To Kenma, Kuroo was always bright.
A laughable contrast to the nickname he'd bestowed upon the elder, but bright nonetheless.
Not bright, like the way Hinata shone, beaming from inside out with the radiance of a thousand suns in both energy and spirit.
Not bright, so much so Kenma'd have to squint to see him; but rather a low key radiating warmth, a kind of light unable to be described in simple words and letters, only with a feeling that came from the bottom of Kenma's stomach, the like of which is easily compared to eating sour apple pie or getting a new game.
A kind of warmth, of brightness that doesn't light up anyone else's room but Kenma's.
(the brightness glows just a teeny bit more when Kenma spots the lilting curve of Kuroo's lips; when Kuroo leans into Kenma's touch.)
But Kuroo only really shone, in the times he expressed himself fully.
Like when he hit a perfect spike to Kenma's perfect toss, the thump resounding the gym and Nekoma's cheers ringing in his ears.
Like when he managed to snatch the yakisoba bread in the school canteen, childishly sticking his tongue at Lev who was just a step too late.
Like when he locked eyes with Karasuno's middle blocker whose name and personality reflected that of the moon.
(Kenma feels something in him twist then, feels his chest get tight and his breathing stutters just a moment, when Kuroo's lazy gaze turns sharp, mouth curves into something resembling the first time the personal time difference attack worked;
Kenma thinks he's lost something then.)
(he just doesn't realise what it is yet)
Kuro receives his first Valentine in middle school; a card cut into the shape of a heart, painstakingly decorated with lace and glitter, placed neatly into a pink-white striped paper bag next to a box of homemade white chocolates.
He laughed, showing it to Kenma–or rather, shoving it in Kenma's face–during lunch, asking him if he wanted a piece.
Kenma had shook his head, nose crinkling in what he back then believed was disgust at Kuroo's insensitivity to the poor girl's feelings.
In Kenma's first year of high school, as he walks home beside an armful of paper bags and boxes of chocolates Kuroo who is reading aloud a girl's note from one of the numerous gifts, Kenma steals a glance.
Kuroo is still shining bright, even more so today perhaps, with a fond, just a beat off shy, smile hanging on his face, silhouette bathed in the pastel colours of the sunset, shadows falling nicely all over his angular face, draping softly over his figure.
(the imagery stays in Kenma's mind long after he's parted from Kuroo, even after he's showered, beaten the demon lord and has nestled into his blankets to sleep.
the tight feeling in his chest stays too, the feeling he's gotten used to every 14th of February, when he sees Kuroo laden with chocolates and the flush of his embarrassed face as he unwraps the gifts.
Kenma thinks of how beautiful Kuroo looked against the sunset–breathtaking, stunning, awe-inducing–and realises with a start that he's crying and that the pain in his chest has just gotten heavier and more insistent.
'Ah, it's jealousy')
"I think im in love, Kenma."
Kuroo says the line with such an out of it voice, Kenma's first reaction is to snort.
Then Kenma notices that Kuroo does not elbow him like he always does when he demands for Kenma to take him seriously.
Instead, his eyes are trained fixedly on Tsukishima Kei, a lopsided smile on his face, a gleam Kenma does not recognise in his eyes.
Now, Kuroo is shining too, just in a way Kenma has never seen him do.
(Akaashi finds Kenma seated at a bus stop a ways from the training camp.
He does not speak, only quietly seats next to the other setter.
They seat in silence for what seems like an eternity; Akaashi cannot hear Kenma's breaths but he does not worry, not yet.
"I wasn't the one." Kenma mutters, and it comes out in an exhale of breath.
When Kenma repeats the phrase, a sort of dawning at the horror of reality seeping into his voice, Akaashi wraps an arm around the much, much, smaller boy's shoulders, tugging him into a hug.
Akaashi lets Kenma soak his t-shirt, wails muffled.
Kenma'd noticed, of course he had. Nekoma's brain and heart, strategist and observer extraordinaire, how could he not?
How could he not have noticed his best friend falling in love with someone that wasn't him?
At the empty bus stop, illuminated with nothing but the flickering streetlight and accompanied by only the crickets, Kenma feels something inside him shrivel along with the untold confessions he'd buried like a treasure deep in his heart.)
The first time Kenma writes a love letter is when he is sixteen.
It's stupid and he's stupid, he decides, cheeks flaming as he pens down words upon words upon words of how he feels for his childhood friend on the night of Valentine's Eve.
He ends up shoving the letter written with sakura stationery into the recesses of his drawer when he gets home anyway, his confidence in it crumbling as the day progressed and more gifts were heaped into Kuroo's lanky arms.
("There's no such thing as love between two people of the same sex; if you do feel that way, Kenma, you'll go to hell.")
It's a stuffy summer's night, at one of Bokuto's infamous college parties that Kenma sees Kuroo shine more brilliantly than ever before.
"Kei, meet Kenma. Kenma, meet my perfect boyfriend, Kei." Kuroo introduces them with a shit eating grin, as though they have never met in their lives.
"A pity we can't say the same about you." Kenma murmurs, trying to mask the break in his voice–perfect boyfriend, oh god they're already on first name basis–with a snide comment.
Kei doesn't bother hiding his smirk, while Kuroo holds a hand over his heart, feigning shock.
"Don't tell me you agree with this scoundrel, Kei!" Kuroo whines, nosing his boyfriend's reddening cheek.
Kei mutters something along the lines of "Not in public," while edging away, but he can't hide the affectionate smile slowly growing on his face. Kuroo laughs, soft and sweet, pressing a kiss to Kei's cheek, then to the corner of his mouth, making Kei snicker too.
Suddenly determined to find the exit of this godforsaken building already, Kenma quickly turns away, the lines "Get a room you two, im going to refill my cup" falling from his mouth.
Weaving through the crowd, the paper cup in his hand crunches in his grip, and Kenma thinks he shouldn't have done that because really, really needs that drink; his mouth feels like it's full of ash and his tongue a sandpapery deadweight.
Kenma doesn't miss Akaashi's startled look as Kenma literally collides past him, apologies and excuses pouring from his mouth for both unceremoniously colliding into him and leaving the party early as he pushes the door leading to the outside open.
A wave of cold air crashes against Kenma when he steps out, biting his lightly-clad form mercilessly.
It's January, and Spring isn't quite here yet, so it's no weather to be trudging back to his dorm in nothing but a thin jacket, a V-neck shirt and jeans, but Kenma really couldn't care less right now; the freezing pain hurts much, much less than the gaping hole in his heart.
At least he has those hot tears running down his face to warm him up.
(Both Kuroo and Akaashi phone him that night, like good best friends do.
Curled up, hidden under his blankets like a child with his eyes puffy and red, Kenma only answers one.
"He's still shining as bright as when i first met him, Keiji.
Maybe even more so now."
the 'what do i do' goes unspoken but not unheard amidst the crackling sobs sent through the receiver.)
"Hey Kenma, you okay now?" Kuroo asks awkwardly, scuffing the toe of his sneaker against the pavement.
Taking another few steps, Kenma hiccups, then nods, tears still bubbling in the corner of his eyes. One of his hands shakes as it clutches on the corner of Kuroo's jacket, and he mumbles an apology for crying so much, guilt weighing heavy on his shoulders.
Kuroo sighs, pulling the smaller boy closer to him, strides still confident and long.
"Look, don't dwell too much on what the seniors said, alright? You're fantastic, we second years and your fellow first years know that."
"…They just caught me on a bad day, Kuro."
The long arm thrown over Kenma's shoulders tightens, and Kuroo's face hardens.
"Yeah. Okay. But still, don't take what they said to heart."
Kenma sighs, leaning into Kuroo, making him falter a step at the slight weight increase, and nods.
"I get it, so stop looking so constipated already."
Barking out a laugh, Kuroo throws Kenma a relieved grin; Kenma feels his heart skip a beat at the sight of Kuroo's face framed with the pastel colours of the sunset, shadows sharply covering all the angles of his face.
"Whatever happens, you've got me, understand?" Kuroo squeezes Kenma's shoulders, grin softening into a smaller, fonder one Kenma had believed it to be reserved for him. "Forever."
Kenma laughs, softly, as his heart clenches pleasantly at the sound of the last word.
"Forever is a long time."
"And I wouldn't mind spending it with you."
When Kuroo marries Tsukishima Kei, the boy who made Kuroo Testurou shine like the sun, radiate brilliance and joy like Kenma had never seen, the way Kenma never could, Kenma smiles and claps harder than anyone else in the cathedral.
(how fitting, Kenma finds himself thinking as he writes down 'you turned him into the sun to match your moon'
(the 'thank you' is silent, but Kei gets it anyway when he reads it afterwards)
in the wedding book as he signs his name, and surprisingly there is no malice behind his words, not like he thought there would be.
there's only acceptance, and something that tastes like bittersweet loss lingering in his mouth.)
The ache in his heart still hurts, but he thinks it hurts a little less when he sends his first letter to their new house.
With it he attaches a worn out, yellowed letter written with sakura stationery paper; in it, he signs off,
(the 'yours' behind forever is silent; but Kuroo gets it.)