“Whatever causes night in our souls may leave stars.”
- Victor Hugo
Kozume Kenma didn’t think he believed in soulmates.
The idea that the universe could come up with one singular person who was perfect for him sounded so implausible; wasn’t a person supposed to decide their own fate? There were too many variables at play for his liking. What if he didn’t like his soulmate? And what if they didn’t like him? He didn’t want to dwell on that thought. All his life, he’d heard people talk about the wonders of having a soulmate, even witnessing it between his parents, but he couldn’t quell the anxiety that perhaps it wouldn’t turn out like such a fairytale for him.
That wasn’t Kenma’s only problem with the idea of soulmate marks, however. His true qualm with them lay in their sadistic nature. Kenma didn’t want to know the last words that his soulmate would ever say to him, he didn’t want to fathom the anxiety that would bring with it.
These were the thoughts playing on a loop in his head as he stared at himself in the bathroom mirror, waiting for his mark to appear. He glanced down at his phone again. 11:58 P.M. Two more minutes. He may have told Kuroo that he was going to just see it when he woke up in the morning, playing it off like it wasn’t a big deal, but he hadn’t been able to catch even a wink of sleep, his mind fixated on what the words would say.
Kenma tapped his fingers on the bathroom vanity. He should have read more articles on dealing with soulmate anxiety, he knew he couldn’t possibly be the only person who’d ever felt like this.
Or maybe he should have just taken Kuroo’s offer of a sleepover, so he could have the familiar safety of his best friend’s presence at a time like this.
But no - Kenma was far too proud for that. When Kuroo’s mark had appeared last year, he hadn’t seemed stressed in the slightest. In fact, he was so nonplussed by his mark that Kenma still didn’t know where it was, or what it said. Kenma could still recall the casual grins and laidback nature of his best friend the day before his 16th birthday last year, his only comment on the matter being ‘what will be, will be.’
That was the mantra Kenma was trying (and failing) to mumble to himself as he watched the seconds tick down until midnight.
He looked at himself in the mirror, taking a deep breath. “What will be, will be.”
He wanted to believe that.
A light tingle began on his right collarbone, sending a shiver down his spine. He instantly tried to look at it in the mirror, but it was far too faint to make out the words, let alone the handwriting. Kenma huffed, lightly brushing his hands over his collarbone, as though to speed up the process in an attempt to unbury the words etched under his skin.
He wasn’t sure about the placement of his mark. While he could keep it hidden under most shirts, it would still be semi-visible. His only saving grace now could be if the words were something plain, something that people would never ask him about; lest they cause people to ask questions. He wasn’t willing to deal with that kind of attention.
Those thoughts were all cast from his mind as soon as the words were legible on his skin.
Inscribed onto his collarbone were three simple words that only served to complicate his foreseeable future.
‘I love you.’
Kenma felt his eyes begin to sting with the threat of tears as he ran his fingers over the words, memorising the way each letter curled.
It wasn’t only the words that had that effect on him. It was the fact that he knew that handwriting, each loop and curl as familiar to him as though it were his own. He’d spent hours reading it, watching it being written, studying off of notes in this hand.
Kuroo was his soulmate.
Without any further hesitation, Kenma left the bathroom and raced down the stairs to make the short walk down the block to Kuroo’s house. He’d still be awake - he was prone to studying until 1 A.M, and Kenma had a thousand questions for him.
He didn’t knock on the front door, aware of the fact that Kuroo’s father was most definitely asleep, instead letting himself in through the wooden front door with the spare key he knew they stored under the welcome mat. He crept up their staircase, pushing open Kuroo’s door lightly, careful not to accidentally startle him in his entrance.
As he stepped into the room, he was keenly aware of Kuroo’s eyes already trained on him, as though he had been expecting him to walk through the door right at this moment.
Which in hindsight, made sense. Kuroo knew Kenma better than Kenma knew himself, sometimes. Just in the way that Kenma also knew Kuroo; knew he’d be awake.
A smile stretched over Kuroo’s face as Kenma shut the door behind him. “Nice of you to come to visit at an hour like this.”
Kenma moved around the room, perching himself on Kuroo’s desk chair so he could face him. Kuroo’s room had always been comfortingly familiar, the soft illumination from Kuroo’s bedside lamp bathing the room in a warm glow. Kenma had spent just as much time in this room than he had his own.
Looking back at it now, Kenma could probably have worked out Kuroo was his soulmate without a mark confirming it. They always had been two halves of the same whole.
Kenma stared at him in a challenge, waiting for him to crack. He must know, right?
“Happy birthday?” Kuroo added, shrugging up his shoulders.
“Yes?” Based on the stupid grin on Kuroo’s face, he knew exactly what he was doing. Kenma grabbed a pillow that was haphazardly thrown onto the floor and lightly threw it at Kuroo in a feeble attempt to show his frustration.
“Why didn’t you tell me we were soulmates?”
“Does it matter? We know now.”
“I could have known almost a whole year ago. Why didn’t you say?” It wasn’t that Kenma was genuinely offended, that wasn’t the case at all. It was more out of sheer curiosity that he wanted to push this. Kuroo very rarely kept information from Kenma, and he wanted to know why he’d keep something of this magnitude from him.
Kuroo shrugged, eyes downcast. “It’s not that I didn’t want to tell you-”
“Do you not want me as a soulmate?” Kenma whispered, cutting Kuroo off. He had meant it in a teasing way, but the anxiety of that potential truth began to gnaw at his heart the second that the words left his lips. While it was unlikely, it still felt like a weight on his chest.
Kuroo immediately sprung to his feet, walking over to Kenma’s side of the room before dropping to his knees beside the chair, eyes wide with panic. “No, no, Kenma, no-” He cupped Kenma’s face in his hands, angling it so they were making eye contact. “Kenma, I couldn’t have asked for anyone else to be my soulmate, I’ve been going crazy waiting to tell you, because god Kenma, for me it’s you. It’s always been you. But I know you, and I know you don’t like to be overwhelmed, or set an expectation, and I know you like to work things out for yourself, I just-”
Kenma sniffled, somewhere between a sob and a laugh, cutting off Kuroo’s babble. “We’re so stupid.” Kuroo worked far too hard to preserve Kenma’s feelings, something that Kenma knew he’d be forever grateful for.
“Yup,” Kuroo said, shoulders sagging in relief. “But we’re stupid together.”
Kenma moved his arms so he could run a hand through Kuroo’s hair, pushing it back from his face. This was real, he had a moment to process that it was happening and how somehow Kenma, at the age of 16, was able to comprehend that he was possibly the luckiest person in the world.
“Can I confess to you properly now?” Kuroo whispered, as though he was afraid of breaking the moment they had between them.
Kenma nodded. Kuroo was notoriously sappy, of course he’d let him have his moment.
That being the only encouragement he needed, Kuroo stood back up, clasping Kenma’s hands in his own and pulling him up as well. They were standing so close that he could feel Kuroo’s warm breath tickle his skin.
Kuroo didn’t release Kenma’s hands as he began to speak. “Kozume Kenma. Since I was eight, I think I’ve always known we were meant for each other.”
Kenma couldn’t possibly withhold the small smile on his face as Kuroo spoke. He internally chastised himself for being so nervous about this before; he should have known better.
Oblivious to Kenma’s internal strife, Kuroo continued. Kenma couldn’t help but wonder if Kuroo had practised this confession, or if he was naturally such a sap. “I am so lucky in this life, to have the privilege of being your soulmate. I didn’t need a mark to tell me that you were my soulmate. Something in me just knew it. Because after all we’ve been through together, every experience that we’ve shared, how was it possibly going to be anybody else?” He paused to give Kenma’s hands a light squeeze. “Kenma, I lo-”
That was all Kenma needed to spring into action. He pulled his hands out of Kuroo’s grip, and reached up to cover his mouth instead. “Don’t say that,” he hissed, his mood seemingly doing a complete 180. “You can’t say that.”
Kuroo raised an eyebrow at this, concern etched into every feature of his face. Kenma tentatively lowered his hands, prompting Kuroo to speak up immediately. “Was I moving too fast?”
Kenma shook his head. No - Kuroo was perfect in every way possible, but Kenma knew he’d never be able to hear him say those words and not feel uneasy. So instead he gripped the collar of his shirt, pulling it aside to expose the words on his collarbone.
Kuroo reached out to brush his hand over the words, causing a shiver to run down Kenma’s spine at the feather-light touch. “Do you understand why you can’t say it now?”
“Kenma, c’mon, that doesn’t mean anything. I’m not going to drop dead just because I say it, yeah?” He shifted his hand up to brush Kenma’s hair behind his ear. “Maybe that’s like, when I’m 90 and old and wrinkly because we’re one of those sappy old couples.”
Kenma huffed. “It’s not worth the risk.”
He didn’t have to look up at Kuroo to know he was wearing a worried expression. He felt it instead, as he pressed a hand to Kenma’s cheek, and in the tone of his voice as he spoke. “If it really bothers you that much, I won’t say it, I swear.”
Kenma gave a brisk nod. Kuroo understood him, just as he always had.
“I’ll just have to show it in different ways, right?” There was a smile in Kuroo’s voice, and Kenma lifted his eyes to meet Kuroo’s. “Can I kiss you?”
Kenma’s gaze momentarily dropped to Kuroo’s lips. He did want Kuroo to kiss him, absolutely. Kenma parted his lips slightly, signifying to Kuroo that it was okay.
Kuroo brushed his thumb along Kenma’s cheekbone before bending down, his lips meeting Kenma’s in a gentle kiss, that in Kenma’s opinion, didn’t last nearly long enough.
It was only in that moment Kenma realised that perhaps he’d been in love with Kuroo this whole time, and didn’t even notice it. Or perhaps he wouldn’t let himself notice, in fear that it wasn’t Kuroo his soul was bound to.
But god, was he happy right now.
As Kuroo slowly pulled away, Kenma reached up on his toes to press another kiss onto Kuroo’s lips. He could feel Kuroo’s mouth curl up into a smile under his own.
This time it was Kenma who pulled away, eyes not leaving Kuroo’s, but keenly aware of the newfound blush that was spreading across his cheeks that he knew Kuroo would notice straight away.
But to be fair, he noticed the crimson flush dusting Kuroo’s cheeks as well; even if he appeared more composed than Kenma felt.
“So,” Kuroo started, still grinning as wide as ever, “Are we dating now?”
Kenma pouted. “I guess.”
“You guess?” Kuroo said in mock offence, holding a hand up to his chest. “We have a steamy makeout session, and you don’t even know if we’re dating? I feel objectified and used, Kenma.” Kuroo was able to make it to the end of that sentence with a straight face before bursting into his rambunctious laughter that was music to Kenma at this point.
Kenma shook his head, stepping forward to poke Kuroo in the sides. “It was hardly steamy, not even by a nun’s standards.”
“You’re so mean to me,” Kuroo whined between laughs, trying to deflect Kenma’s nimble fingers assaulting his sides.
“I’m a terrible boyfriend,” Kenma teased again, finally stepping away from Kuroo and instead, sitting on his bed.
Kenma didn’t miss the way Kuroo’s eyes opened wide, as though Kenma had just handed him the keys to the universe. “Did you just say ‘boyfriend’?”
“That’s what I am, isn’t it?” Kuroo sat on the bed beside Kenma, eyes still blown wide. Kenma didn’t think he could handle much more sappiness, instead deciding to slightly nudge the conversation in a different direction. “Anyway, show me your mark. Where is it that I haven’t seen it?”
Kuroo raised an eyebrow. “You really want to know?”
“Ah, Kenma, uh-”
“Is it in an embarrassing place?” Kenma asked, voice so steady that he knew Kuroo would debate whether he was teasing or not.
Kuroo shook his head. “It’s on my back, do you know what a bitch it’s been to hide it from you while we’re changing for practice?”
He was right, Kenma couldn't recall seeing Kuroo’s bare back in the last year. He had either been directly facing him in conversation, or either changed earlier or later than Kenma had. And somehow, Kenma hadn’t noticed.
Kenma stared at Kuroo, signifying he was waiting for him to continue. Kuroo only rolled his eyes. “You’re so pushy today.”
“Am not.” Kenma crossed his arms over his chest.
“Am not— can you just show me the mark?”
Kuroo snorted with laughter. “You literally just proved the ‘pushy’ point, but okay.” With that said, he gripped the hem of his shirt to tug it over his head, and turned his back to Kenma.
The words were crystal clear, in Kenma’s very distinctive scrawling writing.
‘Please don’t leave me.’
Kenma stared at them for a few minutes in a futile attempt to process their meaning. It certainly didn’t look like a happy ending, that was for sure. He lifted a hand, his fingers ghosting over Kuroo’s skin where the mark lay. “This is why you didn’t tell me, isn’t it?”
Kuroo turned his head to the side to look over his shoulder back at Kenma. “I didn’t want to freak you out.”
“I’m not freaked out.” A blatant lie, but one he knew Kuroo would see through straight away. Kenma’s mind was whirring with the potential outcomes that would warrant them saying final words like these.
‘Please don’t leave me.’
‘I love you.’
Kenma couldn’t even come up with a situation where Kuroo would leave him. He seldom had left Kenma on his own in the past, going as far as to camp in his room the night before exams, and walking with him to Nekoma’s head office when he had to hand in a note.
Kuroo was always there. It was a given. So what did their soulmarks mean in their opposition to something that, to Kenma, had always been a fact?
Unless… an accident? A car crash? That was plausible enough. But something about it felt wrong; as though his heart was telling him that wasn’t the answer he was looking for.
“Kenma,” Kuroo said, turning around to face him. “I can literally feel you overthinking it.” He reached out and pulled Kenma’s hands back into a tight grip. “Try and live in the present for me, that’s what we have control over. What will be, will be.”
Kenma nodded once, desperately wanting to take Kuroo’s words to heart, but not fully able to get out of his head.
But he’d try. Because Kuroo wanted him to.
“What will be, will be.”
Kuro: good luck today! sorry i might not be able to to make it, but i’ll try to swing by your house this weekend to say congrats properly!! so proud of you kitten <3 (08:51)
Kenma stared down at that text from his boyfriend for the nth time that afternoon. He understood that Kuroo was busy; that his first year of university had been so hectic that he barely had time to sleep, let alone time to make the hour and a half commute to come visit every week.
But that didn’t mean that Kenma didn’t miss him terribly. Weekly video calls barely felt like a substitute for having Kuroo constantly by his side, something Kenma had recently discovered he’d been taking for granted all these years.
It had been a long year without him, Kenma was glad to see the back of it. He was finally graduating, and that meant he could move to the prefecture Kuroo currently lived in, and he could see him more often.
“Kenma, stop staring at your phone!” Yamamoto hissed next to him. Kenma was certain that they were supposed to be seated in alphabetical order, but they had never been sticklers for the rules. Yamamoto had always said ‘us bleached haired volleyball players must travel as a pack’, and Kenma had always humoured him.
Kenma huffed and slipped his phone back into his pocket. “It’s not my fault the ceremony is boring,” he whispered back. He didn’t think he could have stopped his mind wandering even if he tried to, the principal had been talking for at least 30 minutes.
Maybe it was a good thing Kuroo was missing it. Maybe.
“You don’t want people to stare at you when you don’t hear your name get called,” Yamamoto teased, ever the stirrer. He was right, that would be an embarrassment Kenma would like to avoid, especially with his parents there.
He felt someone flick the back of his head, causing both him and Yamamoto to inch their heads around. “You two need to be quiet, you’re already in the wrong spots. Don’t get into more trouble.”
Kenma didn’t want to point out that a) Fukunaga was also not in alphabetical order, and b) he was also speaking. He was just as guilty as the rest of them.
Yamamoto, however, pointed this out. “You’re talking too!”
“Irrelevant,” Fukunaga finished, turning up his chin at them.
Kenma thought that maybe, just maybe, he’d miss them.
Yamamoto and Kenma turned back around, accepting defeat at the hands of Fukunaga and attempted to pretend to be interested in the rest of the ceremony. It dragged on, and on, and on. One speech after another about how ‘proud they were’, and then the individual calling of what felt like a thousand names as they one by one clambered up the stage to accept their diploma, all to the dramatic music of a piano that made Kenma think he was at a funeral, not a graduation.
“Kozume Kenma,” the monotonous voice of the principal called out, causing Yamamoto to nudge him and Kenma to spring to his feet.
He awkwardly shuffled past Yamamoto and the rest of his row, before into the aisle, aware that almost the whole room was staring at him, as they were expected to. He kept his eyes glued to the floor, entirely conscious of the eyes staring into his back and the inevitable of his father taking a hundred photos.
As he climbed the stairs of the auditorium’s stage, one voice stood out to him. “Yeah! Go Kenma! Woo!”
Kenma did not need to look up to know that it belonged to Kuroo Tetsurou, but he did anyway. Because in the middle of the rows and rows of seats, there he was, standing between his parents with a grin even prouder than the one he’d worn when he had been the one graduating.
A light blush rose into Kenma’s cheeks, and a smile found its way across his face. His heart swelled with affection at the thought of Kuroo making such a lengthy trip just for him, giddiness bubbling in his chest. His soulmate had made it after all. Embarrassing and as sappy as ever.
Shaking the principal's hand, accepting his diploma, and then sitting back down to watch the rest of the ceremony felt like a blur to him. No, Kenma didn’t care about graduating, he cared that he’d finally get to see his Kuroo again.
Once it was over and everyone had disbanded to catch up with their loved ones, Kenma didn’t even have to search through the crowd to spot Kuroo’s familiar bedhead. He was running towards him with no hesitation, crushing him into a hug and spinning him around before Kenma even had a chance to process it.
“Congratulations, kitten,” he grinned at Kenma once he had placed him back onto the ground. “I’m so proud of you.”
A deep flush spread across Kenma’s face that he tried to hide behind his hair. “It’s just graduating high school, everyone else does it too.”
Laughter bubbled out of Kuroo’s throat as he leant forward to press a kiss against Kenma’s forehead. “You’re not everyone else”.
“You’re so embarrassing,” Kenma muttered, burying his face into Kuroo’s chest to hide his blush. “I missed you.”
Kuroo ran a hand through Kenma’s hair. “I missed you too! So much that I jigged class to be here.”
“Kuro! You shouldn’t do that,” he reprimanded, even though secretly, he was overjoyed that Kuroo had come all this way for something as trivial as a graduation.
Kuroo did not get a chance to defend his decision before Kenma’s parents caught up to them, camera in hand. “Kenma, pose with Tetsu-kun and let us take a photo.”
Kenma sighed, knowing his face was probably still incredibly flushed, and Kuroo would tease him about this photo for the rest of his life, but there was no point arguing. He tried to smile for the camera his father was holding up, leaning into Kuroo who had his arm around his shoulders.
They continued to take photos for the better part of the next 30 minutes, his parents cooing their congratulations in between shots; some just him, some with his parents, some with Kuroo, and some of just his parents and Kuroo (which he had thought was odd, but endearing).
“Do you mind if I steal him for a little?” Kuroo asked his parents, wrapping his arm around Kenma to show that there wasn’t much of a choice anyway.
His mother smiled at them. “Of course! We’ll be here, mingling with the other parents. Take your time.”
With that said, Kuroo gripped and squeezed Kenma’s hand in his own, and tugged him away from the crowd and out of the auditorium. Kenma was glad for this, he didn’t think he wanted to be around the crowds any longer. His parents were both such social people, he knew they’d have at least 30 new friends by the time they were back.
“Where are we going?” Kenma asked.
“Where some of our best memories are,” Kuroo replied, meaning the gym. Kenma rolled his eyes. Of course Kuroo would go to the gym as soon as he stepped foot back into Nekoma.
Once they arrived, Kuroo pulled Kenma into another hug, possibly tighter than before, before pulling back and planting a barrage of soft kisses all over his face, ultimately ending in the meeting of their lips. Kenma parted his lips slightly, deepening the kiss.
When they pulled back, they were both the good type of breathless, faces flushed and pupils blown wide. “I wanted to do that before, but I know you would have hated it in front of so many people.”
He wasn’t wrong, Kenma was grateful for the privacy the gym provided. “Thank you. For that, and also being here,” Kenma whispered, eyes downturned. Verbal affection wasn’t yet his forte, but for Kuroo he’d try to put his feelings into words. It always made Kuroo’s eyes light up.
“Oh my god, how are you real?” Kuroo teased, moving his hands to pinch at Kenma’s cheeks. “That was so cute, it should be illegal.”
Kenma swatted at his hands. “Shut up, can’t I show my gratitude without being patronised?”
Kuroo cupped Kenma’s face. “Can I say that it’s how I'm coping with you graduating? I’m so proud I could cry.”
“Kuro,” Kenma whined at his boyfriend’s affections, drawing out the ‘o’. Kuroo cut him off by pressing another chaste kiss to his lips.
“Kenma, you have no idea how proud of you I am, do you? Yes, everyone graduates. But holy shit Kenma, you’ve changed and grown so much in the past year, it’s mind blowing. As a team captain and as a person.”
Perhaps there was some truth to Kuroo’s statements. He’d been told on more than one occasion that he wasn’t the ‘same Kenma’ that people remembered, but he himself didn’t realise how vast the change was. Had he gotten more confident?
But he wasn’t the only one that’s changed. Kuroo had too, since he had moved away. He’d matured a lot, both mentally, and physically. He had lost the rest of his lingering boyish charm, and instead appeared to have become a man over night. And somehow, he’d gotten more beautiful, which Kenma did not think was either physically possible or healthy for his heart. Kenma had tried to point it out once, but Kuroo had only laughed and said it was sleep deprivation.
“Yeah?” Kuroo’s eyes were staring into Kenma’s own.
“You’re full of shit.”
Kuroo’s mouth fell open in faux-shock. “Kozume Kenma, you wound me.”
“You didn’t let me finish.”
Kuroo shook his head in disdain. “Sorry for the interruption, your highness, please continue.”
A huff left Kenma’s chest. “You’re so dramatic, you know that right? Don’t interrupt-” Kenma said, lifting a hand to cover Kuroo’s mouth with his palm upon seeing it open. “I swear to God Kuro, this is hard enough to say without you running your mouth.” Kenma shifted his gaze back to the floor. “I think I’m only the person I am today because of you. And that you believed in me, and stuff. And your growth made me want to grow. Yeah, that’s it.”
Graduating had made Kenma more emotional than he was clearly comfortable to admit, but the act of moving onto the next phase of his life made him determined to pay homage to what had made this phase possible.
Kenma didn’t give Kuroo the chance to answer him with what would most likely be another emotional monologue, instead replacing his hand over Kuroo’s mouth with his own, trapping his unspoken words in a kiss.
“Why am I taking honours chemistry? Am I a sadist?” Kuroo whined into his textbook, sprawled out on the floor surrounded by a sea of loose pages.
Kenma sighed, shifting on his bed and placing the pad of paper he’d been doodling on beside him. “The word you’re looking for is masochist. And to answer the question, yes you are.”
It was a common scene. Kuroo often camped in Kenma’s dorm room to study instead of his own, claiming that Bokuto was too loud of a roommate to study around, and that he missed Kenma, even if they’d already spent the day together. Akaashi always took it as an excuse to exit the dorm room that he and Kenma shared, and went to visit Bokuto.
There wasn’t any reason that they hadn’t all applied to formally swap, but it was a given that none of them were ever where they really belonged.
Kuroo stared up at Kenma, trying to process what he’d been implying with a puzzled expression. “Because of chemistry? Or something else?”
“Something else,” Kenma teased. Banter with Kuroo had been a lot easier than last year when they’d been apart, the familiarity returning with such ease it was like they’d never even been apart.
“Watch your mouth, Kozume, or I might start thinking you’re trying to seduce me,” Kuroo laughed, throwing a pen cap at him in rebute.
Kenma dodged the pen cap with ease, watching it fall onto his unmade bed before turning back to Kuroo. “And if I am?”
That was enough for Kuroo to lose his smirk, instead watching Kenma with eyes blown wide. Kenma shook his head. For someone who always acted so suave, Kuroo was a flustered dork when it came to actions.
“Are you coming up here?” Kenma beckoned from his perch on his bed. It was all the encouragement Kuroo needed to abandon his chemistry work, instead opting to join Kenma on his bed. Kenma scooted across, seating himself firmly on Kuroo’s lap.
In turn, Kuroo wrapped his arms around Kenma’s waist, pulling him closer so that their bodies were pressed against each other, the cheap dorm bed creaking under their combined weight. Neither of them paid it any heed, instead pressing their mouths together in a heated kiss, Kuroo snaking one hand under Kenma’s shirt.
Moments like this were good for the both of them, a break from their overload of university work, instead a chance to get lost in each other’s presence.
They broke apart after a few minutes, wearing matching grins. Kuroo leaned forward to kiss the top of Kenma’s nose. “What did I ever do to deserve you?”
Kenma rolled his eyes. “Honours chemistry.”
A fake pout found its way onto Kuroo’s lips. “You only want me for my brain.”
That caused Kenma to resolve into a fit of giggles, whatever mood they had from before disappearing just as fast as it had come. It wasn’t long until Kuroo was laughing with him, so loudly that Kenma wouldn’t have been surprised if Ennoshita next door had heard him.
When they finally calmed down enough, they both flopped down onto the bed, Kenma’s head on Kuroo’s chest, listening to the steady thumping of his heartbeat.
Kuroo’s warmth almost lulled Kenma to sleep, his eyelids fluttering shut, when he suddenly moved, grabbing the paper Kenma had previously been doodling on. “Hey, what’s this?” He held it up.
Kenma whined at Kuroo’s movements, bitter that he’d been disrupted from what was about to be a good nap. “It’s nothing.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing.” He pushed the page into Kenma’s face.
Kenma sighed, sitting up. He had to accept the defeat of not being able to nap on his boyfriend’s chest, something he had been very content to do. “Potential logos.”
“Nothing much, just a start-up company I was thinking of. Probably just a pipe dream.” Kenma had been messing around with the idea of starting his own video game company for a little while now, but the idea seemed too daunting - too unrealistic - that it couldn’t be classified as anything more than a dream.
Luckily for him, Kuroo was happy to be the push he needed to turn his dream into a reality. “Kenma, kitten, listen,” he started, pushing himself up on his elbows so he could face him. “If you think that you’ve got an idea, then holy shit, follow through with it. You’re crazy smart and crazy talented, I know you could do anything you put your mind to.”
Kenma blinked at him a couple of times in an attempt to process how one person could possibly have so much faith in him. “Kuro, I don’t know-”
“I do know,” Kuro said to cut Kenma off. “I know you and what you’re capable of. So let’s look into it, yeah? Nothing to lose by trying.”
And that seemed like a good enough reason for Kenma not to argue any further. Kuroo wouldn’t mislead him into something that was a bad idea, he knew that much.
He leant forward, pressing a kiss to Kuroo’s forehead. “Thank you.”
“Any time. I love you.” Both of their eyes widened in shock when they processed the words that tumbled so naturally out of Kuroo’s mouth. “-r big brain. Yeah. I love your big brain,” Kuroo babbled in an attempt to correct himself.
Kenma’s brows drew together in concern, they had been together for over two years, and not once had Kuroo slipped up like that. “Please be more careful.”
“Shit, Kenma, I’m sorry. But look! I said it and I’m not dead. See?” Kuroo said, gesturing to himself. “I could say it and there’s a 99.95% chance nothing would happen.”
“I don’t want to risk it,” Kenma snapped. “I don’t want to risk you .”
Kuroo’s features softened at Kenma’s outburst. He reached up a hand to stroke Kenma’s cheek. “If it upsets you that much, I’ll be more careful. I promise.”
Kenma launched himself back at Kuroo, wrapping him in a tight hug and digging his face back into Kuroo’s chest.
He knew Kuroo loved him; and Kuroo knew Kenma loved him, too. They didn’t need to say it in words.
“Oh my god, Keiji, the lights change colours!” Bokuto yelled loudly enough that the other patrons of the restaurant turned their heads to look at him.
Kenma tipped his head down, letting his hair obscure the view of the other people around him. Kuroo responded by wrapping an arm around him from beside him, further shielding him from anyone else’s attention. Kenma was grateful for that.
“Yes, Koutarou. That’s what the remote on the table is for,” Akaashi replied in a smooth voice. Kenma had no idea how he was so constantly calm and collected with a soulmate like Bokuto. Perhaps the saying was true, opposites did attract.
In response to this, Bokuto picked up the small remote on the side of the table, pressing a multitude of buttons that shifted the colour of the lights fixed above them, shifting from red, to purple, to blue to orange. “This is so cool!”
Kenma sat, staring at Bokuto, watching his expression change along with the lights that they were bathed in. When it was blue, he frowned. Red, his eyebrows scrunched together. Yellow, he smiled. Purple, his mouth widened in a small ‘o’ shape. Kenma wondered if it was exhausting to be that expressive; he certainly would have been tired of he moved and felt in the same way Bokuto did.
Eventually, after flicking through every colour on the remote at least three times each, Bokuto settled on a green-blue colour. “Can we leave it on this one? It reminds me of Keiji’s eyes.”
A soft flush spread across Akaashi’s face. Kuroo nodded, expression more serious than the situation warranted, and Kenma could only roll his eyes.
Double date night had become a common occurrence over the last couple of years of university. They all spent so much time together, Kenma didn’t see why they then had to plan extra time together, but it made Kuroo happy, so by extension, Kenma was happy to go along with it too.
“How’d you find this restaurant, Tetsu?” Bokuto asked from across the table, eyes wide and eager as though Kuroo was about to reveal the secrets of the universe to him. Kenma leant into Kuroo’s side to hide the way he smiled at that.
“You know me, I’m always looking for places to go that I haven’t taken Kenma before. Otherwise he complains.” Kenma straightened his back to retort that no he did not, but the shit-eating grin that Kuroo was swearing told him that he was trying to get a rise out of him. Alas, Kenma wasn’t going to sit and take the quip, He lightly kicked Kuroo’s ankle under the table of their booth.
Kuroo gasped in an over dramatic fashion, lifting one hand to his mouth. “Can you believe he just kicked me? I do nothing but provide love and affection, I work so hard to make him happy and- OW, Jesus Christ, Kenma that hurts!” Kenma had kicked him marginally harder than last time, but he knew it wasn’t hard enough for it to actually hurt. So he didn’t feel bad.
At least, he tried to tell himself he didn’t feel bad. But Kuroo was still pouting at him, wearing a hurt expression that Kenma was officially struggling to tell was genuine or not, a product of his own overthinking. He had to cover his bases, he leant up and pressed a chaste kiss to Kuroo’s cheek, a rare gesture of public affection for Kenma.
But it made all the difference to Kuroo, pout replaced with a soft smile, a pink tinge on his cheeks. That expression made the mortifying ordeal of public displays of affection worth it.
“You’re cute,” Kenma mused, eyes glued on Kuroo, whose blush only intensified. Kenma had always found it incredibly amusing that considering Kuroo was huge on affection, that he became incredibly flustered at the first sign of it from Kenma. It really was cute.
“Wow, you guys are worse than us,” Bokuto crooned from across the table. “We have table manners, right Keiji?”
Akaashi lifted one hand over his mouth, to cover his laughter. “Yes, we’re far more civilised.”
“What did you just say about my Kenma?” Kuroo asked, jaw dropping. “He’s the most civilised person on the planet. Not a gremlin at all. No way.”
Kenma knew when he was being attacked, even when it was disguised as defending him. And he wasn’t about to stand for it. “Akaashi’s talking about you, Kuro.”
“Whose side are you even on?” Kuroo asked, turning back to look at Kenma again.
Kenma tilted his head. “My own.”
“You wound me, kitten.” Kuroo leant over to rest his head on Kenma’s shoulder. “I’m always on your side, too.”
Kenma didn’t question why Kuroo’s moods sometimes swung from playful to sappy, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Kenma moved his hand to intertwine with Kuroo’s, giving it a light squeeze. I’m on your side, too.
Bokuto was quick to interrupt their moment, throwing a scrunched up napkin at Kuroo’s head. “The point of double date night was not to see you two be disgustingly sappy! I see enough of that every day!”
They didn’t get the chance to defend themselves, the waitress approaching with a smile. “Are you gentlemen ready to order?”
Akaashi ordered first, followed by Bokuto, and then Akaashi again, amending Bokuto’s order to something he was more likely to enjoy, followed by Bokuto whining, followed by Akaashi explaining, then Bokuto claiming Akaashi was ‘the best ever’, all concluding with the waitress wearing the most baffled expression that Kenma had ever seen in his life.
Once that had died down, the waitress turned to Kuroo and Kenma. “And for you two?” Her clutch on her notepad was tight, Kenma thought that maybe Bokuto and Akaashi had traumatised her, even just a little.
“I’ll get the angel hair pasta, and he’ll get the salmon on rice.” Kuroo said with a definitive nod. The poor waitress eyed them for a moment before writing anything down, actively expecting an occurrence like the one moments prior, but Kenma nodded at her, giving Kuroo’s hand another squeeze.
As soon as she confirmed their order and walked away, Bokuto looked at them again. “Do you two share a brain? Or?”
Kenma wasn’t going to interject. Kuroo knew he detested talking to strangers, especially when it came to stuff like ordering food. But luckily for him, Kuroo knew him well enough to predict what he would have ordered. It was a good system, for Kenma at least.
Kuroo snorted. “Yes, Bo, we’re one human separated into two bodies, and hence superior.”
“That explains it. Kozume has all the brain cells. Kuroo has… the height, I guess.” Akaashi took a sip from his soda, eyes not leaving Kuroo’s.
“What the fuck is this? National Attack Kuroo Day? Do you see me as nothing more than my looks?” Kuroo rested his forehead on the table in a sign of defeat. Kenma had to bite his bottom lip to stop himself from giggling.
“I said height, Kuroo-san. Kozume has the looks, too,” Akaashi finished.
Kuroo shot up, looking over at Kenma. “Well, you’re right about that.”
Nudging him in the arm, Kenma added: “Are you always such a sap?”
“Only when it comes to you.” Kuroo, Akaashi and Bokuto said in unison. Kuroo’s with sincerity, the latter two in a mocking tone. That was all it took for Kenma to clutch at his stomach, falling into a fit of giggles.
He was sure that Kuroo was glaring at the two of them with a look of utter shock, but there were too many tears of laughter in his eyes to see it.
He really did have the best soulmate on the planet, he was reminded of that every single day.
“Where did you even get these?” Kenma asked, face scrunched up as he held the offensive item out to Kuroo. He hadn’t seen Kuroo pack them, and if he had, he would have burned the box they sat in.
Kuroo’s head peaked around the corner to inspect what Kenma was talking about. And when he did, a smirk crossed his face. “They reminded me of you.”
“ These reminded you of me?” Kenma was flabbergasted.
In his hands were by far the ugliest pillows he had ever laid eyes on. Each showed a different cartoon cat, adorned with a cheesy slogan like ‘you’re paw-some!’ and ‘you put the meowsic in me!’ What sort of person would make such a wretched product? And then, which idiot would buy them?
“I think they’re neat.”
Ah. His idiot.
Kenma buried his face in the pillows, mostly so he didn’t have to look at Kuroo. “I can’t believe this.” The pillows muffled Kenma’s voice, Kuroo unable to make out a word he said.
“Come on, they’re fun. Now can you help me unpack the plates?”
Kenma’s head perked up from the pillows. “Are you up to that already?”
Kuroo nodded. “I brought the boxes in.”
After haphazardly throwing the godforsaken pillows back into the box, Kenma followed Kuroo from the living area back into the kitchen. “You do the plates because you’re shorter and can reach that cabinet easier. And I’ll do the cups.” Kuroo added, gesturing to an overhead cabinet where he intended the cups to go.
Kenma was too tired from moving boxes to retort the quip on his height. Instead he sat down cross-legged in front of the cupboard where the plates were intended to go, and shifted them one-by-one from the cardboard box into a neat stack.
They worked in a comfortable silence together, save Kuroo humming some pop songs as he stacked cups and mugs onto his shelf.
The silence was shattered by the sound of glass hitting the floor, smashing into hundreds of pieces. Kenma whipped his head around to see Kuroo standing over the remains of a cup it appeared he’d dropped.
Kenma hopped to his feet, eyes surveying the scene before him. “Don’t move, you might accidentally step on glass and cut yourself.”
“Fuck, Kenma, I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened, it just slipped.” Kuroo’s brows were drawn together. Kuroo had never been a particularly clumsy person, but accidents happened. Kenma knew that. Cups were replaceable.
“It’s alright, it’s just a cup. Do you know which box the dustpan and broom are in?” The sooner he got this mess cleaned up, the less likely Kuroo would accidentally hurt himself.
“Um, I think it’s the one labelled ‘laundry’. Should be in the living room.”
With a nod of his head, Kenma grabbed the boxcutter from atop the kitchen bench and ventured into the living room. Sure enough, there was a cardboard box with Kuroo’s familiar handwriting labelled exactly in the manner Kuroo had said it would be.
Kenma swiftly cut through the box, rummaged through to find the dustpan and matching broom, and brought it back to the kitchen with him. Kuroo was still standing in the exact same spot. Instead of looking up at Kenma though, he was staring down at his hands, holding them out as though there was something strange about them.
“Did you cut your hand?” Kenma asked, voice soft. He couldn’t see any injury, but who knew. He crouched to the floor and began sweeping the shards of glass into the small dustpan.
Kuroo’s voice sounded distant. “No, just feel funny.”
Kenma hummed in response. “They’re probably just a bit sore from carrying boxes around all day. Do you want me to have a look?” Kenma didn’t know what he would be looking for, but he wanted to put Kuroo’s mind at ease.
“It’s alright. Here, give me the dustpan, I’ll sweep.” Kuroo reached out for it, but Kenma shook his head, pulling the dustpan away.
“You just stand there and look pretty, I’m almost done anyway,” Kenma teased. It was true, he had already cleared the majority of the glass. Crisis averted.
Kuroo shifted his weight between his legs. “Thank you, Kenma.”
Kenma shook his head. Kuroo’s habits of being nervous about menial things had been something that Kenma had been trying to ease him out of since they were kids. Usually, it worked. But there were moments like these, moments completely unpredictable to Kenma, where it would make itself known again. Not that they bothered Kenma at all, he just wanted Kuroo to be happy.
“It’s not a big deal,” Kenma shrugged. “Just a cup. We still have like, 15 left. There are only two of us that live here. It was a sign we bought too many. Survival of the fittest cup.”
Kuroo’s head was still downturned. Once Kenma had disposed of all the glass, he got to his feet and approached Kuroo, wrapping his arms around him. “You okay?”
Kuroo met his gaze, Kenma struggled to tell what he was thinking. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry to worry you, kitten.”
“Nothing to be sorry about.” Kenma unhooked one of his arms from around Kuroo’s waist, and tapped his cheek. “If you really want to make it up to me though.”
And just like that, the usual smile that Kenma associated with being home was back across Kuroo’s face. He leaned down, craning his neck to place a kiss on Kenma’s cheek where his finger had just been pointing. As he pulled back, Kenma pushed forward, this time placing his lips on Kuroo’s own. Once he felt Kuroo’s arms wrap around his back, he melted into the kiss, perfectly content to stay like that for the rest of the day.
“I’m really proud of us,” Kuroo whispered, his hot breath tickling Kenma’s cheek. He nuzzled their noses together, causing a feeling of warmth to spread throughout Kenma’s body.
He was proud of them, too. Now he’d finally graduated, they could move in together properly, finally make their own home. Their own little corner of the world. He reached down to grab Kuroo’s hand in his own, pulling it up to kiss his palm.
“Kenma, you can’t do cute shit like that, it makes my heart weak,” Kuroo whined, prompting Kenma to plant another kiss on his boyfriend’s hand- just to see him blush.
“We have a home,” Kenma said, smiling wide as he looked up at Kuroo.
Kuroo pressed a kiss to Kenma’s forehead. “Can we celebrate?”
“What? Isn’t it too early in the day to drink?”
Kuroo laughed. “No, that can be later. Dance with me first?”
Kuroo had completely outdone himself in sappiness, this was a new high. But Kenma was happy, ridiculously in love, and wanted to celebrate, so he nodded his head. This prompted Kuroo to pull his phone from his pocket, scroll through a couple of menus, before playing a slow love song.
He stuck out his hand to Kenma. “May I have this dance?”
Kenma took his hand. “Of course.”
Kuroo wrapped his arms around Kenma’s back once again, Kenma lifting his arms in turn to wrap around Kuroo’s shoulders. They swayed, completely out of time with the music, but too caught up in their own little world to even notice.
It was strange for Kuroo to be out late on a Friday.
Usually, he would come home from the university he was doing his PhD at, and demand that Kenma get changed so they could go on a date. It was endearing, even if Kenma grumbled about it on their way there.
Kenma glanced down at his phone. 7:03 P.M. He should have been back by now.
He looked outside the window, greeting a gray sky and the sound of droplets hitting the tin roof of the car park across the street like the rhythm of hundreds of tiny drummers. Hopefully Kuroo had the sense to pack an umbrella with him, lest he get wet and catch a cold. Kenma had always hated it when Kuroo was sick, even when it was just a cold. There was something unsettling about the strongest person in his life being weakened by something like a cold.
He considered ringing him, at least to put his own mind at ease, but was well-aware that sometimes Kuroo’s meetings with his ‘rude and unsavoury’ advisor ran over time, and Kenma didn’t want to interrupt that.
So he’d just wait. Kenma loaded Animal Crossing on his Switch, and curled up on their lounge. Surely, trying to reorganise his town would take his mind off of it.
Kenma wasn’t sure how long he had been debating the placement of one of his villager’s houses when he heard the familiar rattle of keys in the lock, followed by the twisting of the knob.
“Sorry I’m late,” Kuroo said as he toed off his shoes by the door. “Got caught up with something.”
Kenma hummed in response, eyes flickering over to Kuroo before back down at his screen. He wasn’t wet, and he didn’t look to be in a bad mood. So why had he been late? “Did you want to go out tonight?”
“Wait, are you telling me you were looking forward to date night? Who are you and what have you done with the love of my life?” He could hear the stupid grin in Kuroo’s voice without having to look up at him.
Kenma wasn’t looking forward to date night. He was just looking forward to getting to spend time with Kuroo, for once. They’d both been so busy lately, with Kenma dedicating most days to Bouncing Ball Corp and streaming, and Kuroo getting his PhD while teaching undergraduate chemistry classes. He knew they both counted on Friday nights to finally catch up properly, and were able to put aside all their other worries just for a night.
“Where were you?”
Kuroo lifted Kenma’s legs and joined Kenma on the sofa, before pulling his legs back into his lap. “I’m glad you asked! You see, I was making my way home from the uni when I saw something in a shop window and thought ‘I have to own that’, so I stopped to grab it, which consequently made me miss my first train, and then the second train.”
Kenma’s eyebrows furrowed. “What was it?” He couldn’t think of an item that would so instantly pique Kuroo’s interest.
“I think it should be a surprise,” Kuroo added, rubbing gentle circles into one of Kenma’s legs with his thumb. “You’ll like it.”
Kenma narrowed his eyes at Kuroo in response. “Cryptic doesn’t suit you.”
“You want to know right now?” Kuroo asked, receiving a nod from Kenma in response. With this, Kuroo nudged Kenma’s legs off his lap again and stood up. “Come to the bedroom in like 15 minutes. I need time to prepare.” This phrase accompanied by a wink from Kuroo earned a shocked expression from Kenma.
“Kuro?” He didn’t respond, only picking up his backpack and walking to the bedroom, waggling his eyebrows suggestively at Kenma one final time before shutting the door.
Thus began the longest 15 minutes of Kenma’s life.
Kenma felt as though he was glancing at the clock every 30 seconds, but no time was passing. If what Kuroo was planning sounded like what he was insinuating… it wasn’t like Kuroo at all. Kenma, however, couldn’t think of an alternative. There wasn’t a television in the bedroom, so it couldn’t have been a movie or a game, but what else was there?
Kuroo once again had Kenma completely stumped. And Kenma certainly didn’t like not knowing things; especially when it was him involved.
The second that 15 minutes was up, Kenma sprung to his feet and wasted no time making his way to the bedroom. He took one deep breath before twisting the knob, but it didn’t help. Nothing could have prepared him for the sight inside their bedroom.
It was as though Kenma had just walked into a different universe. The room was dimly lit, but everywhere Kenma looked, there were bright stars decorating. Twinkling fairy lights were hung from the bedhead, stretching around all four walls to bathe the room in a soft purple glow. But even more spectacular than that was the projection of an entire galaxy on every surface of the room, stars littering the ceiling and walls in the shape of constellations that Kenma could remember learning about as a child.
Kenma’s lips were slightly parted as he took in the sight of a room that was unrecognisable as their own. “Kuro.” That was all Kenma could say, knowing words would fail him in conveying how much this meant to him.
Kuroo was seated cross legged on the bed, smiling up at Kenma as though he was the universe that he’d created. A small dome-shape projector was laid onto the bed in front of him, creating the illusion of their room being shrouded in stars. There was such a gentleness to his expression that Kenma wondered if he was the only one that’d ever seen it. “Do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful,” Kenma whispered, eyes still scanning the room in childlike wonder.
Kuroo opened his arms in gesture for Kenma to come and join him on the bed, to which Kenma happily obliged. Once Kenma was seated next to him, Kuroo wrapped his arms around him, and pulled him closer, so Kenma’s back was against his chest. Kenma leaned back into the warm touch. “Thank you, for this.”
Kuroo pressed a chaste kiss to Kenma’s shoulder. “Kenma, you deserve the universe, and this was the only way I could think of giving it to you.” Kenma’s face instantly warmed into a crimson blush at Kuroo’s words. Every day Kuroo found ways to prove he was a never-ending stream of sappiness, and Kenma wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kenma shifted an arm so he could slip his hand into one of Kuroo’s, and gave it a soft squeeze, hoping that conveyed to Kuroo all the things that Kenma couldn’t fathom putting into words. This means everything to me. I want to give you the universe, too.
I love you.
“The weather ruined my plan to take you actual stargazing, unfortunately,” Kuroo mumbled against Kenma’s shoulder.
“I like this more. We can go real stargazing another day.”
Kuroo hummed in affirmation before lying down on the bed, and pulling Kenma down with him, arms still securely wrapped around his middle. They were both staring at the stars on their ceiling, watching them softly twinkle.
“Do you remember when we used to sneak onto your roof as kids?” Kuroo asked, voice soft.
Kenma did. They’d done it so many times growing up that their parents stopped scolding them as they got older. They’d spent countless nights on Kenma’s roof (always Kenma’s. It was flat, and therefore not nearly as dangerous as Kuroo’s would have been.) Kuroo had always talked about the stars; the chemistry behind how they formed, his favourite constellations, and every dorky thing in between.
Kenma had loved every moment of it, but he’d never admit it. Kuroo knew it anyway.
He couldn’t help but be proud of how far they’d come since then, both growing more than they thought they were capable of. Kenma turned his head to press a soft kiss to Kuroo’s jaw, followed by another, and then another, and then infinitely more; one for each star dancing around their room.
In the confines of their four-walls, Kuroo and Kenma were both perfectly content to stay in their own little universe, created just for the two of them.
Meetings were officially the bane of Kenma’s existence. He felt as though he’d been sitting in the board room for hours, listening to his marketing manager talk about how sales had gone up for longer than was possibly needed.
He glanced at the clock for the thousandth time. He could be home right now. It was a Thursday, that was Kuroo’s day off. There was no doubt in Kenma’s mind that he had at least 6 unread texts asking when he’d be home, so Kuroo could stop working on his dissertation and they could goof off together.
“Kozume-san? Do you have anything to add?” The marketing manager asked him, evidently reaching the end of the most long-winded presentation Kenma had ever sat through.
Kenma smiled at him. “No, thank you, Watari. That was excellent. Are we finished for the day?”
The room all let out varying sounds and nods in affirmation; all ready to go home. “That’ll be all then. See you all tomorrow.”
Once all his employees had left the room, Kenma slipped his phone out of his pocket to witness exactly the barrage of messages he had been expecting.
Kuro: i know u just left but i miss u already (09:21)
Kuro: it’s raining today, make sure u have an umbrella on ur way back (10:33)
Kuro: u know whats a shitty colour? white. its too clean. gross (12:20)
Kuro: bokuto says hi (12:25)
Kuro: this is gonna sound lame, but i rly wish you were here rn (13:18)
Kuro: <3 (13:37)
Kenma’s eyes narrowed as he read the texts. While they weren’t particularly out of character, there was something off about them. Kenma hadn’t known Kuroo was meeting up with Bokuto today, that was the only explanation Kenma could come up with.
But it didn’t put his heart at ease. He dialled Kuroo’s number, letting it ring a few times, but ultimately being connected to Kuroo’s voicemail. It was strange, Kuroo always picked up.
Without any further hesitation, Kenma picked up his bag, and left the office to make it home. It was an hour commute back to the apartment that he and Kuroo lived in, but Kenma usually didn’t mind. It was typically an hour of silence where he could just think, or play games on his phone to numb his brain if he couldn’t stop thinking.
Today he wished it was shorter, though, he thought while standing on the train. He wanted to be back sooner.
He was pretty sure he beat his record for how fast he could walk from the train station to their apartment, but he was sticking his keys in the door before he even processed that he’d finally reached home.
He was greeted with silence. It was dark inside, all the blinds were drawn closed, the only light seeming to come from the singular bulb in the kitchen.
“Kuro? Are you home?” Kenma called out after he hung his jacket and tie on the rack by the door.
The silence was jarring.
As he continued walking into the apartment, he scanned for any signs of Kuroo being home. There were pages of assignments that he had to mark still strewn across their kitchen bench, but that was all Kenma could spot.
Until he noticed Kuroo. He was lying on the couch, curled on his side, out of view from the front door. “Kuro?” Kenma called out again, approaching the couch, his heart thumping in anxiety. The TV wasn’t on, he clearly wasn’t asleep, so what the hell was happening.
Upon approaching, Kenma noticed how exhausted Kuroo looked. Dark circles that Kenma had barely noticed before rimmed his eyes, and his face was void of its usual liveliness. Kenma crouched down next to the couch, raising a hand to lightly stroke across Kuroo’s forehead. “Hey,” he whispered, uncertainty clear in his voice.
“Sorry, kitten, I didn’t hear you come home,” Kuroo whispered back, eyes blinking out of the daze he had been in. He immediately shuffled over, making room for Kenma to lie down on the couch with him like they had a thousand times before.
Kenma pressed their foreheads together as he lay next to him, intertwining Kuroo’s hand in his own. “What’s going on?”
Kuroo made a sound between a huff and a laugh. “I’m tired.”
While Kenma certainly wasn’t buying it, he trusted that Kuroo would tell him if he wanted to. Kuroo had been under a lot of stress lately, in his defence. Perhaps his PhD wasn’t going well, or maybe the class he taught was more headache than he’d bargained for. Kenma squeezed his hand, a reminder that whatever he was going through, Kenma was right beside him.
“Yeah?” Kenma asked, giving Kuroo the space to keep talking if he just needed a little prompting. The situation oddly reminded Kenma of when they had first met; Kuroo had been even more quiet than him back then, a steady reminder of how much he’d grown.
Kuroo hesitated before speaking. “Just a bad day.” His gaze was averted, not meeting Kenma’s own.
“Okay,” Kenma whispered, leaning into Kuroo to plant a chaste kiss on his jaw. “You mean everything to me.” Kenma was glad that the darkness masked the crimson flush that found its way upon his face upon saying that; but it was days like this that Kenma would forsake his own inability to be affectionate, the need to remind Kuroo that Kenma loved him with his whole heart greater than anything else.
In response to that, Kuroo wrapped his arms around Kenma, holding him tighter. He buried his face in the crook of Kenma’s neck, as though he was holding onto his lifeline.
Kenma was more than happy to be a lifeline for Kuroo; after all, he’d been one for Kenma his whole life.
A few moments passed with no sign of Kuroo letting him go. “Kuro, are you okay?” Kenma whispered, maneuvering one hand to run through Kuroo’s hair. Kenma was aware that he couldn’t see Kuroo’s face, couldn’t see what expression he wore.
“Can we just stay like this for a bit?” Kuroo mumbled against Kenma’s skin. “Please?”
“Okay,” Kenma replied, shifting his legs so they were as intertwined with Kuroo as the rest of them. He was willing to stay here for as long as Kuroo needed, and then even longer. Once Kuroo was ready to let go, he’d get up and try and cook something he knew Kuroo liked, then settle in and watch a movie, which would inevitably resolve into more cuddling on the couch. And if Kuroo’s eyes were rimmed red from crying, Kenma wouldn’t mention it, he’d just do his best to wipe away his tears.
But for now, he was content to lie with his soulmate, bodies intertwined, until Kuroo was ready to breathe again.
“Are you sure you want me to drive?” Kenma asked, holding up the keys to Kuroo’s car, other hand on his hip. Kenma driving was a rarity, he hadn’t even bothered to buy a car at any point, opting to catch a train wherever he needed to go, or ask Kuroo to drive him if he could. Kuroo enjoyed driving, or at least, always claimed to. That was what made the occurrence of Kuroo asking Kenma to drive so strange.
Kuroo opened the door of the passenger side. “Since it is my birthday, I make the rules. You’re driving.” He stuck out his tongue at Kenma in a mature conclusion, and got into the car, placing their picnic basket onto his lap, closing the door before Kenma had a chance to question the erratic behaviour.
Shaking his head, Kenma got into the driver’s seat, and turned on the ignition. “Don’t make fun of my driving.” Sure, Kenma wasn’t Japan’s greatest driver, but Kenma was sure that he wasn’t as bad as Kuroo often exaggerated. It just wasn’t as easy as it was in video games.
“As long as you don’t drive like you’re trying to win Mario Kart, my lips are sealed.” He then began to change the radio station at least fifteen times before Kenma even managed to get out of their apartment building’s garage.
“You haven’t told me where we’re going,” Kenma asked once they got to the first intersection. “Which way am I going?”
“Ken, you’re supposed to ask that before you start the car,” Kuroo said in a mocking tone.
Kenma shot him a retaliating glare. “Don’t patronise me.”
“Aww, you trusted me to just get in the car, that’s so cute.”
“Does your car come with an ejector seat button? Because I’m tempted to launch myself at this point.”
Before Kuroo had a chance to answer, the traffic light turned green. “Left! Go left.”
Kenma huffed, turning the wheel, and sending a short prayer that he wasn’t about to get booked for not using his indicators. “And then where?”
“You know where Mizumoto Park is? Go there.”
“Okay,” Kenma said, now wholly focused on the road. They drove in silence for a while, the only sound from the radio that Kuroo kept insistently changing the stations of.
Once they had reached the main stretch of road, Kenma finally tore his eyes away from the windshield, sparing a quick glance in Kuroo’s direction. He was quiet, lips pursed together and eyes looking out the window as though he were contemplating the meaning of life itself. The dark circles under his eyes had darkened, a sign of the late nights he’d been pulling lately accompanied by the tossing and turning once he finally did get to bed, which only ever subsided when Kenma pinned him down by laying on him. Kenma bit his lip in concern. He took one hand off of the wheel to instead reach over and grab Kuroo’s hand, running circles over his palm with his thumb. “What’re you thinking about?”
That snapped Kuroo out of his thoughts, he gave Kenma’s hand a squeeze. “Nothing much. Just how lucky I am to have a soulmate like you.”
Kenma rolled his eyes. He was almost certain that was a lie, but he didn’t want to press it, not today. They were supposed to be celebrating Kuroo’s birthday. If Kuroo wanted to tell him what was really on his mind, he would.
“You’re alright too, I guess.”
“How could you say something like that on my birthday ?” Kuroo lifted one hand to his forehead. “I don’t think I can go on like this.”
“It must be so tiring being that dramatic every single day,” Kenma deadpanned.
“It’s more tiring having a soulmate who doesn’t love me as much as I love them.”
“Are you being serious?” Kenma quirked an eyebrow. Surely, he was joking.
Kuroo, however, shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Kuro, I will pull this car over right now. Are you serious?” After so many years, Kenma thought he’d bypassed any situation like this. It was true, he wasn’t as verbal or as physical with his affection as Kuroo, but he thought there was an unspoken understanding that it was just how Kenma was, he showed his affection much like a cat, just content existing in the same space.
Perhaps he should have made it a spoken understanding. He still wasn’t sure how serious Kuroo was being, not willing to take his eyes off of the road to properly analyse his expression. If it was true, Kenma didn’t want to know how long Kuroo had felt like this. He had to focus instead on how to fix it.
“Don’t pull over the car, it’s not a big deal.”
“Of course it’s a big deal.” Kenma tried to keep his tone devoid of any negative emotion. Was this why Kuroo had been acting so strange and distant lately? Kenma’s heart throbbed, his hand becoming sweaty over the wheel.
Kuroo released Kenma’s hand. “It’s just… I don’t know how to explain. You haven’t done anything wrong, I’ve just been stuck in my own head a little lately.”
“You mean everything to me,” Kenma blurted out, not sure where the words had even come from in his jumbled thoughts. “I’m not as good at saying and showing it as you are, I don’t think I ever will be. But I mean it. I can’t picture my life without you.” Kenma wanted to tell him he loved him, but his own rules forbid him.
Kuroo sniffled beside him before replying. “That means a lot,” Kuroo replied, voice soft. Kenma took his hand into his own again. “Sorry I made you go out of your comfort zone there.”
Kenma lightly shook his head. “I’ll tell you a million times, as often as you need to hear it. You can talk to me.”
“You really are the best soulmate ever.” Kuroo leant across to place a soft kiss on Kenma’s cheek. “Thank you.”
Kenma thought that if he was the best soulmate ever, they wouldn’t have had to have that conversation in the first place, but he couldn’t change the past. He’d just be more conscious of it in the future.
They reached the park a few moments later, Kuroo wrapping a scarf around Kenma’s neck before they got out of their car. In turn, Kenma pulled out the earmuffs he kept in the car’s glovebox and slipped them over Kuroo’s head, flattening out his permanent bed hair. Kuroo carried their basket and led Kenma by the hand around the park until he finally picked a spot by a lake, pulling their rug from on top of the basket and setting it down before they began to eat in a comfortable silence.
It was beautiful. The day was perfect, not a single cloud overhead, just an expanse of blue that seemed to go infinitely in all directions. Oak trees lined the park, their leaves shades of warm golds and bright reds, signs that Winter was on its way. Kenma tilted his head up and closed his eyes, enjoying the sun’s warmth tickling his face
“This is a good place,” Kuroo mused, looking out over the lake, sandwich in hand. “I like it here.”
Kenma made a ‘hmm’ around his sandwich. It was a very pretty spot that Kuroo had brought them to. “How’d you find it?”
Kuroo’s lips quirked up. “It’s where Bo is gonna propose to Akaashi in a few weeks, I thought we should scout it out. Oh, don’t tell him.”
There wasn’t anything Kenma could do to suppress his own smile at the thought. He knew Akaashi would say yes, they’d both been on the path of marriage for a while. “I won’t tell him. When’s he going to do it?”
“About a week from now, I think. I went with him to pick out a ring. I wonder if he’s going to be able to actually keep it hidden from Keiji though, you know what he’s like.”
Kenma nodded. Akaashi was extremely observant, especially when it came to matters of his heart (being Bokuto). And Bokuto was far from subtle. “I’m happy for them.”
“Me too! Bo’s ecstatic about the whole thing. Talks about it every day.” Kuroo ran a hand through his hair. “I wonder when their wedding is gonna be.”
“Probably in two Springs from now, knowing Akaashi. Bokuto’s favourite season is Spring, but next Spring doesn’t give them enough time to plan. So it’ll be the next one.”
There was something distant in Kuroo’s smile at that, his eyes downturned. “Long time away.”
They lapsed back into silence, finishing their sandwiches while looking over the lake. Eventually, Kenma suggested cutting the small cake they’d bought. Kuroo hummed in agreement.
Kenma dug through the bag until he had procured the cake, the candle and some matches, setting it up and lighting the flame, pushing it towards Kuroo before the wind had a chance to blow out.
Kuroo promptly scrunched his eyes together, something he did every year while making his birthday wish, and blew out the candle.
Kenma shuffled over on the rug until he was pressed against Kuroo, and leant up to press a kiss to his jaw. “Happy 24th birthday, Kuro.”
“Thank you, kitten.” Kuroo moved around, organising himself so that Kenma was seated between his legs, so close that their chests were almost pressed together, cake seemingly forgotten. “You wanna know what I wished for?”
“Okay,” Kenma replied, hooking his legs around his boyfriend’s waist so they were intertwined.
“Kenma,” Kuroo droned. “The correct response is ‘no, because it won’t come true if you say it’. Not ‘okay’. Jeez.” He poked at Kenma’s sides.
Kuroo shook his head. “I can’t believe you.” He leant forward to kiss Kenma’s nose. “I wished that I’d get to spend forever with you.”
“That’s a dumb wish,” Kenma deadpanned, lifting his hands to thumb over Kuroo’s brows, trying to smooth out the crease his words had created.
Kuroo’s mouth gaped open anyway. “Why is that a dumb wish? What the fuck, Kenma.”
Kenma chuckled. “Because we have that anyway.”
Though perhaps a trick of the reflection of the lake, Kenma could have sworn that Kuroo’s eyes became glassy. “Oh my god,” Kuroo repeated a few times while pressing a barrage of kisses all over Kenma’s face, starting at his chin, his cheeks, his forehead, his nose, and finally his lips. “You’re not good for my heart.”
Kuroo wrapped his arms around Kenma’s waist, and pulled him down so they were laying on the ground, Kenma’s head on Kuroo’s chest. He lifted one hand, tracing over the Bouncing Ball logo on Kuroo’s shirt with one finger. It was awfully endearing that Kuroo had made Kenma’s merchandise part of his everyday wardrobe.
No words were spoken between them, both perfectly content to just be in each other’s company, Kuroo threading his hands through Kenma’s hair, and Kenma occasionally shifting to place a kiss against Kuroo’s chest.
After an indeterminate amount of time passed, Kenma began to feel Kuroo slightly tremble underneath him. Kenma’s brows thread together; it wasn’t that cold.
He lifted his head. Kuroo wasn’t laughing or crying, and his lips weren’t inged purple from the cold. Kenma tilted his head to the side. “Are you alright?”
Kuroo only looked back at him in confusion. “Yeah? What’s up?”
Kenma shrugged. “Nothing.” Perhaps he had been imagining it, Kuroo seemed fine now, at least.
With that, Kenma lay his head back down on Kuroo’s chest, Kuroo holding him there even tighter than before.
Saturday mornings were Kenma’s favourite. There were no obligations. No work. No meetings. Nothing pressing he had to spend his day on. He cracked his eyes open slowly, the room bathed in a soft, warm glow. The sun was up. He supposed that meant that he should get up, too.
Kenma lazily reached across for Kuroo, but instead only felt cold sheets underneath his hand. He patted around for a few more moments, as though he had just missed Kuroo, but alas, felt nothing. He opened his eyes the whole way, taking in the full sight of their empty bed.
Kuroo usually waited for Kenma to get up on Saturdays, perhaps today was an exception. The bed felt cold and lonely without him, though. Kenma thought he was ridiculous for thinking that.
He arched his back in a gratuitous stretch before pulling the coverlet down, and rolling out of bed in a relatively ungraceful manner. He had never been known for being a morning person.
Soon after, he was padding down the corridor to the living room and kitchen, hopefully where Kuroo was.
And there he was, seated on the very end of their sofa, gazing out a window and gripping a mug of something that looked like tea, completely oblivious to Kenma’s arrival. Kenma couldn’t help but notice the dark circles under his eyes, they’d been so prominent lately. Kenma slowly approached, making Kuroo aware of his presence as he sat down next to him on the lounge, legs brushing together. Kuroo didn’t acknowledge him at all.
Something was wrong. Very, very wrong.
“Kuro?” Kenma’s voice was as gentle as he could muster.
Kuroo shook his head, his eyes appearing to become glassy, perhaps a trick of the light. He still didn’t turn to face Kenma.
Kenma could feel his heart racing in his chest. Something was wrong, and he didn’t know what it could be. It made him feel ill, his stomach twisting into unpleasant knots, bile threatening to spill out of his throat. Something was wrong with Kuroo, and Kenma didn’t even have a guess as to what it was. There was no way he’d be so despondent over his PhD, it had to be more than that.
He placed a tentative hand on Kuroo’s leg. “Kuro? What’s going on?”
Kuroo’s grip around his mug tightened, his jaw tensing. Kenma wished he could take whatever was ailing him away. His heart ached at seeing the singular most important person in his life in such anguish; anguish that he didn’t even understand.
“You can tell me anything, you know.”
“Kenma?” Kuroo’s voice was croaky. Another bad sign.
“Hi,” Kenma whispered, rubbing circles into Kuroo’s leg. “What’s happening?” Kenma wouldn’t usually push so hard, trusting Kuroo would just tell him in time. However, the odd behaviour had been going on for months, and Kenma couldn’t just sit back and watch Kuroo bear the brunt of it alone anymore.
“I don’t know how to tell you.” Kuroo’s voice wobbled in a way that Kenma had never heard it. He’d never sounded so unsure.
Kenma’s heart was doing backflips inside of his chest. He couldn’t recall anything, or even come up with a scenario that Kuroo would struggle to tell him. They’d known each other their whole lives, the only thing of importance that Kuroo had ever kept from him was the fact that they were soulmates. Uncertainty was not something Kenma had ever attributed with Kuroo, and right now it was terrifying him.
Kenma pried one of Kuroo’s hands off of his mug, pulling it into his lap, and began to trace circles into his palm. There was the possibility that telling Kuroo how much he was scaring Kenma right now would only serve to push him away further, so he didn’t. His heart continued to beat rapidly in his chest, threatening to burst out of his ribcage.
“I can’t,” Kuroo pleaded, voice weak. “You’ll hate me.”
Kenma huffed. “You know there’s nothing that could make me hate you. C’mon, get out of your head and talk to me, Tetsurou.”
It was true. The sky was blue. The sun would rise tomorrow. Kenma could never hate Kuroo. Even right now, when the way Kuroo was talking was making Kenma wonder if he’d been cheated on. Kuroo wouldn’t do that; Kenma tried to convince himself of that much.
They were both silent after that, Kenma still tracing lines over Kuroo’s hand, as something to ground him. The silence was deafening. Kenma wanted to say something - anything - but he didn’t have the words.
And then, Kuroo spoke.
Kenma’s world fractured, threatening to shatter into thousands of unfixable pieces.
Kenma froze, blinking for a few moments before his bottom lip began to tremble.
“You’ll get better though, right?”
He had to. Kenma didn’t want to even think about anything else, he wouldn’t allow himself to, not without confirmation.
That was the moment Kuroo turned to look over at him, shaking his head slightly.
Kenma’s chest had stopped aching, replaced with a sharp stabbing pain where his heart was. He wanted Kuroo to drop the act and say he was just messing with him, but based on the earnest and utterly devastated look on his face, it wasn’t going to happen.
Kenma wasted no time launching himself at his soulmate, wrapping his arms around him and burying his face in the crook of Kuroo’s neck. Kenma wasn’t sure when he started crying, he wasn't even sure if his brain had managed to fully process the brevity of the circumstance. Kuroo was shaking underneath him; it seemed as though he were crying too. This only served to make Kenma cry harder, holding Kuroo tighter. He didn’t want to let go.
“I’m sorry,” Kuroo babbled. “I’m so sorry.” He sounded defeated. If there was any piece of Kenma’s heart still in-tact, then Kuroo’s tone was sure to break it beyond repair.
Kenma squeezed Kuroo tighter to his chest. He didn’t have the words to convey that Kuroo shouldn’t be apologising, but he hoped Kuroo understood it through the urgency of Kenma’s grip.
Hours passed with neither of them willing to let go of the other. Kenma’s head throbbed from the amount of tears he’d cried, his hollow chest aching.
He hadn’t yet fully comprehended the weight of the situation - what the inevitable outcome would be. How could he? Shock had overtaken his system, his mind seemingly unable to compute.
And Kuroo. God, what was Kuroo even feeling? Or thinking? He thought Kenma was going to hate him for this, had been carrying this all on his own. Kenma absentmindedly pressed a kiss to Kuroo’s shoulder. He still loved him more than he did yesterday. And tomorrow, he’d love him even more.
Besides, Kenma had a glimmer of hope in him. They still had their soulmate marks. As long as Kuroo never told Kenma he loved him, everything would be okay. That was how soulmate marks worked. As long as they continued just as they always had, it would be fine.
It had to be okay.
Kenma pulled back, cupping Kuroo’s face in his hands. He wanted to say something to him, anything, really, but there weren’t really words to say that would make it any better. Not that Kenma had thought of yet.
“Do you want the details?” Kuroo’s voice was still soft, as though he was scared of overstepping.
Kenma nodded. If the enemy was invisible, Kenma at least had to hear about what he was facing.
Kuroo looked back at Kenma. His eyes were bloodshot from crying, his nose and cheeks a blotchy red, and his hair dishevelled. Kenma didn’t look any better. “Do you remember what I told you made my mum sick?”
He did. He blinked at Kuroo once.
“Same thing. Lou Gehrig's Disease. ALS.”
Kenma tried to recall everything he knew about the disease, from what he’d heard from Kuroo, and the few medical dramas he’d binged while he was in university. The main symptom was muscle weakness. Degeneration of the body. Symptoms increasing in severity over time.
“How long?” Kenma’s voice was a croak, he barely registered it as his own.
“I was diagnosed late. The doctors said it was hard to estimate. Probably fourteen months max.” Kuroo spoke of this so naturally, the amount of time he’d spent mulling it over becoming apparent in the knowledge of his words.
“Kuro.” Kenma didn’t even know why he said that.
“It doesn’t change anything,” Kenma whispered. They were still soulmates, he was still Kuroo. Kenma still loved him.
Kenma didn’t know how he felt about the conception that he was a shy, quiet person.
Yes, to people who were strangers to him, he would come off that way. Nothing except mumbling and downturned eyes, escaping their judgemental gazes. That was the Kozume Kenma that most people knew.
But there was also the Kenma who was comfortable with people enough to show his more passionate side. To see the sparkle in his eyes; to hear the elevation of his voice when he spoke about something he truly cared about. He was sure in moments like that, he even reached the volume of Bokuto. Or so he had been told.
One person who had been witness to every single one of Kenma’s louder moments was Kuroo. He was there when he got so into a video game that he yelled when he lost his last life, he’d been there to see Kenma scream across a volleyball court when he thought Nekoma was about to lose nationals, he’d been there to celebrate the excitement of Bouncing Ball Corp’s first partnership.
Maybe it wasn’t the experiences that had allowed Kenma to act in such a way, perhaps it was actually the fact that Kuroo was there. That was the only connection Kenma could make between moments such as those.
Perhaps that was why he wasn’t surprised at his public outburst; he couldn’t be surprised if his subject area was his main passion in life: Kuroo Tetsurou.
“It’s fucking bullshit, Akaashi.” Akaashi’s eyes widened at Kenma’s volume over his mug of tea. He hadn’t yet been privy to a moment like this, but Kenma didn’t care. He wasn’t about to ease him into it.
Akaashi sighed, placing his mug back onto the table of the small cafe they were residing in. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for him. For the both of you.”
Kenma ran a hand through his hair, tugging at the ends in frustration. He didn’t think he had the words to even convey to Akaashi what it was like. He didn’t think there were even words to explain it.
“It’s genetic, yes?” Akaashi asked, calculating eyes staring directly at Kenma, asking him to talk about it, but careful not to push the boundary of what was polite to ask. Kenma didn’t care about that boundary.
“His mother had ALS too, if that’s what you’re asking,” Kenma said, eyes staring down at the table. He’d never had the chance to meet Kuroo’s mother, a disease had ripped her away from the world before she’d even had a chance to watch her son grow up. But he’d heard stories. Stories about how she was the kindest woman both Kuroo and his father had ever known, how she’d always sing Kuroo to sleep as a child, how she’d always find something to smile about in any situation. Kenma had often thought that the stories he’d told reminded him of Kuroo, their similarities in personality too stark to ignore; something Kuroo had always taken pride in.
ALS was one similarity he could have lived without.
“I’m sorry.” Kenma’s grip tightened on his mug of hot chocolate at Akaashi’s words. Condolences were not meant for the living, but Kenma wasn’t about to fault Akaashi for trying. He wasn’t eloquent enough himself to be critical.
“How’s Bokuto taking it?” Kenma was well aware that Bokuto had known what was happening before Kenma did, even if Kuroo didn’t explicitly tell him that. He knew Bokuto was the one who’d taken Kuroo to the earlier doctor’s visits, promised to be there until he was ready to tell Kenma, and then still be there anyway.
That’s where he was today, at least. He’d said he wanted to take Kuroo to some restaurant that they’d always held ‘bro night’ at, for old time’s sake. It was good for the both of them to catch up and have fun while they could.
It also gave Akaashi the proper chance to catch up with Kenma, something he himself had promised Kuroo that he would. Not that Kenma was supposed to know that, either. Kuroo was just ridiculously transparent.
Akaashi sighed. “Not well.” Kenma waited for Akaashi to elaborate, but the words never came. Probably because he was worried he’d upset or offend Kenma in some way. That irked Kenma a lot.
“How so?” Kenma pressed.
“Let’s discuss how you’re handling it instead.”
Kenma slammed his mug back down onto the table, causing hot chocolate to splash out of the side and drip down, spilling on the table. He didn’t mean to have an outburst like that, but he couldn’t help it, not with a subject matter like this. Not when Akaashi was asking like Kuroo was already gone.
“How do you think I’m handling it, Akaashi? I can’t look at him without thinking ‘soon I won’t be able to have this any more’. And I can’t fucking tell him that, because if ALS isn’t the thing that’s ki- hurting him, then his own guilt is. And he’s suffering, constantly. Some days he has to sit and only concentrate on his breathing because it’s so laborious now. And he’ll barely mention it to me because he doesn’t want me to be upset. And god, while I love that he cares so much about how I’m handling it, I don’t think he sees that I care more about how he’s handling it. So both of us are fucked, really.” Kenma hadn’t meant to ramble for so long, but once the cork had been popped off of his bottle, he couldn’t stop the flow.
Akaashi lifted one hand to readjust his glasses. Kenma knew what he was thinking. ‘ Kenma’s never said that many words at once. He must be handling this terribly. What can I say to make it better?’
If Kenma was any more of an asshole, he would have told Akaashi that there weren’t words to make it better. But he wasn’t about to lash out at him like that; none of this was Akaashi’s fault, after all. He was just trying to be a good friend.
Kenma sighed again. “Sorry. It’s just- I don’t understand how the world could be so cruel to take away a star like Kuro.”
Akaashi only nodded, still calculating what to say.
“The universe is a horrible place,” was what he finally decided on.
Kenma thought that truer words had never been spoken.
“Are you sure you want to stay home tonight?” Kuroo asked from the bedroom. Kenma couldn’t see him from inside their walk-in wardrobe, but he could imagine the questioning look on Kuroo’s face. It was Friday night, their supposed date night.
Kuroo had suggested they go stargazing, just as he had promised they would all those months ago, back when the apocalypse wasn’t on the horizon. It felt like a lifetime ago. But the weather was too cold for that now, the midst of Winter bringing an unshakeable frost with it. He couldn’t take Kuroo out in that weather, not when he was so prone to getting cold lately.
Kenma tried not to dwell on the fact that in the more recent months, Kuroo was becoming frail, shaking at the first signs of a cold draft. The thermostat in their apartment was constantly set to warm, there was no point tempting fate by not being precautious.
Holding date night from the warm familiarity of their own apartment was a much safer option. For Kuroo’s physical health, as well as Kenma’s mental health.
“Yeah, I have an idea. We can go real stargazing at a different time.” A time when Kuroo was better. In Summer, at least.
Kenma continued to rummage through boxes and shelves in their shared wardrobe, finding odd trinkets that he didn’t even know they owned, but not the one he was looking for. “Give me a couple more minutes.”
“Do you want help looking?”
“No! I can do it myself, you just stay there,” Kenma called out, opening yet another cardboard box. This one filled with old streaming equipment such as cameras and mics that Kenma thought he threw away while in university.
“You know, if you told me what you were looking for, I probably know where it is.” Kuroo’s disembodied voice called out once again.
Kenma rolled his eyes. There was no way all these boxes were navigable. “It’s fine.” He opened another box, the one on the second shelf, his eyes immediately drawn to the object of his desire. “I found it anyway! Close your eyes.”
Once he had grabbed his prized possession and placed the box back where it belonged, he walked out of the wardrobe. Sure enough, Kuroo was still seated on the bed, eyes screwed shut and tapping his fingers against the bed.
Kenma couldn’t help himself but creep up to him and press a soft kiss to his lips. He truly was the cutest person Kenma had ever laid eyes upon.
“Was that the surprise?” Kuroo mumbled against Kenma’s skin as they broke apart. “Can I open my eyes now?”
Kenma tucked his object under his arm to free up his hands, placing them on each side of Kuroo’s face, thumbs lightly stroking his eyelids. “Keep them shut.”
“Okay,” Kuroo’s voice was a whisper, but the smile playing on his lips was enough to inform Kenma that he was free to continue in his set up.
He took a step back from Kuroo. “Five more minutes. It’s not a big surprise, by the way.”
“You know, anything from you is great.” Kenma smiled as he rummaged through their bedside draw in search of batteries. He always stored them here, in case one of his remotes ran out. There were a few batteries left in it, Kenma grabbing three to place into the device, flicking it on once to reveal that it was indeed still working.
He walked back to Kuroo, nudging his legs apart so Kenma could sit between them, and act as a human blanket. Once he was seated, he placed the globe back down onto the bed, illuminating their room once again into a galaxy.
Kenma fiddled with it for a moment, pressing the buttons underneath to change the colours of their star globe from purple to a brilliant blue. Kenma looked around the room, it was just as he remembered the lights being, a magical spiral engulfing the room in a strew of stars, a galaxy just for him and Kuroo.
He gently nudged Kuroo down so he was laying on his back, Kenma quick to follow and placed his head on Kuroo’s chest. “You can open your eyes now.”
Kuroo’s eyes opened, and immediately lit up. The reflection of the stars in his eyes was so beautiful, so exquisite that Kenma wanted to commit the image to memory, let it be ingrained in his mind for the rest of eternity.
“You found our old dome,” Kuroo said softly, lips upturned in a smile. “I forgot about it.”
“Stargazing from our bedroom seemed better than going out into the cold.” Kuroo didn’t reply to that, instead pulling his arms around Kenma to engulf him in a hug.
They sat in silence, Kenma perfectly content to lay on Kuroo’s chest and listen to his steady heartbeat. When Kuroo lifted a hand to start to soothingly stroke through Kenma’s hair, his eyes began to blink shut, the warmth and comfort threatening to lull him to sleep
Kuroo disrupted their silence eventually, Kenma instantly back to an alert state. “Are you awake?”
Kenma hummed in affirmation. He hadn’t fallen asleep just yet.
“Can I ask you something? Something you might not like?”
“Of course.” Naturally, he was nervous about this, but he knew logically that this wasn’t going to be the hardest thing Kuroo was ever going to tell him. They had already jumped that hurdle.
Kuroo took a deep breath, Kenma feeling his chest rise underneath him. “Can I tell you now?”
He didn’t have to ask what Kuroo was referring to. He already knew.
Kuroo wanted to tell Kenma that he loved him.
Kenma pushed himself up so his gaze was level with Kuroo’s. “No.”
“Kitten, it’s just- I’m dying anyway. I want to tell you, at least once.” Kenma could feel Kuroo’s heart fluttering as he spoke, clearly worried about the whole situation; worried he wouldn’t get the chance to say it in the future.
Kenma reached across with one hand to grip at Kuroo’s. “That’s admitting defeat. Nothing bad can happen if you don’t say it.”
Kenma was well-aware that it was a delusional thought. In his mind, he knew what was bound to happen.
But no one had informed his heart. His heart maintained a small, tiny glimmer of hope, in the form of a soulmate mark, that it wasn’t yet ready to give up.
“You’ve always been a realist, come on. Please?”
Kenma bit his bottom lip. “What? Am I just supposed to accept it?” He wasn’t being fair to Kuroo right now, he knew that. It was evident in the way Kuroo ever so slightly flinched at Kenma’s outburst that made his heart ache in regret.
But he was being honest: how was he supposed to accept that his other half was going to leave? He wanted to do everything in his power to prevent it, including defying fate.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Kuroo added, wrapping Kenma’s hand in a tight grip. “It’s just something to think about.”
They lapsed back into silence, a heavy guilt hanging between the two of them that neither knew how to breach.
Kenma could all but feel Kuroo thinking, the blue light making his perplexed expression clearer. Kuroo had always worn his emotions on his sleeve, Kenma wondered if he knew how transparent he was, sometimes.
“You’re worried about something.” He didn’t know what exactly yet, there were too many options for him to narrow down. After all, they had a lot to be worried about.
Kuroo nodded. “It’s dumb, though.”
“It’s not dumb. Not if it’s you.” He’d learned a few sappy lines from Kuroo here and there. It was a small joy to use them.
The corner of Kuroo’s mouth quirked up, Kenma not sure if it was genuine or out of nerves. “Just thinking about you. How you’re handing it. Y’know?”
That was a very roundabout way of saying what he actually meant, as though he was leaving it up to Kenma’s interpretation.
Kenma knew him well enough to understand the implications of his worries.
“I’m not leaving you. You can’t make me. So don’t try.” His voice was absolute, leaving no room for any form of discussion on the matter.
He was in this for the long run, nowhere he’d rather be than by his soulmate’s side, even under these circumstances. A soft rage bubbled in his chest at the thought of Kuroo trying to protect him from this. Was that why he wanted to tell him he loved him? So he could say it was the end?
Kuroo huffed, holding Kenma tighter against his chest. “You can change your mind.” I don’t want you to feel obligated to stay.
Their little universe was filled with uncertainties, but the one thing that Kenma knew was that there was nowhere else he’d rather be.
“Ah, so we finally meet. Kuroo over here mentions you at least five times a visit.” The man in front of Kenma extended his hand, which Kenma lightly gripped into a handshake. “I’m Dr. Yamazaki.”
“Kozume Kenma.” Kenma’s tone was clipped. He’d never met this man because Kuroo had either asked Kenma to wait outside, or Kenma had a business meeting run overtime. If Kenma had it his way, he would have grilled this Dr. Yamazaki for as much information as possible immediately.
Perhaps that was why Kuroo had tried to keep them separate for so long, giving Kenma ample time to process and come to his own conclusions before giving him a chance to hound a doctor. A smart move, but he wouldn’t admit it.
“And I’m Kuroo,” Kuroo unhelpfully added from beside him. The doctor laughed. Kenma wondered if he should be doing the same.
He wasn’t a big fan of this hospital, his mood immediately sombering once he’d stepped foot onto the pristine white floor, the scent of hospital-grade antiseptic filling his lungs. Kuroo had asked if he wanted to wait in the car. He’d declined immediately.
“Right, do you mind coming with me for a moment to run some tests? Nothing major, just bloods.” The doctor had a kind voice, but Kenma found himself disliking him anyway.
Kuroo nodded, pushing himself out of his seat in the private meeting room they currently resided in. “Sure thing, doc.”
Kenma shuffled to get up and go with them, but the doctor interjected. “You can wait here, Kozume, we won’t be long at all. Then we can discuss the plan from here.”
At least Kenma had a reason to dislike him now. He never had taken a liking to anybody who tried to separate him from Kuroo.
Kenma looked up at Kuroo, concern written clearly in the crease of his brows. He didn’t know if Kuroo wanted to go do tests alone, the thought sounded awfully isolating to Kenma. But Kuroo smiled, placing a gentle hand on Kenma’s shoulder. “It’s alright, Ken, we’ll be back in a sec.”
“He’s in good hands! Don’t worry. Help yourself to the biscuits on my desk.” Kenma scrunched his nose up at that, his stomach doing too many backflips to even fathom eating.
With that, Kuroo and Dr. Yamazaki departed the room, rendering Kenma alone in the office. He’d never been a person who detested solitude, he’d often found comfort in it. In a hospital, however, it felt soul-sucking.
Had Kuroo come to any appointments alone? Surely with the MSBY Black Jackals training schedule, Bokuto hadn’t been able to accompany him to each one. Which means he’d sat in waiting rooms and offices like these completely unaided. Tears pricked the corners of Kenma’s eyes at the thought. His Kuroo had always been too brave for his own good.
He hated this office more than he knew how to say. The white walls and floors made the room seem bigger, or perhaps, made Kenma feel smaller. Dr. Yamazaki had no personal belongings on his desk, no photos or trinkets, just the name plaque. Just an empty desk. Completely impersonal, no sense of comfort at all. The blinds on the adjacent window were drawn shut, the light in the room instead coming from the fluorescents overhead, creating an unnaturally white light. It looked exactly like a stereotypical hospital.
Kenma pulled out his phone to pass the time, answering a couple of work emails that he’d disregarded prior. Then he swiped through a couple of mindless games, willing time to go as fast as it could.
Ten minutes turned to twenty, then thirty, and then forty-five. The unease was growing inside of Kenma’s chest increasing with each passing second. They should have been back by now. The temptation to venture out of this office and find Kuroo was growing, but in such a large hospital, he knew it would be nearly impossible.
So he’d text the most logical person he knew. If their verdict was to go look, that could be his final deciding factor.
Kenma: if Kuro has been with a doctor for almost an hour, should I go find him? (13:47)
Akaashi answered almost instantly. He often claimed that one of the highlights of being an editor was the fact he wasn’t constricted to a harsh work environment, allowing him freedoms during the day.
Akaashi: It’s best you just wait. I’m sure the doctors are very capable. (13:48)
Kenma: I didn’t like the doctor
Kenma: I don’t like this hospital either (13:48)
Kenma: are you sure I shouldn’t go look? (13:49)
Akaashi: Kozume, you need to put your personal feelings on the matter aside. The doctor is a professional, and working to help. The circumstance isn’t their fault.
Akaashi: Do you want me to go over there? I’m not too busy. (13:50)
Kenma: no it’s okay
Kenma: thanks Akaashi (13:50)
Akaashi: Any time. Tell me how it goes. (13:50)
Kenma slipped his phone back into his pocket. Akaashi was, at least, a voice of reason. Someone to listen to Kenma’s thoughts who wasn’t Kuroo. And really, he couldn’t put the extra stress on Kuroo. He was going through enough without having Kenma’s anxieties on top of it.
Another fifteen minutes later, the door swung open, prompting Kenma to turn around. Kuroo walked in, no sign of harm or distress. Kenma finally let himself exhale. Kuroo was back, he seemed okay, everything was fine.
“Sorry to keep you waiting for so long, Kozume. We didn’t intend for that to go for so long.” Dr. Yamazaki sounded genuinely apologetic, but seeds of distrust had already been planted within Kenma.
“Was everything okay?” Kenma’s voice had a sharp edge to it that he hadn’t intended. Once Kuroo was seated on the seat beside Kenma, he reached across and grabbed Kenma’s hand, as though he were trying to calm him down.
Kuroo rubbed circles into the back of Kenma’s hand. “It’s alright, he’ll tell us now.”
“Based on observations in the few physical examinations we’ve conducted now, as well as the bloods, electromyogram and lumbar puncture, your ALS is progressing at the expected rate,” Dr Yamazaki began. His tone was nothing sans professional, as impersonal as his desk.
Kenma glanced across at Kuroo. His face was impassive, as though he too were detached from the situation.
“However, this is the point where things may start to go downhill. You mentioned the slight difficulty breathing, yes?”
“That will most likely increase over the next few months. I’d suggest you seek permanent hospitalisation sooner rather than later, as soon as you feel as though you’re at risk without any support. Kozume, keep an eye on him, too. He’s a stubborn one.”
Kenma blinked in understanding. The doctor continued speaking, outlining Kuroo’s prognosis, the future symptoms and signs, medications that could ease those, and a rough outline of things that Kuroo should be doing, or avoiding, to manage those symptoms.
Kuroo occasionally interjected with a follow-up question, or a hum of agreement, but Kenma was silent, his mind whirring in an attempt to process the information he’d been given. Kuroo hadn’t seemed too different so far, just a little quieter, a little bit more frail. But based on what the doctor was saying, it was bound to get much, much worse.
Preparing for it seemed impossible, not when he couldn’t even fathom somebody as strong as Kuroo falling that ill. It wasn’t right.
“And the time?” Kuroo asked, pulling Kenma out of his thoughts and back into the conversation.
Dr. Yamazaki grimaced. “About eight months, I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you.”
Kenma’s eyes began to sting again, he gripped Kuroo’s hand tighter in his own. Eight months? That was nothing. Kuroo didn’t seem to be in bad enough health for that to even be possible. Kuroo didn’t look like somebody who was dying.
Eight months was too soon. Kenma blinked, trying to force himself not to cry in front of this stranger. The focus should be Kuroo here.
Kenma turned to look over at Kuroo, to gauge his reaction to that news. He didn’t look shattered. He didn’t look angry. He didn’t look the way Kenma thought somebody who just got told they had less than a year left on this planet was supposed to look.
A soft smile played on his face, his head moving in a slight nod. “Thanks for the update.”
Kenma’s bottom lip began to tremble, but he held it back by loosely biting on it. Kuroo was staying strong through this, probably for some noble reason that Kenma struggled to understand. That reason most likely had something to do with Kenma himself.
But if Kuroo was going to stay strong, then so was Kenma. He wouldn’t let the tears that were threatening to spill over fall. He clenched his jaw, joining Kuroo in slightly nodding. No matter how much he wanted to cry, how much he wanted to scream that the doctor’s words couldn’t possibly be true, he wouldn’t. For Kuroo.
He intertwined his hand into Kuroo’s as they left the doctors office, Kenma attempting to ignore the constant pangs of fear in his gut about the uncertainties that the future would hold. But he knew one thing: he was going to put his everything into staying right by Kuroo’s side.
After all, what will be will be.
“Hey, I’m home,” Kenma whispered, poking his head into their shared bedroom. Kuroo was laying on the bed, book in hand, reading glasses slightly skewed on his face.
He looked up when he heard Kenma, closing his book and putting it beside him. “Welcome back, how was work?”
Kenma was aware that Kuroo now lived his work life through Kenma; he’d handed in his resignation at the university a few months ago now, and spent the majority of his time in their apartment.
He was evidently getting weaker. He spent less time moving around, more lying down and attempting to control his breathing, or read books to take his mind off of other things. Looking at him now, Kenma noticed that his cheeks had sunken in slightly, his face more gaunt than Kenma could ever remember it.
“Work was okay. We’re releasing a game in a couple of months, if everything goes to plan.” Kenma approached Kuroo, leaning down to press a kiss to his forehead, causing Kuroo to hum softly. “What did you do today?”
“Read, mostly. Watched Bo’s match on T.V. Wondered when you’d be getting home.”
Kenma tried not to dwell on the fact that Kuroo wasn’t as talkative as he once was, his voice not as lively. It didn’t bother him, he was learning to carry conversations as Kuroo had often done for him in the past.
“Sounds like a good day, did they win?” Kenma asked as he stepped into their walk-in wardrobe, taking off the suit he had to wear in the office and exchanging it for an old pair of sweats and one of Kuroo’s t-shirts.
“Yeah, you should have seen Bo’s spiking, it was insane.” Even without seeing his face, Kenma could hear the longing in Kuroo’s voice.
He missed volleyball, Kenma could tell by the way he looked at old photos from their Nekoma days, always got really into the matches they watched on television, and ultimately looked despondent after each one.
Kenma didn’t know how to fix it.
Once he’d finished getting changed and taken his hair down, he walked back to the bed, flopping down at the foot of it. The exhaustion of life, it seemed, was finally catching up with him.
“Are you tired?” Kuroo asked from where he was seated, just out of arm's reach.
Kenma groaned in response, hoping it conveyed his message. “Work’s a bitch.”
“You’re good at it, though. I’m proud of you.” Kuroo’s voice was so sincere and earnest that Kenma felt warmth blossom through his chest. “You can get through it.”
“I know. It’s just tiring in the meantime,” Kenma mumbled into the mattress. Due to the endless eternity of meetings, Kenma hadn’t nearly been able to spend as much time with Kuroo as he liked. He loathed leaving him in an empty apartment on his own for hours on end. “I’m thinking of selling the company.”
He hadn’t told anyone else that yet. It had been at the back of his mind for a while now, a possibility that would free up his schedule, not else to mention the significant lack of stress he’d be under. It seemed like a win.
Kuroo, on the other hand, did not think so. “You can’t sell it! That’s all your life’s work since you were in university, it’s gonna last a long time. Why would you throw it away now?”
Kenma hummed again. He wasn’t prepared to tell Kuroo that he’d be essentially throwing it away for him; Kuroo didn’t need that guilt.
“Don’t sell it. Please?”
A chuckle rose out of Kenma’s throat. “If you think I should keep it, then I’ll keep it.”
“It’ll give you something to do when I’m… y’know. Gone.” Kuroo’s tone had shifted from honest to one where guilt was creeping in at the edges.
“Don’t talk like that. You’re still here,” Kenma chided from where he was laying.
Kuroo huffed. “Sorry, sorry. Can you come cuddle now?”
Kenma rolled his eyes, but hoisted himself up to crawl to where Kuroo was resting, placing his head on his chest, and one hand over Kuroo’s stomach, feeling the rise and fall of each passing breath. “I’d never say no to cuddling.”
“Are you sure you’re Kenma?” Kuroo teased. He was sure he was himself, he was just finding it exceptionally hard to say no to Kuroo about anything these days (not that he was asking for much at all). Plus, it gave Kenma the chance to be close to him, something he hadn't realised he’d been taking for granted all this time.
“I’m me, I promise,” Kenma whispered before pressing a kiss to Kuroo’s collarbone where it was peeking out from the t-shirt he had on.
Kuroo whined at the feather-light kiss. “You’re so cute.”
Kenma moved his head back to lay on Kuroo’s chest. Kenma couldn’t even remember feeling Kuroo’s ribs dig into him as he lay on him before, a sure sign that he was indeed growing weaker, just as his doctor had told him he was. Kenma bit his bottom lip, and tried to calm himself down by listening to Kuroo’s thumping heartbeat. As long as his heart was pumping blood, he hadn’t lost him just yet.
“I don’t know if I want you to see me get worse,” Kuroo’s voice was soft, the way it always was when broaching a serious topic.
Kenma propped his head up so he was facing Kuroo. “Why not?” Not that he was going to budge, he just wanted to understand Kuroo’s thought process.
Kuroo’s eyes averted, looking anywhere except into Kenma’s own. “I don’t know. I guess I don’t want you to remember me like that. Plus it’ll suck for you. Yeah.”
Kenma raised an eyebrow. “What? You think I’m going to think of you any differently?”
“I’m not,” Kenma said, voice firm. “I’m in love with you. Nothing on this planet could make me love you any less, or think of you as anybody except the dork I fell in love with in the first place.”
“You want to know what I love about you?” Kenma asked, completely rhetorically. Kuroo couldn’t get out of this one if he tried. Kenma didn’t even wait for Kuroo’s response before he began.
He placed a kiss on Kuroo's jawline. “I love this. It’s very attractive, don’t call me shallow.”
A soft blush began to spread across Kuroo’s face, influencing Kenma’s next move. He pressed two quick kisses in succession, both on Kuroo’s cheeks. “I love these. I love how they look when you smile. And also when you blush. Cute.”
Kenma shifted down, placing a kiss over Kuroo’s chest. “I love this. Don’t look at me like that, I mean your heart. It’s the kindest and purest heart on the planet, I think. Thank you for sharing it with me.”
The blush on Kuroo’s cheeks deepened to a dark crimson, something Kenma was proud that he was still able to draw out. Channelling his inner-Kuroo was working after all.
He grabbed one of Kuroo’s hands next, kissing his fingertips. “I love your hands. They’re big and warm and a nice shape, I guess.”
Next he moved up again, pressing a kiss to Kuroo’s forehead. “I love what’s in this. You’re so clever, always have been.”
Gentle kisses against Kuroo’s eyelids were next. “I love these a lot, your eyes have always been very honest. I've liked looking at them since we were kids, but I don’t think I’ve had the courage to tell you that until now.”
Finally, he captured Kuroo’s lips in a kiss. “And these. Not only for kissing, but also every word you say, every joke and every little quip.”
Kenma had to bite his tongue from finishing with an all encompassing ‘I love you’. Hopefully, Kuroo had gotten the message.
Kuroo’s permanent move to the hospital had been less monumental than Kenma had thought it would be.
Less than 24 hours after an episode where Kuroo had struggled to force air into his lungs to an extent where Kenma was seconds away from calling an ambulance, they’d made the decision it was for the best, even if it was terribly hard to admit. Kenma had called up the hospital, helped Kuroo pack anything he’d need into a duffel bag, and then off they went.
Neither of them mentioned that it was probably the last time that Kuroo would step foot into their apartment.
They’d settled Kuroo into a private room pretty fast, Kenma making sure to draw open the window as soon as they arrived. The white walls and antiseptic smell turned Kenma’s stomach, the room far too impersonal and jarring for him to feel comfortable knowing that this was now Kuroo’s home.
Time seemed to move exceptionally fast after that. Hours flew by, Kenma barely had enough in a day to fit both work and spending as much time at the hospital as he wanted to. The thought of Kuroo alone in an alien white room was enough to make his blood run cold.
Luckily enough, Bokuto and Akaashi visited as often as they were free. Bokuto’s laughter often filled up the small room, plus he’d helped Kenma decorate it with photos and ugly cat memes that they knew Kuroo would love, as well as glow-in-the-dark stars in the shape of some of Kuroo’s favourite constellations on the walls. Kuroo’s eyes had lit up when they turned out the lights to let them glow the first time, delighted to have the stars keep him company.
In addition to this, the hospital was only three blocks away from Akaashi’s publishing firm, he often spent his lunch breaks with Kuroo, sending Kenma photos of the both of them to keep him updated. Kenma had been quick to set one of Kuroo laughing as his lock screen.
Days turned to weeks, and months were creeping up on them. Kuroo’s condition worsened at a rapidly increasing pace, just as Dr Yamazaki had warned that it would. Kuroo took it in stride, though. He never contested the addition of another tube or wire, respirator or machine.
One day, when the cherry blossoms were blooming in the park that Kenma walked past to get to the hospital each day, Kenma had the horrible thought that he didn’t really recognise Kuroo any more.
He hated himself for thinking it, but it was too late to take it back.
Kuroo had been asleep at the time, head leaning to the side, the veins in his neck contrasted against his otherwise pale skin. His face looked gaunt, his lips curving down. His usual bed hair was now permanently pressed against his forehead, losing all its liveliness against the stiff hospital pillows. The seemingly endless tubes poked from his skin made Kenma’s arms itch, holding him in his place leaning against the door.
It didn’t look like his Kuroo any more.
Kenma still didn’t love him any less.
He bit his bottom lip, still paralysed in the doorframe. He’d never been so hesitant when it came to Kuroo before, and he didn’t know why. His head knew he was being irrational, this was still his Kuroo, if only he could convince his heart of this.
Kenma scrunched his nose, a momentary wave of self-loathing washing over him. He wasn’t going to start thinking like this now.
He loved Kuroo. He really did.
As though he could hear Kenma’s thoughts, Kuroo stirred, eyes cracking open. “Hey, kitten.”
“Hi,” Kenma replied. He lifted his hand in a small wave. “How are you today?”
“‘M good. Keiji came over. Told me how the manga he’s editing is gonna end.” Kuroo blinked at him, trying to rid himself of the grips of sleep. “How’re you?”
Kenma smiled. “I’m good.” He felt better now that he was talking to Kuroo, better now that he had the chance to be in his presence. He didn’t know how he ever could have wondered if this was still his Kuroo in the first place.
“I’m totally done with work for today,” Kenma continued, voice warm. “You wanna watch something with me?”
Kuroo nodded. “I’d like that.”
Kenma crossed the barrier between them, stepping into the hospital room and closing the door behind him. He was quick to drop his backpack after he procured his laptop, and slide into the hospital bed beside Kuroo. He placed his laptop between them, balancing on their pressed-together legs. “Anything in particular you wanna watch?”
“Up to you,” Kuroo mumbled.
Kenma scrolled through Netflix menus for a few minutes before settling on a movie that was supposed to be a comedy, pressing play before leaning his head on Kuroo’s shoulder. It didn’t take long for his eyelids to begin to flutter shut and sleep to overtake him.
By the time he came back to consciousness, the credits of the movie were playing, Kuroo still intently staring at the screen. If he’d noticed that Kenma had dozed off, he hadn’t said anything.
“Did you like that?” Kenma asked, stretching one arm out.
“Yeah,” was Kuroo’s only reply.
Kenma grimaced. Kuroo’s replies really were growing more infrequent lately, more time spent in silence than conversing. Quiet was something that Kenma had never been able to associate with Kuroo before, but it was quickly becoming another member of their relationship.
“Do you want to watch another one?”
The corner of Kuroo’s mouth quirked up. “So you can take another nap?”
“Not my fault you’re a comfortable pillow.” As though to display this, Kenma leant his head back onto Kuroo’s shoulder. It was bonier than it had been in the past, digging into Kenma’s head a little bit, but nonetheless, comfortable in its own way. “Another movie? Or we can do something else.”
“Don’t you have work tomorrow?” Kuroo asked, ever the responsible one.
“I’m thinking of just staying here tonight and calling in sick tomorrow, to be honest with you.”
“Kenma,” Kuroo chided. “You shouldn’t do that.”
“Why not? The joy of being my own boss is that I can legally do whatever I want. I am the company policy.” His tone was deep, mockingly professional.
The laugh it elicited from Kuroo made it all the more worth it. “God, you’re so cute.”
Kenma hummed. “You’re pretty cute yourself.”
“Please don’t tell me you two are still like this,” A third voice added from the doorway. Both Kenma and Kuroo looked up to greet none other than Bokuto, Akaashi standing right beside him. “You two are proof the honeymoon phase never ends.”
“Says you,” both Kenma and Kuroo say in unison. They’d made a running joke out of Bokuto mentioning Akaashi in every interview he’d done, either directly or indirectly, calling him Akaashi or ‘my fiance’ or ‘the world’.
“Are we interrupting anything?” Akaashi asked, pushing his glasses up. “We can come back tomorrow.”
“No, come in.” Upon Kenma’s invitation, both of them stepped into the room, Akaashi choosing to sit in the chair beside the bed, and Bokuto on the foot of the bed.
Between the four of them, the room was filled with more sound and liveliness than it had been previously, now devoid of any darkness Kenma had noticed creeping in earlier. Although Kuroo hadn’t the energy to do as much speaking as the rest of them, Kenma could tell by the smile on his face and alertness in his eyes that he was happy.
And that, to Kenma, meant the world.
Underneath the blankets, Kenma intertwined his hand with Kuroo’s. He didn’t plan on letting go for a long, long time.
Kenma glanced at the watch on his wrist. It was nearly 10P.M, a decent time to stop working. He closed the lid of his laptop, putting it on the small table next to Kuroo’s bed.
He’d spent more of his time lately at the hospital than not, often opting to sleep there instead of going home to an empty apartment. There wasn’t an exact moment Kenma could pinpoint when this hospital room had become more of a home to him than his actual home was, but he didn’t mind. Not when it meant being close to Kuroo.
He lifted a hand to the window by his seat, tugging at the curtains. The clear night sky stared back at him, an array of stars filling the sky.
It gave Kenma an idea almost as brilliant as each star that dotted the sky. He turned his head over to Kuroo, who was idly watching something on his own laptop, eyes unmoving. “Kuro, do you remember that promise we made one time?”
Kuroo turned to look at him in tandem, confusion evident on his face. “Which?”
“You said we’d go stargazing one day,” Kenma said matter-of-factly. “Back when--” Kenma had to cut himself off from adding a ‘back when everything was normal’. “Back when we were under the dome for the first time.”
It had felt so long ago now. Kuroo, albeit still confused, nodded anyway. “Yeah?”
“Do you want to go stargazing now?”
Kuroo’s eyes widened in surprise for a split second, before a smile crossed his face instead, reaching his eyes. “I’d like that a lot.”
That was all the encouragement Kenma needed. He pushed himself up from his seat with a groan, taking a moment to stretch. He had a plan now, he just had to execute it. “Wait here, I’ll be back in a second.”
Kenma quickly exited the room and began to navigate the maze that was hospital corridors, hellbent on reaching his location. He had always hated the corridors, they were all almost identical. For the first two weeks of Kuroo staying here, Kenma had entered the incorrect room at least five times, leaving him in some awkward situations.
He’d learned since then, though. He may as well be a resident himself, he knew where just about everything was. That was how he managed to reach the front desk of the ward with minimal effort and no wrong turns.
As he approached, one of the nurses on duty looked up and smiled at him. He’d gotten to know her over the last few months, her name was Ito Akari, and she had grown attached to Kuroo within five minutes of meeting him (as many people often did). Kenma was relieved to know that Kuroo was in good hands here.
“Good evening Ito-san,” Kenma greeted her, leaning against the desk.
“Good evening, Kenma. I didn’t realise you were still here, heading home?” Her voice was sincere, she gently pushed the paperwork she had been doing prior, a show she was engaged in the conversation.
Kenma, however, shook his head. “I’ll stay here tonight.”
Ito’s smile widened. “That boy of yours loves when you do that you know, always talks about you like you hung the stars in the sky the next day.”
Her comment made Kenma remember why he’d come here in the first place. “Do you have a wheelchair we can use for a little?”
She pursed her lips at Kenma. “Where are you thinking of going?”
“There’s a park just down the road from here, I thought I’d take him stargazing.” Kenma felt strange having to explain himself to somebody else, but he’d say anything if it meant achieving his goal.
Ito, however, sighed, her shoulders slumping. “Kenma, sweetheart, he’s a bit too fragile to take out at an hour like this. He’ll get cold.” She pressed a palm against her forehead before she spoke again. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s Summer, Ito-san. The weather is good right now, it’s warm outside. We can take blankets too.” Kenma had never been the argumentative type, but he certainly was stubborn. He clenched his teeth to set his jaw.
“Does Tetsurou want to go?”
Kenma vigorously nodded. She’d really never been able to say no to Kuroo.
“I suppose, then, just for a little bit will be okay. Maybe fresh air will even do him some good. Just promise to be careful with him. Do you want me to come and unhook him from the machines?”
Kenma gave her a brilliant smile. “I think we can manage just fine, thank you though.”
She directed him to where they kept the wheelchairs a few moments, Kenma grabbing the closest one and wheeling it back to Kuroo’s room, thanking her again as he passed. Unhooking all of his tubes was more of a challenge than Kenma had anticipated, he almost regretted not accepting Ito’s offer to help. But between the two of them, they managed, and before either of them knew it, they were off.
Along the way, Kenma stopped outside the storeroom to grab a handful of blankets, putting one over Kuroo’s lap and another draped over his shoulders. Kuroo had joked that he’d ‘prettied up’ for their date.
“I could probably have walked, you know. The park isn’t too far,” Kuroo mused as Kenma rolled him down the footpath. The only illumination came from the streetlights, Kuroo’s skin glowing pale under the fluorescents.
Kenma hummed. “I’m sure.” He wasn’t technically sure, but there was no point in disagreeing.
Within ten minutes of walking, they reached the park. It was almost pitch black, the only light coming from the scattered streetlights on the outskirts, as well as the moon glowing overhead. Kenma pushed Kuroo to the centre, stopping when he decided they had the best possible view of the sky.
And they did. The stars were an infinite expanse into the horizon, stretching for countless miles, each a diamond embedded into the sky. Kenma’s eyes widened in wonder as he looked up. He hadn’t expected stargazing to warm his heart in the way that it did, to fill him with the sense of belonging as it did.
They didn't exchange any words, but Kenma stole a glance at Kuroo. He was looking up too, eyes reflecting the stars, illuminating the warm browns until they appeared gold.
Oddly enough, it made Kenma reminisce about when they had been children. Kuroo had spent hours and hours explaining the chemistry of stars, their life cycle, and every other fact there was to know. His eyes had lit up back then, too. As though the stars hadn’t been in space, but chose to reside in Kuroo’s eyes.
Kenma wished he could rip the stars from the sky and put them back into Kuroo’s veins.
“Hey Kenma?” Kuroo asked, voice trembling. Perhaps he had been just as emotional as Kenma.
Kenma nodded before he realised he was still standing behind Kuroo, outside of his field of vision. “Yeah?”
“Thank you for this.”
“Thank you for agreeing to come,” Kenma retaliated. This was as much for him as it was for Kuroo. This was the closest thing they had to their usual date nights in a long time, restoring a sense of normalcy back to their lives, albeit slightly warped.
“C’mere.” Kuroo patted his lap. Kenma thought if he sat there, he might accidentally crush him.
So he voiced his concern. “It might hurt you.”
Sometimes Kenma wondered how they had ever gotten anything done. Kuroo was just as stubborn as Kenma, after all.
Kenma stepped around the wheelchair, lowering himself in Kuroo’s lap, conscious to keep one foot plastered firmly to the ground to carry the majority of the weight. It wasn’t uncomfortable, if anything, he was an extra layer of warmth for Kuro.
He cupped his hands around Kuroo’s face. Even now, he looked ethereal under the moonlight. His dark lashes stood out against his bright eyes, his cheekbones glowing under the starlight.
Kenma couldn’t resist pressing a kiss to Kuroo’s lips, the million stars in the sky their only witness.
“Hey, Kuro. Are you awake?”
There was no verbal response, Kenma could only assume he was sleeping. He was so still, so pale, that he appeared almost as a statue. If statues had countless tubes coming from their nose and arms.
Kenma shuffled his chair closer to Kuroo’s bedside so he was in arm’s reach. He stretched one arm out to lightly grab Kuroo’s hand, holding it in his own.
It was colder than Kenma could ever remember feeling it.
“Um,” Kenma hesitated for a moment, not sure where to begin. “I have a lot I’ve wanted to talk to someone about, but I’m not very good with words. But you’ve always understood me anyway, so do you mind if I talk to you for a little bit?”
There still wasn’t any sign of a response. No sound, no light flutter of his eyelids, nothing.
Just the faint beeping of the heart monitor to remind Kenma that he was still there.
“Kuro, I’m really scared,” Kenma started. That had been so hard to admit, but once he had said it, the words began to flow off his tongue like an unstoppable stream. “I’ve been trying to stay strong, for you, I guess. But also for the both of us. I can’t picture what a world without you looks like. And I don’t really want to.
“I feel so selfish telling you to keep holding on and fighting. I don’t even know if that’s what you want to hear. But I don’t want to let you go, either. Does that make me a bad person? You’re suffering and I hate knowing you’re in pain and it fucking kills me that there’s nothing I can do to help you.” Kenma was babbling at this point, letting his heart do the talking instead of his brain for once.
“I feel so lost. Akaashi keeps telling me to go to grief counselling from now on, but it feels so dumb. I’m not the one who’s suffering here. How could I begin to explain to someone what losing somebody like you is like, anyway?”
Kenma wasn’t aware just when hot tears began to stream down his face, but he wasn’t going to hold them back. He wanted to get everything off his chest; lay all his cards on the table. No matter how much it hurt; it couldn’t be worse than holding it in.
“I wish I could say that I didn’t have any regrets. Because it’s you. And I’ve gotten to spend 18 entire years with you. But god, I wish I spent every second with you. I wish I didn’t grumble before date night, and I wish I didn’t shove you away when you got too cuddly, and I wish I kissed you before we left for work every day, and I wish I didn’t work as hard so I could have seen you more often. 18 years wasn’t enough.”
A sob ripped through Kenma’s chest, it was getting so hard to breathe.
“I have the best soulmate on the planet, did you know that? You’re the best friend, the best boyfriend, the best soulmate, the best family anyone could have ever asked for,” Kenma stuttered, chest aching in a way he’d never felt before. His own emotions were a tidal wave; he was drowning.
“I wouldn’t have traded a second of the time we spent together for the world.” But I would trade the world for one more second with you.
Kenma’s bottom lip continued to quiver as he spoke. “I hope you know how much I care about you. I don’t think I was ever as good of a soulmate as you were to me, I was never good at the big romantic gestures like you were. It’s killing me that I probably won’t get the chance to give you back even half of what you’ve done for me. I couldn’t be more grateful to have a soulmate like you.”
Kenma chewed on his bottom lip for a few moments before continuing, his hand idly brushing over the soulmark on his collarbone “I never told you that I loved you, either. You deserved to be told that every single day, you know?”
The words ‘I love you’ had not once been uttered from Kenma’s lips. It had only been fair, he’d thought at the time. Kuroo couldn’t say it, so neither would Kenma.
It was incredibly stupid, looking back. He should have said it every day.
“Can I start now?”
Kenma took a deep breath in a feeble attempt to stabilise himself.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
About a million times more. One for each star that was in the sky.
Kenma could have sworn Kuroo was asleep; that he hadn’t heard a single word of Kenma’s heart being poured out to him.
But when Kenma felt Kuroo lightly squeeze his hand, he knew he’d heard every part of it.
Kenma had given up sitting in the small plastic chair beside Kuroo’s bed, instead opting to sit in the bed with him, pressing their bodies against each other. While he had to be careful not to bump or crush any tubes, it was worth it. He could be closer to Kuroo this way. Plus, he could warm him up. Kuroo was prone to getting much colder these days. It was a win for the both of them.
Kenma softly hummed as he answered emails for work. They felt endless, but they did take his mind to a different place for a little, in that light, they weren’t too bad.
“Can you believe that someone brought up that we should make a sportswear line the other day?” Kenma asked. Kuroo had said a few months back that he found it calming when Kenma spoke to him, and Kenma had done his best to cater to that. Kuroo didn’t have the energy to reply on most days, but that wasn’t going to stop Kenma from telling him anyway.
He couldn’t pinpoint the moment that their roles had reversed in this way. Usually it was Kuroo who had filled up silences with mindless babble or laughter. Silence felt too alien to Kenma to accept.
“Yeah, so, sportswear. For a video game company. All because we sponsor Shouyou. Weird, right?” Kenma mindlessly clicked on the next email. “I said that while it wasn’t a priority, we could think about it in the future.”
Kenma’s employees had done their best to accommodate for his current situation, something Kenma hadn’t expected. They’d taken it upon themselves to come up with a whole range of new ideas and concepts, polishing them so Kenma didn’t have to. They didn’t even mind that he was barely present at the office (though a few of them had caught him sleeping on his desk when he had been there).
Kenma had spent more time in the hospital and at the office than he had at home. The antibacterial smell and fluorescent lights becoming a familiar comfort. He didn’t think he could bear walking into a Kuroo-less apartment, so he didn’t even try.
Besides, wherever Kuroo was, that was his home.
Kenma turned his head to look down at Kuroo. His eyes were open - a sign he was having a good day.
That said, good days didn’t come so often any more. Kuroo’s skin had a grey colour to it now, accentuated by his hollow cheeks and deep circles under his eyes. Kenma often found himself watching the soft rise and fall of his chest, a reminder that he was still here; still breathing. There wasn’t anything that brought him nearly as much comfort.
Kenma lifted a hand to softly stoke Kuroo’s cheek. “Hey, gorgeous.”
Kuroo blinked in response, the ghost of a smile tracing his lips. Seeing that made Kenma smile, too. He had learned to be more liberal with his affection in the last few months, willing to do anything to see Kuroo smile.
He leant down to press a soft kiss to his forehead. Despite the circumstances, he was just as in love as he’d been before this; he made sure that Kuroo knew this.
“Hey,” Kuroo’s voice was quiet; so quiet that Kenma wasn’t even sure he’d heard it. A sheen of tears instantly covered Kenma’s eyes. He’d missed that voice more than he thought. “Can I-” Kuroo stuttered, stopping to catch his breath.
Kenma reached down to grab his hand. “It’s okay, take your time.”
A few moments passed again before Kuroo had the strength to begin again. “Can I tell you something?”
He gave Kuroo’s hand a firm squeeze. “Of course.”
“I left something for you,” Kuroo started, his speech slurred in a way that sounded as though he was trying to speak underwater. Kenma understood anyway. “Back at the apartment.”
Kenma furrowed his brows. He hadn’t been back to their apartment in a little while, but he thought he would have noticed something Kuroo would have left him.
“What is it?”
Kuroo hummed. “When you’re ready, then you can see for yourself.”
Kenma wasn’t sure that he liked what that implied. But he trusted Kuroo enough not to question it.
When he was ready. As though there was a universe where he could be ready for what was inevitably going to happen. He wasn’t sure if he’d even accepted it yet.
For as long as Kuroo didn’t say those words, there was still a chance, right?
“Where’d you leave it?” Kenma’s voice was barely a whisper, matching Kuroo’s volume.
Kuroo attempted to laugh, but the act caused his face to distort into a grimace of pain. Kenma instantly threaded his hands in his hair, attempting to soothe him through it. He had been quick to learn that there wasn’t much he could do to ease any of Kuroo’s physical pain, but he did find comfort in Kenma’s touch, and that was enough for Kenma to commit to it. “Shh, it’s okay,” Kenma cooed, nimble hands stroking Kuroo’s hair.
If Kenma from two years ago had known how affectionate he’d become, he wouldn’t have believed it.
It was strange how situations such as these changed people.
Within a few minutes, Kuroo had control of his breathing again, his face smoothing out back to its still, statue-like features.
“There’s nothing to apologise for,” Kenma chided, cutting him off. This was the first time in a long time he’d talked over him, but the words needed to be said. He wasn’t about to allow Kuroo to think it was okay to feel guilt over this situation. “You’re perfect.”
He meant it.
“What was I saying?”
Kenma gently pushed the hair out of Kuroo’s face, lost in his own thoughts. Ito had told him all those months ago that memory loss and mental fogginess were some of the final signs of ALS. Kuroo had been forgetting things recently, but Kenma didn’t want to dwell on that; didn’t want to dwell on what that insinuated.
“You were telling me where the thing you left me in the apartment was,” he said, continuing to play with Kuroo’s hair in-between his fingers.
“Oh, yeah. You know that shelf in our wardrobe that you’re too short to reach?” There was a jovial lilt to Kuroo’s voice that Kenma hadn’t thought he’d ever hear again; so much so that he barely paid heed to the dig at his height that Kuroo had found oh so amusing.
He really was the same old Kuroo, down to his core.
“I know the one. It’s there?”
Kuroo shifted his head in a slight nod. Kenma leant over to press another gentle kiss to Kuroo’s jaw. “Thank you, baby.”
Maybe a day would come where Kenma thought he’d be ready to know what it was.
Kenma was all too aware that Kuroo didn’t have much time left.
It was written all over each of his features, heard in the beating of his heart monitor that only grew fainter each day. He was a shadow of the person he had been when Kenma had met him all those years ago; the shadows had extinguished all his light. His easy smiles now replaced with a hollow nothing that broke Kenma’s heart every single day without fail.
But Kuroo hadn’t said those three words to Kenma yet; something that he reminded himself every waking moment. So long as he didn’t say them, it meant they had time.
The cruel tug at Kenma’s heartstrings warned him that there wasn’t much longer he’d be able to think that.
He tried to ignore it.
He was perched cross-legged on the bottom of Kuroo’s bed, just watching him. Watching the laboured rise and fall of Kuroo’s chest as each breath clearly pained him more than the last. It was only clear that he was awake through the subtle crease of his brow, the only way Kenma had learned how to read him in the last few months.
Kenma fought back tears that threatened to prick his eyes at the thought of what his soulmate was going through; what he must be feeling. Kuroo was the one in pain; and Kenma was the one being a baby about it. That didn’t feel right. He didn’t even know what to do. How powerless Kenma felt was becoming a burden increasingly hard to bear. No matter what he did or said, he couldn’t make things better for Kuroo. He was useless.
He didn’t want to say he was hopeless just yet, though.
“Kuro,” Kenma called out. He didn’t have a reason to do it, other than that same tug at his heart alluding him to the fact that it was the right thing to do.
Kuroo hummed, eyelids not even fluttering.
That was the first sign that it was worse than Kenma had even thought it was, worse than he was willing to admit.
“Kuro?” He called out again.
The faint beeping of the heart monitor was what Kenma was trying to focus on. A sure reminder that Kuroo wasn’t gone, that he was still in arm’s reach. That he was still here. That Kenma wasn’t alone just yet.
It felt like an infinity before Kuroo finally spoke, his voice as fragile and shaky as a bird lost in a tumultuous tempest. “Kenma.”
Kenma scrambled off the foot of the bed, instead sinking to his knees at Kuroo’s bedside, grabbing his limp hand to alert him of his presence. “I’m right here, baby. What is it?”
“Kenma, it hurts.”
And oh, how Kenma’s heart shattered.
Not once had Kuroo faltered like this; not once had he complained about anything. He hadn’t complained when he’d been diagnosed, nor when the symptoms had gotten the better of him, not even about how this was inevitably going to end. Despite what the universe had thrown at him, he’d handled it with an integrity that Kenma could barely comprehend. For Kenma’s sake more than his own.
Kenma hadn’t been fooled. He was hyper aware of the fact that Kuroo had spent more time trying to protect Kenma’s heart than voice out his own struggles. No matter how many times Kenma had told him it was okay, he hadn’t budged; as stubborn as he had ever been.
Kenma couldn’t imagine how much pain he must be in to admit it.
“Do you want me to call you a nurse?” Kenma asked. There was nothing he could do to stop his voice cracking or bottom lip quivering.
Kuroo ignored his question; either as a ‘no’, or because he didn’t have the strength to answer it, Kenma wasn’t sure.
“Can I tell you now?” He asked it so gently, so softly, as though he were worried the mere act of asking would break Kenma’s heart; destroy his world.
And so it would.
Kenma bit his bottom lip and shook his head. “No, no Kuro, please don’t.” He didn’t try to fight the hot tears pricking his eyes that time, letting them spill out onto his cheeks.
A soft whine left Kuroo’s throat. “I can’t do this anymore.” Each syllable was a slurred stutter, each a stab to Kenma’s heart.
Was it selfish to ask him to keep fighting?
“Kuro…” Kenma didn’t know what else to say, instead squeezing Kuroo’s hand again. Kenma tried to blink away the tears welling up in his eyes, not wanting his vision of Kuroo to be obscured; not at a time like this. He stayed on his knees, a silent prayer that this would turn out okay.
“I’m sorry, kitten.”
“Kuro, if- if you don’t say it, it means we still have a chance, right?” Kenma‘s words were nonsensical babble, clutching Kuroo’s hand in his own like a lifeline. “It can’t be the end.”
Kenma had spent countless months trying to prepare himself for the inevitable. He’d had countless conversations with himself, imagining every possibility, how he could handle it, what he’d say. But nothing could prepare him for the chilling fear of being faced with his worst nightmare.
Kenma would have been damned if he turned that down. He sucked in a deep breath, eyes turned down to look at the floor.
Was he ready to lose the one thing he couldn’t replace?
Was he ready to lose his entire universe?
There was no way he was.
But denying Kuroo any longer would have been cruel, how could he ask someone he loved so much to be in pain?
He looked back up at Kuroo through his tears.
Kuroo’s shoulders sagged in relief; as though he could finally release the weight of the world. Or at least, Kenma’s world.
“I love you.”
Kenma couldn’t hold himself back after that. He’d waited so many years praying he’d never have to hear it that he had no idea how much he needed to. A guttural sob left his throat, followed by another, and another. His whole chest ached with a pain that made him feel as though his heart was being ripped in two.
Through his tears, he couldn’t see the way his soulmark glowed a soft gold, signifying that it was indeed time to say goodbye.
All he could think of was the fact that his Kuroo, his star in the darkness, was fading away.
“Tetsurou, please,” Kenma begged through broken sobs, swallowing any pride he had and letting it dissolve into a fresh wave of tears. “I can’t do this without you.”
He lightly squeezed Kenma’s hand. Kenma looked up at Kuroo, and it was only Kenma could notice the light leaving Kuroo’s eyes despite the trickle of tears trailing down his face; the life leaving Kuroo’s features with each passing breath.
“Please don’t leave me.”
The words left Kenma’s lips before he could process the true weight behind them.
But when he did, his entire universe shattered into unfixable pieces.
His sobbing turned into wailing, each cry wracking his body so violently that it could have broken him; he wished it did. “Say something, Tetsurou, please?”
Kuroo didn’t hear that final plea.
He didn’t know how long he stayed like that, crying on his knees and clutching Kuroo’s cold hand to his chest. He didn’t know when the nurses came in, whether it was Kuroo’s heart monitor that alerted them to what had happened, or if it was the volume of Kenma’s sobs. He was far too lost in his own grief to process any of it.
He lost any coherency he had, not paying attention to the nurse that softly guided him out of the hospital room for the final time with apologetic coos. The second he was in the sterile, white hospital corridor, he fell back onto his knees, calling out for the one person who wasn’t there to comfort him. He didn’t care who saw him; who heard him, his thoughts were only Kuroo. Kuroo. Kuroo.
Kenma remained on the floor on his hands and knees, begging any god who was listening to bring Kuroo back to him.
None of them heard him.
“Kenma.” Akaashi’s voice carried more emotion than Kenma had ever heard. “Oh god Kenma, I’m sorry.” He’d repeated different variations of that since he and Bokuto had found him curled up on the hospital floor three hours ago, not once did the words soothe his pain.
They were currently seated in the corridor of the hospital, their backs against the wall. Kenma was sandwiched between Bokuto and Akaashi, one of them on each side, as though they could shield him from what had happened.
To his left, Bokuto was sobbing into his knees, arms wrapped around himself in comfort. And to his right, Akaashi, eyes rimmed red as though he had already cried, attempting to comfort them both.
The three of them sat in silence for a bit more after that, no words possible to ease the pain.
Every time Kenma’s grief subsided, he thought of Kuroo, and instantly another wave rushed over him, renewing his sobs with even more vigour than before. “I loved him. I didn’t want to say goodbye,” he whimpered, burying his face in his hands. His words caused Bokuto to cry even louder than before, Akaashi sniffling beside him.
The grief he was feeling was insurmountable, he didn’t even know how to carry it without breaking his back.
His thoughts were spinning in his head, a jumbled, incoherent mess. He wasn’t sure if he was sad, angry, or whatever emotion fell in between.
“He’s not in pain any more,” Akaashi whispered, a feeble attempt to try and find any reprieve for the three of them.
Kenma sobbed again. “He shouldn’t have been in pain in the first place.”
The universe could have picked anybody else, why did it have to be his Kuroo? Why did it have to take the person with the biggest heart and brightest smile to inflict its darkness on?
A newfound rage filled Kenma’s hollowness as he shakily stood to his feet. He didn’t want to be in this hospital any more, it was too painful; suffocating him. It reminded him too much of what had happened, he wanted to think of Kuroo as the person he’d been without the confines of this horrible place; the Kuroo that Kuroo would want to be remembered as.
“Kenma? Where are you going?” Akaashi looked up at him, eyes wide as though he was worried Kenma was about to do something outrageous.
He sniffled before speaking, trying to clear his throat. “I need to get out of here.” His voice was frail and raspy; a side effect of all the screaming and crying he’d done in the last four hours that had felt like a cruel, cruel eternity.
Akaashi nodded, sliding over to press his body against Bokuto’s where Kenma had just been. “Don’t go too far without us. We’ll um, sort out the paperwork.”
Kenma didn’t have time to appreciate the lengths Akaashi was willing to go to for him. “Thank you,” he said, turning his back on him. He wiped his eyes as he walked, then jogged, and finally sprinted out of the hospital’s revolving doors, away from the place that had taken Kuroo away from him.
The cold night air burned his exhausted lungs, but he didn’t let that stop him. He pushed his legs as fast as they would go, the wind wiping his tears away. He didn’t stop until he reached the park down the block; the same one he’d once watched the stars with Kuroo at all those weeks ago.
He stopped in the middle, hands clutching his sides as he attempted to catch his breath.
Kenma lifted his eyes to meet the clear night sky, hundreds of twinkling stars staring down back at him like soft diamonds in the sky; the same ones that Kenma had always seen in Kuroo’s eyes.
His bottom lip quivered as his body once again became overwhelmed with the shock of his loss, and he collapsed onto the grass, eyes not once leaving the stars that they’d once watched together; the stars that Kuroo had taught him to love.
Kenma lay on the grass, sobbing his eyes out to an audience of stars that offered him a cold comfort. He wanted to scream at them, ask why they’d taken Kuroo away, beg for them to take him instead.
The brief hope crossed Kenma’s mind, that maybe, just maybe, Kuroo was among the stars in the sky now.
The funeral was a quiet affair.
There were a lot of people there; a majority of which Kenma didn’t even know. Kuroo’s friends from work, apparently. He tried not to resent them for not once visiting Kuroo, not even when they knew well that it would have been their last chance.
A couple of them had offered their condolences today, to which Kenma could only stutter out a ‘thank you’. One had even told him that the flower arrangements of the ceremony were lovely, but Kenma thought that was a stupid comment.
He couldn’t take credit for the majority of the funeral plans anyway. Akaashi had been the one to confirm all the arrangements at the funeral parlour when Kenma had been to numb to process exactly what he’d been asked. A simple, closed-casket service to honour Kuroo’s memory.
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay giving your eulogy today?” Akaashi asked from beside him. It wasn’t subtle that Akaashi was worried about how he’d been handling it. They’d all but forced him to stay in his and Bokuto’s spare bedroom until his anguish had subsided a fraction, weary of the fact that his emotions and actions are awry.
Because after all, who didn’t cry at their soulmates funeral?
People who he barely knew were no doubtedlty staring at him, wondering just how he hadn’t shed a tear. Oh, the stoney faced CEO, he mustn’t have cared for his soulmate at all to not grieve. How horrible for poor Kuroo to die so young and unloved.
What they didn’t know was that Kenma had already been grieving. He’d grieved every single day since Kuroo had told him, not a day had passed where he hadn’t felt like he was drowning in a bottomless pit of sorrow.
He didn’t need to cry in front of a hall of people who he didn’t care about. They wouldn’t understand.
Grief was a strange thing. Kenma wished that it was the same as the way it was in movies. He wished he could cry it all out of his system, scream until he was numb, maybe eat a tub of ice-cream to console himself, and then get up and have the motivation to honour Kuroo’s memory, and get on with his life.
Grief was not as poetic as fiction made it out to be.
For Kenma, grief was sitting with an emptiness where he was sure his heart was supposed to be. It was as though he was hollow, completely numb.
He nodded at Akaashi, hands gripping the piece of paper he’d tried to write something that resembled a speech on. He was quick to discover that there weren’t any words that could do Kuroo justice or describe the person he was.
“Okay, we’re here for you,” Bokuto added from Akaashi’s other side. The three of them were seated in the front row, Bokuto’s arm draped over Akaashi's shoulder so he could reach and stroke Kenma’s arm. His eyes were rimmed red, the same as they had been for a week.
Without much further ado, the ceremony began. Kenma tried to listen to the words of the funeral director, but it was as though they were just static, no coherent words he could process.
He had the same problem with the speech of Kuroo’s work friend that Kenma didn’t recognise, and also Bokuto’s, whose speech was so emotional that there wasn’t a dry eye left in the audience, sans Kenma.
And then it was Kenma’s turn. Akaashi placed a comforting hand on the small of his back as he stood, and started walking, one foot after the other. He took a deep breath as he reached the lectern, smoothing over his piece of paper to read it out. But as his eyes skimmed the words, he couldn’t help but know that they weren’t good enough. They didn’t even scratch the surface of an explanation of the person who Kuroo Tetsurou had been. So Kenma wasn’t going to say them.
Instead he’d try and speak from his heart. What he’d say to Kuroo, if he was here to hear it. Perhaps he was listening.
“Hi,” Kenma started. “Um, if we haven’t met, my name’s Kenma. I’m Kuro’s - I mean Tetsurou’s - soulmate.” That sentence did not need to be in past tense. He was, is, and always would be Kuroo’s soulmate, a title he’d always carry with pride.
“I think we all know how lucky we were to have Kuro in our lives. There’s not really anyone out there like him. If someone told me he was an angel pretending to be human, I probably would have believed them. He was always holding other people up, supporting them and loving them through anything. I always wished I could see the world in the same way he did. He taught me a lot about the world. Not only the dorky science stuff that he was so fond of, but he taught me other stuff, too. A million life lessons, what it means to be kind, what it means to truly be strong, and how to be resilient. He taught me to love. He taught me how it feels to be loved.” Kenma’s brain was going on autopilot, words he’d never said before manifesting from the feelings threatening to rip apart his heart.
Kenma could hear Bokuto sobbing from where he was seated, Kenma wondered if he should be crying too.
“Since I was seven, I always knew that Kuroo Tetsurou was the person for me. I was really lucky in this life to have the privilege of being his soulmate, I didn’t need a mark to tell me that. We’ve always gone through everything together. We’ve shared every experience. There was no way it was ever going to be anybody else. For me, it was always Kuro.” Kenma’s words were an echo of the ones Kuroo had once told him back when he had turned 16, yet they didn’t feel nearly as rewarding as when Kuroo had uttered them.
There was more Kenma could have said. He could have recounted some of their most treasured memories, some insight into their conversations, all the ways Kuroo had always made Kenma’s dreams come true, but there was something holding him back. Those moments were sacred, shared only between him and Kuroo. It felt alien to change that now.
Instead, Kenma bit his bottom lip. “I love him.”
That was all Kenma had to say.
Kenma shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He knew he needed to do this, he just hadn’t anticipated how daunting the task was going to be.
He hadn’t stepped foot back into his apartment since before Kuroo had gone away, knowing that it was filled with countless memories that Kenma wasn’t yet ready to face.
Kenma pressed his key into the lock. He had to face them. In the end, they were the only things of Kuroo he had left.
He turned the key. He didn’t want to face them. They were too painful, two weeks hadn’t been enough time to run away.
He pushed the door open. It was now or never.
Stepping into his apartment was more jarring than he had even feared. He half-expected Kuroo to greet him at the door, the way he had a million times before. As he walked through, he looked to see if Kuroo was standing in the kitchen, obnoxiously singing while cooking the way he always had. He even expected to see Kuroo sitting on the couch surrounded by research papers he’d explain to Kenma that night, eyes sparkling due to the unadulterated joy of chemistry.
But of course, he wasn’t there.
The apartment was as dark and empty as Kenma should have known it would be.
With shaky legs, Kenma perched himself onto the couch, head in his hands. He didn’t know what to do, life didn’t come with a manual of how to process the loss of your entire universe.
He wished for nothing more than Kuroo to be there, holding his hand. He’d know what to say. He always had.
Kenma jolted to his feet. One of the last proper conversations with Kuroo had been him saying he’d left him something. He trusted that maybe, just maybe, Kuroo knew him well enough that it would guide him.
He shuffled to the bedroom, opening their closet and lifted his gaze to the shelf Kuroo had pointed out. He had always teased Kenma for not being able to reach, and somehow he felt like this was Kuroo’s way of getting the last laugh. Kenma wasn’t bothered by that.
Kenma huffed as he grabbed a stool from the bottom shelf, balancing himself on it to reveal what was on the shelf. He was greeted by the sight of a box with a pattern of stars marking it. Kenma hesitantly reached for it, grabbing it to his chest as he hopped down and moved to sit on the bed.
There was an envelope taped to the box, with a big, scrawling ‘For Kenma’. Kenma stared at it, clutching the box so tightly, as though he was worried it would vanish if he didn’t hold on.
He carefully peeled the envelope from the box, opening it with a slow accuracy to ensure he wouldn’t rip one of the only remaining things he had left of Kuroo.
He pulled out the pages from inside, revealing pages and pages of writing that was so familiar, and yet incredibly foreign. It was clearly Kuroo’s, his style of the handwriting as clear as day, but there was a shaky quality to it, as though the pen had been slipping as he had written it.
Tears welled up in Kenma’s eyes for the first time in a fortnight, Kuroo must have written this right before he had left the hospital for the last time. He couldn’t even imagine how hard it must have been to write it in his condition, how much Kuroo loved him enough to do it.
Kenma rubbed at his eyes with his free hand, gripping the letter like a lifeline in the other. He couldn’t cry now, he had to hold on just a little bit longer, to see what Kuroo had to say to him.
My beautiful, strong, brilliant Kenma,
If you’re reading this, it probably means I’m not around any more. And for that I’m so, so sorry baby. I never wanted to leave you, it breaks my heart to think that I’ll have to.
But there are some things in this world that we can’t control, and I guess this was one of them. Please don’t hold it against me.
There’s a lot that I want to say to you, but I don’t ever think there'll be a time you’re ready to hear it while I was right there, so I wrote it down for you. I think if you opened this, then you’re probably ready to start saying goodbye. Even if you don’t know it yet.
I know you. I know there’s probably a million things running through your head right now that you don’t know how to filter through. You’ve always thought too much for your own good, but I think that was one of the first reasons I had for falling in love with you. You’re by far one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
I’m so proud of the person you’ve become. How much you’ve grown over the course of our lives. Watching you go from a withdrawn kid to a strong leader filled me with so much pride that I don’t think there’s enough words for it. So let me say it one more time: I’m proud of you. Always have been, always will be.
God, do you know how in love with you I am? I still don’t know how you’re a real person. Kenma, because of you I felt loved, no matter what was happening. I hope you never doubt yourself on that. You staying by my side means the absolute world to me. But even before that, you were the greatest soulmate I ever could have asked for. In the time that I was around, you made me happier than anything else. Thank you, Kenma, for being the greatest thing that ever could have happened to me. Your brain, your heart, and every other part of you I can easily say I love with my whole heart. Every day I’m grateful for the higher power that brought you into my life and declared us soulmates.
That said, can I make one final request of you? I know you’re not going to like it much. You’ve always been a creature of habit, and it must be pretty scary to have to make a change. But please, if you do one thing for me, please don’t let what happened drag you down. I know you’re sad, or angry, or however else you’re feeling. But you’re also stronger than you think you are, and I know you can keep moving forward. So move on, for me. Try and be happy, run your company, maybe even fall in love again. Don’t let me hold you back. Know that I’d want you to do whatever it takes to put a smile back on your face.
You’re not doing it alone, either. I’ll be there in your heart, and watching over you.
Lastly, I wanted to remind you that you were loved one last time, if the words on your skin aren’t permanent enough a reminder. I know you told me that I wasn’t allowed to tell you that I loved you, but you know me, I couldn’t really help myself. So every time I wanted to tell you, I wrote it down, and put it in the box that this letter was attached to. I don’t think they convey even a fraction of the love I feel for you, but it was worth a shot. Open them when you’re ready, they’ll always be there.
So this is goodbye, I guess. Thank you for being an incredible soulmate, Kenma. You made every second of my life worth living.
I love you.
Kenma’s bottom lip wobbled as he reached the end of the letter. He read it again, and again, wanting to commit this one last piece of Kuroo to his memory.
Somehow Kuroo had accounted for how Kenma was feeling even when his own world was being turned upside down, ensuring that Kenma wasn’t completely lost once he was alone.
Kenma pressed his fingers on the lid of the box. Even though he knew what was in there, the thought of it terrified him. Terrified of what it would do to his heart.
He sniffled a couple of times, counted to three, and opened the lid.
Inside the box were hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of paper, different colours and shapes, some post-it notes, some ripped corners of napkins, others as though they’d been torn from a workbook. There were countless, perhaps as many as the stars in the sky. To Kenma, it appeared as though there was one for each day they’d known each other, perhaps even more.
With shaking hands, Kenma pulled one of the notes from the top of the box, then another, then another.
‘I love you - when we sat under the stars on our bed and I thought they looked prettier reflected in your eyes’
‘I love you - when I had just gotten my diagnosis and couldn’t tell you, but you comforted me anyway’
‘I love you - when you got the news that your company had gotten its first partnership and your eyes lit up and I fell in love with you all over again’
‘I love you - when I was freaking out over my PhD and you initiated a karaoke session to take my mind off of it’
‘I love you - that time I finally beat you in Mario Kart and you poked me until I admitted it was a fluke’
‘ I love you - when I watched you one morning while you were still half-asleep, and saw how you looked like an angel come to life’
‘I love you - when we moved in together and you told me that we had a home, and you smiled so bright you could have rivalled the sun’
‘I love you - when you thanked me for getting you into volleyball’
‘I love you - when we had our first fight and I made you cry and even when I apologised you wouldn’t stop and I swear I felt my heart break for the first time’
‘I love you - when you ordered ginger beer at a restaurant because you wanted to try it, and your nose scrunched up at the taste (but you kept drinking it, just to prove a point)’
‘I love you - when I noticed that you smile when you blush, and I realised I’d do anything to see it”
‘I love you - the day you walked on stage to graduate’
‘I love you - the day you told me I couldn’t tell you that I loved you, because it made me realise how much you cared about me’
‘I love you - just because’
There were so many more, each unique, some memories that Kenma had almost forgotten, but apparently had meant more to Kuroo than he’d realised.
Kenma couldn’t believe this. Couldn’t believe how much Kuroo had done for him. Even when Kuroo’s life was falling apart, and even before then, he’d found a way to remind Kenma that he was loved. Only Kuroo would be so thoughtful, putting so much care into every moment that it was almost overwhelming. Although Kuroo himself wasn’t here to tell him, it almost felt as though he was.
Clutching a handful of the notes to his chest, Kenma finally let himself feel the grief wash over him once more like a tidal wave, tears rolling down his face as salty as the storm he was lost in.
A year had passed.
One very long, very draining year.
Kenma tossed his keys onto the small table by the door of his apartment, shrugging off his jacket and hanging it on the adjacent hook. Never had returning on a Friday night felt so insignificant. He had the inkling that he was about to develop a migraine, judging by the twinge in the side of his head.
It wasn’t unexpected after the day he’d had. Running a company wasn’t a walk in the park, it was bound to have its ups and downs.
Today had been a down. He had intended to sign a five-year contract with the MSBY Jackals as an official partner, but he’d gotten a bit flighty towards the end, and asked to reschedule the meeting. If he made his partnership official like that… he’d be expected to attend every match.
And he just didn’t think he was ready to do that. Logically, he knew there was no sense in avoiding volleyball, he still sponsored Shouyou, after all. But something about being that tied to volleyball made his heart ache.
Kenma was making progress, he knew that. He got out into the world. Managed his company in an attempt to move forward, just as Kuroo had asked him to do. But the hollowness in his chest hadn’t been filled - Kenma didn’t think it ever would. Not fully, at least.
Thinking of Kuroo still hurt. The space between his fingers where Kuroo’s used to fit so seamlessly still felt cold and empty. He’d still miss him forever, like the stars miss the moon. He tried not to dwell on it.
He didn’t know he’d be able to see volleyball match after volleyball match and not instantly associate it with Kuroo, though. He wouldn’t be able to push it to the back of his mind while watching five whole sets week after week. The facade he was gently balancing would surely crack under that kind of pressure.
He didn’t want to be mistaken, either. Thinking of Kuroo brought him some comfort, too. It hadn’t for a long time, for a little while it seemed as though Kenma’s world had stopped turning, perhaps it had. In time, though, Kenma was able to find small solaces in his thoughts. In some actions, he’d think that Kuroo would be proud of him for it, or wonder what the smile on his face would have been when he told him. Sometimes he’d see something in a store that he knew Kuroo would have loved, and while it sent a pang of pain to his heart that he wasn’t here to love it, Kenma was glad he still knew Kuroo well enough to memorise his taste.
Kenma turned on the stove mindlessly, filling a saucepan with water. He’d boil some noodles, or something like that. He wasn’t in the mood to stomach much else.
The phone in his pocket buzzed. He didn’t want to check it. He didn’t care who was on the other end, in all honesty. If it wasn’t going to be the one person he wanted to talk to (and it wasn’t), then why would he check? It could wait for work hours tomorrow.
The buzzing wouldn’t cease, giving Kenma two options. To check it like a reasonable adult, or to throw it against the wall and hope it smashed. While his second option was tempting, he thought it might inconvenience him later, instead opting to check it, like any normal person should.
Akaashi: Koutarou told me what happened today.
Akaashi: You should have mentioned it to us before, we’re here to help you, Kenma. (19:33)
Akaashi: That sounded too forceful, I’m sorry. (19:34)
Akaashi: Please talk to us. Do you want me to ring you? (19:35)
Bokuto: KENMA!!!!! dont beat urself up over today please! its okay we all totally get it, take all the time u need! (19:37)
Since clearly Bokuto and Akaashi were in cahoots (as though he wasn’t going to question their texts that were a mere two minutes apart), Kenma decided to just expend his final dredges of energy of the day to replying to Akaashi.
Kenma: it’s not a big deal
Kenma: thanks for checking in (19:37)
Kenma: please don’t ring though, not in the mood to talk (19:37)
He didn’t even know what to say, even if he was to talk. He’d ended up seeing a therapist much as Akaashi had suggested, and even though she was a nice lady, and very understanding of his situation, he often found that there wasn’t anything he knew how to say to her, no way of verbalising what he was feeling.
No one understood him like Kuroo had. That was just a fact of life.
Akaashi: I understand.
Akaashi: May I say something that could be overstepping? (19:39)
Akaashi: Kuroo would want you to make the most of every opportunity. (19:42)
Akaashi: But he’d also be proud of you. Koutarou agrees. (19:42)
Kenma huffed, putting his phone down. He appreciated what Akaashi was trying to do for him, all the things Akaashi had done for him in the past. Kenma loved him, he really did. But he was overstepping, really.
Though Kenma supposed he’d been letting Akaashi overstep into his life for over a year now, he shouldn’t suddenly be taking offence to it. It just didn’t sit well with Kenma.
Probably because he was beginning to realise that advice from anybody else didn’t feel like it did Kuroo’s.
Kenma ran a hand through his hair, tugging it out of it’s bun, his chest feeling more hollow than it had felt in months. He ached to reach out to Kuroo, to just have him there for a split second, a moment of reprieve to just feel better. To feel like he had a beating heart again.
There was one thing that maybe, just maybe, he could do to feel close to Kuroo again.
He hadn’t seen it in over two years now, but he was sure he still had it. He hadn’t put any of Kuroo’s things in storage yet (a by-product of being too unwilling to say goodbye, not ready to be alone). The chance that it was exactly where they had left it was high.
Kenma turned off the boiling water on the stove, not hungry anyway. He had something better to be doing. He shuffled to his bedroom, making a beeline for the wardrobe. The box he was looking for was untouched on the shelf, a fine layer of dust coating the top. It was mostly Kuroo’s stuff in it, Kenma hadn’t had a reason to touch it until now.
The star dome that Kuroo had once bought him was sitting near the top, Kenma didn’t need to look far to find it. He pulled it out, blowing the thin layer of dust off. Kenma held it close to his chest as he replaced the batteries, moving in silence, his motions sluggish.
He sat on the edge of the bed, seemingly mocking him for being cold and empty. That made two of them. It had been this way for a while.
Without any further hesitation, Kenma turned it on. The default purple colour immediately illuminated the room with the galaxy that had once been such a comfort.
“This is stupid,” Kenma mumbled to himself. He didn’t turn it off though, instead wrapping his arms around himself and settling in.
It worked, to some extent. Though it didn’t bring back Kuroo (and really, had he expected that at all?) it did bring back some of their fonder memories, memories that seemed to be a lifetime ago. Memories that usually pained Kenma a little now flowed to him easier, the pain in his chest subsiding.
“I miss you. I miss you a lot.” Kenma whispered to the galaxy that surrounded him. “I’m trying to keep going. For you. But it’s hard.” He blinked, pulling his eyes back into focus.
Kenma didn’t know why he was talking out loud. The thought of sitting and staring up at the stars in silence just didn’t sit well in his heart. He was so used to sharing a moment like this with Kuroo, who was so good at filling any silence with his light. Silence now was too foreign.
Silence was a reminder that Kenma was alone, no facet of companionship coming his way. Not that he would let anybody if they tried. Kenma had been colder over the past year, more detached than he’d ever been. “You’d want me to talk to people, wouldn’t you?” Kenma mused, pushing his own hair out of his face. Maybe tomorrow he’d force himself to reply to Akaashi properly. He was a decent place to start.
If Kuroo was there, he probably would have ruffled Kenma’s hair and told him he was proud of him for that. But since Kuroo wasn’t there, Kenma was only left with the phantom touch of fingers carding through his hair. Another pang to his heart.
He sighed, falling back to lay on the bed to watch the stars swirling around the ceiling. “Wherever you are now, I hope you’re doing well.” Kenma began to rub his own arm. “I’ll try to do well, too.”
Once upon a different time, Kuroo had asked Kenma where he thought people went when they died. Kenma had said they just did, they didn’t go anywhere. Kuroo had frowned that day, and said he didn’t like that. He proceeded to inform Kenma that people were made of 93% stardust (he’d joked that he thought Kenma was actually 100%, Kenma wished he’d kissed him for it instead of calling him dumb). He then told Kenma that he thought when each person passed on, they turned into a star and joined the others in the night sky. That was why the galaxy was infinitely expanding.
Looking up at the stars dotting his ceiling, something in Kenma’s heart told him that Kuroo had been right.
The corners of Kenma’s lips quirked up, the closest thing he’d come to a smile crossing his face for the first time in a long time. “I love you.”
Under the light of a galaxy that was once theirs, Kenma could still feel as though Kuroo was still with him, even if just for a little while.