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co-parenting cats

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They’re at their last overnight volleyball camp before the Nationals qualifiers. It’s the first day of the week-long camp, and most of the team is in their shared room, getting ready for bed after a long day and a good dinner. Kuroo’s lecturing Kenma about phone use before sleep (for the thousandth time), the other second years are in the baths, Kai is unpacking some of his stuff, and Yaku’s showing the first years good stretches for aching calf muscles.

Suddenly, Lev straightens up with excitement, epiphany shining in his eyes.

“Yaku-san, you and Kuroo-san are like our volleyball parents!” He bounces in place when he says it, very much like a five year old.

Kuroo raises a brow and Yaku frowns at Lev. “What,” Yaku says.

Lev nods enthusiastically. “Yeah! You lecture us and make sure we eat well and sleep properly, and then you lecture us some more! Parents!”

Yaku gives Lev a look that clearly expresses how absurd he thinks the statement is, and it makes Kuroo want to laugh. He never gets tired of that expression. It’s one of the reasons he argued so much with Yaku in first year. “Hey now. What about Kai-san, huh?” he asks Lev, gesturing at the third senpai on their team. Kai, in the middle of unfolding his futon beside Yaku, looks up at being mentioned.

“Oh!” Inuoka actually raises his hand to contribute to the conversation. Adorable. “He’s like our cool older brother!”

Yaku turns his frown-y expression on Inuoka. “There’s no way Kai is our child.” He’s probably reliving all the times Kai waited patiently for Kuroo and Yaku to shut up. That’s definitely what Kuroo’s doing now as he nods his head in agreement to Yaku’s statement.

Shibayama raises his hand next. Why can’t Lev be like them? “I think he’s more like our grandpa!”

Both Kuroo and Yaku throw their heads back in laughter. The both of them start calling Kai old—it’s not every day they get to tease him. 

Kai just smiles back at them. “No, that makes sense,” he says, “because that would make me your parent, and I’ve certainly felt like it over these last three years.”

Kuroo and Yaku abruptly stop laughing to pout at him, betrayal on their faces. “Right, that’s why we don’t make fun of you,” Kuroo adds. Kai chuckles affably as the first years start laughing at them.

Tora bursts into the room just then, Fukunaga behind him. “What’s so funny?” He asks, looking extremely refreshed after his soak in the bath.

“Tora-san!” Lev says. “Kuroo-san and Yaku-san are like our volleyball parents, right?!”

Tora laughs. “Yeah!” He agrees easily. “They tell us to eat and they bicker like an old married couple!”

Yaku looks aggrieved, a light flush on his cheeks. “We are not like a married couple!”

“You went grocery shopping together yesterday,” Kenma says, without looking up from his phone.

“That was to get snacks for you guys,” Kuroo says. “Also, I just finished telling you to put away your phone, Kenma.”

“That was very parental,” Fukunaga says.

Tora cackles. “They’re in looooove and they’re married and they have children and that’s us!”

Yaku huffs, takes his pillow from his futon and nails Tora in the head with it. “If you guys are our kids, then I’m very disappointed in you right now,” he grumbles. “It’s disrespectful to tease your parents.”

Well, if Yaku’s gonna give it up for a lost cause, Kuroo’s gonna do it too. Parents, he thinks with a little amusement, should probably be a team. But, well… First: “Honey, you can’t just hit our kids like that!” Kuroo gasps.

Yaku scowls at him comically, pretending to be put upon. Lev looks absolutely delighted that they’ve started playing along. Everyone else has smiles on their faces, and it feels good to end a long day on a light-hearted note, so Kuroo claps his hands to get their attention.

“All right, kids! Your father and I are tired, so let’s all go to bed now.”

“But Dad ,” Tora whines jokingly. The team laughs while they all spread out futons, puff up pillows and sneak under blankets. Kuroo waits for everyone to get settled and turns out the switch by the door. His futon is closest to the switch anyways, at the edge of the group of futons, between Yaku and the door.

He lies down and then notices that Yaku is just finishing up on his phone. Never one to miss an opportunity to poke at Yaku a little, Kuroo announces out loud, “Good night, Morisuke, my lovely snickerdoodle.”

Yaku huffs rather loudly, rolling his eyes at Kuroo’s antics. “Good night , Kuroo,” he replies. There are quiet snickers around the room. Kuroo thinks that’s it, but then Yaku adds, “my dumb cuddle muffin,” and the quiet snickering turns into loud giggling.

Kuroo chuckles. Yaku’s looking at him like he’s waiting for something, face half-hidden by his blanket, and he looks really cute like that. It’s not the first time Kuroo’s found Yaku so cute, and he knows it won’t be the last. It’s going to be an experience getting to call Yaku all sorts of couple-y nicknames for however long this joke lasts, especially when a part of Kuroo wishes he could do it for real. But the yearning is worth the face Yaku makes whenever Kuroo teases him.

Yaku’s still looking at him, so he smiles. “‘Night, Yakkun,” he murmurs, just for Yaku.

Something in Yaku’s frame loosens, and he lifts his face just enough that Kuroo can see the way the corners of his mouth turn up. “G’night, Kuroo,” he replies quietly.

Kuroo’s heart aches, and he basks in the warmth in Yaku’s tone.

It’s shaping up to be a great camp.

*

Throughout the week, Kuroo and Yaku mostly continue on as if their unofficial parental statuses were never pointed out.

“Kenma, we only have an hour for lunch so you need to eat now ,” Kuroo says, when he sees his best friend ignoring his food in favour of a mobile video game.

“Put on your jacket,” Yaku says to Lev after the first year walks in shivering from the baths. “You’ll catch a cold.”

“Here, take more vegetables,” Kuroo says to Shibayama, moving some broccoli from his own plate to the reserve libero.

“You need to drink more water, damn it,” Yaku says to Fukunaga.

“Inuoka, if you run around so much, you’ll lose energy for the next match,” Kuroo calls out.

“I don’t care if it’s ‘just Karasuno’, you need to be more polite to your elders!” Yaku scolds Tora.

After being conscious about it for a whole week, though, Kuroo can admit that Lev was right about the parenting thing. Kuroo would occasionally add an ‘I’ll ground you’ for flavour, but for the most part, he doesn’t change the way he talks to his team members, and neither does Yaku, and he does pick up the parental vibes the things they say seem to have. Kuroo thinks it’s funny—it makes him feel even more fond of his team.

One thing that does change is that Kuroo one hundred percent takes advantage of the married couple joke to call Yaku the cheesiest nicknames he can muster. Yaku always gives as good as he gets, even if at the start he looks embarrassed about it.

“Honey bunches, that was an awesome receive,” Kuroo says. “Just give me your extra rice, sweet pea;” “Are you staying to practice more, munchkin?”

“Thanks, dreamboat. Your blocks were on point too,” Yaku replies. “Eat your own damn food, bunny bear;” “‘Munchkin’? Are you calling me short , jelly bean?”

By the end of the week, they lose their creativity and start defaulting to the classics. “Sweetheart,” they say. “Honey;” “Babe;” “Dear.”

Dear , Kuroo thinks, watching Yaku grin as he gets up from successfully diving to get a particularly hard ball. He had to dive and roll to get it back up, but he did it, and their side won a point. There’s nothing quite like the spark in Yaku’s eyes when he receives—it’s like he’s doing what he was born to do, and he revels in it every time.

They make eye contact, and Yaku’s face lights up. He starts heading in Kuroo’s direction, as Kuroo’s switching back in. “How'd I do, babe?” Yaku asks. The nicknames have started sounding natural coming out of his mouth. They sound real.

Kuroo can only wish as he holds up his hand in a fist. “Cool as always, dear,” he replies, and they bump fists. He catches the way Yaku beams before he turns to get his head in the game. Yeah, Kuroo thinks, dear.

*

It’s their last night at camp. Tomorrow, they’ll do more practice sets until lunch and then they’ll head back to their respective school campuses, but tonight they’re settling in, too tired to stay up and chatter for long. Kuroo, Yaku and Kai are sitting in a circle around their futons, but when Kai turns in for the night, Kuroo decides to announce official lights out for everyone.

Kuroo gets up, squints at his team to make sure they’re all ready to sleep (and pays extra attention to Kenma’s futon to make sure his face is visible instead of hiding underneath his blanket, playing video games), and then he switches off the light like he did every night for the past week.

He gets to his futon and makes himself comfortable, and then turns on his side and sees Yaku awake and looking at him.

“Are they all asleep, honey?” Yaku asks, voice low, no trace of sarcasm anywhere in his tone. God, they’d gotten so used to this. Kuroo’s not complaining.

“Yeah, dear. They did really great this week,” Kuroo replies in kind.

Yaku’s face opens with obvious pride. “They did! Shibayama’s so much more confident when he receives now.”

Kuroo snuggles into his blanket without taking his eyes off Yaku. He’d be hard-pressed to do it at any time of the day, but there’s something special about a happy Yaku, limned with moonlight.

“It’s ‘cuz he has a great libero role model senpai to learn from,” Kuroo says, smiling.

“It’s not just me,” Yaku says, looking a little bashful, “but thanks. Everyone’s improved, really. I can see a difference even in Lev’s receives. And his blocking! That’s got you written all over it.”

“Thanks,” Kuroo says. He definitely drilled into Lev during their three-on-three's with Bo, Akaashi, Tsukki and Shrimpy, so he’s glad to hear there are visible results. “I’m proud Inuoka’s gotten pretty great at keeping up with Karasuno’s ridiculous freak quick.”

“Yes! It’s so much easier to receive when he gets at least a one-touch.” Yaku looks so excited to be talking about how great his peers are, and Kuroo can relate. “Kenma does great work guessing at what they’re going to do next,” he continues, “and Tora and Fukunaga are going to be pretty fearsome hitters next year at the rate they’re going now.”

Kuroo feels a surge of pride. “We have a really great team, huh,” he states. Sometimes he still can’t believe he gets to captain them.

“Yeah, we do,” Yaku agrees easily. “All our hard work led up to the team we have now, and it feels like this is the year, y’know?” He gives Kuroo a fierce look, the look that says ‘I’ve got your back,’ that says, ‘I believe in you because I trust you.’ It’s a look that every single person on their team tries to live up to every single game, every single set, every single practice. “This is our team,” Yaku says with heavy conviction. “This is the team you, me and Kai waited for in first year, and we’re gonna go far. I can tell.”

“Yeah, this is definitely it, huh,” Kuroo replies. “I’m glad to be here, right now, with you guys. We’re definitely winning Nationals this year.”

They look at each other for a moment and just smile, basking in their shared pride, happiness, and faith in their team. Then Kuroo realizes something, and he starts chuckling, still trying to be quiet.

“What?” Yaku asks. He looks bemused but he’s still smiling, like he finds it nice that Kuroo’s obviously happy even if Yaku’s not in on it. It makes Kuroo feel warm.

“We really are their parents, aren’t we?” he says, chuckles tapering off. “Look at us, bragging about how great our children are before bed.”

Yaku snickers. “Well, I think we’re great parents,” he says, “and they’re a great family.”

“They sure are,” Kuroo replies fondly. He wants to continue their comfortable, easy back-and-forth, but his body interrupts him with a sudden yawn. When he finishes yawning, he finds Yaku looking at him with an  amused expression on his face.

“Guess we should actually sleep,” Yaku murmurs.

“Mm, yeah,” Kuroo agrees, really starting to feel the fatigue. It’s like yawning unlocked all his tiredness, and he feels his higher brain functions starting to shut off. “G’night, dear,” he whispers quietly, leaning forward.

Yaku shifts and leans up. “‘Night, sweetheart,” he returns, moving to meet Kuroo halfway.

They press their lips together in a chaste kiss, nothing more than a sweet parting kiss for the night, and then properly settle under their respective blankets.

Kuroo closes his eyes and starts to turn into his pillow, trying to hold onto the soft feeling of Yaku’s lips so that he can take it into his dreams, when he freezes with abrupt realization.

Wait a second.

He touches his lips with his fingers, pretty certain he didn’t just hallucinate how soft Yaku’s lips are, and he feels his face burst into flames. With trepidation beginning to vibrate his bones, he slowly turns his gaze back to Yaku.

Yaku’s already looking back at him, eyes wide and startled in the near dark of the room. He can’t quite tell with the way Yaku’s face is shadowed, moonlight giving him a strong backlight, but he thinks Yaku’s blushing just as hard as him.

They stare at each other, Kuroo holding his breath. He’s sure Yaku can hear his heart beating across the short expanse of the blankets and futons between them. It feels like a lifetime before Yaku blinks, and then blinks some more, and he shifts into his thinking face. He bites his lip when he deliberates, and though Kuroo usually stares a little when he does this during group study, he can’t quite bring himself to stare now.

Instead, Kuroo panics a little. Should they talk about it? They should, but he doesn’t think he can handle a huge conversation about feelings now. Even through the sudden adrenaline rush this whole… situation is giving him, he can feel the underlying fatigue from camp. They should both be clear-headed to talk about this, and right now, Kuroo just wants to sleep . Well, sleep, and kiss Yaku, but maybe first find out if he can kiss Yaku or if Yaku wouldn’t want that after all. But he won't know unless they talk and—

Oh no, the minor panic is starting to loop around.

Before he can lose himself further, something whacks his shoulder. Kuroo looks: it's a hand. It is, in fact, Yaku’s hand.

Yaku’s arm is outstretched from underneath his blanket, hand still resting close to where he whacked Kuroo. “Calm down, stupid,” he says quietly. “Tomorrow?”

Kuroo nods slowly, and before he can start to spiral about how maybe Yaku’s procrastinating a rejection, he spots Yaku’s fingers wiggle from the corner of his eye. It’s then that he notices Yaku’s hand is palm-up, fingers beckoning in a clear invitation.

An ocean of relief with a shot of giddiness rushes through Kuroo, and he smiles wide. “Tomorrow,” he whispers back. He follows up by dislodging Yaku’s arm long enough to lift his blanket, and then grabbing Yaku’s hand and hiding it underneath, close to his chest. He wriggles toward Yaku so that their arms rest at more comfortable angles, and then laces their fingers together.

When Yaku squeezes his hand, he squeezes back.

Yeah, Kuroo thinks. Dear.