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the caress of a wellworn love

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When Yaku walks up the driveway, every part of him aches slowly. His legs and arms are dotted with developing bruises, from impacts with the ground and from the serves that had been pelting him all day. Tiredness consumes every part of his brain as he opens the door, pulling his shoes off of his feet and whispering a welcome into the quiet foreroom of the house. He relishes in the silence for as long as he dares, taking deep breaths in and out. Gently centering himself before stepping further into the house and wandering towards the kitchen. 

The three of them live in this house, and they all have their habits. The little things that make them individuals and unique, the things that set his heart ablaze with fondness and warmth. Yaku heads to the kitchen first, no matter how sore, no matter how exhausted, and finds a ripe piece of fruit to sink his teeth into. A sign to his brain that he’s home, and that now it’s time to settle and relax. 

Walking through the hallway that leads from the entrance to the kitchen, some out of place things make their presence known. Shoes at the front door are misplaced, the mat is crooked, the keys are strewn across the table they use to hold them. His brain itches with the need to tuck them back into their places as he pushes it to the back of his brain. Pushing the frustration and annoyance out as far as he can manage. 

Empty as always this time of the afternoon, the sun shines softly through the half closed blinds of the kitchen. Blanketing the room in a warm light that relaxes his eyes and sets him at ease. On the counter is a handwritten note, covered in badly drawn hearts, and next to it is a peach, already washed and placed on his favorite plate, a knife sitting next to it. 

A smile creeps onto his face. Kenma loved showing affection in the smallest of ways, from the perfect placement of the plate and his fruit, to the small ‘ I hope you had a good day. I’m doing some work in my office, I’ll be out by seven. Kuroo said he was cooking, so please relax. ’ he had written on the note. The handwriting is cramped and uneven, but graceful and methodical in the way Yaku had come to love and crave when days went bad. 

The effect is broken by the stack of dishes in the sink, some from this morning when they’d eaten breakfast together before Yaku had to leave, and some from Kenma’s lunch. It irked something in Yaku, the instinct to bury his hands in the sink and scrub each dish until they were clean and sparkling. They had a dishwasher of course, Kenma and Kuroo were too busy not to have one, but the routines built in childhood demanded he hand wash them every time. 

Please relax, flickers through his head. In stark contrast between the urge in his brain to tidy and clean. ‘Out of sight, out of mind ,’ Yaku thinks, picking up his plate, the knife and the note, and walking to the table set right next to the giant windows overlooking the city. Light from the adjoined lounge room, and the kitchen, spills gently into the space. The sun is starting to dust the horizon, just slipping underneath the swath of towering buildings, painting the sky a beautiful array of colours. The dying rays cling to the floor and the walls as they're slowly dragged below the skyline. 

His knife slips effortlessly into the fruit as he first cuts it in half, and removes the stone. He sets it in his mouth to suck on while he cuts the peach into slices. It’s a simple repetition and he loves it. The peaches in their house were expensive, but Kuroo had simply shoved the more expensive ones in his hands while they were shopping together one day, and Yaku had accepted it without much fuss at the time. If Kuroo wanted to spend an arm and a leg on peaches, who was Yaku to say no?

Of course, in private he’d snarked and grumbled about being perfectly fine with the more tart and firm peaches, but Kuroo had simply snarked back and derailed the conversation in the way they’d both come to expect in highschool, while Kenma had watched on with a raised eyebrow and his fingers flying over his phone. No doubt texting Kai that they were arguing over peaches.  

When the slices are ready he pulls the stone out of his mouth, dropping it on the plate. He picks up the first slice on the left and presses it into his mouth. The slice melts in his mouth as he starts to chew on the skin. When he was younger, his mother would peel them for him, but now he found himself enjoying the texture of it more and more. 

He opens his phone up with his free hand and places the note nicely beside the plate, so he could take a photo. There was an entire album on his phone full of photos of the sweet notes both his partners would leave him. From the ones in the mornings when he had to wake before any of them, or the notes written the previous evening, before they’d slipped into the bed with him, to the ones when he returned late from away games, the scrawl messy and the hearts coloured in two familiar colours. 

The sun continues to fall as Yaku slowly progresses through his peach, one slice at a time. Thumbing through the notifications his phone filled up with while he was at the gym with the Japan national team. A couple snapchats from both Kuroo and Kenma over the day, a few from the friends he had made while playing for the Russian team he’d been scouted for out of highschool, and a couple of texts from family members. 

His thoughts wander to the move back home. It’d been a hard decision, but he hadn’t regretted it at all. He’d missed Kuroo and Kenma too much, no matter how much he hated to say it to Kuroo’s face. The distance was too great, and as much as they were happy to wait on his return, deep down inside he hated it. In a part of his heart he’d never admit existed, apart from perhaps Kenma, or Kuroo if he could keep that stupid grin off of his face. 

It is just as he is slipping the last piece into his mouth that the noise starts to escape Kenma’s streaming room, or his office as he liked to call it. The bass of whatever game he played can easily be heard, one of the alerts bouncing through the walls, and it knocks something loose in Yaku’s head, a gentle thrum of pain starting right at the back of his skull. 

He grumbles as he stands, grabbing his plate and knife and walking back to the kitchen, adding them to the sink with a childish glare to the ceiling. Before climbing the stairs he swipes his bag he’d dropped by them on his way in. Their house is plenty big, and plenty quiet. Most of the time. But sometimes, no matter what Kenma did, the noise would just keep leaking out into the rest of the house. 

It was something they’d have to talk about in the future, but for now, Yaku just wanted a nice long bath before Kuroo started cooking dinner and the sounds of cooking started. The clash and clank of pans and the sharp thud of Kuroo’s favorite knife, while usually soothing, would do nothing for the start of his headache. 

The state of the bathroom pulls another sigh out of Yaku. The clothes on the floor have obviously missed the hamper, the products are scattered around the counter, and the tap is dripping again. Throwing his bag in the corner, too frustrated to bother upending it into the laundry basket, he sets his focus on cleaning. 

Setting the bathroom to rights barely takes a couple of minutes, but it has the thrum of Yaku’s headache increasing. Gone is the gentle throb, in its place the beginning of a night ending pain. Drawing the bath is thankfully easy, he sets the water to as hot as he can stand it before digging around the cupboard for the lavender bath salts he had stashed there from his last trip to the beauty store. 

If there was one thing he did religiously every day, it was taking care of himself. His skin, his hair, his nails, it was all given time and attention. Keeping his nails trimmed and well kept was important for volleyball, but it also helped him resist the urge to bite them, a habit he’d tried hard and long to break in highschool. An anxious habit that had nipped at his heels whenever it could, chasing him from childhood to adulthood, rearing its ugly head and causing damage whenever he gave into the impulse. 

His hair was a point of pride. It was soft and tangle free, and he kept it healthy so he could dye it whenever the fancy struck him. He’d almost completely ruined it back in highschool; a misadventure with the boxed bleach bought on impulse, combined with a horrible quality colour, meant he’d had to cut the entirety of it off, and he still thought back to those six months in horror. Kenma had heeded his advice with the utmost care when they’d let it slip that they’d wanted to bleach their own. 

The skin was self explanatory between the three of them. He’d taken to it in highschool, having learned so he could pin Kuroo and Kenma down and help their acne clear up much faster. Kenma had picked and prodded at his, and he now had several scars on his face from before Yaku had gotten his hands on him in his third year. 

A couple of handfuls of the lavender salts thrown in the bathtub later and he is turning off the tap and lighting the candles that were placed around the room. Flicking the light off when he is done, he peels the clothes that he’d worn home off his body. Sure, he’d showered at the gym, but the gym showers always left him feeling gritty. So another bath when he gets home is a must. 

Some nights Kenma would sneak in and settle behind him in the bath. He would thread his thin, strong fingers through Yaku’s hair and massage the product in as he relaxed. The bath was big enough for them both; Kenma had been picky and specific about the house they lived in, wanting the best for all of them, and not for only one of them. 

Yaku had demanded a big bath, but not much else. Kenma had wanted two offices, one for him and one for Kuroo, and a bedroom for each of them for when they didn’t feel like sleeping together. Having their own bedrooms sometimes made their boundaries more clear, but sometimes nothing seemed to help. They were all impulsive people, led by their feelings and sometimes their anxieties, and closed doors often didn’t register in the moment. 

Kuroo had been the most picky between the three of them, tossing and turning between what he’d wanted. They’d found this place on a whim of their real estate agent, after Yaku had sent him a pleading look after the nineteenth house Kuroo had deemed not good enough. Kenma had stopped accompanying them after the third house, but between the two of them they’d managed to take enough pictures for Kenma to strike a few of his own off the list. 

Slipping into the water he grabs his phone, sets a timer for half an hour, and flicks into his music app, loading up one of his favourite playlists. Something soft and bouncy and soothing, to hopefully dull the thrum in his head back down to a manageable level; he dreads having to take painkillers if it gets worse. 

The sound of soft orchestral music floods the bathroom, reverberating delicately off the tiles and stone work. A shiver runs down his spine as he slowly releases the tension from each part of his body, working from the top of his head, down to the tips of his toes. It was methodical and repetitive, breathing in and out as he felt each part of his body, and where it hurt and strained. 

Wisps of lavender from the bath salts catch his nose as the candles burn softly and time ticks on. Hands softly brush over his limbs and torso, scrubbing the parts he could reach easily, and then moving onto the parts he had to stretch for. The vibrations of his alarm bring his bath to an end, as the water grows colder and colder the longer the minutes crept down. 

Leaving his music on but turning down the volume a couple of notches, he rises from the bath grabbing one of the towels placed next to it and starts drying off. Yaku slips into the soft and worn clothes Kuroo had put out for him sometime before he left this morning. 

He puts on the shirt that used to be Kenma’s, but was then accidentally stretched out by Kuroo, and finally stolen by his own hands to add to his collection. Sweatpants get pulled up his legs and he starts drying his hair, rubbing the towel through it gently. The products are gently patted into his skin with dry hands, step by step of his routine as he always does. 

Footsteps emerge from Kenma’s office, padding towards the bathroom. A disheveled Kenma pokes his head through the door, hair fluffed up and messy from where he’d pulled off of headphones. “You all finished? Kuroo started cooking a little while ago, or so I hope. There’s certainly a war going on in the kitchen and I don’t think he’s winning,” Kenma says, pushing the door open as he walks in, coming to a stop beside Yaku. 

“Just one more product, and then we can go sit on the couch and laugh at him from the lounge room. Three hundred yen he burns that pan with the white handle again. It took forever to clean last time because he never treats her right.” Yaku said, rubbing the final product into the area underneath his eyes. 

Kenma leans into Yaku’s side, putting some of his weight onto the smaller man. “That’s a bet I’m going to take, considering last time he threatened to throw the pan out if he ever pulled it out of the cupboard again. I don’t think he’d even risk it,” the blonde says, narrowing his eyes at the large bruise blossoming on Yaku’s shoulder. 

“Yeah, I took a ball to the shoulder accidentally today. Wasn’t expecting that much power to go into it, and it swung left right at the last moment. It should hopefully be gone in a couple of days.” Yaku recalls while he puts away his products. 

His hands are halted as Kenma reaches into the top of the cabinet and pulls out the bruise cream. “You can’t escape me or the cream, Yaku. You’re putting the bruise cream on no matter how terrible it smells. Kuroo buys this brand because it works, not because it smells like daisies and rainbows.” 

Yaku glares jokingly, pulling the collar of the skirt down as Kenma rubs the cream into it, before putting the tube down and using his second hand to lift up the shirt fully, checking his torso for any more bruises. Then moving up and down each arm, taking care not to press or prod any of the blemishes that look particularly nasty. 

Arms done, Kenma sits down on the floor and pats his lap. Yaku obliges, sitting down across from his partner, and placing his left leg in the other’s lap. Sweatpants get rolled up, and the cream goes on as Kenma checks every spot he can. It reminded them both of highschool, when Yaku would do the same to the juniors each year, showing them the best way to treat their bruises and bumps. 

Running through the cheapest brands to stock up on, the best tape for their fingers, when to know when they needed to replace their gear. He’d been a monster on the court, but more importantly, he’d been a monster off the court as well. Stretches were meant to be done right the first time, or they’d be there all day. If they were sick, he’d kick them out of the gym personally, with a vengeance. 

Sport was useless without rest and recovery, what was the point of playing if you couldn’t stand, or if your body was failing on you? That was Yaku’s mentality, and Nekoma had been strong for it. Kenma had quietly kept up the tradition in his third year, or so Fukanaga had told Yaku. 

With bruises tended to, they both stand up and finally leave the bathroom. They head towards the kitchen in search of entertainment in the form of Kuroo’s cooking. Or at least his war with the kitchen that still never seems to do what he wants. Pans get too hot, things go missing, timers are off by a minute or two. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. 

Kenma is quiet, but a small smile spreads across his lips as he grabs Yaku’s hand on the way down the stairs, linking their fingers. He uses this to pull them both towards the couch, as they settle across it’s length on the arm facing the kitchen. Kenma settles against the back of the couch as Yaku proppes himself up in between the other’s legs. 

Kuroo narrows his eyes as they enter and sit down to watch, but blows them a kiss anyway as he returns to his task of cursing at the pan he is using. Yaku watches contentedly as his second partner fights with the pan for the third week in a row, obviously losing the battle. 

He is stubborn however, and no cursed pan is going to stop him from finishing dinner, even as he burns the white handled pan again, winning Yaku his three hundred yen. They move from the couch to help Kuroo set the table. Although his two partners don’t play volleyball anymore, they both take his career seriously and support him in ways only two ex players can. 

They poked and prodded at his meal plan until it was almost perfect, helped him stretch before bed, and what made his heart soar the highest, was that they were always at every single game. They’d missed a couple while he was in Russia, but whenever they could they’d fly out, sit in the stands, and Kuroo would scream as loud as he could, with Kenma tucked into his side.

No matter how much the jetlag got to them, or how expensive the tickets got, they were there. The pair of them had moved in together, collecting all the things Yaku had left behind at his parents house and putting them everywhere they could fit them. Clothes he hadn’t worn in years had their places in the house, and his photo albums were neatly tucked away in the bookshelf. 

Those two years had been tough, his off seasons caught between flying home to them and staying for practise. Kenma and Kuroo had given up years for his career, but had never looked at him with an ounce of regret as they pushed him higher and higher. Between the three of them they shared their successes, one person's win was everyone's win, and giving up a career advancing move wasn’t on the table for any of them. 

Yaku pulls knives and forks out of the drawer, while Kenma reaches up to grab three glasses from the cupboard. “Who wants to drink what?” Kenma asks, looking into the depths of the fridge. The sweater draped over his body hangs loose around the collar, sleeves overtaking his arms. It is obviously Kuroo’s sweater that Kenma had stretched out over his knees to make sure the other would never steal it back. 

“Can I have a glass of my fruit juice? It was on the top left shelf this morning, unless someone moved it.” Yaku chims in, dancing behind Kuroo to help by getting the plates out of the cupboard, as the other serves up their dinner. 

“I want juice too please, but the apple juice from the bottom shelf. If not, just water,” Kuroo hums, bumping his hip into Yaku’s as the other slides past to get out of the kitchen. Drinks poured, and their containers put away, the pair carries the cups to the table, doubling back for their plates. 

The easy domesticity of dinner sets Yaku’s body at ease, and he and Kuroo trade barbs and snark while Kenma laughs and raises his eyebrow, not sparing either of them when they are being idiots. His head still throbs and aches, but it is easing off, settling into the background as he focuses on his partners. 

Existing with the two people in front of him was all he craved, as many hours as he could get. Whether he was laying on the couch in Kenma’s streaming room as the other recorded his videos and streamed his games, or running with Kuroo in the early hours of the morning when the sun was only still just rising and they were alone. 

His favourite feeling was them, in their entirety. The way their hands slid perfectly into his, fingers interlacing. The slide of their legs as they tangled and tossed around in their bed, waking up smothered and with a mouth full of hair every single morning, half crushed beneath whoever had decided to move that night. How their bodies pressed against his, weighing his emotions down and soothing their unceasing waves and crests, setting every little piece of him that rattled and rallied within his chest. 

Those were the memories that carried him through two years of living in Russia, thousands of miles away, when they would be brought together only by packages, phone calls, and terrible video calls. But they’d survived, and arrived here, like this, together. 

Kuroo’s cooking is wonderful, warm, and it settles right at the bottom of his stomach, filling him up and bringing a smile to his face. They rally back to the kitchen, all three of them cramming into its bounds to shove the dishes into the dishwasher. Yaku finally gets to shove the sink dishes into their real place, to be cleaned. Another problem fully out of mind. 

Kenma rinses and hands him the dishes, while Kuroo wraps and marks the leftovers, shoving them into the confines of the fridge for Kenma’s lunch the following day, like they always do. Yaku will eat with the team, and Kuroo no doubt has some fancy meeting planned over lunch. 

Scrubbing the counters is an easy job, as while the kitchen hates Kuroo, he manages to keep the mess to a minimum. Kenma quietly narrates his day while they cleaned, “I finally managed to finish that sponsorship video this morning, and they actually approved it this time, which is a massive win because I’ll never have to look at it, or be sponsored by this company, ever again. Thank god.”

“And then the livestream this afternoon was good, a couple of my regulars showed up and we made fun of the game I was playing, and the chat wasn’t too annoying once I turned the subchat on and the mods banished all the dumbasses to hell.” Kenma continues as Yaku and Kuroo humm and agree with him. 

“I got an email this afternoon as well, about my business, and it looks like we’re going to be sponsoring another athlete, which my advisor says still can’t be you. Which is stupid. Hinata’s sponsorship has been going well so they’re interested in keeping it going.” Kenma rolls his eyes as he recalls the stupid advice his advisor had given him. 

Kuroo ferries the both of them out to the couch, settling on the left arm as Kenma settles on the right. “Can I lay across your laps?” Yaku asks, humming delightedly when they agree, Kenma patting his lap gently and Kuroo wiggling his eyebrows like the loser he is.

He climbs onto the couch as the other turns, throwing his legs onto the middle cushion. Yaku slots in between them, placing his head on Kenma’s lap, and feet in Kuroo’s. Kenma’s fingers immediately travel to his hair, gently running them through the strands and scraping his nails across the scalp.

Reaching out for the remote Kuroo holds onto his legs as he flicks the TV on, drowning the room in light and noise. Yaku turns over, pressing his face into Kenma’s stomach as his partners compensate, and Kuroo turns the volume down a touch. No one says anything, happy to let things lie for now, and Yaku starts to drift off, caught between Kenma’s gentle hands and Kuroo’s firm and relaxing touch on his legs. 

Time passes but Yaku isn’t aware of it, happy to drift in the comfort of Kenma’s scent and warmth. Idle chatter is passed between the two above him, questions of the newest games and how their latest meetings had gone, a silly game show playing on the television. 

Kenma stiffens and relaxes underneath him several times before tapping his head and asking Yaku to sit up. Kuroo’s eyes wander over curiously, watching as Yaku yawns and stretches, finally moving to the space in the middle of the couch as Kenma folds his legs to his chest, pulling them tight. With his hands above his head Yaku stretches and shakes his head, trying to wake himself up a little. 

“I think that we finally need to have that very adult conversation we keep putting off. And no, Kuroo, it is not the one about who gets to top next, and the answer probably isn’t you anyways. It’s the one where we stop annoying each other and crossing each other's boundaries and pretending like it didn’t happen.” Kenma says, getting through his sentence when the TV is flicked off, the sound finally dying and sending the room into blissful silence. 

“You’re right Kenma, but god you don’t have to say it like we’re all going to die from a single adult conversation. We pay taxes, we can do adult.” Kuroo jokes, lightening the mood as a smirk crosses Kenma’s lips. 

“Are you sure you won’t die from a conversation? You sure tried to run away from Yaku and me in highschool. I think you almost died of a heart attack several times trying to escape that one.” Kenma bites back, causing Yaku to snort at the memory of Kuroo running away from them one day, directly into traffic, like an idiot. 

“So, you’re both pretty good at this but I guess we’ve all gotten a bit lax with asking. I don’t always like being touched, as you both know already, and I would kindly appreciate it if my bedroom was mostly left alone unless you’re cleaning or I bring you in. It’s just hard adjusting from having my own space that no one else really enters to… this. Kuroo and I lived together for a year before this, sure, but we both had our own spaces.” Kenma mumbles, pulling the sweater sleeves down and over his hands, covering them in sweater paws. 

Yaku nods, “Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s hard to determine when I do and don’t want to be touched, especially because I've been away so long, and I’ve missed you both.”

Coming home had been hard on all of them, having to shift everything they’d come to grow comfortable with and adapt habits and schedules. The transition hadn’t been flawless, and even now the sharp edges grate and make themselves known in the harsh ways they sometimes crashed into each other's sore spots and drove each other insane. 

“I also need the house to be a little quieter some days. I get home from training and sometimes my head just hurts and I can’t shake my headache off, and the littlest noises make it worse. I can usually get by, but it hurts and I know it doesn’t need to.” Yaku says, tucking his feet up under himself and crossing them, tilting his head side to side to see if the headache is still there. 

“We can look at getting some better soundproofing, I know that’s been on our to-do list for way too long, and if it’s bothering you, we can get it fixed.” Kuroo soothes, reaching out to pull Yaku in front of him, gently rubbing the others shoulders. “I also need my stuff to stay where I put it, if possible. I keep leaving things like my keys in places I remember, and then I come back and they're gone, and I have to look for them.”

“That’s me, I think. The clutter exhausts me and when it gets messy I can’t deal with it. It just grinds on me all day knowing that when I come home there's going to be that coin from yesterday still on the floor and I just can’t cope.” Yaku says, pressing back into Kuroo with an apologetic face. 

“Hey, it’s okay, this is why we’re talking. Kenma was right, we’re adults and we can adult our way through this. I can buy a bowl to keep my things in and we can all work on keeping things tidier, and if things get out of hand you can pull us up and yell at us. Just like if you found out we weren’t taking care of our skin again.” Kuroo says as he presses kisses to the side of Yaku’s face, making obnoxious kissing sounds. 

Their breathing fills the room as they all think about the little things that have been bothering them, now that the big things are out of the way. “Can I stretch my legs out, Kenma? I always feel better when people are touching me when I’m anxious, it helps settle me.” Yaku asks as Kenma smiles and agrees, unfolding his own legs to receive Yaku’s feet this time. 

“We can’t keep buying the blue brand of fabric softener. It sucks and it itches and I officially hate it. Buy the pink one with the green font or so help me, I will start shredding socks and no one will be happy.” Kenma says, glaring at Kuroo, who was in fact the last person to buy the fabric softener. 

He squeaks, tucking his head into Yaku’s neck before snipping back, “Stop buying the supermarket bread then, we live near a bakery, it’s just down the street!”

Yaku shuts down this shit fight immediately, “If you’re going to devolve back into teenagers, I’m going to steer this conversation back into adult territory. Slamming doors is not allowed, if you do it I will probably freak out and cry, as I have twice in the last week. And stop shouting across the house too, it’s not cool.” 

“And no sex on the couch. There is to be no sex on my expensivee couch, sex is for the bedrooms and the incredibly expensive beds. Not my damn fancy couch.” Kuroo says. 

“Okay but you’re the one always trying to have sex on the damn thing, Kuroo.” Kenma pokes, gently squeezing Yaku’s ankles as he smirks. 

Ignoring the bait, Kenma says, “I saw this neat colour thing Hinata was trying with his boyfriend, maybe we could give that a go? Where they like, send colours assigned to how they’re feeling. So maybe a bad headache day could be an orange, and a bad anxiety day could be a yellow.”

They bounce ideas back and forth while Kenma pulls his phone out of his pocket to show the chart Hinata had sent him. There was a sprawl of colours and messy handwriting, and it was adorable. They’d obviously put a lot of time into it, into making it work for all three of them, and Yaku smiled at it sleepily. 

His phone buzzes as they decide colours and Kenma pulls up a new note on his phone. He jotts them in one at a time, going through the rainbow and each thing that could possibly go wrong or right in their day. From headaches, sprains or mental health to good days and excitement. 

Yaku is interjecting less and less as the gentle brush of Kenma’s fingers that weren’t typing on his phone were rubbing his ankles, luling him to sleep. They don’t mind, grinning fondly at him as he tries to keep his eyes open, to no avail, their voices quieting as he slowly falls asleep, and they start debating the code over his sleeping body.