They stared at each other, unmoving, for an indeterminate amount of time. Much the way a mouse and cat would watch each other before the inevitable chase began -tense and alert. Wide-eyed and intense. Observing to try and guess who would make the first move. All that was left to be decided was whether the cat would pounce, or the mouse would bolt.
Shoyou (our resident mouse) stood, frozen by the light switch. He'd felt his heart leap up into his mouth, and was breathing heavily to ward off his shock -but was quietly amazed that he hadn't yelped. He would have sworn up-and-down that Yū was asleep, having listened to the sounds of steady breathing for an hour before he'd felt it safe enough to make his move. Indeed, this entire plan had been executed on the proviso that Yū was asleep -that he wouldn't be woken up by the flick of a light-switch or the sudden illumination of the room.
How, exactly, Shoyou could have been sure about either of those latter two points was unknown to even him; he'd just had a feeling that Yū was a deep-sleeper. The libero expended so much energy, even when performing tasks that -to most- were completely menial, that it made sense for him to flag severely at the end of the day. To assume that he crashed in the evening wasn't unreasonable.
Apparently, to his utmost shock and dismay, he'd been wrong. And now, he was well-and-truly rumbled.
Yū, whom was still regarding him from his position on the bed, had more concern about his features than Shoyou had ever seen -coming from him. It pulled at his eyebrows, tugging them down above his eyes and into a position that might have looked intimidating on anyone else. It could be seen in the way his eyes flicked around every millimetre of Shoyou's face. Rapid, yet thoroughly assessing at the same time. The look was tinged with analysis, too, as if he was weighing up his options, thinking of the best possible way to approach Shoyou without making him bolt.
Shoyou had never seen that sort of analysis off the volleyball court, and to be on the receiving end of it was more-than-a-little unnerving. He couldn't help but prey for his stomach to behave. He'd lose all credibility in a potential argument if he had to dash to the toilet half-way through, and would likely never be able to look Yū in the face again.
Provided, of course, that he would have been able to anyway -after this fiasco.
His mouth opened, seemingly of its own accord, and hung open as if words were about to come out. What, exactly, those words would have been -he didn't know. He just knew he should say something. He closed his mouth again, then reopened it, and then closed it again lamely. His mind had gone completely blank, save for the -rather useless- observation that he was starting to get a bit chilly -with only his night clothes on. His brain was a truly fickle thing.
"Have you been awake this whole time?" was what he eventually managed to scrape out, after a long while of opening and closing his mouth as if he had trans-morphed into a fish. It was far from an ideal ice-breaker, and he immediately kicked himself for sounding so accusing -as if he thought Yū had deliberately tricked him into revealing his weakness once more.
Yū took his time to consider his response, leaving Shoyou in a pensive silence. It was made all the more uncomfortable by the same analysing look from before, which had not been dropped -as of yet. "Nah, I think I fell asleep for a while." Said Yū, suddenly grinning hard enough to make his eyes close. "If ya wanted the lights on, you only had to ask! I don't mind."
Shoyou blinked, slowly, and lowered his eyes to the floor between his feet. That hadn't been what he was expecting, and now that Yū wasn't mad at him for waking him up -he wasn't sure how to proceed. He'd had a battle-plan for when Yū got pissed, because he'd had so much time to think of every eventuality whilst he'd been kept awake. Despite that, this course of events hadn't even registered on his list of possibilities.
He, once again, had to wrack his brain for a response -something that would provide an adequate explanation, but wouldn't give too much away. "I-I didn't want to be annoying…"
A short pause.
"Why'd it be annoying?"
Shoyou's eyes snapped back up, from where they'd been admiring a knot in the wooden floor-boards, and met Yū's own. What did he mean, 'why'? Wasn't it obvious?
"Because…because normal people don't sleep with the lights on!"
Yū made a face, at exactly what was known only to himself; but Shoyou could hazard a guess at what word had caused it. "That's not true! Loads of people sleep with the lights on! Besides, being scared of the dark doesn't make you not normal, 'cos loads of people are!"
"But you don't sleep with them on, so you're not scared…and I'd have kept you awake." His eyes returned to the floor again, "It wouldn't be fair on you. It's your house, and you should be able to sleep like you would normally. I'll just turn them off again…"
"I said I don't mind! Weren't you listening!?"
Shoyou's eyes widened slightly, because Yū had never shouted at him like that before. The tone had been…odd. Somewhere between distressed and angry. Had he gone and made Yū angry? Even though he had only ever been indulgent with his underclassmen before?
"I can sleep with lights on, I've done it before!" Yū continued, hopping up and out of his bed -then marching his way over to stand before Shoyou. "Even if it was just because I fell asleep on the sofa, or because I was so tired that I passed out, I still managed to sleep! The point is, I'm fine with sleeping with them on. It doesn't bother me at all! You can't sleep with them off! What sort of friend would I be if I made you lie there like that all night? Huh?"
Shoyou opened his mouth, to say that Yū would still be a good friend if he did that -that it was the smart thing to do. But Yū beat him to it.
"A pretty shit one, that's what kind! Friends look out for each other, so if I didn't do what was best for you I'd be no friend at all!" He paused his tirade for a moment, breathing steadily and looking like he was doing his best to compose himself. When he spoke again, his voice was so quiet that it made a sort of void in the room. "It's not even a bother, Shoyou. Don't act like it is."
Shoyou could do little more than gape at him.
He was, for maybe the second time in his life, struck speechless. The only other time this had happened was when he'd seen the little giant on that TV. The one in a dingy, little shop window in August. This was a different kind of speechless, though. He wasn't awed.
He was shocked.
Surely, it must have been a bother for Yū to leave the lights on all night? At least a little bit? Even if he could sleep with them on, it would cost a not-inconsiderable amount of money to power the bulb, which would surely be an over-extension of 'guest privilege'. And what was it that Yū had said earlier about his phobia being normal?
Surely, if there were people that could sleep perfectly well with the lights off, it was abnormal to be unable to do the same?
Yū yawned widely, breaking the critical stare he'd been maintaining on Shoyou's face -as well as Shoyou's train of thought. "You should go back to bed, Sho-chan, it's late."
Shoyou stayed where he was, staring at Yū even as the older boy fell back onto his bed with a dull 'whoomph'. Was he normal, after all? Was this just something that everyone had to deal with?
No. No that wasn't it, not everyone could have it as bad as he did -because nobody would sleep with the lights off then. Maybe Yū had meant that loads of people experience the same fear, even if it wasn't as extreme? That would make more sense, for sure. If there were loads of people that feared the dark, even if it was just a little-bit, then he surely wasn't that different after all.
So what if it was a bit worse than usual?
'You're allowed to be scared of things, it's only natural', Daichi's voice echoed around his head.
Maybe that was what Yū had meant, too.
He really did have smart senpais.
Despite Shoyou, unsurprisingly, not getting over his fear of the dark -the whole operation was classed as a huge success by Yū. Daichi, who'd heard of it the following Monday, put it down as 'pointless, but in good spirit' -whilst Suga said it 'sounded like great fun'.
In reality, it had changed little -as this was not something that could be changed by such conventional means- but Yū was adamant that he'd achieved something. He wasn't sure exactly what, but there was definitely something. He'd felt it, seen it. Something about the way Shoyou held himself had changed, something about his aura had shifted and fluctuated.
Maybe he was standing a little taller now? Not hunching over so much when the evening started to draw in?
He wasn't sure, exactly. But, he felt -deep in his bones- that he was right.
And, in total fairness, he was; something had changed.
Up until that night, Shoyou had just assumed that he was an outlier -that nobody else had to deal with the same things he did. He had always had it -somewhere in his head- that everyone else in the world went to sleep at night without any trouble, that nobody else was afraid of turning the lights off. With hindsight, that was a ridiculous thing to think, but his perspective had been so narrowed by his lack of confidence -due to that very condition- that he'd never thought to look elsewhere.
Since that night, he'd discovered that his phobia -at least in its more basic form- was very common. Numerous people, across the world, experienced some level of unease when confronted by darkness. In fact, so many people experienced it that it was considered somewhat normal -just like Yū had said. A lot of people, and a lot of experts, went so far as to say that a fear of the dark was logical, referring to numerous statistics about night-crime, darkness in popular media, and the like.
Having found all this out, Shoyou had been surprised to find that he felt a lot lighter. As if he'd been bearing a great weight of fear all by himself before, but now had shoulders across the world to share it with. Even if his burden was slightly greater than the average, this was still a great feeling -after having felt so alone with it for so long.
Those who knew about his phobia, and how affected he was by it, noticed a change as time went by.
The dark still scared him, of course, and he never refused a lift home when the night had drawn in during evening practice.
What had changed, was his openness. He spoke up when he was scared now, or when he couldn't do something because it was dark out. Thus, the rest of the team found out about his phobia from him, before Daichi and Suga felt that they had make an announcement themselves.
There was little outward reaction to the news, and there wasn't a sudden outpouring of affection, or a shift into over-protectiveness. The people that made up the majority of Karasuno Boy's-Volleyball Club simply weren't the type for that. Instead, they did what those that had known before them had done -and made sure that Shoyou was never forced to endure a situation that would put him on edge. Even if it was inconvenient, or messed with their plans ever-so-slightly, they put up with it without complaint -because that's what teams were for.
Shoyou and Yū, from that day on, became much closer than they had been. Yū had been the one to kick Shoyou hard enough up the backside for him to realise that he wasn't a burden on anyone, and that was significant enough to make them close. Shoyou even continued to stay round Yū's house, once a month if they could manage it. The lights always stayed on when they went to sleep.
Yū never complained once.