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Six Steps to Success

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Tsukishima Kei was a good person. He didn’t deserve this.

Okay, so maybe that statement wasn’t entirely true. He could name at least five people at any point in time who’d say the opposite for sure. Some of his former teammates were at the top of the list. 

He didn’t care though. The general idea still stood. He didn’t deserve this.

With an empty expression, Tsukishima stared at Bokuto who had just asked him the dumbest question he had ever heard. Bokuto stared back, his eyes wide. They were locked in a staredown that neither of them seemed inclined to break. “Do you want to repeat that?” he said finally, his voice flatter than he knew it could be.

Bokuto frowned. “I said, ‘do you think Akaashi likes me?’ ” 

A beat of silence enveloped them before Kuroo broke it with his obnoxious laughter. Tsukishima glared at where he was clutching his stomach, clearly not caring about all the attention he was drawing from passersby. Why was he hanging out with these people?

“Hey!” Bokuto exclaimed, jumping in front of Kuroo and crossing his arms. “I’m serious, here! This is an imperative matter!”

Kuroo’s laughter threatened to border on hysterical and Tsukishima’s lip curled slightly in distaste. “Did Akaashi teach you that word?” 

“He did! Sounds smart, doesn’t it?” Bokuto’s grin vanished as quickly as it had appeared and he pointed at Tsukishima. Warily, Tsukishima took half a step back. He didn’t like the determination in Bokuto’s eyes, this couldn’t end well. “Wait, Tsukki! No distracting from the topic at hand! Do you think Akaashi likes me?”

He couldn’t be serious. Narrowing his eyes, he stared at Bokuto and willed him to use his brain for once in his life. “You guys are living together.”

“Yes.”

“He buys you those awful snacks he hates just because you like them.”

“Yes.”

“He stays to play volleyball with you after team practice ended, no matter how much it exhausts him.”

“Yes. Yes to all of that!” Bokuto shouted, throwing his hands up. “But do you think he likes me?”

Kuroo, who had almost managed to reign himself in, lost it all over again. Tsukishima could feel a headache coming. “Please tell me you’re joking.” 

“Tsukki! I would never joke about that!” Why did Bokuto sound so offended? Was he seriously stupid enough to not make the connection? Not even he could be that dumb, right? Tsukishima had laid it all out for him, all he had to do was look at it. “And Kuroo! Stop laughing, you asshole! I told you, this is serious!” 

Kuroo wasn’t listening though. He used Tsukishima’s shoulder to steady himself and kept wheezing like his life depended on it. If Tsukishima hadn’t been sure that the steadying was just for show, he would have stepped aside to see him fall on his face. He was done with them, both of them. 

“You guys have been friends since high school. Though really, I don’t see why Akaashi is doing that to himself,” Tsukishima said, giving Bokuto a pointed look. He refused to acknowledge that he was in the same boat. It’s not like he voluntarily became friends with them, it just… happened. They had drawn him into their friend group like they wanted him to be a part of it and he had been defenseless against it. He had had absolutely no control over it, as opposed to Akaashi who had deliberately sought Bokuto out.

The reason for that was pretty obvious to anyone with eyes.

“Hey! I’m plenty cool, anyone would want to hang out with me!” Bokuto protested as Kuroo finally rightened himself. Tsukishima wondered where those delusions came from, but wasn’t about to call him out on it. He has had enough of Bokuto’s particular brand of ridiculousness for the day. 

“Why are you suddenly worried about what Akaashi thinks of you?” Kuroo asked.

It was like he had pressed a switch on Bokuto. All of a sudden, he raised his shoulders and glanced left and right like a secret agent from a bad spy movie. Kuroo leaned closer and dragged Tsukishima with him. Not that he really had to do that, Tsukishima went willingly. He was always down to learn new embarrassing secrets about his friends. 

“I think,” Bokuto whispered, eyes wide, “I think I have a crush on Akaashi.” 

Then he paused. And paused some more. After it became obvious that he wasn’t, in fact, pausing, but had finished what he had to say, Tsukishima straightened up again.

“That’s it?”

“What do you mean, ‘that’s it’?!”

He shared a look with Kuroo who shrugged in return. “We kinda figured you were in love with him since high school?”

“What?!”

Tsukishima was starting to sound like a broken record but Bokuto couldn’t be serious. “I can’t deal with this,” he muttered. He turned as if to leave, but a hand immediately wrapped around his elbow. Unimpressed, he looked back at Kuroo. The other wasn’t even watching him, he was fully focused on Bokuto. Tsukishima had been spending way too much time with him if he was able to guess his movements like that. 

“Are you telling me you weren’t?” 

“No? I don’t think so? Maybe? Was I?! I don’t know!” 

“You don’t know?!”

“I don’t know! It’s Akaashi, man! He’s always been-” Bokuto waved his hands around as if he was physically searching for words in the air in front of him. “-there! I don’t know! He was always around and we did so much stuff together, I never had time to think of him like that! I mean! Akaashi!” 

Clearly, he was having a crisis. Tsukishima could relate. There should be a limit to how much stupidity could be stored in a single person. 

Kuroo chose that moment to let go of Tsukishima’s arm and pat Bokuto’s back consolingly. “There, there. It’s ok, you can cry, we’re not going to judge you.”

“I wouldn’t cry over something like that!” Bokuto exclaimed and pushed Kuroo away. Tsukishima just sighed, wishing Akaashi was here. These two were too much on their own. 

“Why does it matter, anyway?” Tsukishima asked over Kuroo’s laughter and Bokuto’s indignant noises. “You like him now. End of the story.”

“Oh là là, who would have thought that there’s such a romantic hiding within you?” Kuroo sing-songed. His shit-eating grin pissed Tsukishima off but he knew he couldn’t show that. That would only make it worse. Instead, he gave himself a moment to breathe before putting on a nonchalant expression. 

“There was never a reason for me to show my romantic side.” 

Kuroo gasped in mock outrage and it was Bokuto’s turn to break out into laughter. 

“Get his ass, Tsukishima!”

“Tsukki! You wound me!”

Shrugging, Tsukishima reached for his headphones. This time, he anticipated Kuroo’s hand reaching out to stop him and sidestepped it. At Kuroo’s frown, he smirked and proudly positioned his headphones over his ears. “Sorry, sappy mushy hours are over, try again next year.”

“Tsukki!” 

Even through his headphones, Tsukishima could hear Bokuto’s howling laughter and Kuroo’s offended protests. Pretending he couldn’t, he turned around and headed back towards campus. He didn’t have to turn around to know that his friends were hurrying after him. They were loud in their pursuit, but even if they weren’t he knew that they would follow him. That was just how they were: buried deep under five layers of obnoxious and even more layers of stupid, they were good people. Honest people. Caring people - and maybe that had been enough to make Tsukishima care for them in return.

If Kuroo had heard that thought, he never would have let him live that down.

Something repeatedly slapped against his arm and Tsukishima tensed. Kuroo couldn’t read thoughts, no matter how much he doubted that sometimes. This couldn’t be about his thoughts, Kuroo must have wanted something different.

It wasn’t difficult to figure out what it was.

Smiling to himself, he extended his hand. The slapping ceased and he felt fingers intertwining with his own, a familiar warmth encasing his palm. On his left, Bokuto and Kuroo were bickering about something else now, effectively blocking the entire sidewalk. There was no doubt in Tsukishima’s mind that Bokuto didn’t even notice it, but at least two people glared at them as they had to step on the street to avoid them. Tsukishima met each of their glares head-on, uncaring what unflattering thoughts they might be having.

They might have been annoying idiots, but they were his friends. As much as he sometimes pretended otherwise, he wouldn’t change them for the world.






Kuroo stared at Bokuto. 

Bokuto frowned at the volleyball in his lap, suspiciously silent. 

It was pretty clear that he was in one of his moods, ever since asking Kuroo to hang out with him, he had barely said three words. And yeah, sure, technically this was a good thing - Kuroo really needed to study - but this was about Bokuto. He hadn’t even whined at him once to him to put his pencil away and pay attention to his misery, so whatever was on his mind must have been a big deal.

Pushing out his lower lip, Kuroo dropped his pencil. No reaction. It was almost unnerving how silent Bokuto was being. 

“Alright,” he drawled, finally making Bokuto take his eyes off of the volleyball. “What’s got you all down low? Don’t tell me it’s still about Akaashi?”

Finally, a response. Bokuto let out a frustrated noise and threw himself against Kuroo’s bed frame. “Of course it’s about Akaashi! I’m losing my mind here! Tsukishima thinks I’m being stupid-” Kuroo suppressed the urge to respond with ‘so do I’, “-but I don’t know! I can’t tell! How does one tell if someone likes one anyway?”

That was a surprisingly deep question. Not unexpected, especially not with the topic at hand, but still difficult to answer. Letting out a thoughtful hum, Kuroo pushed his chair away from his desk and moved to sit down beside Bokuto. Bokuto shuffled aside to make a bit more space for him and Kuroo joined him in leaning against his bed frame.

“It probably depends on the person,” Kuroo said after a long pause. That earned him a groan from Bokuto and he shrugged helplessly. “It’s true! Different people act differently when they are in love. I mean, look at Tsukishima, he’d never follow me around like you follow Akaashi around.” 

Something about that seemed to have grasped Bokuto’s attention. He made a noise of excitement and jumped to his feet before shoving his head into Kuroo’s face. Grimacing, Kuroo pushed him back a little. It didn’t seem to bother Bokuto, he simply plopped down in front of him and shuffled forward until their knees were touching. He was still in Kuroo’s personal space, but that was to be expected with a friend like Bokuto.

“You’re a genius, man!” he exclaimed while leaning forward even more. He was inches away from face planting right into Kuroo’s lap. “Tell me, how do you know that Tsukishima likes you?”

Kuroo, who had been busy challenging himself by inconspicuously trying to regain some personal space, stopped in his current train of thought. “You want to listen to me talking about Tsukki?” 

“Yeah! He and Akaashi are both the silent, broody type, right? So how do you know that Tsukki likes you?” 

Raising his eyebrows, Kuroo weighed the pros and cons of telling Bokuto that that’s where the similarities between Tsukishima and Akaashi ended. The cons outweighed the pros, he’d gladly take any opportunity to talk about his boyfriend. Especially if Bokuto wanted to listen for once, that was a rarity. 

Grinning, Kuroo settled back. Bokuto’s eyes followed the movement, almost scary in their intensity. 

“Hmm, where to start, where to start...” he said, thoughtfully rubbing his chin. Bokuto immediately looked pissed off. 

“Kuroo! I’m serious!” 

Laughing, Kuroo lowered his arm. “Yes, yes.” His voice was placating and Bokuto settled a bit. Still smiling, he leaned his head back and let his eyes roam the ceiling. “I wasn’t entirely messing with you, though. I really don’t know where to start. Tsukki might not seem like it, but he cares. With him, it’s all in the little things.”

“Little things?” Bokuto asked.

“Yeah. Like how he knows my class schedule by heart and how he always makes tea for both of us. Or how we always end up holding hands when we are out, even if he pretends to be annoyed by it. I know he likes it because if I don’t reach for him before we arrive at our destination he’ll do it himself.” 

There was a slight frown on Bokuto’s face, but it wasn’t a bad one. Kuroo was pretty sure that it was the face he did when he was concentrating, even if he wasn’t an expert on all things Bokuto the way Akaashi was. Since Bokuto wasn’t interrupting, he deemed it safe to continue. 

“Sometimes he comes into my room to study. We don’t talk or anything, he’s just looking for company.” Bokuto’s frown deepened and Kuroo paused. “You alright, man?”

“Eeeeh,” Bokuto said, pressing his hands to his temples. “There’s no way I’ll be able to remember all of that. Do you have paper?”

“Paper?” Kuroo couldn’t help the incredulous tone in his voice. Bokuto either didn’t pick up on it or didn’t care. He just nodded decisively and crossed his arms.

“Yes. A paper. I need to write this down or I’ll forget it.”

Resisting the urge to laugh, Kuroo leaned forwards over Bokuto and opened the upper drawer of his desk. Bokuto squawked in indignation but steadied him anyways. Just to fuck with him, he stayed there for longer than necessary, pretending to rifle through his papers. Bokuto’s patience lasted for three seconds, then he poked Kuroo’s stomach. “What’s taking you so long?! You smell, dude.”

Offended, Kuroo drew back and threw a pen at Bokuto’s head. “I just showered!”

It got him nothing but an outstretched tongue and a demand for him to hand the paper over as well. Kuroo did. Immediately, Bokuto placed it on the ground and began to scribble on it. “Hand holding and studying… what was the rest?”

“Um,” Kuroo scratched his head and tried to hide that he felt kind of self-conscious. He has never had anyone write down facts about his relationship. If Tsukishima ended up seeing that paper, he would kill him. “Uh, I think just tea? And my class schedule?”

“Right, right,” Bokuto mumbled, adding more scratches to his paper. After a short pause, he raised his head and nodded at Kuroo. “Ok, keep going.”

“What is this, an interview?”

“I thought you wanted to help me!”

“When did I say that?” At Bokuto’s horrified face, Kuroo let out a snort. “Alright, fine. Other things Tsukki does that make me feel loved, huh?” 

“No, things that show you that he loves you.”

Caught off guard, Kuroo blinked. His mind went back to last Thursday when he had come home to Tsukishima reading on his bed. He was only vaguely aware of how his face melted into a soft smile. “You know, at this point they are pretty much the same. Sometimes he hangs out in my room, waiting for me to come home. He never tells me that he was waiting for me but really, he has his own room, if he was just passing time he could have stayed there. He’s pretty good at entertaining himself on his own.” 

More furious scribbling. Kuroo glanced at Bokuto, but the other wasn’t even looking at him anymore. 

“Um… he keeps any stupid present I give him. And I mean anything. I once made him a shitty trophy out of a gum wrapper and he still keeps it on his desk.” 

The movement of Bokuto’s hand slowed to a stop. Oh shit. Had Akaashi thrown something important away recently? Kuroo was prepared to console him about whatever got him down now when Bokuto excitedly dropped the pen and threw himself across the ground to drag his backpack closer. 

“Um-”

“Teach me! That’s so cool! I want to make a gum wrapper trophy, too!” Bokuto said as he pulled an entire pack of gum out of his bag. He turned to face Kuroo all expectantly and held out a strip for him to take.

For a moment, Kuroo only stared. Then he laughed, accepting the gum and unwrapping it. “Sure. Just watch the master work his miracle.” 

“Don’t get cocky now, I’m gonna be better than you in no time at all!”

“We’ll see about that.”

“May the better guy win.”




 

- likes hand holding
- hanging out while studying
- making tea for 2 people
- memorizing class schedules
- waiting for me in my room
- keeps presents (what was the word again) KEEPSAKES!!

Bokuto had his hands folded on the kitchen desk, staring down at his paper with a serious expression. His own desk was too messy to do important work there, it was convenient that Akaashi wasn’t home. He was probably in math class right now, if Bokuto remembered his schedule correctly. 

Which was, coincidentally, a point on his list. “Damn that Kuroo,” he murmured. “He’s always right, huh?” He liked Akaashi and he had memorized his class schedule. That probably meant the other things on the list were veritable signs of someone being in love, too.

Veritable. “How does one spell that again?” he wondered aloud. He tried out a few kanji at the bottom of the page before giving up and writing it out in hiragana. Then he pulled out his phone and snapped a photo for Akaashi, careful to not capture the list on top.

>>hey hey question, how do you write ‘veritable’? 

Knowing that the reply wouldn’t come for a while still, Bokuto put his phone aside and focused back on the list. He wasn’t good at planning, but he needed to make a plan now. When Bokuto had called Kuroo for help, Kuroo had picked up only to immediately hang up again when Bokuto explained what he needed help with. A few seconds later he had received a text message, telling him that he was hanging out with Tsukki and that he would kill him for telling Bokuto that he had a soul buried beneath all of his sarcasm. Which meant he was on his own now.

Narrowing his eyes, Bokuto grabbed the pen and pulled the paper closer. 

- memorizing class schedules ?? i don’t have class schedules

Akaashi remembered when his training ended though, so maybe he could just say that this was a success. Then again, Akaashi remembered everything Bokuto told him - be it a random fact about owls or the date of a tournament set two months in the future, he remembered. He always had, ever since high school. Akaashi was a smart guy, did this even prove anything?

Letting out a frustrated noise, Bokuto moved on to another point. Making tea for two people. Bokuto couldn’t remember Akaashi making tea for him, ever. Not even when he made some for himself. Did that mean that Bokuto didn’t have a chance with him or did Akaashi just not know that you were supposed to make tea for the person you like? What about the ‘waiting in his room’ part? Akaashi was too polite to enter his room without permission. Maybe he should put up a sign that read “enter whenever you want”. Yes, that was a good idea. He quickly added it to the list so that he wouldn’t forget about it.

Next. Keepsakes. Bokuto didn’t know if Akaashi kept the things he gave him. What kind of presents did he give him? He didn’t think he gifted him nearly enough small knick-knacks for it to be a good indicator of their relationship. 

“Hm… I need to make him gum wrapper trophies, too,” Bokuto mumbled. Once again he added a note to the paper, reminding himself to go to the store and pick up some gum. He didn’t usually use a lot of it, but he wanted to practice before giving Akaashi his presents. And if he reacted positively to the gum trophy, he could try out holding his hand. 

Maybe if he pretended to get lost in a crowd or something Akaashi would even reach out first… Bokuto would laugh and accept the offered hand… they would interlace their fingers and Akaashi’s shoulder would brush against his… and they would make their way home together and once they reached their door Akaashi would slow down and tell him that he liked how their hands fit together… how they fit together-

The sound of his phone vibrating startled him badly enough to ram his knee up against the table. Cursing, he reached out to check the notification. Akaashi’s class wasn’t over yet, which meant it was either Kuroo or one of his teammates. Neither of them could have anything to say that was more important than daydreaming about Akaashi. The only reason anyone should interrupt him should be to help him with his problem.

But it wasn’t Kuroo’s name that lit up his screen. It was Akaashi’s. Excitedly, Bokuto opened the message only to be greeted by a single word: ‘veritable’. 

The feeling of affection that overcame him was too much to handle. Clutching his phone against his chest, Bokuto threw his head back. Akaashi’s class wasn’t over yet but he was still answering his question. He was such a good person. Not wanting to leave him hanging, Bokuto quickly typed out a reply.

>>thanks!!! not knowing was bothering me

>>can you pick up some gum for me on the way home

>>the one with wrappers, not boxes

>>it’s important!!

This time, the reply came almost instantly. It was only a short confirmation, but it meant everything to Bokuto. Grinning brightly, Bokuto answered again.

>>thank you you’re the best!!!!!

He put his phone aside to add to the point on the list reminding him to pick up some gum. When he looked back at the screen, a simple ‘ sure ’ was displayed. In high spirits, Bokuto focused back on the task at hand. Making a plan didn’t seem all that impossible anymore. Akaashi always had that effect on him, he made him feel like he could take on the world and win.

- likes hand holding → pretend to get lost and then grab his hand!!!
- hanging out while studying
- making tea for 2 people → ask him if he knows about how he is supposed to make a cup for the person he likes
- memorizing class schedules ?? i don’t have class schedules
- waiting for me in my room → make sign to give akaashi permission to visit
- keeps presents (what was the word again) KEEPSAKES!! buy gum akaashi will buy gum but buy more gum anyway 

There was only one point left. Hanging out while studying . Bokuto hated that point. Akaashi never wanted to hang out or even be around him when he needed to study, he said that Bokuto was too distracting. And hey, he could respect that. He knew that he was full of energy and couldn’t stay still for too long. But if studying around your partner was something people did when they were in love… then he didn’t have a chance at all.

His shoulders dropped as he stared at the paper. Honestly, it didn’t look good for him. Of all the points, he really only knew that Akaashi remembered his schedule. Maybe also knowing that he absolutely could not study around him cancelled each other out? And if all other points ended up being a success he could still have a chance?

Yeah. Yeah, Bokuto refused to give up so easily. It wasn’t on the paper but he definitely remembered Kuroo saying that not all people in love acted the same. Everything might still work out just fine! Crossing the point out until it was barely readable anymore, Bokuto got up from the table. He was filled with determination. Time to put his plan into motion.

First stop: making the new sign for his door.






“Is that- is that even more gum? I bought you two packs already.”

“Yeah! I need it for a project.”

“What kind of project, exactly?”

“Shh, that’s a surprise, Akaashi. Don’t ruin it.”






“Hey, Akaashi. How come you never make me tea?”

“I thought you didn’t like tea.”

“Yeah - I mean, no - I mean, who cares, right?”

“…would you like me to make tea for you, Bokuto-san?” 

“Yes! That’s so thoughtful of you, Akaashi!”

“Alright. Which kind?”

“Uh. Whichever you usually take.”

“Last time you tried it you said you didn’t like it.”

“So? Tastes change! It might be my favorite tea today!” 

“…understood.”






“Bokuto-san. I have a question.” 

“Hm?”

“What is that sign for?”

“Eh? What sig- ah, it’s for you! You know, so you have permission to hang out in my room whenever you want to. Even if I’m not home.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Are you saying you don’t want to?!”

“I have my own room to hang out in.”

“Yes, but - I mean - I don’t know, if you miss me or something… my room is always open for you...”






“Akaashi! Akaashi, wait up!”

“…”

“Oh man, I was so scared I had lost you!”

“I am a head taller than the average person and you even more so. I doubt you would lose me that easily.”

“Still! That was scary. Hey, can you hold my hand? So that I don’t get lost again?”

“You hardly got lost the first time. You were two steps behind me at most.”

“Akaaaaashiiii! Stop being so nitpicky!”

“…fine. Give me your hand.”






“Bokuto-san…”

“What? What’s wrong? Do you not like it?”

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s just…”

“What? Is it ugly? Ugh, I knew I should have practiced more!”

“It’s fine. But this is the twentieth trophy you have given me. What are they even for?”

“They are presents, Akaashi! Because I appreciate you!”

“…thank you. I appreciate you as well.”






Akaashi Keiji was having a weird week. Not because of inexplicable events or bad luck but because Bokuto was having a weird week. Very weird, he thought as he stared at the heap of tiny cups made of gum wrapper that were littering his desk. They looked more or less identical, with the occasional malformed one in between that couldn’t stand straight. 

He didn’t know what to do with them.

On one hand, they were useless. They weren’t exceptionally pretty and took up a lot of workspace. On the other hand, they were presents from Bokuto. Presents for him, for no other reason than to show him that he was appreciated. It was an incredibly sweet gesture and Akaashi did not want to throw them away.

Nevertheless. Forty-seven tiny trophies. That was excessive. 

Sighing, Akaashi got up from the table. He was no closer to finding a solution to his problem than he had been half an hour ago. The most obvious way to solve it would be to ask Bokuto about it, but he had been evasive when it came to answering Akaashi’s questions lately. He was hiding something and for once Akaashi didn’t have a lick of an idea what it could be. Had he broken a plate again? Lost one of Akaashi’s belongings and didn’t know how to apologize for it?

But no, Akaashi had already checked the kitchen twice. Nothing of personal value had gone missing either. He wasn’t used to not knowing what was going on with Bokuto and he didn’t like it. After a second of hesitation, he grabbed his phone and headed into the kitchen. Maybe Kuroo would know what was going on.

>>Hello Kuroo-san. Do you happen to know why Bokuto gifted me 47 tiny cups made of gum wrapper?

His message was read almost immediately, but there was no reply. Frowning, Akaashi set his phone on the table. He would give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he got distracted after clicking his message because he refused to consider the alternative. The alternative was that Kuroo absolutely knew what was going on and was in cahoots with Bokuto, which didn’t sound all that unlikely.

Going through the fridge, Akaashi tried to decide on what he would make for lunch today. Bokuto hadn’t expressed any wishes, which was, once again, weird. 

When his phone vibrated Akaashi gave up instantly and returned to his original problem. 

>>Hello Akaashi-san, this is Tsukishima. Kuroo is busy choking on his own laughter, so I’m replying in his stead. I think he’s trying to say that he taught Bokuto how to make them about a week ago but I might be totally off the mark.

Akaashi read and reread the reply, unsure what to make of it. It wasn’t the helpful explanation he had hoped for but it was something. Maybe Bokuto was just overly enthusiastic about his new skill and really wanted to show it off, who knew how many cups he had given away to his teammates. Of course, that wouldn’t explain all the other behavior: the sudden touchy-ness, the newly discovered passion for the concept - but not the taste - of tea, the constant stares and the explicit permission for Akaashi to enter his room whenever. He had never acted like this before and Akaashi had no data on what he had taken to calling ‘affectionate Bokuto’. 

Suppressing a sigh, Akaashi sent a quick thanks back to Tsukishima. He had just returned to the fridge when Bokuto’s door opened and he crashed into the kitchen, one arm raised in triumph.

“Akaashi! Akaashi, check it out, it’s my best one yet!”

Akaashi couldn’t say he was surprised to see another tiny cup. “Very nice, Bokuto-san,” he agreed. Bokuto beamed and rushed over, presenting it to Akaashi in the middle of his palm.

“I know, right? I’m glad you like it too because it’s yours!” 

Tightening his jaw, Akaashi looked from the cup to Bokuto’s face and back. Finally, he sighed. “Bokuto-san-”

“Oh no, you don’t like it.” The words erased Bokuto’s smile like it had never been there. When Bokuto got upset, it showed on his entire body: his shoulders dropped, his steps got slower, even his hair seemed to deflate. There were few things in the world Akaashi hated more than to see him like this. Bokuto was a star made of boundless energy and seeing him without it was as jarring as a sudden disappearance of the sun might be.

“No, that’s not it,” he hurried to say. “Your trophies are nice. But you have given me forty-seven of them, forty-eight now, and I am running out of place on my desk.”

The effect of Akaashi’s words was immediate. Bokuto gasped and looked at him with wide eyes, the cup on his hand seemingly forgotten. “You kept them?”

Of course I did. “Yes.”

Another gasp before a blinding smile overtook Bokuto’s face. Akaashi could feel his heart rate accelerating and had to remind himself to just breathe for a few moments. Bokuto had no idea what kind of an effect he had on him. He was so bright and strong and positive that it left Akaashi marvelling at how he had managed to befriend him. However he had done it, he was eternally grateful to his past self. Bokuto was the light of his life and he couldn’t imagine how different both high school and university would have gone without him by his side.

“Oh man! I am so happy! I was so worried because you never said anything but I didn’t want to go into your room without permission because you care about stuff like that. This is the best day of my life!”

“They… they are just cups made of gum wrapper,” Akaashi said, hopelessly in love with him.

“I know! And you kept them!”

“I did.”

“You kept them despite them being absolutely useless! They are practically trash! But you kept them anyway!”

“I wouldn’t go that far…” Bokuto didn’t seem to care about Akaashi’s opinion though, he was still over the moon that Akaashi had kept the cups. Well, at least it solved his earlier dilemma: there was no way he was ever going to get rid of them now. He would have to clear out space on his bookshelf so that they wouldn’t obstruct his working place.

“You kept them. You kept them! You kept them because you care for them. You care for me! Does that mean you like me?”

Akaashi’s response was totally automatic. “Of course I like you, Bokuto-sa-” It was only then that he realized Bokuto’s unusually intense gaze. Akaashi knew it well, but he had rarely seen it off the volleyball court. It was the face Bokuto put on when he was following a goal, the face he used when he was serious about something. Every time he saw it, Akaashi felt like he could see into his soul. “I’m… I-”

“Because I really like you, Akaashi. Like, really, really. A lot. And if you like me too, I would really like to take you on a date sometime this week. Maybe on Tuesday before your shift at the café.”

Somehow, Akaashi got his brain working long enough to muster up a reply. “But you have training then.” 

If possible, Bokuto’s grin got even brighter. “I do! You’re right, how stupid of me. We should do it Thursday after math instead.”

Thursday. Thursday was good, both of them had the afternoon off. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.” 

“Okay! You said yes! You’re going on a date with me!” Bokuto cheered, throwing his arms out. It made the cup he had been unconsciously balancing on his palm fly off and hit the table, deforming it. Akaashi watched numbly as Bokuto shouted something and fell to his knees, reaching for the cup to fix it again.

A date. Akaashi was going on a date with Bokuto. Because Bokuto liked him and had probably been worried about rejection for the entire week, which finally put his odd behavior into perspective. That was just the way Bokuto acted when he was in love and trying to hide it.

Bokuto was in love. With him.

The realization hit him a little late but it made his heart race impossibly faster. Bokuto actually, truly liked him. That was - unfathomable. Too good to be true. 

“Akaashi! Akaashi, I’m so sorry, it looks like shit now.” Bokuto’s whiny voice drew him out of his thoughts and back into reality. He focused his eyes on the cup and gingerly reached out to take it. Bokuto was right, it was a little torn at the side and had a lot more wrinkles than before. Despite that, Akaashi knew he would treasure it forever.

“Don’t be sorry. It’s perfect,” he said, a soft smile on his face. When he looked up at Bokuto, he was met with the same stare he had had to deal with so often for the past week.

“Hey, hey, say, can I kiss you? Just on the cheek. I really like the way you look when you’re happy.” 

Warmth spread through Akaashi’s chest and he nodded his consent, making Bokuto’s eyes light up in excitement. He had barely enough time to process that when Bokuto’s lips were already on his cheek, a little more forceful than comfortable, a little more insistent than expected. Just like Bokuto himself. Akaashi’s smile deepened and he quickly grabbed Bokuto’s neck to plant his own kiss on Bokuto’s cheek when he drew back. It got him joyful laughter and a hug he never wanted to let go of.

And while he might have to let go of the hug, Akaashi knew that he wouldn’t have to let go of Bokuto any time soon.