This is it.
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. After all that postgrad bullshit, you land yourself a job at an office and work your way out of debt, which means you dutifully start saving money. Dutifully being the operative word because you start cooking meals for yourself instead of eating out with friends, limiting your alcohol intake, and sewing up the holes in your socks instead of buying new ones. Yes, maybe you’re going a little overboard with the frugality, but it doesn’t matter.
Because today is the day you become a homeowner.
Sure, you worked your way out of debt only to end up in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt again. And yeah, maybe this place needs a serious renovation (which will no doubt cost you a couple more thousand), but that’s fine because this is the dream.
You take a swig of whatever cheap beer you’re drinking and sit on the floorboards that creak underneath your weight. You stare out the kitchen window only to see a wall of red brick staring back at you. And you wonder if that ringing you hear is from the bathroom or from your ear.
You’re waiting for some kind of sign that you’ve made the right choice. Some voice to speak to you, maybe even the voice inside your head. But nothing comes.
You take a breath and sigh.
You think you've made a terrible, terrible mistake.
So. Two things. There’s a delay on your furniture, which means you have to make do with sleeping on the floor. (Your neighbor graciously offered you some extra sheets in her cabinet so you’re not sleeping like a homeless person in your own home.)
Also there’s a leak in your shower, which is the reason why you hear that odd whistling noise. Well, it’s not quite whistling, but a series of very annoying drip-drops that bounce off the walls in such high-pitched frequency that it actually sounds like a whistle.
Suffice to say your quality of sleep has fallen off drastically. And you don't really dream either. Dreaming would be too generous to call it what it is. You get full-on nightmares.
Tires screeching against the wet freeway. The sound of metal crashing and crumpling against metal. And then everything comes barreling to a halt—you look up and see what’s in the aftermath. A car tucked underneath a truck. There are apples everywhere, having spilt from the back. Amongst it sits the carnage of the wreck: two bodies strewn at the wayside, and a third collapsed in the back. There’s blood everywhere.
You wake up in the morning to the sun beaming down from the ceiling window.
Cold sweat kisses your skin and you take a breath, looking at the bathroom where you hear the whistling from the bathtub again. It’s a dull hum this time, incessant, neverending, and present.
You realize it’s what woke you up.
“What a relief,” you mumble, as the images of the ensuing wreckage vanishes from your memories as dreams always do.
This is fine, you think.
You can make this work.
Most of your stuff has finally arrived. You no longer have to sleep on your floor and you finally have a sitting table to eat at! You don’t have a TV yet or a router and they haven’t shipped over your personal computer, but that’s OK. You can make do without. Because you need a reprieve from technology.
So what if you’re a little bored? It’s just you, the house, and those old takeout boxes because none of your kitchen stuff is here either. It’s a little lonely, and for a while you consider getting a cat, only to realize you’re totally unprepared for any of the responsibility that actually comes with owning a cat. You send one text to mom “I think I’m getting a cat” and she responds with “why don't you give yourself some time to think about it before making such a big decision?” and that’s the end of that conversation.
You never revisit the cat again.
That whittles down your options for entertainment pretty significantly, so you do what any normal person would do.
You throw yourself a housewarming party.
And you invite everyone you know. Your college friends, your work friends, that neighbor who lent you her blankets, even your manager. They fill out your house and suddenly it doesn’t feel so big and empty anymore.
It devolves pretty quickly once everyone gets past the formalities. The drinks start picking up speed, people start staggering like they’re newborn fawns, and you try your best to play hostess but you’re not doing much better.
You’re completely zonked, and when you finally usher out the last of your friends when the night comes to a close, you make your way to the bathroom and promptly vomit your stomach out.
Like, straight-up hurling whatever you ate in the night because the alcohol is not sitting pretty in your belly. When you’re sure you have nothing else to offer your toilet, you flush down your night of regrets, get up, and brush your teeth. Because you may be drunk as a skunk, but you're still a sane person. And a sane person would rather not go to sleep with the bitter tang of acid in their mouth.
Your face is completely beet red and your eyes are swollen. You wash out the bile from your mouth, lean over to spit, and look at your reflection in the mirror, only to see someone looking right back at you.
From behind you. Some stranger you don’t know. Spiky black hair, a sideways smile that spells trouble, oh—and he’s tall. Very tall.
Tall enough to touch your ceiling.
He salutes you with two fingers, “Hey.”
You’re pretty sure it’s the alcohol induced aftermath of having one too many drinks combined with the lightheadedness of having literally nothing in your stomach, but dark stars line up in your eyes and you fall back and promptly pass out on your bathroom floor.
The last thing you remember is seeing that smile on his face devolve into a look of concern as he reaches out, only for his hand to fall right through you.
You wake up to find a towel draped over your shoulders. Your vision’s kind of fuzzy, and there’s an ache in the back of your head from where you fell, and you think it might’ve been because you slipped in the shower, but you have all your clothes on, which means--
You jerk your gaze to the toilet to see that stranger sitting on the lid. Grinning at you. “You’re awake!” He beams. “Finally—I was beginning to think you might be dead.”
You stare at him and flop back on the floor.
“Not this shit again,” you sigh.
For as long as you can remember, you’ve always been pretty attuned to the spirit world. Mom says it’s something you inherited from grandma -- how convenient that it skipped her generation -- which means you’ve seen them since you were old enough to remember what a spirit was.
The worst part? They knew you could see them. They knew, and they had clung to you, almost desperately so, in search of—what? Salvation? Answers? Things you couldn’t offer them in the slightest, but things that they needed anyway. You were a kid; you didn’t know any better. You tried, and then you failed, and sometimes—sometimes the spirits got angry.
You’ve seen a lot of ugly things, things that scarred you in your childhood for the worse, and so you vowed to yourself that you would ignore any spirit that crossed your path. Vowed, because there was only so much you could do.
It just so happens you’re now roommates with one—which means you can’t just ignore him.
“So you live here,” you state, once you’re sober enough to sit up and face him.
He smiles at you, “I do.”
“Not sure.” He’s mulling, rubbing the very nonexistent stubble on his chin. “I don’t remember much besides my name. Kuroo, by the way.”
You blink at him, “You remember your name?”
You study him for a bit. He’s wearing a white button-up, no tie, and a pair of slacks. It’s completely nondescript. Most of the ghosts you’ve met are usually wearing rags and blood, having been torn this way and that in an act of passion or violence. Some of them are even missing limbs. Or heads. But he looks pretty normal.
He beams at you like he’s just answered your question correctly, “Sure do.”
Also, most of the ghosts you’ve met have no recollection whatsoever of their past. Of what they did, and how they came to be. This is probably the first exception you’ve seen to the rule, one you can’t quite reconcile with, but you decide to put this on the backburner for now.
“And…do you have a surname?” You ask.
“Kuroo is my surname.”
Oh. He remembers that too.
“And your first name?”
He considers it for a while, “Uh, don't laugh. But I don't know."
He must’ve died pretty recently if he remembers half of his name. Well, it’s better than nothing, though it’s not very promising. He's still dead.
Your eyes are full of concern as you study him again, trying to glean something from his clothing that you might’ve missed. But it’s a moot point because everything about him is completely nondescript. He's like a walking icon of anonymity, except his face is actually pretty handsome.
“Hey, you seem pretty chill about this,” he says. “This is all new to me, so I’m still figuring it out as we go, but you sound like you’re asking all the right questions. That's good, right? That means maybe you can help me out?"
He’s oddly chipper about this ordeal, which is also a novelty you’re not used to. Usually it’s all vengeance! Gore! Murder! But he seems…normal. He seems—
"Uh, no." You shake your head. "I can't help you."
"Oh." He looks a little disappointed at this revelation. "That's too bad."
You push yourself up from the floor with a grunt and dust off your pants. And then you take your leave.
He follows you right out the bathroom and into the living room, “Where’re we going?”
“I’m going to try and get a refund,” you state.
"What're we refunding?"
“I'm refunding the house," you snap, filtering right into the kitchen, towel still wrapped around your shoulders. “I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to disclose something like this.”
He stops when you stop, “Something like what?”
You don’t look at him as you pick up your phone and dial in the number of your real estate agent. “They’re supposed to disclose if a murder's taken place in a house you buy,” you state, and from the corner of your eye you can see the smile vanish off his face into something of terror.
"You think I was murdered?"
You pause, hearing the line ring, "Maybe."
He thinks about it for a moment. Nods to himself. "If you find out who did it, can you tell me their name so I can haunt the living shit out of them?"
“OK—are you sure? Right, but…” You trail off, staring at the mess from last night’s party from your kitchen counter. “OK. OK. Fine. I get it.”
You hang up, put your phone aside, and sigh.
Kuroo looks at you expectantly from his little perch on the kitchen counter. He’s been rummaging through all your supplies for the past 15 minutes you’ve been on the phone, which is actually kind of amazing because ghosts usually don't have the strength to do any of that. “What’d she say?” He asks, still chipper, though there’s an ounce of concern withered away in there too.
“There was no murder in this house,” you reply, rubbing your temples. But then something settles on you. “There was no murder in this house—so why are you here?”
He considers it for a bit, “Not sure.”
For a while, you just stare at him.
And he stares back with that dumb grin on his face.
You fold up the towel and you start cleaning up.
Silently, he helps. Picking up cans where he can and dumping them into the trash for you. He tries picking up a glass bottle, but no cigar. Seems like there’s a weight limit to what he’s allowed to hold. You’re aware this is pretty strange, but you decide not to question it. Because there's no point in questioning any of it.
Once your entire apartment’s clean, you decide to make yourself a sandwich and a cup of coffee to nurse your hangover, and then you decide to sit Kuroo down at the dining table to lay down some ground rules.
“Don’t come in the bathroom when I’m there,” you tell him.
He smiles, “So you mean don’t peep on you when you’re naked in the shower.”
You give him a look over your sandwich.
When he sees your glare, he goes on, “I’m kidding. I always leave whenever you come in,” he says, laughing. Nervously. Because you're still looking at him like you don't believe him. “Oi, what kind of guy do you think I—”
“And you can sleep in the living room,” you interject. “On the couch.”
He frowns, “Technically I was here before—"
“And please don’t talk to me when my friends are here.”
“That’s no fun,” he pouts. “What if it’s an emergency?”
“What kind of emergency?”
“Like, your boss, who has a big fat crush on you,” he says, beaming. "Like, subtlety, am I right?" When he sees the very unenthused look on your face he clears his throat and goes on.
“A fire,” he says. “Or maybe your basement’s flooding. Or the gas is on.” He starts rattling off a list of things that can go wrong—a tree’s fallen through your attic, there are termites in your floorboards, and a wild buck has somehow managed to break through your second-floor window, wreaking havoc in your bedroom and destroying your favorite picture of you and your family.
For a while, you just stare at him.
And he stares back at you.
So you stare at him some more.
You sigh, “Fine. But only if it’s an emergency.”
He gives you a thumbs up, staring at the leftover half of your sandwich that’s gone untouched. You slide the plate over to him in gesture of good faith. He manages to pick up the sandwich just between his fingertips, but it slips from his grasp as he tries to chomp down on the corner. He looks sad.
At night, the two of your settle down on the couch to watch the trashy drama that’s on TV. “So—the guy is a time traveler,” he says, motioning to the screen.
“And the girl is just—normal.”
“So when he time travels, he’s somehow connected to her past reincarnation.”
“Oh, that’s sweet.” He hugs a pillow to this chest, one leg folded on the couch as he watches on. “A little creepy, but who am I to judge, right? Fate is the great equaliz—”
You look at him, and he gets the hint to shut up pretty quick. Both of you fall back into your respectful silences, watching as the drone of the drama goes on. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy tries to meet girl in another life even though she's with someone else. Boy is heartbroken. Boy tries again.
“I have one more question,” says Kuroo.
You sigh, “What is it?”
He studies the screen for a while, “Do you actually like this stuff?”
Oh, it’s an actual question.
“Not really,” you reply. “But it’s a nice distraction from reality.”
He looks a little hurt by that revelation, so you decide to go on.
“Because no matter how pathetic my love life is, it doesn’t compare to some loser dude who keeps time-traveling to see if he has another shot with the girl who’s rejected him.”
The corners of his lips tip up to form a little smile.
He has a pretty cute smile, all things considered.
Mondays come, as they do, and with the weekend ending, all you feel is a sense of deflation as you get up and get ready. The absurdity of seeing Kuroo awake and chipper in your living room is still new and when you get ready in the bathroom, he keeps up his end of the bargain. He doesn’t bother you, doesn’t say a word, and when you exit all prim and proper, he beams.
“Can you leave the TV on for me?” He says, and you do, flipping the switch.
Volleyball’s playing. He starts watching while you drain the last bit of your coffee before setting the mug down in the sink, “You’re going to be OK while I’m gone?”
“Sure am,” he gets up from the couch and motions to the fridge. “You’re forgetting something.”
“Oh. Right.” You’d been so wrapped up with this new ordeal that you’d completely forgotten about your lunch. You open the door, take your bento, and slide it into your little carry-on case before moving towards the door. “Thanks.”
“I’ll be on the lookout for any thieves,” he says, which gives you an inkling of a smile as you take your keys from the table by the door.
You’re on your way out when he yells, “Wait, you left the stove on!”
And just as fast, you whip around.
He grins at you from the kitchen counter, “Just kidding.”
“So not funny,” you frown, closing the door with a slam.
You bring home dinner from the office; it’s a catered meal, pretty simple as it goes: a pork cutlet rice bowl with some side dishes that include a mini-salad, a soft-boiled egg, and slices of pre-cut honeydew.
You grab an extra box for Kuroo, and when you get home, you find him waiting for you with the TV on.
Kuroo is an odd spirit. He reminds you of a dog, if only because he’s the first thing that greets you when you get home. And he greets you with a grin--full of enthusiasm and cheer.
God, this is weird. Like, really, really weird.
"Tadaima," you answer, sounding somewhat deflated. Weirdly enough, you don't hate it.
Not only do you have to get used to this new life in a new home, but you have to get used to having a roommate too. So not what you signed up for, even though you do get all the benefits of a roommate -- good company, a drinking buddy, and a friend -- without having to deal with the physical bullshit that comes with one: dirty dishes in the sink, not feeling guilty about leaving a beer bottle out on the couch, or having to mind them when they invite their friends over, or worse, their parents.
"Don't you want to know what happened to you?" You ask one day over drinks, scrolling through your phone mindlessly as Kuroo watches from across the dining table.
"Of course I do, but what good is wanting if I can't have it?"
Huh. Fair point.
"Well, let's see."
You go on your phone and type in his name, Kuroo, but you’re immediately bombarded with five million search results.
He looks at you sympathetically, "Maybe it's just one of those things where I need to wait it out--and go towards the light or whatever."
"I mean, is that what you want?"
He has to think about it, "No, not really."
That's new too. Of all the ghosts you've ever met, almost all of them wanted to move on. Yes, there were the vengeful and hateful ones too, but what is vengeance and hate but just another means of moving on?
For what it’s worth, Kuroo keeps his end of the bargain. He doesn’t pry when you bring friends over—he does, however, stake out a seat for himself at the dining table. Pretends to join the conversation, so in a way, he’s still indirectly talking to you. When your friends tell you how cute you look, he falls quiet, studying you with that oddly piercing gaze. You realize when he's not smiling, he looks like he's straight up grilling you.
The doorbell rings.
You leave the table somewhat reluctantly, answer it, only to find your boss—your very, very drunk boss standing in the doorway looking at you with that empty vague gaze.
“Can I come in?” He asks.
Who are you to say no?
“Say no!” Kuroo yells from across the room.
But you look back at your boss, who’s still staring at you with that expectant gaze, “Um—OK.”
He is your boss after all. It would be stupid to say no, especially when he's the one signing off on your paycheck every week. The paycheck that pays for this mortage. And all your expenses. So you step aside as he staggers through the doorway, takes off his shoes, and walks over to the table where all your girlfriends fall silent.
“Don’t mind me,” he drawls, every word a tired slur as he takes a seat where Kuroo is. “What’re we talkin’ ‘bout?”
Kuroo frowns, standing up, “Oi! That’s my chair.”
“I think that’s our cue to go,” says your oldest friend, Ichika. She looks at you with eyes filled with pity. “Call me tomorrow?”
Kuroo frowns, “They’re just going to abandon you like that?! What the hell! What happened to responsibility?"
You give her a hug, “I will.” And eventually, all your friends filter out, leaving you alone with your boss and Kuroo, who’s glaring at him with dagger eyes across the table.
Your boss takes a breath, “I like you."
Kuroo has a look on his face like 'oh my god I told you so,' but instead fixates his glare at your very drunk counterpart, “Man, what a way to confess your feelings." He puts his hands on his hips as he watches you take a seat across. "Do it sober, coward."
You’re facing away, looking at him over your shoulder with all the pity in the world.
Kuroo's face melts into something of concern when he realizes you're not answering, “Hey, you’re not actually going to listen to this guy, are you?”
“You’re drunk,” you reply softly. “I think you should go home."
But he takes you by the hand; it’s sudden, and it’s enough to startle you, “I like you,” he says again, as if repeating that fact will do anything to relieve you of the burden of knowing.
“Don’t touch her,” Kuroo hisses, trying to swat your boss’s hand away. It doesn’t work because he just falls right through him. “Oi—do you hear me? Don’t touch her, asshole."
“You’re drunk,” you repeat, hoping it’s the right thing to say, but he just stares at you with that same old gaze. You try to pry away from his grasp, but he’s stronger than you, and you’re starting to get a sinking feeling in your gut that he’s not going to leave unless you give him the answer he wants. “Sir, you’re—"
Kuroo lifts his clenched fist and sends it barreling into your boss’s head.
And for some reason, it works.
Your boss jerks up from his seat, his chair clattering to the ground. “What was that?” he hisses, touching his own cheek. “I—what—”
“What was what?” You ask, standing up right after him, looking none-the-wiser.
Kuroo looks pretty pleased with himself, “Yeah, and don’t frickin’ touch her again unless you want some more of this.”
But he just looks at you, all aversions to whatever ghost punch that came his way forgotten to the wayside as he rounds the table. “Something’s not right here,” he hisses, completely red-faced. “We should leave.”
“Jeez, this guy just won’t give up huh,” says Kuroo, frowning.
You bolt to the other side, and suddenly you’re locked in a very annoying game of merry-go-round that you did not sign up for. “I think I’m good, actually,” you say, and only then do you realize how pathetic he looks—how small he is under the glare of your kitchen light. You manage to corral your phone form the counter. “I’m going to call you a taxi cab, alright?”
Kuroo sighs, “You should call the police—that’s what you should do. For trespassing on private property.” He jabs his thumb towards his own chest. "This is our house, ugly."
“I’m not calling the police,” you hiss. “That’s my boss.”
Your boss tries to round the table again, but Kuroo beats him to the punch, literally, sending his fist right through the front of his forehead. He goes topping back into the wall, hits it with a thud, and promptly passes out on the ground.
"Oh my god--" And then you rush to his side, feeling for a pulse, letting out a breath when you find one. "You could've killed him."
Kuroo dusts off his hands, “Well, now you can call an ambulance.”
He doesn’t beam at you for once; if anything, he looks a little upset.
You decide not to fight him on this one.
You dial the number for an ambulance and wait.
Neither of you get any sleep that night.
You mope around on the couch after your boss is gone, mostly, hugging your knees to your chest in your little Doraemon pajamas because you feel like a kid who doesn’t want to go to school tomorrow. And it’s true: you don’t want to go to work, you don’t want to see your boss, and you don’t want to confront a perilously awkward situation, one that you wanted nothing to do with from the very beginning.
Once you tell someone you like them, you can’t take it back. It’s out there. And sure, you can do the respectful “I’m flattered, but let’s be friends” thing, but how often does that ever work? And the thing is--this is your boss. This is supposed to be someone who's supposed to mentor you. Someone who pays you. Someone who makes sure you have a living.
“You OK?” says Kuroo—for a second, you almost forget he’s there.
You glance at him and nod, slowly. “I am, so please stop looking at me like that."
He scratches his cheek, “Like what?”
“Like you pity me.”
“I don’t pity you. I worry about you.”
“That’s the same thing as pitying me. Worry is born from pity.”
He doesn’t smile anymore, just stares at you with all the concern in the world. “I just think you need to stop being such a pushover.” And then, after a pause. “You need to stand up for yourself.”
“Easier said than done when the person you’re trying to stand up to is your boss.”
He considers it for a while, eventually putting a hand on your shoulder, “You should get some sleep. You have to wake up early in the morning.”
You collapse to your side, into his lap. You close your eyes and try to pretend like you can feel his thighs underneath your cheek. “I don’t want to go,” you tell him.
You can almost feel the way he brushes your hair from your face, “So don’t.” You can almost feel him caress your skin, tantalizingly slow. It’s like his fingers are just short of actually touching you, warmth radiating from his skin. “Call in sick.”
It’s not the same, you think. Not the same as actually touching. But it brings you more relief than you expect. You close your eyes again, trying to extract whatever warmth his fingers can offer you, as you curl up in his lap.
“OK,” you whisper, the sands of sleep taking you into the dream world of nightmares.
It’s that same dream again.
Metal crashing against metal, something scraping against the ground—and suddenly, you’re looking into the carnage. It’s raining this time; your skin is totally drenched; and you can barely see two feet in front of you, but what you do see is death.
“Oi, wake up—you’re having a nightmare.”
Your eyes flash open to see Kuroo holding you—or at least, trying to hold you. The digital clock on your TV stand is screaming 10:04am. You’re wide awake, but some sense of utter relief comes washing down when you realize you’ve overslept and have no choice but to call in sick.
“What were you dreaming about?” He asks, jolting you out of your reverie.
You meet his gaze, so curious and wholesome that it automatically wins you over. “A car crash,” you say.
“Yeah,” you try not to laugh, sitting upright to face him. “Hey…can I say something?”
“Uh-oh.” He sits upright and cross-legged. “Am I in trouble?”
“The opposite, actually,” you tell him. “I just wanted to say thank you.”
He sticks his pinky finger into his ear, looking very much unaware, “What’re you thanking me for?”
“For sticking up for me, even if you couldn’t, y’know, physically stick up for me,” you tell him, lowering your gaze. “I just don’t think I would’ve known what to do if you weren’t there.”
And it’s true—no doubt you’d be trying to buy yourself time, figure something out, and probably end up with your boss staying the night on your couch or something. “Is there anything I can do?”
He holds a hand up, “A hero doesn’t ask for commission fees.”
Still, you look at him. Waiting.
“What?” He crosses his arm. “I have something on my face?”
You crawl on your hands and knees until his face is only inches away from yours. He doesn’t budge, just looks away to some far off corner in the room like he doesn’t notice you’re there. You don’t realize how close you are, but now that you do, you can practically feel his exhalation, his breath hot on your face. Except it’s not his breath—not really anyway; it's just a shadow of it lost in time.
“Oi, Kuroo. Look at me for a sec.”
He turns back around to meet your gaze, “What?”
You smile at him, “You’re cute.”
And for the first time since you’ve met him, he blushes.
The rest of your day goes by pretty unceremoniously. You make breakfast together, you watch TV, and then you start cleaning because it’s therapeutic and allows you to take your mind off what happened last night.
Kuroo is pretty helpful in that regard; he helps set up the trash bags, wipes down the counter for you, basically does all the light-lifting that he can. “I’ve never seen a ghost do that,” you admit, watching him work on your TV stand, which is covered in a film of dust.
“Maybe that means I’m not a ghost,” he replies, tartly.
For a while, you just watch him. He’s a pretty meticulous guy. “I wonder what you were like then,” you say, taking a breath.
“Jury’s still out on that one, but at least one thing’s for sure.”
He winks, “The good looks.”
Silently, you agree.
When night comes, you turn on the television and start watching the drone of the newscast as Kuroo settles down next to you. You can sort of feel the dip of the couch where he’s sitting, but it’s so small and inconsequential that you imagine it'd be like sitting next to a cat.
You pull your phone and look up his name, only to be blasted by 5,000,000 results again. Huh. Seems like a surname isn’t enough. You look away, but it’s too late. He’s already latched onto the thought and if there’s one certainty you’ve learned about Kuroo, it’s that he won’t let go.
“What is it?” He says.
You tuck your phone away, “I’m just…thinking.”
You curl up on the arm of the couch, staring at the TV screen but digesting absolutely nothing at all. “Don’t you wonder about where you came from? Why you’re here?”
“Sometimes,” he admits. “Anyway, what’re you gonna do about your—”
“—it doesn’t bother you?”
“Yeah, it does, but so what?” He snaps, turning around to meet your gaze. “I can’t do anything about it, so what’s the point in groveling?”
Peering at him from your vantage point, you frown, “What if this means you can’t move on? What if this means you’re stuck here forever?”
You sit up, feeling the blood rush out of your face as you turn to look at him dead in the eye, “Why the hell would that be fine?”
He leans in a little closer, as if to challenge you.
“Because I’d be with you.”
And then he pecks you on the lips; it’s so quick, so ghostly quick, that you barely feel it. All except for that electric spark from where your lips met.
You pull back and look at him. Really look at him.
“You should sleep in the bed,” you say, lowering your gaze. “We don’t have to do anything. But it’s big enough for two.”
It surprises both of you when he answers, “Yes.”
OK, so this is weird. You don’t acknowledge that moment again, which is…somewhat inevitable.
Both of you are clinging to the opposite ends of the very, very small full-sized mattress that you own. But eventually, you turn around, looking at his back.
He’s still in those old work clothes; they never age or get wrinkled, but the alternative isn’t much better. It’s like looking at a 3d rendering of a video game character—they always look the same.
He shifts, following suit until he’s facing you with his eyes closed.
“Kuroo,” you whisper. He doesn’t answer.
You reach out to touch his face, but your fingers go halfway through his cheek. He reaches out and catches your wrist, but both of you are playing a game to see how much you can actually pretend to touch each other.
“Do you sleep?” You ask.
His eyes are bleary when they open to look at you, “Sometimes.”
“Do you dream?”
You pause, inching a little closer. For some reason, that makes you sad.
You take his hand and press it against your chest. He takes your hand and presses it against his. There’s no beat there, but that’s OK. If you close your eyes hard enough, you can pretend like you have enough heart for the both of you.
Slowly, he starts integrating into your life. You don’t even realize it until you start depending on him for your everyday tasks: waking you up in the morning, cleaning up your kitchen, and, of course, reminding you to bring your lunch box to work—yes, to work, because you eventually make your way back to that office, collect with all the awkwardness of that one drunken night.
Both you and your boss pretend like it never happened, which is great! Because that’s literally the only thing you want. You want to forget. And he just treats you the same as he’s always treated you—with mild indifference.
Plus, you even have a contingency plan in action, thanks to Kuroo. If everyone in the office is going to an after-work izakaya for drinks, you have a lineup of excuses ready at the helm: you’re feeling under the weather, you have to meet your mom for a family banquet, your cousin’s visiting from out of town. It's full-proof.
You remember telling Kuroo you didn't know he was such a planner; and he'd said something like he didn't know either. Which is funny, because that's probably something he should know about himself.
But, of course, god always laughs at those who make plans.
Because your boss literally gets to you right as you start packing your bags to leave. Asks to have a word with him in his office. And who are you to say no? He’s your boss, after all, and you're still on the clock technically. You figure best case scenario, he's going to apologize to you and call it a day. Maybe he'll write you a bonus check to keep things under the table. A win-win, right?
When he closes the door, you realize that's not the case.
You realize what's going to come next.
“The other night,” he starts, slowly, leaning against the edge of his desk.
You throw him one last bone, "We can just forget--"
“I love you,” he says, bowing. “I’m sorry. I just—I just need an answer, even if it’s no.”
So this is how it's going to be.
Really, you feel sorry for him.
Even as you take one last look at him.
“No,” you reply. “Also. I quit.”
And then you leave, never looking back.
“Well, I’m proud of you.”
You’re faded. So, so, so, so faded. Everything in your house is a clusterfuck of lights and garbled TV voices, and when you try to focus on Kuroo’s face, you start seeing three of them. He tries to cup your cheeks, tries to steer you in the right direction, but his hands fall right through you instead.
“I have no job,” you murmur. “I have a mortgage to pay and I have no job.”
He tries patting you on the head instead, but the effect of it is even worse. You can’t feel him at all, not especially when you’re wasted on cheap beer.
“I guess it’s OK,” you murmur. “’Cause I have you.” And then you look at him funny. You’d say he looks handsomer with the beer goggles, but that’s a bold-faced lie. He’s handsome-handsome even when you're stark sober. “Sort of.”
He stops. Without any indication things are going wrong, he lowers his hand.
“I wish I could hug you,” he says, softly.
“I wish you could too."
A single tear comes down the side of your cheek. You want so badly to be held, for someone to stroke your face. For someone to just be there.
You’ve been in long-distance relationships before, but you just never thought about how meaningful it would be to actually feel someone feel you back. Maybe the anticipation of knowing they were physically there across the computer screen was enough to sustain you, but even then that's a lie because none of them lasted.
He reaches out and wipes away the tear from your face—and for a moment, just a moment, you feel his the warmth from his finger.
And just like that, he vanishes.
You’re staring into thin air, wondering where he went. “Kuroo?” You say his name again, in hopes that he’ll reappear, or at least stop this sick little joke he’s playing. “Kuroo, this isn’t funny.”
You stand, suddenly, eyes scanning around the room, searching for some semblance of him, “Kuroo?”
You go to the kitchen—he’s not there.
The bathroom—not there either.
And then you go to your bedroom.
For an entire day, he’s nowhere to be found and you’re left wondering if you conjured him from the depths of your imagination. If he was really this living, breathing entity living with you inside this two-story house. You start wondering, you start wondering, you start wondering. And then you stop.
Because you have to inevitably accept the futility of this. He’s not real—he’s a spirit. A lost soul. And you’re human, flesh and blood; and the terms of your unity were never meant to be. You’re supposed to guide him, to help him ascend to higher places, and he—what is he supposed to do? Wait for you?
All you can think about is the way he smiles when you return home from work. All you can think about is how handsome he looks sleeping on the couch. Doing nothing. And saying nothing. Watching your shitty dramas and trashy variety shows. Laughing at the clumsy heroines and crying when she gets strong enough to act on her own. Acting like the two of you have nowhere else in the world to be.
The sound of his voice is enough to make you stagger back into the living space, where you find Kuroo sitting on the ground, rubbing the back of his head.
When he catches sight of you, he beams, “Oi, it's been a—"
You reach out and tackle him in a hug, only to fall right through him onto the carpet. The words don’t really do it justice—I miss you, I wanted to see you, where have you been? Because when he reaches out to touch you, his hand goes right through you and this time you don’t even feel him. Not even that little bit of warmth from his fingertips that you cherished so much.
Whatever touch he had is apparently all gone.
He can’t pick up the same items he could before, not even a trash bag. At some point, after making up all these lame excuses for the stark change in behavior, you start weeping again—which is a fucking shame because it seems all you can do is cry these days. You drop the trash bag, along with all the other clutter he used to be able to hold, and return to your bedroom where you curl up against each other.
“I missed you,” he says.
You can vaguely make out the lines in his palm, but even that’s starting to fade too, “Where were you?”
He pauses. Takes a breath. “I was dreaming.”
“Yeah,” he smiles a bit. “I had a dream about a car accident.”
It starts in an izakaya with two of his business associates. They’re all four beers in each, drunk as hell, and they insist he gets in the back seat so they can take him home because all the trains have stopped, and no taxi is going to come to this part of town. He’s so wasted he obliges, so he piles in, and the next thing he remembers are the lights of the truck beaming red before him as the car crumples underneath it.
“Screeching metal,” he explains. “Everything was spinning. There were...apples everywhere—and then…I woke up. And I was here.”
It hits you.
He’s having the same dream you’ve been having.
Turns out if you look up Kuroo + car accident, you’ll whittle down five million results to two.
Volleyball league CEO transported to hospital after fatal car crash
The article is dated to six months ago, right when he started appearing.
“Your name is Tetsurou,” you say, softly. "And you've been in a coma."
Something shifts in him when he sees the headline; but something else shifts when he hears you say his name for the very first time.
The veil has been lifted, and now it’s up to him to put together the rest of the pieces.
“My name is Tetsurou,” he repeats, looking down at the article.
He has a blank look in his face; he’s not registering anything anymore. Even when he looks back at you, there’s a glaze in his eye like he’s already gone.
“I think I know why I’m here.”
He grew up here, he explains, with his mom, dad, and best friend next door. He grew up here, went to school in Tokyo, and played on the volleyball team. And then he went to business school while his parents moved out to buy a condo—while he went on to buy himself a two-bedroom apartment next to the volleyball stadium in Ginza.
“All my favorite memories were here,” he explains and you collect every story he rattles off like they’re precious stones, holding them close to your chest until he offers you another. “Hanging out in the summer, coming home after going to the beach, being yelled at by mom for getting sand all over the floor.”
He stares out the window of your kitchen, only to see another brick wall staring back, “That wasn’t there before, by the way,” he says—and it’s a sorry attempt to be funny because there’s really nothing funny about it at all. The way he says it is like he’s already given up.
You're sitting on the kitchen counter, watching him, wondering if this is going to be the last time you'll see him because it certainly feels that way. You're trying to collect every moment you can, but the moment is going too fast and you feel like you can't catch your breath.
“Hey, will you do me three favors?”
You smile, weakly, “Sure.”
"First. Don't visit me at the hospital," he says. "Not yet, anyway."
"Just. Promise me."
You frown, "That's not fair."
"I know. But. Just do it for me?"
You look at him. He looks desperate, so you nod.
“OK, second favor. Will you call me by my first name?” He comes over and puts his hands on your thighs, but you don’t feel even an inkling of it anymore, even as he leans in close to your face. “And third. Will you close your eyes?”
“Hm... Say please."
He returns your smile, “Please?”
“Fine.” You close your eyes and take a breath.
This whole thing feels terribly, terribly corny, but you decide not to point that out because the moment feels short—and it feels like if you don’t seize it right now, it might just disappear forever.
You feel something faint touch your lips, and you grin, opening your eyes—
Only to realize there’s no one there.
Three days go by—four, five, six.
A week, and it takes every nerve of strength not to go back on your promise.
They say breaking up with someone can sometimes feel like the equivalent of losing a family member. You wonder if the same applies to someone you should’ve never met. You read the article about Kuroo over and over again until you have it memorized by heart. You try to cling onto some bastion of hope that he’ll return, but at some point, you’re just hoping you remember him long enough for him to return.
Your friends ask about you, but you don’t have anything to offer them. So you tell them you’re fine and eventually they stop asking.
At some point, you resume your daily routine. You start applying for jobs, you watch whatever trashy soap opera is playing on TV, and then you go to sleep. Sometimes you drink; sometimes you just call it a night. You’ve returned to normalcy, but you don’t think it feels normal at all. You feel like everything you do, even in the most mundane moments, have lost its charm—you feel like a part of you has withered away and you’re the one clinging to this idea of normal just to fight to see another day.
It happens in an instant.
One day, you’re sitting down, thinking you might have your shit together—and then he falls right through your dinner table from the sky shrieking “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH” at the top of his lungs, which makes you jerk up from the table, chair knocking into the ground with a dull thud.
The shock of his landing is enough to make you stare. Stare, so you can digest the reality of this situation. It doesn’t matter, though. He could be fake, a figment of your imagination, but the reality doesn’t matter anymore. This could all be nothing and you wouldn’t care. This is real enough for you.
You reach out to hug him, but your arms are going through him. You try to take in all his details and tell him how much you miss him, but you end up weeping into his shoulder instead.
“Hey, hey—it’s OK,” he whispers. “It’s OK—you’re OK.”
“I’m not, actually,” you tell him, rubbing your eyes until they’re red. “You keep saying that, but I’m not OK—you, you, you asshole. Disappearing like that without a word. Did you know how worried I was? Did you know—"
“—I hate to interrupt while you're telling me how much you miss me, but I don’t have much time,” he says, lifting his hands to show his fingers.
They’re vanishing from the tip.
Your eyes widen in shock, “No, no fucking way. Kuroo, you’re not going any—”
“Hey! My turn to talk,” he says, scratching his cheek with that sad stub of a finger that’s vanishing before your very eyes. “I just wanted to tell you…I think we should stick to a first-name basis for good."
You stare at him.
He stares back.
“THAT’S ALL YOU HAD TO SAY?” You screech. “ARE YOU FU—"
“Also I love you,” he tacks on, smiling.
Kuroo always smiles with his eyes, but his eyes are squinting so much that a single tear escapes them, dribbling down his cheek.
“That’s it,” he says. “Now say it back.”
But he’s vanishing too fast—body, waist, and neck.
“I love you,” you tell him, but he’s already gone.
Nothing is left, except his tear that’s fallen to the ground.
Fuck the promise.
You bolt towards the hospital, but the nurse tells you visiting hours are over—so you stay up all night, chewing on your thumb, staring at the wall like a dunce, and hoping it’ll offer you some answers, some secret spell to breaking this—this what? This curse?
At some point, your doorbell rings and you hold out on the hope that maybe Kuroo’s risen from the dead to greet you—and it’s a very stupid thing to do, to open the door at 4am in the morning, but you’re functioning on zero sleep and you’re desperate, so you rip open the door to find your boss—ex-boss—standing in your doorway looking very drunk and very lonely.
The disappointment can’t even compare to the immense gut-punch you feel when you realize it’s not Kuroo, and before he can even get a word out, you hiss at him like a snake.
“Not now, not ever." You slam the door and crane your neck back as he continues knocking on your door. "FUCKING. MEN."
Eventually he gives up, leaves, the hours start passing by, and when the clock strikes 6am, you bolt out the door again.
Someone beats you there.
Some kid with a bad dye-job who wears his hair in a half-ponytail. He’s wearing a hoodie and jeans and he has flowers in his hands. But once you get over the fact that there’s someone else there, you look over and see Kuroo—and he looks…terrible.
He’s hooked up onto so many machines you lose count after the fifth. And the breathing machine he’s on sounds like he’s breathing death into him. It’s loud in here. Much louder than you expected. You understand why he didn't want you to visit him; he looks like hell--like a shell of himself. You'd think, if the positions were switched, you probably wouldn't want that to be his first impression of you either.
And you think you’re about to cry, but the kid with the bad dye job says something like, “Do you wanna talk outside?” and whatever tears you have shrivel up inside you immediately.
The two of you walk in silence until you come to a stop at a bench.
“I’m Kenma,” he says, taking a seat.
You tell him your name and look at Kuroo’s room.
“How do you know him?” He asks.
“We’re old friends from high school,” you tell him, but he offers a contemplative look, as if he’s sizing you up—as if he already knows you’re lying.
“What high school did you go to?”
You want to ask him why that even matters, but you just rattle off some random name (“Kokusai High”), and then he narrows his gaze.
“He went to Nekoma,” he says, and only then do you realize you have wholeheartedly failed his dungeon wisdom test.
But you don’t care. You’re really not looking to impress his friends right now. You turn to go back to his room to check up on him, but he grabs you by the wrist before you can get very far. “He’s not waking up any time soon,” he says. “So sit down and let’s talk a bit.”
For some reason, you oblige. For some reason, you don’t have the strength to fight him. For some reason, the image of Kuroo hooked up to all those machines hasn’t left you, so it’s like you never left his room to begin with.
“How do you know Kuroo?” He asks again.
You look up at all the ghostly figures roaming these halls—some in hospital gowns, some still wearing fresh cuts on their faces, and some with missing limbs. They all look right back at you, calling your name, wailing.
“You wouldn’t believe it even if I told you,” you tell him.
Kenma pauses, “Try me.”
You tell him everything.
And he’s quiet, for the most part. Mulling it over. Processing it like some kind of supercomputer. He doesn’t betray much on his face besides indifference, but you probably wouldn’t know otherwise. He looks like he’s stuck in a perpetual state of uncaring, but then again, he did show up at 6am to bring Kuroo flowers in the hospital, so there’s probably more to him that you've yet to learn about.
“I’ll give you some time,” you tell him, standing up.
He doesn’t stop you as you make your way towards Kuroo’s room, where you find him lying there, unchanged.
You don’t know what you expected. Some part of you had been holding out on the hope that you’d come back and he’d be walking around in that ridiculous hospital gown, making some corny joke at your expense, but you feel the second punch of disappointment even knowing that can never be the case.
“Kuroo,” you whisper, taking his hand. He’s so frail, so much thinner than what you remember. But then again, you only saw some spirited version of him. Some part of his soul that manifested itself into the real world. “Kuroo, please wake up.”
The hums of the machine tell you everything you need to know.
Even his skin feels cold. You thought that touching him would be something like a divine revelation, knowing he was flesh, blood, and bones underneath your fingertips. But it’s not the same. Not when he can’t hold your hand back. Not when he can’t react to your feel of your skin. You wish things were different, but they’re not. He’s stuck—which means you’re stuck too.
Kenma returns and closes the door behind him, walking up to the side of the bed to study Kuroo before locking eyes with you, “They’re taking out his breathing tube today.”
You don’t know if that’s good or bad, and at this point you’re too scared to ask. When you see that look on his face, you can tell it’s grim.
“You should stop by tomorrow to say goodbye,” he says, and that’s it. That’s the end.
You already have your answer.
"Also," he takes a breath, putting his hand on your shoulder. "Not that it means much, but I believe you."
You return to a quiet home.
It’s eerily quiet, so much so that it frightens you. They say the ugliest monsters lurk in the most unobtrusive places, and for some reason, you actually believe it. You, this twenty-something-year-old grown ass adult—believe in monsters.
And why shouldn’t you? You believe in ghosts. You believe in ghosts because you can see them. And there are people out there who believe in ghosts when they can’t see them, so what does that say about them? What does that say about you?
You haul yourself up the stairs, where you start stripping until you’re in nothing but your bra and underwear, and then you rip open your closet to fish out your old Doraemon pajamas, only to find something else stamped on your closet door.
They’re lines. Measurements, to be exact. Kuroo Tetsurou, Age 8. Jeez, he barely reached your stomach. Kuroo Tetsurou, Age 16. How did he suddenly jump to the height of your closet door? Kuroo Tetsurou, Age 20. That’s the last line in the closet you find, and when you run your fingers against the jagged edges, you can feel a part of it that’s still warm.
“Kuroo?” You call out, but no one answers back.
You take a breath.
“OK—OK.” And look at yourself in the mirror. “Fuck this.” You put on your pants, pull on your sweatshirt, and go barreling down the stairs towards the entrance. “This is happening.”
You leave, slamming the front door on your way out.
Back to the hospital you go, 1:30am, but you decide to bypass the nurse’s station to ask for permission, and head straight to Kuroo’s room at the end of the hall. Hoodie up, hands dug deep into your pocket, as you nudge the door shut quietly behind you. Like a goddamn thief in the night.
Nothing’s changed, except the room is silent now, sans the heart monitor. Kuroo’s fast asleep, but he’s off the breathing machine, which was the source of all that congested noise. You take a breath, unzip your hoodie, and climb straight into his hospital bed.
He feels so frail under your touch, as if every part of him has been withering away for months, which can’t be far from the truth. You could probably pick him up if you tried hard enough.
“Oi, Kuroo. I’m gonna need you to do a favor for me,” you mumble into his neck—he smells like bitter medicine and sweat. “I’m gonna need you to wake up, alright?”
“I thought about it, and I came to the conclusion that it’s total bullshit that you’re leaving like this,” you go on, carding your fingers through his hair, only to feel a clump of it fall off in your palm. “You can’t just walk into someone’s life, say I love you, and leave without saying a word, alright? What’s moral equivalent for blue balls? Well, that’s me.”
He doesn’t laugh, but you can hear the echo of it at the back of your mind. Kuroo always laughed from the pit of his stomach—a wholesome, wholesome laugh.
“Kuroo, don’t leave me here, alright?” You murmur. “It’s not fair.”
You could’ve met him any other time in life. Could’ve met him before the accident.
You could’ve bought the house sooner.
Maybe he would’ve shown up just to apologize for the marks he left in your closet. You would’ve invited him in, made him tea, and maybe you could’ve laughed about it before heading out for dinner. You could’ve met him, fallen in love, and then he would’ve never ended up getting into the backseat after drinking at that izakaya with his friends. He could’ve said, “Nah, I’m good—my girlfriend’s picking me up,” and that would’ve been the end of that.
You’d go home, maybe you’d have sex, and then you’d call it a night.
“Tetsurou.” A single tear slips down your face. “Hey. I said your first name, so wake up alright?"
But he doesn’t budge. Doesn’t move. Just lies there like a corpse.
Tears well up in your eyes again and you bury your face into his chest, “You fucking liar, I hate you.” Whatever control you have completely unravels as you start sobbing into his hospital gown, crumpling it up between your fingers. “I hate you, I hate, I hate—”
When you pull back, you see Kuroo is staring right back at you with the weakest smile he can muster up.
“’Cause—” Every word that comes out his mouth sounds like a wheeze, so dry and broken like he’s just swallowed five tons of sand. “I—love…you.”
“Kuroo?” You blink away tears, but they come faster than you can stop them. “Kur—”
“—first,” he takes a breath. “Name.”
You don’t get a chance to say his name again because all you can do is sob into his gown. Sob, because your body literally cannot process this in any other way. And you sob. So hard, in fact, that the nurses hear you and you’re promptly removed from Kuroo’s hospital bed, escorted by the security guards, and even though you’re telling him you’ll be back tomorrow, the only thing he can offer in return is a smile and a wave because that’s all he can muster.
Suffice to say you don’t sleep that night.
His parents are elated. So is Kenma, for that matter. You never thought you’d be meeting his friends and family this way, but hey, stranger things have happened, so you don’t dwell on it as you all celebrate together in one mass hug that (sadly) does not include Kuroo.
“Left—” He frowns. “Out.”
It takes time to get him back on his feet. He has to relearn how to walk, how to speak properly, and for the most part, he sounds like an old grandpa, which you make sure to remind him of because you’re pretty sure this is the only time you’ll get to tease him this way. But eventually, they discharge him from the hospital, and they send him home, which means you volunteer to take him to physical therapy.
A few weeks in, and he’s getting the hang of using crutches—which is pretty amazing because his legs were pretty much out of commission when he woke up. His physical therapist is a little harsh, but she whips him into shape pretty fast, and in order to celebrate this very minor achievement, you decide to take him out for coffee on what’s supposed to be your first real date.
“You keep staring at me. I know I’m cute, but it’s a little much.”
You don’t care. You just cup your chin and watch him across the table. You can’t believe this is real. You can’t believe this is happening. “I can’t help it,” you tell him, studying the curve of his nose, the cut of his chin. He looks like a model. It’s actually kind of ridiculous how handsome he is. “I just feel like I’ve won the lottery.”
“Funny. I was going to say the same thing.”
“But you didn’t. I said it first. So I win.”
“Fine.” Miraculously, he doesn’t fight you. “What do you wanna do after this?”
“I just wanna look at you for a little bit.”
He looks a little annoyed now, “OK, seriously. Why do you keep doing that?”
You have to think about it, “I don’t know. Probably because if I look away I’m afraid you’re going to disappear again.”
He softens a little, turning back to his coffee. “Y’know—I’m not going anywhere. Flesh and blood.” He holds out his palms for you to look. “See?”
You still can’t believe it.
He takes a sugar cube and dumps it into his cup, “Also, not that I’m complaining, and no pressure or anything, but I still haven't heard you say it."
You blink at him, “Say what?”
“You know what.”
“I don’t, actually.”
He frowns, “I haven't heard you say I love you.”
“Oh yeah. I did know that actually,” you say, grinning at him. “I’m just looking for the right time. That’s all.”
“The right time was yesterday.”
(Well, he'd know if he hadn't vanished.)
You reach out and pinch his right cheek. His face is less gaunt and he looks a little more full now that he’s resumed eating solids. “Just be patient, you dork.” You don’t tell him how much you love touching his skin, how much you love feeling him—how much you love that he’s sitting there, flesh and blood before you.
At some point, Kuroo no longer needs the benefit of your assistance. He goes to physical therapy on his own, which means you can start getting your life in order: you start interviewing at new jobs, you clean up your house, and you start making plans with your friends—yes, those friends that you pretty much ignored during your major time of crisis. You don’t see him as much, but that’s fine because you have a life you need to get back to anyway.
You plan yourself a girl’s night because you have a lot of catching up to do. You have this whole speech planned on how you have a boyfriend, how you want them to meet him, and how you can’t wait for him to see your new place.
You’re all dolled up, ready to leave, but the doorbell rings and you sigh. You’re pretty sure it’s your old boss again.
But when you open up you see it’s Kuroo standing on the other side. He’s holding a bouquet of flowers. And he’s in his suit—but not, like, his ghost suit. This suit is expensive. Designer.
“Hey,” he says. “I was thinking we should go on a da—”
“You’re walking by yourself?” You say. “No cane?”
He beams, “No cane.”
He looks…different. More toned. Did his shoulders get broader? You thought his whole “I’m going to physical therapy by myself” shtick was because he was prideful, but now you’re getting the sense that it’s because he wanted to do other things too.
“Um, Kuroo—have you been hitting the gym?” You ask.
“Just here and there.”
You stare at him—and for a while, he just looks back. Neither of you are talking, instead, just digesting each other.
And then it happens.
The flowers drop, he closes the distance, your lips crash onto his as you hop into his arms, legs wrapping around his waist. He staggers into your foyer, closing the door behind him, and somehow makes his way up the stairs, where he promptly drops you on the bed.
Everything starts blurring as he rips off your dress, as you undo the buttons of his shirt, feeling his hardness of his abs beneath your palm.
He takes your wrist and pulls it to his chest, where you can feel the beat of his heart. He does the same, pressing his hand against your chest.
And for a while, the two of you just stay like that. Listening to the proof of your existence together.
The moment is so overwhelming you start crying again. He kisses away every tear that escapes, pushing you into the bed and kissing you until all your worries melt away—and nothing is left, especially not yesterday’s regrets.
You never make it to girl’s night.
For a while, he just plays with your hair, twirling it between his fingers and caressing your cheek with the pad of his thumb. He has a look in his eye—one of wonder, one of hope. Because he can’t believe this is real. He can’t believe this is happening. And for the record, neither can you.
You beam, “You’re really cute.”
He looks disappointed, dropping his hand to your shoulder and running his palm down to your wrist. “Here I thought I was going to hear three other little words,” he sighs, touching every part of you. Eventually, he pulls your hand to his mouth, where he presses a series of wet kisses to your knuckles, where he promptly slobbers like a dog.
You giggle, trying to pull back, but he just locks you into his arms in a bone-crushing hug.
“Also,” you go on. “I love you.”
He presses a kiss to your forehead, “Yeah, I figured.”
For the first time in what feels like forever, you can finally close your eyes and feel his warmth encompass you whole because you know—you just know—he won’t disappear again.