"Here," Kenma says.
Kuroo takes the book from Kenma's hands. "Fantastic Creatures: An Introduction? What's this? The guide for a new game?"
Kenma shakes his head, peering up through his bangs as he answers, "It's for you. A kids' book technically, but the pictures are good."
"For when you go running."
"Running?" Kuroo asks, wishing he sounded less like a parrot. He likes to think he's gotten pretty good at translating Kenma-speak over the years, but right now, even he feels lost.
"Yesterday, you complained it was boring. When I run, I like to imagine things, just a little bit."
Kuroo flips through the book, dragons, and kitsune, and kappa flashing by in full color. "You're saying I should...imagine that I'm seeing these sort of things wherever I'm running?"
"Or fight them," Kenma says, most his attention already turned back to his game. "Know the old fallen tree in the river by the underpass? What if it were a sea monster? And you can only step on the big stones in the path or it will know you're coming."
Kuroo laughs. "Is that your secret? Turn anything into a game and you're--" He jumps back as a stray ball flies between them, followed by the blur of their libero diving after it.
"Sorry," Yaku says as he rolls up. "Yamamoto's fault. Hey! I remember that book! Great pictures."
"Kenma's lending it to me."
"Enjoy!" Yaku says before running back across the gym, stray ball in hand.
Kuroo spends that night poring over the pages of the book long after he should be asleep. Yaku is right; he's never had any special interest in mythology before, but there's something almost mesmerizing about the paintings that fill the pages. As his eyes get heavy with sleep, he's half-convinced he could reach right into the pages and touch the creatures they contain.
"Imagine things," he mutters to himself as he steps outside. "What sort of things? Like...'there's a goblin hiding in that trash can, so I have to sprint past it'?"
He feels ridiculous. He's pretty sure the neighbor's cat thinks he looks ridiculous.
"Me too, cat," he agrees. "Maybe start simpler...that cloud overhead is a dragon. If I don't keep pace for the next three kilometers, then it will catch me."
It still feels a little silly, but maybe Kenma is on to something. It feels a little silly, but it's easier than usual to talk himself out of slowing down. 'I can't; there's a dragon chasing me,' is apparently a good motivator, even if the dragon only exists in his imagination.
He returns the book to Kenma during lunch.
"Finished already?" Kenma asks.
"It wasn't that long," Kuroo grumbles. "I read it before bed."
"Did you try it?"
Kenma slides the book back across the table. "Keep it. In case you want to read it again."
"You sure? You won't want it?"
"Have my own."
Sometimes, he takes out Kenma's book to read before bed. He keeps meaning to look through it earlier in the day, but he always seems to forget until he's climbed into bed for the night. He's tired enough that the text swims and blurs before him, and he never manages to read more than a line here or there. It's always something new. Maybe eventually he will have read the entire thing.
Nothing strikes Kuroo as out of the ordinary as he sets out one day in early summer. The goblin in the trash can is still asleep, the old umbrella that lives by the temple has been in an especially good mood recently, and the dragon overhead seems content to just watch today and not give chase. The sea serpent is unusually active, but that's to be expected when it's fighting Kenma.
Kuroo shakes his head abruptly and scrubs his hands over his eyes. Clearly he's more tired than he thought if his brain is throwing Kenma into his fantasies like this.
He looks back at the river.
The sea serpent is still there, and still fighting Kenma. He winces as the monster's tail slams into Kenma's shoulder, sending him skidding across the water. It's obviously some figment of his imagination; there's no way Kenma is actually in the river fighting something that doesn't exist. He still has to fight the urge to jump into the river and help.
He's of half a mind to turn around, go home, and sleep off whatever is clearly affecting him today, but he feels fine, outside of the hallucinations, and he has assignments due and practice to run, so he keeps going, letting the walls of the underpass block the river from view.
He sees Kenma at lunch, and he seems fine, dry, and intact, and not like someone who spent the morning being thrown around by a giant snake.
That should have been the end of that, but then practice starts, and it's immediately obvious to Kuroo that something is wrong. The rest of the team notices too.
"Oi, Kenma, you're lopsided!" Yamamoto yells as he scrambles for another ball arcing a meter to his side. "Did you sprain a wrist on a video game or something?"
"Hit my shoulder this morning," Kenma says softly. "It's fine, just sore."
"Kenma, swap out," Kuroo orders after watching Kenma struggle through a couple more plays. "Go ice and take notes; we need you more for the game next week than we do now."
Kuroo tries to focus just on the court for the rest of practice, but his eyes keep straying to where Kenma is sitting on the bench with a bag of ice wrapped around his shoulder. It's not until after everyone else has showered and left that he finally has a chance to confront Kenma. They're alone in the locker room, just them and the ugly bruise spreading down Kenma's arm.
For once in his life, Kuroo is at a loss for words. "What happened?" seems silly when they both were there. "Am I going insane?" is probably not the most helpful. "Where did you get the sword?" again not really helpful. He reaches for Kenma's shoulder instead, stopping just short of touching.
Kenma looks up and meets his eyes. That alone is a rare enough occurrence, but Kenma holds his gaze as he slowly covers Kuroo's hand with his own and presses it to his shoulder. Kuroo's skin tingles where they meet.
They stay there for a long moment until Kenma finally looks away. There's another book in his hand now.
Kuroo takes it.
Fighting Fantastic Creatures: An Introduction
prillalar you're up. I don't know if we're restarting or waiting for the reshuffle to happen first.