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Operation BokuAka

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Konoha is early, but he’s not the first to arrive.

 

When he gets to the restaurant, Komi and Sarukui are already there, ordering drinks and appetizers in the private room they’ve booked for the Fukuroudani team reunion dinner.

 

“I can’t believe it took us so long to arrange this,” Saru says after they exchange greetings. “About time our schedules finally lined up.”

 

While there have been smaller meet-ups and one notable alumni practice game, tonight marks the first time the entire crew is getting together since most of the team graduated nine months ago.

 

“It’s a Christmas miracle,” says Komi, raising a glass in a mock toast. “Even Akaashi is coming, and he’s always busy on the weekends.”

 

“Well, you know,” Konoha says, taking a sip of his drink. “Akaashi only agreed after he found out Bokuto was coming.”

 

Sure, it was with his standard level of enthusiasm, which is to say not much. But still. Akaashi had been adamant about declining, saying he already had plans he didn’t care to cancel when Konoha interrupted.

 

“Come on, you gotta come! Even Bokuto is gonna be there this time!”

 

There was a pause, then Akaashi asked, “He’s already agreed to this?” Konoha made a sound of affirmation, and Akaashi had simply let loose a long-suffering sigh. “Alright. I suppose I’ll be there as well.”

 

Sarukui laughs. “Why am I not surprised to hear that?” he says shaking his head. “Honestly the only surprising thing about those two is that they never got together in high school.”

 

Komi nods in agreement. “Man, I was convinced they were together, right up until Nationals. Things seemed kinda weird between them after that.”

 

The truth is, things were weird for all of them after that. The season was over; their time playing together was done. It was a strange transitional period where they weren’t teammates anymore, where they had to figure out how to be friends outside of volleyball. And with the third years graduating and going their separate ways, there was an ever-growing distance stretching between all of them, but especially between their Captain and Vice.

 

“Well, I don’t think things are weird between them anymore,” Konoha offers. “You two saw how they were flirting at the alumni game, right?”

 

“Were they?” Sarukui asks. “They didn’t really seem any different from usual…”

 

“My point exactly,” Konoha says. “They’ve always been like that! Remember the training camp incident?”

 

The other two nod in solemn acknowledgment.

 

‘The training camp incident’ was less a single incident and more a series of increasingly questionable interactions between the Fukuroudani volleyball club’s Captain and Vice Captain. The team witnessed the two of them sharing food, and clothes, and lingering looks, and one night, a futon. Saru even walked in on Bokuto giving a shirtless Akaashi a shoulder massage, which was exceedingly awkward for all parties involved.

 

Komi sighs. “They really did seem perfect for each other, you know? It’s a shame they didn’t see it.”

 

Konoha nods in agreement, biting back his response that at least one of them did see it. Because he has insider information—Akaashi likes Bokuto. Or at least he did, back then.

 

It was on the last day of training camp that the setter admitted his feelings to Konoha. And Konoha had encouraged Akaashi to just confess already, for the love of god please put us out of our misery and tell him because it was obvious to anyone with two braincells to rub together that the feelings were mutual. But Akaashi steadfastly refused. He didn’t want to trouble Bokuto with his feelings, he didn’t want to cause unnecessary tension or risk ruining the team dynamic.

 

Maybe after their season, Akaashi had said. Maybe after Nationals.

 

But then Nationals happened, and the third years retired from the club, and Bokuto graduated and went off to college. And that was the end of that.

 

But did it have to be the end?

 

“Hey, I have an idea,” Konoha starts. “What if we try to play matchmaker tonight and finally get them together?”

 

“Oi, I didn’t know you had a death wish,” Saru says. “Are you trying invoke Akaashi’s wrath?”

 

“No I’m trying to do him a favor!” Konoha protests as the door to the room slides open.

 

“Who’s invoking Akaashi’s wrath?” Shirofuku asks as her and Suzumeda enter the room.

 

“Konoha has a bad idea,” Komi explains.

 

“Excuse you, it’s a great idea,” Konoha says, and he briefly explains his plan while the girls settle down at the table.

 

Shirofuku immediately starts making her way through the appetizers. Between bites, she offers her opinion, “I can definitely see Bokuto liking him, but I always figured Akaashi thought Bo was more of a burden than anything.”

 

“But why would he take on that burden if he didn’t have feelings for him?” Komi says.

 

“Oh, so now you’re on my side?” Konoha grumbles.

 

“I didn’t say you were wrong, I just said it was a bad idea,” Komi replies with a shrug. “But come on, to put up with him like that, to stay late after practice with him for hours every day? He’d have to either really like volleyball, or really like Bokuto.”

 

“I dunno,” Saru says. “Even if they did have feelings for each other back then, do you really think they still do? A lot can change in a year.”

 

Suzumeda nods in agreement. “And if they really did like each other, then why didn’t they ever get together?”

 

It isn’t Konoha’s place to reveal Akaashi’s feelings, but he can still offer an explanation without confirming anything. “Maybe they were too unsure about the other’s feelings,” he says. “Or they were afraid of ruining their friendship or affecting the team. Maybe they’re both kinda dumb.”

 

“Maybe, maybe,” Saru agrees with a little laugh. “So what exactly do you want us to do?”

 

“Just, you know, try to nudge them in the right direction,” Konoha says, realizing that his plan doesn’t actually have much plan involved. “Honestly, we probably don’t even need to do much! Just make sure they sit next to each other. Saru, scoot over, good—and Yukie, come sit on this side next to Komi. Oh, don’t give me that look, I’ll buy you another appetizer.”

 

That does the trick. The group rearranges to leave two seats open together, right in the middle.

 

“Perfect. This way Bokuto will hang all over Akaashi, like always, and Akaashi will take care of Bokuto, like always. And with a few suggestive comments, we can make this happen.”

 

“And if it doesn’t work?” Saru asks, still skeptical.

 

“Then it doesn’t work.” Konoha shrugs like he’s not incredibly invested in this idea. “We won’t try to force anything or push too hard. Nobody is invoking Akaashi’s wrath.”

 

“Cheers to that!” Komi says, lifting his glass, and the others laugh and follow suit, clinking their cups together over the table.

 

Akaashi and Onaga are the next ones to arrive, coming straight from Saturday afternoon practice. They enter the room with bows and polite greetings then move to sit in the nearest open spaces.

 

“No wait!” Konoha interjects quickly with a wave of his arm. “Akaashi, over here! This is your spot!”

 

“Oh?” Akaashi says, lifting an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize we had assigned seating.”

 

“Er, yeah. I just thought—” Konoha doesn’t know what he just thought but apparently it doesn’t matter much because Akaashi is sitting down where directed without further protest.

 

He eyes the empty spot beside him. “And who will be sitting here?”

 

“Uh, I mean, we figured our Captain and Vice Captain should sit together, you know? For old time’s sake?”

 

Akaashi pins him with a steady look. “What are you planning?”

 

“Nothing!” he says, so quickly his voice cracks.

 

“Very convincing, Konoha-san,” Akaashi deadpans.

 

Fortunately, Suzumeda comes to Konoha’s rescue. “How was practice today, Akaashi-kun?”

 

“It went well. The team has been coming together nicely since the alumni match, though we still have some work to do before Nationals.”

 

They fall into some easy talk about the team, but when there’s a lull in the conversation, Konoha takes advantage of it to steer the topic in the direction of tonight’s goal.

 

“So, Akaashi, have you seen Bokuto lately?”

 

“Why do you ask?” Akaashi says. His voice is mild, but his gaze is sharp.

 

“Oh, just wondering! He’s, uh, looking pretty good these days, you know? Even more buff than he was in high school.”

 

Akaashi gives him an incredulous look. “Why are you telling me this.”

 

“We just thought you’d wanna know!” Saru chimes in. “Because, um, he’s been in top form lately, and you always liked seeing him in top form, right?”

 

Akaashi’s eyes shift suspiciously between them. “…I suppose that’s true.”

 

“Yeah, so we were just… making an observation,” Komi provides.

 

“About how buff Bokuto-san is?” Akaashi asks drily.

 

“Um,” Konoha says, exchanging frazzled looks with Komi and Saru. Konoha is starting to worry Komi was right—this is a bad idea. Akaashi is staring at them, quiet and discerning, and Konoha has a sudden sinking feeling that he knows exactly what they’re trying to do. At least he doesn’t seem angry about it.

 

Thankfully Washio arrives at that moment, saving them all from the previous line of conversation.

 

And then they’re just waiting on Bokuto, who is unsurprisingly late. As per Fukuroudani tradition, Komi suggests a betting pool on just how late their former captain will be. Saru and Konoha join in, agreeing to the terms that the losers will pay for the winner’s meal.

 

After the three of them have claimed their times, an unexpected fourth chimes in.

 

“Seventeen minutes after the hour,” Akaashi says.

 

“Akaashi!” Komi grins. “You never bet with us!”

 

Akaashi shrugs. “I’m confident I will win this one.”

 

“I dunno,” Saru teases. “That’s pretty late, even for Bo.”

 

“We’ll see,” Akaashi says coolly, and Komi turns his attention into goading the girls to join the wager too, but they both decline.

 

Six minutes pass, Bokuto still hasn’t arrived, and Saru is out of the running.

 

“That stupid owl,” he grumbles as Komi and Konoha make a show of browsing the most expensive section of the menu. “Would it kill him to be punctual for once?”

 

Konoha smirks and glances over to Akaashi, intending to pull him into their teasing, but Akaashi isn’t even paying attention. He’s staring down at his lap, and Konoha realizes he’s holding his phone, texting someone under the table. And he’s smiling—a real smile, stretching wide across his face. Konoha is too stunned to say anything, but he’s not the only one who’s noticed.

 

“Oi, Akaashi! Who are you texting?” Komi demands.

 

The smile disappears in an instant. “No one.”

 

“You’re lying! What, do you have a girlfriend or something?”

 

“No,” he says, immediate enough for that to be suspicious on its own, but it’s Onaga’s sudden choking noise that really seals the deal. The others gasp with interest. Onaga glances up with an apologetic look, which Akaashi returns with a glare.

 

He seems to consider the situation for a moment, then he sighs. “No, I don’t have a girlfriend, nor will I ever have a girlfriend.” Akaashi takes a breath like he’s steeling himself. “I’m gay. I hope that’s not a problem for any of you.”

 

“No, of course not!”

 

“Yeah, I mean, we kinda guessed after watching you thirst after our captain for two years.”

 

“KOMI!”

 

“OW!”

 

“Ignore him, Akaashi-kun,” Suzumeda says. “We’re really proud of you, and we’ll support you no matter what.”

 

More affirmations of yeah and of course sound around the table.

 

“Konoha?” Saru nudges him with an elbow. “You haven’t said anything yet.”

 

“Oh, um—”

 

“Konoha-san already knew,” Akaashi supplies. “As did Onaga-kun, obviously. I apologize for not telling the rest of you sooner. It’s not something I’m ready to be public about.”

 

“Oh, don’t mind!” Komi says cheerfully. “If you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”

 

“So wait…” Saru starts with a wry smile. “If you don’t have a girlfriend, then does that mean you have a boyfriend?”

 

“Ooh, Akaashi-kun!” Shirofuku says. “Are you really dating someone?”

 

Konoha holds his breath as Akaashi swallows, fidgets with his fingers, then finally says, “I am.”

 

Well. This is an unexpected turn of events.

 

Konoha feels like the ground has been pulled out from under his feet. There goes the whole matchmaking plan. He sits in silent contemplation as the others launch into a barrage of questions.

 

“Oh my god, who is he?”

 

“What’s he like?”

 

“Is he in your class?”

 

“Does he play volleyball?”

 

Akaashi opens his mouth to speak, and everyone falls silent, eagerly leaning forward, hungry for answers.

 

“I’m going to the restroom,” he says, pushing himself up from the table. “If you’ll excuse me.”

 

As soon as he exits the room, everyone rounds on Onaga.

 

“Okay, spill.”

 

“Tell us everything.”

 

“What do you know?”

 

Onaga cowers slightly under the onslaught of questions. “Er, I don’t know much more than you at this point. Akaashi-san has never mentioned his name, and if he goes to our school, I’ve never seen them together.”

 

“Come on, man! You gotta know something.”

 

“Well… I know they’ve been dating for a while? At least five months, since summer training camps.”

 

“Ooh, was it someone at training camp?”

 

“Another volleyball player? Someone from a different school?”

 

Onaga shakes his head. “Akaashi-san spent most of his free time glued to his phone, so I don’t think it was anyone there. And, um, it was between the training camps I noticed… he had some… uh, you know.” Onaga blushes slightly as he says, “Marks on him.”

 

Everyone is silent for a moment. Konoha blinks. “You’re telling me that our proper and polite kouhai came to school with hickeys on his neck?”

 

Onaga ducks his head down like he’s embarrassed, his ears turning red. “They weren’t on his neck,” he finally says in a low voice. “He was changing for practice and…” he swallows. “On his chest. And thighs.”

 

“WHAT?!” everyone screeches in unison.

 

“Hickeys?!”

 

“On his THIGHS?!”

 

The door suddenly slides open to reveal Akaashi, his face darkened with shadows. “Onaga-kun.” His voice is deadly serious despite the high blush coloring his cheeks. “I will not forget this betrayal.”

 

Onaga makes a sound like a mouse being stepped on. It would be kind of funny if not for the look on Akaashi’s face—like murder incarnate, a grim reaper come to claim a traitor’s soul.

 

“Oh, shit,” Komi whispers, eyes wide. “Akaashi’s wrath.”

 

The room is completely quiet as Akaashi makes his way back to his spot and sits down.

 

“You can all stop staring at me now.”

 

“Sorry! Hey, don’t worry—we’re not judging!” Saru says quickly.

 

“Yeah, nothing to be embarrassed about!” Komi says. “Like, honestly, good for you.”

 

Akaashi’s face gets impossible redder and he lifts one hand to cover his eyes.

 

“Yeah, we were just surprised! You’re usually so… reserved and private.”

 

“Yes, I am,” Akaashi agrees. “Which is why I would very much like to end this conversation here.”

 

“Right, sure,” Konoha says. “Ah, just… does Bokuto know?” Akaashi uncovers his face to give him a disbelieving glare. “Not about that—I mean, that you’re dating someone?”

 

He lets out a huff. “Do you really think he could keep it secret if he did?”

 

“Fair,” Konoha says, and the others make sounds of agreement.

 

“Though for the record, I have just as much faith in all of your secret keeping abilities as I do in his.”

 

“If you don’t want us to tell him, we won’t,” Shirofuku offers with a pointed look at Konoha, Komi, and Saru.

 

“No, it’s fine,” Akaashi says dismissively. “I don’t have anything to hide from Bokuto-san.”

 

Except the giant crush you have on him, Konoha thinks, then amends. Had. Past tense, now.

 

The man in question chooses that moment to arrive, sliding the door open with a bang and his standard greeting of, “HEY HEY HEY! Sorry I’m late!”

 

Everyone scrambles to look at the time. Seventeen minutes after the hour.

 

“You’re right on time, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi says, smirking at the trio across the table.

 

Saru, Komi, and Konoha exchange exasperated looks. Figures Akaashi would be able to predict even this. He probably has a chart to track Bokuto’s tardiness in that godforsaken notebook of his.

 

“So!” Bokuto says, plopping down in the empty spot beside Akaashi. “What were you guys talking about?”

 

“Akaashi-kun’s love life,” Komi chirps, and Konoha briefly wonders if the other boy does have a death wish after all.

 

“Eh??” Bokuto says, eyes going wide.

 

“Thank you for that, Komi-san.” Akaashi sighs, then turns to address Bokuto. “The others have discovered that I have a boyfriend, so they have taken to interrogating me about him.”

 

“Ehhhh??” he says again, louder. He glances around the table then back to Akaashi. And he’s smiling a little, but there’s something tight and strained about it. Is he… upset? Jealous? Konoha can’t quite place his expression. “A boyfriend, huh?”

 

“Yes, but I won’t be sharing any further details, as it’s none of their business and they don’t deserve to know more,” he says firmly, shooting a cold look across the table.

 

“Uh. Sure, yeah. That… sounds fair,” Bokuto says awkwardly, at a bit of a loss. Then he swallows, drags his eyes away from Akaashi to Shirofuku. “Hey Yukkipe, can I have some of those dumplings? I’m starving!”

 

Shirofuku isn’t in a sharing mood, but fortunately the waitress returns then and they all place their meal orders. Akaashi must be feeling vengeful, because the dish he chooses is obscenely expensive. Konoha can practically hear his wallet weeping in distress.

 

“So Bo, how have you been?” Suzumeda prompts when the waitress leaves. “Anything new going on with you?”

 

“Ah, well…” he scratches at the back of his head like he’s nervous and his eyes flicker to Akaashi for the briefest moment. “I’m actually dating someone, too.”

 

Another loud chorus of “WHAT?!” sounds through the room.

 

Once again, Konoha feels like the world has tilted underneath him. So Bokuto has a girlfriend. Konoha looks to Akaashi, trying to gauge the other boy’s reaction. The last time Bokuto got a girlfriend back in his second year, Akaashi spent three weeks moping and pretending he wasn’t. But right now he seems completely unbothered, happily devouring half a plate of spring rolls.

 

Looks like Saru was right—a lot can change in a year. For some reason, it makes Konoha sad. The tragedy of missed opportunities.

 

“Yeah! I, uh, don’t really wanna share any details either, but it’s going well! Really super well!”

 

“Good for you, Bo,” Shirofuku says. “I’m glad you found someone who makes you happy.”

 

“Yeah,” Konoha says, a little grumpier than intended. He catches himself and clears his throat, adding in a softer voice, “I mean, that’s great, Bokuto. Congratulations.” He glances around the table. “Anyone else have a relationship they’d like to share with the class?”

 

After a second, Washio tentatively raises his hand.

 

“You too!?” Saru says.

 

“Man, I hate being single,” Komi complains. Shirofuku elbows him. “I mean,” Komi goes on. “We’re really happy for you all, and only a little jealous.”

 

“Tell us about her!” Suzumeda encourages. “What’s she like?”

 

Washio isn’t the most forthcoming either, but they do get a few more details out of him than they did out of Bokuto or Akaashi. They learn that Washio’s girlfriend is a first year psychology major named Mina, and she loves ice skating and musicals. After some prodding they even get Washio to show some pictures of her on his phone.

 

It doesn’t take much longer for the food to arrive. The conversation breaks up as everyone dives into their meals, passing around plates and dishes of sauce to share. At one point Akaashi grabs the water pitcher and refills his own glass, then automatically moves to fill Bokuto’s.

 

“Thanks Keiji!” he says through a mouthful of rice.

 

Akaashi has no reaction to this, but everyone else at the table falls suddenly quiet.

 

Shirofuku is the one to break the silence. “Did Bo just… call you Keiji?”

 

“Erm,” Bokuto stammers. “Uh.” He grabs his drink and busies himself with chugging it down.

 

Akaashi just shrugs, keeping his eyes on his meal. “Hmm. Did he?”

 

“Yeah,” Saru says. “And you don’t seem very surprised.”

 

“Why would I be surprised?” Akaashi says mildly. “Bokuto-san often addresses people casually. I suppose this is what happens when he’s not in the habit of calling out some mangled version of my surname fifty times a day.”

 

“AHGAAASHIEEE!!” Bokuto whines.

 

“No need to demonstrate it, Bokuto-san, I’m sure they remember.”

 

Laughter rings out around the table, and the conversation moves on in a different direction. But even though the topic has shifted to the perils of early morning university classes, Konoha can’t keep his attention from flickering back to Akaashi and Bokuto.

 

The way they’re interacting with each other is not exactly new, but it’s somehow… more.

 

It’s Bokuto passing Akaashi a dish and Akaashi grabbing it without even looking. It’s Akaashi nudging Bokuto’s water glass toward him the same moment he starts to reach for it. It’s Bokuto leaning over the table and when his napkin starts to drop, Akaashi catches it on pure reflex.

 

They’ve always been able to read each other on the court, but this is a whole new level of being bizarrely in sync. And Konoha finds himself increasingly frustrated by this whole situation. They’d be so good together if they weren't so goddamn oblivious! Why couldn’t they have seen what was right in front of them before it was too late?

 

“Heyyy ‘Kaashi, that looks super good!” Bokuto says, leaning over and hooking his chin over Akaashi’s shoulder. “Gimme a bite?”

 

“No,” Akaashi says, shrugging to shake Bokuto off. “If you wanted some you should have ordered your own.” Akaashi selects a nice big piece of beef, lifting it to his lips before flicking his eyes to Bokuto, who watches with an exaggerated pout. Akaashi pauses for half a second as though he’s quickly calculating the pros and cons of giving in. Then he sighs and holds out the food to Bokuto in a silent offering.

 

“Yay!” Bokuto cheers, leaning forward to eat from Akaashi’s chopsticks. “Mmm, sho good!” He chews happily, eyes crinkled shut, and Akaashi watches, looking both exasperated and fond.

 

Some things never change.

 

Even when they should, Konoha thinks with a strange twist in his stomach. Yes, Bokuto and Akaashi have always been close, but should they really be acting so familiar now that they’re both in relationships with other people?

 

Konoha must not be the only one thinking this, because beside him Komi voices, “Oi Akaashi, you don’t need to take care of him anymore, you know? That’s something his girlfriend should be doing.”

 

Akaashi frowns and abruptly turns away from Bokuto, who blinks and tips his head to the side as he asks, “Girlfriend?”

 

“Uh, yeah, you said you were… dating someone…” Konoha hesitates as the realization hits. “I guess we assumed…”

 

“Bo, do you have a boyfriend?” Saru exclaims.

 

“Wait, are you gay now?” Komi asks, and Shirofuku jabs him with her elbow.

 

It’s a rare sight indeed to see Bokuto Koutarou wilting under the attention of others. “Well, uh,” he stammers. “I don’t think I’m gay, exactly. I just kinda like who I like? And I really like him, so. Um. Is that… okay? I haven’t really told many people yet, but I thought with you guys…” Brows creased in worry, he glances to Akaashi.

 

“Of course it’s okay, Bokuto-san.” Akaashi says gently, then he flashes a quick look across the table as if to say help me out here.

 

“Yeah, man!” Saru quickly affirms. “Definitely okay!”

 

“You know we’ll always support our Ace,” Suzumeda says with a smile.

 

“For sure!” Komi chimes in. “I mean, for two years we all kinda thought you liked A—oof!” He’s cut off by another sharp elbow to his ribs courtesy of Shirofuku.

 

“We’re happy for you, Bo,” Washio offers.

 

“Heh, cool. Thanks guys,” Bokuto says with a wide smile, tension melting away.

 

“So, you have a boyfriend now,” Akaashi muses, and Konoha wishes he were better at reading the setter’s expressions. Is he happy? Jealous? Regretful? His face is blank, carefully controlled. But then—there’s a hint of a smirk as he asks, “Not causing him too much trouble, I hope?”

 

“AGHAASHEE!!” Bokuto exclaims. “Don’t say it like that! I’m a good boyfriend!”

 

“I’m sure you are. He must be lucky to have you.”

 

“Yeah, he is!” Bokuto boasts, puffing up a little. Then his cocky smile melts into something softer. “But really, I’m the lucky one. My boyfriend is perfect!”

 

“Nobody is perfect, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi says drily. “Please be realistic.”

 

“Hey!” Bokuto frowns, lips pressed tight together like he’s holding back a sharp reply.

 

Konoha does not want to see this devolve into a fight. Bokuto and Akaashi arguing about their significant others—this is literally the opposite of what he had in mind for this dinner.

 

“Hey Bokuto, why don’t you tell us a little more about this guy,” Konoha interjects, trying to diffuse the moment. “You don’t need to give too many details, just like—did you meet him at university?”

 

Bokuto turns away from his staring standoff with Akaashi to answer. “Nah, he doesn’t go to my school, so we mostly spend time together on the weekends!”

 

“Oh, so that’s why you never go out with us?” Saru accuses good-naturedly.

 

“Heh, yeah, well. We’re both pretty busy, so it’s the only time we really get to see each other. He comes with me to post-game parties sometimes, even though he doesn’t really like ‘em. But I do stuff he likes too! We went to a museum once! And I took him to the aquarium for his birthday.”

 

“Aw, that sounds nice,” Suzumeda says.

 

Beside her, Onaga starts choking and Akaashi quickly passes him a glass of water. They stare at each other for a moment, having some kind of silent conversation with their eyes, but Konoha doesn’t have the brain space to try to figure out what that’s about. He’s still reeling from all these revelations.

 

Not only is his plan to play matchmaker a complete and utter failure, but Akaashi apparently has a very active sex life while Bokuto is dating a nerd. Konoha feels like he’s ascended into an alternate dimension. This dinner has aged him by at least ten years.

 

“Are you spending Christmas Eve with him?” Shirofuku asks Bokuto. “Any fun plans?”

 

“Ooohh yeah!! We’re gonna—” Bokuto suddenly clamps his mouth shut, cutting himself off. “I-I can’t say,” he says after a moment. “It’s a surprise.”

 

“What, you can’t even tell us?” Saru asks.

 

“No,” Bokuto says, a little mournfully.

 

Komi rolls his eyes. “Akaashi, what about you and your boyfriend? Any fun Christmas Eve plans?”

 

“Ah,” Akaashi says, smiling in that slight way he does when he’s trying hard not to. “We’re spending the day together, but he wanted to plan everything, so.” His eyes twinkle with mirth. “It’s a surprise.”

 

Komi lets out an exaggerated groan at that and turns to Washio. “You got super secret Christmas Eve plans too?”

 

“Not secret, no,” Washio says, looking amused at Komi’s distress, and the others laugh. “I’m taking her ice skating, then we’re getting fried chicken and watching a movie. Pretty standard.”

 

“Still, that sounds nice,” Suzumeda says. “I hope you all have a good time. And I wanna hear details from you two later on,” she says, pointing at Akaashi and Bokuto.

 

“Of course!” Bokuto says, while Akaashi gives a non-committal hum.

 

The rest of the evening is, thankfully, far less eventful.

 

They fall into easy conversations about their various college adventures and, of course, volleyball. Akaashi and Onaga share their in-depth thoughts on Fukuroudani’s chances at Nationals this year. Everyone else promises to attend and cheer for them from the stands. Shirofuku suggests they all come to her house for a pre-Nationals post-New Year’s party the first weekend of January, so they spend some time excitedly making plans for that.

 

Eventually, the plates are cleared and the night winds down, and people start peeling off from the group. Onaga is the first to leave, citing curfew. Washio takes off next, needing to return to his dorm to finish a paper. The girls leave together to catch the train that runs by both of their houses. Akaashi leaves, ever-polite with a bow and a goodbye. No more than a minute later, Bokuto excuses himself as well, waving cheerily and promising to see them all at Shirofuku’s party.

 

“Well,” Konoha says when it’s just him, Saru, and Komi. “That didn’t exactly go according to plan.”

 

“I mean, if they’re both happy, that’s what matters, right?” Saru says.

 

“I sure wouldn’t be happy if I were one of their boyfriends,” Komi interjects. “Not with the way they still look at each other. Like, you guys saw that, right?”

 

Konoha shrugs, trying to look casual though his thoughts are still troubled. “That’s how they’ve always been though. They just… understand each other, better than anyone else.”

 

“Yeah,” Komi agrees. “That’s exactly why I’d be jealous as hell. How can you compete with that?”

 

“Well, nothing to do about it, huh?” Konoha says. “Their relationships are their business.”

 

“No more matchmaking ambitions?” Saru asks with a sly smile.

 

“Nah, nope, I’ve learnt my lesson,” he replies. “I’m retiring in shame.”

 

Komi and Saru laugh and give him consoling pats on his shoulder.

 

“Come on, let’s get out of here.”

 

Sarukui and Komi have to rush off to catch their trains, so after some quick goodbyes, Konoha gathers the money that everyone pitched in and goes to settle the bill. He steps out of the restaurant alone, taking a deep breath of the frigid night air. It’s not yet snowing, but it looks like it might soon. He’s about to start walking when there’s a shout from behind him.

 

“Excuse me! Sir!” Konoha turns around to see a waitress rushing from the restaurant, holding something out to him. “Someone in your party left a phone behind.”

 

“Oh?” He grabs the phone, immediately recognizing it as Bokuto’s by the scuffed-up case decorated with owl stickers. He hits a button on the side and the screen lights up.

 

Glowing back at him is a picture of Bokuto and Akaashi. They’re standing in front of a huge aquarium tank, brilliant blue water spotted with splashes of color as bright fish swim by in the background. Bokuto is grinning wide, eyes squeezed shut, one arm looped around Akaashi’s neck so their cheeks are pressed together. Akaashi is smiling ever so slightly and holding up two fingers in a peace sign.

 

The universe tilts back into place; everything makes sense again.

 

Konoha must be staring at the picture in silence for too long because the woman goes on to ask, “Do you know whose it is?”

 

“Yeah,” Konoha says slowly as he replays moments from the night in his head. He feels like laughing; he feels like pulling out all his hair. “Yeah, I figured it out.”

 

He gives the waitress a quick thanks and she goes back inside. Then he brings up his own phone, scrolling through the contacts and hitting the call button with a little more force than necessary.

 

It rings twice, then, “Konoha-san?”

 

“Heyyy, Akaashi-kun,” he says in a sing-song voice. “You and Bo still nearby?”

 

“…I’m sorry?”

 

“Your genius boyfriend left his phone behind. Cute lockscreen.”

 

There’s a long silence followed by an even longer sigh. “I told him to change that.” Konoha can hear a muffled Eep! in the background, then Akaashi goes on, “Are you still at the restaurant?”

 

“Yep!” Konoha says with a loud popping noise.

 

“We’ll be right there. Please wait for us.”

 

Three minutes later, Akaashi rounds the corner, a sheepish looking Bokuto trailing behind him.

 

Konoha hands over the phone with a wide grin and gestures between them. “So. Since when?”

 

Akaashi gives a resigned sigh. “Graduation, officially.”

 

Konoha raises his eyebrows. “And unofficially?”

 

Bokuto and Akaashi glance at each other. “I guess most of my third year?” Bokuto offers with a shrug. “But we didn’t know it.”

 

“What?” Konoha only partially succeeds at not screeching the word.

 

“Why are you surprised?” Akaashi asks coolly. “You spent the better part of two years making comments about how we were essentially dating.”

 

“Well, yeah, but—I was just,” he sputters. “Wait—did you say graduation?! That was like nine months ago!”

 

“I did tell you I was planning to confess after Nationals.”

 

“Yeah, but I didn’t know you actually went through with it!” He rounds on Bokuto. “And I didn’t know you said yes!”

 

“Actually I confessed, too!” Bokuto chirps happily. “I wrote a letter and everything! ‘Kaashi didn’t write me a letter,” he says, draping an arm over Akaashi’s shoulder and leaning heavily against him.

 

“You can’t sit still long enough to read a letter. It would have been a wasted effort.”

 

“Hey!”

 

Konoha shakes his head. “I can’t believe this.”

 

“Ah,” Akaashi says. “Did you lose the bet?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Knowing you, there was surely a bet involved tonight. Who won?”

 

“Nobody won! It wasn’t a bet—we were gonna try to set you two up, but it didn’t work because you’re already dating!” Bokuto throws his head back and lets out a booming laugh. Konoha scowls and goes on, “Yeah, so congratulations or whatever. I hope you’re both happy.”

 

At that they turn to look at each other with soft eyes and Bokuto says through a smile, “We are.”

 

“Ugh, you guys always have been disgustingly cute together. I guess I’m glad you finally figured your shit out.” Konoha rolls his eyes. “Are you gonna tell the rest of the team now? You know they’ll be happy for you, too.”

 

“Yes, we actually were planning to tell you all tonight,” Akaashi says. “But then you started prying and gossiping and I changed my mind.”

 

Konoha groans. “I should have known. God, you guys weren’t even that subtle about it. I can’t believe none of us realized.”

 

“Onaga-kun did,” Akaashi says. “He knew my boyfriend took me to the aquarium for my birthday, so he was able to put it together when Bokuto-san mentioned it as well. I suppose we should tell the rest of the team, though. I’ll message the group chat later.”

 

“No, wait!” Konoha says quickly as an idea strikes. “Don’t tell them yet.”

 

Akaashi frowns. “Why not?”

 

“The New Year’s party is just a couple weeks away,” Konoha says meaningfully, smirking as Akaashi’s eyes light up.

 

“What do you have in mind?”

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF OWLS (9 members)

 

Konoha: Hey guys, doing a quick headcount for the New Year’s party. Everyone can still make it, right? And Washio, you wanted to bring your girlfriend too?

Sarukui: yep yep

Onaga: I’ll be there

Suzumeda: Wouldn’t miss it!

Washio: Yeah, as long as Mina coming is cool with everyone?

Shirofuku: Of course! We can’t wait to meet her :)

Akaashi: I will be there. I would like to bring my boyfriend as well, if that’s alright.

Shirofuku: WHAT YES!!

Sarukui: holy shit really

Komi: ur gonna let us meet him?!

Bokuto: HEY HEY i wanna bring my bf too!!! can i can i??

Shirofuku: Yes of course, Bo!!

Komi: there’s no way i’m missing this party now

Konoha: Oh yeah… this is gonna be fun ;)