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a flower that grows within

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Oikawa Tooru knew that this was going to happen, but it comes so soon he barely has time to prepare for it.

Iwaizumi stares at him with a strange expression as Tooru takes his teal hoodie off for the umpteenth time, wondering if he would look better with or without it. He’s decided to wear his glasses, at least, because Hanamaki once mentioned it made him look ‘sophisticated’ and Akaashi seems to be the kind of person who would appreciate it. Or at least, he hopes so.

“You’re overthinking this,” Iwaizumi mutters, shaking his head in silent judgement. Tooru just sighs, turning around in front of his mirror.

“I am not,” Tooru insists, even if Iwaizumi may be a little bit right — but he can’t help panicking. His original plan had been to spend the day with Iwa-chan. Around noon, though, he had gotten a text from Akaashi asking if he wanted to come by and complete another task for his ‘training regime.” It had been a month since he went out with Bokuto to deal with the fairies, and Tooru had taken his advice to heart. He couldn’t visit often due to the increasing suspicion of his friends (read: Iwa-chan), but he still made sure to be more active about texting the other four, especially Akaashi. At this point, they were friends. Hopefully.

“I can’t believe it was a boyfriend all this time,” Iwaizumi continues, incredulous. His face seems to be struggling to decide between amused and annoyed, making him look constipated. Normally, Tooru would laugh, but the butterflies in his stomach prevent him from doing anything but lightly scoff.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Tooru pouts, deciding to go without the sweater after a final look through. His simple button down and jeans will have to do. “He’s just… interesting to me, that’s all.”

Iwaizumi snorts. “Okay, so he’s not your boyfriend yet. My bad.”

Tooru crosses his arms. “If you’re going to keep making fun of me, I won’t tell you anything about him.”

“As if you tell me anything, these days,” Iwaizumi mutters, rolling his eyes.

The jab hurts more than he wants to admit, and judging from Iwaizumi’s gaze he knows it. He loves Iwaizumi as a friend, really, but recently his incessant pushing has just been exhausting. Living a double life for so long, and dealing with both his parents and friends trying to talk to him about a future he’s not sure can exist, along with this thing he has with Akaashi, and what’s going to happen after it all, is just — exhausting. He feels as if he’s on a bike steadily increasing in speed, but with no breaks, and a wall looming ahead that seems both out of reach and impossibly close.

“I’m going to ignore that,” Tooru manages to say, shaking away his thoughts with a pinch to his arm. As daunting as the future seems, right now, Tooru just wants to — pretend that everything is still normal, that this is just a normal crush on a normal guy. Who just so happens to have a magical voice and live in a completely different reality.

Honestly, Iwaizumi is lucky Tooru isn’t telling him anything.

Iwaizumi purses his lips, but doesn’t comment further. “Anyways, I’ve actually never seen you so smitten for someone. Who’s the lucky guy?”

“I am not smitten.” Tooru says, aghast. He’s grateful for the change of topic, falling into their familiar rhythm of fake-arguing. “Anyways, I haven’t even done anything except… talk to him! Like a normal person!”

“Exactly. You flirt around and act coy around the people you aren’t really invested in. But if you seriously like them, you become a stupid, romantic, sappy mess. And you won’t make a move until you know for sure that they reciprocate.”

“Jeez, when did you become my therapist?”

“It’s an unfortunate side effect of having known you for so long. Now, are you going to go, or leave your stupid crush waiting?”

“It’s not stupid,” Tooru mutters under his breath before quickly grabbing his keys. “And I promise I’ll make it up to you, Iwa-chan. Next weekend, lets hang out for sure.”

A pause. “I’ll hold you to that,” Iwaizumi says, surprisingly soft.

I’m sorry, he wants to say, I’m sorry but If you knew the truth you’d hate me. I don’t want to lose you. Not like this.

Instead, Tooru holds out a peace sign. “See you later?” He manages to say. 

Iwaizumi rolls his eyes. “See you. Have fun, idiot. And don’t think you’re getting out of telling me how the date goes.”

“Not a date, but okay,” Tooru sighs. “Now, get out of my house.”

“Nah, I’ll stay until I feel like it. You go on ahead. 


On his way to the forest, Tooru tries not to think about what he’s actually doing.

Yes, he’s on his way to have some time with Akaashi — which he’s been secretly looking forward to — but it isn’t like they’re meeting for coffee or a movie. This trip is supposed to teach Tooru something about his magic, and help him get closer to — well, he’s not sure if he’s ready to think about it yet. 

Kuroo’s expression is apologetic, but cold. “I’m just saying — I know it’s hard to accept, but it’s the best we can do for you.”

“Isn’t there — anything else? Another solution? There has to be.” Tooru’s voice sounds as distant as he feels.

“I’m sorry. I tried looking more into it, but… yeah, nothing.”  

“I’m not going to leave behind my family and friends for this.”

“Look, just… keep it in mind. And please try to understand it really is the best option. The alternatives are much worse.”

(He’s not sure how to feel about it, how to decide on something so decisive, when his future is so unclear. It’s been weeks since that conversation and he’s been ignoring it, but there are reminders everywhere and it’s like he’s being choked by time, slowly but surely—)  

“Oikawa! Over here!”  

Tooru blinks back to reality at the familiar voice. Kuroo and Akaashi are already there, waiting for him. He tries not to blush as soon as he sees the latter because holy shit does he look nice today, but judging from Kuroo’s snicker he doesn’t think he’s doing a very good job.

“I didn’t know you wore glasses,” Kuroo comments, raising an eyebrow as Tooru approaches.

“I usually wear contacts,” he admits, nervously scratching his hair. Oh god, was it a mistake wearing these today? I should’ve just — been normal, fuck, who am I kidding?

A breath. Then, “It looks good,” Akaashi murmurs, so quiet he can barely hear him. 

Tooru chokes on his next inhale. 

It was barely a whisper, but even so Tooru thinks no amount of warning could have prepared him for Akaashi’s voice. Akaashi, he knows, only talks to the people he’s comfortable with, but — Tooru has never even considered himself as someone who fit in that category. He’s simultaneously honored and intimidated.

(It looks good. Those three, simple words are still echoing in his mind).

“T-thanks,” Tooru wheezes, already feeling unbalanced. He hates how much power Akaashi seems to have over him. It makes him feel… clumsy.  “Let’s — let’s just get on with it. Somebody wouldn’t tell me what was happening today, so I didn’t pack anything.” He glares at Akaashi without actually meeting his eyes.

“That’s fine,” Kuroo says easily. “Akaashi will help you with everything you need. Isn’t that right, Akaashi?”

Akaashi gives Kuroo a deadpan stare.

“Okay, jeez. Sorry, you two are too easy,” Kuroo chuckles, before taking both their hands and jumping through the portal. 

And if Tooru secretly wishes it was Akaashi’s hand he was holding, then it’s nobody’s business.

Akaashi quickly stops by the apothecary to pick up a mysterious bag. He won’t share what’s inside, only giving him a sly shrug of the shoulders when Tooru asks about it.

Honestly, a part of him feels vaguely threatened.

“You two have a good time, okay?” Kuroo says, reclining on the couch inside the shop. Kenma and Bokuto are both working on charms somewhere in the back, so Tooru is told not to disturb them. 

Tooru just nods, too wired to come up with a witty comeback. He can’t function, not when Akaashi is so close to him. He had talked to him fine over the phone but in person, Tooru can’t help but feel like he’s in over his head.

This is so stupid, he tells himself, trying to calm down the beating of his heart as Akaashi leads out to god knows where. You’re friends, you talk like normal all the time online. This is just like that. Nothing is different. Calm down.  

He makes the mistake of looking at Akaashi while walking, then. Under the clear sunlight, he can see the glittery scales that line his cheeks and neck. He’s wearing a grey sweater that matches with his eyes and dark skinny jeans. His hair, as always, looks way too soft.

Akaashi turns around, then, catching Tooru’s stare. He smiles, eyes crinkling, and Tooru has to suppress the sudden multitude of flowers under his skin, struggling to burst through in tandem with his heart.

“Is there something on my face?” Akaashi says, smile still on his face.

“I — no. It's just, I'm a little... confused? I thought... well, Kuroo said you don't like to talk and you usually don't but suddenly today you are and its — well. I don't know. Sorry, I'm making it weird," Tooru trails off, feeling like an idiot for rambling. His voice breaks on the last few words and he wishes the ground could swallow him up whole. 

To his delight, Akaashi laughs at that. He thinks it sounds a bit like wind chimes, small and subtle but still beautiful and just plain pretty. The wind runs by, rustling his hair, and it’s at this moment that Tooru comes to the alarming conclusion that he undeniably has a crush on Akaashi Keiji. 

“I can talk for today,” Akaashi answers, completely oblivious to Tooru’s overworked heart. “I just wanted to converse with you normally, at least once. It’s different in person.”

He isn’t really sure what that answer means, but he also doesn’t want to push too hard for information — he’s not sure where the boundaries are, and the fact that Akaashi is trusting him must already be a lot. So, he just shuts his mouth, tries to quiet his brain, and lets Akaashi lead him to wherever they’re going. After a few minutes of walking, he finds himself approaching a sign labeled Trinity Highwoods Park.

Akaashi tugs him along hurriedly, passing through hordes of children running around the playgrounds, their parents watching over from the sides.  The scene is eerily similar to the parks back at home, but before he can dwell too much on it Akaashi pulls him further into what appears to be a hiking path. He must come here often, because he doesn’t slow down once, taking confident steps towards their destination.

It doesn’t take long to reach the end of the path, which opens up into an open field with a few trees with silver leaves dotting the view. Wildflowers seem to be growing here and there in sparse patches, but most of the view is a great, grassy plain and the calm sky above them.

“We,” Akaashi finally says, speaking up, “are going to meditate.”

Oikawa hums, finally collecting himself. Enjoy this now, overthink everything later. “Meditate? You really couldn’t have told me that earlier?”

“It was fun watching you trying to guess ,” Akaashi says, completely deadpan. If it weren’t for the hint of a smile on his lips, or the friendly banter they always had over text, Tooru would have been offended. 

“So rude, Aka-chan.” Tooru pouts. “So, what’s in that mystery bag? Can I finally know, or are you still withholding information from me?” 

“It’s just a blanket to sit on.”

Tooru crosses his arms. “Really? A blanket? Is this your idea of a prank? Pretending all of this was some sort of top-secret spy mission only to reveal it was just… nothing special?”

Akaashi’s definitely smiling now. “You seem to have a certain image of our kind in mind. Not everything has to be magical, you know.”

Tooru instantly feels bad for his assumptions. “Ah, right. Sorry.”

“Don’t be, I understand. Now, can you help me lay this out…?" 

Tooru silently helps, trying not to stare at Akaashi. He feels as if he’s in the deep end, already sinking to the point of drowning, and he wonders how it took him so long to notice how far he’s gone. It might be his siren charm, it might not, but at this point he finds himself unable to care.  

(That’s what’s starting to scare him, how strongly he feels for the other only after a few months, how much he would give up for the other, how much happier he feels. There are still too many uncertainties for him to even go for anything concrete, in this world where he only half belongs, where he’s on the verge of leaving completely. And as much as he’s started to appreciate this place, it still is far from home, from his friends, and if he had to choose, he’s not sure if he’d be able to, and —)

 “Oikawa? Are you okay?” Akaashi’s voice calls out, breaking him from his thoughts. He’s smiling, but there’s a worried edge to it. “You spaced out for a brief moment.” 

Tooru lets out a strained laugh. “I’m just peachy. Sorry, uh — got distracted.”

Akaashi purses his lips but doesn’t push it, taking a seat on the blanket. Tooru quickly follows suit, staring at the sky above him. The summer is slowly coming to an end, and the sight of a few leaves fluttering through the air is a refreshing reminder. The clouds move slowly, spread thin like whisps rather than cotton. For a moment, he can pretend that he’s back home, and that everything is normal and he doesn’t need to worry about hiding anymore. 

Only for a moment, though. 

“So, why’d you bring me all the way here to meditate?” Tooru finally says.

A pause. “Well. It’s quiet, for one. Also, you have nature magic, so I thought the outdoors would be a good place to start. I hoped you would like it…” Akaashi’s voice wavers a bit at the end, as if he’s uncertain. Tooru immediately gets up.

“Of course I like it! I love it!” He says a little bit too loudly. He bites his cheek before he say something stupid, like I like you can you please go out with me. 

Looking bewildered, Akaashi just blinks. “Um… I’m glad. It’s important to mediate where you feel comfortable and safe.” A breath, and his expression settles back into its neutral position. “For us magic users who have our powers connected to our emotions, keeping calm enough to maintain control in stressful situations is important. Meditation helps us become more attuned to our emotional state, and our magic levels. I recommend meditating for at least ten minutes daily. Things like suppressing our magic and not telling anyone about it will only hinder your work. ”

Tooru wrinkles his nose. “I feel like you’re calling me out. ”

Akaashi raises an eyebrow. “That’s because I am.”

“Are you trying to offend me?” Tooru snorts, holding a hand to his chest in mock offense. 

Akaashi just shrugs, but there’s a hint of a smile on his face. “What can I say? You’re very easy to provoke.” 

“Mean. You sound just like Iwa-chan, but more polite.” 

“Whoever this ‘Iwa-chan’ is, I give them my respect.” 

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Tooru says hotly, “aren’t we supposed to be meditating?”

“Right,” Akaashi says calmly. “Meditating. Well, it’s just a matter of closing your eyes and trying to connect to your magic deep within...”

Akaashi’s voice washes over Tooru, leading him through the task. Soon, the gentle wind, the chirping birds, even his own breathing becomes like background noise as he falls into deep concentration. He’s not sure how long he sits there, but after a while he starts to feel a hint of — something. Something under his skin, pulsing and writhing and somehow his, locked under layers and layers, but if he could only reach it...

Tooru almost gasps out loud as he lets his magic flow through his body. He’s never felt it as strongly as he does now, even when he was fighting fairies with Bokuto or growing flowers with Kuroo. He feels erratic, full of energy and and enough power to grow entire forests if he wanted. 

But instead, he takes a deep breath, in and out… slowly, but surely, the unsettled feelings seem to subside. He doesn’t even realize his magic is leaking from him, until Akaashi urgently breaks him from his trance. 

“Oikawa,” Akaashi hisses, “control yourself.” 

Tooru blinks his eyes open, and this time does gasp out loud. All around them are flowers, growing through the grass fields and replacing green with white. He recognizes them after a moment, carefully examining the outstretched petals. He’s researched more about plants, at Kenma’s insistence, and if he’s recalling correctly they’re—

“—Gardenias,” Akaashi murmurs, gently plucking one from the ground. Tooru winces slightly, as if he were pricked lightly on the skin by the act.

“I — oh my god, I’m sorry,” Tooru squeaks. “I don’t know how to undo this stuff yet, I mean, I can try but…”

“It’s fine,” Akaashi interrupts again. “They’re just flowers. No need to worry so much about it.”

And then, well — Tooru isn’t sure how to explain what happens next. One moment, he’s sitting there wondering how the hell this happened, and next, Akaashi is leaning in close, hand with the flower outstretched, and his brain short circuits. For a brief moment, Tooru wonders if they’ll kiss.

What happens instead is that Akaashi tucks the flower against his ear, fingers unbearably soft against his skin. As if responding to his own magic, the flower stem grows a bit and attaches itself to his hair.

Their faces are so close to each other, but Tooru doesn’t want to look away. From here, he can see that Akaashi’s grey eyes are dotted with deep blues and greens, like traces of the sea. His heart is beating so wildly he’s sure the other can hear it, and to his horror Tooru feels more gardiena flowers bursting from his skin, wrapping themselves around his arms and chest.

“Beautiful,” Akaashi whispers, smiling.

Time seems to stand still. He can feel Akaashi’s hot breath and his lips are so close, it would only take a small tilt of his head…

Akaashi abruptly pulls back, breaking the moment. It couldn’t have been for longer than a few seconds, but Tooru feels as if eternities have passed. They’re both blushing like crazy, and normally Tooru would crack a joke about being irresistable, but for once he doesn’t have the strength to make a joke out of the situation. 

“I — sorry.” Akaashi suddenly splutters, as if coming back to reality. A pause, then he sighs. “… We should probably go. You did a great job meditating.”

The flowers on his skin slowly fade, but the one on his ear seems stuck. Tooru blinks rapidly, trying to process what the hell just happened. It’s a good thing that Akaashi pulled back, he thinks, because he’s not sure if he’s ready to take this further at the moment. But then why does he feel so disappointed?

Oikawa?” Akaashi reaches out his hand again, but hesitates. His expression is carefully guarded, hiding whatever he’s really feeling. “Again, I’m sorry. I, uh, wasn’t thinking.”

Tooru stiffly nods. “Me… me neither.” A sigh. “I’m sorry too.” 

“Should we go back?” Akaashi awkwardly offers. 

“Yeah…  that sounds like a good idea.” Before I try to do something even stupider. 

 Tooru is afraid that the rest of the trip will be awkward, but to his surprise Akaashi offers his hand out before they go back to the main playground area.

 “So that you don’t get lost,” he says, blushing again. “There’s a huge crowd around this time of day, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to find you if you wander off.”

Tooru scoffs, trying to hide his nervousness. “And why would I wander in the first place?”

Akaashi smiles thinly. “You strike me as somewhat of an airhead.” His hand still hangs, waiting. Looking at the other’s eyes, though, Tooru knows he can refuse if he wants. That he won’t be offended. And everything in him is screaming, yelling not to take the offer, to end this — whatever this is — before it can get out of hand... 

...but he can’t resist Akaashi’s kind smile. 

Akaashi, who was a mystery who Tooru couldn’t solve right away. Akaashi, who welcomed him into this new world and walked him through all the stupid questions he had. Akaashi, who despite refusing to speak, still made sure to spend time texting Tooru and interacting with him, and made him feel special. 

Akaashi, who Tooru has inexplicably fallen for. 

He takes the hand, and he feels shivers at how nicely their palms fit together. Let me have this, just for this moment, he tells himself again. It’s just for today. 

As they make their way out of the park, Tooru does his best to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach.

Bokuto and Kuroo will not stop laughing at the flower in Tooru’s hair, which has yet to go away by the time they walk back to the apothecary shop. Kenma only rolls his eyes from his corner of the room. They settle back in before Akaashi quietly excuses himself, having gone back to silence halfway through the trip. The other quickly squeezes Tooru’s hand before he goes, though, sending a soft smile before retreating to what Tooru assumes is his room. 

“Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Kuroo says, before Tooru can open his mouth. “He’s just tired. Judging by the way you were holding hands and smiling like love-stuck idiots, I would say the trip went well.” 

Tooru huffs. “We were only holding hands so I wouldn’t get lost. I wander very easily, you see.”

“Mhm,” Kenma interrupts, monotone. “Sure, sounds like a valid enough excuse.”

Bokuto giggles at that. All of you are traitors, he thinks sullenly. 

“I’m surprised Akaashi lasted that long,” Kenma mutters, finally looking up from his work. “When did he stop talking again?”

“Um, on our way back… like maybe ten minutes into it?”

Bokuto whistles at that. “Impressive!”

“I still don’t understand,” Tooru sighs, shaking his head. “He said he could only talk for today, which makes no sense… but you were right, Tetsu-chan. His voice is — it’s just amazing.” 

Kuroo looks over at Tooru, amused. “Akaashi took a suppressant potion from Kenma this morning, so he could talk to you normally. That’s how he would sound without the magic. He doesn’t take it often, though, cause it usually makes him very sick and only lasts for a short while.” 

Tooru blinks. “...Oh.”

Oh, indeed.” Kenma says dryly. 

As all three of them begin to laugh, Tooru realizes that maybe — just maybe — he’s gotten himself in over his head. 

Fuck, Tooru thinks, I’m just so fucked.

They’re something, after that, but Tooru still hesitates to call Akaashi his boyfriend.

They text. They send each other funny pictures. Tooru misses him terribly on the weekdays when he can’t visit, and has now complained about it to Iwaizumi in detail (without giving away the whole magical thing, of course). He can’t help but want to tell Akaashi about all the stupid and funny things that happen in his life, even if it’s an old story he’s told a hundred times. At this point, he’d be willing to share anything, as long as they’re talking.

But that’s the main issue — that Akaashi is far away, and he can’t even tell these kinds of stories without having to explain a few human customs. It’s not as if Akaashi is completely uneducated on this world, but as time progresses there are more and more signs that he’s simply not from the same background. And it would all be okay if Akaashi could somehow move here…

or if Tooru moved there.

Theoretically, someone needs to make the change. They can’t keep doing this through long distance, and he doesn’t want to bother Kuroo every time they meet up for something outside of the magic business.

He wishes he could tell Iwaizumi about this — about everything. Until now, he’s turned to his best friend for all sorts of support and advice, and he’s sure he would have said something deep and hit him in the head, or something, by now. He thinks about it more than he’d like to admit. But just as he’s gathered the courage to speak up, he thinks back to Iwaizumi, so afraid at seven. The hurt and fear that never went away, only grew with him.

And Tooru stays silent. Time is ticking, he knows. The next time he’s called to the Other Side, it’ll be to finish his last quest with Kenma, whatever that entails. He’s already advanced so much in his magic, but he can feel his power growing along with his control. It’s like he’s unleashed everything that he built up over his life, and with each practice session his body is becoming more accustomed to letting things go, rather than keeping it in.

Soon, Kuroo’s words will come true, and he’ll have to make a choice.

Does he take a monster’s advice, and leave behind the human world? If he confesses the truth to authorities, he will be required to live in the Other World. He’ll probably have to go to university there, and meeting the requirements to get the permit Kuroo has takes two years in itself. And it’s simply not guaranteed. He’ll be completely cut off from his family, his friends, his home that he’s grown to know and love, for possibly forever.

Or he could lie. Continue pretending to be human, until he’s caught. With technology advancing even without magic, he’d surely be exposed at one point. And getting caught could lead to suffering and pain. But if he were careful he could continue, could keep up his façade and somehow perfect the art of illusion. If his friends knew the truth and somehow understood, he could have both worlds. 

Trying to think about it hurts his brain. There’s too much at stake, too much he doesn’t know, to say what he wants for sure. 

Lying in his bed late at night, he watches as he lets spindly branches grow from his wrists. Unlike months ago, Tooru doesn’t struggle to keep the flowers in. They flow naturally, and he lets them. Through the moonlight, they look like shadowy tendrils, dripping with snow-white petals. Gardenias. They haven’t stopped growing since that day. He’s sure they mean something.

He’s too afraid to know what that meaning is. 

And so Tooru falls asleep to the sound of Akaashi’s laughter ringing in his head, blending in with the wind chimes in the darkness.