Yaku is twelve when he first encounters what most would call a “monster.”
A rumor is spreading quickly around campus lately. An alleged pedophile had just been arrested the weekend prior, but there is superstition that he’s still on the loose, as nonsensical as that sounds. Yaku thinks these rumors are mere chicken squabble, just substanceless nothings for people to pour out of their mouths when they’ve run out of everything else to say. Still, he’s apprehensive about heading home alone, and convinces Kuroo to walk him home every day. (He doesn’t tell Kuroo this, of course, and does his best to convince him otherwise.)
One especially snowy day in early February, Yaku lies on his bed, shivering, despite being bundled up under mountains of covers. His comforter is huge, and usually, warm, but Yaku can’t seem to heat up at all. The lights in his room are all turned off, save for his phone screen and the dim sleep light of his laptop.
His mother won’t be home for a few hours, busy with her second job, and his father was… living somewhere else. He hadn’t seen him in years, and what little he could recall of him wasn’t too important. His father didn’t need him, so he didn’t need his father, either. His mother was a strong, independant role model, and she was all he needed. Lately, however, with his mother being gone so often and so long, Yaku sometimes feared his home, and its dark, unfriendly corners.
There was always something eerie about his house at night, but as long as he had his phone and a decent internet reception, he felt alright.
That is, until tonight.
Something about this night felt off, as if something wasn’t quite right. Yaku tries to brush the feeling aside by turning off his phone and shutting his eyes tight, but his nervousness won’t subside. His comforter begins to slip down the side of his bed, and he moves to pull it back up.
He freezes when the comforter pulls back.
He holds his breath, eyes wide and adrenaline rushing through his system. His grip on the cover tightens, as he tugs it ever so slightly in his direction. He isn’t ready to die, especially to some serial-killer-monster-under-the-bed kind of joke Kuroo always pokes at him. He shudders when he feels the edge of his mattress dip, as the blanket opens up for a body to slip in. He’s ready to scream, but pauses, and reconsiders.
What will screaming even accomplish? Would it just lead to a faster, less painful death? Would he be swallowed whole? Or would the monster snap his bones, one by one, before nibbling away at his flesh?
Without thinking, a small trickle of words bubble out through his lips.
“Are you cold?”
Yaku can’t see the figure nod, can’t see the figure at all, but trusts his instinct that this creature hasn’t any intentions to kill him. If he did, Yaku reasons, he wouldn’t be alive to think about this.
“Hey, who are you?”
Yaku clicks the home button on his phone to illuminate the stranger’s face. The stranger’s eyes are wide and feline, with vertical pupils Yaku had only ever seen in the eyes of the neighborhood cat. What startles him most, though, isn’t the presence of his cat-like pupils; rather, what makes Yaku shiver from the bottom of his spine is the absence of fur, or talons, or razor sharp teeth. The “monster” is but a child, no older than Yaku himself.
“What’s your name?” Yaku asks, less apprehensive now than before, thanks to the “monster’s” unintimidating appearance.
His eyes shift, left, right, left again, until he shakes his head. “Don’t have.”
Yaku considers what his father had told him a few years back. ‘Don’t give that pup a name, it just makes it harder to leave at the pound.’ He wonders if this is the same type of situation. He shakes his father’s words from his mind.
The monster nods his head, eyes unblinking.
“Kenma… Kenma, call me Yaku.” Yaku resists the urge to blink, at least until the monster shown some sign understanding.
Kenma tries the name out on his tongue, “Kenma… Yaku.” Satisfied with the sound of his new name, he yawns, and curls up to Yaku’s side.
He doesn’t know how to deal with this person, much less the entire situation, but he’s tired, and sees little risk in letting him stay, so he turns off his phone and allows himself drown into the abyss.
The next morning, Yaku does his best to explain to his mother how Kenma doesn’t have a family and needs to be taken care of. She’s not happy about having another mouth to feed, but when she sees the determined look on her son’s face, she can’t help but approve. She keeps talking to a minimum with the new child—it isn’t hard, considering how little the child talks in the first place. She asks basic questions, such as “How did you get here?” and “What is your last name?”
Kenma refuses to answer either of them, and Yaku’s mother interprets the silence as less than polite behavior, for a stranger. Even so, the way the child is determined to not get in the way as he attempts to wash the dishes and clean up the table is somewhat endearing to her, and she gives him a pass.
Since Kenma has no official records, it’s difficult for Yaku to bring him to school, and so he tells Kenma to wait outside the front gate like a good boy until he’s finished. He’s hesitant, but he gives Kenma his phone to pass the time, and makes his way through the school gates.
Introducing the dark-haired child to his best friend is less of a painstaking event than he’d imagined, and for that fact, he’s relieved. Kuroo is curious of the boy’s origins, as he doesn’t take Yaku’s word for it, so he pries and he pries and he pries for answers. Yaku is amazed by how familiarly Kuroo treats Kenma, but doesn’t say anything.
The boys go out for waffles together, and Kuroo laughs when Kenma gleams at the pastel-colored icing. Yaku pays for the three of them, and they sit together, talking about Kenma. When the topic of interest goes to rinse off his hands in the water fountain, however, Kuroo’s eyes narrow, and he asks Yaku of Kenma’s true origins.
“Are you sure you want to know?” If he can trust anyone, it’s Kuroo, but he’s still not too sure about what he’ll say. Kuroo nods. “I found him.” A hesitant pause. “He was… he was under my bed.”
The words come out all too quickly, and by the time they’ve left Yaku’s lips, it’s too late for him to take them back. They hit Kuroo, like… Yaku can’t guess. Kuroo’s expression is blank. He thanks Yaku for the waffle, waves a goodbye to Kenma in the distance, and strolls off with no particular destination.
The breeze that hits them on the way back is chilly, and Yaku’s nose begins to drip. Kenma is fascinated by how pink his cheeks are, but doesn’t mention it. A smile creeps up onto his face, but Yaku doesn’t seem to notice. Instead, his eyes wander to Kenma’s icy white fingertips. He doesn’t say a word as he pulls of his right mitten, pushes it onto Kenma’s far hand, and pulls Kenma’s left hand into his jacket pocket.
Kenma likes holding hands, even if Yaku’s hands are just as cold as his own.
When Yaku turns fourteen, Kenma decides he wants to enter school. Yaku is initially against the idea, but his mother urges Yaku to “let his friend play outside for a while.” Kenma enters in the middle of the school year, and to Yaku’s surprise, studies hard and does unexpectedly well. Kuroo’s in their class, and is the vice captain of their middle school volleyball team. He isn’t on good terms with Kenma yet, try as he might, but he allows him to stay and watch practice if he’s quiet.
Kenma has little reason to reject the offer, and accompanies the duo to the gym.
The two return home before the sun sets, and exhausted from practice, Yaku flops himself onto the couch. Kenma didn’t exert much energy today, except for the energy spent on walking home, so he waddles to the washroom and turns on the bath water. On his way to grab towels, he noticed an unopened orange and white bottle, and glances over the instructions. He can’t read anything, but the pictures seem pretty self-explanatory, so he pours two bottle caps of the bottle’s contents into the bath, and watches, mesmerized by the rising bubbles.
He unclothes and wraps himself in a towel before heading out to retrieve his best friend. “Yaku,” he shakes the boy, “Yaku, bath is almost ready.”
Yaku flops himself face-up, eyes groggy and medium-length hair a tangle of curls, before stretching his arms out toward the ceiling. “Carry me,” he murmurs, without much thought.
Kenma doesn’t know how to carry anyone, and underestimates the difficulty of it though. He’d never had to carry anything but Yaku’s phone, the 2DS Yaku bought for him the winter prior, and a shopping bag of lightweight snacks here and there. When he wraps his arms around Yaku’s lower back, Yaku responds by draping his arms over Kenma’s shoulders and his legs on Kenma’s hips.
Kenma struggles to get Yaku’s heavier, near-deadweight body off the sofa, but once he does, he contemplates how he’ll make it to the washroom before the bathtub bubbles over.
On his long endeavor to the washroom, Kenma listens to Yaku babble like a child. It's strange, he thinks, how despite Yaku's grown up exterior, despite how Yaku treats himself and others, despite the protective scoldings and sighs of relief, Yaku is still a child according to the grown-ups. Kenma personally thinks that Yaku is more grown up than many of the so-called "grown-ups," but he can't say much on the topic.
Yaku's heavy, and Kenma's only halfway to the washroom, but he doesn't mind so much, since with this time, he's allowed to smell the real Yaku, feel his skin and let his senses devour the older boy. At times like these, he's so vulnerable, and Kenma savory every moment, and even though he can't put a name to the feeling, Kenma likes to feel this way. He likes being here, with Yaku.
Kenma sits Yaku down against the doorway of the washroom before hurrying to turn the water off. Yaku looks over to Kenma, dazed and confused, and asks what time it is, before receiving a short "bath time" and kiss to the forehead.
Yaku strips himself of his practice clothing and rinses himself off outside the tub. Kenma hands him the soap, and the two wash up together.
Yaku takes the shampoo from Kenma, pumps the silky pink fluid onto his hand, and kneads it onto Kenma's hair. It's gotten long, he think, as he rubs the shampoo into the tips of the younger boy's hair.
Kenma rinses off and hops into the steaming bath water, a seventeen-year-old Yaku playfully scolding him before joining in. The bath is smaller now, Kenma mentally notes when his and Yaku's legs cross past each other, thick, well-trained thighs resting against milky, unused calves.
"We had a practice match today," Yaku informs, since Kenma hadn't been to school the past week. "It was against that team with the orange-haired kid."
"Shouyou," Kenma corrects, before making a statement not even masked as a question, "You won."
Yaku chuckles, reaching forward to run his digits through Kenma's recently-dyed locks. The only change is to his tips, dyed a silvery hue of lavender, but Yaku adores it all the same. Kenma scooches toward Yaku, turns around and sits between Yaku's well-defined legs, indulging in his closeness, breathing in peach fragrance and Yaku.
"Yeah, it was really close though. Shouyou got in a lotta points, but that new kid, y'know, Lev? He really held them back." A moment of contemplation, then a slight change in the air, "Despite being a rookie, he's really good. I'm kind of jealous. I mean, he works hard, but... I don't know, it's not.. fair. His limbs are long, and his reactions are pretty quick, and once he sharpens up his knowledge of the game..."
Kenma doesn't know what to say, so he turns at an angle and leans his head onto Yaku's collarbone and reaching up to run his fingers through Yaku’s hair. He pulls him closer, and sets his lips high on Yaku’s left cheek before nuzzling into the crook of his neck.
Yaku smiles warmly, wrapping his arms around Kenma and pressing him close, and shuts his eyes. “Mm, that’s true. If I have anything that’s worth more than what he’s got, it’s you, Kenma. Thank you.”
Kenma leans further into Yaku, not uncomfortable with their position, and curls his fingers into tight fists against Yaku’s back.
Yaku is 18 and his high school volleyball career ends abruptly as his team loses to a band of all-arounders led by a “respectable, but noisy eccentric,” according to Yaku. He’s out and about, not an uncommon occurrence as of late, but the house is too quiet and Kenma feels unsettled. There’s nothing interesting on his dash, and he’s already completed Fire Emblem: Awakening twice this month. He lies upside-down on Yaku’s, freshly-dyed shoulder-length hair cascading down the bedside like a waterfall of mercury. He knows Yaku is with Haiba-kun; it’s not as if Yaku tried to withhold that information, so Kenma can’t quite figure out why he’s upset.
He re-adjusts himself to lie properly on the narrow mattress, and immerses himself in Yaku.
Yaku is 20 when he invites Haiba to sleep over for the first time. He calls it a “study session,” and although Kenma believes him, he knows he’s not telling the full truth. Kenma bathes first, leaving the lightswitch down to allow the streetlights into the washroom. He shrinks into the bathtub, blowing soap bubbles from the ring created by his index finger and thumb. It’s boring, and gets old quickly.
He exits the washroom in Yaku’s favorite set of pajamas, gripping the towel around his neck with an iron hold. Assigned the couch tonight, he plugs in his phone and scrolls through his dash till the device falls from his icy white fingers.
Although he’s waltzing in and out of consciousness, his heart drops a little when he hears Yaku and Haiba enter the washroom together.
He pretends not to notice when Yaku comes by later that night to kiss Kenma goodnight.
He also pretends not to hear the indecent language and suggestive noises down the hall.
Kenma is some number of years old when Yaku decides to move to Kyoto. When Yaku finishes loading the van, Kenma’s not as unhappy as he thought he’d be. He accompanies Yaku and waves their mother goodbye.
The scenery flashes by, and so do the memories. The lake where Kenma dropped his first music player, the park where Kenma, Yaku, and Kuroo always hung out, the pizza shop near campus he’d waited for Yaku in during rainy season. He glances to his right, admiring Yaku’s profile. He’d grown up an awful lot through the years. His hair is darker, and his feature have darkened. His sense of humor has slightly matured, and his taste in sweets has become much milder. He was always so mature for his age, but now, he’s more tender, more gentle. Kenma subconsciously touches his lips, and thinks about how soft Yaku’s hair, his skin, his lips have always been.
When Yaku glances toward his best friend, he flashes him a wide grin, and his eyes shine brighter than the morning sun after an entire week spent indoors. At that moment, Kenma’s eyebrows raise a little, and the corners of his lips turn upward by just a fraction of an inch.
Yaku would be lying if he said his heart didn’t flutter, just a little bit.
They arrive in the city with plenty of daylight to spare, but Kenma insists they stay inside, and Yaku has no reason to decline. They lie on the sofa, until Kenma notices Yaku’s head bobbing. He considers waking him up, just to wash up and head to the bedroom, but Kenma decides against it. He wants to try carrying him again, just for old time’s sake.
The attempt goes terribly, and Kenma ends up being carried instead.
The bed is no bigger here than at the old house, but it’s comfy, and personal. Yaku lies Kenma down, then crawls over to rest next to the wall. Kenma always preferred the edge spot, but Yaku can’t seem to dig up the reason why. The breeze coming in from the window is chilly, but not entirely unpleasant.
“Goodnight, Kenma.” Yaku shifts onto his side, and rests the back of his hand against the sheet.
Kenma faces Yaku, and places his palm atop Yaku’s, interlocking their fingers together. “Goodnight, Yaku.”
It’s some early hour before the sun decides to visit the city when Yaku might notice Kenma’s fingers slipping out of his own, and the covers shifting, pulling in the direction of the floor. In the same moment, Kenma might be too distracted by Yaku’s warmth and aroma to notice the pressure building around his eyes, and the sore, growing lump in his throat.
Yaku’s left trembling, quivering whimpers and suppressing heavy gasps and warm saltwater streams. Yaku’s cold, but his palms are sweating, despite being pressed against icy pale fingers. He considers the vast emptiness of his bed, despite there being a space only large enough for a child, before turning to face the open window. The morning air feels almost pleasant against his heated forehead.
It’s not long before Yaku is left alone in the dark, wailing into a dampened pillow, heaving labored breaths into the palm of his hand. He bites the base of his thumb, and holds his breath.
If he feels a tingling warmth press against his nape, he doesn’t say a word about it.