Over the sound of squeaking sneakers and the rhythmic thudding of volleyballs hitting the floor, Tendou Satori turned to Semi Eita and asked the question that would help shape the next three years of his life, if only he’d known it at the time.
“Do you think Ushijima-kun likes scary movies?”
Semi didn’t turn from where he was surveying the court, but he did frown. They were only a few short weeks into their first year at Shiratorizawa Academy, and if the young setter was being honest, he was not overly concerned with the tastes of their soon-to-be-ace.
“How should I know? I haven’t exactly been chatting with him every lunch break,” Semi replied. His eyes were fixated on their official setter, watching his every move with rapt attention.
Tendou also allowed his eyes to roam across the gym, seeking out the first year in question, and finding him stood amongst the reserve players, waiting to spike a toss from their backup setter. Ushijima Wakatoshi was an interesting guy, a quiet yet looming figure on the court. He didn’t seek out any of the other first years – quite unlike Tendou, who had introduced himself exuberantly to everyone immediately, and had declared Semi his best friend within minutes of their first conversation.
Ushijima was intimidating, sure. But Tendou also thought that he maybe seemed kind of lonely, and that he was not okay with. Killer ace or not, everyone needed friends.
And what better way to make friends than to cling to each other in fear while watching a scary movie? It was fool proof.
“I think I’ll ask him,” Tendou declared, which finally seemed to catch Semi’s full attention.
“Why? Do you just want to see if there’s something that’ll break that mask of his?”
“Of course not!” Tendou protested, smiling wide in Ushijima’s direction.
“I just think he needs friends.”
Cornering Ushijima was actually a much more difficult task than Tendou had previously believed. He changed quickly and in silence after practice, gone long before Tendou had managed to finish, and he always vacated his classroom promptly when lessons finished, wasting no time in heading to volleyball practice. For someone so large – with such an obvious presence – he was notoriously hard to actually find.
In the end, Tendou resorted to risking Coach Washijou’s wrath, sidling in amongst the reserve players to tap Ushijima on the shoulder, and plastering his brightest, friendliest smile on when the other boy turned around. It was the same smile that his middle school team used to say made him look freaky, but still. Ushijima didn’t seem fazed.
“Hello,” Ushijima replied, his voice much deeper than Tendou had expected it to be. “You’re Tendou Satori, correct?”
Tendou paused for a brief moment, marvelling at the fact that Ushijima had remembered his name. He hadn’t entirely expected to be on the spiker’s radar, since he wasn’t even amongst the bench players yet. Still, it was a pleasant surprise. “That’s me!” Tendou confirmed, nodding excitedly.
Ushijima inclined his head, acknowledging Tendou’s words but otherwise saying nothing, and the middle blocker abruptly remembered that he’d come on a mission.
“So, Ushijima-kun. I have a super important question to ask you, okay?”
Ushijima frowned, noticeably confused. He glanced around at his surroundings for a moment, almost as though searching for an explanation etched in the gym floor, before casting his gaze back to Tendou. “Alright,” he said.
“Do you like scary movies? Would you want to watch one with me? I mean, if you really don’t like scary movies, that’s okay too, we can watch something else, I just thought it would be nice if we could watch a movie together, you know?”
Tendou stopped when he realised he’d been babbling. He wasn’t all that great at knowing when to stop talking, and normally he wouldn’t care, but Ushijima was not like the other first years he’d befriended. Something told Tendou he’d have to tread this path slightly differently. But he’d made a promise to himself to become Ushijima’s friend, and he’d do whatever it took to see it through.
Speaking of Ushijima, he was studying Tendou, his mouth slightly parted in an expression the blocker was very familiar with. It was the face of someone attempting to process the rush of words that had just left his mouth. After a moment or two, however, Ushijima’s face cleared, the corners of his mouth lifting into the ghost of a smile. Tendou caught himself absurdly transfixed on the sight.
“I do like those kinds of movies,” Ushijima told him, and Tendou had to focus extremely hard to tear his eyes away from Ushijima’s mouth – his almost-smile – and back up. “But I’ve never watched one with someone who wasn’t my mother before.”
Tendou grinned. That sounded perfect. “There’s a first time for everything!” He declared. “My house, this Friday after practice? You can choose which one we watch, since you like them so much!”
Ushijima deliberated for a moment, before nodding. “I think that will be alright. I look forward to it.”
Before Tendou could answer, Ushijima was called forward for his spike, and Tendou himself was ordered back to the corner of the gym where the other first years were practicing. But he moved in a daze, because Ushijima had most definitely smiled just then, and the sight was warming in a way Tendou could never have expected.
Friday could not roll around fast enough for Tendou’s liking. He was antsy all week, with the knowledge that Ushijima was coming to his house – a gateway to the friendship he was sure they would be able to have afterwards. It didn’t even matter that he himself did not particularly like scary movies. Ushijima did, and that was enough.
When Friday’s practice did finally draw to a close, Tendou waved goodbye to Semi and Yamagata, hoisted his bag onto his shoulder, and grinned at Ushijima.
The walk to his home was not far, and Tendou filled the journey with aimless chatter about his favourite things, hoping to prompt some kind of reaction from Ushijima. But the other boy remained silent, instead listening intently to Tendou as though he were telling the most interesting story he’d ever heard. It was kind of endearing, Tendou decided. Ushijima was truly a nice guy. Even if his only apparent interest was volleyball – oh, and scary movies.
Tendou decided that by the end of the year, he’d find more.
He let Ushijima into the house, kicking off his shoes hastily – Ushijima was much calmer, placing his shoes and then Tendou’s neatly by the door – and calling out, “I’m home!”
The silence that greeted him was unusual, but Tendou chalked it up to his parents both being held up at work. He leapt onto the stairs, spinning around to grin at Ushijima, and beckoned for the boy to follow.
Tendou led the way into his bedroom, where he’d already left a pile of blankets ready. “Make yourself comfortable,” he instructed Ushijima, making his way over to the television on his desk. “So, what did you bring?”
Ushijima sat down, legs tucked in neatly like he was sitting at school, and Tendou tried to fight off a laugh. The taller boy reached into his bag and produced a DVD case, which he handed across. Tendou flipped the box back and forth to study it.
“Ooh what’s this – The Shining? That’s really scary isn’t it? You like this kind of thing?”
“It has a good plot,” Ushijima stated, settling his long limbs into the blankets.
“I trust you, even if movies like this give me the creeps,” Tendou said, kneeling to insert the DVD. “But hey, after this, we should spend some nights watching anime too! I have a great collection.”
Beaming, Tendou jumped over Ushijima’s legs to turn the lights down. His curtains were thick enough to block out a lot of the outside light – he couldn’t sleep properly otherwise – and the overall effect produced a relatively dark room.
“Sorry it’s not any darker,” Tendou said as he sat beside Ushijima. “Spring time days and all that.”
“It’s not a problem,” Ushijima replied. “The light might make you less scared.”
Tendou whipped his head around, staring at Ushijima in shock. “Did you just tease me?”
Ushijima did not reply, but his small smile spoke volumes. Tendou blinked, transfixed yet again, before the opening of the movie dragged his attention away. Ushijima really was an interesting guy.
Approximately half an hour later, Tendou began to realise that he may have made a terrible mistake. He didn’t watch scary movies for a reason, as The Shining was so painstakingly reminding him. But those twins were so creepy. Tendou shuddered as he watched, his hand finding Ushijima’s arm and latching itself there almost involuntarily.
“Are you alright?” Ushijima asked him, his deep voice a comforting sound against the movie soundtrack.
“I’m fine,” Tendou answered, and if Ushijima heard the slight tremor in his voice, he didn’t comment. But still, creepy was fine. Creepy he could deal with.
That godforsaken redrum scene, however, he most definitely could not.
“What is that kid doing?!” Tendou hissed. He was now latched very firmly onto Ushijima’s side, the weight of his arm a soothing warmth across his shoulders. Fortunately, Ushijima seemed to be okay with physical contact. Tendou wasn’t sure he’d make it through the movie if he wasn’t.
“I’m going to have nightmares about that word,” he whispered, ducking his head down and away from the screen. Ushijima’s chest shifted in a way that almost seemed like it could be laughter, if Tendou had the courage to lift his head and check (he didn’t). “Please tell me that kid doesn’t stab himself.”
Ushijima remained silent, which Tendou was sure he did on purpose, enabling them both to hear perfectly how Danny started shouting, and every screech in the music. Tendou shrieked a little in spite of himself, and pressed in closer to Ushijima’s chest. It was alright. He could make it through this with Ushijima there.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
There was no way he could make it through this.
Tendou was now situated very firmly in Ushijima’s lap, his hands balled into the other boy’s shirt. He was somehow unable to take his eyes away from the screen, even as his heart pounded in his chest. “Wakatoshi…” Tendou whined. He’d started using Ushijima’s first name around ten minutes ago, abject terror breaking down whatever barriers were still in place between them. Somewhere, beyond the constant shitshitshitshit running through his mind, Tendou was aware that he had achieved what he’d set out to do, because there was no way he and Ushijima weren’t going to be friends after this.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t find much joy in his victory, and a scream ripped its way out of his throat at the first strike of Jack’s axe against the door. Ushijima tightened his grip around the redhead, and Tendou leaned into the touch, praying that it would all be over soon, so that he could convert Ushijima into an anime fan, and never go through this again.
When the ending credits finally began to roll, Tendou didn’t move immediately. He knew Ushijima’s eyes were on him, could feel the weight of them on his face. But his limbs wouldn’t quite cooperate.
“Te – Satori,” Ushijima began. “Are you alright?”
Tendou sat motionless for a moment longer, before turning slowly to grip Ushijima’s shoulders hard. “Wakatoshi,” he started, voice trembling. “How…how can you actually enjoy movies like that?”
Ushijima shrugged, that almost-smile back on his lips.
“They’re interesting,” he replied. “I like documentaries too.”
“Next time you choose,” Tendou said, patting Ushijima’s shoulders. “Please choose a documentary.”
“Why did you suggest watching a horror movie if you didn’t like them?” Ushijima wondered aloud, and Tendou flopped his head down to hide in Ushijima’s chest.
“Horror movies are a great way to make friends,” he explained. “I just wanted us to be friends, Wakatoshi. You’re a pretty great guy, you know.”
Ushijima was silent for a moment. Then, he lifted one hand to rest on Tendou’s neck gently.
“Thank you,” he said, and his voice sounded strange. Almost choked. Ushijima cleared his throat, and continued, “though I would have been happy to be your friend even without this.”
Tendou laughed, because duh, he could see that now. Before he could reply, however, his bedroom door swung open.
And mother or not, Tendou’s scream could be heard all the way down the street.
Two years later, after the Spring High Preliminaries had wrapped up, Reon declared that they should have a team party, and Tendou, excitably, agreed to host. His excitement lasted right up until the moment the group settled in with blankets and popcorn, and his traitorous boyfriend pulled The Shining out of his bag.
No one could coax him out of his room until the godforsaken movie had finished.