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Leviticus 20:13

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God fucking damnit.

“Mr. Tsukishima,” Mr. Adair repeated after clearing his throat, confirming that Kei hadn’t just been hearing things and he really had just been caught listening to music. Again. Jesus, it’s only Monday.

Last Kei Tsukishima had checked, the room had been filled with silence, rhythmically broken by the steady ticking of the single clock at the front of the room and the barely audible roar of music coming from Kei’s earbuds. Kei had assumed this still to be the case just a little too long, completely oblivious to his teacher calling his name until it was too late. He’d just been slouched in his chair, too relaxed, not paying enough attention as he pretended to read from the textbook in front of him. He’d lulled himself into a false sense of security by strategically staring at the paragraph exactly halfway down the page, exactly halfway through the assigned reading section. The naive stayed on the first page. The overconfident skipped to the last page. It took a seasoned procrastinator to know to go halfway through the section. If his teacher ever walked behind him, he’d be golden.

Only, Kei’s teacher wasn’t behind him. Mr. Adair was at the front of the room, trying to call Kei’s name over the booming bass line blasting into Kei’s ears.

Now that Kei had finally realized something was amiss, he immediately yanked out his earbuds and forced his expression into something much more God-fearing.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Adair,” Kei said in the calm, respectful voice he’d been taught to use since he’d babbled out his first word. “Did you say something?”

“Can you leave your MP3 player on my desk, please?” Mr. Adair said with a dangerous over-enunciation of his words, as though stuttering or misspeaking would cause him to lose his temper completely. As if that would even be dangerous if he did. Mr. Adair was about as intimidating as a page from the Bible: in theory, it’s powerful and important, but at the end of the day, the worst it can really do to you is give you a paper cut.

Still, Kei wasn’t look for any paper cuts today, and walked to the front of the room without another word, the eyes of God and all of his classmates on him as he dropped an old, shitty MP3 player on Mr. Adair’s desk. The artifact of the early 2000s didn’t even work anymore, after Kei’s brother dropped it in a pool when Kei was twelve, and even then, it had already been on its way out. It had just become a decoy, because it wasn’t like Kei was going to hand over the iPhone he was actually listening to music from. It wasn’t a huge deal in Mr. Adair’s sixth period history class, but getting caught in one of his earlier class periods and getting his source of music confiscated for the rest of the day was awful. If Kei wanted to survive a day without hearing anything he didn’t want to hear, the old MP3 player was extremely necessary.

Mr. Adair cleared his throat authoritatively. “You can collect it at the end of the day.”

Kei refrained from rolling his eyes.

At least Mr. Adair’s history lectures weren’t so bad. History was something Kei could handle, and Mr. Adair didn’t typically stray from the subject at hand, thank God. It was when any of Kei’s teachers were catching the class up on current events, or giving their thoughts on the newest Supreme Court decision and describing in great detail how the end of civilized society was nigh, or when Kei was in his bullshit, how-the-fuck-did-this-curriculum-get-approved science class, or - God forbid - someone brought up the subject of religion itself, that Kei really fucking needed to tune out.

Tuning out just helped things run smoother. If he came down late for dinner and didn’t hear his father saying grace, he could finish his homework later without getting distracted wondering why they would seriously ask God to take time out of His day to bless their mediocre-at-best macaroni and cheese.

If he didn’t hear his pastor reference verses from Leviticus in his sermon, he didn’t have to spend hours afterward thinking about why certain bits and pieces from the Old Testament were somehow still relevant when they had the New Testament now, and why the only ones that were relevant were just used to be mean to other people, and why that was the good, Christian thing to do.

If he didn’t hear one of his teachers ranting on about how disgusting it was that yet another state legalized same-sex marriage, he didn’t have to stay up late locked in the bathroom, sitting fully-clothed in an empty bathtub with all the lights off, trying desperately to shut out the thoughts that threatened to confirm what Kei, deep down, already knew about himself.

It was just a lot easier to tune everything out.

Still, it wasn’t like tuning out was a get-out-of-jail-free card. It was just the lesser of two evils. Listening meant thinking and thinking meant doubting and doubting was a sin, but tuning out meant guilt, because what must God think of Kei when he can’t even bring himself to listen to anything having to do with Him?

Before Mr. Adair had the chance to start his lecture over, the door opened and Ms. Odell from the front office stepped in, smoothing her appropriate, mid-calf-length skirt as she interrupted with a gentle, “Excuse me!”

Instead of being annoyed at the interruption like he would’ve with most people, Mr. Adair, in all his gross, middle-aged glory, just smiled at the sight of Ms. Odell, the proud new addition to the staff at Willow Creek Christian Academy. She was young, barely old enough to be qualified for a job as a secretary at such a prestigious institution, and unfortunately beautiful (unfortunate in that it drew the attention of married-with-kids creeps like Mr. Adair).

“Christine,” Mr. Adair said brightly. Ms. Odell was the only person in the school Mr. Adair referred to by first name, and if it made Ms. Odell feel half as uncomfortable as she looked, Kei felt really sorry for her.

She cleared her throat. “Sorry to interrupt, but-”

“Oh, not at all.” Mr. Adair crossed his arms, and if he was trying to be subtle about the way he was checking out Ms. Odell, he was failing. “What is it?”

“The new student?” she said, avoiding direct eye contact at this point but making no comment. “You did get the e-mail, didn’t you?”

“Oh, that’s today,” Mr. Adair laughed. “Of course, of course.”

Ms. Odell stepped aside, murmuring a gentle, “C’mon in,” and from behind her appeared someone that... Well, Kei had a lot of mixed feelings about him the moment he laid eyes on him. Which wasn’t unusual, as Kei had mixed feelings over just about everything, but these were strong mixed feelings. Whatever it was that Kei was feeling, he felt a lot of it.

“Why don’t you introduce yourself, son?” Mr. Adair said politely, glancing at Ms. Odell to make sure she’d noticed his politeness. She hadn’t.

The new guy scanned the room with a smirk on his face, hands shoved in his pockets, taking a moment to himself before obeying. “I’m Tetsurou Kuroo.”

Mr. Adair waited a moment for him to say something else, his age, where he was from, even a simple “hello,” but he didn’t. Tetsurou just stood there, his posture so perfectly slouched it was obvious he was trying to look cool. Not that he was being successful. Nope. Not at all.

“Is there anything you’d like to tell us about yourself, Mr. Kuroo?” Mr. Adair suggested, eyeing Tetsurou’s rebelliously disheveled hair and his severely loosened tie. Obviously the clear signs of a troublemaker. By the judgmental look on Mr. Adair’s face, it probably wouldn’t be long before Tetsurou was asked to stay after class for a stern talking-to.

Tetsurou just shrugged at Adair’s suggestion. He either had no idea what kind of impression he gave off or he knew it exactly and embraced it. “Not particularly.”

Wow.

Mr. Adair clearly didn’t know what to make of this guy, and looked to Ms. Odell questioningly. She just shrugged as if to say, Not my problem, and left without another word.

“So, I’m guessing that desk’s mine?” Kuroo asked, pointing at the empty seat at the back of the room.

“Actually...” Mr. Adair scratched his slowly-but-surely balding head pensively. “Mr. Hewitt, take the seat at the back of the room. Mr. Kuroo, you can take his old spot.”

Kei watched out of the corner of his eye as his previous neighbor packed up his belongings and begrudgingly moved to the back of the room. It wasn’t a huge loss, as Kei didn’t give a particular shit about Hewitt, but having Willow Creek’s newest bad boy next to him was a problem. Which, of course, was exactly how Mr. Adair intended it, apparently so lazy that he had to put the two potential troublemakers right next to each other, to make keeping an eye on them easier. Is God finally punishing me or something?

Once Hewitt was out of the way, Tetsurou dropped his backpack with a surprisingly quiet thud on the ground between his and Kei’s desks before taking a seat. Did this guy even pack anything in his bag before showing up?

“Hey,” Tetsurou said with a grin, looking at Kei in a way that made him feel... a lot of feelings again. Some he recognized, like annoyance and anger and, on some level, disgust, but there were too many other unfamiliar emotions mixed in... Maybe not so much “unfamiliar” as “there is no way in hell I am acknowledging what this is.”

“Hey,” Kei said flatly, granting Tetsurou a full two seconds of eye contact before turning away.

Tetsurou left Kei alone for the rest of class, but the second the final bell rang, he tried talking to him again. “I’m Tetsurou.”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, I know.”

“And your name?”

“Kei Tsukishima. Bye-”

“Wait,” Tetsurou said, grabbing Kei’s arm before he could walk past him. “I haven’t done anything yet, you can’t hate me already.”

Hate is a sin. “I don’t hate you.”

“See? We’re off to a great start.”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “No, not really.”

“Mr. Kuroo, Mr. Tsukishima?” Mr. Adair called from the front of the room. “Can I speak to you both?”

“Partners in crime already,” Tetsurou chuckled, and Kei immediately felt a wave of disgust wash over him at being involved with Kuroo in any way, similar to the feeling of accidentally touching an old piece of gum stuck underneath a desk.

Kei elected not to respond, slinging his bag over his shoulder and heading to Mr. Adair’s desk with Tetsurou annoyingly close behind.

“Mr. Tsukishima...” Mr. Adair sighed. “How many times are we going to go over this?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Kei apologized. His acting experience accumulated from years of being forced to participate in plays at his church as a child actually ended up coming in handy every once in a while. That’s all it was, after all. Acting. Not lying. Lying was a sin. “I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and the music helps me stay awake during class.”

“You need to get your sleep schedule in check, Mr. Tsukishima.”

“I know, sir. I’ll try to get to bed as early as possible,” Kei said with the same sage wisdom of the Moses he’d portrayed in the fourth grade. Reviews of his performance included his parents remarking that he was, “an absolute star,” while his grandmother called him, “hard to see from the fifth row.”

Mr. Adair nodded in approval before giving a so-called final warning. “If this keeps up, I’ll have no choice but to punish you.”

“I understand, sir.” And I understood you the time before this, and the time before that, and the time before that...

“Good boy.” Mr. Adair handed over the busted MP3 player like he was giving Kei a treat. “Go on, go home. Be sure to study for Thursday’s quiz.”

“Yes, sir.” And with that, Kei headed straight for the door, leaving a clearly disappointed Tetsurou to deal with Mr. Adair on his own, and endure a lecture about how Adair doesn’t like troublemakers, and how Tetsurou better keep himself in line. Bullshit. If there was ever a teacher that Tetsurou could skate by with a thousand warnings and not a single punishment, it was Mr. Adair. That was the one valuable lesson Kei had taken from his senior year of high school thus far.

Still, once Kei was out of sight but not out of earshot, the temptation to listen in was suddenly overwhelming, and before he could really ponder why it was a stupid idea, Mr. Adair had already started talking and Kei was too busy listening.

“So, Mr. Kuroo,” Mr. Adair began. “What brings you to Willow Creek?”

“I got kicked out of my last school,” Tetsurou said far too casually to be acceptable. Kei didn’t need to be able to see to know Mr. Adair had his Serious Frown on.

“May I ask what for?”

Kei wondered vaguely if Mr. Adair should perhaps already know this, should’ve checked Tetsurou’s record or something before this guy showed up to his class. That seemed like the teacherly thing to do. Then again, Mr. Adair seemed interested in few things that weren’t the explicitly-written course curriculum and Ms. Odell’s ass.

“One too many fights.”

“Do you plan on getting into any fights here?”

“Absolutely not, sir.”

The “sir” is a nice touch, Kei thought to himself. Adair likes to think he has authority. Good move.

Then Kei shook himself out of it. Why am I rooting for this asshole?

“That’s good to hear, Mr. Kuroo,” Mr. Adair said, the Japanese name sounding uncomfortable on his tongue. Kei was used to this, but he still wondered what Tetsurou thought. They can never get the “tsu” right, can they?

“I promise I’ll be doing my best here, sir,” Tetsurou continued, sounding surprisingly sincere. “I’m going to college next year and I can’t afford anymore trouble.”

That seemed to pique Mr. Adair’s interest. “Ah, where are you planning to attend?”

Tetsurou chuckled. “Whatever community college can offer me the best financial aid.”

Mr. Adair just replied with a less enthused, “Ah,” than the one a moment ago.

Kei thought back to those financial aid forms he’d skipped past when filling out his early admissions forms for colleges. He already knew he wouldn’t qualify for anything, his dad’s annual salary just a little too high, so why bother? Surrounded by other private school kids with similar situations, it was weird to think there were people selecting schools solely based on financial aid. It probably shouldn’t have been weird, and Kei suddenly felt like a snobby, rich kid. Gross.

Even though Tetsurou had just said that he planned on being a diligent student, Mr. Adair went into this whole big speech about the importance of diligence that Kei really didn’t feel like listening to, so he finally walked away and left Tetsurou to his torture. He slipped his earbuds back into his ears, turned the volume up on his wonderfully secular music just until it was almost painful, and tried to drown out the nagging voice at the back of his mind that was just whispering over and over, so what about that new guy? Think about that new guy. That new guy, huh?

That new guy... What was there even to think about? He was a punk. And not even some cool, mysterious bad boy that would at least be somewhat interesting. Tetsurou was not cool. He had no mysterious allure. There was nothing interesting about him in the slightest.

So why are you still thinking about him, huh?

~

So maybe Tetsurou was a little interesting. Just enough for Kei to have been stuck thinking about him the whole walk home, to still be thinking about him hours later when he went down for dinner, to not be able to focus on his homework hours after that because the only thing he could think about was Tetsurou.

Not that he was thinking particularly good things. The things Kei wondered about ranged anywhere from if Tetsurou had ever been arrested to how the hell he managed to get his hair to stick up like that (and why he would want to).

The next morning, when Kei was still thinking about Tetsurou, he tried getting his hair to stick up like that, just to see if he could. His hair was too short to really mimic Tetsurou’s, but even so, Kei didn’t get anywhere close. He fluffed out his hair as he shook his head at how stupid he was being before taking a shower, running the water just a little too hot and letting it sting his skin.

It still couldn’t get his mind off of Tetsurou.

It was the same story through first period. And second period. And the period after that and after that, and Kei didn’t manage to get his mind on anything other than Tetsurou until the end of fifth period when he had his MP3 player confiscated. His attention was finally diverted as he debated whether or not he should risk listening to music in Mr. Adair’s class if need be and and possibly end up having to give up his actual iPhone. If he got caught, the MP3 trick would never work again, but... well, he had a bad feeling about today. Something was going to go wrong. It’s only Tuesday, I can’t have a breakdown this early in the week...

Kei just had the short walk from fifth to sixth period to be distracted like that, because as soon as he stepped into Mr. Adair’s room, his eyes landed right to the seat next to his, where Tetsurou was stretched out with his hands behind his head, as cool and casual as could be.

“Tsukki!” he called with a grin as Kei made his way between desks. “Good to see you.”

Him. He’s that bad feeling.

“What did you just call me?” Kei grumbled as he slipped into his seat, the only eye contact he was granting Tetsurou out of the corner of his eye.

“Tsukki,” Tetsurou repeated. “That’s your last name, isn’t it? Tsukishima?”

Kei forced himself to ignore how good his name sounded when Tetsurou said it. Until Tetsurou had shown up, Kei had been one of the only Asian kids in school, and the only one who was Japanese specifically. Was it just names that Tetsurou made sound so good, or could Tetsurou actually speak Japanese? If Kei was a less stubborn person, he might’ve asked him about it. Not that Kei could speak Japanese, not much anyway, but if the rest of what Tetsurou could say sounded as good as Kei’s last name, Kei could listen to him talk all day.

Which is exactly why Kei had to force himself to ignore it.

“You’re giving me a nickname?” Kei asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I think it suits you,” Tetsurou said with a shrug. “Tsukki. It’s okay if I call you that, right?”

“No.”

“You can give me a bad nickname, too.”

“We’re not friends.”

“Not yet,” Tetsurou countered.

Not ever,” Kei hissed before he was interrupted by Mr. Adair starting class. Luckily, Tetsurou’s attention immediately snapped from Kei to Mr. Adair, and Kei was left alone. Looks like he really does plan to be diligent.

Why was Tetsurou so desperate to be friends with Kei anyway? Kei had been successful keeping everyone else at an arm’s length for the past four years, close enough to ask people for notes, to copy homework from others in a moment of desperation, to have a place to sit at lunch, but definitely not close enough to have any actual friends. His unlimited phone plan went to complete waste with his brother as the only person he ever texted.

Oh, shit, I forgot about Akiteru, Kei thought suddenly, having reminded himself of his brother’s texts he’d gotten at lunch.

From Akiteru:
running some errands today. wanna come? i could pick you up after school

From Akiteru:
we can go to that music stoooore...

Kei had meant to reply earlier, but he’d gotten slightly distracted at the time. He’d thought he’d seen Tetsurou in the lunchroom. If Tetsurou had ended up in the same lunch period as him, Kei probably wasn’t going to survive. Sixth period history was already too much of him...

Kei had to shake himself out of it to focus, almost forgetting about Akiteru a second time.

To Akiteru:
Is it too late to say yes?

He kept his phone in his lap, waiting for it to vibrate with Akiteru’s response, and when it did, he covered up the soft bzzt bzzt with a cough.

From Akiteru:
i’ll pick you up 10 minutes after school gets out B)

Kei breathed out a small sigh of relief. If he had missed an opportunity to hang out with his brother because he’d been distracted by Tetsurou, of all things, he wouldn’t have forgiven himself for ages. Kei loved his brother, but hanging out with him was also just a great chance to get out of the house and be around someone who, guaranteed, was not going to talk about anything Kei needed to tune out.

Plus, Akiteru was taking him to his favorite music store. There were about ten albums he wanted to buy and he’d been dying for a trip to The Crow’s Nest.

“Mr. Tsukishima?”

Kei’s head jerked up. “Yes?” Fuck, I wasn’t paying attention, I don’t know the answer, what are we even talking about? Fuck, fuck, fuck-

“Would you mind running down to the office and getting some batteries?” Mr. Adair asked, waving the remote control that apparently was dead. He’d just been about to put on a movie for them to watch. “Double A’s.”

Thank God. “Yes, sir.”

Kei was about halfway out of the room when he heard behind him, “Mr. Adair, can I go to the restroom?”

No.

“Make it quick, Mr. Kuroo.”

God, no.

Kei tried to hurry out of the room and down the hallway, but he wasn’t far enough when he heard Tetsurou step out behind him. Fuck, why is he following me? Why won’t he leave me alone?

Kei braced himself for Tetsurou to come up behind him, to call out, “Tsukki!”, whatever it was he had planned to annoy Kei.

But it never came.

Kei glanced over his shoulder and Tetsurou was already down the opposite end of the hall and turning the corner, actually heading to the men’s room.

Christ, I’m paranoid.

After getting the batteries from Ms. Odell, Kei came back to find Tetsurou sitting comfortably, having gotten back before him. Kei had been half-expecting to find him in the hall waiting for him when he got back, but this just confirmed that he really was just paranoid as hell.

That grin makes him look like the fucking Cheshire cat.

As Kei took his seat and Mr. Adair started the film, he tried to work out what he’d even expected Tetsurou to want from him. What would Tetsurou need a word with Kei about for a few moments in the hallway? What-

“Tsukki,” Tetsurou whispered, making Kei jump.

“What?”

“Can I borrow a pencil?”

Kei quickly dug a second pencil out of his backpack and tossed it onto Tetsurou’s desk without looking at him.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t call me Tsukki.”

~

Whenever Akiteru picked up Kei after school, he always left him waiting at least ten minutes, letting the tsunami of parents clear out before entering the nightmare of a parking lot outside of the school. Kei didn’t usually mind so much, usually taking the time to finish some homework or listen to music, but today, he was desperate to get as far away from Willow Creek as possible.

“Hey, Tsukki,” Tetsurou said, stopping at the bench outside of the school Kei was parked on. Kei had managed to hurry out of class without him, but it was inevitable that Tetsurou was going to have to exit the school at some point.

“Kuroo,” Kei muttered. If Tetsurou wasn’t going to call him by his first name, then he wasn’t either.

“You need a ride?” he asked, pulling car keys out of his pocket and jingling them.

Kei didn’t expect Kuroo to have a car, as his conversation with Adair yesterday made it seem like his financial situation wasn’t so hot, but he didn’t question it. “No.”

“You sure?”

“My brother’s gonna be here in like, ten minutes,” Kei said, not bothering to look at Kuroo as he dug a textbook out of his bag.

“Got it. I’ll see you tomorrow!”

Kei finally looked up as Kuroo started walking away. “We’re not friends!”

Kuroo stopped and turned, casually loosening up his tie as he looked down at Kei. Kei adjusted in his seat.

“What’s your brother’s name?” Kuroo asked.

“Akiteru,” Kei said, narrowing his eyes slightly. What’s he playing at?

“How old is he?”

“Twenty-five.”

“You get along with him well?”

Kei nodded, still feeling suspicious, still trying not to look where Kuroo’s hand lingered just below his throat. He tried not to watch as Tetsurou moved it to comb his fingers through his hair. Kei swallowed.

“That’s good. I’ve never had any siblings, but I always thought it’d be cool to have a brother.”

Before Kei could say anything, his phone buzzed, making Kei jump again. Why the hell are you so jumpy today?

From Mom:
Akiteru said he’s taking you shopping. Don’t stay out too long. You have a math test tomorrow.

“Hey, Tsukki,” Kuroo said, somehow making the wave of dread in Kei’s gut stop in its tracks. “Can I have your number?”

A different wave of dread surfaced. “What? Why?”

“I’m a little lost in history right now,” Kuroo admitted with a shrug. “It’d be nice if I could ask you some questions sometime.”

Kei hesitated. “Just for homework stuff?”

“You don’t have to sound so disappointed, Tsukki.”

“I wasn’t disappointed,” Kei snapped. “And no, you can’t have my number.”

“Tsukki, I was joking,” Kuroo said quickly. “Really, I promise, just homework questions.”

Kei glared at him a moment longer for good measure before he sighed. “Fine.”

Kuroo handed over his phone, and just as Kei was finished typing in his name and number, Akiteru was pulling up in his car, arriving a little early. Thank God.

“Thanks, Tsukki,” Kuroo said as he took his phone back and stuck it in his back pocket. “Now I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Kei didn’t answer, instead shoving all of his stuff back into his backpack and hurrying into the passenger seat of Akiteru’s car.

“Who was that?” Akiteru asked, watching Kuroo walk across the parking lot as Kei closed his door.

“No one. New kid. He’s in my history class.”

“So not a friend?”

No.”

“Just asking,” Akiteru chuckled as he pulled out of the parking lot. There was a long stretch of silence before he spoke up again. “Really, you’re not going to put on music?”

Kei immediately snapped out of his thoughts and went for the auxiliary cord, feeling his face getting red. He always put on music in Akiteru’s car, as it was one of the few opportunities he had to play his music out loud instead of just blasting it through headphones, and Akiteru actually liked asking him about different bands and albums. Fuck, how had he gotten that distracted?

Instead of putting on something new, Kei starting playing a Vampire Weekend album he knew Akiteru liked. Akiteru immediately turned it up, loud enough to drown out Kei’s thoughts and almost, almost loud enough for Kei not to notice his phone buzz again.

Unknown Number
it’s tetsurou~ thanks again for the number!

“So, how was school?” Akiteru shouted over the music.

“It was just school,” Kei shouted back, looking out the window back at the parking lot just in time to see Kuroo sliding into his old, shitty, beat up car. So that’s how he can afford a car...

~

It was lucky that Kei was hanging out with Akiteru today, of all days. Nothing else on this planet could’ve distracted him from the unanswered text message from Kuroo.

“Wait, you’re kidding,” Akiteru laughed, standing by while Kei rifled through CDs. “Our old MP3 player? That I dropped in the pool?”

My old MP3 player,” Kei corrected. “Mom made me share it. And yes.”

Akiteru shook his head. “One of your teachers has to know that no one uses MP3 players anymore. One of them.”

“So far, it’s worked on all of them except for third period,” Kei said with a shrug. “And that’s only because he hasn’t caught me listening to music yet.”

“Why do you have to listen to music anyway? It wouldn’t kill you to pay attention,” Akiteru teased.

“We don’t know that,” Kei said, only half-joking.

Akiteru laughed, about to say something else when he was interrupted by his phone ringing. “Ah, hold on a sec... Hello?”

Kei tried focusing harder on his CD hunt, Akiteru’s phone just reminding him of his own, just sitting in his pocket, with that text message still awaiting a response...

“Oh, hey, mom. ... Yeah, Kei’s still with me. ... Mom, we haven’t even been gone an hour. ... I know, I know, no music store. We’re just getting groceries. ... Mmhmm. I will. Alright. Bye, mom.”

“‘No music store’?” Kei repeated.

“She thinks me taking you here is encouraging you to waste your time,” Akiteru said, sliding his phone back into his pocket. “But it’s just stupid. It’s not like you’re gonna end up homeless one day because I bought you a couple of CDs.”

“Speaking of which, how many am I allowed to get?” Kei asked. If Akiteru didn’t give him a limit, he’d walk out with about ten different albums.

“Three.”

Three?”

Akiteru laughed. “My starting salary is good, but it’s not that good. I still need to like, eat and stuff,” he said, ruffling Kei’s hair. Kei pushed his hand away.

“You’re saving up for something, aren’t you?” Kei asked suspiciously.

Akiteru shrugged. “Retirement?”

Kei narrowed his eyes. “It’s Lily, isn’t it?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Akiteru said casually, crossing his arms over his chest.

Kei raised an eyebrow. “Don’t think I forgot what you said, what, last year? ‘I’m telling you, Kei, she’s the one!’”

“But-”

“‘As soon as I’ve got a job, I’ll start saving up for a ring!’ Blah blah blah... That’s what you said, isn’t it?”

Akiteru’s shoulders dropped. “You just love spoiling surprises, don’t you?”

Kei just grinned and turned back to the CDs. “Technically, you spoiled that one yourself. When are you gonna pop the question?”

“Not for a while,” Akiteru admitted. “I’m gonna do this properly, the whole three-months’-salary thing, and I haven’t been saving up that long. Will you come ring shopping with me when the time comes?”

Kei wrinkled his nose. “I don’t know what Lily likes.”

Kei.”

“Fine.” Kei finally narrowed his options down and pulled three CDs from the stack he’d been collecting, and turned back to his brother. “I’m happy for you.”

Akiteru smiled. “Thanks. And you’re not gonna tell anyone else, right?”

“Of course not.”

“Good.” Akiteru nudged Kei with his elbow and they turned to head for the cash register. “’Cause if you do, I’m telling mom and dad about the MP3 player.”

~

It was about an hour after Akiteru had dropped Kei off back at home. Kei was supposed to go down for dinner, but instead he found himself sitting on his bed, knees pulled up to his chest, staring at where his phone lay in front of him. He hadn’t noticed, but sometime while he was out with Akiteru, Kuroo had texted him again.

Unknown Number
hey tsukki, i’m trying to do the homework but i can’t find anything in the textbook. was there a handout or something i missed?? u_u

Now there were two unanswered messages.

It’s a simple answer, Kei told himself. And you said he could ask homework questions.

Still, I’m surprised he’s actually sticking to that. I was sure he’d try to start a conversation.

But this is good, isn’t it? You’re not friends. You don’t want to be friends.

Just answer the goddamn text message.

After bracing himself a moment, Kei quickly reached forward, grabbed his phone, and typed as fast as he could.

Reply to Unknown Number:
yeah we got a packet about the jazz age last week

He pressed send before he could second guess himself. Not that there really was a reason to second guess himself.

Kei was about to leave his phone there and head down to dinner, but Kuroo replied faster than Kei thought he would.

Unknown Number
damn... could you like send me pictures of it or something??

Kei took a deep breath and typed out another lightening-quick reply.

Reply to Unknown Number:
hold on, i’m about to have dinner, i’ll send them afterward

Unknown Number
i’ll be waiting~ no rush ^_^

Kei shoved his phone under his pillow, went to the bathroom to splash cold water on his reddening face, and, once he felt like the blushing had faded enough, finally went down for a dinner he didn’t have the stomach for.

Chapter Text

As soon as Kei walked into class the next day, he was immediately greeted by Kuroo, the sudden sound of his voice making Kei jump. Again.

“Hey, Tsukki!” Kuroo said, casually reaching over with his foot to pull out Kei’s chair for him. “Thanks again for those pictures yesterday.”

Don’t call me Tsukki. “You could read everything fine?” Kei mumbled as he dropped into his seat. The thought of their brief conversation over text last night brought up a sort of unpleasant feeling in his stomach. It was just the pictures and a text to say thanks, but it had been at the back of Kei’s mind all day, that stupid thank you with that stupid Japanese winking emoticon...

Kuroo smiled. “Yup, just perfect.” What is with that smile of his? “How was hanging out with your brother? Akiteru, right?”

Kei stared down at his desk a moment, still trying to figure out why it was that Kuroo was trying so hard to talk to him. “Yeah, Akiteru. It was... I don’t know, it was fine.”

“What’d you guys do?” Kuroo leaned forward slightly, resting his head on his hand and watching Kei with this look... His eyes seemed to just be naturally heavily-lidded, which just gave his expressions this air of calm nonchalance. It suited the whole I-don’t-give-a-fuck persona he’d mastered. But Kei was quickly noticing that when he really focused in on something, his gaze was incredibly intense. Kuroo was watching Kei’s every move, and in a way it was almost unnerving, and in another it was almost... something else entirely.

I’ve never seen someone so invested in small talk before.

“He took me to a music store.”

Kuroo straightened up a little. “Oh, cool, so you’re into music?”

While Kei was annoyed that Kuroo was trying so hard to casually get to know him better, he was more annoyed at himself for not doing anything to stop it. “I guess.”

“What kind of stuff are you into?”

Kei hesitated. How do you say “everything but country and Christian” without sounding like an asshole?

Luckily, Kei was spared from responding as Mr. Adair started class. Kuroo immediately flipped open his notebook and turned his attention to Adair, twirling Kei’s borrowed pencil between his fingers and waiting for him to say something that necessitated note-taking.

Still, Kuroo was no more immune than the rest of them to the sedative qualities of Mr. Adair’s boring lectures. Within ten minutes, he was hunched over his desk and looking like he was about to nod off at any moment.

“Mr. Kuroo,” Mr. Adair asked suddenly (one of his favorite things to do when he thought he caught someone who wasn’t paying attention), “what year did the Scopes trial take place?”

“Nineteen twenty-five,” Kuroo said without hesitation, without even lifting his head off of his desk.

Mr. Adair blinked a few times, clearly surprised at Kuroo’s ability to answer the question with ease. “Um, yes. Correct.” And with that, he moved on, lulling the class into a false sense of security, waiting like a snake in the grass before he’d strike again.

Kei glanced at Kuroo out of the corner of his eye. How the hell did he know that? Kei had had that packet on the twenties for a week now. There was nothing in it about the Scopes trial.

“I’m a little lost in history right now.” So that had been bullshit. He’d just wanted Kei’s number.

Why does he want to talk to me so badly he’d lie about something so dumb?

Kuroo glanced back at Kei and flashed him a grin. Kei jumped and turned his gaze back to the front of the classroom.

~

By the time the final bell rang, Kei was holding his pencil so tightly, he was about to snap it in half. Adair had tried to catch Kuroo off guard three more times, each time with a question even Kei didn’t have the slightest idea what the answer was, and yet Kuroo had been able to answer all of them without hesitation.

And Kei wanted to call him out on it. He wanted so badly to point how, wow, that packet must have really been helpful, huh? Since you’re so lost in history, it must be nice to know answers to questions that weren’t even covered in it. And poof, Kuroo would have no reason to keep texting Kei.

But Kei couldn’t bring himself to say any of that. With anyone else, he would’ve without hesitation. Kei was not one to shy away from conflict. He loved calling people on their bullshit when he was in a position to do so without any real consequence. It would’ve been great to see Kuroo flounder trying to talk himself out of that one.

But then Kuroo wouldn’t have any reason to keep texting me, Kei thought to himself as he watched Kuroo walk out the door, one hand twirling his car keys and the other reaching for the phone in his back pocket.

~

As it turned out, Kuroo didn’t have a reason to keep texting Kei, anyway. Kei had been suspicious watching Kuroo pull out his phone that he was going to text him right then and there, but he didn’t. He didn’t ask Kei any homework questions at all that day, or Thursday, either. Kei was still half-expecting him to break his own rule and try and start a personal conversation, but he didn’t even do that. As usual, the only texts Kei was receiving were from Akiteru.

So if it was just the usual, why did it feel so weird?

Mr. Adair kept trying to catch Kuroo off guard with questions throughout the week, and kept failing, because apparently Kuroo knew everything. Maybe that was why Kuroo wasn’t bothering to pretend he still needed help with history. With every passing class, and every random date and name of some law and who-did-what-when-and-why, it was just a little too pathetic to try and say he was bad at it. By the time Friday rolled around, Adair seemed so annoyed, Kei was willing to bet money he planned to spend the weekend googling obscure questions so he could finally stump Kuroo. Or at least he’d try. Kei wasn’t sure who he wanted to win that battle.

“Hey, Tsukki, you’re in calculus, right?” Kuroo asked at the end of class Friday, loosening up his tie with one hand and slinging his bag over his shoulder with the other. The same dumb tie thing he’d done the other day, when Kei was waiting for Akiteru. Why is that so distracting?

Kei cleared his throat. “Yeah.”

“You mind if I text you a few questions about math sometime?” Kuroo asked. “I’m just in pre-calc, so it’ll probably all be easy for you.”

Kei shrugged. “I guess. Are you as bad at math as you are at history?” he asked, and he immediately regretted it. Fuck, I probably shouldn’t have said that...

Kuroo hesitated before that damn grin of his spread over his face. He laughed a little before clearing his throat and saying, “I’m, uh, a little better in history than in math.”

“Your math must be appalling,” Kei deadpanned, somehow unable to stop himself. He adjusted his glasses and lifted his own bag over his shoulder. “Because clearly, you’re terrible at history.”

Kuroo winced a little, but his smile didn’t waver in the slightest. “I’m busted, aren’t I?”

“You didn’t have to lie about being bad at history, you know,” Kei told him. “You could’ve just asked for my number.”

Kuroo raised his eyebrows. “And you would’ve given it to me?”

“No,” Kei admitted with a shrug. “But at least your conscience would be clear.”

Kuroo laughed again as Kei headed for the door. “So does this mean I can text you about math or not?”

Only about math,” Kei called over his shoulder as he left Adair’s classroom.

~

If Kei thought it was hard to get his mind off of Kuroo after day one, it was nothing compared to today. That conversation after class... Something about it was so oddly pleasing. He wanted to play it off as just being able to call Kuroo out for lying, but it was different... It was something about the way Kuroo had reacted and how he almost seemed pleased too... It should’ve annoyed Kei even more, as it usually did when he couldn’t get under people’s skin the way he wanted to, but it just... didn’t.

You’re not even making sense anymore.

If talking to Kuroo was going to be like that all the time, maybe Kei wouldn’t mind being friends after all.

Kei pulled out his homework sometime after dinner just as something to try and distract himself with (how absolutely miserable that Kuroo had driven him to do homework on a Friday). He had some music playing too, as that usually helped tune out thoughts he didn’t want to deal with. Still, he hadn’t gotten anything done by the time his phone buzzed with a text from Kuroo around nine. Kei still hadn’t put a name to his number yet, but it was still obviously from Kuroo. And Kei had the digits of his number memorized.

Unknown Number
so about that help with math i asked for...

Like it was second nature, Kei immediately moved from his desk chair to his bed, pulling his pillow into his lap for emotional support as he went to answer Kuroo’s text. It wasn’t until after he’d replied, asking Kuroo what he needed help with, that he questioned, What the hell am I doing?

Unknown Number
ok this might take a while so first things first. you never told me what kind of music youre into

Reply to Unknown Number
i thought i said only math

Unknown Number
this is for math, i work better with music. give me recs.

Reply to Unknown Number
well what do you like?

Unknown Number
no no no dont tailor it to me, just tell me what you like. what are you listening to right now?

Reply to Unknown Number
why do you assume im listening to music right now

Unknown Number
well you are, arent you? (^_−)−☆

Kei was really glad at this point he had the pillow, his arm tightening around it as his face bloomed red.

Reply to Unknown Number
im listening to los compesinos

Unknown Number
never heard of em, what song?

Reply to Unknown Number
‘...and we exhale and roll our eyes in unison’

Unknown Number
wtf is with the longass name

Reply to Unknown Number
shut up and listen, its a good song. besides, there are definitely longer song titles out there

Unknown Number
? like what

Reply to Unknown Number
off the top of my head, there’s ‘there’s a good reason these tables are numbered honey, you just haven’t thought of it yet’

Unknown Number
THATS NOT A SONG TITLE THATS A SENTENCE

Kei bit his lip, trying to hold back a laugh as he typed back his reply.

Reply to Unknown Number
im guessing you haven’t heard anything from ‘from under the cork tree’ either

Unknown Number
?

Reply to Unknown Number
it’s a fall out boy album

Unknown Number
i had no idea you were emo, tsukki

Halfway through typing his protests, Kuroo interrupted with a, just kidding.

Unknown Number
ok so what should i listen to, the band you’re listening to or the emo music

Reply to Unknown Number
the song changed, different band now

Unknown Number
who is it??

Reply to Unknown Number
twenty one pilots

Unknown Number
i’ve never heard of any of these guys, how many obscure bands do you listen to???

Reply to Unknown Number
did u really just imply that fob and panic! at the disco are obscure

Unknown Number
ive never heard of em

Reply to Unknown Number
you probably have and just didn’t realize

Unknown Number
youre going to have to show me all these bands sometime, my math homework isnt gonna take long enough to listen to it all. what do i listen to right now.

Reply to Unknown Number
u know what? try arctic monkeys. i think u would like them

Unknown Number
how do you know what id like? (^_−)−☆

Reply to Unknown Number
i just have a hunch. now whats ur math question

Unknown Number
i accidentally left my calculator out of reach and i only have one problem left, what’s 15 x 30???

Reply to Unknown Number
???? use the calculator on ur phone!!!

Unknown Number
oh. right.

Reply to Unknown Number
maybe u are stupid after all

Unknown Number
( ゚Д゚)TSUKKI how dare u, i am extremely intelligent

Reply to Unknown Number
suuuuuuuuuuuuure

Unknown Number
i bet my SATs r higher than urs~

Kei hesitated. On one hand, his SAT score wasn’t actually that high. He took the test once and got a score that was good enough to get into the few state universities he was considering for next year. Most of his classmates had opted to take the test several more times to improve their score, but Kei hadn’t bothered.

Then again, this was Kuroo, and even though he did do well in history, Kei still didn’t really believe he was smart.

Reply to Unknown Number
bull

Unknown Number
i’ll bet you ten bucks$$$

Now Kei really hesitated. And Kuroo noticed.

Unknown Number
i’ll take ur silence as u being scared im right.......

Kei frowned. This suddenly got a lot less fun. Which only made Kei more annoyed, because when had this become fun?

Reply to Unknown Number
fine. ten bucks.

~

Kei owed Kuroo ten bucks.

~

“Jeez, Tsukki, you look like hell,” Kuroo said once he got a look at Kei in sixth period Monday.

Of course Kei looked like hell. He was running on about five collective hours of sleep from the weekend. A few hours after their conversation ended Friday, Kei had gotten another text from Kuroo.

Unknown Number
♪( ´▽`) thank u for arctic monkeys i looove them~

And that was all it took, apparently, for Kei to not be able to sleep for the next few days.

Kei didn’t know what it was, but Kuroo was just driving him crazy. It felt like his life had just become one long wait for the next text message from Kuroo. All he could think about without getting distracted was Kuroo. He couldn’t even tell anymore if he was dreading sixth period or looking forward to it. Kei had known Kuroo for exactly one week, and he was falling apart.

The worst part was that Kuroo wasn’t even doing anything. Sure, he had been the one to get Kei’s number and initiate all of their conversations, but that wasn’t what was keeping Kei up. What was keeping Kei up was Kuroo loosening his tie, Kuroo using winking emoticons, Kuroo thanking him for music recommendations...

I feel like a goddamn thirteen year old girl with her first crush...

And with that thought, Kei reached into his backpack, pulled out his earbuds, and slipped them into his ears, ignoring Mr. Adair as he called everyone’s attention to the front of the room. He kept his music on at close to full volume the entire period, not even noticing that it was the end of class until everyone else around him started standing up.

He was pretty sure Kuroo tried to say something to him after class, but he ignored him, grabbing his bag and leaving class as quickly as he could.

~

A day without talking to Kuroo seemed to help, and Kei finally got a little sleep Monday night. Still, avoiding Kuroo was apparently going to be impossible. Especially because Kei wasn’t trying all that hard.

“I lied,” Kuroo said once Kei came into class on Tuesday. “Arctic Monkeys suck.”

Kei froze, annoyed and... well, strangely hurt. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, you seemed mad at me after I told you I liked them,” Kuroo said with a shrug. “So in that case, I don’t.”

Kei adjusted his glasses as he fell back into his seat. “I wasn’t mad at you. I was just tired yesterday.” It’s not a lie. “Besides, if I was going to be mad about anything, it would’ve been because you told me I looked like hell.”

Kuroo grinned. “Sorry about that. I just meant you looked like hell for you.”

Kei looked away from Kuroo, turning his attention to his backpack as he tried to find last night’s homework. “So do you think Arctic Monkeys suck or not?”

“Not,” Kuroo said with a dreamy sigh. “They really don’t suck. They might be my new favorite.”

Kei spent the next ten minutes fighting off a smirk.

He ended up sleeping fine that night. Apparently, his brain couldn’t make up its mind regarding which of Kuroo’s comments were acceptable and which ones he needed to tune out.

~

Unknown Number
ur not serious

Kei sighed, setting down his sandwich and wiping the crumbs from his fingers before picking up his phone. Kuroo was in the middle of class, but that wasn’t stopping him from texting Kei. Kei didn’t like to risk texting in class unless it was fairly necessary, as getting caught left him without his only defense mechanism. That left lunch as the only time he was willing to respond to Kuroo’s texts, which Kuroo was taking full advantage of.

Reply to Unknown Number
of course i’m serious. my neighbor totoro is waaaay better than howl’s moving castle

Unknown Number
tsukki, tsukki, tsukki, don’t get me wrong. i love my neighbor totoro. but to say it’s better than howl??????

Kei had been texting Kuroo earlier about music, and when it came to that, they seemed to agree on pretty much everything. Now, however, the subject of conversation had strayed to movies, and their opinions were no longer in line.

Reply to Unknown Number
dont u “tsukki tsukki tsukki” me, it IS better than howl

Unknown Number
how do you figure???

Reply to Unknown Number
it just is??? it was my favorite movie when i was a kid

Unknown Number
that doesn’t mean its BETTER. ur just biased

Kei didn’t text back right away, taking a sip from his water bottle as he tried to think of a solid, non-opinion-based argument, but Kuroo sent a second text before Kei could think of one.

Unknown Number
then again, i guess im biased too, since ive been in love w howl since i was like, 8 yrs old

Kei immediately started choking on his water.

Kuroo. In love with Howl. A very fictional and very male wizard. Sure, he had the long hair and the twinkly anime eyes, but Howl was still very much a man. A man that Kuroo was in love with.

Christ, was this Kuroo’s way of coming out to him? Was Kei reading too much into this? Did he just mean it in the same way Kei meant it when he said he was in love with strawberries or new albums? Did he say the wrong character’s name?

Or was Tetsurou Kuroo just... gay?

Kei had never met an actual gay guy before, or at least not one who was out of the closet. It was something Kei hadn’t thought much about, and for the most part, intentionally so. For a lot of reasons. It was something he tried to ignore and tune out more than anything else, really. As a result, he had never solidly established what his position was toward gay people, and suddenly he was put on the spot of either accepting or rejecting Kuroo right now.

Fuck, what were his options? He could not respond. That could give Kei more time to think, but it would probably end up being interpreted as rejection. That is, of course, assuming this isn’t some huge misunderstanding like Kei was kind of wishing it was.

He could just flat-out reject Kuroo. Tell him they can’t be friends (or whatever relationship it is that they have). Stay far, far away from people like that and thoughts like that and sins like that. Just keep tuning out.

Or he could continue the argument, because no matter how dreamy Kuroo found Howl, the movie was still not better than My Neighbor, Totoro.

Reply to Unknown Number
really? u love it because of howl? howl. a self-admitted coward who almost destroyed his own house because his hair came out the wrong color.

Unknown Number
tsukki that is my husband ur talking about, how dare u, i will fight u on this

Reply to Unknown Number
actually he’s not ur husband because thats illegal here so i can trash talk howl all i like

Unknown Number
jfc i just snorted in the middle of class. also thank u for crushing my dreams.

Reply to Unknown Number
anytime~ ^_^

The bell signifying the end of lunch rang and Kei put his phone away with a smirk as he headed to his next class. He was only mildly disgusted with how his last text looked so much like something Kuroo would send, and even less disgusted with his new discovery about Kuroo. Not even disgusted at all, really, which was surprising but... good. If anything, once he got over the whole shock about it, Kei felt weirdly impressed that Kuroo could be so open and casual about it.

Still, the whole thing might not have been as open and casual as Kei had interpreted it over text. When he walked into sixth period later that day, Kuroo gave him a much quieter greeting than his usual booming, “Tsukki!”

“Hey, Tsukki,” he said quietly as Kei took his seat, smiling a little and looking like he was trying and failing to stop.

“Hey.” Kei watched Kuroo for a moment. The way Kuroo kept fidgeting made Kei want to say something, but he couldn’t bring himself to. He didn’t even know what he should say.

Still, Kuroo could only stand the silence for about ten seconds before he spoke up. “I just... I wanted to say, uh...” He cleared his throat and looked down as his desk, flipping through his notebook like he was looking for something. “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“Y’know, just... Thanks.”

And Kei immediately understood that acceptance had been the right choice.

~

So Kei and Kuroo were friends. After the great Totoro/Howl debate, something just clicked and they were talking almost nonstop, either in person or ever text. Kei even started risking texting him in class, some conversations too good to end and some arguments Kei just couldn’t leave without having the last word. Kei talked more in just a few days with Kuroo than he had to anyone else in the past three years of high school combined. Which was probably an exaggeration, but only a little.

“Dude, winter is way better than fall,” Kuroo laughed. It was the end of a busy Thursday with the prospects of an easy Friday ahead of them, and Kei felt at ease as he walked and bickered with Kuroo.

“Now I’m convinced you’re stupid,” Kei said with a sigh, slipping his hands into his pockets as they walked side by side down the hall.

Kuroo cleared his throat, his cough sounding an awful lot like, “SATs.”

Kei rolled his eyes. “Okay. Humor me. What’s so good about winter?”

“Are you kidding? Christmas.”

“Yeah, and the malls are crowded, the weather’s freezing, and the roads are death traps.”

“I had no idea you were such a Scrooge,” Kuroo said, shaking his head as Kei pulled them over to stop by his locker.

“Okay, there are good things about winter,” Kei admitted, “but it’s not better than fall.”

“Fall is the most boring season there is!”

“It’s nice.”

“Winter kicks fall’s ass.”

“Not at all.”

“Dude. Christmas,” Kuroo insisted.

“Halloween,” Kei countered.

“Snow.”

“Leaves.”

“Gingerbread.”

“Caramel apples.”

“Christmas music.”

No Christmas music.”

Kuroo grinned at that one. “New Year’s.”

“My birthday.”

My birthday.”

Kei frowned. “Your birthday’s in November,” he said before he could think about how embarrassing it was that he remembered Kuroo’s birthday.

Kuroo seemed pleased anyway, smiling at Kei a moment before continuing. “Yeah. November is pretty much winter.”

“November is definitely fall.”

“As soon as Halloween’s over, it’s pretty much winter.”

Kei closed his locker and refrained from rolling his eyes. “What about Thanksgiving?”

“Thanksgiving is just like Christmas, part one.”

“That is not even kind of true.”

“Tsukki. Seriously. Winter is better.”

“Apparently, you don’t even know what winter is, so you should probably just admit defeat already.” Kei turned away from his locker to keep walking, but was stopped when Kuroo suddenly stuck out his arm in front of him. Kei tried to back away, but was just forced against the lockers as Kuroo leaned in.

“Make me,” he murmured.

He was standing really close to Kei. Way closer than he should’ve been. Closer than any humans should ever stand. Close enough that Kei could see the flecks of gold in his eyes, could sit and count every one of his eyelashes if he wanted to... Kei could physically feel his heart pounding in his chest and he couldn’t breathe, oh, God, he couldn’t breathe...

“Whoa,” Kuroo said, backing away suddenly. “Whoa, Tsukki, it’s okay, I was just kidding around.”

Kei suddenly became aware of the horrified, wide-eyed expression he was wearing and turned away. He could feel his face getting hotter and hotter.

“Seriously, I was just joking-”

“S’fine,” Kei mumbled, adjusting his glasses to hide his face as he slid his backpack over his shoulder. “See you.”

“Wait, Tsukki, I’m sorry-”

See you.

~

Kei had been fine after he and Kuroo started talking all the time.

Kei had even miraculously been fine after finding out that Kuroo likes boys.

But that... that was too much.

And Kei knew he was being stupid, he was being so stupid... The more he played it over and over in his mind, it became painfully obvious that Kuroo had been joking. All these little details had escaped Kei’s notice... Kuroo trying not to laugh, his exaggerated, hand-on-hip posture, that particular brand of shit-eating grin that had been on his face... He hadn’t even been that close to Kei, God, why did Kei have to panic so goddamn much...

After analyzing that moment over and over and over in his mind, of course he just had to have a dream about it once he finally managed to fall asleep. The dream interpreted things a little differently though. The more Kei replayed the moment when he was awake, the less romantic and more joking it seemed. In his sleep, however, it went in the other direction. Way, way in the other direction.

It still started out with Kei and Kuroo bickering over something stupid, but that was about the only similarity. In this version, as Kei turned to keep walking, Kuroo grabbed his wrist and pulled him back.

“Kei,” he murmured softly, making Kei’s name just sound so, so good.

The next thing Kei knew, he’d cupped Kuroo’s face in his hands and kissed him, and Kei was so happy, his chest felt like it was about to burst. Kei didn’t know what it really felt like to kiss someone, so his brain just had to make up the details, but those little details were enough to know he’d stumbled onto an idea that was as earth-shatteringly wonderful as it was complete and utter taboo. Kei was woken up by his alarm before the kiss ended, and wound up a little disoriented going from holding to Kuroo to just holding his pillow tightly against his chest.

Kei told his mom he was sick so he could stay home. He wasn’t lying, not completely, anyway. He did feel a little sick. His stomach was churning, and no matter how he laid in bed, he couldn’t get comfortable. It was like he’d lost the ability to relax. The last thing he needed was to sit in a desk all day.

Actually, the last thing he needed was to end up sitting next to Tetsurou Kuroo in sixth period.

Kei turned off his cell phone and tossed it onto a pile of T-shirts at the opposite end of the room. Kuroo would try to text him sooner or later, and the thought of that just made Kei feel worse.

Kei ended up spending the entire day in his room, in bed, never bothering to turn on the lights, never going downstairs for some food, as he’d lost his appetite anyway. The only thing he did was listen to music, but he skipped every song that even briefly mentioned any sort of significant other.

He told himself over and over that the dream meant nothing, that just because he was happy in the dream doesn’t mean he would be happy if that actually happened. And it wouldn’t ever happen. Tetsurou Kuroo was smart enough not to actually chase after a straight boy.

Kuroo had just been joking around, after all.

Kei told himself over and over that the unpleasant feeling he got whenever he thought about that was embarrassment for not realizing it immediately. What else would it be?

Disappointment?

And Kei told himself, over and over, that the ache in his chest whenever he accidentally relived the moment in his dreams when their lips met was because the idea was just so disgusting. Sparkly eyes and long eyelashes and that stupid grin of his didn’t change the fact that Kuroo was a boy, and therefore, Kei couldn’t be attracted to him.

He just couldn’t.

At the end of the day, Kei turned his phone back on before going back to sleep to see if Akiteru had texted him. Instead, he had twenty-five texts and three missed calls from Kuroo.

Unknown Number
first period is lasting foreevvverrrrrr

Unknown Number
helloooooooooo

Unknown Number
???????

Unknown Number
do u have a test or something????

Unknown Number
well good luck if you do~ you shouldve told me, i couldve helped you study

Unknown Number
ok. second period. theres no way u have 2 tests in a row and didnt tell me about it.

Unknown Number
tssuuuuuukkiiiiiiiiiiiii

Unknown Number
did u leave ur phone at home???????

Unknown Number
.......ur not ignoring me are u........ u_u

Unknown Number
i wish we had lunch together. eating by myself in the library is getting really old x_x

Unknown Number
is this the silent treatment. what did i do

Unknown Number
tsukki if you’re ignoring me, please just answer

Unknown Number
is this about yesterday?

Unknown Number
tsukki, i’m really really really sorry about that. i was just joking, i swear.

Unknown Number
i promise i’ll never do it again

Unknown Number
i am on my way to sixth period now. u cannot ignore me forever. unless this is all a huge misunderstanding and ur phone is just dead or something and im about to look really really clingy

Unknown Number
no

Unknown Number
NO

Unknown Number
kei tsukishima u are not absent today. u did not leave me alone. u did NOT

Unknown Number
i cant believe you left me alone

Unknown Number
youre not sick are you???

Unknown Number
you have unlimited texting right

Unknown Number
do you want me to come over??? i can bring u soup

Unknown Number
we can just watch a movie or play video games or something

Unknown Number
ok. class is out. it was boring as hell, u didnt miss much. ill lend u my notes.

After that text was when Kuroo had tried calling Kei, but he didn’t leave any voicemails.

Reply to Unknown Number
im sorry. im fine. stop texting.

Kei pressed send, turned his phone back off, and crawled back into bed. He was a little afraid Kuroo was going to think he was mad at him, but he wasn’t. Fuck, how could he be? Kuroo hadn’t done anything wrong. Kei was the one making himself miserable. Kuroo was just making him happy.

That was the worst part about all of this, just the fact that everything Kuroo did made Kei happy. Kuroo’s wishes of good luck just in case Kei was taking a test, Kuroo’s apology when he hadn’t even done anything wrong, Kuroo’s offer to bring him soup and watch a movie with him because he thought he was sick, Kuroo offering up his notes so Kei wouldn’t get behind in school, Kuroo trying to call Kei to make sure he was okay... Fuck, even just the fact that Kuroo had texted him at all. Kuroo just made Kei so much happier than he should’ve. As wonderful as he was taboo.

As much as Kei was trying to force ideas down his own throat like medicine, he was failing, he was failing so badly. It took him hours to fall asleep again, but when he did, he could only dream of sweet text messages and devastatingly soft kisses.

And they weren’t bad dreams. They were really, really good dreams.

Kei had his whole Saturday and Sunday to try to get himself over it, but he had a feeling he wasn’t going to want to go to school Monday, either.

Chapter Text

One Friday a month was always devoted to a family dinner in the Tsukishima household.

When Kei was a kid, he loved the big family dinners. He and Akiteru would come home from school and spend the day helping their mom cook in between rounds of Mario Party and Diddy Kong Racing on Akiteru’s prized Nintendo 64. When their dad came home from work, he always gave Akiteru the big-kid chores like taking out the trash, but once Kei was old enough to do that, he quickly found that big-kid chores weren’t as fun as they had sounded. Kei was in charge of answering the door once it was time for everyone to start showing up. His grandma and grandpa were always first to arrive (they were his mom’s parents; his dad’s parents had taken to a traditional Florida retirement and Kei only saw them for holidays). Always running a few minutes late would be his aunt and uncle (again, from his mother’s side of the family) and their daughter. She used to be fun, but as soon as she turned thirteen, she got boring and never wanted to do anything fun. Sometimes Akiteru could convince her to play a video game with them, but that went out the door as soon as she got her own cell phone and could spend the evening texting her friends instead.

As years passed, the big family dinners became less and less fun. Kei’s uncle got a new job and he and his family moved to a different state, so they were never around anymore. When Kei was just starting middle school, Akiteru left for college, and he was only ever around for holidays and long weekends. Two years after that, Akiteru started dating Lily, and brought her around half the time. Kei didn’t dislike Lily, he never did, but after she starting dating Akiteru, Kei’s grandparents started teasing him about when he was going to find a girlfriend, if his handsome Tsukishima features could get him someone as pretty and blonde and blue-eyed as Lily. It was all happening at a time that Kei was beginning to realize that he didn’t like blonde hair or blue eyes or... anything about anyone like Lily... well, it was when Kei started teaching himself to tune things out. Family dinners started becoming less nice and more stressful.

Nowadays, Akiteru would pick up Kei after he got out of school and they would run grocery shopping together, and it was always the best part of the whole process, just hanging out with his brother. Akiteru could talk about his job, his apartment, Lily, the dog he was thinking about getting, anything at all, and it would be the best conversation Kei’s had all week. Even when Akiteru would talk to him about school, it was less are-you-doing-well-in-your-classes and more has-the-principal-gone-completely-bald-yet (which was a mystery, as he’d started wearing a toupee). Akiteru was the only person Kei could talk to without needing to tune anything out.

After shopping, they’d go back home and give their mom a hand cooking. Kei always had to take out the trash because Akiteru was kind of a guest in this house now. These days, Lily was always the first to arrive, with some dessert covered in foil in her arms when she came in. Usually strawberry shortcake, because she knew it was Kei’s favorite. Kei’s grandparents were usually a little late, running slower and slower as they got older.

After some small talk, they’d all sit down for dinner, and Kei’s father would say grace, and Kei would become very focused on trying to guess what dessert Lily had brought based on the shape and size of the pan she brought it on.

Dinner conversation tonight quickly went to asking Akiteru how he was getting along with his job, and stayed there for a while as Akiteru went through a handful of funny work stories. After going through all his material, Akiteru happily changed the subject to Lily, as he loved to brag about what she did. About a year after they had met, she’d dropped out of the state university where she and Akiteru met and went into art school instead. While Akiteru was as in love with Lily’s work as he was with Lily, the rest of the family was a little less impressed. After all, if she wasn’t going to get a decent job, she might as well marry Akiteru and pop out of couple of babies. Something useful. Kei was pretty sure his mom wasn’t even listening when Akiteru announced that Lily was commissioned to paint a huge mural in the local children’s library. Maybe that’s where I get the tuning-out thing from.

After everyone extended their congratulations (of varying degrees of sincerity), Lily blushingly tried to steer the conversation away from herself.

“What about you, Kei?” she asked pleasantly, reaching for her glass of water. “How was your week?”

And Kei hesitated, because there was a long answer to that question.

~

Kei had tried to get out of going to school on Monday, but after failing to produce a body temperature higher than it should’ve been, his mom made him go anyway. It was probably for the best anyway, as he had spent his entire weekend in bed trying to sort out how he felt about Kuroo. He just spent hours in his room, trying to let all those thoughts he had trained himself to ignore and suppress instead come to the surface. He needed to try and figure out what he was really feeling instead what he’d been forcing down his throat.

As it turned out, trying to indulge those thoughts was a lot harder than Kei had anticipated. He’d been afraid that it would be like opening a floodgate, but the second he genuinely, purposely imagined himself kissing Kuroo, his mind immediately just went nope, shutting down the fantasy like it was exiting out of a tab on a web browser. He’d been forcing himself to do this for so long, it had become a reflex.

So he had to build up to the moment, moving slowly and designing a complete, elaborate scenario in his head: Kei’s parents were out of town for a weekend and Kuroo decided to come over and hang out. Maybe watch some movies and settle that Studio Ghibli argument. Watching My Neighbor Totoro would go by without incident, but something with a love story in it like Howl’s Moving Castle... Well, it was too easy to imagine how Kuroo would act, if he hypothetically liked Kei in this hypothetical situation. Kei could pick out the exact moments in the film when Kuroo would make his moves, when he would inch his hand closer to Kei’s before taking it in his and intertwining their fingers...

And Kei had to stop for a moment as his stomach started to churn in a way that Kei logically knew was from anxiety but what he had come to associate as a sort of warning or punishment for “bad thoughts.”

But then he kept on with the bad thoughts anyway.

Kei wouldn’t hold his hand back, but he wouldn’t object. He would just let Kuroo hold his hand, and keep watching the movie, even when they got to the part when Kuroo would get a little braver and exchange hand holding for wrapping his arm around Kei’s shoulders...

No, God, just stop...

At the end of the film, when Howl finally kisses Sophie, that would be Kuroo’s cue. That’s when he would turn his head and lean in and kiss Kei, and God, just the thought. Kei didn’t know it was possible to feel so many goddamn feelings at once. His stomach was getting worse, making him curl up into a ball and clutch his pillow against his chest for support, but as much as his “bad thoughts” were making him twist up, they were also making something in his abdomen dip, making his toes curl, making his face go warm... Just stop...

Kei was starting to wonder if that voice in his head telling him to stop wanted him to stop thinking about it, or to stop wanting it.

Kei did this several more times throughout his Saturday, and though he kept feeling sick each time, there was one benefit to all of this. The more he actively thought about Kuroo, the less he found his thoughts accidentally wandering to Kuroo, and for the first time in a while, Kei didn’t have a single dream about Kuroo that night.

Kei had two theories for this.

The first was that, as he forced himself to think about Kuroo in these romantic situations, feeling sick about it was helping him let go of the weird idea that had just gotten stuck in his mind that he might have feelings for Kuroo. His subconscious had gone crazy over the idea, but as he really, really thought about it, he was fully accepting that they were just bad thoughts, and his brain was finally starting to let it all go. After all, how could he like Kuroo if the thought of kissing him made him feel so awful?

The second was that the reason, awake or in his sleep, that Kuroo was constantly on Kei’s mind was because he had really genuine, strong feelings for Kuroo that he wasn’t letting himself feel, and now that he was addressing those feelings, his subconscious was taking a much needed chill pill. And the feeling-sick part of it all was less to do with actually kissing Kuroo and more about Kei having convinced himself that it was morally wrong to do so, and the fact that he liked thinking about it was just giving him anxiety about the whole situation.

As much as Kei liked the first option, even he couldn’t convince himself that it was right. After all, if he was really letting go of his “bad thoughts,” he wouldn’t have felt so guilty sitting through church on Sunday...

So Kei went into school Monday knowing fully well that the odds were high that he did actually like Kuroo.

And yet, Kei’s primary concern that day was not how he felt about Kuroo. It also wasn’t the small mountain of make-up work he was getting from missing school Friday, like it probably should’ve been. No, Kei was instead spending each passing period worrying about how he was getting absolutely zero text messages from Kuroo.

It shouldn’t have been surprising or anything, because Kei had explicitly told him not to, but Kei still just felt very wrong about it. Didn’t Kuroo just seem like the kind of guy who would text anyway? Was Kuroo respecting Kei’s wishes or did he not want to text Kei in the first place? Did he think Kei was mad at him? Was he mad at Kei? Did he just finally realize that Kei had absolutely nothing to offer him except emo music and debates over Miyazaki films?

When Kei walked into sixth period, Kuroo didn’t greet him as usual, which he had been expecting. What he wasn’t expecting was Kuroo not even looking at him as he entered the room, just sitting with his head leaning on his hand and absentmindedly tapping his pencil against a blank page in his notebook, looking as bored and unconcerned with Kei as possible. Oh, God, he is over me, isn’t he?

“Hey, Kuroo,” Kei said as he dropped into his seat, trying to sound casual and immediately wishing he could just go home instead of continuing the conversation he had just started.

Kuroo immediately lifted his head and looked at Kei, eyes widened in surprise. “You’re not mad at me?”

I should’ve fucking known he was faking.

“No.”

“Listen, Tsukki, I am really sorry about Thursday-”

“Just forget about it,” Kei interrupted, turning his attention to his backpack as he pulled out his stuff for class. “It’s fine, really.”

Kuroo cleared his throat. “So, were you just sick Friday?” he asked.

“Yup.” Not completely a lie.

Kuroo snorted.

Kei looked over at him and raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“It’s not fair,” Kuroo said, grinning and shaking his head. “I always look like hell after I’m sick, but you look great. Shit, Tsukki, what’s your secret?”

Kei rolled his eyes and tried desperately to ignore the compliment. “Lots of sleep.”

Adair started class before Kuroo could say anything else embarrassing, leaving Kei to wonder if it was even possible for Kuroo to look like hell.

By Tuesday, things were completely back to normal (or at least, their little normal that they’d established in their short friendship). They texted throughout the day, had a few arguments about things like whether or not lizards are cool (as Kei argued) or fucking weird (as Kuroo insisted), and settled it after school on the way to Kuroo’s car.

“Okay, lizards can be cool,” Kuroo finally contended. “But I still don’t want any of them fucking near me.”

“You are the most stubborn cat person I’ve ever met,” Kei said, rolling his eyes.

Kuroo just grinned as he unlocked his car. “You want a ride today?”

“No, thanks, I’ll just walk,” Kei said, something about the idea of being alone with Kuroo in his car making his palms sweat. “Might as well while it’s still warm enough.”

“Suit yourself,” Kuroo said as he slipped into the driver’s seat. “I’ll text you later.”

“Alright.” Kei fought off a smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you,” Kuroo called just before closing the door, grinning through the window before looking over his shoulder to back out of his parking spot.

And sure enough, Kuroo texted Kei later, when Kei had actually been getting his homework done for once. While Kei was starting to be able to keep Kuroo in the back of his mind long enough that he could be productive again, that all went out the door when Kuroo texted him.

Unknown Number
okay i think i found it

Reply to Unknown Number
? found what

Unknown Number
your new favorite song

Reply to Unknown Number
???????

Unknown Number
you introduced me to arctic monkeys, so i’m gonna return the favor <333 https://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ listen

Even though Kei was alone in his room, he still brought a hand to his face to try and hide the blush that was blooming in his cheeks. Kuroo was looking for music for Kei. Kuroo was thinking about Kei outside of school. Kuroo was sending hearts in his text messages. What do the extra threes mean?!

Taking a deep breath to compose himself, Kei tapped the link, his stomach starting to churn as Kei waited for it to load and wondered what song it could be...

And when it loaded...

We’re no strangers to love...
You know the rules, and so do I...

Kei discovered that Kuroo was actually the devil.

Reply to Unknown Number
DID U JUST

Reply to Unknown Number
U DID NOT

Kei found he couldn’t properly convey his rage over text, and without thinking about it, called Kuroo. Kuroo picked up almost immediately and sure enough, he was dying, he was laughing so hard.

“Tetsurou Kuroo, tell me you did not just rickroll me.”

“I can’t believe you fell for it,” Kuroo practically sobbed. “God, you trust me so much, Tsukki!”

“Not anymore!” Kei snapped, which just made Kuroo laugh harder somehow. “Jesus Christ, Kuroo!”

“Tsukki-”

“It is two thousand fourteen.”

Tsukki,” Kuroo wheezed out. “I-”

“You cannot just go around rickrolling people!”

“Tsukki.” Kuroo took a deep breath and finally got enough of a hold on himself to speak. “I’m sorry.”

Kei scoffed. “No, you’re not!”

Kuroo started laughing all over again.

“I cannot believe you.”

“I can’t believe you actually called me just to yell at me,” Kuroo sighed between his last few chuckles.

Kei narrowed his eyes. “It’s not like you didn’t deserve it.”

“No, I did,” Kuroo admitted, probably grinning. “Sorry, I was actually looking for a song for you when I thought of this and I just couldn’t resist.”

“You suck.”

“What were you listening to before I texted you?” Kuroo asked, casually moving the conversation forward.

“How do you know I was listening to music?”

“You were, though, weren’t you?”

Why do I bother?

Kei spent most of his Wednesday trying to think of a plan for revenge, but before he could, Kuroo got him again.

“...then Harding’s presidency was cut short when he died in office in nineteen-twenty-three,” Adair was lecturing. “Following his presidency-”

Kuroo raised his hand. “Mr. Adair?”

Mr. Adair did not look amused but humored him anyway. “Yes, Mr. Kuroo?”

“Wasn’t Harding the president that had an affair and the Library of Congress has like, a thousand of his love letters?”

Mr. Adair frowned. “Uh, yes, but I don’t know that Harding’s... extramarital affair is exactly classroom appropriate.”

“Aw, c’mon, Mr. Adair,” Kuroo said, his expression completely that of a curious student and not the little shit he was being. “We’re no strangers to love.”

And it took absolutely everything within Kei not to burst out laughing. He clapped a hand over his mouth, his shoulders were shaking, trying to suppress his laughter, and he could feel his face getting red. And unfortunately, this didn’t escape Adair’s notice.

“Are you alright, Mr. Tsukishima?”

“Fine,” Kei practically squeaked out, and now Kuroo couldn’t help but grin.

Adair looked back and forth between the two of them suspiciously for a moment, trying to work out if he was being made fun of, but just shook his head and went back to teaching.

Kuroo was asked to stay after class for a word with him, but Kuroo said it was completely worth it just for Kei’s reaction.

And Kei knew then how he felt about Kuroo. He still couldn’t admit it to himself, but he knew.

Thursday after school the two of them were walking down the hall after sixth period. Kuroo was going through his music to see if there was anything Kei hadn’t heard before. So far, no luck.

“Weezer?” Kuroo asked, shooting one last hopeful glance at Kei over his iPod touch.

“Yup.”

Kuroo sighed. “And, Young the Giant.”

“Yup.”

“Well. That’s it,” Kuroo said, locking his couple-of-generations-old iPod and slipping it back into his backpack. “You officially know all of my music.”

“Wait,” Kei said, stopping right where they were in the middle of the hall, “that’s not all of the music you have, is it?”

Kuroo gave him a look. “Uh, yeah, unless I missed something-”

“Give it,” Kei said, holding out his hand.

“Huh?”

“Give me your iPod,” Kei insisted. “I’ll put my iTunes library on it.”

Kuroo raised his eyebrows. “Tsukki, you don’t have to-”

“Don’t give me that, it’ll take me like, five minutes,” Kei said, holding out his hand closer.

Kuroo finally put it in his palm with a sigh and a smirk. “You sure all your music will fit?”

“Why, how many gigabytes is this?” Kei asked.

“Sixteen, and it’s already about half full.”

Kei hesitated. “Okay, I’ll just add whatever I think you’ll like, as much as I can.”

“Whatever you say, Tsukki.” Kuroo grinned. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Kei said, fighting the overwhelming urge to smile back. “And next time, get the thirty-two.”

“The thirty-two is like, fifty bucks extra!” Kuroo laughed. “Why, how many gigs do you have?”

“One-twenty-eight.”

Kuroo’s jaw dropped. “They make that?!”

“For iPhone, yeah,” Kei said with a shrug. “I was just gonna get the sixty-four, but I finished last year with a four-point GPA, so that was like, a reward from my parents.”

Kuroo rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well, I got kicked out for fighting, so the sixteen gig iPod was a goddamn miracle.”

Kei cleared his throat. “Maybe you shouldn’t be getting into fights, then,” he said before immediately regretting it. What the hell made you think that was the best thing to say? Shit, who died and made you Morality Sheriff?

Still, Kuroo was as unfazed by Kei’s stupidity as he always was, and instead just looked at Kei and grinned. “Ohhh, I haven’t told you that story, have I?”

“What story?”

“My dear Tsukki,” Kuroo said grandly, making Kei’s heart flutter in the most annoying way possible, “you are in for a treat. Your friend Tetsurou, the poor, rough-around-the-edges delinquent who’s finally on the right path after getting into that nasty fight, is actually a fucking knight in shining armor.”

Kei frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“I was never in any fight,” Kuroo said.

“Then why-”

“I was a good kid, Tsukki,” Kuroo went on, looking off into the distance like he was sharing some great, important wisdom. “I kept myself out of trouble, did my homework, all that good stuff. But all my friends did not. They were good kids too once upon a time, but once we hit high school, they changed. Smoking, drinking, failing classes, ditching school, the works. The worst of the bunch also happened to be my best friend, and I had a ridiculous crush on him.” Kuroo broke from his dramatic storytelling mode to cringe at himself. “Like, it’s embarrassing to think about. That kind of crush.”

Kei tensed up as a ripple of something unpleasant went through him (Jealousy. It’s jealousy. God, just stop lying to yourself.), but Kuroo was too caught up in his story to notice.

“Anyway, he started getting in trouble all the time, and I was worried about him, but I kept my nose out of his business. I was preoccupied trying to win his heart. So one day, he got in this fight, and our school had this three-strikes-you’re-out policy. He had already been busted for a couple of fights, so I knew if he got busted again, he’d get expelled. So my first reaction is to get between them to break them up, and I got sucker punched right in the face.”

Kei raised his eyebrows. “Ouch.”

“Oh, this is only the prologue, Tsukki,” Kuroo assured him. “So I get punched, and immediately afterwards, a teacher shows up. I didn’t want my friend to get in trouble, and I also still wanted him to fall in love with me, and I figured, I look more roughed up than he does, so I decided to lie and I said I’d been the one fighting and my friend had been trying to break us up.”

Kuroo paused like he was waiting for Kei to say something, but Kei had nothing but That’s really fucking stupid, and he figured that was a little harsh, so he stayed quiet.

So Kuroo continued. “Y’know, I figured I’ve never gotten in trouble before, so I’ll just be suspended for a few days and that’ll be it. Then I’d be his hero and he’d surely ask me out, right?”

“I’m guessing he didn’t ask you out,” Kei deadpanned. Please tell me he didn’t.

“He did not.” Thank God. “What he did do was ask me to take the fall for him a second time. Which I did. Because I was a fucking idiot.”

“Tell me you didn’t do it a third time,” Kei practically groaned.

“I didn’t,” Kuroo said, turning and looking at Kei in the eye with a grin. “You know what I did?”

“What?”

Kuroo chuckled. “It’s seriously one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.”

How can we get any stupider? “What was it?”

“I kissed him-”

“You kissed him,” Kei repeated, completely dumbfounded and still tensed up with that unpleasant feeling.

“Not done. I kissed him, then he punched me in the face, and the second I was about to retaliate, a teacher shows up and we both get expelled for fighting.”

Kei didn’t even know what to say anymore. Sure, it was a bad move on Kuroo’s part, but that was also just... sad.

Kuroo’s grin turned somewhat bittersweet. “I know it was stupid, but what can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic. I had to learn the hard way not to fall for straight boys. Still, at least I learned my lesson.”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “Have you?”

Kei had completely meant this as implying that Kuroo still had feelings for his friend, partly just to give him a hard time about it but also definitely because he was jealous. But the reaction he got instead... Kuroo hesitated for once, his eyes looking Kei up and down for just a fraction of a second before saying, “I don’t know. Maybe I haven’t yet.”

And then today, Friday.

Kei gave Kuroo his iPod back at the beginning of sixth period, newly filled to the max with the best of Kei’s iTunes library, and it had only taken him about an hour to decide which songs would and wouldn’t make the cut. He told Kuroo it took him ten minutes.

And Kuroo thanked him a lot for it, which Kei had been expecting and enjoyed more than he should’ve. But then Kuroo did something he hadn’t been expecting.

“Hey, Tsukki,” he said suddenly, looking up after a moment of scrolling through his new music. “Are you free later?”

Kei froze. “Huh?”

“After school, we should do something. We can listen to some of this together and you can give me, like, director’s commentary on it.”

“I can’t,” Kei said quickly. Oh, God, is this what a heart attack feels like?

“Aw,” Kuroo whined, slumping back in his seat.

“Sorry, Akiteru’s picking me up after school,” Kei said. “And we’re having this big family dinner thing tonight.”

“How about tomorrow?” Kuroo asked, his eyebrows raised ever so slightly in hope.

Hanging out with Kuroo. Outside of school. Just the two of them, out somewhere, alone. Kei had never realized it was possible to want something so, so badly and to desperately not want it at the same time. Both the idea of going and the idea of rejecting Kuroo made him want to light himself on fire instead.

Kuroo cleared his throat at Kei’s hesitation. “I mean, you don’t have to, if you don’t want-”

“Saturday’s fine,” Kei interrupted, not wanting the opportunity to slip through his fingers. Shit. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.

Kuroo grinned. “Okay. Cool. Uh, I’ll just text you later to work out the time.”

Never mind. That was a really, really good decision. “Okay,” Kei said, feeling slightly numb. “Cool.”

Mr. Adair started class, and their conversation was forced to an end. Still, even by the time class ended, Kei still felt slightly like he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t help but feel like he’d just agreed to a date.

Saturday. Tomorrow. A date with Kuroo.

~

“How was your week?”

Kei cleared his throat. “It was fine.”

Chapter Text

Kei woke up Saturday morning with a long, sleepy groan, stretching himself out after a long night of sleep. He was definitely awake enough to start the day, but he was so tempted to roll over and try and get some more sleep, his blankets toasty warm against the chill that was creeping in day by day as October neared its end. It had been a long time since Kei had gotten a night of sleep that good... Or since he’d woken up without feeling so guilty about his dreams...

While his dreams were no longer solely and aggressively about Kuroo, he still did have romantic dreams about him from time to time, and as this past week had gone by, Kei found himself less and less distressed by them. Forcing himself to confront his feelings had actually been enormously helpful. He had dreams about Kuroo, and he liked those dreams, and... that was okay. He can’t control what he dreams. He can’t control what he likes. What Kei can control are his actions. He had absolutely no intentions of acting on any of his feelings toward Kuroo beyond friendship. If he did that, he’d be just fine. Kei was going to be strong. He was going to overcome. He was going to rise above it.

But he was still going to relive last night’s dream of holding hands and kissing Kuroo, over and over and over again, before he could be bothered to open his eyes. He was starting to like the dip in his stomach he felt whenever he imagined what Kuroo’s lips would feel like against his.

When Kei did finally open his eyes, squinting against the sunlight filling his room, he reached for his phone where it had been charging on his nightstand, and found he had two unread texts from Kuroo.

Unknown Number
good morning~ ^_^

Kei’s stomach bubbled up with stupid giddiness from getting a good-morning text.

Yeah, how exactly is that plan to be strong gonna work when you get this worked up over a text message? taunted some voice in the back of Kei’s mind.

Shut up.

Unknown Number
so my mom has to use the car today, is it ok if we hang out a little later? like, 6-ish?

Kei glanced at the time. About eleven in the morning. He had seven hours until his date-

It’s not a date, Kei told himself sternly. It’s not a date.

In seven hours, Kei was going to go hang out alone with Kuroo, just the two of them, and right now, Kei didn’t even want to get out of bed yet because he was too busy thinking about kissing Kuroo. And his plan for tonight to make sure he wasn’t tempted to actually do anything was just to be strong about it.

Maybe this was a terrible plan...

~

Kei got a hold of himself and texted Kuroo back, letting him know that six was fine and giving him his address and directions to his house. With seven hours to kill before six o’clock, he decided he might as well tell his parents he had plans tonight.

“Hey, mom,” Kei said, wiping sweat from his hands on his pants as he entered the kitchen. His mom was at the kitchen table having breakfast, but his dad was nowhere to be found. Probably in the backyard pulling weeds or something... Why Kei’s father would choose to do housework first thing on a Saturday morning, Kei would never understand.

“Good morning, Kei.” His mom gave him a smile before going back to her cup of coffee and newspaper. “Do you want some toast?”

“Uh, I’m fine,” Kei mumbled. I’m not sure I could stomach it anyway... “I just wanted to tell you that I have plans tonight.”

His mom looked up at him again with her eyebrows raised. “Plans?”

Yes, I know my social life is practically nonexistent, you don’t have to look so surprised. “Yeah, plans.”

“Do you have your homework finished?”

“Mom, it’s Saturday.

“Who do you have plans with?

“This new guy at my school,” Kei said, being about as vague as he could. “We’re kind of friends now, so he’s gonna come pick me up later and we’re just gonna hang out.”

“Pick you up?” she asked. “He drives?”

No, he’s picking me up on a bicycle. “Yes.”

“How long has he had his license?”

Why the fuck would I know that? “I don’t know, mom.”

“Do his parents know he’s driving you two?”

“His mom knows, yeah.” I think.

“Where are you boys going?”

“I don’t know.”

“No parties or anything?”

Me. A party. Jesus, it’s like you don’t even know me. “No, mom.”

“He’s in your classes?”

“He’s in history with me.”

“How are his grades?”

Jesus Christ. “He gets good grades. Is that everything?”

Kei’s mom looked like she didn’t approve of his tone and just continued her questions. “What’s his name?”

“Tetsurou.”

“Oh, is he Japanese too?”

“Yes, mom.”

“Are you going to introduce him to us when he picks you up?”

“No, mom. Really, are you done?”

“Are you going to need any money tonight?”

Kei shrugged. “I don’t know, we might grab some food or something.”

Kei’s mom reached for where her purse was sitting at the opposite end of the table, fished out her wallet, and withdrew a crisp twenty dollar bill. Once Kei promised that he and Kuroo weren’t going to get into any trouble, and that Kei would call his parents if anything went wrong, his mom handed over the money, and Kei was allowed to go back to his room.

When he got there, he flopped onto his bed and grabbed his phone to text Kuroo.

To Unknown Number
how long have u had ur license?

Unknown Number
uhh like a little over a year?? why

Reply to Unknown Number
it was like the first thing my mom asked when i told her u were picking me up????? idek

Unknown Number
hahahahaha tell her not to worry, u will be in good hands tonight~

Reply to Unknown Number
lame

Unknown Number
it sounds lame cuz u read it over text and didnt see it with the wink and the finger gun

Reply to Unknown Number
that sounds even worse

Unknown Number
D:

Kei smiled to himself as he tossed his phone aside. He glanced over at his clock, and it was only just a quarter past. He still had six hours and forty-five minutes before Kuroo was supposed to show up. What the hell am I supposed to do for that long?

~

Five hours remaining.

~

What the hell am I going to wear? Kei thought miserably as he stared into the dark, ugly abyss that was his closet. God, how could he have not given this any thought sooner?

Kei had spent a majority of his life wearing his uniform five days a week, which left his closet predominantly full of white, collared shirts and brown uniform pants. The next largest category of clothing was church clothes, which consisted of a few pairs of khakis that Kei hated but didn’t care to get a substitute for. A few dress shirts in varying hues of pastels hung in his closet like ghosts of Easters past. All of it was too formal, too lame, and way too embarrassing to wear tonight.

The rest of Kei’s wardrobe was the casual stuff, and it was awful. Kei’s lack of friends for the past few years led to a significant lack of events he needed decent casual clothes for, so none of this stuff was actually meant to leave the house. For fuck’s sake, it’s not like he could show up for a date with Tetsurou Kuroo wearing jeans he’d bought sophomore year that were now a good couple inches above his ankles, or his favorite dinosaur T-shirt, which was faded as hell and splattered with a few paint stains from repainting Akiteru’s room after he moved out. And so far, those were the best options he had. Christ.

Eventually, Kei just had to swallow his pride and ask the only other person he could talk to for advice.

To Akiteru
help

From Akiteru
???

To Akiteru
i have no clothes

From Akiteru
k, ur gonna have to be a little more specific

Kei groaned and just called Akiteru, his brother thankfully picking up on the second ring.

“Kei?”

“I have plans tonight, and I don’t have anything to wear,” Kei mumbled before he could get too embarrassed to say anything. Please don’t ask what my plans are, please don’t ask what-

“What plans?”

Shit. “I’m just, uh-”

“Is it a date?” Akiteru asked, his grin apparent in his tone of voice.

No,” Kei snapped. “I’m just hanging out with this guy from school.”

“Oh, is it that new guy?”

Kei hesitated. “Yeah, how’d you know?”

“You don’t like anyone else from your school,” Akiteru laughed. “What do you need to dress up for, are you going to a party?”

“No, it’s nothing like that, I just...” Kei sighed. “Right now, it’s between church khakis and three year old jeans.”

“Oh. Yikes. Hey, you know who’s good with this?”

Kei’s heart practically stopped. “She’s there with you, isn’t she? Akiteru, do not give the phone to-”

“Lily!” Kei could hear Akiteru call out. You bastard.

~

Three hours remaining.

~

“You bought me clothes?” Kei asked in horror as he let Lily into the house, several shopping bags hanging off her arms. She had told him she was just going to pull a few things from Akiteru’s closet, Christ, Kei hadn’t wanted this.

“Akiteru doesn’t have anything cool,” Lily said with a sigh, rolling her eyes. “And what is kind of cool is too small for you.”

“You didn’t have to buy me stuff.”

“It’s fine, Kei,” Lily said, brushing off his concerns. “Really, I wanted to.”

“But-”

“Hey,” she interrupted. “I’m being the cool future-sister-in-law. Don’t take this away from me.” She grinned and held out the shopping bags. “C’mon, go try it all on.”

Kei took the bags from her and looked down. “Thanks.”

~

One hour remaining.

~

Akiteru was right. Lily was good at this. He actually felt kind of cool in his new clothes. The black jeans she’d picked out fit really well (maybe a little too well...), and she’d bought him a blue pullover sweater to wear over a white button-down with light grey pinstripes. It was all stuff Kei never would’ve picked out for himself, but he actually liked it all. Even the shoes were cool, though Kei didn’t know how exactly to describe them. The box called them “chukka boots” but Kei had no idea what the hell that meant.

Kei completely looked like he was about to go on a date, but at least now he could just blame Lily.

And with the wardrobe debacle over with, Kei was free to start stressing over the evening ahead, which felt like a date now more than ever. It was bad enough that this whole past week had just made it more and more clear that Kei probably liked Kuroo in a way that he really didn’t want to, and that Kei had already accepted that he would probably like it if he and Kuroo kissed, and that he couldn’t stop calling it a date in his mind, but throw on top of that the fact that Akiteru and Lily had just pulled a goddamn fairy-godmother on him... And your plan was to just be strong.

I should just text him and cancel, Kei told himself. He felt like he was going to be sick, and if he was, then it was better to be safe at home than in Kuroo’s car. Then, of course, the second he resolved himself to text Kuroo and the weight of evening was off of his chest, he felt absolutely fine. And kind of sad. He didn’t want to cancel on Kuroo. It was a dick move to cancel so late anyway, and Kuroo would probably be disappointed. Right? What if he was relieved? What if he didn’t actually want to go out with Kei? Oh, God, don’t say “go out,” it sounds like a date...

It’s not a date.

After arguing with himself for a while, Kei decided not to cancel on Kuroo and just to tough it out. Then he went to the mirror and adjusted his hair until it looked worse than when he started, inspected his new clothes for weird stains he might’ve missed the first hundred times he’d checked, and debated whether or not he should spray on an extra bit of cologne. He wanted to smell nice, but if he put on too much, then he would seem like he was trying too hard... The last thing he wanted was for Kuroo to think that he thought it was a date. Kei knew it wasn’t a date. It wasn’t a date.

God, I wish it was a date, Kei thought to himself, staring at his reflection in the mirror and sighing. Kuroo hadn’t even shown up yet and Kei already knew his plan to just be strong was fucking doomed from the start.

~

About ten minutes to five, Kuroo texted, which made Kei feel both better and worse.

Unknown Number
im on my way ^_^ keep ur phone on u, i might need to call if i get lost

Reply to Unknown Number
will do

Kei’s hands were shaking as he typed, because holy shit, he was on his way. Kuroo was on his way. This. This is what a heart attack feels like.

Kuroo didn’t get lost, and before Kei knew it, Kuroo was pulling up in front of his house. With a few deep breaths to calm himself and a final hesitant spritz of cologne, Kei ran downstairs, told his parents goodbye, and was out the door, on his way to Kuroo’s car.

Kuroo leaned across the passenger seat to open Kei’s door for him as he approached. “Hey, Tsukki,” he said with a grin, and Kei was suddenly aware that this was the first time he’d seen Kuroo out of his school uniform. It shouldn’t have come as so much of a shock, especially after his own wardrobe debacle, but he was so unprepared for the moment he got a look at Kuroo, in his dark-wash skinny jeans, a well-worn leather jacket, and a burgundy scarf looped around his neck.

God, he looks so good.

“What?” Kuroo asked, and Kei immediately stopped staring.

“Nothing.”

“It’s the scarf, isn’t it?” Kuroo asked, immediately taking it off and throwing it in the backseat. “It makes me look so pretentious.” He cleared his throat. “I don’t know why I wore it.”

So he’s nervous, too.

~

Neither of them knew what they wanted to do, so they decided to grab dinner. Kei’s nerves had subsided a little, but not enough to bring his appetite back, so he said he didn’t care where they went and agreed to the first place Kuroo suggested: McDonald’s.

I can’t believe my first date is at a McDonald’s, Kei thought somewhat bitterly as he and Kuroo waited in line to order.

It’s not a date, he had to remind himself.

Yeah, yeah, whatever.

Kei ordered first, and just got a large carton of fries. He wasn’t sure he could stomach much more than that. It took less than two dollars out of the twenty his mom gave him, but he figured he could pocket the change and use it next time Akiteru took him to The Crow’s Nest. Eighteen bucks could go a long way if he hit the clearance section...

Still, that idea went out the window when Kuroo ordered and realized he’d forgotten his money in his car.

“I’ve got it,” Kei said without giving it a second thought, handing over the five dollar bill he’d gotten with his change. Thirteen bucks still isn’t bad...

Kuroo immediately protested. “Wait, Tsukki, I’ve got the money in my car, I’ll be right-”

“Kuroo,” Kei interrupted. “It’s fine. Just pay me back some other time,” he added, though he had no intention of ever making Kuroo pay him back.

Kuroo looked slightly annoyed, but let Kei pay for his meal anyway.

Once they had their food, they sat near a window and Kei picked at his fries while Kuroo wolfed down his burger with impressive ease.

“Sorry,” Kuroo said he’d finished, noticing Kei watching him. He grabbed a napkin and started wiping ketchup and mustard from his fingers. “I eat a lot when I’m nervous.”

Kei raised an eyebrow, surprised that Kuroo had actually admitted it. “You’re nervous.”

Kuroo froze. So he hadn’t meant to. He let out a chuckle as a grimace that was probably supposed to be his signature smile spread over his face. “Uh, well, I mean-”

“It’s okay,” Kei said, biting off the end of a french fry. “I’m kinda nervous, too.”

“What do you have to be nervous about?” Kuroo asked with a soft laugh.

Kei forced himself to keep his composure as he answered. “I just didn’t know what to expect,” he said calmly. “I don’t really have any other friends, so I haven’t really hung out with anyone like this in a while.” Especially not someone I kind of want to kiss.

Kuroo nodded, but he seemed somewhat dissatisfied with Kei’s answer. (Maybe because Kei didn’t say that last bit out loud. Or maybe Kei was just overthinking things as usual.) “Mm,” Kuroo hummed. “Well, it shouldn’t be that different than when we hang out at school, right?”

“Right,” Kei agreed. “So then why are you nervous?”

Kuroo paused a moment, just looking at Kei, before looking pointedly away and taking a sip of his drink. “It’s a secret.”

“What are you, five years old?” Kei snapped while Kuroo just grinned. “Just tell me why you’re nervous.”

“Shh. Secret.”

For fuck’s sake.

~

When they headed back to Kuroo’s car to leave, Kuroo made Kei wait so he could get his door for him. It was ridiculous, and Kei made a point of saying so, but it was kind of sweet, too. That actually seemed to describe Kuroo pretty well, ridiculous and kind of sweet.

This really feels like a date...

“Oh, hang on, I need to pay you back for the burger,” Kuroo said after he’d slid into the driver’s seat, digging around different nooks and pockets in his car for his money.

Kei still didn’t want Kuroo to pay him back, so he figured he should distract him. “So this isn’t really your car, is it?”

Kuroo stopped and looked at Kei. “Huh?”

Well, that worked. “When you texted me earlier, you said your mom was using the car. So it’s hers, isn’t it?”

Kuroo smiled and shook his head. “No, it’s definitely my car, Tsukki.”

“So your mom borrowed your car.”

“Mmhmm.”

“So you paid for it, then?”

“No.”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “Did you steal it?”

Kuroo’s smile fell away, and he looked less amused with the conversation. “Of course I didn’t steal it.”

“Sorry,” Kei muttered. Okay. I’m not funny. “So how is it your car then?”

Kuroo cleared his throat, pausing for a moment before answering. “It’s a long story but, uh, it was originally my dad’s.”

Kei froze. Kuroo hadn’t ever so much as mentioned his dad before, but Kei could tell, as an expert of avoiding subjects that were uncomfortable to talk about, that it was purposefully so. Kei hadn’t wanted to pry, and felt bad about accidentally bringing it up. “Oh.”

Kuroo looked like he was about to explain further, but Kei interrupted.

“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

Kuroo nodded. “Right.”

Kuroo started up the car, and an uncomfortable, heavy silence fell over them. I just ruined the whole fucking date. Not date. Ugh, who fucking cares, whatever this is, I ruined it, I’m so fucking stupid, I-

“Hey, Tsukki,” Kuroo spoke up. “Where to next?”

You mean you’re not gonna make up an excuse and take me home? “Uh, I don’t know, what did you have in mind?”

“Honestly? I was just thinking we could go park somewhere and listen to the music you gave me,” Kuroo said, turning and looking at Kei to gage his reaction.

Kei nodded. “Okay.”

“I mean, unless you want to go home,” Kuroo added, not making eye contact as he started up the car.

Shit, he does want me to go home. “What?”

“I understand,” Kuroo said, rubbing the back of his neck and still not looking at Kei. “I’ve been weird and awkward this whole time. You don’t have to-”

“Wait,” Kei interrupted. “You think you’re being weird and awkward? I’m being weird and awkward.”

Kuroo finally looked up. “What? When were you being weird?”

I don’t know, this whole time?! “You didn’t think so?”

“Not at all,” Kuroo said, finally giving another genuine smile.

Kei cleared his throat and looked out the window. “So, uh, did you still want to go?”

“I know the perfect place,” Kuroo said as he put the car in reverse and pulled out of his parking spot.

~

“Okay, okay,” Kuroo wheezed through his laughter, wiping away tears from his eyes. “Your turn. Truth or dare?”

Kei’s abs hurt from laughing so much. “I can’t believe you did all that for a cat!”

Truth or dare,” Kuroo insisted, smacking Kei’s arm.

“Truth,” Kei said, leaning back in his seat as he started getting a hold of himself. He wasn’t sure when listening to music had turned into a game of truth or dare (one that was particular heavy on truths), but he really didn’t care. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed so hard.

“Hmm...” Kuroo tapped his fingers against the steering wheel as he thought. “Have you ever drank before?”

“Actually, I have,” Kei said with a smirk, sensing Kuroo’s doubt as he’d asked the question.

Kuroo grinned. “Let me guess. You had one glass of champagne at a wedding one time.”

“Nope.” Kei reached out to flick Kuroo’s forehead, but Kuroo swatted his hand away. “It was wine at my brother’s girlfriend’s first art show.”

“Did your parents let you or did you sneak it?”

Kei snorted. “Like my parents would actually go to her art show. They made up some excuse and stayed home, but I went for Akiteru. He’s the one that let me have it, since they weren’t around.”

“How long ago was this?”

“Just over the summer.”

Kuroo leaned his head against his headrest, looking at Kei with that dreamy, intense gaze of his. “Red or white?”

“Red,” Kei said, trying and failing to fight off a small smile. “Although, me drinking is not the best part of that story.”

Kuroo raised his eyebrows. “Oh?”

“My brother’s been able to drink for what, four years now?” Kei said. “And he can’t handle his alcohol at all.”

“Oh, no,” Kuroo said with a grin, clearly pleased with where this story was going.

“I won’t go into too many details, but basically, toward the end of the night, he ended up being sick in a potted plant. The thing is,” Kei added quickly, holding up a finger before Kuroo interrupted, “it wasn’t actually a potted plant. It was an awful sculpture of a potted plant.”

Kuroo’s jaw dropped a little. “It was an art piece?”

“To use the term ‘art’ loosely,” Kei muttered, which just made Kuroo laugh harder. “He had to pay the artist like, two hundred dollars for it. He swore sometime during the next day’s hangover that he would never drink again.”

“What about you?” Kuroo asked. “Would you drink again?”

Kei shrugged. “I don’t know. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of alcohol. I mean, I guess I’d have another glass of wine or something on special occasions, but it’s not something I want to do all the time. Anyway, that was two questions, it’s your turn.”

“Hmm...” Kuroo ran his fingers through his hair, which made Kei forget for a second that they were playing truth or dare until Kuroo said, “Truth.”

Kei tried to think of a question, but his mind was getting too caught up in how well things were going. God, this just wasn’t fair. Things were going so well, better than anything in Kei’s stupid, persistent dreams, and Kei was just supposed to ignore that, finish up the not-date, go home, and let that be the end of things. This is just dumb.

“Do you believe in God?” Kei asked, hoping Kuroo wouldn’t pick up the unintentional bitterness in his voice.

“Whoa, getting into deeper stuff,” Kuroo chuckled.

“Just answer the question.”

Kuroo paused first before answering. “No.”

Kei nodded. “Okay.” Lucky.

“That’s fine, right?”

Kei narrowed his eyes. “What, you think I’m too Christian to hang out with an atheist?”

“I’m glad you’re not,” Kuroo said softly, straightening up in his seat and looking ahead. “I really like you, Tsukki.”

Kei just sat staring at him for a while after that, the silence between them filled with the music still playing from Kuroo’s iPod. This was so dumb. Fuck, this was the stupidest thing Kei had ever had to deal with in this life. He was completely alone with Tetsurou Kuroo. One of his favorite songs was playing in the background. Kuroo had just said that he likes Kei. And Kei wasn’t going to do anything about it.

Fuck being strong. What was being strong going to get him? At this rate, it was just going to get him a long, lonely, pathetic life.

Kei didn’t want a long, lonely, pathetic life.

He wanted Tetsurou Kuroo.

Kuroo finally glanced over and noticed Kei staring. “Tsukki?”

Fuck, Kei had never wanted anything so badly in his life.

Kuroo’s eyes fell down to look Kei’s lips for a moment. Kei barely caught it before he did the same to Kuroo.

You’re probably going to regret this, Kei told himself as he started leaning in.

I know.

“T-Tsukki,” Kuroo mumbled, making Kei stop just close enough that he could feel Kuroo’s breath on his lips, close enough to see the flecks of gold in Kuroo’s eyes, enough that he could sit and count every one Kuroo’s eyelashes.

“Kuroo,” Kei murmured back. His heart was pounding and his lungs felt completely out of breath. “Can I kiss you?”

“Are you sure you want to?” Kuroo asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

Kei wanted to say no, but in complete honesty, Kei had never been more sure of anything in his life than he was right now, wanting to kiss Kuroo. Saying no would be a lie. And lying is a sin.

“Yes.”

Kuroo tilted his head and leaned in further, pausing just short of kissing Kei to let him make the final move, and Kei did, and suddenly his lips were on Kuroo’s.

I’m kissing Tetsurou.

Kuroo’s lips were soft, and warm, and absolutely perfect. Kuroo started to pull away after a moment but Kei quickly leaned in after him, not ready for this to end just yet. He took Kuroo’s face in his hands and Kuroo flinched at Kei’s touch, but Kuroo’s hesitation was short-lived, and Kei could feel him smiling against his lips.

Kei felt dizzy, there was just so much of Kuroo to take in. There were so many little details Kei had never even considered in his fantasies. It wasn’t just the feeling of Kuroo’s lips, it was the scent of Kuroo’s cologne, the heat of his hands on Kei’s waist, the softness of his skin underneath Kei’s fingers. Kei was trying desperately to remember and save as many details as he could so he could have this moment forever.

Kuroo made to pull away a second time, and this time Kei let him, because as much as he loved kissing Kuroo, he desperately needed to breathe.

Kuroo looked happier than Kei had ever seen him. “You just kissed me.”

I just kissed him, Kei thought, doing a quick mental save of Kuroo’s reaction. “That was... okay, right?”

Kuroo laughed. “That was more than okay. God, I’ve been wanting to kiss you this whole time but I didn’t think you would want me to.”

Kei’s face was absolutely burning, he was so red and embarrassed, and he turned to look out the window instead. “Well... good, I guess.” I just kissed Kuroo. He wanted to kiss me too.

“Am I going to get to kiss you goodnight?” Kuroo asked.

“You’re asking that now?” Kei asked, mortified that they were already planning a second kiss.

“I thought your curfew was eleven.”

“It is.”

“That’s in ten minutes.”

Kei immediately sat up and checked his phone. Holy shit, how did it get so late so fast?

Kuroo just laughed. “Is that a yes or a no?”

“If you mean the whole walk-me-to-the-front-door thing, then no.”

Kei had half-expected Kuroo to protest, but he didn’t. “How close to your front door am I allowed to get?”

“You’re not.”

“No, seriously, a block from your house? Two? A mile?”

Kei finally turned and looked at Kuroo. “Really? You’re that desperate?”

He grinned. “It’s not my fault you decided to go on your first date with a hopeless romantic.”

“It’s not like I knew this was gonna end up being... that,” Kei snapped, the word date still ringing in his ears. It was one thing to think it, but to hear it out loud... Kei liked it. Kei liked it way too much.

Kuroo was still looking at him expectantly.

Kei cleared his throat. “There’s a park a couple blocks away from my house. We can go there.”

Kuroo leaned over, pressed a kiss to Kei’s cheek, and promptly started up the car.

I’m in so deep. Way too fucking deep. I can’t even see the surface anymore.

~

They didn’t say much to one another on the way to the park besides Kei giving Kuroo the occasional direction. This gave Kei time to think, but... well, he didn’t really need it. He’d kissed Kuroo, and that was weirdly okay. He should be panicking, he should be shaking, he should feel sick, something, but he was completely fine. He was just blushing a little, and his stomach still felt all warm and fluttery, and that was it.

When they arrived at the park, no one was around, just as Kei had been hoping. Kuroo again made Kei wait while he opened his door for him, taking his hand and helping Kei step out of the car.

“You’re seriously hopeless,” Kei said with a sigh. The gesture was completely ridiculous, but Kuroo’s hand was big and warm holding his and didn’t leave much to complain about.

It seemed like Kuroo couldn’t stop grinning. “Kei Tsukishima,” he said, taking both of Kei’s hands in his. “I had a lovely time, and I hope you’ll consider letting me take you out again sometime.”

Kei was suddenly caught between wanting to roll his eyes and hide his face in his hands. He ended up doing neither, just staring down at the small bit of space between them and mumbling, “Okay.”

And then Kuroo was cupping a hand under Kei’s chin, lifting his face up and kissing him again, making Kei’s toes curl up inside his shoes.

Kuroo pulled back just enough to be able to look Kei in the eye, smiling softly to himself. “Goodnight, Kei.”

“G-goodnight.”

And with that, they got back into Kuroo’s car, and Kuroo drove Kei home.

~

“I’m guessing you want this to be a secret?” Kuroo asked when they were almost at Kei’s house.

“Yeah.”

“Alright.” Kuroo paused a moment before speaking again. “If you were gonna tell someone, what would you say?”

“What?”

“C’mon, how was your first date?”

Kei rolled his eyes. “It was good.”

“Yeah? Where’d he take you?”

He is so ridiculous. “McDonald’s.”

Kuroo scoffed. “Your first date was at McDonald’s? What an asshole.”

Kei leaned his head against his hand and stared out the window. “Yeah, well, my first date was also with Tetsurou Kuroo, so I don’t have much to complain about.”

Kuroo didn’t respond, and when Kei stole a glance at him, he saw Kuroo biting down on his lip, trying so hard not to smile. Kei felt his own chest swell up with happiness, he was so pleased with Kuroo’s reaction. He took a deep breath and went back to looking out the window.

Neither of them said another word to each other. Kuroo pulled into Kei’s driveway, Kei got out of the car, and waved as he walked up to his front door. Kuroo waited while Kei fumbled with his keys and unlocked the door, and once Kei was safe and sound inside, Kuroo drove away.

As Kei closed the door behind him, he was immediately greeted by his father, who was up late reading in the living room. “Kei! How was your night?”

“It was fun,” Kei said as he took off his shoes. “We just got some burgers and listened to music and stuff.”

“Good, good,” his dad said approvingly. “I’m glad you’re making friends, Kei. Just as long as school always comes first.”

“I know, dad.” Kei cleared his throat. “Listen, I’m really tired, so I’m just gonna go to bed now, okay?”

“Right. ’Night, son.”

“’Night, dad.”

~

Unknown Number
goodnight~

Kei couldn’t help but smile at Kuroo’s text, climbing into bed before typing up his reply.

Reply to Unknown Number
i thought we said goodnight already

Unknown Number
goodnight AGAIN. happy? (^_−)−☆

Reply to Unknown Number
i’m really happy.

Unknown Number
me too <3

Kei pulled his blankets around him, as if being wrapped up tighter would help contain his ridiculous happiness. He didn’t reply to Kuroo’s message, but he did decide to officially add Kuroo’s number to his phone.

Contact Name: Kuroo

He restrained himself from adding hearts or smiley faces or anything else horribly embarrassing, or even Kuroo’s first name. This was enough for now. And with that, he turned his phone off, rolled over, and went to sleep, replaying his kisses with Kuroo over and over as he drifted off.

Chapter Text

“Kei, are you feeling alright?” Kei’s father asked, glancing back at Kei in the rearview mirror.

“Hmm?” Kei hummed, pulling an earbud out of his ear. The faint sound of The Wombats blasting from it was clearly audible even over the dull roar of the moving car, mixing with the AM radio broadcast Kei’s father always played on the way to church on Sundays. “Did you say something?”

Kei’s father sighed, but they had had this conversation one too many times for him to bother telling Kei to stop listening to music in the car. “I asked if you’re feeling alright,” he repeated. “You look really out of it.”

“I’m just tired,” Kei said with a shrug.

“You shouldn’t have stayed out so late with your friend last night,” his mom pointed out, fixing her lipstick in in a compact mirror. “What was his name again? Tetsuya?”

“Tetsurou,” Kei corrected, slouching back in his seat ever so slightly.

“Are we ever going to get to meet Tetsurou?” his dad asked. “It’s been a while since we’ve met a friend of yours.”

“It’s been a while since I had a friend for you to meet,” Kei pointed out, very purposefully not answering his father’s question.

Kei’s parents just laughed. “Oh, c’mon, there’s plenty of nice kids from your school,” Kei’s father said.

“Mm,” Kei said noncommittally before slipping his earbud back into his ear.

Kei knew that if he was going to keep Kuroo around, Kuroo and his parents were going to have to meet eventually, but Kei was going to do everything in his power to make sure that didn’t happen for a long, long time. Even just having Kuroo on his mind felt a little overwhelming right now, and having Kuroo by his side was likely only going to make things worse.

As great as Kei had been doing last night before going to bed, he should’ve known it wasn’t going to last. From the moment he’d drifted off to the moment his alarm went off, Kei’s night’s sleep had been nothing but back-to-back stress dreams. Most of them involved Kuroo, like his parents finding out about Kuroo, or the rest of the school finding out about Kuroo, or Akiteru finding out about Kuroo, but there were a few dreams about failing high school or not getting into college thrown in for good measure, just to spice things up. Kei woke up feeling like he hadn’t slept at all and panicking a little about... well, everything. Mostly Kuroo though.

A majority of Kei’s shower that morning was spent thinking about Kuroo instead of actually washing himself. Kei, completely of his own volition, had leaned in and kissed Kuroo. He’d agreed to a second date. And now Kuroo was probably expecting the two of them to start dating. How the hell was Kei going to get out of this? And more importantly, why didn’t he want to get out of this?

Even when Kei actually started washing himself, it was less about getting himself clean and more about trying to scrub Kuroo off of him. He had been so worried last night about saving every tiny detail, but now he couldn’t forget every place Kuroo had touched him. Kei could still feel exactly where Kuroo’s hands had been on his waist, holding his hands, under his chin, and the sensation of it all was etched in Kei’s skin, just screaming, Kuroo was here.

Eventually, Kei just had to resign himself to learning how to carry Kuroo in his skin.

And even if it was all just in Kei’s mind, it felt like tattoos covering every inch of him, something anyone could just look at him and see. He was almost amazed when his parents didn’t immediately figure him out when he came downstairs that morning, and they headed out to the family mini-van without anyone batting an eye. Kei might’ve almost felt like he was going to get away with it if they hadn’t been leaving for church. After all, Kei couldn’t hide what he’d done from Him.

In a weird way, Kei actually kind of wanted Kuroo there with him. He never really felt so wrong while he was with Kuroo. It was only after they’d parted and Kei was left alone with his thoughts that his feelings started eating away at him. As terrifying as it was, Kei couldn’t help but feel like if Kuroo was there holding his hand, he’d relax a little.

Hell, even just thinking about it is actually helping, Kei thought to himself, recalling the way Kuroo's warm, slightly calloused fingers wrapped around Kei’s and physically feeling himself relax. His eyes even started to drift close after a moment, until...

“Don’t fall asleep, Kei,” his mother warned, snapping her compact close with a distinct click. “We’re almost there.”

Shit.

~

As they actually pulled into the church parking lot, Kei was fairly certain even Kuroo couldn’t fix this, the guilt sinking in Kei’s stomach like a stone as he got out of the car.

He walked to the entrance of the church behind his parents and was just about to follow them inside when the worst thing that could’ve possibly happened at that moment, happened.

“Tsukki!”

No. No, no, no, no, no. No. Absolutely not. This isn’t happening. Someone else said my name. Someone else decided to start calling me “Tsukki.” That couldn’t have been him. He is not here. Tetsurou Kuroo is not at my Sunday service.

Kei turned and looked.

Tetsurou Kuroo was at his Sunday service.

“Good morning, Tsukki,” Kuroo said with a smile that was nothing like his usual grin. It was sweet and gentle and pleasant. It also wasn’t directed at Kei. It was directed at Kei’s parents.

This was a goddamn win-over-the-in-laws smile.

Kei couldn’t breathe.

“Kei?” came his mother’s voice from behind him as she put a hand on his shoulder. The presence of his parents standing at his back was suddenly overwhelming, and Kei felt like he was collapsing under it. “Who’s this?”

After a moment in which Kei was too mortified to speak, Kuroo stepped up and introduced himself. “Tetsurou Kuroo. I’m a friend of Kei’s from school.”

And then Kuroo was shaking his father’s hand and being praised for a firm handshake. Kuroo was complimenting his mother on her bag, noting that she has good taste. He was completely kissing ass, and Kei’s parents were falling for it.

And I thought things were going to be okay for a moment there...

Then Kuroo was throwing his arm around Kei’s shoulders. I seriously can’t breathe. “I’m glad I found the place okay! Would’ve been awkward showing up at the wrong service, huh?”

“What service do you usually go to?” Kei’s mother asked.

“Well, uh...” Kuroo removing his arm from Kei and instead rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ve never really considered myself a particularly religious person, so I don’t really have one.”

And Kei could see it. His parents’ eyes losing their sparkle, their smiles dimming, their posture stiffening slightly, as if they were bracing themselves against whatever unholy words Kuroo was about to utter next.

“But I’ve been hoping to change that,” Kuroo said, looking more pitiful than he had probably ever stooped to look in his entire life. “Ever since I started going to Willow Creek, and became friends with Kei, I’ve wanted to... I don’t know, maybe it’s too late for me...”

“Tetsurou,” Kei’s mother began, looking like she had the determination to perform a miracle right here in this church parking lot, “would you like to sit with us?”

Kuroo looked positively touched to the point where Kei almost started believing him, too. “I’d be honored, Mrs. Tsukishima.”

Kei followed Kuroo and the rest of his family inside numbly. He couldn’t believe it, he couldn’t fucking believe it. He was about to sit through church next to the boy he’d kissed, and his parents were fucking thrilled.

About a second after sitting down, between Kuroo and his father, Kei’s phone buzzed with a new text message.

“Kei, turn your phone off,” his father immediately told him as Kei took it out of his pocket.

“I know, dad, I’ll turn it off in a sec.”

From Kuroo
you look really nice today.

Kei swallowed. I think I’m gonna be sick.

“Excuse me,” he mumbled as he stood up on weak legs.

“Where are you going?” his mother asked as he made to exit the pews.

“Restroom.”

“Hey, Tsukki, are you feeling okay?” Kuroo asked quickly. Kei couldn’t tell if he was still acting or genuinely concerned. He didn’t respond and left the room as quickly as he could while Father Adams called for everyone’s attention to begin the service.

~

As soon as Kei got to the men’s room, he locked himself in a stall, taking the deepest breaths his lungs would allow and trying to determine whether he was actually going to be sick or not.

What the hell is he doing here? Kei wondered, rubbing his temples in frustration. Is this his idea of a joke? Is he just trying to embarrass me? Laugh about how I should’ve seen the look on my face? Brag about how my parents love him?

Is he just making fun of me because he managed to seduce a closeted Christian?

Why the hell else would Kuroo be here? If he’d just wanted to see Kei, he could’ve waited until sixth period tomorrow. If he’d really just wanted to go to church with Kei, he could’ve asked. What else was there to be gained by surprising Kei and introducing himself to Kei’s parents?

If we weren’t in a church, I’d kill him.

~

After the service finally ended, Kei’s mother immediately turned to Kuroo to ask what he thought. Kuroo had actually been paying better attention than Kei had been expecting him to, and gave a pretty long, eloquent answer about how lovely he found it. Kiss-ass.

After a quick check in to make sure Kei was feeling alright, his parents went off to talk to their church friends, which meant Kuroo was finally free to talk to Kei.

“Hey, are you doing okay?” he asked, putting a hand on Kei’s arm. “You didn’t look so good earlier.”

Kei shook Kuroo off. “Can we talk somewhere private?”

“Oh, uh, sure,” Kuroo said, sounding hesitant and probably picking up on the hostility in Kei’s voice.

“Let’s go talk in your car.”

Kuroo paused. “Is this a euphemism, or...?”

No,” Kei snapped, using all of his self control to not punch Kuroo in the shoulder. “Ugh, just come on.” Euphemism... Jesus Christ. Yeah, Kuroo, we just sat through church with my parents, let’s immediately go make out in your car. Great idea.

Kuroo was parked back in the furthest corner of the parking lot. His car was surrounded by the empty spaces of those who were already driving out of the lot, not letting church take up any more of their day than it had to. Those were the kind of people Kei had always wished his parents were, instead of the kind that hangs around for ages after the service ends, going around talking and talking to everyone.

Kuroo slid into the driver’s seat and Kei took his place in the passenger’s seat. They’d only done this like, twice, and both of those times were yesterday, but there was still something that felt so natural about it. Kei probably would’ve liked it if he wasn’t still angry.

“So,” Kuroo said once he’d closed his door behind him. “What did you want to talk about?”

“What the hell are you doing here?” Kei snapped, wincing slightly at himself for accidentally cursing.

“I wanted to see you,” Kuroo said, like it was most romantic and noble thing in the world.

“Bull,” Kei said, shaking his head at Kuroo’s excuse. “You could’ve waited until tomorrow to see me. You could’ve given me a call first and asked to see me. There’s no reason you had to just show up here.”

Kuroo just stared at him a moment before murmuring, “You’re ashamed of me, aren’t you?”

“I...” Kei froze, unsure how to proceed now that he was the one suddenly put on the spot. “I’m not ashamed of you-”

“Of course you are,” Kuroo interrupted. “Why else would you be so embarrassed?”

Did he really just turn this around on me? “Kuroo, how else am I supposed to react when the boy I kissed last night randomly shows up and introduces himself to my parents?” Kei shot back.

“Your parents know I exist,” Kuroo retorted. “They know we hung out last night. I only introduced myself as your friend. I don’t know what else you want from me.”

Kei practically laughed. “Don’t act like you’re so innocent! If you really didn’t think you were doing anything wrong, you would’ve told me you were coming!”

Kuroo opened his mouth to argue, but it turned out he had nothing to say.

Kei rolled his eyes. “There’s obviously a reason you didn’t tell me first. What is it?”

Kuroo looked away, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel. “Would you hate me if I said it was because I was afraid you’d skip school tomorrow?”

What? “I-”

“Because that’s what you did last time,” Kuroo said, making eye contact for a just moment before looking down again. “I know you said you were sick, but... you were avoiding me, weren’t you?”

“Get over yourself,” Kei mumbled, slouching back in his seat and adjusting his glasses. “I was avoiding school.”

“Tsukki, I get it,” Kuroo said with a sigh. “You’re a good Christian kid. It’s embarrassing having a crush on a guy. I understand. But-”

“You understand?” Kei repeated in disbelief. “Kuroo, you don’t understand at all. I’m not embarrassed, I’m terrified.”

This seemed to catch Kuroo off-guard. “What? What are you afraid of?”

Everything!” Kei shouted, making Kuroo jump. “Jesus Christ, Kuroo, do you have any idea how tightly wound I’ve had to keep myself for the last five years?! How much I constantly have to lie to myself, and push down my feelings until it feels like I don’t even have any, and tune out half of what I hear just in case something makes me think about it?! How much control I have to have over myself just to be able to function?! God, and then you walk in and all of that completely falls apart and I feel like I don't have control over anything anymore! It’s terrifying.”

Kuroo was absolutely silent after that, giving Kei a moment to think over everything he’d just admitted. Ugh. That was way too honest. I don’t like it.

“I’m sorry,” Kuroo murmured after a moment.

“You don’t have to be sorry,” Kei told him, cleaning his glasses with his tie just to give himself something to do. He wasn’t really feeling mad anymore, his anger dying with his outburst. “I have issues. It’s not your fault.”

Kuroo didn’t seem to know to respond and rubbed the back of his neck. “Five years, huh?” Kuroo asked. “So you’ve known since you were what, thirteen?”

“I guess,” Kei said with a shrug, sliding his glasses back up his nose. “But I never actually admitted it to myself until a few days ago.”

“Oh.” Kuroo said quietly, picking up the implied, because of you. “God, Tsukki, I really am sorry.”

“I already said, you don’t have to be.”

“No, I shouldn’t have shown up like this,” Kuroo admitted. “It was selfish of me to try and barge in on your life.”

“It’s okay,” Kei mumbled.

“Would you have skipped tomorrow?”

“Probably not,” Kei said with a shrug. “To be honest... I kind of wanted to see you too.”

“‘Kind of.’ Bestill my beating heart,” Kuroo said with a chuckle.

Kei just shook his head, trying not to smile. Asshole.

Kuroo leaned over and kissed his cheek, staying close as he asked, “You feel better now that you’ve yelled at me?”

Kei felt like he couldn’t breathe again, but this time for a much nicer reason. “Yeah,” he said, feeling a lot better having Kuroo so close. Jeez, to think having him so close used to make me panic... He start leaning in to kiss Kuroo, but Kuroo put a hand on his shoulder and stopped him.

“W-wait, can we talk about what we are exactly before we do anything else?”

Kei narrowed his eyes. “You kissed me first,” Kei pointed out, and the had the blush in his cheeks to prove it.

Kuroo just grinned. “If I recall last night correctly, you kissed me first.”

“You little-”

“C’mon, let’s just talk about this,” Kuroo said, leaning his forehead against Kei’s and making Kei blush even more than he already was. “I understand if you need more time to think about it, but... y’know, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.”

Kei was barely listening, too focused on how good Kuroo looked even in this extreme close up. This is nice. I could get used to this...

“Tsukki?”

“Can you repeat the question?” Kei asked, which made Kuroo laugh.

“What do you want us to be?”

“Right now, kissing,” Kei muttered.

“Tsukki,” Kuroo whined. “C’mon, do you want to be friends? Boyfriends?”

That got Kei to snap out of it. “Wait, what? You want to make it all official already?” He suddenly had very mixed visions of eternal damnation and slow, sleepy mornings waking up in Kuroo’s arms.

“We don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Kuroo assured him. “I just... God, I like you so much, Tsukki.”

Kei wanted to say it back, wanted Kuroo to know how much he liked him, but he just couldn’t bring himself too. Then again, it’s not like it was the first time Kei had difficulty admitting something.

“I’ll take that as a maybe?” Kuroo asked at Kei’s silence.

I’m probably already fucked anyway.

“You can take it as a yes,” Kei murmured, only slightly in the heat of the moment.

“Really?” Kuroo asked, backing up for a moment to properly look Kei in the eye. “You want to be boyfriends?”

Kei gave a slight nod. “Yeah, I want to be... that.”

Kuroo immediately pouted, and it was as adorable as it was frustrating. “God, Tsukki, you just got my hopes up so much but you can’t even say the word-”

“B-boyfriends,” Kei choked out quickly. Oh, God, I think I feel sick again, maybe this was a bad idea...

But then Kuroo’s face bloomed into the same ridiculously happy expression that he’d had last night after their first kiss. It wasn’t anything particular about his smile, like most of his expressions; this was something all in his eyes, something in the look he gave Kei that made Kei feel Kuroo’s happiness in his own chest. Being the person to cause that kind of look felt like a special privilege, one that Kei wanted to keep to himself. He wanted to be the only one that made Kuroo so starry-eyed.

And at least for now, it made everything completely worth it.

Kei leaned in again, and this time Kuroo was eager to kiss him back, leaning almost completely out of his own seat just to wrap his arms around Kei’s waist.

Well, what do you know, Kei thought to himself, wrapping his arms around Kuroo’s neck. We sat through church with my parents and then immediately went and started making out in his car.

~

It took Kei a good ten minutes to come to his senses.

“Mm,” Kei hummed before pulling away, putting on a hand on Kuroo’s chest. “We should really stop, someone might see us.”

“Right.” Kuroo cleared his throat and ran his fingers through his hair, as if that made any difference. “Should we go back inside?”

“Nah, let’s just get out of here,” Kei said. He could barely face his parents after two short kisses with Kuroo; there was no way he could handle seeing them this shortly after making out with his new boyfriend. Kei’s heart had had enough stress for one day.

“Want to park somewhere else or should I just take you home?”

“I should probably go home,” Kei said a little reluctantly. “I’ll just tell my parents I wasn’t feeling well so you offered me a ride.”

“Sounds good,” Kuroo said as he started up the car.

Kei sighed. “God, I can’t believe my parents like you,” he grumbled.

Kuroo laughed. “Really, they like me?”

“Are you kidding? They loved you. Jesus, when you said ‘it’s too late for me,’ I thought my mom was gonna cry. She’s always wanted her own charity case.”

Kuroo made a face. “Converting some high school kid is charity?”

“Of course it is, she’s getting you into heaven,” Kei muttered sarcastically.

“Well, when you put it like that.”

“It’s so stupid. Could you imagine how many good people would go to hell if God really counted that against you?”

“So you don’t believe that?” Kuroo asked, looking both ways before pulling out out of the parking lot and onto the street. “That you have to believe in God to go to heaven?”

“Of course not,” Kei practically scoffed. “I don’t know, I feel like there’s a difference between an actual good person and someone who’s just a good person because they want to get into heaven. I mean, which of the two actually deserves it?”

Kuroo tried to say something, but Kei wasn’t done with his rant yet.

“Or what about people from other religions? You’re extremely devout your entire life, but whoops, you picked the wrong religion, so sucks for you, you’re going to hell? That doesn’t make any sense. I’d like to think God has a better system than that.”

Kuroo laughed. “I think I like your religion better than other peoples’,” he said, giving Kei a quick smile before flicking on his turning signal.

“You make it sound like I’m starting a cult,” Kei said flatly.

Kuroo grinned. “Tsukki-tology.”

Kei just started at him in horror. “Did you just make a pun out of my name and ‘scientology’?”

Kuroo’s laughter at his own joke was a clear yes.

They rode in silence for about a good thirty seconds before Kei muttered, “Kur-istianity.”

~

After pulling into Kei’s driveway, neither of them spoke right away.

“Listen, Tsukki,” Kuroo piped up after a moment. “I get that I don’t completely understand how all this feels for you, and I just want you to know, if you ever need to slow down or take a step back or anything, you can just tell me.”

Kei nodded. “Thanks, Kuroo.”

“Of course. So, uh, I’ll see you tomorrow then?”

“Yeah.”

Promise?”

Kei rolled his eyes and tried not to smile. “I’m not promising anything.”

Kuroo laughed softly and started to lean in.

“Wait,” Kei interrupted, quickly putting a hand on Kuroo’s chest.

“Right,” Kuroo said with a bitter chuckle. “Neighbors.”

Kei frowned. He definitely didn’t want to risk his neighbors seeing, but it also felt dumb to just make Kuroo leave when Kei’s family wasn’t even home. “Do you want to come inside?”

“You sure that’s a good idea?” Kuroo asked, raising his eyebrows.

Kei pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked the time. “My parents won’t be home for a while. They stay and talk for forever after church.”

“If you insist,” Kuroo said, turning off the engine.

After they stepped into Kei’s house, Kuroo let out a long whistle.

“Why, Tsukki, you have a lovely home,” he commented.

“Save it for the next time you see my parents,” Kei muttered, kicking off his shoes before walking any further into the house. Kuroo quickly followed suit.

“Do I get the grand tour?” he asked as he set his own shoes neatly beside where Kei’s lay in a pile.

Honestly, the last thing Kei wanted was to lead Kuroo through his parent’s huge house. The idea just felt kind of gross somehow, like bragging.

“My bedroom’s the only thing you really need to see, isn’t it?” Kei asked.

It was only once the words were out of his mouth did he think about what they had implied.

“Wait,” he said quickly, his eyes widening in horror.

But it was too late. Kuroo had already burst out laughing.

“Shut up,” Kei snapped. “That’s not how I meant it.”

“C’mon,” Kuroo said, taking a deep breath to get a hold of himself. “Let me see your room.”

It was only when they were about halfway up the stairs that Kei suddenly realized that letting Kuroo see his room may have been a mistake.

Please don’t say anything, Kei thought to himself as he opened the door and let Kuroo in. Please don’t say anything, please don’t say anything...

“Oh, my God.”

Goddamnit.

Kei could feel his face going red. “What?”

“You’re a dinosaur nerd,” Kuroo said with a laugh, moving to get a better look at it all: small dinosaur figures that lined Kei’s shelves, bigger models that formed bookends for all the books about different kinds of dinosaurs and fossils and famous museums. There was even a huge Jurassic Park movie poster by the window. Basically, anything that was dorky and embarrassing and had to do with dinosaurs could be found somewhere in Kei’s room.

“This is what you meant when you said you like lizards, isn’t it?” Kuroo asked.

Kei was just about to tell him to shut up when Kuroo kept going.

“What’s this one called?” he asked, pointing to one of Kei’s personal favorites.

Is he making fun of me? “It’s a Spinosaurus.”

“You mind if I touch it?”

“Sure,” Kei said, restraining himself from adding a just be careful so he wouldn’t seem even lamer than he already did. He was relieved when Kuroo picked up the Spinosaurus figure with surprising delicacy.

“Wow,” Kuroo said slowly. “It’s really cool.”

I seriously cannot tell if he’s being sarcastic.

“Ooh, wait, these are Velociraptors, right?” Kuroo asked next, setting the figure back in its place and pointing at two more on the shelf below. “Like in Jurassic Park?”

“Uh, yeah, those are Velociraptors,” Kei said hesitantly. “But the ones in Jurassic Park are actually more like Utahraptors.” Stop with the dinosaur facts no one cares about.

Kuroo raised an eyebrow, but his smile didn’t waver in the slightest. “Utahraptors?”

“Yeah, they’re much bigger than Velociraptors.” Stop. “Velociraptors are only, like, two feet tall. Utahraptors are actually the biggest kind of raptor, and...” Stop. With. The. Lame. Dinosaur. Facts. “Yeah.”

Kuroo nudged Kei with his elbow. “Don’t stop, tell me more.”

Finally, Kei just had to ask. “Are you making fun of me?”

Kuroo started laughing again. “Of course I’m not! No, I think it’s really cute that you’re into this.”

Kei started getting red again. “You do?”

Kuroo nodded. “Do you want to be like, an archeologist or whatever it's called?”

“Paleontologist,” Kei corrected just a little too quickly. Jesus, why couldn’t I have a less embarrassing hobby...

Still, Kuroo was unfazed. “Oh, yeah, archeology is for humans, right?”

“Right.”

“Paleontologist,” Kuroo repeated. “That’s really cool, Tsukki.” When Kei didn’t respond, he reached over and nudged Kei with his elbow. “Really, it is.”

When Kei still didn’t say anything, Kuroo took a step closer to him.

“You wanna tell me more about raptors?” he murmured, sending shivers down Kei’s spine as he gently slid his hands up onto Kei’s waist.

“I get the feeling you have something else in mind,” Kei responded.

“My boyfriend is the world’s cutest dinosaur nerd,” Kuroo said, leaning in so his lips were just a breath away from Kei’s. “Can you blame me?”

“Shut up,” Kei grumbled before leaning the rest of the way and kissing Kuroo.

Of course, that was the perfect moment for Kei’s phone to start ringing.

They pulled away and both groaned as Kei pulled his phone out of his pocket.

“It’s my mom,” he grumbled, staying close with one arm draped around Kuroo’s neck as he answered the call.

God, if me from a few weeks ago could see me now...

“Hello?”

“Kei, where are you?” his mom asked. “We’ve been looking everywhere.”

“Oh, sorry,” Kei said quickly. “I think I’m getting sick again, so Ku- Tetsurou gave me a ride home.”

“Oh, be sure to get plenty of rest!” his mom insisted. “You don’t want to miss any more school.”

“I know, mom.”

His mom spoke again, but her voice was distant, like she was talking to someone else. “Do you want to tell him now or do you want to wait and tell him in person?”

“I’ll tell him now,” came Akiteru’s voice, followed by some shuffling noises as the phone was transferred from hand to hand.

“Akiteru?” Kei asked, a little confused about what Akiteru would have to tell him that he wouldn’t have already just texted him about. Did he get a promotion or something?

“Kei!” Akiteru said excitedly. “Hey, are you doing okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, I just didn’t want to wait around for mom and dad,” Kei told him, not bothering to lie to Akiteru.

“Aw, you should’ve stuck around, I have big news!”

I knew it. Promotion. “Oh, yeah?”

“Lily and I are getting married!” he exclaimed.

Kei froze. “You proposed?”

“Yeah, last night!” Akiteru said.

Kei didn’t know what to say. All he could really think of was a few weeks ago, when he and Akiteru were at The Crow’s Nest: “Will you come ring shopping with me when the time comes?”

“Kei?”

“Congratulations,” Kei said quickly. “Really, that’s great, Akiteru. I’m really happy for you.”

“You’ll be my best man, right?”

“You wouldn’t rather have one of your friends from college?”

“Of course not,” Akiteru laughed. “C’mon, please?”

“Do I really have to give a speech?”

Kei.

“Fine, I’ll do it,” Kei said with an exaggerated sigh. “But if I have to be in the wedding party, you’re not allowed to pick embarrassing colors.”

Akiteru laughed. “Noted. Hey, are you free after school on Tuesday? We should do something.”

“Yeah, I’m free,” Kei said. “As usual.”

“I’ll text you later,” Akiteru told him. “But I better get going now. Bye, Kei!”

“Bye. And congrats again,” Kei added before hanging up.

“So,” Kuroo said, making Kei jump a little, like Kei had somehow forgotten who he was currently hanging off of. “Your brother’s getting married?”

“Yeah...”

“You sound thrilled.”

“No, it’s just...” Kei shrugged and slid his phone back in his pocket. “I don’t know, my brother wanted me to go ring shopping with him. And he said it was gonna be a while until he saved up enough to get the right ring. I don’t know why he proposed like this out of the blue.”

“Maybe it wasn’t out of the blue for him,” Kuroo suggested. “Maybe he just wanted you to be surprised, too.”

Kei sighed and rested his head on Kuroo’s shoulder, not convinced that there wasn't something else going on here. “Yeah, well, I think I made it clear today how I feel about surprises."

Chapter Text

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

And it was the most okay of times.

It was the best of times, obviously, because of Kuroo himself. Kuroo was easily the best thing that had happened to Kei in years. Granted, time with Kuroo was only really good when they were alone, and that was usually restricted to one- to two-hour long study dates that they started having in Kei’s room after school everyday. Still, those study dates were good enough to make up for all the times they were together and had to pretend that they were just friends.

They weren’t quite enough to make up for all the times they had to be apart, though, and those were definitely the worst of times. Still, Kei was pretty used to the bad times, as his “bad” now was his “normal” before he’d met Kuroo, with the second guessing and the doubting and the panicking. The only difference now was that Kei had an actual love life and not just some bad thoughts, which left him with more second guessing, more doubting, and more panicking, and therefore, more things that he needed to tune out. And lately, most of the stuff he needed to tune out had to do with weddings.

Time with Akiteru had always been what made Kei feel okay again, but that time was increasingly being interrupted and rescheduled and flat out canceled because Akiteru was absolutely swamped with wedding planning. Akiteru had always been a fairly reasonable person, but he and Lily had decided to be ridiculous and cram their wedding planning into less than two months just so they could get married on the thirteenth of December of this year: 12/13/14. While it was a cute idea and all, Kei couldn’t say it was worth it. He held his tongue (for the most part) around Akiteru, because he didn’t want to rain on Akiteru’s parade, but...

~

Day 6 of Relationship: 43 Days Until Akiteru’s Wedding

~

“It’s stupid!” Kei said exasperatedly, sat cross-legged on his bed while Kuroo was digging around different drawers in Kei’s room. “It’s so stupid! Why would you try and plan a wedding in less than two months just for the date?”

“Is it just a little family-courthouse-wedding kind of thing?” Kuroo asked, currently rummaging through Kei’s desk.

No. They still want a whole big ceremony and reception. Why can’t they just pick one or the other?”

Kuroo just shrugged. “It’s not the stupidest thing anyone’s ever done, babe.”

“Don’t call me ‘babe’,” Kei said with a scowl, as if it hadn’t just made his stomach dip a little. The last thing he needed was for it to become a habit and have Kuroo slip up and call him that in front of someone else.

“Is this gonna be like ‘don’t call me “Tsukki”’ all over again?” Kuroo asked, looking up for a moment from his search through Kei’s things. “Because we both know how that turned out.”

Yeah, that's the problem, Kei thought as he rolled his eyes. “What are you even looking for?”

“I already told you, we need costumes. I’m looking for inspiration.”

“Kuroo, I don’t want to dress up,” Kei groaned, flopping back on his bed.

“I thought you liked Halloween,” Kuroo pointed out.

“I do,” Kei insisted. “But for the candy. Not the costumes.”

Ooh,” Kuroo said suddenly, holding up an old pair of plastic vampire fangs, the kind you’d get for fifty tickets at the prize counter at Chuck E. Cheese.

“Oh, gross, I still have those?” Kei asked, wrinkling his nose.

“Hey, does your mom have any red lipstick we could borrow?”

Kei frowned, his brain failing to make the same connection Kuroo's had. “Red lipstick?”

Before Kuroo could explain his idea, Kei’s mom knocked, as if summoned by Kuroo, and entered the room without waiting for Kei to let her in. Kei couldn’t help but feel a wave of nausea at that. Even when he and Kuroo weren’t doing anything suspicious, he still felt like he'd been caught doing something wrong, and the idea of her barging in when they actually were doing something incriminating was not something Kei wanted to think about. “How’re you boys doing?” she asked pleasantly, oblivious to her son recoiling slightly at her presence.

“Great,” Kuroo said with his award- and parent-winning smile, completely unfazed in a way Kei could only dream of being.

“Kei, you know where I left the candy?” his mom asked.

“It’s just on the kitchen counter, isn’t it?”

“Yes. You boys might want to head downstairs in a few minutes, trick-or-treaters will start coming soon.”

“Will do, Mrs. Tsukishima,” Kuroo said dutifully.

Kei’s mom paused, trying to remember if she’d forgotten anything, before turning to Kei again. “Well, I think your father and I are going to head out in just a minute. Be sure to call me if you need anything.” Kei’s parents were going to spend an evening with some couple friends from church, probably playing Scrabble or something. It left Kei stuck on trick-or-treater duty, but it also gave him an opportunity to spend some alone time with Kuroo as soon as his parents finally leave the house.

“We will, mom,” Kei assured her. Please just leave.

“Alright then. You boys have fun!”

“We will!” Kuroo called after her as she closed the door on her way out. “Happy Halloween!”

“You just love kissing my mom’s ass, don’t you?” Kei asked once he knew his mother wasn’t in earshot anymore.

Kuroo just grinned. “Would you rather I kissed yours instead?”

Kei threw a pillow at him.

“C’mon,” he laughed, holding up his arms to block it. “Costumes. Lipstick. Let’s go.”

Kei got Kuroo a tube of lipstick from his parents’ bathroom while Kuroo washed the fangs he’d found a couple (or a dozen) times. Kuroo popped in the fangs in his own mouth and used the lipstick to draw two little, smudgy puncture wounds on Kei’s neck.

“There,” Kuroo said with a grin that looked more ridiculous than charming with the vampire fangs. “I’m a vampire, and you’re my victim. Costumes solved.”

“I am not kissing you while you have those fangs in,” Kei told him straight away.

Before Kuroo had a chance to complain, the doorbell rang and Kuroo was running to answer the door.

My boyfriend is such a dork. Kei flicked off the lights in his room and headed for the stairs to follow him, and was only halfway there when Kuroo opened the door and calling out, “Good evening!” in a bad Dracula voice. He was met with a small chorus of giggles and, “Trick or treat!”s.

“Tsukki!” Kuroo called, the fangs giving him a slight lisp. So lame. And adorable. “Where’d you put the candy again?”

“It’s in the kitchen,” Kei told him as he reached the bottom step, trying so hard not to smile at his dumb boyfriend. “I’ll get it.”

After Kei came back with a bag of assorted fun-sized candy bars, Kuroo gave the kids giant handfuls of candy and sent them on their merry way. They went skipping along to the next house, one little Elsa loudly singing Let It Go, as Kei closed the door behind them, still trying and failing to hide a smile because Kuroo was good with kids and the whole situation felt so domestic and he looked really silly in those fangs and Kei just liked it all more than he really cared to admit to himself.

Kuroo put an arm around Kei’s waist and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “What are you smirking at?”

Normally, Kei would’ve lied, or made a joke at Kuroo’s expense, or just told him to shut up, but... well, he was in a good mood. “You’re just cute.”

Kuroo immediately turned red, his eyes widening in horror before he hid his face in Kei’s neck. “Tsukki,” he groaned. “You can’t just say things like that!”

The smile immediately fell off of Kei's face. “You say things like that all the time."

“But you don’t! I’m not used to it.”

“Never mind,” Kei said, rolling his eyes and attempting to push Kuroo off of him. “You’re not cute at all.”

Kuroo just grinned and went to kiss Kei, but Kei suddenly realized that they were near a window and put a hand on Kuroo’s shoulder to hold him back. “We should close the blinds first,” he said, praying that no one had looked in just now. Shit, I really need to be more careful...

Kuroo just nodded his understanding. “We could go hide out in the living room, put on the Halloween movie marathon on Disney Channel, and make out on the couch.”

“You are so embarrassing,” Kei said, shaking his head in disgust. Kuroo was such a dork, Kei couldn’t believe he’d ever thought he was cool.

“Was that a no?” Kuroo asked, raising his eyebrows suggestively and nudging Kei with his elbow.

Kei just narrowed his eyes at him a moment before sighing. “No...”

And so they spent the rest of the evening watching Halloweentown, and kissing on Kei’s couch in between answering the door for trick-or-treaters. After it got late enough that the kids stopped coming, they downloaded Slender: The Eight Pages on Kei’s computer and played until Kuroo was too scared to continue. Kei teased him about it until he went to the bathroom and on the way back thought that a coat hanging on a chair was Slenderman and freaked himself out. After Kuroo took his turn teasing, they cuddled up on the couch to protect each other and fell asleep like that, luckily waking up at the sound of the garage door opening when Kei’s parents got back and untangling themselves from one another in time to not get caught.

Kuroo went home and left behind the fangs and a hoodie he'd forgotten. Kei threw away the fangs (which were still gross and covered in Kuroo's spit) and went to bed in Kuroo's hoodie (which was cozy and smelled like Kuroo's cologne).

~

Day 11 of Relationship: 38 Days Until Akiteru’s Wedding

~

“You should look more excited,” Akiteru told Kei as they both got out of his car. “Cake tasting. This should be like, the greatest day of your life.”

“I don’t know,” Kei said with a shrug. The actual cake-eating wasn’t his biggest concern about today. “Isn’t this kinda something you and Lily should be doing together?”

“The baker here is an old friend of Lily’s,” Akiteru explained. “And Lily likes anything she makes. Plus, Lily’s busy with invitations.”

Kei sighed as he held the door open for Akiteru, letting his brother step inside before him. “Remind me again why you’re having the wedding so soo-”

Then Kei was interrupted by a loud gasp. “Is that Akiteru?”

“Hey, Jen,” Akiteru said with a wave. “It’s good to see you!”

“I’m so glad you’re here!” said the girl behind the counter, grabbing a towel and wiping away pale frosting from her dark hands. She kind of looked like a cupcake herself, with her hair all big and fluffed out like a dollop of frosting on top. Kei immediately liked her.

“Jen, this is my brother, Kei,” Akiteru said with a smile. “Kei, this is Jen.”

“Nice to meet you, Kei,” Jen said brightly as she shook Kei’s hand. “How much longer until I’m making a cake for your wedding?”

Kei froze, his normally quick wit at a complete standstill as the only response he could come up with was, I can’t legally get married in this state and it also may or may not be an abomination.

Kei was thankfully saved from his awkward silence when Akiteru spoke up. “Let’s see how you do with ours first,” he teased.

“Hey,” Jen laughed, reaching across the counter to smack Akiteru’s arm while Kei took a deep breath as subtly as he could. “I’m making an exception for you guys, y’know. I usually require at least three months in advance. You guys aren’t even giving me two.”

“And we really do appreciate it,” Akiteru assured her.

Jen waved him off. “I could never say no to you two. Now enough sentiment.” Jen turned and went through a door that seemed to lead back to the kitchen, and she came back with a tray of unfrosted cupcakes, each with exactly one twin for Akiteru and Kei to have their own of each flavor. Kei perked up at the sight of them and inwardly cursed his sweet tooth.

“Taste,” Jen ordered, setting down the tray and putting a hand on her hip. “No more than a bite each, or you’ll feel sick by the end.”

~

On the drive back home, Kei and Akiteru’s conversation was interrupted when Lily called, asking Akiteru about more wedding stuff. With Akiteru distracted and nothing else for Kei to do, he sent Kuroo a text.

To Kuroo:
i’m breaking up with you so i can marry a cupcake instead

From Kuroo:
wow. dumped for a cupcake. it was fun while it lasted.. </3

To Kuroo:
seriously though. my brother and i were just tasting cake for the wedding, and it was all like the best cake i’ve ever eaten

From Kuroo:
a second ago we were breaking up and now you’re planning our wedding? we’ve only been dating for like, two weeks, babe

To Kuroo:
MY BROTHER’S WEDDING. and don’t call me babe.

Kuroo was never, ever allowed to know how much Kei actually liked it.

From Kuroo:
teasing ^_^ and why not, its cute

“Kei?”

Kei jumped a little as he snapped back into reality.

“Huh?”

Apparently, Lily had asked him a question over speakerphone, and she repeated it with a laugh. “Do you want to bring Tetsurou to the wedding?”

Kei’s eyes widened a little. “Really?”

He’d honestly been a little worried about attending this wedding. Akiteru was going to be busy the whole time, leaving Kei to face a tidal wave of “So when are you going to find a nice girl?”s and “Do you have a girlfriend yet?”s from all his relatives (and maybe some of Lily’s) by himself. That was just a recipe for Kei to end up hiding and panicking in the bathroom.

“Everyone’s allowed a plus-one,” Akiteru told him. “And since you don’t actually have a date, you might as well bring a friend. I mean, unless you’d rather talk to mom and grandma all night.”

God, no,” Kei said immediately, which made Akiteru and Lily laugh. “I’ll ask him if he wants to come.”

Akiteru and Lily went back to their own conversation about photographers or something and Kei went back to texting Kuroo.

To Kuroo:
hey, do you want to come to my brother’s wedding?

From Kuroo:
the one you’re constantly complaining about?

To Kuroo:
shut up, im not complaining, i just dont get the rush

From Kuroo:
again, teasing. if i can scrape up enough $$ to rent a tux, i’d love to

To Kuroo:
i can loan you the money, it’s no big deal

From Kuroo:
no no no you dont have to pay for things for me, its fine. ill work something out.

To Kuroo:
please do, i want you to come

From Kuroo:
are you sure though? i wouldnt think you would want me around your entire family

To Kuroo:
itll be fine. honestly, i think itll be better if youre there.

From Kuroo:
if you really think so, then ill definitely be there babe <3

To Kuroo:
ENOUGH WITH THE ‘BABE’

From Kuroo:
okay, sweetheart <33

~

Day 23 of Relationship: 26 Days Until Akiteru’s Wedding

~

To Kuroo:
are you awake?

Five minutes passed with no answer.

To Kuroo:
hello??

Another three minutes.

To Kuroo:
kuroooooooooooo

After going a minute without a reply, Kei just gave up on texting and called Kuroo. Kuroo picked up on the last ring.

“Kuroo?” Kei whispered.

“Tsukki,” Kuroo groaned, his voice low and sleepy, and already soothing some of the anxiety in Kei’s stomach. “It’s three in the morning.”

“I know, and I’m sorry,” Kei apologized, still speaking as quietly as he possibly could.

“Why are you whispering?”

“I don’t want my parents to hear.”

Kuroo yawned. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” Kei assured him. “It’s nothing, I just... I wanted to talk to you.”

“About?”

Kei didn’t have a response. The honest answer was that he had just needed to hear Kuroo’s voice, as he was having a little trouble sleeping (meaning he had been lying awake for hours, staring at the ceiling and feeling a little sick as he thought about boyfriends and sinning and the passage from Leviticus his pastor had read in church). Kuroo always seemed to make him feel better when he was actually around, so if that wasn’t an option, then talking with him on the phone was the next best thing, and it actually seemed to help.

“Nothing,” Kei murmured. “You can go back to sleep.”

“You sure you’re okay?” Kuroo sounded so tired and confused, and Kei couldn’t stand how adorable it was.

“I’m fine.” Kei was smiling to himself and pulling his blanket tighter over his shoulders. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay?” Kuroo let out another yawn. “Goodnight, Tsukki.”

"Wait," Kei said quickly, suddenly remembering something.

"Mm?"

"Happy birthday."

"Oh, shit, it's my birthday, isn't it?"

"November seventeenth," Kei said with a smile.

"It's not fair that your birthday already happened," Kuroo whined. "I have to wait so long until I can wake you up at three in the morning on your birthday."

"Do you remember my birthday?" Kei challenged.

"September..."

"Yes?"

"Don't tell me, I know this," Kuroo groaned. "I'm tired."

"How sad. I remember my boyfriend's birthday and he doesn't remember mine-"

"Twenty-seventh," Kuroo blurted out. "It's the twenty-seventh, right? Please tell me I'm right."

Kei grinned and decided that being a shit to a half-awake Kuroo was fun. "Nope."

"What?" Kuroo said, sounding upset. "Fuck, I'm the worst boyfriend ever."

"I'm joking."

Kuroo hesitated. "So I was right?"

"Mmhmm."

"You're the worst boyfriend ever."

"How does it feel to be an adult?" Kei asked.

"It's already exhausting," Kuroo grumbled.

Kei laughed a little at that. "Okay, I'll let you sleep. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, sweetheart."

Kei hung up and buried his reddening face in his pillow. He was still smiling about ten minutes later when he finally fell asleep.

~

Day 33 of Relationship: 16 Days Until Akiteru’s Wedding

~

The study dates were so cemented into their routine by late November that neither of them even had to ask anymore. It was just assumed that after sixth period, they would walk to Kuroo’s car together, drive to Kei’s place, and spend a few hours alone in Kei’s room, and a lot of that time was spent kissing on Kei's bed.

It was inevitable that at some point, someone would suggest something beyond just kissing.

“Hey, Tsukki,” Kuroo mumbled between kisses, using his arms to prop himself up off of Kei and giving the both of them a chance to breathe.

“Yeah?” Kei panted, taking a mental screenshot of what Kuroo looked like when he was so red-faced and out of breath.

“Do you ever think about us going a little bit further?”

Kei felt like his heart skipped a beat, both in fear and excitement. “Further?”

"Just a little bit,” Kuroo quickly assured him. “Just like... I was thinking-”

“Wait,” Kei interrupted. “Don’t tell me. Just... do it.”

“Whoa, what?” Kuroo said, completely getting off of Kei and sitting back on his heels.

Kei propped himself up on his elbows, wincing a little as he admitted, “If you tell me first, I’m gonna get too embarrassed and say no.” It had happened before, a little less than a week into their relationship when Kuroo asked if Kei was up for kissing with tongue (which, Kei thought, was surely something you were just supposed to do and not ask first). The idea of admitting, out loud, with actual words, that Kei had wanted Tetsurou Kuroo’s tongue in his mouth was absolutely humiliating. The idea also made Kei feel a little guiltier than he already was for making out with Kuroo in the first place. He couldn’t lie to himself and say he was just going along with what Kuroo wanted if he explicitly consented to it. Then again, Kei was trying to stop lying to himself anyway... Kei knew that Kuroo’s way was probably (definitely) the right way of doing things, but God, why did it have to be so embarrassing?

“Tsukki, sweetheart, if you’re gonna get embarrassed that easily, then maybe we shouldn’t,” Kuroo said with a laugh. Probably (definitely) right. But Kei wasn’t going to give up that easily.

“Kuroo, c’mon,” Kei groaned. That little added “sweetheart” had just made him want Kuroo more. “It’s fine. I’ll tell you to stop if I don’t like it.”

Kuroo just shook his head. “I still don’t like that. I want permission first.”

“I give you permission to do the thing,” Kei deadpanned.

“Not good enough,” Kuroo said with a grin that was frustrating as it was hot.

“Fine,” Kei said with a sigh, his hands curling into fists as he braced himself. “Say it then.”

“I wanted to ask if I could take your shirt off,” Kuroo told him. “And kiss your neck and chest a little.”

Kei suddenly felt really stupid for making a big deal out of it. “Oh. ...That’s it?”

“We’ve been dating for, what, four, almost five weeks?” Kuroo laughed. “I think this is a good first step.”

Kei nodded. “Okay then.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah, go ahead,” Kei said, lying back down and getting a shiver down his spine as Kuroo went back on top of him, pressing a few kisses to his lips to get back into the rhythm of things before wandering down his jaw and leaving hot, wet kisses along Kei’s neck.

Kei’s mind went completely blank except for a repeating, Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit...

God, that felt good... How could something so simple feel that good? Kei accidentally let out a small, whiny noise in the back of his throat as Kuroo kissed a particularly sensitive spot on his skin, and Kei’s face flushed even redder than it already was in embarrassment. Still, the embarrassment wasn’t nearly enough for him to want Kuroo to stop, instead eagerly awaiting Kuroo’s every move.

And then Kuroo’s hands were fiddling with Kei’s shirt, untucking it from his pants before clumsily unbuttoning it from the bottom up. Since he wasn’t look at what he was doing, it was taking him a while, but the slowness of it just built up this incredible anticipation. Every now and then, his fingers would just barely graze Kei’s bare skin, and Kei could feel his whole body steadily getting hotter and hotter, he was dying for Kuroo to touch him.

Once Kei’s shirt was completely undone, Kuroo pulled it open and moved his kisses further down Kei’s torso, and the feeling of Kuroo’s lips on the sensitive skin of Kei’s chest driving him absolutely crazy. Combined with the grip Kuroo’s warm hands had on Kei’s bare waist, Kei could feel a strange sense of desire starting to pool low in his stomach, and it was starting to feel a little dangerous.

And then the nipple.

Tightening his hold on Kei, Kuroo ditched the slow, unbearably gentle kisses he’d been pressing along Kei’s collarbone and swirled his tongue around one of Kei’s nipples. Kei would never have dreamed it would illicit the reaction it did. Kei suddenly found himself choking back a moan, forcing himself to keep his hips on the bed and not press them up against Kuroo. Kei felt like all of his blood was rushing toward his lower body, and he quickly realized that he was about to get a-

Stop,” Kei said suddenly, and even though Kuroo immediately sat up, Kei just kept repeating, “Stop, stop, stop, oh God...”

“Hey, hey, are you okay?” Kuroo asked gently, his tenderness completely lost on Kei as he sat up and quickly buttoned up his shirt, trying to think of awful, disgusting things to get his mind off of how good Kuroo felt and to make sure everything that was down stayed down.

“F-fine,” Kei mumbled. He couldn't bring himself to look Kuroo in the eye. Fuck, this is even more embarrassing than when I freaked out that time Kuroo was pretending to hit on me...

“I’m sorry,” Kuroo said quickly. “I’m sorry, I was rushing things. I shouldn’t have brought it up in the first place.”

“No, it’s fine,” Kei tried to assure him. The humiliation was definitely starting to sink in as Kei’s current predominant emotion instead of lust.

“Look, I get that you’re still trying to... get used to all this,” Kuroo told him, reaching forward and taking one of Kei’s hands in his.

“Uh, Kuroo, it’s really not... about that...” Kei muttered, his face the one part of him that still felt hot.

“What is it?” Kuroo asked, still sounding so ridiculously understanding and supportive and sensitive that Kei almost wished something was actually wrong.

“I just...” I can’t say it. “I, uh...” Kei cleared his throat and wished Kuroo would just guess it so Kei wouldn’t have to say it out loud. “I just got... got a, uh...”

Oh,” Kuroo said suddenly. Kei glanced up at him and saw his eyes going wide and his mouth curving up in a grin it shouldn’t have been in. I changed my mind. I don’t want him to know anymore.

“Shut up,” Kei groaned, grabbing a pillow and hiding his face in it.

“So you just didn’t want to get a boner?” Kuroo laughed.

Shut up,” Kei snapped, smacking Kuroo over the head with the pillow instead. God, how can he say that so easily?

“Babe,” Kuroo managed through his laughter. “You don’t have to be embarrassed! I don’t care that you got-”

Stooop.

“I mean, if you want, I could always just give you a hand j-”

Please,” Kei begged, wishing he still had his pillow and burying his face in his hands instead. “Stop talking.”

“So this is what you meant by getting too embarrassed if I say things out loud."

Kei couldn’t even speak anymore, just letting out a mortified groan.

And then Kei was being pulled into a hug, Kuroo burying his face in Kei’s neck. “You are the cutest thing,” he murmured.

Kei let out a sigh before letting himself relax against Kuroo. It was just one of a thousand things Kei would never admit out loud, but Kuroo did give really nice hugs.

Still, their moment was short-lived as they both heard footsteps coming up the stairs. They immediately separated and assumed their usual positions, with Kei sitting on his bed and Kuroo leaning against it, sitting on the floor. They both grabbed the homework that they’d tossed aside earlier and had it sitting in front of them just as Kei’s mom opened the door.

“Hey, Tetsurou, it’s getting a little late,” she said, not even bothering with a “hello” first. “Were you planning to stay for dinner?”

“Actually, I was thinking I should probably getting going,” Kuroo admitted, shoving his unfinished homework into his backpack. “Tsukki, text me if you figure out that one problem we were going over.”

“Yeah, sure,” Kei said dully, as if he wasn’t disappointed that Kuroo was already leaving. Kuroo wasn’t going to be able to come over tomorrow, as Kei had plans with Akiteru after school and a Tsukishima family dinner after that. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

~

Just before Kei went to bed, he got a text from Kuroo.

From Kuroo:
hey <3 so, you’re not still embarrassed about before, are you? because in all seriousness, i do hope that you to feel comfortable around me. i know we’re still getting used to this but i want us to get to a point where we’re not embarrassed around each other anymore. like i know you cant help it if you’re just embarrassed for yourself, but please don’t ever be embarrassed because you’re afraid of what im thinking, because i think the world of you, kei. i really really care about you and i just wanted you know that.

Kei climbed into bed and pulled the covers over his head, curling up into a ball as he tried to compose himself. How did people like Kuroo exist? Kei would’ve never guessed that he would like someone as sappy and romantic and honest as Kuroo, but shit, there he was, and Kei was happy, he was so, pathetically happy...

He felt like he would never be able to convey a proper response to that over text, so Kei took a few calming breaths, pushed back the covers, retrieved his phone, and called Kuroo, who picked up almost immediately.

“Hey,” he said, sounding a little shy. God, I can’t stand him. A boy cannot be this cute. It should be impossible.

“Hey,” Kei murmured back. “I, uh, got your text.”

Kuroo let out a soft laugh. “Yeah, I figured.”

It was quickly becoming clear to Kei that he wasn’t going to be able to convey a proper response over the phone either, but at least it was nice to hear Kuroo’s voice. “Yeah. And, uh... It was nice.”

“It was nice,” Kuroo repeated, sounding greatly amused with exactly how awkward Kei’s response to this was.

Maybe I should just suck it up and be sappy and romantic and honest back...

“...I really care about you, too, Tetsurou,” Kei practically whispered, the idea of being overheard absolutely terrifying. Still, right now, this just felt important to say. “And honestly, I’m more comfortable around you than I am around anyone.”

There was silence, and Kei could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Honesty is awful. I need to stop doing this.

And then Kuroo finally spoke. “I wish you were here with me," he said, sounding a little emotional. "Or I was there with you.”

“Me too.”

“I wish I could kiss you.”

Kei’s toes curled up. “Me too.”

“I wish my MOM WOULD STOP LISTENING THROUGH THE DOOR,” Kuroo shouted suddenly. “MOM, I CAN HEAR YOU! GO AWAY!”

And Kei couldn’t breathe, he was laughing so hard. He wasn't even trying to be quiet anymore, and he was willing to bet money that his mom was probably going to be knocking on his door any second asking what he was laughing at. He was going to have to lie about it, but she probably wasn't really going to care whatever it was. She'd just tell him to get so sleep so he doesn’t fail his quiz tomorrow.

“Tsukki, I have to go,” Kuroo mumbled.

“S’fine,” Kei wheezed, wiping tears from his eyes.

“I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, sweetheart.”

Kei hung up just as the knock on his door came. He was a little bit wrong. It was his dad instead of his mom.

~

Day 34 of Relationship: 15 Days Until Akiteru’s Wedding

~

From Kuroo:
okay, sweetheart. sweetheart. you are important and smart and i respect you and your opinions. but chocolate is SO much better than vanilla

To Kuroo:
i can’t believe i’m dating someone with such wrong opinions

From Kuroo:
there is a reason vanilla is synonymous with boring

To Kuroo:
it’s not boring, it’s standard, and the reason it’s standard is because everyone likes it

From Kuroo:
but not more than CHOCOLATE

To Kuroo:
chocolate is hit or miss. vanilla is always at least kind of good.

From Kuroo:
there is a reason everything is better with chocolate, tsukki. milk? ok. chocolate milk? hell yeah. strawberries? good. chocolate covered strawberries? amazing. do u see the pattern?

To Kuroo:
personally i like strawberries better without chocolate

From Kuroo:
okay what the actual fuck

“Kei?” Akiteru interrupted.

“Hmm?” Kei hummed, typing out a quick g2g before sliding his phone back in his pocket.

Akiteru sighed. “You are taking so much longer than usual to pick a CD. And that is saying something.”

“Sorry,” Kei mumbled, going back to rifling through albums, moving as quickly as he could.

“You and Tetsurou have really hit it off, huh?” Akiteru asked. “Even before you got all cynical and everyone from school started pissing you off, you were never this close to anyone.”

Kei shrugged. There was a growing part of him that really, really wanted to tell Akiteru the truth about Kuroo, because if anyone was going to be understanding about it, it was going to be Akiteru. It was such a huge thing to not tell anyone about. Kuroo at least had his mom, however embarrassing he found her. The only one Kei felt like he potentially had was Akiteru, but... he just wasn’t willing to risk it. He felt bad hiding something from him, as Akiteru was usually his confidante for just about everything, but... he wasn’t ready yet. “I'm not cynical," Kei said. "And it’s just nice to know someone other than you that isn’t completely annoying."

"I'm sorry, in what universe are you not cynical?"

"I’m getting this one,” Kei grumbled, holding up the only CD he’d been interested in so far and refusing to humor Akiteru.

“Awesome,” Akiteru said, pulling out his phone to check the time. “We’d better get going, we still have to get groceries before we pick up Lily.”

~

“Wait, I thought we were picking up Lily,” Kei said, a little confused when Akiteru missed the turn for her apartment.

“Oh, yeah, she’s at my place,” Akiteru said, keeping his eyes on the road and clearing his throat a little.

“She’s always at your place,” Kei pointed out. “Are you guys living together?”

“No, no,” Akiteru said quickly. “No. Not technically.”

Kei raised his eyebrows. “Not technically?”

“She just stays over a lot during the day,” Akiteru explained. “My place is closer to the library where she’s doing that mural.”

“Mm.” Kei didn’t really believe that explanation, but he didn’t want to pry. It’s not like he could be annoyed with Akiteru for keeping stuff from him when Kei was keeping his own big secret.

When they got to Akiteru’s apartment building, they both took an armful of groceries that weren’t for dinner tonight up to his place. Akiteru made them take the stairs because he wanted to be gross and healthy.

“Lily!” Akiteru called when they stepped into the apartment. “Are you ready to head over to my parents’?”

“I’m not sure if I’m going, Aki,” she called back as she shuffled into the room. “The morning sickness has had me feeling terrible all day-”

“Morning sickness?” Kei repeated, the bag of groceries he was handing to Akiteru slipping through his fingers and crashing to the floor.

Lily froze as her eyes snapped to where Kei was standing behind Akiteru where she hadn’t seen him. Akiteru was equally paralyzed, just stood staring at the floor with his face turning red in shame.

“You’re... Lily's pregnant?”

Chapter Text

“Kei!” came his mother’s voice from her bedroom. “I think I heard a knock at the door!”

“I know, I’m getting it!” Kei called back, straightening his suit jacket as he hurried down the stairs. The hotel ballroom that Akiteru and Lily had managed to book so close to the date was about an hour drive away, and Kei’s morning had just been scrambling to get up early so his family could get on the road. They were also giving Tetsurou a ride, so it was Kei’s job to make sure that he was here, on time, in a tux, and in the minivan, ready to leave the same time as everyone else.

And, dependable as ever, Kuroo was the one standing there when Kei answered the door. “Hey, ba- Tsukki,” he corrected quickly.

“Nice save,” Kei said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “It’s fine, my parents are upstairs.”

“How do I look?” Kuroo asked, biting his lip nervously in a way that was so different than his usual, confident grin.

The honest answer was that Kuroo looked really, ridiculously good. His suit fit him like a dream, hugging his waist and broad shoulders, and it honestly should be illegal to look that good in black, and-

“Not the tux,” Kuroo said quickly, noticing where Kei’s eyes had gone. “I already know the tux looks good.”

As well as Kei felt like he knew Kuroo’s personality by now, he was still sometimes surprised by Kuroo’s overwhelming confidence. “Wow-”

“I meant my hair.”

Kei frowned. “Your hair?” Kuroo’s hair looked exactly the same as it always did, except a little shiny, like gel was slicked through it.

“I tried so hard to get it to lie flat this morning,” Kuroo groaned, bowing his head in shame.

“Wait,” Kei said, a grin slowly working its way on his face. “Are you saying that this is your natural hair?”

Kuroo’s eyes went wide. “You thought I do this on purpose?”

Kei couldn’t hold it back anymore and burst out laughing.

“I’ve been trying to get rid of it for forever,” Kuroo whined over Kei’s laughter. “I think I have the worst case of bedhead in history.”

Bedhead?” Kei repeated, wiping tears from his eyes. “How the hell do you sleep?”

“Kei, language,” his mom scolded, picking the perfect moment to come downstairs.

“Sorry, mom,” Kei mumbled, stepping aside to actually let Kuroo inside the house. He was so used to watching his own language, it was weird that somewhere in the last month he’d stopped noticing it.

“We’ll be leaving in about five minutes, alright?” she called over her shoulder, fixing an earring as she headed into the kitchen.

“Got it,” Kei said, grabbing Tetsurou’s arm and quickly dragging him upstairs into his room. He needed a few minutes alone with him before spending the entire day pretending that they were just friends.

“Okay, but in all seriousness, how does my hair look?” Kuroo asked once the door was closed behind them.

Kei just rolled his eyes. “It looks good. It always looks good.”

Kuroo grinned, but the smugness of it was undermined by the pink dusting his cheeks from the compliment. He took a step closer and gave Kei a quick kiss. “You look really nice in your tux,” he murmured, slipping his arms around Kei’s waist.

“You’re not so bad either,” Kei admitted.

“Yeah, well, this tux better look good,” Kuroo grumbled, sounding strangely bitter about it. “I’m totally Cinderella-ing right now and I kinda hate it.”

“What?”

Kuroo hesitated, like it was all a long story and he was trying to figure out where to begin. “Okay, so you know how my mom is a nurse’s assistant over at the assisted-living home?”

“Yeah.”

“One of her patients is this old Japanese guy, Ukai-san,” Kuroo began. “He’s the fairy godmother in this situation. He’s got no family, more money than he knows what to do with, and he only lives in that shitty home because he’s lonely and likes the community alright. And he loves my mom, because she’s the only one there who can speak with him in Japanese, so he’s just really nice to me by default when I visit her at work, and he’s always offering to buy me stuff when I’m there. Like, he offered to buy me a car once when he found out what I drive now.

“So I visited my mom at work the other day and I mentioned something about having to go rent a suit for this wedding, and he asked me all about it and if I was going with someone special and I said I was,” Kuroo added with a wink before his face immediately fell again, “and he just decided that there was no way I could go to something like this in a cheap suit, and gave me the money for this.”

“You look thrilled,” Kei muttered, taking note of Kuroo’s clear scowl.

“I don’t like people doing favors for me,” Kuroo said with an annoyed sigh. “Especially when it comes to money. I’ve never accepted anything from Ukai-san, but... I mean, I just already felt so bad about my mom having to pay for the cheap rental, and this made it easier for her...”

“I offered to pay for the suit,” Kei pointed out, feeling strangely annoyed that Kuroo would rather accept an offer from some random patient of his mother’s instead of his boyfriend. Especially because it was said boyfriend’s fault that Kuroo had a wedding to go to in the first place.

“I didn’t want you to pay for the suit,” Kuroo protested. “Ugh, I didn’t want anyone to have to pay for the suit.”

Kei frowned, looking down instead of making eye contact. “You didn’t have to come, you know.”

“Wait, Tsukki, I didn’t mean it like that,” Kuroo said quickly. “Sweetheart, I really want to go with you today.” He pressed a quick kiss to Kei’s lips. “We’re gonna have fun, and I want to be there to support you, and I’m always up for any chance I get to spend more time with you. I’m fine with sucking up my pride if it means I get to spend today with you.”

“Whatever you say, Cinderella,” Kei said, rolling his eyes at how easy it was for Kuroo to recover with something sweet.

“If I’m Cinderella, I guess that makes you the prince,” Kuroo pointed out with a grin.

“You don’t get to dance with the prince in this version,” Kei told him flat out.

“Do I at least get to kiss him before we head to the ball?”

“This is the cheesiest conversation we’ve ever had,” Kei groaned.

Tetsurou just kept smiling as he leaned in, pulling Kei close, his lips just barely brushing Kei’s when they were snapped back into reality.

“Kei!” shouted Kei’s mom from downstairs, and the two sprang apart out of instinct. “Let’s go!”

Kuroo’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, shit, I wasted all of our alone time whining about Ukai-san!”

“There’s no way that was five minutes,” Kei grumbled, pulling Kuroo back in and kissing him anyway.

~

Most of the car ride was spent in silence.

Kei didn’t really want his parents overhearing anything that he and and Kuroo had to talk about. The few times any sort of conversation did crop up, it was only a matter of time before it started heading toward their usual bickering that felt surprisingly flirtatious with Kei’s parents as an audience. The second it started nearing that territory, they would just end the conversation, and it was back to silence. Kei gave up after a while and pulled out some earbuds that his mom had told him not to bring but he’d brought anyway, putting one is his own ear and giving the other to Kuroo. At one point, Kuroo accidentally moved his hand onto Kei’s and he immediately pulled it away, but... well, Kei’s parents weren’t looking at their hands. Kei ended up reaching over, taking Kuroo’s hand, and placing it back on the seat between them, leaving his own hand next to it and subtly interlocking their pinkies. Kuroo turned to look out the window, hiding a smile behind his hand.

~

“Kei!” Akiteru said with a sigh of relief when Kei walked into his hotel room. He and Lily had already spent the night in the hotel (in separate rooms on separate floors, of course, so they wouldn’t risk seeing each other before the wedding), and he was sat at the foot of his bed which looked fairly un-slept in. I guess not being able to sleep when you’re anxious runs in the family, Kei thought to himself. “Thank God you’re here, I need you to start being all best-man-y.”

“Akiteru, I literally just got here,” Kei groaned.

“Where are mom and dad?”

“They went to see Lily,” Kei said, stepping aside to let Kuroo into the room.

Akiteru stood up at the sight of Kuroo. “Oh! You must be Tetsurou.”

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Kuroo said, shaking Akiteru’s hand and smiling pleasantly. Kei suddenly found himself anxious at the two of them meeting, but it was different than before. When Kuroo had met Kei’s parents, Kei had just been terrified that his parents would figure out what was going on between the two of them. But having Kuroo meet Akiteru... Kei actually cared a lot about what Akiteru thought of him. If Kuroo was going to stick around long-term, shouldn’t he have Akiteru’s approval? Shouldn’t they at least get along?

“Yeah, likewise,” his brother said, matching Kuroo’s friendliness. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Kei could feel himself turning a little pink. I don’t talk about him that much...

“All good things, I hope,” Kuroo joked.

Akiteru snorted. “It’s Kei. Do you really think they were all good things?”

Kuroo started laughing. “That’s true.”

Akiteru,” Kei groaned.

“Mostly good things,” Akiteru assured Kuroo.

I changed my mind. They’re getting along too well.

“You have your speech ready, right?” Akiteru asked Kei.

“Yes,” Kei said with a sigh, reaching into his jacket to make sure it was still in his breast pocket. “Do I really have to give this speech?”

“I’m sure it’s great!”

“It is,” Kuroo insisted. “He read it to me yesterday and it’s really good.”

“I’ll have to trust your opinion, then,” Akiteru said with a laugh. He then put a hand on Kei’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “C’mon, it’ll be fine. Most of the people here are just family anyway.”

Right, because I feel so comfortable around our family... Kei just changed the subject. “You said you needed me to start being best-man-y?”

“Right.” Akiteru turned and fetched Kei a little envelope, addressed to simply The Bride. “Can you give this to Lily?”

“What are you writing letters for?” Kei asked as he took it. “Can’t you just text her?”

Akiteru’s expression fell flat. “I can, but it’s my wedding day and I’m trying to be romantic.”

“I guess we know why Kei’s still single,” Kuroo joked, and Akiteru laughed. Kei jabbed his elbow into Kuroo’s side.

“Also,” Akiteru added, “make sure you get mom and dad out of the room before she opens it.”

“Oh, is it about the b-”

Shh!” Akiteru immediately reached forward to put a hand over Kei’s mouth.

“Oh, yeah,” Kei said awkwardly as he stepped out of Akiteru’s reach. “I kind of already told Tetsurou about it.”

Akiteru’s shoulders dropped, giving Kei a look of crushing disappointment. “Kei.”

“I’m sorry,” Kei said, and he really did mean it. “He’s not gonna tell anyone.”

“But Kei-”

“It was a big secret to take in!” Kei said defensively. “If I had told you something that big, you would tell Lily, wouldn’t you?”

“It’s different! Lily and I are actually in a relationship!” Well. “And you promised you wouldn’t tell!”

“I promised I wouldn’t tell mom and dad,” Kei pointed out.

“Oh, my God,” Akiteru sighed, rubbing his temples in frustration.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Kuroo piped up, “my parents never got married, so, I mean, I kinda understand. Your secret’s definitely safe with me.” Akiteru still looked frustrated, so Kuroo continued. “And when Kei told me, it wasn’t like a, ‘Hey, guess what my brother just told me!’ kind of thing. It was more of a, “If I don’t talk to someone about this, I’m gonna explode.’ He just needed to get it off his chest.”

Kuroo,” Kei hissed, flinging out his arm and smacking it into Kuroo’s stomach.

“I’m trying to help,” Kuroo hissed back.

Akiteru just frowned, looking at Kei with a confused expression. “Really? I didn’t think you ever really got like that.”

Kei shrugged, adjusting his glasses to hide his face a little. “I usually don’t.”

Akiteru sighed. “I would stay mad, but this actually kind of helps me out today. Tetsurou, would you mind helping to keep my parents distracted?”

Kuroo gave a small, two-fingered salute. “You got it.”

“Alright. Go give Lily the letter then. And, Kei, seriously,” Akiteru said. “Don’t tell anyone else.”

“I won’t,” Kei said, turning to follow Kuroo out the door, adding over his shoulder, “And I really am sorry.”

Once the door was closed behind them, Kuroo let out his own sigh. “You think your brother hates me now?”

“Why would he hate you?” Kei asked. “It was my fault.” If anything, he hates me now.

“I’m surprised you told him that I know.” The two of them started heading toward the elevator. “Like, you didn’t even try to hide it.”

“I never lie to Akiteru,” Kei said with a shrug.

“But you never told him about us, did you?”

Kei winced. “I almost never lie to Akiteru.”

It’s not like he hadn’t wanted to tell Akiteru. Keeping something like this from his brother was actually one of the hardest parts about the whole secret-relationship thing. He’d actually been so, so close to admitting it, back when he’d found out about the baby.

He remembered how frantic Akiteru had been.

“You can’t tell mom and dad,” he’d said, grabbing Kei’s shoulders and looking more panicked than Kei had ever seen him. Kei could feel his hands shaking on his shoulders. “Kei, you have to promise me that you won’t.”

Kei hadn’t responded at first, too taken aback by the news and just reflecting on how it all made sense now: Akiteru’s sudden proposal. The rushed wedding planning. Kei knew there’d been something weird about it all...

“Kei,” Akiteru said, shaking Kei’s shoulders a little when he didn’t respond. “Please.

“I-I promise.”

Akiteru sighed and let go of his shoulders, though it was clear he hadn’t actually relaxed. “Thank you.”

Kei didn’t know what to say next. Part of him was just in disbelief that Akiteru, of all people, had done something as taboo as getting someone pregnant out of wedlock. Akiteru had always been perfect. Top grades, lots of friends, good in sports, a model Christian. God, who knows how their parents would react to find out he’d done something so wrong?

And the other part of Kei just wanted desperately to tell Akiteru about Kuroo. Something about seeing everything he’d felt in the past few months, the stress, the guilt, that same sickening panic reflected in his own brother made him feel closer to him than ever. All he wanted was to tell Akiteru that he wasn’t alone, that Kei knew exactly how he felt, that he was breaking the rules just as much as Akiteru was. He wanted to joke about how proud mom and dad would be if they knew what their sons were really up to, to finally laugh everything off, to finally confide in someone and just maybe have them understand.

But he just couldn’t do it.

“Hey,” Tetsurou said gently, nudging Kei with his elbow and snapping him out of his thoughts. “You okay?”

In the privacy of the elevator, Kei was feeling just brave enough to take Kuroo’s hand in his. “I’m fine.”

Kuroo pressed a kiss to his cheek.

“We’re going to have little to no privacy today,” Kei said, “and in one of the few moments we do, you go for the cheek.”

Kuroo’s eyes went wide as the elevator doors opened. “No, oh, shit, let me have a do over!”

Kei just shook his head, smirking at his dumb boyfriend and heading for Lily’s room.

~

Kuroo did a great job of smoothly getting Kei’s parents out of the room so Kei could talk to Lily and give her the letter. It was almost a shame that he never really had to do that again for the rest of the day, with Kei’s parents getting preoccupied with all the other relatives as they arrived. There was somehow so much to do before the ceremony actually started, and Kei was kept busy the entire time. Before he knew it, Kuroo was taking a seat on Akiteru’s side of the crowd and Kei was heading back to Akiteru’s room to bring him to the altar.

“Akiteru?” Kei called through the door. “It’s showtime, you ready?”

Akiteru didn’t respond, instead opening the door just enough to drag Kei inside.

“Whoa, you okay?”

“Not really,” Akiteru said, rubbing his temples and taking deep breaths. “Really, really not. Not at all.”

“Hey,” Kei said quickly, putting a cautious hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Akiteru, it’s gonna be okay. I mean, this is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Akiteru agreed. “It is, and all I can do is panic about the baby. God, that’s all I’ve been able to think about all day, the baby. What am I supposed to do, Kei? How am I supposed to be a father? How am I supposed to hide this when the baby’s born less than nine months after we got married? How am I going to afford raising a kid? H-how-”

“Akiteru,” Kei interrupted. “It’s gonna be okay. I promise you, it is.”

“But-”

Kei wasn’t at all sure what the best way to handle this situation was. But... well, he and Akiteru were in similar situations. So maybe Akiteru needed to hear what Kei had been needing to hear. “You haven’t done anything wrong.”

Akiteru hesitated. “H-haven’t I, though?”

“No, you haven’t,” Kei insisted. “And I think you don’t really believe you have either. I mean, you have things like that, don’t you? Things that everyone told us were wrong but you don’t really believe them? Because I have a lot of those. I don’t think people who don’t believe in God are going to hell. I don’t think swearing is a big deal. I don’t think it’s wrong to get a divorce. You have things like that too, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“If I was in the exact same situation as you are, would you think I had done something wrong?”

Akiteru hesitated. “No.”

“Right. Because you don’t really think it’s wrong. But because it’s your own problem, it’s different, and it’s terrifying. But I promise, you really haven’t done anything wrong, and everything is going to be okay.”

Akiteru was quiet for a moment before laughing a little, lightly punching Kei’s shoulder. “Damn, Kei, when did you get all wise?”

Kei didn’t answer, because the only reason he had anything decent to say was because that was exactly what he was dying for someone to say to him.

“C’mon,” Kei said, punching his brother back. “You don’t want to keep Lily waiting. I mean, you are excited to marry her, aren’t you?”

Akiteru suddenly couldn’t hold back a smile. “Of course.”

“Then that’s all you need to get through today.”

“You make a great best man, Kei,” Akiteru said, pulling Kei into a hug.

“And you’re gonna be a great father,” Kei said, clapping Akiteru on the back.

~

Akiteru started crying when Lily started walking down the aisle.

Lily was about halfway to the altar when she told him to stop because it was making her cry too.

Kei was ninety-percent sure that neither of them were listening to Father Adams the entire ceremony until it was time for them to say “I do.” They were too happy to be there to focus.

Kei kept looking over at Tetsurou during the ceremony, because he couldn’t help but think what it would be like to be the one getting married. It was obviously way too soon to really think about marrying Tetsurou, and honestly, the thought of it was a little too overwhelming to be pleasant.

But it would be nice to see Tetsurou in a tux again someday, anyway.

~

“Truth or dare,” Kuroo said, taking a sip of water like the rest of the under-twenty-ones. The ceremony was over, Kei had gotten his speech over with (which had thankfully gone without a hitch), and he was finally dismissed from best man duty, leaving him to relax with Kuroo at their table while just about everyone else was dancing.

“Truth,” Kei said, loosening his bowtie a little. Neither of them ever bothered picking dare anymore.

“If the two of us were out,” Kuroo asked, “and everyone here was cool with it, would you dance with me?”

Kei didn’t even hesitate. “No.”

“What?” Kuroo whined. “Why wouldn’t you dance with me?”

“I hate dancing.”

Can you dance?”

“That’s two questions,” Kei grumbled.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

Kei didn’t argue, which was enough of a statement in of itself.

“Like, at all?” Kuroo asked. “Like, I can understand being awkward with like, regular music, but what about ballroom?”

Kei raised his eyebrows. “Can you ballroom dance?”

“It’s not my turn.”

Kei frowned. “Yes, it is. Truth or dare.”

“Truth.”

“Can you ballroom dance?”

Kuroo grinned, a little too satisfied with his own ability to be frustrating. “A little.”

“Define ‘a little’.”

“I can waltz, and that’s about it. You want me to teach you?”

“What, right now?”

“Sure. We’ll go off somewhere private. If anyone catches us, we’ll say I’m teaching you so you can impress a girl. That’s why my mom taught me in the first place.”

“How disappointing it must have been to find out you weren’t ever going to be using this on girls,” Kei muttered, standing up and walking with Kuroo out of the room.

“Hey, it’s not that different,” Kuroo laughed. “I’m just impressing you instead.”

~

Unfortunately, the most private place they could find that gave them enough room to dance was a little garden patio thing behind the hotel. It was open to all guests, but no one in their right mind would go out there in the middle of December; it was freezing.

“So just let your feet follow mine,” Kuroo explained, oblivious to the cold and taking one of Kei’s hands in his and placing the other on his waist. “I’ll let you take the guy’s part.” Kuroo was standing way too close as he murmured, “That way, it’s a little more convincing if we get caught.”

Kei nearly rolled his eyes, because none of this was going to be convincing if they got caught.

“So the first step is, one,” Kuroo began, the both of them looking down at their feet as Kuroo stepped forward with his left foot and Kei followed it back with his right. “Two...” Kei’s left foot followed Kuroo’s right... “Three...”

“And then we do the opposite,” Kuroo explained, stepping back with his right foot. “Two... three... And then back to the first...”

It took a few rounds for Kei to get the hang of it, Kuroo counting off gentle, “one, two, three”s as they went. Kei looked up from his own feet eventually to find Kuroo watching him, smiling softly to himself as he kept time. Kei could feel himself starting to blush, and he suddenly understood why in movies, people were always falling in love while they were dancing with someone.

“Do you want actual music?” Kei asked, breaking their form to pull his phone from him breast pocket. He suddenly felt a lot colder without Kuroo so close.

Kuroo chuckled. “You have some emo music in three-four time?” he teased.

“I listen to classical, too, y’know,” Kei said, although he wasn’t going for classical music right now. Instead, he went into his playlist for movie soundtracks, because there would never be a more perfect use for this particular song again.

Kuroo’s eyes went wide at soon as the song started playing, thankfully recognizing it immediately. “No,” he said as Kei turned the volume up. He pulled Kei into a hug and buried his face in his neck. “No, no, no, Tsukki, you can’t do this to me, it’s too much!”

“Your favorite is Howl’s Moving Castle, right?” Kei asked, smirking at Kuroo’s reaction. It was always nice when he was the one who had Tetsurou flustered instead of the other way around. “So I thought we could use the waltz from that.”

“Tsukki, you have no idea how much I love this song,” Kuroo mumbled, squeezing on tighter.

“So do you want to dance to it or not?”

Kuroo immediately pulled away, letting Kei put his phone back in his pocket and take Kuroo’s waist again. Kuroo was trying to keep his face under control, but he was failing miserably at holding back his huge grin, his face flushed pink in pleasure. They paused a moment, waiting for the song to pick up from its slow beginning, and with a quick count-off from Kuroo, they were off.

It was faster than they had been moving before just by Kuroo’s count, and Kei definitely messed up the step every now and then, but... well, it was certainly the most fun he’d ever had dancing. Plus, moving faster was helping to keep warm.

“Will you please let me kiss you?” Tetsurou asked after a little while, a ridiculously lovesick expression on his face.

“Not now,” Kei mumbled, too focused on getting the moves right to think about how much it sucked that he was even afraid of kissing his boyfriend when no one else was around.

They stumbled through a few tempo changes toward the end of the song, laughing them off and trying to find their rhythm again before Kuroo gave up and wrapped his arms tightly around Kei’s waist, lifting him off his feet and twirling him around.

“K-Kuroo!” Kei stammered, his hands clinging onto Kuroo’s shoulders for dear life. “Kuroo, put me down! Tetsu-”

Kei was interrupted when Kuroo did put him down and swiftly pulled him into a kiss. Worries about getting caught were suddenly far, far back in Kei’s mind, and his eyes fell closed as he cupped Tetsurou’s face in his hands.

They weren’t completely careless, and the kiss didn’t last too long, but it was still enough to make Kei still feel dazed by it as he pulled out his phone and stopped the music, which had turned into the music from Kiki’s Delivery Service at some point without him noticing.

Kuroo cleared his throat. “Tsukki?”

“Mm?”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

Kuroo stepped close again and pulled Kei’s hands into his. “You know what you said back when we first got together? About you being scared of all this?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you still scared?”

Kei thought about it a moment before answering.

“Sometimes,” he admitted. “I’m scared of someone finding out about all this. And sometimes I just... like that time I called you in the middle of the night.”

Kuroo raised his eyebrows. “Wait, you called me because you were scared?”

“No, I called you because I cannot bear to be apart from you for so long,” Kei deadpanned.

Kuroo just grinned. “Well, that’s usually why I call you,” he teased.

Kei just rolled his eyes. “Y’know, I was gonna say something nice, but-”

“No, no, no, keep going,” Kuroo insisted, bringing Kei’s hands to his lips and kissing them. “I like when you say nice things.”

Kei just raised an eyebrow. “You can’t function when I say nice things.”

“And you always think it’s funny, so just hurry up and say the nice thing.”

Kei sighed. “I mean, something like this was going to happen to me eventually anyway, right? Like, I wasn’t going to be able to lie to myself forever, and, I don’t know, I guess it was gonna be scary no matter how it happened. And...” Kei hesitated. It was so embarrassing to say out loud, but he just felt like he had to say it. “...I’m really glad that it happened with you, because...”

I like you so much.

I really care about you.

You mean the world to me.

“...You’re not so scary.”

Kei braced himself for Kuroo to start making fun of him, to burst out laughing because the nicest thing Kei could say was “you’re not so scary,” but Kuroo didn’t. Instead, Kuroo just leaned forward and rested his forehead against Kei’s.

“So you are happy? With us being together?”

Kei gave a small smile. “Yeah.” He leaned in and quickly kissed Kuroo’s lips. “You make me really happy.”

“Tsukki,” Tetsurou groaned, hiding his face in Kei’s shoulder.

“Literally every time,” Kei said with a sigh, even as he wrapped his arms around Kuroo’s shoulders.

“I know I’m a sap,” Kuroo mumbled, “but... I mean, this is the first time I’ve ever had someone who liked me back.” Kuroo pulled Kei’s waist into his arms and nuzzled his face against his neck. “And it’s the first time I’ve ever liked someone as much as I like you.”

“Really? Have I finally surpassed that guy who punched you in the face?”

Kuroo laughed. “Shut up,” he said, starting to press gentle kisses to Kei’s neck just above the collar of his shirt. “You surpassed him a while ago.”

Kei just hummed in response, his thoughts going fuzzy at the feeling of Tetsurou’s lips on his neck. He was quickly discovering that he was really, really weak for neck-kissing. He subconsciously tilted his head back a bit to give Kuroo easier access, and Kuroo seemed to take the hint, slowly replacing the soft pecks with longer, hotter kisses.

“W-we should go back inside,” Kei said before he became completely reckless.

Kuroo kissed Kei one last time before pulling away. “We probably should.”

“Thanks for teaching me how to waltz.”

Kuroo smiled. “Thank you for waltzing with me.”

Kei didn’t understand how it was possible to like someone so much.

~

Kei was absolutely exhausted by the time he got home, doing everything he could not to lean against Tetsurou for support.

“I should probably head home,” Kuroo said with a yawn. “Thank you so much for taking me to the wedding.”

“You’re going home now?” Kei’s mother asked. “You should spend the night. It’s not safe for you to drive when you’re tired.”

Kuroo immediately hesitated, giving Kei a nervous glance. “I don’t want to intrude-”

“It’s fine,” Kei insisted. If he was less tired, he might’ve been nervous about Kuroo spending the night, but right now, it sounded like an amazing idea.

Kuroo looked a little surprised, but smiled nevertheless. “Okay. Thank you.”

~

Tetsurou borrowed an old pair of sweatpants and Kei’s favorite dinosaur T-shirt to sleep in. After Kei’s parents had gone to bed, Kei took Tetsurou’s hand and pulled him into his bed with him. Tetsurou was blushing, but Kei was surprisingly calm as he buried his face against Tetsurou’s chest.

“Goodnight, Kuroo,” he murmured as they tangled up their legs and Tetsurou wrapped his arms around Kei.

“Goodnight, sweetheart.”

Chapter Text

Kei woke up, buried underneath a heap of blankets and Tetsurou, to a knock at the door.

“Kei?” his mom called. “Are you up?”

Kei immediately scrambled to disentangle himself from Tetsurou’s limbs. Tetsurou somehow barely even stirred enough to let out a sleepy groan in protest while Kei got out of bed. Before Kei actually answered the door, he quickly kicked the sleeping bag that had been laid out on the floor for Tetsurou to sleep in to make it look messy and maybe like someone had actually slept in it last night.

“There you are,” his mom said, all dressed and ready for church. “Are you going to get ready?”

“Do I really have to go, mom?” Kei groaned, trying to stifle a yawn. “I’m still exhausted and Tetsurou’s still here-”

“Where is Tetsurou?” his mom asked, looking at the empty sleeping bag on the floor.

“He’s in my bed,” Kei explained, taking a step back so his mom could see and holding his breath a little. “I slept in the sleeping bag last night.”

“Oh, that was nice of you,” his mom said. Kei practically let out a sigh of relief that she’d bought it. “But really, you’re not going to go to church?”

“I haven’t missed church in years,” Kei pleaded. “It’s just for today, I promise.”

His mom sighed. “Just today. Call me if you boys need anything.”

“I will, mom,” Kei said with a nod, eager for his mom to leave so he could go back to bed.

“Alright. We’ll be home soon.”

Not too soon. “Bye, mom.”

Kei closed the door and stood waiting a moment, making sure he heard his mom’s footsteps going downstairs before he completely relaxed.

“Nice one,” came Tetsurou’s sleepy voice from the other side of the room, making Kei jump.

“I didn’t know you were awake,” Kei groaned. His heart had gotten about two seconds to relax.

“It’s a good thing you’re better at getting up than I am,” Tetsurou said with a yawn. “That could’ve been really bad. What time is it, anyway?”

Kei checked the clock on his desk. “A little past seven.”

Tetsurou buried his face in Kei’s pillows and let out of a wail of disgust. “It’s too early.”

“We can go back to sleep,” Kei said, shaking his head as he shuffled back to his bed. Tetsurou lifted the covers to let him in, and Kei’s bed had never felt so cozy as it did now, when he was still so exhausted, and Tetsurou was keeping the bed so nice and warm, and the blankets felt so soft, and Tetsurou’s touch felt even softer as he pulled Kei back into his arms. Maybe Kei should’ve felt bad for skipping church so he could sleep in cuddled up with his boyfriend, but Kei had never fallen asleep so quickly as he did just now in Tetsurou’s arms, feeling safe and warm and completely enveloped in affection.

~

“Hey,” Tetsurou whispered. “Are you awake?”

Kei stirred, letting out a groan and nuzzling his face against Tetsurou.

“You can keep sleeping if you’re still tired.”

“No, no, s’fine,” Kei grumbled, getting in one last yawn before he finally opening his eyes and getting a look at Tetsurou.

“Good morning,” he said with a grin, and Kei suddenly realized how nice Tetsurou’s voice sounded so deep and rough with sleep. He’d heard it over the phone a few times, but in person, it was like purring.

“’Morning,” Kei said back, shifting over so he could kiss him. He kind of had morning breath, and found upon kissing him that Tetsurou did too, but he kept kissing him anyway. Waking up to slow, sleepy kisses was something that Kei could get used to very quickly, morning breath and all.

“Mm,” Tetsurou hummed, pulling away a little. “Maybe we should stop.”

Kei frowned, feeling disappointed that Tetsurou didn’t find it all as nice as he did. “Why?”

“I’m a little...” Tetsurou scooted away from Kei more. “...sensitive in the morning.”

“What-” Kei stopped himself, his eyes going wide in realization. “Ohhh.I guess he found it a little nicer than I did. Kei snorted. “Wow, you’re already hard?”

“About halfway there,” Tetsurou grumbled. “Jeez, you have no filter in the morning, do you?”

“C’mon, let’s keep kissing anyway,” Kei said, moving close to Tetsurou again.

“Whoa, wait, you really want to?” Tetsurou asked, still hesitating to reciprocate. “I totally thought this would make you uncomfortable.”

Kei just shrugged. “I don’t know. Right now, it doesn’t.” Honestly, Kei would've expected himself to feel uncomfortable as well, but instead he was just suddenly realizing why Tetsurou had been so eager to tease him back when Kei was the one being “sensitive.” Something about this was just fun. The only difference was that Kei didn’t plan on teasing Tetsurou with words. He had something else in mind that he wanted to try.

“If you say so,” Tetsurou said, moving just his head closer to kiss Kei again. Kei shifted the rest of his body close to Tetsurou, and that’s when he felt it. Without a moment to second guess himself, he moved his hands to Tetsurou’s waist and pushed his knee between Tetsurou’s legs, shifting his thigh up and slowly moving it against Tetsurou’s hardening cock. Tetsurou let out a needy hum into Kei’s mouth (which Kei immediately decided that he liked, probably more than he should’ve). After clinging to Kei for a moment, Tetsurou suddenly seemed to snap out of it and broke the kiss.

Tsukki!” he gasped, sounding so surprised. “Oh, my God, you’re a tease.

“Did you not want me to do that?” Kei asked.

“No, it’s not that,” Tetsurou said quickly. “I just never in a million years would’ve expected that from you.”

Kei just smirked. “Do you want me to keep doing it?” He was feeling a little surprised with himself as well, but... he liked this. He liked teasing Tetsurou like this. He liked having Tetsurou respond with soft noises and clingy hands. He liked that he could make Tetsurou come undone just as much as Tetsurou could make him.

“You actually want to?” Tetsurou asked. “I mean, we’ve never really done this before.”

“Yeah, I want to,” Kei insisted, going back in for more kisses and mumbling in between, “I really want to touch you, Kuroo...”

“God, Tsukki,” Tetsurou groaned, his breath catching as Kei moved his thigh against him again. He buried his face in the crook of Kei’s neck. “You’re gonna be the death of me.”

Aside from the breathy whine Tetsurou had let out at the start, he wasn’t making a lot of noise now, instead expressing his desire just by pulling Kei closer, pressing his hands into Kei’s back with a kind of strength he hadn’t used with him before but Kei really, really liked. A flood of heat flushed through Kei’s body as Tetsurou ground his hips against him, his fingers digging hard enough into Kei’s skin that Kei wouldn’t be surprised if he found a bruise or two later. Not that he minded. Right now, he just wanted more, and he slid one of his hands down from Tetsurou’s hip to start palming his erection through his borrowed sweatpants.

“Tsukki,” Tetsurou gasped out, his voice so deep and low in the back of his throat, and Kei decided that the nickname had never sounded as good as it did right now, with Tetsurou’s breath hot enough on Kei’s neck to make him sweat.

Kei was starting to get hard himself as he took another step forward, slipping his hand down the front of Tetsurou’s pants and actually making skin-to-skin contact. He hesitated a little, as it finally hit him that he was, very purposefully, touching Tetsurou’s dick, but he kept on anyway, wrapping his fingers around it and moving his hand up and down the shaft.

This is weird.

He’s bigger than I expected.

I feel like I shouldn’t like this as much as I do.

“I-is that... good?” Kei asked, a little less than confident in his own hand job skill, as he’d only even done this to himself a very limited number of times, much less done it to someone else. The idea of doing it had been in the way back of his mind for a while now, but he was hardly prepared for this.

“Little faster,” Tetsurou grunted between breaths. Kei obliged, and Tetsurou let out another deep groan, this time sinking his fingernails into Kei’s back, the sensation dulled through Kei’s shirt but just enough to make him crave more. He slowed down the pace a little, only speeding back up when Tetsurou mumbled another, “Tsukki...” Kei’s hand was started to get covered in something sticky.

Right. Pre-cum. I think.

So Tetsurou was close. Probably.

Kei wasn’t sure what he should do next. He could just keep doing what he was doing, or think of something else to push Tetsurou over the edge, but, well, he’d never done this before. He wasn’t sure what more he should do.

It ended up not mattering because Tetsurou took the initiative, pulling back just enough to face Kei and sloppily kissing him, all tongue and wet lips and ragged breaths. The kissing combined with Tetsurou jerking his hips up into Kei’s grasp was starting to make Kei painfully hard when Tetsurou finally came, grabbing fistfuls of Kei’s shirt and choking back a moan. Kei felt dizzy with how much he wanted Tetsurou in that moment, how much he loved making Tetsurou feel like this, how much he honestly looked forward to doing it again. It was like nothing else existed outside of them, like the whole world was just the two of them wrapped up in soft bed sheets with messy kisses and lazy hand jobs.

Still, that feeling couldn’t last, and once Tetsurou started getting a hold of himself, Kei was just left with a slowly dying hard-on, an even sleepier boyfriend, and a load of cum all over his hand. He wondered if Tetsurou was going to want to get him off as well (knowing Tetsurou, probably), but quickly decided that he didn’t really want him to. This had been enough of a step for them for one day.

“Let me get some tissues,” Kei said, pulling back the covers with his clean hand and starting to get out of bed.

“Wait,” Tetsurou mumbled, grabbing onto Kei’s shirt again. “Don’t go, let me finish you off first.” Shit.

Kei gave him a look. “Okay, and what am I supposed to do about this in the meantime?” he asked, holding up his sticky hand. “Besides, I don’t really want you getting me off yet.”

Tetsurou raised his eyebrows. “Oh. Sorry, I just figured-”

“S’fine,” Kei said, getting out of bed to go get tissues, his body finally cooling down. “I’m almost there, just... not today.”

“Take your time,” Tetsurou assured him. “There’s no point if you’re not gonna enjoy it.”

After grabbing a wad of tissues for himself, Kei handed the box of tissues over to Tetsurou, bending down to give him a quick kiss.

“Also, can I borrow some underwear?”

~

“God, I’m so glad it’s finally winter break,” Kei groaned, dropping his backpack on the floor and flopping back on his bed while Tetsurou closed the door behind them. “I am so sick of high school.”

“Just one more semester,” Tetsurou assured him. “Then you get to go to college and leave everything here behind.”

Kei frowned. He was more than ready to leave his parents, and he’d already made peace with leaving Akiteru, but he suddenly realized Tetsurou was another thing he was going to have to leave behind. And he was less okay with that one.

“What happens to us then?” Kei asked.

Tetsurou shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck. “We go long distance, I guess. I mean, if that’s what you want.”

“What, as opposed to breaking up?” Kei snapped. “Of course I’d rather go long distance.”

“Just asking,” Tetsurou said, sounding amused with how annoyed that had made Kei.

“You shouldn’t have to ask,” Kei grumbled. He made room in his bed for Tetsurou to lie down next to him, flopping down on Tetsurou’s chest instead once he did. “You’re one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, of course I don’t want to break up.”

Kei expected Tetsurou to go all flustered like he usually did, but he didn’t. “...You really think that?”

Kei found himself a little annoyed at Tetsurou’s tone, like he was skeptical. “Why would I say that if I didn’t mean it?”

“I just...” Tetsurou sighed. “Okay, don’t take this the wrong way-”

“A great way to start a sentence,” Kei mumbled.

“-but... like, you don’t... like, put me on a pedestal, do you?”

What? “What do you mean?”

“Like... you know I have flaws, right?”

Kei immediately burst out laughing, never more amazed by Tetsurou’s confidence. “Wow-”

“I’m serious!” Tetsurou insisted, even if he was laughing at himself a little too. “Just, you say these big things sometimes, and it scares me a little! I don’t want you to think more of me than I actually am.” Tetsurou paused. “I don’t want you to be disappointed when I don’t live up to your expectations.”

“First of all, I don’t really have any expectations for you,” Kei told him. “Like, all you have to do is exist, and I’m good. And second, I don’t think there’s really anything you could do that could disappoint me.”

See?” Tetsurou pointed out. “Right there! How can you say things like that? That is so much for me to live up to!”

“Fine, fine,” Kei said with a sigh, rolling off of Tetsurou to lie next to him instead, propping his head on his hand to look at him as he spoke. “Tetsurou Kuroo’s flaws. Number one: doesn’t use breath mints before kissing as often as he should.”

Tetsurou’s eyes went wide. “Wait, I get bad breath?! Why didn’t you say anything?!”

“It never seemed like that big a deal.”

Tetsurou didn’t seem satisfied with that. “Do I have bad breath now?”

Kei leaned forward and kissed him to test it. “Nope, you’re good. Okay, number two...” Kei sat back and thought about it for a moment when an odd realization suddenly struck him. “You don’t tell me like, anything about your past.”

“Not true,” Tetsurou countered. “I told you about Matt.”

“Matt?”

“The guy who punched me in the face.”

“Ah.” Kei paused. “But that’s only one thing.”

“It’s not like I have anything else interesting,” Tetsurou mumbled.

“It doesn’t have to be interesting,” Kei said. “C’mon, I’ve told you tons of stuff about me growing up, and about me and Akiteru as kids, and how I used to go digging in our backyard looking for fossils, all that dumb, embarrassing stuff like that. C’mon, what’s your dumb stuff?”

“I don’t have anything,” Tetsurou said with a shrug.

“Some weird habit you had. Collecting strange things. Eating gross food.”

“Nope.”

Kei frowned. Tetsurou wasn’t making eye contact. “A hobby? An interesting friend?”

“Still no.”

“A crush on a girl?”

Tetsurou finally chuckled. “Definitely not.”

“A crazy teacher. A weird present you made for your mom. A funny memory with your dad-”

Kei immediately stopped himself, not even needing to see how Tetsurou’s face fell to know he’d fucked up. Tetsurou’s expression was just icing on the cake.

“Never mind,” he murmured.

Tetsurou hesitated. “Tsukki-”

“Really, forget I said anything,” Kei insisted. If Tetsurou didn’t want to talk, he didn’t have to talk.

Tetsurou took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling, and spoke. “My dad left when I was about five.”

Kei’s heart sank. He’d figured there had to be some bad story behind it or Tetsurou wouldn’t have avoided talking about it, but it didn’t make it any less awful to hear.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly, feeling like shit that he didn’t have anything better to say.

“He was an asshole anyway,” Tetsurou mumbled, still staring at the ceiling and avoiding Kei’s eyes. “The only reason my mom ever stayed with him was because of me, but that wasn’t enough for him, I guess. It made it easier for him that he never married her. Didn’t have to get a divorce or anything. Just left. God, I still remember exactly how it happened, too. It was a school day, but my mom never came and woke me up, and I was upset because I was gonna miss kindergarten, but then I came downstairs and my mom was just sitting at the kitchen table and crying.” Tetsurou paused. “I just wish he’d left sooner so maybe I would’ve been too young to remember any of it. I kinda hate that I can still remember it all.

“It took me a while to start hating him, and I feel awful for hating him, because he was my dad, but God, did he really fuck up things for my mom... He got my mom pregnant with me right after high school so she couldn’t go to college and he started working as a auto mechanic. He promised my mom that he was gonna take care of us, he paid for all our expenses... Even offered to send my mom to nursing school, because it was her dream. She had just started when he left. She had to start making her own money fast and became a nursing assistant instead. Pays a lot less, but it was enough for us to at least get by.”

“Didn’t you at least get child support from your dad?” Kei asked.

Tetsurou hesitated, like Kei had somehow hit a different sore spot. “Nope. We couldn’t.”

Kei was about to ask why but was interrupted by Tetsurou sniffling. Kei had never seen Tetsurou cry before, but it made his chest physically ache.

“About a year after he left, he was in a car accident. Killed on impact.”

Kei moved in close to Tetsurou, burying his face in his neck and wrapping his arms around him as best he could. He didn’t know what he should say, and there probably wasn’t anything he really could say that would make any of it better. Holding Tetsurou seemed like it was the best thing he could do right now.

“So it’s really just been me and my mom,” Tetsurou went on. “And my mom’s so determined to send me to college. She even started a college fund. There’s probably enough in there for like, a semester of books, but it still meant so much to me that she started one. And I promised I was gonna do well in school so I could get a scholarship, and God, all I want is to pay my mom back someday. But then I fucked things up.” Tetsurou took another deep breath, sounding shuddery as he exhaled. Kei held on tighter. “Ever since I got expelled... God, I fucked things up so bad. My mom had to start working so much more to pay for Willow Creek’s tuition, and we still barely scrape by. My mom never wanted me to have to work during high school but I’m probably gonna have to start job hunting soon because I fucked things up so bad for her.” Tetsurou started roughly wiping away his tears and needlessly apologizing for it. “God, I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was gonna start crying. I just never really talk about this.”

“You don’t have to be sorry, Kuroo.”

Tetsurou sniffled. “It’s just easier to pretend all of it never happened. To just...”

“...Tune it all out?” Kei asked quietly.

Tetsurou gave a bitter chuckle through his tears. “We’re more similar than I thought, huh?”

“I guess so,” Kei said, pressing a kiss to Tetsurou’s shoulder. “And just like you’re always here for me when I need someone, I’m here for you, too.”

Tetsurou sniffled. “Tsukki, I’m fine.”

“If you’re telling the truth, then good,” Kei told him. “But if you’re not, it’s okay to say so.”

And after one last moment where Tetsurou tried to keep it all in, he finally broke, turning and curling up against Kei and crying into his shoulder. Kei moved his hands gently over his shaking back, murmuring soft “It’s okay”s and “I’m here”s between Tetsurou’s sobs.

“I fucked up everything up so much.”

“Shh...” Kei whispered. “It’s gonna be okay. You’re okay. I’m here.”

“I don’t wanna be like him, Kei.”

“You’re not,” Kei assured him.

“I... I d-don’t...”

“Shh... You’re gonna be okay.” Kei started running his fingers gently through Tetsurou’s hair. “I promise.”

~

From Tetsurou:
merry christmas <3

To Tetsurou:
<3 merry Christmas

From Tetsurou:
question: can you go answer the door right now without your parents seeing?

Kei’s eyes went wide.

To Tetsurou:
tell me you are not here right now.

From Tetsurou:
answer the question babe

To Tetsurou:
omg i cannot believe u. i’ll be down in a second.

Kei slipped out of the living room unnoticed. They’d all already had their Christmas morning, and Kei’s mom was all snuggled up next to the fire with a new bathrobe and a shiny, fresh-out-of-the-box Kindle, and his dad was setting up the TV he’d gotten for the kitchen. He went to the door, threw a coat on over his pajamas, shoved his feet into boots, and sure enough, when he opened the door, Tetsurou was there.

Kei just shook his head, stepping out and closing the door behind him. “Merry-”

Tetsurou interrupted him by quickly holding up a hand. He then pulled out some pieces of paper from under his arm that he’d written messages on.

Question: have you seen the critically-acclaimed romantic comedy, Love Actually?

Kei shook his head. Tetsurou nodded and shuffled through his papers looking for the right response.

I was afraid of that. This whole thing is a reference to that movie. Rest assured, I am being very cute.

“Why can’t you just talk?”

Tetsurou grinned like he had an answer for this and sure enough, after some more shuffling, pulled out another sheet.

So your parents can’t hear.

“My parents can’t hear us anyway.”

Tetsurou frowned, going back a page and pointing again at the I am being very cute.

Kei sighed, acting like he was annoyed even as he smiled at all of this. “Okay. Keep going.”

Tetsurou went to the next page.

With any luck, next year I’ll still be with you.

Kei could feel himself starting to blush.

And we’ll be spending Christmas together,

instead of me standing out in the cold with some signs.

But for now let me say,

just because it’s Christmas,

(and at Christmas you tell the truth)

To me, you are perfect.

Kei hid his face in his hands. “Oh, God, why are you so embarrassing?!” Tetsurou just grinned and carried on.

Merry Christmas.

“Merry Christmas,” Kei said, stepping forward and pulling his dumb boyfriend into a hug. Tetsurou wrapped his arms around him tight enough to lift him off his feet, twirling him around just like he had back at Akiteru’s wedding.

“Is that all you came here for?” Kei asked once he was back on his own feet.

“Actually,” Tetsurou, said, clearing his throat a little, “I came here to give you your present.”

Kei’s shoulders fell. “I told you you didn’t have to get me a present!”

“Well, I got you one anyway,” Tetsurou said, holding out a box wrapped to perfection in newspaper.

“Now I feel bad I don’t have anything for you to open,” Kei grumbled. “I ordered you something but it hasn’t come yet.”

“Aw, babe, I told you not to get me anything!”

Kei just waved Tetsurou’s present in his face.

Tetsurou grinned. “Whatever, point taken, just open it!”

Kei ripped off the paper just a little slower than necessary, just to mess with Tetsurou, but as soon as he realized what it was, he immediately took all the paper off.

“Do you like it?” Tetsurou asked quickly as Kei just stared at the model of a Suchomimus in his hands. “You don’t already have one, do you?”

“You got me a dinosaur,” Kei said, feeling a little speechless.

“I did so much research to make sure I got you a good one,” Tetsurou said, rubbing his neck. Kei felt like his heart was getting fuller and fuller with every word Tetsurou said. “I wanted to find one where the name meant something cool, but I couldn’t find anything good, but then I found this one, and I liked that the ‘Sucho’ part kind of sounds like ‘Tsukki’. And then when I googled it, it said that it was similar to a Spinosaurus, a-and you said those were your favorite, didn’t you?” Tetsurou paused. “C’mon, Kei, say something.”

Kei didn’t, instead throwing an arm around Tetsurou’s neck and kissing him. Right now, he didn’t care if the neighbors saw. It was Christmas and his cute, dumb boyfriend got him a dinosaur and that was all that mattered.

“I love it,” Kei said when he pulled away.

Tetsurou cleared his throat, looking a little dazed from the surprise kiss. “You don’t already have one?”

“Nope,” Kei said, going back to the look at the box. “It’s absolutely perfect.”

“And so are you,” Tetsurou said, going back to his To me, you are perfect. sign.

“Shut up,” Kei laughed, going in for another kiss.

“Merry Christmas to you, too.”

~

“Truth or dare,” Tetsurou asked, biting off a piece of the leftover candy canes he and Kei were finishing off. It was just a few days past Christmas, and they were trying to finish off all the leftover holiday sweets they could find before New Year.

“Why do we bother asking anymore?” Kei asked. “We always pick truth.”

“I dare you to stab yourself with your candy cane.”

Kei looked at where he’d sucked the end of his candy cane to a deadly point. “I think I’ll pass.”

“Okay, a truth...” Tetsurou thought about it for a moment. “Do you believe in God?”

Tetsurou chuckled to himself afterward like he’d been joking, but hesitated when Kei had actually gone into thought about it.

Funnily enough, Kei had never actually been asked that question before.

Kei was so used to lying to himself constantly for the past five years, but now that he was trying to stop and was actually being pretty successful with a few things, the idea of lying to himself about anything was absolutely exhausting. Realizing what now felt exhausting to think about was actually making Kei have quite a few epiphanies. It was exhausting trying to tell himself that he liked his parents. It was exhausting trying to tell himself that he still believed anything he heard in church anymore. It was exhausting trying to tell himself that he wasn’t already in love with Tetsurou. And now, finally being asked that question... it was exhausting trying to tell himself that he believed in God.

“I-I don’t think I do,” Kei said softly.

Tetsurou’s eyebrows shot up. “Wait, really?”

Kei’s stomach was starting to churn in a way that it hadn’t in a long time, but he kept voicing his bad thoughts anyway. “I’ve actually had doubts for a really long time now. Like, way, way before you came into the picture. I was just terrified to really think about it because, like, even doubting is a sin, isn’t it? And there was always that, ‘but what if I’m wrong?’ kind of thing that terrified me. But now...” Kei shrugged. His hands were starting to shake a little. “I don’t know. I don’t think I do.”

Tetsurou took one of Kei’s shaking hands and kissed it, leaving a sticky, sweet lip print on Kei’s skin.

“Have I ever told you why I like dinosaurs?” Kei asked, an old memory suddenly occurring to him.

“Because you’re a nerd?” Tetsurou asked with a grin.

Kei poked him with his death candy cane. “My first grade teacher told me they weren’t real.”

Tetsurou just froze in place. “They told you dinosaurs weren’t real.”

“Yup. ‘Dinosaurs aren’t real.’ So I put them in the same category as like, dragons and stuff.”

“But. Like.” Tetsurou wasn’t getting this. “How can you just say they weren’t real?”

“I think she genuinely didn’t believe in dinosaurs,” Kei said with a laugh.

“But... We have fossils.”

Kei just continued his story. “A few years later in like, fourth grade I think? My class went on a field trip to a museum and I saw a T-rex and I thought it was just like, what dinosaur skeletons would have looked like. But then I asked my teacher about it and he explained to me that it was real and I just lost my shit.”

“That’s adorable,” Tetsurou laughed.

“Seriously, to me, it was like finding out that dragons were real. Of course they were my favorite thing ever after that. And for a long time, I didn’t understand why my first grade teacher would just lie to me about dinosaurs, but I don’t think she was lying. You know how old some people think the earth is according to the Bible?”

Tetsurou shrugged.

“Six thousand years. You know how long ago dinosaurs existed?”

“More than that?”

“Sixty-five million.”

“Ah. I see why some people might be skeptical.”

Kei just shook his head. “Yeah. I guess at first I liked dinosaurs because they were like real life dragons, but then when I got a little older and I started questioning things... Like, I had a lot of questions that no one could give me answers to. But science was all answers. Science was specifically looking for answers. And the answers were based off of actual proof, things you can see and touch and test for yourself. I don’t know, I needed something solid... and dinosaurs were solid.”

Kei looked up at Tetsurou and found him staring at him with that look of his, with the soft smile and the twinkly eyes that still made Kei’s chest go tight.

“I love you,” Tetsurou said.

Kei felt like his heart stopped. “What?”

“I know it’s only been two months, and that it’s probably too soon, and I don’t expect you to say it back, but I love you.”

Half of Kei was still panicking about saying his doubts out loud while the other was internally freaking out over Tetsurou’s confession, and the result was that he felt like he couldn’t really breathe. “I...”

“Really. Don’t say it back,” Tetsurou assured him. “Not unless you actually feel it.”

Honestly, Kei did feel it. He’d felt it for a while now, that he was in love with Tetsurou. He’d just been saving it for when he was sure, when he knew it wasn’t just the heat of the moment and it wasn’t just the honeymoon phase and he could confidently and without a doubt know that he meant it.

Kei just leaned in and kissed Tetsurou instead, soft and slow, with their lips still sticky from all the candy they’d been eating. And he was trying to enjoy this moment, he really, really was, because he loved Tetsurou so much, and God, Tetsurou loved him, and he should be over the moon.

But no matter how much Kei doubted God’s existence, he felt like he would never stop being afraid of Him.

Kei pulled away. “Excuse me for a second,” he said, getting off of his bed and heading for the door.

“Oh. Uh, okay.”

Kei closed the door behind him, and headed for the bathroom. He didn’t bother locking the door or even turning on the lights, just closing the door and climbing into the bathtub. He was wearing a borrowed sweatshirt of Tetsurou’s and he took a few deep breaths of the scent on it, but even that wasn’t helping right now.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

Kei had tried. He really had. And even now, he couldn’t tell himself that he believed, because it felt like a lie, but he couldn’t tell himself that he didn’t, because it was terrifying.

Maybe this wouldn’t have happened if my “paths” had actually been straight, Kei thought bitterly to himself, settling back further in the empty bath staring into the darkness of the bathroom.

~

“Tsukki,” came Tetsurou’s voice through the door. He knocked softly a few times. “What are you doing in there?”

“It’s a bathroom, what do you think I’m doing?” Kei grumbled.

“Based on the fact that I can’t see light from under the door, I think you’re sulking in the dark.”

Kei was suddenly annoyed by the fact that Tetsurou knew him too well. “Maybe I’m peeing in the dark.”

Tsukki.”

Kei sighed. “Door’s unlocked.”

The door opened and Tetsurou flicked on the light. “Hey.”

Kei looked up unashamedly from where he was curled up in the bathtub, drowning in Tetsurou’s hoodie. “Hey.”

Tetsurou closed the door behind him, leaned against it, and took a deep breath. “So. What’s bothering you?”

“Take a guess.”

“Either the ‘I love you’ or the ‘I don’t believe in God.’”

“One of those.”

Tetsurou starting rubbing the back of his neck. “Which one?”

“Guess.”

“I don’t want to be wrong,” Tetsurou groaned.

“You’re usually not.”

Tetsurou sighed. “God?”

“Ding ding ding,” Kei deadpanned.

“If I’m honest, I’m a little relieved,” Tetsurou admitted.

Kei held out his hand for Tetsurou to take. When he did, he brought Tetsurou’s hand to his lips and kissed it. “You can relax. You don’t scare me anymore.”

Tetsurou smiled. “Is there room in there for two?”

Kei moved out of the way the best he could and let Tetsurou climb in. There wasn’t really room for two, but they made it work, with Tetsurou taking up most of the bath and Kei lying on his chest. Tetsurou wrapped his arms around Kei and kissed the top of his head.

“You wanna talk about it?” he asked.

Kei sighed and nuzzled his face against Tetsurou. “I’m just so tired of being scared.”

“It’s gonna be okay, babe.”

“I feel bad complaining about it so much,” Kei admitted. “You’ve got actual problems and don’t say a word and mine’s all just in my head.”

“Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Kei paused. “Isn’t that from Harry Potter?”

Tetsurou snorted. “Y’know, I think it is. Oh, God, what was it...” Tetsurou cleared his throat. “‘Of course it’s all in your head, Harry! But why on earth should that mean it’s not real?’”

Kei burst out laughing, sitting up to get a look at his boyfriend. “Holy shit, why can you do a Dumbledore impression?”

Tetsurou just grinned. “You should hear my Gandalf.”

“Go for it,” Kei told him, not even noticing in that moment how easy it was for Tetsurou to distract him from his problems.

“Ready for this?” Tetsurou cleared his throat again. “‘None shall pass!’” he croaked out in his best old man voice, his voice cracking a little in the middle.

“That was awful,” Kei laughed.

“No, wait, let me try again!”

“Too late,” Kei said, shifting up to give Tetsurou a kiss. “That was your chance and you blew it.”

“I can do it!” Tetsurou insisted. “‘None’-”

Kei interrupted him with another kiss. Tetsurou just kept trying to pull away and do his impression.

“‘None’-”

Kiss.

“-‘shall’-”

Kiss.

“-‘pass!’” Tetsurou finished, one of his legs kicking up as he tried to avoid Kei’s kisses and accidentally hitting the water valve with his foot in just the right way to turn the shower on.

Ahhh!”

Chapter Text

From Tetsurou :) :
good morning sweetheart <3

To Tetsurou :) :
good morning giant dork

From Tetsurou :) :
ill take it. anyway, u busy today? im heading to work w my mom today cuz all the old people love me but if ur free later i will give u a chance to love me too ;)

To Tetsurou :) :
did u just imply that ur dating me as well as a bunch of senior citizens

From Tetsurou :) :
i admit, that was not my best line

To Tetsurou :) :
anyway i cant, akiteru’s back from his honeymoon so im hanging out w him all day and then i have a family dinner

From Tetsurou :) :
ooh tell akiteru i say hi!

To Tetsurou :) :
i think im gonna tell him about us today

From Tetsurou :) :
omg really??

To Tetsurou :) :
yes and i might be sick once or twice in the process but i think it might be okay.

From Tetsurou :) :
im sure its gonna be great <3 best of luck babe

To Tetsurou :) :
im probably gonna need it

From Tetsurou :) :
love youuuuuu

To Tetsurou :) :
like you too

Kei slid his phone into his pocket, and even with the building anxiety over the day ahead of him, he couldn’t help smirking to himself over the “like you, too” thing. It had been Tetsurou’s idea, after he’d started ending all of their conversations with an “I love you” and Kei felt awkward not saying anything back. It was one of the cheesier aspects of their relationship (which was saying a lot), but... well, Kei kind of liked the cheesiness.

Taking a deep breath to calm himself down, Kei took a moment to try and collect his thoughts into words and sentences while he waited for Akiteru to arrive. As terrifying as it all was, Kei wasn’t going to let himself back out of this. He was so tired of lying, and keeping things from his brother, and not having anyone to confide in about this. And as much as the idea of rejection terrified him, the idea of actually being accepted made Kei feel more desperate than ever to tell the truth.

Still, even with Kei’s sudden determination, he knew it would honestly devastate him if Akiteru rejected him, told him he was disgusting or an abomination or not his brother anymore. He felt like all the progress he’d made, accepting who he was and not lying to himself anymore and finding out what he really believed in, would all come crashing down if Akiteru rejected him.

He glanced out of his bedroom window just as Akiteru pulled into the driveway.

I’m gonna tell him, Kei thought to himself as he grabbed a jacket and headed downstairs. Before the day is over, I’m gonna tell him.

~

“Kei!” Akiteru said with a huge smile as Kei slid into his car. “How’ve you been?”

“I’m good,” Kei told him, giving a jerky nod. He could already feel his hands shaking. “How was the honeymoon?”

“It was so nice,” Akiteru said with a dreamy sigh. “Seriously, Kei, when you get married: Hawaii.”

If I get married,” Kei corrected under his breath. Oh, God, is this it?

“If?” Akiteru asked, looking over his shoulder as he pulled onto the main road. “You don’t think you’ll get married?”

I don’t know if I can. It’s not exactly legal here. I don’t know if I can marry a boy. Because that’s who I would marry. A boy. Because I like boys.

“I don’t know, never mind,” Kei muttered. Fuck.

“So what have you been up to without your dear brother around?” Akiteru asked next.

Hanging out with my boyfriend.

...Doing a lot of other stuff with my boyfriend...

Probably shouldn’t say that one out loud.

Kei shrugged. “Not much, mostly just hanging out with... Tetsurou.” Damnit.

That probably wouldn’t have been the best way to drop the bomb anyway...

“Oh, good, I like Tetsurou. He seemed cool back at the wedding.”

Kei snorted at the thought of Tetsurou, Massive Sappy Dorklord, being cool.

Akiteru laughed. “What, Tetsurou’s not cool?”

“I don’t know, it’s just that he’s...” My boyfriend. Massive Sappy Dorklord. “...he’s alright, I guess.”

“Well, I appreciate him not telling anyone about the baby,” Akiteru said. “That’s always good to have in a friend, them being able to keep a secret.”

Keeping a big one right now that I’m trying really hard to spill.

“How long until you guys announce that Lily’s pregnant?” Kei asked instead.

“Tonight,” Akiteru said, letting out a nervous breath. “Since we’re having a family dinner and everything, I figure we can make it this big, formal announcement... God, I don’t know how well we’re gonna be able to keep this up though, when everything in this pregnancy starts happening a month before it’s supposed to.”

“I don’t know, mom and dad are pretty dense,” Kei said with a shrug.

Akiteru grinned. “Why, what have you been hiding from them?”

The fact that Tetsurou is my boyfriend?

The fact that every time Tetsurou comes over, we spend the entire time making out in my room?

I mean, Christ, we were even able to lie our way out of the Shower Incident.

“Nothing.”

Akiteru didn’t buy that for a second. “Aw, c’mon, since when do you hide things from me?”

“I could say the same to you, Father of the Year,” Kei said defensively. Why are you being defensive? You’re trying to tell him the truth.

You’re really, really, bad at this.

“Really? You’re holding that against me?” Akiteru asked, his shoulders falling in disappointment. “I thought you were fine with it.”

Kei sighed. “I am fine with it, I’m just being stupid.”

“What’s with you today?” Akiteru asked. “You’re acting kinda weird.”

“Just...” Tell him. Tell him. Tell him, you absolute fuck. “...A lot on my mind, I guess.”

“Like what?”

Tetsurou. Tetsurou. I am currently in a romantic relationship with Tetsurou.

“Just school stuff.”

You. Are. Awful.

“Oh, did you get homework over break?” Akiteru asked, making a face. “Ugh, that was one of the worst things about high school. You need help with any of it?”

“Nah, I’ll be fine.”

This is gonna be a long day.

~

Over the next few hours, they went to the Crow’s Nest and the grocery store, and Kei let another thousand opportunities to say something slip through his fingers. Part of him wanted to do this in a public place so Akiteru would have to contain his reaction to avoid making a scene, but there was also the terrifying possibility that Akiteru would make a scene anyway and make the whole process even more humiliating than it was already going to be.

Maybe I should wait until we get back to his apartment, Kei thought as he got back into Akiteru’s car. Maybe I should ditch trying to be casual and go for a big, sit-down, there’s-something-I-have-to-tell-you kind of thing.

“H-hey, Akiteru,” Kei said, his mouth going dry.

“What?”

“When we get back to your place, I have something to tell you.” Just say it. Just-

Kei was interrupted when his phone started ringing, practically giving him a heart attack.

“Just a second,” he mumbled as he went to answer his phone.

Calling: Tetsurou :)

Of course.

“Hey, Kuroo,” Kei said, taking a deep breath and trying to get his heart to slow down.

“Babe,” Kuroo laughed. “I have the best story. You’ll never believe what Ukai-san said today-”

“Uh, Kuroo, can it wait?” Kei asked, glancing over at Akiteru and feeling relieved that Akiteru couldn’t seem to hear Tetsurou’s side of the call. “I’m still out with my brother.”

“Oh, shit, that’s right. Are you really busy all day?”

“Yeah, I told you, I have a family dinner tonight.”

“What about tomorrow?” Tetsurou asked. “I want to you see you.”

“Tomorrow’s fine.”

“Perfect,” Tetsurou practically purred. “I’ll text you later, okay?”

“Sounds good. See you.”

“Bye, sweetheart!”

Kei hung up the phone and went back to trying to figure out how to break it to Akiteru when his train of thought was again interrupted, this time by Akiteru.

“So,” he began, sounding as calm and collected as could be, “how come Tetsurou calls you ‘sweetheart’?”

Kei had the sudden urge to burst into tears.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck-

“Kei?”

“Can we talk about it when we get to your place?” Kei squeaked out. Don’t cry. You’re not gonna cry. Why the fuck are you about to cry?

Kei couldn’t see what kind of face Akiteru was making, too busy staring out of the window and trying desperately not to cry. He just said a calm, “Okay,” before starting up the car and heading back to his apartment.

~

Fifteen minutes later and Kei found himself sitting on Akiteru’s couch, Akiteru slouched back next to him like this was the most casual conversation in the world.

“So,” Akiteru repeated, “why does Tetsurou call you ‘sweetheart’?”

Oh, my God, if you don’t say it in ten seconds, I am going to kick my own ass.

Kei took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut.

“Because he’s my boyfriend,” he finally admitted.

He couldn’t look at Akiteru bring himself to look at Akiteru, so he couldn’t gage his reaction, but he kept going anyway, not able to stop talking once he’d started.

“Tetsurou’s my boyfriend.” Kei sniffled. Seriously, why the fuck am I crying? “He has been since the end of October.” Kei moved his glasses out of the way to rub his eye where it was starting to water. He seriously didn’t know where the tears were coming from. He wasn’t given any choice in the matter. His body had just decided, yeah, you’re gonna start crying.

“So you’re... You like boys then,” Akiteru said, asking for clarification. Even after hearing his voice, Kei couldn’t tell how this was going, which was only making the waterworks worse.

Kei just nodded. “I guess now you know why I never ask you for girl advice,” Kei joked with another sniffle. Why am I making jokes? None of this is funny.

And then, suddenly, Akiteru was giving him a hug.

“Kei, you don’t have to cry,” he told him.

“I am not crying.”

“Yes, you are.”

Kei sniffled. “Am not.”

“Kei, that’s fine.”

Kei couldn’t breathe. Oh, my God. This is actually going well. This is actually okay. This just made Kei cry even more.

“You’re my brother,” Akiteru said with a laugh, patting Kei on the back to comfort him. “Of course it’s fine. Do mom and dad know?”

“Are you kidding?” Kei asked, pulling away and taking off his glasses to wipe away the teary smudges he’d gotten all over them. “There’s no way I’m telling them. You’re the only person I’ve told, and God, even this was awful...”

“You didn’t even tell me yourself,” Akiteru laughed. “I caught you.”

“Wait, no, you didn’t catch me!” Kei insisted. “I was going to tell you today anyway.”

“But I still caught you.”

“It was a technicality,” Kei grumbled, sliding his glasses back up his nose.

Akiteru put his hand on Kei’s shoulder. “You feel better?”

Kei gave one last sniffle and wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Yeah.” A lot better. He felt like a massive weight had been lifted off his chest.

“Did you really think I might not take it well?”

Kei shrugged. “I didn’t know what to think. And to be honest, you’re taking it better than I did.”

“When did you realize?”

“I don’t even know,” Kei said with a sigh. “I feel like I’ve known for ages, but I didn’t actually deal with it until Tetsurou showed up.”

“Mm,” Akiteru hummed. “I could kind of tell you were uncomfortable talking about girls and relationships and stuff, but I always thought you were just being shy.”

“Well, you weren’t wrong.”

“I’m happy that you told me, y’know,” Akiteru told him. “I want to be here for you for stuff like this.”

“Thank you.”

Akiteru checked the time on his phone. “We have a few hours to kill before we have to head to mom and dad’s.” Akiteru paused. “You know what sounds nice right now?”

“What?”

“A glass of wine.”

Kei opened his mouth to make a joke about how Akiteru had quit drinking, bring up the “potted plant” incident, point out that drinking won’t solve his problems, but then...

“You want some?” Akiteru asked.

Kei didn’t even hesitate. “Yeah, sure.”

~

“Alright,” Akiteru said, handing Kei a glass of wine and sinking back into the couch beside him. “Whole story. Go.”

Kei took a sip as he tried to decide where to begin. He didn’t really like the taste of wine (did anyone? Do people just pretend to like the taste of wine? Or do some people genuinely enjoy it?), but something about it was kind of comforting right now. “Okay, so do you remember the first time you saw Tetsurou? When you were picking me up and you were all, ‘Who’s that?’ and I was all, ‘He’s no one,’ you remember that?”

“I do.”

“That was the second day I’d known him. He asked me for my number so he could ask me ‘homework questions’,” Kei explained, using his free hand to put air quotes around it.

“Oh, Kei,” Akiteru said with a laugh. “You should’ve seen it coming then.”

“Shut up,” Kei said, even though he was laughing too. “So yeah, he started texting me and trying to get to know me, and... I don’t know, he was nice.”

“Oh, c’mon, Kei, he had to be more than nice to woo you, of all people.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You have avoided making friends for years because everyone annoys you,” Akiteru deadpanned. “What was so special about Tetsurou?”

Kei hesitated, taking another sip of wine to stall as he tried to come up with a reason.

“I honestly don’t know,” he said, which made Akiteru laugh. “He was just cool, I guess. Or at least he seemed cool. He’s not cool. Like, at all.” Kei would probably describe him as “charming” if that wasn’t so embarrassing to say out loud.

“You think he’s cute, don’t you?” Akiteru asked with a shit-eating grin.

Kei’s face went red. “What the hell?”

This just made Akiteru laugh even harder. “Kei, I have been waiting for years for you to get a crush on someone. It turned out to be a boy instead of a girl, but I am not teasing you any less.”

“Shut up,” Kei said, rolling his eyes and mumbling, “Yeah, fine, whatever, he’s cute.”

“Amazing.”

“Fuck off.”

“Keep going,” Akiteru insisted, nudging Kei with his elbow.

Kei sighed. “So he was nice. And... that. And then one day, I gave him a bunch of music and he asked me to hang out so we could listen to it together.”

“Awwwww.”

Fuck off.”

“Wait,” Akiteru said, his eyes going wide in realization. “Please tell me that was the time you called me about having nothing to wear. Please tell me that was the same thing.”

Kei groaned. “Yeah, that was the same thing.”

Amazing.”

“You’re the worst.”

“So Lily went and bought you cool clothes for your date,” Akiteru summarized. “Go on.”

“It wasn’t a date,” Kei snapped. Then he hesitated. “A-at least it wasn’t at the start...”

“Ooh, what happened?” Akiteru asked, at the edge of seat now and looking absolutely delighted.

Why are you so excited?”

“You’re embarrassed and this is fun,” Akiteru said, already pouring himself a second glass of wine.

“We, uh...” Kei cleared his throat. “How much do you want to know exactly?”

Akiteru froze mid-pour. “I mean... you haven’t done anything beyond kissing, have you?”

Kei cleared his throat. “Uh... not that night, we didn’t, but-”

“Okay,” Akiteru said, holding up the wine bottle in Kei’s face and avoiding eye contact. “Don’t wanna know. There’s the line. We have found the line.”

“Because Tetsurou and I are both boys or because I’m your little brother?”

“Yes.”

Kei just shook his head, smirking. “Okay. So yeah, I kissed him-”

“Ooh, you kissed him? Plot twist.”

Kei scoffed. “I have made plenty of first moves, thank you very much.”

Don’t want to know.”

“That was the same night you proposed to Lily, right?”

Akiteru swirled his wine around in its glass. “It wasn’t so much of a proposal as it was Lily picking up an at-home pregnancy test while she was out buying you clothes, the test coming up positive, us panicking for a while, and then me suggested we just get married.”

“So not quite the grand, proper proposal you had in mind.”

“Not at all.” Akiteru took a sip of wine. “I was expecting a candlelit dinner, a fancy ring, champagne... Instead it was us sitting on the bathroom floor staring at a little stick she’d peed on.”

“Glad I’ll never have to worry about that,” Kei pointed out.

“Oh, you suck,” Akiteru laughed, hitting Kei’s shoulder.

Kei grinned. “I guess it makes us even. I’ll never have a pregnancy scare, and when you do, you can just up and get married just like that.”

Akiteru’s face fell. “Oh.”

Kei took a sip of wine. “What, forgot that that isn’t legal for me?”

“Shit, that seems so much more unfair now that it actually applies to my brother.”

“Right, because it was really fair beforehand.”

“You know what I mean,” Akiteru mumbled. After a moment of silence, Akiteru cleared his throat. “That was a buzzkill, go back to your story.”

“The next part of the story is Tetsurou showing up at church the next day and me practically having a panic attack.”

“Skip that.”

Kei finished off his glass of wine and went on. “We had an argument about it, he apologized and drove me home, and we made it all official,” he said, recalling how he’d barely even been able to say the word “boyfriend” back then. “And... yeah.”

“What kind of music does he like?” Akiteru asked.

“His favorite’s Arctic Monkeys.”

Akiteru nodded his approval. “Does he know about your obsession with dinosaurs?”

“It’s not an obsession, I...” Kei stopped when Akiteru raised his eyebrows at him as if to say, Really? Kei sighed. “He got me another dinosaur figure for Christmas.”

Akiteru started laughing. “Oh, my God, he’s perfect for you.”

“Glad you approve,” Kei mumbled.

“I’m glad you found someone that makes you happy,” Akiteru told him. “He does, doesn’t he?”

Kei fought off an automatic smile. “Yeah, he does,” he admitted, and as soon as the words were out, he couldn’t stop the corners of his mouth from turning up.

Awwwww!”

Shut up!”

~

“I can’t believe you two are drunk,” Lily said, shaking her head as Akiteru and Kei got into the car. She didn’t seem to appreciate being forced into the role of designated driver just to head over for a family dinner.

“We’re not drunk,” Akiteru insisted. “We’re just a little... tipsy.”

“Yeah, well, you’re tipsy enough that I’m not letting you drive,” she grumbled, which made Kei laugh for no particular reason.

Akiteru just grinned. “You’re just mad that you can’t drink at all.”

“Little bit,” she admitted. “But we’re also announcing the baby tonight, and I’d rather you had your wits about you.”

“We’ll wait until after dinner,” Akiteru assured her. “I’ll sober up a little.”

Lily sighed. “Kei, please don’t ever put your future wife through this.”

Akiteru burst out laughing.

“Shut up,” Kei said, reaching forward from the backseat and smacked Akiteru’s arm.

Lily looked completely confused. “Did I miss something?”

“Ooh, can I tell her?” Akiteru asked.

“Sure,” Kei said with a shrug. Even if he said no, Akiteru was probably going to tell Lily later anyway.

“Kei’s got a booooyfrieeeend,” Akiteru teased.

“Are you fucking five years old?” Kei asked.

“Wait, seriously?” Lily interrupted.

“Yeah,” Kei mumbled.

“Is it Tetsurou?”

Kei slumped back in his seat. “Yeah.”

“I knew it!”

What?!” Kei and Akiteru shouted out in unison as Lily pulled out of the driveway.

Now Lily was the one that was all grins. “At the wedding, I totally picked up a vibe off you two! I called it!”

“Bullshit!” Akiteru said. “There’s no way!”

“Were we that obvious?” Kei said weakly.

“Oh, no, not at all,” Lily assured him. “There was just this one little smile you gave him that made me wonder, and I was right!”

Bullshit!” Akiteru insisted.

“God, remind me to never smile again,” Kei grumbled.

“No, no, don’t worry about it, you two are cute!” Lily told him. “Do your parents know?”

“Nooo,” Akiteru and Kei again said in unison.

“Got it,” Lily said, motioning like she was locking her mouth with a key and tossing it over her shoulder. “Keeping it secret.”

Akiteru kept insisting that Lily was bullshitting them, and they started bickering about that while Kei just tuned them out and stared out the window. Lily and Akiteru had both accepted him, seemingly without even a second thought... Jeez, Lily had even been borderline anticipating this. As embarrassing as it all was, this was better than Kei could’ve hoped for. He felt like there should be more to talk about, that coming out to someone was supposed to be a bit more of a process, but he couldn’t think of what else there was to say. Kei liked boys. Kei had a boyfriend. And he had confirmation now that that was completely fine.

Maybe I should try telling my parents... Kei thought to himself. Or maybe I should just quit while I’m ahead.

~

Dinner went surprisingly well. No one other than Lily knew that Kei and Akiteru had been drinking, and Akiteru and Lily got through their announcement just fine. Everyone was absolutely delighted at the news; Kei had never seen his mother act so loving toward Lily, and Kei’s grandparents were thrilled at the idea of living to see great-grandchildren. Kei’s father opened a nice bottle of wine to celebrate, and tonight, Kei was allowed to have some along with everyone else. Akiteru declined (partly because he’d already been drinking and partly in support because Lily couldn’t), but Kei gladly accepted, enjoying the opportunity to stay a little tipsy.

By the time everyone had gone home and the dishes had been washed and put away and Kei was allowed to go up to his room, he was in a really, really good mood. He flopped down on his bed and thought about how much he wished Tetsurou was here with him. If he took a deep enough breath of his bedsheets, he could smell Tetsurou’s cologne, accumulated after countless hours of kissing and one perfect night of sleep... and one really nice morning...

Shit, I really wish Tetsurou was here, Kei thought to himself as he thought about that Sunday morning. He’d checked his back later to see if Tetsurou had actually left bruises and almost felt a little disappointed when he hadn’t found any. They would have to try again sometime. And Kei really wished that sometime was right now.

Shit, the longer Kei thought about it, the more he wanted Tetsurou to touch him... God, he wanted him really, really badly. Now.

Well, if I can’t have him here, Kei thought to himself, the least I can do is text him...

To Tetsurou :) :
heeeeeeeey

From Tetsurou :) :
hey babe <3 how are you?

To Tetsurou ;) :
what r u wearing

From Tetsurou ;) :
wait what

To Tetsurou ;) :
im asking what clothes r currently on ur body

From Tetsurou ;) :
are you trying to sext me. is that whats happening here. is this really happening.

To Tetsurou ;) :
ngl ur really bad at this

From Tetsurou ;) :
are you drunk??

To Tetsurou ;) :
lil bit

From Tetsurou ;) :
seriously?????? omg i was kidding

Before Kei could respond, Tetsurou called him.

“You’re drunk texting me right now,” Tetsurou stated in disbelief. “That’s what’s happening right now.”

“You never told me what you’re wearing,” Kei mumbled, annoyed that Tetsurou was focusing on the wrong thing.

“This is the best day of my life.”

You suck.”

“C’mon, babe, it seems wrong,” Tetsurou said, only half-joking. “Our first time having phone sex? You should be sober for this.”

“Kuroooooooooo,” Kei whined, flopping back on his bed.

“Wow, are you that horny?”

Yes.”

“Oh, my God, I love when you have no filter,” Tetsurou said with a dreamy sigh.

“This is happening with or without you,” Kei told him, going to unbuckle his belt.

“Tsukki, I don’t want the first time I get you off to be over the phone,” Tetsurou whined.

Kei sighed. “What do you propose then?”

Tetsurou paused a moment. “Tell you what. Take two hours to sober up, call me at midnight if you still want this to happen, and I’ll come pick you up and we can go park somewhere.”

“You want me to sneak out?”

“If you’re up for it,” Tetsurou said, the grin apparent in his voice. “C’mon, would you rather just listen to me talk, or actually let me touch you?”

The thought of Tetsurou actually touching him was not making this situation any better.

“Fine,” Kei groaned. “Midnight.”

“I look forward to it,” Tetsurou said. “Love you.”

“Like you, too,” Kei sighed before hanging up the phone.

~

“That was quick,” Tetsurou remarked as Kei climbed into his car. Looking over his shoulder, he quickly pulled out of the driveway, only turning on his headlights once he wasn’t aimed at Kei’s house anymore.

“My parents make it so easy to sneak out,” Kei said, rolling his eyes. “They’re heavy sleepers, nothing in our house creaks, and they never turn on our alarm system.”

“You sneak out a lot?” Tetsurou asked with a grin.

“No, never,” Kei admitted. “Akiteru used to with his friends all the time, but I never had a reason to.”

“I’m glad I could be your first, babe.”

Kei smacked his shoulder, even if he knew Tetsurou was probably going to be his first in every sense of the phrase.

They ended up parking the same place they had during their first date. It was a good place for this kind of thing, just some old, abandoned parking lot meant for some building that wasn’t there anymore. It was away from the main road or any traffic at all, really, so the odds of anyone coming by were slim. There were a few other old, beat up cars left to rot there, and once Tetsurou shut off the engine of his own car, they blended in just fine.

Tetsurou leaned in and kissed Kei, slowly and gently and leaving Kei absolutely breathless when he pulled away. “Should we move to the backseat?” he asked.

Kei couldn’t even speak, just quickly nodding and following Tetsurou’s lead to the back, where there was more space and no gear shift to separate them.

And then Tetsurou paused a moment, gently touching Kei’s face, before practically whispering, “You’re so beautiful, Tsukki.” He leaned in and kissed Kei before he could ask what he was talking about, or vehemently deny it, or call Tetsurou a loser. It was still January, and the car was quickly getting cold without the heat of the engine, but Kei wasn’t feeling it at all. It was just the warmth of having Tetsurou’s body so close, the warmth of Tetsurou’s hands on his face, the warmth of Tetsurou’s lips against his.

After just enough kissing to make Kei feel like he was absolutely drowning, Tetsurou started migrating down to Kei’s neck. Kei didn’t even try to hide how good that felt, letting out a soft hum just as Tetsurou’s hands found their way to the hem of Kei’s shirt. The two of them separated just long enough for Kei to shrug off his coat and for Tetsurou to pull Kei’s shirt over his head, and then Tetsurou’s mouth was back on Kei’s skin, his warm hands moving across the bare skin of Kei’s back.

Kei noticed, clouded as his thoughts may have been with pleasure at Tetsurou’s touch (and maybe still a little bit of wine), how thorough Tetsurou was with his affection. Every inch of exposed skin was getting covered with kisses, Tetsurou’s hands keeping warm whatever he hadn’t gotten to yet. Just to tease Kei, he would just barely graze Kei’s nipples with the tips of fingers every now and then, and it sent shivers down Kei’s spine every time. Kei had hoped that Tetsurou hadn’t noticed, but he definitely did.

“You’re so sensitive,” Tetsurou murmured, chuckling to himself as he pressed kisses to Kei’s collarbone.

“You’re the only person that’s ever touched me like this,” Kei said defensively.

“Then I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

“You are so cheesy,” Kei sighed, his breath hitching as Tetsurou ran his tongue over one of Kei’s nipples. Kei could feel his blood rushing to the lower half of his body, and this time, he just let it happen.

And Tetsurou’s hands were fiddling with Kei’s belt buckle. “Can I...?”

“Please.”

Tetsurou opened Kei’s pants, tugging them out of the way before touching Kei over his underwear where he was starting to get hard. Even that was enough to elicit a soft moan from him, and as embarrassed as Kei was, it just spurred Tetsurou on, and he quickly dipped his fingers below the waistband of Kei’s underwear and slid it off.

Oh, God, I’m gay, I am so, so, so gay...

Kei was completely at a loss for how Tetsurou had stayed so quiet when Kei had gotten him off, because Kei couldn’t seem to hold anything back. He was all needy whines and pathetic moans as Tetsurou touched him. He felt like he couldn’t catch his breath, but he also felt like he didn’t want to, just wanting to stay like this forever, the feeling of Tetsurou’s grasp around him and his heart pounding his chest and every inch of him just feeling so, so good. Everything Tetsurou did just felt better and better, tightening his grip, quickening the pace, leaning in to start kissing Kei’s neck again.

“Kuroo,” Kei moaned, tangling his fingers in Tetsurou’s hair to hold him close. He could feel Tetsurou’s teeth as Tetsurou grinned against his skin.

“You make the most beautiful sounds, Tsukki,” Tetsurou murmured, pressing his thumb against the head of Kei’s cock and getting the loudest moan yet. Kei lifted a hand to cover his own mouth out of embarrassment, but Tetsurou immediately pulled it away and replaced it with his lips, kissing Kei so deeply and so perfectly, Kei practically blurted out that he was in love with Tetsurou right then and there. It was almost lucky that he choked on his own words as he started reaching his climax. He was close, he was so close...

“T-Tetsurou...”

Tetsurou leaned in close, murmuring right into Kei’s ear, “I love you, Kei.”

Tetsurou’s words combined with the warmth of his lips on Kei’s ear and the sound of his voice, all deep and needy and too beautiful to be legal, tipped Kei over the edge. Nothing in this world had ever felt so good as Tetsurou Kuroo did in that moment, and Kei clung onto him, mumbling curses and Tetsurou’s name and other incoherent things into Tetsurou’s shoulder as his orgasm crashed over him like a tidal wave.

Once Kei got a hold of himself, his heart slowing down and his breath coming back to him, Tetsurou was already reaching for the glove compartment, pulling out a huge stack of old fast food napkins to start cleaning up where Kei’s mess was all over his own chest.

“I take it that was nice?” Tetsurou asked with a smug grin.

“Shut up, you know that was nice,” Kei sighed, the scratchiness of the Starbucks napkin on his chest a lot less pleasant than Tetsurou’s mouth had been.

“Thank God we got out of the house to do this,” Tetsurou chuckled. “I had no idea you would be that loud.”

Shut up,” Kei groaned.

Tetsurou pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. “Love you.”

Kei was so close to saying it back, but it still wasn’t time. “Like you, too.”

As much as he absolutely adored Tetsurou, he knew they were still deep in the honeymoon phase. He wanted to save it for when he was absolutely, without a doubt, completely sure that the time was right. And the time didn’t seem right in the back of Tetsurou’s car while Tetsurou was cleaning a bit of Kei’s cum off of his shirt.

Once everything was as clean as it was going to get, Kei put his shirt and coat back on and cuddled up to Tetsurou’s chest, getting sleepy now that whatever energy he had left was completely spent.

“Do you want to go home?” Tetsurou asked.

“Not yet,” Kei mumbled, shoving his hands into the pockets of Tetsurou’s jacket to warm them up. “Let’s just... stay here for a while. Let’s just talk.”

“Alright,” Tetsurou said, kissing the top of Kei’s head. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Hmm...” Kei yawned and didn’t fight it as his eyes drifted closed. “I don’t know. Truth or dare.”

Chapter Text

“I wanna take you on a date,” Tetsurou had said over the phone last night. “Like, a proper date.”

“What constitutes a ‘proper date’?”

“I don’t know, actually going out somewhere. Doing an activity. Something other than just making out in your room- Mooom,” Tetsurou snapped suddenly. “Stop listening through the door!”

After a minute of Tetsurou shooing his mom away, he came back on the line with a sigh. “She’s so embarrassing...”

“Now I know where you get it from.”

Hey.”

Kei laughed. “Is your mom gonna judge me for all the shit she overhears from you?”

“Oh, babe, don’t even worry about it,” Tetsurou groaned. “She is dying to meet you. She hasn’t even met you yet and she thinks you’re the greatest thing ever.”

“When do I get to meet your mom?” Kei asked, flopping back onto his bed.

“Maybe when she has some time off, we could all go to dinner.”

“Couldn’t I just come over to your house sometime?”

Tetsurou didn’t respond.

Kei sighed. “Babe, do you really still not want me to see your house?”

“Just... not yet.”

“You honestly think I’m going to judge you for it?” Kei asked, borderline offended that Tetsurou thought he might be so petty.

“No, just...” Tetsurou paused. “Not yet.”

“Okay, okay,” Kei said, dropping the topic for now. “You said something about a date?” Kei wasn’t terribly excited about the idea, as the thought of anything in public started to make his stomach uneasy, but he was willing to hear Tetsurou out.

“Right!” Tetsurou said, perking right back up. “Tomorrow, let’s see a movie!”

Kei paused. A movie wasn’t so bad, actually. They would be out in public, but it was a very inconspicuous activity... It was a week before Valentine’s Day, but that was far enough out that no one would assume it was romantic, right? And no one would be watching them in a dark theater... he might even feel brave enough to hold Tetsurou’s hand...

So Kei agreed.

Now he was standing outside of his house, waiting for Tetsurou to come pick him up, and praying that whenever he ended up taking off his coat, Tetsurou wouldn’t notice that he was wearing the same thing for their second date as he had for their first. In his defense, they were still the only cool clothes he had, but that didn’t make him feel any less lame about it.

Still, that was hardly the most embarrassing thing that happened during that day.

The worst was probably Tetsurou pulling up and calling out, “Hello, my love!” Kei almost turned around and walked straight back into his house until Tetsurou pleaded, “Wait, I was kidding, come back!”

It wasn’t until they had driven away and out of Kei’s neighborhood that Tetsurou leaned over and pressed a quick kiss to Kei’s cheek, whispering, “Totally wasn’t kidding.”

“You’re not gonna be like this at the movie, are you?” Kei groaned.

“Don’t worry. I’m in love, not stupid.”

“Had me fooled,” Kei muttered.

Rude.”

Kei grinned. “Keep your eyes on the road,” he told him, leaning back in his seat. “The roads are still bad, there’s slush everywhere.”

“I am an excellent driver in all road conditions,” Tetsurou assured him.

“Just be careful,” Kei said. “If something ever goes wrong, this car isn’t very safe.”

“Is that concern I detect?” Tetsurou teased.

“Yes.”

Tetsurou immediately turned and looked at him, hand pressed over his heart. “Tsukki!”

Eyes on the road!”

~

They made it to the movies in one piece, and Tetsurou was actually doing very well to restrain himself from being overtly sappy, as casual as could be while still managing to be chivalrous.

Kei was about to pay for his own ticket when Tetsurou swiftly interrupted with a, “Oh, dude, wait, I still owe you for last time,” and paid for him.

“I think that’s the only time you’ve ever called me ‘dude’,” Kei muttered as they walked to concessions.

“Only because ‘sweetheart’ suits you so much better.”

When they actually sat down for the film, all Kei wanted to do was hold Tetsurou’s hand, but the lights were still on and it was too risky. Especially because Hewitt from sixth period was there.

“Tetsurou! Kei!” he called out as if they were friends, leaving his own group to come say hi. “What’s up, how are you guys?”

“Fine,” Kei mumbled as Tetsurou said an enthusiastic, “Great!”

“Hey, Tetsurou, have you started that essay yet?”

Kei frowned. Essay? We don’t have an-

“Not yet,” Tetsurou said with a groan. “Have you even finished Hamlet yet?”

“No, I didn’t know we were supposed to have it done so soon!” Hewitt whined. What the hell is going on?

“At least Hamlet’s interesting,” Tetsurou sighed.

“Seriously?” Hewitt said with wide eyes, which Kei suddenly noticed with annoyance were a really pretty shade of green. Has Tetsurou noticed? “I can’t stand Shakespeare.”

“Oh, no, dude, it’s so good!” Tetsurou insisted. “Seriously, read it, and if you ever don’t understand a part, just text me. You still have my number from the project, right?”

“Yeah, I do! Anyway, I better get back to my group,” Hewitt said with a wave. “Good seeing you two!”

Kei waited until Hewitt was sat back down at the other end of the theater before speaking. “You have another class with Hewitt?”

“You call Danny by his last name?” Tetsurou asked with a laugh. “And yeah, he’s in my English class.”

“Oh.” Kei started rolling a piece of popcorn between his fingers. “I didn’t know that.”

“Did you need to know that?”

“Well, you two act like you’re friends.”

Tetsurou shrugged. “I wouldn’t really call us friends. He’s cool though.”

Kei snorted. “Hewitt is not cool.”

“He’s nice,” Tetsurou said instead. “C’mon, just because you hate everyone doesn’t mean I have to.”

Kei ignored the joke. “How come I’ve never seen you two talk before?”

“Probably because in sixth period, I’m too busy talking to you,” Tetsurou said with a grin.

Kei just rolled his eyes and took a sip of his soda.

“You’re not jealous, are you?”

Kei started choking.

Jealous?” he spluttered. Super jealous. “Why would I be jealous?” I shouldn’t be, but I am.

“You shouldn’t be,” Tetsurou assured him, but his stupid grin gave away that he totally knew Kei was. “I love you, remember?”

Kei slouched back in his seat. “I know. I’m just being stupid,” he grumbled.

The lights finally went down in the theater, and Tetsurou took the opportunity to put his hand on Kei’s. “I love you,” he whispered. “And I love your unfairly long legs, and your adorable glasses, and your intelligence, and your sense of humor...” Tetsurou leaned in really close and said, just barely audible, “and those beautiful sounds you make...”

Kuroo,” Kei hissed, smacking Tetsurou in the chest as he pulled away.

“I meant your laughter, obviously,” Tetsurou chuckled, turning Kei’s hand over to intertwine their fingers. There was a pause before Tetsurou leaned in and muttered, “You hear the way he says ‘Tetsurou’?”

Kei snorted. “What, how he says ‘tay-SOO-roh’?”

“It’s honestly the worst mispronunciation of my name I’ve ever had,” Tetsurou said, and Kei had to press his free hand over his mouth to cover up his laughter. “Why does he assume the T is silent?”

“Have you tried correcting him?”

Yes,” Tetsurou sighed, which only made Kei laugh harder. Tetsurou gave Kei’s hand a squeeze. “See what I mean? Beautiful laughter.”

Kei just rolled his eyes at him and turned his attention to the screen.

It wasn’t until about five minutes into the film that Kei realized Tetsurou had so easily distracted him from his jealousy.

How the fuck does he do that?

~

“I would consider that successful,” Tetsurou said as they walked out of the theater, squinting against the light of the setting sun.

“The date or the movie?” Kei asked.

“Oh, the date, obviously.”

“Thank God, that movie was terrible,” Kei said, rolling his eyes.

“I feel like I need to watch a good movie now just to restore my faith in cinema.”

“We could go to my place and watch Howl’s Moving Castle,” Kei offered as he waited for Tetsurou to unlock the car. He’d secretly been wanting to watch it with him ever since the wedding just to see if Tetsurou would get flustered when the music started.

“That sounds amazing right now,” Tetsurou said with a huge smile. “Also, if your parents are home, then we should definitely sneak up to your room for a while, because I want to kiss you so badly.”

“What if my parent’s aren’t home?” Kei asked with a smirk.

“Oh, babe,” Tetsurou sighed as he slid into his car. “The things I would love to do to you if we were alone...”

Kei’s face started to go pink, but he still managed to stay cool as he responded, “I just might let you do those things.”

“I might have to speed a little on the way to your place.”

No speeding,” Kei insisted. “The roads are still bad.”

~

On the way to Kei’s house, they started brainstorming more date ideas that wouldn’t horribly embarrass Kei, which included a potential trip to a natural history museum that was almost an hour drive away (which took some coaxing, as Kei wasn’t sure he was ready to let Tetsurou see how excited he gets around real dinosaurs) and a double date with Akiteru and Lily.

“Well, it wouldn’t be so much a double date as it would be them passing their judgment on you,” Kei said.

Tetsurou’s shoulders dropped. “What? I thought you said Akiteru thought I was cool!”

“He was only evaluating you as a friend then.” Kei shrugged. “Now that you’re my boyfriend, he needs to reassess and make sure you’re a stand-up guy.”

“What if he changes his mind about me?” Tetsurou whined.

“He won’t,” Kei said simply.

“He’s still being cool about all this, right?”

“For the most part,” Kei said with a sigh, thinking about the past month of having Akiteru in on the secret. For the most part, it made things a thousand times better, but... “Ever since I told him how annoying the whole keeping-it-secret part is, he’s constantly trying to convince me to tell my parents.”

“He really thinks your parents would be cool with it?” Tetsurou asked, making a face that summed up how Kei felt about the whole thing.

“Oh, he’s dead convinced. I still think he’s crazy. I mean, why would he think that they would hate him for getting Lily pregnant before they were married, but would be all supportive of me for being gay? If anything, it’s the other way around.”

“He wouldn’t tell them though, would he?”

Kei almost laughed. “Oh, no, never. I could trust Akiteru with anything and he’d take it to his grave.”

~

Once they were pulling into his driveway, Kei realized that he’d forgotten to turn his phone back on after the movie.

When he did, found that he had ten missed calls from Akiteru.

“What the...”

“What is it?” Tetsurou asked, putting the car in park and turning off the engine.

“Nothing, Akiteru just called me a bunch of times.”

“You don’t think it’s an emergency, do you?”

Kei said nothing, because his mind had gone to exactly the same place, and immediately every worst case scenario came into his mind. He’s dying. Lily’s dying. Something’s wrong with the baby. Something’s wrong with my parents. There’s-

“Wait, isn’t that his car?”

Kei looked up to where Tetsurou was pointing and, sure enough, there was Akiteru’s car, parallel parked along the curb. The car was extremely crooked and much farther from the sidewalk than it needed to be, and upon closer inspection, Kei found that the door wasn’t even closed properly. It looked like Akiteru had pulled up in a hurry and went straight inside without looking back.

What the hell?

Tetsurou was right behind Kei as he quickly walked to the front door, fumbled with his keys to unlock it, and stepped into the house. They were immediately greeted with a loud argument as soon as Kei opened the front door, between Akiteru and his parents.

“You can’t do this to him!” Akiteru shouted.

“This was his decision,” Kei’s father snapped. “I-”

“Kei,” Akiteru interrupted quietly, the first to notice that he’d walked in. And for a long moment, no one spoke. Kei’s mother was glaring at Tetsurou. Kei’s father was still glaring at Akiteru. And Akiteru wasn’t glaring at all, instead staring speechlessly at Kei, almost looking like he was about to burst into tears. His expression had been a mix of a thousand emotions, but looking at Kei, one was clear.

He was guilty.

Kei couldn’t breathe.

“What did you do?”

~

It all felt like a dream, like Kei was watching this happen instead of actually experiencing it. Even his own actions, Kei felt like had no control over. Everything just kind of happened, and Kei just numbly drifted through the scene. He didn’t know how else to react, now that his worst nightmare was coming true.

His mother begged him to say it wasn’t true, to say that he wasn’t gay, to say that he hadn’t been doing unspeakable things behind their backs. All Kei could say was that he was sorry. She tried to force Tetsurou leave. Kei wouldn’t let her. He stepped in front of Tetsurou like a shield between him and his mother, and yet he was clinging to Tetsurou’s arm for support. He probably couldn’t have let go if he’d wanted to.

Kei’s father was the one who brought order, making everyone calm down with the stern, quiet rage of any proud household patriarch. He made the whole family gather in their living room so they could have a Family Discussion about this. He also asked Tetsurou to leave, but again, Kei refused. With a sigh, Kei’s father allowed Tetsurou to stay only on the grounds that he probably ought to hear what Kei’s parents had to say on the matter, for his own sake along with Kei’s.

Kei felt bad for making Tetsurou stay, as Tetsurou probably didn’t want to stay, but he couldn’t do this alone. His grip on Tetsurou’s arm was the only thing keeping him from completely breaking down.

The Family Discussion began with a lecture.

“Revelations 22:15,” his father began. “‘Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.’

“Colossians 3:9. ‘Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.’

“Zephaniah 3:13. ‘The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.’

“Proverbs 12:22. ‘The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.’

“Leviticus 19:11. ‘Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.’”

Akiteru cleared his throat. “Dad-”

The ten commandments,” he interrupted. “‘Thou shalt not lie.’ We abide by the word of God in this family, and the fact that both of my sons have blatantly disregarded this and lied to us is utterly shameful. I strongly suggest you both pray about this. I appreciate you telling us about all of this in the end, Akiteru, but it’s not enough to make up for the fact that you lied to us at all.”

“I didn’t tell you to clear my conscience,” Akiteru snapped. It was the angriest Kei had ever seen him. “I told you because I mistakenly thought you might have some compassion for your own son.”

“And Kei,” he continued as if Akiteru hadn’t said anything. “Not only did you lie to us, but about this.”

“I’m sorry, dad,” Kei practically whispered, his voice failing him.

“Leviticus 20:13,” his father said next. “‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’ What you’re doing is an abomination.”

Kei somehow found the strength to cling onto Tetsurou even tighter.

Dad,” Akiteru interrupted again. “Please, just stop. For God’s sake, look at him!”

“I am looking at him!” his father shouted. “I am trying to help him, Akiteru!”

How is this helping?!”

Their mother put her hand on Akiteru’s shoulder. “Aki, please, let your father speak.”

After taking a moment to make sure Akiteru was going to contain himself, their father continued. “As I said, I am trying to help you, Kei. I do not believe you are past forgiveness. I’m giving you a choice, Kei,” he said calmly. “You can stop seeing Tetsurou-

“You mean break up with him?” Kei interrupted. “O-or am I not allowed to see to him at all anymore?”

His father’s expression hardened a little. “Both.”

“What’s my other option?”

“I’m not finished yet.” His father cleared his throat and found his patience again. “Your first option: you stop seeing Tetsurou, and we get you some help, Kei. Father Adams has already agreed to help you pray through this, and on top of meeting with him, and we’ll start sending you to therapy.”

“You mean conversion therapy?” Akiteru interrupted. “You can’t send him to conversion therapy.”

“Akiteru, it’s Kei’s decision,” his mother said quietly.

“Do you know anything about conversion therapy?! It doesn’t work, it-”

“Akiteru,” Kei interrupted, and his brother immediately fell silent. Kei turned back to his father. “What’s my other option?”

His father paused for a moment before speaking. “If you don’t want our support, then you stop being a member of this household.”

Any feeling that was left in Kei’s body quickly left. “You’re kicking me out?”

“Kei, don’t be ridiculous,” his mother told him. “Just pick the first option.”

“But if I don’t, I’ll be kicked out,” Kei repeated.

“I can’t believe you two are doing this to him,” Akiteru said.

Kei couldn’t take it anymore and immediately stood up, turning on Akiteru. “Maybe they wouldn’t have to if you had kept your mouth shut!” he shouted.

Akiteru just stared back with wide eyes. “I-I was trying to help.”

Tetsurou tried pulling Kei back down onto the sofa, but Kei ignored him. “How the hell is this helping me?!”

“Kei,” his mother scolded.

“Oh, I’m sorry, was me swearing just too much for you?!”

“I don’t think anyone who’s committed the sins you have has room to pile on any more!” his father told him. “Now sit down!”

Kei was about to argue back, but Tetsurou tugged on his shirt again. “Kei,” he said softly, barely loud enough for anyone to hear. “Please.”

Kei sat back down.

“Kei, this isn’t a hard decision to make,” his father said with a sigh. “You don’t have to go through this alone. You may be a little broken, but-”

“Don’t you dare call him ‘broken’,” Akiteru muttered.

“It’s not too late to fix the choices you’ve made,” their father continued, again, as if Akiteru hadn’t said anything.

“Choice?” Kei asked. “You honestly think it was a choice?”

“God doesn’t make people this way,” his father said simply.

“Oh, my God, who would choose this?!”

“Kei, it doesn’t have to be this way,” his mother insisted. “It’s like we said before: Father Adams will help you. You can get treatment for this.”

“I don’t need treatment,” Kei said quietly. “I don’t need Father Adams to help me. Nothing is going to help me. This is just the way I am. I’ve learned to accept it. And you’ll have to learn to accept it too.”

His parents exchanged a look.

“We can’t accept this, Kei,” his father said. “We can’t condone this behavior.”

“So I guess you’ll have to kick me out then.”

“Kei,” his mother whimpered, starting to cry.

“If you won’t accept our help, then you have until next week to find a new place to live,” his father said, sounding less sure of himself than he had before.

“Why wait?” Kei asked, standing up. “Kick me out now.”

“Kei, we’re not kicking you out, we’re offering help-”

Just do it.”

“Where would you even stay?” his mother asked.

Akiteru and Tetsurou both immediately stood up, saying practically in unison, “With me.”

Kei clenched his jaw. “I’ll stay with Tetsurou.”

Akiteru looked devastated. “Kei...”

His father wasn’t looking at him anyway, turning his head as he muttered, “I’ll get you some boxes to pack your things.”

~

Kei and Tetsurou packed up the majority of Kei’s possessions in silence. Kei was planning to leave behind most things, settling for clothes and his laptop and his CD collection, but he noticed Tetsurou packing up more personal belongings, namely his dinosaur collection. He was carefully bundling each figure in a T-shirt or a sock before tucking them in their own box.

“Tetsurou?” Kei asked quietly, and even so he sensed Tetsurou jump a little at the sudden noise.

“Yeah?”

“Am I making a mistake?”

Tetsurou didn’t respond at first. “Kei, this isn’t my decision to make.”

“Maybe I should just accept the help,” Kei went on. “Fake my way through praying with Father Adams. Pretend to break up with you and find ways to see you anyway. Bullshit through therapy-”

“Kei, I don’t want you going to conversion therapy,” Tetsurou whispered, gripping the sides of the box he was packing. “I’ve heard enough horror stories about people that go through that.”

Kei didn’t respond. Tetsurou reached out and took Kei’s hand.

“I don’t want that happening to you. If you think you can handle your pastor, that’s fine. If you want us to break up, that’s... that’s fine. But please, don’t try conversion therapy. I don’t care if you plan on just tuning it all out, I don’t want you to risk it.”

Kei squeezed Tetsurou’s hand. “Tetsu, this isn’t just a roof over my head. This is everything. Food. Bills. School tuition. College tuition.”

“I know,” Tetsurou said with a sniffle. “And it’s your decision to make. I know that. And I support you. I’m just asking you, please, please don’t risk it. I-I’ll accept the consequences of asking you not to do that. If you come with me, I promise that I’ll take care of you. I just...” Tetsurou sniffled again, bringing his free hand to his face to start wiping away tears. “Please.”

“Tetsurou?”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s go.”

“You’re coming with me?” he asked, sounding surprised.

Kei took a deep breath, steadying himself before speaking. “I’m so tired of lying.”

~

Kei was half-expecting his parents to cave at the last second and let him stay, but they didn’t.

They just stood by and watched Kei leave, his arm full of boxes and followed by his boyfriend, the absolute pinnacle of shame.

They didn’t bother saying goodbye, so Kei didn’t either.

Kei held the door open for Tetsurou, but on his way out, he stopped suddenly.

“Tetsurou?”

Tetsurou cleared his throat before calling back into the house, “‘But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ That’s Timothy 5:8.”

And then he turned and once again headed for his car, shifting the boxes in his arms as they started to slide.

“Kei!”

Kei was about to follow Tetsurou’s lead when Akiteru suddenly came running out.

“Kei, I...” He put his hands on Kei’s shoulders. “I am so, so sorry. I know what I did was horrible, I know that, and you don’t have to forgive me, but please, let me help you. Come stay with me and Lily.”

“Horrible?” Kei repeated, almost laughing at the understatement and taking a step back. “Akiteru, you kind of just ruined my life.”

Akiteru blinked a few times and tears started running down his face. “I-I really thought they would understand.”

Kei scoffed. “You’re still gonna try and justify what you’ve done? I had no idea you were so pathetic.”

Akiteru didn’t try to defend himself and let Kei walk away from him.

Tetsurou cleared his throat. “Sure you have everything?”

“I think so,” Kei said with a nod.

“Okay. We’ll leave whenever you say.”

“Let’s go now,” Kei mumbled, closing Tetsurou’s trunk and walking around the passenger seat.

Akiteru gave one last-ditch effort. “Kei-”

“Akiteru, give it a rest,” Kei said with a groan as he opened the car door. “You had the opportunity to help me out when I told you about all this in the first place, and you blew it. Just accept that you’re a terrible brother and leave me the hell alone.”

That shut Akiteru up. He just stood and watched Tetsurou and Kei get into the car, still crying as Tetsurou turned on the engine and drove away from Kei’s... well, Kei’s parents house.

It wasn’t his anymore.

Kei was homeless.

They had only been driving a few minutes when Kei felt like he was gonna be sick.

“K-Kuroo,” Kei said, sitting forward suddenly. “Pull over.”

“Are you okay?”

Pull over,” Kei insisted, unbuckling his seatbelt and stumbling out of the car as soon as Tetsurou had obliged.

“Babe, what’s...” Tetsurou didn’t finish his question before Kei was already puking in the grass by the side of the road. “Oh.”

Tetsurou got out of the car and stood behind Kei as he emptied his stomach, gently moving his hand over Kei’s shaking back. Even after he finished vomiting, Kei could’t stop retching, and by the time he finally got a hold of himself, his entire body was shaking violently.

“Do you want some water?”

Kei nodded. He was vaguely aware of Tetsurou getting back into his car, digging around for a while, before a water bottle was being pushed into his hand. As Kei unscrewed the cap, Tetsurou put his hand on his back again, and Kei shook him off.

“Don’t-” Kei cut himself off, choking on his own words and spitting on the ground. “Don’t t-touch me.”

“I’m sorry.”

~

Once Kei calmed himself down a bit, they got back in Tetsurou’s car and drove the rest of the way to his house. Kei couldn’t tell where they were or how far they were from Kei’s parents, his mind too exhausted to pay attention to any of it. He just got out when Tetsurou stopped the car and followed as Tetsurou went up the front stops and unlocked the front door.

Tetsurou let Kei inside and gently closed the door behind them. After a moment to collect his thoughts, he turned to Kei, putting his hands on his shoulders and kissing his forehead.

“Just wait here,” he said quietly. “I’ll go talk to my mom, and-”

“Tetsu, are you finally home?”

They both looked up just as Tetsurou’s mom walked into the room. “I need you to... Oh.”

“Hey, mom,” Tetsurou said with a nervous laugh. “Can I talk to you in the kitchen?”

“Wait, is this Kei?” she asked, her face quickly going from surprise to delight. Kei could see where Tetsurou got his smile from.

“Mom, I really need to talk to you,” Tetsurou said, stepping forward and ushering his mom into the kitchen. Kei stayed put like he was told, but he could still hear their entire conversation.

“What’s wrong?”

“Kei’s parents found out about us.”

She gasped. “Oh, no, did they not take it well?”

“They kicked him out.”

Kei winced at having it phrased so bluntly.

“Does he have a place to stay?”

Tetsurou hesitated, then spoke very fast. “I know we don’t really have the space and I know things are tight right now but-”

“Does he need to stay here?”

“...Yeah.”

Kei had never felt more like a burden in his life.

“Sweetheart, of course he can stay!” she said, sounding horrified that Tetsurou might believe anything else.

“Really?”

Tetsurou’s mom didn’t bother say anything more, just heading back out to the living room where Kei was standing and pulling him into a hug.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” she asked, pulling back to get a good look at him. “Do you need anything?”

Kei cleared his throat. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

“It’s Kei, right?”

Kei nodded. “Kei Tsukishima.”

“Well, Kei Tsukishima,” she said, and Kei was suddenly reminded of how much it had struck him the first time he’d heard Tetsurou say his name back when they’d first met, the way she made it sound so pretty instead of just a mouthful of awkward syllables. “It’s absolutely lovely to meet you and I only wish it were under better circumstances. You’re probably exhausted aren’t you?”

“A-a little.” A lot.

“Why don’t you take a shower and I’ll make up the couch for you.”

“Mooom,” Tetsurou groaned. “Can’t he just stay in my room?”

His mother sighed. “Fine, fine. Just remember that the walls are thin.”

Mom.”

“You wanna show him where the shower is?”

“I-I still have some things in Tetsurou’s car,” Kei said.

She brushed off his concerns with a wave of her hand. “Tetsu and I will get it, you go relax. You’ve had a tough day.”

After another “thank you,” Kei just quietly followed Tetsurou back to the shower.

“Alright, here’s the bathroom,” Tetsurou said, pointing to one of four doors at this end of the house. “Then that’s my room, and my mom’s room, and a closet. And you’ve had the grand tour.”

Kei just nodded.

“Hey,” Tetsurou said gently, cupping his face in his hands and kissing his forehead again. “If you need anything, just say so.”

“I will.”

“I love you.”

Kei leaned in closer and gave Tetsurou a hug. “Like you too.”

Tetsurou turned his head to press another kiss to the side of Kei’s face. “I’ll get you some pajamas, okay?”

“Okay.”

Promise you’ll tell me if you need anything?”

Kei sighed. “Yes, I promise.”

Tetsurou pulled back just enough to rest his forehead against Kei’s. “Hey, I’m taking care of you now. Anything you say goes.”

“You don’t have to take care of me,” Kei murmured.

“I know I don’t.” Tetsurou gave him one last kiss on the cheek. “C’mon, go take a shower.”

Kei had expected everything to just hit him once he was alone, but aside from his little episode at the side of the road, he still couldn’t feel anything, like his emotions were all trapped in some hazy glass box that Kei just couldn’t tap into. There was no fury, no grief, no anything. He just felt... empty.

Pathetic, Kei thought to himself as he went to figure out how to turn on Tetsurou’s shower. Absolutely pathetic.

~

After a shower than never really got as hot as Kei wanted it to, Kei was bid goodnight by Tetsurou’s mother and ushered by Tetsurou into his room for the night.

“Make yourself at home,” Tetsurou told him.

“How come you don’t have a bed frame?” Kei asked as he sat down on the edge of Tetsurou’s mattress that sat in the middle of the floor.

“I used to have one,” Tetsurou said, bellyflopping down next to Kei with a soft, oof. “I decided to sell it on Craigslist for some spending money. Plus, I actually kind of like it this way.”

“What’d you spend the money on?”

Tetsurou thought about it, trying to remember everything. “My school uniform... a few pizzas... hair gel... your Christmas present...”

Kei felt his stomach sink a little, suddenly realizing that Tetsurou’s present (which still hadn’t come in the mail yet) was going to be delivered to his parents. He was probably never going to get that package. And now, he didn’t have any money to buy a replacement.

Kei flopped back onto Tetsurou and he let out another oof.

“Hey, Kuroo?”

“Mm?”

“Can you please tell me that today was all a dream?”

Tetsurou didn’t respond at first, instead twisting his body around and pulling Kei into his arms. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”

Chapter Text

When Kei woke up, his first thought was that his mattress felt stiffer than usual. He stretched out his back a little, and he noticed that his bedsheets felt kind of weird. Thicker, a little scratchier, something like that. It felt like he’d been asleep for forever, and sunlight should be coming through his window by now, but even with his eyes closed, he could tell the room was still dark. Has the sun really not come up yet?

He also noticed how strongly his bed smelled like Tetsurou-

Tetsurou.

Kei’s eyes snapped open, suddenly remembering whose room he was in.

Oh.

He sat up, giving the room a quick scan, and Tetsurou was nowhere to be found.

“Kuroo?” he croaked out, his throat in desperate need of some water. He had a headache too, and was probably dehydrated after being so sick yesterday.

There was no response, so Kei quickly found his glasses, got out of Tetsurou’s bed, and stumbled toward the door.

“Kuroo,” he called again after he’d stepped into the hallway. He was lucky Tetsurou’s house was so small, because he hadn’t been paying attention to where anything was at all last night and he would’ve easily been lost. In this hallway, there was only one way to go, and that was out into the living room, where Tetsurou was still missing.

Kuroo.”

“Tsukki?” came Tetsurou’s voice from the kitchen. “Are you up?”

Kei quickly hurried over to the last room left in the house, the kitchen, and sure enough, there was Tetsurou, spatula in hand and attending to a pan at the stove.

He looked up and offered a gentle smile. “Hey, sweetheart,” he said. “How are you feeling?”

Physically, he felt like shit. Emotionally, Kei still wasn’t really feeling anything. He’d felt a little panicked this morning at Tetsurou’s absence, and that was about it. It was annoying, feeling so dead inside. Kei would’ve preferred anything, anger, sadness, grief, betrayal, just something other than nothing at all.

“Can I have a glass of water?”

“Yeah, yeah, of course!” Tetsurou said quickly, reaching into a cupboard with a squeaky door and pulling out a plastic cup.

“I can-”

“No, it’s fine,” Tetsurou told him, waving him off and filling it under the tap in the sink himself. Once full, he handed it over and gave Kei a quick kiss.

Kei cleared his throat. “Thanks.” He took a sip and did his best not to make a face. Why is tap water so awful?

“Did you sleep okay?” Tetsurou asked, going back to his cooking.

Kei shrugged noncommittally. He’d slept just fine, but he felt as tired as if he hadn’t slept at all. “I didn’t know where you were this morning.”

“I’m sorry,” Tetsurou told him, stepping closer to Kei to kiss his forehead. “I’ve been up for a few hours already, I’ve just been waiting for you. I’m actually making you breakfast!” he added cheerfully, going back to his pan on the stove. “I promised I would make you breakfast one day, right? I’m making you my world-famous eggs, and-”

“I’m sorry, Kuroo, but I’m not really hungry,” Kei interrupted quietly. Under any other circumstances, he would’ve just sucked it up, but right now, even just the thought of eating made his stomach uneasy.

Tetsurou’s smiled wavered. “Oh. Okay, yeah, that’s fine. I’ll just put it in the fridge and you can microwave it when you get hungry.”

Kei just nodded. “Sorry.”

“No, it’s fine,” Tetsurou insisted, giving Kei a quick kiss. “It’s like I said yesterday, anything you say goes. I’m guessing you just wanna hang out here today?”

To be completely honest, I’d kind of like to just go home. “Yeah.”

“We could watch a movie if you want,” Tetsurou offered. “Or play cards or something else low-key.”

“I think I might just go back to bed,” Kei told him, looking down at the cold kitchen tile beneath his feet.

Tetsurou hesitated. “Really? You already slept for like, twelve hours, babe.”

“I’m still tired,” Kei mumbled.

“O-okay. Go lie down then. I’ll be in there in a second once I finish up in here, okay?”

“Okay,” Kei said, letting Tetsurou give him one last kiss before shuffling off towards Tetsurou’s room again.

Now that it was in broad daylight and Kei’s head was a little clearer, he was able to get a better look at Tetsurou’s house. It was really small and all of the rooms were on one floor, but Kei failed to see what exactly Tetsurou was so embarrassed about. There were little things wrong, like old carpet with stains that were probably doomed to never come out and a distinct draft in the living room, but it was clear that Tetsurou and his mother had done with it what they could. There were pictures in frames on the wall and throw blankets on the sofa and the whole house smelled faintly of incense. It was cozy, and in any other situation Kei would’ve been absolutely delighted to be here. Kei wished he was absolutely delighted to be here.

Going back into Tetsurou’s room, it was Kei’s favorite part of the house. Tetsurou’s room just looked like him, a little messy but in the way that it was nice to look at, and full of wonderful things. There was an ancient record player in the corner and a few fat stacks of records that, even in these circumstances, made Kei’s heart flutter a little. Tetsurou’s mattress, just flopped down in the middle of the floor, was haphazardly covered in a few blankets, pillows, and magazines, and the walls were painted a dark red and completely covered in posters, magazine covers, and newspaper clippings. Kei noticed his own borrowed dinosaur shirt among a pile of clothes spilling out of a laundry hamper by the closet. Something about it actually felt kind of homey, and Kei didn’t really plan to leave the room for a while unless he had to.

He climbed back into Tetsurou’s bed, pulling blankets around him and taking deep breaths of Tetsurou’s lingering scent. He kept waiting for that fluttery feeling in his stomach that always came with Tetsurou’s cologne, but it never came.

~

“You awake?” Tetsurou whispered as he came into his room.

Kei didn’t respond, instead just rolling over to look at him.

“Hey, sleeping beauty,” Tetsurou said with a chuckle, closing the door behind him before sliding into bed with Kei. Kei just let himself be pulled into Tetsurou’s arms and be kissed a few times. “You still sleepy?”

Kei didn’t say anything. He’d said he was tired, not sleepy, and right now, the the two seemed vastly different.

“That movie offer is still up,” Tetsurou pointed out, sounding a little unsure of what to say. Kei felt bad for making him struggle with Kei’s silence, but he couldn’t find it in him to cooperate.

“I’m just not in the mood right now.”

“We could just sit here and talk,” Tetsurou offered. “You might feel a little better if you talk about it.”

“I don’t feel like talking about it.”

“Mm.” Tetsurou paused. “I could put on a record, if you want.”

Kei actually felt himself perk up a little. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Tetsurou repeated for confirmation, sounding relieved that he finally had something to work with.

“Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Good!” Tetsurou said with a smile, giving Kei another kiss. “Do you want to come pick one out, or...?”

“Whatever’s your favorite,” Kei told him, not really wanting to get out of bed.

“Don’t say that, I’ll just put on The Beatles.”

Kei actually let out a snort of laughter. “Your favorite record is a Beatles album?”

“I like Sgt. Pepper,” Tetsurou said defensively, actually giving a genuine smile. It made Kei feel a little better.

“Every hipster in the world just rolled their eyes.”

“Good,” Tetsurou declared, leaning in and kissing Kei again, and for a moment, everything felt normal again. God, Tetsurou was like magic, the way he could make Kei forget about his problems. Kei tried to cling to that feeling, but he couldn’t hold onto it, and it was gone as quickly as it had come.

He let go of Tetsurou and Tetsurou gave him one last smile before getting out of bed. Kei propped himself up on his elbows to watch him, cross-legged beside his small mountain of old records and thumbing through them to find his beloved Sgt. Pepper.

“Which is your favorite song on the album?”

“Hmm...” Tetsurou hummed as he found the record and pulled it out of its cover. “If you’d asked me a few months ago, I probably would’ve said ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, but now I’d probably pick ‘Getting Better’.” Tetsurou flashed a grin over his shoulder. “Makes me think of you,” he said before setting up the record player.

Soon, the room was filled with the scratchy opening to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and Tetsurou was crawling back under the covers.

Kei didn’t know how Tetsurou stood that, just laying there and doing nothing with Kei, but he was extremely patient and stayed with Kei until side one of the record played out, and did the same thing for side two after getting up to flip it over.

“You don’t have to stay here with me,” Kei told him as the final notes of “A Day in the Life” played and the album came to an end.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. I’m being boring. Go do whatever you want.”

Tetsurou kissed his forehead. “Alright. Let me know if you need anything.”

“I will,” Kei mumbled as Tetsurou got up and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

~

Tetsurou went back to school on Monday. Kei didn’t.

“I’ll go to your classes and get you your homework for you,” Tetsurou promised him, tightening up his tie before getting on his knees to give Kei a kiss where he was still laying in bed.

“Thanks,” Kei mumbled, not bothering to point out that it wasn’t going to matter anyway now that his parents wouldn’t be paying for tuition anymore. He’d be fine for the rest of February, but in March, he would start to get notices that he hadn’t paid his tuition for the month. He would get April as a cushion, as was policy to ease the burden of anyone who had simply missed payment due to unforeseen expenses, but come May, he’d be expelled, just a month before graduation. What was even the point anymore?

If the days felt slow with Tetsurou around, it was nothing compared to when he was gone. Kei almost wanted to start texting him just to see what he was up to, but his phone had died and he didn’t want to dig through his boxes to find his charger. He wondered how long he’d have his phone before the bill for that stopped getting paid, too.

After what felt like a thousand years of just laying in Tetsurou’s bed, doing nothing, Tetsurou finally came home, giving Kei a kiss and a stack of homework.

“If you need any help with that, just let me know,” Tetsurou offered.

“I don’t think I’m gonna start it yet.”

“Are you going to school tomorrow?”

“No.”

“Okay then,” Tetsurou said, stepping away from Kei to change out of his uniform. “Have you eaten today?”

“No.”

“You should really eat something, babe. Want me to make you some toast?”

Kei shrugged. “Fine.”

Tetsurou made him some toast. Kei ate it slowly while Tetsurou put Sgt. Pepper on again and started his homework. He sang some of the lyrics under his breath as he worked.

“I've got to admit it's getting better, a little better all the time... I have to admit it's getting better, it's getting better since you've been mine...”

He nudged Kei with his foot. Kei just pulled the covers tighter over his shoulders.

~

Tuesday was the same. And so was Wednesday. On Thursday, Tetsurou brought him an apple instead of toast. By Friday, Kei had forgotten what day of the week it was. He just watched the stack of homework grow larger and larger with each passing day and felt that the chance of him actually doing any of it declining more and more.

~

Saturday was Valentine’s Day. Tetsurou went out and bought Kei strawberry shortcake as a surprise. Kei couldn’t stomach it and put it in the fridge.

They spent some time kissing, and Kei kept waiting for that fluttery feeling Tetsurou used to give him, but it never came.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Tetsurou had said before bed, pulling Kei into his arms and starting to kiss his neck.

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“I love you.”

“Mm.”

Tetsurou gave him one last kiss before rolling over. “Goodnight.”

~

The next week passed just like the last one.

At some point, Tetsurou stopped singing along to The Beatles.

~

“You should try going back to school this week,” Tetsurou had told him as he got ready for school Monday morning. “It might make you feel better to get out of the house.”

“Not yet.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

Tetsurou sighed and kissed the top of Kei’s head. “Please, at least promise me you’ll eat something.”

“I promise,” Kei mumbled as Tetsurou left.

~

“Did you eat something today?”

“No.”

“Ah.”

~

Tetsurou switched from Sgt. Pepper to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

“Have you heard about the thing where if you play this album and watch The Wizard of Oz at the same time, they line up?”

“No.”

“I’ve heard it’s really cool. We should try it sometime.”

“Mm.”

~

By the end of the fourth week, Tetsurou stopped playing music.

~

Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, Kei woke up without Tetsurou’s arms around him.

“Kuroo?” Kei mumbled, drifting out of sleep and reaching forward to try and find Tetsurou’s sleeping form. He came up empty handed.

Kei sat up and rubbed his eyes. It was still definitely the middle of the night, so why wasn’t Tetsurou in bed?

Maybe he’s up watching a movie or something in the living room, Kei thought to himself with a yawn, getting out of bed to go see him. He didn’t know why he still bothered clinging to Tetsurou so much, when what had used to make him so happy made him feel as empty inside as anything else, but Tetsurou was all he had left.

After finding his glasses, Kei left Tetsurou’s room, but stopped dead halfway out the door when he heard Tetsurou and his mom in the living room.

Tetsurou was crying.

“Shh,” his mom was saying softly. “It’s okay, sweetie, just let it out.”

“I j-just don’t know what to do anymore,” Tetsurou sobbed, sounding like he was struggling to catch his breath. “I-I’m trying so hard... B-but I feel like he’s just getting w-worse! A-and-”

“Shh...” his mom interrupted, and Tetsurou’s words just dissolved into sniffles and hiccuping sobs. “Sweetheart, it’s not your job to make everything okay. He just needs time.”

“H-he won’t even talk to me anymore, a-and I miss him so much,” Tetsurou said miserably. “I-I know I see him everyday b-but... It just feels like he’s not really there anymore and I j-just want him back, I just want him back, mom...”

“It’s okay, sweetheart,” his mom said quietly. Tetsurou’s sobs became muffled, like she pulled him into a hug. “He’ll come around. You just need to be patient.”

Tetsurou didn’t respond. His mom continued with gentle shushing noises until he finally started to calm down, sobs faded into shaking breaths.

“C’mon, sweetie. Go back to bed.”

“I c-can’t. N-not with him in there.”

Kei felt his heart shatter.

“Do you want to sleep on the couch?”

Tetsurou sniffled. “Yeah.”

“I’ll get you some blankets from the closet.”

Kei quickly slipped back into Tetsurou’s room before his mom could see that he’d been eavesdropping. The last thing she needed was another boy with tears running down his face to try and console.

Why can’t he come back to bed? Kei thought to himself, wiping away tears on the back of his hand as he sank back down to the mattress. ‘Not with him in here’? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is he finally giving up on me?

The idea of losing him too finally shattered whatever inside Kei had been holding back all of his emotions.

He can’t give up on me. Kei pressed a hand over his mouth to mask the shaky breaths he was taking in. He’s all I have left, he can’t leave me too.

But then, why wouldn’t he? Tetsurou deserved so much better than what Kei was giving him. He deserved everything, and Kei was giving him absolutely nothing. Tetsurou was pouring as much love as he could into whatever hollow shell Kei had become, and Kei was just letting it flow right back out. When was the last time Kei had done anything to show that he still cared about Tetsurou? When was the last time he’d just said “like you, too”? When was the last time he’d even seen Tetsurou give a genuine smile?

At this point, Tetsurou would just be better off without Kei. At least then he could stop wasting his feelings on someone who was too dead inside to reciprocate.

But Kei wasn’t dead inside, at least not anymore. He was alive, and it hurt. The shaky breaths he was taking burned his lungs as he struggled to breathe without sobbing. His broken heart was racing in panic at the idea of letting Tetsurou slip through his fingers, aching just knowing that he'd been hurting Tetsurou so much more than he'd thought. Before he knew it, everything was flooding to the surface at once, the rejection from his parents, Akiteru’s betrayal, losing the only home he’d ever had and anyone he could call family.

And the tipping point, the thought of not being Tetsurou’s anymore, of Tetsurou not being his, of Tetsurou not loving him anymore when Kei loved him so much it made his chest absolutely ache, was absolutely destroying him.

I can’t lose him too.

Kei knew that Tetsurou probably wanted his space right now, but he couldn’t stay here, letting the emptiness of the room suffocate him. He needed Tetsurou, he needed Tetsurou to know that he loves him, he needed Tetsurou to know that he was still here. Without bothering to collect himself at all, Kei went out to the living room where Tetsurou was curled up on the couch, because he couldn’t go back to bed without him.

“Tetsurou?” Kei said quietly. “Tetsurou, please, wake up.”

Tetsurou let out a soft groan as he rolled over to look at him. “Tsukki?”

Kei sniffled. “H-hey.”

“Is everything okay?” Tetsurou asked, sounding sleepy but quickly sitting up in concern.

“No,” Kei said, shaking his head and trying desperately to keep his crying under control so he could speak. “No, Tetsurou, I’m not okay, I’m really not okay, and... I’m sorry! I’m s-so sorry, Tetsurou, I... Y-you’ve been trying so hard to help me and I’m so sorry I haven’t been trying to get better... I-I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know what I’m doing at all, b-but you’ve been trying so hard...”

Kei took a deep breath, but it didn’t make speaking any easier.

“T-Tetsurou, you don’t have to do anything for me. I don’t need you to take care of me, I just need you, so p-please don’t give up on me.”

Kei was finding it harder and harder to keep himself contained, and a few sobs were started to escape between words.

“P-please don’t give up on me, Tetsu. I don’t know what to do, but I p-promise I’m gonna start trying to make things better, I just...” Kei’s voice was starting to fail him, breaking on every other word he said. “I feel so lost right now, Tetsu, please, just... I-I lost everyone. I lost my mom... a-and I lost my dad... and I-I even lost Akiteru, and I...” Kei could hardly speak anymore, feeling like he was five years old as he just stood there, sobbing and wiping away rivers of tears from his eyes. “I can’t lose you too! P-please, please don’t give up on me, Tetsu, I can’t lose you, I can’t, I c-can’t...”

“Kei,” Tetsurou said quietly, standing up and pulling him into a hug. He slipped off Kei’s glasses for him and set them down gently on the coffee table as he brought both of them down to the couch, Kei curled up in his lap and sobbing violently into his shoulder while he help him close. “Kei, sweetheart, I’m not gonna give up on you.”

“I can’t lose you, Tetsu, I c-can’t...”

“You’re not gonna lose me,” he murmured, squeezing Kei with the kind of suffocating bear hug he desperately needed right now. “I promise.”

“I miss my parents,” Kei sobbed. “I w-want to hate them so bad b-but I just want to go home.”

“I know.”

“I m-miss my brother... E-even after what he did, I miss him so much, Tetsu.”

“I know.”

“I just wanna go home,” Kei whispered, his voice completely abandoning him.

“I know, sweetheart.”

“I j-just... I-I...”

“It’s okay,” Tetsurou whispered, kissing Kei’s forehead. He was sniffling too. “It’s gonna be okay. I love you.”

Kei somehow found it in him to cry even harder, all snot and tears and shaky breaths as he finally admitted, “I love you, too.”

~

The next morning, Kei had never felt so happy waking up in Tetsurou’s arms.

“Hey, Tetsu,” he whispered, leaning his forehead against Tetsurou’s.

Tetsurou groaned a little before opening his eyes, his lips just naturally easing into a smile when he saw Kei. Kei’s chest swelled up with happiness in a way that felt foreign but so, so good. “Morning, sweetheart,” he said softly. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m really fucking dehydrated.”

Tetsurou laughed. “You feel better though?”

“I feel a lot better.”

“Good,” Tetsurou murmured, leaning in for a kiss. Kei was just starting to kiss back when he was interrupted by a horrifically loud growl from his stomach.

“Are you a little hungry?” Tetsurou asked with raised eyebrows, trying not to laugh.

Kei pushed against his shoulder. “Shut up,” he chuckled.

“Want me to make you breakfast?”

Kei smiled. “I’d like that a lot.”

“My eggs are world-famous.”

“We’ll see about that,” Kei teased. “I’m a harsh critic.”

Tetsurou sighed. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Kei said back, unable to hold back a grin as he went in for more morning kisses.

~

Tetsurou made Kei breakfast. Even if his eggs weren’t actually world-famous, they really deserved to be. Kei wanted Tetsurou to make him breakfast for the rest of his life.

“I’m going to run some errands today,” Tetsurou told him as he washed up their dishes. “If you’re feeling better... maybe you want to come?”

Kei nodded. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Really?” Tetsurou asked, his face lighting up. “Okay, uh, why don’t you go use the shower while I finish up in here?”

“Okay.” Kei stepped closer to give Tetsurou one last kiss before going to start getting ready, but before he could walk away, Tetsurou grabbed his face to keep him close, his lips so lovely and warm but his hands all gross and soapy.

“Oh, gross, let go-!”

“I love you,” Tetsurou sighed. He let go of Kei and grabbed a paper towel to wipe the suds off of Kei’s face.

Kei stood still as Tetsurou cleaned him off, watching the soft concentration on his face and smiling softly to himself. “I love you, too.”

~

And so, for the first time in weeks, that Sunday morning, Kei left the house. He had his shower, put on some clean clothes, and got into Tetsurou’s car so they could go pick up some groceries.

Tetsurou was about to start up the car but stopped, leaning back in his seat and just smiling softly at Kei for a moment.

“What are you doing?”

“I forgot how cute you look sitting in my car.”

Kei’s face went red. “Oh, my God, you’re so embarrassing.”

That just seemed to make Tetsurou happier, and he leaned in to give Kei a kiss. Every single kiss Tetsurou had given him today finally gave Kei that fluttery feeling in his stomach again.

Both of them had huge, stupid grins on their faces the entire drive to Walmart.

~

“Are you even prepared to see what an amazing bargain hunter I am?” Tetsurou asked as he pulled out a shopping cart.

Kei raised an eyebrow. “It’s Walmart. Isn’t everyone already cheap?”

Tetsurou just shook his head. “So naive, my dear.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bunch of coupons, spreading them out like cards and fanning himself with them. “I should go on that extreme couponing show.”

“I’m swooning,” Kei said, rolling his eyes.

“You should be, I’m adorable.” Tetsurou hooked an arm around Kei’s neck and pulled him in for a kiss on the cheek.

“Tetsurou...” Kei groaned as he pushed Tetsurou off of him, his face going red

“Oh, shit, sorry, are you not down for PDA?” Tetsurou asked, taking a step back and rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry, I just assumed since it wasn’t really a secret anymore-”

“It’s fine,” Kei mumbled. “Just... I’d rather not.”

“If that’s what you want, I’ll stop,” Tetsurou assured him. He nudged Kei in the side with his elbow. “C’mon. Let me teach you the ways of a pro couponer.”

~

As much as Kei had rolled his eyes at the beginning of their trip, he was actually genuinely amazed at how much Tetsurou had saved.

“What can I say?” Tetsurou said with a grin as he finished loading the groceries in the back of his car. “I’m husband material.”

Kei paused. “You really are, you know.”

Tetsurou was about to reach forward and close the trunk but he completely missed, his hands falling through thin air as he turned to look at Kei. “W-what?!”

Kei burst out laughing, hands clutched over his stomach and leaning against Tetsurou’s car.

“Oh, God, I missed your laugh,” Tetsurou said, pulling Kei into a hug.

Kei was about to object, but it had been a while since Tetsurou’s arms felt this good. “I’m sorry I haven’t really been around lately,” he mumbled, leaning into Tetsurou’s touch.

“It’s okay,” Tetsurou told him, pressing a kiss to his shoulder. “I’m just so glad you’re back.”

~

After they had their little moment in the parking lot at Walmart, they drove back home with their hands intertwined.

“You should have both hands on the wheel,” Kei chastised halfheartedly.

“I am an amazing driver,” Tetsurou assured him, bringing their clasped hands to his mouth and kissing Kei’s fingers.

When they got back to Tetsurou’s, they unpacked the groceries together, and Kei finally learned where everything belonged in Tetsurou’s kitchen, deciding to actually become a member of the household now.

And then Kei made an announcement.

“I’m gonna go back to school tomorrow.”

“Are you sure?” Tetsurou asked, his eyes going wide. “I mean, I know you just started feeling better, but I don’t want you to push yourself or anything.”

“No, I want to,” Kei insisted, lacing his fingers together a little anxiously. “I want to things to be normal again.”

Tetsurou smiled and kissed his forehead. “Have you started any of your homework?”

Kei’s stomach dropped. “I changed my mind. I’m never going back again.”

~

Hours and hours passed with Kei finally tackling his assignments, Tetsurou looking over his shoulder and helping him out when necessary, and by the time it was one in the morning, Kei had barely covered half.

“This is the second worst day of my life,” Kei groaned, throwing yet another useless worksheet he’d finished across the room. Only, it was a sheet of paper, so it didn’t actually go across the room, instead catching the air and falling to the ground almost immediately. I fucking hate everything.

“Kei, sweetheart,” Tetsurou yawned, wrapping his arms around Kei’s shoulders from behind and nuzzling his face against his back. “I think we should call it a night. I’m sure your teachers will understand that you do not have every assignment from the past four weeks finished."

“I hate schoooool,” Kei wailed, leaning his head back against Tetsurou’s.

“Shh, don’t wake up my mom.”

“I hate schoooool,” Kei whispered.

“Just a few more months,” Tetsurou promised him. “The rest of March, April, May, and then we have graduation in June.”

“That’s so far away...” Kei sighed. “Plus, I’m not even gonna make it that far without my tuition getting paid.”

“We can work something out,” Tetsurou said sleepily. “I’ll get a job.”

Kei snorted. “And make enough to pay for three months of tuition?”

“Maybe we’ll sell the house.”

“Ugh, I might as well not even go at all-”

“Noooo, please go,” Tetsurou mumbled, rubbing his face against Kei like a cat marking his scent. “I miss having you there. Danny talks to me all the time now and you were totally right, he’s so annoying.”

Kei grinned. “Told youuuu.”

“Ten bucks says he’s bisexual.”

Kei immediately opened his mouth to question Tetsurou’s theory, but then he just shrugged. “It honestly wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Mmhmm.”

“You think he likes you?”

“Little bit,” Tetsurou groaned, which made Kei grin. “I mean, he doesn’t even talk to his actual friends as much as he talks to me.”

“Would you go for it if you didn’t have me?”

Tetsurou thought about it for a moment. “Maybe if I was really desperate.”

Kei laughed. “So cruel.”

“I mean, he’s kinda pretty, but his personality is just ugh.”

“You think Hewitt’s pretty?” Kei asked out of genuine curiosity. The petty jealousy he’d felt back the movies felt so distant now... Man, I wish my biggest problem was Tetsurou talking to Hewitt...

“Compared to other boys from Willow Creek? Yes,” Tetsurou admitted. “Compared to you? No fucking way.”

Kei rolled his eyes. Right, because I’m sooo “pretty.” “Do people at school not know about us?” Kei asked, changing the subject. It felt kind of strange that people might not know, now that the secret felt so out.

“Nope. Or at least they haven’t said anything, if they do.” Tetsurou let out another yawn. “Please, babe, can we please go to sleep now?”

“Fine,” Kei said with a sigh that faded into a yawn of his own, shoving all of his papers off the mattress while Tetsurou got the lights. Kei slipped off his glasses and reached over to set them just far enough away from the mattress to ensure they wouldn’t get stepped on, leaning back toward the mattress and going right into Tetsurou’s arms like it was second nature.

“Goodnight, sweetheart,” Tetsurou sighed, snuggling up against Kei.

“Goodnight, Tetsu.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

After going through stress dream after stress dream and exploring every possible scenario in which his first day back at school could go wrong, Kei was woken up to the sound of Tetsurou’s alarm with about five hours of useless sleep to get him through the day.

“Rise and shine,” Tetsurou said softly, reaching over Kei to grab his phone and turn off the obnoxious beeping.

“Fuck,” Kei grumbled pulling himself tighter against Tetsurou’s chest and pretending that he didn’t have to get up now.

“Good morning to you, too,” Tetsurou chuckled. “Still want to go to school today?”

“Not even at all,” Kei sighed. “But I’m going to anyway.” With one last stretch, Kei disentangled himself from Tetsurou’s arms and got out of bed, squinting through his blurry vision to try and find where he’d set down his glasses.

“How do you get out of bed so easily?” Tetsurou groaned, folding his pillow over his head in a way that he claimed was comfortable but Kei would never understand.

Kei just smirked and shook his head as he slipped his glasses up his nose. “I’ll go shower first so you can sleep a little longer.”

“Or we could shower together,” Tetsurou suggested. His face was hidden by the pillow he was practically smothering himself with, but the grin was apparent in his voice. “That might wake me up.”

Kei rolled his eyes. “Not gonna happen.”

Not today, anyway.

Kei had to abandon his old habit of running the water too hot when he was stressed, because the Kuroos’ shower just wouldn’t get hot enough, so now Kei was opting for running it a little too cold. It made him feel more awake, lifting his brain out of his sleepy fog so he could prepare himself for the day ahead.

God, maybe I should just stay home after all, Kei thought miserably to himself as he ran through all of the possible scenarios in which things could go wrong. There was about a fifty-fifty chance for every single one of them that he would either handle it smoothly or it would just pile onto all the other emotions Kei was still trying to wade through and tip him into another breakdown. If Kei even came close to crying as hard at school as he had the other night in front of Tetsurou, he'd never go outside again.

What if someone asks me about tuition? What if my parents actually dropped me out? What if I’m failing all of my classes now and there’s no way to fix it? What if one of my teachers makes me make up a test immediately and I fail because I don’t know the material? What if Tetsurou’s wrong and everyone at school knows about us? Or maybe they don’t know about us and only know about me? How would my teachers treat me? How would everyone else treat me? What if they don’t know but Tetsurou and I do something stupid and everyone figures it out? What if-

Kei was snapped out of his never-ending worries when he got some shampoo in his eye.

“Goddamnit,” he grumbled to himself, rubbing his eye and trying to rinse it out. After his eye stopped stinging so badly, he gave up trying to problem-solve and turned the water back to hot.

~

“Your turn,” Kei announced as he walked back into Tetsurou’s room, a towel wrapped around his waist. Tetsurou didn’t move, instead just letting out a groan. “C’mon, babe, get up.”

Tetsurou sat up and started rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “God, you are so pretty.”

Kei gave him a look. “I’m just standing here in a towel.”

“I know. And you’re so pretty.”

Kei just rolled his eyes and went to pick up his uniform from where he’d laid it out last night. It was a little wrinkled from sitting in a box for so long, but not enough for Kei to bother ironing it. Underneath his uniform shirt, Kei found his iPhone, connected to a charger and plugged into an outlet in the wall.

Kei frowned, not remembering doing this himself. “Did you plug in my phone?”

“Yeah, last night while you were working,” Tetsurou said with a yawn. “I figured you should have it just in case you needed to talk to me during the day, like if you want me to take you home or something.”

“Do I even have service anymore?” Kei grumbled, squatting down to pick it up. He pressed the home button and squinted against the harsh light as his lock screen came on for the first time in weeks. Kei had almost forgotten what his wallpaper was, the cat in a tiny dinosaur costume that Tetsurou had set it to ages ago. Kei had never bothered to change it and was now glad he hadn’t, smiling a little in spite of himself at the memory.

He checked the reception in the upper lefthand corner and found that it still showed he had full service, LTE and everything. I would’ve thought it would be gone by now, Kei thought as he entered in his passcode (11-17, Tetsurou’s birthday) and unlocked his phone.

He tensed up at all the missed call notifications in the lower corner of his screen. With a deep breath that did nothing to quell the uneasiness in his stomach, he sat down at the edge of the mattress (closer to Tetsurou, just in case) before looking to see who they were from.

Kei couldn’t tell if it was surprising or particularly unsurprising that most of them were from Akiteru.

Probably begging for forgiveness or something else pathetic, Kei thought to himself, even as he had the urge to call Akiteru back, even as he felt so desperate to know how Akiteru was doing, to see how Lily was getting along, how the baby was, if they had started thinking about names or looking at bigger apartments or maybe even a house.

He’d hoped that maybe Akiteru had left a voicemail or two so he could hear how he was doing without having to talk to him, but he hadn’t.

A few calls here and there were from Tetsurou, back before he’d realized that Kei wasn’t using his phone. He’d at least left a few voicemails, and had Kei planned on saving them for a rainy day, because knowing Tetsurou, they were probably ridiculously sweet. That rainy day might even just be today, depending on how school goes.

The rest of the calls were just a few wrong numbers.

None of them were from Kei’s parents.

Swallowing back a lump in his throat before it could fully set in (You’re okay. It’s fine. You’re okay here. Tetsurou’s taking care of you. You don’t need them anymore.), Kei moved on, going to see the accumulation of unanswered text messages he had.

Most of these were from Tetsurou, keeping Kei updated on his first few days of school back when Kei had been staying home. A few messages were from classmates, who hadn’t seen him in a while and wanted to know if he was okay and if was coming back to school anytime soon. Only one text was from Akiteru, and it didn’t have any words attached. Just a picture.

A sonogram.

“Tetsu, look,” Kei said immediately, his eyes going wide. Tetsurou (who had flopped back into bed at some point) just groaned and Kei smacked his arm a few times until he cooperated. “Look.”

“Whaaat?” Tetsurou groaned, sitting up again and leaning heavily on Kei for support.

“Look,” Kei repeated, holding the phone were Tetsurou could see.

“Oh, is that the baby?”

“‘Is that the baby’? Of course it’s the baby. Isn’t it amazing?”

Tetsurou chuckled. “You sound so excited, Uncle Kei.”

Uncle Kei. Kei froze for a moment, because it had never quite hit him until now that Akiteru being a father meant Kei was going to be an uncle. Uncle Kei.

“Did he say if it’s a boy or a girl?” Tetsurou asked, and Kei snapped out of his thoughts.

“No, he didn’t,” he mumbled, shaking himself out of it.

Tetsurou kissed his cheek. “You make a cute uncle. I can see it now: Uncle Kei, the dinosaur nerd.”

Before Kei could let himself start to like the idea, he locked his phone again and tossed it aside.“Do I really qualify as an uncle if I don’t even get to see the baby?” he mumbled.

“I don’t think it’s that you don’t get to,” Tetsurou pointed out. “If you wanted to be in that baby’s life, you could.”

“Don’t make it sound like I don’t want to see the baby,” Kei snapped.

“That wasn’t my point,” Tetsurou said with a sigh. “I just mean that I’m sure Akiteru would let you.”

Kei clenched his jaw. He was feeling stressed enough about going back to school today. The last thing he needed was to start thinking about Akiteru.

You’re fine, Kei told himself, focusing on his breathing and swallowing back another lump in his throat. You’re fine. You can’t do this today, you’re going back to school. You’re fine.

God, Kei would kill for another after school trip to the Crow’s Nest, just him and Akiteru. He just wanted to complain about school and make jokes about their parents. He just wanted to listen to Akiteru’s stories about work and Lily and his noisy downstairs neighbor. He took back every complaint he’d ever made about Akiteru not buying him enough CDs, no matter how jokingly he’d made them. Kei would never buy another CD again if it meant things could just go back to the way things were before.

How pathetic was that? After everything Akiteru had done, all Kei wanted was his brother back in his life.

“Hey,” Tetsurou said softly, snapping Kei out of his thoughts. “You still wanna go to school today?”

Kei took a deep breath. “Yeah, I do.”

“Okay, then, get dressed,” Tetsurou told him, lifting a hand to turn Kei’s face toward him and kissing him. Kei had been expecting a quick peck, but Tetsurou made no efforts to pull away.

Kei smirked, breaking off the kiss so he could speak. “I can’t go get dressed if you’re kissing me.”

“Give me a second, you’re all warm and soft from the shower,” Tetsurou said, leaning in for more kisses and wrapping his arms around Kei. Kei indulged him, because Tetsurou felt all warm and soft himself from sleep and it was the only thing that had helped him relax this morning.

“Okay, that’s enough,” Kei said after a minute or two, when Tetsurou’s hands were started to wander dangerously close to the edge of Kei’s towel. “Go shower.”

“Forget school, let’s just stay home and make out all day instead.”

“God, don’t tempt me,” Kei grumbled, pushing Tetsurou off the mattress. “Go.”

~

“I forgot how awful this uniform is,” Kei grumbled, fidgeting with his tie for about the thousandth time since he’d put it on. It had taken forever to drive to school from Tetsurou’s house, but they were finally getting close, and all Kei could do was fidget more and more and more.

“It’s gonna be fine,” Tetsurou assured him, taking one of Kei’s hands in his so he’d stop fidgeting.

“What if my parents didn’t just stop paying tuition?” Kei asked, starting to voice his worries aloud as he got closer and closer to where they might actually start coming true. “What if they actually called the school and withdrew me?”

“All your teachers act like they expect you to come back,” Tetsurou said with a shrug.

“But-”

“Relax,” Tetsurou told him, lifting Kei’s hand to his lips and kissing it. “You’re gonna get through today, and you’re going to be okay, and you’re going to be okay tomorrow, too, and the next day and the next day and the next day, and at the end of this week, we can go get some ice cream to celebrate how okay you are. Okay?”

Kei nodded.

“Good,” Tetsurou said with a grin. He made to kiss Kei’s hand again but Kei tugged it away.

“Both hands on the wheel,” he mumbled, going back to fidgeting with his tie.

~

When they arrived at school, Kei didn’t want to get out of the car.

“Sweetheart, you’re gonna be fine,” Tetsurou said again, his iron patience somehow not wavering in the slightest as he pressed more reassuring kisses to Kei’s skin, one on his cheek, a few on his neck, on each of his knuckles and a final one in the middle of his palm.

“I wish you were in more of my classes,” Kei mumbled. This would be a lot easier if Tetsurou could actually be with him throughout the day.

Tetsurou reached for the backseat and grabbed his backpack, pulling it into his lap and digging out a pen. He took Kei’s hand again, pressed another kiss to his palm, and started writing on the skin he'd just kissed.

Ow,” Kei hissed at how hard Tetsurou pressed his pen into Kei’s skin.

“Sorry,” Tetsurou murmured, lightening the pressure as he continued scrawling something in the center of Kei’s palm.

“You can’t write anything sappy,” Kei told him. “I don’t want anything that I have to hide from everyone.”

“Not to worry, babe,” Tetsurou assured him, taking only a moment longer before letting go and letting Kei see the big, neat letters he’d written out: TWH.

“T-W-H?” Kei asked.

“Tetsurou was here,” Tetsurou explained with a grin at his own supposed cleverness. “To help you get by without your adorable boyfriend until sixth period.”

“I told you nothing sappy,” Kei groaned. “God, that’s not even sappy, that’s just lame.”

“I am highly offended,” Tetsurou said with a grin, leaning in for a kiss that Kei gladly reciprocated, cupping his face with his non-scribbled-upon hand and taking a moment to memorize Tetsurou as if he hadn’t already done so a thousand times before. If he couldn’t have Tetsurou by his side today, he could settle for carrying the details of him in skin (or rather, doodled on his skin in blue ink).

~

As soon as Kei walked into first period (a mere thirty seconds after he and Tetsurou had parted), his phone buzzed with a text message.

From Tetsurou <3:
i love you

Kei smirked to himself as he dropped down into his seat.

To Tetsurou <3:
love you too

“Oh, Kei, you’re back!”

Kei immediately dropped his phone into his backpack and looked up at where Mrs. Flynn had immediately taken notice of him.

“Are you feeling alright?” she asked, walking over to his desk so they could have a slightly more private conversation. “Your friend told me you’ve been under the weather. You must’ve been pretty sick to be out for so long.”

Kei hesitated. “My friend?”

“Yes, the boy who’s been picking up your homework? Tetsurou?”

Oh. Boyfriend. “Right, right, Tetsurou,” Kei said, feeling stupid for not understanding and already getting a little overwhelmed. He hadn’t spoken to a person that wasn’t Tetsurou or Tetsurou’s mother in what felt like ages. “A-and I’m fine, I’m a lot better now.”

“That’s good to hear,” she said with a smile. “Have you been keeping up with your homework?”

“J-just about,” Kei lied, tracing his fingers over the TWH on his palm under his desk.

“Oh, good! Come talk with me after class and we’ll get it all sorted out. You also have a quiz to come in and make up sometime as well.”

“R-right,” Kei said as she walked away, regretting his decision to come back to school more and more.

About ten minutes into Mrs. Flynn’s math lecture that Kei was understanding absolutely none of, she was interrupted by Ms. Odell.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Flynn?” she said politely as she stepped in. “I just got your attendance sheet. Kei Tsukishima’s here?”

Kei felt himself tense up as everyone’s attention turned to him.

“Yes, right over there.”

“I need to speak with him in the main office,” Ms. Odell said. Kei started digging his fingernails into his palm. Is this about tuition? “May I?”

“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Flynn said with a nod.

“You should bring your things with you,” Ms. Odell advised when Kei stood up. “We might end up taking a while.”

Shit shit shit shit shit...

The two of them were silent during the walk to the main office, Ms. Odell’s professional heels gently clicking with each self-assured step. Kei wished he felt half as calm and collected as Ms. Odell looked right now.

Maybe my parents dropped me out after all. Maybe you’re not allowed to miss four weeks of school and I’m getting detention. Maybe the school knows I’m gay and I’m getting expelled.

Is that a thing that can happen?

Probably.

Ms. Odell led Kei to the school counselor’s office, only the counselor wasn’t there, and Ms. Odell took his usual place behind the desk and asked Kei to have a seat across from her.

“I asked Mr. Atkinson to borrow his office for a little while,” Ms. Odell said to explain herself. “I figured we should talk in private.”

Kei swallowed. “About what?”

“I think you need to make a plan, Mr. Tsukishima.”

Am I getting expelled? Does Ms. Odell have that kind of authority? “A plan?”

“I’m aware of your... situation,” she said, wincing a little at her own phrasing.

Kei felt like his heart stopped. “You know?”

“I think I do,” she said, tapping her fingers on the desk. “Your mother called the school and asked for her and your father to be removed from your file for insurance information, emergency contact information, and financial support.”

Kei didn’t know what to say, sinking back in his chair a little. “D-did she say why?” he asked quietly.

She winced again, struggling to find the most appropriate way of wording the situation. “She told me that you were no longer under their support because they don’t agree with your... lifestyle choice.”

Kei forced his face into a scowl. It was all he could do at this point to not start crying just out of sheer stress. “Does anyone else know?”

“No, no, it’s just me,” Ms. Odell assured him. “I was the only one who spoke to your mother, and since then, I’ve been handling this myself.”

Kei hesitated. “What do you mean ‘handling’?”

“I don’t want any of the other faculty members treating you any differently because of this,” Ms. Odell explained with an air of forced calm, “so I’ve been handling changes to your file myself. As far as anyone else is aware, you’re still living with your parents, and you’ve simply been out of school for an extended period of time for pneumonia. Now that you’re here, I need you to fill a few things out for me, update some paperwork for your file, and since you’re eighteen, you can fill out a form that identifies you to the school as independent from your parents.”

“O-okay,” Kei said, feeling a little overwhelmed as Ms. Odell started handling him page after page of forms he needed to fill out. “Uh, you said something about a plan?”

“Right,” Ms. Odell said with a nodding, handing him his last page and a pen. “I assume you’re planning to go to college?”

Kei hesitated. “I mean, I was-”

“Have you been accepted somewhere?”

Kei nodded. “A couple places.”

“Have you received financial aid offers from any of them?”

Kei shook his head.

“Have you tried contacting any of them about your change in financial status?”

Kei again shook his head.

“I would recommend doing that right away. Call admissions or the financial aid office and ask them how you should proceed. Have you filled out a FAFSA?”

“No.”

“That’s not due until the thirtieth of June, so you still have some time to do that. Do you have access to internet and a computer where you’re currently staying?”

Kei nodded.

“Where are you staying, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“With, uh...” A friend? My boyfriend? “Tetsurou Kuroo?”

“Oh, yes, the new student,” she said, recognized the name immediately. “How is Tetsurou?”

“He’s good,” Kei said with a nod.

She smiled. “That’s good to hear. Now, have you applied for any scholarships?”

And we’re right back to business. “No.”

“After school, check this website,” she told him, reaching for a sticky note and scribbling down a URL. “It has listings for a lot of scholarships. Try and apply to every single one that you qualify for.”

Kei cleared his throat. “Sorry, but isn’t this all kind of... pointless?”

Ms. Odell stopped and looked up at him. “Going to college?”

“No, I just mean... for me anyway. I don’t have any money. Even if I get tuition reduced down to like, a thousand dollars, I still can’t pay that.”

“Have you tried getting a job?”

Kei again shook his head.

“I would start there then,” she told him. “This isn’t impossible, you know.”

“Pretty close though, isn’t it?”

Ms. Odell just looked at him patiently. “Isn’t it at least worth a try?”

“I can’t even pay for the tuition here,” Kei pointed out.

Ms. Odell looked a little confused. “Your tuition here is already being covered.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry, I assumed you knew,” she said, thumbing through some more papers until she found the one she was looking for. “Yes, we received payment for this month’s tuition about a week ago.”

“From who?”

She quickly scanned the record, looking for a name, before reading out, “Akiteru Tsukishima.”

~

By the time Kei finally got out of Ms. Odell’s office, he felt absolutely exhausted, and it was only halfway through third period.

Kei wasn’t sure what was more surprising: Ms. Odell’s new mission in life to send Kei to college, or the fact that Akiteru was paying for his tuition. Kei hadn’t answered a single one of his calls. For all Akiteru knew, Kei wasn’t even going to school anymore. Why would he blindly do this when Kei didn’t even want him in his life anymore, after Kei had called him pathetic and told him to stay the hell away?

On his way to English, Kei felt his phone buzzing, and found that Tetsurou had sent him a bunch of texts when he was meeting with Ms. Odell.

From Tetsurou <3:
hows it going?

From Tetsurou <3:
baaaaaabe

From Tetsurou <3:
is everything going okay?

From Tetsurou <3:
you promised you would text me between classes >:(

From Tetsurou <3:
danny has been talking to me nonstop this whole class period. im pretty sure at this point that he doesn’t enjoy things. every time he gives his opinion on something he just calls it ‘boring’. save me.

From Tetsurou <3:
fun trivia question: who is a tall, blond, cute dinosaur nerd who should really text back his concerned boyfriend??

Kei shook his head, slowing down his walk to his next class to give him more time to reply to Tetsurou.

To Tetsurou <3:
relax, im fine, i just had to talk to ms odell from the main office for a while

Despite being in class, Tetsurou texted back immediately.

From Tetsurou <3:
main office? what did you need to talk about there?

To Tetsurou <3:
ill tell you about it after school, everythings fine

From Tetsurou <3:
cant wait for sixth period <3 love you

To Tetsurou <3:
love you too

Kei wondered how Tetsurou was going to react. He probably wasn’t going to be surprised at all that Akiteru was paying his tuition. He was probably going to point out how Akiteru had offered to help him, and that Akiteru had probably had this in mind from the moment things had started to fall apart. He was probably going to say out loud what Kei was trying to avoid thinking about, how Akiteru was genuinely sorry for what he’d done and whether Kei was going to cooperate or not, he was going to do his best to make things right again.

“Oh, Mr. Tsukishima,” his third period teacher said in surprise when Kei wandered in, still deep in thought and jumping a little at being addressed so suddenly. “Glad to see you’re back.”

~

For the first time in weeks, Kei walked into sixth period, and was met with the usual, booming greeting he had somewhat grown to miss.

“Tsukki!” Tetsurou called out, grinning casually from where he was slouched back in his seat. “Good to have you back.”

Kei was almost tempted to greet Tetsurou with a kiss out of habit, but managed to be just as casual as Tetsurou as he fell back into his old seat. “Sucks to be back.”

“Hey, Tetsurou!” Hewitt called cheerfully a second later as he walked into class. Speaking of things that suck.

“Hey, Danny,” Tetsurou said pleasantly, and Kei had to admire his patience. “How’ve things been since I saw you all the way back in second period?”

“Pretty boring,” Hewitt said with a shrug before realizing that the normally vacant seat beside Tetsurou was suddenly occupied once again. “Oh, Kei, you’re back!”

“So I am,” Kei said, doing everything in his power not to roll his eyes.

“I almost thought you’d dropped out,” Hewitt said with a chuckle, putting his hand on Tetsurou’s shoulder. “It’s just been me and Tetsurou for the longest time.”

Tetsurou glanced at Kei out of the corner of his eye, his expression just screaming, Save me.

Damn, Hewitt really does like him, doesn’t he?

“Ah, I see,” Kei said with a smile he didn’t really mean. “Tetsu’s always complaining how annoying it’s been at school without me there.”

Hewitt hesitated, like he trying to figure out if he’d just been insulted or not, but before he could decide, Mr. Adair called the class to attention and he made his way to his seat in the back of the room.

“Nicely done,” Tetsurou muttered, and Kei smirked to himself.

~

“You know, I’ve been thinking about it, and I can’t believe you desecrated my nickname just to make Danny jealous,” Tetsurou sighed, shaking his head as he and Kei walked out into the parking lot.

“I was not trying to make him jealous,” Kei said, his jaw dropping a little. “I wanted him to leave us alone!”

“Mmhmm,” Tetsurou hummed, lacking just enough sincerity to make it clear he didn’t believe Kei at all.

“Also, ‘desecrate’?” Kei repeated with a snort. “What, me calling you ‘Tetsu’ is sacred?”

“Absolutely,” Tetsurou insisted.

“You call me nicknames all the time,” Kei snapped. “You almost never call me by my name.”

“It’s a simple explanation,” Tetsurou said with a shrug, digging in his pocket for his keys as they approached his car. “I call you ‘Tsukki’ because it’s adorable. I call you ‘sweetheart’ because you’re adorable.” Tetsurou unlocked the car and waited to continue speaking until they were both inside with the doors closed. “But when I call you ‘Kei’,” he murmured, “it’s all warm and fuzzy and intimate because I don’t call you that very often. Right?”

Kei wanted to disagree and say that Tetsurou was putting too much thought into this, but he couldn’t say he didn’t like the way Tetsurou had murmured his name just now. “I guess,” he mumbled.

“And then with you, you used to call me by my last name, because you’re grumpy and stubborn and refuse to be friendly-”

Wow-”

“-and then slowly but surely you accepted how cute I am, and you started calling me Tetsurou. ‘Tetsurou’ is your ‘sweetheart’.”

“Yeah, he is,” Kei interrupted, just because he couldn’t resist.

Tetsurou immediately started turning pink. “Stop, I am making a point.”

“Continue.”

Tetsurou cleared his throat. “And now every once in a while you call me Tetsu, and that’s what feels all warm and fuzzy and intimate to me.”

Kei just smirked. “So did I ruin it by calling you that just to piss off Hewitt?”

“Only time will tell,” Tetsurou said dramatically, going to start up the car. “Anyway, spill: how was your first day back? What was up with Ms. Odell?”

~

Kei let out a long groan as he shuffled into the living room and flopped down next to Tetsurou, hugging his arm against his chest like it was a teddy bear and burying his face in his shoulder.

Tetsurou chuckled. “Finished calling colleges?”

“Yes,” Kei mumbled. “And I probably sounded extremely stupid because I had no idea what to say, and I’ve been on about ten different hold lines, and all I’ve gotten out of any of them was ‘we’ll get back to you.’”

“It’s a start,” Tetsurou said, kissing the top of his head. “And if it falls through, you can try community college with me. Or you could take a gap year to work and start saving up money. It’s like Ms. Odell told you, this isn’t impossible.”

“Maybe the universe is just trying to tell me not to go to college.”

“Nonsense,” Tetsurou insisted. “You’re gonna go to college and study paleontology so you can become a professional dinosaur nerd, and I’m gonna be so, so proud of you, and everything is gonna be fine.”

Kei just sighed, absentmindedly tracing Tetsurou’s palm before admitting a bit of information he’d left out when he’d told Tetsurou about his meeting with Ms. Odell. “Akiteru paid for my tuition this month.”

Tetsurou hesitated before responding to that. “Are you... okay with that?”

“I’m okay with it,” Kei said with a shrug, “but it’s kind of stupid, isn’t it? How does he know if I’m even still going to school?”

“He’s probably just hoping for the best,” Tetsurou said. “I mean, that’s all you can do when you mess everything up, isn’t it? Just try to fix it and hope for the best?”

Kei didn’t say anything. Tetsurou kissed his head again.

“Think you’ll ever forgive him?”

“Is it stupid that I want to?”

“It’s not stupid at all,” Tetsurou assured him. “I don’t know Akiteru like you do, but I think it says a lot about a person when it’s more important to them to take responsibility for their actions than to beg for forgiveness.”

Kei thought back to what Akiteru had said after he’d gotten kicked out.

“I know what I did was horrible, I know that, and you don’t have to forgive me, but please, let me help you.”

“I’ll think about it,” Kei murmured.

~

The whole week of school ended up feeling like the longest week of Kei’s life. Even if it had just been an ordinary week of school, it had been exhausting. He’d been staying up doing so much homework, staying after school to make up so many quizzes, starting so many scholarship essays, writing so many e-mails and making so many phone calls to different universities... Especially after four weeks of nothing at all, he was suddenly doing everything at once and it was a little much.

Still, it could've been worse. He had Tetsurou by his side the entire time, and when he didn't, he had a messy TWH scribbled somewhere on his skin. That was enough to get by.

“Hey, babe,” Tetsurou said with a grin, nudging Kei in the ribs as he came out of another meeting with Ms. Odell after school on Friday. It was honestly a miracle no one had noticed there was something between the two of them, as Tetsurou had been doing little things like this all week, calling Kei pet names and giving him teasing little touches. “Everything still good?”

“Yup,” Kei said, slipping his hands into his pockets to avoid the temptation to take Tetsurou’s hand. “She was pretty excited when I told her I’ve actually been getting offers for financial aid.”

“Of course she was, it’s really exciting,” Tetsurou insisted.

“Don't get too excited. It’s still not gonna be enough,” Kei pointed out.

“You still have FAFSA. And scholarships. And a job. It’s not impossible yet.”

“That all sounds exhausting,” Kei mumbled.

“Don’t burn out yet,” Tetsurou told him as he held the door open for him and they stepped out of the building. “We have ice cream to get, remember?”

“We’ll go get ice cream, we’ll go back home, and then I’ll crash on the couch and never get up again,” Kei said with a sigh.

Tetsurou bumped his knee against him as they walked. “I’ll let you pick the flavor,” he said with a soft smile.

How did I end up with the most ridiculously supportive boyfriend on the planet?

Maybe because no one else would be willing to put up with me.

~

“Okay, you pick the ice cream,” Tetsurou told him once they stepped inside the grocery store, handing over the coupon he'd found just for this occasion and pulling a wadded up shopping list out of his pocket. “I just have a few things to pick up.”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “We were just here on Sunday,” he pointed out. What could they already be out of? They bought everything in ridiculous amounts of bulk.

Tetsurou hesitated. “My mom’s always writing these lists after work when she’s exhausted,” Tetsurou explained with a halfhearted smile. “I don't know, she forgets things sometimes.”

“Oh.”

Living in Tetsurou's house, he really understood the concern he had for his mom. Tetsurou's mother left so early in the mornings and came back so late at night, Kei almost never saw her around the house. She worked so hard, it was bizarre to think she couldn't always make ends meet.

“Well, make sure whatever you pick fits the coupon!” Tetsurou told him, perking right back up again and turning to head for the opposite end of the store.

“I know, I know,” Kei sighed, wandering off to the frozen food section.

Part of Kei wanted to pick something that had chocolate in it, because he knew that was Tetsurou’s favorite, but as soon as he reached the ice cream aisle, he couldn’t help but gravitate toward strawberry. Did Tetsurou even like strawberry ice cream? Just because he prefers chocolate doesn’t mean he necessarily dislikes strawberry, does it? He likes other strawberry-flavored things, so he would probably like strawberry ice cream, right?

Maybe I should just get neapolitan...

“H-hi, Kei.”

Kei froze, the coupon in his hand slipping through his fingers and fluttering to the floor.

“K-Kei?” the voice repeated, and Kei could see him step closer in his peripheral vision. “Kei, say something.”

Kei looked up, already swallowing back a lump forming in his throat.

“Hey, Akiteru.”

Chapter Text

Everything suddenly felt like it was in slow motion. There were other shoppers around, but they walked passed unnoticed, and Kei felt like he and Akiteru were the only ones there.

“Hey, Akiteru.”

Kei could feel his hands starting to sweat.

Akiteru looked relieved to at least have been addressed and let out a shaky breath, but he still seemed so afraid of talking to Kei, like he was trying to coax a stray animal and one wrong move would send him running the other way. “C-can I talk to you?”

Immediately, the word “no” was at the tip of Kei’s tongue, but a week’s worth of doubt whether or not he should still hate Akiteru made him hesitate. “What are you doing here?” he asked instead.

Akiteru cleared his throat. “I mean, I’m just getting groceries. I had no idea you’d be here.”

Kei just nodded and looked down at the ground, avoiding Akiteru’s gaze. He still wasn’t sure how to feel about all of this, and looking at Akiteru was amplifying every single emotion he was already trying to sort through.

I still don’t know if I forgive him.

I still don’t know if I should forgive him.

I still don’t know if I should even give him the chance to try and make it up to me.

This floor really needs to be mopped.

“You don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to,” Akiteru assured him. “I just figured... It was worth a shot, right-”

“You’re pathetic, you know,” Kei said suddenly, barely letting Akiteru finish his sentence.

Kei didn’t know what expression Akiteru was making, he sounded calm and collected as ever as he responded. “I know.”

“You had no right to do what you did.”

“I know.”

“I trusted you.”

“I know.”

“And you completely betrayed me.”

“I know.”

But I still miss you anyway.

Kei’s hands curled into fists at his side.

I still miss you. And it makes me so angry, because it would be so much easier if I hated you, but I don’t. I can’t. And I don’t know if you deserve another chance, but God, you have no idea how easy it would be for you to make me cave and give you one.

Kei looked up to see Akiteru’s face. He should’ve been angry or defensive or upset, but none of the emotions he’d expected were present. Akiteru’s expression had become as dead and emotionless as Kei had felt for the past five weeks. Something about it almost made Kei laugh.

We really are brothers, aren’t we?

Looking away again, Kei shoved his hands in his pockets. “How come you’re paying my tuition?”

“So you can graduate,” Akiteru said like it was the simplest thing thing in the world.

“I never asked you to do that.”

“I know you didn’t.”

“Shouldn’t you be saving your money?” Kei asked. “With a baby on the way?”

Akiteru shrugged. “It’s not ‘saving money’ to just ignore my brother when all of this is my fault anyway.”

Kei didn’t know what to say to that, so he changed the subject. “What do you want from me, Akiteru?”

“I...” Akiteru hesitated, like he wasn’t sure what to say himself. “I want us to talk again. I want to be able to make sure you’re okay. I want to help you when you need me to. I want you to be on good terms with Lily. I want you to see the baby when she’s born. I-I...” Akiteru’s face twitched a little like he was trying to hold back tears, and he forced himself into a smile to laugh it off. “I just want to make sure I do whatever I can to help fix what I did.”

You already know you’re gonna forgive him, Kei thought to himself. You’re too pathetic to a hold a grudge over Akiteru. You’re too pathetic to say no when you want all those things, too.

You used to have so much control over yourself, and now you can’t even hate the person that ruined your life.

Absolutely pathetic.

“I don’t expect you to forgive me,” Akiteru said quickly, being harder on himself than Kei could bring himself to be anymore. “I wouldn’t blame you if you never forgive me. That’s not what I’m asking. I just... I want to offer you my help. A-and if you want it, there will always be a place for you in my family.”

Kei could feel a lump in his throat building up.

“Tsukki!” Tetsurou called from somewhere behind him. “Did you pick-”

Kei turned to look at him and Tetsurou stopped dead, his eyes widening when he saw who Kei was talking to.

“Hey, Tetsu,” Kei said quietly, and Tetsurou found it in him to move again, stepping closer to stand by Kei’s side.

“Hey, sweetheart,” Tetsurou said as he put a hand protectively on Kei’s shoulder, all the while watching Akiteru with narrowed, suspicious eyes.

Akiteru just gave a sad smile, because he knew he deserved to be glared at like that. “Hi, Tetsurou. How have you been?”

Tetsurou’s hand tightened on Kei’s shoulder as he let out a chuckle. “Do you want the honest answer?” he asked with a smile that made Akiteru take half a step back.

“Tetsu, it’s okay,” Kei murmured. “I want to hear what he has to say.”

“Really?” Tetsurou and Akiteru said in unison.

Kei cleared his throat. “Can we go somewhere else and talk?”

Akiteru quickly nodded. “Yeah, of course! Uh, is my apartment okay?”

“That’s fine.” Kei turned to Tetsurou, a little unsure of what to say. “I guess I’ll see you later then.”

“Are you sure about this?” Tetsurou asked, clearly not liking where this was going.

Kei pulled him into a hug. “It’ll be fine.”

Tetsurou hugged Kei back as tightly as he could, and the sheer strength of it was exactly what Kei needed to feel a little more solid right now. “If anything goes wrong,” Tetsurou murmured, “anything at all, call me and I’ll come get you, okay?”

“I will. I love you.”

Tetsurou pressed a kissed to Kei’s cheek before pulling away. “I love you, too.”

Kei picked up Tetsurou’s coupon off the floor from when he’d dropped it in surprise, putting it back in Tetsurou’s hands. “Pick me something with strawberry in it.”

Tetsurou laughed softly, giving Kei’s hand a squeeze before completely letting him go. “I will.”

~

Kei and Akiteru didn’t speak on the way to Akiteru’s place. Kei felt like he should be anxious, but honestly, the passenger’s seat of Akiteru’s car had never been so comfortable.

From Tetsurou <3:
i caved and got chocolate

To Tetsurou <3:
u dick

From Tetsurou <3:
u still okay?

To Tetsurou <3:
it’s been less than 10 minutes babe

From Tetsurou <3:
i love you

To Tetsurou <3:
i think we say ‘i love you’ too much

From Tetsurou <3:
i honestly don’t say it enough <3

~

Stepping into Akiteru’s apartment, Kei was hit with an overwhelming sense of home. It was so completely familiar, everything from the look of it to the smell of it to the sound of Akiteru kicking off his shoes behind him as he stepped inside. Kei never wanted to leave this room again.

“Is Lily home?” he asked as he slipped off his own shoes.

“Nah, she’s working.”

Kei frowned. “Still that mural at the children’s library?”

“No, that was finished ages ago,” Akiteru said with a chuckle. “The owners of this new Italian restaurant saw the library and asked her to do a mural for them, too.”

“That’s great,” Kei said, taking a seat on Akiteru’s couch and immediately wanting to curl up and take a nap on it. It was a lot comfier than the Kuroos’ couch, and it brought back so many memories of late movie marathons when Akiteru first got the apartment and long conversations from times when they had no one to talk to about things except each other. “I’m glad she’s doing well.”

Akiteru started smiling with that look of unmistakable pride he got whenever he talked about Lily’s work. “She’s trying to get through as many projects as she can before the baby’s born.”

“How much longer until then?”

“The due date is July seventh,” Akiteru said as he sat down next to Kei, leaving a respectable distance between them.

“That’s exciting.” Kei cleared his throat. “I got the picture you sent me, the sonogram.”

Akiteru’s face absolutely lit up, and Kei couldn’t help but smile a little at that. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“‘She’?” Kei repeated. “So it’s a girl?”

“Yeah! Oh, wait, no, I mean... maybe? We don’t really know if she’s a girl yet, do we?” Akiteru said with a nervous laugh. “She’s female, but the gender identity... I mean, that comes later, right?”

Kei just blinked. “What?”

“Sorry, I’m still... I’ve been reading all these websites and pamphlets and things about parenting queer children,” Akiteru explained. “Which, I think I’m allowed to use that word? ‘Queer’? I don’t think it’s considered an insult anymore? Sorry, I don’t know, I could be wrong, this stuff is all still really new to me...” Akiteru started fidgeting with his hands. “I just wanted to be completely prepared, y’know, just in case I need to be. But I mean, there’s actually a lot more to it than I thought... I don’t know, I don’t really have the hang of it all yet.”

“But you’re trying,” Kei said, feeling strangely touched by Akiteru’s efforts to be prepared for this kind of thing before the baby was even born. He even sounded like he already knew a lot more about this kind of stuff than Kei did.

Kei was reminded of what Tetsurou had said. “I think it says a lot about a person when it’s more important to them to take responsibility for their actions than to beg for forgiveness.”

Kei cleared his throat. “You’re gonna be a great dad, Akiteru.”

Akiteru gave a bittersweet smile. “A good dad and a terrible brother.”

Kei winced. “I’m sor-”

“Don’t say you’re sorry,” Akiteru interrupted. “You have no reason to be, you were absolutely right. I was pathetic and stupid and awful and everything you said and worse. I knew, I knew this kind of thing happens to kids, but... I don’t know, I just assumed mom and dad would be better than that, y’know? They were never the type to go out and wave those signs that say ‘God Hates...’ y’know. And I never expected them to just accept it without a second thought, I was never that naive, but... I guess my reasoning was that I wanted to give them a heads up, y’know? So they could learn to accept it by the time you actually came out and everything would just be fine.”

Kei was almost tempted to laugh. “...Wow.”

“Ugh, God, I know it sounds so stupid now!” Akiteru groaned. “I know, I know, I know! I just wanted to prove to you that everything would be okay!”

Kei snorted. “But everything was definitely not okay.”

“I know.” Akiteru buried his face in his hands. “It wasn’t a particularly thought-out plan, it was kind of spur-of-the-moment.”

Kei wasn’t sure why all of this was so funny, but he had to force himself not to grin. “So you outed me... on a whim.”

“Not a whim,” Akiteru countered. “Just... it sounded like a good idea in my head.”

Before Kei could even make a comment, Akiteru was already groaning at himself in frustration.

“Agh, I’m so stupid!” he snapped, moving his hands up to grab fistfuls of his hair in frustration. “God, I don’t even know what to say to you! I can barely even sleep anymore, and I spend all my time awake trying to think of how I can make it up to you and how I could even begin to apologize, and I still have nothing to say for myself! It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done!” Akiteru paused and took a few deep breaths to regain his composure. “I just wanted to believe everything would be okay. I mean, damn, I figured they would accept you, of all people.”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Now it was Akiteru’s turn to laugh. “Jesus, Kei, you’re the baby of the family! I mean, God, you didn’t see yourself as a kid, but you were the cutest thing. Everyone adored you.”

Kei frowned and turned away, because this had quickly gone from amusing to embarrassing.

Nevertheless, Akiteru went on, caught up in nostalgia. “You were a chubby baby, but you grew out of your baby fat fast, God, you were so scrawny, with these ridiculous glasses that were too big for your face, and you always got so excited about everything... I still remember when you first got into dinosaurs, that was an adventure... I mean, don’t get me wrong, you could be as annoying as any other baby brother, but... I have this really clear memory after you were born... I was what, seven? And mom had just come home from the hospital, and they sat me down on the couch and showed me how to hold you and mind your head and everything, and dad just told me, ‘You’re a big brother now, Akiteru. You have to look out for Kei now, you have to protect him. Can you do that?’ And to be honest, I didn’t want to, because you were a baby and the novelty wore off after like a day, and all you did was cry and I thought you were boring... But I warmed up to you eventually. And I told myself I was gonna protect you. It didn’t matter what it was from... teachers, bullies, bad dreams, big dogs... I-I was gonna be the best big brother ever.”

Then Akiteru sniffled.

Kei sat up, eyes widening in horror. “Oh, my God, are you crying?”

“No, give me a minute!” Akiteru snapped, looking away and holding out his hand so Kei couldn’t see him as he tried to take a few breaths and get a hold of himself.

“You’re crying, I cannot believe this.”

I’m not crying.”

“God, your whole speech was embarrassing enough, but now you’re crying. I can’t believe I ever thought you were cool when I was a kid.”

“Shut up!”

“Pathetic.”

Akiteru sniffled again. “I really missed you, y’know.”

Kei looked at him for a moment before scowling and turning away. “God, stop it, you’re gonna make me cry, too.”

“I love you.”

Ugh.

“‘Ugh’?!” Akiteru repeated in horror. “You can say ‘I love you’ to Tetsurou but not your own brother?!”

“This got all gross and emotional,” Kei said, wrinkling his nose and still trying not to cry.

“Kei?”

“What?”

“Do you want to be part of my family?”

Wow, you are really not making this trying-not-to-cry thing any easier.

Kei couldn’t speak, because he felt like if he did, he would completely lose it, so he just nodded.

That just made Akiteru lose it.

Stooop,” Kei complained as Akiteru pulled him into a hug and started crying in his shoulder. God, he’s worse than Tetsurou.

“I’m so sorry, Kei,” Akiteru blubbered.

Kei wasn’t going to admit it, because five weeks felt like it should be too soon to forgive Akiteru for what he’s done, but he really did forgive him. As pathetic as it was, he was desperate to have a family again.

~

A lot of their conversation from there was just normal things, talking about what Akiteru had been up to (when he wasn’t dealing with the insomnia and occasionally-crippling guilt), what Lily had been doing, how things were going preparing for the baby.

“Have you guys started thinking of names?” Kei asked.

“We’re still trying to decide if we want a Japanese name or an English name,” Akiteru said with a sigh, indicating that they’d probably been deciding on this for a long time.

“Please, whatever you pick, make it easy for other people to figure out how to say it,” Kei said with a sigh. “I have been called ‘Key’ by teachers so many goddamn times...”

Akiteru grinned. “Will do. Which do you think is better, though, Japanese first name and English middle name or the other way around?”

Kei shrugged. “Depends what those names are.”

“Ugh, you are no help at all!”

Kei couldn’t help but smile. It was nice how after just a few hours of talking, Akiteru wasn’t walking on eggshells around him anymore. “Just start thinking of names and put them in random combinations,” Kei told him. “It’s not that hard.”

“But we also don’t know how much she’s going to look like either parent!” Akiteru pointed out. “What if she looks exactly like Lily and we give her a name like ‘Miki Tsukishima’ when she doesn’t even look Japanese?”

Kei just shrugged again. “I think ‘Miki’ sounds nice.”

“Again. No help at all.”

“She’s your kid, Akiteru,” Kei said with a sigh. “You get to name her. It’s not my job.”

Akiteru just sighed. Then, after a moment, he spoke up again. “Really, you like ‘Miki’?”

“It’s alright.”

“Is it just alright or is it good?”

“I like it.”

Akiteru nodded. “Okay. I’ll keep it in mind.”

Kei looked back towards the extra room in Akiteru’s apartment that he could only guess was going to be converted to a nursery. “Have you decided what color to paint her room yet?”

“Oh, God, don’t bring it up,” Akiteru groaned, burying his face in his hands. “That’s even worse than names.”

Kei just grinned and shook his head.

Yeah. He’s gonna be a good dad.

~

Tetsurou was sitting out on his porch and waiting for Kei when Akiteru dropped him off back at Tetsurou’s house.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he said, looking relieved to see Kei as he pulled him into a bone-crushing hug. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Kei assured him, and for the first time in a long time, he felt like he was really telling the truth.

“Hey, this Friday,” Akiteru said as Tetsurou let go of Kei and let him breathe. “Why don’t you two come over, Lily and I can cook, and we’ll have a family dinner.”

“So even after everything that’s happened, I’m still stuck going to family dinners,” Kei sighed.

Akiteru laughed. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“We’ll definitely come,” Kei assured him.

Akiteru gave him a quick hug. “Text me, we’ll work out the details later. Oh, your phone still works, right? I tried calling you a couple times-”

“I noticed,” Kei said with a smirk, thinking of Akiteru’s mountain of missed calls.

“Oh, good, I was hoping you were just ignoring me,” Akiteru said with surprising sincerity. “I was afraid something had gone wrong with the payment and I was gonna have to call the phone company.”

Kei’s shoulders slumped. “Wait, you paid my phone bill, too?”

“Of course.”

Kei sighed. Right. Of course. “I’ll talk to you later,” he said, heading for Tetsurou’s front door.

“Oh, uh, Tetsurou, can I talk to you for a minute?” Akiteru asked suddenly.

Kei stopped, turning to look at the both of them in surprise.

Akiteru cleared his throat. “Alone?”

Kei hesitated. He didn’t like the idea of the two of them talking when he wasn’t around to hear what they were saying.

“Tsukki, it’s fine,” Tetsurou assured him.

Kei just nodded and went inside. He tried to eavesdrop through the front door, but he couldn’t hear anything they were saying.

They were only talking for about ten minutes, so Kei wasn’t kept waiting for long, but Kei didn’t feel any less stressed when Tetsurou finally came inside.

“What did you talk about?” Kei asked immediately.

Tetsurou just gave him a quick kiss. “I lied earlier, I did get you strawberry.”

Kei scowled. “What did you talk about?”

“You realize Akiteru wanted to talk to me alone because he wanted to keep it private, right?”

Tetsu...” Kei whined.

“Oh, no, you are not using ‘Tetsu’ against me,” Tetsurou insisted. “You know I’m weak to that, that’s just unfair.”

“Tetsurou, c’mon, give me a brief summary,” Kei said with a sigh.

Tetsurou rubbed the back of his neck. “Uh... Well, most of it, he just wanted to check in on how I was doing, and making sure that if you and him were trying to make up, that I would be okay with him, too.”

“And are you?”

“Yeah, if you are.” Tetsurou kissed his forehead. “I trust your opinion.”

“What else?”

Tetsurou hesitated. “He, uh, offered to pay for some things.”

“What kind of things?”

“Kei, he really didn’t want-”

“Tetsu, tell me,” Kei insisted.

Tetsurou sighed. “He just wants to cover your expenses.”

“Why is he keeping that secret?”

“I think he just doesn’t want you to reject his help. I mean, he’s paying your tuition, your phone bill, your living expenses... It’s kind of a lot.”

Kei winced, because it really was a lot. It was better having Akiteru was paying for things over Tetsurou’s mother, but he still didn’t like it. “I really need to get a job,” he mumbled. “Is that all you guys talked about?”

“He wanted to know how you’re doing.”

“I already told him how I was doing.”

Tetsurou smiled softly. “He wanted to know how you’re really doing.”

“What did you tell him?”

Tetsurou leaned his forehead against Kei’s. “I told him it wasn’t my place to say anything more than what you’d already told him.”

Kei pulled Tetsurou into a hug. “Thanks.”

“Of course,” Tetsurou said, squeezing Kei tightly and nuzzling his face against Kei’s shoulder. “I know you weren’t gone that long, but I missed you.”

Kei wanted to tell him he was being ridiculous, as usual, but Tetsurou had really nice hugs and it was making it difficult to think, so Kei just took a deep breath and leaned into him.

“So everything went okay with Akiteru?”

“Mmhmm,” Kei hummed. “Really well.”

“That’s great, sweetheart,” Tetsurou said, pressing a kiss to Kei’s shoulder. Kei took another deep breath, because it hadn’t felt this good to be smothered in affection in a long time.

But then Tetsurou pulled away. “Want that ice cream?” he asked.

“I’m not really in the mood for ice cream,” Kei admitted.

“What are you in the mood for then?”

Kei put his hands on Tetsurou’s shoulders and kissed him. Tetsurou’s arms went around Kei’s waist like it was second nature, pulling him closer and kissing back with this devastating softness that made Kei feel weak. Yeah, this is definitely what I’m in the mood for...

Tetsurou pulled away just enough to speak. “I think I’m in the mood for that, too.”

And with that, Tetsurou took Kei’s hand and led him back to Tetsurou’s room. He closed the door behind them as Kei sat down on his mattress.

“Going straight for the bed, huh?” Tetsurou teased.

“Tetsu, we literally sleep together every night,” Kei said, rolling his eyes. “We used to make out on my bed for hours every day after school. This isn’t new.”

“God, that seems like it was forever ago, doesn’t it?” Tetsurou asked with a chuckled as he sat down next to Kei.

“It really does,” Kei sighed.

“Well, we could always make out on my bed for a few hours,” Tetsurou offered.

Kei looked away, because no matter how comfortable he was around Tetsurou, some things still embarrassed him. “We could do something more than kissing if you want.”

“Really?”

“It’s been a while,” Kei said with a shrug, trying to be casual but he could feel his face warming up anyway.

Tetsurou started kissing his neck. “How much more than kissing do you want?”

Kei opened his mouth to speak, because he would like to just be open and honest and casual about this, but he can’t admit that he just wants to get off.

Luckily, Tetsurou doesn’t make him say it all himself. “Can I touch you?”

God, does his mouth feel good... “Yeah.”

“Over your clothes or under?”

“U-under.”

“Can I take your clothes off?”

Kei’s face was burning red at this point. “Y-yeah.”

Tetsurou cupped the other side of Kei’s neck to pull Kei closer as he continued pressing kisses from underneath Kei’s jaw down to where his neck met his shoulder. “Do you want to touch me?”

Please. “Yeah.”

“Can I get both of us off together?”

Please, please, please. “S-sure.” The anticipation felt it was killing him at this point.

Tetsurou turned Kei’s head toward him and kissed his mouth, using his free hand to slip off Kei’s glasses for him. He broke away just long enough to set Kei’s glasses somewhere safe, and when he leaned in again, Kei wrapped his arms around his neck and kissed him again, leaning back onto the mattress and pulling Tetsurou down on top of him, and it felt so good to be like this again. Kei had missed the heavy breathing and the clumsiness and rush of heat that came with every move Tetsurou made.

Tetsurou was just starting to slip his hands under Kei’s shirt when they heard the front door opening and Tetsurou’s mom calling out, “Tetsu, I’m home!”

Both of them immediately let out groans, Kei letting his arms fall at his sides and Tetsurou dropping his head against Kei’s shoulder in frustration.

“Can’t we just keep going?” Kei asked quietly.

“With how loud you are?” Tetsurou asked with a laugh.

“Shut up,” Kei grumbled, sitting up and pushing Tetsurou off of him.

“We can do it tomorrow after my mom goes back to work,” Tetsurou offered, handing Kei his glasses back.

“Ugh, but that’s so far away,” Kei complained as he slipped his glasses back up his nose.

“Yeah,” Tetsurou side with a sigh. He cupped Kei’s face in his hands and gave him a few gentle kisses. “But you’re worth the wait.”

Kei just pouted. I keep him waiting a lot, don’t I?

Not even just for little things like this. The first few weeks Kei was staying with Tetsurou, he kept Tetsurou waiting so long just to be functional. Thinking back to how desperate Tetsurou had been to have him back just made his chest ache.

We were just kissing, why am I thinking about this now?

Kei thought about how he’d even kept Tetsurou waiting way back when he was trying to come to grips with the fact that he was attracted to boys, but then he realized he didn’t actually know how long Tetsurou had been waiting for that. Maybe Tetsurou hadn’t been waiting long at all. Maybe Tetsurou didn’t even like him until their date and Kei had liked him first.

God, that would be embarrassing...

“How long did you like me before we got together?” Kei asked.

It probably seemed like a random question to Tetsurou, but he just smiled a little as he thought back and tried to remember. “I mean... I guess I’ve been attracted to you since we first met, but actually having a crush on you... I don’t know, I was in denial about it for a while because I was afraid of liking another straight boy.”

Kei didn’t know which part to laugh at: that Tetsurou wanted to talk about being in denial, or “straight.”

“I honestly think it was after I rickrolled you,” Tetsurou said with a shrug.

“We’re breaking up.”

Tetsurou immediately burst out laughing. “Wait, Tsukki-”

“You first realized you liked me after rickrolling me?” Kei snapped, playing it like he was annoyed even though he was pretty amused.

“Wait, wait, wait, it was more like the day after,” Tetsurou said quickly, trying to hold back his laughter. “You remember, when I said that line to Mr. Adair? And you were trying so hard not to laugh, and God, you were just the cutest thing I’d ever seen, I just wanted you to be mine so bad...”

“Well, congratulations,” Kei grumbled, still unsure how Tetsurou could treat him like he was such a prize when he was just... him. If anything, Kei was the one who had lucked out getting to be with Tetsurou, not the other way around.

Tetsurou just grinned victoriously and kissed Kei again.

I seriously don’t get it. “Out of curiosity, why did you start talking to me in the first place?”

“Because you were cute.”

Kei rolled his eyes. “No, seriously.”

“That’s seriously the reason. I thought you were cute.”

“But... you were so persistent. You were seriously trying that hard to be friends with me because you thought I was cute?”

“It’s like...” Tetsurou took a moment to think of how to explain it. “I sat down next to you, and I thought you were cute, so I tried to introduce myself. And you were kind of mean, but I still thought you were cool. But I really wanted to be friends with you because you were the first person I talked to from school that seemed normal.”

Kei actually started laughing. Being called “cute” was ridiculous, being called “cool” was complete nonsense, but being called “normal” was absolutely laughable. “You thought I was normal?”

“You felt like a real person,” Tetsurou insisted, grinning back at him. “So many other people I’d met so far gave off this weird brainwashed vibe, but you were... you. I liked it. I felt like we could get along.”

“As evidenced by the fact that I acted like I hated you and us bickering constantly.”

“I like the bickering,” Tetsurou insisted. “C’mon, after all this time, you still need me to convince you that I just liked you?”

“I believe that you liked me,” Kei contended, “but I just think your logic was faulty.”

“Maybe it was just instinct,” Tetsurou said with a grin. “I just knew you would end up being the cutest, smartest, cleverest, funniest, sweetest boy I’ve ever met.”

Kei blushed and looked away, not only because it was such a huge compliment but also because Kei was absolutely none of those things (except maybe smart, and even then he was only a little above average).

Before Kei could say anything, there was a knock at the door from Tetsurou’s mom. “Tetsu?”

Kei and Tetsurou scooted away from each other, leaving some visible space. “Yeah?” Tetsurou called back.

She opened the door. "There you boys are. How was school?”

“Fine,” the two of them said dully in unison.

“Right. Do you want to order pizza? One of the other gals from work gave me an extra coupon.”

Tetsurou gave an enthusiastic “yes” while Kei just wondered if anything in this house was ever purchased without a coupon.

~

After pizza, Kei and Tetsurou finally had their ice cream, and Kei enjoyed his first night this week that wasn’t burdened with hours upon hours of homework and make-up assignments, just leaning against Tetsurou on the couch while they watched some shitty TV.

They went to bed sometime around midnight, cuddling up and sharing a few kisses before murmuring quiet “goodnight”s to each other. Tetsurou closed his eyes to try to sleep, but Kei just stayed up a little longer, watching him.

Kei actually felt really good about everything that had happened today. He was going to have Akiteru back. Things felt really good with Tetsurou again. Ms. Odell was helping him plan for college. At this rate, things were going to be back to some level of normal. Kei had something to lean back on, something to look forward to, he had support, and things finally felt like they weren’t completely falling apart anymore.

I think I’m actually gonna be okay, Kei thought to himself as he snuggled up closer to Tetsurou. Tetsurou must’ve still been awake, as he let out a soft, sleepy groan and wrapped his arms tighter around Kei.

As long as Tetsu’s here, I think I’ll be okay.

Chapter Text

Kei was woken up the next morning to his phone ringing.

“Fuuuuck,” Tetsurou groaned sleepily, pulling Kei tightly against him and nuzzling his face against his shoulder. “Make it stop.”

“I can’t make it stop if I can’t grab my phone,” Kei grumbled back, struggling to pull away from Tetsurou to reach far enough to grab his phone. “Tetsu, c’mon...”

Finally, Kei grabbed his phone and squinted through his blurry vision to read the caller ID.

Calling: Akiteru

Kei groaned as he brought the phone to his ear and accepted the call. “Akiteru, it’s nine in the morning on a Saturday-”

“I got you a job!”

What?” Kei asked, starting to sit up in excitement until he remembered that the job Akiteru was looking into for him was an internship in his office. He flopped back against Tetsurou and rubbed his eyes. “Akiteru, I don’t want to work in your office-”

“No, no, no, not with me,” Akiteru quickly clarified. “At Kiss Me Cake!”

Kei paused a moment to see if it would start ringing any bells, but it didn’t. “Uh, where?”

“The bakery where we got my wedding cake? Y’know, with Jen! She had someone quit recently so she’s hiring, but if you want it, the job’s yours! She’s not making you interview or anything.”

“W-wait,” Kei said quickly. “I don’t know how to bake-”

“You don’t have to! You’ll mostly just be taking orders and stuff.”

Taking orders and stuff. Kei could do that. Kei could really, actually do that... And he wouldn’t have to go job hunting or go through applications or interviews or anything...

“You would just be making a little over minimum wage, but-”

“I’ll do it,” Kei interrupted.

“Really? Great! I’ll call Jen back and tell her.”

“And that’s it?” Kei asked, because it almost sounded too good to be true. “I have a job now?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Akiteru laughed. “She’ll probably call you sometime today or tomorrow to give you more details.”

“Okay, awesome.” Kei cleared his throat. “Is that it?”

“Yup. Still want to come over for dinner on Friday?”

Kei pulled his phone away from his ear. “Hey, Tetsu, you still want to have dinner at my brother’s on Friday?”

“Yeah, sure,” Tetsurou mumbled sleepily. His eyes had closed again at some point during the conversation.

Kei just smirked at him as he went back to talking to Akiteru. “Yeah, we’ll be there,” he said, absentmindedly playing with Tetsurou’s hair.

“Wait, didn’t I just wake you up?”

“Yeah.”

Kei could hear Akiteru narrowing his eyes suspiciously. “Are you two sharing a bed?”

Baby,” Kei coughed.

“C’mon, Kei, Lily and I had been dating for years,” Akiteru pointed out. “You guys have been together, what, five months?”

“It feels like it’s been years...” Kei grumbled.

“Kei, I’m serious. Just, don’t rush things, okay?”

“I’m not,” Kei assured him.

“Are you sure?”

“Are you really lecturing me about this?” Kei groaned, nuzzling his face against Tetsurou. It’s too early for this.

“Hey, of the two of us, who has more relationship experience?” Akiteru countered. “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

Kei held back a snort, because the idea of Tetsurou hurting him was almost laughable. “I’ll be fine, Akiteru.”

“But-”

“Akiteru, can I please just go back to sleep?” Kei interrupted. “It’s early.”

“It’s nine-thirty.”

It’s early.”

Akiteru sighed. “Fine, go back to sleep. Just think about what I said, okay?”

“I will. I’ll talk to you later. And thank you,” Kei added quickly, “y’know, for finding me a job.”

“Of course. I’ll see you Friday.”

“Bye.” Kei hung up the phone and practically tossed it away from him.

“Good news?” Tetsurou asked with a yawn.

Kei just gave him a look. “Did you miss that entire conversation?”

“Little bit,” Tetsurou mumbled.

Kei sighed. “My brother got me a job.”

Tetsurou’s eyes opened wider. “Really? Kei, that’s great!”

Kei gave a soft smile. “I-I guess.” It was a huge relief to know it would be with Jen, someone he already kind of knew, and doing something that sounded straightforward... But at the same time, the idea of starting a job was terrifying.

Still, leave it to Tetsurou to immediately push his worries out of his mind. “Really, sweetheart, I’m happy for you!” he insisted, pressing a few sleepy kisses to Kei’s neck before pulling back and propping himself up on his elbow to look down at Kei. “Where’s the job?”

“With an old friend of Lily’s at a bakery,” Kei explained as he reached up to brush a loose eyelash from Tetsurou’s cheek. “She made Akiteru’s wedding cake.”

“You, working at a bakery?” Tetsurou chuckled. “Sounds like it was meant to be.”

Kei smirked back at him. “Shut up.”

Tetsurou leaned down and kissed him. “It’s perfect. Do you know when you start?”

“Not yet. Jen - Lily’s friend, my new boss, I guess - she’s gonna call me later today or tomorrow.”

Tetsurou just gave a nod before kissing Kei again. Kei sighed and wrapped his arms around Tetsurou’s neck, pulling him down on top of him.

“Hey, Tsukki,” Tetsurou mumbled between kisses.

“Hmm?”

“My mom’s not home anymore,” he pointed out.

Kei smirked. He’d almost forgotten about getting interrupted last night. “Have any ideas?” he asked. Don’t blush. Don’t blush. You can be cool about this for once in your life. Don’t. Blush.

Tetsurou raised his eyebrows a little, like he didn’t expect to get this far. “Well-”

“Because I do,” Kei admitted.

Tetsurou raised his eyebrows a lot. “Oh, yeah?”

Kei cleared his throat. This was probably the longest he’d ever talked about this sort of thing without turning red. “You remember what you suggested earlier this week?”

Kei paused, waiting to see if Tetsurou could get it himself before Kei went on, but he didn’t.

“Y’know...”

Tetsurou still didn’t know. Kei’s face finally started to turn pink.

Showering?”

Oh,” Tetsurou said quickly. “Oh, wow, uh, yeah, okay.”

Adorable. “You want to?” Kei asked for confirmation, smiling a little.

“Definitely,” Tetsurou assured him as he pressed a kiss to Kei’s neck.

Kei got out from under Tetsurou and got out of bed, taking Tetsurou’s hand in his and pulling him up to his feet too. “C’mon, then.”

In all the time Kei had known him, Tetsurou had never gotten out of bed so fast.

After hurrying across the hall and locking the bathroom door behind them, Tetsurou turned on the shower to let the water start heating up as he and Kei undressed. It suddenly occurred to Kei after he’d taken off his shirt and was going for his pajama pants that he’d never actually seen Tetsurou completely naked before, and Tetsurou hadn’t really seen him, either.

Kei glanced over at Tetsurou; he looked a little fuzzy, as Kei hadn’t put on his glasses today, but he could still clearly see that Tetsurou was down to his underwear, and Kei felt like his body temperature raised about ten degrees. He looked back down as he finished undressing himself, hesitating a little before pushing down his underwear, and when he straightened up, Tetsurou stepped closer and took Kei’s hands gently in his.

“You still good?” he asked.

Kei was extremely distracted by how much skin Tetsurou had.

“Kei?”

“I’m fine,” Kei squeaked out.

Tetsurou grinned and leaned in for a kiss, and Kei was a little amazed that even though they were both naked and about to take a shower together, Tetsurou managed to make this feel as sappy and romantic as any other kiss they’d shared. Tetsurou took a step back, guiding Kei back with him under the running water, and Kei’s heart was pounding with the building anticipation...

Until Kei forgot to step over the edge of the bath, tripping and falling against Tetsurou and practically slamming him against the shower wall.

“Are you okay?” they both asked each other at the same time, Tetsurou keeping his arms tight around Kei to keep him upright and Kei clinging to Tetsurou’s shoulders so he didn’t fall.

“Shit, I’m sorry-”

“Babe, you’re fine,” Tetsurou laughed. He didn’t let go of Kei until he was sure that Kei had his balance back.

Kei felt like he should be embarrassed about that, but he was honestly trying not to laugh, too. “Did I just completely ruin the mood?”

Tetsurou’s smile went wide. “Not in the slightest.”

“Good,” Kei said, pushing Tetsurou’s wet bangs out of his eyes and off of his forehead. Tetsurou cupped Kei’s face in his hands and went back to kissing, and the reality of what they were doing sunk in again. Kei’s head was clouding up with steam, and all his thoughts could focus on was everywhere that Kei was in contact with Tetsurou. Tetsurou just had so much bare skin, and as Kei leaned into Tetsurou’s kiss, he lifted his hands to start touching him, moving his hands over the smooth skin of Tetsurou’s chest, down to his stomach-

“Wait,” Tetsurou said quickly, backing away so that the only place they were touching was Tetsurou’s hands on to Kei’s shoulders. “D-don’t...”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “What, are you ticklish?”

“N-not really, I just... don’t want you to touch my stomach.”

Now Kei laughed a little. “You’re self-conscious about your stomach?”

Tetsurou frowned. “Why’s that funny?”

“It’s not! It’s just...” Kei moved his hands to Tetsurou’s hips, if he wasn’t allowed to touch his stomach. “I don’t know, you have no reason to be. I love your stomach.” Kei liked that it was a little pudgy, and it just made Tetsurou soft.

Tetsurou turned pink, which just made Kei smile more. He leaned in and started pressing kisses to Tetsurou’s neck.

“I love everything about you,” Kei insisted.

“Kei...”

Kei was actually really liking this whole kissing-away-your-insecurities thing. Is this how Tetsurou feels all the time? he wondered as he pulled back to look Tetsurou in the eye, resting their foreheads together. “I mean it, I love everything about you.”

Now Tetsurou was perfectly red, but he gave a smile back. “When did you get so sappy?”

“Oh, God, are you contagious?”

Tetsurou just grinned and started kissing Kei again, and it all moved into something languid and easy and familiar from long afternoons spent on Kei’s bed doing this. Only, now it was combined with a shower, and the heat and the wetness and the distinct lack of clothing was making Kei’s head spin. Kei pulled Tetsurou’s hips closer to his, and the contact sent a flood of heat rushing through his body.

“Hey, Kei,” Tetsurou interrupted after a while. Kei was in love with the breathlessness in his voice. “How far exactly are we going here?”

“Maybe what we said last night?” Kei suggested. “W-with you getting both of us off?”

“If that’s what you want,” Tetsurou said, leaning in for more kissing until Kei put his fingers on Tetsurou’s lips to hold him back.

“Is that what you want?”

Tetsurou put his hand over Kei’s and started kissing Kei’s fingers. “Absolutely.”

“O-okay,” Kei said, caught a little off guard by how surprisingly intimate and sensual it felt for Tetsurou to kiss his fingers in this context. “Just checking.”

Tetsurou just grinned and went back to kissing Kei’s lips.

Kei didn’t even have to start touching Tetsurou’s dick to get him fully hard (“You really are easy to work up in the mornings, aren’t you?” Kei had teased. “Shut up,” Tetsurou had responded with a grin), and after Tetsurou’s hand had brought Kei to the same point, Tetsurou wrapped his fingers around both of their cocks and starting pumping them together. Immediately, Kei was already choking back moans against Tetsurou’s shoulder.

“No one’s here except us,” Tetsurou murmured, giving an airy laugh through his heavy breathing. “You can be as loud as you want.”

“Shu- ah... sh-shut up...” Kei said shortly before Tetsurou started sucking a kiss onto his neck and Kei let out a horrifically loud moan.

“God, I love you so much,” Tetsurou breathed, his free hand moving down Kei’s back and grabbing his ass.

“T-Tetsu...” Kei gasped, sinking his fingernails into Tetsurou’s skin. He leaned his head back, wanting Tetsurou to keep kissing his neck, but Tetsurou just leaned his head against Kei’s shoulder, letting out a soft groan as he tightened his grip around their cocks. Kei shuddered, it all felt so, so good, but having Tetsurou’s mouth on his neck would just make this. “Tetsu, please...”

“What do you want?” Tetsurou asked, turned his face to press a kiss to Kei’s shoulder.

“Th-that,” Kei said quickly. “Keep kissing me... p-please...”

Tetsurou did as Kei asked, and his tongue and teeth and lips on the wet skin of Kei’s neck made Kei’s knees go weak. Kei moved one his hands up to the back of Tetsurou’s head, threading his fingers through his hair and pulling him closer.

“You sound so pretty when you beg,” Tetsurou mumbled with an airy laugh.

Kei took that to mean Tetsurou wanted him to keep doing it, and he was too blissed out right now to be embarrassed about it. “Please... Tetsu...”

Tetsurou moved his hand faster and started sucking on Kei’s skin, but after a moment of silence from Kei, he slowed down and started being gentler than Kei wanted him to be right now.

“Tetsu, please,” Kei repeated, and Tetsurou responded in kind, which just made Kei beg more. “P-please... Tetsu, I want you so much...”

Tetsurou sank his teeth into Kei’s skin, and Kei almost came right then and there, God, why did that feel so good? Kei let out a needy, pathetic whine as he tightened his hold on Tetsurou and inadvertently pulled his hair, and for once, Tetsurou let out a moan of his own, deeper and breathier than Kei’s but just as desperate.

“Was that good?” Kei asked, smirking as he barely tugged against Tetsurou’s scalp and made Tetsurou’s breath catch.

“You can’t tease me about that when you apparently like biting,” Tetsurou said back with a grin. He leaned in to kiss Kei’s lips, open-mouthed and messy but so good with what he was doing with his hand. Kei jerked his hips up into Tetsurou’s hand, and the friction, the feeling of himself against Tetsurou’s cock, the tightness of Tetsu’s grip, was just too much, and Kei tipped over the edge, coming with a breathy whine and splattering Tetsurou’s hand and chest with cum. Tetsurou came quickly after, and they just stood clinging to each other, both sweating, panting messes under the hot water of the shower.

“Well,” Tetsurou said with a long exhale once they’d started getting a hold of themselves. “That was nice.”

Kei smiled and pressed a chaste kiss to Tetsurou’s lips. “I actually do need to take a shower, though.”

“Alright.”

Kei waited for him to get of the shower, but after rinsing off his hand under the running water, he just stood there and didn’t move a muscle.

“What are you doing?” Kei asked with a laugh, giving him a gentle shove. “Get out.”

“What, you let me touch you and see you naked, but washing your hair is where you draw the line?” Tetsurou said with a grin, reaching past Kei to grab a shampoo bottle from the other end of the shower and squirting some into his hand.

“Tetsu-”

“Close your eyes,” Tetsurou told him as he started massaging shampoo onto Kei’s scalp. “I don’t want to get soap in your eyes.”

Kei closed one eye and left the other open to watch the concentrated look on Tetsurou’s face as he worked the shampoo to a lather in Kei’s hair.

After a moment, Tetsurou noticed that Kei hadn’t followed his instructions and stopped. “Kei,” he laughed. “Both eyes, c’mon.”

Kei opened both eyes.

“You’re so stubborn,” Tetsurou groaned as he smiled, taking Kei’s head in his soapy hands and pulling him in for a series of quick kisses.

And with Kei’s eyes fallen closed from the kisses, Tetsurou went back to washing Kei’s hair.

Adorable, Kei thought to himself as Tetsurou guided him toward the shower head to rinse his hair. Completely, ridiculously adorable.

~

“Hey, Kei.”

Kei took a break from towel drying his hair to look up. “Mm?”

“Look at this,” Tetsurou said, standing with a towel around his hips and his arms crossed over his chest as he stared back into the shower.

“I can’t look at anything, I don’t have my glasses.” Kei pointed out.

“You don’t need ‘em for this, just come look.”

Kei stepped closer, leaning his head against Tetsurou’s shoulder that was still so soft from steam as he looked up at what Tetsurou was looking at.

A giant dent in the wall of the shower from where Kei had body-slammed him.

Christ, how didn’t we notice that before?

“Oops.”

“What am I supposed to tell my mom?” Tetsurou groaned, leaning his head against Kei’s and putting his arm around his shoulders.

“Not the truth,” Kei suggested.

Tetsurou just chuckled and kissed the top of Kei’s head. “Not the truth.”

~

Wednesday after school was Kei’s first day of work.

“You have it mapped out on your phone, right?” Tetsurou asked as he started up his car.

“Yup,” Kei squeaked out.

Tetsurou laughed. “Tsukki, you don’t have to be so nervous. You know Jen, don’t you?”

“I met her once when we went cake-tasting for Akiteru’s wedding.”

“Well, that’s better than most people know their bosses when they start,” Tetsurou said. “C’mon, she knows your situation, she’s on your side, she wants you to succeed.”

“We don’t know that.”

Tetsurou just sighed, grinning and shaking his head at Kei before taking one of his hands. “You’re gonna be fine, babe,” Tetsurou assured him. “Do I need to write on your hand?”

Kei hesitated, but nodded.

Tetsurou dug out a pen and scrawled out another TWH on Kei’s palm. Kei wanted to point out that he’d forgotten to kiss it first, like he always did, but... that would’ve been really, really pathetic.

Once Kei was properly inked up, Tetsurou pulled out of Willow Creek’s parking lot and followed Kei’s directions to Jen’s bakery, Kiss Me Cake. It was about a fifteen minute drive, but it went by way too quickly. Kei felt like he needed at least an hour to mentally prepare. Perhaps even a year.

“Your shift ends at seven, right?” Tetsurou asked as he pulled into a parking space.

“Six-thirty,” Kei corrected quickly.

Tetsurou smiled. “Six-thirty, then,” he confirmed, leaning over to press a kiss to Kei’s cheek. “Babe, relax. Everything is gonna be okay, and if something goes wrong, I’m just a phone call away.”

Kei took a deep breath and pulled Tetsurou in for a proper kiss on the lips, because this was not a kiss-on-the-cheek kind of situation.

“I love you,” Tetsurou reminded Kei once they parted.

“I love you, too,” Kei sighed as he got out of the car.

A little bell above the door rang as Kei stepped into the bakery, and Jen was at the counter waiting for him.

“Kei!” she said excitedly, quickly walking around the counter to greet him. “Oh, how are you with personal space? Wanna ask that before I start hugging you.”

Kei hesitated. “I, uh, would rather you didn’t.”

“Whatever you say,” she said with a renewed smile, holding out her hand for Kei to shake. “I’m glad you took the job! It’s a relief to have someone like you step in so I don’t have to go through applications and interviews and blah, blah, blah... I was really dreading that until Akiteru told me you were looking for a job. Great timing, huh?”

Kei just cleared his throat, feeling like he really, really didn’t know what to say. “Yeah.”

“Well, I guess I’ll show you around! Oh, wait, one thing...” She went back behind the counter, pulled something out of a drawer, and held it behind her back. “Can’t start a job without a uniform, right?”

Kei’s stomach immediately sank. “Uh...”

Jen then grandly presented the candy pink T-shirt she had behind her back, singing out a loud, “Ta-da!”

Oh, thank God, Kei thought to himself. A T-shirt he could handle. He’d been thinking striped polos and black slacks and stupid-looking hats.

“Sorry it’s pink,” she said, wincing a little, “but y’know, it’s my color.”

“I don’t mind,” Kei told her, taking the shirt and tracing his fingers over the big Kiss Me Cake! written in a curly, cursive font. Pink was easy on the eyes. He’d take this over something neon any day. He flipped the shirt over and saw it had Rush Up Your Cakes, Dear printed in black letters.

“Is this the slogan?”

“Yes, and exactly zero people have understood the reference, but that’s fine,” Jen said with a sigh. Kei didn’t understand the reference either, but he didn’t ask. “Alright, now you get the grand tour.”

With a deep breath, Kei went behind the counter with Jen and followed her back into the kitchen. It felt like he wasn’t supposed to be back here, but the longer he was with Jen, the more he was relaxing. She wasn’t scary, the job wasn’t so scary, and he didn’t even have an ugly uniform. This would be okay.

Even so, throughout Jen teaching what he needed to do, he found himself digging his nails into the TWH on his palm every now and then.

Kei wasn’t sure when exactly Tetsurou had replaced music in terms of calming him down when he needed it.

~

Friday after work, Tetsurou picked up Kei from the bakery so they could go straight to Akiteru’s for dinner.

“You look so cute in pink,” Tetsurou said as Kei got into the car, greeting him with a kiss.

“Are you going to say this every time you pick me up from work?” Kei asked, looking away to close his door and hide a smile.

“I’ll stop saying it when you stop looking so cute in pink,” Tetsurou told him, looking over his shoulder to pull out of his parking space. “How was work?”

“It was fine, but there was this one customer...”

Tetsurou grinned. “Oh?”

“I’ll tell you when we get to Akiteru’s,” Kei explained, tugging his work shirt over his head and tossing it in the back before reaching for the clean, non-cakey shirt Tetsurou had brought with him.

“I’m proud of you, y’know,” Tetsurou said as he pulled out onto the road. “Finishing your first week of work. It’s exciting.”

“It wasn’t even a week, it was three days,” Kei pointed out.

Tetsurou took Kei’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Still proud,” he said with a smile.

Kei reached up with his free hand to push Tetsurou’s face back toward the road. “How many times do I have to tell you not to be sappy while you’re driving? Look where you’re going.”

“You’re the one not wearing a shirt. It’s awfully distracting.”

Kei just ripped his hand from Tetsurou’s grip so he could put on the clean shirt. “Yeah, you’re not making that process go any faster.”

“So you’ve seen through my plan.”

Kei just rolled his eyes at him and tried to get a look at his shoulder before he pulled the shirt over his head. “Has the hickey faded at all?”

Tetsurou glanced over. “A little?”

Ugh,” Kei groaned, tugging on the shirt and keeping the proof of Saturday morning’s shower hidden. “You left such a big one, too.”

“If I recall correctly, you wanted me to.”

“I wanted the kissing, I didn’t ask for a hickey,” Kei countered, even if he secretly really, really, really liked it.

“Well, if you ever want more, all you have to do is ask.”

Kei narrowed his eyes. “Kissing or hickeys?”

“Whatever you want.”

~

“Are you sure I don’t look like we were just making out in your car?” Kei grumbled as they stepped into the elevator of Akiteru’s apartment building.

Tetsurou looked at him a moment before fixing a few things, straightening out Kei’s shirt, smoothing out his hair. “You’re good. How about me?”

Kei ran his fingers through Tetsurou’s hair a few times like he was trying to fix it. “Nope, it’s a lost cause.”

Rude!” Tetsurou said with a laugh, reaching out to ruffle up Kei’s hair again.

~

From the moment Kei stepped into Akiteru’s apartment, he could tell Akiteru was acting funny. His smile was exaggerated, there was something off about the way he greeted Kei, he kept exchanging odd looks with Lily.

“Is everything okay?” Kei asked after a while, because Akiteru’s behavior was freaking him out.

“Everything’s fine!” Akiteru insisted. “Why do you ask?”

“Because you’re acting like things really aren’t okay.” Kei hesitated. “What, do you have bad news or something?”

“No!” Akiteru said quickly. “No, no, no, we... we actually have really good news.”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “What’s the good news?”

“I’ll tell you after dinner,” Akiteru assured him.

Kei was about to complain until Lily interrupted. “Yeah, speaking of dinner, can you give me a hand?” she called from the kitchen. “I am really pregnant in here and bending down is becoming less and less of an option.”

~

Once everyone sat down to eat and they moved into actual conversation instead of awkward smalltalk, Kei almost forgot about Akiteru’s promise of good news.

Akiteru, Lily, and Kei all had funny stories from work to share, and what Tetsurou lacked in work experience, he more than made up for in stories from visiting the assisted living facility where his mom worked. Akiteru and Lily talked about getting ready for the baby (and asked Tetsurou’s opinion on a few names), and Kei and Tetsurou complained about school.

It was the most fun Kei had had at a family dinner since he and Akiteru were kids, and Kei felt incredibly lucky to be able to call this his family now.

“Well, at least graduation’s coming soon,” Akiteru reminded them after they finished a story about a bullshit history test they had coming up.

“Thank God,” Kei mumbled.

“And speaking of school,” Akiteru said, exchanging a look with Lily and trying not to smile.

Kei raised an eyebrow. “What, is this your good news?”

“Stand up,” Lily said, patting Akiteru’s arm.

Akiteru gave her a look and laughed. “I’m not gonna stand up-”

“Stand up!” she insisted. “It’s totally a stand-up kind of thing.”

“What is?” Kei asked, glancing between the two of them.

“Don’t worry, it’s really good news,” Lily assured him.

“I guess I’ll just out and say it, then,” Akiteru said, clearing his throat but remaining very much in his chair. “I got your college fund, Kei.”

Kei froze, his eyes going wide. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. “What?”

“I convinced mom and dad to give me your college fund,” Akiteru repeated. “Well, most of it, anyway, but... yeah. It’s supposed to start the baby’s college fund, but I mean, we still have ages to save up for that, so… I mean, if you still want to go, I’ll send you to college.”

Kei couldn’t move. “J-just like that?”

Akiteru smiled. “Just like that.”

You get to go to college.

Just like that.

Kei stood up. He wasn’t sure why, but Lily was right: it definitely just seemed like a stand-up kind of thing. “I-I’ll still work,” Kei assured Akiteru. “And I’m still waiting on some scholarships and FAFSA! I’ll save as much as I can so you can still have it for the baby.”

“That’s fine,” Akiteru said patiently. “Whatever you want to do.”

Kei didn’t know what he could possibly say. “Thank you,” he told him, feeling stupid that it was all he could do.

“Of course, Kei.” Akiteru stood up, a huge grin on his face as he walked around to table to where Kei stood and gave him a hug.

You get to go to college, Kei thought to himself as he hugged Akiteru back. It was like a mountain had been lifted off of his shoulders. “Thank you so much.”

“It’s the least I can do.”

After he and Akiteru separated, Lily stood up to give him a quick hug as well, giving him a motherly kiss on the cheek as they separated. And when Kei turned back toward his seat, he saw Tetsurou frozen in place, staring down at his plate.

“Tetsu?”

Tetsurou was still a moment longer before quickly looking up and offering Kei a smile. “That’s amazing, Kei,” he said, standing up and pulling Kei into another hug.

But Kei knew Tetsurou too well to believe that any of his actions were sincere.

“I’m so happy for you,” Tetsurou told him, and while it might’ve sounded convincing to anyone else, Kei knew better. Kei didn’t want to ask him in front of Akiteru and Lily, but something was definitely bothering him.

Kei ended up having a to feign a lot of excitement for the rest of the evening, Tetsurou’s fake smile weighing too heavily on his mind.

~

The two of them were silent most of the car ride home. Tetsurou was stewing in whatever was bothering him, and Kei didn’t know what to say.

“That was fun,” Tetsurou said, finally breaking the silence once they were back in his room and getting ready for bed. “We should do it again sometime.”

Kei watched him out of the corner of his eye. “Yeah,” he said hesitantly. “It was. Wasn’t it?”

Now Tetsurou gave him a look. “...Yeah. That’s what I just said. Didn’t you have fun?”

“I had a lot of fun,” Kei confirmed. “I just wasn’t sure that you did.”

“No, I did,” Tetsurou assured him. “But I would’ve been pretty surprised if you didn’t have fun...”

Kei narrowed his eyes, because there was an unmistakable bitterness in his voice. “What’s with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been acting weird since dinner,” Kei pointed out, annoyed that Tetsurou couldn’t just tell him what’s bothering him. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s-”

Tetsurou.”

The fake smile finally fell off Tetsurou’s face as he let out a sigh. “I’m sorry.”

“What’re you sorry for?”

Tetsurou rubbed the back of his neck, thinking about how to answer. “I’m just... irritated.”

Kei frowned. “What are you irritated about?”

Tetsurou didn’t answer.

“For the love of God, Tetsurou, after everything, you can’t just be honest-”

You have it so easy!” Tetsurou finally snapped. “And I’m sorry for saying it, and I’m sorry for even thinking it, but goddamnit, Kei, do you even realize how lucky you are?! Your life falls apart and your brother swoops in and fixes everything right up, and you’ll get to go off to college in the fall, just like you’d planned, and everything’s gonna be fine! That doesn’t happen to most people! Fuck, that’s the kind of thing you see in some shitty movie, like, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll show everyone what kids like this have to deal with, but it’ll be okay in the end and he still gets to go to college and there won’t be any real consequences!’ Nominated by a fuckload of straight people for five academy awards!

“And you don’t even have to fucking say it, Kei - you don’t have to tell me what a shitty thing this was of me to say, because I know, and fuck, I absolutely hate myself for saying it! I hate myself just for feeling his way, because I don’t want to feel like this about you! God, I’d give anything just to be able to suck it up and be supportive, but hell, what do you even need my support for anymore? My life’s just shit all the time, and wouldn’t I love to have someone just swoop and solve all my problems! Wouldn’t I love to be something more than your sad, shit-out-of-luck boyfriend while you’re working a job and going off to college and meeting new people and becoming a goddamned paleontologist and making a steady income to support whatever family you end up with, one that’s a hell of a lot better than anything I could ever give you! I mean, God, Kei, do you have any idea what it’s like to just be stuck?!”

Tetsurou stopped after that, out of breath from shouting so much, and Kei didn’t know what to say. Tetsurou had never yelled at him before, and Kei felt so small. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled quietly.

Tetsurou sighed. “Don’t... Don’t be sorry. I know it’s not your fault.”

“But you’re upset.” Kei honestly had no idea what to do. This didn’t seem like the kind of thing he could smooth over with hugs and kisses and “it’s going to be okay”s. God, especially when all of this was his fault.

“I am,” Tetsurou confirmed, rubbing his eyes in frustration. “And I don’t want to be upset, I want to be happy for you, because this is good news, and you’re my boyfriend and I love you, b-but...”

But. Kei wanted to cry. I love you, but.

“Do you want some space right now?” Kei asked, because he didn’t know what else to do.

Tetsurou hesitated, then nodded, and Kei tried to swallow back the lump building up in his throat.

“Do you want me to sleep on the couch tonight?” Kei offered, everything in him wishing and praying that Tetsurou would say no.

Tetsurou nodded again.

“O-okay.”

“I’m sorry,” Tetsurou said quietly, looking down away from Kei.

“It’s okay,” Kei told him, even though it wasn’t. “It’s not your fault. You can’t help how you feel.”

Kei slowly grabbed a pair of pajamas and headed for the door, hoping that Tetsurou would stop him somewhere along the way.

Tetsurou didn’t.

He’s completely justified, you know, Kei told himself as he closed the door behind him and headed for the closet to grab a few blankets. He has every right to feel this way.

And it’s not his fault he feels this way, Kei reminded himself as he made his bed on the couch. He clearly feels awful about it.

Yeah, that’s right, console yourself with the fact that Tetsu feels like shit. That’s really great.

Kei crawled under the covers and pulled them over his head, curling up into a ball and willing himself to stop being such a baby about this.

He’s right. I have it so easy. Maybe I should give him my college fund. He deserves it more than I do. I should just take a gap year and work and let Tetsurou have it easy for once. God, after all he’s done so much for me, it should’ve been my first thought as soon as Akiteru offered me the money. Fuck, why am I so selfish all the time?

No wonder Tetsurou is getting tired of you.

You’re so selfish.

Who wouldn’t get tired of you?

It’s always about you, all the time.

Your own parents got tired of you.

You don’t care about anyone.

Even Akiteru is probably just trying to clear his conscience.

Everyone is tired of you.

You’re even tired of yourself, aren’t you?

Kei was so, so tired, and yet he lay awake for hours, silently sobbing into a couch cushion.

Somewhere along the line, he’d forgotten how to sleep without Tetsurou beside him.

~

Kei was somewhere between being awake and being asleep when a gentle, “Hey,” came from behind him.

Kei didn’t move, just listening to Tetsurou’s quiet footsteps on carpeted floors as Tetsurou stepped closer.

“Kei, sweetheart, are you up?” Tetsurou murmured.

Kei just hummed back.

And then Tetsurou scooped Kei into his arms, blankets and all, holding him tightly against him as he turned and took Kei’s place on the couch with Kei cradled in his lap.

“I’m so sorry,” he said softly, leaning his head against Kei’s. “Kei, I mean it, I’m so sorry for what I said.”

“You don’t have to be sorry,” Kei mumbled back. “You were right.”

“No, I wasn’t.” Tetsurou kissed Kei’s forehead. “You don’t have it easy.”

“But I really do-”

“Kei, you really don’t. You’ve had to deal with so much stuff that other people don’t, stuff you never should’ve had to deal with, stuff no one should ever have to deal with. I can’t pretend that you have it easy just because Akiteru’s giving you some help.”

“You should take my college fund,” Kei whispered.

Tetsurou actually let out a soft laugh. “I’m not gonna take your college fund.”

“You deserve it more than I do.”

Tetsurou cupped a hand around Kei’s face. “Kei, look at me,” he murmured as he turned Kei’s face toward him. “You deserve to get to go to college.”

“But Tetsurou-”

“No buts,” Tetsurou insisted. “You. Deserve it.”

“But-”

Tetsurou interrupted Kei with a kiss.

“Sweetheart,” he said, his voice still soft but a little louder with determination. “You are the smartest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever met. You’re passionate, and you’re kind, and you’re so, so strong. You’re a good person, and I am absolutely, head-over-heels in love with you, and you deserve everything this world has to offer you.”

“But you deserve it, too,” Kei whispered.

“You going to college is not taking away my chances,” Tetsurou said firmly. “My chances were fucked from the start when my dad walked out. My chances were fucked when I got kicked out of public school and my mom had to start paying for private school. I’m gonna have to take a gap year and work, and that’s fine, I can live with that. It’s not ideal, it’s not what I wanted, but I can deal with it. But that college fund was always yours, Kei, and now that it’s yours again, and you should really take it.” Tetsurou kissed Kei’s forehead. “Take it, go become a professional dinosaur nerd, and if things don’t ever work out for me, I can just be your pretty trophy husband.”

Kei wrapped his arms around Tetsurou’s neck and hugged him as tightly as he could from this angle. “I love you so much,” Kei murmured. “You deserve so much more.”

“I love you, too,” Tetsurou said, hugging Kei back and burying his face against Kei’s shoulder. “I love you so much, Kei, and I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Kei mumbled. “I’ve been so high-maintenance, it’s a miracle that this is the first time you’ve snapped.”

Tetsurou just hugged him tighter. “Babe, you’re not high-maintenance. You’ve been going through a really tough time. I mean, damn, all things considered, you’ve been a breeze.”

Kei sighed, because he still didn’t believe Tetsurou, but he was impossible to argue with over this sort of thing, and Kei was too tired for this. “Can we go to bed now?”

“Yeah,” Tetsurou said, standing up and keeping Kei in his arms as he walked back to his bedroom.

“You don’t have to carry me-!”

“Shh,” Tetsurou said quietly. “Don’t wake my mom.”

“You don’t-”

“And I want to,” Tetsurou insisted. “I promised to take care of you, remember? And that includes spoiling you and carrying you off to bed to make up for me being a jerk earlier.”

Kei was again too tired to argue back.

There were few times that it had felt better to climb into bed with Tetsurou, being pulled into his arms and being kissed a few times before quiet goodnights were mumbled to one another.

“I love you,” Tetsurou murmured. “I love you so, so much, Kei.”

Kei buried his face against Tetsurou’s chest. “I love you, too.”

And I’m really, really sorry.

Chapter Text

“Sweetheart,” Tetsurou murmured, putting his hand on Kei’s shoulder and gently shaking him awake. “Sweetheart...”

Kei squinted against the light as he opened his eyes, and Tetsurou’s blurry face came into view.

“Good morning,” Tetsurou said with a smile.

Kei just groaned and rubbed his eyes. “Since when do you get out of bed before I do?”

“I made you breakfast in bed.”

“Huh?” Kei opened his eyes again just as Tetsurou handed him a plate of food, consisting of a small pile of Tetsurou’s scrambled eggs pushed into the shape of a heart and half a slice of toast.

“I’m sorry,” Tetsurou said, planting a kiss on Kei’s cheek after he’d sat up to take the plate. “I’m so, so, so sorry for what I said last night, Kei.”

Kei took a deep breath as subtly as he could. He didn’t want to bring this up again. “I know.”

“I just-”

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Kei said, setting the plate aside and taking one of Tetsurou’s hands in his. Tetsurou had already said all there was to say last night, and he was right. Kei had it easy. Kei was selfish. Kei needed to stop making everything about himself all the time. And Kei was going to start working on that, because he didn’t want Tetsurou to be mad at him anymore, he couldn’t have Tetsurou be mad at him because it absolutely killed him. Kei was an awful person, he knew that, and he didn’t understand how someone like Tetsurou loved him in the first place, but Tetsurou was here. Tetsurou was here, and Kei didn’t know what he’d do without him, so he just needed to do whatever it took to make sure Tetsurou stayed. “Everything’s fine, isn’t it?”

Tetsurou frowned. “I don’t know, I just really think we should talk about it.”

Kei scooted closer and leaned his forehead against Tetsurou’s. “What’s there to talk about?”

Tetsurou hesitated as Kei started pressing kisses to his face and neck. “I, uh, I just want you to know where I was coming from.”

“Tetsu, I understand,” Kei insisted, taking a pause from the kisses to run his fingers through Tetsurou’s hair, because he knew Tetsurou liked that.

“D-do you?” Tetsurou asked, his eyes falling closed of their own accord as he leaned into Kei’s touch.

Kei kissed Tetsurou’s lips. “I’m just happy we’re okay now.”

That seemed to snap Tetsurou out of it and he sat up straight. “Are we okay now?”

Kei laughed and leaned in for more kisses. “I love you,” he murmured as he wrapped his arms around Tetsurou’s neck.

It took Tetsurou another moment’s hesitation, but he gave up on trying to talk about it and relaxed, saying a quick “I love you, too” before kissing back. Kei leaned back on the bed and pulled Tetsurou down with him, not satisfied until they were both completely wrapped around each other, but even then, the kiss didn’t last very long, as they were interrupted by Tetsurou’s phone going off.

“I have to get that,” Tetsurou said with a sigh. “It could be my mom.”

Kei just let him go and flopped an arm for his eyes as Tetsurou got up and went digging through yesterday’s jeans for his phone.

“What the...?”

“Who is it?” Kei mumbled.

“Hang on,” Tetsurou said before answering. “Hello? ... Hey, Danny.”

Kei immediately sat up. “Hewitt?!”

Tetsurou pressed a finger to his lips to get Kei to shush before he continued speaking. “Yeah? ... Oh, uh, sure, I have a minute, what’s up? ... Mmhmm... ... Tomorrow?”

Kei couldn’t see Tetsurou clearly, as he hadn’t put on his glasses yet, but he still squinted at his blurry form suspiciously.

“I don’t know, Dan, that presentation isn’t for weeks. Do we really need to start working on it now? ... Oh, uh... I don’t know, tomorrow’s just not really a good day for me. ... Mm. We’ll see. ... Yeah, I’ll see you Monday. ... Bye.”

Kei wanted to ask what was up, but the second Tetsurou hung up the phone, he let out a load groan and flopped back onto his mattress, colliding with Kei’s legs slightly painfully.

“So...” Kei cleared his throat before asking casually, “What was that about?”

“I think Danny just tried to ask me out.”

Kei burst out laughing.

“It’s not funny!” Tetsurou complained, grabbing a pillow and shoving it over his face. “He just asked if I want to get together to start working on our final presentation for English. Our final. It’s not due until the end of next month.”

“Maybe he’s just being diligent,” Kei suggested innocently, just to be a shit.

“I might choose to believe that if he hadn’t asked me to go bowling when I said no.”

Kei start laughing all over again. “He asked you to go bowling?”

“Make it stooooop,” Tetsurou whined.

“Two more months,” Kei reminded him, running his fingers through Tetsurou’s hair. “Two more months and then you never have to talk to Hewitt again.”

Tetsurou moved the pillow aside to look up at Kei. “I’m so excited to spend the summer with you,” he said, his face melting from something stressed into something soft and sickeningly in love.

Kei smiled down at him. “Were you just lying to get out of hanging out with Hewitt or do you actually have plans tomorrow?”

“Oh, I have plans.”

“You do?”

Tetsurou opened his mouth to speak, but Kei suddenly realized what he was about to say and interrupted him.

“Your plans are spending the day in bed with me, aren’t they?”

“Damn, am I that predictable?”

“Little bit,” Kei said with a laugh.

“Remember when that would’ve made you so flustered?”

“Are you sad that you can’t fluster me anymore?” Kei teased.

Tetsurou laughed. “Believe me, Kei, I could still fluster you if I tried.”

“Sure, you could.”

Tetsurou sat up, leaning in close enough that his lips were grazing Kei’s ear and moving his hand up on Kei’s thigh.

“You know what I’d like to do to you, Kei Tsukishima?” he asked, and that was all it fucking took.

Tetsu,” Kei snapped, smacking Tetsurou’s arm before climbing out of bed and hurrying to the bathroom to splash cold water on his reddening face.

“I love you,” Tetsurou called after him with a laugh.

“Yeah, and Hewitt loves you, too.”

Stoooooop.”

Kei bit back a smile. See? he told himself. It’s fine. Everything’s fine. All I have to do is pretend it’s fine, and it’s fine. We don’t have to talk about it. I just have to keep Tetsurou happy and everything’s fine.

“Babe, you never ate your breakfast,” Tetsurou called next.

“I’ll eat on the way to work, I’m gonna take a quick shower!”

“Can I join-”

No!”

~

Monday mornings sitting in the parking lot at Willow Creek were the worst after lazy Sundays at home with Tetsurou.

“Ready to pretend to be straight for another day?” Tetsurou asked as he turned off the car engine.

Kei gave a soft laugh and shook his head. “I’m never ready to pretend to be straight.”

“Then come here,” Tetsurou said, putting his hand on Kei’s shoulder and leaning in for a kiss, something short and soft and slow, and ridiculously loving.

Kei smirked after Tetsurou pulled away. “So what, your solution is to be as gay as possible before leaving the car?”

“Oh, trust me, babe, I could get a whole lot gayer,” Tetsurou laughed.

“I dare you.”

Tetsurou pulled Kei back in and gave him a kiss that was a lot less short and a lot less soft. Kei was was going to have to wait a few minutes after Tetsurou pulled away before he’d be able to leave the car to make sure his blush died down. And we’re already running late today...

When Tetsurou pulled away, they were both a little out of breath.

“Well,” Kei said, clearing his throat, “you were right. That was a lot gayer.”

Tetsurou just grinned and started leaning in again, but Kei put a hand on his chest.

“Tetsu, we should really get going.”

Tetsurou sighed. “Fine, fine.”

“Am I red?”

“Only a little,” Tetsurou said. “And me?”

“You’re fine.”

“Alright. Time to be straight.”

Kei just rolled his eyes and opened his car door.

“Wait, one more,” Tetsurou said quickly, leaning after Kei for one last smooch.

“Tetsu!” Kei laughed, obliging him for only half a second before getting out of the car. God, Tetsurou was lucky no one else was around-

“Kei?”

One. One other person was around.

Tetsurou?”

And it had to be that person.

Kei couldn’t bring himself to look at him, couldn’t even bring himself to move or breathe, but, God, he knew exactly who it was. Tetsurou wasn’t paralyzed like he was, and after clearing his throat, got out of the car and turned to face the person who’d caught them.

“Hey, Danny,” Tetsurou said, casual as can be.

“Did...” Hewitt said, sounding confused. “Did you two just kiss?”

“Kiss?” Tetsurou repeated, as if it was the most bizarre thing he’d heard all day. “No, why would Kei and I kiss?”

“Don’t try to lie,” Hewitt said. Now he sounded more upset than anything. “I saw you. You two kissed. You’re... you’re gay?”

Kei finally brought himself to turn around, finding Hewitt looking at Tetsurou looking almost betrayed. Almost heartbroken. I fucking knew he liked Tetsu.

Then Hewitt turned his gaze toward Kei, and his expression immediately changed.

“You fucking fag,” he snapped. It stung a little, as Kei had never actually been called that by anyone before, but it lost its effect when it was coming from fucking Hewitt of all people.

“Oh, just me?” Kei asked, his eyes widening in mock sincerity as he put a hand on his chest. “Tetsurou’s just gay but I’m a fucking fag? I’m glad we’re not actually gay or I might be offended by that.”

“Don’t even try that,” Hewitt said, shaking his head. “You can’t back your way out of this, I saw you.”

“Danny,” Tetsurou said with a laugh, clearly trying to do damage control. “So what, you’re gonna go around and spread rumors because of something you thought you saw?”

Hewitt went back to looking upset. “So that’s the kind of person you think I am.”

“So you’re not going to?” Kei asked.

Hewitt turned to glare at him again. “You, shut the fuck up.”

“What the fuck did I do?” Well, other than kiss the boy you’re so clearly, pathetically in love with.

“C’mon, Dan,” Tetsurou said gently. “Don’t do anything stupid because of a misunderstanding.”

“I’m not stupid.”

“That’s not what I-”

I know what I saw,” Hewitt insisted, taking a step back towards the school. “You two can lie all you want, but I know what I saw.”

Tetsurou sighed. “Danny-”

But Hewitt just turned and ran toward the school, leaving Kei and Tetsurou standing by themselves in the parking lot.

“What if he tells everyone?” Tetsurou said quietly.

“We keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Kei grumbled, grabbing his backpack out of Tetsurou’s car. “We lie.”

Tetsurou just sighed and followed suit.

“Hewitt has it so fucking bad for you, Jesus Christ.”

“Kind of a shitty way for him to find out about us.”

Kei gave a laugh he didn’t really mean. “You feel bad for him?”

“I never said that.”

“Fuck, I sure as hell don’t,” Kei said. “Not if he’s gonna go tell the entire school that we’re gay. Oh, sorry, that you’re gay, and that I’m a full-blown fag.”

“You okay?” Tetsurou asked. “I’m sorry he called you that.”

Kei just adjusted his backpack strap over his shoulder. “It’s fine. I’ve got bigger problems.”

“You want me to kick his ass?” Tetsurou asked as he and Kei walked side by side through the parking lot toward school.

“God, don’t even joke about that,” Kei told him, giving him a light shove. “The last thing you need is getting in trouble right now.”

~

First period went by without incident, as did second period. Third period was when the whispers started.

That was also when Tetsurou stopped responding to his text messages. He didn’t text at lunch, either.

As fourth and fifth period went on, whispers became quiet conversations became obvious conversations, and it was all Kei could hear over his shoulder.

“Danny says Kei and Tetsurou are gay.”

“Did you hear Kei’s gay? Yeah, for that new guy, they’re like, gay together.”

“I heard they made out in Tetsurou’s car this morning, like, at school.”

It was all as stereotypical and pathetic as Kei might’ve imagined. He was certain half of these people had never interacted with a gay person before, and he was starting to feel like an animal at the zoo. Perhaps a warthog or something else equally unpleasant to look at.

Kei felt like maybe he should be panicking, but he wasn’t. This was all just small potatoes after everything else that had happened. After all, what was Hewitt being a piece of shit compared to getting kicked out by your parents? The only thing Kei was genuinely worried about was Tetsurou not responding to his phone. Was he avoiding Kei? Was all this upsetting him more than Kei had imagined it would?

Then Kei walked into sixth period, and there was a distinct lack of, “Hey, Tsukki!”

Kei looked up at Tetsurou’s desk, and found that it was empty.

What the...?

“Hey, Danny, are Kei and Tetsurou really homos?” Kei heard from the back of the room as he took a deep breath and sat down in his own seat.

“Yeah, isn’t it gross?” Hewitt laughed. Fucking piece of shit hypocrite.“They tried to lie their way out of it when I caught them this morning, but then in second period, Tetsurou went completely crazy and yelled at me and had to go to the office. Probably got detention or something.”

He didn’t, Kei thought to himself, his stomach sinking. God, tell me he didn’t.

“Oh, yeah, I was there!” one of Hewitt’s friends piped up. “It was scary, man, he got so mad.”

I’m gonna kill him.

Kei suddenly felt so alone, and so, so angry...

“Of course he was mad,” Hewitt laughed. “Now that everyone knows he’s fucking Kei... I mean, who wouldn’t keep that a secret?”

Kei almost had to hold back a laugh at how unmistakably bitter Hewitt was. Shit, Hewitt, you catch one kiss and all you can talk about is us fucking? How desperate can you get? Kei wanted to say something, he wanted to say something so fucking badly...

“It makes sense once you think about it, doesn’t it?” Hewitt continued. “I mean, they’re literally always together, aren’t they? And since when was Kei nice to anyone? I honestly feel stupid for not thinking he was gay as hell sooner.”

“Wait, Danny, didn’t we see them at the movies once?” another friend laughed. “Holy crap, what if that was a date?!”

Hewitt hesitated before laughing along with him, and Kei absolutely loved that pause, that silence in which Hewitt was realizing that it was, in fact, a date, that Kei and Tetsurou were going on dates, that Kei was going on dates with Tetsurou and Hewitt wasn’t.

“God, how gross is it for them to do that kind of thing in public?” Hewitt’s friend asked.

A movie. Going to the cinema and seeing a movie. I can’t sit and watch a movie with my boyfriend in public. That’s where your little conservative-Christian heart draws the line.

“It’s a shame Kei was the only fag around when Tetsurou showed up here,” Hewitt continued. “At least Tetsurou seemed cool. He could’ve done so much better.”

“Hey, Hewitt,” Kei said, turning around in his chair to face him. He could feel everyone in the room looking at him, but he just forced a condescending smile and continued. “Do you think you could at least try to hide your giant crush on Tetsurou? Like, even a little?”

Kei had never seen anyone turn so red so quickly.

“What?!” Hewitt spluttered. “I do not have a crush on him! That’s disgusting!”

“Please,” Kei said with a laugh. “It’s so obvious that you’re jealous. It’s pathetic.”

“Why would I be jealous?!”

“Because you seem to think I’m dating him,” Kei said calmly and casually, taking his time and enjoying everything that this conversation was going to be. “Which means that you can’t have him.” Kei practically sang the last four words just because it made Hewitt so beautifully angry.

And Hewitt was on the brink of seething, but damn, was he trying to keep himself together. “I-I don’t want him-”

“Oh, really?” Kei asked with raised eyebrows. “So you're overanalyzing everything that Tetsurou and I do because...?”

Hewitt didn’t have an answer and just glared back at Kei, his knuckles going white as he gripped the edge of his desk, so Kei continued.

“Honestly, I would like an answer,” Kei told him. “I want to know why you’re treating me and my best friend like this. Are you really just that jealous? Are all of your little stories just the things you wish you could do with Tetsurou? Is this why you try so hard around Tetsurou when I’m not around?”

“Stop trying to turn this on me!” Hewitt snapped. “You and Tetsurou kissed! I saw you!”

“You’re not a bad liar, I’ll give you that,” Kei laughed. “But I would appreciate if you would just stop. I never kissed Tetsurou. But if I did...” Kei paused just to grin. “That would make you angry, wouldn’t it?”

Hewitt looked so angry and frustrated, he almost seemed on the verge of tears. “He’s lying!” Hewitt insisted, but his friends were starting to look skeptical. “He’s trying to save himself! Why would I lie about this?”

“I’m still trying to figure that part out,” Kei said. “After all, you spreading these rumors won’t make Tetsurou love you. Quite the opposite.”

“I don’t care about that!”

“Oh, well, that’s not true. Even if you weren’t desperately in love with him, you two were friends, weren’t you? Shouldn’t you care if one of your friends hates you?”

Hewitt’s lip twitched at the word “hate.” “I mean, I guess I care-”

“Ah, backpedaling.”

“You didn’t let me finish!”

“Do I need to?” Kei asked. “I would think you would want me to spare you, as you just keep digging yourself a deeper hole.”

“I am not jealous!”

Kei just kept grinning. “Methinks thou dost protest too much,” he said casually as he turned back around in his seat.

“Alright, everyone, settle down,” Mr. Adair called out before Hewitt could retaliate, and Kei had never been so satisfied to have the last word. Still, as Mr. Adair began his lecture, Kei still couldn’t relax, and pulled his phone out under his text for one last text message.

To Tetsu <3:
please tell me you did not get detention. please tell me you were not that stupid.

Tetsurou didn’t respond.

~

Kei waited for Tetsurou outside the main office after school. He wasn’t kept waiting long, and after a few minutes, Tetsurou came out, his head bowed in shame. He didn’t even look up at Kei, didn’t say a word as the two of them headed for the door and out to the parking lot.

On their way out, Kei caught more snippets of conversations.

“You heard about Kei and the new guy, right?”

“Wait, I heard that’s not true! Yeah, Michael says Danny made it up because he likes the new guy.”

“Whoa, really?!”

“I’m guessing that was you?” Tetsurou mumbled once they were out the door.

“Yup.”

“Nicely done.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

They said nothing else to each other the rest of the way to Tetsurou’s house. They just went home, kicked off their shoes at the door, changed out of their uniforms, and sat down on the couch together, and even then it was a good ten minutes of silence before Tetsurou spoke up.

“Kei, I know what you’re gonna say.”

“Oh, good, then you already know how stupid that was.”

Tetsurou started rubbing his temples in frustration instead of responding.

“You let Hewitt get to you,” Kei said, looking down at his lap and lacing his fingers together tightly. “You let Hewitt, of all people, get to you.”

“What was I supposed to do?” Tetsurou snapped. “He’s sitting there telling everyone what he saw, telling everyone flat-out lies about what he saw, calling you a faggot to anyone who’ll listen, and I’m just supposed to sit there like everything’s fine?!”

Yes. You sit there, and you take it, and you don’t land yourself in detention,” Kei told him. “Tetsurou, you have two months left. Two months, and then it’s graduation, and neither of us have to speak to another soul from that place ever again. You just have to sit and take it for two months.”

“I don’t care what they say about me,” Tetsurou said quietly. “I just-”

“You should care!” Kei shouted. “What, you were just defending my honor? ‘Say anything you want about me but the second you call my boyfriend a faggot, we have a fucking problem’? Tetsurou, this isn’t fucking about Hewitt or me or anyone else. This is about you. Do you have any idea how thin of ice you’re on? God, you walk into that fucking place as a poor kid who got expelled from a shitty public school for getting in too many fights. That is fucking bad enough. Do you have any idea how much thinner that ice gets when they find out you’re gay, too? You’re a walking conservative’s nightmare, and if they hear Hewitt’s rumor, and you give them a fucking chance to get you out of that school, they will fucking take it. You are so fucking close to graduating, Tetsurou, are you really going to let Hewitt ruin this for you?!”

Tetsurou stood up, standing over Kei as he yelled, “So what if I graduate?! So what if I get my diploma?! What the fuck does it matter if I’m still just stuck here?! What, I stay here and work for a year, and it’s still not enough, so I take a second year off, and two years becomes three and then four and before I know it, I’m in some shitty, dead end, minimum wage job for the rest of my goddamn life - what the fuck do I have to look forward to in two months?! But God, you’ll have fun, won’t you, going away to fucking college, meeting new fucking people, leaving me behind?! Yeah, sure, in two months, we graduate, but what about in a year, when you have new friends and a new boyfriend and it’s all, ‘Tetsurou, who?’ for you?!”

Kei didn’t know what to say. Was this honestly something Tetsurou was afraid of? “Christ, Tetsurou, that’s not gonna happen-”

“What, like it’s so crazy to think that might happen?!” Tetsurou snapped. “Like that could honestly never happen when it’s so obvious that I love you more than you love me?!”

Tetsurou regretted the words as soon as he said them, Kei could see as much on his face. But it didn’t stop the words from cutting into Kei like a knife.

“Kei,” Tetsurou said softly, taking a step back in horror. “Kei, I didn’t mean that.”

“Of course you meant it,” Kei practically whispered.

“Kei-”

“And you’re absolutely right.”

Tetsurou took another a step back. “W-what?”

“You’re right,” Kei repeated, standing up so he could be on the same level as Tetsurou. “You love me more than I love you. And yeah, it’s obvious. I mean, there’s the fact that I risked - and succeeded in - losing everything that I had, my house, my family, my faith, my future, all of it, just because I wanted to be with you...”

Tetsurou’s expression softened from horror to sadness when he realized that this was sarcasm. “Kei...”

“But what does that matter when you’re... I don’t know, more openly affectionate?” Kei asked.

“Kei, I didn’t mean it,” Tetsurou said, his voice cracking.

“But you said it.” Kei shook his head. “And that means you’ve thought it.”

Kei-”

“Do I really make you feel like I don’t love you?” Kei asked, his own voice cracking.

“That’s not what I think,” Tetsurou whispered, shaking his head. “Kei, you have to believe me, that is not what I think. I...” He paused to wipe away some tears on the back of his hand. “I really think we need to talk about Friday night.”

“Friday?” Kei repeated, having flashbacks of, “You have it so easy!”

Tetsurou sniffled. “We never talked about it, but I think we really, really need to.”

“Tetsurou, I already know-”

“No, you don’t,” Tetsurou insisted. “Kei, you don’t know. It’s not about you, okay? It is not about you. It’s about me, and I just really, really, really need to talk about it. O-okay?”

Kei just nodded, because what else could he do? How could he argue and try to pretend like everything was okay when it just wasn’t?

Tetsurou sat back down on the couch and held out his hand. Kei took it, and as he sat down next to Tetsurou, he brought Kei’s hand to his lips and kissed it a few times.

“What do you need to talk about?” Kei asked quietly.

Tetsurou paused, just thinking. “You remember everything I said about my dad?”

“Of course.”

Tetsurou gave Kei’s hand a squeeze. “I am so scared of becoming him, Kei.”

Kei opened his mouth to argue, to assure him that that wouldn’t happen, but... Tetsurou needed to talk. And Kei really needed to let him.

So Tetsurou went on. “I know I won’t be exactly like him, because I would never, ever do what he did to me and my mother. But I’m still afraid of being useless. I’m afraid of not being able to provide for my family. My dad had the means to, but didn’t... a-and I’m just afraid I won’t even have the means to. I’m afraid of being a useless husband and a useless father... or just not ever being either of those things because I’m just stuck here.

“I’m so... so frustrated, Kei,” Tetsurou said, his face screwing up as he tried in vain to hold back more tears. “I just want to graduate, and go to college, and get a nice job, and start a family, and live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and just... take care of them, y’know? God, why is that so much to ask for?” he asked as he completely dissolved into tears.

Kei quickly pulled Tetsurou into his arms, moving his hands over Tetsurou’s back as Tetsurou wept into his neck.

“I j-just feel like that’s important for you to know,” Tetsurou sobbed. “B-Because I’m not upset with you, Kei, I s-swear I’m not! I-I j-j-just...”

“It’s okay,” Kei murmured, tightening his arms around Tetsurou. “It’s okay, sweetheart, I think I understand now.”

Tetsurou took a minute or two to just cry before he could bring himself to speak again.

“B-but there’s more,” he whimpered. “Because I’m not just afraid of becoming my dad. I’m afraid of becoming my mom, too. K-Kei, I’m so scared of people leaving me... I’m so, so, so, so... so, so, so scared of you leaving me, Kei. I’m so scared of you finding someone better than me who can take care of you better than I ever could a-and...”

“Shh,” Kei said softly. Tears were starting to stream down his own face, because he had never imagined how heartbreaking it would be to hear that Tetsurou was so terrified of losing Kei when Kei was so afraid of the same thing. “Tetsu, I’m scared of losing you, too.”

“Kei, you don’t have to worry about that,” Tetsurou assured him. “I am yours, Kei Tsukishima. I am so hopelessly, pathetically yours...”

“And I don’t understand why,” Kei admitted, sniffling. “Tetsurou, you are way too good for me, a-and I’m so afraid of you realizing that...”

Tetsurou pulled back enough to look Kei in the eye, putting a hand on his cheek and brushing away tears with his thumb. “You’re amazing, Kei. And please don’t argue with me, because there is not a damn thing on this earth that could change my mind about that. And I’m so sorry that you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not, but I promise you, I will do whatever I can to help you see yourself the way I see you.”

Kei sniffled. “Tetsurou, I’m pathetic.”

“You’re not,” Tetsurou said, shaking his head. “Kei, I swear to you that you’re not.”

“And you’re not your father,” Kei told him. “I know things look bad right now, but you will make something work. You will have your house and your family, and you’ll take care of them better than anyone else could. A-and... I hope I’m part of that family.” Kei managed a small smile. “I think it’d be a pretty good life if I had you taking care of me.”

Tetsurou gave a shaky nod, looking like he was trying not to smile. “O-okay. If you want that... I want that, too.”

“And you don’t have to worry about me leaving you,” Kei assured him. “Because I won’t.”

Tetsurou nodded again. “A-and you won’t lose me, either.”

Kei pulled Tetsurou back in for a hug, clinging onto him desperately.

“I love you,” Tetsurou murmured as he hugged Kei back.

“I love you, too.”

“I know.”

~

“House or apartment?” Tetsurou murmured.

“Hmm...” Kei took a moment to think it over, scooting closer to Tetsurou where they were cuddled up in his bed and brushing his bangs out of his eyes. They were still damp from the shower they’d had a while ago. “Apartment until we save up enough for a house.”

Tetsurou nodded. “Where?”

“Apartment in a city,” Kei said, “somewhere far from here, then house in the nearest suburbs to that city.”

“New York?”

Kei made a face. “Not that big a city.”

“London?”

“C’mon, London’s big too,” Kei said with a soft laugh. “I don’t know, maybe for a little while.”

“Tokyo?”

“Stop,” Kei said with a laugh, giving Tetsurou a gentle push. “We’ll visit Tokyo.”

“Alright, we’ll visit Tokyo, we’ll live in London for a year, then we come back and live in...?”

“Somewhere with a nice museum,” Kei sighed. “I don’t know, we can decide on that later.”

“To be determined,” Tetsurou confirmed. “What about kids?”

“What about kids?”

“How many are you thinking?”

“None until we’re financially stable,” Kei insisted.

“Oh, absolutely,” Tetsurou agreed. “Once we get the nice house in the suburbs.”

“One? Maybe two?”

“Really? Growing up with a brother like Akiteru and you don’t think siblings are a good idea?”

“Not all siblings are like Akiteru,” Kei pointed out. “And you didn’t have any siblings, and you turned out great.”

“We start out with one to test the waters and go from there?” Tetsurou suggested.

“Alright.”

“Trip to Tokyo. Year in London. Apartment in a city to be determined. House in the suburbs. One kid to start. What else?”

“Pets?”

Cats,” Tetsurou said quickly. “Please, please, please can we get a cat?”

“I don’t know, I kind of want a dog.”

“We can get a dog, too,” Tetsurou offered. “But not a little one.”

“You like cats but not small dogs?”

“Go big or go home,” Tetsurou said with a smile. “No smaller than a golden retriever.”

“I like golden retrievers,” Kei said with a nod. “Or maybe a lab or something.”

“Perfect, I can go running with it.”

Kei raised an eyebrow. “You don’t run.”

“I would if we had a dog.”

“Alright, a dog. What kind of cat?”

“We could be really unoriginal and get a black and white one and name it Oreo.”

Kei grinned. “If that’s what you want.”

“I’ll think of something better,” Tetsurou assured him. “But just in case I don’t, Oreo is the back-up plan.”

“I think the kid’ll like that,” Kei said approvingly. “A cat and a dog.”

“We should probably get the pets first, shouldn’t we? As practice?”

“Cat, then dog, then kid?”

“Works for me,” Tetsurou said, leaning forward to give Kei a kiss.

“Are we being stupid?” Kei asked with a laugh. “Planning this far ahead?”

“What, because we’re young and stupid and it’s our first relationship?”

Exactly that.”

Tetsurou brushed his fingers over Kei’s lips. “I don’t know, some people gotta get it right the first time.”

“And you think that’s us?”

Tetsurou smiled and nodded. “I do.”

Kei buried his face against Tetsurou’s neck and wrapped his arms tightly around him, because he was just so completely, unapologetically happy. He loved Tetsurou with his whole heart, with every fiber of his being, with every other cliche there is. Every cell in Kei’s body was in love with Tetsurou Kuroo, his words, his thoughts, his touch, the very air he breathed, leaving warm spots on the back of Kei’s neck with every gentle exhale. It didn’t matter that he was eighteen years old and stupid, and still in high school, in his very first relationship. It didn’t matter that there was still so much Kei didn’t know, still so much Kei had to deal with, still stupid things like whether Kei’s classmates would believe him or Hewitt and bigger things like whether Kei’s parents were ever going to talk to him again. Kei still wasn’t even one hundred percent sure if he believed in God or not.

None of that mattered. It all felt miles away, like the only things that really existed in this universe at this moment were Kei and Tetsurou, holding each other close because they were madly, stupidly, pathetically, wonderfully in love.

Kei pressed a kiss to Tetsurou’s neck before whispering, “I do, too.”

Chapter Text

Kei rapidly clicked the pen in his hand as he looked over the order form in front of him, clipped to a clipboard painted Jen’s signature shade of pink. “What flavor cake did you have in mind?” he asked.

“Oh, dear, I don’t know,” said the customer Kei was dealing with, a middle-aged white woman ordering a fancy cake for her son’s tenth birthday. “What flavor’s popular for birthdays?”

“To be honest, we mostly deal with weddings,” Kei told her with a shrug. “We get a few Sweet Sixteens but even then, we have a whole tasting process for picking out flavors.”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” she said, shaking her head. “Which is your favorite?”

Honestly, Kei’s favorite was the Sparkling Strawberry, the same flavor that Akiteru had had at his wedding. It was an absolutely delicious strawberry flavor that tasted like natural strawberries and not artificial strawberry flavor, and it was named “sparkling” both for the edible glitter mixed into the batter and for the splash of champagne that Jen called her not-so-secret ingredient. Kei could honestly live on it, but it definitely wasn’t for everyone, and a big pink, sparkly cake probably wasn’t what this lady was looking for for her son.

“Chocolate Dream is really good,” Kei said, thinking of Tetsurou’s favorite.

“Ooh, I’ll do that one then,” she said eagerly. She probably should’ve figured out what she wanted before coming in to place an order, or maybe just gone to the Dairy Queen down the block like most moms of ten year olds, but Kei could tell she was trying to be a nice, polite customer, so he just internally sighed and scrawled out, Chocolate.

“Alright then, filling.”

“Filling?” she asked with wide, confused eyes.

“I recommend the chocolate ganache,” Kei said flatly before they could get into this again.

~

“That was probably our last customer for the day,” Jen said as she came out of the kitchen and took a look at her newest order. “Still, just to be safe, we’ll wait another twenty minutes.”

“Sounds good,” Kei said with a sigh.

“You’re doing really well, Kei,” Jen said, giving Kei’s shoulder a squeeze. “I couldn’t have asked for a better employee. You sure you don’t want to skip the whole college thing and work for me full time?”

Kei chuckled. “I’m sure.”

“Damn,” she sighed before offering Kei a grin. “C’mon, how long until graduation?”

“Tomorrow morning, actually.”

“What?!” Jen practically shouted before smacking Kei’s shoulder.

“Ow, what was that for?!”

“You’re graduating tomorrow and you didn’t tell me?” she asked, sounding horrified. “Kei, if I’d known, I wouldn’t have made you work!”

Kei snorted, rubbing his shoulder where she’d hit it. “Well, thanks for at least accidentally giving me Saturday off.”

Jen just shook her head, her fluffed-out curls bouncing as if they had life of their own. “I can’t believe you. Shouldn’t you be more excited about this?”

“Believe me, I’m excited,” Kei told her, leaning back against the counter. “I’m so glad to be done with high school.”

“Yeah, I was too,” Jen said. “Chemistry seems like such a waste of time when you already know you wanna bake for a living, y’know?”

“Baking is kind of chemistry, isn’t it?”

“Don’t you dare, Kei Tsukishima!” Jen laughed, smacking his shoulder again. “Agh, God, that’s what my daddy always told me when I complained about school, I do not need that from you, too!”

Kei rolled his eyes at her, but he was smiling, too.

“Well, if I can’t give you today off, I’m giving you these last twenty minutes,” Jen told him. “And you are taking home some cupcakes since I couldn’t make you a graduation cake.”

“If you say so,” Kei said, pulling out his phone and sending a quick text to Tetsurou to come pick him up.

Jen got out a big box and started lining up cupcakes. There were no Sparkling Strawberry ones, as that flavor was only made to order so Jen wouldn’t waste champagne all the time, but Jen still knew which of these Kei liked, filling the box with Vanilla Cloud and Marshmallow Fluff and Lovely Lemon.

“What flavors does your boyfriend like?” she asked, scanning the rest of the day’s unsold cakes to fill the rest of the box.

“Chocolate Dream and Peanut Butter Prince,” Kei told her. “And throw in a Regal Raspberry, too, I think his mom would like that.”

“I’ll even throw in two,” Jen said, closing up the box and sealing it with a few stripes of glittery washi tape. “Happy graduation.”

“Thanks, Jen,” Kei said as he took the box from her, doing mental math to try and gauge how many of these he could eat tonight without getting sick.

I am a little nervous about tomorrow... That probably brings it down to three... Damn nervous stomach.

“Don’t eat too many,” Jen said, reading Kei’s mind (or probably just the hungry look on his face).

“I won’t, I won’t,” Kei sighed, waving his hand as he headed for the door to wait for Tetsurou. “See you, Jen.”

“I’ll see you Monday!” she called. “Tell your brother and Lily I said hey!”

“Will do,” Kei said as he closed the door behind him, stepping into the warm evening air. It felt like the hour was late, but the sun was just barely starting to set, and street lamps stood like beacons against the bright pink sky. Summer was finally here, and after tomorrow, Kei would be completely free. It would just be a summer of working at Kiss Me Cake (something Kei actually enjoyed) before he got to leave for college in mid-September, and making the most of the time he had left with Tetsurou. Even if he’d get to come home and see him for Thanksgiving, those weeks without him would be the longest Kei had gone without seeing Tetsurou since they first met.

And God, Kei could already tell he was going to miss Tetsurou so much.

They had already started making plans, promises to call each other before bed to tell each other about their days or even just a quick “hello” if that was all they had the energy for, just to hear each other’s voices, or plans for Skype dates once a week so they could see each other’s faces. Tetsurou also said something about writing Kei love letters, but Kei wasn’t sure if he’d been joking or not.

Knowing him, probably not.

Kei was only waiting a minute or two before Tetsurou pulled up, grinning as Kei slid into the car.

“You look so cute in pink,” Tetsurou said before greeting Kei with a kiss.

“Happy graduation, from Jen,” Kei said, holding up the box of cupcakes.

Tetsurou sighed. “Jen’s the best. Did you get-”

“Chocolate Dream and Peanut Butter Prince,” Kei interrupted with a smile.

“You know me so well,” Tetsurou sighed, putting the car into drive and pulling out of the parking lot.

“What kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t know your favorite flavor of cupcake?” Kei joked, already picking at the washi tape keeping the box closed.

“Hey, no, no, no,” Tetsurou laughed, reaching over to stop him. “My mom came home early and cooked tonight, no spoiling your dinner.”

“Whoa, seriously?” Kei asked. Tetsurou’s mom never came home early. Most days she was gone by the time they left for school and didn’t come home until long past dinner, and that only got worse and worse as graduation grew nearer. It almost seemed like as it got closer to a summer where Tetsurou was going to be hunting for a full-time job instead of getting ready to leave for college, the harder she pushed herself to work, like there was going to be a way for her to make enough for a semester of college by the time autumn rolled around. She wouldn’t listen to Tetsurou when he tried to tell her to stop working so hard, and Kei didn’t know what exactly she was thinking, but he had a theory that she just didn’t want to give up and admit that in the end, she couldn’t send her son to college after all.

It stressed Tetsurou out to no end how thin she was spreading herself, but Tetsurou wasn’t stressed today. He was smiling and let out a contented sigh as he drove.

“She’s making curry. Do you have any idea how long it’s been since my mom made her curry?”

Kei smiled. “A long time?”

So long. And it’s so good, Tsukki, just wait until you try it, and God, the whole house smells amazing right now.”

Kei leaned over to press a kiss to Tetsurou’s cheek. “You’re in a good mood.”

“Of course I’m in a good mood,” Tetsurou laughed. “Tonight I get curry, tomorrow I get to graduate, and then I get to spend a whole summer with you.”

“Christ, I’m glad we’re done with high school,” Kei said. “If I never step foot in Willow Creek again after tomorrow, it’ll be too soon.”

“I’m excited for a romantic summer with you and you’re excited to leave high school,” Tetsurou sighed dramatically. “Typical.”

“Shut up,” Kei chuckled, smacking Tetsurou’s arm. “You know I’m excited for summer, too.”

They stopped at a red light and Tetsurou took a moment to give Kei a bittersweet look. “And then you leave in the fall.”

“Stoooop,” Kei complained, hitting his arm again. “Ugh, can we talk about graduation without bringing that up? I don’t want to think about how much I’m gonna miss you.”

Tetsurou gave a sad smile. “I’m really gonna miss you, too.”

The light is green,” Kei snapped, turning Tetsurou’s head back to the road.

Tetsurou laughed as he obliged. “Fine, fine, whatever you say. Only happy things for now.”

~

Kei had been betting on a three-cupcake limit earlier, but after filling up on Tetsurou’s mom’s curry, that number significantly dwindled down to... well, two. Maybe one and a half. He was so full of curry, he never wanted to stand up again, but no matter how small his appetite was for savory food, he always had room for dessert.

“Dinner was amazing, mom,” Tetsurou said, standing up from the table and taking his dishes as well as hers over to the sink to wash them. “Your curry is the best.”

“Thanks, sweetheart,” she said with a smile. “You need any help with the dishes?”

“I got it,” Kei said quickly, standing up despite the food coma he was in and taking his own dishes to the sink.

“Yeah, mom, you just relax,” Tetsurou called over the running water.

“Oh, I still need to iron your shirt for tomorrow,” his mom said, getting up anyway.

Mom,” Tetsurou groaned. “Please. Relax.”

“I’ll relax when there’s a diploma in your hand,” she insisted. “Kei, do you need anything ironed?”

“I’m good,” Kei assured her. “Thank you, though.”

“Are you saying that to be polite or do your clothes actually look neat?”

Kei hesitated. Lily had bought him an outfit special for graduation as a surprise, and as much as Kei had liked the fit of the slacks and the bright blue of the button down, it had been halfheartedly folded and left somewhere on the floor of Tetsurou’s room...

“It’s fine,” Kei said after a pause that was clearly too long.

“I’ll iron your clothes, too,” Tetsurou’s mom said with a laugh, patting both of them on the back on her way out of the kitchen.

Once she was gone, Kei gave a smile. “I like how excited your mom is about graduation.”

“Jesus, it’s amazing,” Tetsurou said, taking a break from washing dishes to just lean over the sink and think. “She came home from work early. She cooked. With like, good food. And now she’s ironing...”

Kei didn’t say anything. Even if he’d been living with Tetsurou for the past three months or so, he still felt disconnected from the way Tetsurou’s home life worked. Kei’s mom being home for dinner had just been expected when he’d been growing up. She cooked dinner more often than not. Chores like ironing clothes and doing dishes had always been done for Kei. It wasn’t like he’d never touched a sponge or an ironing board, but the fact that it was such a change of pace to have Tetsurou’s mom taking care of little typically-motherly chores... Well, Tetsurou deserved more. He deserved to be taken care of.

After a lifetime of Tetsurou having to take care of himself so much more than most kids do, Kei couldn’t wait for a future where he could absolutely spoil him.

Kei didn’t know how to cook. He wasn’t very good at cleaning. And he was probably going to accidentally dye a load of white laundry pink someday. But Kei was going to do his best to take care of Tetsurou someday, a someday where Kei had a job and could make enough money to support Tetsurou and a family. That job that was going to require a college degree. And Kei was going to start earning that college degree this fall, after the summer that began tomorrow, as soon as that diploma was in his hand.

Tomorrow was the very beginning of their someday.

“What are you smiling about?” Tetsurou asked, bumping Kei with his hip and picking up another dish to wash.

Kei leaned over to press a kiss to his cheek. “I love you,” he said softly.

Tetsurou turned and gave him a questioning smile. “I love you, too. Is there anything in particular I did?”

“I’m just really happy to be with you.”

Tetsurou put his wet, soapy hands on Kei’s waist, leaving dark handprints on Kei’s shirt as he pulled him in for a kiss, and Kei was just starting to wrap his arms around Tetsurou’s neck when Tetsurou’s mom came back in.

“Tetsurou, were you gonna- Oh.

Kei and Tetsurou quickly stepped apart and went back to doing the dishes. Kei’s entire face felt like it was on fire, but Tetsurou’s mom was just laughing.

“Sorry, have I interrupted ‘doing the dishes’?”

“What did you want, mom?” Tetsurou grumbled.

“Are you wearing your white shirt or your black shirt tomorrow?”

Tetsurou cleared his throat. “Black.”

Even if he was still embarrassed himself, Kei couldn’t help but smirk, because no one could make Tetsurou so mortified as his mom could.

“And Kei, yours is the blue, right?”

“Yeah,” Kei said, poorly concealing the laughter in his voice. Tetsurou elbowed him.

“Alright. You can go back to ‘doing the dishes,’” she teased as she left the room again.

“Why is she so embarrassing?” Tetsurou groaned, hunching over the sink again.

“I heard that!”

~

As excited as Kei was for the beginning of their someday, as the night wore on, his nerves started to kick in and he really regretted eating all the curry. And two cupcakes.

“You’re nervous, aren’t you?” Tetsurou asked with a chuckle, putting his graduation robes back on a hanger after checking for any weird wrinkles or stains.

Kei smirked a little. “How could you tell?”

“The thing you do with your hands,” Tetsurou said, joining Kei in sitting on the edge of his mattress. “When you intertwine your fingers like that, you always do that when you’re nervous.”

Kei looked down at this hands, where they were sitting laced between his stretched out legs. “Ah.”

Tetsurou pressed a kiss to his cheek, then dotting a few more on his shoulder before resting his head there. “Anything you’re nervous about specifically?”

“Not really,” Kei said, resting his head against Tetsurou’s. “Just anxious about the whole ceremony in general.”

“It’s gonna be fine,” Tetsurou assured him.

“You don’t know that.”

Tetsurou laughed and wrapped his arms around Kei’s waist, nuzzling his face against Kei’s shoulder. “Babe, c’mon. What do you think is gonna go wrong?”

“It’s not so much that I feel like I’m gonna do something wrong tomorrow,” Kei said. “It feels like I’ve done something wrong without realizing... and like, I don’t know, I won’t get my diploma or I’ll have to do another year of school for some reason or... I don’t know, it’s all just stupid stuff, and I wish acknowledging that it was stupid was enough to get me to relax, but...”

“Hey,” Tetsurou said softly. “You wanna sneak out?”

Kei actually laughed. “You wanna-”

Shh,” Tetsurou hissed. “The walls are thin, remember?”

Kei just grinned and shook his head in disbelief. Disbelief that Tetsurou wanted to sneak out so late the night before graduation, and disbelief that it sounded like a good idea.

“Alright,” Kei murmured. “Let’s go.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” Kei turned and cupped a hand under Tetsurou’s chin to tilt his face up for a kiss. “I think that’d help.”

Tetsurou kissed Kei again before grinning. “How much ‘help’ do you want?”

Oh, my God.

Kei just smirked. “Not sure. I’m pretty nervous...”

“Ooh, so you might need a lot of help...” Tetsurou teased. He leaned in for another kiss before Kei just laughed and pushed him away.

“What the hell are we doing?” he asked.

Tetsurou grinned, standing up and taking Kei’s hands in his to pull him up too. “We’re getting out of here.”

Kei smiled back before turning to slip on some shoes. You and me getting out of here is all I’ve ever wanted.

~

“Truth or dare.”

Tetsurou hesitated as if he was actually considering his options. “Truth.”

Ugh,” Kei groaned, leaning back and putting his feet up against the back of the passenger’s seat. “I don’t know what to ask, I already know everything.”

Tetsurou laughed. “C’mon, there’s gotta be something about me you don’t know about me.”

Kei just looked up at him and gave a soft chuckle. “Can you believe it’s only been eight months since we met?” he asked.

“Does this count as your question?” he asked with a smile.

“No, just... Remember?”

“Of course I remember,” Tetsurou said fondly, leaning his head back against his seat. “Can you believe it’s only been seven since we first got together? God, it feels like I’ve known you for years, but then it feels like the past seven months have completely flown by.”

Kei hummed in agreement, thinking how so much had happened between the first time they’d been sitting in Tetsurou’s car in this parking lot and now. “Remember our first kiss?” he asked.

“How could I forget?” Tetsurou asked with a soft laugh, pausing a moment before admitting, “You have no idea how happy I was when you kissed me, Kei.”

Kei thought back to that moment, how he’d been so determined up to that point to never let him act on his feelings toward Tetsurou...

Ha.

“How was it?” Kei asked, smirking and leaning closer to Tetsurou. “It was my first kiss ever.”

“Is this your question?”

“Yes,” Kei said. “Was I a good kisser?”

Tetsurou leaned in to meet Kei in the middle, resting his forehead against Kei’s. “At the time, it was absolutely amazing...”

“Buuut?”

“But looking back, you’re a much better kisser now.”

Kei scoffed. “Me from seven months ago is so offended.”

“I think he can handle it,” Tetsurou chuckled, stealing a quick kiss. “What about me, how was I?”

Kei grinned. “You didn’t ask me ‘truth or dare’.”

“Truth or dare?” Tetsurou asked patiently.

“Truth.”

“Was I a good kisser?”

Kei bit his lip, thinking back to every little detail he still had saved somewhere in his head about that first kiss. The build up was incredible on its own, with the feeling of Tetsurou’s breath on his lips, and the shimmering flecks of gold in Tetsurou’s eyes that could only be seen from this close up, and Tetsurou’s dark eyelashes fluttering as his eyes darted down from Kei’s eyes to Kei’s lips. The details had gone from being breathtaking and new to being so wonderfully familiar since then... It was home. Everything about Tetsurou was home. His arms, his hands, his chest, the way he said Kei’s name.

“You’re taking a long time to answer,” Tetsurou teased.

Kei just kissed Tetsurou again, cupping his face in his hands and just savoring all of Tetsurou’s little details again. So many kisses these days were for reassurance or to tell the other person they loved them, for comfort or even just out of habit. It had been a while since Kei had kissed Tetsurou just to kiss him, to take a moment and taste his lips and enjoy every last detail.

The initial butterflies and electricity were gone, washed away in time and familiarity, but they were replaced by this beautiful ease, this all-encompassing comfortableness with one another. Every worry in the world melted away from Kei’s mind when his lips were against Tetsurou’s.

He didn’t have to tell himself that he was going to regret kissing Tetsurou, because he wasn’t. He had never once regretted kissing Tetsurou.

He didn’t have to worry about keeping secrets, about approval from his family, because Kei knew that his current family, the one that he’d chosen for himself, approved of all of this, approved of all of Kei.

And Kei knew it wasn’t a sin.

Whether that was because the whole concept of sin is a sham and there is no heaven or hell or greater being sitting in either of those places, or simply because God was more understanding than some people liked to give Him credit for, it wasn’t a sin. Being so deeply in love couldn’t be a sin.

Kei pulled away, staying quiet another moment and pushing Tetsurou’s bangs out of his eyes. “Kissing you that night was the best decision I’ve made in my entire life,” he murmured.

Tetsurou’s face just went into this lovesick smile before he leaned in and gave Kei another soft kiss.

“That doesn’t mean I was a good kisser,” he pointed out once he’d pulled away.

“Shut up,” Kei laughed. “It was good, okay?”

Tetsurou kissed Kei more, started off quick but getting slower and longer every time his lips met Kei’s. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too.”

Tetsurou slipped off his glasses for him and set them somewhere in the front seat before pressing kisses all over Kei’s face, over his nose and cheeks and forehead and eyelids.

“Tetsu,” Kei laughed, opening one eye to peak at him and quickly closing it again before Tetsurou gave him another eyelid kiss.

“What do you want?” Tetsurou asked breathlessly, holding Kei’s face in his hands and resting his forehead against his. “I’ll do anything you want, Kei, just name it.”

“I just want you.”

“You already have me,” Tetsurou said.

Kei took one of Tetsurou’s hands from his face and kissed his palm. “Then I’m happy.”

“C’mon, it’s our last night as high schoolers,” Tetsurou whined. “Let’s be stupid high schoolers.”

“And then tomorrow we’ll be old, wise graduates who don’t sneak out in the middle of the night for blow jobs?” Kei teased.

Tetsurou sat up straighter. “Is that what you want? A blow job?”

“I was kidding,” Kei said with a laugh, leaning in further to start kissing Tetsurou’s neck. “Relax. We have all night.”

“We have to get up early tomorrow for the ceremony,” Tetsurou reminded him. “And then we have lunch with your brother and my mom... I don’t know, we shouldn’t stay out too late.”

“I thought you wanted to be young and stupid.”

“I want to suck your dick, not spend tomorrow being exhausted.”

Kei pulled away to look Tetsurou in the eye, not bothering to try and hide his blush. “You want to?”

“Yeah, kinda,” Tetsurou admitted. “I wanna try it.”

Kei took a moment to think about it, trying to decide whether or not it was a good idea, but his thoughts were too clouded over the thought of Tetsurou doing that to him, of having Tetsurou’s mouth in such an intimate place... And God, to think it wasn’t that long ago that he’d been mortified to have Tetsurou lick his nipples... Now, Kei felt completely okay with something like this. He felt okay enough to give a blow job to Tetsurou, too. Hell, he’d probably have agreed if Tetsurou had just straight-up wanted to have sex.

God, I actually really, really would not mind have sex with Tetsurou now that I think about it...

But now was not really the time to think about it, so Kei refocused and nodded his head. “O-okay. But I wanna give you one, too.”

That made Tetsurou start to turn pink himself. “Okay,” he said, sounding a little awkward and shy and absolutely adorable.

Kei cleared his throat. “Do you want to go first, or...?”

“Sure,” Tetsurou said with a nod. “Wait, go first as in giving the blow job or getting it?”

“Oh, uh... either is fine.”

“But which do you want?”

“I don’t know, you pick.”

Tetsurou looked at Kei a moment before giving a nod. “I’ll give you one first. I mean, if that’s fine with you.”

“Alright,” Kei said quietly, his face suddenly getting really hot as Tetsurou got down on his knees on the floor of the car, situating himself between Kei’s legs. He pushed up Kei’s shirt and pressed a few kisses to his stomach before unbuttoning Kei’s jeans.

“Tetsu,” Kei breathed as Tetsurou started touching Kei over his underwear.

“Tell me to stop if you want me to,” Tetsurou said, his face close enough that Kei could feel the heat of his breath through his underwear, and Kei was already dying.

“Don’t stop.” Please.

Tetsurou grinned up at him like he was eating this up, like he knew what he was doing, but the second he pulled Kei’s underwear down and hesitated, he made it very clear that he didn’t.

Kei snorted.

Excuse me,” Tetsurou snapped, trying not to laugh as he sat back on his heels. “It’s my first time doing this, okay?”

“Do you want to stop?”

“No, I just...” Tetsurou rubbed the back of his neck. “Don’t know where to start.”

“It’s not like I’ll know if you do it wrong,” Kei pointed out. “Just... I don’t know, do your best.”

“Thank you for your words of encouragement.”

Kei groaned and covered his face in his hands. “God, why do we ever do anything more than kissing, it’s always so embarrassi- ah...” Kei’s breath hitched as he suddenly felt Tetsurou’s hand around the base of his cock and Tetsurou’s tongue at the head. “H-holy shit... God, Tetsu...”

Tetsurou pulled back for a second. “Babe, I’ve barely done anything.”

“I know,” Kei breathed, still keeping his hands over his face. “But that still felt... r-really, really good...”

“Why are you hiding your face?”

Why do you think? You just licked my dick.”

Tetsurou laughed again. “I’ll do it again if you move your hands.”

“Tetsuuu...”

Move your hands.”

Kei reluctantly moved his hands, and Tetsurou gave a soft, pleased smile, but this time Kei had to watch as Tetsurou leaned down and ran his tongue over the slit, had to watch Tetsurou close his eyes and hum a little as he started to take Kei into his mouth. Kei closed his own eyes, too embarrassed to keep watching, but God, he was so hard, his whole body felt so hot, and Tetsurou’s mouth felt so warm and wet and so fucking good...

“Tetsu...” Kei said, leaning his head back. “I lo- ah... I-”

~

“-love you s-so much,” Tetsurou choked out, throwing an arm over his eyes and trying in vain to catch his breath. “I... F-fuck...”

That’s real easy to say when I have your dick in my mouth, Kei thought to himself. He wasn’t taking Tetsurou in very far (he didn’t want to gag and choke like Tetsurou had when he’d tried to take Kei in too far), but whatever he was doing was apparently enough to reduce Tetsurou to a quivering puddle with a constant stream of sweet nothings spilling out of his mouth for the past few minutes.

“You’re so beautiful, Kei,” Tetsurou told him before trying and failing to choke back a soft moan. “You’re so, so beautiful and I love you so... sh-shit... so, so much...”

Kei absolutely adored Tetsurou’s reaction to all this, how even if he wasn’t letting out whiny, embarrassingly loud moans like Kei had, and his moans were as soft and sparse as ever, Tetsurou had become completely incapable of shutting up. Even so, Kei wasn’t necessarily enjoying his end of the experience, with the constant threat of almost gagging (that was hopefully just a lack of experience), the weird taste of pre-cum that was starting to spread over his tongue, and the nagging decision in the back of his mind wondering whether he was going to spit or swallow.

I should probably spit, right?

But isn’t swallowing supposed to be better?

Why? Why is it supposed to be better?

Tetsurou didn’t even bother trying to swallow... You probably shouldn’t either...

“K-Kei, I’m gonna...” Tetsurou groaned. “God, you’re so... Kei, I-I’m really gonna-”

Kei braced himself just as Tetsurou came into his mouth, but even when he was expecting it, Kei was struggling not to choke.

Spitting. Definitely, definitely spitting.

As soon as Tetsurou was done, Kei opened the car door and spit it all out onto the parking lot, and spit a few more times for good measure. God, I do not like that taste... Wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, Kei turned back to Tetsurou, who was grinning and giggling as his orgasm wore off.

“That felt... so good, Kei,” he said between breaths.

“Imagine how it’ll feel once we actually get halfway decent at it,” Kei deadpanned, closing the car door and sitting down beside Tetsurou again. Tetsurou leaned over to kiss him but Kei immediately pulled away and making a face. “Wait, do you have any gum or anything? My whole mouth still tastes like cum.”

“Mine too... Glove compartment,” Tetsurou sighed, sitting up and pulling up his pants while Kei climbed into the front seat to find something to get the taste out of his mouth. The car was starting to feel hot and stuffy from going without air condition since they’d parked, and it made everything feel grosser.

Kei found a pack of something spearmint, and after shoving two sticks of gum in his mouth, he handed the pack over to Tetsurou. And with their mouths tasting like something other than each other’s dicks, they leaned in for a few soft, tired kisses.

“Should we go home and sleep?” Kei asked, resting his head heavily on Tetsurou’s shoulder.

“Probably,” Tetsurou said before yawning. “We have graduation in the morning.”

Kei groaned, reaching up a hand to rub his eyes. “We snuck out for blow jobs the night before graduation.”

Tetsurou laughed.

“I’m serious, think about it! Like, that is a thing that will always be true. Whenever I think back on graduation, I’m always gonna remember how we snuck out for blow jobs the night before.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

Tetsu.”

“Then we’ll just have to make tomorrow really memorable, won’t we?” Tetsurou asked, pressing a kiss to the top of Kei’s head. “All romance.”

Kei just nuzzled his face against Tetsurou’s neck and hummed in agreement, just feeling sleepier and sleepier the longer they sat here.

“You still nervous about tomorrow?”

Kei took a deep breath, and was relieved to realize that his jitters were gone. “No, not really.”

“Good,” Tetsurou said, kissing Kei one last time before climbing into the front of the car and sitting in the driver’s seat. “Tomorrow’s gonna be a great day. You got nothing to worry about.”

~

When they got home, sneaking in as quietly as they could, they quickly changed into pajamas and both spent a little extra time brushing their teeth before they slipped into Tetsurou’s bed, and after such a long day full of alternating between excitement and nerves, it was one of those nights when crawling into bed felt especially good, when the sheets felt especially soft and the breeze coming from the fan in the corner of the room especially cool and the feeling of Tetsurou’s arms holding him close especially assuring.

Even so, Kei couldn’t fall asleep right away, and he was awake for a while after Tetsurou’s soft snores filled the room.

He was graduating tomorrow. As much as Kei had been thinking about it lately, it was still just sinking in slowly. He was graduating tomorrow. It was arguably one of the most important days of Kei’s life so far. He was going to be able to share it with Tetsurou, who he loved with his whole heart. And Tetsurou’s mom, who had taken him in without hesitation when Kei needed someone most and had done everything she could to be supportive since, was going to be there. Akiteru was going to be there, was going to be cheesy and film the ceremony, was going to take them all out to lunch afterward to celebrate, because he was proud of his little brother for everything he’d accomplished. Lily was coming with him, eight months pregnant with a belly so big, she needed Akiteru’s assistance standing up sometimes, and had perfected the art of going back and forth between cool sister-in-law to mother figure whenever Kei needed it.

That was Kei’s new family. The family he’d chosen for himself. The family that gave him unconditional love and support, and the one that Kei undoubtedly loved back.

But Kei still couldn’t help but think about his mom and dad, his grandparents, his aunt and uncle and cousin who lived out of state, and how none of them would be there.

Kei had never heard exactly what his extended family thought of his coming out, but silence spoke loud enough. None of them had contacted him at all. It didn’t matter that his grandparents had been bragging about him graduating for ages. It didn’t matter that his aunt and uncle had promised they would be there in the birthday card they’d sent last September. All of that stopped mattering once word had spread that Kei was an abomination. A boyfriend was all it had taken for them all to stop caring.

But God, nothing beat the sting of thinking about his parents. After raising him for eighteen years, encouraging him to get good grades and be an honor student, his parents weren’t going to be at his high school graduation. They hadn’t even sent a card. It shouldn’t have been much of a shock, as they didn’t even care enough to provide him with food or shelter, but this was the one thing they had ever really asked of him. Get good grades. Do good in school. Don’t let your grades slip.

And Kei had succeeded.

But they didn’t care. They didn’t care. They didn’t care.

I’m graduating tomorrow, Kei told himself. His throat was tight and his chest was empty, but he was trying as hard as he could to fight it off. I’m graduating high school. Despite everything that happened this year, I got pretty good grades. I had a good GPA. I did good. I did good. And if things were different, mom and dad would’ve been proud.

Kei’s eyes were starting to water and his nose was starting to run, but he refused to do anything about it. He wasn’t even going to sniffle. He didn’t want Tetsurou to wake up and see he was upset.

And it doesn’t matter. Tetsu is proud of me. Tetsu’s mom is proud of me. Akiteru is proud of me. Lily is proud of me. And I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of myself. I’m...

Kei rolled away so he wasn’t facing Tetsurou anymore, pressing his hands over his mouth to muffle shaky breaths as he cried.

Why do I still have to miss them?

Why do I still need them to be proud of me?

Why don’t my parents care about me anymore?

Why am I so easy to abandon?

~

By morning, tears had been replaced by nerves again, and Kei was absolutely certain that something was going to go wrong.

“Nothing’s gonna go wrong, sweetheart,” Tetsurou assured him as they drove to the ceremony. “You just have to walk over to the guy, he hands you your diploma and shakes your hand, you stop and smile for the camera, and then you sit down.”

Kei just groaned.

“Trust me, Kei, it’ll be over before you know it,” Tetsurou’s mom piped up from the backseat. “They’ll call your name, you’ll blink, and you’ll be in your seat. The worst part is not walking across the stage, it’s sitting through the speeches.”

Tetsurou snorted. “Thanks, mom.”

“I’m not saying you can’t be excited,” she laughed. “But yeah, the speeches are probably gonna get boring.”

“Aren’t they supposed to be motivating?” Tetsurou asked, glancing back at her in the rearview mirror.

“Yeah, they’re supposed to.”

Kei started laughing while Tetsurou just sighed.

“Don’t encourage her,” he mumbled.

“You realize this is a graduation ceremony at our super-Christian school, right?” Kei reminded him. “Do you have any idea how many times people are going to thank God during this ceremony? There’s probably going to be at least one literal prayer we have to do.”

Tetsurou’s face fell. “I changed my mind, this is gonna get boring.”

~

“Oscar Vega.”

Kei took a deep breath and threaded his fingers tighter together as he watched the boy three people in front of him walk up onto the stage, looking calm and happy as could be as he did everything he was supposed to. He got his diploma, shook a few hands, stopped to smile at a camera, and walked off, following the line of people who’d been called before him to the graduates’ seats.

“Freya Tyson.”

Oh, God, we’re at the Ts.

Kei unlaced his fingers and left his arms to hand at his sides. This lasted about two seconds before his hands were laced together again.

“Max Turner.”

I’m next. I’m next. It’s okay. You’ll blink and it’ll be over. It’ll be fine.

“Kei Tsukishima.”

Kei didn’t know how any of the girls there were walking across the stage in heels. His legs felt like jelly as he stepped up, and he held his breath the whole time as he did everything he was supposed to, walked as far as he was supposed to, had his diploma handed to him in a nice diploma-holder-thing. He stopped and smiled at a camera he didn’t get a good look at before the flash was already going off, and then he was walking off the stage and filing into the seats with the rest of his classmates.

Finally taking a deep breath and getting some oxygen in his head, Kei set his diploma in his lap and dug his fingernails into the TWH on his palm.

You did it, Kei told himself. You graduated. It’s all over. You survived.

In a way, it was starting to feel like the end of everything. The hellish year he’d been through was over. Now it was just a summer with Tetsurou and college. A summer with Tetsurou and college. A summer with Tetsurou, then a few years of distance before a lifetime with Tetsurou.

Kei was finally able to relax and continue listening to the names being called, waiting to be able to see Tetsurou walk.

As quickly as his own walk across the stage had gone by, everyone else’s walk felt like it was taking forever. Kei slouched back in his seat and had to refrain from yawning as little by little, Ns turned to Ms turned to Ls, and then it was finally K.

“Libby Kynaston.”

There was a polite smattering of applause as Libby got her diploma.

“Amber Kyle.”

More applause.

C’mon... It’s gotta be him next...

“Tetsurou Kuroo.”

Amid the timid clapping was a loud woo from a voice that could only be Tetsurou’s mom, and Kei couldn’t help but laugh to himself as he clapped for Tetsurou, quietly applauding at first but louder and less ashamed as Tetsurou was handed his diploma. Tetsurou couldn’t keep a humble yet proud smile off his face as he shook the hand of all the administration staff that were required to be here today, and Kei found himself fighting off tears as Tetsurou held up his diploma and gave the most beautiful smile for the camera. Kei didn’t remember to stop clapping until after the next name had been called and Tetsurou was taking his own seat somewhere else in the small crowd.

Kei was so, so proud of him. Kei couldn’t stop smiling, he was still trying not to cry, because he was so deeply proud of Tetsurou in that moment, and he couldn’t wait for the ceremony to end so he could hug him and tell him how proud he was and tell him he loves him.

I love him. I love him, I love him, I love him.

After losing his father when he was so young, after having to take care of himself so much because his mother had to work to make ends meet, after getting expelled from school right before his senior year, Tetsurou had still made it. He was sitting a few rows away with a diploma in his hand. And Kei felt so, so lucky to be able to know Tetsurou at all. God, to actually be in love with him and be loved in return...

If Kei wasn’t so skeptical, he might’ve called it a miracle.

~

“Kei!” Tetsurou called, waving his graduation hat around to get Kei’s attention as he made his way through the crowd on the lawn, as if his over-six-foot stature and crazy hair didn’t make him stand out enough. Kei gave a small wave back, doing everything he could to hold in all the emotions he was feeling, but as soon as Tetsurou got to him, and he pulled Kei into his arms, lifting him up and twirling him around, Kei couldn’t take it anymore.

“I’m so proud of you,” he said, squeezing Tetsurou and not caring how this display of affection looked to anyone else watching. “I’m so, so proud of you and I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” Tetsurou said, tightening his arms around Kei to the point where Kei felt like he couldn’t breathe. “And if we weren’t in public, I would be kissing you so much right now.”

“As if this hug isn’t extremely gay already,” Kei wheezed out. Tetsurou let him go and Kei had a chance to breath.

“Were you okay, walking across the stage?” Tetsurou asked.

“Little shaky,” Kei admitted, “but it was fine.”

Tetsurou smiled. “God, I wish I could’ve seen you.”

“Don’t worry, it’s all on camera,” Akiteru called, waving his camera as he and Lily walked up to them.

“Hey, Akiteru,” Kei said with a grin, hugging his brother before carefully hugging Lily, trying to be mindful of her enormous baby bump. “What’d you think of the ceremony?”

“God, it dragged on longer than my ceremony,” Akiteru groaned.

“Told you so,” said Tetsurou’s mom as she slipped into the group. As soon as he saw her, Tetsurou leaned down to hug her, and she almost immediately had tears streaming down her face.

“I’m so proud of you,” she said quietly, closing her eyes as she hugged her son.

There was a pause before Tetsurou said a quiet, “Thanks, mom,” his voice breaking a little.

Holy shit, I think I’m actually gonna cry.

Before things got even more emotional, Tetsurou and his mom separated, and after a few sniffles from Tetsurou and his mother dabbing her eyes, everyone was peppy again.

“Should we take some pictures?” Tetsurou asked with a smile.

In true dad fashion, Akiteru started dictating pictures in every combination, first Tetsurou and his mother, then just Tetsurou, then just Kei, then Kei and Lily, then Kei and Akiteru, then Kei and Akiteru and Lily, and just as Kei’s face was starting to feel tired and awkward from smiling, Akiteru insisted he and Tetsurou take some pictures together.

While they both just stood smiling for the first shot, Tetsurou was quick to throw an arm around his shoulders and switch from a photo-smile to a natural one, laughing as Kei elbowed his side.

Akiteru relaxed and started looking at the pictures he’d taken. “You two are too cute.”

“Wait, I wasn’t even ready,” Kei said, stepping closer to see how the pictures had turned out. Akiteru held out his camera, and Kei was pleasantly surprised at the photo preview. Akiteru had captured Tetsurou while he was laughing, and he looked so beautiful, but Kei even liked himself in this picture, which was rare. He was in the middle of elbowing Tetsurou and his smile actually looked natural, all big and cheesy as he looked at Tetsu.

“I like this one a lot,” Akiteru said.

“Yeah,” Kei agreed, smiling softly at his new favorite picture. “Me too.”

“Should we head over to the restaurant?” Akiteru asked, turning off the camera and tucking it back in its case.

He turned to Lily for confirmation, but Lily had gotten distracted during Akiteru’s big photo shoot and was talking animatedly with Tetsurou’s mother, going on and on about prenatal care and how they were preparing for the baby and things like that.

Akiteru just laughed. “Kei, you two go on ahead, we’ll give Tetsurou’s mom a ride and meet you there.”

Kei couldn’t help but smile at Lily and Tetsurou’s mom immediately getting along like that. It made his new family feel a little more whole, not just having Tetsurou’s side and Akiteru’s side.

“We should’ve gotten Lily and my mom together sooner,” Tetsurou commented as he and Kei started heading for his car. “My mom loves babies.”

“She’ll be an excited grandmother one day, huh?” Kei said, loosely hooking his pinky with Tetsurou’s as they walked for just a moment before letting go.

“Seriously,” Tetsurou chuckled. “With her around, we’re not gonna get any time with our own kid.”

Kei tensed his jaw to hold back a smile, his chest feeling so warm and full at how certain Tetsurou sounded when he talked about it, like it was a guaranteed thing that they would have that future together, have kids together, be a family together.

It’s the start of our someday.

~

They stopped at the trunk of Tetsurou’s car, popping it open and tossing their caps inside before finally unzipping their graduation robes, the dark blue soaking up way too much sun for comfort.

“Hey, your tie’s all messed up,” Tetsurou said once Kei’s robe was sitting in a wad in the trunk. He stepped closer, fussing with Kei’s collar and adjusting the knot of his tie to make sure it was all sitting right, and Kei watched him with a smile for a moment before noticing something in his peripheral vision. The parking lot was relatively empty, most people still out on the lawn or already long gone, but there was one person standing a few cars away, just watching.

Hewitt.

Hewitt didn’t notice that Kei had seen him, still just watching Tetsurou and standing there, frozen. And Kei had an idea that was probably stupid... definitely immature...

But then again, regardless of what he’d joked about last night, just because they’d graduated didn’t mean he wasn’t allowed to be young and stupid.

Kei cupped Tetsurou’s face in his hands and kissed him.

It was soft and sweet but short-lived, and when Kei pulled back, Tetsurou just blinked back at him. “What was that for?” he asked, clearing his throat a little. “Aren’t you afraid someone’s gonna see us?”

Kei just shrugged. “It’s our last day here. Who cares?”

“There are a lot of people here who would care a lot. In a very bad way.”

“It’s fine, no one saw us,” Kei said, stepping back and going to get into the passenger seat. “I just love you a lot, okay?”

Tetsurou hesitated before heading for the driver’s seat, like he still didn’t know what to make of that kiss, but followed suit nevertheless. “I love you, too.”

Kei didn’t get to see Hewitt’s reaction, but he couldn’t help but be pleased that the last thing he’d ever do at this high school was kiss Tetsurou and piss off Hewitt in one fell swoop.

~

Tetsurou had to stop to get gas on the drive home from the restaurant.

“Hey, you wanna run in and grab some candy or soda or something?” Tetsurou suggested with a smile as he pulled up by one of the gas pumps. He pulled out his wallet and started combing through it for dollar bills. “It’s a special occasion.”

“It’s okay, I got it,” Kei said, pulling out his own wallet and putting a hand over Tetsurou’s as he leaned in. “I just got paid.”

Tetsurou grinned back at him and pressed his forehead against Kei’s. “I forgot I’m dating a working man,” he teased.

“Oh, yeah, I can buy you so much candy,” Kei said, playing along. “Three... maybe four whole candy bars...”

“Oh, babe,” Tetsurou sighed dreamily like that was just the sexiest thing in the world before kissing him.

Kei pulled away with a laugh. “C’mon, what do you want?” he asked, fixing his glasses where Tetsurou had knocked them askew.

“A Twix and a Coke,” Tetsurou said with a smile, giving Kei one last kiss before they both got out of the car.

The gas station minimart was completely empty when Kei stepped inside except for the guy at the cash register flipping absentmindedly through a car magazine. He mumbled a general greeting at Kei before turning his attention back to the magazine on the counter, sitting on a page that had a large advertisement of a half-naked woman sprawled out over the hood of a luxury car. He stayed on that page for a moment, eyebrows slightly raised, but then he just kept on flipping through the magazine. He looked to be about Kei’s age, but he was probably a little younger or older, or he wouldn’t be working a shitty gas station on graduation day.

Unless he skipped the ceremony and went to work, Kei thought to himself as he headed for the aisle full of candy. Or unless he just didn’t graduate.

And that was the last thought Kei ever planned on giving the cashier.

When Kei was paying for their snacks, Tetsurou came inside the store and joined Kei at the counter.

“Hey, Tsukki, you didn’t get me diet, did-”

“H-hey, T,” said the cashier quietly, his eyes going wide.

Tetsurou froze, his jaw dropping a little. “Matt.”

Matt? As in, punched-you-in-the-face-when-you-tried-to-kiss-him Matt?

“It’s, uh...” Matt cleared his throat and gave a nervous smile. “It’s good to see you, man.”

Kei wanted to look casual about this, and lord, was he trying but... this was Matt. The Matt. He felt more like a story than a real person. It had been a long time since Tetsurou had talked about him, but... Well, Matt was still an undoubtedly awkward subject, considering he was the reason Tetsurou was graduating from Willow Creek this morning instead of over at Maple Park High.

Tetsurou just nodded, still looking too shocked to function normally, and Kei was desperately trying to gauge what emotions were going through Tetsurou’s mind, but he wasn’t picking up much of anything. “Y-yeah. You too. Oh, uh, this is Kei!” he said suddenly, putting his hand on Kei’s shoulder. He felt a little shaky. “He’s my boyf.... friend...?” He gave a questionable glance at Kei, like he wasn’t sure which one to say in this situation.

“Boyfriend,” Kei confirmed, reaching across the counter and shaking Matt’s hand. “Max, right?”

“Uh, it’s-”

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Kei interrupted.

He kind of looks like the singer of Twenty One Pilots. But... greasy.

Kei couldn’t believe this was the guy. The guy that someone as amazing as Tetsurou Kuroo fell for. Kei had imagined him to have a little more... presence. He just seemed so small. He was a little short and scrawny and looked kind of feeble. He wasn’t unattractive, but...

I can’t believe that if this guy was bi, he would’ve gotten to be with Tetsurou instead of me.

“What have you been up to?” Tetsurou asked, sounding a little more comfortable as the conversation progressed but still not... him.

“Oh, uh... Just working here,” Matt said with a shrug. “Not much else. I, uh, I had a girlfriend, too, for a while, but we... broke up. But that’s, that’s fine, I’m over that... But you, how have you been?”

“Really good,” Tetsurou said. “I did senior year at that Christian school and I actually just graduated like, three hours ago.”

Matt gave a short, bitter laugh. “That explains the get-up, I guess. How the hell’d you afford that place?”

“My mom and I made it work.”

“Ate through your college fund, didn’t it?”

Tetsurou nodded. “Yup.”

“Hey, listen, if you’re looking for a job instead of a college now, we’re always hiring here,” Matt suggested. Kei’s shoulders tensed up a little.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Tetsurou said, rubbing the back of his neck.

“What was the total again?” Kei asked, looking to move this transaction along and get Tetsu out of there.

“Oh, y’know what, it’s on the house,” Matt said quickly, pushing the snacks back towards Tetsurou. “Congrats, or whatever.”

“That’s okay-”

“No, really, it’s cool,” Matt insisted. “I insist, go for it.”

Tetsurou was the one who reached forward and took their stuff. “Thanks, Mattie.”

Mattie. The sound of it made Kei’s skin crawl.

“And, uh, T,” Matt said as Tetsurou and Kei started turning toward the exit. “I’m sorry.”

Tetsurou gave him a smile over his shoulder. “I’m sorry, too. It’s fine.”

Matt gave a smile back. “Cool.”

Kei didn’t know how to feel about any of what had just happened.

And then, when the two of them stepped out of the shop, Tetsurou started laughing.

“Jesus, now you’re laughing?” Kei asked, his shoulders slumping. “We run into fucking Matt, and that entire time in there I can’t tell if you’re genuinely okay seeing him or not, and then he offers you a fucking job, and now you’re fucking la-”

Kei was interrupted when Tetsurou suddenly pulled him in and kissed him, wrapping his arms around Kei’s waist and giving him the most romantic, ridiculously perfect kiss. As much as Kei wanted to pull away and make Tetsurou communicate with actual words (which was an ironic twist, that Kei had to prod Tetsurou into communicating)... Well, he didn’t really want to pull away at all. The kiss felt honestly Oscar-worthy, even if it was just two gay high school graduates in front of a Circle K.

“I love you,” Tetsurou murmured after pulling away.

“Okay, are you gonna explain to me what’s up with you?” Kei asked.

“I am so happy we met, Kei Tsukishima,” Tetsurou told him, looking him dead in the eye. “I am so happy to have you in my life, and I am so, so, so happy to be in love with you.” Tetsurou pressed a kiss to his cheek. “And I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else.” Tetsurou let out another soft laugh. “I don’t know, it’s just funny to suddenly realize exactly how lucky I was to end up with you.”

Kei took a moment to be flattered by that before snorting. “So you kissed me because you realized I’m better than him?”

“You’re sooo much better,” Tetsurou said in disbelief. “Holy shit, I mean, I knew that, but to see it side by side like that...”

Kei just shook his head, taking Tetsurou’s hand and leading him back to the car. “I cannot believe you, Tetsurou Kuroo.”

“I’m so, so, so happy to be in love with you.”

It was at least nice to know the feeling was mutual.

Chapter Text

The scene unfolded before Kei like a movie, in strategic, cinematic shots and angles. It was all presented to him in the third-person, some sort of out-of-body experience as he watched himself and Tetsurou making out on his bed. Kei’s bed, back at his parent’s house. He still lived there, and the two of them were home alone in this moment while Tetsurou laid him down on his soft duvet. All of this was unquestioned, as ordinary as the air they breathed.

Tetsurou didn’t ask before he began unbuttoning Kei’s shirt, but he didn’t have to, and Kei both watched and lived that moment, viewing it from up above Tetsurou but still feeling Tetsurou’s hands on his chest as he worked. Kei just hummed softly, his heart rate picking up in anticipation and desire pulling at something low in his stomach. Once his shirt was open, Tetsurou kissed his chest, and the angle of Kei’s view shifted to the side of them, so that Kei watched the silhouette of his own profile, backlit from the lamp beside his bed, and yet he still felt the touch of Tetsurou’s mouth on his skin. There was a quick cutaway to the front of Kei’s already-unzipped pants as Tetsurou slipped his hand down the front of them, and then it was back to Kei’s own silhouette, arching its back up off of the mattress as the quick movements of Tetsurou’s arm made clear exactly what his hand was doing just out of view.

After this taste of what was to come, there were more quick shots that hurried the scene along: Tetsurou kissing Kei’s lips, fast and passionate and desperate as Kei buried his hands in Tetsurou’s hair; Tetsurou tossing his own shirt aside, and Kei running his hands up Tetsurou’s chest as Tetsurou leaned down to kiss his neck; zipper sounds, the metallic clank as belt buckles fell to the floor, the soft moan from Kei as Tetsurou resumed his work; a full shot of Tetsurou’s bare back, complete with Kei’s hands digging his fingernails into Tetsurou’s soft flesh and Kei’s bare legs wrapped up around his waist.

They were having sex. Kei was having sex. In this moment, atop his bed and beneath his boyfriend and enveloped in the silence of an empty house and the warmth of Tetsurou’s touch, Kei was losing his virginity, and judging by the sound of his own moans and his own heavy breathing and the creaking of his own bed and mattress springs, he was really enjoying it. Kei was so distant from his own experience, and yet he still felt so good. He liked these ideas, he liked the image of himself beneath Tetsurou, of himself wrapped around and clinging to Tetsurou, of himself gasping for air and making faces of pleasure as Tetsurou fucked him.

I love him so much, Kei thought to himself, feeling hot and electric all over his body. Fuck, I want him so bad...

But then Kei woke up.

He was back in Tetsurou’s bed. Tetsurou was fast asleep beside him. They were both fully clothed and barely touching each other, almost avoiding now in the miserable heat of summer.

Kei was still hard, though.

He slipped out of bed and uncomfortably made his way out of Tetsurou’s room, across the hall, and into the bathroom, all the while wondering whether he should splash some cold water on his face and wait for it to pass or just take care of things himself. Maybe in the past, cold water and letting it pass would’ve been his natural inclination, but these days...

Well, to say the least, this was not the first dream like this Kei had had this summer.

In the wake of graduation, Kei had set three goals for himself to accomplish before leaving for college.

The first and most straightforward was making money. Now that school was out and Kei could move from working part-time to full-time at Kiss Me Cake, he was going to do everything he could to make sure Akiteru had to spend as little of that college fund as possible on him. He wanted as much money as he could manage to actually be saved away for Akiteru’s baby. Maybe this would’ve been worse, if Kei hated his job, but he really did enjoy working at the bakery with Jen. As awkward as he’d felt around her at first, these days, he genuinely considered her a friend. Between answering phone calls and greeting any customers who came in, he spent his days hanging out with Jen and chatting with her while she did the actual hard work of decorating cakes. She was even starting to educate him on the basics of baking whenever they had the time, teaching him the most basic vanilla cupcake recipe and how to pipe frosting. And he got paid for all of that. It was honestly a great deal.

Still, it cut into his second goal, which was making the absolute most of his time with Tetsurou before leaving for college. He had freshman orientation to go to in August, but luckily he had until mid-September until he was actually moving into the dorms, and he intended to spend as much time as he could just enjoying being with Tetsurou. As June passed by, it became clear that this summer wasn’t exactly going to be the big, romantic fling Kei and Tetsurou had been imagining in the days leading up to graduation, but it had been a little silly, on both of their parts, to envision it that way anyway. As nice as it would’ve been to spend every other day cuddled up in Tetsurou’s bed, making out and whispering sweet nothings to each other while they still could, and spending the days in between out going on adventures in Tetsurou’s car, it just wasn’t practical in the slightest. Kei had a full-time job. Tetsurou was desperately job-hunting. They were too busy for lazy days in bed, and gas was too expensive for any adventures. Still, they were going to make time, and if they couldn’t spend days in Tetsurou’s bed, they could spend a a few minutes making out in Tetsurou’s car after Tetsurou picked Kei up from work, or stay up later than they should cuddled up on the couch watching torrented movies.

And Kei’s third goal, and the reason he was waking up in the middle of the night halfway-through (and once, unfortunately, after) wet dreams about Tetsurou, was to lose his virginity.

Ever since that night before graduation, in the back of Tetsurou’s car when it had suddenly occurred to Kei that he really, really did not mind the idea of having sex with Tetsurou, the idea of it had been almost constantly lingering somewhere in the back of his mind. And having sex on his mind so much was an entirely new experience; sex was honestly not something Kei had really thought about in his lifetime, at least not extensively. He’d obviously given it some consideration, somewhere during puberty when hormones were high and other boys his age wouldn’t shut the fuck up about it, but... Well, that was the extent of it. Kei figured that the most logical reason for his lack of interest was, of course, that premarital sex is a sin.

(There was also the equally important fact that the only gender Kei would’ve dared imagine it with was not a gender he wanted to fuck.)

Still, avoiding thinking about sex wasn’t a big deal or something Kei had to teach himself to tune out in the slightest. On top of it all being a sin in more ways than one, Kei just... wasn’t really interested. He’d experimented with masturbation a few times, and it was... fine... but it wasn’t something he ever particularly felt the need to do. (Plus, that was also a sin.) He’d looked up porn once out of morbid curiosity (and a few more times on complete accident), but was more repulsed by it than anything else. His thoughts rarely wandered toward the subject, and all in all, it was probably the easiest thing out of anything for Kei to block out. The whole thing was effortless, really. If anything, it required effort to actually think about it in the first place.

But then Tetsurou happened.

Through the beginnings of their relationship, Kei still hadn’t been thinking about anything sexy in the slightest. His raunchiest fantasies were about holding hands and kissing and cuddling in his bed. It wasn’t only because that was all scandalous enough, doing those things with a boy, but also largely because that was genuinely all Kei had been interested in. He hadn’t been repressing sexual urges; he simply hadn’t had them. But over time, that had definitely changed; the more comfortable he’d gotten with Tetsurou, the more he’d wanted to get comfortable with Tetsurou.

And now, getting each other off was a fairly regular thing that Kei was used to. Kei trusted Tetsurou with every fiber of his being. And Tetsurou was still absolutely hot as hell. So Kei was actually starting to think about sex. And he was thinking about sex a lot.

It seemed almost impossible that Tetsurou wasn’t thinking about it, too, considering just how much it was on Kei’s mind. It was just constant. It was a spark flickering up in the back of his head whenever they were home alone and a kiss lasted just longer than Kei had expected it to, heating up into glowing embers when that kiss turned into making out, small flames when they took things to the bedroom and started taking off each other’s shirts, picking up a huge, roaring fire that crackled and burned just under Kei’s skin whenever they started to touch each other. Kei just wanted Tetsurou so bad. There was no way Tetsurou wasn’t thinking about it, too, right?

But Tetsurou hadn’t so much as mentioned it, except perhaps in extremely vague dirty lines that could mean anything. Maybe Kei would have the guts to bring up having sex himself if they had at least talked about it in a casual way, but there had been absolutely nothing. As comfortable as they were talking about just about everything else, actual sex and actually having it was apparently not up for discussion.

And, of course, if it was really on Kei’s mind that much and he really wanted it to happen that badly, he should’ve just bit the bullet and brought it up anyway.

But something in him really, really, really didn’t want to bring up the idea first.

In a way, it almost just felt fair that Tetsurou be the first to bring it up. Kei had kissed first and initiated making out first and was the first to get Tetsurou off and the first to throw out the idea of blow jobs. Kei had made lot more first moves than he ever would’ve expected of himself. It was Tetsurou’s fucking turn already.

(There was also the terrifying possibility that Kei would bring it up and Tetsurou wouldn’t want to, that he would think they should wait longer or he wouldn’t feel ready or, God forbid, he wanted to wait until marriage.)

So Kei was waiting for Tetsurou to bring it up first.

But God, Tetsurou was taking ages.

Kei had three goals for the summer: make enough money to ease his guilt toward his brother, be fully satisfied with the quality time spent with Tetsurou, and get fucked at least once.

And so far, the last one seemed the least likely to be achieved.

~

After spending most of June on applications, a handful of interviews, and several rejections, Tetsurou landed himself his first job.

Kei was absolutely ecstatic when he got the news, in the middle of a slow day working full-time at Kiss Me Cake when he got the call from Tetsurou. Even if Tetsurou hadn’t been job-hunting terribly long, Kei hadn’t been able to keep himself from worrying during the whole process, and Tetsurou had definitely noticed. He’d kept joking before his interviews that Kei was more nervous about it than he was, assuring Kei that he should just relax and that something would work out, and in the meantime, Tetsurou was glad to get a bit of a breather between school ending and a full-time job starting.

But at the end of the day when Tetsurou was too tired to try and hide it, or in the mornings when Kei got up to get ready for work and Tetsurou stayed in bed, Kei could tell he was frustrated. And Kei could do nothing but hope that something would work out after all. Hearing that Tetsurou was going to be the local Target’s newest employee was a load off of Kei’s mind as much as it was Tetsurou’s.

So naturally, Kei brought home a few cupcakes from work to celebrate.

“You’re gonna love this,” Kei told him as they finally got home and into Tetsurou’s kitchen. Kei had been dropping hints about a surprise inside the cupcake box the whole drive home, because as much as Kei didn’t really like surprises, Tetsurou loved them.

Tetsurou reached for the box and Kei immediately held it back out of his reach.

“C’mon, babe,” Tetsurou whined. “Just tell me what it is!”

Kei set the box on the counter and started picking at the glittery tape keeping it closed. “So you know how Jen’s started to teach me some of the basics of cake decorating?”

“Yeah...”

“Well, when you called me and told me you got the job earlier,” Kei explained, “I decided to personalize a few for you.”

Kei opened up the lid and revealed the masterpiece he’d spent a slow hour at work creating (though if Tetsurou asked, it took him twenty minutes).

Tetsurou immediately burst out laughing. “Holy shit, Kei!”

Kei just grinned as he walked Tetsurou through his half-dozen cakes, each adorned with huge frosting roses of alternating petals of white and red. “Three are Chocolate Dream and three are Peanut Butter Prince, all with a chocolate ganache center and topped with vanilla buttercream frosting in red and white to celebrate Target’s newest, best employee.”

Tetsurou hesitated. “Wait, but Jen did the actual roses, right?”

“Nope,” Kei said casually as he wiped away a stray smudge of icing from the inside of the box and licked it off his finger.

Tetsurou’s jaw dropped a little, and Kei couldn’t hold back a snort of laughter. “You did them?” Tetsurou asked, leaning over the kitchen counter to have a closer look. “What the fuck, they’re perfect.”

Kei wrapped his arms around Tetsurou to hug him from behind, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “Perfect cupcakes for a perfect boyfriend.”

Tetsurou turned and raised an eyebrow at him. “What’s with all the extra sap? Am I dying or something?”

No,” Kei said. “I’m just happy you got the job. Why is that suspicious?”

Tetsurou gave a smug grin, the same one he always gave before delivering a line that he knew was bad. “Because obviously, you’re the perfect one around here.”

“Ugh, I’m gonna puke,” Kei said, rolling his eyes.

Tetsurou just laughed as he stepped forward and leaned in close to Kei. “Thank you,” he told him, pressing a few kisses to his lips and making an hour’s worth of trying to make six perfect roses out of frosting all worth it. “You’re the best.”

“I know.”

Tetsurou shook his head with a grin, giving Kei one last smooch before turning back to the cupcakes. “Seriously, babe, they look amazing. Fuck paleontology, you could decorate cakes for a living.”

Kei could’ve been offended at “fuck paleontology”, but he decided to let it slide. “Yeah, I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

“I don’t even wanna eat one, I don’t wanna ruin it,” Tetsurou said.

“Oh, come on,” Kei laughed. “It’s fine, just eat one.”

“But-”

Kei reached over and swiped his finger through one of the roses before dotting the frosting on the tip of Tetsurou’s nose.

“Aw, Kei!” Tetsurou whined, wiping his nose with the back of his hand but clearly more concerned with the ruined cupcake.

“It’s a cupcake,” Kei reminded him. “You’re supposed to eat it. I could make you a thousand more of these.”

“In that case, I guess you won’t mind if I do this,” Tetsurou said as he took another smudge of icing from the already-ruined rose and smeared it across Kei’s cheek.

Which was pretty much as good as a declaration of war.

Kei immediately reached for more frosting, but Tetsurou was quicker, ducking away from Kei’s attack and nailing Kei’s other cheek with another streak of red. He wasn’t so lucky a second time and took nearly an entire rose to his mouth and chin.

“Oh, God, Kei!” Tetsurou laughed, touching his lips and looking at his fingers as if he was checking for blood and not frosting.

“Mm, babe, you got a little something on your face,” Kei told him as he casually licked more frosting off of his fingers.

Tetsurou just grinned. “Would you mind getting it for me?” he asked softly as he took a step closer to Kei and started leaning in.

“No, no, no!” Kei shook as head as he stepped back out of Tetsurou’s reach, but Tetsurou was quick to pounce and pin Kei against the fridge, attacking him with thick, sticky kisses all over his neck.

And Kei wanted to complain, to shake Tetsurou off and maybe reach for another cupcake to use as ammo, but... well, he was still weak as hell against neck-kissing. It took about two seconds for Kei to completely surrender and let Tetsurou do as he liked.

“Does this mean I win?” Tetsurou murmured before taking a break from kissing to lick up some of the mess he’d made all over Kei’s skin, making Kei go absolutely weak in the knees.

“To be honest,” Kei said as he let his eyes fall closed, “I think I’m the real winner here.” Tetsurou knew exactly how to make Kei feel so good, and Kei wanted him so bad.

Tetsurou just let out a laugh as he slipped his hands under Kei’s shirt and moved his head up to kiss Kei’s lips, and fuck, Tetsurou’s kisses had never tasted so sweet. Kei lifted his hands to run them through Tetsurou’s hair as he kissed back, tugging him closer because this was just too good.

“Kei,” Tetsurou breathed between kisses.

“Yeah?”

Tetsurou pulled away just far enough to speak. “Are you kissing me or tasting me?”

Kei felt himself turn red as he thought back to what he’d been doing, and now that Tetsurou mentioned it, maybe he had been a literal liberal with the tongue...

“In my defense,” Kei said as Tetsurou bit his lip, trying to hold back a laugh, “It’s really good frosting.”

Tetsurou took a step back and had a look at Kei. “You’re a mess.”

Kei snorted. “And whose fault is that?”

“Hey, you shot first,” Tetsurou reminded him.

“Besides, you’re not bad, yourself,” Kei chuckled, just now noticing that in addition to the pink smudges left behind on Tetsurou’s face, Kei had accidentally gotten some frosting in his hair while kissing. “We should probably take a shower.”

Tetsurou’s eyebrows went up. “Together?” he asked, trying to sound teasing about it but failing because Kei could tell he really, really wanted that.

Kei almost wanted to laugh at how Tetsurou asked that like it was such a big thing to ask for, when he had no idea what Kei really wanted.

Still, Kei just smirked and stepped in close again, draping his arms around Tetsurou’s shoulders. “It’s like I said earlier,” he murmured, speaking slowly and carefully as he rested his forehead against Tetsurou’s. “I’m really happy you got the job.”

Tetsurou was starting to go pink. “S-so, yes to the shower?”

Kei pressed a light kiss to Tetsurou’s lips, saying softly and slowly, “Yes to whateeever you want.” Really. Anything. Anything you want, Tetsurou. A-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Tetsurou wasted no time in sweeping Kei into his arms so he could carry him off to the shower.

Tetsu!”

“You said whatever I want,” Tetsurou reminded him with a grin.

Kei rolled his eyes, but his arms were clinging tightly onto Tetsurou’s neck. “That was before I remembered how cheesy you are.”

Tetsurou just laughed as he carried Kei out of the kitchen.

“Don’t you dare drop me,” Kei warned him, no matter how steady Tetsurou’s arms felt holding him.

Tetsurou snorted. “As if I’d ever drop you.”

~

One shower later, Kei was at the sink and wearing nothing but a towel as he brushed his teeth (very thoroughly, to get a particular taste out of his mouth). Tetsurou came back from getting dressed in his room and hugged Kei from behind, giggling a little as he nuzzled his cheek against the back of Kei’s neck.

“I looove you,” he told him.

“Babe,” Kei said over a mouthful of toothpaste before spitting it into the sink. “It’s too hot for this.”

Tetsurou just held on tighter. “But I need to do this while I still can.”

Kei frowned. “‘While you still can’?”

“Mmhmm,” Tetsurou confirmed. “Because I’m gonna look so lame in my work clothes, you’ll never wanna touch me again.”

Oh, my God,” Kei laughed, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand as he turned to look at Tetsurou. “It’s not that bad, is it?”

“It’s a red polo shirt and khakis,” Tetsurou said like it was the worst thing in the world, even if he was trying not to laugh himself.

“It’s not that bad,” Kei assured before pressing a kiss to Tetsurou’s cheek. “You look good in red.”

“Okay, but not polo shirts,” Tetsurou countered. “I’m not a legacy-kid frat boy on his way to brunch.”

“Just keep your collar popped and no one will know the difference,” he said as he slipped out of Tetsurou’s arms and headed out of the bathroom and into the bedroom.

“Will you still love me when I look like a total dork?” Tetsurou asked as he followed Kei out and flicked off the bathroom light.

“I still love you, even though you act like a total dork,” Kei pointed out. “So, probably.”

“‘Probably’?”

“Like, ninety-nine percent chance.”

“Thanks.”

“C’mon,” Kei said as he took Tetsurou’s hands in his. “Would I make you cupcakes and suck your dick if I wasn’t in this for the long-run?”

Tetsurou cringed. “Christ, was that supposed to sound romantic?” he laughed.

“Excuse me, what is the romantic way to phrase that?” Kei pointed out. “Enlighten me.”

Tetsurou gave it a moment’s thought before sighing. “Okay, you win.”

Kei grinned before leaning in to kiss him, and even if he didn’t taste like frosting anymore, the taste of Tetsurou’s lips was still pretty good. He’d intended for the kiss to be quick, but... instead, he just keep kissing him, over and over, because even if they’d kissed a thousand times before and Kei took it all for granted half the time, the taste of Tetsurou’s lips was not something he was ever going to get tired of.

When Kei finally took a break, he cupped Tetsurou’s face in his hands and ran his thumb over Tetsurou’s lips.

“I love you, no matter what,” he admitted quietly.

Tetsurou gave a soft smile. “That’s more like it.”

~

“How’s work going?” Kei asked as he leaned against the counter.

“What’s that?” Jen called from the kitchen.

Kei put his phone against his shoulder. “Not you, I’m on the phone with Tetsurou.”

Jen gasped. “Taking a personal call during work hours? How unprofessional.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kei said, rolling his eyes.

Jen poked her head out of the kitchen. “You’re fired,” she said as if it wasn’t the fifth time Kei had been “fired” just this week.

“Really? You’re firing the employee of the month?” Kei asked as if he wasn’t the only employee.

Jen just stuck her tongue out at him before returning to her baking. Kei grinned and went back to his call. “Sorry, I was talking to Jen, tell me how work is going.”

“It’s going alright,” Tetsurou sighed. “I’m so ready for my shift to be over, though. Some kid tore open a bag of flour and got it everywhere, and that was a bitch to clean up...”

“A whole bag of flour?” Kei laughed.

“Mmhmm. It was a pretty big bag, too! Like, the floor on an entire aisle was covered. It looked like fucking snow.”

“I wish it was snow,” Kei said, taking a moment to appreciate how lovely and air-conditioned Kiss Me Cake was.

“Snow would’ve been easier to clean up. I didn’t sweep it or vacuum it or anything and just tried mopping it up, but the water was just making it turn into paste and it was getting stuck to the mop and it was awful.”

Kei tried not to laugh, but failed. “What did you think was gonna happen?”

“Not that!”

“How were the kid’s parents?” Kei asked.

“Actually very apologetic, thank God,” Tetsurou sighed. “His mom was really nice about it, immediately offering to pay for the bag and all that. Other parents are the worst. Holy shit, that reminds me, I have the funniest story - okay, you know my coworker I was telling you about, Kenma? Earlier, he was ringing up a customer, and-”

“Oh, Tetsurou, I gotta go,” Kei interrupted, looking out of the window and seeing two women walking up to the door. “We got customers. You’ll have to tell me that story later, okay? Have a nice rest of your break, I love you!”

“Love you t-”

Kei quickly hung up and tucked his phone in his pocket just as the ladies walked into the shop. “Hello, is there anything I can help you with?”

~

When Tetsurou picked Kei up a few hours later, Kei couldn’t help but notice a streak of paste on Tetsurou’s sleeve and snorted.

“You look so cute in pink,” Tetsurou said as if it were synonymous with a simple, “Hello.”

“And you look really good in red,” Kei said back after he’d settled into the passenger’s seat, leaning over to give Tetsurou a quick kiss. “How was the rest of your shift?”

Tetsurou smiled as he put the car into gear. “No flour spills, so that’s good. What about you?”

“Really good, actually,” Kei told him. “The customers I hung up on you for? It was our first Love Wins couple.”

Awww!” Tetsurou gushed immediately. “That’s so cute!”

The day after the Supreme Court decision came out and same-sex marriage actually became legal not only in their state but every state in the US, a very excited Jen had quickly made the decision to offer a thirty-percent discount on wedding cakes to all LGBT couples throughout the whole rest of the summer. It had taken them a few days to get any takers, but the two women that had come in today turned out to be long-term girlfriends who were finally planning for a long-overdue wedding.

“They’ve been together for eight years,” Kei said. “Don’t you think if that were you, you would’ve just moved where it was already legal by now?”

Tetsurou snorted. “Right, because moving is so cheap and finding new jobs is so easy and leaving behind your friends and family is just a piece of cake.”

Kei winced. “Was that me being insensitive or have you just thought about this a lot?”

“Little of both,” Tetsurou said with a shrug.

“Anyway,” Kei said, drumming his fingers against his leg, “it doesn’t matter anymore, since it’s legal here now.”

Tetsurou cleared his throat. “And speaking of... Like, I don’t want to freak you out...”

“Buuut?”

“I mean, it’s not like we haven’t talked about the future before,” Tetsurou said quickly, and Kei started to get an idea of where he was going with this. “But back then, the idea of getting married was something we kind of had to wait for, y’know? Like, the idea of us being financially stable enough to move away seemed so far away, but now... this kind of changes things, doesn’t it?”

“Does it?”

Does it?” Tetsurou insisted.

“Just tell me what you’re thinking,” Kei said with a laugh.

Tetsurou sighed. “Like... the irrational part of me-”

“So, most of you.”

Shush. The irrational part of me is just, ‘I love you so much right now and I want to marry you right now’, all that kind of bullshit, but I know, logically, that... I don’t know, it’s kind of a bad idea, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know that it’s necessarily a bad idea,” Kei said, “but it’s not the best idea. I mean, yeah, it seems all big and romantic to get married now, but... my feelings still haven’t really changed. I’d still rather wait until we’re both through school and in steady jobs and all that. And besides, I know you, and as much as you like the idea of getting married in a rush like this, you would be so much happier having a big, proper ceremony and reception.”

Tetsurou gave it a moment of thought, probably to imagine exactly what that big ceremony would be like, before sighing dreamily. “Okay, yeah, you’re right, you’re a hundred-percent right.”

Kei leaned over to kiss Tetsurou’s cheek. “As usual,” he teased.

“You were literally wrong, like, thirty seconds ago.”

“Shut up.”

“Love you, too.”

~

A couple days later, within the first week of July, it seemed like Kei was actually going to achieve his third goal.

Tetsurou had a day off, so Kei had asked for it off too, and they ended up with a whole day having the house to themselves.

They’d gotten to sleep in as late as they’d liked, drifting awake sometime around noon and staying in bed far longer than necessary sharing sleepy, lazy kisses.

After they’d finally gotten themselves to separate and get out of bed, Tetsurou had cooked Kei “breakfast,” despite it being one in the afternoon (his signature eggs, of course).

Then, after eating, they’d spent most of the afternoon lazing about, staying close to each other but not too close, because even if it wasn’t as hot inside as it was outside, cuddling just led to feeling sweaty and gross.

But, as was bound to happen sooner or later, Tetsurou moved in a little closer during the commercial break of a TV show they weren’t terribly invested in and started kissing Kei’s neck.

“Tetsu, it’s hot,” Kei complained with a laugh.

“Yeah, well, so are you,” Tetsurou said, leaning closer and slipping a hand under Kei’s T-shirt, letting it linger on Kei’s bare waist.

Kei turned his body to face Tetsurou and give him easier access. “You’re ridiculous.”

He could feel Tetsurou grin against his skin as he leaned forward and eased Kei down onto his back.

“Tetsu,” Kei said before letting out a soft hum as Tetsurou slipped his hands further up Kei’s shirt. It took him a second to refocus. “If you want to lie down, we might as well go to your bed instead.”

“As you wish,” Tetsurou said, giving Kei’s neck one last kiss before getting off of him and helping him up.

Oh, please, please, please let this be it, Kei thought to himself.

Once they were in Tetsurou’s room and the door was closed beyond them, they laid down on Tetsurou’s bed and... well, things escalated. Tetsurou slipped off Kei’s shirt and gave him several new hickeys to match ones he already had, almost but not quite faded from his shoulders. Tetsurou lost his own shirt somewhere along the line, and Kei couldn’t help but dig his fingernails into the bare skin of Tetsurou’s back as Tetsurou gently nipped at his skin with his teeth and soothed the spots over with his tongue.

God, I love it when you do that,” Kei said breathlessly.

“Does that mean you’d be heartbroken if I moved on?” Tetsurou asked as his hands wandered to tug at the waistband of Kei’s shorts.

Fuck no.”

Kei’s shorts were slid off and tossed aside, followed shortly by Tetsurou’s, and that only lasted so long before their underwear was discarded, as well, and... fuck, fuck, fuck, Kei just wanted Tetsurou so badly. His body was practically aching, it craved Tetsurou so much. The kissing and touching and grinding and the feeling of so much skin on skin was so good, it almost seemed ridiculous to possibly want more, but Kei was absolutely, one-hundred-percent ridiculous in this situation.

“Kei?” Tetsurou said on a breath as he pulled away, his hands pressed against the bed on either side of Kei’s body to prop him up as he looked down at him.

Kei was just as breathless as Tetsurou was. “Yes?”

“How... how far exactly were you wanting to go?”

Kei’s heart stopped. Tetsurou was finally bringing it up. Holy shit, he was actually bringing it up.

“Honestly?” Kei said softly, still completely out of breath. “I want you so badly, Tetsu.”

Tetsurou’s eyes widened. “Wait, you mean, like... You actually want to have sex?”

“I absolutely want to have sex,” Kei finally admitted, and it was like a weight lifting off of his chest.

Really?”

Kei almost laughed, Tetsurou looked so flushed and wide-eyed and innocent about the idea, as if he had never heard of something so scandalous. Instead, Kei just propped himself up on his elbows to reach up and kiss Tetsurou again, gentle and chaste before repeating, “Yes. I want to have sex with you, Tetsu.”

Tetsurou bit his lip to hold back a smile. “I... But we... We haven’t ever talked about... Are you sure-”

“I am sure, Tetsu,” Kei interrupted with a laugh he wasn’t able to hold back. “Unless you don’t want to-”

“No, no, no, I do,” Tetsurou clarified very quickly. “I definitely, definitely do, I just... thought we would talk about it first.”

Kei pressed a second kiss to Tetsurou’s. “I love you,” he told him. “And I trust you.” Kei kissed Tetsurou once more, but this kiss was a lot less gentle and a lot less chaste. “And I really, really want you.”

Tetsurou looked dazed for just a moment before his face went into something far more lovesick than lustful. “I really love you, too,” he said softly. Kei laid back against the mattress and Tetsurou lowered himself onto him to stay close. “A-and I trust you, too. And I really, really, really want you, Kei Tsukishima...”

Kei took a deep breath. “Then take me.”

Tetsurou just stared at Kei a moment before whispering, “Fuck,” and kissing him again, deep and passionate as he brought things back to hot and heavy. Kei’s heart was pounding in anticipation, because holy shit, this was finally happening. He and Tetsurou were going to have sex. He was going to remember this moment for forever, this hot afternoon at the beginning of July, in Tetsurou’s bedroom while they had the house to themselves, after eight months of dating and four months of living together, and two months before Kei was leaving for college. Kei was going to lose his virginity to Tetsurou Kuroo, and it was going to be absolutely perf-

“Wait,” Tetsurou said, propping himself up again to look down at Kei.

“No, no, no, no ‘wait’,” Kei said quickly. “Why ‘wait’?”

“I just remembered I don’t actually have any condoms,” Tetsurou said, cringing.

Kei frowned. “Why would we need condoms?” he asked. “We’re both virgins and neither of us can get pregnant.”

“Well, yeah, but isn’t that still just... I don’t know, what you’re supposed to do?”

“You’re asking me?” Kei asked, raising an eyebrow. “Tetsurou, think back to where I went to school - do you honestly think I received comprehensive and LGBT-friendly sex ed?”

“Okay, no, but-”

“Tetsu, it’s fine,” Kei sighed. “Neither of us have been with anyone else.”

“I don’t like the idea of doing it without one,” Tetsurou argued. “And besides, I don’t have lube, either.”

Kei hesitated. “...Lube?”

“Yeah, and that’s gonna be pretty fucking important to this whole thing,” Tetsurou said with a chuckle. “Especially for you.”

“But... I don’t know, can’t we just use something else?”

Now Tetsurou actually laughed. “Babe, you really wanna try getting creative for our first time?”

Kei groaned. Condoms had crossed his mind once or twice, ever since he’d started imagining this moment in his head, but he’d never thought about lube. In hindsight, lube seemed like a very, very, very important detail, but... Well, maybe what Kei had been planning in his head was more like a sex scene in a movie than anything realistic. And movies never talked about lube.

(And of all the movies Kei had seen, none of the sex scenes had been between two men, anyway.)

Tetsurou leaned down and pressed a kiss to Kei’s nose. “If you want, I could make a drugstore run and pick up some things.”

Kei considered it for a moment, but he knew the mood would definitely pass in the time it took to make the trip and back, so he just sighed and gave up. “Nah, just forget it. Now’s not the time, it’s fine.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure,” Kei said, trying and failing to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

Tetsurou just laughed. “Shit, Kei, I’m sorry! If I had known you wanted to, I would’ve had some stuff on hand.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“If you want, we could just do something else,” Tetsurou offered.

“Mood’s already gone,” Kei mumbled. He made to sit up, and Tetsurou rolled off of him to let him.

“Maybe it’s better this way,” Tetsurou offered up, making himself comfortable while Kei leaned forward and rubbed his eyes. “Y’know, we can actually talk about things.”

Kei turned and looked back at him, “What actually is there to talk about, anyway?”

Tetsurou snorted. “Well, for starters, ‘Do we have condoms and lube’?”

Kei just flopped back and groaned.

“Also, we never actually talked about topping or bottoming,” Tetsurou pointed out. “But I take it that you’re down for bottoming?”

“I wouldn’t know what the hell I was doing if I was topping,” Kei said simply.

“Shit, and you think I would?” Tetsurou asked. “It’s not like I’ve ever done this before.”

“Yeah, but...” Kei sighed. “You always seem like you know what you’re doing.”

“I can assure you, I am literally always faking it.”

Kei finally stopped scowling and laughed a little. “Does that mean you don’t want to top?”

“No, I’m fine with topping,” Tetsurou clarified quickly. “I mean, I’d be fine the other way too, but yeah, that’s completely fine. Just... don’t expect it to be good, okay?”

Kei reached for one of Tetsurou’s hands and kissed his palm. “If it’s with you, I’m sure it’ll be good.”

“Yeah, you remember that conversation we had ages ago about you putting me on a pedestal?”

“Shut up,” Kei laughed, shifting closer to Tetsurou and kissing him. “I just mean... y’know, even if it’s bad, it’s fine, because it’s with you, and that’s all I care about.”

Tetsurou wrapped his arms around Kei’s waist and kissed him again. “I love you so much, Kei.”

“I love you, too,” Kei told him, and Tetsurou starting kissing him again until Kei interrupted with a soft, “Tetsu?”

“Yeah?”

“Just... There’s one more thing I want to ask.”

“What is it?”

“I just...” Kei reached up to place one hand on Tetsurou’s cheek, slowly and gently tracing his thumb back and forth across his skin. “Do you think we can make this happen before I leave for school?”

Tetsurou smirked and raised an eyebrow. “Is there a particular reason you want that?”

“Not really,” Kei said. “I just don’t like the idea of going off to school and still not having done it and then if we decide then we want to do it, we have so much less time together to work something out, y’know?”

Tetsurou nodded. “Alright. If that’s what you want, then we can absolutely do it before you leave. I mean, we still have until September, right? That’s plenty of time. Hell, we could do it twice.”

Kei laughed. “Two times in two and a half months?” he teased. “I don’t know, Tetsu, that might be pushing it.”

“Then I’ll just have to take what I can get.” Tetsurou pulled Kei in for another couple of kisses before sighing and smiling at him. “Have I ever told you how much I love you?”

“You might’ve mentioned it once or twice,” Kei said, barely able to hold back his own smile long enough to kiss Tetsurou back again, and again, and again...

~

Even if it didn’t turn out the way Kei had hoped it would, it was still probably Kei’s favorite day of the summer so far. After spending a good hour or so kissing in between mumbled conversations in Tetsurou’s bed, they got up, got dressed, and ordered a pizza, just to treat themselves. They watched a Harry Potter marathon on ABC Family, and Tetsurou continued to impress with his Dumbledore impression, which only led to the both of them trying out impressions of more characters, and it was discovered that Kei could do an uncannily good Snape. They both laughed about it so hard, they were on the floor and crying during the entire fight against Tom Riddle and the basilisk.

Tetsurou’s mom came home somewhere in the middle of the Goblet of Fire, and went to bed towards the end of the Order of the Phoenix, but Kei and Tetsurou stayed up through the end, staying up late enough just finishing the movie marathon, but stayed up even later talking, having long conversations about the most random things. They talked about what kind of classes Kei was interesting in taking during his first quarter of college and what Tetsurou wanted to take once he finally got the chance to go, and Kei ranted about everything that was wrong with the dinosaurs in Jurassic World, and Tetsurou tried to convince Kei that poetry was interesting, and by the time they were in pajamas and sprawled out on Tetsurou’s bed once again and barely able to keep their eyes open, they were talking about what Hogwarts houses they would be in.

“I think you’d make a cute Hufflepuff,” Tetsurou mumbled, rubbing his face sleepily against his pillow.

“Why the hell would I be a Hufflepuff?” Kei mumbled back. “Aren’t they all about, like, hard work and being nice and shit?”

I think you’re nice.”

“I know many, many people who would disagree with you.”

Tetsurou sighed. “Whatever. I just thought it would be cute.”

Kei chuckled, but his laugh quickly turned into a yawn. “Fuck, what time is it?”

Tetsurou reached over to grab his phone. “Almost five.”

Fuck,” Kei said miserably, thinking about how early he head to head to work in the morning. “Goddamnit, tomorrow’s gonna suck.”

“We should get some sleep,” Tetsurou said as he caught Kei’s yawn. “Make it suck a little less.”

Kei sighed before giving Tetsurou a quick kiss. “’Night, Tetsu.”

“Goodnight, sweetheart.”

While it wasn’t the same as it was during the colder months, when Tetsurou would completely envelope Kei in his arms and hold him tightly against his chest, warm and snug together underneath their blankets, the way they slept together in the summer wasn’t bad. Instead of cozying up, they both tried to spread out as much as possible, but the mattress wasn’t big enough for them to do that without them touching each other, leading to the two of them draping an arm or a leg over the other in their attempts to get comfortable. It was nice waking up in the middle of the night and finding Tetsurou’s arm laid almost protectively across Kei’s chest.

Tonight, as Kei stretched himself out to get comfortable before sleep, he found that the most comfortable position was on his back, with one arm over his head, the other laying somewhere in the space between his and Tetsurou’s bodies, and his leg somewhere in between Tetsurou’s. He let out a deep sigh, because he was so comfortable, and so sleepy, and even if he was only going to get in a few hours before work, he was so ready to just pass out.

Then, when Kei only seconds away from dozing off, his phone started ringing.

Fuck,” Kei groaned, tempted to just turn off his phone and ignore it but also eager to tell whoever it was that was calling him to shut the fuck up. He reached over to grab his phone, saw that it was Akiteru calling, and decided on the latter.

“Akiteru, why the f-”

“The baby’s coming!”

And Kei was immediately wide awake again, sitting up in bed as he shouted, “What?!”