Their living room looks like a war zone. He can tell the moment he steps into the entrance room, the brief pause to let go of his shoes and wear the slippers being as natural and casual as the “I'm home” he can't keep himself from mumbling. He can't see even a glimpse of light blue from where he stands, nor does he need to. He can tell his partner is sitting down on the sofa, bending over the coffee table where countless sheets of paper lie as though scattered by an unexpected wind. He knows for a fact his greeting has been heard, as silently as he has muttered it, just as he is sure it will take a few seconds before it is responded. He knows it, because he has been taught—domesticated, perhaps— not to fail in announcing his arrival. And he has learned in the process what he gets in reward is an always warm reply, no matter how busy or distant his partner's mind might be.
“Welcome back, Taiga-kun.”
He knew it would come, and yet, it doesn't prevent him from having a goofy smile place itself on his lips. It always takes him a moment to recover from the warmness that rises in his chest, a different kind of hot than his profession taught him exists. And as he does, he closes the gap between them in a few eager strides, stopping behind the couch for a fraction of a second, a second short enough not to slow his pace, but long enough for him to swipe his hand over messy sky blue strands as he goes. He knows he's probably going to earn a glare which will pierce through his back as he makes his way to the bathroom to get another shower and maybe, but unlikely, get rid of the smoke scent that seems to be part of him now.
He knows distracting Tetsuya when he is buried in his personal war zone is against the rules, but he also knows his partner is aware of how much a challenge is irresistible to him. Moreover, the both of them know he can't resist touching the other. He has to have it, even if it’s just a small contact like that. Even if it’s the sort of touch that attains nothing but a disruption in Tetsuya’s focused state of mind. Because, in truth,—and they both know it— it also increases the warmth that crept up in Taiga's chest the moment he heard the expected greeting. And it isn't a secret to them that now, after years of living together, he is addicted to it beyond recovery.
"Smells like Taiga-kun," the remark, probably directed to Nigou or to Tetsuya himself, doesn't fail to reach his ears before he closes the bathroom door behind him. It isn't usual for him to come home smelling of fire and smoke; in fact, being a firefighter is way less exciting and adventurous than his young adult-self had been led to believe. Even though he's still impressed by the fact that his lover, Mr. Average-Grades-In-High-School, has grown up to be a strict elementary school teacher, he hasn't taken the time to be impressed by his own development. And yet, there he is, doing mostly a teaching work himself, visiting schools and enterprises, lecturing students and employees during fire drills, eventually rescuing pets (dogs included, who knew!) from trees or places they weren't supposed to be. There he is leading a life so different from what basketball head Kagami Taiga had ever believed he would. There aren't many adventures or fire in his daily work, and when he comes home reeking of smoke it's likely thanks to a training rather than a real event. He is okay with that, now. He's been to a few tough occurrences, he's seen death and awful accidents which have hardened him in a way.
Life has taught him leading a peaceful, ordinary life is more than alright. All the fire and excitement he needs is within his reach… Buried in a pile of sheets of paper, fighting his way through the end of midterm exam correction with markers and a red pen.
“Hey, Tetsuya. Did you eat yet?”
Fresh out of the shower, he gives a proper glance to his partner. Tetsuya looks more tired than he had expected, bags under his turquoise eyes and all. Taiga spots an empty cup by the coffee table, the two yellow stripes imprinted on it grabbing his immediate attention. That makes him reconsider, not for the first time in all those years, their choice of home location. They live close to a Maji Burger franchise that is definitely way too close to their building for their own good. Thinking about their current home also leads him to think about plans they were supposed to discuss again. Plans for their future, because as much as Taiga is okay with his ordinary life with Tetsuya as it is, he knows —they both do—they could use a major change.
From east to west, from partners who live together to a married couple, from a couple living with a dog to parents. It might be a long shot, but he believes they are ready to take that chance. He was never the type to overthink things, and he still isn't, even now.
There are more pressing matters to take care of, though, he realizes as blue eyes meet his through reading lenses. Tetsuya knows he's been busted having his favorite drink as a meal, and the two of them know it's not even worth arguing about. They've been through that for countless times to have the strength to engage in a pointless discussion about healthy eating habits again.
“I could definitely use dinner with Taiga-kun after a long day of work,” is what the devious bluenette says after gracing his lover with a long, deep stare.
They both know Taiga can't win that fight. No matter how much of a fighter he is, he doesn't even try, not anymore. Instead, he just makes an attempt to give Tetsuya what should be a glare (and again, they both know he fails, they both know there's nothing but overflowing care in his ruby eyes, and they both know Tetsuya sees that better than anyone) and turns on his heels, heading to the kitchen.
A feeling of easiness similar to that which surrounds him when he's patrolling the streets in the fire truck or when he's down the basketball court playing embraces Taiga when he's in the kitchen. He could be blindfolded and still, he is sure he could pull off an amazing dish with no efforts. And so, as he quickly takes ingredients and utensils from the fridge and the cupboard, having already decided to fix something simple and nutritive for the both of them, he lets his mind wanders. It takes him back to America and, inevitably, to his brother. He recalls a conversation he had with Tatsuya long ago. The older had told him, with a touch of brotherly advice, that stray paths sometimes led them to the exact place where they belong. And ultimately, they led them to victory.
Taiga can almost see in his mind the distant glance with which his childhood friend had concluded, "so, most times, I don't think straying is a bad thing at all."
Back then, they had likely been talking about how they had parted ways and become rivals only to be reunited as friends again. As he remembers that now, however, he can't help but suspect Tatsuya had been talking about himself.
Tatsuya’s own “stray path” had led him to be the manager of his husband's catering business in San Francisco, so yes, it had taken him to victory. Taiga wonders if Tetsuya would feel excited by the prospect of having old friends living close to what would be their new home. He can imagine having his brother and his giant partner over to dinner, which maybe would be preceded by a friendly basketball match. Those thoughts make him smile in slicing fish and arranging pans.
His mind is traveling far, indeed, away from their daily routine in Tokyo, so not close from his day-to-day drills and Tetsuya’s piles of paper and books, as well as brats full of energy. Because of that, but mostly because the years they have spent together haven't taught him better, he yelps and almost sends pans flying as arms wrap around his waist and a smaller body leans against his.
“Gwah, Tetsuya!” His arms shake in the air as he reacts. “I've already told you not to do this when I'm using the stove!”
“Oh. So it is okay when you are not. Note taken, Taiga-kun.” A tighter grip and a slight graze of hair against his back.
“No, it's not! Don't sneak up on people, you bastard!” His worked up response doesn't fool either of them. “Oi, what are you doing, by the way?”
“Holding you. It is obvious, isn’t it? Are you still a big idiot by any chance?”
"Oi! Don't call me an idiot!" He puts a lid over the frying pan and glances over the rice cooker where an amount of rice which should serve over ten people is being prepared. "Why that all of a sudden?!"
“I am recharging.”
A warmth that could have been steam-induced, but certainly isn't, spreads across his chest.
All of the fire Taiga ever needed is here, clinging to him with fierce arms. He scoffs at himself for being so sappy. However, at that very moment, he's sure Tetsuya is capable of making him melt.
"Be careful, okay? A kitchen is a dangerous place. Many domestic accidents start in this room, you know?"
“Yes. You've told me that plenty of times.”
And yet, no attempt to release him from a hug Taiga is absolutely not opposed to, as much as he tries to make it seem otherwise.
“But then again, Taiga-kun, I'm sure you could handle any fire I lit. So we are good, aren't we?” As he says so, his unchanging tone covering meanings that do get across to the redhead, Tetsuya finally frees his partner from his hold and takes a step back.
Taiga pauses before turning around, for he knows his cheeks are ridiculously tinted with pink, and he's aware it won't escape the bluenette’s notice.
“Please, wear your uniform when you do that,” Tetsuya adds, fake innocent eyes lifting up to stare at flustered red ones.
“Wha-!?” His mouth hangs open for a second, but Taiga is quick to recover. Years haven't changed the fact that Tetsuya manages to surprise him, in many different ways. Be that as it may, the intimacy they have acquired makes it all so easy to handle. “Well, don't mind if I have you wear your glasses then.”
That being said, they trap themselves in each other's embrace by mutual, silent agreement. Their mouths seek for one another. And as they kiss, their tired state failing to get in the way of the passion their touch encompasses, dreams of a future that awaits them play like a movie in the back of Taiga's mind.
Kisses in a kitchen lit by the sunny rays of California sun. A bigger house, a similar routine, golden rings adorning their hands, kids playing ball in the yard.
The clinking sound of food on the verge of burning is what brings him back from both his reverie and the sweet vanilla taste of his lover's lips.
“Agh! The food!”
It's definitely a good thing that his reflexes remain as fast as they were when he was sixteen (and able to cross the court in unbelievable speed to receive Tetsuya’s stunning passes). In a swift move, he turns around and lifts the pan from the stove, shaking it slightly before putting it back down and getting a wooden spoon to stir the ingredients. He's saved their meal, but that doesn't keep him from scowling.
“I'll go set the table,” the bluenette announces, giving Taiga a soft pat on the shoulder.
This time, being left with both his thoughts and the task yet to be finished, he doesn't let his mind travel across the globe. Instead, it remains right where he is, simply getting itself lost in ideas of how he can indeed handle any fire Tetsuya lights.
All the fire and adventure Taiga ever looked for is within his reach, which makes him grin. A different setting, a new routine… They can wait. Still, honestly, can he?
No, he can't. And so, as they finally sit down, a yummy banquet presenting itself in front of them—because, obviously, there has to be a banquet. Most of it is gonna feed Taiga, who is aware of his own eating habits not to underestimate his hunger—, red eyes seek for a pair of round blue ones. The chopsticks remain untouched, as Tetsuya has seen that look in his lover’s eyes far too many times to overlook it now.
"Say, Tetsuya…" Taiga fidgets, getting as clumsy and uneasy as not even his teenage-self had ever gotten.
“You think we could work on that plan soon?”
At first, no answer comes. Tetsuya is holding his gaze, although the piercing stare he sustains is unreadable, as usual. Taiga does know what it aims to convey, though. He knows it's a lot to ask for, and almost regrets he did. But then, as he waits for a reply, his mind travels once again. This time, it takes him back in time, to a point in his life where he had thought he could make it without Tetsuya. It takes him back to his old basketball head self, back to LA and to endless months of solitude until he found out what had been missing.
Just as a shadow cannot exist without light, a light cannot be without its shadow. There was no fire or excitement on the court that could make up for Tetsuya's absence, back then. And so, he had come back to a place he'd learned to call home. He had been assured home was where Tetsuya was.
All the fire and adventure he could ever need, he would always find here, beside him. He could wait. He could postpone plans of a life in America, of a Californian sunset, of teaching their own kids basketball. He could even give up on all of that and be fine with a furry kid that took after its owner. What he couldn't ever give up was Tetsuya himself.
And he had him, right here, recovering from a casual battle that made him who he was now; the unexpected strict sensei Taiga is so proud of.
The feeling of fingertips ghosting over the back of his hand is what brings him back from his musing, this time. He senses Tetsuya tracing invisible lines in his skin and urging their hands to touch and their fingers to intertwine.
“Yes,” the bluenette finally answers, a soft smile curving his lips up and turning him into something Taiga swears is the cutest thing in the world. Then, he looks over his shoulder, casting his war zone a brief glance. "Can that wait until midterm is over if that isn't too much to ask for?"
It takes Taiga half a second to acknowledge the oath concealed in Tetsuya's smile. Silently, his partner is reassuring him. With an expression he has learned to read, even though he still takes some time to do so, Tetsuya is telling him they will make it. He's telling him he shouldn't be in a hurry. He's reminding him that there's nowhere for either of them to go if not someplace the other is at.
A beautiful future awaits, and the two of them trust that.
For now, all of the fire and adventure their presence can summon will do. It always does. It has for quite a long time.
Taiga nods, at last, a grin brightening his weary face and making Tetsuya's smile widen in response. He squeezes his lover's hand before releasing it and going for the chopsticks.
“Taiga-kun, will you ever have manners?”
The nagging ends before it begins, and so do the excuses he tries to come up with. Between mouthfuls and praising to the “delicious as usual” food, tales of a training day and remarks on the progress of the students ensue. When they are through with the meal, they only go as far as to leave the plates by the sink. There will be time for house chores; after an exhausting day, all they long for is the comfort of their spacious couch—and of the arms of one another.
“Hey, Tetsuya,” cuddling the smaller one, Taiga slouches on the couch.
“Uh… Think you could wear your glasses tonight?”
Lips brush the corner of his mouth and trace all the way to his ear.
"Yes." As Tetsuya faces him, he can see a smile on both his lips and his round eyes. "Only if you wear your uniform, though."
And so they snuggle, their plans and tiredness put aside for now. Pieces of paper still lie on the coffee table, while the faint scent of smoke is far gone.
And so they rest, caught up in a war zone of their own, where all the fire and adventure Taiga will ever need reside, secured in his arms.