At first, Chikara thought it had started raining. The soft taps of something on his window barely penetrated his headphones. He lifted one side away from his ear, listening out, and deciding it was definitely heavy rain, let them fall over his ear again.
“Chikara!” The shout from the street below was loud enough to pierce through them, however, no matter how much they were meant to cancel noise from the outside world. No material had yet been discovered which silenced the sound of Tanaka shouting at the top of his voice.
He removed his headphones with a sigh and opened the window. Sure enough, on the street below, stood Tanaka, clutching a rucksack.
“Ryuu, ring the doorbell like everyone else!”
“I didn't want to wake your Dad!”
“You're going to wake the whole neighbourhood like this! Hang on, I'm coming down.”
It took a while to make his way down the three flights of stairs leading to the main door of their building. He prayed to any gods listening that Tanaka would stay quiet until he reached him; it was closing in on midnight and the neighbours were still annoyed from the last time he'd shown up uninvited. Unfortunately, living in such a small building meant you were not blessed with the anonymity of the larger tower blocks. Although it was a slightly nicer apartment, everyone knew your business, even if you didn't want them to.
The gods had clearly been busy elsewhere when he pleaded with them, as the concierge (and resident of the bottom floor flat) was already unlocking the door. He tried the gods a second time, begging them to make this time the one when his best friend...
“Sorry! They're at it again. Had to get away,” Tanaka said, before adding towards the concierge, “'Scuse the interruption.”
As always, instead of throwing himself into Chikara's arms and professing his undying love, the Tanakas were arguing and had driven their son out of the house.
Hoping for third time lucky, Chikara wished the gods would smite the frowning concierge with a lightning bolt.
After pulling out and making up the spare futon, Tanaka completed his 'making himself completely at home' ritual by throwing himself on top of it with a loud sigh.
“Would you like to talk about it?” Chikara asked, perching himself at his desk where he'd been researching.
“Nah,” Tanaka said, sitting up with a start. “Talk about summat else. Whatcha doin'?”
Chikara passed him one of the books he was working his way through. Tanaka looked puzzled, flicking through the introduction with nostrils flared.
“I'm doing some research. For a script.”
Tanaka looked back up at him. “Oh! Cool! So it's gonna be wizards and shit?”
Chikara took back the book about 'Practical Witchcraft' and peered at the back. “What about this screamed 'wizards and shit'?”
Tanaka looked back wide-eyed. “'Cause we're boys? So we're not witches?” His face switched suddenly to a frown. “Hey! You said I could be in this film if you finally made one. Better not be makin' me a witch...”
“Of course you're going to be in it,” Chikara said soothingly. It was, after all, the whole reason he wanted to make a film in the first place; so he could have a permanent record of either the start of his life's greatest love affair, or more likely of his ridiculous, unrequited, high school crush. “It's going to be magical realism though, not 'wizards and shit'. I'm not rewriting Harry Potter. Who would play him? Kei?” He snorted with laughter at the image of Tsukishima attempting to act.
“Yeah! That would be great! Yachi could be Hermione. And...” Tanaka paused, rubbing the back of his head in thought before exploding into life. “Hinata has to be a Weasley. Red hair, innit? Oh! Oh! Aone would be a perfect Hagrid! Tall and broad.”
Chikara was always surprised by the enthusiasm with which Tanaka approached everything, but this time he was more surprised by his level of Harry Potter knowledge.
“I'm not writing a Harry Potter film...” he began, but seeing the light flashing in Tanaka's grey eyes, he knew he probably would. Anything to make him happy, came the unwanted thought through his mind.
Tanaka was already flicking through the witchcraft book again, pointing out spells he'd like to have a try at casting; Chikara started scribbling some notes onto his pad, in-between imploring Tanaka to keep the noise down.
“Who would you like to be, Ryuu?”
There was no pause as he responded, “The fella from Durmstrang. Viktor Krum.” His eyes glazed over as he looked up at the ceiling, no doubt living out some fantasy. “He was the best at Quidditch, even that young. And he got the girl. He had everything, right?”
“He certainly did,” Chikara said, still staring at Tanaka's lips as they curved upwards into a wistful smile. He shook himself and carried on. “So if I write a rival school, you want to go there? You won't get as much screen time.”
“As long as I'm the Quidditch hero, that's fine.”
The notepad filled with more scribbling, a story already forming as Chikara wrote. If I made him an exchange student, he'd be on screen for longer.
“If you could cast any spell,” Tanaka started, whispering gruffly as if it was a great secret, “What would it be?”
The pen stopped moving as Chikara considered this again. He'd been thinking about it ever since he bought the book. There were love spells, those had been his first port of call. He'd dismissed those as ludicrous when he realised he needed hair or teeth or nails from his target; Tanaka would never let him have body parts without comment, even if they were excess to requirements.
There was a section which was rather cruder, about how to change or grow body parts. They never mentioned any in particular, although Chikara had ideas about which he would choose. Once he remembered they'd all seen him naked in the showers already, he knew he couldn't explain away the overnight appearance of larger biceps, an extra three inches of height, or three inches of...that. He'd moved past that chapter with annoyance.
“Hey! You listenin'?” Tanaka was suddenly looming over him, waving a hand in front of his eyes.
“You went off into Enno-land.”
He closed his eyes in a slow blink. “I was thinking about my answer carefully.”
“I'd be stronger,” Tanaka decided, flexing his biceps. “Maybe taller.”
“You're already taller than me...”
“Less than an inch!” He pulled Chikara to his feet and span him around so they were pressed back to back. Tanaka brushed his hand across the top of Chikara's head, pressing his fingers into the back of his own head, before moving away. “See?”
Chikara hoped he wasn't looking as flustered as he felt. It was difficult being friends with someone who made physical contact with no thought. He was always being pulled into positions where their bodies were touching, with little notice, and every time his heart sped up so much he had to presume Tanaka could feel it.
Chikara cleared his throat. “You're right. There's hardly any difference these days.”
“Told ya.” Tanaka pulled off his shirt, part of his bedtime routine.
He'd told Chikara the first time he stayed over he slept naked, even at the age of eleven. He was a wriggly sleeper, and got hot if he wore too much in bed. They'd come to an agreement there and then that Tanaka would wear something on his bottom half when they had sleepovers. Chikara was eternally grateful to his pre-pubescent self for insisting on this rule, it was certainly coming in handy as they got older. With more defined abs.
Chikara finally decided it was time to turn off the lights and get to bed so he didn't have to avert his eyes from his flesh any more. “We should get to sleep. We have school tomorrow and to be honest I'm surprised Dad hasn't been in to tell us to be quiet. It's one in the morning.”
“Your Dad is so cool! I'm so jealous, you get away with murder. Wish my Mum...” Tanaka stopped suddenly, his eyes flicking towards his friend. “Sorry.”
Chikara wasn't sure what he was apologising for; not wanting to talk about his own domestic situation, or mentioning his Mum when Chikara no longer had one. Either way, he had no need to be sorry. “It's fine.”
The two of them took it in turns to prepare for bed, sharing the sink to clean their teeth. Tanaka had finally remembered to bring his own toothbrush, for once, the same week as Chikara had bought a spare for him from the konbini. The loose pyjama bottoms Tanaka had also brought were getting short in the legs; as Chikara passed Tanaka a cup of water to rinse his mouth, he pointed out a rip in the waistband which was starting to reveal the drawstring.
Everything was so well-rehearsed, domestic even, that Chikara had to stop himself from daydreaming that it was ten years in the future and they were living together. He deliberately faced the wall when he got in bed, leaving Tanaka to turn the lights off.
After a few minutes of peace, he heard a small voice say, “Chika?”
Sighing, he turned towards the futon. “Yes, Ryuu.”
“I can't sleep. Still thinking about this spell thing.” Even in the dark, Chikara could see him lift his head from the pillow and rest it on his hand. “Do you think it would be better to wish your body was different, or just that your mind was in a completely different body?”
“What on earth...? Is that the two choices?”
“Probably swap with someone, I reckon.”
“I suppose that would solve the problem of explaining how you suddenly looked different.” Chikara rolled and stared at the ceiling. “Who would you choose?”
“Someone older, taller, and more muscley.” The sound of him lying back down was louder than anyone could expect from such a simple movement. “What about you?”
He knew exactly who he'd swap with. “Daichi.”
“Really?” Tanaka was sitting back up, his wide eyes visible in the dim room.
“I really wish I was him. Playing every game, and in a team with, urm, my best mate and everything.” He'd had to stop himself from saying 'boyfriend', unsure as he was if Tanaka had picked up on the same vibes between the current Captain and Ace.
“You're on a team with your best mate! Me!”
Chikara smiled and turned his head on the pillow, trying to get a better view of Tanaka's face. “Yeah, I know.”
“Plus, you're gonna be captain next year. You don't even need to body swap for that! You just need patience, pal.”
“So, you'll be my Ace?”
“Better had be! Or you'll be in big trouble.” Tanaka reached across to find Chikara's wrist, squeezing it. “You'll be a bloody brilliant Captain.”
Chikara wasn't sure if his face was visible in the dark, but he couldn't risk Tanaka seeing the tears starting to sting his eyes. He pulled away his hand and turned back to the wall. “Thanks, Ryuu,” he said to its uncaring flatness. He preferred it to the blinding optimism shining from Tanaka.
How could he explain why he wanted to swap with Daichi without revealing his true feelings? If he was Daichi, everything he wanted and tried for so hard could be his now. He'd tried being patient already, it wasn't working. He watched from the sidelines as other people developed their skills and he hadn't even played since Asahi came back, even though three of the new first years got to play. With two third year Wing Spikers on their team, it would be selfish to want their place anyway.
But, if he was Daichi, he'd be a well-respected Captain already, and be in a relationship with a team-mate. Okay, maybe it was a different team-mate, but things change. Maybe he would learn to love Asahi, or maybe Tanaka could fall in love with Daichi.
Shut up, Chikara, he thought, burying his head face first into his pillow. This was all irrelevant, as well as a waste of time. There was no such thing as magic spells, he was merely being childish to believe they could be real.
He wasn't even sure he believed in the gods any more, having ignored him three times already.
Still, the last thing he did before sleep overtook him was pray to the gods just one more time, for what he wanted most of all for his future; to be the Captain of a team playing at Nationals, with his boyfriend on the team alongside him.