akaashi isn’t a stranger to bokuto’s lows, there’s no way he could ever be. he’s loved bokuto for too long, held him too close to know any different — to want any different.
he’s worked with bokuto to set up a routine to manage the mood changes. bokuto’s medication should take the edge off of extreme dips, and they’ve planned for if it does happen. everyone trusts each other to know the signs and that bokuto will tell someone.
it works. most of the time.
today, though, akaashi can tell something’s different, he just can’t pinpoint what . it’s not until miya atsumu is calling that it clicks . usually bokuto or kuroo are the only ones texting during his lunch break, and they each have a specific ringtone so akaashi can differentiate them. his phone shouldn’t be ringing with its default ringtone, and “Miya Atsumu MSBY” shouldn’t be flashing over his homescreen. akaashi picks up and hears atsumu’s voice booming through the speaker.
“akaashi! yer boyfri–“
“okay, well, he wasn’t at practice,” huh? “it’s our day for individual coaching, but meian said he was sick. is he feeling better? tell him we miss him!”
akaashi’s eyebrows furrow, somehow not making sense of the call. wasn’t bokuto awake to send him and kuroo off to work? didn’t bokuto kiss everyone goodbye before they boarded the train? he should’ve been off for practice by then.
“akaashi? you there?”
“yes, sorry, miya. i’ll be sure to tell him,” akaashi fumbles an excuse before saying goodbye and hanging up.
it suddenly hits him that bokuto’s been quiet . he had written it off to bokuto not sleeping well, but that can’t be the entire truth. bokuto always texts the family group chat whenever he can, sending selfies in the middle of practice. but now it’s the kind of quiet only seen when bokuto’s at his lowest.
akaashi has never been more thankful to have an understanding boss; all he needed to say was “it’s a family emergency” to be cleared to leave. akaashi shoots a text to kenma and kuroo, and they know well enough to get home as soon as they can. kuroo says he’ll be home early and kenma will be back in an hour.
silence from bokuto is almost never a good thing, not like this. akaashi’s anxious the whole train ride home, running over in his head everything that could have happened to bokuto.
it’s roughly one in the afternoon when akaashi reaches the front door. he turns the key half-expecting, half-praying to hear bokuto’s music blasting, but opens the door to find the house dark and quiet, like it is after everyone leaves for work and practice. it doesn’t seem like bokuto is home, but akaashi knows better. he finds broken glass on the kitchen floor and bloody tissues in the bathroom trash can and knows .
“bokuto?” akaashi keeps the lights off, dropping his bag on the living room couch, sensing what’s coming. he treads lightly to the hallway. the soft sobs coming from his work room confirm his suspicions. he knocks gently before pushing the door open, finding his partner sobbing quietly under the big desk.
bokuto is curled up with knees to his chest, head buried and with hands tucked close to himself. he’s shaking, clearly struggling to breathe, choking on his tears every now and then. akaashi kneels in front of bokuto, who barely seems to register the other’s presence even when he’s so close.
“koutarou, baby...” bokuto flinches at the noise. akaashi kneels down next to him, hands on the floor to steady himself. he knows better than to touch bokuto when he’s like this, when his senses are so overwhelmed with panic that everything seems like a threat.
“atsumu was worried about you, love, said you didn’t go to individual practice.” bokuto’s eyes move to akaashi’s face, but he’s too tired to move close like he usually would. it takes a second to process. “i’m worried too, kou.”
“didn’t want to go.” bokuto’s voice is so monotone, a stark contrast to everything he usually is. akaashi’s eyebrows furrow a bit, but keeps his general expression decently neutral.
“hm? why not, baby?”
“don’t want to fuck it up again.”
akaashi’s heart breaks.
“precious...” akaashi places his hand next to bokuto, an invite for touch whenever bokuto’s ready. “you are such a good player, the best teammate there ever is. you could never bring them down.”
akaashi pauses, letting bokuto take everything in.
“but i know things feel different during lows, love.”
for a second, bokuto’s brain throws him back where he was before: hiding under his bed as a kid, hands clamped over his mouth before anyone could realize he was crying. there’s the ever-present weight of being too loud too energetic too big — too much .
bokuto gasps and cries, body seeming smaller than ever before. akaashi leans his forehead against the edge of the table, whispering small encouragements to ground bokuto. for now, there’s not much that can be done, at least not until bokuto’s ready to be comforted fully.
it’s fifteen minutes before bokuto’s head peeks up, eyes looking to akaashi. bokuto is still sobbing, hiccuping with every breath, but his eyes meet akaashi’s and akaashi has never felt more protective.
“you ready to come out from under there, baby? we can just sit close by, don’t have to go far.”
“i did something, akaashi.”
“don’t be mad.” bokuto’s hands slip out from where they were tucked to his chest, revealing wrists hastily wrapped with bandages and blood dried over skin. there’s broken glass stuck in his knuckles, large gashes in his wrists.
“koutarou...” akaashi’s voice trails off, hands gently taking bokuto’s arm to inspect the wounds. “could never be mad. oh, you must be hurting, kou. these look so painful.”
bokuto nods, tears welling up in his eyes. they hurt, so much more than he expected. he just wanted things to stop for a second, to pause around him and make him feel something more than whatever the low brought on. but now his wrists are throbbing, he can’t get the glass out, and he knows he messed up bad.
“can we get you out of there? then i’ll help make these feel better, i promise.” bokuto nods, and akaashi shields bokuto’s head as he helps him out. they move against the wall, where bokuto curls up next to akaashi, not ready to be touched beyond that.
bokuto’s still crying, shaking more than he was under the table. he crawls into akaashi‘s lap within a minute, burying his head into the crook of akaashi’s neck. akaashi wraps his arms around bokuto, supporting him up and rubbing his back as well.
“i've got you, kou,” akaashi speaks softly, “can you time your breathing with mine?” bokuto’s first attempts are shaky, but akaashi’s gentle encouragement makes everything a bit easier.
“there we go, baby. you did so good,” bokuto’s breathing is slowed but shaky, and he’s still trembling while curled in akaashi’s arms, but it’s easier to breathe now and his head isn’t so foggy. bokuto’s senses start to return to normal, and soon he starts to smell akaashi’s cologne and remember he’s home, hear akaashi’s heart and know he’s loved.
akaashi hears the click of the front door and kenma calling out for him a moment later. akaashi responds with his usual “i’m here!”, just loud enough for the other to hear.
kenma cracks open the work room door, expression softening as soon as he sees bokuto. he kneels down next to the pair. for a while, the three are quiet, sitting in the dark and waiting out the remaining panic. bokuto ends up talking first.
“sorry,” is all he can muster. akaashi’s eyebrows furrow in response, before he moves to kiss his lover on the forehead.
“for what, sweetheart?”
there’s silence. hesitation in bokuto’s response. the ever present fear of the misstep, that he’ll lose akaashi with this just like he’s lost everyone else in his life.
“we’re not mad, bo,” kenma combs his fingers through bokuto’s hair. “just want to make sure you’re safe, ‘s all.”
“how about we clean these up,” akaashi’s fingers ghost over the bandages on bokuto’s wrist. “then we can think about what’s next, hm?”
bokuto nods. kenma knows what to do; he sits against the wall, legs spread so akaashi can set bokuto between them to rest against him. kenma contains running his fingers through bokuto’s hair to ground him as much as possible. kenma’s always quiet in times like this, but bokuto appreciates his presence more than anything.
"gonna grab the kit, i'll be back by the time you count to 50,” akaashi gives bokuto a second to process. “love you so much."
akaashi doesn't lie. he's back when bokuto's at 43, with a first aid kit, a small basin of water, and washcloths in hand. kenma kisses bokuto's hair, comforting him in a way only he can. akaashi kneels back in front of bokuto, popping open the first aid kit.
“let’s get your hands settled first, hm?”
akaashi starts to tweeze out the shards of glass, dropping them into a plastic baggie from the first aid kit. throughout the process he whispers “i’m sorry,” and “i know, almost done” when he feels bokuto wince. he wipes off the blood from bokuto’s hands before swabbing everything with disinfecting solution, moving to do the same to his wrists. the cuts are deep, but they won’t need stitches.
when akaashi is finished cleaning the injuries, he’ll butterfly-bandage the cuts on bokuto’s wrist and swipe antibiotic cream over everything. he’ll wrap bokuto’s hands and wrists in bandages, then make sure everything is taped in place.
“thank you for letting me clean you up, sweetheart. you did so good. does it feel better?” bokuto nods.
akaashi makes bokuto count again as he slips out to dispose of the glass and put away the first aid kit, coming back when bokuto’s at 47.
bokuto is, quite honestly, too tired to think anymore. akaashi comes back but he’s still in the position he left him in, laying in kenmas arms and trying not to spiral any lower.
akaashi squeezes kenma’s hand and presses a short kiss to his lips, a reassurance that he’s doing well too. he knows this isn’t kenma’s forte, that he isn’t ever quite sure what to do in situations like these, but he’ll do his best for his lovers always.
“kenma, do you wanna shower and come back? i’ll take care of kou.” kenma nods, still sitting in his outside clothes and sticky from running around with hinata. kenma presses several small kisses to bokuto’s temple, whispering an “i love you so much, i’ll be back so soon” and waiting until he knows bokuto has heard him before leaving.
akaashi runs fingers through bokuto’s hair, attempting to bring him out of his depressive haze.
“focus on me, love. i’ve got you.”
“mm.” bokuto settles into akaashi’s touch a bit.
“have you been able to rest at all, kou?” bokuto shakes his head, eyes immediately filling with fear. “hey, it’s okay. just wanted to check in.”
“how about,” akaashi kisses bokuto’s forehead, “we go to the couch in here. it’s quiet, and there’s the plants you like, and a big window to sit by. i’ll open the blinds, hm? we can get some sunlight and lay down together.”
“i can’t move, i’m sorry.” bokuto’s eyes well up with tears, but akaashi is quick to wipe them away.
“you’re okay, we’re okay. i’ll carry you. no need for you to do anything, i know it’s hard, love, i know you’re hurting.”
“hurts so much, keiji.” koutarou doesn’t stop crying. his breaths come in shallow and he’s gasping for air, hands instinctively moving up to cover his face. akaashi presses his forehead to bokuto’s, hands holding gently onto bokuto’s bandaged ones. he whispers soft reassurance every now and then, letting the sadness ride itself out.
“we’re here to help you through, kou. you’re not alone anymore, you’ve got us, always.”
bokuto stretches his arms out for akaashi, who helps him sit up properly. bokuto’s dizzy, but akaashi is holding his waist and suddenly the world is a little more bearable.
the two work in silence; too much noise on top of all new sensory inputs will overwhelm bokuto back to his lowest. akaashi picks his lover up princess style when he’s ready, having him close his eyes so the change in scenery doesn’t scare him.
the room is as much akaashi’s work room as it is a nest for bokuto. even if akaashi isn’t able to cuddle or talk right then and there, bokuto adores just being near him. it isn’t uncommon for akaashi to be working in near silence, and bokuto to camp on the couch. there’s a small basket with all of bokuto’s comforts: headphones for his volleyball videos, juice boxes and cracker packets and sweets for his bad days, an extra sweatshirt if he ever forgets his. there’s a big fuzzy blanket on the couch, a few pillows too for optimal naps. the couch sits right in front of the window, so sun shines right on it.
on days like this, it’s just what bokuto needs.
after opening the blinds a bit, bokuto and akaashi lay down, bodies pressed together as akaashi pulls the blanket over them. the sun spreads warmth over bokuto, loosening the stiffness in his body and the sadness in his gut.
somewhere in between akaashi’s quiet singing and bokuto’s intent listening, the two manage to doze off. they wake up to gentle kisses on their face and new person’s hand on akaashi’s waist.
“hey keiji,” akaashi hears whispered into his ear. he doesn’t even need to hear the full sentence to know it’s kuroo.
by then, the sun has set and the window’s sunshine replaced with a nighttime view of city lights. bokuto curls up closer to akaashi out of instinct, hiding from the newcomer to their pair. akaashi obliges, holding bokuto closer.
“shh,” kenma’s voice pipes up from the other side of the room. one glance to his desk reveals kenma playing valorant on akaashi’s computer. “bokuto’s sleeping.”
“mmm,” bokuto stirs, head still foggy from his nap. there’s a lingering emptiness in his chest, even though it’s subsided since the morning. part of him feels as if he’ll come crashing down again, and most of him is praying he doesn’t — not in front of everyone.
“hey there, precious,” kuroo kisses bokuto’s cheek before ruffling his hair. “sleep okay?”
“it’s just kuroo. you don’t have to hide, love. it’s okay.” with gentle encouragement from akaashi, he peeks out from akaashi’s chest.
“bought you yakiniku from your favorite store, and osamu made some onigiri for you.”
bokuto hides his face again, akaashi rubbing his back to calm him down again. it’s not kuroo, he could never be scared of kuroo. but on days like this when even breathing is difficult, kindness is always suffocating and he can’t do anything about it. he can’t do anything about the lows other than sit through them and apologize. there’s nothing that can fix this but time, even when he wants to be better for his partners.
“we can eat later, babe. whenever you’re ready.”
bokuto doesn’t know what else to say. there’s the familiar feeling of alone that strikes him now, and he’s not quite sure what to make of it. he doesn’t want to push them away — not when they’re trying so hard to bring him out of whatever this is — but everything makes him wary of the love he does have.
“it’s okay, kou.”
“i don’t want to be too much anymore.”
“baby...” kuroo bends down to press his nose into bokuto’s hair. “you’re just enough for me. i want all of you. and everyone we have right now loves you. akaashi loves you, kenma loves you.”
“but i don’t know that. one day i’m gonna wake up and you’ll all be gone like everyone else. i don’t know that, tetsu.”
“i know. we’re gonna get there, kou. it’s alright, you’re not alone in this anymore. i love you, yeah? so much, so so much. maybe more than kenma.”
“hey!” kenma calls over from the computer, moving over to the couch once the computer is turned off.
nothing matches bokuto’s soft laugh. but in the silence after they stay quiet, letting bokuto recenter himself with akaashi’s touch.
“i cleaned up the bedroom,” kenma presses his lips to akaashi’s cheek before sitting his chin on his shoulder. “i know it was stressing you out, kou.”
“i just wanna hide again.”
“there’s blankets for a cocoon and fort in the bedroom. let’s warm them up in the dryer and hide together,” kenma pauses. “we’re with you, kou. if you want to hide, we’ll be here with you until you’re ready to come out.”
bokuto’s head peeks out, and kenma kneels down next to the couch to face bokuto’s eyes. bokuto looks to akaashi for confirmation before getting up to intertwine fingers with kenmas outstretched hands.
“c’mere, we’ll go warm up the blankets. keiji and tetsu can meet us in the room, okay?”
the pair exit, kenma’s hand squeezing bokuto’s as they trek to the laundry room.
“i brought everything in here already, we just gotta turn the machine on,” kenma throws in a fabric softener sheet while bokuto shifts on his feet. “let’s watch it spin, yeah, kou? come sit on the floor with me.”
they both sit with legs crossed on the floor, bokuto leaning over to lay down and rest his head on kenma’s lap. the rhythmic thumping of the dryer resonates through the room, easing some of bokuto’s anxiety from waking up.
“i don’t know what happened.” kenma moves one hand to bokuto’s waist in an attempt to coax him to talk. “it just, i just—”
“i couldn’t control it. and now it hurts. i hurt so much now.”
“i know, kou. i’m sorry,” kenma leans down to kiss bokuto’s forehead. “the bad days always feel something like this. but you’re not alone anymore, baby. we’ll take care of you and sit through it together. it’s gonna pass, it always does.”
“i just— akaashi and kuroo and you all do so much, and i’m just so loud. i’m too much for you all, kenma. i don’t want to be a burden anymore,” bokuto’s talking so fast, tears leaking out against his wishes. “i just want to make you all happy. i’m sorry i’m so weird all the time. i’m trying to be quiet.”
“koutaro...” kenma presses kisses to bokuto’s temple and hairline. “hey, babe, hey, look at me.” bokuto looks up and kenma has never seen the man so broken. “you’re not too much. you’re everything we’ve ever wanted.”
“shh, let me finish,” kenma sweeps bokuto’s hair from his forehead. “we love you loud. we love you weird. we love you and everything you are. who else is gonna cheer me on when i game, huh? who’s gonna sweep me off my feet every day? who’s gonna let me come and sulk at their volleyball games even though they’ll always be my favorite ace? hm?”
“you don’t have to be, kou. you’ve seen me like this, too. it’s okay.” kenma pats bokuto’s head. “do you wanna play games with me later? i could always use a buddy. you can sit in on a stream tomorrow if you want. we can even have snacks.”
“whatever makes you happy, love.”
“we never finished our animal crossing island. wanna meet celeste and blathers.”
“sounds good, baby, you got it.” bokuto flips over to press his face into kenma’s stomach, letting himself curl up against the younger. kenma rubs bokuto’s tummy, tracing small patterns into his skin.
it’s a few minutes before the blankets are done, and kenma has to bribe bokuto with kisses to get up. kenma pulls the blankets out, standing on his toes to wrap one around bokuto’s shoulders and head.
“my best man,” kenma presses sloppy kisses to bokuto’s jaw, a giggle rising from bokuto. “there’s the smile i love. you ready to head back?”
hiding has always been an option for bokuto. it has always been the safest place for him whenever he’s spiraling — where else is there to go but where no one can hurt him? the bad days come and go, and sometimes there’s nothing that can be done but to wait them out.
now, he’s just glad he doesn’t have to do it alone anymore.