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Why was Bokuto acting so weird? At first, Akaashi had thought nothing of it when his boyfriend declined his invitation for a joint shower. (Even though Bokuto always jumped at the chance to “save water,” as he put it.) But then, Bokuto started to decline his other advances, citing headaches and sore muscles as excuses. Which was fine with Akaashi, too: after all, he couldn’t expect Bokuto to be in the mood all the time.

But then it got worse. After over a week, Bokuto didn’t even want to be naked in front of Akaashi. Which was truly strange, because they had been seeing each other’s private parts ever since they were in high school.

“What’s wrong, Keiji?” Kenma asked over one of their usual video calls. “You seem distracted.”

“Sorry,” Akaashi said, adjusting himself on the couch. “It’s nothing.”

Kenma tilted his head. “Is it about Bokuto?”

A light flush came to his cheeks. He wanted to say that other things could be bothering him, like his superiors at work or his parents. But there was no hiding the truth from Kenma, so he sighed. “I’m worried he may be cheating on me.”

“What?”

It sounded ridiculous to Akaashi, too, as soon as he’d said it out loud. “Or...maybe he’s falling out of love with me.”

Kenma raised an eyebrow, as though this notion was as equally ridiculous as Bokuto cheating. “What makes you think that?”

He pursed his lips. “He won’t have sex with me.”

“Okay...how long has this been happening?”

“Eleven days.”

A laugh bubbled out of Kenma. “You answered too quickly. Eleven days isn’t that bad, but I guess for you two, it’s…never mind.”

“It’s been forever, Kenma.”

Kenma shook his head, his expression somewhere between grossed out and amused. “Have you tried talking to him about it?”

“Well…” Akaashi laced his fingers together, twisted them around. “No.”

“There’s your step one.”

Talking wasn’t as easy as Kenma made it sound. Akaashi had never been particularly talkative, especially about his worries or his feelings. And how did he even bring up something like this? ‘Excuse me, Bokuto-san. The amount of sex we’ve been having is extremely inadequate and I would like to correct this immediately.’

Any way he could think to say it just made him sound like a sex addict. Or a Bokuto addict...That was more accurate. But it still didn’t solve his problem. 

Was this really the end of their relationship?

He could think back to the very beginning, when he saw Bokuto play for the first time. It was an awe-striking moment, but one that everyone, including himself, was too familiar with. Their romantic entanglement began much later, after they became clubmates, after Akaashi became vice-captain. There had been plenty of small moments that should have told him that Bokuto liked him back: when the captain’s fingers brushed against his just a little too long as he handed over a volleyball, when he insisted on studying together (just the two of them), and when he loudly praised Akaashi or even declared outright ‘I love you, Akaashi!’, which the setter had just assumed was part of his boisterous and loving personality.

With younger Akaashi being so dense, there obviously had to be a point where Bokuto spelled it out for him.

 

 

It had been an emotional day. The third years were graduating and the whole team had been in tears, saying goodbye to their upperclassmen. Akaashi had been grappling with the fact that he’d become captain, and no longer had any older teammates to look to for help. That was what he’d said was his biggest worry at the time, anyway. He couldn’t bring himself to admit his issue was how much he’d miss Bokuto-san.

He’d been staring glumly at the classroom door, lost in his thoughts, until his now-former captain texted him, asking to meet outside the gym after school was over to talk. 

Akaashi spent the rest of the day wondering what Bokuto could possibly want to discuss with them. Maybe some final advice for the newly-made captain? Maybe a parting prank, or a really sentimental farewell? 

As soon as his last class was over, he hurried to their appointed meeting place. And waited for minutes that felt like hours, fiddling with his fingers.

“Hey hey hey, Akaashi!”

“Bokuto-san,” He greeted, his face a picture of calm despite the sweat that gathered on the back of his neck. “What did you want to talk about?”

“I need a favor,” Bokuto said with an embarrassed smile, adjusting his bag over his shoulder. “Well—maybe I shouldn’t say it like that.”

Akaashi’s brows had furrowed in confusion. Before he could say anything, Bokuto stole away his hands and held them. Just held them, like it was the most natural thing in the world and not the highlight of Akaashi’s entire existence. “Bokuto-san?” He felt pathetic for repeating the name again. What made it worse was the ever-darkening shade of red that took over his face.

“Will you wait for me, Akaashi?” The words burst from Bokuto’s mouth, his eyes wide and earnest. “We’re not going to see each other much until you graduate next year, so...will you wait until I can ask you out properly?”

It took Akaashi a full ten seconds to process what Bokuto was asking him. He was sure that some part of his body had caught fire by now. Maybe it was his hands, clasped so firmly in Bokuto’s warm fingers. “I...I promise.”

And then Bokuto whooped and jumped into the air, leaving Akaashi dazed and speechless. They parted ways soon after, and Akaashi kept his promise. Bokuto had been right: they didn’t see much of each other, except when Bokuto came to cheer at their games, or the rare occasion when he came to help train the underclassmen. Even so, they never got much time to talk alone, and Akaashi never knew how long he was supposed to wait. Forever? He didn’t want to, but he could wait forever.

It ended up not being as long as he thought.

Bokuto showed up on his graduation day, congratulating Akaashi along with the other former alumni. And as happy as Akaashi had been to see the other former third-years, he couldn’t hide the fact that his gaze was fixed solely on Bokuto, who looked criminally good in his blue suit. He’d already added so much muscle after just a year of athletic training, and Akaashi’s eyes were fixated on his biceps.

“All right,” Konoha had said, eyeing them slyly, “Why don’t we catch up with you guys later?” He then pushed the others in the opposite direction, leaving Akaashi and Bokuto alone.

“Bokuto-san,” he said breathlessly, “it’s good to see you.”

“Congratulations, Akaashi.” He said, though something wavered in his smile. “I was wondering...did you keep your promise?”

His heart sped up. “Of course.”

Bokuto shot up, straightening his back as though he’d been electrocuted. “Really? Well then...” He took Akaashi’s hands into his own, much more gently than last year, but they felt just as warm. “Keiji Akaashi, will you be my boyfriend?”

To which he obviously replied, “Yes.”

 

 

Akaashi was still pondering over the right way to bring up Bokuto’s possible infidelity as he cooked dinner. He wasn’t particularly good at cooking—he much preferred eating—but it was his day off, and he knew that Bokuto would be tired from a long day of practice. So he did his best to make a dish that was appropriate for Bokuto’s diet as an athlete (Akaashi had a list of appropriate foods memorized) that was also easy enough for him to prepare.

Maybe he shouldn’t have been cooking dinner for a potentially cheating boyfriend. But he wasn’t a teenager anymore—he knew that Bokuto cheating on him was the worst possible case scenario...and the least likely. There was no real proof that Bokuto was seeing anyone else. And all of Bokuto’s other attentions were normal—he still chattered on and on to Akaashi about baby sea turtles, they still held hands when they got groceries, and they still cuddled every night before bed. So what could it be then?

“Am I bad at sex?” Akaashi wondered out loud to his skillet.

That would make sense. Bokuto didn’t seem to have a problem getting it up twelve days ago before all of this had started, so it wasn’t like the issue was with his penis.

Akaashi drummed his fingers against the counter, trying to remember if he’d done something wrong the last time they’d slept together. It was nothing that he recalled. He had certainly had a good time, and if the shaking of their bed had been anything to go by, then Bokuto had also enjoyed himself. Not to mention that they’d both finished and snuggled up afterwards.

Maybe Akaashi just wasn’t affectionate enough? Akaashi had never been as...open...about his feelings as Bokuto was. He gave his highest praise when his boyfriend was out of earshot, while Bokuto boasted about how amazing Akaashi was at every opportunity, including to complete strangers.

But he certainly didn’t love Bokuto any less than Bokuto loved him. And he was much better about being affectionate now than he’d been when they first started dating: he recalled how he’d been somewhat distant then, in part because of how inexperienced he was as an eighteen-year-old. They were both too flustered to do much more than hold hands, as though neither of them could believe their luck. Their first kiss didn’t happen for a while, and when it did, it happened under extremely strange circumstances. 

 

 

They’d been dating for almost two months, which were a whirlwind. There was a brief window of pure bliss before they got caught between Bokuto’s busy schedule and Akaashi’s many errands before starting university. Many of their dates consisted of shopping for dorm furniture (where Akaashi had to wrangle Bokuto away from the giant plushies in the toy section) and quiet movie nights (where Bokuto had to keep him awake long enough to get through the many explosions in whatever action movie they were watching). 

The distance and busyness of their respective schedules made Akaashi stressed enough. After all, shouldn’t the beginning of a relationship be called a honeymoon phase? Where the participants did nothing but stare into each other’s eyes during their stolen moments together?

Akaashi didn’t have that. It seemed, in every spare moment, that Bokuto was on National Geographic’s Youtube channel. He would go to the restroom for two minutes and find him immersed in a video on the mating habits of chinchillas. News of snake eggs and bird migration patterns reached Akaashi’s ears even when they were apart, because Bokuto would text him links to videos ten times a day.

Which was fine with Akaashi. But he couldn’t say that it was the most romantic. And he wasn’t alone, right? When you get a text from your boyfriend at 11 pm, you’re expecting it to be “I miss you” or “What are you doing right now?” and not “Look at this INSANE GECKO!!”. He was losing his boyfriend to pictures of wild animals before they’d even become a proper couple.

That was why he was determined to make their next date one solely focused on quality time together. But he couldn’t ask Bokuto to shed his screen: instead, he suggested that they go on a hike. 

He tried to be a good boyfriend. Someone flexible. Someone who didn’t glare murderously at their partner for whipping out their phone instead of paying attention to him. Forty-five minutes in, he thought he was handling himself well enough. By the time they’d arrived at the park, he’d only scolded Bokuto twice and had swallowed down most of his complaints.

“This is gonna be great!” Bokuto declared, T-shirt sleeves rolled up to show toned arms (which softened Akaashi’s mood). “D’ya think I’ll find one of those big sticks to walk around with?”

“Maybe,” he said, taking Bokuto’s hand. “Let’s go up the mountain trail.” 

The trail was beautiful. Yellow wildflowers were dotted along the path, and as the two of them went onward, they found little winding creeks that cut through the forest. As they got higher, the view of the scenery became clearer, the treetops holding up an endless blue sky. All throughout their hike, Bokuto pointed out the things he found interesting, shouting his amazement about tiny bugs and big green leaves. The sun was warm, and Akaashi might have been annoyed if it was someone else doing all that talking on a nice, quiet day. But it was Bokuto, so his heart grew and warmed with endearment.

The only problem was that the incline was a little steeper than Akaashi had anticipated, and he didn’t have as much stamina as Bokuto. When they were only halfway through, he found himself panting.

“Phew,” Bokuto looked carefully at him before sighing and wiping the sweat off his forehead. “I’m kinda tired. Should we take a break?”

Akaashi nodded, not trusting himself to respond in a normal voice until he had a sip of water. When he did, he said, “Those rocks over there seem like a good place.”

Twenty feet away was a flat-topped boulder, with a few scraps of garbage littered around. He frowned at the disregard for the environment, but since other people had decided to sit there before, it was good enough for him. 

“Oh, Akaashi! I think I see a big stick over there. Hold on.” Bokuto bounded away again, giving Akaashi time to sit down and catch his breath. 

As he leaned back against his palms, his toe nudged a discarded glass bottle. And out came a spider, the size of his pinky nail, with a scarlet stripe on its back. 

“Bokuto-san,” he called, “You should come see this.” No doubt his creature-obsessed boyfriend would enjoy the sight of this colorful little guy and want to take some pictures.

He leaned in for a closer look at the spider. Akaashi knew that arachnophobia was a common fear, but he never really understood it. Aside from the extra legs, what was there to be scared about?

“Ah, I got a perfect one.” Bokuto said, having returned with his newly-found walking stick. “What is it?”

“Look, it’s a spider.” Akaashi reached his finger towards it to let the little guy climb on. Suddenly, he was yanked back by the scruff of his neck. “What in the world—”

“That’s a redback spider!” Bokuto threw the big stick at it, causing the spider to scurry in the other direction. “They’re super venomous, Akaashi! You could’ve gotten really hurt.”

It took Akaashi a few seconds to process what had just happened as he stood in Bokuto’s arms. He was just about to invite a potentially dangerous animal onto his body. And Bokuto had saved him.

Without thinking, he cupped his hands around Bokuto’s cheeks and pulled him into a kiss. It was his first one, so his lips caught Bokuto’s a little awkwardly and their teeth clanked together, but it couldn’t have been that bad, because Bokuto had melted right into it, arms slackening around him.

He never complained about Bokuto watching National Geographic after that.

 

 

Akaashi being bad at affection was an explanation that didn’t make complete sense, but he set it aside as a possibility. He also had to stop thinking about it because his thoughts kept taking his attention away from the stove and he risked turning their dinner into charcoal. 

An hour later, Bokuto’s key turned in the lock. “Akaashi!” He nearly tripped over his own feet in his hurry to wrap his arms around his boyfriend. “That smells amazing.” He wasn’t shy at all in giving Akaashi a kiss in greeting. Then, as was his nature, he bounded over to the couch to drop off his bag and then to the sink to wash his hands, chatting excitedly all the while. “Did you get my texts? Those little kids were so cute! Especially the tiny baby blowing snot bubbles.”

“Yes, I made sure to heart them.” Akaashi said fondly, watching Bokuto focus intensely on scrubbing his fingers with soap. There was no way this man was cheating on him. “Are you hungry?”

“Starving! Lemme change first.” He disappeared into their bedroom.

Akaashi was tempted to follow him in. But then what? Confront him? Take him by surprise and seduce him? He shook his head. It was best to wait until after dinner. 

Watching Bokuto wolf down the food he’d prepared, gesturing widely about this spike he made today, and later, staring into bronze eyes as Bokuto contentedly snuggled into him on the couch, Akaashi couldn’t bring himself to say anything. His heart ached with love. If Bokuto didn’t feel like being intimate that way lately, then Akaashi could put up with it until Bokuto brought it up himself.

Or so he thought.

One look at Bokuto’s plump derriere threatening to burst out of boxers in the morning, and Akaashi was back to scheming.

Part of his issue was that he knew Bokuto. After all, they’d been a couple for five years now. Though he couldn’t say that he had always been in tune with Bokuto’s needs and emotions. No doubt, when they were in high school, it had certainly seemed like he could read Bokuto’s mind, and he had tasked himself with ensuring that Bokuto would always be able to play at his best. But after Bokuto had graduated, they’d spent the year apart. It wasn’t that long of a time period, but something about Bokuto had changed. He had become more...distant wasn’t the right word. Perhaps, more self-reliant.

Instead of slumping over when he felt down, Bokuto would employ his own coping mechanisms. He’d take a few minutes for himself and take deep breaths, or listen to music that made him happy. If he had essential oils around, then he’d take a whiff of lavender and find his happy place. Akaashi wasn’t needed for the little changes of mood anymore. Which bothered him, at first, until he realized that he could still be there for the things that took more than a few minutes to get over. That, and college kept him more busy than high school ever had, so part of him was glad that he didn’t have to worry so much.

He didn’t realize this all right away, though. He’d only begun to feel it during their first summer vacation out of high school, when they’d been together for about six months. 

 

 

Akaashi was lucky, he supposed, in that he had so many places to go on the weekends. He could stay in his dorm if he had a lot of homework or studying to do, or take a five minute walk to the library with its study rooms and infinite amount of books. Or he could go stay with his parents and enjoy home-cooked meals, maybe allow his mother to do his laundry (because he always insisted on doing it himself and she complained that he wouldn’t let her be a parent). Or, he could take the train to spend the weekend with his boyfriend, cuddling almost constantly to make up for all the time they couldn’t see each other.

The problem with having so many homes to go back to meant that Akaashi had to plan his time wisely. If he didn’t go home to his parents at least once a month, then his mother would complain that he was growing up too quickly and would forget her when she got older and more frail. And if Bokuto didn’t get sufficient Akaashi time, then he’d get mopey or clingy (which Akaashi couldn’t blame him for, because he’d miss Bokuto too). And if he didn’t get enough time in his dorm to study, then his grades would suffer and he’d lose his scholarship, or get kicked out of university.

But summer vacation meant that he didn’t have quite as many responsibilities, and most of his time became divided between his parents’ home and Bokuto’s apartment. 

“Akaashi! I’m gonna clean the place up and cook you dinner and everything. Are you bringing pajamas? ‘Cause I can give you one of my shirts—”

“That’s all right,” Akaashi said on the other end of the phone line, smiling to himself. “I can bring my own pajamas.” Though the idea of wearing Bokuto’s clothes wasn’t so bad...he’d file that image away for later. “Are you sure you’re okay with me spending the night?”

“Of course! Why wouldn’t I be? You’ve spent the night before.”

This was true. He’d spent the night at Bokuto’s a few times now, and the first time had been incredibly nerve-wracking. He and Bokuto had argued back and forth about who would sleep where, until Akaashi stubbornly declared that they were both going to sleep in Bokuto’s bed and no one was going on the couch. This proved to be a bad decision, though, because when they’d actually gone to sleep, he was so conscious of the fact that Bokuto was right there, sound asleep and beautiful even when he snored, that he hadn’t slept a wink.

“I know, but it’s going to happen more often, at least during summer vacation. I don’t want to be a burden.” It wasn’t like he could invite Bokuto over to his dorm, because there was always someone there. Which wasn’t bad most of the time, but wasn’t ideal when you wanted alone time with your boyfriend.

“It’s fine! The more you’re here, the better.”

“Well...I guess it’s okay then.”

Later, he smelled orange-scented furniture polish as soon as he walked through the door of Bokuto’s apartment, fidgeting with the straps of his backpack. “Thanks for having me.”

Bokuto stood with his hands on his hips, looking over his small apartment as though it were his kingdom. “Welcome, ‘Kaashi! You look very pulchritudinous today.”

It took him an extra fraction of a second to process the vocabulary word, but he wasn’t going to object to being called beautiful. “Thank you, Bokuto-san.” 

It was easy to read when Bokuto was happy, but less so when Bokuto was experiencing other emotions, as Akaashi learned later that night. 

They had just eaten dinner, cooked by none other than Chef Bokuto himself—somen and Akaashi’s favorite, boiled rapeseed blossoms—and were now cuddling on the ripped (but still comfy) couch. They’d been flipping through options on Netflix when Bokuto found a romantic comedy that Akaashi didn’t care for, but he insisted on watching because he “hadn’t seen this one before.”

So with a sigh, Akaashi agreed, putting his head on Bokuto’s shoulder. He had nothing against romantic comedies, but he’d heard about how this one was ridiculously dramatic, not to mention raunchy. He wasn’t particularly entertained, especially when the characters started arguing. 

The Best Friend leaned against the kitchen counter at Main Character’s house, crossing his arms. “You mean you’ve been together for six months and you haven’t had sex yet?!”

Main Character’s shoulders sunk. “It hasn’t even really been six months, since we weren’t really dating at first, and then she went halfway across the world—”

“No,” Best Friend shook his head. “Dude, you gotta make a move, or she’ll think you’re not into her!”

Main Character considered this, scratching his chin, before sighing. “You’re right.”

Akaashi didn’t think he was right at all, and clicked his tongue in disapproval. “Imagine that.”

“Right,” Bokuto said, shaking his head and adjusting himself on the couch. “Imagine that…”

“Should we change the movie?” He wasn’t enjoying it and judging by Bokuto’s perplexed expression, neither of them were. “We can watch a documentary instead.” One of the National Geographic ones that Bokuto had queued up. 

“Yeah, sure.”

Akaashi stole away the remote, pulling up a bird documentary. Bokuto seemed to be enjoying it. He wore his signature smile and tried to guess the species before the narrator said what kind of bird was on screen, grumbling when he got it wrong and jumping up happily when he got it right (which was most of the time). At least, he seemed to be enjoying it until his phone buzzed.

A faint smile played at Bokuto’s lips as his thumbs typed out a message. Soon enough, his expression changed to one of confusion, and then his face turned red. Letting out a harassed scoff, he shoved his phone into his pocket. (At this point, Akaashi was paying more attention to Bokuto than the TV.) When he finally looked up, the documentary narrator was discussing—

“Male Red-capped Manakins moonwalk to attract their mates, showing off bright yellow thighs—”

“I’m getting a drink!” Bokuto declared, standing. “Want one?” He was already halfway to the kitchen. Upon arriving, he stuck his head in the fridge, which reminded Akaashi of an ostrich.

“...No thank you,” Akaashi said, looking at him curiously. “Bokuto-san, are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine!” He insisted, now splashing cold water on his face. “Totally great.” In another moment, he took his seat on the couch again, without a drink.

Akaashi pressed a hand to his forehead. “You don’t have a fever.”

“I told you, Akaashi, I’m fine! But, I’m tired of Netflix.” He took the remote hurriedly, shutting off the TV. “Let’s play a board game!”

“A board game.” Akaashi repeated in a deadpan. “Just the two of us?”

“Or uh…A card game! Like Go Fish! Two people can play that, right?” Bokuto looked around nervously, as though the answer would be etched into the ground next to Akaashi’s feet.

Akaashi squinted at him. “They can.” 

“Great! I’ll get the cards.” He said, before hurrying off.

Akaashi had no idea why Bokuto was imitating a grasshopper with all this jumping around, but he figured that it was best not to ask. He simply agreed to play cards, and in a short while, it seemed that Bokuto was back to normal, laughing easily and demanding rematches when he lost.

That didn’t last.

When it was time to sleep, Akaashi found himself alone in Bokuto’s bed, wondering why his boyfriend was taking so long in the bathroom. Curious, he went over to the door and found it unlocked, the inside empty and dark. “Bokuto-san?”

“In here.”

He followed the voice to the living room, where Bokuto was laying on the couch. “Did you want to watch something else?”

“No! I’m sleeping here tonight.”

Akaashi narrowed his eyes. “No, you’re not.”

“You’ll be more comfortable if I don’t take up space on the bed—”

He sighed. “Bokuto-san, we talked about this. I prefer that you sleep beside me.”

Bokuto shook his head. “That’s okay. I’m sure you’ll like it better if I’m here.”

It was like talking to a big, muscly, childish wall. He was puzzled more than anything. “As I said, that is not what I’d like better.” Annoyance bubbled inside of him until he saw Bokuto’s trapped expression. “...Would you be more comfortable to sleep away from me tonight?”

He jumped, sitting upright. “That’s not it! Of course I want to sleep next to you, ‘Kaashi.”

“Then what’s the matter?”

Bokuto looked to the ground, hands fiddling with the blanket. “...We’ve been together for about six months, haven’t we?”

Not at all following, he nodded.

“And...in that movie…”

Akaashi opened his mouth to ask what Bokuto was talking about when it clicked. Main Character and Love Interest were together for six months, and Best Friend said they needed to have sex. “Bokuto-san…”

“A-and Kuroo!” Bokuto said, holding up his phone. “I told him we were watching Netflix, and he said ‘Netflix and chill, winky face.’ And I said yeah until he told me what it means! We were not doing that.” He made an ‘X’ with his arms. “And I just…”

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said gently, sitting beside him, “I’m not expecting you to have sex with me tonight.”

His cheeks burned at the ‘s’ word. “You’re not?”

“No.” He shook his head. “It hadn’t occurred to me until you mentioned it just now.” Well—that wasn’t entirely true. It was hard to be around a guy as handsome as Bokuto all the time and not want to jump his bones, not imagine jumping his bones at least some of the time. But that didn’t mean that he was actually expecting them to be intimate just because he was staying over.

“Oh...really?” Bokuto rubbed his neck. “Gosh, I feel stupid now.”

“Don’t say that.” He took Bokuto’s other hand into his own. “Being with you is enough. We don’t need to do anything else.”

Big bronze eyes poured into him. “You mean it?”

Akaashi nodded. “I do.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Bokuto spluttered, blushing all over again, “It’s just that I want everything to be perfect and all romantic and I want to do more reading first—”

Akaashi burst into laughter. He couldn’t help himself: Bokuto was just too cute. 

“Akaashi!” Bokuto exclaimed, though he was smiling, too. “Are you laughing at me?”

“A little.” A few stray giggles bubble from his mouth. “You can do all the reading you like, but can we go to bed now?”

“Yes!” He jumped from the couch, leading Akaashi back to the bedroom. “I’m gonna cuddle you so hard, you won’t know what hit you.”

 

 

“What do you think it could be?” Akaashi asked Kenma the next day, when he was on break from work and Kenma had just finished a stream. He still hadn’t figured out a solution to his Bokuto problem, or why his boyfriend refused to strip in front of him in the first place. “He’s being normal about everything else.”

“I’m surprised you’re asking me about this.”

He knew that Kenma had a point; he tended to not speak openly about his...desires, or his relationship in general. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was doing something wrong. “I don’t know who else to talk to about it.”

“How touching,” Kenma replied sarcastically, adjusting his ponytail. “If he was a normal guy, I’d say maybe he’s insecure. But he has the body of a pro athlete and also, you’re the only person he’s ever slept with, so.”

He nodded in understanding. That was a good point—if Akaashi was bad at sex, then logically, Bokuto would have to be equally as bad since their only experience was with each other.

“I take it you haven’t talked to him yet?”

“Would you look at the time. I have to go.”

Kenma squinted in annoyance. “I know your break isn’t over for another fifteen minutes.”

“Goodbye.” And he hung up, ignoring Kenma’s utterances of irritation. 

He did have to go. To think up a way to unravel this mystery. He needed to treat this matter like he was assembling a ship within a glass bottle. It required subtlety, a delicate hand. 

“Bokuto-san,” He said that night when they were both curled up on the couch, “Why won’t you get naked in front of me?”

“I, uh,” Bokuto immediately spluttered, face turning red. “Th-that’s—” He laughed nervously. “What are you talking about, Akaashi?”

If that reaction didn’t give him away, then Akaashi didn’t know what would. “I’m talking about the fact that you haven’t so much as taken off your shirt in front of me for two weeks. And might I remind you, we live together.” He gestured to the whole of their apartment.

Bokuto looked to the ground, rubbing his neck. “Well, that’s, uhm. It’s nothing! Nothing at all.”

“Did you hurt yourself?” The possibility suddenly dawned on Akaashi, and he looked over Bokuto as though he’d be able to spot the injury through his clothes. “Were you playing recklessly?” 

Invisible strings pulled his heart in five different directions. How could he ever come to the conclusion that Bokuto had been cheating on him when this other possibility had been sitting under his nose the entire time? How could he have been thinking so selfishly?

“No, that’s not it!” Bokuto jumped up from the couch. “Really, Akaashi, it’s nothing! Don’t worry about it.”

“Bokuto-san.” He used That Tone. The one that immediately struck fear into his boyfriend’s eyes.

With a yelp, Bokuto took off. And Akaashi was hot on his tail, quickly catching up to him. And somehow—despite being far less muscled—Akaashi overpowered him, trapping him against the kitchen wall until he could yank Bokuto’s shirt right over his head.

He could never have expected what he saw.

On the left side of Bokuto’s chest, just over his heart, was a tattoo. Recently healed, dark black ink in looping cursive, forming a name: Keiji.

“What—” He gaped, “What is that?”

“Aw, Akaashi,” Bokuto whined, his cheeks stained red. “It was supposed to be a surprise!”

“A surprise?” He stared at it, as though expecting it to disappear when he looked away. “Why did you..? When did you?”

“About two weeks ago.” He grinned proudly. “I wanted it to heal before I showed you.”

Two weeks ago. A surprise. “...That’s why you haven’t been stripping in front of me?”

“Yeah, I didn’t want to spoil it!” He said, as though it were the obvious course of action. “If we...you know, corpulated—”

“Copulated,” Akaashi interrupted automatically.

“Right, copulated. Then you would have seen it.”

He blinked. “You could have turned off the lights.”

“But then I wouldn’t be able to see you! And I like all those faces you make.”

Akaashi ran a hand over his face, hoping to hide the blush that had spread there. Of course his beloved could still make him flustered even after all this time. “I...you made me so worried about…” He recalled all of his worries about cheating and his terrible in-bed performance. “A-anyway! What were you thinking, getting a tattoo?” He backed away now, crossing his arms. 

“Well, I was talking to Kuroo,” he said, eyeing Akaashi as though his boyfriend would leap at him and take a bite out of his jugular, “About how it sucks that you can’t be with me all the time! And he said you’re always in my heart. And I was like, I know, but what if Akaashi was on my heart,” He patted his hand over the tattoo. “Well, I guess it’s more like you are my heart. So I put your name right where it belongs.”

“Bokuto-san.” He tried to sound exasperated. “What if we break up? Then you’ll have this...reminder forever.”

“Why would we ever break up?” He asked with such an intense cluelessness that Akaashi decided it was a fair point.

“All right.” He looked down at the tattoo. He wasn’t an expert, but he was sure that getting one was painful. “Did it hurt?” His voice took on a gentler tone, and he traced the outline of his name with a finger.

“Of course not.” Bokuto puffed out his chest. “I only held Kuroo’s hand because he insisted.”

“Kuroo was there?” He knew that the scheming cat liked to get into trouble, but he was usually sensible. “Why didn’t he stop you?”

“He tried! But he couldn’t.” There was that proud grin again. “He did take a lot of pics, though. I should ask him to send them to you.”

Akaashi sighed, figuring there was no point in an interrogation. It was simple: Bokuto wanted the tattoo, and he got it. Not that it particularly bothered Akaashi. 

But there was one thing he wondered about. “Any reason for this name in particular?” He asked, fanning his fingers over the ink. “You always call me ‘Akaashi’.” Calling each other by their last names was a habit they’d never gotten out of.

“Oh, right,” he said as though it were the simplest thing in the world, “I didn’t know whose last name we’re gonna use when we get married. If I put ‘Akaashi’ and you changed it to ‘Bokuto,’ that wouldn’t make sense, would it? And I couldn’t get ‘Bokuto’ tattooed on myself! So it had to be ‘Keiji’.”

Akaashi’s face resembled the inside of a boiling teapot. He could feel the steam coming from his ears, and he could only imagine how red his face was. “Koutarou.”

“You’re not mad, are you?” Those big bronze eyes reached straight for his heart and melted it even more, which he didn’t think was possible.

This man was going to be the death of him.

Something inside of Akaashi burst; he leaned up and crashed his lips against Bokuto’s, and his boyfriend greedily returned the affection, gasping into the kiss. Before Akaashi could take advantage of the opening by slipping his tongue into Bokuto’s mouth, his legs were stolen from him and wrapped around the other’s waist. It was rare for Akaashi to be so rough, but he’d never been struck by such a need to consume and be consumed. Heat built inside of him, and with no way to extinguish it, he ran a hand over his lover’s chest, over the ink stain that forever marked Bokuto as his.

He was definitely going to make sure that he got every ounce of attention that he’d been missing for the past two weeks.

 




4:17 am. Akaashi would have been mad at his body for randomly waking him up at such a time, but it was a rare opportunity to admire Bokuto’s sleeping form in the early hours of the morning, before he had to get up and go to practice.

Bokuto’s hair spilled onto the pillow, black and silver strands still tousled from how many times Akaashi had run his fingers through them last night. His face was slack, his chest rising and falling with slow, even breaths. In the darkness of their bedroom, he could still make out the inked stamp of his name against Bokuto’s pale skin. 

In the back of his mind, he was glad that Bokuto only got the one tattoo, and in a place where it wouldn’t be immediately visible. He could imagine his beloved entertaining the idea of getting ‘Keiji’ on his forehead. Which had sort of happened once, when they were in high school, and Bokuto had scribbled ‘Akaashi’ on his cheek in marker until a flustered Akaashi forced him to wash it off. 

“‘Kaashi?” Bokuto said, his voice rough with sleep.

“It’s still early,” he murmured. “Go back to sleep.”

His head fell back, immediately unconscious again. Even with his drooling and snoring, Bokuto was still the sexiest man in the world. Which was why Akaashi had such a hard time keeping his hands off of his boyfriend. Oddly enough, he’d had the opposite problem at the beginning of their relationship.

 

 

They had their first time months after their first kiss, when they were both more than ready for it. The sexual tension between them was so palpable that it made Kenma slightly uncomfortable and Kuroo extremely entertained.

“This is amazing,” Kuroo gasped after Bokuto had embarrassedly left their restaurant table to use the restroom. “I’ve only seen this in nature documentaries...two animals in heat.”

“Shut up, Kuroo.”

They were both surprised when it was Akaashi who said this instead of Kenma. Akaashi who, despite his biting voice, was fighting an embarrassed blush. 

Kenma gave Kuroo a hard nudge until the latter apologized.

Akaashi couldn’t help that he wanted to jump his boyfriend. One look at Bokuto and any reasonable person would understand how he was feeling. The arms were obvious—Akaashi was practically obsessed with how muscled they were, yet gentle, like one could strangle a mugger while the other cradled a puppy—but everything about Bokuto made Akaashi wild. The blaze in his eyes when he spoke about spikes or turtle eggs, his thighs, the embarrassment in his face when Akaashi plopped himself down on those very thighs. And he knew that Bokuto felt similarly—every brush of their fingers led to one of them turning red or jumping back like he’d been electrocuted. No wonder it was so hard for Kuroo and Kenma to watch. 

But if it’s so bad for them, Akaashi thought to himself, then imagine how bad it is for us. We’re all pent up because we either don’t have the opportunity to release our frustrations, or because we’re both too shy to do anything about them.

That night, after returning to Bokuto’s apartment, Akaashi decided he’d had enough. 

Bokuto had been talking about something but Akaashi had stopped listening long ago, fixated on Bokuto’s lips, the shapes they made when he spoke. He didn’t even hear himself say, “Bokuto-san, be quiet.”

Bokuto barely had time to blink owlishly before Akaashi climbed into his lap and planted a kiss on those lips, which had parted in shock. They didn’t stay that way, though. Bokuto reacted intuitively, kissing Akaashi and placing possessive hands on his lower back.

Akaashi was shameless. Normally, his mind was a calculator, figuring out the best angle to keep their noses from bumping, the right amount of pressure in a kiss, how to keep Bokuto from getting too worked up (or how to work him up even more). But now, he threw all of that away with the single goal of I want his face on my face. The more wanting his kisses became, the more Bokuto melted beneath him.

It wasn’t enough for Akaashi. “Bokuto-san.” He did his best to project all of his feelings into the name, his tone saying I want to have sex with you right now.

“Akaashi?” Bokuto returned, meaning, Right now? Like right now right now?

He nodded, wondering how he was the one pursuing Bokuto when it was so often the other way around.

“I-I gotta—” Bokuto stammered, flustered from what they’d just been doing and from what they were about to do. “I gotta set up!”

The urgency in his voice made Akaashi slide off his lap.

“I told you I’d make it special, Akaashi! Hold on, don’t move.” And he left Akaashi on the couch, wide-eyed with bruised lips, so that he could prepare his bedroom.

Akaashi was somewhere between charmed and impatient, leaning a little more towards impatient. He checked his phone constantly: two minutes passed. Two and a half minutes. Achingly, five. Six minutes…

At eight minutes, he jumped up to knock on Bokuto’s door. “Bokuto-san—”

The door swung open. “All done.”

Akaashi all but barged in. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but it wasn’t quite...this. 

The room was dark, except for several spots emitting faint glows. On every flat surface was some kind of candle—scented eucalyptus in a jar, or a thin stick of colorless wax. Closest to the bed was a flashlight pointed upwards. And on the blanket itself was…

“Are those newspaper clippings?” Arranged in the shape of a heart.

Bokuto let out a hearty laugh. “No! I cut little circles from a magazine. I wanted to do rose petals, but I don’t have any roses on me, and I don’t think any places are open now...But you like reading, right?”

It was rushed, thoughtful, stupid, and brilliant at the same time. He pulled Bokuto against him, devouring him in a kiss.

Their hands started rough and fast. Impatient. Until layers were peeled back, awkward and imperfect. And they found their pace again, touches slow and tender, searching curiously along bare skin. 

It was a magical night, ending with ruffled hair, tangled legs, and magazine-rose-petals decorating the floor.

 

 

Presently, Akaashi was in his cubicle, waiting on a manuscript. And receiving texts from a certain cat.

[Text from: Kuroo] i heard bo broke the news
[Text - 10:03 am] did you like his little gift?  ಠ  ‿  ↼

Akaashi wondered how he managed to look creepy in emoji form.

[Text - delivered] I heard you have pictures.

[Text - 10:04 am] oya oya?
[Text] what’s in it for me?

[Text - delivered] I’ll entertain the idea of not murdering you for allowing him to get a tattoo.

[Text - 10:04 am] ...Fair enough
[Text] [2 images attached]

Akaashi opened the images. The first was of Bokuto at the counter of a tattoo parlor, winking at the camera. The next was of Kuroo grinning devilishly at the front of the screen, while Bokuto talked animatedly to a muscled tattoo artist, pointing to his chest. 

Before Akaashi could reply, he received a video. It was taken on Kuroo’s phone, beginning with Bokuto in the tattoo customer’s chair.

“Ready, Bo?”

“You betcha!”

“Would you explain why you’re getting this tattoo again?”

Bokuto scoffed. “Because I love Akaashi!”

Kuroo snickered. “Right, right. And you don’t think it’s going to hurt at all?”

“Not one bit.” He flexed his biceps. “I’m a tough guy!”

“Oh, you definitely are.”

The video cut to Bokuto groaning in pain, teary-eyed and giving the camera a feeble thumbs up.

Kuroo’s face wasn’t visible, but Akaashi could tell he was holding back a laugh. “You doing all right, buddy?”

“This—” he gasped as the needle poked his skin. “This is nothing.”

The camera flipped over to Kuroo’s face, where he wore his trickster grin. “There you have it, folks. The mighty Koutarou Bokuto.”

The video ended.

He felt bad that he wasn’t the one holding Bokuto’s hand during such a painful ordeal. But if he’d been there, there was no way that he would have allowed his boyfriend to go through with it. Which was probably why he’d gone with Kuroo in the first place.

Not bothering to reply to Kuroo, he saved the video and pictures.

[Text to: Kenma] [2 images, 1 video attached] Did you know about this?

[Text - 10:07 am] oh my god
[Text] is that why ?

[Text - delivered] Yep. That was why.

[Text - 10:08 am] well...at least he wasn’t cheating, right? ( - ‸ ლ)

[Text - delivered] I’ll call you later



 

It was the morning after Akaashi received photographic evidence of Bokuto getting his tattoo: a somewhat rare occasion when he and Bokuto were both free and conscious. He’d made himself a mug of tea, but it sat in his hands, steamless and forgotten, as he stared at his boyfriend who was washing the dishes. 

“Bokuto-san.”

“Hmm?”

He tapped the rim of the ceramic with his fingers. “If you had told me that you wanted a tattoo, then we could have gotten matching ones.”

“Akaashi, you’re not the tattoo-getting type,” he said, scrubbing a spot of grease stuck in a pan. “You told me one time that you would never be able to pick something to permanently go on your body because of ‘the ever-changing nature of the self.’”

He bit back a smile. Something about Bokuto’s tone was soft and philosophical, probably an imitation of Akaashi’s voice. “That sounds like something I’d say.”

“I didn’t wanna ask you ‘cause I knew it’d be something you wouldn’t be into.” He shrugged. “Besides, this was something I wanted to do just ‘cause I love you. You don’t need to reciprocate.”

‘Reciprocate’ was becoming Bokuto’s favorite word, but Akaashi pushed aside the thought, nodding in understanding. This was one of the times when Bokuto was simply too smart for him. 

“You’re right.” He abandoned his mug to instead go to the sink and give Bokuto a kiss.

“Of course I am!” He said, before squinting at the last bit of dish soap in the bottle. “Babe, can you pick up some soap later?”

Hours later, Akaashi found himself in the grocery store. His cart was full of fresh vegetables, protein bars, and a family-sized bag of pretzels (which he planned to eat all by himself). He stopped in the soap aisle, instinctively reaching for a tall bottle of lavender-scented dish soap.

Bokuto had been right—he really wasn’t the type to get a tattoo. So many things in his life had changed; his fears of opening up to people, his work, where he spent his time. The only thing that remained the same since high school was Bokuto’s presence in his life. On the volleyball court, in the library, at Bokuto’s apartment. When they were apart, Bokuto still maintained a lasting residence in Akaashi’s head. His head and...his heart. 

Bokuto had stained his heart in permanent ink. It was a stain that Akaashi never wanted to scrub off, one he knew he would want to keep forever despite the ever-changing nature of the self.

He left the grocery store with the lavender soap tucked safely into his bag, walking among the crowds. Akaashi couldn’t ignore the feeling that something was missing. Had he forgotten to buy something? But he’d checked everything on the grocery list…

His feet stopped in front of a jewelry store. Before he could fathom why, he found himself walking in. Then, all at once, he knew what he was looking for.

The employee smiled brightly. “That’s an excellent choice, sir. A sterling silver pendant. Is it a gift for someone?”

“It’s for me.”

“Lovely! I’ll put it in a box for you.”

“That’s all right, thank you. I’ll wear it out.”

Moments later, he came out with a silver necklace settled over his collar. A ‘K’ for Koutarou dangled at the end, resting just beside his heart. It would do, he figured, until the day came when he could buy a pair of wedding rings.