When Kenma unlocks the door to his apartment, his lips bruised with kisses and his neck covered with hickeys, he doesn't realise that his life has already been turned upside down.
Right now, he doesn't care about anything beyond the man nuzzling against the nape of his neck—Tetsu, he said his name was, when they met at the bar earlier—hands slipping up the front of Kenma's shirt, long fingers stroking over his stomach. Tetsu is clumsy with his touches, but eager all the same. He captured Kenma's attention from the moment he walked into the bar, his hair messy and his posture so relaxed that it looked like he'd just shrugged off some kind of immense weight. He's managed to hold Kenma's attention all through the night too, noticing him watching and then coming over to talk. He's sharp enough to pick up on the fact that Kenma likes watching people, and he seems to like doing the same. They've already spent a couple of hours sitting at Kenma's favourite table at the corner of the bar, exchanging observations about the people around them and when Tetsu started flirting, too heavy-handed and eager, Kenma was charmed enough anyway to let it work.
This, Kenma thinks as Tetsu starts sucking another hickey onto his neck, is a different sort of way to observe people and figure out what they're like. So far, he can tell that Tetsu is a quick learner; he's good at figuring out what Kenma likes and then focusing on it. He's already found the most sensitive part of Kenma's neck and has covered it with marks, and is now steadily working on mapping the rest of his neck with kisses and bites too.
The door opens with a soft creak and Tetsu's eager momentum sends them stumbling inside until Kenma steadies them both against the wall. Tetsu doesn't even bother with the light, shutting the door behind him and leaning in to kiss Kenma again, hands resting on his sides.
Tetsu is confident about kissing, Kenma can tell, but it's clear that he wants more even though he isn't entirely sure of how to navigate it. Kenma doesn't mind. He can lead the way.
"Come on," Kenma mutters in between kisses. He covers Tetsu's hands with his own, stilling them where they're about to slide under the hem of his shirt, then curls their fingers together and squeezes gently.
"I know what I'm doing," Tetsu breathes, his words coming out a little defensive.
It's an obvious lie, but Kenma doesn't call him out on it, quieting him with a kiss instead before tugging on their joined hands. The apartment is small but Kenma can navigate it just fine in the dark, tugging on Tetsu's hand to guide him around the couch. Tetsu manages to trip over it anyway, falling onto Kenma's back where he steadies himself with a quiet laugh.
Kenma smiles despite himself, tightening his grip on Tetsu and leading him to the bedroom. Tetsu follows eagerly, letting Kenma push him back onto the bed. Climbing on top of him, Kenma leans down for another kiss. Tetsu arches up into the touch, pressing their bodies together, moaning low in his throat. Kenma kisses him again, muffling the sound and keeping it for himself.
"I want you," Tetsu whispers, his voice catching a little when Kenma grinds down against him.
"I can tell," Kenma replies, a little dry, reaching down to cup the front of Tetsu's pants. He doesn't comment on the fact that he's just the same, but Tetsu seems to understand that anyway, judging by the way he laughs quietly and grinds up against Kenma in return.
Tetsu slides his hands up the back of Kenma's shirt, pulling it up as he goes. Kenma lifts his arms, taking it off the rest of the way before tugging on the hem of Tetsu's shirt in return.
"Off," he mutters, and Tetsu is more than happy to comply, pulling his shirt over his head and tossing it aside.
Reaching for his bedside table, Kenma turns his lamp on. He blinks against the soft yellow glow of the light, turning to Tetsu and taking him in.
Tetsu's hair is somehow even messier than it was before. There's a dazed expression on his face and his eyes are dark with desire as he watches Kenma.
Leaning over to Tetsu, Kenma kisses him, slow and lingering, giving him some time to regain his bearings. Tetsu huffs softly against Kenma's lips.
"I know what I'm doing," he says again, and it sounds a little more confident this time, but Kenma still isn't convinced. Realising this, Tetsu sighs quietly and tries a different approach. "I know what I want."
Kenma hums softly, sitting back and watching Tetsu. "Tell me, then."
Grabbing Kenma by the waist and pulling him closer, Tetsu grins at him. "I want you to fuck me. That's why I'm here, right?"
Kenma smiles, holding Tetsu's face in his hands and kissing him. "I have a better idea."
"That sounds promising," Tetsu says eagerly. "If you think it's good, then it has to be."
Getting up off Tetsu's lap, Kenma kneels up and undoes his pants, pulling them down. He doesn't even need to give Tetsu directions for him to do the same, and Kenma rewards him for it by pushing him back down onto the bed and kissing him hard, taking hold of his cock and stroking firmly.
Tetsu gasps into their kiss, his hips lifting off the bed, and Kenma curls his fingers around the base of his cock, squeezing gently.
"I'm only getting started with you, so please hold out for a little longer."
"Don't tease me," Tetsu replies, with a lopsided grin that very clearly means the exact opposite.
"Don't tell me you have a hair trigger," Kenma replies, rubbing his thumb back and forth along the underside of Tetsu's cock. "That would be disappointing."
"I'm not that bad," Tetsu gasps out, digging his fingers into the sheets. "I've managed to hold out this long, haven't I?"
"Congratulations," Kenma deadpans, earning him a quiet laugh.
"So tell me what your idea is," Tetsu urges, watching as Kenma pulls his bottle of lube out of his top drawer.
"You can just sit back and watch instead," Kenma replies, slicking his fingers and spreading his knees, reaching down to push a finger into himself.
"Oh," Tetsu breathes, his eyes going wide. "I didn't think that you would—"
"Watch," Kenma replies, sliding his finger deeper into himself, letting himself adjust to it before adding a second.
He can feel Tetsu's gaze on him and he likes it; he likes the awed expression on Tetsu's face, likes the way that his mouth has fallen slightly open, likes the fact that he's clearly holding himself still so that he just sits there and watches, as he's been told to. He scissors slowly, letting out a shaky breath and squeezing his eyes shut.
"Kenma," Tetsu says, his voice a little hoarse. He swallows hard. "You look amazing."
Feeling the tips of his ears burn at the praise, Kenma opens his eyes, holding Tetsu's gaze and continuing to stretch himself slowly. He slides his fingers in and out, adding a third when he's ready, with a soft gasp that Tetsu echoes immediately.
"Are you going to ride me?" Tetsu asks, and he's breathless just talking about it. "Was that your idea? I was right, I knew you'd come up with something great, Kenma, please—"
"Quiet," Kenma mumbles, pulling his fingers out of himself and pushing Tetsu down against the headboard so that he's sitting up. Climbing onto his lap, Kenma takes hold of Tetsu's cock, stroking it slowly, then reaches into his bedside drawer again for a condom.
"Here," Tetsu replies, reaching for it. He tears the foil, his hands shaking a little, and rolls it on.
"I'm sure," Tetsu replies, a little forcefully. "I want this, Kenma, please."
Kenma doesn't ask again. He pours more lube into his hand, stroking it onto Tetsu's cock before slowly sinking down onto it.
The moan that Tetsu lets out is one of the most satisfying things Kenma has ever heard in his entire life. He's loud and appreciative, and it would be embarrassing if it weren't for the fact that Tetsu is so genuine in everything that he does. Kenma can tell that he means this, the same way he's meant everything else that he's said or done tonight. He digs his fingers into Kenma's hips, just holding him and following his movements.
Kenma sets the pace, starting off slow and giving Tetsu some time to adjust without being too obvious that it's what he's doing. He waits until Tetsu is responding to each thrust with one of his own, then picks up the pace steadily. Tetsu's cock is long and Kenma likes the way it feels, stretching him open a little further with each thrust.
Tetsu starts getting more confident, his fingers digging into Kenma's hips and pulling him down to meet each thrust. Kenma rides him hard, both hands braced on Tetsu's chest to steady himself. Tetsu bends his knees, putting his feet flat against the bed so he has more leverage, letting go with one of his hands so he can wrap it around Kenma's cock instead.
"Like that?" Tetsu asks, breathless, when Kenma lets out a soft moan. He strokes harder, pressing kisses along Kenma's shoulders. "I want to hear you even louder, Kenma, come on."
Kenma buries his face against Tetsu's shoulder, muffling his moan against it. Tetsu is close, his entire body trembling as he holds Kenma close. All it takes is a few more thrusts and he's coming with a loud cry, and Kenma follows soon after, spilling into Tetsu's hand.
"You're amazing," Tetsu pants as they pull apart. He leans in for another kiss, grinning tiredly against Kenma's lips.
"You're not bad," Kenma replies, wiping himself off and lying down beside Tetsu. He watches as Tetsu laughs, loud and unabashed, throwing his head back. It's a nice sight, he thinks to himself. One he wouldn't mind seeing again, but he isn't the type to ask for that sort of thing.
Tetsu lies down too, rolling onto his side to kiss Kenma lazily before pulling back. For a moment, Kenma wonders if he's going to say something, but Tetsu just smiles at him, pulling the blankets over both of them and shifting closer so that he can kiss over all the hickeys he's left on Kenma's neck.
He leaves at some point in the middle of the night. Kenma wakes to the feeling of the bed shifting and the sudden absence of warmth, but he doesn't move. He listens as Tetsu gets dressed and then lets himself out of the apartment, and shrugs it off to go back to sleep. If Tetsu wants to find him again, he'll know where to look. That's enough for Kenma.
Kenma wakes the next morning to his bedroom door crashing open. He sits up, blinking blearily, and pulls his covers to his chin when he realises that he's still naked.
"Get out," he tells Lev and Taketora, who are standing frozen in the doorway.
Instead, Lev pushes past Taketora to get further into the room. "Okay, I know you're not wearing pants right now but this is really important."
"It can wait," Kenma grumbles.
"Actually," Taketora says, very carefully not looking at Kenma, "it probably can't? Maybe put some pants on and come out so we can talk?"
"Is it an emergency?" Kenma frowns. "Is something wrong?"
"Just put your pants on," Taketora replies. "We'll be in the lounge room."
Kenma frowns. Lev and Taketora are both excitable in their own ways, and he's learned that most of the time, the things they consider an emergency are very different to what he would consider an emergency. Still, they both sound urgent this morning and that's enough to make Kenma worry.
He pulls his boxers on, deciding that's good enough for now, and walks out to where Lev and Taketora are sitting on the couch. Taketora looks up, holding his phone in one hand, and frowns at Kenma.
"What?" Kenma asks, more cautiously this time.
"You got laid last night, right?" Lev asks, before Taketora can speak. "Congratulations!"
Kenma frowns at both of his friends. "What."
"I told you to just leave it to me," Taketora grumbles, elbowing Lev. He holds up his phone, where it's open to some sort of news article that Kenma can't entirely read from a distance. "I'll just go ahead and assume that you don't know exactly who you brought home last night."
"His name was Tetsu, or something," Kenma replies, sitting down on the edge of the couch. He doesn't reach for Taketora's phone, as much as he's tempted to. His mind is already racing to figure out why Taketora and Lev are so concerned about this, and what the article could possibly be about.
"Tetsu," Taketora repeats. "Short for Tetsurou, maybe?"
Kenma frowns, not entirely following along. "Maybe."
"As in, Kuroo Tetsurou?" Taketora holds his phone up again, closer so that Kenma can properly look at the screen this time. There's a portrait photo of the crown prince of Nekoma, his hair slicked back and his chin tilted high, next to a grainy photo of Tetsu, from last night.
"Oh," Kenma says quietly, suddenly glad that he's sitting down. He thinks back to the messy hair from last night, and the way that Prince Tetsurou has always worn his slicked back. Suddenly, Tetsu's posture makes sense to Kenma; he actually had shrugged off a massive weight, at least for one night. Looking at the portrait of the prince, Kenma recognises his features. It's definitely the same man he brought home last night. He feels a surge of cold dread wash through him. "Are there any photos of…"
Taketora scrolls down to the next picture, of the crown prince determinedly sucking hickeys onto Kenma's neck. Kenma recognises the street in the photo, from where they stopped on their walk home, distracted by kissing each other instead.
"It's a shame I was at my sister's place last night," Lev speaks up. "I could have met the prince!"
Taketora kicks his foot, then turns to Kenma. "I haven't seen any of the articles mentioning you by name just yet."
"Yet," Kenma repeats bleakly. He knows how much of a scandal it would be causing the royal family. There are probably people working to identify him right now, so that the media can hound him and ask him questions that he isn't equipped to answer. He can feel his vision going grey as he thinks about it, and doesn't realise that Taketora is calling his name until he feels the hand resting on his shoulder.
"Kenma!" Taketora calls a little louder this time, giving his shoulder a gentle shake. "Deep breaths. It's going to be okay."
It's not, and Kenma already knows that, but before he can say as much, there's a loud knock on the door. He freezes up, looking at Taketora with wide eyes.
"I'll get it—" Lev says, rising to his feet, but Taketora grabs him by the arm and pulls him back down.
"You keep an eye on Kenma. I'll get it."
Lev frowns. "But you don't even live here!"
"Keep an eye on Kenma," Taketora repeats, walking to the door before Lev can argue.
The apartment isn't that big; Kenma might be sitting out of sight from the doorway, but he can still hear everything that's going on.
"My name is Yaku Morisuke. I'm here on behalf on the Nekoma Royal Family."
Kenma freezes up. He hears Taketora take a deep breath, and his voice is firm when he replies, "Kenma isn't here."
"Ah." If anything, Yaku sounds pleased. "So I'm in the right place, then."
Taketora splutters a little. "You—"
"I'm going to assume that your friend is home. I need to speak to him, by order of the king and queen."
Lev sits up at that, looking at Kenma, and then at the door. "The king and queen sent someone to talk to you?"
Kenma shakes his head, like he can deny this whole thing happening if he tries hard enough. He isn't ready for this. If he'd known that this was what would happen for going home with Tetsu, he never would have done it at all.
"He doesn't need any trouble," Taketora says.
"Neither does the prince," Yaku sighs. "Unfortunately, he's misstepped and that's out of our hands for now. I'm not here to blame your friend for Kuroo's bad decisions, I'm here for damage control."
"Wait here," Taketora replies, and shuts the door.
Kenma stands as Taketora walks back into the lounge, squaring his shoulders.
"It's just damage control," he mutters, not looking Taketora in the eye. "Just let me get dressed, and I'll see what he wants."
"If you don't want to, you don't have to," Taketora tells him. "I'll make him leave."
"You can't do that," Lev speaks up. "He said he's here because the king and queen gave him orders. You can't just turn him away, that's like saying no to the royal family."
"I'll do it if that's what Kenma wants," Taketora says, so firmly that Kenma believes it. If Kenma wanted, Taketora would probably cause an even bigger scene and get everyone's attention elsewhere.
It's too much trouble, though. Kenma would rather just do things as quietly and quickly as possible, so he shakes his head, already turning to go back to his room. "Give me a minute to get dressed. Let him in."
He doesn't give Taketora the time to ask if he's sure, shutting his door behind him. Taking a deep breath, Kenma does his best to pull himself together. His hands won't stop shaking as he gets dressed in jeans and a shirt, but at least he's more presentable this way than he was in his boxers. He glances at himself in the mirror, just to make sure that he doesn't look like a mess, and realises that his neck is still covered with hickeys. He pulls a hoodie out of his closet, pulling the hood up and hoping that it covers the worst of the marks.
When he opens the door, Yaku is on the couch, looking entirely at home, with his arms folded across his chest. He looks at Kenma, pausing for a moment before he rises to his feet, extending a hand. They're roughly the same height, but Yaku looks much more imposing, from his tailored suit down to the way he carries himself with confidence.
"You're Kozume Kenma."
"You're Yaku Morisuke," Kenma replies, shaking his hand very briefly. "Apparently."
Yaku sighs, gesturing for Kenma to sit before he does the same. "I'm training as Kuroo's advisor. I've been sent to bring you to the castle to speak to his parents about… this situation."
"Did Kenma break the law?" Lev asks. "Is it illegal to sleep with the prince? Are you going to throw him in prison?"
"Lev," Taketora speaks up, grabbing him by the arm. "You said that you needed to go grocery shopping this morning, didn't you?"
"I didn't say that," Lev protests, as he's pulled towards the door. "Tora, you can't make me leave, this is my house! I want to listen!"
Lev might be taller, but Taketora manages to drag him out of the door anyway, slamming it behind them loudly. Yaku, frozen with surprise, blinks in the direction of the door before he turns back to Kenma.
"Is he always so…?"
"So much?" Kenma sighs. "Yes."
Yaku lets out a quiet snort before he sits up straight, clearing his throat. "I can tell that you would prefer to keep this quiet and out of the public's attention but unfortunately, that has been taken entirely off the table ever since the photo was first uploaded. Kuroo knows that he's been irresponsible, but I'm afraid that his apologies won't suffice. I've seen enough talk online about how Kuroo should be carrying himself, as the future king. The crown will be seeking to reduce the damage done to his reputation, as much as possible."
"So what do they want me to do?" Kenma asks, putting his hands into his pockets so Yaku doesn't see the way he balls them into fists.
"As I said, I'm here to take you to the castle," Yaku replies. "You'll meet with the king and queen directly. We can leave whenever you're ready."
"Now?" Kenma asks, tensing up. He looks down at himself. "Like this?"
Yaku hums in thought. "It would help if you were better dressed."
"How am I supposed to know what to wear for a royal audience?" Kenma mutters, and Yaku laughs quietly.
"Do you have a suit? That will do."
Kenma gets up, leaving Yaku to sit on the couch, and goes to his room. He has his work suits hanging in his closet and he takes the nicest one out, looking down at it critically. He picks out his best shirt and best tie to go with it, changing into them and looking at himself in the mirror. His hair has all the regrowth he hasn't bothered to dye yet, but there's nothing he can do about that now. He considers tying his hair up, but even with the collar of his shirt buttoned up, there are still hickeys showing. He settles for wearing his hair down instead, hoping that it will cover them.
When he steps back out into the lounge room, Yaku gives him a nod of approval.
"I imagine your friends will be concerned if they come back to find you gone," Yaku hums. "Can you let one of your friends know? Possibly not the lanky one."
Kenma huffs out a quiet laugh, picking his phone up and sending a message to Taketora, just letting him know that he's gone out with Yaku and will be back later. He doesn't explain where, knowing that it's going to require a longer explanation than he has time for. He's satisfied when Taketora replies to acknowledge that he's seen the message, and will keep Lev occupied for as long as he needs to.
"I came here in a discrete car," Yaku tells him, as they walk down to the street. "I didn't want to draw any further attention. I had a feeling that you wouldn't appreciate it very much."
Nodding in thanks, Kenma sits in the passenger seat, marvelling at the interior of the car. It's elegant and built for protection at the same time. He imagines that the windscreens are probably bulletproof and he can't help but wonder what else has been put into the car to make sure that its passengers are as safe as possible. He wonders if Kuroo drives around in a car like this, but he can't imagine the prince of Nekoma being allowed to drive on his own; if Kuroo had to disguise himself and use a nickname in order to get out for one single night, Kenma doesn't imagine that he must have very much freedom outside of his duties.
He can't even imagine what it must be like, being a prince. The Nekoma royal family have been in charge of the country for centuries, but Kenma has never really given them much thought before. They've always just been there, involved enough with the kingdom that it's clear that they care, but as something abstract. Kenma can't quite wrap his head around the fact that he's meeting the people in charge of running the entire country.
"Kuroo is waiting to meet you at the castle," Yaku tells him while driving. "He'll want to talk to you before you meet his parents. He'll be full of apologies."
"Is he in trouble?" Kenma asks uncertainly.
"Oh, absolutely. He knew he'd be in trouble for this, on some level. I don't think he expected it to be quite this bad, though. Knowing that he's caused trouble for his parents is probably bad enough, but I don't think that whatever comes next is going to be very pleasant for him. Or you."
Kenma feels another wave of panic, leaving him cold. "Thanks."
"I'm not in the habit of coddling people," Yaku replies. "As far as I'm concerned, it's better to be prepared for the worst."
They're silent for the rest of the drive back to the castle, leaving Kenma to wonder what the worst possible scenario would actually be. It doesn't ease his panic at all, but he doesn't let it show either.
The castle has always looked big from a distance, but it's even bigger up close. Kenma marvels as they drive through the front gates, going around to the side of the giant building. Kuroo is standing there, clearly waiting for them. He looks nervous, Kenma realises, and it's a little comforting to know that he isn't the only one.
"Let me properly introduce you," Yaku says dryly, "to Kuroo Tetsurou, the crown prince of Nekoma."
"I am so sorry," Kuroo says immediately, looking abashed. He's wearing a regal suit, his hair slicked back as it always is in pictures. He looks much more like a prince than he looks like the Tetsu that Kenma remembers from last night. His face is flushed and he looks as genuine now as he did a few hours ago. "I didn't mean for this to happen, I thought I would be safe."
"Kuroo has been taught to be careful of the paparazzi his entire life," Yaku mutters, shaking his head. "He should have known better. Don't let him off easily, no one else here is planning to."
"Wow, you really messed up, huh?" Kenma asks, making Yaku snort quietly.
"Don't encourage Yaku," Kuroo says miserably. "He's never going to let this go."
"That should be the least of your worries," Yaku replies sternly. "This isn't just going to affect you, it's going to affect Kozume too."
Kenma freezes up at the reminder and Kuroo notices, elbowing Yaku hard.
"He's right, though." Kuroo sounds nothing like the confident, easy-going man from last night. "I was selfish, I wasn't careful even though I knew I should be, and now I've ruined your life. There's no way I'm ever going to make up for that."
Kenma sighs, holding Kuroo's gaze. "Sounds to me like you're pretty good at beating yourself up without anyone else having to help."
"Well, look at that," Yaku mutters, "he's already got you figured out."
Kuroo smiles unhappily, leading the way into the castle. "My parents want to meet with us. That sounds more terrifying than it actually is, I promise. They're nice people."
Kenma believes it, but that doesn't help him feel any more confident about this entire situation. They walk through a long corridor with beautifully painted panels, but Kenma keeps his head down, following closely behind Kuroo as Yaku brings up the rear.
The king and queen are waiting for them in a small tea room, rather than the grand hall where they attend to formal business. They're sitting at a low table, drinking tea, when Kuroo leads the way inside.
"Ah, Tetsurou." The king's eyes crinkle when he smiles, making him look kind. "Is this the boy?"
"This is Kozume Kenma," Kuroo replies. "The man I was seen with yesterday, yes."
The correction is subtle, but Kenma notices it anyway and it makes him smile where he would otherwise have frozen up. He gives Kuroo's parents a low, respectful bow. "I'm sorry for the trouble."
"Kozume-san, you don't need to apologise for things that are not your fault," Kuroo's mother tells him. "I'm sure that Tetsurou has already made it clear that he is the one responsible for the situation you have been thrown into."
"And what situation is that?" Kenma asks, looking at her. "If we're being specific? Your majesty."
Kuroo's parents exchange a look, then sigh quietly.
"You should both sit down. Yaku-san, you should stay as well."
"Well," Kuroo mutters, taking the cushion opposite his father. "That sounds promising."
With a tired smile, the king looks at Kenma. "We have always wanted the best for our son. We know that as a royal, he has little control over his life and we've always hesitated to strip away what choices he does have. With that said, it's also our responsibility to present ourselves to the subjects of our kingdom with as much dignity and respect as possible. We need to find a way to shut down the less forgiving rumours circulating about Tetsurou as a result of the photos from last night."
"Tou-sama," Kuroo interrupts, sounding a little impatient. "We both know all of that. What was your decision?"
"We will be announcing your marriage to Kozume-san to the public. If we can, we will spin it in a way that suggests you have known each other for longer."
Kenma sits back, reeling. He feels like he's suddenly adrift in a sea of noise that doesn't quite make sense to him, and he's pulled back to reality with Kuroo's hand resting on his back. Kenma flinches away from the touch, but not before noticing the way Kuroo's hand is shaking.
"If I may," Yaku speaks up, before Kuroo can reach for Kenma again, "Perhaps I'll escort Kozume-san outside where he can get some fresh air while he processes this. We'll return in a short while, so you can discuss the logistics of this plan."
"Of course," Kuroo says in a small voice, leaning back to give Kenma some more space. "Take as long as you need."
Yaku guides Kenma out of the room with a hand on his shoulder, signalling to a nearby guard who joins them.
"This is Inuoka. I'm assigning him to you for now. You don't need to speak to him if you don't want to, and you don't need to speak to me either. We're just here to keep you safe."
"And keep an eye on me," Kenma adds as they walk into a courtyard. He sits down at the edge of a bench, hugging his knees to his chest.
"Do you need us to stand out of sight, sir?" Inuoka asks, and Kenma sucks in a shaky breath, trying to find his voice again.
He settles for nodding silently, curling in on himself and trying to come to terms with the fact that his entire life is changing, and it's entirely out of his hands.
The rest of the day passes in a blur. Kenma gets officially engaged to Kuroo and the staff at the castle begin preparations for a wedding as soon as possible. The date is set for a mere week away, the formal announcement to the kingdom stating that Kuroo is impatient to marry the man that he loves, now that their secret relationship has been exposed.
"You are, of course, expected to play along," Yaku tells him as he drives Kenma home from the castle. Kuroo is sitting beside Kenma, looking stiff and uncomfortable. He's been advised that it would help for him to be seen with Kenma as often as possible before the wedding, but he's withdrawn into himself ever since Kenma flinched away from him. Kenma doesn't know what to say but right now, he's more concerned by the fact that he doesn't know what to do about the entire car full of royal guards driving behind them. All of his neighbours are going to stare, but they're probably going to stare anyway thanks to the photos from last night, and the wedding announcement. There's no way he's going to escape the attention, whether he likes it or not.
"You're tensing up again," Kuroo comments quietly. "Would it help if I wasn't here too? I can take the second car and head back if you want."
"You're meant to be appearing with Kozume," Yaku replies. "You can't just head back to the castle like that."
"What, do you think that it will help if everyone sees Kenma looking miserable because I'm hanging around?" Kuroo asks, raising his voice.
"It's fine," Kenma speaks up. "I'm not miserable. I don't mind. You're not upsetting me by being here."
Kuroo opens his mouth, looking like he's about to argue, but Yaku chooses that moment to cut in.
"Good. It's decided, then. Besides, Kozume is going to need your support to deal with the press. You might be used to them, Kuroo, but he isn't."
"What kind of press?" Kenma asks in a small voice.
"You're about to marry into the royal family," Yaku replies. "It's not that often that royals marry civilians. At least the kingdom is at peace right now and we're not spitting in the face of any potential allies, but it's still a pretty big deal. I bet every single reporter out there wants an exclusive interview."
"What do I do?" Kenma asks. "What do I say?"
"You don't have to worry about them just yet," Yaku replies. "Kuroo will keep you out of their reach for now. You can do a joint interview after the wedding, I'm sure the king and queen are already organising that."
"What about Lev and Tora?" Kenma asks.
Yaku nods. "I've already contacted them. Yamamoto is easier to speak to and I hope that you appreciate exactly what I mean by that. I've instructed him not to let anyone into the apartment, and not to speak to anyone. He said that you tend to be a private person in general, so if there was ever someone who would successfully hide the fact that they were dating a prince, it would be you. He thinks it might help your case, and we'll take as much help as we can get at the moment."
As they approach Kenma's block, all the media vans come into sight. They've clearly been waiting for him to return and as they catch sight of the royal cars, the photographers start snapping pictures.
"Relax," Yaku says, steering the car through the crowds slowly. "This much was expected. That's why we took the cars with Nekoma insignia. They're going to take photos of you as you get out of the car. Don't worry about looking in their direction. Don't stop for anyone. We've already sent guards to secure the apartment with Yamamoto's help. Once we're there, you'll be fine."
"What about after that?" Kenma asks. "Once this weekend is over and I'm trying to get to work."
"Work?" Yaku repeats. "When you're married to Kuroo, you're not going to have the time for a nine to five desk job. It's best if you email your boss now to resign. I'm sure they'll be expecting it anyway, with the wedding announcement."
"I have to quit my job too?" Kenma leans back in his seat, trying to process that. He wonders how many other changes he won't see coming.
"Yaku," Kuroo speaks up. "If he wants to work, then just let him keep his job. It's unfair, taking his whole life away from him like that."
"You're feeling guilty," Kenma murmurs.
"Because it's his fault," Yaku adds, making Kuroo flinch.
"Are you expecting me to resent you for all the changes to my life?" Kenma asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Uh." Kuroo laughs. "Is that a trick question? Of course I am. You weren't even asked to marry me, my parents just decided it for you. Now you can't even go home without being surrounded by a street full of media vans, you can't go to work the way you want to—all of this is because you just so happened to take me home. I'm not worth any of this."
Kenma hums. "You know, I always assumed that royals would be full of themselves. I'm pretty sure you were a lot more confident when I just knew you as Tetsu."
"Well, he wasn't ruining anyone's life," Kuroo laughs unhappily. "At least not consciously."
"How long are you going to keep beating yourself up over that?" Kenma asks. "It's getting boring."
Kuroo blinks in surprise. "Boring?"
Replying with a shrug, Kenma looks out the window, at all the people standing outside. "We can't change what's already happened. It's not going to help if we just sit around feeling bad about this whole situation. That sounds pretty boring to me."
Yaku barks out a laugh at that, glancing at Kenma through the rear view mirror. "Did you hear that, Kuroo? I like this guy."
Kuroo tries to smile, but it isn't very convincing. Kenma nudges him with an elbow, sighing quietly.
"You're going to do better with all of those cameras out there. I thought this was your strong suit. I need your help dealing with all those people out there."
That seems to bring Kuroo back to himself. He sits up straight, nodding at Kenma. "You're right. I'm going to play the part of proud fiancé when we step out of this car. All you have to do is follow me, okay?"
Kenma nods, finding it a little easier to breathe when Kuroo is taking charge of the situation. He can tell that if all else fails, Yaku will step in and make sure that it all goes well, but it's more reassuring when things actually follow their plan.
"You'd better get ready," Yaku tells them. "We're stopping here."
Kuroo nods, and there's a subtle shift to the way that he sets his shoulder and tilts his chin that suddenly makes him look much more charismatic than he did just a moment ago. Kenma is just as fascinated as he was last night and that helps him settle a little too; no matter what has happened since, this is still the same man who sat with him in a corner of the bar all night, who he liked enough to take home with him. He might not have done the same if he knew what it would lead to, but it's still comforting to know that the part of Kuroo that he likes is still there, under the surface.
"I'm going to hold your hand," Kuroo says, reaching his out. "I'm going to keep you close to me. We're going to walk fast to get past everyone. If you need me to slow down for any reason, just squeeze my hand, okay?"
Kenma nods, letting Kuroo link their fingers together. Kuroo's grip is firm and grounding. Kenma takes a deep breath. All he needs to do is get inside, and then Taketora and Lev will be there. He could do with some familiarity in his life at the moment.
The cameras start flashing the moment the door opens but true to his word, Kuroo sets a quick pace and doesn't stop walking. Kenma keeps up with him, glad for the excuse not to make eye contact with anyone. Yaku is walking right behind him and they have guards all around them.
He isn't prepared for the sheer amount of noise. The camera shutters, the people calling for his attention, the questions being thrown at him, the guards warning everyone to stand back and give them space. He ends up holding onto Kuroo's hand tighter without meaning to but luckily, Kuroo understands. They don't slow down, all the way to the door of Kenma's apartment, where there are guards already waiting to usher them inside.
Kenma doesn't realise he's shaking until the door is closed behind him, and then he doesn't have the time to think about anything because Taketora is walking across the room, pulling him into a tight hug.
"Hey. Breathe. You're safe now." Taketora squeezes a little tighter, then steps back, keeping his hands on Kenma. "How are you doing? I heard about the engagement. Yaku spoke to me before and explained the situation. Is there anything else that you need?"
"Some air," Kenma replies, taking a step back. He takes in Taketora's expression, full of concern, and sighs quietly. "I'm okay, Tora. This isn't really ideal, but there's no point in dwelling on that, is there?"
"So you're really marrying the prince?" Lev asks, leaning over Taketora's shoulder. He looks at Kuroo and blinks. "Oh! That's him right there."
"Yaku told us he'd be coming," Taketora mutters, shrugging a little helplessly at Kenma.
Kuroo inclines his head in greeting, smiling at both of them. "Hello."
Lev hums. "Not bad, Kenma."
"I didn't ask," Kenma sighs, feeling his ears burn with embarrassment.
Yaku steps forward, looking as comfortable in the apartment as he did earlier in the morning. "You're going to be harassed by the media every single time you leave your apartment if you stay here. Once you're married to Kuroo, you'll be staying at the castle. If you like, we can organise you to move earlier than that."
"No," Kenma replies immediately. "I've already had too much change for one day. I want to stay here."
Yaku sighs patiently. "Once you're married—"
"Fine," Kenma replies. He looks at Kuroo instead of Yaku. "It's not because I'm trying to avoid you, if that's what you're thinking. I just need to hold onto this, while I still can."
Kuroo nods. "We'll organise some security around here then. Anything I can do to make it easier to deal with the media."
"Don't forget you'll need to visit regularly," Yaku tells Kuroo. "You need to make this look as convincing as possible. For everyone's sake."
"That's just going to make things worse for Kenma, though," Kuroo protests. "They're never going to leave him alone, if they think I'm going to show up eventually and they'll have even more material. It doesn't matter if we ignore them, they're still going to be taking photos."
"Let them," Kenma answers. "They'll get bored of taking the same photos over and over again. Even if they don't, Yaku's right. It's going to be more convincing if you visit."
"Are you sure?" Kuroo asks hesitantly and Kenma sighs, frowning up at him.
"I wouldn't have said it if I wasn't sure. We'll just deal with it."
"If they really start bothering you…" Taketora begins, punching his open palm.
"You're not going to brawl with the media," Kenma tells him. "That's definitely going to make things worse."
Taketora grumbles under his breath, but he doesn't protest. Yaku looks between the two of them with an amused grin.
"You clearly have loyal friends. That will help."
"Of course," Taketora replies. "Tell us anything you need us to do and we'll do it. Anyway, Kenma, have you contacted your family yet? What are they going to do?"
"I haven't said anything to them yet." Kenma glances at Kuroo. "They live outside of the kingdom, in Fukurodani. They don't really check the news much, so I don't think they've heard yet."
"We have a good relationship with Fukurodani," Yaku says. "Chances are, there's been some sort of news about Kuroo's engagement there. Their crown prince is a close friend of Kuroo's. He'll be at the wedding. That said, I don't know if they'll announce exactly who his fiancé is. We'll make arrangements to bring your family to the wedding as well. We'll brief them on the situation—"
"Don't," Kenma shrugs. "They don't have to worry about that. I'll just tell them that I've been keeping it a secret."
Kuroo blinks with surprise. "You're going to lie to your parents?"
Kenma shrugs. "It's easier."
"You don't have to worry about it," Kenma tells him. "I'll handle it."
Sighing, Kuroo nods in agreement. "If that's what you think is best. Will we have to do anything to convince your parents that we've been dating for a while?"
Kenma shakes his head. "They're not going to ask a lot of questions. It doesn't matter if you don't know something anyway. They probably wouldn't be surprised."
Taketora snorts quietly at that. "When I said that Kenma's a private person, this is exactly what I meant. He doesn't share anything with anyone if he doesn't want to, no matter who they are."
"They're your parents," Kuroo says disbelievingly.
"My relationship with my parents is different to the one you have with yours," Kenma replies. "Obviously. You have enough to worry about. If I'm telling you that you don't have to worry about this, then don't."
"It's true," Lev adds helpfully. "If Kenma tells you to do something, then it's just easier to do it. You should probably keep that in mind if you're going to be married to him. Does it work the same way if it's the crown prince, though? Kenma, can you actually tell him what to do?"
Yaku laughs. "I'm training to become his advisor. It's my job to tell him what to do and do you think that he listens to me even half as much as he should? He might listen, but don't get used to it. If he listened as much as he should, we wouldn't be in this situation right now."
"Helpful, Yaku, thank you," Kuroo mutters, frowning at him before turning back to Kenma. "I'll let you contact your parents first and tell them whatever you think is best. Then we'll organise to bring them here for the wedding. Does that sound okay?"
"Yeah. I'll talk to them soon."
"Make sure you do," Yaku speaks up. "Don't put it off. This week is going to pass by much quicker than you'll expect. Inuoka will be assigned to you around the clock for the entire time. Kuroo will come to visit as often as he can, and you'll be needed at the castle every now and then for fittings. It's going to be busy, and the weeks that follow will be even busier once you're married. No pressure or anything, right?"
"Of course not," Kenma replies dryly, grateful that Yaku is so casual about this. It's keeping him from panicking too much just yet.
He knows he isn't going to be fully prepared for this wedding no matter what, but if he can manage to avoid spending the entire week feeling anxious, he'll take it.
True to Yaku's words, the week feels like it passes in the blink of an eye. Kenma knows that it's been busy, but when the night before the wedding arrives, he can't really remember much of it.
He knows that Kuroo has been spending a significant amount of time over at the apartment, which is empty except for the two of them and half a dozen guards outside because Lev is at work and Kenma hasn't been at work since the first day, when he submitted his letter of resignation to his waiting boss, with Inuoka following one step behind the entire time.
He and Kuroo have made attempts to talk to each other in all of the time they've had together. Kenma can feel the undercurrent of familiarity and he knows that they can get along, but it's always stifled by the awkward tension that hangs over them. At the very least, Kuroo had settled for sitting in silence and watching Kenma play video games. They've gotten used to each other's company now and that's a good start, Kenma supposes, when they're about to get married to each other.
Yaku arrives sometime after dinner to take Kenma to the castle, giving him an encouraging smile as he stands at the door. "You've done pretty well this week, considering everything. Are you ready to go?"
Kenma will be living at the castle from tomorrow. He's packed his entire room into boxes and has a bag with his essentials to take with him now. The rest will be delivered later.
Taketora, who will be moving into Kenma's room, has been spending most of his free time at the apartment this week anyway. He claps Kenma on the shoulder, offering silent support.
Taking a deep breath, Kenma looks at Yaku and nods. His wedding suit will be waiting for him in his temporary room at the castle, which he will sleep in tonight and get ready in early tomorrow morning before the wedding. After that, he'll be moving into a bigger room that he'll be sharing with Kuroo. His small, temporary room, which he has already seen, is roughly the size of the entire apartment.
The drive to the castle no longer feels quite as long, now that Kenma has started getting used to it. Kuroo is waiting for him at the castle gates, and Kenma finds that he's glad for it. Kuroo feels familiar enough now that his presence is almost comforting. He offers his arm to Kenma with a smile, walking him inside.
"You're nervous," Kenma murmurs, noticing the way Kuroo is trembling.
Kuroo laughs shakily. "I've been nervous all week."
"Yeah, well." Kenma bumps their shoulders together. "Me too. Let's try not to mess up in front of everyone tomorrow, yeah?"
When Kuroo laughs this time, it doesn't sound as forced. "That's exactly what I aim for every time there's some kind of formal event."
"In that case, you'd be pretty familiar with this sort of thing, huh?"
"You'd think it would also mean that I'm getting better at dealing with it," Kuroo mutters. He squeezes Kenma's arm and it's a little comforting. "I've got your back tomorrow. It's just the ceremony itself that we have to worry about. The reception afterwards is going to be fine."
They've already gone through a rehearsal of it. The ceremony itself is fairly short and despite their concerns, there isn't really much room for error. The ceremony is going to be broadcast live, they'll do a brief public address directly after, and the rest of the day will be spent greeting royal guests over lunch before a much more relaxed reception in the late afternoon with only the closest of guests. Taketora and Lev will be there the entire time with their sisters, and so will Kenma's parents. Everyone else will be unfamiliar, as much as Kuroo has tried talking about them. The only one that Kenma really knows anything about is Bokuto of Fukurodani, and he can tell that Kuroo is excited about him visiting.
They stop in front of Kenma's temporary room and Kuroo turns to him. "You've been amazing about this entire thing, Kenma. I really can't thank you enough."
"It's better than apologising, at least." Kenma gives him a wry grin. "We're both out of our depth here, though. Let's work it out together. That's all we can do."
"I'll do everything I can," Kuroo promises, then takes Kenma's hand to press a gentle kiss to it. "Sleep well. I'll see you tomorrow."
He turns to leave, while Kenma stands there are stares, his face burning. He lifts his hands to his cheeks, blinking with surprise.
"I brought your bag," Inuoka speaks up as he approaches. "Is everything okay?"
"Fine," Kenma mumbles, taking his bag. "Thanks."
He shuts himself in his room and sits on the edge of the bed, taking a moment to pull himself together. He has no reason to feel this flustered out of nowhere, he tells himself. The second-hand embarrassment for Kuroo doing something so ridiculous makes sense, but Kuroo has been physically affectionate for the cameras all week. He's been holding Kenma's hand every time they're outside together, or wrapping an arm around him. They've even kissed in strategic locations of Kenma's apartment, close enough to the windows that it's not obviously for the media's benefit. It makes no sense that a kiss on the hand should feel any different, just because there's no one watching.
Kenma shakes his head at himself. It's just the nerves getting to him. Nothing more than that.
The bed in this room is much more comfortable than anything he is used to. Kenma feels like he's sinking into it and it takes a while for him to feel settled enough to sleep. Even then, it doesn't come easily. He finds himself jerking awake every few minutes, just as he's about to drift off. He gives up after an hour, sitting up and unlocking his phone, hoping that he can at least play a game until he's about to select a game, he hears voices outside his door.
"It's late, your highness, you should be asleep—"
It's Inuoka, who gets interrupted by Kuroo.
"Just let me knock in case he's still awake. He might be up."
Kenma walks to the door, pulling it open. Kuroo is standing there in his pyjamas, his hair sticking up all over the place like it was when they first met.
"You're still awake too, huh?" Kenma asks, opening his door a little wider in silent invitation.
"You both need sleep," Inuoka frets. "Tomorrow is a big day."
"That's exactly why we can't get to sleep," Kuroo replies, clapping Inuoka on the shoulder on his way past.
"Relax," Kenma tells Inuoka. "I'll kick him out if he's being annoying."
Inuoka takes him seriously, judging by sheer panic in his expression.
Kuroo shuts the door behind him, grinning at Kenma. "You're picking on Inuoka, huh?"
"He makes it so easy," Kenma mutters. "He's too earnest."
Kuroo sighs, tilting his head to the side as he regards Kenma. "So. Too nervous to sleep?"
Kenma hums noncommittally. "That's why you're still up, right?"
Kuroo doesn't deny it. He sits on the edge of Kenma's bed and rubs the back of his neck. "Every time I think I'm about to drift off…"
"Yeah." Kenma sits down beside Kuroo. "Me too."
With a quiet sigh, Kuroo leans their shoulders against each other. "I could tell you about foreign policy until you fall asleep. That used to work on me, just ask Yaku."
Kenma snorts quietly. "I don't know. It could be interesting."
"You can't talk. You said you kept falling asleep but you were about to explain it all yourself." Kenma raises an eyebrow. "You clearly know enough about it yourself."
Kuroo smiles. "I need to know about it. I'm going to be the next king, you know."
"Isn't that what you have Yaku for?" Kenma shakes his head. "You're still a nerd."
"You can't just call the crown prince a nerd."
"You're a royal nerd, then."
Laughing, Kuroo shoves at Kenma, who shoves him right back. It quickly turns into a tickle fight, Kuroo laughing into Kenma's ear until they realise how close they are. Kuroo is lying on top of Kenma, one knee in between his thighs, and freezes up for a moment before pulling away. Kenma wants to stop him, to keep him from turning this into a bigger deal than it needs to be, but he has no idea what to say so he stays silent.
"Uh." Kuroo clears his throat, getting off the bed entirely. "I should really stop bothering you and just let you sleep, shouldn't I? Good night, Kenma."
He leaves Kenma alone in his room once again, even more bewildered than before. With a sigh, Kenma listens to the door click shut and stares up at the ceiling.
At least now, he can feel his exhaustion finally catching up with him. When Kenma shuts his eyes, he doesn't open them again until his alarm is buzzing and the sunrise is shining through his window.
He has all of fifteen minutes to himself before he gets swarmed with attendants to get him ready for the day. He showers as quickly as he can and uses the rest of his time to prepare himself for everything that is to come. He knows that no matter what, he's never truly going to be ready for this, but if he can at least keep himself from freezing up, he'll consider it a success.
The wedding suit that as been made for him is white, with red silk detailing on the sleeves. He has two attendants to help him into it when he can just do it himself, but he doesn't protest, letting them tug and adjust the material until it's sitting just right on him. They comb his hair, pulling it back into a small ponytail, leaving Kenma feeling a little exposed. He doesn't protest that either, glad that they at least let him put his shoes on by himself, brand new and just as white as his suit, polished to a shine. They're comfortable to walk in; everything Kenma is wearing feels incredibly comfortable individually, but it's all cancelled out by the tight coil of anxiety sitting in his stomach. He can breathe past it, and he's proud enough of himself for managing that.
"Well, you scrub up pretty well," Yaku says, walking into Kenma's room. "Your parents have arrived. The Fukurodani royal family was kind enough to make space for them on the royal jet. There isn't a lot of time, but would you like to see them?"
Kenma nods, grateful that the attendants step away to give him space. Yaku leads the way to a small tea room, similar to the one where Kenma first met the king and queen, where his parents are sitting, dressed in their best clothes.
"Kenma," his mother says, beaming at him. "I'm so glad you've found someone you love. I understand why you've never said anything but I would have liked some hints, even if you didn't say who."
"Sorry," Kenma mumbles, as his parents get up to hug him. It's been a while since he's seen them and it's comforting to be with them now, more than he realised it wold be.
"Nervous?" his father asks, giving Kenma a knowing look. "Deep breaths. We're proud of you. I'm sure your fiancé is too. I look forward to meeting him. He must be a good person."
Kenma thinks of Kuroo constantly apologising, putting Kenma's safety and comfort ahead of everything else, as often as he could. It makes him nod slowly. "He is."
Yaku knocks on the door before peering in. "Sorry for the interruption. We need to get going."
Kenma's parents walk with him to the ceremony hall, which is already filled with the other guests. Kuroo is standing at the front of the room, waiting for him in a white suit that matches Kenma's, with a red sash hanging from one shoulder that stands out brightly.
A hush falls over the room, suddenly leaving it so quiet that Kenma can hear his own footsteps as he crosses the room. His apprehension must show on his face because Kuroo smiles encouragingly, reaching a hand out once Kenma gets closer. Kenma takes it, squeezing on it gratefully, noticing in his periphery that his parents are sitting beside the king and queen.
The ceremony goes just as they rehearsed before. Kenma listens to the priest and repeats the lines he is told to, and Kuroo does the same. Their voices are steady, even though they tighten their grip on each other's hands throughout the ceremony, until they need to let go to flex their fingers. The priest notices, giving them both a warm smile before continuing.
It takes all of twenty minutes, and they're married. Kuroo and Kenma turn to each other, taking each other's hand again and leaning in for a brief kiss. The guests applaud and Kuroo smiles at Kenma, kissing his forehead.
"Thank you," he whispers into Kenma's hair. "You, uh, look really good in that suit, by the way."
Kenma snorts quietly. "You too. You look princely."
"Don't I always?" Kuroo asks with a wink.
"Absolutely not." Kenma looks down at their linked fingers and the shining, gold ring that he's wearing, just so Kuroo doesn't see his smile.
"You're right," Kuroo murmurs. "You look like one more than I do, Prince Kenma."
"Stop that." Kenma feels his ears burning with embarrassment.
"Get used to it. You're about to be introduced to the whole kingdom that way." Kuroo squeezes Kenma's hand. "Come on. One down, a few more to go."
They're interrupted by the king clearing his throat as he approaches. He smiles at them both, resting a hand on Kenma's shoulder. "Congratulations. Welcome to the family, Kozume-san."
Kenma bows as low as he can. "Thank you."
"Please, relax," the king laughs, resting his hand on Kenma's shoulder. "Tetsurou isn't the only one who wants you to feel comfortable and welcome here. We'll do everything we can to make this easier for you."
"I appreciate it," Kenma says sincerely with a smaller bow this time, and Kuroo tugs gently on his hand.
"Come on. We have to greet the kingdom. It'll be quick, I promise."
Taking a deep breath, Kenma matches Kuroo's pace. "All I need to do is make sure I don't mess up. No big deal."
Kuroo grins, glancing at him. "That's all we can do. That and enjoy these short ones. We'll have to deal with some longer appearances later."
True to Kuroo's word, this one is incredibly brief. He leads Kenma out of the castle, to the gardens in front. Kenma has always thought that they were large every time Yaku has brought him to the castle before but now, they look small by sheer virtue of the fact that they're packed with citizens of the kingdom and countless photographers, all eager to see them.
"Deep breaths. Remember to smile." Kuroo rests one hand on Kenma's back and waves with the other. Kenma tries to copy him, worried that he's a little too stiff. Kuroo rubs his hand back and forth across Kenma's back. "You're doing great."
Kenma feels his smile grow a little. The cameras keep flashing and he wonders just how many photos people need of them, and if they're ever going to get sick of taking them. Kuroo makes a brief address, introducing Kenma as his husband and thanking everyone for coming. He promises more appearances later and with that, they're done, walking back inside to take the official photographs while their guests make their way to the reception hall.
The reception itself is a little overwhelming, but Kuroo has warned Kenma that it would be. At the very least, he gets to catch up with the few guests that he knows, sitting at a table together and taking comfort in the familiarity. He hasn't seen Lev or Taketora's sisters in a long time and they're both excited to be here, recounting the entire ceremony to him and pointing out things that he was too nervous to notice the first time.
"It was beautiful, and you both look so happy together," Alisa tells him, beaming. "Congratulations on finding someone you love!"
Kenma nods silently, glancing at his parents and finding that they're smiling too.
Kuroo is apologetic when he comes to collect Kenma, taking him around the room again to meet the royals and officials from more places than he can remember at once.
"I've saved the best for last," Kuroo tells him. "Even though it's kind of killing him. Bokuto sucks at waiting."
"The prince of Fukurodani," Kenma remembers. He's easy to spot with his distinctive hair style, and easy to remember with his loud, excited voice. "Your best friend."
Kuroo smiles, inordinately pleased with Kenma just for remembering this simple fact. "You'll love him."
Truth be told, Kenma has his doubts about it because he isn't good at dealing with loud and energetic people, but he keeps the thought to himself, following Kuroo across the room and bowing to Bokuto.
"Thank you for letting my parents travel with you."
Bokuto laughs, patting him on the shoulder. "You don't have to thank me! Anything for Kuroo, and the love of his life!"
Kenma looks up at Bokuto then, and sees the man beside him watching the exchange closely.
"Bokuto-san," is all he says, but his voice is full of meaning. It's more than a little unsettling. He inclines his head at Kenma, just enough to be polite. "I'm Akaashi Keiji. Advisor to the prince."
"I want to talk to you both," Bokuto says, suddenly serious. The way he's looking at Kenma is too knowing. It makes Kenma's heart sink. "Not here, though. Later."
"This afternoon, at the smaller gathering," Kuroo decides, wrapping his arm around Kenma. It's surprisingly comforting.
"Sure." Bokuto goes back to his bright grin and loud voice. "I'm so glad I finally got to meet you! Kuroo's a lucky guy."
Kenma nods silently, letting Kuroo lean him away.
"Easy," Kuroo murmurs, pulling Kenma close and leaning in so their noses are almost touching. "He's figured out that something's going on, but he won't give it away. Breathe. Hold onto me. I'm making it look like we just want time to each other for a bit, so you can relax."
Kenma finds that he can't relax at all, with Kuroo so close to him like this. He tries his best anyway, shutting his eyes and linking their fingers to buy enough time to pull himself together.
"Okay. Let's do this."
That afternoon, Bokuto and Akaashi wait for them in the gardens while the handful of other guests sit inside. This part of the day is much more relaxed; Kuroo has taken off his sash and jacket, rolling his sleeves up. Kenma follows suit, taking his jacket off too and undoing his tie so it's a little easier to breathe.
"So," Kuroo begins. "You figured it out."
"I appreciate the fact that you didn't pose that as a question," Akaashi replies. "That would have been an insult."
"If you were secretly dating before," Bokuto says, "you would have told me about him anyway. Did your parents force him to marry you because of the photos?"
Kuroo winces. "That's pretty much it, yeah."
"There was no force," Kenma speaks up. "They spoke to us about it beforehand."
"Did you have the option to say no?" Akaashi asks, and takes Kenma's silence for the answer that it is. "Kuroo's parents are good, kind people and I doubt that they enjoyed doing this to either of you, but you didn't have a choice in the matter since the photos were leaked."
Kuroo freezes up, and Kenma clicks his tongue with irritation.
"Stop. Do you really think that's new to me, or Kuroo?" He slides his hands into his pockets, frowning. "One way or another, he's my husband now and you're about to send him into another guilt spiral. Maybe don't. This is the result of something we both did. We'll deal with it. We'll make it work."
There's a stunned silence, and then Bokuto lets out a low whistle.
"You've got pretty good taste sometimes, Kuroo."
"Sometimes," Kuroo repeats despairingly, but he's wearing a pleased grin. "Yeah. Kenma's pretty great."
Kenma finds Akaashi watching him with an approving smile, and he isn't sure why it comforts him in the way that it does. Akaashi turns his gaze to Kuroo, clearing his throats quietly.
"You could do with someone like him," he says. "Someone who isn't willing to let you get tripped up by people's doubts, not even your own."
Kuroo's grip on Kenma's waist tightens slightly before he lets go. "Maybe. I don't really want to push that responsibility onto Kenma, though. He's already done more than enough for me. I just want to get him through all these public appearances and then he can relax and not have to worry about me, or anything else except for what he wants to do."
Kenma freezes up at that. He doesn't know if Kuroo notices, but he can tell that Akaashi does, a curious lift of his eyebrow giving him away.
It's true, though. He and Kuroo haven't made any plans for what they're going to do in the long term; they've just focused on getting through the wedding and the weeks surrounding it. Everything beyond that still feels too abstract for Kenma to imagine, but he doesn't know if he can imagine them settling into a happily married life, like his parents, or even the comfortable familiarity of Kuroo's parents.
After all, as Akaashi and Bokuto pointed out, they're only doing this because they don't have a choice in the matter.
The thought sits in Kenma's chest for the rest of the evening, stubbornly reminding him that every time Kuroo puts an arm around him, or leans in to speak to him, it's just the same as when they were doing this in sight of the media throughout the week; it doesn't mean anything more than that.
None of that explains the way that later in the night, when they're both shown to the room that they'll be sharing, Kuroo waits until they're alone before taking Kenma's hands into his, pulling gently until he's close enough to kiss. His lips hover so close to Kenma's that they're almost touching, but he doesn't close the distance, sighing softly.
"If we weren't rushed into this, maybe it would have worked out the way everyone else thinks. I'd probably date you in secret."
"Sounds like a lot of trouble to me," Kenma murmurs, not leaning away from Kuroo but not leaning in either. "How would you have found me? I didn't even give you my number."
"Maybe I'd show up to your place again. Heavily disguised. You'd know it's me, though."
"If your disguise was embarrassing enough, yes," Kenma agrees, secretly thrilled at the way he makes Kuroo laugh.
"I'd explain the situation and tell you who I was, and you'd…"
Decide it was too much trouble and turn Kuroo away, Kenma thinks to himself, but he leans forward, kissing Kuroo so that he doesn't have to answer. Kuroo takes it as the answer that he wants, wrapping his arms around Kenma and kissing harder, and that's a thought that sticks in Kenma's mind; Kuroo wants to think that their scenario would work out the way they're selling it to everyone else.
"Are you starting to buy your own story?" Kenma asks in between kisses, letting Kuroo push him down onto their bed.
"I think too hard for that sort of thing," Kuroo mutters, pushing the hem of Kenma's shirt up to stroke across his stomach. "I've already asked a lot of you but if you'll just let me have this for tonight…"
Kenma hooks his legs around Kuroo's hips and hopes that his blush isn't as obvious as it feels. "It's fine. I don't mind playing along."
Kenma doesn't really know what to do about it the next morning. He isn't a morning person but his environment is too strange and new for him to stay in bed. Besides, Kuroo is still there, naked and sleeping with his face in between two pillows. Kenma slips out of bed and into his underwear, taking one of the robes hanging from the wall and wrapping it around him as he goes through the rest of the belongings that have been brought here for him. He finds a pair of jeans and a comfortable shirt and changes into those before he opens the door.
Yaku is standing there in Inuoka's place, arms folded across his chest, as if he's been waiting for Kenma.
"Breakfast?" Yaku offers. "We'll sit in the garden."
Kenma nods, following Yaku through the castle and to a table set up in the garden. There are already royal servants waiting with hot food and Kenma glances over at Yaku.
"I thought you might need some space from Kuroo this morning," Yaku replies. "I didn't think you'd feel particularly comfortable wandering the castle alone, so I thought that at least I could give you some company."
"Aren't you meant to be Kuroo's advisor?" Kenma asks. "Or his friend. That's the impression I got, anyway."
"It's because I'm his friend that I know you'll need some space from him. He overthinks everything, but I'm pretty sure you've figured that out for yourself already. After yesterday, he's going to need some time to sort his thoughts out. He's only going to stress you out."
"I could handle it," Kenma mutters. "With enough warning."
"I believe you," Yaku says. "You'll learn, in time. That doesn't have to be right now. You know the wedding was only the beginning, and there's still a stressful week ahead, with all these public appearances lined up. You shouldn't be taking on any more than you absolutely need to. I'm here to support Kuroo, yes, but this is also one way of doing it."
Kenma nods, holding his teacup with both hands and letting it warm him up. There's no time to rest, though, when they have their first public appearance scheduled for this afternoon. He doesn't know if he should be trying to avoid Kuroo after last night but he doesn't think that he'll get much of a chance to anyway, except for this small window of time that Yaku has bought for him.
Even then, it isn't long until Kuroo comes out into the garden as well, wearing a robe that matches the one Kenma used before, tied loosely over a plain pair of pants and a shirt.
"'Morning," he greets them both, scratching his fingers through his hair, still sticking up in every direction. "Did you save any for me?"
"I need to go and meet with your parents soon," Yaku says, getting to his feet. "I'll be over to brief you on your appearance later. Relax for now. You can have the rest of my food."
"Leftovers," Kuroo mutters, even though he sits in Yaku's chair and starts piling his plate with food. "Rude. At least you're nicer to Kenma."
"Of course I am," Yaku replies, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. "Anyway, try not to overthink things. I mean both of you."
Kuroo nods, not looking up at either of them until Yaku walks away. Once Yaku's out of earshot, he looks up at Kenma and takes a deep breath. "Whatever Yaku told you about me, he was probably right."
Kenma hums. "Well, he did mention that you would be hard on yourself, but I've figured that much out about you already."
With a quiet laugh, Kuroo rubs the back of his neck. "Yeah, that's fair. So, are we going to just ignore everything about last night, or…?"
"Bringing it up in the first place kind of makes it difficult to ignore, doesn't it?" Kenma asks. He lifts one shoulder in a shrug. "If we can enjoy at least one aspect of this whole situation, I don't see why we shouldn't."
"You make it sound so much simpler than it did when I was thinking about it myself," Kuroo chuckles.
"It helps when you don't overthink things," Kenma replies. "I know this sounds a lot easier than it is, but, relax."
With a sigh, Kuroo leans back in his chair. "Here I thought I'd be the one looking out for you, but you look like you're handling all of this just fine."
"I don't really feel like I am," Kenma replies. "Every time I think about having to go out to all of those public appearances…"
"We'll get through it," Kuroo assures him. "I'll be right there to help you when things start feeling like too much. All you have to do is let me know, okay? If there's anything I can do for you, all you ever need to do is ask."
Kenma nods, and he wishes he could offer the same. He wishes that he knew what to do for Kuroo, to help pull him out of his own head, to stop him from thinking that he has to shoulder the blame and the guilt for everything.
He'll figure it out, he decides. He'll have the time.
In the next few days, Kenma discovers two important things about Kuroo.
The first is that he's genuinely caring about the citizens of Nekoma. Whenever they make their public appearances, he doesn't just want to be a figurehead who greets the public in an impersonal address; he wants to meet them properly, to speak with them, to listen to what they have to say. The royal family has organised sessions for members of the public to greet the newly married couple, shaking their hands, exchanging a few words, and in amongst all of Kenma's own awkwardness with the entire thing, he's taken to listening to what Kuroo is saying to the people he's shaking hands with, the way he's asking about their families, their work, and then asking them to elaborate if they're finding anything difficult.
Kenma knows that he can't do the same. It's all he can do to force himself to meet every single person's eyes and mumble out a, "thank you," but he thinks about Kuroo's approach a lot, and how happy everyone looks when they walk away from him.
The second thing he learns is that Kuroo takes his position incredibly seriously. It's not just about keeping up appearances before he replaces his father on the throne; he's actively planning for what kind of kingdom he wants to be the leader of, finding ways that he can make changes to the kingdom's policies, to make it a better place to live in. He spends time after each public greeting writing extensive notes on the subject and then sending them off to his father so that they can discuss it later.
Somehow, in between all of this, Kuroo has the time to look out for Kenma, too. He's been keeping an eye out for him this entire time, and he's getting much better at reading Kenma's body language, picking up on when he's starting to feel tense, or when he's struggling to make eye contact with the people in front of him.
He'll pull Kenma away when he sees that the whole thing is starting to get overwhelming, making an excuse for a five-minute break that will make the people waiting feel as if their time is still important. He'll take Kenma by the hand, lead him out of sight, and take a step back, giving him room to breathe.
"If you need to regroup, take all the time you need," Kuroo murmurs, resting his hand on Kenma's back. He's been doing this more lately, comforting Kenma through touch, and it's becoming easier for both of them to feel relaxed in each other's presence these days. "I know what it's like. This is the last of the public greeting sessions. If you need me to cut it shorter…"
"It's fine," Kenma tells him, squaring his shoulders and meeting Kuroo's eyes. "These are important for you, aren't they? I've heard you talking to everyone, and actually listening to what they have to say. To be honest, I never would have come out to one of these, if I was on the other side, but it's good to know that you actually care. Like you said, this is the last one. I'll get through this."
Kuroo smiles at him, leaning in to press a kiss to his forehead. "You're a good person, Kenma. Thank you."
Kenma feels the warmth of Kuroo's lips against his forehead long after the public greeting session is over. They're going back to the castle after a week of constant public appearances, and Kenma is tired. When Kuroo holds his arm out, Kenma doesn't even hesitate before leaning against his side, taking comfort in a proximity that would have made him uncomfortable, just a few days ago.
It's interesting, how much things can change in such a short amount of time.
Kenma never expected that he would care so much about the running of the kingdom, but he listens to Kuroo talking with Yaku about the fact that he wants the public to have more of a voice, and Kenma can't help but join in the conversation.
"You like it when you get to talk to people yourself, don't you?" he asks, and his voice is soft because he's tired, but Kuroo hears him all the same, looking down at him and raising an eyebrow. Kenma averts his gaze, but continues. "I saw it every time we did one of those greeting sessions. They make you happy. That's why you're thinking about it now, right? It's about making sure that the citizens of your kingdom feel like you're actually listening to what they're telling you. So they have a say in what happens to their home."
"That's exactly it," Kuroo says softly, a smile tugging at his lips as he sits up. He moves his arm from around Kenma, but takes his hand instead, tangling their fingers together. Kenma finds himself surprised by how natural it feels.
"So why don't you just do that?" Kenma suggests. "Instead of just coming out to greet people and have short conversations with them, maybe you could have regular meetings in different parts of the kingdom, so that everyone would have everything prepared before you came out, so that they could tell you exactly what needs to be done in that area. I'm not saying that you're not meeting their needs right now, but I don't think there's a way for you to know exactly what the different parts of your kingdom needs, unless you talk to the people who live there. Plus, it makes you happy when you get to do that. If you're making more work for yourself, you might as well do it in a way that you enjoy."
"Huh," Yaku says. "Your husband's pretty damn clever, isn't he?"
Kenma shifts uncomfortably in his seat, but Kuroo just smiles warmly at him, thumb stroking over the back of Kenma's hand.
"Yeah. He is. I think I could do with hearing his thoughts on these sorts of things more often, don't you?"
Which is how Kenma ends up being included in Kuroo's advisor meetings with Kenma. He learns a third important fact about Kuroo: once he has an idea in his mind, he latches onto it, giving it his full attention and putting all of his energy into it.
He wants to have a proper meeting with Yaku and Kenma the moment they arrive at the castle. Yaku forces Kuroo to take a break, at least to rest and to eat, which Kenma is grateful for. Kuroo is restless though, his mind already racing. Kenma is sitting across from him in the tea room and can see it in Kuroo's expression as he stares off into the distance, his fingers tapping against the side of his cup in between sips. From beside Kenma, Yaku just gives him a resigned roll of the eyes. This must happen often.
Kenma doesn't think it's such a bad thing. It's a clear sign that Kuroo cares about what he's doing, and it doesn't matter how many times Kenma has seen it over the course of their public appearances, it's always nice to be reminded of just how much Kuroo cares about the kingdom he'll someday rule.
As soon as they're done with the platter full of snacks that Yaku has organised for them, Kuroo is restless again.
"Can we relocate to the meeting room?" Kuroo asks, already getting up to lead the way out. "Kenma, you'll come with us, won't you?"
With a nod, Kenma follows. He doesn't really know what to expect, as Kuroo and Yaku lead the way over to what feels like the other end of the castle. Kenma's still getting his bearings around the place, but he thinks that they're closer to the throne room now, and the part of the castle that's used for the official royal duties.
Kuroo opens a door, flicking the lights on, and it looks like they've walked into an office. There's a desk set up by the window with a computer on it, and a long meeting table on the other side of the room. Yaku takes a seat at the head of the table, while Kuroo pulls a chair out for Kenma.
"Um." Kenma looks around, frowning. "Is this a meeting? Do I have to take notes?"
"Kuroo likes writing things down," Yaku says, nodding towards Kuroo as he walks over to the whiteboard on the wall. "He's a nerd like that."
"I just like to be organised," Kuroo replies. "That's not such a bad thing."
"Nerd," Kenma repeats softly, and earns a huff of laughter from Yaku.
They spend the afternoon expanding on what they were discussing in the car before, and Kenma feels like they're drafting a proposal before Kuroo takes it to his parents for approval. It's not such a bad thing; Kenma is used to doing this sort of thing at work, and he can do it here too. He likes the fact that it makes him feel useful.
Kuroo doesn't seem even the least bit surprised. He grins approvingly as Kenma joins in with his own suggestions, writing up a calendar of events that they could hold, and mapping out where each one would be. Yaku does the research into the local politicians in each area so they know who to contact, and they don't stop working until they have the entire proposal put together, printed out and ready for Kuroo to take to his father.
"I'm going to find him right now," Kuroo decides, holding the stack of papers in his hands. "The sooner we get approved for this, the sooner we can get started, right?"
"I'll eat dinner with Kenma so he doesn't have to eat alone," Yaku replies. "Good luck."
It's easy to get along with Yaku; Kenma likes the fact that he's so straightforward, and it's clear that he takes his position as seriously as Kuroo does.
"Kuroo probably won't say anything to you directly," Yaku speaks up, when they're sitting with their food, "but he's really glad that he can include you in all of this. You look like you're having fun, too. He's relieved about that."
Kenma has been in the same room as them the entire time; he knows that there was no possible time that they could have had a conversation about this without him noticing. "You must know him pretty well, huh?"
"We grew up together," Yaku replies. "We used to butt heads a lot when we were younger, but somewhere along the way, he started becoming this really mature, responsible guy who would do anything to make his kingdom happy. I'm kind of proud of him."
"Yeah," Kenma says softly. "He's a pretty good prince, isn't he?"
Yaku smiles at him. "I'm glad that he ended up married to someone who cares too, at least enough to help him out with these kinds of things. And I'm glad that it gives you something to do, too. If you're not enjoying it, that's fine, you can tell me if you don't want to tell him directly and I'll make sure he doesn't include you in anything else that might come up—"
"I want to help," Kenma speaks up. "As much as I can. It's nice, seeing him care so much. I don't think I could ever do something like that myself, but even if I can just come up with some ideas, I'll do that."
Yaku nods, leaning back in his chair and turning his attention to his food. "I was worried about Kuroo getting married to someone he didn't really know, but I have a feeling that this is going to work out."
Kenma thinks so too, and even though he keeps it to himself, he ends up turning the thought over in his mind all night. Kuroo doesn't end up coming back to join them after dinner, but Kenma is more than happy to spend some time to himself in their room, sitting in their bed and playing games on his phone until he hears the door open.
Kuroo grins at him from the door, shutting it behind him. "My father approved the idea. We can go ahead with it and start contacting local representatives to figure out how to organise this."
"Good," Kenma replies, putting his phone down. "Congratulations."
"He liked a lot of things you suggested," Kuroo adds, walking over to the bed. He yawns, covering his mouth with his hand before he crawls under the covers beside Kenma. "I told him that it was you. He's pretty impressed. Both my parents like you a lot, you know."
The thought makes Kenma happier than he expects. He gets along with them okay, but it's a relief to know that they actually approve of him. None of this is quite as terrible as he first feared it would be, and he's glad for it. He feels Kuroo leaning into his side and wraps an arm around him, pulling him closer, both of them yawning in unison this time.
Kenma never really expected that he'd love Kuroo, and he can't say he feels that strongly just yet, but he can see it happening. He could learn to love Kuroo someday. He doesn't think it would be very difficult.
The first few months of their marriage pass quicker than Kenma expects them to. They're both busy, setting up Kuroo's project, contacting the politicians in each part of the kingdom to organise meetings with them, then going out to actually sit down with them and figure out the logistics of how they're going to actually meet and address the issues in each separate community. It's not as easy as Kuroo expects it to be, but at least Kenma's prepared for that, and with Yaku's help, he manages to prepare for each different area that they're going out to, so that Kuroo knows the best approach.
Kenma knows that the results aren't going to be immediately apparent, but from what he can tell, it seems to be going well. Kuroo's happy, and it keeps both of them busy while also giving them plenty of reasons to spend time with each other. Even if they're constantly accompanied by the royal guard, or at least by Yaku, Kenma still likes it. He feels like they're both getting to know each other enough that they don't have to worry about overstepping their boundaries when they're together.
Kuroo knows when to drop a joke if it's annoying Kenma, and Kenma knows when to stop making fun of Kuroo, if it's starting to hit at his insecurities, and for a prince, Kuroo has plenty of them. It's almost exhausting, because Kenma can tell that most of them are as a result from him holding himself to impossibly high standards that he blames himself for not being able to reach. Kenma doesn't really know how to make him see the fact that he's doing an incredibly job, but it helps that whenever he invites Lev and Taketora to the castle, they're full of praise for everything that Kuroo is doing. Kenma watches as Kuroo smiles with relief, his shoulders relaxing, and has to bite back his own smile. He's pretty sure the crown prince of the kingdom isn't meant to be this cute, but that's exactly what Kuroo is, flushing with awkward pride whenever he's given a genuine compliment on something that he's worked hard for.
They receive an invitation to Fukurodani, three months after their wedding, for Bokuto's birthday party. It's a yearly event, Kuroo explains to Kenma as they lie in bed together. Bokuto is incredibly friendly and likes to use his birthday as an excuse to gather as many of them as he can into the one place so he can spend time with all of them. Kenma immediately understands that to mean that it's going to be loud.
"I know it's probably going to be a bit awkward for you, when you don't really know many people there," Kuroo tells him, his arm wrapped around Kenma's shoulder, his words directed at the ceiling in the dark. "I know what you're like with crowds. If you don't want to come, I'm not going to mind. You can stay here and I'll just drop by to wish him a happy birthday."
"He's your best friend," Kenma says, turning onto his side so that he can frown at Kuroo. "You can't just drop by. Don't offer to do things when you don't want to do them. You want to go to the party."
"But if you don't want to go—"
"I didn't say that," Kenma interrupts. "So maybe I don't like crowds, but it's fine. It's just once. It's a party, and if it's what Bokuto-san wants, then I'm not going to complain about it. I'll come. Were you expecting me to say no?"
Kuroo blinks at him with surprise. "Yeah I was. Not that I didn't want to take you, or anything like that. I just don't want you feeling awkward."
"Akaashi-san will be there," Kenma replies, lifting one shoulder in a shrug. "If he doesn't have his hands full trying to take care of Bokuto-san, then I'll just talk to him."
Kuroo nods. "Yeah. okay. That sounds good to me. I know Akaashi likes you. I bet you'll have fun. We'll visit your parents while we're there, too."
Kenma feels nervous anyway. Even with Akaashi, they've only met each other once before, and Kenma honestly doesn't know how much time Akaashi will have to chat anyway, when his primary job seems to be keeping Bokuto out of trouble. Kenma will suck it up though. He can deal with just one night. Besides, if he truly hates it, he can just leave the party altogether and stay with his parents.
He and Kuroo fly out together on a private jet. Yaku stays behind, giving Kenma strict instructions on what Kuroo is and isn't allowed to drink, giving him full permission to hit him and drag him away if he gets out of hand. Kenma takes all of it very seriously.
"Bokuto liked you last time he met you," Kuroo tells him, as they sit opposite from each other on the jet. "He said that he's looking forward to seeing you again. I've been telling him about how successful we've been with the public feedback project, and how much of that is thanks to you."
"Is there anyone you haven't told?" Kenma asks, feeling a little embarrassed.
"Everyone deserves to know how clever you are," Kuroo replies emphatically. "It's like you're the brain of this kingdom.
"What does that make you?" Kenma asks. "The heart of it?"
"The heart pumps blood to the brain," Kuroo replies with a grin. "It's my job to give you everything you could possibly need, to bring all of your ideas to life."
Kenma coughs quietly, feeling his face go red. "Kuroo. That's embarrassing."
"You're brilliant, though," Kuroo tells him. "There's no need to be embarrassed about that kind of thing."
Kenma shakes his head at Kuroo, but he can't help the smile that tugs at his lips, or the way that when Kuroo reaches for his hand, he links their fingers together and squeezes gently.
Spending time with Kuroo is getting even easier as the days pass, and Kenma finds that he's seeking out Kuroo's presence these days, just because of how enjoyable and reassuring it is. Even though they have Inuoka and Kai with them for this trip, Kenma knows that they'll spend the majority of their time in Fukurodani alone with each other. He's surprised at just how much he's looking forward to it.
When they land, Bokuto meets them with bone crushing hugs for both of them. He lifts Kenma off the ground entirely, twirling him around, laughing and apologising to Kuroo, who reaches for them both in alarm.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt your husband," Bokuto tells him, patting Kenma on the shoulder and turning to him with a smile. "You know, Kuroo just doesn't shut up about you these days. Every second message he sends is about you, and what you're up to, or how great you are, or if you're wearing a robe that he thinks you look good in—"
"Bokuto," Kuroo protests, laughing with embarrassment. "You're going to overload Kenma with way too much information."
"I'm curious to hear it," Kenma speaks up, raising an eyebrow at Kuroo. "Which robe?"
Kuroo's entire face flushes red, and Bokuto laughs loudly, patting both of them hard on the back.
Standing just by the car, waiting for them with a small, amused smile of his own, Akaashi bows at both of them in greeting, putting their bags into the boot of the car before opening the doors for them. He glances at Kenma through the rear view mirror as he drives them to Fukurodani castle. "It's true, though. Bokuto-san spent such a long time telling me just how excited he was to see you again, purely because of how much Kuroo-san wouldn't stop talking about you. I'm glad to hear that things are going well."
Kuroo buries his face in his hands with an embarrassed groan, and Kenma turns to him with a smile, reaching for his wrist and pulling it away from his face, linking their fingers together.
"You're both getting along really well, huh?" Bokuto asks, smiling at them. "Married life, I guess."
"I guess," both Kenma and Kuroo say at the same time, catching each other's eye and smiling.
"He's a pretty great husband," Kuroo says softly, stroking his thumb over the back of Kenma's hand. "I'm glad I'm married to him."
"Yeah," Kenma replies, just as quiet. "You're pretty good too."
They've arrived early for Bokuto's party, and Akaashi makes sure that they're shown to their room before Bokuto has to leave again to greet his next round of guests. It means Kuroo and Kenma are left alone in their room, their guards standing on the other side of the closed door, as usual, but it feels different when they aren't in the castle that Kenma is used to.
Kenma isn't sure what to say first, so he goes to their suitcases instead, going through Kuroo's clothes and pulling out his favourite robe. Kuroo groans with embarrassment when he sees, and it makes Kenma smile.
"It was this robe, wasn't it?" Kenma teases. "That one time I couldn't remember where I put mine, but yours was closer and you couldn't form a coherent sentence for five whole minutes. You liked that."
"Guilty," Kuroo admits, his face flushing red. He walks towards Kenma, holding either side of the robe and pulling him closer so that their foreheads are resting against each other. "It does look good on you. And maybe I like it because you're wearing my clothes."
Kenma huffs quietly in amusement. "Have you really been telling everyone about me?"
"Yeah, but I only really go over the top with Bokuto. I need at least one person to gush to about how great you are, right?"
Kenma drops his gaze to the floor. "I'm not that great—"
"Hey," Kuroo interrupts, holding Kenma by the chin and tilting his face up, so that they're looking at each other. "That's my amazing, talented, clever husband you're talking about."
"Kuroo," Kenma protests, turning away.
"I'm serious," Kuroo says, quieter this time. He strokes his fingers through Kenma's hair, tucking it behind his ear. "You're amazing, in so many different ways, and I'm so lucky to be your husband. I'm lucky I have you in my life."
With a quiet sigh, Kenma reaches for the front of Kuroo's shirt and pulls him into a kiss. As much as they've gotten used to physical contact, they haven't kissed often. It's still new enough that every single one feels like a big deal, and this one has Kenma breathless from just how deeply Kuroo kisses back, his hands settling on Kenma's sides, holding him right where he is like Kuroo is afraid he'll slip away. Kenma kisses back just as hard, until he has his arms wrapped around Kuroo's shoulders, standing on his tiptoes just so that he can press their bodies as close together as he can.
Maybe this is what love feels like, Kenma thinks to himself as they slowly pull apart. Maybe that's what the overwhelming rush of warmth in his chest is, but he isn't sure if he should put his feelings into words, or if Kuroo even feels the same.
Except then, Kuroo presses his lips to Kenma's forehead, pulling back with the most tender smile, and he doesn't need to say anything at all. Kenma knows exactly how he feels, and he knows that Kuroo feels the same.
That's good enough for both of them.