"Man, this is gonna be so much fun!"

Shoyou, despite being slightly confused about this whole situation, agreed with Yū's assessment with great enthusiasm. He hadn't had a sleepover in forever! Not since Kōji's last birthday, just before they left middle school -and that had been epic!

He'd said as much to Yū, who was walking beside him with even more bounce to his step than usual -which perfectly accompanied the stupid grin plastered across every inch of his face. According to him, this sleepover was going to be even better than that! Which made sense, because this time he had someone he could chat to about volleyball all night -which he hadn't had at any of his past sleepovers.

Add to that the fact Yū was the coolest senpai ever, and they were onto a winner!

It was so spontaneous, as well! One moment, he'd been preparing to make the dreaded, hateful, scary bike-ride home in the dark, by himself -and the next he'd been invited to stay with Yū for the night.

Shoyou wondered whether this was a part of growing up, suddenly becoming all cool and easy-going like Yū was. Being able to do fun stuff without planning it in advance, or having to run it past parents. If that was the case, then he couldn't wait!

Maybe he'd even catch another growth spurt!

The only potential snag in their master-plan was that Shoyou hadn't been expecting to stay round anyone's house for the night when he'd left home earlier, meaning he didn't have any of his over-night stuff with him. His mum had said she'd swing by and drop it off later, though -so it shouldn't be a problem.

It was just that, if she found that Yū 'couldn't be trusted' to look after him, Shoyou knew she'd have him out of there in an instant -which would suck immensely.

Hopefully, she would see how great of a senpai he was, and Shoyou was pretty sure he'd spoken highly enough of him anyway. Besides, Yū's parents were going to be around all night -so, again, it shouldn't be a problem. His mum would just have to talk to Yū's mum, and they'd do that 'mum' thing where'd they'd understand each-other perfectly without having to say much -his dad had always said it was voodoo magic- and everything would be fine.

They walked together through town, chatting excitedly about this-and-that. Their conversations went on forever, because having the medium of expressive sound-effects at one's disposal could elongate any discussion by a mile. That just made them more fun, though, because longer conversations meant more talking -and more talking meant more fun. Anyway, Shoyou felt that he expressed himself better through motion. He'd never been so good with words, so it was the next best thing really -and he was pretty good at it too!

Some people, once they'd observed his medium of explanation, might have called it 'weird'.

Shoyou thought that those people didn't know what they were talking about: it was called acting!

Back to the present, Shoyou was finding it slightly strange to be taking much-the-same route that he used to get to-and-from school every day. He knew that Yū went home this way already -because they walked it together sometimes. Not often though, because Yū usually walked home with Tanaka after club activities -and Shoyou couldn't hang around anyway. They would normally stop at the local store -run by Ukai- to buy a load of junk-food; probably with the goal of making their coach blow a gasket when he saw them eating so poorly.

They would then proceed to sit and gouge themselves for a few hours until they decided it was time to go home. Shoyou always wished he could hang about with them, but he couldn't wait around long before he really had to go home. The less dark it was, going through those trees on the mountain road, the better it was for his sanity.

Maybe, once someone had figured out the best way of medicating -or otherwise combatting- his phobia, he would stick around with them after school sometime. For now, though, he was content to spend the day practising volleyball with them -and the rest of the team as well.

They got to the junction at which they usually parted and turned left, away from the mountain road that would have taken Shoyou in the direction of home. From here-on, he had no idea where he was going.

He'd never been to Yū's house before, because they hadn't ever really thought to do much outside of school. This was largely because they already played volleyball together, which meant that they spent a large amount of time around each-other anyway. Not that it wouldn't be fun to hang out together more often, it was just that Yū was usually busy -doing some cool 'senpai thing', or another. The only time they'd met up outside school was for Kageyama's birthday, for which they'd forcibly pulled him out of the house to something fun -rather than just spend it by himself. Otherwise, they'd just never been able to -or thought to- meet up.

But now, they had finally managed to sync their schedules -and it was going to be awesome! The best way to round off a good week!

Monday hadn't been much to talk about, but that was normal; Mondays were pretty-lame in general. After that was when things had started to get good. On Tuesday, they'd won their practice match against one of the other schools in the prefecture (Shoyou had forgotten which one it was, they hadn't been very memorable), and all gone out for food afterwards. Shoyou had been a little greedy, seeing as Takeda-sensei had been paying, and ordered a steak -which was slightly on the expensive side. He'd been persuaded to order it by Takeda himself, though, so it was okay.

They'd followed up with a relaxing Wednesday of light drills, followed by game-planning and analysis -which Shoyou actually found exciting. It was cool to see how their formations would look on the court, and everyone got to contribute their thoughts on what the best plan was. Those sessions was when they got all their individual feedback, as well; development points and the like. Finding out what he had to work on was always cool, even if it was receives; which it usually was.

After that, Thursday had been pretty standard -but standard was good.

Standard was a satisfying training session, with a lot of spiked balls and all-around improvement for the whole team. Shoyou liked standard.

He always aimed to improve, that went without saying, but having a session in which nothing went wrong was always nice. Especially after the dire session he'd had the previous Saturday. But there was a reason for that, wasn't there?

Shoyou grimaced internally, trying to ward the memories of the dark, cold gymnasium away. To get them back into that little box in his brain, into which he put everything he didn't want to think about. A category that his phobia, as well as everything related to it, fell squarely into.

His couldn't believe that his secret was out now, when he'd been trying so hard to cover it up.

Not because he didn't trust anyone on the team, not at all, he just didn't want to give anyone another reason to write him off. Being short, relatively inexperienced, and not having the same amount of skill as most other people on his team was bad enough. Adding nyctophobia and insomnia to the list would just add insult to injury.

But, now that it was out in the open, he didn't feel as bad about it as he thought he would. It was sort-of relieving -in a way. He didn't have to pretend he was full of energy when he was anything but, and he certainly didn't have to worry about staying extra-late for practice anymore.

If it looked like he was flagging badly -or like practice was going to run way over its usual finishing time- Daichi would make an excuse for him, and Suga would usher him out the door like the mother-hen that he was. They didn't make a huge fuss out of it, despite that, and somehow managed to operate with a quiet discretion that never made Shoyou the centre of attention -even if he was leaving early.

Which, beforehand, was unheard of.

That he was aware of, the only other people that knew were Coach Ukai, Takeda-sensei, and Yū. If he were anyone else, Shoyou might have questioned the latter's knowledge -but because he wasn't, he just accepted it as another helpful senpai.

Shortly after they'd taken the fork, they arrived at the Nishinoya household. It was a fairly-simple-looking building, all grey walls and square windows -with a plain, brick wall surrounding it. What caught Shoyou's attention -once the front gate had been opened- were the flowers in the front garden, a vibrant array of yellows and reds, intermingled with blues and pinks in-order-to make a dazzling display of colour.

"Pretty-cool, huh?" said Yū, whom bore the grin of someone who'd known exactly how another would react to seeing this. "It's Mum's pride-and-joy! She spends hours out here."

All the response that Shoyou could give was a quiet "Amazing…", because that's what it was. His own mother liked to have plants in their garden, but she didn't have as much time to dedicate to it as she'd like -so it was always a basic arrangement of flowers that didn't need as much looking after. This was on a whole different level.

Yū laughed aloud, pleased by this reaction on behalf of his mother. Then, he led Shoyou inside the house.

As it turned out, Yū's father was just as exuberant as his son -as well as the same height. In fact, they were very similar in general. They both had lively, brown eyes and hair that looked more natural in a spiked-state than it did when it was flat. They had roughly the same stature, with the junior of the two being slightly skinnier, and both had a lightness of step that had them bouncing around the house like they were on pogo-sticks. To round it all off, they were both equally as excitable when it came to the topic of volleyball.

He'd been extraordinarily thrilled that Yū was having a friend over, because his son 'never brought friends round anymore', apparently. Shoyou had no idea why that was, because -so far- Yū's house was awesome. Maybe it was because he got more exercise if he went to his friends, rather than having them come to him -that seemed like a mature thing to do. He really did have smart senpais.

Whatever the reason, Nishinoya-san seemed to feel as if he had some catching-up to do when it came to hosting -and had foisted upon them every snack item under the sun barely ten minutes after they'd got there.

What was more, he seemed to know a lot about Shoyou.

He had figured out very-quickly that this friend was the Hinata Shoyou: 'The Ultimate Decoy'. Which gave Shoyou the distinct impression that he'd been the subject for a great amount of talk amongst this family, and had little idea what he should feel about this information. Mostly, he found himself feeling distinctly flattered. He'd never been aware of anyone talking about him before, especially not in a positive manner -the experience was quite novel.

He was then bombarded with volleyball-related questions for the next few hours, the tide of enquiry only stopping for a round of take-out food (which they weren't to tell Yū's mother about) before beginning anew. He recounted his favourite teams, players, positions, and all points in-between -which served very well in tiring him out. He didn't mind at all, having to answer so many questions. In fact, he enjoyed it. Nobody ever asked him about any of this stuff, and it was nice to compare notes.

Once the questioning had been completed, the two boys went to Yū's room -where all the games were- and proceeded to give themselves square eyes for the rest of the night. Yū had all the best games, as well as the latest console, so they had no shortage of things to play -and all of them were a new experience for Shoyou. His parents were reluctant to buy him these sorts of things, because they were worried that he'd spend too much time on them -not that he would, of course. What that meant was that he'd never played any of these games, only older ones that he could get on the GameCube he'd had since he was eight.

He'd beg his mother when he got home tomorrow. It wouldn't be the first-time, but it would be different now that he knew what he wanted -he was sure of it.

Speaking of his mother, she'd had swung by to drop his stuff off at some stage.

She hadn't stayed long, and hadn't bothered the boys, but was apparently satisfied enough with the maturity of Yū's parents to leave him there. Shoyou did feel a little bad for thinking that Yū's mother must have been the one to answer the door, though. Even though he hadn't spoken to her yet.

He just assumed that she must have been far more collected than her husband was, otherwise the house would have been complete pandemonium -and certainly wouldn't have had such a nice display of flowers out the front. There'd be a lot more volleyball paraphernalia on the walls as well, if Nishinoya-san was to be believed.

Now that he had his bag of overnight things, and now that the hour had grown exceptionally late, it was mutually agreed that sleep would be the best option. Whether-or-not that agreement was reached after Shoyou had already fallen asleep three times was neither here-nor-there. So, a short-time later, the lights were out -and Shoyou was wrapped up in two blankets on the spare futon.

He lay there for a time, silently, staring up at the ceiling. The shadows, which had been kept at bay by the ceiling light, had snapped across the surface as soon as it was extinguished -as was their nature, really. Why it had Shoyou so captivated was, simply, because it was the surface he'd been looking at when the light had gone out. He'd seen the darkness encroach on it, how fast it had swallowed an area that had been so well lit a moment earlier.

It had been like a crocodile off one of those nature documentaries on TV (which he wished he'd never watched now, because that was a terrifying comparison). He wondered whether that was how it would be when the darkness swallowed him.

Because it was going to happen, it was simply a matter of when.

Thankfully, it had taken the light going out to make him realise this -and so he hadn't spoiled their evening with his fretting.

Now, though, he was probably alone. Yū slept like a rock, he imagined, and so he was free to panic as much as he liked now. Or, rather, as much as his brain, overactive imagination, and rapid heart-beat were going to force him to endure. What fresh horrors would he experience? What new torments? It was different every night, all he had to do to find out was wait.

He found himself wondering how many pairs of eyes would there be in the shadows this time, and where would they be. Whether they would be to his left, or his right. They certainly weren't on the ceiling, not yet at least.

Not that it was comforting, at all. It just made him too terrified to look anywhere else.

Unless the murderer(s) were already in the room, hiding in the closet, they'd most likely come from the window (to his left) or the door (to his right) -which meant that those were the last places he would want to look. Also, if he kept as still as possible, they might overlook him. Keeping his gaze fixed to the ceiling was the best course of action, by far.

He already knew that hiding under the covers wouldn't help. Nor would putting a pillow over his head, or squeezing his eyes shut as hard as he could. That would just prevent what little light there was left from reaching his eyes, and would make the darkness worse. His mind would get more hyperactive as well, and so the murderers would be armed with chainsaws and wearing hockey-masks -instead of just being your average killers. Besides, he'd like to see whatever it was that eventually came out of the shadows to claim him.

Shoyou kept his gaze locked to the ceiling for a while longer, observing the different, shadowy shapes of objects resting on the window-sill. They were being projected onto the plaster by the moonlight, meaning they were elongated and misshapen -almost grotesque. It looked as if the objects and their shadows were completely separate entities, the shadow being the twisted alter-ego...

Why couldn't he find any sleep?

Had the lights been on, he'd be out cold within seconds, but his brain refused to shut down when they were off. Exactly the opposite of how it should be.

He wondered, selfishly, if Yū were asleep yet -so that he could turn the lights back on without having to worry about keeping his friend awake. If he could just get rid of those shadows, then this night would go a lot faster.

He waited for an hour in strained silence, fighting the urge to pull at his hair, or scratch his leg as he oft did when nervous. The habits had only developed recently, within the last couple of years, and he'd since been given a multitude of creams for the numerous scabs on the backs of his knees. They itched a lot, which meant that he didn't even have to be nervous to start picking at them absently -which made them sting afterwards. On a few occasions, he'd had trouble bending his knees.

Eventually, having reasoned that Yū would definitely be asleep by now, he rose from his futon and padded across the room -placing each step carefully to avoid knocking anything over. When he reached the door -the large, square shadow against the wall- he groped around in the area next to it, remembering where the switch was only vaguely. It took him a few seconds to find it, rubbing and scraping his fingers across the darkened plaster and wincing all the while -but he sighed a little sigh of relief when he did.

He flicked it on, grimacing when his eyes screamed their objections at having to cope with so much light so suddenly. It was as if he'd suddenly lit a scale replica of the sun, and then hung it from the ceiling. Once he could open them fully again, without having his retinas burned out, he turned around to go back to his futon -only find Yū sitting bolt upright and looking right at him.