“—Sorry for the intrusion,” a voice calls from the front of the gym. Atsumu hears Meian-san call out a greeting in answer, then the squeaking of shoes on linoleum.
He glances at the clock in the storeroom — it’s 10am; the tryouts don’t start for another hour yet. Whoever this kid is, he sure is excited. Atsumu returns his attention to the tower of spare equipment from which he and Bokuto are currently trying to extract the new training vests. Why a pro team like the Jackals has such a disastrous mess for a storeroom is absolutely beyond Atsumu’s comprehension. Their manager had said something along the lines of all their deliveries coming in at once and not having the time to organise the space yet, what with all their friendly matches, but still.
They (read: Bokuto) accidentally collapse part of the tower and spend an extra ten minutes clearing it up, but they finish up with time to spare, training vests safely acquired.
“You bring the vests ahead,” Atsumu says. “My laces came loose. I’ll shut the power here once I’m done.”
“Right, thanks ‘Tsumu-’Tsumu!” Bokuto shouts rather than says, picking up the box and heading out. Atsumu sighs quietly — he’s learnt that it’d be easier beating a dead horse than beating the nickname out of Bokuto. How in the world had Bokuto’s team put up with him in high school? He’s just tied his shoes and heading towards the light switch when he hears Bokuto yell from the direction of the court: “Shrimpy-chan?! Wait, you’re not as shrimpy anymore!”
Atsumu pauses at the nickname, even as he clicks off the storeroom light. Shrimpy-chan? Someone Bokuto knows? Most of the top players in their cohort have already signed to teams, though. Could it be a transfer player? Hoshiumi from the Adlers?
The moment he steps out of the storeroom and into the gym, he’s greeted by a shock of orange hair. In the course of his time as a volleyball player, he’s only ever met one player with hair this vibrant. It’s been three years since he saw it while watching the 2015 Spring Interhigh, and even longer since he saw it in person the year before.
He’d found out two years ago from Tobio-kun that Hinata Shouyou had gone all the way to Brazil to play beach, of all things. He certainly hadn’t heard about Hinata coming back to Japan, though, despite all the times he had come up in conversation with Tobio-kun.
“There you are, ‘Tsumu-’Tsumu!” Bokuto yells, and Atsumu freezes as Hinata turns around. He’s still small (taller than he was, though) and he’s tanned. There’s something different about him, too — the way he carries himself, the aura around him, the unbridled confidence in his eyes. It was there too, back when they played in high school, that reckless abandon, but now it is tamped down, like a lion readying itself to strike. Is this really the Hinata Shouyou he knew?
“Atsumu-san!” His smile is as blinding as Atsumu remembers it being.
“Shouyou-kun,” he says, the name slipping out before he can think twice. They’re adults now, and he hasn’t seen Hinata in years. But calling Hinata anything else would feel weirder. “Fancy you coming to try for the Jackals instead of the Adlers.”
Hinata grimaces. “So that Kageyama can set for me again?”
Atsumu draws a blank at the question. Was that not a natural conclusion to draw?
“I can’t play against him if we’re on the same team,” Hinata says, as if that explains everything.
Well, that— Atsumu always knew there was some crazy rivalry going on between them but this, he wasn’t quite expecting. Somehow, for all he’d hoped otherwise, he’d always thought them as a package deal. He shrugs, hoping it comes across nonchalant. “You’d better pass the tryouts, then.”
Hinata grins, the edges sharp. “That’s why I’m here!”
The Jackals’ tryouts include two court games, and that’s when Atsumu remembers how breathtaking it is to watch Hinata play. He can’t even be considered to be jumping anymore, he’s practically flying. His rebound speed is miles ahead of anyone on the court and his spikes are sure and fearless. Even from the other side of the net, he’s hypnotic to watch.
“Holy shit,” Bokuto says during a timeout. “He’s gotten good.”
“Mm,” Atsumu says, his eyes on Hinata. They’ll switch lineups soon, mix the regulars with the hopefuls —
A heavy hand on his shoulder startles him from his train of thought. “Captain?”
“Go set for that spiker,” Meian-san says, looking amused. “You’ve got that look on your face.”
Being called out like that, by Meian-san nonetheless, is slightly mortifying, but Atsumu’s hands are itching already.
“You’re so obvious,” Omi-kun scoffs.
“Atsumu-san!” Hinata says, bounding over to him once the rearranged lineups have been announced. “I’ll hit any ball you send me!”
“That’s the plan, shrimpy,” Atsumu says, ignoring the way his heart is doing a strange skip in his chest at the way Hinata is looking up at him — eyes wide and earnest, and an underlying something that Atsumu can’t quite put his finger on. It’s intense; how had Tobio-kun handled this?
For the most part, the game goes well. Their team’s libero even pulls off a quick set to Omi-kun, at which Omi-kun actually manages to look faintly impressed. Now that is quite the feat.
He tosses to all his spikers a few times, all of which are standard sets that they hit with ease. But it’s when they’re playing for game point that their formation breaks with an awry receive. He doesn’t have much time to think; the blockers loom before him, the course of attack is narrow and the rest of the team is out of position. Only Hinata is there, and Atsumu can hear him: Bring it, bring it, bring it to me.
Since you asked, he thinks, and sends the ball. It’s a quick set; he’s never set a ball this fast to anyone besides Osamu. Nobody else has ever been able to hit a ball he set at this speed, and even Osamu never liked hitting such fast plays. But this is Hinata, so —
He holds his breath, watching the ball arc. Hinata jumps, no, flies, and hits it straight down with a solid smack.
Atsumu’s out of breath even before Hinata’s managed to tackle him to the ground, eyes shining.
“The ball came! Atsumu-san! That was so cool, oh my god! I knew the ball would come to me but when you did it was perfect! You’re amazing!”
“You knew it would come to you,” Atsumu repeats slowly as he dusts himself off and gets to his feet. “What do you mean?”
The question earns him a head tilted in confusion. “I just knew you were gonna send it to me. There wasn’t any way you weren’t going to.”
It slips in place then, that look in Hinata’s eyes. Trust. That kind of blind, unyielding trust of a spiker in his setter. He’s never felt it this acutely, nor seen it burn so brightly in his fifteen years of playing.
“Ha, you’re really something, aren’t you!” he says instead, offering a hand to Hinata. “Nobody else has ever hit such a quick set from me, but suddenly I’m the one who’s cool?”
Osamu eyes him warily when he walks into the shop after practice, suspicion written clearly over his features, and greets him with a, “What’s gotten into you?”
“The heck! Don’t I get an otsukare or even a hello?”
That earns him an eye roll, even as Osamu starts throwing together Atsumu’s usual tuna onigiri. “Spill, what happened?”
“Bold of you to assume anything happened,” Atsumu retorts on instinct. “We had tryouts today, I told you that already.”
“You usually look ready to kill a bitch by the time you get back from tryouts,” Osamu deadpans. “Who showed up? I didn’t think anyone was possible of making you look like that.”
Look like what, Atsumu doesn’t ask. Osamu doesn’t need to be encouraged any further. “There was a hella whack libero who made Omi-kun smile.”
“Riiiiight, and who else?”
Osamu is really annoying.
“Karasuno’s shrimpy middle blocker.”
He regrets saying it the moment the knowing smirk makes its way onto Osamu’s face. “Ah. He’s back, huh. What’d he do, spike your toss at last?”
Atsumu can't help himself from gloating a little. “I sent him the fast toss and he hit it.” Only the captain and coach are involved in deciding who passes the tryouts, but Atsumu can feel the certainty in his bones that Hinata will be accepted. Just the thought that he’ll be able to do this even more is making him giddy with excitement.
Handing him the onigiri, Osamu snorts. “Here, pay up.”
“...Lastly, Hinata Shouyou will be playing opposite hitter,” Coach Foster says, reading out the roster. The newest additions to the team will be joining them starting next week. He looks over at Atsumu and Bokuto — "Some of you played against him in school tournaments. He’s a force to be reckoned with, and we’ll have the element of surprise with him. Our new members have a lot of potential, they may just be what we need to dominate this year’s league.”
Atsumu grins. Tell me about it. He can’t wait.
“Shouyou-kun,” Atsumu says on the day of their first practice together. They’ve been paired up for technical sync-ups together, so that everyone can get used to their new members before they start playing matches.
“Why’d you join the Jackals? There're tons of teams holding tryouts now, you could’ve joined any other team to play against Tobio-kun, right?”
“Oh, you’re still on that?” Hinata says, pausing in his warm-ups to look up at him, sounding puzzled. “You said you would set for me, and I needed a setter who will let me fly.”
...right. He’d said that, hadn’t he, the first time they played each other, half a decade ago — “One day, I’m gonna set for you.” At the time, it’d seemed like such a faraway future. He hadn’t even been sure it would ever come true.
Still, Hinata says it so bluntly, like it’s a fact, like he’s always known this would be how it unfolds. That honesty is heavier than any responsibility he’s ever had to carry. Something curls in his chest, pulling it tight.
“You want to fly? I’ll let you.”