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Oh, this is how it works

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When Hinata first meets Kageyama, his marks are impossible to miss; four clear, dark handprints lining his arms, holding him up. They’re clearly intentional and only add to the intimidating aura Kageyama gives off as he glares down at Hinata. He has what Hinata doesn’t; a strong team behind him ready to push him to victory.

The next time Hinata meets Kageyama, his arms are startlingly bare.

_

In some ways, Kageyama knew it was coming. He didn’t mean to hurt his teammates; he only wanted to push his teammates to be better like they pushed him, but he could feel the distance between them grow with every match.

If getting a mark feels warm and welcoming, one leaving feels cold and lonely. Kageyama’s hands and arms burned with the chill and no amount of sweaters or hot drinks could soothe it.

_

Kageyama decides that it’s better if he just avoids the disappointment this time around. It’s not that he doesn’t trust his teammates, he knows they’re different, that he’s different, but the creeping chill up his spine stops him from leaning into that trust. They can be friends and teammates without throwing soulmates into the mix, he rationalizes. Volleyball isn’t a contact sport anyway.

His luck soon runs out. He’d stayed behind for extra practice and assumed he was alone. No one ever stayed as late as him except for maybe Hinata. When he went to open the door of the clubroom, he was shocked to see Sugawara on the other side. Kageyama jumped back, stuttering out an apology and gripping his bag tighter.

“Oh, Kageyama! I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were on the other side of the door. Staying late for some extra practice?” Suga’s smile is disarming, and Kageyama relaxes.

“Yes, Suga-san, I just finished. Don’t worry! I cleaned up the gym before I left.”

Suga laughed. “Oh I’m sure you did, I wasn’t worried about that! I was just staying behind to straighten the clubroom a little. See you tomorrow?”

“Yes, of course Suga-san, see you tomorrow.” Kageyama stepped back to let Suga pass, but as he moved to enter the clubroom, Suga whipped around suddenly, causing their arms to brush past each other.

“Oh, I was meaning to ask-!” Suga cut himself off when he saw the strange expression on Kageyama’s face. “What?”

Kageyama’s eyes were trained on the dull blue stain spreading across Suga’s arm. He was so careful, he tried so hard to stay out of the way. He couldn’t bear to tear his eyes away, to see what color adorned his arm as well.

Suga’s eyes followed Kageyama’s gaze to his arm, only then noticing the mark.

“Oh, would you look at that! I’m happy to have one from you. Of course, this doesn’t have to change anything if you don’t want it to, I have marks with other people on the team like Daichi, Asahi, Shimizu… Oh, I have one from my cousin too! I held him when he was born and a cute pink mark showed up on my hand right where I was holding his head! I think it’s mostly covered by his hair now though...”

Kageyama is not listening to Suga’s babbling. His eyes are still fixed on the mark settling into Suga’s skin. Panic bubbles up inside him and the warmth that follows a new mark isn’t pleasant anymore; it burns. He feels the warmth, but he can also feel the cold he knows will inevitably follow. His old team left him, it’s only a matter of time before Suga realizes the mark was a mistake and leaves too.

Suga’s one-sided stream of conversation trails off as he realizes Kageyama isn’t listening, isn’t even looking at him. His eyes are unfocused and his breathing is harsh. Kageyama realizes Suga has stopped talking and flicks his eyes up, meeting Suga’s and looking thoroughly like a deer in headlights.

“What’s wrong? Are you alright?” Suga’s voice is laced with concern for his kouhai.

Kageyama seems to break from his trance and quickly backs up, bowing and again apologizing,

“I’m sorry, Suga-san, it was just unexpected. I- I have to go. I will see you tomorrow.”

With that, he all but runs out of the building, not even collecting the rest of his things from the clubroom and leaving Suga utterly perplexed.

-

The next day, everything goes as usual. Suga and Daichi open the gym for the bright and early freak duo (well, bright only applies to Hinata), and morning practices commences. Suga would say everything seemed normal, except Kageyama is doing everything he can to not make eye contact with Suga. He’s also exceptionally jumpy today; Hinata’s usual bounce and flailing limbs typically don’t even garner a blink from Kageyama but are now making him flinch. Additionally, since it’s in somewhat of an obvious place and Suga makes no attempts at covering his marks, the others are cooing over it. He waves them off and tells them not to harass Kageyama, but he can see the pained look on his kouhai’s face even from across the room.

Suga doesn’t confront him outright. Honestly, he thinks that might make things worse. Instead, he goes with the tried-and-true method of asking someone else.

On their way out of practice, Suga manages to snag Hinata before he bounds out of the clubroom. Lucky for him, Kageyama had already slipped out of the room in a further attempt at avoiding any sort of conversation with Suga.

“Hinata, have you noticed anything odd about Kageyama today?” It’s easier to cut straight to the chase with Hinata and he doesn’t want the boy to be late for class; his grades are hard enough to keep up without an absence.

“Kinda, yeah! He was really flinchy today and was all like ahh! when Noya asked him about his new mark. Congrats by the way! I was a little surprised but I think it makes sense because you’re both really good setters and you’re a really good senpai!” Hinata’s volume slowly increased with his excitement, so he practically shouted the last bit at Suga.

“Thanks, Hinata, you’re a really good kouhai.” Suga smiled at him, “Do you think Kageyama is upset that we're soulmates? I think he’s been avoiding me and he rushed out after we got our marks yesterday.”

“I’m not really sure, he doesn’t tell me stuff unless I bother him a whole lot. I do remember that he used to have more though.”

“More?” That was certainly not what he expected to hear.

“Yeah, I played a match against him in middle school and I very clearly remember his arms being covered in colors, but when we got here he didn’t have any except that purple one from his sister,” Hinata sounded oddly distant now.

“Huh, that’s odd. Thank you, Hinata, sorry for keeping you.”

They said their goodbyes and Suga put it out of his mind until afternoon practice.

Afternoon practice went much the same as the morning practice, with Kageyama being just as jumpy and avoidant. Suga gave him space so hopefully he didn’t feel the need to try so hard at dodging him, but fully intended to snag him after practice.

Kageyama definitely attempted a quick escape, but clean-up duty bestowed by Daichi made him stay put. Or at least, confined to one area. Suga offered to help and Kageyama didn’t have a real reason to decline, so they worked together in silence. Suga was about to speak up as they put the last things away, but Kageyama spoke first.

“Suga-san, I’m sorry,” Kageyama said, bowing deeply.

He was definitely not expecting that.

 

“Sorry? What for? I was going to apologize to you for making you uncomfortable,” he said. He wanted to put a hand on Kageyama’s shoulder, he was big on physical comfort, but he didn’t know if it’d be welcome so his hand fluttered awkwardly midair.

“I am sure you don’t want me for your soulmate and I’m sorry I left a mark on you. You don’t need to worry about our bond if you don’t want to.” Kageyama had stopped bowing (thank god), but was desperately avoiding eye contact. He couldn’t say for sure since he wouldn’t look at him, but Suga swore he saw tears building up in Kageyama’s eyes.

“Kageyama, I’m thrilled you left a mark on me and of course I care about our bond. Why would you think otherwise?”

Kageyama was silent for a moment, then very softly said “I used to have more, but they’re gone now.”

Suga knew this, obviously, from his conversation with Hinata, but hearing it from Kageyama’s lips made his heart break into little pieces. Kageyama still wouldn’t look at him, but he could clearly see the tears spilling over onto his cheeks.

“Kageyama? It’s alright if not, but would it be okay for me to hug you?”

He watched as his kouhai sniffled and wiped the tears off his face, finally looking at him and giving him the smallest nod. Suga sighed in relief and stepped forward to wrap his arms around Kageyama. He tensed at first, but soon relaxed and practically melted into the hug.

Kageyama’s voice is muffled and barely audible, but Suga listens intently.

“I used to have six. Four were from my teammates at Kitagawa Daiichi and the other was from my grandpa. I- um, I’m sure you’ve heard what happened at my last middle school match. After that and my grandpa dying… I just have the one now.” He pressed his face further into Suga’s chest and tightened his grip on his shirt. Suga didn’t think his heart could break any further, but apparently, he was wrong.

“It’s not your fault Kageyama. Everyone makes mistakes and does things they regret- especially in middle school. You’re clearly sorry and have worked very hard to be a better person, I would never hold that against you. I care more about the person you are now than who you were then.” Suga pulls away from Kageyama, arms still loosely at his sides. “I’m really happy we share a mark, and I promise I will never break it.”

Whatever restraint Kageyama had left broke, and sobs wracked his body. Suga pulls him back into his arms, and Kageyama feels the warmest he’s ever been.