Everything goes to shit when the DJ scheduled to take on the final performance at FUK-U Music Night ultimately fails to show up at the club.
Kuroo is not exactly the kind of person that freaks out, but he’s never really faced a problem as big as the star DJ calling him from a payphone at the airport, blustering and stumbling over his words, telling him something about changing his mind about this gig and how he is, effective tonight, flying out with his girlfriend to build an alpaca-petting sanctuary in Peru instead. Kuroo couldn’t even summon a coherent response before the guy hung up. The fucker’s just lucky it wasn’t Akaashi who took the call; Akaashi would never yell in public, and he very rarely loses his cool because he’s the Akaashi Keiji, demon mastermind behind all event planning at the Fukurodani Social House, unflappable even before the hurricane. But the way his eyes flash when Kuroo breaks the news is decidedly one of the Looks Bokuto had warned him about.
So they launch into a bit of troubleshooting. Well, Akaashi is—he’s been texting for the past five minutes, clipboard tucked under his arm and tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth as he types. Kuroo, meanwhile, is pacing up and down the length of the hallway next to Akaashi, alternating between trying not to freak out and plotting lengthly murder.
“Shit,” Kuroo groans, running his hands through his hair. “Shit-fuck-shit. We are so screwed. Promotion is gonna come and take a dump on us. Wait, no, first they’re gonna set us on fire, and then they’re gonna take a dump on us.”
“Calm down,” Akaashi says, thumbs flying over his phone as he types like a madman. The part of Kuroo’s brain that’s trying valiantly not to imagine the fifty-something year old promoter yanking down his trousers to shit on him marvels at Akaashi’s total lack of panic. There’s a mob of roughly two thousand people out there, probably ready to riot if not for how astoundingly intoxicated they all are, their feature DJ is definitely not going to show up for the night, and all Akaashi has to say about this fiasco is ‘calm down’.
“Done,” Akaashi nods, apparently finished with whatever witchcraft and wizardry he’d just pulled to save their roasted asses. “I’ve got someone coming in. It’ll take him about twenty minutes, but he’s nearby so we’re fine. Can you hop on crowd control while I go update management and grab a backstage pass?”
“What,” Kuroo says, flabbergasted.
“Also, once you’re done that, I need you to run to the closest Starbucks and buy a venti salted caramel mocha ASAP. With whipped cream on top. And a shot of espresso. Also, the biggest slice of strawberry shortcake they have,” Akaashi adds, like Kuroo hadn’t spoken, and presses a fifty into his hands. “Quickly!”
“But who did you call?” Kuroo demands as Akaashi strolls briskly away. He shakes his fist at his friend just to be contrary, even as he’s already radioing up the sound booth. They’re not pleased that he’s throwing them under the bus and making them announce the delay, but they give him a “roger that, Kuroo-san”, and Kuroo is free to leap over the props and suitcases backstage to escape through the fire exit.
There’s a Starbucks two blocks away with a barista that’s way too preppy for the hour. Kuroo shoves the bill at her, rattles off the order for the mocha, tells her he’ll take all that’s left of the strawberry shortcake in the display case (which is actually quite a lot), and bolts out the door the minute coffee and cake are in his hands. The trip back into the building is a lot less smooth than his escape out, because security feels the need to make him flash his backstage pass each time he tries to run through any opening in a wall that has a door frame around it. But he makes it back, with only minimal whipped cream on his hands, and returns to see Akaashi talking to an unfamiliar man backstage.
“I got it,” he pants, accidentally skidding into Akaashi’s side.
“Oh, good, there you are,” Akaashi says, pleased, and he plucks the coffee out of Kuroo’s hands and holds it out to the man standing in front of him. Kuroo has to do a double-take, because the guy is wearing a suit and tie and polished black leather shoes, and he looks so out of place amidst the event crew in their sweaty t-shirts and bulky radio headsets. He’s also ridiculously tall, with soft blond hair swept neatly back, and has skin so pale he seems to glow in the darkened backstage area. In the hand not holding the venti mocha is a briefcase. For a horrible moment, Kuroo wonders if this is some kind of lawyer that’s here to shut them down for the night.
But Akaashi’s ‘Kuroo Is Overthinking Things AF’ sensor must be going off, because he gestures towards strange suit guy and says, “Kuroo, I’d like you to meet Tsukishima Kei. He’s going to take over as the DJ for the last show of the evening. Tsukishima, we got you cake too, I’ll leave it in the mini fridge downstairs for you, alright?”
“He—he is?” Kuroo asks, a bit stunned, and Akaashi nods sagely as he passes the strawberry shortcake off to some poor gopher. Tsukishima gives Kuroo the blandest once-over through a pair of plain black glasses, and he somehow manages to make Kuroo feel simultaneously judged and smirked at all together. It’s actually quite impressive.
But Tsukishima doesn’t offer a greeting, doesn’t linger. Instead, he puts his briefcase down, retrieves a sleek silver Macbook and the charger, and simply leaves his sparse possessions by the curtains before he walks towards the open stage. Kuroo nearly spits.
“Wait!” he shouts, and Tsukishima stops short. He arches a very fine brow, and it takes Kuroo a stupidly long moment to realize their strange new arrival is waiting for him to speak. There’s a lot he wants to say, mainly about who the hell this Tsukishima is and what is he going to do and holy shit, what time do those legs open? Because god fucking damn—but all that comes out is: “Um. Are you—are you sure you want to wear your suit on stage? It gets really warm up there.”
Tsukishima looks down on himself, contemplative, and then lifts a nonchalant shoulder.
“I’ll be fine,” he says, in a surprisingly light voice, and then walks out on stage before a mob of annoyed and pissed-off partygoers like he isn’t about to get his asshole shredded live. Kuroo watches on in horror and fascination, and then rounds on Akaashi, who is busy giving a bunch of instructions to their stage manager, Inuoka. Inuoka is writing everything down so frantically Kuroo’s afraid his hand might fly off.
“Are you just gonna let him go out there like that?!”
“Hm?” Akaashi blinks, looking up. “Yes, what’s the problem?”
“Your friend, Takishima—”
“—Tsukishima, whatever, he’s gonna go out and DJ just like that ?”
Akaashi grins wryly at him, like he knows a secret Kuroo doesn’t. He probably does. His phone probably has more secrets than the FBI.
“Don’t worry about Tsukishima,” he says, patting Inuoka on the back as he scrambles off to yell at other people now. “He knows what he’s doing.”
“He looks like some trust fund Wall Street lapdog!”
“Close,” Akaashi says, impressed. “He’s actually a lawyer, but I would still caution against calling him that to his face.”
“A lawyer ,” Kuroo repeats, gobsmacked, and Akaashi nods like that isn’t the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to them.
“Good thing he was working late tonight; we’d really be screwed if he couldn’t turn up.”
Kuroo looks out into the audience, all of whom are sizing Tsukishima up menacingly as he sets up his laptop and slides his large, white headphones over his neck. He gulps, not quite convinced they’re out of the clear yet.
“Why do you have a lawyer friend that moonlights as a DJ that is available via text at—” he checks his watch, “—one in the morning?”
“Oh, you know,” Akaashi shrugs. “I like to connect with interesting people.”
“Seriously,” Kuroo says, and watches anxiously as Tsukishima takes a microphone, taps it experimentally, and then raises it to his lips.
“Good evening,” he says politely, his magnified voice still managing to retain its feather-soft quality even as he speaks. Having this guy for a morning class would probably be a nightmare; his voice is so even Kuroo could probably nod off to it. “I’m sorry to say that your scheduled DJ could not make it for tonight. My name is Tsukishima, and I’m here to provide you with some music. Hopefully we can still end this night on a relatively good note.”
Kuroo swallows as the tittering in the audience grows louder, the confusion and distaste more palpable, but Tsukishima just slides the headphones over his ears and turns one of the knobs on the control board. A beat from a familiar song starts up, its volume making Kuroo’s heart pound awkwardly out of time, and the crowd twitches accordingly, like confused zombies entranced by the bait. It’s sort of hilarious, watching these people trying to figure out if they should accept Tsukishima. His brief speech was too simple for them to pick apart.
“What’s going on,” Kuroo breathes. Next to him, Akaashi grins.
“Magic, Kuroo. Pure music magic.”
The crowd is falling into the music, bopping along and nodding their heads as the pace picks up. Tsukishima lets the song go on as he shrugs his jacket off in one smooth motion—Kuroo gulps, eyes trailing over broad shoulders underneath a surprisingly tight white shirt—and pops the buttons at his sleeves, rolling them up to his elbows.
Then, he steps forward, and lets the bass drop .
And Kuroo swears Tsukishima takes the whole house down with him as he does.
“Yo, dude, what is up with you?” Bokuto asks, head tilted curiously. “You are so out of it.”
“Bruh,” Kuroo breathes from where he’s slumped over against the bar, flipping the jigger between his fingers absentmindedly, “ I am in fucking love .”
There’s a beat of silence, punctuated only by Sawamura’s deep sigh of eternal exasperation, and then Bokuto bursts out laughing.
“Dude. Oh my god, what? Are you still hung up on that blond DJ Akaashi called in?”
It’s an understatement. Two and a half weeks later, Kuroo is still officially floating in the clouds, bolstered along by vague daydreams about that magical night of dancing, drinks, and the most beautiful man he’s ever seen in his life making the most beautiful music he’s ever heard.
“That shirt he was wearing, Bokuto, you wouldn’t understand,” Kuroo sighed dreamily. “Those forearms. Hell, even his glasses were cute. That was the best night of my life.”
“It was not,” Sawamura says, matter-of-fact. He chucks a coil of wire at him; Kuroo drops the jigger and barely manages to catch it with a pout. “He was ready to shit his pants, Bokuto, don’t let him tell you otherwise. Akaashi thought he was going to have a heart attack.”
“I was not,” Kuroo hisses, finally deigning to crawl out from his safe abode behind the bar. It’s midday, Fukurodani Social House is not yet open to the hoards of sleepless clubbers, and they’re all puttering about on the dance floor setting up some new system that actually made Sawamura wiggle with excitement like a kid on Christmas morning when it arrived in the mail. “You try telling Akaashi that his star DJ was at the airport about to fuck of to South America so he could raise alpacas two minutes before he was scheduled to go on, and tell me your life wouldn’t have flashed before your eyes too.”
“Did he do the Look?” Bokuto grimaces from where he’s sorting nuts and bolts on one of the high tables. “Oh man, I hate the Look. That’s the scariest one.”
“He did,” Kuroo groans. “ That made me almost shit my pants. But instead, a blond angel descended from the high heavens—”
“Pretty sure he just took a cab over.”
“The high heavens,” Kuroo repeats, louder and ignoring Sawamura’s snickering. “And saved us. Saved all of us! From the hell that would have been a room full of shitfaced clubbers out for blood. And refunds, Jesus Christ. Tsukishima is our saviour. We should build a shrine in his honour. And for his legs.”
“God, he is going to eat you alive,” Sawamura laughs, practically shaking as he climbs up the ladder to the ceiling. Kuroo has half a mind to shove him off. “Keep up the daydreams, though. It’s rare that I don’t hear someone say Tsukishima and asshole in the same sentence.”
“You’re just saying that to tease me.”
“I’m really not,” Sawamura says. “I’ve known the guy for what, six, seven years now? He’s about as friendly and welcoming as a wet alley cat most of the time.”
“You what?!” Kuroo yells, clattering over. “You know him?”
“Careful!” Sawamura shouts. “Yes, I know him, who do you think introduced him to Akaashi?”
“Pretty sure Akaashi just knows half the city in general,” Bokuto remarks.
“Tell me more,” Kuroo says, grabbing the bottom of the ladder. “Tell me more about him right now .”
“There’s water behind the bar if you’re that thirsty,” Sawamura deadpans, and rolls his eyes when Kuroo whines. “Alright, alright, what do you want me to say? You already know the gist of it. He’s a lawyer. Corporate, I think. He makes music in his spare time. Koushi and I met him and his friend Yamaguchi in university. He did a couple of tracks for one of my friends in film studies, and I think there’s a couple of short films with his name in the credits.”
Kuroo swoons. “He’s an artist . Where can I find his stuff? Youtube?”
“I think he’s got a Spotify page—hey!” Kuroo’s already let go of the ladder and has dived for his phone before the words leave Sawamura’s mouth.
“Gimmie his username,” Kuroo wheedles. “And the aux cord.”
“You’re a menace.”
“ Username .”
“Uhh...T.K.190, I think.”
Kuroo mashes the name into the search bar eagerly, and it takes him a good two tries before he gets it right. The profile pops up, and Kuroo taps the name hurridley. It takes him to Tsukishima’s page—the header image and display picture isn’t a headshot or anything fancy, just the black-and-white art of his latest album, a collection titled To The Moon and Never Back . It was released in 2017. His popular songs have simple, one-word titles ( Liar, Letdown, Forget, Shame ), and they’re all from the same album. He’s got a pretty decent number of monthly followers too; just over two hundred thousand.
Kuroo grins and bounds over to their simpler audio set up, hidden behind a panel in the wall, and boots up the album. He cranks everything up, adjusting the system to get the best possible sound, and he isn’t disappointed.
Tsukishima’s music is good . A dramatic, bone-shakingly, heartstring-pluckingly good.
Bokuto had been away that night Tsukishima saved their bacon, but he’s immediately impressed, bopping his head along to the throbbing beat.
“Holy shit,” he calls. “I like it!”
“See!” Kuroo crows. “Toldja!”
“Nobody said he was bad,” Sawamura says, amused, as he descends from the ladder. “Honestly, I think Akaashi is trying to get Tsukishima to feature on some other night again. People had a really good time.”
“Our club hashtag gained almost double the traction that night,” Bokuto grins. “And we got a ton of new followers on Instagram!”
“He’s good for business,” Kuroo says, already lost in the thrum of the music and thoughts about the searing gold eyes could probably pin him down with one look. “We need him to come back.”
“Alright, keep it in your pants, Kuroo.”
He spends the majority of his evening curled up on the sofa in his shared apartment, dinner half-forgotten on his coffee table as he cradles his phone in the palm of his hands, creeping through as many renditions of Saturday night’s hashtags as he can, anything and everything from #fukurodanisocialhouse to #FUKUmusicnight . But his favourite is probably #suitDJ , which has all the best shots of Tsukishima on the raised platform, the Pied Piper of Fukurodani that night, weaving together the rise and falls of beautiful sounds that made hands wander, lips press together, and bodies churn in tandem on the dance floor.
Tsukishima looks hilariously out of place in his dress shirt and pressed slacks amongst the hoard of clubbers in sheer shirts and brain-meltingly tight pants, but that seems to only endear people more. Comments flood the videos and pictures in the hashtag’s feed, all raving about how much fun they had, how good the music was, and how hot Tsukishima looked.
He’s glorious, and it leaves Kuroo breathless.
It’s entirely coincidental that he runs into the lawyer version of Tsukishima one Tuesday night, but not totally surprising. If Tsukishima works in the downtown core, it would make sense that he’d live in the area too, and with a hotshot lawyer’s salary he’s bound to be able to afford one of the nice, shiny condos on the main strip.
Kuroo makes do, too, with Kenma and Bokuto and Hinata and Lev all crammed into one ancient studio flat on the slightly shadier side of the city. But it’s close to the club, which is close to the downtown, which means the closest place for everyone to get food is the twenty-four hour superstore beside the subway station.
He’s pretty sure he and Tsukishima have crossed paths before, if they frequent the same haunts, but Kuroo’s never known to look until now.
“Oh ho?” he grins, and something flickers on Tsukishima’s face after he gives Kuroo the same once-over as he did at the club; faint recognition that smooths into cool indifference. Tsukishima gives a half-hearted tilt of his head in greeting.
“Can I help you?”
Kuroo puts on a fake pout. “What, don’t you recognize me?”
“The coordinator at Akaashi’s music night,” Tsukishima replies, bored. “Kuroo. Like I said, can I help you?”
“Can’t a guy say hi to a friend?”
Tsukishima snorts, almost unintentionally. “How on earth are we friends? We spoke for maybe a total of five minutes nearly a month ago backstage.”
“And yet you remembered me,” Kuroo grins, watching Tsukishima’s eyebrow twitch as he deliberates between seafood laksa and Japanese curry. He dresses so nicely , and Kuroo unashamedly admires the long tan jacket that hugs the slope of Tsukishima’s shoulders and the peak of a black sports jacket with a light, cream-coloured collar underneath. His tie is a dark forest green; silk, by the looks of it, and god, he looks expensive and beautiful. In contrast, Kuroo is wearing his oldest and comfiest pair of sweats and dons a borrowed jacket from Lev, a giant camo thing that’s big even for someone of Kuroo’s stature. They look ridiculous side-by-side.
“Don’t be impressed. I have a good memory.”
“Comes with the job, I suppose?” Kuroo prompts, and Tsukishima makes a sound like he’s trying very hard to be polite, but is steadily losing his patience over it.
“Yes,” he says, turning and giving Kuroo a sharp, cutting smile. As friendly and welcoming as a wet alley cat , Sawamura had said, but right now he’s more like a poised, snooty house cat, the kind that perch themselves at the top of the bookcase and looks you dead in the eye as they push things off your shelf. “If you’ll excuse me. I’m sure we both have a schedule to follow.”
Kuroo has no doubts that someone like Tsukishima would keep his work and leisure life and everything mundane in-between thing to the exact on a strict, non-negotiable schedule.
“The seafood laksa is better,” Kuroo winks, and he’s blessed with another twitch in Tsukishima’s expression when the blond realizes his indecisiveness has been noticed. He scowls, turning back to the shelf.
Kuroo laughs, grabs the packets of spicy ramen that Hinata had wanted him to buy, and calls sweetly, “Come back to the club soon, Tsukki!” before hightailing it out of the store, chortling at the indignant spluttering he gets in response.
The start of November ushers in a swift drop in temperatures and the appearance of scarves and knit hats, but that doesn’t diminish their weekend crowds in the least. If anything, more clubbers are flocking to Fukurodani, eager to check out the place ‘suitDJ’ had performed at, and Kuroo and Akaashi pounce on the opportunity like an owl closing its talons on a tiny, squeaking prey.
Tops-Off Tuesdays is Kuroo’s idea, something he had half-planned in the drafts months ago but never really managed to carry through. But Akaashi found out about it, like he does with all other things of life, so they decide launch the exclusive event at the beginning of the month.
It’s wildly successful.
Iwaizumi is an established in-house DJ and has always been a fan favourite; he makes fun music, he’s reliable, and gets along astoundingly well with Akaashi, likely because of their solidarity over dealing with high maintenance boyfriends.
But Kuroo isn’t going to complain if Iwaizumi’s said high maintenance boyfriend wants to show up at their event, because Iwaizumi is dating Oikawa Tooru, an actual Seijoh’s fucking Angel and a god-tier underwear model. Akaashi’s expression is reminiscent of a cat that got the cream and the canary when Iwaizumi tells them about his boyfriend’s interest in making an appearance that night, and Kuroo can only imagine how good their numbers would be if Oikawa shows up to party and sweeten the theme of tops off as well. Tickets sell out less than ten minutes after the online link opens up, they hire extra security, and the club gets turnt Tuesday night.
“Bro!” Bokuto hollers, barely managing to catch Kuroo as he dashes across the upstairs level, busy putting out fires behind the scenes and cajoling the crew to keep their spirits up despite how busy they all are.
“What?” Kuroo shouts back, the thrum of the bass and the flashing of lights making him feel like he’s swimming through the air.
“You did so fucking good,” Bokuto says, hands cupped around Kuroo’s ear. “This was the best fucking idea ever!”
Kuroo grins. He takes in the crowd below them that’s pressed chest-to-back-to-chest on the dance floor, arms in the air and hips swaying to the music. Guys are shirtless and girls are in varying forms of neon bras, tiny crop tops and strapless little scraps; Iwaizumi eventually caved and shed his t-shirt earlier on in the night after a whole lot of cheering, and probably also because Oikawa won’t stop raving about his muscles and is now basically grinding with him on the platform, to the delight of literally everyone. Two dollar tequila shots ensures drinks keep pouring behind the bar, and Akaashi had been flitting in and out of the VIP lounge to talk business, pour champagne, or do whatever else Akaashi is good at doing.
“It was,” he shouts back in agreement. “It really fucking was.”
November 17th falls on a Friday, and even though Kuroo doesn’t really care about having to work on his birthday, Bokuto insists that he takes the night off. He even goes as far as offering to take his night off to hang out, which, well, is rather nice of him. Bokuto goes on and on about taking Kuroo out to eat downtown at a new upscale noodle bar or whatever, so he doesn’t think too much of it when he’s given instructions to “dress hot!”
He does, however, frown a little in confusion when their uber stops at the side street where the back entrance of Fukurodani is. He can hear the music booming from outside, the beat attractive and heavy, but it doesn’t sound like Iwaizumi’s or Nishinoya’s style.
“What are we doing here?” Kuroo asks, when Bokuto gestures for him to get out of the car.
“I left my wallet at work,” Bokuto says, not quite looking at him as he digs for his keys. Kuroo stares, but he’s jolted when the driver pulls away and speeds down the street.
“Hey! Isn’t that guy supposed to wait?”
“Huh?” Bokuto blinks, opening the back door. “Oh—oh, nah, we can, uh, order another one later.”
“Later? How long do you think you’re gonna spend looking for your wallet?” Kuroo says, raising his voice over the music as they wander up the stairs to the main level. Bokuto gives him a half-shrug, too busy frantically texting to reply, and Kuroo has to roll his eyes and push Bokuto’s head down so his idiot friend doesn’t run into the low headspace as they go upstairs. Bokuto eases the door open first, they step out onto the main level, and—
“ SURPRISE! ”
Kuroo jumps a foot into the air as confetti explodes into his face, shiny red and black raining down on them (his favourite colours). He clutches at his chest and lets out a splutter of shock, taking in the laughing and cheering people around him.
The club is almost unrecognizable from its usual interior; the lighting is brighter, silver streamers hang in beautiful twists and turns from the ceiling to the chandelier, and huge, gold letter balloons spell out HAPPY 29TH BIRTHDAY KUROO behind the bar. It’s evident that they’d closed Fukurodani down for the event, because only a small crowd is standing on the dance floor and Kuroo recognizes nearly everybody; there’s Hinata, Lev, Kenma, Sawamura, Iwaizumi, Oikawa, Nishinoya and his fashion designer boyfriend, Kuroo’s event crew, Sawamura’s tech staff, Akaashi’s management assistants, and a few mutual friends. He sees a couple of Oikawa’s fellow Seijoh’s Angels who are talking with some professional volleyball players from Hinata and Lev’s team, and there, on the platform DJing, is—
“Holy shit,” Kuroo wheezes, and makes direct eye contact with Tsukishima. Tsukishima, who’s dressed in something a little less formal than his suit-and-tie ensemble but still looks like he’s just stepped off the photoshoot of Men’s Vogue. Tsukishima, who’s got his white headphones on and is pumping out the music for Kuroo’s surprise birthday party. Tsukishima, who smirks at his flustered appearance and goes back to delivering beats like the literal god of music that he is.
“We did it!” Bokuto bellows, throwing his arms up as everyone swarms Kuroo. “Not gonna lie, the hardest part was trying to make sure you took tonight off, but we got it done!”
“You sneaky cheats,” Kuroo says, but he’s grinning from ear to ear. “You sneaky filthy cheats, I knew something was up when the uber took off, forgot your wallet my ass .”
“We still got you though,” Bokuto grins, and Kuroo relents; he gives his friend a huge hug, one that’s reciprocated with equal amounts of enthusiasm, and allows himself to get swept up in the festivities. Akaashi presses a tall flute of champagne into his hands and the refills don’t stop from that point onward; Kuroo drinks with Sawamura and his boyfriend Sugawara, drinks with his coordinating crew, Inuoka and Yaku and Kai and Yamamoto and Fukunaga, and somewhere along the way gets backed into taking shots with Oikawa and the other models, all of whom are tall and lean and so, so pretty.
Speaking of pretty, Tsukishima’s still on stage, a pillar of calm and careful work while everyone else slowly gets more trashed on the dance floor. The only indication of dishevelment is where he’s got his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and damn it, those forearms again—
“You’re drooling,” Kenma says, somewhere from Kuroo’s side, nursing his own colourful cocktail.
“Are too,” Kenma replies, a glint in his eye as he looks between Tsukishima and Kuroo. “Sawamura did say you were thirsting pretty badly.”
Kuroo whines. “All lies. I’m not thirsty for anything, except maybe another shot.”
“Did someone say shots?” Hanamaki, one of the models, appears like he’s been summoned. He pushes another tiny glass into Kuroo’s hands, and he throws it back without thinking. The world swims around him, bright and happy and full of music.
“You cannot possibly outdrink him,” Matsukawa advises, even though he’s only less drunk by a marginal amount. Kuroo spends half a second marvelling the fact that fucking Hanamaki Takahiro and Matsukawa Issei are at his birthday party. “Hiro has a bottomless stomach, you’ll get alcohol poisoning first.”
“Guh,” Kuroo says, and Kenma pats his arm soothingly.
“Kuro-chan,” Oikawa calls, sidling over. He waggles his eyebrows at him. “What’s this I hear about you thirsting after someone?”
“ I’m not thirsty! ”
“Anyone with eyes can tell you’ve got it baaad for the DJ,” Oikawa drawls. “Not—hic—not that I blame you, he’s pretty.”
“Model legs,” Hanamaki adds, and Matsukawa hums in agreement. “Probably looks killer in stilettos too. Our Stage Director would kill for them, honestly.”
Images of Tsukishima modelling Seijoh’s underwear line rises up in his mind unprompted, and Kuroo nearly pops a boner like he’s fifteen again in goddamn public. It doesn’t help that he’s very much aware of what this year’s fall line’s theme is (white lace and dark, sheer, shimmery materials) because Sawamura had wanted to test out a new projector and Nishinoya had, to Iwaizumi’s horror, gleefully dug up every video of Oikawa’s walks on Youtube to project onto their wall.
His brain shines a spotlight on Tsukishima wearing Kuroo’s personal favourite ensemble: a tiny, lacey underwear with sheer black stockings and garters with a hugging lace trim, and he has to valiantly remind himself that it was Oikawa he’d seen that look on first, and that Iwaizumi might bury him if he thought about his boyfriend in fancy underwear for too long.
“ Thirsty ,” Kenma whispers, and Kuroo covers his face with his hands and groans. Fortunately, he’s saved from further ribbing when cheering starts up again and cake arrives. Kuroo swears a blue streak when he sees the picture they’ve chosen to put on the cake was the stupid, blurred shot Akaashi took of him falling during his first and last attempt to pole dance.
“The disrespect!” he howls, and Bokuto looks like he’s about to die laughing. Even Akaashi is smiling, wider than usual, an ‘I’m innocent’ expression on his face that Kuroo doesn’t buy for a second.
“What can I say? It was the most majestic photo I had of you.”
“Shut up,” Kuroo snarks back, but someone helpfully dims the lights and Tsukishima skillfully fades out the music to put on the generic soundtrack of happy birthday . And despite the overall silliness and the fact that he was wearing nothing but electric blue nipple pasties and matching spanks in that photo, Kuroo’s heart warms as his friends sing for him.
“Make a wish!” Hinata and Lev shout, and Kuroo takes a second to do so before blowing out his candles.
“ CAKE HIM! ” Bokuto bellows, and honestly, Kuroo can’t even say he’s surprised when someone plants their palm on the back of his head and shoves him face first into his birthday cake.
Ah, well, you only turn twenty-nine once.
The party starts to wind down around two in the morning, mostly because everyone’s had more than enough to drink from the open bar and they’re all stuffed from the admittedly delicious lemon-raspberry cream cake Sugawara had catered from his bakery. People are lounging at the tables, the bar, and high chairs, the volleyball players are playing some convoluted drinking game with a cup and cards, the models are taking a smoke outside, Bokuto had finally spirited Akaashi away somewhere (the curtains were pointedly drawn shut in the upstairs lounge), and Tsukishima…
Well, after the birthday song, Tsukishima had been freed from his position as DJ to relax and enjoy the party, according to Akaashi. A playlist keeps the music going, but it’s some generic one someone must’ve put up. He hasn’t seen the blond again for the rest of the night, and part of him wonders if Tsukishima had played his part, gotten paid, and then went home. The thought makes him feel strangely despondent.
He needn’t have worried, though.
He’s alone behind a quieter corner of the bar, juggling the ingredients needed to make himself a Dark & Stormy when a cool, familiar says, “Gin and tonic, please. Hold the ice.”
Kuroo whips around, almost dropping his lime. Tsukishima is climbing into one of the chairs across from him, brushing a used napkin out of his way as he settles comfortably in his seat. He gazes expectantly at Kuroo, who huffs out a laugh and tries to will away the flush in his cheeks.
“I’m not even the bartender here, but just this once, for you,” he says, and stoops to pick out a glass.
“Lucky me,” Tsukishima drawls. “Could’ve sworn it was someone else’s special day though.”
“Wonder who it is?” Kuroo hums, flipping the jigger between his fingers, and doesn’t miss the way Tsukishima’s eyes trail after his movements.
“So how does it feel being an old man?”
Kuroo splutters. “Now that’s rude, you little shit.”
“I’m full of youth and you know it,” Tsukishima smirks. He drums his long fingers on the table top, and Kuroo tears his gaze away so he could properly cap the shaker and mix Tsukishima’s drink. “I wouldn’t have guessed you were twenty-nine, though. You look like you might be my age.”
“Aw, is that a compliment, for lil’ ol’ me?”
Tsukishima’s smirk widens, and Kuroo knows he’s walked straight into a trap. “Well, people often mistake me for over thirty so...yes, perhaps you do look my age.”
Oh, he’s handsome, makes music, and he’s witty. Fuck me sideways, Kuroo thinks in mild despair.
“It’s all this late-night DJ work you do,” Kuroo clucks, pouring the drink into a glass. He artfully arranges a sprig of rosemary in the corner and sets it on a paper coaster in front of Tsukishima. “Gives you eye bags. Can’t be healthy for a young man like you!”
Tsukishima snorts. “As if. This is the second time I’ve DJ’d in...well, in years. Most recent other time being that night Akaashi called me up out of nowhere at one in the morning to perform.”
Kuroo pretends to swoon as he turns back to his own drink. “Well, Tsukishima, I’m flattered you’d show up to perform for my super secret birthday bash. VIP only, very exclusive, y’know?”
“Pretty sure those models and a bunch of nationally-ranked volleyball players were more VIP than you were.”
“Semantics,” Kuroo waves, and pours his drink into a tall glass, garnishing it with a slice of lime. “How much did Akaashi pay you to perform?”
“What?” Tsukishima asks, fingers stilling on the edge of his glass.
“What’s your cover cost,” Kuroo elaborates, even though he’s sure Tsukishima knows what he’s talking about. “I’ll tip on top of that. I like your music,” he admits, softly, unable to stop himself. “I’m really glad you came tonight.”
Tsukishima stares at him for a moment, expression unreadable, but then he looks down and fiddles unnecessarily with the rosemary. Kuroo can see how the tips of his ears have gone slightly pink.
“I didn’t charge anything.”
It’s Kuroo’s turn to stare now. “You...you performed for free?”
Tsukishima shrugs, clearly trying to pass it off. “I didn’t mind. Your friends are very persuasive. Plus, it’s never bad to accrue a favour from Akaashi.”
Kuroo is still trying to process the fact that Tsukishima decided to perform for him for free .
“Wow. That’s. Very nice. Of you.” Holy shit, he thinks. Use your words, Tetsurou, and Lord give him strength.
Tsukishima raises his glass to him, expectant. Kuroo lightly clinks his drink in turn, brain on autopilot, and Tsukishima says, “Happy birthday, you old fart, now shut up and drink.”
Kuroo inhales a good portion of his drink laughing, but it’s totally worth it.
“Jesus Christ,” he laughs, heaving against the counter. “This—this is like a superhero identity. You got a normal pencil-pushing job by day, crazy wild-child persona by night, and—and you come off as cranky and sauve but then you just say shit like that and I realize that you’re just so funny and I just—I’ve never met someone like you. Who even are you?”
Cool fingers touch his wrist, and Kuroo snaps up just in time to see Tsukishima press the tip of a felt pen to his palm and scrawl a phone number over his skin. Ink runs into the lines on his hand, but the numbers are clear, legible. Tsukishima stands, throws back the rest of his gin and tonic in an impressive gulp, and melts Kuroo under the weight of his gaze.
“Why don’t you find out?” Tsukishima says, and then he’s gone, leaving Kuroo to stare in wonder at his own hand.
Tsukishima is, unsurprisingly, an infrequent texter. Kuroo doesn’t hold it against him; he figures Tsukishima is a busy man, with an actual paying day job and all. He does, however, hope his phone is on silent, because Kuroo is a very frequent texter.
He sends good morning greetings, funny anecdotes about the nonsense that he gets up to, pictures of the stray cats Kenma and Lev keep coaxing onto their porch with treats, sprouts ideas for the club, and talks about everything and nothing at all.
And Tsukishima indulges him.
To: Tsukki 3:04pm
Need u for a tiebreaker.
Considering adding jello shots to happy hour. Yay for me and bokuto. nay for sawamura and akaashi
To: Kuroo T. 3:10pm
Nay. Those things are the devil’s own
To: Tsukki 3:11pm
Tsukki WTF I was counting on you!!!
To: Kuroo T. 3:12pm
Trust me. You do not want jello shots on your nice dance floor.
Akaashi told me you guys just got it replaced last year.
To: Tsukki 3:13pm
Ur probs right
To: Kuroo T. 3:14pm
I know I am.
Kuroo double texts like nobody’s business, relishing in sending streams of meandering messages that will sometimes crop up as read in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon and stay that way for a minimum of five or six hours. And then, when he’s in the middle of trying to organize bottle service up to the VIP lounge (because of course the birthday girl decides to get shitfaced and place an order last minute, nevermind that they asked her repeatedly if she’d like bottle service when she made the booking, and of course they’re not stocking the Merlot until next week), he’ll get a buzz in his back pocket and opens up his messages to see something like:
To: Kuroo T. 12:49am
You can’t hear a pterodactyl use the bathroom because the ‘p’ is silent
You think your grade school level puns can best me? Dinosaur enthusiast since the age of three?
It never fails to make his heart go crazy.
“Just ask him out already,” Sawamura says when they’re out for lunch one afternoon, waiting for their tonkatsu to arrive. “He’s already messaging you every day, which according to Akaashi isn’t something he does even for his own mother. He’s definitely interested in you.”
“And give up the thrill of the chase?” Kuroo asks, faking abject horror. “Sawamura, who do you think I, a dashing, hunky, heartthrob—”
“Utterly nerdy and completely single,” Sawamura interjects.
“Excuse you. I’m a handsome bachelor. I have to play my role accordingly.”
“Didn’t know you were taking personality lessons from Oikawa.”
“Shaddup, Sawamura, just because you’re all lovey-dovey with that Suga-sugar baby of yours—”
“ Sugar what now. ”
“—doesn’t mean you’re a relationship expert!”
Sawamura pinches the bridge of his nose, clearly doing deep breathing exercises and probably pulverizing Kuroo in his mind. “Look,” he says, half-annoyed and half-blunt. “Why are you holding back? You like him. And not just in a shallow, hookup kind of way. I see you reading your messages during club hours, you doofus, and even after the time someone yacked on you in the middle of the dance floor, you somehow managed to look happier after checking your phone.”
Kuroo remembers that night. The kid had used a fake ID too, and he’d spent the better half of the night ripping security a new one while Akaashi stood behind him and gave off a deathly aura.
“Kuroo,” Sawamura says, and ugh, he’s doing the dad face again, and the dad tone. “You can ask him out, you know. Honestly, I think Tsukishima would say yes. He wouldn’t have performed at your party if he didn’t like you, no matter how much Akaashi offered him. And he definitely wouldn’t have done it for free, given you his number, and continued texting you to this day.”
“I know,” Kuroo mumbles, slightly petulant, as their tonkatsu arrives. “I’m working up to the moment, okay?”
Sawamura regards him carefully. “I understand,” he says. “I’m rooting for you, you know. Even if you are an ancient old fart now.”
Kuroo grins, feeling their usual banter come back. “Say, isn’t Suga actually older than you? And he makes fucking bank with that incredible bakery of his, so wouldn’t that make you the sugar baby?”
He barely manages to dodge the chopstick that comes flying in his direction with a shriek, and they’re back on their usual bullshit once again.
To: Tsukki 1:28pm
(´∀｀)♡ isn’t she cute
To: Kuroo T. 2:09pm
Is that a Bombay?
My roommate has a cat that looks like that. Mixed breed, I think.
But yes; they’re beautiful.
One of their bartenders calls in desperately sick last minute, so Kuroo volunteers to stand in for them because they’re short-staffed enough as it is with the upcoming holidays and exam season around the corner. He closes for the night on top of his usual coordinating duties, so it’s nearly six in the morning by the time he drags himself back to the apartment, actually running into Hinata and Lev as the two head to morning practice.
He fully intends to sleep in until two in the afternoon, but he’s unceremoniously awoken by the buzzing of his phone sometime around ten in the morning. Grouchy, Kuroo paws at his sheets until he finds the offending device, only to perk up curiously when he sees it’s from Tsukishima.
To: Kuroo T. 10:01am
[file attachment: audio clip 0:34]
Intrigued, he turns up his volume and clicks on the play arrow before he could stop himself.
There’s a soft fuzz of ambient sound—a ceiling fan, perhaps—before he hears it.
His speaking voice is usually quiet, flat to the point of near-boredom to the untrained ear, but right now his voice is deep, sort of raspy and low. Kuroo’s grip on his phone tightens unintentionally as Tsukishima hums out a tentative little melody, a little snippet of something, and there’s a light tapping sound that accompanies the humming every couple of seconds or so. He can hear the inhale and faint exhale of every breath, the soft hitch of a note that’s gone off-key because Tsukishima is trying to stay quiet, and the murmur of a word here or there.
Kuroo listens for all thirty-four seconds of the audio clip, and then plays it again, and again. The helpless, stupid, gushy romantic vice around his heart clenches tighter and tighter. He replays the clip at least three times before the text bubble pop up at the bottom of his screen, indicating that Tsukishima’s typing. A second later, his message appears.
To: Kuroo T. 10:04am
Sorry, you can ignore that.
I was in the middle of messaging you when I got an...inspiration of sorts. Wanted to save it before I forgot it.
Kuroo’s texting back immediately.
To: Tsukki 10:04am
Holy shit Tsukki that sounded rly cool!!!
Is that a song?? are u composing a new song??
To: Kuroo T. 10:05am
I told you could you ignore that
To: Tsukki 10:05am
What, and miss out on your beautiful singing voice???
He watches in mild amusement as the bubble appears, disappears, and then appears again.
To: Kuroo T. 10:06am
You are ridiculous. Also, I was humming, not singing.
To: Tsukki 10:07am
Potato, potato, tomato, tomato
It sounded amazing tho
I’m so curious now
To: Kuroo T. 10:07am
You know that saying only works in person, right?
And it’s just a snippet. Sometimes I get melodies in my head and I record them.
My voice app is almost full, though. I should probably clear it out.
To: Tsukki 10:08am
Guess I’ll just have to hang out with you and say it IN PERSON (*ΦωΦ*)
I’m a great listener btw, if you’re interested in a sounding board
To: Kuroo T. 10:10am
Not sure if I want to hang out with you in person if you’re going to talk about potatoes and tomatoes.
But, I’m free this Thursday afternoon.
Maintenance on my floor means I can work from home.
I also have it on good authority via Sawamura that you are definitely a terrible listener.
You’re not fooling me.
Kuroo types out a mash-up of yes ye syeyshes um vry free fiors sure before he forces himself to slow down, even if his heart wouldn’t.
To: Tsukki 10:12am
lunch thursday then? I kno a good yakiniku place a block off Kyobashi station!
also, sawamura is a butt, don’t listen to anything he tells u
To: Kuroo T. 10:13am
Sounds good. Meet you at the station, 1pm.
I have a client meeting now.
To: Tsukki 10:13am
He flops back down onto his pillows, exhaling shakily.
Lunch. He’s getting lunch with Tsukishima .
A stupid, sappy grin crosses his face before he could stop it, and Kuroo curls back down under his duvet, fishing out his shitty headphones from his nightstand so he could listen to the voice clip again.
There’s no way he’s falling back asleep after that.
He makes an effort to dress up just a little bit this time around. It’s not to say that he doesn’t normally dress up, but there’s never really a need to. His outfits usually consist of t-shirts and jeans for when he’s backstage, or pressed shirts and nicer pants for when he has to make rounds out on the dance floor. He likes his comfort, collects sweatpants and volleyball shorts like nobody’s business, and owns way too many stupid graphic tees that he and Bokuto enjoy wearing at the most inopportune moments, much to Akaashi and Kenma’s chagrin.
But Tsukishima always looks so good , and not just in an my-jacket-costs-more-than-your-month’s-salary kind of good. He’s always put together, clean-shaven and fresh, hair combed neatly back and glasses polished. He folds the sleeves of his shirts up with crisp neatness, even on both sides, and holds himself upright, oozing confidence and detached uninterest. On the outside, it’s an arrogant look.
And yet, skimming just below the surface, Kuroo realizes that Tsukishima is a surprisingly earnest person, diligent and creative and cheeky. He’s a man who makes quips with Kuroo and gives genuine feedback on his event ideas and indulges his never-ending barrage of cat photos. Tsukishima’s the type of person who sends Kuroo an absurd amount of knife emojis to express frustration after a particularly gruelling day at court and will link him articles about recent dinosaur digs with thoughts? tacked on in the following message like he didn’t already know that Kuroo would immediately read the article and text back with equal enthusiasm.
He looks amazing when Kuroo spots him waiting at the station exit with his headphones and fitted jeans and a navy pea coat, and when he gives Kuroo a lopsided little smirk, Kuroo swears his insides liquify. Tsukishima allows him to lead the way to lunch, nodding along to Kuroo’s recap of his week at the club and his retelling of how Lev nearly concussed himself on one of the low beams in their apartment again. In turn, Tsukishima offers up his own tales of difficult clients, irritating coworkers, and what it’s like to represent some of the most powerful business tycoons in the city.
Tsukishima is incredible.
So slowly (and maybe he’s already known this about himself from the beginning, held back from asking Tsukishima to be his for the same reason, holding out for a moment he may not actually have the courage to get to), Kuroo’s slowly starting to realize that he just can’t compare.
“So, in short, we’ll be jam-packed December 21st to the 23rd for Deck the Club, with Iwaizumi performing on the Saturday and Nishinoya on the Sunday. We’ll be off Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, and then skeletal staff for that family reunion function that rented us out on the 28th because they have their own catering.”
“Bokuto and I will be in for the Christmas events, so I was thinking you can take that time off or a half-shift if you wouldn’t mind covering New Year’s Eve?”
“...and Iwaizumi called, he said he and Oikawa want you to join a threesome with them.”
“Sawamura and Sugawara are going to buy an airship with Nishinoya and Azumane-san.”
“Kenma’s moving to France. Hinata and Haiba-san are combining themselves to become the ultimate volleyball player with superior height and jumping ability. Tsukishima dyed his hair red.”
“Huh-hu—wait, what?! ” Kuroo chokes, jerking up from his notes to stare at Akaashi, who’s looking back at him with his arms crossed, eyebrows raised and utterly unimpressed.
“You were definitely not listening to me at all, Kuroo.”
“I was,” Kuroo protests, and half-heartedly slips his notebook out of sight when Akaashi looks pointedly at the doodles of dinosaurs and music notes in the margins. “You, uh, you said Tsukki dyed his hair! Which—wait, when the hell did he dye his hair?!”
“He didn’t,” Akaashi soothes. “I was messing with you because you weren’t paying attention. To anything I said, really. I said a lot of weird things. Is something troubling you?”
“Not really,” Kuroo grumbles. “Sorry, let’s just go back to planning—”
“Or some one , perhaps?” Akaashi says, and Kuroo jerks marginally. “I noticed you only snapped out of it when I mentioned Tsukishima.”
“Don’t,” Kuroo groans.
“Don’t what? I didn’t say anything yet.”
“You’re sneaky,” Kuroo says, jabbing his pen at his friend. “And you have secrets. And you know my secrets, I can tell.”
“For a self-proclaimed master of provocation, you are terrible at figuring out your own feelings.”
“I’ve figured them out,” Kuroo says. “I just don’t want to do anything about it.”
Akaashi’s eyebrows are slowly in danger of disappearing into his hairline.
“Who are you and what have you done with my pain-in-the-ass friend.”
“You once flirted at Azumane-san for two and a half hours and nearly sent him into an existential spiral because you admired his hair. Now you’re telling me you don’t want to act on your real, honest, head-over-heels feelings for Tsukishima?”
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea!” Kuroo bursts out. “It’s—I don’t think we’d be a good fit.”
Akaashi stares at him for a solid ten seconds before he leans forwards, palms flat on the table, and fixes Kuroo with a look so chilling it makes the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.
“Listen very carefully to what I’m saying, Kuroo. If you think Tsukishima would give a fraction of his time, let alone any of his personal down time, to someone he doesn’t care about, you’re stupider than I thought. And I once watched you and Bokuto jump off the landing to see if umbrellas could work as parachutes. I want what’s best for both my friends. Heck, everyone thinks the two of you would be good together—you’re a hardworking and dedicated person, Kuroo, just as much as Tsukishima is. Don’t sell yourself short and overthink it. That’s supposed to be my job, anyway.”
“I can’t tell if you’re insulting me or encouraging me,” Kuroo says, but his chest warms anyway. Akaashi settles back in his seat, a little smile playing at the corners of his lips.
“What kind of a friend would I be if I couldn’t do both at the same time?”
A new dessert cafe opens up in the downtown core across from Tsukishima’s building, and an immediate visit is very nearly a given at this point. If Kuroo hadn’t guessed Tsukishima’s sweet tooth from the Starbucks order he picked up all those nights ago, the disastrously sugary coffees and pastries he catches the blond drinking and ordering during their following outings is more than enough of a giveaway.
Tsukishima is a few minutes late, and when he arrives, Kuroo’s already got them a table by the window. It had been busier before, but it’s a regular Tuesday and most patrons have already begun their trek home for the cold November night. The bell on the door chimes when Tsukishima strides in, a full head and shoulder taller than everyone else, with a light dusting of snow on his hair and coat. He must’ve come straight from work, because he’s still in a full suit and tie when he shrugs his jacket off and slides into the seat across from Kuroo.
“Sorry,” he mutters. “Got caught up with one of my juniors who misfiled a very important set of documents.”
“Ouch,” Kuroo grins. “I bet you straightened them out real quick.”
“If I had to teach an adult man how our firm’s entire filing system works in less than ten minutes, so be it,” Tsukishima snorts. He picks up the feature menu and gives it a cursory glance; Kuroo can already tell by the gleam in his eye and he’s settled on the angel food cake.
“What do you want? It’s on me,” Kuroo asks. “To treat you to a job well done, I’m sure it ain’t easy teaching someone how to file things properly!”
“Don’t patronize me,” Tsukishima deadpans, but he rattles his order off nonetheless, and Kuroo returns moments later with two piping hot cups of coffee (Tsukishima immediately upends three packs of sugar into his), a slice of angel food cake and a couple of shortbread cookies.
Their conversations flow easily nowadays, as quick and snarky as they usually are over text, but Kuroo enjoys seeing the flit of emotions that cross Tsukishima’s face when they meet face-to-face, and remembers them and sweeps them gently into the corner of his mind that’s slowly but steadily becoming a space just meant for the object of his affections.
“Akaashi told me about the club’s Christmas event. You guys are doing two days instead of one this year?”
“ Deck the Club ,” Kuroo confirms. “We’ve been getting good traction ever since you filled in for us last minute. Figured it wouldn’t be bad to extend the festivities for another day. Plus, we’ve got our annual New Year’s Bash within the same week.”
“You’ll be busy, then.”
“We manage to rotate. We have some leeway because Bokuto’s actually a decent manager, believe it or not, and Akaashi’s scheduling skills is nothing to sneeze at. What about you? Doing anything fun this Christmas?”
“Not particularly,” Tsukishima says. “Work never really stops. The New Year is always a good time to hunt for new clients. But I get the usual days off and I always use a couple of vacation days between Christmas and New Year’s, but other than that...not much.”
Kuroo grins, and swipes a bite of cake. “Come drop by Fukurodani then! We can get you on VIP list, no problem, and the party is usually pretty fun, nothing too crazy. Well, actually, Shibayama’s peppermint martini shots are actually pretty wack. I think Sawamura almost died drinking one.”
“Do I look like the kind of man to frequent night clubs, Kuroo?” Tsukishima smirks, being contrary just because he can, and Kuroo’s grin widens. But before he could answer, a shadow falls over their table, and when Tsukishima looks up, his relaxed expression hardens into one of irritated dislike.
“Why hello there, Tsukishima-kun,” the newcomer says. He’s tall and wiry, dark hair combed neatly to one side, and wears a similarly expensive suit and tie ensemble. There’s a flinty look in his narrow eyes, and the way he smiles reminds Kuroo of a particularly sly snake.
“Daishou,” Tsukishima says, unfeelingly. “What do you want?”
Daishou presses a hand over his chest, expression turning to one of exaggerated hurt. “Why, Tsukishima-kun, I just thought I’d greet my fellow co-worker like the kind, friendly person that I am. You’re so cold!”
“Don’t you forget it,” Tsukishima replies, taking a long gulp of coffee. The conversation wilts and stumbles off into a dead end, though Daishou doesn’t seem to care. Instead, he turns to Kuroo, and extends a hand.
“Daishou Suguru,” he introduces. Kuroo shakes his hand, a brief pump with the barest squeeze of fingers, and takes note of the shiny gold Cartier that flashes deliberately in his direction. “I work with the charming Tsukishima-kun at Omizu Law Professional Corporation. Lovely to meet you…?”
“Kuroo Tetsurou,” Kuroo replies. Tsukishima is wearing a rather pinched expression, their good mood has been punctured, and he wants to hurry this Daishou person off. “Good to meet you.”
Daishou tilts his head. “Kuroo? You wouldn’t happen to be related to Kuro Reo of Kuro International Oil Trust, would you?”
Kuroo is very obviously not. And Daishou very obviously knows that.
“ ‘fraid not,” Kuroo smiles, faintly baring his teeth. “I’m just a simple event coordinator for a very simple nightclub here in our city.”
“Ah,” Daishou says, like he’s come across a particularly honeyed piece of meat. “A man of the night then.”
“Daishou—” Tsukishima snaps, but Daishou makes a show of checking his watch and lets out a small sound of surprise.
“Oh, do excuse me, look at the hour. I won’t hold you two up. Now, Tsukishima-kun, I know you ran out rather quickly this evening for your, ah, get-together, but I figured I should let you know that Kishimoto-san left another gift basket for you. And a gorgeous bottle of Dom Perignon, if I’m not mistaken. He’s quite the bachelor, you know,” he adds, winking in Kuroo’s direction. “Fortune 500 and all that; it’s rather lucky for the firm that Tsukishima-kun really did catch his eye.”
And then he’s gone, sauntering out the door way a cheerful ‘goodnight!’ over his shoulder. Kuroo watches him go, and only realizes he’s clenching his fist against his thigh when his knuckles start to creak. Unfurling his fingers bit by bit, he looks back at Tsukishima, who’s glaring down at his coffee with a furious twist to his lips.
“You deal with that every goddamn day?” Kuroo says, half-joking and half-disbelievingly, trying to dispel the awkward air. It sort of works; Tsukishima lets out a bone-deep sigh and his face smooths back into impassiveness. He shrugs and spears the remaining bite of cake into his mouth.
“He’s surprisingly easy to handle once you get used to him. Mostly bark and hardly any bite. But he is right, it’s getting late. Shall we head out?”
The cool tone doesn’t sit well with Kuroo, but he nods, and they pull their coats back on and make their way to the exit. Outside, snow is falling thickly, beautiful fluffs of soft white that melts easily to the touch. Their breaths come up in plumes and trails behind them as they walk silently down the empty sidewalk towards the station.
Kuroo stops short. Tsukishima isn’t looking at him, but he’s got the same pinched look on his face again.
“What are you sorry for?” Kuroo asks, after a beat. “You didn’t do anything—”
“Daishou’s usually just irritating at work, but he was a dick specifically to you because he doesn’t like me very much. He doesn’t like that I’m younger than him but I work on the same level of clients as he does, and he very much didn’t like that I managed to bag the Kishimoto Plastics Corp. when he’d been trying to get them on board for over a year. He keeps bringing up the fact that Kishimoto is trying to woo me because he’s salty about it, and he did it specifically because he knew I was on a date with you.”
“He—I—wait, a date?”
The look Tsukishima gives him has enough force to level a small mountain. “Don’t play dumb, Kuroo, I know for a fact you’re a lot smarter that you let on. We may not necessarily be anything in particular, but what we’ve been going on for the last month and a half were essentially dates.”
“I—well, yes,” he stammers, feeling a little sideswiped in this conversation. “I just—I wasn’t sure if you considered them dates the same way...I had.” He trails off at the end, a little shamefaced, because it’s as good as admitting he’d been scheduling dates on the down low with Tsukishima without being completely honest about the nature of their meet-ups. But Tsukishima doesn’t look like he cares about that fact at all.
“I’m going to be frank with you, Kuroo. I know that you like me. I know that I like you. I’ve honestly rather enjoyed our dates and get-togethers. And I’ve been waiting for you to ask me out, officially, because it seems like something you’d want to do yourself. Is there any particular reason why you haven’t already by this point?”
They stop and face each other, all the city noises around them muffled by the snofall. The tip of Tsukishima’s nose is turning red and snowflakes are catching on his lashes, but those golden eyes remain on Kuroo’s face, holding him accountable, and Tsukishima has never looked more dangerous and beautiful.
Well, he deserves a good explanation.
“I don’t think I measure up to you,” Kuroo admits. “I don’t think I’m good enough for you. For real,” he adds, when he sees the immediate disbelief on Tsukishima’s face. “I’m not—I’m not a particularly shy person, obviously. And I’m not trying to downplay myself as a person, but whenever I look at you I think of how cool you are, and how inadequate I am in comparison. A hotshot corporate lawyer working downtown? A kickass DJ in your spare time? A music composer with your own Spotify page? You hold yourself with such confidence, and I couldn’t help but feel as though I didn’t really belong on the same level as you. And that’s why...why I haven’t asked you out, I suppose.”
Tsukishima makes a sound that’s an exasperated half-laugh, half-scoff, and Kuroo flushes. “Look, I know it’s stupid, but—”
“Stupid?” Tsukishima chokes out. “God, no. No, no, no. You’ve got it all wrong. I’m the one who doesn’t belong on your level.”
“What? How,” Kuroo demands, and Tsukishima shakes his head, expression wry.
“I’m sure you’ve heard of my personality before. I’m prickly, blunt, and condescending. I’m cold and brutal and I’ve made grown adults cry—and I mean full-on, bawling kind of crying—in court on multiple occasions. I do this job because I’m the best at it with my terrible personality. I push people and bait them until they fall apart. I don’t...live confidently, like you believe. There are so many other things I’d rather do than practice law, like my music. I never had the courage to pursue what mattered to me. I’m a coward.”
“You can’t seriously think that,” Kuroo breathes. Whatever he thought Tsukishima would say, it wasn’t this. How could someone so impressive speak about themselves with such inferiority?
“Do you know why I performed at your birthday party?” Tsukishima asks, and Kuroo shakes his head. “Akaashi had been in touch with me about performing at Fukurodani again. I know I had a positive reception when I first played there, but I was hesitant. I love music. I didn’t want to get invested if it was going to just hurt me in the end. But he brought me to one of your events, Tops-Off Tuesdays.”
“Jesus Christ,” Kuroo blurts out, mildly horrified, but Tsukishima doesn’t look put off. He takes a step forward, gaze sweeping over Kuroo’s face.
“The name is tacky as hell, but your event was so fun . It’s easy to show up at a club or a bar, blast loud music, pour drinks and get people shitfaced, but it’s not always easy to make an event entertaining. You handled everything, from the appearance of that model to the choice of music with your DJ, and even things like the speciality drinks, dress code, and promotional aspects of it. You’re good at what you do and you clearly enjoy doing it. I was...so impressed. Thanks to you, for the first time in a long while, I felt inspired to make music again. That’s why I performed at your birthday.”
“Tsuki,” Kuroo whispers, weak. “You can’t just say shit like that. You’ll kill a man.”
“Well, that’s counter-productive,” Tsukishima murmurs. He’s standing closer now, close enough for Kuroo to see the flecks of melted snow on his glasses, close enough for Kuroo to place his freezing hands on Tsukishima’s hips. “I was rather hoping to get together with you instead. I’m not very well-versed in criminal law.”
“Me neither,” Kuroo breathes, laughing. He feels twenty pounds lighter. “But I think I’ll live. I think I might be ascending to a higher plane of existence after that, actually.”
“Are you now?” Tsukishima asks, smiling. His gloved hands come to rest on Kuroo’s shoulders.
“This handsome, brilliant, spectacular man I’ve been crushing on like a teenager has just told me how much he admires me. And I am so clearly crazy for him and all of the dope shit he gets up to. I can’t believe it’s real.”
“God, you’re ridiculous,” Tsukishima laughs, hiding his face in the crook of Kuroo’s neck. Kuroo turns to press his nose into Tsukishima’s hair, inhaling softly and smelling winter air and coconut shampoo.
“Hey, Tsukki? Go out with me.”
“My pleasure,” Tsukishima whispers, looking up. And at long last, his lips finally meet Kuroo’s.
Leaving Bokuto in charge of decorations usually goes one of two ways; it either looks like someone had thrown up glitter and balloons on the dance floor, or there’s an abundance of one single decoration throughout the club, like the time they did their St. Patrick’s bash and Bokuto covered everything in shamrocks, and only shamrocks.
But then there are times where he’s actually quite proficient at picking out decorations, and this is one of those rare, cherished moments.
The club is covered in gleaming icy blue and silver streamers, each of them twisting and turning over the windows and along the balcony. Sparkly tinsel winds up pillars and bunches of mistletoe dangle over every doorway, and their centrepiece is a beautiful Christmas tree, decorated from top to bottom in lights, ornaments and beads, and hanging upside down over the dance floor where their chandelier used to be. It’s a bold move, and probably cost Akaashi a few years of his natural lifespan when Bokuto first showed them, but it’s gorgeous, and Fukurodani Social House is busier than it’s ever been for Deck the Club .
Kuroo and Akaashi had roped off one of the VIP booths upstairs for their staff; there’s drinks, snacks, cake, and all kinds of party favours for everyone. Even those on shift get to rotate out and enjoy a bit of food and a gift for an hour or two. Sugawara’s bakery surprises them with nearly three dozen beautifully frosted cupcakes, prompting Bokuto and Kuroo to plant matching, wet smooches on Sugawara’s cheeks in thanks, to Sugawara’s delight and Sawamura’s general exasperation (but the fond look in their friend’s eyes says otherwise).
Tsukishima shows up a quarter to ten, just as he’d promised, and Kuroo meets him at the VIP entrance, unable to hold back his wide grin when he sees his boyfriend come inside.
“Hey babe,” he shouts over the music, leaning in to give Tsukishima a quick peck on his cheek. “You made it!”
“Believe it or not, company dinner was not that exciting,” Tsukishima shouts back, allowing Kuroo to take his jacket and bring it over to coat check. He must’ve changed before coming over to the club; gone is the collared shirt, tie and glasses, instead, Tsukishima is wearing a soft black turtleneck underneath a pale blue button up and tight black jeans on his endless, eternal legs. There’s a tiny silver hoop in his right ear tonight, a piercing that Kuroo had never noticed before, and fuck if that wasn’t the hottest thing he’s ever seen.
He takes Tsukishima by the hand, pulls him into the throng of clubbers, and kisses him soundly, tongue pushing into his boyfriend’s mouth without any reservations. Tsukishima takes a second to melt into him, probably too busy trying not to get jostled by the drunk group of girls they’d just staggered through, and Kuroo feels lithe fingers tugging him closer by his belt loops.
“Hey stranger,” he grins, and hears Tsukishima snort.
“Hey yourself. Missed me that much?”
“You’ve no idea,” Kuroo groans, sneaking a hand down to grab a handful of Tsukishima’s ass. “I had to watch all the couples make out upstairs with each other while I sat alone guzzling eggnog.”
“Needy,” Tsukishima smirks, but he doesn’t move away. The music transitions into something more bass-heavy, and the lights change above them, dimming into something low, sensual.
“Fukurodani!” Nishinoya shouts into the microphone to general cheers and shrieks. “Hope you’re ready to get real cozy this holiday season! Because tonight we’re gonna make sure nobody is left off Santa’s naughty list! Asahi, this one’s for you babe!” And the bass drops, engulfing them all in the sheer weight of it, and they’re moving as one heated entity on the dance floor.
“Animals, all of you,” Tsukishima breathes into his ear, grinding in time to the beat. Kuroo exhales shakily and drags Tsukishima closer, squeezing and kissing wherever he could.
“C’mon sweetheart, are those legs just for show? You gotta party like you mean it here.”
Tsukishima laughs against him, and Kuroo grins.
And party on they do.