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Kuroo Tetsurou jolts awake at ass o’clock in the dead of the night during midterms week, cheeks creased from being pressed against the sleeve of his lab coat for far too long and pen ink smeared over his chin. He squints amidst the hard fluorescent lights bearing down upon him from above, tired eyes trying to focus on the mess decorating his lab desk. His drool has long past dribbled down his chin and has currently amassed itself into an impressive puddle on the crumpled pages of his organic chemistry lab report.

Fuck, there goes his efforts for the past 16 hours collecting samples of chlorinated chlorobutane and attempting to calculate the reactivity of these damned chemicals (that nobody honestly could give two shits about).

He sighs, shoulders drooping as he pours himself another beaker of solvent and attempts to redo the entire experiment. This stupid forty-page report is due the first thing in the morning, and Kuroo has pissed his lecturer off one time too many to get away with another late submission. Practically half of his org-chem grade rests upon this Report From Hell, so in short: He Cannot Fuck This Up.

Thankfully, there’s no one around to hear him mutter curses as he lights up a bunsen burner and pretends to set Matsumoto-sensei on fire. That’s the good thing about Chemistry Lab D in the Keio University Department of Chemistry. Rumour has it that ever since the new semester started in the fall, this entire block was haunted by the ghosts and tortured souls of biochem grads who died under the insane courseload prescribed by their subject coordinator.

Bleh, Kuroo doesn’t believe in ghosts. But he is grateful for the existence of such rumours floating around campus so that he can fully utilise his lab resource fees and hog Chem Lab D all to himself.

Except, when a faint midi polyphonic tone actually floats into the lab and etches itself onto the crevices of Kuroo’s burnt-out brain, the temperature of the room suddenly drops to subzero and the atmosphere instantly turns a hundred times heavier and a thousand times creepier.

He almost spills the beaker of acidic solvent in his hand.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, he curses, this can’t be happening now. Science has disproved this ridiculous notion since the beginning of time! There is absolutely no such thing as ghosts in this world!

(Is there?)

Hands trembling (not from the cold), he places the beaker down on the counter and inches very slowly to the window by the corridor. The poor lighting helps little to ascertain just where the fuck that incessant, creepy ringtone is coming from, and Kuroo will be damned if his haunted ass dies on him tonight, especially when he has a fucking forty-page report to rush in four hours flat.

It’s close to winter. This institution is more than a century old. People could have died from frostbite or hypothermia decades ago in this very spot.

“Shut up, brain. Not. Helping. At. All.” Kuroo grits his teeth. Gingerly, he slides the window open and puts his head out into the dark, dingy corridor to investigate for any possible paranormal activity–

– and is immediately greeted by a pair of golden eyes staring back into his soul.

He screams.

 

 

 

 

“Jesus, just what on earth do you think you’re doing here at this hour, Kenma?”

Contrary to popular belief and mass speculation amongst the Keio Chemistry Department, it turns out that the ghost of the lab block is in fact, a real human being with noodle arms, scrawny legs, and the worst pudding head the world has ever seen.

And said human being is currently seated before him, eyes shifty and shoulders hunched as Kuroo launches a full-out investigation on why his childhood friend was lurking around in the chemistry labs at this hour. The Nintendo 3DS in his hands quiver a little, and Kuroo belatedly thinks that he should probably take the scary down a notch or two.

(The soft, eerie background music playing from the 3DS still freaks Kuroo out a little. Seriously, just who plays a horror game in the dark especially when there’s no one around???

Well, his childhood friend does, apparently.)

Kenma fidgets in one of the uncomfortable lab stools he’s ever had the displeasure of sitting on. He resembles a kid who came home way past curfew and now Kuroo feels like a bad parent dispensing unsolicited life advice after catching his son doing the walk of shame. Ugh.

“The heater on the fifth floor broke down two weeks ago.”

Exhibit 79381042329486 of how long Kuroo Tetsurou has not gone back to his dorm – between lectures, labs and volleyball practice, he’s had to camp out at the chemistry labs way too often in order to keep up with his classes and submit his weekly lab reports on time.

Kuroo sighs. “You could’ve told texted me, or told Oikawa. He doesn’t bite, you know.”

Kenma’s lips quirk downwards ever so slightly.

“It’s troublesome. And tiring. To talk to Oikawa.” He mutters.

Kuroo laughs. It’s hilarious how Kenma tends to avoid Oikawa like the plague. Their personalities clash like fire and ice – Oikawa is outgoing and makes it a point to get to know everybody in the room, Kenma prefers to plaster himself to walls and avoid interpersonal interaction unless absolutely necessary. And whenever Oikawa tries to get him to open up during the occasional birthday gathering in rowdy izakayas, Kenma persists in giving monosyllabic answers while playing his PSP until Oikawa gives up trying to start a conversation with him.

“You’re not going to report me, are you?” Kenma asks, eyes peering at him curiously. Kuroo scoffs.

“I’m not a heartless bastard, okay? I’m here too. If I sold you off to security, then I’ll get into trouble as well. I’m offended you would even ask.”

Kenma’s lips quirk upwards, pulling itself into the tiniest of smiles while his eyes crinkle a little into a rare eye smile. And maybe later, Kuroo would probably blame it on his sleep deprived mind, but in that moment, under the unforgiving harsh light bearing down on them, Kenma’s smile suddenly glows and everything around them starts to twinkle. The particles in the air sparkle like stardust and the temperature suddenly becomes warmer as if spring came early.

Hmm. How odd.

“It’s late, you should go back soon. Just let me finish up with my results and I’ll walk you back to the dorm. You can sleep on my bed.”

“Don’t you have a forty-page report to rush?”

Kuroo waves away his concerns like swatting away those pesky fruit flies on an humid afternoon during summer. Already, he's thinking about dense paragraphs of academia jargon, graphs, charts, basically rubbish to include so his report would look at least somewhat decent like a lab report should seemingly be.

“Meh, as long as I get the results, I’ll find a way to bullshit through this thing.”

Kenma nods, like bullshitting your way through a college paper worth half your grade is something one normally does on a daily basis. The atmosphere returns to normal and Kuroo continues to work his ass off and once he’s done washing up and putting away the equipment, chaperones his childhood friend back to the dorm.

When Kenma leans closer to him, huddling for some warmth, Kuroo only takes him in and shields him from the unforgiving cold.

It feels like old times. The sense of familiarity Kenma provides never fails to comfort him, because it’s a constant that Kuroo can always rely to fall back on when college gets a little too overwhelming, when there’s too much to take in and adapt to and the weight of the world sits a little too heavily on his shoulders. Kenma’s always been there to support him through it all.

It’s nice.

When Kenma stays close to him, amidst the unforgiving pressure of fumbling his way through life to groom himself accordingly to society’s harsh expectations, it always feels like coming home after a long, long day.

 

 

 

 

“You slept over at Lab D again, Kuroo?” Oikawa asks as he slides into the seat next to Kuroo in General Biology the next day.

General Biology is the only class he shares with any of his friends. It is also the only class that gives him the most grief as Oikawa Tooru, pre-med genius with a GPA of fucking 4.0 even into his third year, likes to constantly park his hot ass into places he doesn’t belong – places like Kuroo’s affairs, for instance.

“You stalking me, Oikawa? I’m flattered.”

“I met Yakkun the other day, he says he hasn’t seen you sleep in your bed for weeks.”

Yaku Morisuke is currently in pre-med with pretty boy wonder Oikawa, thus contributing further to the Kuroo Tetsurou gossip mill. Depending on how one looks at the situation, Kuroo was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have this tiny ball of angry high school friend as his roommate to look out for him and keep the room safe from those college parties his peers like to throw. Yaku may nag and fuss around like a mother hen, but he’s saved Kuroo’s ass quite a number of times from making questionable decisions throughout his college life so far.

“Yakkun’s exaggerating. It’s only been a few days.” He sniffs and tries to recall chemical formulae and experiment procedures that will definitely be more useful (than all this gossip) for his Analytical Chemistry test later.

The class is half empty because most of his biochem peers bunked to study last minute for the midterm scheduled tonight, and Kuroo should really be doing the same instead of staring off into space while his General Biology professor drones on and on about cellular functions. His progress on outlining the study materials for tonight’s test are still nowhere close to complete, but frankly, Kuroo is just plain exhausted from pulling countless overnights in the lab that he’s stopped caring about being ahead of his peers since Week 3.

Screw his GPA falling at the speed of light. He just wants to pass now. Since when did studying something he liked turn out to be the living embodiment of his personal hell?

Such is college life. No glittering stardust or sparkling sunshine. There is only the bitter taste of defeat and desolation in the wake of life’s cold, hard truths.

Speaking of cold…

“Hey Oikawa, did you know that the heater on the fifth floor broke down since two weeks ago?”

OIkawa’s head whips around to stare at him. His Best-RA-of-the-Year face somehow manages to look offended and curious at the same time – an extremely hilarious combination – and Kuroo’s fingers itch to fish his phone out and capture this moment for posterity. Iwaizumi would definitely be pleased for more blackmail material.

“I didn’t know that. Seriously, how am I supposed to tell the management to fix things when nobody bothers to inform me about important stuff like this?” He sniffs, “How did you know?”

Kuroo sniggers. “Worried you’ll lose that Best RA of the Year award?”

“Rude, Tetsu-chan!” The poor puppy whines. But it's probably true, Oikawa prides himself on being able to juggle his insane pre-med courseload while taking on the responsibilities of Volleyball Club Vice-Captain and RA of the student dorms. Kuroo suspects Oikawa is a masochist and loves to suffer. There is no other explanation for Oikawa’s thirst to add more to his plate when he barely has time to sleep. But that’s not the main focus now. It's rare to see Oikawa thrown off his game and hey, Kuroo loves a good roast, so he decides to play with the poor puppy a little more.

“A little birdie told me yesterday. Said it was too troublesome to tell you, so he confided in me instead of you.”

Oikawa narrows his eyes. The gears in his mind are whirling away as they usually do when he butts heads with an irksome problem (or like figuring out how to outdo his precious Tobio-chan), but soon the frown on his face transforms into a knowing smirk, and Kuroo finds himself the one frowning instead.

“What.” As much as Kuroo likes messing with people and harmlessly provoking them just for laughs, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Oikawa Tooru is much, much worse. His sharp tongue knows no bounds, and on bad days, with no Iwaizumi to keep the puppy in check, the curtains rise to reveal a bloodhound ready to slay.

“Oh nothing,” Oikawa trills, “another little birdie told me yesterday that Kenma-chan slept over in your bed yesterday.”

Kuroo blinks.

“Yeah, so?”

It’s Oikawa’s turn to blink. That annoying face frowns instantly and if Kuroo weren’t so perplexed, the situation would definitely be 10 times funnier than it currently is. He hates being out of the loop. Jokes are only funny when you’re in on it too.

“W-Wait, you don’t know?”

“Know what?”

Silence.

“Never mind. You’re more stupid than I thought, Tetsu-chan.”

“Oi.”

 

 

 

 

Suffice to say, Kuroo notices a rich variety of expressions thrown his way for the next few days. They range from knowing smirks to looks of pity, and Kuroo ignores them in favour of sailing through his midterms safely and soundly.

Screw all these weird signals and signs he keeps receiving from people he didn’t even know were entitled to have a say in his life. His sports scholarship is on the line and honestly, his mind would function better with receiving information pertaining to his course outlines rather than useless, cryptic signals privy to anyone and everyone except him.

But when Hanamaki and Matsukawa shoot him equal shit-eating grins during volleyball training two weeks later, the very last drop of his patience drains away and something in him snaps into two.

“What.” he bites. The volleyball connects with his palms before slamming against the gym floor with a resounding smack.

“Whoa, Kuroo, relax.” Hanamaki blinks.

“Yeah Kuroo, relax. Why are you mad? Don’t take it out on the ball. Not cool.” Matsukawa chides.

“I’m not mad.” Kuroo mutters, “And I didn’t take anything out on the ball.”

Tweedledee and Tweedledum raise their brows simultaneously, unimpressed. Kuroo rolls his eyes. Hanamaki is in pre-law getting his ass whooped by passive aggressive coursemates with egos the size of a blue whale, while Matsukawa suffers to get through all that Freudian shit and weekly case studies in his Psychology undergraduate. Together, they’re probably one of the scariest combinations of friends from different faculties that Kuroo’s ever come across so far. And as much as they are fun to hang out with, especially when teasing Oikawa is involved, it grates on Kuroo’s nerves to be on the receiving end of their inside jokes and psychoanalysis from time to time.

“Kuroo’s mad?” Oikawa’s bounces over, gym keys dangling on his forefinger. He’s just done charming the pants off their captain and coach for a little extra practice session, with the promise that yes, of course they’ll clean up afterwards, no worries, after all they’re big adults in college now who know what they’re supposed to be doing.

Kuroo sighs. Truth be told, he misses Nekoma. Collegiate volleyball may be fun and interesting in a sense that everyone’s pretty much equally developed in terms of skills and physique (unlike the start of high school where they were all just awkward pre-teens fumbling their way through bouts of high school drama and growth spurts), but Kuroo misses the team that he’s built and led throughout his final year of high school. The camaraderie, the team spirit... the moment he stepped into the Keio volleyball gym, everything felt like the first year of high school all over again (read: proving one’s worth, subtle competition over who captained whose team better, etc), minus the naivete and innocence his fifteen-year-old self once possessed.

“We all have to move on. It’s not our team anymore.” Sawamura Daichi pats him on the shoulder when Kuroo wondered out loud if the ex-captain of Karasuno ever felt the same.

“You’re assholes. All of you, ganging up on me like this.”

“Aww Tetsu-chan, you’re just as bad as us.”

“It’s true,” Iwaizumi hums in agreement, magically appearing beside Oikawa, “you know what the seniors call the four of you behind your backs? Team Asshole. Because you guys certainly don’t hold back in dishing out unsolicited remarks from your obnoxious asses.”

Oikawa squawks indignantly, Tweedledee and Tweedledum snigger, and Kuroo sighs (again).

Today is so not his day.

But then his phone buzzes from benches, the text tone he had specifically set for Kenma sounding loud and clear, and Kuroo crosses the gym in four big strides to pick up his phone and eagerly receive his text of the day.

Can’t make it for dinner later, the message reads, project needs saving.

Kuroo’s heart sinks a little. With Kenma in Game Dev and him in Biochem, it’s been difficult to sync their schedules and spend time together like how they used to. And since Kenma decided that he’s had enough of volleyball for almost a decade in his life, and participation in extracurriculars aren’t mandatory in college, sometimes Kuroo can count the number of hours he spends with his childhood friend in a week.

“You have Oikawa,” was all Kenma said when Kuroo showed up in front of his room with the Keio VBC application form in hand.

“But your input is important and valuable to the team. Just think of all the strategies you could come up with. You know collegiate volleyball teams are different from high school right? There’s no bullying because we’re all too old and busy for shit like that. It’ll be like old times again.”

Kenma only shrugged.

“It’s just too much work to fit in again. I’d rather not.”

And that was the end of their conversation. Kenma drops by their games from time to time, and gives his honest thoughts and commentary when asked about their plays afterwards, but as much as Kuroo appreciates the gesture (especially since Kenma tends to avoid crowds like the plague), it’s just not the same anymore. The territory their dynamics have charted into is no longer a terrain Kuroo’s familiar with, and he supposes it’s a bit unsettling when he’s always counted on their friendship being a constant that they can fall back on and navigate through together in life.

But today has been a shitty day. And Kuroo would really like to see his best friend even if only for a few minutes, so he pushes his luck and texts back.

I’ll get dinner for you then? 7pm sound good?

Kenma’s reply is immediate.

Sure. Thanks Kuro.

When the rest of the team exchanges knowing glances and comments on his sudden change in mood, Kuroo ignores them in favour finishing up early so he can head out of campus to get that apple pie Kenma likes a lot.

Things are still the same, he tells himself, everything is fine.

 

 

 

 

Kuroo’s concerns stop pestering him for the next few weeks as he completely drowns in the fuckload of assignments and labs thrown his way. Kenma often stops by Lab D at night to keep Kuroo company and play the latest game he’s acquired for the month (for research, he explains), and once in a blue moon when Kuroo finishes early, they’ll sneak out of campus for supper at a nearby café before heading back.

The days stretch right into winter and Kuroo makes sure that Kenma, whose slightly weaker disposition tends to land him in nasty colds, is bundled up nice and warm before heading for class. Classroom heaters don’t function properly sometimes despite the insane amount of resource fees they fork out of their bleeding wallets to pay the college, so it definitely wouldn’t hurt to be prepared against the cold.

“I should just submit an application to switch dorms next semester.” Yaku comments dryly after Kenma stops by one afternoon to borrow a sweater and muffler before trudging off to sleep in his Calculus I lecture.

“Why?” Kuroo blinks after sending the tiny bundle of joy off with a look of disapproval.

Yaku stares at him, incredulity decorated on his face.

“Kenma practically spends ¾ of his time in this room, on your bed when he has no deadlines to rush for. I feel like a third wheel even though I pay half of the rent for this room.”

“Well, the heater in his room hasn’t been fixed yet, so of course he’s here most of the time. And why would you feel like a third wheel, Yakkun? It’s just Kenma. Wait, you don’t mind, do you?”

“It’s precisely because it’s Kenma that I feel like the world’s largest wheel, you doofus.” Yaku rolls up a thick stack of his Anatomy 101 notes by the table and whacks Kuroo on the head, twice for good measure, “and god, aren’t you a hundred years too late to ask me whether I mind or not? It’s been what, a semester and half since Kenma started coming over? Glad your sense of time is still as shitty as ever, captain.”

Kuroo grins sheepishly. He should really consider getting an apartment outside campus once Kenma’s ridiculous mandatory on-campus dorm experience for freshmen ends next year. They’ll keep a lookout on the newspaper ads to find a decent place with cheaper rent, and maybe Kuroo can get a part time job with flexible hours to help pay the bills. It’s a step towards the great unknown (a.k.a adulthood), and he’s glad that he has Kenma by his side while this disconcerting period of transition takes place.

Kenma’s always been around. Every time Kuroo thinks of that, there’s this inexplicable warmth that blooms in his chest. It’s a feeling that runs deeper than happiness. He hasn’t really managed to properly identify what it is though.

But the chance comes soon enough two nights later when Oikawa calls for a rare dorm meeting in the common room. By the time they arrive, the room is already buzzing with over-excited gossip girls and chatty housewives seated by the makeshift stand his royal highness has placed in front of the whiteboard, and Kuroo unconsciously tucks Kenma against his side to guide him to a corner and find a place to sit among this mess of limbs. A decade of experience has proven that Kenma is a hazard to his own safety when he plays his games while walking among a sea of people.

See: bruised foreheads, scraped knees, and broken game consoles in the worst case scenario.

“You’re late.” Hanamaki jabs.

“Was busy.”

“Ooh. Busy with what?” The spawn of satan waggles his eyebrows and Kuroo has half a mind to shave them off in his sleep. Beside him, Kenma shrinks a little more into his version of a human volleyball and smashes the buttons on his PSP a little more aggressively than usual.

Is it just Kuroo, or does Kenma look a little pink in the face?

“Hey Kenma, you–”

“Alright, alright, settle down everyone,” Oikawa clears his throat and taps the whiteboard with a marker. There’s no agenda written on the board, surprisingly, as seeing Oikawa is all about organisation skills and efficiency when it comes to meetings and administrative work. Nobody in the room has an inkling on what Oikawa wants to discuss tonight, not even Iwaizumi, whom Oikawa would pester and whine for opinions and suggestions whenever issues cropped up in the past.

“First things first, thanks to an anonymous tip, it has come to my attention recently that the heating system on the fifth floor has stopped working since a few weeks ago. Your concerns are duly noted and I’ve submitted a request to the management in hopes of a speedy repair before the harshest days of winter.”

Cheers erupt from the crowd, but Oikawa silences them with an outstretched palm.

“However,” he continues with a bright smile on his face that simply spells t r o u b l e, “I am deeply saddened that we, as a community, are still estranged with one another. As such, after a long discussion with the management, for the month of December leading right up to Christmas Day, we have decided to carry out Keio’s very first Secret Santa event for our dorms to foster and improve relations amongst one another! Yay!!”

The room is quiet for exactly one, two, three seconds–

And then all hell breaks loose.

 

 

 

 

The excitement still hasn’t died down by the time it’s Kuroo’s turn to draw lots for his Secret Santa.

It’s ridiculous. Kuroo has no time for this nonsense, not when he still has a mountain of research journals to sift through in the next few weeks, so he makes his displeasure known by shooting Oikawa the meanest glare he can muster when the latter skips over towards him with a black box in his arms à la Mary and her little lamb.

“Tetsu-chan~” he singsongs, narrowly avoiding a fist from Iwaizumi with eased practice, “It’s your turn~”

“This is fucking stupid, Shittykawa, I don’t even know why you’re doing this. It’s a waste of time.” Kuroo grumbles, randomly picking a tiny square sheet from the bottomless box.

“Waste of time, seconded.”

“Hush, Iwa-chan. This is all for your own good, Tetsu-chan~ If you weren’t so pathetically hopeless at keeping track of your own feelings, perhaps all this could’ve been avoided!”

“What?” Kuroo splutters, but Oikawa has already moved down the line and is currently thrusting the black box in Kenma’s scowling face. Kuroo watches on, amused, as Kenma picks an identical folded sheet from the box like he’s just picked up the world’s filthiest vermin with his bare hands.

Speaking of which, he should check who was the poor unfortunate soul who got him as their Secret Santa. Kuroo doesn’t really plan on putting much effort into this whole gift exchange thing because c’mon, friendships are way more than just exchanging gifts on a superficial level, right?! He’s already friends with most of the students in his dorm anyway, so he’ll probably just get them a box of chocolates or a can of Pocari Sweat before they take off for the holidays.

But oh how fate loves to laugh at the misery of her own subjects. He’s unfolding the piece of paper in his hands, expectations practically non-existent at this point, when time slows down to a complete standstill.

His stomach lurches.

There, in Oikawa’s perfect and neat handwriting (with complementary doodles of disfigured chibi Santa Clauses and christmas trees), is unmistakably a name he’s known all his life listed as his Secret Santa recipient.

 

Kozume Kenma

 

 

 

 

They have until the last day of Christmas Break to prepare gifts for their recipients before The Great Identity Reveal™, and Kuroo seriously thinks he has never felt so conflicted over a goddamn social event in his life before.

He feels guilty over the dismissive thoughts that crept through his mind just moments ago, because Kenma deserves better than some half-assed, insincere effort of finding a gift for him.

Kenma had been quiet all the way back to his room, pensive and deep in thought, and Kuroo’s curiousity itches to find out just whose name was written on the piece of paper that his childhood best friend had drawn. Since young, they have never really exchanged gifts for occasions other than each other’s birthday, so Kuroo is deadly envious of whoever that got to be Kenma’s first recipient of a Christmas gift.

Somewhere, deep down, Kuroo wishes it were him. The novelty of being first in Kenma’s List of New Experiences is dangerously addictive. But meh, what are the odds? Best not to get his hopes up when chances are as low as the tides on a moonless night.

“See you later, Kuro.” Kenma waves before disappearing behind his door.

“See ya.”

His mind goes through a list of options to get for his precious childhood friend. He conducts thorough research for the next few days and browses through catalogues of gaming magazines for any particularly interesting recent games, but realises that Kenma has already bought and completed all the recommended titles within a week of their release.

Gosh.

Well, there’s always a nice slice of apple pie that he could always rely on if nothing else, but Kenma means a lot of Kuroo, so he spends every waking moment that excludes suffering in class to think of a gift that’s worthy of his most treasured friend. And he gets so engrossed in his thoughts that he missed almost half of the receives served his way during volleyball training.

“Sorry,” he groans for the umpteenth time that evening. He’s never been this off his game since his tween years in middle school.

“Focus, Kuroo! We have an upcoming practice match against Waseda right after Christmas break!” Coach barks from the sidelines, “Ten laps around the court after practice!”

Today. Is. The. Worst.

“Hmm,” Oikawa sidles up to him after practice, sweaty and disgusting and all, but still seemingly unaffected by all the mess, “trouble in paradise, Tetsu-chan?”

Kuroo glares at him. “If it weren’t for your stupid Secret Santa–”

Oikawa cuts him off with a tut, “I know you got Pudding-chan as your recipient.”

Kuroo drops his towel.

“And I know you’re having trouble finding a gift for him.”

He also drops his jaw.

“How–”

“Just buy him something he likes or–”

“Shh!!!! Damn it Oikawa, weren’t you the one who said our recipients are supposed to be a secret?!” Kuroo hushes the unapologetic puppy even though there’s no one around to hear, “Besides, I can’t just buy him something he likes. He has everything that he likes already. It’s Kenma, I have to get him something special.”

Oikawa scratches his chin, humming while lost in thought.

“Something special, you say?”

“Duh. I’d be an ass to give him something half-hearted on Christmas. Unlike you, I don’t kick puppies just to feel alive.”

“Then why don’t you just confess to him?”

The world comes to a complete stop, tilts off its axis, and rolls into the unknown depths of the universe at the speed of light.

“What?”

“Confess! Profess your undying love for Kenma-chan! Give him a bouquet of red roses, take him out on a nice date to a French restaurant, and sweep him off his feet! No wait he already–”

“Profess my undying love–” Kuroo chokes on his spit, “Oikawa, what the fuck are you talking about?”

Oikawa blinks. “I’m talking about you and Kenma, of course. You like Kenma, don’t you? Your adorable grumpy Pudding-chan?”

“Yeah– Wait, no, he is not my grumpy Pudding-chan for fuck’s sake Oikawa, don’t let him hear you say that! I mean, yes, I like Kenma. Wait, wait no– I meant it as in– We’ve been best friends since we were kids and he does some pretty cute things sometimes, like scrunching his nose when he hits a dead end in his games or when he’s wearing my hoodie and rolling up the sleeves because even though he’s a normal-sized human being, we’re all fucking giants in the volleyball club and he practically drowns in my shirts. And okay, fine, yes, recently I may be having Weird Thoughts about us and this unexplainable uneasiness lodged in my heart when he ignores me but! We still talk and hang out and I’m happy again, okay?!”

Mother of all that is holy, Kuroo can’t believe he just unloaded a year’s worth of worries and insecurities onto Oikawa Tooru of all people, who must never be trusted with secrets.

He is dead. Kuroo Tetsurou will never live to see another day. God bless his soul.

“So yeah,” Kuroo catches his breath, clears his throat and finishes his monologue lamely, “like I said. I like him, but not like that you know? Close friends. We’re not drifting apart or anything, nope. Our friendship is fine.”

But Oikawa is having none of that. He jabs a perfectly manicured finger at Kuroo’s bicep and scowls furiously.

“You're so fucking blind. It's a wonder why Kenma-chan loves you.”

“Kenma doesn’t love me. We’re friends.

Oikawa only gives him a deadpan stare (the kind that makes you sort of reconsider your worth to this cruel world and wonder whether you’d be better off hermitting in the Himalayas instead), and then shakes his head and walks away.

“Like I said–” Kuroo hears him mutter darkly to Hanamaki who apparently has heard every single embarrassing word of their embarrassing conversation and is currently shitting himself with laughter.

“–apocalypse would arrive faster than he does. Hopeless. Fucking blind.”

 

 

 

 

Oikawa doesn’t speak to him for the rest of the week, which is fine by Kuroo because it’s totally not his fault that Oikawa’s behaving like a self-entitled five-year-old brat who didn’t get his favourite candy for Christmas. Oikawa can apologise to him when he’s finally come around to his stupid senses, then only Kuroo will talk to him.

As much as he hates getting involved in petty squabbles (because seriously, they’re all adults now. Who even has the time for childish fights like these??), Kuroo isn’t as kind or all-encompassing as Kai or Bokuto to let bygones be bygones when Oikawa had obviously picked a fight with him and self-destructed first.

Bleh.

The rest of the gang think it’s absolutely hilarious to watch them take turns insulting each other during lunch. Kuroo has no words for them. This is the gang of people he calls friends. Disappointing.

He has no time to think about making amends anyway, not when Oikawa’s words continue to echo in the crevices of his mind like a broken doorbell on repeat.

He likes– loves Kenma? And Kenma loves him back? Is it possible for the sun to shine out of Ushiwaka’s grumpy ass? Hmm, we may never know.

But the anger in Kuroo fades a little when Kenma confronts him about it one evening in his room. They’re both working on their tutorials – Kuroo at the table punching numbers into his calculator and Kenma sprawled across his bed pretending to understand what the fuck calculus is supposed to be – when the latter pads over to stand beside him and tug him on his elbow, like how he always does when they were young and he wanted Kuroo’s attention.

Kuroo’s heart does a tiny somersault, or a victory dance, he’s not sure which, but he knows it’s about to leap out of his fucking throat now that Kenma’s standing so close in front of him when he’s seated and staring up at Kenma.

His hair is pulled back into a loose ponytail (that only Kuroo – and sometimes Yaku – has the privilege of witnessing), there are bags under his eyes from pulling all-nighters for the wrong reasons (see: gaming, not studying), and his lips are shaped into a frown that looks much too adorable to be menacing one.

He looks breathtakingly beautiful.

“Stop fighting with Oikawa.” Kenma says.

It’s Kuroo’s turn to frown. The sudden urge to do unspeakable things to Kenma disappears once the soft glow of the moment fades away.

“I’m not fighting with that guy. He’s the one who refuses to talk to me.”

“You’re such a kid.” Kenma sighs and deposits himself onto Kuroo’s lap. The latter’s arms automatically wind themselves around his waist like second nature.

“What did you guys fight about anyway? Shouyou wouldn’t tell me.”

You, Kuroo wants to say, but holds his tongue because he’s not ready to share this piece of himself that he hasn’t quite figured out yet. Kenma isn’t really open to change, he has a routine for everything and seethes with frustration when certain things end up the way nobody expected it to be, and Kuroo really isn’t mentally prepared to accept the possibility of Kenma deciding to never speak to him again if the Weird Thoughts he’s been having recently freaks his childhood friend out.

Yes, Kuroo is aware he may have unhealthy abandonment issues, thank you very much, but he’s never felt like this until a few months ago because he always thought their friendship, relationship, whatever it is, was stable enough to withstand whatever lemons life decides to pitch at them.

They used to be Kuroo and Kenma, but now Kuroo is afraid that they’re just Kuroo and Kenma, normal acquaintances once with a special bond that withered away with time.

“It’s nothing, Kenma. Oikawa will come around one day and we’ll talk to each other again. It’s just a petty fight and we were being stupid.” Kuroo finally says, and rests his forehead on the slope of Kenma’s shoulders.

It’s normal to stay like this, right? It’s normal to want to hug his childhood best friend and give him the best, take him out to their favourite places for dinner, and spend more time doing things they enjoy with each other, and maybe, if Kuroo’s brave enough to be ambitious, move into a nice, cozy apartment together one day, right?

Is he being too selfish with his wants? Is he a bad person if he wants Kenma to feel the same? Not to monopolise each other’s time and space, but to just acknowledge that they’ll always share their special bond and be there for each other for as long as possible?

These whirlwinds of ever-changing emotions tire him out. His mind is running into overdrive right now. This must be what Kenma feels most the time.

It’s exhausting.

“Kuro?” Kenma pats his hand that’s currently resting itself on his stomach.

“Can we– can we just stay like this for a while?” Kuroo swallows thickly, but hastens to add, “But it’s fine if you’re uncomfortable with it. We can always sit on different chairs.”

The rush of air when Kenma peels himself away from Kuroo’s embrace leave a surge of pain crushing the air out of his lungs until he can’t breathe, but then suddenly, Kenma is taking him by the hand and guiding him to sit on the bed. He takes a seat opposite Kuroo, and not once has he ever let go of their clasped hands.

“Silly Kuro,” Kenma murmurs, “You tend to run around in circles when you face a problem. And when you can’t solve it, you start butting your head against the wall and hurt yourself until someone comes along to knock some sense into you. You’re obstinate like that.”

Calloused thumbs gently caress the back of Kuroo’s hand. It calms him down, the ache pounding against his ribcage subsides, and the laugh that makes its way out of his throat sounds less empty than it would’ve been five minutes ago.

“I guess I have been kind of silly lately.”

Quietly, Kuroo observes the way the corners of Kenma’s lips pull themselves into the tiniest of smiles. The fading sunlight seeps into the room through the window, breaks into pieces against the dust suspensions in the air, and scatters onto Kenma. They glint off the blond of his hair and make the darker patches shine brighter, forming a faint reflection of a halo on the crown of his head, like an angel with a terrible hair job. Outside, hungry college students stampede past the corridors to grab dinner, but for now they pay no attention to the world beyond this room.

Everything falls into place in Kuroo’s mind, clear as day, when the first glittering burst of stardust appears and the world fades away until all that’s left is the two of them.

 

 

 

 

Kuroo makes a trip to the 24-hour café they frequent for lunch on Thursdays in hopes of catching Oikawa before his Biochemistry lecture. But instead, all he finds is Hanamaki sitting alone at their usual table by the window, glasses perched precariously on the bridge of his nose, pencil tucked behind one ear and neon yellow highlighter behind the other as he flips through a 200-page law report, sheets of white completely obliterated under rows and rows of microscopic kanji and hiragana barely large enough to be legible.

The table is a mess, ruled paper decorated with angry red markings scattered across the surface like a gruesome crime scene gone wrong.

Kuroo takes a seat opposite the dying law undergrad. It’s the only one that isn’t occupied by insane stacks of textbooks and/or statutes threatening to topple over and crush unsuspecting microorganisms on the floor to pulp. When Hanamaki looks up, the eyebags beneath his bloodshot eyes look so heavy they could each grow a pair of legs and elope to the moon any moment now.

“Hey.” This must be the first word of the day that he’s spoken, judging by his raspy voice that could seriously use a glass of water. Or two.

“Have you seen Oikawa?” Kuroo asks, eager to just get every bit of information he needs ASAP and let Hanamaki return to making heart eyes at his law report.

Hanamaki hums thoughtfully and checks his phone.

“Jesus, I’ve been here for this long already?” He mutters, before addressing Kuroo, “Oikawa will be here soon. I think. Most likely. No guarantees. I disclaim myself from all liability in the event our milk bread-loving friend decides not to show up for lunch today.”

“Exclusion clause duly noted. More coffee, Makki?” Kuroo offers when the waitress reluctantly hands him a menu.

Hanamaki shakes his head.

“I think the café has banned me from any further intake of caffeine. I’ve had so many cups that the waitresses have collectively decided to ignore my begs for another espresso refill.” He gestures at his empty mug with dried coffee stains, “We need to find a new place to source for our caffeine addiction soon, Kuroo. This stuff just isn’t working for me anymore.”

Christ, Kuroo doesn’t even want to go near Hanamaki’s caffeine dependency issues within a ten mile radius. He’ll leave that part to Matsukawa, thank you very much.

But, he feels extremely bad for the caffeine-deprived poor soul before him when his own order of latte arrives. Said poor soul is currently sending him puppy eyes in hopes of tasting a sip, and Kuroo, for the sake of Hanamaki’s health, shakes his head.

The puppy eyes transform into a narrowed stink-eye, and Kuroo finally feels what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the wrath of Hanamaki Takahiro, legendary law undergrad extraordinaire.

“Sorry Makki.”

Said poor soul only pouts and returns to frowning at his case notes.

(Note: pouts and puppy eyes don’t work on him unless it comes from a source with terrible pudding head.)

The wait for Oikawa stretches from minutes into an hour, and when Kuroo checks his watch for the sixth time, he really must leave for campus now or he won’t make it to Biochem in time. But he’s travelled all the way out just to get answers, and Kuroo hates to leave empty-handed. So, he gathers the courage to ask Hanamaki the question he’s been pondering over for the entire night instead.

“Makki, how do you know if you love someone?”

Hanamaki stares at his hopeful yet uncertain expression, connects the dots in his head, and blinks.

“Seriously Kuroo, you didn’t realise until now?”

“I didn’t know, okay? We’ve always been like that since we were kids. Things just…” Kuroo struggles to search for the right word. It’s important that he pinpoints this emotion he’s been feeling since high school (or maybe even earlier than that) so that the great Hanamaki can dispense appropriate advice like the renowned love guru he’s supposed to be.

“Things just progressed naturally until it is what it is today.” Is what he finally says.

They’ve never put labels on what they have between them, and Kuroo finds it hard to compartmentalise the nature of their relationship into the moulds created by society’s expectations of what normal relationships should be. They hold hands when they cross the street – a habit they never got rid of ever since they were kids with chubby cheeks donning identical yellow boat hats (and Kuroo has zero plans of discontinuing the tradition now unless Kenma minds). They gravitate towards each other among the crowds because who else will guide Kenma to safety when he’s so focused on his games while walking? They share food half the time, and they have frequent sleepovers and sleep comfortably in each other’s arms on the same bed when the nights get a tad bit too cold.

It is just what it is. There is no word Kuroo can think of to describe the bond they share.

“Yeah I get you, the gist of it, at least.” Hanamaki smiles, warm and sincere, and pats his shoulder, “You wanna know how to spot a person who’s really in love?”

“Of course. Why else would I be wasting my lunch time sitting here and trying to decipher those confusing messages all of you keep sending my way?”

“Rude, Kuroo.” Hanamaki waves a finger before pointing somewhere over Kuroo’s shoulder, “but since you asked so nicely, I will show you a prime example of how you’d look when you look at someone you love.”

Kuroo turns around and cranes his neck to spot the happy couple outside the café. Except, said happy couple are currently squabbling over something, probably the accuracy of trashy, dubious horoscope magazines from the looks of it, and christ, of course it’s Iwaizumi and Oikawa, two peas in a pod, inseparable as ever since they were in diapers.

“You look like that–”

Hanamaki’s voice rings from somewhere far away, but Kuroo is too captivated by the image of Iwaizumi – buff, impatient Iwaizumi who yells and hurls an impressive assortment of insults at his childhood sweetheart at every single opportunity he gets and never hesitates to literally beat sense into said friend using his iron fist of love – smiling, eyes kind and warm when Oikawa turns away dejectedly to deposit the magazine into the trash can.

He looks at Oikawa as if Oikawa is the fucking sun of his entire universe.

“–stupid, but soft and utterly in love.”

 

 

 

 

Now that the mess in his head has sorted most of itself out, Kuroo continues his search for the best gift he can ever find to give Kenma. Since games are out of the question, Kuroo considers being different from his usual self this time. He tries writing love confessions after reading all the helpful advice on Tumblr, but so far every love letter he’s penned begins and ends with chemistry pick-up lines that he knows Kenma would cringe after reading every single line.

He burns every single draft later on when he finally decides to give up writing his heart out on pastel-coloured scented paper. Kuroo is more of a science guy. It’s extremely difficult for him to wax poetry about the stars and the skies when all he knows is that the sky is only blue because of the sea, and stars are big exploding balls of gases held together by their own gravity.

There is a reason he steered clear of the Poetry & Literature Club back in high school.

The stress of getting the perfect gift hits harder when he receives a notification from Bokuto on Instagram, who had posted a photograph of Akaashi staring soullessly into the camera, wearing what must be the world’s ugliest Christmas sweater and looking like Hallmark had projectile vomited all over his long suffering self.

It currently has 199 likes and 54 comments on Instagram. Kuroo is the 200th to like the end product of Bokuto’s innocent (yet unintentionally torturous) methods of professing his love to Akaashi during the festive season.

“What’s so funny?” Kenma asks, curiousity tickled when Kuroo explodes into laughter in his room. There are no words to accurately describe the situation, so he just passes his phone to Kenma who fails miserably to stifle his own laugh upon seeing the photograph.

But then again, there isn’t much time left for Kuroo to search for the perfect gift. The volleyball team has its own annual Winter Break training camp that would take up half of his two-week break, and at this rate, Kenma would have to go home all by himself.

“My parents are travelling abroad for the holidays. They told me to stay over at your place.” Kenma mutters.

“Oh.” Well, this is surprising, “I have training camp until Saturday night though, you okay with going back on Sunday morning?”

“Sure.”

Well, more time for Kenma to surprise his Secret Santa recipient with a nice gift, Kuroo supposes. Jealousy is an extremely ugly colour for a person to wear, and Kuroo has witnessed firsthand the extent of damage it could do to relationships (see: Oikawa Tooru and Iwaizumi Hajime), so he’s decided that he will cheer Kenma on and be happy for the person who has the novelty of being the first person Kenma ever prepares a present for (aside from Kuroo himself).

“You’re thinking about something stupid again. Don’t.” Kenma’s eyes, sharp and speculative as ever, flicker towards him for a split second before focusing on his game again.

Kuroo frowns, affronted.

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”

Kenma sighs and turns away, signalling the end of their conversation.

It’s a few minutes later only does Kuroo (try to) nonchalantly confess his thoughts.

“I was just thinking about our Secret Santa recipients.” He shrugs.

Kenma’s shoulders tense a little.

“Oh.”

“Have you given your gift yet?” Voice please don’t crack please don’t crack please please please–

“Not yet.” is his soft reply.

“But you got something already, right?”

“Yeah.”

Kenma responds no more to the topic, and Kuroo knows a dead end of a conversation with Kenma when he sees one. Kenma would hunch his shoulders and curl himself into a ball, head dipping low to avoid eye contact with anyone within the vicinity.

Few minutes into observing Kenma play his Nintendo 3DS, inspiration strikes and Kuroo finally has an idea of what to get him. It’s not perfect, but at least it’s a decent idea.

Better than love letters and cheesy confessions from the heart for sure.

 

 

 

 

“Did the weather forecast predict we would be stuck in this stupid snowstorm today?”

It’s finally Sunday morning, the first official day of Kuroo’s winter break after a gruelling week of volleyball training that had everyone dropping to the ground like dead flies right after day two. On the final day of hell, Kuroo thought he could finally drag his tired ass back from the volleyball gym to the showers and rest knowing that the next day would be better, but alas, life continues to pelt rotten lemons at him and ruin his plans to make it home for dinner tonight.

He woke up to a flurry of texts from the volleyball team to look outside the window and look at all that fucking snow!! By the time he’s coherent enough to take in the sight of a snowstorm happening right in the middle of Tokyo, Kenma had also texted him about their plans that got blown away along with the storm.

Great. Perfect.

All trains and public transportation have stopped working until deemed safe to resume operation, and citizens are advised to stay indoors until the storm blows over. Kuroo assures his mother that he’ll take good care of himself and Kenma while waiting for the storm to subside so that they can reach home safe and sound for the Kuroo household’s Christmas feast.

He’s staring out of the window in sorrow when his phone beeps.

 

1.50 P.M.

Hanamaki: this is it, guys. this is the apocalypse we’ve all been waiting for. we’re all gonna die and terrorise this stupid school when we’ve turned into ghosts.
Hanamaki: it's been lit fam
Iwaizumi: wtf
Kuroo: hanamaki no
Hanamaki: hanamaki yes
Matsukawa: hanamaki yes +1
Hanamaki: aww issei ;;
Matsukawa: anything for u my love
Oikawa: GUYS I WAS RIGHT! THE APOCALYPSE HAS ARRIVED FASTER THAN TETSU-CHAN COULD CONFESS! GUYS THIS IS SRS BUSINESS OK THE APOCALYPSE IS HERE BUT KUROO STILL HAS NOT CONFESSED HIS UNDYING LOVE TO KENMA-CHAN ((o(;△;)o))
Kuroo: wtf are u talking abt
Oikawa: GO TETSU-CHAN! TELL KENMA-CHAN HOW MUCH YOU LOVE HIM AND WANT TO LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER W

Kuroo: ….... oikawa?
Iwaizumi: i took out the trash. now some of us can sleep in peace until this fucking storm blows over and then we can all fucking go home
Kuroo: thanks iwaizumi
Iwaizumi: just doing my job
Iwaizumi: but srsly kuroo, just ask kenma out and save us all from this misery will u? tooru’s been going on and on abt u two for months and istfg if i have to hear one more word abt ur goddamn love life, i will be going to going to jail for murder soon

“Easier said than done.” Kuroo mutters darkly, stealing a glance at his crush currently sprawled across his bed, engrossed in the puzzle game on his Nintendo 3DS. Kenma had knocked on his door the moment Kuroo woke up to this white shitstorm, and has been hanging around ever since then.

The gift he bought a week ago sits in his drawer, wrapped in quality christmas wrapping paper that’s even more expensive than the gift itself. For the past week, Kuroo has opened the drawer to look at the exquisite wrapping every night before he drifts off to sleep. He thought of writing a card to go with it, but remembered the ashes of his dead love letters buried under the neighbourhood ginko tree and decided to just wing it when the time comes.

Well, Kuroo glances at the disaster currently brewing outside his room and thinks, it’s now or never. His stomach is currently filled with butterflies, horseflies, all the fucking flies, really. He’s never wanted to throw up all of his stomach contents so much before.

“Hey Kenma.” he tries to go for the casual, nonchalant vibe, but fails miserably when he plants his ass a little too hard on the edge of the bed.

Kenma hums, but puts down his 3DS when he notices Kuroo sitting stiffly by the bed. He waits patiently for the latter to reorganise his thoughts and put them into proper words.

“I know it’s a little too early, but still, um, Merry Christmas?” Kuroo places his gift on the bed in the distance between them like a peace offering, and upon said crush’s confused expression, explains, “I’m your Secret Santa. This is for you.”

Kenma’s eyes widen in shock. Kuroo only hopes he didn’t spook Kenma away.

“You can open it if you want.” he encourages after seeing Kenma’s fingers hovering over the green chiffon ribbon with brimming curiousity.

Kuroo’s gift is no big surprise to anyone. He’s gotten Kenma a Litten charm from the official Pokemon Store. It’s a mystery why Kenma likes Litten so much when there are other much more awesome Pokemon in the recent games. The creators always like making fire-type Pokemon starters evolve into fighting/dark types and it irks Kuroo to the realms of hell to see a cute Pokemon like Litten ultimately evolve into a fire-breathing version of Machamp with severe anger management issues.

“Kuro… thanks.” Kenma says softly. He pets the 2D kitty tenderly with a finger, tiny smile perched on his lips and eyes suspiciously moist. Immediately, he grabs his Nintendo 3DS case and attaches it to the zipper for the world to see. Kuroo’s heart swells with pride.

“I’m glad you like it.” He doesn’t think about the extra gift that Kenma hasn’t found out about yet. When Kuroo approached the wrapping service counter, he had specifically placed his extra gift at the bottom of the box to make it seem like a bonus item unlocked at the very end of a game, like a surprise within a surprise, and if everything goes according to plan then he’d probably get down on one knee or prepare some other romantic gesture up his sleeve and they’d happily go out together as a couple.

But looking back, Kuroo thinks he must have been the stupidest planner in the world, because no matter how much he tries to open his mouth, the words seem to escape him and evaporate into thin air at the tip of his tongue. And gosh, Kenma’s already moving away from the bed to go somewhere else. If he misses this chance, god knows when he will build up the guts to confess to his crush again.

“Kenma, I–”

“I have something for you too.” Kenma cuts him off abruptly.

Kuroo blinks. “Oh.” is all he manages to say before Kenma brandishes an blank envelope before him.

The envelope is crisp and light. Kuroo pries the adhesive seal open slowly and carefully because holy shit, Kenma got him something. Kenma actually thought of him when he bought whatever this is.

And upon closer inspection, Whatever This Is turns out to be five ¥2000 ASICS cash vouchers valid for 24 months in any ASICS store nationwide.

“Merry Christmas, Kuro.” Kenma’s voice pulls him out of his disbelief (because ¥10,000 is a huge amount and Kenma could’ve pre-ordered himself a nice game instead of blowing half of his allowance on Kuroo), “I was your secret santa all along.”

“Oh.”

“Oikawa said you needed new volleyball shoes,” A faint shade of red flushes across Kenma’s cheeks, “I think he rigged the box so that we’d get each other as our secret santa recipients.”

Kuroo’s gaze alternates between the cash vouchers in his hand and Kenma’s fingers latching themselves onto the edge of his shirt. This is a sign, right? This is the universe’s way of telling Kuroo to have courage and hope that everything will turn out for the best, right? That it’s perfectly okay to want more?

The midnight lab visits, the study groups, the sleepovers; everything seems to lead up to this very moment and brought them to this room, where they sit across each other and try to pick out all the unspoken words in the air. They have always been on opposite ends of the spectrum, yet always share the same wavelength. Wherever Kuroo goes, Kenma will follow. Whenever Kenma stops, Kuroo will stay by his side and pull him up from the ground when it’s time to go.

It is terrifying to think that all of this could change this instant, that in any moment, their lives could turn out to be intersecting lines that only meet once before drifting apart.

Change is unsettling. He hopes that this will not break them.

“Actually,” Kuroo clears his throat, and points at the box still filled with shredded crepe paper, “that’s only half of my present.”

“There’s more?”

“Um, yeah. It’s at the bottom.”

Of all times, Kuroo’s stupid heart chooses to pound against his ribcage this instant. His hands have gone numb from feeling too cold, and he bites his lower lip hard just in case his brain fails him and starts blurting out Weird Thoughts and Scary Feelings to make things even more awkward between them.

But, when Kenma digs through the bottom of the box and holds up two passes to an All-You-Can-Eat cake and pastry buffet, all thoughts instantly fly out of his head and leave him in drowning in cold sweat.

Okay, he can do this. He is going to play it cool, grin like he always does and pretend that the two tickets were meant for Kenma alone and not a fucking date that he wants to take Kenma on oh god oh shit Kuroo is going to die–

“These are buffet passes.” He says lamely when Kenma’s intense staring gets a bit too much.

“I know. There are two of them.” Said childhood friend regards him with intense eyes. Kuroo stares back despite the panic spreading like wildfire in his chest.

Oh fuck it. Kuroo is going to jump down the rabbit hole and hope that he’ll make it out alive at the end.

“Yeah. I was hoping that… Well. You see, there was this offer online, and I thought why not, y’know? They’re famous for their apple pies, so I thought we could… y’know...”

Kenma’s eyes soften. “Kuro.” He sighs, and that snaps Kuroo out of his rant because what the hell is he doing being such a wuss?! He is going to ask his childhood best friend who he has subconsciously liked for so long, and he is going to do it properly no matter what it takes, because Kenma deserves that much for putting up with Kuroo and his bullshit since they were kids.

“Are you asking me out?”

“Yes.”

Outside, the storm continues to blow away all chances of them making it home for dinner tonight. Kuroo’s room is deathly silent, except for the clock that ticks on without a care in the world because time doesn’t stop even when your heart is threatening to burst out of your chest before your childhood crush and you’re on the verge of dying from a potential heartbreak. Their staring contest stretches on for what seems to be an eternity, until Kenma’s face glows and breaks into the happiest smile Kuroo’s ever seen on him since the day they met.

“Took you long enough.” The quiet smile on Kenma’s lips is more than enough to make his heart soar into the skies with happiness, snow storms be damned.

“You knew.” Kuroo accuses, but it’s harmless. He can’t fight off the grin threatening to take over his entire face because his motor functions have apparently decided to abandon him the moment Kenma reached out to hold his hands.

“All this time.” He says.

His horoscope for the day (Oikawa has been sending him these ever since their secret santa gift exchange started) had provided him with stupid, ambiguous messages like “the moon shines on your House of Cards (??? what the fuck is a House of Cards and why didn’t Kuroo know he had one before????), today is the best for deepening bonds” or “the sun is in your favour today, don’t miss your chance to grab life by the balls and make a difference!” etc. Kuroo, a man of fact and science, has never believed in all this dubious astrology crap before this, but he supposes it warrants some form of merit when it gives people the courage to take a leap of faith and follow their hearts desire in pursuit of life’s grand moments of beauty.

“Things don’t have to change if you don’t want them to.” He tells his childhood sweetheart sincerely. Kenma has known all this while, he’s probably loved Kuroo even before Kuroo had noticed his own feelings for him. This feeling of a first love reciprocated feels so surreal and wonderful Kuroo thinks he may have grown wings and learned to fly.

“It’s fine,” Kenma laces their fingers together even tighter, “I want this too. It feels nice.”

He wants to kiss Kenma, he wants to hold hands even when they’re not crossing roads or navigating their way through the impossible crowds during rush hour. He wants to hold Kenma in his arms for as long as possible, and be held in the other’s in return. Once upon a time, when they were still young and their mothers organised playdates and sleepovers for them in each other’s house, Kuroo would pat the empty side of his single bed and hug Kenma to sleep on bad days so that they’d both feel a little less lonely.

He wants to do that too. And if Kuroo’s being honest with himself, he wants to do more than that. He wants to peel away each of Kenma’s layers and discover things about Kenma that he never knew when they were young, to map out constellations on every surface of his skin and commit each and every sound he makes to memory.

But instead, for now, he settles on cradling Kenma’s face, thumbs brushing the soft slopes of his pink-tinged cheeks before leaning in to press a light kiss on his forehead.

It’s okay.

They have time.