“What’s this about yellow things?” Yuuji asked, feeling the smile on his face grow wider. He drummed his fingers on the side of the cup of tea he held, looking around the table.
The lighting in the small cafe was warm and the tables were all close together for increased coziness levels. The cushion of the booth seat was very comfortable and Yuuji leaned back into it, the atmosphere making him feel more at home, even among these unfamiliar people. He supposed that was the point of it though, so he took a moment to give a mental thumbs up to the designer of this place before raising an eyebrow at the auburn-haired teenager sitting to his right.
Kawanishi smirked. “It’s nothing. We’ve just been teasing him about anything yellow since we started thinking there was something between you guys.”
Yuuji had a hundred things to say about that, but he held it all inside to let the story progress on its own. He had met up with the other members of the Shiratorizawa Volleyball Club for a relaxed conversation at a nearby cafe. They’d been chatting for a while and Yuuji had found it invaluable. He didn’t interact with the other players outside of shared practice sessions because he was always focused on Kenjirou. Of course, he wasn’t going to be changing that habit anytime soon, but he was still loving getting to know his boyfriend’s closest friends. They had good stories. He wondered how he was falling deeper in love just by listening to the other teenagers say his name.
Goshiki jumped in to explain further, a bright smile on his own face. “Shirabu-san automatically looks at yellow things, we think! And it’s all because of this,” he exclaimed, tugging on the sleeve of Yuuji’s yellow jacket. “He loves the color yellow now!”
Sagae scoffed. “Loves it, yeah. He’s been throwing away anything in sight that’s a close enough shade of yellow. So we’ve been gifting him a lot more yellow things to keep him occupied.”
Mental note: He associates. I can use this to my advantage.
Yuuji laughed out loud, reaching across the table to give the third year spiker a high five. “You guys are amazing! Don’t torment him too much though, okay? I need his sanity intact. That’s for me to break!” He winked at Goshiki to get his point across.
“Terushima-san, driving him crazy is our job though!” the second year giggled. “When Tendou-san graduated, he passed that duty on specifically to me and I won’t fail him!”
“You’re such a good kouhai!” Yuuji praised him with a smile. “If I can’t stop the torture, can I help it along?” He slipped out of his jacket and handed it to Goshiki. “You can add that to the pile of yellow things to plant in his room!”
Yuuji thought Goshiki’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out his head with how wide they had gotten. The younger student smiled wide and clutched the jacket.
“Wait, no, no, no.” Kawanishi shook his head. “I’m the one who has to live with him and he’s going to murder me if he finds this in the room.”
Yuuji smirked. “Redirect the blame onto me. I’m the only one at fault here.”
Kawanishi shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. Kenjirou won’t wait until he can punch you in the face. Whoever’s unlucky enough to be standing closest to him is going to be the one who gets punched in the face.”
Mental note: Always be the one standing closest to Kenjirou. I’ll feel his emotions from there.
Yuuji laughed and put up his hands in defense. “Tsutomu’s gonna do it anyway, right?”
“Yessir!” Goshiki chirped.
Kawanishi rolled his eyes but didn't say anything else.
Shibata was the next to raise his hand to flag Yuuji's attention. “Can you hang out with him more? He's less of a dick when you've been around. No matter what Kawanishi says, you can stay the night in his room if you want to. Especially if we happen to have a really tough practice the next day.”
“I will spend the night when Kenjirou says I can spend the night,” Yuuji reported. “And not a second before. I'm not pushing him into anything he doesn't want to do. Unless he's being ridiculous about it.”
“News flash, he's always being ridiculous about something or other,” Sagae rolled his eyes. “Underneath the university-level vocabulary and the nice clothes, he's a dork.”
Yuuji laughed. “Oh, don't worry, I won't take him too seriously. He can learn to loosen up a little. Nothing taking him to a couple Johzenji parties won't fix.”
“That sounds like a great way to find yourself left alone suspended upside down from a street lamp outside a government building,” Akakura said, taking a sip of his water and ignoring the look of fear he was getting from one of the team’s first years. Everyone else was used to it.
Yuuji snickered. “Call me a sap, but if he wanted to suspend me upside down from a light pole and leave me there, I'd let him.”
“And they say romance is dead,” Kawanishi said dryly.
“It's a good thing though!” Goshiki chimed in again. “He must really be in love with you if he'd do that! When he cares, he gets violent. That's why he yells at me so much. Because he wants me to do my best but he doesn't know how to say it.” Goshiki nodded like he was trying to assure himself that Kenjirou's tough love was a routine procedure.
“He's complex,” Yuuji agreed. “You guys do a good job of treating him fairly even if he isn't always the sweetest flower in the field.”
Sagae shrugged. “Eh. It’s not like he even knows what he’s doing if it can’t be chalked up to logical decisions.”
Mental note: I need to understand his emotions better than he does.
Yuuji smiled. “Well, he’s complicated. I’ll keep him out of trouble.” He laughed quietly to himself at that thought. No one would think of him being the one keeping Kenjirou out of trouble. In reality, it was going to end up being the complete opposite, Yuuji was pretty positive, but he wouldn’t let Kenjirou get lost in his emotions. He had promised himself that from day one when he had seen the setter get frustrated over not being able to express what he was feeling. Other than that, his mannerisms and apparent intellect had been impeccable. That was his only shortcoming.
It wasn’t even a flaw, Yuuji thought happily to himself. He thought Kenjirou’s lack of emotional comprehension was adorable.
“Terushima, you do know how much he obsesses over you, don’t you?” Shibata inserted, shaking Yuuji out of his daydream.
Flashing him a grin, Yuuji winked. “Are you asking if I know I’m hot stuff? Yep—”
“No, seriously,” Sagae laughed. “You’ve got him all sorts of hot and bothered. It’s hilarious to watch him think about you. That’s why we tease him with yellow stuff. It’s the only thing that’ll break him out of his routines.”
“Routines?” Yuuji knew Kenjirou had specific ways about going about life but he hadn’t asked much about it yet.
“He does everything the same way every day,” Kawanishi informed, rolling his eyes. “I’ve roomed with him for three years and he does laundry at the same time every week, he makes his bed the same every day without fail, I hardly ever have to wonder what he’s doing at any point in time because he never gets away from his little routines.”
“The only time he breaks from that,” Goshiki interrupted, looking proud, “is when he’s thinking about you.”
“It’s getting better though.” Akakura drummed his fingers on the table. “And by that I mean he’s just nudging his routine around to justify getting lost in thought about you. He must really be in love with you. Shirabu-san doesn’t change his schedule for anyone.”
Mental note: At the end of the day, he sticks with what’s familiar.
“That’s... really sweet...” Yuuji thought he was blushing. That was okay. It was a good feeling.
“Heck, he took the time to do this,” Shibata added. “This is dipping into his ever-important study time.”
Sagae laughed. “Honestly, I’m still in shock that he agreed to this. I didn’t think he’d agree to go anywhere with your team, much less without you.”
Yuuji looked out the front window of the little cafe. Two blocks away in another small lounge, Kenjirou was trapped between the rambunctious members of the Johzenji Volleyball Club. Yuuji had his phone out on the table, waiting for an enraged phone call from his boyfriend as he stormed out. It hadn’t come yet. Yuuji knocked on the wood of the table for good measure as he thought about it again. “He’s fine. I’d feel it in my soul if he died.” He smiled at the other volleyball players. “He’s chill with my guys. He didn’t act like it was all that big a deal when we talked about this.”
“Nuh-uh,” Shibata shook his head. “No way. We just talked about this; he doesn’t do anything out of his ordinary. That includes hanging out with your club. He doesn’t know anyone well there.”
“Yeah, but I assured him that it’d be fine.” Yuuji shrugged, watching the door again.
“We would’ve had to pay him,” Kawanishi said.
“I don’t know if any sum of money would be enough to get him to do that,” Sagae joked, “He’s, like, terrified of Johzenji. They’re too loud for him, you included, Terushima. It must have taken an act of God to get him to agree to this. You must really be a keeper.”
Yuuji slowly stood up from the table and took a step toward the door, smiling.
“What is it?” Goshiki tugged on the bottom of Yuuji’s shirt.
“All I had to do was tell him it was going to be fine.” Yuuji grinned and ran for the door and bolted down the street to where Kenjirou would be.
Mental note: He trusts me more than I think he does.
Kenjirou had strategically positioned himself next to Johzenji’s libero, the only member of the team that he was actually taller than. It didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it made him feel just a little bit better for now.
“Do you always drink coffee at 8 pm?” Higashiyama asked, reaching across the table to poke at Kenjirou’s cup.
“Yes,” Kenjirou said, grabbing the cup away and glaring over the rim. “Fuck you.”
Bobata laughed out loud. “Okay, okay, we get it, you’re a fun time too, not just fun to tease. Teru didn’t tell us you were such a ray of sunshine.”
“You people actually listen to what he has to say?” Kenjirou raised an eyebrow. “Seems like a poor decision to me, but I guess whatever floats your boat.”
“Here, here,” Futamata grabbed Kenjirou’s cup and switched it for his. “Have my hot chocolate instead. Maybe it’ll make you less bitter.”
“Very funny.” Kenjirou gripped his drink harder and refused to relinquish control. Why wasn’t he getting paid to be here?
“Alright, let’s get to the real business here, what do you say?” Tsuchiyu popped his knuckles. “What kind of dirt can you give us on Teru?”
“Nothing you don’t already know, I’m guessing. We’ve only been dating a few months. You’ve known him years.”
“I mean, yeah,” Numajiri leaned back in his chair. “But we’re not dating him. That’s a special privilege. We know a lot about him, but not everything. There are some things you don’t tell teammates. You tell your boyfriend though.”
“How big’s his dick?” Izaka asked a bit too loud for the quiet cafe.
Kenjirou leaned across the table and propped his chin on his fist. “Don’t fuck with me. You share a locker room with him every day. You’re well aware.”
There was some scattered laughter at the crowded table. It wasn’t crowded so much in terms of bodies in chairs, but more in terms of personality. There was way too much here for the entire cafe probably.
Izaka sat back, grinning. “Alright, you got me. Not that you know what our locker room situation even looks like.”
Kenjirou rolled his eyes. “He’s mentioned it before in one of his daily rants where he tells me exactly everything that’s happened since we last spoke in great detail. Most of it is just sappy thoughts and shit.”
“Wow, that’s fucking adorable,” Bobata smirked. “I want a daily Teru cheese report.”
Mental note: He’ll let anyone in, but few get to see who he is underneath the bravado.
Kenjirou looked down at his hands on the table.
“Is that why he doesn’t spend as much time with me anymore?” Futamata mock complained. “He’s busy telling you all his deepest darkest secrets?”
“Probably just thinks you’re annoying.”
“Try it one more time,” Kenjirou growled. The last time the Johzenji kids had tried to pull the ‘Kenjirou-chan’ card, two of them had ended up on the floor.
“Still, it’s a tragedy for any jealous soul.” Higashiyama waved dramatically. “Pretty soon he’s going to be with you forever and he’ll forget all about us.”
“Bros before hoes!” Futamata defended.
“Not when the hoe is this attractive!” Bobata gestured wildly at Kenjirou, almost smacking him in the face.
“Excuse me.” Kenjirou narrowed his eyes.
“He was kidding. We’re not jealous.” Tsucchi reached up to pat Kenjirou on the head, his expression still level.
Kenjirou exhaled forcefully, choosing not to comment on that.
Mental note: Spending time with him is the way to his heart.
“What if we kidnap Kenjirou.” Izaka put his hands on the table like he was proposing some ingenious plan.
“You don’t get to call me that,” Kenjirou grumbled, not even sure if anyone there was listening to him at all.
“Would the risk be worth the payout?” Futamata considered seriously. “Would he forgive us?”
“He forgave that one time you took that 24 pack of his favorite candy,” Tsucchi suggested.
“How many candy bars is Kenjirou-chan worth?” Futamata laughed.
Tsucchi put his hand to his chin thoughtfully. “Mm... Maybe 25 I'd imagine. You might have a harder time. That might be the limit.”
Futamata raised one eyebrow. “Well, he let it slide last week when Numajiri promised to pick him up so he could be on time for that date. We all thought he was gonna be pissed about that.” He elbowed the spiker playfully.
Numajiri nodded. “Tru dat. Sorry, by the way.” He waved at Kenjirou. “Sorry for making him late to your date last week.”
Kenjirou knew exactly what they were talking about. Yuuji had rushed to him apologizing profusely and had spent the rest of their time together trying to make it up to him but he hadn't once mentioned that Numajiri was supposed to have picked him up.
Mental note: No mistake is too great for him to forgive.
“It wasn't as bad as the time you took his phone and turned off all his alarms,” Numajiri accused Izaka.
“Why.” Izaka shrugged. “It's not like he needs them to wake up.”
“Come on , you made him miss a TV show! That's more important to him anyway.”
“Okay, that's probably true.” Izaka flicked a crumpled napkin across the table at Kenjirou. “You’ve got pretty good chances when your only competition is TV.”
“I don't need you to tell me my chances with him. I know what I'm doing.”
Higashiyama laughed. “No, you don't. We know that much, buddy boy. You don't know the first thing about relationships. That's how you ended up with Teru. It's an amateur mistake.”
“ He’s an amateur mistake in and of himself,” Tsuchiyu laughed. “I'm so glad he's not here. We need to talk shit about him more often.”
“We talk shit about him while he's with us,” Futamata pointed out. “And we talk shit about you when you're not around.”
“What's there to talk shit about? I'm an immaculate being.”
“Hey, Immaculate Being-kun, your chai is getting all over the table.”
Tsuchiyu glanced down at his tea that he'd somehow managed to spill. He cleaned it up quickly.
Numajiri looked up again. “Wait, you have a car, don't you, Kenjirou?”
“Don’t call me that.”
“You have a car, don’t you, pretty boy?”
“Fuck you,” Kenjirou growled. “But yeah. Why.”
“Because I’m tired of chauffeuring him around. It’s your turn now. He’s too crazy right now. I don’t want him; you can have him.”
“He’s crazy all the time. I don’t know what you think you’re trying to tell me but I already know. Trust me.”
“No, he’s crazier now. You see the suave boyfriend. We see a disaster. Mostly your fault. One time in my car he yanked the wheel because he saw something in a shop window that made him think of you and he wanted to buy it.”
Kenjirou bit his lip, holding back a smile. “Was it the plush duck with the vest?”
“Did he go back and fucking get it for you after I pulled over and kicked him out of my car? Why am I not surprised at all.” Numajiri threw a hand up in mock defeat.
“But did you love it more than socks printed with famous painters of the 19th century?” Bobata laughed. “He was texting me in the store that day about which one you would like more. Well, he texted me asking to borrow money so he could get you both.”
Kenjirou chuckled. “The duck was good. I liked it.”
Mental note: He does think before he acts but I need to slow him down. Love makes him reckless.
“Don't let him buy you too much useless shit,” Izaka warned. “He still has to be able to take us all out for ice cream every fourth Tuesday.”
“Oh, don't let me get in the way of that. God forbid.”
“That's the only ground rule we have to lay down.” Higashiyama put his hands folded on the table like he was arranging serious business.
“What, making sure he has enough funds for ice cream?” Kenjirou scoffed. “I don't think that should be all that difficult.”
“No, we’re talking big picture here. You can steal him from us some of the time but not all of the time.”
“Do you have to have this little chat with all of Yuuji’s dates?”
“They don’t usually last long enough for us to track them down like this,” Bobata teased. “You’re the first one who’s actually posed a threat to our bro-hood like this.”
Kenjirou rolled his eyes. “Yuuji had a new partner every other week and you know he was always busy with them.”
Futamata shook his head. “But it’s not the same. What should the penalty be for stealing Teru?”
“Maybe we kidnap him and lock him in the supply closet for a bit while we reclaim Teru for our own,” Izaka suggested.
“Medieval torture,” Tsuchiyu recommended, jabbing Kenjirou in the side with his fingers.
“Fuck off,” Kenjirou grumbled.
“Maybe we teach you how to be less of a little prick and then we don't have to worry so much about Teru needing to spend his life making sure you're comfortable.” Bobata laughed and stood up, moving to stand behind Kenjirou's chair and encircling him in a crushing hug from behind.
“Get off me!” Kenjirou struggled away from the hands of four different people trying to tickle him and stroke him while his arms were held down.
“This feels like a crime,” Numajiri chuckled. “Teru would be furious if he was here.”
Kenjirou didn't think furious fit the Yuuji he knew, though he could be pretty protective. He squirmed out of the grasp of the other teenagers, glaring daggers at them. “Don't you guys excel at breaking rules?”
Bobata shrugged. “Normally Teru doesn't care. I'm pretty sure we've lost him at least one girlfriend before but he barely batted an eye. If we even talk about you wrong, we're in the doghouse. You must really be a keeper for him to act like that.”
Kenjirou didn't want to know what they said about him that even Yuuji considered “wrong” but he was a little bit intrigued by his boyfriend's apparent behind-the-scenes caring. “Excuse me for a moment please,” Kenjirou said quietly, pushing his chair back and standing up. There was a happy tightness in his chest as he moved forward the door with quickening steps. Of course, Yuuji had told him all this before, but hearing his teammates say the same thing made it seemed a bit more real. Kenjirou wasn’t sure if he'd ever fully appreciated that and he wanted to change that.
Mental note: He feels differently about me than anyone else before.
Yuuji almost slammed into Kenjirou as he turned the corner on his way sprinting toward the other cafe.
“Woah!” Kenjirou yelled, stumbling and putting his hands out to shield himself.
Yuuji regained control just in time to gently grab Kenjirou and avoid a collision. “Kenjirou! What are you doing out here?”
“I was coming to find you!” Kenjirou was out of breath and it wasn't from running.
“Why, what happened?” Yuuji looked over Kenjirou's shoulder. “Did they do something to make you uncomfortable?”
“No, it was fine. I just wanted to come find you because... What are you doing away from the other cafe?”
Yuuji lurched forward and kissed Kenjirou hard.
Kenjirou gasped in surprise and leaned into the touch.
Pulling away, Yuuji smiled. “You matter a lot to me.”
“You matter a lot to me too.” Kenjirou blushed.
Yuuji smirked. “Do you want to leave the rest of those guys to their nonsense? We could... go somewhere to get away, just the two of us.”
Kenjirou smiled and took the hand dramatically offered to him. “I’d like that.”
“I heard through the grapevine that yellow things are your style lately? I’m flattered.”
“Where even did you find socks with works of 19th-century painters on them?”
“Dang it! I knew I should’ve gotten those for you instead! I went with the duck because of the little—”
“The little vest, yeah, you told me. You just loved the little vest and you couldn’t resist.”
“Well did you get rid of the duck? It’s yellow.” Yuuji nudged his hand against Kenjirou’s side teasingly.
Kenjirou looked away, hiding a smile. “No, I didn’t get rid of it. Why would I fucking do that.”
Mental note: He’s a keeper.