This is a short boys' love story from the awesome sports anime series, "Haikyuu!", focused on the pairing of Tsukishima/Yamaguchi. It is set in an Alternate Universe, as the canon characters are straight and I've made four of them … not straight I've also added a family and some character background for Tadashi Yamaguchi, all of which is total fabrication on my part. I love those two together, and they are obscure enough that there is room to expand on their relationship; this is the reason I often prefer to write villains or side characters so often.
It's been a very long time since I wrote any fan fiction based on an anime series. The last time I did, I was a kid, and the writing was so atrocious that I've never re-published any of it (it's too awful). I watch all anime in the original Japanese language, so I'm often tempted to throw in common Japanese words and expressions, but I treated this fan fiction as a "dub", for cohesiveness. Due to this fact, character names are in Western order: given name first, surname last, as opposed to the Japanese order of surname first, given name last (example: so it's Kei (given name) Tsukishima (surname/family name) instead of Tsukishima Kei). I also use "Mr" and "Mrs", Western prefixes, rather than "-san", etc. I still miss Shoyo being called "chibi" instead of "runt, shrimp", etc.. Conveniently, Yamaguchi's nickname for Tsukishima is just a plain nickname, so there was no translation necessary. Tsukki~!
This story contains a big spoiler for the end of season one, so if you have not watched the entire season one, be warned. This is based entirely on the anime series, as I have yet to read the manga, and I think there are only a few volumes available in the US (and most on pre-order, according to Amazon). I may write another story for these two in the future, but I'm waiting eagerly for season three. It's so addicting!
Enough rambling. Enjoy the story!
The school gym at Karasuno High School was lethally quiet that evening. Normally, Kei Tsukishima would have valued the calm (none of Shoyo Hinata's wild shouting or Tobio Kageyama's smart remarks), but this was no natural silence. Since the crushing loss to Aobajōsai High School, the Karasuno Volleyball Team had been practicing with single-minded focus, but their plays were weaker than ever. It felt as if their hearts were in it, but those hearts had been shattered into pieces.
It doesn't surprise me, Tsukishima thought. He wiped sweat from the short fringe of blond hair on his forehead and looked around. All he could hear was the squeak of sneakers on the polished wood floor and the occasional thump of a ball hitting it. I always knew this was just a club. I always knew if you put your all into it, you're just going to end up disappointed. I knew this would happen. I knew it would! So why ... Why ...
Tsukishima bounced the ball on the floor once. He caught a glimpse of Shoyo missing one of Kageyama's tosses. He bounced it again, harder. Nishinoya kicked a ball across the gym and collapsed on the floor with a water bottle, looking ready to blow practice off altogether. Tsukishima tsked and bounced the ball with all his force, scowling.
Why does it piss me off so much?
There was a clatter and Tsukishima turned. Tadashi Yamaguchi had fallen down on hand and knee on the floor. Tsukishima gripped the ball harder, his bad mood and scowl darkening further.
"I can't do it!" Yamaguchi wailed. He pounded the floor with one fist. "I'll never, never be able to do it! Just-just-just don't call me in again! Ever!"
The others could just stare at him, too disheartened to be surprised. His declaration seemed to finally break everyone else's resolve. Nishinoya left with a tsk, followed by Tanaka. Shoyo sat down heavily on the floor, and even Kageyama did the same. Tsukishima felt embarrassment for his friend, and even more annoyance with the others than ever. He threw the ball at Yamaguchi, hard. It hit his side with enough force to knock the boy over. By the time he sat up, Tsukishima was kneeling before him. Yamaguchi was rubbing his shoulder, but at least he had stopped crying.
"Ts-Tsukki," the boy stammered. "That hurt."
"Good," Tsukishima said. "You're doing too much, idiot. Do you want to kill yourself?"
"At least if I'm dead, I won't let everyone down again."
This ... Tsukishima stared at his friend, whose bottom lip was trembling. His hand curled into a fist. This pisses me off most of all!
Tsukishima's shout made Yamaguchi jumped. He flinched behind his arms, bracing himself. Tsukishima's hand shot out, and grabbed him by the wrist. His much taller friend pulled him to his feet roughly. Yamaguchi looked up at him quizzically, but Tsukishima had already turned his back on him. He dragged Yamaguchi out of the gym without a word. Yamaguchi's legs felt like rubber, but he managed to stumble along. He stared at Tsukishima's hand around his wrist, so much larger than his own hands, gripping with so much strength. If I had hands like that, I could serve well, Yamaguchi thought. He sniffled, scrubbing his hand across his eyes. Tsukishima glanced over his shoulder at him.
"Idiot," he scoffed, his grip tightening on the boy's wrist. "You're shaking from exhaustion. Did you even drink any water?"
Yamaguchi shook his head. They were in the locker room now. Tsukishima released him and told him to change. Then he went to get the bags he hadn't given either of them a chance to get back at the gym. Yamaguchi undressed, but he had to sit down before putting his uniform back on. Tsukishima had been right: his entire body was trembling, as if his muscles and nerves were being played with a violin bow. He gripped his head in both hands, mussing his already messy black hair. He had practiced until he felt this spent, and yet he had not once been able to serve the ball properly. Just like with the Aobajōsai game, his all had amounted to nothing, absolutely nothing. No, it was worse than nothing, it was sabotage. He had sabotaged his own team with his uselessness.
Tsukishima returned to find Yamaguchi in his briefs, head bowed over his knees, on a bench. He nudged his shoulder and held a water bottle out to him.
"Hey, why aren't you dressed yet?" Tsukishima asked in annoyance. His eyes looked his friend up and down. Yamaguchi had grown to an average height, but he was thin, only now starting to develop wiry muscle from all his dogged practicing. He looked more fragile than the other boys, Tsukishima thought, though not maliciously. He caught himself still looking at the boy's mostly bare body, and shook Yamaguchi by the shoulder. "Hey, come on, get-"
Drops fell from Yamaguchi's bowed head and splattered on his knee. He covered his face with both hands, but Tsukishima still heard his sobs. He shook him by the shoulder.
"Hey!" he snapped. "Hey, hey! Stop crying! It's not worth it! It's only a damn club!"
"Don't just say that!" Yamaguchi exclaimed. He lifted his face to Tsukishima's, smeared with tears and snot like a little boy's. "I know you wanted to win that game! We all wanted to! It-it's important to you!"
"Not that important!" Tsukishima said. He sighed and sat on the bench beside his friend. Yamaguchi had been severely depressed since the Aobajōsai game, and this new breakdown frightened him. He took the boy by both shoulders and brought their faces close. "Who doesn't want to win at their goals? Huh? That's normal! But this? This isn't right. We'll play volleyball for a few years and then graduate, and we won't even remember these games, Yamaguchi."
"But they're important now!" Yamaguchi pointed out. He sniffled. "They're important to you now, and I let you down."
"Listen to me, Yamaguchi," Tsukishima said. Yamaguchi looked up at him expectantly, but it took him a moment to get the will to say the words. He glanced around to make sure they were alone, and then patted a hand down atop Yamaguchi's head. "Even when a game is important to me, it's not as important as my grades, or my family, or ... or ... or not seeing you cry!"
Tsukishima said the last all in a rush, but Yamaguchi heard (and hung onto) every word. He stared at his friend with wide brown eyes, his usual half-lost, half-stunned look fading. His bottom lip quivered again, and then he beamed up at Tsukishima with such intensity that it made Tsukishima blushed.
"Awwww, Tsukki!" Yamaguchi exclaimed. He threw both arms around his friend in a fierce embrace, crying happily now. "It really bothers you that much when I cry?"
"Hey, hey! Get off of me!" Tsukishima yelled at him. He tried to push him off, but Yamaguchi was mysteriously strong when he was being affectionate. He felt slim and very warm against Tsukishima. Tsukishima tried to find somewhere to put his hands, but they only met smooth naked skin. His face turned bright red. "Idiot. You're too old to act like this! You're not even dressed, stupid."
Yamaguchi hugged him very tightly, and for a moment, the wrongness of the situation escaped Tsukishima. For a moment, it felt good to be this close. For a moment, holding Yamaguchi in his arms felt right.
Tsukishima forced the sensation away, and firmly pulled Yamaguchi off. He got to his feet, muttering to the boy to get dressed already. Before he could go, however, Yamaguchi reached up and took him by the arm.
"Tsukki, thank you," he said earnestly. He sniffled one more time, and smiled. "And ... And I'll do my best not to cry for you!"
"Good. I'm glad." Tsukishima ruffled his hair, and shoved a water bottle at him. "Now get dressed already. And drink that. You probably sweated and cried all your fluids away, dummy."
Yamaguchi took the bottle sheepishly and did as he was told. Tsukishima looked at him for a second, and then left him. Outside the locker room, he sighed heavily. His heart was beating fast, and he was still shaken by the sound of Yamaguchi's crying. It had been a long time since he had heard those sobs, and it was unnerving to realize that even at sixteen, his friend had not outgrown them.
I broke my promise, Tsukishima thought. He felt a sting of hot moisture in his own eyes, and removed his glasses to rub them. He squeezed the bridge of his nose, leaving them shut. I made him cry. I let myself get too into the damn club's games. I made too big a deal out of volleyball, and Yamaguchi tried to be good at it for me. If I hadn't let myself get so involved, he wouldn't have gotten this into it. Yamaguchi is ... crying because of me.
"Huh? Tsukki? Are you okay?"
Tsukishima put his glasses back on and looked down at Yamaguchi. His eyes were red and puffy, but he seemed back to his usual good spirits. Tsukishima gave his shoulder a very light punch.
"I'm not the one that almost practiced and cried myself to death," he scolded. Yamaguchi looked chastened enough, so he softened his tone. "Come on. Let's go home."
I may have broken my promise, but I can't do anything about that now, Tsukishima thought as they walked through the empty school. But I won't make the same mistake twice. I won't ever make you cry again, Yamaguchi.
That night, Tsukishima could not sleep. He lay in bed staring at the ceiling, thinking about Tadashi Yamaguchi. He wondered how one moment of interest in a situation that had nothing to do with him had led to their odd friendship. He wondered why it was becoming so embarrassing to see his old friend unclothed, or to be physically close to him. He wondered whether Yamaguchi was more of a pet than a friend, a stray little puppy that had insisted on following him around since they met.
More than anything, however, Tsukishima wondered about the promise he had made Yamaguchi's mother.
All the way back in elementary school, Tsukishima had wandered by a fairly typical scene: a bunch of boys had a smaller one on the ground and were insulting him. Tsukishima still did not know why he had bothered to intervene; it had not even been a deliberate intervention, he had just decided to bully the bullies back. Had he been that bored that day? That was probably it. He had insulted them, in any case, and when they came at him, he used the much greater height he even had then to intimidate them. He had thought that was the end of an amusing little diversion, but afterward, the bullied boy had inexplicably gravitated to him. It was irritating, but Tsukishima had not known how to get rid of the overly friendly other boy. There was something pitiful about Yamaguchi, and Tsukishima did not want to be as lame as the bullies by insulting or hurting him. Yamaguchi had followed him around like a fan, and having a fan for no reason was so lame that Tsukishima eventually had to acknowledge him as a normal friend. The kid had not left his side since.
A couple months after they met, Tsukishima deigned to hang out with Yamaguchi at his house. He lived with his mother, and had no siblings. He had proudly introduced Tsukishima to his mother, but Tsukishima had sensed a reserve in the woman. Like her son, she was plainly average in looks, and did not share the smattering of freckles across his nose. Despite the strange emotion Tsukishima felt in her, she had welcomed him, and he did not think she was hostile.
Tsukishima went to the bathroom at one point, leaving Yamaguchi lying in front of the TV in the living room. As he came down the hall back to him, Tsukishima had smiled as he heard his friend saying the opening lines of an action anime along. Though they were the same age, he had thought, Jeez, Yamaguchi's such a baby sometimes.
Then, before he got back, Mrs. Yamaguchi had taken Tsukishima aside. He expected her to tell him not to come back or some such, but her words were far more complicated than that. She told Tsukishima that Yamaguchi's father had abandoned them when he was very small, and because of that, he had developed a codependent personality.
"It means that even doing simple things and making simple choices is very difficult for him on his own," Mrs. Yamaguchi had explained. "In a way, Tadashi will always be partly a child: he needs to be taken care of by another. He can only live by having someone there to give him the strength to do it. Unfortunately, this makes his friendships very intense. He had a best friend before, but he moved away. He doesn't live too far, but he won't let Tadashi see him anymore. He told Tadashi that he wasn't cool to be around anymore. Since then, my son can hardly function, and he's been bullied badly. It had gotten so difficult, that I was considering taking him out of school and hiring a tutor, though it would be a struggle to afford it. And then, he met you."
Tsukishima had not known what to say to her. Though she looked like her son, Mrs. Yamaguchi had a bold honesty and frankness that Tadashi could never quite manage. Tsukishima had been a bit impressed by her.
"Do you understand what I am saying to you, Kei?" Mrs. Yamaguchi had continued. "Being Tadashi's friend might be difficult. It is a responsibility in his case, because of his condition. If you don't want that responsibility, then I am asking you to end your friendship now, before he becomes even more attached to you. I am sorry to be so demanding, but ... I'm very tired of listening to my son cry."
Tsukishima still remembered standing in that hall, the sound of martial arts and Yamaguchi's awed cheers coming from the living room. He had met Mrs. Yamaguchi's eyes through his glasses, those eyes so like and unlike her son's. She was trying to be a stern parent, but he saw the way her fingers tugged at the cuff of one sleeve. Though it was absurd given his youth, Tsukishima had felt protective of her and her son both. He had the feeling they both walked an emotional tightrope, since Yamaguchi's father had left them alone.
"Mrs. Yamaguchi," he had found himself saying before he could think better of it, "I promise you that I will never, ever make your son cry."
Mrs. Yamaguchi had sucked in a breath softly. She had stared at Tsukishima incredulously for a moment, and then smiled warmly. She thanked him and told him he was welcome in their home anytime. Tsukishima had felt proud of himself that day.
And now I've made Yamaguchi cry, he thought presently. He sat up in bed, frowning deeply, and stared out the window. Without his glasses, the night was a hazy darkness in the moonlight. And for what? Volleyball? Stupid. I was so stupid to start putting more effort into it. I misled Yamaguchi into thinking it matters so much that he should nearly kill himself for it. I won't make that mistake again. I need to stay rational. I don't want to become my brother.
Resolved, Tsukishima felt better. He lay down, and finally slept.