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A Strange Day

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i.

Semi knew that the day was going to be strange the moment he walked into morning practice. There was something off, something atypical about the day that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Maybe it was because he’d almost overslept, having to sprint sleepily across campus to the gym so Washijou wouldn’t make him run fifty extra laps (this wasn’t an exaggeration, Tendou had to run fifty extra laps quite often). He’d made it to the locker room with minutes to spare, shoving the door open with all his might and being met with the stares of his teammates.

None of them said anything, except for Tendou.

“Wow Semi-Semi! Did you fall into the door?” 

Semi flashed his middle finger as he passed, stripping off his jacket as he did to reveal his black workout shirt underneath. He brought his bag up to the locker and set it down, early morning panic settling in now that he was properly awake. Had he packed his uniform? Did he brush his hair properly? Had he brushed his teeth or was the minty taste already beginning to fade?

With a heavy sigh and an answer to almost all of those questions, Semi shut his locker. He nearly let out a shout as he turned and none other than Shirabu Kenjirou was standing there, hands behind his back and scowl set onto his face. It wasn’t unusual for him, especially so early in the morning, but what was unusual was Shirabu willingly coming up to him. It wasn’t news that they weren’t exactly the best of friends, or friends at all even. 

“Hi?” Semi asked, looking down the bridge of his nose at his kouhai. He tried to make himself appear bigger, still feeling as if he needed to establish his dominance despite Shirabu stealing his spot on the team. (Yes Semi was still bitter, and yes this was exactly why the two of them rarely spoke).

“...ppy bir...ay...” Shirabu mumbled something incoherent and Semi tilted his head with a raise of one eyebrow.

“What?”

A frustrated groan left the younger setter and then Semi’s face was pelted with something velvet and plush. Thankfully he had good reflexes and his palms opened to catch whatever it was as it fell. Blinking the sudden blindness from his eyes, Semi looked down to see what offending item Shirabu had thrown in his face this time (he was used to volleyballs, though half of those weren’t on purpose. The other half, however...).

Lying in his palms was a cheetah print scarf. It was soft to the touch and he rubbed it between his fingers, pleased at the texture and also the print. He was always a fan of cheetah print anything, it was his favorite pattern right next to plaid. He didn’t understand why Shirabu had given this to him though, or more correctly, thrown it in his face.

“Um, thank you?” Semi’s face conveyed how confused he sounded.

Shirabu once again rolled his eyes, “God you’re stupid-”

“Hey!” Semi cut in, ready to argue about how Shirabu should respect his seniors when Shirabu continued.

“It’s a birthday present. Happy birthday, Semi-san.” Shirabu sounded slightly condescending as he bowed to show his respect, and Semi tensed.

Right. It was his birthday. That was why today felt so strange to him.

“We need to go though, before Washijou-san yells at us,” Shirabu was already half out the locker room, his words running through Semi like a current of electricity, shocking him to action. He threw the scarf into his locker and jogged out into the gym to line up at the perfect time, escaping Washijou’s wrath.

At least he could escape Washijou’s wrath on the morning of his birthday. But it was still a long day, and there was more to come. 

 

ii.

Semi slowly buttoned up his shirt as he got ready to go to class that morning. Practice was rough and he could already feel his thighs burning from all the times he went into receiving position. But he liked the pain, it was exhilarating, and practice made him feel like he was still a part of the time. It made him feel like Washijou still valued him when he was put into practice matches, even if they were four versus four. 

Semi looped his tie around his neck and closed his locker, tongue poking out between his lips in concentration as he focused on tying his tie perfectly. Even after two and a half years of doing this, Semi could never get it right on the first try. 

A throat clearing beside him startled him and he looked up from his current project to squint at whoever had interrupted him. He was met by the sight of fox plushie staring right back at him, and Kawanishi’s face pressed right beside it.

“Happy birthday,” Kawanishi still sounded as bored and insincere as ever, which Semi found impressive considering the smirk he sported. But that was just Kawanishi and Semi wouldn’t expect anything less from him. 

“Thanks...” Semi said slowly, releasing his tie and taking the outstretched fox. He couldn’t quite understand why Kawanishi decided this was an appropriate gift, but it was cute enough. The fur was as fiery as the second year’s hair, but its ears and paws were black. It almost looked as if it were smiling, which made Semi smile a little as he touched its nose, feeling the hard plastic beneath his finger.

“It kind of reminded me of you. You know, with your tips.” Delicate fingers reached out to pinch the tips of Semi’s hair and Semi had the audacity to blush. The younger didn’t know the concept of personal space, which always caught Semi off guard. It was kind of endearing at times, but mostly it made things uncomfortable. Semi figured that Kawanishi found humor in the uncomfortable. Tendou would be pleased, but Kawanishi kept that little tidbit about himself well hidden. Tendou would never leave him alone if not.

“It’s cute. I’ll make sure I put it somewhere nice...” Semi softened and he tucked the fox friend into his bag safe and secure, hoping that he wouldn’t forget about it. It would be extremely embarrassing to have a stuffed animal fall out of his bag during class, especially when he was the one people liked to pick on and tease. 

Kawanishi nodded thoughtfully before he added, “Yeah, my little sister didn’t want it even though I won it for her at a fair, so I figured you might like it instead.”

Semi’s face fell. Leave it to Kawanishi Taichi to ruin the moment. “Gee, thanks Taichi, I feel really appreciated.” He considered throwing the fox right back at him, but it was too cute to harm. Unlike Kawanishi. He no longer found the moment cute.

Kawanishi blew him a kiss and saluted before turning on his heel without another word. Semi just looked down at where his bag was bulging now from both gifts he’d received thus far and he scoffed a laugh. Typical Kawanishi... 

 

iii.

Semi entered the school with his head held high after changing from his outdoor shoes to his indoor shoes. He felt great honestly. He hadn’t expected to get any gifts on his birthday, especially not from Shirabu or Kawanishi, emphasis on Shirabu. It was nice feeling appreciated for once, after feeling like he was living in the shadows of his teammates for most of his third year. (Of course, everybody lived in Ushijima’s shadow in Washijou’s eye, but that wasn’t important).

The blonde made his way towards his classroom, nodding at his classmates lingering in the hallway. Class didn’t start for another twenty minutes, and everybody was just lulling about chatting. Semi wished he had some more friends his class, having virtually nobody to talk to. Tendou was in the next classroom over, and while it was easy to go sit with him during lunch, it was lonely being in his own classroom by himself. It didn’t help that he was also in the lowest class, having chosen to focus more on volleyball than his grades, amongst other things. He had no idea how Ushijima did it, balancing a healthy academic life and an outstanding volleyball career.

Semi-san! ” A loud cry brought Semi from his thoughts and he tensed, eyes widening a little as some people he recognized gave him an odd look. It wasn’t as if the sound came from him and he turned just in time to see Goshiki barreling down the hall, expertly weaving between the other students.

“Hi Tsutomu,” Semi held up his hands to prevent a crash that was bound to happen, but luckily the first year skidded to a stop just inches from his outstretched hands. He was panting, hair windswept and sweat beading at his temples. “You okay?”

“Yes!” Goshiki brought his hand to forehead in a salute, standing as tall as possible. Semi actually had to look up at him, glancing down to see Goshiki standing on his tip toes, eyes squished closed, face flush with embarrassment. At least Semi wasn’t the only one aware of the odd looks they were getting in the hallway.

“What brings you to the third year’s wing?” Semi shifted uncomfortably under all the scrutiny from his peers. He could see just past Goshiki that some punks in his grade were pointing and snickering. He shot them his coldest glare he could; nobody would dare make fun of his kouhai in his presence. Goshiki always meant well, even if he got a little overexcited sometimes. 

Goshiki inhaled deeply and released it all at once, “Well I had to run all the back to the dorm from practice which is really far because the first year’s wing is at the very edge of campus and then I had to make it back to the school in time to give you your gift because I won’t see you until after school again and I can’t be late to practice or else Washijou-san is going to yell at me again! So I ran all the way back here and I tried to find you, and i ran into Yamagata-senpai who told me that you wouldn’t be with him, and the only way I could find you was by your hair-”

“Tsutomu,” Semi cut him off, unable to hold back a small chuckle at how adorable his rambling was.

“Yes! Right! I... I got you a gift.” Suddenly a mass of wrapping paper and ribbon was shoved into his abdomen as Goshiki bowed so deeply his nose almost touched his knees. Semi laughed awkwardly and looked around them, still getting weird stares from his peers. Thankfully none of the other volleyball team members were around, or he’d be teased relentlessly.

“You.. you want me to open this now?” Semi asked tentatively. He had no desire to, but Goshiki shot up extremely fast, nodding vehemently.

“Yes please!”

With a sigh, Semi looked down at his gift. He wasn’t sure what shape it was supposed to be, and there were clearly multiple layers of paper on it. He had absolutely no idea how to get around the three different ribbons (which clashed, by the way - yellow, purple, and maroon are not a great combination), so he just went with ripping off the ends and hoping for the best. Reaching inside, his fingers touched fabric and he pulled out something bright pink. Awkwardly unraveling it with one hand, he held it up, flipping it front to back. The number 3 was emblazoned on the back while on the front was their team picture, as dysfunctional as one could imagine. 

“I wanted to give you something that would remind you of us when you’re gone!” Goshiki explained, bouncing from one foot to the next.

“Am I dying?” Semi joked. Honestly, the sap that he was, he was a little misty eyed. Sure, he had his days where he hated being a part of the team but they were also his found family. He didn’t have many friends going into high school (or any at all really) and joining the volleyball team had been a blessing in disguise. 

“N-No! But!” Goshiki let out a noise as he tried to form the words, tongue getting tied. Semi gripped the shirt a little tighter. “You’re going to graduate and leave us behind! I appreciate all you’ve done for us Semi-san!” He bowed again and Semi laughed brighter this time, ruffling Goshiki’s hair with his free hand. He could practically see Goshiki’s tail wagging before him, high off the praise.

“I know, I know, I’m just teasing. Thanks Tsutomu, I love it, really. I’m really going to wear this.” It was pink, of course Semi was going to wear it. Goshiki stood tall again and there were tears in big brown eyes, cheeks a bright red.

“You’re welcome! Gotta go to class now, bye Semi-san!” The first year spun on his heel and dashed back down the hall, this time almost colliding with somebody but narrowly missing. Semi just huffed a laugh and looked down at the shirt. That was one more gift he was going to somehow make room for. If he got anymore he would be juggling his books. 

 

iv.

Class was boring that day, as it was every day. Semi was thankful he sat in the back so he could doze off, doodle in his notebook, or go on his phone. It wasn’t as easy when one of the teachers would meander through the desks to make sure they were actually reading along or doing their work, but thankfully his maths teacher was always at the board. He scrolled through his texts, conversations put on hold due to class or practice. As usual, his text thread with Tendou was at the top of his messages, though most of it was Tendou sending him memes.

Semi had just opened his messages when a new one popped up, getting a little excited. It turned out to just be Yamagata, which was odd because Semi wasn’t even sure when the last time Yamagata had messaged him was.

 

>> yo Eita, meet me bhind the gym during lunch

>> and dont be l8. very important biz to conduct

 

The texts were cryptic as hell and any excitement that Semi had dissipated. What did Yamagata need to meet up with him for? Especially somewhere as secluded as behind the gym. They always ate lunch together anyways, with the other main third year players on their team, why couldn’t he just tell him there? 

“Semi-kun, why don’t you tell me the answer to number seven?” His teacher shook him back to reality and he slammed his phone screen into his thigh, quickly making out the problem on his paper. He was a little lost at first, stammering over his words but he managed to come to the right conclusion. His teacher narrowed her eyes but ultimately returned to the lesson and Semi breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t the first time he’d almost been caught, but he’d rather not have his phone taken away.

He sent a confirmation text to Yamagata once class was over, telling him he was heading to the gym right then and there. He got a bunch of exclamation points in return, which seemed more in character for Tendou or Goshiki, but today had already been weird so it was just following the flow. Even though he’d been showered in gifts from his kouhai thus far, Semi was hoping the day would start passing more quickly. He hated being the center of attention for this long, and the episode in the hallway with Goshiki had drained most of his social battery.

Semi trudged his way to the back of the gym, not at all eager to see what Yamagata had in store for him. He just hoped it was something legal, because he’s pretty sure he saw the libero dealing pills to Kawanishi the other day, and if he pulled that stunt with him it was going to be a problem.

“Psst,” a beckoning call sounded from behind him and Semi turned, spotting Yamagata standing there in plain sight. Semi squinted at him.

“What?”

“Come here!” Yamagata whispered.

Semi rolled his eyes and took the few steps over to him, “Why are you whispering? Nobody else is here.”

Yamagata shook his head and opened his bag, “You never know who’s listening, man! Just keep your voice down alright?”

“You’re the one who called me here...”

Semi watched curiously as a brown paper bag emerged from Yamagata’s backpack and he “discreetly” passed it into Semi’s hands. It was crisp and clearly had some sort of magazine, or multiple, inside.

“You’ve seemed kind of stressed lately, and I know you’re not the type to puff, puff, pass, so I figured I’d go another route,” Yamagata clapped him on the shoulder, “Happy birthday bro. I hope you enjoy~” He wiggled his eyebrows (which wasn’t creepy at all, absolutely not). Semi’s heart sank at his words, however, because without even looking inside he knew what it was going to be. But he was a good teammate, and Yamagata’s grin was getting more and more ecstatic by the second, so Semi took a peek.

The first thing he was greeted with the sight of boobs. They were barely contained in two small triangles that were supposed to be a part of a bikini. Semi slapped the opening of the bag closed and he shut his eyes, feeling regret on Yamagata’s part that he’d paid money for this. He was pretty sure it wasn’t even a real porno magazine, just a swimsuit magazine, but he didn’t want to open it again and find out.

“Hayato-”

“I know, I know, it’s quality stuff man. I must say I picked that grade A shit, only the best for one of my best friends!” He clapped Semi harder this time on the shoulder and winked, “You can thank me later when you’re not as stressed.”

But Hayato -” It was no use, the libero had already turned to walk off, as smug as ever as he strutted in the direction of the cafeteria. Semi’s shoulders sagged and he looked at the indiscriminate brown bag in his hand, the rest of the sentence tumbling from his lips, “I’m gay.”

Apparently Yamagata Hayato was the only person on the planet who wasn’t aware of this extremely obvious fact. 

 

v.

Semi took a moment to collect himself and bury the magazines within his bag. He genuinely couldn’t believe Yamagata, but honestly, at least it wasn’t drugs. Yamagata had proven his suspicions anyway, but Semi wasn’t going to rat him out. He’s sure if he was somebody like Shirabu he might have, but Yamagat called him one of his best friends so he’d let it slide. He heard the same sentiment from Tendou about twice a day, but hearing it from Yamagata felt good too. 

Even if it was mixed with pornographic magazines.

He sighed again, noting how many times he’d sighed on his birthday, and made his way to the cafeteria so his lunch period wasn’t a complete waste. The rumbling of his stomach at least kept his mind off of the gift he’d just received as he bought his lunch, bag feeling heavier than usual with all the gifts he’d had to shove inside. He hoped none of the teachers around flagged him as suspicious.

“Semi-Semi, hey!” Tendou waved his arms wildly as he voice rose over the chatter of the lunch room. Again, another heavy exhale left Semi’s lips as he dragged his feet over to their usual table where Tendou, Reon, Ushijima and Yamagata were already gathered.

“Hey,” Semi greeted as he sat down beside Tendou, refusing to make eye contact with Yamagata, embarrassment coursing through him. 

“Are you having a good birthday so far, Semi-Semi?” He could feel big eyes on him, eagerly awaiting an answer.

Semi only shrugged and pushed his food around on his plate with his fork, “It’s okay. I’ve gotten a lot of... gifts.” He scowled at the thought of the brown paper bag in his backpack, brought on by the giggling of Yamagata.

Reon cleared his throat from across the table and reached under him, rummaging a little bit. “Well, speaking of, if I may...” He pushed a neatly wrapped box across the table towards the birthday boy himself and Semi’s mouth fell open a little. Tendou squealed in delight, saying something about how he loved watching people open gifts. 

“Reon, you really didn’t have to.”

Reon shook his head with that calm smile on his face, “I wanted to. Happy birthday Semi. It’s not much, but you know...” He awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck, not usually one to show affection of any sort. 

Semi gingerly took the box and examined it, wondering what it could be. “At least you did a better wrapping job than Tsutomu.”

“Oh, Tsutomu-kun got you a gift? Wahoo!” Tendou cheered and Semi suddenly had a sinking suspicion that maybe Goshiki’s gift was his idea all along. Reon chuckled at Semi’s statement and only nodded thoughtfully, a man of few words. Semi peeled at the wrapping paper and was met with a pristine white box underneath that he could open, and he carefully opened the lid, unsure of what he was going to be met with underneath. 

Semi’s eyes widened as he examined his gift. They were small things, but they were all related to volleyball. A new pair of kneepads was laid in the center of the tissue paper, along with tape to wrap his fingers and hand cream.

“I know it’s not much,” Reon repeated himself, “but I’ve seen how hard you work and you don’t really take proper care of yourself after. Your knees are bruised to hell and back, and you always make a noise after a few serves. Hopefully this’ll amend that.”

Semi wasn’t a big fan of using knee pads in an actual match, finding them a nuisance when they got sweaty, but he’d humor Reon and wear them during practice. It would help the ache in his knees in the long run. His hands were calloused and rough from hitting too many volleyballs trying to perfect his serve and prove that he was still worth playing for the team. The cream would do wonders for the pain he constantly felt, and maybe the tape would keep his fingers in some sort of tip-top shape as well. Honestly, this was one of the nicest gifts anybody had ever gotten him, including his parents. 

“This is... really nice. Thank you,” he said awkwardly, unsure how to show his appreciation. With Goshiki it was easy because he lived off of praise, but Reon’s quiet demeanor didn’t show any openings for that type of appreciation. 

“You’re welcome,” Reon said kindly and Tendou suddenly invaded Semi’s space to examine the gift, Ushijima’s eyes lingering on the box, nodding as if he’d been the one to share the sentiment. Semi was too distracted both by Tendou leaning on him and the gifts to really care, picking up the kneepads. He was going to have to hide these in his room so Tendou didn’t steal them, wanting Reon’s gift to get the proper care it deserved.

(Unlike Yamagata’s, which Semi would be hiding away immediately).

 

vi.

The rest of the afternoon passed as expected. There were no more gifts and no more mention of Semi’s birthday, which Semi was grateful for. He wasn’t used to being the center of attention and the only time he enjoyed it was the seconds he had as pinch server, when all eyes on the court and the stands were on him. That moment was the biggest adrenaline rush he had.

Practice was uneventful, the same regiment that Washijou always put them through. At least Washijou didn’t seem to care that it was Semi’s birthday; if anything, it was like Washijou was working him harder that day. He’d even had to step in for Shirabu, who was off his game.

Semi didn’t mind. It made him feel as if he were really a part of the team. (Not that he wasn’t. He did have an official spot and got to stand on the court, which was more than some could say).

In the end, practice left him more exhausted than he’d felt in weeks and he was eager to get into the shower at the end of the night. With a content sigh he stood under the spray, eyes closed and letting the water run over him in small rivers. The tension in his muscles began to ease and he released a breath, shoulders sagging more and more as he did. He cleaned himself up, not wanting to just stand there without actually washing himself, using the lavender scented soap he’d bought himself a few days before. It was an early birthday gift to himself, which he rarely ever indulged, but it was cheap and smelled good. Tendou had complimented it so it couldn’t be too bad.

Semi turned the water off and winced at the loud squeak the faucet let out as he did. He dried himself off slowly, ringing out the ends of his hair so he didn’t have to walk back to the dorms with soaking wet hair. It sucked in the winter, but it wasn’t too bad in the middle of autumn. When he deemed himself dry enough, he tugged on the pair of boxers he’d brought with him to the showers and padded over to his locker. All the gifts were in there and he smiled to himself as he finally let himself be happy that his friends had gotten him things. Of course, it wasn’t every one, he was still missing a couple on that list but he didn’t actually expect them to-

A throat cleared from behind him, causing Semi to jump in result. He hoped that the being snuck up on would end tomorrow, when it was no longer his birthday and he went back to being ignored most of the time. 

He turned to find Ushijima standing there, palms carefully cradling a small potted cactus. Ah. There it was, one of the only ones left to give Semi anything. Not that he’d actually expected anybody to, but the person he’d expected to give him something the most had been virtually silent all day. 

“Hi Ushijima,” Semi said awkwardly, looking from the ace’s face to the potted plant he was holding.

“Hello.”

The two stood there in silence for a pregnant pause and Semi clicked his tongue to break it, “Whatcha got there?”

Ushijima made a noise of acknowledgement, “I have gotten you a cactus, since it is your birthday.” He placed the pot gingerly into Semi’s now outstretched hands, almost as if he didn’t trust Semi with it. The pot was adorned with a small purple bow, reminiscent of Shiratorizawa. The setter had known that Ushijima was a botany fan, but seeing the way he was acting with this, it was way more than he’d originally suspected. It was kind of cute, how tenderly he handled the plant, and how he trusted Semi with it.

Of course, until he continued further, “Tendou said you are not very good at keeping things alive, and cacti need minimal water to survive. I am still tentative in giving this to you, but Tendou also said that the cacti reminded him of you, and I too could see the resemblance.”

Semi didn’t know whether to just laugh at Ushijima’s bluntness or be offended by the fact that he was pretty sure he’d just been called prickly. 

“They need to be placed in sunlight, so it is best if you put it on your windowsill rather than on your desk. If you are able to keep it alive for this long, it should be repotted once a year.”

“They can live that long?” Semi asked, a little amazed as he stared at his new... pet. That was what a plant was right? Something living that you fed and loved?

“Yes. They live for a rather long time. You only need to water once a week, so do not drown it.”

Semi nodded in awe and he looked at the small cactus. He was going to pretend that Ushijima hadn’t insulted him and called him cute instead, because this cactus was small and dainty. (And secretly, the fact that it had been Tendou to suggest that to their ace made Semi feel a bit giddy).

“Thank you, I’ll be sure to take good care of it,” Semi promised, not wanting to get on Ushijima’s bad side.

He received a firm nod in response, though Semi could have sworn there was a hint of a smile there somewhere. “I will be checking up on it, so please make sure it is healthy.”

Semi couldn’t help the involuntary snort that left his lips, “Alright. That’s fair...” He looked down at himself as he realized he was still half naked and now holding a cactus. Ushijima lingered for an uncomfortably long time after that, as if waiting for Semi to say more, but when he didn’t he left without a word. Ushijima was an enigma and Semi could never figure out what he was thinking, but he managed to have some sort of thoughtfulness with this gift. Semi would be sure to keep it alive for his sake.

 

vii.

Semi made it back to his dorm in one piece, with all six of his gifts. He’d immediately set the cactus on the sill as Ushijima had suggestion, hoping he didn’t forget it was there. He was sure that cacti survived in the desert, so it would be fine if it went a little over a week without water right? At least Semi had Ushijima to remind him of it, whether he liked it or not.

He gathered all his gifts, putting them in places: he immediately hid the pornographic magazines under the mess in his desk draw, the fox plushie he placed on his bed, the shirt and scarf went into the wash to be cleaned before wearing, and Reon’s gifts were placed in his gym bag so he would remember to use them. There was a fond smile on Semi’s as he organized his new things, still shocked and pleased that his teammates had gotten him anything. 

Most of his teammates anyways. 

As with everybody else, Semi didn’t expect Tendou to get him anything. But, if he had to pick any person from his team who would  have given him a gift, it would’ve been Tendou. It was safe to say he was the closest to Tendou for some reason, having befriended him right from the bat in their first year. Semi was still awkward, sporting a funky, brace-faced smile, and Tendou had this awful bowlcut that he quickly learned to spike into his current hairstyle. Tendou made Semi feel normal and not so out of place, and Semi had always wanted that for himself. He wanted somebody he could feel normal around.

He sighed and collapsed back on his bed, trying not to be bothered by the fact that Tendou hadn’t gotten him anything. He didn’t need anything beside his friendship anyway, even if this was something he never mentioned to Tendou himself.

Almost as if on cue there was an obnoxious pounding on his door and then it was thrown open, “I’m coming through the door like a normal person!” Tendou sang out, probably quoting one of the many manga series. Semi sat up straight in bed, grateful that his roommate had disappeared again.

“You could give some kind of warning you know,” Semi glared, though the smile on his face flourished without his permission.

“I did! I knocked!” Tendou grinned sweetly and skipped over to Semi. It really only took three steps, as he was so gangly and tall his strides were wide. He bounced onto the bed beside him, “Whatcha up to, Semi-Semi?”

“Just... you know.” He motioned to himself lying down and Tendou waved his hand dismissively.

“That’s boring! It’s your birthday! We gotta do something!”

“It’s late and we have practice in the morning. We can’t really do anything exciting.”

“God, you’re no fun!” Tendou shook his head and he flopped back against the wall, Semi wincing for him when he hit his head. Tendou appeared unfazed for a moment before shooting up again. Semi only gave him a curious look, not wanting to interrupt whatever sort of ritual Tendou appeared to be performing. It was best not to ask questions anyway. Tendou let out a dramatic sigh and he pulled a purple paper gift bag out from nowhere, thrusting it at Semi.

“Since you’re on fun, I’ll just give you your gift here!” It looked as if Tendou were vibrating from excitement and Semi’s lips parted as he took the gift bag. It was heavy, which threw Semi off even more. “I hope you like it...” Tendou sounded uncharacteristically shy, making Semi nervous.

Peeling off the tissue paper from the top, Semi reached into the bag, fingers brushing something rough. He decided to go for the card first, which naturally should have been what he opened first.

“No! Save that for last!” Tendou slapped the card out of his hands and Semi huffed.

“You’re so difficult!”

Tendou hissed at him like a cat and Semi rolled his eyes, suppressing the annoyed feeling bubbling in his chest as he rummaged in the bag. In true Tendou fashion nothing was wrapped and Semi still wanted the element of surprise, so he chose not to look as he pulled things from the bag one by one. His eyes widened as he looked over the gifts that were now sitting in his lap. Tendou knew him better than anybody and it really showed.

Laid out before him was a sketchbook, high quality colored pencils and charcoal pencils. Semi had never openly talked about his love of art before, but Tendou had caught him doodling during lunch in his notebooks when he was supposed to be reviewing for tests. On more than one occasion Tendou remarked how amazing Semi was and how he should be drawing on a bigger scale but Semi always brushed him off, bashful. Semi was confident in his art skills despite lacking that trait in other areas of his life. Art was the only thing he had before he joined the volleyball team in high school, it was his escape from his terrible upbringing and the bullying his faced in middle school.

And Tendou seemed to know how much it meant to him without Semi verbally telling him. Tendou was always so observant...

“Satori...” He breathed out, flipping through the blank pages of the sketchbook, his sketchbook. He would soon fill them with a mix of colors and grays, thrilled at all the possibilities. 

“You better not scold me for spending so much!” Tendou berated and he sagged a little, bringing his knees to his chest, “You’re always coloring and stuff, I wanted you to have an actual place to do it! You’re really good at it, Semi-Semi! It would be a shame for you to lose your art when you throw away your notes at the end of the year!”

“I love it,” Semi said, genuinely taken aback by the generosity Tendou had shown him. “I’ve never had a sketchbook before.”

“Well, now ya do!” Tendou cheered and he slowly inched the card closer to Semi once more. “But that’s not all.”

“You didn’t have to get me anything besides this, this stuff is all awesome,” Semi laughed, still a little in awe of the sketchbook, wanting to immediately start working in it. He’d never had one before, his parents finding the arts a waste of time.

“I know I didn’t but I wanted to! You deserve everything, Semi-Semi!” The response was so earnest that it made Semi’s eyes well with tears and he quickly blinked them away in order to carefully peel open the envelope. There was a generic birthday card inside, in which Semi opened to reveal Tendou’s chicken scratch handwriting that he could barely read, chuckling at the silly birthday message left for him. He ignored the two slips of paper that fall from the card as he read, closing the card when he’s done.

“You’re an ass,” Semi told him, picking up the two papers.

Tendou leaned forward a little too eager, not responding to that particular comment, searching for Semi’s reaction. Hazel eyes skimmed the two slips of paper over and over, once to get the general information, and twice when they got whiplash from the pure bewilderment of what they actually were. An audible gasp left Semi’s lips and he looked to Tendou, eyes as wide as they could go. 

“Are you serious?”

“As serious as I could ever be, Semi-Semi!” 

The setter lunged forward to encircle his arms around Tendou’s neck, the two slips of paper clasped tightly in his hand, afraid to let go. He was afraid to put them down in case they would vanish into thin air. It was almost too much, this combined with the art supplies he’d already been gifted.

The two pieces of paper were tickets. When described as such, they didn’t seem so special, but when given an explanation? Well, one could see how special they were to Semi Eita. See, they were tickets to an art museum, one that Semi had always been dying to go to but never having the permission to go. And they were tickets on a particular weekend when his favorite artist was having a showcase in the museum. He must have mentioned it to Tendou so much, devastated that they’d likely be unable to go because of practice. 

Semi’s head shot up at the reminder of practice, “But. Volleyball.” He blurted out intelligently. 

Tendou waved his hand dismissively, “We’ll skip. It’ll be worth the amount of laps we’ll have to do the next day, right?”

“We?”

“Well, of course, there’s two tickets there! I wouldn’t let you go alone! Anybody in there, Semi-Semi?” Tendou knocked on his skull and Semi momentarily dropped the surprised expression to whack at his wrist. 

“I...” In all seriousness, Semi was speechless. It couldn’t be repeated enough, this was the most thoughtful thing anybody had ever done for him. Semi was... extremely grateful that Tendou was in his life, as his best friend no less. (Any other feelings were otherwise suppressed in favor of just sharing this moment.)

“I know. I’m the best,” Tendou pretended to flip his hair and Semi let out a wet laugh, the tears spilling. Later he would be embarrassed that he really cried, but hopefully Tendou would keep it between them. “Aw, Semi-Semi!”

Semi took a moment to let the tears flow, reading the characters on the tickets over and over again to make sure he’d gotten it all right. And he had. “Thank you,” he breathed out. “I... I don’t know what to say.”

“Your tears are enough,” Tendou confirmed and he draped an arm around Semi’s shoulders, “This better have been the best gift you got today! I know Hayato got you porn, but I know this is better.”

Semi snorted and he shook his head at the mention of those stupid magazines, wanting to put them out of his mind for good. “This is definitely better than porn!” He leaned on Tendou. This was the best gift he’d gotten that day, and probably in his whole life. He owed Tendou his life for the time being. And Tendou silently knew, he knew how much this meant to Semi. Semi deserved nothing more than something special on his birthday, even if he didn’t recognize it.

Right now, for once, Semi felt on top of the world, and it was all because of his teammates. Especially a certain friend, who had gone above and beyond to make sure Semi ended his birthday on a high note.