Kuroo nearly collapsed as he saw the ball smack down onto the court on the other side of the net from Yamamoto’s spike. Daichi had been merely centimeters from it but was too late, his skin releasing an eye-twitching squeak as he slipped against the floor. The game was over and Nekoma had finally beaten Karasuno in the Battle of the Trash Heap.
Kuroo’s teammates grabbed him and grasped each other in a sweaty group hug, their cheers echoing up to the high ceilings of the gym. The audience roar was deafening, though Karasuno’s cheer squad had gone deathly silent. Kuroo drew in a shuddering breath, everything whirling around him like a tornado while he tried to grasp the reality that they had won. As it finally sunk in, he reached out and ruffled Lev’s hair and patted Yamamoto on the back. He wrapped his arms tight around Kenma’s frame as his best friend let out a disgruntled whine in his exhaustion. Tears filled his eyes as he gave a special hug to Kai and Yaku, his fellow third years and the two people he relied on the most. Over Yaku’s head, Kuroo caught Nekomata’s eye, his cat-like grin not so smug but full of genuine pride.
He was beginning to think they couldn’t do it. Karasuno was pushing them so hard and evolving so quickly they could hardly keep up. They each had taken a set and were running on fumes when it came to the last couple points. Two points was all they had won by, and it could have easily been Karasuno that pulled ahead instead of them. Kuroo paused in his celebration to glance behind him at the eerily quiet Karasuno and felt his heart drop.
They were spread out across the court, no one offering consolation to anyone else. The little ray of sunshine Hinata was staring at the ground with his fists clenched, creating a puddle on the floor where his tears were falling. His counterpart setter was frozen, his eyes disbelieving as he stared at the point on the floor where the ball had dropped down. Kuroo glanced at Tsukishima, his own protege from what seemed like years ago at training camp. He was sitting on the court with his hand covering his eyes, his sports glasses shoved up on his forehead. Kuroo could just see a few stray tears slipping past and dropping onto his shirt. He had tried so hard to dig a little ambition and passion out of the first year, and thanks to Bokuto and Tsukishima’s block against Ushijima, the tall blonde had found his love for volleyball. In that moment Kuroo felt like he had destroyed it, crushing his own protege into dust.
Kuroo’s earlier elation had deflated like a day-old party balloon, and he tried to turn away from the other side of the net when he saw Daichi. He was still on the floor where he had tried to save the ball and partially on his knees like he tried to stand but didn’t have any strength left. He admired Daichi in so many ways. He almost made Kuroo feel self-conscious with his ability to control his rowdy team and inspire them when everything seemed bleak. He was strength and reliability personified, but like the rest of his team he was broken. Kuroo’s eyes crawled over Daichi’s trembling limbs and his eyes that had lost their hope. Kuroo felt as if his own heart had been blown to smithereens. Daichi wasn’t Daichi if he wasn’t confident and supportive, but there he was, unable to lift himself from the ground to face anyone else. Kuroo knew that look on his face and it didn’t belong there; it was the face of someone who believed they were a failure.
All the sounds in the spacious gymnasium were muted, the calls of his teammates completely unheard as Kuroo ducked under the net. He moved on instinct alone and didn’t hesitate as he fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around Daichi’s back. He felt the other captain stiffen under him in surprise, but he didn’t let go as he held on tighter.
“You were great, Sawamura,” He whispered against his ear. “You’re not a failure, don’t even think it. It could have been us just as easily, and you know it.”
He felt Daichi’s back shudder with a sob and Kuroo’s shoulder dropped under the weight of Daichi’s forehead.
“We lost,” Daichi whispered back, not sounding like the Daichi he knew at all. Kuroo rubbed his back as he felt Daichi’s fingers slip up his back and dig into his red jersey.
“Barely. You just about killed me, you know.”
“I didn’t succeed though.”
“Are you saying you were actually trying to kill me?”
The sob Kuroo heard next to his ear contained a spark of a laugh in it. It wasn’t much, but he’d take it.
“It was my last game,” Daichi said, his voice gaining a bit more of its steady timbre.
“You mean of high school, right?”
“I don’t know… I’m not sure I’m going to continue.”
“Like hell you’re not! There are scouts up there right now wanting to know who you are and snatch you up.”
“Thanks… but I doubt it.”
Kuroo slid his hands up and grasped Daichi’s shoulders, pulling him back to give him a glare. Daichi’s cheeks were damp, but his bloodshot eyes were no longer leaking as they stared back at him in alarm.
“If I was a scout, I’d want you.”
Kuroo smirked as Daichi’s eyes widened a fraction and a flush that wasn’t from tears crept across his cheeks.
“How can you say things like that?”
“It’s true. Team’s aren’t made up of flashy aces or genius setters. They’re there too, but I’d want the steadiest rock I could find, filling in every gap on the court. You made it in the Best Sixteen when no one else believed in you, except us of course.”
Daichi rolled his eyes. “Lifted us up just to crush us, huh?”
“We won this set by two measly points, I wouldn’t say we crushed you.” He glanced over at the scoreboard and grimaced. “Actually, totaling up the points from all three sets it seems you guys crushed us.”
Kuroo glanced back at Daichi and flinched when he saw the other captain’s lips turning up into a smirk of his own. “Yeah, you’re right. So… we’re obviously the better team.”
“Whoa ho ho, hold on a minute, Country Boy! I didn’t say that.”
Before Daichi could taunt him back, there was a cough next to them.
“Guys? They need to clean up the court for the next team,” Yaku said as he jerked his head toward a new set of jerseys were crowded on the sidelines. “You can, uh, hug each other more later?”
Kuroo and Daichi jerked their arms back and looked awkwardly around at the whole gymnasium watching them with snickers and cat calls.
“What about the handshake?”
“We did it like five minutes ago. We didn’t want to disturb the love fest, it’s obvious there were no hard feelings between you two. Or if there were I don’t wanna know about it.”
“Yaku!” Kuroo’s face felt like it was on fire as he scrambled to his feet. “Uh, bye,” He managed to say to Daichi as Yaku grabbed onto his jersey and yanked him toward the locker rooms.
“Thanks, Kuroo,” Daichi’s voice softly called out to him, barely audible over the chatter surrounding him.
Kuroo was rarely the butt of the joke, maybe occasionally due to his misadventures with Bokuto and Kenma could always find something to jab at him. But he had never endured the kind of torture he received from his teammates about his snuggling with the rival captain in front of the whole world.
“I actually felt a little uncomfortable when you started rubbing his back,” Yamamoto snorted. “I was waiting for you to drop your hand and grab his ass!”
“Shut up, Yamamoto,” Kuroo snarled as he peeled of his damp jersey.
“Kuroo-san wouldn’t do that!” Lev said with a confident chin in the air.
“I always imagined Kuroo-san would be a gentleman to someone he likes.”
Kuroo groaned and slammed his head on the locker while his teammates filled the room with uninhibited laughter.
“Lev, that’s the smartest thing you’ve ever said,” Yaku praised with a pat on his kouhai’s back.
“I don’t like him.”
“You know, I didn’t think so either… until you gazed into his eyes and you began smiling at each other.”
“Kai, not you, too.”
Yamamoto stumbled to the showers as he tried to hold in his laughter. “Did you see how many girls in the audience were taking pics with their phones?! Dude, you’re gonna be famous.”
“You know, I think I even saw Karasuno’s manager pull out her phone.”
“Ahhhh Shimizu-san! I wish she’d take a photo of me!”
Kuroo tried blocking out the voices of his friends as he made a beeline for the showers. Well, he always thought Sawamura was a cool guy. Too bad he could never see him again, otherwise they’d both die of humiliation.
Humiliation happened to occur that very evening since Yaku and Suga had already arranged to visit Skytree with both teams. Kuroo was split in half as he wanted to tease Sawamura about finally gazing on something taller than a transmission tower, the other half wanting to avoid him at all costs. Luckily from his height he could subtly glance over the crowds to spot the other captain without anyone noticing. Unfortunately, they locked eyes and Daichi jerked his head away and glanced further up the famous structure above them. Kuroo was relieved he wasn’t the only one suffering.
Kuroo was proud of his kouhai as they didn’t rub their victory in their rival’s faces but genuinely laughed together about everything else they could talk about. He smirked as he saw Hinata radiating his typical rays of sunshine as his usual harem of Kenma, Inuoka and Lev followed behind. Many of his other teammates were paired off with Karasuno players they had quickly made friends with. Kuroo chose to idle along with Kai as he chatted happily with Asahi, his eyes flickering occasionally to another trio gazing out the spacious windows at the beautiful Tokyo skyline. As Suga and Yaku were deep in conversation, he noticed Daichi admiring the view in silence. He wasn’t sure how long his gaze lingered on his back, but when Kuroo glanced around he didn’t see Kai and Asahi in the near vicinity. A quick glance back to Daichi found that he had been abandoned as well and felt the inevitable draw toward his own counterpart.
“I know what you’re thinking… I didn’t think it would be this big,” Kuroo voice purred next to Daichi as he slid beside him and leaned against the railing. Daichi didn’t turn toward him, but his smile deepened until his cheeks dimpled attractively.
Well… that’s new.
“Are you talking about Skytree, or something else?”
Kuroo’s bray of laughter bounced around the deck before he could contain it.
“Sawamura! I didn’t know you had a naughty side. What a pleasant surprise.”
“Is it? I have to keep up with you somehow,” Daichi replied, finally turning his face away from the flickering lights of the city below to meet Kuroo’s eyes. That evening the tower was illuminated with a soothing blue light, and a sliver of it cast a sheen across Daichi’s face, illuminating his sharp jaw and the scars embedded in his cheek.
“I never got to ask, how did you get those?”
“How did I get what?”
Kuroo lifted his hand and grazed his fingers across his marred skin, his eyes flickering to Daichi’s lips as they sucked in a quick breath.
“These scars, they weren’t there when we were at training camp. I would have remembered.”
“Oh, I collided with Tanaka during the preliminaries. I got pulled out, but I was back on the court for the next one.”
“Wow, they make you look really bad ass.”
“Oh?” Daichi asked as a smirk crawled up his cheek and leaned in a little closer. “Is the pampered City Boy actually intimidated by my battle scars?”
Kuroo grinned as he leaned in as well. “Battle scars? I think you mean clumsy scars, Country Boy.” There was an outlying strain of thought drifting through Kuroo’s brain while bantering with Daichi, noting how at that proximity he could see the reflection of Tokyo’s lights glittering in Daichi’s brown eyes and how warm his body was next to his in comparison to the cold, metal railing he was leaning on.
A squeal rang out and ricocheted off the array of windows curving around them, and they both jerked toward the obtrusive noise. Two girls were standing a few feet away, their cheeks flushed as they stared at them with wide eyes.
“You idiot!” One hissed at the other with a jab of the elbow. “Why’d you disturb them?”
“I’m so sorry! I just realized it was you two and I got so excited, I didn’t mean to interrupt your date!”
Kuroo and Daichi stared at them in confusion until the gears in their head clicked into place.
“Wait--no, no, no!” Daichi stepped forward, his hands held out in front of him.
“We’re not a date!” Kuroo chimed in, nervously running his hand through his messy hair. “We’re here with our teams!”
“Yeah! Our teams....” Daichi’s voice faded out as he glanced around the area and found no trace of their friends.
“It’s okay! We’ll leave you two alone!”
“We don’t judge, it was so romantic!”
“No, please don’t, well that’s really nice of you, but really we’re not on a--”
Suddenly from around the corner a set of familiar voices echoed through.
“Gah! I can barely see over this railing!”
“Hinata, don’t jump in here.”
“Here, Hinata! Get up on my shoulders!” Lev’s voice said, and with a quick glance of terror to each other, Kuroo and Daichi dashed after them.
Despite more bouts of teasing from their teammates, Kuroo and Daichi remained side by side for the rest of their excursion until exhaustion finally set in. Both teams said their goodbyes and well wishes and began to drift apart. Kuroo wasn’t sure if the sudden grip of nervousness was due to their game the next day or the fact that he and Daichi had lingered behind, facing each other awkwardly.
“So, uh… good luck tomorrow,” Daichi said softly.
“Thanks, we’ll need it.”
Daichi smiled a little deeper. “I know you guys can pull through. Don’t let us down.”
Kuroo huffed out a laugh, his breath curling in the frigid air. “Well, I definitely wouldn’t want to disappoint you, so…” He glanced over Daichi’s head and noticed his teammates waiting impatiently for him to join them. His heartbeat fluttered as he felt their time slipping away quickly. “Um, we should exchange numbers.”
“So we can tell each other what schools we get scouted to! Maybe we could end up on the same team for once.”
Daichi stared back at him for a moment, his emotion unreadable and Kuroo was almost certain he was going to refuse. Slowly Daichi smiled and shyly fished his phone out of his pocket.
“Even if I don’t get scouted, it would be nice to know where you’re going, too.”
With nervous chuckles they entered their information, and there were a few coughs and whines to finally pull them away.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you later… Sawamura.”
“Until next time, Kuroo,” Daichi replied and gave him a quick wink before rushing off to join his teammates. Yaku had to barge over and drag his frozen body away since his brain had stopped working because Daichi had winked at him.