Kuroo spends the early hours of the morning staring at Daichi’s peaceful sleeping face, tracing the slopes of his nose and jaw, the curve of his cheeks and lips, welcoming the slowly brightening rays of the morning sun as it shines across the rest of Daichi, lighting over caramel skin with blotches of bruises littering the expanse of collar bones and chest.
Everything is perfect inside this little cottage, their home, their space away from fearful but prying eyes and hateful, judgmental whispers; their little bubble of happiness, untouched by darkness.
Kuroo wishes to stay like this forever, Daichi serene and next to him, only the two of them basking in comforting silence, in each other’s warmth. But as soon as he whispers that in the deepest recesses of his mind, Daichi’s eyelids flutter, blinking open, sleepy haze giving way to clearing brown pools and as if the affection in his eyes isn’t enough, Kuroo is even gifted with a slow upturn of lips.
“G’morning, Tetsu,” Daichi rasps, the sleep roughened quality of his voice is offset by the soft whisper of Kuroo’s name spoken like a prayer.
Like clockwork, Kuroo leans down to capture Daichi’s lips with his own before returning the greeting.
“Still early,” Kuroo mumbles, lips bumping against Daichi’s. “Stay,” he adds, knowing that just like yesterday and those that came before that, that the answer will remain the same.
The hand on his cheek is rough but the touch is light. “I need to work, Tetsu,” is the simple, but loaded reply, before he untangles himself from Kuroo with an apologetic smile to begin his morning routine, as Kuroo just silently watch just like he did yesterday and the days that came before that.
Simple, because it’s the truth of it. Loaded, because they both know that with the knowledge and power that Kuroo possess, Daichi wouldn’t have to lift a finger to work for the rest of his life. He just needs to say the words and Kuroo will take care of it. But he’s always been a proud man, wanting to reap what he sowed with his own two hands, wanting to work hard for the things he wants to deserve. Kuroo likes that about him, even if it sometimes frustrates him.
When Daichi’s done, looking fresh and ready for work, and love bites hidden from the world, he sits back on the bed and cards a hand through Kuroo’s hair, giving him a loving look and a light, parting kiss.
“I’ll be back,” he promises.
Kuroo watches his retreating back, even long after he’s gone, even when he’s just really looking at the wooden door that leads outside, that leads Daichi away from him, wondering if Daichi will still fulfill his promise and enter their home once again or if this is the day that he finally breaks it, the day he finally leaves. The day he finally runs away from Kuroo.
With a deep breath he centers himself. He always finds out later.
It’s not uncommon for Daichi to take odd jobs or go wherever he thinks there’s work. Being the receptionist in the village’s inn pays nicely, but he’s only ever needed during the peak season. He is on his way home, tired but satisfied from his day of work, carrying a small net filled with mackerel that he got from helping in the fish port and a wicker basket with at least three jars of sweetened plantain and jackfruit from the kind, old lady that hires him to chop some much needed firewood for her hearth. He happily looks down on the wicker basket, thinking of how happy Kuroo would be to get more jars of the dessert. It’s become his favorite as of late.
His thoughts about what to have for dinner gets interrupted when someone steps into his path and blocked his way.
“Michimiya,” he says, smile waning and mouth setting into a neutral, restrained cautiousness. He politely ignores the way she flinched at being addressed in such manner.
“Dai- Sawamura, can we talk?” She hopefully smiles up at him, even though the wringing of her hands are telling of something otherwise.
Daichi looks around, noting that she caught him in a relatively secluded section of the village, where the few shops around are the ones that close early for the night. He’d wanted to avoid any confrontation altogether, but as it is, it’s better that they don’t have much audience. And maybe she did just want to talk, so he sighs and nods.
Despite the way she behaved around him a few months ago, Michimiya is still a childhood friend, after all. She still deserves his benefit of the doubt.
“What about?” Daichi asks, willing himself to remain calm so as not to trigger something untoward.
“I just-” Michimiya starts to reach out, but Daichi quickly leans away from the incoming touch.
It’s pitiful, the pained look Michimiya is giving him as she slowly retreats her hands, but Daichi doesn’t understand why she would look so.
“Sawamura… Daichi, please… please come back. Please remember me. Remember that you love me.” She begs, tears catching on her eyelashes, eyes wide in imploration and glistening with sadness.
Daichi can’t help but sympathize with her grief, and even feels a pang of guilt for being the cause of it, but Michimiya’s got it wrong, even after all these past months.
“Michimiya, we talked about this,” he frowns. “I respect you and I care for you because you’re a good friend, but I don’t love you like that. I don’t know what I did to make you think like that, and I’m sorry, I truly am, for making you believe that there could be more, but I just don’t. So please, stop doing this. Don’t do this to yourself.”
Michimiya refuses to back down, vigorously shaking her head as if deflecting all his words. “No, no. I didn’t think it, Daichi. It’s all true, please believe me.”
He isn’t quick enough this time and she’s able to latch onto his arms and hold it like dear life. “Please, you have to believe me.”
Daichi struggles to pull his arm away without causing Michimiya any harm, but she soon gives and steps back, defeated, when she realizes that Daichi clearly doesn’t believe her. Her sad, pretty face then contorted into something he doesn’t think he’ll see in her usually sweet demeanor.
“This is all his fault,” she glares, seething though not particularly at him. But he knows even without asking who she’s really livid at. “This is all his fault!”
Daichi wisely bites his tongue. They have had this conversation before, though conversation is a kind way to put it. Michimiya, as regretful as Daichi is to think of his friend like so and admit it, had gone mad when he came to Kuroo’s defense back then, as she blamed him for their current predicament. She only stopped, completely not expecting when Daichi made it clear that he knows who Kuroo is, what he truly is, and declared that he still loves him despite of that. He thought that’ll be the end of that. He even heeded Kuroo’s advice of staying away from her from the meanwhile, even though he’s not someone who deserts a friend like that. But admittedly, he got terrified of Michimiya then and he doesn’t want a repeat of that.
He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Michimiya,” he says, because he can’t think of anything else to say to calm her down without lying to her and giving her anymore false hopes. He leaves, ignoring the ominous muttering of “You left me with no choice,” coming from Michimiya as he pass by her.
Caught off guard, Michimiya yanks his arm hard enough to make him turn around and flinches in surprise as something splashes on his chest, even getting on his neck and chin. A sweet, dizzying smell wafts into his nose as he looks down on his wet tunic.
“What is this Michimiya?” He asks, horrified. For himself, but more so for her, especially at the sudden thought of what Kuroo would do to Michimiya if whatever she’s thrown at him is something harmful.
“It’s alright, Daichi. You’ll remember soon.”
“What did you do?” He touches on a wet patch, feeling something syrupy and fingers coated with a little bit of shimmer. “Michimiya, what is this?”
“Stop calling me that!” He almost loses it, because Michimiya is just giving him an expectant look, but he doesn’t think there’s anything good she should be expecting from his frustration and increasing anger. His betrayed glare must have given it away because Michimiya’s expression starts to pull down, turning her confused eyes from him to a vial in her hand.
“No,” she whispers, horror dawning as she realize that her plan did not work. “No, no, no. NO! Why isn’t it working?! You’re supposed to remember! You’re supposed to love me!”
It’s unbecoming, the way her emotions are twisting her face, the way she resorted to something like this just to get what she wants. She’s become someone Daichi doesn’t recognize, doesn’t know.
He steps back, away, from her. “Michimiya, you have to stop.”
“No! Enough. This is enough. Please, while I still have an ounce of respect left for you and for our friendship, stop. Don’t do this again.” Daichi doesn’t linger and leaves her screaming, crumbling down on the ground to wallow on her misery.
Daichi’s later than expected that Kuroo almost tells himself that the day that Daichi will not come back has actually come. But as soon as the first knock sounds, he’s up the stool and instantly by the door, the tightness in his chest completely loosening when he sees Daichi, looking rather worn down than he usually is and wet, but importantly, back and here with him.
“I’m home,” Daichi says with a wane smile, stepping inside the house.
“Welcome back.” Kuroo takes the wicker basket and leans close to kiss him on the cheek but stops short and recoils when his sensitive nose picked up on a sickeningly sweet scent. “What is- Why do you smell like that?”
Daichi winces at his exclamation and looks up at him guiltily. Kuroo gets antsy.
He puts the wicker basket down on the floor. “Daichi, why do you smell-”
“I ran into Michimiya and she… uh…threw a potion at me” he bows his head and gestures to himself. “I tried to wash it off in the stream, but I guess you can still sense it.” He rubs a hand along the back of his neck.
The water did help in washing the scent off, because he would’ve smelled it on Daichi as soon as opened the door. Nevertheless, Kuroo’s enhanced senses were still able to pick up on the stronger notes of the ingredients used in the potion, the ones that stick too long to clothes and are hard to wash out.
“Did she do anything else?”
After an incident that injured Daichi when his palm caught on one of Kuroo’s horns and sliced it up, Kuroo’d taken to appearing in his human form to avoid any more incidents like that, no matter how much Daichi assured him and how much Daichi asked him to show his true form. But in his anger, Kuroo forgets himself and his hold on his glamour spell slips, as his eyes turn from steel gray to molten gold and slits, and his horns slowly protrudes out of his head.
“She didn’t! Tetsurou, please. Calm down, she didn’t do anything else.”
“Daichi, I told you to stay away from her,” he says through gritted teeth.
“I know. And I did. She caught me by surprise, said she wanted to talk. I didn’t know she was planning something like this. Tetsu, please. Don’t do anything to her.” Daichi looks up at him with his wide brown eyes. “Don’t be what she’s making you out to be, please. For me?”
Kuroo glares at him, but Daichi maintains eye contact until Kuroo breaks it first and stands down with a harsh exhale. Daichi tentatively reaches out to his head and slowly tangles his fingers on Kuroo’s hair, taking care to avoid the horns that are thankfully receding. He slides his hand down to Kuroo’s cheek and angles it so their eyes can meet. It’s back to gray, although still a bit stormy.
“She should thank you because you’re the only one stopping me from raining hell on her.”
“I think she’s suffering enough. And she’s still my friend.”
Kuroo huffs after a few moments signaling the end of that conversation. “You got a nice haul,” he nods to the fishes still hanging on Daichi’s arm.
“I did. Both are your favorites too.”
Kuroo picks the basket up and takes the fishes from Daichi. “I’ll take care of it. You take a bath.”
“Not going to join me?” Daichi bats his eyelashes in subtle flirtation.
“We’re going to have a long night tonight and you’ll need your energy to keep up,” Kuroo promises with a dangerous glint in his eyes that sent a small shiver down Daichi’s spine.
“If you say so.”
Even though Kuroo said that, they don’t get into it right away after dinner, as Kuroo opted to massage a knot loose in Daichi’s shoulders, one he’d gotten from hauling up nets and crates of seafood earlier, using a special cream he’d mixed that instantly heals up any sore muscle.
“Don’t fall asleep, darling,” Kuroo whispers on his ear once he’s done massaging Daichi.
Daichi hums, though his eyes are closed. “You’d make a fortune being a masseur. Have you ever thought of that?” He says loud enough for Kuroo, who’d gone into the kitchen to fix them up some tea, to hear.
“I never did,” Kuroo admits, putting Daichi’s mug down in front of him. “But I suppose I would have. I wonder if kings would’ve given me half their kingdom because of it. I do have magical hands in all sense of the word after all.”
Daichi opens his eyes to level Kuroo an amused look. “Magical hands,” he snorts and mumbles against the rim of his mug.
“No, imagine it. Kings offering me their priceless treasure all because I got rid of the kinks in their necks from looking over their subjects disdainfully, or from the weight of their crown? Or the back aches they got from sitting on their high thrones? Or what if they go to war with each other, just because they want me to become their official masseur? Turns out I’m the priceless treasure.”
Kuroo watches on with a small smile as Daichi laughs at the scenarios he’d presented. “You’re crazy,” he says, a few chuckles still spilling out. “Why do I love you again?” He takes a sip of his tea, closes his eyes and sighs in contentment as the warm liquid travels along his insides, not noticing the way Kuroo stills or the panicked look he gives him.
“Magical hands and exquisite tea. How did I get so lucky?” Kuroo schools his expression and exhales slowly and deeply when Daichi looks at him again, obviously adoring.
“It’s just dried leaves.” He shakes his head. “I think I’ll make an even better treasure if it’s my head on the platter,” he says, taking a sip of his own.
“I know.” He feels Daichi’s warm hand cover his own.
“Come. I still have the end of my deal to fulfill.”
Daichi leads them to the bedroom, leaving their half-finished tea on the table, letting it go cold while they burn each other, for each other, with their fiery passion. Kuroo branding Daichi’s skin with his lips and tongue, while Daichi ties himself to Kuroo with his words, his promises,
I’m yours, Tetsu.
In the corner of the cupboard where Daichi doesn’t usually look for anything and where Kuroo keeps the jar of tea leaves, hidden in plain sight is a small bottle of clear, seemingly unassuming liquid, with a quarter content missing.