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There was something about a good fight.

It was a rush, a cocktail of energy and adrenaline that made Kuroo’s blood sing. He lived for the thrill, even when it was painted by messy stripes of pain. The worst of that came later, when the heat had drained from his veins. Now, in the heat of the fight, the pain was easy to ignore.

He dodged a punch and ducked to the side, spitting blood without taking his eyes off of his opponent. The taste of copper on his tongue was so potent that it was almost nauseating. It coated his mouthguard, dribbled down his chin and onto his chest. He wasn’t certain where it was coming from. Inside his mouth maybe, or it could have spilled from his nose and gotten caught between his lips. Whatever damage it was, he’d taken it in the third round. He’d gone blind for half a second, when he’d been hit. It was a miracle he’d stayed on his feet.

One hit from Bokuto Koutarou was enough to bring most men to their knees.

Bokuto wound back and threw another punch, this one whistling over Kuroo’s head as he ducked. He launched himself at Bokuto, slammed into a solid chest and pinned him against the chain link of the cage. The audience screamed, but Kuroo didn’t have time for them, not when Bokuto jabbed a fist into his ribs. It was an awkward angle, and that was the only reason Kuroo could still breathe.

Their skin was slick from sweat and blood, and Kuroo’s hold slipped. Bokuto rammed a knee into Kuroo’s stomach and shoved him back, stalking after him. Kuroo circled the ring, keeping his back to the cage and his hands in front of his face. Bokuto was getting tired – they both were – but that didn’t make him any less dangerous. It was the opposite, if anything. When a fight dragged on without a quick KO win, Bokuto got impatient. When he was impatient, his form suffered, but the force of his fists became lethal.

Kuroo wanted to say something. He always talked, during their practice fights. He would drop a taunt here and there, muffled by his mouthguard, paired with a distorted grin. It riled Bokuto up, made the fight more interesting.

But this wasn’t practice, and the thousands of spectators present only liked to hear trash talking before a fight. The middle of a match wasn’t the place for it, and Kuroo wasn’t sure he had enough breath to spare.

It was the fifth round. Kuroo didn’t know how much time was left, because he couldn’t look away from Bokuto long enough to check. It felt like a century had dragged by since the round had started, but it probably hadn’t been more than a minute.

One of Bokuto’s eyes was swollen halfway shut, but that didn’t lessen the intensity of his stare. He was a predator stalking his prey around the ring, unshakable and merciless. Kuroo knew Bokuto’s fighting style very well, maybe better than he knew his own. He knew Bokuto’s weaknesses, and he also knew he was too tired to exploit any of them.

Bokuto rushed him, that impatience swelling to the surface. Kuroo dipped away and countered with a hook, snapping Bokuto’s head to the side. He slammed a kick into Bokuto’s stomach, knocking breath out of him. It was a good combo, but it didn’t slow Bokuto down. He lunged for Kuroo, seized him around the waist, and dragged both of them to the floor.

Kuroo kicked at him, trying to twist out of the hold, but Bokuto’s grip was iron. He jammed a knee into Kuroo’s thigh and pulled back to throw a fist at his jaw. Kuroo blocked it with a raised arm and immediately knew he would have an ugly bruise for his trouble.

The one advantage that Kuroo had over Bokuto was his height. He levered his long legs around Bokuto’s, throwing him off balance and shoving him to the side. Kuroo was on his feet before Bokuto could latch onto him, retreating to the other side of the ring to catch his breath. Bokuto climbed upright more slowly, watching Kuroo with those deadly golden eyes.

Bokuto had told him before the match had started, before they’d even arrived at the venue, that he was going to win. He’d said it absolute certainty, like there was no possible alternative.

Kuroo had said the same, though it had been more of a taunt than a true declaration of impending victory.

Now, as Bokuto drew himself to his full height to continue the pursuit, Kuroo wasn’t sure how much of a chance he had left.

Bokuto wasn’t light on his feet. It wasn’t his style, and he’d caught a lot of criticism for it, before he’d become a popular fighter. Now no one was brave enough to judge him, at least not to his face. No one expect for Kuroo, who’d made a hobby of it.

Bokuto careened forward in a rush, and Kuroo wasn’t quick enough to dart away. He raised his arms to protect his face as Bokuto’s blows rained down on him. Kuroo kicked at his legs, but Bokuto didn’t budge. He was too sturdy, too determined.

Kuroo pushed forward and sent Bokuto hurtling a step back. He pulled his fist back, prepared to return the volley of blows, but he didn’t get the chance. He didn’t even see it coming.

Kuroo blinked and he was on the floor, a fresh migraine roaring in his head just as the audience roared from beyond the cage. Someone rolled him onto his back and he squinted, expecting a medic, but it was Bokuto staring down at him, his ferocity replaced by concern.

Kuroo flailed his arm up to pat Bokuto’s knee, a silent reassurance that he was okay. Despite the ache in his head and the dizziness spinning at the edges of his consciousness, he knew he was. He’d been in worse shape than this after a fight.

Bokuto nodded and rose, pumping a fist in the air to a fresh round of cheers from the spectators. Kuroo covered his face with his arm to block out the blinding flare of lights overhead. Now that he was down, his entire body was in agony. Still, he smiled to himself as the announcer declared Bokuto the winner of the championship match. Of course Kuroo had wanted to win, and he’d gone into the ring with the intention to knock Bokuto on his ass.

But if Kuroo couldn’t win the championship himself, at least the next best choice had done it.

A medic knelt beside Kuroo, prying his arm away and peering into his eyes. He asked him questions, the same ones that Kuroo had heard at the conclusion of too many matches. Kuroo spat out his mouthguard along with a wad of blood and answered to the best of his ability. The medic helped him sit up, and although Kuroo’s head throbbed, he didn’t hesitate when Bokuto stepped in front of him and offered a hand.

Bokuto was haloed in the glare of lights over the cage. His skin was slick with sweat, there was blood all over his face, and when he grinned, his teeth were red.

Kuroo smiled up at him and gripped Bokuto wrist. He was pulled to his feet and into a crushing hug. Kuroo squeezed Bokuto around the waist, wincing when Bokuto thumped him on the back.

“We did it!” said Bokuto, as if his victory didn’t belong only to himself. He pressed Kuroo’s face between large, sweaty palms and stepped back to look at him. Blood streamed down one side of Bokuto’s face, from a cut across his brow. His eye was puffy, and it would be purple by morning. His hair was flecked with blood, either his or Kuroo’s, probably a mixture of the two.

Kuroo wanted to kiss him, more badly than he’d wanted anything, more badly than he’d wanted to win this match.

Maybe Bokuto wanted the same. It was impossible to know, because no matter what they wanted, they couldn’t do it. There were cameras everywhere, reporters swarming at the door of the cage, waiting for permission to interview the fighters. The announcer was still speaking, but the words were a blur in Kuroo’s ears. The medic touched Kuroo’s elbow, and he went without argument, leaving the center of the ring to Bokuto.






The time after a fight was more draining than the fight itself. Even though Kuroo had lost, there was no shortage of reporters begging to speak with him. He wiped the blood off his face, put on his most charming smile, and worked through his exhaustion. Despite his career, Kuroo didn’t spend much of his time in the ring. When he wasn’t training, he was doing interviews and raising publicity, strengthening his name and his status. It wasn’t what he’d been expecting when he was still an amateur, but he didn’t hate it. He was comfortable behind a camera, just as comfortable as he was in a cage.

That didn’t mean he wanted to chat with reporters for two hours after he’d just lost a match.

He did it anyway, because he was good at his job. By the time he was free, most of the spectators had left. Some of them still lingered, watching Kuroo from behind the ring, where security had told them to wait. They wore red and black, Kuroo’s colors. Despite his loss, they were ecstatic when he hopped down from the cage and approached to sign autographs and take pictures. His face was a wreck, but that just meant it had been a good fight. He put on a smile and wondered how soon he would see these pictures online.

Finally, it was over. Security escorted him into the private area of the stadium, and Kuroo found it ironic that a famous fighter needed a bodyguard. He’d been given a room for the day, so he would have a private space to get ready for the fight and somewhere to clean up afterward. It was fully furnished, and he slumped onto the leather couch with a sigh. It would be disgusting once he got up again, but he guessed someone would get paid a generous salary to clean up after him. He would leave a tip.

Kuroo leaned his head back and closed his eyes. His head throbbed, but some ibuprofen would take off the edge. He wondered if the staff who’d brought him food earlier that afternoon had medication on hand.

There was a knock at the door. Kuroo didn’t have time to move, or even say anything, before the visitor entered without invitation.

Kuroo didn’t open his eyes. He knew who it was.

“Hey, hey!” said Bokuto, as brightly as ever. “I was hoping you’d be in here! That was such a good fight!”

His enthusiasm was unparalleled, as usual. Kuroo wondered if Bokuto would have been just as excitable if he’d lost.

Probably not, but Kuroo thought Bokuto would’ve still been happy, on some level. Just the way that Kuroo was happy for him.

“Yeah,” said Kuroo, his voice much lower than Bokuto’s. There was the click of the door, the squeak of a lock. “It was. Good job.”

“Thanks!” The smile was obvious in his voice. Kuroo could picture him clearly, grin taking up half his face, eyes squinting beneath the strain of it. When the couch dipped and Kuroo finally opened his eyes, he found that he’d been almost right. He hadn’t taken into account the aftermath of the match, the swelling that distorted half of Bokuto’s face.

“Shit, Bo.” Kuroo reached out with an unsteady hand and pressed light fingertips against Bokuto’s cheek. “Did you get checked out?”

“Yeah, I’m fine!” said Bokuto brightly, as if his eye wouldn’t be completely swollen shut by morning. The cut across his eyebrow had stopped bleeding, and Kuroo hoped it wouldn’t scar. “Never better. You fought so good, man!”

Kuroo snorted under his breath. “Thanks. So did you. You were great out there, better than I expected.”

“Only because it was you,” said Bokuto. “I fight better with you. I always have.” He shifted on the couch, the leather squeaking beneath him. He’d yanked on a pair of sweatpants, the tops of his gold and black shorts still peeking over the edge, but hadn’t bothered with anything else. His chest was on full display, along with a red, rashy abrasion on his ribs that suggested they would bruise overnight. Kuroo distantly remembered kicking him there, repeatedly.

Kuroo dropped his hand from Bokuto’s face, swept it along a broad shoulder, and lingered at his ribs. His touch was gentle, but still Bokuto flinched away, his smile dipping only slightly. “Bruised ribs?”

Bokuto shrugged, as if it didn’t matter. To him, it probably didn’t. “The medic said they might be. They want me to have an x-ray, just in case. I told them it could wait until we get home tomorrow. It doesn’t hurt that bad.”

“Sorry, Bo.”

Bokuto rolled his eyes. “Shut up, Kuroo. You say that every time.”

Kuroo’s mouth twitched into a grin. “Yeah. I’ll probably keep saying it. I like fighting you, but I don’t like hurting you.”

“Part of the job.” Bokuto held out a hand, fingers curled into a loose fist of offering. Kuroo extended a flat palm, and a pair of round pills were dropped onto it. “Got you some ibuprofen. The strong kind. I got you pretty hard at the end, figured it might hurt.”

For a moment, Kuroo’s affection for Bokuto outweighed the pain. Then his head gave a particularly vicious ache and he winced. “Thanks.” He tossed the pills back and swallowed them dry, the bitter taste sticking to the back of his tongue. He sat up a little straighter, pretending the motion didn’t pull at his weary muscles. “So you’re the champion now. I’ll have to challenge you to a rematch sometime.”

Bokuto perked up even more. “Hell yeah! Anytime. I’ll still kick your ass, though. I’m not giving up the title.”

“We’ll see about that.”

The challenge made Bokuto grin. His face softened as he studied Kuroo more closely, lingering on the dried blood still crusted at his hairline. He cupped a warm hand around Kuroo’s jaw and leaned close to inspect him. “Guess I did get you good with that last one.”

“Blacked out for a minute.”

Bokuto’s smile dipped into a frown. “You okay?”

Kuroo thought about the end of the match, when Bokuto had knelt to check on him before accepting the win. He’d always done that, ever since they’d started scheduling practice fights together during their amateur days. “Never better.” He put a hand over Bokuto’s, holding it in place. “I’m proud of you, Bo.”

Bokuto blinked at him, one golden eye larger than the other. This time his smile was softer, almost shy. “Thanks. I’m proud of you, too. You’re a damn good fighter.”

“Not as good as the champion.” Kuroo leaned in to taste Bokuto’s mouth, gently. It was different than their usual kisses, which were as rough and demanding as the two fighters themselves.

After a match, when they were beaten and bruised, they approached things more carefully.

They’d been doing this nearly as long as they’d been fighting together. The first time had been after a tough match between them years ago, a long, dragging fight that had left both of them bloody and ragged. They hadn’t even said anything, once it was over. They’d gone to the locker room, and one of them had pushed the other against the wall – even now they argued over who started it – and it had all been history from there.

All Kuroo knew for sure was that once they’d started, neither of them had ever wanted to stop.

Kuroo pulled back, but Bokuto chased after him, bracing a hand on the back of the couch to lean close. His teeth grazed Kuroo’s lip, just barely, and his tongue followed.

“You know,” said Bokuto, watching him with hooded eyes, “when you got me with that left hook in the fourth round-” He pointed at the swelling on his face, as if Kuroo would mistake what he meant- “I seriously got hard for a second.”

Kuroo laughed. “You’re a fucking masochist.”

“Nah, you’re just hot when you fight like that.” Bokuto kissed the corner of Kuroo’s mouth, his cheekbone, his jaw. “Turns me on.”

Kuroo tilted his head back and sighed as Bokuto skimmed a careful hand along Kuroo’s bare chest. “That’s what a masochist would say."

“C’mon.” Bokuto peeled himself away to stand, extending a hand. “Let’s go clean up. You’re gross.”

Kuroo started to roll his eyes, but aborted it when his head gave a pang. “You’re grosser.” Still, he took Bokuto’s hand and let himself be hauled to his feet.

Bokuto had his own assigned room too, of course. They’d been given identical accommodations and amenities. Regardless, when they stepped into the massive bathroom of Kuroo’s temporary suite, Bokuto seemed content to stay.

“Go ahead and shower off,” said Bokuto. He kicked his sweatpants off and approached the large tub, penned in by glossy wooden slats. “I’ll run a bath for us.” He knelt on the tile, studying the knobs by the faucet, and Kuroo grinned to himself as he turned away to strip.

Peeling his shorts off after a long match was always a relief. Red lines were etched into his skin from the squeeze of the waistband, but it was nothing compared to the marks Bokuto had left on him. Kuroo kicked the shorts aside in a heap of red and black and cranked the shower on, testing the heat of the water with his hand before slipping inside. He took one last look at Bokuto, who’d propped his elbows on the side of the tub to watch it fill with water, and pulled the curtain shut.

There was soap and shampoo, in several scents and varieties, but Kuroo didn’t reach for any of it. He leaned his head back into the spray, wincing when the water pattered against his stinging temple. The skin had split a little from Bokuto’s last hit, but it wasn’t bad enough to demand stitches. It would heal in a day or two, and it was just past his hairline. Even if it scarred, no one would know.

He had a lot of injuries like that. He feared the day he went bald.

Kuroo leaned against the shower wall and basked in the heat, his tight muscles unwinding little by little. The bath would help even more. He knew that from years of experience.

There was a clink of metal on metal as the curtain was yanked open. Bokuto peered in at him, as naked as Kuroo. “Bath is ready.”

“Okay.”

There was a pause.

“Are you gonna get in?” asked Bokuto.

Kuroo hummed an agreement, but still didn’t move.

Bokuto sighed and stepped inside. It took the shower spray only seconds to flatten his hair. “C’mon, man,” he said, pushing wet strands away from his face. “I even put some of that fancy scented stuff in it.”

“How romantic.”

“Kuroooo-”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m going.” Kuroo pried himself away from the wall, wet skin grazing against wet skin as he moved past Bokuto. He dragged a hand along Bokuto’s lower back, let it linger at his hip, and finally stepped out. Bokuto had thrown down a towel, and Kuroo shuffled it over to the bathtub with him, to keep from dripping all over the floor.

The tub was deep, the water sloshing up to Kuroo’s chest as he settled into it. The water was a little foggy and smelled of lavender. It was hot enough that it left a low burn on every inch of Kuroo’s skin, but he didn’t mind. He preferred it like that, on the verge of scalding.

Bokuto liked it a shade cooler, and by the time he showered and joined, it would be. They’d spent years perfecting this routine, so long that Kuroo couldn’t imagine what his career would have turned into if Bokuto hadn’t been there with him. They’d been inextricably linked, whether training together or facing each other as rivals, in the ring or out of it. It was a miracle that they’d climbed so high together, starring in the championship match, but Kuroo wasn’t surprised. Ever since they'd met, they’d been destined for success.

Kuroo sank a little lower, his eyes drooping closed. It was easy to relax like that, with the adrenaline out of his system and his muscles slowly unclenching. His head still hurt, but the worst of the edge was gone. Only a dull ache remained, so subtle that it was easy to ignore. The fatigue would leave him largely useless for the next couple of days, but that was okay. He thought he deserved a break.

Water splashed against his chest, and Kuroo peeked up to find Bokuto stepping into the tub, squinting into the cloudy water to avoid stepping on Kuroo. He found his bearings and plopped down with his back at the opposite wall, a wave licking at Kuroo’s chin as the water shifted. Bokuto’s legs settled on either side of him, knees slightly bent, feet nestled next to Kuroo’s hips.

Bokuto exhaled as he leaned back, slouching down until he was nearly submerged. Only his face remained, head tilted back, hair floating around him like a pale halo. Kuroo wrapped his fingers around Bokuto’s ankle, as if tethering him in place.

“I’m glad we don’t have to be at the airport early,” said Bokuto. “I’m gonna sleep at least until noon.”

“That’s the best idea you’ve ever had,” said Kuroo. “I think I’ll do the same.”

“You always sleep that long. Lazy.”

“I just don’t rise with the dawn, you psychopath.”

“It’s the best time to jog.”

Kuroo cringed. “No time is the best time to jog.”

Bokuto laughed. “I don’t know how you stay in shape.”

“My trainer is a force of nature. He doesn’t give me a choice.”

Silence stretched between them, warm and comfortable. Kuroo was so relaxed that he floated on the cusp of sleep, drifting in that hazy, colorless headspace where thoughts became soft and velvet.

The water churned, and Bokuto glided close. He pulled his legs back, knees finding purchase between Kuroo’s. Even with his eyes closed, Kuroo felt him, close enough that his breath ghosted against Kuroo’s chin.

“Why’re you looking at me like that?” asked Kuroo, without looking.

“I love you,” said Bokuto.

Kuroo cracked open a single eyelid. Bokuto had a hand on each side of the tub for balance. He was sitting back on his knees, the water rising just over his hips, leaving a clear view of cut abs just above the surface. He had the body of a god, he always had, but just then Kuroo was more focused on his face.

Bokuto’s gaze was sharp yet soft, soaking into Kuroo with a heat more potent than their bathwater.

Kuroo sloshed his arms to the surface and curled his hands on either side of Bokuto’s waist. His skin was warm, rosy. “Love you too, Bo.”

“I mean it,” said Bokuto, as if he hadn’t been clear. “I’d do anything for you. You know that?”

Kuroo gave him a lazy grin. “If I’d asked you to throw that fight, would you have done it?”

He expected Bokuto to get caught up on that question, but he answered without a hitch.

“If you’d really meant it,” said Bokuto, “yeah, I would have.”

Affection melted Kuroo from the inside out. He smoothed his wet hands up, over Bokuto’s chest and shoulders, linking them around a sturdy neck. “I’d never ask you to do that.”

“I know,” said Bokuto. “That’s why I would’ve done it. If you’d asked something like that, there would’ve been a really good reason. I trust you, Tetsu. I’d trust you with my life.” The truth of that burned in the golden shine of his eyes.

“You just did,” said Kuroo. “Stepping into the cage with me could’ve been a death sentence.”

“I’m serious.”

“I know you are.” He pulled, just barely, and Bokuto sank close. “C’mere.”

Bokuto draped himself over Kuroo, knees pressing on either side of Kuroo’s hips, back bowing as he hunched down to kiss him. His mouth was hotter than usual, a product of the steaming bath. His hands curled around the lip of the tub over each of Kuroo’s shoulders, keeping himself steady. Kuroo helped him with that, his grip gentle but strong on Bokuto’s waist.

Bokuto kissed him gently, his caution obvious in the tender drag of his lips, the careful sweep of his tongue. He knew there was damage somewhere, an injury that had left Kuroo with mouthfuls of blood back in the cage. Even if he didn’t know quite where that damage was, he’d always been mindful enough to try and avoid it.

Kuroo loved that about him, just as he loved every other thread of Bokuto that stitched him into a loud but magnetic human being.

Kuroo dipped his hands lower, over the firm swell of Bokuto’s backside. He urged him closer, and Bokuto nudged against Kuroo’s torso, his hard-on obvious.

“Sorry.” Bokuto mumbled the apology against Kuroo’s mouth. “I always get worked up after a fight.”

Kuroo snorted. “Yeah, I know. Like I said, a fucking masochist.”

“That’s not true. It’s just all the adrenaline, you know? The thrill of it, and the- the…” He trailed off as Kuroo’s hand dipped between them, fingers curling around Bokuto with a firmness that made him gasp.

“What was that?” asked Kuroo, grinning as he gave Bokuto a long stroke. “You were saying something.”

Bokuto groaned, pressing his face against Kuroo’s jaw. His wet hair mingled with Kuroo’s, a monochrome blend of black and gray. Kuroo turned into him, pressed his lips just below Bokuto’s ear as he worked his hand. He closed his eyes and soaked in all the little sounds that fell between Bokuto’s lips, low and breathy, interlaced with an occasional soft moan. Kuroo threaded a hand through the back of Bokuto’s hair, holding him close, still stroking.

It had been different the night before, with the tension of the impending match hanging between them. They’d been a clash of sharp teeth and strong limbs, gripping hands and rasping breaths. That suited them, it always had, but this suited them, too. This tenderness and intimacy had taken them a while to learn, but since they’d become fluent, it was Kuroo’s favorite language.

Bokuto shivered. Part of it was likely the cool air against his drying back, but Kuroo thought most of it was from a different source. When Bokuto’s thighs started shaking, pressed against Kuroo’s sides, he knew he was right.

“That feel good, Bo?” he asked, voice dipping into a purr. He breathed into Bokuto’s ear. “You’re shaking like it feels good.”

Bokuto made a muffled sound that may have been a moan. His face was pushed against Kuroo’s neck so hard that it was difficult to tell.

Kuroo tugged at Bokuto’s hair, gently. “Hey.”

Bokuto raised his head. His eyes were hazy, skin glowing from the heat of the bath and the way Kuroo’s hand moved over him. His hair was a wet mess, and he looked nothing like the man Kuroo had faced in the cage a few hours before.

Kuroo liked that. Bokuto had an intimidating façade for the public, but Kuroo knew him better. He was the only one who knew Bokuto like this, the Bokuto that existed behind the scenes, the Bokuto that Kuroo loved.

“Kiss me,” said Kuroo, and Bokuto did.

It was a gentle twist of tongues, an occasional pull of lips. Even when Bokuto’s breaths came more quickly, even when he jerked his hips into Kuroo’s hand in a desperate bid for release, their mouths remained soft.

Bokuto moaned, a low, rolling sound that was muffled by the seal of Kuroo’s lips. He spasmed in Kuroo’s hand, and Kuroo stroked him through it, still kissing him, his other hand sifting through Bokuto’s wet hair.

Bokuto settled back as he drifted down, eyes heavy lidded, lips parted. He touched Kuroo’s face, caressing his cheek and tracing the line of his jaw, before his hand splashed back below the water. He pressed his palm against Kuroo’s chest, felt his way down a little, but hesitated. “Do you want me to…?”

“Nah,” said Kuroo. He plucked Bokuto’s hand out of the water and pressed a kiss against his palm.

“You sure?”

“I’m too exhausted to get it up. Some asshole just beat the shit out of me.” He grinned, and Bokuto did the same, more softly. “Raincheck for tomorrow?”

“Anytime you want,” said Bokuto. He leaned in again, left a lingering kiss on Kuroo’s mouth.

Bokuto twisted around, plopping between Kuroo’s legs and leaning back against his chest. Kuroo wrapped his arms around Bokuto and settled back, at peace. They drifted together in the cooling water for a while, and Kuroo pretended their bath hadn't just been contaminated. Even so, they would still emerge much cleaner than they'd gone in.

They stayed that way so long that Kuroo nearly dozed off again. He would have, if Bokuto hadn’t pulled away, slowly peeling himself out of the water and rising.

“Wanna head back to the hotel?” asked Bokuto, as he stepped out of the tub. “I’ll get my manager to call us a cab.”

“Sure,” mumbled Kuroo. “Whenever.”

Still, he didn’t move until Bokuto pulled the plug to drain the tub, draping a towel over Kuroo’s head. “C’mon, you want me to carry you?”

“If you don’t mind.” Kuroo pushed the towel away from his face and grinned up at him.

Bokuto smiled back, and finally Kuroo heaved himself to his feet. He only half-dried, because he thought the dry air would do the rest. He clumsily stepped into a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, one of the old, worn ones that may have belonged to Bokuto at some point in the past. Their wardrobes had mingled over the years. It was hard to tell who’d purchased what.

Bokuto returned to his room to collect his things, and was back before Kuroo had even gathered the motivation to get his shorts out of the bathroom floor. Bokuto did it for him, shoving everything into Kuroo’s gym bag and passing it over to him. Kuroo noticed, belatedly, that Bokuto’s new championship belt was slung over his shoulder, the bronze plate gleaming.

“Look at you,” said Kuroo, running a thumb along the edge of the belt. “You’ll think you’re too cool to hang out with me, now that you’re a champion.”

“Yeah, right.” Bokuto linked Kuroo’s arm through his own and tugged him toward the door. “This doesn’t change anything. I’ve always been too cool for you.”

“I am so offended right now,” said Kuroo, biting down on a grin. “That hurt worse than the K.O. punch.”

Bokuto laughed, and Kuroo couldn’t help joining him.

Kuroo hadn’t been crowned champion, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t his first prize fight, and it wouldn’t be his last. He’d won a lot of other titles and trophies during his days in the cage, and he would continue to win more.

But no matter what Kuroo won, Bokuto was the best prize of all.