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We Move Like The Ocean (But I Can't Swim)

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Libraries have always been Akaashi's favorite place. They’re quiet, unlike other the places he goes with Konoha after practice-- mostly bars, or loud basement shows with shitty bands that half-ass their sets-- and there’s something about the smell of paper, old and new, the satisfactory swoosh of a hardcover being closed after the last page, the humor in cracking your knees after standing from a three hour binge reading session, that appeals to him like no other.

Konoha called him a nerd when he found out that instead of catching some extra practice time like Akaashi had been excusing for months, he had been going to an old library on the corner of Grant St. Akaashi, as sheepish as he was being exposed, couldn’t be bothered to apologize. Konoha had been collecting foreign action figures since he was eight; nerdiness is the reason they’re friends-- that and the fact that Akaashi is the only one who will put up with Konoha’s shit, if only barely.

Regardless; Akaashi really, really, likes libraries. And books, of course. Leave it to him to get a job at the local library his second year of college.

 

“Akaashi, dear, could you fetch me a copy of that new one by Broth, or whomever it was. The one about the- yeah, Four. Roth. Veronica. Same thing.”

Mrs. Chiyo, for all of her wrinkles and arthritis-plagued joints, is by far one of the liveliest-- and most comedic-- people Akaashi has yet to meet. He doesn’t often associate with old people (they’re weird to him, alright, and most of them make fun of his messy hair) but Mrs. Chiyo is an exception, one, because she’s his boss, and two, she’s damn hilarious.

“Ah, what would I do without you, boy?” she muses once Akaashi hands the book-- what an overrated series, honestly-- to the girl in front of the library scanner. She glares at him and Mrs.Chiyo, eyeing them with distaste, daring them to make another comment about how dumb her book is. Dear lord, child, Akaashi thinks. Someone should buy you some ice cream, brighten you up. He is only slightly intimidated when she slams the cover shut.

“She was sweet,” Mrs. Chiyo deadpans when the girl flounces out the door.

Akaashi grabs a handful of books out of the turn-in bin and begins to check their labels and quality.

“Right, I’ll be sleeping lightly tonight,” is his response to her query. She chuckles lightly, old lungs making a wheezing protest.

 

A week later he’s put on a late shift, accompanied by Konoha, who chose to pester Akaashi at work rather than get in some much-needed studying. It’s Tuesday, a generally slow day as-is, and so his shift is spent mostly returning books to their rightful shelves and tidying up the row of chairs and cushions in the back.

Konoha has devoted the last half hour of Akaashi’s shift to either throwing balled up sticky notes at Akaashi-- he stopped reading them after, “tits are nice man. excellent. dunno why you like dicks so much… or maybe you’re an ass man…? could see it. butts are great too.”-- or playing floor hockey with the books the library has deemed to have one too many sharpie marks to be readable and a broken yardstick.

Apart from Konoha’s whoops and  victory cries when he makes it into his makeshift goal-- two stacks of textbooks that look too unstable for Akaashi’s comfort-- the store is pretty much dead. There’s a girl studying in the corner, and a man browsing the historical fiction section, but neither of them seems remotely interested in the world outside of their bubble and Akaashi isn’t one to disturb the peace. He assumes the rest of the place is empty though he doesn’t check.

He’s bored and tired, and he wants to read, but he’s got sorting to do and a list of what Mrs. Chiyo likes to call ‘compensation’-- it’s chores-- for him to finish.

Akaashi’s got a stack of books with torn covers mentally labeled ‘to repair’ in one hand, and a stack of non-fiction R’s in the other and is floundering across the room, careening stacks in hand when-- in the midst of half-turned pages and scribbles on wood-- he sees it.

It, or rather, he, was the embodiment of pulchritude (beauty, of the strongest form), the almighty “huzzah!” in an otherwise bland room of books and papers and more books. If there was a god, surely he was trying to ruin Akaashi’s life, for in the corner of the room, nestled between the rows of history books written by authors of the last initial Q, and the bean bags that had very clearly never been used due to a lack of adolescence small enough to fit them, sits quite possibly the man of every woman and gay-- or, god, even straight-- man’s dreams.

He’s sitting cross-legged in what looks like a rearranged version of a beanbag, and he’s holding a fucking sappy ass romance novel, of all things, but Akaashi doesn't even care. He can’t force his gaze away from the man’s eyes, which he can see just above the edge of his novel, gold and so fucking pretty. He’s got a bright ass red hoodie on, that reads the name of an unknown volleyball team. It contrasts the white and black hair on the top of his head in what Akaashi thinks is the perfect mix, and he’s like-- damn. He’s perfect, and Akaashi isn't allowed to stroke his face. He doesn’t deserve this torture.

The stranger looks up, confusion twisting his face ridiculously. It’s adorable. He’s adorable. Akaashi is the biggest creep in the world. He’s pretty sure he’s drooling.

A quirked eyebrow from Mr.Hot beckons a small noise from Akaashi’s throat, but it’s strained, and he really has no fucking idea what he’s trying to say-- to do.

“Oi, Akaashi, do you have that one book about the UFO thing? think Oikawa was talkin’ some shit about it to you at the meet. You should probably give it to him, yeah?” Konoha yells across the library. Life-ruiner.

It takes a lot of strength to pull his eyes away from the boy, and even more to act nonchalant about the whole ordeal as he stutters out a, “Y-yeah, I think. It’s in the Sci-Fi section if y-you wanna look. I’ll be there in a m-minute.” Smooth.

Without further introductions-- the idea of confrontation is painful-- Akaashi turns away from the man and heads down a random aisle, thanking fuck that this man is not a regular and he probably won’t ever see him again. He didn’t even say anything and Akaashi’s already embarrassed to the bone-- something that never happens, because he is calm and reposed and sure as hell doesn’t go weak at the knees for hot strangers.

When Akaashi meets Konoha in the Sci-Fi on his hunt for Oikawa’s nerd book and is greeted with, “Hey dude, you look like shit. What just happened??” he can only stutter out a fragmented response.

“Hot boy.” He says. “Stared.”

“Ohhhhh. Really?”

“It was so bad,” he whines.

“Hah. I doubt-” Akaashi is staring at the boy standing two aisles down. Konoha looks past his shoulder in the same direction, then back to Akaashi, repeats this once more then widens his eyes.  “Oh... oh god. You’re like, seriously fucked in the head,” he laughs.

“Shut up, I know.”

 

An hour or so later, the boy comes to the desk and asks to put a book on hold.

Akaashi makes sure he doesn’t have a shift for the next week. He’d like to avoid all contact with this boy if possible if only to save what remains of his sanity. The guy’s too hot for his own good.

 

When he gets back to work on Monday and finds the same book that was put on hold a few weeks ago back on the shelf, his thoughts are plagued with, “he probably didn’t want to see you, so he didn’t come back.” and “you scared the living shit out of him, you moron.”

As stupid as the idea is, it sticks like glue in his mind the rest of the day.

 

At nine-thirty that night, as Akaashi finishes dusting the corner shelves that people tend to avoid, a customer walks in. He tries to pretend that his heart doesn’t jump at the idea of the boy coming in, as small of a possibility as it is. He returns to the counter and waits for whoever it is to come and check out his book, however long from then that may be.

“You don’t by chance have Norwegian Wood still, do you? I put it on hold last week, but I couldn’t make it back here in time.”

Akaashi startles, looks up and immediately regrets it. He’s here.

One glance at his face has his heart pounding out of his chest, cursing under his breath at the way his palms sweat and debating the idea of suicide as a whole.

“It’s, um, with the uh…” use your words, Akaashi. “The M’s, in the romance section. Right wing. Left, actually. Sorry, uh.” He’s so close to crying already it’s not even funny.

“Thanks…” The look the boy gives him is enough to rip Akaashi’s heart out of his chest. He’s amused, and fuck if his lopsided smile doesn’t make Akaashi’s heart pound, even if it is directed at his stupidity.

“I-isn’t that like a hardcore romance?” He blurts. “Kind of weird, no?” shut up right now if you know what’s good for you. “I-I mean it’s cool if you’re into that, it’s whatever. I, uh, read those sometimes too, but you don’t seem the type. I guess. I mean- shit- ok, yeah. Nevermind.”

There’s a pause, and then the boy’s entire body exhales an obnoxiously loud laugh. Never has Akaashi heard anything more beautiful than the sound that bubbles out of the boy’s chest. It overtakes his whole body, has his shoulders shaking as he desperately tries to keep it inside. Akaashi actually chuckles a bit himself, though he’s mortified and its forced and extremely awkward.

“I’m sorry,” the boy gasps, “but you should see your face. You look like you’re regretting your entire life, it’s too funny.”

“Oh?” Akaashi pouts.

“Yes- I just- holy shit- I don’t even know why this is so funny- I gotta just- geez.” The boy stumbles backward towards the shelves. Akaashi’s brain shouts a “wait no-” at his retreating back, but unfortunate for him telepathic messaging is a skill he has yet to obtain. He’ll be back in like five minutes, probably, but it’s been too long already.

“Found it?” Akaashi chirps when the boy returns, way too excitedly.

“Mmh,” the boy hums. He hands Akaashi his library card, who takes it and tries to ignore the way his fingers brush against his in passing. Images of cliche romance novels romanticizing such small contact flash in his mind and just wow.

He doesn’t think to look for it at first, but it catches his eye on the computer screen when his card is swiped. Bokuto, Kotaro the computer reads at the top, followed by a summary of the boy’s purchases-- none but the current book. He files the name under the ‘important!!’ section of his brain, then cries internally as his brain conjures up some outrageous fantasies of Akaashi screaming said name.

“Here’s that.” He hands the book to Bokuto (because he can think that now holy shit) and contains a deep sigh as he takes it with a nod and heads out of the store.

Akaashi definitely doesn't stare at his ass as he retreats. (Lies.)

 

Kotaro.

The name is stuck on repeat in his mind the rest of the week, over and over until it’s given him a headache. He doesn’t get up the courage to actually say it-- even to the stale air in the back closet-- until the fourth day, and when he does say it he’s mid-conversation with Konoha. He wasn’t even talking about him. He just blurts it and then proceeds to grow fifty shades of red as Konoha stares at him incredulously.

Regardless, he spends the rest of the week mumbling the word under his breath at every chance he gets and staring longingly at the door waiting for a certain white-haired boy to show up.

He doesn't.

 

Two weeks after the last encounter with Bokuto, Akaashi finds himself on the phone after a particularly long and boring shift crying to Konoha whilst downing an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s about the man whose evidently managed to destroy his life after one conversation.

“His eyes, oh my god they’re like honey, I swear to I almost melted they were so pretty. And his hair--” a sob, “holy shit you would not believe-- it’s cool, like it’s fucking white but also black and it’s so so amazing I just-”

“I think you forget that I’ve seen what he looks like.” Konoha mumbles monotonously.

“I think he plays volleyball. He had calluses, and he was wearing a Tokyo hoodie,” he sighs, having reverted to a daydreaming state.

Normally Konoha would make a joke, ask how it was possible he knew what the boy’s-- Bokuto?-- hands were like unless certain things were to happen between them, but there would be no satisfaction from Akaashi’s displeasure-- he’s not even listening. He thinks about hanging up and figures Akaashi wouldn’t even notice.

“Hm. Cool,” he mumbles instead, ever the good friend.

“Oh, that reminds me!” Akaashi suddenly yells. “Coach said he’s got a new member joining starting next week. Said he’s an ace.” Of course, volleyball is the only thing that can deter his mind.

“Oh? I hope he’s good. We’re seriously lacking in the ace department. Probably why we didn’t even make it to the semifinals last year,” Konoha pouts.

“Yeah,” Akaashi replies, his voice is breathy, and fuck he’s thinking about him again. Konoha hopes the fine for second-degree murder isn’t too much. He has to pay for his children’s tuition one day, after all.

“Keiji, I need you to listen to me,” he says, voice dark and threatening.

“Aki-chan?” Akaashi squeaks. Konoha chuckles. “I-I think someone is at the door, I have to go now!”

“No no, Keiji. You are going to sit down, and you are going to listen to what I have to say like it is the key to everything, which, in this case, it kind of is.”

“You’re scary when you’re like this, Aki,” Akaashi whines.

“Anyways. I have a few questions, okay?” his voice leaves no room for protest.

“Sure…?”

“Ok. So… you fell in some sort of strange lust for a guy you just met at a library, yes?”

“Mhm...”

“And he’s like, the love of your life now, right? Think about him all the time, get that weird ass fuzzy feeling shit in your chest when you do, yes?”

“...yes,” he grumbles

“Keiji I am trying to help you here, you gotta be honest with yourself and others, say it like you mean it”.

“Ugh, ok fine, yes. I totally feel like I’m gonna die when I think about him. Are you going to make fun of me now?”

“Later.”

“Aki-”

“Shut up and listen now, this is the important part.”

Akaashi nods, even though Konoha can’t see him.

There’s static as Konoha takes a deep breath, and then, “Keiji, my boy, you are fucking insane. You fell in ‘love’-- major air quotes on that-- with a boy you literally just met.

“Hey at least we’ve ta-”

“You know I thought I was going to be okay with it at first, had this crazy idea that you would get over it in like a few days tops ‘cause I dunno, maybe that’s what normal people do. But no. This is the craziest thing that’s happened since you became the first second year like ever to become a captain. You need to stop.”

The line is quiet for a long time, apart from the sound of ragged breathing as Konoha cools off. The upside to his rants is they only last a few minutes tops, but they’re quite effective-- at least usually, though Konoha thinks probably nothing is gonna get it through his friend’s head that he needs to chill.

“... Are you done?” Akaashi asks once Konoha’s breathing doesn’t give off the vibe that he’s gonna punch a wall.

“Yes. I’m sorry.”

“No, no, you’re right. I sound dumb, huh.”

“Very much so,” Konoha laughs, “And I, as your best friend, am inclined to tell you so...so. There.”

“Of course,” he adopts a faux serious tone as if they're business partners and not best friends. “And I assume you are also telling me indirectly to get over it?”

“Yep. If you bring it up again I’ll probably punch you, so there’s that. Also, you’re mental.”

“You already said that, asshole.”

“Yes, well you didn’t get it the first time because I can tell you’re thinking of it ask we speak you shithead.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry oh my gosh I’ll stop right now. It’s done. I’m not going to think of him. I probably won’t even see him again it’s not a big deal. No longer thinking of his perfect, smooth skin, or luscious, kissable-’

“Goodnight Keiji!”

 

The following Monday brings with it an insane amount of college kids and a highly overflowing book return box. Eventually, Akaashi has to start piling textbooks off to the side, hoping towards whatever god is watching him that they don’t fall over as they grow increasingly taller.

“Man, I don’t know how you do this every day.” someone says.

This familiar face isn’t welcome.

“Didn’t I tell you not to bother me during my work hours? As you can see I’m busy. Leave, Aki.”

“Aww c’mon. You wouldn’t turn down a paying customer, would you?” Konoha pouts. Akaashi takes the textbook Konoha pulls from behind his back with a glare.

“I don’t think paying $15 for a yearly membership qualifies you for that title. You don’t even check out books.” Akaashi deadpans.

Konoha shrugs. Akaashi is just grumpy today-- they both know. The library is crowded-- reinforcing Akaashi’s fear of public places-- and Mrs. Chiyo is out due to a flare in her blood sugar, meaning Akaashi is left alone to deal with the hoards of First, second, and third years alike from Fukurodani Academy all trying to score the best deals on next semester’s used textbooks, and retiring their old ones. It’s a lot for one person to handle.

“I could help you put those away,” Konoha gestures to the ever-growing pile of books. Akaashi fixes him with a condescending glare.

“Last time you nearly broke an entire bookshelf. No way.”

Konoha splutters, “Hey! It’s not my fault you put the heaviest books on the top shelf! Who does that anyways?!”

“Right, well you’re still a moron. Now could you please go? There’s a line and you’re distracting me from my work.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. I’ll see you at practice then.” He leaves with a small wave over his shoulder, leaving Akaashi with the next in line.

“Did you find everything alright?” Akaashi asks the person, not bothering to look up from the book being slid toward him. There’s something familiar about the strangers hands; they’re calloused and bruised in the way a volleyball player’s would be.

“I did! This place is really nice.”

Oh. Oh god. It’s Bokuto.

Akaashi’s head whips up so fast it gives him whiplash.

“B-Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto doesn’t bat an eyelash at the use of his name. Probably assumes he told Akaashi-- he hopes.

“I would say it’s fancy meeting you here, but I already knew you worked here. Also, I’m not stalking you, this is my new local library. Also drop the ‘-san’,” he rambles, “I don’t really care for honorifics, even if you are just my librarian.”

Just his librarian... Right. Ouch. (What did he expect, though? Honestly.)

“I-I see.” Akaashi is so smooth its like water, he swears.

Bokuto is giving him the strangest look.

“I see, as well, then.”

“W-eh??” this boy.

“You do that a lot.”

Akaashi, for the life of him, cannot seem to understand Bokuto in the least bit. “Do what?”

“Stare. I don’t know if it’s just towards me-”

“I’m not star-”

“But I mean, hey, I’m flattered either way. It’s… yeah.”

Akaashi’s face is burning to the tips of his ears. He is going to die.

"W-ha-"

"Well anyways, I have stuff to attend soon and I need to get ready. I'll see you later." He chirps as if they didn’t have the weirdest conversation seconds prior.

He’s here and then gone with a flash. Akaashi is beginning to sense a regular pattern with these meetings. Bokuto comes in, finds some way to ruin Akaashi’s life even more, and then abruptly leaves. He probably doesn’t see it that way, though.

The idea is still very unappreciated, thank you very much.

 

Going to practice later that night is refreshing, seeing as the team had to cancel their last two practices due to trouble with the coach’s family among other things. Of course, Akaashi and Konoha both came in anyways and hit some balls for the first years-- the third years have better things to do, apparently, and they probably still hate Akaashi--, but it’s not the same as playing and working with the whole team. Akaashi missed it honestly, a whole fucking lot.

Something is off with their coach today. Akaashi initially assumes it’s because of whatever was going on last week, but then remembers what his coach told him last week and quickly realizes their new member hasn’t shown up. If there’s anything their coach hates, it’s tardiness. Akaashi hopes for the guy’s sake that he at least shows up late and not ditch, or else he’ll get his ass chewed, and then it’s sayonara, because no one wants to come back after that happens-- seriously, their coach’s yelling voice is as terrifying as his fighting skills, which are like some MMA level type shit.

“Sorry for being late!” Someone yells around ten minutes later, slamming the gym door open with a loud bang. Speak of the devil.

There’s no time to check the newcomer out, as Akaashi is in the middle of a round of sets and hits with two first years. Whoever it is can wait two more sets before his attention is devoted. It’s his fault for being late, anyways.

“Akaashi!” Coach yells the second the last ball falls to the floor, the first year having successfully failed to even get near it.

“You guys seriously need to practice, or I swear to god-” he seethes.

“Keiji,” coach grunts again. Akaashi slouches.

“...Coming.”

He wanders over to the coach, who’s standing on the sides with a clipboard and a stopwatch. The newcomer is nowhere in sight, having probably gone to the locker rooms.

“We have a new player, as you’ve noticed.” Coach starts, “You’re the captain, so I’m introducing you first. In addition, I also wanted to talk with you both about setting up some practice time between you two. He’s probably not going to be a regular to start, but I want you to set wit him so he can work on his hits. He’s got potential, I’ve seen it. Just needs some work.”

“Of course,” Akaashi nods. Whoever this guy is, he must be pretty special to get such high praise from coach right off the bat, especially after showing up late on the first day. It took months for him to warm up to everyone besides Akaashi.

“Ah! Akaashi, meet our new ace,” coach begins, glancing over at a tall boy sliding out of the locker room. He’s got some weird pads on, Akaashi notices first, then glances at the rest of him and holy shit. That white hair,  the eyes- you’ve got to be shitting me. “Bokuto Koutaro. Bokuto, meet the captain, Akaashi Keiji.”

“B-Bokuto?” he squeals, ever the pitiful. Somewhere behind him, a ball is slapped unevenly, and he’s positive he can hear Konoha laughing.

“Yo! Librarian-kun! Didn’t know you played ball!” the boy laughs, smiling to his eyes and waving his hand enthusiastically. “What a coincidence, eh?”

“Yeah, it is.” he answers.

“So you two know each other, then?” coach interrupts, breaking Akaashi out of the weird, confused, trance-like state he was put in after realizing that wow, I’m going to spend the rest of the season hitting balls for the guy I literally fell in love with at first sight.

“We met a couple times at the library,” Bokuto supplies.

“Akaashi totally flipped sh-”

Akaashi takes a ball and throws it. It hits Konoha square in the gut, leaves him crumpled on the floor and sends the team scattering.

“He’s joking,” he laughs and tries to play it off by rubbing his neck when the coach and Bokuto don’t lose their baffled looks. He’ll kill Konoha for that later.

“Right... Anyways, Bokuto, I was telling Akaashi I want you guys to work together some,” coach continues. Akaashi tunes him out for the most part, nodding and responding accordingly when he’s addressed then kind of going into a weird foreign place in his mind, still reeling from the heart attack that the idea of Bokuto being on the team has caused. “Alright, then, Akaashi. If it’s alright with your schedule, I’d like to have you two come in for some extra practice weekly. Just the two of you.”

It doesn’t register in his mind at first what the coach means. Just the two of them… Like, alone. Like, without anyone there-- well, ok, probably coach sometimes. But like- just the two of them. Just Akaashi and his crush, the man he can’t get out of his fucking head. Imagine what he’s gonna think once Bokuto realizes his feelings and then it gets awkward and Bokuto quits and Akaashi becomes the reason they lost their best member and lost and then exile and fuck. This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?

“I’ll see if I can get my boss to switch my shifts,” he says as calmly as possible. If he’s going to make this any easier on himself he has to act as nonchalant as possible. His attraction absolutely cannot get in the way of the team. “We are excited to have you on the team, Bokuto.”

“Mh. I look forward to it.”

He’s so screwed, honestly.

 

As it turns out, Bokuto is actually not a newbie at volleyball. He’s literally like the Cristiano Ronaldo of volleyball, honestly- hot and really fucking good. Maybe he’s being a bit biased, but Bokuto is probably one of the best players he’s seen since that freaky guy from Shiritorizawa.

“Nice Recieve,” Akaashi calls, readying himself for what feels like the hundredth set that night. They’re way past the gym’s closing time, but everyone was so in-zone after two weeks of not playing, plus the added thrill that Bokuto’s spikes carry-- no one wants to leave.

“Yesss!” Bokuto yells when his hand collides with the ball and sends it flying over the net, the receiving team scattering around trying to chase it. It hits the ground with a loud slap and Bokuto lets out another whoop.

One thing Akaashi noticed right away apart from his insane talent was that Bokuto got really excited when he played. It was almost hilarious, watching him chase after every serve like a dog following its tail. He got almost all of them successfully, but the one’s he missed brought upon a pout so depressing Akaashi wanted to cradle him against his chest and caress him forever-- or something like that.

Seeing Bokuto play kind of hit Akaashi hard, not only for obvious reasons, but also because he began to realize how little he really knew nothing about the boy. He knew he liked romance novels and was at least willing to go to a library-- which honestly says wonders, because most people (*cough* Konoha *cough*) refuse to even look at a book-- and he’s a year older than Akaashi, they go to the same college, too--though they had no classes and he’s never seen him on campus-- but personality-wise, Bokuto is a complete mystery. The thought is simultaneously depressing and intriguing, if only because Akaashi loves learning new stuff.

“Dude, seriously, who are you and where did you come from?” Konoha inquires, strolling over with a water bottle and two towels for both of them.

Bokuto laughs, shrugs a little as if he’s actually shy-- how infuriatingly cute-- and replies with a nonchalant, “I used to play as a kid, but never on a team. It’s always been a thing of mine, and a friend of mine-- dunno of you know him, captain of Nekoma now-- helped me keep up with it. I didn’t really like the idea of being on a team at first ‘cause I figured they’d uh.. make fun… of me, I guess. ” The end of his sentence is barely a coherent mumble, but Akaashi hears the sadness in it and his heart lurches a bit.

“You’re great,” he says, then goes ten shades redder, “I-I mean! At volleyball! Your play is, um, really good! You’re not that weird! Or at all, really! Haha…”

Konoha is shaking with laughter, and he’s pretty sure the entire gym is watching now. Akaashi wants to die.

“Right!” coach yells-- thank fuck. “That’s enough for tonight, I think. Everyone go change and then be dismissed.”

Akaashi  all but sprints to the locker room, going to his corner locker and turning his back to everyone so he can blush in peace.

“Dude you are so done for, he’s going to destroy you.” Konoha laughs behind him, followed by a collective of gasps as people put two and two together. Akaashi groans internally.

“You like Bokuto-san?” one of the first years inquires.

“Shh!!” he hisses-- god knows Bokuto could be standing just outside the door.

“He left already, dude, we’re fine,” Konoha assures. That isn’t any better because it means more being picked on. For his captain status, everyone sure is being fucking disrespectful.

“It’s cute really, the way you look at him. Makes sense now,” Komi sneers, laughing as he slides his shirt on.

“When you confess, make sure you tell him he has a nice ass. That always goes down well,” Yamato adds.

“Yeah! Hey, ten bucks says they’ll fuck in the locker rooms!” Someone else laughs.

“I’m convincing coach to make you do twice as many drills for the next month,” Akaashi threatens, which shuts them up. He gets nudges and winks from everyone on the way out, and a, “Go get ‘em, tiger” followed by a collective of laughs, so he isn’t subtle about flipping them off and then heading straight for the coach.

Everyone whines for days after each practice about sore muscles, but Akaashi just laughs.  

 

He wishes there was something exciting to say about practicing with Bokuto, but the way him and Bokuto act is honestly just normal, and the way they practice together alone is pretty much the same as when the entire team is there. Akaashi doesn’t try anything, because for one he has no idea what he would even try, and also because he’s starting to realize-- courtesy of a discussion with Konoha about “dude you’re actually tolerating everyone, even the first years, that’s not normal”-- that working with Bokuto has to be a completely platonic thing or they’re never going to get anywhere.

It’s not like his attraction suddenly disappeared overnight-- he couldn’t get that lucky-- but he’s going to learn to control it for the sake of his position on the team and his own sanity. His relationship status will never be as important as his team-- that’s not going to change.

It gets easier with Bokuto, if only a little. Akaashi manages as best as once can when a walking sex god appears in front of him, and likes to think he’s doing pretty well.

The team focuses a lot of their practices on working with Bokuto, trying to get the feel for his playing style and incorporating it into their own. The coach said he didn’t think Bokuto would be a starter except he’s so much better than anyone could’ve thought that they’ve already started discussing changing that. The team needs Bokuto, badly.

At least Bokuto is happy-- ecstatic, really-- to oblige.

 

Realization hits Akaashi like a pile of bricks a week before a practice match with a team from Tokyo. He’s practicing with Bokuto again-- something they bumped up from one a week to twice, only because Bokuto is having trouble hitting sets from the right-- and Bokuto’s just hit a successful spike. He runs over to Akaashi pretty quickly and slaps him on the back, and for the first time he thinks, ‘how annoying’ and then his world crumbles because what?

The more he thinks about it later, the more he realizes that yeah, Bokuto is really fucking quirky and weird and sometimes he does things that make Akaashi want to slap him upside the head. He’s hyper, easily excited, at times arrogant, and his mood swings could honestly put a toddler to shame. Akaashi then also acknowledges that he’s still madly in love with him-- maybe even more so than before-- and it’s like...why? Why, of all people, does Akaashi get stuck with feelings for the man who is a literal child, worse yet one who drives him-- let’s be honest here-- absolutely insane?

Take back every time he ever thought he was truly fucked beyond repair, because this, ladies and gentlemen, is surely the lowest of the low points in his life. The only upside is he doesn’t even have it in himself to be surprised. So much shit has happened since Bokuto appeared in his life-- why not just add on to the ever-growing list of pain. It’s not like it can get any worse from here, he’s sure.

 

It gets worse. Manageably, but definitely worse.  

It’s not like Akaashi discovers any more unattractive things about Bokuto that will inevitably make his crush bigger-- that stopped after the first month, thank you very much-- but more so like Akaashi still hasn’t found a way to get his chest to stop going apeshit every time he sees the boy, and it’s becoming a serious damper on his mental-- and eventually physical since he’s going to tear his hair out one of these days-- well-being.

And then there’s also Konoha.

Konoha, whom-- for all his good advice and intentions-- does not know when to keep his mouth shut and has come way too close to exposing every one of Akaashi’s dirty little secrets on more than one occasion. One day he is going to take it too far, somebody is gonna kill him, and Akaashi is going to laugh for an hour. Then cry, probably, but that can come later.

On Wednesday, Bokuto hunts him down after practice and brightly asks him and Konoha to get meat buns with him. Akaashi, not seeing a reason not too, accepts gratefully. Konoha is indifferent.

Thinking back on it, he really should’ve said no. Akaashi doesn’t know how he didn’t see it coming when Konoha immediately began whispering stupid jokes and comments into his ear every two minutes. They were alright at first, harmless jokes poked at Akaashi’s choice of shoes-- sandals are fucking comfortable, thank you very much-- and the phallus-like shape of a sign advertising a diner, but then Bokuto offered to pay for both of them-- a harmless act-- and Konoha lost his shit.

“Dude, oh my god. I feel like we’re on a date with the same guy. I feel like I’m betraying you right now,” he cackles into Akaashi’s ear, loudly.

“What the fuck do you mean?” Akaashi hisses back. “People pay for their friends all the time.”

“Yeah but like-”

“What are you two whispering about?” Bokuto asks, looking lost and left out.

Konoha is quick to blurt out, “Akaashi likes when you- mpfh!”

“Shut up, Akinori. He was just kidding, Bokuto.” He says with a smile that has the intent to kill. Konoha licks Akaashi’s hand, but he doesn’t even flinch, waiting until Konoha stops flailing to remove his hand. “You shouldn’t listen to this moron, he talks a lot of shit.”

“Wow, asshole,” Konoha barks.

Bokuto laughs, seemingly forgetting what just transpired and bites into his meat bun with a growl-like hum.

Konoha whispers, “Real catch you’re going after, man.” And Akaashi just about shoves his meat bun in Konoha’s face.

 

"Bokuto," Akaashi tersely greets when said boy walks into the library bright and early Thursday morning.

"Yo, Akaashi!" He cheers in response, brightening up from the lost look he had before. "Do you guys have any spare science textbooks for the semester?"

"I could check, but the ones we have are probably gonna be ripped and missing a few pages" he informs. "What happened to yours, if I may ask?"

Bokuto gives him a nervous glance and a small chuckle, "I uh, lost them. Or something." He mumbles.

"Or something?"

"Ah, I didn't mean anything by that!" He rushed. "I just lost them, I swear."

"Alright, alright. I'll see what we have. You should learn to keep better track of your stuff next time though." Akaashi lightly scolds. Bokuto pouts as Akaashi heads towards the back where they store all the damaged books.

"You're in luck," he says when he returns. "Some girl wrote all over the first few pages it looks like, but the rest should be fine."

"Oh, thanks." Bokuto says, smiling a smile that is all too fake.

"Is something wrong, Bokuto?"

"Huh? Oh, it's nothing." He assures, taking the presented book. "Well, thanks for this. Have a good day, Akaashi!"

"Mm. Have a good day, Bokuto."

He watched Bokuto's retreating back with an unsettling feeling in his gut at Bokuto's ever-present funk. It was probably something trivial, knowing Bokuto, he thinks, then continues on returning books to shelves for an hour.

 

“Bokuto, can you please stop yelling already? You’re freaking people out. This is a library, not a match.”

“I don’t get any of it!” he whines into his hands. “Why the hell do I even have to take calculus again? I did AP in high school for a reason.”

“But you failed, didn’t you?” Deadpan.

“Wha-How can you tell?” he gapes.

“Hmm, dunno. Maybe it’s cause you’re crying like a baby right now, instead of acting like you already know everything. Also, if you’d have passed AP the first time you wouldn’t be taking it again.”

“Sometimes your knowledge is really annoying,” he grumbles.

“It’s common sense, Bokuto.”

“Annoying.” he swears. He looks down at the papers strewn in front of him with all the anger of a boy his size, shrugs, and stands, abandoning the pages in favor of what Akaashi knows is going to be teasing words directed at him. He leans on the counter in front of Akaashi, who is currently searching the library system for a book that he swears he returned but was marked as missing. Bokuto grumbles when his attention is not immediately diverted to the ace.

Bokuto studying at the library became one of the many regular occurrences between them-- on-campus lunch, practice, of course, and other random meet-ups after classes and/or practices were also among that list, and it’s fucking hectic.

Sometimes Akaashi looks at his life and what it’s become and wonders what the ever-loving fuck it was he did before Bokuto came around. The boy is such a stable--except for the fact that he’s literally destroying everything--  part of his life now that, if he were to up and leave, Akaashi thinks he would probably curl up and cry for lack of a better use of his time. (Also because he’d miss him, alright, but whatever.)

If he didn’t know better-- let’s admit it, he’s wishfully thinking--, Akaashi would say that Bokuto was purposefully spending every free minute of his time around the former just to annoy him, but it’s probably just a coincidence that Akaashi sees him around seventy-five percent of his week. (Except Bokuto totally plans everything, a fact that Akaashi still doesn’t understand.)

“Akaashiii” Bokuto whines, flicking a wad of paper that hits him directly on the side of his nose when he goes into what Bokuto deems his ‘weird, spacey brain place’.

“And you say I’m annoying.” he scoffs, shaking his head slightly in disapproval.

“Your face is annoying.” Bokuto retorts, laughing and clutching his chest as if it’s the funniest thing he’s ever said.

“The ‘your face’ jokes stopped being funny in middle school.” Akaashi flicks the paper back at Bokuto, cursing when he dodges it and it lands somewhere on the floor.

“No but I mean seriously,” Bokuto continues, voice pouty and dumb once he moves his chin to his hand. “You’re always so serious and your expression hardly changes. Y’should smile more.”

“I smile all the time,” he denotes. “Just not around you, I guess.” he wonders briefly if that came out the wrong way. Bokuto sighs.

“Well then, I’m gonna make it my mission to get you to smile a whole bunch. ‘Till your cheeks hurt,” he declares.

“Sure you will,” Akaashi hums. His lips quirk a bit before he can think about it.

“See, look at that, you’re already smiling! No one can resist my charmingness.” he would like to remind Bokuto he didn’t actually do anything, then realizes that would mean he was smiling merely from his presence which is something he is never going to be comfortable with admitting.

He settles for the usual, “You’re an idiot, Bokuto.”

 

Weekly individual practices are become scarcer of an occurrence due to the fact that Bokuto really doesn’t need the practice anymore-- the boy is like a prodigy, basically-- and Akaashi’s boss demanding that he pick up more shifts due to her increasing sickness-- a grim reminder that he won’t be able to see her for much longer that tugs at his heart.

It’s a concept that weighs down on both of them, but it doesn’t really make the weight of itself clear until the coach outright says that they should stop wasting their time after practice, and to basically end practices within the next few weeks. They both go home that day pouting, though for Bokuto it probably wasn’t because he didn’t get to spend alone time with his crush-- he probably just wanted to practice a lot, Akaashi thinks.

On what is probably going to be one of if not their last practice together, Akaashi takes it upon himself to offer to buy both of them meat buns afterwards, to make up for all the times Bokuto did the same for him and as sort of a parting gift, even though they’ll still have normal practices together.

It’s definitely not a date, and he’s definitely not going to try and get in the boy’s pants. He has dignity, damn it, and it’s too soon to confess anything to Bokuto for fear that he might actually die in the process. All they’re doing is going out as friends to get food. No big deal. They do the same with Konoha all the time.

What Akaashi doesn’t take into account is the fact that Bokuto is actually going to be in the same locker room with him alone. Of course, they’ve changed in the same room before, but Bokuto normally doesn’t change when they stay late to do one-on-one because he ends up going home and sleeping anyways, or so he tells Akaashi. Maybe he figured out that Akaashi was gay and just didn’t want to change alone with him-- though he seems to have no problems with it now, whistling obnoxiously as he strips his knee pads and shirt, laughing when he sees the imprints the pads left on his muscular thighs.

Akaashi, on the other hand, has a very big issue. And it’s, well-- it’s kind of currently residing in the nether areas.

Bokuto is literally naked-- well, from the waist up-- in front of him and no one is around to prevent him from and tease him about ogling him. His abs are literally carved by gods, and when he turns around the flex of his shoulders and the curve of his ass are enough to have Akaashi positively drooling.

Think about your boss in the shower, or that one time Konoha peeled off his entire nail and it bled everywhere, dead puppies-- fuck, anything but that boys abs and his shoulders oh my god, penis, no.

He fails completely.

“Akaashi?” Bokuto asks, startling him so much he lets out a yell and scrambles to turn his back to the boy un-purposefully presenting his still bare chest to him. “Are you alright? You haven’t even got your knee pads off yet.”

“I-I’m fine.” he shakily assures, taking a deep breath and swallowing, forcing himself to actually function and willing his dick to calm the fuck down. “I’ll meet you out in a minute if you’re changed.”

“Alright!” is the response. He leaves the room in a pair of jeans that hug his ass nicely-- Akaashi only knows that ‘cause he caught a glimpse, he so wasn’t staring-- and a black t-shirt.

Akaashi uses his time alone to fight off the remnants of his boner and to get changed into an old t-shirt and sweats. He hopes Bokuto won’t mind the tea stain on his shirt. He probably-- hopefully-- wont even notice. Akaashi is way too self-conscious for this.

“Sorry,” Akaashi hums when he appears through the locker room doors to see Bokuto staring at the ceiling boredly. “Ready?”

 

Their not-so-date goes pretty much as well as Akashi could have hoped. Bokuto is an idiot the entire time, whining about the temperature of his meat bun most of the time and devoting the rest of it to whining about some friend of his-- Kuroo, he thinks-- who stopped letting him into his bar after one mishap involving vodka and a blowtorch that almost destroyed the place.

Akaashi listens quietly, for the most part, adding in small teasing comments when he thinks of them. It’s really nice, and as they walk towards their homes Akaashi can’t help but feel like this is exactly what he wants. He just wants to be with Bokuto, regardless if it’s in a committed relationship or not. It’s like-- a relationship would be great, but he wouldn’t risk this for that ever. He’s content for the first time in a while, isn’t on edge for fear of being found out because it probably doesn’t even matter. He just wants Bokuto to be by his side. It’s funny how such a simple outing brought upon the realization that “hey, maybe I’ll be okay if he doesn’t like me back,” but he doesn’t care. He’s having a great time, and he’s not going to think about it too much.

All good things come to an end, Akaashi supposes, but as they part ways where one’s house is to the left and the other straight forward, he doesn’t feel as disappointed as usual. He’s come to terms with this, whatever it is, and knows that there will be other times.

“I had a good time tonight, Akaashi.” Bokuto sighs, taking a few steps towards the curb and stopping.

“Mm,” Akaashi responds. “I’ll see you at practice tomorrow, Bokuto, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Bokuto nods, the yellow glow of the streetlight above brightening up his eyes in a way that makes Akaashi’s heart flip. “Hey listen-” he blurts when Akaashi begins to turn away. His grip on Akaashi’s arm startles them both apparently because he retreats it not a beat later.

“Yes, Bokuto?”

“You can um, you can call me Kotaro, if you want. From now on. I mean, I’d like you to, so…”

What odd parting words, Akaashi thinks. He doesn’t voice this.

“Sure, then.” He says, smiling softly at the embarrassed hue of Bokuto’s cheeks. “See you tomorrow, then. Kotaro.”

He walks off feeling strangely like a weight has been removed from his chest. Like the idea of making it with Bokuto-- Kotaro-- around isn’t as stressful as it was once thought to be. Maybe his heart still beats irregularly and it kind of hurts, but it’s pleasant, like a reminder of all the things he wants to say, and it’s a lot easier to cope with the feelings he initially thought to be the work of the Devil himself.

I can get through it.

 

“Say, Akaashi-kun. Who is that lovely boy studying over there? You’ve been staring at him for the past ten minutes.”

Akaashi nearly chokes on the water he was drinking, holding his coughs in with his hand as Mrs. Chiyo hobbles over to the counter beside him and sets down a stack of books.

“He’s just a friend!” he yells, a bit too loudly apparently as Bokuto looks up from his notes. The urge to dive behind the counter is strong, but he’s already been spotted. He offers Bokuto a nervous wave in hopes he doesn’t have an idea what Mrs. Chiyo is implying.

“Your friend is cute,” Mrs. Chiyo says, wiggling her eyebrows in a way that old ladies really should not, especially because he knows exactly what she means by it.

“M-Mrs. Chiyo!” Akaashi splutters, positive his face is as red as a tomato. Mrs. Chiyo chuckles and pats his hip in a teasing manner. “I-It’s not like that!” he grumbles.

“Right, right.” she says knowingly.

“Hey, Keiji, can you come help me with this? You took Biology two already, right?” Bokuto asks. Mrs. Chiyo smiles at the use of his given name. Akaashi pretends that his boss is totally not making fun of him about his crush while he’s right there.

Some old people just know too much.

 

“Dude. Bro. Bruh. Dudebro. Let’s go drinking.” Konoha says later that night after having shown up at Akaashi’s house at literally nine pm smelling of booze.

“Seems like you’ve already done that,” Akaashi chooses to comment, instead of answering his previous invitations. No way is he going drinking today, he’s tired.

“That was just the warm-up, man. ‘M not even drunk yet.”

Akaashi fixes him with an unimpressed gaze. “I have class tomorrow in the morning. I can’t, plus I don’t want to.”

“Come onnnnn,” he whines, puffing his cheeks like a child. “Kenma says he just got a job working with a friend at some downtown place. At least come check it out and say hi.” he begs.

Akaashi hasn’t talked to Kozume Kenma in at least a year. He knows Konoha kept up with him, but it honestly means no difference to him that he’s now working at a bar. Seeing him now will surely be weird.

“I have things to do, sorry.” he shrugs.

“Ah! But Kenma says Bokuto’s friend works there too.” Konoha chirps.

“So?”

“So? So? Don’t you wanna hear the dirty details? All the stupid shit Bokuto’s done? Anything?” Konoha presses.

“I’m pretty sure we already know how stupid he can be. Besides, I don’t think I can just walk in and demand to know everything.” Akaashi points out, going to close the door.

“You suck,” Konoha snaps. “And here I was thinking I’d invite Bokuto to come with us. Fine, fuck you too.”

 

“You are such a fucking liar Konoha and I hate your guts.” Akaashi hisses over the clattering of beer bottles and glasses.

The bar they entered is in some old building on the corner of who-knows-where. It’s exterior appearance seems outdated and like it’s been through ten-too-many owners. The interior, however, is actually pretty nice, dim lighting and pool tables giving off a sultry feel, and the chairs and couches make it seem comfortable enough. It’s not bad, Akaashi guesses.

“Dude you really should’ve seen that coming. Why the fuck would I invite owl head to a place like this?” Konoha laughs, sliding up to the bar and stealing an available seat in front of it. The bartender, a tall, lanky boy who can’t be any older than Bokuto and that seemingly has no concept of what a hairbrush is, judging by his mop of hair, sidles up to them and asks for their orders. Akashi glares but orders a beer whilst Konoha chooses to go for shots right off the bat. This is probably going to be a long night.

“Maybe because you know his friend works here?” Konoha ignores him with a shrug.

“Is Kenma by chance working tonight?” Konoha asks when the bartender hands them their drinks.

“You guys know Kenma?” he asks, seemingly surprised. Konoha nods. “He’s on break right now, but he’s just out back if you want me to go get him.” he says.

“No, that’s fine, we can wait.” Konoha responds, downing his shot in one go and passing it back for round two. The bartender whistles, impressed.

“I’m Kuroo, by the way. Friend of Kenma’s. Also the captain of the Nekoma Volleyball Club, if you guys know what that even is.” he says.

“Woah, seriously? You’re from Nekoma? That awesome, dude, your team is great! I’m Konoha and this grump over here is Akaashi. We play on Fukurodani’s team.” Konoha blabbers excitedly. Akaashi nods his head in recognition and glares at Konoha, sipping his beer while Konoha and Kuroo make animated discussion.

Kenma comes in a few minutes later and pulls Kuroo away from his new BFF, pushing him to serve more customers. Akaashi doesn’t miss the small tap Kuroo lands on Kenma’s butt and the accompanying blush on Kenma’s cheeks. There’s probably a story behind that. It’s not his business to ask though.

“Hey,” Kenma quietly greets them.

“Yo! Kenma, dude. Kuroo is awesome! Why didn’t you tell me you were dating the captain of Nekoma?”

He, apparently, knows what’s going on.

“Please keep it down, Konoha-san. We’re not supposed to talk about that at work.” Kenma sighs.

“Sorry.” Konoha shrugs. “So how are things at your new place?” The conversation turns into casual chat that Akaashi tunes out, idly watching Kuroo flounce around mixing drinks and occasionally offering input on Konoha and Kenma’s conversation.

The bar empties out for the most part around 10 when the main group of drinkers decides to hit the clubs, so Kuroo makes his way over to Akaashi, much to his chagrin as he really just wants to sit and drink his beer in peace.

“So you’re on the same team as Kotaro, aren’t you?” he inquires.

“Yeah, we are.”

“Ah, that’s cool. He’s a rad dude. A bit insane, but he’s got a good heart, lots of energy too.” he chuckles.

“No kidding,” Akaashi scoffs. Kuroo lets out a hearty laugh.

“You know I had to tell him to stop coming in here-”

“Because of the thing with the vodka torch, right?” Akaashi finishes. Kuroo gives him an impressed look. “He told me all about it after one of our practices, seems he was pretty mad at you.”

“He’s just a big baby,” Kuroo laughs. “Hey, can I ask your name again? Sorry, I was pretty busy earlier and forgot.” he says sheepishly, somewhat like he’s thinking of something important.

“Akaashi.” he supplies.

“Hm, guess not, then.” he mumbles to himself.

“What’s that?”

“Oh, nothing. Ko was just talking about this guy last time he was here, seemed like he meant a lot to him. I can’t remember his name exactly, Keiko or something.”

Akaashi’s heart skips a beat for a second.

“Holy shit, it was Keiji, right?!” Konoha blurts out of nowhere, looking at Akaashi excitedly. Kenma too is looking at him, sizing him up as if he knows something they don’t.

“It was, actually!” Kuroo says. “So you guys know him?”

“That’s, um, me.” Akaashi says uncomfortably. Kuroo’s face goes serious immediately like he’s said too much.

“Oh. That’s cool. He was just talking about what good friends you guys were,” he coolly remarks.

Konoha nudges Akaashi in the side hard. Meanwhile, Akaashi does his best not to freak the fuck out because "Bokuto talked about me". Even if it was just a platonic type thing, he can’t stop his heart from practically leaping out of his chest.

“I guess were kinda close,” Akaashi responds.

The conversations move on to other topics, but Akaashi keeps getting the weirdest feeling every time Kuroo glances over at him, almost like he’s being observed and taken notes of.

Kuroo and Kenma are decent company, and thankfully no one stumbles out when they leave at twelve, but he’s still conflicted between the happiness he feels from what Kuroo said and the unease he got from Kuroo’s observation.

His night wasn’t too bad overall, he supposes. Konoha is probably gonna cry tomorrow, though.

 

The team’s first big match of the spring season happens two days after the bar scene, week before their tournament. It’s a practice match, but it’s against one of the best teams in the Tokyo district, whom they’ll be facing in the tournament eventually if they’re good. Winning this match will be a huge boost to the team’s morale and will definitely make the upcoming tournament seem like less of a hurdle and more like riding a bicycle up a hill-- harder but not impossible in the least bit.

Akaashi was pretty worried about the match, if he’s being honest. He’s seen the other team play and, well, they don’t get the title as best in the district for nothing. Their setter has some insane power and their ace-- despite being the shrimpiest person Akaashi’s ever seen-- can hit some crazy-fast balls. Fukurodani’s receives are going to have to be perfect and their offense has to make sure they get as many points possible while it’s their ball or they’re going to get crushed.

The start of the game has Akaashi biting his nails. They’re rusty, their defense having been compromised by the shock of the spikes shrimpy hits, and they only get the ball for maybe five minutes total the whole set, losing it by more than seven points.

Akaashi fears his team will give up having been faced with such an unbeatable challenge, but is pleasantly surprised when Bokuto begins yelling some cliche about relying on each other as a team and working together blah, blah, blah. His speech is unconventional to say the least, but somehow it does the trick. They take their second set with a lead of two.

The last set is definitely the scariest of the three-- but not for them. There’s an intense aura surrounding the team, a mixture of determination, anger, and vengeance. Everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs, calling out over and over and over for more, crying out and slapping balls had enough to bruise until the end. When set point comes around everyone fires up even more, Konoha is practically jumping out of his shoes at the slightest shift and Bokuto’s following the ball eagerly with his eyes like a dog being offered treats. Akaashi can see some of the first years on the opposing team shaking in their shoes and he chuckles to himself.

This. This is why he loves his team. They may not exceed in many areas, but they play their hardest when it counts, and they sure as hell don’t make losing an option. Akaashi wouldn’t trade them for the world.

The moment Bokuto slaps the final ball to the floor on the opposite side of the net is all at once exhilarating and relieving. The minute the official point is called and the match is declared finished, the entire team erupts into overwhelming cheers and victory cries. Akaashi lets out the longest sigh of his life and yells out, “ALRIGHT,” running immediately towards Bokuto.

He swears it’s the adrenaline that makes them do it, but he’s in Bokuto’s arms before he can even think about it, spinning around and embracing tightly in the sweatiest hug ever until the rest of the team crowds them and they form a huge team-hug in center court. Everyone is laughing and smiling, talking about how relieved they are about this match, thanking coach and Akaashi for their hard work with the team.

 

Akaashi doesn’t think about the embrace him and Bokuto shared until later that night, too caught up in the thrill of winning to care about anything else, but then it hits him like a bulldozer and he can’t stop. Can’t get it out of his head, can feel it on his skin the rest of the night even after he showers for the second time.

That was-- well, it was exciting, and they were pretty pumped, so maybe it wasn’t too weird to everyone else. Except no one else ever hugs just one person like that, no one else spins them around like that. No one else probably gets butterflies thinking about it, either. His sanity really did not need to know what it was like to be embraced by Bokuto Kotaro.

He calls Konoha late at night after a long time of laying awake in bed thinking about it and burying his face in his pillow out of embarrassment.

“Stop freaking out about what that kid thinks so much and just do something, please.” is the first thing Konoha whines when he answers. Of course, he knew exactly what this was about. His best-friend intuition is seriously annoying.

“Hello to you, too, Aki.” he sighs.

“Hi, yo, whatever. Anyways, when are you gonna ask out owlhead? ‘Cause like, this is getting to a point where I’m not even sure how you’re keeping your feelings in, he’s driving you mad-- I can tell. I’m seriously waiting for you to spontaneously combust though, and then a whole bunch of glitter and shit that represents your feelings for Bokuto is gonna fly everywhere and coach is gonna make us clean it up, and the whole time I’m gonna be thinking, why, Keiji? You shoulda told the boy and saved us all…” He finishes off with a voice fade that is way too dramatic and has Akaashi’s eyes rolling into his skull. He hopes Konoha won’t bring up what happened earlier He would like very much to talk about anything but that.

“Do you even know what you’re rambling on about?” he asks, because he sure doesn’t.

“To be honest, no. But the point is that you need to ask Bokuto out. Like, right now. You two are seriously painful to watch.”

“What you you mean ‘us two’?”

“Dude,” Konoha gawks, “that boy is so infatuated with you, it makes me sick.”

“What? No. You’re crazy. He acts the same with everyone. Fuck, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s asexual or something.” Akaashi denies though his heart flutters at the idea. As if.

“Then he’s the gayest asexual I’ve ever seen,” Konoha laughs. “Seriously man, he’s always checking you out in the changing rooms. Also, how the fuck do you explain what happened after the game today?” Well, there it is.

“You over analyze everything too much.” Akaashi scoffs. “It was just because of the adrenaline. You’re also just saying that to make me feel better.”

“Fine, don’t believe me then. Just trying to give you some tips, man.” he sighs, faux hurt ringing in his voice.

“How about instead of telling me lies about how he sees me, you tell me how to actually get him to like me. Because he sure as hell doesn’t see me like that right now.”

“Dude no,” he says not a second after Akaashi finishes. “No, no, no. There is no way I am going to tell you how to flirt because there are things in this world that certain people should just not do. You, Akaashi Keiji, are not made to flirt. I am not letting you embarrass yourself like that.”

“What does that mean?!” Akaashi squawks. “Are you saying I suck at flirting?”

“Oh my god yes. Dude I’ve seen you trying to get at boys before, and it’s seriously embarrassing. It’s like-- it’s just terrifying.”

“You’re an asshole.” he grumbles.

“Hey, I’m just telling the truth. Also, I have to go, but going back to what I was saying before real quick, ask the fucking boy out already.” he hangs up immediately after. Akaashi shoves his head in his pillow and groans.

 

It’s one thing to convince yourself to do something, and it is an entirely different thing to follow through. Especially if the task at hand is one that makes breathing a challenge and frightens you to the point that there’s no way you will ever be able to talk yourself into it, but try you do.

In Akaashi’s case, he’s, for lack of a better phrase, utterly fucked.

It takes almost two weeks of mental pep-talks and constant pestering from Konoha, but somehow he’s managed to convince himself that asking Bokuto out isn’t going to earn him the cold shoulder and quite possibly a slap to the face-- not that Bokuto would ever hit him, he’d do that part himself. It’s an absolutely crazy idea, so he has no clue why he’s currently standing outside the campus gym fifteen minutes early, waiting for the boy who’s got him literally self-destructing.

The way he sees it, there’s really nowhere else this-- him and Bokuto-- will go if he doesn’t man the fuck up-- words courtesy of Konoha. So, he told himself, “Fuck it,” grew a pair, and then-- well-- here he is. In the pouring rain. Waiting for Bokuto-- whom he figured out came to practice early every day since the mishap the first day-- and he’s on the edge of breaking down..

His balls have pretty much inverted at this point from the nerves and chilly breeze, but fear he does not, for the minute he see’s Bokuto and realizes that he’s about to either change his life for the best or destroy it, his heart beats fast enough to supply more than enough blood to his nethers and icy fingers alike.

The second-guessing thoughts start flowing when Bokuto actually notices him, because he looks positively ecstatic and if he says no to what’s coming there’s no way Akaashi will ever see that imperfect smile again and that’s really not okay. He’s not okay. This fucking rain isn’t okay. Nothing is ever okay.

“Akaashi!” Bokuto greets, oblivious to the way Akaashi is shaking for all the wrong reasons.

“Kotaro,” he responds nervously.

“What’s up? It’s pretty cold out here, huh?”

“Yeah, it is.” he sighs, bracing himself for what he’s planning next. His mind reels with doubt, but he forces it back, forces himself to face Bokuto straight on because dammit, he’s never been a quitter and he’s not going to become one now. With one last breath, he begins. “Hey listen Ko-”

“I have something to ask you.” Bokuto blurts. Akaashi, taken back, nods. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

“U-um,” he mumbles. It registers immediately that Bokuto is acting weird-- hands fidgeting and sweating way too much for the temperature currently-- and he’s absolutely confused because that’s not how it should be. Akaashi is the nervous one. Bokuto is supposed to be the one who acts confused and possibly disgusted, depending on whether or not this goes well. Bokuto’s mood is, to be honest, killing the moment.

“Okay, so like, I know you probably have work later and stuff, and you probably won’t want to, but I was thinking-- hoping, kind of-- that we could go get drinks later? Like, just us?”

The way he says it-- wringing his fingers and voice shaking unevenly-- it’s almost as if Bokuto-- dare Akaashi think it-- is nervous as if this is a date. And that’s-- wow, that’s just- holy shit.

That, of course, wouldn’t happen, though.

Get That Idea out of your head, Akaashi!

“Sure,” is the cool reply, leaving all the screaming internally for the time being.

“Really? I mean- great! That’s great! Um, I can meet you after practice, then? Or if you have something to do I can wait and meet you later, or we could reschedule it doesn’t have to be today jus-”

“Today is fine, Kotaro.” Akaashi smiles warmly at him. “I’ll meet you out here when I’m done changing.”

Bokuto nods as if he doesn’t dare speak and bounces on the balls of his feet.

“Is something wrong, Kotaro? You’ve been jittering for the past five minutes.”

“I-It’s nothing!” he yells suddenly, “I- I’ll see you l-later, A-Akaashi! It’s a date!” then runs off as if the boogie man is out to get him.

Akaashi freezes for a long minute, blinking a few times as if it will clarify everything. Did he just..? Akaashi could’ve sworn Bokuto just said a date. As in like… I want to go on a date. I want to date you.

There’s no way his ears aren’t messing with him.

 

Doubting everyone and everything is kind of a second nature for Akaashi. He tries really hard not to think about it and the let it be, but it’s not necessarily surprising that he ends up contemplating the meaning of life five minutes into practice.

There is absolutely no way Bokuto asked him on a date. If there was a scale that measured the possibility of things, Bokuto asking him on a date would be like a negative two hundred. He doesn’t even like Akaashi that much, why would he ever ask him out?

There’s been a huge mistake with his hearing. He’s going to call a doctor.

His confusion is somewhat-- mostly-- his own fault. Part of him-- the rational side-- knows there’s no way in hell that something this good would ever happen to him, and it tells him to leave the subject be. The madly in love part of his brain, however, prevents that, prays to god that maybe just this once it’ll get what it wants. Akaashi for some reason choose to listen to both, and it’s spinning his brain in circles.

The chance that he actually heard wrong is low, he knows, because he’s god damn good ears and Bokuto was practically yelling, but his mind still ends up conjuring a thousand different reasons as to why Bokuto doesn’t really want to go on a date with him. After all, why would he? None of them make sense, but Akaashi firmly believes by the halfway point of practice that it’s not as it seems, and whatever is about to go down after practice is definitely not a date.

It doesn’t help that not only is Bokuto not acting excited in the least bit-- like normal people do when they ask out someone else, though Bokuto is far from normal--  but he won’t even look at Akaashi. He’s been staring off into space the entire practice, looking absolutely like he’s about to hurl. He eventually misses so many of Akaashi’s spikes that the coach yells at him, which has the opposite effect of cheering him up, instead sending him into a funk so deep not even the prospect of free food afterwards could probably get him out.

Akaashi blames his homoerotic tendencies one hundred percent and doesn’t even once think that the cause of Bokuto’s despair is due to something other than the idea that he has to spend his night with Akaashi, as if he’s some horrible monster out for his blood.

This really isn’t what he signed up for.

 

Akaashi changes into his casual wear slowly and as depressingly as one can when pulling on jeans and a t-shirt. Meanwhile, Bokuto seems to think he’s in a fucking race, throwing on his clothes before Akaashi even has a chance to rip off his knee pads, leaving him behind, disappointed and honestly hurt.

The rest of the team chooses not to comment on the obvious tension between the two of them, apart from a confused Konoha who mumbles, “Dude, what happened?” into his ear when he leaves. Akaashi shrugs, honestly confused himself, and promises to tell him later.

He has no idea what to expect when he walks out of the gym doors. The doubtful side of his heart tells him Bokuto is going to be gone, and he tends to go with that side, so he’s startled-- in probably the best way-- when, upon emerging, he’s met with Bokuto-- all 185.3 centimeters of him-- standing to the side of the gym doors against the wall, rubbing a  palm against his neck-- nervous habit?.

Akaashi tries his hardest not to smile when the optimist deep inside himself screams victoriously. Bokuto is here, at least. He’s here, and he’s smiling softly, and he looks positively beautiful. Akaashi can't guarantee that he’s not melting into the ground right about now.

“Are you ready?” Bokuto beckons, nodding in the opposite direction of town.

“Yeah, I guess,” he mumbles. The nod Bokuto gives bothers him-- it’s too awkward, regretful, even.

“Right, then let’s go,” Bokuto chirps, moving from the wall and taking off down the street. Akaashi feels left behind to say the least. This is-- weird.

 

The walk to the bar is extremely tense and awkward. Bokuto stays four steps ahead of him, not once attempting any form of contact-- verbally or otherwise. He figures it’s in his best interests to reciprocate. After all, if Bokuto wants something, he gets it. He doesn’t want to talk, so he isn’t. Simple as that. Akaashi is just being considerate of his feelings.

(If he’s being honest-- completely honest-- he’s pretty pissed, mostly because he’s confused and feeling helpless, partly because Bokuto isn’t being Bokuto and it’s all because of something so stupid.)

Akaashi smiles at the familiar letters on the sign to the bar when they approach-- recognizing it as the bar Kenma and his friend work at--, but holds back a snide comment about Bokuto being banned due to the invisible ties around his vocal cords. Much to his chagrin, Bokuto continues to only look forward as they enter, heading immediately toward the bar and leaving Akaashi to his own devices. It doesn’t feel right to follow Bokuto so he wanders to table in the back corner of the building and takes a seat with a huff.

It’s crowded tonight, but he for once doesn’t mind the lively atmosphere, appreciating the way it brings back his realistic senses and lessens his fear that things are only going to stay awkward and distant.

He watches idly as people play pool at the tables in the center, then watches as Bokuto talks animatedly with Kuroo-- so much more himself now that he’s away from Akaashi-- whose mixing behind the counter. They both glance over at him at once point, Bokuto looking almost embarrassed and Kuroo smiling to his eyes sincerely. Akaashi nods his head towards them and offers a soft smile, bracing himself when Bokuto moves to grab drinks and heads towards Akaashi’s table.

When they’re both seated, Bokuto slides a beer to him and turns his head to the front. It’s not the behavior he was expecting, somehow thinking Bokuto was going to do something and not make Akaashi feel like a complete idiot second guessing himself still, but maybe that’s how he should feel.

This is all Bokuto’s fault. If he hadn’t made that final comment and fucked with his mind, it would be so much easier to just scream, “Bokuto, what the hell?” and force him to talk, to explain why the fuck he’s acting like he’s suddenly terrified of Akaashi. But not now, definitely not not that Akaashi maybe heard what he thinks he’s heard and doesn’t know his purpose for being here, or how to talk to Bokuto without making a fool of himself if he’s wrong. Goddammit it, this is so frustrating.

"I’m an idiot" He thinks immediately after. This has been too long coming for him to just give up without a fight. He sighs, mustering up the courage went unused from earlier before practice and turns a determined towards Bokuto, who looks at him-- for the first time since leaving the gym-- like a kicked puppy.

“Okay, Kotaro” he begins, “Look. I don’t know what the fuck is going on,” he’s probably coming off too angry, but fuck, he’s frustrated, “and I don’t know if what you said earlier was some kind of joke or if I really was hearing things, but I’m pretty sure you fucking said this was a date, and even if it’s not, would you please, for the love of god, stop acting like I’m about to kill you?”

Bokuto looks wide-eyed at him for a good moment, then finally, “I’m an idiot, aren’t I?” he groans, sighing shakily. “I shouldn’t have- I shouldn’t have said that, I’m so stupid, just-”

Oh. Oh. Akaashi’s heart sinks with the weight of what feels like a thousand boulders. “So you didn’t mean it, then?” he asks.

“I didn’t know it would freak you out this much,” Bokuto whines, “I’m so sorry, Akaashi. You really don’t-- you didn’t have to agree to go out with me, I know you’re not gay but I just- When you said yes I was so happy, I didn’t mean to say that much, I’m fine if you just want this to be a platonic thing really, just don’t hate me...”

Suddenly everything begins to make sense, and yet at that same time, what the fuck.

They’re idiots, both of them. Complete, one hundred percent, certified idiots.

Bokuto looks so dejected, and here Akaashi was thinking he was the one being ignored, when really Bokuto was just terrified-- just like him.

“This is ridiculous,” Akaashi exclaims, then laughs, “I cannot believe I’m so stupid. I really- oh my god.” It’s hilarious, honestly, so funny, in fact, that he can’t stop laughing. Bokuto literally just confessed to him and it’s the funniest thing ever because, surprise, he didn’t see what was right in front of him coming at all, ever the fucking pessimist.

“Akaashi..? I’m really sor-”

“Don’t you dare fucking finish that.” He snaps. “Do not, for the life of you, apologize, or I will crawl over this table and strangle you.”

“Okay, but I really am, so… I didn’t mean to freak you out or anything, I just thought-- or hoped-- maybe you’d like me back, and I don’t know. I know I assumed wrong so just...”

“Kotaro, listen to me.” Akaashi forces Bokuto’s face away from the floor with his fingers, doesn’t let go until he’s positive Bokuto won’t look away. “I’m not laughing at you, okay? And I don’t think you’re gross, or an idiot, or anything of that sort. To be honest, I-” he swallows, “I thought you were great from the minute I first saw you. You’re amazing, and maybe a little annoying-”

“So mean,” Bokuto grumbles, but the look on his face is something entirely new-- it’s hopeful, brilliant.

“But you’re you, and you are everything I want.” he finishes lamely. He doesn’t feel like he said enough. There’re no words to convey the months of pining after someone akin to the sun and the constant feeling of simultaneously wanting to be around him and yet being terrified of losing everything. He doesn’t think he can say that Bokuto changed his life without sounding like the sappiest person on earth. He hopes that his face says enough, because he’s never felt more exposed now that Bokuto’s eyes are desperately searching his expression, picking it apart piece by piece as if looking for a lie. There isn’t a single one.

“S-so this means that--”

“It means I’m in love with you,” he sighs, leaning forward just the slightest bit towards Bokuto. “Idiot.”

“Oh.” he says, and then, “Oh!” and proceeds to hurdle the table-- as Akaashi had originally threatened -- except instead of strangling Akashi he cups his chin in his palms and kisses him.

And it’s-- there’s absolutely no way to describe what kissing Bokuto is like. It’s clumsy, and definitely not an Oscar winner, their inexperience is pretty obvious but still it’s so-- everything Akaashi could have wanted and more in one kiss, two, three, four pecks following. Bokuto’s murmuring his name- his real name- “Keiji, Keiji, Keiji” over and over between kisses, and Kuroo is hooting in the background like an idiot, but nothing could make the moment more perfectly imperfect.

“I love you, Keiji” Bokuto sighs, then once more, “So, so much. I love you.”

He only pulls away when the table begins digging uncomfortably into his hips, and even then it's only momentary as he circles the table and leans down to Akaashi’s height in the chair, leans forward once more-- this time it's Akaashi who cradles Bokuto’s face.

Their noses clash immediately and Akaashi is done for, laughing and spluttering as Bokuto pouts, and it’s such an accurate representation of who they are that he laughs harder.

“You’re stupid,” he gasps, dazed and breathless, and then, all in the same moment, “I love you.”

Bokuto kisses him again, and it’s like a fucking miracle.