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Yaku Morisuke has always been short.

Similarly, he has always despised that fact.

Ever since middle school, and even more so in high school, he was mistaken for someone younger than he actually was. ‘Just wait,’ said his mother, ‘you’ll get a growth spurt eventually.’ Growth spurt his ass, he hasn’t gotten one of those since middle school, and it wasn’t even that big of one. ‘Sorry Yaku, it’s from my side of the family,’ said his dad. This was fair, at least he had owned up to it, because it was true.

His classmates and friends didn’t know how deep-rooted it was, and how he was actually insecure about it, they just said it jokingly and Yaku never corrected them. It wasn’t their fault, really. So, everyone seemed to mock him for his height. He had hoped his soulmate wouldn’t do so. Though no one knows how or why, at midnight on a person’s 16th birthday, they get writing on their wrist, almost like a tattoo. This writing, whatever it says, has something to do with your soulmate. It’s usually something like the first thing they say to you after it appears, or an inside joke you two will have, maybe a phrase they say a lot. Simply a push in the right direction, fate’s little nudge-nudge wink-wink about what future you have in store.

That didn’t work out, either.

Yaku had woken up, immediately looked at his wrist, and wanted to punch a wall. ‘Wow, you’re a third year, really?’ was written in silver on his wrist in a messy font, mocking him the longer he stared at it. Later on, Yaku would begrudgingly admit that it was kind of helpful, since he knows now that he would most likely be in his third year when he met his soulmate, but it didn’t help his anger. His teammates had laughed, to his dismay, but Kuroo had been excited for him, rambling on about ‘how lucky he was to have a romantic soulmate’.

It was a fair point, he supposed, though he was glad to have a soulmate at all. Some people didn’t have any tattoos, and he would be lying if he said that he was worried that he wouldn’t get a tattoo. Yaku was kind of a handful at times, with his temper, and he knew that.

His first and second year of high school passed in a blur, with pinpoints mostly occurring with volleyball victories and large assignments. He made strong bonds with his teammates, and he genuinely enjoyed their company. Despite how terribly they had gotten along previously, when Kuroo had gotten his tattoo, they bonded on how shit theirs were. Kuroo’s called him out on being late all the time, and his own making fun of his height.

Then, he entered his third year of high school, a mix of excitement and nerves surrounding his thoughts. ‘This was the year that he would most likely meet his soulmate,’ the angel on his right shoulder said. ‘This is the year you meet your soulmate who insulted your height,’ said the devil on his left. He decidedly ignored them both as he walked up to Kuroo, who was standing in the halls, talking to some tall person he hadn’t seen before.

“Oi, Kuroo!” He yelled as he approached, and the black-haired boy glanced over, smiling at him before handing the tall boy a flyer and apparently saying some parting words, because the tall boy was turning to leave. When he did so, Yaku did a quick once-over as they passed each other. He was extremely tall, with long, pale legs that made him seem graceful as he walked. His eyes were an alarming shade of green, and they did a short survey of him as well, it seemed. But, what startled Yaku the most was his hair - it was a strange silvery-gray. It was pretty, he supposed, but what bothered him was how eerily close the shade was to his soulmate tattoo. He elected to ignore this, though, as the boy was walking away, anyway.

“Hey, Yaku! Mind handing out flyers for club with me?” Kuroo asked as Yaku walked up to him. He nodded as he took some of the stack.

“Nice to see you too, Kuroo. My break was great, thanks for asking.” Yaku quipped as he rolled his eyes.

“Kenma!” Kuroo exclaimed, completely ignoring Yaku’s words, much to the shorter boy’s annoyance. Following Kuroo’s gaze, he saw a short boy with clearly-dyed hair and a short stature reluctantly walking up to them, his eyes glued to the floor.

“Hello, Kuro.” He said quietly, a huff escaping him as the taller boy wrapped him in a hug. A few blinks were also aimed in Yaku’s general direction as the bottle-blonde escaped the bedheaded boy’s arms.

“Welcome back, Kenma,” Yaku said, a fond grin growing involuntarily. Kenma nodded politely in acknowledgement, a small smile playing on his face.

“Thank you for making sure he didn’t die while I wasn’t here.” Kenma said in a serious tone, and Yaku laughed as Kuroo immediately whined about the ‘lack of trust’ Kenma had for the third-year.

“Anyway, who was that, from before?” Yaku asked Kuroo nonchalantly, and his friend immediately gave him a cat-like grin, which is code for ‘run-while-you-still-can’ in Yaku’s book.

“First year, interested in joining. He said something about his soulmate being involved in volleyball,” Kuroo said, a glint in his eye. “Pretty, isn’t he?”

Yaku regretted every life decision he had made up to that point - therefore, he decided to make his friend regret the decision to say that. He then unceremoniously jabbed Kuroo in the gut, causing the victim to wheeze and grab the wall for support, and Kenma to give Yaku an appraising thumbs-up. Kuroo looked between his two short friends, mild horror becoming more and more apparent on his features.

“Introducing you two was a mistake.” Kuroo blurted in a trance, as if he wanted to turn back time to a year ago when the two friends met.

“Being friends with you was a mistake.” Kenma huffed, and Yaku needed to catch his breath after laughing so hard. Kenma wasn’t usually this snarky around anyone, as Kuroo had informed him a few months after the bottle-blonde had joined the team, so Yaku always felt a bloom of pride whenever the younger boy showed him this side of himself.

The rest of their free period, they handed out a few flyers to some interesting characters, some of which were an immediate ‘no’ for Yaku because of their attitudes towards he and Kenma, as they were unsure of how ‘two small first years would get on first string’. Yaku’s gaze always turned sharp as he said “Kenma is an amazing second year setter that we are lucky to have, and I am a third year libero,” adding a mental ‘Fuck you’ to his statements.

Despite this, he couldn’t wait to get back into the gym.

“Will you do the honors, Espresso-chan?” Kuroo said, handing him the keys to the gym. Yaku took them with a grunt of annoyance, his cheeks puffing.

“Why do you insist on calling me that?” He asked rhetorically as he took the key, even though he knew Kuroo enjoyed talking about this subject very much.

“Because you’re small, concentrated, and bitter as hell.” Kuroo crowed just as Yaku unlocked the door, and Yaku jabbed him in the side.

“Don’t be an ass, Kuroo.” Yaku said with a sigh as he and Kenma entered the gym. The brunet looked around fondly, a wave of nostalgia hitting him as he went in.

“Interesting crop this year, right?” Kuroo said after he recovered from the blow, strutting into the gym proudly, a gleam in his eye.

“Definitely. Let’s win.” Yaku agreed, the gleam in his teammate’s eye now matching his own. Kuroo nodded and grinned.

Practice was going about as usual, with Yamamoto yelling and Kuroo being sly and Kenma sighing as he set for the team. He absolutely loved it. It felt like Yaku was home again, diving onto the floor and receiving the ball time after time. A large smile made its way onto his face - he had missed this.

“Pardon the intrusion!” He heard two voices say as the gym door swung open to reveal two people. One looked rather strange, with brown spiked hair and a determined smile. The other, to the interest of Yaku, was the silver-haired boy from earlier, though it looked like he all but sprinted here, as he was out of breath with his hands on his knees to brace himself. Kuroo raised an eyebrow, but casually slipped over to the two first years and took the papers they offered, a welcoming smile on his face. The poor kids didn’t know what they were getting into. After chatting them up for a bit, he heard the captain call to him.

“Oi, Yaku! Come on over!” Kuroo yelled, and Yaku trotted over with an internal groan as he half glared at Kuroo.

“What do you want, Kuroo?” Yaku said with a hint of annoyance coloring his tone as he surveyed the two new first years. The team could definitely put their height to good use if they chose to stay.

“Guys, this is team mom-” “I will kill you where you stand.” “I mean, Yaku Morisuke, our third year-.” Kuroo said to start out with, a cheeky grin on his face as he gave a saucy, obvious wink at Yaku, who rolled his eyes in annoyance. The tall brunet first year chuckled a little at their dynamic, but the other simply stared at him. Just as Kuroo was about to continue, the boy opened his mouth and made, in Yaku’s mind, a Very Big Mistake™.

“Wow, you’re a third year, really?” Was what came out of the boy’s mouth as he disregarded any personal space that Yaku had and leaned down to look at him in childlike wonder. Kuroo had simply stared at the boy and burst out laughing, either because he was Yaku’s soulmate or because of what he said to the libero. Probably both. The other first year just stood there in confusion. A small part of the older boy’s brain went, ‘So he is my soulmate. Huh. Nice.’ That small part, though, was not the part that controlled him. Therefore, instead of shaking off his anger and introducing himself properly to his soulmate, he took the opportunity that his soulmate gave him by leaning down and chopped his head. Hard.

“I am a third year libero, you beanpole!” Yaku yelled indignantly, his cheeks tinged with pink while their Captain guffawed in the background. His soulmate had cried out in pain, holding a hand to his head. The libero watched in amusement as he saw the gears turning in the younger’s mind, but his smug grin vanished as his soulmate looked at him in unabashed awe and wonder. He looked so pure and vulnerable, not a hint of insincerity in his body, and fuck, this would always work on him won’t it?

“I-uh, um?” The boy squeaked, apparently floundering to find the right words, his pale skin flushed pink. Yaku sighed, deciding to put him out of his misery.

“Yaku Morisuke.” He stated as he held out his hand to help the boy up, the corners of his lips twitching involuntarily into a small smile.

“Ah, Haiba Lev!” Lev exclaimed, his eyes widening as he suddenly remembered how to function like a normal human being. Hesitantly, his eyes wide with curiosity, Lev took Yaku’s hand and stood up. The smaller boy couldn’t help but grimace at the extreme height difference between the two of them.

“Nice to meet you, Haiba-san.” Yaku replied earnestly, as his former anger had mostly vanished.

“Adorable,” Lev breathed, but this time, his words had a rather positive effect on the recipient, whose face began to turn a dark shade of red. However, Lev flinched slightly. “S-Sorry! Don’t hit me again!”

“I won’t hit you unless you deserve it, Haiba-san.” Yaku said with an eye roll.

“And why am I Haiba-san? We’re soulmates, can’t I be Lev?” Lev whined, giving him a look at can only be described as puppy-dog eyes. Yaku felt both taken advantage of and a warm, bubbly feeling that he couldn’t shake.

“Fine, Lev, but call me Yaku-san for now. We did just meet.” The older boy stated, and he had to admit that the hurt look on Lev’s face was kind of funny.

“If you kids are done flirting, then can we start practice?” Kuroo yelled from farther in the gym. Looking around in surprise, the other first year isn’t there, either - they must have moved when he was talking to Lev.

“Shut up, Kuroo!” Yaku shouted before walking onto the court, Lev close behind him.

Lev soon became a permanent fixture in Yaku’s life during the next few months, for better or for worse. The brunet thought that it was a mix of both. His parents absolutely adored the tall boy, doting on him whenever he came over, which is often - he tutored Lev in basically every subject other than (surprisingly) math. Lev soon whined about the fact that they showed him more affection than Yaku himself, much to the elder’s chagrin. He also began to keep Lev after practice for more receives, yet another thing that he was utterly terrible at. However, he also enjoyed the company of the other Haiba family members - Alisa, though she was a bit much at times, was pleasant and fun to talk to. She also made the best tea, which was a plus.

But, no matter how slowly, Lev wormed his way into Yaku’s heart in the smallest ways. It was in the way the silver-haired boy’s eyes absolutely lit up when he finally understood that difficult chemistry equation he was struggling with. It was when he came bouncing up to Yaku after successfully hitting Kenma’s set, excitedly asking if he saw that. It was when Lev honestly spoke whatever was on his mind without a second thought, even if it wasn’t the most tactful of deliveries. It was when Yaku first came over to his house and stayed for dinner, only to find that Lev always put out cat food for the strays around the neighborhood and had gathered a small army of scruffy cats at his beck and call.

Most of his waking moments were spent with his soulmate, and Yaku couldn’t bring himself to complain, but time moved way too quickly. Suddenly, he was going to graduate in a month, and he didn’t even know how to define their relationship.

“I’m graduating next month.” Yaku stated absentmindedly as he and Lev were sitting on the latter’s back patio, petting the strays that came for food every night.

“R-Really? That soon?” Lev seemed to deflate like a balloon, his face getting unbearably sad. Yaku couldn’t help but mirror this feeling internally.

“Yeah. It’s forty-five minutes by train to get to campus.” Yaku said softly.

“So far!” Lev whined as one of the cats (Lev named it Kenma, insisting that it looked like the setter) prowled onto his lap.

“It’s not that far, Lev.” Yaku chided, his gaze sliding over to glance at the boy, who was pouting adorably.

“It’s far enough,” Lev countered sulkily. “I don’t wanna do long distance, I wish you could stay here.”

Wait.

What?

“Long-distance?” Yaku squeaked, his face turning a slight pink at what the silver-haired ‘ace’ was implying, and Lev nodded innocently, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion at the sight of Yaku’s reaction.

“Yeah! I mean, long-distance relationships are hard, but I’ll definitely do it!” Lev replied, and Yaku’s deep-fried brain tried to formulate some response.

“Since when were we dating?!” Yaku spluttered, his cheeks now a deep red, and Lev cocked his head to one side in a questioning manner.

“We’re soulmates, Yaku-san, doesn’t that mean we’re automatically dating?” Lev asked, his eyes suddenly widening in realization and his voice squeaking as he finished his sentence.

“No!” Yaku yelped. “I didn’t think so! I-I mean, you never made any relationship advances on me!”

“Whenever I tried, you hit me! I thought you just didn’t want that stuff yet!” Lev justified indignantly.

“How is calling me short flirting? You know I hate it!” Yaku fired back in frustration, his fingers pressed against his temples, but Lev reeled back as if the older boy had struck him.

“You… hate it?” Lev asked in a hushed voice. Looking over at Lev in exasperation, Yaku’s annoyed ‘yes’ was lost as he taken aback to see how earnest his soulmate looked.

“Why else would I have hit you every time you called me that?” Yaku exclaimed.

“K-Kuroo-san told me that you were a tsundere, and it was your way of showing affection?” Lev muttered sheepishly, and the look in Yaku’s gaze must have looked deadly, as Lev paled quite significantly.

“Kuroo Tetsurou is a dead man when I get my hands on him.” Yaku gravely vowed, his hands balling into fists, but his rampage was halted when he realized how eerily quiet his soulmate was being. “Lev?” Yaku asked hesitantly, concern bleeding into his tone.

“I’m sorry, Yaku-san. I didn’t know it hurt you.” Lev mumbled quietly, the cat jumping out of his lap when Lev folded in on himself, his long arms wrapped around his knees. “I think it’s a good thing, that you’re… your size.” Yaku was suddenly hit by a wave of guilt as he scooted closer to his soulmate.

“You do?” Yaku asked softly, and Lev nodded.

“I like it because I can pick you up, and you… fit nicely in my lap. I think it’s cute.” Lev finished shyly, refusing to look at the older boy, who appeared to be in shock. Without uttering another word, Yaku got up, pried Lev’s limbs away, and unceremoniously plopped himself down on Lev’s lap. The silver-haired boy sat there silently for a few moments, painfully unsure of what to do as he stared at the back of Yaku’s head. Heaving a sigh, the brunet took Lev’s arms, wrapped them around his small frame, and leaned into Lev’s chest, humming a sigh of contentment. Inhaling sharply, Lev tightened his hold on his soulmate, a huge grin on his face.

“So are we dating now?” Lev blurted, and he could feel his older teammate jolt in surprise.

“... You haven’t asked me properly.” Yaku muttered in embarrassment.

“You haven’t asked me, either.” Lev pointed out, and Yaku grudgingly admitted in his head that the silver-haired (and gorgeous) beanpole had a point. The brunet purposefully said nothing in response.

“... So are we dating now?” Lev repeated, and Yaku groaned, leaning his head back against Lev’s chest.

“Lev, I swear to god.” Yaku sighed in annoyance and embarrassment, his eyes opening to be met with an earnest pair of green eyes, and his cheeks involuntarily were stained a light pink.

“Morisuke, will you go out with me?” Lev asked hopefully, and Yaku could feel his soul leave his body. Weakly, the older boy nodded, and Lev whooped happily, pressing a kiss on Yaku’s forehead. The tan-haired boy leaned forward, his hands covering his face, and Lev laughed as he held his soulmate in his arms.

Haiba Lev would be the death of Yaku Morisuke, the latter realized as he looked up at the younger boy’s face.

For some reason, Yaku didn’t mind.

Epilogue

Yaku stepped off of the bus with a huff, a folder of stapled papers in his hand as he surveyed the university campus. He had long since stopped attending here, having graduated and all, but he wasn’t here for any such nostalgic journeys into his days of all-night-papers due the next day and the typical college student lifestyle of living off of ramen. He was here because Lev was being stupid.

Last night, Yaku had greeted his tall boyfriend as he entered their apartment, only to be responded to with a loud whine. Apparently, he had forgotten about a large paper that was due the next day and was about to complete practically all of it that night. With a loud sigh, he had left him to it, reading over parts that he was unsure about and helping him reword some phrases to make more sense. Despite all of it, the older boy was extremely proud of Lev - he was working very hard, and it was paying off. The paper was one of the best he’d written all semester. Yaku had read it in the morning over a cup of coffee.

He had nearly spat said coffee all over the paper when he realized that if he was reading the printed copy right now, then where was Lev’s copy?

Thus, he stood in front of the university’s gym with a wary determination. He had never truly met Lev’s teammates, although he went to every game. One of the managers, Airi-san, had noticed him in the stands, though, and put two and two together. After, they always sat next to each other in the stands. It was nerve-wracking, though, meeting people who worked so closely with Lev on the court. These nerve dissipated when Yaku realized that they also put up with Lev on a daily basis, so meeting Yaku couldn’t possibly be all that bad.

“Pardon the intrusion!” Yaku said politely as he stepped in the gym, peering in cautiously only for his vision to be cut off by a stray serve. Muscle memory kicked in, and he dropped the paper to his side and dove for the ball, saving it at the last second.

“One touch!” He yelled out to the people playing a 3 on 3 game. The side that he had helped were grinning as the setter set the ball and a familiar blur of gray and too much leg brought his hand down in a whip-like fashion, scoring a point for their side. At this point, Yaku had realized that he had done that all out of former habit, and that this was probably one of the weirdest introductions that he’ll be forced to do. He sighed and picked up the paper once again, trotting over to the game. Two of the people, one on each side of the net, seemed to be arguing if the point that he had helped out with should be counted or not, but they chatter was interrupted by Lev.

“Mori!” Lev yelled happily with stars in his eyes as his boyfriend approached. Yaku’s face flushed at the nickname.

“You forgot this at home, you beanpole.” Yaku huffed with a pointed look as he handed Lev his paper, who in turn gasped loudly in shock.

“B-But I could have sworn I put it in my bag this morning!” Lev pleaded, a grateful look shot his boyfriend’s way. “Thanks, babe, I’m going to put it in my bag!” He exclaimed, and pressed a peck on Yaku’s cheek before jogging over to his bag.

“So you’re the great Yaku Morisuke?” One of the players asked, an eyebrow raised in approval as he gave Yaku a once-over. He nodded in confirmation, breaking from his thoughts as he realized most eyes were on him.

“The Great?” Yaku questioned, his eyebrows furrowed, and the group of five looked at each other as if they were sharing an inside joke, which they no doubt were.

“Haiba-san practically worships the ground you walk on, from what we constantly hear.” The setter from Lev’s makeshift team clarified, a fond look on his face, and Yaku blanched, his ears a slight pink. The others were snickering at varying degrees of social politeness.

“All good things, don’t worry. It’s hard to have a day without Lev mentioning how great your recieves are, and it’s clear he wasn’t exaggerating. You should practice with us sometime.” The opposing team’s wing spiker said, a friendly smile growing.

“If it’s not any trouble, I would be happy to,” Yaku said, a small smile on his face.

“Yaku-san?” A familiar voice questioned, and he turned around to see Airi walking up to them all.

“It’s nice to see you outside of a game, Airi-san.” Yaku said politely, and Airi smiled.

“Will you be joining us today for practice?” She asked.

“Oh, will you, Mori? Please?” Lev piped up, returning from putting away his paper.

“I don’t have the appropriate clothing, Lev.” Yaku deadpanned, still slightly annoyed from Lev’s forgetful behavior from this morning, and Lev wilted, so Yaku begrudgingly added onto his statement. “Maybe tomorrow.”

“We’ll hold you to that, Yaku-san.” Airi said with a light grin, and Lev was beaming behind her.

“Will you stay and watch? You could walk me to my first class after and we could go to that cafe you like!” Lev bribed, a look of innocent hope on his face that even after all these years, Yaku can’t bring himself to say no to.

“Yeah, yeah, just go and play already.” Yaku said, but a fond look rested on his face as he looked up at the younger boy, who yelped in happiness and ran back to the court with his teammates.

As he sat down on the bench and watched his soulmate play, Yaku realized he had been looking up a lot in these past few years. Before, he had hated it. It made him feel small and weak whenever he met someone Lev’s height, like he wasn’t good enough. It’s why he always hated being so short.

But with Lev, it began to bother him less and less, especially since the night they officially became a couple, and Yaku slowly started to see the good in being short. He could save the balls on the court with ease, help keep the blood flowing for the team. He had easy access to his trademark jabs in the stomach. Internally, he noted that it was a plus that Lev liked his height. It made for the perfect spooning height for he and Lev for the cold nights in. Lev could easily place him in his lap and both parties could sit in comfort. The taller boy enjoyed surprising Yaku with carrying him bridal-style across their apartment.

With Lev, he didn’t mind looking up.

And with everything (eventually) going right when they were together, their lives were looking up, too.