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Kageyama is, from a young age, distanced from his peers.

He asks other children a lot of intrusive questions, like "Why do you like that dumb show?" or "Isn't it obvious that you read manga for fun?"

That's hardly the end of his awkward failure to communicate with his fellow students. Those questions are usually followed by offhand, blunt remarks that have his teachers note that he needs help expressing himself on top of needing to try just a little bit harder in math class.

His mother is generally exasperated. Even though she still ruffles his hair and smiles softly at her gap-toothed son, he can tell the words make her tired. He tries harder, really he does, but nothing he does seems to work. The other kids don't try to talk to him now, unless they're working together on class assignments. Even then, the conversations only last long enough for them to give him a job and he's okay with that. It's efficient, and any form of exchange with his classmates makes his mother just the slightest bit happier, but she still worries.

"You're going to have a hard time when you're older if it's always like this, Tobio."

He flicks dark blue eyes up at her, pouting. "I'm fine."

She sighs and flicks him in the forehead. "I'm signing you up for a sport. I think it'll be good for you."

//

Tennis isn't fun to him - he hates the racket.

He tries basketball, but he doesn't like that either. He's tall enough, sure, but the other kids don't really take it seriously. Kageyama finds more comfort in sitting on the bench and scowling at the other players.

When he finally stumbles across a few kids playing volleyball in the neighborhood, his eyes light up. An older boy, the person closest to an acquaintance, waves him over with the ball tucked under his arm. "Come play, Kageyama!"

In second grade, he runs home, cheeks flushed red and knees covered in dirt. "Volleyball!"

His mother looks up from her book with a gape before smiling. "Alright."

//

Primary school turns into junior high, which is full of surprises and hormones and most importantly, volleyball.

He's immersed in everything about the sport. He goes to local games - junior high, high school, university, professional. He reads magazines.

By default, he's obsessed with Oikawa. Sure, his senior isn't playing on national television - yet - but he's a flashy storm on the court.

Kageyama yearns to know everything about him, the way he would rather play volleyball than sleep. Technically, Oikawa counts as volleyball studies, because he's a player. Watching his old games factors into his usual nighttime activities.

The two of them don't play together very often, but the younger teen makes a routine of asking the older for help every two days. He's rejected.

So, instead, he watches. Intensely. He's completely unaware that it's getting sort of creepy, because he doesn't have any friends to filter his day-to-day human interaction.

Iwaizumi sometimes takes pity on his junior after he elbows his best friend in the gut, teaching him how to serve and honing his receives.

Oikawa clicks his tongue at them after a while, pulling faces until Iwaizumi sighs and returns to his side. The brunette sticks his tongue out at Kageyama while he throws his arm over his friend's shoulder.

"I knew you'd be back, Iwa-chan."

"Only because you were being so damn annoying, Asskawa."

"So mean!"

Absently, Kageyama wonders if having a friend on the team is helpful or harmful.

It probably only works for Oikawa-senpai, he thinks.

//

The heat in the clubroom is stifling at the beginning of summer. The captain and vice-captain have gone home, so the remaining members only stand around long enough to figure out places to eat.

Kageyama stays in the gym because he can't think of anything he'd rather do after volleyball practice than play volleyball.

He stays until the sun sets, until he's sweaty and his legs hurt and he's not sure he's seeing clearly. He heads out back to douse himself in water and looks up when he hears a door open. It's probably the school staff, telling him to go home.

It isn't.

"All the stuff is out," Oikawa assures the shorter teen. "So Tobio-chan is probably still here. I told you so."

"Can't you stop adding chan to guys' names? You're so gross." Iwaizumi chides him.

After he towels himself off, Kageyama does indeed walk back into the gym, nodding to them with cheeks flushed in admiration. "It's okay, Oikawa-senpai, Iwaizumi-san." Even though he's not very aware of how best to interact with people, for the most part he understands boundaries, and he can read the frustration in his senior's eyes every time they talk. "I can go home."

"Go, go!" Oikawa jeers, making scattering hand gestures and hissing like a kid. Iwaizumi kicks him in the shin and the brunette doubles over, tears in his eyes. "Also, don't call me senpai!"

After hesitating for a moment, he forces out, "Good night, Oikawa-san."

//

One evening, it is the other way around. Oikawa isn't killing himself on the court because he has Iwaizumi supervising him. Around the time Kageyama comes back to the gym to practice some more, the shorter, tanner youth is dragging his best friend to the locker room.

The junior high freshman practices serves for twenty, thirty minutes before he falters, thinking, the two of them haven't left yet. He wonders if there's something wrong – a fight between the two of them is hard to imagine; it's more likely that one of them is sick and they might need help.

Kitagawa Daiichi wouldn't be able to play in the tournament if they lost their two best starter players. The idea makes Kageyama want to vomit. He strides towards the locker room, keeping his eyes peeled for the other boys.

He hears quiet noises, thinking, no yelling, that's good, but when he turns the corner, he finds the will to swiftly slam himself against the lockers and hold his breath.

"You're so damn noisy," Iwaizumi quips. When Kageyama summons up the courage to look, he can see him licking Oikawa's collarbone.

"Only because I know you like that." Oikawa smiles, soft and true. The freshman flushes up to his ears. The brunette's eyes squeeze shut, then open a fraction, meeting with Kageyama's for a painful second before the younger boy turns away, heart racing. He shifts so his legs are against his friend's – best friend? Is that how friends are? No, no, no way, it's…Kageyama puts a hand over his mouth to keep from making noise. Suddenly, Oikawa moans loudly, coy.

 

Iwaizumi smacks him lightly, panting over his chest. "Shut up and focus here. Kageyama's gonna start wondering where we are, so let's hurry up and go home."

The childish brunette pulls him in for a wet kiss, smirking against his friend's lips. "He's too busy to bother with us, Iwa-chan."

Flushed and terrified, Kageyama creeps out of the locker room and runs as soon as he picks his bag off of the gym floor.

//

He quietly tries to forget about the whole thing. He directs even more of his focus on volleyball, even as Oikawa ridicules him, growing impatient and annoyed every time the freshman makes a request of him.

The night Oikawa almost hits Kageyama is scary, even for Iwaizumi, who has to handle damage control.

After that, he doesn't just try to forget that night – he forgets for real.

//

Oikawa is disgustingly polite to him after that. He still doesn't teach his junior how to serve. He cleverly avoids the duty by saying things like: Look, let Tobio-chan play! He's bothering me for attention, Coach. He smiles and chides the freshman, invading Kageyama's space, poking his cheeks and pulling down his eyelids to mock him whenever he gets the chance.

Some days he wears a cocky expression, but his eyes are watery, and Kageyama could swear he hears him mutter, "I won't lose to you."

He chalks the last part up to imagination.

After all, I've never won against Oikawa-san.

//

When Iwaizumi sees Kageyama resting against the wall for once, dazed, he approaches him with a soft scowl and a hand on one hip. "Did the idiot say something to you again?"

He opens his mouth and nearly says, nothing that Kindaichi says really bothers me, before he realizes that he's talking about Oikawa. "No." His dark eyes flick to the court, where the brunette is out there, surrounded by teammates, sweating and smiling like there's nowhere else he'd rather be.

Truthfully, there's nowhere else Kageyama would rather be either, but he knows he will never be like that.

His eyes flick up at his stern but kind senior. "Your—" Concern is evident in his features before he finishes muttering, "Bond with Oikawa-san is really important to the team."

Iwaizumi huffs before lightly hitting Kageyama over the head. "Bond, huh. Guess so."

"How," The younger teen demands. The older teen laughs.

"A hell of a lot of patience and enough common sense for the both of us." When he notices Oikawa sticking his tongue up towards his nose and flashing girls in the stands peace signs, he hurtles a stray volleyball at his head. "I'm sorry he never shows you his good side."

Kageyama thinks he wouldn't know how to react if he did, so it's okay.

//

On graduation day, Oikawa ruffles his hair. Iwaizumi pats him on the back. Kageyama awkwardly waves them off and watches them.

He watches how Oikawa laughs, surrounded by girls, telling stories. Iwaizumi is smiling too, surrounded by guys from loads of sports teams, his classmates, and even a couple quiet girls that he's had study sessions with.

I'd rather be playing volleyball, Kageyama thinks absently, knowing that the gym is closed today.

When he's about to wander off campus, he's stopped by the sight of Iwaizumi and Oikawa alone, walking with their degrees in hand. He focuses very hard to hear them since they're being quiet.

"Stop doing that," Iwaizumi chides, pinching the brunette's cheek. "Smiling when you're upset."

"Force of habit," Oikawa sniffles, leaning against the other youth for support.

Kageyama watches them in mild shock when Oikawa softly kisses Iwaizumi's cheek and thinks, oh.

It looks natural.

Of course it does.

He'd forgotten.

//

The next few years are a blur of volleyball and failed interpersonal relationships.

Kunimi and Kindaichi won't have anything to do with him unless it's about homework or practice. Actually, even at practice, they ignore him half the time.

His junior high volleyball career is marked by a storm.

Hinata Shouyou.

His first impression of the redhead is he's so weak.

His second impression is he is terrifying.

Kageyama's mind is on overdrive after that match. He has so many things he wants to say.

(Why are you wasting your raw talent?

Why are you so determined? What does it take to be surrounded by that kind of drive on a team?

You could have gone to my school. You could have been incredible.

I need to play you again.)

He says, "What have you been doing for the last three years?"

//

After his final match of junior high, he comes home, curls up in a corner and speaks to no one. He expects his mother to come mock him before dinner. I told you so, Tobio. It's only going to get harder from here on out if you don't get your act together.

Instead, she comes in and lays a hand on his shoulder. "You tried your best, sweetie. Come and eat."

His best wasn't good enough.

He cries into his bowl of rice at the dinner table.

//

It's a new start. He's determined to learn from his mistakes. He doesn't know how to do that, exactly, but he'll put his best effort into it.

His thoughts run blank as the short redhead dashes in.

They shout, "You!" at the same time.

Kageyama's blood boils.

//

When Hinata hits his toss, he could say a lot of things, like how he's impressed by his determination, reiterate how jealous he is of the redhead's reflexes, and so forth. Instead, he stares at his hand, amazed.

I did it and he hit it.

Hinata fucking beams at Kageyama, and Kageyama stares at him before focusing on the game again.

//

Despite all of their previous misgivings, they are an undeniable force on the court. Hinata grins and Kageyama finds himself relaxing around him. He murmurs and punches and kicks; Hinata eventually stops cowering and calls him names.

"Invincible," slips out of his mouth with no warning, but he means it and he won't take it back.

Hinata stares in disbelief before nodding.

Kageyama goes home terribly embarrassed.

//

When his mother asks about the team, he isn't gloomy.

"It's good," he mutters around a mouthful of food.

She nearly drops her glass.

//

He doesn't hear about Coach Ukai's comment until later, when Tsukishima and Yamaguchi are chatting.

"Kageyama and Hinata do seem like childhood friends," Yamaguchi comments, head tilted. "Nobody would guess that they've only been playing together for a few weeks."

The blonde scoffs. "It's disgusting how one-track minded they are." Yamaguchi giggles.

Kageyama starts.

Me? Friends with Hinata?

He chalks it up to Tsukishima being annoying, as always.

//

Hinata worms his way in, one stupid, dumbass minute at a time.

It starts with practice. They both love volleyball just as much as oxygen. (Air only ties because without it, they couldn't play.) Hinata asks what his class number is. They borrow each other's chemistry books sometimes, even though the margins are filled with doodles of nets and new sneakers.

This sort of casual interaction becomes comfortable. Hinata even invites him over for lunch. Kageyama isn't sure, exactly, what having lunch together has to do with being teammates, but Hinata says, "You're seriously such a stick in the mud!! C'mon, just come to my class and I'll show you the new magazine I got!"

Hinata laughs at him and makes fun of his facial expressions ("Because you're not trying to be scary, it's hilarious!") and steals tamagoyaki rolls from his lunchbox when his mother cooks. He walks around school together with him and dodges Kageyama's elbows and smiles cheerfully when people cower in the taller teen's presence.

One day after school, when they are worn ragged from practice, Kageyama poses a question.

Hinata flicks amber eyes up at him. "What are you, stupid?" Kageyama clenches a fist, fully prepared to lift the redhead by the collar and sock him one to the kisser. "Of course we're friends. We promised to go to the top together."

The universe doesn't shift at the admission, but Kageyama thinks, Oh.

//

Meeting Iwaizumi on the court again, even if it's just for a practice match, is comfortable. He'd always liked him. He had been a kind, respectable senpai.

Oikawa, on the other hand, brings up a torrent of really annoying emotions, the foremost of which being fear.

Kageyama isn't scared that the popular brunette is going to get violent—no, it's nothing so farfetched.

He's terrified that, although Oikawa nearly comes in at match point, Aoba Johsai is going to win.

But then, as blustering and awkward and stupid as Hinata could be, he could also be completely, utterly terrifying in the best way, and Kageyama can't stop thinking, we have what it takes to win.

It's a dangerous thought.

Kageyama is addicted to it.

//

It isn't all fun.

He'd warned them. When Coach Ukai had asked, he'd said, "They're unified, in body and mind," in regards to the relationship between Iwaizumi and Oikawa.

He hadnt been eloquent enough to say, In the way that two people make each other more fluid in every motion, are in sync to the point of seeming like they can read each other's minds and pick up on each other's emotions without saying a word, they are each other's everything. Iwaizumi-san is fortitude and heart; Oikawa-san is awareness and mind.

They are -

It is -

I want -

"They're the pillars of Seijou."

//

They fight and Kageyama thinks, I knew having a friend on the team would mean trouble.

They fight and Kageyama is in pain.

He's physically hurt because they got into a scuffle in the gym.

He's mentally hurt because he doesn't understand why Hinata looks so fucking upset. He's right. Hinata needs to get over himself.

He hurts. Yachi glances at him with concern, and he thinks, There's no way in hell I'm going to lose.

//

Once Oikawa has his picture of Kageyama bowing, he snorts at his once-junior. "You're so stupid."

"I know."

He sighs. "You're annoying, too."

"...I know."

With another sigh, Oikawa gives in. "Are you scared of him?"

What.

"Scared of compromising with him. The shorty, I mean."

"I..."

Yes.

"Tobio-chan," Oikawa starts with a roll of his eyes, "You're going to end up alllll alone that way. Didn't you tell me that you'd changed?"

This isn't -

I don't -

I can't -

"What do I do, Oikawa-san?"

The brunette shrugs. "Figure that out yourself."

//

That summer, they change.

They grow.

They adapt.

They test their limits.

Hinata jumps.

Kageyama sets.

This time, they smile together.

//

Volleyball is everything.

For Kageyama, the match that was a success wrestled from the teeth of wolves grants him awareness.

I can never go back to the way I was in junior high.

He looks at the seniors laughing around a tired Daichi, at Yamaguchi and Ennoshita trembling, at Tsukishima grumbling and Hinata jumping, and a soft smile lights his features.

Not when it feels this good.

//

Volleyball is the most fun it has ever been. He's amazed by his team.

His every thought revolves around their upcoming games.

Once those have passed, his mind turns to a nearby presence with amazing tenacity and a face that occasionally gives him nightmares.

Hinata.

He thinks of one the best setter-ace combos he knows, then thinks, together, we could defeat them again, even if it's Oikawa-san.

He's learned plenty about how to play together with the team, but he can't deny that his partnership with Hinata comes the most naturally. He knows how to read the redhead almost intuitively. He knows his favorite foods, what he does before bed, how many times his sister has had to wake him up for school in the past two weeks. They are on the same wavelength for the most part, despite their infrequent disagreements on strategy and occasional scuffles.

They want to win and win and win and win.

He imagines standing in the Olympic arena with Hinata, sweaty and exhausted and smiling because we did it.

He nearly doubles over, feeling ill and mildly horrified.

He tries to picture the image again, like he had so many thousands of times before, standing on the podium without Hinata.

No. His heart thumps faster. His head hurts.

No red-haired, wannabe ace with thicker shoulders and wild hair pulled back. No tan face with a bright smile, or otherwise, a murderously focused gaze.

"Fucking hell." Kageyama dry heaves in the hallway.

//

Yachi watches the boys practice with the Coach and Supervisor. About an hour in, she says, "Do Hinata-kun and Kageyama-kun seem different to you?"

Their quicks are more polished in all forms. Hinata wants to learn more about receiving from Noya and serving from Kageyama. The freshmen stare at the regulars in awe. The gym atmosphere is truly light for the first time since the seniors graduated.

Ukai shrugs. "They ain't fighting much today, I guess." As if on cue, Kageyama snarls at Hinata to focus, and Hinata tries to bite his arm in retaliation. "I take it back. They're the same as always."

Takeda tilts his head. "I don't know," he hums, "I think they seem a little off, too."

Yachi mumbles, "I think they're sort of intense today. I mean, not that they aren't always intense!" Takeda and Ukai smile understandingly in her direction as she flails. "Just...Hinata-kun seems like he's glaring at Kageyama-kun, but Kageyama-kun won't meet his eyes."

"You tutor them sometimes, right?" Takeda asks, unsettled. "Have they seemed angry in class?"

"No." The blonde young woman shakes her head. "Usually they'd be yelling about the problem already, or assuring me it's nothing. Since they haven't, it worries me."

Coach Ukai blows a whistle to halt practice and hold a meeting.

Since the meeting is mostly for the first years, he dismisses the second and third-years with a quick glance at the two members that are the foundation of their team. "Figure this out," he grumbles. Hinata and Kageyama scowl at each other before racing out of the room.

They don't usually walk home together. The dark-haired teen fails to shake Hinata off, so they trudge the path to his house in stifling, uncharacteristic silence.

Finally, about a block before they're in front of his house, where he would have to explain that he was going inside and the redhead would just have to deal with this problem by himself, Hinata asks, "Why are you avoiding me?"

Kageyama turns, flinching as if the words burn. "I'm not."

"You're an awful liar."

"Shut up, dumbass."

His dark eyes flit up towards the sky.

I don't know. Things can't keep changing. Haven't I changed enough?

We're growing. I don't know exactly where my tosses are supposed to hit anymore.

Why can't I stop thinking about us?

Life is supposed to be about volleyball.

Not Hinata.

It's different from when he was obsessed with Oikawa.

"I don't," Kageyama chokes on the words, feeling vulnerable and full of anxiety. "Want to go back to. Before."

Hinata quirks an eyebrow. "I know I'm amazing and all, Kageyama-kun, but even I need a little more explanation than that." Kageyama reflexively grabs his head and squeezes, earning a barrage of whines from his shorter teammate. "Stop, stop, I give! I was just messing around, jeez!" Once he's free, he tidies himself up with a huff and puts one hand on his hip. "So, what's the deal? You getting all worked up about our practice match with Date Tech or something? You're being so weird."

"No," he grouses.

"Tsukishima say something nasty to you again?"

"No," he growls. "Don't you ever worry about," me, us, yourself, the future, the past, "Volleyball?"

The other teen blinks. "Is this supposed to be a trick question?"

He's getting annoyed for real now. Hinata backs up, sensing his frustration. "Do you remember our promise last year?"

He does.

Even though he'd still welcome the challenge, he doesn't think he wants to be across the net from Hinata anymore.

Not when he knows what the view is like with him.

Damn it.

"Of course," Hinata assures him gently, smile radiant before he starts pulling faces. "Getting shy about your declaration now, huh? Did you run into Oikawa-san at the convenience store last night or something? He's usually the only one that can get you this wound up."

"Or you," Kageyama grumbles before he can help himself, feeling lighter already.

"My house is way too far away for you to run into me at a convenience store." He gets punched. "Ow."

The dark-haired teen blurts, "We can't go against each other if we're both playing for the national team."

Hinata gives him an incredibly deadpan look. "Okay, for one thing, duh. For another, seriously, if this is about the time I took your Algebra notebook without asking, I already apologized."

"It's about volleyball, you moron!" Kageyama shouts, feeling incredibly stupid for worrying so much. "It's about playing with me." He narrowly avoids shouting now, forever.

"I know, dummy. Nobody else would practice receives with you after the sun goes down," Hinata teases, poking him softly. "Say, Kageyama, you're unexpectedly a worrywart."

Kageyama snarls and kicks him. His heart races.

Everything is such a mess.

//

Hinata isn't oblivious.

They're getting older and Kageyama just keeps watching, and the team juniors start asking, when did those two second-years become best friends?

In truth, he doesn't know either.

He always feels like they're on the cusp of something more.

//

There are tournaments and the Under-18 qualifiers and they both get confessions from girls and get jealous (though neither of them acknowledge that feeling, or even recognize it as such), and there are fights and there's tension, but more than anything, there is laughter and volleyball - together - and they are mostly inseparable.

Daichi, Suga, and Asahi come by and visit, cheer for their games when they can, and grin about the two whose monikers have advanced far beyond the strongest decoy and the king of the court.

Now it's more like Hinata-and-Kageyama, Birds of Prey, and sometimes scouters and interviewers are surprised by how incredibly similar their answers to questions about the future are for people that have only known each other for two and a half years.

Near the end of their third year, they finally receive a curveball. "What would you do if you couldn't play together?"

Hinata handles the question quickly. "I'm stupid, y'know? I don't like thinking about what-ifs. I'd still play my best, if that's what you mean! I mean, we're not always on the court together. But gahh, that sounds so lame! Other setters don't...I dunno, nobody's as good as Kageyama!" He finally settles on that answer, with a nod.

Kageyama takes a while longer. "I don't know. Earning a spiker's trust is difficult. Hinata just knows what to do, even if I don't say anything. It'd be hard for me to find somebody this crazy twice."

The woman fields them another question. "How do you feel about doubles? Would you play together even if it was just the two of you?"

That question they answer easily. "Of course!"

//

There's no point in discussing college. They don't want to talk about the possibility of separation, so they keep playing as usual.

Even on graduation day.

Except that Hinata's in top form and Kageyama's tosses are only accurate because of muscle memory. Their eyes are both red from crying when they stop playing and Hinata slumps against him.

"Before I go," the redhead starts, "I want to say—"

Kageyama panics, voice strained, "Don't—"

Hinata chokes, "I'm going to miss you—"

"Stop—"

"I really like you, I loved the volleyball we played—"

"Stop talking like we're not going to see each other anymore, dumbass!" Kageyama's vision blurs, and damn it, it was never supposed to be like this. It wasn't supposed to hurt like this.

The shorter teen pushes himself against the taller, shoulders shaking as he cries. "You made me amazing."

"No," Kageyama mumbles softly, eyes hard and face hot. "You made me worth something."

Hinata laughs bitterly, a sob ripping from his throat. "I don't want to go," he wails.

"We agreed not to talk about it," Kageyama cries, hugging Hinata back as softly as he can.

While his eyes are shut, the redhead leans up and presses their tear-streaked faces together, moving just a bit so his lips touch Kageyama's cheek. "That was stupid of us."

Kageyama's mind reels, his everything burns and he blurts, "Can I kiss you?"

"Oh my god," Hinata snorts, a sound full of snot because his nose is running. "Stop looking at me like that, yes, you stupid moron, kiss me!"

//

After summer, much like high school, they run into each other completely by surprise in the gym of their college, only this time it's Kageyama who startles Hinata mid-serve.

Hinata falls on his knees, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Kageyama flushes up to his ears and they both shout, "You're here!"

Not a moment later, the redhead startles the coach by leaping onto the setter and knocking him down.

//

Hinata presses languid kisses against Kageyama's thighs in his dorm room. "Damn it, you got me all excited. We have a match tomorrow."

Kageyama is mentally constipated before he flushes and spits, "If we win, we can do it. After."

The redhead laughs boisterously, mouthing at his partner's waist. "I bow to your greatness, Kageyama-san!"

Kageyama huffs and tugs Hinata's hair.

//

There is a quiet evening after they've stood on their second national stage where they huddle close for warmth and whisper insecurities.

"What is this?" Kageyama tucks himself into Hinata, tracing lazy circles on the redhead's back.

"What?" Hinata mutters back against his bare chest.

"Us."

Hinata snorts. "You're asking about this now?"

"I didn't want to ask right before a match."

"Dude," Hinata breathes against his skin and Kageyama shivers involuntarily. "My mom and my sister have asked me to bring you over and formally introduce you to my grandma."

Kageyama blinks in the darkness, scowling in confusion. "That doesn't answer my question."

"Are you stupid? No, wait, never mind, you are stupid." The dark-haired young man shakes the redhead until Hinata calls give. "Kageyama, last week you basically asked me to move in with you next year and you invited me to your house for dinner, like, with your parents. You never do that for anyone else. What do you think this is?"

His mind reels, full of half-baked memories of a time long past. "Being best friends?"

Hinata groans. "Oh my god. Where do you pull this crap from?"

He mutters, "Iwaizumi-san and Oikawa-san?"

Hinata rolls off the bed laughing.

//

When their colleges have a match a couple months later, Hinata strides over to Oikawa, tugging Kageyama with him. The older setter flashes his teeth at them and is about to crack at joke about his old junior before the redhead says, "How on earth did you get it into this idiot's head that dating is something best friends do?"

Oikawa is, for once, silent and flushed. Iwaizumi overhears and flushes in kind, bowing a little to the redhead. "I knew it," he blurts before tugging the brunette off.

"Iwa-chan, it wasn't my fault! It was an accident!"

Kageyama breaks from his daze and turns red, too. "We're dating?"

"I kinda thought so, yeah," Hinata declares. "Unless you want to break up or something."

"No!"

Hinata laces their hands together and smiles. "You're so slow."

"Oh, shut up," Kageyama grumbles.

"I love you anyways."

He nearly blushes himself purple.

//

They're nearing twenty when Kageyama has another crisis.

It begins, as all things do, with volleyball.

Hinata's having a successful streak. People on their teams (both the university and the national) are pleased to call him the ace.

He's stuck in a rut.

It's not that Kageyama's having a bad time of it - his tosses are as sickeningly accurate as they ever were. It's just that he doesn't feel like he's improving much, even if his receives are solid enough to earn him a spot as the libero, or his serves are more lethal than Oikawa's.

He comes back to the apartment and stews for a couple days before Hinata gets tired of it. On the weekend, he drags him out of the apartment with his cheeks puffed out, declaring, "We're gonna get out and do something!"

Without much warning, Hinata takes him shopping for a new volleyball, a new bag of socks, and a water bottle. After that, they grab meat buns at a corner shop, take a train for a couple hours back to Miyagi, and come back to a very familiar house.

Hinata's mother wears a soft smile and welcomes them in, where Natsu is playing some sort of handheld game before she looks up and drops it when she sees them. "Nii-chan! Kageyama-san!"

Hinata wrinkles his nose and pulls his sister into a hug. "Natsu, don't call him san, it makes him nervous."

"It does not," Kageyama mutters, unable to be completely angry with either of the fiery-haired siblings.

"Give us a call ahead next time, would you?" Hinata's father chides his son lovingly before he's nearly bowled over in a hug. "Hello, Kageyama-kun."

Kageyama bows a bit, feeling slightly embarrassed being around Hinata's warm family, as he typically does. "Hello, sir."

"So stiff!" His teammate and Natsu chide him in sync. Kageyama promptly starts chasing them around the house, growling insults as their smiles grow wider.

After dinner, Hinata drags him out to the porch and offers him a popsicle. "This about playing?"

Kageyama grunts his assent.

Hinata puts his hand on top of his boyfriend's, ignoring their shared callouses and how Kageyama's hands are always a little clammy. Kageyama squeezes back, wiggling his fingers so they're properly linked. "You know, it's not just you making me invincible anymore." With bright eyes, he looks right at his partner and says, "Together, we're unstoppable. I make you invincible too."

Kageyama's mouth wobbles into something the redhead is proud to recognize as a smile.

//

They are in the middle of a particularly intimate moment when Hinata asks for permission to kiss him, then stops, noticing that Kageyama's not really all that into it anymore. "Something wrong?"

He turns back to Hinata with a flush. "I was just thinking. We're kinda." His mind is on overdrive. Even though it's screaming at him, you've been together with this moron for so long, don't get embarrassed now, he stumbles over the word. "Aren't you bored of me?"

Hinata throws his head back and laughs. "No, never."

He scowls at that. "Never?"

Hinata falls on his chest and breathes on his skin, "Never."

Flustered by a rush of affection, he taps on Hinata's arms to make the redhead look up and glares at his lips as if doing so will transmit his thoughts. Awkwardly, he garbles out, "Me. Kiss. Okay?"

Hinata laughs again. "Yes, it's okay." Kageyama kisses him with too much force and he mutters an apology before trying again, breathing into Hinata's mouth until the shorter male's tongue flicks into his mouth and he flushes down his neck. When they pull away, Hinata chuckles. "Why would I be tired of you, dork?"

I don't know.

I get nervous.

I can't stop thinking I want us to be forever.

"I'm kinda hard again now, you know," Kageyama blurts lowly, and Hinata laughs again.

"Okay, okay. I'll touch you if you want?"

"Why do you always ask?"

Hinata flicks his eyes up with a soft smile. "Because you're important to me." When he inches his hand down Kageyama's pants, he smirks and says, "You do too, you know. I like it. I think it's nice."

Kageyama murmurs, "I am not nice."

"Yes, yes, of course, Grumpyama."

Kageyama half-groans and half-snarls, "Dumbass!"

//

The second time ever Kageyama brings him to family dinner, the dark-eyed setter sits and loudly declares, "Hinata's my boyfriend," before turning a little pink and casting his eyes down at his plate.

Hinata is gaping at him, completely surprised by the words, but pleased all the same. When he notices the older Kageyamas staring with twin gapes, he hurriedly bows his head and says, "A-Ah, yes, that's very true, please let me take care of your son!"

Once both of them are closer to the table and completely embarrassed, Kageyama hiss-whispers, "It's supposed to be take care of me!"

"I thought it could go both ways, okay!"

Kageyama's mom tells them to lift their heads and she looks like she's trying not to laugh while her husband clears his throat. "How about we talk more about this over dinner then, boys?"

They sigh in relief.

//

"You said it first! I can't believe it!" Hinata pouts at practice the next night.

"Yeah, well, you beat me to the confession, so I didn't want to lose."

"Sore loser! Bum! Bakageyama!"

A volleyball flies into his face and the taller youth says, "The last one was uncalled for!"

"Toss to me!" He shouts and Kageyama does and he smiles. "One more!"

His fall is sour. Kageyama's face immediately falls in distress.

//

"Stop looking so depressed. I'm the one who twisted my ankle."

"The qualifiers are coming up soon. I shouldn't have tossed such a hard one."

"I've told you a million times not to blame yourself for stuff like that. I'll be fine in like two weeks, loser." After a pause he says, "Ah, but I guess that means we can't fool around, huh."

Kageyama turns up his nose, turning red at the ears and murmuring, "Moron."

//

The day after Hinata is cleared for practice, the redhead wraps his arms around Kageyama's waist and leans up to whisper, "Missed me?"

"We live together, stupid," Kageyama barely manages to keep his voice level, subconsciously leaning back into the familiar touch.

"Missed this?"

He hums in agreement and Hinata fucking purrs against his back. "You are so unfair."

Before Hinata asks for a kiss, he thinks to himself, I want this, I want this so bad, I can't remember life before Hinata.

I want this forever.

"I want to play volleyball forever," he breathes against Hinata's lips. "I want us forever."

Hinata's breath hitches and a wobbly smile graces his lips. "Me too! Forever! Forever and ever and ever. We'll win and win and kiss a lot and we'll do it, me and you, on the top of the world!"

He thinks of the last time he met Oikawa, where his old senior had said it's incredible that you've met someone as blindingly stupid about volleyball as you. How'd you even work that out?

I don't know, he thinks, warm and pleased and the furthest thing from alone, but I know I can't let it go.

Hinata pulls him into a hug and smiles against him, saying, "Race you home!"

Kageyama yells at him to be careful with his ankle, but he breaks out in a run regardless, smiling so hard he can barely even believe it. There will be problems and days with no volleyball, and matches they can't win and times when Hinata isn't his everything, but for now, he doesn't care.

He loves him and it's way more than enough.