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Insomniac Olympics

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I don’t deserve this.

Bokuto stared at his sketchbook with something that, with each passing minute, got closer and closer to resembling actual hatred. The small trash can nearby was overflowing with crumpled up failures, and at this rate, he didn’t think it would change anytime soon. If nothing else, he could still churn out commissions; his work still looked decent enough to sell, and in turn, pay his bills.

But simply ‘decent’ wasn’t good enough for Bokuto Koutarou.

With a disgusted groan, he threw his sketchbook and ink pen to the floor, and reached into his pocket for his cell phone. He flipped it open as he flopped back onto his unmade bed, and began typing a new message to his best friend.

>this artblock is killer!! idk what to do about it anymore!!! everything i draw lately sucks more than usual!

As he waited for a response, he stared up at the ceiling and let out an enormous sigh. It felt like a weight had settled on his chest, his very soul; art was often frustrating for him, but it had been a while since he’d felt so lost.

A moment later, his phone vibrated with an incoming message.

>listen, i’m telling you. just go out to the countryside or something. get some fresh air
>your drawings don’t suck and you know it. don’t give me that shit, okay.

He frowned at his phone, and held it over his head as he sent his response.

>i dunno, do you think that’ll work?! what if it doesn’t??

He could almost sense his best friend rolling his eyes as he read the messages that came in a few seconds later.

>if it doesn’t work, you figure something else out. it’s worth a shot
>don’t make me book a hotel for you. you know i’ll do it

He knew that Kuroo wasn’t kidding. With a resigned sigh, he fired off one more grumpy, dejected text message, then sat up and reached for his laptop. A few minutes later, he had himself a reservation for several nights in a hotel outside the city, starting the following day.

He sat up and grabbed his messenger bag from the end of his bed, and began to pack his art supplies; he had a feeling he wouldn’t be able to draw anything for the rest of the day anyways.


He stared out of the window on the train for almost the entire ride, as though it would give him an answer to his frustration.

But seeing the landscapes didn’t bring back any spark, any sense of the confidence he so desperately wanted. Faking it was easy enough, and helped it become more of a reality -- but even pretending was nearly impossible when he put pen to paper and saw nothing but garbage.

Maybe if my eyes weren’t broken, he thought bitterly as he got off of the train. His mood brightened a little as he checked in to the rustic hotel and made his way back to his room; living in the big city was great, but taking a trip was always a little bit exciting, no matter how down he felt.

By the time he’d unpacked, taken a quick shower and managed to grab some dinner, night had already fallen. With a sigh, he grabbed his sketchbook, along with a pencil and eraser, and set off into the night.

It was thankfully pretty quiet; the area didn’t have much business around this time of year, since it was pretty cold in the beginning of December. His footsteps crunched against the earth as he made his way down a gravel path; he used his phone as a light, to make sure he didn’t trip on anything. When he finally made it down to the open field, what he saw instantly piqued his curiosity.

Dim moonlight illuminated the field; the grass was several inches high, and swayed in a gentle, cold breeze. The area was ringed with towering trees, and the sky was painted with hundreds and hundreds of softly glowing stars.

And there, in the center of it all, was a man.

A rather large, but portable telescope was in front of him, pointed towards the sky; he peered through it, silent and unmoving, for a long while before he stopped to jot down some notes on his phone.

Entranced, Bokuto sat down, and silently began to draw, using his cell phone as a light to see what he was doing. His pencil glided over the paper more easily than it had in weeks as he sketched the scene before him, over and over in different angles, with the mysterious man as the focal point of every drawing.

When his hand began to cramp from the chilled air, he glanced at his phone, and realized with a start that he’d been drawing for nearly two hours. Stubbornly, he kept drawing the other man anyways, until he could barely even hold the pencil anymore.

Reluctantly, he finally stuffed his pencil back in his pocket and closed his sketchbook as he stood up to dust off his jeans. He made his way back to his hotel room, slightly dazed and with his thoughts swirling like a hurricane.

The warmth of his room let him keep drawing, once his hands thawed out; he stayed up until it was nearly dawn, inking and filling pages and pages of paper with a field of stars and a figure whose details he still couldn’t make out clearly. What did the other man look like up close? Why was he so captivated with the stars that he could spend hours watching them alone on a winter night?

Would he be there again tomorrow?

Bokuto finally fell asleep just as the sun began to peek over the horizon, his dreams filled with planets and wild fantasies about the strange figure in the darkness.


>so how’s the trip? are you even awake yet

Bokuto glared at his phone indignantly as he finished brushing his teeth; once he finished rinsing, he sent a reply.

>i just got up ok!! i saw someone cool in the field last night and drew a lot actually! how awesome am i, right?!

He glanced over at the sketchbook; it sat on the small desk near the window, with his pencil and pen beside it. His phone buzzed again with another message, and when he saw it, he couldn’t help but smile.

>see? told you that you’ve still got it. you’re the man
>fill that sketchbook up and be proud of yourself

He whistled to himself as he got dressed and left to get lunch; as soon as he had food in his hands, he took it back to his room and practically inhaled it as he sat down at the desk and continued his work from the previous night.

Figures sitting in a giant moon, or standing on a tree looking up at the night sky, or laying in the grass and looking up at the stars -- he sketched it all and more, adding ink to the paper beneath his hands as easily as he breathed. He lost himself in the process, completely taken in by the images and ideas in his head, until his stomach rumbled in protest. He glanced at his phone, and then out the window -- dusk was already falling, and he hadn’t even noticed.

He stood up and slipped his shoes on; he was a man on a mission, determined to find something to eat as quickly as possible so that he could get back to work, and try to find the man with the telescope once night had fallen.

By the time he got back, the moon was high in the sky, dark with the oncoming night. He finished his dinner in just a few minutes, then grabbed his supplies and went right back out the door.

A spring was in his step as he made his way back to the wide open field -- and sure enough, once again, there was the same man with his telescope pointed up at the sky.

This time, Bokuto dared to sit closer; he tried to be as quiet as possible so as not to attract the other man’s attention, and was still a good seven meters away. He was near enough, though, to make out more of his features, even in the darkness; Bokuto’s vision wasn’t good with color, but it was still sharp.

Silently, he began to draw again. Just as easily as the night before, his hand moved with nothing but grace as his ideas spilled onto the paper beneath his pencil. When his hand began to cramp with cold again, he stopped; but instead of leaving, he just put his hands in his pockets, and watched.

His gaze eventually moved from the man, up to the sky itself; the stars twinkled in the darkness, bright and beautiful. As he took in all the splendor of the heavens, Bokuto felt a sense of pure awe settle over his soul.

Space is... So. Damn. Cool.

A sound drew his attention back to the man with the telescope after a while; the stranger was folding the instrument back up, as though he were about to leave. If he turned his head just slightly, he’d be able to see the artist sitting nearby. Overcome with sudden shyness, Bokuto grabbed his sketchbook, and did the only thing he could think of.

He got up, and ran away.


The next day, right on cue, Kuroo began to tease him about the previous night.

>seriously? why did you run. you should’ve said hello. got a date or something

Bokuto groaned and rolled his eyes as he typed out a reply to Kuroo.

>idk!! it might’ve been weird to turn around and see a guy just watching you?! don’t give me shit

>it’s an open field. why would that be weird
>go find him again tonight. see if he’s hot. get his phone number

Bokuto pouted at his screen.

>i don’t want his phone number!!!

>bet you 500 yen that once you talk to him, you’re gonna want his digits
>either cuz he’s good friend material or good boyfriend material
>maybe both. who knows. he got you drawing again, right? go find him or i’ll tease you forever :^)

>you’re totally gonna do that anyway tho

>...fair enough. but for real. go make a new friend. show him your drawings
>ask him why he likes looking at the stars so much or something. you’re good at small talk. use that charisma

Bokuto stared at his phone for a moment, almost like he’d had an epiphany, before he sent a response.

>yeah!! you know what, you’re right! i’m awesome. if he’s there tonight i’ll go say hi!!

He opened his sketchbook with renewed energy and optimism, and began to ink his drawings from the night before. It was just as easy as it had been the previous day, almost like he hadn’t spent the last several weeks stewing in frustration at all.

When night had finally fallen, he bundled up in his coat, got his supplies, and set off to find the man with the telescope.


There he was again.

In the center of the field, the mysterious stranger was peering up at the sky. Bokuto watched him for a moment; eventually, he sat back and began to type something on his phone. The artist took it as his chance, and with a bright smile, he jogged over and waved as the stranger heard him coming and looked up.

Their eyes met, and Bokuto’s smile very nearly faltered as he got his first good look at him -- he was gorgeous, so gorgeous it felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. But gaping like a fish out of water wasn’t cool, and Bokuto hadn’t spent all day psyching himself up for this to blow it before he even introduced himself.

“Hey hey heeey, nice telescope!” He stuck his hand out, and put on his best and brightest smile. “I’m Bokuto Koutarou! Nice to meet you!”

The man squinted, and then recognition dawned on his face. “Oh. You’re the one that’s been drawing nearby for the last couple of nights, aren’t you.” Tentatively, he shook Bokuto’s hand without getting up. “I’m Akaashi Keiji. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Bokuto-san.”

“You knew I was there the whole time?” Bokuto blurted. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Akaashi shrugged. “I didn’t feel the need to.”

“Oh.” Maybe he’s shy?  “Hey, mind if I sit next to you?”

“...Sure, go ahead.” He peered through the lens of his telescope again, and looked over when he felt Bokuto staring. “...Are you interested in what I’m doing?” he asked quietly.

“Well, yeah! Why do you like looking at stars so much?” he asked curiously.

Idly, Akaashi fiddled with the ends of one of his sleeves. “I’m an astronomer, actually. I do it for a living... I like stars for many reasons.”

“Oh! You’re working right now? Here?” Bokuto asked, as he leaned back on his hands.

“No. I’m on a short holiday right now,” Akaashi replied. “What about you, Bokuto-san?” he asked politely.

“Huh? Oh! Kind of the same, I guess?” he said sheepishly. “I’m an artist! A really good one, if I do say so myself,” he grinned. “My best friend bullied me into coming out here for some fresh air, ‘cause I’ve had some killer art block the last few weeks. I got my streak back, though!” Without really thinking about it, he pulled his phone out. “Wanna see?”

“Sure.”

Bokuto used his phone as a light source as he opened up his sketchbook, and scooted closer to Akaashi on the grass. “Check this out! This is the stuff I’ve been working on since I got here a couple days ago!” He watched Akaashi’s expression with a confident smile. “Pretty great, right?”

The astronomer’s look of detached interest morphed into quiet curiosity as he slowly flipped through the pages, and carefully studied each illustration briefly before moving on to the next. “Yeah,” he agreed. “You’re very skilled. You must work hard.” The barest hints of a smile curved at the corners of his lips. “You’ve drawn quite a lot of the night sky, I see.”

“Yeah! Seeing you out here has been inspiring!” A split second later, his smile vanished as he flushed a little. “Uh, I just mean, you’re interesting? I’ve never really seen anyone use a telescope before! Can I take a peek in yours, actually?”

Akaashi watched him for a moment, careful and calculating. Bokuto felt something stir within him; it felt like the other man’s dark eyes were searching his very soul for something. “Sure,” he said after a moment, “I don’t mind.”

“Awesome! You’re the best, Akaashi, thanks!” He scooted closer to the instrument, and their knees knocked together. “Do I have to do anything special?”

“No,” he replied with an amused smile. “It’s pointed at Saturn right now. You’ll see.”

Bokuto closed his left eye as he peered into the scope with his right; he was silent for a moment, and then gasped as a delighted smile spread over his face. “Holy shit! You can see the rings and everything! That’s so cool!” He sat back and grinned at Akaashi, and then threw his arm casually around the other man’s shoulders. “Thanks! Hey, let me take a picture of us together. For memories!”

Akaashi gave him a flat look. “I guess, but... it’s dark, though. Will you even be able to get a good shot?”

“Yeah, yeah! I just have to use the flash! That’s okay, right?” He brought up the camera on his phone, and Akaashi sighed.

“Sure.”

With a grin, Bokuto leaned closer, and held the phone out in front of them. “Okay, ready? Three, two, one!” He put on his best smile; a moment later, Akaashi did his best not to cringe at the sudden flash of light from the camera. “Hey, look! Aw, the light does kind of wash us out a little... Flashes suck,” he pouted. “Hey, will you be here tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Akaashi said, with a hint of a wry smile on his lips. “Why?”

“So I can meet up with you again! And so we can get a nicer picture, too!” he laughed. “This one’s okay, but it could be better,” he said with a smile. “Right?”

“I guess so,” he conceded. “Does that mean we should meet earlier, though? Otherwise you’ll have to use your flash again, if it’s dark.”

Bokuto’s smile was dazzling. “Is that a yes?!”

Akaashi sighed. “You didn’t really give me a chance to say no, but. Yes. I guess I don’t mind. But what about the photo? It’ll turn out badly again if you try taking it at night.”

Bokuto chuckled, and scratched his chin; he was still sitting so close that Akaashi could pick up the faint scent of the shampoo he’d used earlier that afternoon. “Yeah, you’ve got a point! Hey, wanna meet here around 5:30, then? It’ll still be dusk! We can get a good picture, and you can tell me stuff about space! Awesome, right?!”

“Okay,” he agreed. “That’s a bit early, though... I’ll have to get dinner at some point.”

“That’s fine with me! Hey, I’m not bothering you, am I?”

Akaashi was quiet for a moment as he considered his answer. “...No. Not really.”

“Great!” Bokuto glanced at the telescope again, and then caught Akaashi’s gaze once more. “So like... what’s your favorite planet?” he asked with a grin. “Mine is Pluto! It’s like the underdog. Little, and far away, but still cool!”

“Pluto isn’t a planet, Bokuto-san.”

Akaashi almost felt bad at the crestfallen, confused look on Bokuto’s face. “Huh? Pluto’s totally a planet! Are you messing with me, Akaashi?”

“No, I’m serious. It hasn’t been considered one since 2006.”

Bokuto pouted. “What the hell? I totally missed that, somehow... why not?”

Akaashi was quiet again as he thought of how to respond. I don’t want to sound too much like a textbook, after all... he’s an artist, not a scientist. “It isn’t big enough compared to the other objects near it. So it’s a dwarf planet.”

Bokuto didn’t seem pleased with this answer. “That’s kind of rude! Just because it’s small?”

Akaashi squinted at him. “...It’s not sentient, Bokuto-san. It doesn’t have feelings.”

“Yeah, I guess,” he grumbled as he looked back up at the sky. “Maybe it’s just nostalgia, or whatever. Pluto’s a cool little guy, you know?”

“Nostalgia has no place in science,” Akaashi replied. He was smiling a little, though; Bokuto was oddly charming and charismatic. “And Saturn is my favorite. Its rings are beautiful. But I also like Uranus. It’s very interesting, because of its tilt.”

Bokuto cocked his head to the side a bit, curiosity clear on his face. “Tilt?”

“Yes. Its north and south poles are horizontal, instead of vertical.” He made a motion with his hands, as if to illustrate his point. “Because of one or more impacts many years ago.”

“Whoa! Seriously?! That’s incredible!” Bokuto leaned closer, and Akaashi could see the gold flecks in his bright, striking eyes. “Tell me more about it!”

Three hours later, Akaashi realized he’d talked more to this stranger than he had to anyone else in the last month put together, and that it hadn’t even been all that difficult. Bokuto kept asking him questions as he folded up his telescope, and Akaashi was all too happy to answer them.

It turned out they were staying at the same hotel; it didn't surprise Akaashi, but seemed to delight Bokuto to no end. “Let’s go back together!” he said with a smile. “Come on!”

“All right, Bokuto-san.” He carried his telescope with gentle hands. “Lead the way.”


As soon as he got back to his room, Bokuto carelessly tossed his sketchbook on the bed, flopped down beside it, and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

>ok. so first of all: he is SUPER hot. like. unreal levels of hot.
>and i totally wanna be his friend. maybe date, too, if he’s down for that?? definitely friends tho
>but i’m not giving you 500 yen!!

He didn’t have to wait long for a response; a moment later, his cell vibrated with an incoming message.

>fine by me. if you gave me 500 yen every time i was right about something, you’d be in debt forever! lol!
>anyway, gimme the details. what’s so hot about him, anyway? what’s he like? spill the beans

Another half hour passed as he swapped texts with Kuroo, all about the quiet, stunningly gorgeous astronomer that he’d had the good fortune to meet. Eventually, Kuroo told him he was going to bed, but Bokuto still wasn’t tired.

Instead, he reached for his sketchbook, and once again began to draw.


Akaashi thought about the strange artist he’d met as he took a long, hot shower.

Most people left Akaashi alone pretty quick after trying to strike up a conversation; they’d lose interest, or think he didn’t care. Often, he did want to be left alone; generally, he wasn’t all that talkative, and interacting with others, especially strangers, often made him oddly nervous and ill at ease, even if it wasn’t too obvious in the way he carried himself.

But being around Bokuto hadn’t made him all that uncomfortable. In fact, talking to him for several hours had been... surprisingly enjoyable.

And if I’m being honest with myself, I’m looking forward to meeting up with him again tomorrow. A content sigh slipped past his lips as he rinsed the conditioner from his hair. He’s interesting. Very... genuine, and charismatic... A little weird, though, he thought with a small smile.

As he finished showering, he turned the water off and toweled himself dry before brushing his teeth and putting on his pajamas. His thoughts drifted as he curled up in bed; when he finally fell asleep just before dawn, his dreams were full of bright eyes and a stunning smile.


“Hey hey heeey! Akaashi!” Bokuto waved at him and jogged to the edge of the field, where the astronomer had already been waiting for several minutes. “You haven’t been here that long, have you?”

“No,” he replied easily. “Would you like to take another picture now?”

“Yeah, yeah! This is a pretty good spot, right?” He glanced around, and nodded in satisfaction. “Yep! Okay.”

As he opened his phone, Akaashi studied his face, like he was looking for an answer, or maybe some ulterior motive -- but he couldn’t find one. Bokuto seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of taking a photo with someone he barely even knew. “Why do you want a good picture with me?” he asked quietly. “You don’t even know me very well.”

“It’s because you’re so cool!” Bokuto replied with a bright smile. “I want a picture because you’re awesome!” And because you’re super hot, he thought. He didn’t say that out loud, though; he wasn’t sure Akaashi would appreciate it.

Akaashi squinted at him. “You think I’m cool, Bokuto-san?”

“Duh? You’re obviously really cool, that’s not even a question! Here, come on.” Casual as can be, he threw an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders, and leaned in so that the sides of their heads touched as he held his phone out. “Smile!”

Despite himself, Akaashi felt the corners of his lips curve upward without him even trying; Bokuto took the picture, and then immediately checked it. “Hell yes! We look great, see?” He beamed as he turned the screen so the other man could see.

The photo was nice; the two of them were illuminated by the orange light of dusk. They looked close and happy, like two people that had known each other for years, instead of acquaintances that had just met not even twenty four hours before.

“It’s pretty good,” Akaashi agreed. “Better than the last one.”

“True,” Bokuto admitted sheepishly. “But I’ll save that one, too! Hey, do you want me to send them to you?”

“...Sure. I’ll give you my phone number, and you can text them to me, if you want.”

Bokuto seemed to radiate happiness as he opened his contacts list. “Seriously?! Awesome! Okay, what’s your number?” he asked with unabashed excitement.

Akaashi recited it, and Bokuto typed it in carefully; immediately afterwards, he sent both of the pictures to him, and Akaashi felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He checked it briefly to confirm they were from Bokuto, and smiled a little when he saw the two photos in his notifications. “Okay, I got them.”

“Great!” Bokuto beamed. His arm was still firmly around Akaashi’s shoulders, and he seemed to have no intention of moving it. “Hey, you said you’d need dinner, right? Wanna go grab something together?”

Akaashi gave him a blank look. “You want to get dinner with me?”

“Yeah, if you want to!” he grinned. “You can tell me more about space and stuff! Or we could talk about something else, if you want!”

Does he even realize that it sounds like he’s flirting with me?  Akaashi wondered. “Sure. That sounds nice.”

Bokuto’s excitement was clear in his eyes; Akaashi wondered if his face ever hurt from smiling so often. “Hell yes! Hey, there’s a little place next to the hotel that has awesome takoyaki. Wanna go there?”

“Yes, that’s fine. Their food is pretty good.”

Bokuto finally pulled his arm away, and Akaashi felt oddly cold without it. “Cool! Let’s get going, then! Follow me, Akaashi!”

The entire way there, Bokuto rambled about art, his best friend, and how a pet owl he’d had as a kid inspired him to start drawing. Akaashi didn’t say much, but he was content just walking beside him and listening to him talk. Distantly, he realized that it was the first time he’d really hung out with someone that wasn’t a coworker in several months.

As Bokuto laughed at one of his own jokes, Akaashi felt himself smile once again.

Certainly not the worst way to spend a vacation.


Bokuto watched him set up his telescope with open fascination; the astronomer finished putting the last piece into place, and sat back as Bokuto opened his sketchbook.

“Isn’t drawing at night bad for your eyes?” he asked.

Bokuto grinned sheepishly. “Uh, it’s probably not the best? I don’t do it that often, though! Well, not outside, anyway. I usually stay up pretty late working, but like, indoors.”

“Oh. Me too,” Akaashi replied. “I’m not much of a morning person, anyway.”

“Same here!” Bokuto laughed. “Well, I can wake up early if I have to, and I'm energetic, but. I can never fall asleep before like, three in the morning, at the earliest.” A thought seemed to occur to him, and he scooted closer. “So hey, when did you first get really into space? How come you like it so much?” he asked curiously.

Akaashi was quiet for a moment as he considered his answer. “It is vast and infinite. When I look at the sky, I feel small, and I can scarcely imagine the endless size and mystery of the universe beyond Earth.” He turned his head slightly to look at Bokuto, and smiled a little. “It’s beautiful.”

Bokuto felt his breath catch in his throat; the ends of Akaashi’s hair glowed in the moonlight, and his eyes gleamed with passion as he spoke. “That’s awesome,” he said quietly. “So that’s why you look at stars on your days off, too!”

“Yes. It doesn’t seem like a bad way to spend my birthday.”

Bokuto gaped at him in open shock. “It’s your birthday?”

Akaashi nodded. “Yes. I turned 25.”

“Oh, I’m a year older than you! I turned 26 in September. Also, happy birthday!!” He crossed his arms, and peered at his companion. “But, Akaashi. Why would you spend your birthday alone?!”

“I’m not spending it alone,” he replied with a flat look. “I’m here with you.”

“But you were planning on being out here by yourself!” Bokuto insisted. “Isn’t that lonely? Why not hang out with other people, or something?”

Akaashi shrugged. “Stars are easier to understand than people. It’s less stressful.”

A look of concern crossed Bokuto’s face. “Shit, I’m sorry! Am I making you uncomfortable? Kuroo always tells me I come on kinda strong--”

“You’re fine,” Akaashi reassured him. “You’re not bothering me.”

Some of Bokuto’s smile seemed to return. “Oh, good! Are you having fun?” he asked. “Do you wanna go celebrate together sometime, if you live close by?”

“...I guess,” he said after a moment. “What would we even do to celebrate? And where do you live?”

“I dunno, get dinner together or something? We don’t have to go to a bar, or whatever! That doesn’t really seem like your kind of thing, anyway,” he said sagely. “Oh! And I live in Mitaka!”

Akaashi stared at him. “...What a coincidence. So do I.” He fiddled with the ends of his sleeve. “Dinner sounds good. And you’re right. I don’t enjoy going to bars.”

“Whoa! Awesome! Akaashi, that’s great!” he beamed. “We’ll figure out something cool to do! When are you going back?”

“Tomorrow afternoon.”

Bokuto’s smile was brighter than the sun. “I go back the day after! Wanna go somewhere during the weekend?”

“Okay,” Akaashi agreed. He leaned forward to adjust the telescope. “Would you like to look into the this again? I’ll be looking at Saturn and Jupiter tonight.”

“Hell yeah! Akaashi, you’re the best!”

Akaashi was quiet as he carefully lined up the scope with the sky. Bokuto used the opportunity to take in every detail of his face; the sharp curve of his jaw, his elegant cheekbones, the way his full eyelashes fanned against his skin as he squinted into the scope. A smile curved at his lips, and he sat back, obviously pleased. “All right. I have it trained on Jupiter right now. It’s a very clear image.”

Bokuto snapped to attention; thankfully, he was pretty sure Akaashi couldn’t see his cheeks turn faintly pink in the darkness. Whoops! Don’t want him to think I was checking him out... even though I guess I totally was. “Cool!” He moved forward, and carefully peered into the scope; a moment later, he laughed, delighted and amazed. “Holy shit! That’s amazing!”

“Isn’t it?” Akaashi agreed. “A planet, eleven times larger than our own, but still close enough to see with the right instruments. It’s incredible.”

His hands moved a little as he spoke, and he smiled; the passion for the subject was clear on his face, and Bokuto felt a little thrill in his heart as the other man began to explain all the reasons why Jupiter was so interesting. He listened intently, completely captivated by everything Akaashi was saying, until the astronomer seemed to realize what he was doing.

“Ah... I’m sorry. I guess I got a little carried away, and started to ramble.” He felt his cheeks burn in the darkness. How embarrassing.

“No, no, I don’t mind!” Bokuto said quickly. “I like hearing you talk about this stuff! It’s so interesting! And it’s obvious you really like it, and it makes you happy, so even if it wasn’t interesting -- which it is! -- I wouldn’t mind,” he smiled. “No need to apologize!”

Akaashi was silent for a moment. “I don’t usually talk to people outside of work, really,” he said, a little uneasy.

Bokuto frowned. “Are you sure I’m not bothering you? I’m kind of weird, I’m--”

“You’re fine, Bokuto-san. Don’t worry about it.” He shifted a little, and fiddled with the ends of his sleeves. “I’m just not used to this, is all. But I’m enjoying it. Thank you for spending time with me.”

“Are you kidding?! I should be the one thanking you! This is so much fun!” Bokuto beamed. “It’ll be great when we hang out back home, too! I’m looking forward to it!”

The warmth in Akaashi’s smile was a contrast to the cold winter night. “I’m looking forward to it as well, Bokuto-san.” He laughed a little, and Bokuto felt his heart flutter wildly in his chest. “It’ll be fun.”

“Yeah,” Bokuto said, a little breathless as he stared into Akaashi’s eyes, “definitely.”


to be continued in chapter 2

 

Chapter Text

Bokuto couldn’t seem to stop drawing.

Even on the train back home, he put pencil to paper until his wrist ached with overuse. The last several pages of his sketchbook were filled with Akaashi’s face; Bokuto had drawn him from memory, and used his pen and markers to make the images as beautiful as he possibly could.

I dunno if I’ll ever be able to make a drawing as pretty as he is, but it sure doesn’t hurt to try, he thought with a smile. He uncapped one of his many gray markers, and added shading to yet another sketch; the soft jostling of the train didn’t seem to bother him at all. He put the cap on the marker, and then got an idea: what if he shared some of his drawings with Akaashi over the phone? Not the drawings of the astronomer, of course, but maybe some like the ones he’d admired before, when they were in the field together...

Before he could let himself think too hard about it, he opened his phone, and took a few pictures of his favorite ones from the past few days; a moment later, he sent them off to the number Akaashi had given him before, with a quick little ‘hey, these look great, right?! what do you think’  attached at the end.

Oh, I should save him as a contact!  he thought. With a few button presses, he added him to his list, and smiled at the name on the screen.

[ ★☆akaashi☆★]

Perfect, he thought happily. Just then, he received an incoming text from the very man he’d been thinking about.

>Yes, your work is incredible. Thank you for sharing it with me, Bokuto-san.

He fist pumped the air with excitement, and immediately began to text Kuroo.

>so i think i accidentally came on to the astronomer guy but i’m pretty sure he didn’t mind?

He could feel Kuroo’s eyeroll all the way from Mitaka.

>i’m seriously not even surprised

Bokuto grinned, and slipped his phone back into his pocket. Even if he didn’t get a date out of Akaashi, the other man seemed like he’d be an incredible friend.

That was probably the best vacation I’ve had in years.


Bokuto’s sleeping habits didn’t improve at all when he got back home -- if anything, they actually got a little worse.

Sleep can wait, he thought with a grin as the sun rose into the sky. The ink on the paper in front of him began to dry as he uncapped a different marker and went to work. His wrist began to ache, and he glared at it, as if a nasty stare would be enough to get it to cooperate; about half an hour later, he finally gave in to his body’s demands and decided to take a break.

He took a quick shower, and flopped into bed, with plans to text Akaashi later that day.

His dreams were vivid, and strange -- all black and white and gray, like one of his drawings, with the images fluid and changing like ink on a page. And at the center of it all was Akaashi, the enigmatic astronomer with dark and beautiful eyes.


>so hey, wanna hang out on saturday?! we still gotta celebrate!

He wasn’t nervous as he waited for Akaashi to respond, no way. That’d just be ridiculous. He tapped his pen against the desk and stared out of his window, lost in thought as he waited for his phone to vibrate.

Once it did, he opened it in a flash; a huge grin spread across his face as he read the text.

>Sure. What should we do?

Bokuto scratched his chin in thought. Shit, I didn’t think that far ahead, aside from getting food.

>idk, wanna get food? maybe ice cream!

>Bokuto-san, it’s December. It’s a little cold for ice cream.

Bokuto pouted, and ran a hand through his hair before he sent another text.

>ok, how about coffee? cafes usually have good sandwiches and stuff too!!

Kuroo would tease him endlessly if Bokuto ever told him the details of the conversation; it was definitely crossing into date-like territory. Did Akaashi think he was flirting with him? Would he mind if he was?

>Coffee sounds good. There’s a nice cafe near the building I work at. Would you like to meet there on Saturday afternoon?

>yes!! just tell me when and where and i’ll be there! <3

Akaashi sent him an address a moment later, along with a request to show up around 3 -- perfect for Bokuto, since he usually slept until around 1 in the afternoon anyway. Immediately, he sent a text to Kuroo.

>i’m totally hanging out with akaashi on saturday!! we’re getting coffee and lunch!!

>so, a date?? congrats. it’s about time

>well, i mean. it’s not TECHNICALLY a date. we’re going as friends... i think?

A few blocks away, behind a small register decorated with an overabundance of cat stickers, Kuroo rolled his eyes.

>you’re seriously hopeless. anyway, just turn your charm up to 11. you got this

Bokuto grinned, and twirled his pen between his fingers. Saturday was going to be amazing.


Bokuto checked his reflection for the third time since he’d finished styling his hair. He adjusted his scarf one last time, winked at the mirror, and then turned off the light as he left the bathroom and headed to the kitchen.

He grabbed his keys from the counter and shoved them in his pocket, then slung his messenger bag over his shoulders; inside, he’d packed a sketchbook, pencils and markers, just in case. He almost never went anywhere without them, these days -- even if he wasn’t planning on drawing, it had become more of a habit than anything else, and it didn’t hurt to be prepared.

As he made his way to the elevator, he sent a quick message to Akaashi to let him know he was on his way. Damn, do I sound too excited? ...Nah, I’m probably fine... I think. He frowned as he pushed the button in the elevator to go to the ground floor. Well, if he didn’t wanna hang out, he wouldn’t have agreed to meet up, right?! So I’m probably fine! Yeah!!

He hummed a random tune to himself as the elevator let him out into the lobby. There was an enthusiastic spring to his steps as he began to walk; the cafe that Akaashi wanted to meet at was only about two kilometers away, and he was more than happy to go there on foot.

He slipped a pair of earbuds from his pocket, connected them to his phone, and put them in his ears as he walked; the music, some bouncy American pop that Kuroo had said he would like, seemed to energize him more, even if he didn’t understand a word of it. The cool air was crisp and refreshing as he briskly made his way there; about thirty minutes later, he finally arrived.

The shop was relatively large, and well lit; it was a little rustic, much like the hotel they’d stayed at earlier in the week. The tables and chairs were all made from well-polished wood, and paintings of flowers and meadows hung on the walls at various spots. In the corner of the cafe, he saw Akaashi sitting at a table by himself, sipping at a coffee and reading something on his phone.

“Hey hey heeey, Akaashi!” He jogged over and took a seat right across from him, and set his bag down on the table. “How’s it going?” he asked with a bright smile.

“Good. How are you, Bokuto-san?” he asked politely.

“I’m great! Even better now that I’m here with you!” he beamed. “Oh hey, let me go grab something to drink, and I’ll be right back!” He went over to the register, and a minute later returned with a latte that had an almost absurd amount of vanilla syrup in it.

“So, what’ve you been up to since you got back into town?” he asked Akaashi.

“Oh. The usual, I suppose. Working.”

Bokuto frowned a little. “Well, yeah, but like... what else? What do you do for fun?”

Akaashi shifted in his seat. “In my spare time, I usually read books, or articles.”

Bokuto was silent for a moment, like he was waiting. “...And?” he prompted.

Akaashi had to think about it for a moment. “I... go jogging, to exercise? And I like to look at the stars in the countryside, since the light pollution of the city isn’t there. It makes them easier to see.”

Bokuto looked confused. “Seriously? Don’t you watch television, or something?”

“Sometimes, but not very often. I like crime dramas, though, so when I do watch something, it’s usually those. Or documentaries about space, or various other sciences.” He shrugged, and seemed a little uncomfortable. “I don’t get out much.”

“No kidding. Hey, maybe we could go hang out somewhere, sometime! Not that there’s anything wrong with the stuff you like,” he added quickly. “But if you wanted to go someplace, maybe it’d be fun! Or we could watch something together, so it wouldn’t be so lonely!”

Akaashi seemed a little confused. “Why do you think I’m lonely?”

Bokuto looked back at him, the picture of innocence. “Well... aren’t you? I mean, I remember you said something about people stressing you out, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get lonely.”

“...I guess you’re right,” he agreed quietly. “I still talk with some of my friends over email and texting, but it’s not really the same as being around them in person... Most of my former classmates are too busy or far away for us to schedule anything together.”

“Well, hey, that’s okay! I’ll hang out with you, if you want! Hey, maybe you can multitask. Ever think about lifting weights while you watch your documentaries?” Bokuto suggested.

“No, but I suppose it couldn’t hurt.” He sipped at his drink, and watched Bokuto curiously. “Are you saying you’d like to do that with me?”

“Sure!” he said with a bright smile. “I’ll bring some weights, and you can pick what we watch!”

“What if it’s boring?” Akaashi asked carefully. “Could you really enjoy yourself watching someone talk about science?”

Bokuto shrugged. “Sure, I don’t see why not! I mean, like listening to you talk about science, and we’d get to hang out! That’s enough for me! And we could always watch one of those crime dramas you like, too. I’m not picky!”

Akaashi smiled a little, and Bokuto felt his heart speed up. “I’d like that a lot.”

Yes!!  “Awesome!” he beamed. “Oh, hey, we should totally take another picture today!”

Akaashi gave him a blank look. “Why? We just took two last weekend.”

“Well, that was last weekend! This is now! I like having tons of pictures of my friends. Especially new ones!”

Akaashi smiled again. “Friends, huh?”

“Yeah! We’re friends, right?” Bokuto asked. “I mean, I consider you a friend! I like you a lot!”

Akaashi hid his face with his cup as he sipped at his drink. “Yeah. We’re friends,” he agreed quietly. Bokuto wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the light, but he thought that Akaashi’s cheeks seemed just a little bit flushed.

Bokuto gave him his most dazzling smile. “I’m glad to hear it!” He reached for his phone and flipped it open, stood up, and moved so that he was right beside Akaashi; he put an arm around his shoulder, just like he had last week, and leaned in close. Their cheeks brushed each other, warm and soft as he held the phone out to take a picture. Akaashi felt a thrill race through him at the contact, but it wasn’t unpleasant at all -- quite the opposite, in fact. “Ready? Three, two, one!”

Once he’d snapped the photo, he didn’t move his arm from Akaashi’s shoulders as he brought the cell closer to look at it. “Hey, this one’s really good! We look great!”

“Yeah, we do,” Akaashi agreed with a small smile. Another customer several tables away looked up at them, and Akaashi felt a surge of discomfort at being noticed; a moment later, though, the stranger looked away, and Bokuto was smiling at him like he always did.

“I’ll send this one to you, too!” He sent the photo via text, and then pulled away to go back to his seat on the other side of the table; Akaashi missed the warmth again, even more than he had the previous weekend. “Hey, do you wanna get some food and then get going? We could watch something today, if you want!”

“Sure. Did you want to get your weights?” I don’t know why he likes me so much... Not that I’m complaining, he thought with surprise.

“Nah, I’ll just bring them over next time. Come on, I’ll buy your lunch! It’s the least I can do since I didn’t get you a birthday present!”

He was already standing up and reaching for his wallet when Akaashi protested. “Bokuto-san, you didn’t even know it was my birthday. You don’t owe me anything.”

But Bokuto just reached out and ruffled his hair affectionately. “I know! But I’d feel bad if I didn’t do something nice for you. Come on, I’ll pay for whatever you want!”

You’re already being unusually kind, Akaashi thought to himself. Is he like this with everyone?  “All right. Thank you,” he said quietly.

Bokuto just laughed and went to the case of sandwiches near the register; Akaashi followed him, wondering what exactly he’d done to attract the attention of such an interesting person.


Bokuto rambled in his usual fashion as they walked back to Akaashi’s apartment; it was surprisingly close to Bokuto’s, just half a kilometer away.

“We should all hang out someday!” the artist grinned as Akaashi led him into the small apartment complex. “I think you and Kenma would get along great! And Kuroo’s awesome, too! They run this cat cafe a couple blocks north of my place, and it’s so cute.”

“I think I’ve seen it a few times, actually. But I’ve never gone in,” Akaashi said as he pushed the button for the 4th floor.

“It’s awesome, I think you’d really like it! They serve nice snacks, too.” A moment later, the doors opened as they reached Floor 4, and Akaashi led the way into the hall; he passed by just a couple doors before he stopped at one labeled 413 and pulled out his keys.

A moment later, he led the artist inside. Bokuto’s eyes widened a little as he took off his shoes and looked around; it was spacious, tidy and modern in a way that Bokuto’s apartment wasn’t. It wasn’t even that the place he lived in was particularly shabby, but Akaashi’s was definitely something a little out of his price range. “Holy shit, Akaashi! You have a really nice place!”

“Thank you.” He walked over to a large black couch in the living room and set his bag down. “Please make yourself comfortable.”

“Whoa, you have so many space pictures on the walls! That’s really cool!” Sure enough, there were several framed photos around the room, all dark to contrast the white walls. He put his bag next to Akaashi’s and sat down beside him before glancing up at the rather impressive flat screen television several feet away. “Are you super rich or something?” he asked, a note of awe creeping into his voice.

“Not rich,”  Akaashi said with a wry smile, “but I make a pretty decent salary.” He reached for the remote on the small end table beside the couch, and turned the television on. “So, what would you like to watch?”

“It’s up to you! I’ll watch anything you want!” Bokuto grinned.

Akaashi sighed. “Very helpful. Let’s see what’s on... ah. There’s a documentary about Pluto and Charon that just started. How does that sound?”

“Sure, works for me!” He watched eagerly as Akaashi flipped to the correct channel, and he was entranced almost immediately.

His attention didn’t waver at all, except to ask Akaashi the occasional excited question. Once the documentary finished an hour and a half later, he asked about the crime shows that Akaashi liked with genuine enthusiasm.

Bokuto ended up staying until almost eleven at night, when he sheepishly admitted that he should probably go home to get some work done. He left with obvious regret, and a promise to text Akaashi again the following afternoon.

The sudden loss of his presence left the apartment feeling oddly empty, and Akaashi realized with a start that he already missed him.


The next afternoon, Akaashi had just finished his daily jog when he received a text from Bokuto.

It was another one of his drawings; this time, of an astronaut sitting on a cloud made of stars. It was extremely well done; he said as much in his reply, and took a few extra moments to admire the drawing.

It was then that he realized -- of all the work Bokuto had shown him so far, none of it was in color.

Every single drawing the artist had shown him was in black, white, and varying shades of gray. He flipped through all the photos of Bokuto’s work that he still had saved to his phone to confirm it, and sure enough, there wasn’t a hint of color in any of the images at all.

I wonder if there’s a reason?  he thought as he went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Not that his work suffers for it at all... It’s very beautiful without color. Very striking, kind of... like him, really. He felt himself grow a little warmer. He’s very attractive, in many ways, he admitted to himself. I wonder if he intended for any of that to be a date, yesterday?

...No, I’m probably overthinking it. He did say we were friends. That didn’t sound like a confession. He finished his glass of water in just a few moments, and then rinsed it out before putting it beside the sink to dry.

His phone vibrated; an enthusiastic text from Bokuto flashed on his screen. Akaashi felt a smile curve at the corners of his lips as he sent him a reply.

Being around Bokuto-san is surprisingly easy. He leaned against the counter, and stared at the floor, deep in thought.

If he did want to go on a real date... I don’t think I’d say no.


Almost every time Bokuto drew something, he took a picture and sent it to Akaashi. He wanted to impress the astronomer, and he wanted to talk to him more -- he hoped he could accomplish both at once by sharing his art.

And it worked.

For the next few days, the responses he got from Akaashi were rather short, usually only a few words of praise. But then, on Tuesday, Bokuto decided to start asking him questions in hopes of starting a real conversation.

So he asked him about space.

>hey, so black holes eat stuff, right? what if 2 black holes met! what would happen?!

He did warmup sketches while he waited for Akaashi to reply, and a few minutes later, his phone vibrated.

>They would likely merge, and become a single, larger black hole. There are actually two that this might happen to, in about a million years.

He sent an excited response, and they ended up swapping periodic messages back and forth late into the night, until Akaashi finally had to go to sleep.

Bokuto’s sketchbook was running out of blank paper at an astonishing rate as he worked until the sun rose into the sky. He flipped through the recent pages, and an embarrassed smile spread over his face as he closed it and went to take a shower.

Almost every single one of his drawings lately had been of Akaashi Keiji, the beautiful astronomer that had brought his inspiration roaring back to life.


>are you kidding me? you two are so cute. you’re obviously crushing on each other

Bokuto flushed as he read the text that Kuroo had just sent him.

>i don’t wanna rush it!! i like spending time with him and i would totally smooch him in a heartbeat
>but he’s shy ok. i don’t wanna scare him off, you know??
>maybe i’ll try asking him out after we hang out some more!!

He drained the rest of his mug of coffee in two large gulps as Kuroo sent another text.

>bring him by our place sometime, maybe he’d like it. i’d wish you luck but you probably don't even need it

Bolstered by Kuroo’s reassurance, he decided to send another text to Akaashi, asking if they could hang out again.

>hey akaashi!! wanna go somewhere when you’re free?
>we could take a walk through the park nearby and get hot chocolate! what do you say? <3 <3

He tried not to feel nervous as he waited for a reply, and busied himself with making another pot of coffee. His heart beat just a little faster as his phone vibrated against the counter; when he checked the message waiting there, he fist pumped the air in victory.

>That sounds good. Are you free tomorrow around 5?

“Hell yes!”  he cheered to the empty apartment. “Yes!!”

He felt like he was walking on clouds as he tidied up his apartment, just in case he ended up inviting Akaashi over to show him more of his art.

It’s not a date, technically, he thought as he picked up a stray sock from the couch, but it’s a damn good start!


Bokuto met up with Akaashi at the park, and the first thing he noticed was the astronomer wasn’t really dressed for the weather at all.

“Hey, Akaashi! Wait, why aren’t you wearing a scarf or something? It’s super cold today!”

“Ah. I came here right from work, and I didn’t expect it to be so chilly today,” he explained. He was only wearing a hoodie over his normal clothes, and the tip of his nose and cheeks were slightly pink from the chill in the air.

Bokuto pouted. “That’s no good! Here, take my scarf!”

Akaashi gave him a flat look. “I’m not taking your scarf, Bokuto-san. Then you’ll be cold.”

“Akaashi, come on! My coat is super warm!” He paused for a moment, and his face lit up as he got an idea. “Hey, I know! Why don’t we share?”

Akaashi squinted at him. “...Share? Share what, your scarf?”

“Yeah! So then you’d be warmer, but I’d still be almost as warm as I am now! It’s big enough for two, see?” He began to unravel it without waiting for an answer, but Akaashi didn’t protest as he came closer and wound the warm fabric around his neck. “How’s that?”

“I feel ridiculous,” Akaashi muttered. He moved just a little closer to Bokuto, though, and didn’t shy away when the artist put an arm around his shoulders.

“You look great! Hey, I know, let’s take another picture!” He pulled out his phone, and laughed at the flat look Akaashi was giving him. “Come on, it’s a special occasion! We look really cute!”

Akaashi felt a pleasant warmth in his chest at the words as Bokuto leaned in close and rested his cheek against Akaashi’s, just like he’d done the previous Saturday. “Okay, ready? Three, two, one!”

After he took the photo, he brought it closer so they could see; they both looked happy, and their cheeks were both faintly pink. Akaashi’s smile wasn’t as large as Bokuto’s, but it was just as warm and genuine.

“This is great! The best one yet!” Bokuto insisted happily. He sent it to Akaashi immediately, then slipped his phone back into his pocket. He left his arm around Akaashi’s shoulders, though, and seemed to show no sign of removing it anytime soon. “Okay! Let’s walk around the park a little before we get some hot chocolate! There’s a really cool pond on the other side, have you seen it before?”

“Yes,” Akaashi smiled. “It’s pretty cool.”

As they walked, Akaashi felt himself warm up a little bit; with Bokuto so close, and the scarf wrapped around both of them, he hardly noticed the cold at all.


Bokuto insisted on paying for the hot chocolate, but Akaashi refused to let him, since he’d bought lunch last time.

As they left the cafe, Bokuto promptly wound half of his scarf around Akaashi again, with no trace of embarrassment. Akaashi was silent for a moment, and sipped at his drink awkwardly as Bokuto put his arm around Akaashi’s shoulders once more.

“Hey, do you wanna drop by my place for a little bit before you go home? I can show you more of my work!” Bokuto smiled. Inside, he felt a twinge of nervousness and uncertainty; was he coming on too strong? What if Akaashi said no? What if--

“Sure,” he agreed quietly. “I’d like that.”

The honest excitement on Bokuto’s face made Akaashi’s heart flutter as they began to walk. The conversation didn’t lull once, and Akaashi realized that he hadn’t clicked so well with someone in years.


Good thing I cleaned up earlier, Bokuto thought as he led Akaashi inside his apartment. “It’s not as nice as your place, but it’s still pretty good!” he said brightly as he tossed his keys on the kitchen counter and shrugged his coat off. “Come on, my work room’s over this way!”

Akaashi followed him quietly; the room he led him to was probably intended as a sizeable bedroom, but Bokuto had furnished it with a huge desk, a table, and a cabinet full of his supplies instead. Various pieces of art were hanging on the walls, and scattered across the table and desk...

And not a single one of them had color.

“Great, right? Right?” Bokuto watched Akaashi’s expression as the astronomer looked around the room. “I do a lot of freelancing work and stuff, and I’ve been drawing since I was a kid!”

“These are all incredible, Bokuto-san. You’re an amazing artist. You must work very hard.” Bokuto beamed at the praise, and Akaashi was quiet for a moment as he considered how to phrase his next question. “I am curious about one thing, though.”

“Oho? What is it?”

“Is there a reason you don’t use color in your work?” he asked carefully.

Bokuto’s expression fell, and took on an edge of frustration and shame. Akaashi felt guilt coil in his heart. “I’m sorry if that was too personal,” he apologized. “It wasn’t a criticism--”

“It’s fine,” Bokuto said awkwardly. “I’m colorblind. So working with color is pretty much the most frustrating thing ever, because I have no idea what I’m even actually seeing half the time. Red and green are the worst, and I’m not too hot with orange or brown either. I mix up blue and purple sometimes, too. Can’t trust my own eyes.”

“I see,” Akaashi said quietly. “Has that been difficult to deal with?”

Bokuto didn’t meet his gaze, and messed with the hem of his shirt instead. “Yeah, sometimes. It’s always weird when people are like ‘hey, so what’s it like?’, and I don’t know how to answer? I dunno what seeing color normally is like, so how the hell do I know?” he grumbled. “Didn’t seem like it’d be too much of a big deal until I started drawing a bunch. Almost stopped for good when people wouldn’t stop telling me how stupid and wrong all my coloring was.”

He sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. “Figured I could just draw without color. I mean, manga artists do it, right?”

“Yeah. That’s impressive, Bokuto-san.” Bokuto seemed surprised, so he continued. “To continue on in the face of negativity is difficult. And you forged your own path, despite the difficulties. That’s very admirable.”

Bokuto visibly perked up. “I know, right? I’m pretty great! But, uh... it’s nice to hear, especially from you,” he said, his smile edged with an uncharacteristic shyness. “Thanks, Akaashi. That means a lot to me.”

“Sure. No problem.” He peered at a half-finished drawing on Bokuto’s desk. “Do you ever let anyone watch you work, by chance?”

“Oh, uh, not really? If they want to, sure, but usually I’m just here by myself. Sometimes people peek at what I’m doing if I’m drawing in a cafe or whatever, and I don’t mind!” He grinned, but it was partially a facade; a vague sense of nervousness coiled around his heart. “Are you asking ‘cause you wanna watch me draw something?”

“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d definitely like to, yeah.”

“Hmm... okay! I’ll start something new, so you can see me do it start to finish! We can sit next to each other on the couch!” He grabbed a sketchbook from the table, along with a cup full of various pencils, markers and pens, and practically skipped back to the couch in the other room.

Akaashi carefully sat next to him, and Bokuto scooted so close that their knees knocked together; he placed the cup on the table, picked a pencil, and opened to a blank page in the sketchbook. He ignored the nervousness thrumming through him as he thought about what to draw; a moment later, he put the pencil against the paper, and began to work.

Immediately, Akaashi found himself entranced. The stroke of Bokuto’s pencil was sure and steady; about twenty minutes later, a rough sketch of an astronaut holding Earth in his palm was complete, and he traded his pencil for a black ink pen.

“That’s amazing,” Akaashi said quietly. “You did that so quickly, and it looks so good.”

“You haven’t even seen the best part!” Bokuto smiled. “It looks even cooler once you get the ink down! See?”

With fluid, confident strokes, he started to work again; Akaashi watched him with genuine awe. The minutes flew by, and blended into an hour; eventually, Bokuto switched to a gray marker instead, and he began to add shading.

Two hours after he’d started, he put down his marker, and proudly sat back as Akaashi looked at the drawing.

“It’s gorgeous,” he said quietly.

You’re gorgeous, Bokuto thought. His heart beat just a little too quickly in his chest. “Thanks, Akaashi!” he said with his signature smile. “Oh, hey, I know. Let me take a picture!”

Akaashi gave him a wry smile. “Again? Of what, exactly?”

“Hmm... here, hold my pen!” He pushed it into Akaashi’s palm; his fingertips brushed against his skin, and Akaashi tried not to shiver at the pleasant touch. A moment later, he had his phone out, and snapped a photo.

“...You didn’t want to be in the picture this time?” Akaashi asked.

“Well, sure! I just wanted one of you by yourself. Not that I’m bad to look at or anything, right?”

“True,” Akaashi agreed. He smiled a little as a slight flush spilled across Bokuto’s cheeks; the artist laughed awkwardly, but scooted closer and hooked his arm around Akaashi’s shoulders like he always did.

Akaashi held the pen close to his chest as Bokuto rested his cheek against the astronomer’s; he took the photo after counting down to zero, and seemed absolutely delighted with the result. “We look great, like we always do!” he beamed.

Akaashi laughed a little; the sound was like music to Bokuto’s ears. “Do you mind if I take a picture of the drawing you did? It’s very nice.”

“Sure, that’s fine!” He placed the sketchbook in Akaashi’s lap as the scientist took his phone out of his pocket, and lined it up for a good photo.

A moment later, a satisfied smile tugged at his lips. “Thank you, Bokuto-san.” He pressed a few more buttons. “I’ll use this as my phone background, as well.”

“Whoa, seriously?!” Bokuto leaned closer to get a look. “Can I see? That’s awesome!”

Akaashi turned the cell towards Bokuto, who reached up to touch the hand Akaashi was holding the phone with. A delighted smile spread over his face as he looked up and met Akaashi’s eyes; the moment became charged, like the air between them was heavy with possibilities. “This makes me feel less weird about having a picture of us as my phone background.”

“...You have a picture of us as your background?” Akaashi asked in disbelief.

“Hell yeah I do! See?” He took his hand off of Akaashi’s, reached for his cell, and flipped it open; sure enough, the background was the second picture they’d taken together at dusk in the countryside.

Akaashi smiled back at him. “That’s very flattering.”

“I could say the same thing to you! I can’t believe you just watched me draw for two hours!” He felt warm all over as he stared into Akaashi’s eyes. “You’re amazing.”

“So are you, Bokuto-san.” He toyed with the edge of his sleeve. “...Would you mind drawing something else, by chance? I’d like to watch again, if that’s all right.”

Bokuto’s smile was brighter than the sun. “Anything for you, Akaashi.”

They stayed there together, late into the night, completely comfortable and at ease. Once or twice, Bokuto’s hand not-so-accidentally brushed against Akaashi’s as he showed him various tools he used to work... and Akaashi touched his hand as well when he gave them back.

Later, after Akaashi had left, Bokuto stared at his work with a renewed sense of pride and confidence. He sighed as he flopped onto his bed and opened his phone to text Kuroo.

>i think he likes me!! one thing’s for sure, tho... i DEFINITELY like him. like, a lot.

Kuroo replied almost instantly.

>hell yeah. seriously, bring him by the store sometime. make it a date

Bokuto smiled to himself as he turned the idea over in his mind. That’s not a bad plan at all.


to be continued in chapter 3

 

Chapter Text

What exactly does he see in me?

The question came up in Akaashi’s mind again and again over the following week. He saw Bokuto several more times over the next seven days, and the longest he went without getting a text was the six to eight hour period of time when Bokuto inevitably succumbed to sleep.

Akaashi wasn’t sure he understood what drew Bokuto to him, but he wasn’t going to complain. Spending time with the artist was exhilarating, if a little nervewracking at times -- he wasn’t used to the feelings Bokuto inspired in him, but he knew he wanted more.

Lifting weights while they watched television turned out to be more of a test than he thought it would be. The exercise itself wasn’t the problem -- it was that Bokuto looked really good while he lifted, and it was difficult for Akaashi to focus on whatever they were watching, instead of the way Bokuto’s muscled shifted with each movement.

The astronomer sighed and ran a hand through his hair as he signed off on the last bit of paperwork he had to do for the day. It was finally time for him to leave and go home; as much as he loved his job, it was incredibly exhausting sometimes. He stood up and put on his coat just as his phone vibrated with an incoming message from Bokuto.

He left the office with a small smile on his face, and just a little extra spring in his step.


Bokuto sighed dreamily as he stretched out on his bed.

Akaashi had been on his mind almost constantly as of late. He couldn’t stop thinking about him, and his sketchbook was so full of drawings of the astronomer that he was worried it would look borderline creepy if anyone saw just how many there were.

He opened his phone, and distractedly selected Kuroo from his contacts to send a message while he stood up to go get something to drink.

>god, ok, i know i’ve said it like 800 times but akaashi is. so. amazing. and super gorgeous

The kitchen was illuminated as he flipped the light switch and walked over to the cabinets to get a glass as he sent another text.

>i had another dream about him last night!! i’m so hopeless wtf

He put his phone down while he filled his glass at the sink, and leaned against the counter as he sipped at it. Several minutes passed while he stared at nothing in particular, lost in thought and idle daydreams. He was broken from his reverie when his phone vibrated twice, and he flipped it open to check his messages.

>I have a feeling you meant to send those to someone else...
>But I am very flattered, Bokuto-san.

Bokuto felt himself blush harder than he ever had in his life as he realized -- he’d sent those to Akaashi, instead of Kuroo.

Oh my god. Holy shit!! A strangled noise wrenched itself from his throat as he read the two texts from the astronomer over and over. I can’t believe I just did that!  He felt hot all over, and his hands shook just a little as he frantically typed out a reply.

>oh my god. i’m so sorry!! akaashi i’m so sorry i meant to send those to kuroo
>i promise i’m not creepy i just think you’re really great?! shit that doesn’t sound good either does it

Halfway through his next frantic apology, Akaashi sent him another text.

>It’s fine, Bokuto-san, really. It doesn’t bother me at all.
>To be honest, it’s nice. I really am very flattered. Thank you.

Bokuto ran his hand through his hair and heaved a gigantic sigh of relief. Thank god. But... what does that mean? Does he feel the same way I do?

He sighed again, relieved and excited all at once. I think I’ve got a good shot at this.


Kuroo teased Bokuto almost nonstop after he found out about the texting mishap. Not that Bokuto was surprised, and he figured he deserved it -- besides, he’d do the same thing to Kuroo, if given half the chance.

Bokuto’s fear that Akaashi would avoid him after his mistake evaporated pretty quickly; if anything, it seemed like they were seeing each other more.

>i’m about 97% sure he likes me!!  he texted Kuroo on Christmas Eve.
>maybe even like. 98%!!

>come on, he definitely does, are you kidding me?
>now stop texting me about your future bf and go spend time with your family

Bokuto pouted, and slipped his phone back into his pocket. He and Akaashi -- along with pretty much everyone else they knew -- were busy with the holidays. But, on the bright side, they had plans to see each other again right after New Year’s, on the 4th. Bokuto had already gotten a present for Akaashi earlier in the week, but he’d never been much of a patient person; he wanted to give it to him right away.

>i miss you! i can’t wait to see you again!

His smile was huge as he read Akaashi’s response:

>I miss you too. I’m looking forward to meeting up soon.

“Koutarou, what are you smiling about? Are you texting that boy that you like?”

Bokuto’s face immediately turned bright red. “Don’t tease me, mom!”

“I’m not teasing you, I’m just asking! Didn’t you say you took a bunch of pictures together? Show us!” A moment later, half of his family was crowded around him, ruffling his hair and complimenting his taste as he scrolled through all the photos he’d taken with Akaashi over the last several weeks.

He was embarrassed, but on the bright side, getting grilled by his family about Akaashi meant he also got to talk about him, and if there was one thing Bokuto enjoyed lately, it was waxing poetic about how incredible the astronomer was. Almost every time he sent him a text over the holidays, someone caught him smiling at his phone and would tease him -- but it was worth it for the tiny thrill he got every time Akaashi responded.

The clock hit midnight, and it was officially New Year’s Day. Fireworks lit up the night sky as Bokuto sat with his family; the colors were glorious, but his attention was drawn instead to the stars twinkling faintly in the darkness. His phone vibrated, and his smile was warm and full of fondness as he checked the message waiting for him.

>Happy New Year, Bokuto-san. I can’t wait to see you again.


Bokuto paced around his apartment restlessly.

It was the afternoon of the 4th, and he wondered for the 20th time whether or not the present he’d bought for Akaashi was stupid. His thoughts were interrupted with a quick series of knocks on his door; he felt a thrill as he ran over to answer it.

Akaashi was standing there with a small, carefully wrapped packed tucked neatly under his arm. “Hi, Bokuto-san. It’s nice to see you again.”

“Akaashi!!” Without a second thought, he surged forward and wrapped his arms around the other man in a strong, warm embrace. Akaashi’s eyes widened in surprise, and he gave Bokuto a half-hearted glare.

“I’m going to drop your present,” he complained while carefully hugging him back. His cheeks were a faint, charming shade of pink as he said it, and a smile tugged at the corners of his lips despite himself.

Bokuto just laughed, and motioned for him to come inside. “Sorry, sorry! Come in!” Akaashi followed him to the couch, where a large, lumpy, and hastily-wrapped package sat on the end table. He sat down and patted the spot beside him; their knees knocked together as Akaashi made himself comfortable, and held out his gift for Bokuto.

“Here,” he said, a little awkwardly. “It’s not much, but I thought you might find it useful...”

“I’m sure it’s awesome!!” Bokuto grinned. “Wow, you’re really good at wrapping stuff! I just kinda tossed the paper on.” He laughed as he tore it open, and then gaped in open shock. “Akaashi, what the -- holy shit.” He was staring down at a large, gorgeous leather bound sketchbook. He looked up, directly into the astronomer’s eyes, with open awe and adoration. “This is perfect!  Thank you so much!”

“It’s no trouble,” he said with a quiet smile. “I’m glad you like it.”

“You’re amazing!! Here,” he said quickly as he pushed his poorly wrapped gift into Akaashi’s hands. “That’s for you!”

Akaashi opened it, and smiled as the wrapping fell away to reveal an absolutely enormous scarf; it was dark and incredibly soft, with a pattern of a nebula and stars. “Bokuto-san, this is wonderful. Thank you.”

Bokuto grinned. “Hey, I’m glad! You should put it on now, so I can take a picture of you!”

Akaashi wrapped it around himself just as Bokuto scooted over to put an arm around his shoulders. “Something tells me you’re going to conveniently forget your own scarf from now on, whenever we spend time together,” Akaashi said teasingly with a wry smile.

Bokuto’s laugh was warm and delighted. “You got me! I liked sharing a scarf with you, that was a lot of fun!” He rested his face against Akaashi’s and quickly snapped a picture before he put his phone away, and placed the sketchbook on the end table; Akaashi tried to calm his racing heart, to no avail.

He’s so warm... His hands fidgeted with the ends of his sleeves. “So,” he said, trying to sound as casual as possible, “why do you always take pictures whenever we’re together?”

“Because I like looking at you!” Bokuto blurted. Immediately, his entire face turned red as he realized what he just said. “Uh, I mean... Because you’re so beauti-- dammit, no. Uh.”

Akaashi threw his head back, and laughed.

It was quiet, nothing as boisterous as Bokuto was capable of on a daily basis, but the sound still went straight to the artist’s heart. After a moment, Akaashi wiped a tear from his eye, and leaned against Bokuto as he finally stopped. “It’s fine, Bokuto-san. I don’t mind. And I’m glad you send all of them to me. I still have every single one you’ve taken.”

Bokuto’s smile was embarrassed but pleased. “Oh, uh... good! ‘Cause I really like taking pictures of us together,” he laughed. “Oh, hey, that reminds me. Next time you’re free, do you wanna go by the cat cafe that Kuroo and Kenma run? He keeps bugging me about you!”

“Sure,” Akaashi said easily. “How does tomorrow afternoon sound?”

“Perfect!” Bokuto beamed. Just like you.


Bokuto conveniently “forgot” his scarf the very next day.

Akaashi had anticipated this, though. As they waited for the elevator to take them to the lobby of Bokuto’s apartment complex, he fiddled with the ends of his own scarf, deep in thought as Bokuto rambled about Kuroo’s love of cats.

The astronomer’s heart pounded faster, a steady, rapid beat rushing in his ears as they stepped out of the lobby and made their way through the small courtyard. Once they reached the sidewalk, he took a deep breath, and tried to give Bokuto a stern look; the effect was ruined by the smile that he couldn’t quite contain.

“Bokuto-san,” he chided playfully, “I see you forgot your scarf. It’s very cold today.”

“Ooh, yeah! Totally forgot,” he grinned, “silly me, huh? I guess we have to share again!”

You don’t look sorry at all, Akaashi thought fondly as he unwrapped his scarf a little. Bokuto leaned closer, and smiled as Akaashi loosely looped it around his neck; he put his arm around the astronomer’s shoulders when he was done, and smiled happily.

“All right! Now that I’m all cozy, let’s be off!”

Akaashi nodded, and they began making their way to the cafe. It didn’t take long to get there -- something that Akaashi found rather unfortunate. Being so close is nice, he thought as Bokuto finally pulled his arm away to open the door covered in cat decals.

The inside of the shop was warm, cozy, and brightly lit; about fifteen couches were spread through the area, all beside tables and bookshelves, with various cat toys and pillows here and there. A light incense burned behind the counter where the register and small cooling cases of drinks were, and Akaashi was pretty sure he’d already spotted at least twelve different cats lounging or walking around. It seemed like he and Bokuto were the only customers there, not that he was too surprised; it was bound to be a bit slow right after the holiday.

“Hey, what’s up? Oho, is this Akaashi?” Kuroo leaned on the counter as he said it, a mischievous smile curling at his lips. “Nice to finally meet you!”

“Hi. You must be Kuroo-san,” he said politely.

“Hey, don’t bother him!” Bokuto pouted. “And definitely don’t be weird!”

“Take your own advice,” Kuroo snorted. “Want something to drink?”

Bokuto brightened immediately. “Ooh, a melon soda! What about you, Akaashi?”

“I’ll have the same thing, please.”

Bokuto pulled out his wallet, but Kuroo rolled his eyes and turned away to grab the drinks from the small refrigerator. “Yeah, right, like I’m letting you pay for any of this.” A moment later, he held the small bottles out to the two of them; his smile was sly, but not unfriendly. “Go have fun. Keep it kid friendly.”

Bokuto groaned. “Come on, man, you’re so embarrassing! Oh, where’s Kenma?”

“It’s his day off. Lemme know when you wanna come by again, and I’ll make sure we’re both here.” Kuroo made a shooing motion with his hand. “Now go on. I promise not to bother you. Well... not too much,” he grinned.

Bokuto stuck his tongue out, and turned to Akaashi, who had been watching both of them quietly. “Hey, where do you wanna sit, Akaashi?”

“Anywhere’s fine,” he said, “I really don’t mind.”

“Hmm.” Bokuto scratched his chin in thought as his gaze swept the store. “Oh! Let’s go get that couch all the way in the back. You won’t be as nervous if you’re not sitting next to a window, right?”

Akaashi looked surprised, but nodded, and followed Bokuto as he led the way. “You’re very considerate,” he said quietly as Bokuto put his bag on the table, right beside a black cat with curious green eyes.

Bokuto grinned bashfully. “Maybe! I just care about you a lot. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable, especially not when we’re hanging out together.” He pulled his sketchbook and a pencil from his bag, and left the bag open; Akaashi could see the gift he’d given him yesterday neatly tucked inside with several markers and pens, and felt a rush of warmth.

“I like coming here to draw sometimes!” Bokuto explained cheerfully. “Oh, hey, can’t forget -- let’s take a picture!” He scooted closer to Akaashi without waiting for an answer, and held his phone out as he slipped an arm around the other man’s shoulders. “Ready?”

“Yes.”

Bokuto snapped the photo, and brought it closer to look at it as he took his arm off of Akaashi’s shoulders; he leaned in so close that the astronomer could smell the faint hint of his cologne. “This is great! I’ll probably wanna take a few more before we leave, if that’s cool with you! Like with the cats, or something.”

“Sure, that’s fine,” Akaashi said. “It’s charming.”

Bokuto blushed a little, and chuckled nervously as he flipped through various pages in his sketchbook to find the next blank one. Akaashi’s eyes were drawn to the motion, and he squinted curiously.

“Bokuto-san, if you don’t mind, could I look through your sketchbook? I don’t think I’ve seen most of those drawings.”

“Huh? Oh... uh...” He laughed nervously. “Uh, I dunno if you want to? They’re just, um...” A light flush rose to his cheeks as he fumbled his words. “I mean... it’s just stupid, is all.”

“I do want to see them,” Akaashi said. “I really like your work. I doubt it’s stupid.”

Bokuto fiddled with the edge of the blank page for a moment before he took a deep breath, closed the sketchbook, and handed it over to Akaashi. His blush grew exponentially darker as the astronomer opened it to the first page, and he squirmed a little in nervousness.

The first drawing was a shark, swimming through the ocean, beautifully shaded in various tones of gray. “This is really impressive,” Akaashi said softly. A moment later, he flipped to the next page; this time, it was a drawing of an owl, perched on the moon. For several minutes, he flipped through each page, carefully taking in every detail he could --

And then, the next page was a portrait of him.

“...Oh,” he said quietly. He felt his cheeks grow hot, and Bokuto was looking at the wall like it was the most interesting thing in the world. He looked back at the drawing; the details were a little rough, and in the corner, Akaashi spied the date, and realized Bokuto had drawn it not long after they’d met.

Based on the way he’s acting, I wonder if... He peeked at the next page, and sure enough: it was full of rough sketches of Akaashi. So was the next, and the one after that; he flipped a little more quickly through the book. There were a few various, unrelated drawings, but most of them were increasingly detailed portraits of Akaashi.

“I just... I just think... You’re really beautiful, Akaashi!” Bokuto explained. “You’re so beautiful! I’m not trying to be creepy, or anything, I just -- you’re really, really  gorgeous, s-so I’ve been drawing you a lot?” He laughed nervously, and when Akaashi looked up at him again, he could see Bokuto’s blush had reached the tops of his ears and spilled down his neck, all the way to the dip in his collarbone. “Um...”

“I don’t think it’s creepy,” Akaashi said quietly, just a little breathless. “I’m just... a little surprised. It’s amazing. You’re amazing.” He looked back at the stunning portrait that he’d turned to, and took in every detail with a sense of wonder. “...I never thought that someone would want to draw me,” he said with a tiny, shy smile.

“How could I not want to draw you?” Bokuto blurted as he turned to look at Akaashi again. “You’re seriously... you’re unreal,”  he gushed.

Akaashi felt his cheeks grow warmer at the raw honesty in the words. “You’re not so bad yourself,” he managed to reply.

Bokuto gaped at him. “For real?”

“For real,” Akaashi replied. “You can’t possibly think you’re unattractive, Bokuto-san. That’s ridiculous.”

“Well, I mean, it’s not that I think I look bad, I just never thought someone as hot as you would say something like that about me!” He slapped his hands over his face immediately after the words spilled out of his mouth, and groaned. “Dammit, forget I said that -- Kuroo’s always telling me I don’t have any kind of filter, shit--”

“It’s fine,” Akaashi said reassuringly. He put the sketchbook back in Bokuto’s lap; the artist peeked through his fingers at Akaashi, still flustered but pleasantly surprised at his reaction.

“You don’t think I’m gross, or anything?” he asked hopefully, his voice slightly muffled by his palms.

“Of course not,” Akaashi replied. “Why would I?”

Bokuto’s hands fell, revealing a warm smile, full of surprised delight. “You’re the best, Akaashi.”

Akaashi’s eyes crinkled as he laughed quietly. “I could say the same to you, Bokuto-san.”


The amount of pictures Bokuto ended up taking bordered on ridiculous.

After the twentieth photo, he swore he was done; Akaashi just gave him a flat look while Kuroo watched from the counter with a huge grin on his face. They left the cafe several hours after their initial arrival; Kuroo got one last remark in with a sly “hey, don’t forget to use protection!”  just as the door closed behind them.

Akaashi sighed, aggravated and embarrassed; he brought his scarf up to cover the bottom half of his face, and didn’t meet Bokuto’s eyes. But a moment later, he looked over when he felt the artist tugging at the scarf; he’d taken an end of it and wrapped it around his neck to share, and was looking at Akaashi, unusually shy but full of adoration.

“You don’t mind, right?” As Akaashi shook his head in reply, Bokuto’s smile grew warmer. “Awesome! Oh, sorry about Kuroo. He means well! He just likes to tease!”

“I noticed,” Akaashi muttered. “It’s fine. I’ll get used to it, I guess.”

Bokuto didn’t miss the unspoken implication that Akaashi be around enough for that to happen. With a warm, delighted laugh, he threw his arm around Akaashi’s shoulders as they made their way back to Bokuto’s apartment. “You’re the best, Akaashi!”

“Thank you.”

“Hey hey hey, come on! You should say something like,” he paused for a moment to put on a stern face, and tried to imitate Akaashi’s voice, “‘you too, Bokuto-san’.”

Akaashi glared at him. “Don’t you get enough praise from everyone as it is?”

“Well, yeah, but it’s even better when it’s coming from you!” Bokuto beamed.

Akaashi felt himself redden a little bit, and he looked away in embarrassment. Bokuto just laughed in response and held him a little bit closer as they walked... but Akaashi didn’t mind in the least.


Halfway back to Bokuto’s apartment, he had an idea.

Will it seem like I’m coming on too strong? ...Nah, probably not. Kuroo always says I’m as subtle as a brick, anyway. So it’d be fine! Right?  He glanced over at Akaashi, as if looking at him would give him the answer he sought. Okay, I’m totally gonna do it. I’m definitely, for sure gonna ask, and it’s gonna be great!

Silently, he kept psyching himself up the rest of the way back. When they finally got to his apartment, he put his bag down, squared his shoulders, and blurted it out before he could change his mind.

“Akaashi, can I draw you again?”

Akaashi nodded as he unwound the scarf from his neck and slipped his coat off. “Sure,” he said, “I don’t mind.”

“I mean, while I’m actually looking at you, so... you’d have to sit still, and stuff!” Bokuto explained. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” He stretched a little, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “...Did you want to do that right now?”

“Yeah!!” Bokuto smiled. “Come sit over here!” He pulled one of the chairs near the television close to the window, grabbed his sketchbook, and tossed it on the couch; Akaashi sat down awkwardly, unsure of what to do.

“Like this?” he asked quietly.

“Hmm.” He walked back over and leaned down, and slowly, carefully brought his hands up to Akaashi’s face. He was so close that Akaashi could see all the detail of his lashes, and the warm gold of his eyes; the soft touch of his fingertips against Akaashi’s jaw made the astronomer shiver. Gently, he angled Akaashi’s face a little to the side, and brushed a stray strand of hair from his eyes; he trailed his hand down Akaashi’s cheek, clearly lingering and unnecessary for what he was doing. Akaashi had no intention of telling him to stop, though, and felt a little pang of regret when Bokuto finally pulled away a moment later.

Bokuto took a seat on the couch, and picked up his sketchbook and a pencil with a dazed look. He stared at Akaashi for a long, heavy moment before he began to draw.

The room was quiet as Bokuto worked, and it gave Akaashi time to replay the memory of Bokuto gently touching his face over and over again in his head. There was no doubt left in his mind, but he wasn’t sure yet of how to make his move.

These might not have been dates... he thought, but I’m absolutely certain that he’s wanted them to be.


After about twenty minutes, Bokuto grinned and put his pencil down. “Okay, great! I’ll finish the rest later, but I got the sketch for now!”

“Can I see?” Akaashi asked curiously as he stretched and stood up to move to the couch.

Bokuto handed the sketchbook to him as their knees touched, and leaned in so their arms pressed together as Akaashi looked over the drawing.

“It’s beautiful,” Akaashi said with a note of awe in his voice. It really was; all of Bokuto’s work was impressive, but this one was particularly good.

Bokuto grinned at him. “That means you’re beautiful, you know! Since... oh.” He blushed as he realized what he’d just said. “Well... you are, though, so... ugh, I’m so stupid.”

“You’re not stupid,” Akaashi said with a soft smile as he handed the sketchbook back. “Thank you, Bokuto-san.”

“Are you kidding me? I should be the one thanking you!” he said with an awkward laugh. He put the sketchbook on the end table, and reached for the remote; his television wasn’t as big as Akaashi’s, but it was still pretty nice. “Hey, wanna watch something?”

“Sure,” Akaashi agreed. “What should we do for dinner?”

“Let’s order something! Ooh, I know this really good place, let me pull up their menu on my phone!” He pulled it from his pocket with his free hand, and leaned in closer so that Akaashi could see the screen. “Here you go! Anything you want in particular?”

A few minutes later, their order was placed, and Bokuto pulled up a recent episode of Akaashi’s favorite crime drama. One episode turned into two, then three; the hours blurred by as they marathoned it, only pausing occasionally to use the bathroom or get a drink.

Around midnight, Bokuto got another idea. He barely paid attention to the plot of the episode they were watching, and instead, did his best to psych himself up to get the courage to put an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders.

It was something he’d already done countless times before in the last month, but it felt different now, with the two of them alone and watching television late into the night in his apartment. He became all too aware of his heartbeat, and he felt his throat close up with nervousness. Maybe if I just sort of... ease into it...

He yawned loudly and stretched his arms into the air, but as he brought them down, he wrapped one around Akaashi’s shoulders, with his eyes straight ahead on the television. A soft laugh made him turn, and he felt himself blush at the smile on the astronomer’s face.

“You’re very smooth, Bokuto-san.” Akaashi leaned in closer, and turned his attention back towards the TV; Bokuto let out a sigh of relief, and felt himself relax.

Jackpot!


Around two in the morning, Akaashi still hadn’t found it in himself to leave. I better get going soon, though... I do have to work tomorrow. He looked over and opened his mouth to say something to Bokuto...

...but the other man was asleep, with his head gently resting against the back of the couch.

Akaashi smiled, and took a moment to appreciate the peaceful expression on Bokuto’s face before he carefully extracted himself from the arm still around his shoulders; he stood up, and hesitated for a moment.

I wonder... well, why not? Neither of us has been particularly subtle... He took a deep breath, leaned down, and pressed a soft, gentle kiss against Bokuto’s cheek.

He felt himself blush as he stood up straight and reached for his coat; he wasted no time putting it on, and grabbed his scarf to wind it around his neck. With one last look at Bokuto, he left, careful to shut the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he heard the click of the door, Bokuto’s eyes shot open.

He was wide awake, and holy shit, he’d just been kissed by Akaashi Keiji.


to be continued in chapter four - finale.

 

Chapter Text

>akaashi kissed me
>like, HE kissed ME
>not on the mouth, on the cheek
>and he thought i was asleep
>well i mean i kinda was. i was like, dozing off??
>and then i woke up BECAUSE HE TOTALLY KISSED ME

Bokuto’s frantic texts were interrupted when Kuroo responded.

>yeah ok holy shit. slow down. i have 1 critical question, ok?
>when are you gonna ask him out.

Bokuto’s blush reached the tips of his ears.

>idk? how am i supposed to ask him out?! i don’t wanna tell him i know he kissed me
>i think he might get nervous
>wtf should i do!! help me out ok i definitely can’t fuck this up

>ok, you’re not exactly the smoothest operator, not that akaashi seems to care
>anyway, play to your strengths. he likes your art, right?
>draw him something and give it to him on a date. make it all romantic. 11/10 plan, will not fail

Bokuto flopped down onto the couch as he closed his phone, and stared at the table with incredible intensity. Kuroo’s right! I’m an awesome artist, and Akaashi likes my stuff. But what should I draw?  He picked up a pillow and smooshed it over his face. Ugh. Him, obviously, but... how? Just another portrait like the ones he’s already seen isn’t gonna cut it!!

He rolled onto his side, a jumble of nerves as he brainstormed. Something meaningful, something to show how much he inspires me...

It was like a light went off in his head.

Carelessly, he threw the pillow to the floor and reached into his pocket for his cell phone; a moment later, he began to type a new message to Akaashi.

>hey so out of curiosity, what’s your fav color?!

The seconds felt like hours as he waited for a response, but Akaashi replied almost immediately.

>I like blues and greens. Why do you ask?

>no reason, just wondering!! seemed like a weird thing to not know since i know so much about you! :o

He felt his palms grow a little sweaty as he opened a new message to Kuroo.

>ok so i have an idea. but i definitely need your help. can you come shopping with me today?

>yeah sure. i’ll be free in like 45 minutes. why, what’s up?

Bokuto’s smile was confident and full of excitement; his hands shook with pent-up energy as he typed his response.

>i know exactly what i’m gonna draw, but i need my #1 best friend to make sure i don’t mess it up

>you don’t have to suck up, i’ve got your back. come by the shop, we’ll head out when i’m done
>operation ‘get bokuto a boyfriend’ has begun :^)


My favorite color... what a strange question for him to ask, Akaashi thought as he idly tapped a pen against his clipboard.

It was another day of almost nothing but paperwork; usually, he had no problems focusing, but his mind had been wandering all day. I can’t believe I kissed him. I wonder if I should confess, or wait for him to make the first move...

He drained the rest of his coffee, and stood up to get a bottle of water from the small refrigerator nearby. Hm. I think he’d likely be embarrassed and pout if I said something before he did... and knowing him, he’s probably already planning something. I’ll give it some more time. The water was cool and refreshing; he let out a content sigh as he set it down and reached for his phone again.

Embarrassment colored his features as he scrolled through his pictures on a whim. Of the 96 he had saved, 81 of them were from Bokuto -- a mixture of the photos the artist had taken of them together, and the drawings he’d worked on since they met.

He’s ridiculous. And about as subtle as a sledgehammer, he thought with exasperated fondness. He pulled up one of his favorite photos -- a picture of him and Akaashi at Kuroo’s cafe, with a black cat peeking over Akaashi’s shoulder.

He flushed a little, and then chuckled quietly as he recalled the texting mishap. I can’t believe he’s been having dreams about me. I wonder what they’re like... Absentmindedly, he signed off on another paper on his clipboard, and then added it to a stack of finished documents. And he’s so caught up in how... hot he thinks I am, he thought with a smile, but he’s definitely pretty easy on the eyes, too...

He sighed as he put his clipboard down, and ran a hand through his hair. I’m not going to get anything else done today... I’m too distracted. Might as well go home and make some dinner. There was an extra spring in his step as he shrugged his coat on, and carefully wrapped the scarf that Bokuto had given him around his neck.

The entire way back home, his thoughts were filled with affection and curiosity for what Bokuto might do next.


Kuroo liked to tease him, but when it came down to it, he really did have Bokuto’s back. After they got the supplies that Bokuto needed, they loitered outside of the store for a moment while the artist pulled up a few reference images on his phone. “Okay! So, this one is like that part, right? It matches up okay?”

“No, no. It’s that part, over there. They’re kinda... I dunno, puffy? And blend together, like clouds in a sunset. Maybe a little sharper? So I don’t think you even have to be all that exact, anyway. Don’t stress over it.” He shrugged nonchalantly. “Send me some pictures as you work on it. I’ll let you know if it looks weird or anything.”

Bokuto peered at the photos closely, and then nodded his agreement. “All right, awesome!! Hey, you’re seriously great. Thanks for helping me out!”

Kuroo clapped him on the shoulder, and winked as he gave him a thumbs up. “Hey, no problem. Now, let’s get you back home so you can work your magic.”


Akaashi noticed that the number of texts he got from Bokuto over the next 48 hours had decreased dramatically.

Aside from the question about what his favorite color was, he didn’t start any conversations, and only replied to Akaashi’s occasional quips about space with what seemed like very distracted enthusiasm. Anxiety coiled in his gut, and fear whispered through his mind -- was Bokuto avoiding him?

No, that’s irrational, he reassured himself. He’s probably just up to something. I’m sure of it. He picked up the remote as he sat on his couch, and turned to a rerun of one of the crime dramas he’d been watching with Bokuto -- but his attention was elsewhere as his thoughts wandered in a hundred different directions, all converging back to a single point --

I wonder what he’s doing?


Really, who needed sleep anyway?

Sleep was irritating. It was a waste of time -- time he could spend working, or thinking about how to make the perfect drawing.

Kuroo wasn’t having it, though. At seven in the morning, he texted Bokuto -- because he knew him well enough to know what he was doing.

>hey. i know you’re still up. go to bed
>it’s not a race against time. akaashi’s not going anywhere.
>it’ll probably look better if you’re not running on nothing but coffee and willpower anyways

Bokuto groaned irritably and shut his phone as he rubbed his tired, bloodshot eyes with cramped fingers. The wastebasket in the corner of his work room was overflowing again, just like it had been before he met Akaashi.

It wasn’t even that the ideas he was coming up with were bad, or that he was having trouble drawing them -- it was that he wanted it to be perfect. Nothing too simple, but nothing too detailed, and not too meaningless... the list went on and on. Begrudgingly, he took Kuroo’s advice and went to sleep. He woke up about five hours later to a text from Akaashi about constellations. With a fond smile, he typed out a response, and got up to shower and make coffee.

In the shower, he had a breakthrough.

He finished quickly, and hastily dried himself off before dashing back to his office, completely naked. There was no time for trivial things like clothes or breakfast -- Bokuto Koutarou had an idea, and he had to get it down on paper right away.

Before long, he’d finished a rough sketch -- but this time, he didn’t tear the paper out and throw it away. Instead, he smiled and reached for his markers. Nearby, his phone vibrated with an incoming message, but he was so focused on what he was doing that he didn’t even notice.

Several hours later, his stomach growled, angrily reminding him that he’d neglected to do anything beyond taking a shower when he first woke up. He just smiled, though, and put down his marker -- he was done. All that was left was to snap a photo so that Kuroo could double-check, and maybe make a few adjustments if necessary.

Akaashi’s gonna love it!! At least, I’m pretty sure he will!  He stood up and stretched, and grinned sheepishly as he realized that not only had he forgotten to eat or drink anything, he’d spent the entire afternoon totally naked. Right on cue, his phone vibrated; it was a text from Kuroo.

>go eat something, cuz i know you probably haven’t

He rolled his eyes, and instead of replying, he snapped a photo of his drawing and sent it to Kuroo. The other man replied just as he finished pulling on a pair of sweatpants and a loose t-shirt.

>honestly, that’s damn good. he’ll say yes for sure. how’re you gonna ask him?

Bokuto practically skipped to the kitchen as he typed his response.

>ok, so it’s space themed right?! so i figure i could make it like. SUPER romantic
>i think akaashi would dig romantic right??
>anyway i’m gonna ask him to go back to the countryside with me over the weekend!!!
>and i can give the drawing to him there!!

>damn. i’d say that’s a brave move, but. there’s no way he’ll say no anyways

>really?! you think so?!

>seriously, man. i’ve seen the way he looks at you when he thinks you aren’t looking.
>you got this. hell, if you’re not fast enough, he might confess to you first! lol

A huge smile spread over Bokuto’s face as he closed his phone and got himself a glass of water; he downed the entire thing in a matter of seconds. Ooh, that hit the spot!! All right... I’ll ask Akaashi, and then reward myself with some delivery!

He paced the kitchen restlessly for a moment, and wiped his slightly clammy palms on his pants. I got this! I like him, and he likes me! He made his way over to the couch and plopped down with no grace whatsoever. As he opened his phone again, he took a deep breath, and began to type a message to Akaashi. He bit his lip for a moment, but decided to send them before he had the chance to convince himself not to.

>hey!! so i was wondering, how about we do something special this weekend?
>i could get us a room back at the hotel we met at!! how’s that sound? <3

The seconds blended into a minute, then two, and three. Bokuto began to pace the room restlessly again as he waited -- and then finally, Akaashi responded.

>Sure. I’d like that a lot. Let me know how much I owe you, and I can pay you when we meet up.

“Yes!!”  Bokuto cheered. He pumped his fist in victory, and twirled as he walked to the kitchen. “Yes, yes, yes!”

>you don’t owe me anything!! it’s my treat! <3
>i’ll go take care of reservations and the train and everything! and i’ll tell you when we should meet! <3

He didn’t even wait for a response before he sprinted over to the couch and opened his laptop with slightly shaking hands.

This is it, he thought with a brilliant smile, my big chance!!


I gotta get this right. I can’t mess up!!

Bokuto coughed awkwardly as his reflection stared back at him in the bathroom mirror. “So, Akaashi, you’re pretty great -- no, that’s stupid,  I can’t open like that.” He ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath before starting over. “Akaashi, I drew this thing, and -- ugh, no.” He put his hands on his hips and grinned, “Hey, so I was thinking, I really like you, and...”

With a disgusted sigh, he shook his head and slumped against the wall. “This is stupid! I’m just gonna wing it. It’ll be fine!” He checked his reflection again, and smiled. “Yeah! I’m great, and I look great, too! Plus, he already kissed me, right? He’ll say yes for sure!”

With that thought boosting his confidence, he made his way back to his bedroom, and began to whistle as he packed his bags. Just ten more hours until they met up to take the train -- and soon after, Bokuto would finally make his move.


Akaashi spent more time than he cared to admit carefully selecting what he’d wear on the trip. It wasn’t uncommon for him to take a few minutes to make sure his outfit for the day looked good, but he had a feeling that this was something special, and he wanted to make sure he looked nice.

Though, I guess I don’t really need to worry about it all that much, he thought as he inspected a long sleeved, black v-neck. He already seems pretty convinced that I’m unreasonably attractive. With an embarrassed smile, he folded the shirt in his hands and packed it into a small overnight bag on his bed.

Packing only took a few minutes; they’d only be gone for a couple days, after all. His telescope was still bagged up from his last trip to the countryside, so he didn’t even have to bother with getting it ready -- and he was definitely bringing it along.

Looking up at the sky with Bokuto-san was enjoyable before, but now... it might really be something incredible, Akaashi thought with another smile. I’m looking forward to it.


Bokuto felt his heart start beating faster the second he heard Akaashi’s soft knock at the door.

He jumped up from his couch and ran over to answer it; he opened it without even asking who it was, and greeted Akaashi with a bright, warm smile. “Hey hey heeey! Let me grab my stuff really quick, and then we can head out! Sound good?”

“Sure. Should I wait here?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m all packed! It’ll just be a second!” He ran back over to the couch, and came back a moment later with his bag slung over his shoulder. “Okay, let’s go!”

“Aren’t you going to wear a scarf?” Akaashi asked as Bokuto locked the door behind him.

“Huh? ‘Course not! You’re wearing the one I gave you, right? So I don’t need to!”

Akaashi sighed. “Bokuto-san, we don’t always have to share, you know.”

“Yeah, but there’s no harm in it, right? It’s fun!” he beamed. “C’mon, don’t be so grumpy!” He reached for the end of Akaashi’s scarf as he laughed, and draped it over his shoulder with a little flair. “Wow, I look great, don’t I?” he asked with a wink.

“You’re embarrassing as ever,” Akaashi grumbled with no real malice. Bokuto just smiled wider when he noticed the faint tint of pink on the astronomer’s cheeks, and slung an arm around his shoulder; Akaashi tightened his grip on his bags so that he wouldn’t drop them. He gave the artist his best unimpressed stare, but Bokuto seemed entirely unfazed and just laughed once more.

“Want me to carry one of those for you? Oooh, is that the bag your telescope is in?!”

“No, I’m fine, and yes, it is. I figured I’d bring it again, especially since the skies are supposed to be very clear this weekend.” A man on the elevator gave them a funny look as they stepped in; Akaashi felt a small trickle of unease, but Bokuto didn’t even seem to notice, and kept his arm firmly around Akaashi’s shoulders.

“Awesome! I can’t wait! Are you gonna look at Jupiter and Saturn again?” he asked cheerfully.

Akaashi nodded. “If you want to, sure. I can also look at some other planets, and point some constellations out to you, as well.”

Bokuto beamed at him, full of genuine warmth and adoration, and Akaashi felt his heart flutter. A moment later, the elevator reached the lobby floor, and the doors opened with a quiet ding; they stepped out and made their way to the train station, with Bokuto chattering excitedly the entire way. The station wasn’t very far, not that Akaashi would have minded if it was; walking with the charismatic artist was as enjoyable as ever.

Once they’d boarded their train, Bokuto sat unnecessarily close as always as he pulled a sketchbook and a pencil from his bag. Akaashi looked at him curiously, but Bokuto had already flipped to a blank page and begun to draw while he hummed a tune under his breath.

A rush of fondness nearly stole Akaashi’s breath away as he watched quietly. He could have been doing anything else; going over articles on his phone, reading a book, or even watching something on his laptop.

But as he watched Bokuto work, he felt at peace and content. The light of the sun illuminated the artist’s face with a warm, almost angelic glow -- and Akaashi had to fight back the sudden urge to lean over, to close that last little bit of distance between them and kiss him once again.

Soon, he thought with a small, private smile. Soon enough.


Bokuto practically skipped to the hotel and up to the front desk, with a mildly embarrassed and exasperated Akaashi following close behind.

He was cheerful all the way to their room, but as soon as he opened the door, he seemed to become a little more nervous. Akaashi followed him in and closed the door behind him; Bokuto set his bag on the bed near the window, and Akaashi put both of his on the one on the other side of the room.

“So, um!” Bokuto opened his bag and pulled out a sketchbook -- the same one that Akaashi had given him as a holiday present. “I sort of... Well... Close your eyes!”

Akaashi felt a tingle of anticipation as his eyes slipped shut. “...Are you going to give me something, Bokuto-san?”

“Yeah, I guess I’m pretty obvious, huh?” he laughed sheepishly.

“Subtlety isn’t exactly your strong point,” Akaashi agreed. Bokuto pouted a little, and even though Akaashi couldn’t actually see him do it, he sighed with exasperated fondness. “Your strength lies elsewhere.”

“Oho?” Bokuto smiled. “Like where?”

“I don’t really need to keep my eyes closed if you just want me to praise you, do I?” Akaashi asked drily.

“No no no! Keep them closed!” Bokuto pleaded. “Sorry! I’ll get you to compliment me later, I guess,” he said with a grin as he opened the sketchbook and pulled out a loose page. He put the book on the bed, and then walked closer to Akaashi with the drawing held carefully in his hands.

It was silent for a moment as he desperately tried to think of what to say, and suddenly he regretted not practicing more in front of his bathroom mirror when he had the chance. His thoughts stumbled over each other as he tried to come up with something, anything even vaguely romantic, and he blurted the first thing that came to mind --

“I know you kissed me the other night!”

Akaashi’s eyes flew open as his entire face turned red. Bokuto was pretty sure it was the first time he’d ever seen the other man completely speechless.

“Oh shit, I’m so bad at trying to be a smooth talker,” Bokuto groaned.

“Yes, that’s obvious,” Akaashi finally managed to say. His eyes flickered down to the drawing in Bokuto’s hands, and for the second time in the span of a few moments, he found himself speechless.

 

 

“I told Kuroo I wanted to confess, but I had no idea how!” Bokuto blurted. “So he told me to draw, but I wanted to do something a little different than normal, so uh...”

“It’s beautiful,” Akaashi said quietly. A soft smile spread over his face as he gently touched it. “You used the colors I told you I liked... Was that difficult?”

Bokuto stepped closer with a smile that was equal parts pleased and nervous. “A little!” he admitted. “I’ve only been using black, white and gray for so long, you know? But I... I really wanted to try and make something special for you. I wanted to show you how much you mean to me! Which is kinda why I wanted to give it to you where we met, too...” He shifted anxiously and laughed a little; when Akaashi took the drawing from his hands and set it carefully in the sketchbook, he looked confused.

The astronomer turned towards him and stepped close; he paused for a moment, and then reached down to take Bokuto’s hands into his own. “...Were you pretending to be asleep?” he asked suddenly.

“No!” Bokuto replied immediately. “I usually stay up later than that, but I was so comfortable next to you that I started dozing off, you know? But then I felt you move, and then you kissed me before I could come around entirely. And I didn’t wanna scare you off so I just sort of... froze?” He laughed nervously. “Um, but now that we’re both totally awake, y’know, I wouldn’t mind--”

Akaashi stepped forward and closed the remaining distance between them. His lips were warm and soft against Bokuto’s; he felt almost electric, surprised at his own boldness. Bokuto blinked in surprise for a moment, caught completely off guard, but then his eyes slipped shut and he pushed gently back into the kiss with a breathless little laugh.

“You’re amazing,” he said a moment later when he broke away. He smiled and squeezed Akaashi’s hands. “I... I really like you, Akaashi!”

“Yes,” Akaashi said with a soft smile, “I could tell. I like you too, Bokuto-san.”

Yes!!  Score! Oh, man, I’m so happy!” Bokuto danced in place a little with a radiant smile. “So, does that mean... are we... y’know. Boyfriends?” he asked.

“Yes,” Akaashi said with a small laugh, “we’re boyfriends.”

“Hell yeah!” Bokuto cheered again. “Oh, I should tell Kuroo! He’s been trying to set us up literally since the first day I saw you, I’m not even joking.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.” He smiled as he said it, though. Bokuto sent a single message and then slipped his phone back into his pocket.

“He wants all of us to hang out sometime when we’re free. We could do something really, I dunno, low stress? Like a movie night, or something! Double dates! What do you think?” he asked with a warm smile.

“Sure. Sounds good,” Akaashi agreed easily. “I’d look forward to something like that, honestly.”

“Awesome!” Bokuto cheered. “Hey, wanna go look at the stars later on?” he asked brightly. “Our first real date as boyfriends!”

“Yeah,” Akaashi said as he pressed a soft kiss against Bokuto’s cheek, “I’d like that a lot.”


“How many stars are there?” Bokuto asked quietly.

They were laying side by side in the field and looking up at the sky together; Akaashi’s scarf was looped loosely around their necks.

“It’s impossible to know,” Akaashi replied. “Our own galaxy has around 300 billion stars, and astronomers generally agree that there are likely more than 100 billion galaxies... more than we can ever fathom. Space is truly endless.” He pointed up. “See these that connect there?”

“Uh... Oh! There? Like the two... sort of mushy square shapes? With arms?”

Akaashi laughed quietly. “Yes. That’s Orion. Those three stars right there are called Orion’s Belt. It was named after a hunter in Greek mythology.” He pointed to a different spot. “See that bright one, with the four others near it?”

“Yeah! Is that another one?”

“Yes. The other stars near it, too -- they make up another constellation called Taurus, the Bull,” he smiled. “Stars have been a source of awe and guidance for humanity for millennia. A lot of people like sailors have used them as navigation, to find their way.”

Bokuto was silent for a moment as he processed the information, and then a slow smile spread over his face as he reached over to gently hold Akaashi’s hand. “I guess they did that for me too, huh?”

Akaashi turned his head to look over at him. “What do you mean?”

“They led me to you.” He met Akaashi’s gaze, his golden eyes full of love and adoration. “That’s how we met, because of the stars.”

Warmth seemed to seep into every part of Akaashi’s soul at the words; he leaned forward, and gave Bokuto a soft kiss as the tips of his ears turned pink, both from the chill of the night and his own embarrassment. “...Thank you,” he said quietly.

“For what?” Bokuto asked.

“For finding me,” Akaashi smiled back.

Bokuto squeezed his hand and leaned in closer. “Thank you!  For... for existing!” he laughed breathlessly. “You’re amazing, Keiji.”

Akaashi felt like he was flying. “You’re pretty incredible too, Koutarou.” He gestured to the sky. “There are infinite stars and planets, glowing in the darkness of space. But... to me, you’re the brightest star of them all.”

Bokuto laughed, breathless and full of radiant joy as he leaned over to kiss Akaashi once again. Being with him feels as easy and as natural as breathing, Akaashi thought fondly. And I can’t wait to see what our future brings.

They stayed there for hours together, hand in hand, looking up at the canvas of the sky painted with planets and constellations.

If heaven on earth is real... then this is definitely it.

 



[ the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. --carl jung ]