“Alright, that’s the last of it!”
Kagami dropped the plastic container with a small thud, then sat down heavily on it, resting his muscles after hoisting so much up three damn flights of stairs, elevators much too crowded with the rush of students for them to use. The lid gave a little under his weight, but after moving everything all day, trying to fit everything in this tiny room, he didn’t care if he fell straight through it.
He should’ve known moving into a dorm would be the biggest pain in the ass.
“Thank you, Kagami-kun, for carrying my things as well,” came a quiet voice behind him, and then Kuroko walked past to drop a small box on one of the desks, claiming the right side of the room.
He shrugged and the plastic creaked under him. “It’s no big deal. You couldn’t have lifted them on your own anyways.”
A pout flitted across Kuroko’s lips as he eyed Kagami. “I could have,” he said, then opened the box and began pulling out stacks of books. “I’m going to start unpacking now, if you’d like to join after you’re done resting.”
Kagami watched as Kuroko started making their little concrete room, barely bigger than his entryway back in Tokyo, feel less and less like a jail cell. Books made their home on the room’s provided shelves, along with Kuroko’s desk like a rainbow of literature. Clothes started filling their modest closet, in the shades of hoodies and stripes that Kuroko loved so much (and that one dumb pink scarf Kagami let him borrow and he never returned, so now it was his). Then pale cream sheets covered Kuroko’s flimsy mattress, their beds suspended over their desks with a ladder that Kagami just knew was going to send one of them falling to their deaths.
Yet even with all this—with a room so tiny they’d practically be breathing each other’s air, with bunk beds of death that Kuroko was never going to make it out of in the morning, with a mini-fridge that wasn’t nearly big enough for Kagami—it already felt like home.
It wasn’t until Kuroko started unpacking Kagami’s things too that he finally moved off the container, saying, “You don’t have to do that. I can get my stuff.”
“It’s the least I can do for Kagami-kun carrying everything up here. I know my books aren’t light. Besides, you don’t have many things, it won’t take me long,” Kuroko paused. “If you don’t mind, of course.”
There was something strangely intimate about this, Kagami thought as he mumbled, “No, I don’t mind.” It was in the way Kuroko stretched sheets over his own bed with smooth precision, in the way Kuroko’s hands brushed over his dark V-necks and tank tops that joined the hoodies and stripes, in the way Kuroko would examine before setting pictures of their high school team and their Winter Cup medals on Kagami’s desk.
And when Kuroko came to Tony, his stuffed tiger he’d had since forever, Kagami was completely prepared for a smartass comment, after which he’d snatch it out of Kuroko’s hands and hiss, “It’s nothing, you saw nothing.” But instead Kuroko just smiled at it as if it were an old friend, then carefully placed it on his pillow.
It was…close. Almost intimidating. In a way Kagami couldn’t understand.
But it felt full, warm, and Kagami couldn’t keep the grin off his face.
“You wanna order out tonight? I’ll even get you your own personal cheese pizza,” he coaxed, voice lilting in a way that had Kuroko smiling and agreeing with, “As long as you limit yourself to two pizzas, Kagami-kun.”
So they ordered pizza for their first night in college, munching on greasy goodness while piling onto his bed to watch a movie. And even though Kuroko asked questions throughout the whole thing (“But how do they see the cartoons? Why do the cartoons play basketball? Did Michael Jordan really retire to play baseball?”), Kagami still felt like he’d just won the Winter Cup for the first time again.
The feeling filled his chest to the point of bursting, even after they called it a night and Kuroko curled up on the opposite side of the room. If anything, he swelled even more to the time of Kuroko’s soft breaths. For Kagami, those tiny little exhales were louder than a match buzzer compared to the quiet of his apartment that he had known for so long, and he wanted to stay up all night just to hear that hushed sign of life.
“…Night, Kuroko,” he whispered, unable to stop himself.
“Goodnight, Kagami-kun,” came back to him, playing in his head on repeat.
He’d always had such trouble falling asleep, couldn’t close his eyes in the echoing silence of his too-big apartment. But here in this too-small room, Kuroko less than fifteen feet away, he fell asleep almost instantly, smile dancing on his lips.
And when morning came, bright and early with an alarm ring and a bird’s song, Kuroko buried his bedhead under blankets and groaned, “No, Kagami-kun. More sleep,” in his barely functioning delirium. But it just made Kagami’s grin grow even wider as he crawled up to paw the smaller boy out of bed, shouting, “Wake up, Kuroko!”
“What the hell is he doing here?”
Kagami dropped his backpack with a thud, pointing accusingly at the familiar black-and-white tail wagging on his bed. Nigou simply barked in greeting, and Kagami came close to stepping back out the door, down the stairs, and all the way back to the math class that he hated more than anything just to get away. He thought he had escaped this, that he had finally broken free from this canine curse for at least a few years.
He really should’ve known Kuroko would find a way to sneak Nigou in here.
He snapped towards Kuroko who was sitting at his desk surrounded by notebooks and papers, blue eyes peering up at him curiously. Kagami squinted at him, silently demanding an explanation while Nigou panted and drooled on his comforter.
Kuroko blinked, then simply said, “He missed us, Kagami-kun.”
“No, he didn’t! You know they don’t allow pets in here!” Which begged the question of how Kuroko even snuck him in here in the first place. But Kagami had a feeling that a certain nostalgic black and red bag had something to do with it.
Kuroko glanced between Nigou and Kagami, as Nigou hunkered down and barked, tail wagging playfully while he pawed at Tony.
Then, “But Nigou isn’t a pet, he’s family.”
Kagami resisted the urge to grab Kuroko’s head, something he hadn’t done in quite a while. Then again, he hadn’t been this much of a little shit in quite a while. “That doesn’t matter, he can’t be in here!”
Blue eyes paused in their glancing, shifting to stare at Kagami pointedly. Self-consciousness clawed up his spine, but he refused to break whatever eye contact battle they were having, so Kagami merely shifted and crossed his arms, huffing through his nose.
“…So you don’t deny that he’s family?”
He froze. Then his face flushed red and he reached to tangle his fingers in pale blue hair, rubbing harshly while Kuroko batted his hand away. “S-shut up, that’s not what I meant!” he shouted, then added, “And take him back to your parents!”
Finally managing to hold the attacking hand at bay, sky blue blinked up at him mischievously, and Kagami could sense that whatever teasing thing Kuroko was about to say was going to drive his insanity another notch higher.
“But aren’t we his parents, Kagami-kun?”
Suddenly, it was all so…close. Intimidating again. In a way that Kagami couldn’t put in words.
But it felt nice, butterflies cracking his ribs, and Kagami did the first thing he thought of.
“You little shit!” was all that was heard before he pounced, spinning Kuroko’s chair around and cornering him against the desk before caging him with his arms. Kuroko’s eyes went wide, and Kagami saw his breath catch against his Adam’s apple, dark red eyes following the movement. A spark traveled between them, igniting the very air with such electricity that Kagami’s hair stood up on his nape.
And then Kagami tickled him.
Kuroko just sat there, staring up at him with that deadpan expression, and Kagami thought he had made some sort of terrible tickling miscalculation, but then Kuroko’s mask broke, and his breath whooshed out of him with a giggle. Kagami smirked, victorious, then continued his torment to the bubbling sounds of laughter and, “Kagami-kun, stop! Stop it!”
There was something so familiar in this banter, in Kuroko’s laugh and the smile on his cheeks, in the way his pale fingers hooked against Kagami’s in a vain attempt to pull them away, in the way he breathlessly begged, “Kagami-kun, no more, please!” Kagami reveled in that closeness, wanted to put it so close to him that it became a part of him, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard such happiness in a place he called a home.
But then Nigou started barking behind them, pacing the length of Kagami’s bed and whining before barking again as he tried to get down to them. Kagami stopped to turn towards him, holding a finger to his lips, “Nigou, no, shhh! Do you want them to take you away?!”
There was quiet. Too quiet. Then, “So Kagami-kun does want him to stay.”
“Quit putting words in my mouth!” he yelled before dancing his fingers down Kuroko’s ribs again.
He’d always had such trouble conveying himself, couldn’t find the right words at the right time even though he knew two languages. But here in this too-loud room, Nigou barking happily to Kuroko’s laughs, he felt like Kuroko would understand him in any language, and he couldn’t help but return every laugh with his own.
And with every giggle that poured from Kuroko’s mouth, Kagami’s stomach took a tumble, sending the butterflies in his chest into chaos. He didn’t stop until Kuroko’s cheeks were pink and he had tears in the corners of his eyes, peeking one eye open to scold, “Don’t ever do that again, Kagami-kun.” But it just made Kagami grin, knowing that all he had to do to hear that wind chime laughter was lightly touch at the spot between Kuroko’s fourth and fifth ribs.
“Kuroko, c’mon, you need to get some sleep.”
Kagami dropped his hand to rest on Kuroko’s shoulder, nudging to finally get him away from his desk and to his bed. Kuroko had been nodding on and off for a while now, head bobbing over his notes and highlighter marks as he rubbed at his eyes, and Kagami could only take it for so long. He was already one step away from just picking the smaller up and tossing him up into his bed.
“Just a few more minutes, Kagami-kun. My exam is tomorrow,” Kuroko yawned, then started over his notes with new determination. Only to slowly drift until his cheek was resting against them again.
He should’ve known the little idiot would stay up all night studying. Again.
This was the one thing Kagami didn’t like about being in college. He loved living with Kuroko (it was still such an odd thought, even though it had been months now), he loved the warmth of not living alone in a space not much bigger than a closet, but he hated not being able to help in instances like this.
It wasn’t like high school where they shared the same classes and could just study together. No, Kuroko was on track to becoming a teacher, and Kagami didn’t know what the hell he was doing, so while they had some basics that were the same, other classes were completely different. And it’s not like he could tutor Kuroko, not when he still had to have Kuroko explain complicated kanji to him.
Then there was the added fact that while Kagami needed to maintain his grades to keep his basketball scholarship, he wasn’t under quite as much stress as Kuroko. Which was why he offered, “You want me to go make you something to eat at least?”
Kuroko peeked up from the desk, eyes lighting with a fire of hope that Kagami nearly laughed at it was so serious. “Is that alright?”
“’Course it is. Gimme a few minutes and I’ll be back.”
A smile, sleepy and sparkly in that way only Kuroko could manage, quiet and soft in that way that made Kuroko light up like a firefly, spread across his face, and Kagami felt his heart jump in his chest. “Thank you, Kagami-kun,” he whispered.
It was so…close. Less intimidating, more comforting. In a way that melted Kagami.
But it made him feel proud, that he could bring that sort of light to Kuroko, and Kagami smiled.
Kagami wasn’t a particular fan of sharing a kitchen with people (especially when they left dirty dishes behind, the bastards), but it wasn’t so bad at night, after everyone else had already gone to bed. Kuroko would sometimes join him, sitting at the table and reading a book while Kagami quietly cooked. But tonight, Kagami worked as quickly as he could, fixing up a plate of his gyoza that Kuroko always said were the only things to compete with vanilla milkshakes as his favorite food.
When he came back, however, Kuroko was already asleep, eyes heavy and breaths light with a pencil still grasped in his hand, cheek pressed to the glossy pages of his textbook. Kagami sighed and set the plate aside, walking over to lightly rub Kuroko’s back and say, “At least get in your bed, dumbass.”
He thought about waking him up, of dragging him up and into his bed even if he had to carry him to do it, but then he thought about all of Kuroko’s late nights and how hard he always worked. He really did need as much sleep as he could get. So instead, he grabbed the blanket off Kuroko’s bed and draped it over those small shoulders, gently taking the pencil from him with a decision to wake him up in a few minutes if he didn’t do so himself.
“Get some rest,” he said, ruffling Kuroko’s hair before moving to his own desk.
Kagami’s eyes blinked wide, surprised that Kuroko was awake, but when he turned back, those blue eyes were still shut, chest still moving in rhythm to his sleep. Except one of those constellation smiles had now lit up his face. Kagami felt his cheeks flush and his heart pound and his stomach somersault while Kuroko muttered his name again, and he felt the urge to wrap Kuroko in his arms, away from the rest of the world to where it was only the two of them.
He’d never felt like he was particularly likeable, always yelling at people first, then trying to make up for it with half-assed politeness and some of his cooking. But here in hush of their room, Kuroko breathing his name like dreams, he’d never felt more loved in his life.
And when he woke Kuroko up later, with an ache in his spine and a puddle of drool on his notes, the smaller just planted his face back in his papers, mumbling, “Just a few more minutes,” before drifting off again. So Kagami picked him up, Kuroko squeaking and clinging to him in surprise, before lifting him up onto his bed where he could get some actual sleep, even if Kuroko sleepily protested. But it just made Kagami smile, since Kuroko was out nearly as soon as he hit the pillow, hand still tangled in Kagami’s shirt and Kagami’s name still sounding pretty on his lips.
“Oh! Shit, I’m sorry!”
Kagami’s jaw dropped nearly to the floor after walking into the room, immediately spinning away to look at the door. How was he supposed to know that the one day that his class let out early would be the one day Kuroko would be getting back from a shower? The short answer was that he couldn’t have known, the long answer was that he was kind of glad he didn’t know.
He should’ve known something, but at this point he wasn’t sure what that would be and didn’t particularly care what it was.
“It’s fine, Kagami-kun. Please give me a moment,” Kuroko said, and Kagami could hear the tilt of his head, curious as to why Kagami was acting so damn weird, stop it.
He wanted to yell that it wasn’t fine, that it was anything but fine. About how he now had the image of Kuroko with nothing but a towel around his waist, water droplets still clinging to his hair and dripping down into his collarbone, sky blue irises blinking in surprise. About how he’d probably think about it all day, all night, and all next week. He clenched his hands against his thighs, begging for his brain to just shut up for a second and let him calm down.
It shouldn’t have been a big deal. It really shouldn’t. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen Kuroko shirtless or even completely naked before, it was kind of normal with the rush of high school boys in and out of the showers after practice. Not to mention the hot springs and the beach trainings, in which it was normal for them all to strip off their clothes. So it shouldn’t have been a big deal.
Except it was so…different. And this was intimidating. In a way that made Kagami’s stomach clench.
But at the same time, it was so familiar, as Kuroko was in most ways to him.
Kagami couldn’t help but think about how there’d always been such a strange tension between the two of them, even in high school there’d always been an electrified sort of air around them, to the point that the team often seemed to steer clear of them. But ever since they’d moved into their dorm, where they could scarcely walk without brushing into each other, it had become so much worse. Now Kagami always felt like he was livewire around Kuroko, waiting for his electric touch to send sparks down his bones.
Said touch on his arm and he jumped, spinning to find Kuroko in a clean set of clothes. He ignored the disappointment that flashed through his head without permission.
“I’ve changed now, Kagami-kun.”
Kagami felt a heat flush over his cheeks and down his neck, and he cleared his throat. “Yeah, I can see that,” was all he said.
They stood there, Kagami towering over Kuroko and Kuroko staring at Kagami’s chest like it was suddenly the most interesting thing he’d ever seen. If Kagami tried hard enough, he could probably reach out and touch the awkward atmosphere, cup it in his hands and bury his face in it to hide until this passed. There was nothing he could think of to say, since all that was running through his head was, ‘Damn, he hasn’t lost any muscle since high school.’
“You haven’t either. We still play basketball together every weekend after all.”
Kagami blinked. Then glanced down at Kuroko. “…Huh?”
“You said I haven’t lost any muscle. You haven’t either,” Kuroko explained again.
And if his face wasn’t red before, it certainly was now. Honestly, he wouldn’t have been surprised if it blended right with his hair, and the urge to just walk over to their window and climb out of it was overwhelming. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it, and then closed it again.
He finally settled on mumbling, “I haven’t, huh?”
“No, you definitely haven’t.”
The statement was clear, calm and concise just like Kuroko. But then Kagami noticed those normally pale cheeks slowly bloom in color, to the point that even Kuroko’s ears were tinging pink, and then those blue eyes tore away from him, staring at a corner of the room. Kagami tried to think of a time that Kuroko broke eye contact with him, out of sheer inability to look at him, and came up empty. That, along with the fact that apparently Kuroko was taking note of his physique, left his head dizzy and his stomach tipsy.
He’d never felt like he was desirable, since he was way too lumbering and big and awkward for anyone to really be attracted to, and while he didn’t think he was the worst-looking guy, his eyebrows and scowl definitely needed some work. But here, in this tiny space that suddenly felt suffocating, the way Kuroko’s eyes traced over his chest, up his neck, and across his lips sparked a heat under his skin.
And when they broke whatever spell came over them and went to their respective beds, unable to speak without stutters and cheeks still blushing like they’d just seen each other for the first time, Kuroko buried his face in a book while Kagami hid behind his laptop. They never spoke of it, never carried out the conversation, and so it sat between them, waiting like a tiger in a cage, ready to sink its claws at any given moment. But in a way, it just made Kagami grin, thinking about how Kuroko was apparently just as taken aback by this as he was, especially since it was so rare to see Kuroko unprepared for anything.
“Let’s make a list!”
Kagami dropped onto Kuroko’s bed, jostling the smaller into closing his book and setting it aside with an amused laugh. He didn’t often get this animated over things, but he’d been thinking about how he and Tatsuya had made a list when they lived in America about all the things they’d do as professional basketball players, and now he wanted to do the same with Kuroko. He shoved a paper at Kuroko where he already had a few things written down in messy script.
He should’ve known that nothing was ever quite that simple between the two of them.
“What kind of list?” Kuroko asked, taking the paper from him.
“A to-do list! Of all the things we want to do in college!”
Kuroko glanced over what he already had (playing basketball for literally an entire day, breaking his record of how many burgers he could eat, and buying a cactus named Spike) and laughed. It was like bells ringing, and it made Kagami grin. He knew that Kuroko was just as excited, given how he immediately picked up a pen and began adding to it.
They twisted together on Kuroko’s bed, arms crossing each other in attempts to grab the pen and add more haphazard ideas (“Kagami-kun, you can’t make a dunk from the roof.”), from simple thoughts (“Yeah, we can totally go to the beach for spring break!”) to rejected concepts (“There is no way in hell I’m watching 101 Dalmatians with you, Kuroko!”). It was fun, to just laugh and add silly things, even ones that they knew they would never do.
Then Kuroko wrote one that left Kagami arching a brow. “Your first kiss?”
A sudden shyness crept over Kuroko, one that Kagami could feel even if he didn’t know him so well. But he still calmly said, “Yes, Kagami-kun is already experienced so he wouldn’t understand—”
“Hey, Alex doesn’t count!”
“But I’d like to gain some practice as well.”
Suddenly, the air grew taut around them, tightening on Kagami’s lungs and leaving his head spinning. He glanced down to Kuroko’s lips before he thought about it, but by the time he caught himself and looked back up, Kuroko was staring at him in a way that thudded in his chest. It was times like this that he thought Kuroko should come with his own warning sign.
He thought back over the past few months, the past few years, at all the tension between them that they sometimes ignored, sometimes teased. He thought about how amazing Kuroko was and how incredible he made Kagami feel, just by looking at him and saying, “I’m really glad I met you.” He thought about all the times his gut flipped and his heart lurched, all just from living with this little guy who made his life so much better and so much fuller than it ever was before. He thought about how much he loved every single damn moment he’d ever had with Kuroko, yet still wanted to spend a million more with him.
“Hey,” he started, and was surprised to hear himself talk but couldn’t stop, “I could, if you want.”
“You could what?” Kuroko asked like he already knew the answer.
“I could help you practice. Or something. Since I’m so experienced. If you want.”
Then Kuroko was so close. And it was so fucking intimidating. In a way that made Kagami question everything he ever knew and would ever know again.
But he still leaned closer, warmth bubbling somewhere between his ribs, and felt Kuroko’s breath bloom across his lips.
“I do want.”
They pressed together like it was natural, as if it were as normal as tossing a pass and catching it for a dunk. Their noses may have squashed together, and Kuroko’s hand may have tangled painfully in his hair, and Kagami may have thought way too much about what he should do with his teeth, but it was so good. Kuroko was so soft and warm, yet firm and harsh, fingers pulling on red strands while Kagami traced that full lower lip with his tongue. Small canines nipped at Kagami’s lips, leaving them pleasantly stinging, before Kuroko drew his bottom lip into his mouth, sucking it lightly until Kagami made some sort of keening sound he didn’t know he was capable of.
A sharp inhale and then they were both panting for air, realizing that somewhere along the way they had forgotten to breathe. Kagami knocked his forehead against Kuroko’s, unwilling to let any space between them now that the cage had burst open, the claws sunk into his sides with every bit of his welcome.
It wasn’t until he opened his eyes that he realized he even closed them. And the first thing he saw was Kuroko fighting a smile on his face. Echoed by Kagami’s own huge grin.
“So…you need more practice?”
“I think I do,” Kuroko hummed before pressing to him again eagerly.
He’d never thought in a thousand years that he would be kissing Kuroko Tetsuya, because Kuroko was so perfect there was no way he’d ever want someone like Kagami, and instead they’d dance around each other in a tongue-tied sort of ballet. But here, tangled on Kuroko’s bed in their dumb little room he loved so much, he understood that Kuroko had never been perfect.
He’d only been perfect for Kagami.
And when they pulled apart again, still gasping because they couldn’t quite get that breathing thing down right, Kuroko laughed like Kagami had given him the best gift in the world, chuckling, “We’re doing things a little out of order, Kagami-kun,” in his ear. But it just made Kagami smirk, reaching behind Kuroko to grab the pen and cross ‘have first kiss’ off their list.
“That’s alright. That just means I get to kiss you in the right order next.”