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As Long as We Are Earthbound

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“Tsukishima, are there fireflies in Miyagi?”

“There are, I suppose. Why are you asking?”

“Good. I’m at Sendai train station right now. Can you pick me up?”


To Tsukishima, Akaashi had always been a figure he looked up to. He was good at dealing with unexpected situations (Bokuto), he could stand on his ground even when everyone else was going wild (everyone in Fukurodani), he knew how not to fall prey to provocations (Kuroo), and on top of it all, he could make silence not uncomfortable (Kozume and himself). It’s just that there were times when he did rather unexpected things. Such as now, at Sendai train station, on a Friday evening.

“Um, Akaashi-san, what brings you here on such a short notice?”

“Ah, right. I was trying to find inspiration for my photography project. I thought about fireflies, there’s none of them in Tokyo.”

“I see. It’s not like I know where to find fireflies, but we can try the riverbank.”

“Thanks. Sorry for making you go out at this timing.”

“It’s alright. You’ve helped me a lot, it’s only reasonable to do this much. Are you planning to stay the night?”

“Only if it is convenient for you. Otherwise I’ll find a cheap hotel somewhere.”

“I’ll inform my parents that you are staying.”

“Alright. Thanks again.”


Akaashi followed Tsukishima along a riverbank until they found a spot with fireflies flying about. There weren’t that many of the, but it was enough to look good in pictures. Akaashi took out his equipment while Tsukishima observed. The face Akaashi made upon looking at the screen of his DSLR camera cued Tsukishima to look closer at said screen. No memory space? It wasn’t like Akaashi to come unprepared. The distasteful expression Akaashi was making grew more intense as he scrolled through Bokuto’s horrible attempts at selfie, some photographs of random things like a stray cat’s tail or their potted cactus plant, half of Kuroo’s face and a glimpse of his bedhead, all blurred and eating up Akaashi’s memory space. Tsukishima felt the need to applaud Akaashi for his fortitude in putting up with these people.

While waiting for Akaashi to finish with the preparation, Tsukishima went in to inspect the fireflies more closely. He wasn’t very fond of the outdoors so rarely did he get a chance to experience things like this. The flickering light of the fireflies distracted him enough that he failed to realise his music player’s slipping out of his hand. Tsukishima bent down to pick it up and that was when he heard a shutter sound.

“Tsukishima, will you model for me?”

Tsukishima had had no idea about modelling, nor did he have any idea what was going through Akaashi’s head. The following instructions had been simple though. Just stand there and do the picking up motion. When Akaashi found the perfect angle, hold still for a while. A few more shutter sounds and then it was done. Tsukishima still had no idea of what had just happened.

“Um, if you don’t mind me asking, what is your project about?”

“It’s about hope. And I have to thank Kuroo-san later.”

“How is Kuroo-san related to this?”

“He was the one who suggested meeting up with you. He said that if it’s about hope, you’d know best.”

Tsukishima had never associated himself with the concept of hope. If anything, it was something he had always felt lacking, not that he desired to have it in him. He wasn’t as bad as he was when Akiteru had just happened, but it did not mean that he’s anywhere near the hopeful end of the spectrum. It just felt like things got watered down and he didn’t feel as bad anymore.

“I kind of understand what Kuroo-san had meant,” Akaashi added. “People don’t know what’s good if they don’t know what’s bad. They don’t know what hopefulness is if they are not well acquainted with hopelessness.”

This kind of things were things Tsukishima had always been uncomfortable with. At least it was Akaashi this time. He knew he wouldn’t pry or awkwardly keep the conversation going. They just respected the silence they had allowed to happen.

On the way back to Tsukishima’s place, they talked a little bit more about Akaashi’s project. Akaashi had tried several shots before, but none had come out the way he had envisioned. His friends had thought that Akaashi had been overworking himself over it. That had been when Kuroo talked to him about Tsukishima. That had also been when Akaashi realised what he had been dissatisfied with.

“I guess my definition of hope isn’t quite like wishing for something and hanging on to that wish no matter what. It’s more like getting beaten down by life and then picking up after yourself and moving on with it.”

Tsukishima thought about it and thought about the things Kuroo might have said to Akaashi about him. He thought about times when he had locked himself up in his room and skipped dinner because everything he did had always amounted to nothing. He thought about the talk Kuroo had given him when Karasuno had lost on the interhigh, and another one when he had failed to restrain himself from saying hurtful things to his brother, things he blamed himself for. And then another one, the one he was most uncomfortable with, when he had refused Kuroo’s invitation for a casual date with more venom in his words than necessary. Thinking back about it, it wasn’t like they didn’t hang out with each other a lot of times. He knew he was just not ready to put things that way.

What had made him most angry at himself had been how well Kuroo had taken it and how little control he had had over himself. As if it had not been embarrassing enough, Kuroo had had to visit him at his house and console him. How pathetic.


“Hey Tsukki, listen. There are six billion people on earth, and there are nine planets—“


“Okay, eight planets surrounding the sun. Our sun is just one of a whole bunch of stars in the galaxy. And then there are countless galaxies in the universe. Don’t you realise how small we are? When you put things into perspective, a lot of things don’t matter as much as you think. So you lost a game, you still have more games ahead of you to win. So you said something wrong. Well, you have a whole lifetime to make it right.”


“So. What I’m saying is, it’s okay to fail. Expecting yourself to be able to do everything right is just stupid. It’s okay to fail again. You’re still learning. What’s not okay is not getting back up.”

“...That’s some impressive motivational speech, Kuroo-san. Are you trying to move my non-existent heart?”

“…Heh. Come on, Tsukki, we both know I don’t have to come all the way to Miyagi to make you fall in love with me. Right now I’m just trying to make you fall in love with yourself.”

“None of those are happening though. Please try your luck next time, although I can assure you that luck is not going to be on your side as long as you have your hopes up. …This is pointless.”

“See?! You’re doing it again. It doesn’t have to happen now, you know? Just like most things in life. In this case, I’ll just have to make you fall in love little by little, over and over again.”

“How about no?”

“How about yes?”


Akaashi went back to Tokyo the next day, to Bokuto’s teary hugs and Kuroo’s smug grin. He developed his photographs over the next few days and he made a point to send one to Tsukishima. One which Akaashi put inside a frame for the exhibition at his university. Under the frame, written in small letters was this: Picking up used-up stars.

(He might or might not have given that photograph to Kuroo as a thank you gift, along with a photograph of Tsukishima’s sleeping face.)