Tobio comes to to gentle hands peeling the Pilot Nodes from his forehead. Fingers ghost lightly over where his skin has seared, trying to ease the hurt.
“You really did a number on yourself, huh?”
“It’s fine,” Tobio rasps. He tries to pull all the bits of his consciousness back from the ship’s engines to his body, but his limbs still feel alien, like heavy weights. “Hinata—“
A callused hand lays down flat over his forehead, and it’s grounding. “Yeah?”
“Did—did we... the star—”
“Yeah,” Hinata says, crouching down in front of Tobio in the pilot’s chair. The twin marks from the Weapon Nodes stand out against the tanned skin of Hinata’s forehead, too, bright red. “Yeah, Kageyama. You don’t have to pilot anymore. We’re almost there. It’s almost time.”
Tobio can see over Hinata’s shoulder now. The star visible through the windscreen is huge and luminous, roiling with unbelievable energy. It’s beautiful and terrible. Tobio stares at it and feels now the way the ship is shuddering beneath them, metal groaning against the ever-increasing pull of gravity.
“It’s orange, like your hair,” he finally says, still dazed, feeling almost drunk. “God, the hell did I—”
Hinata laughs a little, incredulous. “You’re going on about my hair again?” The smile that crosses Hinata’s face is too small to be normal. “And you almost killed yourself, Kageyama, that’s what you did.”
Tobio blinks. “Yeah?”
The ship gives off an echoing creak. Hinata flinches, hand dropping away, and Tobio is suddenly, completely, horribly aware.
“Fuck, the crew—!”
“It’s just us left,” Hinata says. “Don’t worry. Everyone else left in the rescue pods along with the refugees. They’re all okay. Captain was trying to come up with another idea up until I shoved him into his pod and locked the hatch, but...”
But the technology they found on that poor, destroyed planet is too dangerous to risk having it fall into enemy hands. This—what they’re doing now—is the only way to keep it safe.
“Whatever Daichi’s thinking,” Hinata goes on, ”I don’t think they’ll make it here in time.”
“You should’ve left, too,” says Tobio.
Hinata snorts. “You were doing some fancy flying, Mr. Kageyama, but you definitely wouldn’t have made it this far without me on weapons. Don’t flatter yourself too much.”
For lack of a better retort, Tobio growls, “Dumbass.”
Dusting his hands off on his knees, Hinata pushes Tobio over and perches on the armrest. They look at the star as it grows larger in the windscreen, and then Hinata slides down until his shoulder’s resting against Tobio’s. He’s so warm.
“You were amazing,” Hinata whispers. “It’s like you were... conducting everything and everyone on the battlefield. I’ve never seen you fly better. Whenever and wherever I needed to fire, you made it possible. It’s like you knew what I was thinking before I even knew myself.”
“That’s my job,” Tobio says, but then Hinata interrupts him.
“I couldn’t have left you,” Hinata says. “You know why, right?” He tips his chin down to rest it on the top of Tobio’s head.
Tobio sighs, then winds their fingers together. “I know.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Well, as long as you know,” Hinata says. He squeezes their clasped hands.
The alarms on the bridge reach a shrieking crescendo, but it’s all background noise. What Tobio hears loudest is the sound of Hinata’s breathing, a little fast and scared.
“I wanted to go further with this crew,” Tobio confesses.
Hinata nudges him. “What happened to ‘I can fly this warship all by myself, I’m Scary-yama’? But I did, too. And... can I tell you something? I was too embarrassed to tell you before, but now’s the time, right?”
“I had a dream,” Hinata says. “I guess it started when I saw you fly in the inter-high sorties, in the lower academy, and wished we could’ve been in the same squadron. Since I was always too fast and too sloppy for other pilots to handle, you know? And then we were assigned to the same base in the upper academy. It started out rough between us, but you polished me up, and then I thought—” Hinata stops.
“I thought, I wanna fly with this guy forever.”
Tobio gives up and pulls Hinata into his lap. They hold each other tight as the metal of the ship screams around them. It’s growing hot, and Tobio is, all of a sudden, furious at what’s happening, at what he’s about to lose.
“Fuck,” he breathes into Hinata’s hair. “Fuck!”
Hinata squirms in his arms to hold his face between his palms. His eyes are wide and it’s all Tobio can see. “It’s okay, Kageyama. It’s okay, this is just a dream, too.”
The windscreen cracks. Something flashes bright, bright red.
“This is just a dream—”