“To organize our life in such a way that it becomes a mystery to others, that those who are closest to us will only be closer to not knowing us. That is how I’ve shaped my life, almost without thinking about it, but I did it with so much instinctive art that even to myself I’ve become a not entirely clear and definite individual.”
- The Book of Disquiet (1991), Fernando Pessoa
And through all this, the body
continues like the path of an arrow
as it has to, to live.
- Mitosis (2001), Louise Glück
The feeling of certainty, as Akaashi Keiji would have it, is most comforting to him. Life, to him, should be precise, absent all superficial drivel. Anxiety truly shakes him to the core the moment things are in irreversible disarray. Despite his near-obsessive drive for perfection and the necessary, Akaashi finds it most difficult to get to the root of it. That is, to say that he’s always out for point-blank sureties doesn’t mean he’ll do all he can for it; while he hates the unknown, some nasty part of him is more deathly afraid of finding the answers to the uncertainty he so desperately wants to rid himself of.
One such pressing question is the existence of Bokuto Koutarou himself. Another would be the moment he addresses his years-old feelings for him. As for the latter, it’s an if, and highly unlikely a when.
Ever since his Fukurodani days, it gives Akaashi the absolute comfort of having his loudmouthed captain in front of him. Never mind that he’s circumspect about his own role in the team. Always a step ahead from Akaashi wherever he goes, he doesn’t mind it being that way for two years he’s been playing. It feels as if supporting Bokuto’s been hard-wired into his system from the start. How he watched as his captain leapt from the furthest corner of the attack line to match his toss—who was he kidding? His tosses were always tailor-made for this man. Inasmuch as he hated admitting anything to his teammates—who, much to his dismay and utter surprise, told him, Akaashi, when Bokuto-san graduated, you haven’t been giving us the tosses we need.
There is, at least, an admission to himself that he would be utterly lost without Bokuto. In his humble quest for precision and perfectionism, Bokuto’s the only thing sticking out like a sore thumb, and he prefers it that way. It keeps him grounded, keeps him from keeling over as stress invades every fiber of his being. He’ll humor himself by thinking Bokuto would somehow have some sense of relief having him by his side, in a weird reciprocated sort of way. It’s a nice exercise on deluding himself, thinking this way, but it’s what keeps him at bay.
Timely , especially since Bokuto himself just invited Akaashi out on a long drive to break his new FJ Cruiser in.
It was a particularly chilly night when his old flip-phone—yes, it’s still the one he had in high school, he couldn’t be arsed enough to earn for a new one considering his measly editor pay—flashed, and on its small LED box: Bokuto-san in bold letters. Akaashi fumbles in flipping the gray, worn-out phone open. In small characters, just inches below Sender: Bokuto-san:
Let’s ride out tomorrow, I finally got the keys!!
Wasting no time at all, he replies:
Don’t you have training, Bokuto-san?
There’s almost never enough time for them; Akaashi knows it’s not particularly easy to carve in a lunch date with the MSBY Black Jackals’ outside hitter.
Earlier that year, this realization dawned upon him when Bokuto, the person who spends every waking minute outside volleyball on his phone, completely forgot their lunch date. While his hair got sticky from the nasty humidity right outside their favorite taco joint, well, Bokuto’s favorite, he waited. For hours on end, he waited, only to be met with a no-show Bokuto reality. It was a bitter taste in his mouth, and he'd wondered whether it was his acid reflux kicking in or that nasty feeling--he only forgot, no big deal, it's no big deal.
Akaashi watched his own reflection that day on the grimy fingerprint-laden glass before putting a hand in his pocket, going inside and ordering something for himself. A heated debate ensues in his head on whether or not he actually and deliberately got stood up, the taco joint’s air curtain waking him up completely from his self-pity.
The whole ordeal, of course, ends well with Akaashi dutifully reminding Bokuto of their forgotten lunch date, Bokuto replying guiltily with his own set of repentance emojis and a promise to actually show up next time. Akaashi doesn’t frown when he gets the reply. He’s just been so busy with something-or-other team, whose tenacity forced MSBY Black Jackals’ Coach Samson to push for extra training days and hours, which ends up in Bokuto having sore everythings and extended periods of listlessness.
Akaashi, of course, knows that’s not Bokuto.
A vibrating phone in his hand finally ends his overthinking (see also: reminiscing) spree. The phone moves against his closed fist, and it was then that he came to realize that he’d been holding onto it too tight, red lines left on his palm with a simple unfurling of his hand. With his thumb, he again flips the phone open. The notification quickly reveals itself to Akaashi. With his phone’s brightness set far too high, and the message flooded with nothing but small boxes, he squints and attempts to scan the whole thing:
No, no, I don’t, Akaashi! ☐☐☐☐☐☐ Coach called it off for tomorrow since Omi-kun’s wrist bent so much it almost snapped off from all the spiking practice!!! I’ll see you 2pm tomorrow, Akaashi!!!! ☐☐☐☐☐
It softens Akaashi’s features when Bokuto merely mentions his name—he never fails to remind him that you’re a person too, Akaashi. Furrowed brows and tension on his cheeks, as well as his nagging gritted teeth would release one by one—this is when he feels the least uptight. The man always makes it a point to include his name in their conversations, written or otherwise. Business meetings with the publishers taught him the merits of remembering names and using them in sentences; it exudes respect for colleagues. With Bokuto, it’s the grand total of all the ‘Akaashi’s that reassures him of tenderness, of acknowledgement. While Bokuto’s whole persona stands to be haughty to the naked eye, to Akaashi, his sweeping declarations and booming laughter settle into the sweetest song when Bokuto finally speaks his name. Breath always hitches, knees always go a little bit wobbly, heart rate goes a tad higher.
It’s as soft as You are here, I know you, and I enjoy talking to you, yet as dead-on and direct as I am speaking to you directly, Akaashi. Like Akaashi's long been waiting to be freed from bondage, and his name spoken by Bokuto-san is the key.
Akaashi does not keep Bokuto waiting. He dutifully punches in his reply on his old phone, hoping that he doesn’t misconstrue the numerous boxes for something potentially embarrassing. No matter how difficult it is to decipher what Bokuto’s emojis were in every message he sprinkles them with, Akaashi will never tell the other that fact.
I'll wait for you then, Bokuto-san.
If there's one thing Bokuto ever prides himself with, it's definitely being the most spontaneous one out of the whole bunch—be it in Fukurodani or the MSBY Black Jackals. Bokuto’s fiery energy once he waltzes in and out of the gym is carried over in his daily life. It’s how he keeps himself sane: when he himself wills the explosion in his ideas into reality.
Nary was there a moment that Sakusa did not flinch as soon as Bokuto enters the locker room, fearing for his safety when Bokuto assumes a stance that could only mean that he’d happily hurl his used socks at Sakusa. Atsumu, troublemaker that he was in high school, bows down to Bokkun when he sees a suspicious glint in his eye, as the mischief would soon follow suit. The only oblivious person in his team, Hinata, was the only one who didn’t fall victim to his antics as he would actually join Bokuto; he thinks of Hinata as his little disciple, and lord knows the MSBY team has had enough of them wearing the same exact shirt , posing with both thumbs up, pointing to The Way of the Ace on their backs while yelling “WE’RE ACES!” every time someone enters the locker room. Coach Samson was, needless to say, ambivalent towards this newfound excitement they’ve added to the team. Excitement. It is for that reason that Bokuto does what he wants anytime, anywhere, to avoid stagnancy.
An evidence of Bokuto’s spontaneity: It's well into the night when he texts his best—no, wait, he couldn't. The words were too shallow, even for him. Not just a best friend. The love of his life, maybe? Too corny. It's openly corny, to say the least.
His constant seems more like it. So he sends a text to meet him tomorrow. He gets one back.
I'll wait for you then, Bokuto-san. is perhaps the most stone-cold reply he's ever seen, and that's coming from someone who's teammates with Kiyoomi Sakusa, the most antiseptic man ever to walk this earth. Perfectly punctuated replies aren't usually Bokuto's cup of tea, and they’re definitely not the most charming, considering he ends his sentences with a shitton of emojis. But it’s Akaashi, and he knows for a fact that it’s Akaashi just.. being Akaashi, in his own endearing sort of way.
What Akaashi doesn’t know or probably does, yeah, he probably does, as Akaashi always conducts himself, is that Bokuto’s new car, aside from being the Jackals’ support vehicle--yes, here’s looking at Hinata, and his animated I call shotgun for eternity and none of you losers can do anything ‘bout it dibs--is something Bokuto actually thought about before his big purchase. Bokuto’s never been one to pause and consider something minute, let alone a major life decision like, let’s say, getting a car.
(What Akaashi doesn’t know won’t hurt him: at the auto shop, Bokuto covered his eyes and spun around thrice, hopeful that when he stops with a vehicle in front, it’d be at least a sedan, not a minivan, god forbid.)
Something different, for that matter, compelled him to actually draw out the pros and cons in his head in place of his hasty snap decisions. The seats’ got a nice feel to it, decent leg space in front. As soon as he stopped spinning and uncovered his eyes, he knew that was it. All at once, it came to him: Bokuto was two steps ahead, actually planning a long drive with the bad boy, Akaashi on perpetual shotgun dibs, even if he doesn’t call it (if he’s there).
Scratch that, of course he’s always there.
Since day one, Akaashi’s been right behind him. Even on his first day in the Fukurodani team, he’s been bearing that glint in his eye--the ‘ I like volleyball, I guess, but this is new. I like this.’ depth of it, right there in his stare. It’s at that point Bokuto wonders just what in the heck were Akaashi’s eyes looking at--volleyball, the newly-polished school court, the absolute wonder of having a sports team, or him? Nah, it couldn’t be. No one comes to the court to look at boys, especially not boys like him. In the whole scheme of things, someone with such a stern expression in stark comparison to the messy mop of a head on him—someone that pretty —normally wouldn’t step on the court with stares that cut through the atmosphere, with such a tearing gaze, especially not meant for Bokuto. That’s a hoot.
Bokuto re-assesses the years-old situation: why would this hell of an achiever be his own personal yes man? Life, as we know it, is turned on its head. What would be so great about him that would merit him an Akaashi in his life, what good did he do in his past life for this; was he a saint?
Exactly a year ago, Bokuto discovered he made it in the MSBY team. On that day, chilly as the air was, Bokuto decided to go outside on his own, against his better judgment. Clad with only a reversible parka on top of his button down shirt and khakis, he runs off. Bokuto had spare time after a hearty lunch, so he trots all the way to the Black Jackals' home court, where he’d first touched a ball for a works team tryout. At that point in time, he's far too excited to convince himself that it's not a coincidence, it's not oh just passing by , this was deliberate. It draws him in, the court compels him to approach it with fervor.
Instead of an open court, he’s met with locked doors and a sign on them: TRYOUTS RESULTS ON THE BULLETIN BOARD. Bokuto feels blood drain from his extremities; he grows numb, but he runs. His feet force themselves to move, scrambling and eventually tripping on small, uneven ridges on the pavement. A hand he puts out saves him from falling face first on the concrete, but his knee is not spared. There, plainly on his skin, fleshy red of the ripped epidermis and a smidge of blood appears fresh on his right knee. Bokuto has no time to think that it’s nothing, just a scratch, as he pulls himself up from the floor.
He stands up and sees his name on a pristine, crisp paper pinned to the corkboard. In bold letters, as deliberately surprising as he was, with the words 'outside hitter' next to it, he sees it: Bokuto Koutarou. Under all the names, he runs through the words with his eyes zipping left and right, hoping that he’d absorbed everything. First training session on Monday, 6AM sharp.
He doesn't know, nor does he have the coherent capacity to muster up an explanation as to why or how he got in the team, but he did, and it’s now semi-immortalized on a sheet of bond paper. As if on reflex, his shaking hand, freezing from the February air and his utter lack of foresight, whips his phone out from his pocket. Again, without missing a beat, he taps on the first name on his phone’s speed dial. Gleefully, he brings the phone’s receiver to his ear. No more than three rings and someone already picks up, cutting through the vacant brrr.
Yes, hello, good afternoon, Bokuto-san.
Bokuto wastes no time--while he's never direct, he knows the person on the other line is. He'll appreciate it, he's sure. It’s Akaashi, after all.
Akaashi, Bokuto starts, jittery breathlessness catching onto him. HEY HEY HEY! Bokuto does not regret his usual ecstatic reaction and the power it carries in making people deaf. By now, he’s sure that Akaashi’s quite used to it. Akaashi, you're talking to the MSBY Black Jackals' outside hitter. It's ME! I GOT IN, AKAASHI, I DON'T KNOW HOW I DID IT, IT'S PROBABLY BECAUSE I WAS REAAAALLY FEELING MY LINE SHOTS THAT DAY, Y'KNOW AND AND--
I'm so proud of you.
Bokuto's no stranger to compliments left and right. His presence demands them, he gathers. On and off the court, everything sounds like a buzz, a conglomeration of faint "ace of Fukurodani"s or "that loud one"s or maybe even "hey hey hey"s. Rarely did he pay much attention to those; nobody knew him as much as he wanted to be known. Ruefully, he knew that his teammates were borderline sarcastic with him, but equally careful in handling the moody, hot-headed ace. But, see, this was rare. A level-headedness he longed for, that calm voice, it said that it was proud of him.
See, that was Akaashi, ever-reliable consistent man that he is. As everyone around Bokuto handles him like a delicate child, Akaashi cuts straight to the point. It's his presence that halts Bokuto's meandering, his tactlessness. A familiar face in the crowd, hailing all the way from Tokyo, to wherever the tides brought Bokuto. It isn't a complete game day until his favorite person, features weathered by time but no less stunning, waves from the bleachers. He knows what Akaashi’s been through to get to every game he plays: a full day at the publishers’, four our five regrettable cups of black, scalding coffee, an inordinate amount of time in the office’s smoking lounge, finishing off his pack, a long train ride to the gym. It’s unfair that Akaashi has to deal with Bokuto’s own fans when they bicker in his sight--an unseemly battle of who knows Bokuto better, seeing him only in billboards, on sports websites. Bokuto’s just flattered that his fans see him, but he knows it’ll never be in the way Akaashi tries to .
Bokuto never intended to go pro, but for as long as he spots his rock, the man who’s always stood behind him, he's compelled to continue for as long as his bones let him. Bokuto still thinks that Akaashi, this wonderful, graceful man, should be on the frontlines, not him. Staying on and playing more volleyball is the least he could do to maintain that gaze he has upon the court. For Akaashi’s love of volleyball, Bokuto plays, hoping, in some twisted way, that his eyes are finally upon him, not the ball.
All the recollection made Bokuto hungry; energy, after all, is also expended when one thinks too much. He can't wait for tomorrow, but he makes himself an onigiri for now.
The essentials, according to Akaashi:
- an old DoCoMo gray flip-phone, paint chipped at the edges, keys faded;
- a wallet;
- a scarf--anything would do to fend off the biting chill;
- his apartment keys;
- an old, plain double-walled tumbler, hastily filled with earl grey tea;
- an old, pink translucent lighter, the ‘Bic’ on it scratched off by a thumb nail when things go awry;
- a half-empty pack of Lucky Strikes.
Akaashi proceeds to stuff everything in his old leather bag, eyeing the conspicuous lighter before he puts it in his bag’s zip-pocket, along with the pack.
He is bereft of ideas as to where exactly Bokuto would want to go, and he similarly shoves that idea in his bag. Whatever will be, will be: that’s Bokuto.
The sound of a low resounding horn, repetitive and in irregular intervals, disturbs him and the whole block. Akaashi dusts himself off and looks in the mirror: a knitted camel sweater over his white button-on, collar stubbornly peeking out from the neckline, plain black slacks and his trusty ol’ low-cut black 1461 pair, remnants of murky rain still on its soles. He allows himself a bit of mischief by wearing Bokuto’s favorite owl-speckled socks--he’d pointed it out to Bokuto the day he wore them for the first time and Bokuto did not falter in saying that it suits him, that his quirkiness might be rubbing off on Akaashi because that pair did not seem like something Akaashi would wear.
Maybe Bokuto is rubbing off on him, and marvelously so.
Akaashi runs down the stairs after locking his apartment door, keeping an eye on the bad step and leaping over it effortlessly. It does not faze him a bit, the way he jumps over things without a sweat: a wary reminder of the way he fought hard to stand in court with Bokuto.
He spots Bokuto leaning on his newly-bought Cruiser. Bokuto wasn’t lying when he said he wanted a big-ass car, Akaashi, the kind you could take to the beach and it wouldn’t get stuck in the sand! It is indeed a monstrous thing, this vehicle. He feels like it could be a veritable housing choice. This is, of course, an unbiased opinion from someone who hasn’t seen a lot of cars in his days, much less own one.
“Akaashi!” Bokuto, again, beckons Akaashi with a boisterous yell. “Like it? It matches your sweater.”
And it does, indeed. Akaashi lifts his head to look at the vehicle in its entirety--cappuccino-colored, much like his attire. He cannot fathom if his gut screams out in embarrassment or beaming pride. “Bokuto-san, you know that it’s your car, right? It belongs to you . Why’d you get it in my favorite color?” Bokuto, feeling no sense of animosity in Akaashi’s words, smirks. There are no answers, just his hand on the handle, opening the door for Akaashi, as if Bokuto expects Akaashi to know just what chaos is brewing in his head.
“Get in, Akaashi. We’ve got a ways to go,” Bokuto pats the leather seat, and the new car scent unsuspectingly wafts to Akaashi. Akaashi never gets the answer when he asks, and he’s always half-indignant and half-dismissive about it. Bokuto steps aside as Akaashi hauls his bag on the seat before he climbs in. Bokuto closes the door for him.
A close observation: everything seems perfect. Leather seats, a decent legspace for him, seat adjusted precisely to his liking--almost as if Bokuto had thought long and hard about his comfort. A near-impossible instance, Akaashi thinks off-handedly. Bokuto climbs in the seat next to him, buckling up.
Akaashi practices another exercise in futility: “Where are we going, Bokuto-san?”
This time, Bokuto seizes his statement and somersaults with it, humming a small tune as he presses the ignition.
“The beach, Akaashi.”
It was that morning, Akaashi remembers, lighting his nth stick, back turned against Bokuto, who was busy fiddling with the radio. Akaashi swears that his smile was audible when he finally stopped at a Carly Rae Jepsen song.
There had been only radio silence in his life ever since he entered Fukurodani as a freshman. Intent on doing nothing but to pass his subjects, he enters the classroom, expecting a sea of like-minded people--collecting 4.0’s like it was natural to them, leafing through books quietly. He’d imagined that he would take a seat near the window--any seat--for as long as sunlight bathes him and his novels in warmth. No standoffish anythings, no outstanding behavior, just Akaashi.
Instead, he finds Bokuto in their homeroom, a volleyball in hand.
Of course, every freshman in this school has at least some idea who he was, and that doesn’t exclude Akaashi, who was working hard not to gape at the man sitting on his desk.
“AH!” the intruder exclaims.
Bokuto scrambles to run out of the classroom, chasing the sound of the bell that rang exactly five minutes ago.
It is 7:35am. It is only 7:35 in the morning and Bokuto Koutarou, Fukurodani’s rowdy volleyball ace, almost leaves his indoor shoes behind when he comes to realize that he was already a sophomore and his classes were in the next building.
Akaashi finds no words to speak, no movements to make. Instead, he stares solidly on his desk, a spot so reverent to his eyes, with remnants of the lost boy’s incandescence.
The silence halts. In its place: not an orchestra but a singular slow plucking of a guitar, a continuous trail of soft music Bokuto left in his wake.
“Say, Akaashi,” Bokuto starts, munching on an onigiri he’d plucked from the middle compartment, “remember that time I ended up in your classroom?” He draws out his laughter from the deep well of his abdomen; it’s almost a roar when it comes out.
Akaashi blinks thrice as he nurses his tumbler of earl grey tea, already tepid. “You remember that, Bokuto-san?” He takes a sip and pulls an onigiri out, carefully placing his tumbler in the cupholder before tearing into the packaging with very little force.
Bokuto raises an eyebrow and takes his eyes off the road for the nth time, prompting Akaashi to hold the wheel on reflex. “Why wouldn’t I?” He starts, rice visibly stuck on the corner of his mouth, on his cheek, on his chin, on his nose. “That was embarrassing, you know? I thought I was still a freshman.” He refocuses his eyes on the road and finishes off the rest of the onigiri.
“Nobody dared to talk about that incident, Bokuto-san.” Akaashi lied. In fact, everyone in his year level knows about that ditz move. All Akaashi could do was to remark about everyone’s lack of substantial activity to do. Aggresively phrased: do you lowlives have nothing else to do than gossip about a simple mistake? His words held a harsh succintness that eventually dwindled the murmurs along the hallway.
“It was nice, though. Saw you for the first time. Had no idea you’d be present at next day’s tryouts, Akaashi. I kept getting your name wrong.” Akaashi cocks his head to the side when he turns to face Bokuto. So, he’d seen me.
It wasn’t until their third training day together that Bokuto finally got his name right. Not that he overly minded it, anything close enough to Akaashi, even the lack of a prolonged syllable, is more than enough. Just as long as Bokuto attempts to say his name, botched or otherwise. It’s Akaaaaashi , he prolongs, the a rolling off his tongue a little longer than usual, a hyperbolic move for Bokuto to remember his name.
He’d read a line, once, when he was shuffling for books to make reviews of. It had been one of the requirements for an editor spot to review, in full, a Japanese author--award-winning or not--just review a book. While he knew that his writing was stellar, he couldn’t help but take a beat upon first perusal: if you remember, then I don’t care if anyone else forgets. Simple, yet underrated, the way these words were stringed together to make his chest ache, a dull knife twisting somewhere in there.
That indistinct pain blooms now, sends cliche butterflies to his stomach and wrings his gut whenever Bokuto beckons him by what he could only say were the sweetest syllables on his tongue.
What Bokuto does not know: Akaashi swoons just a little bit when he gets a serve in, looking back at his ever-reliable setter for affirmation. Flowers bloom just a little bit faster in his path when Akaashi walks down the street every morning, looking forward to the spiker he dutifully sets to. Helplessness creeps in when he sees Kageyama, or Kenma, or any other setter , for that matter, who snags Bokuto’s complete attention; it’s always a little bit of self-blame mixed in with anxiety--a deadly concoction in a setter’s head. Akaashi tries to manage, and does it, not for himself but for Bokuto. He tries so desperately to be flawless, perfect, a genius, if you will, but it’s not always for himself. Akaashi tallies all of Bokuto’s nuances, all his mannerisms and comes up with a decent list of what he should and shouldn’t do. While that may look like a purely personal preference, it’s what he does so he could see Bokuto fly for the nth time. It’s still a wonder.
What Bokuto knows: Akaashi and the way his eyelids flutter a little bit when he’s fast asleep on the court, all tuckered out from the day’s setting practice. How Akaashi grows quiet when his teammates tease him about having Bokuto-centered tosses, the resigned downcast eyes which could only mean embarrassment. The streets of Akaashi’s body mapped out by sweat, shirt sticking to his back, the spine a highway tilted a little to the side, the scapula an interwoven system of heightened bridges and their metal frames. That Akaashi never smoked a day in his life until he was rejected once, maybe twice, by a publishing company. That it was always Akaashi’s steady watchful eyes that saved his ass no more than a hundred times in official games. Ever-reliable Akaashi, with eyes that could pierce holes on anything, the sun magnified, holds his gaze on one thing alone: the ball in the court. Akaashi, ever-so-perfect Akaashi, has a mental list of his weaknesses numbered at the ready, knowing the appropriate flowchart for when number n on the list happens, every single time. A ruse and a useless list, as Bokuto himself merely contrived that list for Akaashi to keep his eyes on him, to let Akaashi’s spell of a gaze permeate every fiber of his being.
What Bokuto considers: If Bokuto’s meant for surprises, letting Akaashi know that he wants to be centered in his dead-on stare would likely be the biggest surprise ever known to him.
What Akaashi considers: In striving for perfection in all things, it may be worth something to have at least a hint of honesty towards himself, Bokuto, and his feelings for the latter. It might get him to stop smoking, who knows.
Akaashi's grip tightens on the lighter in his hand for the nth time today. Bokuto notices this, notices the faded marks where the label once was, now faded with all the sharp lines on it. Akaashi goes at it again, fiddling with it and scratching with his thumb nail, making an opus out of what’s left of the label.
“Anxious?” Bokuto unearths Pandora’s Box. “What’s wrong?” He opens it.
It baffles Akaashi for a bit, and his eyes search for anything, just not Bokuto’s own pair, which he knows would be staring in absolute scrutiny of his mess.
Akaashi doesn’t want to ruin it, the distance between him and his former teammate, his former captain. Soon enough, if he says it, former friend .
“It’s nothing, Bokuto-san.” Curse the open lid on this box. Akaashi stops himself from breathing in too deeply, from clutching the lighter in his hand too tightly, from fidgeting, from--
“It’s never nothing, Akaashi. I’ve seen this before.”
Akaashi wishes that Pandora’s nifty little box would just swallow him whole, then and there. Pandora’s box hardly works like a vacuum but Akaashi’s willing to reverse mythology. Words elude and taunt him as they disappear in thin air. Akaashi’s left with no other recourse but to open the windows and finish off the rest of his pack. A sidestep he willingly takes, and Bokuto’s sure to forget his current state.
Bokuto, exasperated, runs a visibly shaky hand through his hair. “Fine, I’ll speak.” Oh, Akaashi, averting his eyes further, ruminates with a ready cigarette slightly parting his lips. This is new. Calm down, Akaashi. He won’t notice a thing.
They’ve been through one of these things before, and Akaashi’s made a single flowchart out of it: Bokuto insists upon knowing Akaashi’s current state of mind, Akaashi does anything but, and Bokuto opens with another topic, conveniently dismissing the situation. How the situation plays out is already all too familiar upon Akaashi, but he wasn’t expecting acknowledgment today.
“See, Akaashi,” Fingers tapping on the dashboard. “I gotta ask you something.” The flick of a lighter. And there it is again: radio silence creeping into even the deepest niche. It’s poisonous, the way it seeps through the door, under the seats, in their line of sight. Another long drag of the cigarette, it’s Akaashi’s third now, and he wishes Bokuto will simply forget. Hope is a nasty thing, and it shatters right then and there.
“Akaashi, I just, I don’t know what it is but are you sick of me? I’m sorry I get so noisy most times and I forget our lunches together but, are you really--”
The query merits Akaashi’s furrowed brows and a bad fit of aghast coughing. It barely registers to him. What? “I’m sorry, Bokuto-san, could you just repeat that?”
Resolute, the words came with a fury. Akaashi squirms deeper in his seat, an attempt to burrow closer to the ground. “I said. Are. You. Sick. Of. Me?” The stare on him could kill him, heated as it was, as Akaashi hung his head low.
The automobile comes to a slow halt and Akaashi, focused on keeping himself calm, finally fully absorbs that they’re already by the beach. Strange, he doesn’t even notice the surroundings change around him.
Not only that, Bokuto’s still impatiently waiting for an answer. Akaashi gives him one.
Listen: Bokuto’s never been out-surprised. It is simultaneously his greatest fear and biggest win in life when someone outdoes him. He gloats when someone surreptitiously one-ups him, but he promises to bounce back a better Bokuto for next time.
Except: this is Akaashi. Anything Akaashi does to overpower him, Bokuto is sure that he will do so with great finesse, expectedly garnering the most favorable outcome known to man. Bokuto does not only allow it, he welcomes it, basks in its glory. For divine is the day that Akaashi finally wrestles him down.
It is for this reason that when Akaashi’s hands, abrupt in their movement, find their way to cling onto Bokuto’s hoodie, he receives it. When his breath hitches as he approaches Bokuto’s face, he embraces it. When Akaashi finally, in all those years of waiting to be truly seen by none other than, approaches him with a breathlessness he’d never laid eyes on, Bokuto revels in it.
This is the day that Akaashi tries.
It was quick and hungry, the cumulation of all wanting throughout the years, when Akaashi meets Bokuto head-on with a kiss. They grant each others’ cravings their passages through open-mouth youthful and sloppy kisses. How the feeling barely registers in Bokuto’s brain when Akaashi himself initiates this--what was it, now? Was this a fever dream? What should he feel, exactly, by swapping spit with none other than his own long-time personal illusion, his old setter, his Akaashi?
His lips taste irresistably of bergamot and his tongue, of nicotine. Hues splatter vividly in his mind; when his brain haywires and fails to register words, he thinks in colors. Synesthesia or not, he’s quite sure that his cranial cavity is filled with nothing but rich tints with the way Akaashi’s tongue dances on his. It sends him, feeling Akaashi anew with all of his senses. Bokuto wouldn’t have it any other way.
As with all things, there are endings, and for this reason, Akaashi disconnects from Bokuto, breathes in, and takes a beat. And another. And another. Bokuto curses all the unexplained instances he’d left Akaashi in, because this is the ultimate payback.
“There’s your answer, Bokuto-san.” Weakly, Akaashi wipes the corners of his mouth with the back of his hand. With the same hand, he pulls on the door handle and alights the vehicle. “Thank you for adjusting my seat, by the way. It’s perfect.” No further beats, no added explanations.
This is also the day that Akaashi succeeds.
“How could you ask such a question, Bokuto-san?” Akaashi laughs at his own words and the connotations they carry, digging his feet deeper into the sand. He unfurls his toes at the sensation and permits the sand to go in between his toes. It was indeed a long way from Akaashi’s to the beach; they were both met with a setting sun and an empty beachfront.
Munching happily on his last onigiri, Bokuto stifles a laugh. “Well, it’s, well--it seems like nonsense now, but you’ve been acting anxious around me.” A single seagull squawks overhead, and Bokuto finally lets out his muted chuckle. “Usually, I’d just be clueless. Do know that I notice.”
He notices. Akaashi gnaws on Bokuto’s words and tries desperately to digest them, to no avail.
“If you notice things, Bokuto-san, why not this? Have you conveniently left out the fact that I’ve been staring at you for far too long now?”
This time, it’s Bokuto that swoons, a hand clutching his chest when he emits a guttural cry. “Man, Akaashi, you have got to stop this surprising me business, I’ll die early.” Weakly, Bokuto attempts to regain his composure. He sits hunched over Akaashi’s bag and finds his phone peeking out.
That’s so Akaashi, Bokuto puts a finger on his chin and contemplates. Can’t be bothered to buy a new phone, but won’t tell me he doesn’t see jack shit when I send in emojis.
“Next trip is to the mall, Akaashi.”
Stare long enough into Akaashi’s eyes and you’ll find feigned stoicism in a sea of green, ones that could possibly drown Bokuto if he holds it a second longer.
Akaashi can’t help but look at this fixedly: while Bokuto sits with the most awful hunched posture, his eyes catch the last light the setting sun emits, and they glow golden. There is an understanding now, when Akaashi tries to catch that light in his eyes and stuff it deep in his mind for him to replay on bad days. When he catches a whiff of the new car smell and expects Bokuto beside him. In vignettes, he completely pictures this day out, meticulously piecing everything together in his head.
There is an attempt to be perfect, an attempt to answer all his queries about uncertainty, and all of these go down the drain when the memory of Bokuto’s breathy kiss, hands running through his hair, and the stifled Akaashis he was bound to whisper overwrites Akaashi’s self-destructive assumptions.
Honesty, huh, Akaashi gleefuly ponders. Refreshing.
Bokuto looks up and catches his stare. Certainty bares itself and replies with a lopsided, goofy smile. Surety makes itself known when it weaves its fingers with Akaashi’s tightly. Certitude closes in for another kiss.
Being honest to himself, more so to others is proving to be quite a feat to Akaashi. He stops himself from tearing his face apart with a grin that burns his cheeks. Perhaps there is good to come out of whatever this is. But for now, he convinces himself that he has to get better at this, especially when the pressing question blooms and answers itself.