“Are you nervous?” Kazumi asked, pulling the tie around Keiji’s neck tighter.
Keiji let out a breath of air, trusting his brother to hold him upright. There wasn’t anybody else in the room but he could hear the mundane chatter through the thin walls, the occasional knock on the door from Kuroo letting them know fifteen minutes left.
“That’s a cliche question,” Keiji answered instead. His mind was flurrying. “Yes.”
“There’s no need to be.”
“That’s not as helpful as you think.”
Keiji rubbed his knuckles and absentmindedly counted them. One, two, three, four.
“Come on, five minutes boys!” Kuroo’s routine knock came again. The door creaked open and he popped his head in, bed hair tamed for the occasion and slicked back against his skull. He grinned when he saw Keiji. “You look great man! Wow, I’m going to tear up. Don’t.”
He waved a hand in Keiji’s direction. Kazumi’s found Keiji’s shoulders and Kuroo left.
Keiji caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, pristine in his pressed black suit, his white shirt with his white tie. In his lapel was a single yellow flower.
There were only five minutes left until he and Koutarou were to be married, and it was going to be the best decision of his life. Regardless the butterflies nipped at his stomach as though they were going to tear a hole straight through it.
“Is my tie straight?” He asked Kazumi instead, rearranging it again, running his hands down the front of his blazer, moving them back to his tie.
“Leave it alone,” Kazumi said.
Kazumi looked dashing as well in his black tux, same yellow pinned to his pocket. That wasn’t where their similarities ended; they still had those same stormy eyes, that same nervous smile. Kazumi’s hair had grown longer through the years and he now tied it back in a neat ponytail, though his face was still framed by those errant curls. Keiji now matched his height.
Laughter echoed from the hallway, Koutarou’s groomsmen waiting.
Keiji worried his hands on the blazer again. He thought Kazumi might bore holes into the side of his head if he didn’t stop. Before he could Keiji slumped in a chair by the mirror, throwing his head in his hands, carefully avoidant of his styled hair.
“What’s wrong, Keiji?” Kazumi crouched in front of him.
“Why? What’s there to be scared of? This is the happiest day of your life, man. You’re about to get married to the guy you’ve loved for years.”
Kazumi watched with searching eyes as his brother pulled himself apart. “Then what’s the problem?”
“I’m-” Keiji pulled his hands away and darted his eyes up to Kazumi’s. He couldn’t find the words, knew they were selfish and wrong. “I wish dad were here. Not really but I- I, do.”
“You know it’s better that he doesn’t.”
“I know, I just- I wish wanted to. Or mom. Or anyone, just-” the words died on Keiji’s tongue. Fire seared at his throat. “It’s just us.”
It was something Keiji had always been insecure about, one of the deepest injuries sprawling it’s ugly head on his happiest day.
They hadn’t sent Keiji’s mom an invite. Koutarou and he had spent countless nights discussing it, and Keiji had written and rewritten the invite so many times their top desk drawer was filled to the brim with them.
“It’s your choice,” Koutarou whispered night after night, holding Keiji’s face in his hands like it was something sacred, pressing the tears away with the pads of his thumbs. “Do you want her there?”
“I don’t know,” Keiji would whisper back in the evening light. His eyes couldn’t settle on one thing, blinking rapidly. “I want her to see how happy we are, how happy you are. I want her to regret everything.”
Koutarou brushed the hair off from his face. “You don’t need to show her how happy we are.”
“I can’t let any of it go.”
And nights like those always ended the same way- Keiji sobbing into his lovers arms, Koutarou kissing the tears away and whispering sweet nothings into his hairline.
Keiji had always known his mother would never attend, even if he had sent that invite, but he still had a small ounce of hope his father would. He almost had.
“It’s just us,” Keiji repeated to Kazumi, because that was what it boiled down to.
Koutarou had such a large, loving family filling his adjacent room. Brothers and sisters in beautiful dresses and shorts, chasing eachother with flowers and giving Koutarou kisses to his hair. His mother and father were probably helping Koutarou with the cufflinks Keiji did alone. His groomsmen lined the hall, colleagues and friends in abundance. There wasn’t a person in the world who didn’t love Bokuto Koutarou. On twitter people who had never met him were wishing him a good day. Ninety percent of the guests were his.
In this room which was meant to hold all his closest people wanting him at his best for his big day, there was just Keiji and his brother, and even that was a bond he had almost lost.
“That doesn’t matter,” Kazumi said like Keiji was stupid. “You’ve got me. And you’ve got him- you’ve always had him. His people are your people.”
His people are your people.
Keiji knew it was a stupid thing to be hung up on all these years later. After everything his parents rejection still stung.
But Koutarou had always been there from the beginning, had been there with him through it all. Whether his family supported it or not this choice was not about them, it was his decision to make a new family altogether, to make that family with Koutarou.
They had been just teenagers when Keiji’s mother told Koutarou he wouldn’t amount to anything, and Keiji was too afraid to hold his hand.
Now they were almost twenty six and Koutarou was Japan’s ace, the most successful volleyball player of them all, and Keiji was happier than he had ever been below his parents roof.
Koutarou chose him, had always chose him. That was more than enough.
Keiji pushed himself up on shaky legs to survey himself in the mirror, hair curly and skin glowing. Kazumi came and stood at his shoulder.
“Do I look okay?” Keiji asked, nerves settling in. He brushed down the suit one more time, because he liked to do things in fours.
Kazumi squeezed his shoulders and met his eyes in the mirror, a reminder of a time so long ago. “You look happy.”
Keiji laughed and punched him in the shoulder, wiping a thumb under his eyes just in case.
It had been a momentous night in some respects, but initially it was just a regular day. Keiji was in his final year of university at Kyoto, five hours away from home, working on a final piece for his fine art portfolio. Oil paints had been tricky to grasp a first but now he revelled in the way the golds and blacks and white blurred together. He enjoyed the simplistic neatness of it.
There was one more month until he graduated. One more month until he was back in Tokyo with Koutarou. Their four year anniversary had been two weeks ago, and Koutarou hadn’t been able to come down to visit because of his newly signed contract with the Black Jackals, division one Volleyball team. Instead they called (as they so often did) and Keiji watched his smiley, pixelated face waving back at him.
Phone calls from Koutarou were second nature by now (one every morning and night a 8. It had quickly become part of Keiji’s routine.) so he picked up the buzzing phone without checking the caller.
“Hello?” He asked, standing to clean his paintbrushes off. One, two, three, four dips in the water, three more sets.
“Keiji!” The voice buzzed. Keiji grinned into the receiver.
“Let me in!”
Keiji stumbled over to the window of his tiny flat bedroom and, sure enough, Koutarou was smiling at the apartment blocks entryway. There was a bouquet of flowers in his arms.
“How are you here?” Keiji asked, though he was already hurrying to put his slippers on, running down the stairs. “You’re not free until the end of the month.”
“I wanted to see you. So badly.”
“Koutarou,” he said simply, and then he could see him through the doors frosted glass, was buzzing him in and had his arms around his neck in an instant.
“Keiji!” He laughed, clutching him so tightly to his front that Keiji could barely breath, spinning them in slow slow circles. Keiji nuzzled his neck, cold from the outside.
“I missed you so much.”
Koutarou kissed his hair, over and over, laughing and leading them to the stairs.
Once in the safety of Keiji’s tiny apartment they kissed lazily, too full of glee to be anything more. Koutarou tripped over one of Keiji’s paintings on his way to Keiji’s bed, already familiar and at home in a place he had only visited a handful of times. Keiji plastered himself to his front, a kind of casual intimacy that had taken him years to build. They watched a game on Keiji’s shitty TV and Koutarou traced a finger up his back, and they exchanged excited kisses while telling eachother the same stories they’d been sharing for months.
The complete casualness of the moment was the only thing that made Koutarou’s sudden tense noticeable. Keiji could feel the stiffness of the hand stroking his hair, could see the firm lines of Koutarou’s jaw in the evening light.
Keiji watched for a quiet moment, just to be certain, and then ran a finger along Koutarou’s face.
“What’s wrong?” He asked quietly, because everything about the situation dictated it. Koutarou smiled when their skin touched but Keiji could still make out the nerves.
“Ah- don’t worry, Keiji. It’s nothing.”
“Are you tired?” Keiji asked, suddenly reminded of the long journey Koutarou had made to be here. “We can go to bed if you want.”
“No! No, it’s not that. I’m just thinking.”
Keiji laughed gently. His finger had moved to Koutarou’s eyebrows, tracing a soft line as he thumbed out the crease between them. “Well that’s dangerous.”
“Kidding. What are you thinking about?”
Koutarou scrunched his eyes together, as though it was necessary to keep the thoughts from tumbling out. “I can’t tell you.”
“Because I can’t.”
“You can tell me anything.”
Koutarou pouted. Keiji couldn’t help but press a kiss to his waiting lips. “Please?” He asked sweetly.
Koutarou watched with adoring eyes as Keiji existed, so comfortable in this space with him, aware of Keiji’s warm hand on his cheek, how their legs were entwined just below the duvet. “If I asked you to marry me, what would you say?”
Keiji could hear the rush of wind outside, could hear their joint breathing as Koutarou looked to him with wide, expectant and nervous eyes.
“What?” Keiji asked, voice barely above a whisper. His thumb stilled below Koutarou’s eye.
“I want to marry you.”
Keiji’s eyes filled, his heart beat so hard he thought it would fall into the tiny gap between them.
“You want to marry me?”
Koutarou’s eyes twinkled and Keiji knew he was trying not to cry by the ragged breaths he was pulling in. Nervously he played with Keiji’s fingers.
“I- yeah,” he breathed. He blinked heavily, eyes darting around until they could meet Keiji’s again. “I know we’re young and- and we don’t have money, or anything, and I’m going to be away a lot but- you’re it for me, Keiji. I’ve never loved anyone but you.”
“You’re crazy,” Keiji whispered, and laughed wetly, which was when he noticed he was crying too. Koutarou thumbed the tears away, grinning. “We’re crazy.”
“Yeah,” Koutarou breathed. “We always have been.”
“Of course I’ll marry you.”
Koutarou’s face transformed entirely, as if he was lit suddenly from the inside. Happiness spilled out from every pore and crevice, splitting his face in two. Tears continued to stream down his face.
“Of course, for real.”
Koutarou pulled him in so tightly Keiji thought he might burst with it, laughing into Koutarou’s messy hair.
This is love, he thought. They had loved eachother for years, and this was what he loved- their impracticality, their spontaneity. How everything in life was better done with Koutarou. How their love for one another trumped everything else in their lives.
He wants to spend the rest of our lives together.
The thought was filling. The thought was too much.
“I’ve got a ring,” Koutarou laughed wetly, shaking his head. “I had it all planned- I wasn’t going to do it tonight. I just- I couldn’t wait. I’m too in love with you.”
“Go get it,” Keiji laughed, but wouldn’t pull his face far enough for Koutarou to move off the bed. Koutarou fumbled with his hand to get it without lodging Keiji’s idolatry hands on his cheeks.
“I hope it fits,” Koutarou laughed, and in his palm was the ring box. He nudged it towards Keiji. “Open it.”
Keiji nodded and wiped his tears on his sleeve. Koutarou held the box and Keiji lifted the lid, opening it together.
Inside, nestled between two sides of velvety black, was a smooth silver band, inlaid with a strip of dark blue quartz. He looked up to Koutarou’s smiling eyes.
“Can you put it on me?” Keiji asked, tears collecting on his jaw. Koutarou laughed and nodded, prying the ring out with care.
“Which finger does it go on?” He asked, laughing, as Keiji waggled the correct one.
It slid on with ease, perfectly fitted to Keiji’s finger, sparkling below his dingy apartment light.
“You…” was all he could say before his lips were on Koutarou’s again, until he kissed him as though it was the only thing he was designed to do.
It was what he recalled stood before the wooden doors, palms sweating as he looked to his brother for last minute reassurance.
“Stop worrying,” was all Kazumi said before offering his elbow for Keiji to take.
That was the one condition he had- he wanted Kazumi to walk him up the aisle, not his father. It was the reason his father decided not to come.
Keiji took his brothers elbow, breathed one final breath, and they pushed the doors open together.
Koutarou wasn’t here yet. He was the first person Keiji looked for in the room. Kazumi guided him forward to the front of the room.
There was a clear distinction between their two halves of the room. Koutarou’s was bustling with relatives, with friends and family and people who waved at Keiji as he walked past, who smiled at his back. Keiji’s side did not fill the benches. No family, few friends. The difference was difficult to ignore, but they smiled regardless. Keiji tried to feel proud of what he had rather than what he lacked. After all, he had all he needed.
Most notably on the first bench, reserved for Keiji’s closest family and friends, were Koutarou’s parents, brothers and sisters.
Keiji’s heart stalled in his throat.
They hadn’t planned this.
“Hey man, look up,” Kazumi said as they reached the end of the aisle. “Hey.”
Kazumi was smiling in his direction. “We’re all right here behind you.”
He shut his eyes, waiting for the music to fade out, for Koutarou to push the doors open and walk down to meet him.
One, two, three, four, he smoothed his knuckles. Kazumi elbowed him in the ribs. The Bokuto’s were chatting behind him.
And then the doors opened, and Keiji’s world stopped.
For a second he couldn’t make out Koutarou because he was flanked by several of his closest friends, including Kuroo, the majority of the Black Jackals team, Tsukishima Kei and somebody he had met at university. But as they began to filter into the seats on that side Keiji could see him clear as day; Bokuto Koutarou, the man Keiji was going to marry.
He was walked by his father Hiroki who smiled kindly at Keiji, and Koutarou wore the brightest grin on his face. When they reached the end Hiroki pulled his son into a tight embrace.
“You’ve got this,” Kazumi whispered to Keiji and, after a moment of hesitation, pulled Keiji into a hug too.
“Love you,” he said to Keiji’s hair, words that weren’t often exchanged between them.
“Love you too.”
And then Kazumi was taking a seat next to Koutarou’s mother and she was smiling at Keiji too, dressed up in sunny yellow with her hair piled on her head. He looked back at Koutarou.
Hiroki had just pulled away from him and planted a soft kiss to his son's temple, whipping away a tear of his own. He said something to Koutarou and they laughed, and then Hiroki was making his way towards Keiji.
“You’re not the same boy we knew, Keiji,” he said, a hint of fondness in his voice. “Look how you’ve grown.”
Keiji didn’t know what to say so he laughed, but he couldn’t help his eyes drifting back to Koutarou, who was already watching him. Hiroki followed his gaze, and then gave Keiji’s shoulder a squeeze.
“Thank you,” he said, and before Keiji could respond he had slipped into the seat on his wife's other side.
Keiji met Koutarou’s eyes, and not a second had passed before Koutarou was joining their hands together.
“You look stunning,” Keiji whispered, because it was true, and Koutarou laughed.
The priest rose, taking his place beside their joined hands, smiling as he addressed the audience.
“Today, we are gathered to celebrate the union of Bokuto Koutarou and Akaashi Keiji in holy matrimony, til death do they part.”
There was a cheer from somewhere on Koutarou’s side, although Keiji couldn’t pin just which teammate it was. He smiled regardless. Koutarou traced his thumb over Keiji’s.
“You have your own vows?” The priest asked, and Koutarou nodded quickly, stammering over his words.
“Yes! We do- should I go first?”
The priest smiled, nodding, and Koutarou shifted his eyes back to his and Keiji’s joined hands.
“Akaashi Keiji,” he starts, and takes a deep breath. “Akaashi Keiji. You are the most brilliant person I’ve ever met in my whole life, and everybody who has been lucky enough to meet you knows it. My life is better because you’re in it.”
Keiji squeezed his eyes shut. He wouldn’t be able to stop the tears once they started. Koutarou laughed.
“You told me once, back when we were younger, that you were difficult to love, and I’ve been thinking about it so much because nothing has been easier in my life than you. I don’t have to think to love you. My heart just knows to. You’re the smartest person I know, and the funniest, and the most caring on the whole earth. You’re- you’re so brave, and strong, and that’s one of the thousands of reasons I love you.
I love you because you always make room for me wherever you are. I love you because you wash whatever dishes are in the sink, whether they’re mine or yours, without thinking. I love you because you can watch the same film a thousand times and still enjoy it like its the first.
So I promise I’ll always love you, because I don’t know how to do anything but love you. I promise I’ll always come home to you, that I’ll run you a bath when you’ve had a hard day, that I’ll always be on your side, no matter what happens.”
Keiji was crying. He used their joint hands to wipe his tears and somebody in the audience laughed.
The priest acknowledged him, and Keiji knew it was his turn.
How could he follow that?
Koutarou squeezed his hands and Keiji knew that whatever he said would be enough.
“I spent a lot of time rewriting my vows,” he started. “Because I didn’t know how I could ever express just how much you’ve done for me, Koutarou. But I’ll try. I’ll always, always try.
I spent so long shut out, convinced that I was someone who would never get their happy ending, but you are so- you had so much love to give. You’ve done so much for me since before we were even together, but the best thing you have ever done was teach me to love myself.
You are the kindest person in the world, Koutarou. I have never questioned that in all the years we’ve been together. Rooms light up just because you walk into them. There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t want to be your friend and I don’t blame them because- because, there isn’t a person you don’t give a chance. You’re brilliant. When I’m sad you know just what to say to cheer me up, you surround me with love and the most loving people. I don’t- I don’t know who I would be if I hadn’t met you, because that was when things started to look up. Nobody has ever encouraged me the way you have, to make myself happy first. Nobody.
So I’ll never stop loving you. I knew from the moment I met you that you were a star, that I would be lucky if you even looked my way, and we fell in love and everything got better. I promise I’ll always wait up for you, no matter what time you get home, so you don’t go to bed alone. I promise that we can get however many dogs you want because I know how happy they make you. I promise to hold your hand, and that I’ll never let go of it.
I promise to love you, and that’s something the whole world deserves to know. That you’ve made my life better. I promise we’ll be together when we’re old and grey and all we have is eachother.”
They were both crying now. Koutarou heaved his sobs out and Keiji couldn’t help but wipe them away, to watch as Koutarou nuzzled into his palm and not care who could see.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you too,” Keiji replied.
The priest asked them to exchange rings. Keiji reached over to pluck one from the pillow, held by Koutarou’s little brother Hibiki.
“Thank you,” he said as he picked up the golden band, a streak of silver running through.
Hibiki grinned, and Koutarou smiled too, lovestruck.
“Give me your hand,” Keiji laughed. In an instant Koutarou’s were back in his own, back where they belonged.
The band slipped on, perfectly fitted to Koutarou’s fingers- slightly wider than Keiji’s, not as long.
“My turn,” Koutarou responded and Keiji smiled at his excitement, how happy he was for this moment to happen.
With ease Koutarou settled the ring on Keiji’s finger, the perfect match of his own, right above the engagement band. Keiji was shocked at how difficult it was to breathe, how surreal and completely real this moment was.
“And it is with that,” the priest said, “that I pronounce you husbands.”
Keiji was grinning ear to ear through the thick tears. It seemed impossible to be so happy, but if Koutarou had shown him anything it was that impossible was just a word, and that happiness was limitless. He tightened the grip on Koutarou’s hands.
“You may kiss.”
It was everything he had ever wanted, ever needed, there in that one infinitesimal moment. Koutarou’s smiling eyes, his warm hands cradling Keiji’s jaw, them both smiling too hard to kiss properly but laughing into each other's mouths, surrounded and filled with love love love.
The room erupted in cheers. Once they pulled back, overjoyed, Koutarou lifted Keiji around the thighs and spun him like he did at their national games, and Keiji was so caught in the moment, in his person.
He laughed into Koutarou’s hair and clutched tightly to him once he was put down. Koutarou rested their foreheads together.
“Hello, Mr Akaashi,” Koutarou laughed against his lips.
“Hello to you too, Mr Akaashi,” Keiji grinned back.
Everything stopped for just a moment, so Keiji could look at him one second longer.
Koutarou had flopped onto Keiji’s couch. A shitty one, all he could afford with his measly savings.
One more year, he had begged Koutarou. I want to do one more year. Please, wait for me one more year.
He hadn’t expected to love University so much until it was being pried away from him. One more year to get a masters, to keep going, until he would come back to Tokyo, until they could really be together.
Of course, Keiji, Koutarou had replied in earnest. It was easy when Keiji wore the glinting ring on his finger, a promise that he would come back when he was ready. I’ll wait for you forever.
Keiji had just finished cooking them both dinner after Koutarou’s flight in and now stood washing their dishes, arms elbow-deep in the soapy suds. Koutarou could feel himself drifting to sleep.
Perhaps he did fall asleep, because then Keiji was expertly fitting himself into his arms, looping them around his back to keep himself from falling off the couch, nuzzling his head into the spot just below Koutarou’s neck.
“Keiji?” He asked, drowsy, running his fingers through Keiji’s hair almost on instinct.
Keiji hummed, surprised, against his neck and pulled back so their noses touched.
“Sorry, did I wake you?” He whispered, eyes wide as if genuinely concerned.
Koutarou smiled and pressed a kiss to Keiji’s nose, warm beneath his lips.
“More time to spend with you,” Koutarou replied dopily. Keiji laughed, caught off guard.
There was a moment of quiet after that, the only noise the thrum of the radiator and buzz of shitty overhead lights.
“When we get married,” Koutarou started. He didn’t quite know where it was going- he just liked to say it. When we get married.
“When we get married?” Keiji asked. The question clearly excited him too because the corners of his lips lifted upwards.
“Are we going to change our surnames?”
Keiji blinked, owlish. “To what?”
“I don’t know, like… to match. You could be Bokuto Keiji.”
Keiji’s heart surged at Bokuto’s embarrassed smile.
“It would make me so happy if you took my name, Keiji. We could be- we could be a proper family.”
A proper family. He and Koutarou. It was the only thing that even mattered anymore.
“I’m- I want that. For us to be a family but,” Keiji took a deep breath. “I don’t know if I want to change my name.”
Keiji could see the crestfallen look on Koutarou’s face even though he tried to mask it. Immediately he moved a hand to Koutarou’s cheek, fumbling over his words in a need to explain.
“It’s just- I’ve spent so long hating myself. Hating where I came from, and my family, and- and it took me so long to think I was worth something, you know?” He locked his eyes with Koutarou’s wide and golden ones, the love of his life. “I feel like if I get rid of my name I’m running from it. Still running from myself.”
“That’s okay,” Koutarou nodded.
“We can have both our last names! Be the Bokuto-Akaashi’s. I just-”
“What if I took your last name?”
Keiji could feel his heart beating in his jaw. Koutarou was so earnest looking back.
“What if I took your last name? I could be Koutarou Akaashi.”
He smiled halfway through saying the name. Koutarou Akaashi.
Keiji couldn’t find words. “You- you would do that?”
Koutarou knocked their foreheads together. Their socked feet entangled at the foot of the couch.
“Of course I would! I love your name. Koutarou Akaashi. Oh man.”
He was so flushed. “What about- what about Volleyball? Your career? It will be so obvious if you have Akaashi on your jersey.”
“Yeah,” Keiji breathed, and then his grin was wider, brushing the tops of his ears. “I could rep your name for the whole world to see.”
“You’re- oh my god.”
Keiji put his hand over Koutarou’s face to stop him. Koutarou peppered kisses over his palm.
He could imagine it. Koutarou walking out in the national Japanese uniform, winning the Olympics as Japans starting ace, Akaashi emblazoned on the back for all to see.
Not Keiji’s name. Their name.
His heart flurried. He was so in love he could die from it.
“Speeches! We’re doing speeches!” Kuroo clinked his glass shortly after everybody had filtered through. Keiji and Koutarou were sat with his parents, and it was near impossible for Keiji to keep his hands off. Koutarou had scooted their chairs close enough together that he could rest his head on Keiji’s shoulder and link their hands in his lap.
As Koutarou’s best man Kuroo was eager to start, tall and proud with a microphone in hand, gesturing to anyone who could see. Koutarou smiled at him dopily.
Kuroo cleared his throat. Kenma sat at his side.
“Man, where do I even start. Bokuto Koutarou is one of the brightest stars out there. Nobody in the world is as funny as him, and I am so proud to have been his best friend all these years. Even though I was from another team, lived in a different area, he has been my brother through it all.
When he got with Keiji I can’t lie man, I was nervous. I was worried the guy I knew and loved would go, that he would get lost in love and forget about me. That didn’t happen once. Love made you better, bro. It was so easy to see it on your face, how happy you were. It was impossible to not be happy after all you’ve been through.
I remember when- we were banned from that convenience store because we were just being dumb in the back, and skipping class to we could meet in Tokyo. There’s not- there’s nobody out there like you, Bo, who has my back like you do. I’ve never been so happy for somebody in my life, and it’s so clear how in love you two are.
Akaashi, or I guess I need to specify, Keiji.”
Keiji met his eyes across the room. He was smiling so wide, shaking his head so slightly.
“Look after him, man. There ain’t another one like him.”
Everybody cheered and Kuroo raised his glass.
“I love Kuroo,” Koutarou said into his shoulder. Keiji lolled his own head against him.
Next up was Keiji’s side- his best man, his standee father, his brother, his everything. Kazumi stood and raised his glass.
He almost seemed nervous, stood up like that. Perhaps he didn’t know where to start. Keiji watched apprehensively.
“Growing up,” Kazumi started, and Keiji could already feel the tears settling. “Was not easy. For either of us. Our parents weren’t- they weren’t nice people, and that sort of thing can really have a toll on you. You know, when I left I thought- I thought I had really messed things up. For good. I thought I’d doomed Keiji to a life of loneliness, to a life of growing up like me.
Instead, when I came back, Keiji was glowing. Because he had found someone else to be there, someone who wanted to be. Keiji had found Bokuto Koutarou, and had found love in him, and you know that- at the time, that was more than any of the rest of us could really offer.
Koutarou, I want to thank you for giving my brother back his spark. Thank you for being there for him through it all, through thick and thin. You won’t ever truly know just how much you and your family did for us, for Keiji, at a point where he really needed it most. Thank you for giving Keiji a family like he always deserved.”
Kazumi raised his glass. Everyone cheered. Keiji’s heart climbed his throat.
Finally, Koutarou’s father Hiroki stood, glass high in the air.
It was a flashback to the beginning of his and Koutarou’s relationship, back when Keiji attended Koutarou’s sisters wedding and Hiroki did the same, and Keiji longed more than anything to be a part of a family like this, for a speech at his own wedding.
And here he was. Sat at this same table as the man he looked up to when his own father was absent, who hugged him at three am and told Keiji he was destined for greatness.
“I have been ready for this day since Akaashi Keiji first stepped foot in our house, and Koutarou looked at him like he had hung the moon in the sky. From that first moment I knew this was what it would amount to, because those two had what most of us could only dream of having. True, pure, love.”
Koutarou shifted against his shoulder. Keiji watched Hiroki with rapt attention, aware of the single tear already tracking down his cheek.
“Keiji, you spoke a lot about how Koutarou helped you through a difficult time, that we were there when you needed people on your side, but I don’t know if you realise just how much you helped Koutarou, too.
It’s been ten years since we lost my son, Shinjiro. He and Koutarou did everything together, from birth, they were friends until the end. Nothing brought our family together so much as that. We watched Koutarou fall into himself, lose friends at school and go through mood swings nobody was willing to pry him out of. But Keiji your patience, your caring and your goodness kept you at our sons side, through thick and thin. You helped eachother through it all, and that’s what love is. It’s about being there through the hardships, through the falls, and emerging better for it.
So Keiji, I think it’s with open arms that was invite you into our crazy, wild, too-much, love-dumb family. Thank you for being yourself through it all. Thank you for loving our son. Thank you for making us all better.”
It was so much. Keiji pulled his palms up to his eyes, trying to hide even a shred of it from the room. Koutarou laughed and pulled Keiji into his arms.
The music filtered through the room, soft romantic and lovely tones sweeping as the dance floor emptied. It was the final dance before their first dance together; Koutarou’s last dance with his mother.
It was an old tradition, but Koutarou was so close to his family it wasn’t one he wanted to skip out. Keiji wouldn’t have denied him it for the world, even if it dredged up the smallest ounce of grief about his own mother, probably working from home right at this moment, preoccupied with money and paperwork to care about her sons biggest day.
The song was, of course, Frank Sinatra. It seemed to be a Bokuto wedding tradition.
Something in the way he moves, the voice sang. Koutarou took his mothers hand at the edge of the floor and pulled her in to dance. He was so much taller than her. Attracts me like no other lover.
She was saying something to him, quiet, and Koutarou nodded fervently.
Something in the way he woos me…
Koutarou spun her and she laughed.
Keiji watched from his chair. It was impossible to be upset when he was so fond, when Koutarou was so unequivocally happy.
And then, suddenly, they weren’t at the other end of the dance floor at all. Koutarou’s mother Atsuko was right in front of him, palm outstretched.
“Come on, Keiji,” she said, laughing, grey hair falling around her face as her eyes glinted gold, just like her sons. “Dance with me?”
And how could he say no?
How was Koutarou’s family still so kind to him after it all?
He pulled her hands into his own, pudgy and warm, and together they rocked gently. He searched over her head for Koutarou and found him enwrapped in another dance, this one with his father. Keiji’s heart couldn’t grow any bigger or it would fall out of his chest.
“I haven’t got much better at dancing,” Keiji confided in Atsuko.
“Nonsense! You’re doing better than Koutarou!”
Keiji laughed. She smiled up at him.
“How are you feeling?” She asked.
Keiji considered it, though he didn’t really need to. “Like the happiest man in the universe.”
“Good,” she said. “Good. Thats how you should feel. That’s how he should feel too.”
“Thank you for doing this,” he said, suddenly aware of how brilliant this family was without even needing to be asked. “For sitting on my side at the ceremony, for dancing with me-”
“Keiji,” she interrupted, though something in her eyes was kind. “We are your family.”
It was so much. He grinned at her, and she flitted her eyes over before back at him.
“Oooh, looks like we’re changing partners,” she said, and then suddenly she had left his arms, and in his arms instead was Hiroki. Koutarou’s father.
Hiroki, though thin and tall and perpetually tired looking, had always been somebody Keiji looked up to. A man with a heart bigger than his body could hold, a figure who treated Keiji like he was any other member of their family.
“Hiroki,” he said, and couldn’t help but laugh at the returning smile.
“Keiji,” Hiroki grinned, an imitation of Keiji’s own. “I was right, all those years ago.”
“That you were going to be something brilliant.”
Keiji looked into Hiroki’s eyes and the only thing in them was simple; pride.
Suddenly he was seventeen again, sat in the Bokuto’s kitchen at three in the morning while Hiroki sat opposite, talking as if was regular, as if Keiji belonged in that house as much as any of them.
“Sir…” Keiji started, and Hiroki let out a bustling laugh.
“You make our son so happy, Keiji. You always have.”
“Me, too. I’m- I couldn’t be luckier to have found someone.”
“I’m glad you found eachother.”
The song gradually faded out and they migrated to the edge of the dance floor, reluctant to let go. Before Keiji could let his arms fall entirely Hiroki had pulled him into a tight hug.
He smacked a kiss to Keiji’s temple and let him go.
Koutarou watched from the side of the room, grinning like the sun lived inside him.
“That’s the last of them,” Koutarou said, dropping the final box onto the floor. He wiped his hands on one another and dust poofed off them.
“Do you have the keys?”
“I put them on the side.”
“We don’t have any furniture,” Keiji realised suddenly.
There was no couch in their third floor apartment, no bed, no mattress. There wasn’t a dining table.
“Oh,” Koutarou said. All it took was one look at Keiji before a laugh was pulled from his chest.
“I thought it came furnished!”
“We have a kitchen! There’s counters in there, and a fridge!”
Keiji laughed, hiding his face in his palms. Koutarou ran along the hardwood, surveying what was hidden behind each door.
“We’ve got a bath! That’s furniture!”
“A bath doesn’t give us a place to sleep Koutarou!” Keiji laughed.
The situation wasn’t good, but at the moment it was hilarious. Of course it didn’t come with furniture. Of course they didn’t have a bed.
“We’ve got blankets somewhere. We’ll just have to sleep on the floor tonight,” Keiji started to rifle through their boxes. Thankfully in his own neat writing he had scribbled each boxes contents on their sides.
“Hey- look at this!” Koutarou called from somewhere in the house. Keiji couldn’t pinpoint exactly where.
“One second-” he yelled back, continuing to dig through the boxes, unearthing pillows and a familiar blue blanket emblazoned with white stars. He pulled them out in a pile on the floor.
“Keijiiiiiiiii,” Koutarou called.
Keiji sighed and dropped what he was holding, instead moving through their apartment to find his fiancé.
Their apartment. Their first apartment, together. He smiled.
When he found him, he was standing with his back to Keiji, hunched over one of the kitchen counters. Without thinking Keiji moved forward and slipped his arms around his waist, hooking his head on Koutarou’s shoulder to see what he was looking at.
“It was here already! Maybe it comes with the apartment, haha.”
“No bed, but a radio.”
Koutarou giggled. Keiji smiled against his back.
Koutarou continued to fiddle with it, twisting dials and pressing buttons until a pretty tune started to play from it.
Suddenly he was moving back and Keiji was forced to relinquish his grip.
“May I?” Koutarou asked, grinning as he bowed in their dimly lit, unfurnished kitchen, tiny radio song on in the background as he offered his hand.
Keiji smiled at him. He took the hand without thinking.
Why do birds suddenly appear… the radio crooned.
Koutarou took one of his hands, rested the other on his hip. Keiji put a hand on his shoulder and allowed himself to be swayed along in time. Koutarou sang along sloppily as he dragged Keiji in circles.
…every time, you are near?
Keiji laughed as Koutarou smiled through the words. He let himself be spun. The heater hummed in the corner and the evening flashed through the open window.
Just like me…
“This is silly,” Keiji said. Koutarou grinned. “I love you.”
…they long to be…
Koutarou spun him again and Keiji slipped, giggling. Together, in their first apartment, dancing in their socks to a staticy radio they fell more and more in love.
…close to you.
Koutarou pulled him close, whispered the words to Keiji like they were reverent, like he believed every word of them. Their first dance together, just like it was then; just like now.
Why do stars fall down from the sky… the song continued now.
Keiji had his arms around his husbands neck. Koutarou was whispering the words like he did all those years ago, swaying them gently back and forth while everybody watched.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” Keiji whispered honestly.
If there was anybody in the world he could be honest with it was him. His husband, his best friend, his family.
“It’s not mine,” Koutarou said.
…every time you walk by…
Keiji was not hurt, because Koutarou was smiling at him, because he was looking at him with the most adoring eyes, so fond Keiji didn’t know humans were capable of.
“What is, then?”
Koutarou smiled. Carefully he moved Keiji’s arm to spin him and laughed when he came right back to his chest.
“The day you first kissed me.”
…just like me…
Keiji smiled back. “That was embarrassing.”
“That was when I knew I wanted to be with you forever.”
“It’s true,” Koutarou softened. They swayed. Everybody watched and Keiji didn’t care because he wasn’t looking back any more- he was looking forward, directly in front of him, at the only man who mattered. “I loved you immediately.”
…they long to be…
“Yeah, well,” Keiji challenged, smoothing his hands down Koutarou’s blazer. “I loved you before that. I loved you before I even met you.”
“Don’t try to one up me!” Koutarou laughed and moved Keiji’s arm to spin him again, again, to have him tumbling inevitably back.
Keiji looked into his eyes. Without thought he pressed their foreheads together and their swaying became smaller, became something just for them.
“How could anybody not love you, Koutarou Akaashi?”
They kissed, a gentle thing, and kept their mouths close even when they parted, keeping the hushed whispers for themselves.
The world could see their love, Keiji thought. He was done hiding. He had never been prouder of something in his life.
But this moment was theirs. None of them would ever have the honour of knowing Koutarou like he had.
…close to you.