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To Those Who Wait

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1.

“Eita-kun, look! I’m a T-Rex!”

Tendou watched his best friend turn from the other end of the locker room, one eyebrow raised as though he already knew that whatever he saw would be ridiculous. The middle blocker, however, was not fazed, and met Semi’s flat stare with a wide grin, flapping his wrists from side to side.

He’d slipped just his wrists through his shirt sleeves as he was taking it off, hunching his elbows at his side to create the illusion of unnaturally small arms. A childish form of amusement, he knew, but it made him happy nonetheless.

Unfortunately, Semi did not seem to share his opinion.

“Why,” the setter began, and then seemed to give up on the remainder of his question, instead choosing to gesture in Tendou’s general direction in the manner of someone who had dealt with similar antics many times before.

“Why not?” Tendou challenged, attempting to unzip his gym bag without removing his arms from their cloth prison.

“You’re going to stretch it,” Reon commented idly, amusement colouring his tone.

Shirabu scoffed. “He already borrows Ushijima-san’s practice shirts anyway, it’s not like this will make a difference.”

“Aww, don’t be jealous, Kenjirou,” Tendou crooned, narrowing his eyes on his abruptly reddening kouhai. “I’m sure Ei-”

“Alright,” Semi interrupted, shooting Tendou a sharp glare and trying – in vain – to hide his own blush. “Honestly though, take your hands out before you rip it or something.”

The redhead merely winked at his friend and turned to Ushijima, who had been silent throughout the entire ordeal, changing back into his school clothes in a patient silence. Truly, his ability to ignore the antics of his teammates, and most especially his boyfriend, was astounding.

“Hey, Wakatoshi,” Tendou said, grabbing in Ushijima’s direction. “Come hug me like this, I bet it’s weird.”

Ushijima blinked in confusion as Shirabu groaned, and Goshiki squeaked from where he was putting his practice shoes away. “I’m not staying for this,” Shirabu declared, following after Kawanishi who had already fled the locker room. Goshiki hastily zipped up his bag and stumbled after them, his face flushing an adorably bright red.

“He’s so rude,” Semi huffed, glaring at the closed door as it swung shut behind the younger starting members.

“Don’t mind them,” Tendou said, leaning closer to his boyfriend with a grin. “Come on Wakatoshi, don’t leave me waiting!”

“I don’t understand. Won’t this just be harder than an ordinary hug?” Ushijima questioned.

“That’s half the fun!” Tendou exclaimed, and that at least seemed to work for the ace, as he stepped forward and enveloped the redhead in a tight embrace. It was warm, and Ushijima’s shoulders were one of Tendou’s favourite places to rest his head, but his arms were squashed awkwardly between them, a little painful now that he couldn’t move them anywhere else. Ushijima stepped back when he started squirming, and Tendou flexed his fingers with a noise that was almost a whine.

“I want to hug you properly now!” He declared, twisting his arms in an attempt to pull them back through the sleeves of his shirt. Unfortunately, it seemed to be a futile effort, and Tendou found himself tangled up inside it, flailing more and more wildly in his attempt to get free. To the chorus of Yamagata’s ever-helpful snickers, Shiratorizawa’s guess monster shoved one arm through the head hole and the other through the opposite arm hole, almost hitting his startled boyfriend in the face.

“Oh my god,” Tendou heard Semi’s muffled mutter from somewhere else in the room. “Please, just help him before he hurts himself.”

The next thing Tendou knew, a large hand was being placed on his shoulder, holding him still as Ushijima carefully disentangled him from his own shirt. Were he anyone else, he may have been embarrassed, but as it stood, all Tendou could feel was a deep sense of satisfaction at finally getting free.

With a final tug, the shirt was lifted over Tendou’s head, and he glanced up with a grin at his saviour-

Oh.

Ushijima was close. Really close.

Tendou swallowed, suddenly hyper-aware of his own bare chest and the proximity of Ushijima’s lips to his own. He was close enough to feel each one of the ace’s breaths fanning over his face, and Tendou’s mouth parted, ready to lean up just a little more-

Laughter pierced the bubble they were in, and Tendou jolted in shock, stepping away from Ushijima like he’d been scalded. He turned to see Reon hastily shushing Semi and Yamagata, but the damage was done. God, had it really only been a couple of seconds? It felt like that moment had gone on for hours.

“You looked like an idiot,” Yamagata commented good-naturedly, patting Semi on the back to ward off the setter’s hysterics.

“Even my sister can handle clothes better than that, and she’s six.” Semi choked out, ignoring the way Tendou glared at him.

“Eita-kun, you cockblocked me,” He gasped, sprinting across the locker room to tackle his best friend to the floor in a flurried mess of limbs, which only caused Yamagata to laugh harder, doubling over to rest his hands on his knees.

“I don’t understand.” Ushijima said slowly, looking from the two currently rolling on the floor, back to the shirt in his hand, and finally over to Reon, who only smiled serenely, and clapped his captain on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry about it.”

Failed Attempts: 1

2.

Tendou could almost forgive Semi and Yamagata for their heinous cockblocking (or was that lipblocking?), when they tried so hard to make it up to him (read: laughed every time he called them out on it until they eventually allowed him to pair up with Ushijima for cleanup duty). But fate, it seemed, was not done with preventing him from finally receiving his first kiss from his ace boyfriend.

It hadn’t even been a big deal before the incident in the locker room. He was a tactile person, sure, but he didn’t need anything like that from Ushijima in order to date him, hadn’t been waiting for it or fantasising about it endlessly. A few times, of course, but not in practically every waking moment like he was currently.

Practice was becoming a special kind of torture, because it was so easy to get close to Ushijima. Tendou’s captain was not the type to initiate contact, but he accepted it from Tendou, welcomed it even, and it felt like there were so many opportunities to close the distance between their lips at last.

But Tendou, for all his spontaneity and risks, was not stupid. He was not going to attempt kissing Ushijima again when his teammates were around, not because he didn’t trust them, but, well.

He didn’t trust them.

He knew it would never work out with all of them watching, and he knew Ushijima would prefer it to be somewhere private, too.

And so, when Tendou found himself returning the equipment with Ushijima only a few paces behind him, he couldn’t help but feel like his chance had finally come. The storage closet for their volleyball team was probably not the most romantic place he could pick for a first kiss, but it was quiet, and they were alone, and that was all Tendou really needed.

He leant the mop in his hands against the wall, glancing over at Ushijima. The ace was tucking the volleyball cart into the corner of the room, adjusting it until it lay perfectly parallel to the cupboards, taking up as little space as possible. Tendou smiled as he observed, Ushijima was always so wonderfully meticulous, so dedicated to every tiny aspect of volleyball, even the cart. Not for the first time, he marvelled at how well they fit together, considering that Tendou himself was bold and energetic and hadn’t been meticulous with anything in his life.

Yet fit they did, miracle boy Wakatoshi and the guess monster Satori – and okay, that was a little too poetic for his taste. He really must be yearning for that kiss.

Ushijima finished adjusting the cart into a position he was happy with, and crossed the room in just two strides to stand beside his boyfriend. “Satori?” He prompted, when Tendou failed to move, or even cease his staring. He couldn’t help it. Ushijima’s lips were right there, and nothing could be easier than closing the gap between them.

“Wakatoshi,” Tendou replied, reaching out with long fingers to grasp onto his captain’s wrist, the warmth of his presence grounding Tendou into the moment, into what he was about to do. His heartbeat was somewhere in his throat, still in a steady rhythm but getting faster. If Tendou focused hard enough, he could almost feel Ushijima’s pulse jumping too.

The middle blocker adjusted his stance, stepping backwards so that he could pivot and face Ushijima head on, only for his heel to catch on the mop he’d just returned. The tug caused the offending object to tip over, hitting Tendou once on the back of the head before clattering onto the floor beside them.

Tendou yelped in indignation, his hand flying to the place he’d been struck, as Ushijima crouched down to retrieve the mop from the floor and return it in a more secure position than last time. Tendou rubbed his head with a pout, feeling the moment slip away from him more and more with each passing second. He felt ridiculously and undeniably defeated. By a mop.

There had to be some kind of higher power at work here, Tendou thought, as Ushijima searched through his hair for any serious injury. His lips were now so far away.

Someone’s got it in for me.

Failed Attempts: 2

3.

By the time their training camp rolled around, Tendou was thoroughly convinced that he would find success. After two failures, it made sense for his third try to work - third time’s the charm, and all that.

Training camps with Shiratorizawa were always more exciting than they had ever been in middle school. Maybe because the middle school camps had been restricted to less time, but honestly, Tendou just thought that it was because he’d never fit in on any team quite like the way he did at Shiratorizawa. Plus, his adorable kouhais were the best targets for practical jokes.

Dousing an unsuspecting Shirabu with ice water as he went to bathe had probably been his favourite moment so far. It even made the ferocious glare he received worth it.

Regardless, Tendou did not have a total death wish, and he fled his junior hastily, tearing back down the corridors and into the room with their futons, where he collapsed upon his own in a heap. His chest was heaving, laughter still bubbling out of his throat as he pictured the startled look on the younger setter’s face.

“What are you doing?”

Tendou raised his head at the sound of Ushijima’s voice, and belatedly realised that the room was entirely empty of people save for the two of them. He had no idea where the others had gone – or rather, he knew where Semi would be, since the elder setter had been present when Shirabu’s shirt had plastered itself to his body. Tendou snickered again as he recalled the precise shade of red that had coloured Semi’s cheeks when he’d noticed that. But on the matter at hand, the whereabouts of the other third years was a total mystery.

Oh well, it was no problem. Tendou pushed himself up onto his elbows, grinning at Ushijima and taking a vague kind of offence at the wariness that passed over his face.

“Hey! I haven’t even said anything yet!”

Ushijima closed the book he’d been holding, something about flowers on the front cover, and tucked it between his legs. “You had the same look on your face as you did when you put cream on Tsutomu’s face while he was sleeping.”

Tendou began to protest his innocence, before remembering that he had, in fact, decorated Goshiki’s face with whipped cream on the first night of the training camp. Still, though, that had been funny. And also kind of sweet. Even Shirabu had said so.

“There’s no cream involved this time, captain,” Tendou promised. “Only water.”

“I trust you not to actually harm anyone on the team,” Ushijima replied, the corners of his lips turning up very slightly, before he returned to his book. Tendou beamed, crawling on his hands and knees until he was beside his boyfriend, who raised an arm to make space. With a pleased sound in the back of his throat, Tendou tucked himself into Ushijima’s side. He closed his eyes and pressed his ear to Ushijima’s chest, listening to the boy’s heartbeat thump evenly, as steady and sure as he was on the court.

The peace lasted for all of five minutes before Tendou found himself unable to sit still. They were alone, not a teammate in sight, and the atmosphere couldn’t be better. It was the perfect opportunity for their first kiss, time enough for it to be slow and uninterrupted, all the mushy things that Tendou’s manga promised it would be.

And Ushijima was so close. There was nothing in Tendou’s way this time, no unruly mops, no tactless friends. He could do it.

Tendou reached out to the book in Ushijima’s hands first, resting his fingers on the pages to catch the ace’s attention. Then he sat up, kneeling and twisting to press his chest against Ushijima’s broad shoulders. Ushijima was quiet, turning his face to watch Tendou’s movements. Waiting.

Tendou took one final deep breath, his other hand finding Ushijima’s hair, ready to pull him forwards and finally, finally bring their lips together-

There was a sudden squeak from the doorway, and Tendou only just refrained from throwing himself onto the futons never to move again. Both third years directed their gaze to the door, where Goshiki was blushing and attempting to stumble backwards out of the room without taking his eyes off the floor.

“I-I’m sorry!” He cried, waving his arms around. “I didn’t see anything!”

“There was nothing to see,” Tendou muttered, but figured he could at least be a good senpai. The moment was broken again, anyway. And he did owe Goshiki after the cream incident. With that in mind, Tendou squeezed Ushijima’s fingers once, and rose to put an arm around the first year’s shoulders. “Don’t worry, Tsutomu,” he assured. “Let’s go see if Kenjirou is still pissed.”

Evidently, he wasn’t going to get anywhere with his frequent attempts. Tendou was just going to have to wait.

Failed Attempts: 3

+1

Practice had been successful that day, all of their individual pieces clicking together perfectly.

Tendou watched Semi slam untouchable serves into the ground, watched Shirabu send countless pinpoint tosses, watched Yamagata dive after so many impossible-to-receive-balls, and connect. Watched Ushijima’s spike render all blocks useless, the ball slamming onto the other side of the court with a noise loud enough to echo the crack of thunder outside.

Practices like these were Tendou’s favourites. Coach Washijou wasn’t yelling, instead surveying them with a smile on his face that could almost be pride, in the right lighting. Tendou could cheer until his voice went hoarse, just as loud and long today as he had in his first match.

And so, when the coach finally called for practice to end, and he met Ushijima’s eyes, still so full of life and drive, Tendou could turn to pick up another volleyball, and hold it out to his boyfriend with a wide grin.

“Wanna practice some more, Wakatoshi?”

Tendou never got tired of seeing the small smile that tugged at Ushijima’s lips, especially when he was the cause.

They practiced together until they fell into a rhythm, spiking and blocking over and over until they were the only ones left in the gym. They didn’t talk much - or rather, Ushijima said very little, and Tendou continued to cheer for every successful spike his boyfriend made. It was only when Tendou squeezed out the last of his water, rubbing his throat slowly, that Ushijima stopped.

“You would conserve more energy if you didn’t cheer so often,” he said, watching as Tendou slumped into a heap next to the volleyball cart.

“Probably,” Tendou conceded, before grinning up at his captain. “But where’s the fun in that?”

“I’m not sure,” Ushijima admitted, striding over to offer Tendou a hand up. “But I like your cheering.”

Tendou took his boyfriend’s hand, rough and calloused but still so warm, and smiled at the unspoken I like you.

They cleared the volleyballs and the net away in companionable silence, Tendou finally deciding to give his voice a rest for a while. Together they headed for the club room, sprinting from the gym doors as the rain continued to fall, heavy and unforgiving - much like Ushijima’s spikes, Tendou mused, and then laughed at his own cleverness.

They changed quickly, Tendou chattering about the latest chapter of a manga he was reading, while Ushijima nodded along, not entirely following but still listening. He waited by the door for Tendou to finish getting ready, watching the rain fall inches from his face, but turned back around when his boyfriend fell silent.

“Don’t you get cold like that, Wakatoshi?” Tendou asked, pulling his knees to his chest as he stared at his ace. “I always get cold in the rain.”

“Not really,” Ushijima replied. But he paused in the doorway for a moment longer, glancing back at Tendou almost thoughtfully before pulling his umbrella from his bag.

“I’ll walk you home,” he offered. Tendou blinked once, twice, before beaming and latching onto Ushijima’s side.

“You’re so sweet, Wakatoshi.” Tendou grinned, then watched a gentle flush spread along the ace’s cheekbones, casting a rosy glow across his face. Ushijima didn’t reply - he simply threaded their fingers together, and made sure Tendou was comfortably under the umbrella before he started walking.

Tendou huddled into Ushijima’s side, revelling in how the warmth radiating from his boyfriend’s skin fought off the chill from the rain in the air around them. He hummed happily, caught sight of Ushijima’s small smile, and continued to rave about the manga he’d been going on about earlier. Despite the noise of the rain, the atmosphere surrounding them was peaceful, and Tendou felt the final remnants of tension in his muscles disappear.

Ushijima walked him right to his doorway, and Tendou paused with his fingers on the handle, suddenly nervous for a reason he couldn’t quite explain. He’d given up on trying to force their first kiss into fruition, hoping that his patience would reward him with a good opportunity, but...

“Thanks for walking me back, Wakatoshi,” he said, wondering if Ushijima could feel the same charge in the air that he did. It was like the locker room, the equipment store, the training camp. “I’ll try to remember my umbrella next time.” He knew he wouldn’t.

Ushijima was quiet for so long that Tendou grew restless, and started fidgeting back and forth. There was an unreadable expression on his captain’s face - something contemplative, and maybe a little scared. Tendou didn’t know what to make of it.

“Satori,” Ushijima said. But the sound was lost in the noise of the rain, and Tendou had to lean closer, lips parting around a sound of confusion-

-when Ushijima closed the gap between them and kissed him.

For a moment, Tendou was frozen in shock - they’d come so close so many times, and it felt surreal for it to truly be that easy, for Ushijima’s lips to really be pressed against his own, but the disbelief lasted for only a few short seconds before his eyes flickered closed and he melted into the feeling. He pushed his own lips back against his captain’s with the same enthusiasm that made him terrifying on the court, his hands travelling up, up until they found Ushijima’s shoulders and anchored him there.

Tendou had read a lot of manga from a lot of different genres, and he thought he’d understood how it would feel to kiss someone you cared about, maybe even someone you loved, for the very first time. But he could never have prepared himself for the feeling that flooded his veins at the sensation of Ushijima’s lips, the heat that seared through his skin when Ushijima brought a hand up to rest at the back of his neck. In truth, it was likely an awkward kiss, with their noses a little squashed and the angle not quite right, but Tendou didn’t care, and he was sure Ushijima didn’t either. It felt perfect. Like the moment a brand new play clicked into place, like a correct guess block at nationals. Exhilarating.

Slowly, after a long, heated moment, Ushijima pulled back, and Tendou sighed, already missing the warmth of the other’s lips. He opened his eyes unhurriedly, and his breath caught in his throat at the sight of the blush across Ushijima’s cheeks. Adorable.

Ushijima ducked his head in embarrassment - almost as though he had read Tendou’s thoughts . “Goodnight, Satori,” he said quietly, his eyes flickering upwards in possibly the most endearing display Tendou had ever seen.

“Yeah…” Tendou breathed, a faraway smile stretching his lips. “Night, Wakatoshi.”

Shiratorizawa’s ace hesitated for a moment longer, before pressing a final, gentle kiss to Tendou’s cheek. Tendou stood still in the rain for a long while after Ushijima left, fingers brushing against his still-tingling lips. But when he finally came back to himself, he was certain Ushijima heard his whoop of joy.

Successful Attempts: 1