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Kenma had tried to tell himself it wouldn't feel all that different. Kuroo had always been in a different class, always just a text message away, and so what if those classes were in university lecture halls a forty-five minute train ride away instead of down the hall from Kenma's? The specifics might be slightly altered, but the practical reality of the situation—that Kenma would go to class, stare out the window during lecture, doodle idly in the margins of his papers—was unchanged.

Volleyball would be inescapably different, of course. Kenma had braced himself for walking into the gym after school, for the holes—where Yaku would have been berating Lev, where Kai would have been helping to set up equipment, and, of course, where Kuroo would have been—sometimes lounging against a wall, riling Tora up, sometimes off to the side, gesturing broadly as he drew up a play with Sou or Fukunaga.

He'd prepared himself for that, but he hadn't prepared for that first Monday morning, reaching the intersection where Kuroo was usually waiting and thinking instinctively, "Oh, I beat him for once–" before suddenly remembering.

It's like missing the last step on a flight of stairs, his stomach dropping out from under him in an unpleasant lurch: empty air where he'd expected solid ground.

*

It wasn't as if they'd spent every minute of the day together, of course, but Kenma hadn't realized how many different pieces of his life Kuroo had been tangled up in until he suddenly—wasn't.

They would take the train home together, Kuroo saying things like, "I read an article about the ocean's twilight zone—the bristlemouth is the most abundant vertebrate on earth," or sitting together in companionable silence, Kenma on his 3DS and Kuroo peering over his shoulder or reading.

And then, more often than not, it was only natural for Kenma to follow Kuroo home or vice versa, sprawling out in the living room to do schoolwork at Kuroo's instance, until he deemed the assignments sufficiently complete or Kenma's mom poked her head in, saying, "Tetsurou, you'll stay for dinner?" as if it was a given.  

When Kenma gets home from the first day of his last year of high school, he flops down on his bed and stares at the blank TV screen and feels obscurely betrayed. He'd known, of course he'd known that he would miss Kuroo, but it's—it's unfair, that the knowing had done nothing to lessen the hollow ache in his chest.

*

When they played together on the court, Kenma had been aware of Kuroo the way he was aware of every one of his teammates. Tora, loud and larger-than-life, leaping up to the net; Fukunaga, a sly, quicksilver movement to his right, and Kuroo. Kuroo, who was a wall on the front lines, protecting the court, a steadying presence behind, ready to receive, a magnetic constant, perfectly in time with Kenma even as they moved in sync to throw the blockers off.

The realization came off the court, an unremarkable afternoon, with Kuroo swinging by Kenma's classroom as school was letting out and casually flipping a packet of fruit gummies at him.

"What." Kenma said flatly.

"You skipped lunch." Kuroo said, raising an eyebrow as if daring Kenma to lie about it. "Presumably for the same reason you stayed up til three am last night."

Kenma didn't reply, busy tearing open the packet and picking out the apple gummies to eat first. He'd been holed up in a corner of the cafeteria with his 3DS over lunch, but he remembers dismissing a grumble from his stomach with the fleeting thought that, Kuro will have something for me after class. It makes him pause, now, in recognition of the feeling—this awareness of Kuroo, this complete and perfect confidence—Kenma stumbles over a dip in the path, and Kuroo looks over, the corner of his mouth tugging up in a lopsided smirk, and Kenma thinks, "Shit, I love him."

*

He meant to come up with a strategy, a plan of action.

They were sprawled in Kenma's bed, the game controllers abandoned to the side, Kuroo a solid line of warmth against Kenma's side.

"It's mostly gen eds the first year anyway," he said, gesturing broadly, "We won't get into the real chemistry curriculum until later. And then volleyball practice in the evenings, of course. Though, it's going to be weird as hell playing for a different setter." Kuroo rolled over to face Kenma, and Kenma started at the sudden movement. There was something solemn and unreadable in his eyes when he said, "Kenma, I'm really going to miss you."

Kenma waited for him to continue, for some sort of follow-up to explain the hesitant anticipation in Kuroo's eyes. When nothing was forthcoming after a few breaths, he said, "I'll- I'll miss you too," but broke eye contact quickly, turning to look back up at the ceiling. It felt like everything he was thinking was written all over his face, and Kenma was afraid that if he looked too long, Kuroo would be able to read him, inside and out.

Beside him, Kuroo pulled away slightly with a sigh, rolling back to face the ceiling as well. "Yeah," he said, his voice completely flat. It had to have been his imagination, but Kenma could swear he felt a chill at the sudden lack of contact.

*

He meant to come up with a strategy, but it was winter, and the trees are barren, and classes are ending, and Kuroo would be gone soon. They were packing up the equipment after practice, the third years still there to help the transition, and Lev was flitting around the gym largely hindering more than helping. "We'll really miss you guys!" he said to Kuroo, his expression tragic, and Kenma thought, reflexively, "But I'll miss you the most,"  and he was hit by a sudden surge of panic, almost frantic with it—there wasn't enough time.

That night, walking home from the train station, Kenma had paused a few blocks out from his house.

"Kuro," he said, and Kuroo stopped as well, waiting patiently for Kenma to continue. "I-", he started, then stopped again, uncertain. He didn't have a plan, and Kenma's never been one for big speeches, but he could feel the clock ticking inexorably closer to when Kuroo would simply be—gone. He reached out instead, pulling Kuroo down as he leaned in, cataloguing his reaction—and so caught the flash of surprise and the dawning, half-disbelieving hope immediately on its heels as Kuroo closed the distance, grinning into the kiss.

*

Saturday morning finds Kenma slumped in the window seat of the subway, squinting blearily at his own reflection against the black smear of the tunnels.

He glances down at his phone, the messenger app still open on the screen.

what are you doing this weekend, he'd texted Kuroo on Thursday night, half-uncertain what he was really asking. He's almost afraid Kuroo will be teasing, flippant: It's only been a week, you miss me already? And Kenma will be forced to say yes, obviously, uncomfortably sincere, or no, who would miss you a lie of such magnitude he feels a knot in his chest even thinking it.

But when his phone pings, the message reads, volleyball practice, ur invited. And Kenma should have known, because Kuroo is keenly perceptive, always surprising, and endlessly generous with his kindnesses.

His phone chirps again, as he's looking at it.

yaku wants you to pass a message to lev

Kenma smirks, taps back, tell yaku if he hits me i'm smacking him back

*

The train doors open with a soft hiss at Hongo-sanchome, and Kenma steps out, heading for the escalator. He finds himself taking the steps two at a time, impatient, and as soon as the station exit comes into view his eyes zero in on the familiar figure leaning causally against the railings outside. It's like something slots into place, his chest feeling overfull, suddenly, where there had been a hollowness for the past few weeks.

Kuroo looks up as if alerted by some sixth sense, and straightens as Kenma approaches.

"Hey," Kenma says, coming to a halt next to him.

"Hey," Kuroo echoes back. There's a beat, and then they're both laughing, Kuroo reaching out to sling an arm over Kenma's shoulders and pull him close. "I missed you." He says lightly, but Kenma can hear the sincerity underneath.

They'll to walk to the university volleyball courts, then there will be practice, and lunch, perhaps with the team. Kuroo will show Kenma the campus, the library, his rooms, and they'll get dinner, just the two of them. But for now, Kenma ducks his head, tucking himself into Kuroo's side and reveling in the familiar warmth. "I missed you too." He murmurs.