Kuroo doesn’t mean for bad stuff to happen to him, they just do. It’s not his fault they come to him like a moth to flame, and frankly he would even say he’s getting a little tired of it. He’d dwell on it later, though, after he shanks the latest guy the agency has set him up with and moved on.
“I got eyes on the target,” Kuroo says into his headset, but he only gets a lazy hnn in return. Kenma…well, Kenma is a miracle of a hacker and even better with a gun, but his very bleakness and perchance for laziness had him sitting out of the front lines, instead sending in people like Kuroo who would, you know, actually pull the trigger. Kuroo thinks Kenma likes it better behind the screens, anyway, where the most exercise he got was in his fingers. “Guess I’ll shoot when I’m ready, then.”
The sniper is heavy in his hands as he readjusts his position on the roof and breathes out carefully. He looks into the scope.
The man he’s been asked to shoot is the heir to an empire, literally. The Fukurodani Company was built on fortune and good integrity, but along the way kind of…dropped off into the pits of corruption and black market dealings. This heir was supposed to make it better; change it even, but well, the people at the top knew what was coming and so here Kuroo is, assassin for hire, ready to kill whoever it is for money. He would delve into his Tragic Backstory, but he can’t be bothered right now.
“Hey, this guy is pretty cute. Do I have to shoot him?”
“Fine,” Kuroo feels a pang of regret at it, for the man in his scope is tall and beefy, with bright intelligent eyes and a shock of silver hair. There’s no doubting he’s the heir to the company, what with that trademark smile and the looks that he has, and there’s no doubting that he's young and happy and liking being alive.What a shame Kuroo got hired, he doesn’t miss, and he doesn’t let go of a mission once he's started it.
So he breathes out. Counts down from ten. The heir throws his arms wide open as he talks to a black-haired boy in the chair in front of him. He squeezes the trigger, and it’s over in a matter of seconds. The bullet shoots through the air, punches through his head, and then Kuroo is hastily dismantling his gear and shooting down the stairs. He bolts past the door and out through the side gate, where his car is already waiting for him. He throws his bag in unceremoniously and slips into the front seat, where he stops to catch his breath.
“Sorry,” he whispers.
“You should be,” someone replies, and Kuroo screams.
“Get lost," Kuroo says, tossing holy water onto the ghostly apparition for the third time that day and sighing when he doesn’t disappear. “Oh my god. I cannot believe I'm being haunted.”
Bokuto, also known as the heir Kuroo killed just over a week ago, lounges on his desk and tosses a pencil up in the air, which he cannot catch, and it falls through his palm and slams onto the desk. “I can’t believe I’m an actual ghost!" Bokuto leans forward and presses his face awkwardly against Kuroo’s.
“You’re supposed to be mad.”
Bokuto shrugs. “I’m dead anyway. I might as well have some fun with it, like this,” and he flips over Kuroo’s desk with a wave of his hand. Kuroo gapes at him. “You killed me, I get some privileges.”
“You do not get any privileges!" Kuroo scolds and flips the table back up effortlessly. “Oh man, this is exhausting. I’m tired. Are you tired? I think you’re tired. You should go back to like, Heaven. Or something.”
“No," Bokuto says gleefully, and messes up his hair.
“Kuroo, you’ve been really off lately,” his boss tells him as he sits in his office and watches over him carefully. “You've been unable to complete all of your missions for this week.”
“Yes,” Kuroo nods. “I- I may be sick. I am very sick. I am the sickest, and so I need, like, a break. Can I get a break? I need a break.”
His boss stares him down. “The last time we gave you a break, you made a rocket filled with chocolate sauce and shot it down the main street at peak hour.”
“You did?” Bokuto asks, and sits himself on his lap. Kuroo looks awkwardly through him to see his boss. If this man wasn’t someone Kuroo had just killed, he’d think it’d be pretty damn cool. Like, ghosts are real, what’s up with that? “That’s pretty cool! I once made a rocket filled with sprinkles. It exploded all over Akaashi, so tha-“
His voice dies down, and his usually translucent figure turns a little blue, as it is wont to do when Akaashi is brought up. A friend, then. A lover?
“I won’t cause another ruckus,” Kuroo scratches at his desk and sighs. “I promise. I just need a couple of days at the most.”
Bokuto brightens up again. “A couple of days isn’t going to get rid of me!” he pokes Kuroo’s cheek and laughs. “I’ve been here for two weeks and I’m getting the hang of this, you know,” he says, excitement evident in his voice. A flick of his wrist had a bunch of his papers flying off his desk.
His boss stares at the sudden tornado of papers that flies through the air. Bokuto beams at him. Kuroo snickers slightly and then remembers he’s supposed to be convincing the apparition to go away.
“Only because you’re our most accomplished,” he says, and waves his hands. “Come back next week.”
“Six shrines, and you’re not gone yet?” Kuroo asks, folding his arms across his chest and sighs. “What are you, Bhuddist?”
Bokuto blinks at him from where he’s lying on Kuroo’s bed. He rolls himself onto his chest and asks, “why do you want me gone so badly? I’m friendlyyy. You’re making me sad.”
“Because I killed you,” Kuroo drops to sit beside him and sighs. “I’m officially going insane. The first time I think a target is cute before I kill them, and the next thing I know they’re haunting me. Am I schizophrenic?”
“Heh,” Bokuto flops on top of him from where he moved to moping in a corner, but Kuroo feels no weight. He presses his forehead to Kuroo’s and watches his pupils rapidly dilate. “You thought I was cute.”
“Oh my god,” Kuroo rolls over and pushes his head into his pillow. “I regret everything. If I quit and start like, a cat cafe, will you forgive me and leave?”
“Do you want to play Monopoly?”
“What?” Kuroo looks up and stares. Bokuto points at his shelf, where there is a box of Monopoly Oikawa brought over the last time and never took back. He looks back at the man. He thinks, well, if he’s going crazy, he might as well have fun with it, and swings his legs off the bed.
“I am the best!" Bokuto prances around and throws monopoly money up into the air. “Hey, Kuroo, even when you're the only one alive you couldn’t beat me.”
“I’m trying to figure out how I lost to my imagination.” Kuroo has never lost a game of monopoly. Ever. Not even against Daichi, a living legend, who once bankrupted Oikawa and went on a fucking rampage. Hotels lined every lot. No one was safe- except for Kuroo, and his utility cards. HIs sweet, sweet utilities, where Kenma always rolled a twelve.
“I’m real!” Bokuto scolds him and flings his body at him- which suddenly has a lot of weight, and presses Kuroo down into the floor. “I’m also working on making sure I don’t fall through objects. It’s working, right?”
Kuroo blinks at him and his sudden closeness. It’s not necrophilia if he’s a ghost. It's not necrophilia if he's a ghost. “Don’t you miss being alive?”
“I miss eating,” Bokuto announces immediately, throwing his hands wide open. They nearly smack Kuroo in the face. “And I miss going to the toilet. And showering. But being alive…I feel very alive right now.”
“You’re so weird,” Kuroo laughs and bumps his hips up, throwing Bokuto to his hands and then flipping them around. Now Kuroo sits on top of him and it’s really, really weird, because there’s a definite real feeling to the way he’s straddling him, and yet…
“Ah, for fuck’s sake. So you’re real,” he gets up off of him and holds out his hand, which Bokuto takes and Kuroo nearly falls over. He’s forgotten, well, no, not forgotten, but failed to remember that Bokuto probably weighs more than him. The size of those biceps? Holy shit. “You’re real, big deal.”
“That rhymed,” Bokuto rocks back on his heels and laughs. “You know, I don’t get why you’re a hired killer. I’ve been looking, and like, you have all these science books. You could totally be doing something else.”
Kuroo’s good mood vanishes. That’s what he thought, too. He wanted to be a chemistry teacher, long ago, before he realised that this was the extent of his future. “What if I said I liked it?”
Bokuto folds his arms across his chest. “Don’t be like that,” he gripes, and a pencil flies off Kuroo’s desk and impales itself in a wall. “I know you don’t.”
"I got eyes on the target,” Kuroo says, breathing out slowly. The man in his scope is ugly. There is no chance of this one coming back to haunt him, is there? He’s conscious of Bokuto, though, sitting a few metres away from him, jangling his foot.
“Take it when you’re ready,” Kenma murmurs. That’s a lot more words than Kuroo is used to, perhaps he’s worried about his extended leave of absence.
“Okay,” he replies, and readjusts. His hand on the trigger. One heartbeat. Breathe out. One-
“Kuroo look out!” Bokuto shouts, and Kuroo jerks, drops his gun and rolls over all at once. He glares up at the offending ghost, but he’s wearing a panicked expression that has Kuroo reaching for the gun behind him and bringing it up. There’s another man on the roof. Kuroo blinks at him curiously.
“P-put the gun down,” the man’s hand is shaking. Cute.
In this kind of game, any hesitation gets you killed, and Kuroo has none.
Kuroo shoots him, and the man tumbles backwards off the roof. He turns to the man below him, who has heard the gunshot and is looking up at him. A muscle in his eye twitches. If he fails this mission-
“What are you doing? Run!” Bokuto urges him, jumping up and down.
Kuroo grabs his sniper. Aims once more. Breathe out. Breathe in. He squeezed and it went true, thank god, and his target tumbles over and falls down. Kuroo grabs his stuff and books it out of the building, Bokuto muttering darkly under his breath as he leaps stairs without looking.
“So now I’m convinced you’re real, because there’s no way I could’ve known about the guy at my back,” Kuroo raises an eyebrow as they tumble, exhausted into his apartment. “Which begs the question: why did you save me?”
Bokuto is not shy. He pokes Kuroo’s chest with a finger and says, “because you seem to be a good person.”
“I just killed two men!”
“Good person,” Bokuto insists, going off on some branch of his own personal morals. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed the brand on your back. You were sold into this?”
“I was-“ Kuroo's eyes widen. “I was…”
“You don’t have to lie to a ghost,” Bokuto huffs and bounces on his bed. “I’m just saying. You should try to leave. And like, open your cat cafe!”
No...he can’t leave. He can't-
“I can’t leave.”
“Because they’ll hurt Kenma,” Kuroo shoots him a dark look. “I can’t leave.”
How does he explain? The brand was not from being sold into this line of work it was by trying to leave another; that in the process he’d been caught and branded as a traitor. THat he’d been abandoned half dead by the side of the road, tired and bleary eyed, until Kenma had found him with a whispered word and new people were lifting him up. His new boss was not kind nor was he cruel; he was fair to those who did their work, and yet, Kuroo knows, he will not tolerate attempts of escape. Kenma is here too, Kuroo owes Kenma a life debt, really, he cannot, will not, leave him behind.
There’s a loud bang downstairs. Kuroo freezes. Bokuto yells and claps a hand over his mouth.
“Idiot, no one else can hear you,” he rolls his eyes and Bokuto laughs, but they both freeze again the bangs continue- and shit, do they sound familiar.
There are several more bangs Kuroo recognises; the sound itself has been etched onto his skin. “Run,” he whispers, and then he's grabbing Bokuto’s hand and pushing the window open, climbing out onto the fire escape. There’s a van outside with a logo he recognises as the house he was at today, shit.
“Kuroo, they can't shoot at me,” Bokuto stumbles along, dragged by his tight grip. “You can let go now.”
Kuroo stops dead and drops his hand as though he’d been burned. That's right. Bokuto was dead. For once, it actually makes him sad. Bokuto was loud and animated, emphatic and compassionate. He was actually someone that didn’t deserve to die. Gosh, Kuroo hates himself now doesn’t he? He bursts down the steps and bolts into the alleyway nearby. Kicking aside some loose bricks, he grabs the duffel he’s stashed and slings it over his shoulder.
Bokuto gapes at him.
“You knew this would happen,” Bokuto points an accusatory finger at him.
“Always be prepared,” Kuroo says, and then they run again.
They stand inside the motel, Kuroo locking the doors and drawing the curtains with worry. They weren’t that far out of town yet, but it was all he'd managed to go. Once that’s done, he turned to Bokuto with his hands on his hips.
“You’re keeping me alive,” he says, and Bokuto doesn’t deny it. He’d noticed the bullets swinging off course and the vans suddenly stopping, but given that he was, well, running, he’d refrained from pointing it out, just in case he made the ghost angry and his protection disappear.
“You’re a good person,” Bokuto insists. he walks up to him and shoves him against the door. It rattles. Kuroo wants to keep staring him down, he’s a suave, sexy assassin, but the look in those bright gold eyes, pale only from his state, has him looking away first. “Or, you could be.”
“So what, you want to see me reformed and stuff?”
“Pretty much, yeah!”
“I’m not stupid,” Bokuto mopes and moves to the corner again. This seems to happen often, his moods are fragile and change as often as the weather.
Kuroo doesn’t like it when he hits a mood, because then he becomes all sad and depressing and hijacks the speakers to loudly play depressing music on loop. So he sighs and mumbles, “you seem like a fun guy. If I was not a killer-“
Bokuto is up in a flash and crowding against him. “We could be friends?” he questions and pokes him hard in the chest. “We are friends. I kicked your ass at Monopoly, that was an initiation.”
Kuroo gapes at him. And then he laughs, and laughs, and holds onto his shoulders. “Ah, you’re such an idiot,” he says, and smiles. He presses his forehead to Bokuto’s and breathes out. He doesn’t kiss him, because you don’t kiss ghosts. But if he weren’t a ghost- maybe. Kuroo doesn’t want to think about it. “Wanna watch crappy shows on the motel’s crappy TV?”
Kuroo didn’t know it would turn out like this, because while he was watching a terrible romantic comedy on the motel’s terrible TV, laughing with Bokuto at the sheer absurdity of the entire plot and taking turns to reenact some of the best scenes (“Kubro, did you know that I…love you?” Bokubro…no, I’m in love with your…brother.”), someone had…
Kuroo stands over a grave. There’s not even a body. His face twists. His hands clench. It’s been a week, and Kenma has not come back as a ghost. Bokuto hovers in the distance, his hands hanging loosely at his sides.
“Kuroo,” Bokuto begins.
“It’s not your fault.”
“I messed up that last mission,” Kuroo snarls and turns to him. “They found out where Kenma lived because I left my apartment open. It’s my fault.”
“Kuroo,” Bokuto says again. “You can’t keep blaming yourself for this. Honour him by leaving.”
“I can’t-“ Kuroo chokes on all his ambitions and all the blood on his hands. “Why are you here? Why not Kenma? Why not my mother, or someone else, why is it out of all the people that have died around me that you are here?”
He stomps towards the gate. “Let go, Bokuto,” he says. “Just die already.”
Bokuto didn’t follow him back from the graveyard, and for once Kuroo sits in a motel, encased entirely in silence. It’s awfully quiet without the energetic ghost around, making pillows fly or the bed sheet cover Kuroo's face at the most inopportune times. Once, he'd made Kuroo’s shower go nuts, and that was not a fun experience- but it had been an experience.
He covers his face in his hands and slumps back onto his bed. He did not care for someone he killed. He killed him, he’s dead because Kuroo pulled the trigger, he’s dead and will never get to talk to whoever Akaashi is, will never get to see whoever Hinata is either. Because Kuroo ended it. He snipped the line, broke the track, cut the ribbon. He doesn’t deserve to be near the man.
He goes to bed without him.
He wakes up to Bokuto sitting at the edge of his bed, and from the time on the clock it seems to be about four in the morning. He sits up and rubs at his eyes.
“First off, that was really mean,” Bokuto holds up an imposing figure that interrupts whatever Kuroo was going to say. “So I'm mad at you. Second, I went to go see Akaashi, and he’s really sad, so now I’m mad at you even more. Thirdly, I’m even even more mad that you watched the last episode of Russian Story: The Love Gem, without me.”
Kuroo blinks at him. “So on a scale of one to ten, how mad are you?”
Bokuto thinks. “A seven.”
“I see,” he fidgets uncomfortably with his hands. “Sorry. I shouldn’t- it’s just-“
“I’m really bummed about your friend dying,” Bokuto inches further up on to the bed and looks intently at him. “I’m really, super bummed. But I can tell he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s just…waiting.”
“Kenma wouldn’t mind being dead,” he huffs and tries to laugh, but his throat is painful and it ends up as a cough. The cough turns into a sniff which turns into a sob, and then he’s crying onto Bokuto’s shoulder and whimpering. “I owed him a debt, and he died because of me.”
Bokuto holds him tightly, but although there is weight, there is no warmth. He lets him cry for a long while, and once the initial floodgates have died down, he asks, “so, in Russian Story, did he end up with the brother, the girl or the mailman?”
He startles, and his tears stop. “Oh, uh, the brother,” he hiccups, and drags a hand across his eyes. “But it turns out that the brother was actually a hermaphrodite.”
“Nice,” Bokuto nods, and Kuroo laughs in spite of everything.
He spends the next day wandering around town with Bokuto, buying supplies and such to get back to his boss so that he wouldn’t think Kuroo ditched, and it’s…it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fucking fun, Kuroo can’t stand it. Bokuto tells him that Kenma is happy and at peace and Kuroo believes him, so he buys him a little owl stuffed animal and waits till they get back to their motel to give it to him.
“It reminded me of your hair,” Kuroo explains as he gives it to him. “You know. It kind of looks like down.”
Bokuto tears up. “Bro,” he whispers, and puts a hand to his heart. “Bro, that's the sweetest thing you’ve ever given me.”
“Think of it as a forgive me present, bro,” Kuroo leans back on his hands and laughs. “You know. For the bullet in your head.”
“All good all good,” Bokuto waves, and floats the owl around. Kuroo watches him, peaceful, and that’s when he hears the tick tick tick coming from the under the bed.
He knows what it is in a heartbeat.
“Hey Bo," Kuroo asks, crawling over to him. “When I die, will I be able to find you again?”
Bokuto blinks at him. “I will definitely find you.”
“In like, a new life of something?”
“If you believe in that,” Bokuto shrugs and grins widely at him. “I’ll find you in heaven or in hell, because I am literally the best, and you are…very obvious.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, your spirit is very bright, it’s very distinguishable,” Bokuto nods solemnly. “Why're you suddenly talking about this?”
“Would you like me to die?” Kuroo asks, a hand reaching out to touch his face, then retreating just as face. No. Not now. “If I die, I can be with you and Kenma and everyone.”
“I would like you to live a little longer," Bokuto tilts his head at him. "I like watching you live. There’s so much you haven't done. You haven't gone on a rollercoaster before, have you? It’s super fun! You go all WAHH when it drops. And you told me you used to play volleyball, if I practise enough I can play with you. I was the ace!”
“Oya? The ace?” Kuroo teases and leans forward. There is only coldness when his head meets his shoulder. “I think I’ll be seeing you a lot sooner than you think.”
“Don’t you hear that?”
“The tic-“ Bokutos’ voice dies off. He leaps off the bed and then everything shakes- the closet topples over, the drapes rip, and the bed moves, revealing a small, ticking, metal box.
Kuroo eyes it with disdain. “I don’t mind.”
“I mind!” Bokuto shouts at him, and the metal box goes flying- but Kuroo catches it in his hands and holds it.
Thirty seconds, hmm?
“Hey, Bo,” Kuroo tells him. “Promise me we’ll find each other. Promise me.”
“I promise!” Bokuto screams, and lunges for the metal box. Kuroo dances out of the way.
“I’ll love you lots in the next life, okay, I won’t kill you or anything,” Kuroo says as he watches the timer count down. “I’ll send you lots of memes and we’ll play volleyball together.”
Bokuto breathes out. “You better kiss me.”
“What if I want you to kiss me?” Kuroo questions, and folds his arms across his chest. The bomb lies over his heart now. “You know, it’s weird to fall in love with the person who killed you.”
“Kuroo!” Bokuto shakes and reaches out for him just as the bomb goes off.
“My name is Bokuto Koutarou, and I'm the ace,” the boy announces, and Kuroo snickers.
“You can’t be the ace if you're only seven,” he says, but the boy does not look discouraged.
“Then I will be the ace! You’ll see. I’ll be the best ace in Miyagi, and I’ll win lots and lots of competitions,” Bokuto says firmly. “I’ll have the best team ever!”
Kuroo eyes him. He’s a little weird, and a little hyper, but- “hey, later, do you want to help me put chocolate sauce on Ishida-senpai’s towel?”
Bokuto blinks at him, and then a sly grin crosses his face. “I know how to slip away without anyone knowing.”
Kuroo’s smile splits his face. “Oho? Really? That makes us partners in crime, you know. You can’t tell anyone. We’ll be secret agents!”
“Secret agents!” Bokuto cheers, and leaps from where he’s standing on the stage, crashing into Kuroo. They both fall onto the floor laughing.
“Idiot, you can’t say it so loud. It’s got to be a secret,” Kuroo shoves him and Bokuto shoves back. They tussle on the floor and laugh when their coach tells them to knock it off. “We’ll do it during the break, okay?”
Bokuto nods. “I’ll make a distraction.”
Kuroo grins at him. “We’ll be the best partners in crime ever.”