The question started out innocently enough.
It didn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things, and it was mostly just the product of the mindless small talk all the teams had been engaging in for the past hour or so to keep themselves awake.
In all honesty, Tanaka hadn't meant anything by it. It wasn't even a question he'd thought he wanted an answer to at that point. It was just something that popped into his sleep-deprived head that happened to somewhat pertain to the theme of tonight's training camp sleepover: getting to know each other better.
Of course, the activity was pretty much futile, but the coaches of each respective team had insisted despite the ongoing rivalry between them. Everyone had been hesitant at first, because even though at least a few people could be considered acquaintances or maybe even friends, none of them were really comfortable with each other to the extent that a sleepover would be a good idea.
The coaches had insisted, however, despite the player's protests, that a sleepover consisting of all the teams would be good for them to get to know each other so they could play on a more personal level than before (whatever that meant). It was kind of stupid, mostly because Tanaka thought at least half of the group were stuck up snobs (cough cough Oikawa cough) but also because the coaches had thought it would be a good idea to put over sixty high school boys in a room together and expect them not to cause trouble.
Spoiler alert, they'd already broken three chairs, a leg of a table, and ripped up Nishinoya's bed. Whoops.
Hinata had been the center of the sleepover, for obvious reason, because despite all known laws of physics, he'd worked some of his voodoo magic and somehow already become friends with everyone on every team, even before the sleepover had started. That had actually been one of their main arguments as to why the sleepover should've happened in the first place, the fact that Hinata was already on sleepover terms with everyone, but none of the coaches (except Ukai, but he hadn't said anything, much to Tanaka's dismay) had believed them, even after Tendou had whipped out his phone and scrolled through at least thirty pictures of the two together.
In short, Hinata had been passed around from team to team all night long. Tanaka was honestly impressed with how well he handled being the center of everyone's attention for almost the entire night. The second-year had been a little wary of Hinata's social battery the whole night, ready to drag his underclassman back to their team's side of the room and away from everyone else the second he saw it draining, but Hinata had basked in the attention. He never ran out of things to talk about or things to say no matter who he was chatting with, whether it be with players from Aobajohsai, Shiratorizawa, Johzenji, Nekoma, or his own team.
He'd been subsequently fawned over and cuddled (because Hinata's hugs were the best, and Tanaka would fight anyone who says otherwise) for the better part of five hours, and he still hadn't been even the least bit sick of all the extra attention. His giggles had been just as loud, and his eyes had been just as sparkly and round as when the sleepover had just started.
It was intriguing, honestly, how clearly infatuated the other teams were with the small middle blocker. Of course, Tanaka couldn't say anything since he'd probably fight someone for Hinata if he asked, but he'd never seen how interactions with Hinata looked from an outsider's point of view.
It was comical, almost, how easily Oikawa's gaze softened when it landed on Hinata, or the way Terushima's eyes positively lit up when he spotted the tell-tale orange curls amongst the myriad of volleyball players. Ushijima would smile, actually smile, at Hinata's mindless, enthusiastic ravings, and Kenma would literally cuddle with the first year as if it were an everyday occurrence.
It stroked Tanaka's pride a little bit if he was honest, and he was pretty sure the same could be said for the rest of Karasuno as well. Hinata went to their school, and he was their underclassman, not anyone else's. It was kind of satisfying knowing that even though every other volleyball player in the league adored Hinata to the ends of the earth (relatable, by the way), he would always play for the Karasuno team and score points with his and Kageyama's quicks against everyone else, despite the way the ginger had them all wrapped around his tiny little finger.
But that had been hours ago, and even though Hinata's social battery hadn't run out yet, everyone else's had. It was three in the morning, and even though they had the next day off from volleyball to rest and recover from the previous rigorous week of training camp, everyone was exhausted. Not all of them could have unlimited energy like Hinata, not even the members of Johzenji.
Kenma had fallen asleep hours ago, followed closely by Yamaguchi, Tsukishima, and Yahaba. The rest were still awake, engaging in an unspoken competition of who could stay up the latest.
Which led to them making small talk, which led them to asking each other questions, which led to Tanaka asking his.
"Hinata, out of everyone here, who gives the best hugs?"
"Oh!" Hinata was just as energetic and vibrant as ever. At this point, everyone else was vying for second place. "That's a good one."
"It's me, isn't it." Oikawa's voice could be heard across the room, slightly drowsy in contrast to his usual sassiness and dramatic flair. He sniffed. "Of course it is. I'm perfect at everything."
Hinata nestled into his blanket, curling onto his side and in the direction of Oikawa's voice. "You do give good hugs-"
"Yes! I told you so! Iwa, didn't I tell you so?"
"-but I love everyone's hugs equally." Hinata finished, curling in on himself and brushing his curls away from his face with the underside of his hand. "I can't possibly pick the best one, y'know? All of your hugs make me feel warm and fuzzy inside!" He smiled, and Tanaka could've sworn the almost-pitch-black room got a little brighter. "They make my insides go gwahh, but, like, the good kind of gwahh."
"That's nice, Shouyou." Kenma murmured sleepily from the ginger's side. Although everyone else was divided up by teams, Kenma had immediately set his sleeping mat next to Hinata and hadn't moved it since despite Kuroo's (admittedly desperate) pleading. "Your hugs are nice too."
And that was the end of it. The players moved onto the next topic of conversation without so much as a follow-up question, never to be brought up again.
Until the next day, that is.
Hinata woke up in somebody's arms. As always, his instinctive reaction was to suck up the other person's body heat and go back to sleep.
Waking up the cuddles wasn't at all foreign to the sunshine human known as Hinata Shouyou. It was actually a pretty regular occurrence, considering how many sleepovers he had per month and the fact that the ginger was just so small and lovable that it was practically impossible for one not to wrap their arms around him once in his general vicinity.
Plus, Hinata craved affection. It wasn't that he didn't get enough, because he certainly did and he was never afraid to initiate it himself if he wanted a hug or an arm around his shoulder at a particular moment. It was just that he liked hugs. They were probably up there on his list of favorite things other than volleyball and quick attacks.
But Hinata was Hinata, and the only way he could possibly stay still for long would be if someone sedated him with a sleep-inducing drug.
The ginger groaned and rolled onto his other side, unsurprised to find that it was Kenma who'd wrapped his arms around him and Kenma who was still dead to the world and blissfully oblivious to Iwaizumi and Oikawa's constant bickering in the far corner of the room and Kuroo's snoring on the opposite end.
"Psst. Kenma." Hinata poked the setters cheek. "Open your eyes. We need to shower before everyone else wakes up." That was true. Putting over sixty highschool boys together in the same room in a facility with only four bathrooms and eight showers apiece didn't make for a pleasant morning, and that was when all the teams were in their own rooms. The chaos of over fifty six-feet-tall boys stampeding to the bathroom right before breakfast and flattening him like a pancake was not one Hinata would like to experience, thank you very much. "Kenma. Wake up."
The only response he received was an eyebrow furrow and a soft huff.
"Kenma." Poke. "Kenma." Poke. "Kenma." Poke.
"Ohmygod, what." Kenma batted his hand away and blearily opened his eyes, which were unfocused and groggy with sleep even though setter had been one of the first to pass out the night before. "Shouyou, it's like five in the morning. Go back to sleep."
"It's eight, Ken."
"If it's before twelve, it's early."
"That's dumb." Hinata flicked Kenma's cheek before his eyes could slide back closed. "C'mon. No one's awake but Iwaizumi and Oikawa."
"Your point?" Kenma lazily nuzzled his pillow, burying half of his face into the soft fabric so only one eye was trained on Hinata and the other deep in the white cloth. "I don't see what that has to do with us getting up at the crack of dawn."
"The crack of dawn was at, like, four in the morning."
"I'm being sarcastic, Shou," Kenma muttered, eyes drooping once again. If whatever conversation this was turning into was going to end up with pointless bickering and repetitive comments, no amount of love for Hinata was going to be able to keep him awake and conscious for another five minutes. "Just tell me what you want." He paused for a moment. "Sorry, that sounded rude. Please elaborate on whatever point you're making so I can turn you down and go back to sleep."
Hinata just smiled, and Kenma swore his heart constricted a little at how adorable the ginger looked with mussed up curls, brown eyes soft from sleep, and the rare view of his freckles sprinkled across his grinning cheeks.
Stupid Hinata and his stupidly irresistible charms. Not even the hours of hanging out together and playing video games had built up his immunity enough to simply just ignore that.
"I think we should go to the bathrooms and shower now." Hinata continued, tapping his foot under his covers absentmindedly. "Because if we wait for breakfast to be called at nine, everyone else will probably squish and kill us trying to run to brush their teeth or something."
There were some flaws in Hinata's plan, one major one being that all Hinata would have to do to get a bathroom to himself was simply ask and flash his puppy-dog eyes for a split second, but it was a good point. Though Kenma wasn't blessed with Hinata's undeniable charisma, he was blessed (more like cursed) with Hinata's height. The middle blocker was right about the fact that they'd probably be crushed and run over if they waited another hour to get washed up, but Kenma was just so comfortable.
"I'm fine," Kenma said between yawns, eyes randomly finding Hinata's. "I'll just tie my hair back in a bun or something. If you want to wash up, I'll give you the bathroom all to yourself."
"You sure?" Hinata frowned a little bit and brushed a few stray curls out of his eyes to get a proper look at his friend. "Each stall has two showers. I don't mind sharing."
Kenma merely shook his head, cat-like eyes drooping once again. Damn these sleeping mats for being so comfortable. "No, it's okay. You can have your privacy."
"If you say so."
There was a brief moment of silence.
"Why aren't you going?" Kenma asked after a few quiet seconds. "I seriously don't want to shower."
"Your arm's wrapped around me," Hinata said simply, fiddling with Kenma's fingers and massaging the sore joints as if to punctuate his point. "I can't exactly, y'know, go anywhere."
"Oh." Kenma was quiet for a moment, but he didn't let go. "Does it feel good?"
"My hug. Does it feel good?"
"Of course!" Hinata said quickly, earnest and genuine as anything. "I love your hugs, Kenma!"
"Hm." Kenma smiled his signature small smile, eyes crinkling just a little bit more than usual. "Good to hear." He released his grip on Hinata for the first time that morning, taking the opportunity to stretch his own sore muscles as he watched the ginger scramble upright, grab his towel and toothbrush, and speed out of the room with determined urgency, all with fond golden eyes.
"You fucking snake." Kuroo's voice filtered from the other side of the room, slightly rough from disuse but loud enough to get his point across. "You're not so slick. I know what you're doing."
Kenma flipped him off reflexively, not even wasting the energy to roll over to face the third year, instead opting to snuggle even further into his pillow and pull the covers up to his shoulders. He smiled a little despite himself.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Kuroo."
"So we're doing this, right?" Daichi weaved his hands together and placed his chin on his open palms, carefully observing the volleyball players present in their makeshift little semi-circle. "Like, this is a thing?"
"It's a stupid thing," Kageyama grumbled from the side, only to be shushed a few moments later. He sniffed in distaste and went back to scrolling through his phone as he waited for his partner to return from wherever the hell he'd run off to so they could actually practice their quicks in peace for once. It was a free day at training camp, almost like a reward of sorts for making it through one rigorous week of endless drills and practice games. It would be nice to practice their attack without Tanaka screaming in their ears or Oikawa mocking him from the sidelines (he always praised Hinata though, which got on Kageyama's nerves), but of course, the hyperactive dumbass was nowhere to be found.
But because of that fact, of course, the rest of the teams had decided it was the perfect time to lay out the details of a Hinata hugging competition.
Fucking idiots. Kageyama didn't know how these whipped morons could function every day.
So far, everyone was into it besides himself, Tsukishima (for obvious reasons, one of them being that the blond was probably allergic to physical affection or something), and Kenma, because according to Kuroo, the two of the smallest players 'cuddled together all the time so it wouldn't be fair to the rest of us.'
Kenma had called him a coward. Kuroo had merely shrugged and insisted.
In the end, it had been decided that Kenma wouldn't actively participate in the upcoming competition since Kuroo, Oikawa, and Iwaizumi had all been direct witnesses to the faux blond cuddling Hinata when he'd woken up. According to them, Kenma had already had his 'turn' to prove his hugs were the best to Shouyou.
The rules of this little competition were that each player, whether they be on Hinata's team or not, all got one chance to hug the ginger in the time between breakfast and dinner. That one chance would be all the time they got to convince Hinata that they were the best hugger, and after the time limit expired, it had been decided that one of them would coax sweet, innocent, naive Hinata into revealing who he thought was the best hugger.
It was also decided that no one would go to bed until they received a straight answer, which Kageyama thought was fucking stupid because Hinata was as lovable as he was stubborn and kind. There was no way he would actually reveal his cuddle-buddy preference (if he even had one) in front of everybody for fear of hurting someone's feelings.
In short, the competition was basically pointless. Kageyama was pretty sure everyone else knew that too, but they just wanted an excuse to hug the embodiment of sunshine and rainbows, which, honestly, would be relatable if Hinata wasn't already so clingy with him all the time.
"This is dumb," Kageyama mumbled again, ignoring the stink eyes he received. "Why does this matter anyway?"
"Because Hinata's hugs are the best!" Terushima threw out his arms, hitting Bobata in the face in the process. "He's like a puppy! His eyes get all big and sparkly, and his smile is so wide, and his hair is so fluffy I just want to die-"
"What the hell does any of that have to do with hugs?"
"Everything, my dear Tobio." Oikawa singsonged, slinging an arm around Iwaizumi only to be pushed off a second later. "It's the experience."
"It's like cuddling a kitten," Tendou added. He'd been relatively quiet throughout this whole ordeal, strangely enough. "Or a puppy. Or a bunny. He just, like, nuzzles into your stomach and his hugs are so warm-"
"Jesus, you guys are hopeless." Tsukishima groaned. He'd long since given up trying to block out the conversation with his headphones and was now huddled about as far away as possible from everyone else in a desperate attempt to ignore all the sickly-sweet affectionate words practically oozing out of almost every player. "It's just a hug, goddamn."
There were a few beats of silence.
"Tsukishima," Ushijima said slowly. It was the first time he'd spoken all morning, meaning his voice was still thick from sleep and about two times deeper and three times more intimidating than usual. "You've never been hugged by Hinata, have you."
"Uh, no?" Tsukishima's tone was flat, and his eyes were devoid of emotion. "He's s shrimp. I don't see how someone who comes up to my shoulder at best can give hugs worth all this."
"He's actually rather quite fond of Hinata," Suga interjected quickly, smiling graciously at the teams before Tsukishima could potentially get yelled at (or beat up, depends on the player) for 'disliking' the precious angel child. "He's just a little emotionally constipated."
"I AM NOT-"
"Anywayyy..." Kuroo turned his attention back to Daichi. "So we all agree to respect Hinata's opinion when it comes down to it, correct?"
There were several nods of confirmation and agreeable murmurs, to no one's surprise. Kageyama scoffed.
"Again, why does this matter?"
Oikawa fixed him the stink-eye once again. "How would you feel if you got told you have the best hugs by someone like Hinata Shouyou." He sat back, crossing his arms behind his head and leaning against the wall. "Pretty damn good, I bet. Imagine getting hugs from shorty all the time because he thought you were the best hugger. Imagine the pure bliss and comfort you would feel every day."
Kageyama already got random spontaneous back hugs from Hinata every day (whether willingly or not), so that would be nothing new, but he kept his mouth shut.
"You don't even see him every day." Tsukishima pointed out, which was yet another thing everyone in the competition had silently and unanimously decided to ignore. "The only people who would even benefit from this competition are us." He cocked his head at the rest of the Karasuno team.
"It's for the title," Hanamaki answered smoothly. "Even if the winner isn't on Karasuno, which they won't be because Aobjohsai is superior in every way including hugging, but that's besides the point-" Asahi had to physically slap a hand over Nishinoya's mouth to stop the libero from interrupting. "-then they'll at least know that Hinata likes their hugs the best."
"Why're all of you so freakin' obsessed with Hinata," Tsukisima muttered under his breath, and Kageyama could physically see Suga resisting the urge to facepalm. He wasn't sure if their resident blond just had a death wish or if he was just plain blind to everyone's adoration of Hinata, but there were only so many passive-aggressive comments he could make about the ginger without getting a fist to the face. "Honestly. You're all like a bunch of lovesick puppies."
"Precisely. Thank you, Tsukishima." Ushijima nodded firmly before turning back to the conversation, leaving the blond blocker sputtering behind him. "May I ask, are there any limits to this competition?"
All eyes went to Daichi, otherwise known as Hinata's adoptive dad, and thus, the rule-maker of this competition. He cleared his throat, putting on what Kageyama liked to call his 'captain face.' "There are a few. Number one, no interfering with other people's hugs. This is going to be a fair competition and one based on Hinata's honest opinion. Number two, the maximum hug time one person gets is ten seconds, meaning one person can't just latch onto Hinata for the entire day and not let anyone else get a turn."
"GODDAMN IT, THAT WAS MY PLAN."
"YOU FUCKING SNAKE!"
Daichi snapped his fingers at Semi and Shirabu, exchanging a subtle glance with Ushijima. "Moving onto number three. If Hinata asks any of you to stop hugging him for any reason, whether it be that he's uncomfortable or just wants to grab something, you need to listen. Clear?"
"Clear." Several voices murmured, many clearly not happy with the development. It wasn't that they would touch Hinata when he didn't want to be touched, because even with things as innocent as hugs, consent was necessary, but the little ginger was hyperactive as hell. No matter the circumstances or situation, he was basically incapable of sitting still for more than five minutes, meaning that many, if not most, of them would be pushed off to the side or asked to let go in favor of the ginger stretching his legs a little bit and running laps around the gym.
It was insane, actually, how many laps he could do. Whenever they did endurance training in camp, more often than not, Hinata was the only player not collapsed on the floor in a sweaty mess.
"Everyone good?" Daichi clarified one last time, searching everyone's gazes for any form of hesitance or unwillingness. Finding none, not that he expected to, he simply nodded and settled back against the wall. "Okay then, so-"
"What are you guys doing?"
Hinata stood in the doorway of the spare room, clad in a simple white t-shirt and practice shorts with his hair gloriously fluffed up and damp from the shower and his freckles on full display (for once) as he regarded them all with curious, big brown eyes. He scratched his cheek absentmindedly and cocked his head, and at that moment, he just looked so freaking adorable and kitten-like that Kageyama was pretty sure he heard at least ten choked coughs.
A few moments later, however, when Hinata's spell wore off, the room dissolved into utter chaos.
"HINATA!" About twenty people sprang up at once, and another ten were knocked over by flailing limbs and sharp elbows.
"Hi?" Hinata waved sheepishly, eyes still delightfully curious despite the commotion. "What are you-" His sentence was cut short as he was swept into a bone-crushing hug from Nishinoya, who happened to be the closest to the door and was able to weave expertly through the lumbering bodies of the other volleyball players to get to his underclassman. He practically barrelled into the ginger, who accepted his hugs with open arms and a gleeful smile. "Hi, Noya!" His voice took on a whole other tone altogether, changing from one of faint confusion to one of childlike delight.
"Hey, Shouyou!" Nishinoya returned his enthusiasm with ease, squeezing his midsection one more time before letting go and stepping back with a satisfied smirk. "Where were you?"
"I was-OOMPH." His sentence was once again cut short by Kuroo wrapping his arm around the middle blocker's waist, trapping the younger into a firm back hug. Hinata melted into the embrace, as he did with all forms of affection, but raised a quizzical eyebrow over his shoulder.
Kuroo just grinned. "Carry on."
"Oh. Okay!" Hinata turned back to Nishinoya, who looked decidedly more put off than before as he glared at Kuroo from over his underclassman's shoulder. "I was just showering up. No big deal."
"You were gone for like an hour," Yaku commented, smoothly switching places with Kuroo and wrapping Hinata in his own hug. Kenma said you went to the bathroom around eight."
Hinata wrinkled his nose, not even slightly deterred by how he was casually handed off by the Nekoma captain. "Yeah, but this time I actually washed my hair with fancy conditioner and stuff instead of just rinsing it." He ran a hand through his curls as a demonstration, and sure enough, it was able to run through the fluff smoothly without getting caught up in any tangles or knots. "See?"
"Oh wow." Oikawa slipped into his peripherals and wrapped Hinata in a side hug the millisecond Yaku unwrapped his arms from around the middle blocker's waist, and ran a slender hand through the first-year's bangs. Out of the corner of his eye the ginger could've sworn he saw the libero glare at the setter's actions, but he turned his back to the duo before he could get a proper look. "Your hair's so soft today, Shou."
"I know!" Hinata positively beamed up at the Aobajohsai player, and Kageyama would be lying if he said he didn't smirk a little at the way he could physically see the gears in Oikawa's head freeze in place at the sight. The middle blocker ruffled his hair, sending little droplets of water flying onto everyone nearby. "I've been meaning to give my hair a good cleaning since forever, but I've just never had time to."
"That's great, Hinata," Suga commented dryly, staring daggers at Oikawa. "I can't believe you were able to explain all that in only ten seconds."
Some unspoken conversation passed between the two setters. The tension in the room momentarily spiked before Oikawa let go of Hinata's shoulder, albeit reluctantly, after giving it one last comforting squeeze.
"Uhm." Hinata's eyes flitted between the two setters. "Am I missing something or...?"
"Nothing at all." Suga murmured, gaze still fixed on Oikawa even as he made his way back to where Iwaizumi was standing. Hinata could've sworn he saw just a slight flicker of competitiveness in his teammate's eyes, but it was replaced by fondness just as quickly as the setter finally returned his gaze to his underclassman. He smiled gently and tucked Hinata into his side, giving him a kind-of-awkward-but-really-freaking-comfortable hug. Unable to resist, he brushed the fluffy orange bangs away from the blocker's brow. "Do you want breakfast?"
"Yes!" Just like that, the childlike enthusiasm was back. "Can we please? I barely had any dinner yesterday, and I'm starving." He turned to the rest of the observing players, bouncing on the ball of his feet as best he could while lucked in Suga's embrace. "Do you guys mind if I start eating without you since I already washed up, or do you want me to wait?"
The room was silent for a solid three seconds. Holy crap, bless this boy and his golden heart.
"Go eat food! We don't mind."
"NO, OHMYGOD IT'S FINE."
"Don't wait for us!"
"You're so fucking sweet ohmygod-"
"You don't have to ask us!"
"You deserve first dibs on breakfast anyway."
A swirl of protests rippled around the room, everyone either shaking their heads, waving their hands, and frantically urging him to go and eat before they melted from how fucking adorable this boy was.
"I'll go with you!" Terushima exclaimed suddenly, swooping Hinata out of Suga's arms and into his own as soon as his internal clock hit ten seconds. "I showered last night anyway, so it's fine!"
"But you didn't-"
"Not now, Futamata," Terushima muttered, wrapping his arms around Hinata's midsection and plopping his head down on the mop of ginger curls. He patted the boy's stomach soothingly, internally complimenting himself on his stellar hugging skills. "So whadda you say, shorty? Breakfast?"
"Yes!" Hinata peeked up at Terushima from under his lashes and grinned. Terushima choked a little at the sight, but the younger didn't seem to notice. "Please. I'm gonna die if I don't get food in the next five minutes."
"Your wish is my command, Shortstack!" Terushima declared, taking one arm off of Hinata's waist to open the door. He frowned as he caught Daichi's gaze in the mirror, clearing telling him his ten seconds was up. He rolled his eyes, sighed, and uncurled his other arm to gesture dramatically at the empty hallway. "After you."
Something was off today.
Now, Hinata may be naive and blissfully unaware of most of the world around him since he unconsciously chose to only focus on the good in life, but that didn't mean he was stupid. His friends had definitely been acting weird, and everyone had definitely been acting out of character.
Thinking back, Kenma, Kageyama, and Tsukishima were the only ones who weren't acting like completely different people. Kageyama and Tsukishima had done nothing but basically ignore him all day, and the only time he'd been able to talk to Kenma was when they'd been cuddling that morning. Since then, he'd been too swarmed with everyone else to catch a glimpse of him again.
It was no secret that Hinata loved attention. He thrived around people, especially fellow volleyball players who were just as passionate about the game as he was. He was about as extroverted as they come, and adding onto that, as touchy as they come as well. Besides maybe volleyball and his family or something, there was nothing that he loved more than affectionate skinship. It was just so nice. He wasn't touch-starved or anything (he was very far from it, actually, with a clingy little sister and over one-hundred highschoolers ready and willing to hug him at any time if he so asked), but he would never stop loving the warmth and security platonic cuddles gave him.
This, though...this was a little much.
Nishinoya hugging him wasn't all that uncommon. Though he wasn't the most touchy of his teammates, he was spontaneous and did what he wanted. The libero had given him random (and amazingly comfortable) hugs before, so that wasn't too strange. Oikawa and Suga hugging him wasn't an irregular occurrence either. Suga always had a parent-like air around him, and he was honestly Hinata's go-to person on his team (excluding Yamaguchi) that he went to when he wanted advice or to talk about something. Those talks usually led to hugs, and Suga had made it an unconscious habit to embrace or touch his underclassman in some way whenever they were talking to each other.
Oikawa was pretty clingy as well. Whereas he hung off Iwaizumi like a koala, he wrapped Hinata up in his arms and refused to let go whenever he saw the ginger outside of games or training camps. He usually rambled about how "cuddly" and "adorable" the blocker was whenever he did so, but Hinata was generally too busy laughing or returning the embrace with matching enthusiasm to pay attention.
Kuroo and Yaku, though, were a different story. Hinata didn't think he'd ever gotten a hug from Yaku before, and while he'd embraced the Nekoma captain several times, the elder wasn't one to initiate physical affection between the two. That was more Kenma's style, having overtime gotten comfortable with silently hugging Hinata whenever he pleased, whether it be cuddling with him or just a casual arm around the shoulder. Kuroo had never done that with either Kenma or Hinata. That was partly because Hinata was basically the only one Kenma permitted to give and take physical affection from on a daily basis, but also because it seemed Kuroo was content with looking at their cuddle piles from the sidelines (and snapping pictures of them, apparently), with fond eyes instead of engaging in them, which he was always welcome to.
It was usually Hinata that had to hug Kuroo first, not the other way around. Still, he hadn't questioned it. Who was he to reject a hug from the great Nekoma captain?
When Terushima had hugged him, he hadn't even batted an eye. Soon after meeting them, he'd quickly learned that the Johzenji players were naturally affectionate people, so random back hugs and hair ruffles were pretty standard when it came to the yellow-clad team. So yeah, Terushima's arms randomly wrapping around his waist didn't trigger any alarm bells.
What had, however, was how quickly he'd let go.
Not that Hinata was counting, but Johzenji's captain had let go of him almost exactly after ten seconds of hugging him. That alone was enough to make him hesitate a bit before going to get breakfast, because Terushima usually didn't let go until he absolutely had to. He was clingier than Oikawa and Natsu combined, and though Hinata had zero problems with that (he actually indulged the captain in hugs a lot if he was honest), it was weird for him to simply relinquish his grip on Hinata after opening the door. Under usual circumstances, Hinata was certain Terushima would've clung onto him all the way to the cafeteria.
At first, Hinata had just shaken the feeling off. The distinct lack of volleyball was probably just making him antsy for action, and he was probably just reading too much into his friend's actions.
But then, breakfast had come.
Long story short, it was a mess. A big, blubbering, confusing mess.
The first ten minutes or so of breakfast had been peaceful. It had been just him and Terushima enjoying some nice miso soup and rice in a pleasant, quiet atmosphere. Usually, Hinata hated the quiet, but the kind of quiet filling the cafeteria was a relaxing kind of quiet, not the dead kind of quiet he despised with every fiber of his being. The coaches of each respective team were nowhere to be found either, and everyone else besides the middle blocker and the captain was busy washing up or getting ready. The only people present in the dining hall were them two.
In the very back of his mind, Hinata had vaguely registered the fact that Terushima hadn't touched him, like, at all for their entire meal.
Before he could dwell on it, however, the cafeteria doors burst open to reveal nearly sixty very chaotic and messy volleyball players, all of which made a beeline for Hinata's table.
The next few minutes were a blur for Hinata. All he could remember were constant arms hugging him, hands petting his hair, and bright smiles being sent his way. He basked in all of it, of course, because he loved his friends and relished the feeling of being warm and comfortable and safe and protected in their humongous embraces, but he was just so confused. Was he not giving them enough hugs or something? Was he denying them from the affection such lovely people deserved? He just couldn't figure out what was going on.
His eyes sought Kageyama's, cocking his head at the boy and lips adorning an unconscious pout in confusion, but his setter's face had merely pinched up as he looked away.
After that initial rejection, his eyes instinctively found Kenma's. His perplexed pout deepened even further as he was, quite literally, plopped down into yet another person's lap. Kenma just fixed him with a somewhat sullen stare, and if Hinata wasn't mistaken, he would've said the second-year looked a bit...jealous? Frustrated? Petty? A wide variety of emotions flickered across his face, each one too brief for Hinata to identify.
Eventually, all the commotion had settled down a tiny bit. Hinata honestly wasn't quite sure how he felt about that, because while most of his friends were acting super out of character and touchy, that didn't mean he wanted them to stop cuddling him at every opportune moment. Everyone had taken a break from snatching Hinata back and forth to eat their breakfast, which should've happened a lot sooner since it would've saved a lot of people a lot of trouble.
The coaches had entered the room a few minutes before this point and had been met with an eyeful of Semi wrapped around Hinata and gently patting his hair while the rest of the volleyball players gathered around them. Ukai had just waved it off, muttering something about it being "Just another Monday." The other coaches had just gone along with it.
The events that took place after breakfast weren't much different. Hinata had initially been planning on practicing his quicks with Kageyama since today was a free day and it was likely that there wouldn't be anyone at the gym, but from the way things were looking, it seemed his morning wasn't going to go as planned.
As soon as breakfast was deemed finished, the Aobajohsai players (minus Oikawa, for whatever reason) had practically dragged Hinata back to the room they'd all slept in, sat in a circle with a very confused puppy-eyed ginger in the center, and passed him around from person to person, each one wrapping him in their own warm embrace for no more than ten seconds at a time before someone else got their turn, including Mad Dog and Iwaizumi.
Iwaizumi, despite his temper, actually gave very mother-like comforting hugs. Hinata had hugged him a few times before, but much like Kuroo, he always had to be the one to initiate it. Also like Kuroo, Iwaizumi was content with watching Oikawa squeeze the life out of Hinata whenever they were together but not joining in.
It was when Mad Dog hugged him that Hinata knew that something was very off. It wasn't that Mad Dog wasn't a nice person, because he was, but he just didn't do hugs. It wasn't his style. His embrace was surprisingly gentle, however, when Hinata was finally pulled into his lap. It felt nice, and he probably could've snuggled up and fallen asleep right there if this whole situation wasn't so freaking weird.
Ushijima had nearly scared him out of his wits about an hour later with his surprise back hug. He'd come very close to dropping his water bottle and elbowing someone in the face when he felt two arms warping around his shoulders and the sensation of being pulled into Ushijima's massive frame. The captain didn't even say anything, merely holding the middle blocker in his embrace for a solid ten seconds before gently patting his head and walked right back out the door.
In all, the day he was supposed to have dedicated to practicing quicks with his partner ended up having almost zero productivity. He spent more time being cuddled or hugged or held by someone than he did standing on his own, and on top of that, the last time he'd seen Kageyama was sitting at the table at breakfast and passing by him in the hallway at lunch. So far, the only one who hadn't so much as laid a finger on him was the grumpy setter. Even Tsukishima had taken the time to give the ginger the rare semi-affectionate hair ruffle instead of the usual painful poke.
Speaking of Kageyama, after Hinata had gotten a hug, or is Tsuki's case at least some form of affection, from everyone he could think of, he finally found the setter throwing the ball up to himself in the vacant lot outside of the gym.
"Finally." Hinata groaned, tension leaking out of his shoulders at the sight. "I've been looking for you all day, Bakayama. Did you just decide to disappear on me or something?"
Kageyama caught the volleyball in his hands and regarded Hinata with a long, long look. His lips were pursed, and his eyes were just as pinched as they'd been at breakfast that morning.
"Sorry." He said finally, gaze returning to the ball as he started setting it up to himself again. "I just figured you would be a little...preoccupied today."
"What does preoccupied mean?"
"Uh, I guess it usually means when a person is busy with something else-"
"I know how to speak Japanese, stupid." Hinata rolled his eyes. "I mean like what does it mean in this context."
"It means preoccupied," Kageyama stated, scoffing at nothing in particular. "That's it."
"That doesn't even make any sense, Bakayama."
"Yes, it does."
"No, it doesn't."
"Yes, it does."
"No, it doesn't."
Kageyama fixed him with a stare, once again catching the volleyball and tucking it under his arm. "Are you seriously going to tell me you got even more than an hour to yourself today?"
Hinata opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. "Well no, but-"
"See." Kageyama flicked Hinata on the forehead, ignoring the boy's strangled cries of betrayal. "Preoccupied."
Hinata scowled and rubbed the sore spot on his brow. From what he could tell, there was already a red mark forming. Stupid Kageyama and his stupidly strong setter fingers. "You're rude."
"You're a shrimp."
"Are all your insults about my height?"
The boys stood in silence for another few moments, most of which consisted of the two just silently staring at each other.
"Do you know what was going on today?" Hinata asked after a few moments of deliberation. The worst he could do was just say no, and the two could go back to their usual banter. If he could provide an answer, then great. If he couldn't, it would leave Hinata with more questions than ever, but at least they could finally practice quicks. "Like, with all the hugging and stuff."
"You get hugs from everyone all the time," Kageyama replied simply, and Hinata nearly cracked a smile at how poor a job he did at dodging the question. "It's no biggie."
Hinata groaned and draped himself over Kageyama's back, batting away the setter's hands as he tried to push him off. "Just tell me, Bakayama. I know you know, and it's getting annoyinggg."
Kageyama twisted his head around to glare at him. "What, all the hugging?"
"No, dummy." Hinata scoffed, applying even more pressure to Kageyama's back. "Because I don't know what's going on. I love hugs, but I'm getting them from everybody, including people who rarely give me hugs daily. I swear to god I'm in a parallel universe or something."
"You're not in a parallel universe, dumbass."
"Gee, thanks. All my troubles have suddenly disappeared with your wise words." Hinata rolled over and came nose to nose with his setter, puppy-eyes wide and face morphed into an unintentional pout. "Seriously, Kageyama. Can you please just tell me what's going on? I know you know."
Kageyama looked at him for a long moment with a strange look on his face, sighed, and pushed the ginger off of him. "It's stupid."
"So tell me."
"Shut up. I'm getting to that." Kageyama threw the ball at Hinata's chest. The blocker caught it with ease, tucking it under his arm as he regarded his teammate carefully. Kageyama spread his palms. "Just...promise you won't tell anyone else I told you, okay?"
Hinata nodded firmly. "I promise."
Kageyama returned the nod, looked around for a few seconds to make sure no one else was potentially lurking in the shadows, and let his hands drop to his sides as he turned to face his spiker once more. "Good. So basically, last night when you said you didn't have a favorite hugger, everyone else kind of took that as a challenge. Since they all think that you give the best hugs, like, ever, they decided to have a contest between themselves to see who's hugs you liked the best. There were rules and everything, like no one can interfere with another person's hug, the hug can only be for ten seconds, only one hug allowed per person, and other stupid stuff like that."
"Oh." Hinata blinked. Out of all the (admittedly outrageous) possibilities that had run through his head, a hugging contest wasn't one of them. "Uh, when were they planning on telling me this?"
"At dinner tonight," Kageyama responded. "They were gonna try and surprise you into answering, but they didn't take into account that they're all a bunch of fucking morons who probably made you too confused about the situation to focus on the hugs you received, right?"
"True," Hinata muttered, but his face brightened almost instantly as he locked eyes with Kageyama with something akin to renowned vigor in his eyes. "But that's okay! I already have a favorite hugger anyway."
"Wha- DUMBASS ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? IF YOU'D HAVE JUST TOLD THE TRUTH LAST NIGHT WE ACTUALLY WOULD'VE BEEN ABLE TO PRACTICE OUR QUICK TODAY YOU LYING PIECE OF SHI-"
"Geez, calm down," Hinata muttered, taking a few precautionary steps away from his setter for good measure. "It's not my fault that not answering started a competition. That's a little over the top anyway, don't you think? Holding a whole competition just to see whose hugs I like the best?"
Kageyama cursed under his breath. This kid was so oblivious to the power he held over all of them that it was sometimes infuriating. "If only you knew."
"Nothing." Kageyama crossed his arms and stared daggers at the middle blocker. Neither said anything for a solid few seconds. "Well?"
Hinata wrinkled his nose. The smell of barbeque was starting to filter out of the cafeteria's open windows, and it was making his mouth water. Dinner would surely be ready soon. "Well what?"
"Well?" Kageyama made a swooping gesture with his hand, still boring holes into Hinata's head. "Are you gonna tell me who gives the best hugs or what?"
"Oh." Before the setter could react, Hinata's face split open into the biggest, most genuine grin he'd ever seen, and declared, "It's you, Bakayama! Obviously!"
"Wha-" Kageyama could physically feel his brain short-circuiting. It was that smile, that stupidly cheerful and lovable smile that got him every time. Everyone was weak for Hinata's smile, and no one could deny it when one faceful of his dazzling grin was all it took to reduce any of them to a sputtering, incoherent mess. Kageyama was only holding it together so well externally because he had to be subjected to it for hours daily, and thus mastered the poker face when it came to Hinata.
Internally, though, Kageyama's heart felt like it was pressing against his ribcage from how much it was swelling because of Hinata's smile and sparkly, honest eyes.
He could compose himself enough, however, to spit out one shaky, studdering word. "M-me?"
"Of course you!" Hinata replied, as cheery as ever and blissfully unaware of how badly his bubbliness affected his setter. "You give the best hugs. I've always thought so, honestly. I know you don't like skinship that much, so I usually try not to ask for them, but they're just so warm and comfortable, and they actually make me feel really safe and secure, and-"
Hinata was rambling now, and Kageyama's insides were officially gooey with emotions. How the hell was he supposed to react to the literal embodiment of sunshine and rainbows and puppies spewing compliments left and right about his hugs? It was already overwhelming in its own right, but the effect was only increased tenfold since it was Hinata saying it with such genuine smiles and excitement. His eyes were as sparkly as anything, and he was practically vibrating in place as he went on and on.
"Please, Kageyama!" The setter was snapped out of his Hinata-induced daze by the familiar whiny tone he'd come to recognize over the months. "Just once? I won't if you don't want to, but it would make my night."
"What?" Kageyama had been so focused on concentrating on not collapsing on the spot that he hadn't heard a word of what his partner had just said, but he already knew there was no way he could refuse the blocker while he was looking up at him with shiny honey eyes, a dazzling, joyful smile, and fluffy hair only enhancing his dainty kitten-like features. "I- sure, do whatever you want."
"YAY!" Hinata dove into Kageyama's arms, almost sending the unprepared setter stumbling back before he was able to regain his balance. He stared down at his spiker, eyes wide as he took in the face buried into his chest and arms wrapping him into possibly the warmest bear hug he'd ever received. Stray wisps of orange hair tickled his nose and chin, making him scrunch up his face a little.
He froze, unsure of what to do because he seldom gave physical affection and was about as inexperienced as they come when it came to it. Hinata untucked his head and looked up at the setter with hopeful, hopeful eyes, squeezing his midsection even tighter in a silent signal.
Kageyama slowly, hesitantly, wrapped his arms around Hinata and hugged him back.
All at once, whatever tension or stress Hinata had been storing up instantly released. His body went almost lax in Kageyama's hold, and he could feel the blocker's slow, long exhale of relief through his shirt. He nuzzled into the setter's shirt even further, and for not the first time, he really did look like a small, baby, tabby kitten cuddling into a piece of cloth.
"See? This is why you're my favorite hugger." Hinata mumbled, barely audible against the fabric. Kageyama honestly didn't even know what he was doing to make Hinata enjoy his hugs above all others, but if it elicited this reaction, maybe he ought to indulge his spiker's affection addiction a little bit more than he usually did. "Thank you, Bakayama."
"What, for hugging you?" Kageyama still didn't let go, and Hinata still didn't push away.
"No." Hinata mumbled again. "For trusting me so much. I know it takes a lot for you to reach out and be affectionate, and it makes me feel really good that you're comfortable enough to do it with me." He sighed in contentment. "You really should do it more often. I'm not kidding when I say your hugs are freaking incredible."
"O-oh." Kageyama sputtered, face suddenly flaming red. He'd opted to hug Hinata, not for his feelings and insecurities to be bluntly called out, thank you very much. "Y-yeah, well-"
"I'm not calling you out or anything," Hinata said simply, because leave it to the sunshine child to pretty much read his mind. "I just know how you think, and that's cool. You've grown a lot as a person."
Kageyama grumbled something unintelligible. "Stop sounding so wise and serious, dumbass. It doesn't suit you."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, I definitely think so."
A comfortable silence fell over the two.
"Your hugs really are the best."
"Don't mention it."