“I just want to be with you.”
Keiji’s heart stopped.
Doves were released. Keiji was in a white suit, teeming with emotion as he vowed, “I do,” at the altar with such conviction that his blue eyes began blinking with passionate tears that were welling up fast enough with such emotional turbulence that surely a tsunami would—
“Keiji, are you crying?” The voice of his passing by father pulled Keiji out of his daydream.
Keiji stiffened. “No! I’m just… I… My eyes are sweating!”
His father raised an eyebrow at him with a, “Whatever you say, kid,” before leaving the living room, and boisterous cackling coming from Keiji's cellphone reminded him that he was on speakerphone with (subjectively) the most beautiful boy in the world, Miya freaking Atsumu.
“You okay over there, Akaashi?”
“Of course, I’m just jolly, totally not on the verge mental breakdown caused by vehement embarrassment or anything like that.”
“Akaashi, are you actually okay?”
“Oh, did I say that out loud?” Keiji pressed a frustrated and thoroughly abashed palm on his forehead, then moved it to press against his flighty heart. I think I'm going to have an aneurysm.
“Yeah, you kind of did...” Atsumu drifted off.
“My apologies, Miya-kun, I hope I didn't worry you.”
“You can call me Atsumu, you know.”
And let the aneurysm commence. Keiji could swear he felt the dilating of his heart at that very moment. “Wow, I actually love you,” he refrained from saying out loud this time. Instead, Keiji said, “Yeah. You can call me Keiji, if you'd like.”
“Alright, cool, Keiji.” And wow, just like that, in a matter of two milliseconds, Keiji’s heart nearly combusted, and he couldn't think over the obnoxiously loud beat of it, and he was just so done for.
“Yeah,” Keiji said because his brain really truly wouldn't permit him to say much else.
“Hey, did that envelope that I sent you ever come in?”
“You sent me an envelope?” Keiji asked point five seconds before his memory was put back into order, “Oh, yes, that envelope. I received it, yes. I liked them, the contents, I mean.”
“Keiji, I know I already asked, but are you alright?”
“Yes! I’m great!”
“You're acting kinda strange.”
“I assure you that I’m fine,” Keiji said with as much sincerity that an insincere sentence would allow itself to sound.
“Alright, if you say so. Which picture was your favorite?” Atsumu’s enthused voice was enough for Keiji to be able to visualize his beaming eyes and glaring smile and his overall absolute exquisiteness.
“I couldn’t pick just one.” Keiji had already picked. It was the one, well the series, actually, of photos taken in that little photo booth at the carnival where Keiji had willed himself with everything he had to smile like a normal person, like with teeth and stuff.
“Come on, Keiji, you have to have a favorite!” The way Keiji’s name had so naturally rolled off of Atsumu’s tongue brought him back to the photo booth, where Atsumu had accidentally used it, Keiji’s given name, as he wrapped a muscled arm around Keiji’s shoulder and told him that he really wished they could do this more often.
“The one where we both look happy, from the photo booth, with your hair all wet because of the spray from that wave, and your hand resting on my shoulder, and your grin literally blinding the camera, and we were turned to look at each other, and,” Keiji stopped himself, “that one.”
“Yeah,” Keiji refused to let himself continue with, ‘and it's all your fault, Atsumu,’ so he said, “whatever.” That was the best that all of his wit would think of, trying its mightiest.
A lighthearted laugh escaped Atsumu’s lips, and Keiji could have sworn Atsumu was right there with him, the sound was so close.
“Atsumu, which photo was your favorite?”
“The one I took of you at the end of the pier. It was so rare to get a candid of you smiling,” Atsumu laughed again, and Keiji was sure he had been absolutely deceased for a moment.
“‘A candid’? Are you a photographer now?”
“I am, Keiji,” Atsumu affirmed Keiji’s sarcasm without having to think. Talking to Keiji was always so easy; he really loved how he almost never had to filter himself.
Keiji, on the other hand, being the pining mess stuffed into the body of a seventeen-year-old boy that he was, had to think quite a bit when talking to Atsumu. Or else he'd say things that he meant, just a little too much — things that he'd have to play off as sarcasm because he didn't want Atsumu to know he meant them.
“I wish you luck in your endeavor and hope you make it big, photographing for Gucci and Fendi, then,” Keiji said because he really couldn't think of anything else to say. His brain always seemed to short-circuit when Atsumu was around, even over the phone.
“As long as I have your hope, I’m sure I'll be able to pull it off, Keiji.”
Keiji was ready to ask Atsumu to never speak his name again when his heart started beating dangerously, disturbingly, and distressingly fast. At this rate, Atsumu wouldn't have his hope much longer because Keiji was going to go into cardiac arrest if Atsumu had said his name just onemore damned time.
“Anyway,” Keiji racked through the files in his brain for a subject that wouldn't allow any flirting that would take his life yet was still interesting enough to hold a conversation about, “how’s your, um,” Keiji tried to buy time to think although dumbly, “volleyball career going?”
“Keiji, the season hasn't started yet.”
Save it, Keiji, you can do it.
“Yeah, but, like, any practice matches? Has your wrist healed well? Have you been called in for any interviews or anything of that sort?”
“Yeah, my wrist healed a couple of days after I did that stupid cartwheel, thanks for asking, by the way,” Atsumu spoke fondly, like it meant something to him that Keiji asked.
“Of course,” Keiji tried to be nice — well, he was hoping he was being nice.
“No interviews, and we've just been practicing with intra-team matches, if that makes sense. How ‘bout you? How's it without your ace?”
“It fucking sucks, but talking to you makes everything seem fine, so it’s great,” Keiji accidentally says aloud because he wasn't actively thinking for just two seconds, and he commenced self-loathing, wondering if it'd be alright to crawl up into a ball and roll into a ditch and just stay there forever.
“Keiji, I can't tell if that was sarcasm or not, and I feel confused.”
And now it was time for Keiji to pretend like that was unnecessary complete sass and sarcasm. “Sorry! I’m just, it’s been a rough couple of months, okay?”
“Yeah, man, you've gotta work on your delivery; it sounded way too genuine,” Atsumu chuckled.
“Sorry to confuse you! I'm just, a bit stupid. I'm stupid is all.” So utterly stupid that he can't build the confidence to confess to someone he's been friends with for nearly two years now, who he really thinks might actually return his feelings, but he just can't do it.
He can't because there's that little voice in his head — the tidal wave of self-doubt, he's dubbed it — that washes over him whenever he wants to do something that requires having faith in oneself (e.g. telling Miya Atsumu that he’s hopelessly and desperately in love with him).
“You're really smart, Keiji. I can't imagine why you'd think that.”
“If only you knew,” Keiji said aloud, again. “Fuck me,” he muttered quietly enough that he didn't think Atsumu had heard.
“Keiji, don't you think that'd be going a little too far before we've had a first kiss yet?”
“Oh my god, you weren't supposed to hear that.” Amazing it was that any semblance of a filter had seemed to evade Keiji at such a time, or really any time he was having an intimate conversation with Miya Atsumu.
“To be honest, I’m glad I did.”
“You’ve seemed really frustrated lately, and I thought you were getting annoyed with me or something, but now I can assume otherwise.”
“Assuming is unwise.”
“Sometimes you have to. Anyways, wanna tell me what's on your mind?”
“It’s ‘anyway,’ but — well, I’d prefer not to share.”
“I said it with the s just to see if you'd correct me. Since you’re unrestrained enough to do that, time for honesty hour!” Atsumu was uncannily excited for this so called “honesty hour.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Talk to me, Keiji.”
“I think now is a good time to hang up.”
“Keiji, I’m going to spam you if you press end call.”
Keiji growled even though the thought of getting messages, a mass of messages, from Atsumu excited him and made his heart flutter, sending out zealous screams in the form of vociferous beats, just a little bit.
“I won't end the call.”
“So?” Atsumu asked expectantly, but Keiji didn't follow up. “What’s bugging you, Keiji?”
“I hate my life is all.”
“But why?” Atsumu persistently searched for reason that Keiji was unwilling to provide without the help of his good friends, boldness and self-confidence.
“Are you gay?”
“Are you gay?” Keiji repeated, with the help of his wonderful friends that were surely getting him into one hell of a storm that was going to rain tribulation until it drowned him, and he was no longer able to even think about Atsumu.
“I never really considered it.”
Keiji’s heart beat slowed but steadily increased in volume as the organ sank, and he could feel the sorrow pouring down on him.
“I was just curious.”
“Were you worried that I liked you?”
“Quite the opposite, actually. I really, really fucking like you, love you, even, and I was kind of hoping you'd say yes because I was sure that my gay little heart wouldn't be able to take it if you said no, but I guess it’s already taken the hit, and I’m still breathing, so it’s fine, yeah?” Keiji didn't say that because he couldn’t seem to get one word out of his mouth, much less fiftyseven.
“No,” Keiji managed.
“I kind of thought about it before, being gay, but I got bored and fell asleep and kind of forgot about it.”
“Impressive,” actual sarcasm had escaped Keiji’s lips.
Keiji exhaled deeply as the conversation faded.
“Is that why you asked?” Atsumu inquired.
“I told you that I was just curious.”
“Yeah, but what made you curious?”
Keiji wasn't ready for such an interrogation yet; he at least needed to be read his rights first.
“Do you like anyone?”
“I don't know.”
Keiji glared at his phone. “You would know if you liked someone.” It was so, painfully obvious to Keiji that he liked Atsumu. His knees felt weak; he fell short of breath; his heart beat at irregular patterns; his mind covered itself with a thick blanket. In other words, Keiji became a complete useless idiot in the overwhelming presence of his seemingly oblivious crush, Miya Atsumu.
“What d’you mean?”
“It’s harder to not know when you like someone than it is to know.”
“Maybe your feelings are stronger than like?”
“I refuse to accept that.”
Atsumu chuckled. “That’s silly.”
“I don't want to be in love with someone who doesn't at the very least like me in return. That wouldn't be any fun,” Keiji pouted, imagining it.
“Wanna tell me who this mystery man is?”
“You, idiot,” the words came out faster than Keiji could stop them.
And so, simultaneously, they both uttered a “fuck,” followed by a “dear lord,” and a “god almighty, please help me.”
“So, before we talk about that,” Atsumu began, and Keiji let out such a violent groan that Atsumu was kind of scared, but he continued nonetheless, “can we just have a moment of silence for each girl that's fallen for you?”
“Atsumu, the list is extensive, and if we had a moment for each one, we’d be here for—”
“Shh, I meant one moment for all of them, collectively.”
Although not appreciating this tidbit in the slightest, Keiji silenced himself until Atsumu was ready to speak once again.
During this moment, Keiji was in such a state of stress that he was completely calm, or maybe he just felt like he had lost all he had to worry about because the grand reveal was anticlimactic and over with as their friendship practically already was.
“Thank you, Keiji, for the much-needed silence.”
God, Keiji was going to miss the sound of that voice when Atsumu decided that he would never speak to him again. “You're welcome.”
“You love me?”
“I'll do it.”
“Date you,” Atsumu clarified, “I’ll date you.”
“You don't hate me and never want to see my face again?”
“No, I kind of like seeing your face, almost as much as I like talking with you, even.”
“Are you sure?” Keiji just absolutely had to make sure this was real.
“Yes, now take it or leave it, loverboy.”
Obviously Keiji chose to take it; that goes without saying. “Atsumu?”
“If you haven't given thought to being gay, what about being bi?”
“Oh, I definitely knew I was at least bi. I had a small crush on you.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Atsumu was so lucky that Keiji really did like, or maybe love, him enough to put this aside and instead focus on the fire that returned to his heart now that he’d realized Atsumu felt the same way, kind of.
“You lied to me?” Okay, maybe Keiji couldn’t let it go just yet.
“I just didn't give you the whole truth.”
Keiji wanted to scream about how unsatisfying this entire call with Atsumu was, but he restricted himself in favor of saying, “Fine, let’s go on a date. Our relationship is exclusive, meaning we are not only dating but also boyfriends. I’ll come to Osaka on a weekend, and we can have our first date. Good?”
“Good.” Keiji could hear the smug smirk.
“Yet, you're in love with me!” Atsumu laughed triumphantly, and oh, how clear it was to Keiji that he was in love because he was practically melting like a bar of chocolate on a midsummer’s day.