Goshiki’s bride was gorgeous. Tendou wasn’t that surprised.
Her bouquet was made of long green ivy and fluffy white flowers, and Goshiki bawled his eyes out when he saw her walking down the aisle. Tendou laughed, which made Semi elbow him hard and hiss, “Shut up!”
Tendou quieted to a snicker as Goshiki took his best man’s handkerchief and wetly blew his nose into it.
It was a spring wedding. The ceremony was short and simple, not at all what Tendou expected when he heard two hundred people would be in attendance. He expected something grand, something extravagant, but it was hand-written vows, rings they transfigured themselves, and a kiss while they laughed quietly in joy.
Tendou sat in the pews of the church surrounded by the old team sans Ushijima, Goshiki’s bride’s massive family (who needed twenty two cousins?), and half the world’s professional Quidditch players. He cheered when the two kissed and wondered how they must be feeling. He wouldn’t lie and say he wasn’t jealous that Goshiki had found someone.
After the ceremony, they headed to a nearby ballroom for the reception. Goshiki and his new wife were at the door greeting everyone, shaking hands and hugging. Goshiki’s eyes lit up when he saw Tendou approach.
Tendou hugged him and Goshiki swayed them back and forth.
“Thanks for coming,” Goshiki said as they pulled away, hands lingering on shoulders and arms.
“Wouldn’t miss it, Tsutomu,” Tendou replied honestly. “I bet at least one person snuck in a quaffle. We should toss it around later.”
Goshiki smiled widely. “Definitely.”
Tendou moved on, not wanting to crowd the entrance any longer, and entered the ballroom. Most of the guests were already there, dancing and picking at finger foods before dinner was served. String lights were hanging from the tall ceilings, upbeat music drifted from every direction, and a very large, very tasty-looking cake sat to the side near a truly enormous pile of gifts.
He wondered where Semi was—they’d gotten separated as they left the church—or any of his old teammates for that matter. There had to be a few familiar faces in this massive crowd.
That’s when Tendou saw Ushijima standing on the far side of the room at the edge of the crowd, rocking back and forth like he could not decide the angle to get through the mass of people. He was just as tall, just as handsome with his tan skin and square jaw. He wore dark red robes with silver links and chains that reminded Tendou of their school uniform.
He was just like Tendou remembered and so much more.
Tendou rolled his first cigarette when he was fourteen. His father showed him how, even sent him off to school with tobacco and a box of rolling paper. Apparently smoke didn’t affect vampires or their half-human children the same way they affected humans, and his father thought that made it perfectly okay to teach his underage son how to smoke.
Tendou never thought his mom could get mad like that, not until she walked in on the pair of them hunched over the dining room table.
He took out the gifts from his father between classes in the western courtyard where the harsh mountain winds did not reach. Tendou straddled a frigid stone bench and stuck out his tongue as he rolled his cigarette along the bench seat.
Ushijima and Semi frowned as they watched, standing nearby in one of the patches of warm sun.
“Since when do you smoke?” Semi asked, more curious than disapproving.
Immediately after, Ushijima, who very clearly disapproved, said, “That will hurt your lungs. It could affect your Quidditch.”
Tendou ignored them.
Finished, he lifted the cigarette between his lips, holding it there while he cleaned up. He could taste the tobacco already, feeling a bit giddy. All cleaned up, he took out an old, antique lighter, another gift from his father along with the fangs, taste for blood, lack of reflection, and colder than human body temperature. (The lighter was by far the best.)
“Way to completely ignore my question, dipshit,” Semi said, rolling his eyes.
Tendou hummed to himself as he lit the cigarette, holding up his hand to block any wind that may come. He kept his eyes wide open, fixing them on Ushijima, who had crossed his arms. Once it was lit, he lowered his lighter and sucked in a deep breath, hollowing his cheeks.
“They’re bad for you,” Ushijima said.
“Not human,” Tendou said in explanation. He blew out a puff of smoke. “Won’t hurt me. At least, my dad doesn’t think it will.”
“That’s too great a risk.”
“Taste’s good, though.” Tendou shrugged. That was then, this was now, and the buzz moving through his body was warm and pleasant. He felt better instantly.
Semi tiled his head curiously. He took a step towards the bench, sitting next to Tendou but not straddling the bench like him. He held out his hand. Tendou passed him the cigarette.
Ushijima’s face was priceless.
Tendou watched as Semi took in too much smoke and coughed it right back up. He tried to pass the cigarette back to Tendou, who shook his head and eagerly said, “Take in less next time.”
Semi glared at him, grumbled, “If you’re messing with me,” and then took a smaller drag. Tendou recognized the moment the nicotine hit him, his eyes widening slightly as he quietly said, “Oh.”
“I know, right?” Tendou said.
Semi took another short drag, letting the smoke billow out of his mouth, then passed it back to Tendou. “Nice, but not worth cancer and death. No thanks.”
Tendou stretched his arm out to Ushijima, offering the cigarette, but Ushijima quickly shook his head.
“Smoking is bad,” Ushijima said again, sounding like a child. A correct child, but still a child.
Tendou shrugged, said, “Suit yourself,” then brought it back down to his lips. Ushijima stared at him. Tendou tried not to think too much about it.
Tendou did not plan to approach Ushijima.
Then again, he also did not plan for Ushijima to approach him, flute of bubbly champagne in hand. He must have finally found a comfortable way to snake through the crowd, Tendou thought with a small smile.
Professional Quidditch had treated Ushijima well, giving him a fair bit more muscle than he had in school. His hair was still the same, maybe a bit shorter, but he was still clean-shaven and had not grown an inch. Knowing Ushijima, he probably used the same soap and shampoo, and wore some of the same clothes to bed, if they still fit over his muscles.
Ushijima stood just next to Tendou, body tilted slightly towards him, and said, “It’s good to see you.”
He still sounded the same, too.
Tendou downed his entire glass of champagne then nodded.
“I didn’t see you at the ceremony and was wondering if you came,” Ushijima said.
“Didn’t see you either,” Tendou said, just in case Ushijima thought he was avoiding him. He hadn’t been avoiding him, not then. That hadn’t started until the reception.
Ushijima was quiet for a moment, but then said, “You’re the same as ever.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Tendou asked, trying to crack a joke.
“Good.” Ushjima tilted his head ever so slightly, confused. “Why would it be a bad thing? There’s nothing bad about you, Tendou.”
Oh, there it was. That same feeling.
“Do you have an entire box of skin mags under your bed?” Semi asked in disgust, leaning over the edge of the bed to pull out the cardboard box full of magazines.
Both Tendou and Semi sat on his bed while Ushijima sat on the hard wooden desk chair reading the newest issue of an international Quidditch magazine, Quidditch Monthly. Ushijima looked up for the briefest of moments when Semi mentioned porn, though probably not for any normal reason teenage boy would have looked up. Not like a dog looking up at the sound of a bell, but rather a cat wondering what stupid thing its owners were about to do.
“It’s not porn,” Tendou said. “They’re comic books! Some are manga, but same difference, really. It’s muggle stuff.”
Semi picked up the comic book on top. “Batman?” he said like a question.
Tendou’s eyes widened. He was aware that he knew more about muggles things than most due to his father’s love of muggles—he was once a muggle himself long, long ago—but it never occurred to him how deprived all of these pure-bloods and all magic families truly were.
“Okay,” Tendou said, trying to remain calm. He was failing. “Okay, okay, okay. Okay! I need quill and a parchment.”
“Why?” Semi asked.
“I need to explain comics to you. This is a travesty, Eita, a travesty!”
Semi rolled his eyes. Ushijima’s eyes tracked Tendou as he got out of bed to find his school bag. Where did he throw it again? He needed parchment and a quill. He would need figures for this.
Then his attention was drawn elsewhere. In Ushijima’s lap was Quidditch Monthly. More specifically, there was a picture of Ushijima. In a magazine.
That was way more important than comics.
Tendou snatched the magazine.
“Ah,” Ushijima said, not stopping Tendou though he probably could have.
“What is it now?” Semi asked, exasperated. He had picked up another comic book and was flipping through its pages with a half-bored, half-curious expression.
“Wakatoshi’s number one on Top Young Quidditch Players to Watch,” Tendou said, grinning from ear to ear like it was his accomplishment and not Ushijima’s.
Semi dropped the comic book and stood up, leaning over Tendou’s shoulder. “Whoa. You’re not lying. That’s pretty cool, Ushijima.”
“It’s not as exciting as you two make it seem,” Ushijima said. “People can plateau or even weaken as they get older. Their bodies change. A small seeker may grow to be too tall, or too heavy. A beater may fall to develop the required muscle. There are outside factors to take into account as well, which I don’t think this reporter did. The article itself is mediocore.”
“Aw, look at you, being modest!” Tendou said. He stared at the moving picture of Ushijima as he scored, the power behind his toss obvious and overwhelming.
Amazing. Wonderful. Awe-inspiring.
“I’m not being modest, I’m being rational. The opinion of one reporter holds no significant weight unless they are a seer capable of seeing the future.”
Tendou flipped quickly through the issue. There were three players from Durmstrang—Ushijima at number one, Jun at number five, and Miya Atsumu at number seven (no mention of Miya Osamu, which had to sting). Oikawa from Beauxbatons was number six.
Tendou felt his chest expand.
“You’re amazing,” Tendou said, staring down at the magazine instead of the boy himself, like he would be looking at a sun and would go blind if he dared to look over.
“Do you want to dance?” Ushijima asked.
Tendou blinked slowly while his heart raced inside his chest.
“Together,” Ushijima added as if to clarify, which Tendou appreciated. If Ushijima hadn’t said that, he would have thought Ushijima was giving him an exit, an excuse to go and leave.
“Since when do you dance?” Tendou asked.
“I do not, but I’m confident I can figure it out.”
Tendou grinned despite himself. He was sure Ushijima would step on his feet and wouldn’t be able to match the rhythm at all. Tendou used to dance in the locker room under the Pitch at school and Ushijima would just stare at him. Tendou always wondered what was going through his head then.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Tendou asked. “People may get the wrong idea. Think we’re together or something. Lots of Quidditch players here to gossip.”
Ushijima set his half-empty flute of champagne down on a table and extended his hand towards Tendou, palm face up. His eyes were dark, serious, and aimed only at Tendou.
Tendou took his hand.
Tendou was fifteen when he met Goshiki. He was the only new student to make a high level Quidditch team during tryouts and it wasn’t just any high level team—it was Tendou, Ushijima, and Semi’s team.
Goshiki spotted the trio walking across the stone courtyard at the center of the castle, bounding over to them like he had been called (he hadn’t). He had a bowl cut that reminded Tendou of his first year at Durmstrang and an overly eager, innocent expression that made Tendou smile around his blood-pop.
Practice was gonna be fun.
“You’re Ushiji-ma!” Goshiki said. His voice cracked and the kid burned red.
Tendou snorted loudly. Semi told him to shut up.
“Yes,” Ushijima said. “You’re Goshiki Tsutomu.”
“You know me?” Goshiki asked eagerly, like a puppy waiting for a treat.
Everyone knew everyone at Durmstrang. You were either pure-blood, or well connected enough that you may as well be pure-blood. Tendou fell into the later category, as did Ushijima. Goshiki was very much a pure-blood. Rich and entitled and doted on since he was a child.
“The coach told me,” Ushijima said. “I was also watching tryouts from the stands. Not many people can throw a quaffle straight in front of them with that amount of force. It would be nice if you could do it intentionally.”
Tendou knew Ushijima didn’t mean it to sound harsh, but it did. Goshiki looked torn between accepting the praise and shrinking away.
Semi patted Goshiki on the back. “The thing about Ushijima is that he’s a bit blunt. Don’t take it personally.”
Tendou tossed an arm around the kid’s shoulders. He popped his blood-pop out of his mouth and waved it in front of his face. “I’ll share my blood-pop with you, if it’ll make you feel better.”
Goshiki made a disgusted face. “Ew! I thought only vampires ate those.”
Tendou leaned closer to Goshiki, getting right up in his face, and grinned toothily, showing off his tiny fangs. “I vant to suck your blood.”
Tendou laughed at the horrified face Goshiki made.
Semi grabbed a fistful of Tendou’s hair and yanked him away. “Don’t go scaring him.”
“Ow!” Tendou shouted indignantly. He rubbed his scalp to soothe it.
Goshiki was staring up at Tendou now. “You’re a vampire? I didn’t know they let vampires go here. Why do they let vampires go here? Are you just stuck in the same year forever?”
“He’s a dhampir,” Ushijima supplied, very matter-of-fact.
“A what?” Goshiki asked.
“Dhampir,” Tendou repeated. “My dad’s a vampire, but my mom’s human.”
Tendou sucked the bright red lollipop back into his mouth. It tasted like copper yet oddly sweet. He hummed happily around it, rolling it against his tongue.
“Scares the shit out of our opponents,” Semi said. “Half of them think Tendou’s going to bite them. Oikawa almost pissed himself the first time they met.”
Goshiki hesitantly asked, “He won’t though, right? Bite us?”
“Only if you make him mad,” Ushijima said.
Tendou’s jaw dropped open and the lollipop fell out of his mouth, clattering onto the cobblestones. “Oh my god! You remembered!”
Ushijima looked over at Tendou and now he was the one that looked like a puppy waiting for a reward treat. “Was that one better, Tendou?”
“It was great!”
Semi gawked at Ushijima then looked at Tendou. “Are you teaching him monster jokes?”
“Yes!” Tendou shouted happily. “This is the best day of my life!”
Ushijima really did not know how to dance.
Tendou took his hand, adjusting the angle as they faced each other, their feet bumping together. Tendou clasped Ushijima’s hand loosely and brought his other hand up to his shoulder. Ushijima’s large hand was sweaty in Tendou’s, or maybe it was Tendou that was sweaty, or both.
Ushijima looked at the couples around them, watching what they did and following their lead, and then slid his other hand on the small of Tendou’s back. His hand was large and warm, fitted perfectly to the gentle curve there. Ushijima did not push their bodies together, though, keeping several inches between them.
Tendou inhaled and gently began to rock them back and forth. It was a slow song, thankfully. He didn’t think he could handle Ushijima trying to break it down or twerk to some of the more up beat songs. He was fairly certain he would die if that happened.
After a few steps, Tendou nudged Ushijima’s hand up towards his waist.
“Touching is good, but hands above the waist, Wakatoshi,” Tendou joked.
Ushijima nodded seriously. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Uncomfortable was not the word Tendou would have used.
“Unless you’re really into the person or trying to make a move, you usually don’t put your hand that low,” Tendou explained.
Ushijima nodded again, so serious, like he was hanging on every word Tendou had to say, like Tendou was some sort of expert on this.
“If you’re with someone like you, you’ll want to be a bit closer than we are, but don’t step on their feet,” Tendou said.
Tendou felt Ushijima’s hand press against his waist before slowly moving towards the center of his back. Tendou shuffled forward as Ushijima wrapped his arm around him, pulling him closer.
Ushijima was so very close. They could be closer, their entire bodies flushed against one another like the men and women around them, but Tendou did not think he could handle that. He was very glad for the inch or two of space between their chests.
Tendou’s arm slid loosely around Ushijima’s neck to accommodate for the new closeness between them. Ushijima stepped on his feet. Tendou didn’t say anything.
“Then what?” Ushijima asked, his eyes not moving from Tendou’s face. “Are we dancing now?”
Tendou laughed, loud and rough, but his voice was quiet when he answered, “Yes, Wakatoshi, we’re dancing.”
Tendou was a literal monster, part vampire, part human. Ushijima was a monster too. A figurative one, a Quidditch monster, but still a monster.
Ushijima was the best and everyone knew it. Everyone wanted to take him down. But they didn’t even deserve to challenge Ushijima if they couldn’t make it past Tendou, their beater. If a chaser couldn’t handle a bludger to their face, or Tendou flying up towards their face, they had no right to try and challenge Ushijima.
Goshiki learned that very quickly during his first practice.
Semi made Tendou apologize after practice, when Goshiki was breathing a little too hard and his eyes were a little too wide. Tendou had flown right in front of him. It wasn’t something beaters usually did, intercepting the flight path of a chaser, but it always threw them for a loop. It was completely legal, too; he checked twice.
Almost ramming into someone at full speed could really freak you out, especially when your coach yells at you for stopping mid-flight, as if he expected you to collide and keep on going.
(“Just because you get off on scaring people doesn’t mean you can scare your teammates!” Semi had shouted before smacking him with his broom. Ushijima stood nearby and told them not to use their brooms to fight.)
Tendou dragged himself towards Goshiki, who was slowly making his way to the locker room. Tendou went to put an arm around his shoulder but didn’t.
“You want some blood pudding?” Tendou offered.
Goshiki made a disgusted face. “Isn’t that blood and oatmeal?”
Tendou blinked at him. “That’s black pudding and it’s a type of blood sausage. Blood pudding is what I call vanilla pudding with red food dye.”
Goshiki’s cheeks flushed pink. “Oh. That, um, sounds really good.”
Somehow, Tendou and Ushijima slowly danced their way right to the center of the crowd. Two songs later, the DJ switched to something more upbeat, something they couldn’t sway slowly to. Tendou hardly noticed the shift at first, completely lost in his own pocket of reality where only Ushijima and he existed.
He wanted to rest his forehead against Ushijima’s, to breathe the same air, to tilt his head and kiss his lips. He wanted Ushijima to hold him tighter, closer, so that no one questioned why they were together.
But the music changed, and people were beginning to take notice of the two men slowly dancing out of beat, and Tendou could not possible let his stupidity smear Ushijima’s good name.
Tendou stepped back but Ushijima’s hand remained firm on is back for a brief second, stopping him. When his hand slid off, Tendou broke them apart, releasing Ushijima’s hand.
Ushijima looked so oblivious and confused, and Tendou wondered what was going through his head. He couldn’t read Ushijima like he used to. It had been too many years since he last stared at Ushijima Wakatoshi and watched the shift of his jaw, the quirk of his lips, the dark intensity of his eyes.
It was like reading someone’s handwriting when they switched from print to cursive. There was something you recognize there, but it still took you a moment to figure out what the words were saying.
“I’m gonna go smoke,” Tendou said. “This was… nice,” Tendou added with an overtly fake smile that probably wouldn’t even fool oblivious Ushijima. Tendou didn’t care in that moment.
He couldn’t stay here, couldn’t look at Ushijima, couldn’t let that same old feeling drown him again.
Tendou left Ushijima on the dance floor.
Twice a year, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang played each other. The match was held at Beauxbatons in the fall, since Durmstrang was freezing then, and it was held at Durmstrang in the spring, since it was slightly less freezing then.
Then there was Oikawa (and by default, Iwaizumi), who was endlessly irritated by Ushijima’s greatness, which was always fun to watch. Tendou wished he had popcorn whenever the two ran into each other during those yearly meet ups. He even looked up charms to summon it but, tragically, found none. What was the point of having magic if you couldn’t summon popcorn to eat while your best friend annoyed someone?
But the best part—besides beating Oikawa and Iwaizumi, because there were only a few things in the world that could top watching those two get so upset and frustrated—was the ship ride over. Durmstrang had a massive pirate ship that could sink underwater.
(“It’s not a pirate ship,” Ushijima said, very serious, not understanding Tendou’s light-hearted joke. “It’s an old merchant vessel, a three-masted barque that carried clear liquor and ore.”
Tendou leaned closer to Goshiki and said, “Totally a pirate ship.”)
The players all shared a room in the bowels of the ship, but the room was large and comfortable with plush beds with red sheets, iron lanterns that cast strange shadows and warm light, and several curtains for privacy. The coach, thankfully, had his own separate room.
Tendou, of course, took it upon himself to provide entertainment.
He quelled the lights, leaving them in the dark, save for the light of his wand, which illuminated the boys as they sat in a circle on the wood floor. The boat creaked around them, the lull of the waves heavy and ever present.
Semi rolled his eyes. “This is stupid.”
“Give him a chance,” Oohira said. “It may be good this year.”
Tendou cleared his throat and started off his tale. Rather, his poem. It was a true classic, but one no one there would know it. It was by a muggle man his father was quite fond of.
He knew which words to stress, when to pause, and how to move his body in subtle, creepy ways that played on the light, casting shadows and making his body look like he should not be positioned in such a way. The fangs helped, too.
“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“’Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’
“He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.
“And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
“One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“’And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.
“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
Goshiki and Oohira clapped but so did Ushijima, which surprised Tendou, who smiled brightly and tipped his body forward for a seated bow.
“Thank you, thank you,” Tendou said.
“May I go next?” Ushijima asked.
Tendou perked up. Everyone turned to stare at Ushijima, who waited for Tendou’s approval. Tendou nodded.
Ushijima pulled out his wand, lit it, and Tendou nullified his own lightning charm. The shadows on Ushijima’s harsh face were downright terrifying.
Tendou found himself eagerly inching forward, wondering what sort of scary poem or story Ushijima had in store.
Oh man, oh man, he thought eagerly, like his heart may explode. This was probably going to be way better than that prank he was going to do when he told Tell Tale Heart!
Ushijima’s tone was relatively flat, not quite fitting the emphasis of the lines, and he clearly lacked the dramatic flare that Tendou so easily embodied, but he did not stutter or stop, going through the poem flawlessly.
“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
“The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
“I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
“God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
“I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
“I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”
For a brief moment, no one said anything.
Tendou gawked at Ushijima. He could feel his cheeks flush a warm, rosy red and the air dried his open mouth far too quickly for comfort, until his tongue too was dry and ached and begged him to shut his mouth.
Was that a love poem, or a poem about a mad person? A mad person in love? Tendou loved it either way. He loved that Ushijima had a poem memorized. Was Ushijima into poetry? This opened so many avenues if that was the case.
Goshiki clapped hesitantly, looking around to see if that was the right thing to do. No one seemed to know what to do.
Now was not the time to freak out over Ushijima Wakatoshi reciting love poems from memory.
Tendou playfully slapped Ushijima on the shoulder and said, “Learn to read the mood, Wakatoshi! We’re telling scary stories!”
“Ah,” Ushijima said, voice indicating he was clearly shocked by this, though it hardly showed on his face. “I didn’t know. Yours wasn’t scary.”
Tendou wasn’t even mad until Semi snorted loudly into his hand.
It took Tendou ten minutes to find a side exit. Outside, there was a half-set of stone stairs that led to a small, sweet-smelling garden where all the flowers were blooming. Ivy crept up an iron fence, weeping bushes with white flowers spread out all over the place, and tulips of all different colors popped up from the ground.
Tendou sat a few steps down, not wanting to get smacked in the ass if the door opened behind him, and dug into his robes for his cigarettes and lighter. He lit one up and inhaled the smoke into his lungs, exhaling slowly, savoring the roll of smoke out his throat and across his lips.
He was fine. He could do this. He would not fall in love again.
He finished his first cigarette too quickly and reached for a second.
That was when Ushijima opened the door.
There were no summers at Durmstrang Castle, only the few short weeks at the end of term where the snow had melted and you did not need five robes, two heating charms, and a small fire to stay warm. A few tiny, brave purple and white clovers made the grass look like a meadow of wild flowers, which just went to show that Tendou had no idea what a meadow of wild flowers looked like.
The grounds became muddy and harder to walk on. Goshiki slipped down the largest hill one afternoon, going down like it was a water slide at an amusement park, and Tendou and Semi laughed until it hurt.
The oldest members of the team celebrated their graduation with a bonfire down by the lake, wood piled so high the flames looked like they would touch the sky. The girls danced and made crowns with the clover flowers, and the boys drank and laughed around the fire. It was like a muggle movie about teenagers and Tendou loved it.
Tendou had just taken his first sip of alcohol with Oohira when he spotted Ushijima sitting in the shadows of the party at the edge of the lake. He skipped over and sat next to him.
“Whatcha doing over here, Wakatoshi?” Tendou asked, tugging his knees up against his chest and hugging his arms around them.
“It’s loud,” Ushijima said simply.
Tendou hummed and nodded once. “True.”
The light of the flickering flames was soft and warm on Ushijima’s strong face, softening the edges and brightening his eyes. He looked a bit younger. Rather, he looked his age. Usually his face made him seem so mature and stoic, but not now.
Tendou had the inexplicable urge to lean over and kiss him.
Oh, he realized dully, this isn’t good.
“I don’t see the point of parties,” Ushijima went on with a slight frown.
“They’re meant to be fun,” Tendou said.
“Just are. You got fire, which is fun in a really dangerous, awesome way. You’ve got alcohol, if you want to make a fool of yourself. And you’ve got girls, if that’s your thing, and boys too, I guess. You’re meant to be loud and stupid and have a good time!”
Ushijima’s frown deepened. “Being loud and stupid does not sound fun.”
Tendou laughed for no reason at all. He fell onto his back and looked up at the stars.
“This is fun,” Tendou said, not looking at Ushijima, who made a slight noise that may have been agreement or disagreement. Tendou never was quite sure.
“You followed me?” Tendou asked in disbelief. He laughed dryly and hung his head, shaking it from side to side, as if he was seeing things and when he looked back up, Ushijima would be gone.
He was still there.
Ushijima settled next to him, sitting down a few steps below him so his head was near Tendou’s jutting knee.
Tendou slowly smoked his cigarette, inhaling a little too deeply, until the smoke reached the deepest part of his lungs. The nicotine buzzed pleasantly in his blood and head.
Ushijima turned slightly, angling himself towards Tendou, and held out his hand.
Tendou stared at his large palm, at the veins on the back of his hand, at the rough calluses on his fingers and the small specks of dirt under his nails. They looked dry, but Tendou knew they couldn’t be. Ushijima would never risk letting the delicate skin of his hands crack and bleed. Tendou used to think that he would lick them clean if they cracked and bled.
Tendou took the cigarette out of his mouth, blowing out the smoke towards Ushijima. “What?”
Ushijima said nothing, hand still extended, not shaking in the slightest. Steady. Sure. Strong.
Tendou handed him the cigarette.
Tendou was sixteen when he was kidnapped.
Kidnapped may have been exaggerating, but that’s what he shouted when Jun and the other girls grabbed him after Beasts and Creatures. He had been talking to Oohira and Semi, and the next thing he knew, he was pounced on like a baby gazelle. Two girls had his wrists, another two his ankles, and he wondered if they were going to stretch him out until his limbs ripped.
“Help! I’m being kidnapped!” he shouted, trying to kick to no avail. Damn these strong women!
“Shush, stop being so dramatic,” Jun said. “We’ll have him back by the afternoon.”
“Keep him,” Semi said.
“Hey!” Tendou shouted.
They carried him to the girls’ dorm and plopped him down on a large bathroom floor where their weapons of torture were already spread out—tweezers (not very effective), bottles of colorful liquid (probably acid), and plastic sheets (to hide his body).
“We’re not trying to kill you,” Amanai said reassuringly. “But this will be easier if you don’t move.”
Jun snapped on a pair of latex gloves. “Alright, girls, let’s get to work.”
Turns out, the tweezers were to pluck his eyebrows, the bottles of colorful liquid were makeup, and the plastic sheets were to keep the mess to a minimum while they dyed his hair the exact color it was.
“Don’t forget the blush or he’ll look dead,” a girl said. A pause. “Dead-er?”
“Hey, that’s offensive,” another girl said.
Tendou was about to say something like “I’m not dead” then someone put something to his lips and he shut up. Lipstick too?
He honestly didn’t see the point of any of this, but girls were weird and he wasn’t about to fight them when they had an eyeliner pencil right up against his eye.
Three hours later, they ushered him down to the Quidditch Pitch. Jun marched over to Ushijima, said, “You owe me one,” and then walked away. Amanai waved, smiling, and Tendou waved back dumbly.
God, they had even put that skin-colored crap on his hands. Every bit of exposed skin felt sticky and heavy, caked over with makeup, and his hair smelled like cheap dye.
“Get dressed, Tendou!” the coach snapped. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Tendou yelped. He hurried down to the locker room, threw on his uniform, and then came back out.
He didn’t know why they bothered including him in the picture. Part of being a dhampir meant having no reflection; his likeness could not be captured. It made shaving hard and styling his hair near impossible. His clothes would show up, though, which always made photos a little funnier.
When he came out to the Pitch, everyone was lined up.
“Keep your eyes closed and smile without showing your teeth,” Ushijima said matter of factly as he carefully folded his hands in front of him, the same way he did in every team picture.
Tendou frowned. Why did it matter what he looked like?
He did not show up, but anything on his body did like clothes, or makeup and hair dye. They didn’t put anything on his teeth or eyes so those wouldn’t show.
“Tendou!” the coach shouted again.
Tendou stood side by side with Ushijima, suddenly nervous. Was this how everyone felt getting their picture taken? He wondered how he looked. The girls hadn’t shown him a mirror when they were done. They had remembered to dye his eyebrows too, right? Surely they had remembered if they knew this was so he could have his picture taken.
In the picture, the entire team had their eyes closed and smiled with their mouths closed, showing no teeth. And standing there next to them was Tendou.
“I’ve always wondered what they taste like,” Ushijima said, letting out a small puff of smoke, rolling Tendou’s cigarette delicately between his fingers. “Coach buys us cigars when we win a big game, but I’ve never liked them. They didn’t smell or taste like this.”
“You were probably smoking some top of the line shit and you didn’t like it? You have got to be kidding me.”
“Yours taste better,” Ushijima said simply, taking a longer drag before handing it back to Tendou. He held the smoke in his lungs for a brief moment before exhaling, the smoke hanging in front of him.
Tendou put the cigarette to his mouth and looked away.
“I missed this smell,” Ushijima said. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply like it was the last breath he was ever going to take. “It always calmed me when you smoked nearby.”
“I thought it pissed you off.”
“You never pissed me off, Tendou.”
A year before graduation, Ushijima was invited to join the Bulgarian National Quidditch team. It was so rare for students to be accepted to national teams, but it wasn’t against the rules as long as they were of age, and no one was really surprised that Miracle Boy Wakatoshi would be one of the rare cases.
Ushijima got them all tickets to their matches over the summer. They sat crowded in the stands together wearing red and black, waving signs and screaming, Goshiki and Tendou the loudest of them all.
Get them, beat them, crush them, Tendou thought like a chant, or a prayer. He wondered if it was blasphemy to worship two deities in the sky.
Tendou snuffed his cigarette by stabbing it against the stone staircase they sat on. He rubbed the ash residue away with his thumb and put the bud into a small tin container he carried with him.
Tendou looked at the back of Ushijima’s hair, at the slight swirl of hair on the top of his hair. It hurt to see him like this, to be reminded of how things used to be. Tendou wished he could go back in time and relive those moments.
He should stand up and go back inside. There would be good food and toasts. He couldn’t miss Goshiki crying while people said nice things about him and his beautiful bride. He had to make fun of him. He had to say nice things too.
Tendou hung his head and raked his fingers through his hair. He dug his nails against his scalp and laughed quietly. He was a coward. He didn’t want to stand up and leave. He didn’t want to stop dancing and now he didn’t want to leave.
God, he hated this feeling.
Ushijima turned and looked at him. “Are you alright?”
“No,” Tendou replied, voice tight. “I don’t feel good.”
“I can go get someone.“
He was worried. Of course he was worried.
“It’s not that kind of feeling, Wakatoshi. It’s a different kind of bad. This is inside.”
Tendou snorted. “No, not constipation.”
Tendou lifted his head and saw that Ushijima was smiling.
“Oh my god,” Tendou said, smiling as well now. “You told a joke.”
“Someone taught me how to when I was young.” Ushijima paused. “I miss him.”
Ushijima Wakatoshi was invincible. He never wavered, never seconded guessed, and worked himself harder than everyone else. When the team woke up at sunrise to run laps in the freezing cold, Ushijima was already up. When they did one hundred tosses, Ushijima did double that.
So Tendou was beyond concerned when he saw Ushijima stumble on his way back to the castle, swaying slightly like he was uneasy.
Tendou wanted to scream at the top of his lungs that the universe no longer followed the laws of physics and the world must be ending because it was so wrong to see Ushijima like that. But a tiny voice in his head said that Ushijima wouldn’t want to be called out and exposed like that so Tendou, for perhaps the first time in his life, kept his mouth shut.
It wasn’t until after dinner—Ushijima did not waver, did not stumble—and they were back in the dorms that Tendou thought to say something. But he never got the chance because Ushijima slumped against the wall, breathing heavily.
Tendou got up close to him, blocking him from sight. No one else needed to see this. Tendou wasn’t even sure if he should be seeing this.
Ushijima’s face was a pale color with a slight flush around his cheeks and sweat puddled above his thick eyebrows. Tendou slid his hand up onto Ushijima’s forehead and he leaned into it, seeking the unnatural coolness of his palm.
“I may have a slight fever,” Ushijima said.
“I can’t tell,” Tendou said. “All humans feel hot to me.”
Ushijima closed his eyes. “I just need to sleep. I’ll be fine if I sleep.”
Tendou didn’t know who he was trying to convince. He slid his hand away, wiping the sweat off on the side of his robes.
Ushijima sucked in a shuddering breath, pushed away from the wall, and walked straight towards his room. Tendou followed hesitantly.
“Is there, um, anything I can do?” Tendou asked as Ushijima unlocked his room and promptly collapsed face-first onto the bed. “Chicken soup for the teenage soul is a thing, right? Or is that a book? I think it’s a book. I can get you chicken soup, or a book, or both!”
Ushijima waved his wand and the door shut behind them.
Uh… Wasn’t Tendou supposed to be on the other side of that door?
He took a second to look around the room. He had never spent much time in Ushijima’s room. He would come barging in and ask Ushijima if he wanted to hang out, but he never spent more than a minute in there.
Looking now, he saw that everything was neat and orderly; even the dirty laundry in the hamper was folded for the house elves to take. His bookcase was lined with textbooks both old and new, and several stacks of magazines, all of them Quidditch related. Then there were the dozen or so poetry books, all written by muggles, all from different authors. Tendou wondered if they were gifts that Ushijima read out of obligation or something he used his own money on. He never did press Ushijima after his recital on the boat.
He lit the fire—every room at Durmstrang had a fireplace to keep the cold drafts at bay—then tugged off Ushijima’s boots, setting them neatly on the floor because he knows that’s how Ushijima would like it. He took off his outermost robe but left the inner layers.
And then he was once more left standing there, completely awkward and out of place in Ushijima’s pristine room.
“If you don’t need me, then I’ll just let myself out—“
“Your hand felt nice,” Ushijima said, probably half delirious if he had been walking around with a fever like that the entire day. God, they’d practiced in a snowstorm.
Anyone else would probably be dead. Tendou was very glad Ushijima was not dead.
Tendou slowly approached Ushijima’s bed as if it was a very dangerous thing with claws and fangs, and sat on the edge.
This was dangerous. Very, very dangerous.
Being half vampire meant having a body temperature several degrees below that of an average human. He was not cold, per se, but he was going to give any healer a heart attack if they didn’t know his predicament before taking his temperature.
He used his palm to push Ushijima’s hair out of his face and Ushijima let out the tiniest sigh at his touch. Tendou had a moment of unbridled desire. His eyes lingered on the slight flush of Ushijima’s cheeks and his hand lingered at the line of Ushijima’s sweaty hair for a moment too long before sliding back down to his forehead.
He could so easily slide his hand to the back of Ushijima’s neck and Ushijima wouldn’t even question his intent. He could press his nose into Ushijima’s hair and breathe in deep, etch the scent of him into his lungs so that he never went a day without smelling Ushijima. The thought of what he could do made his heart race and ache in the best of ways and the worst.
But Tendou was not someone to take advantage of another. All the terrible things people said about him were almost all true—that he was cruel, that he enjoyed seeing pain on other people, that he enjoyed causing that pain—but he did have his morals. A few. A handful, at least.
He rested his cool hand on Ushijima’s forehead and once he fell asleep, tossed the covers up over his body and let him rest.
Ushijima was trying to kill him, wasn’t he?
Because Ushijima may have missed Tendou, but it wasn’t the way that Tendou missed Ushijima. And Tendou couldn’t bear to go through this again, to fall back in love (he wasn’t sure he ever fell out of it, to be honest), just to have Ushijima think of him as a friend.
He couldn’t do this again.
Tendou looked around and spotted a small gate on the far side of the blooming garden. He didn’t know where it led, but it was away from Ushijima and that was all he needed in that moment.
He stood up and hurried down the steps. By the time he reached the bottom, Ushijima had gotten up and grabbed his wrist, stopping him.
Tendou didn’t met his eyes. He tugged at his wrist but Ushijima’s fingers only tightened.
“I don’t know if I’m being unclear, or if you understand but feel differently,” Ushijima said, voice as flat as always. “I would appreciate an explanation as to why you’re avoiding me.”
“Because—“ Tendou clenched his jaw tight and tugged his wrist again, but Ushijima refused to let go. Stubborn bastard. “Because you’re Miracle Boy Wakatoshi. You’re amazing. You’re fantastic! There are moments where you’re too stunning to look at because I swear if I look, I’m going to go blind. There is no way that someone as incredible as you would want what I want.”
“I’m just a person, Tendou,” Ushijima said flatly.
And I’m just a monster.
Tendou felt something expand in his throat. He stomped his foot against the ground and tugged his wrist again, so hard it ached.
“I don’t understand,” Ushijima began, very calm, far too calm. Tendou felt like an idiot for being so worked up. “You’re avoiding me because you think I don’t like you?”
“I know you like me. But not like that. I know it’s not like that. And let me tell you, Wakatoshi, when you love someone and know that they could never, ever love you back, it doesn’t feel good. Some of us have feelings and we like to express them.”
It was a low blow, one that probably struck at Ushijima’s unarmored core.
Ushijima’s fingers tightened around his wrist and Tendou made a pathetic noise. Ushijima quickly released his painful hold on Tendou’s wrist, but brought it over to him, gently rubbing where his fingers had been.
“I never meant to hurt you,” Ushijima said with a gentle furrow to his brow.
“It’s fine,” Tendou murmured. “You don’t know your own strength.”
“I never meant to hurt you,” Ushijima repeated. “Now, or then, or ever again.”
Tendou finally looked at him again. Ushijima had a rawness to him that Tendou was not sure he had ever seen. There was little emotion there, but there was potential for it, like he had been flipped inside out and everything he kept in could come pouring out.
“I don’t want to say the wrong thing,” Ushijima said. “I don’t want to mess up again.”
“You never messed up,” Tendou replied quickly. “It wasn’t your fault.“
“Because I didn’t express myself properly, because I couldn’t understand, you felt like that. If I wasn’t like this, maybe I could have said the right things. It was my inability that resulted in our current predicament. I apologize.”
Tendou stepped forward and slid a hand up to Ushijima’s neck, sliding back and holding there. His thumb rubbed through the bottom of Ushijima’s hair.
“Never apologize for how you are, Wakatoshi. The world would be a better place if everyone else was like you."
Tendou watched Ushijima’s throat as he swallowed. His fingers were still carefully rubbing against Tendou’s wrist though it no longer hurt.
“What,” Tendou said then stopped. “What do you think about me? If you can’t find the words, just show me, yeah? Can’t go wrong with actions. Unless you want to punch me, then maybe—“
Within a second, Ushijima’s hands were at his waist, tugging at the fabric there and urging Tendou closer. Tendou felt their stomachs bump at the same time he felt Ushijima kiss him. Ushijima had Tendou’s bottom lip between his for moment before he shifted, their lips sliding together at a better angle.
Tendou gasped. He wrapped his arms around Ushijima’s neck and pulled him closer, kissing Ushijima like he may never get the chance again.
The night after graduation was their last night at Durmstrang. In the morning, they would leave and probably never return.
The fire down at the side of the lake was the largest Tendou had ever seen. The flames licked dangerously at the wet grass and bushes, but the fire remained contained. Someone tossed a pack of fireworks in at one point, the colors shooting off in every direction as something whistled and hummed.
Goshiki was making the eyes at the girl that would be captain of Jun’s team next year and Semi was egging him on while Oohira monitored to make sure Goshiki didn’t get himself into a bad situation. Tendou wanted to join in, to see Goshiki approach that girl and ask her if she wanted a drink, but he didn’t.
Instead he walked away from the fire towards Ushijima, who was sitting by himself. Tendou sat in the grass next to him, took out a cigarette, and light it. It was colder away from the fire. He wished he had a blanket.
They sat silently for a while, listening to the cheering and laughter near the fire. Tendou smoked his cigarette slowly, wanting to savor it.
“What are you doing after graduation?” Ushijima asked suddenly.
Tendou turned his head to look at Ushijima, surprised that Ushijima was looking back. He blew smoke in Ushijima’s face. He didn’t even blink at it.
“Don’t know,” Tendou said, not looking away. Neither did Ushijima. “I’ve been applying for internship with magizoologists. I thought that might be fun for a while. I thought about being one of those antique collectors that travels around to weird place.”
Ushijima nodded. Still not looking away. Tendou tapped his cigarette but didn’t put it back to his lips.
“What about you?” Tendou asked cheekily. Of course Ushijima was going to play Quidditch.
“Quidditch,” Ushijima replied predictably. “After that… I thought about taking over my family’s gardens. They raise potion ingredients for hospitals.”
“That’s right, that’s right,” Tendou said, recalling that. “Miracle Farmer Wakatoshi. Green Thumb Wakatoshi. Heard Master to the Sheep Wakatoshi. Do you have sheep? Is it a real farm, or just plants?”
Ushijima laughed—a short, brief thing, but it was there—and asked, “What are you doing?”
“Coming up with nicknames!”
Ushijima laughed again, longer this time, and Tendou dropped his cigarette in the dirt. He shuffled forward onto his hands, his knees digging into the cold earth. Ushijima quieted, staring, eyes reflecting the distant flames of the fire. Tendou’s eyes flicked to Ushijima’s lips.
“You’re going to do great things, Wakatoshi,” Tendou said. “And I’m going to miss you and the way you make me feel.”
“Tendou, what are you—“
Tendou surged forward and kissed him on the cheek. Just his cheek because he was a coward and if by some chance they ever saw each other after tonight, Tendou could play it off. If he kissed him on the lips, there would be no denying his feelings.
Before Ushijima could react, he stood up and went back to the fire, knowing Ushijima would not follow him.
For better or for worse, he was right.
The door opened and the two ripped apart, but it just was their old team. Seeing them all together made Tendou smile as the panic of being caught faded into something calm and warm.
There was Goshiki with his bowtie undone and a wedding band shining brightly on his finger, Semi with a half-empty bottle of champagne, Oohira with a piece of fluffy chocolate cake (damn it, they missed the cake!), Yamagata with a quaffle under his arm, and Shirabu, who was carrying several broomsticks.
Realizing who it was, Tendou and Ushijima eased closer together again until their sides were touching. Ushijima’s fingers threaded through Tendou’s comfortably, the pads of his fingers rough on the back of Tendou’s. Just holding his hand made Tendou so inexplicably happy.
Ushijima Wakatoshi kissed me. He kissed me, a monster.
Tendou glanced over to him, but Ushijima was looking at their old team with his usual straight face. Most people thought it was a look of disinterest, of boredom or contempt, but they all knew it was not. Resting bitch face wasn’t quite the right phrase, but it was as close to describing Ushijima’s familiar gaze as they got. There was a familiar comfort in his hard, cold expression.
Oohira was the only who glanced down at their hands. He smiled but didn’t say anything, just took another bite of the cake.
“So this is where you were,” Semi said, a little miffed but more drunk. “We were looking all over for you two!”
“You said something about a quaffle,” Goshiki said to Tendou, smiling widely. “Kageyama gave me one as a gift.”
“Who the hell gives someone a quaffle as a wedding gift?” Shibaru muttered as he walked down the steps into the small garden, where he dropped the brooms.
“They’re not that good, but they’ll do,” Yamagata said, in reference to the brooms.
He tossed the quaffle to Goshiki, who spun it in his hands then tossed it to Ushijima. Ushijima caught it with his right hand, not daring to let go of Tendou’s hand with his left.
Goshiki noticed that. He looked down.
“Oh,” Goshiki said, looking rather dumb. “Y’know, we still have to throw the bouquet. I can ask my wife to throw it at you, if you want.”
Tendou let go of Ushijima’s hand to walk forward and put Goshiki in a headlock, messing up his hair for good measure.
“You little shit,” Tendou said, but he was laughing and so was Goshiki.
Ushijima watched them with a gentle expression.
Goshiki broke away, breathless with laughter, and held up his hands. Ushijima tossed him back the quaffle and the new groom jogged towards the brooms in the grass, demanding the best one.
“They’re all shit,” Semi said, still holding the bottle of champagne. “We found them in a closet.”
“And it’s my wedding so I get the best of the shit!” Goshiki said.
Tendou walked towards Ushijima, who had turned his head to watch their old teammates. Tendou slid a hand up his neck to cup his jaw in his hand and Ushijima turned his head to look at him once more. Tendou rubbed his thumb against the harsh, strong lines of Ushijima’s face, the skin surprisingly soft.
“You do understand what a kiss means, right?” Tendou asked dubiously, arching an eyebrow.
Ushijima looked unimpressed. “I’m not that hopeless, Tendou.”
Tendou smiled. “Just making sure.”
Ushijima leaned forward and kissed him once more, with less urgency this time, like this was most definitely happen again and they had no need to rush. Tendou smiled against his lips and looped his arms around Ushijima’s neck just because he could. Someone whistled, probably Goshiki.
When Ushijima pulled back, he took Tendou’s hand in his and walked towards their friends. They were smiling as they figured out teams and who got which broom. Oohira nudged Ushijima with his elbow and gave him a smile, which seemed to confuse Ushijima.
Tendou tossed his free hand up into the air and said, “I pick Tsutomu and Wakatoshi for my team!”
“Not fair!” Semi shouted. “You can’t get both of the professional players!”
“I just did and I bet neither of them will say no to me!”
There was a wave of laughter. Ushijima’s palm was still sweaty in his hand and the idea of flying next to him again felt like coming home.