Shoyou was a daydreamer. In all likelihood, he always had been -but remembering such things when one spends most of their time in an entirely different reality is quite tricky. Besides, he didn't like dwelling on such things. They bored him. As to why he daydreamed, it's obvious isn't it?

In one's own head, where the imagination holds a strong dominion, one can be whatever they wish to be. The sky's the limit. One can make themselves as flawed, or flawless, as they wish to be. They can attract as much attention as they wish, have as many friends as they could ever desire. They can be anything, have everything. Why, then, would one want to reside in a world where everything was not exactly as they wished it? What would be the point?

Certainly, Shoyou couldn't find a reason. In his head, for instance, he was part of a fully functioning family, complete with a loving father who took him on trips and gave him those all-important 'father-son talks'. In his head his peers didn't mostly find him too much, too weird to be friends with. In his head he could balance volleyball and studies, didn't have to struggle to reach double digit scores on his tests. In his head he was actually good at volleyball. He didn't have to rely on others to pick up his slack, to make up for his mistakes.

In his own personal fantasy-land he could receive like Yuu could, power through solid blocks like Asahi. He could keep a team together like Daichi, analyse like Suga and Kageyama, and block like Tsukishima. He could jump serve, do diving receives, connect to anyone from anywhere on the court no matter how impossible it seemed. In his ideal world…he was the Ace.

In reality, bitter, frustrating reality, nothing ever seemed to change. For all his training, all of his failures, all of the trying, trying, and more trying- nothing changed. He was still Shoyou: all athletic ability and no skill. Largely useless. Sure, the team would encourage him; his receives were getting better, his spikes were gaining in power, he was connecting with the team better…but he didn't believe them. There was only so much one could hear the 'you'll get it next time's and the 'don't mind's before they felt empty and meaningless, after all.

He just couldn't see this change they apparently could. Couldn't feel it.

In his head, he could. The Hinata in his head improved at will, progressed at a lightning pace. That Hinata didn't have trouble picking up the very basics of volleyball, nor did he get discounted instantly because of his lack of height. Everyone knew who he was, his reputation as the Little Giant went a long way, after all. So, then, why should he stay in bitter reality, when they alternative was such a sweet proposition? Why should he keep returning to a shouting, insult-hurling Kageyama and a belittling, patronising Tsukishima? Why should he get laughed at, discounted and discarded as useless simply because he wasn't as vertically gifted as others?

Shoyou certainly couldn't find a reason to do so, so he simply didn't. He just remained in his head, went through the days on autopilot. He ate and drank, spoke only when spoken to, and then went to sleep at the end of the day. He stopped attending morning, then evening practices -why should he go when the Hinata in his head was already so good? Then he stopped talking to the team, despite their efforts to keep doing so -they respected him more in his head anyway. His already lacklustre grades flat-lined, his attendance levels following suit not long afterwards. He'd never been any good at learning anyway, so why should he keep trying when he knew it was a useless venture?

Instead of doing something so pointless, he stayed at home and stared either at his bedroom ceiling or the clouds passing by outside, laid flat on his back in the grass. He ate the bare minimal needed to function, slept more than he reasonably should, and barely spoke more than two words to anyone. To put it bluntly, he simply stopped.

He stopped living.

At least, in our reality he did.

In his head, life had never been better. He was the Ace, after all. The best Ace in the country, envy of the likes of Bokuto, Wakatoshi, Yamamoto, and Asahi. At one of the matches he'd played in recently, he was fairly sure he saw a scout from All-Youth Japan, so even at his level he was still going places. Achieving. Thriving. Living.

In reality, Shoyou was taken to see a sad-looking man with a seen-too-much-face in a fancy office with plush leather chairs and asked serious sounding questions. What they were, or what he answered he couldn't remember; it had all been a blur. The result, however, was not very forgettable due to its consistency, its constant presence. The way it crawled inside his brain and tried to force his blank face into something more cheerful. The way it made him so unbearably tired sometimes. The way it left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Shoyou hated the pills.

Hinata didn't have to deal with those, he was the peak. The pinnacle. Why would he need pills and medicines and doctors and hospitals if he never got injured?

Shoyou, meanwhile, was forced to drop out of school after months of growing absence. Don't misunderstand, it wasn't because the school forced him to. No, because it's difficult for one to get to a school situated over a mid-sized mountain when one can't even walk twenty yards without feeling faint. The pills couldn't help with that. He couldn't eat much either, a very small portion of something light on a good day- barely a mouthful on bad ones. Any more and he'd throw up, due to his body slowly becoming unaccustomed to foods. He went past the point of frail, into the realm of skin-and-bone. Emaciated.

People started visiting after a while. Suga appeared regularly, insisting on helping Shoyou's despairing mother whilst he was around. Occasionally Asahi and Daichi would come with him, either all together or one at a time, and alternate between attempting to engage him in one sided conversations and filling in the role of 'big brother' whilst he was unable. Yuu was another regular visitor, understandably. His cherished kouhai was in trouble, after all, and what kind of sempai would he be if he didn't do his best to help out? Ryuu followed a similar line of thought, of course, but Yuu seemed to have a connection to Shoyou that he didn't. Maybe it was in the height, or the frighteningly similar levels or energy and enthusiasm. Maybe it was because Yuu often thought Shoyou more a little brother than simply his kouhai.

Kageyama appeared sometimes to, though he couldn't seem to bear it for long before having to leave again. He just couldn't fathom how Shoyou of all people could look so…empty. So lifeless. Where was the bouncy ball of pent up athletic ability? Where were the stupid grins? The irritating yet infectious laughter?

All of it…all of what Hinata Shouyo was…gone.

He couldn't deal with that.

Tsukishima was similar, he just couldn't get his head around it. He sent a stuffed dinosaur with Yamaguchi one day, then a couple of old books he'd read and didn't exactly need anymore. Yamaguchi himself had gone a little quieter than usual, especially around Shoyou. He'd once told him that he wouldn't lose, yet he was losing right now wasn't he? Shoyou certainly wasn't winning. This could not be winning.

Ukai dropped by once or twice, usually with meatbuns for whoever was there -always one for Shoyou no matter who eventually ate it. He would demand that Shoyou eat a proper meal and look after himself, stating that he would never get any taller otherwise, but it lacked heat. Takeda only came once, to deliver what little had remained in Shoyou's locker. He had offered whatever support was needed, but had left shortly afterwards.

After a year Hinata was a member of the national volleyball team at the age of seventeen, the youngest ever to earn that coveted place. It was the culmination of all that training, all those diving drills and training matches. He had earned it. To make everything better, Hinata had taken Karasuno on to represent Japanese high schools after winning the nationals. The old third years were gone now, of course, but giving him the captaincy despite only being a second year had been a no-brainer. He was the best, after all.

Shoyou was not the best. He wasn't even at his own best, let alone anyone else's. They called him a Maladaptive Daydreamer, someone so caught up in their fantasies that they couldn't function in the outside world. They said he was depressed, that he was disheartened by the world around him. The psychologist had talked to the entire volleyball team, and most of the teaching staff, to try and get to the cause of all this pain. It wasn't difficult. Between the difficulties Shoyou faced in volleyball, and his learning difficulties it was 'understandable' that he would create an ideal world inside his own head. From there, it was a short, weightless step to living there full-time.

The team was very effected by this. They'd all known that Shoyou had difficulties when it came to volleyball, his natural talent could not make up for skill and experience, they just didn't know it was this bad. Suga upped his efforts even further, as did Yuu, and between them they managed to provide Shoyou with constant company. Whichever room their formerly-sunny teammate inhabited (baring the obvious) was always filled with some sort of noise, some activity to try and keep Shoyou at least somewhat in the real world. They made conversation, played games with Natsu deliberately in his presence, played the latest editions to their music libraries, filled him in on what was happening at school and with the team. How much they missed him. How much they'd love to have him back.

'Please come back'

Yuu had said that on a rainy Thursday in mid-April. His voice was quiet, pained, totally in contrast with his usual vibrant manner of speech. It had encompassed all of his regret, his guilt, his sadness and his longing. Furthermore, it had captured perfectly the thoughts of the entire team -even Tsukishima and Kageyama. They wanted their sun back, their fledgling crow. The gym was that much quieter for his absence, their practices that much more mechanical and dispassionate. It was as if this one incident, this single absence, had driven the air from all of their lungs, the fire from their hearts.

Eventually, the Third Years had to leave Karasuno. They couldn't stay any longer, what with their entire lives beckoning them onwards like a bright figure in the distance. Ennoshita took up the captaincy, he was the obvious choice really. The team he inherited, however, was not the one he'd seen himself inheriting shortly after the Tokyo training camp. It was disheartened, with clipped wings and lame legs.

Of course, those former members who'd had to leave before their finals were still about to lend a hand. Suga still spent most of his free time with Shoyou, and Daichi gave Ennoshita advice regarding the team whilst Asahi flitted between the two, sometimes with Shoyou and sometimes making appearances at the gym to offer tips. Suga, having seen first-hand the damage that psychological disorders can inflict on someone that seemed so untouchable, selected to go medical college. He wanted to make a noticeable impact, he wanted to make it better. Make Shoyou better. So when the time came he threw himself into his studies, Yuu filling in the void he'd left in Shoyou's life.

The Libero was there pretty much every day after that, either for a few hours after school or for whole days at weekends. When Suga got time off, he would visit and regale Shoyou in the glories of college, of his progress on the psychology course. Asahi and Daichi would appear as well, when they got the time, as would the rest of the team on a fairly regular basis. Even Tsukishima started turning up once bi-weekly, brining something or other in the hope of getting through to Shoyou. Kageyama appeared once a week, usually to mumble about how Shoyou 'should just get better already, 'cos I can't do that quick by myself, dumbass'.

And…for a while at least, things started looking up. Shoyou got more responsive, he seemed to retract from being the Hinata in his head every once in a while and come back to reality. He would participate in the formerly one-sided conversations that his teammates would engage him in, he would notice Yuu at his side at least once a day -whereas before it happened sometimes only once a week. He started smiling, started laughing, started joking and grinning and talking about volleyball. If Yuu closed his eyes and concentrated, he could imagine Shoyou walking with him to school, sitting at the side of a volleyball court, or spending a day out at the park during these conversations.

And he does.

Oh yes.

Because he longs, yearns, for that Shoyou to come back. His friend. His brother in all but blood and name.

Shoyou asks why he talks to him with his eyes shut sometimes, if it's because he can't bear to look at him in the state he's in. Like Kageyama. Like Tsukishima. Like Tanaka and Yachi and Shimizu and Takeda and Ukai and Ennoshita.

Yuu always answers 'No'.

What sort of person would he be if he couldn't accept the situation a brother found himself in and role with it? What sort of guardian would he be if he couldn't help Shoyou when he needed him most?

Certainly not a good one.

More like one unworthy of the title.

So he says 'No', and then changes to subject. Talks about something fun, something light and entertaining. Everything goes back to normal after that, or as 'normal' as a reality a barely-there Shoyou can permit. And things get better.

Slowly, but surely, that uncertainty goes away. Things weren't just 'looking up', there was improvement. Shoyou ate more, he could walk around for longer periods of time, go outside and sit on the grass. He spent less time in his head, and more time where it mattered.

Why?

Because, quite simply, that fantasy of Shoyou's became hollow and empty after a while. It was too perfect, too unreal. It was like activating a cheat code that gave you all the unlocks in a videogame, it may have made you unbeatable but it took away the achievement. He couldn't take any pride in being the Ace, the best, if he hadn't earned it. In that fantasy it had just been handed to him on a platter, complete with side dishes of skill and experience and a 'respect' seasoning. In the end, he realized that without the struggle, without the trying, trying, and more trying; there was no accomplishment. Not really. It was a hollow victory, one that came at the sacrifice of his real friends and his real talent.

And the catalyst for all of this? The one thing that really slammed all of this home for him? The fact that Yuu, his friend, Karasuno's libero and guardian deity was trying so damn hard to get him back. The fact that the team, according to Yuu, couldn't function properly without him. The fact that they wanted him back. That they needed him back. It was as if he'd received a hundred-volt shock straight to the brain, been kicked squarely in the backside by an ailing stallion. Hinata and Shoyou stopped being two separate entities, stopped being the ideal and the bitter reality, and became whole again.

Simply put, he started caring again.

So when Suga came back just before the end of his first year of college, he found a very different Hinata Shoyou.

Shoyou had put on weight, so he was no longer dangerously light, and had started to build up the muscles he needed to function properly. He'd started exercising daily in an effort to rehabilitate after a near year of near complete inactivity. He was catching up on all the learning he'd missed so that he could take his second year finals and start attending school again. Suga had been left speechless, standing stock-still in a doorway mouth-agape, when he'd first seen Shoyou and Yuu going over some of the exercises in his rehabilitation programme. He'd walked in part-way through some sort of joke too, because Shoyou was laughing that same old laugh; the one that brightened rooms and lifted spirits. When he then made a strangled sort of noise, not the only audible hint of his surprise and happiness, the two looked up at him…Suga felt like the sun had superimposed itself onto his eyes.

Shoyou's eyes, the eyes that had been glazed and unfocused, with back to their former, brilliantly-bright selves again. His smile was genuine; his skin was a slightly healthier tone. Suga felt like crying.

And after so much worry, so much uncertainty, why shouldn't he?

So he did.

Sugawara Koshi wept tears of joy that day.

Because why shouldn't he?

The sun had just come back out, after all.


A/N: Maladaptive Daydreaming is not a recognised psychological condition, but it is a known disorder and has been researched to a small degree. In this one-shot it is displayed at it's most extreme degree, and most people who daydream more than might be considered normal should not worry about this. Daydreaming is, in fact, good for your mental health. Maladaptive daydreaming is the very extreme of how disconnected one can become.

I came up with this one-shot during one of my own bouts of daydreaming, actually. Whilst it is definitely AU, I feel that it seizes upon the worst aspects of Shoyou's personality and exacerbates them to their most extreme degree. Of course he bounces back though, he just strikes me as one of those people that are impossible to keep down for long!

Let me know what you guys think! I've got some more ideas for one-shots like these, though not necessarily as sad! Don't worry!