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Under Pressure

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Kuroo burst into the bookshop like a bat-out-of – well, you know.

"Bo! We've got a major problem."

Bokuto looked up from the counter and pushed up the little glasses he wore to make him look like an intellectual or something. He also looked relieved to see Kuroo and not a customer because while Bokuto was an angel and blessed by the heavens with prodigious gifts of charm and good looks, the one thing he wasn't was a goddamned – apologies – intellectual. Fukurodani Bookshop was just a convenient ruse and home base. Even Akaashi, Bokuto's competent and actually intelligent part-timer, was mostly there so Bokuto and Kuroo had something nice to look at and people (relatively speaking) to talk to who weren't each other. Being stuck with each other and immortal had its own downfalls, the actual downfalls of falling out of heaven notwithstanding. Because who even went into little used bookstores in 2017? Amazon existed, though Kuroo wasn't sure whose invention that was, upstairs or downstairs. They probably both wanted credit.

"It's not Kenma," Kuroo said, frantic.

"What's not Kenma?" Bokuto asked, coming around the counter.

Kuroo sighed, exasperated. He thought maybe this once he wouldn't have to take Bokuto through the whole thing, step-by-step. Apparently not. "You're lucky you're so pretty."

Bokuto took off the silly glasses and batted his eyelashes. "Pretty?" he said, obviously flattered. "I never really considered myself –"

"Bo," Kuroo interrupted. "It's not Kenma. We've been trying to prevent the apocalypse by watching the wrong kid for seventeen years."

"Wrong kid!" Bokuto exclaimed. "How is that possible?"

"Well," Kuroo said, "it's a little bit because he's only sixteen. But if you think about it in the grand scheme of things, only being off by a year isn't – never mind. D'ya want to go on a road trip?"

"YES," Bokuto exclaimed. He exclaimed a lot. "Let me get my mixtapes."

Kuroo shook his head and pulled a cassette filled with Freddie Mercury out of thin air – just a perk of being a demon on Earth. "No K-Pop this time, Bo-baby. This time we've got the Queen on our side."

Bokuto scratched his head. "Isn't Japan's queen technically an empress?"

Kuroo kissed Bokuto to shut him up; that was how the whole thing with them started a hundred years ago, too, but Kuroo would be lying if he didn't appreciate the side effects of Bokuto having the literal mouth of an angel. Kuroo broke the kiss and ruffled Bokuto's hair, something Bokuto always hated. But Kuroo was a demon and some things couldn't be helped.

"So, Bokuto – have you ever been to Miyagi?" Kuroo asked.

*

"ROAD TRIP," Bokuto bellowed, sticking his head out of the Bentley's passenger-side window. Kuroo smiled indulgently at him, not because he was charmed by this, but because it scared several children playing outside. They pulled away and began the long drive north. "How did Kenma take the news?"

"Hmm?" Kuroo asked, plugging the Best of Queen cassette directly into the AUX. True, cassettes didn't typically work that way, but 1926 Bentleys also didn't have custom sound systems. Little tweaks made Kuroo's unlife a little more tolerable.

"You know," Bokuto said, gesturing wildly, even though Kuroo didn't know. "How did he take not being special?"

"Being special?" Kuroo asked. "Is that what we're calling The Unmaker of the World now? It's not like causing the apocalypse means he can solve a Rubik's Cube in under a minute or something. Now that's special." Kenma could, in fact, solve a Rubik's Cube in under a minute, but he learned that from YouTube and, besides, that wasn't the point. "Of course he's fine with it. He doesn't want to unmake the world. He told me to have a nice trip."

Bokuto nodded. "We done good with him."

They had, in fact, done good with Kenma. Kenma was grumpy as a cat and skittish as, well, a cat and liked video games a little too much, even for a seventeen-year-old boy, but he was a good kid. Bokuto and Kuroo had been different things to him at different times – next door neighbors, volleyball rivals, owners of local businesses, but when Kenma was fourteen he told them to cut it out because he knew they were all the same people. In fact, he told them that he didn't think they were people at all. Kenma was also very perceptive and probably would have tried to prevent the eventual unraveling of the physical universe. At the very least, he would have unraveled it gently.

Kuroo drove along and listened to Freddie ask them who wanted to live forever anyway, sad that all his hard work had been for nothing. He'd even miss Kenma, if they couldn't avert the apocalypse.

"What about the other kid?" Bokuto asked quietly, about five songs later. He was hardly ever quiet, so Kuroo knew he was worried. He was probably having a moral crisis. Angels had those all the time.

"Who, Tsukishima?" Kuroo drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. "Dunno. I guess we'll see when we get there."

*

"Shit," Kuroo said from the bushes, where they were watching the actual Unmaker of the World have lunch. "Well, we're screwed."

He expected Bokuto to say something uplifting. Kuroo could use a little naïve optimism right about now. But Bokuto didn't say anything and when Kuroo glanced sideways, a little grey cloud was actually raining over his head.

"Stop that," Kuroo said, swatting the cloud away and reaching for Bokuto's hand. He squeezed, trying for reassuring, even though that wasn't really in his skillset. After a moment, Bokuto squeezed back.

*

Tsukishima Kei was certainly something. After a day's reconnaissance, Kuroo had a pretty good idea of what the kid was like, and he was pretty sure they were all going to die. Outwardly, Tsukishima was enough like Kenma that it made sense that Bokuto and Kuroo's universal intel had steered them in the wrong direction. He was tired a lot, and tired of the people around him a lot. He wasn't particularly good at people. He was blond, even though, okay, Kenma was a fake blond just like he was the fake harbinger of death. Tsukishima even played volleyball just as listlessly as Kenma, but while Kenma seemed to wake up whenever something in the game interested him, Tsukishima seemed to pull back whenever he was on the verge of the same. It was weird and everything about him was wrong. Kid was wound as tight as a badly strung guitar; someone was going to strum a G7 at the wrong time, and the whole earth was going to blow up.

Then there was the matter of his friends, if you could call them that. The little redhead swung between wanting to fight everyone and being a ball of sunshine so quickly that it gave Kuroo whiplash and Kuroo had had several lifetimes to get used to Bokuto's moods. Then there was the scowly dark-haired one who hung out with the redhead, so desperate for affection that he seemed to be starving from not getting it, but he also had no idea how to ask for it. Finally, there was the one who possibly really was a friend, or at least he was the one who was tolerated the best, oozing need all over everything. Kuroo didn't know exactly what the kid needed or if he needed a lot of things from a lot of people, but it was there, everywhere, just festering.

Bokuto put on his nicest expression, pretty close to his actual expression and asked one of their teammates what their deal was. "Oh," said a kid with a bald head and a scarier face than his aura reflected. He rolled his eyes. "Them."

*

"What's in it for me?" Tsukishima had his arms crossed over his chest.

Bokuto looked confused, and Kuroo shook his head. They'd just explained the whole sorry story, and Tsukishima reacted like they'd told him it might rain later that day. It was, in fact, going to rain later that day, but that didn't matter. The world was also going to end if this kid didn't get his head in the game.

"Tsukki, what the hell is your problem?!"

Kuroo looked over. The needy one had turned into the angry one, calling Tsukishima a nickname too cute for the guy who was going to tear apart the fabric of space and time, before he flew into a rage, shaking Tsukishima by the shirt and telling him to stop being such a goddamned (no pun intended) moron.

Afterward, Tsukishima laughed for some reason, but there was light in his eyes when he turned to Bokuto and Kuroo again. "Sorry," Tsukishima said. "I'm just – it's a lot to take in."

"I have an idea," Bokuto said earnestly. "What if you help us, and then we'll help you?"

Tsukishima raised an eyebrow skeptically. "With what?"

"Volleyball!" Bokuto raised his arm and made an impressive bicep. "I'm really good. We watched you play before and you really suck. I bet you'd like it more if you were good!"

Kuroo laughed so hard his ribs hurt. If he had to be stuck on assignment with an angel, he was glad it was Bokuto.

Tsukishima's eyes widened, then he frowned. "What if I don't want that?"

"You do," Kuroo said confidently. He swept his hand up and down, indicating Tsukishima's whole self. "It's bleeding out all over the place. So, put your fear of failure aside and help us save the world."

*

Later that day, the Unmaker of the World stared into the abyss and sighed irritably, and the next thing they all knew, the apocalypse was averted.

*

Two weeks later, the sun was shining, the birds were flying, and no one had stopped existing, at least as far as Kuroo knew. Then, Kenma came into Fukurodani at a really inopportune time because Kuroo's bottom lip was swollen red, and Bokuto had just started unbuttoning his shirt.

"Dammit, Kenma," Kuroo muttered.

"I got a text from someone at… Karasuno High School?" Kenma said. "They said they know you, and that they're going to beat the pants off us at Nationals. What the hell, Kuroo? Get your own phone and stop giving out my number."

Kuroo grinned and shrugged. If Kenma gave him any more grief, he'd just say the devil made him do it.