Gulp, gulp, gulp.
Kuroo downs his fifth can of coffee that week.
It’s only Wednesday, but he’s exhausted, to the point where he relies completely on the temporary high of caffeine that keeps him going. The key word is temporary, but he can't bring himself to care.
“All right, gather up the tests from the back.”
It’s mid-term tests week, and volleyball practices have screeched to a halt just for this. Kuroo’s been jittery and anxious all week, but he can’t let that show. And he won’t let it show, by pretending excessive caffeine consumption solves everything.
“Phew, that was… pure fuckin’ torture.”
Once the last of the exams are done, Kuroo slumps on his desk, just beside Yaku. Studying advanced chemistry is not easy, and he’s sure his temporary high will come crashing down soon.
Kuroo instinctively reaches for some spare change and grabs some coffee milk, the only caffeinated drink in the school’s vending machine that he can stand. Yaku eyes him like a hawk, rubbing his forehead with his palm.
“Kuroo, don’t get addicted. I’ve seen the amount of coffee you’ve been drinking.”
Really, Kuroo has to disagree. Yaku hasn’t seen the amount of caffeinated drink cans at the bottom of the bins in Kuroo’s house. But he shrugs, gulping down another can as if it’s yakult.
That night, Kuroo lies awake, eyes painfully alert. He’s had two cans, less than his weekly average. But it’s enough to send his brain into overdrive anyway. His heart is too quick, too loud. The constant thumping in his chest is amplified.
The next morning, Kuroo’s mouth is craving coffee. But there’s none in his house. He stuffs his face with rice and vegetables, attempting to mask the obvious desire for caffeine that physically pains him.
He’s not going to prove Yaku right. He hates it when Yaku is right. He’ll use it as a ‘gotcha’ whenever he screws up, which, admittedly, is usually his own damn fault. But Yaku, when right, is a special kind of annoying.
The next day, his coffee intake drops to zero.
It’s not as hard as he initially thought. It’s mildly inconvenient, but he forcefully quenches his thirst with a salty lychee drink, until his desire to drink anything is vanquished.
And at around midday, the headaches begin. They slam into his head full force, torturing his brain with waves of pain. The back of his eyes throb non-stop. He needs something to alleviate it. No, he knows what he needs to alleviate it.
But the voice in his head reminds him not to give in. It’s Yaku’s voice, warning him not to feed into his addiction any further. He downs another bottle of nata de coco drink instead. He feels bloated and uncomfortable, but full.
The first day of quitting is terrible, but he falls into the best sleep he’s had all week.
The second day is hell on earth.
The headache he’s sporting has morphed into the mother of all migraines. His head feels like it’s emulating a thousand different sirens, blaring in his head and screaming at him. It’s nothing short of pure torture, and he doesn’t even want to move a muscle, let alone head to school.
He has to head to school, though. Third year, and everything that comes with it, waits for him. He hates everything. His joints seem to creak and roar like a rusty door hinge, and he feels immense sympathy for his grandmother. His body’s aged about fifty years overnight.
“Oi! Get up! We’re going to the labs!”
Kuroo is jabbed with a mechanical pencil by one of his classmates, just as he thought his headache was marginally better. He feels like throwing a hard punch right there and then, but stops himself. He has to get up.
The migraine is continuous. He wants to cut off his head at this point, because he’s positive it would hurt less. When he heads to volleyball practice, the hammering in his head only intensifies. His eyeballs feel like they’re getting pushed out his socket.
“Ah! I’m sorry!”
Lev screeches out an apology, as his flubbed receive goes flying towards the sidelines. Normally, he would only receive a mild tongue-lashing by Yaku, but nothing is normal today. Kuroo is the first one to groan. Why can’t his teammates do what they need to do?
Kuroo manages to hold his tongue, by some miracle. Despite the pain that can be likened to tiny dwarves drilling inside his skull, he minds his own business and focuses on his blocks.
“Kuroo, watch out!”
The volleyball slams into Kuroo’s back, and hard. His joint pain increases tenfold, and the rage chokes him so much he can hardly breathe. His exhales are ragged, as blood rushes to his face. Everything is uncomfortable.
“I- I’m so sorry, Kuroo-san! Are you okay?” Lev turns to him, terrified.
Kuroo turns to glare at him, but his gaze is more murderous than annoyed. “Receive the ball properly, you fucking dumbass! Are you even trying?”
“Hey!” Yaku is the first one to put a stop to the Lev-bashing, of all people. “Chill out, Gordon Ramsay. Whatever shit you’re going through, don’t take it out on him.”
Kuroo swallows hard, noticing all eyes on him. Kenma is staring at him with worry-filled eyes, and Kuroo wants to cry.
“Sorry.” Kuroo musters a half-assed apology. He can tell he’s brought the entire team down, because he’s so stupid and careless and a horrible person. His self-esteem is plummeting.
He just wants to sleep.
Kenma pops a chocolate button in his mouth, and Kuroo would give anything to have one. The thought of drinking coffee makes him feel nauseous. Anything for the sugar rush. Anything to get his blood sugar levels blasting through the roof. He wants a temporary high.
“Kuro, you all right?”
The train rocks him unpleasantly, leaving his limbs throbbing. The motion makes him feel horribly queasy. “I don’t know,” he whispers, leaning into Kenma. “I haven’t been feeling too good these past few days.”
“I know, Kuro. But you gotta ride it out.” Kenma pats his hair softly, kissing the top of his head. “You’re gonna be okay. Take care of yourself, promise?”
But Kuroo doesn’t feel okay. His hands shake as he tries to eat breakfast. He drops the chopsticks more than once. He doesn’t even want to eat, but he doesn’t have the heart to refuse the food his grandmother prepared for him.
“Hey, Kuroo, you’re not eating?”
Yaku prods at him, when lunch rolls around. Kuroo really, really doesn’t want to put anything near his mouth. In addition to the headache that makes him want to tear his head off, his stomach has started cramping horribly. It's like he's lactose intolerant, and just had twenty pounds of cheese.
“Don’t wanna. Not feeling great.” Kuroo mutters, laying his head on the desk. He’s overcome with dizziness, forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut. He wants relief. Right now.
“You look like absolute shit.” Yaku sighs. Someone has to say it. “Does it hurt somewhere? You should probably get some water.”
He hands Kuroo a bottle of water, and Kuroo almost drops it. His hands tremble violently, likening his mannerisms to someone with a serious addiction. But he’s not addicted. He’s already quit. It barely lasted.
“Shit.” Yaku notices how unsteady his hands are, and puts everything together. “It’s from the caffeine, isn’t it?”
“Yeah.” Kuroo finds himself nodding. He doesn’t even know why he’s been so stubborn in pretending he’s fine. He hates everything. He hates how he feels. “I… really don’t feel good. My head hurts so bad, and I feel like I’m going to throw up…”
“Go home for today. I’ll give you all the notes when you get better.” Yaku advises him, gripping his pale hands. “I’ll go call Kenma.”
As anticipated, Kenma gives him a look of disappointment when he meets him outside the school gates. But he doesn’t say anything, and simply holds Kuroo’s hand all the way to the train station.
“I wish you’d take better care of yourself.” Kenma murmurs, massaging Kuroo’s fingers gently. “I thought I could believe in you.”
Kuroo stops shaking when Kenma holds him. He lets Kenma’s hands calm his own, and shuts his eyes, resting his head on his shoulder.
“Thank you, Kenma.”