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Akaashi’s head was spinning as he stared at his computer. He was vaguely aware of the fact that he wasn’t registering any of the numbers on the screen, and still he fought against the tired haze in his brain.

This client would be the death of him, he knew it. How could anyone be so disorganized and still hold a job? None of the numbers seemed to make sense, no matter how many different ways he worked them. He’d tried to contact their CFO three times in the past week to ask about discrepancies in the account balances; every time, the harassed-sounding assistant told him they’d have to call him back. They were avoiding him, and with good reason. Incompetence when it came to an audit was bad news for a company. And these people were decidedly incompetent. There was no other explanation.

After reading through the same path of numbers four times, Akaashi accepted defeat. He threw himself back in his chair, sliding his glasses up and vigorously rubbing his eyes. Little stars sprang into his vision, and he couldn’t say he minded them.

A glance around the office told him that most of his other co-workers had gone home. There were only two other people with him in the cubicle, though somewhere in the distance, he heard the faint click of keys. This was a pretty common occurrence during busy season. No one had left the office before 20:00 in over a month, and there was a good chance Akaashi would be sleeping here next week if he didn’t get ahold of the client by tomorrow. But for now, his bed was a short train ride away, and the numbers on his computer were nothing more than a jumbled mess. So, with a heavy sigh, he shut down the desktop and started to organize his things. 

“Wow, actually leaving before us? Where’s your usual vigor, Akaashi-san?”

The deadpan voice was scratchy from disuse, and Akaashi turned to see bored golden eyes looking up at him over the tops of black-rimmed glasses from a few desks away.

“Well, Tsukishima, you know you’re also free to leave at any time,” Akaashi replied, too tired to banter with the blonde.

“Some of us are actually getting work done.”

Okay, maybe Akaashi wasn’t too tired.

“There’s a first time for everything, I suppose,” he replied coolly.

The quirk of a smile on Tsukishima’s mouth betrayed his bored expression, and he returned to the stack of papers on his desk wordlessly. Akaashi was one of the only people on the floor willing to put up with Tsukishima’s… Eccentricities. Most people saw him as a cold, callous prick who didn’t have a nice word for anyone. And generally, that was pretty true. But he did his job well, respected his superiors, and was actually pretty funny in his dry, monotonous way. So Akaashi didn’t mind him.

The other man in the desk clump was sitting across from Tsukishima, eyeing the blonde warily. Did he realize there was a pen stuck behind his ear? Probably not, considering how exhausted he looked.

“Yamaguchi, you know you’re also free to leave anytime,” Akaashi said a little more gently.

Yamaguchi nearly leapt out of his seat, snapping his wide eyes toward Akaashi, almost like he’d forgotten the other was even there.

“Oh! No! Thank you, Akaashi-san, but… But I’m okay! I just have a few more things to… To get done,” he stammered. He shuffled a pile of documents together, ones Akaashi had seen him messing with about five times already, before scanning his deak for something. Probably his pen.

“Well, don’t burn the candle at both ends,” Akaashi sighed.

“Yes, sir,” the two desk mates replied in unison.

Akaashi packed his bag quietly, slipped it over his shoulder, and made a quick exit. He considered himself to be relatively observant. And as such, he never missed the way Yamaguchi looked across the desk at Tsukishima, the way his eyes lingered a little too long on his face. Tsukishima never looked up. Still, it would’ve been impossible not to feel that stare. It was hard not to be curious about the two of them. But as their senior, Akaashi never asked. It wasn’t appropriate work talk, and it probably wasn’t even appropriate talk at all.

Akaashi stabbed the down button next to the elevator and waited, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. He would’ve happily fallen asleep right here, and maybe he even did for a few seconds. But the ding of the elevator startled him back to reality. The flickering fluorescent light inside definitely woke him up, and actually made him feel a little sick. He’d have to let someone in maintenance know before he left.

He didn’t mean to let his mind wander back to Yamaguchi. But his exhaustion-addled brain seemed unable to think of anything else. How long had he been looking at Tsukishima that way? Akaashi couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t. Yamaguchi had joined their team last season when Kageyama had requested a transfer—he and Tsukishima butted heads constantly, and it was just easier this way. Yamaguchi fit in well. The other three members of the team took to him easily and Tsukishima remained relatively indifferent toward him—which actually meant quite a bit when it came to the blonde.

Akaashi wished he had some advice for the younger man. It was difficult to watch, especially considering Tsukishima’s general indifference. But it wasn’t appropriate coming from their senior. And really, Akaashi didn’t have room to give advice. He’d spent most of his life willfully avoiding relationships. They were more trouble than they were worth, and the few he’d had all ended quickly. He preferred a solitary life, preferred not answering to anyone. It was easier this way. It was comfortable.

The elevator doors opened up, and Akaashi took a step out into the lobby. But he froze mid-stride. Was that… Music? It didn’t sound like a radio. No, it sounded real, like it was coming from around the corner. He knew there was a piano there, and he knew that the building hired a pianist to play during the day sometimes. But it was 22:00 at night. And what was stranger, the security guard near the front door was at his post, seemingly unperturbed by the sounds.

It seemed that tonight, Akaashi’s curiosity couldn’t be quashed. He blamed it on the aggravating client and the exhaustion. Slowly, he made his way through the lobby, listening to the melody as it echoed through the high walls. He rounded the corner, and his mouth dropped open in surprise.

He had expected to find someone in a suit and tie, maybe hair smoothed down and a stern expression. The epitome of professionalism, of musicianship. 

Instead, the man at the piano looked dressed for a day at home. His black t-shirt and khaki shorts contrasted starkly with the sophisticated air of the building, and… My god, was he wearing flip-flops? It was not warm enough for those. Not to mention his hair, spiked straight up, and… Was it bleached at the ends? Those white tips couldn’t be natural, could they?

But Akaashi only allowed himself a moment to ruminate on his appearance. Because the sounds issuing from the piano were distracting. Akaashi watched with rapt attention as the man’s fingers danced over the ivory keys at a quick tempo. There was no music in front of him, and Akaashi realized with a start that the man’s eyes were closed. His entire body moved with the music, torso rocking with the beat, head turning from side to side with varying degrees of intensity. The notes seemed to flow from his fingertips, some light and airy, others accentuated with a flick of his wrist. It was quiet, and yet somehow oh so loud. It was skillful. It was powerful. It was raw strength and unbridled emotion.

It was beautiful.

Akaashi sank into one of the empty chairs near him, his eyes never wavering from the man before him. The song reached its crescendo, growing louder, more intense, like the flapping of heavy wings. And then suddenly, it was light, quiet, almost nothing. Slow, deliberate, each tap of a key so precise, it made Akaashi lean forward in his seat. And then suddenly, it was intense once more, the man’s arms rolling with the notes, propelling him toward the end. Akaashi could feel the passion, like it was trying to find a home in his bones. And then suddenly, the song was over.

The man’s entire body relaxed, his hands dropping into his lap. He rolled his neck, his shoulders, his back. Had he been holding in that tension through the entire song? Akaashi heard him take a deep, shaky breath. And then he turned in his seat, halfway to a standing position, when his eyes fell on Akaashi.

It was impossible to tell what was going on behind those wide, golden eyes. They seemed unable to focus on Akaashi for more than a few seconds, slipping off to the left, to the right, above his head, to the ground. His mouth moved around silent words, like he couldn’t figure out how to speak.

“You play beautifully,” Akaashi finally murmured.

Akaashi’s voice seemed to snap the man into action. He finally unbent his knees, drawing up to his full height. Tall, Akaashi noted. Probably a little taller than himself. There was a small smile on his face now. But there was still something about him. He looked… Nervous? He was fidgeting with his fingers, and still he continued to glance away from Akaashi.

“Th-thanks, I… I didn’t realize anyone was listening, I… I would’ve… You know, I would’ve played a little better,” the man stammered.

“I’m not sure what would’ve been better than that, it was spectacular,” Akaashi replied honestly.

“I slowed down on the arpeggios, and my sforzandos could’ve been more dynamic, they didn’t contrast enough with the pianos, and it… It wasn’t really…” He trailed off, and Akaashi noticed that the man’s eyes were dragging a little slower, lingering a little longer on his face. Akaashi managed a small smile, only making the other man’s grin grow wider.

“Do you work in the building?” Akaashi asked, wondering if maybe this was a regular occurrence.

“Oh… No, I… I just… I was walking by, and I remembered that there was a piano in here. I came by once, and I just… I like to play,” the man replied.

“Do you play often?” What a stupid question. Of course he did. Akaashi blamed that on the nightmare client again.

“Yeah, I guess,” the man answered, evidently not catching Akaashi’s slip.

“I’m sorry, I’m being rude,” Akaashi said suddenly, lifting himself from his chair. “I’m Akaashi Keiji, I work upstairs.”

He took a few strides toward the man, but stopped when he saw him tense. Maybe Akaashi was coming on a little strong. They were strangers, and it was—Akaashi looked down at his watch—already 22:45. How long had he been listening to the man play?

“Bokuto.”

Akaashi glanced up from his watch. “What was that?” he asked.

“Bokuto. That’s me, Bokuto Koutarou,” the man said.

“It’s nice to meet you, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi nodded. He would forego a handshake if it meant Bokuto would untense his shoulders.

“Yeah, you too,” Bokuto nodded.

Golden eyes flicked to meet Akaashi’s, holding their gaze for a record breaking five seconds this time—Akaashi counted—before glancing away. And his shoulders finally drooped back to normal once more, tension breathing out of him in a sigh. Akaashi was relieved.

“Bokuto-san, do you think you’d come by again some time?”

Akaashi surprised even himself with the question. Just another thing to blame on the client. Bokuto’s wide eyes met his once more.

“Why?” he asked curiously.

“Well, I’d love to hear you play more,” Akaashi replied. “But if you’d rather not, I under—“

“No! I will!”

Bokuto’s shout made Akaashi jump as it echoed off the walls. He’d caught Akaashi’s gaze once more, and his nervousness had abated completely.

“Well, I’ll be working quite late for the next few months, I don’t want to inconvenience you at all,” Akaashi noted.

“It’s not! I like coming out late, so… Do you think maybe tomorrow night? I can come by tomorrow night!”

It was as though he couldn’t contain his excitement, like it was spilling out of every pore. He was rocking lightly back and forth on the balls of his feet. And even though his gaze continued to slip from Akaashi’s, his smile was bigger than ever. He was probably a little too excited for someone agreeing to play piano for a stranger.

Still, Akaashi couldn’t help but find it endearing.

“I’d like that, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi nodded, rewarding him with another gentle smile.

Akaashi was quite certain he’d never seen anyone look as happy as Bokuto did right now. And honestly, it was a bit infectious. Akaashi felt his smile stretching a little wider, despite the fact that he was about to drop from exhaustion.

“Well, I should get going before I miss the last train,” Akaashi said, waving the arm sporting his watch for emphasis.

“Oh! Yeah! Sure! That makes sense!”Bokuto exclaimed, still just a hair louder than normal exuberance called for. “Well, I’ll come back tomorrow. I can come later if you want, or earlier, or whenever you want!”

“I should be done around 10:00 again tomorrow night… Hopefully,” Akaashi sighed. 

“Is your job really hard?” Bokuto asked, suddenly curious.

“Ah… It’s more time consuming than difficult, I suppose,” Akaashi conceded. “One of my clients refuses to return my phone calls, so it makes things a lot harder. If they’d just tell me the truth… It wouldn’t… Be so hard…” Bokuto was hanging on Akaashi’s every word, seemingly enraptured by the bland talk of work. Akaashi couldn’t help but feel a little self-conscious. It didn’t seem like Bokuto had noticed.

“Well then, I’ll… I’ll see you tomorrow, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said, trying not to sound embarrassed.

“Right! Yeah! I’ll be here! And I’m gonna practice too! That way I’m even better!”

Akaashi opened his mouth to tell Bokuto that wouldn’t be necessary, but the loud man was already gone, peeling away from Akaashi at almost a run. He rounded the corner, heavy footsteps carrying him toward the front doors.

The lobby felt eerily quiet without Bokuto there.

Akaashi fell asleep twice on the fifteen-minute train ride home. Thank goodness for the obnoxious old woman next to him banging into him with her cane, or he would’ve missed his stop. He trudged through the chilly end-of-October air, thankful that he’d remembered his heavier jacket before walking out the door that morning.

He couldn’t help but wonder if Bokuto was cold. His outfit hadn’t been very conducive to the weather. And he’d mentioned that he had just been walking by the building. How far had he walked in the chilly air? Hopefully it wasn’t too far. Should Akaashi have offered him something? There might have been a spare jacket up in the office. Then again, Bokuto was gone before Akaashi could even say goodbye.

Akaashi stopped just outside his apartment, one foot on the bottom step. His eyebrows came together in consternation. Had he just been thinking about this stranger and his odd fashion choices for the entire ten-minute walk home? Was that normal? No, probably not. He blamed this on the client too.

It wasn’t unusual to hear excited shouting when Akaashi finally made it to his floor. It wasn’t even unusual for that shouting to be out in the hall. What was unusual was that the shouting sounded decidedly unhappy, more irate. And he couldn’t recognize the voice either. When he rounded the corner, two men were standing between himself and his apartment. One had a blonde undercut and more piercings than Akaashi could count in the two seconds’ glance he’d managed to get. The other man was leaning in the open doorway, sporting spiky black hair that looked as though he’d just rolled out of bed. When his cat-like eyes narrowed in on Akaashi, a lazy grin spread across his face.

“Ah, babe! You’re home!” he called.

The blonde snapped his head toward Akaashi. Appraising almond eyes looked him up and down. Akaashi felt like prey, being sized up for the hunt. He also noticed a distinct tuft of orange and a single brown eye peering from around a doorway further down the hall. Now he really felt on display.

“I can’t believe you’re so late, I missed you sooooooo much,” the black-haired man cooed.

Akaashi fought against an eye roll. Luckily, the blonde didn’t seem to need much more convincing than that.

“Your boyfriend’s a fucking asshole,” he spat venomously as he stalked past Akaashi.

“Bye, Yuuji-kun!” the black haired man called after him.

“What did you do now, Kuroo-san?” Akaashi asked, completely deadpan.

“What? Why do you always assume it was me?” Kuroo asked, pressing a hand to his chest dramatically.

Akaashi didn’t deign that with a response, merely blinked unamusedly at him.

“He broke up with him over a text!”

The voice down the hall made Kuroo grimace. The tuft of orange hair had emerged, small body and all.

“At least someone’s honest. Thank you, Hinata-kun,” Akaashi called.

Hinata beamed at Akaashi. A muffled voice from within the apartment stole his attention for a minute.

“Well, come say hi then!” Hinata laughed, reaching through the door and pulling on the person inside. Another head appeared, almost looking disembodied, with lanky blonde hair hanging about its face. Sharp golden eyes took Akaashi in speculatively.

“Good to see you, Kenma,” Akaashi nodded.

“Why are you so late?” Kenma asked quietly.

“It’s busy season, so I’ll be at the office late until the end of February,” Akaashi explained.

Kenma nodded, then disappeared back into the apartment. Akaashi had known the younger man long enough to know he was concerned. That was how he showed it. There would probably be food waiting for him in his apartment tomorrow night. Kenma and Hinata had demanded a key last year when Akaashi had nearly passed out from not eating. It was sweet. They were sweet.

A heavy arm slung over Akaashi’s shoulder, and Kuroo’s body hunched around him.

“You know I really did miss you,” he laughed. “The shrimp is boring when Kenma’s around.”

“If only you had a job to go to, perhaps that would wile away some of the day,” Akaashi suggested without inflection.

“I have a job,” Kuroo countered.

“I’m not sure many would consider gigolo to be a resume-worthy profession.”

“We prefer the term ‘professional escort.’ And don’t be jealous because I don’t have to wear a suit and tie every day,” Kuroo replied.

“I’ll try to contain myself.”

Kenma walked back out into the hall, holding a plate in his hands. He drew up to Akaashi and Kuroo silently, pressing the plate into Akaashi’s waiting hands. It smelled like heaven, and Akaashi’s stomach growled in response.

“Thank you, Kenma,” he said sincerely.

“Hey! Where’s mine?” Kuroo cried.

“In Shouyou’s stomach,” Kenma replied.

He ignored Kuroo’s indignant shout, turning back toward his apartment and disappearing once more. Hinata waved farewell to them and disappeared as well, closing the door with a snap. Akaashi slipped out from under Kuroo’s arm and made his way to his own door, sandwiched between the two apartments.

“Hey, you’re okay, right?”

Akaashi looked up sharply at Kuroo’s question. The messy-haired man was leaning in his doorway, watching Akaashi closely. He’d asked so sincerely, without any hint of a joke. It reminded Akaashi why he still hung around the man.

“Yes, Kuroo-san,” he replied. “I’m good. Very good.”

“Well, good. You’re not as pretty when you’re pouting.”

There he was.

“Good night, Kuroo-san.”

“Night, babe!”

Akaashi shook his head at the nickname, retreating to the solitude of his apartment. He was about halfway through the dinner Kenma made him when he realized something. He’d forgotten to let maintenance know about the flickering light in the elevator.

Maybe he could blame that on the nightmare client, too.

Chapter Text

Click. Click. Click. Click.

The steady click of someone’s pen across the room threatened to drive Akaashi completely insane. He’d been staring at a journal entry for the past five minutes, the numbers gradually morphing into visual personifications of the clicks. Was that a four? No, it was a click. Another. And another. And another. Driving through his ears, permeating his brain, taking over his entire life.

Click. Click. Click. Click.

“If you don’t stop clicking that pen, the doctor will be removing it from your windpipe.”

It wasn’t Akaashi, but Tsukishima who finally managed to silence the infernal noise. Akaashi looked up from his paper and down toward the aggravated blonde two desks away. He was holding his forehead in his right hand, glaring at his computer screen. His head was shaking minutely, and Akaashi knew that the thinly veiled threat was probably the nicest thing he’d had on his mind.

Well, at least the clicking had stopped.

“Akaashi-san, have you managed to get ahold of the CFO yet?”

Yamaguchi’s sudden question stole Akaashi’s attention, and he looked lazily over at the freckled man. He was flustered, shuffling through a stack of documents that threatened to spill over at any minute.

“I called when I got here, apparently he wasn’t in yet,” Akaashi replied.

“These journal entries are—“

“A mess, I know,” Akaashi cut him off. “Half of them are duplicates, and we’re missing entire weeks-worth. I’m well aware, Yamaguchi.”

“S-sorry,” Yamaguchi murmured, trying to disappear behind the stack.

Akaashi wasn’t trying to be short with the younger man. He’d gone through the documents himself before anyone had gotten here this morning—hence the wake-up call to the CFO’s office. And of course he wasn’t there yet. Because why would he be at a place of business on time? Considering the state of these documents, it was just par for the course.

“Please don’t apologize, Yamaguchi,” Akaashi sighed, trying to relax his shoulders for the hundredth time. “I’ll call again. And again. I won’t stop calling until I talk to him.”

“And when that doesn’t work?” Tsukishima asked, gaze never wavering from his computer.

“I pack the camping gear and stake out in front of his office door,” Akaashi replied, his voice deadpan. “Let’s see what they do when I build the campfire. I’ll probably be able to smoke him out.”

Tsukishima’s bored expression flickered for a moment, a hint of laughter dancing in his eyes, quirking at his mouth. It was gone before Akaashi could blink.

Akaashi rested his elbows on his desk and slipped his glasses off, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes. He allowed himself a 30 second break, the emptiness in his head punctuated by the tapping of keys and hum of conversation across the room. These 30 seconds were all that kept him sane, all that would keep him sane knowing the conversation that was coming. And when they were over, his hands dropped heavily to his desk, earning the attention of everyone else in the cubicle.

“You can do it, Akaashi-san,” Komi encouraged.

“Good luck,” Konoha snorted.

“We believe in you,” Sarukui chanted.

“I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse,” Akaashi sighed.

He’d dialed the number to Mizuha Financial Group so many times these past few weeks, he didn’t have to look it up anymore. His fingers tapped out the numbers quickly and he pressed the receiver to his ear. One ring sounded, and then he was listening to the mechanical female voice on the other end: “Thank you for calling Mizuha Financial Group. Please listen closely, as our menu has changed. For accounting, press—“ Akaashi didn’t wait for the rest of the prompt before pressing 4, which directed him to a menu for entering an extension—3487. A few more rings, and then he was greeted by the voice that had tormented him for the last month.

“You’ve reached the office of Oikawa Tooru, this is Iwaizumi Hajime, how can I help you?” The voice was pleasant enough now, albeit a little bored. Evidently he hadn’t bothered to check the number ringing in. Or he hadn’t memorized it by now. Maybe both.

“This is Akaashi Keiji from Aoyama Sogo, calling to once again see if Oikawa-san is in the office.”

Akaashi could practically feel the energy shift at the other end of the line. He knew his tone had some bite—evidenced by the way everyone but Tsukishima seemed to be watching him now.

“Oikawa-san is currently in a meeting right now. If you would leave a message. I can have him get back to you at his earliest convenience,” the man’s voice dropped almost an octave, though still tried to maintain an air of formality.

“He’s a busy man, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to catch him in the office. What a luxury that must be to come and go as he pleases.” Akaashi hadn’t bothered to mask the venom in his words. Konoha actually whistled in astonishment.

“As I said, he’s in a meeting. I can take a message for you,” the gnashing of the man’s teeth was so loud, it almost made the phone crackle.

“My messages seem to be falling on deaf ears. It is essential that I hear from him soon, or we’ll be forced to take more drastic actions,” Akaashi said in a voice so forced with pleasantries, it made Komi shiver.

“I’ll see to it he gets your message,” the man on the other end replied.

He didn’t even take Akaashi’s number before the click and resulting dial tone signaled the end of the call. Akaashi dropped the phone back onto the base with venom, stuffing down the urge to toss it across the room. The five men at the desks around him were silent for a moment.

“Well,” Tsukishima spoke suddenly, still not looking away from the computer in front of him, “do I have to go buy a tent, or do you already have one?”

It shattered the tension that had settled over them all, and a series of chuckles resulted. Even Akaashi, still furious, at least managed to take a steadying breath. His threat wasn’t empty. If they didn’t hear back from the CFO within the next few days—preferably much sooner—they’d have to continue on without the journal entries. Without the journal entries, they couldn’t conduct a thorough search of the bank’s finances. That would get reported to the Financial Services Agency. They did not want the FSA involved. Hopefully he’d conveyed that through his “drastic actions” threat.

“Yamaguchi, just start compiling as much information as you can from what we’ve got,” Akaashi ordered, sliding his glasses back on. “It might not be the most accurate, but it’s… Something.”

“Yes, sir,” Yamaguchi nodded.

“Tsukishima, will you help him with that?” Akaashi asked.

The only answer Akaashi received was a heavy sigh. But Tsukishima reached across his desk and snatched half of the teetering pile away from Yamaguchi. Akaashi didn’t miss the tentative, nervous smile Yamaguchi flashed across the table. And he didn’t miss the way Tsukishima seemed to ignore it. But he said nothing. It wasn’t appropriate.

 


 

Akaashi stepped off of the elevator at 22:02. The lobby was silent today. At the door, the security guard was leaned back in his chair, a book propped open on his lap. Perhaps Bokuto hadn’t come. There was always the chance he’d just been indulging Akaashi when he said he would come back again—and it had been such a strange request, Akaashi wouldn’t have blamed him. Slowly, he made his way through the lobby and around the corner.

There was Bokuto, facing the piano and rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. His outfit was almost the exact same as yesterday’s—this time, the loose black t-shirt sported the name of a school on the back, and the shorts were a darker khaki. The flip-flops were the same, and so was the tall, spiked hair.

“Hello, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto spun on his heel, whipping around to face Akaashi. His hand was at his mouth, and he was chewing furiously on the skin above his cuticle on his thumb. But the second his gaze fell on Akaashi, his hand dropped, and that same wide smile from yesterday graced his lips.

“Hey hey, Akaashi! You came back!” he exclaimed.

“So did you,” Akaashi replied.

“Well yeah, I mean, I said I would.”

“I’m glad you did,” Akaashi admitted.

Bokuto’s large gold eyes met Akaashi’s serious green ones, and the black-haired man found himself counting once more. One, two three, four—Bokuto glanced away after four seconds, but it seemed to be all he needed for his smile to grow from bright to dazzling. And it was once again infectious.

“I practiced so much today, I wanted to play it really good,” Bokuto said excitedly.

“Oh, that really wasn’t necessary, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi urged. “It was perfect yesterday.”

“No, no, it’s gotta be better,” he asserted firmly. “I gotta be better. I can be better.”

His tone of voice took Akaashi aback. He was still smiling, still rocking gently back and forth. But those gold eyes continued to flick toward Akaashi’s, and the determination in their depths was… Intense.

“Well I’d really love to hear it, if you wouldn’t mind,” Akaashi tried not to sound surprised as he took a seat in the same plush chair as yesterday.

“Yeah! Yeah, I really want to play it for you, I wanted you to hear this one!” Bokuto exclaimed.

He dropped down onto the bench with an unceremonious plop. His entire body practically vibrated with energy, so much so that the bench beneath him groaned with the effort of supporting him. Akaashi was nervous it might give out.

But then Bokuto went completely still. It was as though he’d been frozen in time, trapped with his hands hovering over the keys and his eyes pressed shut in thin lines. All of his frenetic energy was gone. And then, his hands lowered to the keys.

The song was another that Akaashi didn’t recognize—though that was to be expected. He rarely listened to the radio, let alone classical songs that were hundreds of years old. But with the way Bokuto played, it felt familiar, like a song he’d always known. The brief, dramatic introduction gave way to something melancholic, almost dark. But still, Bokuto interspersed moments that could almost be called playful. His hands danced across the keys, fingers dragging down the ivory, drawing out the notes and letting them linger in the air. His entire body rocked with the momentum, propelling him forward. His eyes never opened.

Akaashi wasn’t sure when it happened, if it was gradual or if he had simply been lost in the music—probably both—but the tempo was increasing, gaining power, driving forward into something energetic and quick. Akaashi couldn’t even hold his gaze on Bokuto’s fingers anymore. They were little more than quick blurs as they navigated the keys. The song shifted from heavy and discordant to light and airy more times than Akaashi could count. But then it swelled like a tidal wave, a whirlwind of sound that echoed off the walls and encased Akaashi in its depths. Bokuto’s hands ascended and descended the length of the keyboard, back and forth, pounding out a tumultuous conclusion. And with a final slam to the keys, it was over.

It took Akaashi a moment to realize he’d leaned so far forward in his chair, he was in danger of tumbling off of it. Even as the sound dissipated, leaving a looming silence in the lobby, he could see feel the notes swirling around him, threatening to sweep him away. And why were his lungs burning? How long had it been since he’d taken a breath? The air filled his chest and actually made him cough, and he had to take a second to collect himself.

“Hey hey, you okay, Akaash?”

When Akaashi opened his eyes, chest still heaving as he tried to draw breath, he realized Bokuto was standing in front of him, a mild look of panic marring his bright features.

“I’m sorry,” Akaashi gasped, still working on cooling the fire in his airway. “That was breathtaking, Bokuto-san. Literally. You took my breath away.”

“Is that… Is that good?” he asked tentatively.

“Very good,” Akaashi nodded. “It was perfect. I’ve never heard anyone play so beautifully.”

Bokuto’s worry was gone, that illuminating smile spreading across his face once more. He looked like Akaashi had just given him the greatest gift he could’ve imagined.

“I woke up this morning and practiced, and my neighbor came over and told me to keep it down because 05:00 was too early to be playing so loud, but I wanted to get it just right. So then I had to practice on my keyboard with headphones in, but I don’t like doing that, I like the real thing, and…”

He was getting lost in his words, golden eyes dancing with joy. Maybe other people didn’t let him talk this much. But Akaashi didn’t mind. The exuberance was endearing. Bokuto was rocking back and forth again, like he couldn’t figure out how to contain his energy. His fingers drummed against his thighs, almost as if he were still tapping out the complex melodies. Akaashi found himself stunned. This Bokuto was so different from the one who sat behind a piano. This Bokuto was excited and vivacious, with a smile that rivaled the sun. But when he pressed his fingers to the keys, he was intense and powerful, trapped in his own world. It didn’t seem possible.

Bokuto stopped talking almost abruptly, jaw snapping shut with a heavy clack. Why had he stopped? Was he okay? One of his hands rose up, and he began chewing idly on the skin above his cuticle once more.

“Are you alright?” Akaashi wondered.

“How was your day?” Bokuto asked suddenly.

“Ah, well… It’s been sort of stressful, I suppose,” Akaashi replied. “I still can’t get the people I need on the phone. They continue to avoid my calls, and things will be getting rather difficult if it keeps up.”

“Wow,” Bokuto marveled.

“What?”

“Why are they doing that?” Bokuto asked.

“They probably know that they’re in the wrong in this situation and don’t want to admit it,” Akaashi sighed. “If only they knew they were making it harder on themselves, and not just us.”

“Wow…”

Just like yesterday, Akaashi found himself faltering under Bokuto’s attention. No one he’d ever met had cared so much about the goings-on of his days as an auditor. It was boring work, not even remotely interesting. And Bokuto acted like he was talking about a new hit movie—like every word was more interesting than the last.

“I really appreciate you coming to play for me, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi noted.

“I like playing for you!” Bokuto exclaimed. “Do you think you can come again tomorrow? If you aren’t busy with the people on the phone, I mean. And only if you want to. If you don’t want to that’s okay, and if you’re busy that’s okay, or—“

“I would really like that,” Akaashi cut him off gently. “It’s a nice way to end the day. But are you sure it isn’t inconvenient for you?”

“It’s not!” He shook his head so rapidly, a tendril of hair slipped from its place and flopped onto his forehead. “I like it! I like playing for you!”

“Well, I like you playing for me too,” Akaashi replied.

“Okay, then I’ll come back tomorrow,” Bokuto nodded this time, eyes dancing over Akaashi’s face, never focusing on a single point. “And I’ll come back the next night too, and the next night. Not the next two, those are the weekend. But then Monday, and Tuesday, and every night after that!”

Akaashi couldn’t hide his mild look of surprise, but there was also a smile tugging at his lips. Bokuto’s energy was so infectious. The day had been so terrible, so exhausting, and yet this man—practically a stranger—could pull a smile from him. It almost didn’t seem possible.

“I can’t wait,” he replied, and he meant it.

 


 

It seemed Akaashi’s threat to take “drastic actions” lit something of a metaphorical fire under the people at Mizuha without him having to go and start a real one. He received an email from the CFO that they were organizing the missing journal entries and would have them on Akaashi’s desk by Monday—which they did, completely out of order and with the ink smeared on most of September’s. It was evident they’d been finished and stuffed in the box probably earlier that morning. But at least they were complete.

Akaashi and the rest of the team were busy with extra work for weeks, a constant stream of plugging numbers into algorithms and double and triple and quadruple checking that nothing had been overlooked. Normally, Akaashi would have forgone the quadruple checking. But with this ragtag company, he wanted to be sure that every possible thing was in order. And the journal entries weren’t even the end of it. Once those were finished, Akaashi resumed his game of phone tag with the CFO to get the most recent assets statements. Iwaizumi—the assistant, Akaashi assumed, at least—seemed to recognize the number now, and his tone grew progressively more clipped with every phone call.

It would have been very easy for Akaashi to crack under the pressure. But there was one thing keeping him sane. One thing that kept him looking forward to the end of the day.

Bokuto hadn’t been exaggerating when he said he’d be back every night. Aside from the weekends, he hadn’t missed a single day. He was always there before Akaashi, always in an outfit almost identical to that of the first night, always chewing nervously on his fingers. But the sight of Akaashi never failed to bring that wide, toothy grin to his face. And it never failed to make Akaashi smile right along with him.

Despite the fact that he was usually exhausted, Akaashi began to notice things about Bokuto—things that intrigued him. The first was his fingers. One night after playing another breathtaking piece, he actually took a seat next to Akaashi and talked to him. Akaashi learned that he was 27, only a year older than Akaashi, and really did live close by—just a few blocks up and over, in fact. Bokuto had been gesticulating wildly about a bus that had nearly hopped the curb on his way to the building, and that was when Akaashi noticed his hands properly for the first time.

Each finger was covered in a series of scabs. The torn skin was red and irritated, particularly on his thumbs. Even the skin that wasn’t raw looked to be poorly healed over, like he’d been attempting to gnaw the fingers down to nothing for years. They had to be painful, especially considering how much he relied on those fingers for playing.

Suddenly, Bokuto’s jaw snapped shut with that audible click, and his thumb was at his mouth, teeth worrying the tender flesh. His eyes fluttered over Akaashi’s, like he was trying to read him—something Akaashi felt like he did more than most people. Whether or not he ever found what he was looking for, Akaashi wasn’t sure.

The next thing he noticed was Bokuto’s rocking. It seemed like his default state, rolling up and down onto the balls of his feet or teetering gently backward and forward in his seat. The only time it stopped was when he sat down behind the piano, and even then it was just because his entire body rocked with the music. Was it a song in his head moving him? Was it a defense mechanism? A way to comfort himself? Akaashi couldn’t say. But it piqued his curiosity.

And then there was a question, one that concerned Bokuto as well as the general security of the building. How was this strange man getting past the security guard every night? Clearly he’d managed to get in under the guard’s watchful eye. And when he left, usually flying around the corner and banging the door shut in his haste to get outside, the guard remained rooted to his spot. Did he know Bokuto? That seemed to be the only explanation, considering the fact that plenty of people were politely yet firmly shunted out of the building by that same guard during the day despite their protests. At 22:00 with no one in the lobby, a complete stranger playing the piano should have been questioned. And yet it wasn’t. The inquiry burned on Akaashi’s brain, but he refrained from asking. Why, he wasn’t sure. But he did.

However, nothing was more noteworthy than his anxiety. In the entire month Bokuto spent coming to play for him, Akaashi had never heard anything short of a masterpiece flow from his fingertips. But Bokuto seemed to believe he could be better, had to be better, would be better. Akaashi’s reassurances that he was perfect always made him smile, always abated the nerves for a short time, but then they always came back.

The anxiety reared its head louder one night when Akaashi was running late, having spent the better part of four hours in one of the conference rooms with Tsukishima and Yamaguchi. Assets statements were spread out across three tables as they attempted to understand how the documents had been so sloppily thrown together. By the time he made it to the lobby, it was 22:45. Akaashi was sure that Bokuto would’ve gone home by now, and he wouldn’t have blamed him. And yet, when he rounded the corner, there was Bokuto.

But something seemed wrong. He was sitting at the piano bench, forehead pressed to the keys. One hand was at his mouth, the other against his thigh, clenching and unclenching around the fabric of his shorts. His leg was bouncing so rapidly, it was making the piano shake.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi huffed.

Bokuto’s head snapped up at the sound of his voice. Gold eyes wide with fear met Akaashi’s and didn’t flit away. His hand dropped to his lap and folded together with the other one.

“H-hey hey, Akaash, you came,” Bokuto muttered, his voice trembling.

“I’m so sorry, we got caught up going through documents, and then I finally… Are… Are you alright?” Akaashi trailed off.

Bokuto looked like he was teetering right on the edge of a nervous breakdown. The rocking was faster than ever, and the bench beneath him gave a protesting groan. Bruised and battered fingers twisted together wildly, unable to stay still for even a second.

“I thought maybe you didn’t want to hear me play anymore,” Bokuto murmured, his voice breaking around the confession. “Or I said something that made you upset… Maybe I talked too much, or was too loud, or… Or didn’t follow the rules…”

“Bokuto-san…”

Akaashi took a step forward, but halted immediately. Everything he’d learned about this man in the last month told him that it would be a bad idea to approach him right now. Even the slight movement had caused those broad shoulders to tense. So instead, he dropped down into the chair across from Bokuto, the one that probably now bore his imprint with how often he’d sat in it for the past month.

“I’ve been looking forward to hearing you play all day,” Akaashi said gently. “And you don’t talk too much, or too loudly.”

“No, I… I do… I do, and… I’m not supposed to,” Bokuto argued weakly.

“I promise, I would never think that.”

Akaashi didn’t look away from Bokuto, didn’t even blink. Bokuto’s eyes were on his again, and they didn’t waver. He was searching for any hint, any flicker that might signal a lie. Truthfully, even if he wanted to, Akaashi couldn’t have looked away. That intense gaze held him rooted to the moment.

“Are you sure?” Bokuto asked finally.

“I’m positive.”

Bokuto glanced away, and like the first night Akaashi met him, all his tension breathed out of him in a heavy sigh. He looked tired now. But his easy smile had returned to his face.

“If it’s too late for you to play, I understand, I’m—“

“No!” Bokuto cried, looking up once more, eyes dancing over Akaashi’s face. “No, I really want to!”

“Well, then I’m excited to hear it.”

Akaashi settled back into his chair and allowed Bokuto to lose himself in the music. He listened with rapt attention, but he was still observing Bokuto closely. He had been so nervous, so afraid that Akaashi wouldn’t come back, so terrified that he had done something to push him away. Akaashi wanted to ask why. But he couldn’t find the courage. The thought of making Bokuto look that way again, of having it be his fault… He just couldn’t do it. And so, for now, he just listened to the song.

Chapter Text

“They what?!”

Akaashi was never one to raise his voice. Which was why nearly every head in the office had swiveled in the direction of his cubicle when they heard his frustrated shout. Only the ones in the cubicle with him could see how angry he truly was. His hand gripped the phone so tightly, it was a wonder he hadn’t busted it. The other hand had fisted in his hair, nails digging into his scalp. They could hear his teeth grinding together.

“Yes… Right… Understood…” he murmured before dropping the phone onto the base. Then his hands slipped beneath his glasses, rubbing vigorously against his eyes. He dropped his elbows onto his desk with a sigh. Everyone in the cubicle waited with bated breath.

“Extension.”

It was like a madhouse. Komi actually fell out of his chair with a frustrated yell. Sarukui dropped onto his desk in defeat. Konoha leaned back in his seat, a derisive chuckle issuing from his lips. Yamaguchi looked ready to cry.

“So basically,” Tsukishima said in a voice dripping with disdain, “we’ve been busting our asses for nothing?”

“That’s one way of putting it,” Akaashi replied.

“How did they get an extension?” Sarukui asked. “Especially this close to the end of the season! Don’t most companies apply like four, five months before the deadline?”

“Evidently they demonstrated a ‘critical need’ for more time,” Akaashi said, quoting the agent he’d spoken to. The woman had said it so matter-of-factly, like it wasn’t information that could ruin someone’s entire day—no, entire month.

“So… What does this mean?” Yamaguchi murmured.

“It means they have more time to lead us around by the balls,” Konoha cut in.

“Thank you for that imagery,” Komi lamented from his spot on the floor.

“It means,” Akaashi sighed, “that they’ve got more time to get their act together. But our work hasn’t been wasted. We’ve just got more time to make sure everything is accurate. Maybe we can actually take it easy for a few days, and—“

He was cut off once more by the ringing of his phone on his desk. The number on the display made his eyes widen.

“That’s not a good look,” Konoha noted.

Akaashi closed his eyes and took a deep, steadying breath before picking the phone up and pressing it to his ear. His face slipped into a frown, matching the contempt he desired to convey.

“Akaashi Keiji.”

“Goooood afternoon, Akaashi-san! I’m glad we’re finally able to speak! This is Oikawa Tooru over at Mizuha Financial.” The voice on the other end was too bright, too gaudy. It made Akaashi’s jaw tick.

“Yes, Oikawa-san, I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for some time now,” Akaashi noted. All the eyes in the cubicle, even Tsukishima’s, were on him now.

“We’ve been dealing with some internal issues, I’m sure you understand,” Oikawa’s voice sounded flippant. Clearly he was trying to downplay the situation. It might’ve worked on anyone other than Akaashi. “I just wanted to let you know we applied for an extension, and—“

“I’ve been alerted, thank you,” Akaashi cut him off.

“Ah, so you have,” Oikawa laughed—actually laughed. “I just want you to know, it wasn’t the company’s intention to inconvenience you.”

“And yet, here we are.”

The other end was quiet for a moment. Maybe he shouldn’t have said that part…

“Yes, here we are. I assure you that we’re doing everything in our power to make this run as smoothly as possible. I’ll be in touch with you regularly, and we’ll be sending you bi-weekly updates, as well as any necessary documents as you need them. Also, I’ve sent over the most recent batch of statements that you needed. They should be there by this afternoon,” Oikawa replied, sounding as though he’d rehearsed that line a hundred times.

Akaashi bit back the words he wanted to say, the sarcastic quips and utterances of frustration. Instead, he settled for, “That’s much appreciated.”

“We’ll be talking so much, you’ll be sick of me,” Oikawa said, his sing-song tone back in full force.

“You act as though I’m not already sick of you.”

Shit.

“I think we’ll get along just fine, Kaashi-kun.”

Well, that was… Something. Akaashi accepted the nickname with a defeated sigh and a hurried farewell before setting the phone back down on the base. His forehead tipped into his waiting hand, and he tried to ignore the five pairs of eyes boring a hole into his head.

“Did you just tell the CFO of one of our biggest clients that you were sick of him?” Komi asked, sounding utterly mystified.

“How long do you think before you’re packing up your desk?” Konoha wondered aloud.

“He called me Kaashi-kun,” Akaashi shook his head in disgust.

“That somehow sounds worse than getting fired,” Tsukishima noted.

“I think it might be,” Akaashi replied.

 


 

 

Akaashi awoke with a start. His neck snapped up a little too quickly, and the vertigo that followed made him feel sick. The room around him was spinning. Where was he? This wasn’t his bedroom. This wasn’t even his apartment. As his surroundings righted themselves, he realized he was in the lobby at work.

Oh no…

His eyes darted toward the piano, which was no longer occupied, and then off to his right. There was Bokuto, slumped in his chair and watching Akaashi closely. He was chewing vigorously on his cuticle.

“Bokuto-san, I… I’m so sorry,” Akaashi rasped.

“It’s okay!” Bokuto replied, and he sounded like he genuinely meant it.

“I’ve been so tired lately, and I think your music just relaxed me,” Akaashi said as he straightened his back. It ached something fierce, but he ignored it. “It was very rude of me.”

“No, no, it’s really okay!” Bokuto cut in, his hand falling into his lap.

Akaashi glanced down at his watch. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. It was 01:40 in the morning.

“Bokuto-san, it’s so late. You know, you didn’t have to sit here with me,” Akaashi noted. “Or you could’ve woken me up.”

Bokuto shook his head so vigorously, Akaashi heard his neck crack. “I’m supposed to let people sleep when they’re tired,” he said. “That’s the rule.”

“The… The rule?” Akaashi couldn’t help himself.

“Yeah, because sometimes people are tired when I’m not,” Bokuto reasoned, hands moving wildly in his lap for emphasis. “I can’t wake them up just because I want to. If they’re tired, I need to let them sleep.”

Akaashi wanted to know more, his brain burning with curiosity. But it was so late. And he had kept Bokuto here long enough.

“Well, I appreciate you staying with me,” he said.

“I didn’t mind! Really! I couldn’t leave you here by yourself, what if someone came by and stole something?” Bokuto asked, his overly large eyes only growing wider at the thought.

That’s generally what the security guard is for, Akaashi thought to himself. But he didn’t say it.

“Are you alright walking home this late? I know you’re close by, but we can share a cab if you need to,” Akaashi was already taking out his phone to call the cab company.

“No, no, I like to walk,” Bokuto replied. “But… Why aren’t you taking the train?”

“Well, there aren’t anymore trains tonight,” Akaashi said.

“Oh…”

Akaashi glanced up from his phone to see Bokuto looking almost awestruck. Clearly he wasn’t aware of the fact that the trains ever stopped running. Had he never taken the train? No, of course he had. Who in Tokyo had never taken a train? He just didn’t take it at night. Of course.

“I won’t fall asleep tomorrow, Bokuto-san. I promise,” Akaashi vowed.

The prospect of tomorrow brought that familiar smile to Bokuto’s face. He was on his feet in an instant, already rocking, already drumming his fingers against his thighs.

“See ya tomorrow, Akaash!” he said hurriedly.

Akaashi barely managed to get out “See you” before Bokuto was gone, the front door banging in his hurry to get out of it.

 


 

 

When Akaashi’s foot hit the third floor landing, he was greeted not with excited shouting, but with another wholly unpleasant sound. A sound that could only be the work of Kuroo—one Akaashi would have to walk past in order to get to his apartment, his kitchen, and his bed. He braced himself for whatever he might see as he rounded the corner.

It was worse than he ever could’ve dreamed. Kuroo was pressed with his back against his doorway, and the blonde man from a few weeks ago—Yuuji, Kuroo had called him—was holding him there. Kuroo’s fingers were fisted in that close-cropped blonde hair. Yuuji’s hands were gripping Kuroo’s hips so tightly, he was clearly trying to leave an imprint of his fingers. He ground their pelvises together forcefully, and a distinct growl left Kuroo’s throat. Though it was relatively muffled, considering they seemed to be locked in a battle to see who could get their tongue deeper down the other’s throat.

Akaashi was tempted to retreat back around the corner and sleep on the floor, but his stomach gave a rather inopportune growl. It was so loud, the blonde actually detached himself from Kuroo to find the source of the noise. When his brown eyes landed on Akaashi, his mouth split into a devilish grin.

“Oops,” he said simply.

“Come on,” Kuroo groaned, mouthing at Yuuji’s throat in an attempt to retrieve his attention.

“What, aren’t you at all concerned about your boyfriend?” Yuuji asked in a voice that clearly said he wasn’t the least bit concerned. His eyes remained locked on Akaashi’s as he pulled Kuroo’s hips flush against his once more, and Kuroo moaned into the crook of his neck. Akaashi could only shake his head at the display of male dominance.

“Kuroo-san, as your neighbor, I reserve my right to report you to property management for causing a disturbance in the hallway,” Akaashi said without inflection.

“Noted,” Kuroo grunted.

“Wait…”

Yuuji’s face tiled back toward Kuroo, and Akaashi took the opportunity to sidle past them toward the safety of his own apartment.

“You told me he was your fucking boyfriend.”

“I say a lot of things.”

“OH MY GOD, YOU FUCKING—“

Akaashi slammed his front door behind him, muffling the shouting on the other side. He slid his shoes off in the entryway and was shrugging his coat off his shoulders when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. There really wasn’t any question who it was. Only one person messaged him this late seconds after walking through the front door.

>>[Kenma]: Did you just get home?

He waited about 30 seconds, ready for the second message.

>>[Kenma]: And did you eat anything?

Akaashi knew he could lie, but his stomach gave another groan of protest as he tapped out a response.

>>[Akaashi]: Yes, I did just get home. No, I did not eat anything.

It was probably for the best, considering his kitchen was void of anything except rice and tea. The sounds were gone from out in the hallway, so Akaashi cracked his door open and proceeded into his apartment. He’d barely gotten the tea started when the door creaked open all the way.

“Pardon the intrusion.”

Kenma shuffled into the kitchen, a plate of food in his outstretched hands. His long, blonde hair was piled in a messy bun at the back of his head, which meant he’d been working. He set the food on the counter in front of Akaashi.

“Thank you very much,” Akaashi said, his mouth watering at the smell.

“Why were you so late?” Kenma asked.

“I may have fallen asleep at the office.”

“You shouldn’t do that.”

“I know,” Akaashi sighed. “This season may be my hardest one yet.”

“Shouyou said one of your clients is causing trouble,” the blonde noted.

“Well, they seem to think deadlines are only of relative importance,” Akaashi noted. “And they managed to get an extension, which means prolonging the arduous process.”

“Hm,” Kenma replied simply.

“What about you? How’s work?” Akaashi asked, pulling the cling wrap off of his plate.

“I’ve been working on a new debugging software all day,” Kenma said. “It’s almost done.”

Akaashi opened his mouth to tell Kenma he didn’t have to stay, but he was cut off as a loud BANG rattled the entire apartment. Kenma jumped almost a foot off the ground. Akaashi could only shake his head.

“What was that?” Kenma asked.

“Kuroo has a guest.”

As if on cue, a long, loud moan issued from the other side of the wall, followed by a series of scuffling sounds.

“Does that happen a lot?”

“Often enough,” Akaashi replied.

“How do you stand it?” Kenma wondered.

“I have a method, but I’m afraid I may have met my match with this newest one,” Akaashi sighed. “He seems… Tenacious.”

“You have a method?” Kenma repeated.

Wordlessly, Akaashi returned to the living room, fishing his phone from his pocket as he walked. He flicked through the screen, searching intently for something. Kenma followed close behind him. Another loud bang nearly knocked a painting off of Akaashi’s wall.

“I take this,” he said, drawing up to one of the speakers, “and do this.” He turned the speaker around and pushed it forward flush against the wall. “And then…” He tapped his phone.

The Hamster Dance pounded through the speaker, shaking the wall it rested against. The music was Akaashi’s tried and true method to cockblock Kuroo, and he reserved it for nights like these when the older man seemed to forget he had neighbors. The tinny techno music, the high-pitched auto-tune, the repetitiveness—it all come together in a horrid song that Akaashi was sure would initiate a Pavlovian response in Kuroo at this point. All sounds from the other side of the wall ceased immediately. Akaashi waited…

“Okay, I get it, turn it off!” Kuroo’s shout was muffled but clearly conveyed through the wall. Akaashi let the song play a little longer for good measure, just to make sure he’d been successful in his mission. When he finally pressed the pause button, the apartment was silent.

“It worked,” Kenma marveled idly.

“For now.”

The easy silence that followed was one that Akaashi could only have with Kenma. Hinata’s energy knew no bounds, and Kuroo was always itching for either meaningful conversation or banter—there was no in between. But Kenma understood the beauty of silence…

“Kenma…” The blonde glanced up at Akaashi, but said nothing in response. Akaashi knew this was leave to continue. “Do you and Hinata have rules?”

“What do you mean?” Kenma asked.

“Like, when you’re sleeping, is he supposed to let you sleep? Things like that?”

Akaashi felt stupid for asking, and judging by the way Kenma’s brows were coming together, it wasn’t unfounded. But he couldn’t stop himself from wondering. And in some ways, Bokuto did remind him of Hinata…

“We’ve never really had to discuss that. I think Shouyou just knows,” Kenma replied slowly, thinking through every word. “I did have to make sure he knew not to mess with my work computer, though. So I guess we sort of do… Why?”

“I was… Just curious.”

Kenma’s speculative gaze could see right through Akaashi’s weak lie, but thankfully, he said nothing. Maybe he could see how tired Akaashi was. Or maybe he was distracted by the sound of his stomach groaning for food.

“I should get back,” Kenma noted.

“Thank you for the food,” Akaashi said as he followed the shorter man to the door.

“Don’t fall asleep at work anymore,” Kenma ordered gently.

“I’ll certainly try,” Akaashi chuckled.

After scarfing down Kenma’s dinner and taking a quick shower, Akaashi crawled into his bed and practically melted against the sheets. 06:00 would come far too early, and now, he was having a hard time turning his brain off.

Akaashi had allowed himself to think that maybe most people had rules. Maybe he had just never established them explicitly for himself. And considering the fact that he hadn’t involved himself in a relationship with another person for longer than a month or two, he thought maybe he just hadn’t had the experience to know any better. But Kenma’s look of confusion told him otherwise.

When Bokuto talked about his rule, he sounded as though he were reading it from a book, like he’d memorized this strange and exact directive a long time ago. And, now that Akaashi thought about, this wasn’t the first time he’d mentioned rules. The night Akaashi had been late, Bokuto was worried that he might’ve said something to push Akaashi away, worried that he hadn’t followed the rules…

But what could that mean?

Akaashi was teetering right on the edge of sleep, almost finding true inner peace, when the sound of bedsprings from the other apartment pricked against his eardrums. And then, moaning. Lots of it. It was more distant than when it had been against the wall. But it was still there, just loud enough to bring Akaashi back to reality. He slammed a pillow over his head in a desperate attempt to muffle the sound.

06:00 would come far too early.

Chapter Text

Akaashi hated the 08:00 train. Not only was it generally twice as crowded as the 07:30, he somehow always ended up near the same couple—probably on their way to school together—who couldn’t seem to keep their hands to themselves. He only took this train when he missed the 07:30, and no matter what car he got onto, this couple seemed to find him. Their wandering hands and ridiculous giggling ensured that all eyes remained on them throughout the ride.

Today, after waking up late and flying out the door, Akaashi had just missed the closing of the doors for the 07:30 train. He’d been forced to wait in the frigid January air for 30 minutes waiting for the next one. And now, he was staunchly doing his best to ignore the couple who’d deemed this their own private hotel room. Of course, that was easier said than done when they were in the seats right next to him. And the guy kept knocking his elbow against Akaashi’s, almost like he was trying to retrieve his attention.

Akaashi could only shake his head as he stared at the assortment of fliers that had been taped on the wall next to him in an attempt to distract himself. One was for a new sushi restaurant that had opened up last week. Another was for a college prep course. There were at least three for a performance at a local university.

The guy bumped into Akaashi harder than ever, actually knocking him against the wall. He muttered a hasty apology over his shoulder before returning his lips to his girlfriend’s ear. Akaashi took a deep breath, trying to focus on the fliers instead of all the things the guy wanted to do to his girlfriend when they got to their stop.

Apartments for rent uptown… “Take you in the bathroom and…” A couch for sale, gently used… “Bend you over, and take my…” Italian cooking classes at Tokyo University, now with more available times! “Until you’re begging for me to…”

Akaashi sighed heavily. It was loud enough for the woman across the train to look up at him. But the couple was undeterred. Now the man was mawing at the woman’s neck, and the noises that reached Akaashi’s ears were somehow worse than the dirty talk. Standing among the throng of bodies shunting in and out of the car would be better than this torture. He reached down for his bag, pulled it over his shoulder, and was halfway up when he froze.

His eyes had passed over the wall of fliers once more, nothing more than a quick glance on his way to his feet. But something had caught his eye. It was an advertisement for the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. It was nondescript, something he normally wouldn’t have even looked twice at. But its list of upcoming events stood out.

The train gave a lurch, and Akaashi was sent back into his seat rather violently, knocking him into the man on his right. He had the audacity to scoff as he detached his mouth from his girlfriend’s neck. Like he was the one wronged. Akaashi didn’t care. He pulled the flier from the wall and examined it a little closer.

It contained a list of upcoming events for after the New Year—things like the Tokyo Philharmonic and a visual organ concert, even a vocal performance competition. But he didn’t care about that. There was one name in particular near the bottom of the page. A piano solo concert, advertised as “ONE NIGHT ONLY, TICKETS GOING FAST!”

Bokuto Koutarou.

Akaashi stared so hard at the name, it was a wonder he didn’t bore a hole in the paper. It wasn’t a common enough name for him to write it off. And it was too much of a coincidence for him to ignore.

“Seriously, do you fuckin’ mind?”

Akaashi was torn from his reverie by the man on his right, who was now staring at him with venom. Akaashi realized his bag was practically resting on the man’s lap. He hadn’t bothered to take it off when he’d fallen back into the seat.

“I was starting to wonder the same about you two,” he noted.

He didn’t give the man time to retort, rising up out of his seat and shuffling through the bodies toward the door of the train just in time for them to open up at his stop.

 


 

When Akaashi managed to find some downtime at work, he ducked into a stairwell where he was sure he couldn’t be found. All he wanted was few minutes where no one was calling his name, bogging him down with yet another issue, another problem, another thing he would have to fix. The pounding silence of the stairwell was actually a relief.

He dug his phone from his pocket and opened up to the browser. Truthfully, he had another reason for sneaking off. His mind had been racing since he’d stepped off the train that morning. His finger tapped the search bar, and he entered the name that had been racing through his thoughts for the last four hours.

Bokuto Koutarou.

56,000 results. Well, that was something.

Akaashi selected the first link, an article written… Three months ago? Just before Akaashi met him. He read avidly, brows rising with every line.

When an audience remains rooted to its seat, unable to stand, to speak, to even draw breath, it’s a sign that they’ve been awed by a master of the craft. Last week at the Tokyo Performing Arts Center, Bokuto Koutarou managed to do just that. The 27-year old piano virtuoso composed all the pieces that were performed, and his raw musical talent left the audience speechless. His technique could almost be described as superhuman, commanding the keys with incomparable skill and intensity.

His program was built around the early romantic period, though with definite contemporary themes. No one could dare intrude on his delicate pianissimos, his velvety arpeggios, his dynamic pauses. No note, no beat of silence, no breath was wasted. His mastery of the formidable scales and smooth transitions is second to none. And when he concluded the piece, the sounds rang through the packed concert hall, leaving a stunned silence in their wake. Seemingly overwhelmed by the response, Bokuto fled the stage without an encore.

However, this seems to be a running theme in all of Bokuto’s performances. His focus does not deviate from the stage, locking in on his piano from start to finish. He leaves the stage following his performances, refusing to return for an encore, and is gone like a thief in the night. Few have been able to secure an interview with him, and those who have deem him conceited and reclusive, answering with clipped responses and hurried excuses.

But really, such supreme musical talent has always come with a few quirks. What famous musicians of old did not…

Akaashi skimmed the rest of the article, which only made one more significant reference to Bokuto at the very end: Bokuto’s next performance scheduled in March at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall is sure to draw even more of a crowd, and this writer cannot wait to see what magic he works for us next time.

He stared down at the screen, still processing the words of the article. Bokuto was a professional. The same Bokuto who sat in front of him every night in his simple outfit and slicked-up hair had the power to move an entire hall of people to silence.

And then, Akaashi felt stupid. Shouldn’t he have been able to see that before now? The way Bokuto played was, as the writer said, almost superhuman, incomparable. It should have been obvious from the start that he wasn’t some amateur.

Akaashi flicked through a few more articles, all of which said the same basic things. Bokuto was a musical genius, one who composed his own music and performed in front of thousands of people at a time. According to them, he was also inhospitable and preferred seclusion—at least, judging by the way he staunchly avoided interviews and parties and a number of other things musicians were expected to do.

But that didn’t make any sense. Sure, Bokuto had quirks—the fingers, the rocking, the anxiety. But he was by no means cold. If they’d ever seen his smile, they would know that. His exuberance was contagious, as Akaashi learned on the first night he’d met him. And he didn’t seem to be secluded. He came back to play for Akaashi every night. If he preferred seclusion, wouldn’t he have just left that first night? Turned around and never come back?

Akaashi was so deep in thought that, when the door next to him banged open, he leapt off the ground, almost dropping his phone in shock. Tsukishima’s blonde head appeared around the doorway. He looked amused at seeing Akaashi flustered.

“Bad time?” he asked.

“Depends, what’s wrong?” Akaashi countered.

“Komi’s crying.”

“What? Why?” Akaashi asked, already pocketing his phone and following Tsukishima out into the hallway.

“He spilled his coffee on some of the journal entries,” Tsukishima replied, falling into stride next to Akaashi.

“Of course he did,” Akaashi sighed.

“It’s the old ones, but he won’t listen to anyone, so Konoha wanted me to get you,” Tsukishima explained blandly. “And Konoha’s mad because he owes me ¥2000 now.”

“What did you two bet on this time?”

“Who would be the first to cry,” Tsukishima’s voice betrayed the hint of a smile. “He thought Yamaguchi would break first.”

“And you didn’t?” Akaashi asked, gaze slipping off to his right to observe the blonde. His eyes were hidden behind those thick glasses, and his mouth was turned down in that perpetual frown. As usual, his expression gave nothing away.

“Yamaguchi’s tougher than he looks, he can handle this,” he replied simply.

“Wow, an actual compliment,” Akaashi marveled. “I had wondered if you were capable of such a thing. Color me surprised.”

“I’m all about the wow factor,” Tsukishima deadpanned.

 


 

Nine exhausting hours later, Akaashi shuffled out of the elevator and toward the abandoned corner of the lobby. He felt that at this point, he could be dead on his feet and make it to that chair on autopilot. It was like instinct at this point. When he rounded the corner, Bokuto was waiting in his usual spot in front of the piano.

“Hey, hey, Akaash!” he cheered.

“Hello, Bokuto-san.”

“How was your day? Did you have to talk to that annoying guy again? Did he call you Kaashi-kun?” Bokuto asked, all in one breath.

“Ah, well, I was busy,” Akaashi replied, trying not to sound disarmed as he dropped into his seat. “And I didn’t have to talk to that CFO, thank goodness. Every day without him in my life is a brighter one.”

“Is your job always this busy? That seems like it wouldn’t really be fair,” Bokuto noted.

“Well, we’re in busy season right now, that’s why I’ve been here every night so late. But once March is over, I’ll go back to my regular hours,” Akaashi explained.

“O-oh…”

Bokuto’s tone had shifted so suddenly, it took Akaashi by surprise. His smile had faltered, and he was wringing his hands. Why did he look nervous?

“Are you alright?” Akaashi asked, trying catch his gaze.

Bokuto jumped, as though he was surprised to find Akaashi still there. His eyes were wide, and he was having a harder time focusing on any one point than usual. He said nothing, opting instead to drop down onto the piano bench with an unceremonious plop.

It always seemed as though Akaashi could feel the shift from normal Bokuto to musician Bokuto. The air around him changed, going completely still, and yet somehow crackling with energy—like the wake of an electrical storm. There was that moment just before his fingers took to the keys, a moment where Akaashi was almost overwhelmed by his intensity. If anyone had asked him to put it to words, he knew he couldn’t. But his breath would catch as he watched, felt the magnitude of Bokuto’s passion.

And then, as always, that first press of ivory seemed to breathe all the air back into his lungs. He’d been listening to Bokuto play for months now, and every time still felt new and exciting. The article he’d read earlier seemed to resonate in his brain. Incomparable skill and intensity… No note, no beat of silence, no breath wasted… It was true. His entire body moved with the song, like an elegant dance. And his eyes never opened. His focus does not deviate from the stage… He didn’t even need to look at the keys. It was as though he was connected to them. It was so natural, so right.

Akaashi found himself so lost in the swell of music, he was shocked when it ended. And when Bokuto turned back to look at him, he wore that same expectant gaze as always. Waiting for Akaashi’s opinion. Almost craving it.

“Perfect,” Akaashi sighed. “As always. You’re amazing, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto’s sigh of relief didn’t come as a surprise anymore. No matter how many times Akaashi told him it was perfect, Bokuto doubted his abilities. Doubted himself. It was as though he expected Akaashi to tell him one day that it had been terrible. But that day would never come. Akaashi was sure of it.

It had become a regular occurrence now for Bokuto to move from the piano bench to the chair next to Akaashi. And every night, he seemed to linger a little longer, talking avidly to Akaashi about his life and his day, and asking Akaashi questions in turn.

He leaves the stage following his performances…

Well that part certainly wasn’t accurate, at least not when it came to Akaashi. Which reminded him…

“Bokuto-san, I was on my way to work this morning and saw a flier for one of your upcoming performances. You’ve never told me that you play professionally,” Akaashi noted.

His reaction was not what Akaashi expected. The smile fell from Bokuto’s face, and now he didn’t just look nervous. He was downright terrified. His thick eyebrows were drawn together, and his mouth opened and closed around words that just wouldn’t come. Like before, he couldn’t focus on anything, eyes darting around the room at an almost dizzying pace.

“Bokuto-san…”

“I…” Bokuto gaped. “I guess…”

“Is everything alright? Are you okay?”

“I just… I don’t… I can’t…” His hand moved to his mouth, teeth worrying the skin above his thumbnail, almost on instinct.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” Akaashi urged.

But it seemed that Bokuto was even losing the power of speech. He’d started to rock again, faster and wilder than ever. His body was so tense. He looked like a coil ready to spring. Why was this happening?

“Bokuto-san…” Akaashi said once more. He didn’t know what he’d done to make this happen, and he didn’t know how to stop it. But he needed to do something. He knew he did.

“I don’t have to talk about it,” Bokuto murmured, hurried and quiet and absolutely terrified. He was rocking so fast now, it was a wonder he hadn’t lifted off the chair. “I don’t have to talk about it if I don’t want to… That’s the rule… I don’t have to talk about it…”

“You don’t have to talk about it, Bokuto-san, but please… Please calm down,” Akaashi pressed.

“I don’t have to talk about it… That’s the rule… I don’t have to talk about it…”

This wasn’t working. He was losing Bokuto rapidly, the older man shrinking, withdrawing into himself. His chest heaved with every breath, and it seemed he couldn’t pull the air into his lungs fast enough. And then, Akaashi saw it. Blood. In his mouth, on his finger, a droplet trickling down his hand. Everything Akaashi knew about Bokuto told him that he shouldn’t do it. But he needed to help him. And he couldn’t stop himself as he reached for Bokuto’s wrist.

The second Akaashi touched him, it was like an electric shock had surged through Bokuto’s entire body. He froze, halfway through a rock forward, eyes wide and unfocused. This felt bad, almost wrong. But Akaashi had come too far to stop now. He tugged gently at Bokuto’s arm, and though the older man resisted, Akaashi was able to pull it away from his mouth. He’d managed to break the skin with his chewing. There wasn’t as much blood as Akaashi had first thought. Most of it was probably in Bokuto’s mouth now.

This was the first time Akaashi had seen his hands so close, so still. They were battered and raw from what could only have been a lifetime of tearing them apart. They had to hurt…

Akaashi let his fingers drift over Bokuto’s wrist, up his forearm, and then slowly back down. He was doubtful this would work, and he wouldn’t blame Bokuto if he got up and fled. But at this point, he would try anything to bring Bokuto back, to drive that fearful expression from his face.

And by some miracle, it was working. It happened slowly, painfully slowly, but Akaashi could see his shoulders starting to droop. There were deep, shaking breaths working through his chest. Akaashi didn’t stop—couldn’t have stopped even if he’d wanted to. His fingers drifted lightly up and down Bokuto’s arm, nails just barely grazing the skin. And now Bokuto seemed to be melting against the chair. His eyes were locked on Akaashi’s hand, following the easy up and down movements, almost lulled by them.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said gently.

Bokuto’s gaze lifted to meet his own, and Akaashi was surprised when it held there. His mouth hung slack. Slow, even breaths passed through his lips. This was the most relaxed Akaashi had ever seen him, unencumbered by the rocking and fidgeting. In fact, now he looked almost exhausted.

“Will you keep doing that?”

The voice was so quiet. If he hadn’t watched Bokuto’s mouth move, Akaashi might not have even registered it. But he had.

“Of course,” Akaashi nodded.

Akaashi wasn’t sure how much time passed as he sat there, fingers gliding up and down Bokuto’s arm. At some point, he found himself reaching for the other arm, and this time Bokuto didn’t resist. In fact, he shifted to accommodate Akaashi’s new ministrations. Bokuto sank a little further into the chair, his head lolling against his shoulder.

“Bokuto-san, I… I’m sorry.”

This time, when Bokuto’s eyes lifted to his, they looked almost sad.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to be sorry,” Bokuto replied. “It’s not like it’s your fault. It’s mine. I know it is.”

“No, you—“

“It is,” Bokuto cut him off, sounding almost listless, defeated. “If I talk about it, I think about doing it. And if I think about doing it, I get nervous. And if I get nervous, I don’t know what to do. So I just don’t talk about it.”

That logic was airtight for someone who’d been teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown such a short time ago.

“I understand,” Akaashi replied. “And I won’t ever make you talk about it again.”

“But…” Bokuto seemed stuck on his words again. It wasn’t like before. There was no tension left in his body. But it was like they were lodged in the back of his throat, struggling to get out. “I… I do… Want to… With you…”

Akaashi was surprised enough to still his hands, retrieving Bokuto’s attention once more. He hadn’t expected something so… Honest.

“Well, I’ll be happy to listen,” Akaashi recovered. “But maybe not tonight.”

“Yeah… Right… Not tonight,” Bokuto nodded.

Akaashi glanced down at his watch. Unless he wanted to spend money on a cab, he’d have to be leaving soon. But the prospect of letting Bokuto walk home on his own after tonight’s ordeal was making him nervous. He could walk with him. But would Bokuto want that?

“Bokuto-san, do you have a cell phone?” Bokuto nodded, and Akaashi reached into his pocket, groping for his own. “Do you think we could exchange information? I’ll worry about you until tomorrow night if I don’t hear from you before then.”

Perhaps he was excited by Akaashi’s proposal. Or maybe he was just glad to know there would still be a tomorrow after what happened tonight. Either way, it seemed Bokuto’s spirits were successfully lifted. He stuffed his hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone.

“Why don’t we switch, and I’ll put mine in yours, and you can put yours in mine,” Akaashi suggested.

Bokuto nodded vigorously, shoving the phone toward Akaashi. A few quick taps, and then Akaashi was passing it back. Bokuto took just a little longer. And when Akaashi got his phone back, Bokuto Koutarou was his newest contact.

“You’ll message me when you make it home then?” Akaashi asked.

“Yeah. Yeah, I will. I promise,” Bokuto vowed.

It seemed the evening had actually taken a toll on Bokuto, who for the first time didn’t sprint out the door. Instead, he stood up after Akaashi and seemed to fall into step next to him. The two of them padded quietly through the lobby, past the security guard—who, Akaashi noted, barely glanced up from his book—and walked out the front door.

“I go this way,” Akaashi pointed off to his left.

“Right, yeah, okay,” Bokuto muttered. “I’ll… I’ll see you tomorrow, Akaash.”

“I wouldn’t miss it.”

Something that could only be described as a sigh of relief escaped Bokuto’s lips, which turned up into small smile. Akaashi was glad to see it. And he returned it with one of his own.

The train ride felt longer than usual. Though maybe that was because he spent the entire time with his phone in his lap, hand clenched tightly around it, willing it to vibrate. The walk from the train stop to the apartment was even worse. He was glaring at his phone now, as if sheer willpower might illuminate the screen. What if Bokuto never messaged him? What if something had happened to him? Akaashi didn’t have his address, just a number and an email. He should’ve walked him home. The cab fare would’ve been worth it to know he’d gotten home safe. How much longer was proper etiquette before Akaashi could call him to ask? Would that seem creepy? What if Bokuto had genuinely forgotten? What if—

“Akaashi-san, are you okay?”

The bright voice startled Akaashi, and he looked up from his phone into Hinata’s concerned face. It took him a moment to realize he was in front of his apartment.

“Hinata-kun,” Akaashi sighed. “You’re up rather late.”

“Oh, yeah, well the gym is closed tomorrow for maintenance, so I don’t have to work,” he explained.

“And… Why are you out here?”

“Ah… Well… Um…” he mumbled, fidgeting nervously with his fingers. His brown eyes glanced off to the side. “I… May have let Tomoe get out again.”

“Of course,” Akaashi could only shake his head in exasperation. It seemed like every other week, Hinata managed to let that cat out of the apartment. He never wandered far, but managed to hide well enough to evade capture for hours. Almost like he relished the experience.

“I didn’t mean to!” Hinata exclaimed. “He’s so fast! And I only had it open for a minute to run something over to Kuroo, and he was gone like gwah!” He accentuated the sound with a sweep of his hands through midair.

“Didn’t Kenma tell you to stop leaving the door open?” Akaashi asked.

“Well, yeah, and I always remember to close it,” the smaller man asserted. “But he was sleeping with Nanami all the way in the bedroom, and I thought I had time. But then all I saw was his tail go zooming around the corner!”

“Well, I suppose you’ll need some help then,” Akaashi sighed, a little heavier this time.

“Kuroo and Mr. Close Cropped Hair were helping, but I don’t know where they went,” Hinata admitted.

“Mr. Close Cropped Hair, huh?” Akaashi couldn’t stop the amused chuckle in his chest. “The blonde one, still?”

“Yeah, I think he said his name was Terushima, but I like Mr. Close Cropped Hair better.”

“So do I… I’ll go get them, you keep looking,” Akaashi ordered.

“Thanks, Akaashi-san!” Hinata cried.

Akaashi trudged up the stairs two at a time, tossing his bag into his apartment and ignoring the siren call of his bed. He knocked loudly on Kuroo’s front door, didn’t stop knocking until he heard the stamping of feet from the other side. It flew open to reveal Kuroo in a state of undress—shirt torn open and pants dipping at his waist.

“Hey, babe!”

“I realize you have company, but I need you to help us find this cat so I can go to bed,” Akaashi muttered.

“Oh, well, we were looking for it, but…” Kuroo trailed off, eyes darting back down the hallway.

“Yes, and I’m happy you’ve found yourself in the throes of rekindled love, but I have to be up in seven hours for work.”

“Right, we’ll be down in five minutes,” Kuroo nodded.

“Kuroo, please…”

“Four minutes, I’ve got this down to a science.”

Akaashi would have argued with him, but before he could open his mouth, he felt vibrations against his palm. He didn’t stop Kuroo from closing the door in his face. His phone was illuminated, bearing a message from Bokuto. All the air in his lungs breathed out of him in relief. He tapped the message and it opened.

>>[Bokuto]: Hey, hey, Akaashi. It’s Bokuto Koutarou. I know you wanted me to let you know when I made it home. And I did. Make it home, I mean. I had to help my neighbor with something, so that’s why it took me a while to let you know. Sorry about that. And about tonight. You know, for earlier. And I really do want to tell you all about it. Just, like you said, not tonight. So, yeah. Again, I’m sorry. And I’ll see you tomorrow.

Akaashi realized he was smiling down at his phone, but he couldn’t help it. He could practically hear Bokuto’s voice reciting the message—hurried and excited, hands drumming against his legs. He tapped out a quick response.

>>[Akaashi]: There's no need to be sorry. I’ll be happy to hear everything when you’re ready. I’m glad you made it home alright. I can’t wait for tomorrow night.

His fingers stalled over the screen. Was that too much? Did it sound too eager? Too condescending? Too abrupt? Three times he cleared out the message and started over, only to end up with a carbon copy of the original. With a resigned huff, he pressed the send key before he could overthink the message once again.

Akaashi was stuffing his phone back into his pocket when the door in front of him opened abruptly. He was greeted with a satisfied and panting Kuroo and Terushima. And apparently Terushima didn’t feel he needed a shirt under his open jacket.

“You know, we’ve seen each other twice, and Tetsu’s never introduced us,” Terushima noted, brown eyes taking in Akaashi and making him feel like prey once more. “I’m Terushima Yuuji.”

“Akaashi Keiji.”

“Ohh, so serious,” Terushima laughed.

“Yeah, but it’s endearing,” Kuroo noted.

“Really? I’m not sure I agree.”

“He grows on you.”

“Is that true, pretty boy? Will you grow on me?” Terushima’s comment lacked any bite, which made Akaashi wonder if “pretty boy” was meant to be a dig or a compliment.

“As tempting as that sounds, I’d like to find this cat so I can fall into a small coma,” Akaashi replied.

“Aww, no fun,” Terushima pouted.

“I find comas to be quite fun, actually.”

“See?” Kuroo smirked. “Endearing.”

Akaashi just shook his head, turning away from the two of them and heading back downstairs. He could hear them following behind him, chatting idly. It barely registered in his brain that his phone was vibrating once more. He glanced down at the screen to find another message from Bokuto.

>>[Bokuto]: Yeah, I can’t wait either. Night, Akaash.

Akaashi smiled once more as he typed out a response.

>>[Akaashi]: Good night, Bokuto-san.

Chapter Text

Akaashi was locking up the front door of his apartment a short eight hours later, a little too tired and a little too cranky. They’d managed to find the cat after an hour of searching—and of course, it was waiting outside Hinata and Kenma’s front door. It had stared at them with those judgmental green eyes, like it had been the one inconvenienced by the whole ordeal. Akaashi had fallen into his bed just in time to hear the creak of bedsprings in the other apartment. And he was so exhausted, he slept right through it.

Turning to make his way down the hall, he nearly jumped out of his skin to find Kenma standing directly in front of him. The shorter man had such light footsteps. He’d caught Akaashi off guard more times than he could count.

“Good morning,” Akaashi recovered.

“Morning,” Kenma murmured, trying and failing to stifle a yawn.

“Long night?”

“Yes, but it’s done.” He sounded about as exhausted as Akaashi felt.

“We had a rather eventful night here, too,” Akaashi noted.

It only took Kenma a glance to know exactly what Akaashi meant. He heaved a heavy sigh, one he reserved only for Hinata—and occasionally Kuroo. “How long did it take this time?” he asked.

“Just an hour. I think he got a little bored with evading us.”

“I might need to put a note on the door from now on,” Kenma said. “Or pin one to Shouyou’s chest. He only ever forgets to close the door when I’m not home.”

“It hasn’t happened it a while, at least,” Akaashi tried to sound encouraging, despite all his frustration the night before.

“Ah,” Kenma said, as though suddenly enlightened. “When you asked about the rules… I guess we do have a few. Like remembering to close the door. And always making sure the cats are in there before you leave.”

“Oh… Right…”

Akaashi hadn’t forgotten about last night’s incident with Bokuto. In fact, he hadn’t stopped thinking about it. The rules, the anxiety, the near nervous break… It had permeated his brain and even entered his dreams. Akaashi wanted to know more. He wanted to ask Bokuto about everything. But that couldn’t happen yet. He’d have to take it slowly.

“Keiji, are you okay?”

Akaashi glanced down at Kenma. The shorter man always wore that same blank expression. Only his eyes gave away his concern. Akaashi gave him a small smile.

“I’m fine, just tired.”

“Are you doing anything tomorrow?” Kenma asked.

“I have to go into the office in the morning for a little while, but nothing other than that.”

“Come over for dinner. To say thank you for helping with the cat. We’ll rent a movie too.”

Akaashi knew better than to turn Kenma down, especially when he had no better plans. Kenma would find him, assault him with food and subtle kindness, and leave him feeling guilty.

“That sounds nice,” he nodded. “Will you be inviting Kuroo?”

“Begrudgingly,” Kenma mumbled. “He’ll pout if we don’t.”

“Mr. Close Cropped Hair may want to come,” Akaashi pointed out, smirking around the nickname.

“Is that still going on?”

“Hm,” Akaashi nodded. “It may be Kuroo’s longest relationship yet.”

“Does it count if they broke up in the middle?”

“You’re probably a better candidate to pass judgment on that than I am,” Akaashi replied.

“I guess I’ll have to invite him too,” Kenma noted.

“Well, I look forward to it all the same.”

“Right, well, thank you for helping, again.”

“Happy to,” Akaashi nodded. “Get some rest.”

Kenma just nodded, shuffling past Akaashi and toward his own apartment. A glance down at his watch told Akaashi that he had just enough time to make it to the 07:30 train. His steps were a little quicker than usual. He would not be enduring the PDA couple again today.

Once he was safely on the train, he fished his phone from his pocket and flicked through some news articles. There was nothing he particularly cared about, nothing that could retrieve his attention for more than a few seconds.

His mind was still on Bokuto—as if it could be anywhere else. He continued to return to their messages from the night before, reading through Bokuto’s nervous conversation. Though Akaashi hadn’t exactly sounded confident himself. He realized with a lurch of his stomach that he’d accidentally rhymed in the first one. I’m glad you made it home alright. I can’t wait for tomorrow night. Bokuto hadn’t said anything, and maybe he hadn’t even noticed. But Akaashi felt ridiculous.

And more than that, he wanted to make sure Bokuto was okay this morning. It probably wouldn’t be appropriate to just come right out and ask. But maybe some light conversation would be okay. What could he say that wouldn’t seem like it was coming out of nowhere?

>>[Akaashi]: I had to spend an hour last night looking for my neighbor’s cat.

Yeah. Because that didn’t seem like it had come out of nowhere. Akaashi was ready to delete the message, stuff his phone back in his pocket, and ignore that nagging feeling in the back of his brain.

And instead, he hit send.

Why had he done that? His face pulled into a disgruntled scowl as he stared down at his phone, practically willing the message to come back. But it didn’t, and it wouldn’t. He shoved his phone into his pocket with venom, like it had personally offended him. Obsessing over it wouldn’t do any good now—though that wasn’t likely to make him stop anytime soon.

 


 

“Yamaguchi, do you have the rest of the revised journal entries?”

“I gave them to Konoha.”

“I gave them to Sarukui.”

“I put them on your desk, Komi.”

“Oh… Then I’m sure they’re here somewhere.”

“Tsukishima, did you finish the spreadsheets for the cost analyses?”

“Finishing them now.”

“I need them as soon as you’re done.”

“What else would I do with them?”

“You could probably shove them up your ass, along with the stick that seems permanently lodged up there.”

“That doesn’t seem like very appropriate work talk, Konoha.”

“Bite me.”

Akaashi tried to ignore the incessant chatter around him, hands shielding his eyes, zeroing him in on the data tables Oikawa had sent him earlier that morning. They’d come with a note attached: Here’s what we have for now. And they were a disaster. These tables were some of the most disorganized Akaashi had ever seen in his life. A middle schooler would’ve been able to fill them out better. And… Ah, most of the pages came with a disclaimer at the bottom: THESE FIGURES ARE AN ESTIMATE AND MIZUHA FINANCIAL GROUP CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY LIABILITY DUE TO RELIANCE ON THEM. These were essentially what should have been given out six months ago when the audit process began—not two months before it was supposed to be finished.

“Akaashi-san?”

Akaashi looked up from the stack of papers in front of him at the sound of Yamaguchi’s voice and realized his mouth was hanging open in surprise. Yamaguchi looked shocked at his expression.

“What’s wrong now?” Konoha asked.

“I’m considering a change of career,” Akaashi replied.

“Too late for that now,” Tsukishima murmured.

“Panhandling would be better than this.”

“You wouldn’t make a very good hobo,” Konoha noted.

“Actually, I think he’d be a pretty successful hobo,” Komi cut in. “He’d get a lot of attention, at least.”

“Yeah, but as a hobo, you don’t want too much attention,” Sarukui said. “That’s when the police get involved.”

“That’s true. Akaashi-san is pretty crafty though…”

“You still never said what’s wrong,” Konoha returned from their tangent.

“’These figures are an estimate and Mizuha Financial Group cannot be responsible for any liability due to reliance on them,’” Akaashi quoted the words on the sheet in front of him.

“That’s a joke, right?” Konoha laughed derisively.

“We needed estimates back in August, not now,” Komi groaned.

“How long before they have real numbers, then?” Tsukishima asked.

“I’ll find out.”

Akaashi opened up his email and found the name that filled him with dread. He shot off an email to Oikawa, asking when the soonest he could get actual data to him was—making sure, as he did every time, to emphasize the sensitivity of time in this case. He hit send, and at that same moment, his phone vibrated on his desk.

He’d be lying if he’d said he wasn’t relieved to see Bokuto’s name on the screen.

>>[Bokuto]: I hope you managed to find it! The cat, that is. Or if you didn’t, hopefully it wandered back on its own. Cats are so cool, I’ve been thinking about getting one. Do you think I should? I always worry if I’ll be able to take care of it. But they’re pretty self-sufficient, right?

Akaashi had spent so much time chastising himself for his ridiculous message, it was almost a surprise to see a genuine response from Bokuto. He typed back his own message quickly.

>>[Akaashi]: We did find him, he’s home safe and sound. They are pretty self-sufficient. You don’t have to do a lot for them. If you’re going to get a pet, they’re probably the least high maintenance.

He pressed send without giving himself time to overthink his words, then returned to his useless data sheets. It was like they were mocking him. He’d barely skimmed the first column when his phone buzzed again.

>>[Bokuto]: Cool! Maybe I will get one then. Thanks, Akaash!

>>[Akaashi]: You’re very welcome.

 


 

Despite their earlier conversation, Akaashi was still nervous when he stepped off the elevator that night. It was a relief to round the corner and find Bokuto back to his usual self, his face splitting into a wide smile at the sight of Akaashi.

“Hey, hey, Akaash!” he called.

“Hello, Bokuto-san.”

“Did you have a good day?”

“I did,” Akaashi replied. His mood had picked up marginally in the afternoon, despite the fact that Oikawa hadn’t managed to get back to him yet. “Did you have a good day?”

“Yeah, I did,” Bokuto nodded vigorously. “I read online about cats for, like, four hours. Did you know that they sleep for 70% of their lives? And adult cats only meow to communicate with humans?”

“I didn’t know that, that’s actually very interesting,” Akaashi nodded, and it wasn’t a lie.

“And the ridges in their noses are unique, like people’s fingerprints,” Bokuto pressed on. “And when they bring home dead animals, it’s because they just think their owners are bad hunters. And if they—“

There it was again, that audible click of Bokuto’s teeth clacking together as he cut himself off, the words lodging in his throat. It had happened more times than Akaashi could count. He was on the verge of asking why, but Bokuto was already moving to the piano, settling himself onto the bench.

The song tonight was slow and deliberate, almost enough to lull Akaashi to sleep once more. But he fought against it—and truthfully, it wasn’t a difficult battle. He lost himself in the intricacies of Bokuto’s movements, much less pronounced than usual. He still rocked, but it was easy, elegant. Almost like a practiced dance. The song swelled to a dramatic ending, and Akaashi found himself on the edge of his seat once more. The final notes seemed to resonate through the high walls of the lobby.

“Perfect,” Akaashi murmured even before Bokuto could turn around.

“R-really?” Bokuto asked, tilting his head back and watching Akaashi in his periphery.

“It was perfect,” Akaashi sighed.

Bokuto’s lips tilted up in a smile. One corner of his mouth pulled a little higher than the other. It reached his eyes, the gold dancing in the dim fluorescence of the lobby. He rose from the bench and made his way over to Akaashi, dropping down in the empty chair next to him.

“Um… Akaash, can… Can I ask you something?” Bokuto asked slowly, struggling with the words.

“You can ask me anything.”

Bokuto’s eyes danced across Akaashi’s face, searching as always for any hint of a lie in his statement. Akaashi didn’t blink.

“Do you… Um… Do you think you could… Do that thing you did… Last night?” Bokuto stuttered.

“Do you mean with your arms?” Akaashi asked.

“Y-yeah,” Bokuto nodded erratically. “You know, when you kinda scratched them. It… It was really nice, and it helped me calm down. And it’s not like I need you to calm me down now, but it was still really nice. Which is really great, because I don’t usually like when other people touch me. But you’re just really great, and you’re really nice, and you have really nice hands, and—“

He broke off again with that click of his jaw. His face contorted in a grimace of frustration. His hand was halfway to his mouth when Akaashi caught it between his own.

Like last night, Bokuto tensed as though he’d been jolted with an electric shock. But Akaashi didn’t hesitate this time. His fingers skimmed gently up Bokuto’s arms, the lightest contact he could manage, and it only took a few passes up and down for Bokuto to relax.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Bokuto murmured.

“What on earth are you sorry for?” Akaashi asked.

“Well, I’m supposed to think before I say stuff like that, since sometimes it’s not appropriate. That’s the rule.”

There it was again. The rule. Little though he wanted to do something to upset Bokuto again, Akaashi couldn’t help himself.

“Well, it wasn’t inappropriate, you don’t have to apologize for that,” Akaashi assured him.

“Are you sure?” Bokuto asked, golden eyes peering into Akaashi’s once more.

“I’m very sure,” Akaashi nodded.

“Okay…”

“Bokuto-san… When you say it’s against the rules… What does that mean?” Akaashi said tentatively.

“Oh, well, they’re just my rules for when I have to deal with other people,” Bokuto explained. He sounded like he was talking about the weather—something mundane and obvious. “Because a lot of the time, I really don’t know what to do around them, you know? So they help me know what to say and not say, what to do and not do, stuff like that. Like, one of the rules is I’m not supposed to talk about the same stuff for too long because not everyone cares about it as much as I do.”

Understanding dawned on Akaashi, like a puzzle piece fitting into place in his brain. All those times Bokuto had stopped talking so abruptly were because of that rule. The click of his teeth was a rough reminder of it, like he needed to force himself to remember. How many times had he done it in front of Akaashi alone? And it wasn’t just with Akaashi. That rule was for everyone.

“Bokuto-san, I’m going to be very honest with you,” Akaashi said, leaning forward to catch his gaze once more. Bokuto looked nervous. “You don’t have to worry about that with me. I’ve cared about everything you’ve had to say. Whether it has felt important or not, I’ve cared.”

Bokuto’s eyebrows rose in shock, taking on a life of their own. His mouth opened and closed wordlessly. Akaashi didn’t push him, resuming the even movements up and down Bokuto’s arms. Bokuto was quiet for a while, following Akaashi’s hands with his eyes again.

“Hey, Akaash,” he murmured suddenly.

“Hm?”

“Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?”

It wasn’t anything Akaashi would have expected. He couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped his lips. “I did,” he replied. “Once.”

“What was it like?” Bokuto asked.

“Very loud,” Akaashi said. “And windy. I didn’t like it very much.”

“Did you get to drive it?”

“No, I was behind the person driving.”

“Ohh,” Bokuto sounded almost mystified. “I saw someone driving one on the way here, and I wondered what it was like.”

“Think you’ll ever give it a try?” Akaashi asked.

“No,” Bokuto shook his head. “If you say you didn’t like it, I trust you.”

Despite the fact that he’d basically just told Bokuto he could say whatever he wanted, such honesty was still surprising. It was a good thing Bokuto was looking away. Akaashi was sure his eyes had widened for a moment. But he pulled himself together quickly.

“Ah, I should probably get going,” Akaashi noted, checking his watch.

“Right, your train,” Bokuto muttered.

Akaashi was prepared for him to run out the door like usual. But when he made it to his feet, Bokuto waited, rocking gently back and forth on the balls of his feet. Akaashi pulled his coat on and slung his bag over his shoulder. He turned to find Bokuto watching him closely.

“Everything alright?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Bokuto nodded. “Yeah, really great.”

“Will you let me know when you make it home again? Especially since I won’t be seeing you this weekend?”

“Yes!” Bokuto exclaimed, excitement washing over his face. “Yes, I promise!”

“Good,” Akaashi smiled up at him.

They parted ways at the door, Bokuto heading right and Akaashi heading left toward the train station. This time, Bokuto’s message came in just before Akaashi made it back to the apartment.

>>[Bokuto]: Hey, hey, Akaash! I made it home. And I saw another motorcycle on the way home. I didn’t realize how big they were up close. I feel like it could easily crush me, and I’m not even small. I don’t think I’d ever want to ride one.

Akaashi actually laughed out loud, taking the stairs slowly while he typed.

>>[Akaashi]: I think people who ride them generally like the attention they get. That’s the only merit I can see to owning one.

Today, the sounds that greeted Akaashi when he reached the third floor were the usual rambunctious ones. He distinctly heard Hinata’s loud voice, along with Kuroo’s cool undertones. Rounding the corner, he found the duo in question, along with a begrudging Kenma, hovering in front of Kuroo’s door.

“Hey, Akaashi-san!” Hinata beamed at him.

“Hello, Hinata-kun. Is this a party?”

“Kuroo doesn’t want to come tomorrow,” he said, smile turning to a pout in less than a second.

“Ah, what a shame,” Akaashi replied without inflection.

“Your lack of sincerity only proves how much you love me,” Kuroo noted.

“I’m not sure how you gather that…”

“I’m supposed to work tomorrow night,” Kuroo ignored Akaashi’s protest. “And I took tonight off, so I shouldn’t really skip two nights in a row.”

“Why did you take tonight off?” Hinata asked.

“Well, I was supposed to spend the night painting Yuuji, but he got called into work,” Kuroo sighed. “And I was so inspired too.”

“Is he your new muse?” Akaashi wondered despite himself.

“He is, he’s my Adonis,” Kuroo said wistfully. “You should see him without those clothes.”

“Hard pass.”

“Don’t be jealous.”

“Mr. Close Cropped Hair is decidedly not my type,” Akaashi noted.

“Why is that nickname catching on?” Kuroo groaned.

“I did that!” Hinata cried.

“So you’re not coming?” Kenma asked.

“Ugh, I don’t really feel like going to work tomorrow either,” Kuroo whined, leaning back against his door.

“I need to know how much food to buy,” Kenma sighed, that telltale huff he reserved only for these two men.

“I guess I will. I haven’t taken the whole weekend off in a while.”

Akaashi just shook his head. “What a luxury that would be.”

“No one told you to go be an accountant,” Kuroo retorted. “You could be an escort. Probably make about as much as you do now.”

“Again, that’s a hard pass.”

“Well, I’d say you could try your hand at painting, but that’s not going so well for me.”

“I did get told I would make a good hobo today,” Akaashi recalled the conversation with his team members.

“Well, there you go. Drop the CPA title and go rogue.”

“I don’t think you’d make a very good hobo, Akaashi-san,” Hinata cut in. “You’d attract too much attention.”

“That’s true,” Kuroo agreed. “You don’t want the police involved.”

Akaashi shook his head, his smile betraying the frustration he tried to convey. His phone vibrated in his hand, and he ignored the continued banter in front of him, opting instead to read Bokuto’s newest message.

>>[Bokuto]: Yeah, you’re probably right. And they’re too loud. I heard one from my apartment a few minutes ago. Also, there was a cat on my way home and it reminded me of more cat facts. Did you know there are some cats with more than five toes? They’re called polydactyl cats. Their feet look like mittens. It’s crazy.

Akaashi was smiling again. Who would’ve thought this day would start with worrying about Bokuto and end with cat facts from him?

>>[Akaashi]: One of my neighbor’s cats is like that, the girl one. I think they also call them snowshoe cats, right? I’ll admit, I don’t know much about cats though.

“Hey, who’s that?”

Akaashi looked up from his phone to see all three pairs of eyes on him. Even Kenma looked curious, albeit a little less so than the other two. Kuroo was trying to crane his neck and get a look at the screen. Akaashi pulled it away from his prying gaze.

“A friend,” Akaashi replied curtly.

“Sounds like you’re trying to hide something, ‘Kaash,” Kuroo smirked. “So, who is he?”

“A friend,” Akaashi repeated with a little extra bite.

“Yeah, because all your friends make you smile at your phone like an idiot,” Kuroo rolled his eyes.

“Only the ones who are actually funny,” Akaashi quipped.

“Excuse you, I am a fucking delight.” He received only two incredulous stares and Hinata’s confused head tilt in response. “Why am I even friends with you guys?” he scoffed.

“Geography,” Kenma replied.

“Convenience,” Akaashi added.

“Because we feed you!” Hinata cheered.

“That about sums it up.”

Akaashi waited until he was back in his apartment to read the message on his phone. It had vibrated shortly after he’d sent his own, but he didn’t want to give Kuroo more ammunition than he needed.

>>[Bokuto]: WHAT?! THAT’S SO COOL! You should take a picture sometime, I want to see her. I bet she’s amazing.

>>[Akaashi]: I’m going to their house tomorrow, I’ll try to get one then.

Bokuto’s last message came in while Akaashi was brushing his teeth.

>>[Bokuto]: Awesome. Thanks, Akaash!

>>[Akaashi]: You’re welcome.

It didn’t feel like enough of a response. But Akaashi pressed send anyway. And he would spend the next hour lying awake and staring at his ceiling, wondering why he didn’t say something different.

Chapter Text

An unseasonably cold February rolled in, and the middle of the month brought with it the biggest storm of the year. Akaashi watched the snow fall out the window on his lunch break. It stuck to the ground far below and covered the city in a blanket of white powder. Akaashi couldn’t help but wonder if the snow would keep Bokuto home. It had been almost four months since he’d started playing for Akaashi, and Bokuto hadn’t missed a single night. This was a valid excuse. It should keep him from coming, and Akaashi would understand if it did.

But then, why did he feel so disappointed?

His phone vibrated on the table in front of him. He swiped the lock screen open and read the message.

>>[Bokuto]: THERE’S SO MUCH SNOW! DID YOU SEE IT, AKAASH!? IT’S STILL FALLING!

He could practically hear Bokuto’s excited shouting, could see his arms flailing excitedly as he marveled over the snow.

>>[Akaashi]: I did, there’s quite a bit. Don’t feel bad if it keeps you home tonight, I’ll understand.

The response was almost immediate.

>>[Bokuto]: NO! I’M COMING! I SWEAR!

That shouldn’t have made him smile. He should’ve encouraged Bokuto to stay home where it was safe and warm. He should’ve taken the opportunity to go home before midnight for once, considering he was practically dead on his feet at this point.

There were a lot of things he should’ve done.

>>[Akaashi]: Well then, I look forward to seeing you tonight.

He pressed send before he could regret it.

Since they’d exchanged numbers three weeks ago, Akaashi had gotten into the habit of texting Bokuto throughout the day—nothing of any real importance, just little things. Things about his day, complaints about Oikawa and his utter lack of organization, anything that was on his mind really. Bokuto seemed overjoyed to hear about it all. He acted like Akaashi’s bland talk of cost analyses was the most exciting thing he’d ever heard. And he returned the act in kind, telling Akaashi about the silly things of which his day consisted. This morning, he’d gotten a picture of an enormous spider that had crawled out of the bananas while Bokuto was at the store—Akaashi had nearly dropped his phone in disgust.

It was nice to have someone to talk to like this, Akaashi thought. He’d never gotten this close with anyone, save for Kuroo and Kenma—and even with them, it wasn’t like this. This was easy. Comfortable, even.

He’d never been comfortable with another person like this.

His thoughts were interrupted when Yamaguchi shuffled into the break room, not bothering to stifle a wide yawn. He sat down across from Akaashi, dropping his lunch onto the table and just staring at it. His eyebrows knitted together in a frown.

“I’m not sure you’ll be able to do anything before you open it,” Akaashi pointed out.

“I don’t know if my arms will move,” Yamaguchi huffed. His forehead dropped onto the table with a thunk, arms dangling uselessly at his sides.

“We’ve had a rough few weeks,” Akaashi conceded. “But the end isn’t far off.”

“Six weeks is far enough,” Yamaguchi’s muffled voice resounded pathetically.

“I’m sorry your first season with the team is so difficult. But you really are doing well under the pressure. And the rest of the team works very well with you. We’re glad to have you here.”

Yamaguchi shifted, propping his chin on the table instead, and peering up at Akaashi from under his long bangs. “You really think so?” he asked tentatively.

“Yes,” Akaashi replied without hesitation.

Yamaguchi seemed to be mulling around another question, the gears in his brain working overtime behind his eyes. But he never got to ask. At that moment, Tsukishima walked into the break room, sitting down at the table with them. Yamaguchi perked up immediately, his earlier exhaustion forgotten as he popped open his bento.

“Akaashi-san, there’s a call on hold for you,” Tsukishima said, opening up his own lunch.

“Yes… Right.” Akaashi had tried to remain impassive as he observed them, but he knew his face probably gave him away. Luckily, neither of them were paying attention to him. He gathered his trash and lobbed it into the garbage can before making his way out of the break room. One last look over his shoulder showed him that they were eating their lunches silently.

Identical lunches. As though they’d been packed together.

The mystery only deepened.

 


 

That night, when Akaashi rounded the corner of the lobby, he found Bokuto shaking the snow off of his sweatshirt. A glance around told him that there was no jacket to go over it. He’d just worn a sweatshirt. In the middle of a snowstorm. At least he actually had on jeans and closed shoes now—he’d been wearing those shorts up until mid-January.

“Bokuto-san, you’re soaking wet,” Akaashi noted.

“Well, it’s really warm in here, so it all melted!” Bokuto enthused, shaking his head rapidly to clear the melting snow from his hair. It reminded Akaashi a little bit of a dog getting out of a bath.

“You’re going to get sick.”

“Nah, I’m pretty healthy.”

“It’s cold out, and you have no jacket,” Akaashi chided.

“I know, but…” he tapered off, thick brows coming together in thought. His fingers curled a little tighter around the sweatshirt.

“What’s wrong?”

“I just… I really don’t like when clothes are too tight,” Bokuto muttered. “It makes me feel anxious. Like I’m trapped. And whenever I wear coats, they feel too tight. Plus, it’s not like I ever get that cold. And I never get sick.”

“The possibility still exists though,” Akaashi pointed out. “And it’s only getting colder out there.”

“Yeah, I know. But it’s okay! Really! I’m fine!”

Akaashi wasn’t sure how to argue with him. More importantly, he wasn’t sure why he was arguing with him. Bokuto was 27-years old and fully capable of taking care of himself. If he didn’t want to wear a jacket, who was Akaashi to tell him he needed to?

They set quietly about their usual night. Bokuto sat down at the piano and played another breathtaking piece for Akaashi. He couldn’t help but wonder at this point if Bokuto was repeating songs. There were only so many he could have memorized.

Still, no matter what he played, it always felt oddly familiar and yet somehow new. Akaashi didn’t know much about music. But he did know most people couldn’t make someone feel like this when they played—swept away by the intricate melodies, and yet, somehow completely grounded. He felt it pull him out and back, like a gentle give and take, one he didn’t want to fight.

It never felt as though Bokuto played for as long as he actually did. To Akaashi, it always seemed like 30 seconds, when really, it was more like 15-20 minutes. And then Bokuto padded from the piano to the chair next to Akaashi, dropping into it heavily and ungracefully.

He didn’t have to ask Akaashi to touch him anymore. Akaashi reached for his arms without thinking, fingers gliding up and down the smooth skin. Bokuto didn’t flinch. He hadn’t flinched in weeks. Akaashi’s touch was nothing but comforting to him now.

And not only that, but he talked more too. About everything and nothing. It seemed Akaashi telling him not to worry about talking too much opened the floodgates. He told Akaashi about his day, from the most boring details to the most important—the practicing, the trips to the store, the walk from his apartment to here. He asked Akaashi things too, things about his life and himself. It seemed as though he wanted to know everything. And Akaashi couldn’t help but share.

Tonight, while Akaashi dragged his fingers up and down Bokuto’s arms, they talked about college.

“It’s not like I meant to take Latin,” Bokuto was explaining. “I was trying to sign up for my classes, and the scheduling program was really confusing, and I just picked what looked right.”

“There weren’t any prerequisites? I feel as though Latin would require some prior knowledge of… Something,” Akaashi wondered.

“No!” Bokuto exclaimed. “Nothing! And I showed up, and everyone was like ‘Yeah, let’s learn Latin!’ And I was so confused.”

“Did you withdraw from the course?”

“No! I got an A, actually.”

“You… You got an A in a Latin class that you took on accident?” Akaashi marveled.

“Yeah! I mean, I just read the book, it wasn’t really that difficult,” Bokuto shrugged.

Akaashi couldn’t help but laugh. Every day, Bokuto managed to surprise him. “Well, now you know enough to get by should you ever end up in ancient Rome.”

“Yeah, you’re right!” Bokuto cheered. “What about you, Akaash. Did you take any cool classes?”

“Most of my classes were quite boring. The accounting curriculum doesn’t leave a lot of room for fun. I suppose the psychology course I took was interesting. It was just an elective. One of the only classes I took that didn’t involve math or business.”

“Really? That’s cool,” Bokuto murmured, and he sounded like he meant it.

“Hm, I suppose.”

Akaashi’s fingers walked down Bokuto’s wrists, over the tops of his hands, and played over the rough skin of his fingers. Each one was littered with scabs and gouges, thick scar tissue that was poorly healed from Bokuto’s constant biting. Akaashi ran his thumb along a particularly deep welt.

“Bokuto-san, why do you chew on your fingers so much?” he asked idly.

“I dunno, I guess… I’ve just always done it.”

They sat in a comfortable silence. It was a few moments before Akaashi came to a sudden realization.

He was holding Bokuto’s hand, and neither of them made any effort to pull away. Bokuto’s large hand was clasped firmly between both of Akaashi’s, and their fingers were intertwined. Akaashi’s thumb moved in slow, smooth circles over the damaged skin.

Akaashi tried to blame it on the exhaustion.

“I think it’s supposed to snow all night,” Bokuto said suddenly. “I wonder how much there’ll be by the morning.”

“Bokuto-san, I really wish you weren’t walking so far without a coat,” Akaashi sighed. He couldn’t help himself.

“I’ll be fine, really!” Bokuto urged. “It’s not like I have that far to walk.”

“Well… I’d feel better if…” Akaashi trailed off. He released Bokuto’s hand and reached down, fingers closing around his scarf. “Would you at least wear this?” he asked, holding up the red and black plaid material for Bokuto to examine.

“But… Won’t you get cold?”

“I have my coat, and gloves. And I won’t have to wait long,” Akaashi replied. “You’ll be outside longer than I will. I’d… Feel better if I knew you at least had something.”

“Y-yeah, okay,” Bokuto nodded.

He leaned forward and allowed Akaashi to drape the scarf around his neck. Akaashi made sure to keep it loose—remembering he didn’t like when things were too tight—wrapping it once, twice, three times over his shoulders. When he pulled back, he nodded in approval.

Bokuto seemed lost in thought. He was staring down at the scarf, eyes roving over the checkered patterns. One of his hands rose to run the end between his fingers. Slowly, a smile spread over his face. His eyes closed, and he drew in a deep, even breath.

“Are you… Alright?” Akaashi asked gently.

“Yeah,” Bokuto nodded, eyes cracking open slightly. “It’s really nice. It smells nice. Like you. And you know, you help me relax. So then, it kinda helps me relax too, I guess.”

Akaashi couldn’t hide the surprise from his face, but Bokuto was too focused on the scarf to notice. “Well, you… You can keep it,” he muttered. “I have lots of scarves, and if you’ll wear it—“

“I’ll wear it all the time,” Bokuto vowed.

“Ah… Good. Then it’s yours.”

The smile that spread across Bokuto’s face was different from the usual grin. It softened all of his features and made him look so… Peaceful. There was no rocking, no furtive glances, no fluttering of his fingers. He looked like he’d managed to reach nirvana.

“Thanks, Akaash,” he murmured, catching Akaashi’s awestruck gaze.

“Of… Of course,” Akaashi replied, trying to sound more composed than he felt. “Happy to help.”

 


 

Akaashi had been enjoying his Sunday doing absolutely nothing for the first time in months. No running into the office, no errands, no thinking about numbers or audits or CFOs who had started using emojis in their emails. He was settled on his couch, listening to the hum of the television in the background and drifting in and out of sleep. He was so warm. So content.

At least, until the frantic hammering on his door roused him from his nap.

If he could’ve ignored it, he would have. But the only person who pounded like that wasn’t liable to go away on his own. He’d start knocking on the walls next. With a resigned huff, Akaashi struggled to his feet. He shrugged off the jacket he was wearing and trudged toward the door.

Kuroo tumbled over the threshold the second the door was open. He was dressed in the suit he wore when he took clients out. The tie was pulled loose, and the top few buttons were undone. There was lipstick on his neck.

“I can’t tell if I’m hungover or still drunk, but I don’t like either option very much,” he grumbled, sliding off his shoes in the entryway.

“If you throw up in my apartment…”

“I’ll be paying to reupholster the furniture, fine,” Kuroo waved a hand in response. “Your magic tea will be worth it.”

“You know you’re supposed have it before you drink.”

“It worked last time, you just have to believe.”

Akaashi could only shake his head as he made his way into the kitchen. He grabbed the slew of spices, including turmeric, and put it in some water to boil. Kuroo, on the other hand, made himself comfortable on the couch—right in Akaashi’s previously occupied spot.

“God, that stuff smells so bad,” Kuroo groaned.

“You’re more than welcome to not have any,” Akaashi retorted. “And I don’t have any milk, so it’ll taste even worse.”

“Try not to sound so happy about that.”

“I’ll work on it.”

Akaashi strained the liquid into a mug and added some sugar—he couldn’t be that cruel, even if it was to Kuroo.

“Um… Hey, ‘Kaash,” Kuroo called tentatively.

“Hm?”

“Did I… Interrupt something?”

“What are you talking about?” Akaashi asked.

“Is someone else here?”

Akaashi’s brows came together in confusion. He grabbed the mug of hot liquid and returned to the living room. He’d barely made it three steps into the room when he froze.

Kuroo was holding up the black jacket Akaashi had taken off before letting him in, examining it closely. And with good reason. It was far too large for Akaashi, too large even for himself. Kuroo’s curious gaze shifted toward Akaashi, waiting for an answer. But Akaashi’s mouth merely opened and closed uselessly.

“You could’ve just told me, you know,” Kuroo said, lips tilting up in a smirk.

“No one’s here,” Akaashi croaked.

“Okay… So then your boyfriend left this here on accident?”

“There’s no boyfriend.”

“Well whose is it, then? You’d swim in this… And it’s warm… Aww, ‘Kaash, you were wearing it!” Kuroo sounded practically elated.

“No one would question me if I said this tea ended up all over you on accident.”

“C’mon, ‘Kaash, it’s cute,” Kuroo laughed, taking the tea from Akaashi’s steady hands. “Seriously, whose is it?”

“I bought it,” Akaashi said, pulling the jacket from Kuroo’s grip. He folded it over his arm and let it rest against his lap when he sat down.

“Okay, but why?” Kuroo took a sip of the yellow liquid and grimaced.

“I wanted it to wear around the apartment.”

“You wanted a winter coat twice the size of your regular coats… To wear inside your own home?” His incredulity couldn’t have been more plainly etched across his face. “I wasn’t born yesterday, give me a little credit.”

“Sometimes I’m skeptical of that,” Akaashi retorted.

“You’re deflecting, and being very obvious about it. Why won’t you tell me?”

“I already told you. People have housecoats, it’s not a new concept,” Akaashi said.

Kuroo sighed in defeat. “Fine. Don’t tell me. Be vague and mysterious. See if I care.”

“It seems you care a great deal,” Akaashi noted.

“Come oooooon. Just tell me!”

“Your tea won’t get any better cold.”

“More deflecting. That means it’s probably important. I’ll get it out of you.”

Akaashi just shook his head in response, resigned to endure Kuroo’s penetrative stare until he finished his drink.

When the inquisitive man was finally gone, Akaashi slipped the coat back over his shoulders. It was far too big for him, but light enough that he wasn’t overheating in it. Plain black, to go with anything. He’d made sure of that when he bought it. He’d made sure it was too big. Made sure he would have enough time to wear it around his house for a while.

But how on earth could he explain that to anyone else? Especially when he couldn’t quite explain it to himself.

 


 

Maybe no one noticed, or maybe no one really cared. Whatever the reason, Akaashi’s second coat didn’t attract the attention of anyone in the office on Monday. Though that may have also been due to the eight boxes of documents that were waiting in their cubicle when the team arrived that morning. They spent the better part of eight hours organizing them—thankfully none of them came with estimate disclaimers—and by the time they were finished, some of the office was already packing their things to leave.

“I wonder when I’ll be able to get out of here while it’s still light outside,” Komi said wistfully, staring out the window.

“Never, we’re never finishing this audit,” Konoha snapped. “It’s leading us to our early graves.”

“It was a good life,” Sarukui sighed.

“Akaashi-san, will we be on Mizuha again next year?” Yamaguchi asked.

When Akaashi said nothing, five heads tilted in his direction. He was holding his forehead in one hand and highlighting numbers with the other.

“Your silence is pretty ominous,” Konoha noted.

“I’d prefer not to think about next year,” Akaashi muttered.

“That’s a yes.”

“I might have to request a change of teams,” Komi suggested.

“Yeah, we can play up Tsukishima’s inhospitality,” Konoha laughed. “It worked for your lover Kageyama.”

“That joke wasn’t funny last year, and it’s not funny now,” Tsukishima huffed.

“You two bickered like an old married couple, you can’t expect us not to notice,” Komi pointed out.

Akaashi glanced up from the spreadsheet in front of him, eyes flicking toward Yamaguchi of their own volition. It seemed the younger man was new to the joke. His eyes were wide as he stared across the desk at Tsukishima. The blonde hadn’t looked up from his pile of paperwork.

“Get back to work,” Akaashi tried to sound commanding as he glared at the three troublemakers. “Or you’ll enjoy a nice night here at the office. Alone.”

There was some grumbling, even a sarcastic comment from Konoha, but at least the jokes had stopped. Still, Yamaguchi didn’t look any less troubled. He continued to steal glances at Tsukishima. And whether the other man noticed or not, he never looked up from his desk.

Akaashi let Komi, Konoha, and Sarukui go at 21:30. He told Tsukishima and Yamaguchi to go too, but they insisted they had plenty of work to finish. The rest of the office had cleared out—considering most of the other teams were just about finished with their audits, as their companies hadn’t gotten extensions. It was eerily quiet as 22:00 rolled around.

“You know, you two are a little too dedicated to the job,” Akaashi murmured.

“It’s the only way to usurp your role,” Tsukishima replied.

“I’ve gotta finish inputing this information,” Yamaguchi flashed the stack of documents at him.

“If you sleep here, there are blankets in conference room B.”

There were matching hums, indicating they’d heard what he said. Akaashi didn’t want to stick around longer than he had to. The tension had been mounting between the two of them since the Kageyama comment. Gathering up both of his coats, Akaashi fled with a hurried farewell.

Bokuto was waiting in his usual spot, the tartan scarf wrapped around his neck. His smile was stretched wide as he greeted Akaashi.

“Look,” he said proudly, brandishing the end of the scarf at the younger man. “I said I’d wear it all the time.”

“Well, I’m glad,” Akaashi replied.

They went through their nightly ritual as usual, ending with Bokuto sitting next to Akaashi and talking avidly while Akaashi ran his fingers up and down Bokuto’s arms.

“Hey, hey, Akaash. You okay?”

Akaashi realized with a start that he’d been staring at Bokuto for… He didn’t know how long. Those curious gold eyes were scrutinizing him. Had Bokuto asked him a question? Probably.

“I’m sorry, Bokuto-san, it’s just… I… I have something for you,” Akaashi murmured. “And if you don’t want it, I understand, I just—“

“You got me a present?” Bokuto leaned forward in his seat, clearly excited.

“It’s not anything… Well, I mean… It’s just… Here.” Akaashi reached toward the seat on his left and grabbed the big, black coat. He held it up for Bokuto to examine. “I know you said you don’t like coats, but I made sure to get it plenty big. And… I know you said my smell calmed you down, so… I wore it around for a while.” Saying it out loud, he couldn’t help but feel embarrassed. But Bokuto clearly didn’t see it that way.

“Akaash, that’s amazing! You really did that for me?!” he exclaimed.

“H-here, stand up.”

Bokuto was on his feet in an instant. Akaashi drew up behind him and slipped the coat over his shoulders. Broad shoulders. Were they always like that? Bokuto slid his arms through the sleeves and zipped it up. It was a little too big, a little too long. But Bokuto looked like he’d been given a gift from heaven. He craned his neck, pressing his face against his shoulder, and took a deep breath. The exhale that followed was the epitome of contentment.

“It really does smell like you,” Bokuto noted.

“Is it… Is it alright?” Akaashi asked. Why did he feel so nervous? It was just a coat.

“It’s amazing. It’s the best present anyone’s ever gotten me,” Bokuto asserted. “You’re the best, Akaash.”

“Ah, well… I just want you to be warm.”

“I’m gonna wear it all the time.”

“Please don’t wear it so long you overheat,” Akaashi urged. “That would be counterproductive.”

“Right, yeah, you got it.”

All the effort, the embarrassment, even Kuroo’s incessant nagging—it was all worth it to see the look of pure bliss on Bokuto’s face.

After spending five minutes rooting around in his bag, Akaashi realized that he’d forgotten his train pass on his desk upstairs. Bokuto was waiting just behind him, ready to walk outside together. Akaashi turned back to him with a sigh.

“I forgot something upstairs, why don’t you just go on ahead,” he murmured.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, it’ll just take me a minute, and I don’t want to keep you.”

Bokuto seemed on the verge of saying something more, but instead, he just nodded. He headed out the front door while Akaashi returned to the elevator.

Once upstairs, he pushed the door to the office open and shuffled inside, not even bothering to turn on the light switch. The dim emergency lights guided his path back, but really, he didn’t even need them. He slipped around the makeshift cubicles separating the clumps of desks from one another, making his way toward the back of the room. He knew exactly where the pass was, knew he would be in and out in time to make the next train without having to wait an inordinate amount of time. He’d be home in his bed within 30 minutes.

At least, that was the plan.

Instead, he found himself frozen in the entrance of the cubicle he knew was his, eyes growing to the size of saucers at the sight before him.

Yamaguchi was facing away from him, pants around his ankles and shirt hanging off of one arm. Evidently he’d been in rather a hurry. There were arms wrapped around his middle, fingers scraping down his back. A long pair of pale legs was wrapped tightly around his waist, bringing him closer.

And Tsukishima’s chin rested against one freckle-covered shoulder, eyes locked on Akaashi’s.

Akaashi watched, rooted to his spot with an odd mixture of horror and fascination, as Yamaguchi’s hips snapped forward, driving Tsukishima into the desk in a steady rhythm. The room seemed to echo with the slick sound of each thrust, the rock of the desk, and Yamaguchi’s moaning. Tsukishima’s cool façade cracked a bit with every thrust, but he held Akaashi’s gaze. His nails dug into Yamaguchi’s back, drawing angry red welts over the skin. His legs flexed—his entire body flexed, it seemed—and Yamaguchi keened loudly.

“Tsukki, don’t tighten up like that, I’m… I’m not gonna make it very long if you—“

“It’s fine,” Tsukishima panted. “Go ahead. Cum.”

“Ah! Tsukki!”

Yamaguchi picked up his pace, spurred on by Tsukishma’s breathy commands. Akaashi snapped back to reality when he realized that Tsukishima was smirking at him. That smug expression was challenging Akaashi, taunting him.

Go ahead and tell someone, it said. Not like anyone’s gonna believe you.

Akaashi didn’t bother with the train pass, turning on his heel and vaulting out of the office as quickly and quietly as possible.

 


 

Akaashi was almost to the safety of his apartment, almost inside where he could take a shower and try to wash the sight of Tsukishima wrapped around Yamaguchi from the backs of his eyelids. But there was a large body in front of his door. A large body that was grasping a beer can and moaning pathetically.

“Kuroo, you’re blocking my doorway.”

“I’m lamenting, Akaashi. I’m singing the song of a dead romance.”

“You’re also blocking my doorway.”

Kuroo groaned as he pushed his weight onto his feet and eased out of his crouch. He stepped back and allowed Akaashi to unlock the door before sidling over the threshold and slipping off his shoes.

“I don’t recall inviting you inside,” Akaashi noted, his shoes finding a home next to Kuroo’s.

“Please, Akaashi. Can’t you see I’m grieving?” Kuroo asked as he flopped onto the couch.

Akaashi just shook his head, hung up his coat, and headed into the kitchen to make some tea. He could practically feel Kuroo’s eyes peering over the back of the couch. They were boring in to him, begging him to ask what happened.

“What did you do now?” he asked with a sigh.

“You always assume I’m at fault,” Kuroo threw his arm over his eyes dramatically. “I’m more fragile than I seem, Akaashi. I am a delicate flower. I have feelings.” When Kuroo opened his eyes, it was to find Akaashi staring at him, an incredulous expression coloring his features. Kuroo slumped against the couch once more with a heavy sigh. “We’re not exclusive, and I know that, and that’s been okay… Until I saw him tonight with some dude’s tongue down his throat at the bar.”

“The bar?” Akaashi asked.

“Yeah, he’s a bartender at the place I take my clients, that’s how we met,” Kuroo explained.

“So, if you’re not exclusive, then what’s the problem?”

“Well, we’ve been saying we’re not exclusive, but…” Kuroo tapered off, taking a long drag from the beer he had yet to put down. “I’ve been exclusive. And it was just surprising that he wasn’t.”

“If he’s under the impression that you’re also seeing other people, should it really come as a surprise that he is too?”

“No,” Kuroo huffed.

“A follow up question: what’s stopping you from just telling him you want to be exclusive?” Akaashi asked.

“You’ve been out of the dating game too long.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Clearly, he is interested in seeing other people,” Kuroo reasoned, as though he were speaking with a five-year old. “As indicated by the beefy gentleman with the tongue down his throat. Going to him now and telling him, ‘I saw you with that guy at work, and now I’m burning with jealousy and want you all to myself’ would sacrifice the last vestiges of dignity I have, and I’m simply not ready for that.

“You keep holding on to that dignity, then. See how happy that makes you.”

“Ugh,” Kuroo groaned, knocking his forehead against the cushion.

“Do you remember coming with me to my drinking party for work a few months ago?” Akaashi asked suddenly.

“Sure, your boss kept looking at me like she was gonna eat me.”

“Well, do you remember Tsukishima?”

“Remind me again.”

“Blonde, glasses, sarcastic…”

“Oh, sure, the one I caught in the bathroom having sex,” Kuroo noted offhandedly, like they were just discussing the weather.

“And you remember his friend Yamaguchi? Longer brown hair, lots of freckles?”

“Well, yeah, he was the one with Tsukishima. Giving it to him good too, by the sounds of it, at least.”

There was the sound of something clattering in the kitchen, and Kuroo looked up just in time to see about twenty teabags rain down around Akaashi, the empty canister dropping to the floor at his feet. Akaashi was staring at him with combined shock and horror.

“What?”

“Why did you never mention that part?” Akaashi asked.

“I… I guess I just thought you knew,” Kuroo replied.

“Well, I didn’t,” Akaashi snapped. “I mean, I thought. I had suspicions. But I never knew for sure.”

“Awwww, come on, ‘Kaash. Don’t be mad at me just because your gaydar is off.”

“Get out of my apartment.”

Chapter Text

The arrival of March generally meant that the audit teams could breathe a sigh of relief. The more difficult parts of their jobs were finished, and for the next five months, it would just be keeping up with the paperwork from the companies and doing all the busywork that had been neglected over the winter.

At least, that was the case for the teams whose companies didn’t get extensions.

Akaashi and his team were busier than ever, struggling to compile the mishmash of information they’d been given at the last minute. And the worst part was that more documents continued to flood in—updated journal entries from December and tabulated investments and borrowings reports that they actually needed two months ago. It was like a madhouse, and everyone else in the office just watched, thankful that it wasn’t them.

“Akaashi-san, I finished inputing all the P&L expenditures.”

Akaashi looked up into Yamaguchi’s exhausted face. He sounded despondent, like every word was more difficult to get out than the last. Dark circles had formed under his eyes, and he honestly looked dead on his feet.

Maybe Tsukishima will revive him later.

Akaashi had to actually shake his head to clear that thought from it. He’d done everything in his power to forget that incident had ever happened—which naturally meant he’d only thought about it even more. And because he was so exhausted lately, these thoughts entered his head, unbidden and unwanted, far more often than he would have liked.

“Um… Akaashi-san?”

Akaashi practically jumped out of his chair. How long had he been staring at Yamaguchi? Long enough for the other eyes in the cubicle to take notice.

“I think he’s cracking,” Konoha murmured.

“Come on, Akaashi-san. We’ve got three more weeks. Three more weeks until the end of March and the end of this madness,” Komi urged. “You can’t go down on us now.”

“I’m fine,” Akaaashi huffed. He fumbled through the stacks of documents on his desk and pulled out the operating expenses reports. “Could you input these next? And Tsukishima, will you double check the P&L expenditures?”

“I’ve never wanted to do anything more.”

Akaashi could hear that confident smirk in his voice. He didn’t want to look, wanted to just ignore it and move on. But his eyes shifted to his left without him willing them to. If he were to hazard a guess, Tsukishima actually looked on the verge of laughter. The blonde seemed to relish every moment of Akaashi’s discomfort. It was probably the highlight of his days, at this point.

Well, aside from Yamaguchi’s—

Akaashi stood up so abruptly, his chair almost clattered to the ground behind him. Five pairs of eyes followed him out of the cubicle. He could practically feel them burning into his back. And he was sure he heard the distinct muffle of laughter.

Well, if it kept Tsukishima productive—and not cracking under the pressure like everyone else—maybe it was worth it.

Maybe…

Akaashi bought a can of coffee from the vending machine, cracked it open, and drank half of it in three gulps. Taking advantage of a few moments to himself, he pulled his phone from his pocket. One message.

>>[Bokuto]: Hey, hey, Akaash! I just had a question. Will you still be coming tonight? Just because I have a question (another question, not this one), and I wanted to make sure you’d be there. You know, so I can ask it.

Akaashi realized he was scowling at his screen. Bokuto had never tried to confirm their evenings together before. This felt serious. Was it a bad thing or a good thing?

>>[Akaashi]: Of course I’ll be there. But is everything alright?

It didn’t take more than a minute for Bokuto’s reply.

>>[Bokuto]: Oh yeah! Everything’s great! I’ll see you tonight!

That made Akaashi feel a little better. But still, what could have Bokuto anxious enough to confirm their plans—plans that hadn’t changed in almost five months? He slipped his phone back into his pocket, chugged the rest of his coffee, and returned to the cubicle. Yamaguchi had his phone pressed to his ear and was biting his lip as he watched Akaashi sit down.

“Ah, yes, he’s right here,” he said into the receiver. “Let me put you on hold for a minute while I transfer you over… Y-yes, you too.” Yamaguchi put the call on hold and dropped the phone onto the base. The grimace he sent toward Akaashi told the older man all he needed to know.

“What does he want this time?” Akaashi sighed.

“He… He didn’t tell me, but… He sounds too chipper for it to be anything good,” Yamaguchi muttered.

Akaashi closed his eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. There wasn’t enough coffee in the world to prepare him for these phone calls. He picked up the phone, pressed it to his ear, and took the call off hold.

“Akaashi Keiji.”

“Goooood afternoon, Kaashi-kun!” Oikawa’s bright voice poured over the line. Akaashi couldn’t control his grimace.

“What do you need, Oikawa-san?” he tried to sound as polite as possible.

“So hasty. Where’s your finesse, Kaashi-kun?”

“I lost the ability to smooth talk you about three months ago, Oikawa-san,” Akaashi said without inflection. “Now, what can I do for you?”

“Ahhhh… Wellllll…” That wasn’t a good sign. “We may be experiencing some internal software issues, and…” Here it comes. “We lost all digital copies of our contingent liabilities statements.”

Fuck.

Akaashi’s mouth opened, then closed again. There were no words. It sounded like a fuse had blown in his brain, and all he could hear was a hissing noise. The contingent liabilities statements and the bills for collection were the last things Akaashi and his team needed to complete the audit. And without them, all the effort over the past six months had been essentially useless.

“Did I break you?”

Akaashi still couldn’t speak. Everyone was watching him now. Yamaguchi looked ready to throw up.

“Give me a sign that you’re still there.”

“I’m here,” Akaashi croaked.

“I understand what this means,” Oikawa’s voice grew quieter. More serious. Like he actually did understand. “I understand how difficult this makes things.”

“Difficult isn’t the word I’d use,” Akaashi countered.

“Impossible, then. But… Please don’t give up on us yet.” This wasn’t the same Oikawa who had started the call. This Oikawa was as desperate as his words. “You have every right to report us to the FSA for this. In fact, you probably should be doing that. But I’m asking you to do the impossible.”

“Oikawa-san, I don’t think you quite grasp the definition of impossible.”

“The position I’m putting you in isn’t fair, and it isn’t right. But I’m doing everything I can on my end. And I have to beg of you to do the same,” Oikawa pleaded.

Akaashi should’ve just hung up the phone. He should’ve ignored the begging CFO who had given him nothing but grief for the better part of six months. He should’ve called the FSA and reported Mizuha for dragging them around blindfolded. This was an insurmountable task, and Akaashi should’ve given up for the health and well being of his team.

There were a lot of things he should’ve done.

“What do you need from me?” he asked.

Oikawa’s sigh of relief sounded as though he’d been holding it through the entire conversation.

“We have all the hard data, so it’s not lost completely. It just isn’t calculated. We’ll be working on that, and it’s our sole focus for the time being. We’re also almost finished tabulating the bills for collection, so you’ll get those as soon as they’re finished. Other than that, you have everything else you need, correct?”

“Correct.”

“I’ll contact you once those are sent out, and to give you an update on the contingent liabilities statements.”

“Please do,” Akaashi sighed.

“And… Thank you.” It sounded so sincere, Akaashi was having a hard time staying frustrated with him.

“I’m still not making any promises, there’s a good chance we’ll do our best and still fail,” Akaashi noted.

“Yes, but I can guarantee you’ll enjoy failing with me better than failing alone.”

“Is that meant to make me feel better?”

“Of course it is! I’ll talk to you soon, Kaashi-kun!”

Alright. A little easier to be frustrated with him now. Akaashi set the phone down onto the base. He closed his eyes, steeling himself up.

“Well?” Konoha asked.

“Three weeks won’t come soon enough,” Akaashi replied.

 


 

Akaashi’s stressful afternoon hadn’t allowed him to forget about Bokuto’s message. When he stepped off the elevator, he couldn’t help but feel nervous. And the sight of Bokuto didn’t make him feel much better. Bokuto looked anxious. He was chewing furiously on his cuticle, rocking quickly back and forth. His free hand was running over the end of the plaid scarf around his neck.

“Hello, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi greeted him.

“H-hey, hey, Akaash!” Bokuto’s voice was louder than normal, and the smile he flashed wasn’t reaching his eyes. Akaashi approached him without hesitation. He reached for Bokuto’s arms, pulling the hand from his mouth and lowering it next to the other. Long, slender fingers dragged slowly up and down Bokuto’s forearms, and the taller man relaxed under Akaashi’s touch.

“Would you like to play for me first?” Akaashi asked.

“No, I… I want to ask this now,” Bokuto muttered.

“Of course.”

“Well, I know we haven’t really talked about it a lot. But I know you heard about the performance I have at the end of this month. And I’m pretty nervous about it, I… I don’t like playing for other people…” Even Akaashi’s fingers couldn’t stop Bokuto from rocking now. He was talking a little faster and a little louder with every word. “But I really like playing for you. And I’m a little less nervous when I play for you. And I thought maybe if I knew you were there, I wouldn’t be so nervous. So do you think maybe you’d want to come and watch me play?”

Akaashi couldn’t help his expression of surprise—partly because of the question, and partly because Bokuto’s volume had swelled to a yell. Terrified golden eyes flicked over Akaashi’s face, never focusing on a single point for even a second.

“I… I would love to,” Akaashi replied.

It took a second for Bokuto to process his words. But when he did, the smile that split his face was the brightest Akaashi had ever seen. The corners of his eyes crinkled, and his cheeks were shaking with the effort to hold it in place.

“Really?” he asked.

“Of course,” Akaashi nodded, feeling a smile of his own coming on. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to a performance like that before. But I’m excited to see you play.”

“Me too! I’m excited for you to come! I think I might play better if you’re there.”

“I can’t see you playing anything other than perfectly,” Akaashi replied.

“Well, it’ll be even better, then!” Bokuto exclaimed.

“I can’t wait.”

Bokuto’s smile never faltered. “Can I play for you now?” he asked.

“Please,” Akaashi pulled away, taking his usual seat.

Akaashi didn’t know how it was possible, and maybe he was imagining it. But Bokuto’s song tonight sounded more perfect than ever.

 


 

Akaashi had just walked into the office the next morning—decidedly not his favorite place to be on a Saturday—when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out to find a message from Bokuto. One that he definitely hadn’t expected.

>>[Bokuto]: Hey, hey, Akaash! I got your ticket for the concert on the 30th. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come and get it today, or maybe I could bring it to you. Or I guess I could get it to you Monday. Or whenever works for you. I know you’re really busy. Just let me know.

The prospect of seeing Bokuto outside the walls of this building was an interesting one. And considering Akaashi was already so close to his apartment—he assumed, at least—he rose to the offer.

>>[Akaashi]: I’d be happy to come and get it from you. I’m at the office all morning, but I can come by your apartment this afternoon, if you’d like.

He’d just gotten settled at his desk when Bokuto replied.

>>[Bokuto]: Awesome! I’ll send you my address, you can come by whenever you’re finished working! I can’t wait!

“It’s too early to be smiling like that.”

Akaashi looked up from his phone as Konoha shuffled in, looking sour and exhausted.

“It’s later than we usually come in,” Akaashi pointed out.

“Yeah, it’s also Saturday,” Konoha grumbled. “And you shouldn’t be happy to be here.”

“I can guarantee you any happiness I may have is not because I get to be here on a Saturday.”

The morning was spent compiling the bare bones of the first two reports they would be submitting. They couldn’t even get close to finishing them, especially considering they were missing two main components. But it wasn’t a morning wasted. Still, Akaashi was worried. All the hard work in the world wouldn’t mean anything if Oikawa couldn’t get them the rest of the information they needed. He was trying to give the CFO a chance, trying to do the impossible. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe he was slowly losing his mind due to lack of sleep. Or maybe he was just going soft.

“Good work today,” Akaashi said around 15:00. “I think we’ve done enough.”

There were no objections. Everyone was eager to get out of there and enjoy the rest of their Saturdays. Akaashi punched Bokuto’s address into the GPS on his phone while they all waited for the elevator. According to the map, it would take about 15 minutes to walk there.

“Akaashi-san, can I ask you something?” Komi asked as they all shuffled onto the elevator.

“Of course.”

“What’s going to happen if we can’t get this finished?”

Everyone looked between the two of them curiously—except Tsukishima, who seemed as bored as ever. Akaashi just sighed.

“We’re not going to think about that. We’re going to get this finished,” Akaashi stated, leaving no room for argument.

“That might be wishful thinking,” Konoha said anyway.

“Maybe,” Akaashi conceded. “But won’t it be so amazing when it’s not?”

Even Konoha couldn’t argue with that.

Akaashi parted ways with the rest of them outside—Yamaguchi and Tsukishima headed for the parking garage while the other three made their way to the train station. Akaashi followed the map on his phone, relying on it to get him to the right place. He’d never headed this direction before. It was a few blocks before he was out of the business district, and the apartments were steadily growing nicer as he walked.

He stopped at a convenience store to pick something up, but came to the conclusion that he didn’t know what Bokuto liked to eat. Akaashi had never prided himself on being good with gifts—though the only one he’d ever given Bokuto had been rather well received. He ended up buying a few small cakes, all different flavors, and hoped one hit the mark.

Bokuto’s apartment complex was smaller than the others around it, but it had a nice, quaint feeling to it. Akaashi climbed the stairs to the second floor and approached the door marked with the number four. Two knocks was all it took before the door burst open, as though Bokuto had been lying in wait on the other side.

“Hey, hey, Akaash!” Bokuto came into view, smiling and chewing furiously on his cuticle. “I’m glad you found me!”

“Ah, thank you for having me,” Akaashi said, stepping inside. “I brought some cakes. I wasn’t sure what you would like, so there’s a few flavors in there.”

“You brought stuff for me?!” Bokuto sounded overjoyed as he took the bag from Akaashi. “You’re the best! Do you want some? I’ll get plates and stuff!”

“I’d love some.”

Bokuto was gone in a flash, practically sprinting across the apartment and disappearing into the kitchen. Akaashi slipped off his shoes and hung his coat up next to Bokuto’s—the one Akaashi had given him, along with the tartan scarf. Akaashi couldn’t help but smile.

He took Bokuto’s absence as an opportunity to survey the room. Considering Bokuto always managed to surprise him, he hadn’t exactly been expecting anything. But it was just so… Neat. There wasn’t a thing out of place. Even the remote controls on the table were perfectly aligned with one another, like they’d been meticulously placed there. The piano on the other side of the room took up the most space, and there was another table with organized stacks of what could only be sheet music.

Still, for all the structure, there were a few things that Akaashi could only describe as perfectly Bokuto. There was a painting on the wall that was just a mishmash of color. A large cactus plant rested on one of the end tables. And sitting at the center of the couch was a small owl plush.

Bokuto always managed to surprise him.

The man in question returned to the living room, arms full of plates and forks and the bag of desserts—evidently he’d been too excited to set them down before he went into the kitchen.

“Uh, you… You can… Come in, you know,” he mumbled, not quite looking at Akaashi as he sat down on the couch.

“Ah, right…” Akaashi didn’t even realize he was still standing in the entryway. He crossed the room slowly. Tentatively… What was wrong with him? Why did he feel nervous?

“I really like the vanilla one,” Bokuto said, unboxing the cakes. “It’s my favorite, I think. I don’t like strawberries, there’s always those little hard seeds in them. I don’t like those. Same with raspberries.”

“That’s alright, I’ll have the strawberry one,” Akaashi replied.

Bokuto froze halfway through transferring the cake to a plate. He looked horrified. “I’m sorry,” he murmured.

“What are you sorry for?” Akaashi asked.

“I… I didn’t mean there was anything wrong with strawberries,” he said hurriedly. “And thank you for bringing it for me. I know you didn’t know. It’s not like I was—“

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi cut him off. He took two slow steps toward the couch and sat down next to the older man. His hands reached for Bokuto’s arms without thinking. For the first time in a while, Bokuto stiffened at his touch. But it was only for a few seconds, and then the tension melted from his shoulders at the even trail of Akaashi’s fingers.

“I don’t have people over very often,” Bokuto mumbled. “So… I might be nervous.”

“I like your owl.”

Bokuto glanced over at Akaashi, following his gaze to the plush owl between them. A smile broke over his face once more.

“Really?” he asked.

“It’s my favorite animal,” Akaashi said, returning his attention to Bokuto. His face was lighting up a little more by the second.

“It’s mine too!” he cried. “I like great horned owls the best, they’re really cool. Did you know a great horned owl can hunt a falcon?”

“I didn’t, that’s very interesting,” Akaashi replied.

The talk of something familiar seemed to relax Bokuto, coupled with Akaashi’s gentle touch. He only let go when Bokuto passed him his plate. They ate their cakes quietly, though Bokuto continued to intersperse the silences with owl facts.

“…And lots of them have asymmetrical ears so they can perfectly pinpoint the locations of their prey,” he explained.

“That would explain why they’re such adept hunters,” Akaashi said.

“Yeah, you’re right!” Bokuto agreed. There were a few beats of silence. “So… Do you always have to go into the office on Saturdays?” Bokuto asked, scraping his fork through the crumbs on his plate.

“Only during busy season,” Akaashi replied.

“You… You said that your busy season is over soon, right?”

“Mhm,” Akaashi mumbled around his last bite of cake. “Just three more weeks.”

“Oh…”

Bokuto stared down at his plate, fingers curling around the edges. He pulled his bottom lip between his teeth. There was something he wanted to say, something he was struggling to get out. Akaashi was tempted to reach for his arms again. But he stopped himself.

“H-hey, hey, Akaash?” he finally murmured.

“Yes?”

“Do you… Do you think you’ll still… Come listen to me play?”

Akaashi almost dropped his plate in surprise. “Of course I will!” he said, trying to catch Bokuto’s gaze. When he couldn’t, he reached for his hand instead, fingers curling around Bokuto’s. “After busy season, I get to have a little more control over my schedule. That means if I want to, I can come in later and stay later. And I’ll do that, if it means I still get to hear you play.”

Slowly, Bokuto’s eyes raked up Akaashi, gold finally locking on green. Akaashi counted. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight—Bokuto looked away after a record-breaking eight seconds.

“That makes me really happy,” Bokuto muttered, that small smile tugging at his lips. “I really like playing for you, Akaash.”

“I like listening to you play, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi replied.

There was another easy silence, both of them seemingly content to just sit with one another. Akaashi ran his thumb along the top of Bokuto’s hand. Bokuto’s fingers curled around Akaashi’s a little tighter. He stared down at them, brows coming together in scrutiny.

Knock knock knock

Both of them jumped at the abrupt sound. Akaashi pulled his hand away, clasping his plate instead.

“I’ll… I’ll get that,” Bokuto muttered.

He stood up, setting his plate down on the table and making his way to the door. Akaashi took a deep, steadying breath. Why did that breath feel so difficult? Why was his exhale so shaky?

Why was his heart racing?

The voice at the door was soft, and it sounded happy. “Did you eat dinner yet? I bought a lot of food, I really can’t eat it all by myself.” Akaashi couldn’t help his curiosity as he leaned forward, trying to peer around Bokuto.

“Oh, I… I didn’t eat yet, but… I have company… Maybe… Maybe we can eat in a little bit?” Bokuto muttered.

The head that peeked over Bokuto’s shoulder was a handsome one, with gray hair and wide brown eyes. Even from this distance, Akaashi could see a mole under the man’s left eye.

“Right! Of course! Don’t let me interrupt,” the stranger insisted. “Message me when you’re free, or just come over. I’m home all night.”

“You got it.”

The door clicked shut, and Bokuto turned toward Akaashi once more.

“That’s… Um… Just my neighbor. We have dinner sometimes on Saturdays,” Bokuto explained. “I guess I didn’t realize how late it was.”

Akaashi looked down at his watch and realized that it was almost 18:00. “I didn’t realize either. I should get going.” He stood up, stretching his arms over his head and groaning at the pull of his muscles.

“Oh, your ticket.” Bokuto crossed the room, taking an envelope from the low table and handing it to Akaashi. Akaashi stared at it for a minute. He had almost forgotten that was why he’d come here in the first place.

“Right. Thank you,” he murmured, taking the envelope from Bokuto.

Bokuto seemed to be struggling over something again, eyes darting rapidly from side to side. His fingers drummed against his legs.

“Um… Hey, hey, Akaash…” he started, his voice shaking. “So, some of my rules are for everyone, but… You know, some of them are different for each person. And I was just wondering… If… Well… If a hug was against your rules.”

“No… Not at all.”

Akaashi’s answer surprised even himself. He hadn’t thought twice about it. The look of joy that crossed Bokuto’s face was enough to validate it, though. Bokuto closed the distance between them and pulled Akaashi into his arms. Akaashi felt the air leave his lungs in a huff. It was a little too tight, he thought, with his face pressed against a firm shoulder. Akaashi raised his arms, circling them around Bokuto. His fingers curled against the fabric of his shirt.

Maybe it was a little too tight. But still… It was so nice. And warm. And so very, very Bokuto.

And like before, Akaashi could feel his heart racing.

Akaashi wasn’t sure how long before they pulled apart. But when they did, Bokuto was only smiling wider. “Thanks for coming over, Akaash,” he murmured.

“Of course,” Akaashi nodded. “Let’s… Do it again sometime.”

“Yeah! Let’s!”

It wasn’t until the door closed behind Akaashi that he realized he’d been holding in another breath. Why? Why was this happening? Why did he feel like this? Why—

“Ah, I was hoping I could catch you before you left!”

The chipper voice on his right stole Akaashi’s attention, and he glanced over to see Bokuto’s neighbor with his head sticking out of his doorway. He was even more handsome up close, all soft features and easy smiles. He beckoned Akaashi toward his door.

“It’s… It’s very nice to meet you,” Akaashi said, drawing up to the older man. “I’m Akaashi Keiji.”

“Sugawara Koushi.” He stuck out a hand, and Akaashi shook it firmly. “So… Are you a friend of Kou’s?”

Kou… Ah, Koutarou.

“Yes, I am.”

“Well, that’s wonderful,” Sugawara said. The lines around his eyes grew a little longer with his smile. “He’s always had a hard time getting close to people.”

“Always?” Akaashi asked.

“I’ve known him most of his life, we grew up together,” Sugawara replied. “He’s one of my oldest friends, actually.”

“That’s… That’s good,” Akaashi nodded, his mind working overtime. “Sugawara-san, do you… Do you mind if I ask you something?”

“Not at all.”

“Bokuto-san has talked a lot about his rules… He told me that he has them so he can know what to do around people, but… But why? Why does he have them?”

Sugawara’s smile faltered. “I… I’m not sure it’s my place to tell you,” he said slowly.

“Well, that’s fine. I just… I’ve wondered for a while, but I understand.”

Suga’s mouth scrunched up, as though he were chewing on his words. He closed his eyes, letting out a slow exhale. “Bokuto needs those rules,” he began. “He’s never known how to act around other people. He can’t figure them out, and… It’s always been difficult for him… The rules help. His parents made sure to get him the help he needed when they realized… Realized he would need them.”

“But… Why?” Akaashi couldn’t help himself.

“Bokuto… Has Asperger Syndrome.”

Understanding washed over Akaashi in waves. He admittedly knew very little on the subject, but the things he did know made sense. The rocking, the compulsive chewing on his fingers, the fleeting eye contact… And the rules. All of the rules. To help him interact with other people.

“He’s very high functioning,” Sugawara pressed on. “Like I said, his parents got him a lot of help when he was younger. It’s how he’s able to live on his own, to do things without help. But he still… He still struggles sometimes. He gets so anxious when it comes to performing, because he can’t connect with his audience. He can’t figure out what they’re thinking, and he assumes they think he’s terrible.”

“I’ve seen that,” Akaashi nodded, his brain still struggling to catch up with the new information. “He still doesn’t believe me when I tell him he’s perfect.”

“He… He plays for you?” Sugawara asked, eyes widening in surprise.

“Every night,” Akaashi replied.

Sugawara smiled once more. “He doesn’t play for many people, outside of performances. I’ve only ever heard him through the wall… He also doesn’t have many people over to his place… You must be something special, Akaashi-san.”

Now it was Akaashi’s turn for surprise. He glanced away, unsure of what to say.

“Please don’t let this change your opinion of him,” Sugawara urged. “He’s one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met.”

“I won’t,” Akaashi vowed. “And… I agree.”

Sugawara just smiled.

 


 

When Akaashi’s foot hit the third floor landing, he heard the familiar chatter of his neighbors. Rounding the corner, he found Kuroo’s front door wide open. Everyone was inside, Terushima included, and they were gathered around the table eating pizza.

“Akaashi-san!” Hinata cried, bounding to his feet when he caught sight of the older man. “Welcome home! We’re having… Are… Are you okay?”

The atmosphere of the room changed immediately. Kuroo was on his feet too, drawing up to Akaashi with concern. Kenma and Terushima looked worried from their spots on the floor.

“I’m fine,” Akaashi muttered.

“Okay, but you’re not, you look awful,” Kuroo noted. “What happened?”

Akaashi wanted to refute him, tell Kuroo he was fine, go home, and collapse into bed. But as Kuroo led him to the couch, with all four pairs of eyes on him, he caved.

He told them as much as he dared about Bokuto—leaving out the hand holding and the hug. It just didn’t feel relevant. He explained all the quirks, the rules, the rocking, the fidgeting, the biting of his fingers. He told them about the anxiety he had when it came to performing. And he told them what Sugawara had said… Asperger Syndrome. He didn’t know enough to explain it, but they seemed to understand enough.

“Okay, so your friend has a disorder,” Kuroo said, still nodding along with Akaashi. “But really, it’s not like you learned anything new about him, you knew all those things that Sugawara guy told you. Why does it change anything if there’s a label on him?”

“It’s not the label that changes things,” Akaashi pressed. “It’s… He needs stability. He needs routine. He needs things to feel familiar and safe. He needs someone who can be there for him, who can reassure him, who can give him structure… What if I can’t do that? What if I can’t give him what he needs?”

The eerie silence that greeted his question was enough to worry Akaashi. He glanced between four pairs of wary eyes. Even Hinata seemed stunned into silence.

Terushima was the first to break.

“Look, I know we don’t know each other all that well, but I’ll just say it. That sounds like you want to be a little more than his friend.”

Akaashi opened his mouth to retort. How ridiculous. Bokuto was just his friend. It was easy. Comfortable. Uncomplicated and unencumbered by the thought of anything more.

But the words wouldn’t come.

All Akaashi could do was sit in silence, burdened by the weight of Mr. Close Cropped Hair’s words.

Chapter Text

The audit department of Aoyama Sogo was buzzing with light energy. Most of its accountants were in good spirits as they chatted idly about how their weekends were and what they needed to get done for the week. But it seemed as though a dark cloud had clustered over one of the cubicles in the back of the office. The cubicle was so silent, it didn’t even seem like anyone was breathing. Its six occupants stared transfixed at their computer screens, eyes roving over the email that had been sent to all of them.

Akaashi had finished reading the email minutes ago. But still, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the screen. He wasn’t even looking at anything, his gaze unfocused. His brain couldn’t form a proper thought.

What had he done in a previous life to deserve this kind of misery?

“A-Akaashi-san?”

Akaashi still didn’t look up at the sound of Yamaguchi’s quiet voice. He pressed his fingers to his temples, willing away the pounding he felt in his head. They would ask him what they should do, ask him how to fix this. And honestly, he didn’t have an answer.

“I don’t get it,” Komi muttered. “Why is this happening?”

“Because life is cruel,” Konoha grumbled. “The universe has seen how much work we’ve put into this, and it decides to throw another ‘Fuck you’ our way. Because why not?”

“So, what do we do now?” Komi wondered aloud.

“Do we… Do we just report them?” Sarukui asked.

“No,” Akaashi snapped.

“Sir, we… We can’t finish the report without the contingent liabilities statements,” Komi noted.

“I’m well aware of that.”

“They’re the ones at fault here, not us,” Konoha added. “They couldn’t get the statements to us on time.”

“It’s not over yet,” Akaashi replied. “There’s one more thing we have yet to do. And I’m not looking forward to it.”

Before anyone could ask what he meant, the phone on his desk rang. Just the person he didn’t want to talk to, and yet the person he’d been planning on calling. With that telltale steadying breath, Akaashi picked up his phone.

“Akaashi Keiji.”

“Please tell me you haven’t given up on us yet.”

Akaashi shook his head. “Everyone else seems to have given up. But for some reason, I’m still here. I think you managed to addle my brain.”

“You’re an angel here on earth, Kaashi-kun,” Oikawa breathed.

“According to the email from my audit manager, you wouldn’t be able to have the full set of statements to us until the end of the week, yes?”

“That’s correct,” Oikawa sighed, exhaustion in his voice.

“But you have some of them done now?” Akaashi asked.

“About half.”

“Well… What if we come to you?”

The five pairs of eyes that were on him widened. Even Tsukishima couldn’t hide a look of surprise.

“That… Might actually work,” Oikawa muttered, clearly deep in thought.

“I’ll leave half the team here to work on the report using the documents we have,” Akaashi continued. “They can get a good majority of it done. I’ll bring the rest with me, we’ll do data entry on site and you can get the statements to us as they’re finished. Then it’s still a secure transfer, they’ll be going right from your hands to ours. We’ll work on the rest of the report as soon as we have enough information. We have until Saturday… I think we can do this.”

If he didn’t know better, Akaashi would’ve said the noise on the other end of the line was a sob.

“Did I mention yet that you’re an angel?”

“You did, but I never get tired of hearing you humble yourself,” Akaashi noted.

“We’ll get a conference room set up for you and your team. And you’ll get meals. Do any of you need hotel rooms? I know we’re a bit far from Aoyama Sogo. You know what, we’ll book a few anyway. Whatever you need.”

“That’ll be good, thank you.”

“Well, I look forward to meeting my angel.”

“We’ll be there tomorrow.”

Akaashi set the phone back down on the base, not looking up at the prying eyes above him. He turned his attention to his computer, composing an email to the audit manager and senior partners.

“Sir… Do you really have the authority to pull half of us out of the office for a week?” Komi asked.

“I’m going with the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach,” Akaashi mumbled. Though he wasn’t worried. “I spoke with the partners a few weeks ago, and they basically told me to do whatever I needed to get this job done.”

“Why?” Konoha sounded disgruntled.

“They only see in dollar signs,” Akaashi explained, fingers still furiously tapping at the keys. “They know what Aoyama Sogo is making from Mizuha. These are all billable hours. And they’ll see that three of us will be on for 24 hours for the next week. That’s more money. They’ll be fine.”

“24 hours?” Sarukui blanched.

“Mizuha is uptown,” Akaashi said, firing off the email and finally looking up at his team. “They’re putting us up in a hotel nearby. Technically, we’ll be on the clock during that time.”

“So… Who are you taking with you?”

Ah, the dreaded question. Akaashi already knew the answer, had known it since he made the suggestion. But he didn’t want it to be true.

Yamaguchi had been doing the data entry for the team since they’d started the project. He would have to come with. There was no room for argument on that one. And unfortunately for Akaashi, there was only one other person who could match his own productivity. It was going to make for the most awkward week of his life.

“Yamaguchi and Tsukishima will be coming with me,” he sighed. “The three of you will be composing the report using everything but the contingent liabilities statements. We’ll do that part. And I want email updates every other hour. We’re getting this audit done, even if it kills us.”

“Yeah, well, it actually might kill us,” Konoha huffed.

Even if he wanted to, Akaashi couldn’t argue with that.

 


 

Akaashi wasn’t dreading the long hours he was going to spend in Mizuha’s cramped conference room. He wasn’t dreading the days he’d have to be around Oikawa. He wasn’t even dreading being away from his bed for a week.

What he was dreading was how to tell Bokuto.

It would be a full week apart. Akaashi made the promise that he would adjust his schedule in order to be with Bokuto—anything, if it meant being able to hear him play. And now, here he was, breaking that promise. This wasn’t what Bokuto needed. This was a break in the routine, a crack in the structure. Already, Akaashi was letting him down.

As he waited for the elevator at the end of the night, Akaashi couldn’t help but remember Terushima’s words. They’d been flitting through his brain for the last two weeks anytime Akaashi had a moment to himself.

That sounds like you want to be a little more than his friend…

Why hadn’t he been able to refute the blonde’s words? Why had his argument felt like lead in his mouth? Akaashi was just Bokuto’s friend. Akaashi listened to him play the piano every night, let Bokuto open up to him, and opened up to Bokuto in kind. Akaashi liked to touch Bokuto, liked to hold his hand, even hug him. But that was it…

If only that argument felt a little more convincing.

Akaashi stepped inside the elevator, and when the doors closed, he leaned his forehead against the cool metal.

Akaashi wasn’t good at relationships. Even friendships were difficult to maintain. He had willfully avoided anything that wasn’t geographically convenient for most of his life. Kuroo and Kenma and Hinata were wonderful people, but he couldn’t guarantee that those friendships would persist if he ever moved—maybe Kuroo would insist on it. But Akaashi didn’t know how to maintain. He didn’t know how to answer to another person.

His like was easy. It was comfortable.

But… Wasn’t it comfortable with Bokuto too?

Akaashi leaned back as the doors opened up and made his way across the lobby. Bokuto was waiting in the same spot as always, the plaid scarf around his neck. It was probably too warm for it now. But he still wore it every day.

“Hey, hey, Akaash!” he called, his usual greeting.

“Hello, Bokuto-san.”

“Did you have a good day?”

“It was very long,” Akaashi sighed as he took his seat. It really did feel like he’d made a permanent imprint in it. “We’re going to have to work harder than ever, and there’s still a chance this may not get finished. But I can’t say that, or everyone else will get discouraged.”

“Wow,” Bokuto marveled. “You’re a pretty good boss, then. That’s a lot for you to manage by yourself.”

“I suppose,” Akaashi conceded. “I’ve been looking forward to hearing you play, though.”

“Yeah! Right! You got it!”

Bokuto dropped onto the bench, allowing himself that moment of transition from everyday Bokuto to master musician, and pressed his fingers to the keys. Tonight’s piece was energetic and intense, echoing off the high walls and filling the small corner of the lobby with sound.

But for the first time, Akaashi couldn’t focus on the music. He was watching Bokuto, unable to tear his gaze from the older man. This wasn’t a new occurrence. Generally, he languished watching the man perform his craft. But for the first time, Akaashi wasn’t lost in the song.

Bokuto’s hands were blurs as they moved up and down the ivory, fingers light as they worked the keys. The muscles in his arms flexed, thick sinew working below his skin. Akaashi had never noticed those muscles before. How had he missed them? And the ones in his back too, rippling beneath his shirt as he leaned and rocked in time with the beat. There was a tendril of hair slipping from its place, flopping down against the back of his neck. Akaashi wanted to return it to its rightful spot. Was his hair soft? It looked like it might be coarse. But how could he really be sure?

Akaashi felt like he was properly seeing Bokuto for the first time. Like the clouds had opened up, and he was getting his first glimpse at the sun.

His heart was racing again.

He didn’t realize the song had finished. Didn’t realize Bokuto had turned to look at him. Didn’t notice that he’d risen off the bench and approached Akaashi tentatively. Akaashi’s eyes followed his every movement, and still, he was lost in his own thoughts.

“Are you okay?”

That voice was the only thing that could snap him from his reverie, so tentative and unsure. Bokuto was waiting for him to come back. To say something.

“Yes,” Akaashi whispered. Why was he whispering? “Yes, I’m fine,” he said a little louder. “You were perfect. As always.”

He reached for Bokuto’s arms, let his fingers glide over the smooth skin. That easy smile returned to Bokuto’s face. Akaashi watched his eyes soften, watched the lines around them smooth as he relaxed. Golden irises followed the easy movements of Akaashi’s hands, lulled by them, like the steady rhythm of a metronome.

Akaashi walked his fingers down Bokuto’s wrists, over the calloused palms, and up the damaged fingers. His long, thin fingers curled around Bokuto’s shorter, thicker ones. And Bokuto’s fingers curled in response.

Akaashi’s heart was racing faster now.

“Bokuto-san, I… I have something I need to tell you.”

Bokuto’s smile didn’t falter. Maybe he couldn’t sense the shift in tone. Akaashi leaned in closer, fingers curling tight around Bokuto’s.

“I… I won’t be able to come listen to you play for the rest of the week.”

Ah, that did it. Fear marred Bokuto’s bright features, panic flitting across his eyes.

“Does that mean you can’t come to the concert?” he murmured.

“No! No, I’ll be there, I wouldn’t miss that,” Akaashi said hurriedly. “Nothing could keep me away from that. I just mean tomorrow until Friday, I won’t be able to come hear you play at night.”

“Oh…” Bokuto murmured. He looked a little less terrified now.

“I have to go and work with my client at their firm uptown,” Akaashi explained. “And I’ll be staying in a hotel up there. But it’s only until Saturday afternoon. I will not be missing your performance. I’ll leave early if I have to. I’ll leave before the job is done. But I won’t miss it.”

“Yeah… Okay,” Bokuto nodded. It seemed he was processing the words slowly. But he wasn’t rocking, wasn’t trying to pull his hand from Akaashi’s.

“Are you… Are you sure it’s okay?” Akaashi asked.

“Yeah, it’s okay,” Bokuto replied. “But… Um…” He pursed his lips, struggling over the words.

“What is it?” Akaashi pressed, leaning forward, trying to catch his eye.

“Do you think that maybe I could call you or something on the days I don’t get to see you? Just because I really like talking to you at night, and even if I can’t see you, I still think I’d like to talk,” Bokuto muttered. Then, suddenly he looked panicked again. “But I know that sometimes other people are busy when I’m not, so I can’t call them to talk when they’re busy. Just because I’m not doing something doesn’t mean no one else is.”

It was another one of his rules, Akaashi could tell. Another way for him to know how to deal with other people. Akaashi squeezed his hand again.

“I’d love if you called me,” he said. “It’ll help break up the long nights I’ll be sure to have. I’d love it.”

Akaashi counted as Bokuto’s eyes locked on his. He made it to eight again before Bokuto looked away.

“Okay,” Bokuto replied, and by some miracle, he was smiling again. “That’ll be cool.”

Akaashi had worried about this all day, worried that Bokuto would be inconsolable. But he wasn’t. He was fine. Better than fine. He’d calmly heard Akaashi out, been sure of what he was saying, listened to reason, and responded with a compromise—though was it a compromise if Akaashi had been just as eager to say yes?

It had been so easy. So comfortable…

Akaashi didn’t know what to think. So he just held Bokuto’s hand a little tighter.

 


 

Knowing what he knew about the wild and wacky world of accounting, Akaashi couldn’t help but note that the two men who stood in front of him should have their roles reversed. CFOs were generally callous and impassive. They were previous accountants who’d managed to move up the ranks and were generally more comfortable crunching numbers than getting along with others. It was their assistants who softened them a bit, soothing their bites with kind words and easy smiles.

Oikawa and Iwaizumi were the exact opposite of that. Akaashi could tell based on sight alone.

Oikawa was perfectly coiffed, with hair that seemed to defy gravity and a tiny cowlick that looked like it had been placed there by angels. He was tall and slim, rocking his designer charcoal suit and classy oxfords—though his lilac tie and matching cufflinks added a bit of personality. He smiled broadly at the sight of Akaashi, Tsukishima, and Yamaguchi, revealing a row of dazzling white teeth.

“Welcome,” he called, arms spreading open wide. “It’s so nice to see my angel in the flesh.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Oikawa-san,” Akaashi moved into a quick bow.

“You don’t have to lie to me,” Oikawa laughed. “But I’ve never been happier, I can assure you. We’ve got everything set up for you in conference room F, it’s just down the hall from my office. Though I’ve been spending a lot of time down there,” he pointed off to his right, “working with the accountants to get the statements finished. But you’ll be able to find me whenever you need me.”

“We’ll get started on what you have right away, then,” Akaashi nodded.

“A true angel,” Oikawa sighed. He reached out and ran a hand up Akaashi’s arm.

Ah. Already flirting.

“We should get started,” Akaashi repeated.

“Yes, yes,” Oikawa nodded, dropping his hand. “Iwa-chan, show them to the conference room, okay?”

The other man—Iwaizumi? Iwa-chan? The assistant, at least—was like Oikawa’s perfect foil. He wore a simple pair of dark pants, a dress shirt rolled up to his elbows, and a plain blue tie. He still looked good, but it wasn’t like Oikawa’s polished appearance. His dark hair almost looked like he’d rolled out of bed with it, and it seemed that there was a permanent scowl etched across his face.

“Follow me,” he grumbled, turning and striding away from them quickly.

He led them to a conference room neatly organized with stacks of completed documents, a few laptops, and more food than Akaashi thought was necessary. Still, it was a nice gesture.

“Let me know if you need anything,” Iwaizumi said shortly.

He was gone before Akaashi could say “Thank you.”

The day was long, but thankfully, not as uncomfortable as Akaashi had feared. Yamaguchi was so focused on his work, he barely looked up from his computer. Tsukishima managed to keep the snark to a minimum. Oikawa only came in twice, once to make sure they’d gotten lunch and another time to bring in the day’s completed statements.

“I’ve double checked most of them, but I’m sure you have your own system for that as well,” he said as he hefted documents onto the table.

You double checked them?” Akaashi parroted, looking up at Oikawa over the top of his glasses.

“I did.”

“That’s… Surprising,” Akaashi murmured.

“Ah, I know what you’re thinking,” Oikawa sighed, pressing a hand to his chest. “How can someone with such fastidious good looks be so contentious? Well, it’s hard work to maintain my decorum of professionalism, I promise you. But I get by.”

“I can assure you I wasn’t thinking that,” Akaashi quipped.

“You don’t have to hide your awe, Kaashi-kun,” Oikawa teased.

“I was just surprised because most CFOs don’t bother with that menial of a task,” Akaashi explained. “They’d generally delegate that to an accountant.”

“No task is too menial for me. I take a lot of pride in my work.” Akaashi was surprised once more by the sincerity in his tone. Still, he tried not to show it. “In fact,” Oikawa pressed on, pompous air returning quickly, “I take pride in most things I do. Isn’t it obvious?”

“Those dark circles under your eyes tell a different story,” Tsukishima said without looking up from his computer.

“What?!” Oikawa squawked.

It was true. Akaashi hadn’t noticed them until now, but the dark bags under Oikawa’s eyes were rather prominent. Seriously, how had he missed those? Maybe it was the lighting. Oikawa raised a hand to press against them and released a dramatic groan.

“Don’t worry,” Tsukishima deadpanned. “They only make you look a little older.”

Oikawa was gone from the room in three seconds, wailing something about under eye cream. Tsukishima looked positively elated.

“Don’t make him too mad, he can still fire us,” Akaashi noted, returning to his paperwork.

“If he fired us now, he’d be the one in trouble,” Tsukishima replied. “We could probably set the building on fire and get away with it.”

“Let’s save that for the end of the week.”

Buried in his work, Akaashi had no idea how much time had passed. There were no windows in this conference room, and he hadn’t bothered to look at the small clock in the corner of his computer. It wasn’t until his phone started vibrating on the table that he realized how late it was.

“I’ll… Be back in a little while,” he said.

Yamaguchi didn’t look up, waving a hand in recognition. But Tsukishima followed his every movement with those appraising eyes. Why of all times did he have to care about his surroundings now?

Akaashi made it outside the door, slid it shut, and answered the call.

“Hello, Bokuto-san.”

“Hey, hey, Akaash!”

Akaashi didn’t understand why he felt so relieved to hear Bokuto’s voice. It had been one day, no longer than they usually went without talking to each other.

Then again, there were a lot of things Akaashi didn’t understand lately.

“How was your day?” Akaashi asked, sidling into an empty conference room and shutting the door behind him.

“It was pretty good. Suga’s been at the hospital for the past two days, so I’ve been taking care of his cat while he’s gone. It’s a pretty cool cat.”

“Is… Is Sugawara-san okay?”

“Huh? Well, I think so. I mean, he works super hard, but I’m pretty sure he’s okay.”

Akaashi’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “Does Sugawara work at the hospital?”

“Yeah, he’s a doctor.”

That made more sense.

“You should send me a picture of the cat next time you see it,” Akaashi suggested, dropping into an empty chair around the large table.

“I’ve got a bunch of them! I’ll send you one when we hang up!”

“I’d like that.”

“Um, so… You know… I’m heading to the building now… Do you think maybe you might want to listen to me play?” Bokuto asked, and Akaashi could hear the open and close of a heavy door.

“Ah, yes, that sounds wonderful.”

“Awesome!” Bokuto cheered.

“Bokuto-san, can I ask you something?”

“Sure!”

“Do you know the security guard in our building?” It was the only explanation as to how he managed to get inside every night. Why else would he be allowed through the front door?

“Hm? No, I don’t think so,” Bokuto replied.

Maybe Akaashi would never learn the answer to that mystery.

He heard the distant thump of Bokuto dropping onto the piano bench. “I’m gonna start now, okay?”

“You have my full attention.”

Akaashi closed his eyes as the song began, and he could practically picture Bokuto in front of him, rocking in time with the music. He could almost envision his battered fingers tapping out the complex melodies, his arms flexing as they worked up and down the keyboard. If he focused hard enough, he could even see his face, eyes pressed shut in hard lines and lips parted slightly, lost in the music.

And oh… Akaashi’s heart was racing. Again.

The song ended, and Akaashi reluctantly opened his eyes. He wanted to see Bokuto’s expectant gaze turning back to him, waiting for him to say something. He wanted Bokuto to sit down next to him, lips turned up in that small smile. He wanted to run his fingers down Bokuto’s arms, enjoying the warm touch of skin. He wanted to twine his fingers through Bokuto’s, to sit with him and listen to him talk about cats and owls, about his hopes and dreams, his deepest fears and greatest joys. He wanted Bokuto to hug him again, the hug that felt a little too tight at first but just right the longer it went on.

And he wanted even more.

“How was that, Akaash?” Bokuto’s voice cut over the other line.

“Perfect,” Akaashi breathed. “As always.”

“Thanks,” Bokuto muttered, and Akaashi could hear the smile through the phone. “You know, I really miss you when you’re not here.”

“I miss you too, Bokuto-san.”

It was the truth, and the words had come so easily. Akaashi hadn’t even thought before saying them. Had he ever told anyone that he missed them? More importantly, had he ever cared about anyone enough to miss them in the first place?

“Hey, Akaash, do you have time to hear a story about that cat?”

Akaashi sighed, feeling his own smile returning. “I’ve got a few minutes, I’d love to hear it.”

After a short conversation with Bokuto, Akaashi vacated the conference room he was in and headed back down the hall. He was already looking forward to their next conversation, and he wished he could understand why.

That sounds like you want to be a little more than his friend…

He actually had to shake his head in an attempt to clear that thought.

Akaashi was just down the hall from his conference room, resigned to a night spent poring over documents, when a voice ahead made his steps slow. It sounded… Angry? Maybe not angry, but clearly upset.

“I don’t give a shit about getting rid of the bags under your eyes, what you need to do is go home and go to sleep.”

“Awww, Iwa-chan, it’s okay to just tell me that you miss me.” Okay, that was definitely Oikawa. And… Iwa-chan… The angry voice was Iwaizumi.

“You sure think pretty highly of yourself, huh?”

“Well, you’re the one trying to get me into bed,” Oikawa purred, his voice low and silky.

There was a pause, and… Oh god… A moan… Akaashi’s mouth fell open in shock. There was no way he was sticking around for another show—knowing the noises Yamaguchi made when he orgasmed was bad enough. He was about to turn around and flee, find another way back to the conference room…

“You’re deflecting,” Iwaizumi grunted. “And I’m not gonna let you.”

“You seem to be responding quite nicely,” Oikawa laughed.

“Go. Home.”

“I can’t. Not until they do,” Oikawa replied.

“And what happens if they never go?” Iwaizumi asked.

“Then neither do I. This is my job, Iwa-chan.”

“You didn’t get the company in this shit, why are you expected to get them out of it?”

“It’s my job,” Oikawa repeated.

Iwaizumi grumbled something that Akaashi couldn’t hear, and then there was the shuffling of feet. And… Oh no… Someone was coming this way, and he didn’t have time to hide.

Oikawa rounded the corner, and his face fell into an expression of surprise. “Kaashi-kun!” he exclaimed. “Finding your way around okay?”

“Yes, sorry, I had to take a phone call.”

“Why are you apologizing?” Oikawa laughed. “I’m not a slave driver, you’re free to take a phone call. Though I may have a whip somewhere in my office if you’re interested…”

The exaggerated wink was enough to make Akaashi gag. “I’m not a BDSM sort of guy,” he replied.

“Ohhhh!” Oikawa practically squealed with delight. “Well, that feels like a challenge. Maybe I’ll figure out what gets your motor running by the end of the week.”

“You’re gonna get sued for sexual harassment, Shittykawa!” Iwaizumi’s booming voice resounded from around the corner.

“Ah, the dulcet tones of my slave driver,” Oikawa laughed. “I’ll be in with the accountants if you need me.” He waved a farewell over his shoulder as he walked past Akaashi, disappearing around the corner.

Akaashi stepped forward, bringing Iwaizumi into view. He was at his desk outside Oikawa’s dark office, the palms of his hands digging into his eyes. “What?” he asked without pulling them away.

“I’m no stranger when it comes to hostility toward the auditors, it pretty much comes with the territory,” Akaashi noted. “But generally, it’s the accountants who take issue with us.”

Iwaizumi dropped his hands to his desk, appraising Akaashi curiously. His scowl only deepened. “You’ve probably spent a lot of time blaming Oikawa for this nightmare,” he began. “And really, it makes sense from an outside perspective. No one else gets to see how much he’s actually done for this company.”

“Is that so?” Akaashi pressed.

“Oikawa took over for the old CFO in October,” Iwaizumi continued. “The guy was an asshole, and he was defrauding the company. On Oikawa’s first day, they took him into a conference room stacked floor to ceiling with documents, none of which were completed, and told him, ‘Good luck.’ He’s been busting his ass, killing himself to get this fucking audit done for a company that doesn’t give a shit about him.” Iwaizumi was furious. He wasn’t looking at Akaashi anymore.

“Why didn’t anyone feel the need to let us know?” Akaashi asked, brows coming together in consternation. “We would’ve worked with him on—“

“Yeah, well, the senior partners decided to keep everything a nice little secret,” Iwaizumi cut him off. “Couldn’t have any bad PR. And no matter what kind of bullshit they throw his way, he just fucking takes it.”

Akaashi wasn’t sure what to say. Everything he’d ever thought about Oikawa was wrong—well, maybe not the gaudiness, that part was on point. But everything else…

“Well, I’m still here,” Akaashi said firmly, retrieving Iwaizumi’s attention. “If I really thought Oikawa-san and this company were lost causes, I would’ve reported you to the FSA a long time ago. But I’m still here.”

Iwaizumi’s mouth opened in surprise. Now it was his turn to be lost for words.

Neither were prepared for Oikawa to return, rounding the corner with a whistle on his lips. He stopped mid-stride at the sight of Akaashi and Iwaizumi.

“Ohhh, what do we have here?” he murmured. “Fraternizing without me?”

“You too good for the accountants?” Iwaizumi asked gruffly, settling back in his chair.

“I suppose my radiance is just too distracting,” Oikawa sighed, flipping his hair for dramatic effect.

It was easier when Akaashi thought he was just a vapid idiot.

“Oikawa-san, we’re going to get this audit finished,” Akaashi vowed.

Oikawa turned his large brown eyes on the younger man, and they widened in shock. “Ah… Of course… I appreciate the effort you’ve put in.”

“We’re going to get it finished, and it will be before Saturday night,” Akaashi added.

“Ohhhh, Saturday night?” Oikawa’s expression grew more devious. “Sounds like Kaashi-kun may have… Plans…”

“It’ll be done before Saturday night.”

Iwaizumi’s words lit a fire under Akaashi. Oikawa had worked hard to remedy the awful situation this company had been put in, and Akaashi and his team had worked just as hard on their end. None of their efforts would be wasted. They would be finishing this audit.

And maybe, just maybe, this would be a good distraction. Maybe Akaashi needed to think about something else… Anything except how much he wanted to see Bokuto right now.

Chapter Text

The week had simultaneously felt like the longest and shortest in Akaashi’s twenty-six years of life. Every moment spent in Mizuha’s conference room was driving him slowly more insane. Staring at spreadsheets and the computer screen left him with a perpetual headache. And still, there didn’t feel like enough hours in the day to finish what they had to do.

His hope that the work would distract him from… Other concerns… Was only mildly successful. Sure, anytime he was poring over numbers, eyes going bloodshot as he forgot to blink, his sole focus was on the work. And when he got back to the hotel at night, he was too tired to do anything except sleep.

But every night, he took 30 minutes from his work to talk to Bokuto, to listen to him play and talk about their days. And during that time, he couldn’t stop his mind from wandering. He watched Bokuto play behind his eyelids, no intricacy or detail left out. It was like he could see that small tuft of hair that slipped from its place against the back of his neck, the subtle pout of his mouth as he lost himself in the music, the flex of his arm as it moved toward the lowest register. And when he opened his eyes, he was disappointed not to see expectant golden eyes peering back at him, the smile tugging a little higher on the left side of his mouth than the right.

Every night, Bokuto repeated the same line. “I really miss you when you’re not here.”

Every night, Akaashi said the same thing. “I miss you too, Bokuto-san.”

And every night, he felt it a little stronger.

By Saturday, he was a mess of nerves. The phrase “down to the wire” had never felt more appropriate. His fingers were shaking as he furiously typed up the revised corrective action plan. Tsukishima was zeroed in on his screen, proofing the scope Akaashi had finished about ten minutes ago. And Yamaguchi was throwing together the memo for less significant items. None of them had spoke for… Thirty minutes? Maybe? Akaashi’s ability to tell time was limited to a countdown to the concert. He glanced at the time in the corner of the computer screen.

Two hours, four minutes.

“This is good,” Tsukishima grunted, his voice scratchy from disuse. “I’m printing it now.”

“Would you start compiling… The…” Akaashi started.

“Compiling the?” Tsukishima parroted.

“I’m almost… Finished… With…” Akaashi murmured, trailing off again before he could finish his sentence. The only words in his head were those he was typing… Those, and the countdown.

Two hours, one minute.

“Memo’s done,” Yamaguchi said. “And… Konoha just sent me the rest of their report. They proofed it twice.”

“Proof it again, what you can at least, quickly,” Akaashi ordered.

Yamaguchi just nodded, practically pressing his nose to his screen to read the tiny print. Tsukishima was on his feet, clearing the room in five quick strides to grab the documents that were printing.

“Okay, I’m… Done,” Akaashi said with a final stab to the enter key. “Tsukishima, can you—“

“I’m tripping over myself to proof, you know me,” Tsukishima grumbled.

“I’ll go get Oikawa, he’s finishing the client response.”

“The client response that he’s supposed to write before we do the final report?” Tsukishima asked, staring at Akaashi over his glasses.

“That’s the one,” Akaashi replied.

Tsukishima just shook his head. Akaashi knew better than to engage him. Instead, he slunk out of the room and down the hall. Iwaizumi barely glanced up at him as he passed.

“Oikawa-san,” Akaashi said, poking his head through the open door.

The brunette was locked in on his own computer screen, fingers flying over the keyboard. “It’s almost done,” he muttered. His eyes were wide, and Akaashi wondered how long it had been since he blinked. Judging by the veins he could see, it had probably been a while. “Everything else finished?”

“The last two sections are being proofed,” Akaashi replied. He glanced down at his watch.

One hour, forty-eight minutes.

“Alright, done.” Oikawa clicked the mouse so ferociously, it sort of looked like it had offended him. “It’s printing in the conference room. You just need signatures, right? We’ll wrap things up in there.”

“I still can’t believe you managed to pull this off,” Akaashi noted as they made their way back to the conference room.

We pulled this off,” Oikawa corrected, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “I can’t thank you enough for not giving up on this. I know it would’ve been much easier just to report us to the FSA and be done with it.”

“You’re right about that.”

“Our time together has been brief but wonderful. I think I’m going to miss your rapier wit, Kaashi-kun,” Oikawa laughed. “Well, that, and your lovely face. I almost wish I’d been able to see a little more of it.”

“I say this with as much kindness as I can muster,” Akaashi glanced at the CFO. “The next time I see you will be entirely too soon.”

Oikawa laughed louder than ever.

They compiled everything into a neat and tidy report, Oikawa and Akaashi signed everything necessary, and the documents were stuffed into a manila envelope. Akaashi tucked them under his arm, slinging his duffle bag over his shoulder and throwing his work bag over the other.

“I’m dropping this off at FedEx on the way to the train station, and after that, everything is out of our hands,” Akaashi huffed, hoisting his bag a little higher.

“So… We’re finished,” Yamaguchi said, as though he couldn’t quite believe it himself. “Like… Actually finished?”

“We’re finished,” Akaashi nodded.

“It feels too good to be true,” Yamaguchi murmured.

“Probably is,” Ysukishima noted.

“Double check that we didn’t forget anything, I have to go.”

Akaashi didn’t wait for a response. He glanced down at his watch as he strode out the door.

One hour, two minutes.

The line at FedEx was thankfully short, and Akaashi was in and out quickly. He made it to the train station in what he was sure was record time. The short buzz of his phone in his pocket stole his attention as he waited on the platform. It was a message from Bokuto.

>>[Bokuto]: I’m going to be better than ever tonight. I can tell. And it’s because you’re going to be there. Just you wait.

Akaashi was so haggard, so sore, so very, very tired. And still, Bokuto’s optimism made him smile.

>>[Akaashi]: You’re going to be amazing. I’m sure of it.

The train rolled into the station, and the doors opened up, allowing for the spill of passengers out onto the platform. Akaashi shunted past them, securing himself a seat near the door. He leaned his head back against the wall, closing his eyes. Maybe he could get some sleep before he got to the next station…

But then his phone was vibrating in his pocket, effectively ruling out any hope of rest. He fished it out and checked the screen. Tsukishima? Hadn’t they seen enough of each other over the past few months? This couldn’t be anything good. He pressed the phone to his ear.

“Akaashi Keiji.”

“You’re probably missing something,” Tsukishima’s bored voice came over the line. “Seems like it might be important.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It’s a ticket.”

Fuck.

Akaashi was on his feet, sprinting out of the train just as the doors were closing. “I’m on my way back, please don’t leave yet,” he shouted into the receiver. He glanced at the time as he hung up the call.

Thirty-two minutes.

His feet pounded the pavement as he sprinted back to Mizuha, practically crashing into a woman with a stroller in his haste. This was an utter disaster. He’d have to wait for the next train, which meant he’d be late for the concert. Would they still let him in? God, he couldn’t break his promise to Bokuto. He’d never be able to live with himself.

Mizuha came into view as Akaashi sprinted at top speed. Tsukishima’s blonde head stood out against the sea of black near the front door. It only hurried Akaashi on a little faster. Tsukishima watched Akaashi approach with a strange expression—not his usual disdain, but something more akin to genuine curiosity. Akaashi held his hand out as he came to a stop.

“Thank you,” he panted. “I have to… Go… Now…”

“This says it starts at 7:00 tonight,” Tsukishima noted.

“That’s why I have to go.”

“You’re not gonna make it in time,” the blonde muttered.

“Give me the ticket!” Akaashi said, a little louder than he meant to.

“I was going to offer you a ride, but it seems you’d rather yell at me,” Tsukishima scoffed.

Oh good. A lucky break. Finally.

“I… Would appreciate that.”

Tsukishima’s smirk, however, made Akaashi leery. He shouldn’t look this excited, especially at the prospect of doing a kindness for another person. This was Tsukishima. He relished other people’s discomfort. But one glance in the car told Akaashi everything he needed to know. Of course Yamaguchi was inside. It only made sense. One more awkward incident to cap off the most stressful few months of his life.

But he was desperate.

Without another word, he sidled into the backseat of the car. Tsukishima climbed in behind the wheel. As he pulled away from the curb, the odd tension that settled over them was palpable.

“Um… Did… Did you get the report sent?” Yamaguchi asked, trying to ease the discomfort.

“Yes, they should get it by Monday,” Akaashi replied.

“Th-that’s good.”

More uncomfortable tension. Even Yamaguchi’s best intentions couldn’t shatter it. But Akaashi didn’t care. He slipped his phone out, desperate for something to occupy his attention.

Twenty-one minutes.

His leg bounced as he stared out the window, watching the buildings get taller around them. Uptown bled into midtown, and the buildings modernized. He had only been to this area a handful of times, but already he could recognize a few landmarks. His eyes continued to glance down at his phone. Every passing minute made his leg bounce a little faster.

Fifteen minutes.

Getting stuck in traffic didn’t help either.

Ten minutes.

“You’re shaking the car.”

Akaashi stopped bouncing his leg abruptly. “How far are we from concert hall?” he asked.

“Two blocks.”

Akaashi didn’t give himself time to think. Didn’t let himself doubt. He wouldn’t miss this. He wouldn’t be sitting in traffic when Bokuto went on stage. The door burst open, and he shouldered his bags once more.

“A-Akaashi-san!” Yamaguchi cried.

“Enjoy your concert,” Tsukishima said lazily.

Akaashi slammed the car door shut behind him, ignoring the smile he heard in Tsukishima’s voice. There wasn’t time to deal with that. With an agility he didn’t know he possessed, he darted through the traffic toward the sidewalk and took off at a dead run. Nothing would keep him from this performance. Not the stitch in his side, not the accusatory glares of the people he blew past. Nothing.

He vaulted through the front door of the concert hall, earning the attention of all the staff inside. There was no doubt in his mind what a mess he was right now. But he didn’t care. He glanced down at his watch.

Two minutes.

“Excuse me, sir, we’ve closed the doors.”

Akaashi looked up at the tiny usher, watching him with a nervous gaze. Yeah, that seemed about right. He could only look windblown and haggard. And with a duffle bag over his shoulder? She probably assumed he was here to assassinate the pianist.

“Please,” he panted, trying to keep his voice as even as possible. “I have to get in there. Please.”

The woman pursed her lips, giving him a quick once over. Akaashi pressed his ticket into her palm. Her eyebrows disappeared behind her hairline as she looked down at it in mild surprise.

“Ah… Well… Normally I really couldn’t let you in, but…” she glanced around anxiously. “Alright. Leave your bags at coat check, and I’ll take you in.”

Two lucky breaks in one day? Maybe karma was finally on his side.

Akaashi passed off his two bags to the attendant and pocketed the ticket she gave him. Then he returned to the usher. She cracked open the door, peeking through the gap. “He hasn’t started yet, so… Let’s hurry,” she urged, gesturing for him to keep close to her.

Akaashi followed her down the dark aisle toward the front row. There was one empty seat, and Akaashi had to climb over grumbling people’s legs to get to it. He didn’t care. It was the perfect view, five rows back and dead center in the hall. The instant he dropped into it, the lights dimmed and the entire hall fell eerily silent.

The man who shuffled on stage was not Bokuto. There was no way it could have been him. Sure, the two looked similar. But there was no way… This man’s hair was perfectly styled, slicked back on his head in a flawless coif. There was a pair of glasses perched on his nose. Bokuto didn’t wear glasses, right? The tuxedo the man wore was a little too big, but still made him look like a true professional. He approached the piano quickly, dropping onto the bench, and… Oh, there was that telltale heavy plop. But it couldn’t be…

It was the briefest moment. The man’s gaze flicked into the audience, golden eyes locking onto Akaashi’s for no more than a second before returning to the piano. And then, that smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. Just a little higher on the left than the right.

Oh yes… This was Bokuto.

His Bokuto.

Akaashi didn’t blink, couldn’t tear his gaze away as he watched Bokuto shift into his own world. The first press of the keys had him leaning forward in his seat. And after that, he was lost.

Even without knowing much about music, Akaashi was sure he’d heard these sinuous melodies at least once. They’d flooded his brain and permeated his senses, returning to him in the dead of night at the edge of his consciousness. Bokuto had played these songs for him before. And still, they felt so new. The first movement was bright and happy, the second full of melancholy, the third almost sinister, and the fourth somehow a combination of the first three. Even Akaashi could tell where one ended and the next began. Each had its own distinct voice, and yet there were constants he could recognize throughout, motifs that returned to him just when he thought that he’d forgotten them. The phrases stretched, then suddenly propelled forward. It was dynamic, energetic, light and yet somehow heavy around Akaashi’s head.

He watched in fascination as Bokuto’s fingers danced up and down the keyboard, arms stretching for the highest and lowest registers. He rocked to the music, rolling his body with every decrease in tempo, lurching forward with every increase. His mouth was open in its usual pout, eyes pressed shut in thin lines.

It was his usual intensity as he gave himself over to the music. There was nothing about this performance that was drastically different from the way he played in the lobby. For a while, Akaashi forgot that they were in a concert hall, surrounded by strangers. He forgot that there could be anyone else in the world, save for him and Bokuto.

And his heart was hammering in his chest louder than ever, somehow matching the rhythm of the music that surrounded him.

What was different?

Nothing about Bokuto had changed. It was true, he looked different, his hair and his outfit were something Akaashi wasn’t used to. But this was still the same man who spewed animal facts at the drop of a hat and listened to Akaashi’s stories about his bland day with rapt attention. This was the same Bokuto with the easy smile, who chewed on his fingers when he was nervous, who didn’t like strawberries or raspberries because of the seeds. The same Bokuto…

That sounds like you want to be a little more than his friend…

No… It wasn’t Bokuto who was different…

Akaashi was so lost in the music, so swept away, that he barely noticed when it was over. The last lingering notes echoed through the packed hall. No one moved. It didn’t sound like anyone was breathing.

Bokuto’s eyes snapped toward Akaashi once more, and it was just like their nights spent together in the lobby. Bokuto was waiting for Akaashi, waiting for him to say something, anything.

Perfect, Akaashi mouthed.

Bokuto was up and out of his seat in an instant, practically flying off of the stage. And Akaashi could see that small smile pulled at the corners of his mouth.

Somewhere in the hall, a smattering of applause broke out. It washed over the entire audience in a mighty wave. People were on their feet cheering, whistling, and even shouting for an encore. But the lights came up, and before long it was evident that the show was over. Quiet chatter grew louder as people marveled at Bokuto’s raw talent. The woman on Akaashi’s right couldn’t believe the entire 45-minute set was from memory—“Did you see? There was no music! He didn’t even open his eyes!” she cried. The couple in front of him seemed to be having a hard time coming up with words. But the people behind him…

“Well, he’s amazing, there’s no argument there. But isn’t an encore commonplace these days? Audiences come to expect it now.”

“He doesn’t even stay on stage for the applause. He can’t be in that much of a hurry, can he?”

Akaashi turned a pointed glare toward the couple behind him. They seemed shocked to see the messy-haired youth scowling so prominently at them. The man countered with a scowl of his own.

“Something you need, son?” he asked.

“He’s not here to accommodate your pretentious needs,” Akaashi murmured. “So keep those opinions where they belong.”

Apparently no one had ever talked to the couple that way before, at least judging by the looks on their faces. Akaashi had even surprised himself. With a hasty “Excuse me,” he rose from his seat and hurried out of the hall. His phone vibrated in his pocket. A message from Bokuto.

>>[Bokuto]: Hey, hey, Akaash! I’m so happy you came! If you’re still here, you can come backstage! But only if you want to, you know. You don’t have to. But if you do want to, you just have to show them your ticket, and they’ll let you come back. I already told them. But, you know, only if you want to.

Of course he wanted to. As if it was even a question.

Once he got his bags from the coat check, Akaashi waded through the crowd of people heading out of the lobby. The usher at the backstage door took one look at his ticket and let him back—much to the chagrin of the small crowd trying to work its way back there. Akaashi looked at the ticket properly for the first time. It bore a VIP insignia. Well, it explained why the first usher had let him in late.

He made his way down the hall toward the quiet hum of voices at the end. When he rounded the corner, he found Bokuto… And he wasn’t alone.

The older man with him was, for lack of a better word, severe. His hair was slicked back, starting to gray on the sides, starting to recede up his forehead. Even from afar, Akaashi could see that his face was all hard lines and sharp angles, with narrow eyebrows that looked as though they were always furrowed together. He was about the same height as Bokuto, but slimmer and much, much older. Those perceptive gray eyes locked on Akaashi, and he murmured something to Bokuto.

The younger man spun on his heel, eyes falling on Akaashi and mouth splitting into a wide grin. “Hey, hey, Akaash!” he cried, striding toward the younger man.

“Hello, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi replied.

“Wow, I’m so happy you’re here! Can… Can I give you a hug?” Bokuto asked as he slowed to a stop.

Yes… Please…

“Of course you can,” Akaashi nodded.

He was only given a second before Bokuto pulled him into his warm embrace. Akaashi felt all his breath leave him in a huff. He pressed his cheek to Bokuto’s shoulder, letting his arms encircle Bokuto’s waist. It was so tight… So warm… So Bokuto.

And over too soon.

“I’m really, really glad you came,” Bokuto said as he pulled away. “I think I played even better ‘cause you were there.”

“Of course, Bokuto-san. I wouldn’t have missed it.” Akaashi left out the fact that he almost had.

The man over Bokuto’s shoulder was watching them closely. He looked surprised, and yet was still appraising the situation. Slowly, he stepped toward them. “Bokuto,” he muttered.

Bokuto looked over his shoulder at the man, and Akaashi saw him stiffen. “Y-yeah?”

“It seems as though you trust this young man, yes?” the older man asked.

“U-um…” was all Bokuto could manage.

His fingers twitched, practically itching to rise to his mouth. Akaashi didn’t think as he reached for Bokuto’s arms. They were covered by the sleeves of his dress shirt and suit jacket, but the smooth movement of Akaashi’s fingers seemed to calm Bokuto nonetheless. Bokuto’s eyes followed Akaashi’s hands, back and forth, back and forth, like the smooth sway of a metronome.

“Bokuto,” the man said again, and Akaashi could hear a break in his voice, betraying his surprise. “Do you trust him?”

Bokuto’s eyes raked up Akaashi, locking in on his eyes once more. Akaashi didn’t count this time, didn’t do anything. He couldn’t think. His brain seemed to be short-circuiting.

“Yes… I do,” Bokuto said. He broke the eye contact, glancing off to his right instead. “This is my friend, Akaashi Keiji. And… Um… This is Oiwake Takurou. He’s my… Um… My therapist.”

Akaashi greeted the man with a slight bow. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“You as well,” Oiwake leaned forward as well.

Maybe Bokuto had been expecting Akaashi to react differently. Maybe he was relieved that the introductions were over. Or maybe he liked the fact that Akaashi’s fingers were threading through his own. Whatever the reason, the tension breathed out of him in a heavy sigh.

“Well, I won’t keep you,” Oiwake said, checking his watch. “You did very well tonight, Bokuto. I’m proud of you. The car is out back, and I think the driver would be able to take your friend home too. I’ll be seeing you next week?”

“Yeah,” Bokuto nodded. “Um… Th-thanks for coming.”

“You know I wouldn’t miss it,” the older man said, and his face seemed to be softening, the lines smoothing out as he smiled. “You played wonderfully.”

“Thanks…”

“Have a good night.”

Bokuto just nodded, and with a final goodbye to Akaashi, Oiwake took his leave. Only when the distant door opened and closed did Bokuto relax completely.

“Did you want a ride?” Bokuto asked. “That way you don’t have to take the train again. Did you take the train here with all that stuff? I bet that was really awful. I can give you a ride. Well, I mean, it won’t be me, I’ll be riding with you, but… Um… Do you want a ride?”

“I’d appreciate that,” Akaashi replied.

They headed out the back door, which lead to a small hidden alcove in the alley. A sleek black town car was waiting, the engine purring quietly. Well, this was a nice perk to being somewhat famous. They slid into the backseat, Akaashi gave the driver his address, and they were off. The driver rolled up the partition to give them some privacy.

“So, did you get everything finished for that job?” Bokuto asked as the car pulled out of the alleyway.

“I did,” Akaashi sighed. “Just barely. But it’s finished. Thank goodness.”

“That’s really great. You worked super hard, huh?”

“Our whole team did. It’ll be nice to get back on a regular schedule,” Akaashi replied. “I’ll still be coming to hear you play, though. I promise.”

“That’s cool!”

Akaashi wasn’t sure when it had happened, but his fingers were threaded with Bokuto’s once more. Had they ever actually broken apart? Bokuto’s hand felt so large in his own, even though Akaashi’s fingers were longer. He ran his thumb over Bokuto’s knuckles, admiring each individual bump.

“Bokuto-san, I really did miss you while I was gone.”

“I really missed you too, Akaash!” Bokuto exclaimed.

It didn’t take long to get to Akaashi’s apartment. Akaashi wished the ride had lasted a little longer, honestly. He didn’t want to get out. Didn’t want to let go of Bokuto’s hand…

“I can hug you again, right?” Bokuto asked suddenly.

“Yes.” Akaashi sounded breathless, desperate even. He didn’t care.

He found himself in Bokuto’s tight grip once more, face pressed to his shoulder. Akaashi couldn’t help but notice how nice he smelled—clean laundry and shampoo and something that was just… Bokuto. His fingers curled around Bokuto’s jacket. He could feel Bokuto starting to pull back, but no, he couldn’t. Not yet. Akaashi clung to him tighter.

“You… You okay, Akaash?” Bokuto asked tentatively. He was confused, clearly. But he hadn’t tensed up.

“You were perfect tonight, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi murmured.

“Well, I… I wanted to play really well for you,” Bokuto said, his voice quieter than Akaashi had ever heard it.

“You did. You always do. But I don’t just mean your playing.”

He finally pulled away, looking up into Bokuto’s face. Those golden eyes couldn’t focus on him, gaze flickering to the left, to the right, up, down. Just like the first night Akaashi met him.

“H-hey, hey, Akaash?” his voice trembled.

“Yes?”

“I’m supposed to ask… Um… Is… Is it against the rules if I… K-kiss you?”

“No. It’s not.”

Akaashi wondered how he managed to keep his voice so steady, how his entire body wasn’t shaking. Every nerve stood on end, and his brain was short-circuiting again.

Bokuto was frozen. Was he still breathing? Akaashi reached a hand up, letting his fingertips trail over Bokuto’s cheek.

“Are you nervous?” Akaashi asked.

“Y-y-yeah,” Bokuto breathed. “But I… I really want to… To kiss you.”

“Could I kiss you, then?”

Bokuto opened his mouth, but no words came out. Instead, his head bobbed in a frantic nod.

Akaashi trailed his fingers up Bokuto’s jaw, sliding the tips through his hair. Oh… It was so soft. Akaashi leaned forward, closing the distance between them… Was his heart really beating that loudly? Could Bokuto hear it?

He didn’t give himself any more time to think, to reconsider, to doubt, pressing his mouth softly to Bokuto’s.

Bokuto’s lips were dry, his bottom lip trembling almost dangerously. But he leaned into the kiss, a sharp exhale escaping his nostrils. He found Akaashi’s free hand, fingers curling tightly around it.

Maybe Akaashi wasn’t silly enough to believe in a kiss so perfect that it made you see fireworks.

But kissing Bokuto was pretty close.

Chapter Text

Akaashi was lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, following the stucco patterns from corner to corner. It was the same thing he’d been doing for hours now. The sun was high, and a quick glance at his clock told him it was already early afternoon. But still, he couldn’t get up.

The events from last night were swirling around his head like a tidal wave.

He’d kissed Bokuto. It hadn’t lasted long, just enough for Akaashi’s senses to flood with his smell, his touch, his taste. Just long enough for Bokuto’s lips to stop trembling, for his fingers to seek out Akaashi’s and twine them together again.

And then it was over. Akaashi had pulled away, breath coming in short spurts. It wasn’t the kind of kiss that should’ve left someone breathless. And yet Akaashi couldn’t seem to draw enough air into his lungs.

“Woah,” Bokuto had sighed.

And then the world had started spinning again. The driver pulled the door open, flooding the car with the haze of streetlights from outside. Akaashi hadn’t known what else to say.

“Well, I’ll see you on Monday, Akaash!” was Bokuto’s parting call.

“Yes… See you Monday…”

Akaashi rolled over, slamming his face into his pillow. That was decidedly not how he should have ended the night. But his impending exhaustion had propelled him onward and he’d passed out just inside the entryway of his apartment. Only at 07:00 this morning did he manage to drag himself into the bedroom.

His thoughts were interrupted by the harsh buzzing from his bedside table. He groped around without looking, pulling his phone up to his face. It was a message from Kuroo.

>>[Kuroo]: Just making sure you aren’t dead.

Akaashi tapped a hasty reply.

>>[Akaashi]: No. Not dead.

He dropped his face into the pillow again. If he closed his eyes, he could still see Bokuto’s long lashes against his cheeks as he pressed his eyes shut, the hair slipping from its coif and tangling around Akaashi’s fingers, the flush of his face as he pulled away from the kiss. Akaashi could almost smell him, that mixture of laundry and shampoo and something else, something he couldn’t even describe. He could almost taste his lips…

More buzzing. Akaashi wanted to throw the phone out the window.

>>[Kuroo]: That punctuation is somewhat daunting. Are you okay?

Akaashi stared at his phone. He could lie, tell Kuroo he was just exhausted—it’s not even like that was a complete lie. He could lie in his bed all afternoon, wallowing in confusion and doubt. He could do that…

>>[Akaashi]: I’m having an existential crisis.

Kuroo’s response was much quicker this time.

>>[Kuroo]: Sounds fun! I’ll be right over!

Akaashi heaved a sigh. He would have to get up now, or endure Kuroo’s frantic hammering on his front door for hours. Shifting out of bed, he threw on a shirt and pants and padded out into the living room. He hadn’t even made it to the door before the pounding started.

“I’m coming,” he called.

The second the door was open, Kuroo tumbled over the threshold. He practically dragged Akaashi to the floor, draping himself over the younger man’s shoulders.

“What did I do to deserve this?” Akaashi grumbled, struggling to support Kuroo.

“I figured you were probably touch-deprived,” Kuroo replied. “Have I solved all your problems?”

“No, and I think I now have a couple more.”

“Ah, well,” Kuroo huffed, pulling himself off of Akaashi. “It’s the thought that counts.”

“If that’s what you need to tell yourself,” Akaashi sighed.

His pocket was vibrating again, and Akaashi felt something that could only be a mixture of excitement and dread. He reached into his pajama pants and pulled out his phone.

It was a message from Kenma. Did he feel relieved? Or disappointed?

>>[Kenma]: I heard you finally come home last night. Have you eaten anything today?

>>[Akaashi]: Not yet.

>>[Kenma]: I’ll be right there.

“Who’s that?” Kuroo asked, craning his neck to get a glimpse of the screen.

“Kenma,” Akaashi replied simply as he typed.

>>[Akaashi]: Kuroo’s here.

Kenma’s response actually made Akaashi laugh.

>>[Kenma]: Ugh.

“Is he coming over?”

“I think so,” Akaashi murmured. “Open the door for him.”

Akaashi headed into the kitchen to make tea while Kuroo made himself at home on the couch. The quiet hum of the television filled the apartment. By the time Akaashi returned to the living room with three mugs of tea on a tray, Kenma was there, doling out soup from a pot at the center of the table.

“Awww, Ken, I knew you wouldn’t let me starve,” Kuroo cooed, reaching for the bowl.

Kenma pulled the bowl back from his grasp. “It’s not too late, right?”

Kuroo just scoffed, swiping it from his hands.

“Thank you, Kenma,” Akaashi said as he took a seat at the table.

“What’s wrong?” Kenma asked.

“He’s tormented by something,” Kuroo mumbled around a mouthful of soup.

“Is it work? I thought you were finished.”

“It’s not work.”

“Methinks it might have to do with one Mr. Eccentric Pianist,” Kuroo crooned. Akaashi’s silence seemed to be all the answer he needed. “Have you finally come to terms with your feelings for him?”

“I don’t know,” Akaashi sighed.

“That sounds like a yes,” Kuroo laughed. “Yuuji will be pleased.”

“Where is he?” Kenma tilted his head toward Kuroo.

“Passed out, he worked until like 5:00 this morning. He won’t be up for hours.”

“Take soup for him when you go.”

“Seems as though he’s getting preferential treatment.”

“Why are you tormented?” Kenma ignored Kuroo, returning his attention to Akaashi.

“He had a concert last night, and afterward he gave me a ride home,” Akaashi replied. “And we… I… I kissed him.”

“Okay…” Kuroo mumbled. “And?”

“I kissed him,” Akaashi repeated.

“Did he not want you to?”

“No… He asked if he could kiss me, but… He seemed nervous, so I sort of… Took the lead,” Akaashi explained.

Kuroo sighed dramatically. “You’re going to have to expound on why this is a bad thing. Because basically what I’m gleaning is that you got to make out with the guy you like.”

“Is it still about his Asperger’s?” Kenma asked.

“That will always be a concern,” Akaashi noted. “But… That’s not it.”

“Okay, something else then,” Kuroo said. “What, was it awful?”

“No, it wasn’t,” Akaashi shook his head. “It was… Definitely not awful.”

“Soooooo…” Kuroo trailed off

Akaashi chewed on his words, struggling with how to put them together. Even he didn’t really know what he was thinking. “It isn’t just about him. I don’t know how to be with another person. None of my relationships have ever worked out because I can’t adjust my life to another person’s. And yes, it’s also about not being able to give him the stability he needs. I almost missed the concert because of work, and my job won’t get less stressful over time, I’ll always be busy,” Akaashi was talking faster, making a little less sense with every word. “And after we kissed, everything was rushed, and I was so exhausted, we didn’t get to talk about it. So let’s say I do have these feelings, say Terushima-kun is right and I do want to be more than his friend. But what if he doesn’t? What if this is still just a friendship, maybe he was just caught up in the moment, and he doesn’t want to take it further, or can’t take it further? What if I come to terms with these feelings and he doesn’t return them? I wouldn’t be able to go back to just being his friend once I admit that I l—“ He stopped abruptly, the words stuck in his throat.

What had he been about to say?

“Holy shit…”

Akaashi looked up to find both Kenma and Kuroo staring at him, eyes wide and mouths hung open. The silence felt oddly heavy.

“Look,” Kuroo finally spoke. “’Kaash, there are a lot of things about you that are really awesome. I probably don’t say it enough. I think you’re a pretty cool guy. But the extent to which you overthink things is borderline unhealthy. You can run through hypotheticals until they kill you, but you know there’s a solution to all those problems you just listed, right?”

“I know what the solution—“

“Talk. To. Him,” Kuroo said pointedly. “I know you’re bad at relationships, but come on. You’re twenty-five years old, you just have to be honest about your feelings.”

“Have you told Terushima-kun about your burning jealousy yet?” Akaashi snapped. When Kuroo said nothing, he pressed on. “I don’t think you get to lecture me on being honest about my feelings.”

Two pairs of eyes turned on Kenma, who quailed under the attention. “What?” he asked.

“You’re the only one with a mildly successful relationship history to speak of,” Kuroo noted. “We obviously want your input.”

“It’s not that—“

“You and the shrimp have been together since high school, right?” Kuroo cut off his protest. “That’s more than we’ve got. Give us some of your sage advice.”

“Well…” Kenma mumbled, suddenly very interested in the corner of the table. “I hate to agree with Kuroo, lest I inflate his head and prevent him from fitting through the door…”

“Ouch.”

“…but you’re not going to know how he feels until you talk to him, and you’re only making things harder on yourself with all the hypotheticals… I understand the fear that he might not feel the same way, being afraid to change things and mess them up. I felt that way too. But… Knowing the answer is better than being in limbo. If he feels the same way, then everything works out. And if he doesn’t, then you can come to terms with that on your own.”

Akaashi slipped his hands over his face, rubbing vigorously at his eyes. “Thank you,” he murmured. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Sure you will,” Kuroo scoffed.

“It sounds like you have your own problems to be dealing with,” Kenma noted idly.

“Yes, but I at least acknowledge that they’re entirely my fault.”

“That’s not a consolation.”

“It’s the only consolation I need,” Kuroo said proudly.

Kenma’s advice wasn’t falling on deaf ears. But Akaashi already knew he needed to talk to Bokuto. He knew this. He knew all of this. He knew worrying about Bokuto’s feelings wasn’t doing any good, and the only solution was hearing it from Bokuto’s mouth .

He knew that.

But it wouldn’t stop him from worrying.

 


 

The first text Akaashi received from Bokuto following the concert was on Monday afternoon. He was on his lunch break staring at his phone, almost willing it to vibrate, when it actually did. It startled him so much, he dropped it onto the table.

>>[Bokuto]: Hey, hey, Akaash! Can I ask you a question?

Akaashi almost dropped the phone again. Was this it? Were they really doing this over text? His fingers were shaking slightly as he typed out a reply.

>>[Akaashi]: You can ask me anything.

Every passing second felt like a year. Akaashi’s leg was bouncing beneath the table, rattling everything on top of it. One elbow dropped onto the table, hand reaching up to grip his hair. How long had it been since he’d blinked? Probably too long. His eyes were burning.

“You look touched in the head.”

Akaashi practically jumped out of his skin. He glanced up to see Tsukishima in the doorway, leaning against the frame. His amused smirk was back as he appraised Akaashi through his glasses.

“Something you need?” Akaashi asked quickly.

“It can wait,” Tsukishima muttered.

“For?”

“How was your weekend?”

Okay, now Tsukishima had his attention. What was happening? Was he the one touched in the head? Since when had Tsukishima ever cared enough about anyone to ask them literally anything?

“It was… Fine?” Akaashi couldn’t help the lilt of a question.

“Did you make it to your show on time?”

“Yes, barely,” Akaashi replied. “And… Thank you again for the ride.”

“Sure,” Tsukishima shrugged noncommittally. “ I couldn’t have you missing your boyfriend’s performance.”

Akaashi’s entire body stiffened. Tsukishima’s victorious smirk widened, pulling into a grin rivaling the Cheshire Cat.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Akaashi tried weakly.

“You think you’re pretty subtle,” Tsukishima laughed. “But sitting with the guy in a public place and holding his hand? You know other people can see you in the lobby, right?”

Akaashi hadn’t ever considered that. He’d never thought about anything outside of himself and Bokuto. Of course it made sense. Bokuto played well, and it obviously attracted other people’s attention. How many people had watched them, he wondered.

“He isn’t my boyfriend,” Akaashi said, and that part really wasn’t a lie… He thought.

“Could’ve fooled me.”

“You know,” Akaashi noted, his usual snark returning, “you can act as audacious as you want. But you actually did something nice for me this weekend. And you have to live with that.”

“It’ll eat me up every day,” Tsukishima deadpanned.

“How ever will you go on?” Akaashi asked, sounding equally sarcastic.

“I’m sure I’ll find someone to comfort me.”

“Oh my god,” Akaashi huffed. He had to exert quite a bit of effort not to slam his face down onto the table.

Tsukishima was laughing now. “Anyway, there’s a package for you on your desk, I thought you might be interested.”

“A package?” Akaashi asked.

Oh no, Tsukishima was smiling still. That couldn’t be a good sign. Akaashi rose to his feet and swept past the blonde out into the office. People were shooting him furtive glances as he passed. Probably an even worse sign. He made his way back toward his cubicle, peering inside at his desk.

Akaashi didn’t think it was possible for a gift basket to be large enough to fit a person inside. And yet, the one sitting on top of his desk looked as though it could. It was full of fruit, meats, cheeses, nuts, snacks, desserts, teas and coffees, plates and mugs, bath salts and soaps and face masks and, Jesus, was that wine? Akaashi stepped tentatively toward his desk and saw a card sticking out of the top. He plucked it from between two whole cakes and opened it up.

Some gifts for you and your team, Kaashi-kun! Thank you for working so hard! Sorry for taking 20+ years off of your life! There’s some under eye cream in there too, don’t let those dark circles take over your life! ! Miss you already! ヽ(o^―^o)ノ

“How did this even fit through the door?” he gaped.

“Not very easily,” Konoha noted from his spot at his desk.

“This is wild,” Komi said, already poking through the basket’s contents. “Almost makes our months of torture worth it.”

Akaashi returned the card to its rightful place. “It’s for everyone, so have at it.”

Komi immediately started pulling things from the basket, and Sarukui quickly joined him. Even Yamaguchi was interested, sitting up a little higher in his chair to peek inside.

“Is there anything you want out of here, Akaashi-san?” Sarukui asked. “You are the Senior.”

“No, I’m—“

Akaashi stopped talking abruptly as his phone vibrated in his hand. He glanced down, feeling his mouth go dry.

>>[Bokuto]: I was just thinking, do you think the first person to milk a cow had a lot of people assuming they were crazy?

This time, Akaashi couldn’t keep his head from dropping onto the desk with a sharp thunk. He had to ask Bokuto how he felt. Kenma was right. Knowing the answer, no matter what it was, would be better than this limbo.

 


 

Despite coming in late that morning, Akaashi had finished everything he needed to do even before 21:00. For the first time ever, he was actually waiting in the lobby for Bokuto. His anxiety had skyrocketed the second he sat down.

He couldn’t remember ever feeling this way about another person—this unrelenting panic at not knowing how to read them. Had people felt this way about him before? He hadn’t exactly been forthcoming about his feelings in previous relationships (brief though they may have been). If so, he owed those people a sincere apology, because this was torture.

Bokuto had asked to kiss him. But he’d been so nervous. Too nervous. What if he hadn’t really wanted it? What if it made him uncomfortable? What if he felt as though Akaashi had pushed him into it? What if he really had been just caught up in the moment, thankful to Akaashi for coming to his show? Thinking back over their time together, Akaashi couldn’t pinpoint a moment where it felt like Bokuto saw him as anything other than a very good friend. Oh god, what if—

“Hey, hey, Akaash!”

Bokuto’s concerned voice returned Akaashi to reality. All hypotheticals disappeared as he looked up into Bokuto’s face, with that smile quirked a little higher on the left and those captivating golden eyes. In fact, Akaashi lost the ability to think at all.

God, he wanted to kiss him again.

“You okay?” Bokuto asked, his smile faltering slightly at Akaashi’s silence.

“Yes, fine,” Akaashi replied, trying desperately to steady his voice. “How are you?”

“Really good!” Boktuo exclaimed.

“That’s good,” Akaashi nodded.

“Wanna hear a new song? I wrote it yesterday,” Bokuto suggested.

“You… You wrote it yesterday?”

“Yeah,” Bokuto nodded, evidently not catching Akaashi’s tone. “I want to know if you like it.”

“Yes, of course. Please.”

Bokuto strode over to the piano, plopping down onto the bench. Akaashi couldn’t help but notice he didn’t have any music. He’d written the song yesterday, and he already knew it by heart.

And oh, it was beautiful. It was light and airy, like the twittering of birds on a warm spring day. Akaashi thought there should be a woodsy backdrop lowering around them. Even Bokuto’s rocking was different, easier, not quite as intense. He still moved with the music, but it was more like a bounce than a dramatic rock. Everything about him seemed almost weightless.

Akaashi was lulled by the ease of Bokuto’s movements, following the graceful pull of muscles in his back. Every stretch to the higher register pulled them taut, and even through his big shirt, Akaashi could see how prominent they were. His eyes trailed up the curve of his spine, his neck, stopping at his hair. Its softness was no longer a question—even with the excess of gel causing it to defy gravity, it would probably be soft. Akaashi wanted to let it play through his fingers again.

He jolted abruptly when he realized curious golden eyes were peering back at him. Oh… The song was over.

“Perfect,” he breathed.

“Really?” Bokuto asked. “I found a couple things I want to change already, the second movement doesn’t flow as smoothly as the other two.”

“Perfect,” Akaashi repeated.

Bokuto vacated his spot on the bench in favor of his place next to Akaashi. Akaashi’s fingers reached for Bokuto on instinct now, settling on his forearms and working lightly up and down the soft skin. He was so warm. Akaashi could feel his fingers shaking again as they walked down Bokuto’s wrists. Their fingers twined together easily.

“Hey, hey, Akaash?” he asked, his voice a little quieter than usual.

“Yes?”

“Do you think we could… You know… Kiss some more?” He was less nervous than the first time, but still, his eyes were darting.

Akaashi felt his throat go tight around his words. “Is that what you want?” he asked.

“Well… I mean… Yeah,” Bokuto replied.

Akaashi couldn’t tear his eyes from Bokuto’s face. They roved over the hard contours of his jaw, the pink blush spreading across his cheeks, the prominent, expressive brows… And those lips… Dry and cracked and warm…

He raised his hand, letting his nails graze over the heated skin. The light touch made Bokuto visibly shiver.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured.

Bokuto shook his head rapidly. “No, I… I like when you touch me like that.”

He trembled again as Akaashi trailed those long fingers over his jaw. Akaashi’s thumb and forefinger gripped his chin lightly, angling his head down. And Akaashi leaned forward… He could feel Bokuto’s breath against his face, hesitated for only a moment, savored the warmth, before pressing their lips together.

Akaashi lost himself immediately, completely overwhelmed by Bokuto’s smell, the feel of his lips, the taste… He gripped Bokuto’s chin a little tighter, pulling him a little closer. His other hand lifted to card through Bokuto’s hair. Even with the gel, it was so soft… And Bokuto huffed a shaky breath through his nose, a full-body tremor following quickly. He reached blindly, fingers wrapping around Akaashi’s arm, grounding himself.

They pulled away together, both taking a gulping breath of air. How had such a soft kiss felt so… Intense?

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi panted.

“Y-yeah?”

Akaashi had to do it now. Before his brain functions returned to normal and set off alarm bells in his head. “Can you… Can you tell me how you really feel about me?”

“Well…” Bokuto furrowed his thick brows in deep concentration. “I like being around you, and playing for you. I think about you all the time. And I really like when you touch me, which is great because I don’t like when other people touch me very much. I like hugging you. And I really like kissing you.” His face lit up, like he’d come to a sudden realization. “Akaash, I think you’re my favorite person. I really love you!”

Oh… Akaashi could’ve sworn he felt his heart skip a beat. Should that happen in real life? “You… You love me,” he repeated.

“Yeah! Because, you know, I love all those pieces, so then I must love the whole you, right?”

Bokuto looked expectantly at Akaashi. As if Akaashi had any answers.

“I suppose,” was all he could manage.

“What about you, Akaash?” Bokuto asked. “Do you love me?”

Yes. I love you so much.

The words felt heavy in Akaashi’s throat. They wouldn’t move. They couldn’t. Akaashi had never said them before. He’d never wanted to say them before…

Until Bokuto.

“I love being around you, and when you play for me,” Akaashi murmured. “I think about you all the time too. I love touching you, and hugging you, and kissing you…”

“You know, Akaash, it kinda sounds like you love me too,” Bokuto noted. “If you love all those pieces, then you must love the whole me, right?”

“The whole you…” Akaashi parroted. His hand was still holding Bokuto’s chin, his thumb drifting back and forth over the soft skin.

Bokuto was staring at him expectantly. His eyes held Akaashi’s gaze, no flickering, no glancing away. “So… Do you love the whole me?”

“Yes.” Oh… It felt so easy to say it. It could only be the truth. The fingers of Akaashi’s free hand sought Bokuto’s once more, twining together. “The whole you.”

Bokuto’s smile was radiant, and he leaned forward, this time pressing his lips to Akaashi’s. It was clumsy and a little too forceful, a little too eager. But Akaashi took control again, tilting Bokuto’s chin up, softening the kiss. By the time they pulled away, they were both breathless again.

“S-sorry,” Bokuto murmured. “I forgot to ask.”

“It’s alright,” Akaashi replied, not really sure what he meant, but assuaging his nervousness with a smile.

“You’re… Um… You’re really… Really good at that,” Bokuto stammered. “I’m not good at that.”

“That’s not true,” Akaashi countered.

Bokuto shook his head again. “I know I’m not,” he said.

“I’ve never kissed anyone and had it feel like that, so you’re doing something right.” Akaashi felt embarrassed saying that out loud, but Bokuto’s face lit up, and it was worth the embarrassment.

“R-really?” he asked.

“Hm,” Akaashi sighed, nodding his head. He couldn’t stop touching Bokuto’s face, fingers gliding over his chin, his cheeks, his jaw, trying to memorize every contour and crag.

“So… Does… Does this mean that… You know… You’re my… B-boyfriend now?”

Akaashi knew he probably looked surprised, but Bokuto’s expectant gaze didn’t falter. “Is that what you want?” he asked.

“Well, I mean, I love you, and you love me, so… Yeah, that’s what I want,” Bokuto replied.

“Lots of people don’t approve of a relationship like that… Between two men,” Akaashi noted. “Does that bother you?”

“No,” Bokuto said without hesitation. “I don’t care about other people, Akaash. I only care about you!” He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world, like Akaashi should have known it all along.

He probably should have known it all along.

“Then I’d love to be your boyfriend, if you’ll have me,” Akaashi muttered, squeezing Bokuto’s hand a little tighter.

“Yeah!” Bokuto couldn’t control the volume of his voice, and it came out as a yell. “Yeah. Yes. Please,” he tried to bring it down to a more reasonable level, but it still shook with unbridled excitement. “I want that. I want you. Yes… Um… Will… Will you have me, too?”

Akaashi couldn’t help the smile that pulled at his lips. Bokuto looked so nervous, like Akaashi still might say no.

As if Akaashi could ever say no.

“Of course,” he replied. “I want you, too. I…” The words didn’t stick anymore. They came so easily. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Akaash.”

As Akaashi leaned forward and pressed his lips to Bokuto’s once more, he couldn’t help but think of Kenma.

Knowing the answer is better than being in limbo.

Yes. This was much better.

Chapter Text

In Akaashi’s opinion, the strangest thing about dating Bokuto was how little their relationship actually changed. Bokuto sent him the same exuberant text messages throughout the day, varying from random facts to dramatic retellings of his adventures—Bokuto somehow managed to get himself into some hilarious situations despite never wandering very far. Akaashi’s favorite was the day he found a tortoise on the sidewalk while walking to the convenience store. He then spent the next two hours trying to discover where the tortoise had come from—the little girl who’d accidentally let him out was relieved to have him home. Bokuto had talked about that for days, and it made Akaashi laugh every time.

They also continued their nightly meetings. Akaashi came in late and stayed late, ignoring the knowing smirks from Tsukishima. He was always the first downstairs now, waiting in his seat when Bokuto arrived. It was their usual routine, Bokuto playing for Akaashi, Akaashi finding new things about Bokuto that he liked to look at, Bokuto turning and waiting for Akaashi’s praise. He would take his usual seat, Akaashi would scratch his arms, and they would hold hands.

The only new addition? The kissing.

And oh, did Akaashi like the kissing.

Over time, Bokuto seemed less nervous. Still, it was usually Akaashi initiating the kiss after Bokuto asked. Bokuto responded easily to Akaashi’s guiding touch, the push of his chin or the tilt of his jaw. Even when Akaashi’s thumb slipped between his lips, wedging them open, Bokuto responded eagerly, allowing for the easy slip of Akaashi’s tongue over his own. He’d shuddered then, but pushed deeper into the kiss. Akaashi quickly learned that Bokuto’s shudders meant he was enjoying it. Afterward, his hand would always find one of Akaashi’s. It was like he needed the younger man to ground him, like he might lose himself in the kiss without him.

Though Akaashi never felt like much help, considering the way he lost himself in Bokuto. Sometimes he would consider what Tsukishima told him, that other people might be watching them when they were together in the lobby. But he forgot all of that when his lips touched Bokuto’s. It was like there was no one in the world but the two of them.

It took Bokuto about three weeks to finally open up to Akaashi about his diagnosis. Akaashi hadn’t pushed him, hadn’t let on that he knew. Bokuto brought it up on his own one night after pulling away from Akaashi’s lips. He was breathless and dizzy, eyes unfocused as he stared at the younger man across from him.

“Akaash, can… Can I tell you something?” he panted.

“Of course you can,” Akaashi replied, still struggled to catch his own breath.

“You, um… You met my therapist at the concert, yeah?”

“Right.”

Bokuto took a deep, steadying breath. “Well, he… He helps me… With some things that I need help with. And he told me that if I trust you, I should be honest with you… It’s because… Um… Because I have something called… Asperger Syndrome.”

His eyes flicked over Akaashi’s face in a desperate attempt to read his expression. Akaashi tilted his lips into an easy smile.

“Tell me more,” he urged.

As it always did when he realized he hadn’t scared Akaashi off, the tension breathed out of Bokuto in a heavy sigh.

“When I was younger, I just… I never really knew how to read other people. I never knew what they were thinking, and I guess I never really knew that I was supposed to care, you know? But people still made me nervous. I mean, they still do. But it used to be worse. So I started going to Dr. Takurou, and he helped me learn that I should care about what other people think. And we came up with my rules. They help me know how to read other people, how to act around them. I still get really nervous when I can’t read them. But… But it’s a lot better than it used to be, at least.”

Akaashi listened with rapt attention, his thumb playing over the back of Bokuto’s hand idly. He looked so nervous. How many people had he felt comfortable telling this to?

“Bokuto-san,” he murmured, retrieving the older man’s attention. “I’m so happy you told me. The only thing this changes is how remarkable I think you are.”

“I’m… I’m not…” Bokuto almost seemed to grow bashful under the praise.

“You are,” Akaashi countered. “I do want you to know though, if there’s ever anything you need from me, all you have to do is ask.”

“Um… Well… There is something,” he mumbled, teeth tugging on his bottom lip.

“Anything,” Akaashi urged.

“Do… Do you think maybe you’d want to come over this weekend? I can make you dinner and we can watch a movie or something.”

Akaashi hasn’t expected that. “Do you mean a date?” he asked, lips quirking up into a smile.

Bokuto was growing progressively more flustered. The fingers of his free hand were drumming against his thigh—a telltale sign that they were itching to be between his teeth. Akaashi reached for his arm, letting his fingers drift over the smooth skin. Bokuto relaxed under his touch.

“Y-yeah,” he murmured. “A date.”

“I would love to,” Akaashi replied.

“Really?” Bokuto’s face lit up, dazzling Akaashi with that blinding smile.

Akaashi couldn’t help himself as he raised his hand to Bokuto’s cheek once more, fingertips sliding up his jaw. “Of course,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

 


 

For being so cool and composed at the start of the week, Akaashi found himself panicking on Saturday. He stood in front of his closet, staring mindlessly at his collection of clothing. God, why did he own so much black?

After almost 30 minutes of making no progress, he decided to relent. If he wanted to get out of here in time, reinforcements would have to be called. He fished his phone from his pocket and sent out a text.

There was hammering on his front door before he even made it out of his room.

“Coming,” he called as he crossed the living room.

He pulled the door open, revealing three faces wearing varying expressions of excitement. Hinata looked ready to climb out of his skin. Kuroo’s lazy grin couldn’t mask the fact that he’d almost banged the door down. And Kenma looked impassive, but also vaguely curious.

“The cavalry has arrived,” Kuroo announced.

“What do you need help with, Akaashi-san?” Hinata asked.

“I… Am out of my depth,” he sighed.

“Have you seriously not talked to him yet?” Kuroo huffed, stepping inside and sliding off his shoes. “Come on, ‘Kaash. This is a little ridiculous.”

“No, it’s… I have a date.”

Kuroo was already halfway to the couch when he froze. He didn’t even turn around. Kenma’s eyebrows rose in mild surprise. Hinata just looked elated.

“You have a date, Akaashi-san?!” he exclaimed. “That’s great! It’s been a super long time, huh?”

“Two years,” Akaashi replied. “And evidently, I don’t own anything fit to wear anywhere but to a funeral.”

“Oh! I can help you with that!”

Hinata was off, barely slipping out of his shoes before breezing past Kuroo and disappearing down the hallway. Only when the orange blur streaked past him did Kuroo finally return to reality, spinning around to face Akaashi.

“I can’t believe it,” he murmured.

“Can’t believe what?” Akaashi asked.

“My ‘Kaash is in love,” Kuroo marveled.

“Why is that the conclusion you jump to?”

“Discounting the fact that this is your first date in years? You have never been nervous for a date in all the time I’ve known you,” Kuroo pointed out. “This guy’s special! You love him!”

“That’s… Neither here nor there,” Akaashi muttered.

“Holy shit, you’re so smitten,” Kuroo cooed, clasping his chest. “What are you doing to your hair? Are you leaving it like that? Let me do it for you.”

“That does not sound like a very good idea,” Kenma noted.

“My hair is not indicative of my skill set,” Kuroo replied. “And if I recall, someone let me touch up his roots and admitted that it was, and I quote, ‘not the worst thing he’d ever seen.’”

Kenma just clicked his tongue. It seemed the decision was made as Kuroo launched forward, took Akaashi by the arm, and led him back to the bathroom. He perched the younger man on the toilet and started examining his hair, letting his fingers run through the dark curls.

“You were given a gift with this glorious hair, and you don’t even know what to do with it,” Kuroo sighed. “It’s painful.”

“Someone sounds a little bitter,” Kenma’s voice sounded from the doorway.

“Of course I’m bitter,” Kuroo scoffed. “And even more bitter because he can roll out of bed with it and still look amazing. It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries.”

Kenma perched on the edge of the tub, watching idly as Kuroo worked on Akaashi’s hair. Akaashi couldn’t stop bouncing his leg.

“Are you really that nervous?” Kenma asked.

“I just… I really want this to go well,” Akaashi admitted.

“See? Smitten,” Kuroo smirked.

“A bad first date isn’t the end of a relationship,” Kenma shrugged.

“Sounds like you’re speaking from experience.”

“On our first real date, Shouyou was removed from the zoo for causing a disturbance…”

“THAT PEACOCK WAS TRYING TO FIGHT ME, KENMA!” Hinata’s voice rang down the hallway.

“…and we’re still together,” Kenma continued. “So I think you’ll be okay.”

That made Akaashi laugh. And it helped a little bit.

 


 

Akaashi stood outside Bokuto’s apartment door, letting himself have one more moment of panic. He wanted this to go well. He needed this to go well. He’d had plenty of first dates—not recently, but back in his day. Though he’d never had one he would label a disaster, he also hadn’t been already in love with the person before the date. He’d never been in love with any of them, actually…

He glanced down at his outfit once more, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. Hinata had worked a miracle. He rooted around in Akaashi’s closet for a while and emerged with a gray button up, a black cardigan, and a pair of jeans Akaashi thought were lost a long time ago. He’d also scrabbled home to find a dark blue scarf that somehow tied the entire outfit together. That, along with the little bit of a pompadour Kuroo had given him, made him feel a little more confident.

But only a little.

Tentatively, he raised a hand and knocked, knock, knock

The door burst open with Akaashi’s fist still in the air. Bokuto appeared in the doorway, and he looked as nervous as Akaashi felt. He was jittery, hands fluttering at his sides and just the twitch of a smile on his face. But when his eyes fell on Akaashi, it seemed to slip, his mouth dropping open slightly.

“Hello,” Akaashi murmured.

“H-hi,” Bokuto stammered.

“Are… Are you alright?” Akaashi asked.

Bokuto shook his head rapidly, as if he were trying to clear it. “I’m f-fine. It’s just… You… You look… R-really nice.”

Ah. Akaashi would have to thank Hinata and Kuroo later.

“You look very nice too,” he noted.

It was true. Bokuto had a white t-shirt underneath an open blue button up rolled up to his elbows and his usual slightly baggy jeans. It was a good look on him.

“Th-thanks,” Bokuto muttered. “Um, come on in.”

Akaashi stepped inside, allowing Bokuto to close the door behind him. He slipped out of his shoes before turning back to the older man. “I brought dessert,” he said, passing over the bag in his left hand. “I know you said the vanilla was your favorite last time, so I just bought a bigger vanilla cake.”

“Wow! Akaash, you’re the best!” Bokuto cheered, his nervousness dissipating at the presentation of the gift. His face lit up in a wide smile, golden eyes dancing as they peeked inside the bag. His nose scrunched up as he tried to peer into the little window on the top of the cake box.

He was just so handsome… Akaashi could spend the rest of his life just watching him.

Maybe it was a little too soon to think that...

Bokuto was just finishing up dinner—curry rice and miso soup—and Akaashi set the table for him. Akaashi realized that he hadn’t sat and had a meal with anyone other than his neighbors for… Too long. That was embarrassing. And now he was feeling nervous again.

Bokuto brought out the food, and he doled some out for Akaashi and himself. His hands were shaking, rattling the ladle against the bowl. Well, at least they were nervous together.

Itadakimasu,” they murmured, bowing their heads before digging into their food.

And, oh… It was delicious. Akaashi had been spoiled by Kenma’s food since living next door to him, but this was something else entirely. It was hearty and warm and every bite made his taste buds sing.

“Boktuo-san, this is amazing,” Akaashi murmured.

“R-really?” Bokuto glanced up at him almost sheepishly.

“Really,” Akaashi nodded.

“Do you… Um… Do you like to cook?”

“I don’t mind cooking, but I only make simple things, just fish and rice usually. When I have the time that is,” Akaashi replied. He took another healthy bite, feeling his mouth water around it once more. “Where did you learn to cook like this?”

“Oh, well, my mom taught me,” Bokuto explained. “She said I needed to learn how, especially if I was going to live on my own. Plus, it was something we could do together. She said she always liked that.”

It seemed the more Akaashi let him talk, the more Bokuto seemed to unwind. He told the younger man about his mom’s catering company, how he would help her with the prep work when he was younger. From there, he moved into telling Akaashi about a recurring dream he had when he was a kid about accidentally chopping off one of his fingers while he was cooking—“It felt so real, Akaash, and I always woke up with it feeling numb!”—which eventually tapered off into random facts about dreams.

Akaashi ate his food without looking at it, giving Bokuto his full attention. He liked to watch Bokuto’s face light up when he got excited. His hands worked animatedly, flying around in front of him as he talked about the inaccuracies of dream sequences in movies. His eyes widened every time he said something he thought was surprising. And… How had Akaashi missed that dimple? When Bokuto’s mouth stretched into that characteristic grin, with the left side sitting just a little higher than the right, a small dimple appeared on the left. Akaashi wanted to touch it.

But then it was gone, the smile slipping from Bokuto’s face quickly. He looked nervous again.

“What’s wrong?” Akaashi asked.

“Do… Do you really not think that I talk too much?” Bokuto mumbled.

“I’ve told you before that I don’t,” Akaashi noted.

Bokuto’s face twisted in a grimace. “Well… I know you said you didn’t mind when I talk, but… But I know that I do talk a lot, and that’s why I have the rule. And since you’re so nice to me, you might not want to say anything. But If I ever do talk to much, you just have to tell me, and I’ll stop.”

“I really like listening to you talk, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi assured him. “I like how excited you get when you’re passionate about something.”

“Are… Are you sure?”

“Very sure,” Akaashi nodded.

Bokuto’s face was still contorted in that grimace, but his expression softened, and Akaashi was sure he saw a pink stain creeping across his cheeks.

“So… Um… What are you passionate about, Akaash?” he asked.

You.

Oops. Couldn’t say that.

“I don’t really have a lot of free time to be passionate about anything, and when I do have free time I don’t do very much…” Akaashi replied. “I suppose I knit pretty well.”

“Really?!” Bokuto exclaimed, leaning over the table in anticipation.

Akaashi was taken aback at his excitement. “Yes, well, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother growing up, and she taught me. We did it together a lot before she passed. I don’t do it much anymore, but I’ll never forget how.”

“That’s so cool,” Bokuto marveled. He looked like Akaashi had just told him he knew how to spin gold.

“That’s one way of looking at it,” Akaashi chuckled. “I suppose I like puzzles and crosswords too. I do them sometimes on the weekends before I start my day.”

“Wow,” Bokuto sighed. “You’re so smart, Akaash.”

“Ah, well… That’s not…” Akaashi trailed off, feeling himself getting flustered under Bokuto’s praise.

“You are! You’re so smart!” Bokuto asserted. “Hey, hey, do you think we could do them together sometime? I always try to do them and get stuck, and you could probably help me!”

“Of course. I’d love to.”

When they finished eating, Bokuto cleared away the dishes and returned to the living room, where he joined Akaashi on the couch.

“Is… Um… Is there something you want to watch?” he asked, turning on the television. “What kind of movies do you like?”

“I don’t have a particular favorite. Feel free to turn on whatever you’d like,” Akaashi said.

Bokuto flicked through the channels, eventually settling on a documentary about the world’s most dangerous fish. For a while, they sat in comfortable silence, interspersed with Bokuto’s occasional facts about sea life and sounds of astonishment when he heard something he never knew before. Akaashi couldn’t remember a time when he’d felt so content, and he couldn’t help himself as he reached for Bokuto’s hand, threading their fingers together.

The action seemed to evoke a mixed reaction from Bokuto. His hand clasped Akaashi’s eagerly, happy for the contact. But it also seemed to be distracting him. His eyes continued to dart between the television and Akaashi, struggling to focus on both at once.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said, deciding to retrieve his attention.

“Yeah?”

“Now that we’re dating, would you prefer that I call you by your first name?” he asked.

Bokuto’s entire body stiffened as though he’d experienced an electric shock. His eyes widened, the gears in his brain suddenly working overtime. If Akaashi hadn’t been holding his hand, it would have been in his mouth already.

“Um… Is… Is that what you want?” he asked, his voice shaking.

“I don’t have an opinion either way,” Akaashi said. “It’s up to you.”

“Um… W-well… You’ve… You’ve always called my Bokuto-san…”

Ah. It was a change in their routine, something new and daunting. Bokuto had adjusted well to the new things Akaashi had showed him so far. This was such a small change, and yet probably felt looming to him.

“I’m happy to keep calling you Bokuto-san,” Akaashi reassured him, emphasizing it with a squeeze of his hand. “It’s not a problem. So please don’t worry about it.”

Bokuto’s eyes darted to Akaashi’s, searching for any hint that he might be lying. And of course, he found nothing. A relieved smile crossed his face, all the tension leaving him with a sharp exhale.

“You’re the best, Akaash,” he sighed.

“Oh, I’m not—“

“You are,” Bokuto cut him off, leaning a little closer. “I really love you.”

“I love you too,” Akaashi murmured. He angled himself toward Bokuto, allowing the fingers of his free hand to reach up, trailing over the older man’s jaw.

“H-hey, hey, Akaash?”

“Hm?”

Bokuto swallowed hard. “Can I kiss you?”

There it was again. He always asked, like there was a chance Akaashi might change his mind.

“Bokuto-san, you don’t have to ask me when we’re alone,” Akaashi replied. “I told you it was okay.”

“Well, I know,” Bokuto nodded eagerly. “But I have to ask before I do it. That was the rule with Yukie.”

Akaashi’s brows furrowed in confusion. “Yukie?” he repeated.

“Yeah, because the one time I tried to do it, I guess I surprised her too much.”

That did nothing to assuage Akaashi’s confusion. “Bokuto-san… Who’s Yukie?”

“Oh, she was my friend in college, and then she was my girlfriend for a little while. And now she’s just my friend again.”

“Oh…”

This revelation was surprising, but Akaashi couldn’t figure out why. At first, he thought maybe he was being judgmental. It made sense that Bokuto had a relationship history to speak of. He was 27-years old, and incredibly charismatic when he was comfortable with people. His diagnosis didn’t debilitate him, didn’t drag him down. Of course other people saw that. Of course other people saw the wonderful things that Akaashi did. It only made sense.

But that wasn’t it. The surprising part had nothing to do with Bokuto or his diagnosis.

“You don’t have to worry, Akaash,” Bokuto said knowingly. “She isn’t my girlfriend anymore. She’s really just my friend.”

“I believe you,” Akaashi nodded.

“We just decided that we were better friends than we were anything else,” Bokuto explained.

“That’s good…”

“You just… You seem kinda… I dunno… Worried,” Bokuto mumbled.

Akaashi’s hand, which had fallen away at the new revelation, returned to Bokuto’s cheek. “I’m not worried about that, Bokuto-san,” he said. “Not at all.”

It wasn’t a lie. He wasn’t worried about Yukie. Bokuto wouldn’t lie about something like that. Frankly, Bokuto probably wasn’t capable of lying about anything.

It wasn’t the fact that he’d been with her that worried him.

Akaashi couldn’t stop himself from leaning forward and pressing a heated kiss to Bokuto’s lips. It was like he was trying to sear himself into the older man. And judging by the shudder that rippled through Bokuto’s body, it was working. Akaashi’s tongue slipped along the seam of Bokuto’s lips, and Bokuto parted them unquestioningly. He shuddered again as Akaashi’s tongue massaged against his own. And when Akaashi pulled away, sucking Bokuto’s bottom lip between his own, the older man groaned. Loudly.

“You’re… You’re so good at that,” Bokuto panted.

“Could I ask you something?” Akaashi asked breathlessly.

Bokuto’s eyes opened, peering at Akaashi. His pupils were blown wide, and he seemed to be having a hard time focusing. But he nodded nonetheless.

“What made you decide that you and Yukie were better as friends?”

Akaashi hadn’t wanted to ask. He wanted to push the worry down, ignore it as petty jealousy. But the kiss had emboldened him. He had to know. He had to, because…

What if Bokuto ever decided he and Akaashi were better as friends too?

“Oh, well…” Bokuto looked like he was struggling to come up with a rational thought, his brain still addled by the kiss. “She’s really cool. And she was kinda like you, where she just let me talk about stuff without getting annoyed. And since we spent so much time together, we thought it wouldn’t be any different if we started dating. Her parents really wanted her to, anyway. But…” He trailed off, the words seemingly stuck in his throat.

Akaashi squeezed his hand a little tighter. He didn’t want to push. But they’d come this far already.

It seemed to be all Bokuto needed to continue. “Everything was okay until we started doing… Um… Stuff, together… Like, sex stuff… I didn’t… I didn’t really mind when she touched me, but… But when I tried to touch her, and do the stuff to her that she was doing to me, I… I got really anxious, and… And then I felt bad, and she told me not to, but I felt bad anyway. And I couldn’t really stop feeling bad about it. So we just decided to go back to being friends, since it was easier that way. For both of us.”

Akaashi knew his mouth had fallen open in surprise, but he couldn’t seem to close it. Whatever he had expected Bokuto to say, this wasn’t it. His earlier worry felt so insignificant now. He was chastising himself for even thinking it.

“Bokuto-san,” he murmured, tilting Bokuto’s jaw in order to meet his eyes. “I’m very glad you told me that. And I need you to know something.”

“O-okay,” Bokuto stuttered, seemingly unable to look away from Akaashi’s penetrative gaze.

“I don’t want you to feel pressured to touch me. Even if you never feel comfortable touching me, it won’t change anything between us. It won’t change how much I love you.”

Now Bokuto was searching for the lie again, looking into Akaashi’s eyes like he was peering into his soul. “I really love you, Akaash,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

“I love you so much,” Akaashi replied. “And, also… If I ever do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, or makes you feel as though I’m pushing you, I want you to feel comfortable telling me. Because the last thing in the world that I want to do is make you feel as though I’m pushing you.”

Bokuto nodded, and he pushed his face deeper into Akaashi’s touch. Akaashi’s thumb rolled against his lips, his chin, his jaw. When those large golden eyes met his again and that smile quirked up, a little higher on the left than on the right, Akaashi felt himself flooded with a rush of affection for Bokuto.

“You know, Akaash,” Bokuto murmured. “I like Yukie a lot, but… I don’t think I love her the way I love you. ‘Cause when I hugged her and kissed her and held her hand, it was okay. But… It never felt the same as when I do all that stuff with you.”

“Well, I’m glad,” Akaashi said, trying not to sound as relieved as he felt.

“And you know, she always tried to sort of show me what to do, like when it came to kissing and stuff, but… I dunno, it never really worked. But when you show me, I just… I get it, and… And I like it…”

“Mhm,” Akaashi hummed.

“And I only ever kissed her once, that time we came up with the rule,” Bokuto continued, starting to ramble now. “She was usually the one who kissed me. And it just… I didn’t want to kiss her when she wasn’t there. But, with you… I… I think about it all the time.”

His face seemed to be heating up as his confession continued, and Akaashi took pity on him, leaning up to plant a gentle kiss against the corner of his mouth.

“I think about it all the time, too,” Akaashi admitted.

“Y-yeah?”

“How about we change the rule,” Akaashi suggested. “As long as it’s just the two of us, you don’t have to ask to kiss me.”

Bokuto perked up immediately. “Really?” he asked.

“Really.”

Akaashi barely had time to blink before Bokuto leaned forward and pressed his mouth against Akaashi’s. It was gentler than the first time Bokuto kissed him, still full of excitement but much less bruising. And this time, his tongue slipped over Akaashi’s lips, dipped into Akaashi’s mouth, and twined with Akaashi’s tongue.

Akaashi’s worry faded away as he lost himself in Bokuto’s kiss. They would figure out what Bokuto liked. They would discover the intimacy he enjoyed. Akaashi would gently guide him, leading him by the hand into the unknown.

They would figure it out together.

Chapter Text

After the audit from hell, Akaashi was sure that he would relish the time at work he could spend bored. But by the beginning of June, he was starting to miss having enough work to pass the time. He’d been coming in a few hours late every day and staying a little later, but there were never enough things to fill the whole day. In the evenings, he’d started exploring the neighborhood around the building and even managed to find a few pretty good restaurants. But today, he wouldn’t be going anywhere.

“It hasn’t stopped raining all day,” Konoha grumbled as he shuffled back into the cubicle and threw himself down onto his chair.

“Thanks for the update,” Tsukishima murmured, staring down at his phone.

“I was just stating a fact,” Konoha snapped. “It’s still raining.”

“And now, sports.”

Konoha practically growled. “Seriously, is sarcastic your default setting? You should come with a user’s manual, I’d love to know how to turn that off.”

“Jesus, stop fighting,” Sarukui interjected. He turned toward Akaashi expectantly. “We can leave, right?”

“Please,” Akaashi murmured. He hadn’t moved from his spot at his desk in almost an hour, with his elbow propped up on the desk and his chin resting in his palm.

“Akaashi-san, you know you could leave when we do and no one would say anything, right?” Komi noted as he hoisted his bag over his shoulder.

“I… Still have some work to do,” Akaashi replied.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Tsukishima turned his mischievous golden eyes on Akaashi, a smirk pulling at his mouth. “Must be some very important work to be keeping you here late every night.”

Akaashi resisted the urge to glare at him. “Enjoy your evening,” he replied.

Tsukishima actually laughed, earning a confused look from Yamaguchi. But he said nothing as he filed out of the cubicle. The others followed, muttering hasty goodbyes to Akaashi as they passed.

Akaashi really had saved a little bit of work for when everyone was gone, knowing that he would be more bored without the entertainment. He waited until the office emptied out to fire up his computer and slowly, very slowly, go through the May assets statements Oikawa had sent him. Considering how prompt Oikawa was now that he’d found his groove, and considering the extra work Akaashi was doing to pass the time, they would have the next audit done before it even started.

He managed to stretch the work out until about 20:30, and only after taking a break every ten minutes to stand up and walk around the empty office. The rain outside was relentless, and Akaashi watched it drip in rivulets down the windows. He had the fleeting thought that maybe the rain would keep Bokuto away. But then, it was gone. Bokuto would be downstairs at 22:00. No matter what.

Akaashi rolled his chair out into the main area of the office to look out the enormous wall of windows. It was a nice view as he ate the bento he’d bought on his way to work. A vast expanse of the city stretched out before him, and it was a rare view of the skyline blurred by heavy rain. It really was beautiful.

In fact, everything felt a lot more beautiful lately.

By 21:15, Akaashi was heading down to the lobby and settling himself in his usual chair. It was still too early, but he was going stir crazy in the office. He brought out a book from his bag, but realized a few minutes in that he wasn’t really reading it, just staring blankly at the pages. He was impatient, glancing down at his watch constantly. Was it stuck? He actually tapped on the face, hoping to speed it along.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he practically dropped it in his haste to pull it out.

>>[Kuroo]: I’m suffering.

Akaashi just shook his head.

>>[Akaashi]: That’s nice.

The next message that came in was a picture—a very grainy picture obviously taken by someone trying to be discrete. The angle looked like it had been taken from underneath a table. Akaashi could just barely make out a head of blonde hair and a flash of silver piercings, along with another distinctly human-like shape, and… Oh.

>>[Akaashi]: Terushima-kun seems to be enjoying his evening.

>>[Kuroo]: He literally only talked to this guy for five minutes and now he’s grabbing at his dick. Who does that?

>>[Akaashi]: How long did it take before the two of you were fooling around?

Kuroo’s response took a little longer to come in this time.

>>[Kuroo]: That’s not the point. I’m madly in love with him. This dude doesn’t mean shit. Yuuji’s just doing this because he knows I’m watching.

>>[Akaashi]: I sincerely doubt that’s the case. If he’s still under the impression that the two of you aren’t exclusive, why shouldn’t he be enjoying himself?

That didn’t feel like enough. Akaashi scowled as he typed another message.

>>[Akaashi]: Didn’t you tell me that I just had to be honest about my feelings and things would work out for me? Well, you were right. So why haven’t you taken your own advice?

Akaashi could practically see Kuroo sitting in the dimly lit bar, mumbling to himself as he read Akaashi’s text.

>>[Kuroo]: Whatever. I’m leaving. Are you still at work?

>>[Akaashi]: Yes?

“Hey, hey, Akaash!”

Akaashi looked up from his phone and sighed—actually sighed—at the sight of the man standing above him. All the waiting, the boredom, the judgmental looks from Tsukishima and concerned stars of his colleagues—it was all worth it.

“Hello, Bokuto-san.”

The umbrella he’d probably left at the front door had done little in the way of keeping Bokuto dry. There was water wetting down his hair, trickling down his skin, darkening his clothes. But it hadn’t dulled his bright smile. “How was your day?” he asked, rolling lightly on the balls of his feet. It wasn’t from anxiety now, just a force of habit.

Akaashi slipped his phone back in his pocket. “Very good. And yours?”

“It was okay,” Bokuto shrugged. “I wrote another song, but I didn’t like it. It just didn’t feel right.”

“Would you like to play it for me?”

Bokuto shook his head. “Not yet,” he murmured. “Not until it’s good. But I can play you something else. Is… Is that okay?”

“Of course! Play me whatever you’d like.”

Akaashi was sure the song was perfect—as if Bokuto could play anything but. Still, he didn’t refute the older man. Bokuto would play it for him when he was ready. He always did.

Tonight’s song was more mellow than usual, probably to match the weather. A less intense song meant Akaashi could enjoy Bokuto’s subtler movements—the stretch of his arms as they reached the lowest register, the way the muscles moved beneath his skin. He was so built, shockingly so, all solid musculature and well-honed strength. But he was in complete control of his body when he was in front of the piano.

Akaashi found himself distracted by a view of Bokuto he’d never had before. His hair was pressed almost flat to his head, the gel proving useless against the onslaught of rain. Droplets were hanging from the tips and starting to work their way down his neck. Akaashi’s eyes followed one particularly large droplet down his spine until it disappeared down the back of his shirt. And then another. And another…

As the song reached a sudden peak, Akaashi realized he hadn’t blinked in a while. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His shaky exhale was more than concerning.

When the song ended and Bokuto turned his appraising eyes on Akaashi, the younger man found it difficult to form a rational thought. His mouth opened and closed uselessly.

“Was… Was it okay?” Bokuto asked tentatively.

“Y-yes,” Akaashi spluttered, blinking rapidly. “Perfect. As always.”

That seemed to make him feel better, but still, he looked worried. “Are you okay?” he pressed.

“Yes, I’m fine,” Akaashi nodded. He tried to sound reassuring, even though he was quite sure his voice was shaking.

Bokuto seemed appeased though, that easy smile retuning to his face as he stood from the piano bench and made his way toward Akaashi. He fell into the chair with a soft thump.

The routine was normal at first, Akaashi running his fingers up and down Bokuto’s arms and eventually threading their fingers together. Usually, Bokuto told Akaashi about his day, from the most menial stories to the most important. But tonight, he was quiet. His eyes followed Akaashi’s thumb as it glided over his knuckles.

“Are you okay, Bokuto-san?” Akaashi asked gently.

“Um…” His teeth worried his bottom lip. “We… We booked my next performance for the beginning of August… It was… Short notice, but… They had a spot open…”

“Ah.” So there was something wrong. He was nervous. Maybe even terrified. But he seemed markedly calmer than Akaashi would have imagined. “Would you allow me to come to that show too?”

Bokuto’s eyes snapped up to Akaashi, wide with… Anticipation? Surprise? Something…

“Do you really want to?” he asked.

“Of course I do,” Akaashi tried to fight back a chuckle. “I’ll take every opportunity I can to hear you play. But I can buy my own ticket, I hate for you to—“

“NO!” Bokuto exclaimed. “I can get it for you! It isn’t a problem!”

“That’s very generous of you,” Akaashi conceded.

“But… You… You really want to come?” Bokuto murmured.

Akaashi slipped one of his hands from Bokuto’s grip, gliding it up his arm, his shoulder, his neck, coming to rest against his cheek. Bokuto leaned into the touch unthinkingly.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Akaashi replied.

Akaashi had only a second’s warning before Bokuto leaned forward and pressed his lips to Akaashi’s. His kisses were no longer bruising, but they still had the same power behind them. Akaashi wasn’t sure how, but their lips seemed to slot perfectly together. His gentle guidance and Bokuto’s tenacity had allowed them to perfect this kiss. Tonight, Bokuto’s tongue was the more insistent, and it licked feverishly inside Akaashi’s mouth, tasting every inch. Akaashi let his fingers drift up to twine in Bokuto’s damp hair. It was more pliant than usual, allowing him to grip and tug as he liked.

Bokuto’s mouth detached from Akaashi’s with a sharp gasp. At first Akaashi wondered if maybe he’d done something wrong. But the shudder that rippled through Bokuto clearly said otherwise. Akaashi gave another gentle tug and earned another full body tremor.

“Akaashi,” Bokuto gasped.

Oh. Akaashi liked that. He caught Bokuto’s lips in another kiss, more feverish, far less composed. This time, their tongues met in the middle. Akaashi sucked on the tip of Bokuto’s tongue.

And Bokuto moaned. Loudly.

The sound was muffled into Akaashi’s mouth and traveled straight down his spine toward his…

Oh… This was bad.

Despite the haze of pleasure, Tsukishima’s teasing words from a few months ago returned to him with a start.

You know other people can see you in the lobby, right?

This time Akaashi was the one to pull away, tilting his head to the left and trying to fill his burning lungs with air. There was no one watching them, thankfully—there never seemed to be, but apparently Bokuto’s music occasionally attracted attention. He could hear Bokuto’s heavy, shaking breaths across from him. A quick glance showed him that Bokuto’s eyes were pressed shut and his face was flushed. Akaashi couldn’t look for too long. He would get swept away again.

“S-sorry,” Bokuto stammered.

“It’s… It’s alright,” Akaashi managed. “That was… Very good.”

“Yeah. You’re right.”

When they both managed to compose themselves, they stood up and headed into the main part of the lobby. It was completely deserted. Even the security guard was gone, probably making his rounds.

“Hey, hey, Akaash?”

Akaashi looked over at Bokuto and saw the older man watching him closely. “Yes?” he asked.

“Do you think you’ll still come over this weekend?”

Akaashi smiled up at him, trying to ease that nervous expression on his face. “Of course,” he replied. “We’ll finally make it through that movie.”

“Yeah,” Bokuto nodded. “We’ll make it through this time.”

Akaashi glanced toward the elevators, making sure the security guard really was gone. Then he leaned up toward Bokuto, resting a hand against his chest and pressing another quick kiss to his lips. Bokuto seemed surprised, but closed his eyes nonetheless. Akaashi pulled back before things could heat up again. He spared Bokuto one more quick smile, then turned back toward the door.

And found himself staring right into Kuroo’s dumbfounded, excited face.

“Oh god,” Akaashi murmured.

Next to him, Bokuto’s entire body tensed. His eyes grew wide, almost fearful as they fell on the man outside. And with good reason. Kuroo practically had his face pressed to the glass, an almost manic smile on his face. His hair was stuck to his head, heavy with rain. Akaashi could see his car on the curb a few feet behind him.

“Wh-who’s that?” Bokuto stuttered.

“I’m sorry,” Akaashi turned to him again, reaching for his arms to relax him. “That’s my neighbor, I’m… Not sure why he’s here. If you’d rather not meet him, I’ll go out first.”

Bokuto seemed to be chewing on his tongue. His eyes were darting from Akaashi to the crazy man outside. Searching for any hint of danger. Any hint of a lie. Akaashi slipped one of his hands in Bokuto’s again. Then, slowly, Bokuto nodded.

“If he’s your friend… Then I think it’s okay,” he said slowly.

“Are you sure?”

“Y-yeah.”

Since Bokuto showed no intention of letting go of Akaashi’s hand, together they made their way toward the door. Akaashi shot Kuroo a warning look, and by some miracle, it seemed Kuroo understood. He straightened up and tried to shake some of the rain out of his hair. With one more weary look toward Bokuto, Akaashi opened the door.

“Wow, I can’t believe it’s raining so hard,” Kuroo murmured, stepping inside and letting the door close behind him.

“Kuroo-san, what are you doing here?” Akaashi asked.

“Did you read your messages? I’m here to pick you up so you don’t have to walk home,” Kuroo explained, wringing out his sleeve. “And what a treat this is. You must be Bokuto, right?”

Bokuto stiffened up a bit more, but he nodded in response. Akaashi gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, and Bokuto squeezed back.

“U-um, you’re… Kuroo?” Bokuto mumbled. His eyes darted over Kuroo, never focusing, never stilling even for a second.

Kuroo stuffed his hands in his pockets, grimacing at the pool of water he probably found inside them. “Yup, that’s me!” he replied. “I’ve really been looking forward to meeting you, you know.”

“R-really?” Bokuto’s eyes flicked to Kuroo’s face, halting briefly. Then they were on the move again.

“Oh yeah,” Kuroo nodded. “’Kaash doesn’t date. Like, ever. So I figured you had to be a cool guy.”

This time Bokuto’s eyes held a little longer on Kuroo’s face before darting away. Now, there was a very, very small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Thanks,” he mumbled. “Um… So… You’re Akaashi’s neighbor? You have cats, right?”

“Ah, no, that’s Kenma and Hinata,” Kuroo waved that off. “I don’t think I could have cats, they’d probably eat all the crap I leave out. Can acrylic paints kill a cat?”

“Yes,” Bokuto replied without hesitation.

“Well, there you go,” Kuroo said. “Better not let Tomoe and Nanami come over.”

“As if Kenma would ever let his cats inside your apartment,” Akaashi scoffed.

“So… Do you paint?” Bokuto asked.

Kuroo puffed up his chest proudly. “You got it. By dark of night, I’m a starving artist.”

“And by darker of night?” Akaashi teased.

“A man of mystery,” Kuroo laughed.

“Um… What… What kind of things do you paint?” Bokuto seemed to be studying Kuroo now, and it reminded Akaashi of the first night they met all those months ago.

“Well, I really used to do a lot of landscapes and still life, back in the days of my youth,” Kuroo explained. “But a couple years ago I got really into figures and portraits, and that’s sort of my favorite now. I just really like movement and expressions and getting them just right.”

“That’s really cool,” Bokuto marveled. He sounded like he meant it.

Kuroo’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Thanks! Most people just tell me to stick to my day job. Well, night job I guess.”

“I think that’s really cool,” Bokuto asserted.

“Ah, I knew you were a cool guy,” Kuroo said. “Do you want a ride? I have my car outside.”

“No, I… I like to walk,” Bokuto replied.

“Stay dry,” Akaashi said. “And let me know when you’re home.”

“I will.”

Akaashi reluctantly let go of Bokuto’s hand, allowing the older man to collect his umbrella and sidle past Kuroo toward the door. But with his hand on the handle, he hesitated.

“Um, K-Kuroo, do you think… I could come see your art sometime?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Hell yeah!” Kuroo exclaimed. “Anytime you want!”

“Cool,” Bokuto nodded. And the smile he threw over his shoulder was so genuine, it actually made Akaashi’s heart stutter again.

Once he was gone, Kuroo turned his enormous smirk on Akaashi. “Like, seriously? He’s awesome.”

“You… Did very well with him,” Akaashi couldn’t hide his awe.

“I remembered you said he doesn’t like to talk about the performing stuff, and he’s uncomfortable with the touching until he knows you better. I mean, he’s not really hard to read,” Kuroo shrugged.

If anything, that only made Akaashi’s awe grow. Together, they headed outside and into Kuroo’s car, and he sped off from the curb.

“Sooooooooo…” Kuroo crooned.

“Please elaborate.”

“How are things going with you guys?”

“It seems to be going well,” Akaashi noted.

“Seems to be?” Kuroo repeated with a quirk of his brow.

Akaashi sighed. Loath though he was to admit it, Kuroo was good with the advice. And he felt like he needed some.

“Bokuto-san and I have started getting… Physical. And it’s good. Even what little we’ve done is very, very good. But… In his last relationship, he wasn’t comfortable with some of the things they did. He didn’t feel comfortable touching her. And now… I’m worried.”

“What else is new?” Kuroo scoffed.

“This is a legitimate worry,” Akaashi countered. “I don’t have a problem with his preferences. I want him to be comfortable. I’m afraid I’ll take things too far without meaning to.”

“So, you’re afraid you’ll get too into it and freak him out?”

“Essentially,” Akaashi replied.

Kuroo glanced over his shoulder as he shifted into the right lane. “You know, Ken might be able to help you out with this,” he noted.

“It’s a bit different situation though, isn’t it?”

“Probably worth a shot though.”

Fifteen minutes later, they found themselves being ushered into the apartment by a very excited Hinata. Behind him, Kenma was seated on the couch, legs curled up beneath him and laptop perched precariously on one thigh. He acknowledged them with a glance.

“Come on in!” Hinata cheered. “We’re watching a movie! Want to watch with us?”

“’Kaash actually needs some advice,” Kuroo said, slipping off his shoes and immediately sinking to the floor to get face to face with one of the cats.

“Well, come on! Come sit down!” Hinata pressed.

Hinata practically bounded back to the couch and flopped down next to Kenma. The laptop would’ve slipped from Kenma’s leg if he hadn’t steadied it just in time. He leaned against Hinata without missing a beat, pressing his shoulder into the smaller man’s arm.

“What sort of advice do you need?” Kenma asked, still tapping at the keys of his keyboard.

“It’s… Relationship oriented,” Akaashi replied, taking a seat on the floor across from them.

Kenma’s appraising eyes snapped up to meet Akaashi’s gaze. He shifted the laptop to the empty cushion on his left and devoted his attention entirely to Akaashi.

“Ask away!” Hinata cheered.

“Well, it’s… It’s about Bokuto-san,” Akaashi began.

The rest of the room listened to Akaashi with rapt attention. Even Hinata seemed more subdued than usual. Kuroo was practically spooning with the cat now, lying on his back and looking up at Akaashi as he spoke.

“So, you’re worried that he’ll think you’re pushing him if you get carried away,” Kenma said.

“Yes,” Akaashi nodded. “And Kuroo and I thought, if you were comfortable, you might have some advice.”

“We can talk about it, right?” Hinata asked, glancing at the blonde against his shoulder.

Kenma’s eyes didn’t waver from Akaashi as he nodded slowly.

“I appreciate it,” Akaashi said.

“Well, when Kenma told me he was asexual, I wasn’t sure what it meant, so I looked it up,” Hinata began. “And I didn’t care about any of that, ‘cause that’s not why I fell in love with him, you know? But once we were together for a while, I think we both got curious, so we started trying some things. And we actually found a few things Kenma likes, and a few things he doesn’t mind, and a lot he doesn’t.”

“And the things I do like are only because I’m with Shouyou,” Kenma cut in. “If I were with anyone else, I don’t think I’d like them.”

“That’s…” Hinata’s brows furrowed in deep concentration. “Demisexual, right?”

“Right.”

“I’m still learning things,” Hinata laughed.

“So, what does that mean?” Kuroo asked, tipping his head toward the two on the couch.

“It takes an emotional connection before the sexual attraction can form,” Kenma explained. “And an emotional connection doesn’t mean sexual attraction has to happen. It just won’t happen if there isn’t that connection.”

“That’s actually super interesting,” Kuroo mused, returning his full attention to the cat on his chest.

“Have you talked to him about this yet?” Kenma asked Akaashi.

“He’s told me that our relationship feels very different from his previous one. But… I’m worried we’ll go too far, and if we do, there may be no going back.”

“You know,” Hinata piped up, “we really did have to learn from experience. And finding out the things Kenma didn’t like actually made me feel closer to him. Since we learned it together, it was sort of special.”

Akaashi opened his mouth to reply, but no words came out. He hadn’t expected something so profound from Hianta. At that moment, his phone buzzed in his pocket.

>>[Bokuto]: Hey, hey, Akaash! I made him home! I made it a while ago actually, but Suga stopped me for a little bit. But I’m home now!

Akaashi held his phone up and took a picture of the cat happily purring on Kuroo’s chest. He sent it to Bokuto with a message attached.

>>[Akaashi]: I’m glad you’re safe. Also, Kuroo may not own cats, but he certainly does like them. That one’s Nanami.

“I appreciate the advice,” Akaashi said, letting his phone fall into his lap. “It’s been very helpful.”

“No problem,” Hinata and Kenma replied in unison, with varying degrees of excitement.

Bokuto’s reply came in quickly.

>>[Bokuto]: SHE’S AMAZING! LOOK AT HER MITTEN PAWS! And Kuroo seems cool, I really would like to see his art sometime.

Akaashi felt that familiar rush of affection for Bokuto, the one he got when the older man did something sweet or surprising or… Really anything. Akaashi couldn’t overthink this. Not when it came to Bokuto.

 


 

“Bokuto-san… Are you sure about this?” Akaashi asked tentatively.

“Y-yeah… I want it…”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Bokuto nodded.

Akaashi flipped the card over. It was a 10. Bokuto hit 22 and busted.

“NO!” he cried, dropping his head onto the table.

Akaashi couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped his lips. “What on earth made you pant to play blackjack?” he asked.

“There was a show about it on tv yesterday,” Bokuto explained, his voice muffled against the table. “But it’s a lot harder than I thought.”

“It’s a lot about luck, too,” Akaashi reasoned, gathering the cards into a pile. “The people who play professionally practice for years to get good enough for actual competitions.”

“Where did you learn to play?” Bokuto asked, lifting his head to peer up at Akaashi.

“Ah… Well… A boyfriend in college wanted to teach me,” Akaashi explained. “He wasn’t a very good teacher, and he didn’t like it very much when I beat him.”

“Well, you are pretty good,” Bokuto noted.

“Should we do something else?” Akaashi asked. “Maybe finally watch our movie?”

Bokuto nodded. “We’ll finally finish it tonight,” he asserted as he gathered up their dessert plates.

“Yes. We’ll finish it,” Akaashi repeated.

Since their second date a few months ago, they’d been making every effort to finish the movie they’d started that night—something popular Akaashi had never heard of but deemed interesting enough. They hadn’t managed to make it more than twenty minutes in before finding themselves thoroughly distracted.

Tonight, they didn’t even make it five.

How could Akaashi resist when Bokuto nervously slipped one of those strong arms over his shoulders, pulling Akaashi a little closer? And how could he ignore that blush creeping across his face as he tried to look anywhere but at Akaashi?

Akaashi reached for his face, tilting his chin down and pressing their lips together. Bokuto’s nervousness melted at the contact, pushing a sigh into Akaashi’s mouth. Akaashi angled himself closer, pulling Bokuto in deeper. His tongue dipped into Bokuto’s mouth, savoring the warmth it brought. That familiar shudder worked through Bokuto’s body. Akaashi threaded his fingers in Bokuto’s hair, tugging at the multicolored locks. Just like last time, he ripped away again, drawing a sharp inhale.

“Akaashi,” he moaned.

“Do you like when I do that?” Akaashi asked.

“Y-yes,” Bokuto huffed.

“Bokuto-san, I…” Akaashi swallowed the lump in his throat. “I would like to try some things, to see what you might be comfortable with. But only if that’s what you want.”

Bokuto didn’t hesitate, his vigorous nod betraying his obvious excitement. “I do. Yeah. Please.”

Slowly, Akaashi shifted onto his knees. “Tell me if you don’t like this,” he murmured. He swung one leg wide, dropping it onto the couch so a knee rested on either side of Boktuo. He lowered himself down onto Bokuto’s lap, making sure not to put too much weight on him.

Bokuto’s eyes were wide, but he wasn’t nervous. He looked almost awestruck.

“Is this okay?” Akaashi asked.

“Yeah, yes, it’s… It’s good,” Bokuto muttered. “Um… I… I can touch you, right?”

“Of course.”

Bokuto’s shaky hands came to rest against Akaashi’s hips. His thumbs rolled up two pointed hipbones.

“Could I take this off?” Akaashi asked, tugging at Bokuto’s t-shirt.

Akaashi received a tremulous nod, but it wasn’t hesitant. Nothing about this moment felt hesitant. Akaashi gripped the hem of Bokuto’s shirt and lifted slowly, revealing inch by inch of hardened muscle. Bokuto lifted his arms and let the material slide over them, and it only stuck around his hair for a second.

The sight of Bokuto beneath him was truly something to behold.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi murmured. “I know this may not be the most opportune moment to ask, but… Do you work out?”

“Oh… Yeah, I do,” Bokuto replied. “When I get nervous, I’m supposed to go and run. There’s a treadmill and weights in the… In the extra room.”

Akaashi let his fingers drift over those broad shoulders, the same light touch he used when he ran them up Bokuto’s arms. Bokuto trembled under them, his fingers gripping Akaashi tighter. Akaashi let his fingers drift over the hard contours of his chest, down his sternum, through the valleys in his abdomen.

Akaashi had the fleeting thought that he wanted to run his tongue over those abs.

But… That might have to wait a while…

Akaashi’s eyes trailed further down toward the very obvious tent in Bokuto’s shorts. He let his hips roll forward, grinding himself against Bokuto’s pelvis. This time, Bokuto hissed. There was no shudder this time.

“Don’t like that?” Akaashi asked.

“It’s not bad, just… Just too tight,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Got it,” Akaashi nodded.

“But it’s not… I do like… I do want you to…” Bokuto stuttered, struggling to find the words.

“Do you want me to touch you?”

Bokuto’s wide eyes looked up at Akaashi, and again, there was no hesitation as he nodded. Akaashi drifted his fingers down toward the waistband of his shorts. He popped open the button, dragging the zipper down tooth by tooth. Bokuto lifted his hips to let Akaashi slide them down just enough. Then Akaashi reached inside, and the instant his hand wrapped around Bokuto’s cock, he gasped. The most violent tremor yet rocked through his body.

“A-Akaashi,” he groaned.

Akaashi pulled Bokuto free of his shorts, and the cold air made Bokuto groan again. When Akaashi’s thumb rolled over the slick head, Bokuto actually grunted.

“Is that good?” Akaashi asked breathlessly.

“T-t-tighter,” Bokuto gasped.

Akaashi adjusted his grip, and Bokuto had to lean forward, resting his head against Akaashi’s shoulder. Slowly, Akaashi began a steady series of pumps, listening to Bokuto’s breathing. He paid attention to every hitch, every gasp. He wanted to do this right.

But then, calloused fingers were slipping beneath the hem of his shirt, dipping into the waistband of his pants.

“Bokuto-san,” he murmured.

“You… You said I can touch you too, right?” Bokuto asked.

“You don’t have to…”

Bokuto tipped his head back to glance up at Akaashi. His pupils were blown wide with pleasure, his mouth hanging slack. “I want to,” he huffed. “I… I really want to.”

No hesitation. There was nothing hesitant about that look in his eyes. Akaashi didn’t hesitate either. “Go ahead,” he sighed. “I want you to.”

Bokuto’s trembling fingers unbuttoned Akaashi’s pants, and he slipped them down as far as the angle would allow. It was more than enough. Bokuto’s hand wrapped around Akaashi’s length and pulled it from his boxers. Akaashi couldn’t hold back a grunt.

“Is that… Okay?” Bokuto asked.

“N-not so tight,” Akaashi gasped.

“Sorry.”

Bokuto’s grip loosened to one a little less damaging, and Akaashi sighed at the sensation. He leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Bokuto’s, sucking his bottom lip between his own.

Despite the haze of pleasure clouding his brain, Bokuto seemed to be mimicking Akaashi’s movements. Every pass of Akaashi’s thumb over Bokuto’s cock earned the similar action from Bokuto. They’d matched rhythms, hands pumping in time with one another. Bokuto’s hips were working up into Akaashi’s hand now. Bokuto’s free hand slipped beneath Akaashi’s shirt, resting against the small of his back. The pads of Bokuto’s fingers rolled over the bumps of his spine.

“A-Akaashi,” Bokuto groaned into the younger man’s mouth. “You’re… S-so good…”

“You too,” Akaashi panted. “Don’t stop.”

Their mouths pressed together again, but it wasn’t a kiss, just moaning muffled by tongues. Akaashi’s chest was heaving. There wasn’t enough air in the world to fill his lungs. And now Bokuto’s hand was losing control, his pumps dropping out of rhythm. Or was that because of Akaashi’s hips, now stuttering upward? Probably both. A particularly mistimed pump sent a jolt up Akaashi’s spine, and he bit down on Bokuto’s lip.

“Ah!” That was all it took for Bokuto to cum hot and hard over Akaashi’s hand. “Akaashi! Ah! Please! Don’t stop!”

Akaashi couldn’t come up with words, the only thing escaping his lips small, prominent gasps in time with each draw of Bokuto’s hand. And then he was cumming too, gasping Bokuto’s name into his mouth. Their hands stilled together, and Bokuto pressed his forehead to Akaashi’s. All Akaashi could do was shiver and gasp against Bokuto, his body hypersensitive, shockwaves still rolling through his entire being.

“Akaash,” Bokuto panted. “That… That was… So good. You’re so good.”

“You are too,” Akaashi managed. “Very good.”

“Akaashi, I…” Bokuto struggled to come up with words. “I love you so much. And… And I really like touching you.”

“I’m so glad,” Akaashi sighed. “And I love you too. So much.”

“We can… Um… We can do that more, right?” Bokuto asked. His eyes widened suddenly. “I mean, not right now. But, just… Later. Another time, you know?”

“Of course we can,” Akaashi smiled, pressing a lingering kiss to Bokuto’s lips. “I’d like that very much, actually.”

“Good,” Bokuto murmured. “’Cause with you, it’s… It’s amazing.”

Akaashi would have to thank Hinata when he got home. Who would’ve known that the small orange blur was actually a modern-day prophet?

Chapter Text

“Remind me again why I had to be the one to come with you,” Akaashi drawled. The faux-leather seat he was in stuck to his sweat-slicked skin, and he wondered if maybe he might actually melt.

Behind the wheel, Kuroo just laughed. “You have the misfortune of being the only other person I know with a driver’s license,” he explained.

“Yes, but Kuroo,” Akaashi countered. “It’s hot.”

“I can’t control that.”

“Why don’t you just park the car somewhere and walk to the building?” Akaashi asked.

“I had a meeting in this building last year, and I had to park so far away that I ended up being 45 minutes late. I left in plenty of time too,” he replied. “Plus, if it goes well, they want the prints right away. Would you really make me walk all the way back to the car and all the way back to the building in this heat?”

“No, that’s true, you’d probably just collapse after the first eight steps,” Akaashi conceded.

Kuroo scoffed loudly. “I can’t help it if I’m essentially a cat.”

Akaashi tried to unstick himself from the seat, only succeeding in practically tearing his skin off. It was so hot. And Kuroo’s car didn’t have air conditioning. Decidedly not the way Akaashi wanted to spend his Thursday afternoon.

“I’m…” Kuroo started. His hands curled around the steering wheel, eyes never leaving the road. “I’m nervous.”

“But they’re interested in your work, aren’t they?” Akaashi asked, inclining his head toward Kuroo. “They wouldn’t want to meet with you otherwise.”

“Interested in my work is a lot different than actually buying my stuff,” Kuroo murmured. “Until my paintings are in their hands and hanging on their walls, it’s all just talk.”

“I think it’ll go well,” Akaashi said.

Kuroo’s face contorted into a grimace. “Your baseless confidence should be comforting.”

“It isn’t baseless. I know I’m not the ultimate authority, but I like your art,” Akaashi argued. “I could do without you making me look at Terushima’s nude portraits, but the other stuff is good.”

“Thanks,” Kuroo murmured.

“And I don’t say that to placate you, I’d tell you if I thought it was awful.”

That seemed to cheer Kuroo up, even if only a little.

Kuroo double-parked in front of the building, and Akaashi immediately understood why he’d been asked to come. Every spot for what looked like the next three blocks was occupied—and that was just what he could see. He climbed over the center console into the driver’s seat, and Kuroo leaned down and stuck his face in the window.

“I’ll call you once I’m finished,” Kuroo muttered.

“Deep breaths,” Akaashi replied.

Kuroo gave Akaashi a curt nod and what was probably meant to be a smile—though it looked more like Kuroo needed to use the bathroom. He headed into the building with his portfolio tucked under his arm, and Akaashi sped off down the street. After driving around for 15 minutes, he understood why Kuroo had asked for this favor. Every spot within walking distance was occupied. It took him even longer to find a place to park that was mildly shaded. By the time he put the car in park, he realized he was probably miles from the building. He rolled down the windows before shutting off the ignition and leaning the seat back.

After two minutes of mapping the sweat that trailed down his neck, he realized this would be torture without a distraction. So, he fished his phone from his pocket—a great endeavor considering his pants were literally stuck to his clammy body—and dialed the first number in his contacts.

“Hey, hey, Akaash!”

“Hello, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi sighed, settling back in the seat. He was hot, sticky, and uncomfortable. And still, that voice made him smile.

“Is everything okay?”

“Of course,” Akaashi replied. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“You never call me during the day, so I thought maybe something was wrong at work.”

“Oh, no, everything’s fine. Kuroo asked me last night if I would help him run an errand today, so I took the day off of work,” Akaashi explained. “But I was still planning on coming out tonight.”

“Oh, that’s cool,” Bokuto said. Akaashi could hear the sounds of traffic on the other end. He was probably on his way to the store. “Is it for his art?” Bokuto asked.

“Yes, he’s got a potential buyer for some of his stuff. He didn’t tell me much about it. I think he’s trying not to get his hopes up in case it doesn’t go well.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” Bokuto replied.

“What are you up to?” Akaashi asked. He shifted in his seat, and he was sure it peeled off the epidermis on his arm.

“I worked on some music this morning, and now I’m going to get stuff to make my lunch.”

“Any plans for the afternoon?”

“Not really, I just have to feed Suga’s cat dinner,” Bokuto said.

“Would you care for some company?”

“You mean, like… You?”

Akaashi couldn’t help but laugh. “Yes, if you didn’t have plans, I thought we could spend the afternoon together. We could walk to the office together tonight if you want.”

Bokuto was quiet. Akaashi wondered if he should’ve given him more warning.

“Hey, Akaash, can I ask you something?”

“You can ask me anything.”

“Does… Does it bother you that we don’t really… Go anywhere?” His voice sounded so small, so unsure. How long had this been bothering him?

“Of course it doesn’t bother me,” Akaashi replied.

“Well,” Bokuto pressed on, “it’s just… I know I don’t really go new places very often, ‘cause I get so nervous. And I know I’m pretty boring, so if you want to, we can go somewhere, I would do it if it’s for you, and if you’re there I don’t think I’d be so nervous. Every time we hang out it’s at my apartment, and if you were getting bored of that or bored of being with just me…”

Akaashi let Bokuto talk himself breathless before stepping in. “Bokuto-san, I don’t care what we do. I just like spending time with you. And quite honestly, I’m not the type for elaborate dates anyway.”

There was silence again. Then, Bokuto sighed. “Yeah, I’d like to see you. Want to eat lunch together? I could even get one of those crossword books and we could do one together.”

“I’d love that,” Akaashi sighed. “I’ll come by as soon as I’m finished.”

“Cool… Um… I… I love you, Akaash.”

“I love you, too.”

Akaashi leaned his head back against the headrest. Every so often, he found himself overwhelmed by his affections for Bokuto. This was a new experience for him. He’d never loved anyone before, never even been with someone long enough to consider it. But even, still, this felt so different. Like it shouldn’t have been possible to love someone this much. They’d known each other for about nine months now. That wasn’t enough, right? He shouldn’t be this deeply in love with Bokuto…

Right?

His phone vibrating on his lap returned him to reality.

>>[Kuroo]: I’m done.

Oh, that wasn’t a good sign. Akaashi didn’t push it.

>>[Akaashi]: I’ll be right there.

His drive back to the building took longer than before, considering it was everyone’s lunch hour. He almost hit two people who decided to tempt the fates and walk straight into moving traffic. He pulled up in front of the building, enduring the series of honks from behind him.

A dejected Kuroo drew up to the car and climbed into the passenger seat. His door slammed behind him as Akaashi sped forward. He glared down at his portfolio with so much anger, it probably should’ve combusted. Akaashi said nothing. For a while, neither did Kuroo.

Should Akaashi find some words of comfort? Did he even know what to say in this situation? Sure, he’d had his share of rejection, but not when it came to something like this.

“I should’ve known better,” Kuroo mumbled suddenly.

“Don’t say that,” Akaashi countered.

“I don’t even know why I bother anymore,” Kuroo continued. “This is probably a sign, right? A sign that I should just stick to my day job… Well, I guess it’s my night job.”

“What did they say?” Akaashi asked.

“That I have amazing talent, and they’d contact me if they were interested in the future,” Kuroo quoted. “Meaning, these are pretty, but we don’t want them.”

“I’m sure that’s—“

“Do you know how many times I’ve heard that, ‘Kaash?” Kuroo cut him off. “And do you know how many times they’ve actually called?”

Akaashi didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t refute Kuroo, even if he thought he was wrong. He decided on, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Kuroo sighed, rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt. “This’ll just be a hobby. It’s a hobby for most people, right? I’ll spend the rest of my life seducing middle-aged women, pining after a guy who thinks I’m a good lay, and sitting alone in my living room painting like a weird hermit. It sounds like a dream.”

“I’ll sit with you sometimes, then you won’t have to be a hermit,” Akaashi conceded.

That managed to make Kuroo crack a smile, albeit a somewhat subdued one. “Thanks, ‘Kaash.”

“That’s the only problem I can do anything about. The pining is on you.”

“Way to rub salt in my wounds,” Kuroo groaned, throwing his head back against the headrest.

“I’m serious,” Akaashi insisted. “Your job is your job, and you can’t do anything about what other people think about your art. But the situation with Terushima-kun is easily remediable.”

“I’m dealing with one shattered dream, ‘Kaash. I don’t need a second one.”

Akaashi just shook his head. “Fine,” he murmured. “I’ll give you time to wallow, but I’m not going to let up on this.”

“Just because you’re in a happy, shiny relationship—“

“And you helped me get here, so I’m going to return the favor,” Akaashi cut him off. “Not today. Be miserable today.”

“Gee, thanks,” Kuroo deadpanned.

“You’re welcome.”

At a request from Akaashi, they dropped him off at the convenience store near Bokuto’s house. As Kuroo sidled into the driver’s seat, Akaashi stuck his head in the window.

“One day to wallow,” Akaashi said firmly. “Tomorrow we discuss strategy.”

“I got it,” Kuroo sighed.

Akaashi was almost inside the store when he heard Kuroo call his name. He turned to see the messy-haired man with his head sticking out the window.

“Thanks, ‘Kaash,” Kuroo yelled.

And this time, Akaashi knew he was serious. “You’re welcome,” he replied.

Akaashi picked up the vanilla cake, which had quickly become his standard gift for when he visited Bokuto. He pulled out his phone and shot a text to Bokuto telling him that he was almost to the apartment. The walk was short, and within minutes, he was drawing up to the building. But something in front of the apartments slowed his steps.

A man in a police uniform stood in front of the apartment. From a distance, it was hard to say, but he was probably a little shorter than Akaashi. Still, he was obviously muscular—his uniform couldn’t hide that at all. Akaashi could tell he was frowning, and he had his phone pressed to his ear. Slowly, he stepped forward and took the stairs up to the second floor.

Akaashi wasn’t sure why the sight of the cop made him nervous. For all he knew, the man probably lived here—Akaashi had never been here in the afternoon anyway, and maybe this was when the man happened to come home. Still, he hastened his steps, heading up to the second floor. The man was nowhere in sight. He’d either went up another floor or gone into one of the apartments.

The thought of Bokuto waiting for him pushed all thoughts of the cop from Akaashi’s mind, and he drew up to the door marked with the 4. Two knocks was all it took, and then Bokuto was standing before him, hair wavering slightly from the breeze of the door opening.

“Hey, hey, Akaash!” he cheered, his smile lighting up his face.

“Hello, Bokuto-san.”

Once the door was closed, Akaashi pulled Bokuto in for a kiss. It was soft and gentle and still managed to take Akaashi’s breath away. How did Bokuto do that to him, he wondered. He had to rest his hand against Bokuto’s chest to steady himself as he pulled away.

“Did’ja miss me, Akaash?” Bokuto asked.

“Of course I did,” Akaashi sighed.

“Cool. ‘Cause I missed you too, you know.”

Akaashi laughed. “Well, that’s good.”

“Do you want lunch? I made tonkatsu,” Bokuto suggested.

“That sounds fantastic.”

They sat at the table together, eating and working through a crossword puzzle. Bokuto was better at them than he gave himself credit for, and he seemed to know all the answers that Akaashi didn’t. And still, Bokuto was more amazed with Akaashi.

“Wow,” he marveled as Akaashi filled in another answer. “I didn’t know that one.” He’d said the same thing every time Akaashi got one right.

“You’ve known plenty that I didn’t,” Akaashi pointed out.

“Not as many as you.”

“About as many.”

Bokuto didn’t argue, just dropped his chin onto the table and watched the smooth trace of Akaashi’s fingers up and down his forearm. At this point, Akaashi did it on instinct, even when Bokuto wasn’t nervous. Bokuto’s eyes would follow the even movements of his hand like it was a metronome.

“Hey, Akaash,” he murmured, still watching Akaashi’s hand. “Are you… Are you sure you’re not bored of me?”

“Not at all,” Akaashi replied.

“Well, it’s just,” Bokuto continued, “I know it’s your day off, and maybe you might want to be doing something more exciting. But instead you’re just here with me, and you might be too nice to say anything, ‘cause you’re so nice to me.”

“This is the same thing I would be doing at my own apartment. It’s nice to be doing it with you though.”

When that didn’t seem to cheer Bokuto up, Akaashi leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his temple. At this, Bokuto managed a smile.

“How did Kuroo’s meeting go?” he asked. “Did he talk about it?”

“Ah, he did,” Akaashi replied, closing the book in front of him. “They weren’t interested. He was pretty upset.”

“Why weren’t they interested?” Bokuto asked, perking up immediately.

“I don’t think they said. But now he thinks he should just paint as a hobby and stop trying to sell his stuff. He thinks he’s horrible.”

Bokuto’s mouth scrunched up in thought. “Yeah, I understand that,” he conceded. “I always feel that way.”

“I think everything you play is perfect,” Akaashi pressed. “And all the people who come to your show think so too.”

“It just never feels that way,” Bokuto countered. “It never feels good enough. And I just want to be good enough… Kuroo probably feels that way too, huh?”

Akaashi opened his mouth to say something, but like with Kuroo, he realized he had no insight to offer. Never in his life had he offered up a piece of himself for critique the way they did. They had to feel so vulnerable, and to even get the slightest hint that people didn’t like it probably stung something fierce. Akaashi threaded his fingers with Bokuto’s, running his thumb over the knuckles.

“I still want to see his art sometime, even if he does just start doing it as a hobby,” Bokuto noted.

“You’re probably welcome anytime,” Akaashi said. “You could see my apartment then, too. If you wanted to, I mean.”

Bokuto’s expression lit up immediately. “Yeah, I want to do that. Can we do that soon?” he asked eagerly.

“Whenever you want,” Akaashi laughed.

They gathered up the dishes and took them into the kitchen. Bokuto always insisted he liked washing them, and Akaashi never argued with him. Truthfully, it was just another opportunity to admire Bokuto without him looking. Would he be embarrassed to know how much Akaashi liked the way his arms flexed as he moved the sponge around the bowls? Or to know how Akaashi was mesmerized by the pout of his mouth as he concentrated? How much Akaashi wanted to kiss that subtle pout every minute of every day?

Probably.

“Hey, Akaash?”

Akaashi was startled out of his stupor and noticed Bokuto watching him closely. “Yes?” he muttered.

“Do you want to go next door with me to feed Suga’s cat? She’s a cool cat, and she likes people a lot.” It seemed like Bokuto was trying to sell Akaashi on this.

“Of course I would,” Akaashi replied.

“Cool! I just… Um… Have to find the key,” Bokuto murmured.

That statement proved easier said than done. For as organized as Bokuto’s apartment was, the key seemed to have completely disappeared. They found themselves scouring through drawers, looking under furniture, even checking the pockets of Bokuto’s clothes.

“When was the last time you had it?” Akaashi asked, fumbling through the pockets of his jackets hanging in his closet.

“Um…” Bokuto hummed, searching through his hamper. “I guess last night, ‘cause I went over and fed Miki. I don’t remember where I put it though.”

“If you had it last night, it probably wouldn’t be in all the drawers we looked through,” Akaashi laughed.

Bokuto froze for a minute, then turned to look over his shoulder at Akaashi. His expression was sheepish. “I guess you’re probably right,” he conceded.

“Do you think you might’ve left it over there?” Akaashi asked.

“Yeah, probably,” Bokuto sighed. “I do that all the time. Um… I’ll message Suga, I guess. He used to keep a spare key in a little box above the doorframe. Do you think you could go check if it’s there?”

“Sure.”

Akaashi slipped on his shoes and headed outside. It was still just late afternoon, and the hum of traffic and people on the street below cut through the din. Akaashi made his way to Suga’s door and stepped up onto his toes to feel around for a key above the doorway. He groped blindly, and unsteady on his feet, he had to grab onto the handle to support himself. There was no key. But a jiggle of the handle on his way back down to the ground yielded an even better result: the door opened.

Well, it was better than he could’ve hoped.

Akaashi stepped inside. He’d check if the key was on the counter. If it wasn’t anywhere he could see, he’d just go back to Bokuto’s. The blinds were all drawn. He’d need some light. His hand groped around in the semi-darkness, found the light switch, and clicked it on.

Ah. There was the cop from earlier, frozen in shock and buried balls-deep inside Suga, who was naked and bent over his kitchen table. Two pairs of horror-filled brown eyes stared back at Akaashi. His mouth opened uselessly, his brain completely blank.

“Oh my god,” Suga murmured.

This snapped Akaashi back to reality. With a hastily yelled “I’m sorry,” he flipped the light switch off, slammed the door behind him, and practically sprinted back to Bokuto’s apartment.

Bokuto was just stepping into his shoes as Akaashi flew through the door. “Did you find it?” he asked.

“No,” Akaashi huffed.

“Oh, well that’s okay. Suga messaged me, he’s already home, so we don’t have to go over,” he replied calmly. His brows came together at the sight of Akaashi’s wide, terrified gaze. “Are you okay?”

“Oh my god,” Akaashi panted. “Bokuto-san, I think you have to move.”

“What? Why?” Bokuto asked, eyes growing as wide as Akaashi’s. “Is there something wrong with my apartment?”

“No, there’s nothing wrong with the apartment,” Akaashi said as he fell back against the doorway, hands pressed against his eyes. “It’s… It’s Sugawara-san. I’ll never be able to face him again.”

“Why?”

“He was very much home, and… Someone else was there too, and… They were… Oh my god,” Akaashi groaned again.

“Oh, did you meet Daichi then?”

Akaashi pulled his hands away from his face, turning his gaze on Bokuto’s once more. “Did I meet Daichi?” he repeated.

“Yeah, that’s Suga’s boyfriend,” Bokuto replied calmly. Realization seemed to dawn on Bokuto slowly. “Wait… What were they doing?”

Akaashi didn’t have words, his brain completely empty. His head just shook rapidly. At this, Bokuto laughed. He actually laughed. It was loud and boisterous, a sound Akaashi would’ve loved if he weren’t on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

“Hey, hey, Akaash, were they doing something…” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Dirty?”

Akaashi shoved Bokuto’s arm, and the older man just laughed louder, the teasing smile never faltering from his face.

The knock on the door behind Akaashi nearly made him jump out of his own skin. His horror-stricken expression was back once more. Bokuto didn’t seem to notice as he reached for the door handle and pulled.

“Hey guys!” Bokuto cheered.

Akaashi shunted to Bokuto’s side, half an attempt to use Bokuto’s bulk to hide himself and half to actually get a look at the duo on the other side of the door.

Suga looked ruffled, to say the least. He’d made an effort to smooth down his hair, but it was wasted; the tufts Daichi had been firmly grasping were stuck up in all directions. He’d missed a button on his shirt, and he hadn’t zipped up his pants. Still, he looked more collected than the nervous wreck of a man behind him.

Daichi’s mortified expression matched the one he’d been wearing five minutes ago, and he had one hand fisted in his hair, tugging insistent at the bristly locks. He’d also missed a few buttons on his shirt, but at least the ones that were buttoned were aligned properly. He nudged Suga, who cleared his throat, trying to gather his composure.

“I’d like to formally and very sincerely apologize for that… Incident,” Suga said slowly, thinking over every word.

“It really wasn’t your fault, I… Probably shouldn’t be walking into stranger’s apartments without knocking. Or, at all, I suppose,” Akaashi conceded, still hovering half next to and half behind Bokuto.

“Or Suga could just lock the door when he comes home,” Daichi suggested quietly.

Suga snapped his head back. “Or you could remind me to lock it before you bend me over and—“

“Suga!” Daichi cut him off.

“At any rate,” Suga turned back toward Akaashi, “I’m sorry you had to see… That.”

“What did you see?” Bokuto asked, inclining his head back toward Akaashi. There was that teasing smile again, the one Akaashi didn’t know Bokuto was capable of wearing.

“That’s neither here nor there,” Akaashi scoffed.

“Oh, was it what I saw that one time I came over for a movie night?” Bokuto asked Suga.

“Different position,” Suga replied.

“Oh my god,” Daichi huffed.

“Wow, I forgot about that time,” Suga laughed.

“What about the time I found Miki outside and came over to bring her back?” Bokuto queried.

“Sort of like that, but it was the table this time.”

“Suga, stop!”

“And then the time I—“

“Kou! We get it!” Daichi shouted.

“Wow, I really do forget to lock the door a lot, don’t I?” Suga chuckled.

“You could’ve told me this was just something that happens instead of teasing me,” Akaashi muttered.

“But I don’t ever get to do that, Akaash. You’re too cool,” Bokuto praised.

“I really am sorry,” Daichi said.

“Oh, it’s fine,” Akaashi waved it off. “Actually, it’s kind of par for the course when it comes to me.”

“That… Doesn’t sound promising,” Daichi noted.

“It’s not.”

“By the way, you left this on the counter,” Suga said, passing a small, gold key to Bokuto.

“Hey, hey, there it is!”

“You leave that key almost as often as Suga forgets to lock the door,” Daichi shook his head. “It’s like you two coordinate.”

“Maybe we do,” Suga countered.

“We don’t,” Bokuto said.

“No, I know, you’ve always lost your keys,” Daichi granted. “Unless the two of you have been playing an elaborate prank on me for 10 years… Though I guess I wouldn’t put it past you.”

“10 years?” Akaashi repeated.

“Well, I’ve known Kou longer than that.”

“And it’s 13 years,” Suga corrected. “Kou and I have been pranking you for 13 years.”

“Should’ve known.”

“Yeah, Kou and Daichi went to the same piano teacher when they were in middle school,” Suga explained. “Before he quit. Daichi was really bad.”

“I’m sure that’s—“

“No, he was really bad,” Bokuto nodded.

“I was better at volleyball,” Daichi shrugged. “But Kou and I stayed friends. He won me over with his litany of volleyball facts.”

“He does thorough research,” Suga agreed.

“Is that how the two of you met?” Akaashi asked. He couldn’t help himself. His curiosity was growing as the conversation progressed, and he’d never been one to quash that very easily.

“Yeah, when we moved up to high school,” Daichi said. “Suga was a year older than us.”

“And you acted like I was some kind of celebrity,” Suga countered. “You barely said two words to me that first year. I thought you hated me.”

“He was just too in love with you,” Bokuto noted.

“Thanks, Kou.”

“Whenever you came to our classroom, he’d get all squirmy and weird.”

“Awww, Dai,” Suga cooed.

“You’re killing my credibility right now, Kou,” Daichi groaned.

“As if I didn’t notice it back then,” Suga pointed out. “You’ve never been known for your subtlety.”

“He never even told Suga he liked him until college,” Bokuto said, more toward Akaashi than anyone.

“And that was only because Kou told him he was stupid for not saying anything,” Suga added.

“He’s pretty profound with the relationship advice,” Daichi conceded.

Akaashi let his fingers twine around Bokuto’s. “I suppose that’s true,” he nodded.

Bokuto’s face split into a wide grin. “Yeah! Daichi! Guess what? This is my boyfriend!”

“Woah, what?” Daichi’s eyes widened in surprise. “That’s awesome! Sorry, I know we didn’t get introduced very well. I’m Sawamura Daichi,” he said as he extended a hand.

“Akaashi Keiji.” Akaashi shook his hand with the one not wrapped around Bokuto’s. “Let’s just call this our actual introduction.”

“I would, but I’m pretty sure these two aren’t going to let us forget it,” Daichi said as he jerked his head toward Suga and Bokuto.

“We won’t,” they replied in unison.

“Shouldn’t you be more embarrassed about this than I am?” Daichi asked, glancing down at Suga.

“Maybe, but I’m not,” Suga shrugged. “By the way, do you two have dinner plans? Nothing makes people forget about walking in on their new friends having sex than sharing a meal together.”

Daichi grimaced. “That sounds sort of—“

“Hush,” Suga countered. “What do you say? I bought enough sushi to feed a small army.”

Bokuto glanced down at Akaashi, and there was that nervous flicker behind his eyes. Was it the abrupt change in plans? Or the mingling of new people? Whatever the reason, Akaashi’s fingers grazed up Bokuto’s arm, and he flashed a small smile to the older man. “Whatever you want,” he said.

Bokuto nodded slowly. “O… Okay, yeah. That sounds fun,” he replied.

“Great!” Suga clapped his hands together energetically. “Daichi, why don’t you go get the food.”

“Yes, sir,” Daichi saluted.

They left the door open for Daichi and made their way inside. Bokuto shuffled into the kitchen to get drinks while Suga and Akaashi settled in at the table.

“I just want you to know before he comes back,” Suga said quietly, leaning across the table, “I’ve never seen Kou like this with anyone before. You’re very special to him.”

“Oh, well…” Akaashi tried to come up with something to say, something mildly profound, or at least something that made sense. But he drew a blank.

“It’s true,” Suga continued. “He was so nervous when he first started messaging you. He would come to me and make me read them before he sent them. He didn’t want to say anything embarrassing.”

“Well, he couldn’t… He couldn’t do that,” Akaashi scoffed. “I was more worried about embarrassing myself.”

“I even helped him pick out his outfit when you had your first date,” Suga said with a smirk. “Which, by the way, he talked about for almost a week.”

Akaashi couldn’t think of anything to say. He knew his face was heating up—even his ears were burning. He hastily excused himself and headed into the kitchen for a moment of reprieve from Suga’s knowing looks. Bokuto was pouring tea into four mugs, glancing up only when Akaashi drew up next to him.

“Sugawara-san is a little different than I expected him to be,” he noted. “Not in a bad way, just… I expected him to be more… Reserved.”

“People always say that about him,” Bokuto replied. “He’s really funny.”

“He is,” Akaashi conceded.

“Hey, Akaash, you know…” Bokuto paused, teeth worrying his bottom lip as he sorted through his thoughts. “I’m… I’m really happy you’re here. With my friends… And with me.”

“Of course! I’m happy to be here,” Akaashi said.

“It’s just…” Bokuto’s hands fidgeted with the mugs on the tray in front of him. “You know, sometimes I… I just… I still can’t believe you want to be with me. ‘Cause you’re so cool, and I’m really not. I’m boring. And I…” His heavy sigh made Akaashi’s heart clench.

Akaash reached out and tilted Bokuto’s face toward his. He leaned up and pressed a kiss to the older man’s lips, his hand crawling up Bokuto’s jaw and threading in his hair. Bokuto leaned into the kiss, his hand seeking Akaashi’s free one, twining their fingers together. Akaashi let his tongue swipe along Bokuto’s lips, dip between them for only the briefest of moments, tasting just enough to sate his hunger. And then he pulled away. Bokuto exhaled sharply.

“Man, you’re so good at that,” Bokuto marveled.

“You’re my favorite person, remember?” Akaashi murmured, pressing his forehead to Bokuto’s. “I’m your favorite, and you’re mine. And I’ll say it to you as many times as you need for you to believe it.”

“Are… Are you sure?” Bokuto whispered, his voice smaller than Akaashi had ever heard it.

“I’m sure,” Akaashi replied. “I’ve never been surer of anything.”

Akaashi was once again hit with those overwhelming affections for Bokuto. The ones that made him feel like it shouldn’t have been possible to love someone this much. Maybe these feelings weren’t normal. Maybe Akaashi didn’t understand them. Maybe he hadn’t known Bokuto long enough to justify them.

And maybe he didn’t care.

Bokuto’s eyes closed, his hand gripping Akaashi’s a little tighter. “I really love you, Akaash,” he sighed.

“I love you too,” Akaashi said. “Now, let’s go hang out with your friends. I’m excited to learn more about your high school years.”

Bokuto smiled down at him. “You got it,” he replied.

Chapter Text

Akaashi very quickly learned throughout dinner that he had grossly misjudged Suga. That kindly doctor’s façade was just one aspect of his multifaceted personality. He was also hilarious, and more importantly, a troublemaker. Akaashi was regaled for hours with tales of his and Bokuto’s antics while growing up—from the time they set a fire in one of the middle school science labs conducting their own experiments to the day they got lost in the woods and met what they claimed was a witch. At first, Akaashi assumed Daichi was just along for the ride most of the time. But with a few glasses of sake, Suga told some of his favorite Daichi stories, usually complete with himself or Bokuto tagging along.

“Hold on,” Akaashi cut through one of Suga’s long-winded speeches. “They joined the engineering club?”

“Yes!” Suga practically shouted. “Their first year of college!”

“Why did you join the engineering club?” Akaashi looked between Bokuto and Daichi, both of whom were wearing matching sheepish grins.

“Well, we were trying to sign Kou up for this club that did sound recording for all the music groups on campus. His parents wanted him to do it,” Daichi explained. “He went with me to the volleyball tryouts, so I went with him to that.”

“But we were too early, and we didn’t realize what was happening until they were passing around the sign up sheet,” Bokuto continued.

“And you just… Put your names down?” Akaashi asked, dumbfounded.

“I was nervous ‘cause of all the new people, so I just sort of did it,” Bokuto murmured.

“And what was your excuse, Daichi?” Suga asked knowingly, leaning his head onto Daichi’s shoulder.

“I… Was passionate about the subject matter,” Daichi said tentatively.

“He had a crush on the guy who ran it,” Bokuto corrected.

“That’s not—“

“Well, Azumane-san was rather handsome,” Suga conceded. “In a Jesus Jones sort of way.”

“I didn’t have a—“

“He wanted to get over his undying love for me, but it backfired. Now he’s stuck with me!” Suga laughed boisterously, his face flushed from the alcohol.

“How long were you in the engineering club, then?” Akaashi asked, inclining his head toward Bokuto.

“I think they kicked us out after two weeks,” Bokuto said, tapping his chin thoughtfully.

“Only because Daichi got caught in his lie,” Suga was still hiccupping with laughter. “Kou probably could’ve gotten away with it for a while, he actually knew what was happening. Daichi was hopeless.”

“I’m sorry I don’t know how to build a freaking robot,” Daichi huffed.

“You’re a better trophy husband,” Suga teased, leaning up to kiss his jaw.

“And you’re embarrassing when you’re liquored up,” Daichi retorted, trying to hide the blush quickly spreading over his face.

“Your life was so exciting,” Akaashi said, his fingers drifting lazily over Bokuto’s knuckles. “I feel so boring compared to you.”

“You’re not boring!” Bokuto cried, launching forward animatedly and earning Akaashi’s full attention. “You’re so cool!”

“That’s not a very common sentiment,” Akaashi noted.

“WHAT?!” Bokuto was louder than ever, eyes wide and serious. “Who doesn’t think you’re cool?!”

Akaashi couldn’t help himself as a laugh bubbled past his lips. “No one,” he assured Bokuto, giving his hand a squeeze. “Never mind. You’re right. I’m the coolest.”

“You guys are so cute!” Suga squealed, throwing himself against Daichi’s shoulder once more. “Young love is so beautiful. So good and pure. Were we like that, Daichi?”

“I’m not sure I can put the word ‘pure’ in the same sentence as your name,” Daichi chuckled, pressing an affectionate kiss into Suga’s hair. “It might be against Japanese law.”

“You’re right,” Suga sighed wistfully.

It was getting late, and Akaashi helped Bokuto clean up dinner. Suga was surprisingly steady on his feet for as much alcohol as he’d consumed. He even managed to steal Akaashi’s phone and add his number, telling Akaashi that next time he wanted to enjoy the show to let him know first (complete with a dramatic wink).

Bokuto was still talking excitedly about them long after they’d left, even after he and Akaashi made their way to the office for their nightly ritual.

“And Suga’s so smart,” Bokuto praised, taking a seat next to Akaashi after playing his song. “Daichi’s pretty smart too, but Suga was always better than him with school stuff. He always had to help us with homework, ‘cause he was older than us, you know? He was always so good at the math stuff, and biology too. You know, since he’s a doctor now. Daichi was better at English.”

“What were you better at?” Akaashi asked, gliding his fingers up and down Bokuto’s arm.

“Oh, well… I dunno,” Bokuto mumbled, rubbing his neck with his free hand. “I wasn’t really good at anything.”

“I know for a fact that’s not true,” Akaashi countered.

“I… I guess I was okay at science,” Bokuto conceded. “When I wasn’t blowing stuff up.”

“Lots of prominent scientists blow things up,” Akaashi said. “You’re among the ranks of Tesla and Edison.”

“Really?” Bokuto’s eyes widened as he leaned toward Akaashi. “That’s so cool.”

“I wish you’d give yourself a little more credit,” Akaashi sighed. “You’re good at so many things. And I learn more things you’re good at every day.”

Bokuto’s face contorted into a grimace of disbelief. Akaashi was preparing a mental list—cooking, memorization of facts, the piano, oh god the piano—but before he could say them, Bokuto’s hand found his, their fingers curling together. He leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss to Akaashi’s mouth.

“Thanks, Akaash,” he murmured. “You’re the best.”

Akaashi just hummed in response, pushing forward into another kiss, a little slower, a little deeper. Bokuto tasted like soy sauce and ginger and honey and, god, Akaashi wanted to taste every inch of his warm mouth. He licked against the roof of Bokuto’s mouth slowly, enjoying the taste, the feel of him. But Bokuto was squirming in his seat, and Akaashi knew he needed to stop. Using all the self-control he could muster, he pulled away, humming this time in satisfaction.

“I think… You’re just too good at that, Akaash,” Bokuto panted, nuzzling against Akaashi’s cheek.

“Sorry,” Akaashi murmured, carding the fingers of his free hand through Bokuto’s hair.

“No, it’s not… I really like it… Probably too much,” Bokuto chuckled nervously.

“Well, that’s not a bad thing.”

Bokuto pulled away, his face suddenly alight with excitement. “Hey, Akaash, could I ask you something?”

“Of… Of course,” Akaashi replied, trying to hide his surprise at the sudden change in mood.

“Since you came and hung out with my friends, I want to hang out with yours. So… Do you think this weekend I could come over to your place? And I could see Kuroo’s art too?”

This was even more surprising. Bokuto didn’t seem remotely nervous at the prospect of an unknown environment. In fact, he was practically vibrating with unbridled excitement.

“Let me see when Kuroo has to work, but I’m sure Saturday or Sunday would be fine,” Akaashi replied.

It looked like Akaashi had just told Bokuto he’d won the lottery. The smile on his face was so dazzling, Akaashi felt blinded. And yet he couldn’t look away. He never wanted to look away.

 


 

Kuroo was beyond elated to hear Bokuto wanted to come over. It managed to take his mind off of his most recent rejection, and he spent all day Friday cleaning his apartment. He was so proud of himself, he even invited Akaashi over to show it off when he got home from work. They decided on Saturday afternoon, since Terushima would be working. When Akaashi asked why that mattered, Kuroo said, “I don’t want him to be overwhelmed by too much new stuff at once.”

“That’s… Incredibly thoughtful,” Akaashi marveled.

“After I met him, I looked up some stuff about people who have what he has. That was just one of the things it said makes them anxious,” Kuroo shrugged.

Akaashi was only more taken aback. Kuroo had always been mindful of other people, but this was something Akaashi had never expected. “Well, still… That’s very thoughtful of you. I appreciate it,” Akaashi noted.

“Think you’ll take him to meet Ken and the shrimp?” Kuroo asked.

“If he wants to,” Akaashi nodded. “I think he might want to meet the cats more than anything else.”

Kuroo sighed almost wistfully. “They are pretty great cats… So,” he said, a little more seriously. “You nervous?”

“Why would I be nervous?”

“When was the last time you ever let a guy come to your place?” Kuroo asked, quirking a brow for emphasis.

“What a ridiculous question,” Akaashi scoffed, turning and heading for the door.

“One you can’t answer, because you don’t remember,” Kuroo teased in a sing-song voice. “I think there was that one when you first moved in. The one with those little, annoying fangs…”

“God, don’t remind me,” Akaashi groaned.

“Other than that, not a one, right?”

Akaashi was quiet, his hand curled around the door handle. Loath as he was to admit it, Kuroo was right. He hadn’t been serious enough about anyone to invite them into his life like this. Well, if he wasn’t nervous before, he was now.

A night of tossing and turning left Akaashi tired and in desperate need of coffee the next morning. He clutched the mug between clammy palms, his elbows resting on the kitchen counter. Bokuto would be coming soon. To his apartment. For the first time. It wasn’t anywhere near as nice as Bokuto’s. He didn’t have snacks. Should he go buy snacks? He didn’t have cable either. Should he get cable? No time. What if—

Okay, this wasn’t getting him anywhere. He needed to divert his thoughts elsewhere. Padding back into his room, he grabbed his phone off his side table and sent off a message.

>>[Akaashi]: Come over. I need a distraction.

It wasn’t three minutes before there was incessant pounding on his front door. He opened it to find Kuroo leaning casually against the frame.

“You rang?” he simpered.

“I’m having another existential crisis,” Akaashi replied.

“You know you’re dating him now, right?” Kuroo pointed out, sliding his shoes off just inside the entryway. “The time for unyielding panic has passed.”

“That’s what you think.”

“What’s the problem now?” Kuroo asked, dropping onto the couch.

You. You are the problem,” Akaashi murmured.

“ME?! What did I do?!”

“’Are you nervous?’” Akaashi quoted in a gravely voice. “’When was the last time you ever let a guy come to your place?’”

“Ew, was that supposed to be me?” Kuroo scoffed.

“I wasn’t nervous at all until you opened your big mouth.”

“The one time you actually listen to me…”

“What if this is a disaster?” Akaashi asked, dropping onto the other end of the couch. “What if he doesn’t like the apartment? Because it’s not a very good apartment, I literally have nothing here. And what if he’s hungry? Why didn’t I buy any food? What is wrong with me? And what—“

“Wow, ‘Kaash, overthinking? That’s so unlike you,” Kuroo interrupted, his voice deadpan.

“It’s. Your. Fault,” Akaashi emphasized each word with a verbal punch.

“Okay, but seriously, he’s not gonna come over here, look around, and go, ‘Nah, I don’t think I like him anymore.’ That doesn’t even make any sense,” Kuroo reasoned.

“Ugh,” Akaashi groaned, rubbing his hands over his eyes.

“You have to stop worrying about this relationship,” Kuroo urged. “And I know that’s like telling the Pope to stop being Catholic, but seriously. You took it slow with him, you brought him into your life, he brought you into his. There’s just no reason to be so scared over every little thing.”

Akaashi just sighed, deep and heavy, his shoulders heaving with the effort. Kuroo was right, of course. Kuroo was always right—though no one liked to tell him that too often.

“How’s Terushima-kun?” Akaashi asked offhandedly.

“Oh, no, uh-uh, I did not come over here for—“

“You came over to distract me from my woes,” Akaashi cut him off. “This is a suitable distraction. Plus, I can kill two birds with one stone.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ll be able to think about something other than how nervous I am, and we’ll also push you into the direction of… What did you call it? A happy, shiny relationship?”

“My relationship with Yuuji is plenty shiny. Have you seen him shirtless? He’s practically bronzed, he could reflect the sun,” Kuroo marveled.

“I have been subjected to it, yes,” Akaashi rolled his eyes. “But it’s only happy until it’s not—until you’re miserable. I want to know what you think is the worst that’ll happen if you tell him you want to be exclusive.”

“Um, he could tell me he isn’t interested, realize how deep into this I am, and pull back? He could tell me to fuck off because we agreed we were just having fun and now I’m breaking our deal? He could tell me that I’m a hypocrite because I’m still fucking women for money but don’t want him seeing anyone else?” Kuroo rattled them off as though they were the most obvious things in the world.

“Or,” Akaashi countered, “he could tell you that he feels the exact same way, has fallen hard for you, and understands that your job is separate from your relationship with him. He could ask you what took you so long to finally say something, tell you he loves you, wants be with you forever, and then the two of you can be the gross couple in the happy, shiny relationship of which everyone else is envious.”

Kuroo scowled, struggling to come up with a coherent argument. “It could go horribly, or it could go wonderfully. And I’m too terrified for it to go horribly. I… I can’t lose him, ‘Kaash… Not now.”

They sat in silence for a while. Akaashi wanted to refute him. He had more to say, and he was convinced he was right too. But Kuroo had a point. Hadn’t Akaashi had that same fear when it came to Bokuto—of pushing him too far and not being able to go back?

Didn’t he still sometimes have that fear?

“He’s kinda late,” Kuroo said suddenly.

Akaashi glanced down at his watch. It was only 10 minutes, but for Bokuto, that was somewhat unusual.

“He’ll be here, probably just traffic,” Akaashi reasoned.

“I can’t believe he has a car that drives him around, that’s so lucky,” Kuroo sighed.

Akaashi just hummed in reply. He was doing his best not to worry. Though that was easier said than done when it came to him.

By 20 minutes, that worry was swelling to a low roar. Maybe he had changed his mind. Maybe he’d gotten too nervous at the thought of going somewhere new. Akaashi plucked his phone from his pocket and fired off a message.

>>[Akaashi]: Just checking to make sure you’re alright.

By 30 minutes, he was almost starting to panic. Bokuto hadn’t responded to his message, and now his delay couldn’t be blamed on Tokyo traffic. His leg was bouncing, and he continued to unlock and lock his phone over and over again, willing a message to appear.

“Why don’t we go down and wait for him,” Kuroo suggested. “Before your fidgeting takes out the whole building.”

“You just think you’re so funny,” Akaashi grumbled.

“Well, you’re shaking the couch, so…”

Akaashi didn’t argue. Maybe the fresh air would cool his head. He stood up, eyes still trained on his phone, and followed Kuroo to his front door. They slipped on their shoes and headed outside…

And almost collided with Hinata, who rounded the corner at a full sprint.

“Kuroo-san! Akaashi-san!” he cried breathlessly. “It’s a disaster! I didn’t mean to, but it happened again! I accidentally left the door open and—“

“You let the cat out,” Akaashi and Kuroo replied in unison.

“Yes!” Hinata wailed, tugging at his hair. “And Bokuto-san is helping me look for him, but we—“

“Bokuto-san is here?” Akaashi cut him off.

“Oh, yeah, he found me looking for Tomoe under the stairs and when I told him he was lost, he said he would do whatever it took to find him, so we’ve been looking for a while, but since you always find him the quickest, I came to find you!” Hinata explained, not stopping for breath.

“Well, there ya go,” Kuroo said, nudging Akaashi with his elbow. “Panicking for nothing.”

“I wasn’t panicking,” Akaashi argued weakly.

Kuroo’s bark of laughter was the only answer he got as they followed Hinata downstairs. Kuroo and Hinata broke off to look in the parking lot, while Akaashi searched more for Bokuto than the cat.

“Bokuto-san?” he called gently.

There was a frantic shuffling growing closer by the second, and then Bokuto’s head poked out from around the side of the building. His eyes were wide with fear.

“Akaashi!” he huffed. “The cat ran away! Hinata can’t find it! He needs our help!”

“That cat goes missing all the time,” Akaashi pointed out. “He always finds his way back.”

“But what if he doesn’t this time?” Bokuto reasoned. He was rocking now, and the panic was rising in his voice. “What if he can’t remember how to get home? Or what if he gets hit by a car?! Akaashi, we have to find him!”

“We will, we’ll find him,” Akaashi tried to comfort Bokuto, reaching for his arms and running his fingers over the skin. “Why don’t we look together? We can check some of his usual spots.”

“Yeah… Yeah, we need to find him,” Bokuto nodded fervently.

They searched in the bushes around the apartment, behind the trashcans, and even took the building a floor at a time, searching every nook and cranny. Akaashi knew it was a fruitless effort. The cat would seemingly materialize from thin air when he was ready, when they had all given up searching for him. He always did. But Akaashi hadn’t yet figured out how to say no to Bokuto’s expectant stare—and truthfully, he didn’t want to.

They met up with Hinata and Kuroo at the front of the building about 30 minutes later. There was no sign of the elusive cat. Hinata looked anxious, but Bokuto was almost beside himself. Not even Akaashi’s hand gliding up his arm could calm him down.

“This sucks! Kenma even put that note on the door to remind me,” Hinata groaned, slapping his cheeks loudly.

“He always comes back,” Kuroo reminded him.

“I know, but Kenma’s coming home soon. And he’s gonna get that look on his face that says he’s upset, even though his mouth says he’s not upset. But I know he’s upset, his eyebrows do that slanty thing.” Hinata emphasized this with his fingers fitting over his own eyebrows. “And he rubs his eyes a lot, and he sighs a lot more, and he doesn’t lean on me all night. I don’t want him to be mad at me…”

“Are we sure he’s not just waiting in front of your door? That’s where he was last time,” Kuroo pointed out.

“We just checked there, though I suppose he could have snuck up behind us,” Akaashi said. “It seems to be his favorite pastime. Maybe we could check again.”

“Yeah, we c—oh my god.” Kuroo’s eyes widened in surprise as he looked at Bokuto.

Akaashi snapped his head to his right and found Bokuto standing stock-still, gazing down in misty awe. There was the cat, in all its orange glory, wending its way between Bokuto’s legs and rubbing its face against his shins. Akaashi could hear it purring loudly from here.

“This is… Highly unprecedented,” Akaashi murmured, his voice low in an attempt to keep the cat from bolting.

“He’s like the cat whisperer,” Kuroo actually whispered.

Slowly, Bokuto reached down and scratched the cat behind its ears. It was purring even louder now, pushing its face into his hand. And by some miracle, it even let Bokuto pick it up.

“Ohhhhhhh!” Hinata squealed, his eyes alight with wonder as he took a few steps toward Bokuto. “Bokuto-san, you’re so amazing! I’m really bad with cats, I don’t think they like me very much. But Kenma likes them, and I wish I could be better with them because they’re so cute and small and fluffy and their little paws are just perfect. How did you do that? That’s so amazing!”

Akaashi was getting worried. Bokuto didn’t know Hinata very well, and the younger man was advancing on him quickly, talking progressively louder. He watched Bokuto closely, looking for any hint that he needed to intervene.

But to his surprise, Bokuto actually smiled.

“Their paws really are perfect,” he agreed, running his thumb over one of Tomoe’s front paws. “And their ears are great too.”

“Their ears are the best!” Hinata whooped. “Like, how can they be so soft?! HOW?! And when they’re cold, it’s so amazing! He doesn’t like when I touch his, but Nanami does.”

“Nanami has the extra toes, right?” Bokuto asked. He continued to dart his eyes toward Hinata, taking in a little more with every glance.

“Yeah! She does!” Hinata cheered, bouncing up and down excitedly. “She’s the best! She just likes hanging out, and she always curls up on my chest at night for a while! At least until I move around. I move around a lot while I’m sleeping.”

“That’s cool,” Bokuto murmured.

“Oh!” Hinata cried, jumping clear off the ground. “Kenma’s gonna be home soon! I better get him back. Thanks for finding him, Bokuto-san!”

“Y-you’re welcome.”

Bokuto passed the cat into Hinata’s waiting arms, and then the orange blur was off, racing up the stairs and pounding down the hallway. Bokuto was smiling, rolling back and forth lightly on the balls of his feet. It wasn’t because he was anxious now. In fact, the cat seemed to have put him in a great mood.

“Well, that was eventful,” Kuroo huffed, carding his hand through his hair. “That cat usually doesn’t like anyone but Kenma, and I guess he’s okay with ‘Kaash. You really are the cat whisperer…”

“I just like cats,” Bokuto replied.

“Well,” Kuroo announced, “I actually painted Nanami once, and I’m particularly proud of that one. Would you like to come see it?”

“Yes!” Bokuto all but shouted. He seemed to catch himself with a jolt. “Yes, I would like that,” he said, a little calmer this time.

“Well, full speed ahead!”

They followed Kuroo up the stairs and into his apartment. He continued to shoot Akaashi excited glances, like he couldn’t believe this was actually happening. Bokuto peered around the living room curiously.

“You have a lovely home,” he noted.

“Ah, I get by,” Kuroo waved a hand.

Akaashi knew it was probably one of his rules—something related to etiquette, like he was supposed to do it when he visited a new place. It sounded almost mechanical, still sincere, but probably memorized. Akaashi couldn’t help but wonder how many things in his life he did because his rules told him to. How many things he only did because someone had once told him it was appropriate. Sure, the rules probably helped Bokuto in the long run, especially when it came to dealing with people who didn’t understand him.

But they’d probably hurt him too.

“’Kaash, you okay?”

Akaashi returned to reality abruptly, coming face with face with a worried Kuroo. “I’m fine,” he replied. Why was his voice shaking?

“You look like you’re ready to start bawling,” Kuroo pointed out. “I mean, I know my art is moving, but damn.”

At that, Bokuto spun on his heel, turning his wide eyes on Akaashi. He looked so concerned. “Akaash, are you okay?” he asked hurriedly.

“I’m fine,” Akaashi repeated. “We’re here to see your paintings, yes?”

Kuroo didn’t look convinced, but he shuffled away nonetheless. Bokuto was a little harder to sway as he continued to watch Akaashi uneasily. Akaashi tried to appease him with a small smile, which he returned almost reluctantly.

“I’m fine,” Akaashi said a third time. “I promise.”

Bokuto nodded slowly, his eyes scanning Akaashi, searching for that lie. For the first time, Akaashi wasn’t sure if he would find one. Luckily, Kuroo gestured for them to follow him, successfully diverting Bokuto’s attention. They made their way through the living room and toward the bedroom.

Akaashi was more than familiar with this room, considering how often Kuroo asked him to come judge a painting. It was much cleaner than the last time he was here. The only actual piece of furniture inside was a bed. Usually, there were small piles of laundry scattered throughout the room, but they’d been cleaned up.

The remainder of the space was devoted to Kuroo’s paintings. It was like a mishmash of colors and shapes spread across countless canvases. Some were hanging on the walls, while others were propped against them on the floor. One was half-finished on an easel in the corner—it looked like the start of an old woman with deep lines in her face. Nearest to Akaashi was the city at twilight, next to it a dog from the park down the street, and next to that a table covered in different dishes of food. There were about six different angles of Terushima, the promised cat lying on her back and pawing at a ball of string, and even one of Akaashi wearing an expression of amusement. And there were more too, stacked behind the others, all a little different, all carefully crafted and agonized over.

“So… This is most of it,” Kuroo said quietly.

Bokuto’s mouth had fallen open the instant they walked into the room. His eyes were wide, even wider than normal, darting from one painting to the next. Wordlessly, he approached the one of Terushima sitting on the couch with the ghost of a laugh on his face. Bokuto crouched down and stared, seemingly enraptured. Tentative fingers reached for the canvas, tracing over Terushima’s shoulders, his neck, his chin.

Then he shifted to the next one, the dog in the park. This time his hand lingered on the blades of grass, the dog’s foot, the leash that disappeared off the canvas. Then he moved to the cityscape, then to Nanami, then to the dinner table. He didn’t speak the entire time.

When his eyes fell on the canvas with Akaashi’s face, he drew in a sharp breath. He actually fell into a sitting position, and for a while, he didn’t move. The silence in the room was almost palpable. Akaashi spared a glance toward Kuroo and saw him chewing frantically on his thumbnail as he watched Bokuto. He was so nervous.

Bokuto’s fingers were on the move again, gliding across the painting. They drifted over Akaashi’s hairline, dipping down to his jaw, tracing the seam of his lips. Then they stilled. Bokuto’s entire body stilled. There wasn’t even that usual frenetic energy around him. It was like he’d found nirvana.

“Kuroo,” he said quietly.

“Y-yeah?” Kuroo murmured around his thumb.

Bokuto turned his head slowly, his astonished gaze falling on Kuroo. “This is…” he murmured. “They’re…” He was struggling for words, the gears working behind his eyes. “Kuroo… I love them… I love them so much.”

Kuroo’s incredulous bark of laughter reverberated through the whole room. “Are you serious?” he asked.

“I just… I can’t… I really love them,” Bokuto said again.

He turned back to the painting of Akaashi, staring silently at it, like he was studying it. Akaashi was feeling self-conscious. Bokuto’s penetrating gaze wasn’t directed at him, and still he could feel it.

“Hey, Kuroo,” Bokuto turned around once more. “Can I buy this?”

“B-Bokuto-san, what…” Akaashi started. Why was he blushing?

“Are you serious?” Kuroo asked, his hand falling to his side.

“Yeah, I want this one,” Bokuto nodded.

“Bokuto-san…”

“I’ll pay you whatever, I just… I want this one,” Bokuto asserted. “And… I think… Do you think, if it’s not too much… I just really want to write a song about this one… And the one with the dog… And the other man too, the one with all the earrings… And… I guess all of them.”

“H-Hold on,” Kuroo took a step forward. “What?”

“Well, if you don’t want me to, I won’t. I just—“

“No, I do want you to!” Kuroo cut him off. “It’s just that… I kind of can’t believe this, you know? I can’t believe you like them.” He sounded so astonished, so stunned that anyone would be moved by his art.

“How much do you want for this one?”

“Dude, you can have it,” Kuroo said. He still couldn’t quite come to terms with the fact that this was actually happening.

Bokuto’s thick brows rose in shock. “No! I have to pay for it! I have to… To…” His words trailed off as he lost himself in thought. “Hey, um… Akaashi was telling me… How you were having a hard time getting people interested in your stuff. Well… Um… Maybe you could use the songs I write and maybe do an art show, or… Or something… I guess I don’t know much about that… My music isn’t really that great, it’s not anything as great as your art. But there are always a lot of people who come whenever I play. Maybe they would come to your show too, and then… Then you could sell your paintings… Maybe…”

Kuroo’s eyes were wide with surprise. Understanding seemed to wash over him slowly. “You… You’d write songs for my paintings… And let me use them for a show?” he repeated deliberately.

“If… If you want to,” Bokuto added.

“If I want to,” Kuroo repeated with a huff of disbelieving laughter. “I… You…” The words wouldn’t come. He was choking around his breaths, struggling for air.

“Kuroo… Are you…”

A strangled sob broke from Kuroo’s throat before he could stop it, and he collapsed against Akaashi, hiding his face in the younger man’s shoulder. Akaashi was too taken aback to speak.

“What’s… What’s wrong?” Bokuto asked, his voice rising in panic.

“I can’t believe you want to… That anyone would want to… That anyone cares…” Kuroo sobbed. “I just… I finally feel… Validated, you know?”

Akaashi wasn’t very good with comforting other people. He always felt uncomfortable, like his pats were forced and any soothing words robotic. He never seemed to know just what to do.

Well… Except when it came to Bokuto.

He settled for a series of pats to the back of Kuroo’s spiky head, letting the wild strands of dark hair wend through his fingers. In front of him, Bokuto was fidgeting nervously. Akaashi gave him a reassuring smile, as if to say It’s alright, this happens all the time. Truthfully, this didn’t happen all the time. But he didn’t need to say that.

“Look,” Kuroo sniffled, finally righting himself. He swiped the tears from his eyes hurriedly in a desperate attempt to compose himself. “If this is something you want to do, then I would be an idiot to say no. But I would want to pay you for it.”

“No, I can’t—“ Bokuto started.

“No, no, hear me out,” Kuroo held up his hands. “You want to pay me for the painting of Akaashi. I want to pay you for your services. I think we’ve got a nice, healthy bargain here. What do you say: the painting for some songs?”

Bokuto’s face lit up as he registered Kuroo’s words.

“Wait a minute,” Akaashi tried again. “As the subject matter, I think that I get a say in this.”

“But ‘Kaash, you don’t want to bestow this lovely gift upon your amazing boyfriend?” Kuroo asked dramatically, his hand clutching at his chest. “You would stand here and trod upon the hard-won battle he has fought to procure this treasure?”

“This hardly seems like a battle,” Akaashi scoffed. “And I wasn’t even aware you painted me until last week.”

“Yes, you’ve given me the invasion of privacy spiel,” Kuroo rolled his eyes. “You’re not a very good muse, ‘Kaash.”

“I never asked for this.”

Bokuto stepped forward, retrieving Akaashi’s attention. “Akaash, do you… Do you really not want me to have it?” he asked.

There it was again. That look. That expectant stare, golden eyes wide with what was bordering on disappointment. Akaashi couldn’t be the one to push that over, the one who made his eyes tip away and fully embrace despondency.

“Of… Of course I want you to have it,” Akaashi replied with a sigh. “It’s fine. If… If it’s what you want.”

“Really?!” he exclaimed, the disappointment ebbing quickly.

“Of course.”

And it was gone completely. Bokuto looked elated. Akaashi much preferred that expression on him.

“You seriously want to write songs for my paintings?” Kuroo asked, like he still couldn’t quite believe it.

“Yeah, I… I can already see the ones for these three,” he said, gesturing toward the ones closest to him.

“You can see them?” Kuroo repeated.

“Yeah, I can see the songs in my head, and then I play them, and then I write them down,” Bokuto explained.

“What do they look like?” Kuroo sounded so curious. “You know, before you write them?”

“Um, it’s sort of… Like… Colors, but they move and make shapes and stuff, and they’re kinda different… You know, depending… Depending on the style and the feel, and… And that kinda stuff,” Bokuto mumbled. He was fidgeting with his hands, and Akaashi could tell they were itching to be in his mouth, between his teeth.

“Wait a minute,” Kuroo held his hands up. “You have synesthesia?”

“U-um… Yeah… That’s what they called it, I think.”

“That’s cool as shit!” Kuroo exclaimed.

Bokuto’s hands stopped fidgeting immediately. His eyes were roving over Kuroo’s face, looking for the lie. “Really?” he asked.

“Yeah! There was a guy I went to school with, he had it too, and his paintings were crazy awesome,” Kuroo praised. “It was a little different I guess, since he just painted the colors. Yours is even cooler. Shit, that’s awesome.”

Bokuto’s smile only widened. Akaashi was struck again by that overwhelming affection for the older man. Bokuto wasn’t prone to talking about himself unprompted, and Akaashi was still learning new things about him. Things that made him fall just a little deeper in love.

There was light knocking coming from the front door, but Kuroo was the only one moved to action by it. Bokuto was completely engrossed in his new painting, and Akaashi was seemingly engrossed in Bokuto. Kuroo shuffled out of the room, mumbling something about “happy and shiny people.”

Akaashi approached Bokuto, peering down at the painting. Kuroo really had captured his likeness well, and it had all been from memory. A quick glance to his left showed him that Bokuto was still staring at the painting, his eyes roving over the canvas.

“Why did you want that so much?” he couldn’t help but ask, his curiosity getting the better of him.

“Well, ‘cause sometimes when you’re not around, I forget what you look like, you know? Like, I forget how curly your hair is, or what color your eyes really are. And now I won’t forget anymore,” Bokuto explained casually as he glanced up at Akaashi. He sounded like he was telling Akaashi about the weather.

Akaashi could feel heat spreading over his face. “You could’ve always just asked for a picture,” he murmured, glancing away.

“Hey, hey, Akaash, are you… Are you blushing?” Bokuto asked.

Akaashi could just hear that teasing smile without even looking. “I’m fine,” he scoffed.

Before Bokuto could reply, Kuroo’s head was in the doorway. “Hey, Ken’s here, he wants to say thank you for finding the cat.”

“Do you want to meet Kenma?” Akaashi asked, embarrassment shifting to concern. “He’s Hinata’s boyfriend.”

“O-oh… Sure,” Bokuto nodded slowly. He looked nervous, his fingers curling a little tighter around the edges of the painting.

“I mean, you don’t have to. He’ll understand,” Kuroo reasoned.

“No… I do,” he nodded a little more firmly this time.

One of his hands fell from the painting to wrap around Akaashi’s, and Akaashi held firm. Together, they followed Kuroo out into the living room. Kenma was waiting there, his head ducked as he tapped something out on his phone. He stuffed it into his pocket when he caught sight of them.

“Kenma, this is my boyfriend, Bokuto Koutarou,” Akaashi introduced slowly. “He found Tomoe this afternoon. Bokuto-san, this is Kozume Kenma.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Kenma said quietly, dipping his head briefly. He didn’t go for a handshake either.

“N-nice to meet you too,” Bokuto replied.

“Thank you for helping Shouyou with the cat,” Kenma went on. “He said he’s jealous of how much he liked you.”

“You’re… You’re welcome…”

Kenma had a way of maintaining eye contact, almost making you feel like he was trying to peer into your soul with his intent gaze. And it seemed Bokuto had noticed. His eyes continued to dart to Kenma’s, already trying to read him. Thankfully, Kenma’s relatively underwhelming personality was easy enough to process. The tension breathed out of Bokuto’s shoulders in a sigh. Akaashi squeezed his hand a little tighter.

“I’d like to thank you all properly with lunch, if you don’t have any plans,” Kenma murmured.

“Are you making it? I’ve really missed Kenma’s home cooking since Akaashi finished busy season,” Kuroo noted.

“You benefited quite a bit from my misery, didn’t you?” Akaashi asked.

“I was just going to order some takeout,” Kenma replied.

“That’ll work too,” Kuroo shrugged.

Kenma’s eyebrows came together in scrutiny. “Did you even help?” he asked.

“I resent your tone. I always help,” Kuroo proclaimed.

“Would you guys like some lunch?” Kenma asked, ignoring Kuroo.

Akaashi didn’t respond, tilting his head up to look at Bokuto. The older man’s face was twisting in thought. His eyes flicked toward Akaashi for only a moment, then back to Kenma.

“That… That sounds good,” he nodded.

“If you want to come over, you can meet Nanami too,” Kenma suggested.

That made Bokuto perk up. He didn’t seem even remotely nervous as they followed Kenma out of Kuroo’s apartment, dropping his newly acquired painting at Akaashi’s before heading next door.

For all Akaashi’s nervousness—which he would still never admit to Kuroo—Bokuto was doing well with the new people. Kenma’s sedated personality made him feel comfortable, and Hinata’s energy matched his own when he got excited. He was on the edge of his seat to hear more of Bokuto’s cat facts as they sat down to eat.

“Wait, wait, so they can really survive super long falls?” Hinata asked, leaning over the table in excitement.

“Some have fallen 32 stories onto concrete and lived,” Bokuto said.

“32 STORIES?!” Hinata repeated, accidentally flinging his chopsticks across the table.

“Yeah, they stretch their bodies out to get a lot of surface area.” Bokuto spread his arms and arched his back, clearly trying to give a visual. Hinata’s excitement was spurring him on. “That way, they catch the air current and fall a little slower.”

“SO COOL!” Hinata cried.

Kenma deigned not to speak, sitting back and eating his food, watching their interaction closely. But Kuroo seemed just as interested. “So that’s like instinctual?” he asked around a mouthful of noodles.

“Uh-huh, they’ve even tested kittens falling from high places and they just know to get into that position,” Bokuto explained. “And then when they land, their toes spread out so there’s less of an impact.”

“SO COOL!” Hinata squealed again.

“Yeah, and even when they fall backwards, they instinctually know how to right themselves! Like they do this cool barrel roll thing. And if they—“

There was that click of his jaw as his words stopped abruptly. One of his hands lifted, headed for his mouth. Akaashi caught it with his own. Bokuto glanced at him worriedly, probably afraid he was talking too much.

But Hinata would have none of that. He practically propelled himself across the table in his excitement. “What else?! What else?!” he shouted.

Bokuto’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “You… You want to hear more?” he asked.

“YES!”

Akaashi leaned over on the pretense of picking up a dumpling with his chopsticks. “You don’t have to worry about that here,” he said quietly. “They all care about what you have to say too.”

And just like that, Bokuto was one of the group. He talked and laughed with them, regaling them with more random facts or interesting stories about his life. He was interested in learning more about everyone else too, about Hinata’s job as a personal trainer, about Kenma’s PSP that he brought out when he realized no one would care. He begged to hear about Kuroo’s night job, and didn’t even bat an eye of judgment. As if Bokuto would know how to judge anyone.

Akaashi was so happy, struck once more with those overwhelming affections. For someone who was so afraid of new people and new things, Bokuto seemed like a natural among them all. Like he’d always been here. His chopsticks flailed as he told them about the first time he met Akaashi—Kuroo had asked, claiming Akaashi was more withholding than a brick wall.

“So you play for him every night now?” Kuroo asked, leaning back with a groan and rubbing his stomach. “That’s cool.”

“Just when he has work,” Bokuto corrected.

Kuroo’s face contorted in thought. “Hey, how do you get into the building?” he wondered.

“Through the front door,” Bokuto replied, completely serious.

Kenma actually snorted with laughter.

“No, no, no,” Kuroo waved him off. “Like, why do they let you go in? Once I tried to get in there and the security guard with no eyebrows kicked me out.”

“Oh, well I went in with my dad once, and they’ve never said anything about it since then,” Bokuto explained. “It was just before I meet Akaashi.”

“Does your dad work in the building?”

“No, I guess he owns it.”

Akaashi dropped his chopsticks onto the table with a loud clatter as Kuroo’s bark of laughter reverberated through the room. Well, that was one mystery solved.

Akaashi really did learn more about Bokuto every day.

Chapter Text

With his excitement over writing songs for Kuroo’s art, Bokuto barely had time to be nervous for his big performance at the beginning of August. He spent most of his days writing tirelessly, and Akaashi was treated to special performances of the songs every night.

And god, they were beautiful. When Akaashi closed his eyes, he felt like he was looking at the paintings. The vibrant, bouncy melody was obviously Nanami playing with the ball of yarn. The next night’s song was more intense, almost like laughter; Akaashi could envision Terushima, his eyes pinched shut and that sharp cut of laughter coming from his lips. A few nights later, he was embarrassed to hear a more subdued, mellow ballad.

“Was that… Me?” Akaashi asked breathlessly as Bokuto turned those lamp-like eyes on him.

“Yeah,” Bokuto murmured, his mouth tilting up in a half-smile. “That was actually the first one I wrote too. But when I told Kuroo I wrote it, he asked if he could hang the painting up in his show and just not sell it.”

Akaashi didn’t even have the energy to balk about his face hanging up in an art show. He was still breathless from Bokuto’s song. When Bokuto looked at him, those were the notes that came to his mind.

It was the most beautiful thing Akaashi had ever heard.

“Bokuto-san, could I ask you something?” Akaashi asked.

“Well sure you can!” Bokuto said as he plopped down in the chair next to Akaashi.

“When you wrote that song… You said you see colors. What… What color did you see?”

Bokuto’s face screwed up in thought. “It’s sort of hard to describe, but… It was like that scarf you wore the first time you came to my house, that dark blue. But it wasn’t so dark, a little… Um, softer, I guess. And it moved and twisted, but really slowly, like the way you make me feel. Like I’m not so anxious. Like I can just… Slow down…”

Akaashi was hanging off of Bokuto’s every word. He had subconsciously reached for Bokuto’s arms, but his fingers stilled over the skin. Bokuto peered over at him, smiling almost nervously.

“Is that… Weird?” he murmured.

“No,” Akaashi gasped.

He closed the space between them, pressing his lips to Bokuto’s in a soft kiss. He tried to pour into Bokuto everything he didn’t know how to say, the feelings he couldn’t quite understand himself. The fact that Bokuto somehow made him feel less anxious too, that Bokuto was the only thing in life that had ever made him slow down. Before Bokuto, life felt like a long blur. But now, he was properly seeing it for the first time. He wanted Bokuto to know that, even without synesthesia, he had managed to see every color the world had to offer when he listened to Bokuto’s songs, listened to his voice, his laugh.

But he didn’t know how to say all that.

So he just pressed a little deeper into the kiss.

Kuroo managed to get a night in a friend’s art gallery at the end of September. Bokuto had his songs ready for him by the first week of August—though that didn’t keep them from hanging out every weekend, considering they’d basically become best friends. It wasn’t uncommon for Akaashi to wake up to a message on Saturday or Sunday morning telling him Bokuto was already next-door, hanging out with Kuroo.

Thankfully, his new set of distractions only gave Bokuto about two days to be nervous for his concert. But this time, there was no stress on Akaashi’s part, and he was even able to be there before the performance, wishing Bokuto luck backstage.

He was wearing the same suit he wore the first time Akaashi saw him perform—sleek, black, and a little too big. His hair was slicked back rather than spiked up. He was wearing the same thick-rimmed glasses as before—glasses Akaashi learned weren’t prescriptive and served as something for Bokuto to focus on instead of the crowd. They made him feel a little safer.

He was very obviously nervous. It was evidenced by his quick rocking, his chewing on his bottom lip, his fingers twitching as Akaashi held them between his own. Frenetic energy seemed to be radiating off of him. He needed a distraction. He seemed to calm down when Akaashi managed to distract him.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi murmured.

“Y-yeah?” Bokuto’s voice trembled.

“If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?”

“W-well, I… I don’t think I’d want to go on an airplane…”

“What if you didn’t need one? What if you could just close your eyes and be there?” Akaashi suggested. “Where would you want to go then?”

Bokuto’s anxious expression shifted toward one of contemplation. His rocking slowed. “Australia might be cool,” he mumbled. “I’m scared of the ocean too, but… But there are a lot of cool things in the ocean there. And the Sydney Opera House… I think I’d like to go there too.”

“Would you want to play there?”

“Maybe not a big concert, but… But I just want to know what it would sound like.”

Akaashi just hummed in reply, his thumbs rolling over the tops of Bokuto’s hands.

“Where would you want to go?” Bokuto asked suddenly.

“I’m really not one for traveling,” Akaashi said. “I suppose Italy would be interesting, there’s a lot of history there. And I’d like to eat my weight in pasta.”

“Akaash, that’s probably too much pasta,” Bokuto noted seriously.

“Probably,” Akaashi agreed.

The lights in the room flickered, giving the five-minute signal. Bokuto stiffened immediately.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi murmured, raising a hand to Bokuto’s cheek. “I’ll be watching. It’ll be just like last time. Just like when you play for me every night.”

Bokuto’s eyes locked on Akaashi’s. They looked like they were about to vibrate out of his head. And slowly, he nodded. “When… When I look out into the audience and see you, I’ll just pretend I’m playing for you at the office… Just like always,” he nodded firmly.

“Just like always,” Akaashi repeated.

Akaashi didn’t realize anyone was watching them until he headed out into the lobby. The severe man with the slicked back hair had been waiting around the corner—Bokuto’s therapist, as Akaashi remembered him. He eyed Akaashi with scrutiny as the younger man passed, but said nothing. It was almost unnerving. He was probably sizing Akaashi up. It was his job, after all. Akaashi tried to brush it off as he took his seat in the giant hall.

The lights went down, and Bokuto made his way on stage to the thunder of applause. But he had eyes for no one but Akaashi. He stared at the younger man as he sat down, taking a deep, steadying breath. His fingers fitted over the keys as his eyes pressed shut. And there was that shift—from everyday Bokuto to the master musician.

When Akaashi asked if there was a theme for this concert, Bokuto told him that he’d written pieces inspired by four operas that constituted something called “the Ring cycle.” He’d given Akaashi a title in German, then showed him some videos. Akaashi had sat with Bokuto and listened to the entire thing. He found himself intrigued. How would Bokuto capture the sounds obviously created by an entire orchestra pit using just his piano?

Akaashi’s skepticism was gone within the first two minutes. He could hear themes from the original piece, ones that even his untrained ear could remember. But it was more than that. Bokuto wasn’t just translating the music from medium to medium. He was embodying the feel of each movement, each measure, right down to the individual notes.

Akaashi could feel himself leaning forward in his seat during the more intense parts, the same way he did listening to the piece with Bokuto. He could practically feel himself vibrating with energy during the second movement. There was a lull, and Akaashi didn’t even realize he was holding his breath. He didn’t move, didn’t even blink when Bokuto’s fingers stalled over the keys, an abrupt transition to a tumultuous final movement. It felt like seconds, and then it was over.

Akaashi’s eyes were dry. His lungs were burning. He was leaned so far forward in his seat, he was almost standing up. And when Bokuto’s eyes met his, his lips formed the word on their own.

Perfect.

As if it could ever be anything but.

 


 

Akaashi woke up the morning after the performance to his phone vibrating on his side table. With a groan, he slapped his hand around the table, searching blindly until his fingers closed around the phone. His eyes squinted shut as he checked the screen.

>>[Bokuto]: Hey, hey, Akaash! I’m already at Kuroo’s place, he came and picked me up! He says to just come over whenever you’re up. I’m making breakfast! And there’s coffee, Kuroo said that might tempt you.

Well, he wasn’t wrong. Just the prospect of coffee had Akaashi sitting up and rubbing at his bleary eyes. A second glance at his phone told him it was almost noon—which was actually pretty early for him on a weekend. He slipped out of bed and threw on the t-shirt he must’ve discarded sometime during the night. It was hot, even with the air conditioner running. He shuffled into the bathroom to brush his teeth before sliding into his shoes and making his way over to Kuroo’s apartment. He’d barely stepped inside before Bokuto was in front of him, greeting him excitedly.

“Good morning! Well, I guess it’s more like afternoon. But did you sleep well?” Bokuto cheered.

“I did,” Akaashi replied.

“Do you want coffee? An omelet? Rice?” Bokuto asked eagerly.

“Coffee for now,” Akaashi yawned.

Bokuto laughed. “You’re not really a morning person, huh?”

Akaashi just hummed in reply, closing his eyes and scowling. Bokuto leaned down and kissed him, lingering for only a second before bounding away and disappearing into the kitchen. Akaashi slipped his shoes off and made his way for the couch. Kuroo’s couch was comfortable, and Akaashi had found himself trapped in its depths for hours before, lacking the will to get up. He settled onto it, curling his knees up to his chest. His eyes drifted closed. God, he could’ve fallen back to sleep right now.

But the shuffling footsteps in front of him made him crack his eyes open. Bokuto was waiting with a mug, a carton of milk, a bowl of sugar, and a spoon precariously balanced in his hands.

“I didn’t know what you liked,” he noted.

“You could’ve asked,” Akaashi chuckled.

“Oh,” Bokuto mumbled. He looked embarrassed. “Well, I just… I thought I’d let you do it. I don’t want to do it wrong.”

“It’s difficult to make my coffee wrong,” Akaashi said, reaching for the mug. “I just drink it like this.”

Bokuto’s nose wrinkled up immediately as he put the milk and sugar on the table. “Ew, really? But it tastes so… Bitter!”

“It wakes me up,” Akaashi said. He took a sip of his coffee, humming into the mug. “It’s perfect. Just the way I like it.”

“You’re so easy to please,” Bokuto chuckled as he dropped onto the couch.

Akaashi closed the space between them, shuffling across the couch and leaning against Bokuto. He really was helpless in the morning. His head rested against Bokuto’s shoulder. At least, until Bokuto stiffened beneath him.

“What’s wrong?” Akaashi asked, looking up to find Bokuto staring at him with wide, questioning eyes.

“I… I just… Is it okay? I mean, you know, ‘c-cause we’re not at home,” Bokuto stuttered, fidgeting with his fingers. “People don’t always want to see public displays of affection.”

Oh. Another rule. They hadn’t broached this one yet.

“You don’t have to worry about that, at least when we’re around friends,” Akaashi noted. “Especially these friends. Kuroo and Kenma and Hinata, none of them care about that.”

“R-really?” Bokuto mumbled, his face twisting into a grimace.

“Really,” Akaashi nodded. “But, if it makes you uncomfortable, I won’t—“

“No!” Bokuto exclaimed, leaning forward suddenly. “No, it doesn’t! I like when you do that! ‘Cause it… It’s really cute. I just… I wanted to make sure it was okay. But you can keep doing it!”

Bokuto leaned back, excitement practically radiating through his entire body. He made it seem like Akaashi was giving him the greatest gift he could imagine. Akaashi leaned his head against Bokuto’s shoulder once more, taking another drag from his mug. Slowly, tentatively, Bokuto raised his arm and wrapped it around Akaashi. The younger man snuggled closer. Oh, he definitely could go back to sleep now. Bokuto was deceptively comfortable.

“You know, I like seeing you like this,” Bokuto said idly.

“Like what?” Akaashi mumbled.

“Like… You know… Kinda vulnerable,” Bokuto struggled over his words. “But not… Not like that. It’s just, you know, ‘cause you’re always so put together. You’re so cool, so it’s nice to see you… I… I dunno…” he tapered off.

Akaashi angled his head to rest his chin on Bokuto’s shoulder, peering up at the older man curiously. “I’m really not as put together as it seems, I can assure you,” he noted.

“But you are!” Bokuto countered. “You have your cool job, and your cool friends, and you’re so smart, and—“

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi cut in, “you have all those things too.”

“Yeah, but I’m not… I’m not put together at all,” Bokuto mumbled. He fidgeted with the sleeve of Akaashi’s shirt, desperate for something to do with his fingers. “I’m a mess.”

“No one is as put together as they seem,” Akaashi pointed out.

“Yeah… I guess…” Bokuto didn’t sound altogether convinced. Akaashi leaned up and pressed a kiss to his jaw, which seemed to cheer him up, at least a little bit.

“Where’s Kuroo-san?” Akaashi asked.

“He’s waking up Terushima. I guess he has to work,” Bokuto replied.

“Terushima-kun is here?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“I didn’t hear them last night, I usually hear them through our paper-thin walls,” Akaashi said. “I’m not complaining, it’s just interesting.”

“What do you hear them doing?” Bokuto teased.

“Kuroo-san and Terushima-kun’s sex life does not need to—“

“What’s this about my sex life?” Kuroo practically shouted as he strode into the room. “I mean, don’t let me interrupt. Go on. I’m intrigued.”

“You’re intrigued about your own sex life?” Akaashi retorted.

“Oh, always.”

Kuroo dropped down onto a comfortable chair, throwing a leg ungracefully over the armrest. But something was wrong. There were dark circles under his eyes, like he hadn’t slept at all. The knowing smirk he wore couldn’t fool Akaashi. And it seemed like even Bokuto could tell.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Bokuto asked. Evidently this wasn’t the first time.

“I told you, I’m great!” Kuroo sounded a little too cheerful. It was almost forced.

Akaashi’s brows came together in consternation. But he said nothing. Bokuto looked between Akaashi and Kuroo, trying to decide if he should speak up. But the moment was interrupted by a grumbling Terushima, shuffling into the room with a bag over his shoulder and a mug of coffee between his palms. His blonde hair was sloppily styled, and there were dark circles under his eyes. He looked exhausted.

“Good morning!” Bokuto cheered.

Terushima smiled mildly at him. “Good morning, Koutarou,” he mumbled.

Akaashi had been surprised at the way Bokuto took to Terushima. The blonde wasn’t as energetic as Hinata, nor as calm as Kenma—his playful personality was somewhere in between the two. He also didn’t possess Kuroo’s awareness of other people. The first day they’d met, Terushima had gone in for a handshake, and Bokuto had stiffly returned it. Though if Terushima noticed, he hadn’t said anything.

Bokuto had seemed a little reluctant to open up to the blonde at first. He couldn’t read him as well as Kuroo or Kenma, and for a few weeks, Bokuto kept his distance, merely observing. And then, like the flip of a switch, they were suddenly friends. Akaashi had gone over to Kuroo’s apartment one afternoon and found just the two of them wrapped up in blankets and watching some sappy romantic comedy marathon. Kuroo was still asleep, and they were bonding over their weird niche knowledge of celebrity gossip.

Akaashi still found himself amazed at how Bokuto had opened up to everyone in his life. For someone who claimed to be nervous of new things and new people, he seemed to get along with all of them—even better than Akaashi did.

Bokuto always managed to surprise him.

“Did you work last night?” Bokuto asked Terushima curiously.

The blonde plopped down on Bokuto’s right, practically melting into the couch. “Until three this morning,” he huffed. “And now we’ve got a staff meeting. Because they want me to suffer.”

“Do you have to work tonight?” Akaashi asked, peering around Bokuto.

“Of course,” Terushima sighed. “And do they care about my suffering? No. Of course not.”

“I told him he should just quit and become someone’s trophy husband,” Kuroo noted airily.

“Wouldn’t that be nice,” Terushima sighed.

Akaashi’s gaze flicked toward Kuroo. The teasing air of his voice might have convinced Terushima, and even Bokuto. But not Akaashi. Kuroo met his eyes, tried to smile. Except it wasn’t a smile. Akaashi’s brows came together in a silent question, but Kuroo ignored him.

“Okay, I have to go,” Terushima groaned. He squeezed Bokuto’s hand affectionately as he stood up, setting his empty mug down onto the table. “Will you be by tomorrow, Koutarou?” he asked.

“Maybe!”

“Well, we’ll hang out if you are,” Terushima promised. He made his way over to Kuroo, leaning down and pressing a kiss to his mouth. “I’ll see you later.”

“I told you I could give you a ride,” Kuroo chided.

“It’s like three blocks,” Terushima countered. “I need to wake up, anyway.”

“Yeah... Alright.”

Terushima winked at Akaashi as he passed, something Akaashi had grown more than used to since they reached their détente—when he discovered Akaashi wasn’t out to sleep with Kuroo, he lightened up a bit. With a final shout of goodbye, he was out the door, closing it behind him.

Akaashi didn’t wait even a second before turning his pointed stare back on Kuroo.

“Well?” he said expectantly.

“Well what?” Kuroo tried.

Akaashi’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t even have to say anything. Kuroo sighed, slumping back in his chair.

“I dunno, I guess it’s just the same as usual, isn’t it?” Kuroo huffed. “Head over heels for a guy who just wants to be casual.”

“Well, what’s bringing on this bout of self-awareness?” Akaashi pressed.

Kuroo’s mouth twisted in thought. “Well… There’s a chance I caught some dude harassing him at the bar last night. And… I might’ve punched him.”

“Oh my god.”

“What was I gonna do, let the guy climb over the bar for him?” Kuroo exclaimed, his hands waving in front of his face erratically.

“That’s what the bouncers are for,” Akaashi noted. “I know that bar has them, you’ve told me stories.”

“Well, he wasn’t quick enough,” Kuroo reasoned.

“Did you get kicked out?” Bokuto asked.

“No, the manager actually thanked me.” He shouldn’t have sounded so depressed saying that. “But… Yuuji was kind of upset. He told me he could’ve handled it on his own, and I made a scene. I mean, I get it. I did kinda make a scene. But… I wasn’t really thinking.”

“Clearly.”

“Thanks, ‘Kaash.”

“Did you guys fight about it?” Bokuto asked.

“No, I could’ve dealt with a fight. We bicker all the time,” Kuroo replied. “He was so… Quiet. He didn’t really say anything. I brought him back here, since it’s closer than his apartment. And we didn’t talk. Like, at all. We just kinda laid there for a while. I don’t think we’ve ever gone so long without talking.”

“You know, that would’ve been the perfect opportunity to profess your love for him,” Akaashi noted.

“When he was furious with me?” Kuroo countered.

“If he was actually furious with you, he wouldn’t have come back here, or at the very least he would’ve slept on the couch,” Akaashi said pointedly. “I know you like to paint me as someone who is relationship illiterate. But it seems like there was something else both of you wanted to say, and neither of you knew how to say it.”

“Yeah, like they were waiting for the other person to start talking, but then the other person was waiting for that too, so no one said anything,” Bokuto added.

“Exactly.”

“Well how the hell was I supposed to know that?!” Kuroo groaned, throwing an arm over his eyes.

“Hey, why don’t you just tell him that you love him?” Bokuto asked.

Kuroo shot a glare toward Akaashi for some reason. Akaashi shook his head and held up a hand in his defense.

“It’s complicated,” Kuroo grumbled. “When we started this whole arrangement, it was casual. We’ve been off and on, just based on convenience. And I had to fuck it up by catching feelings. He clearly has no interest in being exclusive, since he’s been flirting with other people. So I’ve contented myself with being a side piece. It’s better than not having him at all. It’s fine. I’m fine.”

“But you’re not fine,” Bokuto pointed out innocently.

“You punched someone because of him,” Akaashi added.

“I’m fine,” Kuroo retorted. “I mean, I will be. This is fine. What we’ve got is fine. It’s good.”

“Do you love him?” Bokuto asked suddenly.

Kuroo looked taken aback. “I…” He paused, his mouth working slowly around the words. Then he heaved a sigh. “Yeah.”

“You love all of him? Everything? All the pieces?”

“Yeah,” Kuroo nodded.

“Well, if you love all of him, then you’re never gonna be happy with just a piece of him,” Bokuto reasoned. “And yeah, it’s kinda scary thinking about changing things or messing them up, but you won’t really be happy until you tell him. And I mean, I also don’t think he’d hang out here all the time if he just wanted you to be a… Side piece?”

Kuroo’s eyes were wide, his mouth open in surprise. Maybe he didn’t expect such eloquent advice from Bokuto. Or maybe for the first time, he realized it was true. He looked like he wanted to say something, but the words wouldn’t come.

Akaashi leaned his head against Bokuto’s shoulder again. “Look at you with your relationship advice,” he said.

“Well, it’s ‘cause I know I’d never be happy with just a piece of you, Akaash,” Bokuto said, peering down at him intently. “’Cause I love all of you, you know.”

“I do know,” Akaashi hummed, pressing a kiss to his jaw.

“God, you guys really are happy and shiny,” Kuroo groaned. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and glaring at the floor. “I… I know you’re right. I get it. But… God, I’m scared.”

“Yeah, but it’ll feel a lot better once you know for sure,” Bokuto conceded.

“You know, this advice is starting to sound eerily familiar,” Kuroo said. He looked up at Akaashi, a devious smirk pulling at his lips.

“Yes, well, at least one of us has heeded it,” Akaashi snapped. “And I’m happier and shinier for it.”

“Yeah... Yeah you are,” Kuroo huffed.

They spent the afternoon watching some dumb action movies—ones Bokuto and Kuroo thought were the coolest things in the world and managed to make Akaashi fall asleep for a while. They had dinner together, and then Kuroo drove Bokuto home. But tonight, Akaashi went with him.

“I’ll just take the train back later,” he reasoned, climbing out of the car.

The knowing smirk Kuroo wore this time wasn’t a cover. Akaashi tried pointedly to ignore it, but Kuroo’s muffled call of “Use protection!” as the car pulled away made his jaw tick.

Well, it’s not as though he was completely off base.

But Akaashi didn’t want to let him know that.

They hadn’t been home for ten minutes before Akaashi was settled in Bokuto’s lap on the couch, their mouths smashed together in a fierce kiss. Akaashi pulled Bokuto’s bottom lip into his mouth, enjoying the shiver that ran through Bokuto’s body. He opened his lips to allow the slip of Akaashi’s tongue over his own. The resulting groan was muffled into Akaashi’s mouth.

Akaashi slipped his hands beneath Bokuto’s shirt, gliding his fingertips over the hardened muscles. They tensed beneath his touch. Bokuto’s fingers curled around Akaashi’s hips reflexively. Akaashi tugged on Bokuto’s lip, playing with it between his teeth, earning a low groan from Bokuto’s chest.

“A-Akaashi,” he moaned.

Akaashi hummed against his lips. His hands glided up Bokuto’s chest, dragging his shirt up, up, pulling it over his head and tossing it across the room. He broke away from Bokuto’s mouth only for a second, returning to those swollen lips in an instant. Bokuto pressed into the kiss hungrily. This time, it was his turn for his tongue to dip into Akaashi’s mouth. He’d gotten very good at that, so good Akaashi had to pull back for a deep, shuddering breath.

“I like making you do that,” Bokuto murmured.

“The feeling is very mutual,” Akaashi replied.

He pressed his mouth to Bokuto’s jaw, running the tip of his tongue down the older man’s throat. He sucked lightly at Bokuto’s Adam’s apple. Bokuto shivered in response. A breath of satisfaction left Akaashi’s mouth as he continued downward, curling his spine to reach lower. But soon it wasn’t enough. He wanted more.

Bokuto actually whined as Akaashi climbed off of his lap, dropping to the floor in front of him. But as Akaashi pressed a litany of kisses down his chest, he realized what was happening. His mouth opened in protest, but all that came out was a moan as Akaashi licked over a nipple.

Akaashi continued downward, sliding his tongue through Bokuto’s abdominal muscles, loving every twitch and tremor he felt beneath him. Above him, Bokuto’s breathing was becoming more and more erratic, nonsensical words passing through his lips. The only constant was a huff of Akaashi’s name.

Akaashi allowed his lips to linger just below Bokuto’s navel, sucking tantalizingly on the tough patch of skin. This earned a full body tremor from Bokuto. He looked ready to vibrate right off the couch. Akaashi took the opportunity to pop open the button of his shorts, dragging the zipper down tooth by tooth.

“A-Akaashi,” Bokuto groaned.

Akaashi pulled his lips away, giving Bokuto only a moment to relax. He curled his fingers around Bokuto’s waistband. A gentle tug was all it took to make Bokuto lift himself up. It was enough for Akaashi to tug them down his hips, over the swell of Bokuto’s cock, freeing it from the fabric.

“A-Akaash, you… You don’t… You don’t have to…” Bokuto stammered.

Akaashi pressed a kiss to Bokuto’s thigh, sucking softly on the taut skin beneath his lips. “Do you want me to?” he asked.

“W-well… I don’t… Not want you too…”

Another kiss, a little further up his thigh. “I want to,” Akaashi hummed. “I like it.”

Bokuto swallowed hard, blinking down at Akaashi. Then, like always, he nodded—slowly, tentatively, but somehow sure of his response.

Akaashi worked his hands up Bokuto’s thighs, massaging them gently. He leaned down, nuzzling his cheek against Bokuto’s length. The sharp intake of breath above Akaashi made him smile. He pressed a wet, open-mouthed kiss to the side of Bokuto’s cock, and the older man shuddered in response.

“A-Akaashi,” he gasped.

Akaashi extended his tongue, gliding it up the length of Bokuto’s cock, then back down. Over and over again, his tongue slipped over the length, thoroughly coating Bokuto in his saliva. The older man gasped again as Akaashi’s lips closed around the head suddenly, tongue swirling around the smooth skin. He teased the tip for only a moment, relishing the surge of salt across his tongue, savoring Bokuto’s groans as his fingers fisted in Akaashi’s dark curls.

Then Akaashi took a deep breath as he moved down, taking in as much of Bokuto’s length as he could. The tip pressed against the back of his throat. The ring of muscles tightened in protest, but he didn’t stop. He couldn’t stop. Not with the way Bokuto moaned his name. Akaashi hollowed out his cheeks as he pulled back, pushing forward just as eagerly. He began a slow pace up and down, pulling back only as far as he needed to breathe. His tongue flicked over the head with every pass, earning a short series of gasps from the man above him.

Akaashi couldn’t help but peer up at Bokuto curiously. He realized with a start that Bokuto was staring at him, hooded golden eyes seemingly incapable of blinking. His pupils were blown wide with pleasure, and his mouth hung slack as he panted Akaashi’s name over and over again.

“Oh god,” he huffed. “You’re so… So good… Akaashi… Please don’t… Don’t stop.”

Akaashi hummed against him, earning a rough jerk of Bokuto’s hips into his waiting mouth. Akaashi could feel his jaw starting to burn, tears pricking at the corners of his eyes every time the head of Bokuto’s cock pressed against the back of his throat. But he didn’t stop—he couldn’t stop, not with Bokuto’s intense gaze holding him in place.

And now Bokuto’s hands were guiding him faster, his nails digging into Akaashi’s scalp. Akaashi drew in short, quick inhales through his nostrils. His lungs were burning. But Bokuto was close now, judging by the grunts escaping from his chest. Akaashi curled his fingers around Bokuto’s thighs in silent encouragement.

Bokuto’s hips lifted off the couch, stuttering into Akaashi’s slack mouth. His legs were trembling almost violently. His shoulders heaved with every breath, like each one was more of an effort than the last. He seemed to be curling in on himself, his head close to Akaashi’s now.

“Don’t stop,” he begged, his breathing erratic. “Please… Akaashi, I’m… Oh god… I’m gonna… You have to… I’m… Akaashi!”

Akaashi hummed again, hoping against hope that Bokuto understood. He locked onto those wide, golden eyes once more, losing himself in their intensity. And, with a loud shout of his name, Bokuto was coming hard, shooting thick ropes of cum against the back of Akaashi’s throat. Akaashi tried to swallow it all, vaguely aware that some was dripping down the corner of his mouth. But most of the salty substance made it down his throat. Akaashi continued to bob his head up and down, allowing Bokuto to ride out his orgasm. He stopped only when Bokuto’s hips returned to the cushions, stilling completely.

Akaashi pulled back, releasing Bokuto’s softening cock with a slick pop. Bokuto was still shaking, still reeling from his orgasm. His fingers loosened their grip in Akaashi’s dark locks, but they didn’t let go. Akaashi let his hands drift up and down Bokuto’s thighs, the touch gentle, reassuring.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Bokuto murmured.

“Why are you sorry?” Akaashi asked.

Bokuto just grimaced as he looked down at Akaashi. A hand drifted from his hair to his face, tracing along the prominent cheekbone. Akaashi couldn’t help but close his eyes as he leaned into the touch. The pads of Bokuto’s fingers roved over his flushed cheeks, down his jaw, over his lips. Akaashi pressed a kiss to his fingertips.

“I’m sorry I can’t do it.”

Bokuto’s despondent voice retrieved Akaashi’s attention. He looked up to see Bokuto wearing a pained expression.

Akaashi hated that expression.

They had decided after that first night that trying things out was the best way to decide if Bokuto liked them. And there were a lot of things he liked. Akaashi was able to discover his most sensitive part of his body—that patch of skin between his navel and his cock. The first time he grazed his teeth over it, Bokuto actually came into his waiting hand. He’d also discovered Bokuto’s weakness for Akaashi’s mouth leaving bites and bruises down his neck and chest. Oh, he’d liked that a lot.

They learned Bokuto also enjoyed returning the favor. He’d relished kissing every part of Akaashi’s body, letting his tongue rove over the taut skin. He’d learned Akaashi’s nipples were his weak spots, and Bokuto liked taking them between his teeth, listening to the way Akaashi whimpered his name when he did.

But they’d also discovered something he didn’t like, something he couldn’t do. It was a night just like this, the first time Akaashi had dropped to his knees and taken Bokuto’s cock into his mouth. The older man had been eager to return the favor, making every effort to mimic Akaashi’s actions, his every movement. Except, when he tried to take Akaashi into his mouth, he’d choked. He’d coughed and spluttered after barely getting a few inches past his lips. Ever the tenacious one, he’d insisted on trying again. The results were no different.

He’d been so upset with himself, so frustrated that he couldn’t do it. It wasn’t the taste, he insisted. It wasn’t the texture. It wasn’t anything he could even describe. He just couldn’t do it. And he wore the same expression then that he was wearing now.

Akaashi hated it.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi muttered, trying to catch his suddenly elusive gaze. “Please look at me.”

Bokuto’s reluctant golden eyes glanced down at Akaashi once more. Akaashi leaned up and pressed his forehead to Bokuto’s.

“What I want most is to do the things you’re comfortable with,” Akaashi insisted. “I’m happiest when you’re comfortable.”

This didn’t seem to reassure Bokuto, who was once against refusing to meet Akaashi’s eyes. Akaashi wanted to say something more, anything to convince Bokuto that he didn’t care—because truly, he didn’t care. He liked Bokuto’s hands, the way he felt when Bokuto touched him. And the way his eyes burned into Akaashi, that smolder was enough to make Akaashi tremble.

“Bokuto-san,” he said abruptly. “You know… There are other things I like.”

This got Bokuto’s attention. He peered curiously down at Akaashi. “L-like what?” he asked.

“I can show you, if you want,” Akaashi suggested.

Bokuto nodded so vigorously, it was a wonder he didn’t give himself whiplash. A smile pulled at Akaashi’s lips. “I need to go buy some lube first,” Akaashi said. “It’ll work best if—“

“I have some of that!”

Akaashi couldn’t hide his expression of surprise as Bokuto leaned forward expectantly. “You… You do?” he asked curiously.

Bokuto’s expression turned sheepish almost immediately. He glanced away, his fingers coming together, fidgeting anxiously. “W-well… Um… When… When we started doing… You know, stuff… I, um… I looked up some more stuff. Like… Like what two men could do, you know? ‘Cause… ‘Cause, I guess, I got kinda curious. And it said… It said that you needed to use the lube. And… And I bought condoms too, ‘cause it said you needed to use those to be safe. But then there were so many, and I got a little overwhelmed, so… So I bought a bunch.”

“How many did you buy?” Akaashi couldn’t help his curiosity.

“Um… There’s probably like a hundred or something,” Bokuto mumbled.

Akaashi bit his lip, holding in his chuckle. Bokuto was funny, so thorough, so very, very sweet. Akaashi reached a hand up, tracing his fingers over Bokuto’s jaw.

“Are… Are you mad?” Bokuto asked tremulously.

“Not at all,” Akaashi replied. “I’m glad you did. Now I can show you.”

Bokuto’s face lit up into a dazzling smile. He was on his feet, forgetting that he was naked as he raced across the living room and disappeared from view. Akaashi was slower as he made his way to his feet and ambled after Bokuto. He found the older man crouched down, digging around in his nightstand. He emerged with a small brown bottle, holding it up victoriously toward Akaashi.

“The website said water-based was best for… For um… The… The… You know…” Bokuto’s face was heating up, his cheeks flushing red.

“You’re right, good choice,” Akaashi nodded. “But… It might get a bit messy.”

“That’s okay!” Bokuto exclaimed. “Do you need to lay down? We can use the bed, I’ll just change the sheets! And a towel! I’ll get you a towel! Anything else? Anything else you need?”

“No, I’m fine,” Akaashi insisted.

Bokuto was gone again, flying out the bedroom door and pounding down the hall toward the bathroom. Akaashi used his absence to strip, pulling off his shirt, unbuttoning his shorts and letting them fall to the floor. His boxers followed suite, and he suddenly felt embarrassed. Not only was he naked and alone in Bokuto’s bedroom, he was also painfully hard. His cock was at full attention. Just having Bokuto in his mouth was enough to turn him on.

There was a sudden sharp intake of breath from behind him, and Akaashi turned to see Bokuto standing in the doorway, clutching a towel between his hands. It looked like he was trying to rip it in half by how tightly he was holding it. His eyes were wide as he appraised Akaashi.

“What’s wrong?” Akaashi asked.

“You’re just… You’re… So sexy,” Bokuto mumbled.

Akaashi was sure his entire body had turned red. “You’ve seen me naked before,” he scoffed.

“Yeah, but… Not like this,” Bokuto countered, taking a tentative step forward. “Not like… From a distance…”

“Am I a mountain?” Akaashi asked.

“No, but I… I do like the view.”

Bokuto dropped the towel onto the bed, sliding both hands around Akaashi’s neck and bringing him forward for a kiss. The crush of Bokuto’s lips against his stole the breath from Akaashi’s lungs. Bokuto slicked his tongue along the roof of Akaashi’s mouth, and when Akaashi’s moved to counter it, Bokuto sucked gingerly on the tip. He certainly didn’t have a problem with that. Akaashi felt his knees tremble. He had to press his hands to Bokuto’s chest to keep from falling forward.

Bokuto pulled away, his lips millimeters from Akaashi’s. “Will you show me?” he muttered.

“Yes,” Akaashi breathed.

Bokuto pulled the comforter from the bed, allowing Akaashi to settle against the sheets. He pushed the pillows and settled back against the headboard. Bokuto dropped down at the foot of the bed, drawing forward and settling between Akaashi’s legs. But before Akaashi could even grab the lube from the side table, Bokuto’s mouth was on him, leaving a trail of hot, wet kisses up his stomach.

“B… Bokuto-san,” Akaashi tried weakly.

Bokuto just grunted, continuing his steady trail up Akaashi’s torso. Akaashi protested again, but Bokuto’s name had barely left his lips when suddenly, Bokuto’s mouth closed around his left nipple. And he was done for.

His head knocked against the headboard, eyes rolling back in his head. Bokuto’s palms smoothed over Akaashi’s chest, a thumb rolling teasingly over the unoccupied nipple. But his tongue was thoroughly abusing the one in his mouth, sucking greedily on the tiny nub. It sent pinpricks of pleasure toward Akaashi’s cock, and he could feel it twitch angrily against his stomach, clearly upset over the lack of attention. But Akaashi could only fist his fingers in Bokuto’s hair, desperate for something to hold on to. Every lick made his nails dig into Bokuto’s scalp. Every suck earned a tremble. And then he bit down, teeth closing around the tender peak. Akaashi cried out, his back arching off the headboard.

The first time that happened, just a few short months ago, Bokuto had been terrified. He’d pulled away, eyes wide with fear, and asked Akaashi repeatedly if he was okay. But this time, he knew better. His teeth continued to worry the nipple, rolling it back and forth, sucking intently. Only when Akaashi finally whimpered his name did he pull away with a wet pop.

“You’re really sexy from afar, but… This view’s nice too,” he said, his voice low.

Akaashi tried to retort, something clever, anything really. But Bokuto cut him off once more, his mouth closing over the neglected nipple. Akaashi was quickly losing his faculties, keening when Bokuto sucked hard on the tiny nub. It was almost unbearable, almost too much. Akaashi couldn’t form words anymore, couldn’t even whimper Bokuto’s name. Bokuto took the nipple between his teeth, abusing it with his bite. Akaashi tugged on his hair, the only thing he could think to do in the moment. Bokuto seemed to take the hint, pulling back once more and looking up at Akaashi curiously.

“If you keep doing that,” Akaashi panted as he recovered, “you won’t get to see what we came in here for.”

“Does it really feel that good when I use my mouth?” Bokuto asked, looking almost awestruck.

“It does.”

“Okay, I’ll stop,” Bokuto nodded. “I want to see.”

Akaashi almost regretted telling Bokuto to stop as he pulled away, missing the loss of his mouth, his body heat. He settled back into his spot between Akaashi’s legs, peering down at the younger man intently. Akaashi groped around on the side table, grabbing the small brown bottle. He clicked it open, turned it over, and liberally coated his fingers with the slick liquid. Bokuto watched every single one of his movements with rapt attention.

Akaashi dropped the bottle on the bed next to him. His fingers traced down his body, the tips gliding over his skin. They settled between his thighs, and slowly, he traced a circle around his tight hole. It had been a while since he’d done this—with no one in his life to do it for him, he didn’t see the need to. But now, Bokuto’s gaze was moving him onward.

Locking onto Bokuto’s golden eyes, Akaashi pressed a single finger against his entrance. It was already tight, the ring of muscle protesting the intrusion. But he pressed on, ignoring the burn and forcing his middle finger inside. He stopped at the first knuckle for a moment, then continued to the second. Paused. Then pushed it all the way in.

He could feel tension crawling up his spine, his hole flexing around the new addition. The fingers of his free hand curled around the sheet beneath him. When he dragged his finger out to the first knuckle, then pressed in once more, he had to bite his lip to keep from groaning.

His pace was slow as he adjusted. While he was no stranger to this sensation, it had been too long. He had to get used to it all over again. But as the seconds turned to minutes, one finger wasn’t enough. His free hand scrabbled over the bed, searching for the abandoned bottle of lube. He uncapped it and leaned forward, putting a generous amount onto his pointer finger.

He realized that he hadn’t looked at Bokuto for a while, too immersed in his own sensations. He glanced up and practically crawled out of his skin. The hungry expression Bokuto wore was one Akaashi didn’t know he was capable of. He looked almost feral. Akaashi didn’t look away as he pressed the second finger alongside the first, hissing at the added pressure it brought. It was a struggle to accommodate the new digit, and he had to still for longer this time. Bokuto’s eyes never left his fingers.

Slowly, he began to thrust his fingers in and out, groaning at the clench of his muscles with every slow drag. His hips pushed into the contact. God, it was hot. His entire body was flooded with heat, and the clench around his fingers was burning. Once, he dared to spread his fingers apart, stretching himself even further. He choked on his gasp, coughing and shaking at the burning sensation.

“Akaashi.”

Akaashi realized again that he hadn’t looked up at Bokuto recently. His eyes raked up Bokuto’s form—noting that he was rock hard once more—and met his feral gaze. He could barely see the gold of his eyes, they were all pupil now. And they were locked firmly on Akaashi’s.

“Wh-what?” Akaashi managed. “Wh-what’s wrong?”

“Can I do it?” Bokuto asked.

Akaashi’s mouth fell open in surprise. He certainly hadn’t expected that.

“Bokuto-san,” he murmured, trying to keep his voice steady. “You don’t have to…”

“I want to,” Bokuto insisted. He crawled forward a bit, settling between Akaashi’s thighs. One of his hands settled on a thigh, massaging the muscles beneath Akaashi’s skin. His thumb rolled over the smooth inner thigh. Fiercely determined eyes never left Akaashi’s. “I really, really want to.”

As if Akaashi could say no to that.

With a groan, he pulled his fingers out of himself, grabbing for the towel and wiping them clean. He beckoned Bokuto a little closer, and the older man complied immediately.

“Take it slow,” Akaashi urged. He uncapped the lube and smeared some over Bokuto’s middle finger. “Yours are thicker than mine, so just one first.”

“Got it,” Bokuto nodded.

Akaashi settled back against the headboard once more. He watched Bokuto closely. It seemed Bokuto had been studying his movements. Bokuto brought his hand down to Akaashi’s entrance, teasing over it with the pad of his finger. Akaashi couldn’t help but roll his hips against the digit.

“Do you want it?” Bokuto asked.

Was Bokuto teasing him? Was it a genuine question? Akaashi couldn’t read his expression.

He also didn’t care.

“Yes,” he gasped. “Please… I want you.”

That was all it took, and Bokuto was pressing into Akaashi firmly, burying his finger to the hilt. Akaashi groaned, his fingers flexing against the sheets. Bokuto stilled, just long enough for Akaashi to adjust to the new girth, and then he was moving again, in and out, a steady pace. The pad of his finger rubbed against Akaashi’s walls.

“Ah, that’s good,” Akaashi sighed. “Just like that.”

“That?” Bokuto asked, accentuating it with another stroke.

“Y-yes… Good… You… You can add another finger,” he added.

He helped Bokuto get the bottle open, and together they managed to smear a copious amount of lube onto a second finger. As it pressed inside him, Akaashi felt his spine twinge. He couldn’t bite back a whimper.

Bokuto froze. “Is it… Should I…” he murmured.

“No,” Akaashi whined. “It’s good. Just… H-hold on. Just let me… Ahh.”

“Oh my god, Akaashi… It’s so tight,” Bokuto mused.

His free hand was massaging against Akaashi’s hip now, the pressure just enough to distract Akaashi from the tight heat between his thighs. And slowly, Akaashi felt his spine uncoiling, the tension melting.

“You can move now,” he sighed.

Bokuto didn’t need telling twice. He pulled his fingers back to the first knuckle, then pressed them deep. Back and forth they rocked, testing different angles with each thrust. Akaashi’s gasped with each press. His cock twitched angrily again, and he wrapped a hand around it to relieve the heavy pressure.

And at that exact moment, Bokuto curled his fingers against Akaashi’s prostate.

Akaashi couldn’t hold back a shout, his spine curving so tight it threatened to snap. He looked at Bokuto with wide, astonished eyes. Bokuto looked equally surprised.

“Did you… Did you mean to do that?” Akaashi panted.

“Y-yeah,” Bokuto replied tentatively. “It was… It was something I saw online.”

Akaashi wanted to tell him to ease back. It was too much. He might not survive it if Bokuto continued. It had been too long since that area had been stimulated. Akaashi was sure he’d die if Bokuto pressed into it once more.

But instead, when he opened his mouth, only one word came out.

“Again.”

The curl of the digits inside Akaashi was enough to drive him wild. And when they tapped against his prostate, he was sure he was dying. A garbled shout exploded from his lips as he practically melted against the headboard. Pleading cries of “More!” echoed through the room. And Bokuto was eager to comply. Over and over his fingers pressed against the tiny gland, undeterred by Akaashi’s trembling and shouting.

Akaashi was vaguely aware of the fact that Bokuto’s hand had replaced his own around his cock. He was a mess of pants and whimpers. His hips lifted off the bed erratically, half desperate to fuck into Bokuto’s hand, half trying to move against the fingers inside him. He was practically dissolving against the headboard. Somehow, his fingers worked their way into Bokuto’s hair, tugging desperately at the multicolored locks. Bokuto leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Akaashi’s, sloppily meeting his tongue in the middle.

“B-Bokuto-san,” Akaashi panted weakly, his words slurred against Bokuto’s mouth. “Faster… More… Please… More…”

“God, you’re so sexy,” Bokuto praised.

He picked up speed, pressing his fingers faster, deeper. They bumped against Akaashi’s prostate without any sort of pattern, always taking Akaashi by surprise, always pulling all the air from his lungs. And the hand wrapped around his cock was moving faster now, matching the rhythm of his fingers.

“Oh god,” Akaashi cried. “I’m… I’m so… Please… Please don’t stop.”

“Come on,” Bokuto urged. “You can do it. Cum.”

Akaashi felt himself crumbling around the sensations. They were too much. He was dying. He had to be. The noises coming from deep in his chest, the whimpers, the whines—they couldn’t belong to him. He bucked uncontrollably against Bokuto, pleading and begging against Bokuto’s mouth. His breaths were coming in stuttered hiccups as his eyes rolled back in his head once more.

And, with a surge of electric heat, Akaashi came with a shout of Bokuto’s name, exploding over his hand and spasming hard enough to vibrate off the bed. Bokuto continued to stroke, continued to thrust, working Akaashi through his orgasm.

“Oh god,” Akaashi gasped.

“God, Akaashi, you’re so hot,” Bokuto groaned.

Akaashi cracked open his eyes, staring at Bokuto incredulously. He knew he was a mess right now, his faculties slowly returning to him. He could feel a mixture of lube and cum trailing down his thighs. He was covered in a thick sheen of sweat. And there was a trail of saliva sliding down the corner of his mouth—probably from the sloppy kiss Bokuto had used to placate him.

If anyone could be called hot right now, it was Bokuto. His hair was mussed from Akaashi’s fingers, but it was just enough to look sexy. His hooded gaze made a shiver run down Akaashi’s spine. His arms flexed as he worked Akaashi down from his high, the thin sheen of sweat over the muscles much less disgusting than his own. And god, he was so hard still. But he’d ignored it. All for Akaashi.

“You’re the one who’s hot,” Akaashi countered.

“N-no, I… I’m not,” Bokuto murmured.

Akaashi’s hand darted out, wrapping suddenly around Bokuto’s rock hard cock. The older man actually shouted in surprise. Akaashi held him tightly, working back and forth, spreading the copious amount of precum over the length. Bokuto’s hands stilled as he was overcome by the sensation of Akaashi’s fingers. Oh, he’d been hard for so long now, he was already close.

“A-A-Akaashi, don’t… Ahh, god, don’t stop,” Bokuto hissed.

“Do you want it?” Akaashi asked, parroting Bokuto’s earlier question.

“Yes, god, I want it,” Bokuto gasped. “I want you. God, don’t stop!”

Akaashi pressed another wet kiss to Bokuto’s mouth, swallowing his gasps, sucking firmly on his tongue. Bokuto rocked forward, fucking desperately into Akaashi’s hand. His thrusts grew more and more erratic.

“Akaashi,” he gasped against Akaashi’s lips.

“Come on,” Akaashi said. “You can do it. Cum.”

And then Bokuto was cuming with a frantic shout, significantly less than the first time, mixing with Akaashi’s cum against his thighs. Akaashi continued to work him, the same way Bokuto had done for him.

“You’re amazing,” Akaashi murmured, marveling at the man kneeling before him.

“No way,” Bokuto shook his head. “You are.”

The fingers pulling out of Akaashi made him inhale sharply, and he couldn’t tell if it was from relief or disappointment. Bokuto snatched the towel before Akaashi could and cleaned Akaashi’s thighs and his own fingers. Akaashi just wanted to fall asleep again, and when Bokuto settled next to him, sliding an arm around his shoulders and pulling him into the crook of his arm, he was so tempted to.

“I really liked doing that,” Bokuto noted.

“Well, you were very good at it,” Akaashi hummed.

“Really?”

“Really.”

Akaashi didn’t even have to look up to know Bokuto was smiling.

For a while, neither of them said anything, content to lean against one another in silence. The sun had set a long time ago, and only the dim light from the lamp in the corner illuminated the room. Akaashi didn’t even want to crack open his eyes, didn’t want to see what time it was.

“Do you think I could use your shower before I go?” he asked.

Bokuto didn’t say anything. Akaashi reluctantly opened his eyes and peered up at Bokuto. He was chewing on his bottom lip, lost in thought.

“I… I don’t have to,” Akaashi conceded. “I just thought—“

“No, no, it’s not that!” Bokuto exclaimed, snapping his gaze down toward Akaashi. “You can shower, that’s fine. But… I was just thinking…”

When he didn’t say anything, Akaashi reached for his hand, twining their fingers together—a silent encouragement for Bokuto to continue.

“Well… I was thinking that… Maybe you don’t have to go…”

It took Akaashi longer than it should have to register Bokuto’s words. His eyebrows rose in understanding. “You… Want me to stay?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Bokuto nodded. “If… If you want to.” Suddenly, he looked flustered. “I mean, I know you don’t have any clothes or anything, but you can wear something of mine. Or, maybe you don’t want to wear mine… I could run and get you clothes. And I have extra toothbrushes and stuff. And I can wash your clothes in the morning before you go. I don’t have a coffee maker, but I’ll go buy you coffee. And I’ll buy you breakfast if you want, too.”

Akaashi squeezed Bokuto’s hand, and the older man fell silent.

“I’d love to stay,” he said gently. “And you don’t have to rush out to get me anything.”

Bokuto’s smile was illuminating. He was up in an instant, disappearing down the hallway completely naked. Akaashi was about to call after him, asking what he was doing. But then he heard the water running.

“Do you want a bath? Or just a shower?” his muffled voice sounded from down the hall.

“A shower’s fine,” Akaashi called back.

Slowly, he made his way to the edge of the bed, dangling his legs over the side. He knew this would be interesting, considering how long it had been since he’d done anything like this. As gently as possible, he bore his weight down onto his legs. They protested, particularly his thighs, which quivered almost dangerously. But he was able to stand to his full height without incident.

He made his way down the hall and joined Bokuto in the bathroom. But maybe that was a mistake. Bokuto was showering, clearly almost done as he rinsed the soap from his body. His hair was down, pressed flat to his head. And Akaashi watched the water drip in rivulets down his skin, the soap streaking tantalizingly. Akaashi was frustrated to feel himself getting turned on again. But he was too exhausted. He couldn’t. Not again.

Thankfully, Bokuto finished quick enough, and he wrapped himself in a towel, covering enough to keep Akaashi sane. Bokuto didn’t know Akaashi was there until he turned around. His face lit up in a smile once more.

“Your turn!”

“Thank you,” Akaashi nodded.

The hot water soothed Akaashi’s screaming muscles. He had to shake his head at just how fragile he’d gotten. Evidently his dry spell had affected his stamina. He’d have to work on that. Bokuto’s soap made his eyes flutter shut. Oh, he liked that smell so much. And now he would get to smell like that for the next full day. This was nice.

When he felt like he’d spent long enough under the warm stream, Akaashi shut off the water and found a towel. He shuffled back into the bedroom, where Bokuto was standing facing the bed. He’d changed the sheets and thrown the blanket back over the top. Now, he seemed locked in on something Akaashi couldn’t see. He didn’t even notice Akaashi come in.

“Are you alright?” Akaashi asked quietly.

Bokuto nearly jumped out of his skin. Had he forgotten Akaashi was there?

“Do you need something to wear? Of course you do,” he said hurriedly, walking over to his dresser. “Um, let’s see, I know my pants are probably too big, but I’ve got some shirts you can wear. And, I might have some shorts that are smaller. Probably not though. Here, this shirt is big.”

He returned to Akaashi, holding out a t-shirt with his college’s insignia on the back. Were his hands shaking? Akaashi reached forward, but he didn’t take the shirt. Instead, his fingers glided up Bokuto’s arms.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“N-nothing,” Bokuto tried.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi urged.

Bokuto clearly wanted to argue. But one look at Akaashi’s fierce expression cut him off. Instead, he pulled his bottom lip between his teeth, clearly struggling over his words.

“Tell me,” Akaashi insisted.

“It’s just… I’ve never had anyone stay over before,” Bokuto murmured.

Ah. This was a change. An adjustment. A deviation from the routine. Why hadn’t Akaashi thought about that before?

“Bokuto-san, I don’t have to stay,” Akaashi pointed out.

Bokuto’s wide eyes met Akaashi’s once more. “I want you to!” he exclaimed. “I really want you to stay! It’s just… I don’t… I don’t know what to do.” His eyes flicked away, and Akaashi could see his frustration with himself mounting.

“Well, what do you need me to do?” Akaashi asked. “I can sleep on the couch.”

“I don’t want that,” Bokuto murmured.

“Alright,” Akaashi conceded. “Well, maybe we could do this. If you get into bed first, we’ll turn off the lights. Then I’ll join you.”

Bokuto thought hard for a minute, his face contorting into a grimace. Then, slowly, he nodded.

“That’s fine,” Akaashi said. “Whatever you need.”

Bokuto used the bathroom first while Akaashi got dressed. Then they switched. Bokuto looked upset, but Akaashi knew it was with himself. He wanted to say something, wanted to comfort the older man. But nothing would come to him.

When he returned to the bedroom, the lights were off. Akaashi used the light from his phone to guide him to the bed. He climbed in next to Bokuto, setting his phone on the side table and settling under the blanket. Akaashi couldn’t see him, but he could feel the tension radiating from Bokuto’s body. He was tempted to reach for him, to run his fingers up and down Bokuto’s arms. But he held back.

“I’m sorry.”

Bokuto’s voice was so small, Akaashi barely heard it, even in the silence of the room. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and he looked over to see Bokuto staring intently at the ceiling.

“Why are you sorry?” Akaashi asked.

“’Cause I’m a mess,” Bokuto murmured. “If I wasn’t like this, then we could go to sleep together, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. But… But I’m a mess. I just… I wish I was normal. I wish I didn’t worry about everything. I just…” His voice broke around his words.

The same way Akaashi could feel his heart breaking.

This time, he didn’t stop himself as he reached forward and found Bokuto’s hand, twining their fingers together. He felt Bokuto tense for a moment, and then he relaxed against the mattress.

“I think you’re perfect,” Akaashi said firmly. “And I know you don’t believe me when I say that. But I love you. I love every part of you. Even the parts you don’t like. I love all of them. I love you.”

Bokuto nodded slowly again. But Akaashi could tell he wasn’t convinced—though he hadn’t expected him to be. A distraction. He needed a distraction. Bokuto calmed down with a distraction, if he could just get his mind off of what was bothering him.

“Bokuto-san, will you tell me a story?”

Well, he could’ve been a little less obvious. But he was surprised to see it work. Bokuto tilted his head in Akaashi’s direction.

“What kind of story?” he asked.

“Anything. Something from your childhood, maybe,” Akaashi suggested.

Bokuto was thinking now. Akaashi could see the ghost of his expression in the darkness, his brows furrowed and mouth tight in concentration. But it was working. He wasn’t thinking about his shortcoming anymore.

“Well…” he began. “I guess I have a funny one. When I was younger, my brother and I would—“

“You have a brother?” Akaashi didn’t mean to interrupt. But he found this information surprising—probably more surprising than he should have.

“Yeah, he’s two years older than me,” Bokuto nodded. “We used to play this game. My dad did a lot of work out of his home office, and whenever we were home during the day, we would see who could hide in the office the longest without getting caught. But then we came up with this rule that you couldn’t stay in one place for more than 10 minutes. So we’d have to move around the office without getting caught. So one day, I was in there hiding behind the filing cabinet. And my 10 minutes were up, so I had to move. But my dad was standing right in front of the filing cabinet. So I ended up crawling out the window and perching on the ledge there for 10 minutes. And he never caught me. That was the longest either of us ever made it.”

Akaashi could barely hold in his laughter. “How inventive of you,” he said, his voice shaking.

“My brother tried to convince me it was cheating,” Bokuto scoffed.

“What did you do then?”

“We asked my dad to weigh in,” Bokuto replied.

“You asked your dad for advice when it was his office you were sneaking into?” Akaashi asked pointedly.

“He wasn’t even mad. And he said that my creativity wasn’t cheating. So I won that day.”

“If that was the longest you ever managed to go without getting caught, I think you won forever,” Akaashi noted.

Even in the darkness, Akaashi could see Bokuto’s face light up in a smile. “Hey, you’re right! I guess that’s true!” he cheered. He turned to lie on his side, facing Akaashi. “Will you tell me a story now?”

“Ah, let’s see,” Akaashi mused. “My life is decidedly less exciting than yours.”

“I bet that’s not true,” Bokuto countered.

“Oh, when I was in college, I almost got a tattoo.”

“What?!” Bokuto squawked.

“I was going out with a guy who was convinced he would revolutionize the tattoo industry in Japan,” Akaashi explained. “He would singlehandedly make tattoos more acceptable. And that started with me getting one. He had the needle ready and inked up. Actually, he did manage to get me, but it was just a tiny little dot.”

“What happened? What made him stop?” Bokuto asked.

“I jumped up and knocked the gun out of his hand,” Akaashi said. “I think I ended up breaking it, actually.”

Bokuto was laughing now. “Oh my god, was he mad?” he asked.

“I honestly don’t even remember.”

“Where’s that dot?”

“Behind my ear,” Akaashi replied, gesturing toward the spot just behind his right ear. Running his finger over the skin, he could feel the tiny bump. It had scarred. Luckily, his hair hid it from view.

“Wow,” Bokuto marveled.

“Your turn,” Akaashi said.

Back and forth they went, exchanging stories from their past. Bokuto told Akaashi about how he met Daichi, about the first time he played a piano, the first time he had to go see his therapist. And Akaashi in turn told him about the time he spent with his grandmother, her cancer, her passing; he talked about his parents unreachable expectations for him, about the first time he’d ever kissed another boy. Bokuto was convinced Akaashi’s stories were more exciting than his, but Akaashi wasn’t the one who’d tested chemical reactions with Suga in the science lab and almost blew up the building.

Akaashi was halfway through a story about getting lost with Kuroo during a bad snowstorm last year when he realized that Bokuto’s breathing was heavy and even. He glanced over at the older man and saw his eyes pressed shut, his mouth hanging slack. His fingers were still curled around Akaashi’s. Akaashi couldn’t help the smile that tugged at his lips.

“I told you my stories weren’t interesting,” he whispered.

Bokuto didn’t move, and Akaashi was glad for it. He watched the easy rise and fall of Bokuto’s shoulders, the pout of his mouth as he breathed in and out. There was something so soft about him as he slept—even softer than usual. Akaashi couldn’t stop himself from reaching his free hand out and carding his fingers through Bokuto’s hair. He’d never seen it down before, completely void of the styling gel.

“You know, I like seeing you like this, too,” Akaashi sighed. “Vulnerable… But you’re not a mess. You’re perfect.”

In the darkness, Akaashi could see something glowing in his periphery. He turned his head and saw his phone screen lighting up. The hand in Bokuto’s hair reached for the side table, grabbing his phone and holding it up.

>>[Kuroo]: Your boyfriend is the best. Well, second best. After my boyfriend, that is.

It took Akaashi a second to realize the meaning behind the message. He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he tapped a message one-handed.

>>[Akaashi]: So you finally did it? And are you happy and shiny now?

It took seconds for Kuroo’s reply to come in.

>>[Kuroo]: The happiest and shiniest. Tell Bo he’s awesome. And I guess you’re pretty great too. Thanks for putting up with my nonsense these past few months.

>>[Akaashi]: Oh Kuroo, I’ve been putting up with your nonsense for far longer than a few months.

>>[Kuroo]: Whatever. I’m gonna go make out with my BOYFRIEND now.

>>[Akaashi]: Good night.

Akaashi dropped his phone back on the side table, returning to his side to stare at Bokuto a little longer. A tuft of hair had fallen into his eyes, and Akaashi reached out to tuck it behind his ear.

“You are the best,” he murmured.

And within minutes, he’d fallen asleep, his fingers still twined with Bokuto’s.

Chapter Text

Akaashi had a feeling he’d packed too much stuff. He’d barely been able to haul his three bags onto the train, and now the woman sitting across from him was staring at him. She probably assumed he was homeless. What had he even left at his apartment? The furniture, the dishes, most of the appliances… Though he had brought the coffee maker…

 Things had been going so well with Bokuto. Since their first impromptu sleepover about six weeks ago, Akaashi had stayed over every weekend, sometimes just one night, and recently even both night. Each time, Bokuto grew more and more comfortable with having Akaashi in his bed. Last weekend, he actually crawled in after Akaashi. He even fell asleep with his head on the younger man’s chest.

“Your heartbeat is sorta like a metronome, Akaashi,” he’d murmured. “It’s nice…”

With such astonishing success, and considering Akaashi had stockpiled enough vacation days to go three months without working, they’d decided to spend some quality time together. They found a week at the end of September that would be perfect, starting with Bokuto’s birthday and ending with the art show. It was just before Akaashi’s busy season started too. It was perfect.

Still, Akaashi was nervous. At first, he wondered if it would be too much of an adjustment, too difficult for Bokuto to change his routine for an entire week. But Bokuto had been talking excitedly about it for the last two weeks, showing Akaashi all the recipes he’d found for them to make—including homemade pasta so that Akaashi could eat his weight in it—and even planning a dinner out with Suga and Daichi for his birthday.

But now Akaashi was nervous for a wholly different reason. He’d struggled for hours over what clothes to pack, torn between cooler clothes for the warm days and warmer clothes for the nights when they walked to the office together—eventually deciding on both. He decided to bring along his shampoo and soap—even though Bokuto let Akaashi use his, he also told Akaashi how much he liked the way he smelled. He’d packed his knitting things—feeling like an old lady as he did so—and books and a few puzzles that Bokuto had asked him to bring along once. And then he thought maybe he should bring the coffee maker, since Bokuto didn’t have one and he always rushed out in the morning to get Akaashi coffee. It was just good sense. And in the end, he’d managed to fill three bags with enough clothes to stock a homeless shelter and more things than he could ever possibly use in a single week.

What if he overwhelmed Bokuto? It looked like he was preparing to move in with the older man. This was stupid, he could’ve had Kuroo bring him anything he needed. God, they would be going over to Kuroo’s on Thursday anyway! This was ridiculous. What was wrong with him?

He shifted uncomfortably, contemplating dropping one of the bags off the platform when he stepped off the train. Maybe he could stand to lose some of the clothes. He wouldn’t even miss them… But he was shunted off the train too quickly at his stop, and he was off the platform before he could think twice about it.

The walk to Bokuto’s apartment took longer than usual with three heavy duffel bags weighing Akaashi down. He climbed the stairs to the second floor, huffing and puffing from the added weight. For only a moment, he stood outside the door, taking a deep, steadying breath. His nerves were out of control. For as worried as he was about Bokuto, he had to admit: this was terrifying. When was the last time he’d spent more than a few days with someone, let alone a whole week? What if he messed this up?

Slowly, he raised his hand and knocked. One, two, three four. And then, he waited.

Well, that in itself was disconcerting. Never before had he even waited half a second before Bokuto was flinging the door open and greeting him with a smile. Maybe he wasn’t home? Akaashi glanced down at his watch. Well, he was a little early—which actually felt like a miracle. He was just starting to wonder if he should fish out his phone when the door burst open.

“Hey, hey, Akaashi,” Bokuto said as he came into view.

There was something… Off. He looked almost nervous, his eyes shifting uncomfortably up and down the hallway. Oh no. Akaashi had already ruined the week somehow.

“I’m sorry, I know I’m early,” Akaashi murmured.

“No, um, it’s… It’s okay… I just… Um…” Bokuto shifted back and forth on his feet.

Akaashi looked past Bokuto and realized there was someone else in the apartment, sitting on the couch. A man with a severe, lined face and slicked back hair.

Bokuto’s therapist.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Akaashi said hurriedly. “I know I’m early, I just…”

“It’s okay, it’s not… I mean, you met him before, so… So it’s… It’s okay… He comes by every Monday… I… I should’ve told you,” Bokuto stuttered.

“I can go,” Akaashi noted, hoisting a falling bag higher up his shoulder. “I can come back when you’re finished.”

Bokuto’s mouth twisted in thought, his eyes darting over Akaashi’s face. It felt like the first time they met. Bokuto was trying to decide how much he trusted Akaashi, if it was enough to let him in.

“I want you to stay.”

Akaashi didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath, releasing it with a sharp exhale. He would’ve been fine waiting at the café down the street. But hearing that Bokuto wanted him here, intruding on a part of his life he didn’t share with anyone… It made his heart stutter.

“You’re sure?” he asked.

Bokuto nodded brusquely, and his eyes locked in on Akaashi. He really was sure.

“Well, then pardon the intrusion,” Akaashi murmured as he stepped over the threshold and slid off his shoes.

“Here, let’s, um, put these in the bedroom,” Bokuto murmured, pulling one of the bags from Akaashi’s shoulder.

Akaashi felt as though he were being x-rayed by the hawk-like eyes of the man on the couch. They followed Bokuto and Akaashi into the bedroom, then back down the hallway as the two sat down on the couch. Akaashi had meant to leave a respectable amount of space, but Bokuto scooted closer, their thighs brushing together.

It was a moment before Oiwake spoke. “Where were we?” he asked, snapping back to the professional doctor mode.

“Um… Meds, I think,” Bokuto replied.

“Right. You’ve been taking them all regularly?”

“Yup,” Bokuto nodded.

“Good on refills?”

“Mhm.”

Oiwake checked off something on the clipboard in front of him. He glanced up at Akaashi quickly before peering back down at the sheet.

“Plans for the week?” he asked, doing his best to sound casual.

“Well, it’s my birthday today, so we’re getting dinner with Suga and Daichi,” Bokuto replied, sounding a little more excited. “Akaashi said he even got me a present. And then this weekend is Kuroo’s art show.”

“Ah, that’s right, you’ve been looking forward to that,” Oiwake noted.

“Yeah, and… I guess I’m kinda nervous too,” Bokuto admitted.

“Nervous?” Oiwake asked, scribbling something down on the sheet. “And why is that?”

“Well, I mean, I’ve been practicing the songs a lot, but I’m kinda nervous I’ll mess them up,” Bokuto explained. “And I have no idea how many people are coming. I can’t tell if I want no one to show up or a lot of people to show. If no one shows up, there’s not a lot of pressure, but then Kuroo won’t be able to sell his art, you know?”

“Songs?” Oiwake repeated. He wasn’t writing anymore, his eyes still trained on his clipboard.

“Yeah, I wrote songs for Kuroo’s art, and I’m gonna play them while people walk around.”

Slowly, Oiwake raised his head, appraising Bokuto with those sharp, gray eyes. “You never mentioned that part,” he noted. “You’ve been talking a lot about the show, but never that you would be taking part in it.”

“I guess I was probably just excited about the art show part,” Bokuto chuckled. “I told you about his painting, right? They’re so cool.”

“You did.”

Now Oiwake wasn’t watching Bokuto. He was giving Akaashi a thorough once over. It made Akaashi squirm. He felt like a mouse getting watched by a vulture. It wouldn’t be surprising if the man swooped down and trapped Akaashi in his talons.

“I saw some bags,” he finally spoke. “Are you here for the long term?”

Akaashi glanced over at Bokuto. When all he received was a gentle smile, he decided to answer. “The week,” he replied tersely.

“Is that so?”

“Yes.”

“And,” Oiwake leaned back in his chair, “is this a regular occurrence?”

“The duration of this stay is longer than any of the others,” Akaashi noted.

“I see.” More writing on the clipboard. Maybe this was a bad thing. Akaashi shouldn’t have been so quick to retort.

“Yeah, we spend pretty much every weekend together now,” Bokuto added.

Well, if Akaashi hadn’t given the game away already, Bokuto definitely had. There was more scribbling on the clipboard, and Akaashi felt those familiar nerves returning. Oiwake finished with a sharp stab of his pen.

“I think that’s all for today,” he murmured, returning the clipboard to the bag at his feet. “Don’t want to keep you from your weekend.”

“Hey, you know, you can come if you want to,” Bokuto suggested as he rose to his feet. “It’s gonna be a cool show. I know you always come to my performances.”

Oiwake stood too, and Akaashi followed, feeling awkward being the only one still sitting. The oldest man seemed to contemplate this as he followed Bokuto to the door.

“Where will the show be at?” he asked.

“Yachimizu Studios, it’s in the Chuo-ku ward.”

“I’ll do my best to drop by,” Oiwake nodded, sliding into his shoes. When he drew up to his full height, he looked straight at Bokuto. “I’m very proud of the progress you’re making,” he said firmly.

Bokuto seemed surprised, but pleased nonetheless. “Thanks,” he sighed.

Next Oiwake looked at Akaashi, his expression still hard, still stony. But there was something different about it. This time, he wasn’t appraising Akaashi. He didn’t seem to be doing anything but watching the younger man.

“I hope the two of you have an enjoyable week,” he nodded firmly.

“Ah… Thank you,” Akaashi murmured.

With a final nod, Oiwake opened the door and stepped outside. Akaashi didn’t miss the final glance over his shoulder at the two men inside before it closed behind him.

It felt like Akaashi had been holding in a deep breath, one that escaped him in a quick, shaky exhale. Bokuto was in front of him in an instant, hands on his shoulders, face millimeters from his own.

“Are you okay?” he asked worriedly.

“Oh, I’m just fine,” Akaashi said, patting Bokuto’s arms reassuringly. “He’s a very… Intense man.”

“Yeah, his face always looks mean,” Bokuto agreed. “But he’s really nice.”

“Will he… He won’t say anything about… About us, will he?” Akaashi asked.

Bokuto’s brows came together in thought. “What do you mean?” he murmured.

Akaashi’s mouth opened. Closed. Opened again. He chewed around the words, wondering how exactly to phrase them. “Will he…” he began, still unsure of exactly what to say. “Will he tell anyone… Your parents, or anyone really, I suppose… About me staying here?”

Bokuto still looked confused. “Well, I mean, he doesn’t tell anyone stuff I tell him during our appointments. He can’t, ‘cause I’m an adult,” he explained. “But… You don’t want people to know about us?”

“No, no, no, no, that’s not what I mean,” Akaashi said hurriedly, hands reaching for Bokuto’s face, cupping his cheeks. “People don’t always react well to two men being together. I’ve faced my share of bad reactions. My parents refuse to speak to me now, they say I’m a shame to the family.”

Bokuto’s eyes widened to the size of saucers. “Really?” he murmured. “But why?”

“Because I don’t like women… The same way I like men,” Akaashi replied. “It’s unacceptable to them—to a lot of people, in fact. I just… I don’t want you to have any problems, with your family or your career. People… People can be cruel.”

Bokuto nuzzled into Akaashi’s palms, a tiny smile pulling at his lips. “You’re worried about me?” he asked.

“I worry about you all the time,” Akaashi admitted before he could stop himself.

“I worry about you too,” Bokuto hummed. “Like if you eat enough when you’re at home, and if you’re safe on the train and stuff… Guess that means I love you, huh?” he smirked.

“Guess so,” Akaashi agreed.

Bokuto leaned down and pressed a kiss to Akaashi’s mouth, teeth nipping at his bottom lip, tongue flicking expertly into his open mouth. Akaashi had to cling to his shirt to stay upright. He knew his face had flushed when the older man pulled away, peering down at Akaashi with a grin.

“You’ve gotten quite good at that,” Akaashi sighed.

“Thanks to you,” Bokuto retorted, accentuating the words with another quick kiss. “You’re still the best at it.”

“I don’t know about that,” Akaashi hummed.

“You are,” Bokuto countered. Then he pulled back, immediately full of energy. “Want to unpack your things? You brought a lot, huh? I made some space for you to put some clothes and stuff. What else did you bring?”

“Ah… My coffee maker…”

There was a moment of silence, and then Bokuto was laughing. It was a loud, boisterous sound, one Akaashi never got tired of hearing. He couldn’t even pretend to be offended by the fact that Bokuto was laughing at him. Not when his laugh made Akaashi feel lighter than air.

 


 

They had planned a dinner out with Suga and Daichi to celebrate Bokuto’s birthday. He’d insisted he would be fine. He was excited, in fact. He’d picked a yakiniku place, one he’d been to before, one with hidden away tables and the best beef he’d ever had—life changing, in his words.

But despite his reassurances, Akaashi could tell Bokuto was anxious on their walk to the restaurant. His fingers were fidgeting, only eased by the gentle bump of Akaashi’s hand against his own. If he’d been standing still, the rocking would’ve been obvious. But instead, it looked like he was simply having difficulty walking.

Thank god for Suga, who was talking animatedly and engaging them all in conversation. Bokuto barely had time to be nervous with Suga telling them about a particularly unruly patient in the emergency room that day. Before they knew it, they were at the restaurant, seated in a private room that muffled the outside sounds of the restaurant. There was sake aplenty, and Suga poured out some for everyone but Bokuto, who was more than happy with his water.

“Kanpai!” Suga cheered, raising his glass.

“Kanpai!” Daichi, Akaashi, and Bokuto echoed as they clinked their own glasses against Suga’s.

The sake went down easier than Akaashi thought it would, consider how long it had been since he’d last had a drink. Suga was quick to refill his glass.

“If you’re out to get me drunk, there are more tactful ways,” Akaashi teased, sipping a little slower this time.

“Oh, I make no secret of my intentions,” Suga laughed, adding more sake to Daichi’s glass.

“Suga likes getting people drunk, he says they’re the most honest then,” Bokuto explained casually.

“Inebriation leads to lowered inhibitions leads to inability to hold anything back,” Suga stated.

“That’s almost textbook,” Akaashi chuckled.

“It’s like his life motto,” Daichi added, throwing back his glass.

“I learn more about a person that way,” Suga argued, tipping sake into his own glass, almost overflowing it. “And there are many things I want to learn about you,” he peered up at Akaashi with a grin.

“You could always just ask him,” Daichi suggested.

“Ah, where’s the fun in that?” Suga scoffed.

“Suga thinks you’re just after my money,” Bokuto noted. 

Akaashi’s eyebrows rose behind his bangs in surprise as he looked between the two men. 

Suga nodded ruefully. “I have my doubts, it’s true.”

“I… I can assure you, I’m not—“ Akaashi began.

But the snort of laughter from Suga stopped him in his tracks. Suga's was quickly joined by Bokuto’s boisterous laugh, and the two reached across the table to high-five one another. Akaashi could only shake his head in disbelief.

“Since it seems like you’re here for the long haul, I’ll warn you now,” Daichi cut through the din of laughter. “That’s just par for the course with these two. They seem to think they’re some sort of comedy duo when they get together.”

“How did you survive?” Akaashi asked.

“You learn to adapt,” Daichi shrugged.

“We’re not that bad,” Suga balked.

“Remember that time we convinced Daichi you were moving to Finland?” Bokuto mused.

“Oh, he was so heartbroken,” Suga sighed.

“I was not!” Daichi countered.

“You moped around for a week,” Bokuto noted. 

“Well, he was my friend, I was going to miss him!”

“You were in love with him,” Bokuto corrected with a grin.

“And you still didn’t confess!” Suga added. “The last time you would ever see me, and you couldn’t even tell me how madly in love with me you were!”

There was a beat of silence as Daichi stared off into the distance. Then he snapped back toward Suga.

“Hold on a second,” he said. “You guys did that on purpose, didn’t you?! So that I would admit I was in love with Suga!”

“What? No, of course not. And I resent the accusation,” Suga said dramatically, clutching his chest for emphasis. But his mischievous grin gave him away.

“Daichi, you kinda just admitted that you were in love with Suga,” Bokuto pointed out.

“Awwwww, Dai,” Suga cooed, knocking their shoulders together. “What a romantic.”

“You two are…” Daichi could only shake his head, completely unable to even hold a scowl as Suga stared up at him.

“You’re going to give Sawamura-san a complex,” Akaashi chided lightly, leaning toward Bokuto. “If you haven’t already.”

“He and I get into trouble of our own,” Bokuto laughed.

“Especially when I’m not around to deter them,” Suga cut in.

“It seems as though you’re more dangerous in duos, so I believe that’s probably true,” Akaashi nodded.

“Maybe we can be the ultimate quartet of destruction,” Suga mused, raising his glass to his lips and tossing back more liquor.

“Or maybe Akaashi will mellow us out a bit,” Daichi suggested. “We can be the ultimate chilling quartet.”

“Daichi, you are such an old man,” Suga groaned, dropping his forehead against Daichi’s shoulder. “You’re an old man in a 27-year-old’s body.”

“Why, because I enjoy a quiet evening once in a while?” Daichi laughed. His smile was nice, one that made you feel warmer the longer you looked at it.

“Your idea of an exciting evening is takeout and a bad movie,” Suga teased.

“Actually, that sounds rather enjoyable,” Akaashi conceded.

“Yeah, I love doing that,” Bokuto agreed.

Suga threw his head back and fisted his fingers in his hair. “You’re all so old!” he wailed. “Why am I the only exciting one?! I just want to make bad decisions and regret them in the morning!”

“Akaashi even knits,” Bokuto added.

“Really? That’s cool,” Daichi noted. “Like clothes and stuff?”

“I can make hats and mittens. I tried to make a scarf once, but… It didn’t go well,” Akaashi mumbled. “One end was about the width of my arm, the other was about three centimeters.”

“I still would’ve worn it,” Bokuto said solemnly. 

“Good to know,” Akaashi smiled up at him.

Beneath the table, their fingers laced together, though it was probably fairly obvious to the duo across from them—at least judging by Suga’s impish grin and Daichi’s renewed easy smile.

“You two are so cute,” Suga murmured. “It melts even my icy heart.”

“But Suga, your heart is a muscle,” Bokuto said seriously.

“Muscle and ice,” Suga corrected.

The cavalcade of food arrived, platefuls of raw meat and vegetables and gyoza and edamame and mapu tofu so spicy it brought tears to Akaashi’s eyes. Of course it was Suga’s favorite.

They ate enough food to stuff themselves, and then a little more on top of that. Akaashi wasn’t sure he would be able to move, let alone walk home. Suga was actually laying down—though that could also be attributed to the copious amounts of liquor flowing through his veins. Even Daichi was leaned back on his hands, his face flushed from the alcohol, his stomach protruding slightly.

“I don’t remember the last time I ate so much,” Bokuto groaned, his head dropping onto Akaashi’s shoulder.

“I was sure we’d have leftovers,” Akaashi murmured, glancing across the table at the mess of empty dishes and food scraps. “I can’t tell if I’m disappointed or impressed.”

“Both,” Suga and Daichi hummed in unison.

“This has been a pretty good birthday,” Bokuto noted.

Suga gasped dramatically, sitting up so fast it was a wonder he didn’t get the spins. He seemed to produce a small bag from nowhere and thrust it across the table toward Bokuto.

“Happy birthday!” he exclaimed.

Bokuto sat up to his full height too, looking both surprised and excited as he grabbed the bag. “Really?” he asked.

“Of course!” Suga cheered. “Daichi and I saw them last weekend and thought they would look amazing in your apartment.”

Bokuto stuck his hand in the bag, crinkling the tissue paper and pulling something out. It was small, tiny enough to fit into his palm. He opened his hand and revealed a tiny pair of glass owls. His face lit up in an enormous smile.

“These are amazing! Look, Akaashi.” Bokuto tilted toward Akaashi, moving the owls around with his finger. “There’s two, and this one sorta looks like you! Look, his face is all serious.”

“That one looks like you,” Akaashi noted, pointing at the gray one.

“That may have been on purpose,” Suga giggled.

“These are so cool! Thanks, you guys!” Bokuto cried.

“Of course!” Suga cheered.

“They suit you,” Daichi added.

“Um…” Akaashi fidgeted nervously, teeth worrying his bottom lip. “I… I got you something too.” He reached for the small bag at his feet and set it on the table in front of Bokuto. “If you don’t like them, it’s okay. They’re nothing special. I just…”

Bokuto was ignoring Akaashi’s protests, already digging into the bag eagerly. What he pulled out made his mouth fall open.

A pair of mittens, red and hand-woven, thick enough to keep even the coldest hands warm in the winter.

“Akaashi, did you make those?” Suga marveled.

“I… I did…” Akaashi murmured.

“Wow, you really can knit,” Daichi nodded appreciatively.

The only person who hadn’t spoken was Bokuto, who was still staring at the mittens with his mouth open wide, brows together in consternation. Akaashi was more than worried.

“If… If you don’t like them, that’s okay,” he murmured, trying desperately to retrieve Bokuto’s attention. “I know they’re not the nicest. I looked for some wool that wasn’t so scratchy, but if they are you can—“

Bokuto was on the move so fast, Akaashi barely saw him before he tackled the younger man in a hug. Bokuto’s arms were strong around him, holding him firmly, securely, like Bokuto never wanted to let him go.

“I love ‘em,” Bokuto whispered. “So much.”

“You do?” Akaashi asked.

“No one’s ever made me a present before,” he noted. “And they match the scarf you gave me too.”

“That’s why I picked red.”

“They’re perfect,” Bokuto hummed. “I love ‘em so much.”

“I’m glad,” Akaashi sighed.

“Ugh, you guys are teeth-rottingly adorable,” Suga huffed from across the table.

Bokuto pressed a kiss to Akaashi’s cheek before pulling away, his grin so wide, it pulled the lines around his eyes taut. 

He was so beautiful. The most beautiful person Akaashi had ever met.

After a fight over the bill—which Suga eventually won, insisting he’d drank enough liquor to account for half the tab—they headed back to the apartment and parted ways. Daichi could barely support Suga, who was planting kisses up and down the taller man’s neck as he tried to unlock the door. Akaashi and Bokuto headed inside just as the making out started, closing the door as Suga let out a snort of laughter.

“They’re a very interesting couple,” Akaashi noted as he slid out of his shoes.

“They’re great,” Bokuto laughed.

“That they are.”

Bokuto stuffed his new mittens into the pocket of his coat—which had been hanging up next to the door since winter—and propped up his new owl figurines next to the tv. For a while, he just crouched in front of them, staring at them. Akaashi went to the bathroom, washed his face, and returned to the living room to find him still perched on the balls of his feet, just staring. Akaashi drew up behind him, laying a hand on his shoulder.

“Are you alright?” he asked gently.

Bokuto peered up at him, and Akaashi could tell that he was thinking about something. The gears were turning behind his golden eyes. Slowly, he rose up to his full height, his eyes never leaving Akaashi’s.

“I… I want you,” he said quietly.

Akaashi was taken aback. He definitely hadn’t expected that. “I told you before, you don’t have to ask when it’s just us,” he noted.

“I know, but… I wanna… Do it… You know, all the way,” Bokuto mumbled.

Akaashi had expected him to look away, dart his eyes, rock, something to show he was as nervous as he sounded. But his gaze never wavered.

Akaashi raised his hand to Bokuto’s cheek, thumb rolling over his jaw. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes,” Bokuto replied.

“Well,” Akaashi hummed, leaning up and pressing his lips to Bokuto’s chin. “It is your birthday…”

“Wait, does that mean we can only do it on my birthday?” Bokuto asked.

“Of course not,” Akaashi chuckled.

He pulled away, fingers finding Bokuto’s and threading them together. With a tug, he pulled Bokuto through the living room and down the hall into the bedroom. They settled next to one another on the bed, and now Akaashi could tell Bokuto was nervous. He was staring at their hands, intertwined on the sheets between them.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi murmured.

Bokuto’s eyes flicked up, and Akaashi raised his free hand to Bokuto’s cheek. Bokuto leaned into his touch, his face relaxing under the brush of fingertips. Akaashi leaned forward, capturing his lips in a soft kiss. Bokuto eagerly pressed into it. His tongue slicked against Akaashi’s lips, and the younger man opened to him happily. At the strange angle, it was difficult to get any traction. Akaashi closed the space between them, crawling atop Bokuto and settling a knee on either side of his waist. Bokuto’s hands were on his hips in an instant. When Bokuto took Akaashi’s bottom lip between his teeth, the younger man gasped. 

“You taste good,” Bokuto murmured against Akaashi’s mouth.

“I think it’s the sake,” Akaashi hummed.

“I don’t really like it by itself, but,” Bokuto sucked on his lip, “I kinda like it this way.”

Bokuto sucked hard, and Akaashi gasped again. His fingertips dipped into Bokuto’s hairline, pressing into Bokuto’s scalp. Bokuto’s mouth was eager as he pushed forward into another kiss. His tongue licked against the roof of Akaashi’s mouth, tasting every inch. One of his hands was on the move, up and around, dipping beneath Akaashi’s shirt and trailing up his back, fingers appreciating every bump of his spine.

Akaashi shuddered at the touch, any sounds muffled by Bokuto’s mouth. His body was reacting to the stimulations, and he fought every instinct to roll his hips. He was desperate for friction. But Bokuto didn’t like it over the clothes.

Well, there was one way to fix that.

Akaashi pushed Bokuto onto his back, fingers sliding down Bokuto’s neck, his chest, his stomach, earning a tremor at the feather-light contact. He popped open the button of Bokuto’s jeans, unzipped the zipper, and tugged at the waistband—all without breaking away from Bokuto’s mouth. The older man lifted his hips, allowing Akaashi to drag both the jeans and boxers down his thighs. He hissed at the scrape of cloth over his length as it sprang free.

“I’m sorry,” Akaashi whispered.

“No, you’re… You’re fine,” Bokuto sighed.

While Bokuto worked to kick his pants all the way off, Akaashi leaned back into a seated position, his own hands dropping to his waist. Slowly, he slipped the buckle free of his belt, popped open the button, and shifted the material down his hips. Bokuto’s eyes were trained on the newly exposed skin. A thumb rolled over the warm flesh appreciatively.

“Y-you should… Take them off,” Bokuto suggested weakly.

“Should I?” Akaashi couldn’t help but tease, revealing another inch of pale skin.

Bokuto’s teeth tore apart his bottom lip as he admired Akaashi’s hipbones, cut like glass across his skin. His fingers replaced Akaashi’s to tug at his pants. He couldn’t get far without Akaashi’s help, of course. But Akaashi was happy to comply. He lifted himself up just enough to slide his pants and boxers down his thighs. It took much longer to get them off the first leg than the second, especially with Bokuto’s trembling fingers and the tightness of the pants. But they managed. Somehow.

Akaashi didn’t get any warning before Bokuto’s hand wrapped around his cock. He gasped sharply, fingers curling around the fabric of Bokuto’s t-shirt. This part felt like a well-practiced dance now. His hips rocked upward into Bokuto’s hand, desperate for the contact, the unyielding pressure. Small whimpers slipped past his lips as he sought more.

It was too much. It wasn’t enough.

“B-Bokuto-san,” Akaashi gasped.

“Yeah?” Bokuto murmured. 

“M-more… Please…”

Bokuto didn’t let go of Akaashi’s cock, his free hand pulling open the drawer of the side table and groping around noisily. He produced that little brown bottle from its depths, the one that had started invoking a Pavlovian response in Akaashi. His entire body tensed just upon seeing it.

“S-so, um… How… How do you, um… How do you wanna do it?” Bokuto stuttered.

“The better question may be how do you want to do it,” Akaashi countered, nipping at Bokuto’s bottom lip.

“U-um… I… I kinda like you like this,” Bokuto replied. He tugged Akaashi’s length once for emphasis, drawing another sharp exhale from the younger man’s nose. “I can see everything like this.” 

“Whatever you want,” Akaashi gasped.

Akaashi was disappointed when Bokuto released his dripping length, but the clink of the bottle opening dispelled that immediately. Bokuto slicked up two fingers, spreading the liquid around with his thumb to warm it up. Akaashi was already lifting himself off Bokuto’s lap, opening his thighs. Bokuto’s hand disappeared beneath him, and Akaashi could feel fingertips brushing against the inside of his thighs. His touch was light, teasing. Akaashi could never tell if he was doing it on purpose or he was just tentative. Probably both.

Two fingers pressed against his entrance, pushing gently all around it. Akaashi’s hips rolled against them on instinct, but Bokuto held back. The pads of his fingers brushed against the skin above, below, short bursts that made Akaashi groan.

“Please,” he gasped. “I want you inside me.”

As if Bokuto could ignore such a polite request.

He buried his fingers inside Akaashi’s tight hole, pushing past the protesting ring of muscle. Akaashi’s back arched, fingers curling around Bokuto’s t-shirt again. He gave Akaashi a moment to adjust before the fingers were on the move again. Bokuto’s arm flexed as he worked in and out, curling and tapping at Akaashi’s prostate without any sort of pattern.

Akaashi knew he was falling apart, the slow drag of Bokuto’s fingers pulsing through him, every tap to his prostate sending a jolt up his spine. Bokuto pulled his fingers back and spread them, stretching Akaashi, making him groan.

“Is that good?” Bokuto asked, his voice low and husky.

How did he do that? How did he go from tentative and nervous one minute to sultry and hungry the next? Just the low rasp of his voice made Akaashi shiver.

“Y-yes,” he whimpered. “Good… Again…”

The digits scissored him open again and again, and Akaashi felt his legs trembling, threatening to give out. But he needed this. He needed to be stretched. Bokuto was… Thick.

There was a hand dipping beneath his shirt now, gliding the material up his skin. Calloused fingers slipped up his torso, and suddenly they were pinching a nipple between them, rolling the nub gingerly. This time, Akaashi’s legs did give out for a moment and he dropped fully onto Bokuto’s hand as an anguished groan escaped his lips.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Bokuto murmured hurriedly.

“No… Good… It's good,” Akaashi whimpered. “M-more…”

The fingers were on the other nipple now, worrying it between his thumb and forefinger. Bokuto seemed to realize Akaashi’s legs were basically useless now, and he thrusted his fingers without abandon, scissoring and curving and bumping and, god, Akaashi was losing his mind.

“Akaashi… God, you’re so sexy…”

Akaashi didn’t realize his eyes were closed, and he cracked them open to see Bokuto watching him. Staring at him. Looking ready to devour him. The hungry look in his golden eyes made Akaashi shudder, made him tighten around Bokuto’s fingers.

He was murmuring the next words without thinking.

“I’m ready… I want you…”

Bokuto’s Adam’s apple bobbed hard as he swallowed thickly, probably from a mixture of nerves and excitement. His fingers pulled out of Akaashi, followed by a low groan from the younger man. There was more groping around in the side table, but this time Bokuto produced a lot more than a bottle.

“Um… I… I don’t know which one,” he mumbled.

There were about ten different colors of foil packets in his hand as he opened it to Akaashi. For a moment, no one spoke. And then Akaashi was laughing harder than he had in a while. He raised a hand to his mouth to try and muffle the sound, but it was all in vain.

Bokuto’s fingers, still slick with lube, were around his wrist in an instant, pulling his hand from his mouth.

“Don’t cover it up,” Bokuto ordered. “I like watching you laugh. It’s… You’re so… I…” he struggled over his words, evidently coming up empty.

Akaashi tried to ignore the red stain creeping down his neck at Bokuto’s words. “There’s just so many of them,” he chuckled.

“I told you I didn’t know what kind to buy,” Bokuto replied with a grin.

Akaashi appraised the collection in Bokuto’s hand, plucking one in a red wrapper from the top. He tore it open with his teeth and slipped it down Bokuto’s length. The older man moaned, and Akaashi realized just how much he’d been neglecting Bokuto’s pleasure. It was his birthday, after all.

He’d be making up for that soon enough.

The lube had been discarded in Bokuto’s fervor, and Akaashi found it among the tangle of sheets. He uncapped the bottle and poured a generous amount into his hand. His eyes locked on Bokuto’s as his hand wrapped around Bokuto’s cock, and the older man moaned low and deep as Akaashi thoroughly coated it with lube.

“God, Akaashi,” Bokuto hissed.

“Is that good?” Akaashi parroted.

“Yes… You’re so good… Akaash… Ah, god, your hands are…” Bokuto spluttered.

“How about something better than my hands,” Akaashi purred.

“Oh god,” Bokuto groaned. “Yes… Yes, please…”

Akaashi lifted his hips, hovering over Bokuto. His hands splayed across Bokuto’s chest. For a moment, he didn't move, feeling, listening... He wasn’t imagining it. Bokuto’s heart was hammering out of control. Akaashi could feel it in his palm. Bokuto stared up at him wordlessly, mouth hung slack. But his gaze was still hungry, almost feral now. Akaashi leaned down and pressed a kiss to his open mouth, and Bokuto pressed back.

“Are you ready?” Akaashi murmured against his lips.

“God, yeah,” Bokuto replied, his voice barely above a whisper. “I… I want you…”

Akaashi just hummed in reply as leaned back. He wrapped a hand around Bokuto’s length, his own heart beating out of control. He breathed slowly, trying to relax his tightly wound body. Everything about this moment was driving him crazy. He guided Bokuto’s cock to his entrance, raising himself a little higher. Was his hand shaking?

He took a deep, steadying breath.

And then he sank down onto Bokuto’s cock in a slow, fluid motion.

The moan that ripped from his chest wasn’t a sound he could ever remember making. Oh, it was so tight, so hot. All of his nerves were standing on end. He gave himself a moment to adjust, the only sounds the heavy, shaky breathing that burned Akaashi’s lungs. Bokuto’s fingers curled around his hips to steady him.

“You okay?” he grunted.

Akaashi realized his voice was shaking, the fingers around his hips trembling. Akaashi had been so wrapped up in his own sensations, he’d neglected something that now felt more important than anything else.

This was Bokuto’s first time.

“I… I’m fine,” Akaashi replied, trying to control his breathing. “Are you?”

“Yeah. Oh my god, I’m more than okay,” Bokuto huffed. “Akaashi, you… You feel so good.”

Akaashi felt himself tighten at the compliment, and it earned a moan from deep in Bokuto’s chest.

“God, how… How do you do that?” Bokuto grunted.

“You mean…” Akaashi clenched again, “…that?”

Bokuto threw his head back against the pillow, his fingers digging into Akaashi’s hip bones.

“Akaashi… You’re… God, you’re so amazing,” he moaned.

Akaashi could feel goose bumps erupting across his skin at the way Bokuto moaned his name. His skin was already shining with a thin layer of sweat and he hadn’t even moved. But he was adjusting quickly to Bokuto’s girth, and slowly he rose up, then sank back down.

It was so tight, he almost couldn’t breathe. But he settled into an easy rhythm, up and down, languishing the tight heat inside him. He couldn’t stop the small, excited whimpers that escaped through his lips.

Bokuto’s grunts were louder, in time with Akaashi’s bounces. His fingers were digging into Akaashi’s hips hard enough to bruise. His own hips were hiccupping, meeting Akaashi fervently.

“A-Akaashi… You’re too quiet,” Bokuto groaned.

“Sorry,” Akaashi managed a chuckle.

“It’s… It’s okay, just… I feel like I’m being to l-oud,” his voice cracked around the last syllable with a roll of Akaashi’s hips.

“No, I like it,” Akaashi assured him. “Loud is good… Loud lets me know I’m doing well.”

“Oh god, you’re the best,” Bokuto moaned.

Akaashi knew the best way to increase his volume. Splaying his palms against Bokuto’s chest, he adjusted himself, rolled his hips forward and back, side to side, trying to find the perfect angle.

And there it was, like a bolt of lightning down his spine. His back arched impossibly as he rolled his hips, the repeated grind of Bokuto’s cock against his prostate turning him into a moaning, whimpering mess. One of Bokuto’s hands left his hips to crawl up his stomach again, tweaking a nipple and making Akaashi cry out.

“God, that’s so good,” Bokuto hissed. “Can we… Can I… Can we go faster?”

“Y-y-yes!” Akaashi whimpered.

And now Bokuto’s hips were lifting off the bed, driving into Akaashi at a frantic pace, like it had been killing him to stay so still. Akaashi could almost feel his knees coming off the mattress. God, Bokuto was so strong. The air between them was thick and heavy from their breathing. Akaashi didn’t realize there were words spilling from his lips now.

“B-Bokuto-san, please!” he gasped, his words slurred. “Please… Please don’t stop… Please, please, please… More, more, so good, faster… Please!”

Bokuto was quick to comply, and now Akaashi’s knees were actually coming off the mattress. The room was filled with the sounds of slapping flesh and Akaashi’s frantic cries. He clung to Bokuto’s shirt for dear life.

And then the hand at his chest slipped down his torso, wrapping abruptly around his neglected cock.

Oh, Akaashi was sure he was dying now. There was a surge of precum that spilled over Bokuto’s hand, and the older man spread it over Akaashi’s cock for lubrication. His hand worked up and down in time with his thrusts. The sensations had Akaashi keening, curling in on himself.

“I’m so close!” he cried. “Please don’t stop!”

“Akaashi,” Bokuto growled.

Akaashi’s eyes were closed again. He seemed to have a habit of doing that. When he opened them, he realized with a start that Bokuto’s face was centimeters from his own. Akaashi wasn’t sure if he’d leaned that far forward or if Bokuto had leaned up or if it was a little bit of both. But seeing Bokuto’s face this close, the lines in his face as it twisted in a grimace, the hungry look in his eyes, it made Akaashi’s stomach clench.

Akaashi’s hands were on the move, arms wrapping around Bokuto’s neck, fingers twisting in Bokuto’s hair. He pressed his mouth to Bokuto’s in a wet, messy kiss that could barely be called a kiss. It was all teeth and tongues and muffled whimpers. Akaashi wanted to burn this moment into his memory, into his blood, his veins.

“Bokuto-san,” he gasped against Bokuto’s mouth.

“Akaashi,” Bokuto hissed.

There was a shift, a tilt of their hips, and Bokuto was slamming into the perfect spot, his hand stroking at the perfect speed.

“Right there!” Akaashi whimpered. “Yes, yes, please, Bokuto-san!”

His voice cracked around the final syllable, and then he was practically sobbing, cumming hot and hard over Bokuto’s hand. And he was tightening around Bokuto too, pulsating, making Bokuto moan, low and guttural as he pressed his mouth to Akaashi’s chin.

With an erratic stuttering of his hips, Bokuto was cumming too, breathing Akaashi’s name against his heated skin, tension crawling through his body.

And then they stilled, panting and trembling. Akaashi could feel his body vibrating with the aftershocks of pleasure. Bokuto was the first to move, pressing kisses weakly up Akaashi’s jaw. Akaashi’s eyes fluttered shut at the gentle pressure.

“Akaashi,” he murmured softly. “That was amazing.”

“I’m glad,” Akaashi sighed.

“You’re just… God, you’re… You’re so sexy.”

Akaashi scoffed as he leaned back, looking down at Bokuto with an expression of incredulity. With mussed hair, sweat covering his entire body, bruises blooming on his hips, and cum sliding down his stomach, he’d never felt less sexy.

“I suppose that’s a matter of opinion,” he teased.

“No, Akaashi, seriously,” Bokuto said, leaning up on his elbows. “You’re so sexy. Like, so sexy. And… And I don’t really think that about a lot of people.”

Akaashi was heating up again. How did Bokuto do that to him? It didn’t seem fair. He so rarely was able to make Bokuto blush.

“Well… Thank you,” Akaashi replied tersely. “And for the record, you’re sexy too.”

“No, I’m—“

“You are,” Akaashi said, his voice firm. His hands carded through Bokuto’s hair, sliding down his neck, his chest, his stomach. “I don’t think that about many people either.”

Bokuto didn’t blush. But the grin that spread over his face was even better.

"Bokuto-san," Akaashi hummed.

"Yeah?" Bokuto murmured.

Akaashi pressed a kiss to his bruised and bitten lips, leaning his forehead against Bokuto's. "Happy birthday," he said softly.

"God, I love you so much," Bokuto whispered.

"I love you too," Akaashi sighed.

 

Chapter Text

The gallery was abuzz with energy. People were hustling back and forth, getting everything ready for the big night. Hinata and Bokuto were carrying out trays of appetizers. Akaashi and Kenma were setting up tables—something that probably should’ve been done before bringing out the food, but the two boundless balls of energy wouldn’t be deterred. Terushima and Kuroo were hauling the last of three enormous sculptures into the back room. His paintings were propped up against the wall, ready and waiting to be hung up. Two women stood in the center of the room, giving out instructions.

Well, one was giving out instructions. The other was having a panic attack.

“I’m so sorry!” she wailed, hands fisting in her blonde hair. “I had planned to get the sculptures out of here after the show last night, but then the movers cancelled at the last minute, and I tried to move them myself, but they were too heavy, even with Kiyoko helping me, and the big one almost trapped me, and I’m so, so sorry!”

Next to the panicking blonde, the dark haired girl looked up from her clipboard, eyeing Akaashi from behind her glasses. “Make sure to put a wedge under that leg closest to you. It’s Velcroed to the bottom. The table wobbles,” Kiyoko noted.

Akaashi groped around under the table and found a small wedge attached to the underside. It fit perfectly under the table leg, and the wobbling ceased.

“Yachi, it’s fine,” Kuroo laughed, his voice straining under the weight of the alabaster. “There aren’t that many.”

“No, but I promised you the space, and I broke my word!” the blonde cried. It almost looked like there were tears in her eyes. “I don’t deserve to be your friend! Oh god, that’s so forward of me, are we even really friends? Are we more of colleagues? Acquaintances? Proximity associates? What if—“

“Yach, oh my god, breathe,” Kuroo urged.

Yachi did as she was told, taking in a series of loud, gasping breaths that were entirely counterproductive in the way of calming her down. Kuroo and Terushima disappeared with the statue, appearing a few minutes later without it, rolling their shoulders from the strain. Terushima started hanging up the paintings, but Kuroo continued on to Yachi, clapping his hands onto her shoulders and leaning down to her eye level.

“Look at that,” he urged. “All done. And it didn’t even take 10 minutes.”

“But… But I told you the gallery was yours for the night… And… And I didn’t… I can’t even…” Yachi blubbered.

“It’s all good,” Kuroo insisted. “I just appreciate you even giving it to me for the night.”

“Of course!” Yachi squeaked. “I owe you my entire life! It’s only thanks to you that I passed Nekomata-sensei’s intro class!”

“Your entire life, huh?” Kuroo chuckled.

“I wouldn’t even be here without you! You’re like a tall-haired angel!” Yachi said, eyes growing wider with every word. “This is the least I can do!”

“Well, I appreciate it,” Kuroo nodded, biting back another laugh.

Kuroo was able to distract Yachi from anymore profound apologies by enlisting her help in hanging the paintings. Akaashi didn’t realize he had stopped paying attention to the task at hand until suddenly Bokuto was directly in front of him, wide, concerned eyes boring into his own. He had to force himself not to take a step back.

“You okay?” Bokuto asked.

“Fine,” Akaashi replied, a gentle smile easing across his features. “Are you?”

Akaashi saw Bokuto swallow, the bob of his Adam’s apple more pronounced than usual. That was all the answer Akaashi needed. He caught Bokuto’s wrist as his hand was heading for his mouth. Akaashi’s fingers drifted lightly over the soft skin of his forearm—their usual dance, so familiar, so comforting. Bokuto was visibly relaxing under his touch. It was comforting even for Akaashi.

“I’m… So nervous,” Bokuto admitted in a trembling voice.

“I know,” Akaashi murmured, his free hand trailing up to Bokuto’s cheek. There was a hint of stubble beneath his fingers, five o’clock shadow that made Bokuto look so much older. “I’ll be right here the entire time.”

Bokuto just nodded, leaning into Akaashi’s touch. He had needed similar comforting when the piano arrived shortly after they did. Up until now, he had been nothing but excited for the show, for Kuroo to show his art to the world. He wanted everyone to love it the way he did. Now that it was really happening though, he seemed nervous—terrified, even. Akaashi wanted to do something to abate those nerves. But for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what.

And for a while, he wasn’t given time to figure it out either. Kuroo was eager to put Akaashi to work, claiming that he needed to do his part if he wanted to partake in the “spoils of war”—which would inevitably be a drink at the bar tonight. They’d reserved a private room for, what Kuroo claimed, would be either a victory party or to lament the death of his dream depending on tonight’s outcome. Akaashi wasn’t fond of bars. They were too loud, and too often, he was forced to make a quick exit when people didn’t want to take no for an answer. But Bokuto would be with him, and in the private room, it wouldn’t be so bad. Plus, he couldn’t say no to Kuroo, especially in the fragile state he seemed to be in lately.

And speaking of Kuroo’s fragile state…

Akaashi took a break from arranging paintings and mixing cocktail starters—Terushima’s idea if there ever was one—when he found Kuroo behind the studio, a cigarette between his lips and his eyes pressed shut tightly.

“I thought you quit smoking,” Akaashi noted, leaning against the brick next to him.

“So did I,” Kuroo hummed, pulling the cigarette from his mouth and issuing a puff of smoke.

“This is going to go well, you know,” Akaashi pointed out.

“I can thank Bokuto for the inevitable turnout, but…” Kuroo paused, took another drag from his cigarette, thought out his words carefully. “This is everything, ‘Kaash. This is my entire life on display. It’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever been.”

“What do you mean?” Akaashi asked. He plucked the cigarette from between Kuroo’s fingers and brought it to his lips. The burn that filled his lungs was familiar and yet oh so foreign. It was a habit he’d taken up in college and promptly let go when the boyfriend who introduced him to them was gone. Still, sometimes he just couldn’t resist.

Kuroo took the cigarette back, and Akaashi couldn’t help but notice the slight tremble of his fingers as he did. “Up until now, it’s just been professors critiquing assignments, single paintings for sale, portfolios perused through. This is the first time I’ve put everything onto the table—everything out in the open for the world to critique,” Kuroo explained. “I know I’ve said it before, but this time… If they don’t like my stuff, this is really it. Like, game over. I can’t just blame it on the painting or the place I’m at in life. That’s just it.”

“Kuroo…” Akaashi began.

“No, no, it’s not anything I need consolation over,” Kuroo cut him off. “I know they tell you not to put all your eggs in one basket or don’t look a gift horse in the mouth or something…”

“I don’t think that second one really applies here,” Akaashi commented.

“My point is,” Kuroo pressed on, stamping out his cigarette and reaching for another, “that’s all I’ve got left. I’ve tried to inch my way to success, and it evidently isn’t gonna happen slowly. It’s all or nothing now. And I’m okay with it.”

“Is that why you’re chain smoking and loitering behind the building while the rest of us work?” Akaashi asked.

Kuroo puffed the new cigarette to life, taking a slow, deep drag. “I’m still allowed to be nervous,” he shrugged. “Being okay with what I have to do doesn’t mean I’m excited for it to go poorly.”

“It won’t,” Akaashi said without hesitation.

“Always so sure of yourself,” Kuroo sighed.

“It’s not me I’m sure of,” Akaashi argued, stealing the cigarette for another deep inhale. “I’ve always told you that I like your art, but it’s never meant much.”

“That’s not—“ Kuroo started.

“No, I know, it’s meant as much as it can coming from someone who only knows how to draw stick figures,” Akaashi corrected himself. “But I think it did mean something coming from Bokuto-san. I think it meant something to you.”

Kuroo didn’t answer, just puffed on his cigarette. Akaashi decided not to press the issue any further. He wanted to comfort Kuroo somehow, but he’d never been good at knowing how to do that—well, for anyone other than Bokuto. He settled for a squeeze to Kuroo’s arm, hoping that it somehow conveyed all the words he didn’t quite know how to say.

“He’s a good one, you know,” Kuroo commented.

“Glad you approve,” Akaashi chuckled mildly.

“Well, with your track record, I reserved the right to be dubious,” Kuroo noted. “At least this one doesn’t have—“

“If you bring up Daishou again…” Akaashi threatened thinly.

“Those teeth, though,” Kuroo blanched. “And that ridiculous tongue thing. Was he at least good with his tongue?”

“No matter how many times you ask me that, you’ll never hear the answer,” Akaashi replied.

“Well, I know you were nervous when it came to Bokuto at first,” Kuroo conceded. “But he’s seriously awesome.”

“Don’t I know it,” Akaashi hummed.

At that moment, the door behind Akaashi opened and Terushima stepped into view. His eyes scanned the alleyway, and when they fell on Kuroo and Akaashi, they lit up with mischief.

“A secret rendezvous?” he asked, clapping his hands together delightedly. “Please tell me it’s to discuss a foursome.”

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Kuroo laughed, stamping out his cigarette.

“Mmm, well, you did tell me Mr. Pretty Boy here would grow on me,” Terushima cooed, hooking an arm around Akaashi’s. “And have you seen the arms on Koutarou? He could hold you against a wall for hours. I’m sure you’ve taken full advantage of that, eh Pretty Boy?” he teased with a wink.

“’Kaash’s sex life is a little too private for our liking,” Kuroo sighed. “But believe me, I’ve wondered the same thing.”

“He’s asking for you, by the way,” Terushima said, squeezing Akaashi’s forearm before pulling away.

“Bokuto-san?”

“There were some people milling around in front of the gallery and he started getting nervous, asking where you were,” Terushima explained.

Akaashi didn’t need anymore telling. He left Kuroo and Terushima just as they attached themselves at the mouths, returning inside the gallery and seeking out the tall head of hair in the far corner.

“What’s wrong?” Akaashi asked as he drew up to Bokuto, fingers finding his arm immediately.

Bokuto glanced over at Akaashi, then quickly away. His mouth was twisting in a grimace, chewing around words. His eyes were darting from the piano to the front door and back again. All the words he couldn’t say, Akaashi could read them all.

His excitement had been winning out for so long. But now the reality of what was happening seemed to press in on Bokuto from all sides. He would be performing in front of people without the stage, the distance, the suit to protect himself. He’d slicked his hair back, perched the glasses on his nose, but it wasn’t enough. He was putting everything out into the open for the world to critique. For the first time, he was completely exposed, totally vulnerable. Terrified for people to look at him, judge his music—judge him—unworthy.

Just like Kuroo.

Akaashi wanted to help. There had to be something. Something he could do to make Bokuto more comfortable. He’d always been able to come up with something. “What do you need?” he murmured, more to himself than anything else. But it retrieved Bokuto’s attention.

“I… I just… It’s all different,” Bokuto croaked, his voice low and scratchy. “I’m… Scared.”

Different…

Akaashi could ask what that meant, but he didn’t have to. Bokuto wanted it to feel the same as it always did. Maybe not the way he felt on stage. But the way he felt when he sat down at the office, losing himself in the music with only Akaashi to hear him.

Akaashi couldn’t do anything about the people. He couldn’t do anything about the stage or the suit, the way people looked at Bokuto, judged his music, judged him.

But maybe there was something he could do.

Akaashi threaded his fingers with Bokuto’s. “Come on,” he urged with a gentle tug.

Bokuto still looked nervous, just a little confused, but he followed along next to Akaash regardless. They crossed the gallery and approached the dark haired woman who was busy perusing the sheet on her clipboard. Her blonde companion was off with Hinata and Kenma under the guise of hanging the rest of Kuroo’s paintings—though Kenma had his face buried in his phone while Hinata and Yachi agonized over the order in which to hang them, getting little to nothing done. The dark haired woman seemed almost more intimidating without the blonde at her side.

“Shimizu-san?” Akaashi murmured as they drew up to her.

She peered up at them over the tops of her glasses, a deadpan expression that could rival Akaashi’s on her face. “Something you need?” she asked. Her voice had a quiet lilt to it, one Akaashi liked listening to.

“I saw some room dividers in the back,” Akaashi noted. “Is there a chance we’d be able to use those?”

“You may,” Kiyoko said simply.

“R-room dividers?” Bokuto repeated as Akaashi pulled him along once more. “What for?”

“I’m just making it the same as always,” Akaashi replied. “You’ll play for me… Okay?” He glanced back, appraised Bokuto slowly, waited for an answer.

Bokuto’s eyes shifted back and forth, not locking on anything in particular. He seemed to be processing Akaashi’s words slowly. It wasn’t until they’d made it to the back room, surrounded by mounds of alabaster, decorated canvases, and a slew of random oddities for the gallery, that Bokuto finally tilted his gaze toward Akaashi.

“I’ll just play for you,” he repeated slowly. “The same as always…”

“The same as always,” Akaashi nodded.

He leaned forward and pressed his lips to Bokuto’s in a feather-light kiss, the merest contact, the kind that made his mouth tingle and his limbs feel weightless. Bokuto leaned into it, his body relaxing a little more with every passing second. He raised a hand to Akaashi’s cheek, fingers dipping into his hairline. Akaashi didn’t realize the tension radiating through his own body until it breathed out of him in a sigh.

“Thanks, Akaash,” Bokuto murmured when he finally pulled back. His fingertips were still pressed into Akaashi’s dark curls.

“Of course,” Akaashi hummed.

It was a moment before Bokuto dropped his hand, a moment of unwavering eye contact, a moment Akaashi didn’t share with the older man often. He felt his heartbeat stutter at its intensity. Bokuto often seemed as though he was trying to peer into Akaashi’s soul, but this time, it felt like maybe he was succeeding.

And then it was over. Bokuto was glancing off to the right, his fingers falling away. Akaashi’s heartbeat returned to normal.

But the intensity lingered. It wasn’t something he’d soon forget.

Together, they gathered the room dividers and lugged them out into the gallery. Kuroo and Terushima were back, though neither were paying much attention—they were too focused on Kenma, who seemed to be trying to escape the gallery. They set up the room dividers around the piano, leaving enough room for a chair behind the bench. There was a tiny enough space for a single body to fit through—a space Akaashi would be guarding to keep away prying eyes.

By the time they finished, they’d gathered a small audience.

“What’s that for?” Hinata asked as he bounded to Akaashi’s side.

“Just a bit of privacy,” Akaashi said as they arranged the last panel.

“Ohhhhh!” Hinata cooed. He glanced back at Kenma with wide, astonished eyes. “We can build one for you too, Kenma!”

The blonde in question barely glanced up from his phone, pressing his nose even closer to the screen.

“Kenma’s just going to hide in the back room when the first person shows up,” Kuroo laughed.

“I barely wanted to come here in the first place,” Kenma mumbled.

“And yet you yielded at my constant pleadings,” Kuroo sighed, clutching a hand to his chest. “You’re a true friend.”

“Proximity associate,” Kenma corrected.

“Of course, my mistake,” Kuroo laughed.

“Is everything ready? Do you have everything you need? Were there enough dividers? Enough tables?” Yachi worried, her fingers fidgeting nervously.

“Everything’s perfect, Yach,” Kuroo assured her. “It looks great in here.”

“With all the paintings of me everywhere, how could it look anything but great?” Terushima laughed.

“True, babe, you’re a work of art,” Kuroo cooed.

Hinata faked a gagging noise behind his hand and earned a laugh throughout the room. Even Boktuo managed a chuckle, despite the obvious nervousness that was still palpable.

As the clock counted down to go time, Bokuto took shelter behind his walled-off refuge. Kenma was already gone, and Kuroo was flitting around the gallery, adjusting paintings and rearranging trays of food while the others watched. Their eyes followed him back and forth like they were watching a tennis match.

“He’s even making me dizzy,” Terushima sighed.

“Kuroo-san paces when he’s nervous,” Akaashi noted. “It was his default state before he finally told you he was in love with you.”

Terushima laughed, the laugh that Akaashi liked—deep and genuine, one he wanted to hear more often. A smile tugged at Akaashi lips just from listening to it.

“Will Koutarou be alright?” Terushima asked, suddenly serious.

“I… Think so,” Akaashi replied tentatively.

“You’re good for him, you know.”

Akaashi hadn’t expected that. He turned to see Terushima grinning at him. That expression, so smug and mildly condescending, gave Akaashi a glimpse of exactly why Kuroo had fallen for him. If Akaashi wasn’t so head over heels for Bokuto, he might’ve let that grin get the better of him.

But instead, all he did was give a small grin back.

“How can you be so observant of others’ relationships, and yet have no idea how crazy Kuroo-san was about you?” Akaashi teased.

“The same reason you were too terrified to admit you were in love with Koutarou,” Terushima replied. “We can wade through layers of other people’s trash, but when it comes to our own, we get stuck.”

“Truer words may have never been spoken,” Akaashi nodded.

“Speaking of Koutarou, I think he may need you again,” Terushima said, gesturing behind Akaashi.

Akaashi turned to see Bokuto’s head peering out from behind the dividers. His eyes were darting anxiously between Akaashi and the door.

“Try to keep Kuroo-san from giving himself a heart attack,” Akaashi noted over his shoulder as he headed back toward the little alcove they’d created.

“You know,” Terushima called, “Tetsu was right. You really have grown on me, Pretty Boy.”

“You too, Mr. Close Cropped Hair,” Akaashi replied before disappearing behind the dividers.

There was just enough space for he and Bokuto to fit standing up between the chair and the piano bench. As a result, they were practically chest-to-chest when Akaashi stepped inside. He could feel the nervous energy vibrating through Bokuto’s entire body.

“No one can see you back here,” Akaashi urged, a hand rising to Bokuto’s cheek without any thought.

“They can hear me,” Bokuto countered. He leaned into Akaashi’s hand, eyes pinching shut, mouth drawn tight.

Akaashi’s fingers traced along Bokuto’s cheekbone. “Yes, but they’re out there,” Akaashi noted. “In here, it’s you and me. Just you and me. The same as always,” Akaashi replied.

“Just you and me,” Bokuto repeated.

“Will you play for me?” Akaashi asked. He knew the doors would be opening soon. People would be flooding in—he’d already seen a rather large crowd gathering outside. The hum of conversation would reach Bokuto’s ears. Akaashi wanted him distracted before then.

He wanted Bokuto to lose himself in the music.

Slowly, Bokuto’s eyes opened to peer down at Akaashi. He was no more than a few centimeters taller than the younger man, but Akaashi always felt so much smaller under his intense gaze.

“Yeah,” Bokuto murmured with the fraction of a nod. “I… I want you to hear all the songs. I know you heard them separately, but… They sound better together.”

“I’m very excited,” Akaashi hummed. He leaned up again, pressing a kiss to the corner of Bokuto’s mouth. This time, he didn’t linger. There wasn’t time. He pulled back all too soon for his liking and took his seat on the chair behind the bench. It was the perfect position to peek out and see how the show was going while still keeping all of his attention of Bokuto.

The older man took his seat at the bench with that heavy plop. Trembling fingers settled a centimeter over the keys. Akaashi could see his shoulders shaking as he breathed in and out, in and out.

And then, he stilled. The sounds in the gallery quieted. It was as though time had grinded to a halt. Akaashi was afraid to speak, to move, to breathe—to disturb the moment that had been etched into existence. He wanted to stay here forever, watching Bokuto. He wanted to memorize every piece of him.

The press of ivory that thrummed the strings inside the piano seemed to put the earth back on its axis. Akaashi recognized this first song—the one that paired with the painting of Terushima sprawled across Kuroo’s bed. It was almost like a lullaby, quiet and captivating. Even Bokuto’s gentle rocking was soothing.

Akaashi knew that the door had been opened. He knew people were coming through the doorway in droves. Their footsteps must’ve been echoing through the high walls of the gallery. There was probably mild conversation too.

But Akaashi heard none of it. He could hear nothing except the notes issuing from the piano as Bokuto worked up and down the keys. It was as though they truly were trapped in their own little world behind the dividers.

The first melody gave way to one more brisk, the one Akaashi knew paired with the dogs in the park. He would practically see them bouncing, wind passing through their fur from their harried movements with every lilt of the notes. And then it was on to the next one, the slow pace of another Terushima portrait, and then the intense pounding of the bar where Kuroo spent most of his nights working, and then the quiet hum of the park near their apartment.

Akaashi wasn’t sure how long he had been listening, how much time had passed. But there was a lull in the music. Bokuto’s fingers stalled over the keys, a break between two pieces that he’d put in place for dramatic effect. And in that time, Akaashi returned to reality and heard the low murmur of conversation beyond the dividers. He managed to tear his gaze from Bokuto, turning his head and craning his neck to peer out into the gallery.

At least a hundred people were fluttering from painting to painting, some clasping cocktails as though they were their lifelines, others talking animatedly with their hands as they admired the artwork. A tiny crowd had gathered just beyond the border of the room dividers, listening quietly to the music drifting across the large room.

Hinata and Yachi were behind the food table, passing out small plates of snacks with polite expressions. Terushima was making drinks—seemingly his forte. He was smiling too. And there was Kuroo, flitting between groups of people, a tablet in his arms. He was typing furiously as he walked. When he glanced up and met Akaashi’s gaze, his face bloomed in the widest smile he’d ever worn. He mouthed something, something Akaashi couldn’t understand. Akaashi furrowed his brow in confusion. Kuroo repeated the words, a little slower.

All the eggs in the basket.

Akaashi couldn’t help the grin that tugged at his lips. He mouthed a response back.

Told you.

It made Kuroo laugh, which earned the attention of a few bystanders, one of whom flagged him down and appeared to be placing an order—at least, if Kuroo’s elated expression was anything to go by.

This was it. His big break.

Finally.

Akaashi’s attention was pulled away from the gallery and back to Bokuto when the familiar tones of a song began—a song he remembered, one he may never forget. It was subdued, mellow, not quite sleepy, but still like walking through a dream. He could almost see the painting in front of him, dark curls, high cheekbones, an amused expression that reached his eyes.

It was as though here were looking at the painting of himself—like looking into a mirror. Every note fit together perfectly to capture each brush stroke. How had Bokuto managed to capture it so perfectly?

How had he been able to capture Akaashi so perfectly?

Akaashi was sure some of the songs were being repeated now. But he felt as though he could listen to them for hours. And, in fact, he did. Every so often, he managed to tear his attention away to peek out into the gallery. It seemed every time he did, there were more paintings with SOLD signs beneath them. As the evening rolled in and the sky darkened completely, the flow of people grew to its peak. There were so many, they were finding it difficult to navigate the gallery. Kuroo was being pulled in every direction, and he barely had time to look up from the tablet as he paced. But he didn’t seem to mind. He was practically glowing.

On one of Akaashi’s scans across the gallery, he saw a head of gray hair that he recognized easily, complete with the toothy smile and the kind brown eyes. Suga was babbling eagerly to Kuroo, the latter of whom was basking in the compliments. Daichi, who was on Suga’s arm, just observed them with the tilt of a bemused smile. When Suga caught Akaashi’s eye, he waved wildly. Akaashi returned it with a more subdued wave of his own before returning to the world inside the dividers.

On another scan, his eyes fell on one guest in particular. He was standing just outside the wall of dividers, eyes closed in what appeared to be concentration. There were people all around him, clearly deep in their own conversations. It was like he was trying to tune them out, to focus solely on the music.

And then his eyes were open, zeroing in on Akaashi like a hawk. How had he known Akaashi was there without looking? Could he smell the younger man? He was like a predator. Akaashi felt a chill run down his spine at that intense gaze. He knew he was being appraised, just like at the apartment. If only he could read the older man’s expression, even just once.

Oiwake Takurou was an intimidating man.

Akaashi didn’t look out into the gallery after that. He wanted to avoid being sized up at all costs. And in any case, it was easy enough to lose himself in Bokuto’s music. It really was the sane as always. Bokuto never once stopped to ask how long it has been. It seemed that he didn’t care.

It was a while before Akaashi was pulled away from Bokuto’s playing again, this time with the touch of a hand against his shoulder. He turned to see Terushima behind him. He gestured toward Oiwake, who was still standing in front of the dividers listening. He was one of the last people left in the gallery. He appeared to be waiting, and Akaashi had a feeling it was for Bokuto. He nodded up at the blonde in affirmation. Terushima just shrugged as he sauntered away.

Akaashi rose up out of his chair, his legs feeling like jelly after sitting for so long. He drew up behind Bokuto and laid a hand against the older man’s shoulder. But Bokuto didn’t stop playing yet. Akaashi had assumed he probably wouldn’t. The song he was playing grew to a heavy swell, one that seemed to fill the tiny space they occupied. Akaashi knew it corresponded with the dark of the night sky outside their apartment, the skim of wind through the trees, the stars that glittered across the expanse of blackness. He had stared at that painting long enough to memorize it. It was the one that he’d bought from Kuroo years ago, and it always managed to relax him more than anything he’d ever known.

Well, until he met Bokuto at least.

The melody ended on a chord that settled into his bones. There was a beat of easy silence as Bokuto’s fingers stilled over the keys. It was another moment Akaashi wanted to etch into his memory—the only moment when Bokuto didn’t doubt himself, didn’t question anyone or anything, the moment before he returned to his fears and doubts.

Akaashi wanted him to feel that way forever.

But then, his eyes were opening, and he was tilting his gaze upward, seeking out Akaashi’s. He looked so expectant, and Akaashi knew what he needed.

He gave a gentle squeeze to Bokuto’s shoulder. “Perfect,” he murmured. “Absolutely perfect.”

Akaashi knew he wanted to argue. There was certainly something he’d managed to find that wasn’t perfect. But this time, all Bokuto did was smile. Maybe he was etching this moment in his memory too.

Together, they headed out into the gallery and were met with quite the sight. Hinata was on the ground, squinting with pain and rubbing his backside. It seemed he had fallen. Or rather, crashed into something before tumbling to the ground. The hawk-like man before him—the one Hinata had probably smashed into—was wearing the same expression Akaashi had always seen him wearing.

“Ah, I’m so sorry!” Hinata exclaimed as he gathered his bearings. He glanced up at the man in front of him and paled immediately.

Oiwake’s expression never faltered. “That’s quite alright,” his deep voice rumbled.

Akaashi could practically see Hinata’s soul leaving his body as he stared up at the severe man, eyes wide, mouth gaping. He couldn’t seem to form words. So instead, he scrabbled to his feet and ran away, taking cover behind Kuroo and peering around him expectantly. Kuroo didn’t even break his conversation with Daichi to ask what Hinata was doing. It was just par for the course with the younger man.

“Oiwake-san,” Bokuto said as they drew up to the older man. “I’m really glad you came.”

“Of course, it was important to you,” Oiwake nodded.

“Well, I know it’s kinda out of your way,” Bokuto noted.

“Not at all, it isn’t far from my home, actually.”

“W-what did you think?” Bokuto stuttered.

Akaashi didn’t look away from the older man, taking the opportunity to finally appraise him without being appraised himself. That hard expression seemed as though it was permanently etched into his face—it was the same he wore at the apartment, the same he wore staring down at a terrified Hinata. Akaashi vaguely remembered the lines in his face smoothing out as he smiled after Bokuto’s concert all those months ago. But that seemed to be a rarity.

Still, even if the lines in his face weren’t disappearing, his eyes were clearly softening as he stared at Bokuto.

“You were wonderful, Koutarou,” Oiwake said, the sincerity in his voice unwavering. “And your friend over there,” he gestured over his shoulder toward Kuroo, “was telling me the whole show was your idea? Even you playing for it?”

“Yeah… I mean, I just wanted Kuroo to be able to keep painting,” Bokuto nodded seriously. “His paintings are the best.”

“Hm,” Oiwake hummed. Akaashi saw his eyes softening even more. And then, suddenly, his eyes snapped sharply toward Akaashi. Was there ever a moment that he wasn’t trying to size another person up? As a psychologist, that probably came naturally, but still. He had to know how intimidating he looked.

“I was a little too nervous to play in front of people so close this time,” Bokuto continued unprompted. “Akaashi came up with the idea to put of the dividers, and it helped a lot. I know it wasn’t… Well… As good as if I hadn’t used them, but—“

“I’m very proud of you, Koutarou,” Oiwake cut him off.

This left Bokuto speechless. His mouth opened and closed uselessly, words eluding him.

“You decided to play in front of others all on your own,” Oiwake continued. “And for the benefit of your friend t boot. It was different. You were nervous, you knew people would be listening, and still, you played. And for that, Koutarou, I am very proud of you.”

Now Akaashi’s mouth fell open in surprise. He hadn’t expected that. Then again, it seemed as though Oiwake was a man full of surprises. Akaashi hadn’t expected him to show up in the first place, and yet here he was.

Maybe he’d been judging Oiwake too soon.

Though it was easy to do when he looked at Akaashi with that almost terrifying gaze again. Akaashi felt like he was shrinking by the second.

“I’m glad Koutarou has you to support him,” Oiwake nodded.

“Ah… Of… Of course,” Akaashi stumbled.

Oiwake bowed forward minutely. “I hope you two have a lovely evening,” he said.

They barely had time to murmur a hasty “You too” before Oiwake was spinning on his heel and striding out the door of the gallery. All eyes were on him as he disappeared, and then they shifted toward Bokuto and Akaashi quickly. They were trying to decide if it was safe to speak.

Of course, Hinata was the first to break. “He was so scary!” the small man cried.

“He… He just has that kinda face,” Bokuto explained.

“Aaaaaanyway,” Suga trilled, stepping forward and retrieving the attention of the room. “What are we doing now?”

“We?” Kuroo asked with the quirk of his brow.

“After such an enormous success, we have to celebrate!” Suga cheered.

“There’s a bar up the road, and we reserved a private room for the night,” Kuroo explained.

“How fun!” Suga chirped.

“Is it your treat, Mr. Refreshing?” Terushima asked with a grin.

“We’ll just have to discuss that later, Mr. Tongue Ring,” Suga replied, winking for emphasis.

“Oh no,” Akaashi whispered.

“What?” Bokuto asked, also whispering.

“Introducing them may have been a bad idea,” Akaashi replied.

“Why?” Bokuto asked.

Akaashi didn’t have to answer. They watched as Terushima and Suga linked arms, laughing loudly and practically skipping out of the gallery.

“Well, it seems we have a party to attend,” Kuroo shrugged.

He and Daichi followed them out. Kuroo convinced Yachi and Kiyoko to come along, and Hinata even managed to convince Kenma—“They have chargers in those private rooms! You can play on your phone all night!”

Akaashi’s hand immediately found Bokuto’s as they made to follow the small crowd of people. “Are you alright?” he asked gently. “We can just go home if you need to.”

“I… I think I’m okay,” Bokuto shook his head and nodded at the same time. “I want to hang out with everyone. And… If we get that private room, I think I’ll be okay.”

Akaashi could hear the hesitance in his voice. But he also knew that if Bokuto wanted to go, they would go. And Akaashi would stay by his side.

The hostess seemed overwhelmed by the sheer number of people piling into the bar once, but she led them back to their private room all the same. They settled around the table, taking seats on the comfortable cushions and easing in for what was sure to be a long night.

The drinks were ordered and brought out, a toast was made in Kuroo’s honor with a shout of “Kanpai!” Bokuto sipped at his Coke, content to just watch the others enjoy themselves. Akaashi bumped shoulders with the older man a few times before settling against him and observing the mild chatter around the table.

Hinata was talking animatedly to Yachi about his job as a personal trainer. He was on his feet, arms puffed out to imitate a man twice his size.

“The body builders always like to act tough,” Hinata was explaining. “But when they see that I can bench twice as much as them, that shuts them up!”

“Ohhhh!” Yachi squealed.

“Didn’t one of them bench you once?” Kenma asked quietly, eyes never leaving his phone screen.

Hinata seemed to visibly deflate. “Yeah, that guy was strong,” he mumbled, dropping to his cushion in a slump.

Kenma seemed to realize that what he’d said made Hinata dim. He leaned against the smaller man’s shoulder, head nuzzling against it. At least that made Hinata smile. He easily forgot Kenma’s little faux pas.

“Hey!” he exclaimed suddenly, making Yachi jump. Kenma didn’t move though, evidently used to the outbursts by now. “Are you and Kiyo… I mean, Shimizu-san, are you two girlfriends?”

Yachi’s face turned the approximate shade of a beet. “W-w-w-we, um… Well, it’s sort of… Um…” she squeaked.

“Yes,” Kiyoko replied simply as she stared into her glass.

Yachi only spluttered louder, and Kiyoko actually cracked a smile.

Across the table, it hadn’t taken Terushima and Suga long to form a lifelong bond. A minute and a half after that, they were discussing the mechanics of a foursome.

“Well, Koushi-chan, you strike me as a power bottom, much like myself,” Terushima said proudly, pressing a hand to his chest. “So Tetsu-chan is used to the experience. But poor Dai-chan seems so…”

“Vanilla?” Suga supplemented. “He is, but I ease him into most things. We’ll ease him into this too.”

“Suga, Jesus,” Daichi blanched.

“Jesus isn’t here, Daichi,” Suga said dismissively without missing a beat. “He’s probably running an engineering club somewhere.”

“Jesus Jones!” Bokuto called with a laugh. Akaashi almost choked on his drink.

“Who the hell is Jesus Jones?” Kuroo asked.

“Don’t change the subject, Tetsu-chan,” Terushima admonished. “You’d be up for it, right?”

“Whatever you want, babe,” Kuroo replied, slinging an arm around Terushima’s shoulders.

“We could invite Pretty Boy and the Lovely Arms to join us, make it a proper orgy,” Terushima suggested.

“Oh my god,” Akaashi groaned.

“Wait, is Akaashi Pretty Boy?” Suga perked up. “Does that mean Kou is the Lovely Arms?”

“I have lovely arms?” Bokuto asked.

“This conversation has gotten very out of hand,” Daichi huffed, ringing the buzzer to order another round of drinks.

It didn’t seem possible for the conversation to loosen up anymore, but somehow it devolved to Terushima and Suga swapping bizarre locations where they’d had sex while the others listened in amusement.

“Hm, let’s see, there was the fated encounter at the aquarium,” Terushima ticked off on his fingers. “The packed train car. The changing room. Behind the bar where I work.”

“My god, Kuroo, you really are wild,” Suga marveled.

“Oh, none of these were with me,” Kuroo laughed.

“Those were all pre-Tetsurou,” Terushima noted. “We’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for.”

“We could start with the bathroom of this bar,” Kuroo teased, leaning over to mouth a kiss against Terushima’s neck.

“Ah ah ah, not yet,” Terushima chided. “There’s a surprise coming, and—ah, there it is now!”

The doors of the private room slid open once more to reveal two waitresses carrying what had to be the biggest sheet cake Akaashi had ever seen. Bokuto was craning his neck to peer at the writing on top of it. The two women set it down on the table before bowing low and backing out of the room.

There was an awkward silence as everyone stared at the cake, reading and rereading the words scrawled across it in neat icing. No one seemed ready to ask.

This time, Bokuto was first to break the silence.

“Why does it say ‘Sorry for your loss’?” he asked.

Another beat of silence followed, punctuated quickly by a snort of laughter from Suga. That snapped everyone back to reality, and then they were all laughing. Even Kiyoko gave a breathy chuckle.

“I can’t figure out if the people at the bakery misunderstood me or were just mad that it was such short notice,” Terushima laughed, wiping at his eyes as tears spilled over.

“When did you place the order?” Kuroo asked.

“11:00 this morning.”

More laughter, louder this time. Ignoring the somewhat daunting message, another toast was raised to Kuroo and the knife was passed to Bokuto to cut the cake—considering he was the only one who hadn’t had alcohol, it felt appropriate. He divvied out the pieces, passing them around the table and finishing with Akaashi. The younger man didn’t expect Bokuto to slide a finger through the icing and dab some onto his nose.

“Ah, hey!” Akaashi chided lightly.

“Hey, hey, you look cute like that, Akaash!” Bokuto grinned.

Akaashi leaned up on the pretense to plucking his cake from Bokuto’s hands, close enough to speak without anyone else hearing. “You could clean it off for me,” he hummed, low and breathy against Bokuto’s ear.

The shudder it earned throughout Bokuto’s entire body was victory enough. No one else seemed to notice, the general conversation shifting to the show. Akaashi leaned against Bokuto again, noting the way the older man had been simultaneously relaxed and invigorated.

“I can’t believe you sold almost all the paintings!” Hinata squealed.

“Almost?” Suga questioned around a mouthful of cake, swallowing thickly. “Why not all? I heard you having to turn people down.”

“Well, some of those paintings have owners already, I just wanted them on display so people could get a view of everything,” Kuroo shrugged.

“Which one made the most money?” Hinata asked.

“Ah, the one of Yuuji sleeping in my bed,” Kuroo replied. Did he sound a little sheepish? Akaashi couldn’t tell, the slight haze from the alcohol coloring his edges of his brain. But at the very least, it was different from Kuroo’s default cockiness.

“Wait… The paint one? Seriously?” Terushima asked, and there was a definite smirk on his face now.

Kuroo nodded. Now Akaashi could definitely see a strange expression. “The paint one,” he agreed.

“What’s so special about the paint one?” Suga asked curiously.

“It was the night Tetsu told me he loved he,” Terushima sighed, leaning back against Kuroo’s chest. Since when had he squirmed between Kuroo’s legs? Evidently while no one was paying attention. “He wanted to paint me, and we got a bit, ah… Carried away.”

“I still painted him,” Kuroo continued, running a hand affectionately over the blonde hair in front of his face. “He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”

“Daaaaaaai, we’re surrounded by lovey dovey couples,” Suga whined, hurling himself back against Daichi’s chest. God, when had everyone crawled into each other’s laps? At least Kenma and Hinata were still sitting normally.

“You know we’ve been dating for years, right?” Daichi asked skeptically.

“That’s the problem, we’ve gone stale!” Siga groaned. He threw his arms open in a wide gesture. “Look at all the young love! Makes us look ancient.”

“Well, you are the oldest one at the table,” Bokuto noted.

“Kou!” Suga shrieked.

“What?! It’s the truth!” Bokuto laughed.

Akaashi couldn’t believe how much Bokuto seemed to be enjoying himself. Even when it had just been the two of them, Suga, and Daichi out to dinner, he’d been visibly nervous a few times during the evening. But now, with more than double the people, after such a stressful day, he was nothing but elated. There was only the lightest drum of fingers against his thigh and only the slightest hint of rocking—more out of habit than anything. He sometimes wasn’t this relaxed even when they spent the night at home together. Akaashi couldn’t help but feel surprised.

Then again, it was starting to feel like the norm when Bokuto surprised him.

“Hey, Akaash?”

Bokuto’s voice pulled Akaashi back to reality with a jolt. “What is it?” he asked.

“I, um… I kinda… I have to go to the bathroom,” Bokuto murmured.

Akaashi realized how much of his weight was leaning against Bokuto with a start. “Ah, I’ll come too,” he said as he rose up from his seat, regretting it immediately. He hadn’t had all that much to drink, but the room was spinning around him. Steadying himself on Bokuto’s arm, the two made their way out of the private room and toward the back of the bar. The dull hum of conversations could be heard in the distance, but back here, there was no one.

“Um… Akaashi?” Bokuto said again.

“Hm?”

“You know how Kuroo has a lot of paintings of Terushima?”

“All too well,” Akaashi tried to bite back the eye roll.

“Well… I… I kinda want to write more songs… About you…”

Akaashi came to a dead halt just outside the bathroom door, forcing Bokuto to stop too. He felt immediately sobered for a moment as his eyes raked up Bokuto, meeting those pensive golden eyes.

“About… Me?” Akaashi said slowly.

“Well, yeah, ‘cause I love you so much, and I think a lot about them in my head, I just don’t write them down. I dunno why, I guess I just… Was kind of embarrassed,” Bokuto babbled, and now he seemed nervous. “But, I figured if Kuroo can paint Terushima and not be embarrassed about it, then I can write songs about you too. So… Would that be okay?”

Akaashi was sure the words would fail him, fail to express how he truly felt in this moment. Instead, after a quick glance around to make sure they were alone, he leaned up, closing the short distance between them and pressing his lips to Bokuto’s in a deep kiss. Akaashi could feel the sharp intake of breath against his mouth, a quiet gasp that he eagerly swallowed. His fingers walked up Bokuto’s arms, his neck, arms sliding around and pulling Bokuto closer. Bokuto relaxed into the contact, his own hands settling against Akaashi’s hips. Akaashi tilted closer, desperate to pour all the unsaid words into Bokuto. And it almost seemed as though Bokuto understood.

It was a perfect moment.

And it was interrupted by the abrupt opening of the bathroom door to their right.

“Oh my god… Kou?”

Bokuto and Akaashi broke away, stumbling apart in the small space of the hallway. Their gazes fell on the woman in the doorway of the bathroom. She had long, reddish hair and wore an expression of bemusement. Her hands made their way to her hips in a stance that could almost be called cocky.

Akaashi glanced between the woman and Bokuto, who was now wearing a look of recognition. “Yukie? What are you doing here?” he asked.

Yukie

The name caused a cavalcade of emotions to erupt inside Akaashi. He knew they were still friends, knew that they had lunch at Bokuto’s house once a month to catch up with each other’s lives. They were just friends. And still, he had to fight the instinct to wrap himself around Bokuto again, marking his territory like an aggressive dog. This was ridiculous. He was a grown man, there was no excuse for that kind of childish behavior. Maybe he could blame it on the alcohol. Instead of acting irrationally, he tried to size Yukie up without seeming too obvious.

“What’s up!” she said cheerfully. “It’s been forever, huh? Though I can see you’ve been rather, ah… Busy.” Her eyebrows waggled suggestively as she gave Akaashi a once-over.

“You were the one who cancelled out last lunch,” Bokuto noted.

“Oh, you got me,” she conceded, raising her hands in defeat. “Yamato finally got some time off of work, and he kinda whisked me away.”

“I feel like my feelings should be hurt,” Bokuto mused, his tone teasing.

“So… Who is this?” Yukie asked, nudging her chin in Akaashi’s direction.

“Ah, sorry,” Akaashi murmured. He took a step forward, swayed on his feet, stopped to steady himself. Hopefully he didn’t look as tipsy as he felt. “I’m Akaashi Keiji,” he said as he extended a hand.

“Shirofuku Yukie,” the woman replied. She gripped Akaashi’s hand with a firmness that even most men couldn’t manage. “I was Kou’s friend in college.”

“And we dated for a while,” Bokuto added.

“That we did,” she nodded. It was plain to see that she was trying to study Akaashi. It was similar to Oiwake, but far less hawk-like. Just more… Interested, maybe. “So, Akaashi-san, tell me. Are you taking good care of Kou?”

“I… I am,” Akaashi replied tentatively.

“Not just after his money, are you?” she asked, eyes narrowing dramatically.

“That’s always the first assumption, isn’t it?” Akaashi countered. “I must give off a vibe.”

“Suga and I pulled that prank on him too!” Bokuto laughed.

“Oh, you met Suga?” Yukie queried, a new tone to her voice, one of surprise.

“He and Daichi are here with us, they’re in the private room,” Bokuto said, gesturing behind him. “And some other people too. We’re celebrating!”

Yukie’s eyebrows rose higher, though Bokuto didn’t seem to notice. “That sounds like a good time,” she nodded. “What’s the occasion?”

“Kuroo had an art show that did really great tonight!” Bokuto explained, excitement dancing in his golden eyes. “He sold almost all his paintings!”

“Bokuto-san was the one who suggested the show, he wrote and performed songs inspired by the pieces,” Akaashi added.

It looked like Yukie’s eyebrows were threatening to rise clear off her face. Her gaze tilted toward Akaashi at his words. “For real?” she murmured. “That’s… Seriously awesome!”

“Ah, thanks,” Bokuto replied bashfully. Then, he snapped back to reality. “Oh, right, bathroom!”

“I’ll wait out here,” Akaashi said as he leaned back against the wall.

“You gonna be okay?” Bokuto asked.

Akaashi peered up at him with a grin. “I’ll be fine,” he replied cheekily.

“Okay, just… Don’t walk back by yourself, ‘cause you’ll probably fall over,” Bokuto teased.

This time, Akaashi let his eyes roll toward the ceiling, a smirk twitching at his lips. Bokuto disappeared into the bathroom, but Yukie didn’t move. She was watching Akaashi with amusement.

“Bokuto-san has told me a lot about you,” Akaashi said, trying to ease the strange silence that had settled between them.

“He’s also told me about you,” Yukie replied, crossing her arms over her chest. “In great detail, in fact.”

“If Bokuto-san has been saying things, they’re probably a bit biased,” Akaashi noted.

Yukie cracked a grin. “Well, according to him, you’re like the coolest person on planet earth, so you might be right,” she agreed. “But you’re also really important to him, that much is obvious.”

“He’s important to me as well.”

“And… He’s so different now,” she added.

Akaashi’s quirked a brow. “Different?” he repeated.

“When I first met Kou, he almost refused to go through with his final exam for Classical Composition because it meant playing in front of the professor,” she explained. “He’s gained confidence since then, and he’s obviously more comfortable playing in front of people. But all that was thanks to Oiwake-san pushing him. And this doesn’t seem like the work of the hawk.”

“He reminds you of one too?” Akaashi cut in.

“Oh my god,” Yukie blanched, eyes flicking upward, hands rising in exasperation. “You feel like he’s gonna eat you when he looks at you!”

“Bokuto-san insists it’s just his face, but still…” Akaashi said.

“Like, I used to think maybe if he smiled, it wouldn’t be so damn terrifying, but it’s almost worse,” she stressed.

Akaashi was quickly realizing Yukie wasn’t cocky at all. In fact, she was one of the most down-to-earth people he’d ever met. It was no wonder Bokuto had been drawn to her in the first place, even if only as a friend.

“So,” she retrieved his attention. “You guys are clearly close. Even discounting the way he gushes over you, it looked like you were trying to eat each other’s faces off a couple minutes ago.”

Akaashi knew his face was probably glowing. Evidently he was a less than graceful kisser when alcohol was involved. “I… I suppose so,” he managed to stutter out.

“So, I assume he told you about the two of us,” she continued. Akaashi’s silence did nothing to deter her. “We probably shouldn’t have dated in the first place. Not that I regret it or anything. But I could sort of tell he was never as into me as I was to him. And then when he realized he was never going to be able to return those feelings intimately, he started to berate himself for it.”

“He told me about that,” Akaashi couldn’t help but murmur.

“It wasn’t his fault, and I never cared that he didn’t want to do that kind of stuff with me, you know?” she shrugged. “I didn’t love Kou for anything like that. I just loved him because he was Kou.”

“So… You had feelings for him then?” Akaashi asked.

“Oh yeah, I fell pretty hard,” Yukie laughed.

“He neglected to mention that part,” Akaashi noted.

“I think that was part of why he took it so hard,” she replied. “He wanted to be able to feel the way I felt, and he just couldn’t. He thought he failed. And it didn’t matter what I told him. He was so hard on himself. It got to be unhealthy for him. I had to put my own feelings aside and consider what was good for him. It was hurting him to be with me, and I wanted to see him happy. Even if that wasn’t with me.”

Akaashi found himself speechless as he processed her words. It had been easy to almost villainize this woman before he met her, to assume she and Bokuto had parted because she needed more out of a relationship, because Bokuto wasn’t enough. But now, he was sure that wasn’t the case. To know she’d been so in love with him, to know that they had broken up for his benefit… It gave Akaashi a newfound respect for her.

Akaashi wanted to admit that to her, but what came out instead was, “You know, I was jealous when I first heard about you.”

Yukie threw back her head and laughed. “Well, no worries,” she said, reaching forward and clapping him on the shoulder. “Not only am I a kept woman,” she flashed her free hand, revealing a glittering ring, “I don’t think you’d have much to worry about. He’s definitely a different person when he’s with you.”

“Really?” Akaashi asked.

“He never would’ve come to a place like this, especially with as many people are here,” she pointed out. “And he never would’ve played in front of small group like that, let alone offered to do it on his own. Plus… He never kissed me like that. Like he couldn’t get enough… I really don’t think you have anything to worry about. It seems like you’re good for him.”

Akaashi was spared from coming up with a reply when the bathroom door opened and Bokuto reappeared, shaking his hands to remove the excess water from them. His beaming smile was infectious, and Akaashi realized he was smiling too.

“Is Yamato actually here?” Bokuto asked Yukie.

Her eyes widened in shock at his words. “Oh my god! I’m the worst fiancée ever! I’ve been gone for like eight years!” she exclaimed.

“Wow, that’s a long time,” Bokuto noted.

“It was good seeing you, Kou,” Yukie called over her shoulder, already retreating down the narrow hallway. “And nice meeting you Akaashi-san! We’ll get together for a double date or something soon!” And, with a flourish of her hand, she rounded the corner and disappeared from view.

“Did you like her?” Bokuto asked, rounding on Akaashi immediately.

“I did,” he replied, smiling up at the older man. “She’s very personable.”

“Yeah, she’s really cool,” Bokuto nodded vigorously. “Not as cool as you, but still really cool.”

Akaashi just hummed in reply, a hand making its way to Bokuto’s cheek. He liked the feeling of the stubble against the pads of his fingers.

“W-what are you doing?” Bokuto asked.

Akaashi just stared, admiring Bokuto fondly. He found himself struck with that overwhelming affection for Bokuto—the tug of Bokuto’s grasp on his heartstrings. It still didn’t feel possible to love someone this much. And yet, here was Bokuto, perfect in every conceivable way, making Akaashi’s chest ache from how strong these feelings were.

“I love you,” was all he could manage.

Bokuto grinned, leaning into Akaashi’s fingers. “I love you too, Akaash,” he replied. “Now come on, I want to hear more weird sex stories from Terushima and Suga.”

“Oh my god,” Akaashi groaned.

But even still, he was smiling, and he let Bokuto take him by the hand and lead him back to the private room.

Chapter Text

“Alright, guys. It’s time to settle up.”

Akaashi glanced up over the top of his computer and found Konoha standing at his desk, hands planted firmly on his hips, likely trying to look authoritative.

“Settle up what?” Akaashi asked dully.

“The season’s bets,” Konoha replied. He emphasized his words with a sharp stab to the small notebook on his desk. “The mail got picked up, so our report is officially out of our hands. And now, it’s time to divvy up the spoils.”

Akaashi could only roll his eyes. He had told them all to knock it off with the betting, though it had always been a rather weak demand. How else were they expected to make it through an entire busy season without losing their minds?

Still, Akaashi could only deem this year’s busy season an improvement over last year’s. Six months of hefting through expenditure sheets and monthly statements was a lot easier now that Oikawa had established himself within the company and managed to organize the mess his predecessor had left behind. His personality hadn’t improved much, but his work ethic made the process so much smoother.

But it was still a busy season. Long nights at the office, site visits to Mizuha, and a data breach by hackers with entirely too much time on their hands had Akaashi and his team thoroughly exhausted. At least the betting had kept them mildly entertained.

“Okay, so,” Konoha announced, “let’s start with Yamaguchi.”

“W-why me?” Yamaguchi squeaked, practically jumping out of his chair.

“Because for whatever reason, you literally made the most money out of everyone,” Konoha sounded annoyed. “So, combined we owe you…” He paused as he calculated the numbers. “Jesus, ¥7000.”

“What?” Komi squawked. “How?!”

“3000 for correctly guessing exactly how many times you would lose important paperwork on your desk,” Konoha said, gesturing toward Komi and his mess. “And then 2000 each for getting closest on how many times Saru would get a text from his girlfriend and get that dumb smile on his face, and how many times Oikawa would flirt with Akaashi over the phone.”

“How accurate are those numbers, though?” Komi countered.

“I get a dumb smile when she messages me?” Sarukui asked.

“Yes, your smile is ridiculous when you see her messages. And they’re accurate, Komi,” Konoha barked. “You’ve been here! We’ve all been keeping track!”

“Yeah, but like, who knows if Akaashi got hit on by Oikawa when we weren’t here,” Komi noted.

“Yeah, well Yamaguchi’s guess was the highest, so he’d still win.”

“Fair enough.”

“You’re betting on my misery?” Akaashi asked.

“Well yeah, you’re our star, Akaashi-san,” Komi replied.

“And you,” Konoha turned toward Komi, “you get ¥2000 for coming the closest on how many secret phone calls Akaashi took.”

“Wait, what?” Akaashi looked sharply up from his computer again.

“Damn, one more and you would’ve gotten an extra 1000,” Konoha noted. “And we could never figure out if they were from multiple people or the same person, so no one wins that one.”

“You obviously didn’t dig hard enough,” Tsukishima cut in, his tone biting.

“Mr. Abstention doesn’t get to have an opinion on the bets,” Konoha bit back. “And why did you even abstain? I thought all your joy in life came from being able to say, ‘Haha, I’m right.’”

“Yeah, that is kinda suspicious,” Komi added.

“You know, I could easily report you all to the senior audit manager and have you fired for gambling” Akaashi said through gritted teeth.

“With as many times as you’ve said that, I would’ve thought we’d all surely be fired by now,” Tsukishima replied. Akaashi could just hear his smirk without even looking.

Akaashi was thinking of a snappy retort when his phone began to vibrate on his desk. All eyes in the room snapped toward it.

“Wait, can that one count?” Komi asked suddenly.

“Nope,” Konoha replied. “Betting windows are closed, pools are up for grabs. You’re SOL, my friend.”

“Noooooooo!” Komi wailed, head dropping onto his desk.

Akaashi snatched his phone off the desk and swept from the cubicle, ignoring the annoying laughter that followed him. He stepped into the supply closet just off the room and pressed the phone to his ear as the door snapped shut behind him.

“Hello?”

“Hey, hey, Akaash!”

Akaashi couldn’t fight off a smile. It was also possible that this busy season was alleviated by Bokuto’s increased presence in his life. By January, he only made it back to his apartment on Sunday afternoons—long enough to do some laundry and fall asleep on the couch before running out the door again on Monday morning.

Akaashi could have told himself that the nights he spent at Bokuto’s apartment were more out of convenience. After all, the older man only lived a few blocks away from the office, he always had a home-cooked meal ready for dinner and breakfast, and Akaashi had to admit that falling asleep next to him was a nice perk.

But really, it was more than all that. Last year, Akaashi only spent about an hour with Bokuto every day, listening to him play the piano, learning bits and pieces about him, struggling over budding feelings of affection for the older man. Now, he fully embraced those feelings. He got to go home with Bokuto every night.

Home…

“Hello, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi replied.

“I know you’re busy, but I just wanted to ask you something.” Bokuto’s voice was obscured. He almost sounded like he was in a wind tunnel.

“It’s fine, I’m not busy,” Akaashi said. “We got the report sent out earlier, so I’m finished for the day. I was thinking I might leave early.”

“Oh, wait, really?” Bokuto sounded excited now. “Wait, hold on, turn around.”

“What?” Akaashi asked. He looked over his shoulder and saw nothing but the door behind him. And then he felt stupid. “Bokuto-san, where are you?”

“Kuroo’s car,” Bokuto replied. “We were gonna go back to his apartment, but if you’re done, we’ll come get you! You can hang out with us!”

Akaashi could hear a faint voice complaining in the background, probably Kuroo. But Akaashi also knew he was likely turning the car around without question.

“I’d like that,” Akaashi said. “We can come back later tonight like we did last year.”

“Wanna come home with me after?” Bokuto asked.

Home…

“Yes. I do,” Akaashi murmured.

“Cool! We’ll be there in two minutes… No… Three minutes. Love you!”

“I love you too.”

Akaashi hustled back to the cubicle and gathered up his things. The quiet hum of conversation grew quieter, eventually stopping altogether. He looked up to find everyone in the cubicle—even Tsukishima—watching him.

“I’m leaving early today,” he announced as he shrugged into his coat.

“Really? We couldn’t tell,” Tsukishima deadpanned.

“Seemed like a pretty important phone call, huh?” Komi noted. A second later, two pens sailed across the desks, hitting him in the head. “Ow!” he yelped.

Akaashi followed the paths of the pens back to Konoha and Sarukui, who were both trying and failing to look innocent. He narrowed his eyes in a silent question.

“Enjoy your afternoon off, Akaashi-san,” Sarukui said.

“Why did you throw those at me?” Komi wailed. “I was just gonna ask about his—“

“Jesus Christ, Komi, were the pens not enough?” Konoha barked.

“What is happening?” Akaashi asked.

“Nothing. Nothing is happening,” Konoha said firmly. “We are fine. You are fine. Have a wonderful day.”

Akaashi glared at the man across from him. “What was Komi going to ask me?” he demanded.

“Nothing,” Konoha and Sarukui said in unison, loud enough to drown out Komi, who had started talking again.

“Wow, if I were a person who got uncomfortable, I would probably feel so uncomfortable right now,” Tsukishima said in a bored voice.

They seemed to have reached an uneasy impasse—Akaashi glaring at the two disconcerted men across from him, neither of whom was yielding an inch. It appeared as though Yamaguchi might throw up from the tension. Tsukishima looked positively gleeful.

But then Akaashi’s phone was vibrating in his pocket, and he was forced to abandon the confusion in front of him. He didn’t say a word as he left the cubicle, though he did hear the hissed whisper from Konoha telling Komi he needed to learn when to shut the fuck up.

After a short elevator ride and a brisk walk through the crowded lobby, Akaashi was sliding into the backseat of Kuroo’s car. Bokuto was in the seat next to him waiting, that lopsided grin gracing his face.

“Hey, hey, Akaash!” he exclaimed.

“Hi,” Akaashi huffed. He leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss to Bokuto’s lips.

“No, no, none of that,” Kuroo barked from the driver’s seat as he pulled out into the flow of traffic. “I’m not a limo service, hands where I can see them.”

“Well we’re not gonna do anything gross,” Bokuto laughed. “Unless you want to, Akaash. Nothin’ he can do about it when he’s driving.” Bokuto gave Akaashi’s thigh a teasing squeeze.

“I can’t see four hands!” Kuroo yelled. “And we’re watching the movie at your place now, your couches are more comfortable.”

Akaashi was so rarely given the luxury of a drive back to the apartment, he forgot how short the commute could be—so much faster than taking the train. The entire ride and the walk up to Akaashi’s door, he listened to Kuroo and Bokuto alternate between playful bickering and going on ad nauseam about the horrible action movie they were planning to watch. By the time they made it inside, Akaashi was bordering on the edge of sleep.

“You look like you’re gonna fall over,” Kuroo noted as he shuffled past Akaashi into the living room.

That was the wrong thing to say. Bokuto was at Akaashi’s side in an instant, fear marring his sharp features. “What’s wrong?” he asked, hands hovering over Akaashi’s arms, like he was afraid to touch him.

“I’m fine,” Akaashi sighed, shooting Kuroo a pointed glare.

The messy haired man’s hands rose in surrender as he dropped like dead weight onto the couch. “Don’t shoot the messenger!” he exclaimed.

“I’m just tired,” Akaashi countered as he slipped off his shoes.

“Do you want a nap? Do you want some tea? Sleep medicine? I’ll go get some if you need it,” Bokuto fretted, close on Akaashi’s heels.

“I’ll probably just take a nap while you watch the movie,” Akaashi replied.

Bokuto was gone, leaving the room and heading down the hallway at a dead run. He might’ve been a little more surprised if this wasn’t such a regular occurrence. But he’d gotten used to Bokuto’s quick and frequent comings and goings.

Akaashi scooped up the rather overwhelming pile of mail that had been shoved through the mail slot. How long had it been since he’d picked any of it up? At least a week. He dropped it onto the table, deigning to deal with it later. “Thank you for that,” he snapped at Kuroo, taking a seat on the unoccupied couch.

“Oh, come on,” Kuroo scoffed. “You did look like you were gonna fall over!”

“You didn’t have to worry him,” Akaashi retorted.

“He was gonna notice sooner or later,” Kuroo noted, throwing his legs up onto the couch. “Come on, you practically live with him, you didn’t think he was gonna notice you look like a walking corpse?”

Akaashi was spared from replying by Bokuto’s abrupt return. He had a blanket tucked under one arm and a pillow under the other. “For you!” he exclaimed. “I know you don’t like action movies, so you can take a nap if you want to! We’ll be quiet.”

“I can’t make that promise,” Kuroo laughed.

“Thank you, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said, ignoring Kuroo’s snark.

Bokuto joined him on the couch, covering Akaashi up with the blanket as he did. Akaashi laid down with his head on the armrest and his legs in Bokuto’s lap. The older man’s hands settled against Akaashi’s calves, thumbs running idly over the muscle.

Akaashi wanted to fall asleep. He really was exhausted. But as the movie began to play and the cast of characters was introduced, he felt himself getting lost in thought. Sleep was the last thing on his mind. He was too focused on Kuroo’s choice of words.

You practically live with him…

For the third time that day, Akaashi found himself stuck on something. Maybe it had been budding for a while and he just hadn’t noticed. But now, he felt so overwhelmed by it.

He no longer referred to his apartment as home. Even looking around now, nothing held him there. He could leave everything behind—the sparse furniture he’d bought from his aunt secondhand, the old clothes he’d had for years, the mismatched dishes and squeaking floorboards. He only cared about the painting on the wall he’d bought from Kuroo and the sweater he and his grandmother made before she passed away. Nothing else here mattered.

This wasn’t where his life was anymore.

Akaashi peered discretely across the couch at Bokuto—though his discretion wasn’t necessary, as Bokuto was thoroughly engrossed in the movie. He was rocking slightly, not his upper body, but just his head, rolling back and forth. Was he doing it so he wouldn’t disturb Akaashi? For someone who struggled to consider other people, Bokuto managed to think of Akaashi more than Akaashi could himself. He made Akaashi’s favorite meals, recorded shows he knew Akaashi liked, even sprinted to get him a pillow and blanket when he was tired.

There was a reason this apartment didn’t feel like home to Akaashi anymore.

Because now, Bokuto was his home.

Akaashi dropped his head back onto the pillow. His head felt so full, it threatened to burst. The first twinges of a headache were starting behind his eyes. With the sounds of the movie punctuating his sleep, along with Kuroo and Bokuto’s very muffled exclamations, he managed to fall into a heavy, thankfully dreamless sleep.

 


 

 

It was so dark. Akaashi wasn’t quite sure he was even awake. Then he realized he couldn’t breathe. He pulled his head back and realized his face had been pressed into the crook of the couch. But even now, blinking the sleep out of his eyes, he realized that the room around him was cast in relative darkness. The faint glow of the television cast only the faintest, haziest light. The sun had clearly gone down a while ago.

“You’re awake!”

Akaashi looked toward the other end of the couch. There was Bokuto, still sitting in the same spot he was before Akaashi fell asleep. Akaashi’s legs were still cradled in his lap.

“How long was I asleep?” Akaashi asked. His voice was gravely from disuse.

“About five hours,” Bokuto replied.

Akaashi struggled to sit up. The blanket was wrapped around him like a trap. “Have you been sitting there the entire time?” he queried.

“I didn’t want you to wake up,” Bokuto admitted. “You looked really peaceful. And I didn’t want you to be so tired.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Akaashi murmured. He was caught between embarrassment and that familiar overwhelming affection. “But thank you,” he added.

“Anything for you, Akaash!”

“Where’s Kuroo-san?” Akaashi yawned, setting his feet on the floor and standing up with a groan. His back gave a protesting crack.

“He went to go pick up dinner,” Bokuto answered. “We got some for you too.”

“We?” Akaashi quirked a brow down at Bokuto.

His expression shifted to sheepish. “Me,” he corrected. “I made sure he got you a ton, ‘cause I know you’re really hungry when you wake up.”

Well, the embarrassment was gone. Now it was just that affection. It threatened to bubble over, to drown Akaashi.

He was tempted to let it.

“Hey!” Bokuto exclaimed, and Akaashi nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Yes?” Akaashi asked.

“Is that all your mail?” Bokuto pointed toward the pile of envelopes sitting on the table in front of them.

“Oh, right,” Akaashi sighed, dropping back down onto the couch.

“That’s just from this week?” Bokuto marveled at the stack.

“I may have neglected it last week,” Akaashi noted as he rifled through the first few envelopes. “And the week before.”

“Wow…”

Akaashi sifted through the enormous pile of mail in front of him. Truthfully, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually picked it up off the floor. There were about eight bills that he’d paid online, so probably a couple of months. Those made it into a trash pile, along with a letter from his sister. That one, unfortunately, didn’t get past Bokuto.

“Wait, who’s… Akaashi Kimiko?” he asked, reading the name off of the envelope. “She has really pretty handwriting.”

“She’s my sister,” Akaashi replied, throwing a hefty stack of junk mail on top of it.

“Well hey, why are you throwing that away?” Bokuto exclaimed as he fished the letter out from beneath the others. “Don’t you wanna know what it says?”

“It’ll say the same thing it always does,” Akaashi said. “She’ll tell me how mom and dad are getting older now, and it’s time for me to make amends. How I need to apologize for making them disown me, tell them everything about my sexuality was all a sick joke, get married to a nice girl, make babies and live a lie. They’re happiest when I’m most miserable. That’s how they all operate.”

Akaashi sifted between the remaining letters—one was from the office that was probably tax paperwork that he’d already dealt with, another from the apartment management, and the last was… Oh, another from apartment management. That one was marked urgent. He was ripping the envelope open when he realized that the room was eerily silent. Slowly, he looked up from the envelope to see Bokuto watching him, his face crestfallen.

“What’s wrong?” Akaashi asked.

“Why would she want you to do that?” Bokuto murmured.

“Do what?”

“Be miserable,” Bokuto said slowly. “And say you’re sorry when you didn’t do anything wrong. And pretend that the way you feel is just… A joke.”

“That’s just… The way my family is, I suppose,” Akaashi conceded. “Lots of families are that way, though. They don’t want their children to do anything that might shame the family.”

Bokuto fiddled with his fingers. Akaashi knew he wanted to chew on them. “When I told my parents about you, they just kinda smiled and asked if I was happy.”

Akaashi remembered when Bokuto asked if he could tell them a few months ago. Akaashi was so nervous, so afraid of what they would say. What if it was the same thing his parents had said to him? What if they told Bokuto they wouldn’t accept him? Akaashi spent the entire day at work checking his phone. To hear that they accepted it without question had still unsettled him, like there had to be a punch coming. And yet, it never had.

“And I’m glad they did,” Akaashi noted.

“But I wish yours would have too,” Bokuto added.

“You don’t have to feel bad about that,” Akaashi assured him. “It doesn’t bother me anymore, I promise.”

“It bothers me,” Bokuto scoffed.

“I know,” Akaashi sighed.

Akaashi unfolded the letter in his hands and began to read. His eyes scanned the page, slowing with every word.

“What does it say?” Bokuto asked, his curiosity getting the better of him as he scooted closer to Akaashi.

“My lease is up at the end of the month,” Akaashi replied. “They want to know if I plan to renew it.”

“Isn’t that kinda short notice?” Bokuto noted.

“They sent a few, I’ve just been so busy I haven’t read them,” Akaashi said, still distracted by the words on the page.

“Well… Are you gonna?”

Even as Akaashi reached the end of the letter, he found himself unable to look away. His fingers crinkled the edges of the page. “I don’t know,” he murmured.

The apartment was quiet, the only sound the distant hum of the television. It was how it usually was here when Akaashi was alone. But Bokuto always filled it with crackling energy and soothing conversation. Slowly, Akaashi tore his gaze from the paper and looked at his companion again. The older man was rocking gently back and forth, but his gaze never wavered from Akaashi’s.

“You don’t have to, you know,” Bokuto noted.

“Where else would I go?” Akaashi questioned.

“You could live with me.”

He had sensed it coming, and still Bokuto’s words seemed to take the air from Akaashi’s lungs. “That’s quite an offer,” he murmured.

“Well, you kinda live with me already,” Bokuto reasoned. “You only come here once a week. I don’t see a lot of your stuff here. Do you… I mean, do you want to come live with me?”

“I… I do, it’s… I’ve never lived with anyone before,” Akaashi pointed out, brandishing the paper for emphasis—though he didn’t know why. “Have you?”

“No, but… I’ve never wanted to, either,” Bokuto replied, scooting a little closer. “And with you… I do want to.”

Akaashi opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. The words were stuck somewhere in his throat. No, not words. Just one. The only word he really wanted to say.

Okay.

But it wouldn’t come. What came instead was, “Can I think about it?”

“Yeah!” Bokuto exclaimed, a little louder than the space between them called for. “Yeah, that’s fine! That’s cool! And if you don’t want to, it’s okay too. I… I just like being with you.”

“I like being with you too,” Akaashi murmured.

Today, it was Bokuto who closed the space between them and pressed his lips to Akaashi’s. Any tension that had settled over them melted away at the contact. Akaashi even sighed, enjoying the way Bokuto’s tongue felt as it slicked against his lips.

When they were finally forced to pull back for air, Akaashi laced their fingers together. He used to think that Bokuto was the one who felt comforted at the contact. But now he was beginning to realize that he needed it too.

“You know, they really want to meet you,” Bokuto spoke suddenly.

“Who?”

“My parents! And my brother too,” Bokuto said. “They said we should all have dinner so they can get to know you.”

“They… They want to meet me?” Akaashi repeated, still unable to process the words.

“Do you think maybe, since you’re not so busy, we could get dinner with them sometime?” Bokuto suggested with a tilt of his head. “There’s a restaurant we always go to when they want to take me out. I don’t get so nervous because I’ve been there a lot, and the food’s really good.”

“I… I suppose,” Akaashi conceded, still somewhat bewildered.

Bokuto’s face lit up, that crackling energy returning to the room once more. “Cool!” he cheered. “They’ll be really happy!”

“I’m glad,” Akaashi managed.

The conversation was interrupted when Kuroo burst through the doorway, arms laden down with bags of takeout. Hinata and Kenma trailed in behind him.

“I caught these two looking for Tomoe again,” Kuroo announced as he hefted the bags onto the table. “Don’t worry, we caught him,” he said quickly, noticing Bokuto’s immediate look of terror. “And as thanks for my hard work, Kenma bought me dinner.”

“I bought everyone dinner,” Kenma corrected sharply.

“Why do they get rewarded for doing nothing?” Kuroo whined.

“I seem to recall you reaping the rewards of every time I’ve ever found him,” Akaashi bit back, some of his vigor returning with the lightening of the air.

“Yeah, but that was different, because that was you doing the work,” Kuroo asserted.

“I’m tempted to redact my offer,” Kenma sighed.

“Well do it quick, ‘cause I’m hungry!” Hinata exclaimed.

“Me too!” Bokuto added.

“Come on, Ken, you know you love me,” Kuroo cooed as he started pulling out the boxes.

“We’re proximity associates, remember?” Kenma replied, pulling a box toward him and hiding his face behind it.

“He loves me,” Kuroo whispered to Bokuto and Akaashi.

“That seems to be a matter of opinion,” Akaashi retorted as he grabbed for a box.

“It’s a fact, and I’ll get him to admit it one day,” Kuroo vowed.

Akaashi dug into his food, observing the conversation as it happened around him. At least, he tried to. But his mind continued to stray back to the letter that was now stuffed beneath the couch cushion.

For a moment, he had been so ready to say yes, no second thoughts, no overthinking. No decision in his life had ever felt so simple. But still, he’d hesitated. That part of his brain that caused him to doubt had reared its ugly head. What if it was too much for both of them? What if they couldn’t do it? What if really living together was too hard? It wasn’t just Bokuto’s need for stability that left Akaashi stumbling—it was also his own insecurities. What if he didn’t know how to really live with another person?

There was so much to consider, and he unfortunately didn’t have much time to weigh it all.

But right now, he had to push those thoughts away.

He had a dinner he needed to conquer before he could decide. A dinner with Bokuto’s parents.

 


 

It was possible that Akaashi had never been so nervous in his entire life. This restaurant was nicer than any he’d ever been to in his entire life—judging by the French name, he assumed it would be. As he sat in the stiff-backed chair fidgeting and chewing furiously on his nails, a thousand thoughts were running through his head. Had Bokuto told his parents how close the two of them were? Did they know Akaashi stayed the night? Did they need to know? If they were anything like his parents, this dinner would be a disaster ending in disownment.

Akaashi chewed a little harder on his nails.

At least, until Bokuto reached over and pulled his fingers from his mouth, twining them with his own. Akaashi snapped his gaze up from the table and met Bokuto’s golden stare.

“It’s gonna be fine,” Bokuto urged, and not for the first time that night.

“I know,” Akaashi replied. Truthfully, he didn’t know. But he wanted to trust Bokuto’s judgment.

“You look really nice, you know,” Bokuto added.

“I feel underdressed.”

“No, I love that sweater,” Bokuto countered. “It was the one you wore on our first date. It makes your eyes look really nice.”

Akaashi couldn’t hide his look of surprise. “You remember that?” he asked.

“I remember everything about you, Akaash,” Bokuto laughed.

Bokuto began a slow rocking rhythm back and forth as he looked out the window. It wasn’t a nervous rocking by any means. Akaashi had come to learn this rocking actually meant he was relaxed—still self-soothing, but not because he felt like he needed to do it.

Akaashi wished some of that quiet calm would rub off on him.

“Oh, they’re here!” Bokuto exclaimed suddenly, looking over Akaashi’s shoulder.

Bile rose in Akaashi’s throat, and he had to resist the temptation to throw up on the table. Bokuto was standing up next to him, a smile spreading across his face. Akaashi shot out of his chair so fast it almost toppled to the ground behind him.

“Hi mom!” Bokuto cheered.

Akaashi turned slowly, his gaze falling upon the ragtag group of people approaching their table. His eyes were drawn first to the tiny, energetic woman about four steps ahead of the other two bodies. She had wild black hair that was graying at the roots and features as sharp as her son’s—though her eyes were a soft brown color instead. “Koutarou!” she said, her voice as loud as Bokuto’s. She swept him into a bracing hug, one Bokuto returned eagerly.

The two men behind her finally caught up, stealing Akaashi’s attention for only a moment. As he observed them, he realized there was a reason Bokuto’s mother had earned his attention first. Both the men were quiet, almost seeming like they didn’t belong with the woman in front of them. The older man’s face was softer, almost sleepy, except for his golden eyes that were appraising Akaashi. The younger man seemed a mix between his parents—a sharp jaw but soft eyes, short like his mother but slim like his father. He was watching Akaashi too. It reminded Akaashi of his moments spent with Dr. Oiwake, being sized up like prey ready to be swallowed.

But they were pushed to the back burner when Bokuto’s mother pulled away from her son and turned to face Akaashi instead. “So,” she hummed contemplatively, “Akaashi Keiji…”

“Yes,” Akaashi nodded. He wasn’t sure what else to say.

“You’re quite a lovely thing, aren’t you?” she noted.

“Th-thank you,” Akaashi stammered.

She arched a sculpted brow in scrutiny. “Not the most eloquent are you?” she asked. “Or do I make you nervous? I’ve been told I have a reputation of making people nervous.”

“N-not at all, ma’am,” Akaashi tried to sound convincing, but his voice cracked around the last word.

“Ah, a bad liar. I like that. It’ll make you easier to read,” his mother laughed.

Maybe Bokuto could see that Akaashi was ready to crawl out of his skin, or maybe he just picked an opportune time to speak up. He took a step forward and stole the attention from Akaashi. “Okay, Akaashi, so this is my mom, Bokuto Yumi, and this,” he pointed behind her, “is my dad Bokuto Hideo, and that’s my brother Bokuto Kousuke.”

“It’s very nice to meet you all,” Akaashi managed to keep his voice steady this time as he leaned forward into a bow. But his movements were stiff, almost robotic.

“Well,” Yumi clapped her hands together. “Let’s get comfortable, let’s get to know each other. That’s why we’re here, right?”

“Yes, let’s sit,” Kousuke spoke for the first time. His voice was lower than Bokuto’s, though it still had that same gravelly tone.

Akaashi had to force his legs to move again as he turned and dropped back into his seat. Thankfully, Bokuto’s seemingly quiet father took the empty seat next to him—though this left Bokuto’s mother to take the seat next to Bokuto, which meant she was free to continue looking Akaashi over. He didn’t often feel as though he wanted to sink into the floor and disappear. But right now, he did.

The only thing that kept him upright was Bokuto’s hand, now closing discretely around his own underneath the table. Their fingers threaded together, and Akaashi squeezed a little tighter than he meant to. Bokuto returned to gesture with a squeeze of his own.

Yumi was thinking, preparing, opening her mouth for another question. But before she could speak, a waiter came by to take their order. Akaashi felt a surge of relief flood through him. He hid himself behind his menu and scanned the items, not really taking anything in. Instead, he was in panic mode, wondering just what was coming next.

When it was his turn to order, he read something off that he couldn’t even remember a minute later. Unfortunately, this meant surrendering the menu and returning to the open stares of the table’s occupants.

“So,” Yumi began again as the waiter strode away, elbows settling on the table and fingers tenting beneath her chin. “You’ve known Koutarou for how long now?”

“Ah, we… We met two Octobers ago,” Akaashi replied, squeezing Bokuto’s hand tighter as he spoke, the gesture filling him with a little more confidence. “I found him playing the piano in the building where I work.”

“Is that so?” Yumi’s brow rose again. “And what do you do?”

“Mom, I already told you that,” Bokuto griped.

“I know, I know, but I’m interested in hearing what Akaashi-kun has to say!” Yumi laughed. “Koutarou told us you were an accountant.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Akaashi nodded. “I’m a senior audit accountant with Aoyama Sogo.”

“Oh, really?” Kousuke spoke up once more. “That’s in our building. Kou, you didn’t tell me you played there.”

“I don’t really,” Bokuto shrugged. “I mean, I didn’t, before I met Akaashi. That night was the first time. I was on a walk and remembered going in there once with you guys.”

“So he played for you?” Yumi asked, the second brow joining the first behind her bangs.

“Not at first,” Akaashi shook his head. “He didn’t know I was listening. But… We talked a bit, and I asked if maybe he would come play for me again.”

“And he did?”

“He did,” Akaashi replied. “Every night actually, except on the weekends.”

“Every night?” Yumi repeated.

“Well, there were a couple times Akaashi had to be out of the office,” Bokuto explained, his free hand waving energetically in front of him. “But then I’d call him so he could listen. And we’d talk and stuff. Remember when we had to do that for a whole week last year?”

“I’ll never forget it,” Akaashi chuckled, his nerves disappating for a moment. “You were the only thing that made those nights bearable.”

“At least this year there were only a couple times we had to do that.”

If Yumi’s eyebrows rose any higher, they’d be floating off of her head. “And you didn’t mind playing in front of him, Koutarou?” she asked, inclining her head toward her younger son.

“No, it was different from everyone else,” Bokuto reasoned. “I could… You know, I could tell that he was just listening. That he wasn’t judging me, he just… I mean, I could see that he liked it, but it… “ Bokuto struggled over his words, face screwed up in concentration. “It wasn’t like when I played for, you know, my teachers or other people. He didn’t care about the music, ‘cause I could tell he cared about me.”

“Is that so?” Yumi hummed.

“He’s pretty much heard everything I know how to play,” Bokuto continued. “Even the stuff I can’t play very well.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything that wasn’t perfect,” Akaashi noted.

“You always say that,” Bokuto grinned, scratching his neck bashfully.

“Because it’s true.”

“And judging by how close you seem, I can assume that you know Koutarou is a renowned musician, yes?” Yumi turned her sharp gaze back on Akaashi.

“I… Yes, I do,” Akaashi recovered from her predatory stare a little faster this time. “I found out a few months after he started playing for me. There was a flyer for one of his performances on the train.”

“Have you seen him perform?”

“I have, twice at the concerts and once for my friend’s art show.”

The air around the table changed instantaneously. Hideo, who had been staring idly into his wine glass, looked up to stare at Akaashi. Kousuke and Yumi looked like they might fall out of their chairs.

Kousuke was the first to speak. “What was that?” he asked.

“Remember, I told you my friend was doing an art show?” Bokuto urged. “I wrote songs for his paintings and played them at the show.”

“Well shit, you didn’t mention that part,” Kousuke marveled.

“Kousuke, language,” Yumi snapped.

Kousuke rolled his eyes, but Akaashi could see a smile tugging at his lips too. For some reason, that made him feel a little better.

“You were quite excited about it,” Akaashi noted, peering over at Bokuto. “Didn’t you forget to tell Oiwake-san that you were playing for it too?”

“Oh yeah, that’s right!” Bokuto cried. “I guess I just forgot. I was too excited for people to see Kuroo’s art.”

“You’ve met Oiwake-san?”

When Akaashi looked back at Yumi, he thought her eyebrows really had risen off of her face. “Um… Y-yes, I… I have,” he said, his earlier confidence faltering.

Yumi was bordering on another question. Akaashi could see it in her eyes. But then the waiter was back before she could speak, his hands full of plates and bowls of food more succulent than anything Akaashi had ever seen.

He couldn’t remember what he’d ordered, not even when the waiter put it down on the table in front of him. But it looked good—something with chicken and a cream sauce and probably costing about as much as his electric bill. Before, the thought of food made him feel sick. But now, it was a welcome distractor. He ate small bites, ensuring that his mouth was always full.

Still, Yumi managed to interject little questions past the clinking of tableware and the mouths full of food. Questions about his childhood, his schooling, his job at the firm, even some about his family—though he was much more vague on those, and Yumi seemed to notice. And unfortunately, she latched onto that.

“So, Akaashi-kun, both your parents are still alive then?” she asked offhandedly.

“Yes,” Akaashi replied, his tone more curt than he’d intended.

“And have they inquired about Koutarou?” she asked.

“They… They haven’t.”

This seemed to intrigue her. “Oh? Are they not interested in meeting their son’s—“

“Mom, please stop,” Bokuto cut her off suddenly.

“Is this a point of contention?” she pressed on, now quite interested. “Or have you simply not told them?”

“They know about my proclivities. They do not know about Bokuto-san, and nor are they interested in ever knowing,” Akaashi said firmly.

There was something more Yumi wanted to say—she seemed to have difficulties holding her tongue. But it surprised Akaashi when her mouth closed and she returned to her plate.

Bokuto was the first person finished with his food, and to Akaashi’s horror, he excused himself to go to the bathroom. Akaashi’s frantic squeeze of his hand only earned a squeeze in reply before Bokuto’s fingers were gone, making Akaashi feel cold and alone.

“I’ll be right back,” Bokuto vowed as he stood up.

He hastened out of the dining area, not looking at anyone he passed. Two seconds after he disappeared, his mother’s intense gaze was on Akaashi once more. He wanted to run after Bokuto and sneak out the back door.

“I learned a long time ago that I cannot tell Koutarou what to do,” she began without preamble. “Despite his disability, he’s always been independent. He didn’t always have the skills necessary to live on his own, and still I always knew he would. But that doesn’t mean I’ll let him make a mistake without doing everything I can to intervene.”

“Mistake?” Akaashi repeated, his brain latching onto the word.

“You seem like a fine young man,” she conceded. “You have a stable job, you communicate well with Koutarou, and he seems to do well around you.”

Akaashi waited for a moment. “But?” he pressed when Yumi said nothing.

She had been waiting for that. “But being happy together isn’t enough,” she insisted. “Koutarou is well-known, often in the public eye. He draws enough attention with the eccentricities of his disability. Imagine the scrutiny he’ll face if it’s discovered that he’s in a relationship with another man.”

“So what are you saying?” Akaashi asked, his hands balling into fists beneath the table.

“I think it’s pointedly clear what I’m saying, Akaashi-kun,” Yumi said, matching Akaashi’s intense stare. “You and Koutarou do not belong in a relationship with one another.”

Akaashi’s expression darkened, his previous nervousness fading away in favor of anger. “So you think you’ll convince him to leave me?” he asked. “What happened to not being able to tell him what to do?”

“It isn’t Koutarou I’ll be convincing,” Yumi corrected, laying down her silverware politely. “It’s you.”

“I don’t know how you think you’ll manage that,” Akaashi bit back.

“Come, Akaashi-kun,” she scoffed. “Everyone can be convinced of something… For the right price.”

This time, the chair did clatter to the ground behind him as Akaashi sprang out of it. He was on his feet, hand still balled at his sides. A few people around them had quieted, opting instead to watch the scene unfold. Bokuto’s brother looked like he’d rather be anywhere but here. His father still looked impassive.

“You want to pay me to stop seeing him?” Akaashi spat the word like it was poison in his mouth. “You think my feelings are so fickle that I’d leave him for ‘the right price?’”

“People are fickle, Akaashi-kun, it’s our claim to fame,” Yumi countered, her air of calm unwavering. “You may think you love him, you may be prepared to deal with the hurdles life throws at you for your proclivities, you may even believe you’ll be together forever. But do you think he feels that way? And even if he does, do you think he can make that decision himself?”

A surge of hot, fresh anger pumped through Akaashi’s blood. “He’s an adult who is fully capable of making his own decisions,” he snapped. “Disability or not, he knows what he needs and knows what he wants.”

“While that’s true—“ Yumi began.

“I won’t ever stop him from leaving me if it’s what he wants,” Akaashi cut her off, slamming the napkin he’d been gripping onto the table. “But I love him. My feelings aren’t fickle, and whether or not you want to believe me doesn’t matter. I love him, and no amount of money would ever change my mind.”

Akaashi was done. He wouldn’t listen to this anymore. With a final glare across the table at Yumi, he headed toward the bathroom. He’d make something up, tell Bokuto he wasn’t feeling well and needed to go home. At this point, he was angry enough to throw up, so it wasn’t all that farfetched.

But he barely made it a few steps when a hand went up in front of him. Bokuto’s father had pushed his chair out, blocking Akaashi’s path to the bathroom. But he wasn’t looking at Akaashi. He was looking at his wife.

“Good enough?” he asked. Akaashi realized this was the first time he’d spoken all night.

Yumi was staring at her husband, brows now knitted together so tight they looked like a single line. “I had hoped to give it a few more seconds, what if he changed his mind halfway to the bathroom?” she asked.

“He was probably going climb out the bathroom window and spent the rest of his life thinking you’re a monster,” Hideo corrected. He glanced up at Akaashi, those golden eyes making Akaashi’s breath hitch. They were so much like his son’s now, the impassive expression giving way to an appraising gaze. “Why don’t you sit back down and let Yumi explain,” he suggested.

Akaashi was so taken aback, struck completely speechless, that he returned to his seat, put it back on four legs, and sat down. Across from him, Yumi’s face almost seemed to melt, all those sharpened features softening.

“He’s my baby,” Yumi said, her voice full of affection. “I’ve spent his entire life making sure he has the tools he needed to succee. I knew I couldn’t take care of him forever, but I could make sure he knew how to care for himself. I watched him grow, watched him become the amazing man he is now. But he’s still my baby.”

“Was that a legitimate offer?” Akaashi asked, his curiosity, as always, getting the better of him.

“If you had taken it, yes,” she replied without hesitation. “But you didn’t. Because your feelings aren’t fickle, are they?”

“No, they’re not,” Akaashi asserted.

“I am sorry I brought your parents up in that way, I didn’t want the conversation to take such a sour turn,” she added.

“It’s fine, really, I’ve come to terms with all that,” Akaashi replied. “They won’t be a problem though, you don’t have to worry about them.”

“I don’t think I have much to worry about when it comes to you, to be honest,” she conceded. “You seem… Good for him. He’s changed a lot over the past two years. Going places he never could’ve done before, meeting new people, becoming even more independent… He’s learned how to make his own decisions. And I have to learn how to trust that they’re the right ones.”

“Don’t mind her, she’s just sad that her baby Kou officially doesn’t need her anymore,” Kousuke said suddenly. “I think she almost wished you would’ve taken the deal. She’s not used to being wrong about other people.”

“Kousuke, that isn’t true,” Yumi snapped. “I’m very glad he’s a good person. It means Koutarou’s chosen well.”

“Speaking of Koutarou,” Hideo noted, jutting his chin out for emphasis.

Sure enough, Bokuto had reappeared and was heading toward the table, not looking up until he was safely in his seat. When he did, his smile was radiant.

“Took you long enough,” Kousuke scoffed.

“Shut up!” Bokuto laughed. “There was a line!”

“Uh-huh, a nice excuse.”

“I wasn’t pooping!”

“Boys!” Yumi hissed.

And for the first time that night, Akaashi found himself laughing, enjoying himself, all of his fears and uncertainties and doubts melting away as Bokuto’s fingers found his beneath the table.

 


 

Bokuto’s private car dropped them off at Bokuto’s apartment that night, and they ran through their typical evening routine—showers (together tonight, to save water, of course), dessert, and climbing into bed together. Bokuto was sidling up to Akaashi and nuzzling into the crook of his neck even before the room had completely darkened.

“I’m really happy you met my family,” he murmured. “It seemed like they really liked you.”

“It did seem that way, didn’t it?” Akaashi hummed, fingers carding through Bokuto’s hair almost on instinct now.

“Did you like them?” Bokuto asked. His voice was muffled against Akaashi’s skin.

“I did,” Akaashi replied. “Your mother is quite something, isn’t she? Very… Uninhibited, I suppose is a good word.”

“Yeah, she just kinda tells it like it is,” Bokuto said. “She always has.”

“I’m glad I met them, too,” Akaashi conceded. He could feel Bokuto’s lips curve into a smile against his neck, and now the older man was planting kisses against the soft skin. “Our shower wasn’t enough?” he asked, trying to stifle a laugh as Bokuto’s teeth toyed with his earlobe.

“I’m just really happy,” Bokuto breathed, sending a chill down Akaashi’s spine. “’Cause they love you,” he pressed a kiss to Akaashi’s cheek, “and I love you,” another to his jaw, “and you love me,” another to his chin, “and I’m just really happy.”

Then the kiss was pressed against Akaashi’s mouth, and he savored the taste of toothpaste and sugar on Bokuto’s tongue as it dipped between his lips. Akaashi could spend his whole life drunk on that taste.

As they pulled apart, their breathing shallow and hot against each other’s lips, Akaashi suddenly remembered something Yumi had said. Something that had felt like nothing more than a passing thought at the time. But now… It was so much more than that.

He’s learned how to make his own decisions. And I have to learn how to trust that they’re the right ones.

Bokuto was an adult. His disability didn’t mar his decision-making abilities. Since the day Akaashi met him, he’d never once doubted himself. He was always so convinced, so sure of what he wanted. What he needed.

Akaashi was the one who overthought for them both. And so far, it had only led to prolonging the inevitable. He once doubted Bokuto would make the walk through a snowstorm to see him, and he’d showed up wet with snow and with a smile on his face. Akaashi had let himself doubt his feelings for Bokuto, and they ended up together anyway. He doubted if they’d be able to be intimate, and now it was a rare day that they didn’t find themselves stuck together like magnets.

His entire life had been a long string of doubts and concessions, eventually realizing that he should’ve just given in in the first place—he would have been happier sooner if he’d ignored those thoughts. All the worries about making mistakes, about thinking he wasn’t good enough, couldn’t ever be good enough—all they ever did was hold him back.

So this time, there was no hesitation, no second thoughts, no overthinking. It was so simple. His feelings weren’t fickle. They were real, and the words fell from his lips as easily as if he’d said them a hundred times.

“Bokuto-san, I do want to move in with you.”

Bokuto’s neck jerked back so fast, he could’ve gotten whiplash. His eyes were wider than Akaashi had ever seen them. “You… You do?” he murmured. “Really?”

“Really,” Akaashi replied. “If you still want me to, that is.”

Bokuto didn’t have to answer. The smile that lifted his lips before he pressed another kiss to Akaashi’s, deeper and more intense than the one before, was all the answer Akaashi needed. He lost himself once more in the taste of Bokuto’s lips, the taste that was so familiar, that made him feel like he had always belonged here.

Because now, Bokuto was his home.

He was finally home.

Chapter Text

For weeks now, Akaashi had been able to go without murderous thoughts regarding the drone of his alarm. But this week, its chime at 07:00 just felt too early. He and his team had thought their busy season was over a few months ago, but last minute issues with a client response—not Mizuha, thankfully—had gotten the company an extension to finish submitting their paperwork. This meant Akaashi was still at the office all day this week even though he wasn’t doing much work, just waiting for their updated information to submit. But that would be over soon. Just a few more days.

With a quiet groan, Akaashi groped around on the table next to him, searching for his phone without having to pull his face from the pillow. But it was a fruitless effort. Begrudgingly, he angled his head to the left and saw the blinding glow from his phone about two centimeters from his hand. He grabbed it and tapped the END button. If he hadn’t looked closely, he would’ve missed the notification against the email icon.

It was from his boss. Well, that was never a good thing. Last time the senior accountant emailed them all, it was to announce a data breach. He tapped open the email, screwed his eyes up against the light, and read.

This email is to inform all employees that we will begin our workday at 10:00 due to a water main break in the lobby of the building. Please adjust your schedules accordingly.

Ah, well that was much better than a data breach. Maybe not for the building owners—Bokuto’s father, he remembered. But it was good for him. He set his phone back down on the side table and turned his head to the other side, settling it against the pillow.

The sight that greeted him was one he still couldn’t believe he got to wake up to every day. Bokuto liked to sleep on his side, usually turned toward Akaashi, his face pressed hard against the pillow. Dark lashes lay against his cheeks, casting small shadows on his face in the dim light of the room. There was hair hanging in his face too, lax around his head, all the gel from the day before washed away. His mouth was always just slightly open, the bottom lip rolled into a slight pout.

Akaashi couldn’t help himself as he slipped his hand up the mattress, pulling it from beneath the blanket and reaching up to roll his thumb over Bokuto’s pout. He loved that pout—often found himself staring at it, distracted by it, wanting to kiss it and take it between his lips.

Now his fingers were wandering up Bokuto’s face, admiring the stubble beneath his fingers, the strong slope of the older man’s jaw. Everything about Bokuto was hard and sharp—the angular jaw, the piercing gaze, the hardened muscles, even his expressive brows. But when he slept, there was a gentleness, a softness to him. It was the only time he was ever completely relaxed. And only Akaashi was allowed to see it.

It was a moment before Akaashi made it to Bokuto’s cheekbones. And then another moment before he realized Bokuto’s eyes were open, watching him closely.

“I’m sorry,” Akaashi murmured, his fingers pulling away abruptly.

“Don’t stop,” Bokuto mumbled, his voice still scratchy with sleep. “I like that.”

Akaashi let the pads of his fingers return to Bokuto’s face, drifting over his cheeks, his nose, his temples, smoothing out his eyebrows and dipping into his hairline. Bokuto hummed in contentment as his eyes drifted shut. “Don’t you have to get up?” he asked without opening his eyes. “I heard your alarm going off.”

“You’ve been awake the entire time?” Akaashi countered.

Bokuto’s teasing grin cracked across his face even though his eyes continued to remain shut. “But I wouldn’t get all this attention if you thought I was awake.”

“I think I give you more than enough attention,” Akaashi replied, a chuckle on his lips.

“Yeah, I know. But I always want more,” Bokuto admitted.

“I don’t have to be at work for a few hours,” Akaashi noted, rolling onto his side to properly face the older man. “I can give you plenty of attention now.”

Bokuto’s eyes flew open as he stared at Akaashi. If he wasn’t awake before, he definitely was now. His smile stretched even wider. “Really? Why?” he asked.

“Water leak in the lobby,” Akaashi replied. “I’m all yours this morning.”

Bokuto’s grin turned devilish as he shuffled closer to Akaashi, bringing them almost chest-to-chest. A hand came to rest against Akaashi’s hip. The thumb slipped beneath the elastic of his pajama pants, rolling against his hipbone. Bokuto’s other hand reached out and glided beneath Akaashi’s shirt. The pads of his fingers moved up to Akaashi’s chest, and one of his nails teased a nipple.

The combined sensations made Akaashi shiver. “Bokuto-san,” he breathed.

Bokuto didn’t need to be told anymore. His mouth was on Akaashi’s in an instant, and Akaashi took the opportunity to finally kiss that pout, sucking it between his lips greedily. Bokuto’s mouth tasted like sleep, with the lingering shadow of toothpaste from the night before. Akaashi couldn’t help himself as his tongue slicked against Bokuto’s, teasing the muscle with a gentle flick.

Bokuto groaned into Akaashi’s mouth. The fingers against Akaashi’s hip gripped him tighter on instinct. And now Bokuto’s kisses were more demanding. He pushed deeper, licked into Akaashi’s mouth for fervently, sucked on the tip of Akaashi’s tongue. Akaashi couldn’t bite back a whimper.

“You’re so good at that,” Akaashi panted as he pulled back.

Bokuto continued to plant kisses up Akaashi’s jaw. “That’s usually my line,” he teased. Akaashi could hear his grin.

“Maybe it used to be,” Akaashi conceded.

“What should we do with our morning?” Bokuto asked.

Akaashi was silent a moment. Bokuto used the opportunity to kiss him again, his tongue wending between Akaashi’s lips. As if Akaashi could think a single coherent thought now. When Bokuto pulled back, he peered expectantly at the younger man.

Akaashi could barely speak. “Whatever you want,” he managed. “I told you, I could give you attention this morning.”

Bokuto’s lips twisted in another grin. His hand was still gripping Akaashi’s hip, his thumb gliding a little lower down that pointed bone. Akaashi felt his hip twitch without him willing it to. This brought another wicked grin to Bokuto’s lips. Akaashi had to fight the urge to kiss him again.

“Well,” Bokuto mused, running his thumb to where the hipbone disappeared. This time, something else gave a twitch. And Bokuto could feel it too. “I think… I might wanna make you feel good instead.”

“I thought the purpose of the morning was for me to give you attention?” Akaashi countered as he fought to maintain his composure.

Bokuto just hummed, leaning forward and pressing more kisses, this time down Akaashi’s jaw instead. The older man worked down Akaashi’s chin, his throat, making it to his sternum before his collar wouldn’t give anymore. Then, he waited, hovering over the skin, his breath making the hair on Akaashi’s neck stand up. He wasn’t moving.

He wanted an answer.

“I… I suppose that’s fine,” Akaashi conceded.

The hem of Akaashi’s shirt was up bunched up near his neck in an instant, allowing Bokuto to more access. And his lips were happy to take advantage. Akaashi was disappointed when he moved away, and then confused when Bokuto was pushing him onto his back again. He was about to ask why when Bokuto shifted too. And now he was hovering over Akaashi, busying his mouth once more with the younger man’s chest. It seemed as though it was his mission to kiss every inch. Each press of his lips to Akaashi’s chest lingered, a quiet hum vibrating against his skin. Akaashi couldn’t help himself as he slid his fingers into Bokuto’s hair, tugging for purchase.

He must’ve tugged a little harder than he meant to, judging by Bokuto’s moan.

“I’m sorry,” Akaashi gasped.

“You’re not playing fair, Akaashi,” Bokuto practically sang.

“I could accuse you of the same,” Akaashi countered.

“Could ya?”

Akaashi would’ve asked what he meant if he’d been given the time. But then, Bokuto’s mouth moved down, hovering over Akaashi’s nipple for only a moment before closing over the pert nub.

Even knowing it was coming, Akaashi couldn’t stop his back from arching off the mattress. Bokuto sucked the nipple, teeth agitating it mercilessly. His tongue danced around it, flicked against it, rolled it side to side. Akaashi’s nails dug into Bokuto’s scalp as he pulled Bokuto’s hair.

There was a wet smack as Bokuto released it. “Feel good?” he asked. Akaashi could hear his grin.

“Yes,” Akaashi gasped anyway.

“I can do other stuff, right?”

Akaashi looked down at Bokuto, who, he was surprised to see, was watching him intently. “I certainly hope you do,” he replied.

Bokuto’s grin widened. His hand worked down Akaashi’s torso as he began an assault on the other nipple. Akaashi barely noticed the hand disappearing beneath the waistband of his pants. He only noticed it when it was wrapping around his cock.

“B-Bokuto-san!” he gasped, practically vibrating off the bed.

Bokuto released Akaashi’s other nipple. “Relax…” he murmured. “I wanna make you feel good…”

Those words were much easier said than done for Akaashi as Bokuto began a series of slow pumps up and down his cock. Each time his thumb rolled over the slick head, he dragged it over Akaashi’s slit, making the younger man tremble. He was dripping copious amounts of precum over Bokuto’s hand, and Bokuto used it to thoroughly slick his cock.

“Feels good… So good,” Akaashi whimpered.

“Can I do more?” Bokuto asked.

“Oh god,” Akaashi moaned. “More… Please.”

Bokuto leaned up and kissed Akaashi again, his mouth breathing fire and intensity into Akaashi’s lungs. He continued to pump Akaashi, working a little faster now. Akaashi heard the drawer to his right opening and a noisy shuffling from inside it. It took Bokuto a while to actually find the small brown bottle, but he was too busy kissing Akaashi to pull away and look for it properly.

Not that Akaashi could complain. He was so lost in the taste of Bokuto’s lips, in the feel of the hand around his cock, he barely even noticed.

When they finally pulled apart—both begrudgingly so—they were breathing loud and hard, puffing air against each other’s lips. Bokuto made a little noise of victory when his hand closed around the lube and he pulled it from the depths of the nightstand.

Akaashi couldn’t hold back his whine when Bokuto’s hand left his cock, even if he knew why it was gone. He avoided looking at Bokuto’s grin by shrugging out of his pants, getting them to his ankles and kicking them off on his own. He propped his feet up flat on the bed, knees in the air, allowing Bokuto to settle between them. Bokuto lowered a hand between Akaashi’s cheeks. The younger man could feel how slick his fingers were.

“You sure you want it?” Bokuto asked suddenly.

Even after being with him like this for so long, Akaashi still hadn’t learned if Bokuto was teasing him when he asked that. But Akaashi could never care either. “Yes,” he said urgently. “Please… I need it… Give to me.”

He never had to ask for it twice.

Two of Bokuto’s slick fingers pushed against his puckered hole, fighting the resistance they met. And, as always, they won out in the end, pressing inside Akaashi and filling him up. Akaashi’s heels pressed into the mattress as Bokuto worked his fingers back to the first knuckle, then pressed them in again. In and out, a steady rhythm, and Akaashi began to move his hips to meet the unceasing thrusts.

Akaashi wasn’t sure how long Bokuto’s fingers worked him. Long enough to add a third finger, to spread him open the way he always liked to. Bokuto slowed the hand around Akaashi’s cock to match the pace of the fingers inside him. He might’ve thought he was giving Akaashi some relief. But now, Akaashi only had one thing to focus on, one speed, one set of sensations.

And then, Bokuto’s mouth closed around his nipple once more.

Now Akaashi was sure he was dying.

“B-Boktuo-san,” Akaashi gasped, throwing his head back against the pillow. “Please, I… I can’t… I can’t…”

Akaashi groaned when all three fingers tapped at his prostate. His own fingers pulled at Bokuto’s hair again, but it was a little longer before the older man pulled away with that wet pop.

“You always say that,” he countered.

“I can’t, please, I can’t,” Akaashi garbled.

Bokuto spread his fingers wide, earning a shout from the back of Akaashi’s throat. They were still spread as he pulled them back, and this time Akaashi’s spine arched so tight, it looked close to snapping. When Bokuto’s fingers returned inside, Akaashi was at least given some relief. That relief allowed Akaashi to open his eyes, to see that Bokuto had been watching him with rapt attention.

Bokuto released a shaky exhale. “Do you really want me to stop?” he asked, and even in Akaashi’s incoherent state, he could hear the disappointment in Bokuto’s voice.

“N-no… I mean, yes,” Akaashi babbled, trying to find a thread of his sanity. “But… I don’t want to cum like this… I want you… Your… Ahh!” he broke off as Bokuto massaged his prostate again.

“But… You still have to go to work, you’re gonna be sore,” Bokuto noted.

“I don’t care,” Akaashi whimpered. “Please…”

Akaashi gave another insistent tug to Bokuto’s hair, angling his head down and locking eyes with the older man. Bokuto’s mouth opened in surprise at Akaashi’s intense expression. They both leaned forward, lips meeting in a hot, wet kiss. Bokuto licked into Akaashi’s mouth, tongue slicking teasingly along the roof. Akaashi whined as the fingers inside him were abruptly removed—though the hand around his cock continued to work up and down, the thumb rolling over the head and making Akaashi shiver.

Akaashi was desperate, trying to tug at Bokuto’s pajama pants but not getting very far. Bokuto took over, sliding the fabric down his hips and freeing his cock to the cool air.

“God, you look so good,” Akaashi groaned before he could stop himself.

Bokuto shivered at the rough grate of Akaashi’s voice. Akaashi knew he had to look desperate—hair mussed, saliva dripping from the corner of his mouth, cock making a mess against his stomach. But the sight only seemed to drive Bokuto onward. The older man leaned down, pressing kisses up Akaashi’s jaw, stopping to suck Akaashi’s earlobe between his lips.

“Nothing looks as good as you right now,” he whispered.

Akaashi moaned. All these months together, and he still couldn’t figure out how Bokuto did it—how this could be the same Bokuto who made jokes and spouted owl facts at the drop of a hat. Akaashi was already fighting the urge to cum. His cock twitched angrily against his stomach. “Please,” Akaashi begged. “I want you.”

Bokuto didn’t need to be told twice. He reached into the open drawer next to them and pulled the red foil packet. The foil came off easily, and he rolled the condom over his cock, followed by more lube. Akaashi wiggled his hips, shifting closer to Bokuto. Bokuto’s hands were on his hips in an instant, angling him upward, finding a comfortable position. He lined himself up at Akaashi’s entrance. On instinct, Akaashi pushed into the contact. But Bokuto held his hips firm.

“Please,” Akaashi said again, more desperate than ever. “Please don’t make me wait, I can’t… Please, Bokuto-san, I—ahhhhhhh!”

Bokuto didn’t let him finish before pressing into Akaashi, burying himself to the hilt. Akaashi could never quite prepare himself for that first thrust. It always stole the air from his lungs. The way he tightened around Bokuto had to be painful, at least judging by the way the older man groaned.

But when he hissed, “Akaashi, you feel so good” against Akaashi’s shoulder, the younger man didn’t feel so bad.

The slow pace Bokuto started was good, but after a few minutes, it wasn’t enough. Akaashi wanted more. He lifted a leg around Bokuto’s waist and drew him in deeper, earning yet another groan. Then the other leg joined the first. Akaashi was clinging to Bokuto, curling around him as Akaashi’s arms snaked around the older man’s neck. He leaned up, lips centimeters away from Bokuto’s. “Faster,” he breathed.

Bokuto’s lips crashed against Akaashi’s in a fervor, his pace increasing immediately. It was a battle of tongues between them, all desperation and unrelenting need. Bokuto’s fingers were digging deep into Akaashi’s hips as he pounded the younger man into the mattress. Every thrust left Akaashi keening.

“Akaashi… Tell me… Tell me how it feels,” Bokuto grunted.

“Amazing,” Akaashi cried. “So good… Please don’t stop… Harder!”

Somehow, impossibly, Bokuto’s hips drove harder into Akaashi, his cock slamming into Akaashi’s prostate with enough force to make the younger man see stars. His nails dug into Bokuto’s shoulders and his heels pressed into the small of Bokuto’s back.

“Tell me… More…” Bokuto panted.

“It’s good… So good… Please… Right there!” Akaashi begged.

“Here?” Bokuto asked, punctuating the question with a particularly rough snap of his hips.

Akaashi rose completely off the mattress with a shout, his chest pressing into Bokuto’s. Over and over again, Bokuto hit that spot, and Akaashi was now sure this was how he would die.

“Don’t stop!” he pleaded. “I’m gonna cum! Please!”

One of Bokuto’s hands left Akaashi’s hips to snake between their bodies and wrap around his cock, pumping in time with the unfaltering thrusts. Stars exploded behind Akaashi’s vision, and his stomach gave a sharp jolt.

And then he was cumming with a shout, somehow clinging tighter to Bokuto, bringing him closer. Bokuto didn’t stop pumping, listening to each of Akaashi’s frantic shouts of his name. Akaashi could hear him groaning. He knew he was tightening up, but he just couldn’t stop it.

“Akaashi,” Bokuto hissed suddenly. “I’m gonna…”

“Cum,” Akaashi whimpered. “Please. Cum.”

It wasn’t more than a second before Bokuto came too, burying his face in Akaashi’s neck. There were three more slow, deep thrusts. And then both of them stilled.

The room smelled like sex and sweat. Akaashi and Bokuto’s pants and quiet groans were mingled in the hazy silence. For a while, neither of them moved, content to stay melded together like sweaty puzzle pieces.

Like always, Bokuto was the first to speak.

“You’re seriously amazing.”

“I may not be the one who deserves the praise this time,” Akaashi admitted, a hand carding softly through Bokuto’s hair. “You were… Life changing.”

“Whatever,” Bokuto scoffed, but again, Akaashi could hear the smile in his voice.

The older man pressed more kisses against Akaashi’s slick skin, though these weren’t heated. They were gentle, lighter than a breath of air against his jaw. Slowly, Akaashi began to relax, loosening his grip and returning most of his weight to the mattress. He groaned when Bokuto slipped out of him, leaving him feeling empty and hollow. But the soft kiss Bokuto pressed to his lips made up for it.

“You want breakfast?” Bokuto asked suddenly. “I’ll make you a big one since you don’t have to leave so early!”

“Sure,” Akaashi nodded.

One more kiss, and then Bokuto was gone in a flurry of movement. Akaashi barely saw him pull off the condom and grab his sweatpants off the floor before he was gone like a whirlwind. A few seconds later, he heard the water in the bathroom turn on.

Akaashi felt a chill run through him. His skin had seemed so hot only a moment ago, and now it was freezing. He knew Bokuto always changed the sheets after they had sex, so he didn’t feel bad wrapping up in the discarded top sheet. It wasn’t exactly warm, but it was better than nothing.

He closed his eyes as he somehow sunk deeper into the mattress. His eyes felt heavy, and he fought against the temptation to fall back to sleep for a few minutes. But Bokuto was quick in the shower, and he’d be out making breakfast soon. Akaashi needed to think about getting up.

Next to his head, his phone was vibrating again. He wasn’t happy about having to stick his arm out of his cocoon, but he did it anyway. It was another missed email notification. Probably one of the team members, trying to convince him it was in his best interests to give one of them the full day off since they wouldn’t get much work time in anyway.

But it wasn’t any of them. It was another email from his boss. He tapped the message open once more.

This email is to inform all employees that the building will be closed today due to a water main break in the lobby. Access to the interior of the building will not be granted. Please adjust your schedules accordingly.

Akaashi stared at the message for far longer than it took to read it. His eyes didn’t waver from the last character. But the lines were repeating themselves in his head over and over again.

The building will be closed today… Access to the interior of the building will not be granted… The building will be closed today… Access to the interior of the building will not be granted…

He couldn’t go to work today. That meant more work tomorrow, probably scrambling to get the last of the client’s paperwork submitted by the deadline. But really, he didn’t care about that. Truthfully, it would’ve been a welcome relief to stay home. He’d take the extra work tomorrow for a day of respite today.

No, what he did care about was Bokuto.

The building was closed for the day. Even if they managed to fix the break and clear away the water by the time Bokuto usually came by, there would be no one there. The building would be closed and locked up. Even Akaashi’s key card probably wouldn’t get them in. For the first time in over two years, Bokuto wouldn’t be able to play for him at the office.

This wasn’t just a change in routine for Bokuto. This wasn’t like when Akaashi bought the wrong kind of laundry soap or forgot to text Bokuto he was running late. This was a change in the most fundamental regimen they had—the continuity upon which Bokuto relied, the event he used to shape his day. Every moment of his weekday moved toward the time when he could walk to the office and play for Akaashi.

And tonight, that moment would never come.

The water shut off in the bathroom, and a minute later, Akaashi heard Bokuto heading for the kitchen. He dropped his phone back onto the side table. There was nothing he could do about this. It was done. The building was closed, and he couldn’t change it. Now he had to decide something else: did he tell Bokuto now and give him the day to process the information? Or did he tell him tonight, so he didn’t spend the day struggling over it? Neither was preferable.

Slowly, Akaashi sat up, the sheet pooling around his waist. He rose off the bed and slipped his discarded pants back up his hips. A few tentative steps forward made him grimace. He was a bit sore now that he was on his feet. Maybe they had gotten a little out of control. It wasn’t enough to keep him out of commission for the day. At least he could still walk.

Though today, that didn’t really matter much.

The quiet clang of a pan from the kitchen drew Akaashi out of the bedroom and down the hall. He froze in the kitchen doorway, watching Bokuto silently. The older man moved so gracefully, and under normal circumstances, Akaashi would have admired the pull of muscles and stretch of his arms as he reached for the milk. But today, he just couldn’t.

“Bokuto-san,” he murmured.

Bokuto peered over his shoulder at Akaashi, his smile radiant. “Are you sore at all?” he asked. “Do you want a bath? There might be time before I’m finished if you’re quick. Or you could have breakfast in the bath.”

“I’m fine,” Akaashi replied.

Bokuto’s expression faltered. For someone with difficulties picking up on another person’s feelings, Bokuto had learned to read Akaashi well in their brief time together. And now, he could tell that Akaashi was not, in fact, fine.

He dropped the spatula he was holding onto the counter and turned to face Akaashi. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Did I hurt you? Was I too rough?”

“You didn’t… It’s not you,” Akaashi reasoned. “But…”

“But what?” Bokuto pressed. He stepped forward, stopped, fidgeted with his fingers. “What is it?”

“Bokuto-san, I won’t be going in to work today. They… They had to close the whole building for the day,” Akaashi explained. “They won’t be letting anyone in until at least tomorrow.”

The words seemed to wash over Bokuto in a slow wave. For a moment, it was as though he hadn’t even heard Akaashi. But then his mouth opened, just a centimeter, like he was thinking about saying something. His gaze tilted up, not looking at Akaashi anymore. He was staring at a point beyond Akaashi, above the younger man’s head. And now there was that flash of fear in his eyes. Akaashi recognized it—he’d looked like that so many times before they were together, when he thought he’d offended Akaashi.

“Bokuto-san…” Akaashi muttered.

But Bokuto wasn’t listening. Akaashi could see the gears turning behind his eyes—thoughts running through his brain faster than he could even process them. He had started rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. It was a quick rhythm. He hadn’t done that in a long time. And without thinking, a hand went to his mouth. He began chewing furiously on his cuticle, tearing at the healed skin.

Akaashi didn’t think as he took a step forward, ready to pull Bokuto’s hand from his mouth, to run his fingers over Bokuto’s arms and whisper words of comfort.

He didn’t expect Bokuto to take a step away from him, backing against the stove with a soft thump.

Akaashi froze. He could see the tension in Bokuto’s shoulders. It seemed like Bokuto was withdrawing into himself. This hadn’t happened in so long. Akaashi had learned how to comfort him, how to bring him back to reality.

But now, Akaashi wasn’t enough.

“It’s like on the weekends,” Bokuto said suddenly, his voice pinched.

“What?” Akaashi asked.

“It’s like on the weekends,” Bokuto repeated. He still wasn’t looking at Akaashi. “Like when we don’t go because you don’t work.”

“Right,” Akaashi replied tentatively, still confused.

“It’s just like that,” Bokuto reasoned. “Like when we spend the weekend together.”

It came to Akaashi like a bolt of lightning. Bokuto was trying to convince himself that it was just like normal. They didn’t go into the office on the weekends because they had never gone in on the weekends. This was Bokuto’s way of reasoning that the routine hadn’t truly changed.

“That’s right,” Akaashi said with more gusto. “It’s just like that. I don’t have to work today, so we’ll just spend the day together like we always do on the weekends.”

Akaashi waited with bated breath. And slowly, Bokuto’s eyes shifted, focusing on his face. Akaashi could still see the gears turning. But at least now he’d come back.

“Yeah,” Bokuto mumbled. “Right. Like we always do.”

Slowly, Bokuto turned back toward the stove and continued cooking breakfast. But now his movements looked mechanical, almost robotic. It was as though he was working through a series of steps now rather than cooking the way he knew. All the earlier grace was gone.

Akaashi wasn’t sure what to do. Bokuto seemed like he was coming to terms with this new development, and managing to do it on his own at that. But it still didn’t feel right. He was still tense. And Akaashi knew approaching him wouldn’t help.

But after more than a year of knowing exactly what to do to help, Akaashi felt useless now. He wanted to help Bokuto, to make that tension breathe out of him the way it always did; to run his fingers up the older man’s arms and make him relax, eventually working down to hold his hand, their fingers twined together easily.

But today, that wouldn’t help.

And Akaashi didn’t know what to do.

They spent the morning and afternoon as they usually would on a Saturday—eating breakfast, watching whatever was on television, making lunch when the boredom won out. After that, they went over to Suga’s and fed his cat since he had an overnight shift at the hospital, then they went to the convenience store to get groceries for dinner. It was just like a normal Saturday.

Except it wasn’t. Because today, Bokuto wasn’t Bokuto.

He was trying to act like everything was normal. But Akaashi could see the signs. Bokuto was just going through the motions of the day without really experiencing anything. It looked as though he was wound tight enough to snap. The tension he was storing in his shoulders never left them like it usually did. He spent the day with them hunched high, like he just couldn’t quite relax.

He was also not actually paying attention to anything. When they watched television, he seemed to be staring past the screen. He would smile or force a laugh when he caught Akaashi watching. But it wasn’t genuine. It never reached his eyes.

Akaashi tried his usual method of calming Bokuto, reaching for the older man’s arms and running his fingers over the taut skin. And as always, Bokuto let him. But today, it didn’t help. Bokuto never relaxed.

“Are you okay?” Akaashi asked for what felt like the hundredth time that day when he finally pulled his hands away.

Bokuto’s head turned toward Akaashi with a sharp snap. Akaashi even heard his neck crack.

“I’m okay,” Bokuto said. “I’m fine.”

He’d said it every time Akaashi asked. And like all the other times, Akaashi tried to believe him.

At the store, Akaashi found Bokuto chewing on his fingers again. When he spotted Akaashi coming around the corner, Bokuto had pulled his hand from his mouth and hidden it in his pocket. But he wasn’t quick enough to hide the blood that was trickling down his finger. It had been so long since Bokuto had chewed hard enough to draw blood. And now, Akaashi couldn’t even help him.

When they returned to the apartment, Bokuto went straight for the kitchen to make dinner. Akaashi left him alone for a bit, dealing with a few work emails on his phone from the client—who was (predictably) irate at the loss of a day to submit their updated paperwork. But Akaashi was a smooth talker. He appeased them easily with a few choice words and a promise to get everything caught up the next day.

At least he knew what he was doing when it came to this.

With a sigh, he rose off the couch and headed into the kitchen to check on Bokuto. Just like this morning after Akaashi broke the news, he was moving like a robot. Nothing was fluid and easy like it was every other day. He chopped the peppers with a sharp snap of his wrist, the knife clanging hard against the cutting board.

“Bokuto-san, can I do anything to help?” Akaashi asked quietly.

“No,” Bokuto snapped. Then, he stiffened—if that was even possible, considering how stiff he already was. “No, thank you,” he said a little more gently. “I can do it myself. I’m fine.”

Akaashi wanted to protest. There had to be something he could do to help Bokuto—even something as simple as chopping an onion. But he resisted. In this moment he knew, helping would only make it worse.

The pan on the stove hissed as Bokuto dropped the peppers from the cutting board into it. Then, he froze. “No,” he whispered.

“What’s wrong?”

“I… I did it wrong,” Bokuto mumbled.

Akaashi frowned. “Did what wrong?” he asked.

“I was supposed to… To put the chicken in first,” Bokuto said.

His free hand flew to his mouth, teeth biting into the skin of his thumb. And just as quickly, he pulled it away.

Everything seemed to happen in the same instant. Bokuto’s hand came down, hitting the handle of the frying pan. He dropped the cutting board, which hit the ground and shattered. Bokuto grabbed for the frying pan as it went airborne, but he only succeeded in slapping his palm against the stove. The pan and all its contents went up, landing back on the stove with a clatter that seemed to echo through the entire apartment. All the peppers inside scattered across the stove and joined the glass on the floor. And then Bokuto was shouting, pulling his hand away from the stove. The skin was an angry red color, and even from a distance, Akaashi could see it blistering.

Without thinking, Akaashi took a few stops toward Bokuto, reaching out for him.

“NO! DON’T TOUCH ME!”

The shout stopped Akaashi cold. He’d never heard Bokuto yell before. And the sound was one he never wanted to hear again.

But Bokuto wasn’t angry. In fact, he looked downright terrified. And slowly, he seemed to be curling in on himself. His knees bent and he dropped into a crouch, head tucking and burrowing between his legs. Only his burned hand stuck out. He was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, precariously close to toppling over. But he stayed upright.

“Are you okay?” Akaashi asked quietly.

“Did it wrong…” Bokuto mumbled from behind his knees. “I did it wrong… Vegetables go in after…”

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi urged.

But still, Bokuto didn’t seem to be listening. “Oil, then chicken, then vegetables, then… Soy sauce… That’s right…” he continued.

Akaashi was frozen, indecision rooting him to his spot. He wanted to clean up the glass and the food and the mess that Bokuto so hated. He should put something on Bokuto’s hand, wrap it so it didn’t get infected. He fought every urge in his body to run to Bokuto, to take the older man’s good hand and thread their fingers together, to be there for the man he loved.

But he couldn’t.

There was nothing he could do.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi finally spoke. “What do you need?”

There was a shift, and Bokuto seemed to return to reality. But still, he didn’t look up. “I… I don’t know,” he replied.

Akaashi bit his lip. “Do you want me to leave?”

Bokuto eyes were still hidden behind his knees. But Akaashi didn’t miss the quick, muffled “No” from behind them.

“Well… Do you need me to leave?” Akaashi asked.

The heavy silence was all the answer he needed.

“It’s… It’s okay,” Akaashi went on, talking a little faster. “Sugawara-san won’t be home tonight, and he said I was always welcome there if I needed to come by. I’ll… I’ll just stay there for the night. It’s okay… It’s okay.”

For a moment, Akaashi just waited. But aside from the quick rocking, Bokuto wasn’t making any move to get up. He wouldn’t even look at Akaashi.

Akaashi couldn’t watch. All he wanted was to help Bokuto, but there was nothing to do. He turned on his heel and headed into the bedroom. He grabbed some clothes and his phone charger, stuffed them into a bag from the closet, and shouldered it before returning to the kitchen.

Bokuto hadn’t moved.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi murmured. “I’m going over to Sugawara-san’s. Please… Please be careful of the glass. And… Your hand… It needs—“

Akaashi stopped talking abruptly. He could hear Bokuto mumbling something, but it was muffled behind his knees. Tentatively, Akaashi took a step toward Bokuto. Even without looking, the older man seemed to sense him drawing closer, tensing up on instinct.

“What did you say?” Akaashi asked.

Bokuto spoke again. And even though his voice was still muffled, Akaashi heard him clearly this time.

“I hate myself… I wish I wasn’t like this… I wish I was normal…”

If Akaashi knew a little less about anatomy, he would have said that the ache he felt in his chest was his heart actually breaking.

“Bokuto-san…”

“Why can’t I just be normal?” Bokuto continued. “Why can’t I be normal for you?”

Akaashi opened his mouth to counter Bokuto. There wasn’t anything wrong with him. Akaashi didn’t care about any of this. He didn’t care.

So why couldn’t he say anything? Why didn’t he know what to say? Why couldn’t he convince Bokuto that he didn’t care, that he still loved Bokuto no matter what?

For the first time since he’d met Bokuto, there was nothing he could do. This time, he couldn’t help.

Akaashi took a deep breath, forcing himself to turn away from Bokuto. “Please call me if you need me,” he managed. “And… I love you.”

Bokuto said nothing. He couldn’t say anything.

It was painful for Akaashi to turn away, to walk out the door and leave Bokuto alone with his self-depreciating words and even worse thoughts. But he needed to be alone right now—even if he didn’t want to be. And there wasn’t anything Akaashi could do for him.

Sugawara’s apartment was quiet. It always felt quieter than Bokuto’s for some reason, but tonight it was especially silent. Akaashi stepped inside and flicked the light on. Suga’s enormous gray cat Miki walked up to him immediately, brushing against his shins and purring louder than a motorboat.

At least it wasn’t so quiet now.

Despite having not eaten dinner, Akaashi wasn’t remotely hungry. Instead, he dropped onto the couch and lay down. Miki leapt onto his chest instantly, curling into a ball. Akaashi scratched her behind her ears, his hands moving without him willing them to.

His thoughts weren’t here. They were in the apartment next door. They were with Bokuto, who probably hadn’t moved from that spot in the middle of the kitchen floor even though Akaashi was gone. They were worrying. Should he have stayed anyway? Should he have tried to clean up the glass before he left? Should he have said something—anything—to stop Bokuto from blaming himself?

Akaashi rolled onto his side, sending Miki to the floor with a heavy thump. He stared hard at the wall in front of him—the wall that separated himself and Bokuto. They were so close. If Akaashi pressed his ear to the wall, he might hear Bokuto cleaning up the glass, maybe mumbling to himself.

Or maybe he’d hear nothing.

The wall was probably only a few centimeters thick. But it might as well have been a kilometer with how far away he felt from Bokuto.

 


 

“I heard it was a crazy client from the law firm on the fourth floor who went nuts.”

“No dude, they had to fumigate the lobby, there was some kinda bug infestation. Bedbugs or something.”

“Okay, except you’re wrong. I swear, it was some guy who lost his case and freaked out.”

“I thought they said it was a water leak in the lobby…”

“Bedbugs, water leak, whatever.”

“Yeah, that’s what they would say to cover up some crazy guy with a gun.”

“What do you think, Akaashi-san?”

Akaashi looked up from his computer slowly, staring at Komi and blinking behind his glasses. “What?” he asked.

“Did they tell you the real reason they closed the building?” Komi asked. “It was a crazy guy, right? That’s what some women in the elevator were saying this morning.”

“I don’t know,” Akaashi huffed in irritation.

“But… Didn’t the email say it was a water leak?” Komi said, his voice faltering.

“If it said that, then why are you asking me?” Akaashi snapped.

Komi flinched at the tone. “I just thought maybe… Well, since you’re kinda in charge of us, maybe they’d tell you the real reason.”

“That is the real reason,” Akaashi replied.

“Well, yeah, and I know that’s the official line, but—“

“Komi!” Konoha hissed. “Seriously, read the room!”

“What?” Komi asked, looking over at Konoha.

“Shut. Up.”

Akaashi returned to staring blankly at his computer screen. He’d been looking at the same spreadsheet for over an hour, never navigating away. It wasn’t as though he was reading any of the numbers in front of him. He’d barely even heard a word any of the others were saying.

After finally falling asleep around 4 am, Akaashi managed to sleep through all of the alarms he’d set. He’d woken up with 20 minutes to go before work started, and it had been an all-out sprint to get to the office on time. He was exhausted, still hot under the collar from his unexpected jog even hours later, and thoroughly distracted by the phone on the desk in front of him.

Every minute or so, Akaashi would glance down at the phone, prodding the home button with his pen to illuminate the screen. And every time, the same stock photo of a forest appeared.

No new notifications.

Akaashi wanted to give Bokuto his space. He’d been so overwhelmed yesterday, and Akaashi didn’t want to be the one making it worse. Still, this was the longest Akaashi had gone without hearing from Bokuto in over a year. What if he was still huddled in a ball in the middle of his kitchen floor? What if he hadn’t disinfected his hand, or even wrapped it? Should Akaashi ask Suga to check on him? But then again, Akaashi knew Bokuto could take care of himself—he’d been doing it for years, after all. What if he was back to normal now, but was ignoring Akaashi? Had Akaashi done something to make the situation worse without realizing it?

All morning, those thoughts had been racing through his head on an endless loop every time he checked the phone. And as a result, he hadn’t managed to get a single thing done.

“A-Akaashi-san?”

Akaashi’s gaze flicked over his computer toward the tremulous voice. Yamaguchi looked like he would rather throw up than be speaking right now. Akaashi must have looked terrible.

“What do you need?” Akaashi asked, trying to control the tone of his voice.

“Um, d-did the client ever send you their updated expenditures?” Yamaguchi asked.

“They hadn’t last time I checked,” Akaashi sighed, already rising out of his seat. “I’ll check again.”

Yamaguchi looked as though someone had just extracted one of his teeth. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—“

“Yamaguchi,” Akaashi cut him off, a little sharper than he’d meant to. “It’s fine. I’m not upset. We need to wrap this up, so I’ll go check the fax machine.”

Yamaguchi’s lip trembled. But his frantic apologies had ceased. At least that was something.

Akaashi grabbed his phone off the desk and stuffed it into his pocket. He had to ignore Tsukishima’s infuriating gaze as he headed out of the cubicle and made his way toward the file room where the fax machines were. He found a stack of papers in the tray of one and began sifting through them, searching for the right pages.

But the buzzing in his pocket made him drop every single one.

Ignoring the papers and that feeling of his heart jumping into his throat, Akaashi shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone. But the message on the screen made him visibly deflate.

>>[Kuroo]: You guys coming over this weekend? Yuuji says we’ll do barbecue for Bo.

Akaashi actually slumped against the wall behind him. He felt like he’d been given not one but two blows. Bokuto was still not messaging him. And now, he was stuck wondering what to even say to Kuroo. He couldn’t agree without knowing if Bokuto was okay. But any hesitance would warrant questions, and how could he even begin to explain the situation to Kuroo when even he wasn’t sure what to do?

So, Akaashi backed out of the conversation thread and opened up Bokuto’s instead. The last message was from two days ago, a picture of an enormous beetle on the side of a building Bokuto had seen on his walk to meet Akaashi after work. He wanted to smile at the memory. But his chest ached instead.

He brought up the keyboard and tapped out a quick message before he could stop himself.

>>[Me]: I hope you’re doing alright. Let me know if there’s something you need.

Akaashi only let himself reread the words once before pressing SEND. Even before it had finished sending, he was rethinking his decision. He’d wanted to give Bokuto space. But it was too late to take it back now.

After collecting all the dropped papers and ordering them as best he could, Akaashi found the document Yamaguchi needed. Tucking the papers under his arm and returning the rest to the tray, he headed back into the main office.

But as he approached his cubicle, he slowed to a stop just outside the entrance. There was light chatter coming from inside—he could make out Sarukui and Komi and even Konoha talking mildly. But there was another voice too. One he recognized, but not from the office.

He took the last few steps and entered the cubicle. And once again, he froze.

The face that greeted him was easily recognizable, right down to the copper-colored hair. She was leaning on Sarukui’s desk, eyes pinched shut and laughing at something he hadn’t hear. One by one, all the heads in the cubicle turned toward Akaashi. And Yukie’s was the last.

Recognition seemed to sweep across her features in a slow wave. Her lips lifted into a wide smile. The same smile she had given him when Bokuto had first introduced her to him all those months ago.

“Hey!” Yukie cheered. “It’s Kou’s boyfriend!”

The silence that fell over the cubicle was almost palpable. It seemed as though everyone had stopped breathing. Even Sarukui, usually so genial, was wearing a worried expression. The tension seemed to stretch on for minutes.

And then, it was broken by a snort from Tsukishima. Ever the one to thrive on the discomfort of others, he dissolved into noisy laughter on his desk. And slowly, everyone else unwound from the tense coils in which they were wound. Even Akaashi forced a smile for the benefit of the group.

“It’s nice to see you again, Shirofuku-san,” Akaashi replied finally with a bow of his head. “Though I hadn’t expected I’d see you here.”

“Yamato forgot his lunch, so I brought it to him,” she noted, nudging Sarukui with her elbow.

“Which I told you not to,” he noted, glancing up at her with that same smile he usually wore. No, not quite. It was fonder than usual.

She grinned down at him. “Well, I have to be a good fiancée every once in a while,” she laughed. “Plus,” she nudged his arm again, “I couldn’t resist an opportunity to rub it in your face that you forgot something.”

“Wow, what a lucky man I am,” he quipped.

Akaashi was trying to keep up, connecting the dots in his head. He vaguely remembered her mentioning the name “Yamato” when he’d first met her. But he couldn’t have known she’d meant Sarukui.

Well, he would’ve known if he’d ever bothered to ask. Maybe he needed to learn more about his coworkers.

Maybe he’d do that when he wasn’t having an existential crisis.

“Well, it’s been real, guys,” Yukie said, straightening up and stretching her arms above her head. Her back gave a protesting crack. “I gotta get back to work.”

“Thanks, by the way,” Sarukui said, gesturing to the bento on his desk.

“Ah, it’s what I’m here for,” Yukie scoffed.

She bid goodbye to everyone in the cubicle, reserving a wink for Akaashi as she passed him. He could hear the office quiet as she passed each cubicle. It wasn’t often that the firm received visitors unless they were wearing suits and carrying enormous stacks of documents.

“She’s cute!” Komi exclaimed, loud enough for Yukie to probably hear him at the door.

“You have literally no chill,” Konoha scoffed.

“What, you don’t think she’s cute?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Yeah, she’s great,” Sarukui agreed with a smile, like his coworkers weren’t talking about how attractive his fiancée was.

“So… You know her, Akaashi-san?” Komi asked, glancing over at the man still in the entryway of the cubicle.

Akaashi wasn’t listening to them. He hadn’t heard a thing they’d said. Without a word, he turned on his heel and practically sprinted through the office, out the door, and toward the elevator.

“Shirofuku-san!” he called.

The head of red hair in front of the elevator turned toward him. Yukie smiled as he approached. “What’s up?” she asked.

“Would you mind if I asked you about something?” Akaashi panted as he stopped in front of her. “It’s quite personal. I’ll understand if you refuse.”

“Well, why don’t you ask it, and we’ll see,” she chuckled.

“It’s… About why you and Bokuto-san decided just to be friends.”

Her smile faltered. That didn’t seem to be a good sign. Maybe she wasn’t comfortable with talking about it.

But to his surprise, she simply asked, “What happened?”

“Well,” Akaashi began. “We have a routine, something we’ve always done since the day I met him—at least on the weekdays. But yesterday, we weren’t able to do it. And… And he got… Overwhelmed. It’s happened before, mostly before we were together. But never this bad.”

“Did he sort of withdraw?” Yukie cut in.

“Yes,” Akaashi replied, at least grateful that she understood. “Physically and mentally. He wouldn’t listen to me, wouldn’t let me come near him. And… And he…” Akaashi’s voice broke around his words. “He said he hated himself.”

Yukie said nothing. But the expression she wore was one that told Akaashi she knew exactly what he was talking about.

“I’ve… Always been able to help him when something like this happens,” Akaashi continued. “There’s always been something I could do. Even if I couldn’t stop whatever it was from happening, I could always do something to make it easier for him. And this time… This time, I couldn’t do anything. I just had to watch while he tore himself down.”

Yukie was smiling knowingly at him, a smile that reminded him strangely of Sarukui’s. He wasn’t sure if that was more unsettling or comforting.

“Near the end of our time as a couple, we tried to be intimate,” Yukie began, glancing around for good measure to make sure no one could hear. “He was uncomfortable, and I could tell. So I had us stop. I told him it was okay. I’d sort of always known that he didn’t feel that way about me. But he wanted to try. And when he couldn’t do it, he withdrew. He said he hated himself, wished he could just be normal. Nothing I told him helped. He kept beating himself up. He was convinced he was the reason that our relationship would never work. I realized this wasn’t something he’d be able to come to terms with. There were some things that he could deal with—whether it was on his own or with my help. But this wasn’t one of them. After that, littler and littler things would overwhelm him. He started withdrawing more. So I had to make a judgment call.”

“I don’t want that,” Akaashi murmured without thinking.

To his surprise, Yukie was smiling again. “This is a little different, in my opinion. And I don’t think he wants that either,” she noted. “He’s… A lot different now. He’s not the same Bokuto he was when we were together. You’ve helped him grow. The Bokuto I knew didn’t offer to play the piano in front of other people. He didn’t go out bars with his friends… He didn’t invite other people into his life. They had to work their way in. But with you… He’s different. You helped him be different.”

“I want to help him now,” Akaashi admitted.

“But you can’t this time,” Yukie replied. “You can’t fix everything for him. He has to deal with this on his own. And you have to decide if you’re okay waiting on the sidelines for that to happen. Because this is probably gonna happen again at some point. You can’t help him all the time. And that has to be okay.”

Yukie reached behind her and pressed the down button, and within a few seconds, the doors opened.

“Thank you,” Akaashi murmured.

“No problem,” she said, stepping onto the elevator. “And good luck.”

The doors closed, and Akaashi turned away, sluggishly returning to the office. His head was full, playing and replaying the conversation. Yukie had decided to end their relationship after Bokuto did the same sort of thing he did last night—withdrew into himself, tore himself down. But it had been after a long while. There wasn’t any need for Akaashi to jump to a similar action.

But what if it did start to happen? They would probably be able to get past this incident. But Yukie was right. Something like this would happen again—it was the nature of Bokuto’s disorder. What if it happened more often? What if this one event sparked a chain of Bokuto demeaning himself, breaking down and withdrawing and pulling away from Akaashi?

Could Akaashi watch Bokuto do that to himself?

He returned to the office, resigning himself to an afternoon of continuing to stare blankly at his computer, glancing down at his phone every five minutes. But once more, the voices from within the cubicle made Akaashi’s steps slow just outside it. Maybe it was the mention of his name that stopped him.

“I’m telling you,” Sarukui was saying, his tone exasperated. “I had no idea. She told me about her friend’s boyfriend like once, and I never got a name!”

“A likely story,” Konoha snorted.

“I was just so sure he’d be with someone way older,” Komi groaned. Akaashi could practically see him hurled over his desk, throwing a tantrum like a child. “He’s so mature! He’d never be with anyone younger!”

“45 was probably a little bit of a reach, though,” Sarukui noted.

“At least I didn’t think his boyfriend would be in a gang!” Komi retorted.

“Hey,” Konoha cut in. “He gives off that vibe like he’s seeking danger.”

“You’re an idiot,” Tsukki drawled.

“Whatever, at least I didn’t freaking abstain,” Konoha argued. “Which is super weird. You live for proving yourself right.”

“Yamaguchi, why did you think he was with a bodybuilder?” Sarukui asked.

“Well… Remember that time he brought in the really big coat? It had to be for someone with a lot of bulk,” Yamaguchi replied.

“I still say you shouldn’t get the pot,” Kohona argued. “You had inside information. That means you’re disqualified.”

“Oh my god, she never told me!” Sarukui laughed. “I guessed that they probably met here only because he’s always staying so late, even when busy season’s over! There had to be a reason, so I just took a guess!”

“That’s what a cheater would say.”

Akaashi stepped into view of the cubicle’s occupants. And he was positively glowering. Yamaguchi was the first to catch sight of him. Judging by his squeak of fear, Akaashi assumed he looked about as angry as he felt.

“I told you I’d report you all for betting, didn’t I?” he practically growled.

“We weren’t betting,” Konoha tried.

But the stack of Yen sitting on top of his desk was a dead giveaway. He cleared it away, stuffing it into Sarukui’s hand behind the desks. Akaashi took a deep, steadying breath.

“Get. Back. To. Work,” he snarled.

He’d never heard so much work-related noise coming from this cubicle at once. On any other day, he might have actually reported them for gambling. But today, he was too distracted. He’d save the report for another time.

 


 

 

The office was quiet now. Akaashi had been the last one there as usual. Yamaguchi and Tsukishima had left a few hours before. He had felt their stares as they’d passed him—Tsukshima’s penetrative, Yamaguchi’s more tentative. But he’d ignored them both, bidding them goodnight without looking up from his computer.

He used to like how quiet the office was at night. It was when he got most of his work done during busy season, and it was where he’d be guaranteed to get some solitude when he needed it. With Kuroo as a neighbor, he’d often gotten very little peace. The office was always sufficiently peaceful.

But Akaashi was different now. The quiet air of the room seemed to press in around him, make him feel uncomfortable, unsettled. He was fidgeting in his seat and clicking a pen in his free hand incessantly. At least it was some source of noise. Something to break up the monotony.

He was so used to his life being filled with sounds—with questions and laughter and small declarations of love. The thought of living without those sounds made his chest ache.

But watching Bokuto tear himself down had hurt even worse. Yukie’s words from so many months ago came back to him, as clearly as if he’d heard them yesterday.

It was hurting him to be with me, and I wanted to see him happy… Even if that wasn’t with me.

Akaashi couldn’t watch Bokuto fall apart like that. His own helplessness aside, watching the man he loved pull away, curl in on himself, tear himself down… It was too much. Yukie had called it quits because Bokuto blamed himself for their relationship not working.

Was that what was happening now?

The quiet vibrations were, at first, lost on Akaashi. He was so deep in thought, he couldn’t even hear them. But then he glanced down and saw his phone screen illuminated. A picture of himself and Bokuto together at the bar months ago after Kuroo’s show had replaced the stock photo background. They were both smiling. They looked so happy.

Akaashi snatched the phone off the table so quickly, it almost went sailing across the room. He tapped the green button and pressed the receiver to his ear.

“Hello,” he breathed.

“Hey, hey, Akaash.”

Akaashi wanted to cry. Bokuto didn’t have his usual vigor. He was much more subdued in his greeting. And yet, hearing his voice filled Akaashi with warmth. He hadn’t realized how cold he’d felt.

“I’m glad you called,” Akaashi murmured, leaning forward and resting his forehead in his free hand.

“I, um… I wanted to… Um… To ask you something…”

A spark of dread flashed in the pit of his stomach. But Akaashi tried to stay calm. “You can ask me anything,” he replied.

“Well… I’m… I’m at the office, and… And it always helps me feel better to play for you. So, um… Do you think you could stay on the phone? And just listen? Like we did that one time?”

Akaashi was already on his feet, the chair crashing to the ground behind him. He didn’t grab his bag, his keys, his jacket—all of it was left behind as he surged out of the office in an all-out sprint.

“Yes,” he panted as he ran. “I’ll stay on.”

He heard the quiet clack of the phone as Bokuto set it down on the wood. There was a moment—the moment Akaashi knew where Bokuto was shifting from average, everyday Bokuto to musician Bokuto.

The first press of the keys seemed to send heat through Akaashi’s blood. It had only been two days since he’d heard Bokuto play, and yet it felt like a lifetime.

The song was slow, deliberate. Akaashi could almost feel his movements slowing in response. And at the same time, the dissonant chords sped him up, spurred him onward. He stabbed the down button at the elevator over and over again. It seemed to take years for the doors to open, and even longer for them to open on the ground floor.

Akaashi spilled out of the doors as they were opening, and immediately he was greeted with the echoing sounds of the piano. He hadn’t heard it like this since the first day he and Bokuto met. It filled the lobby, bouncing off the walls and sounding almost ethereal.

But he didn’t want to hear it like this.

His feet carried him across the lobby and around the corner to the secluded area that housed the piano and the chairs.

The sight of Bokuto at the piano stole all the air from Akaashi’s lungs, and before he could steady himself, he’d dropped to his knees.

Bokuto was strong. The muscles in his back flexed as he moved. His arms tensed as they worked up and down the keys.

But it wasn’t just his physical strength that Akaashi could see.

He didn’t need Akaashi to help pick him up, because in the end, he knew how to do it himself. He knew what he needed now, and even if it wasn’t what he wanted, he would do it. He would pick himself up, dust himself off, and come back to reality.

But even if Akaashi felt helpless, even if Bokuto didn’t need his help in a moment like that, there was still something Akaashi could do for him. Something no one else could do.

He could be there when Bokuto came back.

Watching Bokuto now, Akaashi felt like he was falling back through time. He remembered watching Bokuto play for the first time, finding himself fascinated with the man wearing flip flops in the middle of winter, learning little bits and pieces about him, falling in love with him slowly, letting the feelings overwhelm him. It was so easy to fall in love with Bokuto. Being in love with Bokuto was so easy. Of course, things would be hard sometimes.

But wasn’t Bokuto worth it?

The song came to an abrupt end, and Bokuto’s fingers hovered over the keys. He breathed out a quiet sigh, and Akaashi could see his shoulders slump.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi murmured, his voice cracking.

Bokuto turned abruptly, his eyes growing wider at the sight of Akaashi on the floor. He was on his feet in an instant, closing the space between them and dropping to his knees. He looked nervous, almost terrified. “Why are you crying?” he asked.

Akaashi hadn’t realized he was crying, couldn’t feel the tears cascading down his face. The only thing he could manage was a question: “Is it okay if I hug you now?”

Bokuto nodded feverishly, and Akaashi fell forward, arms hooking around the older man’s neck. Bokuto caught him easily. “Are… Are you okay?” he asked tentatively.

“Yes,” Akaashi gasped through the tears.

“Did… Did I sound okay?” Bokuto murmured.

Akaashi choked on another sob. Now that the floodgates had been opened, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to stop. “I love you… I love you so much,” he cried.

“Well, I love you too, Akaash,” Bokuto replied. “But… Did it sound okay?”

Even through his tears, Akaashi managed to laugh. “Y-yes, Bokuto-san,” he hiccupped. “It was perfect. As always.”

“I’m really sorry about yesterday,” Bokuto murmured. “If… If you’re mad at me, or… Or wanna take a… A break…”

Akaashi snapped his head back to stare at Bokuto with bleary, watery eyes. “You never have to apologize for that,” he assured the older man. “Things… Things will sometimes be hard. Life will get hard. That’s the way life is… But loving you isn’t hard. Loving you is the only thing that will always be easy.”

Bokuto’s face melted into a smile, a little higher on the left than the right. His golden eyes shone like the sun. They were locked on Akaashi’s, never flicking away, never wavering. “I feel that way too,” he said. “Like… Like a lot of things might be hard… But loving you isn’t. You’re the only thing that’s ever been easy… Like—oh no! Please don’t cry more!”

But it was too late. A fresh wave of tears were already pouring down Akaashi’s cheeks, and he leaned forward, pressing a kiss to Bokuto’s lips. It reminded him of their first kiss. Except this time, his lips were the ones trembling, and this time, he was the one reaching for Bokuto’s bandaged hand. Bokuto was the one who was steady. Bokuto was the one holding him to the earth, keeping him together.

Life would be hard sometimes. He knew that. And he wouldn’t be able fix everything on his own.

But they could figure it all out. Together.

Chapter Text

It seemed that the longer Akaashi was alive, the more he came to hate the sound of his alarm in the morning. It didn’t matter if it was 07:00 or 10:00, he hated that infernal chiming all the same. This morning was no exception. Had it gotten louder since the last time it went off? It always felt like it.

Without lifting his face from his pillow, Akaashi reached out and found his phone on the side table. He didn’t even have to look at the screen anymore to turn it off.

It was a full minute before he could muster the energy to roll onto his side, groaning quietly at the effort involved. His muscles were stiff, and his neck gave a protesting crack when he stretched it. It felt like it took him an eternity to finally crack open his eyes.

And when he did, he was startled to see two golden eyes staring back at him.

All these years with Bokuto, and the intensity of his stare always managed to catch Akaashi off guard.

“Good morning,” Akaashi murmured. His voice rasped from a night of disuse.

Bokuto’s mouth lifted into a muted smile. “Morning!”

Akaashi squinted against the harsh morning light peering through the window, trying to get a better look at the man across from him. “Is everything okay?” he asked.

“Yeah!” Bokuto said a little too loudly, his head bobbing quickly.

As Akaashi’s eyes adjusted to the light, he took a closer inspection of Bokuto, mentally running through his checklist. The older man wasn’t flicking his gaze, wasn’t rocking, wasn’t tapping his fingers against the mattress restlessly. It didn’t seem as though he was upset. In fact, he looked both well rested and as though he’d been up for a while. He’d even shaved already. But there was still something off about his expression. The gears were turning behind his eyes.

“You’re thinking about something,” Akaashi noted. He shifted up onto an elbow, still staring blearily at Bokuto.

Bokuto pursed his lips. Akaashi could see him thinking over his words. “Yeah,” he finally said. “Not bad though.”

“Well, that’s fine, but… You’re alright?” Akaashi asked.

“Yeah, ‘m good,” Bokuto nodded again, this time fervently enough to shake the bed. “You want coffee, yeah? And breakfast?”

“Sure,” Akaashi replied.

Bokuto was on his feet immediately. He threw on a pair of sweatpants over his boxers and headed for the door. But a few paces from it, he froze. Akaashi almost asked him what was wrong, but then Bokuto was quicker. He’d turned around, crossed back to the bed, and leaned down to press his lips to Akaashi’s before the younger man could even open his mouth.

Akaashi’s lips parted in surprised, and Bokuto took it as permission to flick his tongue against Akaashi’s. Though Akaashi hadn’t expected it, the kiss was certainly not unwelcome. He lifted a hand to Bokuto’s cheek, thumb rolling against his cheekbone. Bokuto tipped his head unconsciously into the contact, humming quietly in response. Oh, Akaashi loved that.

Bokuto pulled back wordlessly, far too soon for Akaashi’s liking. And then, before Akaashi could even blink, he was gone, thundering out of the room and down the hall. Akaashi could hear him in the kitchen clanging a pan around, smacking a spatula against the bottom. A smile quirked at his lips. It was Bokuto’s favorite method of getting him out of bed in the mornings.

And when Akaashi’s stomach gave a particularly loud growl, almost like it was responding to the sound, he knew it would work this morning too.

With another groan purely for dramatic effect, Akaashi stumbled out of bed. His legs carried him to the bathroom where he started his morning routine—washing his face, brushing his teeth, trying and failing to smooth his mess of hair down. By the time he made his way into the kitchen, he at least looked he hadn’t crawled out of a ten year sleep.

A mug of coffee was waiting for him the second he crossed over the threshold, and he took it gratefully. “Just the way I like it,” he hummed as he took a sip.

Bokuto looked over his shoulder at Akaashi as he assembled their breakfast, his face screwed up in a grimace. “So gross,” he said, shaking his head.

Akaashi just smiled in response and took another drink.

They ate breakfast together at the table as they did every morning, knees knocking teasingly while they watched the morning news. Akaashi continued to shoot furtive glances at Bokuto, who looked distracted now. But there was still no tension, no restless rocking or fidgeting hands. Nothing seemed to be wrong. And yet he was staring past the television, obviously deep in thought.

Akaashi wasn’t necessarily worried, considering Bokuto wasn’t on edge. But it certainly was unusual for him to be so quiet. Generally by now, Akaashi had heard all about what Bokuto would be doing today, or they’d gotten into a thought provoking discussion about something they’d seen on the news.

Slowly, Akaashi reached out and threaded his fingers through Bokuto’s on the table. The older man didn’t startle, but rather looked over at Akaashi almost lazily.

“You’re sure you’re alright?” Akaashi asked again.

Bokuto’s mouth lifted into a smile, that one that was just a little higher on the left than the right. It was enough to make Akaashi’s concern ebb completely.

“Always worryin’ about me,” Bokuto said, a touch of affection in his voice.

“As if you don’t fuss over me,” Akaashi scoffed, nudging the now empty bowl in front of him for emphasis.

“Guess I must love you, huh?” Bokuto murmured. A knowing grin had replaced his smile.

Akaashi leaned forward, lips ghosting against Bokuto’s. It wasn’t a kiss, more teasing contact than anything. Even without kissing him, Akaashi could practically taste the sugar from Bokuto’s coffee. His lips were tugging up into a grin that matched the older man’s. “I guess you must,” Akaashi murmured.

“Aw, come on, Akaash,” Bokuto groaned.

Now Akaashi was laughing. “I love you too,” he said, sealing the words with another kiss.

As Bokuto cleared away the breakfast dishes, Akaashi retreated back into the bedroom to get dressed. His suit was hanging on the back of the door, clean and ironed and ready to wear. Akaashi couldn’t help but crack another smile. He definitely hadn’t put that there, and he certainly hadn’t used an iron in almost 10 years. How early had Bokuto gotten up to do that, he wondered.

After getting dressed—and struggling with his tie as he did every morning, eventually just leaving it undone and draping over his shoulders—Akaashi returned to the living room. Bokuto wasn’t there, and he wasn’t in the kitchen either. But the door to the spare room was open, and Akaashi crossed the living room, stepped inside, and peered around curiously.

Over their years together, they had figured out that sometimes, Bokuto just needed to be alone. Akaashi had never taken it personally. It was a feeling he could understand. With a few minor adjustments, the spare room had been turned into a haven for Bokuto to spend some time by himself. When the door was closed, Akaashi knew Bokuto was inside, and he knew Bokuto needed to be alone. That was the rule.

But today, the door was open. And as always, the first thing Akaashi was greeted with was the portrait Kuroo painted of him on the far wall. It was Bokuto’s most prized possession, and much as Akaashi had tried to deny it to himself, he was actually a bit pleased that Bokuto still loved it after all these years.

But that picture wasn’t the only here. There were smaller ones in frames scattered throughout the room. In a simple black frame on the adjacent wall was a picture of the two of them at another one of Kuroo’s art shows—one where Bokuto had managed to play without the room dividers shielding him from view.

Another on a table near the rack of weights in the corner was in a frame with seashells glued around the edge; the two of them were on the beach near the house they’d rented for a vacation last summer. They were sweaty, wet, and sunburned from a day spent in the water and lounging in the sand. Even though Bokuto was afraid of the ocean, he’d insisted he wanted to go. The smile on his face was proof enough that he’d enjoyed himself.

Near the keyboard Bokuto kept in here for playing at night was a framed article someone had written after attending Bokuto’s most recent show. He’d stuck around for a brief interview afterward—just a few minutes, nothing anyone else would have found noteworthy. But it was Bokuto’s first interview.

The pictures helped Bokuto when he was feeling particularly down on himself. He could look at them—see the two of them at the art show, remember their week at the beach, read his interview—and realize just how much he could do on his own now.

He’d learned how to bring himself back to reality without anyone’s help.

Next to the table where the article sat, Bokuto was perched at the keyboard. He was playing something Akaashi couldn’t hear thanks to those expensive headphones he was wearing. But whatever he was playing, he was completely lost in it.

Akaashi leaned against the doorframe, just watching Bokuto play. So much time had passed since he first watched Bokuto play. And still, it seemed like he was finding new things to admire about the older man. Today, it was the way his hair fell lank around his head, the way it swayed as gracefully as he did every time he moved up and down the keyboard.

And then Bokuto stopped suddenly, hands freezing in the middle of the song. His fingers were still pressed against the keys. An abrupt shake of his head knocked the headphones askew.

“Not quite right?” Akaashi asked.

“No,” Bokuto huffed, sliding off the headphones and setting them on top of the keyboard. “It’s almost there though. Just this one part feels… Not enough.”

“Can I hear it sometime?”

Bokuto spun around and cracked another smile. “Yeah,” he nodded. “Real soon.”

“I can’t wait,” Akaashi replied.

“You think you’ll ever learn to tie your ties?” Bokuto teased, already rising off the bench and drawing up to Akaashi.

Akaashi grinned up at Bokuto. “But why?” he asked. “You’re so good at it. With you around, I never plan on tying one again.”

“That’s why you moved in with me, huh?” Bokuto laughed.

He flipped Akaashi’s collar and tied the tie with ease. Akaashi watched his deft fingers work. There were still tiny scars and tough patches of skin from where he used to tear them apart. But it had been so long since he’d lifted his hand to his lips, even longer since he tore at the fingers with his teeth.

Akaashi couldn’t help but smile at the sight.

“Aaaaaand done,” Bokuto announced, letting the perfect Windsor knot fall against Akaashi’s chest.

“Thank you,” Akaashi said. His fingers moved on their own to admire Bokuto’s handiwork.

“Can’t have the boss looking like a hobo,” Bokuto noted.

Akaashi attempted to shoot Bokuto a glare, though it very quickly melted back into a smile. “I’m not the boss,” he said.

“You’re a boss,” Bokuto countered.

“I’m an audit manager, I interview new clients and make sure people stay organized. I can’t even fire them,” Akaashi scoffed.

“Is that like a career goal?” Bokuto asked. “Become a partner so you can fire people?”

There he was, teasing Akaashi again. The younger man could tell by his Cheshire cat-like grin.

“Maybe,” Akaashi replied coolly. “You know me. Power hungry.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Bokuto laughed.

“What are you doing today?” Akaashi asked, smoothing down his clothes unthinkingly.

“A meeting with the people at the recording studio,” Bokuto said.

Akaashi couldn’t fight his expression of surprise as it crawled across his face. “That hasn’t happened in a while,” he noted. “What’s it for?”

“Just, um… Just for some songs.”

Akaashi’s eyes narrowed. Bokuto never had been able to lie to him. But a glance down at his watch showed him that if he pressed the issue further, he’d be late. “I have to go. But tonight when you come by, will you tell me how it went?” he asked.

Bokuto was smiling once more. “You got it,” he replied.

 


 

The firm was buzzing with activity. Busy season was officially in full swing, and the paperwork was starting to filter in. This would be Akaashi’s first season as a senior audit manager. His time as a general audit manager had been brief—only one season, in fact—and it had mostly involved dealing with another nightmare client. This one had made the first year with Mizuha look like a walk in the park. He’d finished the season feeling like a dead man, but the partners had been so impressed, they’d promoted him almost immediately.

Now he had a scenic overlook of the business district in his own office—an office that was currently filled with the boxes of paperwork that needed to be distributed to each team. He had been doing his best to organize them, but after sifting through a box of invoices for the Kitahara Life Support Clinic for what he was sure was the third time, he decided to roll up his sleeves and just start calling people in to pick up their boxes as he went through them.

For a while, it was a constant stream of team seniors filing in and out, coming back for more boxes almost as soon as they’d left. But slowly, Akaashi’s office began to clear. He was digging through a particularly disorganized box of P&R expenditures when there was a knock on his open door.

“I sincerely hope this is the last time you’ll drag me in here,” the bored voice at the door drawled.

Akaashi didn’t even need to look up from the box to know who it was. “What’s wrong? Not enjoying our little visits? I find them particularly riveting,” Akaashi noted, flipping through the box full of board minutes for another bank.

“Oh sure. About as riveting as watching paint dry. Or listening to Konoha complain about the weather.”

Akaashi put the lid back on the box of paperwork and slapped a post-it note on it, scrawling a name across the top. “I always did think he’d make a better weatherman than an accountant. Or maybe working the ticket window at a racetrack with all that betting.”

“You know, we can’t all hide away in our offices wasting the day away. Some of us have actual work to be doing.”

Akaashi looked up, a brow rising in a silent question.

At the door, Tsukishima crossed his arms defensively. “Or at least we would have work to do if you could get your act together,” he added.

“Your aggression only goes to prove that you miss my constant presence in your life,” Akaashi countered, the small grin he wore never faltering. “Absence does make the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it?”

“My fondness for you was generally limited to the bets I won at your expense,” Tsukishima replied.

“See? You do miss me.”

Tsukishima cracked a smile, and Akaashi was sure he heard a distinct snort of laughter. He shuffled back to his desk to grab the box with Tsukishima’s name on it when there was a second voice from the doorway.

“A-Akaashi-san? You called?”

Over five years with the company, and Yamaguchi was still tremulous as ever. He was fidgeting with the bottom of his tie and shuffling from foot to foot, like he’d rather be anywhere else but here.

Though maybe that was because of the intense way Tsukishima was staring at him.

“Yes, I’ve got paperwork for you,” Akaashi broke the awkward tension. “Oikawa-san organized them all alphabetically, and… There’s also a note.”

Yamaguchi’s face paled. The hands fidgeting with his tie dropped to his sides. “W… What did it say?” he rasped.

Akaashi picked up the paper that had been sitting on top of the files when he opened the box. “’Dashi-kun,’” he read. “’I hope you’ll come for a site visit again soon. Last year’s was just so revealing. Perhaps this time we’ll get to know each other even better.’ And then there’s another one of those weird faces. I think it might be suggestive in nature.”

Before he had even looked up from the paper, there was another snort. Tsukishima seemed to be trying to hide his laughter behind his hand. Yamaguchi looked like he was going to crawl out of his skin, through the office, and out the door.

“Clearly I’ve missed something crucial,” Akaashi noted.

“It… I didn’t… It wasn’t…” Yamaguchi blubbered.

“He walked in on Oikawa-san’s assistant bending Oikawa-san over the desk last year,” Tsukishima cut in.

“Tsukki!” Yamaguchi cried.

“Ah, that happened to me too,” Akaashi noted.

“Wait… R-really?” Yamaguchi asked. “With… With Oikawa-san?”

“Every year I worked on Mizuha I saw a little more,” Akaashi replied. “So you’re not alone. Though it might be wise not to wander the halls there on your own this year. I have a suspicion he made a few of those encounters happen.”

“That’s… That’s good to know,” Yamaguchi nodded fervently.

“He pulled an Akaashi-san, didn’t he?” Tsukishima asked Akaashi, his voice still quaking with laughter.

Akaashi tried to control his eyebrows, which were headed up his forehead to disappear behind his hairline. “He pulled a what?” he retorted.

“You know, an Akaashi-san,” Tsukishima repeated. “Where you walk in on other people in compromising positions.”

“Oh my god,” Akaashi groaned, shaking his head abruptly. “I could have gone the rest of my life without having to remember that.”

“You sure stuck around long enough!” Tsukishima was laughing again. “Seemed like you were enjoying the view at the time.”

Yamaguchi hadn’t spoken, but was looking back and forth between Akaashi and Tsukishima like he was watching a tennis match. He seemed genuinely confused. “What… What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Wait,” Akaashi snapped. “You never—“

“Oh, well, remember those long nights we used to spend at the office? During your first season here?” Tsukishima said, his voice shaking as he tried to stifle his laughter. “Well, Akaashi-san may have been present on one of those occasions.”

Akaashi watched as Yamaguchi’s expression melted from confusion to terror to unbridled horror. A hand flew up to cover his mouth, then dropped back down as he gaped like a fish at Akaashi. “No,” he managed to squeak.

“Oh my god,” Akaashi murmured.

“Oh my god!” Yamaguchi cried.

He was moved to action immediately, flying out of Akaashi’s office and thundering down the hall as fast as he could. Akaashi could hear his footsteps long after they probably should’ve faded away.

Tsukishima was doubled over, holding his stomach as he laughed.

“Was that really the proper way to break the news to him?” Akaashi asked, glaring at the blond in his doorway.

“Believe me, he would’ve reacted the same if I’d told him in private,” Tsukishima managed through his tears of mirth.

“Why does he even put up with you?” Akaashi murmured as he shook his head.

Tsukishima straightened up and managed to still his shoulders enough to shrug them. “I’ve been asking myself that for years,” he replied. “Never quite came up with an answer.”

“You might want to find him before he decides you’re not worth the effort,” Akaashi noted.

Tsukishima snorted again, and he was laughing by the time Akaashi hefted both his and Yamaguchi’s boxes into his waiting arms. He made it to the door before Akaashi remembered something.

“You never did… Anything… On my desk, did you?” he asked abruptly.

Tsukishima stopped, turned his head to peer over his shoulder at Akaashi. His grin almost stretched across his entire face. “No,” he said. “Just Konoha’s.”

Akaashi had never heard Tsukishima laugh so much as he headed down the hall, the cackle of laughter growing quieter as he returned to the main office. Akaashi wondered if maybe that laughter might herald the end of the world.

Or maybe he really had changed a bit over the years.

Whatever the reason, Akaashi didn’t get time to figure it out. His phone was vibrating on his desk, and he opened the email he’d received to find a simple message from Kenma.

>>[Kenma]: We have a table, whenever you’re ready.

Checking the time, he saw it was late enough in the morning to take his lunch. It was a nice day out, so he left his jacket on the back of his chair as he headed out of his office and toward the elevator.

The walk to the restaurant was fairly short—they’d chosen a place not too far from his building for convenience. Kenma liked it for the wifi. Hinata liked being able to sit outside when it was nice. Terushima said the “ambiance” was pleasant. And Kuroo claimed he’d never had better salted mackerel in his entire life.

Once a month, the managed to get together here for lunch and catch up, telling each other about their lives. They hadn’t missed one lunch in all the years since Akaashi had moved out.

Even at the end of October, it was still warm enough to eat outside. Akaashi saw the bright head of orange hair as he approached, though Kuroo was the first to see him.

“Late again!” Kuroo chided with a dismissive shake of his head as Akaashi approached. “You know, ‘Kaash, we’re not here to keep to your personal timetable.”

“We can’t all live such leisurely lives,” Akaashi bit back.

“Oi! I am gainfully employed!” Kuroo exclaimed. “Speaking of which, gotta ask Bo when he wants to collab again. I’ve got a new portrait series in the works, and my manager’s pestering me to get it done so Bo can see it. You know, I think he might actually like Bokuto more than he likes me.”

“Most people do,” Kenma mumbled, still tapping furiously at his phone.

“Bokuto-san’s just so cool!” Hinata cried.

“He’s the sweetest person alive,” Terushima added. “And those arms. God, I could write sonnets about them.

“Wow, I see how it is,” Kuroo scoffed, crossing his arms defensively.

Akaashi took a seat in the empty chair next to Kuroo. He picked up the menu and skimmed the pages, not really reading anything. There was never any point to actually reading it; he always knew what he was going to order. Still, he did it every time while the hum of conversation continued around him.

But today, there was something odd. The air around him was curiously silent. He glanced up from the menu to see three pairs of eyes on him—Kenma’s were still on his phone. “Yes?” he murmured, the word tilted up in a question.

Kenma, the only one who wasn’t staring, was the first to speak. “How is Koutarou?” he asked.

“He seemed to be a bit nervous this morning,” Akaashi replied, folding up the menu and setting it back down in front of him.

Kuroo’s entire body seemed to stiffen in his seat. “Yeah? Why?” he asked.

“He told me he had a meeting with the people at the recording studio,” Akaashi said, opening his napkin up and laying it across his lap. “Neglected to tell me what it was for, which was strange. Not that he can’t have secrets. He just never does. He likes to tell me everything.”

“Well, maybe it’s just really important,” Kuroo said. This was shortly followed by a thump, a grunt, and a shout of, “Ow! Fuck! Seriously?”

The other patrons of the restaurant shot their table furtive glances. But Akaashi wasn’t looking at them. He was more interested in Kuroo, who was now rubbing his ribs gingerly, and Terushima, who was doing his best to look innocent. He smiled across the table at Akaashi, ignoring the furrow of the younger man’s brow.

“You know, I still remember the first time I met Koutarou,” Terushima noted.

Akaashi’s brows only came together even more as he glared at Terushima. “You’re deflecting. Badly.”

“It kinda feels like yesterday, right?” Terushima seemed to be asking the table as a whole, acting as though Akaashi hadn’t even spoken.

“Remember when he helped me find Tomoe?” Hinata asked, leaning forward excitedly.

Kuroo snorted. “Which time?”

“Hmm, I guess the first time,” Hinata hummed, completely missing the jibe. “But the other times were also really great! And Bokuto-san taught me how to get Tomoe to like me too! I just have to lay really, really, really still, and he crawls up on top of me now!”

“That seriously feels like forever ago,” Kuroo said almost wistfully. “Like I know it was. But like, somehow it also doesn’t feel that far back? You know? It sort of feels like I caught you two making out in the lobby yesterday, and not actually years ago.”

“Um, why did I never hear about this?” Terushima asked, raising a hand for emphasis and looking like he’d been mortally offended.

“We didn’t do a lot of chatting about our days back then,” Kuroo replied. “Mostly just fighting and fucking.”

At that precise moment, the waitress approached their table to take their order. She caught the tail end of Kuroo’s comment and pulled a face of disgust. Terushima couldn’t hold back a bark of laughter.

“She’s gonna spit in my food, isn’t she?” Kuroo murmured after she’d taken their orders and retreated back into the safety of the restaurant.

“Maybe she’ll just get the cook to sprinkle some pubes in it,” Terushima said.

“Jesus,” Kuroo groaned. “We can’t eat here anymore.”

Terushima ignored his complaining boyfriend and looked over at Akaashi once more. “I remember the first time I met you too, Keiji,” he said with a grin.

“When you thought I would ever choose to date Kuroo-san? Of my own volition?” Akaashi asked.

“To be fair, he did lie to me,” Terushima countered.

“That’s true,” Akaashi conceded. “He seems to enjoy ruffling feathers.”

“Kenma, what’s your favorite memory of The Good Old Days(TM)?” Kuroo asked, a desperate attempt to deviate away from the current conversation.

“Did you just verbally trademark something?” Akaashi asked with an expression of disgust to rival the waitress’s.

“Unimportant.”

Kenma had put his phone down a while ago, but was still looking very intently at his plate. His lips were pursed—the only indication that he had actually heard Kuroo and was coming up with a response. “I think,” he started, “it was probably… The Hamster Dance.”

“For the love of god!” Kuroo cried. His hands flew to his hair, fingers threading through the mess of black with the intensity of a man having a traumatic flashback. “I was tortured with that song for years. Years! Why did I even put up with it!?”

“Because he in turn had to put up with the creak of bedsprings and banging of walls for the entirety of your neighborly relationship,” Kenma replied coolly.

“C’mon, Ken, are you ever gonna take my side?” Kuroo practically whined.

“No.”

“You know,” Terushima said idly, twirling his napkin through his fingertips. “I’ve been so curious all these years, and I’ve never asked. Why is there such animosity between the two of you?”

To Terushima’s great surprise, Kenma’s face contorted into a deep scowl. It was such a rarity to see Kenma so expressive, and even more so to see him actually angry. He wore a look of profound distaste, borderline disgust as he glared across the table at Kuroo. “He knows what he did,” Kenma said simply.

“Oh my god, seriously? We are nearing an entire decade since that, and you’re still holding onto it?” Kuroo asked exasperatedly.

“I will never let go of that,” Kenma retorted.

“Okay, now I have to know,” Terushima said, leaning over the table expectantly.

“He knows what he did,” Kenma repeated.

“Christ, Kenma. I did my penance! I bought you a new phone, I paid for the damages at that club, I even went and cleared things up with those drag queens!” Kuroo exclaimed.

“You did that to get one of their phone numbers,” Kenma retorted.

“She was hot!”

“I still can’t believe you went to an actual club,” Akaashi cut in.

“It was decidedly not by choice,” Kenma said.

Next to him, Hinata was trying to hide his obvious laughter. “The whole thing was kind of funny though.”

“Only once Kuroo realized he’d gone through all that effort for nothing,” Kenma murmured.

“I have missed something so crucial and so exciting,” Terushima groaned.

“They never would tell me what happened either,” Akaashi told him. “It was before my time. Though I’ve drawn conclusions.”

“I’m drawing them too,” Terushima said. “But I want to know more!”

There was more light arguing around the table as Kenma continued to dodge to questions while Kuroo only gave vague, question-inducing responses. Their table was by far the rowdiest on the patio, and they continued to earn stares and glares from everyone around them.

But Akaashi didn’t mind. He settled his elbow on the table, propping his chin up in his palm. His eyes followed the conversation, volleying from person to person, occasionally popping in with his own commentary.

Sometimes during their lunches together, Akaashi was hit with a wave of nostalgia. Of course he loved Bokuto, and he’d never for a moment regretted moving in with him. But he did miss this sometimes. He missed Kenma’s quiet snark interspersed with his gentle nurturing. He missed Hinata’s wild outbursts and his unrelenting sunny disposition. He missed Terushima’s alternating teasing and kindness. And though he definitely didn’t miss being kept up at night listening to Kuroo’s sexual exploits, he did miss the older man dropping in on him, making himself comfortable on Akaashi’s couch, extending the hand of friendship despite Akaashi’s resistance.

Things had changed so much over the past few years. They’d all moved on with their lives, gotten busier, let some things go by the wayside. But even now, all these years later, they were still able to pick back up like this. Like nothing had really changed.

“Oh!” Terushima exclaimed, pulling Akaashi from his reverie. “I already asked Koutarou and he said you didn’t have plans. We’re going out to the yakiniku place he loves tomorrow.”

“And when we’re done, we’re watching that new action movie that came out last week,” Kuroo added.

Akaashi’s brows came together. “You mean the one you and Bokuto-san watched last weekend?”

“Yup, and we’re watching it again tomorrow,” Kuroo replied. “First time was for plot, second time for details. And the third will be for continuity errors. That’ll be Sunday. You’ll be coming over for that one too.”

“I don’t have a choice in the matter, do I?” Akaashi asked.

“Nope,” Kuroo said.

Akaashi couldn’t help but crack a smile. Maybe things really hadn’t changed that much.

 


 

By the time 21:00 rolled around, Akaashi was already in the elevator heading down to the lobby. It was a little earlier than he and Bokuto used to meet. But over the past few years, Bokuto had gotten more comfortable with coming to the office earlier. In fact, he’d been coming around 20:00 for a few months now. But with busy season starting up, he’d have to come in a bit later.

When Akaashi told him that a few weeks ago, Bokuto had just nodded, smiled, and asked Akaashi what he wanted for dinner that night.

He remembered a time when Bokuto would’ve needed days to adjust to such a drastic change in schedule. That felt like such a long time ago.

The elevator dinged and the doors opened, revealing the warm light of the lobby. Akaashi stepped out and took in a deep breath. It smelled like fresh polish and made his head feel light. Far ahead of him, the same severe, eyebrowless guard was at his post, a book propped up on the podium in front of him.

Akaashi was surprised when the guard lifted his gaze from his book and peered across the lobby toward the elevators. And he was even more surprised when that stern mouth pulled into the smallest of smiles.

First Tsukishima, now this. Maybe the world really was ending today.

Akaashi managed to return the smile with one of his own before heading off to the left toward the little hidden alcove. The lobby had been redone last year, but this one area had stayed exactly the same, from the old lamps on the walls to the fading plush chairs. As Akaashi rounded the corner, his steps halted.

The scene before him was like a moment stuck out of time. The little alcove was dimmer than the rest of the lobby from the lamps that hung along the walls. And still, it was like Akaashi was looking at the room in Technicolor. Bokuto had on the same thing he’d worn all those years ago, the first time Akaashi had ever seen him—a plain black t-shirt, khaki shorts, and flip flops. He was sitting at the piano, his fingers tracing over the keys without pressing into them. Each time his head tilted to look up or down the keyboard, Akaashi was granted another view of his face from a different angle. There was just something so fascinating about him, about his face—his sharp jaw and prominent brow and intense eyes.

He was beautiful.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said quietly.

Bokuto snapped his head back, his gaze falling on Akaashi. There was that smile again, the one that had always made Akaashi smile even on his darkest days—the one that made him smile now.

“How was your day?” Bokuto asked, spinning around on the bench to face Akaashi.

Akaashi took his usual seat in the flattened armchair. There was no doubt in his mind that it bore his imprint now. “It was fine,” he replied. “Lunch with Kuroo-san and the others was entertaining as usual.”

“We’re gonna go out with them tomorrow, yeah?” Bokuto asked.

“Of course.”

“Cool, cause he told me this morning we’re definitely gonna watch that movie again.”

Akaashi suddenly remembered their conversation from this morning too. “How was your meeting?” he asked, abruptly changing the course of the conversation.

“Oh…” Bokuto’s smile faltered, and Akaashi didn’t miss the twitch of his fingers against his thighs. “Um, it… It was good… We actually, um… We did a recording.”

Akaashi’s eyebrow rose in question. “Is that so?”

“Yeah, soon as I told them about it, they wanted to hear it, and they loved it,” Bokuto nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Akaashi asked. It was so strange for Bokuto to be withholding about something like that.

The man in question rocked forward once, then back. His lips had parted, but he didn’t speak right away. His tongue darted out to wet his lips, and Akaashi followed its path with his eyes.

“You know it was five years ago today that I met you?” Bokuto asked suddenly, his eyes snapping up from the ground to meet Akaashi’s gaze.

It wasn’t the abrupt change in topic that made Akaashi’s eyes widen. “Five years today?” he repeated.

“Yeah,” Bokuto nodded vigorously. “I mean, we haven’t celebrated it before. This was just the first time you saw me playing here. But it won’t be our anniversary until the end of March.”

“You mean the beginning of April?” Akaashi corrected.

He knew that would make Bokuto chuckle. It always did. They’d spent their last four anniversaries arguing teasingly about when they’d officially gotten together—whether it was the night of that first concert or the day after. And every year, they just decided to celebrate both days.

“Well whatever day it was,” Bokuto conceded, “we met five years ago. Right here,” Bokuto noted, gesturing toward the piano bench behind him. “So… I, um… I did something for you.”

“Bokuto-san, you didn’t have to do anything for me,“ Akaashi murmured.

“I know,” Bokuto said. “But… I wanted to.”

“What is it?” Akaashi asked.

“It’s… A song.”

Akaashi was taken aback. “For me?”

“Yeah,” Bokuto nodded animatedly. “But it’s not like the other ones I wrote for you. It’s different, its… I took all the things that I ever felt when I was with you, and I put them together in a song. It’s… It’s what I was getting recorded at the studio today.”

Akaashi’s eyes had widened noticeably. Of course Bokuto had written him a song before—more than he could count over the last five years. But they were nothing like this. Already, his chest felt tight. “Can I hear it?” he asked, his voice quieter than before.

“Yeah,” Bokuto said again, but this time, he was smiling.

Bokuto turned back toward the keys and took a deep, steadying breath. His head rolled back on his neck, and he stretched his arms out in front of him before setting his fingers against the keys. Akaashi could actually feel that shift now, the one that Bokuto experienced before he began to play. It almost seemed like Akaashi was shifting too. He didn’t realize he’d leaned forward in his seat, curled his fingers around the fabric of his pants.

The first chord made his heart lurch. It was subdued, almost quiet. But Bokuto wasn’t playing it quietly. Somehow, Akaashi could feel the uncertainty in the melody. This was how Bokuto had felt the minute he’d laid eyes on Akaashi—nervous, restrained, afraid to truly show himself.

But as the melody continued, he could feel the uncertainty ebbing. It was replaced with something akin to curiosity—a light, playful staccato that Akaashi could feel seeping into his skin. These were the moments Bokuto spent getting to know Akaashi, their nights together in this little corner of the universe, forgetting about everyone and everything else and focusing only on each other.

There was a brief lapse in the whimsical melody though, something a little more discordant. Akaashi didn’t even need to think about what this was. He remembered this moment clearly—Bokuto’s first breakdown. Akaashi had asked about his performance, the one he’d seen advertised on the train to work. It was the first time Bokuto had let Akaashi touch him. It was the first time Akaashi had wanted to touch him. His heart had broken for Bokuto that day.

But that moment passed quickly enough, and then it was back to the whimsy and lightness. Akaashi could almost see the moments before his eyes—the little shared conversations, the coat, their fingers twining together for the first time, the visit to Bokuto’s apartment. There were little trills where Bokuto was clearly happier than ever—getting pictures of Kenma’s cats and the first time he and Akaashi hugged.

And then, another dip. The song seemed to tremble, to vibrate through the air. It was the musical embodiment of Bokuto’s nerves as he walked onto the stage. Akaashi was suddenly hit with the intensity of Bokuto’s golden eyes as they glanced right to where his seat had been in the audience. And in that moment, the song steadied. There was no more uncertainty.

The song paused, a fermata that seemed to stretch on forever. The heavy silence permeated the room. And then suddenly it was like a burst of color before Akaashi’s eyes. The song exploded into a chorus of pure, unbridled joy.

With a press of Bokuto’s fingertips, it was like Akaashi was feeling their first kiss all over again.

The song continued to swell, slowly growing in intensity with each passing measure. Akaashi recognized bits and pieces for the other people Bokuto had met along the way—cool, quiet tones for Kuroo; bright pops of higher notes for Hinata; a slow, mellow sound for Kenma; Terushima’s bouncy major chords. They were all the people Akaashi had brought into his life, the ones Bokuto had met because of him.

But somehow, even without knowing much about music, Akaashi could always feel the song drawing back to him.

He heard their first date, the first time they ever fooled around, the first time Akaashi spent the night, their first time together, the art show, the day they decided to move in together. All those moments were tinged with undertones of anxiety, somehow conveying all the times Bokuto had been a little afraid to take the next step, but doing it anyway.

Akaashi could feel the love in every note.

And then, the inevitable hitch, the break in the pleasant yet tremulous melody to something more melancholy. Akaashi’s chest tightened painfully. It was dark and cold, worse than Akaashi had ever been able to imagine. He wanted to push the image of Bokuto hunched in a ball on the kitchen floor from his mind. But it was only for a moment. And then the darkness began to clear. The chords shifted from minor to major, and a minute later, the bouncing melody was back in full swing.

And it only continued to get brighter, somehow gaining momentum like a train lurching downhill. There were more firsts—the first time they went on a trip together, the first time Bokuto took the train, the first time he met Akaashi’s sister, the first interview he managed to stick around for. Akaashi could feel his breath quickening with the tempo, and every extension of the melody made it stall.

All this time, it felt as though Akaashi hadn’t blinked. He couldn’t look away. Bokuto’s arms stretched as he reached for a different register, the muscles in his back shifting beneath his shirt. He was rocking with the impetus of the song, completely lost in the music as his entire body surged forward, fingers digging into the keys. Akaashi couldn’t see his face, but he didn’t have to. He knew the intensity it would hold.

He could feel the end coming. Years of listening to Bokuto’s songs had instilled in him a sense for the music. And it was swelling to something he couldn’t quite place. Was it today? Was it his nerves over recording the song? Of playing it for Akaashi? No, it was something more.

And then came the last quavering notes, so abruptly hushed compared to the rest of the song. They sounded like Bokuto was plucking them from the very strings of the piano themselves. Akaashi couldn’t place this either. If he thought hard enough, it sounded almost like… A question?

Akaashi’s eyes were dry and burning. His lungs were on fire from the breath he was holding. He was practically out of his seat already. And yet, he couldn’t move. Not when Bokuto was still frozen, fingers hovering over the keys as the last echo of sound echoed off the walls of the tiny alcove.

And then, with a loud sigh, Bokuto’s shoulders relaxed, and Akaashi finally drew in a loud, rattling breath. He blinked rapidly to try and ease the burning.

Slowly, Bokuto rose to his feet. But he didn’t turn around, didn’t look at Akaashi. “So,” he murmured. “Was it okay?”

“It was perfect,” Akaashi replied.

“You say that every time…”

“Because it always is,” Akaashi countered. “But that was… I’ve never heard anything so beautiful.”

“It’s cause it was about you,” Bokuto noted. “About the way you make me feel. About falling in love with you… Being in love with you.”

“Listening to the way you fell in love with me… It felt so different from the way I fell,” Akaashi said.

Finally, Bokuto turned around. He looked curious. “Really?” he asked. “Like… What about it?”

“You fell in love with me slowly,” Akaashi said. “It was like you were climbing up an easy hill. It was so… effortless. But for me… It was like a brick. I didn’t realize I was falling in love with you until I’d already fallen.”

“Like a brick, huh?” Bokuto murmured.

Akaashi couldn’t help but chuckle. “Maybe not so violent. But more like a surprise, I suppose.”

“Well… How ‘bout another one?”

“Another one? Another what?” Akaashi asked.

Wordlessly, Bokuto reached his hand into his pocket. And when he pulled it back out, there was a small black box resting against his palm.

Akaashi was on his feet so fast, his head started to spin. But he didn’t care. In fact, he barely noticed. “What is that?” he breathed.

“Um… Well, it’s for you,” Bokuto murmured. Slowly, he crossed the room toward Akaashi, tentative step after tentative step until he was standing right in front of the younger man.

“You didn’t answer me,” Akaashi said. He was struggling to keep his voice from trembling. “What is it?”

With a steady hand, Bokuto flipped the box open. Inside, resting against the plump satin bottom, was a plain silver ring. Akaashi’s lips parted. He wasn’t sure if he’d wanted to speak or was desperate to get more air in his lungs. But neither of those things happened, and he was left gaping uselessly.

“So, um…” Bokuto began, his voice slow but sure. “I know that this is against the rules… Not my rules, like the real rules… We won’t be able to do it for real or anything… But I love you. And I want to show you how much, ‘cause I know I’m not always good at it. But… But I like the person I am when I’m with you. And I don’t think I’ve ever liked the person I am before. I like seeing myself the way you see me. I don't feel like I'm broken... I just feel like me… And I like it. So… Do you think maybe… We could stay together forever?”

Akaashi could feel a surge of warmth flooding through his body, crawling down his spine and surging through his limbs. Never in his life had he been as sure of an answer as he was now. He didn’t hesitate, didn’t overthink. He just said the words.

“Yes… I want to be with you forever.”

The smile that broke over Bokuto’s face seemed to light up the room more than the dim lamps ever could. It was the brightest Akaashi had ever seen. It was almost blinding, almost too much—like staring into the sun. It made his heart ache.

He never wanted to look away.

Bokuto reached out, grabbed Akaashi’s hand, and slid the ring onto the fourth finger. Akaashi had never worn a ring before. He wasn’t sure how they were supposed to fit. But to him, this one felt perfect.

“I played the song for Kuroo and Terushima, and for Kenma and Hinata too,” Bokuto said. “Kuroo cried.”

Akaashi laughed, a quiet sound that felt so loud in their tiny corner. “Bokuto-san… You’re just… You’re perfect.”

Bokuto let his fingers twine around Akaashi’s, holding them tight. He leaned forward, and Akaashi moved to meet him in the middle. They were so close, only centimeters apart…

But a sound nearby made them both freeze.

There were people watching them, hovering near the entrance of the alcove. Akaashi recognized two faces—one curious, one smirking. Of course Yamaguchi and Tsukishima would be watching this unfold. It only felt cosmically right.

There were others too, all of them watching closely. It made sense that they were all still there. It was only 21:30. Other businesses in the building had their employees stay this late sometimes.

And of course, Bokuto’s song would draw a crowd.

“Hey, hey, Akaash?”

Akaashi didn’t realize he was staring at the crowd until Bokuto retrieved his attention. For the first time that night, Bokuto actually looked nervous. “I… I know it’s usually against the rules to kiss in front of people we don’t know, but… But I really want to kiss you right now.”

Akaashi could feel Bokuto’s breath against his lips. The heat from his body was warming Akaashi to his bones. “I think we can break the rules this once, Bokuto-san.”

Their lips slotted together in a perfect kiss, one that surged fire through Akaashi’s blood and made him see stars. He lost himself, intoxicated by Bokuto’s smell, the feel of his lips, the taste… This was beyond fireworks. This was something more, something that made his chest ache. Something that he never wanted to forget.

Akaashi could hear some of the people near the entryway, mumbling behind their hands and talking quietly. A few of them sounded disdainful, others approving. Someone even wolf whistled. Akaashi didn’t care about any of them. He just pressed a little deeper into the kiss.

He would break the rules sometimes for Bokuto. Because Bokuto was worth it.