It’s not like anyone actually says as much, but they all know that their perception of time is vastly different than it should be.
Even when he could see the sun rise and fall it didn’t make much of a difference for his sleeping pattern. These days he walks around the Shatterdome and it feels like he’s stumbling forward on pure willpower with a dash of hope, but isn’t that the case for all of them?
Because of this, Kuroo finds himself attempting to burn off excess energy rather than sleeping. The training room is usually full to the brim with rangers, which can be annoying and at those times he prefers to do everything from sit ups to pull ups in his sleeping quarters, Yaku tolerating him and knowing well enough that this is just how his friend is.
Kuroo’s found that the Kwoon Combat Room empties from 04:30 to 06:15 or so—Showering then the mess hall for the masses. They won’t get punished for not eating on time, after all, none of them have the best perception despite the watches on almost every wrist, but the choice lunch options run out fast. After tasting D Lunch most people learn to get their asses there on time and early.
Thankfully, though, Kuroo’s made friends with most of the cafeteria workers. Even if he doesn’t get A Lunch he’s taken to strolling in late just for the sake of an empty Kwoon Room, getting at least a C Lunch regardless. He doesn’t even have to flirt for it, and has chalked it up to the fact that personnel that aren’t rangers tend to look out for each other to make sure that everyone gets taken care of. But flirting doesn’t hurt, exactly. And he’s been able to get one of the choice options more than once, a smile on his lips as the older women call him Doctor.
While it isn’t a rule that the Kwoon Room should be empty, after days upon days of it it’s strange to see someone in there when Kuroo opens the door. At this hour even the insomniacs have dragged themselves to the shower or to get ready to head to the mess hall, but he sees someone drenched in sweat and taking out aggression on a punching bag.
He doesn’t interrupt him. Being part of the research division he knows most of the rangers by sight, having gone over the personnel files and memorizing them even if no one had said to. Kuroo vaguely wonders why Sawamura’s so intent on punching and kicking the bag until it breaks this morning, but he also knows he can’t offer any words of wisdom. After all, he isn’t a ranger.
It isn’t as though he didn’t try. The majority of them went to the academy, and memories of it flood Kuroo’s head as he starts to tape his knuckles, a familiar motion. He remembers reading everything he could get his hands on, soaking the information up, and passing physical and intellectual exams without so much as a hitch. Even the instructors said they had high hopes for him, and why shouldn’t they have? On paper he had been the ideal student. At least, until he did until he attempted to drift with someone during combat simulations.
He hadn’t been able to make an actual connection with anyone, not even the people that had been heralded as being drift compatible with everyone. As upset as he was he accepted it, and decided to do his best anywhere else he could help.
So here he was, sleep deprived on a Tuesday morning and moving his fingers just after he taped them. The past was the past for a reason, he thought as he looked up to meet the gaze that had been lingering on him for the past few moments.
"Can I help you with something?" he asks, not moving from where he’s settled on the bench, still opening his hands to make sure the tape has enough give.
Sawamura’s still covered in a sheen of sweat, red faced and eyebrows stitched together. But his voice is sure when he says, “You do hand to hand combat, yeah?”
Kuroo closes one eye, his voice monotonous as he says, “Sorry. I’m r—”
"R&D. I know. I see you here almost every morning, spar with me."
The room is silent as Kuroo finally stops flexing his fingers and looks at Sawamura. He tries to understand what his motivations are, maybe he just sees Kuroo as a more agile punching bag but there’s the fact that he knows he comes here, and his words are earnest. When he meets the ranger’s eyes, he realizes that there’s a challenge there and he smiles in spite of everything that’s running through his head.
"I won’t go easy on you," Kuroo says as he stands and walks over to the mat, and takes his stance.
There’s a laugh. It’s the first time Sawamura’s smiled when he says, “I’d be disappointed if you did,Doctor.”
Three long minutes later, he has Sawamura pinned underneath him. When he leans down from where he’s saddled on top of the other man he whispers, “Just call me Kuroo.”
They have five more rounds, and end up with three wins each.
Later that night Kuroo sleeps well before making his way to the Kwoon Combat Room once again.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Ennoshita Chikara, but he isn’t the best partner for Sawamura.
Maybe they’re too alike, maybe they’re too different, maybe they could be perfect for each other as long as there’s significant external stimuli. But as it stands the two of them have never gone on a mission, and while they’re drift compatible their scores are just decent enough. They’ve never had anything that shook the connection or made them drop sync, but all in all it isn’t as seamless as it could be. As some other rangers are with each other.
Kuroo finds himself looking over the files without trying to think about why he is. He has clearance for everything from childhood memories to brain scans, and in between making sure Lev and Yaku don’t end up strangling each other while going through simulations together he finds himself drifting back to both Sawamura’s and Ennoshita’s files.
Sawamura hasn’t ever actually complained. If anything, it seems as if he blames himself for it. They’ve talked more, these last two weeks. The two of them out of breath from exertion and alone in Kwoon Room and ending up talking about anything and everything. Maybe Sawamura should be more reserved with his thoughts, considering it’s Kuroo’s job to take care of the mental health of rangers, even if he hasn’t been assigned Sawamura, but he’s always honest.
There’s something heartbreaking about Sawamura saying that he feels like he’s missing something. For a time, Kuroo felt like that, too. Maybe he still feels like that, but he’s learned to block it out.
When Kiyoko walks into the room looking around he meets her eyes quickly, gives her a smile.
"They need you in the Combat Simulation room," she says simply, tucking her hair behind her ear and then moving forward to tidy the papers that are around their desks, the two of them shoved together.
He sighs as he gets up, and tugs on his leather jacket over his lab coat. It’s gotten too cold these past few months for his liking, but maybe it’s the absence of natural light that’s been bothering him more than anything.
Kuroo looks to Kiyoko with a slightly pained expression before saying, “Oikawa yelling at Ushijima and Iwaizumi again?”
She shakes her head while biting her lip before sitting down in the seat he’s just vacated, her own with books piled high on it. “They said to be quick.”
"Sure, sure," he says before dragging his fingers through his hair and starting down the halls.
It’s almost surprising that it isn’t Oikawa. Considering everything that had gone on with him from when he got injured Kuroo’s sure he’ll have his hands full for the next few years, if they all live that long. That isn’t even including the mental welfare of Ushijima and Iwaizumi, too.
When he finally makes his way into the room, knocking on the metal door before entering it just takes a moment for him to look around and evaluate the situation.
"Officer Moniwa," he says slowly, seeing the person who he and Kiyoko report to constantly. Alongside him is the walking menace Koganegawa and further in the room, leaning against the railing and smiling apologetically at him is Sawamura. Ennoshita is nowhere to be seen. "I was told you needed me?"
It isn’t a surprise when he’s told that they’re under the impression that he and Sawamura might be drift compatible. Apparently Kiyoko has overlooked their files and agreed when Sawamura had brought the idea up originally, already figured out that Ennoshita’s scores were comparatively higher with a newcomer, Nishinoya. As he hears all of this, Koganegawa bouncing beside his keeper and the lights in the room all too bright, Kuroo can’t help but feel like the air has been taken out of his lungs.
He says, “Sir, I’ve never made acceptable scores with anyone before.”
And perhaps that’s what’s making him feel like he has stones in his pockets, the terrible feeling of dread flowing through his veins, cold.
Kuroo wants to be drift compatible with Sawamura.
Maybe he’d thought about it in passing after the two of them had started talking. However, the thought has always left his mind quickly because no matter how much he tried it had never worked. Not with Yaku, not with Bokuto, with anyone. Back at the academy he’d been sure that there had been something inherently wrong with him, something flawed that couldn’t be fixed. Because no matter how much he’d looked great on paper, it just—
"There’s a first time for everything," Sawamura says from across the room. He walks over, his eyes on Kuroo as he steps up the couple of stairs and is next to him all too soon.
When he grabs Kuroo’s hand, it’s with his palm up, fingers curling around Kuroo’s and bringing warmth to the skin that’s been cold for who knows how long.
Kuroo’s throat feels hot and he almost feels like laughing, or maybe throwing up but he finds himself nodding in spite of himself.
"You gonna go easy on me?" he croaks out, his eyes still on the form in front of him as he starts walking to the all too familiar tech. Kuroo’s so used to all of this, but he’s always been on the other side, looking on.
Sawamura doesn’t smile, but his face is warm when he says, “No. But that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? Just give it all to me. I promise I can take it. I’ll do the same.”
"Yeah," Kuroo says, and his heart’s beating quickly for a reason other than fear, he thinks. "Yeah.”
It’s different, having time on his hands.
No one ever does have time on their hands, really. They’re on a clock that runs without seeing the sun going up or down, a clock they all live by. There’s more time for him, though. When he’s been dedicated towards everything and everyone else for years, trying to do his best to help in whatever ways he can.
Now he’s supposed to devote himself to making sure he’s in top condition, along with his partner.
Kuroo kicks his feet from the edge of a bridge that he and Daichi have perched themselves on, watching everyone walk by in the early hours of the morning. He looks over and sees that Daichi’s woken up from where he was slumped over on Kuroo’s shoulder. He looks small with Kuroo’s leather jacket slung around his shoulders, he always makes fun of it too but when Kuroo offered it earlier he took it without a word.
They talk less, now, Kuroo thinks. Or maybe they talk more, but just without words.
"Daichi," Kuroo says, and maybe it’s a question more than a name, but Daichi lets out a small grunt before pressing himself impossibly closer to Kuroo.
It’s minutes later when Kuroo’s finally nodding off that Daichi says, “Think you can flirt your way to a decent breakfast for the two of us?”
Kuroo can feel Daichi pressed against him as he laughs, heavy and very there. He thinks he knows what he was missing, now. He leans his cheek against the top of Daichi’s head before he closes his eyes, and lets the buzz of the Shatterdome surround them and just focusing on the way he can feel Daichi’s chest go up and down in time with his own.
"We might have to share," he offers, giving a squeeze of his hand where their fingers are laced.
It’s different, but it finally makes sense.