him pretty drained, but he could handle more. He had to handle more if he wanted to pass this semester’s finals.

 

He walked into the pediatrics floor of Daichi hospital and shrugged his beaten aviator jacket off, only to replace it with the pristine white lab coat that was folded neatly in his cubby. He shivered slightly at the exchange. The cold air of the hospital ghosted his bare arms for only a moment, but the chill was enough to give him goosebumps. His hair was still slightly damp from the rain outside. It was always rainy, these days. Shouyou loved it -- but if there was anything he despised, it was being cold.

 

He stuffed his backpack into the cubby, and jogged out into the hallway --

 

And smacked straight into Sugawara.

 

“Oof!” he grunted, stumbling backwards. He nearly fell to his butt in front of his superior. Thankfully, he was spared the embarrassment. Suga smiled at him and hooked a hand under his elbow to keep him steady and ruffled his hair with the other.

 

“Good morning, Hinata-kun. Early again?”

 

Shouyou blushed. “Oh, er, yes sir.” He looked down at his feet and bowed politely, attempting to rush away from his superior before he asked any more questions. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to check in with --”

 

“Whoa, not so fast. I still need to talk to you.” Suga’s head tilted, revealing his signature grin. houyou shivered. He’d only known Sugawara for a few days since his internship began, but even after the short period of time he had come to dread that smile. The smile wasn’t just beautiful -- it was pure trouble. That was the smile that meant Suga had something to say or do that Shouyou would dread. Shouyou hated that smile.

 

His cheeks grew warm, his ears burning in embarrassment. He squeaked out a quiet “yes?” and raised an eyebrow, praying he looked calm and composed. He swore, Sugawara could smell fear.

 

“We’re assigning the interns to particular doctors so they can shadow them. You know, to help them get into the hang of things and better learn how to function in a hospital. It’s very different from the classroom!” He smiled again. One hand fell to Shouyou’s shoulder, and he nearly jumped a foot in the air. “Anyway, I’ve decided that you’re going to need a bit more help than the others. I assigned you to Kageyama-kun.”

 

It was as if an icy needle had pierced through Hinata’s chest, right where his sternum was. I’ve decided that you’re going to need a bit more help than others. Hinata needed to be babied, supported by others.

 

And then, his brain registered the second part of that statement. “Er...Kageyama?”

 

“What about me?”

 

Speak of the devil and he will appear, Hinata thought to himself. Kageyama rounded the corner, a steaming hot travel mug in his hand. He looked more alert than Hinata had ever seen him. He wasn’t wearing his coat or stethoscope -- it was clear he had just arrived. Hinata looked at his shoes.

 

Suga turned and aimed his sickly-sweet smile at Kageyama instead. Tobio appeared to buckle under his gaze. Ha, Hinata thought to himself. Let him bear the weight of the Death Grin.

 

“I was just telling Hinata-kun that he will be shadowing you for the remainder of his internship, for full credit on his assignment. This might be his last hope for passing, so you won’t cause any problems for him, right?”

 

Hinata winced in preparation, before --

 

“Heh!?”

 

There it was.

 

Hinata took a cautious step back.

 

He barely made it three inches backwards before Suga’s iron grip fell to his shoulder again. “Would you like me to repeat myself, Kageyama?”

 

Tobio swallowed -- Hinata noticed the prominence of it, his Adam’s apple bobbing, chin lifting and falling for a moment, a soft flush falling on his upper cheek bones -- and nodded, although reluctantly.

 

Suga clapped his hands together. “That’s wonderful!” his smile fell for a moment, replaced by a genuine, thoughtful expression. “Well, I’ll just let you to get to work .I’ll check in on you later, so keep this hospital in top shape!” He winked at Tobio, who smiled weakly, and was gone with a flourish.

 

The tenseness that was haunting Hinata’s frame fell from him in an instant. He pushed his hands up to his face and groaned into them. Not only was the person who was responsible for his internship aware of his below-average grades in his classes, but he was also ready to pair him up with Kageyama freaking Tobio as if working with him could possibly help him improve his class standing.

 

Kageyama brushed past him into the staff room. Hinata peeked up from his hands just in time to watch him pour half a mug off coffee down his throat like a shot of sake. He noticed how pale the coffee was. It was as if he had poured the creamer in first, the coffee only as an afterthought.

 

“What are you doing that for?” Kageyama muttered, face still red from before. Hinata blushed. He had been obviously staring without a care in the world who could see him.

 

Hinata groaned and hid his face again. “I’m hiding my shame, dumbass.”

 

Tobio looked indignant. “Dumbass!? You’re the one who’s failing all of his classes!”

 

Hinata’s breath caught in his chest, and Tobio’s face dropped.

 

“I...I didn’t mean that.”

 

“It doesn’t matter.” he grumbled. He yanked his scrub shirt from his cubby and jammed it over his head, shoved his bony arms through the sleeves, and slammed the cubby locker shut. “Let’s just get this day over with.”

 

It was going to be a long few weeks.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Hinata wouldn’t admit it, but working with Kageyama was surprisingly...fun.

 

The kids were easy to talk to, with their parents clearly marveling over just “how young doctors are getting these days!” They looked up at Hinata with admirations and asked him a flurry of questions, one after another as if the words would disappear unless they tumbled out of their mouths fast enough. Questions like “Can I be a doctor? How many lives have you saved? How old are you? Do you go to school? Where do you go? Do you have a girlfriend? Is being an adult fun?”

 

Hinata smiled, and answered them all, honestly.

 

Well, except for the last one.

 

To be completely honest, he wasn’t even sure how he could answer the last question. He didn’t know. In his case, adulthood had been a shock -- something forced upon him with aggression, without warning. He hadn’t had the typical experience. How was he to know what adulthood was like? His whole life was the same. An illusion of solidarity and comfort and youth that had been ripped away from him.

 

Tobio shot him curious looks over his shoulder every once in the while, as if he, too, was curious about the answers to those questions. Kageyama knew who he was, how old he was, and that he was failing all of his university classes, but they hadn’t talked about much besides that.

 

Hinata noticed, of course. Even though Tobio didn’t realize it. He probably thought he was being incredibly subtle, but really, with lanky arms and legs like him, he was about as subtle as a drunk ostrich.

 

They were half way through the crowd when Suga pulled Kageyama aside and smiled at them. Not his usual wrath-incurring smile, but a normal, if not sympathetic, smile. “Sorry boys, we’ve got an emergency.”

 

Kageyama immediately slumped forward, all professionalism lost. Hinata grinned. He ducked his head so Sugawara wouldn’t think he wasn’t taking this seriously -- but mainly, to hide the smile from Tobio. He didn’t mind this so much anymore. Kageyama was brash and abrasive, but he worked well. If he could keep up, this internship would save his grades.

 

Not that he wanted to take advantage of the prodigy for his own benefit, god know. He was only...playing to his strengths.

 

“What is it this time?” Kageyama asked.

 

Suga scrunched up his nose. “Don’t talk about it like it’s a burden, it’s honestly not even difficult. We’re short today because Mira’s having her baby and we haven’t hired for her position yet.”

 

Hinata nodded, because he had absolutely no idea what that meant. Kageyama flushed bright red. “Mira…” he stuttered. “But she works --”

 

“In the permanent residence ward, yes.” Suga smiled. “The children there haven’t had much to do in weeks, with Mira being so exhausted and busy with the pregnancy. Think you’re good enough to take on her job?”

 

Kageyama nodded his head immediately and intoned a quick “yes, sir!” and Hinata followed suit. Suag gave them both a kind, only slightly condescending smile, patted Hinata on the top of his head, and jogged away. Tobio stared wistfully after his swishing lab coat.

 

“This is going to suck,” Kageyama muttered.

 

A few thoughts rushed through Hinata’s conscious at once.

 

Number one: Kageyama knows what he’s talking about, he’s worked here longer than you.

 

Number two: Kageyama is a sour person, he’s just not used to hanging out with people younger than him. Example: Hinata.

 

And, finally, number three, when he promptly stopped holding himself back” Kageyama is a sour, foul person who has no appreciation for children, and because of that, Hinata needed to launch himself onto his arm (in an annoying, childlike manner) and tell him exactly how he felt about that.

 

A low grumble formed in his throat. “Oi, bakageyama,” he hissed. “Do you hate children, or something?”

 

“I never said that! I’m just...not particularly fond of changing my schedule.”

 

“We get assigned schedules, based on what Suga tells us to do.”

 

Kageyama placed a hand on his chest and clutched his stethoscope, the picture of offence. It took a lot for Hinata not to laugh out loud. “It’s a hypothetical schedule!”

 

“Just like your hypothetical hatred of adorable children!”

 

“You two are acting like children!”

 

Their heads whipped to the side, catching Suga, leaning out of the doorway with a wink on his face.

 

“If you’re going to argue with me where you think I can’t see, at least do it a bit quieter.”

 

Kageyama flushed red, again, and turned on his heels.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The cancer ward was very...colorful. The walls were covered in part by children’s drawings and professional paintings, all of the shades and colors clashing with one another, as if the walls were made of Legos. It was quiet -- save for the fast paced classical music playing over the loudspeakers.

 

Hinata kind of loved it.

 

He peered up at Kageyama, saw his grumpy facial expression, and punched him in the arm.

 

“At least try to look excited,” he grumbled.

 

When Hinata was growing up, this was one of his dreams. Granted, he had a lot of dreams, but this one still had a soft spot in his heart. When he was a kid, he always loved the stories they showed on the news about “local heros” dressing up as superheros and running into long-term residence areas of children’s hospitals, brightly colored lollipops and sugar free caramels in plastic bags hanging from their arms. He saw the kids faces light up, saw them clutching at their friends in excitement, and thought I want to do that.

 

The dream had faded into one of actually being a superhero, which was squashed by his mother telling him that superheroes weren’t real, and that he couldn’t ever really be as big and tall as the Hulk. He then thought of being a famous athlete -- which, again, evaporated. Hinata never saw any famous athletes that hadn’t grown more than a centimeter since middle school.

 

But now, he was living it.

 

Well, not the athlete dream, that had passed a long time ago -- this dream, of kids looking up at him in awe and happiness.

 

Hinata smiled brightly. He was going to make their day.

 

And already, he felt like a superhero.

Chapter Text

Not to say that Kageyama hated being around children, but...he knew things. Things about how judgemental children, especially teens were. Hell, he had been working with them for years. He knew how cynical the teen mind was, he knew it was incredibly similar to the adult mind. Most of all, he knew that he didn’t want to disappoint them. He was terrified of his patients finding him unlikable

 

So he froze. He locked up, muscles tensing, and let his face fall blank, emotionless.

 

Hinata, of course, the tiny ball of energy, was having none of it. He shadowed Kageyama perfectly, looking around his shoulders at the walls, the doors, the signs, even the painted ceiling high above their heads with an expression of wonder and curiosity on his face. Looking like he was thrilled to be there. Like there was no where else he’d rather be.

 

Kageyama would rather be anywhere else than where he was.

 

They took a total of five steps into the extended-residence ward before a large hand collided with Kageyama’s chest and forced him backwards. He startled, nearly falling over. The owner of the hand boomed with laughter.

 

A thick, blond man with a stubbly beard grinned down at him. He had a hospital name badge pinned to his chest, but he looked nothing like a practising person of medicine. With his t-shirt strained across his muscled chest, soft, worn jeans hanging from his hips, he looked like the hospital found an old smoker off the street, slapped a badge on him and set him to work without bothering to check for credentials. “C’mon, don’t be afraid!” he chuckled. He had a handsome jawline, a thick nose and warm eyes, so even though he stood a good six inches over Kageyama, he still looked friendly.

 

“Hinata Shouyo, nice to meet you!”

 

Tobio glanced behind him to see his intern bent at the waist in a polite bow, and decided to do the same, although with a bit less formality.

 

“Oh, no, none of that.” The man chuckled again, and placed a hand on Hinata’s shoulder. Kageyama grinned to himself -- the weight of the man’s hand nearly buckled Hinata’s knees. “I don’t outrank you, anyways. I’m just one of the nurses who works in this ward. I assume you two are the replacements!”

 

“Yep,.” Tobio intoned. The sound of his voice faded under the resonating “Yes sir!” Hinata belted out.

 

The man placed both fists on his hips. “That’s great! But this --” He waved a finger at their clothes and clicked his tongue. “It simply won’t do. We’re trying to make these kids happy, you can’t go around looking like a doctor!”

 

“But...I am a doctor.”

 

He shook his head, as if Kageyama had just told a hilarious joke. “None of that! C’mon, I’ll find some clothes you two can change into.”

 

He turned on his heels and started walking without bothering to check if Tobio or Shouyo were following him.

 

His shiny boots clicked against the linoleum floor, and Kageyama couldn’t help but watch them as they walked. For such a large man, he performed every movement with a flourish. He turned back to flash a grin (his teeth were unattainably white. Kageyama ran his own tongue over his teeth in jealousy) “This floor...even with all the color, can get pretty gloomy after a while. Especially in this city. There’s just not enough sunlight to go around any more.” He sighed. “Some of the kids are too sick to go out in the rain, and we don’t want to put anybody in danger, so our branch doesn’t have the opportunity to expand our activities outside of the hospital. It gets boring. And with some of the kids...boring and gloomy don’t mix well, if you understand what I’m getting at. Our job is to keep them as happy as possible, do as much as possible, and give every kid a good life!”

 

He dabbed at his eyes, as if the sentiment brought a tear to them, though no tear was there. “Unfortunately for you, one of our policies extends to dress code. Other branches don’t do this, but we figured that if we save the white coats and scrubs for the people who deliver medicine, everyone else will feel significantly less medical. A break from it all, if you will. The kids -- especially the little ones -- won’t see you as something to be afraid of, but as someone to talk to and have fun with. And that’s what they need right now.”

 

Hinata sighed loudly. “That’s so gloomy! I want to show them all the sun!”

 

His loud chuckle shook his entire body like a tremor. “You can, eventually, if you stay with us for a while. On days when it’s sunny we bring everyone to the second lobby. There’s a plexiglass ceiling. We do arts and crafts in the sun.”

 

They made a sharp turn, and Hiroko -- Kageyama finally read his name badge -- pointed them inside a faculty room. There was a small bin filled with lost-and-found clothing, random scraps, ranging from winter coats to mis-matched socks.

 

“Well!” He clapped his hands together. “I hope you two are able to find some clothes that fit besides what you’ve got on. You can keep your name tag, of course. Good luck!” He tapped two fingers against his brow and motioned them outward like a salute, before closing the door with a slam.

 

Tobio sighed. He turned towards the box -- he was taller than the average man in this city, so it was unlikely for him to be able to find pants that would fit. That, and he looked ridiculous in shorts. With a grunt, he stuck his foot out and upturned the whole box.

 

Clothing spilled from the container to the floor, and he found his options were very limited. Tobio toe-ed at the cloth until he found a decent looking button-up that didn’t smell too ominous, and a pair of skinny jeans that -- if paired with his own black socks -- didn’t look like they were too short on him. If he tugged the waistband down as low as possible and rolled the bottom up into a very small cuff, never sat down or lifted his legs too high. They were very skinny.

 

He shrugged his white coat off, and then the scrub shirt he wore underneath it. He unbuttoned the shirt in front of him, and loosened his belt. He only paused when he heard Hinata sputtering. Kageyama looked up to find...a very, very red Hinata, clutching a pink sweater, and what looked like slinky black fabric.

 

“What?” he asked.

 

Hinata blushed even more and looked at his feet, which made Kageyama want to blush. “Can you...turn around?” Embarrassing, he thought to himself, cheeks hot.

 

He huffed. “What’s wrong, dumbass? Got a third nipple you don’t want me to see or something?”

 

He’d meant it half as a joke, have as an excuse to say something out of embarrassment, but Hinata seemed to be startled by it. His nose scrunched up in frustration -- no, scratch that. His fist balled up, shoulders curled forward, nose and forehead wrinkled, eyes squeezed shut until his body was a ball of tension. He rose up on his toes and then back down again, like an angry cat. Cute, Kageyama thought.

 

And then, his face turned bright red.

 

Hinata’s huffed loudly and released the tension from his body, and shouted. “Wouldn’t you like to know, dumbass Kageyama!”

 

“Yeah, kinda!”

 

“Well, you’re not going to! Turn around!”

 

He rolled his eyes, but obliged.

 

Jeez, Shouyou was weird.

 

He tugged the skinnies on and replaced his shoes (which, luckily, were just comfortable running sneakers), threw the shirt on and buttoned it up. He placed a hand over his eyes and turned around. He made a face at Hinata, eyes still closed.

 

Hinata choked out a small laugh. “Very funny, Bakagayama.” A bit more shuffling, the sound of pieces of cloth rubbing against each other, a sigh, and Hinata laughed again. “You can open your eyes now.

 

“Good. Let’s--”

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

He opened his eyes, mouth already forming words, only to have them disappear completely from his thought process. Hinata was wearing the sweater -- the soft, pastel knit sweater, just a tad too big for him, that hung down to the tops of his thighs. The neckline was wide and scooping, pulled back so that it hung over his shoulders and exposed nearly all of his collarbones, and every plane of the column of his neck. He covered his fingers with the sleeves and rubbed at his legs, which were covered in very, very tight black pants. They looked like jeans, but the fabric was soft and elastic. And, they looked nearly painted on over his thighs, the curve of his hip…

 

Tobio pinched the inside of his hand, hard.

 

You think he looks good, don’t you? the cheeky part of his brain whispered.

 

He tried to tell that part of his brain to shove it where the rain wouldn’t hit it, but he had to admit...Hinata did look good. Very good. Incredibly good.

 

Hinata cleared his throat. He rubbed his cheek against his shoulder and looked to the ground. “Are you -- uh, ready yet?”

 

Kageyama nearly choked on his words as they came out. “Yeah! Yeah, ready, that’s right.”

 

He rolled his eyes, but walked past Tobio regardless. He threw the door open and walked out in front of him. Kageyama found it excruciatingly difficult to keep his eyes away from Hinata’s butt.

 

It’s probably nothing, he told himself. You can appreciate attractive people, right? Even annoying ones who’re too loud. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it of the negative thoughts spinning around inside of it, and followed his intern.

 

He led them back out to find Hiroko. The man was standing at the front desk, a beam on his face, with both hands on the shoulders of a man in front of a computer. He was chatting animatedly -- Kageyama couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but it must have been positive. That was good, at least. This area of the hospital needed more good news than any other.

 

A sharp pang of anxiety shot through Tobio's chest, like a hot nail through a weather-softened piece of wood. It hadn’t quite dawned on him yet, the extent to what they would be doing here, today, tomorrow, until the hospital hired more staff. This place...it was so sad, regardless of what they were supposed to be doing. Kageyama hated that. He hated knowing about it.

 

But most of all, he hated being presented with it, and knowing that he had no power to make it better.

 

His face fell, and Hinata must have noticed, because the next moment he was tugging at the sleeve of the borrowed button up and looking up at him with his wide, doe eyes in concern.

 

So he looked away. He ignored Hinata’s concern, and walked purposefully towards Hiroko. If he was going to do this, he could at least keep himself busy.

 

He saw Hiroko’s amused expression before anything else, and all the sense of dread in his mind froze. It didn’t leave him, per say, just stayed still, stopped causing havoc for a moment long enough for him to think. Hiroko grinned at them, gave them a quick once over, and said “Ah, you two are matching! Perfect.”

 

Ah. There it was, the sense of dread, melting once more to soak into his brain. Kageyama hadn’t even noticed himself -- sure enough, Hinata and him were wearing different variations of the exact same outfit. The same shade of pale pink shirt, dark skinny jeans, sneakers. The only difference was that the pink clashed horribly with Hinata’s hair, Hinata looked cute, and Kageyama... He looked like a noodle stuffed into pants that were probably originally designed for women and did absolutely nothing flattering for his legs.

 

But they were matching. They were a pair, a set, a “together” in the eyes of people looking in on them.

 

Heat burned against his ears and he was positive they were red with embarrassment. Hinata’s nose turned pink as well.

 

Hiroko shook his head with a chuckle, and removed himself from behind the front desk. Once more, he started walking without checking to see if they were following. He had an air of expectancy, like he automatically assumed people would pay attention to him. Kageyama wished he had that.

 

“You two are going to be in the teen section for today. If you do well, we might keep you there. They can get a bit difficult. It’s rebellion, mainly.”

 

“We can handle it!” Hinata said, puffing his shoulder’s up.

 

“We’ll do our best,” Kageyama amended.

 

Hiroko laughed. “That’s what I like to hear!” The man turned on his heels and lifted his chin. “You boys are going to be in charge of this section today. Don’t let anything get out of hand, and if something does get out of hand, don’t hesitate to call me. Be careful.” He gave them each a reserved, pointed look, patted them on their shoulder, and hurried back the way he came from.
Kageyama could see Hinata gulping from where he was standing. Even he had to admit -- that did sound ominous. He had to wonder if things “got out of hand” often around here.

 

The teen section was as colorful as the lobby, but more subdued. There was a homey feel in the air, accented by the couches, the plentiful throw blankets, the magazines and chapter books strewn across the coffee tables. There was even a small television set with an X-box corded up. Kageyama recognized a few of the games on the shelf. There were four controllers. Well, at least he knew what he could do with some of the kids here.

 

Hinata slouched, and threw himself towards the nearest couch. “This is comfy,” he murmured to himself.

 

Tobio rolled his eyes. He walked past where Hinata was squirming into the couch crease and threw open the door on the opposite side of the room. There was a set of hallways, marked doors lining each side. He shrugged, and cupped his hands around his mouth. “C’mon, wake up everyone!”

 

The chaos that ensued after the words left his mouth caused a cacophony of noise and excitement.

 

Teens poured from the hallway, eager expressions plastering their faces. Some wheeled small oxygen containers behind them, a few more wheeled their peers in on wheelchairs, others still trotted through in hordes from the other hallways. Tobio stood rooted in place.

 

The crowd flowed past him amiably. Two of the teens punched him in the shoulder and asked, “what’s up, doc?” Tobio didn’t respond.

 

Once the last few stragglers made their way through to the commons, he let a huf of air out through his nose.

 

The commons were filled to the brim. Kids were already lounging back on the couches. Someone had gotten ahold of the radio and was playing fast paced music. The television was occupied, four girls already setting up the X-box, empty threats of destroying each other’s campaign and giggles spilling into the air. Hinata had fallen asleep.

 

Well, he thought to himself. So this is how it’s going to be.

 

Tobio sat down on the armrest of the closest couch, turned to the kid occupying the seat next to him, and tapped them on the shoulder. He looked up in surprise -- he had a knot of curls hanging down to his eyebrows, the sides of his head shaved, and a thin tube that looped from his neck and wrapped behind each ear, converging under his nose to deliver fresh oxygen and remove excess fluid from his lungs. He looked surprised to see Tobio. It was as if he hadn’t even seen him on the way in.

 

“So, uh,” Tobio started lamely. “What’s your name?”

 

The kid gave him a cheeky smile and pointed to his breast pocket, where a thin, silver name tag was pinned to his shirt. Takeru.

 

“And you’re Kageyama-san.” he said pointedly.

 

Kageyama chuckled. “Yes, that’s me.”

 

“And...what about him?” The kid jabbed his thumb behind his ear in the direction of Hinata. His muscles moved jerkily, like they were wound tight with springs attached to his joints.

 

“He’s an unhelpful dumbass.”

 

The kid had a booming, raspy laugh, that built up from deep in his chest and made his whole body shake with it. “No, sir, for real.”

 

With a sigh, Kageyama obliged. “He’s an intern, not a doctor yet, but his name is Hinata. Call him -chan, he doesn’t deserve -san. He’s too annoying.”

 

“Maybe he just needs his sleep?”

 

“Hmph.” Tobio glanced at Hinata -- the way he was careened over on the couch made the edge of his sweater edge upwards, revealing one bony hipbone. Cute, he thought. Then he mentally hit himself. You’re annoyed with him, remember? Stop calling him cute.

 

It didn’t help that a few of the girls were pointing and whispering, soft coos and the words “oh, how adorable!” reaching Kageyama’s ears. It certainly didn’t help that he agreed.

 

“Anyway,” Tobio turned back to Takeru. “What’s the schedule around here? Do I have to take you guys to get lunch, or is it delivered?”

 

Takeru shrugged, and looked to his knees. He was incredibly thin, but broad shouldered, and had knobbly hands that played with the loose strings on his cotton slouch pants. “It depends. Sometimes we get a good doctor and we actually do crafts, or play games. Other times we just hang out and do...whatever.” He sighed. “It get’s pretty boring, after a while, but most of these kids are new.”

 

“And you’re not?” Tobio asked.

 

Takeru flushed. His knuckles were white where they griped his pants. “I’ve….I’ve been here for about -- I think it’s two years on monday, actually.”

 

Tobio paused. Two years. Two years. He couldn’t imagine spending more than a month in the hospital. In fact, in his whole life he’d never spent longer than two nights after getting his tonsils removed.

 

It was horrifying.

 

“Well,” Tobio started.

 

But he just left it at that. He didn’t know what to say that could possibly have any value after hearing something like that. And the thing was, he knew, for some of the other kids in the very room he was sitting in, life was just as hard. Some of them would stay here longer. Some of them would stay here longer. And Tobio’s mind found it hard to even wrap his mind around the idea. He felt physical pain, in his chest, when he tried to comprehend this.

 

this.

 

Tobio didn’t even know what “this” meant.

 

Takeru cleared his throat again. He didn’t try to force a smile -- just sat there, the somber look plastered on his face, bleeding into Tobio’s space.

 

“I’m --”

 

“Don’t say it.” Takeru looked at him, his eyebrows drawn together in the middle. “I don’t want you to be sorry. I’m leaving in a few months after the chemo clears everything up.”

 

Chemo. He had cancer, and Tobio was an asshole.

 

But he was a doctor. He didn’t know everything about this kid’s case, but he knew one thing, and that was that cancer had a rising death toll and the chances of escaping it’s clutches...well, the odds weren’t stacked in this kid’s favor.

 

So he set his jaw and pushed those thoughts into the farthest corner of his brain and boarded them up like they were zombies, ready to eat and destroy the rest of his mind.

 

“What do you want to do?”

 

Takeru looked up. For a moment, the somber expression faded to one of curiosity. “No one’s asked me that before, seriously.”

 

The faintest smile crossed Tobio’s face. “That wasn’t an answer.”

 

With a beam, Takeru made two fists over the hem of his cotton shirt. “I want to do something different.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Tobio wasn’t exactly sure how it happened, but there was caramel everywhere.

 

Not on his clothes, but covering one elbow (his sleeves were rolled halfway up his biceps at this point) on the table in front of him. There was sticky part on his cheek that he suspected was graced with the melted sugar as well. And for once, he didn’t mind the mess.

 

“Something different” apparently meant fucking things up, taking names, and enjoying yourself. All things Hinata could get behind. Tobio, however...when you work at a hospital, you become custom to strange allergic reactions. Of course, when you live at a hospital, you often have strange allergic reactions.

 

The plan Takeru offered was simple. He hadn’t eaten cake in six months. He wanted everyone to have fun, be happy. The problem was, at least three of the teenagers would literally die if they ate any form of cake. Two others ran the risk of contracting a deadly disease in a few hours if their food was touched by other teens.

 

Takeru’s solution: gluten free, dairy free, yellow dye free, coconut free, banana free, peanut (and tree nut) free, Kara-has-asthma-and-my-lungs-are-dying-so-no-powder-at-all...cake. That they would make, bake, decorate, and then...throw away, so they could eat their assigned lunches.

 

It was a good plan, in theory. The main problem was that neither Hinata or Tobio were good at cooking, and the only ingredients available were tomatoes, caramelized sugar, and soy milk.

 

And Benny “won’t eat tomatoes.”

 

So somehow, from the time where Tobio agreed (re: Hinata agreed and forced Tobio to go along with it with as much enthusiasm) to where they were now, broiled sugar was everywhere. As were teenagers.

 

Everyone was wearing gloves, facemasks, a few had IV drips standing by their shoulders, and even with the masks, Tobio could see grins on everyone’s faces as they competed to see who could form the coolest little statues with hardening caramel.

 

It was uncoordinated and unconventional, and it was positively wonderful.

 

Takeru was good at handling the other kids. The tiny fold-away table they were using to make the little caramel creations was surrounded by them. He was almost like their father, the way he directed them and ruffled the hair of the younger ones. He was only sixteen, and Tobio already saw signs of him -- aging. Not physically, but mentally. He had grown up quickly. Takeru was forced to, in the conditions he was living in. Not unlike Tobio.

 

With a subdued sigh, Tobio put the finishing touches on the tiny man he was creating and pushed it away to dry. He stuck out his elbow -- the caramel-free on -- to jostle Hinata. His intern was leaning on the table, face inches away from the tiny, golden shape in front of him. When Tobio looked closer, he saw the distinctive wing structure and beak shape of a crow.

 

When he looked even closer, he saw Hinata’s eyelids sliding shut, the dark bags under them, the pallor to his skin that wasn’t elegant as usual, but unhealthy. The slope of his cheeks, his long, gingery eyelashes, the little furrow between his eyebrows. His small, upturned button nose.

 

Before he even realized it, he was blushing.

 

Tobio mentally slapped himself. This wasn’t allowed. Hinata was the intern he tolerated. Who was good for talk, but still annoying. He wasn’t cute.

 

Well, he was, he was very cute, but that was besides the point.

 

“Hey,” Tobio put a hand on his shoulder. “You okay, dumbass?”

 

There, the jerkishness off-sets the subtle gay tension. Genius.

 

He could feel the muscles of Hinata’s shoulder under the fabric of the sweater jump a bit, the warmth radiating from his skin. His eyes snapped open, and his back straightened.

 

“Hm?” he grunted, throat bobbing as he choked out the words. Tobio could see him try (and fail) to keep his eyes wider and alert, but the glassy look of his pupils and the bags under his eyes gave him away.

 

Tobio shook his head ruefully. “You’re about to fall asleep. Do you need to go on break or something?”

 

Hinata gulped again. “No! No, I don’t. I can do this.”

 

“Are you sure? How much sleep did you get last night? Be honest,”

 

Hinata’s gaze dropped to the floor and he chewed on the inside of his lip.

 

With a sigh, Tobio leaned forward and rested his elbows against the table. His head hung forward. “I’ll take that as a ‘not enough.’ You know, it’s not responsible to not take care of your body.”

 

“I take care of myself, I just....I have a test coming up next week, and I don’t want to fail it.”

 

“Well that’s easy, I could just help you study for it during the day, and then you won’t have to do it as much at night when you need your sleep.”

 

In a matter of seconds, Hinata went from looking exhausted, to thrilled, to sort-of-thrilled with a fierce blush painting the tips of his ears and his nose.

 

Tobio felt his own face heat up. He looked away, his tongue fumbling inside his own mouth as he spluttered. “You know, so I don’t have to deal with you being a shitty intern.”

 

Hinata’s blush-red nose scrunched up. “That’s just rude, Bakageyama!”

 

“Don’t call me that, I’m your superior!” Tobio jostled his shoulder against him again and looked down at his feet.

 

Hinata planted his fists on his hips. He looked up at Tobio with a frown and huffed, loudly through his nose. The pink sweater slipped farther down one shoulder, revealing his entire collarbone, as well as the thin white cloth of his undershirt. “You’re only superior because I suck at being a doctor, not because you’re better!”

 

Tobio meant to be mad, he really did, but it didn’t help that he kept looking at Hinata like this, with his tight jeans and sneakers, his soft sweater, his button nose, and the only word his brain would supply for him was cute.

 

“Kageyama-san!”

 

His head whipped to the side, thankfully saving him from the spluttering and blushing that was sure to follow.. He caught sight of Takeru jogging towards them, eyes wide with panic.

 

“Takeru-kun, what’s up?”

 

He took in a raspy, shuddering gulp of air. Oh shit, Tobio thought. his lungs. That’s not good, he needs to lay down, right now. “It’s Mina…” he coughed out. “She’s -- she’s not here and I didn’t realize and she’s not supposed to be left alone because it’s dangerous sometimes she has seizures but she also hates herself and --” his voice cracked, and he gasped again. One hand was shaking at his side, the other held tight against the cloth covering his chest. “It’s my job, to look after her. It’s my job.

 

“You need to calm down. Your lungs.” They were the only words that Tobio could find, and they weren’t as helpful as they needed to be. But Hinata -- Hinata’s jaw was set and he was already grabbing Takeru’s hand, marching back in the direction of the rooms with purpose.

Chapter Text

The first conclusion Shouyou’s sleep-fogged brain came to when he saw Kageyama in normal clothing was oh, he’s attractive.

 

The next, was absolute panic.

 

The pink sweater irked all of his nerves at once. The shade of pink clashed horribly with his hair, and he knew that, but even besides the fashion faux pas it was, Shouyou couldn’t stand it. The fabric clung to his hips where it rested just below the tops of his thighs. The neckline was so wide it nearly hung off his shoulder. He felt exposed.

 

Not only that, but he was wearing the same exact thing Kageyama was. Just, the women’s version. He knew it without looking at the tags.

 

And of course, Kageyama had to look like a masculine god in his borrowed clothing.

 

Shouyou could feel the bubbling anxiety in the pit of his chest growing, like a hole dug into sand. The sides were caving in and steadily filling his lungs with grit, drowning him. His fingers shook as he tugged the soft yarn of the sweater up higher on his chest.

 

The hospital was a dreary place. Shouyou’s home town was much sunnier -- he felt physical pain when he found out the teens at the hospital probably hadn’t seen a few good hours of sun in weeks.

 

And then, they were having so much fun Shouyou forgot about it all. He forgot about the sweater hanging awkwardly around his legs, the cling of the jeans against his hips. He ceased caring that they were making a mess, because they would have just as much fun cleaning it up. All the teens were just happy that there was someone, someone who wasn’t tired or bored of them. Someone who was actually willing to entertain them. In fact, the kids hadn’t done something so blatantly against the rules in months.

 

That was part of the thrill, of course -- no matter how lame the activity, breaking the rules was almost always appealing to teenagers.

 

The sweater, while being completely impractical, was also incredibly comfortable. Hinata enjoyed the feeling of being swarmed in cotton, so much so, that his body, which was already exhausted from staying up until four in the morning writing an essay, found it much too easy to slip off into the world of sleep.

 

It happened when his eyes were just about to droop shut.

 

Kageyama placed a hand on his shoulder, warm and comforting, and he almost leaned into the touch like a cat. Almost turned his head and nuzzled against Kageyama’s hand. And who could blame him, really? Kageyama had nice hands and they were warm against him, four fingers against the cottony fabric of his sweater, one brushing his skin just above his collarbone --

 

Shouyou’s eyes shot open.

 

“Hmmph?”he asked, still bleary from lack of sleep, despite the many 45-second naps he had been taking in the past two hours.

 

He looked up to see Kageyama shaking his head, eyes rolling . “You’re about to fall asleep. Do you need to go on break or something?”

 

Shouyou gulped again. He had hoped all day that no one would notice. Of course, just his luck, Kageyama was the only one who did. “No!” he cried. He rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands, as if he could will them into staying open. “No, I don’t. I can do this.”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure? How much sleep did you get last night? Be honest,”

 

Shouyou’s gaze dropped to the floor and he chewed on the inside of his lip. It wasn’t much. Maybe an hour or two before the cold woke him up. Really, it was irresponsible of him, but he needed to study. It was the only way he’d ever be good enough to succeed. As it was, his grades were suffering. He only had four classes on the weekends because of his internship, but it was still incredibly difficult to maintain passing grades in all four when you took his…situation into account.

 

So he said nothing, just looked at the floor.

 

With a sigh, Kageyama leaned forward and rested his elbows against the table. His head hung forward. His hair fell in front of his eyes delicately, just brushing the tops of his cheekbones. Shouyou sort of missed the feeling of his hand on his shoulder. “I’ll take that as a ‘not enough.’” Kageyama huffed. You know, it’s not responsible to not take care of your body.”

 

“I take care of myself, I just....I have a test coming up next weekend, and I don’t want to fail it.”

 

Kageyama shrugged. “Well that’s easy, I could just help you study for it during the day, and then you won’t have to do it as much at night when you need your sleep.”

 

Shouyou felt the tips of his ears and his nose heat up. That sounded a lot like a study date, and it was so elementary and ridiculous he almost laughed. Shouyou was blushing because of this idiot. Asshole.

 

“Y-you know, so I don’t have to deal with you being a shitty intern.”

 

And then he had to go and ruin it, and reminded Shouyou precisely why he was so annoyed with him.

 

He huffed. “That’s just rude, Bakageyama!”

 

Tobio jostled his shoulder against him again and looked down at his feet. “Don’t call me that, I’m your superior!”

 

Shouyou planted his fists on his hips. He looked up at Tobio with a frown and huffed, loudly through his nose. The pink sweater slipped farther down one shoulder, revealing his entire collarbone, as well as the thin white cloth of his undershirt. “You’re only superior because I suck at being a doctor, not because you’re better!”

 

Kageyama opened his mouth as if to scold him, but his face fell before the words came out..

 

Shouyou turned back to his little caramel creation and used a small plastic spoon to drip some of the warm syrup unto his crow’s wings. They ended up misshapen and dull at the corners. Flightless. With a sigh, Shouyou pushed it away from him as well. He wanted it to dry as it was before he messed it up any further.

 

The sharp, panicked sound of one of the kid’s voice rang out behind him. A pang of automatic fear and anxiety wracked through him. What was wrong? Was it his fault? Was one of them hurt, or having an allergic reaction?

 

He turned on his heels, and saw Takeru, not the oldest boy, but the most mature, panting hard and crying out Kageyama’s name.

 

“Kageyama-san!” he wheezed. He wheeled a small oxygen tank beside him. His hands were shaking, knuckles white and pressed against the metal of the handle.

 

Shouyou’s voice caught in his throat for a moment. Kageyama seemed to know exactly what to do.

 

“Takeru-kun, what’s up?” he urged, and Takeru’s whole body shook.

 

He swallowed a gulp of air through his mouth, and coughed around it. Shouyou frowned. He clearly had breathing problems to begin with, considering the tubes leading up to his nose and the tank that filtered pure oxygen through them. He wasn’t able to get enough oxygen in through the natural air around him. That’s not good, Shouyou thought. He needs to calm down.

 

“It’s Mina…” Takeru choked out. “S-she’s -- she’s not here and I didn’t realize and she’s not supposed to be left alone because it’s dangerous sometimes she has seizures but she also hates herself and --” his voice cracked, and he gasped again. He was spluttering, brought nearly to tears. One hand was shaking at his side, gripping the handle of his wheelable oxygen tank, the other held tight against the cloth covering his chest. “It’s my job, to look after her. It’s my job.

 

“You need to calm down. Your lungs.” Shouyou jumped at the sound of Kageyama’s voice.

 

And he realized what he needed to do.

 

He grabbed Takeru’s hand and tugged, summoning up his best “doctor voice” as he brought him back through the halls of the hospital. “Where’s her room, and where’s your room?”

 

“We -- we’re roommates.” he spluttered. “Room 21C, down here. Please, sir, can you slow down?”

 

Shouyou glanced back, and felt a shiver of guilt wash over him. Takeru was heaving, trying to suck calm breaths in through his nose.

 

“Yeah, of course --”

 

He heard the sound of Kageyama’s shoes hitting the tile floor, and spun around in surprise. Kageyama was flushed -- his eyebrows drawn together. Shouyou could practically hear the gears working in his head.

 

“Here, I’ve got it.” He fell to his knees and motioned to his back. “Hop on.”

 

After Takeru had successfully clambered onto his back, they took off down the hall towards their room. Shouyou hurried behind them with Takeru’s oxygen tank clutched in both hands. His own hands were shaking so hard the container was vibrating in his grip.

 

Takeru was just shaking his head back and forth. Little murmurs and please left his lips, his hands clutching Kageyama’s shirt as hard as he was the handle of his oxygen tank.

 

Shouyou didn’t know what to say to him that could possibly calm him down.

 

He knew nothing about the situation besides the kid’s name and his friend’s name, that she was alone and possibly self destructive, and that in this line of work, that was especially dangerous.

 

Takeru tugged on Kageyama’s shoulder and threw his arm out. “Here, turn here,”

 

Kageyama followed the direction, turned on his heels seamlessly as Shouyou skidded against the tile.

 

Kageyama popped a squat to let Takeru climb to his own feet, and with surprising gentleness, he opened the door and knocked on the doorframe.

 

Shouyou sidled up behind him and peered under his armpit.

 

He didn’t really know what he was expecting. Maybe a huge scene, or some girl scratching out her hair. What he saw, though, wasn’t what he might have expected at all. The girl -- Mina, he assumed -- was lying on her back on the bed to the left, wearing sweatpants and a sweater, arms crossed over her chest as she stared up to the ceiling. Expressionless. Silent. She looked up when they entered the doorway, but didn’t react or say a thing.

 

“Hey,” Kageyama said. “You doing okay? We’re making sculptures out of caramel in the kitchen, if you’d like to join us.”

 

Mina shrugged. Hinata noticed the angle of her jaw, her hair cut in a jagged bob as if someone had taken a pair of household scissors to it. Her side of the room was dull -- only white walls, a small bedside table and a single poster taped up just above her head. It advertised some underground indie band that Shouyou had ever heard of. The other side of the room was clearly Takeru’s. It was lively and colorful, pictures taped up, white christmas lights strung against the top of the wall.

 

Takeru himself had calmed down slightly at the sight of his friend. “Hey, Mina, aren’t you supposed to wear your neck brace when you’re sleeping?”

 

She shrugged again. “I’m not sleeping. Besides, I can tell when I’m going to have one.”

 

“You can’t always tell. It’s just safer. Please?”

 

She frowned slightly, but sat up so she could reach under the bed. A bundle of straps and buckles of foam appeared, and she started to wrap it around her neck when Takeru stepped inside and held out a hand. “Hey, why don’t you join us instead?”

 

“I’m not really in the mood, Oya.”

 

“Please? For me?” he begged. A tiny, almost invisible smile flitted accross her lips, and she sat up out of bed, stretched, and let her arms flop to the side.

 

“I guess. I’m tired though, so not for long.”

 

“That’s!” Takeru let out a breath of relief. “That’s fine. Thanks, Mina.”

 

Mina said nothing. She threw open the top drawer to her dresser, stuffed a black beanie over her hair, and walked past him, ruffling his hair as she went. Shouyou hadn’t noticed how tall she was until she was peering over the top of his head, rail thin, all neck and slim wrists. As she walked past him, he saw the spidery tendrils of bruising escaping her hairline and twirling around her left ear.

 

If she noticed him staring, she didn’t say anything. Instead, she peered over her shoulder, took one glance between Kageyama and Shouyou, and asked bluntly: “Are you two dating?”

 

Shouyou felt his face heat up till it burned in seconds flat. “Wh-what would make you ask that?” he stuttered, at the same time Kageyama huffed and said “No!” much too loudly to be normal.

 

Mina rolled her eyes and cocked one hip out to the side, turned, and led Takeru down the hallway towards the kitchen.

 

Shouyou let out a quiet whine. He huffed, looked to his feet and elbowed Kageyama sharply in the hip bone.

 

“O-ow! What was that for?”

 

Hinata folded his arms. “Being an idiot. Now c’mon, shifts almost over and I need help on my homework.”

Chapter Text

Among many of the small details that Tobio had noticed about Hinata, the one that stood out to him the most was the way his knobbly knees flexed when he was under stress. He wasn’t sure why this caught his attention -- but sitting in this cafe with him, sipping cooling apple cider and reading over pages filled with messy notes, his eyes were immediately drawn to the way the hem of Hinata’s shorts hiked up just passed his knees. The tiny pattern of freckles there. The way his knee caps jumped, how he crossed and uncrossed his ankles, the faint ginger hair on his legs that was so thin it looked like he shaved it.

 

He had to draw his eyes away from it so many times that it was excessive, really. He shouldn’t be having this problem, not now of all times, when his thoughts should have been absorbed in the frontal lobe of the brain and it’s functions, and helping Hinata pass his next test.

 

Honestly, it was Hinata’s fault for not being practical enough to wear pants during the winter.

 

It had been a week since they started working with the teen center of the hospital. Suga hadn’t talked to them about it yet, but they had showed up for work every morning to find their names under the list of employees for that sector, clear as day. Not that they were complaining, of course. Tobio had grown extremely fond of the teens already. He was still working on remembering all of their names, but their faces stuck in his brain easily.

 

He had gotten a lot done, in terms of productivity -- he had beaten two of them in Mario Kart 8, lost terribly enough to make two of them smile for the first time he’s seen, done three small finger paintings and learned how to draw a perfect cartoon pig with the help of Tiana, who had been practising the same drawing for a year. Most of all, he felt like he was helping them.

 

That, by association, he was helping them be happier, and they, in turn, were lifting his spirits.

 

Tobio was even considering talking to Suga about getting moved to that sector permanently as an emergency doctor and surgeon, and as one of the teen advisors. He even considered putting a word in for Hinata.

 

Hinata was minoring in psychology. He didn’t have to say it, Tobio already knew that he would love to become a teen counselor for Daichi hospital.

 

“So? What’s the answer? The patient’s experiencing vision problems but there’s no damage on the eyeball or eye socket. What’s not functioning right? ”

 

Hinata chewed at the end of his mechanical pencil, eyebrows furrowed in concentration. “Er...Cerebellum?”

 

Tobio rolled his eyes. “C’mon, you’re not even trying.”

 

With a small chuckle, Hinata pulled one of his knees up until it was bent and balancing on the chair next to his other thigh. He tugged at the bill of the baseball hat sitting backwards on his head. “Okay, okay, is it the thalamus?”

 

Tobio cracked a small smile. “You’re getting there. What else could it be?”

 

“I don’t know! The Thalamus regulates sensory stuff, which could influence eyesight. That could be it.”

 

“It could, but there’s another part it might be.” Tobio took a sip of his cider. “C’mon, this one’s easy!”

 

It happened again -- First his nose, then the wrinkles in his forehead between his wispy eyebrows, then the balled fists. But this time, instead of shouting at Tobio, he planted his head in his arms and arched his back, groaning in frustration.

 

Heat rose to Tobio’s face just as quickly. Except this time, it wasn’t just the word “cute” running through his mind. It was a bit more indecent than that, repetition of the soft grunt and the curve of his back in Tobio’s mind, and it was just a bit overwhelming. A fire lit in his stomach, but instead of spreading outwards, it just made him want to throw up. In disgust, in nerves, he couldn’t tell.

 

“Stupid,” Hinata whispered to himself.

 

Yeah, I can agree with that sentiment.

 

“It’s the optical lobe, isn’t it?”

 

Tobio nodded quickly. “B-bingo.”

 

He pretended to become very invested in the work sheet in front of him, buried his nose in the bundle of papers to hide the inevitable redness of his cheeks.

 

“I should have gotten that one,” Hinata muttered. He leaned up just enough for his nose to be pressed against his forearms, where he could look up to see Tobio. “Hey,” he asked. “Are you doing okay?”

 

Tobio nodded without making eye contact. “Me? Yeah, I’m good.” He glanced down at the worksheet and willed the words to stop swimming. “What are the other functions of the Optical lobe?”

 

Hinata let his tongue dart out to pull at the straw protruding from his drink until he could wrap his lips around it. His brow and nose furrowed for just a moment. “It controls the wake and sleep cycle, like the hypothalamus.”

 

“Perfect. If you keep going on like this, you’ll ace your test.”

 

“I should hope so…”

 

Hinata looked down at his notes for a moment, tapped his pencil against the table between them and let his foot fall back down to the floor. He huffed out a breath. Tobio wanted to flick him in the head, between his eyebrows, until he stopped frowning. He wanted to see him smile. He had, before. It was wonderful. Hinata was like a vibrant sun when he smiled. His eyes closed with the force of it, chest and cheeks puffed out in happiness.

 

Tobio really wanted him to look like that more often.

 

He glanced to the side. It was just then when the darkness outside caught his eye -- they started studying a while ago. It was getting late. Tobio looked up to the counter, at the worker lounging against the cash register, giving them a look of frustration. Yes, they were definitely there too late.

 

“We better head home,” he muttered.

 

Hinata glanced outside reluctantly. He probably still thinks he’s going to fail his test tomorrow, Tobio thought to himself.

 

He wanted to reach out and pat Hinata on the shoulder, touch his hand, anything. Something reassuring -- but he couldn’t figure out what to do. It was as if his muscles froze in place. Achtoline, the lack of which causes muscle paralysis. Kageyama shook his head to clear his thoughts. They really had done a bit too much studying.

 

“You know, you’re improving. Dumbass.” Hinata just sighed in response.

 

“What, no witty retort?” Tobio pressed. “No response? Not gonna call me a dumbass back?”

 

A tiny smile graced his lips, and that was enough for Tobio.

 

“You’re right.” Hinata slung his shoulder bag over his shoulder. “We should get going.”

 

They stuffed the papers into a semi-organized binder, packed up the books, and left. The cold breeze and the scent of rain and gasoline assaulted Tobio's nose the moment they opened the door to exit the cafe. He saw Hinata shiver and pick at the hem of his shorts. His knees were steadily turning blue from the cold.

 

Tobio debated for a moment the pros and cons to offering Hinata his jacket.

 

Pro: he wouldn’t freeze to death.

 

Con: he would never live it down.

 

???: it was a very affectionate gesture. Not necessarily romantic, but...affectionate. Tobio didn’t know if it was okay for him to show that kind of affection to Hinata, if that was a “not yet” thing, or a “not ever” thing.

 

He decided against it. Instead, he placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him a light shove. “You look freezing. You can tell you’re new here -- no one wears shorts past september with our whether.”

 

Hinata just shrugged. He tilted his head until his cheek just barely brushed the top of Tobio’s hand, and lifted his arms above his head in a yawn. The sound of his back cracking sent a shock through the cold winter air.

 

“I’m going to go home,” he muttered. Hinata sounded...meek. Meek was the word. He sounded weak and nervous, and almost apprehensive about Tobio’s reaction.

 

Tobio frowned. “Are you sure you don’t want me to walk you there? It’s getting really dark.”

 

The resounding “yes.” that left Hinata’s lips was surprising, but Tobio let it be. He jostled Hinata’s shoulder once more, said goodnight, and went on his way.

 

Tobio kind of loved walking alone at night.

 

He knew it wasn’t safe, it was far from being secure but something about the sounds of the rain and the feel of cool mist on his skin felt oddly calming. He relished it, considering most nights he was much too tired to even step outside his bedroom for longer than the time it took to microwave a frozen pizza.

 

But the way the orange-tinted- light from the street lights hit the pavement, the way the light pollution casted a dirty haze of yellow against the navy sky -- the distant sounds of cars rushing past him, their wheels spitting droplets of water from the wet street, the scent of winter and the combined fragrances from all-night fast food restaurants made it worth it. Tobio drank in every smell, every dull sound, just let his mind wander until it focused on the sound of his Doc Martins clicking softly against the side walk.

 

He arrived at his apartment five minutes later to find his roommate, sleeping on their couch, wearing nothing but his briefs.

 

Tobio held back a fond smile. He wasn’t sure what he did for a living (he still suspects he’s a stripper. Regardless, he got the rent in on time every month), but he fell asleep on the couch every night, like clockwork.

 

He placed his briefcase on the ground and toed his shoes off, careful not to make any noise. He stepped into their kitchenette and threw open a cabinet door to retrieve a glass.

 

The clink of the glass against their tile countertop rang out. Tobin winced -- he could hear his roommate yawn, the crack of his back as he stretched. With a sigh, Tobio poured his milk and waited.

 

Oikawa strutted into the kitchen and cocked his hip. “Now what the hell are you doing up at this hour?”

 

With another sigh, Tobio leaned against the countertop and took a sip from his milk. “I was with Hinata. We were studying. Lost track of time.”

 

“Shrimpy-chan?” He chuckled. That was his nickname for Hinata. It had been since Tobio first described the intern to him as shirt and annoying. “You know, you’ve been spending a lot of time with him lately.” Oikawa leered. He lifted himself until he sat on top of the table and ran a hand through his hair. His hair was the color of chocolate milk, and it hung in front of his eyes the same way every day, even though Tobio knew for a fact that he didn't use any gel or product to make it stay. Definitely stripper material, especially when you factored in his slow smirk and the fact that he had enough confidence to strut around in only spandex shorts.

 

“What do you mean?” He muttered. He finished off the rest of his milk with a swig.

 

Oikawa grinned again. “You like him,” he sang. He tilted his head side-to-side and spoke in a voice dulled by exhaustion. His shoulders slouched and his form seemed tired, like he had been awake since early in the morning and hadn't gotten rest until -- Tobio checked his watch -- midnight?

 

But that wasn't what he was focusing on.

 

“Wait…what did you just say?”

 

“I think you have a crush on Shrimpy-chan.” Oikawa mumbled. “It's kind of obvious.”

 

Tobio snorted. “Yeah, you’re delirious.”

 

“Whatever you say, my friend.”

 

Tobio just ignored him and set his glass down. He rinsed it out, placed it on the drain board, and grabbed his briefcase. Oikawa was his friend, but he didn't trust him not to rifle through his things. Instead, Tobio brought his bag to his room and tossed it to the floor at the base of his desk.

 

Since he had started working at the hospital, he promised himself to leave work at home.

 

This was the second time he was struggling to keep that promise.

 

The first was a long time ago. Perhaps it was within the first few months of his new employment, but it wasn't as if he kept track. All he remembered was guilt. A terrible, crushing feeling of his lungs filling with pain and fear, of his fingers freezing up. He remembered the rush of blood in his ears.

 

Most of all, he remembered being unable to distinguish between the sound of his heartbeat in his throat, and the flat line of a heart monitor.

 

Tobio carried that guilt for weeks. Someone died, and while he was trying to save them, while there were ways to save them, Tobio was unable to. He panicked, and the person lost their life because of it.

 

And the awful part was, if Tobio kept thinking about it, more people might lose their lives.

 

So he forgot. He learned to keep work at work, and so far, it had worked.

 

Until now, that is. Now, he couldn't stop thinking about work. He couldn't stop thinking about Hinata, in particular.

 

No -- he couldn't stop worrying about Hinata.

 

He was concerned. Terribly concerned. He was worried about Hinata changing moods, he was worried about his lack of an appetite, he was worried about the intense amount of pain and anxiety that seemed to fill his eyes whenever he talked about failing his classes.

 

Because no matter how hard he tries, he couldn't keep his mind off of Hinata.

 

Tobio’s eyes shot open.

 

Oh no, he thought.

 

I -- I like Hinata Shouyou.

Chapter Text

The hypothalamus (located right underneath the thalamus) is the part of the brain that regulates your body's ability to arouse yourself, whether in times of hunger, thirst, or stress.

Shouyou knew that much.

What he did not know, or more accurately, what the brain-anatomy part of his psychology class had failed to teach him, was how to make his hypothalamus calm the hell down.

His test -- well, exam, because it was significantly more difficult and important than the occasional twenty-question tests they took for this class -- was stressing him out.

It wasn’t supposed to be easy. He knew that, when going into it, that this exam was going to be difficult. He new it accounted for thirty percent of his grade. He knew, that if he failed it, he might as well drop his minor is psychology, because there would be no way for him to get a high enough grade on the final to pass the class.

Shouyou wasn’t stupid. He studied well, and when he was working with Kageyama, the problems weren’t difficult. They weren’t easy, but they were doable. Filling in a few bubbles seemed less like an enormous feat of intelligence, and more like a chore. Necessary, but bearable.

On the other hand...he was a terrible test taker.

He peered down at the first page of the exam. He still had three hours left to complete his answer sheet, turn it in, and leave. There were forty-five questions and three short essays. doable.

But right now, even thinking about the first question made his lungs feel as though they were filling with sand.

What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? What if I try, I complete it all, and still get a bad grade?

The emotional directors of Shouyou’s brain were trashed, overwhelmed with negativity, pressure, and he could barely breathe. The sound of pencils scratching around him went from barely noticeable to deafening. The ticking of the official’s watch and the soft footsteps outside the exam room door filled his ears, his head, his chest, overcoming him completely. Perhaps there were chemical imbalances in his amygdalae. Or was it his Thalamus, or his corpus callosum, as the first test question read. He didn’t know -- all he knew was that his hypothalamus was stressing him out, and it wasn’t helping his comprehensive abilities in the slightest.

Shouyou glanced down, and saw his pencil shaking in his iron grip.

1.) Maria’s surgeon severs her corpus callosum. What could be a possible cause for this operation?

His pencil stopped shaking.

”C’mon, you know this one.”

He huffed. “I don’t know, overeating?”

Kageyama smiled. Shouyou liked his smile -- he liked it a lot. It was almost distracting. “No, more complicated than that.” he said, tapping the textbook in front of him “Think of Mina.”

The memory of his textbook blurred, then returned to focus, as if he had twisted it like a camera lens.

Shouyou swallowed, hard. He took in a rattling breath, and brought his pencil down to the paper. The corpus callosum connected the two hemispheres of the brain. Occasionally, doctors would sever them if the patient was experiencing overwhelming epileptic seizures.

He moved his pencil to the answer sheet, and bubbled in the allotted slot.

One down. Forty-four to go.It wasn’t impossible. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shouyou finished the test about twenty minutes before his time was up. He bullshitted the entirety of the third essay, and had no idea what was going on with the last seven questions, but he bubbled them in regardless. He felt…good. And that's saying something significant, considering his previous test scores.

The residual stress in his chest was lowering, coating his bones and stomach until he felt like he was going to throw up.

He closed the door to the exam room as gently as possible, and sprinted off down the hallway. Testing rooms flew past him, the sound of his feet thumping against the tile filled his ears. He made it to the student parking lot outside without realizing how fast he was running. He paused, for a moment. It was raining. Not drizzling, like it had been last night -- it was pouring. The wind whipped through his hair and in his ears, throwing the sides of his unzipped hoodie behind him like a cape.

And in it all, he felt a really strange desire to call Tobio.

Shouyou felt his throat close up. He pulled his phone from his sweatpants pocket -- his finger hovered over the call button next to Kageyama’s contact. It shook, like it had in the testing room. But this time was different. He shifted his finger to the left and typed out a quick text message. The answer was almost immediate. And with that, he sprinted off down the sidewalk.

The rush of running was enough to distract him from the anxiety growing in his stomach -- but not in his head. The thoughts still swirled around. At this point, they were to incoherent to be a real threat -- but they were still there.

Before he even realized, he was turning the corner and running off the university campus, towards the familiar park in the center of town. The trees were no longer brightly colored and full to the brim -- the rain had done the job of winter, tearing the dying leaves from their branches and scattering them across the ground in soggy piles. It was kind of gross, the way they stuck to the bottom of Shouyou’s shoes, the way they slipped underneath him.

And then his foot slipped. He went tumbling forward, his back bending too quick for the rest of his body, and fell stomach first onto the wet grass.

Shouyou just sat there for a moment, his cheek pressed against the ground. He could smell mud and rain -- it wasn’t unpleasant. The slow seep of the moisture from the grass through his thin t-shirt was cold, but it was nice, almost.

“Dumbass...what are you doing?”

Hinata pushed up from the ground and whipped around.

“Tobio?” he tried to ask. His voice caught in his throat like a cough he couldn’t force out -- he ended up saying nothing, opened his mouth and closed it just as fast.

“Well?” Kageyama asked.

His hands were on his hips and he was frowning, but there was concern written in the way his eyebrows drew together in the middle. He had angry eyes, but Shouyou decided they were nice eyes.

Shouyou held a hand out and allowed Kageyama to lift him to his feet.

Kageyama swept a hand down the front of Shouyou’s shirt once, twice, before he paused, peered down at his hand, and backed away.

“You -- you’re covered in grass.” He muttered. He looked like he had a sunburn. Shouyou looked down at the front of his shirt -- Kageyama wasn’t wrong. Wet blades of grass were glued to his shirt and the front of his sweat pants. “Why were you on the ground?”

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Shouyou scoffed. “I tripped. I was running here.”

“You didn’t need to, I could have picked you up.”

Shouyou raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have a car.”

“My roommate does. I got him to drop me off.”

“You didn’t have to do that for me.”

He shrugged. “I wanted to. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

All the breath rushed out of Shouyou at once, and he felt his shoulders relax. He slumped forward, arms hanging out in front of him. He wanted to open his mouth, to thank Kageyama for doing that at the drop of a hat, for him, but he couldn’t find the words that would do it well enough.

So, naturally, he let out a loud “gwha!” and sank back to the ground.

Kageyama took another step back, startled. “What the hell? Dumbass, what are you doing?!”

He didn’t respond -- he scooted forward on the grass and grabbed Kageyama’s ankle. He tugged at the end of his jeans with both hands.

“Hey -- let go!”

Shouyou didn’t let go.

Kageyama came crashing down to the ground with an indignant noise that could only be described as a squawk. His knees hit a particularly wet patch of grass with a squish, and he fell onto his side, crushing Shouyou into the leaves.

Shouyou pressed his cheek into the dirt and squeezed his eyes shut.

They sat there, silent, for a few moments. Shouyou’s shirt soaked through on one side -- but it was, for the first time that day, completely okay.

A loud cough broke through the wall of silence. Kageyama placed a hand on Shouyou’s shoulder and jostled him. “So...the test?”

A sigh passed through his lips. “It...it was okay. Not great, but I finished it this time, so that’s a first.” A chuckle escaped him, and soon he was giggling, turning on his back to peer up at the sky, cheeks split with a grin. “It’s over.” he murmured.

“Do you…” Kageyama cleared his throat. “Do you want to celebrate? We could go get ice cream or --”

He shook his head. “This...this is enough.” He stared up at the sky, closed his eyes, and reached out to grab Kageyama’s wrist. Just as he did, the rain stopped. The clouds shifted just so, blown right by the wind, and a few rays of sunlight fell across his face. He looked lovely.

Chapter Text

The sunlight graced Hinata’s cheekbones perfectly. It highlighted the pockmarks of freckles, the way they were scattered along the ridge of his nose, his cheeks, even the tips of his ears and the collarbone that peeked out under the hem of his shirt. They were beautiful and tiny, like decorative pinpricks through a sheet of paper, and Tobio just wanted to run his fingertips along them, to connect them like constellations.

Damn, he hated the sun. In the dull, rain sodden world he lived in, he could easily ignore things he didn’t want to see -- but the sun, it pointed out everything Tobio was hiding from. The glow of Hinata’s skin, the way his orange hair fell around his head like a gilded crown. More importantly, how badly Tobio wanted to run his fingers through it.

This...was an issue.

He couldn’t exactly deny it anymore: Tobio was incredibly attracted to Hinata Shouyou.

The issue? Kageyama didn’t get crushes. At least not the typical, elementary manner. He couldn’t think of a single moment in his life where he had thought “this person is attractive, I would like to have sex with them and be in a romantic relationship with them.” And he was fine with that. In fact, he liked it. He didn’t have to deal with significant feelings for others and didn’t have to feel the heartbreak. After watching a few of his friends break down after losing a lover, he knew he didn’t want anything to do with that kind of pain.

But looking at Hinata’s face, completely content, a smudge of mud on his chin and orange leaves in his hair, sunlight hitting him -- Tobio felt at home.

He felt an uncontrollable urge to dance, to grab Hinata’s hand and squeeze it. He wanted to run his hands through Hinata’s hair and bury his face in his shirt.

His hands shook. Tobio knew he needed to do something with them before they acted on his own, touched Hinata without his consent, before they screwed everything up. He squeezed one into a fist, and let his other thumb brush the mud from Hinata’s chin. It was an innocent action -- at least, that was Tobio’s intention.

Hinata’s eyes shot open, the sun hit them and turned the chestnut brown to iridescent gold and God, if Tobio wasn’t screwed already, he certainly was now.

It wasn’t that he wanted to have sex with him (that still wasn’t clear in his mind), because if he was being honest, that wouldn’t even be an issue. He could solve that. He could get over that. No, the pure affection that he felt for Hinata hit him like a bullet in the back.

Tobio flopped backwards into the grass. His eyes screwed shut and his hands fisted inside his pockets. He couldn’t tell if the warmth radiating off of him was from Hinata, the newly visible sun, or the blush on his cheeks.

This didn’t even make sense. Hinata was an annoying dumbass. A dumbass who he thought was gorgeous and wanted to stare at all day, who looked like the sun and was the sun and made him feel like he could break at any minute.

And fuck it all, Oikawa was right.

Tobio could say with confidence that he had a massive crush, that didn’t stem from something he could fix, but that was permanent and aching inside him.

He felt warmth press against his side and his eyes shot open. Hinata rested his forehead on Tobio’s shoulder and yawned. “This is nice.”

“Y-yeah.” Tobio murmured. He cleared his throat and clenched his hands again. Get yourself together, Kagayama. “When do you get the results back?”

Hinata let out a sharp whine. “Don’t go there so soon! Let me enjoy the post-exam bliss.”

“Are you not stressed out?!”

“Of course I am!” Hinata cried. He nuzzled his nose into the cloth of Tobio’s jacket, just light enough to convince him it was unintentional. “But that’s why I ran here after it was done.”

A sharp pang of…something resonated in his gut. “You texted me?” Don’t you have any other friends?”

Hinata huffed and rolled away. “Tobio, you’re so mean!”

Alright Tobio, you definitely worded that wrong.

He instinctively leaned to the side, back towards the warmth of Hinata pressing against him, and ended up rolling on top of him instead. Tobio felt his soul ascend and his face turn the color of a fire hydrant.

“Sorry!” he cried, Hinata yelling “You’re too heavy!” simultaneously. He saw a woman walking her dog scoff at them, shaking her head in disdain, and realized the position they were in. More accurately, he realized what they looked like -- chest to chest, legs tangled, noses nearly touching.

Without realizing, Tobio shoved himself off the ground and stumbled a few feet in the opposite direction. Abort, abort, abort, he thought, mind scattered and unfocused. He still wasn’t sure how he could handle this. Did Hinata like him back? Tobio was a tactless bean pole whose only strength was that he knew a lot about being a doctor. He wasn’t particularly attractive, or significant, he wasn’t even that interesting. He could afford to split rent on a decent apartment in the city, but Hinata didn’t seem like the type to date someone for money. Besides, could Hinata like him back? Was Hinata even gay?

Shit, was Tobio even gay? He had always assumed he was just...nothing. Asexual, he guessed, but the labels had never felt completely right to him. What really mattered was that he had no interest in dating or hooking up. That was fine and all, but other things were more appealing. So he couldn’t be gay, not really. Gay people were supposed to know forever. Weren’t they?

Tobio was just trying to wrap his mind around the possibility, and standing in a soggy park with the Man In Question staring up at him wasn’t the best place for him to have an internal dilemma.

Hinata sat up, rubbing his chest with both hands. His nose scrunched up and eyebrows furrowed, hair filled with twigs and leaves. He looked like a disgruntled woodland fairy.

Yes, you’re gay, 100% gay, so gay, the absolute gayest. He cleared his throat. “Do you...are you sure you don’t want to go get coffee?” Tobio asked. “To celebrate, I mean. So you’re not stressed anymore.”

Hinata brushed the grass from his pants and stood up. A grin crossed his face and he looked up at Tobio, fists planted on his hips. “Of course!”

Tobio felt the warmth in his chest again. It grew wider until his toes and fingers were tangling. He wanted to scoop Hinata up and dance until his feet were sore, he wanted to run a few miles or climb one of the damn trees near them.

It hurt him in his very bones, but he didn’t do any of it.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Places Tobio found unsuitable for internal conflict: everywhere he was from the moment at the park, leading up to where they were sat in the cafe. More, probably, were going to be added to the list if he kept thinking about it, but with Hinata around, he couldn’t help but think about it.

It didn’t even make logical sense. Tobio hadn’t liked anyone in his entire life. Zip. Zero. Nadda. And now, this mess of a college student was crashing through that pattern and filling Tobio’s head with wonderful nonsense.

He had come to notice that Hinata never ordered the same drink twice. Standing in line to order, He stood on his toes to peer over others and read through all the options before he decided. The last few times they came here together he had ordered the green tea lemonade, the spicy chili iced coffee, and an apple cider with whipped cream. This time he appeared to be deciding between the four Christmas themed beverages.

Tobio gazed fondly over his head at the price board. He always got the same drink out of convenience. He was too sensitive to caffeine, so Tobio would either order a small coffee or a hot chocolate, depending on the time of day and his expectation for his work load.

Hinata fell back on his heels and rocked backwards and forwards. “What are you getting? I can’t decide between the peppermint mocha and the cinnamon chocolate coffee.”

Tobio shrugged. “The usual.”

“What? You’re so boring, Kageyama-kun.”

He stiffened. “What’s that supposed to mean? I like hot chocolate, and I can’t get the caffeinated stuff this late in the day.”

Hinata rolled his eyes and moved back until he was standing level with Tobio, nose tilted up and eyes squinted so he could make out the plastic letters on the board above the cash register. “You can get a hot chocolate without being boring.”

With a sigh, Tobio turned towards the cash register as well. “And how do you suggest I do that?”

He was silent for a moment. He caught his bottom lip between his teeth and bit down, nose screwed up in concentration. Tobio noted that he was incredibly focused for someone who was simply picking out a warm beverage, especially when it only cost around three dollars and could easily be replaced.

Finally, Hinata released his lip and perked up. “Oh! If you like the hot chocolate, you could get a salted caramel cocoa!”

Tobio chewed at the inside of his cheek and moved his zipper up and down the track of his jacket. “I don’t know if I’ll like that. Salt? Won’t that taste weird with hot chocolate?”

Hinata shook his head with vigor. “It’s amazing! I had one two weeks ago and the topping was...gah, you have to try it!”

“If you like it so much, why don’t you just get it?” He huffed.

Hinata paused. His hands released the sleeve of Tobio’s jacket, and he rocked back and forth in his sneakers. He was wearing shorts again -- Tobio couldn’t believe it, it was late November and the average temperature outside was thirty-nine degrees, and yet Hinata refused to let go of his summer wardrobe. He could see his kneecaps jumping under his skin as he flexed them with the steady motion of him rocking. There were freckles there, too. Tobio was beginning to notice that there were light smatterings of freckles covering his entire body.

The man in front of them threw his scarf over his shoulder and pushed his glasses up his nose. He spit his order out quickly, and it was their turn to order.

Tobio took a shaky step forward and stuffed his hands in his pockets, his right hand already closing around his wallet and thumbing at the bills inside in preparation.

“Hello! How are you two doing tonight?” The barista asked. She was quite pretty and had a messy bun piled on top of her head under the uniform visor, and wore her orange apron tied around her waist.

“Er, well.” Tobio murmured. “Can we have two salted caramel hot chocolates? Both medium.”

The Barista nodded. She grabbed two paper cups and uncapped a sharpie, checking off boxes on the sides of the cups. “Would you like whipped cream with that?”

“Yes!” Hinata butted forward. Tobio rolled his eyes. He had a sweet tooth, but apparently Hinata’s was even stronger.

“And the names?”

“Tobio-kun and Hinata-san.” Hinata grinned cheekily.

Tobio planted a hand on the top of his head and ruffled his orange hair. Thankfully, it didn’t contain any more twigs, but Hinata still made a loud noise of complaint.

It was too late, because the Barista was already behind the drink counter, handing the cups off to the next employee.

The bell at the entrance tinkled as another customer entered. The cool breeze from outside hit the backs of their necks. Hinata shivered beside him and wrapped his arms around himself, tugging the sides of his jacket taut against his back.

Tobio pulled his own collar up against the wind and removed his hands from his pockets with the perfect change, handed it off to the barista and nudged Hinata with his hip. “C’mon, let’s go wait. We’re clogging up the line.”

He looked down to find the most indignant expression he’d ever seen staring up at him.

“What?”

Hinata furrowed his brow and puffed out his lower lip. How are you not freezing?”

“Better, more important question: why are you wearing shorts?”

He tugged at the ends of his khaki shorts and smoothed them against his knees. “They’re all that was clean. Leave me alone, you snow demon.”

Tobio smirked. “I’m not a ‘snow demon,’ I’ve just lived here long enough to know to wear pants when the temperature is consistently below fifty degrees and the rain never ends.” He reached out and placed a hand on Hinata’s shoulder. He squeezed it like he was comforting an old friend, then quickly dropped his arm after realizing what he’d done.

“It’s so cold, why does anyone even like living here?”

“The company is alright.” Tobio murmured.

Hinata shoved him. “Dumbass, don’t be so rude.”

Tobio just chuckled.

They loitered somewhere between the seating area and the drink counter for a few minutes before Kageyama got tired of watching Hinata shiver (read: felt incredibly bad about watching him experience discomfort), and unlooped his scarf from around neck. It was chunky and knit, with a large pocket at each end for your hands.

Hinata practically salivated at the sight. He was quick to wrap it around his own neck and stuff his hands into the pockets. He brought the yarn up to his face and rubbed it against his cheeks to warm them up.

Soon enough, the barista called both of their names and placed their identical drinks on the counter. Hinata dashed over, eager to drink the warm beverages and warm himself from the inside out. He nearly spilled the boiling liquid over his front on his first attempt.

“Hinata,” Tobio chided. “Don’t pick up drinks when you’ve got my scarf wrapped around your hands.”

Hinata puffed out his cheeks with a huff, but let Tobio grab the both of them without complaining.

They decided to take their drinks with them and walk around the central park.

It was chilly outside, but it wasn’t as intense as it normally would be in the city this time of year. The wind tossed the soggy leaves on the ground as the trees tried to hold on to the last remaining few. They were losing the autumn battle -- winter was coming, and it would leave nothing green in its path. The grass turned a dull gray every year, the trees completely naked and coated in ice, but they always grew back in the short months of spring.

As they walked, Tobio’s only hope was that his shoes wouldn’t soak completely through. He had traded his usual sneakers in for bright blue rain boots that came to his ankle. They were rubbery and had soft faux fur on the insides, but even they might lose the battle this year. It happened last year too, with a different pair of boots. Those were a ruddy shade of orange that matched the leaves on the ground. It was Tobio’s favorite color.

Tobio looked up ahead of him where Hinata walked and saw that his hair was a near perfect match. He promptly buried himself in his drink and tried not to think about it.

The hot chocolate was fantastic -- Tobio didn’t know what he was thinking when he first protested, because the contrast between the salt of the topping and the sweetness of the cocoa was fantastic. The caramel was drizzled over the whipped cream and mixed into the drink, perfectly integrated. Overall, it was amazing. He told Hinata this with as much enthusiasm as he could muster.

Hinata shrugged, grinning like he’d known the whole time (which, Tobio supposed he had) as he licked at the whipped cream on top of his own drink. His tongue darted out to lap at the caramel drizzle, sea salt, and whip, eating it off the top before he even took his first sip. Tobio looked away, blushing.

“You’ve gotten it on your face, dumbass,” he murmured.

Hinata looked up at him, incredulous. “What? Where?”

He started rubbing at his face in all the wrong places in an attempt to wipe away the cream. Tobio rolled his eyes and leaned forward. He chewed at his bottom lip and stuck his thumb out, used it to sweep the white stain off Hinata’s bottom lip, and reached into his back pocket for one of the napkins he had nabbed.

Hinata leaned forward and pulled Tobio’s thumb into his mouth, swiping his tongue upwards against the whipped cream.

Tobio turned bright red.

Internally, he was screaming. ABORT ABORT ABORT raced through his head as he felt the tips of his ears burn with a fierce blush. He yanked his hand backwards and used it to lift the collar of his jacket until it covered his nose and upturned the hood until it concealed most of his face.

“Oh, Tobio, are you cold? Do you want your scarf back?”

Tobio almost scoffed. He was anything but cold. He burned with heat, pooled in his stomach and rising up through his face like water vapor. He didn’t say that to Hinata, of course -- just shook his head and kept trudging forward.

They walked around the outside of the park, between the grassy, fenced in fields and the busy roads, sipping their drinks and chatting. Well, Hinata chattered along as Tobio listened, careful not to interrupt.

Before, Hinata’s voice was a mild annoyance. He was slightly inconvenient and got in his way when they were working, but he had a lot of things to say. Some of them weren’t as bad as others.

“And then, Tanaka thought it would be a fantastic idea to use a lunch tray as a sled down the hill. Remember, this is a grown ass man. Sledding. He broke his collarbone! And even after that, Noya refused to stop sledding down it!” Hinata jumped to his toes and hopped forward, avoiding a puddle of rainwater. The pour of the rain from earlier had lessened to a weak drizzle. Water droplets caught on the tips of Hinata’s hair, on his eyelashes, and dotted the outside of his windbreaker in little silver balls.

“Are you even listening to me, Tobio?”

It took him a moment before he realized Hinata was talking to him, and not just adding information to the story of his friends.

He nearly dropped his cocoa. “Oh! Yeah, I was. Your friend Tanaka was being a dumbass.”

“Hey! Don’t call my friends dumbasses, dumbass!” Hinata scolded, but Tobio could tell from his grin that he didn’t really mean it.

“I’ll leave you to call your own friends dumbasses.”

Hinata nodded at that, his smile quirking at the ends.

“So...did it work?”

“Did what work?” Hinata asked, the tips of his ears turning red.

“The sled. Did you try it?”

Hinata rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. He looked down at his feet, then looked up through his lashes. “Yeah, it worked.”

Tobio chuckled. “Dumbass.”

They were nearly finished with the loop around the park and were nearing the cafe again when Tobio finished off the last of his drink. He stepped off the path and tossed the empty cardboard cup into the nearest trash can. Before he had the opportunity to do so, he heard a loud, squawking noise. When he turned back around, Hinata was gone.

He had disappeared from the path. A few soggy footprints marred the pattern of the dew-covered grass, leading to the middle of one of the nearest fields, where a large group of ducks was preening.

Hinata snuck forwards on his toes. He was low to the ground, arms outstretched and head ducked in an attempt to look non threatening. Ad then, he pounced.

He watched as Hinata took a leap forward and the gaggle of ducks erupted into the sky in a flurry of disgruntled screeches and gray and white feathers. The loud honking faded as the ducks flew over the park to the pond in the center and touched down against the surface of the water. Hinata just giggled, arms outstretched as the feathers and fluff rained down around him like snow.

Tobio knelt and picked up his abandoned drink cup and finished the last two swigs. He looked up just in time for Hinata to turn around, beaming, feathers in his hair and his arms still outstretched.

“I-isn’t that illegal?” Tobio spluttered. Hinata dropped his arms and ran back across the field.

He was panting, chest heaving underneath his windbreaker. Tobio thought about how out of shape he must be if the short run winded him. He managed to gasp out, “I didn’t hurt them! All I wanted to do was pet one of them.”

“You wanted to pet a wild duck?”

He shrugged. “I really like birds.”

Tobio rolled his eyes. They had made it to the Cafe again, and Hinata looked eager to re-enter the building. His knees had turned purple in the chilly November air. He swung the glass door open and held it for Hinata, who ducked under his arm into the warmth of the Cafe.

It wasn’t as crowded as it was before, and they found a seat and sat down to rest. There wasn’t a line in front of the cashier. Tobio was debating with himself the pros and cons of ordering something to eat this late in the day. The Cinnamon Stick Cafe was cheaper than most chains, but Tobio wasn’t one to constantly spend money on things he didn’t necessarily need, and he’d already ordered five drinks from this cafe in the past week.

He sighed, and shook his head. He could afford it, and it wasn’t that big of a deal, just a damn chocolate croissant.

“Do you want something to eat?” he asked, looking up to Hinata, who was busy peeling at the paper coating the covered the cardboard drink sleeve.

He peered up, brown eyes molten in the low lighting of the fireplace. “Hm?”

“Something to eat, d-do you want anything?”

Hinata pulled his bottom lip into his mouth and bit into it for a moment, head tilted to the side like a cat’s. “Yeah, I could go for something to eat,” he murmured.

“A-alright.” Tobio stood up abruptly and pushed his chair back into the table. Hinata rose with him and started rifling through his own pockets for his wallet. “No, put that away, I’ll pay for it.” Tobio instructed. Hinata raised a eyebrow, but sat down without complaining. He looked back to his empty drink cup and chewed at the corner of his lip.

Tobio smiled, an overwhelming amount of fondness bubbling up in his chest. He could keep doing this forever.

Chapter Text

Shouyou felt his eyes drift closed and let his head down to rest on the linoleum tabletop. His nose nudged at his empty drink cup, the shreds of paper peeling off of it tickling his cheek. The night before his exam he had made attempts to go to sleep early, but the nerves kept him up much longer than he’d expected. After the initial adrenaline had worn off, he started to feel exhausted. Now, he was feeling the tiredness in his bones, weighing his back and eyelids down. He had to work at the hospital tomorrow, but now, he needed sleep.

The clink of plates against the table startled him awake. Tobio stood there with the two plates in front of him, both containing two warm croissants with melted chocolate leaking from either side. Shouyou practically groaned at the sight of it.

He picked up his cutlery and dug in -- the pastry was buttery and crisp, the chocolate absolutely heavenly. If there was one good thing about Cinnamon Stick, it was their ability to make drinks and foods with fantastic chocolate.

Shouyou finished his first croissant and was halfway through his second when he noticed Tobio looking at him. He licked his upper lip and tilted his head to the side. “See something you like?” he asked, winking cheekily. Tobio flushed bright red.

“You have chocolate all over your face, dumbass.” He spluttered. “Why the hell are you making that face?”

Shouyou rolled his eyes. “It was a joke. I was pretending to flirt with you.”

“How was I supposed to know?”

He quirked an eyebrow. “What, no one ever flirt with you before?”

Tobio tilted his head to the side, thought for a moment, and shook his head. “Not that I can remember. I’m not exactly anything special.”

He wasn’t sure how that made him feel, or why his stomach seemed to twist in a knot when he saw the scrawled script on the side of Kageyama’s drink cup, but he shoved those emotions to the side. He let his mouth ease into a playful grin and looked up at Kageyama. “You can’t be that awful,”

Kageyama’s adam’s apple bobbed in his throat. “And why’s that?”

He jutted his chin out towards his cardboard drink cup. “The barista’s been making eyes at you. And, if I’m correct, it seems she wrote her phone number on you cup.”

Shouyou saw his cheeks turn forty different shades between red and pink as he scrambled to read the side of his cup, and couldn’t help but let out a laugh.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kageyama left him at the cafe after he finished his food, smiling and wishing him good night. Shouyou had smiled back and nodded, keeping his eyes open as wide as possible so he didn’t look as exhausted as he felt -- he could assume he was successful, because Kageyama didn’t question him.

He felt happiness bubble up in his chest when Kageyama threw his marked drink cup away without another thought towards the girl who had marked it. And then, he felt guilty -- but that was irrelevant.

Shouyou didn’t want Kageyama feeling obligated to walk him home or buy him more things. It was nice, and friendly of him to do so occasionally, but even though they were (apparently) friends now, he didn’t want to distract Kageyama or be a burden.

When a loud yawn found its way through his throat and out his mouth. He gathered up his backpack and threw his trash into the bin. He sighed, and made his way through the cafe, towards the exit. Most nights, Shouyou spent the time before he went to sleep in the local library, reading and studying and occasionally using the public computers to look at the news, but there was no way to justify studying after taking such an important exam.

A bright yellow sign caught his attention. It was inverted, pasted against the inside of the shop window so the words were showing outside the cafe. He could make out a few words: Hire, Job, and Interview. Shouyou darted outside to look at the paper.

It was an advertisement for an open barista position.

A job, Shouyou thought, goosebumps trailed up his legs at the thought.

He threw the door back open and trotted up to the counter.

“Excuse me,” he asked the girl running the cash register. “Could I have the paperwork for the barista position?”

She eyed him, looking him up and down with suspicion. Shouyou shrank back at the scrutiny. “Yeah,” she said finally, folding her arms in front of her apron. “Just give me a second to grab the paperwork.”

She disappeared behind the counter into one of the back rooms, and returned in a few moments with a thin manila folder. She slid it over the counter top towards him.

She wished him good luck -- it felt ingenuine, but Shouyou smiled back at her anyways.

He looked down at the folder and couldn’t help but feel happy.

It wouldn’t be an incredibly difficult job -- he had the experience, considering he had worked as a barista for a year in high school, and the hours seemed easy enough to make. Most importantly, he would be able to make an actual income. The savings he had built up before he was independent of his parents were depleting quickly. He needed to get a job before next semester anyway, or he wouldn’t have a good enough credit to take out a loan for his tuition.

A job at the cafe would not only be convenient, but necessary.

Shouyou folded the folder and shoved them into his bag. It was only six thirty, but the cloud covered rainy sky was turning the world outside a dark gray. Winter was intense in this city. The cold weather, snow, wind, and daylight cycle were very different from that in his hometown on the countryside. Better get a move on and find a good spot before the rain is too much.

The scent of fresh rain and takeout street food assaulted his nostrils. The light from the city lit up his path in neon colors, the bright lights of cars rushed past him and faded away as if they were leading him forward, down the slope of the sidewalk. The drizzle had ceased to give him some time of dry air and wind. Unfortunately, the cold had only worsened.

He shouldered his back strap and zipped his jacket up to his chin. His hood fell just over his forehead in front of his eyes. He tried to block out the chill with his scarf by wrapping the tails tighter around his hands and flattening out the cloth so it wrapped around his runny nose when he realized -- he still had Kageyama’s scarf.

It smelled of chocolate and caramel, cinnamon chewing gum and laundry detergent, and something else that smelled...cold. Was it rain? Something distinctly Kageyama?

Shouyou caught himself sniffing it and pulled the knit fabric down and away from his nose. “Don’t be a creep,” he muttered to himself -- still, he felt like Kageyama was keeping him warm, even though he wasn’t there in person. It was comforting.

Shouyou tugged the scarf back up and made his way through the city.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next day, the rain had returned -- it poured down like it had a revenge plan to fulfill, soaking everyone in the city down to the bone.

Luckily, Shouyou made it to the hospital (almost) unscathed. His umbrella hadn't failed him, and his windbreaker kept the majority of him dry during the walk. His hair was another story -- the wind had been strong enough to whip through his hair, tear his hood from his head and blow rain into his face.

He showed up to continue his internship with wet, messy hair, and a ruddy running nose.

Luckily, Suga wasn’t lurking in the lounge and didn’t see him walk in thirty seconds late. Shouyou put his scrub shirt and coat on in peace. He debated taking a few napkins and wiping whatever moisture he could from his hair before finding Kageyama -- pros: he’d have slightly dryer hair, and although it might be messier,it would be more comfortable. Cons, he’d have to lower himself to that level and probably look ridiculous to anyone who happened to walk in on him.

Regardless, Shouyou scooped up a few napkins and began to vigorously scrub at his head.

Just as the little voice in the back of his head had told him, someone walked into the lounge to the sound of leather shoes clipping against the ground.

Shouyou looked up to see Kageyama staring back at him.

“You…” Kageyama cleared his throat. “You look like a baby bird.”

Shouyou felt a burst of warmth in his chest, and grinned. He continued to wring his hair out as best he could and threw the soiled napkins in the trash. The strands he felt were fuzzy and filled with static electricity, sticking straight up from his forehead. He supposed he did look a bit like a bird covered in downy feathers. “Is it a good look for me?” Shouyou asked, striking a pose with his fist under his chin.

Kageyama’s ears turned red. He rolled his eyes and looked away. “Just get ready for our shift.”

“Last I checked, I was ready. I got here --” Shouyou peered up at the clock on the opposite wall. “Two minutes and forty-five seconds before you did! That’s a new record!”

They busied themselves buttoning up scrubs and folding their jackets up. Shouyou changed into the pair of dry shoes and socks he kept in his cubby and ate one of the energy bars the lounge room provided for breakfast. The lounge was quite nice -- Daichi hospital had one on each floor doctors were assigned. Each was painted a pale green, there were small couches and house plants, water fountains and coffee machines. A table between the couches had bowls of snacks and a few mini plastic water bottles. Assigned cubbies lined the walls. It was one of the best break rooms Shouyou had ever had the pleasure of being in.

He eyed the bowl of apples and was considering eating one of those as well when Kageyama bumped shoulders with him and nodded towards the front of the room.

Suga stuck his head through the doorway to the lounge. “Oh, thank goodness I caught you both! I have your schedules for today -- It’s pretty standard, you’ve got pediatrics till lunch, then the teen residency ward until the end of the day.” He smiled, stepping into the room with a sheet of paper in each outstretched hand. They both took one and looked over it -- it was the same schedule they’d had for the past week. “Kageyama, how’s that report on Hinata-kun’s internship coming along? It’s due in a few days.”

Kageyama stiffened beside him. He rubbed at the back of his neck sheepishly, his other hand folding the end of the paper. “Yeah, I;m working on it. It’s going well.”

“Really? I’m so happy to hear that!” Suga gave Shouyou a maternal pat on the head and turned back towards the door. “Well, good luck today you too, I’ve got work to do.”

A long sigh fell from Kageyama’s lips.

Shouyou looked up at him -- he opened his mouth to ask, but decided better of it. He glanced down at the assignment sheet and planted his fists on his hips.

“Well?” he grinned, both eyes closing with the force of his smile. “Why keep these kids waiting?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He followed Tobio into their first assignment.

The room smelled like almond soap and antiseptic, and it coated the inside of Shouyou’s nostrils. It was almost distracting -- no, actually, Shouyou changed his mind, it was extremely distracting, and he couldn’t stand it.

It didn’t help that the only thought plaguing his head was that he wished he still had Tobio’s scarf so he could wrap his nose in that smell, instead.

He rubbed at his nose with the sleeve of his coat, sat in the chair beside Tobio, and watched the doctor do his thing.

Their first patient was a thirteen year old with a strange cough and dark, shining purple bags under his eyes. His dad was concerned that he had some strange, dangerous virus. Shouyou could see right away that it wasn’t the problem.

He wasn’t prepared for Tobio’s reaction.

Kageyama asked the kid to spit into the sink, peered into the bowl, and hummed. He made a note on his clip board and started writing. Shouyou looked over his shoulder. A prescription?”

“Well, he most likely doesn’t have a virus.” He muttered, tearing the piece of paper from his clipboard. The father looked stunned. “It’s more likely that the cold weather has given him post-nasal drip, which accumulates in the back of the throat and causes this mucus to be formed. You’re new to the city, correct?” he asked, as if he already knew the answer.

The father nodded, albeit slowly. “We just moved during the summer.”

Tobio clicked his pen and tucked it behind his ear. “Figures. That would explain the allergic shiners, anyways. Those normally occur when you’re allergic to dust, or pollen, but I’ve seen them seasonally related to winter. The dust here is different because of our climate. Most immune systems aren’t prepared for that.”

The man’s mouth opened to ask a question, but his son just nodded. It was clear that he was paying more attention.

Tobio stood up and handed the slip of paper to the father. “I wrote you a prescription for a nasal spray that should lower swelling and stop the mucus from forming in such large amounts. It might not make the shiners go down just yet, but they will eventually. You can take it to your usual pharmacist.”

They left them to gather their things and check out of the pediatrics center. And, all in under five minutes.

“And that’s how we do that,” Tobio muttered. Shouyou felt a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.

They were assigned a different room, and it went about the same way as the first. Shouyou had not yet been able to see Tobio in action since he started working with him -- normally, they worked with the more long term patients and the teens in the residency ward, the children who came through the emergency room. Tobio was, more or less, a consultant.

He was the freak genius prodigy, after all. Shouyou was just his assistant.

He could barely imagine a world where he was completely aghast at the idea of being Tobio’s intern. The man was brilliant at what he did -- he was an amazing doctor, he worked well with the kids and with the teens, he was fast and knew how to handle ridiculous parents. He was the ideal role model.

Really, Shouyou was immensely lucky to have him.

Well...not have him, per se. Shouyou shook his head. Get your mind out of the gutter, dumbass.

They finally moved on to their last assigned patient before their lunch break. Unless they got paiged, which was unlikely, they would go to the cafe and eat their packed lunches, then return and begin entertaining and looking after the teens in the perm residence ward.

But first, they had to get through this last appointment.

Tobio meandered through the hallways, the file in hand. He rifled through the papers. He chewed at his bottom lip, thoughtful, thumbing through the information. Occasionally, a quiet comment would make its way out of his mouth, but he could never hear what was said. Shouyou was accustomed to having no idea what was going on inside his head.

He followed Tobio wherever he went, and watched. When Tobio was feeling particularly “generous” he would make him hold things for him or retrieve the necessary papers from the main pediatrics office.

Shouyou followed him into one of the patient rooms and watched as he waltzed in and took a seat at the computer. With a short glance down at his papers and back at the woman and her child, he held out one arm and allowed each of them to shake his hand.

“Hello,” he started. “I’m Kageyama. This is my intern Hinata-san, he’ll be observing me today, if that's alright.” Hinata lifted his hand and grinned. “What seems to be the issue?”

The girl, who looked about fourteen years old, opened her mouth to answer but her mother cut her off. “We’re just here for a routine check up. Chary is enrolling in a boarding school, and all her medical paperwork has to be up to date.”

Shouyou kept his eyes trained on Tobio. This was normally the part where he began to ignore the parent and ask the child to answer for them self, but he seemed to hesitate. His hand paused where he was making notations on the paperwork.

He stood up from his seat without saying anything and opened one of the desk drawers. His hand emerged with a double sided piece of paper. He clipped it onto a spare clip board and handed it to the girl, Chary.

“Could you fill this out for me?” he asked, making eye contact with her and only her.

She nodded. Her hair was bubblegum pink, thin and short, almost feathery, and she had a thin layer of pink eyeshadow on her eyebrows to match. It complemented her dark brown skin nicely. Shouyou was almost jealous. Growing up, he had always wanted fun hair like that, but never had the chance to experiment. Now, he was a grown ass man, and still just a bit envious of a teen with candy colored pastel hair. Figures.

Tobio leaned back in his chair and waited patiently for her to finish. Shouyou tried to be as discreet as possible as he peered over Tobio’s shoulder at the paper in her hands. It looked like some form of survey.

The gears in his head clicked together, and his spine shot straight. Oh! he realized.

He recognized this. Hell, he had filled out one or two when he was younger. It was a survey that teens took when they came in that helped doctors get a general feel for the patients mental health. Normally, the parent was informed before the teen filled it out, and from Shouyou’s studying he knew that they often were asked to leave the room so the doctor could talk to the patient without the pressure of their parent hovering over their shoulder.

He eyed the mother out of the corner of his eye.

The girl finished scribbling down her answers. “I, uh. Yeah. That’s about it.” She looked down at her high-top converse and fiddled with the strings that frayed outwards from the rips in her jeans.

The mother frowned. She leaned forward in her seat and tried to look at the clipboard -- Tobio pulled it away in time and gave her a pointed look.

Tobio sat down at his desk with a sigh. “Ma’am,” he started. “Your child knows what’s going on inside their own head. Listen to them.” Shouyou’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline. Oh, he thought. That’s The Voice. This is about to get interesting.

Tobio continued, this time his voice a bit kinder, but no less forceful. “I have a degree, and it’s pretty and framed and hanging up in my living room, but I can’t see into your child’s hypothalamus. If she’s telling you she has increased anxiety, and it’s interfering with her quality of life, I’d recommend getting her to talk to someone who is a professional in that area. In fact, I’d recommend a few specific people. Would you like me to write their contact information down?”

As usual, her eyebrows were drawn together and her mouth was open just slightly, the picture of wonder, hinting at being impressed. She nodded, slowly, and Tobio started writing down names and numbers.

He was beginning to realize, albeit slowly, why the other doctors at Daiichi prefered not to work with Kageyama. He worked too fast to keep up with. Hell, the damn patients often had trouble keeping up with his methods

Shouyou...the pace was absolutely perfect for him. He loved to live in the fast lane. Anything slower, and he found it tiresome to pay attention. The way Tobio worked...it just felt right. they complemented each other. Of course, Shouyou hadn’t been much help yet when it came to check ups, but he was growing.

Most of all, Shouyou could get used to the clueless look on the face of every parent who walked into the center.

His own parents...well, to use few words, they were pretty shitty. There was a reason he didn’t live with them anymore -- maybe, if Tobio had been his doctor, he would have smacked some sense into them before they could screw up his life.

But he wasn’t, and he didn’t, and they did. There was no use in dwelling on the past and the mistakes of others, mistakes that he had no control over in the first place.

He let himself draw into his own head as Tobio helped Chary and her mother.

And finally (although, honestly, it hadn’t taken long at all) they were off to lunch.

These lunches had become customary. They didn’t have to ask anymore -- they just knew, when they finished the first half of their shift that they would go to the lounge room, put their coats away, grab their lunches (or, in Shouyou case, a power bar and an apple) and leave for the park.

Most days, they would study.

Well...more often than not the goal of the lunch was to study, but that tended to fade to avoidance, which resulted in them talking for the remainder of the hour without getting any work done. Shouyou managed to get a page or two of his homework completed each time, but after that, his brain was exhausted. Sitting and reading wasn’t the way he learned. It was nearly impossible for him to retain information that way.

Today was one of those days. Shouyou wasn’t feeling particularly productive. If he pushed himself, he might have been able to start on the short essay that was due in his anatomy class the next week, but...he just wasn’t feeling it. As they walked through the rain, Shouyou scuffed the heels of his shoes against the damp concrete. The rain had picked up once more. Tobio, being the taller of the two, held a transparent umbrella above both of their heads.

They made their way to the cafe. Shouyou felt his hair, previously towel dried, frizzing up in the thick dampness of the air. After a glimpse of the sun appeared around midday, the water in the air heated up to create a thin layer of humidity. He thought it was nothing, but Tobio on the other hand --

“Ugh,” he scoffed, wiping at his cheek with the back of his unoccupied hand. “It’s too damn umid. The world has no business being this disgusting outside.”

Shouyou rolled his eyes. “Bakageyama, the world doesn’t cater to you.”

Another scoff. “Don’t I know it.”

“Besides, it’s not even that bad! I used to live upstate, it was hot as hell and the humidity was so thick you could cut it with a butter knife.”

Tobio wrinkled his nose at the description. “That sounds awful.”

“It was.” Shouyou nodded. He stepped forward, away from the protection of the umbrella and into the rain. It was awful -- for reasons that went beyond the humid summers and deadly sun.

He ran ahead and held the door open for Tobio puffing his chest out like a preening owl. “Sir gent,” he said, bowing his head.

Tobio snorted and ruffled his hair.

The action made Shouyou light up -- he wasn’t positive why, but warmth bubbled in his chest, and he felt content with following Tobio into the crowded cafe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It became even more clear, after a few minutes of unproductivity, that Shouyou wasn’t going to get anything done during the lunch period. With a drawn out sigh, he dropped his pencil, and collapsed forward over his textbook. He thumbed at the pages and buried his nose into the seam of the book.

The noises of the cafe were, perhaps, a bit too distracting. The clinking of cups and utensils, mindless chatter, the noise of the bean grinder behind the counter all tore into his consciousness like bullets through tin armor.

You’re going to have to get used to it, he thought to himself.

Shouyou looked up at his partner with concern, as if Tobio could read his mind. He shifted in his seat. No looking back now.

“Well…” Shouyou let out a nervous chuckle without the barest trace of humor, and sat up in his seat. “I’m applying for a job at the cafe. Well, this cafe, I mean. If that wasn’t clear.” he trailed off, avoiding eye contact.

Kageyama raised an eyebrow, because it was clear as water. “How do you think that’s going to work out?” he asked. Hs long, nimble finger twirled at the straw to his drink. He had stood in line for ten minutes to buy a raspberry tea mixed with lemonade so they wouldn’t feel bad about lurking in the cafe without actually buying anything.

Shouyou’s chest rose and fell with a deep sigh. “I’m not quite sure. I just know that it has to work, if I want to stay afloat.”

Kageyama went silent. Shouyou peeked up through his eyelashes at him -- his hands buzzed, jittery with anxiety. They fumbled over one another, fiddling with the zipper on his jacket, the button on his jeans, filled to the brim with nerves and unable to stop moving until he worked them off.

“Well,” he started. “I just...it sounds like a smart idea, in theory, but do you think you’ll be able to pull it off?”

Shouyou dropped his shoulders and scoffed. “C’mon, Tobio, of course I can!”

He held his hands up in surrender. “Alright, alright,” he muttered. “Then I’ll support you.”

Shouyou grinned. He bounced in his seat, flipped the textbook closed and slid it over the surface of the table into his bag. He looked up and peered at the clock that was hung above the cash register -- they still had a half hour before they needed to leave. “Well, if that’s the case…” he pulled out the manila folder from his bag. “Help me with my application?”

Tobio rolled his eyes and looked up at the ceiling. “Of course, Bakanata.”

Shouyou let out a squawk of indignation.

~~~~~~~~~

The rest of the shift was to be spent in the permanent residency ward. Shouyou found himself smiling the whole walk there -- his brain hadn’t quite made up its mind yet, and he couldn’t tell if the grin was from contentedness, the refreshing weather, or his excitement to see the teens. Whatever the feeling was, it fizzed through his chest like carbonated soady and made him feel light on his feet.

By the time they made it back, his hair was damp and the backs of his shoes were muddy. Tobio had refused to keep up with him and instead held the umbrella up for himself and himself only.

Shouyou made fun of him for being grumpy, but really, he didn’t mind the rain. It wasn’t a particularly cold day, and the slight change in weather was invigorating.

They checked back into work and stopped by the front desk for the day’s paperwork.

Walking through the hallways towards the teens living area, they hear the unmistakable clack of someone running with loafers.

“Kageyama-san!” a deep voice rang out, bouncing against the walls of the hall. Shouyou saw Tobio flinch beside him. He noted the way his hands flinched, like he wanted to cover his ears against the loud noise.

The man was Asian, had longish hair and a scruffy beard. He stopped just in front of him, chest shifting under his clothes, breath coming in short pants -- he reached up and pulled his dark hair up into a bun at the back of his head and tied it off. He rubbed his hands together, clearly riddled with nerves. “Kageyama,” he said, nodding in the man’s direction. His brown eyes fell on Shouyou and his bushy eyebrows furrowed. “And…”

He stuck out a hand and bounced on his heels. “Oh! I’m Hinata. Hinata Shouyou.”

They shook hands. Shouyou noticed that his hands were much larger than his own. Infact, his entire being was bigger than Shouyou -- he was just over six feet tall, had shoulder length hair, and his chest was broad and muscled under his nurse scrubs. Something about him just seemed to…feel small. Perhaps it was the way he held his wide shoulders, or the way he bowed his head and seemed to look up at people, even if they were shorter, but he didn’t seem to know his own strength.

When he shook Shouyou’s hand, the strength of his grip didn’t translate to the grapefruit sized muscles he was packing in his upper arms. “I’m Asahi Azumane. I’m new to Daichi...I was told that you were supposed to, er, show me the ropes? If that’s alright with you, of course.”

Tobio nodded, his hand resting on Shouyou’s back for a fleeting moment. Warmth seemed to spread outwards from the place where he touched him. “We’ll help you get settled in. Where are you supposed to be working?”

He rubbed at the back of his neck, a bit sheepish. “I’m actually a child psychologist, but they hired me to work with the teens who live here? Check ups, administering drugs, that sort of stuff.”

Shouyou’s jaw dropped. He was a child psychologist! He must be a genius, someone who worked in therapy, with a medical job...it was just what Hinata wanted to be. Maybe you can ask him about those essays you need to write… his inner self prodded.

He shook his head, as in response to his own mind, and bounced on the balls of his feet. “Come with us! We’ll show you where the perm ward is and get you started. You’ll be seeing a lot of us, anyway!”

Asahi bowed respectfully and nodded his head. “Thanks. I appreciate it.”

Tobio turned on his heel and Shouyou mirrored him, Asahi following closely behind. The hallways in this area had low, cheap carpets covering the hard tile of the floor. Shouyou assumed it was to make the hospital feel more like a homey place to live, instead of a medical facility. It wasn’t very effective, but the sentiment was nice.

“So,” Tobio started, drawing the syllable out. “Where did you work before?”

“Oh! I worked in the Seikoudai psych ward. Normally with the teens, but there were a few kids who came in that I got to help. Before that, I worked at a small therapy center.”

Shouyou’s hands balled into fists. “That’s so cool! That’s sort of what I want to go into…” he said, peering down at his feet.

Asahi frowned. “Aren’t you...already working here?”

With a chuckle, Tobio stuck his elbow out and jostled Shouyou’s shoulder. “Not yet. Shouyou-kun here is still an intern. He’s minoring in social psych and therapy.”

Hinata puffed out his chest at the sound of the honorific attached to his name. He knew Tobio was likely using it sarcastically, but it still felt nice. Like he was a friend.

The exact word choice he used also made him swell with pride. Not yet.

Yet.

To be honest, Shouyou didn’t know what he would do after university. His internship only lasted as long as he needed the extra credit, and he wasn’t even sure if Daichi would be hiring anymore in any positions he could take. Hell, with Tobio working as a doctor, would they even need him?

Hearing Tobio, someone who was amazing at working with kids and helping people, say that he might have a job at Daichi hospital in the future...it made happiness well up inside him.

The three of them looked over the paperwork together as they walked, splitting up tasks among themselves. Asahi, of course, would be in control of administering the lunch time medicines to the patients who needed them. Tobio would check on half of the patients and make sure there weren’t any odd changes in their health, and Shouyou would check the other half. If they were efficient, they could get it all done within the two hours and be kicking ass at board games by three in the afternoon.

And then, work began.

Asahi, Shouyou found, while being a quiet, nervous man, also happened to be very good at his job. He worked fast and treated the teens with a respect that most nurses had a hard time faking. He seemed to really care about what they thought -- about him, about their situation, about the hospital, even if he only just started working. It was like he wanted to make a good first impression. But these were patients, not supervisors, not coworkers.

Shouyou admired him for that.

As Asahi wheeled his cart of meds around the set of hallways that contained the residency rooms, Shouyou peeked his head in each one and wished everyone a good morning. He was still working on remembering everyone’s names, so he peeked down at his files every once in awhile for a refresher.

A few of the teens were busy reading or drawing.

When he got to Takeru’s room, he didn’t peek at his paperwork. He tucked the folders under his arm and opened the door.

“Hey, Takeru, Mina -- you guys okay?” He saw Mina grit her teeth and turn away from him. He winced, and debated for a moment if it was too late to add and gals to the end of his question, or if it would sound forced.

Takeru sat up in bed and smiled. The sheets were made and he sat on top of them, a binder with loose-leaf paper spread over his lap. His oxygen tank rested against the side of the bed. “We’re fine. What are we doing today?”

Shouyou shrugged, stepping into the room. He placed the folders on Takeru’s bedside table and sat in one of the plastic chairs off to the side. “Probably a game night. We have a new person working with us and I don’t want to scare him away too early.” Takeru grinned at this and flipped his binder shut.

“Oh!” Shouyou shot up in his seat. “I almost forgot. There’s a new rule -- you have to keep your doors open after nine, for safety reasons.”

Takeru rubbed his palms against his bare arms. “Sorry, it’s just...the wheels on the new nurse’s cart are squeaky. It’s a bit annoying.”

Mina just shrugged. “It’s not that big of a deal.” She was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, the hood pulled up to rest at the crown of her head. “I get changed in the bathroom, anyway, since I’m rooming with this loser.”

“I’m hurt, truly.” Takeru placed a hand on his heart and gave Mina a hopeful look, sticking out his bottom lip. She just rolled her eyes. Shouyou noticed a tiny quirk in the side of her mouth, and decided that his attempts at making her smile were worth it.

“Whelp,” Shouyou muttered, looking down at his files. “Are you two fine? No pressing issues I need to worry about? Any seizure symptoms, Mina?”

She shook her head and crossed her arms over her stomach. “The new medication is working. I haven’t had much of anything.”

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it? You might be able to go home soon if you recover.”

Mina looked to the side and didn’t respond.

Shouyou gathered up his things and stood up, meeting Takeru’s eyes one last time. The vibe he was getting from Mina worried him. She seemed down -- more so than usual, that was. She looked like she was avoiding making eye contact, her hood pulled low over her forehead. Her arms were crossed protectively, like she was making an effort to shield herself from the rest of the world.

“Well,” he started, rolling forward onto his toes and then back to his heels. “Make sure the both of you are at game night. I want to beat you in Jenga.”

“Not gonna happen, Hinata-san!” Takeru prodded, a grin splitting his face.

Shouyou puffed his chest out and waved away the both of them. Even Mina managed a half-hearted wave in his direction -- that alone wasn’t able to boost his spirits, but he could at least try to be optimistic, knowing she was making an effort. She rarely even tried when she was down. Well...down lower than usual.

He stepped out of the room and immediately collided with something hard and warm. Blinking, he stumbled backwards, disoriented. His nose was sore from the impact.

“Oi, Bakanata, watch where you’re going!” Tobio muttered, planted a hand on the back of Shouyou’s head and ruffled his hair in the process. Shouyou heard a small, high pitched snort of laughter from inside the room.

“Very funny, Mina,” he grumbled. “Kageyama, don’t embarrass me in front of the patients!”

“Please,” Kageyama tried to look serious, but a grin quirked at his mouth despite his efforts. “I don’t need to embarrass you, you’re an embarrassment yourself.”

Shouyou let his shoulders drop and sighed dramatically -- in the process, the folders feel out from under his arm and landed on the floor. He dived down to reach them. Kageyama followed suit, and --

Bonk!

A burning pain erupted along the top of Shouyou’s head, spreading outwards from his forehead. “Shit!” he cursed, pressing the palms of his hands against the spot. It was likely an angry red. Shouyou prodded the mark with his fingers. Was it swollen? It was probably swollen.

“Kageyama, does my head look swollen?” he blurted, looking up to find Tobio staring back at him, eyes dark and furious, a thin trail of blood leaking out from his nostril. He looked terrifying. His form loomed over Shouyou, a solid two feet taller with Shouyou still half-kneeling to scoop up the dropped files.

Shouyou felt a horrified scream build up in the back of his throat like bile, scalding his skin on its way up.

What actually came out of his mouth was a tiny, aborted squeak. The silence was so thick you could have stabbed it with a fork.

Shouyou gulped, and the second he finished swallowing a barrage of apologies fell out of his mouth. “Kageyama! Oh my -- shit, I’m so sorry! Does it hurt? Are you okay? Do you want ice?”

Tobio just stared him down. He began to shrink back through the doorway on shaky feet.

This is it. He thought. This is how I die.

A loud cackle of laughter bursted through the hospital room behind them.

Shouyou turned, taking his eyes off Tobio for a moment against his better judgement, and confirmed for himself that he wasn’t imagining things. Mina was laughing. Not only that, she was giggling, curled in on herself, arms bracing her stomach as she struggled to breathe around the happy sounds erupting from her chest. Takeru was laughing with her, his eyes crinkled at the corners.

Hell, if Tobio flayed him alive forgiving him a bloody nose, it would be worth it.

As soon as Asahi saw the speck of blood on Tobio’s chin, he produced an ice pack from God knows where and started to dab at his face with a wash cloth. Tobio frowned in surprise -- the man was much more gentle than he looked.

Asahi wrapped the ice in a cloth and showed Tobio where to press it against to stop the bleeding and lower the swelling (not that Tobio didn’t already know, he was a doctor for God’s sake, but the thoughtfulness was nice). He held the ice pack up to his face and glared at Shouyou over the top of the cloth. Luckily, he looked significantly less scary like this.

They worked fast. Together, they managed to do all of the necessary medicine deliveries and check ups before three o’clock, and were ready to bust out the board games by three fifteen.

The older kids helped set up the tables and chairs so everyone had a place to sit comfortably. The oldest of the group was seventeen, but because Takeru had been living there the longest, the younger kids looked up to him like an older brother. He was only fourteen, and the twelve year olds still thought he was the coolest person there, oxygen tank and breathing tubes and in all his wheezing glory. After a few weeks of working with the teens, even Shouyou was beginning to look up to him. He was a good kid. A brave one, despite all the mess that had happened in his life, all the things other people had done to screw his life up

Within a few minutes of playing video games, Shouyou found out a few key bits of information. One, was that Asahi was awful at Monopoly -- he wouldn’t ever buy property, and was apologizing left and right. The kids were walking all over him. Tobio was a damn master at Clue. Shouyou was finding this out quickly, as he was losing tremendously for the second time.

Game nights weren’t anything new, but the teens appreciated them as if they were an event, something they could use to escape and just forget, for an hour or two, why they were there instead of having sleep overs with friends or dinners with their family. And, really, it was a sight to see.

Shouyou looked up from his turn at Clue and fisted his piece (Professor Plum, because they had matching hair) in his hand. He looked over one of the teen’s head and stared at Kageyama. His nose was red, a small grey bruise blossoming over the bridge of his nose like a splatter of freckles. He still looked handsome like that.

Tobio caught his gaze and offered him a small smile. Shouyou smiled back. He couldn’t help but feel content -- they were doing good, and they knew it. For the first time in more than a few months, Shouyou knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

Chapter Text

After getting off work, Tobio rushed to get home before Oikawa. His roommate’s usual schedule led him to getting home around nine o’clock on weekdays, which left Tobio about three hours in the apartment worth of uninterrupted time to himself. Lately, he had been leaving the hospital quite late because of his work with the teens, and hadn’t gotten any time significant amount of time alone before Oikawa showed up. His roommate always came home in skin tight sweatpants, a dirty tee-shirt, and occasionally shadowed by his boyfriend. Tobio couldn’t remember his name and instead referred to him as “Tall, Dark, and Handsome” in his head.

Figures, Tobio bought industrial noise-cancelling headphones after the first night Tall Dark Handsome stayed over, and didn’t intend to stop using them.

For what it was worth, Oikawa wasn’t intending to let him. That man’s libido was going to get him in trouble one day.

On the way home, he stopped by a convenience store and bought himself a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a cheeseburger for dinner. It wasn’t exactly the healthiest meal of all times, and as a doctor, he knew that better than anybody, and yet he couldn’t wait to get home and eat something that wasn’t a lettuce and roast beef sandwich on white bread.

He was practically jogging by the time he saw his apartment building. It was a tall, brick building that loomed over the business supply building beside it, with a garage underneath the main floor and a miniscule lawn of brown grass. He threw open the door with one hand and took to the stairway, hopping up two at a time.

He only rested when he made it to his floor. He pulled his keys out of his back pocket and unlocked the door to his apartment and stepped inside, greeted graciously by the central heating system. Oikawa must have turned it up before he left for work. As much as Tobio was grateful, he reached for the thermostat and turned it down a few degrees. They didn’t need to be spending that much money on heating when Oikawa roamed around the apartment with his duvet tied around his neck like a cape.

The ice cream went into the freezer and the cheeseburger went into the microwave. Tobio sat back and watched it turn for a few moments -- it was mind numbing and slow, and terribly relaxing. Tobio relished in it for the few moments he could.

He tipped his head back and leaned against the breakfast bar, his elbows braced against the counter. The smooth tile felt cool on his skin. Tobio allowed his eyes to slip shut -- he debated whether or not he should make himself a shot of coffee, just to get his energy up enough to more thoroughly enjoy his alone time.

Worrying at his bottom lip, he decided against it. He wanted to be in bed as soon as Oikawa got home, and caffeine would only disrupt that. A shiver ran through his body at the thought of spending another accidental all-nighter in the face of irresponsible coffee consumption.

Maybe a glass of wine? He thought to himself, fingers tapping at the bar counter. That couldn’t end badly. Unless, Tobio winced, you take it too far and get tipsy before Oikawa comes back.

That had happened once too many, and Oikawa still hadn’t stopped teasing him for it.

The microwave screamed out a few shrill beeps, startling Tobio from his thoughts of previous self destruction.

He pushed himself forward, his socks sliding against the wooden panelling of the kitchen floor, because he was an adult and he was allowed to choose to have that miniscule amount of fun in his life. Tobio yanked the microwave door open and tugged at the corner of the plastic wrapper the hamburger was wrapped in. He plopped into his hands and deposited it right back down to the counter with a curse. “Shit, hot, hot, hot hot…” he murmured, shaking his hands to get rid of the burning sting left on his palms.

Instead of being responsible and waiting for the food to cool down before he ate it, Tobio took his ice cream and wrapped both of his hands around it. It as instant relief -- Tobio let out an exaggerated sigh and pressed the cardboard container to his chest.

Tobio took the food into the adjoined living room and set it down on the coffee table. He flicked through a couple channels until he got to a local sports channel that happened to be featuring a nearby ice skating competition. He hummed in appreciation, leaning back into the couch. Tobio was a fan of most sports, but he hadn’t seen much skating in his life besides when it was on during the olympics. He figured it was similar to gymnastics. After watching for a few minutes, he was amazed.

The skaters could throw their entire body weight into the air without even bending their knees
and spin multiple times. The current skater had landed four jumps perfectly -- he was wearing shimmering silver pants that looked like they were painted on to his skin and a form-fitted black shirt. His fluffy hair was shaved at the sides and back, dyed a violent shade of electric blue and hung over his face in loose curls. Everytime he flipped his head it slid down his forehead like pool water,his eyes scrunched shut in exertion and concentration.

Tobio watched, enthralled, as he spun on his feet, twirling and dancing on the ice, every muscle visibly moving and flexing under his uniform, and muttered, “I could get used to this.”

He thought of Hinata, at the cafe, shoulders hunched forward as he played with a straw. He was smiling and winking at him as his hair fell in his face, his eyebrow lifted playfully. Hinata, with his curls, the sunlit shade of orange that blended in with the autumn atmosphere flawlessly.

“It was a joke, that smile, that grin.

“I was pretending to flirt with you.”

Pretending.

Tobio leaned forward and turned the tv off. He fell back against the couch and rested his head in his hands.

He didn’t want to let this ruin his night off, this was supposed to be relaxing wish fulfilment. It was supposed to be isolated, not plagued with the thought of others.

Being alone wasn’t fun after he realized he was lonely.

And ‘lonely,’ loneliness didn’t really fit him. The word wasn’t specific enough, lonely didn’t fit into his lifestyle. He was rarely ever alone in the first place.

No, there was an incredibly specific desire Tobio had in mind. He didn’t crave human attention, he craved Hinata.

Tobio careened to the side. The pillows smushed his nose up, the knots on the hem of the throw blanket dug into his side. He ceased caring.

He let sleep drift him down stream, let it wash reality away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He dreamt of fall leaves, heavily sequined outfits in the morning sun, the scent of caramel and spring grass, a flash of white and a sense of warmth covering his entire body.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When he woke up, it was to the sound of his cellphone buzzing in his pocket and someone hammering on the front door. His eyes shot open -- they were still blurry from sleep, and it took him several moments to realize he wasn’t, in fact, nuzzling into his own mattress, but into the throw blanket on the couch. It then took him another moment to remember why he was on the couch.

Hinata, ice skating, food...a slight buzz itched his thigh.

He pulled his cellphone from his pocket. The words Unknown number blinked back up at him. He pressed accept and dropped his phone against the side of his head. “Hello? Who’s this?”

A gasping, desperate sounding voice responded. “Tobio,” they breathed. The blood in his viens froze. “It’s me, Shouyou. T-tobio, I need -- I need you t-to come pick me up, it’s really import-tant, p-please --”

Tobio frowned, sitting up, throwing the blanket to the side, and gripping his cell phone with both hands. “Hinata? Are you okay?”

He heard a loud sniff from the other side, like Hinata was on the verge of crying and trying to keep the tears from flowing. “I’m…” he paused, and when he spoke again his voice cracked, much quieter than before. “No, I’m not okay. They -- they arrested me, and I didn’t do anything wrong, but I need you to c-come because...they said they’d let me go if I can provide proof of residency but I don’t. I don’t have any, and they’re -- they were yelling, earlier, and kept shoving me around and Tobio, I really need you right now I don’t know anyone else who would and --” His voice broke again. Tobio’s heart was pounding so hard he was afraid it was going to break through his chest.

“Shouyou,” he breathed, willing his heart to calm down. It didn’t, just kept beating out an intense rhythm against the inside of his ribcage, shocking his feet into moving to the beat. He leaped from his seat towards the door to the apartment. It was only then he remembered the knocking at the door. He unlocked it and threw it open. Standing behind it, with a fist lifted to knock again and an expression of indignation, was Oikawa and Tall-Dark-And-Handsome, all broad shoulders and cropped hair, nose turned upward. Oikawa’s cheeks had a ruddy flush to them and he was wearing a leather jacket much too large for him.

He frowned, leaning heavily against the doorway. “Oi, Tobio-chan, what are you --”

Tobio held up a hand and muttered. “Shut up.”

“Sh-shouyou,” he tried again. “Where are you? What’s the address?”

Hinata spit out a few lines of numbers and words, and Tobio committed them to memory without actually processing them. He shoved past Oikawa and Handsome’s shoulders into the hallway.

“You still there?” he whispered.

Hinata hiccuped. “Yeah.”

“Do you want me to stay on the line until I get there?”

A small, aborted sob left the phone’s speaker. “I -- I can’t. I don’t have that much time left. On the phone.”

He swallowed, hard. He could feel his Adam’s apple moving in his throat. “Alright, wait for me, I promise I’ll be there as quickly as I can and --”

“Kageyama, I --” He could practically feel the cool whisper of breath spoken against his ear.

The line went dead.

Tobio felt his fingers shake like dying leaves in the rain. He pressed the off button on his phone and tucked it into his pockets, allowing himself approximately three seconds to suck in a shuddering breath and contain himself. He ducked his head back inside. “Hey, Oik -- can I borrow your car?”

~~~~~~~~~

His hands were sweaty on the steering wheel, like the rain outside had infiltrated the cabin of his -- Okawa’s -- car to the point where he was afraid they were going to slip off the leather. Oikawa had quite a nice car -- all leather and chrome, sleek and shiny and practical. It was nothing like Oikawa’s style. For one example, it was classy. Oikawa was flashy (at least, he liked to flash his body, and occasionally his credit card) and a bit impractical, he used a front of immaturity in order to cover up his feelings and dreadful abandonment issues. All of this took Tobio more than a year to figure out, and the deliberate prodding of a tipsy Tooru.

Yes, Tobio would much rather focus on his roommate than the destination, as he made hairpin turns and flew across the wet pavement.

He was rushing -- his speed, the rain, his mood and level of anxiety all combined to make this an extremely dangerous situation.

The doctor in him knew of the dangers of driving while over emotional and scolded him. It was responsible for the way his knuckles clenched the leather of the steering wheel, the way his feet pressed against the break just in case.

The part of him that was head over heels in love with Hinata Shouyou couldn’t give a damn.

He made another turn, his GPS calling out the turns just before he jerked the steering wheel to the side. He was probably breaking a handful of traffic laws that could get him thrown in jail. With Hinata already in jail at the current time -- well, let’s just say there were more important things on Tobio’s mind.

It would normally be about an hour from Tobio’s apartment building to the police station, but the manner he was driving cut that time in half. It was all a blur in his mind -- get in the car, drive the car, make it to the station, get Hinata out, out, out, Hinata, Hinata, Hinata.

Shouyou.

Tobio’s fingernails dug into his palms as he strode up to the front of the sheriff's station. He couldn’t remember driving in. He couldn’t even remember parking his car. The slight sting of his blunt nails biting into his skin kept him grounded, but beyond that, the only thought occupying his mind was Shouyou.

The pain in his palm, Shouyou, the grit of his teeth, the soreness he felt in his legs as he pumped them. Shouyou.

The warmth of his palm made an impression on the glass door as he pushed it open, his wide handprint, fingers spread eagle, erasing the gray condensation from the cool surface with a single touch. Tobio shoved through the doorway and walked up to the front desk.

It was cold, inside. Colder than he expected. Uninviting. Dangerous. The muscles in Tobio’s back flexed, stiffening under his skin, readying for a fight that Tobio wasn’t prepared to start.

A large man with a flat-top haircut and glasses who stared up at him like it was a challenge. “Can I help you, sir?”

Tobio’s mind went temporarily blank.

Hinata. “I’m -- I’m supposed to show p-proof of residency for Hinata Shouyou? So he can come home with me?”

The man looked down at his computer and clicked the mouse a few times, brow furrowing as he stared at the screen in front of him. He looked up at Tobio with an eyebrow raised, then back at the screen. He shook his head, letting out a sigh -- almost like disdain. Tobio clenched his fists again. C’mon, just get this over with.

The man sighed once more and looked up at Tobio expectantly. “Proof of identification?” he drawled. He had a thick New-York accent, Tobio noticed, as he held his hand out expectantly. Tobio fished around in his pocket for his wallet with shivering hands and handed the man his licence.

He peered at it, eyes squinting like a man who had lost the glasses he’d been wearing for years.. He typed a few numbers in and made a click with the mouse. The sound rang out, stark against the otherwise silence in the air. “You live with Hinata?”

“Well…” Tobio cleared his throat. He stuffed his hands into his jean pockets in an attempt to hide the tremors that were making their home in Tobio’s finger tips. “He lives with me.”

“This address is under a ‘Tooru.’”

Tobio winced. “That’s my roommate. I moved in with him about a year ago, and Hinata’s been living with us for a couple of months.” He was just making things up on the spot, but the officer seemed to believe him.

He continued to type a few things into the computer for a few minutes, not giving Tobio a mere glance until he was finished. Finally, he sat back in his seat and reached for a walkie talkie. Tobio’s frazzled brain noticed his muscled arms and the slight beer belly he was sporting, the wedding ring on his left hand.

The walkie talkie flicked on. Static filled Tobio’s head. “Hey. The young one in the holding room? Let ‘er out, she’s got a place to go.”

Tobio felt his eyebrows draw together in confusion. He planted a hand on the counter and opened his mouth to correct the man, but received a dark look and a raised finger in response. “Sorry, what was that? I missed tha’ last part.” Silence. The man nodded, scratching at his neck where an unfortunate patch of stubble was growing. “Yeah, Let Hinata out. Yeah, tha’s the one, with the short red hair? Uh huh. Thanks, man.”

The officer flicked the remote off and tossed it back down to the counter space next to his computer. He nodded his chin in Tobio’s direction without looking up. “Sit down. They’ll bring your girlfriend out in just a while.”

“He’s not my --” Tobio started to protest, but the look on the officer’s face convinced him to do otherwise. He turned on his heels and made for the plastic chairs lined up on the wall parallel to the doorway.

It was only then he realized just how badly he was shaking. He peered down at his hands and watched as they vibrated against his knees, shaking the soft fabric of his jeans. His jacket brushed against the back of his neck and he flinched -- he wasn’t even cold, really. The opposite, in fact. His whole body burned with nerves and anxiety, his skin just a cool covering. Plastic against his insides, fake. His head aching with the thoughts threatening to break through his skull and destroy his brain. It was painful, how worried he was for Hinata.

The fleeting phone call hadn’t given him any information besides the fact that Hinata didn’t have an official place of residence, besides the fact that he was scared, and alone, in a holding cell miles away from where he --

Where he lived.

But he wasn’t, really?

He must not have a home. Unless Tobio had read this situation entirely wrong, Hinata was homeless. All those times he refused to let Tobio drive or walk him home, he was probably sleeping on the streets. Hell, he was napping on park benches during his lunch break instead of eating, napping during work -- maybe he just wandered around at night, maybe he spent all his time in public libraries pretending to study so the cops wouldn’t crack down on him. For what, exactly? Could they arrest him for being homeless?

Weren’t cops supposed to protect people? Why was Hinata so scared in the first place?

The thought did nothing to soothe him. If the cops were supposed to make Hinata feel safe, and they were doing the exact opposite, then there was reason to be worried.

Tobio’s sweating palms wrapped the sides of his jacket around himself and he buried his nose into his collar. It smelled of sweat, of his apartment, of his own shampoo. It only brought him temporary comfort.

The loud sound of a buzzer rang in the air like a bombing siren, and Tobio shot to his feet.

The door to the left of the computer desk swung open, and Hinata stepped out with an officer flanking either side. His face was tear streaked, eyes red and swollen from rubbing at them, from crying. His face was puffy like he was sick, and his bottom lip was split in the corner. He looked horrible. Tobio’s heart hurt at the very sight of him.

“Shouyou?” he whispered.

The word left his lips before he even realized he was forming them. Hinata looked up at him, eyebrows furrowed, nose scrunched up, shoulders hunched like he was expecting a punch to come flying towards him at any moment. His hands were buried in his pockets. He was shaking all over, worse than Tobio was.

He chewed at his bottom lip and didn’t respond, just lowered his gaze back to the floor and stepped forward with the officers.

The whole process didn’t take long. The men lectured Hinata and Tobio for an amount of time unknown to them -- Tobio wasn’t listening. He couldn’t help but sneak glances to the side and check in on Hinata, his whole brain rejecting any thought that wasn’t Shouyou., and filled with worry and fear.

Finally, the officers showed them outside with the hope that they’d never see them again.

Tobio clenched his fists.

The rain outside had resumed -- it was pouring down harshly, he noticed, from where they were standing under the protection of the awning. Hinata folded his arms and curved in on himself.

“I’m --” a choked sob caught in Tobio’s chest, not yet reaching its completion, but still there where he was aware of it. He placed a comforting hand on Hinata’s shoulder and squeezed. For a moment, Hinata leaned into the touch. And then tears were streaming down Hinata’s face and his eyebrows bunched up in an ugly cry and he looked so broken that Tobio just wanted to wrap him into a hug.

He wanted to tuck him into his ribcage and hold him there, he wanted to protect him from everything. Hinata was a bird, and he wanted to cage him, not for his protection, but for Tobio’s own reassurance. It was selfish and terrible but he needed it.

In the time it took for the first tear to slide down his cheek, Hinata wrenched Tobos arm to the side and spun on his heels.

Tobio watched, rooted in place, with a sense of dissociation and detached horror, as Hinata shrugged him off and walked away. He couldn’t move his legs. His knees refused to cooperate, his joints seemed frozen, even though all the icy air around him did was make his face cold. His very heart felt cold. Tendrils of cold wrapped themselves around his bones. Tobio could feel it, he could feel all of it slowly wrapping him up in a freezing cocoon of fear, and all he could do was stand there pathetic and useless and unable to help.

And again, he was faced with the concept that things, for others, for himself, could be horrible and terrible and there was nothing in his power that let him relieve them of their burden. He was too weak. He was forced by situation to sit back, and let them deal with it. Let those he cared for live through the pain.

He didn’t know if anything could possibly hurt him more than the pang he felt in his heart when Hinata didn’t even look over his shoulder, just walked until he faded out of sight, into the inky blackness of the night.

Chapter Text

The rout blurred before his eyes.

Shouyou ran without looking back, rain beating down hard, hitting his back like small bullets, soaking him through to his bones and pasting his hair to his forehead. He couldn’t remember when the moisture on his cheeks changed from rain water to tears, but suddenly he was sobbing. His chest caved in. The house around him fell to the ground, the foundation ran through with cracks, filling with sand. Completely unprotected from the rain.

At some point, his hood fell off of his head and he stopped running. His feet stilled on the pavement. He wasn't sure where he was -- he just hoped it was far, far away from the cold holding cell.

The events of that night ran through his head like film from a cassette tape. Images tangled around his brain, strangling him, shocking him with imagery he wanted to forget. The shame, the sour scent of cigarette smoke on the officers breath, the hand on his waist, squeezing against his hipbone. He hadn't been eating properly. He was so thin the hand probably bruised his hipbone.

He paused where he was running and nearly crashed into the ground. His momentum brought him forward until he landed on his knees, fingers splayed as his palms hit the gravel of the sidewalk. There was a puddle, right between his hands, distorted with an oil stain a car must have left behind, shiny and iridescent. He peered down into it -- his reflection stared back up. Wild eyes, a bruised lip. His hands were scratched up from the rough material underneath them, his knees aching from the harsh impact.

Shouyou didn't want to look at himself.

He closed his eyes and let his forehead rest against the pavement.

He needed to think. He needed to get his mind right, to stop dwelling on this and start preparing for the night, but he just couldn’t. His mind refused to banish the last whispers of thoughts that were plaguing him. It held onto them, like branches in a tree it was struggling to climb, and refused to let go even thought it was tearing Shouyou up inside.

And suddenly, he was running again. Sprinting forward, eyes blurry with tears, mind shellshocked and confused and filled with images. The scent of the man was plastered over the inside of his nostrils, the sight of him taped to the front of his eyelids. It was excruciating -- Shouyou wanted to run away from his own mind

He ran until his feet were aching and his knees were sore, blood running down to his fingertips from where he cut his palms against the gravel. His ribcage ached, chest heaving to compensate for the breath he had lost. When he finally did stop, it was out of necessity.

His knees hit the ground again, but this time, they hit something soft, and slightly damp. Grass, he thought. He let the rest of his body fall to the ground.

Mud pressed against his cheek and he had a strange moment of deja vue.

Shouyou eyes snapped open.

Sure enough, he was in the central park of Brogden, on the very outskirts, just opposite the familiar cafe he spent most of his evenings in.

He buried his nose in the mud and let out a soft whine. He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to be reminded of this, not now, of all times. He just wanted to --

A glimpse of Tobio’s face passed over his vision, his blue eyes filled with concern and worry hai tousled and wet with rain, mouth open as if to call out his name.

A sob wracked through his frame. He knew what he needed -- he just couldn’t get to it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Shouyou stayed there, paralyzed, until the faint orange of the rising sun washed over his arms, then his face, the back of his neck, his soaked jacket. It was warming. Sometime during the night the rain had stopped pouring, and he felt blissfully dry, even though he was nowhere near it. He rolled onto his back and stared up at the sky. It was covered by low, fluffy clouds, turned orange and gray by the sunlight.

He sat up and peeled himself up from the ground. He needed to get dressed, get cleaned off and change his clothes before he headed into the hospital. His whole front was muddy and covered in grass blades.

Shouyou dreaded showing up at Daichi. He dreaded looking Suga in the eyes. He dreaded even seeing Tobio, or having to talk to him, explain anything to him. He dreaded the look of confusion, of pity, that he didn’t deserve.

He grit his teeth. He'd have to get ready for the day eventually

This was his least favorite part.

Shouyou made his way through the city, following the familiar path his feet took every morning. He wound through crowded sidewalks and around a Chinese restaurant until he turned into the familiar alleyway. He peered over his shoulder to make sure no one had followed him this far, that no one was watching him.

He ran his hand along the rough red brick of the building and walked to the dead end of the alleyway. There was a chain link fence topped with coils of barbed wire, a large wooden slab leaned up against it to make a makeshift tent against the rain. It was familiar.

But it wasn't his.

Shouyou fell to his knees and lifted up the third tile to the right. Underneath was an oblong compartment, safe from the elements and thieves, the other homeless people who lived in Brogden who would do anything to survive. It was a grimy space and it was packed tight with everything Shouyou Hinata had to his name. A blue plastic travel water bottle, a scruffy blanket that had seen better days (days which had probably occurred multiple years prior), and Shouyou’s pride and joy: a black nylon camping backpack.

He slid the backpack out of the hole in the ground and slung it over his shoulder before replacing the chunk of pavement. Inside was everything he’d need to make himself presentable enough for work.

His hood fell lower over his forehead as he walked out of the alley. He ducked his head and kept low, inconspicuous, out of sight. He was invisible to any security cameras or police men on the lookout.

The night before, they came without warning. Shouyou was woken up in a panic of flashlights, yelling, the cold bite of metal against his wrists. He had gone asleep relatively early for his standards. The only logical danger in his mand was other homeless people, looking to take his jacket or his wallet or the phone in his pocket that didn’t even have service. He hadn’t thought of the police -- they weren’t his friend, that’s for sure, but they were supposed to protect citizens.

They were supposed to keep him protected from violence and turf wars, from thievery. They weren’t supposed to insight it themselves.

All he did was fall asleep in the wrong place and he was a suspect of drug abuse and trespassing, handcuffed in the back of a car with bars on the windows.

Shouyou shook his head in attempt to clear the thoughts from his mind. He let his feet fall into pace and ignored the rout, just let his legs take them on the familiar path.

He ended up back at the park, in a square cement building with public toilets. Shouyou let the strap of his backpack fall off his shoulder till it plopped to the ground. He kneeled next to it and unzipped the front pouch for what he needed. There was a bar of soap, a travel size bottle of shampoo, a ten dollar target gift card just in case of emergency, and a handful of coins he had picked up over the past week. He scooped the change up and stuffed it into his wallet -- he’d get it exchanged for dollars soon and put it in “savings”, the ziplock plastic bag he was keeping the majority of his money in until he had enough to put it in a banking account. Thanks to his new job at the cafe, it was about fifty one-dollar bills.

Shouyou left the shampoo in the bag. There was enough rain recently to keep his hair from looking completely filthy, and he didn’t have enough time to scout out a place with a single-stall bathroom he could occupy for a few minutes. Hand soap and the washcloth he kept tucked under his clothes would have to do.

In the main two compartments of his bag were all of his clothes: two sweaters, a few t-shirts, a pair of jeans and a pair of shorts. Three pairs of boxers. That was it, besides the clothing he was wearing.

With a sigh, Shouyou tugged out a new t-shirt and his pair of jeans.Thanks to his excursion the night before, his sweatpants and windbreaker, his only rain-proof jacket, were soaked and covered in mud. He’d need to change everything and wash the clothes, put them in a plastic bag with a towel and wait for them to dry before he could wear them again. That would leave him with two pairs of bottoms, one being a pair of shorts that couldn’t keep him warm.

Shouyou got to work.

He slid the backpack under one of the stall doors and grabbed his travel water bottle. He stepped up to the sink -- the person who stared back at him didn’t look like himself.

They had sunken, muddy cheeks, flat hair with blades of grass tangled among the strands, purple bags under his eyes, a frown that cut into his face. They looked pale and unhealthy, unhappy, and it scared him.

He shook his head, flicked the tap onto warm, and filled up the cup. He tipped his head over the sink and let the warm water run over his scalp, his face, carrying the grass, tear stains, and grime with it. He scrubbed at his face with the washcloth and wiped away all the visible dirt, before ripping off his shirt and pouring the water over his arms, neck, and scrubbing with the hand soap that dispensed next to the sink. It wasn’t a perfect clean by any means, but it felt better and cleaner than he had in the past two days.

His hands gripped the sides of the sink. His head hung forward, wet red hair framing his vision. The dirt and soapsuds swirled around in the sink before sinking down the drain. He tried to focus on that, instead of on how badly his fingers were shaking. A long sigh left Shouyou’s chest.

Shouyou lifted his head and shook it, letting the water fly from his hair to the ground around him. He turned his old shirt inside out and used it to dry off his face and arms.

He stepped into the stall and stripped from his dirty sweatpants, folded the dirty clothes and set them on the floor while he shimmied into the jeans and tugged on one of his sweaters. It was a dark purple and knit, and it made his skin look even more pale and washed out than it already did.

The mud washed out of his dirty clothes after he ran the hot water over them for a few minutes. He folded them and wrapped them in his towel, placed them in a plastic grocery bag, tied it off, and stuffed the bag into the top of his back pack.

Shouyou made his way outside and sat down on the step. The concrete was freezeing -- the rough texture of it bit into his skin, his tailbone and the protruding angles of his pelvis.

The familiar, repetitive motions of his daily routine filled the void space in his head -- as soon as he stopped and sat down, it all came rushing back.

The tremors in his hands stood out starkly. He lifted them in front of his face and grabbed at his wet hair -- they didn’t stop shaking, even as they wound themselves through the red strands and squeezed. Pain shot through his scalp -- but he ignored it.

What was he going to do...do --

Tobio was angry with him, he was homeless, he was barely functioning from the lack of nutrition he was getting on a daily basis. He had two jobs and university, fifty dollars in spending money, a savings account for his tuition that hadn’t been touched or added to in months. He was going to die on these streets.

He was going to be here forever, wandering in the freezing rain.

That was, if he even made it through the winter without freezing to death in his sleep.

Shouyou wrapped his aviator jacket around him tighter and buried his nose in the fabric of his sweater. He shook all over, his own personal earthquake, tearing down the foundation of brick buildings and shaking trees from where they were rooted. The birds were flying away in a panic.

He’d cried enough in the past few days that he was completely worn out from it. Tears wouldn’t come, no matter how hard his body shook.

Or, he was so dehydrated his tear ducts couldn’t summon enough moisture to make tears happen.

Either way, it was enough of a shock to send him to his feet.

He hadn’t felt this low since he was younger. Since he was a sobbing mess sleeping on a park bench in a town he wasn’t familiar with.

He hadn’t felt like this since he was kicked out of his parents home onto the streets, since that first night, alone, cold, soaking wet and exhausted, dirty with grime and tear stains.

It was perhaps the hardest thing for him to admit. He wanted to go home.

No, it was more than that. Hinata wanted a home. He wanted a place to call his own, where he would be safe, warm, maybe have a few walls and a roof. A home where there were people who loved him, where he was stable and didn’t have to worry about where he’d be sleeping next.

It was all he wanted, and he craved it desperately, like a starving man craved food.

And there was something else, there, too. A craving, a want...black hair and blue eyes flashed across his vision, and he doubled over. His chest physically ached. It felt like a tickle in his stomach, rising up and extending across his limbs, electricity bouncing between his nerve endings, from his heart to the very tips of his fingers. It was electric and magical, and it hurt. Tobio, Tobio, Tobio hated him and he wanted the opposite.

He wanted a home, with Tobio there, warmth, protection from the rain, something tall holding an umbrella above him.

He just felt...emotionally numb. Like a piece of clothing worn too many times, stretched to the point where it wouldn’t bounce back, the fabric worn so thin it was tearing at every corner.

He felt every drag of his feet against the soggy grass, felt his arms weigh down like lead as he lifted them to fill his water bottle at the water fountain that jutted out the side of the building.

The water was cold and smooth as it slid down his throat. Before he knew it, he had chugged the whole bottle and was re-filling it again.

He took in a deep, shuddering breath.

He could survive, for now. Constant vigilance, dissociation, and cold water.

Shouyou let his eyes fall closed for a moment in an off-brand form of a good-night’s sleep, and lifted his head against the rain. He opened his eyes and stared up at the clouds. Gray, with a hint of blue. No sun in sight.

Chapter Text

Tobio wasn’t sure when he went to sleep, but it was so late in the night that by the time he woke up, he was even more tired than he was when his head hit the pillow.

He sat up in bed, still wearing his dirty tee-shirt and sweatpants from yesterday, still damp from rainwater, and glued to his skin uncomfortably. Tobio plucked at the collar in disgust and tried to peel it away from his chest.

He yanked the soiled clothes off and threw them to the side, hoping they would land in the pile of dirty clothes Tobio had in the corner of his bedroom.

Tobio sat there, in his boxers, mind fuzzy with both sleep and exhaustion, trying to make sense of his life.

Memories of the night before came rushing through his mind, and without warning he punched at his pillow. His fists beat down against his mattress in frustration, crushing pain and sadness wracking through him. He couldn’t remember driving home, what he did when he finally got there, couldn’t tell what was real and what was just a fabricated, third-person view of the situation.

A pang of emptiness swelled up in his chest, a void of pain and hollowness, aching to be occupied.

Shouyou. Tobio didn’t realize when he made the transition between calling his friend by his family name and his given name, but it felt intimate, almost painfully so.

Tobio didn’t know how to make the memories clearer or the pain leave his body, but he knew one thing -- he needed to take a shower.

He pulled himself from his bed and nudged the dirty clothes closer to the pile in the corner by his bookshelf, grabbed the towel hanging from his desk chair, and threw the bathroom door open. His wet, wrinkled feet felt incredibly unpleasant against the smooth tile of the bathroom floor, but he walked over it anyway and placed the folded towel on the back of the toilet. He turned the knob on the shower all the way to hot and let steam fill the room.

When he looked in the mirror, he felt...dirty. There were deep bags under his eyes, the blue in the iris seemed to have lost some of its color, and there appeared to be wrinkles between his eyebrows that weren’t there before. As he looked at himself in the mirror he couldn’t help but imagine his face as he peered at Shouyou, what he must have looked like when Shouyou turned away from him and ran off, alone, into the night, sobs wracking through his body. The steam fogged up the mirror and the condensation slowly ebbed away at Tobio’s visibility until he blinked, and the only reflection in the mirror was a blurry flesh-colored shape that vaguely resembled his head.

Tobio closed his eyes and sighed.

He peeled off his boxers and stepped into the shower.

The feeling of hot water on his back was normally calming, but today, Tobio couldn’t help but feel riled up. Thoughts ran through his mind -- thoughts of Shouyou, alone on the streets, crying and dirty. Shouyou wasn’t able to shower or be completely clean, he wasn’t able to feel safe, he’d just been arrested for God’s sake.

Tobio brought both hands up to his face and gripped his hair in his own fists.

He was, without a doubt, the biggest piece of shit on the face of the planet.

Whatever he’d done, whatever he’d looked like, Shouyou hadn’t trusted him enough to listen and explain. He hadn’t trusted him.

Tobio was beating himself up on the inside, and it was his own fault.

He let the water burn him.

He stood underneath the stream, as hot as it would go, and ran soap through his hair as it scoured his skin of all visible filth. Maybe even some of the invisible stuff too, the stuff that lay just under his skin and just over his conscious, just over a part of him he wished were dirty enough to warrant this kind of vigorous cleansing.

He stood there until the water ran cold.

And his thoughts, as they tended to do, wandered. Hinata and the parents he didn’t get along with. Shouyou and the streets.

His eyes clenched shut -- images of his own dirty face and dirty hands stared back at him. His own past. His own filth. It was unfortunate, but Tobio could understand having a bad relationship with one’s parents. Hell, to some extent, he could sympathize with what it felt like to be homeless. The first time he ran away was when he was a child. The police caught him as well, but unlike Hinata, he was forced back into his parents home.

When he started showing exceptional growth in math and sciences in his third year of high school, his parents had accused him of cheating, refused to go to teacher conferences, and outright ignored him when he told them he wanted to go to a university. The family business was the only option they would support. Tobio was terrified of spending his whole life in their small town.

He ran away, for the second time. This time, he had a plan.

Eating out of garbage cans and sleeping against trees taught him one thing -- he would never, ever let other people decide his fate.

So he waited.

Tobio waited, saved up, and in the week after he graduated from high school, he bought a plane ticket and flew to the city of Brogden for the entrance exam to his top university. It took another few weeks of living on the streets. Another few weeks of avoiding cops, finding safe alleyways, coins on the streets and buying meat buns from 7/eleven, and finally…

He received a full scholarship and financial aid.

Shouyou, who had made it into the same school, was studying the same material in the same city, didn’t have that luxury.

He didn’t have any luxury. He was homeless and there wasn’t much of anything that Tobio could do keep him safe and protected.

Much of anything besides take him into his own home -- and that was risky. Risky, so risky, because Kageyama Tobio loved him enough to keep him as a caged bird if it meant keeping him safe. Caged birds don’t sing, and they certainly don’t fly -- but Tobio was so, so incredibly selfish that he would do it anyways. That was scary. It scared him, and he was afraid it would scare Shouyou off.

He didn’t want to be without Shouyou.

And yet he was too selfish to be with him, either.

Stupid, he thought to himself, slamming his hand down against the top of his bare thigh. He made shaking fists with both hands and beat down on himself until he was doubled over on the porcelain tub of his shower.

The rest of the morning passed in a surreal blur.

He got ready for work, and found himself walking outside in the rain before he even realized he had left his apartment. He made a conscious effort to pay attention to the puddles on the sidewalk, the noise his sneakers made when they landed on the damp concrete. A drizzle fell down, the droplets trailing through his hair and down his cheeks. When he stepped, his shoes sent sprinkles of water up onto the back of his pants.

He made it to the hospital and walked up through the employee’s entrance in a zombie-like state of numbness.

He wasn’t aware of the path he was taking, was only aware that he knew where he was going to end up. He knew where he was meant to be.

Who he was meant to be.

Who he was meant to be with.

Tobio shook his head -- instead of jostling his thoughts away, they just melded together until they made a static mess, like a white noise machine had broken in half and spilled its contents along the inside of his skull. It sounded like insects buzzing in his nasal cavities, cotton balls in his ears absorbing everything going on and compacting it into little spheres of confusion and chaos.

And then, he was there.

Tobio was there, and Shouyou was in front of him, back to him. His hair was slightly damp. Tobio brought a hand up to his own head and ruffled his hair. Shouyou’s hair must have been damp from the rain, and not a shower. The thought made another pang of ache burst through his heart.

“Hinata-kun,” he breathed out, each syllable like fire, burning his tongue and scalding his insides with a hollowness that wouldn’t let go.

Shouyou turned, and looked back at him with those eyes, and god damn, Tobio knew he was in love.

And that hurt. That was scary. It was a mess of confusion and emotion that he wasn’t ready to understand.

But maybe, for a second, if he forgot about all the stains and the pain and conflicting needs, it could be amazing.

Chapter Text

Shouyou had grown up believing that paths converged for a reason.

Every minuscule choice a person makes will point them in a certain direction -- sometimes, they make the wrong decision. Sometimes, someone else makes the wrong decision. It's not your fault, but along the road, you aren't able to make the right turns.

It was mildly terrifying, to say the least.

Before this year, he had been learning to move past that fear of messing up. He tried to be optimistic.

"Tried" was the key word in that statement. Tried was the all important word, the necessary action, the one choice he made that had the possibility of changing his life for the better. But of course, you can always make the wrong choice. And that could set you off the right path for the rest of your life. A path filled with rainwater and biting wind and birds and filth and smiles that stung like blades against his skin.

Right now, Shouyou was feeling like somewhere along the line, someone had made a colossal fuck up and he was experiencing the consequences.

And just recently he was contemplating just how bad his life could get...karma sure was a force to be reckoned with. Or was it a Jinx? He couldn’t be bothered to remember the difference. Either way, things had taken a turn for the worse. Or, more likely, the worst. The gruesome checklist ran through his head: victim, homeless, starving, penniless, and now, to cowardice to seek comfort in his friend.

Oh, how irony worked. He craved human contact and attention, and the night before he couldn’t even bring himself to talk to Kageyama.

Shouyou couldn’t help but think that the choice he made would have brutal consequences. Already he was feeling the after effects. He was clammy and sullen and could feel the creases under his eyes grow deeper by the second.

Why did he feel as though he needed this one person so badly? It’s not like there weren’t others at the hospital, other people he saw frequently, other people he could latch onto like the pathetic person he was. What was so special about Dumbass Kageyama of all people?

Frustration filled him like blood. If he was being honest with himself, he couldn’t remember a time where it hadn’t.

He was stuffing his jacket into his cubby when he heard him.

“Hinata-kun.” Tobio’s voice was melodic. That torturous bastard.

Shouyou froze. The presence of the honorific was too much for him. They were friends. They were close. They cared about each other.

Friends. Shouyou hadn't had such a close friend in ages. Not even Noya or Tanaka were as close to him as Kageyama was.

His hands trembled like shaking leaves. He felt his own blood slow down, his heart pounded in slow motion. Each beat rocketed through his body, breaking one rib at a time, one supporting beam crashing down to the noise of a jackhammer’s point striking stone. One thought plagued his head.

He felt each individual muscle in his neck and back lock and flex as he lifted his head and met Tobio’s gaze. Those eyes, God damn, he was weak for them.

Kageyama looked at him, and in that moment, he knew he was weak.

Weak for Kageyama, weak in general, he wasn't sure. All he knew was that his resolve crumbled like the rusting foundation of a building.

Kageyama’s mouth opened, and what came out, Shouyou almost couldn't handle. “Hinata-kun,” he repeated, this time more forcefully than before. “I-I need to know what's going on. I can't stand to sit by while...while whatever is going on. I can't let you -- I can't --”

He huffed, and buried his face in his hands. Shouyou saw the minute tremors in his shoulders and felt his heart ache in his ribcage.

“I don't want to watch you hurt. You're my friend and I -- I care for you.” Tobio’s voice cracked painfully, the sound rhyming with Shouyou’s own heart. “I care about you, a lot, and I don't want you to think that I'm not going to be there for you. So please, please tell me what's going on.”

Shouyou sucked in a breath. The action felt impossibly difficult -- all the words ramming against the inside of his skull had no meaning. They were just minor inconveniences, the real emotions he wanted to express couldn’t be shown through words.

And, even if they could, Shouyou didn’t have the guts to say them.

So, he started off simple. A rudimentary explanation would have to do, because it was all he had to offer.

He took in another ragged breath and let his eyelids fall closed. “I’m homeless. I haven’t slept in a real bed for weeks now. Well, months, really. My parents kicked me out this summer and I’ve been living on my own ever since. I moved out of the dorms when I realized I could save money that way.” He rambled. Once the words started flowing, he found it impossible to stop them. A dam had broken, and Shouyou wasn’t large enough or strong enough to stop up the cracks.

“I’ve been on the streets since you met me. I never let you walk me home because I was afraid you’d judge me if you found out. I didn’t want that -- I’m…”

I’m scared. I’m scared of being pitied, of being judged, of the scorn that so many other people have had for me, of the hatred I know you might direct at me. I’m afraid, not of you, but what you might think of me. And that fear scares me more than anything else.

Shouyou willed his jaw to clamp shut. The tip of his tongue got caught between his rows of teeth and he tasted the metallic saltiness of blood in his mouth. It was a good distraction -- but it wasn’t enough to draw his attention away from the matter at hand.

Tears welled up in his eyes and he finally released his tongue. His eyes focused, unintentionally, on Tobio’s face.

Kageyama looked heart broken, which, in turn, felt like a knife was being driven into Shouyou’s chest. He felt his ribs mend themselves and crumble, the shrapnel raining down inside him and cutting him up in its path.

“I…” He started, and Shouyou braced himself for impact. Anger and fear and self resentment coursed through his body like liquid fire had flooded his veins when the dam broke. “Shouyou, you don’t have to.

The dam collapsed. “Tobio, What could I possibly do?” he shouted. His voice was hoarse and raw. He felt like he was spitting poison, and the acid was spraying back against his throat, burning and corroding away at his insides.

Tobio ran a had through his hair and squeezed. “You could -- you could stay at a shelter, you could --”

A shudder ran through him. Memories flashed before his eyes. Memories of a knife, a needle, and the hot screams that burnt his ears and scalded his skin. His hands shook violently. Shouyou shook his head and clenched his eyes shut. “I can’t go back to the shelters. I just can’t, Tobio. You w-wouldn’t understand what it’s like -- I couldn’t handle it anymore, and I’m not going back. You can’t make me.”

Tobio clasped his hands in front of his chest.

“Come live with me.”

Silence.

Well.

That...that was new.

Shouyou paused. His tongue rolled through his mouth, still processing the words, and the one he was going to use to make his response. “What...what do you mean?”

“I mean exactly that.” Tobio set his jaw. “We have room in the apartment, and you need a place to stay. I’m not going to make you live in a shelter, but I --” Tobio looked away, avoiding making eye contact. The tips of his ears turned bright red. “I care about you. You’re my friend. I can do this to help you -- please, just let me.”

Shouyou felt tears well up in his eyes. His lower lip shook, his chest felt warm, his ribcage felt like it was expanding, filling up with something, something hot and good and it was so intense it almost hurt. “I’ll…” he started, tongue fumbling around in his mouth, trying to find the right words but not knowing how to say them.

“Please, Shou,” Kageyama whispered, and he broke down.

He hated crying in front of Kageyama, but it was becoming a recurring event, and there wasn’t much he could do to help it. He was blubbering, fingers shaking where they were gripping the front of his shirt, teeth biting at his bottom lip as if it was the only way to get it to stop shaking.

“A-alright,” he whispered. His voice was weak and quiet and his throat felt numb. “Alright. Alright, I’ll go with you.”

Kageyama’s face lit up. And then, Shouyou was wrapped in a fierce hug. His face was pressed against Kageyama’s chest and he couldn’t imagine a better place to be. It was warm and safe, and finally, finally secure -- His bottom lip trembled and he forced himself to hold back from crying.

This dam remained stable. His eyes felt wet with tears, but they never spilled over.

Shouyou buried his cheek in Kageyama’s shoulder and clenched his fists together across his back, and tried to save the feeling in a memory he would keep replaying in his head until he felt safe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The rest of the shift passed by in a blur. Shouyou wasn’t even sure how the teens could stand him -- he wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing (at the time, it was getting his ass kicked at Mario Kart by a few of the girls) and was barely even acknowledging them. There was too much going on inside his mind for him to focus on his job, let alone the twenty teenagers he had to supervise and entertain for a couple of hours.

The thought running through his head were questionable, to say the least.

Shouyou knew something for damn sure: he was not past self-hate. Not by a landslide, and that was becoming increasingly clearer as the day wore on, Tobio a mere ten feet away from him and he still couldn’t help but check over his shoulder every few seconds.

They hadn’t known each other for more than a few weeks, and Shouyou were already attached. That was an understatement. He was glued to Tobio’s side, and every time they were pulled apart it stung him. The pain was almost unbearable.

And, as it was only consistent to how Shouyou was, he was afraid. He hated himself for it. He hated that he was so reliant on another person, but more importantly, he hated that he allowed this to go as far as it had. They were close friends, they ate lunch together, each owed the other an unimaginable amount of favors.

Shouyou felt...he felt vulnerable. Like he could be hurt in a millisecond, and all someone would have to do was hurt Tobio. Punch him and the other bruises, cut one and the other bleeds.

If there was something that was clear in his mind, a thought that didn’t ricochet off of another before he could make sense of it, it was that he was terrified, and weak, and he couldn’t stay with Tobio for long.

Part of him wanted to rip off the tape holding them together and leave -- run from the city and never come back, return to his hometown and find some store to work at, maybe even move in with one of his friends from university.

The other paled at the very thought of leaving Tobio’s side.

And even though that part was strong, that part wanted to be near Tobio for as long as possible, its existence only solidified the part of him that wanted to get away from it all.

Shouyou shuddered and rolled his shoulders. The movements caused his wii controller to jostle, and his cart fell off the track just before the finish line. Waluigi went sprawling into the river with a desolate “Wah!”

The two girls sitting at his sides cheered, high fiving over his head. He faked a wide smile, let his eyes fall closed, and patted them both on the backs in congradulations.

It didn’t take long for Suga to realize that he was out of it.

It took even less time for Tobio to realize he wasn’t in prime condition. Then again, Tobio spent much more time with him, and cared for him a lot more, and --

Shouyou grit his teeth and shut down that part of his brain before it could make any more awful decisions without his consent.

Tobio’s large hand rested against his shoulder. “Hey, Hinata-kun, what’s up?” he asked. His voice had a false air of nonchalance. Shouyou was secretly grateful for his discretion. None of the teens would find it odd for coworkers to chat amiably with one another. They wouldn’t stand out, and Shouyou wouldn’t have to explain a thing to anyone else -- which, considering the state he was in, was necessary. Shouyou didn’t know if he would be able to handle explaining his…condition to another person within the same few hours.

He peered u at Tobio under his eyelashes and forced his lips to tweak up into a smile. “I’m doing fine, just...tired. I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Understanding crossed Tobio’s face. He nodded, and gave Shouyou a comforting squeeze on his shoulder. “Alright. Do you want to tell Suga anything? Maybe go get another cup of coffee and wait it out in the break room?”

“Tell me what, exactly?”

Shouyou nearly jumped a foot in the air.

Tobio just stood there, mildly surprised, as if there was any semblance of normality in Suga’s ability to lurk.

Suga butted his way into their conversation like he started it in the first place. He swiped a chunk of hair out of his forehead and made eye contact with Shouyou. Shouyou quickly dropped it. He looked to the floor and made fists in his pockets.

“Hinata, if you need to go home, that’s perfectly fine. You won’t be fired and you can still keep doing your internship. Everyone deserves a sick day now and then.”

Shouyou nodded and sucked in a breath through his nose. He looked up into Tobio’s eyes -- damn him for being so much goddamn taller than him -- and nodded.

“Thanks, Suga. You’re a lifesaver.” For once, he meant it.

Suga smiled and patted them both on the back. “Now, this doesn’t mean I think it’s okay for you to be slacking! Especially you, Kageyama.”

“Y-yes sir,” he spluttered, bowing his head. “I’ll do my best.”

“Good. That’s what I need from you, now that you and Asahi-san are going to be the only ones supervising the teens until close.” Suga gave him a sharp wink and turned on his heels. “Don’t let them get into too much trouble, alright?”

He watched him walk out of the commons with the flourish of his coat sweeping behind him like a warlock’s cape.

“Thanks, Tobio-kun,” he muttered, a relieved sigh leaving him. It wished out of his lungs, emptied them until they felt hollow.

Tobio’s other hand gripped his left shoulder and pulled him forward until the were eye to eye. “Hey,” he said, his voice soft and quiet compared to the noise of the room around them. “You going to be okay? It’s alright if you want me to call Oikawa to pick you up or something.”

He shook his head. His own hands reached up to grip Tobio’s, and he looked him pointedly in the eye. “Tobio, I’m going to be fine. I’m gonna walk to the cafe and sit down. Come get me after your shift, yeah? I won’t have to wait long.” Shouyou chuckled,his fingers rubbing at the strands of hair that fell in front of his forehead. “I’m an adult, I can handle myself.” He held his other hand together at the small of his back and crossed his first two fingers. Jinx, he thought. Sorry, Tobio.

The truth was, he just needed to be alone. Loneliness had become a coping mechanism, of sorts. This was excruciating -- he craved human company and contact after living alone for so long, felt a burning desire for it in his gut whenever he looked at Kageyama. And really, he didn't know if he could handle being alone much longer.

But Shouyou smiled, he squeezed the hands that gripped his shoulders, and straightened his back. “I'll see you in a few hours, yeah?”

Kageyama nodded, and he left.

He tried not to look back, he really did.

An overwhelming urge took control of him. He turned in the doorway and peered back into the room. Kageyama had replaced him in front of the wii and was battling it out in Super Smash Bros, one eye in the game, the other surveying the room around him.

Shouyou bit his lip. Pain swelled up in his chest, fitting right into the Kageyama sized chunk that was missing from him.

He squeezed his eyes shut. It'll get better when you leave, his inner voice taunted.

Shouyou couldn't listen. He closed the door as gently as possible and left the hospital.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The rain had died down for the time being. A light drizzle sprinkled from the sky -- the sun wasn't out and the sky was washed in a pale gray, the clouds melded together into a flat coverage.

The light came through the layer of moisture in the sky and covered the world around him in a film of a pristine shade white, like a filter on a photograph. Shouyou took a deep breath and let his muscles relax -- his ribcage loosened up, his diaphragm expanded against his stomach, let his shoulders drop. The stiff fabric of his shirt shifted over his skin.

He kept his eyes low and focused on his breathing. He had a few hours to completely calm down and sort through the mess that was his mind.

His mouth quirked upwards at the corner, more out of the sake of being cynical than actual happiness. Oh, the irony. There’s no way this bullshit is going to calm down.

Wind rushed past him, ruffling his clothes and spraying more dampness up into his face. Most of it stuck to his hair, the miniscule droplets glued to the strands like little silver beads. He peered up at it with his bottom lip between his teeth. His hair was already poorly kept and curly, the weather in Brogden didn’t exactly do him any favors. The wind blew his bangs up and out of his face, the moisture held it in place in its frizzy, unkempt state. Shouyou had learned to embrace it. There wasn’t much he could do to stop it, anyways, and Shouyou wasn’t one to dwell on accidental hair quiffs.

He stuck his hands in his pockets and scrubbed his ear against the fluffy insides of his jacket collar. Shouyou peered back down at the sidewalk and paused mid-step -- he had already made his way to the cafe. The reflection in the glass door peered back at him.

“Hmm…” The hum escaped his throat before he realize he had formed it. Well, at least the hair doesn’t look that bad…

The peak of his hair curled upwards, and Shoyou had a strong urge to touch it. He ran his hands through his hair -- the curls pushed backwards, away from his face, grouping together on top of his head. A sigh left him. The warm air turned into a cloud of powdery condensation in front of him. It fogged up the glass in front of him, distorting the image of himself.

With a cynical chuckle, he gave the building a sour look and stepped into the warmth . The cafe was completely empty, and it smelled of cinnamon and peppermint and freshly ground chocolate -- Shouyou breathed it all in. It was familiar. He worked there almost every afternoon, after all.

Shouyou frowned and let his shoulders sag. He could deal with the rush of thoughts through his head later -- now, he needed caffeine.

No one was in line. In fact, the whole place looked dead. Shouyou sauntered up to the counter and peered behind it. He debated, for a moment, vaulting over the counter and making the drink himself, when his coworker stuck her head out from inside the back room. “Hey, Sho! Are you supposed to be working next shift? Need anything?”

He shook his head. “I’m fine. I don’t work today. My first day is next week.” Since sending in his application and being told that he would be hired that day, he’d made an effort to be as kind as possible to the employees. Well, co workers, he could say now. It wasn’t hard -- most of them were already friendly to him because he spent so much time in the cafe. “Could you get me something to drink?” he asked, as he pulled his wallet from his pocket.

Lenah shot him a grin and got to work at the drink machines. “Surprise you?” she asked over her shoulder.

Shouyou leaned against the counter. “Something with a lot of caffeine, please.” He winced, and looked down at his wallet. “Can you make it relatively cheap, too?”

Lenah threw her hair over her shoulder and tucked it up into the bright red beanie on her head. “You know what Shouyou, this one’s on the house. I’ll take it out of the tip jar.”

He let out a relieved sigh and nodded. “You’re a gem, Lenah.”

“Anytime.” She shot him a friendly wink and got to constructing his beverage.

He stood back and waited for her to finish mixing his beverage. The atmosphere in the cafe was lovely that afternoon -- all quiet and warm, the fire crackling in the corner and the drink mixers whirring behind the counter. Shouyou couldn’t wait to be even more familiar with it. Just standing in the cafe was naturally relaxing.

It was also mind numbingly boring.

He couldn’t get Tobio off his mind, and his whole body, while being incredibly tired from lack of sleep and proper nutrition, felt like it was on edge. His nerves were attached to bumble bees, buzzing along through his body. His fingers moved of their own accord, tucking in and out of his pants pockets, plucking at the strings on the seams of his shirt, crossing and uncrossing as his mind made and broke promises.

He shook his head. It was too early for this. He needed his caffeine and he needed patience -- the former was coming up soon, the latter would be much harder to come by.

Lenah called his name and plopped the porcelain coffee mug down on the drink counter. Shouyou picked it up from its saucer and took a sip -- some type of warm, fruity tea, with a hint of...mint? He didn’t know what it was, but it tasted christmasy. He chugged a few gulps down and felt the first rush of energy flow through his system. Whatever it was, it was caffeinated as hell. Step one, check.

“Thanks, Lenah!” he called, picking up the saucer and making his way towards the fireplace. He dropped his bag to the brick part of the floor that surrounded the fire and placed the drink on the table, shucking his jacket and draping it over the back of his chair. The heat from the fire wafted against his bare forearms and he shivered.

Step two...Shouyou mentally put a line through the box and scratched it out.

He sat down and rested his head in his hands. Tobio would be done in a few hours. He just needed to stay like that for an hour or two without breaking down like earlier.

His eyes shot open.

I cried earlier, are my eyes red? Is my face blotchy? Damn it, I know my eyes are swollen, that’s probably why Lenah gave me the tea for free… His fingers wove through his damp hair and pulled. The slight pain grounded him.

He sucked in a shaky breath.

Just a few hours. It was doable.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With his head on resting on his bare arms and the fire sending heat his way, he fell asleep within the hour. For a few moments, he knew he was asleep - he could feel the exhaustion in his mind, and in his bones, and there were messages passing through his synapses telling him to stay where he was, telling him that his body needed rest. And for some reason, the sleep paralysis wasn’t terrifying like it normally would be. It was almost calming.

When he woke up, he nearly spilled his tea all over himself. A warm hand planted itself on his shoulder and he jerked backwards, both arms rising to protect his face from whatever onslaught was to come.

Nothing did.

He hear the light sound of Tobio chuckling and opened his eyes to see him standing there, in his casual clothes, his bag slung over his shoulder.

As soon as Shouyou’s body was fully awake, the caffeine rushed through his system. Shouyou rocketed to his feet. His hands were aching to stim -- they were already running along the seams of his pants and squeezing into fists at his sides.

“Tobio,” he breathed. His heart was pounding in his chest. Shouyou willed it to calm down, but there wasn’t much to do -- the tea only worked to accelerate the rapid fire of his heart.

Tobio grinned down at him and plucked up his jacket. Wordless, Shouyou slipped his arms through the sleeves and allowed Tobio to zip him up. His brain was still a bit foggy from sleep, while his body was razor sharp and alert. It figured. His mind took much longer to rest and gain energy, especially after a tiresome episode of thinking.

“So...do you want to leave?” Tobio asked, rocking on his feet. Shouyou almost grinned. That’s my move, he wanted to say.

But he didn’t -- he looked up to Tobio and smiled. “One thing. I have to get my stuff.”

“Your..stuff?”

Shouyou took one last swig of his tea and pushed his chair in. “My stuff,” he affirmed. “Everything I own. I don’t keep it on me all the time, so I need to go get it before we go to your place.”

He didn’t wait for Tobio’s response before he began to walk out of the cafe.

It only took a few left turns before they were there. The allyway was dimly lit by a purple neon sign advertising car insurance, the color washing over the brick and stone, almost hiding the grime from view. Almost.

With, embarrassment coloring his cheeks pink, he worked quickly. His fingers shook, but he managed to lift the stone and tug out his belongings. He slung the backpack over his shoulder and gripped the straps in each fist.

“This is...everything?” Tobio asked, clearly struggling to maintain an unconcerned composure.

Shouyou gulped. “Everything.” It pained him to admit it, because he saw the expression on his face. He knew what Tobio was thinking, and couldn't help but feel the same way. It wasn’t much.

He averted his eyes and walked past him onto the damp sidewalk.

They made their way to his apartment, and Shouyou was staring down his hallway before he even realized it. His feet felt numb and his mind felt overworked. Exhaustion coursed through him. With all the heavy thinking he’d done that day, his mind felt like an iron weight pulling him to the ground.

“Er, You can put your stuff in my room if you don’t want my roommate to mess with it. He’s kind of nosey.” Tobio mumbled, rubbing at the back of his neck sheepishly.

Shouyou nodded, and made his way through the entryway, down the hallway Kageyama pointed to. He set his bag down in the corner and closed the door behind him when he left. When he returned, Tobio was bustling about in the kitchen, his hands ever moving.

Shouyou sat as gingerly as he possibly could and let his hands smooth against the surface of the couch. It was soft, much nicer than the cheaper ones in the lounge of Daichi hospital. Shouyou hadn’t sat on a couch this nice since he was still part of his parent’s family. He winced, looking down at his hands. They were too dirty for this. Shouyou was too filthy. He was a street rat, to impure to stay in Tobio’s home.

“Here,” Tobio said. Shouyou looked up and met his eyes -- he looked like an angel. The light from the kitchen gave him a soft, otherworldly halo and blurred the hard edges of his frame. It took Shouyou a moment to realize he was offering a hand to help him stand up from the couch. As if there were anywhere else he’d like to be.

Tobio smiled that smile of his, the relaxed, gentle one he made when he thought no one could see the crinkle in the corner of his eyes and the tiny quirk in the corner of his mouth. “You can take the bed.” he said, and Shouyou went weak in the knees.

“What? I’m not going to make you sleep on the couch in your own home!”

Tobio shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “Well, if you want, It’s your home too. You can sleep in the bed.”

The former sentence sent pang of something wonderfully familiar through his heart. A home. He hadn’t had one of those in ages. Hell, even his parent’s house never really felt like a “home” to him. The word stung, though, a reminder of memories and pain from the past. It reminded him of his conflictions. It reminded him that he couldn’t be a burden for too long or he would begin to hate himself even more than he already did.

But for now, he was going to do his best to enjoy it. “Why don’t we both just sleep in the bed? Is it big enough?” Shouyou tipped his head back and flopped down on the couch. He knew he was being dramatic, but quite frankly, he couldn’t care less.

Tobio flushed, and looked down at the ground. He dropped Shouyou hand and didn’t make eye contact. “I mean...it is. If you’re comfortable with that.”

“Are you?” Shouyou prodded. Tobio nodded, lifting a hand to rub at the back of his neck, sheepish. That seemed to be his mood of the night. “Alright then. We’ll sleep in the bed.” He stood up from the couch and gathered the throw blanket in his arms. “Help me carry the pillows.”

They made their way into the bedroom (correction, Tobio’s bedroom, Shouyou wasn’t staying long) and arranged the pillows against the headboard. Shouyou snatched one of them out of Tobio’s reach so he could hold onto it when he slept. He shoved the white covers over to the other side of the bed and spread out his own to cover the whole length of the bed. Tobio was tall, and his bed was wide and long enough to fit him. It was much bigger than any bed Shouyou had ever slept in.

“Hey,” Tobio muttered. “That’s my side.”

“Bakageyama, does it really matter?”

“Dumbass, if it doesn’t matter, why don’t you switch sides with me?”

Shouyou frowned and looked at his feet. “Because this is my side. I always sleep on the left.” he muttered.

Tobio let out a loud sigh from the other side of the bed. Shouyou risked a peek upwards and found him to be smiling, not scowling. His back turned and he bent over to pull down his sweat pants, revealing black boxer-briefs with little bats printed flying across the sides.

He blushed and did the same, reaching into his backpack for the pair of sweatpants he had wrapped in a plastic bag. They were dry and clean by now -- he tugged them on over his boxers and pulled his jacket off.

Tobio crawled into his side of the bed and cocooned himself in his thick, downy covers. Shouyou allowed himself a moment to let his own smile tweak the corners of his mouth, and got into bed. The pile of blankets was soft and warm, like a clean, protective hug. He wrapped his arms around a pillow and turned on his side. Shouyou pressed his chest against the pillow and buried his nose into the seam.

He sat completely still for a few moments until a cramp took hold in his back. He was used to sleeping on the streets, on park benches, in the grass, that a soft mattress that gives just enough lumbar support to be comfortable was heavenly...if a little... unfamiliar.

Very unfamiliar. The concept of a good, peaceful night’s sleep was foreign to him, and if there was one word to describe the situation, it was awkward. Tobio slept stiffly on his back, nose upturned towards the ceiling. Shouyou didn’t want to be caught staring, but he couldn’t help it. It had taken him this long to notice -- Tobio was very attractive.

Well, that was rude. Shouyou knew he was handsome, the thought had occurred to him many times when working, when he would look over and see Tobio biting his lip in total concentration, thin eyebrows drawn together in the center if his forehead, a single furrow in his brow. He had smooth, nice skin and dark eyelashes, grey eyes with a hint of blue. He was tall and broad shouldered with slim hips and long legs. Of course, he was nice to look at. Symmetrical and all that -- all those things Shouyou had heard people whisper in high school about tall, muscular boys, or boys with floppy hair, or boys who smiled at them. Hell, he’d even said some of those himself. Shouyou was hella queer -- he’d known this for a long time.

Still...looking at Tobio from this angle, with moonlight with a tinge of yellow from the street lights spilling in through the window blinds, he couldn’t help but realize that Tobio was so, so much more than just handsome.

The peak of his nose sloped back to his broad forehead, his bottom lip was wider than his top and it jutted out from the slim point of his chin -- he had smooth, rounded cheeks that didn’t look young, delicate eyelashes that didn’t look weak or feminine, and he was absolutely, resolutely stunning.

The pale moonlight shone off of his skin, the yellow from the artificial street lighting made the black in his hair iridescent. He was beautiful. Some strange, warm feeling of intensity welled up in his stomach, blooming in his ribcage.

But, for some reason, that feeling wasn’t jealousy.

Tobio sniffed, his chest rose and fell -- he was asleep, already. Figures, Shouyou told himself. It’s his own bed, his own apartment, and he lives here. Permanently. He’s allowed to get comfortable. You’re not.

The harshness of his own inner voice stung and he winced, gritting his teeth. Shouyou pulled his upper lip into his mouth and bit down on it -- it hurt (oh, and it hurt like a bitch), but it was true.

He closed his eyes, rolled over as gently as possible, and willed sleep to wrap him up in it’s skeletal grasp, take him away from this dimension and hold him, safe and out of sight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Warmth.

Shouyou felt like he was the kindling to a small fire.

It might had been the faint whispers of sunlight on his face, separated into thin bars of light by the window blinds, or the lump of blankets against his back. He knew some part of him was conscious -- he could feel the press of fabric against his cheek, the press of warmth against his back, he could feel the mattress give underneath his hop. He knew where he was, why he was there, and had a memory of falling asleep.

But still -- it felt like sleep still had his body in its grip. There was a sense of protection coating his entire being, the sense of warmth that wasn’t just skin deep. He felt it in his chest. Just like last night, some positive feeling of fire was bubbling up, trailing against his spinal cord.

He grinned and nuzzled his face into the pillow in front of him. It seemed like the pillow bunched up in his sleep. Shouyou didn’t care. It was warm and soft and comfortable -- he ran his nose down the length of it and smiled.

Then, the warm mass behind him sneezed, and his eyes shot opened.

Tobio’s arm was wrapped around him, rested on the pillow in front of him. He could see his hand, his long fingers, right in front of his face. Tobio’s chest was against his back and their legs were tangled, their blankets having fallen somewhere around their waist, tangled together on top of them.

They were spooning. Spooning.

Shouyou froze.

He felt hot breath fan out on his neck as Tobio shifted on the mattress. The arm around him tightened and the soft press of a nose against the back of his neck made him shiver. Goosebumps trailed up his skin.

The worst part of it all, was that Shouyou didn’t really mind.

That was the last straw -- with shaking hands, Shouyou lifted Tobio’s wrist as gingerly as possible and rested it back down on the mattress. He tossed the comforters over his side and scooted out of the bed, his bare feet padding against the low carpet of the floor.

At the last moment, he turned and looked back. Tobio had replaced him with a pillow. He buried his nose into the fabric just as he had the back of Shouyou’s neck. His hair was messy and adorable, filled with cowlicks and oddball curls. The rumpled sleep shirt he was wearing hiked up to reveal one protruding hip bone and a hard plane of stomach muscle, just a shade paler than the rest of him. And then their was the faint dark trail of hair that led down from his belly botton --

As he looked on, Tobio yawned, turned on his back, and nuzzled into the pillow. His shirt rode even higher up on his torso.

He knew it was ridiculous, but Shouyou couldn’t help feel jealous of the pillow.

He bit his lip. Does he work out? How could he get a stomach like that if he didn’t… part of him wondered.

The other part promptly struck the first part upside the head and scolwed. No need to ogle at a coworker. Especially not one who was kind enough to offer him a place to live for the time being.

(The first part was too busy drooling to care that much.)

(Shouyou couldn’t exactly blame it.)

It took great self reliance and effort, but he tore his eyes away and made a point to stare directly at the doorway. A yawn bubbled up in his chest -- coffee. That was what he needed. Coffee could solve all his problems.

He meandered out of the bedroom in search of caffeine.

The scent of it lingered in the air. The warm, nuttiness of coffee caught his attention and drew him forward, from the living room into the attached kitchen. On the counter, was an old coffee pot, a bag of coffee grounds, and a stack of paper filters in a metal sleeve.

Shouyou grinned. It was a perfect set up, although much less convenient than the one at the cafe. It was homey and relaxed. He felt an overwhelming crave for the coffee, and set to work setting up the coffee machine.

Before long, he had coaxed the smooth black liquid from the machine to drip down into the glass pot below. His mouth salivated at the sight. Shouyou opened a few cabinets in search of a coffee mug -- he found them, turned upside down in one of the higher cubbies.

One stood out to him. It had a mustache decorating the side, placed strategically so the drinker would appear to have facial hair whenever they held the mug in front of their face. Shouyou scoffed. It was dorky and ridiculous, and definitely not Tobio’s.

He decided he’d be safe with a plain white mug.

Shouyou poured the hot coffee into the mug and nearly scalded himself with the hot liquid in his attempt to guzzle as much of it as possible in a short amount of time. He stepped back, spluttering and coughing.

He smacked a hand over his mouth -- Tobio was still asleep.

The thought in itself made him explode with giggles.

It was painfully domestic.

And yet, it was the best he had felt in a long, long time. It was worth how cheesy it was if he got to stay there -- for any amount of time, Shouyou would be happy.

Shouyou was happy. Completely, utterly content with his life. And that was a high, one that he had not reached in months.

Chapter Text

There hadn’t yet been a time in his life where he’d woken up with someone sleeping next to him.

He supposed there had been moments, parts of his life where he desired the companionship of another human, and another body to keep him warm. Those thoughts normally dissipated when he considered the fact that he could get a cat and it would have the same effect.

Tobio’s hand shifted to the side and brushed against something warm.

For a few moments he felt sleep wash over and away from him, like waves pushing him slowly onto shore, then dragging him backwards through the surf. He didn’t fight it -- he allowed himself to relax. His muscles became pliable and the water sent him tumbling.

He yawned, scraping away at the essence of sleep still coating his throat. Sleep always left a strange taste in his mouth. He pried his lips apart and ran his tongue over them. The muscle danced over the dry skin and he winced. Sleep tended to dehydrate him, leaving him thirsty and with sore muscles in the morning.

Tobio reached up and rubbed at his shoulders with the tips of his fingers -- the blanket had fallen from above his collarbones until they draped over just his hips. The plush downy was heavy and warm. The draft flowing through his doorway made goosebumps pop up over the strip of skin above his boxer’s waistband.

A shudder ran through him. He turned on his side and scooped up the thick comforter, tugging it up and over his shoulders. The blanket brushed against his nose and lips. It smelled of cinnamon and soap.

The scent was familiar -- rain and something spicy, barely there. Shouyou. He smiled and rubbed the fabric against his cheek lazily.

In his mind, he saw Shouyou’s face parallel to his, his lips a little chapped, pursed, his nose wrinkled and pressed against the pillow beside him. His little hands curled in front of him, his knees brought up to his chest. He saw the wild mess of cowlicks and curls that was Shouyou’s morning hair. He could imagine, vividly, the way the sunlight must shine off the tops of his cheeks, how the light would bend through his translucent eyelashes.

It was a dream of course -- but it was fantastic. Tobio felt happiness well up in his gut and warmth pass over his skin, like a smooth layer of water.

But the thing about dreams was that they tended to be wish fulfillment. And, of course, they fell back into the depths of your hopes and dreams as soon as you opened your eyes.

Tobio stretched out, his foot peeking out of the comforters and bumping into -- nothing.

When Tobio woke up to an empty bed, he nearly had a heart attack.

For a moment, he thought it had all been a dream.The whole thing -- the night before last, the day after, going to bed last night -- was just a sick delusion his mind had painted in his sleep in order to fulfill a wish that was unattainable.

His heart jumped into his throat and the beats thrummed through his body, reaching every corner and filling it with panic and anxiety.

In his first attempt at leaping out of bed, the blankets got caught around his knees and he went sprawling -- his knees cracked against the floor, his elbows softened the impact for the rest of his body. His hair fell in his eyes, just as the blankets fell from his bed and covered him.

Tobio sprang to his feet.

There was a clear indent on the other side of his bed (that’s weird, you always sleep on this side), and a pile of throw blankets and quilts that they normally kept stored in the closet in the hall. He untangled his legs and rested a hand against the sheets.

It smelled like Shouyou.

Tobio smiled. His hand gripped at the blankets without him realizing.

And then, a terrible pang of fear hit him like a blow to the stomach.

What if he left? A skeletal hand had his heart in its grip, squeezing and twisting. The gut wrenching pain led all the way from the tip of his brain to the base of his ribs, reverberating through his lungs until he could barely breathe. No, what if he left me?

Face burning and palms sweating, Tobio threw open the bedroom door and barrelled out into the living room.

The scent of coffee caught his attention. He lifted his nose like a damn dog, turning on his heels.

Shouyou was in the kitchen, a tuneless hum vibrating out from his throat, fiddling with the buttons on the coffee machine. His tongue stuck out the corner of his mouth in concentration.

He was wearing just loose boxer briefs and his sweatshirt. The briefs were black and had little dancing skeletons printed on them. Tobio thought they were incredibly endearing, but forced his eyes to move away from the apex of his pale thighs and the curve of his lower back under the sweatshirt. He shook his head and cleared his mind of the thoughts rushing up to the front of his eyelids.

(Even though, objectively, Shouyou looked pretty fucking cute.)

He leaned against the breakfast bar. Shouyou was busy at the kitchen counter, pouring coffee from the pot into two mugs. The briefs hung low on his hips, the sweater baggy around the middle, the sleeves rolled up past his elbows.

Tobio shook his head again and pressed his hip bones against the counter of the breakfast bar. The tile bit into his sides painfully and was about as effective at cleared his head as something could get.

“Don’t you need your clothing washed?” he asked. It seemed like a reasonable request, especially when he knew Shouyou was homeless and that he had shown up with nothing but a travel backpack. There wasn’t much he could fit in there. The thought made Tobio’s heart ache. He wanted more for him -- much, much more -- but when the question fell from his mouth, he saw Shouyou freeze.

His back went ramrod straight, the muscles in his neck stiffening up with anticipation and anxiety.

“I-I could, yeah. Let me -- let me go get my stuff. I’ll do it so you don’t have to.”

Tobio shook his head and frowned. “It’s not much trouble, really, I do Oikawa’s laundry all the time. I’ve been doing my own for years, I’m not going to stain it or shrink it or something --”

He shook his head violently and cut him off. “N-no.” Shouyou closed his eyes and sucked in a whisper of a breath. “Let me. Please.”

Please. That plead, it was enough to make Tobio’s resolve crack and crumble around him.

“Alright,” he mumbled.

“How do you take your coffee?” Shouyou asked, effectively cutting off the conversation.

Tobio frowned. “M-milk and three sugars,” he stammered.

He watched as Shouyou poured the creamer and stirred the spoonfuls of sugar into the drink. He turned and slid the drink over the counter. Tobio caught it and stared down into the pale liquid. Shouyou hopped up onto the kitchen

“Oi, dumbass, don’t sit on the counter, I make food there.”

Shouyou rolled his eyes, but did as told.

That’s when Tobio realized something was very wrong. No witty retort? No sass? No response, at all? He worried at his bottom lip and pulled it between his teeth. Shouyou leaned against the counter, facing away from him, and sipped at the black coffee. His shoulders hunched forward, as if he were caging himself in.

Was he anxious? Worried? Seeing the intern like this certainly made Tobio worried enough to chew at the inside of his own mouth.

He knew what it most likely was -- something to do with the police, the same thing that made him cy at the sheriff's station. It was probably still plaguing him.

Well, it’s certainly still plaguing me.

He curled his hands into fists and let his blunt fingernails dig into the skin on his palms, calloused from using equipment and working out, dry from wearing latex gloves all day. Tobio knew what helped him work through anxiety, at least temporarily. He wasn’t sure if it worked as well on others, but it was worth a shot.

“Hey, Shou -- Hinata.” Tobio cursed himself and bit his lip at the name slip up and held his shoulders high, expecting Shouyou to immediately decline and be upset. “Do you want to go on a run?”

Shouyou turned, water glass raised halfway to his lips. His mouth was open, eye brows draw together in the middle.

Tobio started spluttering worse than a fire drenched in ice water. “I mean -- well, you said you don’t like to learn sitting still, so I figured I could look over the stuff you’re learning right now and then we could talk about it while we’re running? That way you have something else to pay attention too. A-and, when we’re done, your clothes will be out of the wash and they’ll be dry by the t-time we get home from the hospital tonight!”

Shouyou was giving him these eyes, wide and unresponsive and stunningly beautiful. It made him incredibly nervous -- his eyes were pools of caramel. It was easy to get lost in them and distracted, to lose focus entirely. Tobio bit down on his bottom lip and focussed his eyes on the floor between Shouyou feet.

“I mean,” he stuttered, trying to give a front of indignation. “If you can keep up with me.”

A loud clink rang out at Shouyou drained the glass of water and plonked it back down on the breakfast bar.

Shouyou grinned up at him, nose bunched up in excitement. “I’d love to go. But first, you have to promise -- the looser tells the winner that they’re better than him.”

He glanced down at the floor and grinned, rubbing the back of his neck. It was such a cocky, ridiculous, Hinata thing to say. And yet, Tobio couldn’t help but find it adorable. “You’re on.” he agreed, a smirk still tugging at the corner of his mouth. “You’re going down, dumbass.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tobio had expected a jog. A friendly competition of sorts, that would result in Tobio winning and letting Shouyou off without completing his end of the bet, just to be kind. His legs were longer, after all, and Shouyou had wider hips and a more relaxed stance. He wasn’t muscled, where Tobio wasn’t beefed or anything, but he tended to blow off steam by working out, which, over the years and a shit ton of steam, had resulted in a bit of muscle mass.

He hadn’t expected Shouyou to be an athlete. Especially not one who was pretty damn fast, and had immaculate form.

Tobio wore black sweatpants that tapered at the ankle and a red zip-up vest. He wasn’t wearing a shirt underneath it, and the shift of his sleeveless jacket over his collar bones and shoulders was soft and welcome. He didn’t really feel sweaty -- the city of Brogden was too cold in the winter to ever feel sweaty.

His breath fogged in front of him in a silvery cloud of moisture, like the product of an ice dragon on a killing spree. The comparison was a bit dorky, but Tobio found himself grinning mid stride anyway.

The chilly air froze in his lungs -- it wiped against his face, burning his skin with the cold. Goosebumps trailed up his arms and bare legs. The smack of his sneakers against the pavement sent shockwaves up his calves. He felt the impact in his muscles, felt his back tendons shifting, his hair falling against his forehead.

The air was crisp and dry. It was optimal weather for running. In fact, it almost always was. Thanks to the amount of rain Brogden received, the weather was rarely humid or thick with moisture.

Their “friendly race” had dissipated into a long distance runaround the city -- they both knew the place like the back of their hands, the alleyways that were sketchy and the ones that provided perfect paths around traffic, the parks that sprawled out between buildings that seemed miles high.

A baggy cotton tee shirt hung off Shouyou shoulders and small soccer shorts clung to his hips -- both of which were hand me downs from the apartment. The shirt was one of Tobio’s that had shrunk in the wash. He had gone digging around Oikawa’s laundry for a pair of shorts that would fit Shouyou and only found spandex, boxer briefs, and a single flowy, galaxy patterned skirt. The man had no organization skills whatsoever, so Tobio was sure he was hiding some work out clothes in the mess that was his closet, but the only thing they could scrape together were running shorts that were just a bit…snug on Shouyou.

They were designed to be short, Tobio knew that. Most clothing designed for running had the smallest amount of fabric as possible, just to minimize air resistance and extra weight, so it was quite reasonable for the shorts to be miniscule. It would help his running, after all.

And Shouyou was an amazing runner. His form was near perfect -- shoulders back and dropped, chest out, hips level with his shoulders, arms held at right angles, legs pumping in sync with his arms.

Shouyou was a distraction.

Tobio was struggling.

It wasn’t even that most of his thighs were on display, or that the shorts were made of thin fabric that flipped upward when he stepped, revealing a sliver of skin, tight black boxer briefs, and the curve of where Shouyou’s thigh met his butt (although that played a part...a pretty significant part…). It was the purple of Shouyou’s knees, the faint, barely-there strands of blond and orange hair on his shins, the goosebumps on his legs.

It was the little smattering of freckles on his left ankle. The wobble in his step whenever his foot landed on one of the rocks that occasionally found there way up off the street and on the sidewalk.

It was the fact of the matter -- Shouyou was wearing his shirt.

It was the shirt, actually, that was the most distracting.

Shouyou’s collar bones peeked out in the most endearing way, and Tobio had a strong urge to lean over and bite on one of them.

He knew it was awful and invasive to think such things of the person standing literally inches away from you -- but he couldn’t tear his eyes away.

Tobio pumped his arms harder and tried to pass in front of Hinata. At least if he was ahead he probably wouldn’t be tempted by The Sin.

And, probably, if Shouyou wasn’t wearing his clothes, Tobio wouldn’t have tripped and landed face first in the grass.

Tobio frowned. He would have been winning if it weren’t for the sight in front of him that made him a little bit...winded.

The squeak of his sneaker against the pavement rang out in the near-silent park they were running through. Tobio tried to catch himself before it was too late --

Too late.

His font slammed into Hinata’s back and sent the shorter man sprawling against the sidewalk.

Tobio stood ramrod still for a beat, before he realized what happened.

“Oh my god…” he muttered.

Shouyou groaned. He had landed half-on-half-off the grass which had saved his knees from getting beaten up, but from what Tobio could see, his arms and the heels of his hands had taken the blunt force of his entire body and sustained most of the damage. A pale smear of red wiped off onto the damp concrete. He pushed himself up by the elbows, his knees bracing the rest of his body. The shorts stretched over his hip bones and --

Tobio bit the inside of his cheek, hard, and felt his mouth fill with the metallic taste of blood. He shook his head and kneeled down next to Shouyou. His knees stung just from pressing against the rough pavement of the sidewalk. He winced. He couldn’t imagine falling headfirst onto the rock.

He put a hand underneath Shouyou’s armpit and lifted him upwards until he was kneeling in the grass. Upon closer inspection, he saw the rub marks on his lower forearms and palms -- little specks of red where the tiny peaks on the concrete had dug into his skin. They weren’t bleeding much, but they looked red and irritated -- they needed to be cleaned, quickly, then bandaged.

Tobio’s doctor mind went out the metaphorical window in favor of grabbing Shouyou’s wrists and pulling him closer.

He ghosted his fingertips over Shouyou’s forearms, over the muscle that connected his wrist to his elbow, the light dusting of pale orange hair, the same shade as the falling leaves. There were tiny, cinnamon colored freckles on the backs of his arms, sprinkled over skin like the autumn themed drinks that he loved so much. The insides were pale, almost translucent in the sunlight. His skin was so soft…he trailed his longer fingers up the sides of his arms towards the sleeves of his tee shirt.

Tobio dropped Shouyou’s arms and folded his own in front of his chest.

“C-come on,” he muttered. “We need to get you back to the apartment and wrap this up so it doesn’t get infected. Just think about what could be on the concrete...we walk here every day.”

“So?” Hinata grumbled, cradling his arms to his chest.

“So, you don’t want shoe germs in your blood stream.”

Shouyou rolled his eyes and braced on hand on the ground so he could stand up. Tobio supported his shoulders and helped him into a standing position. It took him a few moments to realize he was still holding on, even after Shouyou was on his feet.

“Er!” Tobio blurted. He took a step away and balled his fists up. “Race you!”

He was barrelling off in the opposite direction when Shouyou shouted after him. “That’s not fair, Bakageyama!”

Tobio grit his teeth and kept pumping his arms. You’re not fair, Shouyou.

They were hot and exhausted by the time they made it to Tobio’s apartment building. Tobio was puffing out clouds of mist, keeping his eyes trained on the imprints Shouyou’s breath made in the air. He keyed them in and held the door open for him.

“Go to the bathroom, I have a first aid kit in there. Tell me when you’re finished showering and I’ll wrap up your arms for you.”

Shouyou nodded. He stepped into the bedroom and grabbed his backpack, swiped a towel off of one of the hooks on the bathroom door, swung it closed and locked it behind him.

As soon as he was out of sight, Tobio plopped down on the couch and tipped his head back. The sound of the running water drowned out his breathy sigh, thank the gods, and he curled in on himself. His muscles screamed from the exertion. They always did. Tobio didn't know his own limits when he was stressed. The last sprint had certainly taken a toll on his body, and he was feeling it, but only now, after it was all over.

He stood up from his seat, joints protesting at the movement. He made his way to the kitchen for a glass of ice water.

He lifted the cup to his mouth and downed the entire thing in four second flat, already craving another.

Instead of obliging, he licked his lips, set the glass on the counter next to the other dirty dishes, and started to stretch.

The pull of his muscles sent a tingle through each of his limbs individually. He stretched his shoulders first, and after massaging away the knot just above the peak of his collarbones, his whole body seemed to meld down into a more compact, relaxed form.

Tobio continued his stretching until he felt alright again and headed into his bedroom.

He peered down at his watch, and for the second time that day, he nearly had a stress-induced heart attack.

Shouyou was taking forever in the shower, and they only had an hour left until they needed to be clocked in at their job. Tobio was still sweaty and dirty -- his shirt stuck to his shoulders, the fabric of his sweats were riding up whenever he took a step, and he didn’t want to risk sitting down on his bed in case he rubbed off on his sheets and ruined them with filth and sweat.

With a sigh, he decided that it wouldn’t do much good to rush Shouyou. He was stubborn. So stubborn that he might be okay with making Tobio late just to prove a point. That was dangerous. Incredibly endearing and adorable when it wasn’t causing harm, but still...Shouyou was five solid feet of danger.

He allowed himself a weak smirked to himself at that, patting himself on the back like a total unfunny douchebag, before going straight back to panicking.

He checked his watch again -- the same time blinked up at him as before. It was still threatening, still nerve wracking to see the seconds pass, knowing he would normally be long out of the shower by now. Tobio shook his head. There’s no use thinking like that. Just do what you need and get a little bit done, and you’ll make it in on time. You always do.

He rolled his eyes and lifted his arms, letting a yawn travel through his whole body. He could do this.

But first: another round of coffee was in order.

Tobio drained half a cup of weak coffee (it was closer to coffee flavored milk and sugar, at this point) and made his way into the bedroom. He tried to ignore the humming noises coming from behind the locked bathroom door -- so Hinata was the kind of guy to sing in the shower? Tobio filed that tidbit of information away for further use. He shook his head and leaned against his desk -- his briefcase was open, the contents spilling out along the piano music sheets that covered the wooden surface of his workspace. Tobio stuffed everything back into the square bag and zipped it up.

He used his toe to pick up his sweatpants from the night before and tossed them into their rightful place in the corner. Tobio hated having a messy room. He could barely think with clutter in his workspace. When he first moved into the apartment with Oikawa, the walls were a murky burgundy and the carpet was long and shaggy. Tobio had the walls repainted and the carpet exchanged for something neat and short within the week. He rearranged all the furniture until it was just right, bought new blinds for the window, and a clean, white bedspread with soft sheets and two neat pillows.

Now, his bedroom walls were a pale indigo and everything was clean and kept in order.

Except for his piano, that was. Tobio never put enough effort into music in the first place, and thinking about the way his fingers needed to move across the keys required a lot less work than, say, doing paperwork about a sick child with an abusive parent.

Tobio shucked off his dirty socks and unzipped the jacket vest, letting the two sides hand open over his chest. He wasn‘t too sweaty when he was running, but now that he was in the apartment with the heat turned up and sunlight filtering through his wide windows, he was beginning to feel the exertion.

He folded Hinata’s extra blankets and made his bed as best he could without upsetting the extra pillows and comforter. He threw open his closet door and picked out an outfit, set it over his (now significantly less rumpled) bedspread, and peered over it. He deserved to look nice, didn’t he? Was it too much? Tobio ran his hands over the label of the suit jacket. It was soft and sturdy, and he knew from trying it on in the store that it fit his chest and waist perfectly.

Tobio peered down at his watch. They had forty-five minutes to go.

“Damn,” he cursed, looking over his shoulder towards the bathroom. As if Shouyou could sense his anxiety, he heard the pound of the shower water cease. There were a few low thuds as Shouyou clambered over the rim of the tub onto the tile floor of the bathroom.

Tobio paced back and forth, waiting (un)patiently for him to finish up. The evil part of his mind smirked at him from inside his brain and prodded him in the metaphorical back. Just don’t think about him opening the curtain, pulling underwear on, soaking wet, the steam wafting over him --

Tobio swallowed hard and looked up at the ceiling, as if pleading with whatever gods that controlled the rain to please, control his mind as well.

Finally, the door clicked open. Tobio felt his back bend until he stood straight up, suddenly terribly aware of how exposed he felt. His arms, and now his chest and stomach visible underneath the douchey jacket -- god, he must have looked like an ass.

Shouyou stepped out, fully dressed, scrubbing at his head with a towel around his neck. His face was flushed to the point where his freckles nearly blended into his skin. His head was bent forward to the ground, but when he peered up, through his damp eyelashes, his mouth fell open an inch. Tobio felt an intense urge to cover himself, but just stood there instead, unmoving. The blush on Shouyou’s face grew.

“I, uh...I finished showering.”

Tobio nodded. “I can tell.” It came out much snarkier and sharper than he had anticipated.

Shouyou’s shoulders dropped, and he abandoned the towel in favor of letting it fall over his shoulders to catch the droplets of water, instead of shaking out of his hair manually. He jutted his chin out and motioned towards the bathroom. “Well?”

Tobio nodded, moving fifty miles an hour as he crowded Shouyou into the bathroom. He knelt down so he could reach underneath the sink, opened the cabinet, and pulled out a white first aid box. He set it down beside the sink and turned the faucet on.

He got to work scrubbing the sweat and grime from his hands with soap from the bathroom counter and a blue loofah. He scraped under his short nails just incase and rubbed at the spaces between each finger.

Shouyou let out a puff of breath as he hoisted himself up onto the counter beside him. His arms were clean and there wasn’t any more blood, but there were clear traces of injury running the length of both of his lower arms.

The warmth wafted off him like he was a sauna. It was slightly disconcerting -- Tobo felt dizzy from the steam and the heat, like a perfect mix of suffocation and want.

He pulled his bottom lip into his mouth and bit down, hoping that the pain was enough to keep him more or less in check with Shouyou’s thigh, wrapped tightly in dark blue denim, sat right there, just a few inches from his hand.

God, he really was a disgusting pervert.

Tobio unbuckled the latches on the first aid kit and unravel a bit of the gauze, smoothed it out between his fingers. It was soft and delicate, pure white. It seemed too clean compared to him -- even after scrubbing at his hands, they still felt dirty.

Impure.

He shook his head an undetectable amount and reached for Shouyou’s arms.

Shouyou scooted forward on the counter and bore his wrists to Kageyama. Tobio ran his eyes over the scratches that ran down from his elbows to the middle of his palms. They weren’t deep or messy, but his skin was still a fiery red and irritated, the scrapes were skin deep and the skin on his palms seemed rubbed raw, past the point of discomfort. Tobio raised an eyebrow.

“Ouch,” he whispered.

Hinata snorted. “Yeah, no kidding. They were stinging the whole time during the shower.”

Tobio shook his head and wrapped his fingers around his right arm. He rifled around in the first aid kit until he found a tube of ointment and uncapped it, squeezing a small amount of the gel just under the joint of his inner elbow. He used the pads of his thumbs to soothe the gel into Shouyou’s skin, slowly spreading it down to his wrist and kneading it into his palm. Shouyou hissed.

“Is it supposed to burn?” he muttered.

Tobio felt his forearm muscles flexing underneath his menstruations. “Yeah, it means it’s working.” He huffed. “You’re in a university for med school, you should know what’s going on.”

“I mean, yeah, but most companies don’t even change the formula, so germs that survive it reproduce and are immune to the chemicals.”

Tobio shrugged and picked up the gauze and started to wrap up Shouyou’s arms. “The consistency of the gel keeps dirt and grime from getting into the wounds, plus it soothes the pain and moisturizes the skin around the injury.”

Shouyou huffed. He pulled his wrapped arm away and inspected it -- the gauze was wrapped around his lower arm all the way to his palm, where the cloth hooked around his wrist. It looked like an artful arm warmer.

Tobio got to work on his other arm, and Shouyou seemed to cease to caring about the initial sting of the wound cream. It smelled vaguely minty, and the sweet scent reached Tobio’s nose, around with the familiar note of cinnamon, and -- a touch of the strawberry shampoo that he knew Oikawa kept in his shower. Toruu was the kind of man to wash his entire body with multiple different products of the same scent. The scent of fresh strawberries was practically imprinted on his skin. Tobio knew, because whenever he stood a foot away the sharp scent of fruit would reach Tobio’s nose.

He frowned, and sniffed deeper. It didn’t smell bad, per se. It was still slightly off-putting, sniffing Shouyou and smelling his roommate. He decided he didn’t like it.

Before he knew it, he had finished wrapping up both of Shouyou’s arms and stepped back to admire his handiwork. He let his hands linger, just an instant longer than they should have. He prayed Shouyou didn’t notice.

Hinata looked a bit red from the heat and the steam of the bathroom. His freckles always seemed to disappear into his skin when he blushed -- Tobio always missed them, but the sight of him sitting there, face actually level with his own, cheeks flushed and eyelashes damp with bath water...Tobio swallowed, hard. Hinata’s eyes seemed to follow the bob of his Adam’s apple.

His own eyes followed a droplet of water on its trail from Shouyou’s bangs, down the side of his face, over the curve of his jaw and down the gentle slope of his neck.

“Well,” Tobio spluttered, stepping back, dropping Shouyou’s arms back onto his lap. “You should get dressed. I still need to shower before we leave.”

Shouyou nodded, and left him alone.

Tobio shook his head, hard, as if the physical act could dispel the images popping up inside his head.

He shucked his sweatpants off and let his jacket fall to the tile floor. He reached behind the shower curtain and turned the water to its hottest setting.

Tobio couldn’t take it much longer. He could try to ignore the problem going on below his bellybutton, but his body definitely wouldn’t let him forget. Shouyou. Shouyou.

He felt a wave of disgust wash over himself and made a face. He was disgusting. His friend was right there, past the doorway, and here he was, achingly hard and wanting, desperate for the friend he had taken into his home. The friend who was sleeping in his bed. The friend who was younger than him, who didn’t even know how impure the thought inside his mind were.

Tobio didn’t know if he could stomach actually doing it. His body certainly wanted him to, but his mind was protesting, and the clash of the two was causing the battle ground of his heart to ache, with desperation, with guilt, with both, he wasn’t even sure. It tore him up inside, like arrow wounds when the shaft was pulled out of his skin prematurely.

Experimentally, he took himself in hand --

Almost immediately, the guilt dissipated and was replaced by a wave of pleasure.

Tobio felt a shiver make its way up his spine. He clambered into the bathtub and sat down, letting the hot water pound over his form. He gripped himself and stroked, gently at first.

He balled up his other fist fist and his toes curled. Tobio grit his teeth and slid his hand down his chest.

Shouyou, lips wrapped around the pale orange straws at the cafe, looking up at him through his lashes, his hair curling like a glowing halo around his head, Shouyou, Shouyou, water from his damp hair trickling down his neck and dripped into the hood of his jacket. Tobio wanted to know what it would taste like.

He licked his lips and pulled his own into his mouth, sucked it between his teeth and bit down. Tobio tried to silence a small gasp by burying his face into his shoulder -- it worked, but only barely. He hoped Shouyou couldn’t here him.

Before he knew it, the hot pleasure in his gut rose until it filled his rib cage, licking at his collar like fire. His own bones were the tinder. His whole body was on fire.

And God, he was finishing, with Hinata’s given name on his lips. His teeth dug into the flesh of his lip so hard that he tasted blood.

He sat there, panting, his hipbones growing sore from sitting on the hard porcelain of the bath tub. He stood up on shaky legs and gripped the wall for added balance.

The guilt hit him like a freight train.

He knew it. He knew it, he knew it was just cognitive dissonance telling him to continue, and that it really was an awful thing to do -- to betray the trust of his friend like this, coming while whispering his goddamn name. Shouyou was only a couple meters away from him.

The thought made a rush of heat rise in his chest, and the fact of that made him want to punch himself.

With trembling fingers and a numb mind, he worked shampoo into his sweaty hair and scrubbed at his skin.

The heat scalded his skin. Tobio sucked in a much needed breath and closed his eyes.

It’s done. It’s over. Maybe now, at least, it’s out of your system. It had been a while anyway.

It’s not your fault.

He could live with himself, at least. He just needed to figure out how.

The suds trailed down his front, running over his abdomen and his legs, down to his feet before they swirled down the drain.

Tobio willed his problems to do the same. He channeled every thought of Hinata into his hands, his fingertips, and as he scrubbed at his body, he let them disappear. For a moment, it felt like it was working.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Water dripped down his calves. Tobio turned around and bent over to pull up his jeans -- the fabric scraped his sensitive skin on the way up, catching the water droplets and drying them as he went.

Tobio draped a pale purple button-up shirt over his shoulders and buttoned it up, rolled the sleeves up to his elbows and tucked the hem into dark wash slim-fit jeans.

He adjusted the collar around his neck and smoothed a hand down the front, assuring himself that the buttons were all done up in the correct order. He turned, and saw Shouyou raising an eyebrow. “What? Too fancy?” He thought it looked alright, when he picked it out. He deserved a suit. Tobio could count on one hand the amount of times in his life where he had dressed in a suit, and that was far too few for his taste. Oikawa wore suits whenever anything was slightly more formal than a lunch date to an underground mexican restaurant. The least he could do was wear something to work when he wanted to seem professional.

“No,” Shouyou started, folding his arms and resting his chin on his fist. “I’ve just never seen you as a suit kind of guy. It’s…” he trailed off, rubbing a strand of hair between his forefinger and thumb as he tried to find the right words. “Nice. You look nice.”

A swell of pride made its home in Tobio’s chest and blew up like a balloon. His shoulders pulled back and he tried to suppress a smile -- it didn’t work. The grin stretched his face. He turned his head to hide it from him, but Shouyou laughed anyway.

“Shut up,” he grumbled.

“I didn’t even say anything!” Hinata protested, giggles falling from his words as he spoke.

Tobio frowned. “You implied it by laughing. Laughing means you’re making fun of me.”

“Oh, you’re just in a grumpy mood.”

He huffed, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Don’t call me that, dumbass! You live with me now, you have to respect me!”

Shouyou grinned, his nose scrunching up. “Mr. Grumpy! Grumpy pants!”

“You sound like a twelve year old.” Tobio whined.

“And you sound like a grumpy old man, Bakageyama-kun!”

He looked down, absentminded, and checked his watch -- and, for the umpteenth time (already) that day, he nearly felt his heart explode with stress.

Shit,” he cursed. “We need to leave!”

Shouyou looked up, eyebrows drawn together in the center. “What’s up?”

“We have about ten minutes to get to work.”

His jaw dropped, and Tobio was shoved out of his bedroom, out of the apartment, and dragged by his hand through the hallway. And yet, he couldn’t help but grin.

~~~~~~~~~~

The sprinted through the city -- this time, in their work clothes, hands gripping at each other, the wind whipping against their face as they held back giggles.

Really, the shower had been a waste. Tobio was worked up again, his breath coming in short pants, his shoes dirty and scuffed from running on rough pavement.

Shouyou was heaving, completely out of breath. His chest rose and fell under his long-sleeved tee shirt. He was wearing the same jeans as the day before. Tobio really wanted to wash his clothes -- in fact, he wanted to buy Shouyou more clothes. He certainly didn’t have enough outfits, and winter was going to peak soon enough. Shouyou shouldn’t be going through that without proper bundling-up clothing.

They made it to the hospital three minutes late. Tobio tried to stop for a breath, but Shouyou grabbed his hand and tugged him forward, over the grass lawn (with a sign that clearly said “don’t step on the grass”, mind you), towards the faculty entrance.

Tobio followed complacently, trying desperately to cover his face with the collar of his button up.

Shouyou shoved past him and slid under his outstretched arm and through the doorway before Tobio had the chance to do so himself. He turned around and crossed his arms, tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth. “Beat ya,” he said, mouth stretching into a grin that split his cheeks. “Remember our bet? Now you have to uphold it and admit I’m better than you.”

Tobio rolled his eyes, but gave in. “Hinata Shouyou,” he muttered. “You’re better than me.”

He wasn’t lying. He wasn’t just saying it for the sake of the bet. It was an admittance, not a statement. Tobio meant it with all of his heart.

Chapter Text

After running, Shouyou tried to scrub himself down in the shower as quickly as possible. He failed to take into account the fact that he hadn’t washed himself in warm water in ages.

The spray felt heavenly as it washed over him, hot and clean and smooth -- the various soaps Tobio had stowed away between the shower curtains lathered into piles of suds. Shouyou stared at them, distracted, as they slipped between his fingers like melting snow.

He ran his fingers through his wet strands of hair and pushed them back and away from his forehead. The warm spray made him close his eyes. He stood there, just reveling in it all, and feeling completely clean for the first time he could remember in ages.

With a grin on his face, he brought the detachable showerhead to his scalp and let the suds from Tobio’s strawberry-scented shampoo roll down his chest and down the drain.

Shouyou stepped over the side of the tub and dried himself off with one of the fluffy white towels hanging up on the wall and tugged his jeans over his hips. He ruffled his hair under the towel and shook like a dog. When he opened the door to the outside world, a rush of cool air hit him in the face and sent a shiver down his spine. He lifted his head, towel still hanging over the wet strands of hair tangled on his forehead -- his eyes et Tobio’s, and he stared.

Well, shit.

At first, it was that gaze, that haughty look with those eyes and the long, delicate eyelashes to match that brushed against the tops of his sharp cheekbones.

And then it had been the red jacket, open against his chest, the angles of his collar bones and chest exposed. When he shifted, the fabric slipped away to reveal those indentations at his hipbones and the planes of his hard stomach. Shouyou licked his lips -- then felt disgusted in himself. His ears grew warm under Tobio’s gaze. Shit, since when is he allowed to be smart and muscular?

“I -- I finished showering.”

Kageyama nodded, Adam’s apple bobbing. “I noticed.”

Shouyou let his fingers tangle in the hem of his sweatshirt instead of the ends of his towel. He jutted out his chin and nodded towards the open bathroom door, where the steam from his shower was still billowing out like thick fog, trailing sleepily along the cold wooden floor of the hallway. “Well?”

Tobio nodded and met him in a few strides, joining him in the bathroom. Shouyou hoisted himself up onto the countertop as Kageyama kneeled down to appear under the sink, searching for something. He surfaced after a few moments with cheeks pink from the steam.

Kageyama had a pianist’s hands. His fingers were long and nimble, slightly boney, with callouses on the pads of his fingers. They were deft as the scrubbed up and down Shouyou’s forearms and the soft, sensitive skin of his inner wrists. Despite the hot air around them, Shouyou felt the hair on his arms raise and goosebumps appear on his skin. He hoped Kageyama couldn’t notice.

When he was sure that they were sufficiently clean, Tobio unbuckled the clasps on the first aid kit and pulled out a length of white ace bandages. He set them on the counter next to Shouyou’s hip and took both of his hands in his own. His long fingers trailed up the scrapes and burns on his arms, ghosting over the places where thin layers of his skin had been rubbed off. He hissed in sympathy. “Ouch,” he muttered, pointer finger still resting on Shouyou’s pulse. Shouyou prayed he didn’t detect how fast his heart was beating.

“Yeah,” he chuckled. “They were stinging the whole time in the shower.”

Tobio shook his head and reached back into the first-aid kit. He uncapped a tube of burn cream and wiped a dab onto the pads of his fingers. He started to massage the gel into Shouyou’s injured skin. It smelled minty, and it burned cold. Shouyou winced as the gel caught on a particularly inflamed patch of skin. “Is it supposed to burn?” he murmured.

“Yeah, that means it’s working. You’re a med student, you should know what’s going on.”

Shoyou chewed at the inside of his cheek. His mother used to tell him that whenever she had to patch him up as a kid. He shrugged, gazing down at the way Tobio’s arms flexed as he moved his fingers. “I mean, yeah, but most companies don’t change their formula, so the germs that survive reproduce and are immune to it.”

Tobio shrugged as he started to wrap his arms with the bandages. “The consistency of the gel keeps dirt and grime from getting into the wounds, plus it soothes the pain and moisturizes the skin around the injury.”

 

Shouyou sighed. He pulled his arm away from Tobio’s grasp and ran his fingertips over the smooth gauze that covered his wrists. It was clean and pristine, bright white against the warm pink of his skin, and the tan of Tobio’s hands. He dropped both arms to his sides and let Kageyama complete his handiwork.

When the gauze was wrapped snug and tucked in on his other arm, Shouyou glanced down at his lap. Tobio was still standing close to him. He couldn’t feel the pads of his fingers through the gauze, but he felt a ghost of their warmth. It was familiar and welcomed.

And then, it was gone.

Tobio pulled away, rubbing at the back of his neck sheepishly. When he lifted his elbow the sleeveless jacket fell away to reveal more of his side, the ridges of his ribcage. His bicep stretched taught. Shoyou held his own reins back to keep himself from leaning over and licking the sweat that dampened Tobio’s collarbone. On a normal day the very thought would have seemed gross, but this...this seemed doable.

“You should get dressed.” Kageyama muttered. “I still need to shower before we leave.”

Shouyou swallowed and nodded, hopping off the sink counter. He gripped his own wrists. For some reason, he felt self conscious.

He left the bathroom and slid over the smooth wooden floor into the kitchen. The coffee pot was calling him, and he needed another cup to get through the day. Or two.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On their way to the hospital he almost skipped along the sidewalk. His legs felt like they were still dreaming.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Shouyou and Tobio arrived at the hospital and signed in fifteen minutes later, they were shocked by the energy they were met with.

Teens were bustling around, chatting behind hands and giggling excitedly. Some had hair twirled up into intricate buns, those without hair wore clean bandanas and scarves. All of them were fidgeting like children awaiting candy.

Shouyou saw a familiar kid and his companion walking between rooms.

“Take -- Takeru,” Shouyou called, beckoning the teen over to meet them. Mina trailed behind, rubbing her socked feet against the floor. “What’s going on?”

Takeru grinned, bouncing on his heels. “It’s the concert!”

His eyes widened in realization.

Takeru stumbled over himself and tugged at Mina’s sleeve on his way into the larger room that connected all of their dorms. Tobio glanced down at Shouyou. Their eyes met, some unspoken words passed between them, and they hurried to follow the two teens.

The concert had been weeks in the making.

It hadn’t been their project, really. The teens had been working on it long before Hinata and Kageyama were assigned to treat and watch over them. They weren’t prepared for how much work the teens had put into turning their cramped living room into a mini concert hall.

The teens were buzzing with excitement, and Shouyou couldn’t help but feel infected by the mood. The tremor of happiness built up inside him like electricity, and soon he found himself anxiously awaiting night time, the same as all the kids around him.

Colorful christmas lights had been strung up the walls, traced across the ceiling in a messy criss-cross. Translucent plastic drink cups had been taped over each bulb, and the effect was blurry blobs of color spread out around the floor below them. The couches and chair were arranged along the back and side walls, leaving the “stage” open. Four chairs were set up against the wall. A banjo rested against one, the black case of a saxophone against another, a classic and bass guitar against the other two -- the kids were prepared to have a good time.

They waited for dinner to be delivered, clustered in the bedrooms, though not necessarily in their own. Shouyou pushed a cart with a jug of ice water through the hallway and saw them all, sprawled across various beds and chatting amiably. The doors were thrown open, everyone mingling around. The instructions to wait quietly and patiently had blown right over their head -- Shouyou couldn’t exactly blame them, though. His own brain was sending thoughts rapid fire, one after the next, excitement bubbling up in his chest.

He pushed the cart into the commons room and set it up off to the side, accessible for anyone watching the concert. He wiped his hands off on the cloth in his pocket and tucked his fingers into the waistband of his jeans. He wanted to wave his hands in the air in excitement, but restrained himself. For the time being, that is.

Shouyou trotted back through the hallways of rooms in search of Tobio.

For a moment, he saw red. Pain, tears welled up in his eyes, his forehead burned, like a hot needle was piercing his skull.

Shouyou staggered backwards. His senses cleared, just enough for him to see the door frame in front of him, to hear the panicked fluster beside him.

“H-hinata-san!” Takeru cried, voice filled with pain. He sounded like Shouyou felt after getting nailed in the head by a solid metal door. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry!”

He managed a weak grin and shook his head, rubbing under his bangs with the back of his hand. “I’m doing dandy!” he muttered. “What’s up, why’d you need to leave the room so fast?”

“I’m sorry, I -- I -” Takeru stuttered.

Shouyou placed a hand on his shoulder and met Takeru’s eyes. “Hey, it’s alright.” he soothed. “I’ll survive. You don’t need to be so worried. You’re not in trouble, it was my own clumsiness.”

Now, in no way did Shouyou actually believe that it was his own fault he’d been smacked in the face, but the thought seemed to calm Takeru down enough for him to get coherent words out.

Takeru fiddled with his oxygen tubes, eyes darting to the side. His fingers fumbled over the transparent cylinders, twisting them around his thumb and unwinding the loop, running up and down the smooth plastic. He was dressed up for the occasion -- he had on a white button up and a dark blue cardigan, and his jeans were neat instead of tight and wrinkled. He huffed a breath of air out his mouth. “I was looking for you and Kageyama-san, actually.”

Shouyou frowned -- Takeru was a nervous kid, but he wasn’t one to be unnecessarily frantic. There was a reason he was so concerned, and he needed to know what it was.

Takeru took a step back and let the metal door slide shut. He tugged at his oxygen tank and wheeled it over the floor, motioning for Shouyou to follow him back towards the common’s area.

“It’s Mina,” he mumbled. His voice was low -- a combination of the stress, the difficulty he faced taking in air, and his desire for secrecy.

He had figured this much on his own. Shouyou ducked his head and nodded for Takeru to go on.

“She’s...She’s not doing well. The last few days she’s been a bit off, I think...well, I don’t know. I just wanted you to be aware just…” Takeru bit his lip and held his hands in fists, crossed in front of his chest. “Just in case, you know?”

Shouyou nodded. “I get it, Takeru. You’re not being overbearing. You care about your friend. We’re doing everything we can to watch over her.”

Takeru nodded. His shoulders fell, muscles visibly relaxing.

Shouyou patted him on the back and took a seat in one of the chairs lined up against the wall. Takeru plopped down beside him. He hoisted his oxygen tank up into his lap and gripped it with both hands like a teddy bear.

He didn't speak for a few moments. Shouyou didn't mind -- it was relaxing, just being in the room. The ambiance of the colorful lights and the soft classical music lifted his spirits.

Takeru would talk to him when he needed to.

He tipped his head back and rested against the frame of the chair, legs kicking out in front of him.

Takeru sighed beside him. Whenever he exhaled it sounded slightly raspy, like the inside of his throats was covered in rust. He'd seen Takeru’s file -- the kid had grown up with two parents who were smokers. Neither of them saw any health negativities. Takeru, however, took the blunt of it. He was diagnosed with lung cancer when he was twelve and had started living in the hospital at thirteen, when it became apparent he couldn't function without professionals on standby.

His lungs were weak and his breathing was shallow, he needed pure oxygen at all times or he'd suffocate.

Shouyou also knew that he was healing. The treatment was taking, and the cancer in his ribs was slowing receding. He was on a waiting list for a lung transplant. The doctors thought if the cancer diminished enough, the new lungs would remain healthy.

And yet, Takeru never wanted to go back home. Shouyou suspected he still blamed his parents and their addictions. They poisoned his body and ruined the lungs he was born with, they trapped him inside of a body that was a cage. He was a teenager and his only option was to live in a medical facility until his body was able to control itself.

Shouyou also knew that he had organized this entire event. The teens told the hospital administrators that allowed this to happen that it was going to be set up by the nurses, but he knew better. It was Takeru, and by proxy Mina, who organized a night where kids would be able to chill and have fun and see their parents, even though he knew that neither Mina’s nor Takeru’s parents would bother showing up.

The kid was smart, and he was compassionate. He cared for others. He was very sensitive, something Shoyou sympathized with.

Takeru fiddled with his sweater sleeves and sighed. “Mina…” he started. Shouyou peeked up and turned to listen. “She's self destructive. I'm not sure how much, but she doesn't care about herself enough. It's not --” he huffed. His lungs made a sound like a deflating balloon. “It's not healthy.”

Shouyou nodded. He leaned forward and rested both elbows on his knees. Takeru had a point. Mina's self destructive tendencies were familiar. He'd seen them before.

Not in others, but in himself.

He set his jaw and stood up.

“Takeru, I want you to do something for me.”

The kid jumped out of his seat and nodded. “Yeah?”

“Go back to your room. Look after her. Make sure she's okay right now.” He tucked his hands back in his pockets and looked around the room thoughtfully. “Make sure she doesn't have an awful time tonight. This will go miles to cheer her up. It's not a permanent solution, but hopefully…”

Shouyou trailed off, his mind unable to form the rest of his train of thought. Luckily, Takeru seemed to understand. He nodded vigorously and tugged his oxygen tank up to his side. “I get it! Thank you so much, Hinata-san!”

He coughed, the noise like a jackhammer, and scurried off into the patient rooms hallway.

Shouyou watched as he left, a faint smile on his face. He wished them the best.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They completed their usual daily tasks with the help of Azumane, albeit a little bit distracted by the thought of what was going to happen that afternoon. It wasn’t exactly safe for physicians to be distracted, but there weren’t any emergencies to attend to, so Shouyou gave himself and Tobio a pass. They administered the correct foods, medicines, and instructions to the kids that were on their respective lists, and made small talk with the nurses. All the while a deep thrum plucked at Shouyou’s heartstrings.

The day passed in a blissful blur. Before they knew it, they were finished and ready to converge in the living room.

The band was warming up. It was a bizarre mix of sounds. The saxophone was loud and thrummed through the room, the banjo twangy and melodic. The base guitar brought it all together. Somehow, the instruments managed to play together to the same tune.

It was the punk-est thing Shouyou had ever heard. And damn, he loved it.

One of the girls stepped in front of the group and tapped against the “microphone” (an empty mic stand) and called out. “Hey! We’re getting started in about ten minutes. Everyone get drinks, get comfortable. We’ll be up here for a while.” She grinned, the thin wire of her retainer gleaming under the lights strung up around her.

Shouyou grabbed Tobio’s elbow and tugged him over to a chair near the back, as to allow the teens to get better seating. Some were visually or hearing impaired and needed to sit in the front in order to enjoy the whole show.

He watched as the kids and their parents trickled in, red plastic cups of sugar-free hot chocolate and cold water clutched in their hands, small paper bags with pretzels and chocolate candies tucked into their pockets. They buzzed with happiness and excitement, eager to show their parents what they had put together.

The band started off with a fast paced instrumental song. Before long, half of the teens had abandoned their seats in favor of dancing. He watched as Takeru coaxed Mina up out of her seat and leaned on her shoulder for support as they bobbed their heads to the music.

It was kind of a mess, but it was lovely and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

After about half an hour the saxophonist started playing more mellow notes, and the rest of the band followed suite.

Shouyou found himself leaning against Tobio’s shoulder, eyelids falling shut despite the sheer amount of caffeine in his system. He nudged his nose against the soft fabric of Tobio’s button-down. The whole atmosphere was relaxing. The colorful fairy lights made Tobio’s skin look iridescent, pinks and blues shining off the inky blackness of his hair. Shouyou smiled and let his eyes fall closed.

Then, suddenly, he felt the brightness of fluorescent lights against the backs of his eyelids.

The lights started flashing, the brightness of them was almost overwhelming. Shouyou had to close his eyes and tilt his head towards the ground for a few seconds.

The strobes cut off, replaced by the common’s regular florescent light. A scream reached his ears. The added sensory of the noise only further disoriented him. Shouyou turned towards the noise and peered over the heads of the teens --

He saw her fall, slowly, as if time had warped in that instant.

Mina crumpled. She hit the floor, her beanie falling off her head as her skull made a sickening thump against the thinly carpeted floor. She twisted until she was on her back, her eyelids flickering, pupils dating around in her eye sockets. Her back arched off the ground and a thinly veiled choking sound could be heard as her teeth clamped together.

Shouyou was already running towards her.

Chapter Text

When Tobio was a child, he hated the color white.

It symbolized so much -- pristine, perfection, sanity. Everything that was out of touch, out of his reach. He could never live in a place with white walls or bright, fluorescent lights.

And yet, he went to work in a building that was filled with that. White lights lit up every room and the walls were painted a neat, eggshell white. It was sanitary and immaculate. He always felt positively filthy in comparison.

He peered around Mina’s hospital room and sighed. Tobio was almost positive that she shared the same opinion. He hated that she had to be trapped in this building, surrounded by walls that suffocated her, trapped by a brain that refused to cooperate with the rest of her senses. He leaned over her bed and put his head in his hands, allowing himself to look on. His entire being felt numb.

The heart monitor beeped, the noise stark and jarring against the silent backdrop of the hospital. It was night time. Somehow, Tobio believed that peace had fallen over the city, because he hadn’t been paged in for an emergency in days. As a doctor on call, a week full of nights slept peacefully and uninterrupted was a rarity.

He let his eyes fall over Mina’s limp frame. She looked deathly. Her skin was washed out and greyish, her jawline jutted out from her neck in a sharp line of contrast. He cheeks were hollow and the edgy haircut she had looked rumpled and just a bit greasy, like she hadn’t put effort into taming her hair in days. She had a brace keeping her head from jostling in her sleep, and her hair fanned out against the tops of the cloth-covered plastic.

There was an IV drip attached to her skinny wrist. The sheets covered her up to her armpits, falling flat over her chest. They were clean and white like the rest of the whole godforsaken room, and she stuck out like a sore thumb, all angles and wiry bones, pitch black hair and a rumpled pastel purple tee shirt. She was a graphite skeleton on white sheets.

Tobio jumped an inch when a warm hand shook his arm. He turned, surprise written across his face. Shouyou stood by his side, a cardboard cups of coffee from the lounge room clutched in each hand. He used his toes to nudge one of the plastic chairs away from the wall and scooted it until it was aligned with Tobio’s. “Hey,” he murmured. His voice was thick with lack of sleep. “I got you coffee. Milk and three sugars, right?”

Tobio nodded and held out his hand, expectant. Shouyou handed him the cup and he tipped it upwards, pouring a quarter of the drink down his throat. It left a trail of scalded skin in its wake. Tobio barely felt the burn.

Anytime past eleven, and he was numb to the world and its affection.

Shouyou relaxed into the chair beside him and began to nurse his own cup. He took it black, without sugar, bless his heart. Caffeine didn’t affect him as much as it did Tobio and his tendency to drink unimaginable amounts at once had only upped his tolerance.

They sat there for an amount of time that Tobio found hard to measure, except by the dull beeps of the heart monitor and the measured breaths Shouyou took in beside him. Their arms brushed against each other. The sensation was familiar and not unwelcome.

He found his eyelids drooping closed without his consent, and suddenly, the heart rate monitor changed -- it was only by a slight amount, but sure enough, right afterwards Mina opened up her eyes. It was as if she could sense the coffee beside her and her body had forced her mind to leave slumber. Tobio frowned. Mina shouldn’t be drinking coffee. It was technically a stimulant, and wouldn’t be helpful if the doctors planned on helping her to train her brain to function properly. It might interfere with the drug plan they had for her.

Mina peered to the side, saw them, and stared up at the ceiling blearily. Sleep still blurred her vision -- she tried to blink the tiredness out of her eyes, but it was little help when drugs were pouring through her system and her brain was still a mess of rapid-fired miss signals and incorrect neuron transmissions.

She was still coming down from the seizure. Tobio recognized the symptoms. Her eyes flickered between the two lights attached to the ceiling (why in the hell would they think it was a good idea to use such stark lighting in place full of people with sensory disorders in the first place?) and her knuckles kept cracking. Her fingers shook and her whole body was wound tighter than a spring, coiled up into herself in a conscious attempt to keep from exploding outwards. Tobio knew that if she wasn’t locking her muscles up, she would be curling into a fetal position. She was too prideful for that.

“Hey, Mina?” Shouyou whispered beside him. “You feeling alright?””

She shut her eyes and swallowed. “Thi-s-s is exactly what I d-didn’t want,” Mina muttered, tongue struggling to spit the words out fluently. “I d-didn’t want people doting over m-me. I didn’t want to be some dependant variable in someone else’s life, I-I didn’t want --” she blinked, hard, as if she could will the tears away with sheer force of will.

She clenched her fists and tried to reach up and grip her hair. Tobio forced himself to put a hand on her shoulder to stop her -- he hated it, but he knew that letting her move any more than she already was would put too much stress on her brain. That was the exact opposite of what her body needed. Now, what she needed...that was a different story altogether.

At the touch of Tobio’s hand against her shoulder, she unclenched her fists and returned her hands to her sides. She let out a calm, measured breath, closed her eyes, and rested her head back into the brace. “I just want to be normal,” she muttered ruefully.

Tobio felt that statement resonate in the hollow of his chest. He could vividly imagine what Mina thought would be able to constitute as normal --

Normal. It wasn’t stagnate, or rigid. There were rules you had to follow -- and some, you had to break, occasionally. One had to know exactly what to do with each one and how to bend it, how to use it to their advantage.

Well, he scoffed internally. I’m certainly not normal.

Tobio was a socially awkward twenty-seven year old medical prodigy who was in love with the homeless man he lived with. He wasn’t typical, and his oddities weren’t celebrated -- they were discouraged. Kids were wrung out at an early age, taught how to behave and how to act, which rules to follow and which to stampede ahead of, who to love and who to surround yourself with -- and somewhere along the way, all those messages that poured through the media and adults and teachers and teachings had escaped him.

And he knew that oddities were considered, by the vast majority of society, to be a bad thing. Something to be stomped out and altered. He was allowed to be different from other people, but only in certain ways, in quirky and pretty and unique ways, in ways that kept him incredibly restricted in all forms of self expression and...in all forms of his true self.

But he didn’t know how to say that. He couldn’t find the words that would be able to express to Mina exactly how he felt about that, about how much resentment he had coursing through his veins for the fact that they weren’t normal, and how much resentment was saved specifically for the people who had labeled people like them as such. He didn’t know how to form the sentence -- so he didn’t.

He let out a strangled sigh and let his arms flop against his thighs. “I wish I was normal too, Mina. Sometimes it’s just...unattainable.”

“Unreasonable, too.” Shouyou muttered.

Tobio frowned. He pushed his bangs out of his eyes with the back of the hand holding his coffee cup. “What do you mean by that?”

Shouyou shrugged. He leaned back in his chair and crossed one leg over the other, chewed at his bottom lip for a moment. “It’s just...I like you. The both of you, and I like you the way you are. And, sure, I’d still care about you if you were different, because you’d still be you, but what does it matter, you know?” he sighed. “If people already care for you, can’t you learn to care for yourself, no matter what that you is like?”

For a moment, Tobio found himself absolutely floored. He could have sworn that his knees went weak, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was sitting down, he might have needed to take a knee.

Shouyou cared for him.

He cared for him.

Not only that, but the way he expressed it made it sound like he cared for Tobio unconditionally.

Tobio hid his flushed face behind the rim of his coffee cup and chugged down the drink until there wasn’t a drop left. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his white jacket and clenched his fists where no one could see them, ducked his head, and willed his hair to fall forward in his face. It remained where it was, stiff against his forehead. For a moment, he wished his hair were long enough to cover up his face in its entirety.

Mina closed her eyes and huffed out a breath. She punched at the mattress beside her hip and let out a low whine.

“I-I hat-t-t-te thisss,” she muttered, her tongue fumbling over the syllables. Wrinkles ran through her forehead as her face contorted and her mouth opened to reveal her teeth, clenched in a grimace of pain and discomfort. Tobio shoved his chair back in a leap to his feet.

“Mina?” he asked softly, adopting the tone of voice he normally reserved for the children in pediatrics. “Can you hear me?”

She unclenched one fist and patted the bed twice, before she closed it in a fist once more. Her forearms were stiff, the muscles in them wound tighter than the cogs in a clock.

“I-I...I c-can --” she started, forcing the words out from behind gritted teeth, spluttering like a pot of over-boiled water.

Shouyou stood up and put a hand on the bed beside her. “Shh, it’s alright, don’t talk right now. It’ll pass. It’s just an aftershock. You can stop flexing your muscles if you want, it might make it less painful.”

Mina’s chin jerked backwards in what Tobio interpreted as a nod. She didn’t stop flexing her arms and remained still the entire time. Tobio admired her for her stubbornness. Still, he felt awful that she felt the need to use it in order to save face. She had nothing to hide from them, and yet she wanted to keep herself from looking like she was actually exhibiting seizure symptoms.

They stood there as the tremors passed along her form until her head relaxed back against the brace. Her eyes stopped shifting back and forth under her eyelids and her breathing relaxed. The frenzied beeping of the heart rate monitor calmed back to its normal state.

A nurse rushed into the room, throwing the door open and startling Tobio and Shouyou. Mina didn’t seem fazed -- Tobio suspected living in a hospital numbed you to nurses sporadically throwing themselves into your personal life.

“Everything alright? Is she going into another seizure?” the nurse asked. She was short and stocky and was wearing pale pink scrubs and pastel yellow sneakers. She seemed more demanding than concerned.

Tobio shook his head and held a hand up in compliance. “Mina’s doing fine, it was just symptoms. They’re going away now. I think she just woke up when her body still needed to rest and the sensory was too much for her brain to comprehend right after the initial seizure -- speaking of, could you turn the brightness down?”

The nurse nodded and turned to the wall adjacent to the door, grabbed the little wheel that controlled the lights and turned it. The bright fluorescents on the ceiling paled to a dull glow.

Mina sighed. “Everything feels too fast and too much.” she whispered, voice hoarse and devoid of emotion.

Shouyou chuckled. “I’m sorry we can’t put you in a sensory-deprivation room, I think that’d be too excessive.”

Mina hummed and brought a hand up to cover her eyes. “I think it would be welcome, actually. No noise, no light, no texture. My mind would have a field day.”

Tobin met Shouyou’s eyes. At that, they decided that it would be best to keep quiet.

He jutted his chin out and turned on his heel. Shouyou followed suit. He turned and gave Mina one last glance -- she didn't look back, only continued to cover her eyes and shimmy backwards into the bed, as if the mattress could swallow her whole.

They stepped out of the hallway and exchanged another glance, Shouyou’s mouth opening to say something, when the squeak of Suga’s sneakers made his jaw lock shut again. The man hustled down the hall towards them, a single line down the middle of his forehead betraying his worry. “I just heard. Is everything alright? The teens?”

“We had to pry Takeru away from her, but he’ll be safe until morning.” Shouyou rocked back and forth on his heels as he answered. Despite the caffeine he likely had surging through his system, Tobin noticed his fingers weren't playing with the seam of his coat or jumping over the fabric of his jeans. He looked past the point of exhaustion, in some purgatory between waking life and sleep that left his muscles numb and his brain groggy. A low yawn bubbled up in Shouyou’s throat and forced its way out into the open. He covered his mouth and apologized.

“No, Hinata, It’s fine.” Suga murmured. He reached out and clapped him on the shoulder. He looked tired as well -- his grey eyes were tinged with red, and surrounded by pale purple skin. “You can leave. Tobio will stay here and help out, but you need your rest for university classes.”

Tobio’s cheeks went bright red. He looked on with a sort of detached sense of horror as Shouyou bit his lip and said, “Well, I can wait for him, actually.”

Suga frowned. “Really? I thought you’d leap at the chance of extra sleep, considering how hectic your schedule is.” He put his hands on his hips and furrowed his brow. “Is this about Mina? She’s in good hands, you shouldn’t worry about her.”

“I’m not, it’s just...I…” Shouyou closed his eyes and balled his hands up into fists. “I’m living with Tobio.”

You could have heard a pin drop. Tobio could swear he felt steam pouring out of his own ears. His face felt warm and a nervous heat caused goosebumps to rise up over his skin.

Hinata was blushing as well, his cinnamon freckles showing against the red of his skin

But instead of getting angry, Suga just chuckled. “If I’m being honest, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”

Shouyou’s spine straightened like a wooden board. “Er, it’s not what you --”

Suga sighed. “Look, I don’t mind, and I won’t mind as long as this doesn’t affect your work. Just...be careful that it doesn’t, alright? Hinata-kun, you still have to shadow Kageyama. And Kageyama, you still need to be teaching Hinata. And please, keep it professional.”

Tobio nodded and bowed his head, face burning up. “Of course, Suga-san.”

Suga rubbed his hands together in front of him. “Well, in that case, I’m going to let you two go home and come in early tomorrow. We might be a tad understaffed, and I need people to be keeping up with the walk-in pediatrics appointments. That sound good?” He smiled, but the glint of his teeth lacked its usual power.

Shouyou and Tobio nodded in unison, eyes meeting over their shoulders for a moment before they flickered away. This would be a conversation for another time. At that moment, they just wanted to go home, eat dinner, avoid Tooru and sleep off the caffeine rush.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course, With Tobio’s luck, they’d only achieve two of those wishes.

He unlocked the door and eased it open as gently as possible, to avoid squeaky hinges (to no avail) and, hopefully, keep Tooru asleep (also, to no avail). When they stepped inside, hair soaked through from the rain and teeth chattering, Tobio’s roommate was lounging against the kitchen counter, a glass of ribena in one hand and a plate of fast-food french fries in the other.

“Well. Nice of you two to show up.” he grumbled, tipping the glass back and taking a sip. He looked steady enough to be sober, but Tobio guessed he didn’t intend to stay that way.

“Good afternoon to you too, Oikawa.” Tobio muttered.

“Afternoon?” he snorted. “Try morning. It’s almost a half-hour past twelve.”

Tobio rolled his eyes. “As if you’ve never come back in the ungodly hours of the morning.”

With a languid shrug and an impish grin, Oikawa pushed off the counter and placed his fries beside the sink. “It’s the manner of my job.”

“Oh! Where do you work?” Shouyou asked.

“And is this our new roommate?” He leered down at Shouyou, reaching out to rub a strand of his wet red hair between his fingertips, pointedly not answering the question. “You know, you’re much shorter than I expected. How old is he?” he asked, peering up at Tobio with a sinister glint in his eye.

Tobio crossed his arms. “Quit harassing Shouyou, you nerd, you’re not even intimidating.”

“Ugh! I’m offended, Kageyama-kun,” Tooru placed a hand on his chest and gasped in mock surprise.

“Whatever. Finish your wine and go to bed, I don’t need you keeping us up when we have to go back in to work in the morning.” Tobio pushed past his roommate and took hold of Shouyou’s jacket sleeve, tugging him along to his bedroom. He grit his teeth and ignored the eyebrow-wiggle Oikawa was sending his way.

He tugged his towel from its place on the bathroom door handle and tossed it to Shouyou, who was too distracted to catch it. The cloth landed over his face and he jumped in surprise.
“You shower first to warm up, I’ll make sure the devil gets into bed alright.”

Shouyou nodded and passed him on his was inside the bathroom.

Tobio shut his door and shucked off his jacket. Water poured off the shiny material in rivulets. He dumped it in the corner with the rest of his dirty clothes and scrubbed his hair with a washcloth he had lying around. When he found himself sufficiently less damp, he went to meet Oikawa in the kitchen.

The man in question was standing next to an empty wine glass, staring up at the ceiling lights with a blank look on his face. His chest was bare and his hair was a mess -- as usual. Tobi assumed his job (as a stripper, dancer, bartender, or host boy, he wasn’t sure) had been particularly tiring that night. Well, that made two of them.

He toed off his shoes at the entrance and leaned against the counter next to Oikawa. Tooru hadn’t yet moved to pick up the wine bottle, but he knew it was coming.

“So,” Oikawa started. “Is your boyfriend going to start paying for his share of the water bill?”

Tobio looked up in surprise. “W-what?” he spluttered.

He shrugged, leaning back against the tiled counter of the sink. “Well, it only makes sense, considering he’s our new roommate. Roommates tend to pay for their end.”

“He’s homeless, Oikawa. Besides, for whatever reason, you have money coming out of your ass.”

“I’d say that living with us doesn’t exactly qualify as homeless. He has a home now, doesn’t he? That means he has a residency, one that he should pay for. He has a job.”

Tobio sighed and let his head fall forward. “You don’t understand, Tooru. He needs that money so he can graduate next year. It’s only minimum wage, anyway, and he can’t pick up that many hours -- when he has a better income then we can talk about it, but until then, I’ll pay for whatever extra water he’s using up.”

Oikawa was silent for a moment. He tipped his head back against the wall and peered up at the light fixture that hung from the ceiling, just between the sink and the refrigerator. A quiet whistle left his lips. “I’m sorry, Tobio-chan.” he murmured. “I didn’t realize how important he is to you.”

Tobio was taken aback. Oikawa’s mood had taken a complete 180 degree turn, from salty to compassionate. It was almost scary. “I-I don’t know what you mean,” he protested. Oikawa just smirked.

“I was the same way before I started with Hajime. I don’t know if you remember, but I was a complete mess -- anyone said anything about him, or about me, or about me being single or a man whore or whatever, and I immediately jumped into an argument to defend him. I was head over heels, I just didn’t realize it.”

He sat back on his heels and took a seat at one of the stools in front of the breakfast counter, and rested his chin on his hand. Tobio didn’t know what to make of this.

Toru shrugged and returned to his plate of french fries. The light from the fixture lit up his back muscles and the backs of his legs in pale orange light..

“Don’t you ever wear clothes?” Tobio sighed.

Oikawa shot him a cheeky smirk over his shoulder. “Not when I can avoid it. Why, is it bothering you?” He struck a particularly risque pose and bit his lip..

Tobio rolled his eyes and set both arms on the counter. He crossed them and tucked his nose into the crease of his elbow, as if he could hide from Oikawa, hide from Hinata, who was still in the shower, as if he could hide from himself and his own fears.

Obviously, he couldn’t, and when Hinata exited the bedroom (hisbedroom, not the bedroom) with damp hair, pajama pants hanging low on his hips and a towel around his neck, he knew he was screwed.

Tobio shut his eyes and buried his face into his arms with a silent groan.

He didn’t do it fast enough -- Oikawa chuckled and moved to stand next to him. His bright red ears were still clearly visible. Oikawa knew he was right, and there would be no convincing him otherwise.

“Well,” he said, his voice an airy tinkle of giggles. “I’ll leave you two too it. I’m going to bed”

Oikawa pushed himself away from the counter, shot Tobio an absolutely sinister grin and winked, sticking his tongue out the corner of his mouth.

And then he was gone, leaving Tobio alone in the kitchen with Shouyou, with a fierce blush covering most of his face, a half-empty wine bottle, and depleting self-confidence.

“Damn,” Shouyou muttered. “That was almost impressive.”

You’re telling me, he thought. Just being around him makes me lose self esteem. Tobio just huffed in agreement.

Shouyou scooted one of the stools up to the breakfast bar and sat across from Tobio. “What does he do for work again?”

He shrugged. The answer still evaded him. “Don’t know. I still thinks he’s a stripper.” He saw Shouyou’s wide smile and flushed with embarrassment. “Don’t...don’t tell him I said that, though.”

They sat there, Tobio sipping coffee and Shouyou drying and fluffing his hair with his towel. He really needed a haircut.

Tobio felt his stomach turn warm, and a sharp pang of hunger hit him in the gut.

The squeak of his stool rubbing against the wooden floor rang out. Tobio winced, stepping down from his seat.

“Do you want anything to eat?” he asked.

A long, drawn out yawn made its way from Shouyou’s throat. He threw his arms up and cracked his back. He slumped forward against the counter and nodded, resting his chin on top of his folded arms.

“Yeah, maybe.” She shrugged. “Hey, Kageyama-kun,” He peaked up from underneath his wet hair. The red strands were ruffled and chunks fell over his forehead. Tobio wanted to reach out and correct them, smooth them down and tuck them past his ears. Shouyou needed a haircut. In fact, they both were in need of one. Perhaps they could go together…

Tobio shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Yeah? What is it?”

“Do you ever...well, it’s just, there’s a keyboard in your bedrrom and I -- do you play?” he spluttered, fiddling with his hands.

Tobio frowned. “Yeah, I guess. I’m not exactly phenomenal at it, but I can play some.”

Shouyou face lit up, his mouth quirking at the sides into a grin. “Will you play for me?”

He sighed and let his head fall to the side onto his shoulder. “I guess...I’ve been in kind of a music slump, but I could try something.”

“Thank you!” Shouyou hopped from one foot to another and threw open Tobio’s bedroom door.

Tobio hopped from the stool at the kitchen island and joined him in his bedroom. He turned from Shouyou and opened his closet, tugged his piano bench out from underneath a couple of folded pairs of pants, and slid it over to his keyboard stand. He pushed his desk chair back into place and arranged the keyboard bench so they could both sit on it. It was a bit awkward -- their hips were touching, and Tobio had to sit slightly to the side of where he was used to. Reaching the right side of the keys was difficult.

He straightened out the sheet of music on the stand and squinted at it. It was one of his older pieces -- a rendition of a popular song that was on the radio about a year before. It was easy enough to learn.

“Here,” he muttered, reaching for Shouyou right hand. He arranged his fingers against three of the keys closer to him. “You ever play the keyboard before?”

He shook his head. “I played the ukulele for a few years, but I didn’t want to spend money on anything bigger than that.

Tobio nodded -- he set his own hand on top of Shouyou’s and showed him the order to play the keys. His hands were much larger, they nearly covered Shouyou’s completely. Shouyou’s hands were cold and soft underneath his. The tips of his ears as red as his hair, he smelled like cinnamon and body wash -- Tobio yanked his hand away.

He cleared his throat. “Play these on tempo -- do the first twice, then the second, then the third.”

Shoyou nodded and moved his fingers accordingly.

Tobio set the settings to electronic and peered up at the music sheet. It was a short song, upbeat and fast paced -- Shouyou played his part as asked, Tobio’s hands flying across the opposite end of the keys to pluck the techno music from the instrument.

Shouyou grinned -- his elbow jostled Tobio’s, their hips bumping together. Tobio played an obviously wrong note and their hands brushed against one another’s.

Tobio turned to apologize the same moment Shouyou did. Their eyes met, their shoulders touching.

“S-sorry,” Shouyou whispered. The warm breath fan across his face, goosebumps crawled up Tobio’s arms.

He could see the tiny freckles that trailed along the bridge of his nose, the way the pale moonlight struck his eyes and turned the brown to a colder color, the curling strand of red hair at his forehead brushed against Tobio’s own. The tickle sent a jolt through his system. He could swear Shouyou leaned forward a fracture of an inch, closer, closer, --

Tobio shot out of his seat.

The piano bench was sent backwards, sending Shouyou sprawling. He reached out and braced himself against the keyboard. His finger hit the off button and the electronic beat faded to nothing.

“Sorry,” Tobio muttered. He turned around, attempting to mask the heat rising to his face. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You’re so damn stupid.

He pushed away from the keyboard and grabbed the towel hanging from his desk chair. “I’m -- I’m going to take a shower. Can you make dinner tonight?”

He didn’t look backwards for Hinata’s reply.

“Yeah, sure but -- Kageyama!”

Tobio closed the door to the bathroom and leaned against the back of it, towell wound between his fingers. He was leaning into you! his self conscious screamed.

“Wishful thinking,” he murmured to himself, teeth clenching against the words he didn’t want to believe.

Chapter Text

The next week was a sweet kind of torture.

Tobio kept his room clean, enjoyed washing dishes, and hummed when he showered. He had no sort of annoying habit that any of Shouyou’s previous roommates did. He was neat and orderly and almost objectively perfect.

And then, there was the case of their proximity.

He was always so close, and it was driving Shouyou up a wall. It scared him that he enjoyed waking up in the morning and seeing Tobio’s face smushed into the pillow beside him. It scared him how addicting the feeling in his chest was, that fluttery one that caressed his ribs sweetly then threatened to break them whenever he saw Tobi roll his sleeves up or bite at his upper lip.

It was good, and too much, all at once. He hated it and craved every second they had together. It ruined him. And Shouyou couldn't help but enjoy the burn.

Tobio hadn't touched the keyboard since that night, and it scared him. For a second there he found himself leaning closer. He had seen a tear gather on the thin strands of Tobio’s eyelashes, and had rocked forward on instinct. And now, they were awkward, moving around each other like cogs in a broken machine. It hurt. Most of all, Shouyou hated the pain.

There were good parts as well. Mina was healing, slowly but surely, and Takeru had laughed again. Shouyou was working on the weekends and studying with Tobio before bed every day. Mid-terms were approaching slowly, as well as Christmas time. He was excited for both, and he dreaded both. He realized this when the thought of the impending holiday crossed his mind as he was cooking dinner one night.

It was going to be his first Christmas after knowing Tobio. It was also going to be his first Christmas away from home.

That part stung with anger. “Good riddance,” he muttered to himself, the image of his mother’s frown crossing his mind before he shook it away.

If Tobio heard him from the living room, he didn’t say anything.

Shouyou scooped two ladlefuls of pot roast into a bowl, and topped it off with egg noodles. Steam wafted off the food as he dug his fork in. He heard Tobio let out a low hum as he stood up from the couch and padded over to the kitchen.

“You actually managed to cook something good, for once.” he noted, stepping up behind Shouyou.

Shouyou smiled. He pushed his hair back and away from his forehead. “I should hope so. It’s my favorite.” He gave Tobio an exaggerated frown and elbowed him in the hip. “Now stop being so rude, and eat your dinner.”

They sat down at the kitchen island and tucked in.

Shouyou tipped his head back and groaned as he chewed. Damn, they hadn’t had home-cooked food for two days, and his body craved it. The meat was melting after spending hours in the crock pot, and the noodles were al dente and complemented the salty broth harmoniously. Tobio seemed to think the same, for he was half way finished with his bowl and two slices of bread before he spoke a single word.

“Are you...you know, ever disappointed?” Tobio shot him a sideways glance. “Because we spend more time with the teens than what you really signed up to do, I mean.”

Shouyou swallowed and wiped his mouth with his wrist before responding. “I -- I don’t think so. At first, I was, but now...I don’t know. I guess I’m just still figuring out what I want to do. With medicine, there are so many options. I’m still taking psych classes. I don’t know, but I like helping kids. Teens count.”

Tobio nodded with a hum. “I get it. I just want to make sure, considering this is supposed to help you eventually figure out what you want to do. There’s no rush.”

“I guess, but, in school, it always feels like I’m rushing things.” He placed his fork on the table beside his bowl, his appetite suddenly gone. He slouched over the table and dropped his head to lie on his folded arms. Tobio rested a soothing palm on his back.

“You’ll figure things out when you need to.”

He hummed in acknowledgement. He buried his nose further into the crook of his elbow and sighed. His eyelids were drooping. He found himself drifting off, slightly, into some realm between drowsiness and sleep.

Before he realized what was actually happening, Tobio nudged him away from the counter and led him into their shared bedroom, setting him gently on the bed. Shouyou murmured out a quiet “Thanks, Kags,” before his eyelids fell shut and his brain filled with fog.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They had their next day off. It was the first day in a while that they were both completely free, no work or homework or classes to attend, no obligations except relaxation. Shouyou woke up pumped to spend the day being productive for himself.

They started off by going on a run together. It was raining, but there was little cloud coverage so it was still easy to see in front of them. Shouyou borrowed a pair of Oikawa’s sunglasses (“Just don’t tell him, and you’ll be fine.”) so he could focus on running instead of squinting through the rain. By the time they reached the end of the trail, they were both drenched down to the bone, teeth clacking. Shouyou felt his hands going numb. When he looked down, his fingers appeared boney and purple.

He rubbed them together and ran them under hot water, taking care to rinse them completely when in the shower. When he got out and started to get dressed, he noticed that the scratches on his arms and hands had faded until they were nothing but thin white and pink lines on his skin. They blended in with his freckles. Speaking of, his face seemed...different. Paler. Not gaunt, for he had filled out slightly since he moved in with Tobio, as there was always food in the apartment, but his cheekbones seemed more prominent. His freckles had faded from the lack of sunlight in the city, until all he could see was a faint smattering of brown splotches across the bridge of his nose.

Shouyou scrunched up his nose and squinted at the mirror.

Something hard hit the bathroom door, and he jumped in place, smacking a hand over his mouth to conceal a squeak.

“Hey, are you almost done?” Tobio called.

Shouyou sighed, and ran a hand through his wet hair. “Yeah, just getting dressed. Gimme a sec.

It was something that he shoved in the back of his head, to think about another time.

He got dressed and exited the bathroom, saluting at Tobio. Soon, he heard the sound of running water and faint humming coming from the room.

After his second cup of coffee, Shouyou sat down on the couch and pulled out his phone. He’d kept it, through those six months alone, even though he didn’t have service, and now he was grateful. Tobio signed his phone up on their plan as soon as he found out. The only contact he actually needed was Tobio’s, but it was still comforting to know he was able to get in contact with people even when he didn’t have wifi.

He read an online novel for about an hour, before he lied down to take a nap. Shouyou was snuggling underneath the throw blanket when he heard it.

It was faint, but it was certainly the sound of piano coming from Tobio’s bedroom. He sighed, frowning. Well, shit. He had looked so good sitting at the piano bench, leaning over the keyboard with his eyes half-closed, lips parted just so, rocking back and forth to the tune of the music.

Shouyou screwed his eyes shut and bit the inside of his cheek. There was no use. He needed to stop thinking about it, about the slight pout of his lips, about how it felt to lean closer. He just wanted to be close, at this point, crawling into Tobio’s rib cage wouldn’t be close enough.

He fell in and out of sleep for about an hour before he decided to wake up, have yet another cup of coffee, and get a head start on preparing dinner. It was a lazy day, but he didn’t want to eat takeout just yet. He’d be happy with some mac ‘n cheese and a glass of apple juice.

He poured the box of noodles, cheese, milk, and butter into the saucepan and set it to simmer. Shouyou paused at the creak of their bedroom door.

“Whatcha doing?” Tobio mumbled, padding closer. He was wearing sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a jacket that stretched across his shoulders in a way that showed Shouyou much more muscle definition than he needed to see.

Shouyou didn’t get a chance to answer.

A loud shriek erupted from inside of Tobio’s pocket. It startled Shouyou so badly that he fell out of his chair, eyes wide and searching as he ran them over Tobio’s form. His friend had both hands clapped over his ears. He was wincing from the volume of the noise, eyebrows scrunched up in pain.

Shouyou leaped forward and dug his hand into Tobio’s pocket. He pulled out a small metal device, which was flashing like a police car and emitting an earsplitting alarm.

Tobio grabbed it from him and flicked the noise and lights off by pressing in a few buttons. He rifled around in his pockets for his cellphone, pulled it out, and scanned over the screen. Shouyou watched as his jaw dropped and his eyes went wide.

“What? What is it?” he pleaded, grabbing at Kageyama’s shirt sleeve.

“It’s my pager. Mina….we have to go, right now.”

“Now...wait, ‘now,’ now?”

Tobio was already scrambling around in one shoe, searching the ground for its pair. “Now! We have to be at Daiichi now!”

Shouyou followed Tobio out the door and sprinted after him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Kageyama needed to be, he was fast. He was practically sprinting through the rain, and Shouyou nearly lost sight of him in the dark. He only stayed on his tail by taking ahold of the back of Tobio’s shirt and refusing to let go. When they arrived at the hospital, he could barely feel his legs, and was gasping for air.

Suga was in the lobby, pacing back and forth. When they rushed in, damp and sweaty and frantic, he ran towards them. They nearly ran into one another head-on.

“You too! I need you to find her. She was due for a check up today, but she was missing from her bed. We don’t know where she might have gone.”

“Oh my god,” Tobio murmured, in unison with Shouyou as he exclaimed, “She ran away!?”

Suga shook his head. “We have front cameras, and we know she’s still in the building. She’s upstairs somewhere, it’s just that...she’s not in the best mental state. We need you two to convince her to come back as quickly as possible, or she might --”

 

“Are you saying our patient is at risk of causing harm to herself?”

Suga looked grim. He ran a hand through his hair and looked Tobio directly in the eye. “Takeru believes she might be at risk of taking her own life.” He let that sink in. Shouyou was speechless. “It needs to be you. She knows you and feels safe around you. Some nurses that she perceives as strangers won't be able to convince her of anything.”

Shoutout felt the callouses of Tobio’s fingers as he wrapped them around his palm. He felt the strong presence of his friend behind him, and for a moment, felt confident. Tobio nodded. “We’ll do it.”

Suga sighed, and held out his hand. Tobio took it and shook it.

The turned, together, and prepared themselves. Their eyes met, and Shouyou nodded. He tugged at Tobio’s hand, and they were running up the stairs towards the top floor.

If he felt out of breath, he pushed through it.

They stopped at the sound of a familiar, hacking cough behind them. takeru.

He was fiddling with his zipper. His fingers flew up and down the metal track, pulling the piece along, the sound faint and metallic. He chewed at the inside of his lip and looked at the ground. He seemed reluctant. Shouyou could see it, in his eyes, that he wanted to say something desperately, but couldn’t find the means to get it out of his mouth. He bit his lip and lowered himself until he was sitting cross legged at Takeru’s side. “Listen, Takeru,” he started. His voice was barely loud enough to be heard over the noise of the room around him. “I know you care about your friend. I get it. You have secrets, and I’m not trying to intrude on them. But this...this is bigger than that. We’re trying to keep her safe, remember?”

Takeru let out a sigh, and nodded. He flexed his fingers and let his hands fall to his lap. “There’s something I need to tell you, but...she’ll be angry with me.

Tobio placed a hand on Takeru’s shoulder. “I know you care for her, but this is bigger than that. This is keeping her alive. Whatever you know, we need you to tell us.”

He swallowed, hard, and let go of his jacket zipper. He looked up, ignoring Tobio and adressed Hinata. “M-mina...She’s transgender, and she's hurting. Please, just -- just keep her safe.” He choked up, his voice cracking and fading into a whisper. “I need her.”

Shoutout gave him a determined nod. “I'll do everything I can, Takeru. I promise.”

The boy’s shoulders dropped, like a weight had been removed from them. “Thank you,” he hissed, fingers gripping the handle of his oxygen tank so tightly his knuckles turned white.

He nodded, then turned on his heels and sprinted down the hallway after Tobio.

~~~~~~~~~~

Somehow, he knew exactly where to go. His feet brought him upward, towards the roof, towards the highest part of the building. He sprinted up the stairs to the eighth floor and skidded down the hallway, running shoes rubbing off against the tiled floor. When he found what he was looking for, he felt a deep pain in his chest.

A black beanie, tossed to the ground. The threads were loose, like someone had pulled at it with their fingernails out of anger. Shouyou hadn’t seen it on Mina, but he knew instinctively that it was her’s. The feeling of sadness and anger mingling was all too familiar to him. It bit at his heart. He knew how Mina was hurting right now. He knew that she needed them as soon as possible, and he knew that if he stopped now, her blood would be on his hands.

So he kept going, until the end of the hallway, and picked the beanie up from the floor. He looked at the door in front of him. It was shut, but not locked, empty, the perfect place for a brooding teen, or a child who was going through something much, much worse.

Shouyou opened the door and stepped inside.

Mina was staring through the open window, a blank look on her face. Her eyes seemed dulled -- in color, in emotion, even in the bags that hung under them. She looked like she’d been sleeping for days but hadn’t yet managed to actually find relaxation.

At the sound of the doorknob creaking, she flinched, hard.

Shouyou kept silent. He stepped forward, gripping the beanie in both hands. He knew that Tobio was stepping in behind him. He didn’t look back.

After a few agonizing moments of complete silence she turned her head. Her eyes were ringed with red, and there were salt stains on the thin cotton t-shirt she was wearing.

“Hello?” She asked. Her voice sounded hoarse. “Come to drag me back to my room? I’m not going.”

Shouyou dug his fingernails into the palms of his hands and forced his face to not betray any emotion similar to pity. “No, Mina. We’re not going to do that. I want to talk to you.”

She sniffed, and turned back towards the window. A breeze fitted through. He saw goosebumps on her arms. “I don’t know if I want to hear anything right now.”

“I’m sorry about that.”

“Don’t be.” Her voice was as harsh as a knife, digging into his skin. “You’re not sorry.”

“Mina, please look at me.”

No!” She slammed her fists down on her thighs. “I don’t want to. I can’t! You don’t understand. I want this. I don’t want to be here anymore, to be sick. I’m tired of waiting to heal. It just hurts. Life is just going to be painful, and it won’t stop unless I make it.”

Her head twitched to the sinde, her neck pressing against her shoulder.

Shouyou saw her eyelashes flutter -- and for the first time, he noticed the shaking of her hands, the way her eyes were shaking in her skull. She was having seizure symptoms.

He swallowed a sob of worry and clenched his own shaking hands.

“Please, please come down. We can talk, it’ll all be okay, I promise.”

She shook her head violently. Her knuckles were white against the window sill. “You can’t promise that. No one can.”

“Please --”

“I don’t want to, okay? Just let me. Please, I can’t take it any more. You wouldn’t understand. None of you would. And it’s not fair.”

Shouyou shook his head and took another tiny step forward. “Mina, I get it.”

She shook her head violently. Shouyou could see her eyes fluttering at that. He knew he had to get her down from there, soon, or she might go into a seizure and fall, down to the ground from eight stories up. With her muscles seizing, there was no way she would survive the fall.

“No!” she cried. “You don’t understand, you can’t, it isn’t --”

Shouyou could feel the burning gaze of Tobio behind him. He didn’t have the time. He didn’t even have the willpower, or the mental stability to convince her. It was the only choice he had, and he had to make a quick decision.

“I do, Mina.” he whispered, in hope that she would understand this time. It was a last ditch attempt. But she didn’t, she just shook her head again, her body almost vibrating.

So Shouyou did it.

He huffed, closing his eyes, and threw his jacket to the ground, the beanie following it.

“Hinata-kun --” Tobio whispered --

And then they both went silent.

Shouyou yanked his shirt over his head, revealing his stomach, and a small cropped black tank top that stretched over his chest and shoulder blades. He heard a sharp gasp escape Tobio’s mouth and winced, the noise hitting him like a knife blade, cutting through his confidence like it was hot butter.

But Mina...Mina frowned for a moment, before her eyes grew wider and her mouth dropped open. Her eyebrows drew together, mouth agape, and she ran a hand through her hair. It was getting longer, he noticed.

For a second, it was silent. Another cold breeze ran through the open window and rose goosebumps over Shouyou’s bare arms and back.

And then, chaos.

Mina shivered at the cold, and that shake of her head was the only thing that closed the gap inside her brain. He saw, as if in slow motion, her eyes close, open, pupils dilated, and her head lolled backwards. Shouyou rushed forward to grab her -- buy Tobio beat him to it. His arms outstretched, he took her by the waist and tugged her backwards just in time.

A deep exhale escaped Shouyou’s throat. Something like painful relief washed over him. And then, he heard it.

Mina recovering from her seizure, rolling her shoulders and moving to her side, legs curled up to her stomach. He heard a sob, saw her shaking from the wave of tears. He saw the tell tale signs of an ugly cry. Her shoulders arched up and her whole frame vibrated from the force of the tears. “I’m sorry,” she gasped. “I’m sorry, mom.”

Tobio pulled her onto his lap and tucked her head into his shoulder. He rubbed a circle into her back. “You’re going to be okay. Eventually, I can promise that.” he murmured.

Their eyes met over Mina’s shoulder, and Shouyou blushed with embarrassment. He was still standing there in the cold, with cotton drawstring scrub pants hanging off his hips, nothing covering his top but a black binder, his clothes on the floor around his feet. He fell to his knees and scooped them up, holding them to his chest as if they could shield him from judgement. But Tobio just nodded at him, and lifted Mina to her feet.

They communicated with just a glance, and Shouyou knew what to do.

He ran out into the hall and paged a few nurses, Sugawara and Asahi rushing in along with them. Suga’s facial expression changed from angry, to confused, to heartbroken in under a second, and Asahi was practically shaking. There wasn’t any physical harm to be addressed, but Mina was still put in a hospital bed a wheeled back to her room for her vital check up. She didn’t particularly appreciate the commotion, or the stress of it all, but she seemed to be calm enough to remain unrestrained.

They tried to keep Takeru back, but he forced his way through the line of nurses before they could stop him and planted himself on the edge of her gurney. He stayed there the whole way back.

Shouyou hurt for them. His shoulders slumped forward against the doorway and his head hung between them. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. He was powerless. He was only able to stop her from dying by -- by what? “Revealing” himself? How weak, how incredibly weak of him. What hurt the most was that he wasn’t even able to promise her that it would get better. For him, it still hadn’t. He wrapped his arms around himself and stuffed his nose in one of his elbows. HE wanted to cover up every inch of his skin.

And then, Tobio leaned against the doorway next to him and his frame tensed up. He was hyper aware of how close they were, of Tobio’s gaze boring into the back of his head. He squeezed his eyes shut. Tobio was already angry at him because of the arrest, because he was so unclear, because he couldn’t even articulate this. Shouyou was so damn selfish.

Tobio cleared his throat and a tiny, almost inaudible whimper left Shouyou’s throat.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted, at the same time Tobio placed a hand on his shoulder and murmured, “It’s okay.”

Shouyou’s eyes shot open. His jaw clenched shut. He was vaguely aware that his whole body was shaking, from his kneecaps to his finger tips. Goose bumps rose on his skin under his binder. Warmth radiated off of Tobio’s hand where it touched him through the cloth, but it wasn’t enough, it was never enough, but Tobio-kun had said it was okay.

He turned on his heels and looked into his eyes. He didn’t trust himself to speak, not with the painful knot just behind his throat that warned him of the tears that were ready to flow. He didn’t want to cry in front of Tobio, not when he was looking at him with those blue eyes, not when he was trying to comfort him like this. He was comforting Shouyou.. The thought was so bizarre -- as if Tobio had ever done anything wrong at all.

So he just looked, and kept his mouth shut.

“You...you don’t have to be sorry for this. Please don’t be sorry for this,” Tobio murmured. His hand shook where it was on Shouyou’s shoulder. He brought them both up to his chest and clenched them into fists, grabbing at his work shirt and squeezing. Shouyou wanted those hands touching him more than anything else in the world, but he didn’t say anything. “You don’t ever have to apologize to me. I promise I’ll have already forgiven you, no matter what.”

Shouyou’s bottom lip quivered, and like the first crack in a dam, there was one tear, and the dam was crashing down into the water. “I’m...I--” he stuttered, hiccuping with sobs. “I’m still sorry, I should have told you, all this time I’m just a liar who can’t even --” he smacked a hand over his mouth before anything else incriminating could come out of it, but it was too late. The damage was done. Tobio’s shoulders were shaking and he realized that he, too, was crying.

“Please don’t cry, Tobio,” he whispered.

And finally the warmth engulfed him.

Tobio reached forward and tugged Shouyou closer by the arms, tucked his head under his own chin, and wrapped him in an embrace that refused to break.

Shouyou fisted Tobio’s shirt and just let the sobs win.

They wracked through his body, a whirlwind of rain and thunder and emotions and pain, finally escaping through his ribcage, leaving wreckage behind in it path. The sand was finally washed away, his old house crumbling to insignificant dust and was swept up by the flooding. The hurricane raged through him until there was nothing left -- a clean slate to build upon even further.

The sobs didn’t last long. Before Shouyou knew it he was nuzzling the damp cloth of Tobio’s shirt and praying that nothing would remove him from his grasp.

Because of course, good things couldn’t last forever.

Tobio reached between them and took both of his hands in his own. He squeezed them tight and brought their foreheads together.

“Hinata Shouyou,” he murmured. “If you’re transgender, I don’t care.” He closed his eyes for a moment and bit his lip. “Well, no, that’s not the right wording. I do care...but only because I care about you. If this is a part of you that you want me to recognize, then I care about it as much as I care about the rest of you. I’ll love it just as much as I love --”

He cut himself off.

Shouyou felt the aftershocks shaking through his very bones, and before he knew it, they were pushing his legs up and they were so close. Shouyou lifted his shaking hands and pressed his thumbs against Tobio’s cheekbones. He wiped away the tears there and slid his hands back to anchor his fingers in Tobio’s hair, held his head in place and stared up, into his eyes.

Something changed on Tobio’s face, and now they were even closer and they were before. He leaned down, and gently, more gently than Shouyou thought possible, pressed their lips together. They were kissing, finally, and it was fantastically brilliant.

It was a mess of noses and teeth and desperation, hair tangling between their foreheads and knuckles losing traction on one another’s shirts. Without realizing, Shouyou was tugging at Tobio’s belt loops and tripping over himself in an attempt to get even closer. If he could cage himself inside of Tobio like a bird, he would.

After one accidental bite too many, Shouyou fell from his toes and pressed himself against Tobio’s chest.

“I love you,” Tobio was whispering like a mantra. Shouyou felt long fingers thread through his hair, shaking hands press against his shoulder and squeeze, thumbs rubbing soothing circles into his skin. It was the most comforting thing he could feel. “I love you, Shou. I love you so much, and I’m never going to let you go.”

Feeling that knot well up in his throat again, Shouyou bit his lips and squeaked out, “When?”

A sigh. “Since that day at the park.”

Warmth exploded inside him. It was like fire works -- sparks lighting off his bones and muscles, setting him on fire from the inside out. His hands shook where they were held fast on Tobio’s belt loops.

“That’s...that’s a really long time.” he whispered. It was almost inaudible, but Tobio nodded. Shouyou could feel his heartbeat against his forehead. “I wish I knew.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s my own fault, Shouyou muttered.

A few moments of silence passed before Shouyou nuzzled into his shirt again and sighed. “It was the night you bailed me out of jail,” he muttered. “Or at least...that’s when I realized it myself. It was before that, really. Long before that.”

He pulled back a few inches and smoothed his fingers out along Tobio’s stomach, trailing them upwards to his chest and holding them there.

Tobio hiccuped. “I’m so…” he murmured. “I’m just -- I wish I had told you sooner. I wish I hadn’t been so angry with you. I wish --” he started, but Shouyou cut him off by pressing a finger against his lips, and kissing him again until his words faded away.

They remained like that for who knows how long, standing in the doorway of an empty hospital room, kissing with tear stained faces and rumpled clothes, humming in happiness, with hands buzzing with so much energy they refused to stay still.

It was perfect -- for a few moments, or minutes, or hours, or however long they stood there, Shouyou felt completely content. That foreign feeling bubbled up in his chest again. Warm and loose, weaving its way through his system like tendrils of steam. It fanned out to the tips of his restless fingers and his jumping toes and made him smile into their kiss.

And finally, he realized what it was.

Finally, Shouyou felt at home.

Chapter Text

With his brain still fuzzy from the realization that he was kissing someone, Tobio barely registered the sound of a door slamming open and leather shoes clacking against the floor.

The sound of a loud, almost frustrated sigh filled the hall. “Well, if it isn’t about damn time.”

Tobio yanked his head backwards.

Shouyou groaned, his bottom lip bitten accidentally in Tobio’s rush to pull away, and opened his eyes. Tobio stared down into them. He didn’t dare look down the hallway leading out the doorway.

Suga’s hand fell on their shoulders and he cringed. “Yes, boss?” he asked (read: whimpered).

His boss just sighed, patted them both on the backs and turned away.

“I still expect you to be clocked out on time, you know.” Suga called over his shoulder.

Still a bit shellshocked, Tobio didn’t realize Shouyou was pulling him down until their lips connected. Shouyou licked at him playfully and giggled. His giggling grew, and soon he was laughing, bent over at the hips with both arms wrapped around his stomach.

“S-suga, he --” he tried to articulate. “He’s been waiting…! Oh my God, that’s...that’s so fucking funny…”

Tobio snickered. He pulled Shouyou into a hug and rested his forehead on his quaking shoulder. He buried his face in the crook of his neck to hide his embarrassingly wide smile and squeezed Shouyou as tight as he could.

His laughter became too great for Tobio to hold his own back -- so they laughed. They held each other, giggling and drunk on kissing, on the finality of it all.

“Shou,” Tobio whispered, when he was able to control the laughter enough to speak. “Come home with me. Please.”

Those bright, molten gold eyes looked up at him, and Shouyou’s face broke into a grin. “Of course.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Always.”

Tobio buried his face into Tobio’s collar again, beaming with so much happiness it ached inside of him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It wasn’t the first time they had slept in the same bed. This was familiar to them -- after weeks of sleeping in the same apartment and using the same bedsheets, they were accustomed to one another’s body.

This time was just...it was different.

When Tobio threw back the sheets and clambered into bed, Shouyou sidled up beside him like usual. He spread his limbs out across the bed with no regard for personal space and wound his feet in the loose blanket at the foot of the bed. He turned on his side and tucked part of the pillow between his shoulder and head, nuzzling against the cloth and scrunching his nose until he was completely and utterly comfortable. His back pressed against Tobio’s side, warmth radiating off of him like he was Tobio’s own personal space heater. Either that, or he was a cat. Tobio hadn’t yet decided which comparison fit him better -- the lovable cat, or...his Sun.

Tobio was Icarus. He’d escaped his prison, surviving only by constructing meticulous wings and was flying through the sweet spot between the water and the sky. If he flew too low, he’d be sucked into the ocean, be drowned by the rain water. If he flew too high, the heat from the sun would melt his wings away and he would fall from the sky.

Shouyou -- he was the sun. He enticed Tobio with his dazzling energy, brightness, and light, what seemed like the only source of warmth in this rainy town.

And maybe, falling wasn’t that bad. Maybe falling was it’s own form of flying. And maybe, if the Sun cared for him, there wouldn’t be an end to his fall.

Tobio turned on his side and let one arm fall over Shouyou’s side. He caged him in and nuzzled into the back of his neck.

As he fell asleep, he held the Sun in his grasp and kept it safe.

He was falling. His wings, however, remained intact.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Waking up in the morning, beside him, as a thing, whatever that thing was, was so much better than waking up next to the person you’re longing for.

They noticed that as soon as they opened their eyes and the sun filtered through their window to warm up their tired faces. Their knees were touching, and Tobio could feel the cold tip of Shouyou’s nose rubbing against his collarbone, and it was clumsy and wonderful. Just like him.

Like a sloth, having just woken up, he slowly inched his arm up from the mattress and curled it around Shouyou’s thin shoulders, hugging the man even closer to his chest. He buried his face in the top of his head and sighed. This, this was what content felt like. He was sure that his hands would have to be pried off for him to let go. Unfortunately, that thought was short-lived. Shouyou grumbled in his sleep, palm flat against Tobio’s chest. He pushed and scooted away. His nose was scrunched up and his eyes were still closed. The remnants of sleep were apparent on his face. “Mornin’,” he muttered, rubbing at his eyes. He yawned, his back arching like a cat’s.

Tobio pulled the hand away from Shouyou’s face and gently kissed the knuckles. The action felt awkward, and slightly stiff, and he was sure his face was turning bright red, but Shouyou seemed to like it so he didn’t mind as much. “Good morning.”

Shouyou gave him his winning smile, all scrunched up eyes and teeth and golden personality. “Thank God,” he sighed. “If it had all been a dream, I was going to jump out the window.”

It’s mutual, Tobio thought, but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he peered down at the pale hand in his grasp.

“Where’d you get this?” Tobio asked. His thumb ran over the tiny scar on the back of Shouyou hand, just a white sliver after so many years. It only stood out because there weren’t any freckles down the length of the scar, just a two-inch long strip of pale skin.

Shouyou glanced down at where their hands were joined. “My dog, when I was really young. He got excited and tried to play rough. We didn’t know that you’re supposed to trim their claws, so he ended up giving me a souvenir.”

Tobio squeezed his hand, brought it to his mouth and gave the scar a featherlight kiss. Shouyou felt the tips of his ears turn bright red. He buried his nose in the crook of Tobio’s neck.

“Gah, don’t be embarrassing!” he groaned. He could feel Tobio chuckle against his palm, where it rested over his heart.

“Shut up, Sho,” he murmured. He leaned over Shouyou and nuzzled into his hair, his breath warm as it fanned out over his scalp. “You know you love it.”

With a whine, Hinata buried his face in the pillow.“Why must you be so good at so many things?

“Because I, unlike you, am a good boyfriend.” Tobio muttered.

Shouyou grinned. “So...boyfriends?”

Tobio turned the same shade as the tomato he was slicing. “I mean...yeah, if you want.”

“Why wouldn’t I want it?”

“I don’t know!” Tobio spluttered. “It’s just something you ask!”

Shouyou grinned. “My boyfriend,” he murmured, rolling the words around in his mouth as if to test them out, taste them. “I like it. Good idea, Tobio-kun.”

It was painfully domestic.

And, he kind of loved it.

At that, he scooted forward and ungracefully pressed their lips together.

Shouyou found himself sighing and leaning into the kiss as it continued. He smiled, pressing their chests together. He could feel the heat of Tobio’s skin through the canvas material of his shirt. It was pleasant. The corner of his lips quirked up and something lovely bubbled in his chest.

His heartbeat pounded out a rhythm against his ribcage. The beat twined with Tobio's. The patter of his partner’s heart rang out in the silence of the bedroom. Their bedroom. Shoutout couldn't help but smile into the kiss.

Cold fingertips ran over the skin of his lower back, and he shivered. Tobio lifted his head. He held the hem of his shirt and looked into his eyes with a quiet question, forehead ducking forward until they met in the middle, and Shouyou nodded. A tickle of Tobio's eyelashes ghosted over his cheekbone.

Tobio tugged the fabric up and over his head and tossed it behind him as if it had offended him in some way. He kept his eyes on Hinata the whole time. He sat back on his heels, still fully dressed, and ran the palm of his hand down Shouyou’s chest and stomach. His eyes were dark, his pupil swallowing up the color of his iris. Shouyou shivered.

“I--” he swallowed. “I wanna keep it on,” he murmured, awkwardly lifting his hand to toy at the strap of his sports bra, lowering his eyes and looking at Tobio’s hand where it rested against the base of his ribcage.

“That's fine,” Tobio whispered, heart jumping in his chest. “Whatever you're most comfortable with, I want.” He wasn’t lying in the slightest.

Shoutout felt that warmth in his gut again bubble up like a soda bottle, the pressure building in his chest until he couldn't keep himself still any longer. His fingers closed around Tobio's wrists and squeezed, like they were a lifeline, like he was keeping him afloat and safe. And he was drowning in something he could feel in his bloodstream, thrumming through his whole body. Shouyou didn't even realize what he was doing -- all he knew was that one moment he was staring up at Tobio, his heart aching, and the next he was wrapped in his arms.

His nose was buried in the crook of his neck and shoulder. Hair tickled his ear, warm air fanned out against his collarbone. Soft kisses were pressed against the plain of bare skin above the neckline of his sports bra. Tobio trailed his lips lower -- avoiding the dark fabric, brushing over the skin of his stomach, before resting there, eyes closed.

“I love this,” Tobio murmured, brushing the tip of his nose down the soft part of Shouyou’s lower stomach and the whisper of hair beneath his belly button. He pressed a kiss to his hipbone and Shouyou sighed. “And this,” he murmured, warmth breath ghosting over the inside of Shouyou’s thigh. “And this --” he bit down softly, just below the edge of the leg hole in his briefs.

Shouyou gasped, pushed himself up and onto his elbows for a better look. Tobio got on his hands and knees and crawled over him to kiss him again, pressing his head backwards until it hit the pillow. Shouyou could swear he felt his brain melt. His knees were slowly turning to jelly under Tobio’s ministrations. He whined and pressed up against his boyfriend -- to no use, of course, because the way Tobio was running his tongue along his jawline was turning him into a needy puddle.

Tobio pulled back and smiled, as if admiring his handiwork. “Just sit back,” he told him, flushed pink down to his shoulders, pupils completely black and overtaking his eyes. His chest was heaving -- Hinata could relate.“Let me do the work.”

Shouyou sighed. Since when did Tobio get sexy? This wasn’t allowed, no sirree --

His thought were cut off as Tobio ran his tongue over the grove of his hip over the thin cloth of his underwear. Shouyou’s hand flew up to cover his mouth.

“Don’t,” Tobio muttered. “You can make noise. No one will hear you except me.”

With a shiver running down his back, Shouyou frowned. “I will if you stop teasing me.”

He didn’t need to be told twice. Tobio hooked his thumbs under the waistband of his boxer briefs and tugged them down, over the tops of his thighs, past his knobbly knees, past his feet and tossed them to the floor.

Shouyou shivered as the cool air of their bedroom hit him, then again when a warm puff of air made its way from Tobio's mouth to the insides of his thighs. He wound a hand into Tobio's hair, eyes never leaving his mouth.

He pressed soft kisses to the inside and backs of his thighs, tongue darting out to dance over his skin. Shouyou felt a shaky sigh build up in his chest. He swallowed, hard.

Tobio's nose drifted over the juncture of his thigh and hip as he kissed there, once, twice, sucking the skin up to his teeth. Shouyou couldn't stop the strangled noise that bubbled up from his throat.

“Fuck, Shou,” he whispered. Shouyou’s eyes fluttered shut at the use of his first name.

Suddenly, Tobio's calloused fingers were pressing and kneading at his thighs, tongue lapping at him with soft kitten licks, and his eyes shot open. He threw his head back into the pillow and gritted his teeth. It was almost overwhelming -- he could feel air puffing out of Tobio's nose, soft sucks and kisses against him, and he was so warm.

His back arched and his toes curled -- and fuck he hadn’t felt this good in ages. Being homeless didn’t exactly allow you any chances to get off, and he could feel that, could feel the frustration in his veins, and he was about to finish embarrassingly quickly. It rose up like cold fire, washing over him in waves, licking at his skin until the muscles in his jaw locked up. His head tilted back and dug into the pillow, mouth open in a silent scream -- his muscles flexed, thighs shaking with exertion. His knuckles turned white against the sheets as he fought the urge to stuff them between his teeth and muffle the pants.

Tobio's tongue wormed its way into his entrance and curled, rubbing against his walls and Shouyou could swear in that moment he saw through time and space.

He couldn't stop the mewles tumbling from his lips -- he couldn't prevent his blunt fingernails from digging into Tobio's scalp, his thighs shaking and his heels digging into the sheets as he tried to get some purchase on the bed. He gyrated his hips, chasing that sensation of bliss, and Tobio gave it to him. He wrapped his lips around his clit and sucked, tongue flicking out like he had been training for this, deft and wet and absolutely perfect.

Shouyou hiked himself up on his elbows and tried to keep his eyes open long enough to watch until the end. He struggled against the urges that tried to roll his eyes, tip his head back and let it take over. Warmth burst in his gut and he shivered. Tobio looked up to meet him, eyes dark and clouded and low, so fucking hot he couldn't stand it anymore.

His thighs practically vibrated as he came, eyes clenched shut with his bottom lip trapped between his teeth. A pitiful noise was forced from his lips.

“Not…” he panted out. “F-fair…”

And fuck, Shouyou was sure that he saw that cheeky bastard smile from between his thighs. He wasn’t supposed to wreck him this badly, he was supposed to be dorky Tobio who was useless with words and even worse with his intentions, and here he was, mouth wrapped around him like he was born for it.

Tobio looked up at him, stared him in the eye, and sucked, hard, his tongue working in a tight little circle and Shouyou lost it.

It took approximately ten minutes for him to be able to force words out of his mouth.

Shouyou realized that he was staring up at the ceiling, and that there was something soft and cold rubbing the inside of his thigh, and frowned. His tongue felt dry and useless; he noticed that his mouth was open, and he was panting. Weird.

He still couldn’t operate the muscles in his legs.

He looked down, and saw that Tobio had his tongue between his teeth as he cleaned the slick off of Shouyou’s legs. Somewhere along the way he had lost his shirt, and he appeared to be wearing a fresh pair of boxers and sleep pants.

“ I didn’t even get to finish you off.” he croaked. “Wow, I must have been lousy.”

Tobio scooted upwards and pulled him up and onto his chest so that they were face to face. “Absolutely not. I came in my pants, like, halfway through.”

Euphoric giggles bubbled up in Shouyou’s chest. He buried his flushed face in Tobio’s neck and gave him a chaste peck. He mumbled something, his lips ghosting over the skin there.

Tobio frowned. “What was that.”

Shouyou nuzzled even deeper, his fists opening and closing against the fabric of Tobio’s sweatpants, and repeated himself. “I think I might be in love with you.”

And there it was. Most people would have been shocked, or scared, or even a bit overwhelmed, But Tobio couldn’t help but grin, hoist Shouyou up into his lap and squeeze him, as tight as possible, as close as possible, and promise himself that he wouldn’t let go.

Chapter Text

Waking up between Tobio and a pillow became a new celebrated aspect of morning time.

Oversized, cotton shirts on his back, coffee, Tobio’s cold nose and warm hands, carpet underneath clean feet. Getting picked up at work by him and being able to tell his coworker with a smug smile that he was his boyfriend, and watching her fume as Tobio took his hand and pulled him out and into the rain.

He would wear Tobio’s clothes around the house, partially because it annoyed him, partially because they were comfortable, partially because he didn’t have anything else to wear.

It took one whole week of this before Tobio cracked.

He slammed his palm down on the counter, huffing. “Do you not have any of your own clothes or something?”

Shouyou paused where he was (admittedly, standing on his toes and reaching for something in a cabinet, wearing nothing but one of Tobio’s larger shirts and tight boxer briefs, but that’s not for here) and looked over his shoulder. “Why, does it bother you?” He wasn’t trying to be cheeky, just curious, but given his posture and the apparent flush on Tobio’s cheeks, it didn’t really matter.

Tobio shook his head, looking anywhere but at him. “No, but...you don’t have much stuff. If you need clothes, you can just ask. You don’t have to go convincing me by wearing all of my stuff all over the place.”

Shouyou chuckled. “I guess I do need some stuff. I sold all of mine to a thrift shop when I got kicked out.”

Tobio frowned. “What?”

“Well, I thought it would be better that way, because i could just keep what I needed and use the cash for food and such --”

“No, back up, you were kicked out?” Tobio asked.

Shouyou frowned. “Yeah. I guess I didn’t tell you. Honestly, I thought you’d have figured that out by now.”

Tobio slumped forward. His mouth opened and closed like a confused fish. Finally, he peered at Shouyou from under his eyelashes. “I don’t catch onto things like that as quick as others.”

Shouyou shrugged. “I suppose you’re right.” He stepped forward and sat down at the island across from Tobio. “It’s not a special story or anything. My mom found out I was living in the men’s dorms at Uni and questioned me about it. I figured it was best to just tell them. I was a few months on testosterone at that point, It was getting to hard to hide the changes.” Tobio nodded. He’d noticed that, the pitch of Shouyou’s voice, the light dusting of hair on his jaw and his stomach, the shape of his hairline. It was all distinctly male -- he knew now that he shouldn’t think of things like that as defining characteristics of someone’s gender, but they were why he had first perceived Shouyou as a boy.

“Anyways, I came out to them, and they disowned me. I couldn’t afford to stay there anymore, so I told the school I had gotten an apartment and just...moved out.” He fiddled with the neckline of his -- Tobio’s -- shirt. He left out the parts about his friends, his father smacking him, his old dog that he hadn’t seen in a year, the dog with gray fur around his muzzle who was probably

“And...the cops?”

Shouyou gave him a sour smile. “They thought I was a sex worker. I was walking out of the bathroom at the library and some guy had something to say about it, so the cops checked my licence and figured I had ‘tricked’ him or some bull shit. Asked him if he knew I was a girl when I approached him.” He shivered. “The whole thing was disgusting. That’s why they detained me, I couldn’t prove I was a student because I didn’t have an ID for a dorm building.”

Shouyou leaned forward over the counter and swirled his finger over the cool granite.

He expected pity. What he didn’t expect was Tobio standing up from where he was sitting, downing his entire cup of coffee, and giving him the most determined look he had seen on his face. “Get dressed. We’re going to the mall.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The parking lot was almost never crowded. Shouyou had been to this mall with his friends before -- it was the only mall in Brogden, and it was by no means small, but it wasn’t any sort of tourist attraction and the rainy and cold weather in the city put off most shoppers. The others were, thankfully, not obnoxious parkers.

Tobio drove them in Oikawa’s borrowed car (“He won’t mind, it’s for fashion.”).

They started small. Underwear, socks, soft cotton tee shirts and a new pair of dark jeans. With the bit of spare cash Shouyou had from working at the hospital and the cafe, he was able to cover most of it, even if Tobio insisted on handing him a ew bills every time they made their way to a cash register. It felt nice, being spoiled a bit.. If the sales assistants gave them odd looks, he didn’t notice.

When they took a break from finding clothes, they sat in the middle of the cafeteria with a plate full of nachos. Shouyou looked up from stuffing his face and watched Tobio’s smile slip off his face. His eyes were fixed on something behind them. He turned around, slowly, and was met by dazzling eyes and a sinister smile.

“Oi, Shrimpy-chan,” Oikawa called out, cocking a hip. “I heard you needed help with your wardrobe?”

Shouyou’s face lit up, in unison with Tobio’s declaration of “God, save me.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Did you really have to bring your boy toy along?”

“Tobio! How dare you, Iwa-chan is much more than that.”

“Don’t call me ‘chan,’ nerd.” Iwazumi said, rolling his eyes.

Oikawa threw his hands in the air. “Case and point! I wouldn’t let someone meaningless call me a nerd.”

Shouyou hid behind Tobio and peered at the three of them. Iwazumi was a lot…larger than he had expected. He was wearing a button up and a blazer over jeans, and his biceps stretched the fabric taught. His arms were crossed across his chest (which was also quite muscular) and he stood, staring at Oikawa, looking like he had to power to snap him in half. He stared in awe as Toruu continued to tease him -- couldn’t he see that it was dangerous?!

But Iwazumi just turned away and rolled his eyes, shooting Toruu much softer looks when he thought no one was looking. Huh.

Shouyou was so distracted that he failed to realize Oikawa was getting closer until he plopped an arm over his shoulder and gave him a half hug. “Why are we arguing? This is a time of dire need! Sho-chan has no sense of fashion!”

“Hey!” He furrowed his brow and elbowed Toruu away. “I do to! I just don’t have ay clothes!”

“Your point? Either way, you need my -- and Hajime’s -- clothing expertise. We’ll get you looking like a proper young man in no time, so don’t worry!”

Tobio looked up at the high ceiling of the mall and shook his head, once again wondering what the fuck he did to deserve this kind of treatment.

Despite Shouyou’s doubts, Oikawa was very good at spotting deals. He tugged the gang through a few stores and found pieces that Shouyou wouldn’t have even thought of. They found a short-sleeved buttoned shirt that fit perfectly over his chest without looking odd, in a pale orange sherbert color that, somehow, didn’t clash horribly with his hair. There was a pair of nice Polo shoes on discount in the boy’s section, and a navy, faux-aviator jacket with silver buttons that made Shouyou’s shoulders look at least an inch wider. Whenever he tried anything on, Oikawa would stand behind him in the mirror and grin.

“See! I told you Hajime, he looks so manly in this!”

Tobio saw Iwazumi roll his eyes, but he knew that whatever Oikawa had to say was really for Shouyou’s benefit.

In the end, they drove home packed in one car, thighs squished together in the backseat as Oikawa and Hajime bickered harmlessly in the front. Shouyou reached out and squeezed Tobio’s wrist. He looked up at him through his eyelashes and gave him a genuine smile. In return, Tobio buried his nose in the crown of Hinata’s hair and squeezed him against his side. He was taken care of, and that was all that mattered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When they got home to the apartment, Shouyou, Iwaizumi, and Oikawa got out of the car. Tobio rolled down the window and kissed Shouyou on the cheek. “I’ll be back in an hour, yeah? I’m gonna make a run to the store while I’m still allowed to use the car.”

He smiled, and accepted the kiss.

Oikawa and Hajime left in the latter’s car, leaving him alone in the apartment. Shouyou decided to use the free time as an excuse to take a nap on the couch without fear of anyone taking a picture of him sleeping. He set an alarm on his phone for half an hour and plugged it in on the coffee table, and let himself drift off.

When he woke up, it was to the sound of his alarm blaring and a sharp pain in his gut.

Shouyou felt dizzy. His vision refused to focus and his head was fuzzy, like the inside of his brain had been wrapped in a blanket. Not only that, but his stomach was cramping like he’d never felt it before. It felt like someone was driving a knife into his lower back, stabbing at his inner organs and twisting the blade. His jaw dropped and he clenched his fist around the first thing he saw (luckily, the fabric of his t-shirt). He lowered himself to his knees and pressed his forehead against the carpet, breath coming in short gasps as he tried to control his lungs.

When enough oxygen had found its way to his brain, he pushed himself back onto the couch. The pain had receded until it just barely licked at the inside of his skin. Shouyou blinked, dazed. He would have pinched himself to make sure he hadn’t imagined it, but the thought of subjecting himself to more pain made him feel woozy.

It was then that he felt a slight trickle of wetness trail down the inside of his thigh.

His spine shot straight. His eyes widened, throat bobbing as he swallowed. No, it’s not possible…

Shouyou forced his legs to cooperate as he stumbled for the bathroom. He slammed his palm against the tile wall, flicked the lights on, and plopped down against the edge of the bathtub. He unbuttoned his jeans and yanked them down to his ankles. His blue boxer briefs were next. He struggled to force the elastic waistband past his knees, but when he succeeded, he almost passed out.

This time, he actually did pinch himself. He took his forefinger and thumb and yanked at the skin on his outer thigh. Just in case.

Because he really didn’t want to be seeing what he thought he was seeing -- a small, rusty stain on the inside of his underwear. He peered down at his thighs and saw, with much higher contrast, drying blood on the inside of his thighs. The sight grew blurry as his eyes filled with tears, and Shouyou struggled to blink them away, sniffing hard and scrubbing his face with his hands. This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t --

The pain overwhelmed him until he was practically screaming -- without realizing it, he had collapsed to the ground in pain, legs tucked up to his chest in the fetal position. His brain went fuzzy. His vision was blurry, there were white spots everywhere.

Suddenly, he rolled over and threw up. It looked like red coffee grounds had spilled over the tile -- Shouyou had seen that before when patients coughed up half-digested blood.

He fumbled with his pants, trying to find his pockets with fingers that weren’t cooperating -- a few pennies, an old napkin, and a pen fell to the ground in front of him. He uncapped the pen and wrote down as much as he could before he felt his vision turn black around the corners. Shouyou tried to stand up. The pain in his lower pelvis worsened tenfold. A groan left his parted lips as his eyes screwed shut, and he tried desperately to ignore how every muscle in his body wanted to cramp up and curl in on itself.

His eyes nearly rolled into the back of his head, his stomach churning in disgust. No, he thought to himself. You have to focus. Where’s the phone?

Somehow, he found his way to the kitchen. His side rammed into the island and he could swear he heard the loud crack of one of his ribs, and the breath in his lungs whooshed out of his chest.

Shouyou furrowed his brows. Focus, Hinata.

In an effort to grab for the cordless home phone he knocked a glass plate and a cup of cold coffee onto the floor, a few papers went flying, the fruit basket upended and sent apples tumbling -- his hand grasped cold plastic. Shouyou fell to his knees again as a wave of pain washed over him.

He managed to type in the numbers nine, one, and one before his vision turned black and he passed out completely.

Chapter Text

Tobio flew through the apartment complex in a whirlwind of clothing and fury.

He couldn’t imagine what had happened; all he knew was that when he had arrived back after grocery shopping the first thing he was greeted by was the flashing red and blue of an ambulance. He swallowed a lump in his throat and rushed out of his car, groceries be damned.

Kageyama noticed Oikawa and Iwazumi at the foot of the building, and his heart rammed against his ribcage. Their hands were clutched together, tucked into Oikawa’s sweater pocket. Oikawa looked like he was close to tears.

Tobio felt his eyes water as well. His feet were pushing him forward before his brain had the time to comprehend what he was feeling.

When he got to the landing outside his apartment door, his fears were confirmed. The door was wide open. Inside, there were three paramedics huddled around something on the floor. Something small, and shaped like sunlight. Tobio choked down a horrible scream.

The rushed past him, Shouyou strapped to a stretcher. There was a mask obscuring half of his face and his shirt was pulled up to his collarbones, binder sliced in half down the middle by the practiced hand of a doctor. His head lolled to the side. Kageyama reached out to him, the words catching his his throat and in his head.

“Stop,” he managed to croak out. The paramedic didn’t spare him a second glance. He went off on some rehearsed spiel about emergency and stay back, sir, and it physically hurt him to hear Shouyou described in such a way.

Stop!” he screamed this time, grabbing for one of Shouyou’s hands. “He’s my boyfriend, please, I’m a doctor at Daichii hospital, take him there. I need to stay with him.”

The man paused for a moment to consider his options. He looked Tobio in the eye, and gave him the tiniest of nods. “Alright. Come with me, you may be needed to explain somethings.

“Gladly,” Kageyama breathed out.

He followed the gurney into their creaky elevator and pushed past one of the other doctors so he could get a good look at Shouyou. He was pale, of course, he always was, and his hip bones stuck out against his skin. There was a circle of what looked like bruising on his lower stomach and pelvis. Kageyama reached out with a shaky hand and took his hand. It was warm, and soft, and it felt so much like him that it made his chest hurt.

The younger man nudged him. “Do you have any idea what happened to him?”

“Not a clue.” Tobio whispered. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Shou.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The waiting room was, as always, absolutely miserable. The plastic chair felt foreign underneath him; the scent of Lysol and melancholy poisoned the air. Kageyama’s fingernails bit into the arm rests. The sound of people snoring or crying softly only agitated him further. He was so exhausted that the thoughts in his head were formless, carrying only heavy emotion with them with no discernible meaning.

One and a half paper cups of coffee later, Kageyama was greeted by the nurse. She stepped into the waiting area and gave him one look, and he was on his feet in seconds. He flew past her and into the room he saw her point to -- only to be stopped with a firm palm against his chest.

It took him a frazzled moment to realize who was in front of him, but when he did, he almost broke down once more. It was Suga, and he was smiling. Sweet, honest, no trickery involved. It terrified him.

“Suga…” he choked out.

“It’s alright, Kageyama-kun.” Suga said. “Hinata will be fine, soon. I just can’t let you in just yet. We need to talk.” He pulled his palm away from Tobio’s chest and held out a scrap of napkin. “Read this.”

Tobio wiped at his eye and took the napkin from Suga’s hand. The back half of the paper had been torn off by the doctors, but the front was still intact. He saw a brown coffee stain in the corner, faint blue from where the pen had rubbed against Shouyou hand. He grit his teeth and read the napkin -- it was a letter, addressed to him in a messy, jumbled scrawl.

Tobio,

I’m sorry. I’ve been putting off a check up for weeks now because I don’t have insurance or the money for it -- tell the doctors I’ve been off testosterone therapy for about four months now since my insurance stopped covering it. Before that, I’d been taking it for a year and a half. My lower stomach and pelvis are aching like crazy, I can barely breathe, my muscles aren’t cooperating and I just threw up blood all over the carpet. I’m sorry for messing it up, Tobio. I love you.

The words tapered off at the end, smeared and jumbled together, and he had written it with his hands shaking so bad that he ripped the paper.

Tobio crumpled up the napkin and pressed it against his chest.

“Is he...is he going to be okay?” he asked, voice cracking half way through the sentence.

Suga patted his shoulder. “After being on hormone therapy for that long, the health of his uterus started to deteriorate. His menstrual cycle stopped, but the tissue on his uterine lining was still inside of his body, his ovaries and uterus were still there, but the blood flow and nutrients were not being directed there anymore because of the testosterone in his system. His body didn’t realize it still had fema-” He paused, and cleared his throat. “Reproductive organs it needed to maintain. Basically, there’s major atrophy of his uterus and ovaries, and it’s a breeding ground for infection.”

Tobio nodded. He knew all of this -- he was a doctor after all, and he had done his share of studying after Shouyou came out to him -- but it was still a shock. He didn’t want to think of Shouyou feeling pain, he didn’t want to imagine parts of Shouyou dying. He grit his teeth and looked to the floor as Suga continued, his mind forming something akin to a prayer.

“The uterus was essentially dying inside of him. They surgeons are performing an immediate hysterectomy, which is rarely lethal, and Hinata is young and healthy. He should make a full recovery.” A rush of relief washed through him. Suga paused and looked down at his feet. He smiled -- the grin was gentle and didn’t hold any of its usual malice or threat. It was comforting, though slightly disconcerting, to see Suga smile at him like that when he rarely did. “I wanted to talk to you about something different, though.”

“Yeah?” Tobio sniffed and wiped at his eyes. The tears had dried up, thankfully.

He nodded. “Hinata was on testosterone until his parents kicked him out and stopped paying for his tuition. It’s reasonable to think that he wasn’t done -- that is to say, he never wanted to go off, but he did so out of necessity.”

Tobio nodded. He felt he knew where this conversation was going.

“He is going to want to go back on hormone replacement therapy again -- he’s just not confident enough in his financial stability or self to start looking back into options now.”

“Where do I play into this?”

“I want you to talk to him about it.” Suga said. He bit his bottom lip and stuffed his hands into his pockets. “That’s it. Just bring it up, chat with him a bit -- I know it would mean the world to him. Therapy would improve his confidence and self image drastically, and he’s an amazing addition to the staff here. I want that for him, and I know you do too. Please, just talk to him about it, promise me?”

Tobio opened his mouth to respond, but found that his words were stuck in his throat. Instead, he set his shoulders and nodded. Shou needed him.

Suga smiled again and squeezed Tobio’s shoulder. “I’ll page you up when he’s awake. I don’t expect you to stay all night, but I know you’re going to try regardless. Just promise me you’ll get some sleep?”

Kageyama nodded. “I’ll try my best.”

He gave Suga one last smile and returned to his seat in the waiting room. No way in hell was he leaving, not now, not when Shouyou needed him most. He was prepared to stay there the entire night if that meant he would be there when he woke up from surgery. Kageyama pulled his phone out of his pocket and shot Oikawa a quick text, let him know what happened and assured him that everything was going to be okay. At that, he tipped his head back against the hard plastic seat and closed his eyes. He drifted in and out of some place between sleep and waking life, not quite hearing what was going on around him, and not really caring.

He woke up to absolute chaos.

Asahi was in the middle of the room, arms spread wide, as if trying to block someone’s path with his sheer size of body. A woman stood before him with hands on her hips. Her brow was drawn together and her mouth was twisted into an annoyed sneer as she scolded Azumane.

“How dare you?! All of this happens, and his mother wasn’t even alerted? You’re running a real shame of a hospital, I’ll tell you that!”

“Ma’am, what we did was perfectly legal. We decided to do what was best for the patient out of the greater good.” For what it was worth, despite the sweat pouring down his face and the way his hands shook violently in front of him, Asahi never stuttered. He spoke to the woman in a calm, gentle tone.

“I don’t care! I am his mother, I deserve to know these things!”

Tobio stood up and cracked his back, a frown finding its way to his features. He stepped up behind Asahi and clasped his hands behind his back. “Excuse me, what’s going on, and why is it so loud?”

Asahi turned to him and muttered, “This is Mina’s mother. She --”

The woman turned thirty shades between white and red and stuck out her bottom lip. “Excuse me? Is that the name he’s been telling you to call him? I thought you were doctors. I wouldn’t have brought him here If I’d have known you don’t know anything about basic biology.”

Kageyama frowned. This wasn’t going to happen, not in his hospital. “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” He told her this in his most commanding tone and stepped in front of Asahi, effectively forcing the woman backwards.

She planted her fists on her hips. “But my son --”

Fire flashed behind his eyes. Tobio rose to his full height and took in a deep breath, sticking out his chest and looking down with the woman with an expression of barely restrained disgust. “Your daughter is still healing. She doesn’t need you here right now. In fact, I think she’d benefit from the opposite.”

The woman laced a hand on her chest, her jaw dropped in shock. “How dare you! I’ll -- I’ll have you fired!”

“I’m afraid a doctor can’t be fired for doing their job, nor can they be fired for protecting their patient. So I’m afraid I’m the one who gets to make this decision. Once more, step aside, ma’am.” Absolute malice dripped from his voice.

She went silent, and he knew; he had won this battle.

He placed a hand on Asahi’s bicep and watched as the woman was escorted out of the hospital by one of their security guards. As soon as she was out of sight, Asahi’s shoulders dropped and he sighed, leaning forward so his chin just brushed his chest.

“Hey, man, it’s okay. You did the right thing.”

Asahi let out a mirthless laugh. “Oh, yeah, that’s for damn sure. I’m just upset we can’t protect our patients from anything more than simple viruses.”

The sentiment stung Tobio. It was true, he supposed. They had no control over Mina’s home life, over Takeru’s parents and their bad habits. Hell, they couldn’t help Hinata love himself, and Tobio sure as hell couldn’t fix all of his problems easily. He had come to terms with this pretty early after starting medical school, but he guessed Asahi hadn’t had enough experiences with patients yet to become immune to the horrible pain that plagued someone who is supposed to help, but can’t.

He supposed that all he could do now was his bet. He had to try, he had to ensure that Shouyou had a figure in his life ho was solid and strong and would listen to him when the others in his life had given up on him. He couldn’t fix Shouyou. He couldn’t heal him, or the broken building that was his childhood home, or the pain in his chest -- but he could damn well try.

Chapter Text

When he saw Hinata, it almost took him to his knees.

It was an illustration of how resilient his boyfriend was (and god, that word made his heart swell with contentment), how he tried to sit up and reach for Tobio as soon as the man stepped into the room. He wanted to comfort him -- it was selfless, and futile, because he could barely move after such a procedure, but it made Tobio want to wrap him up in a blanket and take him home like a lost puppy.

“How do you feel?”

“I’m…” Hinata’s brow furrowed. “I don’t really know. Tired, I guess? What happened?”

Tobio chuckled, gingerly brushing his knuckle over Hinata’s forehead to push his sweaty bangs away from his eyes. “Do you want the long or the short version?”

Shouyou shrugged. “I’ve got time. ‘S not like I can get out of bed.”

Tobio sat down in the chair next to his bed. “Major atrophy in your uterus and ovaries cause a bunch of infections and bad bacteria to build up. They had to perform an emergency hysterectomy.” He let his fist drop to his own lap. He softened his voice and leaned back in the chair. “Suga thinks it’s because you were on testosterone and had to go off.”

He flinched at that, brown furrowing in what appeared to be disgust, judging by the twist of his mouth and the darkness in his eyes. Shouyou grit his teeth and let his eyes fall closed. “He’s right,” he confirmed. He sounded quite small.

Tobio bit his lip, unprepared for what he knew he had to say. He thought back to his conversation with Suga; I want that for him, and I know you do too. Please, just talk to him about it, promise me?

“Do you...you know, want to go back on?”

“What?”

“Testosterone,” Tobio amended. “Do you want to go on testosterone again?”

Hinata sighed, his hands making fists in the thin sheet that covered his body. “I don’t think it’s a question of want, but of possibility. I can’t afford to.”

“That won’t be an issue.”

Shouyou looked up at him, an eyebrow cocked. “What, you want to be my sugar daddy or something? Tobio, I love you, but I can’t just let you do everything for me. I have to do somethings on my own. I’m not going to be taken care of forever. That’s just not how it works.”

“Shou, I --”

“No! I have pride too, Kageyama.” he snapped. His voice broke halfway through.

Tobio swallowed, hard. He closed his eyes and let his head fall to rest in his hands -- this was the last thing he wanted to happen. He wanted to help Shouyou, not argue with him. Especially not make Shou hate him.“I just really, really want this for you, and I don’t want our situation to hold you back from loving yourself the way that you need to and -- why aren’t you saying anything? Talk to me Shou,” His voice trailed off until it was nothing more than a whisper.

Hinata gave him a little smile that was caught halfway between somber and ecstatic. “I just...I don’t know how you could possibly care for me as much as you do.”

“I --” Tobio paused. He didn’t know how to answer that. He wanted Hinata to be happy, to be content, to be his. The ‘why’ hadn’t been a big art of the thought process.

Because maybe that’s what he wanted. Maybe, in some corner of his mind, that was all that he desired from this. Was that it? For a moment, Tobio thought that it couldn’t be, but he realized, after a few moments of thinking, that he couldn’t care any fucking less.

Hinata was Hinata. And Tobio loved him, all of him, not because or why, but for him. Tobio didn’t need an explanation. All that he needed was to know Hinata could be happy.

And that ‘what if’ plagued him. Tobio’s happy theory was attainable. Hinata’s seemed to be much more difficult to arrive at. And no matter what, he would work as hard as he possibly could to reach it with him.

“I love you, Shouyou. I don’t know why, and that’s -- that’s okay, for me. It’s all I need to know.”

Shouyou nodded, letting his head rest against the soft pillows behind him. He closed his eyes, let his body relax into the hospital bed, and gripped Tobio’s hand tight.

He was silent for a long time.

Kageyama waited. He would always wait for him without complaint, dutifully and with trust, because if that’s what he needed to do, it would be done.

Hinata’s eyes opened once more, and he took in a deep breath and sighed. “I love you too.” he whispered. “But I have to do this for myself. I only want to go back on when I’m able to buy it for myself -- it won’t feel real otherwise.”

Tobio nodded. He pulled Hinata’s hand up and kissed his wrist, a featherlight touch of lips against skin. “Okay,” he said. “Just promise me one thing. You won’t stop talking to me about it, right? I don’t want you to shut me out of that part of your life.”

Shouyou nodded and promised. The painkillers and anesthesia finally took effect again, and he drifted slowly and firmly out of the realm of awareness, with the weight of another palm in his hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some point in the night, Tobio remembered the other promise he had made to Suga. His eyes were fighting him, trying to close against his will, and his body was aching with exhaustion. Hinata’s palm was still squeezed in his own and he didn’t want to let go. Most of all, he didn’t want to disturb his boyfriend when he was getting much-needed sleep.

He stood up from the hospital chair and lifted the thin covers of Shouyou’s white blanket. He toed his shoes off and crawled into bed next to him. N his sleep, Shouyou turned on his slide and nuzzled into Tobio’s chest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They were woken in the morning by the sound of the door opening.

Tobio blinked, shaking his head to rid it of sleep’s clutches, and peered over Hinata’s shoulder. Suga stood in the doorway, lab coat over his shoulders, clipboard in hand.

 

Suga cleared his throat, smiling. It was a completely happy and genuine smile. The sight alone still scared them, but hope resonated in their chests.

“Hello?” Kageyama mumbled. His voice sounded raspy to his own ears. “What is it?”

“Could you wake him up, please?” Suga asked, nodding towards Hinata.

“I’m already up. I’m just trying not to be.” said person mumbled. He nuzzled further into Tobio’s chest, small hands winding in the fabric of his shirt.

Suga sighed. “Please? I promise it’s worth it. You don’t even have to sit up, I just want to talk to you.”

With an internal eye roll, Shouyou rolled over onto his back. He pressed his side into Kageyama and rested his chin on the taller man’s shoulder. “What is it that’s so important you had to wake me up when I’m on painkillers?” he grumbled.

“Well...we could use more staff.” he said. “We know you’re graduating this year with a minor in psychology, and that you’re wonderful with the teens and -- we’d love for you to be on our team.”

Shouyou’s world paused around him. Tears welled up in his eyes threatening to spill over onto his cheeks, but they couldn’t, that would be so embarrassing, but he couldn’t stop it -- and suddenly, he was crying, clutching Tobio’s chest, his arms, wrapping his own around his waist and burying his face in the rough cloth of his doctor’s coat.

They were happy tears.

Surely, they were happy. he was happy, and by proxy, so was Kageyama.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When one lives in a cold, rainy city, you get used to pulling your coat up and protecting yourself from the wind.

And it was a cold city, inhabited mainly by people who weren’t used to the chill. They flocked under umbrellas every morning, jackets pulled tight to shield their cheeks from the wind that rained down for five months out of the year.

Kageyama Tobio lived in a city where it rained nearly everyday. Most people were used to the rain. They wished for the sun, of course, and they were happy when it was warm.

Tobio loved the rain. Because really, his sun was always beside him.