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Clean and Calm

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Asahi likes to close his eyes and imagine melting into a hot bath until he feels all the tension flow out of his muscles. It’s too bad he can’t melt away the worries niggling at his brain the same way.

He missed welcoming the first years and now he feels like he’s not being a good senpai to them. He should be more of a role model, someone they can depend on! He has no confidence that he’s pulling that off.

At least they aren’t afraid of him! He’s almost completely sure they don’t believe the scary rumors about him! Asahi tries to remember that things could be much worse.

There’s still the problem that he hasn’t had the time to get to know them. Hinata is a bright bundle of energy and enthusiasm. Yamaguchi is polite but reserved, especially on his own. Kageyama will explode (not always in a bad way) if left next to Hinata too long, or go tense and cool if he’s with Tsukishima. Asahi has noticed that much, but he keeps feeling that isn’t enough.

It’s probably because he wasn’t there when they joined. Except Nishinoya was out almost as long as he was and seems to be doing just fine bonding with them. Which is good! Nishinoya is doing wonderfully! Asahi just feels a little behind.

He’s not going to stay behind, he reminds himself. Training camp means bonding and growing together and life is good. So many fears have been shed since that practice match and he can see clearly again. He’s back where he belongs.

There are moments when he thinks Suga and Daichi are like twin suns, their gravity pulling the whole team together. Of course, they’re too busy encouraging the first years’ growth to worry about him today. He’s supposed to have it together. He does have it together. He’s back in orbit now. He just worries.

While Asahi has been lost in his head, Suga and Daichi have probably been discussing something important. Whatever it is, Suga groans and sinks a little lower in the water.

“But if you think about it-”

“I’m not thinking about it,” Suga says. He flicks water at Daichi, who laughs and puts up a hand to shield himself.

Asahi feels too relaxed to push his way into whatever the disagreement is. In fact, he’s in danger of slipping down into the bath if he relaxes any further.

“I’m going to go on ahead,” Asahi tells them before climbing out of the bath. He collects his things and glances back, in case they decide to come too.

“Asahi, don’t forget to wash your hair. Don’t just rinse it,” Suga calls.

“I did.”

That gets Suga to sit up and turn around. After a beat of silence, Asahi holds up a tube of three-in-one body wash, shampoo, and conditioner to ward off the flat stare he’s getting.

“With real shampoo. Think of the people who line up next to you. Daichi might be able to get away with that, but you wanted to grow your hair out. Didn’t you learn how to take care of it first?”

“I have to take care of it?” Asahi already upgraded to add conditioner. He thought that was all he needed to do for long hair.

He’s aware that he said that badly before Daichi laughs. He would like it on record that he is aware of how that sounded before Suga makes a noise of aggravation and climbs out of the tub after him.

“Is it that bad?”

“It’s not hard to fix,” Suga points out as he gathers up his own bath things. Asahi recognizes the familiar nudge of Suga directing him from fretting to doing.

When Asahi can only nod, Suga holds out a green bottle of shampoo. “Here. You can use mine.”

“Um. Maybe I could just. . . next time. . .” This opens up a new set of insecurities. Asahi has to go out of his way to buy unscented soap because chemical musk stings his nose and he obviously can’t get away with smelling like lavender or vanilla. Maybe Nishinoya can use hair gel (he assumes it’s the hair gel) that makes him smell like tropical fruit, but Nishinoya is Nishinoya and he isn’t.

Before he can find words to explain that aren’t completely embarrassing, Suga has popped the cap off and instead of something stinging or sweet all he can smell is, faintly, soap. It should have occurred to him that Suga wouldn’t go for something overpowering.

He’s saved from making a big deal about it, but now Suga doesn’t know why he’s awkwardly frozen.

“Do you need help?”

Asahi nods without thinking and then suddenly has to over-think everything to compensate. Isn’t this childish? Isn’t it weird of him? Daichi is watching with interest. He’s no help. And he gets away with not using ‘real’ shampoo, Asahi thinks sulkily.

Suga has him sit on the tile floor and grabs a stool for himself as he takes his place behind Asahi. He deftly unties Asahi’s bun so the damp hair falls free and sticks against his neck. Asahi can’t help looking back nervously as Suga squeezes what seems like a very small amount of shampoo into his hand and caps the bottle again.

Asahi doesn’t need to be scolded to face forward. He closes his eyes as Suga starts to work the shampoo into his hair and takes a deep breath. He’s never been aware of the scent of Suga’s shampoo, but now that he is he finds it fitting. It’s clean and refreshing, like fresh laundry or a soft breeze. It’s calming.

While he’s breathing in this unexpected dose of aroma therapy, Suga’s fingers run through his hair, digging deep enough to rub his scalp. Asahi wants to lean back into Suga’s hands. He doesn’t intend to do it, but-

“Sit up straight.”

But Suga wouldn’t let him anyway.

“I told you,” Daichi says.

“I don’t care,” Suga snips brightly back at him, his hands never missing a beat.

Asahi wants to say something about how Suga is firm and dependable, but people underestimate him just because he’s not tall. And Suga might say (he won’t, but Asahi likes to imagine a conversation where he might) that they make a good pair because Asahi is mistaken for a thug when inside he’s about as rough as-

“Asahi,” Suga interrupts. “Your hair seems a little thin. If you don’t stop worrying so much, the rest of it will fall out.”

“Don’t say that!”

“I’m just warning you to stop being so negative.”

Suga’s fingers working the shampoo into a lather makes a sound almost like ‘shush, shush,’ muted by the water in his ears. The feeling of Suga massaging his scalp in firm, gentle strokes is enthralling enough to make him forget what he wanted to say. Suga’s fingers move from his forehead along his temples, over his ears, and then down towards the nape of his neck. No part of his scalp is neglected.

“I’m going on ahead,” Daichi calls, at some point long after Asahi stops thinking. “Don’t keep the second years waiting too long.”

“Okay.” Asahi lifts his head and starts to open his eyes, then scrunches them closed as if that will retroactively keep the soap out.

“We’ll catch up soon,” Suga answers, and then says to Asahi, “hold still.”

Suga gets up to grab the portable showerhead and sprays him in the forehead, making him yelp. It takes a second for him to realize this is a calculated move. Shampoo is washed back away from his eyes while clean water runs down his face.

Once his eyes are clear Suga moves the spray back, thoroughly rising his hair down to the roots. Asahi is left with his scalp tingling from the attention. He feels slightly disoriented. He doesn’t want it to be over.

“Thank you.”

“Close your eyes. I’m going to put in conditioner.”

Asahi obeys immediately.

Suga doesn’t work the conditioner down to his scalp, but spreads it through his hair one lock at a time. Even once Asahi is sure he must have finished Suga just combs fingers through his hair over and over.

The feeling of having his hair petted lulls Asahi into a calm place. He only wants to think about gentle fingers in his hair and on the back of his neck.

When Suga asks, “Still worrying?” Asahi almost doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His mind is pleasantly quiet.

Suga strokes his conditioned hair for another minute before rinsing him off again.

Asahi opens his eyes to Suga already gathering up his things. “I could do yours too,” he offers. The filter between brain and mouth has been washed a little too clean. There are bits of social awareness that would normally stall that.

“My hair is clean.”

“Right.” Asahi laughs awkwardly. He doesn’t know what he was thinking. He helps check that everything is tidied up and moves to dry off.

“Mm,” Suga sighs as he dries his hair. “I feel a lot better. Daichi’s never going to forget this, though.”

“Huh?”

“While you were spaced out he kept calling me team mom.”

Asahi often thinks of them as twin suns. They shine the brightest to him, and they bring everything together. He can easily fit them into more down-to-Earth stereotypes like that as well. He’s actually thought of this sort of thing before.

“Because we go to you for help first.” Asahi comments.

He can’t interpret the look Suga gives him and quickly tries again, “Because you’re the most reliable? You get to know everyone well and look after them.” He suspects he should have kept his mouth shut.

Suga bursts out laughing and thumps him on the back hard enough to knock the breath out of him with an audible ‘oof!’

“You’re so diplomatic! I like that better.”

Still breathless, Asahi manages a small laugh. When Suga smiles like that, head up and glowing with self-assurance, he can’t help wanting to smile too.

Asahi thinks he will have to treasure the way it felt to have Suga take care of his hair, because surely something so deep and precious is a secret he should guard. Never mind that Daichi saw half of it.

“Asahi,” Suga says, in that way that always seems to neatly cut off any scrambling before it can start.

Before Asahi can answer Suga throws a spare towel over his head and pulls with a command to bend down. When he does so Suga dries his hair, mussing it thoroughly, then briskly finger-combs it into place. By the time he’s done Asahi is bent down far enough that Suga’s forehead bumps against his.

“Don’t you dare develop a complex. It’s not a big secret, and if it made you feel that much calmer I can try it again some time.” Suga relaxes his grip on the towel and then sighs as if to say Asahi isn’t getting something. “For some reason I’m in a better mood too. Let’s not over think it.”

This is not what Asahi had set up in his head. He feels like Suga saw straight through to the middle of his worries and yanked just the right thread to unravel that whole line of thought.

He nods in agreement. He’s willing to trust Suga’s assessment. Maybe he’s is too tired and calm to worry now, but then again maybe it really can be this easy.