Chapter 1: It's Been... A Really, Really Long Time
He looked human enough.
His colors weren't fading, the body not transparent in the least. He walked on two legs, wearing a comfortable black hoodie and sweatpants; Kenma was certain it was just another college student enjoying a cup of coffee on this crisp October morning. He's trailing behind a black haired man in a business suit, smiling softly, looking at ease in his comfortable clothing.
Kenma knows that feeling well.
The silver haired man steps to the side, trying to avoid traffic coming through the doors of the cafe as he follows the business man out, and Kenma does the same, but morning coffee rushes are no joke- someone shoves him from behind and he stumbles, shoulder bumping into the silver haired man. Kenma apologizes quickly, stepping back into line and tucking his hands into the pocket of his own red hoodie. Instead of apologizing as well, or starting a commotion, or even just ignoring Kenma entirely, the silver haired man pauses, lingering even as the business man leaves, staring at Kenma wide eyed.
Kenma ducks his head, nervous-
And the man disappears, vanishing into thin air.
And that's when Kenma realizes…
He was the only one who could see him.
"Kenma, c'mon." Kuroo sighs, tugging on his boyfriend's arm, "I'm telling you, it was a fluke. What are the odds that the same exact ghost is going to be here again today? This coffee shop gets so much traffic- Kenma, you're making a scene!"
"You're the one making a scene!" Kenma snaps, clinging tighter to the street sign and ignoring the people watching them. "Stop pulling on my sweater, you'll stretch it out!"
"It's already two sizes too big for you, what's one more?!" Kuroo shouts but drops the smaller man's arm anyways with a sigh. "Kenma, this is the cheapest, quietest coffee shop within walking distance from the university. Unless you want to go to the campus library to write your report, you have to let go of that street sign."
"The library doesn't allow snacks." Kenma's cheeks puff out in a pout. Kuroo throws his arms out.
"Exactly! So let's go get a muffin!"
Kuroo is probably right.
Kenma is just being extra cautious. The spirit from yesterday knows he can see him and that makes Kenma nervous. It's rare, but occasionally a spirit stuck on Earth becomes malicious. They throw away their sanity and wallow in their despair and regret- they possess people to act out their sinister deeds.
It's happened once before and Kenma has been terrified ever since.
"Kenma," Kuroo's voice is soft, his hands taking Kenma's carefully, "I won't let them hurt you. I promise." Kenma peers up at Kuroo through his lashes, still leery. "What were all those lessons for if I can't protect you when it matters, huh?"
Kuroo smiles, wide and certain, and Kenma releases the street sign.
He's not alone anymore.
He's got Kuroo now.
The spirit is sitting in a booth at the back of the store with the same business man from yesterday. The man in the suit is typing away at his computer, either unable to see the spirit or completely ignoring him, as the spirit stares out the window.
He still looks completely alive. If Kenma hadn't watched him disappear right in front of him yesterday, he would never be able to tell the difference. The spirit hasn't seen him yet, so Kenma pulls his hood up and heads for a table on the other side of the room, trusting Kuroo to order for him.
When he sits down, he quietly pulls his study materials out and drops his bag into the metal chair beside him before setting up his laptop, keeping his eyes firmly glued to the task at hand. Maybe the spirit won't notice him. Maybe, if he keeps to himself and doesn't draw any attention, the spirit will stay with the business man again; he seems to be bound to him anyways.
"So he's here, huh?" Kuroo asks, setting the hot beverages on the table. Kenma nods, bringing up his report.
"Silver hair, black hoodie." He murmurs. Kuroo cranes his neck to look around the cafe, but the silver hair is a dead giveaway.
"No way. But he looks so-"
"Alive, yeah." Kenma grumbles, "That's what threw me off." Kenma works in silence for a moment before Kuroo speaks up again, now pulling his own laptop out.
"He's definitely pretty, though."
Kenma doesn't disagree. But no matter how pretty he is, he wants absolutely nothing to do with him.
Maybe he's overreacting, especially considering Kuroo is here and he's still wearing his necklace, but he's not planning on taking chances anymore. You never forget the feeling of someone else entering your body and doing as they please with it.
"Um, excuse me?"
It's a force of habit- someone speaks to you, and you look up.
The spirit is there.
His small smile widens, revealing a row of well cared for teeth. His expression is one of pure happiness, his whole being seeming to light up with it. "I knew it. You can see me."
Kuroo clicks his tongue, typing away on his own laptop. "You never learn, do you?" He mumbles, thoroughly amused. Kenma frowns, unamused, and continues typing up his report. The spirit's smile falters when he doesn't receive a response.
"Um, excuse me?"
Kenma ignores him, trying to focus completely on his paper. He only has three days left, after all. Sure, it's rude of him to ignore the guy, but he's dead, and Kenma wants absolutely nothing to do with him.
"Sir?" The spirit tries again, crouching down, trying to catch Kenma's eye again. "Can you- you can hear me, can't you?" He waves his hand in front of Kenma, who purses his lips but gives no further indication that Suga is getting through to him.
The spirit hums softly as he straightens up. He moves to stand behind Kenma, just watching him type for a moment before reaching over his shoulder and pressing a few random letters. Kenma stops typing and glares at the screen. Kuroo can't hold it anymore and snorts out a laugh into his closed fist.
"My. Name. Is. Suga. Niiice to meeeet you," the spirit says aloud as he carefully types the words directly in the middle of Kenma's report. Kenma bats his hand away, exhaling heavily as he quickly taps the backspace key.
"Do you mind?" He grumbles, "I'm trying to finish my-"
"I don't mind at all!" Suga replies, dropping into the seat on Kenma's left, "Please continue." Kenma frowns but continues typing, ignoring the ghost that keeps staring at him.
Silently, patiently- eyes never leaving Kenma's face-
"What?!" Kenma finally snaps, startling an elderly man nearby and earning him a glare from another stressed college student.
"Nothing. Just watching you work." Suga replies with a smile, "It seems important. You should go ahead and finish it up; I can wait."
"I think," Kuroo interjects, smile wide and amused, "what Kenma is trying to say is that it's a little difficult to work with you watching him like that."
"Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't realize it was that distracting. It never seems to bother Daichi, so I just…" Suga trails off, eyes finding Daichi across the room. He sighs, soft and a little sad.
"So his name is Daichi?" Suga blinks, turning back to face Kuroo, "Mr. Tall, Tan, and Handsome over there?" Suga laughs and nods, playing with a straw wrapper on the table.
"He is pretty handsome, isn't he? You should have seen him during his high school days- he was peak handsome." Kuroo laughs, completely abandoning his own report, "He stopped working out so much after graduation, but he used to play volleyball."
"No way! We were on a volleyball team in high school too!" Kuroo motions to Kenma, who hunches his shoulders and valiantly tries to ignore the conversation happening across from him. Kuroo is such a traitor.
"Small world," Suga laughs softly. "I wish I could have played it as well. It always looked like so much fun."
"Why didn't you play?" Kuroo asks. Suga's smile is definitely sad this time.
"It's hard to do much with a weak heart, so I just watched from the sidelines. I had fun just cheering them on."
"I'm sorry," Kuroo says, and he sounds sincere. Kenma has to look up at that, his heart doing that thing where it leaps every time Kuroo shows off how compassionate he is.
Kuroo has always been better at dealing with spirits than he has, even if Kenma has been able to see them for longer. Kenma would be bitter about it, but honestly, it's better like this. Kuroo trained hard for years to learn how to see and ward away spirits. But instead of just learning how to banish or destroy them, he wanted to learn to help them peacefully pass on.
"It's not their fault that their time ended before they could get closure. If they're not hurting anyone, I don't understand why we can't just help them out." He had said. It took time and a lot of practice, but Kuroo was finally able to master the ability to help spirits pass on peacefully. Kuroo was never afraid of the spirits like Kenma had been, and that's what made him the best Spirit Guardian you could possibly want.
"It wasn't all bad," Suga continues, "being mostly bedridden. It meant Daichi got to come visit and nurse me back to health." He laughs, but it quickly fades away. His smile is bittersweet, "I don't regret the days we spent together, but I do wish I could have been a better partner. Daichi wasted so much time on me, by my bedside, helping me heal. He deserved so much better."
Across the coffee shop, Suga sees Daichi rise to his feet and begin gathering his things.
"Ah, it looks like he's ready to head to the office." Suga stands with a stretch, "I guess it's about that time now."
"You're bound to him?" Kuroo asks, and Suga nods.
"I am. He takes me with him everywhere he goes. I never got the chance to see much of the outside when I was alive. It's routine and Daichi doesn't really go anywhere interesting, but it's nice." Suga laughs. Daichi is moving towards the front door, "I'm sorry for bothering you today," he directs at Kenma, "but you have no idea how excited I was to know someone could finally see me. It's been… a really, really long time." He murmurs. The door closes behind Daichi and Suga waves at them before disappearing.
Kuroo and Kenma both stare at the spot Suga previously vacated, and Kenma is feeling a whole jumble of emotions that he's not sure he likes-
"I wanna help Suga-san pass on." Kuroo declares abruptly. Kenma sighs because, yeah. He saw that coming.
Chapter 2: Let's Make a Bucket List!
Kuroo wants to help Suga pass on no matter what.
Kuroo and Kenma try to convince Daichi that Suga isn't as dead and gone as he thought he was.
Surprise! Two chapters in one day! 💕
"You want to what?" Suga blinks, completely surprised.
"I want to help you pass on!" Kuroo repeats, smile too bright for this early in the morning. Kenma sinks further into his seat, gnawing at the end of the straw in his iced coffee. He's still not the biggest fan of this idea, but Kuroo is adamant.
"Your soul is still lingering here because you have regrets, right?"
"More or less-"
"Then let's clear them up!" Kuroo slaps a notebook onto the metal table with a loud smack, startling Suga and Kenma, "Let's make a list of all the things that you wanted to do when you were alive- and then do them!"
Suga laughs softly, fingers brushing over the leather bound book, "I was sick my entire life. If I wrote down everything I regretted not being able to do it would take years-"
"So?" Suga's head jerks up, eyes wide. Kuroo opens the book and pulls a red pen out of his satchel, extending his hand out to the spirit, "If it takes months, years- we'll help you."
"We?" Kenma sits forward, eyebrows creased, because that's not what Kuroo told him- that wasn't the deal- he has classes and job hunting-
"How long have you been like this?" Kuroo barrels over him, still focused on Suga, "You said a "long time", but how long is that? Spirits who wander for more than five years are more likely to become evil spirits, and once you become evil-"
"Kuroo, focus-" Kenma says setting his cup on the table and glaring at the older man, "you said "we"- what does that mean?"
"Really, Kenma, that's what you latch onto during my heartfelt speech??" Kuroo frowns, finally turning away from Suga to stare at his boyfriend.
And Kenma is prepared to lay into Kuroo, because yes that's what he latches onto- he didn't agree to get roped into this! But then Suga is snorting out a laugh, a real one, not just the soft snorts and huffs of air from before- it's full bodied and rich, and Kenma fleetingly wonders how long it's been since the spirit has laughed like that.
When he calms down, his smile is still wide, teeth gleaming in the sunlight and cheeks a healthy pink color. He carefully takes the pen out of Kuroo's hand and begins writing on the paper in front of him. "Okay. If you're that determined to see me pass on peacefully, I would hate to disappoint you. Besides," his smile softens, eyes finding Daichi across the nearly empty coffee shop, "you remind me of someone I used to know."
"This is pretty ordinary stuff," Kenma murmurs, scanning over the list. Suga had, thoughtfully, crossed out anything that would put them in a financial bind or consume too much time, like going overseas or taking a cruise, so the list is full of mostly mundane things, but things that must still mean a lot to him.
"These people at the bottom here- I'm assuming they're friends of yours?" Kenma points at the bottom and Suga nods, craning his neck to look at the paper as well, "Having a get together with them is gonna be a little difficult. They can't uh." He motions at Suga, "You know. See you." Suga nods, lips curled into an amused smile.
"I'm aware. That last one is more for someone else," he says, reading over the list again, "but how exactly are we going to do all of this?" He asks, looking up at Kenma. The blond turns to face Kuroo, prompting Suga to do the same. Kuroo sits with his eyes closed and arms folded over his chest, clearly in deep thought. "I'm a bound spirit, so I can't really go anywhere without Daichi. And I can't really see Daichi voluntarily spending time with two strangers, let alone believing that my ghost has been following him around for three years."
It must have been excruciatingly lonely, Kenma muses, having no one to talk to or listen to you. Having no one who can see you, no matter how loud you scream or cry or beg. Being bound to someone you love, unable to ever be more than fifty feet from them, but being unable to communicate with them.
If the person you love were unable to see you, or hear your voice, or even know that you were still near them, always, for years, would you still be able to remain sane? Would Kenma?
"Kuroo, he's leaving," Kenma leans back in his seat to watch the suited man gather his trash and laptop. Kuroo exhales heavily, hand running through his hair in frustration.
"Shit. Tomorrow, then! I'll think on it today and tomorrow we'll begin!" Kuroo nods with finality and Suga's smile widens.
"Well, then I guess I'll see you in the morning, Partners."
"Kenma please!" Kuroo whines, sprawling across the younger man's lap. Kenma simply lifts his handheld video game up higher, paying him absolutely no attention, "I don't know what to say to the guy! What do I say to make him believe us??"
"Why not just tell him the truth?" Kenma raises a brow, still focused on the game in his hands. "His dead husband's spirit is full of regrets and can't pass on."
"Sure," Kuroo scoffs, "because that'll go over well. "Your dead husband wants us all to go on a camping trip!"" Kuroo laughs, "He'd be out of there so fast."
Kenma shrugs, rapidly pressing buttons, "This is your mess- you fix it."
Kuroo sighs heavily, still stretched across Kenma's lap. Suddenly he springs up, startling Kenma.
"I've got it! The perfect idea!"
Kenma pauses his game and raises a brow, more than a little suspicious. "What..?"
"So you're telling me that you two were friends with Koushi before he passed..?" Daichi is 110% suspicious, his eyes narrowed and arms folded over his chest. "And you just so happened to find a list of things he wanted to do before he died- three years later- and you want me to do them in his honor?"
"This is so ridiculous," Suga laughs, standing on Kenma's right. Kenma silently agrees. That's got to be the worst possible story Kuroo could have come up with, but Kenma already told Kuroo he was responsible for all of this, so.
"Why didn't he just tell him you guys are like, spirit mediums or something? Exorcists? Shinto priests?" Suga continues quietly, crouching down beside Kenma. And of course Kenma can't answer him and make them look even more suspicious, so he simply gives a small, half shrug, trying not to draw attention away from Kuroo who is trying really, really hard to make a believable back story-
"-and they were both patients at Bridgewood-"
"Ridgewood." Suga corrects immediately.
"Ridgewood! Kenma and Suga-san were both patients at Ridgewood and became very good friends-" Kuroo corrects, and Daichi's eyes flick to Kenma, only to narrow even further. Kenma shrinks under his narrow eyed gaze.
"Wow, he is really laying it on," Suga says with a small sigh, "It's not too late to go with the "I can see ghosts" thing, you know? Maybe tell him some facts that only I would know?" Kenma actually looks at the spirit this time, because that's not a half bad idea. When Suga notices, his smile widens and he leans in closer.
"Daichi has a birthmark shaped like a peach on his butt." Kenma rolls his eyes but Suga continues, smile widening, "And like, he used to be super conscious about his weight, especially during high school. So when he would start getting depressed about his weight or talking about how he needed to work out a little harder, I always told him I thought he looked just peachy."
And Kenma can't help the snort he lets out, his hand immediately clapping over his mouth to control himself, but now Kuroo and Daichi are both staring at him, and Suga is snickering behind his own hands.
"Something you wanna share with the class?" Daichi asks, voice flat, and he sounds like such a disapproving dad. Kenma shrugs.
"Not really." He mumbles.
"No, go ahead," Daichi encourages, both eyebrows raised, "it can't possibly be more unbelievable than what your partner over here has been spouting."
"Whoa, hey-" Kuroo says, obviously offended. "What's unbelievable about it??" Daichi ignores him, gaze trained on Kenma. He wants to shrink further into the chair, those eyes making him nervous and tongue tied, but Suga is smiling at him encouragingly, his hazel eyes soft-
"Suga-san said something stupid," he replies quietly.
"Stupid?" Suga laughs, "That's quality material, thanks."
"Suga-san. Koushi, my dead husband, is speaking to you." Daichi deadpans.
"Right now. In this coffee shop."
Kenma gives a small jerky nod, hands curling into fists in the pocket of his jacket. He hates this part- the doubt and disbelief. It's why he doesn't like telling people he can see spirits. Daichi looks between Kuroo and Kenma for a long moment, before exhaling heavily and reaching for his coffee cup.
"So it's drugs, then."
"Excuse me?!" Kuroo sqwalks, slapping his hands onto the table, drawing a few curious stares, "Did you just insinuate that my boyfriend is on drugs??"
"No, I'm insinuating that you're both on drugs. Look, I don't know what kind of scam this is, but I don't have time for you two," Daichi snaps, packing away his work supplies quickly. They're losing him- Daichi is gonna leave and never come back to this coffee shop and Suga-
The ghost elbows him roughly, motions at Daichi frantically, and Kenma doesn't want to do this but fuck-
"You have a birthmark on your butt," he blurts, cheeks heating immediately, "shaped like a peach." Daichi pauses frowning hard. Suga nods encouragingly, motioning for him to go on. Kenma sighs, dragging his palms over his face- he can't believe he's about to say this out loud.
"And when you would complain about putting on weight... Suga-san would say that you looked "Just peachy.""
Daichi drops heavily into his seat, his handful of pens scattering across the table. "Why do you know that?" Kenma shrugs.
"I told you. Your dead husband is whispering in my ear."
Daichi stares at Kenma, long and hard for a solid minute before simply saying "Prove it."
"Didn't he just do that?" Kuroo clicks his tongue, sitting back in his chair with a frown and folding his arms over his chest, "You've got a peach on your butt!"
"Something else!" Daichi demands, the tips of his ears turning pink, "Something that only Koushi would have known!"
"Who else knew about the peach on your butt if not just me?" Suga asks immediately, eyes narrowing at Daichi.
"What else have you got, Suga-san?" Kuroo asks, and Daichi's suspicious gaze snaps to the other man.
"You can hear him too?"
"I can hear and see him." Kuroo replies smugly. Kenma rolls his eyes, because they are not about to have a pissing contest in this coffee shop.
"Well," Suga frowns, thinking hard, "if the peach isn't just my secret, I don't know anymore. He used to sing embarrassing pop songs in the shower? But I think Noya took a video of that once, so it's not really a secret anymore…"
"Well?" Daichi prompts, impatient.
"Daichi don't rush me- I'm trying to think!" Suga snaps.
"Suga-san said don't rush him, he's trying to think." Kuroo relays. Daichi huffs and chugs a huge mouthful of his lukewarm coffee, his face pinched.
"Oh." Suga says, face smoothing out, and Kuroo and Kenma both turn to face him. Daichi follows their gaze but Kenma knows the older man can't see Suga. His eyes are searching, flitting around the mostly empty coffee shop, trying to see what they see. "Amelia."
"Amelia?" Kuroo parrots, and Daichi's whole body tenses. Suga nods, physically here, but somewhere far away.
"We talked about adopting kids one day. He wanted a little girl to have tea parties with, and take to ballet classes. We would have named her Amelia. But I was too sick; we weren't in the right place to have kids before I died." Suga looks up, a melancholy smile on his face, "So we got a cat instead, and named her Ami-chan."
"You," Kuroo swallows, clears his throat and tries again, "You guys were going to adopt a little girl… but decided to get a cat instead." Kuroo summarizes, golden eyes watching Daichi closely. "Her name is Ami-chan."
Daichi is quiet for a long time, staring at the metal table in front of him. Eventually he slowly pushes to his feet and grabs his briefcase from the seat beside him, "I need to go; I have work-" he mumbles as he turns to leave, leaving pens and highlighters still scattered across the table along with his empty coffee cups-
"Wait." Kenma pushes to his feet and takes a few steps to catch up to Daichi. The older man has paused but he doesn't look back, his jaw set and fists clenched. Kenma licks his lips and swallows, steeling his nerves.
"You don't have to believe us," he says quietly, "because if I was in your position, I'd think we were crazy too. If someone were to start spouting off about my dead partner and I, I'd probably be livid." Daichi turns his head just enough to see Kenma, "We won't bother you with this again, I promise, so if our paths happen to cross here, rest assured we won't harass you about it. Just… just take this." Kenma holds out a small, folded up square of paper. Daichi stares at the paper for a moment before carefully taking it from Kenma and shoving it into his pocket before leaving without another word.
Suga waves, his smile soft, and then disappears as usual. Kenma feels arms wrap around his shoulders, a familiar chest pressing against his back, "I gave him the list." Kenma murmurs, his smaller hands coming up to hold onto the strong forearms holding him tightly. Kuroo's chin rests on Kenma's head as he sighs.
"That's all we can do." Kuroo replies, "Now it's up to him."
Daichi is exhausted when he gets home.
It wasn't even that work was harder than usual, but that conversation this morning completely threw him off. He hasn't been able to shake the feelings those two college kids stirred up in him. At first, he was angry. Angry and irritated; Koushi's been dead for nearly three years. How dare they try and use him for profit.
But that anger and irritation turned into frustration and confusion; why did they know about his birthmark? Sure, it was probably visible when he changed in the locker room during high school, but that was years ago. No one has seen him bare like that since-
And then that note.
It had been Koushi's handwriting. It had been written in his style, with swirling letters and tiny stars and smiley faces. How could they possibly have-
"Mroww?" Daichi blinks down at the cat sitting by his feet. Her fur is long and luxurious, her blue eyes sparkling even in the dark. She chirps again and winds her way around Daichi's legs and the older man can't help but smile at her.
"I'm home, Ami-chan."
Chapter 3: Silent Suffering
Kenma told Kuroo to handle it all on his own, but...
Daichi still isn't sure he believes them, but the evidence is piling up.
On Saturday, they don't go to the coffee shop. Kenma doesn't have classes and Kuroo's first class isn't until after lunch, so they sleep in late and snuggle in the plush comforter for hours until Kuroo forces himself out of bed. On Sunday, neither of them have classes but they're running out of clean clothes, so Kuroo piles all the laundry into a basket and drags Kenma downstairs with him to do their washing. Kenma drags their comforter and his video game and sits in a blanket bundle on top of the row of dryers as Kuroo sorts and washes their clothes.
It's a normal weekend.
On Monday Kenma goes to the coffee shop alone. Bokuto had called in the early hours begging Kuroo to help him on his essay due after lunch. He's had weeks to do it but loves to procrastinate instead, so Kuroo had made the trek downstairs to the second floor, only half awake, and sent Kenma for coffee.
So Kenma makes the walk through the already crowded streets towards the little coffee shop on the corner, scarf pulled over his nose and jacket pulled tightly around his body. It's not even that cold yet, but the wind makes Kenma's eyes sting and cheeks pink, especially in the early hours of the morning. His mind wanders to the conversation they had with Daichi on Friday and he idly wonders what happened after they went their separate ways.
Daichi probably threw the paper away and found a new coffee shop. Maybe he cursed Kenma and Kuroo under his breath, maybe he questioned his friends, "Do you know these psychos?"
But maybe he took it to heart.
Maybe he read the paper, and questioned a lot of things. Maybe he looked for signs that Suga was there all along. Maybe he found some.
Who knows, really.
All Kenma knows is that Daichi is probably avoiding the coffee shop, avoiding them. And that's fine by Kenma. It's not like Daichi's the first person to cut ties or avoid him because of his ability to see spirits. Daichi didn't even know him on a personal level, so Kenma couldn't care less what the business man thought of him.
So when he enters the coffee shop, he's more than a little surprised to see Daichi sitting in his usual back corner. Instead of facing the back wall with his back to the door, however, today he's facing forward. He's got an array of papers spread out across the metal table in front of him, a pen in his hands and a frown on his face. Suga is across from him, gazing out the window just as he did last week; just as he's probably always done. Kenma doesn't say anything to either of them as he quietly joins the end of the queue.
Daichi looks tired, more so than usual, his hair unkempt and face a little stubbly. Come to think of it, the man isn't wearing his business suit today. Kenma frowns in confusion; why would the man be here so early if he didn't have work today?
Suga turns away from the window, eyes wandering over the crowd of people milling around the coffee shop. When he sees Kenma, his eyes light up and a smile appears. Kenma gives a small wave before stepping up to the register to give his order. When he pays and steps aside to wait, he sees Suga stand from the table, a sly curl to his lips. The front door opens, a few people bustling in, and Suga's hand sweeps across the table, scattering papers across the floor.
"Fucking Christ-" Kenma hears Daichi grumble, throwing his ink pen onto the table with a huff. Kenma frowns at the spirit, who looks incredibly pleased with himself as he perches on the edge of his seat.
"Oops..? Kenma, be a dear and help Daichi pick those up, huh? I would but," he shrugs, "I'm a ghost."
"You're an asshole is what you are." Kenma mumbles under his breath but kneels anyways to gather the few sheets of paper that made their way over to him. Daichi is gathering the papers around the table when Kenma steps closer, the papers in his outstretched hand. Daichi sees the papers first.
"Ah, thank you-" and then he sees who's holding them. "Oh." Kenma releases the papers as soon as Daichi grabs them and tucks his hands back into the pockets of his hoodie. The silence stretches on with Kenma awkwardly shifting from foot to foot, looking anywhere but the older man and Daichi fiddling with his paperwork, also looking anywhere but the man in front of him-
"Order for Kozume?"
The barista is setting a cardboard drink carrier on the counter, three steaming cups of coffee and one iced caramel frappuccino cradled inside it, and Kenma straightens up.
"Well," He bows his head, not knowing what else to say, and turns to leave.
"Wait, please." A hand grabs his elbow. When he looks over his shoulder, Daichi releases him immediately and takes a step back, his hand coming up to rub the back of his neck, "Do you… uh. Can we talk for a minute, if you have time..?" Daichi's brown eyes are soft, imploring, unlike the cold, suspicious gaze he had leveled Kenma and Kuroo with just days earlier.
Kenma's eyes flick to Suga, who is watching them intently, and back before giving a small nod.
"I have some time."
Kenma is pretty sure his coffee is going to be watered down by the time Daichi finally speaks. The older man doesn't seem to know exactly what he wants to say, and even Suga seems to be losing his patience.
"C'mon, Daichi!" He finally shouts, startling Kenma, "I know you have trouble with words, but this is ridiculous!" He flops back into the chair with a loud groan and Kenma has to silently agree. Maybe he should start this conversation..?
"That list," Daichi finally says, face still scrunched, "where you did you find it?"
"I didn't "find" it," Kenma replies immediately, pulling his cup from the cardboard holder and taking a long drink- he needs caffeine for this, "Suga-san gave it to me."
"Thurs-" Daichi frowns, "as in the Thursday that just passed?" Kenma nods. Daichi's jaw clenches, "That doesn't make sense, I-"
"Ghosts don't make sense." Kenma says bluntly, "Spirits or whatever you want to call them. It doesn't make sense to you because you can't see them. But for people like me- like Kuroo and I," Kenma shrugs, rubbing his thumb through the condensation on his plastic cup, "I guess it doesn't even make sense to us. But it is what it is." Daichi is quiet for a long moment.
"So you can really see ghosts? Both of you?" Kenma nods again, "And my husband… Koushi gave this to you guys? Why…" Daichi sighs, running a hand through his hair, "I guess I just don't understand why now? After all this time? Why you guys?"
"We're just convenient." Kenma replies, "We're probably the first people in three years to see him. He's been waiting for someone to notice him, and we just happened to cross paths." Suga is smiling sadly at his hands folded in his lap. Daichi seems to seriously think about that for a moment.
"Why didn't he try to talk to me? If he was able to write that list, couldn't he have-" Daichi shrugs, trailing off, looking a little lost. Suga barks out a laugh, drawing Kenma's attention to him.
"I tried so hard to get you to notice me." he rubs his temples, "For the first year, I tried so hard, oh my god. You were oblivious to everything-"
"Kozume-san?" Kenma blinks and turns back to Daichi. The man looks at the empty seat beside himself and back, "Is there- is it Koushi? Is he here?" Daichi looks nervous, if a little hopeful, and Kenma gives a small nod.
"He says he tried to tell you. A lot." Kenma relays, stirring his frappuccino idly. Daichi blinks, surprised.
"Oh man," Suga groans, "I have a list- we could be here for days." Kenma scoffs.
"He's really sarcastic," Kenma comments and Daichi barks out a small, startled laugh.
"Yeah. Yeah, that sounds like Koushi."
"There was a lot of little stuff," Suga says, ignoring them, "but the biggest thing was Ami. You forgot to feed her most days and if it hadn't been for me, she would have clawed the door off its hinges when you holed up in the bedroom."
"Suga-san says he used to feed Ami-chan a lot when you forgot." Kenma relays. Daichi folds his arms over his chest, forehead creasing as he thinks.
"Did I forget to feed her?" Daichi muses.
"Within the first year," Kenma adds, and Daichi's face falls.
"Ah." He sighs, "I probably forgot to do a lot of things within the first year after Koushi passed. It was… difficult."
Daichi doesn't say anymore and Kenma doesn't press. Kenma's phone chimes and he doesn't have to look at it to know it's more than likely Kuroo wondering why he's so late.
"I'm sorry, but I was just supposed to be on a coffee run-" Kenma murmurs, sitting straighter in his seat.
"Right! Of course! I'm sorry," Daichi apologizes, scrubbing a hand through his hair again, and this time, Kenma can see the light glinting off of something shiny- his wedding ring. He still wears it after all this time. "I'm sorry to have kept you for so long."
Suga watches them both intently as Kenma rises and straightens his scarf and Daichi pulls his papers back in front of himself. "So this is it then..?" Suga asks, "We go back to the way things were?"
"Is something wrong with the way things were?" Kenma asks, making Daichi look up at him, "You seemed satisfied with just living on like this until Kuroo brought up the bucket list." Suga frowns at the tabletop.
"I wasn't… satisfied. I had accepted that no one could hear me or see me, and that I would probably follow Daichi to and from work for the rest of his life, but." He stops himself, hands clenched into fists in his lap.
"But?" Kenma prompts. Daichi looks apprehensive, choosing to sit back in his chair and simply listen to the one-sided conversation instead of working. Suga licks his lips.
"I don't want to go back to that silence." He murmurs, "I don't want to be tied to Daichi by a bunch of regrets-"
"If we clear up those regrets," Kenma interrupts, "you'll pass on. You won't be able to see Daichi anymore- you won't exist-"
"And that's fine!" Suga shouts, mouth set in a hard line, "It's fine that I won't be here anymore or see Daichi or- or-" he throws an arm out, motioning at the still silent man beside him, "It's not like he ever knew I was here in the first place! I love watching Daichi. I love being by his side, and listening to his voice and finding his keys for him and refilling Ami-chan's food bowl occasionally and I love laying next to him at night and just watching him breathe but-" his eyes are filling with tears, his bottom lip beginning to tremble, "but that's all I'll ever be able to do. And it's killing me. Daichi can't see me. He can't hear me. I've been trying, trying so hard, for years-"
"Okay." Kenma says quietly, his own throat feeling tight. "I get it. I'll tell Kuroo."
"What's happening?" Daichi asks, looking back and forth between Kenma and Suga- the empty space Kenma keeps talking to- "What's this about passing on?? And not existing? I-"
“I gotta go," Kenma mumbles, quickly grabbing the cardboard tray, "I'll send Kuroo."
Kenma ignores him as he quickly leaves the coffee shop. The cold is sudden and biting when he steps out of the warmth of the coffee shop, piercing through the thick material of his hoodie and chilling him to the bone. His throat still feels tight, his stomach churning anxiously.
This is why he hates talking to spirits. They always manage to send his emotions into complete turmoil.
Kenma doesn't knock on Bokuto's door; he never has.
When he opens the front door, the smell of bacon hits his nose first, followed closely by the sound of Bokuto's voice.
"-make me sound stupid? I don't want my professor to think I waited till the last minute and then just tossed it all together."
"Bo, that's exactly what you're doing." Kuroo sighs.
"Yeah, but I don't want it to look like that!" Bokuto huffs.
"Good morning, Kenma," Akaashi greets from the kitchen, shirtless under his blue and silver apron. Kenma gives him a small nod of acknowledgement as he sets the cardboard tray down on the bar.
"What took you so long?" Kuroo asks from his place on the couch. Kenma plucks his cup from the holder and immediately turns back to the front door.
"Daichi is waiting for you at the coffee shop."
Kuroo sits up quickly, "Daichi-san? Right now? Oi, Kenma! Wait just a-" Kenma closes the door, making straight for the elevator. All he wants is to curl back up in his comforter and ignore the world.
He's not even sure why this is getting to him so badly, in all honesty.
It's not like he really knows either of them. He's known Suga for all of a week, and only spoken to Daichi twice. Besides, Suga is a spirit. Isn't he supposed to hate lingering spirits?
No, Kenma muses, his forehead pressed to the chilly metal doors of the elevator, it's not that he hates them. He's probably just been scared his whole life. He's only been possessed once in his twenty years of life, but that was more than enough. Just the thought of it potentially happening again is more than enough to make him suspicious and wary of any and all spirits.
Suga, though- he worked his way past Kenma's defenses. Maybe it's easier with Suga because he doesn't look like a spirit. It's like talking with a living person.
Maybe it's because he can see the loneliness and sadness in Suga's eyes, in his smile. Suga's been trying for years to somehow let Daichi know that he's there, to let anyone know that he's still here.
Three years is a long time to be alone.
Kenma doesn't want Suga to suffer any longer.
He wakes to the feeling of long, chilled fingers sliding through his messy blond locks and pokes his face out from under the blanket to blink blearily at Kuroo.
"It's nearly eleven. Are you skipping classes today?" He asks quietly. Kenma gives a half shrug, rolling over to face Kuroo properly.
"Tora said he'd take notes for me," Kenma mumbles against Kuroo's hip. The older man smells like coffee and hazelnuts; he must have just come back from seeing Daichi.
"That sounds like a recipe for disaster," Kuroo laughs, his fingers still combing through silken strands, carefully working small tangles free.
"Suga-san wants to pass on," Kenma says quietly. Kuroo hums an affirmative. "Did you tell Daichi-san?" Kuroo hums again.
"He took it well," Kuroo replies, wiggling around to slide under the blanket as well. "He said if it's what Suga wants, then he'll go along with it."
"And he knows what that means, right?"
"Mhm." Kenma nuzzles against Kuroo's warm chest, tucks his nose underneath Kuroo's jaw, "I told him Suga can't go anywhere without him, so he'll have to make time for it. He said he'll arrange it with work and call me. I gave him my number."
Kenma nods. "I think it's the wedding ring. I don't think he's ever taken it off."
Kuroo hums softly. "Probably not. He really loves Suga-san."
Daichi takes the long way home, taking him through the park and past the bakery that Suga loved. He buys cat food and a new toy for Ami-chan and greets Hirano-san when he passes by the elderly woman's house.
He tries not to think of the fact that Suga has been watching him, always hoping that one day, Daichi would notice him. He tries not to think of Kuroo's calm voice, telling him that Suga needs to pass on peacefully or it could cause problems later on. Tries not to think about the fact that he'll be losing Suga all over again; after all, he never knew he was there in the first place.
He tries not to feel guilty and sad as he cooks Suga's favorite spicy mabo tofu and sits down to dinner alone- but also not.
He wonders where Suga sits, or what Suga does while he's at work. He can't be more than fifty feet from Daichi, right? That's what Kuroo had said. Does Suga sit in his favorite seat beneath the window? Does he wander the apartment, or stand beside Daichi in the kitchen when he cooks, just like he used to? Does he sleep or eat? Is he bored? Daichi hasn't turned the t.v. on in a long time. Does Suga wish Daichi did more?
He sets his chopsticks down with a clack, too full of thoughts to even pretend to not be thinking anymore. Besides, thinking never got him very far. He was more of a man of action.
"Koushi," he clears his throat and tries again, speaking into the silent house, "Koushi, are you there?"
Chapter 4: The First Adventure
"You asshole," Kenma pants, out of breath, "if I wanted… morning exercises… I would have stayed in volleyball." He glares when Kuroo only laughs from his sprawled position on the stairs.
"I think I stepped in gum," he muses. Kenma's lip curls in disgust as he throws Kuroo's jacket and shoes at him.
Chapter four gets a little angsty at the beginning as Suga's death is explained/remembered!
Proceed with caution! 💕
Suga hasn't always been able to touch and move stuff; believe him, he tried.
From the minute he woke to Daichi's anguished cries and saw his partner holding his own limp, lifeless body, he had tried. When the paramedics arrived, when Asahi and Noya came barreling in, still in their pajamas- Suga had tried. He shouted and sobbed and begged for someone to see him, to know he's not dead yet!
But he was dead.
He slipped away in his sleep, quietly and secretly. His heart had simply stopped.
Suga tried to touch, tried to talk to anyone he passed. It never mde a difference. For days, he tried- for weeks-
His hands slipped right through things, people talked over him and walk through him and prayed to his picture like he wasn't three fucking feet away-
And then he got angry.
What about all those paranormal shows?? Where ghosts threw things or possessed dolls or- or- something! Anything!
He lashed out, his pain turning to rage, his fist connected with a glass on the counter and-
Well, flew across the room and shattered is more like it. Suga had punched pretty hard. When Daichi had come out of the bedroom, eyes red rimmed, face unshaven and clothes rumpled, Ami-chan got the blame for it.
Once the glass had been swept and safely disposed of, Daichi had hefted Ami into his arms and taken her to the bedroom with him.
And Suga began trying to touch things again.
It took a lot of practice and energy, but he was finally able to master touching and holding things for short periods of time. However, no matter what he tried, Daichi never seemed to get it.
No one did, really.
And then Daichi built a wall around himself, separating himself from his friends and family, their friends and family, and Suga didn't know what to do. He didn't know how to help. Daichi was hurting, broken in the worst possible way, and there was nothing he could do to take that pain away.
Suga's hand pauses mid-stroke on Ami-chan's back. No way.
"Koushi, are you there?"
Suga's throat feels tight as he turns to look at Daichi, seated at the dining table alone. He's waited so long to hear Daichi call for him when he's awake; not during the nights when he tosses and turns, letting out pained whimpers, but in the daylight, when Daichi would call for him on purpose.
He rises to his feet and makes his way into the small kitchen.
"If-if you could just give me some kind of sign that you're actually here..?"
Suga's smile is watery as he picks up the permanent marker sitting on the table beside some of Daichi's other papers and pens. The cap makes a small "schick" when he pulls the lid off, startling Daichi whose head whips around to find the source of the sound.
"Kou-" he breathes, only to cut himself off with a sharp inhale as the cold, wet tip of the sharpie is pressed to the back of his hand. Suga's smile widens as he draws a small black heart before capping the marker again and setting it back on the table.
"Yeah, Daichi." He breathes, swiping away the wetness from his eyes, "I'm here."
Daichi isn't at the coffee shop the next day, or the next, but he's there bright and early Thursday morning. He's not wearing his business suit, but his outfit is definitely not just casual wear, and Kenma feels a little underdressed in his sweatpants and worn hoodie. Suga notices them first and waves energetically, making Kuroo laugh.
"He's in high spirits I see." Kenma hums in agreement as Daichi looks up from his cell phone, eyes finding them immediately. He smiles, and it makes him look like a whole different person. Makes Daichi look… young.
"Ahh," Kuroo is grinning when Kenma turns to look up at him, "I didn't think Mr. Tightwad could smile like that. It makes him look so much nicer."
How old is Daichi anyways, Kenma wonders as they wait for their turn to order. How old is Suga-san? They can't be much older than Kenma and Kuroo, right? Kenma knows next to nothing about either of them.
Maybe it’s better that he doesn't know. Maybe it's better that he stay on the outside of this and not get too close, too involved. Sure, Kuroo has already roped him into helping Suga with his bucket list, but that doesn't mean Kenma has to be friends with them.
Kenma turns away from the counter and Suga is smiling brightly and even Daichi looks more relaxed than Kenma has seen. The morning light is glinting off of Suga's silver locks and making Daichi's eyes sparkle, and they both look so at peace. Kenma isn't sure what happened, but something has obviously changed.
Who is Kenma kidding.
He's already in over his head here.
"Oh! So you guys are communicating now!" Kuroo's smile is blinding, "Sweet!"
Daichi had shyly shown them the small notepad and pencil he carries around now, as Suga beamed beside him. "It was Daichi's idea."
"That's great," Kuroo says with a small laugh. He sits back against the bench seat holding his cup of coffee, "I'm glad you guys managed to work something out. So, I guess this means you won't be needing us anymore?"
Kenma's head snaps up.
Daichi and Suga seem just as confused across the table from him.
"What do you mean?" Daichi asks brows furrowed.
"Well, you've figured out that Suga-san is still here," he motions to the spirit across from him, "and now you've been able to establish communications with him. You know that he has to fulfill his bucket list before he can pass on, and that since Suga-san is a bound spirit, he can't leave your side. All that's left is to do it." Kuroo shrugs. "Kenma and I aren't really needed anymore."
And Kuroo's right.
There's really no reason for them to stick around longer now that Daichi has found a way to converse with Suga. Suga might not even want to move on now that they can communicate properly. After all, they were just bridging a language barrier, and Suga only wanted to leave because being around Daichi without being able to talk to him was unbearably painful. Now they can talk freely, so both passing over and their interference is useless.
Daichi frowns at the tabletop.
The table falls silent, a somber atmosphere taking over suddenly.
"Um," Suga begins, drawing the duo's attention, "If it's alright with you two, I'd really appreciate it if you could help Daichi see me off," his smile is sheepish as he rubs the back of his neck. "Our only method of communication is this notepad, but that's not going to cut it when we're out and about. Plus, I'm not able to really hold things for long. It must take all my energy sometimes, because after writing with Daichi for an hour or so yesterday, I couldn't touch anything for a few hours."
Kuroo hums, swirling his disposable coffee cup idly, "It definitely takes a lot of spiritual energy to touch and move things. After an hour, it's not surprising you couldn't touch anything else."
"Mmhm. So, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could I ask you two to help us out for just a while?" Suga clasps his hands in front of him, smiling hopefully.
"Are you even sure this is what you still want?" Kuroo raises a brow as he sets his cup down and gives Sugs his full attention. "You wanted to pass on because Daichi couldn't communicate with you, but that's been solved, right? What's stopping you from just staying and enjoying the fact that you can talk to him now?"
The couple is silent for a moment. As Suga opens his mouth to speak, Daichi straightens up.
"Koushi is dead," his blunt statement startles Kenma. He honestly thought Daichi would be the type to beat around the bush and not use the D word, but here they are. "His body has been gone for a long time now, even if his spirit hasn't. It's not fair of me to keep him bound to my side forever, no matter how much I've missed him. Living like that… it's not really living."
Kenma is the one to break the silence this time, "Okay."
"Okay?" Kuroo repeats, a small smile on his lips, "What's this? Kenma is actually volunteering to help a spirit??" Kenma rolls his eyes but otherwise ignores the older man. Daichi's smile is soft and grateful.
"Thank you, both of you."
"Well!" Kuroo begins suddenly, pushing to his feet, "Let's get started then!" All three heads turn to face him.
"Right now?" Daichi asks, incredulous. Kenma blinks up at his boyfriend owlishly.
"Kuroo, I'm in my pajamas-"
"There's no better time than the present!" Kuroo says, grabbing empty coffee cups. Suga's eyes light up.
"Can we go to the park?? There's a big park! We always pass it on the way to work-"
"Anywhere you wanna go, Suga-san!" Kuroo assures, effectively silencing Daichi and Kenma's protests. Suga pumps a fist in the air as he rises from the table as well.
"Then let's go!"
"There's more, isn't there?" Kenma asks quietly.
"More what?" Suga asks innocently. Kenma purses his lips.
"More reasons you wanted Kuroo and I to stick around." Kuroo and Daichi are both walking a few feet ahead, locked in conversation about their high school volleyball teams, and not paying Kenma any attention. "It's not just that we can communicate with you better."
Suga's small is small and secretive. "Who knows?"
The park is mostly empty during this part of the day, which Kenma is thankful for, because it would be kind of difficult to explain to anyone who passes by why the fountain water is just splashing everywhere.
"It's so cold!" Suga laughs, splashing more water out of the large stone fountain. Daichi watches the water splashing everywhere with an amused smile.
"He always wanted to splash around in a fountain like those couples in romantic comedies," Daichi muses fondly, "I wouldn't let him because the last thing he needed was to get sick with his weak constitution."
"But now he can't get sick." Kuroo says with a small grin. Kenma sighs when he sees that Kuroo has taken his socks and shoes off and is rolling his pants legs up.
"Kuroo, Suga-san might not get sick, but you-"
"I'll be fine!" Kuroo laughs, tossing his jacket over Kenma. The smaller male glares from underneath the black sweater, lips pursed. Fine- let the idiot get sick. If he wants to dance in a fountain at nine am in the middle of October, he deserves it.
But as stern as Kenma wants to be, he can't keep the scowl pasted on his face when Suga is smiling so happily and Kuroo looks just as carefree as always.
"Is he always this… impulsive?"
"Only on days that end with a 'y'." Kenma sighs, gathering Kuroo's jacket into his arms and looking over at Daichi. The man is smiling freely as Kuroo and Suga dance around in the fountain- what even is that dance? Kenma knows Daichi can't see Suga, so to him Kuroo must look crazy; kicking up water droplets, making a mess, having the time of his life all by himself. "But life's definitely never boring with Kuroo." Kenma adds.
"I can see that." Daichi nods. "He keeps things lively for sure."
"How old are you, Daichi-san?" Kenma finds himself asking. Daichi blinks, a little surprised, but recovers quickly with a small smile.
"Twenty-four, for the next two months."
"Twenty-five." He pauses, "Well. He would be. He died the winter before he turned twenty-two. I'm not sure if it counts or not, since he didn't actually pass on?"
"His spirit won't age, no matter how long he lingers." Kenma replies, "So he'll be forever that age." Daichi nods silently, turning back to watch Kuroo in the fountain again.
Suddenly, a stream of water is coming straight at the duo, spraying Daichi and Kenma both with the cold water.
They both cry out, stepping away from the fountain quickly. Kuroo and Suga are both laughing, the latter sitting upon the top ledge beside one of the arches of water flowing into the pool of water below.
Before Daichi or Kenma can do anything to retaliate, a new voice cuts through the air.
"Hey! What are you kids doing in that fountain?!" Two uniformed security guards are making their way across the grassy field, deep frowns on their faces, and Kenma's stomach plummets.
"Shit!" Kuroo curses, "Run for it!"
Kuroo is getting himself over the backside of the fountain and making a break for the gate, and Kenma is bolting after him, arms laden with Kuroo's shoes and jacket- he's pretty sure one of Kuroo's socks got left behind but fuck it.
He doesn't look behind him to see if Daichi is keeping pace- he really hopes the older man is, but this isn't Kenma's first escape from the police, unfortunately, so he knows better than to slow down and check.
Thankfully, the security guards don't seem to be following them and Daichi did keep up, so they're able to collapse on the front steps of the apartment complex without any trouble.
"You asshole," Kenma pants, out of breath, "if I wanted… morning exercises… I would have stayed in volleyball." He glares when Kuroo only laughs from his sprawled position on the stairs.
"I think I stepped in gum," he muses. Kenma's lip curls in disgust as he throws Kuroo's jacket and shoes at him.
Daichi laughs, still slightly out of breath at the bottom of the stone steps. Kenma looks down at him, and Daichi runs a hand through his hair with a wide smile.
"I think I'm actually looking forward to this… this bucket list adventure."
Daichi can't see it, but the smile Suga has on his face as he stands behind the man is near blinding. He looks more excited and happy and full of life just hearing Daichi say that and watching Daichi smile than he did playing in the fountain just minutes ago.
And Kenma finally gets it.
Chapter 5: Salty Sea Spray and Blue Shells
The Bucket List Adventure begins in full with a trip to the beach.
"You're going to the beach in November? You're really asking for pneumonia, aren't you?" Akaashi muses, tapping the end of his pencil against his binder.
"I think it sounds like a fun trip!" Bokuto laughs. Akaashi sighs.
"Of course you do. And before you even ask," Akaashi fixes Bokuto with a stony expression, "no, you cannot go to the beach with them."
Bokuto clicks his tongue and flops back in his seat, arms folded over his chest and lips pursed. "I didn't even ask!"
"But you were going to."
Kuroo snickers and opens his binder, flipping through his notes aimlessly. "I couldn't take you even if Akaashi said yes, Bro. We're going on Daichi-san's dime."
"Eyyy, free vacation- even better!" Bokuto grins. "Bring me back a souvenir!"
"Deal." Kuroo agrees easily, returning Bokuto's fistbump.
"So you guys aren't actually from Tokyo?" Kuroo asks, shifting into a more comfortable position in his seat.
"Nope," Daichi confirms, "Suga and I are from a small town quite a few hours north of here." Kenma shifts in the seat next to Kuroo, snorting a little in his sleep and making Daichi grin. It's still really early in the morning, for the college students anyways, so as soon as they boarded the train, Kenma had curled up against the window and fallen asleep.
Suga is roaming the mostly empty aisles and taking in the scenery outside, making the most of the day, leaving Kuroo and Daichi to talk quietly amongst themselves.
"What made you move so far?" Kuroo asks.
"I moved away after Suga passed." Daichi answers honestly, "Like I said, it's a small town. When everyone knows everyone and everything that happens around town… it can get pretty suffocating." Kuroo nods in understanding.
He kinda gets how it feels to live in a small town. Sure, he grew up in Tokyo, but the residential neighborhood he grew up in was very close knit. When Kenma moved in across the street, the whole neighborhood knew before the moving van was even half empty.
When the Matsunaga's lost a son in a car accident, the whole neighborhood rallied around the couple, cooking meals and dropping by to pray and Kuroo remembers hearing them talk about it for weeks; Kuroo can't imagine how overwhelming it must have been for the Matsunaga's. For Daichi.
"Daichi! Daichi, look! The ocean!" Suga cries, rushing back up the aisle to their table. Kuroo huffs a laugh and begins nudging Kenma awake.
"We're almost there. Time to get up, sleepy head." Kuroo murmurs. Kenma lazily opens one eye to look up at Kuroo.
Kuroo hums as he looks out at the scenery, trying to gauge approximately how much longer until their train arrives at their destination.
"Less than ten minutes, more than five?"
"Wake me in five then." Kenma mumbles, closing his eyes again. Daichi snorts a laugh across the table.
"Suga was the same way. Slept up until the very last second, always."
"Kenma sleeps even past the last second. I can't tell you how many times he's had Tora take notes for him this semester alone." Kuroo sighs. Daichi opens his mouth to respond, but he pauses when he sees his phone is being pushed closer to him.
"Tell him to take some good pictures! I want him to remember this!" Suga says excitedly. Kuroo relays the message with a grin.
"Alright, alright." Daichi concedes. He might sound put out, but Kuroo can see the hint of a smile on his lips and the way his eyes shine with excitement as he snaps pictures through the train window. He wonders idly if this is Daichi's first trip to the beach as well.
"It's too cold." Kenma mumbles into his scarf, hands tucked deep into his pockets and shoulders hunched. "This is insanity."
Kuroo laughs beside him as they watch Suga. The spirit is standing far enough out that the waves lap at his ankles and the salty spray speckles his cheeks with his arms spread wide and head tilted back.
"This feels so nice!" He laughs. Kenma scoffs.
"For you, maybe." He shivers as a cold gust of wind bites at his nose. Daichi seems content to simply sit on the stone stairs leading down to the beach and bask in the light of the rising sun.
"It's really nice out here at this time of day," he mentions, stretching his legs out in front of him. "Not too cold or crowded."
"Am I the only one freezing to death?" Kenma mumbles to himself as he begins walking the shoreline, hoping to warm up. Suga notices him and skips over to walk with him.
"Are you not enjoying the beach?" He asks. Kenma frowns.
"It's not that I'm not enjoying it…" he trails off and Suga laughs.
"You're just not enjoying it." He finishes. "Thank you for coming with us anyways, even if you'd rather be in bed right now."
Kenma shrugs. "A promise is a promise."
Suga runs off to explore the rocks ahead of them, talking to himself about hermit crabs and tide pools, and it makes Kenma smile a little as he settles onto a flattish section of a boulder. He pulls his knees up to his chin and settles his chin atop them, watching the waves crash gently against the shore.
"Daichi and Kuroo seem to be getting along well," Kenma muses quietly as he watches the duo talk and laugh a little further down the beach. Suga hums, suddenly right beside him, and Kenma startles.
"They talked quite a bit on the train ride. I guess they both have a lot in common." Kenma hums curiously and scoots over so Suga can settle onto the stone beside him, "They were both captains of the volleyball team, and studied sports medicine in college. Daichi ended up becoming a physiotherapist for a while, actually."
"He's not one now?" Kenma asks.
"Nah," Suga tosses a small pebble into the ocean, "he stopped that when he moved to Tokyo. He works a boring office job now. He hates it, but it's a steady schedule that keeps him distracted. It's also the perfect excuse for him to not go out with anyone; friends or otherwise." Suga sighs and lays back on the rock. "He's stayed cooped up in that apartment for so long. This is the first time he's been anywhere work related in…" He exhales heavily as he shakes his head slowly, "I don't remember the last time, honestly."
Daichi belts out a loud laugh across the beach and Kenma and Suga both turn to watch him laugh with Kuroo.
"I don't know what Kuroo said to him," Suga murmurs, a small smile on his lips, "but I want him to say it a thousand times more if it'll make Daichi laugh like that."
Kenma has to agree that Daichi's laugh is great, but what really gets Kenma is Daichi's eyes. They just seem to have so much more life in them today; as of recently in general. Before, Daichi's brown eyes had seemed so dull and lifeless, but now they sparkle in the sunlight. He doesn't look so much like a grumpy old man, or a straightlaced suit-and-tie salaryman; he looks like a young man, excited about life.
"Kuroo, there's literally an outdoor cafe on every other block in Tokyo. How is this cafe a "must visit"?" Kenma grumbles, skeptical. Kuroo grins as the blocky, blue sign comes into view.
"Because this one is a gaming cafe."
Kenma's eyes widen and Daichi can practically feel the sudden excitement radiating off of him. Where he had been trudging two steps behind Kuroo and Daichi just a moment ago, he now strides two steps ahead of them, eyes flitting about as he tries to locate the cafe Kuroo is taking them to.
"I did some research," Kuroo continues, "and not only does this place have one of the best selections of games, their apple pie is the best in town." Kenma stops outside the cafe, waiting on the two older men, and it's probably just his imagination, but Daichi swears he can see stars in Kenma's eyes.
"Who's the best boyfriend?" Kuroo asks, smile smug, as he grabs the door handle.
"You are." Kenma answers without hesitation. Kuroo laughs as he pushes the door open, allowing Kenma and Daichi to stroll in ahead of him.
"Ah. Now I see how you got that swelled head of yours." Daichi teases.
"If my boyfriend wants to give me compliments because he loves me, that's his prerogative." Kuroo replies, a little haughtily.
"Is that how it is?" Daichi laughs.
"That's exactly how it is!" Kuroo assures, trying not to laugh himself.
The cafe is like nothing Kenma's ever seen before but everything he's ever dreamed of.
There are touch screens on the tables, set up for four players, and a small button to press when you're ready for assistance. They're escorted to their table by a man decked out in a Survey Corps uniform, and their water is brought by a girl in a short, ruffled white dress; Kenma knows he's seen the character advertised before, but he's not sure who she's cosplaying off the top of his head.
"So you can play video games while you eat here?" Suga asks, scrolling through the list of games on his screen at Kenma's left. Kenma nods silently, scrolling through his own list of games. "Oh oh! It's got multiplayer! We should all play something together!" Suga bounces in his seat excitedly.
"Player versus player; I like it! What should we play?" Kuroo asks with a smirk.
"I haven't even heard of half of these games. I feel so old and out of touch…" Daichi mumbles, "I guess anything is fine except-"
"Mario Kart!" Suga cries, tapping the small icon.
"Mario Kart." Daichi finishes with an eye roll, "I don't even remember how many hundreds of times Koushi had me play that game with him."
"You mean how many hundreds of times you lost," Suga laughs, making Kenma's lips quirk up into a small smile. He's not usually fond of multiplayer games, but Mario Kart does sound like fun.
"We'll have to buy time for it," Kuroo informs the table, "we can buy an hour's worth of time and then play whatever games we want with it." Daichi's stomach gurgles loudly, drawing everyone's attention as he flushes.
"...I skipped breakfast." He mumbles. Kuroo snickers as he presses the button at the end of their table.
"Someone was eager, huh?" He teases. Daichi clicks his tongue and turns his face away, cheeks still warm.
"He was restless last night," Suga laughs, "and then overslept this morning."
"Just like a kid before a field trip~" Kuroo sing songs.
"Look here-!" Daichi begins, only to be cut off by a new voice.
"Yo, my name is Teru; I'll be your waiter today!" Kenma looks up and blinks, a little startled when he comes face to face with one of his favorite video game characters. "What can I get for you guys?"
The guy's bright smile is out of character, as well as the shock of blond hair, but the light armor is spot on in color and design, and Kenma can't take his eyes off the detail work on the shoulder guards. He, Teru, looks like he could have just popped right out of any one of the MonHun games-
"And for you, Cutie?" Kenma blinks up at the man, surprised. Teru's watching him, stylus poised to key in Kenma's order, his brown eyes gleaming with mischief. "Should I recommend something special?"
Is… is he flirting with Kenma..? The pudding haired man has no idea what to say in return, honestly. No one except Kuroo has ever flirted with him, and Kuroo's flirting is always so over the top and cheesy, so it's easy to just roll his eyes at him. But this guy is dressed like his favorite character, wearing the same smug little smile, and it shouldn't make his cheeks feel so warm, but-
"He'll have the apple pie and fruit juice." Kuroo interjects and Kenma flinches. He ducks his head, hair covering his cheeks as he quickly begins tapping through the games again, ignoring the look he knows Kuroo is giving him over the table.
"Right away!" Teru taps a few more keys as he stands beside the table, "I've set you guys up for an hour and a half of game time, and your order is in. I'll have it out as soon as it's ready. Enjoy your gaming!" And then he's moving away from the table to take another order. Kuroo clicks his tongue and leans back in his seat, arms folded over his chest as he pouts.
"Damned hot guys, thinking they can flirt with anyone," Kenma sighs quietly, but Kuroo hears it, "and you!" He cries, pointing a finger at Kenma, "What was that!? With the stars in your eyes and the swoon-"
"I did not swoon, Kuroo, oh my god." Kenma rolls his eyes, "What does swooning even look like?"
"It looks like exactly what you did!" Kuroo insists, cheeks puffed out in a ridiculous mockery of a pout, "Don't think I didn't recognize your video game crush taking our order!"
"Oh my god," Kenma breathes, hands coming up to cover his pink cheeks.
"Cut him some slack," Suga waves a hand at Kuroo, "the guy was really cute."
"You're the last person I wanna hear that from!" Kuroo points at Suga, eyes narrowed, and now Daichi is leaning forward curiously.
"What?? What did he say??"
"He said that Teru guy was hot," Kuroo grumbles, "like two prime specimens aren't sitting right here-"
"Saying things like that is why you're not classified as a "prime specimen"," Kenma huffs, "am I kicking your ass in Mario Kart or not?"
"Oooh, feisty!" Suga laughs, tapping Mario Kart on his screen, "I like it!" Kuroo's lips are pulled up into a sly grin, his eyes gleaming. He pops his knuckles as he sits forward to select the 'PLAY WITH FRIENDS?' banner that's popped up on his screen.
The fruit juice is too tart for Kenma's taste, but the apple pie is amazing. Daichi notices how Kenma avoids his juice and casually slides his own cup of ice water across the table and pulls the fruity drink towards himself. Kenma blinks up at him, curiously.
"You don't look like you're enjoying it very much. I don't mind trading." He answers Kenma's unspoken question with a smile. Kenma opens his mouth to protest, but is interrupted by Kuroo's cry of despair.
Suga cackles devilishly on Kenma's left, effortlessly evading the obstacles in front of his tiny green car, and winning for the sixth time in a row, to Kuroo's dismay. The four of them had played four rounds together before Kenma bowed out to play MonHun by himself, and Daichi managed to find a game he actually knows how to play "You're not even that much older than me; how are you so old?" Kuroo had teased, earning a flick to the forehead from Daichi.
"I give up!" Kuroo wails, dropping his head back against the bench seat, "You're too good at this!"
Suga laughs as he leans back in his own seat, "I had years of practice."
Daichi checks his watch with a hum as he sips at the fruit juice. "It's getting kind of late. We should probably head back towards the station."
"Mmm, probably." Kuroo agrees, stretching his arms above his head and exhaling when his back pops, "I gotta grab some souvenirs first. What do you get for people when you visit the beach?" Kuroo asks as he slides out of the booth behind Daichi. The older man's brow crunches as he thinks about it.
"I'll look around the gift shop at the station," Kuroo shrugs. "Bo's a cheap date; he'll love whatever I buy."
Kenma slides out of his seat and follows behind the two older men, halfway listening to their conversation and half way looking around at the posters and decor he hadn't noticed before, silently hoping they'll come back again soon. Sure, he had complained at the beach, and it was definitely too cold, but… he's actually had a lot of fun today.
The mid-afternoon bullet train is a little more crowded, so Suga stays at the table with everyone this time. The exhaustion of not sleeping well the night before and the excitement of today must have worn Daichi out, because he's asleep less than twenty minutes into the train ride. Kuroo doesn't fair much better, and is out shortly after the older man, leaving Kenma and Suga to talk quietly amongst themselves for the next hour and a half.
"Thank you for everything today," Suga says sincerely. "I never realized how beautiful the ocean is. Like, you see it in pictures and videos, and it's nice, but actually being there is…" He exhales heavily, a smile curling at the edges of his lips, "wow."
"I'm glad you were able to enjoy it." Kenma answers honestly. Watching Suga enjoy the ocean was more fun than actually enjoying it himself, given the fact that he can still tell the difference between hot and cold. One of the nice things about being a spirit is being unable to get too cold or hot, he guesses. He wonders if Suga could even really feel the waves crashing against his ankles earlier, but he doesn't ask.
He plays with the small seashell bracelet around his wrist idly, and Suga's smile widens when he notices.
"Do you like it? The bracelet?" Kenma nods and Suga's smile softens, "Good. Daichi couldn't decide what to buy for you, so I helped him out a little."
"He really didn't have to buy us anything," Kenma murmurs, "He already paid for the train tickets and lunch…"
"Daichi is… a very giving person." Suga replies, that far away look in his eyes again, "He'd give the shirt off his back to a stranger in need." He meets Kenma's eyes, "I can't tell you how much today meant to me- seeing him have that much fun… seeing him smile like that again…" Suga looks like he might cry, so Kenma silently nods. The spirit smiles again, and swipes at his eyes.
"Sorry, I'm a mess. I'm just so happy that Daichi is finally smiling again. And I have you two to thank for it."
"We didn't really do much," Kenma protests, feeling a little shy in the face of Suga's praises. Suga just huffs a soft laugh.
Chapter 6: Christmas Carnival
"I didn't want Kenma going with anyone else during his third year, so I surprised him and showed up to the dance that night-" Yaku's laughter interrupts him,
"With a hideous tie-"
"I borrowed that tie-!"
"From me!" Bokuto cries, "Bro, you thought my tie was hideous?!"
"I didn't, Kenma did-"
"He yanked it off Kuroo so fast, oh my god,"
"You didn't like my tie, Kenma?!"
"It was neon green, Bokuto!" Kenma finally cries, throwing his hands up into the air.
"But it matched his suit-!"
"Excuse me??" A new voice interrupts, "Are you buying tickets or not??"
With finals just around the corner, the meet ups at the coffee shop become less frequent but that doesn't mean they don't talk. Kuroo created a group chat for them, of course, so now the constant stream of chatter that he usually sends to Kenma is split between both him and Daichi. Daichi is usually busy during the day, but he responds more in the evenings.
Sometimes Daichi sends them pictures of the animals on his way to and from work. One time, he sent them a picture of a fat, sleeping cat on top of a brick wall with the caption "Kenma, if you're going to sleep, go inside."
Kuroo had laughed for hours about it, and even sent the message to Bokuto, who also laughed for hours about it. Kenma wasn't even mad about it; honestly, he has fallen asleep outside before, so.
On Kuroo's birthday, Daichi stops by their apartment on the way to drop off a small gift. "Happy birthday, Kuroo." Daichi's smile had been a little odd, and Suga had very purposely avoided eye contact, and Kenma realizes why when Kuroo opens the box to find a small figurine of Kenma's favorite MonHun character.
The one the waiter at the cafe had been cosplaying.
"Oh screw you!" Kuroo had cried, but Daichi was already walking away, cackling ferociously, with a mirthful Suga right behind him. Kuroo wasn't really upset about it. "Can you believe this guy??" He had scoffed, but his lips were still curled upwards into a smile.
Kenma sent a picture to Daichi later that day of the tiny figure in his new place on Kuroo's desk.
Kuroo has no idea what time it is when his phone rings and startles him out of a dead sleep, but the bedroom is still dark so it's obviously still the middle of the night. He throws one arm up to fumble around on the headboard until he finally makes contact with his cell phone and answers it without looking at the deathly bright screen.
"'Ello?" He slurs, tongue still thick with sleep.
"You're going to the Christmas carnival this Saturday," Yaku says in lieu of greeting.
"I'm what?" Kuroo frowns, squinting at the ceiling. Yaku exhales heavily.
"Lev won't stop pestering me about going to the carnival on Christmas eve."
"Then go..?" Kuroo rolls his eyes. Kenma shifts in his sleep but Kuroo can't exactly take the call to another room with the younger man laying on his other arm.
"It's going to be a couple's paradise on Saturday, we can't go alone. People would think we're dating."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Kuroo jokes.
"You know perfectly well why we can't come out, Kuroo," Yaku says, voice taking on a sudden serious note. Kuroo sighs.
"You're right; I'm sorry. Kenma and I would love to go to the carnival with you guys. I'll invite Bo and Akaashi, and maybe Tora and his girl-"
"Sure, sure," Yaku says, half distracted, "but everyone pays their own way. Lev eats away my paychecks bad enough." Kuroo laughs quietly.
"I'll let everyone know, then."
"Great. I'll text you the details in the morning," Yaku says, "Thanks, Kuroo." Yaku sounds so sincere Kuroo has to smile.
"Sure, man. G'night."
"A Christmas carnival?" Daichi repeats, not looking up from his paperwork as he highlights important sentences. "This weekend?"
"Mmhm." Kuroo hums around his straw. "I told Yaku I'd invite some more people. Bokuto and Akaashi are going, but Tora's already got plans, so I figured I'd ask you, since I know you'll probably be burying yourself in work to avoid thinking about the holidays~"
"You've been talking to Koushi again, I see," Daichi remarks dryly. Suga laughs where he's seated on Kuroo's left.
"I didn't even have to ask Suga-san. The stack of paperwork you have in front of you is proof enough." Kuroo grins when Daichi grimaces at the stack of papers. "So you'll go?"
Daichi sighs as he caps the highlighter and sits up straight. "What time?
"Daichi's running a bit late but he'll meet us at the gates," Kuroo announces, tucking his phone back into his pocket. Kenma hums in reply, blinking away the tears that fill his eyes as a sudden gust of wind whips against his cheeks. He's wearing three layers but he still feels like he's going to freeze to death.
It's only Christmas Eve, why is it so cold already??
"Ooooiiii!" Kenma blinks again and looks up to find Lev waving excitedly at them from the entrance to the park.
"He never changes, huh?" Kuroo laughs and waves back. Yaku and Akaashi are seated on the small bench near the entrance, and Bokuto stands beside them smiling cheerfully.
"Are we all here now?" He asks when Kuroo and Kenma get a little closer.
"Nah, Daichi-san is coming. He got held up at work though, so he said he's running a little late." Kuroo explains as he hugs Lev and gives Yaku a fist bump.
"Daichi-san..?" Yaku asks Kenma, eyebrows raised. The younger man gives a half shrug as he sits on the bench as well.
"A new friend."
Yaku nods and tucks his hands back into the pockets of his coat. "Thanks again for coming with us on such short notice."
"Thank you for inviting us," Kenma replies, "Kuroo's been looking forward to this all week."
"Bokuto as well," Akaashi smiles at the three men standing beside them, laughing and talking excitedly, "he's been talking about it since Kuroo called Tuesday morning."
"God, Lev has been pestering me for weeks about this carnival." Yaku rolls his eyes. He sounds irritated, but Kenma knows better. Especially when Yaku's eyes linger on Lev's laughing face, his own lips curling into a small smile.
"Sorry I'm late!"
Daichi is jogging up the walk, his long black coat draped over his arm and tie askew.
"Yo!" Kuroo greets with a wave. Akaashi raises a brow.
"That's Daichi-san?" He asks. Kenma nods, as the older man comes to a stop in front of their bench.
"I wanted to get here sooner, but I had to stop and drop my briefcase at home, and uh," he pauses and shrugs, looking almost embarrassed under the weight of everyone's staring, "sorry." He finishes lamely.
"Don't worry about it! We haven't waited long!" Kuroo reassures, throwing an arm over Daichi's shoulders. "If you really feel bad about it, you can pay for the tickets."
"I don't feel that bad about it." Daichi replies dryly. Kuroo laughs and motions to the rest of the group.
"Daichi-san, this is Yaku, Akaashi, Bokuto and Lev; guys, this is Daichi-san!" Kuroo introduces.
"It's nice to meet you all," Daichi bows politely, "thank you for inviting me out tonight."
"Good looking and polite," Yaku says as he pushes to his feet, "you definitely can't be one of Kuroo's friends."
"Rude!" Kuroo chastises.
"What's that supposed to mean?? Was I just insulted?? Akaashi, don't laugh!" Bokuto cries. Yaku ignores him, giving Daichi a friendly smile instead.
"It's nice to meet you too. I'm glad you could make it."
The lines at the ticket counter are long but they're moving quickly, at least. Suga had made his appearance once they lined up and has been eyeing the rides just past the gate excitedly.
"I want to try everything- the ferris wheel! Definitely the ferris wheel! And the carousel!" Kenma is only halfway listening to the spirit as he tries to pay attention to Akaashi telling Yaku about what happened during his birthday dinner, but Daichi's skewed and fluttering tie keeps bugging him.
It shouldn't, but it is.
The red material keeps catching the breeze and fluttering to the side, just in Kenma's peripheral vision, and it's annoying. Daichi seems to have no problem with it though, considering he hasn't paid it any attention while he converses with Bokuto and Lev, but for some reason it's just irritating Kenma. They're almost at the front of the line and Kenma knows if they go on a ride together or something and it keeps a fluttering like that, he's going to lose it, so he whirls around, startling Suga and Akaashi, and grabs the tie that is currently waving in the wind.
Daichi's eyes widen when Kenma yanks on it, dragging him forward an inch, before his chilled fingers go to work on the knot, prying it apart and pulling the silky fabric loose from around Daichi's neck. Kenma is very well aware that the conversations around him have ceased, and he knows that he's going to feel embarrassed about this later, but fuck it. The tie finally slips loose and Kenma winds it around his hand before stuffing it into his pocket and turning away without a word.
The line has already moved forward a few paces while Kenma had his back turned, so he quickly makes up the space, refusing to look at his friends, even as Kuroo stammers "K-Kenma..?"
"It was bothering me," Kenma mutters. Suga snorts, not even bothering to hide his laughter, and Kenma frowns, because of course he finds this funny. When Yaku snorts, however, Kenma looks behind him. Yaku is trying to muffle his laughter with his hand and Akaashi is wearing an amused smile.
"So you just decided to yank his tie off because it bothered you?" He asks. Yaku laughs harder and Kenma can feel his cheeks heating in embarrassment.
"It was really annoying, though." He mumbles.
"You still can't just do that though," Yaku laughs, swiping a hand over his eyes, "god, Kenma, this is like the senior dance all over again." Kuroo barks out a laugh this time, and Kenma covers his face, turning away from them completely this time.
"Senior dance??" Suga asks. Kenma doesn't even need to see him to know he's smiling mischievously.
"I'm so confused," Lev whines.
"What's new?" Yaku scoffs.
"Yaku-saaan!" Lev whines again.
"Our old high school had a winter formal dance for the third years, and I took Kenma during my third year and graduated that spring." Kuroo begins explaining, "I didn't want Kenma going with anyone else during his third year, so I surprised him and showed up to the dance that night-" Yaku's laughter interrupts him,
"With a hideous tie-"
"I borrowed that tie-!"
"From me!" Bokuto cries, "Bro, you thought my tie was hideous?!"
"I didn't, Kenma did-"
"He yanked it off Kuroo so fast, oh my god,"
"You didn't like my tie, Kenma?!"
"It was neon green, Bokuto!" Kenma finally cries, throwing his hands up into the air.
"But it matched his suit-!"
"Excuse me??" A new voice interrupts, "Are you buying tickets or not??"
They work their way through the park slowly, partially because Suga wants to try every ride possible and partially because Lev wants to try every ride possible. The spinning teacups are the nail in Daichi's coffin, though.
"Your cup must have been malfunctioning," Akaashi reasons, rubbing Bokuto's back as he hangs over the trash can. Daichi isn't faring much better on the other end of the bench. Yaku and Lev went to buy water just a minute earlier, and Kuroo had sprinted to the gift shop to see if there was any nausea medication, leaving Akaashi and Kenma to care for the two very dizzy men.
"Whoops," Suga says, almost sheepish, "guess I went a little overboard with the spinning?"
"You think?" Kenma deadpans quietly. Suga shrugs and sits on the ground in front of them.
"I was having so much fun I didn't notice." He says honestly. Bokuto heaves again and Kenma's face scrunches in disgust.
"Kozume-san..?" Daichi asks, voice weak. His red tie, damp from the last of Kenma's water, is covering his eyes, "Did Koushi have fun..?"
Suga rests his cheek on his knees, smile soft, and Kenma nods.
"Mm. He's had even more fun than Lev." Kenma murmurs. Daichi laughs quietly and sits up, letting the tie fall into his lap.
"I'm glad." He smiles at Kenma, "If Koushi's having fun, then I am too."
"Looks like we've got time for one more ride," Kuroo says, stretching his arms above his head.
"The Zipper!" Lev shouts, pointing at the tall, green machine.
"No." Everyone replies automatically.
"What about the ferris wheel?" Kenma suggests, ignoring the younger man. Suga's eyes light up.
"The ferris wheel is so boring though," Lev pouts.
"I like the ferris wheel," Yaku frowns.
"Let's go to the ferris wheel!" Lev cries, grabbing Yaku by the wrist and hurrying across the park.
"Slow down!" Yaku cries.
"I guess we're riding the ferris wheel," Akaashi muses.
They split into two groups of four, counting Suga, for the ferris wheel, and Daichi leaves a space on the far side of the car for Suga to sit beside him.
The slow and steady climb of the ferris wheel is a welcome change of pace after all the fast and furious rides Lev and Suga have taken them on, and the scenery is always Kenma's favorite part.
"You really forget how big the city is until you can see it all from above," Daichi murmurs, looking out the window on his right. Kuroo hums in agreement, watching the lights grow smaller as they rise, a melancholic smile on his face. The silence that falls over them is peaceful and even Suga is quiet as he watches out the window, his smile soft and a touch sad.
His fingertips brush the glass as he stares at the lights below, here, but also not, and Kenma wonders what's going through his mind right now.
Daichi inhales sharply and Kenma turns to look at the older man. He's staring at the window across from him, the window closest to Suga, eyes wide and a little wet. His bottom lip trembles when he whispers, "Koushi?"
Suga startles and blinks, finding the reflection of Daichi in the window. "Daichi?" He asks quietly. Daichi's throat bobs when he swallows, his tongue flicks out to moisten his lips and Kenma and Kuroo both watch with bated breath.
"I… I can see his reflection," Daichi says quietly, not looking away, almost like he's afraid it'll all disappear if he does. "I can't hear him, but," he swallows again, and Kenma knows Daichi must be close to tears. The ferris wheel is already making its descent, they don't have much time left in this space, but Suga smiles.
"Thank you, Daichi," Suga says, making sure to enunciate his words and speak slowly, "for indulging me today, and every other day." Daichi watches, rapt, as Suga continues, "I think this was the best date we've ever had." Their car is close to the base now, only a few moments away from the exit point- "I love you."
Daichi exhales shakily and brings one hand up to cover his eyes, and Kenma's throat suddenly feels tight as well. Kuroo's hand finds his on the bench seat and Kenma squeezes it tightly, eyes trained on the scene in front of him.
The door is being opened though, and the ferris wheel operator is ushering them out. Daichi's eyes are red and watery and Kenma doesn't want to let go of Kuroo's hand; he's sure they make for quite a scene when they meet up with the rest of the group.
"Whoa," Lev breathes, "what happened to you guys?" Kenma flinches and Yaku elbows him roughly, making the younger man stagger. Daichi laughs, a little hoarse, and swipes at his eyes.
"Sorry, the view from the top made me a little emotional." It's not exactly a lie, Kenma guesses. Suga wraps his arms around Daichi's shoulders from behind and simply hangs there, his face buried in Daichi's neck, and this time Kuroo squeezes Kenma's hand.
"We were all talking about going out for drinks, if you'd like to join us, Daichi-san?" Akaashi offers gingerly. Daichi looks at the watch on his wrist before shaking his head sadly.
"I wish I could. I've got to be at work early tomorrow, and it's getting pretty late…"
"Of course," Yaku smiles, "we get it. Thanks again for coming out with us tonight."
"No, really-- thank you all for having me. I've had a lot of fun tonight." Daichi smiles as well, and it doesn't sound like a lie. Kenma thinks maybe he really did enjoy himself.
When they get to the front gate, Daichi heads off first, and Kuroo sighs as he drapes an arm over Kenma's shoulders.
"Well, I guess Kenma and I should be heading home as well-"
"Yeah, no." Yaku frowns, "I have a lot of questions."
Chapter 7: Shadows of (New) Years Past
"I like that you implied Kuroo is a housewife."
"Kuroo is a housewife," Kenma scoffs. "And the househusband."
"Then does that make you the lazy, well fed housecat?" Suga teases. Kenma shrugs.
"If the collar fits."
Daichi and Suga come home with Kenma and Kuroo for New Years.
Angst warning ahead!
This chapter is much longer than the others, and contains flashbacks to when Suga was still alive.
"Come home with us for New Years," Kuroo says by way of greeting. Daichi blinks blearily at the wall across the room and frowns.
"Sorry, I think I'm still sleep dumb because that made absolutely no sense. Repeat that?"
Kuroo laughs. "We want you to come with us over New Years. We'll be staying at my house-"
"-mom already put out the futons; we're staying at my house-" Daichi hears Kenma in the background.
"Kenma's house, then-- but like, that hardly makes a difference, the houses are across the street from one another-"
"You tell that to them, then," Kenma challenges.
"Anyways!" Daichi winces at Kuroo's sudden increase in volume, "We're going home for New Years and you're coming with us. We'll meet you at the train station at 10:30-"
"Wait wait wait," Daichi sits up quickly, rubbing at his eyes, "I haven't agreed to this yet??"
"It wasn't a request," Kenma deadpans.
"Exactly," Daichi can't see him, but he knows Kuroo is wearing that irritating smirk, "so we'll see you at the station in an hour." The line goes dead and Daichi sighs exaggeratedly as he falls back against the pillows.
"I'm sure you're enjoying this," Daichi murmurs into the empty room. He's sure if he could see him, Suga would be wearing that shit eating grin of his and playing innocent.
It's been three days since the Christmas carnival and he still can't get the image of Suga sitting beside him on that ferris wheel out of his head. He looked… just like he did back then. His soft smile and fair skin, eyes watching the city below in awe and wonder.
Usually, Daichi is fine. He doesn't think about how much he misses Suga; the pain is more of a dull ache now than the searing pain it was when he woke up and found him. But sometimes the pain is so sharp that it feels like just yesterday instead of almost three years.
The closet door opens and Daichi rolls his eyes, a smile on his face.
"I know, I know. I'm going."
"You're late!" Kuroo shouts. Daichi huffs as he drags his suitcase behind him.
"Of course I'm late! You only gave me an hour to pack!" Daichi heaves his suitcase into the bench beside Kenma. "You didn't tell me where we're going or for how long- I spent twenty minutes alone just trying to pick out the right clothes and finding someone to watch Ami-chan!"
"Well, if you forgot anything you can just run home and get it." Kenma says, stuffing his game system into his pocket as he stands, "It's only three stops away."
"Are you kidding me?" Daichi frowns, following them to the yellow line near the edge of the platform, "Three stops?? That's- I don't even think that's a full hour away!"
"It's not." Kenma confirms.
"I told you- we've been in Tokyo most of our lives," Kuroo says with a little laugh as the speaker announces the incoming train. Daichi shakes his head, confused.
"Then why are we are we going so early? Do you even need to stay over if you only live an hour away?" Kenma shrugs.
"It beats having to cook soba for ourselves."
"It's so nice to meet you, Daichi-san! Thank you for taking care of our boys." Kuroo's grandma is small, with a kind smile and laugh lines around her mouth and eyes. She smells a bit like strawberries and mint, and it makes Daichi think of that small window garden Suga kept for a while.
"Please make yourself at home, Daichi-kun! If you need anything during your stay, please don't hesitate to ask!" Kenma's mother is also small and slim, with soft features and bobbed black hair. Kenma definitely takes after her. "After you boys get all settled in, we'll start the year end cleaning!"
"Yes~!" Kuroo replies cheerfully, lugging their three bags upstairs. Kenma sighs quietly as he leads Kuroo and Daichi.
"Can't even wait one day?" He mumbles under his breath and Kuroo clicks his tongue.
"The sooner we get it all done, the sooner we get to rest."
"You say that every year," Kenma grumbles, opening his bedroom door.
"And I'm right every year," Kuroo laughs as he drops the bags on Kenma's bedroom floor.
"Yeah, I left a lot of them here because we didn't have room in our apartment at first for all of them."
Daichi blinks, confused at the seemingly random comment. "Wait, what?"
"Ah," Kuroo flops into Kenma's desk chair, "Suga-san was asking about Kenma's collection." He points at the shelves above the desk and bed, lined with nendoroids and other action figures and fan merchandise. Daichi whistles as he places his bag beside the others.
"That's an extensive collection," he moves closer to examine the posters along the walls, "are these all from video games?"
"Mmhm." Kenma is already kneeling on the floor to unpack their bags. Kuroo suddenly barks out a laugh, startling Daichi.
"Of course not! Those are from video game tournaments!" He laughs, "Kenma?? Voluntarily play sports??" He laughs again and Kenma throws a pair of wadded up socks at him.
"Rude. I played volleyball with you for eight years. Mostly voluntarily."
"Mostly." Kuroo is still laughing while Kenma puffs his cheeks out in a pout. Daichi finally sees it, the small shelf of multicolored trophies. Apparently Kenma is good at video games?
"Everything alright, Daichi?" Kuroo is looking at him funny, "You've been pretty quiet since we got here."
"Mm," Daichi nods, "I'm fine- just a little tired from the trip." In reality, it's a little odd for Daichi. The two of them are so close- their families are close. Kuroo and Kenma just decided on a whim to invite him to their family homes for the holidays, and their families have accepted him into their homes with zero questions- just hugs and tea and rice crackers.
It feels like he's back in his hometown and it's a little painful.
He only goes back once a year, but even then he never stays more than a day. He hasn't talked to his old friends in who knows how long, and his mother calls every few days to check on him, to make sure he's eating, but he hasn't come home to stay for any length of time because-
Because the town is full of memories and he dies a little bit inside every time he visits. But being here, in this small, close knit environment makes him miss it. The friends that just showed up whenever because they wanted to. His mom's home cooking and his father's terrible jokes. His noisy younger brothers. He misses having someone to welcome home, and being welcomed home by someone.
He misses having people around. Knowing that he's the one who distanced himself only makes it worse. He's the one that put himself in this situation, but now he doesn't really know how to get out of it. He can't just waltz back into his friends lives suddenly- who even does that? Just picks up and leaves and returns on a whim-
"Daichi?" Kenma is close, watching him carefully, and Daichi figures Kenma's probably been trying to get his attention for a moment now.
"Do you want to rest for a while?" He repeats. "I can lay out the futon so you can take a nap while we clean."
"I think you should definitely rest," Kuroo agrees, already spreading out one of the rolled up futons, "we woke you up early after all. Besides, if you come downstairs now, Kenma's probably gonna get you to scrub the toilets or something-"
"So just rest for a while, yeah?"
It's kind of hard to argue with both of them, especially when a nap sounds really good right now, so Daichi doesn't. He nods and fishes his phone and keys out of his pockets.
"We'll be downstairs if you need anything!" Kuroo assures as they exit the room, and finally Daichi is alone with his thoughts. He almost wishes he wasn't.
"The end of the year is always hard for Daichi," Suga is laying across the couch, watching Kenma dust the shelves and tidy up the living room, "but the beginning of the year is the hardest. Thank you, for not letting him be alone."
Kenma is silent as he cleans; it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Suga more than likely died around this time of year. And once he figured that out, he couldn't just let Daichi wallow at home alone. Not after seeing Suga on Christmas Eve. That probably reopened all sorts of old wounds.
"You know, Daichi's birthday is actually on New Year's eve." Kenma pauses and turns to face the spirit.
"Really?" Suga nods and sits up.
"What does he usually do on his birthday?" Kenma asks, beginning to clean again.
"Recently, nothing much. Cleaning, paperwork- But we used to have cake and cocoa before doing the midnight shrine visit."
"...I'm not good at baking," Kenma mumbles, "Kuroo always handles that."
"Isn't Kuroo helping with the year end cooking though?"
Kenma sighs and nods. "Mom, Kuroo and Grandma do the cooking for both households, so the men clean both houses." It's been a tradition for as long as Kenma can remember. It's been helpful for both families; Kuroo's father works and his grandparents have trouble cleaning certain places, and Kenma and his father are disasters in the kitchen. Suga snorts.
"I like that you implied Kuroo is a housewife."
"Kuroo is a housewife," Kenma scoffs. "And the househusband."
"Then does that make you the lazy, well fed housecat?" Suga teases. Kenma shrugs.
"If the collar fits."
"Kenma?" Mrs. Kozume is peeking around the doorway, brows furrowed "Who are you talking to?"
"Daichi's dead husband," he replies bluntly.
"Wow," Suga blinks at him wide eyed, "I'm literally right here."
"Oh dear," Mrs. Kozume looks around the room, eyebrows creasing further, "should I get Tetsu?"
"Please don't," Suga buries his face in one of the small throw pillows.
"No," Kenma sets the duster back on top of the entertainment center and turns to face his mom, "he's a guest."
"Oh." She seems a little taken aback but quickly recovers, "Oh! Should I bring snacks, then??"
"He's dead, Mom. I don't think he needs anything." Kenma deadpans. Suga barks out a startled laugh and Mrs. Kozume nods.
"Right. So just tea, then?" Suga laughs even harder.
"It's been a long time since Kenma brought a spirit home!" Mrs. Kozume gushes, "No one told me you two were helping Daichi-kun's husband pass on!"
"It's not anything that grand," Kuroo assures with a small laugh. "We just happened to bump into them at a coffee shop and I roped Kenma into helping me help them."
"But he didn't turn you down flat," she points out, stirring the pot in front of her, "You know how stubborn he can be. If he didn't want to be helping them, you can bet he wouldn't be."
"True," Kuroo shrugs. "He's actually made some progress, I guess."
It's already late afternoon when Daichi wakes up and finally makes his way back downstairs. By then, the lower floor of the Kozume house has already been cleaned, thanks to a little help from Suga and a lot of effort on Kenma's part.
"Good morning," Kenma greets without looking away from his video game as Daichi peers around the door frame into the living room. He scrubs his hands over his face and moves further into the room.
"Afternoon." His voice is a little scratchy with sleep, so Kenma glances up at him. Daichi's short hair is flat on one side and fluffed up everywhere else, giving Kuroo a run for his money on the messy hair front, and he has pillow lines all over his cheek. Kenma's lips quirk up into a small smile as he continues playing.
"Did you sleep well?"
"Too well," Daichi laughs as he takes a seat beside Kenma. "I didn't intend to sleep so long. Why didn't anyone come wake me up?"
"You looked so peaceful." Kenma's game loudly announces "WINNER" and he sets it down before facing Daichi, "You looked like you needed it."
"I did." Daichi doesn't even pretend to be okay as he relaxes on the couch. Usually, Daichi puts up a front and says he's doing fine- just tired from work, or busy, but here, not trying to mask his exhaustion or fake a smile, Kenma feels like he's finally seeing the real Daichi. "The Real Daichi™" has bags under his eyes and a few grey hairs around his temples. He's so young, barely older than Kenma, but he looks so worn down. Kenma wants to ask him about his past; he wants to know how he got to this point and why he won't just go home and talk to his family again.
But he doesn't ask.
"Dinner will be ready soon," he says instead, "We'll be eating at Grandma's house tonight, since they've been cooking over there. Tomorrow we'll eat here."
"You mean at Kuroo's house?" Kenma nods, pulling out his cell phone, "So this is kind of like a tradition? The trading houses for dinner?"
"Sometimes. Mostly only during the new year holidays though." Kenma explains. Daichi nods like it makes sense and doesn't question it, but Kenma knows it's probably an odd situation. After they moved to the neighborhood, his parents were both often working, leaving him on his own most of the day. That only lasted a few days before Kuroo's grandmother had invited him over to eat with them.
Kuroo had been shy about having Kenma in his room at first, but that shyness eventually wore off, and once Kuroo finally began talking, he never really seemed to stop. At least, that's how Kenma feels about it.
"His family had a similar arrangement," Suga suddenly pops over the back of the couch and stage whispers, "with the elderly couple down the street. They didn't have any kids or grandkids to take care of them in their old age, so Daichi's family kind of adopted them."
Daichi doesn't even bat an eye at the out of place comment. He wonders if the older man has gotten used to the one sided conversations yet. Hopefully so, considering it's already been more than two months. Though, can anyone really be used to seeing someone talk to themselves constantly..?
"Oh good, you're awake!" Daichi and Kenma turn to find Kuroo in the doorway wearing a red apron with a small embroidered kitten on the chest pocket, "Dinner's ready!"
Dinner is a lively affair; the rest had definitely helped Daichi feel better. He chatted and laughed mirthfully with Kuroo and Kenma's families and ate until he thought he might pop. After just enough sake, Kenma's father had pulled out a guitar from somewhere and began singing silly songs loudly and off key.
Kenma saves him from having to sing as well by asking him to help him clean up the food and wash dishes. The kitchen is quiet save for the sound of dishes clinking together in the soapy water and the muffled sound of the guitar from the back porch and Daichi likes it. It feels comfortable in a way he hasn't felt in almost three years now.
"Thank you," he finds himself saying. Kenma shrugs as he rinses off a glass.
"Dad gets too lively after three cups of sake. Kuroo and I are used to it, but you shouldn't have to suffer." Daichi laughs and takes the cup from Kenma.
"That's not what I meant, but thank you for that too." He carefully dries the glass and sets it down next to the other two before taking the plate Kenma holds out, "Thank you for letting me come with you guys."
"You didn't really have much of a choice."
"I didn't," Daichi agrees, "but I'm enjoying myself anyways. It's… it's nice to be around family at the end of the year."
"It is." Kenma murmurs.
The frosty January air is stinging his cheeks and nose, making his eyes water and his nose run. His right hand is warm, though. It always is when Daichi holds it.
The food stalls and street vendor lamps are casting a warm glow, giving the illusion of warmth on this cold night, and he's feeling better than he has in weeks. He's waited so long to be able to walk like this with Daichi again. Daichi smiles at him over the rim of his steaming cocoa, eyes sparkling.
Daichi's been waiting too.
Finally, the couple in front of them move away, and it's their turn to pray at the shrine. They ring the bell together and clap twice before Daichi bows his head in prayer. He pretends to pray as well, but really, he's watching Daichi from the corner of his eye. His profile against the glowing lights, his pink cheeks, the fog of his breath; the way his lips move silently as he prays.
He takes it all in, burns it into his memory, before squeezing his eyes shut tightly.
"Please," he prays silently, desperately, "please, God... Just give me a little more time with this man. I know it's selfish, I've been living on borrowed time for years now but- I beg of you... Just one more year."
His throat is tight when he looks up and finds his reflection in the golden plate behind the shrine, his eyes burn with unshed tears.
He knows this is the last shrine visit he and Daichi will make together.
Kenma bolts upright, throat tight and heart racing.
That wasn't just a dream.
He looks around the still dark room and finds everyone else still asleep; Kuroo on his left like always, and Daichi on his right. Suga is asleep on the other side of Daichi with one leg hanging out of the futon. Kenma hadn't known that ghosts actually sleep at night until Suga mentioned being tired after dinner. The spirit was prepared to snuggle close and sleep in Daichi's futon, but when he mentioned it to his mom, she insisted that Suga needed a whole futon to himself as well. His bedroom isn't really made to fit four futons in a row like this, but they overlapped them a bit and made it work.
That dream though- no, that memory- it was definitely Suga's. Had Suga unconsciously transferred one of his memories to Kenma..? Was that even possible?
"Kenma?" Kenma startles when arms wrap around his waist, "What's up..?" Kuroo is nuzzling his hip, still warm from sleep. Kenma pets Kuroo's hair and watches Suga for a moment longer.
"Nothing," he says quietly, "just a weird dream…" He slides back into the futon, into Kuroo's arms, and pulls the blankets up higher, trying to shrug off the lingering sadness the dream had brought on.
Those are Suga's emotions, not his.
"You need more sugar."
Kenma sighs. "The recipe says 2⁄3 cup."
"Yeah, I know it says that, but it's wrong," Suga pushes Kenma's phone across the counter, out of reach of the younger man, and slides the sugar container closer, "I've made this recipe more times than I can count on both hands, so trust me when I say you're going to want one more scoop of sugar."
Kenma can't really fight him on that. Suga is the one with all the experience in the kitchen- Kenma just has to trust that the spirit knows what he's doing. He adds one more scoop of sugar to the mix and begins stirring it all up.
"Now, once that's mixed really well, you're gonna add a little of the dry ingredients, and then a little milk, and alternate like that while you mix."
"Why can't I just mix it all at once?" Kenma asks, scooping part of the dry mixture into the silver mixing bowl.
"Because then you'll have too many clumps," Suga says, hovering over Kenma's shoulder to watch him mix the batter, "and no one wants a lumpy shortcake. Okay- now you're gonna pour it evenly into the two pans-"
"I think I can get it from here," Kenma laughs softly as he begins pouring the golden batter into both pans. Suga sits on the counter to watch Kenma carefully slide the two pans into the oven.
"Will you do this next year for Daichi too?" He asks. Kenma hums thoughtfully as he sets the timer on the oven.
"I don't think I'll still remember this recipe by then, but I can always just look up another recipe. Unless you help me again," Kenma pulls the small container of strawberries out of the fridge while they talk.
"Of course I'll help," Suga's smile turns a little sad, "but what if I've already passed on by then?" Kenma pauses, hand hovering over the handle of a small knife. That's right. Kenma had been having so much fun the past couple months that he had almost forgotten the end game- Suga is going to eventually pass on. He might not be here next year.
Kenma honestly hadn't given much thought to what would happen after Suga passes on. Would that be the end of their friendship with Daichi? Would he still want to see them, even after there's no reason to?
He finds himself hoping that the older man will continue to want to see them; to spend time with them and hang out occasionally like they do. Kenma can admit, if only to himself, that the days without Daichi would become pretty boring. The older man has made a spot for himself in Kenma's small world, and if he were to decide he didn't want to be in that small world any more…
Kenma changes direction and grabs a small notepad off the refrigerator and tears off the top sheet. He finds a pen in the drawer beside the stove and quickly begins scribbling down the ingredients and instructions Suga gave him for making the strawberry shortcake.
Suga's smile widens. "Remember- you need one full cup of sugar. Anything less is a lie."
"You're sure you don't want us to wait for you, Dear?" Kuroo's grandmother asks again. Kenma nods.
"We'll wash the dishes and be there in a bit!" Kuroo assures, giving the older members of their family a thumbs up.
"Make sure you lock up when you leave!" Mrs. Kozume reminds them as they start out the door.
"Leave it to us!"
The door closes behind the group with a click, leaving Kuroo, Kenma, and Daichi to put away the food and clean the kitchen up. The work goes by fast with the three of them working together and Kuroo and Daichi's steady stream of conversation. Hearing Kuroo and Daichi talk about anything and everything has become comforting to Kenma. It's different than the comfortable silence that Kuroo and Kenma have when they clean, or the way Kuroo talks without expecting an answer, but not in a bad way. Daichi and Kuroo laugh and talk like old friends, and they include Kenma in conversations seamlessly when he's in a talking mood and avoid talking to him when he's not- but they never make him feel left out or forgotten.
"Kenma, it's about that time," Kuroo says, pulling out a small stack of plates. Kenma nods and moves towards the fridge.
"Ah, I'll go grab my wallet from upstairs, then-" Daichi begins, stepping away from the sink. Kuroo huffs a laugh and shakes his head.
"Not that time," Daichi frowns, confused, as Kuroo passes him the plates, "It's time for dessert."
Suga pops one of the confetti filled party poppers, sending confetti across the kitchen as Kenma turns around with the cake.
"Happy Birthday, Daichi-san," Kenma says before setting the cake on the counter. Daichi blinks in surprise, mouth opening and closing as he tries to find something to say. Kenma carefully adjusts the small chocolate plaque on the cake that had begun to tilt on one side.
"Suga-san helped me with the recipe. The cake is handmade, but I scorched the chocolate, so this one is just store bought," he says. Kuroo wraps his arm around Kenma's waist and grins.
"This is the first time Kenma's baked a cake that actually came out so nice!" He announces, sounding just like a proud father. Kenma rolls his eyes, pretending to be annoyed but actually feeling pretty proud of himself. Kuroo isn't wrong, his cakes don't normally come out this nice; granted, Kenma only gave baking a few halfhearted tries in their youth.
"Suga helped you bake this?" Daichi asks, coming closer to the counter. Kenma nods, watching Suga hover over Daichi's shoulder, the spirit's expression one of nervousness and anticipation. Daichi sets the plate down with a small clack and swipes one finger through the cream on the top of the cake. He sticks the blob in his mouth, jaw moving as he favors the flavor, and smiles.
"Thank goodness!" Suga cries, pressing a hand to his forehead and floating on his back, "I thought for sure it would be overpowered by the vanilla when I bumped you and accidentally splashed too much in!"
"Looks like it all worked out!" Kuroo laughs. Daichi carefully begins cutting and serving the three of them a piece of cake while Kenma pulls out forks. Suga settles onto the counter across the kitchen to watch them eat cake and talk together. Kenma is talking about the new game he pre ordered, and how he'll need to pick it up first thing Monday, and Daichi is offering to wait in line with him, since Kuroo has an early morning class, and Suga is beginning to think maybe, just maybe, Kuroo and Kenma can help him with his biggest regret.
The one he didn't write down.
They're in a hospital bed this time.
He's hooked up to a few different machines and the bed is definitely too small for both of them, but neither one cares. Daichi is laying on his side facing him, their foreheads pressed together and noses brushing together every so often. Daichi's left hand is resting on his hip while his own right hand cups Daichi's cheek.
It's quiet; the only sound coming from the steady beeping of the heart monitor connected to him and their quiet breathing.
"What will you do when I die?" He asks. Daichi tenses. Daichi pulls back to frown at the other man, fingers tightening on his hip.
"Don't talk like that."
"You're not going to die for a very, very long time, Koushi." Daichi says seriously, and he has to laugh, because leave it to Daichi to try and order him around even when it comes to his eventual death day. Daichi pinches his hip in retaliation but he just laughs again.
"I know, I know! I don't plan on dying anytime soon, but you never know!" He scoots closer to Daichi and tucks his head under Daichi's chin. "Tell me, please?"
Daichi sighs and wraps his arms around him, holding him close. "I'll be lonely, Koushi. I'll mourn you for the rest of my short life, because by the time you die, we'll be wrinkly old men and I won't have much time left anyways. I might of a broken heart right after you. All our friends and family will be sad."
"I didn't ask about them," he laughs softly. His smile slips away, "I don't want you to be so sad that you die as well."
"It's my turn now," he talks over him, "to tell you what I want for you after I die." Daichi doesn't respond verbally, but he feels him swallow and the arms around him tighten. He inhales deeply, "I want you to mourn me, after I die. Not for a long time, but just long enough that the people around you say "Wow, he loved him that much!"" Daichi huffs a small laugh and his lips curl upwards into a small, soft smile. "And then I want you to move on."
"I'm not asking you to forget me, or the years we've spent together. And if you want to stay single until you die, then that's okay too, I guess, but… I don't want you to be sad. I want you to find happiness again, Daichi. Whether that's being alone with the hoard of animals you probably will have amassed by then and helping people play sports again until you're old enough to retire and move in with our grandkids or finding someone else to settle down with and live out the remainder of your life."
"No one could ever be as perfect for me as you," Daichi mumbles into his hair. Suga huffs a small laugh.
"I'm sure there's someone else out there. Someone who loves the serious frown lines between your eyebrows and laughs at your dad jokes. Someone who can bake, because you suck at it-"
"Someone who makes you laugh," Suga continues, smiling, "because I love your laugh and I know they will too. Someone who likes trying new things and being adventurous- someone who can go anywhere and everywhere in the world with you…" he trails off, throat feeling a bit tight. "Promise me you'll go places, Daichi."
"I promise," Daichi whispers, voice also sounding a bit tight, "that one day, I'll take you anywhere and everywhere you want to go. You won't be sick forever, Koushi, and when that day comes, we'll do everything we've ever wanted to." Suga smiles, eyes stinging and heart clenching. He buries his face in Daichi's uniform shirt and nods.
"It's a promise."
Kenma has tears blurring his vision when he sits up this time. The pain in that dream might have been Suga's, but it felt so real, so painful…
Kuroo is still asleep beside him, face half hidden under the pillow, and Kenma immediately scoots back into the futon and as close to Kuroo's broad back as possible. He wraps his arms around Kuroo's waist and presses his forehead against Kuroo's shoulder blade and just stays there for a while.
Sleep doesn't come easily for the rest of the night.
Chapter 8: What Blooms Before Spring
"Exhibitionism is a nice kink, and I would never shame you for it, but maybe not in someone else's living room, Kenma..?"
Editing is going quickly and smoothly, as I'm sure you can all tell! The last few chapters should be posted before the weekend! 💕
I hope you've enjoyed it so far!
Kenma doesn't tell Kuroo about the dreams, and he definitely doesn't tell Daichi or Suga. He has one more before they finally leave, but it's harmless and full of people he doesn't know playing volleyball. It makes him a little nostalgic for his high school days. Maybe that's why he says yes when Yaku sends out the e-vites for a mini reunion/meet up at the end of January. Not even two minutes after he confirms the invitation, he gets a phone call from Yaku.
"You know you pressed confirm on that, right?" He says by way of greeting. Kenma rolls his eyes and props the phone between his ear and shoulder so he can continue finishing up a report for class.
"...seriously?" Yaku asks, voice full of disbelief.
"Seriously." Kenma confirms. He draws a line through some of his notes on the paper beside him and tucks the pen between his lips as he types. Yaku is silent for a moment.
"Does this have anything to do with that Daichi guy?"
The pen falls out of Kenma's mouth and clatters against the desk as he immediately says, "No."
"That was a really emphatic no," he doesn't need to be able to see Yaku to know the older man is frowning at him, "but I know the situation is kind of complicated, so I won't pry-" Kenma exhales softly in relief- "today. Akaashi is coming over on Sunday for drinks, so you should too."
"Sorry, my break is over- feel free to bring Daichi to the meet up next week!" Yaku is gone in a flash, not giving him time to turn down the invitation for drinks, but maybe it's better that he didn't turn them away. Maybe he needs an objective opinion.
"So, do you think he's any closer to passing on?" Yaku asks, sipping his beer. "It's been what, three months now?"
"I have no clue," Kenma admits, stirring his coke with his straw idly, "I think we're about half way done with the list, unless Suga-san decides to add something new."
"What all have you guys done?" Akaashi flops onto the couch next to Kenma with his own bottle of beer.
"Splashed in a park fountain, horseback riding, the beach," he ticks them off on his fingers, "the Christmas carnival, a midnight shrine visit-"
"Wait, I thought you always go home for New Years?" Yaku frowns.
"We did. Daichi stayed with us."
"You took Daichi home with you for New Years?" Akaashi raises a brow. Kenma shrugs.
"He wasn't gonna go home for the holidays, and I would have felt bad leaving him all alone-"
"For a week?" Yaku laughs, "I'm sure he would have been fine."
Kenma shrugs again. Yaku's probably right. It's not like Daichi hasn't spent the anniversary of Suga's death alone for the past couple years; he probably would have been just fine. But the absolutely gutted look on his face climbing out of the ferris wheel cabin and the forced smile he gave Kuroo when he told them he'd be staying in town for the new year had made Kenma's heart clench. The thought of Daichi staying home, mostly alone, with all those old memories that had surely been brought to the surface after seeing Suga was just…
The younger man blinks. "Hm?"
"Valentines. Do you and Kuroo have any plans?" Akaashi repeats.
"Kuroo is still shadowing a doctor for the next few weeks and I have to work on my game for class." Kenma takes a big drink of his soda.
"Oh, let me play it once it's finished," Akaashi nudges him, "your last game turned out really well."
"What's this one about?" Yaku asks. Kenma shoves away all the unnecessary thoughts and focuses on explaining the game he's currently working on to Yaku and Akaashi. He doesn't think about why he couldn't leave Daichi alone, he doesn't think about the dreams he had, and he definitely doesn't think about what's going to happen after they manage to help Suga pass on.
Not until he gets home, anyways.
Kuroo has to work on Sunday, so he can't go to the meet up, but Daichi is off, so he picks Kenma up outside their apartment complex and they walk the community center together.
"So, these are all your old teammates?" Daichi asks.
"Most of them," Kenma replies, "Fukunaga and Inuoka won't be there, or Kuroo."
"Will there be enough people to play a match with?"
"I think so?" Kenma frowns in thought, "Or maybe a three on three match?"
"I'm sure either way will be fun," Daichi smiles reassuringly and Kenma agrees. He thought he'd be dreading going to this thing, but he's actually kind of excited. Maybe it's the excitement from Suga bleeding over into him, he muses, watching the spirit practically skipping behind them, his smile blinding.
"Suga-san is excited, I see." Kenma nods his head in the spirit's direction, even though he knows Daichi can't see him. Daichi laughs and gives his head a small shake.
"I bet he is. He used to love watching us practice, and came to all of our matches that he could-"
"Hey, hey!" Suga begins talking over Daichi excitedly, "Do you think I could try setting the ball?? Or spiking it?? Just once??"
"-to play, but he wasn't allowed to do strenuous sports and stuff, with his weak heart." Daichi finishes. The community center is in view now, as are Lev and Yaku, and Kenma hums softly.
"Maybe he'll get a chance to play today," he says quietly. Daichi frowns in confusion, but Suga immediately begins cheering loudly, and Kenma can't help the small smile he feels curling at the edges of his lips.
In the end, they play in teams of four, with Tora's girlfriend handling the scoreboard and one of the guys who was a first year during Kenma's third year (Amino, he thinks) playing as referee. They play four games, and trade members around every game, so everyone gets a chance to play with someone else.
Suga waits patiently on the sidelines, cheering loudly for Kenma and Daichi, even though Kenma is the only one who can hear him. He has to hide his laughter more than once when Suga gets too excited and knocks things off the bleachers, startling Taketora.
"The gym is haunted, I swear!" He cries, taking the towel from his girlfriend. "No one was even near the benches and stuff just-" he makes a vague hand gesture and Yaku shrugs.
"Who knows? The community center is pretty old."
"I heard someone died when they were remodeling it!" Lev cries excitedly, "Maybe it's the construction worker's spirit!"
"Don't say that!!" Taketora shouts, flailing his water bottle at the younger man, "What are you gonna do if it is them?!"
Suga chooses that moment to pick up one of the volleyballs still lying around and serve it across the court. It doesn't go very far past the net, but the sound of a ball smacking against the polished floor when everyone is accounted for by the bleachers is enough to have half of the former volleyball team sprinting for the doors as Taketora screams.
Suga's laugh is loud and wild as he sprints across the gym to find the ball, and Kenma has to clap a hand over his mouth to keep from laughing as well, but his shaking shoulders give him away.
"I see Suga-san is having a blast," Yaku teases. Suga serves the ball again, but it doesn't go as far this time, only managing to hit the net before falling back down, and Kenma nods. He tucks his hands into his pockets and sits down on the bench to watch Suga play with the ball.
The group had been preparing to leave and go their separate ways again before Suga decided to scare them all off, but it works fine this way. He's sure if someone hadn't said or done something, they would have still been saying their "goodbyes" for another twenty minutes. Lev and Daichi reenter the gym with bottles of water for Kenma and Yaku as well as themselves, and Lev watches Suga serve the ball in awe.
"There really is a ghost!"
"Did you think I was lying?" Kenma asks dryly.
"Kinda." Lev shrugs. Yaku jams his fingers into Lev's side, making the taller man cry out and drop onto the bench, "Yaku-san!!" He whines.
"It's fine," Kenma sighs as he takes the bottle from Daichi and breaks the seal, "it's not the first time I've ever been called a liar."
Daichi buys Kenma a crepe on their walk home, and Kuroo is immensely pouty about the fact that he didn't get to go play volleyball with everyone, but that's not really anything new.
Bokuto and Akaashi are just getting home when Kenma and Daichi make it back to the complex, and Bokuto absolutely won't take no for an answer when Akaashi invites Daichi in for a cup of tea.
One cup of tea turns into two, and "just tea" turns into snacks and a movie marathon, and suddenly Kenma's waking up on Bokuto and Akaashi's couch at two am with his head pillowed in Daichi's lap and Kuroo spooning him. It's an odd position, and he has absolutely no idea how they got here, but Daichi and Kuroo are both sleeping so peacefully and there's a warm blanket over him, and he's so cozy…
He closes his eyes and goes back to sleep.
He worries that the next morning will be awkward, especially when he notices that he apparently drooled on Daichi's thigh in his sleep, but Daichi wakes with a sleepy smile and a slight crick in his neck. Kuroo has him stretch out on the floor and massages the tight place in his neck before helping Daichi carefully stretch all his sore muscles.
"You old folks have to stretch better before you do strenuous activities, Daichi," Kuroo teases. Suga snorts and Daichi scoffs.
"You're not much younger than me, you know," he grits his teeth as Kuroo applies a little more weight onto his leg, stretching his thigh muscles further.
Of course Akaashi would pick this moment to open his bedroom door and find Kuroo and Daichi in a suggestive position. The room falls silent, no one daring to say anything. Finally Akaashi breaks the silence with a click of his tongue.
"Exhibitionism is a nice kink, and I would never shame you for it, but maybe not in someone else's living room, Kenma..?"
Like he told Yaku, Kenma and Kuroo are far too busy to go out for Valentines day, and they haven't been able to sit at the coffee shop with Daichi much recently either. Daichi understands, though, and they make it a point to still text one another. Sometimes Daichi sends them pictures of stuff Suga has done around the house (moving random knick knacks, drawing pictures on his whiteboard, covering the kitchen cabinet in sticky notes) and Kuroo sends memes and silly conversations from work.
Honestly, he forgets that it's even Valentine's day until he gets to class and finds people passing out sweets and others holding pink and red bags. He feels a little guilty for not doing anything for Kuroo, but Kuroo isn't the biggest fan of sweets anyways. Maybe he'll buy something for him on the way home- a keychain, or a plushie..? His phone buzzes in his pocket, and when he pulls it out, he finds a message from Daichi.
'meet me by the front gate after your class is over.'
Kenma frowns, confused, but the teacher is coming in so he quickly types out an 'okay' before putting his phone away and focusing on the lecture. He's distracted most of the class though, and only really catches half of what the teacher is saying. He knows he should be paying better attention since finals are only a couple weeks away, but really, as long as he finishes his game in time, and it works, he should be able to graduate with Kuroo in March.
When he makes it to the front gate, Daichi is already there waiting, a brown paper bag in his hands. He smiles and waves when he notices Kenma, and the younger man gives a small wave in return.
"Hey! How was your class?" Daichi asks once Kenma is close enough to hear without shouting.
"Boring," Kenma replies.
Daichi laughs and nods, "Most classes usually are." He inhales deeply, seeming to steel himself, and Kenma is even more confused, and then he's holding the bag out- "This is for you- and Kuroo, of course. It's, uh. Kind of a thank you for all that you two have done for me, for us, the past few months." Kenma blinks, completely stupified, and Daichi gives a small, forced laugh as he rubs the back of his neck. "It's an apple pie. I'm not too great at baking, but Suga helped, so I don't think it's terrible-"
"You made an apple pie… For me..?" Kenma asks, blinking owlishly at the bag in his hands. His heart is doing the fluttery thing, and the wheels in his brain are beginning to turn-
"I did," Daichi nods, still looking a little nervous, "Kuroo mentioned that was your favorite when we were at that cafe. Is it… no good?"
"No, yeah- apple pie is good." Kenma assures, feeling so far out of his element, and Daichi smiles again, tension finally leaving his shoulders.
"Good!" His phone chimes and he sighs, "That's my alarm- my lunch break is almost over. Let me know how it tastes!" Daichi calls as he begins jogging away, presumably back to work. Kenma makes a B-line for the picnic tables outside the university. He drops his backpack and books on the table without care, but carefully sets the paper bag down and peers inside it.
Yep. That's a pie in there.
He drops heavily onto the bench and fishes for his phone and quickly opens his messages to Akaashi and Yaku.
'Help me, I'm feeling.'
Chapter 9: A Gathering of Crows
"I think we should talk," he mumbles, playing with the strings on his hoodie. Kuroo hums as he scrubs a plate.
"Sure! I'm on the last two plates, and then I'll be-"
"I think I'm developing feelings for Daichi."
The plate falls from Kuroo's hands back into the soapy water with a clatter. "Or now. Now is good."
Kenma and Kuroo meet all of Daichi's old friends.
My absolute favorite thing about this chapter has to be the Akaashi and Kenma banter, ahhh 💕
This one is a bit long, and peppered with some feels!
Nothing good comes from hiding things while you're in a relationship, so of course the first thing Kenma does is talk to Kuroo- after freaking out to Yaku and Akaashi, but that doesn't count. The problem is, he can't seem to find the right time to bring it up, and the longer he puts it off and thinks about it, the more anxious he gets- which is why he ends up blurting it out while Kuroo is washing dishes that evening.
"I think we should talk," he mumbles, playing with the strings on his hoodie. Kuroo hums as he scrubs a plate.
"Sure! I'm on the last two plates, and then I'll be-"
"I think I'm developing feelings for Daichi."
The plate falls from Kuroo's hands back into the soapy water with a clatter. "Or now. Now is good." He grabs the towel from the counter and wipes his hands haphazardly as he crosses the room to sit beside Kenma on their couch. Kenma immediately crawls into his lap and tucks his head under Kuroo's chin as Kuroo's arms find their way around his waist and hold him tight. "This isn't some roundabout way of telling me you want to break up, is it..?"
"Don't be stupid- of course not." Kenma snaps. Kuroo hugs him a bit tighter and rubs a hand up and down his back.
"Good." They sit together in silence again for a moment. Kuroo is the one to eventually break the silence, like usual. "So, feelings, then? What kind of feelings?"
"He baked me a pie," Kenma mumbles.
"Oh. I see this is serious."
"Kuroo," Kenma stresses, making the older man laugh.
"Sorry, sorry. Seriously though- what kind of feelings are we talking about? Lust, or..?"
"...I think it's a crush?" Kenma frowns, "It's not like… I don't feel the same way I do about you, but it's not nothing, and it's not sexual… sorry, it's hard to describe."
"It's okay to not know," Kuroo assures, "and it's okay to feel stuff for Daichi. Feelings and emotions aren't something you can always control; especially stuff like love and like. Daichi is a nice guy, and he's always looking out for us."
"He is." Kenma agrees. "He baked me a pie."
"If I had known you were that easy, I would have baked you a pie in middle school." Kuroo laughs. Kenma rolls his eyes but doesn't protest. Who knows, if Kuroo had baked him a pie in middle school, maybe he wouldn't have had to corner Kuroo in his first year of high school to get a confession out of him.
"So what do we want to do about it?" Kuroo asks. Kenma shrugs. "Well, we can work towards making the feelings go away, or…" he trails off, and the gears in Kenma's head start slowly turning again.
"What do you think of Daichi..?"
"Me?" Kenma nods, "Well, I think he's a pretty great guy. He was pretty uptight at first, but he's actually pretty funny. He's easy to talk to and get along with."
"He's good at volleyball," Kenma muses.
"He is." Kuroo agrees.
"He was a physical therapist, too."
"He was. He should really go back to it- like, I've told Dr. Kirihara about him, and I'm sure he'd be able to get a recommendation from the clinic he used to work at, and Dr. Kirihara would love to have more hands-"
"Kuroo?" Kenma pulls just far enough away to look up at the older man.
"I think you like Daichi."
Kuroo purses his lips and frowns, thinking hard for a while. Finally, he sighs.
It's not the phone ringing that wakes him up in the morning, so much as Kuroo crawling over him to find the phone that's ringing. Kenma recognizes the ringtone as his own, so he pulls the blanket off of his head to mumble "Wh'zzit..?"
"Akaashi," Kuroo's voice is still scratchy, so the phone undoubtedly woke him up. "Want me to ignore it?"
"Answer it," Kenma mumbles before clearing his throat. He doesn't make any move to uncover his hands or arms, but that's okay- Kuroo knows him well enough to know he wouldn't. The older man presses the green button and holds the phone against Kenma's ear and cheek as he snuggles up behind him. "It's not even eight, Akaashi," he grouses.
"Mm, it's not," he agrees, and Kenma can hear the sounds of a fridge opening and bottles clinking, "but I'm making breakfast."
"Wonderful. I'm sure Bokuto is thrilled." He deadpans. Kuroo's chuff of air ruffles his hair and he can practically hear Akaashi's eye roll.
"Alright smartass; do you want pancakes and bacon or not?"
"I want coffee," Kenma answers honestly, finally prying his eyes open and blinking blearily at the still dark room.
"We'll be down in ten," Kuroo answers for him.
"Bring eggs, please." Akaashi requests before hanging up. Kenma clicks his tongue.
"He only called us because he needs eggs," he grumbles. Kuroo laughs as he levers himself out of bed.
"I'm pretty sure it's like 80% because he's nosy and wants to know what we intend to do about Daichi."
"Did you talk to Kuroo yesterday?" Akaashi asks quietly as he begins pouring the pancake batter into the skillet.
"I slept great last night, thanks." Kenma says, hefting himself up onto the counter, "The lemon chicken turned out fantastic-" Akaashi shoves him playfully and Kenma huffs, "Can't even pretend you're not a nosy bitch for five minutes."
"Why should I pretend when we've known each other for seven years? Did you talk to him or not?"
"And?" Akaashi prompts after Kenma says nothing else.
"And nothing." Kenma shrugs, "Daichi's still living with his husband-"
"His husband is dead," Akaashi levels him with an unimpressed stare, "and is in the process of passing on to the spirit world or heaven or whatever it is. You and Kuroo, however, are very much alive."
"And that's why we're not doing anything about it." Kuroo says, stretching across the counter to grab a crispy slice of bacon. Akaashi hums softly and flips the pancakes him his skillet.
"Mmm, because of the emotional instability..?" When Kuroo nods, Akaashi nods his head, "I guess I understand that. You could always take advantage of his weakened state to make him fall in love with you guys, but,"
"You know Kenma doesn't play games on easy mode," Kuroo teases. Kenma rolls his eyes and lifts his coffee mug.
"Human emotions aren't a game. Besides, it's just a crush. If we leave it alone, it'll resolve itself." He takes a long drink of his coffee, ignoring the pointed look Kuroo and Akaashi share.
He's serious, though. He's not going to act on this at all. Kuroo might have said becoming a triad would be okay, but Kenma isn't going to be selfish like that. Daichi will find someone else that he loves, someone he can devote himself to like he did Suga, and they'll be happy.
Plus, he has Kuroo, and Kuroo makes him more than happy on his own.
Asking for more happiness than that just doesn't seem fair.
Daichi frowns at the list stuck to the refrigerator door as he stirs his morning coffee.
Suga's list is around halfway done, and most of it had been pretty easy stuff. Horseback riding had been difficult, but he managed well enough. He had fallen asleep at the opera last month, and his attempt at learning to make pottery had been an absolute bust, but he can now say that he's been to the ocean, and successfully baked a pie for the first time.
What's left though…
The whiteboard marker is lifted and a large black question mark is drawn on the board. Daichi sighs and runs a hand through his hair.
"I'm just thinking about what's left on the list… it's still a little too chilly for camping or swimming, but maybe-" Suga moves the marker moves again and makes a big circle around 'Have a picnic with all our old friends!' and Daichi huffs a laugh. "I knew that was coming. It's not that simple, though."
Two question marks on the white board. Daichi sighs again.
"Because work, for one. I need to find a day off work-" Suga immediately circles a few days on the calendar, "-and Kuroo and Kenma just started working at their respective jobs. Their schedules will change, and I'm sure they won't have as much time-" Suga crosses off a few of the days, leaving two dates circled. Daichi purses his lips and stares at the calender for a long moment.
"...I'm sure they're all busy." He says quietly. "It's been… a while since I've seen them; I don't know that they'd even want to associate with someone who just suddenly dipped out of their lives and went radio silent…"
Nothing happens for a moment, and Daichi wonders if, hopes that maybe, Suga dropped the subject… but then his phone is being slid across the counter slowly. When he picks it up, Asahi's contact is already pulled up, the picture he assigned him of the three of them grinning excitedly staring right back at him. He swallows, nerves a tight ball in his stomach.
"What if he doesn't answer..?" He asks. Suga doesn't respond, but he doesn't really need to.
Asahi has always answered.
Daichi takes a deep breath and presses call.
When he puts the phone up to his ear, he can swear he feels arms wrap around his waist. It's just for a moment, and it's light as air, but he wants to believe that Koushi is holding him, supporting him, cheering him on.
The phone rings once, twice. After the fourth ring, Daichi's nerves get the best of him, and he's ready to hang up the phone, but as he's pulling the phone away from his ear- it connects.
"Daichi..?" Asahi's voice sounds the same as it did all those months ago, and Daichi swallows hard.
"Hey, Asahi!" Shit, his voice cracked.
"Daichi!" Asahi's voice is full of relief and excitement, and it makes him smile, "Oh my gosh- how are you?? It's been so long- Yuu, stop it! I'm talking to him!"
"I wanna hear too! Put it on speaker phone!" Nishinoya cries.
"Who cares?!" Nishinoya's voice is suddenly booming in his ear, "It's Daichi!!"
"Fine, just- Daichi?? Are you still there?" Asahi sounds further away now, but no less concerned.
"I'm here, yeah." He's smiling stupidly, one hand curled around the edge of his counter as he talks, "Sorry, is now a bad time-?"
"Of course not!"
Asahi and Nishinoya are both quick to answer and Daichi has to laugh at that.
"If you're sure-"
"We're absolutely certain, Daichi-san," Nishinoya assures. "How are you? When are you coming back to visit??"
"How is work??"
"How is Ami-chan??"
"Are you taking care of yourself??"
"One at a time!" Daichi raises his voice to be heard over them. Nishinoya and Asahi quiet down and Daichi raises his gaze from the floor to the calendar in front of him. "Ami and I are doing okay, and work is… boring, but not bad. Actually… I have a day off work in a couple weeks… And I I was thinking it might be nice to come back and see the cherry blossoms with everyone..." He shifts, a little nervous- what if they don't want to see him? What if they're too busy? What if-
"For real??" Asahi asks. Nishinoya is already whooping excitedly.
"I'll call Ryuu-"
"Yuu, not yet!! We don't have a date or time-"
"Iron out the details later- ah! Ryuu! You're never gonna believe this-!"
Daichi can't stop the laugh that bubbles out, leeching all the tension from his body with it. It was stupid of him to think his friends would ever be anything but excited and welcoming about him coming to visit.
"Daichi?" Asahi sounds closer to the phone, so he must have been taken off speaker.
"Sorry, Yuu's in full planning mode now," he laughs. "He's already calling Hinata, and Ryuu is calling Ennoshita-"
"Word travels fast in small towns. I'm used to it." Daichi muses. Asahi huffs another small laugh.
"I guess you're right. I better stop him before he takes out an ad in the paper- but text me all the details! We'll take care of everything else, you just show up!" He promises. Daichi nods to himself.
"Right! I'll send you the date and time as soon as I hang up."
"Awesome! And, Daichi…" Asahi's voice softens, "I'm really, really glad you called." Daichi smiles softly.
"Well, he's already met your parents, it only makes sense you need to meet his," Akaashi mumbles around the sucker in his mouth. Kenma frowns from his seat on top of the dryer.
"That's not what that was. That's not what this is. We're just helping him help Suga-san settle his last regrets."
"You can call it whatever you want, but that doesn't change the fact that you'll be meeting his closest friends in three days," Akaashi stretches his arms above his head, "And that's nerve wracking for anyone."
It is nerve wracking.
When they met Daichi for their weekly coffee, Daichi had seemed a little anxious about bringing it up, and had offered to go without them if they weren't comfortable with the idea of meeting a group of strangers, but Suga had bowed his head and clapped his hands together and begged them to go with him, so they couldn't exactly say no. And it's not so much that Kenma doesn't want to go, it's more the matter of meeting a whole group of new people.
It might come as a surprise, but Kenma's actually not the best with strangers. Or large crowds.
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Akaashi rests his head on Kenma's knee, easily picking up on the other's hesitancy, "Daichi and Kuroo will both be there, and you know Kuroo would never let you suffer in an uncomfortable situation."
"I know." Kenma sighs. The buzzer goes off on Akaashi's laundry and he pulls away with a small sigh.
"Are we folding this down here or packing it all back into the baskets to fold upstairs?"
Kenma glances at the time on his phone as he slides off the machine, "Your soap opera starts in fifteen minutes."
"Upstairs it is then," Akaashi says, quickly pulling the clothes out of the large dryer and into the two blue baskets.
The train ride to Daichi's home town is much, much longer than the ride to their parents homes, and a good deal farther than the hour and a half ride to the beach, so Daichi recommends staying in town overnight. Kenma and Kuroo agree and allow Daichi to handle all the preparations, considering it is his hometown. Ami-chan gets put in a little pet carrier and brought on the train as well, instead of being left with the work colleague who graciously accepted Ami-chan on such short notice last time.
They take the first bullet train that morning, and Kenma has to wonder if Daichi making them arrive at the station before six am is his way of getting payback for the New Year's incident. The older man at least has coffees and a bag of what smells like donuts, so Kenma can't be too upset about it.
As much as Kenma would like to sleep on the ride there, his eyes just can't seem to stay closed. Kuroo is sleeping like a log on his left though, and Suga is curled up in the seat across from him dozing. Daichi looks sleepy as well, but he stubbornly refuses to close his eyes.
"You can sleep, if you want to." He says quietly as he munches on another donut, pulling Daichi's attention away from the passing scenery, "I won't mind."
"I probably would if I could," Daichi huffs a small laugh, "but I don't think I can."
"How long has it been since you've been back?" Kenma asks.
"I usually go back once a year, but I don't stay long. I don't tell anyone I'm in town, but I'm sure they know I've been there." Daichi shifts in his seat.
"He brings me flowers for my birthday," Suga mumbles, eyes still closed and sounding half asleep, "but he never stays more than a few hours."
"What about your family?" Kenma watches him closely as he works his jaw, "Do you visit them?"
"I call them." he gives a small shrug, "They were pretty shocked when I told them Koushi and I weren't "just friends" after high school, and that we'd be living together for college. It made things kind of awkward between all of us."
"And Suga-san's family?" Kenma really shouldn't be prying like this, he knows, but…
"Koushi's parents divorced when he was young, so it was always just him and his mom. His mom knew right from the start that we were more than just friends," He smiles softly, no doubt remembering things that happened long ago, "but she never treated me differently. I think it was easier for her to go to work on days Koushi was sick, or hospitalized, because she knew I would be there for him. She worked long hours and sometimes nights to be able to afford medicine and food and stuff, but with no one to watch him…" Daichi gives a half shrug, "I'd like to think I was able to give her peace of mind, but that could just be wishful thinking."
"It helped," Daichi looks up at Kenma's confident words, "I would be constantly worried if I knew Kuroo was home alone and sick. I'd probably leave work early or skip it altogether. You're responsible and caring- if I knew you were staying with Kuroo, I wouldn't be as worried. I'd know you'd have everything under control. I'm sure Sugawara-san knew that too."
"I still let Koushi die, in the end," Daichi mutters, and Kenma stiffens. Daichi shakes his head and runs a hand through his hair, "Sorry- forget I said anything-"
"You didn't let him die, Daichi," Kenma's voice is hard. He sits up fully in his seat and fixes Daichi with a stern look, "Suga-san's heart stopped. He had a weak constitution, and a frail heart- it's not anything you could have fixed."
"Do you?" Kenma challenges. Daichi's jaw tightens, unable to look Kenma in the eye, "Because it seems like you feel responsible for his death, even three years later. And that's not healthy." Daichi doesn't respond to that. "You have to forgive yourself for things that you had no hand in, or you'll never heal."
It's a cliche line, but maybe it's what Daichi needs to hear. They don't talk for a while after that, but Kenma knows Daichi doesn't stop thinking about everything.
After finally arriving at Daichi's home town and checking into the little hotel near the station shortly after 11, they're on their way to the park.
"Asahi says everyone is there, but I'm not exactly sure who "everyone" is," he huffs a laugh as they turn a corner. "He never told me who all they invited, so I'm a little nervous."
"I'm sure it'll be fine!" Kuroo's arm is draped over Kenma's shoulders, holding him close and guiding him down the streets as Kenma plays a mobile game. It's not anything important, just something to keep his own anxiety at bay. Knowing he's not the only one anxious is helpful, but the comforting weight of Kuroo's arm over his shoulders is always one of the most reassuring things.
Maybe it's because the town is significantly smaller than Tokyo, but he's not actually as overwhelmed as he thought he would be. The streets aren't busy, even on a Sunday, and the weather is perfect for flower viewing; not too hot or humid, but not too cold and windy. There's a light breeze ruffling his blond hair and he finds himself tucking the phone back into his pocket and actually looking at the scenery as they pass by instead of walking with his head down, simply trying to get there.
The town isn't really different than any other, he guesses. The convenience store across the street, the streets lined with shrubbery and fruit trees, the children running around with sticks and toys; it reminds Kenma of the neighborhood he grew up in, before moving to Tokyo. It's kind of nostalgic.
The closer they get to the park, the more pink and white petals they find littering the ground and fluttering through the air. The sounds of people laughing and enjoying the day can be heard over what Kenma thinks is a radio, and then someone starts singing loudly and off key- two people, now- and Daichi pauses, only a few feet from the park's entrance. Kuroo and Kenma pause beside him, and Daichi's lips are pursed as he frowns.
"...I know those voices…"
Suga is grinning wildly, running ahead of them to the gate instead of floating lazily at Daichi's side like he had been. He looks full of energy again instead of melancholic as he laughs at whatever he sees in the park.
"There's still time to run away and change your name," Kuroo laughs, a small grin on his face. "We can pretend like we're just tourists; only here for the weekend, don't know anyone." Daichi laughs.
"Sometimes I wish I could." Kenma knows he's only joking, but the way he averts his eyes makes it seem like maybe he's half serious. He grabs Daichi's sleeve with two fingers and gives it a little tug, drawing Daichi's attention.
"If you're not ready for this, don't force yourself." He says quietly, "We can go back to the hotel with Ami-chan, or we can go home-"
Daichi's smile is small but genuine when he reaches down to take Kenma's hand in his. Daichi's hands are bigger than his- his fingers thicker and slightly calloused, the silver band still encircling his ring finger is cold- but what really catches his attention is how warm Daichi's hands are. "With you and Kuroo here, I'll be fine."
Kenma's stomach swoops.
"Ahhh. So this is how you made Suga-san fall for you," Kuroo teases and Daichi huffs a laugh, "you're like a real Prince Charming like this, you know?"
Daichi rolls his eyes as he lets go of Kenma's hand and tucks his own hands into his jacket pockets. "No one is falling for anyone. Plus, I stole that from Koushi, so if anyone is Prince Charming-"
"Oh that's so cute! You were Suga-san's Princess-" Daichi pinches Kuroo's nose, cutting him off.
"No one was anyone's "Princess"- shut up!"
Kuroo laughs and takes his arm off Kenma to bat Daichi away.
"I dunno- with the way you scrutinize food brands and only drink gyokuro-"
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with gyokuro tea!" Daichi protests. Kuroo scoffs.
"Other than the price per canister, you mean?"
"Why shouldn't I buy nice teas when I can afford it?" Daichi squints at the younger man, "You're just jealous because you're a broke college student."
"Was a broke college student," Kuroo holds up his pointer finger, "we're working class now."
"This is entertaining and all," Kenma cuts in, "but if we don't go in soon, I think Suga-san is going to burst." Kuroo looks around Daichi to spot Suga watching them with an amused smile on his face. Daichi nods and huffs another small laugh before leading them towards the entrance once more.
"I wouldn't have minded watching you three for a while longer," Suga admits quietly as Kenma passes by him. When Kenma looks at him, Suga's smile widens, "You three are such good friends now."
"We're not that good of friends," Kenma mumbles, something a little sour twisting in his stomach. Suga hums, that annoying, knowing smile on his lips.
"If you say so."
The park is covered in blankets and people. It's definitely a large crowd, but it has nothing on some of the flower viewing crowds Kenma has seen in the parks or along the banks in Tokyo. He spots the people singing immediately- how anyone wouldn't see them is the real question- with their matching orange shirts and karaoke microphones in their hands. The shorter one of them has their hair gelled into an impressive peak with bleached bangs, and Kenma has to do a double take just to make sure the other man singing isn't Taketora. Kuroo apparently had to do the same. Because he leans closer to Kenma to ask "Did Tora mention anything about a brother..? Or a cousin..?"
Kenma shrugs, still watching the two on the makeshift stage closely. With any luck, Daichi will find his friends soon, and they'll be on the opposite side of the park, as far away from the two as they can get in this small, walled in area-
"Daichi-saaaaan!" The Taketora Double suddenly shouts. Kenma startles when the shorter man drops the microphone and dives off the small stage. He does an elaborate roll before pushing to his feet and sprinting the last few feet across the park, only to dive at Daichi-
Daichi catches him easily, almost like he expected this reaction, and Kenma doesn't realize how silly he must look clutching Kuroo's jacket in both hands, his eyes as wide as saucers, until Suga begins laughing at him. He turns to look at the spirit, wide eyed, "Is this..?"
"Yeah," he laughs, pretending to wipe away tears, "yeah, that's normal. Nishinoya is very energetic- he always has been."
The Taketora Double is there now, hugging Daichi and Nishinoya both, and crying, and he doesn't know if Daichi and Nishinoya are as well, but he hopes not, because the bald man is blubbering enough for three people and there's a disgusting amount of tears and snot-
"And Ryuu has always been a cry baby," Suga's laugh is softer this time, his own eyes looking a bit misty as he watches the trio hug.
"Seriously though- message Taketora!" Kuroo nudges Kenma, "This is too freaky- they have to be brothers or something."
"-to my friends," Kenma only catches the tail end of Daichi talking, and then he's smiling at them, eyes a little wet, and motioning for them to come closer, "Noya, Ryuu, this is Kozume Kenma and Kuroo Tetsurou. Kuroo, Kenma, this is Nishinoya Yuu and Tanaka Ryuunoske."
"It's nice to meet you," Kuroo greets with a nod of his head as Kenma gives a small bow.
"Same here!" Nishinoya's smile is blinding, and Kenma knows Ryuu is trying to look intimidating, but he's definitely not succeeding- not with his red rimmed eyes and runny nose. "We got here super early to save plenty of space! Tsukki and Yamaguchi just got here a bit ago!" Nishinoya turns to lead the way through the park, being careful not to trip over any of the other people or step on their blankets. He seamlessly dodges kids running through the park and gracefully sidesteps obstacles, and Kenma can't help but admire his fluidity and ease of movement.
"These are all friends from your club, right?" Kenma asks the spirit beside him. Suga nods, and Kenma nods his head in Nishinoya's direction, "What position did Nishinoya-san play?"
"Ah, Noya was the Libero! He was amazing- he was always so good at receiving." Kenma nods along, only half way listening to Suga ramble on about Nishinoya and Ryuu. It makes sense, now, Kenma thinks, that Nishinoya was able to make a jump-roll like he did earlier so casually without any problems. Liberos have to be fast and flexible to catch anything that the opposing team might try and throw their way.
They finally reach a section of the park that isn't so heavily crowded, and Nishinoya dashes across the grassy area towards the group of people spread out across two large blankets. Everyone looks up as Nishinoya cries "I found Daichi!"
And then chaos ensues.
People are rushing to hug Daichi, and Kenma and Kuroo politely step back to allow them time together. Introductions are eventually made, but Kenma could only tell you maybe four people's names, because Nishinoya did the introductions and apparently his mouth runs as fast as his legs. Suga has made himself comfortable on the outer edge of the blankets and is watching everyone with a soft smile. He's happy, Kenma can see that, but he looks like he's hurting as well. Kenma is certain he longs to join in the cheerful conversation- he can see it in the way the spirit hugs himself just a little tighter after Ryuu makes a joke, or Tsukishima makes a snarky remark. Sure, Suga is probably enjoying being able to see everyone, being able to see all his closest friends smile again, but it must be absolute torture to be unable to say anything to them at all. To be unable to laugh with them, and hug them, and share in the fun.
It makes Kenma's heart clench painfully, and he finds himself holding onto Kuroo's hand probably a little tighter than is comfortable, but Kuroo doesn't complain. He just squeezes back and eats his karaage and inarizushi with his left hand.
Kenma ends up conversing with Hinata, who had been curious about the game Kenma was playing. When Daichi mentions that Kuroo and Kenma were both volleyball players in high school, Hinata has even more questions, but oddly enough, Hinata's endless stream of questions don't make him anxious like it normally would if someone else were to pester him like this. Maybe it's because he has experience with Lev..? The smaller man is basically just an older, shorter version of him, it seems. But, Hinata doesn't seem to be as annoying as Lev usually is. He doesn't think about it too hard, instead choosing to focus on how Kuroo has apparently fully integrated himself into this group with so little effort.
Kuroo is as amazing as ever.
The hours stretch on, but still the conversations continue, and even though the sun is setting, no one seems to want to leave first. It only makes sense that they would all have a lot to talk about, considering how long it's been, but Kenma is beginning to get a bit hungry again and the bento boxes have long since been cleared. The wind is also starting to pick up a bit now that the sun is behind the trees, and Kenma's light sweater just doesn't feel like enough. As if reading his mind, Kuroo stretches his arms above his head with a grunt.
"Ahh, it's getting kinda late! I think Kenma and I should probably head back to the hotel," he pushes to his feet and holds a hand out to help Kenma up as well, "we can get back on own though, so feel free to keep Daichi as long as you want." He winks at no one in particular, making Nishinoya laugh.
"Actually," the raven haired woman, Kiyoko?, speaks up, "if you don't have any plans for the rest of the evening I made a reservation at a local izakaya."
Kuroo looks down at Kenma for approval, and Kenma doesn't really have a reason to refuse food, so he shrugs.
"Sure!" Kuroo says, giving a shrug of his own, "I'm down for a beer."
Asahi's not blind, and he's definitely not stupid.
Daichi says they've only known each other for a few months, since October, to be precise, but this goes beyond "just having coffee and occasionally hanging out together."
Across from him, Kenma is seated in between Kuroo and Daichi, and while he's not taking part in the conversations around him much, he's not avoiding it. Asahi can tell easily that he and Kenma are similar when it comes to conversing with new people and being in large, crowded places, so being between the two older men probably makes him feel at ease. But Asahi has to wonder if the three of them even realize how in sync they are with each other.
Kenma isn't drinking, but he keeps one of the tokkuri in front of him, and when Kuroo or Daichi have empty cups, he carefully refills them. When Daichi's kushiyaki is served with a side of goma-ae with spinach and green beans, Asahi remembers that Daichi isn't really a fan of spinach, but instead of refusing it or offering it to the table, he slides the plate over to Kuroo, who slides him his plate of tsukemono in return.
Everyone shares bits of food when eating in a group like this, it's not uncommon, but what really catches his attention is how the three know exactly what the others want or need, even down to the dipping sauces. How they can pass plates and cups so seamlessly and trade bits and bites of food without even breaking their conversation with the people around them.
He finds himself smiling as he watches them, relief settling in his chest and making him feel light as air.
When Daichi ran away from everything more than two years ago, Asahi had been more than a little worried. He couldn't even begin to imagine the pain Daichi had to be feeling after Suga's death, and then to be surrounded by memories constantly- he probably would have run away too, honestly. He doesn't blame Daichi a bit for cutting ties with their hometown and staying away so long.
But he does wish Daichi had called him once in a while.
The last time he had talked to Daichi before the phone call a few weeks ago had been a year and a half after Suga died, and Daichi had still sounded rough. He wanted to come to Tokyo and check on him, but Daichi had assured him he was fine; Asahi knows he probably just threw himself into work and building a new life and ignored his heartbreak, though. It's what Daichi has always done. Even knowing that, he still couldn't bring himself to intrude on the new life Daichi was trying to make for himself. Mostly for petty reasons, like "What if he turns us away?" or "What if he doesn't want any reminders of his old life?"
Asahi had been scared to find out. He'd been so worried that Daichi would tell him that he was fine on his own, without his friends back home, that he couldn't bring himself to ask. So he had waited, patiently, for Daichi to call. To say that he missed them, or thought about them; to say that he was okay now, and wants to get a drink sometime.
And finally… finally, Daichi called.
And brought with him two people that he obviously cares for very much.
He wanted Asahi to know that he's okay now. He wanted to introduce his new friends to his old friends, and show everyone that he's not the same hollowed out shell that he was when he left here, and it makes Asahi so proud. It makes his throat tight and his eyes water, but he holds it together, because now that he knows Daichi is okay, he can tell him.
They can tell him.
"Daichi?" He speaks up, drawing Daichi's attention away from his conversation with Ennoshita and Narita, "Are you going to be busy around the beginning of June?" Nishinoya stops teasing Tsukishima and quickly turns to face them. Daichi blinks, and frowns in thought for a moment.
"I don't think I have anything important… Just work, as far as I know. Why?" Nishinoya's hand finds his under the table, and he smiles.
"Yuu and I are getting married, and I'd like for you to be my best man."
The table had erupted in cheers after that, and the sake and tears had both flowed endlessly.
Daichi had agreed immediately, and though Ryuu was the most obvious person crying, he didn't miss Kenma passing Daichi a small handkerchief not long after.
The night passes so quickly, and all too soon it's time for everyone to go their separate ways. Many more tears are shed, Asahi included, and he promises to see them off at the station before they leave tomorrow, even against Daichi's protests. Kenma is half asleep on Kuroo's back, but the younger man declines Kiyoko and Yachi's offer to drive them back to the hotel, hoping that the cool night air will help him sober up a bit. So they decide to drive Ryuu home instead, because he's definitely celebrated way too much and can't decide if he should be crying or not. Ennoshita volunteers to stay the night with him, to make sure he's alright, and Narita and Kinoshita decide to walk with the younger four to the train station- after Hinata manages to exchange contact information with a very groggy Kenma, of course. Kageyama seems a little jealous that someone else is getting all of his boyfriend's attention, but he doesn't say anything, choosing instead to pout quietly while he waits.
All in all, Asahi counts today as the perfect reunion.
Maybe it was the residual tears in his eyes, or maybe he really did have too much sake, because when he looked over his shoulder to get one more look at Daichi with his new friends he could swear he saw the ghost of Sugawara Koushi floating over the group, watching over them with a soft smile.
When he blinks, Suga is gone.
Chapter 10: Use Me
It looks expensive.
"Are you sure it's alright that we're here?" Bokuto asks, staring at the ceiling in awe, "That vase over there looks like it would cost two month's salary-"
"Don't touch anything!" Akaashi hisses, dragging him towards the front desk, "Don't look, don't touch- don't even breathe on it-"
It's not an onsen trip if someone doesn't end up in tears, amiright?
"We should go on an onsen trip!" Bokuto suggests one evening. Kenma raises a brow but doesn't look away from his laptop screen.
"That's really random," he replies.
"It's not that random! There was that whole special on onsens the other day on tv-"
"Oikawa-san posted pictures of him and Iwaizumi-san at an onsen for their anniversary," Akaashi cuts off Bokuto's protests as he flips through the television channels, "He's been pouting ever since."
"I'm not pouting!" Bokuto cries. "I just thought an onsen trip would be fun!"
"Jealousy is an ugly thing, Bokuto-san," Kenma chastises and adjusts his glasses. Bokuto sqwalks.
"Ko, Honey, the croquettes are gonna burn," Akaashi pauses his channel surfing to look up at his boyfriend, "I don't plan on eating burnt croquettes a third time. It was only endearing when we were teenagers and you didn't have money for a date." Bokuto huffs but dutifully returns to the kitchen to finish dinner.
Akaashi resumes channel surfing while Kenma continues typing away steadily at the code on his screen, eventually stopping on a variety show. The bathroom door opens, and a shirtless Kuroo exits through the steam, one hand ruffling his hair dry with a towel, the other holding his cell phone.
"You guys wanna go to an onsen?" He asks. Kenma shrugs.
"As long as I'm not paying," Akaashi jokes. Kuroo nods and begins typing on his phone.
"Cool, cool. I'll let Daichi know to make a reservation for five."
"It's been a long time since I've been to an onsen," Akaashi muses, "it sounds like fun."
"Are you kidding me?!" Bokuto cries from the kitchen.
"It was a three day, two night trip for four, so I was going to just give it to you guys, because I don't know three other people I would want to go to an onsen with, but Koushi really wanted to go," Daichi sighs, "so I called, and paying for one person isn't that expensive; I figured why not, you know?"
"However it came about, we're very grateful that you thought of us," Akaashi assures. "Bokuto had been talking about taking a trip to an onsen recently as well, so it was perfect timing, really."
"I'm glad it all worked out!" Bokuto laughs. As the only one with a licence, Bokuto is driving everyone to the onsen in the small rental van he reserved a few days earlier. Instead of taking a train, the man had reasoned that a rental car would be cheaper and less of a hassle in the long run, so he and Kuroo had split the cost of a three day rental.
Bokuto and Akaashi are in the two front seats, followed by Daichi and Kenma in the middle row with Suga and Kuroo in the very back. Kenma was sure that Suga would be talking excitedly and enjoying the view like he had every other time they all went on a trip, but for some reason, the spirit has been unusually quiet as he watches the passing trees and buildings. It's odd, considering they're going to Hakone- the perfect spot to cross off at least a couple of the things on Suga's list.
Suga catches Kenma watching him and smiles. "It's a good day for a trip, don't you think?" Kenma nods and Suga goes back to watching the scenery quietly, and it's weird. He and Kuroo share a look, but neither one wants to bring it up in the car, especially not with the lighthearted conversation that's going on right now. It could be nothing, and bringing it up would cause unnecessary concern, so Kenma makes a mental note to ask Suga later, once they have some time alone.
Or maybe he won't have to..?
When they arrive at the inn, Suga seems to have regained his usual vigor and excitement. "Make sure you get plenty of pictures!" He calls, running up to pose beside Bokuto and Akaashi as they take a selfie in front of the inn. Kuroo laughs and quickly snaps a few pictures of Suga being silly. Even if no one else can see him, they can- for now anyways. Out of curiosity, Kenma snaps a picture of Suga balancing on the stair railing, but before he gets a chance to look at the picture, Daichi is calling for them to hurry up.
The inside is like nothing Kenma has ever seen before- wooden chandeliers, an unlit Irori fireplace, surrounded by a few seating cushions, and a gorgeous view through the large, glass windows, overlooking the trees and a small koi pond.
It looks expensive.
"Are you sure it's alright that we're here?" Bokuto asks, staring at the ceiling in awe, "That vase over there looks like it would cost two month's salary-"
"Don't touch anything!" Akaashi hisses, dragging him towards the front desk, "Don't look, don't touch- don't even breathe on it-"
Daichi laughs as he rings the small courtesy bell. "I didn't realize the place was so high scale, but I guess that's why it was the grand prize in the lottery at work."
"I'll say," Kuroo whistles.
The elderly Okami gets them checked in and has one of the attendants in an orange and yellow kimono escort them to their room and show them around the inn. Instead of paying for a second room, the Okami was nice enough to allow Daichi to sleep in the same room as everyone else. Bokuto goes straight to the balcony when they enter their room and opens the sliding doors.
"Ahhh, the view is amazing~!" Bokuto exclaims. Suga rushes out as well to spread his arms and turn his face towards the sun.
"The breeze is so nice!" Suga calls, "We could leave the doors open and let in the sunlight!"
"I think I'll go check out that citrus bath the Okami mentioned before they drain the water. It's only available for another hour," Akaashi sets his bag on top of the small table in the center of the room and begins rifling through it to find his bathing supplies. Bokuto hums as he steps back inside the room.
"I'll go too! I've never had a citrus bath before!"
"They're great for your pores," Suga says, leaning back against the balcony railing.
"Suga-san says it's good for your skin," Kenma relays, opening up his own suitcase, "opens up your pores and stuff."
"Mmm, sounds great!" Bokuto is already grabbing his stuff as well, "You guys coming too?"
"Nah, I think we'll relax in the room a bit," Kuroo flops onto the small couch with a huff, "We'll hit the outdoor bath after dinner."
"We'll be back in a bit," Akaashi says, "I'm taking one of the room keys!" He slips the small plastic card into his pocket before heading out the door, Bokuto close behind. The door closes with a snick, locking automatically behind them, and leaving the four remaining occupants in silence. Kenma sets his laptop and charger on the table, along with his black glasses case, and zips up the bag again.
Kuroo is lounging on the couch still, eyes closed and posture lax, possibly preparing for a nap, and Daichi has wandered out onto the balcony as well, unknowingly stopping to lean against the railing right beside Suga. Kenma wants to try and get more work done on his current video game, but something feels… off. Suga is too quiet, and Daichi looks tense-
"Are you two fighting or something?" Kuroo asks, not opening his eyes. Daichi flinches and Suga sighs, gaze dropping from the sky to the floor. "Oh, was I right?" He cranes his neck backwards to look at the pair over the arm of the couch upside down.
"Actually, I wanted to talk to you guys about that…" Daichi replies after a moment, still facing away from Kuroo and Kenma. When he finally turns to face them, he's frowning, concern and confusion written all over his face, "You guys… you can still see Koushi, right?"
Kenma blinks, caught off guard, but nods slowly as he looks between the two. "He's… Suga-san is definitely still there." Daichi doesn't seem as relieved as Kenma thought he would. In fact, he looks even more confused. "Why?"
"It's just," Daichi runs a hand through his hair, "after I found out that Koushi was still there, I started talking to him, and Koushi and I found ways to communicate at home, just the two of us. But recently… it just seems like our communications are fewer and farther between. Sometimes he just wont respond, or his responses will be short and to the point. I don't think I did anything to upset him, but," Daichi shrugs.
Kenma looks over at Suga who hasn't really moved from his place against the railing. "Suga-san?" The older man sighs and rubs the back of his neck.
"I'm not mad at him, I just…" he purses his lips, eyebrows drawn, "I'm trying to prepare him, I guess."
"Prepare him for wh-" Kuroo stops mid sentence when it clicks, "oh."
"He's getting too comfortable having me around again, and relying on me for small stuff, and I'm," he gives a tired smile, "I'm dead. In another few months, even my spirit won't be here and I… I don't want a repeat of last time."
"Yeah, no- I get that." Kuroo agrees, pushing into a sitting position, "Slowly phasing out might be best."
"Phasing out..?" Daichi asks carefully. Kuroo smiles reassuringly.
"Not in the literal sense; he's still here, but… he won't be one day." Kenma watches Daichi's throat bob as he swallows, "You knew that from the start, Daichi. We're doing this to help him pass on- so he can move to the after life. He's dead, Daichi. He can't stay here forever." Kuroo's blunt words pierce Kenma's heart, so he can only imagine how hurt Daichi must feel.
"Suga-san has been limiting his interactions to help make it easier when it actually happens, that way it's not such a big shock this time around."
No one speaks for a long moment, until Daichi finally gives a small nod.
"I guess I had gotten so used to having Koushi back I…" he trails off quietly.
"He's still here for now," Kuroo assures, "no one's sure how long he'll still be here, though. All you can do is make the most out of it, but don't forget what will eventually happen."
Suga quickly proposes a walk around the grounds to lift the somber mood that had filled the room, and though Kenma desperately wanted to work on his game, he wanted to erase the sour feeling in the pit of his stomach even more. Suga is his usual talkative self out in the gardens, and takes great pleasure in surprising Daichi with a splash of water as they pass the koi pond.
When they make it back inside, Akaashi and Bokuto have already returned and are watching a movie on the television hanging on the wall. The rest of the evening is full of conversation and food and distractions- so many distractions that Kenma almost forgets that Suga is hiding something.
When he notices Suga step out onto the balcony while Bokuto, Kuroo, and Daichi are losing to Akaashi at UNO, he remembers what he wanted to ask the spirit earlier. Suga is leaning against the railing again, admiring the few stars he can see through the partially cloudy sky when Kenma walks out, and Kenma has to admit, the night sky is beautiful.
"You're not stepping back for Daichi's benefit, are you?" He asks quietly, unwilling to beat around the bush. Suga smiles at him.
"Am I not?"
The wind picks that moment to shift the clouds, allowing the light of the half moon to illuminate the shadowy balcony, and Kenma's breath catches. He had known- he had guessed- but seeing it first hand is-
"You don't have enough spiritual energy left to continue the way you were," he murmurs, eyes raking over Suga's form, "taking naps and not interacting with Daichi, being so subdued- you're fading away."
Suga laughs softly, and Kenma watches as Suga holds one hand up to inspect for himself: he's mostly translucent. The way the moonlight reflects off of him seems to make him shimmer, unlike anything Kenma's ever seen.
"I guess I'm busted," Suga says. His arms fall back to his sides. "Like you said, I haven't been able to exert as much energy. I started feeling the change a few weeks ago." When Suga smiles again, something inside Kenma dies a little, "It looks like I don't have much time left with you guys."
Kenma is startled awake by a knock on the door, and a voice announcing that breakfast will be served in half an hour.
Instead of stretching and getting ready to greet the day like Kuroo and Bokuto, he pulls the blanket tighter around his body and buries his face in the overly plush pillow. He couldn't fall asleep last night after talking to Suga on the balcony. Akaashi had come out to find Kenma so they could start preparing for bed, so they didn't get to talk much longer than that, but Suga had made him promise not to tell Daichi or Kuroo that he didn't have much time left.
Kenma didn't get much sleep.
The door opens and closes again, and when Kenma peeks out from under the blanket, he finds Akaashi glistening with sweat as he removes his earbuds. Kenma pulls the blanket back over his head with a small huff.
Who goes for a morning run on vacation?
"Oh, you went for a run?" He hears Daichi say, "That sounds nice. Maybe I'll go for a light jog after breakfast." Kenma wrinkles his nose in distaste.
"So what should we do today?" Bokuto asks after a large yawn.
"If we're doing any hiking, we better go before lunch. The Okami said a storm is moving in this afternoon." Kenma can hear Akaashi rifling through his bag, "I'm going to get a quick soak in before breakfast."
Kenma's blanket shifts and Kuroo's arms are wrapping themselves around his body and pulling him back against Kuroo's shirtless chest. "Everything okay?" He asks quietly, nosing at the nape of Kenma's neck.
"Just had trouble sleeping," Kenma mumbles. Kuroo hums softly but doesn't press the issue.
"Do you want to stay in today?" He asks instead.
"No," Kenma sighs, "I'll go with everyone."
He lowers his blanket just in time to watch Daichi strip his sleep shirt over his head, putting his broad, muscled back on display. Even though Daichi said he only does light exercises now, his muscles are still very well defined and visible. Kenma knows he's staring way too hard because Kuroo starts laughing as he rises from the futon, his lips pulled up into a sly grin.
He ignores the knowing looks Suga and Kuroo keep sending him when Kenma can't meet Daichi's eyes at the breakfast table.
The storm rolls in just after lunch like the Okami said it would, forcing the group to make use of the ryokan's entertainment facilities.
Akaashi and Kenma refuse to sing karaoke, and Bokuto refuses to play (read: lose at) UNO again, so they wind up playing ping pong. It's all fun and games until Bokuto serves too hard and the ball is sent flying into Akaashi's forehead.
Akaashi is merciless in his playing after that.
Kenma finds himself back on the balcony again tonight, watching the rain pour and the wind shake the trees while he listens to the sound of Kuroo and Bokuto argue over whether or not that ball was "in".
Fingers are running through his hair, but they're not familiar. When he looks to his left, he finds Suga there, wearing a melancholic expression. "We'll be going home tomorrow." Kenma hums in acknowledgment. "We only got to sight see a little because of the storm, but it was a fun trip." Kenma doesn't reply. The silence stretches out, until finally Suga sighs, "Are you still upset about yesterday?"
"I'm not upset," Kenma huffs. Suga scoffs.
"Sure you're not."
"I'm not." He insists. It's a weak lie.
"This is what was supposed to happen anyways," Suga shrugs, "I finish up my business here, say my goodbyes to Daichi and then…" he trails off, eyes never leaving Daichi's face, lightly flushed from playing so hard and smile wide, "I should probably say goodbye tonight, though…"
"Why?" Kenma's heart clenches. He knew it was coming soon, but-
Suga smiles, but it's small and forced. "When I say I don't have long left, I mean it. I can barely hold a pen for ten minutes a day now. If I wait any longer, I'll have no way to tell Daichi anything except through you and Kuroo, and that would be embarrassing on all of our parts."
Kenma hates this. All of it. He hates that he's gotten so attached to Daichi and Suga, he hates that he had so much fun with them that he nearly forgot about what has to happen in the end, and most of all, he hates himself for what he's about to suggest.
Being possessed was unlike anything Kenma had ever experienced before, so trying to describe the feeling is a little difficult.
Your body moves, even when you beg it not to, and the words you hear pour forth from your lips are spoken in your voice, but they're not your words. You watch things happen and you watch yourself do these things and you have absolutely no control over any of it. There's another voice in your head, another person inside you, and it's terrifying.
He was possessed as a child once, by a vengeful spirit. It was a woman who had hung herself after finding her husband with another woman, but she couldn't pass on with all her pent up anger. At first, she had simply seemed like a sad, lonely spirit, and Kenma would spend time with her on the bottom of the stone stairs that she would appear on. He hoped that maybe his company would help soothe her, and maybe she could pass on peacefully, but one day, when he arrived at the shrine stairs, there was a knife.
An eerie feeling began to creep over him, but before he could get away, she had taken him over. Kenma vividly remembers picking up the knife and staggering up the stairs. The spirit had been leading him to a couple praying by the shrine, knife held shakily in both hands, and if the old man who runs the shrine hadn't been out and taking care of the grounds, Kenma knows he would have done something unforgivable.
The priest had caught him and forcibly exorcised the spirit, and called his parents to come get him. It was on that day that Kuroo decided to learn how to exorcise spirits as well.
"I want to protect Kenma!"
The priest gave Kenma a pendant to protect him, and began teaching Kuroo, and Kenma had only taken the pendant off a few times since then out of fear of a spirit catching him with his guard down.
Now, he stares down at the small red stone placed carefully beside his pillow, butterflies wreaking havoc in his stomach; he can't believe he's about to do this.
Daichi wakes to the feeling of something- some one- carefully climbing into his futon. He scrunches his nose and pries his eyes open to look around the darkened room. After blinking a few times, his vision finally clears enough for him to recognize the small body next to him.
"Kenma?" He rasps, confused, "Is everything okay?" When Kenma looks up at him, Daichi frowns. Maybe it's the limited amount of light, or maybe it's just because he's still trying to wake up, but something seems… off. Kenma scoots even closer, not stopping until their chests are inches apart and his hand is cupping Daichi's cheek. Daichi swallows hard, suddenly wide awake and very fucking confused and concerned-
"Daichi," Kenma whispers, and Daichi's heart soars into his throat. That was Kenma's voice, and this is Kenma, but the way he's looking at Daichi- the way their bodies fit together and how Kenma's slim fingers are sliding through his hair can only be-
"Koushi?" He breathes. Amber orbs seem to shimmer as Kenma smiles softly. He gives a small smile and Daichi can't find his words. "What? Why are you-? What's going on?"
"Shhh," Kenma- no, Koushi laughs softly, "Don't wake everyone up…" after waiting a moment to make sure no one stirs, Koushi resumes combing his fingers through Daichi's hair. "Kenma is letting me borrow his body for a little bit. I wanted to talk to you."
Daichi has a bad feeling about this. "About what..?" He asks, a little hesitant as he rests his hand on Kenma's hip. Suga's smile is full of sadness, and Daichi feels his stomach sinking. "No-"
"Daichi," Koushi cuts him off, hand gliding down to cup Daichi's cheek, "I don't have much time left-"
"I already know-"
"Less than that," Koushi purses his lips, "I lied yesterday. I haven't been weaning off contact, I… I haven't been able to do much the past few weeks. I can't hold anything for long periods of time anymore. I can't stay awake like I used to. I'm fading away."
It feels like there's a rock in Daichi's throat. His eyes are burning with unshed tears as he grips Kenma's sleeping kimono.
He knew this would happen eventually. Kuroo told him repeatedly to be prepared, Kenma asked if he was sure multiple times before they started this adventure- and that's what this has been. It's been an adventure in every sense of the word. He knew Koushi would eventually leave again… but he couldn't stop himself from being happy.
He finally had Koushi back, and he enjoyed it too much.
"I'm sorry, Daichi," Koushi continues quietly, "I don't know if it'll be easier or more difficult to say goodbye a second time. To be honest, I didn't think you would actually go through with this- this bucket list adventure- I was so sure you were going to tell them off last year and leave," he laughs a little, "but then you went back. And you started talking to me, and it," Koushi's voice breaks. His eyes are full of unshed tears, just as Daichi knows his own are. He takes a deep, slow breath and lets it out before trying again, "it was different, but it felt like old times. I thought I was fine just watching over you, but god did I miss being there with you." Koushi sniffs, tears finally overflowing.
Daichi cups Kenma's cheeks in his hands and presses their foreheads together.
"I had so much I wanted to say to you. I had a whole speech," Koushi warbles, hands coming up to cling to the front of Daichi's sleep shirt. Daichi huffs a broken laugh.
"Of course you did." Koushi laughs quietly too. "These past few months have been… So much fun." Daichi keeps his eyes closed as he talks, because like this, it's just he and Koushi in their bed at home, the blankets pulled up to their ears as they promise each other the world. "When you died, my world stopped. Koushi, everything I had, everything I did, began and ended with you. You made me realize I was gay. You helped me figure out what to do after my knee injury. You helped me study and apply for colleges and jobs and practice my interviews- when I thought of my future, you were always right there in the center- you were my sun." He feels more than hears Koushi's sob. "People can't live without the sun."
"That's not fair," Koushi croaks, "you know I'm weak to stuff like that."
"I think you cried at every rom com we ever watched together," Daichi laughs at the memory. His smile falls away as he rubs his thumbs over Kenma's cheek bones. "Thank you, Koushi, for making me want to live again. If you hadn't asked to pass on… if you and Kenma and Kuroo hadn't pushed me out of my comfort zone…"
"When we were in our third year, I came down with pneumonia. You stayed the nights at the hospital with me, because mom was working double shifts," Koushi murmurs, "You promised to take me anywhere and everywhere I wanted to go. Do you remember?"
"Of course I do," Daichi replies, just as quiet, "I finally got to fulfill our promise."
"You did," Koushi's nose brushes against his, his hot breath ghosting over Daichi's lips, "you took me to places I never dreamed I'd get to see first hand. And maybe you didn't find a new sun, but you found so many new stars to light your path through the darkness… You found your way back out of the dark." Daichi swallows against the knot in his throat and nods slowly, "Thank you, Daichi… for all of these years. Thank you for loving me."
Kenma's lips are soft against his, and Daichi knows he should pull away from this kiss- as much as he wants it to be Koushi, it isn't- but he's weak.
He wraps his arms around Kenma's waist and pulls the lithe body closer.
He'll hate himself tomorrow, but right now…
Right now he has Koushi in his arms, and he doesn't want to let go yet.
Kenma wakes to someone shaking his shoulder, and he's fully prepared to throw hands with Taketora because the emergency key is for emergencies only, damn it-
But when he opens his eyes, it's Akaashi kneeling beside him, still in his sleeping clothes and frowning.
"Look, I know I'm the one who's been pushing you to "make a move" or "confess your feelings" and shit, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined you would pull something like this," he waves a hand at Kenma, "And while I'm a little bit proud and awed, I'm a little bit more concerned about what your boyfriend is gonna say when he finds out you attacked another man in his sleep without him."
Now it's Kenma's turn to frown as he tries to figure out what exactly Akaashi is talking about. "Attacked..?"
The events of last night hit him like a lightning bolt and Kenma is scrambling out of Daichi's futon faster than Akaashi can move away.
They had kissed. Suga and Daichi- He and Daichi-
"Kenma?" Akaashi is kneeling beside him again, brow creased in concern this time, "Are you okay? What happened last night?"
Kenma swallows, throat bobbing as he runs a hand through his hair, "I… I kissed Daichi…"
Chapter 11: The End and The Beginning
It's Asahi and Nishinoya's wedding day, but Daichi shows up alone.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of those who celebrate it! I don't think there's a better day than today to post this particular chapter. 💕
I hope you've enjoyed the story! This is definitely one of my longer stories, so thank you to everyone who has chosen to give it a read! I hope you'll all enjoy the conclusion, and continue to support me in my future works.
"You really don't have to do this," Suga tries to talk Kenma out of this again as he watches the younger man carefully take his pendant off and lay it beside his pillow, "I can write a note. Or you could! Honestly, just writing my words for me would be good enough-"
"It's not enough," Kenma's voice is quiet but firm, "You're saying goodbye for the last time- just a letter could never be enough." Suga can't really deny that.
"Why are you willing to go this far?" He asks instead. Kenma is quiet for a moment, fingers tight on the blanket covering his lap.
"Because if I were you… I'd want someone to do this for me too."
Suga fights against the wave of emotions threatening to choke him and bows his head. "Thank you," he whispers. Kenma shrugs, acting like it's no big deal, but Suga won't let him pretend that this doesn't matter. Suga takes Kenma's hands in his own and bows even lower, pressing his forehead to his knuckles. "Thank you for everything you and Kuroo have done these past few months. For showing me new things, and pulling Daichi out of his grief- for giving me a chance to say goodbye-" his bottom lip trembles and he knows he's not going to be able to say much more without crying, "Thank you."
Kenma's hands grip his tightly, and when he raises his head, Kenma's eyes are glistening with unshed tears. Suga sniffs and smiles.
"Please, take care of Daichi for me."
"The wedding is tomorrow," Kuroo reminds Kenma as he folds the laundry. Kenma doesn't respond. "Are we going? Because if we are, we need to pack our bags, I need to make reservations and buy train tickets," he trails off. Kenma frowns at his computer screen, fingers pausing in their typing.
"I have to turn in a report tomorrow on my coding progress…" he mumbles. It's not a lie- he has to turn in a report by lunch tomorrow, but-
"You're two weeks ahead of schedule." Kuroo deadpans, "You've been working on it non-stop since the onsen thing two weeks ago, Kenma. If you're gonna make excuses not to go, pick a better one." Kenma exhales heavily and presses the heels of his palms against his eyes, regretting not wearing his reading glasses now that his head is pounding.
"Do we even need to go?" He snaps, "They're not even our friends-"
"It's funny that you can say that like you think I don't know how often you and Chibi-chan message one another," Kuroo snarks right back. "Look, I know what happened was embarrassing and awkward for you and Daichi, but it was one kiss. And it wasn't even of your own volition!"
Just thinking about it again makes his stomach knot up for multiple reasons. There's the obvious "Nothing Even Happened, But My Friend Caught Me In Bed With Another Guy" embarrassment, plus the "I Kissed Someone Who is Emotionally Vulnerable" anxiety added to the "I Kissed Someone Who Isn't My Boyfriend" anxiety and it all just makes him nauseous.
Akaashi hadn't made a big deal of it, and thankfully kept Bokuto distracted enough that he didn't ask why Kenma and Daichi could hardly look at one another, let alone speak to one another. Kuroo figured it out fairly easily, and to his credit, he hadn't been angry so much as concerned for both of them.
And maybe Kenma could have shaken it off by now if Daichi hadn't apologized. Or maybe- if he had apologized differently? Regardless, the icing on top of the Embarrassment Cake was Daichi saying "I'm so sorry. I got caught up in the moment with Koushi and the emotions- I got carried away remembering and imagining Koushi, and I shouldn't have done that. Please believe me when I say I never would have done that otherwise."
Kenma had already been pretty sure Daichi didn't feel anything for him, but it really doesn't get any clearer than that, does it..? "I never would have kissed you if you weren't possessed by my dead husband."
Logically, Kenma knows that's probably the right answer. Daichi is absolutely still in love with Koushi, and he knows Kuroo and Kenma are dating- it's only proper to apologize for kissing someone in a relationship when you're also in love with someone else, but damn does it sting. Kenma exhales heavily and falls sideways onto the couch, knees curled up to his chest.
"I don't know how to face him now." Kenma mumbles.
"Just like we always have," Kuroo smiles as he sits beside Kenma's head. "It's not like we were aiming to date him in the first place, right? What happened to all that "It's just a crush. It doesn't mean anything," you were spouting off with?" he teases, running his fingers through Kenma's hair.
Kenma puffs his cheeks out in a pout. "It's still just a crush."
"Good. Then there's nothing to worry about, right? We just go and be the support Daichi needs, and congratulate the newlyweds and wish them well." Kuroo nods to himself. Kenma frowns, still not sure about it all. "If anything, the whole experience was even more evidence of Daichi being a terrific guy. He apologized for kissing you because he knows you're in a relationship, and said it wouldn't have happened under normal circumstances- which is great, because if I caught him making a move on you otherwise, I'd probably have been pissed off, but-"
"Kuroo," Kenma laughs, hands coming up to cover his face, "no one is making a move on me."
"I'm sure tons of people would try to make a move on you if I wasn't around, but that's not what we're talking about," Kuroo waves him off and Kenma rolls his eyes, "my point is! He respects boundaries! Both spoken and unspoken! He's been consistently good to us, without expecting anything in return and, as seen with Suga-san, he's fiercely loyal!"
"What are you, his dating profile?"
"All I'm saying," Kuroo ignores him and continues, "is that he did the right thing, and that makes him ten times hotter."
"Thank you, Chemistry Professor Kuroo," Kenma sits up with a huff. Kuroo clicks his tongue and flicks Kenma's forehead. Kenma squints at the older man and rubs at the small red mark.
"In conclusion, pack your suitcase. We have to catch a train."
Daichi adjusts his bowtie for the fifth time in as many minutes and exhales slowly.
In exactly one hour, two of his very best friends will be married. The thought brings a smile to his lips as he rubs his thumb over the silver band over his ring finger.
The celebration for Asahi and Nishinoya is certainly much bigger than the one Suga and Daichi had, but it seems like the weather will be much the same, Daichi muses, as he watches the clouds begin to roll in. Their ceremony had been just a small thing at the shrine nearby, less than twenty people in total, followed by a reception at Nishinoya's family home. It hadn't rained during the ceremony, but as soon as they made it back to the Nishinoya home to celebrate, it began to pour.
Koushi hadn't cared, though. They cleared the furniture out of the living room and danced on the tatami in their socks instead.
Sugawara Miyo, Koushi's mother, had taken enough photos to fill two albums, but when Daichi moved away, he left it all with her. He couldn't bear to look at them.
He kind of wishes he had kept them, though.
"The wind is picking up," Daichi looks up to find Asahi taking a seat on the stone stairs next to him. "I hope the storm holds off until we make it to the reception hall at least."
He sounds okay, but Daichi can tell he's nervous- Asahi can't seem to stop bouncing his leg. Daichi smiles at the taller man, amused.
"Everything will be great!" Daichi assures him, throwing an arm over Asahi's shoulders, "Rain on your wedding day is supposed to be a good sign!" Asahi laughs a little, some of the tension bleeding out of his rigid shoulders.
"You're probably right. You and Suga had such a beautiful wedding day; it's hard to think rain can bring anything but happiness and future growth." Daichi's smile softens.
Asahi pulls out of Daichi's hold to look him in the eyes, the concern on his face easily readable. "This is- it isn't too much, is it? Being back here, with everyone..?"
"No, no!" Daichi shakes his head, "I'm fine! To be honest, it's kind of nice to be back here with everyone." He smiles again, "I really missed you guys."
"You could always move back," Asahi jokes, "we have a spare room, you know?"
"I've thought about it," Daichi laughs, "but you're about to be newlyweds, and I don't want to third wheel on that."
"I promise we wouldn't mind." Asahi assures. When Daichi just huffs another small laugh, Asahi tilts his head and stares at Daichi for a silent moment. "Your friends- Kenma and Kuroo… is everything okay with them..? I know it's not my place to butt in, and if you don't want to talk about it, I won't ask again, I just… they're not here, and you seem down." Asahi rambles.
Daichi considers lying.
He doesn't want Asahi to worry about him on his wedding day, for crying out loud. But Asahi knows him too well. Asahi would only be more concerned if Daichi were to say everything is fine when Daichi isn't even sure if things are going well. He hasn't contacted either man much since their stay at the ryokan. Kuroo still messages like normal, so Daichi tries not to worry so much about it, but Kenma…
Kuroo says Kenma's just been swamped at work, and who knows, maybe he has; Daichi doesn't know the first thing about game designing. But a greater part of Daichi is more concerned that Kenma feels betrayed.
Kenma graciously allowed Koushi to use his body to say a final goodbye and Daichi had assaulted him. Sure, he had apologized, but thinking everything could go back to normal is the height of naivety. He kissed someone who was in a relationship. Kenma and Kuroo had been nothing but good to him, and had gone above and beyond for him and Koushi, and he repaid them by taking advantage of Kenma's body.
He's the lowest of the low.
Daichi sighs and runs a hand through his hair.
"Actually… I think I messed everything up."
"Wow," Asahi breathes, eyes wide, "so Suga was… Suga was there the whole time..?"
There wasn't really any way to say "I kissed Kenma because he wasn't exactly Kenma at the time" so Daichi had to explain the whole situation to him. Asahi seems to be taking it pretty well, in Daichi's opinion.
"He was," Daichi nods. "As far as I know, he's still here-"
"Here like- here?" Asahi's eyes flick around, searching, expression nervous and expectant; fearful and hesitant, yet hopeful and excited. Daichi recognizes the expression because he wore it only a few months ago. Daichi pulls his phone out of his pocket and opens up the notes function before placing his phone palm up in his hand. After some trial and error over the last few months, they realized that tapping on digital devices like cell phones and tablets require much less energy. Now that he knows Suga is unable to use much spiritual energy recently, Daichi has taken to leaving his cell phone or tablet in an easy to use place so he can watch for messages from him. Suga only uses it once in a while, but Daichi finds himself constantly checking the screens anyways.
Asahi watches the screen closely, a little confused, but the confusion quickly turns into awe when a small message appears on the screen one letter at a time:
"Congratulations, Asahi!!!! I'm so proud of you!!! ;w;"
"Holy cow," Asahi croaks, eyes rapidly filling with tears, "Suga!"
Daichi nods, smile wide. "He can't do much recently, because a lack of energy."
"That means he'll be passing on soon," Asahi sniffs and swipes at his eyes. "That's- I don't even have words, I… losing him twice must be awful- Daichi, I'm so sorry." Asahi gives him the heartbroken look he knew he would, and Daichi gives him a small smile.
"It's actually not as bad the second time," Asahi looks skeptical, so Daichi explains more in detail, "I knew it was coming this time, so I'm not completely blindsided. I've lived without him for over two years, and I'm not a pro at living alone, but I'm not floundering by myself anymore. Plus," he pauses here, "Kenma and Kuroo have been really great at keeping me distracted, but also preparing me for it. They've really been a big help."
"You hear that, Kenma?" Daichi startles and whirls around, "You're a good distraction!" Kenma and Kuroo are standing at the top of the stone stairs, dressed in crisp button downs and pressed pants, looking like they just stepped out of the pages of a magazine.
"You guys- what..?" Daichi opens and closes his mouth, trying to figure out what he's even trying to ask. Asahi rises to his feet, drawing Daichi's attention back to him.
"I still have a few things to take care of before the ceremony, so I'll head in first," he smiles at Daichi and pats his shoulder reassuringly, "I'll see you in there!"
Asahi bows his head slightly as he passes by the couple on the way back upstairs and Kuroo does the same. Daichi brushes the dirt off his butt as he rises to his feet to be closer to eye level with the other two, "I didn't think you guys were coming." He says truthfully.
Kuroo shrugs, smile still friendly, "We weren't sure we were either. But, your friends are good people, you're a good person, and we wanted to be here for you."
Daichi laughs softly as he rubs the back of his neck, but it's strained and awkward, "I'm definitely not a good person, but thank you for being here for Asahi and Nishinoya. They really liked you guys when you visited-"
"I'm not mad about it," Kenma interrupts him quietly but forcefully, "the kiss." He hunches his shoulders, also looking awkward, and Kuroo's hand comes up to grip the shorter man's shoulder reassuringly. Kenma is quiet for a moment, but Daichi doesn't speak; he looks like he's got a lot to say, and he doesn't want to interrupt that. "Kuroo and I… our relationship is…" Kenma seems to be struggling when he looks up at Kuroo.
"What Kenma is trying to say, is that things happen," Kuroo supplies helpfully. "We know you weren't trying to make a move on Kenma, or take advantage of him while he was out of it. You're not that kind of person."
"I'm sorry for ignoring your messages," Kenma speaks up again, his gaze still on the ground in front of him, "I was trying to distance myself, because I felt guilty." Daichi frowns, confused.
"Guilty..? What would you have to feel guilty about?" Kenma exhales heavily and finally looks up at Daichi from under his lashes.
"Because we were just supposed to be helping you cope with Suga-san's passing, but we caught feelings for you." Daichi's speechless, "The kiss… Suga-san was really crafty and just shoved me back into control of everything, and I should have stopped it, because you were emotionally unstable and vulnerable, but-"
"Wait, wait- you said-" Daichi runs a hand through his hair, brain replaying that night again for the nth time, "I didn't kiss Koushi??"
"You did," Kenma rushes to assure him, "that was all Suga-san- but sometime during the kiss he," Kenma shrugs, looking more awkward the longer they talk about it, "forced his way out of my body… and I… didn't push you away…"
"We have a lot to talk about later," Kuroo takes charge of the conversation after Kenma trails off and Daichi can't seem find his words, "but for now, we should probably get in there before the wedding starts without the best man."
Daichi is in a daze for most of the ceremony.
His brain is stuck on a loop, going from the kiss that night at the ryokan to Kenma on the stairs of the temple saying "But sometime during the kiss, he forced his way out of my body… and I… didn't push you away…"
What does that even mean?
Kenma- Kenma knew they were kissing, but he didn't mind..? Kuroo knows that Kenma kissed him and isn't upset at him?
Daichi is more than a little confused.
When he looks out over the crowd, everyone's attention is focused on the couple getting married, as they should be, and Daichi feels a little guilty for being stuck in his own head while he's supposed to be watching two of his best friends get married.
Kenma and Kuroo are seated near the back of the building where the guests are more spread out. Daichi can see their lips moving, their facial expressions changing, and he's not sure if they're talking amongst themselves or maybe to Koushi, but they seem pretty serious. Kuroo's eyes suddenly meet his and Daichi startles. He quickly turns his attention back to the ceremony in front of him just in time to pass Asahi the ring for Nishinoya.
He doesn't let himself get distracted for the rest of the ceremony. Like Kuroo had said, they can talk about it later.
He watches Nishinoya and Asahi exchange rings and vows, and passes Asahi his handkerchief when the taller man gets choked up at the end. He smiles and cheers and claps with everyone else after they kiss, and watches them walk back down the aisle together, hand in hand towards the exit. Then something catches his eye.
When he looks back to where Kenma and Kuroo were- still are- he sees him.
Koushi is there.
He's barely visible now, not anything like he was in the reflection off the ferris wheel window, looking well and truly like a ghost standing at the back of the room. He's smiling, though, and clapping and cheering- Daichi feels his breath catch when Koushi turns to look at him.
Koushi's smile softens as he raises his hand and waves. His lips move, mouthing the words "Good bye."
Daichi's stomach sinks as he watches as Koushi disappears for the last time.
"Do you have the incense?" Kuroo asks as he grabs a small wooden bucket from the stack next to the entrance. Daichi holds the grocery bag out, lips pursed.
"You saw me buy it not twenty minutes ago, Kuroo."
"I'm just making sure!" Kuroo clicks his tongue and moves to fill the bucket up, "You have a bad habit of setting things down and forgetting them-"
"One time," Daichi sighs, "I did that one time-"
"You left behind your entire briefcase," Kenma chimes in, "it was pretty bad."
"One time!" Daichi reminds him. Kenma shrugs, eyebrows raised.
"That we know of. Maybe you did it more often before we met you."
"Maybe you left stuff behind a ton," Kuroo agrees, "and now that we're here to remind you, the frequency has gone down!"
"You're welcome." Kenma pats Daichi's chest as he passes by him and Daichi sighs exaggeratedly. Kenma's lips quirk up into a smile even as he tucks his hands deeper into his jacket pockets and shivers. He didn't think it possible, but it's much colder up here than in Tokyo.
The mood becomes a little more somber as they stroll the lines of gravestones, some bursting with flowers, others bare. Daichi leads them to the last row and stops in front of a grave already covered in flowers and smiles. "Looks like I'm the last one here this year," he muses.
"I guess we didn't need this," Kuroo gives the bucket of water in his hand a small shake.
"We can always wash someone else's headstone with it," Kenma suggests, kneeling down to carefully place the bouquet of flowers against the headstone. The pink Peonies and vibrant Posies make the cold stone look more warm and welcoming, especially with all the other brightly colored flowers surrounding the engraved stone. Daichi kneels as well to pull out the small box of incense out of his bag and Kenma's eyes are drawn to the ring hanging from the black cord around Daichi's neck.
Suga has been gone for eight months now.
It was really hard not to break down during the celebration after the ceremony, but Daichi had held it together well. He made his speech and led the toast, and was even convinced to dance a couple times. But he obviously hadn't been completely distracted because when Kuroo and Kenma tried to quietly slip out, Daichi had been right behind them.
"He's… he's really gone this time, isn't he?" Daichi had asked.
"Yeah," Kuroo nodded, hands shoved deep into his pockets and expression somber, "he's really gone this time."
That night was so very, very long.
Kenma doesn't even remember what time they got back to the hotel after walking around town for hours, but he remembers waking up around noon with puffy eyes and Daichi's face a foot from his own. Kuroo had been spooned around him, and the hotel bed, while definitely large, was not meant for three people.
Relationship progress was a slow thing, but Kuroo and Kenma were honest and upfront from the beginning: "We like you. And we'd like to build a relationship with you in the future. We're not asking for anything more than friendship right now, and we're definitely not asking for you to "think about it" right now- you're in a very vulnerable place, even if you don't think you are, and we don't want you to regret anything. So for now, we're all just friends. Nothing will change unless we all decide on it; we'll still have coffee and go places and have monthly movie nights. We're here for you, Daichi, no matter what."
And what Kuroo had said stayed true; nothing changed. They were just good friends who got coffee together when their schedules allowed for it, and occasionally took spontaneous day trips. They had dinner together once a month with Bokuto and Akaashi, and when Daichi's friends came all the way to Tokyo to visit, Kenma called in to work so he could help Daichi show them around town. He was absolutely exhausted afterwards, but Daichi had thanked him with apple pie and ice cream, so he couldn't really complain too hard about it.
Nothing changed until Kenma's birthday, when Daichi had shyly asked if they could revisit the conversation they'd had in May.
His birthday present to Kenma was a new video game- and a kiss on the cheek. Kuroo said the cheek kiss couldn't count as a birthday present, because Daichi gave him one too, but what does he know?
Three months later, and everything is still going smoothly. Not much has changed in their relationship, really; they still do coffee dates and spontaneous trips. They kiss now, though, so that's definitely different. They hold hands and lean on one another and it's not awkward if they doze off on each other during movie nights- it's adorable.
"I'll go first," Daichi says before exhaling heavily and shifting so that he's kneeling more comfortably. "Koushi," he begins, voice soft and eyes softer, "it's been eight months now since you left me at the alter-" Kuroo snorts and Daichi grins, unable to keep a straight face.
"Dad jokes even at the man's grave," Kenma sighs, "you're a real nuisance."
"Like I was saying," Daichi laughs, "it's been eight months since you passed on. I hope the afterlife is treating you well. We're all doing fine here. Asahi and Nishinoya are as annoyingly in love as ever- sitting on the same side of the booth, sharing bits of food. Asahi says it's payback for making him watch us all those years, but," Daichi shrugs, still smiling. "Oh, and get this! Ryuu is gonna be a dad! Not for a while still- the girls are still sorting out some legal stuff, but they asked Ryuu to be their donor when everything is ready. Ryuu cried, of course. They'll all be great parents. Tsukishima got a tattoo. He won't say what or where it is, but Yamaguchi let it slip a few weeks ago that they got tattoos for their anniversary. Kageyama accidentally proposed to Hinata-"
"Nah, Shoyo dragged him into that," Kenma interrupts, "Kageyama was kneeling to tie his shoes before a game and Shoyo has been in love with the idea of getting married since Asahi-san's wedding. He was so excited about Kageyama proposing that he cried and Kageyama couldn't exactly tell him he didn't mean it, so."
"And that's how it is," Daichi laughs. "They'll have a long engagement, probably, with working around both of their game schedules. They're playing on a national level now, after all. Ennoshita is still doing will with Kirin-san, and Narita found a girlfriend recently. Kinoshita got a new puppy… and the three of us started dating." Daichi pauses, one hand coming up to play with the wedding ring around his neck, "I would be a little more nervous about telling you, if I didn't already know that you planned for this to happen. You used to constantly tell me how you wanted me to find someone new after you, and to be happy and smile again. I always told you that there wasn't anyone out there who could replace you, so I guess you figured if one person wouldn't do the job, two would."
"We can never replace you," Kuroo steps closer to them and rests a hand on Daichi's shoulder, "but we like to think we help fill the void at least a little. We make sure Daichi eats, and that Ami-chan gets fed."
"We don't let him get overworked, or stuck in his own head," Kenma adds. "We do something new every month-"
"And we take tons of pictures while we do it," Kuroo finishes. "We can't replace you, and we would never try to. We're just gonna do the best we can as we are."
"And that's more than enough for me," Daichi smiles up at Kuroo.
"I promised you that I would watch over Daichi, even if we were never anything more than friends," Kenma speaks to his hands. "I didn't think we'd ever be more than friends, honestly. I didn't think I needed- I didn't think I deserved more happiness than I had with just Kuroo. I felt guilty for a long time for having feelings for a married man; whether you were alive or not, you were still there. It wasn't hard to see what you were doing, though, especially at the end. Asking us to be there for everything, even the small stuff, spending most of your time watching the three of us have fun together. Maybe at first you didn't plan for us to start dating, but you definitely wanted the three of us to stay together."
"Koushi was always stubborn," Daichi says, reaching out to take Kenma's hand in his, "he never took no for an answer and always got what he wanted."
"I believe it," Kuroo laughs. After a small pause, Kuroo speaks again, "I love Daichi." Kenma looks up at Kuroo's declaration and finds Kuroo focusing on the headstone on front of them. "I didn't think it was possible to like anyone else like I do Kenma, but falling in love with Daichi just happened so easily. You were right about him- he's a workaholic who can't sing, and tells the worst dad jokes-"
"-and that's why he needs us. Someone has to laugh at his bad jokes and bake his birthday cakes, right?" Kuroo smiles, carefree. "So don't worry about a thing. You enjoy your eternity, and when our time is up, I hope you'll take us under your wing and show us around. Thank you for leading Daichi to us, Suga-san. Thank you for entrusting us with him."
They isn't much to say after that, but Kuroo and Daichi talk about little stuff that has happened in these last eight months until the incense burns down to ash. Kenma gathers up the trash and tucks the flowers carefully into the vases on the sides of the headstone, and gives the stone one last lingering look before they begin to leave.
Normally, he would ignore the few spirits wandering the grounds, but today, he gives them a small nod of acknowledgment as he passes by, trailing behind Daichi and Kuroo. Kenma pauses at the gate and turns to look out at the headstones one last time. A sudden breeze of wind whips his hair around his face and stings his eyes, and when he squints his eyes shut, it almost feels like a hug. This breeze isn't quite as cold as all the others today.
He opens his eyes when he feels a hand take his, and looks up to find Kuroo smiling at him, Daichi only a few steps behind.
"Let's go home."