Tobio wasn’t born with a soulmark. It’s not strange. Many people are born with one, but a sizable group aren’t. Most people don’t think they’ll ever meet their soulmate, since it’s rare.
Miwa was born with a small spiral near her ankle, which never stops shifting through the colors of the rainbow and sometimes unfurls to crawl up her shin; Tobio wonders if that means her soulmate is somewhere closer, then. Tobio’s grandfather, meanwhile, wasn’t born with a mark, either. When he met Tobio and Miwa’s grandmother, Kazuyo tells Tobio, he knew there had to be something there, and five years later, when they were about to be married and held hands one day, it had suddenly appeared: the magnificent blue wave crashing over Kazuyo’s forearm. When Tobio’s grandmother died, the mark on his grandfather’s arm had dimmed, becoming a darker, more subdued shade of blue.
So Tobio isn’t worried, exactly. If he does meet his soulmate eventually, he hopes it’s someone who loves volleyball as much as he does, because he loves volleyball. Otherwise, he thinks, how would it work?
By the end of middle school, he couldn’t care less about finding his soulmate. He’s realized it’s not his lack of a mark that’s strange.
By then, Tobio’s alone. In volleyball, too: he’s alone.
It’s near the end of his high school career when Tobio thinks it’s him. Or maybe he’s been thinking it for a while—maybe even since he met Hinata—but the concept’s taken time to take concrete shape in Tobio’s mind. He’s still not good with people, but Hinata, at least—Hinata he gets.
He wonders if this was how his grandfather had felt about his grandmother, even though he hadn’t been born with a mark. He wishes he could ask.
Still, Tobio’s not worried when they graduate and Hinata leaves for Brazil. Hinata will be back, and they’ll stand on the same court again.
Tobio’s sure of it.
The referee blows the whistle and the sound of the crowd is deafening. Tobio would’ve liked to win; it’s a home match and the first of their season. But he doesn’t regret the loss. He knows the match will be on the cover of Volleyball Monthly, that it’ll be dissected online and through video and word of mouth. It’ll be discussed long after the rest of the season gets in gear, because it was a hell of a match.
It was also Japan’s first real introduction to Hinata Shouyou, and, even though Tobio lost, he’s...
Hinata’s grinning at him through the net, like a challenge. Tobio grins back.
“Hey,” he yells over the cacophony. “I want to talk you.”
The men’s bathroom is quiet when they walk in, long after all the fans and media have left. Hinata glances around and sighs, then muses, “Why is it always the bathroom?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Hinata says, “I have a habit of running into scary people in the bathroom.” He cocks his head. “You’re not scary though, Kageyama.”
Despite himself, Tobio snorts. “Pretty sure you were terrified of me once.”
Hinata smiles. “Well, yeah, but not anymore. But... you kind of have a scary look on your face right now, you know?”
Tobio’s not really sure what kind of look is on his face.
“I,” he starts. “Uh—you—Hinata.”
He gives up on talking and thrusts his hand out instead.
Hinata’s gaze drops to it. His eyes widen. Tobio wonders what that expression means. He’s not entirely sure, but it’s enough to give him courage.
“Let... let us—” Tobio stutters over the traditional words.
They’re spoken only when someone’s sure they’ve found their soulmate: Let us test our souls’ devotion.
Why can’t he just say it? The words stick in his throat and he works his jaw furiously. He can do this. He wants to do this. He wants Hinata like he wants volleyball, like the sharp sting of a ball leaving his fingertips, the sight of the soaring arc it makes high, high above the net, the exquisite sound of a spike hitting home... like the smell of aerosol sprays filling a gym, beloved memories of three years of practices, hours upon hours together, jogs that turned into racing against one another in the winter, the bitterly cold air making Hinata’s stupid face blotchy and pink and perfect.
Tobio tries again. “Let... um, let... ugh, fuck. Just take my hand already, dumbass!”
There’s a beat, and then Hinata barks a peal of laughter. “Confident, aren’t you?” he chortles.
When he tips his chin up, though, his smile is easy.
“Okay, then. Let’s give it a try, Stupidyama.”
Everyone’s read in school that it’s all about intent. That if you want it—if both sides really want it, and if the fit is right, if it’s fate—the handshake will make the marks bloom.
When he was a kid, Tobio hadn’t understood. Now, standing across from Hinata in a dingy public bathroom, the ache of a perfect game still deep in his muscles, looking at a person just right for him—now, he gets it.
As their hands touch, they both gasp. Oh, Tobio thinks, as warmth races up from his heart to lick over the edge of his jaw. Oh.
“Oh,” Hinata echoes. “Look! It’s—wow, Kageyama, it’s beautiful.”
He shoves Tobio in front of the mirror. Tobio stares. The soulmark is teetering sunflowers, resplendent in russet oranges and bright, cheerful yellows, twisting and unfurling and turning towards the sun. It splashes over almost his entire throat.
When he tugs his collar down, he realizes he was right. The flowers most likely start right at his heart.
“Holy crap. You won’t be able to hide that,” Hinata continues, his voice hushed. “Oh my god, Kageyama—“
“It doesn’t matter. Why would I ever want to hide you?” interrupts Tobio. “Idiot.”
They blink at each other. Then Tobio yelps as Hinata suddenly slaps at his chest, forcing him back against the sinks.
“The mark!” Hinata says, his voice high. His face is red. “My mark, I give it to you.”
It would take only a touch to seal the connection, but Hinata is Hinata. Tobio watches, his heart beating furiously, as Hinata leans in, his hair tickling Tobio’s chin, to brush his lips between Tobio’s collarbones in a soft kiss. They both breathe in.
In the mirror, the mark flashes gold under Hinata’s fingers. For the first time in his life, possibly, Tobio feels settled. He’s not strange. He’s not weird.
He’s not alone.
Hinata’s still staring at the mark painting over Tobio’s skin, brushing it with his fingertips in a way that flares warmth with each touch and is utterly distracting. Tobio coughs and pushes him back.
“I want to see yours, too. Where—?”
“I felt it,” Hinata says. “It’s on my back.” There’s no hesitation in his movements when he unzips his jacket and tugs his shirt over his head before turning around. “What is it, Kageyama? Tell me!”
“Wings,” Tobio breathes. “It’s wings.” The mark is split into two black wings, glittering feathers stark against Hinata’s tanned skin. They cover the span of Hinata’s broad back and curl across the top of his shoulders.
This mark, Tobio realizes, is as possessive as the one covering Tobio’s throat. God, but they’re a pair.
“Woah,” gasps Hinata. He’s twisting to crane his neck over his shoulder. “They’re huge! And ha! I knew it! I was right.”
Tobio’s head is still swimming, but arguing with Hinata comes like second nature, even after several years apart. “Shut up, stupid, nobody knows what their soulmark is going to be if they’re not born with it.”
“Okay, fine, I didn’t know for sure. But I figured it’d be something like this.”
“Why?” Tobio says, long-suffering.
“Because you helped me fly, s’why,” Hinata replies, his gaze steady.
Heat rushes up to flood Tobio’s cheeks. He works his jaw furiously, then plants a hand on Hinata’s shoulder to spin him so his back is facing Tobio again.
“Hold still,” he grunts. Hinata freezes in his hold, and he doesn’t need to do it like this, but it only seems right. “I give you this mark,” says Tobio, bending down to brush a light kiss over one wing, then the other. Hinata’s skin is warm under his lips. It’s thrilling. “My mark.”
When he steps back, the wings flash silver, feathers fluttering under his touch.
Hinata turns around and rolls his shoulders. “Hey, Kageyama. Do you want to—“ he starts.
“Yes,” Tobio says.
He’s never kissed anyone in his life, but evidently Hinata has (and that makes him suddenly, oddly furious; he hates being left behind), because there’s experience in the way Hinata tilts Tobio’s face down until they’re fitting together just right, in the way Hinata’s tongue strokes his and sends fire through his limbs. Tobio wants to envelope Hinata, to haul him up and bring him even closer, but Hinata is all compact muscle under smooth skin, biceps flexing under Tobio’s grasping hands, and that’s perfect, too, the way their lower bodies touch. He thinks their marks must be glowing.
“The upperclassmen are waiting for the two of you, why are you taking so long—oh. Oh, no.”
Tobio tears himself away from Hinata with a gasp to see Tsukishima standing in front of the bathroom’s entrance, a deep grimace on his face like he’s sucked a lemon.
Hinata, bracing his hands on Tobio’s shoulders, stands on tip-toes to look over them, then starts laughing.
“Tsukishima, your face!” Hinata howls. “Ha! Ha-ha, ha...”
Tsukishima drags a hand over his hair, looking deeply pained. “I’m leaving. Please put on a shirt. And congratulations, or whatever.”
Hinata chortles, “Thank you,” then grins up at Tobio, exclaiming, “Did you see that? He looked like he wanted to die. I feel like we’ve finally won.”
“Were we fighting him?” Tobio asks absentmindedly, tongue darting out to sweep across his lower lip. He wants to kiss again. That was good.
Hinata’s gaze sharpens with interest.
“Always,” he answers, stepping closer.
It’s not the first time soulmates have played in the Olympics together, but it is the first time in Japan’s history, and it becomes huge news.
“Oh, yeah,” Hinata’s telling a Japanese reporter cheerfully. His mark is hidden beneath his t-shirt, but Tobio knows it’s there, black wings ready to take flight. “You could say Kageyama’s talent really comes down to meeting me in middle school, so—“ He catches sight of Tobio and immediately pales. “I, what I meant was—definitely not that—“
“Hinata,” Tobio says slowly.
“Excuse me!” Hinata yelps, and flees. The reporter looks indulgent; Tobio has yet to meet anyone who dislikes Hinata. When Tobio calls her over, though, she’s clearly shocked. Tobio has a reputation of either being robotic in interviews or completely bombing them.
“He wasn’t wrong,” Tobio tells her, because he wants people to know. “I wouldn’t be here, playing on this team, if I hadn’t met him. I just wanted to say that.”
The reporter is starry-eyed. “That’s incredibly sweet.”
Uncomfortable, Tobio shifts. “I’m... going to go find him.”
As he walks down the hallway, he knows his mark is moving across his skin, sunflowers turning to wherever Hinata is. He turns to go that way, too.