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Your Place Among the Stars

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“Akaashi, you’ve gotta read this.” Suna bursts through the door to his office, waving around the paper. Ever since he hired Suna as his stylist—and got a best friend out of it—Akaashi hasn’t bothered to pick up the paper. He knows Suna will give him the rundown if anything notable makes the news. Now, however, is not the time for news, notable or otherwise. 

“Suna-kun, I’m doing market readings right now.” 

“I think this is just a little more important than the market,” Suna says, setting the paper over Akaashi’s array of natal charts and stock reports. 

Akaashi sighs and picks up the paper, skimming over the blocks of text. 

“Middle of the second page, second column.”

He finds the headline and immediately wishes he hadn’t. There, in big block letters it reads:

Fortune Telling Floozy: Homewrecker Akaashi Keiji Breaks Up Engagement of the Decade

This would explain Suna’s uncharacteristic energy. Akaashi pushes back in his seat and takes his reading glasses off, rubbing his eyes. 

“What am I looking at?” 

“Keep reading,” Suna says, dropping down in the seat in front of Akaashi’s desk. 

Akaashi puts his glasses back on. 

 

November 31st, 1926 

Akaashi Keiji, astrologer to the rich and famous, rose to prominence when he predicted the stock market boom at the beginning of the decade. Since then, he’s had a career of great highs. Notable clients include Sears Roebuck, who sought the young astrologer's guidance before the opening of his first department store, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, and the sensational Josephine Baker, before her move to France. 

Despite the string of predictions, it seems that there was one thing the stars didn’t prepare Akaashi for: his own love life. 

In an exclusive interview with the Centurion, J.P. Morgan Jr., son of J.P. Morgan and heir to the J.P. Morgan & Co. banking empire, describes how Akaashi broke one of the most high profile engagements of the decade and Mr. Morgan’s heart. 

“I was set to marry Jane Nortan Grew,” Mr. Morgan says. “She and I were to be wed at the end of the month, a beautiful winter ceremony to close out the year. But I broke my engagement with her to ask for Keiji’s hand in marriage, after he’d led me to believe he might love me back. He said no and sent me packing. As soon as I left his office, another man walked in.”

“So Akaashi has a string of suitors in his life?”

“It would appear so,” Mr. Morgan says. “I’m devastated.”

We here at the Centurion are devastated for you too, Mr. Morgan. And to Miss Norton Grew, we hope Prince Charming comes along to sweep you off your feet soon! 

We’re hoping all parties involved can find closure, and that Akaashi Keiji can learn to close his office door. 

 

Akaashi flings the newspaper away and groans. “I don’t even know where to start with this.” 

“I do,” Suna says, examining his fingernails. “We have to do damage control. Or find a way to spin this in your favor. Sakusa is going to be so mad when he reads this.”

“If he hasn’t already,” Akaashi says. He folds up his glasses and puts them into their case. “Do you want to know the worst part?”

“Shoot.”

“It was Sakusa-san who walked into my office after Morgan left.”

“No,” Suna gasps, eyes going wide. 

“Yes. He was bringing in the new quarter’s financial reports. And now everyone thinks I’m a ‘fortune telling floozy,’” Akaashi splutters. “This is outrageous.”

“What this is,” Sakusa says from the doorway, making both Akaashi and Suna jump. “Is an opportunity.”

“You have to start making noise when you move,” Suna says, putting a hand over his heart. 

Akaashi’s own pulse is racing. Though he’s been working with Sakusa for nearly two years now, these scares are still a weekly occurrence. 

Sakusa takes off his snow covered wool coat and newsboy cap and hangs them to dry on Akaashi’s coat rack. He smooths a hand over his slicked back hair to get any excess snow out, unhooks his black surgical mask, and takes a seat in the plush leather chair next to Suna’s. 

“We can capitalize off of this, use it to launch the next phase of your business, the way we’ve been discussing.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible right now,” Akaashi says. “The papers hate me. They’re calling me a fortune teller and telling me to close my legs in more words than that.” 

“Where one set of legs closes, another opens,” Sakusa says with a wave of his wrist. 

Akaashi wrinkles his nose. “I’ve never known you to be vulgar.” 

Before Sakusa can say anything more, the phone rings. 

“Hello,” Akaashi says into the transmitter, holding the earphone up to his ear. “Akaashi speaking.” 

“Hello, Akaashi.” 

“Oh, Kuroo-san, to what do I owe the pleasure?” 

Out of the corner of his eye, Akaashi notices Sakusa straighten and lean forward, straining to hear the conversation. Akaashi turns away, holding the earphone closer. 

“I read the papers this morning—”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, Kuroo-san,” Akaashi says, cutting him off. “It’s just newspaper fodder.”

“It’s a violation of journalistic ethics,” Kuroo says, voice tight. He sighs and his voice is softer when he speaks again. “Have you had breakfast yet, Akaashi?” 

Akaashi’s eyes flit to the grandfather clock in the corner of the room. Half past nine in the morning. He’s been up since six. He runs his thumb over the ivory flowers set into the phone stand. 

“No, I haven’t.” 

“Would you like to have breakfast with me?”

The rumbling in his stomach decides for him. “I’d like that.”

“Great,” Kuroo says brightly. “How’s the cafe on Eighth Avenue? The one next to the Museum of Natural History?” 

“I know the one,” Akaashi says. “I can be there by ten.” 

“Perfect,” Kuroo says. “See you then.” 

Akaashi puts the receiver back onto the stand and sighs. “I don’t want to hear what either of you have to say.”

“Akaashi-san,” Sakusa says, leaning his elbows on the table, lacing his fingers together. “This is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You do,” Sakusa says. “You have friends in high places. Friends that, need I remind you, you got to those high places. Maybe it’s time you let them repay the favor.”

“I’m not going to take advantage of my friends,” Akaashi scoffs. 

“You’re not taking advantage of them. Let them know you’re trying to take steps to salvage your reputation. I’m sure Kuroo-san of all people understands what it is to spin a story in your favor.”

Akaashi considers this. “What do I have to do?”

“Everything you normally do.” Sakusa leans back in his seat, giving Akaashi a half smile. “Just in a place where reporters can see it.” 

~

Suna slips Akaashi into a long, dark blue coat with white fur trimming around the collar and cuffs.

“It’s the latest from the fashion houses,” Suna says. “You have to look good for your date.”

Akaashi’s cheeks warm, but he doesn’t turn away. “It’s not a date.”

“Sure,” Suna says, handing him a matching pair of white silk gloves. “And I’m not the person who picks out your outfits every morning.” 

Akaashi rolls his eyes, but accepts the gloves. 

The cab is waiting for him by the time he steps out of his building, and he’s thankful for the fur collar when a flurry of snow rushes past him. 

He feels it sticking to his eyelashes and cheeks and dabs it off with the backs of his hands.  

The cafe, when they reach it, is not as bustling as it is at noon, when Akaashi usually frequents. 

Akaashi spots Kuroo sitting at a table in front of the windows, flicking through a magazine. His dark hair is mussed, falling into his face. It’s the type of hairstyle that shouldn’t work on anyone, but on Kuroo, it looks effortlessly roguish. He’s practically glowing in the light bouncing off of the snow. 

Bells chime when Akaashi pushes the cafe door open. Kuroo rises from his seat when he spots him. He’s wearing a pinstripe vest and pants, the gold chain of his pocket watch shifting with the movement. 

The lazy smile that’s a permanent fixture on Kuroo’s face is nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by the strained look Akaashi knows Kuroo gets when he has a deadline approaching or a particularly difficult story to write. They’ve spent many evenings together agonizing over word choice or pouring over the notes from an interview Kuroo conducted. 

“Hi,” he says, when Akaashi is in hearing distance. He reaches for Akaashi’s hand. “How are you this morning?” 

Kuroo loosens Akaashi’s gloves finger by finger, then pulls them off. He leans in so they’re practically chest to chest and tucks the gloves into Akaashi’s coat pockets. 

“I’m sure you’ve read all about how I’m doing this morning,” Akaashi says, putting a hand to Kuroo’s chest. 

Kuroo’s smile looks more relaxed when he pulls away. He reaches for Akaashi’s coat next and Akaashi holds his arms out and lets Kuroo take it off and drape it across the back of Akaashi’s chair.

“Yes, well, reading about it is one thing. But you and I both know that hearing it from the source is another matter altogether.” 

He holds an arm out and Akaashi loops his own through it. Kuroo leads them to the display cases of pastries and the signs advertising teas at the front of the store. 

“Have you tried their new earl grey blend?” Akaashi asks, leaning forward to peer at the array of colorful cakes. 

“I haven’t.”

“It’s delightful. Imported directly from France.” 

“Then we’ll have to get it,” Kuroo says. 

Akaashi picks out more cakes than he knows what to do with at Kuroo’s behest. 

“We’ll have it brought to your table when the tea is done steeping,” the man behind the counter tells them. 

It’s only when they’re seated at the table, steaming cups of tea and cakes between them, that Kuroo picks up their earlier thread of conversation. 

“Well, how are you?”

Akaashi sighs and runs his fork through the cream on the cake in front of him. “I’m more peeved than anything.”

Kuroo cocks an eyebrow. “How’s that?” 

“They’re calling me a fortune teller.” Akaashi spits the words out. “I’m no such thing.”

Kuroo rests his chin in his palm and smiles at him, brow quirking. 

“That’s what you're worried about?” 

“Of course that’s what I’m worried about. I’m an astrologer, ” Akaashi stabs his fork into the raspberry on top of his cake and brings it to his mouth. 

“So you’re not worried about them calling you a homewrecker? Or telling you to, what was it, ‘keep your office door shut?’” 

“I am worried about that. If everyone thinks that I’m not credible, if my reputation is tarnished, then who will solicit my services?” Akaashi sighs and looks down at his plate. When he speaks next, his voice is a small thing. “I’m worried that everything I’ve worked my whole life to build will come crashing down.” 

Kuroo taps two fingers on the table in front of Akaashi. He looks up to find Kuroo much closer than he was moments ago. 

He runs the back of those same two fingers down Akaashi’s cheek. His fingers are warm and his hand smells of printer ink. 

“There can be consequences to their actions,” he says, voice quiet to match Akaashi’s. “I meant what I said earlier. Their story was a mockery of journalism.”

Kuroo cups Akaashi’s cheek. “And more important than that, they hurt you.” 

Akaashi’s heart beats in his chest like a baby bird gearing up to take flight. 

“And what consequences would there be, Kuroo-san?” he whispers into the space between them. 

Another smile tugs up at Kuroo’s lips, and Akaashi has a keen memory of all the times he’s kissed that same smile off of Kuroo’s face. 

“I could have any number of their journalists blacklisted.” He moves his hand lower, so he’s cradling Akaashi’s jaw. “Or, I could have the number of events they’re permitted to cover limited.” 

Akaashi is smiling in earnest now. 

“Or,” Kuroo muses, sliding his hand even lower, so it’s resting against the curve of Akaashi’s neck, “I could have the Society of Professional Journalists revoke their license.” 

“And how would you do that?” 

Kuroo slips his index finger into the collar of Akaashi’s button up. “I’m the youngest executive editor in the history of the New York Times. I think I can pull a string or two.” 

“I’m sure you could, Kuroo-san. But I don’t know that that would be necessary.” 

Akaashi puts his hand over Kuroo’s and brings it back to cup his cheek. Kuroo’s thumb finds Akaashi’s mouth. 

“Why’s that?” he asks, dragging his thumb over Akaashi’s lower lip. 

“Sakusa-san thinks this would be a good opportunity.” He presses a kiss to the tip of Kuroo’s thumb and thrills at the way Kuroo’s eyes zero in on the movement.

“What opportunity?” 

“We’re preparing to take my astrology reading to new markets and clientele.” 

“So he thinks the scandal will generate buzz?” 

“He does.” Akaashi brushes his fingers through the hair hanging in Kuroo’s face. “Suna even picked out this coat especially for the occasion.”

“And here I thought you were dressed up for me.”

“That too,” Akaashi says, grinning. 

Kuroo leans back and laughs so loud he attracts the eyes of the few patrons in the cafe. 

“I’m flattered.” Kuroo rolls his eyes and straightens in his seat. “Sakusa is definitely right about that. Nothing like a good scandal to get papers flying off the shelf.”

“That’s what we’re hoping for.”

“Speaking of scandal,” Kuroo says, leaning forward again. “Let me tell you two things, one more horrifying than the next.” 

“Are you trying to get a rise out of me?” Akaashi asks. 

“No.” Kuroo says, leaning in so close that his breath ghosts against Akaashi’s lips. “One, a photographer from the Centurion is standing outside this window. Two, you’ve had a spot of cream on the side of your mouth this whole time.”

Then Kuroo closes the final few inches between them and presses his lips to Akaashi’s. His lips are dry from the cold New York winter, but they’re warm and soft and have the lingering taste of bergamot and cream on them. 

Kuroo’s hand finds the hair at Akaashi’s nape, and he tugs lightly. He laughs into the kiss when Akaashi gasps. 

Akaashi cups Kuroo’s smooth jaw and bites down on his bottom lip, smiling when Kuroo is the one who gasps. 

Kuroo smooths a hand over Akaashi’s neck, the collar of his shirt, until he reaches the knot of his tie. 

“It’s ten in the morning,” Akaashi says, pulling away. He catches Kuroo’s hand and winds his fingers through it, panting against his lips. 

“It’s nearly eleven now,” Kuroo says. 

Akaashi breathes a laugh. “Still too early for whatever you were planning.” 

“That may be.” But you still have a little something right—” he says, dragging the syllable out. He steals another kiss from Akaashi and pulls back with a satisfied grin. “There, all gone.” 

Kuroo glances out the window, and Akaashi’s eyes follow his gaze. The photographer from the Centurion is still standing there, camera raised, jaw slack. 

“I should hope so,” Akaashi says, pressing his hands against his cheeks in a vain effort to cool them. 

“I think you’re going to get a kick out of the papers tomorrow.” Kuroo says, rising from his seat and slipping his coat on. “I’ve got to run right now, but you should come by the office tonight, say eight in the evening?”

“Why?” Akaashi asks, standing up and putting his own coat on. 

“I have something to show you,” Kuroo says, giving him nothing more than a devious smile as a hint.   

The Times’ headquarters is nearly empty when Akaashi arrives. The only person around is someone sitting at the check-in desk. 

Akaashi makes his way there, but before he can get very far, the person calls, “You here for Kuroo?”

“Yes.”

“He said you’d be coming. Go up to the eleventh floor.”

The person slumps back into their seat and Akaashi wastes no time heading for the elevators. 

It’s always a trek to get to Kuroo’s office. It’s the office farthest away from the elevators, but the placement is worth it. It’s the largest office on the floor, with floor to ceiling south facing windows. 

Sometimes, Akaashi comes by near sunset under the guise of working alongside Kuroo just to see him bathed in golden light. 

This evening, however, the window shows the New York skyline, dotted with bright lights. 

Kuroo is on the phone when Akaashi walks in. He hangs his coat up and makes himself comfortable on one of the two plush seats in front of Kuroo’s desk. A glass table sits between the chairs.

When he hangs up, he grins at Akaashi. “Glad you didn’t get lost on your way up.” 

“That was one time,” Akaashi huffs. 

The first time he’d ever come to see Kuroo, he’d wandered around the floor until he walked into an office he thought was Kuroo’s. What he’d stumbled upon instead was two of Kuroo’s co-workers getting into some rather interesting night time activities, involving thumb tacks, a world map, and one too many naked bodies. 

Kuroo had heard about it endlessly for the next week. Which meant Akaashi had heard about it endlessly for the next week as well. 

“So, you had something you wanted to show me?” 

“You’re always so quick to get to business.” Kuroo stands up from his desk chair and stretches. Akaashi doesn’t try to hide the way he watches Kuroo’s arms and shoulders flex beneath his dress shirt. 

“Aren’t you the one who always says ‘time is words?’” 

Kuroo sits down in the seat next to Akaashi’s and pulls out a box from under the table. 

“Let’s talk over cigars.” 

Akaashi undoes his cufflinks and rolls his sleeves up, watching all the while as Kuroo cuts the tips off two cigars. He lights one and puffs on it until smoke curls from the end of it. 

He passes it to Akaashi and gets to work on his own. 

When Kuroo finally gets his lit, he blows a mouthful of smoke and turns the weight of his full attention on Akaashi. 

“So, walk me through Sakusa’s plan again.” 

Akaashi walks Kuroo through the details, of purposely landing himself in the papers, of trying to make each appearance that much more scandalous than the last. 

“What’s the end goal?” Kuroo asks, when Akaashi finishes. 

“The end goal is to secure a radio show.” 

Kuroo flashes him a blinding smile. “Wonderful.”

Akaashi ashes his cigar. “Agreed. The three of us have been thinking through next steps for the business, and radio is the logical next step. More and more people own them. More and more people are turning to them for entertainment. If we dominate the papers, radio has to come next.”

“You’ve thought about this.” 

“I have. We’ve been trying to scale the business up for quite some time.”

“You three are wickedly brilliant.”

“Well, turning misfortune into opportunity is my specialty,” Akaashi says. A knowing grin passes between them. “But that’s not what you invited me here for, is it?”

“It’s not.” Kuroo stands and leans over his desk, grabbing a few sheets of paper and a notebook. 

He flips to a page covered in his neat handwriting and shows it to Akaashi. 

Akaashi scans the page for a moment and nearly falls out of his seat when he sees what’s written at the top. 

“The first ever ‘Times Thirty Under Thirty?’” His eyes flit between Kuroo and the page. 

“Yeah,” Kuroo nods. “A list of the thirty most accomplished, notable people of our time.” 

Akaashi gawks at him. “And you want me on this list?” 

“I do.” Kuroo points to the line under Akaashi’s name. “And if I have my way, you’ll be above that bastard, Yaku.” 

Akaashi huffs a laugh. “His import business is no joke.”

“His attitude is.” Kuroo sits back in his seat and takes a puff of his cigar. “I’m sick of him thinking he’s entitled to my time.” 

He raises a brow and eyes Kuroo. “But he’s on your list.”

“But he’s on my list,” Kuroo sighs. 

“I look forward to the day when you two work out whatever strange tension you have.” 

Kuroo rolls his eyes. “Just tell me how you feel about the list.” 

“I’m ecstatic, Kuroo-san.” Akaashi’s eyes scan over the page again. The names on this list are some of the most important names in the country. That he’s on the same page as them is the perfect counterbalance to the gossip mill he’s currently letting himself be put through. And it’s also extremely flattering, to know that he’s so highly esteemed in Kuroo’s mind. 

“How come you’re not on the list?” Akaashi asks. 

“Because,” Kuroo says, ashing his cigar. “I’m the arbiter of this list. I’m the one who decides who’s important enough to be on it.”

“Wow. You’re certainly not letting the power get to your head.” 

“Never.” Kuroo puts a hand over his heart and closes his eyes, the picture of false serenity. “I’m but an impartial actor. Fairness and journalistic integrity are my only objectives.” 

“You’re a pain, is what you are.” 

“You wound me,” Kuroo says, but he can’t keep the smile off his face. “You’ll have to kiss it better.”

Akaashi pretends to look him over. “You don’t look wounded.” 

“Some wounds are only seen on the heart.” 

Akaashi rolls his eyes, but puts out his cigar and walks to Kuroo’s side, taking his face in both hands. 

He presses his lips to Kuroo’s and is pleased when Kuroo finally, finally stops speaking. Kuroo fists his hands in Akaashi’s shirt and puts his mouth to infinitely better use when he opens it for Akaashi’s tongue. 

~

A kick out of the papers indeed.

Sakusa walks into Akaashi’s office the next morning flipping through a stack of papers, Suna trailing behind him. 

“These are something else,” Suna titters, dropping the stack on Akaashi’s desk. “Kuroo is an interesting fellow.”

Akaashi shrugs. “He’s bold.” 

“Bold is a word for it,” Sakusa says. He grabs one of the papers. “Look, you’ve moved up to the front page. And there’s a photograph this time.” 

Sakusa clears his throat and reads, “ Too Much Free Time at the Times? Editor Kuroo Tetsurou Spotted With Heartbreak of the Century, Akaashi Keiji."

Suna whistles. “Heartbreak of the century? The papers sure are pulling out all the stops.” 

“I should hope so,” Akaashi says. “I looked too good for them not to.” 

Three swift knocks sound against the door.

“Come in,” Akaashi calls. 

The door swings open to reveal one of the office building guards. “Sir, a gentleman dropped this off for you.” 

He holds up a cream envelope, but Akaashi doesn’t miss the way his eyes try to discern its contents. Akaashi beckons him in and holds a hand out for it. He doesn’t open the envelope until the door clicks shut. Akaashi recognizes the elegant handwriting immediately. 

I know what you’re doing. And I think you should do it with me too. 

Dinner at 7 this evening at The Jupiter?

—Kenma

“What is it?” Suna asks. 

“A dinner invitation.”

Suna grins. “Oh really? From who exactly?”

“Kenma.”

“Delightful,” Suna smiles too much like a fox for Akaashi’s own comfort. “And what will you be wearing for your evening soiree with one of the biggest names on Wall Street?”

Akaashi sighs dramatically, holding a hand to his chest. “Who could know? If only I had the most in-demand stylist in all of New York to guide me.” 

Sakusa snorts, and folds the newspaper back up. “You two and your insistence on fashion.” 

“Speaking of,” Suna says. “What do you think of my look?” He spins around slowly, showing off a pair of Plus-Fours tucked into dark brown leather boots and a charming cream argyle sweater. 

“I think you look like a show pony out for a graze.” 

“Sakusa,” Suna gasps. “Why would you say that?” 

Sakusa shrugs. “It’s the truth.” His eyes find Akaashi’s and there’s an amused twinkle in them. 

Akaashi has to hide his smile behind his hand. 

Suna sees it anyway. He whirls on Akaashi. “Don’t encourage him. These trousers are the latest trend.” 

“Forgive my lack of sophistication,” Sakusa says, doing a piss-poor job of sounding apologetic. “We in the field of finance tend to stick to more timeless and classic looks.”

Suna gapes at him. “Forget you. If you want to look stuffy in your pinstripe suits, be my guest.” 

He gets up to leave the room, but before he’s out of the door, he turns around and directs a final glare at the both of them. “And don’t generalize everyone in the field of finance. Kenma, who you should definitely go out with this evening, is a wonderful dresser.” 

With that, he sniffs and leaves the room. 

When the door clicks shut, Akaashi finally lets himself laugh. Even Sakusa indulges him in a laugh, the rich tone of it settling somewhere in Akaashi’s chest. 

“He’s right about one thing, at least,” Sakusa says. “Going out with Kenma is a great decision. And Suna does a great job of helping you look right for the occasion.” 

“I’m grateful for the job he does.” Akaashi pauses, looking Sakusa over. The craftsmanship on his suits is remarkable, each stitch in the material looking like it was made specifically for his body. Despite that, though, Akaashi wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Sakusa in something else. 

“You should let Suna dress you sometime.”

Sakusa rolls his eyes. “Not you too.” 

“I’m just saying,” Akaashi shrugs. “The whole world already knows you look good in a suit. It might be nice to try something new for a change.” 

Sakusa quirks a brow at him, the two moles above his eyebrow rising with the movement. It’s only then that Akaashi realizes what he’s said, and he’s thankful that Suna wasn’t here to catch his blunder. 

~

Suna rises to the occasion once again.

At 5 p.m. sharp, he knocks on Akaashi’s office door, makes him pack up his documents, and ushers Akaashi back to his brownstone. 

After a shower, he sits Akaashi down on the seat in front of his vanity and gets to work. An hour later, Akaashi’s hair is slicked back, his brows are groomed into place, and a hint of rogue is applied to his cheekbones. 

Suna finishes it off with a spritz of cologne and rises from the vanity to rifle through Akaashi’s closet. 

He returns with a brand new suit Akaashi bought at Suna’s insistence that he hasn’t worn yet. 

“Isn’t this a bit much?” Akaashi asks, plucking at the fabric on the hanger. 

“Of course it’s a bit much,” Suna says. “No one goes to The Jupiter in anything but a bit much. Everyone who’s there is there to be seen.”

Suna is correct, of course. All the times Akaashi has been to The Jupiter, it’s been at the behest of clients eager to have their photograph snapped or to show off their latest finery to who’s who in New York high society. 

Akaashi has known Kenma for years, nearly as long as he’s known Kuroo, back when Kenma was first getting his bearings on Wall Street and Kuroo was a young upstart journalist. He’d given them readings on a few occasions, for fun, but rather than treat it like a joke, they took his advice seriously and landed themselves in covetous positions. 

For all the new fortune he’s acquired, and for all the wealthy and the aspiring alike clamor to rub elbows with Kenma, he’s never been the flashy sort. So it’s no coincidence that Kenma chose The Jupiter for their evening together. 

Akaashi rises from the settee and slips his robe off. The cool evening air nips at his skin, but Suna quickly hands him his collared shirt. Akaashi buttons it up with deft fingers and accepts the pants next. They’re high waisted, coming up past his belly button. Finally, Suna hands him a short black jacket to match.

Suna fiddles with the collars and the cuffs for a moment. He hands Akaashi a pair of black oxford’s shined so brightly he can see a distorted image of his reflection in them. 

“And for the finishing touch,” Suna says, placing a satin top hat onto Akaashi’s head and tipping it artfully to one side. 

~

To Akaashi’s surprise, Kenma is waiting for him in a cab outside his brownstone. 

When he spots Akaashi, Kenma tucks the pocketbook of Sudoku games into his jacket, steps out of the cab and holds the door open for him. 

“Let’s save our pleasantries for when we get to The Jupiter,” Kenma says in lieu of a greeting. 

“You didn’t tell me you were going to be waiting for me.” Akaashi takes Kenma’s proffered arm and steps in. 

Kenma follows in after him and shuts the door. “It wouldn’t do for us to arrive separately.” 

“It wouldn’t,” Akaashi agrees. “But you could have rang me. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting long.” 

“And if you did?” Kenma asks, fingertips finding Akaashi’s hand. Akaashi holds his hand palm up and Kenma twines their fingers together. 

“I’m sure I could find ways to apologize.” Kenma answers Akaashi’s knowing grin with one of his own. 

The Jupiter Hotel—named after the largest planet in the solar system, second, and the owner’s ambitions to be the biggest name in the galaxy, first—is already teeming with activity by the time they arrive. 

The driver holds the door open and the bustling of the crowd momentarily lulls. When Kenma steps out, an excited chatter takes over the hotel-goers. 

Kenma holds an arm out for Akaashi, and Akaashi swears the crowd waits with bated breath as they crane their necks to see who will step out of that car and onto Kenma’s arm. 

When Akaashi’s foot hits the ground, the crowd erupts. 

Between the two of them, Kenma is often the quiet one, unless he’s speaking about a subject that excites him. Despite his efforts to blend into the crowd, his innovation in the field of finance, his aptitude for stock picking, and his meteoric rise to the top have made him both a name and face people know. 

Coupled with Akaashi’s own recent infamy and his ever growing list of celebrity clientele, they make a formidable couple. 

Akaashi holds his head up and plants both feet firmly on the ground, striding forward. 

A shutter goes off, and then another and another. The camera flash has momentarily blinded Akaashi by the time they make it inside the hotel. It’s only when Kenma has led them into the restaurant that Akaashi has a chance to take him in. 

He’s wearing a blouse with puffed sleeves that cinch at the cuffs under a double breasted waistcoat that shows off his slender waist. When Akaashi finally tears his eyes from Kenma’s waist, they land on his hair, which he has tied in a low ponytail. A few wisps frame his face. 

“You finally took my suggestion,” Akaashi says, tucking a strand of Kenma’s hair behind his ear. 

“When people give me sound advice, I tend to take it.” Kenma’s smile is small, and Akaashi leans in and presses a kiss to it. 

“Ponytails suit you,” he whispers against Kenma’s lips. 

Kenma squeezes his hand and pulls away, though not without a final, lingering look at Akaashi’s mouth. 

He walks them over to coat check, where someone takes their winter coats and hands them each a ticket slips. 

“Table for two, under the name of Kozume,” Kenma tells the hostess. 

She leads them to a table on a raised platform against the back wall of the dining room, where anyone who walks into the restaurant will be able to see them. 

Kenma pulls Akaashi’s chair out for him. 

“Very deliberate choice,” Akaashi says, sitting down and crossing one legs over the other. 

“Of course,” Kenma says, taking the seat opposite him. “Now, why don’t we get a bottle between us, and you can tell me all about how you’ve landed yourself in this conundrum.”

At Akaashi’s beckoning, a waiter comes and takes their order, and minutes later, a bottle of champagne is placed between them. 

“Start from the beginning,” Kenma says. 

Akaashi launches into his story, pausing only to take sips of the champagne. He recounts how Morgan sought his advice regarding a business relation, but slowly began to view their professional time together as an opportunity to try to romance Akaashi, culminating in the spectacular failure that was his proposal attempt. 

Kenma wrinkles his nose. “I hope you let him down brutally.” 

“I think I heard him sniffling on the way out.” 

“Good,” Kenma says, stabbing the butter knife into the butter. “There’s nothing I hate more than someone who can’t respect the boundaries of a professional relationship.” 

“You’re telling me,” Akaashi says, leaning back in his seat and draining the rest of his wine. 

Their waiter comes back to refill it almost immediately. 

“So, what’s this business of landing yourself in the papers then?” 

“Well,” Akaashi says. “Sakusa-san thinks this can generate enough interest to launch us into the next phase of my business.”

“And what do you think of that?” Kenma asks. 

“I think Sakusa is correct. My headline moved up in the paper.”  

“Sakusa is a smart man,” Kenma says, taking a sip of his champagne. 

“You always did like smart men.”

“No, I like you,” Kenma corrects. 

“I’m flattered to have found myself in your affections,” Akaashi says, but he’s warmed by the honesty of the confession. 

Despite the years he’s known Kenma, there are only a few people Akaashi can say with certainty that Kenma truly likes: Kuroo, begrudgingly, Hinata, enthusiastically, and himself, of course. 

“I’m flattered for the opportunity to be turned down by the ‘heartbreak of the century,’” Kenma says with a small laugh, swirling the champagne in his glass. 

“Says who I would turn you down?” Akaashi asks, leaning in closer and catching Kenma’s hand. “Maybe desperate bankers reserve that right.”

“Maybe they do,” Kenma says, running a thumb over Akaashi’s knuckle. “And speaking of desperate bankers. I could sell all of my shares in his stock. I own hundreds of them. It would create enough of a panic that others would sell too. It would take him ages to recover from something like that.” 

“If he even would,” Akaashi muses. 

“Say the word and it’s done.”

Akaashi sighs. “As much as I appreciate the gesture, you and I both know Morgan’s bank is only projected to grow. It would be silly to sell your shares over something that hopefully won’t matter soon.” 

“Some things are worth more than money.” Kenma lifts Akaashi’s hand and presses a kiss into the middle of his palm. 

“I’ve read the bank’s chart. It has Capricorn in the seventh house of romantic partnerships and business unions. Its success is quite literally written in the stars.” Akaashi cups Kenma’s cheek in his hand and brings him in closer. “I would hate for you to miss out on that.”

“Your problem is that you always think of others first,” Kenma says, now only inches away from Akaashi’s face. 

“It’s in my job description,” Akaashi says. 

Kenma closes the distance between them, and Akaashi closes his eyes, longing for the feeling of Kenma’s lips against his own. Nothing comes though, because at that moment, their waiter clears his throat. 

They pull away slowly, and blink up at him. 

“Uh, apologies for interrupting you, gentleman,” he says, fidgeting with his collar. Even under the dim lights of the restaurant, Akaashi can make out the blush high on his cheeks. “But, can I get you started on anything this evening?” 

“Yes, we’ll have the ten course menu,” Kenma says. 

“Of course sir.” The waiter scurries away.

Akaashi clears his throat. “Neither of us are usually this showy in public.” 

“Yes, well, we’re not usually trying to land you the top headline of the papers.”

“And you think you’re a hot enough commodity to land the top headline?” Akaashi asks with a teasing smile. 

Kenma gives back as good as he gets. “Alone? No. But with you, certainly.” 

“Schmoozing was always more Kuroo-san’s cup of tea,” Akaashi says to deflect from the heat flooding his cheeks. 

Kenma leans back and laughs in earnest. For as infrequently as Kenma laughs, his laugh is light and easy and transforms his whole face, making him look years younger. 

It takes them nearly two hours to get through dinner. The waiter brings out plates of caviar, lobster, ribbons of beets arranged into flowers, a salad with glazed pears and candied pecans, gnocchi, a bizarre dish described to them only as “salmon cheesecake,” prime rib, and an array of small desserts. 

By the end of their meal, Akaashi is full and more than a little tipsy. He and Kenma worked through the first bottle of champagne and got through two thirds of a second. 

“I can’t eat another bite,” Akaashi says, leaning back in his chair.  

Kenma sighs and flops back in his own chair. He smiles at Akaashi. “Rich people food is so bizarre. What possesses anyone to turn a salmon into a cheesecake?” 

Akaashi snorts. “You’re considered a rich person now.” 

“Yeah, well so are you.” 

“I’m not as rich as you,” Akaashi says, eyeing the heavy looking watch on Kenma’s wrist. 

“If all goes to plan, you will be.” Kenma straightens and rifles through his pocket for something. “And if not, well, you have us to make up the difference.” 

Kenma holds out a small velvet box. 

Akaashi groans, but is secretly pleased. “Do I even want to guess what you’ve bought for me this time?”

He knows that whatever’s in the box will no doubt be beautiful, but that’s not what matters to him about the gifts those around him shower him with. It’s the fact that they think of him, that when they see something eye-catching, it’s him their mind wanders to. 

Akaashi has never been one to covet material things, despite the finery Suna keeps him dressed in. That is as much a business decision as an aesthetic one. These gifts, on the other hand, are his friends reminding him that no matter where they are in the world, no matter who else they’re with, they’ve spared a thought for him. 

It’s flattering and humbling and all together too much. 

Kenma grins that challenging grin of his, the one he gets when he’s talking to Hinata or recounting a particularly successful day on the stock exchange floor. 

Akaashi takes the box out of Kenma’s hand and gasps at its contents. 

Gingerly, he pulls a pair of earrings out of the box and holds them to the light. His heart catches in his throat. Hanging off the long, white gold chain of the earrings are diamond shaped sapphires, each the size of his pinky nail. 

“Kenma,” he breathes. 

Kenma beckons him closer and holds his hand out. Wordlessly, Akaashi places the earrings in his outstretched palm. Kenma tucks a strand of Akaashi’s hair behind his ear and inserts one earring, then the next. 

A shiver goes down Akaashi’s spine when Kenma’s fingers brush against his jaw. 

“There,” Kenma says, pulling away to admire his handiwork. “They match your eyes.” 

It’s a mad dash to pay for dinner and leave the restaurant. They lean against each other, both a little unsteady on their feet. 

Akaashi trips on Kenma’s foot and Kenma catches him, steadying him with a hand at the small of his back. 

A camera flashes. They stare at each for a moment, and then Kenma grabs Akaashi by the waist, dips him low, and kisses him breathless. 

People around them start gasping and screaming, and so many camera shutters go off Akaashi can see them with his eyes closed. 

When they stumble into a taxi, laughing amongst themselves, Kenma presses himself against Akaashi’s side and whispers against his collarbone, “Tell Sakusa he’s welcome for whatever the papers are going to write tomorrow.” 

“Enough about that,” Akaashi says, hauling Kenma in closer and pressing their lips together. 

Kenma’s hands find the knot of Akaashi’s tie. He loosens it and his nimble fingers make quick work of the top few buttons of Akaashi’s dress shirt. 

Hot lips press against the column of his throat. Akaashi’s hands find purchase against Kenma’s hips. Kenma moves lower, pressing open mouthed kisses to Akaashi’s collarbone, the curve of his shoulder. 

Akaashi brushes a hand up Kenma’s side and revels in the way Kenma shivers against him. He wraps his hand around Kenma’s ponytail and tugs. Kenma’s mouth falls open, and Akaashi catches it with his own. He works the hair tie out of Kenma’s hair, silky strands spilling between his fingers. 

His hair is one of Akaashi’s favorite things about Kenma. It’s always smooth and tangle free, the faint scent of roses and pine wafting off of it. Every time he smells it, he means to ask what shampoo Kenma uses, and every time, the feeling of it in his hands is enough to make Akaashi forget about anything else. 

Tonight is no different. 

He’s only just gotten two fistfulls of it when the cab comes to a halt. 

Kenma peels himself away slowly, the light drifting in through the window highlighting the pink of his cheeks. 

“Won’t you come in?” he asks, pressing a kiss to Kenma’s full lower lip. 

“I wish I could,” Kenma says, chest rising and falling rapidly with each pull of air. “But I have to be in the office at 6:30 in the morning.” 

Akaashi wrinkles his nose. 

Kenma laughs at that, inhibitions loosened from the wine. “Sorry we can’t all read the stars for a living.” 

“A real shame,” Akaashi tuts. Then, quiter, he says, “Thank you for the evening. And for your help.” 

“It was my pleasure,” Kenma says. He brushes over the curve of Akaashi’s ear and traces a finger down one of the earrings. “I’ll shank Morgan’s leg at the next board of trustees meeting.” 

Akaashi laughs. “Don’t get yourself arrested.”

The cab driver opens the door and Kenma walks out first, holding his arm out for Akaashi once again. Akaashi is grateful for it when he stumbles again and Kenma is there to steady him. 

Kenma walks him to his door and pulls him down for one final kiss, this one softer than all the others. 

“Good night,” Akaashi whispers. 

“Good night.” 

Akaashi watches Kenma get back into the cab, and keeps watching until it drives out of view. 

~

“Whisked Off His Feet. Wall Street Executive Kozume Kenma Caught Canoodling with Akaashi Keiji.” Suna folds the newspaper and sets it aside. He leans back in his seat and raises his cup of tea to his lips. 

“Well, you’ve got to give them points for alliteration,” Sakusa says from the doorway. He’s carrying a large paper bag in his arms. 

He places the bag down on the coffee table and hangs up his jacket. 

“What’d you bring?” Suna asks, peering into the bag. 

“Breakfast pastries.” Sakusa smacks Suna’s hand away from the bag. 

“You’re mean,” Suna says, cradling his hand. 

“No, I’m trying to keep your grubby germs out of breakfast.” 

Sakusa grabs plates and a small pair of tongs from the cabinet where they keep tea supplies. He fishes a pain au chocolat out of the bag first and passes the plate to Akaashi. 

“Sakusa-san,” Akaashi marvels. “These are my favorite.” 

Sakusa doesn’t say anything, but Akaashi doesn’t miss the small smile tugging at his lips. He puts a croissant on a plate for himself and passes the tongs to Suna. 

“How come you got Akaashi his favorite but you only got me a croissant?” 

“Because I don’t know your favorite.” Sakusa rips his croissant into tiny pieces and pops one into his mouth.

“Apple danishes. I tell you every time,” Suna huffs. 

Sakusa shrugs. “If you don’t want it, I’ll eat it.”

“I didn’t say that,” Suna says, turning away and shielding his plate. 

“What’s on the schedule for today?” Sakusa asks, turning his attention to Akaashi.

“I have a consultation today. And then stock market readings with the board of trustees of a pharmaceutical chain.”

“Great. By the time you get back, Suna and I will have your next news opportunity figured out.”

Akaashi wipes his fingers off on a tissue. “That sounds like a plan.”

~

On the rare occasions when the New York winter isn’t biting, Akaashi chooses to walk the few blocks that separate him from his clients. 

On this particular afternoon, he’s walking to an initial chart reading with a singer posited to become the next chart topper. Her Capricorn rising is going to make her life path difficult, but she has Leo in the 10th house, so Akaashi isn’t worried about her ability to launch to superstardom. 

It’s as he’s thinking about the fine details of her natal chart that he bumps into a wall. The wall reaches a hand out to steady him and Akaashi is shocked to find that the wall is not, in fact, a wall, but a person. 

“Keiji?” 

And that person has a voice he recognizes. Akaashi looks up from his papers and finds himself face to face with Miya Osamu. 

“Oh, Myaa-sam,” he says, adjusting the frame of his glasses. “I’m sorry, I should have watched where I was going.” 

“The same could be said for me.” Osamu squeezes his elbow and smiles so warmly that Akaashi momentarily forgets the piles of snow covering the ground. “And it’s Osamu,” he gently reminds.

“How’ve ya been? Ya haven’t come by the restaurant in a while.” 

Akaashi chews on his bottom lip while he thinks about how to answer that. His life has been oscillating from bad to worse and back again on the off-chance that he’ll come away from it all the winner. 

“That bad, huh?” 

“What do you mean?” Akaashi asks. 

“Ya got that face on.”

Akaashi’s brows furrow. “Which face?” 

“The one ya get when yer thinkin’ really hard about somethin’ you'd rather not be thinkin’ about.” 

“Well, how’ve you been?” Akaashi counters. It’s not a neat side-step by any means, but thankfully, Osamu doesn’t call him on it. 

“I’ve been,” Osamu says. 

“That’s hardly an answer.” 

“Yes well, maybe I’ll give ya a more thorough answer if ya join me for dinner tonight.” 

The answer to that one is easy. 

“Of course,” Akaashi says. 

Osamu squeezes his arm again, and when he smiles, Akaashi has a smile to match. 

“Swing by the restaurant at nine.”

“Isn’t that when the dinner rush is at its peak?” 

“The joy of owning your own restaurant is being able to decide what your hours of operation are.” 

“I’ll be there then,” Akaashi says. 

He finally spots the basket of groceries in Osamu’s hand. “What recipe are you testing tonight?” 

Osamu’s grin splits his face. “I’m tryin’ out a new method for hand pulled pasta.” 

“That sounds delicious.” 

“It will be,” he says, every word punctuated by the infectious confidence he gets when talking about his cooking. “And it’ll be even better because you’ll be there.” 

Akaashi smiles, but jumps when the bells signaling the turn of the hour sound. “I hate to cut our conversation short, but I’m running late to an appointment. I’m looking forward to tonight though.”

“Well, don’t let me keep ya, Keiji,” Osamu says, smile slipping back into something soft and easy. 

He’s about to turn around and keep walking when Osamu tugs on his elbow one last time. 

“Yes?”

“Ya forgot somethin’.” Osamu presses a kiss to Akaashi’s forehead. 

The sound of Osamu’s bright laugh follows Akaashi as he walks down the sidewalk. He has to restrain himself from picking up handfuls of snow and pressing them against his too warm cheeks. 

~

“I still don’t know what you see in him,” Suna says, nose wrinkled. His face has had some variation of the same disgusted expression all evening, after Akaashi came home and told Suna about his plans for the night. 

“You’re the one who introduced me to him,” Akaashi says, while Suna combs back his hair. 

“Just because I introduced you to a Miya twin, did not mean you had to strike up a relationship with a Miya twin.” 

“I’m not seeing the problem,” Akaashi says, waving a hand. 

“Akaashi, I grew up with him,” Suna groans. “I knew him when he used to flick boogers in his brother's hair.” 

Akaashi snorts. “I’ll be sure to tell him about that.”

“You wouldn’t.” Suna’s hand stills. “He’ll stand outside my window banging pots and pans all night because I’m ‘ruinin’ his love life,’” he says in a poor imitation of Osamu. 

“You sound like you’re speaking from experience.” 

At the look Suna gives him, Akaashi tips his head back and laughs loudly. 

~

Osamu’s cleared out the restaurant when Akaashi arrives. Knowing what Osamu would have them getting up to tonight, Suna opted to put Akaashi in a plain, well-tailored suit and a starched white button-up. 

“Keiji,” he says by way of greeting, holding the door open for Akaashi. 

Akaashi beats Osamu to the punch, kissing Osamu on the jaw.

“How are you?” Akaashi asks innocently. 

Osamu clears his throat. “Never better,” he says, taking both Akaashi’s coat and his suit jacket. 

He leads Akaashi to the kitchen, where a Sarah Vaughn record is already playing and ingredients are already measured. 

“You should roll yer sleeves up,” Osamu says. “And then you should c’mere.” 

Akaashi raises a brow, but does what he’s told. When his sleeves are rolled up to his elbows, he joins Osamu where he’s waiting with a black apron. 

“Turn around,” he says. 

Akaashi turns so his back is to Osamu’s chest. Osamu slips the apron over his head, taking care not to jostle his glasses. 

He wraps the strings around Akaashi’s waist once, twice, then ties them in the back. Osamu’s hands find his waist again, and he tucks his chin over Akaashi’s shoulder. “I’m really glad you could make it tonight.” 

Osamu wraps his arms Akaashi and presses light kisses to his cheek, to the juncture where jaw becomes neck. 

Akaashi sighs and relaxes into Osamu’s arms. 

“How have you been, Osamu?” Akaashi asks, just to feel Osamu’s chest move when he speaks. 

He’ll never say it to Osamu’s face—and likely would only admit it to Suna if he was really, really drunk—but Osamu’s chest is one of Akaashi’s favorite things about him. Second only to his eyes.

Akaashi has spent many nights lying in bed with Osamu, watching the colors in his eyes shift from blue to grey and back again. That he’s never been able to pin down their color just makes Akaashi want to keep looking into them, until he can discern all of their shades. 

He loves the way they crinkle when Osamu smiles, loves the way his lashes flutter when Akaashi kisses him just so, loves the way they look when Osamu has just woken up. 

“I’ve been good, Keiji,” Osamu says. One of Osamu’s hands trails up and down Akaashi’s side. “How have you been? I’ve been seein’ your name all over the papers. I get the gist of what’s goin’ on, but how’ve you been feelin’?” 

Akaashi turns around so he’s face to face with Osamu. Osamu takes Akaashi’s face in his hands. They’re calloused from years in the kitchen, but so warm against Akaashi’s skin. 

How has he been feeling? It’s a question he hasn’t stopped much to think about. Even around Suna and Sakusa, he hasn’t let himself stop to think about his own feelings. 

He lets himself think now. 

“I was angry at first, obviously,” Akaashi sighs. “It wasn’t fair that Morgan got to control the narrative. That I was painted as the villain and he got to be the poor, broken hearted man the public felt the need to console.” 

Osamu nods, but doesn’t interrupt. 

“When Sakusa-san suggested I take advantage of the news cycle and keep landing myself in the papers, I was horrified. I didn’t want to ruin what was left of my reputation. But I thought about it and realized the papers were going to talk about me no matter what I did. I might as well get them to talk about me in the way I want them to.” 

“I’m sorry you’ve been dealin’ with this, Keiji.” Osamu brushes a thumb across Akaashi’s cheekbone. 

“That’s just it,” Akaashi says. “I was feeling sorry for myself too. But I haven’t been dealing with this alone. All of the people who matter in my life believed me and took my side. And they’ve been helping me in all the ways I ask of them. No one has acted without consulting with me first. Everyone has respected my wishes.” 

“Well, you can add me to that list of people,” Osamu says. “I’d like to help in any way you want me to. If you want me to.” 

Something lodges in Akaashi’s throat. He forces himself to swallow, to speak past it. “Even if it means becoming a headline?” 

“Even if it means becoming a headline.”

Osamu straightens and pulls away. “In fact,” he says, beckoning for Akaashi to follow him. “I was supposed to host Aran-kun and Kita-san tonight, but I asked them if we could push it since you were comin’.” 

“You stood up the governor and mayor of New York to see me?” Akaashi asks, incredulous. 

“Obviously.” Osamu says it like it’s a no-brainer. Like Akaashi would be foolish for thinking otherwise.

Osamu holds the door open for him and Akaashi steps into the office where they keep all of the restaurant’s paperwork. 

“If you’d like, I can have them ring up any number of the reporters they know and let them know what exactly happened to their dinner plans tonight.” 

“I’d like that a lot,” Akaashi says.

Osamu puts the earphone up to his ear, and within minutes, both Aran and Kita have agreed to their plan. 

“Now that that’s taken care of,” Osamu says, hanging up the phone. “We can go make dinner.” 

Osamu links their fingers together even though the walk back to the kitchen is an extremely short one. 

“I’ve been saving a bottle of chardonnay exactly for this recipe,” Osamu says, pulling the bottle out of one of the cabinets. 

He makes quick work of the cork and pours out glasses for both of them. 

“What’s different about this pasta?” Akaashi asks, accepting the wine glass and taking a sip.

“I’m glad you asked.” Osamu hefts a stock pot off the stove and onto the counter. “This is what’s so different about this pasta,” he says, gesturing proudly at the pot. 

“Sorry, Osamu, but I still have no idea what I’m looking at.” 

“Right,” Osamu says, rubbing the back of his neck. He pulls a ladle of a drawer and scoops up some of the water. It’s purple when he pours it back into the pot. 

“These are beets. I’ve been boiling them all day.” At Akaashi’s look of disgust, Osamu continues.”Don’t gimme that look before you even know what they do.”

“So enlighten me,” Akaashi says, pressing himself to Osamu’s side and peering into the pot. He frowns at the beets bobbing in the water. 

“If you use beet puree in the pasta dough, it turns it a really pretty purple color. And it makes it taste a little sweet too.” 

Akaashi raises a brow, intrigued at the prospect. “Purple pasta?”

“Yeah,” Osamu nods. “I think it would be a hit if I put this on the menu for Valentine’s day.” 

“That would be a hit,” Akaashi agrees, dipping his finger into the beet water. He shouldn’t be, but he’s surprised when his finger comes out stained. 

“Keiji,” Osamu groans. “Don’t do that. That’s so unsanitary.” 

“Sorry,” Akaashi says, not sorry at all. He wiggles his finger at Osamu until Osamu grabs it and brings it to his mouth. 

“I’ll bite you.”

Akaashi laughs. “Is that supposed to be a threat?” 

“It can be a promise.” Osamu grins. “A threat is that I won’t feed ya dinner if you keep stickin’ yer fingers where they don’t belong.” 

Akaashi quirks a brow. “Oh? And where do they belong?” 

Osamu drops his hand and reaches for his wine glass. “That was not supposed to be an innuendo.” 

“So can it also be a promise?” 

“You know what,” Osamu mutters. He grabs a pinch of flour and flicks it in Akaashi’s direction. 

Akaashi closes his eyes as the flour lands against his nose and lips. 

“I thought you graduated out of your flicking phase,” Akaashi shrugs. “But I guess not.”

“What are ya talkin’ about?” 

“Somebody told me you used to flick boogers in your brother’s hair as a kid,” Akaashi says, smiling wide. “But I won’t say who.”

“Suna,” Osamu hisses, straightening to his full height. “I’m gonna spit in his food the next time he eats here.” 

That makes Akaashi laugh harder. “If he asks, I didn’t say anything.” 

“Whatever,” Osamu mutters. He drains his glass of wine and pours himself another. “Let’s just make this pasta.” 

“Don’t be a baby,” Akaashi says, finishing his own glass. He holds it out to Osamu for a refill. 

“Don’t be mean to me. I control yer ability to eat tonight.” 

“Sorry, I’ll be kinder to your fragile ego,” Akaashi says, patting Osamu’s shoulder. 

Before Osamu can retort, Akaashi grabs the bowl of flour. 

“Okay, so pasta.”

Osamu huffs but follows along. “Right, pasta. First, you wanna pour the flour onto the counter and make a well in the center of it.”

“Is the counter clean?” 

“Keiji, if you ever question the cleanliness of my counters again—”

“You’ll what?” Akaashi asks. “Threaten to not feed me dinner?” 

“I—,” Osamu stumbles for something to say. “I have never been so disrespected in my own kitchen.” 

“Well, get used to it.” Akaashi picks up a pinch of flour and flicks it back at Osamu. “With how slow your comebacks are, it’s a wonder you ever won fights against Atsumu.” 

“Tsumu and I would already be throwin’ punches at this point,” Osamu grumbles. “Now before you can knock me down even more pegs, let’s make this pasta.”

He points to the bowl of flour and Akaashi tips out its contents on the counter. 

“Okay, now make a well in it,” Osamu instructs. 

Akaashi digs a crater into the flour, loving how soft it feels between his fingers. 

“Flour is soft,” Akaashi sighs. 

Osamu snorts a laugh. “Seriously. That’s what you're thinkin’ about right now?” 

“Obviously,” Akaashi says. “What else am I supposed to be thinking about?” 

“Oh, I don’t know.” Osamu strokes at his chin and pretends to be lost in thought. “What about the dashing, Michelin starred chef giving you a personal cooking lesson.” 

“I’ll let you know when he gets here.” Akaashi looks up from the flour just in time to watch Osamu’s jaw drop. 

Akaashi can’t keep his laughter in check and laughs harder still when Osamu dips his fingers into the bowl of water and flicks it at Akaashi. 

He retaliates by plunging his whole hand into the beet water. “I’ll splash you with it,” Akaashi threatens around his laughter. 

“You wouldn’t,” Osamu says, pulling the water bowl closer to himself. 

They’re on opposite sides of the counter, staring each other down, liquids of choice at the ready.

“Try me,” Akaashi says, gearing up for a showdown. He’s always had a competitive streak, and he knows Osamu does too. 

To his surprise, Osamu puts his hands up. “Let’s call a truce.” 

Akaashi inspects him for any hint that he might be lying, that he might have some trick up his leave. 

“You won’t try anything funny?” he asks warily. 

“No funny business,” Osamu says. “I swear.” 

“Fine.” Akaashi pulls his hand out of the beet water and wipes it off on a kitchen towel. 

Osamu walks over to Akaashi’s side of the counter, slowly and with his hands up still. 

“Sike!” Osamu yells, grabbing a handful of the flour and flinging it in Akaashi’s direction.

Akaashi gapes at him. He pulls his glasses off, folds them up, and gently sets them on the counter. 

Then, he grabs two handfuls of the flour, and dumps them over Osamu’s head, rubbing them into his hair. 

Osamu grabs him by the wrists and pulls him in closer. 

“You’re a cheat.” Akaashi frowns. 

Osamu grins at him, and kisses the frown right off of his face. When Osamu pulls back, he leaves a smudge of flour on Akaashi’s nose. Akaashi furrows his nose and Osamu kisses that too. 

~

They get cleaned up and dinner gets made eventually. 

The final product is as beautiful as Osamu promised it would be. The pasta is a bright purple color, made brighter by the basil, lemon zest, and fresh parmesan Osamu sprinkles over top of it. 

He carries their plates to the dining room, where all of the tables have been cleared from the floor except for one, in the center of the room. A candle, fresh flowers, and linen napkins are on the table. 

“Wow, you really went all out tonight.”

“‘Course I did.” 

Akaashi loves the way Osamu speaks, like these grand gestures are obvious. Like they hardly register on his radar. As though Akaashi won’t be replaying this night, and the countless others like it Osamu has treated him to, over and over again. 

He sets the plates down with practiced ease and pulls Osamu’s chair out for him. 

“You take the first bite,” Osamu says. “I wanna see your reaction.”

“That’s a lot of pressure,” Akaashi says, but picks up his fork and twirls some of the pasta onto it. 

As soon as the food hits his tongue, his eyes immediately slip shut. 

It’s a blend of flavors he never would have thought to combine, but they work so well together. It’s light, and fragrant, and bright, softened by the sweetness of the beets in the pasta. 

“This is amazing.” 

Akaashi opens his eyes to find Osamu smiling gently at him. “Glad ya like it, Keiji.” 

A few bites into their meals, Osamu picks up his fork and holds it out to Akaashi. 

“Really?” he asks, wrinkling his nose. “We’re eating the same thing.”

“C’mon Keiji, indulge me.” 

Akaashi sighs, but there’s no real energy behind it. He opens his mouth and Osamu feeds him a forkful. And maybe Osamu is right. Maybe there is something to be said about small indulgences.

Osamu stares at him expectantly, until Akaashi twirls pasta onto his own fork and holds it out for Osamu. His eyes zero in on the way Osamu’s lips wrap around the fork. 

After they finish eating and Osamu clears the plates away alone—waving away any of Akaashi’s attempts at helping—they meander back to the dining room. 

They’re both full and a little tipsy for the chardonnay Osamu correctly predicted paired perfectly with the meal. 

The song changes on the record player. It’s slower, more sensual. Their bodies gravitate towards each other, in one corner of the room.

Akaashi reaches out first, slides his hands up the planes of Osamu’s chest until they settle on his shoulders. Osamu’s hands find his waist. 

“I’m glad you decided to come by tonight.” 

“I am too.” Akaashi rests his head against Osamu’s shoulder. They sway in time with the music, Ella Fitzgerald’s sweet voice singing them around the room. “This has been a beautiful evening.”

“Have I ever told you how good you look in candlelight?” Osamu asks, perfectly serious.

Akaashi tips his head back and laughs. Osamu lips find the column of his throat. 

“I’ve certainly never heard that one before,” he says. 

Osamu’s eyes rake up Akaashi’s neck, before settling at the curve of his lips. He tips up slowly, giving Akaashi plenty of time to pull away if he wanted to. But there’s nowhere Akaashi would rather be right now, so he closes his eyes, tilts his chin up, and waits for the soft brush of Osamu’s lips against his own. 

The kiss is so tender. His hands tighten instinctively around Osamu’s neck, and Osamu squeezes his waist, kissing him deeper. 

After they’ve exhausted the record twice, Osamu walks Akaashi to the front door. He helps him back into his suit jacket and coat. 

“Thank you again for spendin’ the evenin’ with me.”

“Thank you for having me. And for dinner. I can’t wait to come have the pasta on Valentine’s Day.” 

Osamu grins. “I’ll be sure to reserve a spot just for you.”

Akaashi kisses Osamu’s forehead. “I’ll look forward to it.”

“Alright then, have a good evenin’, Keiji.” 

He’s about to turn around and walk out of the front door when he spots it. Akaashi places a hand on Osamu’s shoulder, stopping him.

“Osamu, a moment please.”

He turns around, face open. “Hm?”

Akaashi reaches out, fingers brushing against the loose strand of hair that’s settled across Osamu’s forehead. 

He tucks it behind Osamu’s ear. 

“There,” he says, letting his hand linger near Osamu’s jaw, a small smile on his lips. “You’re perfect.” 

Osamu’s eyes go wide. He takes Akaashi’s hand into his own, the warmth of his touch a salve against the cold winter night. 

“Thank you.” 

He presses a kiss to the inside of Akaashi’s palm. 

“Have a good night, Keiji.”

Akaashi feels as though he has to pry his feet off the ground and force them to walk away from Osamu. 

~

“Get In Line, Governor! Michelin Starred Restauranteur Miya Osamu Blows Off the Mayor and the Governor For an Evening With Akaashi Kejiji!,” Sakusa reads. 

“You had him blow off Governor Ojiro and Mayor Kita?” Suna’s eyes bug out of his head.

“He chose to do that himself,” Akaashi says, taking a sip of his tea. Kuroo sent him a bag of the earl grey they drank together earlier in the week. 

“Well, you’ve officially made the top headline of the front page.” Sakusa reaches for his own tea. “Congratulations.” 

“And you looked fucking amazing doing it,” Suna says. “So congratulations on that too.”

“How a socialite ended up as uncouth as yourself, I’ll never understand,” Sakusa says, wrinkling his nose at Suna. 

“How an ass such as yourself ended up with such a large stick inside of you, I’ll never understand,” Suna returns, mocking Sakusa’s voice.

Akaashi huffs a laugh, and laughs harder still when Suna grins at him and Sakusa glares at them both. 

“It was a brilliant move,” Sakusa says, bringing their attention back to the paper. 

“He didn’t invite me with the intention of turning it into a headline,” Akaashi says. “It just happened to work out that way.”

“I always knew ‘Samu was capable of higher thought,” Suna says. “I should give him a call and congratulate him on his newfound thinking skills.”

“That reminds me.” Akaashi remembers Osamu’s promise of spitting in Suna’s food and thinks better of letting the cat out of the bag. “Nevermind,” he says with a prim smile. 

Suna narrows his eyes. “I hate when you get that look on your face. It always means you’re plotting something.” 

“I’m not plotting anything,” Akaashi says. “Except for our next move. The papers have been conquered, what next?” 

Sakusa steeples his fingers on top of Akaashi’s desk. “The radios. We need to get you into a meeting room as soon as possible.” 

“And a congratulations to Sakusa Kiyoomi on his one brilliant thought of the year,” Suna says. He lifts his legs off the ground when Sakusa tries to kick him.

They’re working out the details of what having a radio segment could realistically mean when there’s a knock on the door. 

“Come in,” Akaashi calls. He’s surprised when the person who opens the door isn’t the doorman, but a man outfitted in black from head to toe. Akaashi immediately recognizes him as one of Bokuto’s men. 

“Sir,” the man says. 

“No need for that,” Akaashi says. “What can I do for you?”

The man steps into the room and holds out a wrapped package. “An invitation for you.”

“Thank you.” Akaashi takes the box, expecting the man to leave after completing his delivery. 

Instead, he stays rooted in place. “I’m not to leave until I get a response.” 

Akaashi looks at the box in his hands more closely. It’s about the size of a tissue box and wrapped in black silk. 

He undoes the folds and gasps when he sees it. It’s a royal blue, covered in ornate gold roses and vines. There are suns on the four legs of the box and inlaid into the top are what—knowing Bokuto—must be diamonds. 

“What is this?” Akaashi searches Bokuto’s man for an answer, but he just shakes his head. 

“Bokuto-san didn’t specify.”

He cracks the lid open and his eyes nearly bulge out of his skull. 

Nestled in the box, on a pillow of cream colored silk, is a sheet of parchment wrapped in gold necklaces. Akaashi pulls them out and carefully unwraps the necklaces from around the parchment. 

One of them is long and thin and has a rectangle hanging from the back, while the other is choker, made of solid gold. He looks up at Sakusa and Suna a little helplessly. 

Sakusa’s eyebrows shoot up past his hairline and Suna wolf whistles. 

“What’s the letter say?” Suna asks, leaning forward. 

Akaashi scans it and his reaction is stuck somewhere between disbelief and giddy excitement. His eyes catch on a few words and his cheeks go warm. 

“Come on,” Suna needles. “Don’t keep us in suspense. The gentleman is waiting for an answer.”

“I’m paid hourly,” he says with a shrug. 

“It’s an invitation,” Akaashi says. “Bokuto-san is inviting us to a party at the Golden Owl.”

“Us?” Suna asks. 

“Yes, all of us,” he says, cutting his gaze to Sakusa, who is already starting to rise out of his chair. 

“I’m not going,” Sakusa says. “Drag my dead body there if you want, but I will not be going of my own free will.” 

“But Boktuo-san sends his love to you specifically.” Akaashi waves the invitation around. 

“Once an employee, always an employee. Just because you don’t work for Bokuto-san anymore doesn’t mean you get to skip out on his parties. You’re going with us,” Suna says. 

They all know there’s no saying no to an invitation from Bokuto.

Sakusa groans and drops back into his seat. “Fine. When is it?” 

“Tonight. At nine.”

“Well, that seems pretty tame,” Suna says. “Which doesn’t explain why you were blushing. So what else did that invite say?” 

Even Boktuo’s man has his interest piqued at that. 

Akaashi scrambles for an answer. “Please tell Bokuto-san we’ll all be there tonight. And that his message has been read and received.” 

Bokuto’s guard nods once and takes his leave, trying to conceal his disappointment at missing out on the gossip. 

When Akaashi turns his attention back to Sakusa and Suna, he finds them wearing matching wolf grins.

~

Suna finds out what Akaashi was blushing about soon enough. 

He pulls out a deep navy suit and tries to push it at Akaashi, but Akaashi shakes his head and hands Suna the invitation. 

“Wear the dress I got you from Prague,” Suna reads out. “That’s it? You could’ve said so earlier.” 

Akaashi shakes his head. 

“Are you embarrassed?” 

“Definitely not.” 

“Then you’re just shy.” Suna says it like he’s cooing at him and Akaashi has a very vivid and extremely satisfying vision of taking a pair of scissors to the ends of Suna’s hair. 

“I’m not shy,” Akaashi says, but even he can’t tell who he’s trying to convince. 

Suna doesn’t say anything, but the knowing look on his face says it all. He goes to Akaashi’s closet and returns with a dress bag. 

“Everything about Bokuto-san is flashy, huh?” Suna unzips the bag to reveal the garment inside. 

It’s a beautiful eggplant colored dress that stops mid-calf. The shoulders are made of a sheer fabric that drapes across the back in a pseudo-cape. From the knees down, the dress is a black floral lace, and it cinches at the waist in two large flowers. 

When Bokuto returned from Prague and gifted it to him, he’d told Akaashi all about the woman who’d hand sewn the dress. About where she’d acquired the silk and how she’d made the lace by hand. It’s one of the nicest things in Akaashi’s closet. 

Suna helps him into the dress. Akaashi turns his head to try to steal a glimpse, but Suna taps him on the shoulder. 

“Not yet.” 

He works diligently, sweeping Akaashi’s hair back, tucking strands around the front just so. The finishing touches are the necklaces Bokuto gifted him. Akaashi shivers when the cool metal of the necklace hangs down his back. 

“Bokuto-san has great taste,” Suna says. 

“You never compliment other people’s taste,” Akaashi marvels. 

“Well other people have never thought to put you in an open back dress with a necklace that hangs down the back.” 

When Suna turns him around in the mirror, Akaashi’s hand flies to his mouth. He turns this way and that, trying to reconcile the person he’s currently seeing in the mirror with the person he usually sees.

Suna always has him stepping out of the house looking sharp, handsome, dashing, pretty even, but Akaashi has never quite considered ‘beautiful’ the adjective to describe himself. 

But the dress highlights the column of his neck, the elegant curve of his collar bones, the smooth planes of his chest. The chain of the necklace hanging down his back emphasizes the strength of his shoulders, the muscle he has there. Even his calves look beautiful, draped in lace like this. 

“You’re beautiful,” Suna says, breaking the spell. “Bokuto-san knew exactly what he was doing when he picked this dress out.” 

“No kidding,” Akaashi murmurs, smoothing his hands over the fabric. It’s smooth beneath his fingers. 

Suna glances at his pocket watch. “As much as I want to keep watching you stare at yourself, we’ve gotta go.” 

He hands Akaashi a pair of black heels and helps him down the stairs, where Sakusa is already waiting for them. His mask is hanging off one ear. 

“What do you think?” Akaashi asks. He turns around and peers at Sakusa over his shoulder. Sakusa’s whole face flushes. 

“I think.” He stops and clears his throat, pulling his mask over his face to hide the pink in his cheeks. “I think it’s cold outside and you need a coat.” 

He hands Akaashi a thick black coat, lined in fur, that Akaashi gratefully accepts. 

Suna snickers and heads for the door, hip checking Sakusa on the way out.

~

The party is in full swing by the time they arrive at the Golden Owl. A live band is set up in one corner of the dance floor, while a jazz singer croons. Someone takes all three of their coats and Sakusa, the most responsible of their trio, hangs onto the coat check tags. 

The room is crowded with faces Akaashi easily recognizes. He sees Hinata, with Kageyama Tobio hanging off of one arm, Kenma on the other. 

Osamu is sitting at another table, between Governor Ojiro and Mayor Kita. That they’re at this party can only mean one thing: no members of the press have been allowed near the vicinity. 

Except for Kuroo, who is always an exception, and who, by the looks of it, is currently pestering Tsukishima Kei into taking shots with him. Akaashi didn’t look hard enough on the way in, but he’s sure if he went back outside now, he’d find dozens of Bokuto’s men stationed around the block, keeping intruders at bay.

They’re halfway across the room when a booming voice calls, “Akaashi!” 

They whirl around to see Bokuto greeting them with both arms out. He’s dressed in all white, and holding a white cane topped with a golden owl—after which the speakeasy was aptly named—in one gloved hand.

To this day, Akaashi has not been able to discern which came first, the name or the cane. 

“Bokuto-san,” he greets, meeting him halfway. 

They stop when there are only a few paces between them. 

“Sunarin,” Bokuto says, turning a bright smile at Suna. 

“Bokuto-san.” Suna tips his head. 

His eyes catch on something across the room. “If you gentlemen will excuse me, I’m going to go spit in Osamu’s drink.”

They watch him go, and then Bokuto fixes his attention on Sakusa. 

“How are you, Omi-omi? Enjoying employment under Akaashi?” 

“I can’t complain.” Then, because Sakusa is bolder than anyone gives him credit for, he says, “It certainly beats working for you.”

Bokuto tips his head back and laughs uproariously. It’s a great laugh, the kind that makes everyone around him want to join in, whether they know the punchline or not. 

“But I bet working for me was better than working for Tsum-Tsum,” Bokuto says, when his laughter dies down.  

Sakusa unhooks his mask and treats Bokuto to one of his rare half-smiles. “Anything beats working for Miya. Being his finance director was like babysitting a six foot two toddler constantly.” 

“That’s why Akaashi is so great.” Bokuto takes another step towards Akaashi. Akaashi could reach out and link their hands together now, if he wanted to. “He’s six foot and a joy to be around.”

“You’re not wrong there,” Sakusa says. His eyes flit around the room and stop when they land on Ushijima Wakatoshi. He nods at them both. “Gentlemen.” 

When Sakusa walks away, Akaashi finally closes the gap between him and Bokuto. Bokuto’s hand settles at his waist and he dips down so his mouth is at Akaashi’s ear. 

“You wore the dress.”

Goosebumps break out on Akaashi’s skin. “Of course I did.”

Bokuto takes a moment to run his eyes up and down Akaashi’s figure. He meets Akaashi’s gaze again, but rather than the heat Akaashi is expecting, Bokuto’s eyes are soft. 

“You look beautiful.” 

“And you look dashing in all white.” 

He smooths his hands over the lapels of Bokuto’s suit. 

“Why’s that?” 

“Are you fishing for another compliment, Bokuto-san?” 

“And if I am?” Bokuto grins and holds out a gloved hand, rings gleaming on each finger, for Akaashi to take. 

Akaashi twines his fingers with Bokuto’s, matching his smile. “I might say you have to buy me a drink first.”

“And then?”

“And then you might have to ask me to dance.”

“I think that can be arranged.” Bokuto whisks Akaashi towards the bar, where Konoha is already mixing a drink for another partygoer. 

“Akaashi, good to see you.” 

“Good to see you too, Konoha-san.”

“Oikawa?” Konoha calls, and hands the drink to a man Akaashi briefly recognizes, but hasn’t spoken to at length. 

Konoha turns his attention back to them. “The usual?” 

“No, do you have the gin I brought back from Denmark?” 

Konoha ducks under the bar and returns with a large crystal decanter. 

Akaashi’s eyes widen. “How on earth did you manage to bring that across the border.” 

“Half the dock workers are under my payroll,” Bokuto says with a self-satisfied smile.  

“God,” Akaashi breathes, picking up the tumbler Konoha sets down in front of him. “Prohibition is really just a word to you, huh?” 

“Obviously,” Bokuto sniffs. “Where does a government get off telling people what they can and can’t drink?” He points a finger at Akaashi. “And besides, you’re focusing on the wrong detail here.”

“What’s the right detail?”

“Let me spell it out for you.” Bokuto picks up his own tumbler. “You’re drinking a one hundred and seventy dollar bottle of gin right now.”

Akaashi nearly drops the cup. “Bokuto-san,” he hisses. “Are you joking?”

Bokuto shrugs. “What? Half your wardrobe costs that much.” 

He flounders for something to say, but Akaashi has been rendered well and truly speechless. 

“Only one thing left to do,” Bokuto says, lifting his glass towards Akaashi. Akaashi holds back a sigh, because who is he to question how Bokuto spends his money? He’s right in thinking that every other item in Akaashi’s wardrobe costs just as much—though they usually come to him as gifts. 

He lifts his glass towards Bokuto and tries to match his easy demeanor. 

“Cheers,” Bokuto says. 

“Cheers.” 

They both down their shots. When they put their glasses back on the counter, Konoha eyes them both with disgust. 

“I can’t believe you’re taking shots of this stuff.” He gestures vaguely at the decanter. 

“Just for the first round.” 

Konoha rolls his eyes and pours them both another round, and true to Bokuto’s word, they take their time with it. 

Bokuto turns on his stool until their knees are touching. “You’ve been handling this situation well.”

“Sakusa-san was the first to suggest it.”

“Well you’ve done everything else,” Bokuto says. “Although it’s good to know I was right about Omi-omi.” 

“He’s been invaluable.”

“What’s your next step?”

“I want to move us into the radios.”

Bokuto whistles. “That’s gutsy. But it’s the right move.”

“I agree.” Akaashi takes a sip of drink and sets his cup down. “The content is there. And I haven’t discussed this with Sakusa-san yet, but I think we can secure a weekly newspaper column along with a radio segment. People are interested in knowing more about their future.”

Bokuto raises a brow, tilting his lips up to give Akaashi another easy smile. “And who better than you to show them their place among the stars?”

“Precisely.” Akaashi knows himself, knows what he’s capable of. And he understands the demand enough to know that he’s sitting on something that’s just barely grazed the surface of success. 

If the famous and wealthy are clamoring for his consult, why wouldn’t the everyday person? 

It’s what drove him to his interest in astrology in the first place. Akaashi was searching for ways to assuage his own anxieties about the unknowns of the future when he happened upon an astrologer who read his chart for him and explained what patterns to look out for in the coming weeks. 

When all of the astrologer’s predictions came to fruition, Akaashi was hooked. 

Astrology wasn’t an art, nor was it an exact science. For him, it lay somewhere in between, and gave him a means of understanding the trends that he could expect. That was more than enough to keep him invested. 

Bokuto was his first real client. They met at a bar that shouldn’t have existed given prohibition and that neither of them were old enough to be in. Bokuto wasn’t as powerful then as he is now, but he was already well on his way. 

The gang he was running with was charting a course upward and he’d met Akaashi at the right time. Like Kenma and Kuroo, Akaashi had originally read Bokuto’s chart for fun—it was a nice little party trick, an easy way to get to know someone—but like Kenma and Kuroo, Bokuto had taken him seriously. 

He’d followed Akaashi’s recommendations and continued to follow them, until Bokuto was the one running the largest gang in New York. And he pulled Akaashi up with him, introduced him to everyone he was suddenly shaking hands with, vouched for his expertise at every opportunity. 

Akaashi built his clientele because of Bokuto, and Bokuto built his empire because of Akaashi. Neither would have risen to success without the other. 

“Say the word and I’ll offer my support in any way you need me to,” Bokuto says. 

“Thank you, Bokuto-san.”

“I’m serious.” He leans in close enough that Akaashi catches the scent of his cologne. “And if you need any help in dealing with Morgan, you just let me know.”

“Morgan is one of the wealthiest men in the country.”

“Even wealthy men have a price.” 

Akaashi hears the threat in his words. 

“That won’t be necessary,” Akaashi says, sipping at his gin. “At this point, I should practically be thanking Morgan. If I didn’t want to spit in his face so badly.”

“That can also be arranged,” Bokuto says, a glimmer in his eye. 

Akaashi laughs, and drains the rest of his glass. 

After they’ve had four drinks each, and Akaashi feels light and breezy, just at the tipping point between tipsy and drunk, Bokuto takes his gloves off and offers him a hand. 

“How about that dance?” 

Akaashi gladly accepts and lets Bokuto whisk him to the dance floor. The band is playing something upbeat, with a jumping bassline and roaring trumpets, that makes even the walls and the floor feel alive. 

They each wrap an arm around the other’s shoulder, and keep their other hands clasped firmly together. 

“Three, two, one,” Bokuto counts down. 

Akaashi steps forward with one foot as Bokuto steps back. When Bokuto steps forward, Akaashi steps back. 

They fall into the motions of the Charleston easily. At one point, Bokuto steps on Akaashi’s foot and nearly trips them both. 

“How are you the one wearing heels but I’m the one with two left feet?” 

Akaashi laughs and leans in closer so Bokuto can hear him. “You’re not the hotshot dancer you think you are.” 

“I’m plenty hot,” Boktuo huffs. 

The music changes, and they dance the FoxTrot and the Texas Tommy. Bokuto steps on his feet more than a few times, but each time, it just makes Akaashi laugh. 

Different people find them at various points in the night, asking Bokuto if they can have a dance with Akaashi, asking Akaashi if they can have a dance with Bokuto. Despite that, they always find their way back to each other. 

As the evening wears on and the crowd is significantly drunker, someone shouts, “Give us something to Shimmy to!”

When the band picks up a faster song, Bokuto raises an eyebrow, but Akaashi is one step ahead of him. He shimmies his shoulders forward. Bokuto grins and shimmies back. 

He isn’t usually one for racier dances, but the gin and the thumping music and Bokuto’s warm hands on him make Akaashi throw his inhibitions away. Bokuto took every precaution to make sure no one would interrupt this evening, and Akaashi intends to take full advantage of that. 

Akaashi doubts Bokuto bought this dress with the intention of getting an eyeful, but he doesn’t miss the way Bokuto’s eyes rake over his shoulders, his collarbone. The dress has a plunging neckline, with silky white fabric covering up some of his chest, but there’s still plenty of skin on display.

Ignoring the steps of the dance completely, Bokuto spins Akaashi around and dips him down low. Akaashi clings to Bokuto’s arms tightly when he feels the fabric of his dress graze the ground. 

“Bokuto-san,” he shouts, over the music, wrapping his arms around Bokuto’s neck when he’s upright again. 

“What?” Bokuto’s attempt at playing innocent is so futile that Akaashi dissolves into another fit of laughter. 

“You could’ve dropped me,” Akaashi says, just to have something to say. He knows without a shadow of doubt that Bokuto would never drop him. 

As though reading his mind, Bokuto wraps his arms tighter around Akaashi’s waist. 

After a few more turns around the room, they take another break, both of them exhausted but grinning stupidly. 

Arms linked together, they trudge through the crowd until they find Hinata, Kenma, Kuroo, Oikawa, and most surprising of all, Sakusa sitting down around a game of poker. 

“Akaashi-san,” Hinata calls brightly. “Come play strip poker with us.”

“I don’t think I’m wearing nearly enough layers for that,” Akaashi shoots back.

“I think that’s the point,” Kuroo says, broad grin showing off his teeth. “Besides, we’re all friends here.” 

“Exactly.” Hinata says. Akaashi respects that Hinata chooses to interpret Kuroo’s words in the ways that benefit him. “Everyone’s playing. Even Omi-san. So you have to play.”

“Why is Omi-kun playing?” Bokuto asks, peering at the cards in Kuroo’s hands. 

“Because we have an ongoing feud,” Oikawa says, frowning at Sakusa.

“What feud?” Bokuto asks.

Kuroo slaps Oikawa on the shoulder. “Oikawa here has never won a poker game against Sakusa.” 

“If I recall,” Sakusa says, leaning forward in his seat. “None of you have ever won a game of poker against me.”

That gets them all jeering. Akaashi meets Sakusa’s eyes and his brows arch up. Sakusa just shrugs, looking far too pleased with himself. 

In the chaos, Akaashi spots Kenma trying to slip away. He doesn’t make it very far before Hinata lunges after him. He hauls Kenma back into his seat and shoves a shot glass into his hand. Oikawa tops it off and Kenma sighs and tips it back. 

“You have to take something off just because you tried to run away,” Hinata announces.  

Kuroo and Oikawa cheer, but before they can witness Kenma strip, Bokuto taps Akaashi on the elbow. 

He gestures with his head, and Akaashi follows his gaze towards a closed set of double doors. 

Akaashi nods imperceptibly. 

“Well, enjoy your game, fellas,” Bokuto calls. He weaves an arm through Akaashi’s and pays no mind to Kuroo’s booing. 

They escape through the doors and emerge on a balcony. The cool air is welcome reprieve from the heat of the room. 

Despite the snow swirling around them, the balcony itself is relatively clean because of the  large overhead awning. 

“Are you cold?” Bokuto asks, standing closer to Akaashi. 

“Not yet.”

“Let me know when you get cold.” 

Akaashi nods imperceptibly. 

For a few moments, the only sound between is the gentle breeze whipping the snow around. 

“Who do you think is going to end up naked first?” Akaashi asks, breaking the silence. 

“Kuroo.”

“You didn’t even think about that for a second.” 

“Don’t need to,” Bokuto shrugs. “Kuroo’s shit at poker. He’s way better at Texas Hold ‘Em.” 

“Which makes no sense, considering how much harder Texas Hold ‘Em is.”

“Kuroo has always been something of an enigma,” Bokuto says, with a loose wave of his hand. 

Akaashi snorts. “Or a pain in the ass.”

“Or that,” Bokuto grins. 

They lapse into easy silence again. This time, it’s Bokuto who breaks it. 

“Your birthday is coming up soon.”

“It is.”

“Is there anything you want?” 

Akaashi looks out. The whole city is visible from where they are. In more ways than one, he’s reached heights he never expected to reach, tasted the type of success he didn’t even know to dream of as a child.

“I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I have everything I’ve ever wanted and then some.”

Bokuto covers Akaashi’s hand with his own. “Nothing makes me happier to hear.”

Akaashi turns so he’s looking Bokuto in the eye, and takes his face in both hands. He thinks of the scared teenager he used to be, of how nebulous the future used to seem, before Bokuto unknowingly reached a hand out and made the unknown seem more bearable. 

“Meeting you has changed the course of life in ways I never could have imagined.” He turns to Bokuto and cups his jaw. “You are the brightest star in my universe, Bokuto-san.” 

Bokuto crushes Akaashi to him, and runs his hands up and down Akaashi’s back. Akaashi rests his head against Bokuto’s chest.

The music inside turns into something slower, more intimate. Bokuto’s hands fall to Akaashi’s sides, pulling him impossibly close. 

They sway in time with the music, feet barely moving. 

Bokuto’s mouth finds his ear and he whispers, “Since I’ve met you, I couldn’t imagine living a day without you.” 

Akaashi sighs, and for once finds himself thankful that astrology isn’t an exact science. He’d never be able to predict this kind of happiness, and even if he could, the sheer joy of getting to experience it in all it’s novelty is something he’d never want to take away from himself. 

They stay like that, dancing across the balcony for what feels eons. Time slows down in the comfort of Bokuto’s arms, and Akaashi wishes he could stay like this forever.

Eventually though, the music picks up again, becomes something fast and upbeat, and far too energetic for how tired Akaashi is. 

But in the quiet of the balcony, it’s still just him and Bokuto, if only for a few minutes longer. 

Bokuto presses a kiss to the top of Akaashi’s head. Akaashi looks up at him and Bokuto drops one to his forehead. Akaashi tips up and catches Bokuto’s lips with his own. 

The kiss is sweet and gentle, the way Bokuto always is with him. When Bokuto pulls back, Akaashi chases after him, and this time, it isn’t nearly as gentle. 

His teeth catch Akaashi’s bottom lip and Akaashi opens his mouth. Bokuto’s hand trails down Akaashi’s side, making goosebumps break out across his skin. 

Bokuto pulls back, speaking against Akaashi’s lips. “Cold?” 

The cold air creeps into the space between them, and this time, he gets goosebumps for an entirely different reason. 

Akaashi nods and presses closer to Bokuto again. He groans when Bokuto pulls away, but is silenced when Bokuto takes off his suit jacket and wraps Akaashi in it. 

He buries himself in the warmth of the jacket and breathes in the scent of Bokuto’s cologne. Bokuto’s lips find the spot just below his ear. He nips lightly and Akaashi’s breath stutters, hands fisting against Bokuto’s shirt. 

Akaashi backs them up until Bokuto’s back hits the wall. He pulls Bokuto in closer, and trails his hands up Bokuto’s chest, wrapping his arms around Bokuto’s shoulders. Bokuto’s hands snake under the jacket and his fingers find Akaashi’s bare skin through the low-cut back of the dress. 

If Akaashi was thinking about this more critically, he might retract his earlier train of thought. Maybe Bokuto did buy the dress with the sole intention of being able to get his hands all over Akaashi. 

Before he can consider it any further, and before they can take things any further, the sound of a shutter, followed by the flash of a camera startles them apart. 

“Who’s there?” Bokuto calls. 

No one answers, but movement near the doors catches their attention. 

Before whoever it is can get very far, Bokuto takes off from the wall and sprints after them. They manage to get their hand on the balcony door and push it open, music and chatter spilling into the quiet of the night. But Bokuto already has his hands on them. 

Bokuto hefts the intruder up by the collar, and Akaashi immediately recognizes him as the Centurion journalist who photographed him with Kuroo. 

Anger surges through him, so hot he thinks he could probably burn the Centurion’s office down with it. 

“Who are you?” Bokuto spits. The man doesn’t answer, and Bokuto brings him closer to his face. “Who are you?”

“I—I…,” the man stammers, kicking his legs around. The journalist isn’t short by any means, but Bokuto has him lifted high enough that his feet don’t touch the ground. 

Bokuto shakes him. “Answer me.” 

“I’m just a journalist,” he screams. 

“Just a journalist?” Bokuto asks. The man nods frantically. Bokuto only grips him tighter, shakes him harder. “Just a journalist?”

“Yes, yes, I swear.” He’s near tears now. The fatal mistake comes when he wraps his hands around Bokuto’s wrists and tries to claw out of his grasp. 

Bokuto carries him back into the bar room and throws the journalist to the floor. 

The band cuts the music and the room goes silent in an instant. 

Everyone hears Bokuto loud and clear when he says, “Konoha, my cane.” 

Konoha materializes by Bokuto’s side, holding the cane out to him. Bokuto takes his time, taking his gloves out of his pocket and pulling them on, finger by finger. 

The journalist turns around and tries to crawl away. Shirofuku and Suzumeda are standing behind him, blocking his path. 

They’re dressed in black suits and black dress shirts, the way all of Bokuto’s men are. Shirofuku sneers at the journalist and Suzumeda spits at the ground right next to hand. 

Akaashi knows they’re an imposing duo, but he isn’t used to seeing them at work. Every time he’s encountered them, they’re poking fun at Bokuto, or teaming up with Konoha to pull a prank. Now though, he’s grateful for which side of their affections he’s on. 

The journalist screams and turns around again, but Bokuto has finished putting his gloves on. He cracks his knuckles and takes the cane out of Konoha’s hand. 

“Now then,” Bokuto says. His voice is too calm, too even. It sends a chill down Akaashi’s spine and he wraps Bokuto’s jacket tighter around himself. “Why don’t you tell me who you are and what the fuck you’re doing at my bar.” 

“Nothing, I’m doing nothing,” He’s openly sobbing now. It’s embarrassing, really, the way tears and snot run down his face. Akaashi almost feels bad for him. Bokuto’s reputation precedes him, and it seems that this moron not only knew that, but tried to defy him anyways.

“I don’t know,” Bokuto says, twisting his cane around, looking at it this way and that. “It didn’t seem like nothing. Especially since this is a private party.” 

“I’m just doing my job,” the man wails. 

Bokuto frowns at him and he looks almost sympathetic. “Well, I’m sure you’ll understand that I’m just doing my job too, then.”

The golden owl glints mockingly, before Bokuto twists the cane one last time, takes his stance, and swings. 

The crack resounds across the hall, followed by the sound of the journalist screaming. 

~

“Sorry you had to see that, Akaashi.” 

Most of the patrons have cleared out, leaving just Akaashi, Bokuto, Konaha, Shirofuku, and Suzumeda. 

Before Bokuto could take another swing, Kuroo had broken out from the crowd and grabbed Bokuto by the arm. 

“You don’t want the cops in here,” he hissed, wrenching the cane out of Bokuto’s hand and passing it off to Konaha. “And in case you haven’t forgotten, both the mayor and the governor are in this room.”

Bokuto sneered at the journalist, who was trying to stop a bleeding nose. 

“Get the fuck out of here,” Bokuto spit. “If you ever get near Akaashi again, I promise you it’ll be the last place you go.” 

The reporter had run out on wobbly legs, sobbing all the while. 

Akaashi hadn’t been sorry to see him go. 

After that, Kuroo and Konoha cleared everyone out. 

That had been nearly an hour ago, and now, Akaashi sits on a stool, watching the staff clean up the bar. He cradles a cup of water in his hands and has been taking slow sips of it the whole time. 

Akaashi shakes his head. “I appreciate you looking out for me, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto stands in front of him, both arms on the bar, caging Akaashi in. “I shouldn’t have had to look out for you in the first place. People should be leaving you alone.”

He buries his face in Akaashi’s neck and inhales deeply. Akaashi puts the cup down and wraps his arms around Bokuto’s shoulders.

“What’s done is done,” Akaashi says, running deft fingers through Bokuto’s hair. “He’s never going to mess with me again.”

“And he’ll spread the word that if anyone does mess with you, there’ll be consequences,” Bokuto murmurs. His breath is warm, his lips soft where they catch against Akaashi’s skin. 

Bokuto presses feather light kisses to his neck, and Akaashi shivers. 

“I’ll drive you home tonight,” Bokuto says. 

Akaashi doesn’t have it in him to argue, to insist that he doesn’t want to inconvenience Bokuto. “That would be wonderful.” 

When he hands Bokuto his jacket back to slip into his own, Bokuto trails a hand up his spine, leaving goosebumps in his wake. 

“This dress looks beautiful on you,” he says, voice taking on a quiet to match the night. 

“It is beautiful,” Akaashi says, absentmindedly running a hand over the fabric. 

“No,” Bokuto says, helping Akaashi into his fur coat. “It looks beautiful on you.”  

“Stop schmoozing and take me home.” 

Bokuto waggles his eyebrows. “If you insist.” 

Akaashi rolls his eyes, but can’t quite fight the grin off his face. 

Bokuto huddles close to him, his body a welcome shield against the snow and wind. He holds the door open for Akaashi and helps him into the passenger seat.

The drive home is quiet. Akaashi watches the lights of the city pass over Bokuto’s face. 

Bokuto parks the car in front of Akaashi’s door and walks him up the steps. “I know our evening had a few hitches, but I still had a great time with you, Akaashi.”

“It was great, hitches and all.”

Bokuto grins. Akaashi takes his face in both hands and kisses the smile right off his lips. 

~

Akaashi Keiji, Golden Boy, Spotted Leaving the Golden Owl

Akaashi is sipping on tea, nursing his headache from the night before and reading the paper when Sakusa bursts into his office. It’s the closest to giddy Akaashi has ever seen him.

He slams a pile of papers down on Akaashi’s desk and sits down, back straight, like an usurping king claiming his new throne. 

“You’re in high spirits.”

“And you’re nursing a hangover.”

Akaashi glares at him.

“What?” Sakusa asks, letting his lips curve up. “I thought we were stating the obvious.”

“I’m not deigning that with a response.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Sakusa says, pushing the stack of papers towards Akaashi. “These speak for themselves.”

Akaashi flips through the papers. It takes him a moment to realize what exactly he’s looking at. 

“No,” he gasps.

“Yes.” Sakusa is practically bouncing in his seat. 

“You didn’t.”

“I did.”

With every word, they reach a higher pitch, their excitement filling the room. 

“What’s all the commotion?” Suna asks, stepping into the office. 

He doesn’t even have one sleeve of his jacket off before Akaashi throws the papers into the air and screams, “We have a meeting for a radio show."

Suna blinks, but the second the words penetrate, he’s screaming too. 

Sakusa doesn’t scream, but he’s smiling at the commotion. 

“You’re brilliant,” Suna says. He stalks over to where Sakusa is sitting, grabs his face in both hands, and plants a kiss on his forehead.

It’s a testament to Sakusa’s high spirits when, instead of getting angry, he grabs Suna right back and kisses him on the lips. 

Suna pulls back, dazed, but grins dumbly at Sakusa. “Always knew you had it in you, Omi-omi.” 

Sakusa rolls his eyes at the nickname, but crosses one leg over the other and leans back in his seat, the picture of self-satisfaction.

Akaashi laughs at the whole ordeal, and pushes away the little voice in his head that’s telling him to get up and press a kiss to Sakusa’s mouth as well. It’s a silly thought, one he shouldn’t dwell on. His relationship with Sakusa has never been anything other than the picture of professionalism. 

He tries to forget it and focus on the matter at hand. “How on earth did you pull this off?” 

“So, you remember our journalist friend from yesterday evening?” Sakusa asks, reaching across the table to pour a cup of tea for himself. 

Suna nudges him and Sakusa pushes the cup towards Suna, then pours another one out for himself. 

“I don’t know if he’d consider us friends after the way Bokuto-san rearranged his face, but yes,” Akaashi says. 

Sakusa snorts. “Right, well, as soon as that happened, I realized we would have to do damage control. So I stepped out and contacted some of my acquaintances at the Centurion.” 

He stirs sugar into his tea and takes a sip. “I was able to get to them before our friend did. And wouldn’t you know it, he was acting on his own. No one at the Centurion asked him to follow you.”

Akaashi gasps. “You mean, all this time?” 

“Yes,” Sakusa nods. “He’s been stalking you of his own accord, under the Centurion’s name. They ran with it because the story has been making papers fly off the shelf.” 

“So,” Sakusa says, waving a hand. “I not-so-kindly suggested that unless they wanted to meet us in court, they’d have to make some introductions for us.”

Akaashi doesn’t miss the way he says us. As though this is somehow Sakusa’s burden to bear as well. He hired Suna as an assistant, and got one of the best friends he could ask for out of it. That Suna should be invested in the happenings of Akaashi’s life makes complete sense.

But what would explain why Sakusa tries so hard on Akaashi’s behalf? 

It’s his job , his brain hisses. 

But that’s not quite true, either. Akaashi hired Sakusa as a financial adviser, but what he’s gotten has been so much more than that. 

In many ways, Sakusa is one of the closest people to him. He knows the details of Akaashi’s life inside and out, and Akaashi trusts Sakusa to make decisions for him that he wouldn’t trust anyone else to make. That level of trust alone doesn’t explain why Sakusa continues to be one step ahead, always looking for the next possible opportunity for Akaashi, always looking for the best ways to protect him. 

It also doesn’t explain why he buys your favorite pastries for breakfast. And why he faltered when he saw you in that dress last night.

“So, when’s the meeting?” Suna asks, cutting off Akaashi’s altogether unhelpful train of thought. 

“Monday.”

Akaashi lurches forward in his seat. “That soon? That’s not nearly enough time to prepare.”

“Don’t worry,” Sakusa says. “I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that this goes well. Give me till tomorrow and I’ll prepare everything we need for the pitch.”

In all their years of working together, Sakusa has never once failed Akaashi, so he nods and trusts that Sakusa will handle the details. 

“Why are you adamant on this succeeding?” Akaashi can’t stop himself from asking. The question has been buzzing through his mind all week. 

“I want to see you successful in the next phase of expanding your business.”

“Why? Because you have a vested interest in the health of your pockets?” Akaashi’s smile is teasing, his tone light. 

Sakusa stands to his full height and leans over Akaashi’s desk, practically in his face. Akaashi has the unhelpful thought that this is the closest Sakusa has ever been to him. 

“Because I have a vested interest in you.”

With that, pulls back and walks out of the office, clicking the door shut behind him. 

Akaashi’s heart beats wildly in his chest. His eyes meet Suna’s and he finds the same bewildered expression on his face that Akaashi is sure must be reflected on his own.

Akaashi has two subsequent thoughts, each more unhelpful than the last. One, Sakusa is tall. Two, he smells good. 

~

To his surprise, no one comes knocking on Akaashi’s office door. No one invites him out to dinner, or kisses him passionately for a waiting camera lens. 

When he walks to his appointment, he doesn’t bump into any handsome chefs who offer to make him dinner. He takes meetings, and they aren’t interrupted by grand invitations to attend parties.

Akaashi doesn’t even require Suna to dress him from an evening out, so they have a quiet dinner together before Suna heads home to his own apartment to talk to Komori, who’s currently living in Paris. 

It’s a completely normal day, almost boring in its mundanity. 

He doesn’t know when he’d become accustomed to chaos—come to crave it, even—but somewhere along the way, he did. 

Rather than dwell on it, he decides to take advantage of the quiet and get ready for bed.

Relief rushes through him when he undoes the knot on his tie, finally feeling like he can relax after a long day of business meetings.

He wraps his robe—black silk embroidered with soft pink flowers and dark green leaves, a gift from Bokuto—around himself and heads to the bathroom. 

Running a bath comes next. Akaashi dissolves eucalyptus bath salts into the water. Warm steam fills the bathroom and the scent wraps around him, releasing the tension he always carries in his neck and shoulders. 

He’s just about to step into the bath when incessant pounding at the door makes him jump. Heart racing, he pulls his robe back on, and walks to the living room. 

The clock reads quarter to midnight. Hardly anyone visits at these hours, unless it’s Suna headed for a night out, stopping by to convince Akaashi to join him. But Suna’s already turned in for the night. 

Sakusa never rings him in the evenings, unless it’s urgent. Anyone else Akaashi usually spends his time with would send an invitation first, rather than just knocking. 

Hesitantly, he makes his way to the front door. The face on the other side of the peephole surprises him. 

“Atsumu?” he asks, pulling the door open. 

“Keiji,” Atsumu breathes, sounding relieved. “Thank goodness yer awake. I thought I woulda missed ya for sure.” 

“I was getting ready for bed,” Akaashi says. A burst of cold wind has him pulling Atsumu in and shoving the door shut. “What are you doing back in New York?”

“What, not happy to see me?” Atsumu asks, unwinding his scarf. Akaashi takes it from him and puts it into the closet along with his coat. 

“I’m just surprised to see you, and so late in the evening.”

Atsumu runs a hand through his usually impeccably styled hair. At this point, a few strands have fallen out of place and onto his forehead, making him look less New York Congressman and more charming Hollywood actor. 

“It’s hardly evenin’ now. I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner. I’ve been keeping up with the papers, but Congress has been in session all week. I took the last train from D.C. to New York.” 

Something in Akaashi’s chest pangs at the words. He takes Atsumu’s face in both hands. His nose and cheeks are pink, and there are tears in the corners of his eyes from the cold. 

“You’re freezing,” Akaashi whispers. 

“I couldn’t hail a cab, so I walked here from the train station.” 

Akaashi wipes the tears from Atsumu’s eyes and pecks his lips. 

Atsumu’s arms find his waist and he buries his face in Akaashi’s neck. The cold of his face sends shivers down Akaashi’s spine. 

“I was just about to take a bath, if you want to join me.” 

He pulls away from Akaashi’s neck and grins. “I mean, if ya insist.”

“Or,” Akaashi says, taking one of Atsumu’s hands between both of his own and rubbing heat back into it. “I can turn you back out and make you sleep in the cold.”

“Please don’t,” Atsumu says. He looks and sounds so pitiful that Akaashi can only laugh and pull him towards the bathroom. 

“Have you eaten yet?” 

“No,” Atsumu says, trailing after Akaashi. “I didn’t have time to pick up anything before I got on the train. And the train cart wasn’t even runnin’ because it was so late.” 

“We can get you something to eat after you get warmed up.”

“Ya gonna cook for me, Akaashi?”

Akaashi looks back at him. Atsumu’s smiling wide, teeth showing, but his eyes are soft as he watches Akaashi. 

“If you want food poisoning, I’m more than happy to put you in the hospital,” Akaashi says. 

“I mean, if scandal is what yer goin’ for, killin’ a congressman will certainly do it.”

Akaashi snorts and lets Atsumu into his bedroom to step out of his clothes. Atsumu is always impeccably dressed, in a way that suggests he both knows his strengths, and knows how to play to them. 

Case in point, Akaashi doesn’t know too many people who wear tan suits, much less people who look good in them. But the color brings out the gold in Atsumu’s brown eyes and makes his dyed blonde hair stand out. Watching Atsumu undo the knot of his crimson tie and shrug out of his suit jacket, Akaashi is almost sad to see it go. 

“Want me to put on a show?” Atsumu asks, when he catches Akaashi staring. 

“Want you to hurry up before the bath goes cold.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m almost done.” 

He folds up his pile of laundry and sets it on the settee Akaashi has under the window. 

“I can have them sent to the dry cleaner tomorrow,” Akaashi says.

Atsumu slips his hand back into Akaashi’s. “That’d be great, thanks.” 

Thankfully, the water is still just as warm as Akaashi left it.  

“You get in first,” he tells Atsumu. 

Atsumu doesn’t argue. He gets into the tub carefully, trying not to slosh any water over the edge. 

He groans when he’s fully submerged. “Yer a genius, Akaashi. This is the perfect way to end a long week.”

“I agree. And what a week it’s been.” 

“C’mere,” Atsumu says, sitting up and holding his arms out. 

Akaashi hangs his robe on the towel rack and lowers himself into Atsumu’s waiting arms, back against Atsumu’s chest. 

“I’m sorry I haven’t been here to help ya with everythin’ goin’ on.” 

“Don’t apologize for that,” Akaashi says, taking one of Atsumu’s hands into his own. “You’re quite literally running the country. 

“Yeah, well, I wish I coulda put that on pause and been here for ya.” 

“You’re here now.” 

Atsumu pulls Akaashi closer and wraps his arms tightly around him. 

“I’m here now,” he whispers, dropping a kiss onto Akaashi’s shoulder. 

“The tabloids have kept you up to speed on the intimacies of my life, but what about you, Congressman Miya? What news do you bring from the capital?” 

“A bunch. Only some of it good.” Atsumu sighs and presses his forehead to Akaashi’s back. “I introduced legislation for universal healthcare and it barely passed through the House. The Senate is gonna vote on it next week.” 

“Universal healthcare?” 

“Yeah,” Atsumu says, squeezing his hands down Akaashi’s arms. “Everyone should get healthcare. People have no business dyin’ ‘cause they can’t afford to go to the doctor or buy medicine.” 

“Oh,” Akaashi breathes, because he really doesn’t have words that can encompass how that makes him feel. 

Atsumu has always been one of the most impassioned people Akaashi has ever known. If Kenma thought Akaashi worried about others too much, he’d probably have an aneurysm if he met Atsumu. 

According to Suna, Atsumu hadn’t always been this way. In fact, if Suna is to be believed—and he always is—Atsumu was actually rather awful as a teenager: blunt, demanding, and mean, with standards even he himself often couldn’t meet. 

But the Atsumu Akaashi has gotten to know seems to have found a way to take anything that could be considered a negative and turn it into exactly the kind of trait that makes him the fiery legislator he is. 

He’d initially met Atsumu through Bokuto, during Atsumu’s first re-election campaign. Back then, Akaashi attended a lot of meetings with Bokuto, both as a way to meet clientele and as a way to learn who was who in New York City. 

Atsumu had been hesitant to accept donations from Bokuto, despite the generosity of the sum Bokuto was offering. 

“Think about how it’d look to take money from a gangster,” he tried to reason.

But Bokuto had offered something priceless: unconditional protection of Osamu. 

It behooved Bokuto to have friends in higher places, and it was imperative to Atsumu that his brother be protected. 

After Osamu broke off from the Miya family tradition of public service and opened his first restaurant, a neighboring gang tried to shoot up the place. 

Bokuto retaliated because they were on his turf, but the situation had worked out in all of their favors, in the end. Bokuto courted Atsumu’s favor, Atsumu got a generous donation to his campaign, protection for his brother, and Akaashi’s services, and Akaashi got Atsumu’s telephone number and a new client. 

“Enough about the stressful things happenin’ in our lives,” Atsumu says, reaching over Akaashi to grab the bottle of shampoo off the ledge. “Why don’t ya tell me some good things that are happenin’?” 

Akaashi ponders that. Despite how absurd the past week has been, there have been plenty of good moments. 

“Well, this week I was called the heartbreak of the century, which despite its inaccuracy, was actually quite the compliment.”

“Inaccuracy? That’s the one part I thought they got right.” 

“What are you talking about?”

Atsumu cups warm water in his hands and pours it over Akaashi’s hair until it’s soaked through. 

The smell of orange blossom immediately joins the scent of eucalyptus when Atsumu opens the bottle and squeezes some shampoo onto Akaashi’s head. 

“Every second without ya is heartbreakin’.”

Akaashi snorts. “If politics doesn’t work out for you, you definitely have a career in dairy.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re cheesy.”

Atsumu laughs, long and loud. Akaashi feels the vibrations of it against his back and smiles to himself. 

“Would you still find me attractive if I smelled like a farm?” 

“I wouldn’t go that far.” He relaxes into Atsumu’s touch, leaning further back against his chest as Atsumu works the shampoo into a lather. 

Deft fingers gently untangle the knots in Akaashi’s hair. Atsumu runs his blunt nails across Akaashi’s scalp, uses his thumbs to massage the tension points at Akaashi’s nape.

Akaashi is lulled by Atsumu hands, eyes slipping shut.

“Yer hair is longer than usual.” 

Atsumu speaks quietly, not disturbing the peace of the bathroom. Akaashi imagines Atsumu’s voice trailing away in wisps and becoming part of the steam filling the air. 

“Haven’t had a chance to cut it,” Akaashi murmurs. 

“I like it long,” Atsumu says. Then, “Close yer eyes.” 

Atsumu cups water in his hands together again and pours it over Akaashi’s head. Soapy water trails down his neck in rivulets. 

“Hand me the conditioner.” 

Akaashi reaches a hand out, groping blindly until his fingers knock against the bottle. 

“Face me.”

It’s a challenge, trying to maneuver in the bathtub without spilling water everywhere. When Akaashi finally manages it, he finds that it was more than worth the effort.

Atsumu’s cheeks are pink from the heat of the bathroom, his skin glowing. Wet hair curls against his forehead, and his long, dark lashes are clumped together. 

Absentmindedly, Akaashi trails his thumb across Atsumu cheekbone. Atsumu’s eyes slip shut when Akaashi’s finger nears them, lashes brushing against his skin. Akaashi leans in and presses a soft kiss to one eye, then, taking all the time in the world, he moves to the other side and kisses that eye as well. 

Atsumu’s soft intake of breath sounds loud in the quiet of the bathroom. 

When he makes to pull back, Atsumu reaches out and takes Akaashi’s wrist in one hand, and his face in the other. 

Atsumu’s lips are soft when he kisses Akaashi. For all the papers and his political opponents rail against Miya Atsumu, the Jackal of Congress, for being too brash, too loud, too forward-thinking with his legislation proposals, Atsumu has never been anything but gentle with Akaashi. 

Even now, he holds Akaashi’s wrist with the circle of his thumb and forefinger. 

“Conditioner?” Akaashi asks against Atsumu’s lips. 

“Right.” Atsumu leans back and squeezes some conditioner into his hand and works it through Akaashi’s hair. 

In fact, it had been Atsumu who initially suggested he start using conditioner. Mostly because Atsumu’s own hair required conditioner, and he pestered him until Akaashi finally caved in and started buying some. 

“Let me wash your hair while it sits.” Akaashi pours some onto Atsumu’s head. He lathers it up, trying to show Atsumu’s hair the same care he showed Akaashi’s.

“Don’t look at it too closely,” Atsumu says. “I need to get my roots done.” 

“Oh no,” Akaashi gasps, leaning in closer and pretending to inspect Atsumu’s hair. “I can tell exactly where your hair is growing in.”

“Come on,” Atsumu groans. “Don’t even joke about that.” 

“Oh, I’m not joking,” Akaashi says. “You go out in public with this hair?”

“Keiji,” Atsumu whines. “Now yer just bein’ cruel.” 

“Your hair looks great,” Akaashi says, running his hands through Atsumu’s hair. “I promise no one but you has noticed your roots.” 

“That’s what ya shoulda said in the beginning’.”

“I’ll try to do a better job of reading your mind next time.” 

“Liar,” Atsumu sniffs. 

He doesn’t deign that with a response. “Close your eyes.” Akaashi rinses the shampoo out of Atsumu’s hair, then he squeezes in conditioner and takes extra care massaging it into his scalp. 

“I actually like how your natural color has grown out a little.”

“So you did notice.” 

Akaashi smacks his shoulder lightly. “Only because you pointed it out.” 

“Sure.”

“Then I won’t compliment you next time,” Akaashi shrugs.

“Why’s it gotta be one or the other?” 

“‘Cause it’s gotta be,” he says, putting on Atsumu’s accent. 

“Ya sound stupid,” Atsumu says, but he can’t keep the grin off his face. 

After they wash the conditioner out, run washcloths over their bodies, and towel off, they put on pajamas and shuffle into the kitchen. 

“Okay, dinner,” Atsumu says, peering into Akaashi’s electric refrigerator. 

It’s a luxury, for sure, especially considering the fact that he hardly keeps food in there. Which Atsumu soon finds out. 

He returns with a carton of eggs, half a grapefruit covered in cling wrap, a carrot, and a carton of milk—the only item in the fridge that Akaashi regularly reaches for when he makes his tea. 

“Seriously?” Atsumu waves a hand at the food, then raises an eyebrow at Akaashi. “You spent all this money on a refrigerator, and this is what ya keep inside of it?” 

“I already told you I can’t cook.” 

“Just because ya can’t cook doesn’t mean ya can’t eat.”

“I eat,” Akaashi huffs, crossing his arms over his chest. “Just rarely at home.” 

“Then where?” 

“At cafes for breakfast. Sakusa-san, Suna, and I take turns fetching sandwiches for lunch. Or I’ll have lunch appointments with a client. And I usually have dinner with a friend.” Akaashi says. “You can’t fault me. I’m hardly ever home. What’s the point in buying food I’ll just throw out?”

“I can fault ya if there’s nothin’ for me to eat.” Atsumu more whines the words than says them, and Akaashi has to hold back a laugh. 

“I bet there’s something you can make.” Although, eyeing the ingredients—if they can even be called that—laid out on the counter, Akaashi seriously doubts his own words. 

“You don’t even have bread. This is gonna to be the saddest meal I’ve ever had.”

Akaashi pats Atsumu’s shoulder. “I’m sure you’ve had sadder.” 

“That’s the worst consolation ever.” 

“Just season the hell out of the eggs. And then tomorrow I’ll treat you to breakfast.” 

“Ya better,” Atsumu says. 

For all his grumbling, Atsumu manages to pull something together. Akaashi sits on one of the stools at the island and watches him work. 

He shreds the carrot and sautes it, adding together a combination of seasoning that smells delicious and that Akaashi is going to have to ask him for later. Atsumu beats the eggs and pours milk into them. 

“To make them fluffy,” he explains, when Akaashi asks why. 

He mixes the carrots into the eggs and folds it up into a neat omelette. He splits it in half, cuts the grapefruit into fourths, and plates everything. 

“Here ya go,” he says, pushing one of the plates towards Akaashi. 

“But isn’t this for you?” 

Atsumu frowns at him like he has a second head. “My ma raised me better than to not share my food.”

“Except with Osamu?” 

“Exactly.” Atsumu hands him a fork. “Spent nine months sharin’ with him in the womb. That’s more than enough.” 

Atsumu waits for him to take the first bite. Akaashi doesn’t know what to expect. 

“This tastes good,” Akaashi says, marveling at the omelette. 

“Don’t sound like yer surprised,” Atsumu says. “That’s offensive.”

“It is surprising. I thought all of the cooking genes went to Osamu.”

“Don’t speak of him when yer with me.” Atsumu stabs his fork into his eggs emphatically. 

“Forget going out, let’s buy ingredients and make breakfast here.”

Atsumu smiles around his mouthful. He doesn’t speak until he’s swallowed.  “As much I’d love that, I have coffee with my constituents tomorrow morning. And meetings all day. But I’ll be back before dinnertime, if you don’t mind seein’ me so late.” 

Akaashi shakes his head. “Not at all.”

He scrubs the few plates Atsumu used and when they return to the bedroom, Atsumu flops face first onto Akaashi’s bed. 

“God, I’m so tired.” 

“As happy as I am to see you, you could’ve waited to take the train tomorrow,” Akaashi says, sitting down next to him and running his hand through Atsumu’s hair.

Atsumu sighs and moves over till his head is in Akaashi’s lap. “It’s not that. This has just been a busy week. We’ve been hosting dignitaries from Egypt. They recently gained independence from England, y’know? But the British still control the Suez Canal, because they’re scummy bastards.” 

“Egypt?” Akaashi asks. He’s wanted to visit the Middle East for years now, but the right opportunity has never presented itself. Everytime a foreign client contacts him, he hopes it’ll become an excuse to travel, though it’s rarely worked out that way. He hopes that’ll change if the radio meeting works out.

“Yeah,” Atsumu says. Then, he turns in Akaashi’s lap so he’s looking up at him. “There’s legal action you can take against the Centurion, you know.”

“Under what grounds?” Akaashi pushes Atsumu’s bangs out of his forehead.

“There are libel laws. They defamed your reputation.” 

“I don’t think any of them are strong enough to take them to court.” 

Atsumu catches Akaashi’s hand and laces their fingers together. “I’ll introduce new legislation. What happened to you will keep happening. You got lucky that you were able to spin it in your favour. Other people won’t be so lucky.” 

“Atsumu,” Akaashi sighs. “I appreciate this. I really do. But what you’re fighting for right now is more important. I agree that there need to be measures in place for people without the same privileges that I have, but you don’t need to put any more targets on your back when you’re trying to get healthcare legislation passed.”

Akaashi almost regrets the words for the way they make Atsumu’s face fall. 

“It infuriates me that they can just get away with it,” Atsumu whispers. 

Akaashi squeezes his hand. He doesn’t let go until Atsumu squeezes back. 

They sit like that for a while, hands laced together, Akaashi’s fingers tangled in the soft strands of Atsumu’s hair, until Atsumu gasps and bolts upright. 

Akaashi jumps back, heart racing. “What’s wrong?”

“I forgot something.” Atsumu scrambles for his suit jacket and searches through the pockets in a frenzy. 

“I hope it didn’t spill,” he mutters.

“What is it?” Akaashi tries to look around him, but Atsumu’s back is covering whatever it might be completely. 

“Found it,” he cheers, whirling around to face Akaashi. He holds it out to him, beaming. 

In the palm of Atsumu’s hand is a small brass container, shaped like a vase. A brass stopper carved in an ornate floral pattern sits at the top. 

“What is it?” 

Atsumu sits down and offers it out to him. “The dignitary who gave it to me said it’s called kohl. It’s like eyeliner. But ya have to be careful when ya open it. I spilled it everywhere when I tried to open it.”

Akaashi cradles the container. The metal is cool against his skin. “It’s so beautiful. Are you sure you want me to have it?”

“Sure I am. As much as I’d love to, I think if I showed up to Congress in eyeliner, they’d finally kick me out.”

“If you get kicked out, I’ll hire you as my lawyer.”

“Don’t get cocky,” Atsumu says. “You’ve only just dominated the papers.” 

“That’s what you think,” Akaashi says, smug grin pulling his lips up. “I have a meeting for a radio show on Monday.” 

Atsumu whistles, eyebrows shooting up. “Yeah? How’d you manage that?”

“To be honest, Sakusa-san did most of the heavy lifting. The journalist who broke the story has been following me under the newspaper’s name without any direct assignment. So Sakusa-san told them if they didn’t want a lawsuit on their hands, they would have to arrange some meetings.”

“Omi-kun sure is scary.” 

“You say that like it’s a compliment.”

“It is a compliment. If he was in Congress, I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t dare pass a bill he presented.” Atsumu mulls it over for a moment. “Although, knowin’ him, he’d probably require everyone wear face masks and instill quotas on the number of soaps bars every bathroom should have.”

“I don’t know,” Akaashi shrugs. “That might have helped with the Spanish flu.” 

“You know what, yer right. Maybe I should convince Omi to run for office.”

“No,” Akaashi nearly screams. “You can’t do that. I need him to stay exactly where he is.” 

Atsumu laughs at what Akaashi is sure must be sheer panic written all over his face. 

“I’m pretty sure Omi would rather die than have to shake all the hands a politician has to shake.” 

“Good,” Akaashi says. “Working for me, he has to shake three hands a week, maximum.” 

“Forget getting Omi to join me, maybe I should take you up on that offer and work for you instead.” 

It was a joke when Akaashi said it, and it’s a joke now, but the thought, even in jest, is a pleasant one. 

Akaashi sets the vial of kohl on his night stand and faces Atsumu completely. “I wouldn’t mind showing up to work and seeing you there everyday.” 

“Keiji,” Atsumu says, fluttering his lashes, voice dripping with humor. “Are you flirtin’ with me?” 

“I’d never do that,” Akaashi says. He pushes Atsumu back onto the bed and Atsumu falls. Akaashi climbs up on top of him. 

“Then what’s this?” Atsumu asks, grinning up at him. 

“Coincidence, lapse in judgement, the forces of gravity.” Akaashi shrugs. “Whatever really. You can take your pick.”

“You were a lot nicer to me when we were takin’ a bath.” 

“That’s because you were literally crying from the cold.” Akaashi cups Atsumu’s face and marvels at how soft his skin is. He knows he shouldn’t be surprised, not with how extensive Atsumu’s skincare routine is, but it shocks him every single time. 

The first time he’d spent the night at Akaashi’s and needed to get ready the next morning. Akaashi gawked at the array of tubs, bottles, and jars Atsumu pulled out of his bag. 

“I got it from my Ma,” he’d said with a shrug. As though that explained why the inside of a beauty store had just regurgitated itself onto Akaashi’s bed.  

Akaashi watched him apply eye creams, tonics, elixirs, and anti-aging moisturizers. Then, he’d rubbed lotions that smelled of delicate flowers into his skin.

At first glance, Atsumu looks like the type of man who should always smell of aftershave and Italian leather and cigar smoke. And while he wears aftershave and indulges in the occasional cigar, Atsumu has always been vain in a way that Akaashi appreciates infinitely more, like the orange blossom shampoo he’d purchased for Akaashi’s shower.

“If I start cryin’ again, will you be nice to me?” 

“Signs point to no.” 

In the blink of an eye, Atsumu grabs him by the waist and flips them over, so that Akaashi is now the one looking up at Atsumu. 

“Yer as bad as Omi-kun and Sunarin sometimes,” Atsumu says with a pout. A grown man, a member of the nation’s legislative body no less, and Akaashi has him in his lap, frowning because Akaashi won’t throw him a bone. 

Akaashi cracks a smile, and Atsumu tries to fight it, but his lips curve upwards too. 

“Come here,” Akaashi says, holding his arms open, reversing their earlier position. 

Atsumu huffs and drops his full weight onto Akaashi. It knocks the wind out of him, but he wraps his arms tight around Atsumu. 

“Y’know,” Atsumu says, after a few moments of silence. “I highly doubt I’d be able to pull off anything as scandalous as Kuroo or Kenma, or blow off the governor and mayor, but we can still be photographed together, if you want.”

“Are you sure?” Akaashi asks, brows creasing. Hurting Atsumu’s political career is the last thing he’d want to do. 

“Yeah. It’s a re-election year for me. The name recognition would only help.”

Those are exactly the right words to say. And it’s been a part of this whole ordeal from the very beginning, despite anyone’s reluctance to admit it. Akaashi’s name isn’t the only one being splashed across the papers. 

Kuroo called to let him know that he’d booked the rights to an exclusive interview with the First Lady. Bouncing Ball stocks have nearly doubled in price over the past week. When Osamu mailed Akaashi his Valentine’s day reservation, he’d also informed him that the restaurant was reserved until mid-summer. Bokuto’s reputation is sturdier than ever. Akaashi doubts anyone will try to cause him trouble for a while. 

Even Sakusa and Suna are benefiting from this in their own ways. Though Sakusa’s name has never been household, his reputation as a financial adviser and a brilliant strategist have solidified. He could likely leave Akaashi and work for some of the biggest names in the country if he wanted to. And every socialite in a thousand mile radius knows who Suna Rintarou is now and how impeccable his eye for fashion is. 

They’d turned a bad into a good, and everyone is profiting now. 

That’s what’s made this whole thing easier to stomach, what’s made Akaashi willing to go along with it in the first place. If it had just been him rising the ranks, if he had to drag his friends down to move up, he never would have agreed to it. But the ability to help the people in his life as they help him has made this whole ordeal a million times better. 

Which is exactly why Akaashi finds himself nodding. 

“What did you have in mind?” 

“Nothing too crazy, maybe dinner and a walk around Central Park? I can call one of the photographers I know and ask her to come take photos for a bit. Then she can leave and we’ll have the whole evening to ourselves.” 

“That would be lovely,” Akaashi says. 

Atsumu turns in Akaashi’s arms until his back is to Akaashi’s chest. 

He’s always had a preference for being the little spoon and Akaashi doesn’t mind. 

He pulls Atsumu in closer, tucks his chin over his head, and breathes in the clean scent of Atsumu’s still damp hair. Tonight, his hair smells like Akaashi’s shampoo. But on the nights when Atsumu has a chance to shower in his own apartment, he comes over smelling like strawberries. 

They exchange a few more words, until Atsumu’s voice grows heavy and his words start to slur together. Akaashi buries his face in Atsumu’s hair and falls asleep to the rise and fall of Atsumu’s chest. 

~

Someone rings the doorbell, startling them both awake. 

Akaashi fumbles for his glasses and wants to threaten murder when he sees the time on the clock. 

Seven in the morning. On a Saturday. After they’d both had a late night.

He stomps over to the front door and throws it open, not even bothering to look through the peephole.

Akaashi’s desire for blood increases one thousand fold when he sees Suna, briefcase in one hand, garment bag in the other, rocking on his heels and whistling to himself. 

“What on earth do you want?” 

“Good morning to you, too,” Suna says, giving Akaashi a once over, clearly judging him. He knows what he must look like, hair sticking out in every direction, deep bags under his eyes. 

“Why are you here?”

“One Congressman Miya rang me yesterday evening and requested my services,” Suna makes a show out of checking the time on his watch. “Bright and early.”

“So you thought this was an acceptable time?”

“The time was left open for interpretation. So I interpreted.” Suna walks past Akaashi, sailing breezily in. He toes his shoes off and hangs his coat up to dry. 

“I hate you,” Akaashi mutters, slamming the door shut. 

“Your hatred is misdirected.”

“Hate Atsumu too.”

Suna snorts. “He deserves it.” 

Atsumu lives up to the hate he deserves when they find him sleeping with the blankets wrapped tightly around him, face buried in his pillow. Only the top of his blonde hair is visible. Akaashi hasn’t consumed any caffeine yet, so the sight of Atsumu sleeping peacefully in his warm bed while the cold of the floor seeps into Akaashi’s feet incites unbridled rage in his sleep deprived mind. 

But as with most things unruly in Akaashi’s life, Suna smoothes them over. 

“Rise and shine,” Suna calls, jumping on top of Atsumu. 

Atsumu gasps awake and nearly throws Suna off the bed. 

“What are you doing?” he shrieks. 

“Restoring justice in the world,” Suna says, righting himself on the bed nonchalantly, like this is a daily occurrence for him. 

“Why are you like this?” Atsumu sounds near tears again, and Akaashi slips into bed next to him and leans his head on Atsumu’s shoulder. 

“I exist to cause you pain,” Suna says with a twinkle in his eyes.  

“I hate you,” Atsumu says weakly. 

“No, you love me. Because you have coffee with your constituents at nine thirty this morning. It’ll take you minimum one hour to get ready, and then another half hour to get to the coffee shop. The remaining half hour will be spent organizing your materials, reviewing your notes, and selling the lie that you’re a respectable politician.” 

“I love you,” Atsumu amends, defeated. 

“You do, now get your ass up and get ready.”

Suna shuffles Atsumu into the bathroom then whirls on Akaashi.

“So, what’s the plan?”

“Dinner, and then a walk around Central Park.” 

“Brilliant,” Suna says. “We’ll be back before dinner time. I’ll get you both ready.” 

Atsumu stumbles out of the bathroom. Suna sits him down in front of the vanity and makes quick work of getting him ready. Akaashi pulls the covers over himself and listens to Suna drill him on important issues that have happened in the district while Atsumu was in Washington, DC. 

Akaashi was shocked to learn that Suna doubled as Atsumu’s eyes and ears in the district, but he really shouldn’t have been. Suna is observant, with a knack for already knowing something before others even realize there’s something to know. 

More than that, he’s a master at branding. 

It’s part of what makes him so useful to Akaashi, as well. Akaashi met Suna through Sakusa, who met him through his cousin, Komori Motoya. Suna is a socialite, from a family that built its wealth in the railroads. He had no interest in carrying on the family business, though, and chose instead to make a name for himself in other ways. 

He’d clung to Akaashi, when they first met. Maybe it was the oddity of Akaashi’s trade, maybe it was how slim his margins of success were. Whatever it was, it had intrigued Suna, and he’d been by Akaashi’s side ever since, helping him build his brand. 

And now, he’s helping Atsumu comb his hair down. 

“There,” Suna says, tucking a final strand of hair away. “You look less like the end of a broomstick and more like a human being.”

“Wonderful,” Atsumu says. “All I can ask for on a Saturday mornin’.”

Suna hands him his suit—an elegant charcoal three piece—and a pair of dress shoes. 

Akaashi watches from bed as the look comes together. He makes a handsome figure, with his hair slicked back and his face slipping into something more serious and focused. 

“Put your coat on,” Suna instructs. “I’m gonna go hail a taxi.” 

When it’s just Akaashi and Atsumu left in the room, Atsumu’s expression softens. 

“I’ll see you in the evening,” Atsumu says. He presses a lingering kiss to Akaashi’s lips, and sees himself out of the house.

~

Sakusa stops by around midday to drop off a new batch of financial reports. 

Akaashi spends the day pouring over stock prices and charting the positions of the planets for the upcoming week. 

It feels good to ground himself in his expertise again. Though he’s spent the week working with clients, consulting on business decisions and career trajectories, there is nothing he prefers more than being left alone to make sense of the universe.

He’s interrupted from his work when he hears three sharp raps against the door. Akaashi looks up from his work and realizes that he hasn’t moved from his spot all day, except to get tea. 

Every bone in his body protests when he stands, and he reminds himself to take more stretch breaks as he makes his way to the door. 

Atsumu walks in, Suna following closely behind him. 

“How was coffee?” Akaashi asks, looking them both up and down. Fat snowflakes cling to the sleeves of their coats, around their scarves, and in their hair. 

“Coffee was delightful,” Suna says, rolling his eyes. 

“What happened?” 

Atsumu sits down on the couch and sighs. “One of the circuit judges got caught making deals on the down low. All of the cases he’s ruled on have come under fire and there was a whole line of people out of the door convinced that I could do something about getting the verdicts of their cases tossed.

“I had to explain how the branches of government worked at least thirty times today.”

Akaashi winces. “That sounds like a very specific brand of hell.”

“It was,” Suna says. “I thought I was going to blow my own brains out if I had to listen to Atsumu explain the difference between state and federal government one more time.”

“Good thing we got ya out of there then,” Atsumu says, turning a tired smile at Suna. “We can’t have yer brains all over yer nice suit.”

Suna sniffs. “Yes, well, it is quite nice, isn’t it?” 

Akaashi laughs into his palm. He’s always enjoyed the banter between Atsumu and Suna. 

Ties run deep between the Miya family and the Suna family, given that they both came into prominence in a similar era. The twins grew up with Suna, as well as Governor Ojiro and Mayor Kita. 

Around Osamu, Suna is teasing in a quiet, more subdued way. But Suna and Atsumu bring out a snarky side of each other that never fails to amuse Akaashi. Their quick jabs and biting remarks are well aimed, but never cruel. 

“Okay, let’s get you two ready,” Suna says, hoisting himself up from the couch. “A reporter is going to meet you in Central Park after dinner.” 

Suna sends Atsumu to the bathroom to wash up, then herds Akaashi to his room. 

“Let’s go for something more casual this evening.” 

“Fine by me.” The idea of trapping himself in something as restrictive as a suit jacket sounds entirely unappealing today. 

Suna picks out a dark pair of slacks, a vest, and tie for Akaashi to put on. He’s brushing fingers through Akaashi’s hair when Atsumu walks back into the bedroom, completely bare from the waist up. 

He grabs a stack of papers and sits down on the bed near them. Akaashi watches a stray droplet of water make its path from Atsumu’s neck down his chest. 

When he looks up again, Atsumu is grinning at him. Akaashi turns away, cheeks burning. 

“Gross,” Suna mutters, giving Akaashi’s hair one final tussle. The overall effect is a hairstyle that looks effortlessly casual. 

“Sunarin, I wanted to show ya somethin’.” Atsumu picks the container of kohl up off the nightstand and passes it to Suna. 

“What is this?” 

“Kohl. It’s like eyeliner,” Atsumu says. “Careful when you open it.”

“Shut up,” Suna says breezily, inspecting the container. 

When Suna pulls out the stopper, they immediately understand why caution was advised. Fine black powder stains the metal wand attached to the stopper, but most of it spills on the counter of the vanity and smears when Suna tries to swipe it off. 

“I said careful, Suna, not spill it everywhere,” Atsumu jeers. 

“And I said shut the fuck up before I shave your hair off.” 

“Aren’t ya datin’ Omi-kun’s cousin?” 

“And what about it?” Suna says, scrubbing at the kohl. 

“Ya don’t get to complain about me when yer datin’ a man with only the front halves of his eyebrows.” 

Akaashi chokes on a laugh and tries desperately to stifle it. Suna glaring at him only makes him want to laugh harder, but it’s catching Atsumu’s eye again that sends them both over the edge. 

They laugh and laugh harder still when Suna grabs the comb and throws it at Atsumu with pinpoint accuracy. 

It hits him dead in the chest and clatters to the ground.

“I’m not givin’ that back to ya,” Atsumu says around his laughter. 

“You don’t have to.” Suna walks over to where Atsumu is still laughing. He bends down to retrieve it, and on the way back up, he smacks Atsumu upside the head. Atsumu raises his hands in a vain effort to protect himself, but Suna smacks him again, on his bare shoulder. 

“Next time you insult my boyfriend’s eyebrows, I’ll take yours in your sleep.”

“Give my eyebrows to him, so I can write it off as a charitable donation,” Atsumu gasps out.

There are tears in Akaashi’s eyes. 

Suna stalks back to Akaashi's sides and ruffles his hands through Akaashi’s hair, making it stick up every which way. 

“I’m not redoing that,” he huffs.

“Ya just messed up yer own work,” Atsumu says, doubled over. 

Suna flings Atsumu’s outfit at him. “Go walk in the snow naked for all I care.”

“Come on, Sunarin,” Atsumu whines. “Be nice to me.”

“I would rather die than be nice to a Miya twin.” 

Akaashi is still laughing when Suna hauls Akaashi off the vanity seat and shoves Atsumu onto it instead. 

“I hate you.” Suna grumbles. He picks up a bottle of face cream and smacks a glob of it onto Atsumu’s cheek, smearing it all over his face. “You’re awful. You’re the worse Miya twin.” 

“Nah.” Atsumu says, grinning at Akaashi, face covered in lotion. “The only thing worse than me is ‘Samu. But he’s not here, so we’re all in luck.” 

Akaashi rolls his eyes. Atsumu winks through the mirror and Suna makes a mock-retching sound.

~

The photographer meets them outside of the restaurant when they finish eating dinner. They walk with her to Central Park. 

She’s an easy going woman who asks them to pretend like they’re on a walk, enjoying each other’s company. 

Which is not difficult to do, because they are on a walk, enjoying each other’s company. 

She asks them to stand so they’re just close enough to seem more than friendly, but they never touch. She captures photos of them talking, of Akaashi pointing something out to Atsumu. At one point, she even asks them to stick out their tongues and pretend like they’re catching snowflakes. 

After she takes her photos, she thanks them for their time and leaves them for the evening. Akaashi doesn’t need to see pictures to know they’re going to turn out beautiful. 

Atsumu smiles and holds an arm out for Akaashi. Akaashi takes it and they trail off the walking path and into a field covered in snow.

“Speakin’ of stickin’ your tongue out,” Atsumu says, “Have I ever showed ya this?”

“Showed me what?”

He folds his tongue into a clover, then grins at Akaashi, clearly waiting for praise. 

“I’m not impressed,” Akaashi says in a deadpan. 

“No one said ya had to be,” Atsumu says. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, it still makes a sound.”

“What does that mean?” Akaashi asks, brows knitting together. 

“It means that this is still cool, whether you think so or not.” 

“Loser,” Akaashi coughs. 

Atsumu grabs a handful of snow and shoves it into Akaashi’s face. Akaashi lets go of Atsumu’s hand to wipe it away, and looks at him, spluttering. 

“What was that for?” 

“Loser,” Atsumu shrugs. 

“Run.” It’s the only warning Akaashi gives before he’s chasing Atsumu in earnest. 

Their laughter is raucous, filling the air around them. 

Akaashi ducks down and scoops up a handful of snow, forming it into a snowball while he runs. 

Atsumu tries to take cover behind a bush, but right before he can, Akaashi sends the snowball sailing. It hits Atsumu’s shoulder, rather than his chest, like Akaashi was aiming for, but a hit’s a hit. 

“Cheap shot,” Atsumu calls. 

“You’re the one hiding,” Akaashi reminds him. 

Atsumu hides fully behind the bush, and all is quiet for a moment. The only sounds Akaashi can hear are his own heavy breathing and the snow crunching beneath his shoes. 

He gathers more snow and shapes a perfect circle. 

Akaashi takes slow, measured steps towards the bush when Atsumu pops up and hits him squarely in the chest. Before Akaashi can react, Atsumu launches another snowball, then another.

The moment he runs out of snowballs, Akaashi sends his hurling. It hits Atsumu in the face. Atsumu grunts and falls back into the snow. 

Akaashi runs over to the bush and finds Atsumu laying in the snow, laughing. 

“C’mere.” Atsumu pulls Akaashi down next to him. “Let’s make snow angels.”

It’s been years since he’s played in snow like this. Despite how silly he feels, lying next to Atsumu with his limbs spread, despite how cold it is, a heat takes root in Akaashi’s chest and spreads through him, warming him from the inside out. 

When Atsumu rolls on top of Akaashi, Akaashi wraps his arms around him, and wonders if Atsumu can feel the heat coursing through him. 

A few moments later, though, the cold seeps in and Akaashi stands up, extending a hand for Atsumu. He takes it, and Akaashi hoists him up.

“Here,” Atsumu says, wrapping his fluffy, checkered scarf around Akaashi’s neck. 

“What about you?” 

“What about me?” 

“Aren’t you cold?” 

“Nah,” Atsumu says. He uses the tails of the scarf to pull Akaashi in and press a searing kiss to his lips. 

~

Akaashi wakes up sniffling. 

It’s just his luck that on the way day he needs to focus, he can hardly get out of bed. He calls Atsumu to see how he’s doing, and curses his luck when Atsumu picks up the phone.

"Did you see the paper?" Atsumu asks, bright and chipper and infuriatingly not sick. "Congressman Catches a Case of the Feelings. Miya Atsumu Seen Strolling With New York's Most Eligible Bachelor."

Akaashi groans and hangs up the phone.

Dragging himself to the office takes all of his strength out of him. Akaashi has the beginnings of a headache and every bone in his body hurts. His stomach feels like butter being churned.

Sakusa will be coming into the office shortly to brief him on their meeting tomorrow, and Akaashi needs to be able to pay attention to everything he’s saying. He hasn’t even been able to get up from his desk chair and make his morning tea yet. 

As though Akaashi summoned him, there are two sharp knocks against the door, and then Sakusa walks into the room. 

He frowns as soon as he sees Akaashi. 

“What happened to you?” 

“I caught a cold.”

“Clearly,” Sakusa says, removing his gloves and hanging his coat up. “But how?”

“I was out yesterday.”

Sakusa raises an eyebrow and stares. Akaashi tries to keep his composure, but he cracks under the weight of Sakusa’s deadpan look. 

“Atsumu and I...made snow angels.” 

“You,” Sakusa pauses, like it pains him to get the words out. “You’re sick because you were rolling around in the snow with Miya.”

Akaashi winces. “Yes.”

Sakusa pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. “I should’ve snuffed him out when I had the chance.” 

“I’m sure he isn’t feeling well either.” It’s both a lie and a sad attempt at coming to Atsumu’s defense, but let it be known that Akaashi at least tried. Atsumu is just fine and probably spent his entire train ride back to Washington, DC sleeping peacefully. 

“Should you be working today?” 

“Of course I should,” Akaashi says, sitting up straighter.  “A cold isn’t an issue.”

Sakusa eyes him warily. Akaashi musters up his most convincing smile, until Sakusa sits down and pulls files out of his briefcase. 

“I’ve put together a list of relevant talking points, the skeleton of a radio show pitch, financial projections for the radio station, and the basis of our legal argument.” 

Akaashi takes the stack of papers in hand and flips through them, eyes wide. “You did all of this?” 

Sakusa nods. “I wanted to prepare a list of common questions they might ask and responses to them, but I ran out of time.” 

“Sakusa-san,” Akaashi says, eyes wide. “These are amazing. More than I could have ever asked for.” 

Sakusa sits up straighter at the praise. “There are a few areas I couldn’t fill out without your input, namely the pitch.” He points to a few pages. “We can review them and add the details in.” 

Akaashi flips through the papers, taking in all of the information Sakusa has neatly laid out. “This is in line with everything we’ve discussed. I think we should add in a segment for people to send in their astrological charts and the charts of the people they’re experiencing conflict with to retain listeners.”

“Great idea.” Sakusa makes a note in the margins of one of the pages. His handwriting is clean and precise. 

“Let’s rehearse the meeting,” Akaashi suggests. 

He keeps a box of tissues on the desk, but while they practice, Akaashi does everything in his power to avoid reaching for it. The last thing he wants is to disgust Sakusa. Or have him thinking that Akaashi isn’t up for the task at hand.

They go through every possible question both of them can think of twice. On their third run-through, Akaashi’s voice breaks.

“Are you alright?” Sakusa asks, eyes wide, the rest of his face hidden behind his mask. 

Akaashi is the opposite of alright. His head has graduated from aching to full on pounding. He feels both too hot and freezing cold. More than anything, Akaashi wants to go back home, slip into his pajamas, and crawl into bed. 

Instead he says, “I’m fine, let’s finish this.” 

Sakusa gives him a wary nod, but Akaashi waves him off. 

The next stack of papers show an array of numerical charts and graphs illustrating financial projections, listener retention, and ad placement. They’re all the types of things Akaashi needs hours to understand on a normal day. 

But on a day like today, when his mind is swimming and every individual bone in his body hurts, he finds that he can do nothing more but stare at the pages and nod. 

“Akaashi-san,” Sakusa says. Akaashi continues to look at the spot on the page where he could have sworn Sakusa’s finger just was. 

“Akaashi-san,” he says again. Akaashi’s head snaps up. 

“Yes?” 

“You’re too sick to be here.”

“No I’m not.” He shakes his too quickly to be convincing. 

“What’s the last thing I said?” 

“Um.” Akaashi looks down at the report again, silently pleading with the jumble of words and numbers to arrange themselves into a language he can understand, to reveal their secrets to him. 

He looks up again and meets Sakusa’s unimpressed gaze. 

Sakusa opens his mouth to say something, but he never gets farther than that, because Akaashi cuts him off with a violent sneeze. He just manages to grab a wad of tissues in time. 

Abruptly, Sakusa stands from the chair and leaves the room, which is exactly what Akaashi expected from him. In fact, he’s surprised that Sakusa lasted as long as he did, what with his aversion to germs and his constant wearing of masks. 

What Akaashi doesn’t expect is for Sakusa to return, with Akaashi’s coat and scarf in hand, no less. 

“Well, come on then,” Sakusa says, when Akaashi just stares at him. 

“Come on where?” 

“I’m taking you home.” Sakusa says it like it should be obvious. 

Even though what Sakusa means is that he’s taking Akaashi home because he’s too sick to properly focus, Akaashi can’t stop his mind from conjuring images of Sakusa leaning across his desk, of the broad cut of his shoulders and his trim waist. He thinks he’d like to wrap his hands around that waist. 

Which is a rather silly thought, and certainly not one that he’s ever thought before. 

But then his brain deals him the lethal blow. He remembers the warm scent of Sakusa’s cologne—cinnamon and bergamot and cedar—and wishes that Sakusa was close enough for him to smell it again. 

The image transforms, this time to one of Sakusa leaning across Akaashi’s desk until he’s close enough to taste.

“Well?” Sakusa says, ripping Akaashi away from whatever strange place his mind took him to. 

Maybe it’s the disorientation that has Akaashi pushing away from his desk with no hesitance. “Right, coming.” 

He reaches out for his jacket, but Sakusa helps him into it, instead. 

“Did you already call a cab?” 

Sakusa holds an arm out. “No, I’ll drive you myself, if you don’t mind.”

Akaashi is too dumbfounded to speak, so he just loops his arm through Sakusa’s when he offers it. 

~

Sakusa is a very capable driver. 

His pulse races when Sakusa puts an arm around Akaashi’s seat and backs out of the parking spot. Though there are potholes all over the streets, Sakusa takes great care to avoid them. Akaashi’s pounding head can’t thank Sakusa enough. 

When he parallel parks the car in front of Akaashi’s brownstone, holds the door open for Akaashi, and walks him up to the front door, Akaashi feels like he could cry, unsteady on his legs as he is.

Akaashi grips Sakusa’s arm tightly, and scarcely lets go to fish his keys out and let them in. 

He takes a few steps forward before he realizes Sakusa isn’t behind him. Akaashi turns around to find Sakusa rooted to the same spot. “Are you coming in?” 

To Akaashi’s never-ending surprise, Sakusa does. 

“I can take those.” Sakusa takes Akaashi’s coat and gloves from him and hangs them up, then adds his own next to them.

Like Sakusa’s clothes belong in Akaashi’s closet.  

And if that’s not the stupidest of all the stupid thoughts his mind could possibly summon, then Akaashi does not look forward to proving himself wrong. 

“Akaashi-san.” Sakusa’s voice is soft in a way Akaashi has never heard it before. He’s never said Akaashi’s name like that, like he revels in saying it, like every syllable is precious. 

Sakusa raises his hand up and Akaashi isn’t sure what Sakusa is going to do with it until he feels the cool of it against his skin, until he has Sakusa’s knuckles pressed to his forehead. 

He tamps down the urge to step back and thanks every ounce of self control he has in his body when Sakusa moves his hand lower and cups Akaashi’s cheek. His hand is smooth and Akaashi mourns the loss of it when Sakusa pulls away.

It must be the delirium of his illness that’s affecting him like this. He’s been around Sakusa all day, every day, for years, and he’s never once made Akaashi feel this way. 

“You’re burning up,” Sakusa says, frowning. 

Akaashi nods dumbly. 

“Let’s get you to bed.”

He stays rooted in the spot until Sakusa wraps his hand through Akaashi’s and pulls him along. 

Their first stop is the restroom. Sakusa rolls Akaashi’s sleeves and lathers the soap up. 

He takes Akaashi’s hand in his again when Akaashi’s fever-ridden brain finally catches up to the present moment. Sakusa’s brought him home and they’re in his bathroom. Sakusa is about to help Akaashi wash his hands.  

Heat floods his cheeks for an entirely different reason. 

“Sakusa-san,” Akaashi says, going ramrod straight. “Thank you for your help, but I assure you I can manage washing my hands.” 

“I’m sure you can,” Sakusa says, voice so close it sends shivers down Akaashi’s spine. “But we’re already here, so you might as well let me.” 

Akaashi glances back at him. Sakusa looks unperturbed, as though last week wasn’t the first time he’d been anywhere near Akaashi’s personal space.  

Sakusa’s argument is low hanging fruit, but Akaashi finds that he can’t come up with an effective enough rebuttal. He ignores the part of his brain that whispers that he doesn’t want to come up with a rebuttal. 

Sakusa takes those two steps forward, until he’s close enough that Akaashi can feel the heat of his body, but still not close enough for them to be touching. 

He sends a jolt down Akaashi’s spine when he takes Akaashi’s hand in his. Sakusa’s fingers are gentle as he runs Akaashi’s hand under warm water. 

“Sakusa-san, this is embarrassing,” Akaashi whispers. 

“Why?”

“I can do this myself,” he says again. 

“I’m aware. You’re the most capable person who’s employ I’ve been under.” 

“So why are you doing this?” 

“Indulge me,” Sakusa says, in lieu of an answer. 

Hopelessly, Akaashi watches as Sakusa runs soap over the length of his index finger.

The idea of having someone else wash his hands is stranger than the reality of it. Sakusa is gentle but firm, and he squeezes Akaashi’s fingers as he cleans them. It relieves some of the soreness that accompanies the fever. 

He’s never thought of his hands as a body part in need of massaging, but when Sakusa turns Akaashi’s hands over and squeezes Akaashi’s palm with his thumb, Akaashi quickly reconsiders that position.

Too quickly, Sakusa washes the soap out of both their hands and pats Akaashi’s hands dry with a hand towel. 

“That wasn’t necessary,” Akaashi says. 

Sakusa twines his pinky with Akaashi’s and walks with him to the bedroom. Akaashi thrills at the small point of contact. Though they’re often in the same room, Sakusa has always felt distant, untouchable. But now, with his smallest finger and a barely there touch, he anchors himself to Akaashi.

“It absolutely wasn’t,” Sakusa says airily. 

“So why did you do it?” Akaashi presses. 

“Did you dislike it?” Sakusa quirks a brow, and Akaashi watches his moles rise with the movement.

“It was...nice,” Akaashi says.

“Then why question a nice thing?” 

Akaashi shakes his head, because he can’t argue with that. In fact, he can’t argue with most of the things Sakusa says. He has a straightforward way of getting to the root of things that Akaashi admires. 

“Get changed,” Sakusa says, turning to leave the room. 

“Where are you going?” 

“To make you something. I’ll be right back.”

After Akaashi finishes changing, he sets his glasses on the nightstand, gets into bed, and pulls the comforter up to his chin. Now that he’s finally lying down, the fatigue hits him in full force. 

He shivers beneath the covers and curls up into a ball. 

The front door opens and shuts again. Akaashi strains to hear the sound of Sakusa’s footsteps, but the house is silent. 

Akaashi tries not to dwell on it too hard. Sakusa has already done more than enough for him. Their relationship has always been strictly professional. 

Sakusa leaving is a good thing.

Tomorrow morning, he’ll sit next to Akaashi during the meeting and pretend none of today happened. Then, they’ll go their separate ways until they meet at the office again, the way they always do. 

Akaashi pulls the covers tighter around himself and tries to ignore the disappointment that pools in his stomach at the thought.

~

The feeling of the bed dipping wakes Akaashi up. He blinks his eyes open, trying to reorient himself to the room around him. He doesn’t remember falling asleep. 

“Sakusa-san?” he asks, squinting up at him. “You came back?” 

Sakusa nods.

“Why did you leave?” 

“The state of your refrigerator is sordid.” 

“So I’ve been told.”

“When’s the last time you bought groceries?” 

Akaashi deliberately ignores the question. “What did you buy?” 

“You didn’t have any medicine in your medicine cabinet.” Sakusa gets an arm under Akaashi and helps him sit up. He hands Akaashi two pills and a glass of water, which Akaashi gratefully accepts. The cold water is a relief for his parched throat. 

Sakusa takes the glass back. “I also needed the ingredients to make you this.” 

It’s only when Sakusa points to it that Akaashi notices the metal tray sitting on his nightstand. The porcelain teapot that was collecting dust in his cupboard and two matching tea cups are laid out on it. 

“What is it?” Akaashi asks, eyes flickering between Sakusa, the teapot, and back again. 

“Honey lemon ginger tea,” he says, pouring a steaming cup out and handing it to Akaashi. 

Akaashi takes the cup and sighs at the warmth seeping into his cold fingers. 

“You bought me medicine and made me tea?” 

Sakusa cocks his head. “You sound surprised.”

“Not surprised,” Akaashi says softly. “Just…”

“Just?”

“Okay, maybe I am surprised.” 

“Try it.”

Akaashi does. It’s sweet, with just the right amount of ginger. He stares at Sakusa wide eyed. “It’s so good.”

“My mom used to make it for me whenever I got sick as a kid.” 

“Did you get sick often?” 

“I did,” Sakusa says. “That’s why I’m always so cautious. Though to be honest, I don’t know if this tea actually works. It just always made me feel better.” 

“It’s making me feel better,” Akaashi says. 

“Then I’m glad.” Sakusa gives him a small smile and Akaashi’s insides go up in flames. 

Sakusa pours himself a cup of tea and tops off Akaashi’s cup when he starts to run low. They sit like that, drinking their tea in silence, until Akaashi breaks it. 

“Sakusa-san?”

“Hm?” 

“I don’t mean to sound rude but, why are you doing all of this?” 

Sakusa puts his empty teacup back on the tray. “Unlike Kuroo-san, I can’t put you on a status solidifying list. I can’t make you a hot commodity in the financial universe like Kenma-san, or blow off the governor of New York and make it splash headlines like Osamu-kun. I can’t offer you mafia protection like Bokuto-san, and I never want to be in a position where I can introduce legislation like Miya.” 

He looks down at his hands and Akaashi wishes he could cross the barrier between them and slide his palm against Sakusa’s. 

“But I can be here, with you. Especially because in some convoluted way, this is partially my fault.”

“It most certainly is not,” Akaashi says. “And if you’re only here because of some warped sense of responsibility, I’d rather you not be here at all.”

“Is that what you think?” Sakusa asks quietly. 

“What, that you’re here because you feel obligated?”

When Sakusa nods, Akaashi sighs. 

“Maybe? I don’t know.” 

“Maybe?” 

Akaashi fiddles with the corner of the comforter and wishes he still had his teacup, just so he could actually have something to do with his hands. 

“You’ve been incredibly helpful during all of this. In fact, you’re the reason my reputation isn’t in tatters. You’ve helped me in ways I wouldn’t have dared to ask for.” 

“And you think I did all of that because I felt like I had to?”

Akaashi shakes his head and meets Sakusa’s eyes. “I’m hoping that isn’t the case.”

Sakusa puts his hands over Akaashi’s, stilling his fidgeting. 

“Can I tell you something, Akaashi-san?”

Akaashi tries not to focus on the way his heartbeat feels as loud in his ears as the bass from Bokuto’s party and nods. 

“When I started working for you, I didn’t think much of it. Or of you.” 

Akaashi opens his mouth, but Sakusa holds a hand up.

“You have to realize, I had been working for Bokuto, running numbers for the mob. The lifestyle was loud and dangerous, and always such a hassle. Then I worked for Miya, who in many ways is one of the most brilliant men I know. But in many other ways, working for him was like professionally managing a child with a skyscraper for an ego.

“I didn’t exactly have high hopes for the man both of them recommended I work with.”

Akaashi laughs. “When you put it like that, I understand the hesitation.”

“Precisely,” Sakusa says, humor in his eyes. “But since the moment I stepped into your office, you’ve done nothing but blow me away. You’re hardworking, intelligent, and so competent. You know who you are and you don’t let others trample over that.

“For years now, I have wanted nothing more than your success.”

Akaashi’s breath catches. He can do nothing but search Sakusa’s face for any indication that what he’s saying is a lie.

Akaashi is silent for too long, because Sakusa says, “I’m sorry if I’m coming on too strong. I can leave if I’ve made you uncomfortable in any way.” 

“No!” Akaashi surges forward, squeezing Sakusa’s hand tightly. “Please. Don’t leave.” 

Sakusa squeezes his hand back. “Then I won’t.” 

“Hearing you say all of that, I have to apologize for being sick. I’ve jeopardized everything we’ve been working so hard for.”

“What are you talking about?” 

“If I hadn’t gotten sick, or if I had been able to power through—”

“Please stop,” Sakusa says, shaking his head. “You were already feeling sick when you came into the office this morning.” 

“Just a little bit,” Akaashi says, hanging his head. “But I didn’t think it was going to become whatever this is.” 

“Then you shouldn’t have even been up,” Sakusa says. “You could have rang me first thing and told me you weren’t feeling well.”

“It’s just a fever,” Akaashi says. “I’ve worked through worse.” 

“But you shouldn’t.

“Was I just supposed to ignore the fact that I have one of the most important meetings of my life tomorrow?” Akaashi throws a hand up. 

“Yes. Meetings can be rescheduled.” Sakusa sighs. “There’s nothing worse than someone who doesn’t take care of themself.”

“Because they jeopardize things for others?” Akaashi asks, snatching his hand back. He misses the warmth of Sakusa’s hand immediately, 

“No.” Sakusa shakes his head. “Because they jeopardize things for themselves. Other people will always find a way to adjust in your absence, but sometimes the damage we do to ourselves is irreversible. You should never put something as silly as work over yourself.”

There is no way he’s hearing Sakusa correctly. Sakusa, who works the longest hours of anyone Akaashi knows, who has never once missed a day of work in all of the years Akaashi has known him. 

“Are you really lecturing me about work right now? You?” 

“Akaashi-san, have you ever known me to work through an illness?” 

“I’ve never known you to be ill.”

“And why do you think that is?” 

Akaashi blinks. The answer is obvious. Sakusa said it himself. He’s the most health conscious person Akaashi knows. 

“There is nothing more important than taking care of yourself,” Sakusa repeats. He sighs and his voice softens. “And if I can be selfish for just a moment, I’d rather not have to adjust to your absence at all. Today you put work over a fever, but that sets a precedent for what else you’d be willing to put over your health.” 

“I—” Akaashi starts, but he doesn’t know how to finish the thought. He doesn’t have anything that feels like an adequate enough response to Sakusa's words. “I’ll take better care of myself next time.” 

“Good.” Sakusa stands up and gathers the tray. 

“Sakusa-san,” Akaashi starts, before his nerves can get the better of him. Sakusa pauses and turns his attention to Akaashi.“Now you’ll have to forgive me if I’m the one being too forward, but has something changed between us?” 

Akaashi finally, finally catches Sakusa off guard. He puts the tray down and sits down on the edge of the bed. 

“It’s true that I haven’t been entirely forthcoming with you,” Sakusa says, cheeks taking on a lovely pink hue.

“Meaning what exactly?” Akaashi asks, something hopeful tugging in his chest. 

“Well.” Sakusa rubs the back of his neck. There’s a certain thrill in watching a man as put together as Sakusa stumble over his words. “My feelings for you aren’t completely professional.”

Akaashi thrums his fingers against the bed. “For how long?” 

Sakusa coughs, but meets Akaashi’s eyes when he speaks. “For at least a year now.” 

“Were you ever going to say anything?” 

“I wasn’t,” Sakusa says. “I’m not looking for a relationship, and I know you aren’t either.” 

“So feelings from afar?”

Sakusa nods. “Feelings from afar.” 

“I can do feelings from afar.”

“Meaning?” 

Akaashi offers him a tentative smile. “Meaning if you aren’t opposed to something casual, I wouldn’t be either.” 

“I’m sure we can work something out,” Sakusa says, smiling back. 

“Can we work it out over here?” Akaashi gestures to the empty spot on the bed next to him. 

“Very forward,” Sakusa says. 

“That’s not what I meant,” Akaashi splutters. 

Sakusa laughs, light and easy. “I’m just giving you a hard time.” He rises from the bed. “Do you have anything I can change into?” 

“Pajama bottoms are in the first drawer,” Akaashi says, pointing to the dresser. “Tops are in the second drawer.”

He watches Sakusa undo the knot of his tie, and take off his freshly ironed shirt. Sakusa steps into a pair of pajama pants and pulls on a top. Akaashi holds the covers open for him. 

He gets into bed and holds his arms open for Akaashi. Akaashi shuffles closer and rests his head against Sakusa’s chest. 

Immediately, he catches the scent of Sakusa’s cologne again.

“What are you wearing?” 

“Your pajamas?” He says it like a question, and Akaashi laughs.

“Obviously. I meant your cologne.” 

Sakusa huffs a laugh that Akaashi feels against his hair. “I’m not sure, to be honest. It’s a French brand that Motoya got me for my birthday.”

“You’ll have to ask him for me.” 

“I’ll add it to my list of things to do.” 

Sakusa cards a hand through Akaashi’s hair and tucks a strand of it behind his ear. Then he presses the back of his hand to Akaashi’s forehead. 

“You’re still warm.” He slides a hand down to cup Akaashi’s jaw and tips his face up. “You should get some sleep, let the medicine do its job.” 

“You’ll stay here, won’t you?” 

“Of course I will.”

With his free arm, Sakusa pulls Akaashi closer. Akaashi buries his face in the crook of Sakusa’s neck and smiles to himself when Sakusa drops a kiss to his temple.

~

The amber light streaming into the room is the only indication that Akaashi has been asleep for hours. 

The medicine does its job, because the soreness in his limbs and the headache that’s been killing him all morning are gone. 

His head is still cradled against Sakusa’s chest, Sakusa’s arm slung across Akaashi’s waist. He’s fast asleep and Akaashi takes the moment to study him. 

He’s not nearly as severe when he’s sleeping. His long eyelashes fan across his cheekbones and the inviting curve of his lips demands a kiss be pressed to them. 

More than anything though, his eyes zero in on the two moles above Sakusa’s eyebrow. 

Though Sakusa’s face is often obscured by his mask, or his expression is pulled into a frown, his eyes—and by extension his eyebrows—tell a different story. 

Akaashi has watched them fly up in surprise, or knit together in confusion, or furrow when Sakusa is concentrating especially hard. And following their every movement, the two moles above his brow. 

He tips his head up and presses a kiss to each mole. 

“Akaashi-san?”

Akaashi startles back. “Did I wake you?” 

“You did, but it’s okay. How are you feeling?” 

Sakusa’s voice is sleep thick and raspy. Akaashi is tempted to close his eyes and listen to Sakusa’s deep voice until he falls asleep again. 

“A lot better,” he says. “Thank you for the medicine.”

Sakusa nods.

“Should we get up now?” 

“In a minute,” Sakusa says, wrapping his arms tighter around Akaashi. 

“I never would’ve taken you for the lounging in bed type.”

“Everyone has their indulgences.” Sakusa slips a thumb under the hem of Akaashi’s shirt. “Like how you steal kisses from people in their sleep.” 

“I wasn’t stealing.” Akaashi says. “It’s not stealing if you would have given it to me anyways.” 

“You’re right,” Sakusa says. “I would have.”

He looks so soft then, with his dark curls smushed against the pillow, his eyelids slipping shut. 

“Sakusa-san,” Akaashi begins. “I’m sure you get this often but…”

“But?” Sakusa raises an eyebrow, beckoning him to continue. 

“Your moles. They’re cute.” 

“Cute?” Sakusa repeats.

“Very,” Akaashi nods. 

The same soft red streaming in from the window creeps over Sakusa’s cheeks. Akaashi inches up again and brushes his lips against Sakusa’s forehead, the echo of a kiss. 

Sakusa grabs the collar of Akaashi’s shirt and crushes their lips together, kissing him with a heat that takes Akaashi by surprise. His lips are as smooth as Akaashi suspected they would be. He swipes his tongue across Akaashi’s lip and Akaashi's mouth falls open. Akaashi’s hand fists into Sakusa’s hair and he tugs at the fine strands. Sakusa gasps into Akaashi’s mouth and pulls Akaashi on top of him, knees bracketing Sakusa in place. 

Akaashi is used to looking up at Sakusa, who’s always had a few inches on him. Now, it’s Sakusa who’s splayed out beneath him, hair fanned across the pillow, chest heaving.

It’s a good look for him. 

Sakusa slides a warm hand across Akaashi’s side, trailing his shirt up with it. Goosebumps break out on every new inch of exposed skin. He pulls Akaashi back in and presses kisses to the column of his throat. His hand reaches Akaashi’s chest when Akaashi finally sits up and takes his shirt off. Akaashi’s hands find the collar of Sakusa’s sleep shirt.

“Off,” Akaashi says, making quick work of the buttons. 

Sakusa’s milky skin is smooth and unmarred. Akaashi nips at Sakusa’s collarbone, quickly remedying that. Pink blossoms everywhere Akaashi’s teeth graze.

“For as intimidating as you seem, you’re kind of delicate, aren’t you?” Akaashi asks.

“Intimidating?” 

“You’re always frowning,” Akaashi says, lips against Sakusa’s shoulder. 

Sakusa huffs a breath. “I’m not frowning to be intimidating.” 

“Then?” 

“That’s just my face.”

The answer is so unexpected, Akaashi tips his head back and laughs. Sakusa pulls him in and presses a kiss to the curve of his jaw. He can feel Sakusa’s smile against his skin.  

“Well, it’s a great face,” he says when he finally contains his laughter. Akaashi pushes Sakusa’s bangs out of his face and drops a kiss to his forehead. 

He moves lower, catching Sakusa’s lips again. Akaashi kisses Sakusa breathless, and when Sakusa has to pull away to swallow down air, Akaashhi trails open-mouthed kisses along his neck, leaving a lingering kiss at the base of his throat.

Sakusa’s free hand grips Akaashi’s waist and squeezes tightly. 

Akaashi feels dizzy with the scent of Sakusa’s cologne, with the feeling of his skin against Akaashi’s palms. Before he can move any lower, explore any more of Sakusa, the telephone rings, making him jump.

Akaashi heaves an inpatient sigh, but climbs off of Sakusa and picks up the receiver. 

“Hello,” he says, trying to reign in his breathing. 

“You and Sakusa finally fucked,” Suna says, in lieu of a greeting. 

Akaashi almost drops the mouthpiece. “What?”

“What, am I wrong?” 

“Completely wrong,” Akaashi says. Though, had Suna’s call not interrupted them, who knows where the afternoon would have led them. 

“Well then why aren’t either of you at the office? And why isn’t Sakusa picking up his office phone? And why are you out of breath?” 

“I can hang up right now,” Akaashi says, but his words are empty currency, with nothing to back them.

“You could. Or you could hear what I have to say.”

“Which is what exactly?” Akaashi rolls his eyes even though Suna isn’t there to see it.

“Well, first, that it’s getting very old to constantly interrupt your soirees with handsome men. Every night I lie awake wondering when I’ll be invited to join.”

“You have a partner,” Akaashi reminds him. “And I didn’t realize that you counted the Miya twins as handsome men now.”

“That,” Suna says, “Is revolting. I am, however, in favor of Motoya joining whatever escapade we get into.”

Akaashi opens his mouth to respond, but Suna cuts him off. 

“Second, tell Sakusa that I’ve reviewed the appropriate documents and secured the suit he requested for tomorrow and that I’ve left them on his desk.”

“Of course. Thank you, Suna.”

“Helping you is my job. Also, I’ve booked us lunch reservations. I know you don’t like to eat before stressful meetings.”

“You’re the best,” Akaashi says. 

“And you’re buying me anything I want off the menu.”

“Done.” 

He hangs up the phone and turns back to Sakusa, who’s sitting up in bed. 

“We should do that again sometime.” Sakusa grins, buttoning up his shirt. “But for now, let’s review the materials before I head out.”

“Suna left the documents and suit you requested on your office desk.”

“If I didn’t know he’d abuse the information, I’d tell Suna he’s one of my favorite people.” 

Akaashi laughs, and Sakusa rolls his eyes at him, smile on his face. 

~

They sit facing each other, knees touching, on the couch in Akaashi’s home office. 

Sakusa runs Akaashi through the list of people who will be there, and they spend the evening reviewing Akaashi’s pitch. 

“Let’s call it a night,” Sakusa says, when they’ve gone over everything so many times Akaashi thinks he could recite every word on every document in his sleep. 

“Thank you. For all of your help today.” 

“It’s hardly worth mentioning,” Sakusa says. “I think you’ll do great tomorrow.”

“And if I don’t?”

Sakusa takes Akaashi’s hand in his, his palm warm and smooth against Akaashi’s. “You will.”

Akaashi sighs and flops back against the couch. “I’ll make you and Suna finance a radio show if this doesn’t work out.”

“Yeah right.” Sakusa pulls Akaashi against him. “Bring it up to your mafia boss boyfriend. Or either Miya twin. You know they come from money.” 

“Bokuto-san isn’t my boyfriend.” Akaashi buries his face in Sakusa’s neck. “And I refuse to let the Miya twins fund my lifestyle.” 

“Well, that’s your first mistake,” Sakusa says, wrapping an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders. 

“What, Bokuto-san or the Miyas?"

Sakusa shrugs. “Both, neither, either.”

Akaashi plays with the hair at Sakusa’s nape. “What about you?”

“What about me?” 

“Not gonna offer yourself to fund my life?”

Sakusa snorts. “Yeah right, more like you should offer to fund mine.”

“If we get a radio show out of tomorrow’s meeting, consider yourself taken care of.”

“I’ll start planning my retirement then.” 

Akaashi looks up at him and frowns. “You have too much faith in me.” 

“I have just enough,” Sakusa grins. “I have to, my retirement depends on it.”

“Greedy,” Akaashi mutters. 

Sakusa sweeps Akaashi’s hair off his forehead and kisses the furrow of his brow. 

~

Akaashi couldn’t have picked a better suit for himself if he tried. Suna chose classic cuts for both him and Sakusa, and together, they make an impressive duo. 

As the cab pulls up closer, Akaashi tips his head back, taking in the skyscraper the meeting is being held in. His stomach flips at the sight of it. 

The cab comes to a stop and Sakusa puts a hand to the small of his back, pushing him out. 

When they reach the door of the room they’re meant to be in, Akaashi turns to Sakusa. 

“We’ll have good news for Suna,” Akaashi tells Sakusa, though he says it more to reassure himself.  

Sakusa nods. Akaashi puts a gloved hand to the door knob and takes a deep breath. He doesn’t hesitate when he turns the handle and pushes the door in. Sakusa falls into step right behind him. 

“Good morning,” Akaashi says, nodding to the people arranged in a semi-circle around a large wooden table. 

None of them are faces he recognizes, and none of them look particularly friendly, but Sakusa drilled him on the names and occupations of everyone who would be in this room. 

He works his gloves off slowly, as though he has all the time in the world. Then Akaashi goes around the room, shaking all of their hands. They murmur their names at him, and Akaashi gives them his best smile back. 

He takes his seat next to Sakusa.

“Shall we begin?” the woman at the head of the semi-circle asks. 

Sakusa squeezes his knee, and Akaashi nods. 

“Well, Mr. Akaashi, as you might now, we’re looking to add a variety of radio shows to our retinue. Having a horoscope segment could be an excellent way to attract new listeners. But there are a dozen people claiming to do what you do. What separates you from them?"

“There’s a marked difference between fraudulent claims, and the genuine article,” Akaashi says easily. 

The woman sits up straight and her gaze narrows. 

Akaashi goes in for the kill.

~

He doesn’t remember the end of the meeting or the walk to the restaurant. All he remembers is the shuffle of papers, the scraping of chairs. Akaashi remembers hands shaking hands, someone’s dry skin against his own. 

And then he is slipping on his jacket, putting on his gloves, and leaving the building, Sakusa at his side.

Somehow, they end up in front of the restaurant. Akaashi pushes the door open. His feet feel like they’re floating on the floor, carrying him forward of their own accord. 

Suna stands up from his seat, nearly knocking his chair to the ground, when he sees them. 

“Well?” he asks, when Akaashi and Sakusa are in hearing distance. 

“Well?” he asks again, when neither of them speak. 

Akaashi takes off his gloves and shoves them into his pockets. He takes his coat off next and drapes it across the back of his chair. 

Finally, he looks at Suna. 

“We’re going to be on the radio,” he whispers.

Suna’s eyes go wide, mouth hanging open. “What?”

“We’re going to be on the radio,” Akaashi says, louder. 

“Holy shit.” Suna steps forward and puts his arms around Akaashi’s shoulders. “Holy shit, you did it?”

“He did it,” Sakusa nods. 

“Akaashi Keiji you brilliant man.” Suna gathers him in a hug and spins him around the room. 

Akaashi wraps his arms tight around Suna’s neck and laughs brightly. He vaguely registers the other patrons looking at them, but he is somewhere they can’t reach. 

“Suna.” Akaashi tugs at his sleeve until Suna meets his eyes. 

“What?” 

“Suna, that’s not all,” Akaashi says. He whispers the words into Suna’s ear, leaning back in time to watch Suna’s eyes nearly pop out of his head. 

~

After lunch, Akaashi herds Sakusa and Suna back into his office. 

“Gentleman,” he says, brandishing a stack of envelopes. “You’re the first to be cordially invited to a dinner in celebration of our recent success.” 

He sets two envelopes aside, grabs a pen, and writes out two invitations. 

Suna’s bursts into laughter when he reads what Akaashi’s written. 

“How are you going to get a reservation there in a matter of days?” 

Akaashi shoots Suna a smug smile. “I’m calling in some favors.”

~

It takes little more than a few phone calls and the promise to set up chart consultations for some of his key investors’ family members for Akaashi to secure the room. 

He drops the envelopes into the mailbox with relish. It feels good to be the one sending the invitations, for a change. 

The responses come back over the next few days. 

After his guest list is assembled, Suna gets Akaashi an appointment with a tailor who makes quick work of taking Akaashi’s measurements. 

By the time the night of Akaashi’s birthday rolls around, every preparation he can possibly think of has been made. Decorations have been strung up, a band has been hired, and dinner arrangements are in place. 

Suna lays out his suit for him, a navy number with long tail coats and silk lapels. The matching top hat has a silk band running across it. He’s picked out a wing-tip collar shirt and a white vest to go under the jacket. 

“Suna,” he breathes, touching a hand to one of the lapels. “This is beautiful.”

“Italian craftsmanship,” Suna says, nonchalant. 

Akaashi grins. “Well, we’ll soon know about that straight from the source.”

“With your track record?” Suna says, matching his grin. “You’ll have ten craftsman lining up outside your door, begging you to wear their designs”

Akaashi laughs and does up the buttons on the shirt. Suna straightens his collar and pinches Akaashi’s cheek. 

~

They’re the last to arrive at The Plaza. Bright lights illuminate the hundreds of windows, making it glow from within. The sidewalk before them is lit so brightly it looks like it’s practically midday, not nearly ten in the evening. 

The driver holds the door open for Akaashi, Suna and Sakusa right behind him. Akaashi tips the driver generously and makes way for the entrance to the hotel. 

He hadn’t informed anyone besides his guests what would be happening tonight, so there are no journalists, no one lugging around bulky cameras waiting to snap his picture. 

Instead, he walks through the doors, undisturbed. The woman sitting in the lobby stands to greet him and points him in the right direction. 

“I still can’t believe you managed to reserve the main ballroom of The Plaza,” Suna hisses when they get to the coat check. 

“Well, we’re here, so believe it.” Akaashi rolls his eyes, but he can’t quite believe it either. The Plaza was nearly always booked out months in advance. 

Heavy dark wood doors covered in ornate carvings are the final barrier between Akaashi and the secret he’s been clamoring to share. 

He takes a deep breath to calm his racing heart. Suna grips one shoulder tightly. Sakusa grips the other. 

Akaashi pushes the doors open and all noise in the room immediately comes to a halt.  

And then immediately resumes at triple the volume. Clients, investors, and friends alike shout his name, waving over to come sit next to them. 

Akaashi makes his rounds around the room saying hello and chattering amicably with his guests. At some point, a glass of champagne gets pushed into his hand, and then another, and another. 

He’s hardly had a thing to eat all day, and the alcohol loosens him up quickly. 

“Let’s trade,” someone says, when Akaashi reaches for his fifthfi flute of champagne.

He’s about to protest when a glass of water is pushed into his hand, but it dies on his tongue when he sees that it’s Kuroo. 

“Hello, Kuroo-san.” 

“Hey, Akaashi.” Akaashi watches longingly as Kuroo takes a sip of the champagne. 

Kuroo grins. “See something you like?” 

“My champagne,” Akaashi says, sullenly. 

“Drink at least two glasses of water and eat something before you have more. You’re flushed so red you’re giving the tomatoes in the salad a run for their money.”

Akaashi touches a hand to his face and is surprised when his cheek is warm to the touch. 

“I hate when you’re responsible, you know,” Akaashi mutters.

He finishes the first glass of water off in three gulps while Kuroo laughs. He’s not in the mood for Kuroo’s laugh, for how endearing it is despite its braying tones, for how easily it leaves Kuroo’s lips. Akaashi is still mourning the loss of his alcohol and being endeared to Kuroo accomplishes nothing to that end. 

“Is he bothering you?” 

Akaashi turns around to find Kenma standing behind him. 

“Kenma,” he says by way of greeting. 

Kenma nods. “Akaashi.” 

A warm hand finds the small of his back. Akaashi leans in closer to Kenma’s touch. 

Kenma rifles through his coat and produces a sharp object. “Leave him alone.”

Kuroo nearly doubles over in laughter when he sees the pocket knife. 

“Put that away,” he says, trying and failing to catch his breath. “You look like an alley child trying to steal scraps.” 

“I’ll shank you,” Kenma says. He turns to Akaashi, and it’s only when Kenma tries and fails to meet his gaze that Akaashi realizes Kenma is drunker than he is. 

Akaashi laughs at the rosy tint of Kenma’s cheeks, at the way he sways back and forth gently, like a boat bobbing in the tide. 

“You’re going to feel this in the morning,” Akaashi says, tucking a strand of hair that’s come loose from Kenma’s ponytail behind his ear.

“I know,” Kenma groans. “But Shoyo kept making bets with me. I lost a Rolex, one hundred dollars, took five shots, and I had to kiss him. But I won this knife.” 

He looks down at the blade in his hand and nods to himself. 

“Doesn’t sound like a bad night,” Akaashi says. 

“I’ve had worse,” Kenma shrugs. 

“Well, I’ve had better,” Kuroo interjects. “And I was trying to do precisely that with this night, before you interrupted us.”

“Three’s a party,” Kenma says, slumping his weight against Akaashi. 

“I think maybe you should have a party with Kuroo-san.” Akaashi passes Kenma off to Kuroo. 

Kuroo sighs but wraps an arm around Kenma’s shoulders, supporting his weight with ease. “I’ll find you later. Make sure to eat something.” 

Akaashi nods and makes a beeline for one of the several tables covered in food. 

He finds Osamu standing next to one of them and sidles up to him. 

“Does anything look good?” 

Osamu whirls around and breaks into a stellar grin when he sees Akaashi. “Happy birthday.”

“Thank you.” 

Osamu holds an arm out for Akaashi and he slots himself against Osamu’s side. Osamu’s soft lips brush against his temple. 

“You should’ve asked me to make dinner.” 

“Osamu, you’re a guest.”

“Guest or not, I woulda been happy to do it.” 

Akaashi smiles and leans his head against Osamu’s shoulder. “My apologies. I’ll be sure to give you a ring next time.” 

“You better. But for now, those dishes have been good.” He points to a few plates teeming with food that smells even better than it looks. 

Osamu lets Akaashi go and begins to pile a plate up for him. He holds a forkful up to his lips, and Akaashi is just tipsy enough to open to let Osamu feed him with no arguments. 

“Akaashi!” Bokuto’s bright voice booms over the crowd.  

“Bokuto-san!” 

Bokuto throws his arms around Akaashi and spins him around. He sets him down and turns towards Osamu. 

“Myaa-sam, I hope you don’t mind me stealing Akaashi away for a moment.” 

“Not at all,” Osamu says, shaking his head. He hands Akaashi his plate and walks to the other side of the room, where Atsumu is chatting with Suna. 

“Akaashi, I’ve been waiting all night for you to get here.” Bokuto turns the brilliance of his smile onto Akaashi.

“Why’s that?” he asks, matching Bokuto’s smile. 

“I’ve been wanting to give you this.” 

Bokuto opens his hand and produces a stack of gold rings, each inlaid with a different colored stone—one blue, one red, one green. 

“Bokuto-san, where did you get these?”

“A client gifted them to me from India.” Bokuto takes Akaashi’s hand and puts a ring on his ring, middle, and index fingers. “I had them resized to fit your hand.” 

“We match now.” Akaashi threads his fingers through Bokuto’s and admires the way the rings on both of their hands glint under the light of the chandelier. 

Bokuto pulls him away from the spread of food and towards the corner of the room where people are playing a game of darts. 

Before they can make it though, Atsumu pulls away from his conversation and falls into step with them.

“Evenin’, Akaashi.” 

“Hi, Atsumu, I didn’t think you’d make it today.”

“I wouldn’t miss your birthday for the world.” He turns to Bokuto and gives him a tight smile. “Bokkun.”

Bokuto smiles back, just as tense. “Tsum-tsum.”

“Mind if I speak to Akaashi?” 

“Of course not,” Bokuto says, but he doesn’t let up his hold on Akaashi. Atsumu weaves an arm through Akaashi’s. Akaashi feels a little too much like a doll being argued over by children for his own taste. 

“Alone, Bokkun.”

Bokuto grits his teeth, still smiling, but he finally releases Akaashi’s arm. 

“Akaashi, I wanted to let ya know that I negotiated with a Congresswoman to put forward stronger libel legislation.”

“Atsumu, that’s fantastic. How did you manage that?”

Atsumu grins and stands a little taller. “I negotiated a provision she wanted to see added into the healthcare bill. In fact, if you want, we can arrange to have you testify before Congress for why an anti-libel bill is necessary.”

“Sorry Miya, but he’ll be busy.”

They both jump and find Sakusa standing over them. 

“Omi-kun,” Atsumu groans. “You have to start makin’ noise when you move.”

Akaashi gapes at Atsumu. “I tell him the same thing.”

“Omi’s so freaky. Like Dracula.” Sakusa raises an eyebrow at him. “I mean that as a compliment,” Atsumu says.

“How could that possibly be a...you know what? I don’t want to know.” Sakusa shakes his head and taps his watch.

Akaashi lets go of Atsumu’s arm with an apologetic smile.

“It’s time for you to make your announcement,” Sakusa says.  

“This is going to be chaos.” Akaashi looks over everyone gathered in the room. There are at least ten people who are going to take what Akaashi is about to say as a personal affront. 

Suddenly, he’s regretting his decision to do this so publicly. But there’s no turning back now. 

He takes his place at the head of the main table. Suna passes him a fork and a wine glass. He raps once, twice, three times, until silence falls over the room. 

“Everyone, thank you so much for joining me today.” His voice is clear and rings out over the crowd.

All eyes in the room are on him. All of his friends, all of the people who have become as close as family, look to him as he speaks. 

“My invitation said that we would be celebrating my birthday. And while there is some truth to that, I’m afraid I have misled you all.”

Eyebrows shoot up, chins rest against palms, as they all wait for Akaashi to continue speaking. 

“Tonight, we’re celebrating the fact that I will now be hosting my own radio segment.” 

Excited chatter fills the room. Akaashi holds a hand up to silence it before he loses everyone completely. 

“More than that, I’ll be recording the show abroad, which is why this is also a farewell party of sorts.” He pauses, giving his words a moment to sink in. He’s met with a sea of confused faces. “This time next month, I’ll be in Paris, recording the first episode of a new radio show titled ‘Your Place Among the Stars: An Astrological Guide to Being.’”

All hell breaks loose. Akaashi had expected it would, but the volume in the room is something he couldn’t have prepared himself for. It puts the former half of the party to shame. 

Chairs topple over as clients rush to get near him, to clarify this turn of events. 

Before anyone can get near him though, Suna pushes Akaashi out of the chaos of the room and into the relative quiet of the hallway. 

~

The salty smell of the ocean and the cool winter air are the first things that greet Akaashi when he steps onto the ramp that leads off the ship. 

Making the trip to Paris by steamliner wasn’t ideal, but Akaashi had so many trunks of clothing, paperwork, and books, that it was the only feasible option. 

“Rin! Kiyoomi! Akaashi-san!” 

They all turn and find Komori standing by the dock, smiling wide and waving with both arms at them. 

Akaashi descends the ramp, Suna and Sakusa on either side of him. 

Before they’ve even made it completely off, Suna throws himself at Komori. He catches Suna and spins him around, both of them laughing brightly. 

Komori hugs Sakusa tightly. Sakusa splutters and struggles in his grasp until Komori lets him go. He turns his smile on Akaashi.

And oh, Atsumu wasn’t kidding. Komori really only does have the front halves of his eyebrows. 

Akaashi holds a hand out for Komori to shake, but he ignores that, opting instead to pull Akaashi into a hug as well. Komori claps him on the back twice and lets him go. 

“Welcome to Paris,” he says, sweeping an arm out at the city before them. 

Paris is bustling with life. It’s charm is so different from New York’s. Akaashi watches children throw snowballs at each other, takes in well dressed men and busy looking women flit between shops and offices. Undercutting it all is an air of serenity, of unbridled joy and new opportunities. 

The stars might not have predicted the specifics of this new journey in his life, but as Komori leads them through the streets of their new home, Akaashi thinks he’s going to enjoy it regardless.