"Well," Suga says, "see you tomorrow."
This is the part where Kageyama leaves. He knows this. The rest of the group continues on the main road but he makes a right here, walks four blocks, then turns left and up the hill to his home. He has done this every day since the school year began.
He hesitates. He stares, instead, at the beauty mark beneath Suga's left eye.
Suga blinks at him. "Kageyama?" he says, waving a hand in front of his face. "Are you okay?"
"What did you do to Kageyama?" Hinata asks, and Suga laughs. Kageyama can hear the nerves in it.
"I don't know," Suga says. "Kageyama?"
"Call me Tobio," comes out of his mouth. Then he turns red. Daichi gives him a long look over Suga's left shoulder; Suga doesn't seem to notice.
Suga looks at him another moment, perplexed, and then breaks into a smile. "Well, okay," he says. "Are you not going home yet, Tobio?"
Kageyama turns even redder, if that's possible. He swallows hard and then says, "No. I'm leaving. Goodbye," and turns tail.
Hinata bursts into laughter behind him. He can feel Suga watching his back as he pelts his way down the street and thinks Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Kageyama’s phone chimes, waking him up from where he fell asleep on top of his pile of textbooks. Bleary-eyed, he fumbles it open to find a text from Suga.
How is studying coming?
I fell asleep he types back, yawning. Suga types a line of “wwwww” back at him.
If you don’t try harder I’ll make you do extra flying falls next practice.
Are you sure? What subject is it?
Kageyama squints down at the textbook he’s supposed to be reading. History
Ah, I see. Do you need any help with it, Tobio?
Kageyama drops his phone.
Then he picks it back up, his eyes flicking over the message, and then gingerly puts it down again. His mouth feels a little dry. I should study, like he said, he thinks. I’ll respond later.
But he keeps imagining Suga leaning over his shoulder as he sits at his desk, Suga whispering the names of dead historical generals into his ear. It is very hard to study when his ears are burning this much, he thinks. He puts his forehead down on top of his textbook and fists his hands in his hair instead.
After a few minutes, the phone chimes again. Am I bothering you? Should I stop sending you text messages?
Youre not bothering me, Kageyama replies as quickly as he can.
Oh. That’s good. Good luck! Let me know if there’s anything I can do.
You can call me Tobio again, he thinks, though he does not say so. He doesn’t reply and Suga doesn’t text again, leaving him with lines of black print on thin white paper and his own swirling thoughts.
"Good work," Kageyama says, frowning. Suga's eyes flick across his face and he can track the exact pattern of his thoughts—he's frowning, is it a bad frown?, no he's got those little crinkles around his eyes that mean he's just being overly serious, a good frown then—before Suga smiles back.
"Thanks, Tobio," he replies, and Kageyama's frown deepens. "Is that for me?" he says, reaching for the water bottle that Kageyama is holding suspended in the air between them. "I'm parched, thanks." He plucks it from Kagyama's unresisting fingers and takes a drink.
Kageyama watches his lips purse around the bottle. That was mine, he doesn't say. I'm thirsty too, he doesn't say. "Um," he manages.
Suga's eyes flick toward him as he swallows, and then finishes his drink with a sigh of relief. "Thanks," he says, clapping him on the shoulder. "You're a good kouhai sometimes."
Kageyama stares at the floor and does not say anything. His mind is a sea of confused and overexcited noise. He watches Suga’s feet before him for another moment, feels Suga hesitating, before he says “I think Ukai’s going to start the next set of drills soon, we should get ready,” and walks away.
“I don’t think Kageyama likes me,” he hears Suga saying the next week. Kageyama ducks back into the utility closet, hiding behind a bucket of brooms and mops for good measure. One of the brooms rattles a little as he elbows it in his haste. He glares at it.
“What makes you think that?” Kiyoko replies.
He can hear the squeaking of the winch as Suga lets the volleyball net down. “Every time I try to talk to him recently, he runs away or ignores me. I’m not that scary, am I?”
He peeks around the corner, unable to help himself. He sees Kiyoko shake her head, holding her end of the net steady as Suga starts to fold from his side. “I haven’t really noticed any difference,” she says. “He never talks much, except to Hinata.”
“That’s not true,” Suga says. “He used to talk to me sometimes. Sometimes, he’d text—” Suga stops himself short, frowning. Kiyoko gives him a curious look. “Nothing,” he says.
Kiyoko takes the net and Suga returns to the empty poles, heaving one out of the ground. Kageyama observes how the effort makes the muscles stand out in Suga’s arms and thighs.
“Did anything happen recently?” Kiyoko asks.
Suga lies the pole down and kneels to separate it into pieces. “I don’t know?” Suga says. “I’ve been trying to think of something. I’ve been pushing him to study because Takeda-senpai said his grades are slipping again, but that’s not new. The only other thing is that he asked me to start calling him by his first name a few weeks ago.”
There’s a pause. Suga turns and they both look at each other.
“Oh,” Suga says.
“Oh,” Kiyoko agrees.
“You don’t think—?”
“It’s an unusual request,” Kiyoko says neutrally.
Suga sighs. “I guess I’ll ask him about it.”
“Go easy on him,” Kiyoko says softly. Kageyama’s eyes widen in surprise.
Suga laughs, a little despairing. “I don’t think it’s me you should be saying that to,” he says. As he breaks down the second pole the conversation changes topics, to something that another third-year in Suga’s class did that day. Suga picks the dismantled poles up and the two of them head toward the closet to put everything away.
The utility closet. Where Kageyama is. His eyes dart around the room looking for hiding places, but the best place is right where he is, against the brooms and mops. He takes a few shaky breaths and slides down the wall into a kneeling position, folding his arms and resting his head on top.
Pretend to be asleep, he thinks furiously to himself. Pretend you didn’t hear anything.
Their steps are getting closer, and he hears the rare sound of Kiyoko’s laugh. They walk past him, still chatting. They haven’t noticed him yet. Relax. Relax your shoulders. Relax. You’re asleep.
“And then Daichi—Kageyama?” Suga says.
“Oh,” Kiyoko says, “he’s asleep.”
Suga doesn’t say anything for a long moment. I’m asleep, Kageyama thinks.
“Go on ahead,” he says at last. “I’ll make sure he gets home.”
They say their good-byes and Kageyama hears the jingle of keys as Kiyoko hands them over, Suga promising to lock up behind them. Then there’s a long beat of silence.
“Did you hear us talking?” Suga says.
Kageyama doesn’t answer. He focuses on keeping his next exhale measured and slow.
Suga sighs and presses his index finger to the top of Kageyama’s forehead, tilting his head back. Kageyama’s eyes pop open. Suga’s face is very close to his, and frowning.
“Don’t lie,” Suga says. “It’s a bad habit.”
Kageyama blinks back, then his lips tighten.
“Sorry,” he mumbles.
Suga watches him another moment, as if to ascertain that he means it, before his stern look softens. He pats him on the shoulder. “How long have you been sitting there?” he says. “Do you need a hand up?”
He does not need a hand up. “Maybe,” he says.
Suga’s hands are rather similar to his: long-fingered, his nails worn down from athletics, and rough in the same places. The handhold doesn’t linger once Kageyama is steady on his feet. “I’ll walk you home,” he says, “since you’re so tired.”
Kageyama blushes at the rebuke. “I said I’m sorry,” he says, louder this time.
Suga glances away from him, scratching at his cheek. “I know,” he says after a moment. “I’m just...I should say sorry, too. I’m worked up about stuff, and taking it out on you.” He frowns off to the side for a second, and then says, “Do you have all your things? You’re not forgetting anything?”
“I’m good,” Kageyama says, bending down to lift the strap of his bag onto his shoulder. “You don’t have to walk me home.”
“It’s a good way to talk,” Suga says, and Kageyama feels like he’s caught under a spotlight.
Still, he doesn’t protest any further, and the two of them walk in silence outside. The air is chilly, refreshing after the humid air inside the gymnasium. Kageyama takes a deep, bracing breath of it.
“Do you want me to go back to calling you Kageyama?” Suga asks.
Kageyama looks down the street. It’s somewhere between twilight and full night, but the streetlamps aren’t on yet. The road is deserted except for the two of them.
Suga told him not to lie, so he doesn’t. “No.”
“Tobio,” Suga says experimentally, and Kageyama can’t stop his hands from twitching. “It makes you uncomfortable.”
He does not know how to answer that truthfully; both yes and no are inaccurate. He fidgets instead.
Suga lets the silence linger for a moment, watching Kageyama out of the corner of his eye. The streetlamps finally turn on above them, one at a time, illuminating the path they’re walking upon. Does Suga know where they’re going? Kageyama isn’t thinking very well, but he thinks he can get them to his house based on habit, if nothing else.
“Why did you ask me to call you Tobio?” Suga says.
“Because I wanted you to.”
Suga hums. “I was surprised when you asked,” he said. “But it made me...” he shrugs a little, dissembling. Kageyama is not the only one with bad habits. “It made me kind of happy.”
Kageyama boggles at him. “Why?”
Suga tenses next to him, thinking. “The first time we all walked home together,” he says slowly, “and you split off to go to your house, I said, ‘Get home safe.’ Do you remember that?”
Suga snorts, but continues anyway. “I say that to everyone, so I guess it’s not surprising. But then a little later I got a text from you. It said, ‘I got home safely. Thank you.’ And I thought about...you must have just gotten home, considering it had only been ten or so minutes since you’d gone your own way. I thought about you texting me while standing just inside your door, before you had even taken off your shoes. I thought about you thinking about me...and...” Suga wrings his hands a little. “Well, anyway,” Suga says. “It made me a little happy, that’s all.”
Kageyama looks at him. Suga flicks his eyes over and then looks up at the sky, biting his lip. “Sorry,” he murmurs.
“What are you sorry for?” Kageyama says. “You’re right. When I walk home, I think about you the whole time.”
Suga’s steps slow. Kageyama stops too, watching Suga’s face. They’re under a streetlamp and Suga is staring up at an angle past it, at the sky above them, though the stars must all be washed out. He looks as if he is thinking very hard.
“I like calling you Tobio,” he says. “And…I like that no one else does.”
“Oh. That’s good,” Kageyama says.
“When you asked me...it made me feel like I was, um, special.”
“You are special,” Kageyama says. His voice sounds kind of angry, but it’s only because he’s stressed out. “Really special,” he adds, just in case. “Also, um, you drank out of my water bottle during practice today. I thought you should know. Sorry.”
Suga stares at him. Kageyama is close enough to watch the slow creep of his blush. Then he starts to laugh.
Kageyama stares, bewildered, as Suga doubles over with laughter, clutching at his ribs. His shoulders are shaking, and he reaches out to steady him but then thinks better of it. When Suga looks up he finds Kageyama with his hand awkwardly hovering in the middle distance between them, a flustered look on his face. He groans and reaches out for him without thought, bumping their fingertips together. Suddenly Kageyama feels his own face heat, too. He wonders if blushes can be catching.
“Oh my god,” he says, “you’re the worst at this. We are both the worst.”
“You’re not the worst at anything,” Kageyama says, frowning. “You’re better than me at lots of things.”
Suga flexes his fingers so that they slip between the spaces of Kageyama’s outstretched hand, and tugs a little. In response, Kageyama stretches out his arm until his elbow locks. “No,” he says, smiling, “please just come here.”
Kageyama takes a step towards him, confused, and then stiffens when Suga wraps him in a hug.
“Hmm, you really are tall,” he says, propping his chin on Kageyama’s shoulder.
“Yes,” Kageyama agrees; and then, because they seem to be trading statements of fact, says, “You’re hugging me.”
“Mm,” Suga replies. “I am definitely hugging you.” His arms tighten a little around Kageyama’s waist. Kageyama cannot remember how he possibly thought the evening was cold. “I’d like to do it more often, if that’s okay with you.” His voice softens. “Is that okay with you?”
“Yes,” he says, his voice rushing out of him. “Yes. Please.”
Suga laughs and Kageyama can feel it against him, as if his mirth is a physical thing that could sink into his bones. I made him laugh, Kageyama thinks. I made him happy.
“Okay,” Suga says. “Let’s give this a try, then.”
Suga’s phone chimes just as he turns away from the front door of Kageyama’s house. I got home safely.
Suga rolls his eyes. I know you did. I just watched you walk inside.
Text me when you get home too, Kageyama persists, ever stubborn.
I will, Suga replies.