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In Another Castle

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Literally overnight, Kenma makes a lot of money.

He has a tidy sum in savings from YouTube and streaming on Twitch, an amount of money that would have been mind boggling when he started his Kodzuken account a year ago. When he tells Kuroo about it one night on a video call, Kuroo looks up from his biochem homework, glasses sliding down his nose and so handsome that Kenma can barely stand it, and says, “Oho? Better invest, kitten.”

So he does, and he does reasonably well, and then—he gets very, very lucky. Lucky like he doesn’t even know what to do with the number of zeros in his bank account. With the rising popularity of his Kodzuken account, companies have started sending him copies of games for free, so he rarely needs to buy those. He could stand to upgrade his streaming equipment, he supposes. He could definitely afford to pay Fukunaga better for editing his streams to post on YouTube. Most of his meals come from the conbini, when he remembers to eat, much to Kuroo’s dismay. He’s living in a tiny, cheap 1K apartment, close to the university he’s nominally attending. Kuroo never complains when he visits, but it is a fact that his streaming setup takes up most of the available space. Kenma usually winds up practically in Kuroo’s lap to make room for Kuroo to stretch out his long, long legs.

Which—Kenma’s not complaining about. That part is nice.

But Kuroo is sharing an apartment with one of his lab partners from his first year, and it is—not great. Kenma hates going over there, because Takeuchi seems fine, but he’s barely Kuroo’s friend, which means he’s definitely not Kenma’s. So it’s just a stranger, coming and going out of their space, when Kenma just wants to spend time with Kuroo and Kuroo alone.

But he knows that Kuroo worries about money, that chem lab fees are expensive, and he can’t work any more hours at his part-time job helping a professor with research without his grades going to hell. Sometimes Kenma actually worries about how much Kuroo is sleeping, which is quite a reversal from their high school days.

Kuroo deserves to not worry so much. He should have a quiet place to do his homework, a fridge full of groceries, and a bedroom that doesn’t face a noisy street so he can get some sleep.

Meet me at Meguro station for lunch? he texts Kuroo. It’s Tuesday, when Kuroo actually has some free time in his schedule midday, even though he usually uses it for studying.

It’s breakfast for you, I know you just woke up, Kuroo responds.

Kenma refuses to respond to that, but he does suck down a carton of drinkable yogurt before heading out the door.

He buys Kuroo lunch, and Kuroo’s eyebrows go way, way up.

“Is everything okay?” Kuroo asks carefully.

“I can’t treat you to lunch sometimes?” Kenma says, ready to make it a thing if Kuroo starts with how he’s older and should be the one to treat Kenma, not the other way around.

Kuroo holds up his hands. “You can absolutely treat me once in a while. Just—don’t make a habit of it. A man has his pride, you know.”

Kenma frowns at that. If Kuroo’s pride is stung by lunch, he’s really going to have to move very carefully with his proposal.

“I need your help with something,” he says, mostly to the food left on his plate.

“Anything,” Kuroo says immediately. “I knew there was something going on. You don’t have to—you don’t have to buy me lunch for me to help you. You know that, right?”

Kenma peeks up then, and Kuroo looks so serious. “I know,” he says softly. “It’s a big favor, though.”

Kuroo just looks even more determined. “I don’t care how big a favor it is,” he insists. “Of course I’m going to help. What’s going on?”

“I want to rent a bigger place,” Kenma says.

Kuroo’s eyes soften with understanding. “And you want me to help you talk with the real estate agent?” he guesses. Kenma had an absolutely wretched time renting his current apartment—he clammed up at the real estate office and it was basically his version of hell, trying to negotiate what he actually wanted with a very overbearing agent.

“Please, Kuro,” Kenma says.

Kuroo winces. “You don’t have to beg, of course I’ll do it. When do you want to go talk to a real estate agency?”

“Now,” Kenma says. “I just want to get it over with. I’m sick of looking at postings online, and all the places I liked are owned by separate companies, and I just—I don’t want to call them and make a bunch of appointments.”

Kuro leans back in his seat, with an expression that looks both fond and knowing. “I get it,” he says, and the thing is—Kuroo’s always gotten him. Always. Kenma has more people he calls friends now, but Kuroo is, and always has been, something else entirely. “I’ll protect you from the big, bad real estate agent. What neighborhood do you want to look at? My afternoon class is an optional review, so we have time.”

“I want to start looking here,” Kenma says.

“In Meguro?” Kuroo says incredulously. “You don’t want to look at—I don’t know, Roppongi?”

“I have more money but not that much,” Kenma says in a huff as they leave the cafe. He looks up at Kuroo. “And you know I wouldn’t be happy there.”

“You’d hate it,” Kuroo says cheerfully, and slings one arm around Kenma’s shoulder to steer him to the real estate agency across the street from the station.

The real estate agent is bubbly and sweet, just the kind of girl that Kuroo used to go out with in high school. He never seemed really serious about any of them. “My life is volleyball and you,” Kuroo said when asked. “And also chemistry. Wait, please don’t ask me the order of those. This is why they keep breaking up with me.”

Kenma tries very hard to act like a normal human being and sit up in his chair without fidgeting, but he gives into the urge to hide behind his hair. Kuroo’s with him, after all.

“I’ll start with asking you some questions to get a feel for what you’re looking for,” the real estate agent says. Her name is Wada, but Kenma is unsure of the reading of her given name on the business card she handed him. “What kind of housing type are you looking for?”

“A detached house,” Kenma says to his knees. “I don’t want to share walls.” His current apartment’s walls are paper-thin, and it can cause problems with the audio for his streaming.

To Wada’s credit, she doesn’t even pause at the idea of an 18-year-old wanting to rent an entire house. “And your preferred layout?”

“Kitchen, living room…” Kenma says slowly, and chances a look at Kuroo.

“It would be best to have a separate room for your streaming, right?” Kuroo says.

“Yeah,” Kenma says. “So, a 3LDK.”

“Three?” Kuroo says, eyebrows up in surprise.

“One room for gaming, one for my bedroom.”

“And the third?” Kuroo asks, eyes bright with curiosity.

“I just thought—you might like a place to stay,” Kenma says carefully.

Kuroo stares at him hard for one long, interminable moment and Kenma meets his gaze dead on.

“I’m so sorry, will you excuse us for just a minute?” Kuroo says to Wada with his most artificial smile, and hauls Kenma up out of his chair and outside.

“You thought I might like a place to stay?” Kuroo asks, managing to look both hurt and offended. “I complain about my rent to you once and you think I need your charity?”

“No,” Kenma manages to get out. “I don’t—that’s not—”

Kuroo sighs, and puts his hands on Kenma’s shoulders. “I know. But it’s your money. If you want to rent a house, that’s fine, but I want you to do it because it’s what you want.”

“I want a quieter place with no neighbors,” Kenma says. “I want you to not have to trip over my streaming setup.”

“In Meguro,” Kuroo says flatly. “Less than a ten minute train ride to my university.”

Kenma winces, because of course Kuroo isn’t an idiot. “It’s only a thirty minute commute to mine, and I don’t have to be on campus as much as you.”

Kuro squeezes his shoulders. “You don’t have to do this for me,” he says insistently.

“I never see you!” Kenma snaps. “Because you’re always working and studying and I hate living an hour away from you! Is that a selfish enough reason?”

Kuroo is staring at him, eyes wide. It’s not very often at all that Kenma raises his voice.

“And I don’t think you’re sleeping enough,” Kenma mumbles, looking away in embarrassment.

“Hey,” Kuroo says gently, and tucks a strand of Kenma’s hair behind his ear. “I’ve missed you, too. I just don’t want to mix up money and friendship, you know?”

“You don’t have to pay me rent!” Kenma says, aghast.

“I am absolutely going to pay you rent,” Kuroo says firmly. “I don’t care how much money you’re making.”

“But I want you to be home with me,” Kenma says. “Not working all the time.”

“I need to work a little, kitten. My job isn’t just for rent, it’s for my grad school application.”

Kenma bites his lips and thinks about that. “Cut your hours in half. And you can buy groceries for us, but I’m not charging you rent.”

“And that’s your final word on the subject?” Kuroo says, but he doesn’t sound mad. There’s a corner of his mouth that’s just tugging upward in a suggestion of a smile.

“Absolutely final,” Kenma says, lifting his chin up.

Kuroo bends down a bit, enough to press his forehead against Kenma’s. “You don’t have to be sneaky with me. You could just say, ‘Kuro, I want you to live with me.’”

“You would have said no,” Kenma protests.

“Give it a try,” Kuroo coaxes.

Kenma feels his face go hot. People have to be looking at them. They’re having a fight in front of a real estate agency. But he doesn’t look away, and musters the courage to say, “Kuro, I want you to live with me.”

Kuroo smiles at that. “Not so hard, right?”

“You’re the worst,” Kenma informs him. “Oh, and can we get a cat?”

Wada produces several options for them, including one that is technically a 2LDK. “It has a room that I think would be ideal for your gaming room,” she says, “but it is one room short of what you’re looking for.”

Kenma looks out of the corner of his eye at Kuroo, who shrugs amiably. “Doesn’t hurt to look,” he says.

She takes them to that house first, and even from the outside, it already feels right. It’s an older home, single story, traditional instead of modern in design.

“I’ll wait here,” Wada says at the front door. “Please take your time.”

In the entryway, they slide off their shoes and put on guest slippers. The wood floors are worn but still in good shape. They peek into the kitchen first, which seems reasonable enough to Kenma.

“Nice to have a window over the sink,” Kuroo says, which is not a thing Kenma would have ever thought to remark upon. Then again—of the two of them, Kuroo is more likely to spend time in the kitchen. Kuroo would say that he likes to cook, if asked, but Kenma thinks it maybe didn’t start off that way. When Kuroo moved to his neighborhood, it was just him and his dad. Kuroo’s grandmother dropped off food on a regular basis, but she passed away when Kuroo was twelve.

The bathroom is fine—a stainless steel tub set in pale pink tile. It looks clean and doesn’t smell like mold, which are the only things that Kenma really cares about. And unlike his current apartment, the toilet is in a separate room next door.

“I’ll be glad not to have to wait to pee when you’re taking forever in the bath,” he mutters to Kuroo.

“You’re such a hypocrite, you take way longer in the bath than I do,” Kuroo says.

“Do not.”

“Do too.”

“Do not,” Kenma huffs, and turns on his heel to go explore the rest of the house. The living room and the bedroom are both tatami floors, with a sliding door between them. The living room has built in spaces for a TV, and more than enough room for a kotatsu. Kenma has really, really missed having a kotatsu. The bedroom can easily fit two futons, and the closet seems like it would be fine, even for the two of them.

And then they come to the room Kenma has been waiting to see, and Kenma understands instantly why Wada thought it would be perfect for gaming. It’s a decent size, and most importantly: it has no windows. His streaming setup could go in the corner, and he could put up shelving for all his consoles—

“Is it everything you dreamed of?” Kuroo says teasingly.

“Kuro, I could put up a projector screen,” Kenma says, already in love.

Kuroo laughs softly. “Come on, let’s see the rest of the house,” he says, and tugs Kenma away.

There’s a small garden in back, and a place to hang their laundry. Kuroo looks around in delight. “It just needs a little love,” he says.

Kenma has very little interest in being outdoors, and in fact only sees the sun because Kuroo drags him out on a regular basis. But it’s important to Kuroo, so.

“We’d have to share a bedroom,” he makes himself say. Even though he loves this house already, there’s no point if Kuroo objects to that.

“You have to promise me no video games in bed,” Kuroo says, still looking out at the garden. “The light keeps me up.”

“I know,” Kenma says, and fidgets with the hem of his shirt. And then he takes a deep breath. “Would you want to live here? With me?”

“With you?” Kuroo says, and the way he smiles at Kenma makes his breath catch. “Yeah. Yeah, I would.”

Kenma sighs in relief. “Good. So we’ll rent this one and we don’t have to see any of the other houses, right?”

Kuroo narrows his eyes, and then he huffs out a laugh. “If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Kenma says, and leads Kuroo out to give Wada the good news.

Kenma hands over an incredible amount of money to rent the house, easily five times the monthly rent. Which was also true of his current apartment, but with the higher rent for the house, the sticker shock makes him wince. But he has more than enough in savings, and he won’t budge on letting Kuroo contribute.

“What about the moving company?” Kuroo asks finally, a kind of desperate look in his eyes.

Kenma considers this carefully. “Sure,” he concedes. “For your apartment. I’ll take care of my own.” Kuroo barely owns anything, anyway, aside from science textbooks and clothes. “See if your roommate wants your TV.”

That makes Kuroo smile. “Not going to let my scruffy old TV into your house?”

Kenma sniffs disdainfully, and Kuroo cackles in response.

Once they have the keys, they head over to the empty house and walk through it again, to make a list of what they’ll need to consider buying.

“Do you want a dining table?” Kuroo asks, as they stand in the dining room with the sliding glass door to the tiny garden out back.

Kenma fusses with the hem of his shirt. These days, he’s more used to cramming a conbini sandwich in his mouth while playing games or doing homework. He sighs. “Do you want one?”

“I asked you first.”

Kenma stares at him.

“I’d like to sit down with you for meals,” Kuroo says, which is cheating, because now that he’s said it, all Kenma can think about is having breakfast with Kuroo every morning in this room. Even though Kuroo often has a heinous early morning lab that Kenma has no intention of waking up before.

“Okay,” Kenma says, and adds it to the list on his phone.

The living room doesn’t require any debate—Kenma already has a kotatsu on his list, and his TV and various peripherals will fit nicely on the built in shelves. “You can put your books on that side,” Kenma says, waving at the other shelves.

“I could probably fit most of my books from back home, too,” Kuroo says, and looks pleased at the prospect. He likes video games okay, but he’s more of a reader. He doesn’t go through books from the library quite like he used to, but Kenma is still used to seeing books from the university library at Kuroo’s apartment. Through the years, it’s become a well-worn routine: Kenma plays games, and Kuroo reads nearby.

The bedroom sparks a quick, short fight, with Kenma victorious: he’s buying them both new futons. To be fair: both of their current futons are family hand-me-downs that have seen much better days.

And then finally, they come to his gaming room. It’s completely empty, and Kenma’s mind races with the sheer possibilities.

And to think, all of this started mostly on a whim, during Kenma’s third year of high school and Kuroo’s first year of university.

“I can’t study without you playing games in the background,” Kuroo complained at the time. So Kenma set up a Twitch account, and started streaming for an audience of one. On a private Discord, he and Kuroo keep open an audio call, which Kenma listens to with an earbud in one ear. Kuroo typically rambles on a bit, sometimes about his homework or a cat he saw on his way to class or how Kenma hasn’t had any water yet today, has he, he’s going to turn into a husk.

At those times, Kenma pointedly retrieves a glass of water and drinks it on camera and says, “I hope you’re happy.”

Which was fine, back when it was just the two of them. And then there started to be other people in Twitch chat, watching him play. And then there were more people. And then exponentially more, and overnight he had to arrange for people to mod the general Twitch channel, and then people begged for a special subscribers-only Discord, which meant more mods, and way more in chat than he could ever keep track of. He just wanted to play games, and talk to Kuroo, and if other people wanted to watch him play games too—well, fine.

But then people were begging him to put up videos on Youtube, and Kuroo said, “Well, why not?”

And that was when things really started to change.

“You know,” Kenma says to Kuroo, looking around his soon-to-be gaming room, in this house that they were both going to live in together, “If it weren’t for you, this might not have happened.”

Kuroo hugs him from behind, resting his chin on top of Kenma’s head. “Nah,” he says lightly. “You’d have gotten here. You were never going to be happy working some office job.”

The warmth of Kuroo along his back in the cold house is welcome, and when Kenma shivers, it’s for another reason entirely.

“Is there anything about me you don’t know?” Kenma says. He means it to come out sarcastic, but to his discomfort, it comes out sounding—vulnerable.

“I wonder,” Kuroo says, and squeezes his arms around him once before letting go.

The day they move in is cold—at least, cold for Tokyo. As Hinata sometimes texts him, he’s a delicate city boy who doesn’t know what real winter is like in the mountains up north.

Kenma wrings his hands as the movers carefully pack up all of his gaming equipment in his apartment, which is really only the tip of the iceberg—he has more consoles and games back at his parents’ house, which he’ll have to ship to the rental house at some point.

“We’ll make sure it all gets there safe and sound,” says one of the movers with a cheerful, reassuring smile.

Kenma can only bring himself to nod, and wishes Kuroo were with him—but Kuroo is at his own shitty apartment, having paid for a student discount move, which means he packed up all his own things last night and the movers will take the boxes to the house this morning. He’s probably going to beat Kenma there.

When he gets to the house, Kuroo’s bike is parked against the side, under the eaves of the house. The front door is unlocked, and Kenma steps into the entryway to take off his shoes.

Kuroo’s shoes are already there, neatly lined up. And there’s a pair of 100 yen store slippers waiting.

Kenma slides them on, and then takes in a deep breath, and lets it out slowly. “I’m home,” he calls hesitantly.

The sliding door to the living room opens, and Kuroo leans out of it. “Welcome back,” he says with the smile Kenma likes best, the one that’s bright but just a little soft, and maybe just for him.

Kenma feels his cheeks go warm. And also his ears. Maybe his everything. “Unpacking your books first?” he asks.

Kuroo’s boxes are scattered around the house, but the bulk of them are in the living room, near the shelves. “Well,” Kuroo says. “Unpacking books is easy.”

Kenma snorts. “You’re going to get distracted by wanting to reread them.”

“You’re so mean to me, I’m capable of focusing,” Kuroo says. “You could help, you know.”

“Pass,” Kenma says. “This is why I paid for a full service move.” He sits down on the tatami and watches Kuroo unbox his books, fussing with the order on the shelves, running his fingertip down the spine of a book in a way that is incredibly distracting.

It’s about the time that Kenma realizes he’s been staring at the broad expanse of Kuroo’s shoulders that it occurs to him that he might really have a Problem.

Fortunately, his movers show up then, and Kenma is spared the embarrassment of Kuroo catching him looking, even though it has to be said that Kenma looks at him a lot. From the corner of his eye, mostly, but still.

Kenma’s things are unpacked in record time, and the department store delivers the kotatsu and their new futons that afternoon. Kuroo makes him help spread out the futons in the dining room to air out a little.

“They’re brand new,” Kenma protests.

“And they’ll smell less like plastic if they get a little afternoon sun,” Kuroo says.

The rest of the day is Kuroo unpacking the rest of his boxes, and then rearranging the kitchen cupboards because apparently they weren’t right. Kenma leaves him to it, in favor of handling the TV set up in the living room, and then connecting everything in his gaming room.

He’s so absorbed that it takes a few minutes to realize that Kuroo is in the doorway, watching him.

“Are you ever going to leave this room?” Kuroo teases.

Kenma rolls his eyes. “Sometimes.”

“Come with me to the store. I’ll make dinner,” Kuroo coaxes.

“You don’t have to,” Kenma says, getting to his feet. “I can just—”

“Absolutely not,” Kuroo says cheerfully. “You said I could pay my rent in groceries, and I’m going to make sure you eat something good.” He pokes Kenma’s side. “Put a little more meat on those bones.”

“You’re one to talk,” Kenma huffs, because Kuroo’s recent pattern of rushing to lab, and then resurfacing hours later only to remember that he missed lunch has not been without its effects.

“It’s just my schedule this term,” Kuroo says as they put on their shoes.

Kenma doesn’t believe that for a second. But he allows Kuroo to lead him to the grocery store a few blocks away, and then insists on shabu shabu for dinner, because it’s one of Kuroo’s favorites, and it has meat, so that’s helpful, right? They have a brief fight in the housewares aisle over the purchase of a donabe and portable gas burner, but Kenma wins by leveling a glare at Kuroo and saying, “I’m buying this, and you’re not going to feel bad because I’m going to make you use it all winter long.”

“You’re going to make me, huh,” Kuroo says, looming over him, but the corner of his mouth is twitching.

“Unless you want me to go back to conbini sandwiches all the time,” Kenma says ruthlessly.

“You’re killing me,” Kuroo says, and he does look aggrieved. “Fine, fine, buy the donabe. But that’s it, understand?”

“Yes, Kuro,” Kenma says, because he can be agreeable when he’s won.

After dinner—where they both eat seconds, and Kenma thanks Kuroo for the meal, and Kuroo ducks his head a little with a pleased expression on his face—they both buckle down to do some homework at the kotatsu.

Kenma blinks awake when Kuroo touches his shoulder gently. “Kenma,” he says. “Go take a bath and get into bed.”

“It’s not that late,” Kenma protests. “And you can have the first bath, I don’t have to—”

“Kenma,” Kuroo says, his voice low and sweet. “I still have to finish this lab report. Go take a bath, huh? I’ll be finished by the time you’re done.”

Kenma blinks at him, uncertain, but he can see the sense in it. He retrieves his pajamas and his towel and heads into the bathroom.

He doesn't remember hearing Kuroo fill the bathtub. But the cover is on top, and the tub heater is on, and the water is deliciously hot. So he strips, and sits down on the new plastic stool they bought, and turns on the hand shower and starts to scrub down.

It occurs to him as he’s using the soap that it’s Kuroo’s, that he’s going to smell like Kuroo from now on.

It also occurs to him as he’s sinking into the bath that this is the only alone time he’s going to get when Kuroo is in the house. He can’t just—jerk off before he goes to sleep now. He’s going to have to schedule it.

He sinks down lower into the tub, and knows it’s not just the heat of the water that’s making his face feel hot.

Eventually he gets out of the bath, and when he wanders by the living room, Kuroo is asleep, his head pillowed on his arms on the table. Kenma blows out an irritated breath. “Kuro,” he says, and when Kuroo doesn’t stir, Kenma kneels next to him. He should just shake his shoulder, but he finds himself touching Kuroo’s impossible bedhead, combing his fingers through it gently. “Kuro,” he says again, quietly.

Kuroo makes a soft noise, the kind that says he’s not really awake yet, and Kenma continues to softly pet his hair. “Come on, Kuro, wake up,” Kenma says, and finally, Kuroo’s eyes flutter open.

“Feels nice,” Kuroo says, and Kenma snatches his hand away in embarrassment.

“The bath’s free,” Kenma says instead. “Go soak and then come to bed.” He feels himself go even more hot and embarrassed all over, because that made it sound like he was—that they were—

Kuroo sighs and stands up, stretching. “I won’t be long,” he says.

Kenma nods, and after Kuroo has retrieved his pajamas and towel, Kenma lays out their new futons, side by side. They’re pretty close together, but the room is only so big, and if they want to be able to walk around the edges if one of them has to get up, there’s no helping it.

He plays on his PSP until Kuro slides the door open, and then saves his game, turns it off, and plugs it in to charge.

“You could have played a while longer yet,” Kuroo says. His hair is damp and still kind of wild, though not as wild as it will be when he wakes up.

“I promised,” Kenma says stubbornly.

Kuroo’s mouth curves in a crooked smile. “You did,” he says. “Want me to get the light?”

Kenma certainly isn’t going to get out of his futon cocoon if he doesn’t have to, and it must show on his face, because Kuroo just shakes his head and pulls the drawstring.

The room isn’t completely dark, even with the curtains the previous occupant left, but he’s left with the feeling like when they were kids, and Kuroo slept over in Kenma’s room so often that Kenma’s mom joked that she had a second son. Kenma bites his lip for a moment. “Hey, Kuro,” he says softly.


He’s not sure what he wants to say. Thanks? I’m glad you’re living with me? If you have a bad dream, is it still okay for me to crawl into your futon?

He settles for saying, “Sleep well.”

“You too,” Kuroo says, and Kenma stares at the ceiling for a long time before he falls asleep.

He wakes up the next morning to Kuroo’s alarm going off on his phone, and makes an inarticulate noise of protest.

“Sorry, sorry,” Kuroo whispers, silencing it. “Go back to sleep.”

Kenma pulls his duvet over his head with every intention of doing so. But then he has to use the bathroom, and when he’s done, he stops in the kitchen doorway to see Kuroo poking at sausages in a pan with cooking chopsticks.

“This will be just a few minutes,” Kuroo says around a yawn. He’s already dressed, in black jeans and a very soft, very touchable-looking sweater. “You want to eat with me, or should I just save you a plate?”

They have a table now, Kenma remembers. A dining table and chairs, because Kuroo wanted them, and Kenma wants Kuroo to have what he wants.

“I’ll eat with you,” Kenma says, and Kuroo looks at him, plainly surprised.

“You can go back to bed,” Kuroo says. “I don’t mind.”

“I’m eating with you,” Kenma says stubbornly. “I’ll make tea.”

“You don’t have to—”

Kenma sidles past Kuroo to fill the kettle, and takes the opportunity to poke Kuroo in the side. “And make yourself an extra egg.”

“You’re very bossy,” Kuroo says, arching an eyebrow. “And a hypocrite. I’m making you another egg, too.”

They sit down to breakfast, of which Kenma literally only contributed tea, but he feels sort of productive anyway. Kuroo fried his eggs just the way he likes them, with the yolks runny so Kenma can drag bits of toast through them. Conversation is mostly limited to Kuroo talking about one of his current lab assignments, and his nemesis, Terrible Shinma, who apparently almost grabbed the yield of Kuroo’s ongoing project, which he’s been working on for three weeks.

“I would have had to start over,” Kuroo says, looking aggrieved. “And our professor doesn’t really care about anyone’s excuses.”

“How can someone still suck that much after your first year?” Kenma says. Kuroo has complained about this guy a lot this term, and a near-miss with Kuroo’s current project is the least of his sins.

“Right?” Kuroo says, and drains the rest of his tea. “Just because you’re hot doesn’t mean you can be inconsiderate.”

Kenma freezes. “He’”

Kuroo wrinkles his nose. “Unfortunately. And worse, he knows it.”

Kenma suddenly doesn’t feel like eating anymore. Nowhere in all of Kuroo’s complaining had he ever mentioned that Terrible Shinma was hot.

Kuroo’s phone buzzes, and he frowns when he checks it. “Crap, I have to leave now if I’m going to get this reference book from Tamura-kun. Leave the dishes, I’ll do them when I get home.”

“Okay,” Kenma says, still feeling very off-balance. He follows Kuroo out to the entryway, where Kuroo puts on his boots before shouldering into his coat and wrapping a scarf around his neck. “When will you be home?”

“Probably six, I have study group after class,” Kuroo says. “You?”

“Four,” Kenma says, and then feels somewhat at a loss. He feels like he wants to hug Kuroo, bury his face in that soft-looking sweater and not let him go, not to class where Terrible Shinma is apparently swanning around being both hot and terrible at the same time.

“Have a good day,” he says instead.

“I’m out of here,” Kuroo says, and his handsome smile gets Kenma the way it always does.

“I’ll see you when you get back,” Kenma says, and waves weakly as Kuroo heads out the door.

He frowns at the empty entryway for a few minutes, before he goes to wash up the dishes, because he can do that much, at least, to make the house nicer for Kuroo to come home to.

Kenma is not exactly sleepwalking through his degree, but he’s not working that hard, either. He knows exactly how much effort he has to put in for optimal results, and honestly—they all grew up on the internet, how do his classmates not already know the fundamentals of web design? Kenma was building websites for extra money so he could buy new games back in middle school. He wasn’t exaggerating to Kuroo when he said he didn’t have to go to campus as often—he only has to go for lectures, and even most of his group projects don’t require staying on campus together to get work done. It just involves Kenma making the most Type A person in the group ride herd on everyone else.

“You manipulative little monster,” Kuroo says affectionately when Kenma voices this strategy that evening.

“They care the most,” Kenma says, slouching further under the kotatsu. “Why shouldn’t they do something about it.”

Kuroo’s leg is warm against his. “You could do something about it.”

“Pass,” Kenma says flatly, and Kuroo laughs lightly and then asks if he’s okay with nikujaga for dinner.

When they sit down at the table, Kenma’s eyes linger on the donburi they picked out together. It’s cream-colored, with little pink and yellow flowers. It’s not the first time they’ve owned something together—they’ve been pooling their allowance for volleyball gear and video games almost since they met—but this feels different.

“Something wrong with the food?” Kuroo asks, looking concerned.

Kenma shakes his head and shoves a piece of beef in his mouth. “It’s good,” he says.

Kuroo—well, he practically lights up at that. “Maybe it’s too salty,” he says modestly.

“It’s delicious,” Kenma insists.

“Well in that case, do you want seconds?” Kuroo asks, and that’s when Kenma realizes he’s been played by his own stupid feelings.

“Just a little,” Kenma says, and that he even likes that sly triumphant look on Kuroo’s face is a mark of just how bad he’s got it.

After dinner, Kuroo settles back down at the kotatsu with his laptop and his lab notebook, and Kenma pauses in the doorway to his gaming room. “Hey, Kuro,” he says.


“Should I—do you still want to log into our Discord?”

Kuroo looks up then, glasses perched on his nose. He frowns for a moment. “Can you just leave the door cracked? I promise I’ll keep it down.”

Kenma’s fingers curl around the edge of the sliding door. “But—” he stops, because this is probably embarrassing.

“But what, kitten.”

He feels himself flush at that nickname he’s grown used to hearing in one earbud. “I like talking to you when I’m gaming.”

“I like talking to you, too,” Kuroo says, so easily and so sweetly. “I’m not really seeing the problem here.”

“People might hear you,” Kenma says. “Is that—is that okay?”

Kuroo looks at him over the rim of his glasses. “Isn’t that why you moved me in? So that we could be together?”

Kenma knows Kuroo doesn’t it mean it like that, but it makes his heart beat faster anyway. He barely trusts his voice, so he settles for nodding once.

“Then it’s fine,” Kuroo says. “What do I care if your fans hear me talk to you? It’s probably weirder that they’ve only been hearing your half of the conversation so far.”

“Okay,” Kenma says, even though he still has misgivings. His fans are—curious, he supposes, because Kenma says almost nothing personal during streaming except to Kuroo, and he knows the mystery of Who Kodzuken is Talking To is a matter of intense speculation. “If you’re sure.”

Kuroo’s attention is already turned back to his laptop. “The things you worry about. Just leave the door open a little and let me know if you need anything.”

So Kenma shuts the door behind him, but not all the way. He can still hear Kuroo tapping softly on the keyboard, but it’s nothing his mic will pick up clearly. He sits down in his brand new chair at his new desk with all of his monitors hooked up, and logs into Twitch. There’s an immediate outpouring of relief, even though he told them he was moving and his streaming schedule would be disrupted.

“Hi, everyone,” he says. “We’ll pick back up where we left off with Monster Hunter today.” He loads his save, and he’s slogging through leveling up when he’s startled by a tap on the door. He pauses instinctively and looks over.

Kuroo is holding a glass of water through the gap of the door.

“One second,” Kenma says to his viewers, and nearly hits the floor when his legs protest having been curled up in the chair for hours without moving.

“Oi,” Kuroo says with concern.

“It’s fine,” Kenma says, limping over to the doorway and sliding it open more. “You can come in, you know. The door isn’t in frame on the camera.”

“Good to know,” Kuroo says, and pushes the glass of water at him. “Drink that.”

“I can take care of myself,” Kenma says, but takes the glass anyway and drains half of it in one go. “Happy?”

“Finish it, and then I’ll be happy,” Kuroo says, and the way he’s leaning against the doorframe makes Kenma’s throat go dry, at least metaphorically.

“Are you done with your lab report?” Kenma asks, taking another big sip.

“Mostly,” Kuroo says. “I think my eyes are starting to cross, though. I’ll finish it in the morning.”

“It’d be worse if you weren’t wearing your glasses,” Kenma reminds him, because Kuroo had been such a pain in the ass about remembering to wear them when his optometrist had recommended them to prevent eye strain last year.

“All right, already,” Kuroo grumbles goodnaturedly. “I’m going to take a bath and head to bed.”

Kenma almost says goodnight, and then remembers—they’re sharing a bedroom. He’ll wake Kuroo up for sure if he stays up as late as he usually does.

“When do you want to go to sleep?” he asks.

Kuroo blinks. “I don’t know. Midnight? I thought I’d read for a while to wind down.”

“Okay,” Kenma says, and finishes his water. “I’ll come to bed by then.”

Kuroo’s eyes widen. “You don’t have to—”

“I’ll come to bed by then,” Kenma repeats, and hands him the empty water glass before returning to his desk. Which is about when he realizes he should have muted his mic, because the Twitch chat and the subscribers-only chat are going absolutely bugfuck insane.

He wrinkles his nose and then sighs. There’s nothing for it now. So instead he says, “Quick announcement, I’ll be adjusting my streaming schedule to end at 11:30 on weekdays. I don’t know about weekends yet, but as always, you can see the schedule on my Twitch page.”

That in no way makes it better; if anything, it makes it worse. But Kenma refuses to acknowledge it, and continues grinding through levels until it’s 11:30. “Night,” he says, and then frowns because—he used to say good night to Kuroo, and if his followers thought it was for them, well. Who cared, really. But now he can say good night to Kuroo in their bedroom, from his futon that is right next to Kuroo’s.

He logs off, and walks through the living room on his way to the bathroom. The sliding door to their bedroom is mostly closed, but he can see a sliver of light, which must mean Kuroo is already in bed.

He scrubs down quickly and then soaks in the tub, letting the hot water work its magic on his stiffened muscles. It’s—really nice to have the bath already waiting for him.

When he’s done, he changes into pajama pants and a worn, soft t-shirt that he definitely stole from Kuroo before he graduated from high school. He turns off the gas for the night, checks the lock on the front door, and then shuffles down the hallway to the living room in his slippers before stepping out of them up to the tatami, and turning off the living room light before sliding open the bedroom door.

Kuroo is indeed already in bed, a book too close to his face.

“You’re supposed to wear your glasses when you’re reading anything, not just when you’re using the computer,” Kenma reminds him.

“I can’t curl up and read with them on,” Kuroo says. “It’s uncomfortable.”

Kenma kicks him gently in the vicinity of his calf, but mostly gets the futon duvet instead. “Should I get the light?”

“Go for it,” Kuro says, sliding a bookmark in. It’s a Fullmetal Alchemist one that Kenma gave him for his birthday one year, which has somehow survived since middle school. Kuroo had been absolutely obsessed with the manga, and regularly spent his allowance on the monthly Shounen Gangan magazine to read the latest chapter, right up until it ended.

Kenma pulls the switch for the light, and then immediately huddles down into his futon, tucking the duvet around himself to prevent any heat from escaping.

“Do you want me to turn up the heat?” Kuroo asks, quiet concern in his voice.

“No, I’ll warm up, you know that,” Kenma says. “I’ll just overheat if you turn it up more.”

Kuroo makes a noise of agreement, and then takes in a breath. Kenma thinks he’s going to say good night, but instead he says, “You don’t have to do all this for me, you know.”

Kenma thinks of saying he hasn’t done anything, but that will make Kuroo mad. In the dark, he feels a little braver, like he can be a little more honest. “What if I want to?” he whispers.

Kuroo turns over on his side to face him. Kenma can’t see his expression, and for the first time in a long time, he wonders how Kuroo is feeling.

“Then that’s fine,” Kuroo says. “I want you to have what you want.”

I want you, Kenma thinks suddenly, with a ferocious longing that makes his heart thump.

But he knows he can’t say that. He won’t risk what they have, not when he doesn’t know, not for sure, that Kuroo feels the same. So instead he sticks one hand out from under his duvet, like he used to do all the time when they were kids, because his hands got cold easily and Kuroo would always reach out to take his hand in his to warm it up, or rub any lingering ache out of it from too many hours with his hands cramped around a controller, or extensive setting drills.

There’s a long moment where he thinks Kuroo won’t reach out, that Kuroo thinks it’s childish, that Kuroo isn’t prepared to indulge him like that. But then Kenma hears the rustle of Kuroo’s duvet, and Kuroo’s hand wraps around his in a gentle yet firm grip.

“Good night,” Kenma whispers.

“Night,” Kuroo whispers back.

He doesn’t let go of Kenma’s hand, though. And just before Kenma falls asleep, he could swear that Kuroo is gently stroking the back of his hand with his thumb.

They settle into an easy routine, like they’ve lived together forever. They walk to the grocery store on the weekends, and Kuroo always gives Kenma the lighter bag to carry home. Kenma does the laundry, but Kuroo always takes it off the drying rack and puts it away. Kuroo continues to do the vast majority of the cooking, but Kenma does all the washing up, because there’s being lazy, and then there’s getting an earful from his mother about taking advantage of Kuroo. All in all, Kenma thinks they’ve achieved a nice balance, and he doesn’t mind when Kuroo texts him to pick up something from the store on his way home from class, or asks him to wash the next morning’s rice and set the timer on the rice cooker.

It’s mostly easy, and very calm, and almost everything Kenma’s ever wanted.

But one day, he gets a series of increasingly desperate texts from Kuroo, who is stuck in lab all morning but forgot his laptop, and he needs it for his afternoon study group and classes but doesn’t have time to come back to the house to get it.

Kenma is just back from his morning classes, and had honestly been thinking about a little midday nap, but this is important, and obviously he’ll do it.

Come meet me at the gate at noon, Kenma texts. He has just enough time to grab Kuroo’s laptop from the top of the kotatsu, and also to swing by the conbini. Then he has to wait for the next local train to the stop for Kuroo’s university, and he’s almost out of breath by the time he makes it to the university’s front gate. There’s a steady stream of students, considering the lunch hour, and he looks around wildly before seeing Kuroo, one hand in his coat pocket and red scarf wrapped around his neck, because he’s exactly that sentimental about their Nekoma colors.

People are looking at Kuroo as they pass, and Kenma doesn’t blame them, because Kuroo is heartstoppingly handsome. But he’s waiting for Kenma, not for anyone else, and that propels Kenma forward.

“Hey,” he says to Kuroo, who is looking down at his phone with a worried expression.

Kuroo looks up, and he looks so relieved, so happy to see Kenma that Kenma’s breath catches. “You made it!” Kuroo says, putting his phone in his pocket.

Kenma hands over the laptop, and the bag from the conbini.

“What’s this?” Kuroo asks, peering inside the plastic bag after putting his laptop away.

“Lunch,” Kenma says. “Unless you were planning on subsisting on air through your afternoon classes.”

Kuroo looks more surprised than is frankly at all flattering.

“What,” Kenma huffs, looking away.

“I wish we had time to eat together,” Kuroo says regretfully. “As it is, I’m going to shove this in my mouth and then run to my group project meeting.”

Kenma bites his lip. “Maybe another day. I don’t mind coming here to meet you.”

Kuroo’s eyes search his. And then he reaches out to adjust Kenma’s scarf, his gloved fingers brushing the sensitive underside of Kenma’s jaw. “It’s cold—go home and get warm. I’ll see you tonight.”

“Okay,” Kenma says faintly.

“And Kenma—thanks,” Kuroo says, and smiles at him, the soft one that might be just for him.

“Y-yeah,” Kenma says, and flees back to the train station. If his face is red, it’s purely from the cold.

“Please excuse the intrusion!” Fukunaga carols obnoxiously as he, Yaku, and Taketora tumble into the entryway.

Kenma feels his eyebrow twitch. “I’m firing you,” he says, deadpan.

“Welcome, welcome!” Kuroo says by his side, looking genuinely delighted. Which he should, since this was his idea. Well. More like Fukunaga whined about it over text to Kenma for weeks before getting Kuroo involved, because apparently, “that’s the only way to get your stubborn ass to do anything you don’t want to do.”

Kenma’s eyebrow twitches again, just remembering that. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean he wants other people to know and then take advantage of that knowledge.

“You can’t fire me, who’s going to run your empire,” Fukunaga retorts.

“It’s not an empire,” Kenma protests. “And you just edit my streams for Youtube, so you’re not indispensable.”

Taketora shivers theatrically. “Ice cold, Kenma,” he says. “Are you going to give us the tour?”

“You’re standing in it, you can already see—” Kenma starts, and then Kuroo interrupts sweetly, “Of course we will. This way, this way!”

“Do we really need to—” Kenma mutters under his breath at Kuroo.

Kuroo wraps one arm around his shoulder to prevent him from running away. “It’s the thing to do,” he says. “On this side, our glorious kitchen, where I do all the cooking—”

This is met with good-natured jeers, and Taketora says, “Figures, Kenma was terrible at remembering to eat after you graduated and weren’t around to remind him anymore.”

“Tora!” Kenma hisses in betrayal.

Kuroo’s arm tightens around his shoulder. “No worries about that now,” Kuroo says, but the look he aims at Kenma promises they’ll talk about this later.

In the living room, they are mercilessly mocked for the size of the kotatsu.

“Kuro’s legs are long!” Kenma says defensively.

“You could fit a whole team around this kotatsu,” Fukunaga says, waggling his eyebrows at Kuroo, who looks far too innocently surprised.

“Now that you mention it…” he says, and then aims a sly look at Kenma.

Kenma sighs heavily, because he just knows they’re going to end up hosting a year-end party for Nekoma alumni (and the current third years, because Kenma can hear Lev’s whining through the astral plane if he’s not invited).

In sheer self-defense, Kenma slides open the door to his gaming room.

“Bro,” Taketora says reverently. “Kenma, this is awesome.”

“I’m not sure I’ll keep this layout, but it’s working for me right now,” Kenma says, instead of what he wants to say, which is that it is awesome. He has a large desk on one end, with all of his monitors and streaming equipment set up just the way he wants, and shelving on one side of the room for the consoles and games he’s moved to the house so far.

“It’s kind of weird editing your videos,” Fukunaga says with a small laugh. “Until I was staring at your face all the time, I didn’t realize how many expressions you make.”

Taketora peers down at Kenma, getting up close. “Really?”

Kuroo plants a palm on Taketora’s face and shoves him back. “He makes plenty if you look closely enough.”

“Nobody looks as closely as you, Kuroo,” Yaku says with a smirk.

Kenma turns to look up at Kuroo, who is still so close, one arm braced in the doorframe just behind Kenma’s head.

Kuroo’s cheeks are faintly red, and he doesn’t deny the accusation. He just says, “Let’s keep this tour moving, come on,” and walks back out into the living room.

Everyone follows, and Kuroo waves at the other closed sliding door and says, “That’s our bedroom, and this way is the bath…”

Taketora and Fukunaga follow Kuroo gamely, but Yaku hangs back with Kenma. “One bedroom, huh? How long has that been going on?”

Kenma feels his face go hot. “It’s not—we’re just—”

Yaku’s lips twitch. “It’s fine, you know.”

“It is?” Kenma can’t stop himself from asking.

“Well, now that you’ve graduated, anyway,” Yaku says, and wraps one brotherly arm around Kenma’s shoulders. “He didn’t pressure you into anything, right?”

Kenma sputters. “He would never—I’m the one who asked him to move in—”

“Well,” Yaku says, looking relieved. “That’s all right, then.”

Kenma really doesn’t know how any of this is all right, because he’s not sleeping with Kuroo the way Yaku apparently thinks, but he’s also stuck on Yaku’s quiet support.

“You’re a good senpai,” he finds himself saying.

Yaku ruffles his hair and laughs. “Thought you hated all that stuff.”

“I guess it’s okay if it’s you,” he says.

“You’re so cute,” Yaku croons, and messes his hair up more. “Isn’t he, Kuroo?”

Kuroo is standing at the end of the hallway looking at them. Kenma doesn’t know what to make of his expression—he looks annoyed, but Kenma’s not sure by what, although he can hear Taketora’s voice from that end of the house, so he can make a guess.

“I’ll let Fukunaga catch me up on the tour,” Yaku says, and all but delivers Kenma to Kuroo.

“What was that all about?” Kuroo asks, and he sounds just as annoyed as he looks.

Kenma rolls his eyes. “Just Yaku being Yaku.”

“Is that so,” Kuroo says. He wraps one arm around Kenma’s shoulders again, and it’s like when Yaku did it, but—completely different. Kenma allows himself to lean into Kuroo’s side, and feels it when Kuroo inhales sharply. But the moment is abruptly broken by Taketora hollering something about meat.

“Keep it down!” Kuroo hollers back. “You’ll bother the neighbors!”

You’ll bother the neighbors,” Kenma mutters, elbowing him in the side.

“God, your elbows are pointy,” Kuroo complains. “Come on, let’s get dinner started for these hooligans.” He ushers Kenma into the kitchen with a hand on the small of his back, and Kenma likes that, probably much more than he should.

Last year for the Nekoma alumni forgetting-the-year party, Fukunaga had organized everything. They met up at a restaurant, and ate a lot of meat, and nobody drank because Kai was the oldest of them at 19, which was still definitely not 20.

Kenma and Kuroo are hosting this year, and Kenma’s already worried things are going to get a little out of control. He’s put a sacrificial console in the living room for Mario Kart, and a sign on his gaming room door, strictly prohibiting entry by anyone at all. Kenma’s mom is in the kitchen with Kuroo, where they’re apparently preparing for battle.

“Is it enough?” Kuroo asks for the five hundredth time.

“Oh, Tetsurou-kun,” Kenma’s mom says fondly. Then she narrows her eyes at what they have prepped so far, and finally says, “Kenma, I think we need you to go to the store again.”

They send him out with a list and a fistful of cash, which he does not use because he is not spending Kuroo’s money for this party. He’ll sneak it back into Kuroo’s wallet later that night after everyone has gone home or is passed out in their living room, he decides.

Their former teammates start arriving at seven, with Fukunaga and Yaku leading the way with a quantity of booze that is, frankly, a little alarming.

“Nobody has practice tomorrow, quit worrying,” Fukunaga says cheerfully when Kenma makes a face at them.

“Your excellent senpai will take care of you,” Yaku says, giving Kenma a terrifying smile.

“That really doesn’t make me feel better,” Kenma mutters, but accepts the beer and wanders into the kitchen. “Kuro, help, where do I put this?”

Kuroo is still wearing an apron and still looking unfairly handsome. Kenma’s mom had left a little while ago, but Kuroo is cleaning up and plating a few more things.

“There’s absolutely no room in the fridge,” he says firmly. “Put it on the back porch—oh, and can you feed the cat while you’re at it?”

The cat in question is not their cat, specifically, but a neighborhood cat who is very round and is being fed by at least three households, easily. Kuroo and Kenma were both separately feeding it in secret until Kuroo caught Kenma putting out food for the cat out back one day, and from then on, they’ve bought actual cat food instead of feeding it leftovers or canned fish. If the cat is in any way disappointed by this, it’s hard to tell.

More of their teammates arrive, and Kenma runs back and forth, welcoming them at the front door, settling them in the living room, and retrieving drinks from the back porch. Kuroo is likewise running around, dropping off snacks at the kotatsu to general cheers and immediate gluttony. Every time he passes Kenma in the entryway on his way to the living room, he offers him a bite off a plate.

“You don’t have to—” Kenma demurs when Kuroo comes out with yet another tray of food.

“Try it now, or there won’t be any left after I leave it with the ravening hordes,” Kuroo coaxes.

Kenma looks at the tray of takoyaki, and then up at Kuroo’s face. Kuroo is standing very close, and he picks up a takoyaki and holds it out to Kenma.

It’s maybe the half a beer that Kenma’s already had that makes him brave, but he leans in and takes the takoyaki straight from Kuroo’s fingers.

Kuroo stares at him as he chews. “How is it?”

Kenma swallows, and then licks his lips. “Delicious,” he says.

The doorbell rings, startling the both of them.

“I’ll get that,” Kenma says, not looking away from Kuroo’s face.

“Yeah,” Kuroo says absently, not looking away either. Then the doorbell rings again, and Kenma sighs and opens the door to Lev and his sister Alisa. “Kenma-san!” Lev warbles. It seems impossible, but he’s gotten even taller.

“It’s been awhile,” Kenma says politely, and accepts the snacks and drinks Alisa presents him with. “Alisa-san, we’re glad you could come.”

“How could I miss it!” she says brightly. “I can’t stay very long, but I’ll be so glad to say hello to everyone!”

He shows them both to the living room, where Lev is welcomed with a lot of hair mussing and punches to his shoulder, and everyone makes room for Alisa at the kotatsu. Lev is not afforded the same courtesy, to his very vocal protests.

The last to arrive are Kai and his girlfriend, Rina. They’ve been dating since the summer, but this is the first time she’s met everyone. Kenma hopes against hope that his former teammates won’t shame them all.

“Well?” Kuroo asks when Kenma runs into him again on his way to get drinks for Kai and Rina. “What’s she like?”

“She seems nice,” Kenma says. “But of course she is. Kai-san wouldn’t date someone who wasn’t a good person, too.”

Kuroo smiles at him. “You’re really sweet sometimes, you know that?”

“Kuro,” he says helplessly, because he doesn’t know what to say to that, he’s just being honest.

“So sweet,” Kuroo croons at him.

Kenma squirms. “I’m not—shut up—”

“You are, and I’ll never stop saying it.”

“You’re so embarrassing,” Kenma says despairingly.

That just makes Kuroo smile wider. “Go on, get their drinks, and then come sit down in the living room and enjoy the party.”

Kenma takes a deep breath and makes a beeline for the sliding glass door. By the time he comes back to the living room, his face no longer feels like it’s on fire. The room is filled with all of their friends, eating and drinking and playing video games, and for a moment, Kenma stands in the doorway, because he never could have imagined this as a kid who only had one friend.

Kuroo is sitting near the kotatsu, but not at it, probably so he can easily get up and go back to the kitchen to bring more food in. When he sees Kenma at the door, he pats the tatami next to him.

Kenma goes. He winds up squished a little against Kuroo’s side, because Taketora plays Mario Kart with his whole body and Kenma has no desire to be collateral damage.

That’s his excuse, anyway. And it’s nice, to be sitting here with all these people that he’s come to care about so much, with the comfort of Kuroo’s arm wrapped around him.

“I think Tora accidentally finished your beer,” Inuoka says apologetically. “I can go get you a new one—”

“It’s fine,” Kenma says. And whatever boldness that has taken hold of him this evening makes him say, “Kuro can share with me.”

“Oh, can I?” Kuroo says archly. He says it nearly in Kenma’s ear, and Kenma thinks—maybe he’s bitten off a little more than he can chew. But Kuroo hands over his beer, and Kenma takes a long swallow.

This isn’t a shoujo manga, and he shouldn’t get flustered by the idea of an indirect kiss, but when he sees Kuroo take a sip next, his lips right where Kenma’s were—

He’s being ridiculous. He takes the beer back from Kuroo immediately for another sip.

“Hey now,” Kuroo says. “Put some food in your stomach, you little monster, or you’re going to regret it.”

“I can’t reach,” Kenma says, because he doesn’t want to move.

Kai’s girlfriend Rina says, “Oh, I can put some things on a plate—” and Kuroo says, “Please don’t trouble yourself, he’s so spoiled—”

Kenma makes a face at that, but soon Kuroo has a plate of food, and he holds it out to Kenma, who says, “I thought you said I was spoiled.”

“I did,” Kuroo says. “And you are.”

“So spoil me,” Kenma dares to say, and when he looks up—he shivers, because that looks like heat in Kuroo’s gaze.

“All right, then,” Kuroo says, voice low.

It’s kind of like all the times Kuroo has taken a handheld game away from him to make him eat, except not, because he’s eating off Kuroo’s chopsticks, and sometimes from his fingers directly, and, well. Kenma might have played himself here, because he feels like he’s burning up when Kuroo rubs his thumb against the corner of Kenma’s mouth, and then licks a stray bit of sauce off his thumb.

“Gross,” Kenma says, because this still isn’t a shoujo manga, but he doesn’t mean it at all.

Yaku fails out of Mario Kart and goes to retrieve more drinks for everyone, and Kenma is pulled into play. “Because you’re like the big boss!” Lev shouts and then gets scolded by Alisa for being too loud.

Kenma takes the controller, and Kuroo says, “I’ll be right back, I have to get the temaki.”

“Okay,” Kenma says, already focused on the game.

By the time he’s back, Kenma has already destroyed his first set of opponents, and is on to the next. Kuroo sits right behind him. He knows better than to try to put something in Kenma’s mouth while he’s playing, but that doesn’t stop him from resting his chin on Kenma’s shoulder.

“You’re heavy,” Kenma complains.

“Lies,” Kuroo says, entirely too close to his ear. Peach nearly veers off the road on screen.

“Keep it up, Kuroo-san,” Fukunaga says, his tongue sticking out as he mashes buttons. “We can only win if he’s distracted.”

The joke’s on them—Kenma’s been training since he was twelve in playing games while Kuroo is devastatingly attractive. This is just on hard mode, with Kuroo’s lips close to his neck, and his breath stirring the hair at his nape.

“I am actually making a living by gaming, you know,” Kenma says to everyone afterwards when they’re all bellyaching about him annihilating them.

“All right,” Kuroo says, his tone indulgent. “That’s enough for now, everyone come eat oden.”

“You really went all out, Kuroo-kun,” Alisa says, smiling.

He ducks his head a bit. “It’ll probably be enough,” he says, and they watch the current third years nearly burn their mouths while housing their first bowl.

There’s more food, more beer, more games, and more catching up, until Alisa leaves for a second party, and Kai and Rina walk with her to the train station because Rina has to work early the next morning. Kenma sees them out, more than a little wobbly on his feet. When he finally makes it back to the living room, he sees Kuroo’s brow furrow in concern.

“Hey, come here,” Kuroo says, grabbing one of the bottles of water off the kotatsu.

Kenma lands mostly on Kuroo’s lap instead of the tatami, which seems like a fine place to be. “Kuro,” he mumbles into Kuroo’s neck. “I think I’m drunk?”

Kuroo wraps his arms around Kenma and shifts him to a more stable position. “You are definitely drunk, kitten,” he murmurs. “And here I thought I was keeping an eye on you.”

“Why aren’t you drunk?” Kenma asks petulantly.

“I’m a little tipsy,” Kuroo concedes. “But I was drinking water between rounds, and I didn’t have to be bribed to eat food.” He sounds amused, which normally Kenma would take exception to, except that he also sounds so affectionate.

“Maybe it's because you’re so tall,” Kenma says, still thinking it over. “And your shoulders are so—” he strokes his hands along the breadth of Kuroo’s shoulders, wider than even a year ago and still nicely muscled from playing on an intramural volleyball team.

He feels Kuroo suck in a breath as his hands wander down Kuroo’s chest. He’s just—really solid, in a way that Kenma has always found reassuring. And hot. And he just feels really good under Kenma’s hands, and the t-shirt he’s wearing is soft, and Kenma just wants to keep touching him—

“Kenma,” Kuroo says, sounding a bit strangled.

Kenma peers at his face. “Something wrong?”

“Not wrong,” Kuroo says, his voice so low it makes something in Kenma ache. “But Kenma—”

Kenma shifts on Kuroo’s lap, and the noise Kuroo makes—

“Oh,” Kenma says belatedly. Because he’s on Kuroo’s lap, and Kuroo is hard, and it can’t be comfortable with Kenma all—up on him, but he also doesn’t want to move.

Kuroo makes a pained face, and Kenma must have mumbled that last part out loud, because Kuroo says, “You have to drink some water, okay?”

Kenma narrows his eyes, but takes the bottle of water and downs most of it in one go. He can do that for Kuroo. He could do so many things for Kuroo, if Kuroo would just let him.

Kuroo’s face is red. “Help me get everyone set up to stay the night,” he says.

So Kenma crawls out of Kuroo’s lap and then totters around the living room, distributing blankets to cover those already passed out, while Kuroo hauls out the guest futons Kenma purchased for just this eventuality. Once everyone is settled, Kuroo gives Kenma a gentle push in the direction of their bedroom. “I’m going to go lock up and turn off the lights,” he says. “I’ll be right in.”

Kuroo’s already laid out one futon in their bedroom. And after checking the closet, Kenma realizes it’s the only one there. Kuroo must have put his out in the living room for their guests.

Kenma collapses onto the futon, and realizes with alarm that he might be sobering up, which seems like no place to be, frankly. Not when Kuroo is coming back, and they’re going to have to share a futon, which would be totally fine and not at all a problem if he hadn’t just—felt Kuroo up.

Their bedroom door slides open, and Kuroo comes in quietly. The lack of surprise on his face about the singular futon confirms Kenma’s suspicions, and Kuroo just looks at him for a moment, and Kenma doesn’t know what to make of the expression on his face. He’s not used to not knowing everything about Kuroo. But Kuroo just pulls the string for the light, and then slides under the duvet.

Kenma tries to make room, and there’s a brief negotiation of limbs, familiar but not, because the touch of Kuroo’s hand against his back makes something in him go hot and shivery. They’re sharing a pillow, and Kenma can’t see Kuroo’s expression in the dark, just the vague outline of his face.

“Did you have fun?” Kuroo asks quietly, which was not the question he was expecting.

“It was good,” Kenma answers, just as quietly. Because it was good, to have all their friends together, to celebrate another year coming to an end. “I guess I wouldn’t mind doing it again.”

“Oho?” Kuroo says, and Kenma can just hear his smile.

Kenma feels like his heart is going to beat out of his chest. “But I like it better when we’re home together. Just us.” He winces after he says that, because maybe it’s too much, maybe it’s not enough, he just wants—he wants—

“Kenma,” Kuroo breathes, and kisses him.

Kenma’s wanted this for so long, imagined it for so long, that for a moment, he’s frozen in shock. Kuroo pulls back after a second, and says uncertainly, “Do you not want—”

Kenma gets his hand in Kuroo’s hair and pulls him back in.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing—he’s never kissed anybody, Kuroo must know that, but Kuroo just kisses him softly, achingly tender, and Kenma feels like he’s going to burn up from just this. He tentatively kisses back, and then he’s absolutely lost in it, swept up in the feeling of Kuroo all around him, finally just exactly as close as Kenma’s wanted him.

They kiss for a few dizzying minutes, until they’re both startled by a noise in the living room, on the other side of the sliding door. It sounds like someone ran into the kotatsu, at least by the muffled curses.

“Do you think anyone...heard us?” Kenma asks as quietly as he can manage. It’s one thing for their friends to draw conclusions based on their living situation, but Kenma’s not ready for anything approaching exhibitionism.

“No,” Kuroo says, but pulls back a little after dropping one more sweet kiss on Kenma’s mouth. He doesn’t go far because there’s not far to go when they’re sharing one futon, but he does pull Kenma into more of a cuddling position, with Kenma’s head resting on his shoulder.

It’s a comfortable position, but Kenma’s mind is churning over everything that’s happened, and he bites at his lower lip in worry until he finally asks, “Kuro, are we okay?”

Kuroo’s arm tightens around him. “We’re okay, no matter what.” He says it firmly, so that Kenma has no choice but to believe him.

“Okay,” Kenma says softly, and snuggles in a little closer. “Good night.”

“Night, kitten,” Kuroo whispers, and Kenma slides off into sleep.

The next morning is sleepy, hungover chaos. Kenma actually whimpers when Kuroo slides out of bed and takes all his warmth with him, and feels Kuroo’s hand in his hair. “You can stay here,” he says quietly, and Kenma nearly takes him up on that, but they have guests. Even if he feels like the hottest of garbage, he can’t leave Kuroo to it.

Then again—they kissed last night. Kenma pulls the duvet over his head and considers hiding there forever. He makes it probably five minutes before he has to get up to use the bathroom, and Kuroo is already busy in the kitchen, so Kenma resigns himself to feeling very, very awkward around Kuroo, who he hasn’t felt awkward around since the first week they met.

Kuroo hands him a glass of water when he walks in, and his smile looks a little uncertain around the edges. “Morning,” he says.

“Morning,” Kenma echoes, and twists the hem of his shirt in his hand as he drinks the water. It’s long on him, because it’s one of Kuroo’s team t-shirts from high school. He doesn’t remember grabbing it to sleep in last night.

Kuroo is staring at him, like he wants to—

There’s a clatter in the hallway, and then Fukunaga and Taketora’s puppy dog faces present themselves in the kitchen. “This is so bad,” Taketora moans. “I’m going to die—”

“You’re just dehydrated,” Kuroo says unsympathetically. “Drink some water.”

“Are you making breakfast?” Fukunaga asks hopefully.

“For Kenma,” Kuroo says. “Definitely not for you.”

“So mean,” Taketora says, and then brightens when he sees the tray of onigiri on the counter, and nabs one from the top.

“Take the whole thing to the living room,” Kuroo says, and then Kenma is alone with him again in the kitchen.

“You’re making me breakfast?” Kenma prompts, curious.

Kuroo’s cheeks go a little pink. “I mean. I wasn’t really going to not make breakfast for them, but I wanted to make something—special. For you.”

“For me?” Kenma repeats. He puts his empty water glass down on the counter.

“Yeah,” Kuroo says quietly.

They kissed last night, Kenma remembers again, and it sends a warm shiver down his spine. Kuroo is looking at him, his gaze so intent.

Kuroo doesn’t look like he wants to forget.

Kenma doesn’t want to forget, either. He steps closer to Kuroo, anxious thoughts spinning in his head—what if he’s wrong, what if Kuroo is having second thoughts, what if it’s just weird this morning—

But when he reaches out for Kuroo, Kuroo pulls him in for a hug that’s reassuring in its strength and familiarity, but also Kuroo’s thumb is brushing against the small of his back, just above the waistband of his sleep pants—and that’s new, and it makes him press closer, tilt his face up—

Kuroo kisses him in the weak morning light, clutching him close like Kenma isn’t the surest thing of his life.

“Kuro,” Kenma says between kisses, feeling dizzy and hot and never, ever wanting to let go. And then his nose twitches. “Kuro,” he says, more urgently. “Is something—is something burning?”

Kuroo pulls back in confusion, and then he yelps and turns off the burner.

The chocolate souffle pancakes are well and truly ruined, and Kuroo’s expression is so crestfallen that Kenma can only laugh. “I don’t care,” he assures Kuroo. “I’m happy with onigiri.”

“But I wanted to make you something special,” Kuroo says, still looking disappointed.

“You could make it tomorrow,” Kenma finds the courage to say. “Or the next day. Or any day, really.”

“Kenma,” Kuroo breathes, and Kenma has to pull him down into another kiss.

“Oh wow,” Lev says from the doorway, eyes wide. “How long has this been going on?”

“You’re so dumb,” Yaku moans in despair. “How did we leave you to captain Nekoma when you’re so dumb?”

“Kenma-san left me in charge,” Lev protests.

“You did do that,” Kuroo says to him dryly, putting just a little bit of respectable space between them before turning his attention back to the interlopers. “Drink some water, I’ll be in with miso soup and tamagoyaki in a bit. Don’t let Tora eat all the onigiri.”

Both Lev and Yaku are still looking at them.

“He means, get lost for a few more minutes,” Kenma translates flatly.

“I was trying to be polite about it,” Kuroo says, wrinkling his nose.

“I’m not. Scram,” Kenma says firmly.

Yaku looks like he’s trying very hard not to laugh, and tugs Lev by the back of his shirt down the hall.

“How demanding,” Kuroo says appreciatively. “Was this what you were like when you were captain?”

“Maybe you’ll find out later,” Kenma says. “But I’m hungry now, so you should finish making breakfast.”

“Yes, sir,” Kuroo says, and the smile on his face is a little indulgent, but mostly—he looks so, so happy, and Kenma can’t hold back an answering smile of his own.

Later that afternoon, they head back to Nerima to spend New Year’s Eve with their families.

“If your dad isn’t home, you should just come over,” Kenma says when they part ways.

“He said he’d be there,” Kuroo says, and Kenma does not say: your dad breaks most of his promises, because Kuroo knows, and there’s no point in making this more painful than it has to be.

They’ve parted ways on this street corner thousands of times, and it isn’t even the first time that Kenma has imagined leaving Kuroo with a kiss, but it’s the first time he’s seen in Kuroo’s eyes that he wants to, too.

Kenma settles for squeezing his hand tight. “I mean it. You know my mom is making way too much food.”

Kuroo squeezes his hand back, and also combs his fingers through Kenma’s hair once, so gently. “I know,” he says, and then turns in the direction of his house.

Kenma’s mom does make way too much food, because she’s used to cooking for Kuroo now—and it wasn’t that long ago that Kuroo was going through major growth spurts and eating just everything, so it’s truly way too much food.

“When is Tetsurou-kun coming over?” his mom asks.

“He’s waiting for his dad,” Kenma says, from where he’s watching the NHK New Year’s special with his own dad. It’s not especially entertaining, but it makes his dad happy to spend some time with him, even if it’s just this.

He knows Kuroo would do anything to make his dad happy, and that he doesn’t want to worry him. But still, Kenma watches the clock and thinks about Kuroo alone in that house, waiting for someone who might not come home at all, and all he wants to do is drag Kuroo back on the train, back to Meguro, back to their house, and never let Kuroo be lonely again.

Come over for a little bit, he texts Kuroo. Mom is getting out the mochi machine.

Dad said he’d be just a little longer, Kuroo texts back immediately.

So come get some food for the both of you, Kenma replies, frustrated.

There’s a long moment where Kuroo is typing, and then he just says, Be there in 2.

Kenma’s mom asks Kuroo, not her own son, how the party went.

“I think there was just enough food,” Kuroo says. “Thanks to your help.”

“There was too much,” Kenma says, just barely refraining from rolling his eyes. “And they ate it anyway.”

“Well, you’re still growing boys,” his mother fusses, and shoves more fresh mochi at Kuroo.

“Help me with this,” Kuroo says to Kenma quietly, groaning a little. Kenma doesn’t have a chance to respond before Kuroo is putting a piece in his mouth.

It probably says something that neither of his parents bat an eye at this.

But they’re all shocked when the doorbell rings.

“Ah, who could it be?” Kenma’s mom says, wiping her hands off on her apron before going to the door.

It’s Kuroo’s dad, with sake and mikan, which he presses on Kenma’s mom. “We’re always in your debt,” he says. He looks tired, but he musters up a small smile.

“Oh no, not at all,” Kenma’s mom says, a little flustered, and then insists on fixing him a plate even though he protests that he’s just come from a company party.

Kuroo doesn’t make it until midnight; he actually falls asleep under the kotatsu, his head mashed into Kenma’s hip. They let him sleep, still watching the NHK special that Kenma thinks only his dad actually really likes, but it’s the thing to do on New Year’s Eve, he supposes.

But once it hits midnight, Kuroo’s dad stretches a bit. And then he looks at Kuroo, and his eyes soften. “I don’t know if I have the heart to wake him up,” he says, and his crooked smile is the same as his son’s.

“He can stay in my room,” Kenma says, and he can’t help tightening his hand possessively on Kuroo’s shoulder.

Kuroo’s dad inclines his head. “Then I’ll entrust him to you. It seems I’ll remain in your debt, Kenma-kun.”

The right thing to do is to demure, but instead Kenma finds himself saying, “We could do a shrine visit together in the morning.” At Kuroo’s dad’s widened eyes, he loses his courage. “If you want. If you’re not busy. I mean—”

“Yes,” Kuroo’s dad says hoarsely. “I would like to. Very much.”

Kenma’s parents see him out, but not until Kenma’s mom loads him down with leftovers. That leaves Kenma alone with Kuroo, who is still fast asleep.

“Hey,” Kenma says gently. “Kuro, wake up.” He shakes Kuroo’s shoulder gently, and Kuroo makes a low noise of complaint.

He still looks so tired, Kenma notes with dissatisfaction. He works too hard, and for what? It would be one thing if the prospect of graduate school made Kuroo happy—but more and more, it seems like something Kuroo is resigned to.

“Come on, Kuro,” he says, stroking his fingers through Kuroo’s hair.

Kuroo’s eyes blink open slowly, and the way he looks at Kenma, soft and unguarded—

Kenma leans down to kiss him. “Come to bed,” he whispers, heart in his throat.

Kuroo sleepily follows him upstairs, saying goodnight to his parents along the way, and Kenma doesn’t even bother with putting down the guest futon. He just crawls into his bed, closest to the wall, and Kuroo slides in behind him.

“Happy New Year,” Kuroo murmurs in his ear.

“Happy New Year,” Kenma echoes, and when Kuroo throws one arm around his waist and pulls him close, he wonders how he’s supposed to sleep when he’s this incandescently happy.

Kuroo is adamant that they can take their relationship at Kenma’s pace. He reiterates this when they’re back at the house after New Year’s, and Kenma appreciates it, he really does, but Kuroo needs to remember that Kenma doesn’t do things he doesn’t want to.

He lets his eyes linger now on Kuroo’s shoulders while they’re getting ready for bed. He leans into Kuroo when they sit at the kotatsu. He feels Kuroo’s gaze follow him when he gets out of the bath, dressed in one of Kuroo’s old t-shirts.

The first morning that he sees Kuroo off to class by pulling Kuroo down by the scarf and pressing a kiss to his cheek, Kuroo’s face goes nearly as red as the scarf in question. So Kenma keeps doing it. When he’s awake in time, that is.

Kenma can get as many kisses as he wants when the lights go out, but apparently, if he wants more than that, he’s going to have to be the one to make the first move. It’s considerate but also extremely annoying.

Kenma reads a selection of advice articles online and watches a number of video tutorials. He orders lube and condoms and a dildo rated as “good for beginners.”

He still has to summon the courage one night to tell Kuroo, “I want you to jerk us off.”

Kuroo makes a strangled noise. “You—”

Kenma slides his shorts off his hips, and then pulls at Kuroo’s. “Unless you don’t want to.”

“Oh, I want to,” Kuroo says fervently, his voice going deep.

“Good,” Kenma says, and then presses lube into Kuroo’s hand. It gets him a kiss and then a nip on the neck, sharp enough that Kenma gasps.

He hears the click of the cap, and then Kuroo says, “You don’t want to help?”

“Why would I do that?” Kenma says flatly.

Kuroo laughs, sounding indulgent. “You just want to lie there and take it?”

“If you’re going to give it to me any time this century,” Kenma fires back.

The lube has warmed in Kuroo’s hand by the time he wraps it around both of their cocks, and it’s—so much better than jerking off by himself. Kuroo’s hand is bigger, the slide of his cock against Kenma’s is maddening, and he’s got Kuroo mostly on top of him, and the low groans that Kuroo makes are almost enough to make Kenma come, just on their own.

“Kuro,” he pleads, but he’s not sure for what.

“I’ve got you,” Kuroo murmurs, and lets go of his own cock to wrap his hand around Kenma’s, and all that focus on him is too much and just what he needs—Kuroo croons in his ear, “Come on, give it up for me,” while rubbing his thumb over the head of Kenma’s cock, and Kenma does exactly that—he comes for Kuroo with a helpless whine.

The afterglow is very nice, although it occurs to him that he’s the only one who’s gotten his. “Kuro,” he says. “You haven’t—”

“It’s fine,” Kuroo says, way too much of a gentleman, and Kenma wonders if this was what it was like with his high school girlfriends. The sudden burn of jealousy surprises him in its intensity.

“Turn on the light,” Kenma says after a moment of thought.

The overhead, even on the low setting, still feels too bright, too revealing. Kuroo had to stand to turn it on, and now he’s looking down at Kenma. Kenma’s shorts are still down, and he’s got to be a mess of lube and his own come. It takes a lot to not instantly cover himself, but he knows Kuroo likes to look at him.

He knows that Kuroo likes to know exactly what Kenma wants.

“Come here,” Kenma says, and Kuroo gets down on his hands and knees over him. Kenma tugs him on top of him by his t-shirt. “I want you to—”

“Hmm?” Kuroo says encouragingly.

Kenma hides his face in Kuroo’s shoulder. “On me,” he says eventually. “I want you to—”

Kuroo groans, and leans up on one arm and starts jerking himself off. His eyes wander Kenma’s body, but keep returning to his face. “Kenma,” he says hoarsely, and then his eyes shut as he comes all over Kenma’s stomach. Kuroo collapses mostly on top of him, which normally he would complain about, but under the circumstances, he decides to let it slide.

He does make Kuroo fetch a wet washcloth to clean them up, though.

Kenma braves the January cold several times to meet Kuroo for lunch on campus. He brings bento from the conbini, and sometimes meets people from Kuroo’s study group.

And then one day, as he’s waiting for Kuroo at the gate, someone stops in front of him and says, “I’m sorry, but—are you Kodzuken?”

Kenma blinks. He doesn’t get out very much, but with his subscriber count, it’s probably not unreasonable to suppose he has a few fans at Kuroo’s university. It’s still the first time he’s ever been clocked in public, though.

He nods once, and fights the urge to fidget.

“Oh wow,” the man says. “I’m a big fan! Um, my name is Shinma, it’s so great to meet you.”

Kenma stares at him, and the namecard he offers after scrambling around in his bag.

Shinma is an unusual surname. It’s unlikely that there are two of them on campus. And he is, indeed, infuriatingly attractive.

He takes Terrible Shinma’s card and says, “It’s nice to meet you.”

Shinma takes in a deep breath. “I hope this won’t sound too forward, but have you considered starting your own business? I think you have enough brand recognition now to get something off the ground. And diversifying your income streams is always a good idea, so—”

“Kenma!” Kuroo calls from behind him. Kenma turns to look, and Kuroo jogs over the last few feet. “I’m sorry I’m late, I was just—oh, Shinma-san, hello.”

“Good afternoon, Kuroo-san,” Shinma says politely. And then he looks at the hand Kuroo puts on Kenma’s shoulder, and his eyes widen. “I don’t want to take up more of your time. Please think about it,” he asks Kenma, and then bows and hurries off.

“What was that all about?” Kuroo asks.

Kenma carefully puts Shinma’s card in his pocket. “A random encounter,” he says, but continues to think about it all through lunch.

He probably shouldn’t be thinking about Kuroo’s dick as a miniboss while mid-blowjob, but it does require strategy and careful attention. He’s determined to win, even though the act of blowing Kuroo is so distracting— he can feel Kuroo shifting underneath him, his cock filling Kenma’s mouth, the hard muscles of Kuroo’s thigh under his hand. When Kuroo comes in his mouth, he can almost hear the victory music playing (even though he spits, but he feels like swallowing is bonus points he’s going to have to work up to).

He has to coax Kuroo into fingering him. “Are you sure?” Kuroo asks, looking more nervous than he has since he took his university entrance exams.

“I’ve tried it alone in the bath,” Kenma says. “So it’ll be fine.”

Kuroo looks like he took a volleyball to the face. “You—in the bath—”

Kenma’s fingers were good, but Kuroo’s are better.

“Oh,” Kenma sighs, and lets his thighs fall apart wider. “You can—deeper, Kuro—”

“You’re killing me,” Kuroo mutters, but does press his fingers deeper, and then—

Kenma nearly comes off the futon when Kuroo crooks his fingers. “Ah, right there—”

“Oho?” Kuroo says, and the smile he has on his face is the one where he knows he has the upper hand, and normally it’s obnoxious, but right now, Kenma wants him to put his money where his mouth is. “Right here?”

It’s so good, and that’s just with Kuroo’s long, long fingers. He knows he’s got to level up before he’s ready for Kuroo’s dick, but oh god, he wants it so bad.

He finally gets up the nerve to unbox the dildo a few days later while Kuroo is at class. He’s a little apprehensive, but sometimes you just have to grind, literally and figuratively.

He sets up a time to meet with Shinma at a cafe near campus. What he says makes sense, and echoes Kenma’s own research. It does make him curious why Shinma is interested in helping him start a business if he’s a chemistry major.

“Oh, I hate it,” Shinma says. “But my old man’s high up at a pharmaceutical company, so until I can prove that there’s another way for me to be successful…” he shrugs, as if excelling at a nationally ranked chemistry program is an acceptable fallback plan.

“You hate it,” Kenma repeats, baffled. “Kuro basically killed himself to get into this program.”

“He hates it, too,” Shinma says.

Kenma looks at him in shock. “He what?”

Shinma winces. “Sorry, he’s never—he’s never said it, exactly, but I think it’s pretty obvious. I think it’s not what he expected.”

Kenma thinks over the last two years, thinks of Kuroo studying and studying and studying—and there was no joy there. There was only grim determination, like endless deuces, where you just had to keep going.

“Does he help edit your videos?” Shinma asks.

“No,” Kenma says absently, still trying to figure out why he hadn’t known Kuroo was miserable all this time. “I have someone else to do that. I don’t think he’s interested, anyway—that’s not why we started doing this.”

“Was it always him you were talking to?”

Kenma realizes abruptly that Shinma has likely known that Kuroo lives with Kodzuken since they moved in together. But he never bothered Kuroo for an introduction before. And now that he knows Kenma is Kodzuken, he has to know that they’re together—

But there’s compassion in Shinma’s eyes, and that’s what decides Kenma.

He nods, once.

Shinma looks pleased. “I thought so,” he says. “You know, for someone who really doesn’t like chemistry, he’s great at organizing group work in lab. Do you think he’d want in on this?”

“I don’t know,” Kenma says thoughtfully. “But I’m going to find out.”

As much as he would like to ask Kuroo right away, he realizes that asking his—boyfriend?—to ditch his major and help him start a company while he’s studying for finals is not the best strategy for success.

With a fresh set of eyes, it’s all too easy to see that Kuroo isn’t happy with school. Of course Kuroo is willing to work hard for things he loves—he wouldn’t be spending precious hours every week with the intramural volleyball club if that weren’t the case. But even when volleyball was hard, Kuroo still loved it. He used to talk about chemistry the same way, but not lately.

He’ll ask Kuroo after finals are over, Kenma decides. Shinma has finals, too, after all, so they won’t be making much progress on the incorporation documentation until that’s over.

In the meantime, Kenma does what he can to help make things better for Kuroo. He brings him bento. He picks up dinner. He runs the bath and washes Kuroo’s hair, and then gets in the bath with Kuroo to prevent him from passing out and drowning himself.

Kenma is also forced to convince Kuroo that he’s a cockhungry slut so that he can refine his blowjob technique without Kuroo feeling like he has to reciprocate beyond a handjob. But Kenma may actually be a cockhungry slut for Kuroo, so it’s probably not that manipulative.

Kuroo’s last final is on a cold, icy day at the end of January. Most of Kenma’s finals were projects, not exams, so he didn’t have a lot of studying to do. He’s adjusted his streaming schedule for the week to be earlier in the day, when Kuroo is on campus, so he’s deep in a playthrough of a demo when he hears the doorbell.

He frowns, and sets his “be right back” message on the stream.

He’s expecting a delivery person, but instead it’s Kuroo, and he’s bleeding from a scrape on his forehead and holding his wrist awkwardly, and also clutching his coat in a strange way.

“Kuro, what on earth—” he says, and then holds the door open for Kuroo to come inside.

“Sorry I rang the bell—it’s hard to reach my keys right now,” Kuroo says, and is he slurring his words? “I had just a little bike accident.”

“You should have called me,” Kenma frets.

“Oh,” Kuroo says. “Yeah. But I was so close to home, so I figured I’d just leave my bike and walk.”

“Don’t take off your shoes,” Kenma says. “We’re going to the hospital. What happened, anyway?” Kenma experiences a moment of sharp, belated panic. “Did a car hit you?”

“No, no,” Kuroo says. “I just saw this little girl, and I hit an icy patch, and—boom, you know.”

“What little girl?” Kenma asks, tipping Kuroo’s head in the light to see better. It doesn’t look like it’s actively bleeding anymore, but he could easily be concussed.

“This one,” Kuroo says, and pulls a little calico kitten out of his jacket. She gives the most heartrendingly cute squeaky meow. “She was in the gutter all by herself, no sign of the mama cat. It’s so cold, I didn’t want to leave her there, and you said you wanted a cat, so—can we keep her?”

Kenma pinches the bridge of his nose. “The kitten is going in the bathroom. We are going to the hospital.”

“Shouldn’t we go to the vet?” Kuroo asks, looking very worried.

“I’ll take her to the vet in the morning,” Kenma says. “But for now, I’m calling a taxi.”

“I can walk,” Kuroo protests.

“Not to the hospital, not like that,” Kenma says. He takes the kitten from Kuroo and puts her in the bathroom with food and water as he calls a taxi. After a short moment of deliberation, he texts Yaku for a favor.

At the hospital, Kenma deals with all the paperwork. When the doctor sees them, she clicks through Kuroo’s chart, and after a barrage of questions and an examination of his head wound and his left wrist, she sends him off for testing.

“I expect the scan will confirm he has a mild concussion,” she tells Kenma. “He can go home, if there’s someone to keep an eye on him for the next 24 hours.”

“He lives with me,” Kenma says, and he thinks this is maybe the first time he’s said that out loud. “I’d like to take him home, if I can.”

“He’s dehydrated and a little underweight,” the doctor says critically. “You need to make sure he rests and gets plenty of fluids.”

Kenma nods and looks at his feet, feeling a sting of shame at that. He already cares too much about what people think of him; he finds he cares terribly more about what people think of his ability to take care of Kuroo.

The verdict is: a mild concussion and a sprained wrist.

“You’re lucky it wasn’t broken,” Kenma says in the taxi back home.

“Be nice to me,” Kuroo whines.

“Oh, I’m going to be so nice to you,” Kenma threatens.

Waiting on their doorstep is cat litter, a real litter box and not the makeshift one Kenma left in the bathroom, kitten food, and a note from Yaku that just says: CALL ME.

Kenma sighs, feeling very put upon.

Kuroo is very sad that Kenma insists on the kitten staying in the bathroom overnight.

“I have my last final in the morning, and then I will take her to the vet,” Kenma explains for what feels like the fifth time after they have settled down in bed, Kenma’s head pillowed on Kuroo’s good arm. “Will you please go to sleep.”

Kuroo hums, and then starts stroking one hand through Kenma’s hair. “Your hair’s getting long.”

Kenma sighs, because it feels good, but also, he needs to sleep. “That’s what happens when you start growing it out.”

“On purpose?” Kuroo asks, sounding far too interested and far too awake.

“Yes, on purpose. Go to sleep.” Kenma rolls over pointedly.

“Kenma,” Kuroo croons. “Ken-chan.”

“Don’t call me that,” Kenma says waspishly.

Kuro snuggles up against Kenma’s back and puts his mouth close to Kenma’s ear. “Is Yaku right? Are you growing it out for me?”

Kenma feels his face heat. “Don’t talk about Yaku while we’re in bed together.”

“Ken-chan.” It’s accompanied by a nibble on his ear.

“It’s not a big deal,” Kenma says, still refusing to turn over. “I wanted to, that’s all.”

“I like it,” Kuroo says, running his fingers through Kenma’s hair again, and then pressing a kiss to his neck. And then another. And another.

“Don’t start anything, you’re concussed,” Kenma scolds. “Doesn’t your head hurt?”

“Yeah, but—”

Kenma sighs and rolls back over to face him. “Go to sleep,” he says, and presses a kiss to his lips before snuggling into him aggressively.

Kuroo just makes a faint sound of protest, and a few moments later, Kenma realizes he’s finally passed out.

This, of course, is when Kenma’s brain catches up with the day, and starts chasing what-ifs, and he stares up at the ceiling in anxious frustration.

After two hours, he creeps out of bed to take his PSP to the bathroom, and lets the kitten sleep on a towel on his lap while he aggressively kills a lot of monsters.

“What are we going to name you?” he asks her.

Her paws twitch in kitten dreams, and Kenma keeps playing. He’s not going to be able to sleep, so there’s no point in going back to bed. He’ll just stay up, go to his final, take the kitten to the vet. Easy.

“I hate myself and my choices,” Kenma mutters the next morning. He wakes Kuroo up to check on him, and Kuroo reports that his head still hurts, but only a little. Kenma looks at him suspiciously, trying to determine how much he’s understating it.

Kuroo gives him a knowing look. “I’ll be fine. I’ll text if I need anything.” He accompanies Kenma to the front door, and leans down to kiss Kenma softly. “Good luck,” he says, mouth crooking into a smile.

“I’ll be back soon,” Kenma says. He turns to go, and then stops, and wraps his arms around Kuroo’s neck and pulls him down into another kiss. Kuroo makes a small sound of surprise but kisses back, his arms pulling Kenma in tight.

Finally Kenma pulls back. “I’ll be going,” he says, but he really, really doesn’t want to.

“I’ll see you when you get back,” Kuroo says, and adjusts Kenma’s scarf once before seeing him out the door.

It’s only a half hour train ride to his university, but it’s enough time for him to really work himself up in a full blown fit of worry. He bites his lip and texts a group chat.

Kenma: so everything’s okay, but Kuro got concussed yesterday and sprained his wrist

Kai: oh no! What happened?

Yaku: I didn’t know you had it in you, Kenma

Kenma: he hit some ice on his bike. And shut up, Yaku.

Taketora: rough luck dude, hope he feels better soon

Kenma: I have my last final this morning but someone’s supposed to be with him. Is anyone free to go over to the house this morning?

Fukunaga: I gotchu

Taketora: no I want to go

Kenma: I don’t care who goes just be quiet when you’re there

Yaku: they also adopted a kitten last night

Fukunaga: !!!!!!!!!

Kai: congratulations! Send pictures!

Fukunaga: oh now I’m DEFINITELY going over

Taketora: call me right now, we’re doing rock paper scissors

Kenma rolls his eyes but pockets his phone as he gets off the train. He hopes the cold will wake him up on his way to his exam; he hates to say it, but he may be a little too old to play video games all night without feeling it the next day.

The exam is mostly a blur, and he nods off on the train ride home and only barely wakes up in time for his stop. He stumbles in the front door, and calls out that he’s home, but quietly in case Kuroo is still asleep.

But Kuroo leans out of the kitchen into the hallway and says, “Welcome home.” He’s wearing an apron, and the kitten is in one of the pockets.

Kenma feels his heart seize up, and it’s like he’s having an out of body experience when he says, “Change your major and start a company with me.”

Kuroo’s eyes go wide.

“You should do something with volleyball,” Kenma continues. “Because it makes you happy. I want you to be happy. With me.”

“I am,” Kuroo says immediately, like there was never any question.

“I love you,” Kenma says, because it’s true, and it seems important to say, and Kuroo just looks even more gobsmacked. Kenma rubs the back of his head with one hand. “It’s not weird to say it,” he says defensively. “You’re my boyfriend. Right? And you—you—”

“I’ve been in love with you for so long,” Kuroo says softly, sounding almost wounded.

Kenma drops his bag and steps out of his shoes into the hallway, and walks toward Kuroo.

“I feel like this can’t be real,” Kuroo says wonderingly. “You know, like—your princess is in another castle.”

“I’m right here,” Kenma says, and pulls him down for a kiss.

They only stop when the kitten starts to scale Kenma’s sweater, tiny sharp kitten claws pricking his skin. “She needs a name,” Kenma says, detaching her from his sweater and holding her close.

“You know what we’re calling her,” Kuroo says, his mouth crooked in the smile that Kenma loves best. “We picked out the name when we were seven.”

Kenma feels his cheeks go warm. “We don’t have to call her that.”

“Oh, we absolutely do,” Kuroo says. “When are we taking Zelda to the vet?”

“At three,” Kenma says. “Did you make lunch?”

“Almost done,” Kuroo says, and pecks Kenma on the lips once more. “Okay, so back up - what’s this about changing my major? And starting a company?”

“It’s all Shinma’s idea,” Kenma says.

“Terrible Shinma?” Kuroo says, incredulous.

“I can explain,” Kenma says, and follows him into the kitchen, Zelda purring in his arms.

Zelda gets her vaccinations and some preventive treatments, but otherwise seems to be doing very well for a cat recently of a literal street gutter. Kuroo gets his wrist checked again several days later, and is told he can resume using it, but to be cautious and stop if it hurts.

“I told you, my wrist feels fine,” he tells Kenma one night after fingering him so good that Kenma almost comes.

Kenma blows his hair out of his face. “I told you, I don’t want you to take any chances.”

“You’re so bossy,” Kuroo says admiringly. “So what do you want to do, then?”

“I’m going to ride you, obviously,” Kenma says, and pushes Kuroo onto his back.

Kuroo looks like he’s had his breath knocked out of him. “You’re—”

Kenma gets the lube and slicks up Kuroo’s cock. He actually doesn’t feel all that confident—he imagined that Kuroo would take what remains of his virginity, not that he would actively divest himself of it. He swings one knee to straddle Kuroo, and holds his cock in place. It takes him a few tries to figure out the angle, and then he has to remember to relax, and breathe—

“Go slow,” Kuroo says. There’s sweat beading at his temples in the low light. He’s just—so handsome. And he’s all Kenma’s, for real.

Kenma really hates backseat gaming, but in this one particular instance, Kuroo might be right. His mouth falls open as he sinks down on Kuroo’s cock. He feels shaken apart, like Kuroo has coaxed open every protective layer, and there’s just the two of them, as close as anyone could possibly be. Taking Kuroo in—this is a thing he can do, and he’s determined to do it well.

And oh god, it feels so good. “Kuro,” he sighs, and experimentally rocks his hips up and then down again.

Kuroo’s hands tighten on his hips. “Is it—good?” Kuroo asks breathlessly. “You have to tell me—”

Kenma slides all the way down this time, until his ass touches Kuroo’s thighs. “You know I don’t do things I don’t want to,” he reminds Kuroo, and rolls his hips a bit, feeling full of Kuroo’s cock, spread wide, and he hopes he has enough stamina for what’s next.

Finding the right angle is tricky—Kuroo knows how to get him good with his fingers or the dildo Kenma bought, but this position is new to Kenma, and it takes more than a few adjustments before Kenma brings his hips down and gasps, and the look on Kuroo’s face is half smug, half dazed with pleasure.

“You okay?” Kuroo asks, stroking Kenma’s thighs. “You going to be able to hold out?”

“I,” Kenma informs him, “am going to wreck you.”

“Do your best,” Kuroo purrs.

Kenma is perfectly capable of exerting himself when he has to, but it’s also a fact that nobody has made him train this entire year, and his lower body isn't as strong as it used to be. And he’s distracted by his own pleasure, and the look on Kuroo’s face, and when Kuroo plants his feet and brings his hips up to meet Kenma—well, he knows when it’s game over.

“Kuro, I can’t—I need—” he begs, his thighs trembling.

Kuroo reads him perfectly, and rolls him over. He at least has the sense to brace himself on his good hand, and when he pushes back in, all thought leaves Kenma. There’s only the moans that escape him as he jerks himself off, the messy kisses Kuroo presses to his lips, the fullness of Kuroo within him, and then the desperate groans Kuroo makes as his thrusts go hard and uneven, and then—

Lying panting in the afterglow, Kenma says, “I mean really, didn’t we both win?”

Kuroo’s mouth stretches wide, smug and joyful. “Whatever you have to tell yourself, kitten.”


Hinata’s flight home from Brazil is delayed, and when he finally shows up on Kenma’s doorstep, he looks full on crazy.

“Oh my god, thank you for letting me crash here — I thought about going straight to Osaka for tryouts but I really just need to sleep for a billion years, first,” Hinata says in a rush, clearly so exhausted that he’s crossed the other side into wired.

“It’s no problem,” Kenma says mildly. “Your luggage?”

“Should be here in the morning,” Hinata says. “I just brought this with me.” He waves a hand at a small carryon.

“Come in,” Kenma says. “Kuro is making dinner.”

Hinata perks up at that. “I’m so hungry,” he says fervently. “I mean, I’m always so hungry but seriously.”

He leaves Hinata to wash up, and is just about to text Kuroo to ask if he got lost at the grocery store when the door opens. “Little guy make it here okay?” he greets Kenma.

“Welcome back,” Kenma says, bone-dry.

“I’m home,” Kuroo says with a smile, and then leans down to kiss him.

Zelda comes pelting down the hall because she still loves Kuroo best, even though she sleeps on Kenma’s lap while he’s streaming and sees way more of him during the day, especially now that Kuroo has graduated and started his job.

“Yes, I’m home,” Kuroo croons at her, as she winds her way around his ankles and chatters at him.

Hinata emerges from the bathroom sometime later, hair still damp and looking somewhat more alive, just as the rice cooker sings its song. “Kuroo-san!” he says with a bright smile, although it’s unclear whether he is more delighted by Kuroo’s presence or the food Kuroo is carrying to their dining table.

“Long time no see, little guy,” Kuroo says, smiling back. “Please, sit down.”

Hinata all but inhales dinner, peppering Kuroo with questions about his new job working with the Japanese Volleyball Association.

“I interned with them last summer after someone bullied me into applying,” Kuroo says, aiming a fond look Kenma’s way, which he refuses to acknowledge.

“Coach Nekomata bullied you into it after he arranged introductions for you,” Kenma says primly.

“He talked to Coach, so he’s still responsible,” Kuroo says in a stage whisper to Hinata.

“Same as ever, Kenma,” Hinata says, grinning.

Kenma thinks about objecting to that, but it’s true so Hinata probably should say it.

Hinata starts fading fast after dinner. “I can’t fall asleep yet,” he groans. “I need to get my internal clock reset. Kenma, will you go on a walk with me?”

Kenma raises his eyebrows at Kuroo, but says, “Sure, I guess.” It’s still chilly outside, so he grabs a jacket before heading out the door.

It’s dark outside, but Tokyo’s light pollution means there’s plenty of light to see by as they walk around the neighborhood.

“It’s strange, being back,” Hinata says suddenly. “I feel like everything is—quiet, somehow. I don’t think I thought that before.”

“Too quiet?” Kenma asks, curious.

Hinata shrugs. “It’s just—different. Maybe I’m different, too.”

Kenma spares a glance at Hinata. He’s not much taller than high school, but he is broader, and more built. “It’s a good thing, though, isn’t it?”

Hinata’s expression is somewhere between nervous and wistful. “I hope so.” They walk a little further, and then Hinata says suddenly, “How are you and Kuroo-san?”

“We’re the same as ever,” Kenma says evenly. Most of their friends know, but it’s not a topic of conversation. He’s certainly never talked to Hinata about it.

“Can I ask — how did you know?”

“How did I know what?” Kenma says, but he has a suspicion.

Hinata looks very serious indeed, the way he’s only ever looked about volleyball. “How did you know you loved each other?”

Kenma looks away. “What makes you think that?”

“There’s at least twenty videos on Youtube about the time you cut off streaming early so you could bone,” Hinata says bluntly.

Kenma feels his face go warm. “That was...a little overblown.”

“Kenma,” Hinata says, insistent.

Kenma sighs. “I don’t know. I mean. I just—I wanted him around all the time. I wanted him to be happy. And I guess he wanted the same for me.”

“That’s it, huh?” Hinata says, thoughtfully.

“I suppose so.” It feels like an understatement, to reduce his feelings to that, but then, if love were easy to explain, people wouldn’t keep trying.

They’ve found their way back to Kenma’s house. “What will you do?” Kenma asks as they stand outside the front door.

Hinata lets out a sigh and looks up at the moon. “It’s too soon,” he says quietly. “I hope the next time I see him, it’s on the court. And then—”

“He’s probably the only human being on the planet who would accept a confession after you beat him,” Kenma says dryly.

“You really think I can beat him?” Hinata says, excited.

The door slides open. “Why do you think he’s been supporting you all this time, huh?” Kuroo says. “Come inside, it’s cold out.”

Hinata steps out of his shoes and takes off his jacket before heading to the living room. Kenma lingers in the entryway with Kuroo.

“Well?” Kuroo asks, waggling his eyebrows.

“I’ll tell you later,” Kenma says. And all this talk makes him grab Kuroo’s sleeve. “Hey, Kuro.”

Kuroo smiles at him. “Yeah?”

“I’ll put the guest futon in the gaming room,” Kenma says.

“Oh, the gaming room we’ve put so much sound insulation in?” Kuroo says, a sly look in his eyes. “You know, I bet he’s going to sleep really hard. Jet lag is brutal.”

“You’ll have to be quiet,” Kenma says firmly.

You’ll have to be quiet,” Kuroo says, and cops a feel.

“Oh my god neither of you are quiet, I already know and I don’t care!” Hinata calls from the living room.

“Ah, we’ve been found out,” Kuroo says. He doesn’t look disappointed.

“I don’t mind,” Kenma says, and is surprised to find that it’s true. He’s cared so much about what other people have thought of him for so long, but when it comes to Kuroo—

Suddenly the partnership paperwork hidden in his gaming room desk doesn’t seem like it’s too much, after all.

“I have something else I want to tell you later,” he says to Kuroo, and for once, he doesn’t look away when he says it.

“I’m all yours,” Kuroo says, so sincere. Then he waggles his eyebrows again, completely ridiculous. “After you put the little guy to bed.”

Kenma grabs his hand then, and pulls him swiftly down the hall, and the sound of Kuroo’s laughter echoes throughout their home.