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All Along There Was Some Invisible String Tying You to Me

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Kozume Kenma feels like an outsider in a soulmate-obsessed universe. 

 

His classmates in middle school all crowded around their lunch tables, enthusing about “first hearings” and “true love.” In his second year of middle school, one of the girls in his class gets her ‘first hearing.’ Apparently, she’d heard some kind of classical tune before falling asleep the night before, and told everyone sitting near her about it in class the next day. “It was so romantic,” she’d said, resting her chin in her hand. “I wonder what he’s like. He has to be sophisticated, don’t you think?”

 

Kenma hadn’t understood. She’d just heard a song in her head! It’s not like she’d had any actual communication with her soulmate. Also, he’d really hoped that his soulmate didn’t like classical music. He’s not sure what exactly he’d have in common with a classical-music-listening, overly-serious-and-studious type of person. He didn’t say anything, though, of course. He just sat alone, his hand on his chin, and listened. 

 

It was even worse in high school. He’d watched desperate classmates drop less-than-subtle hints to their crushes, asking them what they’d been listening to the night before, only to be let down when they said a completely different genre than what they’d been hoping for. He’d listened as people hummed songs out loud, only to glance over at someone across the table and frown when they didn’t seem to be listening along. And he’d seen soulmates get together too - couples that walked in together holding hands, their footsteps too in sync, as though they were walking to their own personal beat.

 

But Kenma himself hadn’t heard anything. The only music he heard was his own, which mostly consisted of video game soundtracks. He wondered sometimes if he even had a soulmate, and his family wondered the same on occasion. Mostly behind his back, but sometimes to his face as well in their subtle ways. “Have you heard anything lately?” and when Kenma replied with a no, “Hm. Well, I hope you hear something soon. Most people hear from their soulmates before they’re 18. But I mean, you usually get your first hearing after you see your soulmate for the first time, so maybe you just haven’t run into them yet.”

 

And now he’s in university, still yet to experience that “first hearing,” and finding that he doesn’t really mind that much. 

 

Honestly, he half-hopes he won’t ever find his soulmate. He doesn’t want to listen to someone else’s music in his head all the time. What if they have awful taste? God - he doesn’t think he could stand it if his soulmate listens to nothing but EDM all the time. So he decides he’s better off this way. 

 

At least he’s not alone in his soulmate-less-ness, he thinks. His friend Akaashi Keiji hasn’t had contact with his soulmate either, but the difference is that Akaashi cares more about his own lack of a soulmate than Kenma does. He pretends not to, but Kenma’s always been fairly adept at spotting lies, especially from someone as obvious as Akaashi. So, for Akaashi’s sake, he hopes that his friend runs into his soulmate soon.

 

And then, one day, he shows up at the library for their study session with a slight smile on his face. Kenma’s not sure how, but he immediately just knows. 

 

“You heard from your soulmate,” Kenma says. 

 

“I believe so,” Akaashi says, taking out his textbook and setting it precariously on the table. “I heard some music last night. It was very upbeat and happy and extremely loud. Maybe it was someone’s workout playlist?” He rests a hand on his chin in contemplation. “I’m not sure. But I assume that means I’ll hear from them more in the future.”

 

“You should ask the gym for a list of everyone who was working out there last night,” Kenma deadpans. Akaashi stares at him flatly, and Kenma chuckles to himself. “Just saying. But I’m happy for you. I hope you find whoever it is soon.”

 

“It’s fairly inconsequential to me,” Akaashi mutters, and Kenma doesn’t believe it one bit.

 

Still, as happy as he is for Akaashi, Kenma can’t help but think as he walks back to his dormitory later that night that maybe he is weird and alone in this. Maybe he doesn’t have a soulmate. 

 

Maybe he’s destined to be alone.

 

“Kozume,” comes a loud voice at his side. 

 

Kenma jumps a little bit at the sudden interruption, then spins around to face whoever’s at his side. People don’t tend to approach him (the sole exception being Akaashi, but they have known each other for a while now) but this guy is someone he doesn’t recall ever seeing before. He’s tall, with messy black hair and a suspicious-looking gaze. Kenma resists the urge to back away from him. “Uh, hi,” the guy says, running a hand through his hair, “We’re in the same Politics class, right?” 

 

Kenma certainly is in a politics class, but he doesn’t remember seeing this guy in it. Though, to be fair, he doesn’t really remember anyone from the class. “I guess so,” Kenma says, glancing around for a getaway route. 

 

“Sorry,” the guy says, “I know this is weird. My name’s Kuroo Tetsurou, and I just had a strange feeling like I should talk to you, I guess.” He laughs nervously, running a hand through his hair. Huh, Kenma thinks. It’s oddly endearing. 

 

“Oh,” Kenma says, which is probably a weird thing to say. And then - “You can call me Kenma, by the way. No one calls me Kozume.” 

 

“Kenma,” Kuroo repeats, the look on his face softening until it’s really not that intimidating at all. Kenma’s heart rate slows in response, the feeling of flight-and-flight that had been coursing through his veins fading. “Nice to meet you then, Kenma. I guess I’ll see you in class on Monday?”

 

Kenma nods and watches as Kuroo bids his farewells and walks off the other way. He shakes his head. It was just a weird interaction , he figures. Nothing to worry himself about too much.

 

But that night, the most annoying tune he’s ever heard pops into his head. It’s repetitive and loud and obnoxious and not something Kenma would ever listen to. Kenma palms himself on the head, almost in hopes that it’ll reset his brain somehow, but the tune doesn’t go away. So how does he know it? How is it stuck in his head? 

 

Oh. Oh.

 

This must be Kenma’s first hearing, and apparently his soulmate is the most obnoxious asshole on the planet. Kenma groans, hitting his head against his desk. He’s totally screwed, isn’t he? 

 

.

 

Later that night, Kenma comes up with a message; a method to communicate his thoughts back to his stupid, terrible-music-listening-to soulmate. He heads to the internet and searches for a song called “Your Music Taste Sucks”. Unfortunately, no songs with those lyrics appear. He groans, then goes for a song that just repeats “Stop” over and over again in the chorus. Hopefully this is enough for his soulmate to a) realize he has a soulmate and b) listen to better music. 

 

After the song finishes, he sits back in his chair smugly and waits for a response. But unfortunately, for the next few minutes there’s no reply. Just the empty silence of his own mind. 

 

And then another stupid pop song plays in his head.

 

This one is even more repetitive than the last, the lead vocalist singing “hello beautiful” over and over. Kenma hits himself in the head with his book in an attempt to get it out, but it doesn’t work. In fact, it only seems to get louder. Kenma groans loudly, audibly enough that apparently his next-door neighbor can hear him because his phone buzzes with a text asking if he’s okay.

 

Once the song finally, finally blessedly finishes, he pulls up another song to convey his response - a very colorful one that’s littered with the lyrics “I hate you” . He hopes that the idea of their soulmate hating them will be enough to convince whoever his soulmate is to stop with the awful music. 

 

But it seems not, because just a few seconds later there’s another song in his head - one that’s loud and obnoxious yet again , and one that keeps saying “I love you” in a million different ways. Kenma puts his pillow over his face and bites back a scream. 

 

One thing’s for certain, Kenma thinks as another awful song starts up in his head. He has to find his soulmate in order to get them to stop playing this ear-piercing music all the time. There’s no other option besides death at this point.

 

.

 

Kenma tends to sit alone in his lecture-style classes. It’s just tradition at this point. If he sits alone, then no one can judge him for slacking off during class, for choosing to play games on his phone and laptop instead of taking notes. But that following Monday, when he shows up to his Politics lecture, a familiar figure slides in beside him.

 

“Koz- Kenma, ” Kuroo corrects himself quickly. “Hey. Do you mind if I sit here?”

 

Kenma wants to say no, but knows that it’d make him look like a total asshole, so he lifts a shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. “I don’t mind,” he says quietly. “Sit wherever you want.” 

 

“Great,” Kuroo says. “God, I woke up this morning and contemplated skipping this class, but apparently if you skip more than twice she drops your grade. It sucks. I’m not a fan of politics to begin with, and she somehow manages to make it even more boring.”

 

“You’re not wrong there,” Kenma agrees. He takes a second to pause, then, to keep the conversation going and make the atmosphere less awkward, he adds, “Why take the course, though, if you don’t like politics?”

 

“Elective requirement for my major,” Kuroo hums. “Not really something I could avoid. Though why I need to take a politics course to study Biology, I’ll never understand.” 

 

“You’re studying biology?” Kenma asks.

 

“Biosciences and informatics, actually,” Kuroo says, ducking his head, “But it’s easier to just say biology, I guess. Less confusing for everyone involved.”

 

Biosciences and informatics?! Holy shit, Kenma thinks. He certainly had not expected those words to fall from Kuroo’s lips, much less describing himself. “You’re a nerd,” he says, half in amazement that this tall, gangly, loud, intimidating-looking guy is a nerd. 

 

“I wouldn’t say that,” Kuroo replies, crossing his arms across his chest. “I just care about the sciences, and one of my goals is making science, as well as its contributions, more accessible to the general public. Does that make me a nerd?”

 

Kenma almost feels half bad as he automatically replies, “Yes. Yes, it does.”

 

Kuroo laughs loudly, obnoxiously, and then grins at Kenma. He looks like he’s about to say something else when the clock ticks to the start of class and the professor, punctual as ever, jumps into the lecture. Kenma turns back to the front of the room and pulls up a game on his laptop, but for some reason, he can’t stop his thoughts from wandering back to the weird enigma of a guy sitting next to him. 

 

.

 

After class, Kenma glances nervously over at Kuroo. He doesn’t know what to say, so he just hesitates for a moment, his arms wrapped around his textbooks. After another second, Kuroo says, “Hey, do you have class now?”

 

Kenma glances down at his phone, then lifts a shoulder in a shrug. “I have another hour,” he says. 

 

“I’m gonna go pick up some food,” Kuroo says. “If, uh. If you’d be interested in coming with me.” There’s something weird in his nervousness, Kenma thinks. Something unexpected. 

 

But Kenma isn’t sure what to do. The way he sees it, there are two obvious options. First, he could go with Kuroo. They’d go get food together and Kenma would have to talk. Making conversation with Kuroo seems to come more naturally than with other people though, so it doesn’t seem that awful. And then, there’s the other option: don’t go with Kuroo. He wouldn’t have to make any conversation and he’d be blissfully alone. But it might make Kuroo think he’s rude and ruin whatever something is growing between them. 

 

So he musters up all the strength present in his scrawny body and heaves out a long breath as he says, “Okay. Yeah, let’s go.”

 

Kuroo casts a grin his way, one that’s too bright as he says, “Great. I know this great sandwich shop nearby - I don’t know if you like sandwiches, though. Or, well, there’s this cat cafe, if you wanna get snuggled by cats while you eat - “

 

Kenma listens, casting a glance over at Kuroo. This is weird , he thinks. This is really weird.

 

But does it being weird mean it’s bad ? That’s the thing he has yet to figure out. 

 

.

 

Their lunch together is not as painful as Kenma had imagined it would be, and that in itself, Kenma thinks, is kind of strange.

 

Kuroo doesn’t seem offended by Kenma’s conversational skills or, rather, lack thereof. He talks a lot. He talks about his major, about his classes, and asks Kenma questions too. So Kenma talks back. He tells him about how he’s a business major through the influence of his parents, both of whom are “invested in his future” and “just want him to be able to get a job upon graduation”, but he’s interested in computer science and programming too because he loves the idea of being able to make his own games. 

 

“Making your own games,” Kuroo hums, crossing his long arms across his chest. “Now that’d be badass. Hey, if you make a game, would you make me a character in it?”

 

Kenma gives him a withering look. “I hardly know you. I’m not sure how I could make a character out of you.”

 

“Well, I guess you’ll have to get to know me then,” Kuroo replies, his smile teasing. “So that my character in the game can be as true to life as possible.”

 

“I never said I was going to make you a character in my game,” Kenma replies, frowning.

 

“Well, but you will,” Kuroo says. 

 

“How do you know?” Kenma asks. 

 

“Just a feeling,” Kuroo replies, his mouth tilted up, and Kenma kind of wants to kick his ass. It’s unfortunate that he’s about half a meter shorter than Kuroo, though. 

 

But beyond that, it’s interesting to Kenma because he’s not typically the type to bicker with just anyone. It takes a certain level of familiarity that Kenma doesn’t really possess with most people. 

 

Kuroo is different, though, somehow, and Kenma’s not sure how he feels about that. 

 

After they finish eating their lunch, Kuroo asks, “Hey, would you mind if I got your number? So we can text about Politics class and your game and… stuff.” Kenma thinks he sees a little bit of red in Kuroo’s cheeks, but well, that can’t be right.

 

“Yeah, I guess so,” Kenma says, and accepts the phone that Kuroo passes to him. There’s a thought that arises in Kenma’s mind - This is weird, isn’t it? It’s super weird - but he ignores it, instead choosing to type his number in, digit by digit, and then pass the phone back to Kuroo.

 

Kuroo smiles at him. “Cool,” he says, putting the phone in his pocket and pulling out his earphones. He puts one into his ear and lifts a hand at Kenma in farewell. “I’ll text you later and let you know it’s me so you’ll have my number.”

 

Somehow, even though Kuroo had been the one to ask for his number in the first place, Kenma doubts that he’ll text. Kuroo’s just different from Kenma. Louder, more outgoing, and probably more popular - not just with friends, but with girls too. There’s no need for him to desire Kenma’s company or friendship. 

 

But Kenma nods at him anyways. “Okay. See you in class.”

 

As Kuroo starts walking away, nodding his head to some beat that Kenma can’t hear, Kenma turns on his heel, thinking idly that it’s odd - in the last few hours, he hasn’t heard any music from his soulmate, who seems to be an avid music fan, since they listen to music pretty much nonstop. But as Kenma walks away, just as if he’d summoned it, the obnoxious party music starts playing in his own head again.

 

God. His stupid fucking soulmate. He has to find them soon, or he might just lose his mind.

 

.

 

“My life has gotten really weird,” Kenma laments, putting his head on the table. “I think I’m gonna go become a hermit and live in the woods. Would you support me if I did?”

 

Akaashi tilts his head at Kenma. “What, is this about your soulmate? I know you had your first hearing lately. Did something else happen?”

 

“They listen to music all the time, ” Kenma complains. “And a lot of it is the most terrible, sappy pop songs you’ve ever heard. I hate it. I think my ears are gonna start bleeding one of these days. Last night, though, at least, they were listening to classical music at least. I can’t believe that was a relief.

 

Akaashi gives him a sympathetic stare. “Is that all?”

 

“Unfortunately not,” Kenma gripes. “There’s this guy in class that I’ve been talking to.” 

 

“A guy you’re talking to?” Akaashi says, raising an eyebrow at him.  “Like, talking to talking to?”

 

“I don’t know,” Kenma says. “He randomly came up and started talking to me one day. And then he started sitting next to me in class and now we’ve had lunch together twice now. And - get this - it was actually kind of nice. Not awkward or anything like that. How weird is that?”

 

“For you, pretty weird,” Akaashi acknowledges. “But, I mean, he probably just wants to be your friend. The problem is that you aren’t used to people being nice to you.”

 

“Shut up,” Kenma retorts. “How are things going with your soulmate, then? Or have you found them yet?”

 

This seems to shake Akaashi a little. He tilts his head to the side, staunchly avoiding Kenma’s gaze. “Uh,” Akaashi says. “I haven’t found them yet. But I think that I have an idea of who it might be.”

 

Kenma lifts an eyebrow at him. “Oh? Do say more.”

 

“It’s this guy,” Akaashi says. “He’s said hi to me a couple of times when we pass each other, but we’ve never really talked before. He’s always at the gym, which fits with the whole workout playlist idea. His name is Bokuto Koutarou, but I don’t know a lot about him besides that.” He looks kind of sad as he stares at the table.

 

“Why d’you think he’s your soulmate then?” Kenma asks curiously. 

 

“I don’t, really,” Akaashi says, “It’s just that… I don’t know. When I saw him, I just had a feeling, like I was supposed to know him, I guess. A feeling that he’s something special. Is that completely unbelievable of me?” 

 

“Not unbelievable,” Kenma says, staring down at his own hands. He doesn’t want to acknowledge the fact that the feeling sounds all-too-familiar. “Though definitely a little bit cliche.”

 

Akaashi seems to notice something about Kenma’s hesitation though, because unfortunately he says, “Do you think there’s any chance the guy that keeps talking to you is your soulmate?”

 

Kenma wants to say no. The word is there, on the tip of his tongue. But the thing is that he can’t say it. He doesn’t know for a fact that this guy from his Politics class isn’t his soulmate. There’s a chance that he very well could be, which terrifies Kenma, but also he kind of hopes it is him so he can tell him to shut the everloving fuck up already.

 

So Kenma lifts a shoulder in a half hearted shrug. “I don’t know,” he says. “I guess he could be.”

 

“Do you feel like he could be?” Akaashi asks.

 

Kenma doesn’t know what a soulmate feels like. He has absolutely no basis to go off of. He’s never even had a crush, really, but he doesn’t have butterflies in his stomach or anything. He just feels weirdly comfortable around Kuroo and wouldn’t be opposed to talking to him more. That’s not what soulmates feel like, right? At least, that’s not what he’s seen in the cheesy movies or heard from people in his classes. Finding a soulmate is supposed to be more romantic than that. 

 

“I don’t know what finding a soulmate feels like,” Kenma says, attempting to summarize his racing thoughts, “So I don’t know.”

 

He doesn’t know a lot these days, it feels like. Right when he’s about to let himself despair in the situation for a little bit though, the stupid music pops back into his head - this one another cheesy love song about falling in love. Fuck you, Kenma thinks, and resolves that he’s going to listen to Fuck You later tonight in retribution. 

 

God. He hates his soulmate. 

 

.

 

His soulmate seems to appreciate his attempt at communication, though, because later that night, a song that says “What’s your name?” pops into his head. Kenma blinks rapidly. He’s not sure how he can reply, because it’s not like there are any existing songs that say “Kenma”. It’s a pretty uncommon name. So he elects not to, instead praying that his soulmate will stop listening to music so Kenma can fucking sleep already. The songs turn a little more sleep-inducing the later it gets, but it keeps Kenma awake far later than he’d hoped. 

 

He’s more than a little bit tired when he makes it to class the next morning. Kuroo glances over at him sympathetically. “You look tired.”

 

Kenma takes note of the dark circles under Kuroo’s eyes before he retorts, “So do you.”

 

“Had a paper due for a class last night,” Kuroo says, “so I kept myself up pretty late.”

 

Interesting, Kenma thinks, but stops the thought there. Kuroo’s never indicated having a soulmate before, after all. He also hasn’t indicated the absence of one, but… 

 

But it would be so ridiculous for him to believe that Kuroo’s his soulmate, only to get let down when it’s someone else altogether. 

 

Let down? Weird phrasing, Kenma thinks. That makes it seem almost like he wants Kuroo to be his soulmate. Which he doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t really have strong feelings about Kuroo either way. 

 

The tumult keeps ringing in his head throughout the entirety of class. His eyes slip shut, though, and Kenma has a couple of seconds of a dream where Kuroo’s smiling at him like he’s the most beautiful thing Kuroo’s ever seen or some shit. Thenthere’s a sharp elbow to his side. Kenma glances over, his eyes narrowing, and Kuroo looks at him apologetically. 

 

“Sorry,” he says, “If you wanna sleep more, I’ll let you sleep next time.”

 

No. The idea of people seeing him sleep is completely and utterly humiliating. Kenma shakes his head. “No. I appreciate it.”

 

Kuroo grins, and Kenma flashes back to his dream, to seeing Kuroo look at him like that, like Kenma’s his everything. He clears his head with a smack to the forehead. 

 

“Wanna get lunch again?” Kuroo asks after class. Kenma wants to say no, he really does, but he knows it’s just going to make these weird delusions of his get worse. 

 

But he doesn’t say no. Instead, he nods and lets Kuroo lead him to the cafeteria, chattering all the while about some weird guy he’d had a run in with on the sidewalk the other day. And it’s weirdly not unpleasant to listen to.

 

.

 

He gets a text from Kuroo later that day. It’s nothing all that important, just a greeting and then I saw this cat today and thought of you. There’s a picture attached to it, a cat that has a video game system in his tiny paws, and Kenma lets the corner of his mouth turn up.

 

hm, Kenma replies. it’s not the worst. actually, it’s kind of cute. 

 

Kuroo responds again pretty quickly. See, it’s fitting then, he says, which is oddly terrifying considering that it implies that he thinks Kenma’s cute. Which Kenma isn’t. And he doesn’t want Kuroo to get that highly incorrect idea. 

 

But when Kuroo replies again with questions about Kenma - asking about what Kenma does with his free time and what his life goals are - Kenma lets himself reply nonetheless, being as honest as he can be. It feels strange, he thinks, being this open with someone he hardly knows. But it also feels like it’s almost what he’s supposed to be doing. 

 

what kind of music do you listen to? Kenma types, but then he deletes it immediately after. He doesn’t really want to know, he thinks. Or rather - he’s not prepared for the disappointment of finding out that Kuroo, in fact, isn’t his soulmate. That this weird feeling has just been that - a weird, inexplicable feeling. Nothing more. 

 

So instead he asks, what do you do with all your free time then?, and lets Kuroo ramble on in his reply, talking about volleyball and some kind of nerdy science projects he conducts in the safety of his own bedroom. It’s weird, Kenma thinks. He’s weird. But he’s also endearing in a way Kenma can’t quite put his finger on. 

 

That train of thought is dangerous, though. Kenma pushes it away as he lays back on his bed and puts on his headphones, playing one of his more emo songs before he remembers that his soulmate - whoever they may be - can hear it too. God. Will he never be able to have his emo hours in peace again?

 

After a few minutes, another song arrives in his head - “You’re cute” entwined with loud, obnoxious pop beats. Kenma groans, pulling the covers over his head and wishing his bed would swallow him whole. He has to find his soulmate before he goes completely insane. 

 

But how?

 

.

 

“You don’t happen to know anyone that listens to really bad pop music, do you, Keiji?” Kenma asks, idly playing with his pen as he’s supposed to be recopying his notes for one of his classes, the obnoxious beat pounding at his head. 

 

“Really bad pop music,” Akaashi repeats, his hand stroking the bottom of his chin as if deep in thought. “No, I can’t say that I do. Why? Is this about your soulmate?”

 

“I have to find them,” Kenma complains. “I have to or I’m gonna go crazy. They listen to this awful electropop bullshit all the time and it’s making my ears literally bleed.”

 

“Have you asked the guy about his soulmate?” Akaashi asks, his tone suggestive in a way that Kenma doesn’t particularly like, “Or about what music he listens to?”

 

Kenma frowns. “No, not yet.”

 

Akaashi’s brow creases. “Wait, why not?”

 

“It’s not that easy,” Kenma complains. “Or have you asked the guy you think is your soulmate about his music taste?”

 

“Ah,” Akaashi says, then glances down at the table, a semblance of a fond smile on his face. “Actually, I have.” 

 

Kenma drops the pen he’s holding, letting it roll across the table before finally landing with a plunk in his lap. “You have?” he asks feebly. What the fuck. What the fuck…

 

“Yes,” Akaashi says. “I admit it was a little awkward at first, approaching someone that I didn’t know well. But after a little bit of stammering and awkwardness, I finally was able to ask him what type of music he listened to. It took him a second, but he got what I was getting at. And then he proposed a test.”

 

Kenma stays silent for a minute, waiting for Akaashi to continue. But when Akaashi doesn’t, Kenma raises an eyebrow at him. “And then?”

 

“Apologies,” Akaashi says, his voice oddly soft. “I became lost in my own memories for a moment there. But what happened next was… well, he proposed a test. He put in one headphone and asked me to name the song he was listening to. I heard the music, loud and clear. I didn’t recognize the song, but I told him some of the lyrics. He stared at me with such big eyes. It was sweet.” Akaashi chuckles, smiling at the table. “And then he made me try it. He made me put in an earphone and choose a song that I liked. And then he looked up at me and told me the name of the song, and well, there was no denying it at that point. We both just kind of knew.”

 

“You found your soulmate,” Kenma says, his voice a little rough with surprise. “Holy shit. That’s… that’s amazing. I’m happy for you. But wait, why aren’t you with him right now?”

 

Akaashi shakes his head. “We both agreed to meet up tomorrow and talk more about ourselves. He had a busy day today, so he couldn’t meet.”

 

“God,” Kenma says, and then under his breath, “Wish I could have it that easy.”

 

Unfortunately though, Akaashi hears the latter part and fixes him with a glare. “It wasn’t easy, ” he snaps, “I had to approach him. I had to be the one to ask him, essentially, if we were soulmates, despite hardly knowing anything about him at all. It was difficult. But in the end, it paid off.” Akaashi pauses, probably to catch his breath after his impassioned rant. “Therefore,” he says, sounding a lot calmer. “I believe that it would go essentially the same for you. It would not be easy, but it might be worth it. That’s why I encourage you to talk to your classroom buddy.”

 

Kenma knows that Akaashi has a point. However, Kenma very much does not want to talk to his classroom buddy. He doesn’t want to be the one to bring up this risky subject. He doesn’t want to be laughed at if Kuroo’s not his soulmate. 

 

And - most of all - he doesn’t want for Kuroo to not be his soulmate.

 

It’s ridiculous, he knows. But he’s not ready to be let down just yet. He shrugs, though, and makes himself say, “I’ll try.” Akaashi smiles at him and tells him he’s doing the right thing. 

 

Kenma swallows down the guilty feeling in his chest. 

 

.

 

“So you have to get the timing of the block exactly right, you know?” Kuroo says casually, leaning back against his chair, “If you jump too early, you won’t reach them at their max height, and the same thing if you jump too late. The timing has to be exactly perfect. But also, you don’t know where they’re going to be hitting from, so it involves prediction in that aspect too. So, in summary, what I’m trying to convey to you is… volleyball involves a ton of mind games.”

 

“Huh.” Kenma scoops a mouthful of soup into his mouth, then swallows thoughtfully. “I guess I didn’t think about it that hard. To me, volleyball was just… tall guys hit around a ball.”

 

“From an outsider’s perspective, that makes sense,” Kuroo says, “But I could never think about it that way. There’s so many layers of complexity interwoven into such a simple-seeming game.” 

 

Kenma narrows his eyes at the last sentence. Every time he thinks that Kuroo can’t possibly get any nerdier, the guy somehow manages to prove him wrong. Layers of complexity interwoven… what a fucking dork. 

 

And yet, it somehow manages to make Kuroo more appealing to Kenma; to make Kenma wish even harder that this tall, dorky guy could somehow be his soulmate. 

 

He wonders, though, if Kuroo’s music taste could possibly be that bad. 

 

“Hey, what’s your favorite food?” Kuroo asks randomly. 

 

Kenma doesn’t have to hesitate for a second before he confidently says, “Apple pie.”

 

“Ah, you have a sweet tooth then,” Kuroo says, his voice filled with understanding.

 

“Maybe,” Kenma says, his cheeks heating up even though it’s not that embarrassing of a confession. “What about you, then?” 

 

“Grilled salted mackerel pike,” Kuroo says. “There’s nothing like it, seriously. Have you ever had it?”

 

Kenma wrinkles up his nose, giving Kuroo an are-you-crazy type of look. “No,” he says, “but it sounds disgusting, so I don’t think I ever want to.” 

 

“Aw, Kenma,” Kuroo complains. “You have to give it a try, seriously. I know it doesn’t sound that good, but the taste - it’s out of this world, I swear. It’s genuinely like nothing else. Just give it one try.”

 

Kenma scowls at him, and then can’t help but think, Apparently, yes. Kuroo’s taste can be that bad. 

 

But that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean that his music taste is equally as terrible. It doesn’t mean that Kuroo could ever like someone like Kenma. And it especially does not mean that they’re soulmates. 

 

As he reluctantly agrees to give Kuroo’s nasty fish suggestion a try ( why, Kenma? he asks himself, Why let yourself become soft for this guy, of all people? ) and Kuroo beams at him in return, Kenma starts to wish that Kuroo could be his soulmate.

 

.

 

Text from: Akaashi Keiji

Did you end up talking to that guy from your class yet about your whole soulmate dilemma?

 

Text to: Akaashi Keiji

…not yet

 

Text from: Akaashi Keiji

What’s stopping you, then? 

 

Text to: Akaashi Keiji

absolutely nothing. how are things going with your soulmate?

 

Text from: Akaashi Keiji

Fantastic, actually. And it’s all because I worked up the necessary guts to say something to him first.

 

Text to: Akaashi Keiji

i understand that, keiji, and i’m going to, it’s just…

 

Text from: Akaashi Keiji

It’s just what?

 

Text to: Akaashi Keiji

nothing. 

 

.

 

Kenma tells himself that he’s going to do it. He tells himself that he has to do it, to get it over with so that he can just move on with his fucking life already. But every time he sees Kuroo, for some reason, the words just fade from his throat. 

 

Weeks pass. He talks to Kuroo every other day in class, and then some days at lunch as well - about his life, his games, about their favorites in various categories. And they text a lot. Well, maybe it’s just a lot to Kenma because he’s not used to texting people that aren’t Akaashi or, on occasion, his old friend Hinata. But even Hinata in all of his bright, energetic glory doesn’t text Kenma as much or as often as Kuroo does.

 

Kenma doesn’t know what to make of that. Or rather - he doesn’t know how to make sense of that. 

 

Akaashi keeps getting closer to his own soulmate. They spend a lot of the days together, and when Kenma finally gets the honor of meeting Bokuto Koutarou in person, it’s obvious to Kenma how much Bokuto cares for Akaashi already. His eyes are big and full of adoration, and Akaashi seems softer around Bokuto too, the undertone in his usually snappy voice full of delight and warmth. 

 

It makes Kenma’s chest ache. He doesn’t think he wants to be fully like that with Kuroo; he’s not sure how he’d be able to handle it if someone looked at him the way Bokuto looked at Akaashi or vice versa. 

 

But still, he kind of wishes.

 

And the music continues, because of course it does. It only gets more obnoxious, with each day that passes. The lyrics develop into some sort of convoluted message - “Hello” first, followed by “How are you” and “I like you”. Kenma doesn’t know how to formulate a response with songs, so he typically doesn’t. But sometimes, he tries - coming back with his own “Hello” song that is much less obnoxious than his soulmate’s, or “Good” when his soulmate asks how he is. But any time his soulmate comes back with a question, built out of song lyrics, Kenma doesn’t reply. He’s too much of a coward for that. He’s not ready to meet his soulmate just yet.

 

But the universe has a funny way of flipping things around, especially on Kenma. 

 

He’s walking through campus one day with a loud, obnoxious song in his head. He keeps hitting his ear, hoping that somehow it’ll get the stupid song out of his head (it hasn’t worked just yet, though).

 

And then he spots Kuroo.

 

Kuroo’s got his headphones on, nodding along to the song he’s listening to, a book in his lap. Kenma approaches him slowly, his gaze trained on Kuroo. There’s a weird feeling in his chest that he can’t shake as he gets closer, and once he’s just within a couple of steps of Kuroo, he hears it.

 

His headphones are turned up too loud - loud enough that the noise leaks out.

 

lLoud enough that Kenma can hear that the same exact song that’s playing in Kuroo’s headphones is the one he’s hearing in his head right now.

 

It can’t be a coincidence. Not with the weird feelings he’s been having towards Kuroo, not with the fact that the song is at exactly the same point - it has to be Kuroo. 

 

It has to have been Kuroo this entire time. 

 

Kuroo looks up at him, meeting his eyes for the first time. A tiny smile makes its way onto his lips. He lifts a hand in greeting, almost beckoning Kenma over.

 

But Kenma can’t think, can’t think, so he spins on his heel and runs the other way.

 

.

 

Text to: Akaashi Keiji

he is my soulmate

 

Text from: Akaashi Keiji

Oh? Did you find this out though talking to him?

 

Text to: Akaashi Keiji

uh

no not yet

 

Text from: Akaashi Keiji

I’m not talking to you until you talk to him, Kenma.

 

Text to: Akaashi Keiji

keiji 

keiji come on

i need your advice

ugh 

fine i’ll talk to him i guess


,

Text from: Kuroo Tetsurou

Hey, are you okay? You ran away pretty quickly today 

 

Text to: Kuroo Tetsurou

can you please stop listening to this awful song i think i’m gonna explode

 

Text from: Kuroo Tetsurou

What?!?!

Kenma?!?!

Do you mean that

Holy shit

 

Text to: Kuroo Tetsurou

meet me at the usual lunch place in like ten minutes, i’ll explain

 

.

 

Kenma contemplates not going. He really does. 

 

It’d be so easy just to not show up, to block Kuroo’s number and avoid him in class. It’d just be so easy. He’d never have to be honest about his own feelings. He’d never have to confess that they’re soulmates, that they’re bound to each other by some cosmic force.

 

It’d be easy, that’s for sure. But Akaashi’s words keep echoing in his mind.

 

It’ll be worth it in the end.

 

So he goes. He sits at a booth in the corner, texts Kuroo about where he’s sitting, and then nervously taps his foot against the hardwood floor, listening to its echoing sound. It’s almost soothing - almost. 

 

And then Kuroo shows up.

 

Kenma’s mind starts racing. Once again, he contemplates running. He’s afraid. He’s not sure what to say to him. His mouth feels completely dry. God, is this the best decision? Should he have even come?

 

He looks around the room nervously, and when he spots Kenma, his mouth tilts up. He gives Kenma a wave with a hand that Kenma can’t help but notice is slightly shaky. “Hey,” he says. “I… it’s good to see you.”

 

“Yeah,” Kenma manages. He glances over at the exit, but decides it’s too far. He turns his gaze back to Kuroo. “You too.”

 

“Now,” Kuroo says. He pauses for a second, as though thinking of what to say, but within only seconds he gives up. “What did you mean when you said that I should stop listening to that ‘awful song’?! How’d you know what I was listening to? But also, it wasn’t an awful song.”

 

“It was an awful song,” Kenma says. He takes a deep breath, considering - but there’s only one real option here. He has to go through with this. “And I know because I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing your music in my head this entire time.”

 

“Oh,” Kuroo says faintly. “Oh, shit. Are we… are we soulmates?”

 

Kenma glances down at the table. Should he say something? It’d be wrong not to, right?

 

He has to make a decision. It’s terrifying, the idea of telling Kuroo the truth, and yet, he thinks as he looks at Kuroo, he wants to. He thinks that the risk might be worth it if it means he can be i And he thinks maybe, just maybe, it’s time for him to take this chance.

 

“Maybe,” he says after a minute. “I’m not sure yet. But... we can try it, if you want. Just put in your headphones and play a song. I’ll tell you what I hear.”

 

Kuroo hesitates for a moment, but then puts one earbud into his ear. “Okay,” he says shakily. “Tell me if you hear anything.”

 

The music washes over Kenma immediately. “It’s a loud, poppy song,” Kenma says. “And now it’s saying something in English - I threw a wish in the well?

 

“Oh,” Kuroo says, slowly lowering his phone down. A smile spreads over his lips. “Fuck. It really is you, huh?”

 

Kenma pauses for a second. He takes in Kuroo’s smile. This is his soulmate, huh. He’s kind of gorgeous. Kind of gorgeous, and kind of caring, and there’s something about his smile that’s reassuring. It’s enough to make Kenma’s worries drop away, if just for a second. Kenma’s sure of one thing in that moment, and that’s that he likes Kuroo. So Kenma manages to say, “It really is.”

 

“Fuck,” Kuroo says again. “I had a feeling that it was, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up - shit, it’s you. You’re the one who refuses to answer all my song questions and complains about my music. It all makes so much sense now.”

 

Kenma lets himself smile a little bit, but even though he feels pretty secure in his feelings for Kuroo, there’s still a small worry tugging at his heart. “Uh,” he says. “Sorry if this is a weird question, but… are you disappointed that it’s me?”

 

“Disappointed?!” Kuroo sounds positively offended. “No, not at all. I was really hoping it’d be you, actually.” 

 

“Oh,” Kenma says, and the warmth in his chest grows hotter. “Good. Because I was too.”

 

Kuroo laughs, loud and obnoxious just like his awful music. He extends a hand to Kenma, who takes it, and pulls Kenma out of the booth and into a more private hallway in the restaurant. After glancing around to make sure there’s no one in the vicinity, he asks, “Can I kiss you?” When Kenma nods without even having to think about it too hard, he leans in to press his lips to Kenma’s, gentle and soft and warm.

 

Kenma holds on tight. “Find better music,” he whispers, though, once they break away for a second to breathe, and Kuroo just smirks before he dives back in. 

 

.

 

“And then I finally got to the peak of the mountain,” Bokuto brags, his eyes big. “But right after, I ran into some kind of a creature that I’d never seen before!”

 

“Oh, man,” Kuroo replies. “Bet it bit off half of your leg, didn’t it?”

 

“What? No! I mean, look at me! I’ve still got both of my legs in full! How would it have bitten half of my leg? No, I just started runnin’, and I ran all the way up the mountain. It was such a workout, but it made me feel so good after, ya know?”

 

“That’s impressive, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi says, and it only sounds half-sarcastic, which Kenma thinks is an accomplishment for his friend, who thrives on snarkiness just as Kenma himself does. 

 

“Thank you, Akaaaaashi,” Bokuto says, drawing out the word in a way that’s entirely Bokuto. He beams at Akaashi, who smiles back, their gazes softening as they stare at each other. 

 

“It’s sickening, isn’t it,” Kuroo whispers, his hot breath tickling Kenma’s ear. Kenma turns to glare at him. Kuroo grins at him unabashedly. Kenma just sighs.

 

“I’m happy for them,” he says. “And besides, I don’t think you really have room to talk about what’s sickening, considering how you love to wax poetic.”

 

“But it’s not really my fault, is it,” Kuroo says, taking one of Kenma’s hands in his and giving it a squeeze. “I just have the best soulmate in the world, y’know. And I love to talk about him.”

 

“You’re disgusting,” Kenma grumbles. Still, he lets Kuroo pull him close, pressing a light kiss to the top of his head. “And,” Kenma adds, “you have awful music taste.”

 

“Just for you, kitten,” Kuroo says, his smile the equivalent of a smirk.

 

Kenma rolls his eyes, but takes Kuroo’s hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze. He’s spent his entire life feeling like an outsider, but here - here, with Kuroo’s hand wrapped around his, here , with Akaashi and Bokuto being gross across from the table, here , with a big heaping of apple pie on his plate and a warm feeling in his stomach and one of Kuroo’s awful songs stuck in his head - here, he knows that he belongs.