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Kuroo puts the finishing touches on his Tumblr post before he publishes it, humming a mindless tune to himself in celebration of his newest and greatest work. After long, arduous hours of doodle, undo, doodle some more, scribble angrily and open a new canvas, and repeat — his pièce de résistence is complete.

The webcomic he has slaved over for weeks is finally ready to be unleashed upon the world, and it’s going to be awesome.

Eight painstakingly lined and colored panels, featuring the best ship in the whole fandom being domestic and cute and sassy banter galore, are about to make their debut in the tags today: one page every week to build a readership.

“Ugh, I can’t look.” Kuroo clicks out of the tab before he can refresh the post to count the new notes another eight times. None yet, but it’s kind of early. He’ll give it a few more hours for the fandom to come back from work or school or whatever. Fresh content, made to be loved and consumed.

After speeding through his coursework, Kuroo reopens Tumblr and clicks on his notifications. Reblog of a shitpost, eight likes and four reblogs on a picture of a cat with more fur than body, and a completely unnecessary addition to a post that is fine the way it is.

Wondering if he accidentally blocked notifications for his comic post, Kuroo opens his posts to find his comic past the usual queue stuff that posted while he was doing other things. He scrolls down to the bottom of the post and groans when he sees the blank stretch of white on the left side.

No notes? Really?

Maybe it just got missed in the tags , he muses. After all, the best ships always have the busiest tags and sometimes things get lost. No big deal. “And rebagel,” he murmurs as he reblogs his post for the night crowd.

That’ll do it. Sniffing his shirt, which he’s worn all weekend while chained to his desk finishing up the comic, Kuroo’s nose wrinkles and he gags. “Wow, I need a shower.”

On the other side of the dormitory wall where his desk sits, a cranky fist thumps against the drywall. “Pipe down, asshole. It’s one in the morning.”

“Your grades suck anyway, and sleep is for the weak!” Kuroo trumpets through his hands in his shitty dorm neighbor’s direction.

And shitty, he is. Of all the stupid places for Daishou Suguru to decide to go to college, it had to be here. Now there is a slimy snake dripping with smug, smug venom slithering around the dorms at any given moment. If it were an actual snake, he could throw it in the woods and never look back. Daishou, however, would find his way back like the apocalypse-defying cockroach/snake hybrid of evil he really is.

Exhausted from spending his weekend doing virtually none of his coursework, Kuroo drops face-first onto his bed and falls asleep in moments.

The sun is barely streaming through the window when the sound of screeching  . . . something bleeds through the walls. Kuroo vaults out of bed, barely finding his feet while trying in vain to shield his ears from the noise that he assumes is supposed to be music — very bad music. His eyes start to water, and with a growl, he kicks the wall separating him from Daishou, who is undoubtedly the mastermind of this assault on his hearing.

“I know it’s you! Turn it off!”

Kuroo’s roommate, a large guy from the rugby team with a shaved head and way too many muscles for someone at least ten centimeters shorter than Kuroo, shakes himself awake. “What the hell is that?” he drawls, voice still thick from sleep and no doubt a hangover.

Glaring at the wall, Kuroo grumbles, “Voldemort’s pet snake.”

“What?” Rugby-kun yawns loudly and drops back onto the covers.

“That’s it.” Kuroo snatches his keys from his desk and stomps out of the room, heading one door to the right. Pounding on the door, Kuroo growls, “I know you’re in there.”

The door slides open, and a far too cheery Daishou is on the other side wrapped in a fluffy bathrobe while sipping from a steaming mug that says ‘I L♥VE CATS’ on the side. “Oh, was I being too loud, Tetsu-chan?”

Kuroo pokes his finger into the pale sliver of Daishou’s chest peeking through the robe. “You know very well you — ugh. Why do I even bother? Talking to you is like trying to talk to a rotting tree stump. At least a rotting tree stump is not an affront to everything decent, you obnoxious jackass.”

Eyes drifting down, Kuroo squeezes his eyes shut when he catches sight of the fact that Daishou is not wearing underwear beneath that robe. “And put some damn pants on. Creep.”

Daishou chuckles. “Made you look.” He spins on his heel and saunters back into the room. However, before Kuroo can slam the door behind him, Daishou lifts the back of his robe and slaps a buttcheek, cackling while Kuroo sputters.

“Damn snake.” Kuroo grits his teeth and heads out for a jog to work off the knot of annoyance in his gut.

Once he returns to his room, Kuroo finally allows himself to check his blog. Okay, there are finally a few notes on his comic, so he self-reblogs one more time and forges on with his day. Maybe the shower will be hot enough to burn the image of Daishou’s wang from his brain.

It doesn’t, and it haunts him all day long. In the middle of his marine biology lecture, he even slaps his hands over his face and screams into his palms. A flock of eyes drill into him, and Kuroo would like nothing more than to sink into the floor, but not until he manages to drag Daishou straight down to hell with him.

The rest of the day drags by, and once he finally slumps onto his bed, every scrap of emotional energy he possesses is spent or on its way out already. Still exhausted from his forcibly shortened night of sleep, he burrows into his blankets and drifts off.

One of those dreams manifests while he’s napping. Rough, seductive moans echo in his brain, and his name is like honey on someone’s lips. Over and over, a needy whine chants his name, begging him for more and more and more still.

Ah, Tetsu. Fuck! Fuck me!

Slowly, his mystery partner comes into focus, and it’s Daishou’s face, his voice quivering with desire near him.

Jolted awake, Kuroo scrambles out of his bed before it can take him to that horrible, horrible place again. When the sound of his own breathing no longer fills his ears, Kuroo finally figures out why the worst person in the world had paid a visit in his dreams.

On Daishou’s side of the wall, lewd moaning soaks through and the culprit sounds suspiciously like the one in his dreams. And it is most certainly Daishou.

“What the fuck,” Kuroo shouts at the wall, and his irritation is met with a giggle. “I hate you so much.”

“Say it to my face, you coward,” Daishou taunts. “Or do I make you speechless?”

Kuroo storms over to Daishou’s door for the second time that day and hammers it with his fist until it opens. He is not quite as exposed as he had been that morning, but that isn’t a high bar. Daishou is wearing a pair of hip-hugging boxer briefs and nothing else. “Don’t you ever wear clothes?”

“Mmm, not if I can help it.” Daishou moans, an eerie echo of the ones oozing into his dreams earlier, and it makes Kuroo shiver. “It’s so hot in the dorms, Tetsu-chan. If I wear all those hot clothes, I’ll just be so sticky and wet. You wouldn’t want me to suffocate, would you?”

Hands clenched into fists so tight he can feel his nails in his palms, Kuroo hisses, “Among other things.”

“Other things? Oh?” Daishou hums before his lips slide into a greasy smile. “Well, I’m not really into the strangling thing, but you can definitely spank me, Tetsu-chan.”

Slapping his backside loud and hard, Daishou cries out loud enough for the entire prefecture to hear, “Oh, spank me, Daddy. Oh, Daddy Tetsu, I’ve been a bad boy. Only you can punish me. Oh, thank you, Daddy.”

Kuroo grabs Daishou’s arm and hauls him into the room, closing the door behind him before he says, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Daishou snorts. “You’re stupid, but not this stupid. You figure it out.” He roughly shoves Kuroo against the wall nearby, the one that separates their two rooms in such a woefully inadequate manner, and pins him there. “You’re a giant nerd moron, right? Well, let’s call it first contact.”

Trying and failing to wrest himself free from Daishou’s iron grip, honed by nearly a decade of devout volleyball mastery, Kuroo blows a lock of hair hanging over his eyes and says flatly, “Well, go back to the other side of the neutral zone and consider yourself persona non grata . I. Don’t. Like. You.”

“Is that so?” Daishou grinds their hips together, teasing the beginnings of Kuroo’s horrifically timed boner. “Based on the evidence, I would say that you care enough for this to be an enemies to lovers story, but you haven’t acknowledged your feelings for me yet.”

Kuroo rolls his eyes. “Why would you even like me? You’ve hated me since we were old enough to pick up a ball.”

“Have I?” Daishou drags the backs of his fingers down Kuroo’s jaw and strums his bottom lip with his thumb. “And here I thought we were flirting.”

“No?” Kuroo’s breath is ragged and short, chased back into his lungs by Daishou’s proximity, his presence. “Cut the shit, Suguru. Why are you doing this?”

Daishou whispers, breath hot against Kuroo’s ear, “Because I can.” He lets out a throaty laugh and drapes himself on his bed.

“Gross.” Kuroo flees the room and nearly trips over his own feet scrambling back to his own dorm. Inside, he drops onto his bed yet again, wide awake and still aroused. “Goddamnit.”

Closing his eyes and pretending that literally anyone on the planet except for Daishou had made him hard and needy in no time flat, he shoves his hand into his boxers and works his length until he comes with a grunt.

If only it were that simple. Kuroo can’t deny that on the backs of his eyelids, a familiar smirk hovers and coaxes him to bliss.

Spent and still wired, Kuroo stares at the ceiling and wonders when it was that Daishou started haunting him everywhere he goes.

 

The war on Kuroo’s sanity continues. From shitty pop music to lewd noises and what sounds like heinously graphic porn seep through the wall separating them at all hours of the day and night. And Daishou always seems to know when Rugby-kun isn’t in the room. That’s always when it happens.

After almost a month of his buttons being aggressively pushed, Kuroo’s limit has been reached. Every drawing he’s tried to do during these auditory assaults absolutely sucks, and more than once he’s fallen asleep in the library just trying to find somewhere quiet to write his papers. Today’s disturbance is a regular cadence of thumps against the wall.

Weary to the very depths of his soul, Kuroo pounds on Daishou’s door. “Open up! I know you’re in there.”

The door creaks, and Kuroo’s eyes widen when he sees Daishou through the sliver of an opening. Hair askew, face pale and almost green, and only his shaking grip on the door handle seems to be keeping him upright.

“I think I’m sick,” Daishou croaks before he keels over and vomits right on Kuroo’s slippers.

Nose wrinkling at the smell, Kuroo looks down and has to swallow a retch himself. “Oh, that is super gross.” Kicking off his soiled slippers, he puts an arm around Daishou’s middle and steers him back into the room. “Come on. Bed. Now.”

Daishou drops heavily onto his mattress, labored wheezing turning into a coughing fit. Rolling him onto his side, Kuroo rubs Daishou’s back until the fit subsides and he can suck in a few hearty breaths. When he notices Daishou shivering despite the overly warm ambient temperature in the room, he tugs the covers up and tucks them around his rival-turned-patient.

“Why didn’t you go to the clinic if you were this sick?” Kuroo chides as he looks around the room for water. Spying an old cup from the campus coffee house, he rinses it out in the sink and fills it up. “And for the record, you look like worse than shit.”

Sipping at the proffered water, Daishou grimaces when he drops back onto the bed. “It came on quick, and by the time I realized it, I knew I couldn’t make it that far under my own power.” He tries to laugh, which only dissolves into a wet, crackling cough. “I knew if I knocked on the wall long enough, you’d get pissed off and storm over here. I can at least answer the door.”

Kuroo buries his face in his hands and groans. “Oh, this is just freaking great. I don’t have time to babysit you. I have midterms coming up.”

“I know.” Daishou pulls the blanket over his face and coughs into it. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

Resigned to his fate, Kuroo sighs. “It’s fine. You may be an obnoxious dick, but I’d like to think I’m not.” Eyes narrowing, he eyes Daishou carefully. “How long have you been coughing like this?”

“A couple of days.”

“And the puking?”

“That’s new.”

He feeds Daishou a little bit more water and groans. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure you have pneumonia, dude. How the hell did you even get that in the middle of summer?”

Daishou shakes off another drink and screws his eyes shut. “Yeah, I know. I’ve had it before.”

“Damn.” Kuroo rubs his tired eyes. “We need to get you to the clinic before this gets any worse.” Daishou nods, and Kuroo pries him off the bed, blanket burrito and all.

The two of them elicit a number of curious looks while Kuroo carries Daishou out of the dorm building and all the way across campus. His arms are burning, and every time Daishou coughs, he’s afraid he’ll drop his cargo like a hot potato.

But he persists, and soon Daishou is curled up on a bench while Kuroo checks him in at the front desk.

Due to the severity, they vault past bumps and scrapes and bellyaches and straight into an exam room almost right away. This time, however, someone in scrubs arrives with a wheelchair to transport Daishou in lieu of Kuroo princess-carrying him. Not sure what else to do, Kuroo follows.

Once Daishou is sprawled out on the exam table, the nurse shakes her head. “If you’re not family, you’ll have to leave.”

“I want him to stay,” Daishou croaks. “Please, Kimi-chan.”

“Suguru-kun . . .” Kimi sighs and says, “It’s up to the doctor.”

Daishou nods before lolling his head toward the wall and away from Kuroo.

“So, uh, at what point are you going to explain why you’re on a first name basis with the nurses here?” Kuroo looms over Daishou, arms crossed. “I never knew you were sick in anything but your twisted brain.”

Curling up in the same blanket he arrived in, Daishou whimpered. “Can we not do this now?”

Kuroo drops into the chair near the bed and huffs. “Fine. We’ll do this once they pump you full of drugs and you stop looking like a green Justin Bieber Furby.”

Daishou chokes a laugh that turns into another long-winded coughing spell, and for the first time since his obnoxious neighbor puked on his feet, Kuroo is genuinely worried. Barely being quick enough to put a wastebasket under Daishou’s chin in time for another round of vomiting doesn’t help the situation, either.

The doctor, a middle-aged man who is more bald than not, sweeps into the room at a brisk pace, an ear loop mask already over his face. “So how is my frequent flier?” He stops short when he sees Kuroo. “And what is your relation to Suguru-kun?”

Kuroo scratches his head and searches for an appropriate word to assign to his long-standing rivalry with Daishou. At last, he settles on, “We’ve known each other since we were little, and my dorm room’s next to mine.”

The doctor frowns. “I’m afraid I can’t —”

“Please let him stay,” Daishou interjects. “I want him to stay.”

“Very well.” He offers Kuroo an ear loop mask of his own from a box in the cabinet.

With that, the doctor’s attention turns onto Daishou. He pokes and prods and examines all sorts of things, his frown deepening the farther he goes. “This is worse than the last time. How did you even make it here?”

Daishou’s hand waves in Kuroo’s direction, making a grabbing motion until Kuroo takes the hint and grasps it. “Tetsu carried me.”

Shaking his head, the doctor says, “Your episodes are getting worse every time. I’m afraid I’m going to have to admit you to the hospital this time.” Kuroo’s eyes widen. Episodes? This time? “I’ll have them send someone to pick you up.”

The doctor leaves them alone in the room, and Daishou still doesn’t look at Kuroo. “So, uh, what the hell?” Kuroo grabs Daishou’s chin and turns his face by force, but he reels when he sees tears streaming down Daishou’s face. “Oh my god.”

Daishou’s face crumples, and he buries his face in the pillow. “I’m scared. It was never supposed to get this bad.”

Not sure what ‘it’ is supposed to be, Kuroo caves in to his instinct to stroke Daishou’s unwashed hair. “Just rest. You’ll be all right.”

“You don’t get it,” Daishou says, voice thick with snot and fear. “It’s never going to stop. It’s why I don’t play volleyball anymore. It happens more and more often. I thought I had another ten years before it got this bad.”

The doctor returns right after, letting them know an ambulance will be there within ten minutes. Kimi returns to wish him well, and she casts a sympathetic smile to Kuroo. “I’m glad he has someone who cares about him here. He needs it.”

“I —” Kuroo’s voice breaks. “Yeah.”

When they’re alone again, Kuroo envelops Daishou’s quaking hand in his. “I don’t know what the hell is going on, but if you want me to stay with you that bad, I will.”

Nodding, Daishou dashes his tears away and draws the deepest breath Kuroo thinks he’s capable of under the circumstances. “I have a lung deformity. A lot of people have those, and my doctor when I was a kid didn’t think it was something to worry about. Then when I started growing, the fucked up part of my lung didn’t.”

Kuroo hums in understanding. “And with decreased lung capacity, you ended up being prone to infections and stuff.” Daishou bobs his head wearily. “If you’re this damn sick, how did you play volleyball for so long?”

“To keep myself from going crazy.” He lets out a humorless laugh that is more akin to a gag. “I was never going to tell Mika, and when she found out anyway and wanted to know why I didn’t trust her, I kind of freaked out and yelled at her. Then she broke up with me.”

Rolling his eyes, Kuroo snorts. “Yeah, well, good luck getting rid of me. You haunt me wherever I go, so I guess I’m here if you need me. Or, uh, stuff.” His cheeks are red and he knows it, his only saving grace the mask on his face. “I’ll be back in a minute, okay? I’m going to call your mom.”

The phone call ends just as a pair of EMTs arrive with a litter to transport Daishou into the back of the waiting ambulance. Kuroo jogs along after. He doesn’t ask if he can jump in the back of the ambulance, and they don’t tell him he can’t. Not once Daishou’s hand finds his again as he’s loaded up.

An hour later, Daishou is checked into a room and hooked to an IV and a respirator, and Kuroo is right there next to him. Later that afternoon, Kenma arrives with a bag and a derisive look when he spies the room’s sleeping patient. “I’m not even going to ask how this happened.”

“Thanks, Kenma.” He steers them out of the room, and once the door shuts behind him, Kuroo sags against the wall and closes his eyes. “He’s really sick and I don’t know what to do.”

Kenma peeks through the window in the door. “What do you want to do?”

Kuroo kicks his ankle into the wall and growls. “I want him to get better so he can go back to coming onto me like freak. Seeing him like this —” His gaze follows Kenma’s and he swallows hard. “He’s not supposed to be weak. It just feels wrong.”

“Just because he’s sick, that doesn’t make him weak.” Kenma checks his phone and shakes his head. “My mom is waiting for me in the parking lot. I have to go.”

“It’s fine.” Kuroo presses his forehead against the door. “See you later.”

Kenma waves over his shoulder as he heads for the elevator. Alone with his thoughts and more questions than answers, Kuroo does the only thing he can think of at this point: watch Daishou sleep until his parents show up.

He waits and he waits, but nobody but doctors and nurses visit the room until the next morning. Daishou’s mother Touka, who he vaguely remembers from when they were on the same team in elementary school, finally arrives. When she sees him, she starts. “Kuroo-kun, is that you?” He nods. “What on earth are you doing here still?”

He squeezes Daishou’s limp hand, its owner sound asleep, and he says quietly, “He was scared and didn’t want to be alone.”

“Thank you for doing that for him.” Touka pushes the carry-on suitcase she brought with her against the wall and moves to her son’s side. “I was away on business down south. There were no flights available, so I had to take a train.”

“Where’s his dad?”

Touka’s expression hardens. “We got divorced a long time ago. I’d be surprised if he showed at all, or if he’d even recognize Suguru if he saw him.”

Irritation at someone he’s never even met boils in Kuroo’s gut. “If I can get over my urge to punch Suguru in the face and stay here, you’d think his own flesh and blood could at least scrape together the balls to visit once.”

“You’re telling me.” She cards her fingers through her son’s hair and bites her lip. “And here I thought you two settled your differences. He always hoped you would. He really likes you.”

Kuroo gawks at her. “Excuse me? When I’m around, he’s the most unpleasant person in a ten kilometer radius. How exactly is it that he likes me when he haunts my peace of mind like some sort of hipster-haired hobgoblin?”

Touka chuckles and shakes her head. “Suguru’s . . . he’s different. Nothing with him is what you’d call normal. Sometimes, like you said, it kind of makes you want to strangle him, but he’s loyal and determined and he has a good heart. That’s what really matters.”

“I —” He looks down, hand still threaded with Daishou’s, and he chortles. For all their differences, Kuroo has always respected Daishou as a competitor because he never stops. Knowing what he knows now, it makes more sense. Daishou must have known his chance to play was finite, so he went out and made the best of it. “I guess so.”

She smiles at him and pats his shoulder. “Thank you again for being here. I need to change my clothes, so I’ll be back in a few minutes. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. I’ll be here until visiting hours end.”

“I know.” Touka slips out of the room with her suitcase, and Kuroo returns to his seat. He is fully aware that he doesn’t have to stay. At no point has it been required of him, but that doesn’t change the fact that he wants to.

“Don’t believe all the gooey stuff she says,” Daishou rasps. “I really am terrible. You know it’s true.”

Kuroo wants to laugh but he can’t. Instead, he takes Daishou’s hand once again. “I’ll stay as long as you want me to. I need to know you’re okay or there’s no way in hell I’ll get any sleep.”

Daishou shakes his head. “I’ve been waiting forever for you to say that, but it would have to be because my lung is half dead.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry about me being all gross, by the way.” His face scrunches in distaste. “My mouth is all gross.” Once again, Kuroo feeds him small sips until he waves off more. “Imagine figuring out that the reason why someone gets under your skin so much is because you have a thing for them.”

The cup slips from Kuroo’s hand and onto the floor. “Say what now.”

With a snort, Daishou gives him a crooked smile. “Don’t act so surprised. I was trying to figure out how to get you to notice me that way, and I lost my mind a little. I’ve never been anything but antagonistic with you, so I just went with that because it’s what I’m good at.”

Kuroo stares at the wall on the other side of Daishou’s bed, hoping that stretch of white can offer some sort of response other than a derivation of ‘what the actual hell’. It doesn’t, so he opts for the next best thing. “If you stop swinging your dick at me when you open the door, I’ll agree to one date. One.”

Daishou waggles his eyebrows and smirks. “Knew you wouldn’t be able to resist me. I’m gorgeous.”

“Shut the hell up, Suguru,” Kuroo snaps on instinct. “You’re about as gorgeous as a monkey’s ass with hemorrhoids. I’m going out with you because I want to get to know you the real way and not this battlefield briefing between you coughing up a lung.”

Easing back into his bedding, Daishou hums. “I’ll take what I can get. Now get out of here before you end up with pneumonia, too.”

“Nah, they told me it’s not strong enough to infect a healthy person. Just you.” Kuroo eases back into the chair and pulls his sketchbook from the bag Kenma had delivered. “I’m good.”

Daishou doesn’t object, and Kuroo doesn’t let Touka object, either.

As anticipated by Touka, Daishou is put on the transplant list for a new lung, but the doctor assures all of them that while recovery will take some time, the bouts pneumonia will finally stop.

Just under a week later, Daishou is released and confined to bed rest. In the meantime, Kuroo fetches both their assignments and they sit side by side on Daishou’s bed and work. Here and there, when Daishou passes out, Kuroo will draw him here and there. Not the pained frown of someone who is suffering, but with an aura of peace. He likes one of them a lot and even puts it on his blog.

It doesn’t get a lot of notes, of course — his original art never does. However, one of the likes in particular catches his attention:

♥ snekysneksnek

Kuroo guffaws, brushing a kiss to Daishou’s forehead, no longer clammy from cold sweat. “Yeah, I like you to, you crazy asshole.”