"Holy shit, dude," Kuroo laughs into his hands, eyes squinting shut, palms hiding the pink on his cheeks.
It's their first year in university, and Oikawa Tooru is strutting around after their drama class, clad in heels that had been unearthed from the depths of one of the unlocked costume closets. It would be an unusual sight, but he's posing like a total natural, despite how uncomfortable the shoes look.
"It's quite a look, isn't it," Oikawa says, and Kuroo cracks up again. He has to admit—Oikawa might be onto something there, despite the laughter he can’t hold down.
Suddenly, Kuroo's brain is transported to textiles and garments and the thrum of industrial sewing machines, as a coordinate forms in his head, with Oikawa and those damn heels right in the center of it all.
They're mid-heeled boots, open-toed with shiny patent leather. If they were any higher, Oikawa might stumble, flouncing about like he is, but with the small boost, he's almost as tall as Kuroo in them. They make his legs even longer than their usual mile, and Kuroo's caught up once again in what he can see between the lines.
Cropped black high-waisted cargo pants, the kind with a truly stupid—like, Final Fantasy-level of stupid—number of belts and chains and straps. Black-laquered nails with little red and opal-white rhinestones. Dark makeup, subtle red at his lashes and lips, with charcoal and black dominating, but white freckles on his cheeks. White snap-barrettes in his hair. A white crop-top, splattered with black, maybe a little red, dense at the collar, hem, and sleeves. A word on the front, something edgy, short, emotive, in the emo-boy serif font that would always (never) be in style. 'bored.' Just like that.
The wide cuts of the pattern pieces are starting to lay themselves out before him when he hears his name echoing through the deserted classroom.
"I said your name four times." Oikawa looks a little concerned, but he's tapping his toe, the sharp click reverberating through the room. It's quite the picture—almost like he could kick some ass in those heels, despite the overwhelm of evidence to the contrary.
Kuroo just shrugs. "Sorry. Designer brain took the reins for a minute there."
"That's been happening a lot lately," Oikawa murmurs, sitting so he can free his feet from their pleathery prison.
He's not wrong. Kuroo has been a designer longer than he can remember, with the college major to prove it or not. "Guess you're just inspiring is all. Maybe you should be a model and an astrophysicist."
He’s not lying; he’s only leaving out that maybe wanting to smooch Oikawa seems to bolster the design process significantly.
All Oikawa says as he shoves his feet back into his mint-green Chuck Taylors is a quiet "hm," but the look he gives Kuroo lingers.
Two weeks later, he meets Oikawa’s childhood friend, his Iwa-chan, and their connection is as confusing to Kuroo as it is enlightening.
Iwaizumi Hajime is the sort of person that, at first glance, is different enough from Oikawa that Kuroo’s not sure how they’ve managed to stay together this long. Iwaizumi is just as stubborn as Oikawa, but in a markedly different way; he’s steady and unyielding where Oikawa is mercurial and sharp. They seem like such a mismatch, shoved together because of proximity, and remaining out of habit.
But then he sees them together again a few days after, when Oikawa is stressing about an exam he and Kuroo are studying for, some gen-ed English class that neither of them are any good at. Iwaizumi is there before too long, watching Oikawa carefully with three cups of coffee in a cardboard carrier. His usual petty, skin-deep insults are interrupted by the occasional assurance that steadies Oikawa’s breathing in the most peculiar way as Iwaizumi flips between flashcards for them. “Idiot, you’re thinking too hard about it, and second-guessing yourself. You know this, Shittykawa,” and “I always forget your reasoning is so dumb it comes back around and actually makes sense,” and “You’ve had it in you to make it this far, dumbass, don’t back down now.”
Kuroo’s used to reading between the lines, and the more he watches them, the more they amaze him. Oikawa and Iwaizumi read each other so well, even with little more than a few looks, or emphasis on a particular word or two, that it’s obvious how well they fit together, no matter how jagged their edges appear. The duality to their dynamic—front all you like, but no actual bullshit allowed—is so refined that enough people mistake them for boyfriends for it to be a running joke.
It’s a little less funny when Kuroo’s brought into it, though. They all still laugh it off when people imply they’re a trio, or at least part of some sort of engagement with the other two—friends with benefits being a personal favorite of Kuroo’s—but as the years go on, it stings more and more, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why.
It’s a struggle, having feelings for the two of his best friends that he isn’t already dating, but as the semesters continue, they share fewer classes, and Kuroo can prepare himself for the time they do manage to spend together. Daichi and Suga are saints about it, really, and let him rant about Oikawa and Iwaizumi whenever he needs to, while also helping to keep his head on his shoulders the right way ‘round. He’s lucky to have such sweet boyfriends.
The feelings don’t fade, and neither does their friendship, and he copes the best way he knows: he designs a lot. It gets to a point where his apartment with Daichi and Suga is so filled to bursting with pieces they’re all making for each other, that they have to start a blacklist of items that they absolutely do not need any more of. Crop tops are the very first to go on the list, followed by jackets, until most every piece of clothing they can think up is on the list, and Kuroo is left to dream about designs he can make for—certain other people. They’d probably wear his clothes if he asked, but it’s a personal enough thing that even asking is a bigger step than Kuroo is comfortable with.
Until the time is right, at least.
Senior year is upon them now, and Kuroo’s advanced design class lets out, his mind racing faster and faster with every step he takes. He’s lucky he’s done for the day—concentrating after an announcement like that would definitely be a tall order.
He’s in his group chat with his boyfriends before he’s out of the building.
two birds and a damn cat
kitty: did you guys get the same project???
Daichi and Suga are both typing, but Suga sends his response first.
bird2: yup!!! daichi and i are working together ♥ prof already cleared it cuz we’re in the same class
kitty: that makes sense
kitty: are yall gonna do your old couture high formal stuff?
bird1: Yes. We agreed that Asahi would be very good as our model, like they were the last time we participated.
It’s not a hard jump to make. His boyfriends’ styles overlap a lot more with each other than with his own, so he had assumed they would work together, as well as trying to convince their other boyfriend to model for them again. Kuroo smiles down at his phone. They really do complement each other well, even when Daichi talks more like the professors than he does like kids his own age.
kitty: lol dai u talk like an old man
kitty: just say u wanna see ur bf in ur clothes
bird1: i wanna see my bf in my clothes
bird1: Was that better for you?
bird2: ugh no, that was too weird
kitty: talk more in a min ill be home soon
Kuroo chuckles, stows his phone again, and begins his trek home to their shared apartment with a smile on his face.
He should have known they’d turn a quiet discussion of plans and project ideas into something else.
“Y’know,” Suga says, sweetly (fakely) innocent, raising a bite of chicken cutlet to his mouth, “you can use this.”
Kuroo doesn’t register what he’s saying right away, and shovels down a good amount of his own cutlet before responding. “Huh?” he chews, swallowing hard. “Use it for what?”
“Get closer to Oikawa and Iwaizumi, so you can finally ask them out.”
He’s glad he already swallowed, because if he hadn’t, he’d be choking right now. “What?! No!! They don’t like me, and being friends is fine anyway. Would they really want to model for this? They have no reason to.”
Daichi sighs, and Kuroo can hear the lecture coming on. He eats more, setting a good example of what his boyfriends should be doing and not antagonising him about his four-year crushes on two of his best friends.
“Tetsurou,” he starts, “it’s been years. You’ve designed so many pieces for them, or because of them, and—”
“Not that many,” Kuroo pouts.
“The clear vinyl jacket with the decorative collar. The strappy cutout pants. I can’t even name all the crop tops. Hell, you spent two straight weeks patterning out those black cargo pants you told us about, and that was before Oikawa had even introduced you to Iwaizumi. And then after you met him, what, two, three weeks later? It was the asymmetrical zipper jeans.”
“Not to mention the formalwear,” Suga adds, a sly gleam in his eye. So much for innocence.
“They were hosting a charity event, and I couldn’t let them go underdressed!” Kuroo rolls his eyes.
“Yeah, and you had patterns you could use or alter or combine. I’ve seen your collection, Tetsu; it borders unhealthy, considering you’re a design student who makes all his own patterns anyway.” Suga doesn't have a whole lot of room to speak on that topic, as his fabric stock bins are constantly overflowing, and he hoards trinkets that shouldn’t be made into accessories in order to do exactly that, but Kuroo keeps quiet about it. He’s incurred enough finger-pointing for now, and there’ll be much more to come if he mentions those things. “I just—you had other options, okay? You didn’t have to spend three weeks drafting something with extra seams and a whole lot of artistic value, and then make them half-match in velvet brocade. You hate brocades.”
Kuroo snorts. “I don’t hate them, they’re just—”
“—Ridiculously overpriced for how stupid they are to work with, I know. We agree on that, remember?” Suga waves a hand dismissively. “But...that’s the only time I can remember you working with a brocade.”
Suga commences a staredown when he says that, gaze intense. There’s no way, Kuroo thinks weakly, there had to have been another time when he’s worked with them, for a project or something.
He comes up blank. His face slacks a little. Maybe it’s worse than he thought.
“The depths of your feelings, while obvious to the people that really know you, weren’t my original point. My point is...just ask. Ask them if they’d be willing to work with you. We know damn well Oikawa’s been trying to get in on that scene since freshman year, and Iwaizumi can easily be convinced if Oikawa’s the one doing it. He might not see his potential, especially because he doesn’t have the ‘pretty boy model’ silhouette, but I think they’d both be really good. And, y’know, lots of opportunities for...bonding.”
Kuroo sighs, lips pursed. He knows Daichi and Suga mean well by all this, but hearing it all laid out before him is still stressful as hell.
“Plus,” Daichi murmurs, finally continuing to eat his food, “you’ll get to see them in your clothes again.”
That’s the final nail in the coffin. Kuroo groans, and shoves some rice in his mouth. “I’ll ask at brunch.”
Kuroo gets to the diner first Sunday morning for their weekly brunch meetup, and waits for a few minutes before seeing Oikawa and Iwaizumi come in. His tired gay heart jumps at seeing his two crushes, but his stomach drops a little in anxiety. It’s not a super pleasant feeling, but he powers through, and smiles when they come over.
“We’ve got coffee on the way,” he says, and Oikawa pumps a fist in victory.
“You’re the best, Tetsu-chan.”
Iwaizumi rolls his eyes. “Sit down, nerd, you’re blocking the walkway.”
He isn’t really, but Kuroo’s not one to defy a pre-coffee Iwaizumi. The only one to consistently get away with it is the bubbly asshole sliding into the booth next to him. Plus, the sooner they get seated, the sooner their server will bring over their mugs and allow them to indulge them in the pleasantly destructive force that is diner coffee—never what you want, but somehow exactly what you need.
Once they have their steaming mugs of goodness and their food orders on their way to the kitchen, Kuroo chugs half of his, and jumps in. Now or never.
“...I've got something to ask the two of you, actually.”
Iwaizumi looks up at him, brown eyes opening slowly. They had closed subconsciously as he downed the first half of his mug, and now they shine with something more similar to the light of his wakeful expression instead of the mull of sleep and grump.
Oikawa is no more a morning person, but had clearly gotten up to do his hair and makeup before coming; there’s a hint of eyeliner and highlighter at his eyes and cheekbones, and his locks are schooled into soft waves instead of their usual midmorning frizz.
Kuroo’s heart squeezes, and he’s sure.
“So, me, Suga, and Daichi have that showcase project in a couple months, right? There’s a runway and photoshoot portion for fashion students, and they’re opening model applications soon. I was wondering…”
Oikawa seems to know where this is going, and gasps. “Kuroo-chan, you want us to apply? You think we would be good models?”
Kuroo smiles a little sheepishly, and feels his face warm slightly. “Uh, yeah. Both of you. I was hoping to work with you actually, if that sounds okay.”
Iwaizumi frowns and takes another drink. “Isn’t that the sort of thing that would be assigned to you? Like partners in a group project.”
“They gave us that option, but in the arts and design college, they’re very into the whole ‘go your own way’ thing. If you want to work with a partner, you can choose who that is—Daichi and Suga are working together, actually. If you have a specific model in mind, have them apply, and note that you’d like to work with them specifically. We run the show here, for the most part, just like we would on an actual design job.”
“So the photos are going in your portfolio?” Oikawa asks, taking a drink from his mug. His grimaces, and pulls the cream and sugar towards him, doctoring his coffee carefully.
Kuroo nods. “It’s between one and six complete looks, and we’re asked to have photos of each piece flat, as well as being modeled. Then, at the end of next month, you’ll walk for the runway portion of the art and fashion showcase that happens downtown.”
He scratches the back of his head. “I know it sounds like a lot, spelled out like that, but it’s not so bad. You’ll just be needed for the official coordinate shots, as well as, obviously, the runway bit next month. It might be a little stressful, and it might not be your first choice of how to spend your spring semester, but—”
“We’ll do it.” Iwaizumi’s tone leaves little room for discussion, not that Kuroo thinks Oikawa would protest. It’s a surprise, though, that Iwaizumi is simply accepting something like this.
“You will?” Kuroo asks, as Oikawa brightens measurably.
“Yeah. I’m not quite sure why you want me on board too, ‘cuz we both know this one—” he shoves Oikawa, “—is all over that sort of thing anyway, but if you think we’ll both be good for the job, then I’ll trust your judgement.”
Kuroo’s lips part on a silent inhale, and close on a smile. The depth of that isn’t lost on him.
He murmurs, “Thank you,” and then the moment is disrupted by their server returning with their food, warm and brunch-y as always. Kuroo’s so damn excited, he can’t tell if his hands are shaking in relief, anticipation, or overcaffeination. He picks up the check with a smile, and starts planning on the short walk home.
Kuroo’s lucky he doesn’t have any classes until Tuesday, because he’s up half the night, design ideas whirling through his head. He flips through two of his binders, the one that’s full of the ideas he’s had for people who have slim body types, and the one that’s for people with stockier builds.
(No, they’re definitely not for people specifically named Oikawa Tooru and Iwaizumi Hajime, thanks so much for asking.)
(He can’t deny where the inspiration comes from, though.)
He thinks through what he wants his line to look like for the project. Bright colors and bulky cuts come to mind, and he grabs a new sheet of paper and starts scribbling notes.
Street style. Black and white. Play with opposites.
Under the second point, he starts listing bullet points. Monochrome v. multicolor. Fem v. masc. Fitted v. unfitted. Prints v. solids. Formal v. casual. The list continues, until he can start to picture the sort of pieces he wants to put each of them in.
Though his first thought is to style Iwaizumi masculine and Oikawa feminine, he pauses. Kuroo knows that’s how they usually dress anyway, but he also knows that they’re gonna look amazing kinda no matter what he does. So, with that in hand...why not turn that on its head?
Images flick through his brain, Oikawa in a torn-up shirt and a huge collage-print jacket, with bulky platform sneakers. Iwaizumi in a cropped jacket and fitted overalls hanging at his waist instead of wearing the straps over his shoulders.
His pencil doesn’t stop until after two in the morning. When he collapses into bed, he’s asleep within minutes.
When he’s happy enough with the ideas, he opens a new group chat with Oikawa and Iwaizumi, and sends a picture of his labors.
All told, he’s pretty proud of his late-night ideas.
The way he has it now, Iwaizumi will be in shiny white sneakers and those coveralls Kuroo was considering, the gray denim treated so it has a slight shine to it; he’s hoping for something resembling platinum, but as long as it’s a lightish blue-gray, he thinks he can make it work. They’re cuffed twice, and one of the straps—a length of industrial-grade chain—hangs around the model’s thighs, the other holding up its half of the front. A white muscle tank is topped by a loose, drapey black mesh crop top hanging across his shoulders, and down to the start of the free-hanging part of the coverall top. Kuroo still isn’t quite sure what to do with Iwaizumi’s hair for this, so it just says hat? next to where the drawn model’s mostly-blank face is. Iwa’s trademark scowl is present in his mouth and the set of his brows.
Kuroo is thinking in opposites and design foils, clearly, so Oikawa’s coordinate is a collage of color and odd cuts. A huge overcoat cut drapes around his drawn frame, long enough to reach his knees, and it’s already a stark contrast to the neutrals in which Iwaizumi is clad; bright geometric panelling is separated with bold black lines, sectioning out bright solids and flashy prints. There’s a hood too, with white lining, but it’s down, the way Kuroo imagines it, adding further visual interest to the silhouette. He’s got colorful shoes too, slip-on dress shoes that emulate the prints and patterns of the jacket, but aren’t an exact match. The pants Suga reminded him of (like he could ever forget) make a reappearance, but they’re white, colored paneling running the inseams, and two black racing stripes on the outseams. The straps are absent, and the pockets are hidden away behind chunky black zippers, but Kuroo is still happy he could pay homage to the earlier days of his design career. A long white T-shirt, the hem torn and burned away in places, rests under the bright colors of the coat; there’s a sleeping black dragon curled around itself in one corner, like it was the one responsible for the damage. Again, he’s not sure what kind of headwear Oikawa would need for a coordinate like this, but he’s sure some hairclips would be in order, with all the color-play happening in his look. The sketched model simply has the ghost of Oikawa’s smirk, and a jaunty lean to his hips with his hands in the coat pockets.
He makes a few quick tweaks, erasing accidental marks and redoing a few lines, before snapping a shot of his work. Kuroo can’t help but stare at it for a moment. It’s a lot, he thinks, but if anyone could make something like this work, it’d be these two.
Kuroo sends the picture, and holds his breath.
project runway season 28 aka MAKE US PRETTY TETSU
pretty (shitty) kawa: HOLY FUCK
pretty (shitty) kawa: TETSU WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT TO GO OFF LIKE THAT
Kuroo laughs, the air in his chest whooshing away, taking the nerves with it. He’s glad the first impressions are going over well.
iwaiwachan: dude yeah
iwaiwachan: these are cool as hell
Now, Kuroo is sure. Iwaizumi had been the wild card in this, but with his agreement, things seem to be turning out just fine.
tetsu: glad you guys like the designs! when we have time later this week, ill need to take your measurements so i can start drafting the patterns sooner rather than later
With messages of assent from both of them and an agreement to meet at 6PM in Kuroo’s senior studio with dinner plans following, Kuroo is satisfied, but his heart is still thrumming. His hands feel like they’re channeling and electrical current; he’s antsy, and ready to work on his new designs.
He sends the same picture to the chat he has with Daichi and Suga.
two birds and a damn cat
cat: they like it
cat: shamed me for ‘going off like that’
bird2: you DEFINITELY went off
bird1: I agree. It’s a fair statement. You put a lot of thought into their designs, clearly...
cat: DONT SAY IT
bird1: ...Which means you should tell them about your feelings.
cat: gods damn it all
bird2: okay, but whether you’re gonna be an idiot about this or not, the designs really are good!
bird2: any specific inspo?
Kuroo sighs, cheeks warm. His boyfriends are too good at needling him, and then smoothing everything over and distracting him two sentences later. He’ll have to keep a close eye to make sure they don’t intervene too much.
(He ends up ranting about street style and design foils anyway.)
Kuroo sends the room number for his studio space in the arts building, and Oikawa and Iwaizumi show up a few minutes after 6. They knock on the open door. Kuroo almost misses it, truthfully, between his intense concentration and the pop music blasting from the small Bluetooth speaker in the corner. He turns to look, though, and sees them standing there, and jumps up to turn down the music.
“Sorry,” he laughs sheepishly, “I was just...y’know. Thanks for coming.”
Iwaizumi eyes the brightly-colored walls. “No problem. Quite the setup, huh.”
“Yeah,” Kuroo says, grabbing a clipboard. There’s a bunch of photos tacked on the brightly-colored walls; some are Kuroo’s, but some are from the two other students he shares this space with, and a choice few pictures are from past occupants that hadn’t been taken down. He pulls one of the measurement printouts off the stack behind the big drafting table, and slips it under the clamp. “Alright, who’s going first?”
Iwaizumi takes the clipboard, and goes to shut the door. “He can go, I’ll notate.”
Kuroo nods, and looks to Oikawa, who’s already stripping off his bulkier outer layers and stepping up onto the small platform in the opposite corner. “Let me know if you’re uncomfortable at any point, and we can stop.”
Oikawa waves a hand. “I doubt it’ll be an issue, but I’ll keep it in mind. Just don’t try to feel me up without warning, and we won’t have any problems.”
A blatantly fake leer comes to Kuroo’s face, and he jokes, “So if I warn you, it’s fine?”
“I can be negotiated with,” Oikawa simpers, a smirk settled on his pretty face. He holds Kuroo’s gaze, before Kuroo’s heart flutters, and he looks away.
“Save it for later, assholes, I’m already hungry.” Iwaizumi rolls his eyes, and taps the clipboard menacingly.
They all laugh, and Kuroo grabs his measuring tape. “You ready?”
“Go for it,” Oikawa says, a shadow of that smirk still curling across his lips as he steps up onto the small pedestal facing the two full-length mirrors in the corner.
Damn, does this boy have to act cute when Kuroo’s about to get super up-close and personal with him? Kuroo breathes as best he can, and steps forward.
They start simple—chest, waist, low hip, high hip, outseam, shoulder width, torso length, and arms.
Then, of course, for the more fitted garments, Kuroo needs a few of the more...personal measurements. Up to this point, it’s been easy to maintain a professional detachment, but it’s slightly more difficult when Kuroo’s measuring his crush’s inseam.
He swallows hard. “Okay, this is where shit’s gonna get a little weird, so if you’re uncomfy at all, gimme a heads up.”
Oikawa nods his head, but chuckles slightly. “Really, Tetsu, it’ll be fine. I trust you. Plus,” he addends, waving a hand, “if you try anything I have a witness who’ll beat your ass even harder than me.” Iwaizumi waves from the corner where he’s camped out with the clipboard.
Kuroo full-on laughs, because he knows it’s not a joke at all. Again with the trust, though. His heart can’t take this kind of stress.
Catching his breath again, he nods. The mask of professionalism returns.
The next five minutes is a blur of inseam, thigh and calf circumference (he almost loses it there, because Oikawa’s legs are...really nice), and hollow to floor, with detailed markups of where some of the other measurements fall on that scale. That last one’s not so bad, but it’s a decent amount of revisiting the other numbers, which means he ends up with his hands on Oikawa a little more than he had before. Kuroo does his best to ignore the piercing stare from Iwaizumi as he can feel the heat down his neck and up to his ears.
Pulling his sweatshirt back on, Oikawa grabs a blank measurement sheet from the stack, before switching spots with Iwaizumi.
Kuroo’s...going through it.
two birds and a damn cat
cat: im too gay for this send help
bird1: What? Are you okay?
bird2: ohhh, you’re doing measurements today, aren’t you…
bird2: oof. good luck tetsu, be strong...jump the pretty boys AFTER you get the info you need for your project
cat: STOP BEING AN ENABLER
bird2: absolutely not >:^)
bird1: Anyway, have fun, Tetsurou.
bird1: Let us know when you’re headed home after you three eat. They’re welcome to come too, if they want to join us.
cat: ill let you know
cat: love you both, despite the fact that youre both ASSHOLES
bird1: Don’t be silly. You love us *because* of it.
bird2: >:^) <3
Kuroo snorts, slipping his phone back into his pocket.
“Everything okay?” Oikawa asks from where he’s sitting with the clipboard.
“What? Yeah, just responding to something Daichi and Suga sent me.”
“How are they doing, by the way?” Iwaizumi yanks his own jacket off, and takes Oikawa’s place on the platform.
“Not too bad. School stress is always a bitch, but they’ve got it mostly covered,” Kuroo murmurs, starting the same process with Iwaizumi. He has to bug Oikawa a few times to keep him from staring off into space or doodling instead of actually writing down the measurements he speaks out, but they get through it all the same.
He gets to the more...personal measurements again, and is faced with Iwaizumi’s legs this time. They’re not as long as Oikawa’s but they make Kuroo sweat a little for a completely different set of reasons. Iwaizumi is much more stocky and built than Oikawa, with a more muscular build, and broader...everything. Kuroo is a little excited to see him in those shiny coveralls, if he’s being honest. The contrast’ll be pretty damn good, if things play out the way he’s seeing them in his head.
Kuroo finishes getting the measurements he needs from Iwaizumi, and he takes both sheets with a nod and a quiet ‘thank you.’
Oikawa and Iwaizumi pick a pizza place for dinner, and the whole time, all Kuroo can think of is how it felt to have their eyes on him, watching so intently.
“Thanks again for coming at the same time. I’m a, uh, neurotic designer even on a good day, so I frequently jump between projects to keep myself engaged.” Kuroo plops down on his chair, as Iwaizumi and Oikawa slide into the booth across from him.
“Really, it’s no problem,” Iwaizumi says, before devoting most of his attention to the laminated menu in front of him. “What do you guys want?”
They bicker about it for a little while. Kuroo begs sausage (of course he does, it’s good and the jokes are ever-flowing), and Oikawa vetoes veggies, so Iwaizumi makes an executive decision, and orders a large pie with pepperoni on the whole thing, with green pepper on one half, and sausage on the other. Kuroo is satisfied with this, and he knows Oikawa is too, because Iwaizumi’s probably been ordering food for him since they were old enough to know each other’s likes and dislikes.
Ah, the perks of maintaining a relationship with a childhood friend. Kuroo thinks idly of Kenma, and wonders how he must be doing. His game company had taken a few rough patches early on, but Kuroo doesn't doubt that Kenma won’t let that stop him.
His face must change, because when his attention returns to the present moment, both Oikawa and Iwaizumi are staring at him.
“Hm? What’s up?”
Iwaizumi says nothing, but Oikawa murmurs, “It’s nothing. Ah...did you have any ideas for a second design for us, or were you going to leave it at the two?”
It’s a rather obvious diversion, even if Kuroo’s not quite sure what from, but he lets it happen.
“As you can probably tell, I’m pretty attached to the street-style aesthetic, so I’m probably gonna keep that up. For the second set, though, I was hoping to get your opinions on what you think you should both be in.”
They both think for a second, Iwaizumi with a slight frown, and Oikawa like Kuroo’s just handed him the world, but Iwaizumi’s the first to speak.
“I wanna be in color this time.”
Kuroo nods, huffing a gentle laugh. “That’s fair.”
“I dress in mostly neutral tones most of the time anyway, but this is a new experience, and I want to stretch into new things as much as I can.” He’s fiddling with the silverware wrap that had been given to them with the menus, and Kuroo can’t help but think, Cute.
Oikawa nods, nearly vibrating in his seat. “You made me look real badass, even with all the colors, but I think it’d be fun to have a look kinda similar to what you want on Iwa-chan right now! The dragon was a really nice touch, though—can we keep that?”
Kuroo smiles wide. “I had hoped that would go over well. Plus, it might be fun to add something similar, but opposite, to Iwaizumi’s first look too. A print on the legs of the overalls?” It would be a good touch, though the logistics might be a little tricky.
A small smile softens the little creases around Iwaizumi’s eyes. Poor guy already has worry lines, and it doesn't take a lot of guesses to figure out where from. “I’d like that. Seems very fitting. We could do a bird of some kind?”
Warmth flows through Kuroo. “Love that. I’ll look into it.”
He makes a note on his phone, pulling up a memo.
“I was kinda thinking...instead of drawing opposites as the main inspiration like the first set of outfits did, what if we combined the two? Like, fitting elements of all the foils we established in the first half—and incorporated them all into two distinct, yet similar-feeling looks? Of course, we would still draw a few contrasts, but this half would be about unity more than anything else.”
The little grin on Iwaizumi’s face grows, and Kuroo feels his own face match it. “Two parts of a set, intended to be viewed together...yeah, absolutely. It’d be a fun twist, especially if it’s Oikawa’s turn on the feminine side of things.”
Kuroo nods, and jots more stuff down. It’s not a bad initial idea, even just as is. The way he sees it now, they’ll each have half of a matching set of some kind, maybe a top and bottom, with the other pieces from each of their looks being used to emphasize the similarities between them. Contrasts can come into play with the specifics of the emphasis, like with color and shape and print and whatnot. Maybe if those two matching pieces could be worn by both of them, and part of the lookbook…?
Kuroo’s smile feels conniving and sharp. Everything’s already going well, and the pizza’s not even here yet.
Oikawa and Iwaizumi turn down his offer to come over after, citing homework and essays already procrastinated on for far too long to avoid any further, but Kuroo doesn’t mind. He jaunts home with a song in his head, humming idly as he hangs his keys by the door, and tosses his light jacket on the coat tree.
“Have fun?” Suga asks from where he’s camped out on the kitchen table, surrounded by textbooks and notebooks and sketchbooks. Lots of books.
“Yeah,” Kuroo smiles, pulling up the memo to show him.
Suga’s eyebrows jump, reading carefully. “You asked them for ideas? Are you blocked up? Do you need help?”
“Nah,” he shakes his head, his smile slipping slightly. “Just asked what they’d like to see.”
Suga just stares at him for a moment. “...You know what this means, right?”
Kuroo has been trying to ignore it all night, the way his feelings were blooming warm, slow, deliberate, with very little of the quick and hot passion they had been tinged with in the early years.
“That it’s probably not just a crush anymore?” He sighs, like it’s only a matter of time before the weight of the world rests on his shoulders. “...That I’ve probably been in love with them for a long time?”
Suga nods, and Kuroo doesn’t say anything, just goes upstairs quietly to be alone for a little while.
Suga comes up later, wordless and a little pitying, and holds him until they both wake up to Daichi sliding into bed next to them a few hours later.
Daichi doesn’t ask the next morning, just makes French toast and bacon like he always does when Kuroo’s had a rough night. He probably probed Suga for answers earlier, but that’s okay; the gesture of comfort and support means more than Kuroo could explain anyway.
He doesn't have anything scheduled, being lucky enough to dodge Saturday classes, and ends up back at his studio space that afternoon. Daichi and Suga are in their own space just down the hall, which is its own comfort, but Asahi had specifically mentioned joining them, so Kuroo ends up feeling more alone than usual. He knows it’s not Asahi’s intent, but Kuroo naturally spends more time with Daichi and Suga than Asahi usually does—re: being roommates—so wants to be sure to give them time alone together, with just the three of them, despite their periodic invitations to have him join if he’s free.
So here he is, ignoring the blank sheet staring up at him on his drafting table, and scrolling through Tik Tok.
It’s a mindless sort of entertainment, until something strikes him. A new transition trend is going around, and he thinks about the kinds of poses that would show off the clothes he’s going to have Oikawa and Iwaizumi in. Does he want a few frames of them together? Solo shots, definitely, but he thinks having them together would be a nice way to define the contrasts, as well as the similarities between them, especially for the second set.
Before he knows it, his phone is on the desk nearby, and his pencil is skittering across the paper.
There’s not much to look at, as is, just a skirt on one sheet, and a cropped jacket on the other. They’re okay so far, but nowhere near the level he’s hoping for. He has plenty of time to put them together just how he wants, though. No need to rush, even if design block really puts a bee in his bonnet.
He fishes through the stacks of paper in one of the shelving units, pulling the two measurement sheets. With a yank, a huge sheet of parchment paper is rolled over the drafting table, and Kuroo starts patterning.
It's a few hours later that Kuroo doesn’t even register really, completely tied up in his own work, even as frustrating as it is, when Daichi, Suga, and Asahi all come down the hall to check up on him.
Suga chimes, “Tetsu!” before bouncing over to kiss him on the cheek.
“Ah, Kuroo,” Asahi murmurs, timid as always. “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing it,” Kuroo says, and Daichi frowns, catching Kuroo’s non-answer.
“And are you doing alright?” he asks, slightly pointedly.
“I’m doing it, Daichi.” Shit, why does he get snippy when he’s blocked? This sucks.
Daichi sighs, giving Kuroo a look, but continues on. He probably knows that’s all he’s getting for now. “Okay, I suppose. How are things going over here?”
Kuroo shrugs, trying not to act as sullen as he feels. “Little bit of design block, but not a full wall of it. Had to break the door down, if we’re talking metaphorically, but I’m getting through it.”
Suga nods brightly. “You’re doing great! If you need a break though, we’re probably gonna head out and get dinner—wanna come with?”
He considers it for a moment, but pauses. Intruding on date night is the last thing he wants to do right now, especially considering he isn’t in...the best of moods, so he shakes his head. “Nah, I’m gonna stick around and work some more, see if I can get some of this stuff to actually do what I want. I’ll text when I’m on my way home.”
Now Suga has a considering look too, like he’s just onto Kuroo’s antics as Daichi is. He’s quiet though, except for a little hum.
“If you’re sure,” Asahi says, and the fact that they can’t lie for shit helps assuage Kuroo’s anxiety about joining the three of them a little; it would show on their face if they really wanted more alone time with Daichi and Suga, but all that’s there is open acceptance. “We’re gonna probably take our time at that pizza place over off 4th if you want to join us later.”
Damn, pizza does sound kind of good, but getting shit started and staying out of the way is more important right now. “Really, I’m good for now. I’ll let you know if I change my mind, though.”
Asahi nods, smiling as gently as always. The trio leaves quietly, with Daichi and Suga each kissing one of his cheeks, and Asahi waving a silent farewell.
Kuroo returns to his drafting board feeling lighter than before, and keeps at his work for another hour, before his contacts dry out enough to cause serious discomfort. He gets a decent amount done though, with plenty of progress on the patterning for the major pieces, and he’s satisfied enough with his own productivity to call it a night. Actual mockups’ll be a tomorrow-thing, but Kuroo’s okay with it.
He walks home quickly, head low as he shoots off a quick ‘headed home’ text to the group chat, and it’s mostly an uneventful trip, except he can’t get the second set of designs out of his head. They’re bugging him a lot, but he’s just blocked enough that any tangent he tries to follow dead-ends before it can get anywhere.
The empty spaces in between follow him to bed, floating just out of reach, and continue to evade him through his dreams. What the hell is he missing?
Kuroo ends up dropping by their apartment a few days later with the designs that he’s managed to cobble together. He’s hit even more of a wall by now, and there’s still so much blank space on the two pages, especially compared to the first coordinates.
There aren’t many more details than before, just a few more notes about construction and possible color schemes with each of their names at the top. It’s a little sad, to see how little progress he’s made. Here’s to hoping some exposure to his original muses will help iron things out, Kuroo supposes.
Iwaizumi’s the one who lets him in, in a gray henley and black sweatpants that make Kuroo swallow hard. Oikawa comes in a few minutes later, hair wet, following Iwaizumi’s call. They make quite a pair like this, and Kuroo feels his heart beating way faster than necessary.
Both sets of eyes are on him, earnest and open, and it’s a bit much for a moment. Kuroo pulls out the designs, fingering the dog-eared corners of the sheets nervously.
“I figured, if I’m a little stuck thinking it through on my own, then as the ones who inspired the actual base designs, then you might have some...stuff you want done, or something,” he finishes, voice stilted slightly.
Oikawa takes the two papers, and his eyes brighten slightly. “You’re thinking of putting me in a skirt?”
“Yeah, is that...okay?”
His beaming smile says plenty, but the affirmation is good to hear anyway. “Yeah!! I’m going for an androgynous type of modelling anyway, so having fluid designs is really great, I think.”
Iwaizumi is grinning too, but a little softer. He checks his own design sheet, and thinks carefully before giving his own input. “If we’re making color a big part of my second outfit, then I might have something that’ll work. Of course, you’ve got veto power, but—”
Oikawa gasps, eyes as wide as his smile as he catches on. “The shoes, right? Yeah, holy shit! Go get ‘em Iwa-chan!”
Kuroo looks on in slight confusion, but can’t fault them for anything right now. He came here for inspiration, after all, and if Iwaizumi is handing it to him on a silver platter, then who is Kuroo to deny it?
“Shoes?” is all he gets out, before Iwaizumi stands.
“I’ll be right back.” There’s more confusion, with Iwa’s lack of a direct response, but Kuroo doesn’t stop him.
He’s back only a few moments later, with a brightly tie-dyed pair of canvas combat boots, with white soles and laces that manage to keep them light and playful. “They were a gift from a cousin a few years ago; I haven’t really had the chance to wear them, ‘cuz I don’t have much colorful clothing, but—
“—They’re perfect,” Kuroo blurts, and the rest of the outfit comes together, clearing out the foggy parts of his mind like a wind turbine on a foggy day.
The jacket, cropped at the waist in transparent vinyl separated into clean color-blocked pieces, is lined in a colorful ombre organza, and has the black silhouette of a bird in vertical flight printed on the back. Its feathers trail down the arms of the jacket, and the gentle shifts in color almost look like clouds that the bird has breezed past in its journey. Iwaizumi’s boots are there too, of course, being the missing piece that slots everything else into place, and they’re bright with their matching colors drawing the eye down to the rest of the coordinate. Another white tank top is under, form-fitting but comfortable, and it emphasizes the curve of iwaizumi’s waist quite nicely.
Except for the shoes, the bottom half of the coordinate is a little fuzzy, but Kuroo powers through as best he can. Maybe if he drew from old inspiration…?
The zipper jeans, he thinks all at once.
They’re much like they had been in the original plan, black skinnies with a lot of extra seams to allow for the insertion of several different zippers, some leading to pockets, some opening to reveal skin underneath, but ultimately, all functional. Unlike the original design, though, one leg has been bleached and tie-dyed a rainbow of colors, and the whole piece is re-splattered with some white and black fabric paint in a sharp contrast. They're tight in the thighs, and cuffed twice, running just a little long—like he's not the one they're intended for.
Overall, it’s a lot, and Kuroo knows it, but he describes what he’s thinking anyway, in excited bursting words that ebb and flow as they fit together in his mind.
Iwaizumi’s mouth has dropped open, fingers pressed to his lips in awe. Oikawa’s eyes are wide, and they’re both silent.
Kuroo’s gut churns, flipping once, twice. “Ah, sorry, if it’s too much, I can—”
“Don’t even think about it.”
The intensity in Iwaizumi’s tone is shocking, and Kuroo startles. “Wh—”
“That’s exactly what it needs,” he says, tone still unnervingly sharp, and his eyes hard. “If you really think it needs a few changes, fine, but don’t you dare change it because you’re worried that I think it’s ‘too much.’ It’s amazing, you’re amazing, you’re gonna make me look amazing, shut up.”
Oikawa’s expression shares the same depth and seriousness. “I couldn’t have said it better myself. Please put Iwa-chan in rainbow colors.”
Kuroo nods, dumbfounded. He bites a lip, and scribbles a sketch of the look before the images can leave his head.
Oikawa hums contentedly, nodding when Kuroo looks up finally. “Now me,” he says matter-of-factly, and Kuroo flips to the next design sheet.
It's another disjointed plan, with only the skirt—a black pleated number with a line of rainbow ribbon attached a few inches from the hem—and the heeled boots that started it all.
“Ah,” Oikawa says, frowning. “I think…”
“What?” Kuroo’s in suspense, and he definitely does not like it here.
“It’s just—I might have something that would go okay too, actually.”
Kuroo wordlessly waves his hands in a ‘go, go, go’ sort of motion, and Oikawa is darting away before he can draw a full breath. In his hands when he returns, is a black satin bomber jacket, with silver open heart-shaped embroidery on the sleeves. The back is blank but—
“Oh shit,” Kuroo blurts, and he’s asking before he can register what he’s saying. “Can I—can I put a dragon on the back? Keep with the motif?”
Oikawa startles a little, but then smiles, wide, genuine, a little lopsided, and nods. “I never really wore it before. It always felt like it was missing something.”
The outfit comes rushing back, and the shoes and skirt are accompanied by the jacket now, with the dragon reared back in aggression; it’s tail curls down one arm, and flames caress the other, the bright contrast of the embroidery against the black shining dangerously, almost like real flames. Under the jacket is a button-up shirt, tied at the waist, and it’s dyed similarly to the pants Iwaizumi’s in—half black, half rainbow tie-dyed, and splattered with white and black paint like before, but the halves are switched. They’re the matching pair Kuroo was looking for in the second outfit, exactly what he was hoping for. There’s a plain black crop-top, and fishnet thigh-highs, black industrial netting with rainbow holographic fibers woven in throughout. The tights are held aloft with a garterbelt, half patent black, half shimmering holographic.
Oikawa’s eyes are shining in the gentlest way as Kuroo finishes his spiel, and it’s not a look that Kuroo thinks he’s seen directed at anyone other than Iwaizumi; when it’s facing him, the effect is instantaneous and jarring. Kuroo’s heart squeezes twice, and it’s almost too much for just a moment, but he keeps it together long enough to let his pen fly, writing down everything he can, as fast as he can.
“Okay,” he says, barely above a whisper, when all’s said and done, “now that’s a hell of a second set.”
Soon, Kuroo’s in his design space almost as much as he’s at his apartment. It’s a constant flurry of activity in both places at once—draping and patterning, ordering swatches of fabric in the arts college, and borrowing extra supplies, researching photoshoots, and consulting his boyfriends for construction advice at home.
Daichi and Suga smile at him knowingly sometimes, like the reason for his obsession is obvious, which it is, thanks, he knows, now shut up, but whatever. He loves them anyway.
It’s the first day of actual sewing now, because Kuroo’s fabric order had the nerve to be almost a full week late in shipping times, and he’s ready to see if his mockups and draped patterns will fit the way he hopes they will. He has faith, but it’s still a risk—some of this will take a lot of extra work and rework to have to recut, and it’s not something Kuroo especially likes to do on the fly.
project runway season 28 aka MAKE US PRETTY TETSU
tetsu: hey you guys down for fittings today ??
iwaiwachan: yeah, Tooru’s in class right now, but he should be out in a couple hours
iwaiwachan: around 6 i think, that cool?
tetsu: yeah absolutely my dude
tetsu: ill be at the studio all day anyway, just come by when you’re both free
iwaiwachan: sounds good
Kuroo smiles down at his phone again, and looks up to see Daichi still eyeballing him.
“Really, you should just tell them,” his boyfriend says, like he knows what the answer’ll be anyway.
“Nope, but good try.” Kuroo’s smile shifts from warm to sharp, and he grabs his messenger bag of supplies, and heads for the door.
Surprisingly enough, Iwaizumi doesn’t end up waiting for Oikawa to get out of class.
He knocks, and Kuroo about jumps out of his skin. “What?!”
“Hey,” he says, looking a little sheepish. “I wasn’t doing anything, so I came early. Is that okay?”
Oh shit. He’s cute, Kuroo kinda can’t handle it without copious amounts of mental preparation. “Oh! Yeah, no, you’re totally good, I just, um—ah. Sorry, I was distracted.”
Iwaizumi looks concerned, and Kuroo knows he’s blushing. “Do you want me to come back later? If you need space that’s—”
“No!” Kuroo blurts. “No. That’s, uh. It’s totally fine, feel free to stick around. I don’t know how interesting I’ll be, I get kinda invested in my work, but if you want to stay, then that’s cool.”
Iwaizumi shakes his head, and the soft way he smiles shoots through Kuroo like a drug. A smile like that sits so well on Iwaizumi’s face; he wants to look at it forever. “Don’t worry about it. I like watching you work, and I’ll stay out of your way. If you want, you can talk me through stuff too, if that helps.”
Christ, and Kuroo thought he couldn’t get any more attractive. He’s so, so screwed it’s not even funny.
He’s still a little off-balance, but there’s a determination underneath it all, a current of groundwater, clear and sharp through the bedrock.
Kuroo starts talking, and soon enough, all the nervousness is gone, and his concentration is unparalleled.
It’s another hour or two, because cutting out pattern pieces is hell, no matter the project, but he gets the bare bones of the coveralls put together, and has Iwaizumi slip into them, stepping out for a moment to give him privacy.
As soon as the door closes behind Kuroo, Oikawa turns the corner. “Oh, Tetsu-chan! Is Iwa-chan here? He said he came early.”
Kuroo nods. “Yeah, he’s inside. I got far enough on the bottoms to get to an actual fit-test. They were more tedious than I thought, though…”
“Don’t sweat it! You’re doing great.” Oikawa raises his arms, grinning into a cheer. “I believe in you! You can do it!”
Kuroo blushes, and static fills his brain. Holy shit, this nerd. Who gave him the goddamn right?
The universe comes to his aid, though, and Iwaizumi opens the door.
“Okay, let’s take a look.” Kuroo gestures for Iwaizumi to get on the small tailoring platform, not quite looking.
Everything screeches to a halt in his brain when he sees Iwaizumi’s ass in those pants though.
I did that, he can’t help but think, My clothes are making him look like that.
Kuroo’s breath catches in his throat. He can’t say anything. The silence around them tells him that Oikawa can’t either.
“Is it…no good?” Iwaizumi says, and he’s cut off immediately by both Oikawa and Kuroo himself.
“No way, it’s—”
“No, Iwa-chan you—”
Kuroo and Oikawa lock eyes. Something changes in Oikawa’s expression, like a subconscious head-tilt, or an assessing narrow to his eyes, but Kuroo can’t quite tell. He barrels on.
“Definitely not. It suits you really well. It’s...exactly what I was imagining.”
Iwaizumi nods, glancing at them both. “...Okay. As long as you think it’ll work for what you want.”
“Yeah, it’ll—yeah. It’s great.” Shit. Is he onto Kuroo? Is he being too overt with his feelings?
Now is not the time for this, he tells himself. Get your ass in gear, Tetsurou.
It’s enough to stave off the worry, at least in the short term, and Kuroo gets through the fitting with no problems. Oikawa sits where Iwaizumi was, and whenever Kuroo looks over, he sees Oikawa’s eyes move, like he had been looking somewhere else. It’s a curious thing, but Kuroo has shit to do, so he elects to ignore it.
When Kuroo’s done, he and Oikawa banish themselves again so Iwaizumi can change back.
“Damn,” Kuroo says, because he refuses to admit the weighty silence between them scares him, “I think I did pretty good. You guys are gonna look great.”
Oikawa laughs hollowly, and fuck, Kuroo doensn’t like the sound of that. “Yeah, I think so too. My...my portfolio’s gonna be pretty good after this.”
Kuroo nods. “I hope so. You gonna start applying at firms and stuff after graduation?”
“I think so. Obviously, it depends on how I do at the actual shoot and showcase, and stuff, but—I think it’d be something good to work towards.”
Kuroo nods again, slower. It helps to remember that this isn’t just about him. Another reason to keep himself under control. “I think so too.”
They’re lucky, because Iwaizumi finishes changing right when they’ve both been quiet for just a little too long. Oikawa plops down onto one of the beanbags with his phone, and Iwaizumi takes the chair in the corner back, while Kuroo resets his space. He’s gonna work on Oikawa’s pants next, probably, because getting pants to fit right is always the worst, but judging on how late Iwaizumi’s coveralls ran, it’ll probably take a while.
He mentions as such, but Oikawa and Iwaizumi just shrug.
“No big deal,” Iwaizumi says, “I don’t have anything going on until tomorrow evening.”
Oikawa laughs. “I do, but I don’t give a shit.”
“What a responsible student,” Kuroo teases, and Oikawa shoves him, laughing harder.
“Shut up, stupid, I’d just rather be here, with you.”
That’s enough for Kuroo’s breath to catch in his throat in a very real way, and he starts coughing.
Well, that’s one way to cover a blush. He laughs out of it, excusing himself. “How sweet,” he murmurs, and he means it as a joke, but it definitely doesn’t sound like one. Fuckin’ shit.
Keeping his head in the game is proving a lot harder than Kuroo anticipated.
By the time Kuroo finishes Oikawa’s fit test, it’s coming up on midnight, and they part ways, with Kuroo stumbling home sleepily, a little peopled-out by having to shove down his feelings in front of his two crushes quite literally all day.
Suga has an early class, and is probably in bed, but Daichi is up making tea, and Kuroo kisses his cheek when he comes in.
“Studio day?” he asks, taking Kuroo’s hand softly.
“Yeah,” he says, blinking sleepily. “It was fine. Got some of the initial fittings out of the way.”
Daichi can read him like a book, though, and he waits for Kuroo to finish.
“...I don’t know if I can do it,” he says, when the quiet outside matches the silent roar inside him.
“Do what?” Dai murmurs so soothingly, stroking the back of Kuroo’s hand, and it’s support he so desperately needs right now that he could probably cry if he thinks about it too hard.
“I don’t know if I can get through this project without screwing everything up, for them and me. I almost blew my cover so many times tonight, and—it’s getting harder to distance myself.”
Daichi turns off the stove, kettle abandoned despite being near a boil, and leads them over to the couch.
“...I can’t tell you what to do,” he starts, soft and conciliatory. “You know how I feel about the whole thing, but my feelings don’t matter right now, okay? I just want to help you feel better any way I can.”
Kuroo nods. “I just...I like them so much.”
Daichi pulls him closer, humming softly, and as the late hour gets to him, Kuroo lets his boyfriend pet his hair, and kiss his forehead, and hold him through his tears. When they finally subside, Daichi puts on extra water, and sends them both to bed after a cup of Sleepytime, and it’s enough. He’s thankful for the way Suga pulls him closer in his sleep; it reminds him that, even if nothing works out, he has people who love him.
He feels Daichi pet his hair, soft and slow, as the exhaustion takes him gently away from his wakeful worries.
The weeks continue like this, and Kuroo revels in Iwaizumi’s and Oikawa’s presence as much as he suffers in it. More fit tests and construction days and Sunday brunches swing by, and the outfits come together bit by bit until they’re starting to look like actual cohesive units, and not just mismatched pieces of ‘what the hell is that’.
Oikawa and Iwaizumi are there for so much more than just the fittings, though. They aren’t unwelcome by any stretch, but that doesn’t make it easier, and falling has never been so easy. They both look so good in Kuroo’s clothes, and they’re all closer than ever, and it would be so simple to just—tell them, show them, something, but—
Every time, he stops himself. Every time, he can’t.
There’s a few moments that stand out from the rest. The first is the final fitting before their shoot, when all the pieces are finally done, and Kuroo gets to see all four looks in their entirety for the first time. It’s hard to say anything at all, when they’re so damn breathtaking like that. Really, the only thing any of them has said has been profanity, and one notable outburst from Oikawa of, “Holy shit, I have an ass.” Iwaizumi’s laughter had echoed clear down the hallway, and Daichi and Suga stopped by to see what was up.
Kuroo really hopes the other two missed the knowing, pitying look his boyfriends give him.
The shoot is in two days, and Kuroo’s hands have never been more restless.
The second is during the shoot itself, when Oikawa and Iwaizumi had been leaning against a prop fence in the studio, looking at each other just so, and Kuroo had to physically hold his own mouth shut to keep the emotions inside him. It’s the second set, the opposite pair, and they look so good together it nearly kills him. The photography student’s camera flashes, and Kuroo glances at the frame as it comes up on his screen.
They...fuck. They look like they’re in love, at least a little bit.
His hands shake when he agrees to dinner after, but he barely eats.
Even when he’s home, quiet and safe with tea in hand, he can’t get their expressions out of his head.
The last is another brunch date, when their usual server is absent, and the brightly bubbling middle-aged woman who takes their drink orders asks if they’re on a date.
“Wh—ah, no, no, just friends,” Kuroo chokes out, forcing a laugh, and Iwaizumi and Oikawa chuckle too.
“Well, honey, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but,” she practically sings, full of enough charm to decapitate a lesser set of men, “I’d do my best to snap those two up if I were you. I’ve seen you three around here before, and I know a good match when I see one.”
She breezes away with their drink orders, and Oikawa coughs lightly as he leans towards Kuroo. “Well, honey,” he mutters, the smile on his face missing smug and landing firmly in genuity, “you heard her.”
“You’re awful, shut up,” Iwaizumi grumbles, rolling his eyes. “What looks good?”
As the rest of the morning carries on, Kuroo can barely keep his mind on the conversations around him. The only think he can think is, how did she know? How did this woman, who knows nothing of him or them or their situation, put two and two together within moments of seeing them together? Is Kuroo that obvious?
And if he is, what do Iwaizumi and Oikawa think? What do they know?
(It’s the first pindrop, a break in the silence, a pebble on the scale. Inconsequential at first glance, but something that changes everything in the end.)
Two weeks before the runway event is when it happens the first time. Iwaizumi’s out for the night, studying at the library, and Kuroo’s at their apartment with Oikawa for movie night. Oikawa is nervous, though, which is confusing until the second he opens his mouth, and, no wait, Kuroo knows where this is going.
His heart sinks.
“Tetsu—listen,” Oikawa starts, words stilted and abortive. He pauses to collect himself, though, and then the words flow out of him like a waterfall. “I’ve been thinking about it the past few weeks, as we’ve all been working together and stuff, and I think—I think I have a crush on Iwa-chan.”
Kuroo’s stomach squeezes. It’s not pleasant; he feels vaguely nauseous. He pauses the movie they’re watching, and turns to watch Oikawa carefully. “How do you mean, ‘you think’?”
“Like, I’ve—” Another false start, one that makes Kuroo’s heart skip a beat in sympathy. “Like, I don’t feel any different about him, so it’s hard to be sure, but—it just feels like...more. I’m friends with Suga-chan and Dai-chan, but that feels different than how I feel about Iwa-chan.”
“You have been friends with Iwaizumi forever,” Kuroo nods, trying to keep his face blank but serious. He can’t let anything show through. His heart cannot be on his sleeve right now.
“That’s what’s throwing me off,” Oikawa says, biting at his lip. “We’ve been friends so long that I thought we’d never be anything else. I never considered that...maybe my feelings were more intense than that.”
Kuroo can feel his pulse in his ears. He knows it’s not making a sound, but he almost presses a hand to his chest to stifle it anyway.
“What’s that look for?” Oikawa blurts, and panic races through Kuroo. Shit, what’s his face doing right now? What walls does he need to put up? Which facade does he need?
Kuroo laughs hollowly. “Just that you’re only now realising all this.”
The taunt, even in his current monotone, serves its intended purpose. “Wh—you knew?”
“You’re not exactly subtle, whether you realise why you’re acting a specific way or not, and I hung out with Kenma in high school. Learn to read him, and everybody else is an open book. Plus—childhood friends, still joined at the hip after more than two decades? That’s some storybook shit right there. Not a hard jump to make, even if it’s wishful thinking.”
Oikawa’s eyes narrow, and Kuroo only realises his words as Oikawa repeats them. “‘Wishful thinking?’”
Shit. Shit. Divert immediately. “Yeah, you two would be...pretty good together. Hell, people already think you’re dating, as is.”
“...Tetsu, people think we’re a triad all the time.”
Dammit. “You gotta admit, you’re quite the dynamic duo, though. Like I said, storybook shit.”
“...I guess,” Oikawa murmurs. “What do I do about it though?”
“Well,” he says, and reminds himself to breathe. “What do you want to do?”
Oikawa looks conflicted, which, wow, mood. “I don’t—want to screw things up.”
Kuroo nods slowly. “I know the feeling.” He does. He really, really does.
Despite the claim he just made, Kuroo can’t read Oikawa properly after that, for the first time in a long time. He doesn’t seem to be too suspicious of the slip-up, which is good, but Kuroo won’t delude himself into thinking he’s in the clear, so he diverts again, and grabs the remote off the coffee table again.
“So now that you’ve come to terms with your feelings, can we go back to the Star War?”
Oikawa snorts. “If you insist.”
“You bastard, you’re the one who picked it!” Kuroo says, mock-enraged. To himself, he mutters, “You can’t just not finish a Star War.”
“You’re so dumb,” Oikawa says, and their equilibrium is restored, as much as it can be. Kuroo’s heart doesn’t quiet the rest of the night, even after Oikawa falls asleep on his own shitty couch, and Kuroo lets himself out.
He can’t help but touch Oikawa’s hair before he leaves, petting through the curls as fine as cornsilk and softer than the clouds his head resides in. The warmth in his chest returns, little by little, and even if they decide they don’t want him, maybe they'll be okay. Maybe they can all be close friends again, despite the feelings they probably don’t have for him.
Even as he thinks it, he’s reminded of the look on Oikawa’s face when he had said ‘wishful thinking.’
Then, a week later, nearly to the day, Iwaizumi comes knocking, and Kuroo is reminded that bad things, as well as good ones, always come in pairs.
“I like Oikawa,” he says, dripping from the pouring rain that’s coming down just outside the line of the awning that hangs over the front door.
“Fucking shit,” Kuroo says, both to Iwaizumi, and to no one at all.
“Nothing. Come in.” He turns, opening the door further, and breathes as best he can. Daichi and Suga are out with Asahi tonight, so this is for the best. “Do you want anything to drink? I was about to put on coffee.”
“Coffee’d be great. Thank you.”
The conversation goes much like it had with Oikawa. Iwaiuzmi also cites long-term feelings for Oikawa that he had never properly deciphered before, but, in true Iwaizumi fashion, the words are fewer and more to the point. They’re quite the pair, Kuroo thinks privately, both with their feelings, and their choice of first confession.
Kuroo brings them both steaming mugs, and they both drink it straight, despite Kuroo’s usual leanings towards cream and sugar. The bitterness gives him a reason to mask his expression, and shock him out of the spiral of overthinking that Suga and Daichi frequently reference.
(What did he do to deserve this? Now both of his current romantic interests have come to him about their feelings for one another. It’s so close to what he wants, that it’s hard for him to keep his head on straight about it.)
He must be thinking too loud for a moment too long, because he looks up and realises Iwaizumi isn’t talking anymore.
“You good…?” Iwaizumi says, like Kuroo’s growing a second head.
“Hm? Yeah, just thinking,” Kuroo breezes, sweeping hair away from his face. “Sorry, you were saying?”
“Just wondering what you think I should do.”
Kuroo thinks he’s a good person, dammit, does he seriously deserve this. He takes another swallow of coffee. It makes him wince.
“Honestly...y’all’re good together already. As long as you both communicate, it'll work out. Go for it.”
This is both the right and wrong thing to say, apparently. “You’re not worried about him returning my feelings?” Iwaizumi’s just as anxious as Oikawa was. They really do mirror each other.
(Something more bitter than the coffee seeps into his stomach, but Kuroo bats it away with a shovel—the same one he’s using to dig his own grave.)
“Trust me,” Kuroo says, echoing in his mug. “Not an issue.”
Iwaizumi frowns. “What do you know?”
“A gentleman never kisses and tells,” Kuroo smirks, a single eyebrow rising, “but let’s just say I don’t think there’ll be any problems with that.”
Iwaizumi’s frown deepens further, with a tint of suspicion, but Kuroo speaks the truth, whether or not ‘Iwa-chan’ knows it.
“Huh,” Iwaizumi murmurs, staring down into his mug. “I honestly thought you’d try to talk me out of it.”
“Your graduation is riding on this project. If he and I...don’t work out, then that’d put you in a pretty bad spot, right?”
Kuroo considers. He has a point, but given previous evidence, that’s clearly not much of a factor. “It's possible,” he admits, shifting in his chair, “but I trust in your collective ability to be adults about it. Plus, you know I only bet on horses that I’m positive will win.”
Iwaizumi’s head bobs in concession. “Good point.”
Kuroo nods at that, downing the rest of his coffee. That’s another truth—that he only places winning bets. It’s part of the reason why he hasn’t bet on the three of them working out at all; he’s not sure they would, especially after they aren’t pushed together by the showcase. It’s not a stretch of the imagination that their feelings for him would simply be on-set emotions running high.
The rain seems to have died down to a satisfactory level, and Iwaizumi bids him goodnight. Watching him go is harder than Kuroo would have liked, and once Kuroo closes and locks the door, he presses his head into the cool paint-covered metal, and squeezes his eyes shut.
“Fucking shit,” he says again, and a new resolve settles in his gut.
When this is all over, he’s going to tell them. Fuck odds, probability, betting on the winning horse, everything. He’s going to tell them, and either have two awesome new boyfriends, or get over this shit. The sorrow, despair, bitterness—he’s done with it all. It’s hope or nothing from here.
Dread, though...dread he still has room for.
He goes up to his room almost immediately, despite the early hour, and that’s how Suga and Daichi find him later, curled up under his bedcovers.
“Well…” Kuroo starts by way of explanation, “the gay thing definitely isn’t an issue. They have feelings for each other.”
They drop down next to him immediately, holding him tight as the tears start up again, but the hurt he feels is easier to handle when he’s got two people he loves next to him.
The showcase is in four days. Everything is done, final details are cemented, and Kuroo’s ready for it to be over.
Four days, and he can tell them, and move on. It’ll hurt for a little while, maybe a long while, but then he can move on, and everything’ll turn out okay.
Daichi and Suga sit down with him the following afternoon, and their expressions are grim enough that it feels like an intervention.
“Daichi and I have been talking about it, and we’re worried about you,” Suga starts, taking his hand, and Kuroo feels his stomach sink. That’s definitely what this is, then.
“Worried about what, specifically?” Kuroo asks, because he wants to be sure before he jumps to conclusions and digs himself into an unnecessary hole.
Suga sighs, like he knows exactly what game Kuroo’s playing. He probably does, but that’s not going to stop Kuroo from playing it. “Tetsurou, you’re not really sleeping until you’re exhausted, your eating habits are all over the place...we’re just worried.”
“We can tell you’re hurting a lot,” Daichi says, steady and sure, like he always is. “It seems as though you’ve already resigned yourself to heartbreak even before you’ve told them how you feel.”
“Like I said last night,” Kuroo says, voice feeling croaky and robotic as it leaves his throat, “the chances that they’re both polyam, and that they both want to date me are slim enough. If I get my hopes up only to be let down, it’ll just hurt more.”
“Preparing for a worst-case scenario is fine. A good thing to do, even,” Suga murmurs, tone quiet, but cut with a layer of emphasis that sits hard in Kuroo’s throat. “I’m worried because you seem to have convinced yourself that it’s the only possible outcome.”
“Statistically, it’s very likely.” Kuroo tries to keep his tone even. They’re not attacking him; they’re only trying to talk, to remind him of things that are important.
Daichi steps in then. “Not impossible, though. It’s not over yet, no matter how hopeless things can feel, okay? And we’re here for you, now matter what. Please, just keep those things in mind for us.”
Kuroo nods, breathing a little easier for the first time in weeks. “Yeah. Okay.”
“Thank you,” Daichi murmurs, and kisses him quickly on the cheek. Kuroo smiles, just a little. He’s already exhausted, and has barely been out of bed long enough to have coffee. Maybe the lack of sleep Suga cited really is catching up to him.
Suga squeezes Kuroo’s fingers, and Kuroo squeezes back. Suga smiles, a touch of scheme around the edges. “You should take a day, and get some rest.”
“And skip class?” Kuroo half-protests, teasing.
“If that’s what it takes,” he says, prim and proper exterior hiding his devilish side far too well. Kuroo falls in love all over again.
Kuroo chuckles, and presses his face into Suga’s neck. “I can be persuaded.”
Daichi laughs. “Oh, like you weren’t sold at the first implication of staying home.”
Suga pulls all three of them back upstairs, and Kuroo’s asleep sooner than he’s willing to admit. When he wakes again, hours later, he feels rested, and like maybe—just maybe—the world is a little brighter than it was before.
Kuroo’s keeping Daichi and Suga’s points at the forefront of his mind as much as he can, finding the positives, even when they make him ache a little. His worldview hasn’t completely changed—he still thinks it’s a hell of a long shot that he could actually end up with Iwaizumi and Oikawa, but it’s easier to think of what they might be like after, when—if—they decide they just want to be friends.
With him, at least. After the last couple weeks, he’s decently sure they should at least be together as a couple.
Finally, after the weeks of prep and submissions and tedious bits of whatever, it’s the dress rehearsal for the show. Less than twelve hours before Kuroo’s grades will be determined, and only another week before he can see if he graduates.
He’s been telling himself this whole time, it’s not as big of a deal as he’s making it out to be. Even if the actual show portion doesn’t go great, he’s been on top of the periodic check-ins from his professor, and she seems decently impressed with his work up to this point. Unless all his work goes up in literal flames, it’s very unlikely that he’s going to bomb this class, which means he’ll most likely graduate without issue in two weeks.
It’s still a non-zero chance, though, and that’s enough to inspire anxiety. Knock on wood, turn around three times, throw salt over your shoulder, writing ‘person’ on his palm—hell, Kuroo is willing to do whatever he needs to in order to keep the bad luck away.
He’s just happy Daichi and Suga are here with him.
“It’ll be fine, Tetsu, really,” Daichi says, soothing, but clearly nervous himself.
Suga has a more direct approach. “And if it’s not, we can always fight the organisers.”
“Pretty sure that would just get us arrested, babe,” Kuroo mutters, half-hearted glare shot his boyfriend’s way.
Suga just shrugs. “Hey, it’s just an idea.”
“An extreme. I think, first, we should cause a distraction long enough to get away if things really do start to go badly.” Kuroo honestly can’t tell if Daichi is teasing, or if he’s really on board with another one of Suga’s schemes. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all.
He really does feel better, though, and he lets his glare soften into something more grateful.
Iwaizumi and Oikawa are walking one after the other for each of their sets, as is customary for the university students who have submissions in this portion.
The first time they practice the walk, they’re in plainclothes, but it’s clear they both have a place up on the stage. Oikawa is definitely the more obvious of the two, gliding down the runway, and commanding effortless attention with a sly smirk; he has a way of shifting his weight between steps that draws the eye up and down his long form. Iwaizumi isn’t one to be disregarded, though—his sure, powerful steps are filled with a quiet confidence that doesn’t quite show on his face yet, but that’s the sort of thing that’ll come with repetition.
The second walk is better for both of them, when they would be in the second set for the actual show. Oikawa is slightly more grounded, less ego, more aloof indifference, and Iwaizumi is already improving a lot, settling wholeheartedly into the surety that shows in his stride, and it seeps into his posture and expression. They’re both taking this whole thing so seriously too, and it’s—it’s so much, in the best of ways.
Jesus H. Christ, they’re hot, and Kuroo honestly can’t handle it, not even a little. He blindly grabs for his boyfriends’ hands, and they squeeze him back with a laugh. Fuckers have designed for the showcase a few times before, and Asahi is usually their model, so it’s less groundbreaking for them to see their other partner like that.
How soon they forget their roots.
Iwaizumi and Oikawa are whisked away to makeup, and then the nerves really start to settle in. Before he can really work himself into a panic, though, Daichi and Suga distract him with tacos from a street vendor. He eats well enough to get rid of some of the apprehension in his boyfriends' expressions, despite the underlying nausea he can’t seem to shake, and then they all head backstage together to help set up.
Their hair and makeup are done already, and it’s like the technicians have pulled inspiration straight from Kuroo’s own mind. Iwaizumi’s look is dark, a little moody around the edges, but not overdone, and Oikawa’s is bright and playful with a certain simplicity and minimalism that lets his own natural beauty shine through. They cut quite the presence, quite the pair, quite the everything, and Kuroo quite possibly hasn’t breathed in nearly a minute.
They’re smiling at him, one part unsure, one part smug, and their carefully-lined eyes seem to sparkle in the low lighting.
“How do we look?” Oikawa simpers, hands under his chin, batting his eyelashes aggressively.
Iwaizumi is clearly satisfied with the results as well, and nods with a sharp smile. “Hope we can do your work justice.”
“You will,” Kuroo says, in a breath that feels punched out of him.
They both laugh, and Kuroo goes with them to one of the dressing stations.
Honestly, taken together, the two initial coordinates have turned out even better than Kuroo could have asked. The shine of Iwaizumi’s coveralls is showing well under the stage lights filtering in from the main room, and the matte black of the painted bird at the bottom of the right leg stands out so well; Oikawa’s pants are contrasting with the chaos of the overcoat and shoes, exactly how he had hoped. They both look ready for the streets of Tokyo, and are every bit the models he knew they could be.
Kuroo has to remind himself to talk business, instead of just staring at them. “...Okay, so. I’ll be down in the audience for the first half, then I’ll meet you back for intermission and reset.”
They nod, and their eyes are on him in a way he can’t quite decipher. A few seconds of silence bounce between them, until Kuroo can’t take it anymore.
“Thank you,” he says, trying not to get choked up about it. They’re beautiful in the pieces he’s made for them, and he’s theirs as much as they’re his right now. They’ve got him by the heartstrings, whether they know it or not, and Kuroo has to swallow hard to keep his eyes clear. “You guys look amazing.”
They shine like the sun for a moment, Oikawa bright, Iwaizumi warm. “Of course. It’s for you, after all,” Iwaizumi says, and shit, things are gonna get bad fast if Kuroo doesn’t escape immediately.
“And for me,” Oikawa cuts in, lightening the mood just enough.
Kuroo laughs, bobbing his head, and turns with a wave. “See you at intermission.”
They return the gesture, and Kuroo meets Suga and Daichi down by their seats in the student section.
“How’d it go?” Suga asks, looking up at him carefully.
“They’re amazing,” Kuroo says, and he can hear the dreamy quality of his own voice.
“I’m sure,” Suga snickers, and Daichi nudges him lightly in admonition.
“Don’t boo me, I’m right,” Suga huffs, and Kuroo rolls his eyes, and sits next to them.
Most of the first half of the show is a blur, really, because Kuroo is panicking just a little, and his b—Oikawa and Iwaizumi are scheduled to be in the last few to walk before intermission, so he’s kept in suspense. Again, not a fun place to be, especially when stuff like your ability to graduate is resting on this particular waiting game.
Asahi kills it, just like Kuroo knew they would, and Daichi and Suga’s first design looks great too—they’re in a suit, dark and imposing with an embellished tailcoat and half-cape that emulate a peacock’s tail feathers along the hem, dancing up around the collar of the jacket and cape, each held closed with golden fastenings. They’ve got a masquerade-style mask with the same treatment, and it makes their brown eyes glow near-menacingly in the bright stage lighting, especially with the dark blues in their makeup underneath the covering. They look gorgeous, and Kuroo carries a special appreciation for the work Daichi must have put in on the sequin and beadwork; he has a particular respect for anyone who can hand-stitch, embroider, or embellish any area larger than a few square inches, and his boyfriends are just the right kind of crazy to pull that sort of thing off.
Daichi and Suga kiss his cheeks and give him quick side-hugs before darting backstage to help Asahi get changed.
Kuroo’s alone when he sees Oikawa and Iwaizumi walk, and the only reason he doesn’t cry is because his anxiety is overriding everything. He watches the graders’ pens scribble along their grading sheets, and none of them looks particularly ticked, which has to be a good sign, right?
Oikawa’s walk is just as eye-catching as it had been before, and it suits the cuts of the pieces very well. It’s so satisfying to watch him lope down the runway, aloof and enticing in the same stride. He’s dangerously attractive, teeth glinting on a sharp smirk, and Kuroo’s stomach drops out from under him, just a little. The jacket flows behind him, the bright colors pulling the other shades from his fit, and making them pop.
The backstage crew gave Iwaizumi a sucker, and he wears it like any other accessory. Kuroo’s gonna die, because all his good karma has clearly been spent on this exact moment. There’s nothing left for him. Iwaizumi’s overalls are shining holographic under the lights, the matte black bird silhouette seeming to flutter up his leg as he walks—a late addition to the fit that Kuroo is especially proud of. One of the chains is up on his shoulder, and the mesh crop top flutters just enough as he walks. Kuroo can’t take his eyes off either of them.
They’re masterpieces, together and apart, and it’s clear to Kuroo that it’s not wholly his doing.
(That won’t stop him from taking at least a little credit, though.)
There are a few more models who walk after them, but it’s mostly a blur until the intermission announcement starts over the speakers. Kuroo is up out of his chair, and sprinting backstage before the intercom cuts back into the intermission music set.
They’re waiting for him in wardrobe, half out of the first set of outfits and into the second, and Iwaizumi is stony and serious while Oikawa’s brows are drawn together.
“Did it—was it okay?” Oikawa says, tone high and reedy. His anxiety, like Kuroo’s, is starkly apparent, but he’s still just this side of composed.
It takes everything Kuroo has not to grab him by the ears and kiss him long and hard. He settles for a bright smile, and helps the stylists get them changed. “You were perfect, you really were. I couldn’t have asked for better.”
“Good,” Iwaizumi nods, expression still as dark as his makeup, but he stays mostly quiet, and lets Oikawa fill the silence for them.
“Do you think the graders liked it okay? The lights were too bright for me to see anything.”
“Well, they didn’t seem to dislike it, which is as good as anything for now, I think.”
“Okay, yeah. They wouldn’t say anything until after the show, right? If at all—they’d probably wait until grades are officially due because there’re so many students, right?” Oikawa’s definitely a nervous talker. Kuroo tries to tell himself it’s not cute, and fails desperately. Iwaizumi relaxes a little as Oikawa continues his tangent, though, and it becomes clear that Oikawa’s not just talking for himself; his Iwa-chan needs to hear it just as much as he himself needs to chatter his nervousness away.
Kuroo is blown away by their perfect fit again and again.
(He doesn’t let it get to him, he can’t—)
“I think so, yeah,” Kuroo sighs out, shaking himself a little. The sharp edges he can’t help are still trying to pull his attention away, to remind him of everything he might never have. Kuroo ignores them, and helps the stylists add the finishing touches, before sending his—Iwaizumi and Oikawa off for a hair and makeup touchup.
He goes to slink back to his seat as the five-minute dimmer hits, but Iwaiuzmi stops him.
“Tetsurou,” he says, and Kuroo’s given name sends a shiver down to his toes. He’s never heard it in Iwaizumi’s voice before, and in the soft tone he has right now, it’s warm, dare he say sweet.
Kuroo turns, waits, eyes catching on the new lines of bright blue that encircle Iwaizumi’s eyes and cut the crease of his lids perfectly. His cheeks glimmer with a tinted highlighter too, and the subtle colors are doing him so many favors that Kuroo can barely stand it.
He’s so caught up in it all that he barely registers that Iwiazumi’s words have stopped there, and that Oikawa is taking over. Oikawa’s hairclips shine, as do the extra pops of color at his lids, and the dark swoop of his bold eyeliner and lip tint contrasts it all into a perfect opposing force to Iwaizumi’s look. Breathtaking, just like always.
“Can we talk to you later?” he says, “It’s nothing bad, just...something better discussed in private.”
Immediately, Kuroo’s inner alarm bells are screaming bloody murder. Did they figure him out? Do they know? Do they hate him, but want to avoid causing a scene?
“Uh, sure, if you want.” Kuroo plays blasé as well as he can, but has a feeling he misses, because Iwaizumi tries to smooth things over.
“Really, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. We just wanted to ask you something, but later.” He winces slightly then, and Kuroo is sure they’re onto him. Shit. Time to fake his death and move to, like, Siberia or something.
“Yeah, okay, we’ll talk later, then. After the show?” They’re beautiful, in his clothes, together, and he really can’t take much more. Kuroo backpedals as fast as he can get away with as the one-minute alert dims around them.
“Dinner?” Oikawa asks quietly, and Kuroo nods thoughtlessly.
“Yeah, yeah, sure, that’s fine. Okay, gotta go find my seat again. Daichi and Suga are probably waiting, you know how it goes.” He has to sound terribly rushed and awkward, Kuroo can’t help it. Escape takes top priority, because his composure, carefully built up by hope and held together with determination, is crumbling around him like papier-mâché in a hurricane, and it’d be the final nail in the coffin to give up now, with the finish line in sight.
Kuroo turns his back on Oikawa’s worry and Iwaizumi’s confusion, and runs.
Suga almost chides him on nearly being late back to his seat, but stops when he sees Kuroo’s face.
“What is it, baby?” he whispers, taking Kuroo’s hand. Daichi’s palm is at his back, smoothing his shirt down as the breaths wrack through Kuroo.
“They want to talk later. Wouldn’t tell me what about,” Kuroo chokes out, and spins to shove his face into Daichi’s neck. The panic recedes just enough to let him get a good few breaths in, and stave off the worst of the attack.
Suga squeezes his hand as the announcer starts introductions back up, and right into Kuroo’s ear, he whispers, “Remember—it’s not over yet. Prepare, but don’t assume. We’re here for you no matter what.”
Kuroo nods against Daichi, before pulling away. He’s lucky he swears by waterproof eye makeup, no matter the circumstances—cleanup only takes an extra minute with a spare cleansing wipe and a compact mirror. “Sorry,” he chuckles a bit wetly.
Daichi smiles warm, making Kuroo’s stomach curl pleasantly, and shakes his head. “You don’t have to be. Stuff like this isn’t easy.”
Suga squeezes Kuroo’s hand again, and points up at the runway. “Ah, Asahi’s next.”
Kuroo glances up, and Suga’s right. Asahi is walking down the runway again, a picture of the quiet confidence Kuroo has come to expect from them in situations like these. Kuroo isn’t expecting the dress Suga has designed, but it’s a happy sort of surprise. Asahi is definitely killing it, in silvery low-heeled thigh-high boots, with a cloud of gossamer netting and tulle floating around them. The bell skirt of the dress is gathered to hell and back, with a severe high-low cut and a train that scratches behind them for several feet. There are flower petals woven into the mesh, peeking through here and there, while some are laid out over the off-the-shoulder, sewn into place like they’ve been blustered away from a nearby sakura tree, the lines of them curving and weaving down to the front hem of the dress. More collect their way down across the train, and pool at the very bottom hem, dragging gently along the stage floor. Asahi’s hair is down too, and the petals are there too, and they look fantastic—ethereal, royal, enchanting.
Kuroo grins over at Suga who shrugs. “They wanted to try a dress, now that they’re out officially.”
“And you said I was in deep. You took suggestions too, this whole time!”
“Yes, because I’m already dating my model. Oh. Speaking of.”
Kuroo hums questioningly, tilting his head.
Suga points. “Speaking of partners who are models, there they are now.”
Kuroo nearly sprains something with how fast his neck whips around, and suddenly it’s so much of everything he could have hoped for.
They’re coming out at the same time, just like how Kuroo had requested for the program. Iwaizumi aren’t walking hand-in-hand, but it’s a nearer thing than at arm’s length. Presented together is exactly how these two need to be for the second set here, with Iwaizumi’s bright colors pulling out Oikawa’s, while contrasting to the darker shades in Oikawa’s look. If they weren’t walking together, it might be a jarring, incomplete thing to witness, but they could never be anything less than perfect together.
Everything is a contrast, but thin lines of harmony are interwoven, and it’s everything Kuroo could have asked, could have hoped for.
They turn, after they’ve made their whole way down the walk together, and Oikawa blows a kiss, leading the way back as Iwaizumi smiles, toothy and a little savage, as he winks. Their jackets are just as much of a contrast, with the golden embroidered dragon on Oikawa’s back, and the matte black bird stretched across Iwaizumi’s. A small gasp goes up in their wake, probably because of their motifs combined with their radiating confidence; plus, uh, not an exaggeration to say that this particular angle is also...very favorable to them.
As the next models take to the stage, Kuroo’s breath leaves him. His head falls to his hands, and the tension drops out from under his skin in a chilling rush. Kuroo shivers, and feels Suga wrap an arm around him and squeeze.
“It’s over,” Kuroo whispers, more to himself than to share. “I can...I can go to them now, if I want.”
“You can,” Suga nods, gentle as anything; his bedside manner has always been impeccable.
He can probably see the indecision in Kuroo’s face, because he smiles a little wider, all broad affection and nudges Daichi.
“What do you think, babe?” Suga smirks. “Should he go for it?”
Daichi shrugs, smiling so much like Suga that it catches in Kuroo’s throat. “I think he knows when and how he should go about it. But,” he concedes, shrugging again, “if I had an opinion...well. He’s so fixated on stories, after all, and betting it all now would make a pretty good one.”
Kuroo rolls his eyes. “Why do you two insist on talking about me like this when I’m right in front of you.”
“It’s because we love you, sweetheart,” Daichi says, tone tight on a laugh.
“Sorry for your loss,” Suga quips, megawatt smile firmly in place, and Kuroo chuckles, a little wet, hugging them once more.
Off he goes.
Kuroo weaves through the swarming crowd as quickly as he can, but he still manages to get stuck in the swell of people trying to head backstage.
What the hell am I going to say to them, he thinks, and then the nerves that have hovered around him like an aura all day are spearing through his chest. His vision goes blurry for just a second, and he can hear his heartbeat in his ears.
It’ll be fine. They won’t hate me for this, he thinks at himself, so loud in his own head he’s surprised no one else can hear. “They won’t,” he whispers aloud, right as they come into view
Even half-out of the looks he’s crafted for them, Iwaizumi and Oikawa are beautiful. They could be in anything at all, and their rumpled hair and smudged makeup would still take Kuroo’s breath away.
More than anything else right now, Kuroo is sure of what he needs to do.
Making the words come is a whole other matter.
Their faces light up when they see him, but they each frown slightly; Kuroo is certain his nerves are showing all over, in his posture, his hands, his face worst of all.
“Tetsu, is everything—” Oikawa starts, and Kuroo cuts him off, entirely by mistake.
“I know you two like each other, but I also like you, and like maybe—fuck, I don’t know—maybe you’d also like to date me at some point. Fuck?”
Oikawa is frozen, eyes wide and glassy, brows arched. Iwaizumi murmurs, “I think…” He glances at Oikawa, who looks like he might be in danger of further ruining his makeup.
He sighs hard, blinking slowly. Kuroo feels like the floor is falling out from under him.
“We...should go get brunch,” Iwaizumi says, rubbing his forehead tiredly.
They’re sitting at their table, waiting on their drink orders, and Kuroo hates it. He hates the quiet, when the diner around them is bustling with the post-show crowd. He hates how tense everything is. He hates how neither of them will meet his eyes, how he can’t help but feel responsible for this.
The silence is so hard to break as it is, though, so close to the cusp of something new.
He musters his courage, and pushes the words out.
“Sorry for saying it like that,” Kuroo says, tone tense and on-edge. “I didn’t mean to make either of you uncomfortable.”
Iwaizumi finally looks at him, and shakes his head slowly. “You didn’t. If anything, it simplifies things.”
Before Kuroo can wrestle an explanation out of him for whatever that means, their server returns to take their food orders. It’s their usual person, and they have a shadowed quirk to their lips, like they know what the three of them are going to order before they ask for it.
So they’re predictable—what of it?
They finally leave, and Kuroo is leaning over the table, palm flat on the vinyl-coated tabletop, quite literally on the edge of his seat.
Oikawa sighs hard, and leans in close too. “Tetsu...I know I froze, and how it probably looks from your perspective, but it didn’t—hearing you say that wasn’t unwelcome. More the opposite, really.”
“The...opposite?” Kuroo murmurs, because he can’t process exactly what he’s hearing, what .
“The opposite.” Iwaizumi is right there with them, nodding again. “We...ah, talked about it, when we figured out what happened, that both of us wanted the same thing.”
Kuroo swallows a mouthful of his water, covering his nerves. “That you both had crushes on one another?”
“Yes,” Iwaizumi says, eyes steady on Kuroo’s, “but also that we both have crushes on you.”
Kuroo’s heart and lungs drop through the floor. He can barely breathe, can only just keep his own heart beating. It’s sending chills up and down his spine, like all the warmth of his lifeblood has left him. The hairs on his arms prickle. His jaw is tight in disbelief.
“You…” he croaks, then starts again. “Say that again.”
“We both like you, Tetsu,” Oikawa murmurs, eyes shining. He always has been a crybaby; Iwaizumi is right about many things after all.
Kuroo doesn’t smile, not quite. He’s thoroughly in shock still, head barely staying on his shoulders as their words pound through him on every rush of blood through his body.
They like me, it whispers with every pulse through him. It’s mutual. They like me. It’s mutual. I don’t have to hide anymore.
When it finally sinks into him, the corners of his lips draw up. His shoulders shake, and even Kuroo can’t tell if he’s crying or laughing. Both, probably.
“So you mean to tell me,” he says, voice tremorring on the hiccupping laugh-sob, “that I’ve been pulling my hair out for two weeks for—”
He settles firmly into laughter, because the other option is having a full-on breakdown in the diner, and he likes this place a lot, and wants to be able to show his face here again at some point. Kuroo lets his head fall into his hands.
Daichi and Suga were right the whole gods-damned time. Kuroo is never going to hear the end of this.
Oikawa shrugs, wiping his eyes. “We didn’t want to risk your project. You put so much work in, and if we screwed that up at all, I don’t think I’d ever really forgive myself.”
“You really—you’re serious?” Kuroo knows he’s crying now, at least a little. At the kitchen entrance, he can see their server shooing people away from their line of sight; Kuroo’s thankful for their insight, but fuck if that isn’t a little embarrassing.
Iwaizumi smiles, slow and soft, and the butterflies in Kuroo’s stomach must be on something fun, because they’re definitely going crazy.
“We wouldn’t joke about this. I thought you were cute when we first met, but I also assumed you were off-limits because I could tell this bastard—” He shoves Oikawa playfully with his shoulder. “—was also interested, and he knew you first. Drama class, right?”
Oikawa nods, and he has to be thinking about that first day that they really clicked, with the raid on the costume closet, and the everything that started with those damn shoes.
He reaches for them, and they grasp his hands tightly. Kuroo’s grinning, and he’s sure he hears a quick intake of breath somewhere, but his eyes never leave Oikawa and Iwaizumi from across the table.
“You had me then, and you have me now,” Kuroo whispers, smile never fading, even while his eyes shine. It makes Iwaizumi chuckle wetly, and Oikawa drops his head again, and here they are, the three of them, crying in their favorite diner at nearly midnight.
Kuroo kisses each of their wrists, face still wet, and he’s sure he looks like a total disaster, but he also maybe has two new boyfriends, and can’t bring himself to care. They oughta know what they’re getting into, after all.
Iwaizumi and Oikawa return the gesture, their lips soft against the backs of Kuroo’s hands. Oikawa sniffles, beaming, and kisses Iwaizumi on the cheek too. They’re all tearstained, and Kuroo knows his own face is getting sore from smiling so much.
“Be my boyfriends?” he asks, because leaving things up in the air after all this would be too much for him to stand.
“Fuck yeah!” Oikawa nearly shouts, pumping a fist before collapsing in peals of joyous laughter against Iwaizumi’s shoulder.
“Couldn’ta said it better,” Iwaizumi says, in a much more level tone, but a smile is splitting his face all the same, and Kuroo would do his own little fist-pump, but he hears a few muffled cheers from the kitchen pickup window.
Kuroo’s eyes go toward the sound, and is met with the sight of their usual server striding out from the back, face flushed while they stifle a smile.
“Sorry to disturb you, but congratulations! We’re glad to see you three finally got things figured out.”
That makes Kuroo draw back in confusion, and he sees Iwaizumi and Oikawa do the same out of the corner of his eye. “‘Finally’?” he asks.
“‘We’?” Oikawa looks distressed, which, fair. Iwaizumi is just frowning, but Kuroo has been the target of that look before, and he knows that’s plenty bad.
The server looks sheepish, shifting their weight between their feet. “Well...to be honest, we—the people who work here, I mean—we’ve been rooting for you. I see you guys here pretty regularly, and was surprised to hear you weren’t dating, but, yay,” They laugh awkwardly, making a small cheering motion with their arms. “Got that part sorted.”
They seem to remember their place suddenly after that, and a flush blooms high on their cheeks. “Oh, shoot, I’m so sorry. I’ll be right back with your food and the check.”
The food is still hot, and they get free congratulatory crepes. All in all, a pretty good night. Two new definitely boyfriends, and free dessert to top it all off. Always nice to have the kitchen staff on your side, Kuroo supposes.
Graduation is a blur of thrown mortarboards and alcohol-fuelled celebrations, and it isn’t until a few weeks of being together have passed, of learning how they fit together like this, that Kuroo realises.
“...I’ve gotta come clean about something,” he sighs, pushing aside his half-finished styrofoam container of pork lo-mein.
Oikawa turns to him, concerned, but Iwaizumi is in the other room, and seems significantly less worried. “About what?” he asks as he comes back with three bottles of water, handing off one to each of them.
“You know how I wouldn’t let you in my room because I said it was a mess and I hadn’t had time to clean yet?”
That brings Iwaizumi up short. “...Yes?”
“That was a lie,” Kuroo bites his lip. “I just didn’t want you to judge me.”
“Why would we judge you?” Iwaizumi asks, just as Oikawa says, “For what?”
“...C’mere,” Kuroo mumbles, standing.
Iwaizumi and Oikawa follow him back to the bedroom, and Kuroo throws the door open before he can think better of it. “Please don’t judge,” he mutters again, cheeks hot.
The room is pristine, because despite Kuroo’s chaotic design spaces, he’s found that he loses things if they’re not in their proper place, and he hates it. The surfaces are clear, the projects in clearly-labelled folders and color-coordinated plastic filing boxes. Each individual folder is marked with a closet or drawer space for where the finished piece is stored.
Green for wiry, lithe figures. Orange for more compact, strong body types. Purple for projects that would fit both. Yellow for unrelated ideas.
Needless to say, there’s only one yellow box, and it’s nearly empty. Each of the other colors have several boxes with some recently-accessed folders resting on top.
Kuroo shoves a random completed sketchbook at them without looking at it or meeting their eyes, and says, “Go nuts.”
He throws himself on his bed facedown, and waits.
It’s silent for so long that it nearly drives Kuroo mad with the anticipation. If they hate it, or think he’s creepy, then he’ll actually die of shame. Daichi and Suga know about a lot of the designs, but even they haven’t seen them all at once, compiled and sorted and categorized the way they are. There are a few folders devoted to each of them, despite the design ban, and even a few for Kuroo himself, but down to the wire, almost everything in these boxes is for Oikawa and Iwaizumi.
Kuroo props his head up for just a moment when he’s calm enough, and he sees Iwaizumi standing stock-still, eyes wide and focused on one of the pages in the notebook Kuroo had handed him. The date, in silver permanent marker, glares at Kuroo from the top right corner of the cover, and he realises which one he handed over: the very first sketchbook he completely filled.
Its first designs span the beginning of his design career, before he stuck to one notebook back in middle and early high school. Several sheets are stapled or taped in, which bulks up the front of the book considerably, its binding cracked and straining in places to accommodate the extra paper. By the middle, it reaches well into his junior and senior year, and the last two pages seem to be the spread that caught Iwaizumi’s eye—the first two designs he’d created since arriving at university.
The black cargo pants, and the zipper jeans.
“This is—” Iwaizumi starts, but he stutters to a stop, and cuts his eyes to Kuroo. There’s a certain wonderment in his expression that makes Kuroo feel bashful, of all things.
Kuroo nods, barely restraining himself from shoving his face back in the pillow. “It felt right, to bring it full circle like that.”
“And the shoes that—”
Kuroo nods again, slower. He glances at Oikawa, who is curled up on the floor with one of Kuroo’s more recent ideas, dated only a few weeks before the showcase was announced. It’s one of the more elaborate pieces, a kintsugi-inspired tailcoat in a dark teal linen that’s cut with woven gold filaments where the cut pieces are reconnected irregularly, like bright veins through dark sheets of marble. It hasn’t quite made it out of the early design process yet, with the onset of the big runway project, but Oikawa pores over it, face mirroring Iwaizumi’s amazement.
“That long?” Iwaizumi breathes, awe in his eyes.
Shit, those designs are dated. Kuroo curses his own meticulous methods, because one year is a little embarrassing, but four is downright ridiculous.
Iwaizumi just looks at Kuroo, who feels his anxiety overtake him again, and resumes shoving his face in the pillow.
“No, baby, please, that’s not—”
Kuroo feels the bed press down next to him as Iwaizumi sits, and a second shift tells him Oikawa has joined them.
Another moment of silence as Oikawa probably sees the designs too, and then a choked “Tetsu, the—”
“Full circle, he said,” Iwaizumi murmurs. He pets over Kuroo’s shoulders. “Please, babe, it’s the same for me, it’s not weird at all—”
Kuroo flips over as fast as he can manage, and grabs Iwaizumi by the shirt then, and kisses him full on the mouth.
“Oh shit,” he hears Oikawa whisper, because they’ve kissed plenty in the past few weeks, even fooled around a little, but it’s rarely like this: open, needy, desperate, but without sexual desire attached to it. Kuroo simply needs his two boyfriends as close as he can get them right now.
He pulls away from Iwaizumi soon after, and is diving towards Oikawa, keeping one hand fisted in the front of Iwaizumi’s—Hajime’s t-shirt. Tooru catches him smoothly, with reflexes like his, and Kuroo kisses him just as thoroughly, to show him the things Kuroo doesn’t have the right words for.
Eventually the kisses slow to a less-desperate tempo, so they clean up the loose notebooks and folders, and try to make room in Kuroo’s queen for the night. They manage to fit just fine, tangled together as they end up, and they’re all asleep in minutes.
The three of them come out of Kuroo’s bedroom the next morning, sleep-rumpled and happy; Daichi and Suga only smile at each other knowingly, add extra eggs to the pan, and simply ask, “So, which was your favorite?”