A fire burns into you, purifying gold
But what I saw was opulence
And that's not for me
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
For the first time since his entire life, Atsumu doesn’t sit next to ‘Samu on the bus ride.
It’s not that he’s still furious with him — not exactly anyway. If there’s a word for resigned stubbornness, that would be it. (Although it’s all on Osamu’s side, not his, obviously.) In any case, Osamu doesn’t deserve to be graced by his presence this month. Not a single bit.
Atsumu scowls and turns away from Suna, who seems to take this as a sign that he can sit down next to him.
“No,” he replies, knowing full well that his twin, who is sitting in the seat only two rows in front of him, can hear. “I just wanted to sit somewhere else. Not a crime, is it?”
“You’ll get through it,” Suna says without glancing up from his phone.
“Get through what? There’s nothin’ to get through!” Atsumu huffs.
“Mm,” Suna hums, having clearly lost interest in the conversation already.
Atsumu lets out a little hmph and looks out the window.
As much as he hates to admit it, Suna brings up a good point. There is absolutely something to get through. Atsumu knows this but he wishes he didn’t. Someday, in the near future, he is going to toss to some of the greatest spikers in the nation — taller ones, stronger ones, more eclectic ones — but no matter how amazing these players are, none of them will ever be ‘Samu, and never will be again.
So although he will never in his entire life ever say it out loud, Atsumu highly doubts that he will ever truly “get through it.”
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
He’s made it onto a top tier team, but the practice is gruesome. Going pro takes everything he’s ever known about his own work ethic and pummels them further into the dust. Atsumu comes back home with aching limbs and smarting wrists but he takes it all in stride. After all, this is what he’s given his blood and sweat to. No regrets here.
He’s still on the bench — for now. He will work and play until he’s not. Until then, he gets to observe the other spikers. To know them, analyze them, pick apart their ins and outs. It doesn’t usually take him long to familiarize himself with a new team but…
Ever since ‘Samu quit, Atsumu still hasn’t been able to find that connection with anyone else on the court. No matter how many amazing players he meets, or how awesome it feels to toss to each one of them, it just isn’t the same: no one pairs seamlessly along with his wavelength anymore.
It’s not like he hadn’t expected this or that he isn’t syncing with other people, but after the final time Atsumu tossed the ball to ‘Samu for their last winning point, a hollow cavity seemed to open up inside him, giving way to a growing restlessness.
It hits him everyday in practice now like a phantom itch he can never quite scratch. A ghost of a prickle, always persistent. Searching for something he has no memory of in the dark.
How to put a name to something he’s never lacked his whole life?
Despite everything, he can’t complain. He’s on a pro team after all, with or without his brother. Just a lone onigiri, split in two.
Don’t worry, ‘Samu… it’s what I always wanted.
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
The coach gathers them all at the end of practice one day, the roster for the Olympics tucked under his arm. The name “Miya Atsumu” does not get called.
Even worse: “Kageyama Tobio” does.
Atsumu holds his breath until their coach reaches the end of the list.
Being on the National team is a great achievement, but Atsumu wants more. He wants to see gold.
Maybe if ‘Samu were here, if ‘Samu had stayed, then maybe—
He clamps down on that thought as the familiar restlessness threatens to rise up in him again.
It’s been two years of volleyball without his twin, yet Atsumu still feels like one half of a phantom limb, drifting alone in space. As much as he tries to push forward, one does not simply unlearn a lifetime of coexistence in less than a fraction of that very time.
Hold yer breath, 'Samu. We’re not at the end yet.
Atsumu arrives home at his apartment, legs leaden and heavy. The night is still young but he’s more exhausted than usual. No energy save for a quick shower and getting ready for bed.
He’s comfortably snuggled beneath the blankets after his nightly routine and scrolling through Instagram on his pillow when he sees it.
Suggestions For You (See All )
Followed by kitashin, aranji_, sunataro, & 31 others you know
In his inattentive state of browsing, Atsumu nearly scrolls past Osamu’s profile, but there’s no way he’d miss his own surname nor the double of his own face glowing up at him from inside the screen.
Atsumu pauses, stares at the account. Then scowls.
What the hell? When did ‘Samu create this? And why didn’t he follow me ?!
He clicks into the profile, then taps on ‘31 others you know’ to see every member of Inarizaki who owns an Instagram account on their mutuals list, along with random family members and childhood friends. Aran doesn’t even check Instagram that often, so ‘Samu must’ve made the account at least a week ago.
Cold, man. That’s just cold.
Because he can’t help himself, Atsumu proceeds to hate-browse his profile.
Aside from the social group they share by default of growing up together, ‘Samu doesn’t have much of a following yet. He hasn’t even hit 100. The thought brings him a quiet vindictive satisfaction.
There are only eight photos so far. Atsumu flips through each one, his frown deepening with each caption he reads.
First week of pop-up shop is over. Exhausted beyond belief and still struggling to hit quota. To support the shop in other ways, consider [...]
- - -
Whoops — can’t believe we ran out of rice on the first day. Rookie mistake. Promise it won’t happen again!
In other news, glad to hear that everyone enjoyed their food.
- - -
Current menu, complete with beef, pork, and fish onigiri options. Come by to try some!
- - -
Onigiri Miya is officially open! Now serving from our pop-up shop located in Abeno ward, by the one and only sake brewery. Open from 10AM - 3PM everyday. Come through if you’re in the area.
If there’s one thing he can gather from his profile, it’s this: ‘Samu and his business are still struggling to make it big.
Good, Atsumu thinks. Serves him right. I’m definitely the happier one.
But even as he thinks this, a sinking feeling pulls him at the pit of his stomach.
He has pursued volleyball until he’s made it onto the National team. Not to the Olympics, but still. The National team. ‘Samu, on the other hand, hasn't even got his food business off the ground and is barely clinging on to his new startup. By all rights, Atsumu should clearly be the happier twin.
So why does ‘Samu’s genuine smile and optimistic attitude tell him otherwise?
Scowling, Atsumu shuts the screen off and stuffs his phone under the pillow.
It’s a sign he needs to go the fuck to sleep.
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
The next Olympics is not for another three years but as always, Atsumu is determined to see gold.
In a few months, he soon learns that a shiny piece of metal is not the only gold to come out of Rio.
“I’m Hinata Shouyou! I play wing spiker!”
Atsumu can’t help but grin.
He’s different from how he was in high school, Atsumu quickly learns. It isn’t merely in the centimeters he’s gained or the tan he left Brazil with, but the very air around him seems charged with an electric energy more potent and intense than before. He no longer flits about like an untethered bird caught in the wind. Everything about him screams that he’s been through the mill and has come out more solid: a fully-fledged crow with a ground to land on.
Atsumu smirks. Somebody ain’t a baby bird anymore.
Atsumu raises his eyebrows as he looks closer at Shouyou’s face. There’s one thing that’s the same. Beneath the stark gym lights, he can see it, clear as day: sharp, amber eyes, flashing bright with hunger.
This will be interesting.
Watching Shouyou play is mesmerizing. Whatever Brazil did to him, it sure taught him to fly. Their other setter has been appointed to toss the ball to the tryout candidates in their individual spiking run-throughs. When it’s Shouyou’s turn, Atsumu leans forward in his seat.
Shouyou readies his stance, his small tongue sticking out with excitement, and runs forward towards the net. Atsumu can feel the whole team’s collective breath around him as Shouyou stamps the ground and springs up into the air.
His eyes widen. Shouyou raises his arm. Blink and you’d miss it — he slams the ball down in a spectacular cross shot.
A few of his teammates let out impressed exhales. Beside him, Koutarou smirks. For the first time in a long while, Atsumu feels a loud buzz in his fingers and toes. The pumping of blood. An itch in his bones to play, to toss.
A desire he’s forgotten, but simultaneously a long time coming.
Yeah, yeah… I don’t needa be told twice.
They’re in the middle of the second round of tryouts, which involves integrating the potential newbies with the team for a few practice matches, and as luck would have it, he and Shouyou-kun are on the same side. So far he hasn’t had a chance to toss to him just yet. However…
Shouyou’s presence is a vibrant, blazing thing. When the opportunity arises, Atsumu feels it before the ball even brushes his fingers. His nerve-endings tingle beneath his skin, sending tremors down his spine as he hears Shouyou’s feet touch the ground behind him.
And it’s as though his atoms are suddenly shifting inside of him, rearranging themselves all at once until they align towards the single focal point calling to him for the toss.
Twisting his body, Atsumu launches the ball to the left, right into the curve of the short wing-spiker’s little palm.
With a loud wham! Shouyou slams it right past the middle blockers’ arms before they can even react.
“Ohoho!” he laughs before he can stop himself. He gives Omi-kun a wide smirk from the opposite side of the net, then turns to Shouyou to congratulate him.
But before he can say a single word, Shouyou is in his face, gushing with excitement.
“Wow!! Miya-san, that was SO FAST!!! ” Shouyou’s eyes practically glitter with admiration. Whatever casual or smooth exterior Atsumu has been trying to display chips away at once. “When I jumped I had no idea if you could tell where I was going to be, because I wanted to try doing minus tempo and just had a feeling it might work, and then you sent the ball straight into my hand and I was like gwah!”
“Whoa, easy,” Atsumu says with a light chuckle, unsure whether he’s directing these words at Shouyou or himself. His stomach is doing somersaults from the look in Shouyou’s eyes and his chest squeezes something tight. He can't say he’s ever received praise this earnest before. “It was just a simple toss, really—”
“Simple?!” Shouyou exclaims with a surprised face. “It was amazing! ”
“Gee, ya really think so?” he asks, rubbing the back of his head. Stay cool, stay cool, stay cool, stay— “Well, thanks! I guess…”
Atsumu nearly jumps out of his skin when a large hand claps him behind the back, knocking the air straight out of him.
“Why’re you acting so humble, Tsum Tsum?” Koutarou laughs. “It’s not like you!”
“What?” Atsumu squawks. “I’m bein’ totally normal!”
But Koutarou and Shouyou are now babbling excitedly to each other about the recent point they’ve just scored. It’s like there are two of them now and Atsumu doesn’t know what to do with that.
“Man,” Shouyou finally sighs after Koutarou returns back to his position on the court. Holding his hand up, he stares at his calloused palm with those deep reflective eyes, gazing at it like it’s the most precious thing on this earth. “It feels kinda like the first time…”
But before Shouyou can traipse deeper into what looks to be an oncoming bout of nostalgia, the whistle blows and they’re back into play.
The admiring look on Shouyou’s face sticks in his mind as Atsumu readies his stance for the next round. He himself knows too well the sentiment Shouyou had been expressing. It wasn’t simply his hand or the toss he was revering, but that tingly feeling and burst of static he feels when every little piece lines up just right. The echoing drop of the last domino.
‘It feels like the first time…’
Of course. As Atsumu moves forward for the free ball, a flood of memories come rushing in. Their first nationals together. Black-haired anchor commanding flighty blur of orange.
He smirks as he passes the ball to Koutarou, who appears for a back attack right behind Shouyou’s distracting leap. They score and they cheer; Koutarou gives Shouyou a double-handed high five.
Looks like I’m not the only one who’s had to grow a new wing.
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
‘Samu… if only you could see me now.
I didn’t get to go to the Olympics but guess who joined the team recently?
Yep. Karasuno’s Hinata Shouyou. Can-ya believe it?
Also, ya know what Shouyou-kun and I pulled off the other day? We were at practice when it suddenly hit me: inspiration.
Remember our ‘super body and soul switch’ time delayed spike attack? (The name is NOT dumb.) Shouyou and I were in the middle of a 3x3 match when — I dunno — I just suddenly wanted to try it again. To tell ya the truth, I haven’t felt that way in a while. But then when it was my turn, Shouyou was comin’ up behind me, and I just sorta thought: Why not?
I wish you could see the way he flies now. It’s different from before. When I tossed the ball for that ‘super body and soul switch’ time delayed spike — it was pretty epic. And it was only our third time playing together! The look on his face. Even you would’ve smiled.
Bet ya really miss this. ‘Cause I do
Playing with him ain’t the same. It ain’t worse though. He thinks differently from ya but that’s what makes things interesting. Things are spicier when they’re more unpredictable and it’s, dare I say, more satisfying when we score. Yea. Be mad about it.
Who am I kidding though — it’s not like I’m gonna say any of this to yer face anyway.
Just know that if ya ever get to watch our match from yer stupid little food stand, you’re gonna be insanely jealous.
You can bet on it.
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
I don't wanna look at anything else now that I saw you
I don't wanna think of anything else now that I thought of you
Been sleepin' so long in a twenty-year dark night
And now I see daylight; I only see daylight
Ever since Shouyou-kun joined the team, their team activities have gotten brighter. Bokkun already knows him, of course, but Atsumu swears he’s seen even Omi-kun’s lips twitch with amusement a few times when Shouyou does something funny.
As a whole, fan signings are more enjoyable, and Atsumu’s embarrassing moments during them more tolerable. Whatever silly slip-ups Atsumu has done, Hinata has a knack for doing just as many, if not more.
“You’re holdin’ the shirt backwards.”
Shouyou flips the clothing in his hands right before the flash of the camera goes off.
“Phew, that was a close one, Miya-san,” Shouyou says once they’re done taking the photos.
“No problem,” Atsumu winks.
Other than minor blunders, Hinata is a natural with the fans, especially the little ones. ‘Samu probably wishes he had someone as bright and bubbly to help out with generating business — although last he checked, the onigiri stand seems to be looking good and doing well, according to Instagram. His brother even had one of those rare genuine smiles in one of the posts. The smug bastard.
On second thought, maybe ‘Samu really did have a good reason for not going pro. He would’ve hated fan signings. Then again, Omi-kun somehow manages.
“I wanna be a big spiker just like you someday!”
“… That’s great.”
“What’s with that face, Sakusa-san?” Shouyou laughs as he kneels down to eye level with the little boy. “I feel you, kid. This guy is pretty amazing, isn’t he?”
“I — can you not—?” Omi-kun falters as Atsumu snorts.
“I was in your shoes once,” Shouyou continues as Omi-kun bends over to sign the autograph sheet. “I’m sure if you keep working hard at it, you can achieve your dreams too!”
Hmm… Dreams. The word stirs a memory in Atsumu’s mind.
‘I told myself that I was gonna get a job dealin’ with food and food service and that was that.’
‘Samu hadn’t used the word dreams exactly, but Atsumu is only just starting to understand that that’s what he had meant all along. He just hadn’t been ready to accept that their ambitions in life would ever diverge.
They’re having drinks with the team at the local izakaya for their usual post-activity wind-down when Atsumu asks Shouyou about dreams.
“I just realized — you’ve never told us how ya got into volleyball.”
Caught mid-sip, Shouyou swallows his beer before lowering and setting his cup down.
“Oh! Well. When I was little, I was riding my bike one day when I saw the Little Giant on a TV screen. I was always a short kid, so when I saw that someone so small could still fly so high, I thought, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’”
He takes another swig of his drink and follows it with a contented sigh.
Atsumu tries to imagine it. Baby Shouyou on a bike, awestruck. Cute. “And that was it for ya? Made-ya just pursue it all the way ‘til now?”
“Mmhmm,” he nods. “That was it .”
Atsumu laughs and claps Shouyou on the back. “You’re insane, I love it!”
“What about you?” Shouyou asks, an interested smile on his lips.
“Hmm, to tell ya the truth, I can’t remember how we got into volleyball. Probably ‘cause ‘Samu wanted to first.” An unpleasant twinge of envy coils in his stomach at the memory. Atsumu does his best to shake it off. “But I remember the moment I wanted to become a setter! The first time an actual setter came to my school, I heard him say ‘I’ll letcha hit it,’ and I was sold.”
“Ooooooh!!” Shouyou raises his eyebrows. “That’s kind of like Kageyama. The first time he told me why setters were cool, he wouldn’t shut up about being the control tower! I thought he was nuts.”
“Are ya sayin’ I’m nuts?!” Atsumu exclaims.
“N-no, not necessarily,” he replies with an amused smile. “Well… I think you’re different.”
That gives Atsumu pause. “How?”
“Hmmmm I dunno…” Shouyou cups his chin in thought. “You’re not as much of a control freak — not really anyway. Kageyama is kind of like a really tough manager! Something tells me you just like being the one who gets to call all the shots.”
Atsumu’s eyes widen and he feels his stomach drop. It’s not the reflection Shouyou offers that surprises him — he’s always known he likes to call the shots. Making all these spikers dance to his tune is everything he’s ever wanted. But as fun as it is to be able to pull all the strings, even the most versatile conductors would get bored with a dull rhythm. Hearing Shouyou voice it so earnestly makes him realize that even while Atsumu holds the power, he enjoys it all the more because Shouyou is the furthest thing from dull he’s ever known.
In response, Atsumu leans back and flashes Shouyou a smug grin. “Ain’t that the truth.”
Shouyou laughs, holding up his glass. He clinks it against Atsumu’s and raises it to his lips.
“I think your tosses are super awesome, Miya-san! Cheers to that!”
With identical grins, they both take a swig from their beers.
“Hey, Shouyou…” he says when he lowers his cup. Shouyou tilts his head in interest. The vivid curiosity in his eyes sets off a funny lurch in Atsumu’s stomach. Looking away, he rubs the back of his head and continues. “Ya know ya can call me Atsumu too.”
“Ooh, really?” Shouyou asks, his face brightening at once.
“‘Course ya can.. I mean I'm used to it anyway since growing up, everyone’s always had to differentiate between me and ‘Samu all the time.”
“Ohhhh,” he nods. “Okay, Atsumu-san!”
Atsumu smiles and returns to his drink. His next sip bubbles on its way down, much fizzier than the last, and warms his chest from the inside out.
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
Atsumu knows he’s being childish, his anger irrational. But how else is he supposed to feel after the game when ‘Samu was giving him that annoying, superior smile during the entire game? (No, he hadn’t been looking at his booth the whole time, but he could just feel it.)
He’s still not following ‘Samu’s onigiri-gram, but thanks to the Inarizaki crew, his brother’s post about selling at the same stadium they played at still showed up in his Explore tab. It’s the first time their respective occupations crossed paths ever since ‘Samu’s shop took off the ground, and Atsumu had been ready to gloat.
From the first glimpse he had caught of ‘Samu before their first serve, however, Atsumu could read the words on his face.
I am definitely the happier twin.
Like his usual infuriatingly dispassionate self, ‘Samu hadn’t even shown a single hint of envy or frustration. The stubborn bastard.
Even though they won the game, Atsumu is determined to remain sulky about this as they board the bus at the end of the night. As expected, Koutarou ribs him for it by cheerfully waving one of ‘Samu’s onigiris in his face before sitting down in the seat behind him.
A bob of orange appears at the front of the bus shortly after, floating down the aisle until it reaches Atsumu. To his surprise, Shouyou plops down in the chair next to him.
Atsumu pulls his earphones out and glances down at him. “This is new.”
In the spirit of continuing their little teacher-disciple relationship, Shouyou usually sits next to Koutarou. For whatever reason tonight though, he’s decided to do something different.
“I dunno,” Shouyou shrugs. “Is there something wrong with sitting with my favorite setter?”
Atsumu nearly chokes. Favorite? That is most definitely new.
“Ya can’t buy me off that cheaply, ya know,” he says, crossing his arms with a huff.
“Why would you assume I’m buying you off?” Shouyou asks innocently.
Atsumu peers down at him through narrowed eyes. “Aren’tcha?”
“No, I just wanted to know where you were when we were cheering over our victory in the locker room,” he replies. “You disappeared kinda early.”
Atsumu’s lips curl. “Missed me, didja?” He noticed?!
“Well, yeah,” Shouyou says. “No one else high-fives me as perfectly as you do. Bokuto-san hits too hard and Sakusa-san is… well, Sakusa-san.”
“Oh, ya shoulda just asked then,” Atsumu grins, holding up a hand. With a bright smile, Shouyou slaps it, giving his palm a quick squeeze before letting go. Looking satisfied, he wiggles in his seat to get comfortable and lies back against the headrest.
The bus doors slide shut with a hiss and the lights overhead go out, plunging them into darkness. After a few moments, the vehicle starts to move.
“Hey, Atsumu-san?” he asks after a while.
“You disappeared because you were upset about something, weren’t you?”
With a frown, Atsumu glances at Shouyou out of the corner of his eye. He’s looking up at him curiously, brows raised in polite confusion. Somehow, it makes Atsumu feel like his problems don’t warrant such earnest concern.
“Eh,” he shrugs. “It’s stupid.”
But Shouyou doesn’t give up. “Nah. You don’t really think that.”
The thought of ‘Samu’s annoyingly calm smile swims to the forefront of his mind and along with it, memories of both of them sporting identical smug grins from the same side of the net. Atsumu sighs. Perhaps it’s time to accept that this feeling, this perpetual haunting sensation of having a phantom limb, won’t ever really go away.
“You’re right,” Atsumu says with a wry smile. “I really don’t.”
So he tells Shouyou about ‘Samu. Not the whole story, of course — there’s no easy way to summarize the entirety of their lives — but about divergent dreams, of phantom limbs, and a shared competitive spirit that will never, ever die.
Shouyou listens with patient nods and understanding eyes. It hits Atsumu then that he’s never talked about this out loud with anyone before, and yet somehow, telling Shouyou now is the easiest thing in the world.
When he finishes talking, Shouyou stays quiet for a moment, looking deep in thought.
“It’s funny,” Shouyou says after a few seconds. “But I kind of felt the same way when I first got to Brazil. I didn’t have my teammates. I didn’t have Kageyama. Everything was different. I didn’t have anything or anyone to stand on.”
He sighs, shaking his head at the memory. “But you know? It really forced me to start over with volleyball again, completely new, like I was a beginner. Except, I wasn’t really a beginner anymore either. You know what I mean?”
“Starting anew…” Atsumu rubs his chin. He supposes that’s exactly what he’d been forced to do, only he had been trying to push forward instead of pulling back and trying to restart. “Huh.”
“Yeah… And, well, in the end, maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing,” Shouyou continues. “Before, for more than half my time playing volleyball, I got told by a lot of people that I wasn’t worth anything without Kageyama. It always felt like if it weren’t for him, no one would ever even look at me. Not seriously, anyway. Like something beyond the usual ‘Who’s that shorty with the hair?’ So I dunno. I think I really needed that chance to fight alone, without him.”
Atsumu lets out a low whistle. “Damn.”
In all honesty, it sounds crazy. The idea that anyone could see Karasuno play and not look more closely at Shouyou is insane, especially when Atsumu considers that ever since their first match at nationals, Shouyou had been the last person he wanted to take his eyes off of.
“Well, if it makes ya feel any better,” Atsumu says, elbowing Shouyou’s shoulder gently. “I think everyone will be lookin’ atcha when you finally get yer debut game.”
Shouyou’s eyes brighten. “You really think so?”
“I know so,” he promises with a wink.
Shouyou grins. “Thanks, Atsumu-san!”
They continue to blabber on about the match from today, Shouyou with his silly sound effects and Atsumu smiling the whole way through. When they run out of things to say, Shouyou yawns and closes his eyes, leaving Atsumu once again alone with his thoughts.
Maybe Shouyou is onto something. He and ‘Samu were unstoppable at one point in their lives but it doesn’t mean he can’t find a fresh start. He’s spent too many months in the darkness feeling like a ghostly half of a whole. Maybe it’s time to begin again. Wake himself up to the dawn of a new day.
Closing his eyes, he leans back and tries to get some rest.
Just as Atsumu is about to drift off to sleep, however, he feels a sudden, warm weight at his shoulder. Looking down, he sees wild curls of ginger hair, framing the oblivious face of his sleeping friend.
Whatever annoyance he had felt about ‘Samu seems to vanish entirely as he watches Shouyou’s steady breathing at his side. Reaching around with his free arm, he takes the jacket in Shouyou’s lap and pulls it up over his shoulders. With a yawn, he tilts his head back and wills himself to fall asleep, grateful that it’s too dark on the bus for anyone to see the small smile curving on his lips.
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
It’s barely the crack of dawn when Atsumu takes his usual seat at the back of the bus. The sky is only just starting to lighten, thin clouds casting a gray canopy over the parking lot.
As planned, he’s gotten here first. The engine’s deep rumble hums beneath them, filling his nose with the acrid smell of its exhaust. Before long, his other teammates start filing on board.
Finally, the familiar bob of orange hair appears, bouncing energetically towards him.
“Morning, Atsumu-san!” he greets, his smile as bright as the sun. He’s about to skip past Atsumu’s seat to Bokkun’s when Atsumu pats the chair next to him.
“I saved a spot for my favorite spiker,” he says.
“Oooh!!” Shouyou’s eyes widen with delight just as Bokkun yells, “Hey! What about me?” from behind. “Did you really?”
“‘Course I did,” He affirms, ignoring Bokkun and patting the seat again. “Sit.”
“Is it really considered ‘saving someone a seat’ if you always sit alone?” Inunaki quips as he passes by their row.
“Shut up!” Atsumu barks back while the rest of the team laughs. Feeling sulky, he turns away from them with a huff as Shouyou plops down next to him. “Why did I join this team anyway…”
Shouyou beams, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “So you could eventually toss to me!”
Atsumu’s lips twitch, but in the end it’s a losing battle. When it comes to Shouyou, he can’t help but smile.
Once the rest of the team are boarded and settled, the bus doors close and the wheels start to move.
“Broughtcha something,” Atsumu says, zipping open his duffel bag and pulling out a brown paper bag.
Shouyou gasps. “Is that—?”
“Ooh, so you went home, then?”
“Yeah… it was Okaa-san’s birthday anyway so…” Atsumu sighs. “‘Samu and I got our act together and behaved civilly — just for the weekend though!”
For the most part, Atsumu jests. In all honesty, they aren’t actually fighting anymore — haven’t been since graduation. Even though they refused to follow each other on his onigiri-gram for a few months, they eventually set aside their pride and vowed to hit follow at the exact same time while talking on the phone. (Of course, they both lagged on purpose but ‘Samu still managed to follow second, the sly bastard.)
“So did you finally try your brother’s onigiri?” Shouyou asks.
Atsumu purses his lips. “Unfortunately.”
Shouyou laughs. “Why the long face?”
“Because now I know how good they are. Anyway — here.”
Atsumu pulls out a wrapped onigiri from the bag and holds it out to him.
“I managed to get this one specifically made for ya,” he grins. “If ya like it, Samu may consider adding it to the menu.”
“Ohhhh!! I get to be first? Wow!” Shouyou takes the onigiri in his hands and stares down at it. “Um, what kind is it?”
“Just try it,” Atsumu urges. “Can’t ruin the surprise for ya.”
“A surprise!” he gasps. “Okay!”
Excited, he pulls back the wrapper and bites into it.
Atsumu chuckles as his eyes widen with delighted shock. A trickle of runny egg yolk oozes through the cracks of rice — the results of a perfect sunny-side up.
Shouyou chews slowly, savoring the taste.
“Itthis what I think thisis?” he asks with his mouth full.
“Yep,” Atsumu replies. “ Tamago kake gohan — in onigiri form.”
“Wow,” Shouyou says after he swallows. “It’s amazing!!”
Atsumu groans and clutches his chest. “That makes me both mad and glad to hear.”
“Why?” he asks before taking another big bite of the onigiri. “You should be glad for Osamu-san! I hope he adds it to the menu. Tell him to add it to the menu!”
“He will, he will,” Atsumu reassures, pulling his own tuna onigiri out. “When I told him tamago kake was yer favorite dish, he got some ideas over the weekend. I figured you'd like that one.”
“I do!” Shouyou beams as he stuffs the rest of the onigiri in his mouth. “I could eat a whole bag of these. Tell him thanks!”
“Won’t do,” Atsumu responds with a thumbs up. He has to resist laughing at the sight of Shouyou’s puffed up cheeks. “Can’t give him the satisfaction.”
“I can just tell him myself then,” Shouyou mumbles through his food.
For some reason, the thought makes Atsumu’s blood boil. The sentiment apparently shows on his face because upon glancing back at him, Shouyou frowns and tilts his head in curiosity.
“Do you really not want Osamu-san to succeed?” he asks.
“No,” Atsumu insists. “He can succeed. As long as he stays below me.”
Shouyou breaks off into a giggle.
“Having a twin must be fun,” he remarks. “Natsu and I fight, but never like this.”
“It’s what that annoying, smug jerk-wad deserves,” Atsumu huffs.
“Having you as a brother, you mean?” Shouyou grins as Atsumu lets out a gasp.
“I can’t believe I just got roasted by Shouyou-kun — of all people!” Reaching out, he locks an elbow around Shouyou’s neck and ruffles his hair playfully. “Who knew you had it in ya?!”
Shouyou continues to chortle as he resists Atsumu’s grip.
And it’s easy, being with Shouyou like this. He hasn’t had this much fun or laughed this often since his days of Inarizaki. Even then, he doesn’t think anyone has ever made him feel as comfortable as Shouyou does. Like a ray of sun, the short little spiker always exudes an openness and warmth so bright that even the most tightly closed off flower wants to unfurl in his presence.
“You know,” Shouyou says thoughtfully after grabbing a second onigiri from the bag. “Even though you act so mean when you talk about Osamu-san, I know you’re not really like that.”
“What are ya talking about? I’m always mean!” Atsumu protests, crossing his arms.
“Ah,” Shouyou shakes his head sagely. “But you’ve never had to spend three years with Tsukishima Kei.”
“And you’ve never had to live with my brother.”
They level each other with identical, challenging stares before bursting into laughter.
The scenery around them plunges into darkness as their bus zooms into a tunnel. When they emerge, the contrasting brightness that greets them threatens to blind Atsumu. Shielding his eyes, he squints out the window and sees a sliver of meek rays now filtering through the clouds.
Sunlight streams in from either side of them, bathing the interior of the bus with a soft, warm glow. As they continue along a freeway line through Osaka, a sense of peace washes over him. In a seat near the front, Omi-kun is reading a book while Koutarou naps in the chair behind. Beside him, Shouyou takes another bite from his ongiri, chewing vigorously with a cheerful expression on his face. It’s at that moment their bus merges onto an overpass curving south, throwing Shouyou and the left side of the bus into the light.
All at once, the world around him seems to shift. The pale gleam from the sun falls directly on Shouyou’s vivid hair, casting a halo of light around his head. Radiant with an iridescent glow, he shines brighter than any star Atsumu has ever seen. After finishing his second onigiri, Shouyou turns to him and smiles. And just like that, Atsumu’s center of gravity crumbles away, his entire being aligning itself to this new sun in a new light.
All he can see is gold.
“Hm?” Shouyou tilts his head, causing the orange in his hair to shimmer. “Are you okay?”
Atsumu blinks. He has no idea how long he’d been staring.
“Hm? Oh — yea — I’m fine,” he replies, looking away. He grabs another onigiri out of his bag for a lack of something better to do with himself. His movements feel mechanic and forced, like his body is tethered but his mind is not all there. “Want some more? I don’t got any more tamago kake ones though, sorry.”
He can feel more than see the curiosity in Shouyou’s expression as his gaze lingers on Atsumu for a bit longer. In the next second, however, he shifts his attention to the onigiri and nods.
“It’s okay — I’ll have another! Got any pork?”
Together, they set off on finishing the rest of the food in the bag, Atsumu sneaking glances at Shouyou in between bites. He can’t pinpoint what it is that’s changed. For the past few months, he’d been content knowing that they’ve been getting along as friends. He hadn’t even given any thought beyond that, nor did he think he ever would. Now, however, as he watches Shouyou laugh, chew and talk, Atsumu finds himself thinking about beyond.
A new dawn splits his horizon in the form of a winged bird and a winning smile. For better or for worse, it promises that life will never, ever be the same.
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
Open up your eyes
Open up your mind
Fall in love with what you mean to me
Only in summertime
Things will change with time
It’s taken a few months for it to happen but when it does, everyone is shocked.
Omi-kun doesn’t tell Shouyou to “stay away.”
The team laughs about it like the event is a miracle, but Atsumu knows that the true miracle lies in Shouyou himself. The same natural phenomenon that draws moths to the light.
He sees evidence of this at every game, every moment they spend in the company of others. There is always at least one friend or family member at each game Shouyou gets to play. Without fail, they rush at him at the end, often with gifts or flowers in hand.
Time and time again, Atsumu has also seen strangers gush and fall at his feet after a single interaction. Sometimes, seeing it makes him smirk and think, Yeah, duh. We’ve all been there. Other times, it causes him to clench his fist and gnash his teeth as he fights to hold himself back from inserting his dominance where it doesn’t quite belong. Shouyou isn’t his after all, although — if he were honest with himself — he’d like him to be.
It’s a delicate oxymoron: Shouyou is easy to love. Which makes loving him the hardest.
He can hear ‘Samu’s thoughts loud and clear in his mind: Reckless twin too dumb to know fear, holding himself back? Coward.
But between sharing onigiri on bus rides and becoming a dynamic but unmanageable pair during MSBY events, they’ve got a good thing going on and Atsumu doesn’t want to ruin it. He’s gotten used to that sweet, triumphant feeling of Shouyou hitting a quick from one of his tosses and the subsequent victorious joy that follows when they score. Shouyou may not belong to anyone, but he is the kind of spiker that makes you feel like he’s yours. The illusion alone is enough to hold Atsumu back — as much as he tends to run his mouth and dive forward before properly thinking things through, when it comes to the possibility of losing Shouyou, he is terrified.
Everyone loves Hinata Shouyou. By that logic, it makes Atsumu nothing special.
Can he really be blamed for wanting to keep such a bright star all to himself?
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
Ever since their match against the Schweiden Adlers, ‘Samu has not stopped texting him annoying tidbits throughout the week.
You probably knew this already but Kageyama’s serve is still ranked above yours.
It takes everything in Atsumu not to throw his phone across the bus.
I GOT THAT MEMO ALREADY A THOUSAND TIMES I DONT NEED U TO TELL ME U BIG FAT JERKWAD
WHY DONT U JUST TAKE THAT STATISTIC AND SHOVE IT UP UR—
“Something wrong, Atsumu-san?”
Atsumu looks up from his furious typing to see Shouyou gazing at him with genuine interest. Glancing back at his phone, he thinks better of the second message and deletes the rest of it.
“Nah,” he replies as casually as he can manage, stowing his phone back in his pocket. “It’s nothin’. Just ‘Samu being a dick. As usual.”
“Oh! He texted me the other day!” Shouyou chirps.
“He what?!” Atsumu nearly chokes. “What for? What’d he say? Was he talkin’ shit?”
“No,” Shouyou laughs. “He just told me the tamago kake option is selling well and wanted to thank me.”
“He— Why did he—?” Atsumu splutters. “When did ya even exchange numbers?!”
“We didn’t, this was on Instagram!” he explains. “ Then we exchanged numbers.”
“Tch.” That sneaky bastard.
“Aw, don't worry Atsumu-san!” Shouyou soothes in what he probably thinks is a reassuring tone. “He didn’t say anything bad about you.”
“Ya right he didn’t,” Atsumu scoffs, crossing his arms and looking out the window. “Stupid ‘Samu. I don’t trust him.”
“Ha — although he did say you are the twin who is the habitual liar,” Shouyou grins.
Atsumu continues to tut to himself while throwing profanities at ‘Samu in his head. What the hell do he and Shouyou have to talk about anyway? The less time Shouyou spends talking to ‘Samu, the better. ‘Samu seeking him out can only mean bad news.
His phone buzzes again. Incensed, he takes it back out of his pocket against his better judgment.
What happened to that last insult you were typing?
Let me guess, Shouyou-kun is with you
NOTHING happened my finger slipped and accidentally deleted and u weren’t worth the effort for me to type it up again!
Is your finger named Ninja Shouyou?
Ha. That’s why it slipped your notice.
that was not funny
u are the UNfunniest person i know
and for the record
ninja shouyou is now a thing that tobio-kun lacks
so i still got the happier life
add THAT to ur statistics u moron!!
Mmhm, looks like Kageyama got to everything before you did.
Record breaking serves, Olympics team…
And ninja Shouyou before he became Ninja Shouyou
Atsumu types and deletes, types and deletes, types and deletes — before finally scowling and shoving his phone under his jacket as he crosses his arms once again. Anything to not have to stare at ‘Samu’s stupid message box.
His phone buzzes for the upteenth time. Atsumu resists checking it for a good three seconds before curiosity gets the better of him and he caves.
No response. Looks like I hit a nerve.
Atsumu stuffs his phone in his pocket for good. He won’t give ‘Samu the satisfaction. (Although no response is probably just as bad… Damn it. He really has him cornered.)
Shouyou, who’s been texting on his own phone during this whole exchange, stows his away as well.
“Osamu-san says to ask you if you need an ice pack,” he informs him, completely naive to the subject of said burn.
“I do not, thanks very much,” Atsumu asserts with a scowl. “I have not been burned.”
“How would you get burned?” Shouyou asks.
“Exactly — I wouldn’t.”
Shouyou looks close to laughing. “What’re you so irritated for?”
Atsumu refuses to respond.
“Ahh,” he nods sagely. “Does this have to do with who will live the happier life thing?”
Atsumu purses his lips. “Maybe.”
“Well…” Shouyou says thoughtfully. “Don’t you win by default? Because I mean, volleyball — it’s the best!”
Atsumu had thought so once, but it hasn’t been as easy or as simple as Shouyou says. If it’s a question of whether volleyball leads to a happier life, then it’s an automatic win over any and other occupation that could possibly exist on this planet. But the fact of the matter is that as much as he’s been enjoying the sport, even after Shouyou joined, Atsumu is still learning how to be the happiest twin alone.
He sighs. “That ain’t it.”
“You’re worried, aren’t you?”
Atsumu breathes in. What is he worried about? If volleyball makes him the winner by default, why does it matter whether ‘Samu thinks he’s the happier one?
He breathes out. Looking down at Shouyou, he turns the questioning onto him.
“Hey. Just wonderin’. Wouldja say you’re happier playing volleyball now, or playing volleyball before?”
“Both!” he answers. Just like that. Like it’s an easy thing he doesn’t even have to consider.
“But wasn’t Kageyama always a huge part of your career?”
“Yeah, so? I still wanna beat him!”
Atsumu smiles in spite of himself. That's how I felt about ‘Samu.
“Okay, but… would volleyball still be just as fun if he stopped playing?”
“Probably. But he would never.”
“But if he did?”
Shouyou laughs. “What’re you so worried about? I mean, I liked volleyball before I even met Kageyama. I’d just have to find another person I want to beat the most!”
And I met ‘Samu before I liked volleyball… there’s no one else I want to beat more.
“Well…” Shouyou continues, looking thoughtful. “I’ve said it before, but the first week in Rio wasn’t the easiest. But then you just keep going, because you love volleyball, and I spent too long being unable to stand on my own. Working hard at it and having fun with it — it’s all rewarding in the end, right?”
He’s not wrong, Atsumu thinks. But… that ain’t it either.
It might have been the concern a year ago, learning to move forward without ‘Samu and having twice as much fun without him. But now that he’s come up against this conversation with Shouyou, Atsumu suddenly realizes that that’s no longer what he’s worried about at all.
“Hey, Shouyou-kun?” he asks, surprising himself with how softly his voice comes out. Clearing his throat, he tries again in a more casual tone. “We’ve been on the team together for a while now so I just wondered… Do you have fun playing volleyball with me?”
Shouyou’s face lights up with his eye-crinkling smile. “Yeah, of course!”
Atsumu chuckles, feeling his heart skip a beat. Even though Shouyou probably said yes because the question is of no consequence to him, hearing it still causes butterflies to explode in Atsumu’s chest.
Even still, he wants more.
“Does it make you… happy?”
Shouyou nods. “Yeah!”
Fists curling in his lap, Atsumu presses further. “Happier than with anyone else?”
Shouyou’s smile fades. Atsumu’s heart pounds hard against his ribcage as he watches his bronze eyes widen. Did he cross a line with that question? What is Shouyou thinking? Does he know? Maybe he shouldn’t have asked. Maybe, maybe—
Eyebrows raised, Shouyou licks his lips; Atsumu’s brain seems to have stopped. He’s suddenly aware of how close Shouyou’s face is, though he hadn’t been aware of either of them leaning forward at all.
“What are you asking?” Shouyou breathes out.
The impulse to close the gap and say to hell with the answer seizes Atsumu like a vise, pressing tightly on all sides of his chest until he can barely breathe. His eyes graze over the pink of Shouyou’s cheeks and the curve of his lips. If he lifted his hand, would Shouyou let him trace the bottom lip with a finger?
For a long moment, neither of them move. Shouyou continues to stare unblinkingly at him, his wide eyes intense and unreadable. The impulse to do something continues to scream in his head but Atsumu can’t move a single nerve. He can’t bring himself to risk everything he’s fought so hard to keep. Tossing to Shouyou has been the best thing to happen ever since ‘Samu quit. If their partnership or relationship ever went south, Atsumu can’t be sure that he will come out of it with anything else to grab onto. He may be a gambler of options in every other area of his life but losing Shouyou as a friend, a partner, or as anything, is the one wager he refuses to roll the dice on.
With more effort than required for three practice games combined, Atsumu tears his eyes away and sits back in his seat.
“It’s nothin’,” he says. “Stupid question. Of course yer happy playing volleyball. I’m just bein’ selfish.”
Shouyou raises an eyebrow. “What’s wrong with that?”
Atsumu sighs. “Trust me — ya wouldn’t wanna know.”
Shouyou still looks concerned. “I don’t think it’s selfish.”
“You don’t know what I—”
Atsumu breaks off, shaking his head. “Never mind. It’s really just nothing. Don’t worry about it, okay?”
Shouyou frowns for a moment, but then seems to accept the fact that Atsumu refuses to talk. After muttering an apology, he sits back in his own seat and starts playing a game on his phone.
Atsumu stays quiet for the rest of the bus ride, guiltily replaying the image of Shouyou’s lips, mere centimeters away from his own. He could punch himself for being such an idiot. It’s not up to him what makes Shouyou the happiest. Even if it’s what makes him happy.
Their ride finally exits the freeway, coming to a stop just a few blocks from their destination. Right before they pull into the parking lot of the stadium their away game is at, his phone buzzes once again in his pocket.
Alright, ‘Samu, let’s see yer worst.
Pulling it out, he checks his message, then lets out a groan.
For the first time in a long while, he agrees with ‘Samu. There, on his screen, in a brightly lit flag, is a single word perfectly timed to describe him in this exact moment.
● · · · · · · · · · · · ☼
They don’t talk about that moment on the bus. Relaxed and easygoing as always, Shouyou doesn’t bring it up again or make anything awkward. In fact, he genuinely seems so unbothered by it, that after a few weeks have passed, Atsumu is convinced he had probably never thought anything weird of it in the first place. In no time at all, they slip back into their normal banter and talks, as if that tiny blip in their interaction had never happened.
It’s just as well. They can continue playing volleyball as they always have, and Atsumu can go on maintaining the precarious balance of friendship and crush for the rest of his life.
It’s a zero-sum game. Probably for the best.
Every once in a while, if Atsumu were honest with himself, a part of his brain — the part that can’t seem to get those haunting amber eyes out of his head — entertains the idea of confronting Shouyou about how he feels. He can’t tell if it’s just his imagination, but ever since that day on the bus, he swears he sometimes catches Shouyou gazing at him with a mixture of curiosity and intent. In the case that there’s a chance, (a very slim one he suspects,) maybe, just maybe, he’d come out of it the happiest man alive.
But Shouyou has so many friends and treats Atsumu the same as how he treats everyone else. As close as they’ve gotten over the past few months, that chance existing just doesn’t seem very possible.
They’re out stuffing their faces at an izakaya in Tokyo after winning a game when ‘Samu texts him with the usual bullshit.
Broke a new sales record today.
That’s three more times I’ve broken a record than you have.
oh golly gee thank u for telling me this incredibly interesting information that i totally begged and asked for
and the only reason u broke sales tonight is because WE were the main event!!!
the crowd came for ME 😤
Yes, the main event where various main-event-related things, such as your serves, didn’t break any new records.
u are unsufferable
Your team may have won tonight but you still flopped some serves.
i still have all these monster hitters dancin to my tune
so who’s really winning
There’s a certain little monster hitter we both know you want dancing to one of your other, more special kinds of tunes
U DONT KNOW SHIT
I really don’t, I’m just able to see the obvious.
Say… if I indirectly become the sole instigator of your happiness, would that make me the Actual happier twin by default
‘Cos I’d be responsible for both our happiness
It definitely adds up
idk wtf ur talking about
That’s cos you’re an idiot
what the hell would u know about anything anyway
With a huff, Atsumu stuffs his phone back into his pocket and resumes the slurping of his ramen noodles. Across from him, Shouyou and Bokkun are shoveling all the contents in their rice bowl down their throats at top speed while Omi-kun shoots them disdainful looks from Shouyou’s other side. Welp — this is it, Atsumu thinks. His team of monster hitters.
‘…but what about a certain little monster hitter…’
‘…dancing to one of your other, more special kinds of tunes…”
Atsumu frowns. Just what kind of tune is that? And what would it be like if they synced? And what the hell would ‘Samu know about it anyway???
His phone buzzes. Even though he knows it’s ‘Samu and that it will incense him, Atsumu checks the message anyway.
Atsumu takes a deep breath in a vain attempt to remain calm, then stows his phone back away. When he opens his eyes again, he finds Shouyou staring curiously at him.
“Is that Osamu-san?” he asks, a small smile playing on his lips. He laughs when he sees the mortified expression Atsumu makes. “I can always tell it’s him by your face!”
“That’s fan-fucking-tastic,” Atsumu drones, reaching out for the tiny porcelain cup in front of him. Looking down at it, he adds, “I’m gonna need somethin’ stronger than this sake.”
“Pfft, what can he possibly tease you about this time?” Shouyou asks. “We won!”
Atsumu scowls. “You’d be surprised.”
After they eat their fill and the bill is paid, the team makes their way back onto the bus, prepared for the impending drag of a long overnight ride home. Atsumu follows closely behind Shouyou as they line up at the doors, stealthily cutting in front of Bokkun right before they board. Although Shouyou has been alternating between sitting with him and sitting with Bokkun, the selfish part of Atsumu wants to snag dibs when it comes to red-eye treks.
As usual, Shouyou bounces forward until he reaches the third to last row and takes a window seat to the left. Atsumu plops down in the chair beside him and shoves his duffel bag underneath the seat in front. Before he can relax and pull out his blanket, his phone buzzes with another text from ‘Samu.
I bet you haven’t even considered what a certain special monster hitter wants. As always you're a selfish big headed jerk wad
Atsumu squints at his phone, rereading the message another two or three times. ‘Samu accusing him ? Of not considering how Shouyou feels? When lately, it’s the only thought that’s been keeping him up at night??
He swipes the message box open, twiddling his thumbs as he thinks of how to respond. He can’t tell ‘Samu the truth of how much sleep he’s lost over this very exact thing — ‘Samu would never let him live it down — but he can’t very well admit defeat and ask ‘Samu what he means by the text either. He can only imagine the smug grin on his brother’s stupid face if he revealed he’s been having an existential crisis over how to coexist with his big fat crush on Shouyou.
And that’s both the beauty and curse of having a twin in this life. They may not play volleyball together or live under the same roof anymore but he can still always hear word for word, loud and clear, exactly what ‘Samu would say to him at any given point in time.
‘It means fucking talk to him, ya drip.’
Frowning, he pockets his phone and leans back in his seat.
Once the whole team is settled in for the long road ahead, the doors slide shut and the lights overhead go out, plunging the whole bus into darkness.
“Goodnight, Atsumu-san,” Shouyou yawns as he plumps up a pillow against the window and sinks into it.
Atsumu stares at him for a few moments before he registers what’s missing.
“Did you not bring a blanket?”
Shouyou cracks open an eye and looks at him. “No… I forgot.”
“Again?” Atsumu raises an eyebrow. It’s the third time this has happened on a longer bus trip — not that Atsumu minds, of course. He’s always happy to lend Shouyou his own, or simply drape one of his jackets over him after he drifts off. On top of that, it usually means Shouyou ends up falling asleep on his shoulder too, which, despite meaning different things to both of them, is always nice.
“Sorry?” he offers, looking sheepish. “I always put it by the door so I can see it before I leave but I still forget.”
“Not to worry, that’s what I’m here for,” Atsumu grins, clapping himself on the chest as he passes his blanket over.
“Are you gonna be okay though?” Shouyou frowns, taking it from him.
Atsumu shrugs. “Yea, why not? I’m a big boy.”
“We can share,” Shouyou suggests, causing Atsumu to nearly choke.
Shouyou shrugs back. “I don’t mind. Unless you do?”
The street lights outside illuminate Shouyou’s face in flashing intervals as they pass through the city. There’s no trick in his eyes as he waits for Atsumu’s answer. Just earnest concern and polite consideration. A burst of warmth blossoms in Atsumu’s chest at the sight of it.
“Nah,” he says finally. “I don’t mind.”
“Well that’s settled then!”
With a cheerful smile, Shouyou drapes the soft fleece over them both and snuggles back in his seat.
“Thanks, Atsumu-san,” he says as he closes his eyes. “G’night.”
After making sure Shouyou is warm and comfortable, Atsumu lies back and stares up at the ceiling. As much as he tries to ignore them, ‘Samu’s words — real and imagined — continue to echo in his mind.
‘…haven’t even considered what a certain special monster hitter wants…’
‘…you selfish big headed jerk wad—’
‘Just fucking talk to him, ya drip.’
(Coward, coward, coward.)
Although he had been planning to catch some shuteye on this trip, he now finds himself wide awake and unable to fall asleep. One by one, their teammates drift off around them. He can tell by the faint, intermittent snores that have started up and the deep lull that settles over them as a result. Outside, the scenery changes from city blocks, to Tokyo skyline, to barren freeways.
His phone buzzes at some point during this time, but he barely notices it. Annoyed at ‘Samu and still holding on to what looks like a foolish hope of ever drifting off to sleep, he resolves not to check it, not even when he wants to know how many minutes have passed since they departed from Tokyo. If he had to guess, he’d say it's been nearly an hour.
With a heavy sigh, he folds his arms and closes his eyes.
Not mere seconds after he does this, he feels a sudden stirring at his side.
“Atsumu-san?” he hears Shouyou whisper.
Looking down at him, Atsumu frowns. “Sorry, did I wake ya?”
“No,” Shouyou replies, his voice pitched slightly higher in his groggy state. “I couldn’t really sleep actually.” He breaks off into a yawn. “But if you’re awake too, then I might as well give up and try again in an hour when I actually feel tired.”
“Fair,” Atsumu agrees. Looking back up at the ceiling, he adds, “Yeah. I can’t sleep either.”
Atsumu glances down at him. How to put into words that Shouyou is the exact reason that is keeping him awake? “I could ask ya the same question.”
“Mmmmm…” Shouyou smiles. “You first.”
Atsumu’s heart starts pounding hard in his chest. The snores of his teammates around him continue on. Here in the dark, in the midst of all this heavy breathing — is this really the best time and place to tell him the truth?
When he still doesn’t say anything, Shouyou frowns and asks, “Does it have something to do with Osamu-san texting you earlier?”
Hearing his brother’s name suddenly triggers the sound of ‘Samu’s voice, a never ending echo reverberating in his head.
Fucking talk to him, ya drip.
Maybe now is as good a time as ever.
“Shouyou,” he starts, but has to pause when a lump forms in his throat. In the dark, Shouyou’s eyes feel even more intense than usual. His unwavering gaze sends chills down Atsumu’s spine.
Why is this so hard?
“Hold on,” he croaks, covering his entire face with his hand. “Give me a sec.”
“Hm? What’s wrong?”
He feels Shouyou’s hand on his shoulder and nearly jumps out of his seat. Shouyou leans back, eyebrows raised in surprise at his sudden reaction.
“Sorry!” Atsumu whispers, trying to keep his voice down so as not to wake their teammates. “I just — I can’t talk when ya look at me like that!”
“Like what?” Shouyou asks, bewildered. Atsumu feels two hands close around his wrist. Shouyou is attempting to pry his hand away from his face. “Look at you like what , Atsumu-san?”
“I dunno, don’t ask me to explain it!” he hisses through his teeth.
They continue to wrestle quietly in their seats, Atsumu doing his utmost to fight against him, but eventually Shouyou manages to wrangle his hands aside. In the resulting tousle, Atsumu somehow ends up hovering over the small gap between his and Shouyou’s seat with Shouyou’s hands still gripping his wrists on either side of him, pulling their faces close.
For a long moment, neither of them move. Shouyou’s eyes bore deeply into his, blazing like a growing flame in the dim lighting and causing Atsumu to feel, even in this muted darkness, utterly and completely exposed.
The chance to do something is right here, his mind prompts at him. What are you waiting for?
No, he thinks. He can’t ruin this — whatever they have. He told himself he’d never let the ball drop like this. Not on the wrong side of the court. Abort before it’s too late!
Just as he is about to work up the courage to pull back, Shouyou’s hand slides up his arm and fists itself in the back of Atsumu’s shirt.
Atsumu freezes. He has no clue what he’s supposed to do. After ruminating on the idea of confronting Shouyou for months, none of the possibilities that played out in his mind could have ever prepared him for how to respond to this : warm breaths between lips a mere millimeters apart accompanied by wide, open amber eyes, burning with the glow of an unmistakable dare.
‘…what a certain special monster hitter wants…’
Bracing himself for the worst, Atsumu moves another fraction of a centimeter closer, then stops, tentative. He feels a light tug at the back of his shirt — and that gives him all the confirmation he needs.
Closing his eyes, Atsumu leans forward and covers Shouyou’s mouth with his own.
The first brush of lips sends a sharp tingle down his spine. Every nerve in his body catches fire as Shouyou tilts up to meet him. Before he knows it, Shouyou has his arms wrapped around his neck, gently pulling him across their two seats. Emboldened by the response, Atsumu presses in further, bringing a hand up to cradle Shouyou’s face.
And it feels like the first toss he’s ever sent him. Bursting with static, Shouyou’s skin burns with the same vibrant presence he displays on the court. Atsumu can’t get enough of it. The heat spreads through his fingertips, sparking a wild fire that rises and expands in his chest. Every slide of their lips stirs up butterflies in his stomach. Whatever fears Atsumu had been dreading flies out the window. In the midst of this darkness, there’s nothing between them now except the scrape of teeth and shudder of breaths.
He feels a flicker of tongue on his lips and opens his mouth hungrily. He’s barely aware of how far he’s arched over Shouyou until one particular heavy push from his end causes Shouyou to gasp and tighten his grip. His teammates could wake up, he realizes, but he finds that he really doesn’t care. Now that Atsumu has tasted Shouyou’s lips he doesn’t seem to know how to stop.
It’s a long while before they finally part. With his head now back against the window, Shouyou’s eyes glisten in the moonlight as he gazes up at Atsumu, looking breathless and content. Atsumu’s heart aches at the sight of it. It still feels surreal that any of this happened at all.
“Hey,” Shouyou whispers, a smug grin spreading on his face. “You never answered my question.”
Atsumu can't help but smile back. “Which one?”
His fingers curl at the nape of Shouyou’s neck, tangling themselves into his orange hair. Shouyou closes his eyes and leans into the touch. Interesting, Atsumu thinks as he twirls a strand of hair around his index finger. He should do this more often.
“Mm, never mind,” Shouyou says with a contented sigh. “I think I know why you couldn’t sleep. It answers all of my questions actually.”
“Oh really?” Atsumu chuckles. “Think ya know everything now?”
“Yeah,” he replies confidently. With a sly smile, he opens his eyes and fixes Atsumu with a pointed look. “But I still wanna hear you say it out loud.”
Atsumu’s smile drops and he covers his face again, feeling suddenly and uncharacteristically shy. “Man — I just kissed ya and ya still want me to say it?”
“What?” Shouyou goads, nudging him with his elbow. “Are you scared? ‘Cause I’m not. I really like you, Atsumu-san.”
Atsumu’s heart completely stops. His ears grow hot as the admission echoes in his mind.
I really like you, Atsumu-san.
Lowering his hand, he looks Shouyou directly in the eye. “You do?”
Shouyou snorts. “Yeah, dummy. Of course I do.”
Of course I do.
Like it’s a no-brainer.
“God. Hold on a minute,” Atsumu says, covering his face again. At this rate he can never show himself to the public ever again. Especially not ‘Samu. Ever again. “This whole time?”
“I’m not sure when it started but… a pretty long time, yeah. Maybe a few months.” He pauses. “Definitely a few months.”
Months?? So essentially, the same amount of time as him?
Atsumu removes his hand. “Why didn’t ya tell me?”
Shouyou frowns and looks up at the ceiling. “I don’t know. The timing never felt right. I guess I sort of wanted to wait for a sign.”
He turns back to Atsumu and grins. “And then you finally gave me one.”
Atsumu’s mind is reeling. This is all too much to take in. Shouyou’s liked him this whole time too?
“And anyway you didn’t tell me either,” Shouyou pouts, giving him a playful shove at the shoulder. “You still haven’t told me.”
A rush of affection swells up in his chest. With his other hand still at Shouyou’s neck, Atsumu pulls him in and folds his arms around his smaller frame. Conveniently, this also means Shouyou won’t have to see his face.
“It’s ‘cos I like you an embarrassing amount,” he whispers in Shouyou’s ear. His heart threatens to burst as he says it. “Have for ages.”
Shouyou lets out a quiet giggle as he wraps his arms around Atsumu in return. It’s the cutest sound Atsumu has ever heard in his life.
“Guess what?” Shouyou pulls back and fixes him with a devilish grin. “I didn’t really forget my blanket. Not this time, or any of those other times either.”
Atsumu stares. For all his ruminating and deep fears, he can’t believe Shouyou’s been playing him this entire time. Locking his elbow around Shouyou, he pulls his head down and starts ruffling his hair.
“You little scrub. Had fun making me look like a fool, didntcha?”
Shouyou snickers as he pushes against Atsumu, until a particularly loud snort causes Inunaki to shift loudly in the chair diagonal to them, making them both freeze.
When Inunaki stops and returns to his usual sounds of light snoring, they let out a sigh of relief and grin at each other.
“We should probably sleep,” Shouyou says, stretching his arms up with a yawn and then draping himself over Atsumu’s side.
“Probably,” Atsumu mutters, although truthfully he couldn’t be more wide awake. Regardless, he picks up his blanket, which had fallen to the floor when they made out, and covers both of them with it. Shouyou tucks himself in under Atsumu’s arm and nuzzles his cheek into his chest.
“G’night, Atsumu,” he sighs, wrapping an arm around Atsumu’s torso.
Atsumu frowns and stares up at the ceiling again. He allows a single minute to pass before deciding that no, he really isn’t sleepy at all.
“Or we could keep making out,” he says with a light squeeze to Shouyou’s shoulder.
Shouyou lifts his head and looks up at him, half-lidded eyes burning with desire.
“I’m up for that,” he grins before pulling Atsumu down to meet him.
They kiss slowly and quietly, going no further than soft murmurings and gentle explorations. They kiss until their mouths go slack, until Atsumu’s swollen lips tingle with the ache of knowing Shouyou’s. And when they finally, finally fall asleep, it’s with full hearts and contented smiles, and fingers interlaced beneath his blanket.
Atsumu barely catches any actual sleep by the time the sky starts to lighten outside. It isn’t bright out yet, but after the adrenaline from last night, he’s surprised he even managed to snag the amount he got.
Shouyou is still dozing peacefully with his head on Atsumu’s chest. His heart squeezes at the sight of it, inflating like a balloon until his body feels airy and light. The world is pale twilight around them, quiet but for the low rumble of their bus. They’ve exited the freeway, it looks like, and are only a few blocks away from their stadium where their long ride finally comes to an end.
Shouyou doesn’t stir until after they pull into the parking lot. Wrinkling his face, he moans a few incoherent mumbles then buries his nose deeper into Atsumu’s chest.
“Hey,” Atsumu murmurs softly. “We’re home.”
“Hnnmnhmnhfff,” Shouyou whines, coiling his arms tighter around Atsumu’s torso. “Don’t wanna.”
Atsumu chuckles. “No worries. We have time.”
It takes the team a while to fully wake up, let alone disembark. When they finally start filing towards the exit, Atsumu dawdles behind with Shouyou, taking his sweet time folding up his blanket until they are the last two people on the bus.
“Okay, sleepyhead,” he says, running a hand through his hair. “We gotta go.”
Shouyou gives a grunt of acknowledgment.
Smiling to himself, he presses his lips to Shouyou’s forehead, then picks up his duffel bag and pulls himself up.
The cool morning air greets them as they step off the bus. With a great big yawn, Atsumu stretches his arms up and takes a deep breath. Out in the distance, the sun is only just starting to rise over the horizon.
Shouyou jumps off the steps after him and joins his side. They stand together in silence for a few minutes, letting the pale glow of dawn sink into their skin. After a moment, Shouyou turns to him with a curious expression on his face.
“Oh yeah. You never told me why you were bothered by Osamu-san’s texts last night,” he points out.
“Huh?” Atsumu glances down at him with a frown. “Oh — guess it slipped my mind.”
“You’re not still worried about him, are you?” Shouyou asks, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Hmm…” Atsumu looks back towards the sun, a smile of his own spreading across his face. “No, not anymore.”
Because no matter how many onigiris Samu sells in a lifetime, with Shouyou by his side, both on and off the court, Atsumu is certain that he will come out the happier twin on top.
“That’s good,” Shouyou laughs, slipping a hand into Atsumu’s and squeezing it tight. “Because volleyball with the both of us wins either way.”
Atsumu couldn’t agree more.
Eventually, the two of them decide to call a rideshare to come pick them up from the lot. To pass the time while they wait, they sit side by side on a parking curb and continue to gaze out at the sunrise. Atsumu could get used to this — laughing and talking with Shouyou as they greet the dawn of a new day. It’s a pleasant reminder that even dark nights plagued by phantom limbs and severed wings will all fade away with the promise of the sun.
And once daylight hits, Atsumu knows he’ll see gold.
◌ · · · · · · · · · · · ☀️
I once believed love would be black and white
But it's golden
So have you kissed yet
U DID NOTHING
Hm. Looks like I still win.