Kenma was not having fun. He should have been, he knew that; it was raining, so when Kuroo from next door came over after school like he always did, they sat down to watch a movie instead of playing volleyball. His new friend even let Kenma choose the movie, so they were watching that new American one about friendship and a fantasy world that Kenma had wanted to see for a while.
He didn't want to see it anymore. Kuroo had paused it two minutes ago, but both of them were still crying, and Kenma hadn't come out from where he hid his face in Kuroo's shirt. The fabric was soft and smelled like his friend, helping him to calm down a little bit. His voice came out muffled when he finally spoke.
"Promise you won't do that."
Glancing up at his friend to see his reaction, Kenma saw that Kuroo managed to smile, despite his eyes still being wet. "What, slip on a rope when you're not there?"
Kenma brought his face out of his friend's shirt entirely to glare at him, but did not release the red fabric still clutched in his fists. Kuroo got the message without words. He smiled softly. "Yeah, I know. I promise I won't die, Kenma."
In response, Kenma gave a brief nod and scooted closer again, not ready to let go of his friend yet. He felt Kuroo shift in order to look down at him.
"Hey, you have to promise, too!"
"I promise not to die, Kuro."
The two of them sat like that for a while, listening to each other sniffle and breathe and sinking into the comfort that only a best friend can provide. They watched the distant lightning for a little bit before Kuroo reached for the remote again.
After the movie was over, they went on to do other things, but Kenma couldn't get that scene out of his mind. When it was time for Kuroo to leave, he followed him to the door, the rain reminding him even more of the girl who drowned. He couldn't forget how she just disappeared before either of them could say goodbye.
So when Kuroo said goodbye for the evening -
"I love you, Kuro." He said it quietly, eyes on the new blue rug at their feet instead of the boy in front of him.
Kuroo reached out to ruffle his hair, making him scrunch up his nose and try to bat his friend's hand away. This wasn't a movie, he reminded himself, this was Kuroo - his annoying, energetic best friend, and a little rain would never hurt him. "I already promised you I wouldn't die, so stop worrying! I'll see you tomorrow for school."
He walked five steps before turning around, grin revealing the gap where he had lost a tooth the week before, and yelled to be heard over the rain. "Oh, Kenma! I love you too!"
Kenma shut the door in his face.
"I promise my friends aren't that bad, and I'll be there to make sure nothing bad happens to you. Please, Kenma?"
Even all crackley from a bad connection, Kuroo's begging voice got to Kenma. Ever since his friend had started junior high two months ago, Kenma couldn't decide what he was feeling. On one hand, Kuroo had joined the volleyball club there, and didn't have as much time for his old friend. When they did end up spending time together, Kuroo would always have a new story to tell about these people in the club, all of the stupid things his new friends got into, or the pretty girls he saw in the hallways. Kenma felt uneasy about all of this, but he didn't know why. He knew he missed Kuroo, and maybe he missed having Kuroo all to himself, but he would never admit either of those out loud. On the other hand...
He started playing with the curly wire on his house phone. "Why don't you get the volleyball club setter to play with you?"
Kuroo had also been more annoying than ever since he switched schools, hanging around Kenma as much as he could and dragging him everywhere, so at least Kenma knew that Kuroo wasn't forgetting about him. That still didn't explain the vagely unsettled feeling he got in his stomach when Kuroo started talking about one of his great new friends.
"But Kenma, you're my favorite setter! Besides, Sato-san is busy. Come on, I miss playing with you!"
Kenma resisted the urge to huff, conscious of the weird noises it would make on the phone. He started drumming his fingers on the counter instead. "I'm going to be on your team next year anyway, I don't see what the big deal is."
Kuroo's gasp made Kenma jump, almost dropping the phone onto the laminate countertop. "Kenma, that's a whole year away! Come on, please? Only for like 2 hours this weekend, and then you can sleep over at my house and play Mario Kart."
Kenma paused, studying the fake granite of the countertop. No, he did not want to get all hot and sweaty when he could be indoors playing the newest Kingdom Hearts game, and Kuroo would probably invite him to sleep over anyway, but he sounded so hopeful, and Kenma didn't want to disappoint him...
Besides, he would probably complain if he didn't have a proper setter. That's the logic Kenma decided on, at least.
"...Fine. But you owe me red bean ice cream."
This time, Kenma held the phone away from his ear and waited for his friend to calm down. He picked up a nearby pen and scrap of paper and started absentmindedly doodling as Kuroo told him more about the time and place of the practice match and who would be in it. When Kenma's mother came home with groceries, he was paying more attention to the food than the phone.
"I have to go now."
"Alright, I'll show up at your house..." Kuroo went on, but Kenma wasn't paying attention. Were those strawberries? Why was he still talking?
"Yeah, love you, bye."
Kenma had already hung up the phone when his words caught up with him, and he felt his whole face grow warm and prickly. It was an accident, surely Kuroo would understand.
The walk home was quiet that day. Kuroo kept glancing over at Kenma every so often, and Kenma stared ahead, pretending not to notice. Echoes of their last conversation filled the silence in both of the boys' minds.
Kenma took a deep breath, feeling a fresh breeze and catching a trace of Kuroo's cologne on it. It would be a challenge, yeah, but Kenma wouldn't go back on his word. He would stay on the team this year - it couldn't be that hard avoiding the third-years, there were only a few months left. Playing volleyball gave him something to do, and he was warming up to some of the underclassmen on the team. Besides, he knew that he could count on Kuroo to make things okay when the third-years were being especially awful.
He looked over at his best friend, who tried his darndest to pretend he hadn't just been staring back. Kuroo had gotten a lot taller since their childhood, and he was starting to fill out now - no longer the gangly preteen awkwardly trying to flirt with girls at the vending machines, Kuroo was actually pretty intimidating if you didn't know how big of a dork he was.
In any case, that intimidating dork was gonna make sure that things were a lot better next year. The two of them stopped when they reached Kenma's house, staying for a minute to stare at the pink and orange sunset in front of them.
Kuroo cleared his throat, and when Kenma looked up at his friend, Kuroo's face was already turned toward him, smiling softly. "See you tomorrow, Kenma." He didn't try to move at all, instead staring intently at his best friend, trying to get a read off of what he was thinking.
Kenma decided to make it easier for him, turning his face upwards and staring right back. "Thanks, Kuro."
Apparently convinced that he wouldn't overthink and change his mind, Kuroo relaxed. "Hey, I'm just being honest, you're the best strategist I know of. I'm glad you're on my side," he smiled, "and so are the rest of the second-years." Kenma lowered his gaze again, allowing himself a tiny smile as Kuroo went on. "The third-years are just upset because you can point out the flaws in their plays and they can't accept it. Don't let them get you down, you're brilliant."
Kenma shook his head, feeling the back of his neck heat up. "You're embarrassing." He glanced back up at his friend, and then quickly away, focusing on an interesting-shaped cloud dyed pink by the sunset that hovered right beside Kuroo's left ear. "But I love you. Thanks for sticking up for me." He could feel his ears getting hot, his cheeks soon to follow. Around anyone else, he would never have said that, but it was justhim and Kuroo and he knew he could say what he wanted to.
Kuroo spluttered a little bit, which made Kenma feel the tiniest bit smug. "I'm embarrassing? You're making yourself blush!"
Kenma rolled his eyes at him and started walking to the door. Before he got there, his friend called back, "No problem, Kenma. I'll always defend you."
How embarrassing. He smiled.
Kuroo wasn't supposed to look this defeated. He was strong, he was the captain of the team, he was a protector, he was -
Kenma stood suddenly, abandoning his game, staring at the spot in his bedroom doorway where his best friend had appeared suddenly and without warning. As soon as he stood, Kuroo walked through the darkness of his room to his bed and flopped down onto it face-first. Kenma joined him shortly thereafter, laying on his back and staring at the ceiling, which was only partially visible from the light from his computer. He didn't speak; if Kuro wanted to talk about it, he would in his own time.
After about a minute, the bed shifted as Kuroo repositioned himself to lie on his back. After he settled in, he gave a soft sigh and spoke.
"Why do you like me?"
Kenma felt his entire body go warm and prickly, and the white noise of his still-paused computer game in the background was replaced with a rushing in his ears. This wave of panic lasted for about a second before he forced himself to start breathing regularly and calm down. This is Kuro, he's done much more embarrassing things, why are you so freaked out?
When Kenma glanced over to see Kuroo's reaction to his minor freak out, he realized that his friend was more upset than he realized. The usually perceptive boy was staring at the ceiling, blue light from across the room throwing his face into high contrast. Kenma absentmindedly played with the sheets next to him, letting his hands glide over the smooth material to soothe him as he thought. "A lot of reasons," he finally settled on saying, studying Kuroo's face for a reaction. He wouldn't push.
Kuroo gave a weak, tight-lipped smile to the ceiling above them.
"Hiyori dumped me."
Oh. Kenma turned his head back to the ceiling as Kuroo's smile wavered.
"You're kind," Kenma said after more thought. "And patient. You listen to what others say and support your friends. You're a little ridiculous sometimes -" he smiles a tiny bit when he hears a quiet chuckle from next to him, but didn't look over yet. "- but even when you're being stupid, you pay attention to what you're doing and how it affects people."
Kuroo's hand found his own and clasped it. Kenma turned to face his friend, and studied the way the light played off his hair and glassy eyes. Objectively speaking, of course, Kuroo was a very attractive person, with his high cheekbones and strong jaw. His hair was a little strange at first, but it suited him. Besides, none of his looks mattered once you started talking to him. He was so patient and kind and just witty enough to drive you crazy - Kenma didn't understand why someone wouldn't want to be with him.
"She called me selfish. I was spending too much time with the team, too much time with you, not enough with her."
Kenma turned on his side completely, facing Kuroo with his whole body. "Forget what she thinks, I love you."
Once Kuroo looked back at him, he realized that he was still holding the other boy's hand and that his words might be taken in a different context, so he hastily added "and so does the rest of the team." He offered a small smile, hoping that the faint blue light from his computer was not enough to show how hot his cheeks had gotten. "You'll survive."
Kuroo squeezed his hand gently. "Yeah. Let's play Mario Kart, I wanna win something."
Kenma hadn't felt this nervous since he was a first year, knowing that the third-years were going to pick on him when he got to volleyball club. That wasn't a fitting comparison, though, because he had reason to be nervous back then. Now, though...
He took a slow breath and squared his shoulders before clicking the green "answer" button on his screen. Relax, it's just Kuro. After a brief moment of darkness and some static through his headset, Kuroo's face suddenly took up Kenma's laptop screen. His heart stuttered a little bit, and he chastised himself for it because it's just Kuro!!
His friend broke out into a huge grin, and Kenma felt his own lips move just a bit in response. "Kenma! God, am I glad to finally see you again!"
Kenma briefly looked away from the screen, embarrassed, but not for long. After all, Kuroo had a point. They had gone about three weeks without calling or skyping, so Kenma didn't want to look away for too long - who knew when the next opportunity would be.
"Hi, Kuro. Missed you, too." He tugged at a strand of his hair. Now that the initial excitement of seeing him again had died down and his heart rate from his earlier panic had slowed, Kenma could see that something was wrong with his best friend. Even though he had that dopey smile on his face, Kenma could see the way he was slouched in his chair, propping his head up on his hand. Even with the mediocre quality of Kuroo's webcam, Kenma could see that he had bags under his eyes. "You look tired."
Kuroo grimaced at that. "Always right to the point. Yeah, I guess I haven't been sleeping as much as I should." He leaned back in his chair and raked his fingers through his hair, sighing. "It's just that university is a lot harder than high school, y'know? I stay up late studying and going out with friends and writing papers. Sometimes I just... forget to sleep, I guess."
Kenma snorted. Last year, if there was no school or morning practice, Kuroo would sleep until noon without any problem. It didn't seem like he was lying, though. Kenma would know, he had been friends with Kuroo for 11 years, and had noticed within a month of knowing him that Kuroo always raised his eyebrows subconsciously when he told a lie, as if that made him seem more innocent. University life must be really exciting if it makes Kuro lose sleep. An idea struck him, immediately followed by an inexplicable sinking in his chest.
"New girlfriend taking up your time?"
Kuroo sat up straight at that, face steadily turning a rosy shade of pink. Kenma could hear a muffled giggle from somewhere in Kuroo's room, and his friend shot a glare over his computer to whoever else was there, presumably his roommate. He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Ah. No. I don't have a girlfriend."
Kenma nodded slowly, waiting for an explanation for the blush and laughter as his chest loosened up again. Maybe he wasn't officially dating a girl, but he was interested in her...
Kuroo let out a breath. "Actually..." He leaned forward and braced both elbows on his desk, clasping his hands together. Kenma's stomach twinged a bit; he hadn't seen Kuroo like this before, and didn't know what to make of it. His friend seemed to be nervous about whatever was going on, and he was usually the fearless one.
"I think I'm gay?"
Kenma didn't say anything for a second, focusing on controlling his breathing so that the mic on his headset wouldn't pick up whatever the fuck was going on, calm down Kenma, what has gotten into you? Kuroo looked down at his hands, blush growing, as he forged ahead. "Well. I mean. Not really gay, I mean, I think I'm bisexual, but I still don't have a girlfriend! I kind of - shut up, Bokuto - I kind of think I like this one guy? But I haven't told him yet. So. No girlfriend. Or boyfriend. Um."
Kenma was mildly surprised that he could hear all of this and Kuroo's roommate's raucous laughter over the sound of his pulse rushing in his ears. He pushed the thought of Kuroo with some faceless guy out of his mind as quickly as it entered, feeling guilty for how upset the concept made him. He didn't think he was homophobic, but...
Quick, don't be an ass, say something. "Congratulations. You still need to sleep."
Kuroo looked into the camera again, trepidation showing on his face. "You... don't care that I'm bi?"
Kenma blinked. "Of course not, I love you no matter what."
Kuroo sighed in relief, grinning as he leaned back again and put both hands behind his head.
"But seriously, you look awful. Take a nap or something."
It was only after he had died for the seventh time in fifteen minutes that Kenma decided he was too agitated to play and put down his psp, glancing out his bedroom window to his snow-covered front yard. He hadn't been able to concentrate all day, and his appetite had shrunk as nerves took over his stomach, giving him a little shock every time he remembered what was going to happen.
It wasn't that exciting, really, and Kenma kept telling himself that. He and Kuroo had been best friends for 11 years, so seeing him again shouldn't make him this... whatever this was. He just wanted to make sure that Kuroo wasn't being too much of a dumbass at school, and that he had actually slept during finals week, and that Bokuto hadn't accidentally killed him. That was it.
A rush of black went past Kenma's line of vision and his heart jumped into his throat before he realized that it was only a crow, not Kuroo's awful hair. He sighed again, putting his elbow on his windowsill and propping his head on it to stare at the crow. It had been too long since he had seen his friend, or even talked to him. Their last skype call had been a month and a half ago, and since then, their only communication had been a few texts per week and one short (albeit very entertaining) drunk call at 1 am. He missed Kuroo.
There was movement in his peripheral vision. At first, he didn't turn, because he thought it was another crow, but it was moving too slowly for that and crows don't wear clumsily-knitted red hats and Kenma had already jumped out of bed when the words he's here finally crossed his mind. He momentarily forgot his aversion to working any harder than he needed to, because the boy sprinted down the stairs and to the front door, where he made himself stop to take a few regulating breaths. Calm down, it's only...
He threw open the door, too impatient to completely calm down.
There, walking up the path with his hands in his pockets, was Kenma's favorite person. Snowflakes that hadn't yet melted stuck on his hat, his hair, his eyelashes. His nose and cheeks were dusted with pink from the cold, and when the huge goofy grin he only wore around Kenma split his face, each breath he took was visible in a cloud of foggy white. He was beautiful at that moment.
Kenma felt a grin to rival Kuroo's growing on his face, and he could do nothing to stop it. He kicked off his slippers, and not even bothering to put on normal shoes, ran out the door to greet his friend. Kuroo's eyes widened a bit, and Kenma wasn't sure if it was because of the barefoot thing or because of the running thing (or maybe because he wasn't stopping). Before he could actually say anything about it, though, Kenma had already gotten to him and latched his arms around Kuroo's middle. Kuroo immediately reacted, leaning down a little bit and hugging back hard enough to lift Kenma off the ground.
"I missed you, too, Kitten."
Kenma didn't even protest when Kuroo picked him up entirely, carrying him up the rest of the path instead of letting him walk himself. He could feel the vibrations as Kuroo's voice sounded from above his head. "That was sweet and all, and I definitely would have done the same, but you really shouldn't go in the snow barefoot." Kenma didn't care. For the first time in months, he could actually touch Kuroo and run his hands through his hair and sit in his lap and-
He burrowed his face into Kuroo's jacket as his friend walked in and closed the door behind him, subtly taking in the scent of Kuroo's cologne and getting a cat hair stuck to his cheek in the process. Kuroo put him down so that he could take his shoes and coat off, and Kenma watched him. When his friend turned back to face him and smiled, Kenma meant to tease him. He meant to say something like 'Your hat's crooked' or 'Your hair's gotten worse at university' or 'Great, you're back, now I have an excuse to see your cat again'.
He ended up saying "I love you."
What the hell. The words echoed a little bit in his head and his eyes widened as they finally sank in. It wasn't the first time that he had accidentally said that to Kuroo, but...
"You too, Kitten." Kuroo smiled and ruffled his hair, just like he did the first time, but Kenma ducked out of the way and took a step back instead of weakly protesting. For a perceptive person, he felt really stupid right at that moment. He ignored the way that his ears, cheeks, and the back of his neck started to get all hot and prickly, and how confused Kuroo looked, hand still suspended in midair where Kenma used to be. I can do this.
"No, Kuro," he said, fighting to keep his voice steady and audible, "I mean I think I'm in love with you."
That got his attention. His hand fell back to his side and his whole body went a little stiff, his eyes widening marginally, shock written everywhere. Kenma's eyes flew to the worn-out blue rug at their feet as his stomach contracted and he felt a sudden chill, like his barefoot escapade in the snow had only now caught up to him. Bad idea bad idea abort abort abort-
Kenma didn't move his eyes from their spot on the carpeting as he gave a tiny nod. That was a stupid mistake and he knew it, and he hadn't even meant to do it but it slipped out and now everything was different and-
His line of sight was suddenly interrupted as Kuro stepped forward, wrapping his arms around Kenma for the second time that day, shaking slightly. Kenma was surprised, and thus a little slow in reciprocating the hug. The chill that had come over him started to melt away little by little - he wasn't stupid, regardless of how long it took him to figure out his own feelings. He knew what this reaction meant, but he didn't say anything about it, opting to pull Kuroo closer and allow himself a small smile instead.
He could feel the vibrations through Kuroo's chest when he finally spoke, and tried to stifle a laugh when Kuroo's voice cracked in the middle of the serious moment. "I love you, too, Kenma." He tightened his grip a little before letting go. "Have for a while, actually." Kenma didn't step back, still very much in Kuroo's personal space, and shot him a questioning look. Kuroo smiled, though his eyes still shone with wonder. "Since around first year of high school, maybe before, but I didn't realize it until after Hiyori broke up with me."
Oh. For a moment, Kenma felt his heart stop at the honesty and affection on Kuroo's face. He felt incredibly unperceptive, but that didn't matter right now. A smile tugged at his lips and he leaned up a bit, his heart kicking in again. "Sorry it took me so long to catch on."
Kuroo blushed at Kenma's proximity with his whole face, something Kenma had always found endearing and now felt a little smug about. He had caused that. "Uh, no problem, you know now, so that's the most important part." His eyes, more open than Kenma had ever seen them, briefly flitted down to Kenma's lips and then back up to his eyes, the red on his face growing just a hair darker. His own heart rose in his chest and twisted into knots, equal parts nervous and excited. He gave a small smile.
"I'm going to kiss you now."
The older boy nodded numbly as Kenma reached up, bringing one of his cold hands to the nape of Kuroo's neck and gently tugging him down to a reasonable height as he tilted his head slightly. His eyes fluttered closed as he got closer, reveling in the feelings of the heat radiating from Kuroo's face and the tiny, shallow, breaths from his mouth. He closed the distance between them.
Kuroo's lips were a little chapped, a little rough when they started moving against his own, and Kenma loved the sensation. His whole body tingled with the contact, and a pleasant warmth flooded into him. His other hand came up to rest on Kuroo's chest, and the other boy's hands, trembling slightly, settled on Kenma's hips. He felt at home.
They didn't move after they broke apart, settling to rest their foreheads together for a while. Kuroo smiled. "Hey, Kenma."
He looked up, eyes mere inches away from Kuroo's, and felt the tips of his ears go prickly at the amount of affection he saw in them.
"I love you."
He smiled. "You too, Kuro." And he meant it.