His phone was ringing.
A glance at the time showed that it was just minutes before three in the morning.
His phone was ringing at three in the morning, and Tsukishima Kei was not amused, to say the least.
Kei scrubbed the sleep from his eyes and went to peer at the name just as it stopped ringing.
1 Missed Call - Yamaguchi Tadashi.
He also had notifications for seven text messages from him, all in the last thirty minutes. Kei wasn’t usually a heavy sleeper, so he was surprised that his best friend and roommate’s messages hadn’t woken him sooner. It was finals season, though, and they’d all been studying into the night for the last week. Maybe that was part of it.
As Kei opened the messages he’d missed, he decided that studying into the wee hours of the morning was definitely part of the reason. For many things, but mostly the erratic state of Yamaguchi’s text messages.
[02:33:42 AM] ive been studying so long i think i’m losing my grip on reality, tsukki
[02:35:12 AM] how many times do u think u can read a sentence without taking anything in because i’m 10000000000$% postive ive read this one like 400 tiems
When Yamaguchi’s texting degraded, Kei knew he’d been up too long. He groaned, and allowed himself to look at the other messages.
[02:41:02 AM] dont be alrmed but im prtty sure i just saw a gost
[02:41:35 AM] ghost*
[02:45:18 AM] do u think its the ghost of some poor studnt tat didnt get to grad bc they faild all theyre finals
[02:46:24 AM] tsukki do u think itll possess me n make me fail 2?
[02:52:37 AM] omg tsukki i’m too yung to flunk outta school help
His phone buzzed with another incoming text, and then the message bubble popped up.
[02:57:46 AM] t s u k k i im havin a cRISIS and ur n o t pickin up the fo NE
Kei pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a slow sigh. Yamaguchi had always been just a tad superstitious. And he’d always been a little scared of late nights and ghosts, so somehow this didn’t surprise him. Not after the years of being paired up together for tests of courage because everyone always thought that Kei would be unsettled if Yamaguchi was terrified. Kei had proved them wrong, of course, keeping his own bored expression even while his best friend was clinging to his shirt in terror.
At least he’d been there to keep Yamaguchi from completely losing it, though. The one time Hinata and Yamaguchi had been paired together for a test of courage at training camp had nearly ended in every participant getting punished for being up too late, since it hadn’t exactly been a sanctioned activity for a sports camp. Staying up late when they had physical training daily wasn’t exactly advisable, after all.
[02:58:22 AM] tis is it. this is how i die, tsukki
[02:58:54 AM] psessed by a h8ful ghostie boi jellous of teh fct that im studyin when he shoulda studed while he ws alive
[02:59:31 AM] i wont evn get 2 take my finals
[02:59:47 AM] since ill be #DED
[03:00:12 AM] tsukkiiiiiiiiiii
Before Kei could do anything beyond consider responding to the incessant stream of panicked messages from a definitely sleep-deprived Yamaguchi, his phone started to ring again.
Incoming Call - Yamaguchi Tadashi.
He gave himself two rings, and then he answered.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?”
“Tsukki!” Yamaguchi sounded hysterical and close to tears. “Oh my god, you’re alive, thank god, I love you, come help me please!”
“Aren’t you studying at the library?” Kei sat up, testing how bad his friend was freaking out before puzzling through what he’d said in its entirety and promptly deciding to temporarily ignore it as his face started to burn. Not now, Kei. “We don’t have the same classes anymore, what could I possibly help you with?”
“No, Tsukki, please. I’m serious. You need to come save me because if you don’t I’m going to get possessed by some kind of vengeful spirit of a poor soul who failed all his finals and I’m too young to die, I haven’t even—”
“Oh my god, Yamaguchi, just come back to the dorm.”
“Tsukki, I can’t, I have two more chapters to review and my study packet is only half filled out and there it is again oh my god, Kei, please.”
Yamaguchi’s voice cracked on his given name, and his heart squeezed in his chest. As much fun as it was to tease him, Kei genuinely didn’t like hearing Yamaguchi sound quite so terrified. And even though he knew it was because he was sleep deprived and on the edge because he’d been studying himself into a corner, he couldn’t bring himself to ignore his friend.
Kei sighed heavily, pinched the bridge of his nose again, and instructed slowly, “Just close your eyes, put your head down, and count to fifteen. I’m on my way.”
“What? No, I can’t do that! What if he comes to possess me while I’m not paying attention? It’s like an open invitation! Don’t you have to invite them in, or something? Letting my guard down is just like doing that, isn’t it?!”
“You’re thinking of vampires, Yamaguchi,” Kei rubbed his eyes and realized why he’d been squinting at everything when he reached for his glasses, “but just do what I told you to. It’ll ignore you if you ignore it.”
“Are you sure?” his voice was small and cracked again.
“Positive. Now stay there, I’m on the way.”
“Hurry, Tsukki,” Yamaguchi whined. “I’m too young to be possessed and fail and die.”
“You’ll be fine,” Kei sighed, sliding on his shoes, “I’m coming.”
There was a muffled thank you before Kei hung up and reached for his coat and scarf. It was cold outside, and it was also three in the morning, a fact which he would probably constantly remind Yamaguchi of once he had rested and relaxed and was no longer on the verge of a hysterical panic attack.
And Yamaguchi had hysterically babbled I love you.
He was going to ignore that, even as it made his scarf uncomfortably hot around his neck.
He wondered how the overnight librarians dealt with hysterical students studying for finals. He wasn’t sure he could have handled it, if it wasn’t specifically Yamaguchi Tadashi, a man he knew like the back of his hand. He still wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle it, since he wasn’t actually there yet, but Kei pushed that thought to the back of his mind, hunched deeper in his scarf, and slipped outside into the frigid air.
A few minutes later, he was stepping into the library, offering a tired nod to the equally tired looking librarian at the desk, and then heading up the stairs to the second floor. Yamaguchi liked to sit at a small corner table surrounded by shelves, so it wasn’t surprised that he’d assumed, in his seclusion, that there was a ghost somewhere.
Kei wondered if he’d just heard someone else browsing the shelves or turning pages and had panicked at that, but that was neither here nor there. It wouldn’t change the fact that it was a quarter after three in the morning and Yamaguchi was sleep deprived and slap happy. He was a danger to himself, probably.
Kei spotted one person with six empty energy drink cans next to her, staring avidly at her laptop screen and not even moving when Kei walked by as she typed, but there was no one aside from her. He continued to the corner where Yamaguchi often sat, back behind the English literature, and saw a figure slumped over a table.
Yamaguchi’s phone was in his hand, threatening to slip from his grasp to the table, and his face was pressed to his forearm. The bags under his eyes were atrocious, and his notes were scattered everywhere. A few pages were on the floor, and Kei sighed softly to himself as he stepped forward. He knelt to gather the papers up, doing his best to keep them in what seemed like the right order, and reached to place them on the table next to Yamaguchi’s elbow.
He must have accidentally brushed Yamaguchi, because he shot straight up with a yelp, nearly toppling the chair and lifting one of his legs to his chest as he pushed his arms out in front of him in a defensive position, or something like one.
Kei’s heart jumped to his throat and he nearly toppled backwards from where he still knelt a few feet away, then he searched his own frazzled thoughts for words.
“Yamaguchi, calm down,” Kei managed after a moment. “It’s just me.”
Yamaguchi stared at him blankly for a moment with wide, horrified eyes, and then recognition dawned.
“Tsukkiiiiii!” he nearly wailed, and then Kei toppled over to sit, hard, when his roommate flung himself at Kei. Yamaguchi wrapped his arms around Kei’s torso and buried his face in Kei’s neck and just breathed. “Thank god it’s just you, I thought I was about to get possessed or eaten or—”
“Yamaguchi, you’re in a library,” Kei groaned, reaching up to pat him awkwardly on the back. “Keep your voice down.”
He tried to ignore how he could feel Yamaguchi’s racing heartbeat where his chest was pressed to Kei’s, but he could feel a burn slowly creeping up his neck. Of all the times for that to come creeping back, it always chose times like these, when acting on them would make an ass of him. So once again he fought down that surge, the warmth that built deep in his chest, as he patted his friend’s back and let out another sigh.
“Is it gone?” he whined, breath dusting across the hollow of Kei’s throat. Kei swallowed.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s gone. Now c’mon, Yamaguchi. Let’s get you to bed.”
“Tsukki, I can’t!” he pushed away, frowning at Kei. “I already told you, I’ve—I’ve go—” he yawned, loudly, and braced himself against Kei’s shoulder with one hand before continuing groggily, “I’ve got...so much more to study! The packet’s not even half fi—filled out yet.”
He tried to unsuccessfully bite back another yawn, and Kei rolled his eyes.
“What day is it?” he asked in his no-nonsense tone. The one that Yamaguchi would recognize as the one that would tolerate no argument.
“I-it’s Monday, and I have this test in like twelve hours!”
“No, it’s not.” Kei clambered unceremoniously to his feet, reaching out a hand to help Yamaguchi up. “You just think it is because you haven’t been taking care of yourself, idiot. It’s Sunday morning at half past three, you’re being ridiculous, and you have a whole day to study. So we’re going back to the dorm room and you’re going to bed and not getting up until at least ten o’clock, and then we’ll get brunch or something and you can go back to studying after that.”
“A-are you sure it’s—”
Kei picked Yamaguchi’s phone up from the floor, where it had fallen when he’d leapt at Kei, and unlocked it to find the time and date widget. He turned the device around and shoved it back at Yamaguchi while closing his roommate’s notebooks and tucking a few pages into a folder.
“It really is just Sunday?” Yamaguchi asked blankly, his voice small.
“Yes, yes it is.”
He groaned loudly and flopped back into his seat, dropping his head into his arms. Kei heard him mumbling to himself about being an idiot and losing track of time and just kind of let him as he tucked his notebooks back into his bags.
“Are these your textbooks or do you need to check them out?” he asked after a moment, and then didn’t receive an answer. He looked over to where his friend’s face was still smashed into the crook of his elbow on the table and spoke again. “Yamaguchi?”
“Tadashi, wake up.”
Yamaguchi waved a hand weakly at him and muttered, “‘m not asleep, Ts’kki.”
“Sure you aren’t,” Kei sighed, reaching over to haul him to his feet. The slightly shorter man stumbled a little, then dropped his arm around Kei’s shoulder. Kei asked, very deliberately, “Are these your textbooks, or do you need to check them out?”
“The...contemporary American lit book is mine,” Yamaguchi grumbled, blinking dazedly. “I need t’check out the classic English lit book.”
Kei clicked his tongue, shoving one of the books in Yamaguchi’s bag and then throwing it over his own shoulder. He prodded the dozing man in the size and earned a yelp as Yamaguchi took more of his own weight back instead of slouching so heavily on Kei.
“Put on your coat.”
“Mmkay,” Yamaguchi mumbled, sleepily, as he took it from Kei and started to slide his arms in. He managed that without any additional assistance, and Kei sighed and guided him towards the stairs. Kei opted to use the elevator right next to them, since he didn’t exactly trust Yamaguchi to navigate stairs at his level of sleep deprivation, and then when the reached the main lobby, he led the way to the desk.
“Can I check this one out?” he asked the librarian at the counter, who blinked up at him, then at Yamaguchi leaning heavily on the counter, and smiled fondly in recognition. It had happened last semester, too.
“Yes, of course!” She nodded, taking the book from him to scan it. “Student ID?”
He handed it over, and a few minutes later he was handing the textbook to Yamaguchi and ushering him out the door. The librarian bid them good night and Yamaguchi loudly said the same, only realizing after they’d exited that she was the night shift and agonizing over if she thought being told to have a good night was rude.
They made it back to the dorms with little trouble, taking the elevator up to the fourth floor because Kei still didn’t trust slap happy Yamaguchi with stairs, and then he was pushing his roommate through the door and closing it behind them with a sigh. He dropped Yamaguchi’s backpack next to the door as Yamaguchi stumbled forward and dropped the textbook on the desk on his side of the room.
“Take your shoes off and go to bed,” Kei told him, and Yamaguchi just muttered something before collapsing face first on the aforementioned bed anyway, without taking his shoes off. Kei groaned and stepped forward, tugging them off of a weakly, sleepily protesting Yamaguchi’s feet without preamble. The sneakers dropped unceremoniously to the ground and Kei yanked Yamaguchi’s covers out from under him and threw them haphazardly on top.
He mumbled something into his pillow that Kei didn’t understand, and he sighed and went to turn of the light, hanging up his own coat and scarf on the way.
“Mmmnight, Kei,” he heard, vaguely, from the lump in Yamaguchi’s bed. His chest fluttered a little and he ran a slightly frustrated hand through his hair.
“Goodnight, Tadashi,” he shot back, relishing the feel of his name on his tongue. When he got nothing in response, he actually did flick the light off and returned to his own bed with a sigh. Once Kei had pulled his glasses off and returned them and his phone to the bedside table, next to the alarm clock that showed 03:55 AM, he let himself relax and stare at the darkened ceiling above him. The soft sounds of Yamaguchi’s breathing across the room were comforting, and he found himself drifting off to sleep much easier than he had the first time that night.
Yamaguchi Tadashi just had that effect.
Kei was already up and had showered and studying by the time he heard Yamaguchi stirring. A glance at the clock showed that it was about a quarter to ten, and Kei snorted to himself. He’d been almost right on the dot last night when he’d assumed that Yamaguchi would wake up sometime around ten, though he’d said it would be after and not before. He could take that margin of error with a grain of salt, though.
“Finally up?” he drawled, spinning his chair around to watch as Yamaguchi sat up and blearily rubbed at his eyes. His hair, out of his stubby ponytail from the night before, was in complete disarray.
Kei dashed the thought from his mind almost as quickly as it had settled, or so he told himself. It was kind of hard when thoughts like that were more and more frequent the longer he kept them to himself.
“Whaaa…?” Yamaguchi started, clearing his throat. “What time is it?” he asked, rolling his shoulders and yawning. There was more color in his cheeks this morning, Kei noted, than he’d seen in a few days.
“Almost ten,” Kei answered, spinning back to save his progress on his final research paper for his chemistry lab. “Get up and take a shower and then we’ll go get something to eat, Yamaguchi.”
“Eh, but Tsukki, I have to study for my final today!”
Kei turned back and stared until Yamaguchi shifted uncomfortably under his stare.
“What, Tsukki, stop staring!”
“Yamaguchi, we had this conversation last night,” Kei pinched the bridge of his nose and conceded, “though I’m sure you were only about ten percent there throughout the whole talk. I had to come get you at the library because you were afraid a ghost was going to possess you and make you flunk college and you wouldn’t stop texting me at three in the morning.”
He paled a little, and Kei crossed his arms.
“Did I really...but that doesn’t matter, I’ll apologize for real after my final later! I’ll buy you dinner!”
“Your final is tomorrow, Yamaguchi,” Kei intoned slowly and carefully. “Which I told you this morning, when I dragged you back from the library. The book you were using is there on your desk. Be thankful I checked it out for you and didn’t leave you to go back and get it today. I also told you that once you were up, we’d go get something to eat somewhere away from all your study materials, and that you could keep studying when we got back.”
Yamaguchi’s shoulders raised and he ducked his head a little, sheepish, and murmured, “Sorry, Tsukki.”
“Don’t apologize,” Kei’s tone softened, since he didn’t like actually upsetting Yamaguchi. “Just take better care of yourself.”
After a brief moment, which Kei attributed to Yamaguchi tiredly puzzling through the actual words he’d said, a smile started to spread across his face, and he directed it at Kei.
“Aw, you’re worried about me! Thanks, Tsukki!”
“Don’t push it,” Kei turned back around, getting ready to work on his paper more. He could feel the back of his neck burning, but dutifully ignored it.
He heard Yamaguchi’s bed creak as he stood, and heard him padding across the room. A few shuffling sounds were probably him gathering his clothes for the shower, and then he started walking towards the bathroom.
“Thanks, Kei,” was murmured much closer than it was necessary for him to come over, which made Kei jump a little in his seat, and then Yamaguchi Tadashi gave him a light hug around the shoulders and kissed him on the cheek. Kei didn’t have time to recover before Yamaguchi grinned brightly at Kei and dismissed himself to take a shower. He left Kei staring, blankly, at their shared bathroom door as it closed behind his roommate.
His hand travelled up to his cheek, almost of its own accord, and Kei didn’t know how he was supposed to focus after...whatever that was. He could feel his face and neck burning and willed it to go away before Yamaguchi finished his shower.
And, true to his expectations, Kei had barely written two sentences when Yamaguchi emerged from the bathroom fifteen minutes later, tugging his hair back into his familiar, stubby ponytail. A few pieces fell free and framed his face, as usual, and Kei probably let his stare linger on them for a few moments too long. When he realized that, he turned back to save his paper and was thankful that Yamaguchi hadn’t really been paying attention to him.
“What do you want to eat?” he asked, tone carefully controlled, as Yamaguchi dropped his clothes from yesterday into his laundry hamper and frowned at it as if it had personally offended him. Kei knew the look well, because it meant that he’d had to wear something less comfortable since everything else was dirty.
He swallowed when he realized the particular offender were the jeans that Yamaguchi only wore when he went clubbing with Hinata. His tight jeans.
This was not a very good morning for Kei. He had to pull his attention back and did so by forcing himself to stand and stretch. He’d been up since around eight and had been at his desk most of that time.
“Pancakes sound nice,” Yamaguchi said easily, and it took Kei an embarrassingly long moment to realize that he was answering Kei’s question. “Or crepes. Ooh, we still haven’t tried that crepe place that Yachi recommended. Kuroo also said it was pretty good.”
Kei snorted at the mention of their senior, but he wasn’t opposed to the idea of crepes. “If that’s what you want, it sounds good to me.”
“Wait, why is it what I want?” Yamaguchi frowned a little, and Kei looked over as Yamaguchi adjusted the sleeves of his hoodie. “You’re the one that had to do all the work last night. Let’s go somewhere you want to, Tsukki. Let me take you out.”
Kei blinked and opened his mouth, then closed it and shook his head before rearranging his thoughts and praying that Yamaguchi didn’t notice the red flush on his pale skin. “I don’t have a problem with crepes. And I decided we were going out, so it’s my treat.”
It was his no arguments tone, but he sensed Yamaguchi sidling up next to him while he was reaching for his coat and instinctively tensed.
“Then...can I take you out after finals, Tsukki?” Yamaguchi asked, his breath hitching a little on the question. Kei’s stomach twisted in a way he certainly didn’t expect, and he turned his head on a gut feeling, meeting Yamaguchi’s serious gaze. He realized that Yamaguchi’s fingers were tapping lightly on the back of his hand and Kei exhaled, shakily.
Yamaguchi took that as a sign to slip his fingers slowly between Kei’s, and Kei found the nerve to squeeze back.
“If I can take you out on Christmas Eve,” he managed to shoot back, and then added, “Tadashi.”
Yamaguchi inhaled quickly, a gasp, before a breathless laugh tumbled between his lips and he squeezed Kei’s fingers tightly, shifting his grip for a better hold.
“Yeah, of course,” he breathed, and then Kei’s chest squeezed with his soft, “Kei.”
Before they slipped out the door, Kei felt his fingers getting squeezed again, and Tadashi smiled and declared, “I’m taking you to a shrine on New Year’s.”
Kei snorted, and tugged him through the door.