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Just My Imagination

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Kenma screamed as talons dug deeper into his shoulders. “Help! Help!” he screeched, his legs kicking in midair.

The dragon’s wings beat the sky, making a clapping sound as the air was forced to move around its massive wingspan. Kenma watched the ground below, the open fields of his family farm disappearing beneath the clouds. Kenma gasped for breath, either from fear or from the dwindling air pressure.

He screamed again.

The dragon let out a roar above him, knocking the wind out of Kenma’s lungs. Fire filled the sky, and Kenma closed his eyes as a blast of heat hit his face. He coughed on smoke. The smell of singed hair filled his nostrils. The heat was overwhelming, and Kenma felt his body go limp in the dragon’s hold.

He blinked his eyes open when the smoke finally cleared. He caught sight of the ground again, the charred remains of an abandoned castle coming into view. The earth had turned to glass from the heat of the dragon’s fire, and only one thing stood out from the blackened landscape: a white stallion galloping up the hillside.

Kenma’s eyes widened and he struggled against the dragon’s clutches. “Help!” he shrieked. “Help me! Help! Hel-“

Kenma was cut off when the dragon released his grip. His feet kicked uselessly as he was hurled through the sky and into an open window at the top of one of the castle towers. His body flipped over and over before he finally hit the ground.

He heard something snap just before the dragon roared again. Kenma held his arm to his chest and kicked himself away from the window. He gasped as the dragon dove past: a mass of red scales flying by.

Kenma took a minute to gather his wits. He squeezed his eyes closed, trying to find some sense of calm, but the sounds of fire and metal outside made him crawl over to the window, still keeping his right arm tight against his chest. The stallion from before was kicking behind its rider.

A knight.

Kenma grabbed onto the stone window ledge, leaning over to try to get a better look. The knight had nothing but a flimsy shield to try to block the dragon’s fire breath. His sword didn’t look long or strong enough to pierce through the dragon’s flesh, but Kenma knew it was his only chance of getting saved.

The dragon released an impressive wall of flames. Kenma held his breath as the knight barely managed to duck behind his shield. The metal warped under the heat.

Don’t look up, Kenma wanted to shout.

Even if he had managed to get the words out, it would have been too late. Just as the knight peaked over his shield, the dragon dropped into a nosedive, it’s mouth open and teeth glistening. Kenma squeezed his eyes shut, unable to look.

He waited for the sound of teeth snapping through bone, but it never came.

Cautiously, Kenma peaked over the window frame. He blanched when he first saw the pool of blood staining the ground. The dragon lay limp across the rock, and that’s when Kenma realized.

It was dead.

He sat up straighter, not sure he could trust his own eyes. There was a clear slice through the tip of the dragon’s nose and up through the top of its head. Its skull was cut neatly in half. Kenma gagged at the sight of brain seeping through flesh and scales.

Someone banged on the door to the tower, and Kenma jumped three feet in the air. He stood frozen, not sure what to do.

There was a thump. Another thump. A third thump, and a man dressed in full armor beat through the door with his shoulder. Kenma yelped and pressed back into the wall. This was the knight who just killed the dragon. He killed a dragon. Kenma cowered in fear.

“Don’t worry. I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to save you.”

Kenma cracked an eye open just as the knight removed his helmet. Black hair shinier than his breastplate fell into the knight’s eyes as he tucked his headgear under one arm.

“I-“ Kenma couldn’t finish his thought. He wasn’t sure he had one in the first place; he was too overwhelmed.

“It’s time to get you out of this tower, don’t you think?” the knight asked, extending a gloved hand towards him. Kenma bit his lip and tucked a lock of hair behind his ear, squirming nervously. The knight, meanwhile, smiled at him sympathetically. “I’m Kuroo,” he said, introducing himself.

“Kenma,” he squeaked. He reached out to take the knight –Kuroo’s- hand.

Kuroo’s glove was warm, and Kenma’s skin was pink from flying through fire. Kuroo’s hand tightened around his, and Kenma’s eyes widened when Kuroo pulled him close.

Kuroo’s arm wrapped around Kenma’s waist, and while Kenma should have felt trapped by the metal armor and strong muscle keeping him in place, he only felt safe. “I’ve got you now, Kenma,” Kuroo said.

Kenma made an embarrassing noise in the back of his throat as Kuroo ducked into kiss him. He closed his eyes, mouth parting for the kiss when~

~~~~~~~~

“-ma. Kenma... Kenma! Hello! Earth to Kenma!”

Kenma blinked his eyes slowly at the sound of Hinata’s voice, coming back into reality. He stretched lazily, his blanket slipping off his shoulders, and turned his head towards Hinata. “Yes?”

Hinata raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Staring at Kuroo again?” he asked.

Now that was enough to catch Kenma’s attention. He sputtered. “What? No. I just... I just like sitting here,” he said, gesturing to the window bench.

Kenma spent just about all of his time curled up in the sun like a cat, watching people walk by on the sidewalk. If Kuroo happened to leave every morning at 10 AM and come back home every night with Hinata after volleyball practice, and if Kenma just happened to be sitting in his usual spot, and if he happened to notice Kuroo walking by, well... That was no one’s business but his own.

“I know,” Hinata replied, his cute little nose crinkling. He knelt up on the bench next to Kenma and opened the window. Kenma frowned at the first scent of fresh air. “You’re always sitting here. When’s the last time you even left the apartment?” Hinata asked.

“I bought eggs.”

“That was three days ago, and the convenience store is literally right next to our building,” Hinata complained. Kenma opened his mouth to say something passive to try to get Hinata to leave him alone, but as he glanced up, he saw the look in Hinata’s eyes pass from annoyed to concerned.

Crap.

“I’m just worried about you,” Hinata said. “It can’t be good for you to spend so much time locked away up here. Aren’t you bored? Aren’t you lonely?”

Kenma sighed. “I’ve told you, I have-“

“Course work, I know. You’re taking classes online or whatever. But that can’t possibly take up all of your time. Why don’t you spend some of the time you usually spend on video games to go outside and like, I dunno, see the sun? Smell the roses? Don’t you think you’re missing out?” Hinata asked. He had practically crawled into Kenma’s lap, and Kenma pushed him back a little.

“You’re thinking too much about this,” he said. “I’m fine.”

Hinata pouted. “But Kenma.

Kenma found himself sighing again. “Not everyone is a special social butterfly like you, Shouyou. You might like being with people all the time, but I’m happiest when I’m by myself. It’s tiring to talk to other people. I need to... recharge,” he explained.

“Fine,” Hinata said, throwing his hands up in defeat. Kenma blinked. Hinata’s attention span had always been short, and while he was stubborn enough to continually bring up the same argument, the conversation never lasted long. “I’m gonna go shower, okay?”

“Good, you smell gross,” Kenma said, burying his nose into his knees.

Hinata took this as an invitation to try to shove his smelly armpit into Kenma’s face, but Kenma shoved him away before he could. Kenma threw a pillow at him as he ran away, and Hinata’s laughter filled the house as he locked himself up in the bathroom.

Kenma rolled his eyes and grabbed his blanket again. He looked back out the window.


The next morning, Kenma woke up to a note from Hinata on the table. It took him a solid thirty seconds to decipher is cramped handwriting, but when he did, Kenma ended up balling up the Post-It and throwing it into the garbage.

Go outside today, if you can! The vitamin C is good for you!!!!
xoxoxoxo :) :) :D

First of all, Kenma was pretty sure your body absorbed Vitamin D from the sun, not Vitamin C. Second of all, Hinata was an idiot.

It’s not that Kenma couldn’t go outside, he just didn’t want to. Whenever Hinata took him out for dinner or for a quick shopping trip, he acted like Kenma was on the verge of a panic attack. Kenma had panic attacks, but he didn’t get them from leaving the house.

Although, that didn’t mean he was comfortable outside. He was notably more anxious in public than he was at home. He felt safer when he was holed up in his shared room with Hinata, but Kenma was fairly certain that most people felt safer at home. It wasn’t a problem.

Besides, his classes were all online and his internship only asked for deliverables. His boss didn’t ask him to come into work. As long as he got enough animation work done for his employer, he didn’t care whether or not he showed up at the office.

It didn’t matter if Kenma spent all his time at home. It didn’t matter if he stayed locked up all day, every day. It didn’t matter if he preferred to people-watch out the window and make up their stories rather than go down to the street and actually meet any of them.

It was easier for Kenma to pretend to know someone than to put himself out there and actually talk to someone.


Kenma jumped when the door to the apartment flew open. “Kenma! I’m home! And I brought people over! I hope that’s okay!”

Kenma sat up fast and snapped the door to their bedroom closed. The voices on the other side of the shoji were slightly muffled but Kenma could still hear them clearly.

“Is he okay in there?” one of Hinata’s friends asked.

“Yeah, he’s just shy. He might not come out to say hi,” Hinata explained.

Kenma hugged his knees close to his chest. He took a deep breath, trying to calm down. There was no reason to feel embarrassed -he hadn’t actually seen or talked to anyone- but his cheeks still felt flushed.

He sighed and toppled over to his side, his knees still curled close. He stared through the crack under the door. He could see feet and a couple people sitting down. He recognized Hinata’s tiny panda socks as he ran around, filling up glasses and passing out snacks.

Someone said something funny, and everyone laughed. Kenma, meanwhile, felt his bottom lip wobble.

He didn’t mind when Hinata invited people over, but sometimes it was hard to be stuck on the other side of the screen.

Instead of moping, though, Kenma decided to pick himself up and crawl over to his window seat. He slipped under his blanket and leaned against the glass.

A woman with a baby hurried by, and Kenma imagined she was on the way to the grocery store to pick up an ingredient she needed for dinner. A man on a run jogged by a moment later, and Kenma pictured a giant minotaur chasing him down the street.

When he sees Kuroo walking home, he imagines an orchestra swelling.

Kuroo is by far the most interesting person Kenma had never met. He had wild black hair that fell into his eyes and a build that seemed wasted on a volleyball player. Kenma could see him doing something that required more strength, like swimming or boxing.

Kenma didn’t know much about him, only the handful of things Hinata had shouted at him while Kenma hid his face under his pillow, humiliated. (He hated owning up to his crush, but Hinata seemed determined to play matchmaker, telling him about Kuroo whenever he got the chance.) However, the smirk on Kuroo’s face said he was a little sly, a little too smart. Boxing might be the best fit.

Kenma’s eyes glazed over as he imagined Kuroo fighting someone or –better yet- fighting someone for him.

~~~~~~~~

“Eels? Really?” Kenma asked, dangling from a rope. The tank of eels beneath him hummed with electricity. “As an aspiring video game designer, I can promise you that this is pretty weak. Not even a mid-level boss would do something so cheesy.”

“Silence!” Evil Doctor Octopus demanded. His tentacles wriggled wildly with the exclamation. “You won’t sound so confident when you’re begging for mercy.”

Evil Doctor Octopus hit a button on his controller, and the rope holding Kenma started slowly lowering. Kenma arched an eyebrow, unconcerned. “Yeah, I wouldn’t count on that happening,” he said. He didn’t flinch when one of the eels jumped out of the tank, snapping it’s teeth a little too close to Kenma’s nose.

“But they’ll electrocute you!” Evil Doctor Octopus shouted.

Kenma snorted. For a super villain, the octopus didn’t have a very threatening voice. If anything, he sounded small and mousy. “They won’t electrocute me,” Kenma said confidently.

The octopus’s tentacles undulated violently in frustration. “And why do you think that?” he asked.

Before Kenma could answer, the back wall of Evil Doctor Octopus’s warehouse exploded inward. Rubble crushed the crates and experiments the octopus had resting against the wall. As the dust settled, Kenma could make out the sight of a powerful figure crouching amongst the debris.

Kenma smirked. “That’s why,” he said.

His smirk grew into a smile as Evil Doctor Octopus’s eyes widened in fear. The hero stood up slowly, keeping his face hidden until he had risen to his full height. Kenma rolled his eyes as Kuroo lifted his head, dramatic as ever. “Funny,” Kuroo said, the sight of his iconic black mask making the octopus’s tentacles quiver. “I thought octopi were supposed to have eight legs.”

“I do have eight legs,” Evil Doctor Octopus said, confused.

Kuroo smirked. “Not for long,” he promised before springing into action. Kenma gagged when Kuroo jumped into action and ripped off one of he octopus’s meaty tentacles. It writhed on the ground even after it was separated from its body.

The rope holding Kenma dropped him closer and closer to the tank, but Kuroo was quick on his feet. He managed to tie the octopus’s remaining tentacles together, leaving him in a tangled, immobile mess on the ground. With Evil Doctor Octopus subdued, Kuroo was able to stop the mechanical pulley system before Kenma could drown or be electrocuted. Kenma blinked at the eels swimming beneath him, bored.

“What if, instead of saving me every time I get abducted, you stopped villains from ever kidnapping me in the first place?” he asked.

Kuroo pouted and jumped up on the edge of the eel tank to untie Kenma. “What, no thank you? Weren’t you impressed?”

Kenma rolled his eyes. Kuroo certainly demanded a lot of praise. “I guess I was a little impressed,” he said begrudgingly, even if it was the third time Kuroo had saved him from a super villain this week alone. “Thank you for coming to my rescue.”

“Anything for my damsel in distress,” Kuroo said, kissing Kenma’s forehead. Kenma blushed. He would never get over Kuroo just kissing him whenever he felt like it. “I’ll always save you, kitten. You never have to worry.”

Kenma managed a tiny grin. “I never do,” he promised as Kuroo finished with the knot. He fell into Kuroo’s arms, narrowly avoiding a painful death in an eel tank. “I know you’ve got me.”


“I thought that maybe when we started dating, I’d stop thinking about him so much, but I think it might just be getting worse,” Hinata said, swirling his tea with a spoon. Kenma kept quiet, waiting for Hinata to continue after he took a sip. “He’s just so cute and squishy. He doesn’t think he’s cute and squishy, but when he’s all shy and grumpy, he’s just... the cutest,” Hinata cooed.

“And the squishiest?” Kenma asked.

Definitely the squishiest,” Hinata lamented. “I think you would like him. I keep trying to bring him over to meet you, but I think he’s more nervous than you are. Something about wanting to make a good impression.”

Kenma blinked. While he knew Hinata thought it was important that he approved of all his potential boyfriends, there wasn’t much Kenma could do if he didn’t like a guy Hinata brought home. “What’s his name again?”

“Kageyama Tobio,” Hinata answered.

Kenma hummed. He warmed his hands around his own mug of tea. “And he’s your setter?”

Hinata nodded enthusiastically. “Yep! And he’s a starter like me! Isn’t that crazy? He’s so good. Like probably better than I am, and you know I don’t like admitting that.”

Kenma tucked a piece of hair behind his ear in lieu of laughing. Hinata absolutely abhorred admitting anyone was better than him at volleyball. Saying he ‘didn’t like it’ was an understatement.

“Whatchya thinkin’?” Hinata asked when Kenma stayed quiet for a minute.

Kenma curled a little further inwards on himself. Sometimes Hinata could be a little too much for him. Kenma wasn’t nearly as expressive or energetic as Hinata was. (Some would say he wasn’t expressive or energetic at all.) It sometimes felt draining to be his roommate.

However, all it took was a cup of tea and some good conversation for Hinata to calm right down. Most nights, after he showered, Kenma would pass him a mug, turn on their overhead twinkle lights, and force him to sit side by side on his futon. It was moments like these that reminded Kenma why they were friends. (That, and Hinata was the only one who didn’t get bothered when Kenma didn’t answer his questions right away or went awhile without talking.)

“I’m thinking about how good a friend you are,” he answered honestly. And then –because he had foresight- he grabbed the mug out of Hinata’s hands before he could spill it everywhere.

“Aw, Kenma!” Hinata cheered, throwing his arms open wide. He pulled him into a tight hug. “I think you’re a good friend, too.”

Kenma reluctantly returned the hug. He wasn’t sure he was a good friend. He made Hinata do most of the grocery shopping, and sometimes he needed Hinata to write his work emails and submit his school projects when he was feeling particularly nervous. However, he tried to return the favor by cooking most nights and paying for most of the rent with the money from his internship. “I try,” he said awkwardly.

“You succeed,” Hinata promised. “Honestly, more people should have you as a friend, Kenma! You’re so great.”

Kenma flushed. “I don’t know about that.”

“No, really! You made our apartment look really nice and cozy, and you make sure everything is clean, and you help me out when I’m tired from class, and work, and volleyball practice.... It makes me sad that you don’t talk to more people,” Hinata said, pulling back to make eye contact.

Kenma squirmed under Hinata’s gaze. He didn’t ever know how to handle him when his eyes got too wide and shiny. He looked too genuine. “Um...”

“Kenma, when is the last time you went on a date?” Hinata asked out of nowhere.

Kenma felt a shiver run down his spine. “Excuse me?”

“Have you ever been on one?”

“Shouyou-“

“Because I could set you up,” Hinata continued. “Dates are really fun! Like, going out with Kageyama has been really fun, and I didn’t think it would be, you know? I thought I would be scared, but Kageyama is really nice. And I think I know who you like, and I know he’s really nice, so together you might have a really nice time! You should think about it!” he exclaimed.

Hinata’s face had inched closer and closer to Kenma as he spoke –as it often did- and Kenma pushed him away with one hand. “You’re crazy. I don’t like anyone,” he said, even if Hinata had caught him staring out the window at Kuroo more times than he would like to admit.

Hinata made a whining sound. “That’s not true! You should just let me introduce you guys!”

“Why don’t you just drink your tea-” Kenma asked, passing the mug back to Hinata. He usually settled down when he had a drink in hand, “-and stop bothering me.”

“But-“

“Tell me more about Kageyama,” Kenma suggested before Hinata could get another word out. Hinata’s eyes lit up at the question.

“Okay!” he answered. “So he does this thing with his eyebrows when he tosses? Like there’s this little crinkle? And it’s so cute, Kenma, it’s almost unbelievable. But I only stare at his eyebrows sometimes because most of the time I need to focus on the ball and sometimes I’m looking at his hands. He has the biggest hands.”

Kenma let Hinata’s voice wash over him as he took another sip of tea. Usually, he liked listening to Hinata talk about his life –it was much more interesting than his own- but today his thoughts were elsewhere.

His eyes flickered over to the window. He wondered if Kuroo was walking by.


Kenma stretched his arms as he woke up. He peeled himself off the bed slowly, cracking his neck as he stood up. He could hear Kuroo singing in the kitchen and the sound of the rice cooker beeping.

Kuroo turned around as Kenma staggered into the kitchen. “Ah, look who it is!” Kuroo said, turning to greet him.

Kenma blanched when he realized that Kuroo was shirtless. He was cooking breakfast shirtless with a newborn baby snuggled up in his arms. (Somewhere in the back of Kenma’s brain, he realized this was quite possibly the most ridiculous daydream he had ever had, but he decided to roll with it.)

“Do you want to hold Ichigo?” Kuroo asked.

Kenma focused on the matter at hand. “We named our daughter after a strawberry?” he asked, reaching out his arms to take the baby from Kuroo as he stirred miso paste into the fish stock warming on the stove.

“It was her mother’s only wish,” Kuroo said factually. He held out a spoon of broth for Kenma to try. “Taste?” he asked.

Kenma leaned forward and frowned when the soup hit his tongue. “It needs more miso.”

“Will do,” Kuroo answered, throwing in another tablespoon or so. Kenma didn’t pay much attention. He was too busy ogling Kuroo’s biceps as he moved. Why wasn’t he wearing a shirt? Who cooked without a shirt on?

Kenma tore his eyes away before he could start staring at Kuroo’s pecs. Instead, he looked down at their baby. Ichigo yawned, her tiny hand reaching out to fist up in Kenma’s t-shirt.

Kenma’s heart melted.

“Wanna see something cute?” Kuroo asked, noticing how taken Kenma was with their daughter. Kenma nodded, and Kuroo moved to pull one of their curtains open. The bright morning sunshine splayed across Ichigo’s face, and her nose immediately crinkled.

Kenma cooed when she sneezed. “She’s so precious,” he said, as Kuroo snaked his arms around his waist from behind. Kuroo kissed his ear.

“Yep, and she’s all ours.”

~~~~~~~~

“Staring again?” Hinata asked, making Kenma jump back into reality. He clutched at his heart.

“Shit, Shouyou, don’t startle me like that,” he said.

Hinata laughed. “Sorry, sorry,” he said. Kenma glared. He didn’t sound sorry at all. “You were really spacing out there.”

Kenma declined to say anything, instead pulling his blanket up a little further over his shoulders. Kuroo was lingering on the sidewalk outside, presumably waiting for Hinata so they could walk to they gym together. It was Saturday, so there was no reason to be up so early, but Kuroo and Hinata both liked to get in as much individual practice as possible on the weekends.

Hinata stood on his tiptoes to look over Kenma’s shoulder. He tilted his head cutely when he realized whom Kenma was staring at. “It’s funny how you always say you don’t like Kuroo because stuff like this makes me think otherwise.”

“Shut up,” Kenma glowered, shrugging Hinata’s hand off his shoulder.

Hinata jumped up and down a couple times at his side. “You know, we’re on the same volleyball team, are you sure you don’t want me to introduce you two?” 

“Definitely. No, thanks.”

“But why?” Hinata asked. Kenma grimaced. He sounded determined. Usually he could side step around these types of conversations by asking about Kageyama or making a face like he was about to cry, but when Hinata got whiny like this, there was no escape short of cardiac arrest or an asteroid hitting the planet.

Because,” Kenma said, “I don’t know... I don’t even know him. I just like the idea of him. That’s not enough.”

“The idea?” Hinata asked. He had his gym bag on his shoulder, but he sat down on the bench next to Kenma like he didn’t have anywhere to be.

Kenma nodded. “Like... it’s just nice imagining things about him. But he can’t possibly be anything like the person I’ve made him out to be in my head.”

“But how would you know unless you talk to him?” Hinata asked.

“I just know.”

“But how?”

“Because I’ve made him out to be perfect,” Kenma explained.

“But Kuroo is perfect!” Hinata chirped. “He’s great, I think you would really like him.”

“Hinata, are you sure you can even talk about this right now? Aren’t you supposed to be meeting him?” Kenma asked, trying to deflect the conversation.

“Oh right!” Hinata said, standing up abruptly. He quickly ran his hands through his hair, trying and failing to tame his bedhead. “We’re heading over to the gym. I’ll see you later, okay?” he asked.

“See you later,” Kenma replied.

Hinata knocked over a lamp as he tried to leave the apartment, and Kenma’s nose twitched at the sound. He ignored him in favor of staring at Kuroo.

However, as soon as he looked down at the street, he realized Kuroo was looking up at him. His breath caught in his throat, and he looked around, trying to find something else that might have earned Kuroo’s attention, but there was nothing. When he looked back to Kuroo, the other boy’s mouth had pulled up into a smirk.

Kenma raised his hand in an awkward wave, and Kuroo winked at him.

He winked.

Kenma’s mouth dropped open just as Hinata jumped out of their apartment building. He tackled Kuroo in a hug, effectively stealing his attention, and Kenma placed a hand on his forehead and the other on his heart. He needed to lie down for a minute.

Kuroo had winked at him.

He had winked.

Chapter Text

Kenma looked out the window with his hands on the glass. From the street below, Kuroo looked up and waved. Kenma glared.

That fucker.

Kenma had no idea what Kuroo winking at him was supposed to mean, and Kuroo knew it, if the smirk on his face was anything to go by. Kenma’s eyes narrowed as Kuroo walked off to volleyball practice with Hinata. He followed the long lines of Kuroo’s arms as he stuffed his hands into his pockets. Kenma watched his loping strides, squinting further as Hinata had to jog to keep up.

Kuroo was starting to become an inconvenience. Kenma was helpless but to stare at him: he was so tall, and his shoulders were so broad, and his skin was so clean, and white, and perfect. However, as attracted to Kuroo as Kenma was, he was starting to think he may or may not be a massive twat.

Who just winked at someone like that, anyway?

Kenma was flustered by every glance, wave, and wink Kuroo sent his way. Every morning, Kuroo caught him staring and sent him at least a wave or a goofy little salute. It was obnoxious. It was overwhelming.

It was really cute.

Kenma wished he could outright hate Kuroo, but if he and Hinata were so close, then he couldn’t be as awful as Kenma was making him out to be. He was probably really nice. He was probably funny and a good teammate. He probably was a good senpai to Hinata, and he would probably be a better boyfriend to whoever he chose to date, and he would probably sweep Kenma up into his arms, and hold him close, and~

Kenma needed to get a grip fast. Every time he looked out the window, he was torn between feeling pissed off and overwhelmingly endeared. Kenma didn’t need Kuroo coming in and upheaving his otherwise harmonious life.

The simple solution would be to just stop staring. But then where would Kenma be without his usual daydreams to get him through the day?


Kenma wasn’t watching where he was going —his nose trained into a PSP— when all of a sudden he lost the feeling of the ground beneath his feet.

He looked up sharply.

“What?” he asked, his body hovering a couple feet above the sidewalk. His hair stuck out around his head like a halo, and when he reached in front of him, his skin prickled with static. Green light shone down on him like a spot light.

Kenma tried to look up, but had to turn away when a bright light nearly blinded him. He closed his eyes.

When he opened them, he was somewhere completely different.

Kenma’s breath caught in his throat as he struggled against his restraints. There was some kind of neon green webbing suctioning him flat against the tabletop in the— What was this, a lab?

Kenma’s eyes caught sight of a dish full of surgical scalpels and his struggling increased tenfold. His breathing picked up, and his movements grew more frantic as he started to hyperventilate.

Through the walls, Kenma could hear screaming. It only spurred him to fight against his restraints more, but he couldn’t seem to pull himself free. Frustrated tears stung at his eyes. Where was he? What was happening?

The screaming outside the door grew louder. A giant dead bolt on the wall turned, and a door seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Something gooey slinked into the room.

Kenma kicked his feet as it crawled towards him. He felt like he was choking, he was so panicked. “H-Help,” he managed to squeak before shouting. “Somebody help! Somebody help, I need help, I need-“

The goo started to quiver and rise up from the ground. Kenma shrieked as it reached near human height. Something like a head formed, and its jaw parted, green teeth appearing out of thin air, and Kenma’s head was forced back as it hissed. A tongue-like band of goo shot out form the back of its throat and suctioned onto Kenma’s face like a frog.

Kenma screamed.

Suddenly, a loud blast rang through the laboratory, and a pulse of blue electricity shot through the creature’s head. It turned to sludge instantly, splattering across Kenma’s cheek.

“Sick.”

Kenma looked do the door and saw two boys standing there. One was standing with his feet spread wide and a blaster poised out in front of him with two hands. His eyes looked stern, glowing gold, but the smile on his face was oddly goofy. “Now that’s how you take down alien slime,” he said.

“Nice work, Bo.”

Kenma gulped as the second boy walked into the lab. His hair was so black it seemed to absorb all of the light in his room. His skin was so white it seemed to shine. Kenma looked down at his goo-covered clothes and winced.

“I’ll watch the corridor, Kuroo. You get this one free,” Bo said before ducking out into the hallway.

“This one?” Kenma squeaked.

Kuroo looked up at him, clipping his own blaster into a chip on the side of his armor. “You’re one of what was supposed to be a dozen or so human experiments,” he explained, squatting down to search for something on the bottom side of the table. There was a click, and the webbing attaching Kenma to the tabletop receded into the tiny pores opening up across the table. Kenma sat up, feeling vaguely disgusted as the goo on his cheek slunk down to the table and was sucked up with a slurping noise. “Don’t worry,” Kuroo said. “We got here before any of the Gra’s experiments could be completed.”

Kenma felt light headed. “What?”

Kuroo beamed. “We’re space cops!” he chirped.

Kenma blinked. “What?”

Kuroo looked blankly at him before busting out laughing. “Oh, man, you Earthlings. I always forget how little you guys know about the universe... Well, count yourself lucky! You get to experience aliens first hand.”

“Aliens?” Kenma asked. He could feel the color draining from his face.

“Yeah. The first guy you met was a nasty one. For some reason all the invertebrates in this galaxy turn out evil. I think it’s a matter of compensation. But fortunately for you, most bipeds are A-OK, especially me and Bo. Our team is gonna get you a shuttle back to earth. It might take a little while, though. We’re about half a light year away.”

“A shuttle back to Earth,” Kenma repeated. He put a hand to his head, overwhelmed. “I think I might faint.”

Kuroo’s grin went from encouraging to sly. “Oh, should I catch you, then?” he asked, holding out his arms, and Kenma pushed him away. Kuroo tsked. “It’ll be an awkward ride back to Earth if you keep denying your feelings, Kenma.

“What feelings?” Kenma asked.

Kuroo just smirked.

“What feelings?” Kenma asked again, but the world around him was already starting to look a little fuzzy.

~~~~~~

“Kenma, I’m home!” Hinata shouted from the front door. “I got you the tea you wanted. Wanna come out and make it?”

Kenma sighed and blinked his eyes open. He hadn’t really been napping anyway, more like just wishing he were asleep. He peeled himself off his futon. His whole face felt puffy with sleep, and he knew his hair was a wreck. He tied it back into a messy ponytail and stuffed his feet into his slippers.

He walked out into the living room in nothing but a baggy pair of boxers and an oversized t-shirt slipping off his shoulder.

“Ah, so this is the infamous Kozume.”

Kenma paused his eyes widening. He hadn’t thought Hinata had brought anyone over. He turned slowly, his breath stuck in his lungs.

He just about screamed when his eyes met Kuroo’s.

Actually, Kenma did scream. He shrieked a little and jumped back into the bedroom, snapping the shoji closed behind him. He stumbled a little bit over his bedding and clapped a hand over his mouth to muffle his squeak of surprise as he landed on his knees. He took a couple deep breaths. “Shouyou?” he managed to call a moment later. “Can you come in here for a minute?”

“Coming!”

Hinata bounced into the bedroom, and Kenma grabbed him by the wrist. He pulled Hinata down next to him and slammed the door shut. “What the fuck?” he seethed.

Hinata pouted and shook his wrist free from Kenma’s grip. “Ow,” he complained. “What was that for?”

Kenma could barely form words, he was so angry. “You brought Kuroo home?!”

“Yeah, he wanted to meet you, and I know you wanted to meet him, so I thought, you know, it would be a good idea. Maybe you two could talk, and find stuff in common, and maybe even start dating, and-”

Kenma slapped his hands over Hinata’s mouth. “Shut up, he can hear you.” Hinata’s eyebrows furrowed together, and Kenma felt something warm and wet slide across his palm. “Did you just lick me?!”

“Shhh, he can hear you, too,” Hinata said, and Kenma glared. He had forgotten how obnoxious Hinata could be. “What’s the problem? I thought you would be excited.”

“Well first of all, you just sprang him on me with no warning. I look awful,” Kenma said, blowing a loose piece of hair out of his eyes. “And second of all, even if I did have warning and I did look okay, I wouldn’t want to meet Kuroo anyway. We talked about this. There’s no way he can live up to my expectations.”

Hinata made a whining noise. “Kenma, that’s stupid. Why settle on the idea of someone, when you could actually have that someone?”

Kenma groaned and bent over, stuffing his face into his blankets in some sloppy kind of child’s pose. “You don’t get it. Make him go away, I don’t want to talk to him.”

“But-“

“Make him go away, Shouyou.”

“If you would just come out and meet him-“

No.”

Hinata was quiet for a moment. “Okay, fine... But this is goofy. You’re both interested in each other, you shouldn’t hole yourself up in our room like this all the time.”

Kenma grunted in acknowledgement but refused to actually listening to anything Hinata had to say. Instead he just buried his face a little further into his blankets and listened as Hinata awkwardly told Kuroo to leave. His cheeks burned.


 

Kenma knelt in front of the window bench, peering out intermittently. Kuroo was downstairs on the sidewalk waiting for Hinata, but he wasn’t alone. He was with Bokuto; Kenma only knew his name because Hinata complained about him so often.

Bokuto was the ace; Hinata was just a decoy. It was a big deal.

Kenma didn’t want to get caught staring, so he didn’t dare do more than peek up above the window sill every so often. He had his computer opened in his lap just in case Hinata came in and asked what he was doing.

Kenma was just settling back in front of his computer when Hinata burst into the bedroom, a piece of toast hanging from his mouth and his books piled up in his hands. Kenma couldn’t help but judge him a little bit as he attempted to pull on the same dirty socks from yesterday with one hand.

“Hey, running late,” he grunted around his last few bites of toast.

Kenma snorted. “I see that.”

Hinata got down on his knees in front of him. “Oh, but hey, I wanted to apologize about yesterday,” he said.

Kenma blinked. “Don’t you have to get to practice?”

“Yeah, but-“ Hinata flashed him a smile. “You’re more important.” Kenma shoved his face away, and Hinata yelped in pain. “Ow, ow, ow, okay! Sorry! I just... I didn’t mean to surprise you with Kuroo. And I think he was really sad that you didn’t want to talk to him, so... so I think you still have a chance.”

“I don’t want a chance,” Kenma said.

“Okay, well, you have one anyway,” Hinata said. He put down his things and shoved them into his backpack properly. “Just... Please don’t be mad at me.”

Kenma stared at Hinata for a minute and then looked away. “Fine. I forgive you, I guess.”

“Yay!” Hinata chirped. Kenma bit back a squeak of surprise when Hinata jumped on him with a massive hug. “Good, because this is a very small apartment. It wouldn’t be good if either of us hated each other.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Kenma agreed.

Hinata peeled back a little. His orange hair glowed with the sunlight streaming through the window, and the smile he had for Kenma was almost blinding. “You know, you’re cute, Kenma.”

Kenma sighed. “Aren’t you late?”

Hinata straightened up with a start. “Oh right!” he said, propelling himself with his scrawny legs towards the door. “I’ll be back later tonight! I may bring some of the volleyball team over, I hope that’s okay!”

Kenma snorted. Usually ‘some of the volleyball team’ just meant Kageyama. “Sure,” he agreed. “I’ll just hang out back here.”

Hinata paused to shake a finger at him. “Now, now, now, Kenma. You should come join the party sometime. I think everyone would like you.”

“You’re late, Shouyou,” Kenma reminded him again, throwing a stray volleyball in his direction. Hinata squeaked and ran out the door.


Kenma turned up his music, but even at the highest setting, his ear buds weren’t enough to block out the sound of Hinata’s friends. Kenma hadn’t realized Hinata had plans to invite over so many members of the team. Volleyball players were so loud. Kenma could only tolerate one or two in the apartment at any given time, but there were at least six noisy, rowdy jocks crammed into their tiny living room.

Usually Kenma was content to hide in their room when Hinata had company over. It was easiest to just pretend he didn’t exist. But when the volleyball team’s conversation was loud enough to cancel out his headphones, he stopped being a happy camper.

What was wrong with silence, anyway?

Kenma threw his headphones across the room just in time to hear a knock on the door. Figuring it was Hinata wanting something, he got up to let him in.

“Hey.”

“Fuck,” Kenma swore.

“Excuse me?” Kuroo asked, arching an eyebrow.

Kenma blushed. “Sorry,” he sputtered, embarrassed. Kuroo ducked his head into their bedroom, and Kenma tucked his hair behind his ear awkwardly.

“You have a nice place here. Mind if I come in?” he asked.

“I-“ Kenma didn’t get the chance to answer before Kuroo walked into the room. He closed the shoji behind him, and Kenma couldn’t decide if that made him more or less uncomfortable. “What are you doing here?” he choked out.

Kuroo looked over at him before bending down to parse through Hinata’s manga collection. “Hinata invited me,” he said, “Thought he would have told you.” Kenma didn’t have a response, so he just pressed his lips together and hovered by the door. He kept waiting for the right opportunity to usher Kuroo back out in the living room. Kuroo found his teddy bear nestled up in his blankets and smiled. “Is this yours?”

Kenma blanched. “Get out of here.”

“Hold on, I’m just checking things out... Your room is cute, just like you,” he said with a wink.

Kenma’s cheeks flamed bright red. “Get out,” he repeated angrily, and Kuroo paused.

“Do you really not want me here?” he asked, sounding surprised. Kenma pressed his lips together, and suddenly Kuroo looked self-conscious. “Because if you actually don’t want me here, that’s fine, I’ll leave. But like... I thought that maybe you might.”

Kenma blinked. “I literally kicked you out last week.”

“Yeah, but you keep staring at me,” Kuroo said. His usual smirk was gone. Kenma felt guilt start to worm through his stomach. He didn’t want to make Kuroo feel unwelcomed, he just... wasn’t great in social situations.

“...I mean, I stare at you, I guess, but I’ve never imagined actually talking to you,” he said and then winced. That was harsher than he had wanted it to be. “Or, what I mean is... This- This is hard for me. So maybe it’s best if you leave.”

Kuroo looked crestfallen for a moment before pulling himself up to his full height. He looked at Kenma, confident even as Kenma tried to chase him away. “Hinata may have mentioned something about that,” he said, but he didn’t look bothered by it.

“What, that I’m a nutcase?” Kenma asked, nose crinkling.

Kuroo smirked and reached out to smooth the bridge of Kenma’s nose with his thumb. “The word I think he used was nervous.”

Kenma’s eyes crossed to look at Kuroo’s flat thumb on his nose, and then refocused on the grin still on Kuroo’s face. His breath caught in his throat.

The bedroom door flew open behind him. “Kuroo, there you are!” Hinata said loudly to be heard over the din of the living room. Kuroo dropped his hand just as Hinata slipped in between them. He shouldered Kuroo out of the room, leaning his whole body into it. Kenma caught their conversation as they left. “Let’s just leave Kenma alone, how about? He doesn’t like company,” Hinata said.

The bedroom door closed gently, and Kenma’s shoulders relaxed as he was left on his own once again. Kenma sat down and curled his knees to his chest. He crossed his eyes to look at the tip of his nose.


Kenma prodded at the fire with his walking stick. It was starting to burn out. He needed to get some more dry wood from the jungle, but he was hesitant to leave the shore during the day. What if a boat passed by?

But, just as importantly, what if the fired burned out?

Kenma wasn’t confident that he could get another fire started if this one fizzled out. It had taken him days of trying just to figure out how to start this one. He had been trapped on this island long enough to know better than to take risks. One wrong move, and this beach would become his grave.

Kenma managed to pick his emaciated body up off of the sand to go find some wood and maybe some food. If he was lucky, he’d find some unripe bananas he could cook over the fire and choke down.

However, just as Kenma was about to turn, something glinting off the water caught his eye. Kenma gasped, stumbling forward into the surf. He was so scared to get his hopes up, but- No. It was.

A boat.

“Over here!” Kenma shouted, grabbing a large palm leaf to try to fan the flame of his dwindling bonfire. Hopefully the boat would see his smoke signal. “Over here!”

In the distance, the ship’s foghorns blew.

“Please, please,” Kenma whispered, not daring to stop fanning at the flames. He held his breath as the ship came closer into view. He had been alone for far too long. Tears stung at his eyes both from the smoke and his overwhelming hope. “Please, please, please.”

The ships foghorns blew again, and it paused out a mile or so from the island. Kenma held his breath. A minute later, he saw a rowboat lower from the port side.

Kenma collapsed to his knees with tears streaming down his cheeks. Thank goodness. Thank goodness.

He was still crying when the rowboat reached the shore. There was splashing as one of the men in the boat rushed to shore. He had black hair and pale skin, and he cradled Kenma’s face in both hands.

“Ah, look at you,” he said. “You’ve been alone too long.” He thumbed at Kenma’s nose, and Kenma gasped for breath. He felt like he was drowning, just like everyone else had. That night- The storm- Everyone was gone, only Kenma had made it to shore. He wept openly. “Don’t worry, Kenma. You’re not alone anymore.”

~~~~~~

Kenma woke up, gasping for breath. He curled into his pillow. His right hand gripped so tightly at his teddy bear, that he was worried about popping it’s head off. Every inhale felt like a battle, and Kenma choked on air.

The worst part about the dream —the part that had Kenma panicking and gripping at his sheets like this— was how realistic it had been. Kenma had really felt like his limbs were eroded into skin and bone; he could practically feel the heat of the fire. He had really been there on that island with the sand between his toes: completely and utterly alone.

His chest ached.

Suddenly his bedroom felt like a cage, and Kenma was desperate to get out. As quietly as he could, so to not wake up Hinata, he crawled out of bed. He stumbled into the kitchen and put on a kettle. Kenma managed to catch his breath leaning over the kitchen sink.

He wasn’t alone, exactly. He had Shouyou. And he had to email his bosses and professors all the time. And sometimes Hinata brought Kageyama home and they talked a little, even if it wasn’t very amiable (Hinata didn’t seem to notice how hanging all over Kenma might make Kageyama jealous).

Kenma’s bottom lip wobbled when he realized he was at the end of the list. He didn’t talk to anyone else.

The teapot went off, and Kenma poured himself a cup of tea with shaky hands.


Hinata shoved a coat and a scarf into Kenma’s arms. “Hey, Kageyama and I are going out to lunch. You should join us,” Hinata said.

Kenma frowned. “Why?” he asked.

“Well, one, because it’ll be way more fun with you there,” Hinata said, hanging onto his arm. “And two because I haven’t gone grocery shopping in ages, and I’m pretty sure you’ll starve if you stay home by yourself.”

Kenma sighed. He had eaten plain rice and instant coffee for the past four meals. He was pretty sure he’d die if he tried again: partially because he was sick of it, partially because it was disgusting, and partially for nutritional reasons. “... Okay,” he agreed, his heart rate picking up at the very thought. “But somewhere I know.”

Hinata snickered. “Kenma, you’ve only ever been to the McDonalds downstairs and the noodle shop on the corner.”

Kenma glared. “Somewhere I know,” he repeated, and Hinata held his hands up in surrender.

“Okay, okay, I could go for a hamburger right now, anyway,” he promised. The McDonalds was right below their apartment next to the grocery store, so they didn’t have far to go. Hinata texted Kageyama as Kenma pulled on all his winter clothes. “You look like a puffball,” Hinata said.

Kenma tried to lower his arms to his sides, but his pillowy coat stopped him before he could. He tried again. And again. “I feel like a puffball,” he eventually said.

“Ready to go?”

No. “Mm,” Kenma hummed in affirmation. He trudged outside into the cold. It really wasn’t so bad. Hinata walked to practice with nothing but his volleyball jacket every day. But for someone who spent so much time inside, Kenma missed his space heater the second he stepped foot outdoors.

Just the walk to McDonalds was a little overwhelming for Kenma. He didn’t even like hamburgers, but it was easier for him to go to the same place over and over than to try new restaurants and deal with the uncertainty.

Kenma sat at his usual table in the corner, while Hinata buzzed around the restaurant, looking for Kageyama. It was difficult to be alone somewhere new.

Kenma buried his nose into his PSP before he could start to feel panicked, but the sizzle of the grill and the hum of the customers’ conversations were both extremely unfamiliar to Kenma. He was so uncomfortable. He hunched inwards on himself a little further, focusing on his game rather than the dirty plastic seat or the smell of oil and salt.

He forgot how much he hated leaving the house. If Hinata tried to take him out to the grocery store after this, he would probably outright start crying.

He huffed out a little sigh, seamlessly executing the right moves on his PSP to win the level’s boss battle.

After a short while, a shadow fell over him. Kenma looked up, expecting to see just Hinata and Kageyama, but was surprised by a familiar mop of black hair. His throat tightened.

Hinata winced, looking like he thought Kenma would either start crying or run away at any second. “Okay, I know what you’re thinking, but I swear, this wasn’t a set up.” He looked to Kageyama expectantly, and when he didn’t say anything, Hinata elbowed him in the side.

“Right, sorry. I invited Kuroo,” Kageyama admitted. “I didn’t realize you’d be here.”

Kuroo waved awkwardly. Whatever weird confidence he had before when he thumbed at Kenma’s nose in his bedroom was gone now. Instead, he looked shy and uncomfortable.

“Hm,” Kenma grunted and allowed his eyes to flicker back down to his PSP. It was too much to try to parse through his feelings right now; he would rather just get a jumpstart on the next level of his game.

Hinata clapped his hands together. “Right, well, okay. Let’s just all sit. Kenma, I assume you want the usual? I can order for you,” Hinata offered.

Kenma just hummed again. He didn’t look away from his screen.

“Okay, be right back,” Hinata agreed, reading Kenma perfectly without more than a grunt to go off of.

Kuroo looked at Kageyama expectantly. “... Big Mac?” Kageyama asked.

“Teriyaki burger,” Kuroo corrected.

Kageyama shrugged. “Cool,” he agreed, and walked off. Kenma snorted without looking up. Kageyama was always so awkward when they were in the same room together. He knew he must be better with Hinata: more outgoing or something. However, it was obvious he was too anxious and uncomfortable to make proper conversation with Kenma (or anyone other than Hinata, for that matter).

Kuroo dropped into the chair across from him and smiled behind his hand. “So... Looks like we meet again.”

“Looks like it.”

“Whatchya up to?”

“Game,” Kenma said shortly. The level was a little too intense for anything more than one syllable answers. Kuroo either realized this or was simply content to stare at Kenma for a while, his chin propped up with one hand.

Kageyama and Hinata came back with the food soon enough. Hinata was all smiles as he slid into the booth next to Kenma. Kenma was grateful to be trapped in by the wall; it felt safer. However, it was obvious Kageyama was frustrated that he now had to sit catty corner to Hinata in the only available seat.

Hinata nudged Kenma’s waist. “Hey, there. Time to put your game away, we’re going to eat lunch,” he said. Kenma sighed. “Right now, please.”

Kenma saved his game and folded up his PSP with an eye roll. He loved Hinata, but it was frustrating to get dragged out of the house like this and then told he couldn’t use his one and only coping mechanism. Hopefully, everyone would keep talking to a minimum so Kenma could get back home quickly.

“So...” Kuroo started slowly as the food was distributed around the table. “Kenma. What brings you out and about today?”

“Shouyou,” Kenma answered, taking his burger and peeling back the paper. Hinata ducked his head in and stole a bite before Kenma could even unwrap it all the way.

“Guilty as charged,” Hinata said with a ketchupy smile. Kenma shoved him for stealing his food, but fortunately Kageyama didn’t seem too deterred by their casual physical contact yet.

“Hold on, dumbass,” Kageyama said, stretching across the table with a napkin. Kuroo’s gaze followed Kageyama’s hand as he wiped Hinata’s face. Kenma stared at Kuroo for a moment, only to realize that Kuroo was staring right back. His eyes shone as he shared a look with Kenma, and he could read his face clear as day: These two are oblivious, aren’t they?

Kenma choked into his water.

“You okay there?” Hinata asked, jolting away from Kageyama’s touch and patting Kenma’s back caringly. Kageyama backed off; looking a little disappointed and a lot pissed. Kenma wished Hinata would stop focusing on him and instead pay more attention to Kageyama. It would be mutually beneficial for everyone involved.

He blushed. “Fine,” Kenma answered.

“Drink some water,” Kuroo suggested with a smirk. Kenma struggled to swallow. Why was Kuroo always smirking? Was he trying to kill him? Kenma was already stressed; he didn’t need Kuroo making it any worse by being all smug, and douchey, and handsome, and cute, and perfect, and~

Geez, okay, Kenma needed to stop swooning so often, or he was going to start having fainting spells. Kenma had very simple needs —just food, water, and a bed to sleep in— but he would prefer to be conscious for all of it.

Kenma chugged a full glass of water without pausing once.

Hinata laughed. “You know, I’ve only seen Kenma drink water like that one time! We were at this Chinese restaurant— Actually, the hot pot one downtown? Anyway, so we’re cooking, and Kenma tries to ask for sesame oil, but something is lost in translation, and he got this chili pepper sauce that was so spicy, he chugged two bottles of water and ate fifteen baby carrots on the spot.”

Kageyama snorted. “You and Kenma do an awful lot together, don’t you?” he asked, and Kenma didn’t miss the amused smile Kuroo was sending Kageyama’s way.

“Yeah! Kenma’s the best!” Hinata chirped, throwing an arm around Kenma’s shoulders. Kenma glanced tentatively up at Kuroo. He didn’t feel like the best.

“Yeah? Why is he the best?” Kuroo asked, now looking at Hinata.

Hinata squirmed in his seat, jostling Kenma. “He’s cute, and nice, and snuggly, and good at listening, and generous, and he’s got nice asketicks, like how he decorates our house and all the clothes he wears and things, and he’s super cool.”

Kageyama swallowed a big lump of his burger. “Dumbass, its ‘asterisks.’”

Actually,” Kuroo interrupted, “it’s ‘aesthetics.’ But you’re right, I do see all of those things in Kenma,” he said. Hinata hugged onto one of Kenma’s arms so tightly, it nearly snapped in two.

Meanwhile, Kenma blushed furiously.

“Can’t we just eat in peace?” he asked miserably.

“Sure thing,” Kuroo promised with the same smirk as before. Kenma hunkered down in his seat, feeling small under the weight of Kuroo’s lofty gaze and Kageyama’s glare as Hinata hugged a little tighter onto his arm.

“Woah, Kenma, you’re special,” Hinata said, pointing to Kenma’s black pepper fries.

Kenma wordlessly nudged his French fries toward him. Kageyama stacked his box of fries on top. “Here,” he said. “I don’t want mine.”

Hinata gasped, like Kageyama had just hung the stars and moon in the sky, and started munching on his black pepper fries happily. “I wonder why I got normal ones, and you both got fancy ones” he mused.

Kenma held his breath and checked out of the conversation. Instead of listening to Kageyama and Hinata argue —with Kuroo breaking in as mediator every so often— he kept his head down and picked at his hamburger. His stomach felt shrunken all of a sudden, like he couldn’t eat anything. This was too overwhelming.

He didn’t realize Hinata and Kageyama had gone back up to the counter for milkshakes until Kuroo reached across the table to take his hand.

Kenma jumped, but Kuroo’s fingers tightened around his before he could pull away.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asked. “You seem kind of distracted.”

“Fine,” Kenma squeaked. It felt like he was breathing through a straw. He couldn’t handle the way Kuroo was frowning at him, but more than that: he hated being in this restaurant. It was too loud and crowded, and he missed the smell of his sheets and Hinata’s spray on deodorant. “I just want to go home.”

“Want me to walk you there?”

Kenma shook his head, but Kuroo stood up anyway.

“Come on, let me take you back,” Kuroo said, pulling him gently by the hand. “We’ll get you home so quick, it’ll be like blinking.”

“I can’t leave, Shou-chan will be mad,” Kenma said. Hinata was always trying to get Kenma to leave the apartment. If he locked himself back up now, Hinata would never let him hear the end of it. He was barely ten feet from their apartment building door.

Kuroo tugged Kenma to his feet and threw a protective arm around his shoulder. “I’ll handle Hinata. Besides, I think he and the Hulk over there could use some alone time.”

“Who’s the Hulk supposed to be?” Kenma murmured as Kuroo lead them out the door.

“Kageyama. You know, because he’s angry and green.”

“Green?”

“With envy,” Kuroo explained, smirking again, but this time it felt different. Like Kenma was included in the joke instead of being the joke. Kenma let out the shakiest little laugh, and Kuroo squeezed his shoulders.

Silence swelled between them as Kenma once again took in his surroundings and realized how unfamiliar they were. He needed his bed so badly; his fingertips itched for it. He hadn’t realized it was this bad. He knew leaving the house made him nervous, but he didn’t think it would make him this anxious.

Kenma crossed his eyes as Kuroo thrust a tissue in front of his nose. “Here. You’re sniffling.”

Kenma blinked owlishly and took the tissue. He was crying. His nose always ran like a faucet when he was trying to hold back tears. He wiped at his nose and tried to keep the blush down on his cheeks. This was so embarrassing.

They reached Kenma’s door, and Kuroo lingered. “Hey, take this,” Kuroo said, pulling a mask out of his backpack. Kenma expected Kuroo to just hand it to him, but his eyes widened as Kuroo tucked it behind his ears for him. His hands were gentle as they brushed his hair out of the way and secured the mask in place. His fingers grazed Kenma’s face as they pulled back. “There. It’s important to keep your germs to yourself, we wouldn’t want the team decoy getting sick.”

“I don’t think I’m sick,” Kenma said. He was only sniffling because he was overwhelmed.

“Well then just to be safe,” Kuroo said.

Kenma thought back to Kuroo smoothing his nose the other day. “I think you just wanted an excuse to touch me,” he blurted without thinking.

Kuroo blushed, looking more like he had in his room when Kenma had told him to leave than he had at the restaurant. He seemed smaller, more sensitive. Usually, Kuroo was such a big person: like a giant, or a superhero, or a businessman. Now he just seemed like a schoolboy with a stupid crush. “Well, maybe that also.”

Kenma let out a puff of air, his mask warming up. He wondered if he looked like a stupid schoolboy, too.

“I’m still not good at this,” Kenma said, his hand inching towards his doorknob, “but- But if you were to stop by again sometime, that... that wouldn’t be the worst thing.”

Kenma winced after speaking. He was so embarrassing.

“Okay. I’ll make sure to give you some advanced warning next time,” Kuroo teased, and Kenma’s cheeks heated up when he realized Kuroo definitely overheard his conversation with Hinata the first time he came up to the apartment. “But for the record, I think your hair looks really cute when it’s pulled back. And I like your pajamas.”

“Well, too bad, because you’ll never see them again,” Kenma snapped, and then his face softened. “So... So, see you sometime?”

“See you, sometime,” Kuroo agreed, and Kenma slipped in his door before he could do anything else embarrassing. He sat down with his back against the door and pulled his knees to his chest, chewing on a piece of hair. Too many overwhelming things were happening all at once, but at least Kuroo seemed intent on making his life easier. Kenma crossed his fingers. Hopefully this would go well.