Suga is sitting on the bench, which is where he always sits these days.
Kuroo kind of remembers Karasuno back when Suga was a starter. He was curious about their rival school, looked them up a bit, and found a few articles in local Miyagi newspapers. One photo captured Suga setting to Daichi. Even as a second year he had perfect setting form, arms uplifted, pointer fingers and thumbs making an open diamond, his lips slightly parted.
Suga never looks like he's having fun on the court, not while the game is unfolding. He's much more relaxed on the bench, encouraging the players out of rotation and comparing notes with their coach. But he played the first half of the practice game that just ended, and Kuroo tracked the progression of the match through the rising tension in Suga's shoulders. It didn't matter if they were winning or losing; Suga's anxiety was palpable the entire time.
"Is it fun like that?" Kuroo asks, not smiling.
Suga blinks up at him. He paid Kuroo no mind as he approached, instead talking with some of Karasuno's first years, pounding them on the back and praising them for doing such a good job on the court. That doesn't mean Suga didn't notice him; Suga, like most setters, has excellent peripheral vision. It meant that Suga felt he wasn't enough of a threat to devote his attention to.
Kuroo can't decide if that's a compliment or an insult. Maybe a little of both. It's easy to cut yourself on Suga's edges if you're not careful.
Yamaguchi moves away and Suga's left alone with Kuroo leaning over him, hands on his hips, eyes locked on his.
Suga cocks his head, sending strands of gray hair fluttering into his eyes. He smiles a little, a veneer of kindness over it that's probably left over from encouraging Yamaguchi.
"Is what fun like that?" he asks.
"Playing when you're that stressed out."
Suga's smile vanishes. Kuroo waits.
"I love volleyball," Suga says. He pauses, considering Kuroo, and speaks again with lightness injected into his voice. "Being on the court is special since I never get to do it as much as I want to."
Kuroo recognizes the diversion for what it is. It would be easy to let the conversation flow onto more familiar ground, I can't believe you gave your spot up to Kageyama, or You're a good setter, too. But Kuroo isn't interested in known territory.
"What makes you go out there?" Kuroo says.
Suga's eyelashes flutter as he looks away. "The same reason as you, I think," he says. "We're both third years, aren't we? We've both devoted our high school years to volleyball."
Kuroo hums as he considers that: a lazy, drawn out sound. "I love playing volleyball," he replies. "I love that moment when you know what a wing spiker's about to do before they do. I love the way the impact of the ball makes my palms sting. I love leaping for blocks until my legs feel like jelly." He looks at Suga again. "I don't think that's why you keep playing."
The gym has a few fans on, but it doesn't do much for the oppressive summer humidity. Suga's fingers are tangled in the collar of his jersey, pulling it away from his body as he tries to vent the summer heat. It reveals collarbones and the first curves of a slim, athletic chest, but Kuroo doesn't let his gaze linger on it. Setters are not the only ones with excellent peripheral vision. Instead he focuses on Suga's narrowing eyes, the thin press of his mouth.
"I love my team," he says. "I want us to win more than anything. If I can help, then I want to help."
"You can help from the bench too," Kuroo points out, and Suga's eyes flash with genuine annoyance. The slip makes Kuroo lean back on his heels. "O ho."
"I don't expect you to get it," Suga says. His smile is sharp now.
"I'm not trying to pick a fight," Kuroo says, careful to keep his tone placid. "I just, you know." He makes an unclear gesture. "I wondered what you were thinking about when you're out there."
"How we can win," Suga replies instantly. His eyes are hardening. There's a sharpness there that Kuroo has only caught glimpses of before. "How we can keep Karasuno moving forward."
"'We,'" Kuroo echoes. "What about you?"
"I'm not sure what you mean," Suga says, which is a lie.
"Why keep doing it?" he asks. "If you're just doing it for other people, that's not a good enough reason."
Suga leans back on the bench until his weight is held by his palms, considering. Kuroo is standing over him but he doesn't seem intimidated. Kuroo thinks of his nickname: indomitable.
"No one's ever asked me this before," Suga murmurs. "You're not even on my team."
"Maybe that's why I thought to ask," Kuroo says.
Suga's mouth twists, but he doesn't contest the point. "I want to find the places where I can do the most good, and then do it," he says. "You're right. It could have been anything. But volleyball is something I can do, and the people on my team are people who I want to support with everything I have. I want us to leave a mark. Something that says, Karasuno was here." There's a tightness around his mouth, his voice low with contained emotion. "Isn't that enough of a reason?"
"It makes my reason look like shit," Kuroo replies.
Suga blinks up at him, and then cracks a smile. Kuroo grins back.
"Thanks," Suga says. "I mean, thanks for worrying about me."
"Of course," he says. "We're friends, aren't we?"
Suga considers him for another long moment. "I'd like to be," he says at last, as if he's made up his mind.