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This was what Solstice was originally supposed to be - an epic that spanned all of Asahi, Daichi, and Suga's high school years with switching POVs - but I neither had the stamina nor the motivation to write it in full, and instead, well, came up with Solstice.

This is what I had of the beginning - it's really terribly boring, sorry.





His sister always calls him one-track minded. Daichi’s never really thought about it until the first day of school, when he’s glancing among the club booths, and all that’s on his mind is where’s the volleyball club?

His eyes rake over crowd. Some of the students are walking up to the front doors, likely already signed up for something - or don’t plan to at all, which Daichi would scoff at. He spots it almost as he’s ready to brave roaming the crowds looking for it, and pushes his way past the other students to get to the booth.

Sitting behind the table is an adult man - a coach perhaps? He’s leaning back, looking bored, and Daichi stiffens up as soon as he stops. Best to make a good impression.

“Oh,” says the man after a moment. He straightens up on his chair. “You wanna sign up for the volleyball club, huh?”

Daichi nods.

“Yes, sir!”

“Well, good for you.”

The smile that the man shoots Daichi is - trying, maybe? He can’t be the coach if he talks about the club like that. Maybe he’s the advisor.

Daichi fills out an application form. As he begins to hand it back, the man gestures to an empty spot on the table.

“You can just put it there,” he says.

Daichi looks at the spot, then back up at the man’s face. “There aren’t any other applications yet?”

“‘Yet’?” A laugh. “No, there aren’t. Yet.”

Daichi furrows his eyebrows. Either way, it’s probably best not to start some sort of trivial argument on the first day of school. Even if the teacher’s mocking him, as long as he’s not the coach, Daichi doesn’t really care.

He puts his application down and then hitches his backpack tighter on his shoulders, and begins to walk up to the school’s steps.

The opening ceremony is boring, but nothing to sneeze at - Daichi is sure to pay rapt attention, especially when the vice principal is staring at everyone in the crowd like he’s trying to scope out the troublemakers. Afterwards he follows his teacher to his class, making his friends with his neighbor classmates and wondering if any of them have signed up for the volleyball team. He thinks about asking them, but that man from before had laughed, and - Daichi’s not sure if his heart can take a flurry of no’s.

During lunch he’s talking with some new friends when someone bumps into them. “Oh!” says the stranger. He has scruffy brown hair. “Excuse me.”

Daichi watches over his shoulder as the guy runs back out to the courtyard. “Sawamura?” says one of his new friends, and he jerks his head back around to pay attention.

When the afternoon comes, Daichi finds himself feeling more giddy than he would’ve thought, as he packs up his books. It’s only volleyball - but even though it’s nothing new, he did choose this school for a reason. Smiling to himself, Daichi shuffles the rest of his books into his bag and slings it over his shoulder. He says goodbye to the rest of his classmates and heads towards the gym.

As he walks, he passes the large banner that’s still hanging above the auditorium. It’s orange and black, emblemed with Karasuno and small crow on the side.

There are a few gyms when he arrives outside, one louder than the others. But the one straight ahead has its doors already open, and Daichi decides to check here first - if the volleyball club isn’t in this one, then he can set himself up for excitement. He inhales quickly through his nose and walks towards the doorway.

“Hello?” he says.

There’s a net already set up, and the storage door is open but too dark for him to see what kind of balls are inside. Only a handful of guys are standing around, surprised at the sound of his voice.

Daichi takes a deep breath. Maybe - hopefully - this isn’t the volleyball club -

But he glances to the side and sees the man from before, sitting at a bench and staring into space. Daichi does his best to jerk himself out of disappointment, and then smiles at the other volleyball members.

“I, um, signed up - “ he says.

“Oh, you did?” asks one of them. Daichi’s seen him on television before, and his heart leaps - he’ll be playing with someone who’s been on tv!

Another one’s heading toward the man. “Hey, how many signups did we get anyway?” he asks, snapping the guy out of his daze.

Daichi eyes the other players - well, he hasn’t seen the rest of them on tv before, but. But this is Karasuno High School, so they’re bound to be good. Or legendary. Or - Or something.

He jumps when he hears, “This is the volleyball club, right?” and turns to the doorway to see two boys walking in - the guy who’d ran into him before, and another guy, with translucent hair.

“Yeah, it is,” says a third member, walking back from the storage room and bouncing a volleyball. He glances to the others. “Who’re we waiting on?”

The guy who’d been talking to the man from before is flipping through a few papers - the application forms, Daichi recognizes from the light. “There’s only three.”

“Be grateful there’s even one.” TV guy scoffs.

A fourth - a short, curly haired one that Daichi hadn’t noticed earlier - steps forward from their makeshift lineup. “First years,” he calls, and everyone snaps their heads to them. “Introduce yourselves!”

Daichi glances at the other two, who are doing the same. He straightens up and says, “Yes!” and translucent haired guy follows almost simultaneously, while the clumsy one’s voice trails behind.

The second and third years seem to be focused on the other end of the line, so translucent haired guy goes, “I-I’m Sugawara Koushi, from Uwamushi Junior High.” His voice gets louder with every word. “I’m a setter. Please take care of me!”

Daichi waits his turn. Next, the clumsy guy shouts a little too loudly, “I’m Azumane Asahi from - “ he blurts out something that Daichi doesn’t think even he can understand.

Some of the other team members press their lips together like they’re trying to hide a smile. That Sugawara guy doesn’t even try - Daichi definitely hears a snicker from the other end.

Azumane continues, but his voice becomes shaky. “I used to attack from the fourth spot,” he says. “Please p-purple foot?”

Daichi cringes, and also feels Azumane cringe beside him. One of the third (or second) years comments, “So tall,” and the short guy from before - the captain, Daichi realizes - says, “I know you, Asahi. You spiked like a high schooler even though you were a middle schooler, so it left an impression.”

Daichi hears Azumane mumble something under his breath, maybe like he doesn’t want anyone to hear. To cover it up, Daichi announces, “I’m Sawamura Daichi from Izumitate Junior High!”

He steps forward, feeling a little more at home in this gym that feels too big. “I saw Karasuno play at nationals, so I decided to join,” he says. “Please take care of me.”

The captain steps forward beaming at the three of them. “Not bad.” He clenches his fist. “Our goal,” he says, looking at each and every one of them in the eye, “is to win nationals.”

Behind him, some of the other members are picking at their nails, or staring to the side, or fixated on the ceiling. But with the captain like this, Daichi can’t help feel something thrum inside him, and he shouts, “Yes!”

The others start toward the storage room. Daichi begins to follow, but halts when he sees the man from before get up from his bench.

“I’ll come back when you guys finish practicing,” he says, and starts off.

Their captain affirms. Daichi stares after him, feeling the brief adrenaline from before die down. No one else is in this gym except for the seven of them now. One person leaving makes it feel even emptier.

Sugawara asks, “Wasn’t that the advisor? Then what about the coach?”

“Don’t have one.”

The guy whom Daichi had recognized answers, and then starts towards the storage room. Now that the second and third years have left to get the equipment, Daichi stares after him and lingers with Sugawara and Azumane.

“Hey,” he says to them, incapable of keeping the excitement out of his voice. “Isn’t that--?”

Sugawara turns full to him. “You know him?”

“Yeah! He’s really good at both attacking and defending.”

“Wow,” says Azumane, eyes wide. “Amazing!”

Daichi grins at the both of them. Sugawara says, “It’s nice to meet the both of you, by the way,” and both Azumane and Daichi jump in almost immediately to exclaim, “You too!”

“And you said you saw Karasuno at nationals, right?” Sugawara adds, turning to Daichi. Daichi feels his insides doing flips, even though he’d already made friends earlier today. “Did you mean like, in real life?” His eyes are sparkling.

Daichi shook his head. “On tv,” he says. “But man, if I got to see them in real life, that would be amazing.”

“But we’re here now,” Azumane puts in. He looks a little more relaxed with just the three of them, eyes much less like a deer in headlights, when he’s not running into a courtyard or shouting out his name.

Daichi puts a hand on his shoulder. Azumane jumps but only slightly, and Daichi says, “Yeah, we are.”

The practice goes by with each of them showing their abilities to serve, spike, and receive. Daichi watches Sugawara set to each of the third years. His stomach does the flippy thing again, and he asks, “Can you set to me, too?”

“Sure,” Sugawara says.

He sends Daichi the ball. It’s a little too close to the net and Daichi only barely hits it, but it makes it in the white line.

“That would’ve been easy for anyone to receive,” their captain comments.

Both of them turn to him. Daichi bows quickly, the same time Sugawara does. “Yes,” says Sugawara, while Daichi says, “We’ll do our best to improve it, Toshiro-san.”

Sugawara doesn’t flinch at the use of ‘we’; his mouth quirks a little, even. Someone suggests, “Azumane, come over here, let’s see how you do,” and Azumane rushes over, almost tripping over his feet, saying, “Okay,” a little too loudly.

Daichi watches as Sugawara waits for Azumane to get into position. Once he does, upright on his two feet, Sugawara sets.

Daichi’s eyes move as soon as Azumane jumps, even though he doesn’t mean for them to. Azumane spikes like all the energy in his body is coursing right up to his palm, and the ball flies from his side of the net all the way to the other, barely making it inside the white line.

Someone whistles. The captain says, “Great job, Azumane!”

“Thanks!” Azumane’s clearly trying not to look overly pleased with himself, but Daichi elbows him as Azumane comes back next to him.

“Wh - “ Azumane starts, but Daichi shoots him a grin.

“Are we competing now?”

“I mean, um.” Azumane takes a second, and then says, “Are we?”

Daichi laughs. He sees Azumane revert back to that wide-eyed look, but then he’s smiling too, crinkly at the sides and making Daichi’s chest feel warm.

“I have,” Azumane says, “no idea what you’re laughing about.”

When they let out after about an hour, Daichi picks up his bag, wondering what to make for dinner. As he brings a strap over a shoulder, he sees Sugawara starting to head out the back door. Daichi straightens himself up and quickens his pace.

“Sugawara,” he calls, and Sugawara stops. “Which way are you going?” he asks.

Sugawara points.

“Mind if I join you?” Daichi asks

Sugawara smiles in a way that makes Daichi feel like he has yet another thing to look forward to in the afternoons. "Sure," he says, and waits for Daichi to fall into step beside him.

They're barely outside when they hear, "Wait for me!" and then Azumane's face poking out from behind the door. "Are you walking home?" he asks

"Yeah," says Sugawara, and Daichi nods.

Azumane's face is bright like when he'd spiked and everyone had stared at him with awe. "Okay," he says, and closes the door behind them and heads toward them.

"You didn't ask if you could join us," Daichi points out, and Azumane stops in his tracks.

Sugawara shoots Daichi a look, but when Daichi laughs it's at the both of them. "I was joking," he says, more towards Azumane who rushes to their side.

"You're the joking type?" Sugawara asks, eyebrows raised.

Daichi's about to answer, but Azumane points out, "He thinks he's funny, at least."

Daichi whacks Azumane on the shoulder. Azumane yelps, "Hey!" and rubs his arm. But he's smiling at Sugawara, too.

The sun glows orange in the west. Daichi says, "What'd you guys think of today's first practice?" as the light catches Azumane perfectly from the side.

Sugawara shrugs. "Pretty standard. Not as many people as I thought there would be."

"Yeah," Azumane agreed. "If I told my old junior high, they'd think that I came for easier volleyball." He chuckles nervously.

"So you came here for volleyball too," Daichi muses, and Azumane nods. "That's a good thing, then. I like being on a team with people who take it seriously."

"I think," Sugawara says, "that our team members do take it seriously. They just don't have a lot of confidence in our numbers."

Azumane and Daichi nod. Azumane says, "It'd be our job as first years to boost that, wouldn't it?"

He blushes when Daichi and Sugawara look to him. Daichi wants to tell him to stop looking like the squirrel he tried to bring home as a pet when he was eight - Azumane's scratching the back of his head and saying, "What?"

Daichi slaps the top of Azumane's back, then wraps an arm around his shoulder. His goal is achieved when Azumane flinches but his cheeks turn pink.

"Our morale," Daichi tells him. "I didn't think I'd say this about you, but it's you."

"Y-You think?"

Azumane looks to Sugawara, who's nodding and watching the two of them with a little smile on his face.

"Of course," Sugawara says. "Who else would it be, Sawamura?"

"Hey," Daichi says, but Azumane laughs and Sugawara does too. Daichi can't stop the smile on his face, and keeps his arm around Azumane a little longer.

*

Before Tashiro-san has a chance to respond, and before Asahi even knows what he's doing, he flings his arm in the air and shouts, "May I stay after as well?"
Sugawara jumps beside him. "Please tell the teacher for us!"

Tashiro has a deer in headlights look. He doesn't say no, and the upperclassman eye them warily as they make their way out. Asahi feels jumpy, and the twisting sensation inside him starts again. But as he and Sugawara and Sawamura are left alone, it feels less dark, more like the blurred sides of the path are getting a little clearer.

"Um," says Sawamura, turning to them.

But Sugawara cuts him off by bowing shortly and saying, "I hope you don't mind we're intruding on time you said you wanted to practice alone."

He bows to Asahi too, and Asahi flails. "It's okay!" he says. "You don't need to do that."

"Same goes here," says Sawamura. He walks over to them. "I'm really happy, actually. Let's go to the club room."

Asahi and Sugawara nod. They follow him out of the gym, into the cool May air. Campus is quiet, a little less towards the entrance of their school, where it sounds like people are rushing out. Sawamura seems to not pay them any mind, headstrong as they leave the gym grounds and towards the clubrooms.

When they get there, though, Sawamura jiggles the door handle. "It's locked," he says to them.

Sugawara frowns. "Maybe we can try a classroom?" he suggests.

"They must've not realized we wanted to use the club room too," says Asahi.

Sawamura nods. "Yeah. Next time," he says. "But the building should be open, so let's do what Sugawara suggested."

They do, finding an empty classroom and discussing what they think they should do. Asahi personally doesn't think that the three of them as just first years can turn the whole team around. It's not like any of them alone can suddenly give the others inspiration, turn into professional athletes overnight. Sugawara points out that a month isn't that much time left, and Sawamura suggests that they can focus on their receives more than anything.

"Azumane," he says, over the desk table. Asahi practically jolts at the attention. "I know you're a spiker, but the whole point of volleyball is to not let the ball hit the ground on our side, right?"

"Oh—yeah." Asahi nods vigorously. "I wasn't thinking you were wrong or anything, if that's what you thought."

"No, I just wanted to make sure," says Sawamura. But he smiles and rests his hand on Asahi's forearm, just for a second. "But thanks."

Asahi feels the tingles again, but this time he's not sure if it's from volleyball or not.

*

The second years don't stop giving him hell the first time Daichi actually sees the motion of the ball, from the spiker's hand to his side of the court, and catches the ball instead of properly receiving it. They start making jokes about how if Daichi were to spike it he'd catch it instead. Daichi doesn't mind, and laughs along with them. The moment is more important than they think.

Despite his and Azumane's and Sugawara's best efforts, they get urged out for the sake of the girls' basketball team again. Daichi watches, unsettled, as they push carts of basketballs in.

Sugawara spots him and walks over. "What can we do," he sighs, crossing his arms.

Daichi laughs half-heartedly. "Do you read minds?"

They don't have practice the next morning but Daichi comes in early, anyway. The girls' basketball team is in the gym again, and it feels kind of surreal, like they'd never left after yesterday afternoon.

Their team has a coach, and that's the difference between the two of them. Daichi's never really believed in autonomy in team sports, and when they're kids in high school practicing without an adult to guide them, it's like spiking and receiving in the dark. Even if Daichi wanted to he couldn't blame Tashiro for the helplessness, the other upperclassmen for their apathy.

Daichi watches the way the girls on the court pass and dribble and shoot like a unit. He wishes he knew what that felt like.

When the first bell rings and the team begins to stop, Daichi makes his way out of the gym. He must've zoned out or closed his eyes for a second too long, because his chest collides with something or someone and he says, "Excuse me," before he looks down properly.

"D-Daichi!" The familiar round face is a comforting sight, and Daichi feels something that he hadn't noticed had been rising inside him settle down significantly.

"Michimiya," he says, and can't bring himself to not smile. "I didn't know you were going here."

"Well you never asked." Michimiya chuckles. "Still playing volleyball?"

"Yeah. You?"

"I'm thinking about it." Michimiya twists her fingers together, and Daichi knows all this, even though junior high hadn't been much promising either. But maybe that's okay. Maybe that's a sign this will get better.

"You should," he says, despite everything else. "I'm sure you'll have as much fun as I do."

"Well," says Michimiya, and shoots him a grin. "I'm not sure if that's possible for how much fun you have."




When I was writing this, there were at points moments I forgot what I intended for the emotional beats to be so I had to rewrite some of it. This was the most notable part - I hadn't realized I kind of wanted Asahi to have an anxiety attack after running into Daichi, so I'd originally written this genial and easygoing lunch scene. When I realized, I backtracked and fixed it, of course - it's in the fic now - but this is what the end of the shopping scene originally looked like.





But he couldn't stall and Daichi was looking at him expectantly and maybe a part of Asahi hoped it would happen again anyway because he said, "No, I can eat."

Daichi smiled and said, "That's what I'd hope you say." He led the way down, and Asahi walked with him.

"Where are we going?" he asked. "Did you have a place you wanted to eat for lunch already?"

"No, but I know you'd make me pick," Daichi said.

Asahi scratched the back of his head. "Well I can't argue with that."

"I know." The smile Daichi shot him was fond - it made Asahi's stomach do all sorts of pleasant turnovers. "Udon's okay?"

Asahi had no qualms with that. "Yeah," he said, and he and Daichi entered a restaurant together.

"This sort of feels like we're on a date," Daichi said casually, as they got themselves seated. "It's not," he said quickly, before Asahi could react. "I just wanted to say."

"Yeah," Asahi sand, and then swallowed. "It does."

Daichi shrugged at him. "But it's not," he said again, and Asahi wasn't sure he was getting at. "Better you than Suga, though."

"You wouldn't go on a date with Suga?" Asahi said, surprised.

"I said better you <i>than</i> him. I wouldn't go on a date with either of you," Daichi put his menu up, and Asahi could see the side of his neck was red.

Asahi wanted to bring up the kiss. He didn't know if Daichi was trying to tell him that he regretted it, that he didn't feel that way anymore, that he never felt that way - but it made a lump form in Asahi's throat when Asahi said, "Okay." Daichi said, "Good," from behind his menu.

Asahi said, "I kind of want to go on a date, though."

Daichi put his menu down. "With whom?" he asked, his eyes narrowed.

Asahi shrugged, looking at a spot on his placemat. "With anyone," he said.

"That's too vague," Daichi told him. "You have to know who you want to go on a date with when you want to go on one - "

"Can't I just say I want to go on a date?" Asahi said, looking up again, but smiling a little when he saw that Daichi was grinning at him too.

"This can be your first date if you want, though," Daichi said.

"But I thought you said it wasn't a date!"

"I said, if you want," Daichi said. He put his menu down and nodded toward Asahi. "Do you know what you want to order yet?"

Asahi browsed the menu, and Daichi tsked as he read. "And I'm giving you a conditional," Daichi said to him. "Since you want to be on a date so badly, this can be it if you want it to be."

"Do <i>you</i> want it to be?" Asahi asked him.

Daichi called over his shoulder, "Waiter!" and didn't answer Asahi's question through lunch, changed the subject so fast after they ordered that Asahi only remembered about it on his snowy walk back, void of races through the snow and kisses in a bedroom.