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State of Grace

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Kuroo was fifteen and sore after the end of Nekoma’s first summer training camp. His legs ached in ways he didn’t know possible, but he was ecstatic. It had been his first real training camp. He couldn’t wait to tell Kenma all about it, but he’d probably leave out all the suicide sprints they had to do—he still wanted Kenma to join him at Nekoma next year and didn’t want to scare him away.

Kuroo rounded the corner and his house was in view. There was a boy standing by the mailbox, staring down at his phone. They weren’t wearing any local school’s uniform, but there was something familiar about him that Kuroo couldn't quite place.

As Kuroo got closer to his house, he began to make out the face of the boy.

Kuroo stopped walking a few feet away from the boy and inhaled sharply. “Suguru?”

Daishou looked up from his phone. He looked different—his haircut was new, he was taller, and he had a colder expression than Kuroo remembered, with a sharp jaw and thinner lips—but it was definitely Daishou.

It had been three years since he last saw Daishou. Three years since grade school ended and Daishou cried that his parents were getting a divorce and he had to move. Three years since Daishou promised to call when he moved away with his dad. Three years without his best friend.

Kuroo rushed forward the last few feet and hugged Daishou, who did not hug him back. Daishou was warm and solid, but unmoving, and the one-sidedness made Kuroo’s heart ache. 

After a moment, Kuroo pulled back, frowning, and said, “It’s been three years and I don’t even get a hug?”

Daishou held up his hand and measured their heights. He grinned. “I’m taller than you. How do you expect to play volleyball if you’re so short?”

Kuroo frowned. “Why are you being a dick?”

Daishou tilted his head, still grinning. “What? Don’t tell me you can’t take a joke?”

“Why are you here?” Kuroo asked.

Daishou looked down at his phone, reading something as he spoke, “You go to Nekoma, right?”

“How do you know that?”

“You should make your facebook profile settings private.”

“I will. But you could have added me if you facebook stalked me.”

Daishou shrugged. “I’m not here to talk about social media. My team wants to have a practice match with your team.”

“And why did they send you? You’re just a first year.” Kuroo was annoyed, and confused, and it may have come out a bit colder than he meant. 

Daishou looked up, still grinning. “See? You can do it too.”

“What happened to you?” Kuroo asked, shocked but still trying to process what was happening.

Daishou moved away, practically disappeared for three years, and now he was so… different. Why was Daishou acting this way? Why was he talking about volleyball practice when they were seeing each other for the first time in three years?

“I grew up,” Daishou said, “and clearly more than you did, if you’re still that small.” Daishou looked back at his phone. “So you think you can hook me up with your coach?”

Kuroo frowned. “I’ll mention your team to him.”

They exchanged contact information in a thick, awkward silence. 

“Great,” Daishou said, once Kuroo finished entering his number. “See ya.”

Daishou shoved his hands into his pockets and began to walk away.

“Suguru,” Kuroo called out. “Want to stay for dinner?”

Daishou waved, not looking back.

 


 

“You’re moping,” Kenma said, not looking up from his game. “Is it about practice?”

“Suguru showed up.”

Kenma’s fingers paused. “Huh?”

“He just… showed up at my house. I was coming home from practice and he was standing there.”

Kenma was silent.

“He’s still playing volleyball,” Kuroo said. “He’s… changed.”

The click-click of Kenma’s video game returned. They didn’t mention Daishou again.

 


 

Three days later, Daishou’s team showed up at Nekoma in pristine uniforms. Kuroo waved but Daishou did not wave back.

Mori looked at Kuroo. “You know that guy?”

“I thought I did.”

“I don’t think he likes you.”

Kuroo frowned. “Me neither.”

They had time for two matches before lunch and then three after. A local sponsor was providing dinner and the managers were preparing snacks as a treat.

Kuroo, like many of the other first years, was not assigned to the practice teams. The first years were put on ball duty, or water duty, or ordered to flip the scorecards.

Kuroo was given the duty of changing the scorecard for Nekoma. He was not sure if he was lucky or unlucky when he saw Daishou standing on the other side of the card, changing the score for Nohebi.

Kuroo didn’t know what to say. After setting up the practice match, Kuroo had texted Daishou twice and did not receive a response.

“So what position do you play?” Kuroo asked as the match began. “I’m a middle blocker.”

“Wing spiker,” Daishou replied.

“You didn’t answer my texts.”

“You sound like a girl.”

Kuroo’s team hit a service ace. He turned the card.

“You’re not tall enough to be a middle blocker,” Daishou said.

“I’m still growing,” Kuroo said childishly.

“Hair doesn’t count.”

“At least my hair looks good.” Daishou grinned, head tipping down, and Kuroo made a disgusted face. “God, do you get off on people being jerks to you or something? What kind of a freak are you?”

Daishou tilted his head. “Takes one to know one.”

 


 

The first years all ate lunch together outside on a hill, Daishou included. Kuroo sat with his teammates but talked with the Nohebi boys too. They talked about idols and music and volleyball teams. Daishou talked and laughed with his teammates and even other Nekoma players, but the second Kuroo opened his mouth, Daishou shut his.

What was his problem?

What happened during the last three years that made Daishou change like this?

Kuroo went home that day feeling miserable and annoyed. He stopped by Kenma’s house and went straight up to his room, grabbing the volleyball he had left on the floor and declaring that they were going to go practice.

“I don’t wanna,” Kenma said, staring at the screen of his game. “You’re going to be upset about your practice with Daishou and I don’t want to get hit by your crappy emotional serves.”

Kuroo dropped the volleyball and sat on the end of Kenma’s bed. Kenma bent his knees to make room.

“He’s just so mean now!” Kuroo said. “The three of us were best friends growing up and now it’s like we’re… nothing.”

“See? You’re upset.”

Kuroo crawled up and curled up next to Kenma, who scooted away but tilted his game slightly for Kuroo to watch. Kuroo was upset—very upset—and he did not know what to do.

 


 

Kuroo sent Daishou a text.

If you don’t want to be friends, that’s fine. Just tell me.

He received a text an hour later.

I don’t want to be friends.

 


 

Kuroo buried his face in Kenma’s pillows. He was lying out on Kenma’s bed, his feet hanging over the bottom, while Kenma sat next to him.

“Comfort me, Kenma.”

Kuroo felt something hard press and slid against his shoulder. Was that the edge of Kenma’s video game?

Kuroo sat up. “Are you petting me with your video game?”

With a shaking hand, Kenma reached out and put a hand on Kuroo’s shoulder and pet him.

Kuroo lied back down. “Okay, that’s even weirder. Go back to using the game.”

Kenma sighed and set aside his game. “I am giving you one minute to explain why you are moping in my room. Your time has started.”

Kuroo did not want to talk to Kenma about this. He wondered what would happen if he texted Daishou and dropped this bomb. What would he say? He would probably be mean, which Kuroo did not need right now. Mori may understand, but Mori also wouldn’t understand. Who would understand? No one. No one would.

But it was Kenma. Kuroo may not be able to trust anyone else with this—not Mori, not the other first years, not Daishou—but he could trust Kenma.

“My mom found my porn magazines.”

“Ew.” Kenma pulled a face. “But why are you here because of that?”

“They’re not normal skin mags, okay? They’re…” Kuroo screamed into the pillow then tried to inhale and breathed in only hot carbon dioxide. He sat up, face sweating from breathing into the pillow, and rubbed the back of his neck. “They’re of men, not women.”

“Oh.”

“I’m gay.”

“I got that.” Kenma met Kuroo’s eyes, never looking away. "When did you know?"

"Grade school." He hesitated, but decided to tell Kenma: "Suguru." 

Kenma nodded understandingly. “Are you parents… mad?”

“I don't know. I don't think my mom's mad. Maybe just upset? I think she's trying to process it. Dad doesn’t know yet. Mom said we would talk about it later after diner.”

“Do you want to hide here?”

Kuroo smiled. “Thanks, but I think this is the first place they’d look. My mom actually asked if we were dating.”

“Ew.”

“Yeah. Maybe I’ll mention asexuality to her while I’m explaining homosexuality. Only I wouldn’t because I would never out you like that, Kenma. I’m distraught and joking.”

Kenma nodded. “I know. It’s fine.”

Kuroo lied down. Kenma rested against the pillows, starting up his game, and Kuroo rested his head against Kenma’s arm.

 


 

“Nohebi is kinda nasty,” Kuroo heard someone say as they walked around the tournament grounds. “They play the referees a little too much, don’t you think?”

“It’s like they’re stealing points! That shot was totally in. We should have had that point.”

Their voices faded and Kuroo thought back to the Nekoma-Nohebi practice match. No one had complained about Nohebi being nasty. Then again, there had been a few tough calls and the referees, who were Nekoma students, were biased towards their own team. At the tournaments, the referees had no initial bias and could be more easily swayed...

Mori looked up at Kuroo. “You need to crap or something?”

“What? No.”

“You have that face. You’re either thinking about something dumb or you have to crap. Since you don’t have to crap, you’re thinking about something stupid, right?”

Kuroo rubbed the back of his head. “I guess.”

Mori punched him. “Well, stop it. Focus on the matches. We’re not playing this year, but we will next year, so start scouting now!”

Kuroo nodded. “Yeah. Don’t need to tell me twice.”

“Shouldn’t have to tell you once,” Mori grumbled and Kuroo laughed.

They rounded the corner and Kuroo’s laughter stopped. Daishou and a few other Nohebi first years were walking towards them, talking amongst themselves.

“Daishou,” Kuroo said. It felt weird calling him by his surname. It felt wrong.

Daishou smiled, all fake and far too pleasant, and said, “Nice to see you, too, Kuroo. Still short, I see.”

“Still a snake,” Kuroo responded, cold and level. It hurt to say, but it was surprisingly easy too.

Kuroo and Mori kept walking.

And yeah, that was easy.

 


 

“You’re still coming to Nekoma, right?” Kuroo asked as Kenma set the ball to him. They still used the crappy net they had set up with Daishou when they were kids. It was strung between two trees, and when Kenma’s mother needed more space to hang her laundry, she used the net.

“I already took the entrance exam. Why are you so anxious over this? Do you think I’m going to up and leave like him?”

Like him.

They didn’t even need to say his name.

“I’m not,” Kenma said. “Even though I want to sometimes…”

“I know you’re joking, but that still hurts.”

“Sorry.”

 


 

Clink.

Kuroo was startled awake, looking around his dark bedroom for the source of noise.

Clink.

He heard it again and realized the noise was coming from his window. Who the hell was throwing rocks at his window like this was some stupid love song?

He turned on the lamp on his nightstand, threw off the covers, and got up to open the window in his boxers. He used the flashlight on his phone and pointed the light into his mother’s flower garden.

He expected to see the neighborhood kids rushing off down the street, or maybe those teenagers who had been going around busting mailboxes. He did not expect to see Daishou.

“Where’s the boom-box playing Careless Whisper?” Kuroo asked in jest. Because that’s what they did now. They talked shit and snark.

Kuroo knew Daishou smirked because his head tilted down, something he only ever did when he smirked. He did the same thing when he smiled; at least, he used to as a kid. Kuroo wasn't so sure now. 

After a second, Daishou tilted his head back up, his head cocked to the side.

“I figured I could get into your bed without it,” Daishou replied. “I heard that you’ve been pretty loose lately.”

Kuroo could hear the smirk in Daishou’s voice better than he could see it.

“I don’t think you can judge me. I’ve heard you’ve been on your knees for all the referees in the district.”

“Only if they’re pretty.”

“I fixed the gutters in the spring so hopefully you won’t die if you climb up. If you want to come up.”

Daishou walked towards the edge of the house where the gutters were. Kuroo leaned out his window, trying to provide as much light as he could with his phone.

“Why else would I show up at your house?” Daishou said.

“You’re a weird guy. Maybe you get your kicks making a forty-minute bike ride at three in the morning to talk to childhood friends you now despise. Who am I to judge?”

Daishou didn’t respond. Kuroo figured he was a bit busy trying to climb up the side of his house via the rain gutter. Kuroo’s room was on the second floor and had a little ledge of roof in front of the window. Once Daishou made it up, he walked across the room and crouched in front of Kuroo’s window.

Kuroo shined the light at his face. Daishou flinched at the light, holding up a hand to cover his eyes.

“I know you’re hard to look at, but do you really need to resort to blinding me?” Daishou asked.

Kuroo lowered his phone and backed away from the window. Daishou carefully lowered himself down, taking off his shoes and setting them on the windowsill before closing the window.

“Parents home?” Daishou asked.

“They’re up north celebrating their anniversary.”

Kuroo wished he had pants on so he could slide his hands into his pockets. He could put his hands under his waistband like Kenma, but that would be a little weird given the circumstances. The circumstances being Daishou showing up at his house in the middle of the night, the two of them standing in the middle of Kuroo’s bedroom, silent, and Kuroo wearing only his boxers.

Kuroo had lived through weirder experiences, but never something quite so complicated.

Why the hell was Daishou here? He had a new team, new friends, people he could talk to.

“Were you planning on sleeping here?” Kuroo asked.

Daishou raised an eyebrow. “What were you planning to do?”

“Don’t make me sound like a pervert.”

Daishou was silent.

This was weird, Kuroo thought. Daishou was never silent. They were always arguing, always bickering, always trying to one-up the other. What the hell was going on?

Kuroo’s bed was not meant for two people, and neither of them were small like they used to be, but Kuroo didn’t know where his mother kept the guest futon, and he did not feel comfortable asking Daishou to go downstairs and sleep on the couch.

So Kuroo crawled back into bed, holding up the bed sheet, indicating for Daishou to join him. Kuroo heard the rustle of clothes and the sound of a zipper, and didn’t watch as Daishou stripped down, taking off his socks and pants, leaving him in a t-shirt and his underwear.

“If you snore, I will suffocate you,” Kuroo threatened as Daishou got under the sheet, his body warm against Kuroo’s.

Kuroo reached over Daishou, turning off his lamp, and then rolled onto his side, his back to Daishou, who stayed on his back.

Kuroo tried to sleep, but couldn’t. He could tell from Daishou’s breathing that he was still awake.

Softly, Kuroo asked, “Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Nothing to talk about. I’m bisexual and my dad’s a dick.”

Kuroo turned onto his other side, facing Daishou, not that it mattered in the dark. He wondered where Daishou’s eyes were—if they were on the ceiling or if they were pushed to the edge of their sockets to look back at Kuroo.

“Could you move in with your mom?” Kuroo asked.

“She got remarried. She just had a baby with her new husband. I’m a big brother to this tiny little sack of squishy flesh that cries and shits.”

“Congrats?” Kuroo paused. “My parents would let you live in the guest room until things blow over with your dad.”

Daishou laughed, soft and bitter. “That’s not happening.”

“Why not? My parents are nice and they know you.”

“They’d be okay with a fag in their house?”

They already are, Kuroo thought, but he was too damn afraid to say it. 

“Is that what your dad called you?” Kuroo asked. 

Daishou turned his head—Kuroo heard the shift of the sheets, the rustle of his pillow. “You don’t want me living down the hall from you.”

“Because we don’t get along?” Kuroo asked. “Fuck that. We get along. We fight and talk shit, but we’re still friends and you know it.”

“How do you think I knew I’m bisexual?”

Kuroo’s heart sped up.

“Trust me,” Daishou whispered, breath hot against Kuroo’s face, “you don’t want someone like me down the halls from you.”

Kuroo didn’t know what to say. He wanted to say it didn’t matter. He felt the same once, maybe still did.

“I’m going to sleep,” Daishou said, rolling onto his side so his back was to Kuroo. “You should too; your ugly ass needs all the beauty rest it can get.”

Kuroo stayed where he was, staring at Daishou’s back in the dark.

When he woke up, Daishou was gone.

 


 

Beep.

“It’s Tetsurou. Look, we need to talk, okay? We really need to talk. Call me, or text me, or accept that friend request I know you didn’t delete.”

 


 

Beep.

“I’m not freaked out that you’re bi. There’s actually something I need to tell you but I’m not leaving it in a message so call me.”

 


 

Beep.

“Dude, please. Don’t do this again.”

 


 

Beep.

“Suguru.”

 


 

In the spring, Kuroo had his hands behind his head as he walked around the tournament grounds with Kenma, pointing out the bathrooms and hideaways he had found last year. Kenma was engrossed in his video game. It seemed like Kenma was hardly paying attention, but Kuroo knew he was. 

“I don’t know why I have to come,” Kenma said. “It won’t mater if I’m in the stands or not when you’re playing. You'll be focusing on the match, not the crowd."

“You may think that, but it matters to me,” Kuroo said. “Besides, you’re going to be the setter next year—you should watch the guys in action.”

“I watch practice all the time.”

Real action.”

Kenma gave him a look, like he was crazy, but quickly looked back at his game.

Kuroo continued their little tour and walk silently, looking at the other teams as they passed. They came to the vending machines and Kuroo stopped dead in his tracks because that’s Daishou with a girl, holding her hand and leaning down to kiss her. She was short and petite, everything Kuroo wasn’t.

Something violent and ugly burned in Kuroo’s throat like stomach acid. His eyes turned green as he watched, wondering why, why, why.

Kuroo said nothing and kept walking.

Chapter Text

You have got to be shitting me, Kuroo thought when he saw Daishou on the first day of volleyball practice. He hadn’t heard anything about Daishou going to school here, let alone him being recruited by the team.

“I thought you would be going to a big name school like the rest of the hot shots,” Daishou said, cruel and taunting. “Guess you weren’t as good as you thought.”

“You’re standing here with me, so I guess the same goes for you, Mr. Fourth Place.”

Daishou’s eye twitched. “Still stuck in high school, huh?”

“Better than being stuck in diapers like you. Say, whose dick did you suck to make the team?”

“The same one you did.”

The coach blew their whistle and told them to line up to do introductions.

It was going to be a long four years.

 


 

“Hey, Kenma, you’re never going to believe who’s on the team.”

“Daishou?”

Kuroo nearly dropped his phone. “How did you know that?”

“You know where everyone else was going but him. He was the only logical choice.”

 


 

Kuroo’s first chemistry lab let out at four o’clock and he had to be across campus at the gym by four-thirty for afternoon practice. He tossed his cheap plastic goggles and ugly blue lab coat into his locker, grabbed his bag, and sprinted down the hall.

Once he made it out of the building, people were staring at him, some taking pictures that he would probably see later on twitter. He fell into a study jog, looking down at his phone for the time.

He was halfway there when someone fell into step next to him, jogging alongside him.

“You have goggle lines,” Daishou said, panting.

“Did you start running just to make fun of me?” Kuroo asked in disbelief. “Because that’s sad, even for you.”

“I was already running. I’m coming from the art building.”

That was further away than the chemistry building.

“You were always better at me than arts and crafts."

“My macaroni pictures were masterpieces.” Suddenly, Daishou grinned and sped up. When he was ten feet in front of Kuroo, he shouted, “Loser collects the dirty towels after practice!”

Kuroo cursed and picked up his pace. He refused to lose to Daishou, especially when dirty towels were on the line.

 


 

There were only four first years on the team. Three of them, including Daishou and Kuroo, had been recruited when they applied to the university. The fourth first year joined during open tryouts.

Having Daishou as a teammate reminded Kuroo why he had been such an annoying opponent. Daishou’s ability to read his opponents and lock in a target was unmatched. The coach deterred him for such acts, though only slightly, and told him to keep the ass kissing to a minimum during official matches.

When Kuroo watched Daishou block the spike of the team’s ace like it was nothing, Kuroo was glad they were no longer enemies. Daishou had been a tough bastard.

Kuroo was at his locker in the locker room when another first year brought it up.

“Hey, you and Daishou know each other, right?” they asked.

“Our teams played each other,” Kuroo answered.

“So you were rivals?”

It wasn’t that simple. It wasn’t that they were just rivals.

Kuroo didn’t know what it was but it was more than that.

But he just shrugged, took his cup out of his jock, and said, “Yeah. We beat his team last year so he’s still pretty pissed at me.”

“Yeah, I got that vibe. Will it, like, cause problems?”

“Nah. He’s smarter than that.”

 


 

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the team had weight training in the gym before sunrise. Kuroo woke up an extra half hour early to run around the nearby track. It wasn’t part of their training schedule, but Kuroo always enjoyed running in the cool morning, before the sun could make the activity hot and unpleasant.

He had planned to warm up with light cardio, but the first time he showed up early to the track, Daishou had been there too. And Daishou was there the next time, and the next, and Kuroo realized that Daishou had the same idea of warming up with cardio.

The only problem was that when the two of them ran on the same track, instead of running at their own paces, they sprinted. They tried to out do the other, panting heavily into the morning fog and refusing to back down for even a second. It exhausted Kuroo by the time they had weight training, but Daishou was stubborn and Kuroo did not want to be the first one to break. 

Kuroo ran a full 5k in under twenty minutes one morning, nearly collapsing in relief when older members began to appear, walking by the track to get to the gym.

“You guys still going at it?” someone laughed.

“I broke 5k this morning,” Kuroo panted.

A passing older student high fived Kuroo, who grabbed his knees and coughed. Daishou walked over to where Kuroo was dying and put his hands on his hips.

“Nice warm up,” Daishou said, short, breathing even.

Daishou looked miserable. He was trying to hide his panting breath.

“You have to be exhausted,” Kuroo said, looking up at him.

“Not a bit.”

Kuroo smiled, torn between amazement, laughter, and anger that he hadn’t thought to hide his own exhaustion. He never wanted to play a poker game with Daishou.

But this felt good. Something about this felt good.

“You’re a child,” Kuroo said with a stupid smile he hoped Daishou didn’t see.

“A child who ran one more lap than you did.”

“C’mon, guys, lets hit the gym!” another member shouted. “Time to actually work out.”

Kuroo and Daishou looked at each other. Kuroo liked to think they had a mental conversation.

Truce? Daishou said.

I suppose, Kuroo conceded.

 


 

Kuroo was tugged out of his dorm room at two in the morning, a group of deep, distinctly male voices hushing him when he began to shout. They tied a jock strap around his eyes as a poor substitute for a blindfold and Kuroo just prayed it was clean.

He was dragged all the way to the gym where they practiced. There was some rough handling and then he was pushed down onto his knees. He was only wearing his boxers. 

“Is this some sex thing?” another first year asked in a quiet voice. “I don’t want to do that.”

“Quiet!” someone shouted.

More comforting, someone said, “Also, not a sex thing.”

“But there is a safe-word.”

“Ice-cream.”

“That is the lamest safe-word,” Daishou muttered.

His voice was right next to Kuroo, mere inches away, and Kuroo shivered involuntarily. Then he grinned because of course Daishou would mouth off to their older teammates when he was bound, blindfolded, and likely half-naked depending on how he slept. 

“Damn, Kuroo, your thighs are massive,” Kuroo heard a second year wing spiker say from behind him. “Like, scary big. Do girls like that?”

“Depends,” Kuroo responded. Didn’t matter. He didn’t like girls.

“No talking to the new meat!”

Someone began to pace in front of them.

“You have all been gathered here to partake in the most sacred of volleyball rituals.” Kuroo recognized their captain and ace’s voice anywhere. “Jocks off.”

All at once, the first years had their blindfolds were taken off. Kuroo blinked and adjusted his eyes.

Oh god. These people had candles and dark robes and everything.

Kuroo snickered, falling forward until his forehead touched the ground. Next to him, Daishou was laughing too, saying, “Goddamn it, Kuroo, you made me laugh!”

“There is no laughing in Haze Hell!”

Kuroo straightened up and wiped his eyes. “Oops. Sorry.”

“Why doesn’t anyone take this seriously anymore?” The ace sighed then cleared their throat. “Tonight, you will…”

Kuroo looked over at Daishou, who drew a line across his throat and stuck out his tongue like he was dead. Kuroo grinned.

 


 

On Wednesdays, Kuroo had a ten-minute lunch break between class and biology lab. So he sat his ass down next to the vending machine, camping out with his pre-lab and bags of fritos, and cursed his schedule for not giving him a proper lunch.

Someone walked up to the vending machine and put in a few coins.

“I didn’t know you had money to buy such high quality dining,” Daishou said. “Where can I get a reservation?”

“Bite me, snake,” Kuroo said on reflex.

“Oh, c’mon. We got naked and escaped a bag made of volleyball nets together.”

Kuroo really wanted to forget Haze Hell (until he had to do it to the first years next year).

“I like to keep the kinky stuff private,” Kuroo responded, smart.

Daishou chuckled, grabbed his soda, and sat across the hall from Kuroo. Daishou took out his bag and a large notebook, going over some notes of his own.

“You have lab?” Kuroo asked, knowing he was treading on thin ice. He had had a broken relationship with Daishou ever since high school. Their relationship was like a landmine that exploded with petty insults, sharp jabs that ached, and horrible comebacks. 

Daishou responded surprisingly easily, “We are in the laboratory wing of the science building.”

“I thought you were taking art classes.”

“I am. I am also in the pre-engineering program to appease my father. He says if I’m going to be a faggy art student, I should at least be able to make money.”

There it was. The first mention if it since high school, when Daishou had shown up at Kuroo’s place in the middle of the night and come out.

“Did things get better after—?” Kuroo didn’t finish. Daishou knew what he meant. After that night.

Daishou shrugged, not looking up from his notebook. “Dating a girl for a few years helped.”

“You guys break up again?”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry.”

“No, you’re not.”

Daishou was right: Kuroo wasn’t the least bit sorry.

 


 

Practice was brutal.

They were practicing blocks, rotating who spiked and who blocked. Kuroo was taking a sip of water from his bottle when he caught sight of the group Daishou had been assigned to.

As Daishou ran up to spike, like he fully intended to follow through, he tapped the ball instead of spiking and it went straight over the blocker’s hands in the most beautiful arch Kuroo had ever seen. It made Kuroo’s heart skip a goddamn beat.

The blocker was pissed, grumbling and walking off, waiting for their next rotation in.

“What kind of jackass move was that?” they grumbled.

“It’s blocking practice,” Kuroo said. “Just because everyone else is doing spikes doesn’t mean we have to. Feints come when you least expect them.”

No one said anything. They turned and stared at Kuroo and the player, who was fuming at being shown up by not one but two first years. First years never talked back to older students, but here Kuroo was, mouthing off, defending  Daishou of all people.

“I heard Daishou did shit like that all the time in high school,” the guy grumbled. “He can pull cheap shit with other teams, but I don’t want it in practice.”

“Then talk to him, or the captain,” Kuroo said, “but don’t whine about Daishou’s skill because you couldn’t read a feint.”

 


 

On Friday morning, Kuroo and Daishou were jogging around the track, warming up while they waited for their teammates. They had in their headphones and did not talk. If it were anyone else, Kuroo would have enjoyed the company, but being next to Daishou made him nervous for some reason.

He no longer knew how to act around the boy. When they were children, they were friends. In high schools, they were rivals that couldn't stand to look at one another. Now they were teammates and they seemed to get along, and Kuroo did not know how to act around Daishou when he was not being sarcastic and rude. He did not know how to act when old feelings were rising in his chest and threatening to overflow.

When their teammates arrived at the track, they asked for Kuroo and Daishou’s times and distances. Money was exchanged and Kuroo realized the upperclassmen were betting on Kuroo and Daishou’s morning runs.

When Daishou came up half a lap shorter than Kuroo, there was a large exchange of money.

“You bet on him over me?” Daishou asked. “Tch.”

Someone tossed an arm around Kuroo’s shoulders. “I know I good runner when I see one.”

Kuroo grinned smugly at Daishou, who rolled his eyes and took a long swig from his water bottle, looking bitter. Kuroo’s grin grew in victory.

Suck on that, Daishou.

“So guys, we’re having this party at our place later,” someone said. “You should swing by. We charge at the entrance because we provide the drinks, but it's a good time.”

“We haven’t seen you first years wasted yet.”

There was a ripple of laughter.

“I didn’t know this was a party team,” Daishou said.

“Every once and awhile we like to have a good time. We’re not going to force you to come, but the parties are amazing. Shit gets lit.”

Kuroo agreed to show up because he could use a good party, a good distraction. School was already killing him. His major was no joke.

To his surprise, Daishou agreed to show up.

“If you two compete over who can do the most shots, I put money on Kuroo.”

“Nah, man. Daishou looks like a man who can hold his liquor.”

“He’s skinny!”

Daishou looked over a Kuroo. “Do they know we can hear them?”

“I don’t think they care,” Kuroo said. “Hey, think we should turn this into a literal dick measuring contest and make all of them feel inferior?”

Daishou looked a little surprised, like he was taken off guard. Kuroo had never seen him look like that before. Daishou said, “Are you saying you checked out my dick?”

“I can’t stand you,” Kuroo said.

Lie.

Lie lie lie.

Kuroo went on, “So of course I looked at your dick. I needed to know how petty our fights could get.”

Daishou smiled and laughed. Kuroo felt his dick throb and thought,

Fuck.

 


 

The party held by the upperclassmen on the team was not the first college party Kuroo went to, but it was by far the most rowdy and wild. There was thumping music that shook Kuroo’s bones, enough alcohol to kill an elephant, and pretty girls and cocky boys around every corner.

Kuroo saw members of his team here and there. Some of the older guys were clinging to their girlfriends, others playing beer pong in the hallway. He saw Daishou laughing it up with some girl in the kitchen but had not seen him in nearly two hours.

Kuroo danced and drank, hanging out with people from time to time and otherwise enjoying roaming the house of drunken partygoers. He enjoyed watching people make poor life choices. That way, if he made any equally poor choices, he did not feel so bad about it.

Around midnight, Kuroo sipped from his red solo cup and watched some baseball bro be pulled into a keg stand. The room was shouting and counting off the seconds, and Kuroo watched with a wicked grin, waiting for the guy to get sick. Kuroo had seen the baseball player down four slices of pizza ten minutes ago and the keg was going to destroy him.

A solid warm body slid next to Kuroo, their shoulder pressed to Kuroo’s. They were shorter than Kuroo, but thick like him, solid with muscle. They tilted their head toward Kuroo’s as they spoke.

“You look like you’re waiting for that guy to puke.”

Kuroo grinned. “Isn’t that why people are counting down?”

The stranger laughed, low and deep, and slid an arm around Kuroo’s waist. He said, “This your thing?”

“You could say that.”

The guy grinned. “Awesome. You wanna do a body shot with me? Because you are seriously attractive."

And that’s how Kuroo found himself shirtless and lying on a table at his team’s party. Kenma would be definitely not be proud.

The crowd from the keg had moved over to their table. The guys cheered, the girls blushed over his muscles, and Daishou took a picture from the end of the table with a wicked expression. Kuroo flipped off his teammate then settled comfortably onto the table.  

Well, this was a hell of the way to come out the team. Every member was watching. None of them seemed to give a shit.

The stranger put a lime wedge into Kuroo’s mouth then made a show of licking his thumb, dragging it along Kuroo’s neck. Kuroo shivered at the touch, eyes dark as they followed the guy’s movements. Once Kuroo’s skin was wet, the stranger added salt.

“Ready?” the guy asked, setting a shot glass on Kuroo’s navel.

Kuroo couldn’t respond. He grinned, unmoving, and watched as the guy lowered down to wrap his mouth around the edges of the shot glass. Kuroo felt his cock throb, but the moment was short lasting when the boy knocked the shot glass over, spilling tequila all over Kuroo’s stomach.

The crowd groaned in disappoint, booing and throwing empty cups at the frat boy; Kuroo was unfortunately caught in the crossfire.

“How dare you disrespect our teammate like that!” someone shouted.

“Pathetic,” Daishou said.

“Like you’re an expert,” Kuroo muttered on instinct.

Kuroo lifted his head and saw Daishou holding another shot glass. Kuroo’s heart felt heavy and hard in his chest.

Daishou set the glass on Kuroo’s stomach and within a second was bending down, his mouth stretching wide around the rim of the glass and Kuroo's mind dove for the gutters. Daishou tipped his head back, downing the shot like he wasn’t even bothered by the sharp, hot burn of the tequila.

Daishou grinned and set the glass down on the table. Without pause, he leaned down and licked the strip of salt off Kuroo’s neck with the flat of his tongue, leaving behind a hot, sticky trail pf saliva. He followed through with the motion, his lips dragging against Kuroo's jaw and cheek as he moved up further to grab the lime from Kuroo’s lips, biting down, eyes locked with Kuroo’s.

Kuroo stared, wide eyed and turned on because that had been hot.

Daishou held up his phone and snapped a shot of Kuroo’s shocked expression. Daishou grinned. “My win.”

Kuroo sat up, face dangerously close to Daishou’s, so close he could smell the tequila on his breath. He wanted to lean forward and kiss him. Daishou inhaled sharply, like he didn't know what was going to happen next. Kuroo really liked how Daishou looked when he was taken off guard. 

“You’re going down,” Kuroo said.

Daishou grinned and flicked his eyes down to Kuroo’s groin, then leaned in close and whispered in his ear, “Not on you.”

Kuroo and Daishou stared at each other intensely for a moment before someone shouted “Shots! Shots!”

Kuroo swung his legs off the table, grabbed his shirt, and went to go clean up and calm down. 

 


 

“Kenma, I have a crush on Daishou.”

“Is it the crush from grade school, high school, or a new one?”

“Fuck. I think he likes me too.”

“Why?”

“He did a body shot off my stomach and talked about going down on me. Well, he said he wouldn’t, but still.”

“Are you still drunk?”

“Maybe. I think.”

“Go to sleep.”

 


 

"I am no longer drunk and still think Daishou likes me."

"Congratulations. You realized what everyone else in the prefecture already knew."

Kuroo knew Daishou liked him in high school at least in first year before he got that pretty girlfriend—Daishou had told him as much. But Kuroo didn't want to out Daishou like that, even if it was just to Kenma. 

"And I think I like him. I think I've always liked him."

"I could have told you that when I was nine."

"Kenma, what do I do?"

"What do you want to do?"

 


 

Kuroo didn’t see Daishou until Monday morning when they jogged around the track and waited for their teammates to arrive for weight training. Daishou was already panting and sweating by the time Kuroo arrived, and Kuroo wondered if Daishou was trying to get in extra training, or trying to run from something.

He wanted to ask. He didn’t.

Kuroo fell into step next to Daishou, who didn’t look over. Kuroo just started talking. 

“I liked you in high school,” Kuroo said.

Daishou brought up his shirt, wiping sweat off his face. Kuroo glanced down at the pale, hairless skin above Daishou’s shorts. Kuroo lifted his eyes to his face and stared at Daishou, even as they rounded the curve of the track. After another ten meters, Daishou looked over at him.

Calmly, Daishou said, "You've made a lot of bad jokes over the years, but that's the worst one yet."

"Who said it was a joke?"

Kuroo sped up and set a pace that took Daishou two minutes to catch up with. When he did, he grabbed onto Kuroo’s arm and turned him around. His intent was glaringly obvious, so unlike Daishou, who kept his emotions hidden under thick sarcasm and walls of fake smiles. His eyes dropped down to Kuroo's lips then rose back to his eyes.

"Are you bullshitting me?" Daisho asked. 

Kuroo grabbed Daisho by the front of his shirt, dragging him down, and kissed him so hard it hurt. 

"Do you think I'm bullshitting you?"

Daisho inhaled sharply, searching Kuroo's eyes like they held the answer to the universe, and then kissed him again. 

It didn't make up the many years Kuroo spent agonizing over this boy, but it was a very good start.