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Down by the River

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The sunlight is bright and warm and gentle on his skin. The summer's breeze is light and cool and offsets the heat that would otherwise cling to them all as they make their way down to the river. Taiju and Yuzu lead the way, each holding one of Suika's hands and swinging her every few steps as they walk. Ruri is walking with Chrome and listening intently as the young science apprentice tells her all about the latest thing he's learnt under Senku's genius. Kohaku had set off earlier than the rest of them to set up some kind of shelter so anyone who wanted to rest out of the sun and not get burnt would have a place nearby to do so.

Senku tailed along behind the main group, allowing his mind to wander and go between observing his friends—who had coerced him into going swimming with them—and calculating how long his latest breakthrough would probably take to bear fruit. It was peaceful walking out here, he had to admit. There was no rush to be somewhere, or anxiety over potentially dangerous expeditions. Just the light breeze, the warm weather, and the promise of laughter and relaxation.

He jumped when two different hands reached for him and caught his upper arms. Blinking out of his thoughts, he noticed they had arrived at the riverbank, next to a particularly deep area of the water. Yuzu and Taiju on either side of him, smirking at him with playful glee. Wait,

"Oh no. No, no-"

With those same gleeful looks, the pair of them pushed him off balance and he fell gracelessly into the river. When he surfaced, which really only took a matter of seconds, he was met with roaring laughter from all present, and tears in the corners of a few eyes.

Senku stood up fully, honestly amused himself, and climbed back out onto the bank. He found himself smiling, endeared that the people around him were so light, unlike his tendency to be heavy despite his best efforts. And if all they needed was to push him into the river to feel buoyant enough to laugh themselves into tears? Then he would gladly have them throw him in the river until the end of time.

Taiju and Yuzu recovered from their vibrant laughter first, and smiled so brightly at him it had his heart stuttering and melting and he thought, not for the first time, just how much these two beautiful people meant to him. It was easy to be with them, to relax and let them move him like clay to how they needed him. Not something he let anyone else really get away with unless it was part of his plan.

A little dazed, he allowed them to wrap him up in a towel and then be squashed in a hug between them both. It took him a moment to realise that everyone else had made their way up stream following markers that Kohaku had left for them to find. It was just the three of them now, and Yuzu and Taiju had chosen to wait with him. To hold him and...actually, what were they waiting for here?

"Taiju, Yuzu, not that I don't appreciate your squishing me to death here, but what are we doing? Everyone else has left us behind already. I thought the two of you were really looking forward to this."

Taiju huffs, "we're squishing you to death, Senku. You just said it."

Yuzu snickers, "yeah Senku, you just said it, what are you so confused about? Squishing you is much more important than swimming in the river, you know?"

Senku found himself at an immediate loss for words, spluttering, generally not making any sense whatsoever, and eventually ending with a muffled: "that's not what I meant and you both know it."

His efforts were met with more satisfying laughter and a kiss on both sides of his face, warming his face up till he was bright red.

"We know," Yuzu tells him and releases him from the hug, taking his hand instead. "But we really were just savouring the moment, what with you being still for once, and the opportunity to snuggle you out in broad daylight right there and all. Right Taiju?" Her grin turns sly, and he immediately knows he's been had. There'll be no escaping the teasing and their joint affections now. He knows it in his bones.

"Mhm!" Taiju nods firmly, sharing that sly smile with Yuzu and mirroring her by taking Senku's other hand. "Yuzu and I cannot let this opportunity pass us by!" He begins pulling them along, walking slower than he might have otherwise were he alone. "You have been working hard, Senku," his first friend speaks softer than usual, giving Senku a tender smile and squeezing his hand. "We've missed you, and it's lonely when you lock yourself up in the latest reinvention for days at a time. So for today, let us be kind to you. Okay?"

Senku ducks his head, biting the inside of his cheek and squeezes both of their hands firmly. "Yeah," he speaks quietly, hoping he doesn't betray how much emotion they're wringing out of him with just that much alone. "Okay. Okay."

Yuzu hums and bumps her shoulder into his own, effectively knocking him into Taiju as well. "We love you Senku. And we're proud of you for all of the hard work you put into everything you do, and with how far you've gotten us all. Thank you for letting us take care of you sometimes too."

Taiju nods, and Senku can tell even with his head still down because Taiju nods with his whole body somehow. "You know so much about science and how to make it work, Senku. But sometimes you forget how to take care of yourself at the same time as keeping science going, so leave it to Yuzu and I to take care of you and help you remember. Okay?"

Senku makes an embarrassing hiccup noise in the back of his throat, but he can't bring himself to care. Using their own momentum from walking, he stops in place and swings them both around until they're in front of him and he tackles them both into a hug this time. "I love you both too," He speaks into their clothes, because this is so sappy and he can't handle looking at them like this right now. "Thank you for taking care of me when I forget. I appreciate it, even when I don't look like it or think it in the moment." He takes a breath, a little shaky, and then says again, "I love you both so much. I don't know what I'd do without either of you being here with me again."

Taiju wraps a arm around his shoulder and leans his head against Senku's hair, effectively flattening it. Senku doesn't care. Yuzu wraps her arm around his lower back and settles her chin over his shoulder. Senku can't imagine a better moment for the world to pause and all of time to stop moving, because he wishes beyond almost anything else that this feeling, this embrace, could last for an eternity without needing anything else ever again.

But he will have more opportunities for moments like this. Taiju was so excited to go swimming with everyone who decided to take a break with him, and Yuzu was chipperly saying how she wanted to see how well the swimsuits she had made for everyone would hold up. So he can keep moving forward. He'd already admitted them full rights to pamper him today anyhow, there was no way he could escape more of these moments even if he had wanted to.

So he pulls back, and looks at them both with the softest smile he only ever smiles for the two right in front of him, and makes sure to kiss them both properly. "Let's go catch up to everyone else, yeah? I know you both were looking forward to this, and I'm not going anywhere. Not today." He takes both of their hands again and makes sure to thread his fingers in between theirs. "Let's go have fun while the sun's still out."

And this time, he takes the lead; grinning wide enough he knows he'll never be able to hide it, not that he'd want to, when they both bump shoulders with him at the same time, and swing their tangled hands back and forth. Today is a good day, he thinks to himself contently, and it's only going to get better.