"Hinata-kun, you're friends with Kageyama-kun from Class 3?"
"Mm? Yeah, I guess."
Hinata's classmate, Ishida, looked a little impressed. She gave him a lopsided smile. "Isn't he a little… scary?"
Another girl piped up. "Yeah, he's a little good-looking, but he's always glaring at anyone who talks to him." A chorus of assent went up around the classroom, a few other students joining them.
While Hinata was grateful for the distraction from his work, he was a little annoyed that all they wanted to talk about was Kageyama. Still though- scary? Hinata was certainly often afraid of the other boy- usually because he had done something to piss him off- but he overall just seemed like any other guy.
"I was under the impression that he didn't have any friends. He's always alone. I guess except when he's with Hinata?"
Ishida wheeled on him again, a wild, worried look in her eyes. "Is he threatening you or something, Hinata-kun?!"
"Wh-what? No!" Hinata shook his head violently. A surge of loyalty rose up in him. They argued a lot, but in the end, Kageyama was also the one who gave him the best tosses. And he was fun to hang out with once in a while, especially when they were practicing. And he had been trying his best to get better at communication. Hinata felt mostly pity for Kageyama, remembering just how little his ex-teammates liked him. "Yeah, he's kind of a jerk sometimes. A lot of the time, honestly. But he's just shy! … I think?"
"Shy?" His classmates all gave him a disbelieving look.
A shiver ran over his spine as he remembered that horrifying smile from the Aoba Jousai game. "Something like that."
There was the low hum of muttering as the rest of his class considered this. It quickly died down as the teacher came in, shouting, to sit down and pay attention. His classmates retreated to their desks, but from time to time he still caught whispers that sounded like Kageyama's name.
Hinata doubted the others had believed him, but it hardly mattered. He wasn't sure Kageyama could handle having too many friends anyway.
"Hey, Kageyama! Want to help me practice receives?" Hinata called as he bounded into the other boy's classroom at lunch break. A wide grin was plastered across his face. He was full of energy he was dying to expend, especially after he and the setter shared a laugh over the events of that morning. "You wouldn't believe what the girls in my class were asking me about earlier!"
To his surprise, Kageyama listlessly shook his head. His face looked a little flushed and he had one of his restrained, awkward smiles on. "Sorry. I got asked to eat lunch with some other guys already." He suddenly slammed his face onto the desk, his expression slightly pained. "They were so pushy. I'd rather play volleyball…"
"Aren't you happy, though? People want to be friends with you. I—"
"I don't know how to feel. Do you think I'm being bullied?" Kageyama's hand shot out and grabbed the sleeve of Hinata's uniform. His eyes were wild with what was probably fear. "Hinata. You have to come with me. I could probably handle one or two of them. But there are at least five…"
"Woah, woah, Kageyama! Calm down! I'm sure they just want to be friends." The other boy was acting as if they were going to jump him, stealing glances at the door like a trapped animal. Hinata decided then against telling Kageyama just why his classmates were suddenly so friendly. He'd probably earn a swift smack to the head for it, or… he shuddered to think of what else.
Kageyama's social awkwardness was even worse than he'd thought. With a bit of guilt, Hinata realized he must be remembering what it was like in junior high. Though he felt a bit bad for him, part of him believed it was good for Kageyama to socialize with other people. Shock therapy, or something.
"Why would they suddenly want to be friends?" Kageyama drooped back down into his seat, clutching his head in his hands. "I don't think I can do this…"
A couple of guys from Hinata's class popped into the room. All eyes turned to them as they called for Kageyama, and the same kind of confused whispering from earlier started up. It seemed that his own classmates had the same feeling about him. Hinata slapped Kageyama's back encouragingly, laughing, trying desperately to usher the other boy out before he realized just who caused all this. "Just go have fun!"
Robotically Kageyama rose from his seat, shooting Hinata a glare for abandoning him as he left the room. "I'm coming." His voice sounded strained.
Kageyama's actually kind of a nice guy. He can't mess this up. Hinata thought. As long as he doesn't try to smile.
"Sorry, Hinata-kun. He just left."
It was the sixth time he'd tried that week, only to be turned down. And it was the seventeenth or eighteenth time he'd tried at all. Hinata was beginning to get frustrated. Practicing with his other teammates was fun, but it was nothing like the satisfaction he got when he was with Kageyama. Plus, Kageyama always gave him a few of his favorite tosses at the end of lunch, especially when he'd been receiving well.
He walked into the courtyard with Sugawara and Tanaka in tow, then suddenly froze. Kageyama was surrounded by a group of girls on some benches, sharing lunch. Kageyama was even smiling a little bit, though he looked thoroughly embarrassed and uncomfortable. Hinata felt his heart and smile drop.
"That bastard. Spending lunch surrounded by cute girls!" Tanaka clenched his fist, looking ready to fight him. Hinata yelped and grabbed both of his upperclassmen by the sleeve to hide behind the vending machines. "Don't you just want to give him a piece of your mind too, Hinata?"
Alarmed, Hinata covered his mouth. "Shh!"
"It's nice that Kageyama is making friends outside the volleyball team."
"I guess. But he's never around to practice with me anymore. Ah, not that it's not fun to play with you guys!" His upperclassmen gave him looks as Hinata waved his hands wildly. Defeated, he slouched forward and sighed. "This sucks. I—"
Something snapped inside. What was he going to say, that he missed him?
"I wanted to hit some of his tosses." He finished lamely.
Sugawara yanked the back of Tanaka's collar as the second-year was about to spring out, pulling him away. He smiled gently, trying to placate the two of them. "We can skip receives today and just do spikes today, okay? Let's go to the gym."
Tanaka's expression brightened up then, and Hinata gave his biggest grin as well. Still, he couldn't shake how unsettled he felt, looking back only once before he let Sugawara lead him away.
"Hinata, let's go to the courtyard. I'll toss for you." Kageyama leaned over in front of Hinata, who was face-down on his desk. He turned to greet some of the other boy's classmates, his ears turning a little red.
"'m busy." Hinata mumbled.
"Haa?" Kageyama looked incredulous. In what world would Hinata not drop everything to practice spiking? He ground his volleyball into the back of Hinata's head, slightly irritated. "Is licking your desk fun? C'mon already, dummy."
"Why don't you go hang out with your new friends?" Hinata sulked. It came out much more bitterly than he wanted it to, and he immediately regretted saying anything. He knew better than to provoke Kageyama into an argument.
"I want to play volleyball."
A couple girls peeked over from the other side of the room, ready to pounce. Kageyama was good-looking; all that had prevented people from approaching him before was his bad attitude. Hinata let out a long sigh. "I don't want to. Play volleyball with them."
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Kageyama tried to pull Hinata by the shoulders to face him, but the smaller boy refused to budge. People started to whisper, causing Kageyama to flinch back, embarrassed.
"Nothing, okay?!" Hinata stood and grabbed his lunch in one quick motion, running for the door. "I'm—I'm gonna go eat lunch with Tsukishima and Yamaguchi!"
Now Kageyama really knew something was wrong.
He was in a bad mood. Hinata knew he shouldn't go to the other two freshmen if he wanted to feel better. Plus, then if Kageyama was looking for him- not that he would be, he had girls to play with now- he would be found. But he also didn't want to hide and be alone. After wandering aimlessly for awhile, Hinata stopped in front of the captains' classroom.
It was probably safe; safe as he could get, anyway. Hinata slapped his face a couple of times to perk himself in before peeking his head in. "Sugawara-sempai! Do you want to practice?"
His voice lacked enthusiasm, he knew. But if the upperclassmen had noticed, they ignored it. "Sure, just a minute! Daichi, want to join us? You can show Hinata how to receive better than I can."
The captain made a noise before slurping down the rest of his noodles. "Where to?"
"The court-" Hinata shook his head, remembering last time. It was likely the girls in his class had dragged Kageyama there again. He felt a rush of jealousy at the thought (because Kageyama was surrounded by girls, not because of Kageyama, obviously) and quickly corrected himself. "The gym?"
Exactly what Suga was telling me about before. Sugawara and Sawamura exchanged a look before nodding. They each got up and grabbed Hinata by an arm, leading the boy out backwards as he squawked in disdain. Others turned to stare at the three of them as they passed through the hallways, so he stopped struggling and followed in shame. They finally reached the locker rooms and sat Hinata down on a bench, with one upperclassman on either side.
"Yep." Sugawara gently laid a hand on Hinata's shoulder, who just stared back like a deer in headlights. It was almost like he was getting sat down by his parents to have a talk. Reflexively, he felt guilty, slouching down in his seat and averting eye contact. "Hinata. Why don't you tell us what's wrong?"
"Huh?" Jolting at the sound of his name, Hinata's voice was forced and overdramatic, and his smile was more nervous than confused. "I don't know what you're talking about!" He let out a sharp bark of unconvincing laughter.
Sawamura joined in with a heavy sigh. "Look, we weren't going to step in because it hasn't been affecting your play too much. But as your upperclassmen- and more importantly, as your friends- we want to know what's going on."
Hinata relented. He put his face in his hands, his fake smile slipping. "I don't know. I'm… annoyed, I guess…"
That was obvious enough. Hinata was terrible at hiding his emotions, and his whole demeanor had lacked its usual energy when he went to spike Kageyama's tosses. "What about him?" Suga asked, smiling reassuringly.
Hinata mumbled something into his palms. "Come on, Hinata." Sawamura was frowning, exasperation becoming evident in his voice.
"… all the time."
The freshman stifled a loud sigh, sensing that the captain's tone meant he should be obedient. Listlessly, he lifted his head, though he still refused to meet their eyes. "Kageyama doesn't have time for me—to practice with me, I mean! Any more. He's with girls all the time." His lip jutted out sullenly.
"Hinata, are you jealous?" Sugawara's mouth was wide, a hint of amusement playing over his gaze.
"No!" Hinata shouted quickly. "I mean… fine, maybe. I thought it would be good for Kageyama to make some friends outside the volleyball team, but I didn't think he would just abandon m—us!"
"Huh? No, I meant—Hinata, you're jealous of the girls?"
"No! … maybe?!" A shocked expression flashed across Hinata's face before he slumped down, looking miserable. "Oh man, this is worse than I thought."
Sugawara and Sawamura jumped to their feet, yelling to try and reassure their teammate.
"There's nothing wrong with it!"
"So you have a little crush on Kageyama. You know what they say, Japan gets more and more progressive every day!"
Hinata's eyes turned wide as saucers as the realization clicked into place, and he began rubbing his face violently. "Oh man. I have… I have a crush on Kageyama? That jerk? No. Nonono. This is even worse than I thought. This is the worst!"
"A-ah! I just assumed—"
"No, you're right…" The freshman groaned, his mouth twisted painfully. "Captain… can I not think about this right now? I don't think I can handle it. If I spike a couple times, maybe my head'll feel a little clearer…"
Feeling a bit guilty, Sawamura and Sugawara couldn't say no.
After about twenty minutes, Hinata's cries of "one more!" were regaining a bit of their intensity. The kid was definitely resilient, as Sawamura had come to expect of him. He smiled more widely at each successful return, pride swelling in his chest. It was quenched only by the fact that he knew he and Sugawara would have to deal with Hinata's inevitable crash once lunch break was over. The freshman always experienced such intense feelings, but then again, it was also one of his strengths.
The loud scratching of the door to the gymnasium sliding open caused Hinata to break his return streak, the ball hitting him in the face. There was a long pause as the three of them turned slowly to look, the air instantly turning cold.
"Hinataaa…." A threatening aura was rising from the entrance, where a very angry Kageyama was standing eerily stark-still. His eyes were wide and a smile spread across his face.
For a moment, Hinata froze as his fight or flight response took time to kick in. He started backing up slowly, then took off at a full-speed run. Kageyama shouted something unintelligible as he tore after him, leaving Sugawara and Sawamura behind and speechless.
Hinata scrambled around a corner, kicking dry dirt up in his wake as he slipped. He yelped, rolling but recovering with a jump, and turned his head momentarily to see how much distance had been put between them. Unfortunately, Kageyama's legs were much longer than his, and he was keeping up. "Why are you chasing meeeeee-?!"
"Stop running, dumbass!" Kageyama only shouted after him, putting his whole body into sprinting. People were diving left and right to get out of their way, but neither of them paid any attention. He was pretty sure a teacher had yelled at them to stop, though they had been too fast for him to get a clear picture of their faces. "Listen to me, dammit!"
"Hell no! Stop following me!" Hinata yelled back, adrenaline pumping through his veins. He'd closed his eyes for only a moment to focus, and when he reopened them he realized he was running straight for a wall. He leaped, rebounding off of it and turning 90 degrees violently with a grunt.
Kageyama's shoulder slammed into it, the brooms that were leaning against his clattering down under his feet. "Shit!" He wasn't as agile as Hinata, but he was angry, and he clambered to his feet to continue his chase at double speed. The other boy was within his reach now. He swung his arms back to accelerate quickly and jumped, tackling Hinata down as both of them screamed.
Hinata was pinned down under him, his shoulders slammed into the grass with Kageyama's balled fists behind them. He was face down, his nose bleeding from sudden impact with the ground. But he felt more pain than from just his physical injuries.
"What's your deal?! You said you didn't want to play volleyball!" Kageyama demanded, digging his fingers into the other's arms. Now the exertion was catching up with him, and his words were punctuated by ragged gasps.
"I didn't! Not with you!" Hinata struggled to free himself, but Kageyama was much taller and heavier than he was. All his instincts were firing, trying to escape in vain. The places where Kageyama's legs and hands were pressed roughly into his body were burning, almost painfully.
"Haaa? What's that supposed to mean? Why not?"
"Because you have new friends now!"
"What are you, in middle school? Are you making fun of me?"
Hinata attempted to shake his head, but he only managed to get dirt mixed up with the blood and snot in his nose. He felt an acute sense of shame for acting so childishly, but he wasn't about to admit it. "Fine! I regret it, okay! I told the kids in my class you were a nice guy."
Shocked but a little pleased by the sudden praise, Kageyama released his hold. His face turned red. "Th… thanks?" The words sounded foreign coming out of his mouth.
Hinata was too exhausted by a storm of emotions to get up. His next words were muttered into the ground, nearly inaudible to Kageyama. "… But I hate it."
"What was that?"
Biting his lip, Hinata turned his head to the side so he could look at Kageyama with one eye. "I said I don't like it, okay? I…" He gulped, feeling suddenly embarrassed as he remembered his early realization. "I miss when you hung out with me all the time. Now you're always surrounded by girls, because they realized you're attractive."
"A—attractive?" Kageyama was starting to get a little scared. Dour tone aside, Hinata was usually only this flattering when they were making plays together. Still, his heart skipped a beat. He liked the way it sounded coming from Hinata. The redness of the other boy's cheeks snapped him out of his thoughts. "Oi, Hinata. Are you sick or something?"
"Nah." Hinata sounded miserable, though his expression was blank.
An uncomfortable silence fell between them, and Kageyama lifted up off of Hinata to sit next to him once he was sure the other boy wouldn't run. He felt intensely awkward, unsettled that Hinata wasn't saying anything and knowing it was up to him to make him talk. He knew Hinata was upset about something, but he still wasn't good at reading others. The cogs in his mind clicked until he finally settled on trying a compliment. Hinata usually responded well to those.
"Uh… I missed hanging out with you this week too." Kageyama immediately curled his knees up to his face, mortified by his own feelings. "The others- I don't know if we're—friends? Anyway, it's just… not the same." He trailed off, peeking at Hinata sideways through the gap between his arms and legs.
There was only a noncommittal grunt in response.
Kageyama continued. "I like you-" Hinata sucked a breath in- "—better than them." He let the breath out slowly, disappointed. Still, it made him a little happy. Kageyama felt a little proud when Hinata rolled over onto his back, though he covered his eyes with his arm so his expression was still hard to read.
Hinata, meanwhile, was overcome by his feelings. Now that he was conscious of them, he was impatient to scream them out. But love- or whatever this was- wasn't like his usual feelings that were easy to express. This had potential consequences, and it kept him oscillating between action and inaction. He moved his feet back and forth, antsy like when he didn't know an answer on an exam. But Hinata was an impulsive sort, and it didn't take him long to make a decision.
"Hey, Kageyama." Hinata said suddenly, quietly.
Deep breath. "I think I might have a crush on you." Hinata could swear he was exhaling now in time with his rapidly beating heart, that his words were as shaky as his body felt. "I was jealous."
He tried futilely to avoid eye contact, but couldn't help that curiosity caused his eyes wandered over to Kageyama's. Hinata was shocked when instead of disgust, or confusion, he was met instead by that restrained expression the other boy got when he was excited. Kageyama wasn't looking at him, and he quickly threw his head back onto the ground, not wanting to see what came next. After all, he might've just read it wrong.
Warmth gingerly met the back of his hand, then slipped around it. Kageyama twisted Hinata's hand around before interlocking their fingers, his eyes locked on to where they were touching. Their arms were bent at awkward angles, but he was too nervous to change it. He was red now up to his ears- but then, so was Hinata. When the smaller boy looked up to see what kind of face Kageyama was making, he'd already turned away.
"Thanks. F… for telling other people you think I'm nice." Kageyama mumbled awkwardly. "But… I'd much rather spend my lunch break with you." His voice was almost inaudible by the end, but Hinata held his breath and caught every word. Kageyama's fingers were trembling now on Hinata's own, so he gave them a quick, unsure squeeze to try to calm him. His were just as unsteady, though, feeling almost as they were going to burn off.
"Does this mean we're dating now?" Hinata blurted out.
"D-dumbass." Quickly Kageyama covered his face with his other arm. "… do you want to?"
"Okay. … Me too."
The bell started ringing, signaling the end of the break period. The two of them rose to their feet, still wobbly from physical and emotional exertion. Kageyama's hand was hot in his own as the other boy led him back into the building.
Hinata grinned despite himself. Maybe it was selfish, but he wanted to keep monopolizing everything about Kageyama- his tosses, his praise, and his time. He was a jerk, but he was nice underneath- and though he was proud that other people finally saw it too, Hinata had discovered another side of the boy that now belonged solely to him.
"Are you going to tell the girls about us?"
"W-wait! Don't do that, idiot! Are you listening to me, Kageyama?!"