Kuroo was a smart kid.
He was good at math; he was great at science. He tutored nearly all of his teammates come exam season, and sometimes he balanced out chemical equations in his head just because he was bored.
But whenever he was with Bokuto, all of his intelligence seemed to fly out the window.
“Dude, what else can we throw in here?” Kuroo asked, staring into the blender. There were already six strawberry Kit Kats, four spoonfuls of miso, a handful fish flakes, a bottle of sake, and a couple ounces of mirin in the base of the pitcher.
Bokuto stood on his tiptoes to peer over Kuroo’s shoulder. His eyes were just as bright and excited as ever, even though one of them was going to have to drink this crazy cocktail when everything was said and done. “Hmm... I don’t know. Do you have any bananas?”
“You want to blend a full banana into this?” Kuroo asked, stepping back to look at his friend.
Bokuto blinked owlishly at him. “Yeah?”
Bokuto jumped around in excitement before fishing a banana out of Kuroo’s fruit bowl. He practically slam-dunked it into the blender –peel and all- and smacked the lid on afterwards. This was the kind of thing that Kuroo should worry about. Bokuto was rough on appliances (he was rough on everything, really), and Kuroo wasn’t sure his blender could puree a banana with the peel still on.
But for some reason, he was totally calm. “What do you think? Mash or liquefy?” he asked.
Bokuto snorted. “Dude, you gotta pulse it,” he said, reaching around Kuroo to stab the pulse button on and off until the blender started to make hissing noises. Kuroo slapped his hand away.
“It’s not working.”
“You’re not working.”
Kuroo smacked the back of Bokuto’s head. “Don’t be an idiot.” He uncapped the blender and reached in carefully. The stem of the banana was still poking up out of the gloopy, chunky mess. Kuroo grabbed it and pulled out a half untouched, half mangled fruit covered in tiny chunks of fish and broken up Kit Kat.
“That looks gross.”
Kuroo smirked and held it out close to Bokuto’s face. “Dare you to eat it.”
“What? No,” Bokuto said. Bokuto wasn’t nearly as smart as Kuroo was, but at least he knew better than to eat fishy fruit soaked in two kinds of rice wine. “You know, we probably shouldn’t even be doing this... Akaashi would be disappointed in me, and I hate when he’s like that.”
And just like that, Bokuto looked dejected. His shoulders slumped, and a frown overtook his usual happy face.
Kuroo dropped the banana into the trash. His hands balled into fists. Usually, Kuroo wasn’t the type of friend to be overprotective, but Bokuto was different. His emotions were a roller coaster; one second he was up and the next, down. Kuroo knew he was sensitive, but even if it was easy to make Bokuto sad, he still hated anyone who made him feel that way.
“And who is Akaashi?” he asked, grabbing a glass from the cabinet.
Fortunately, Bokuto had never been very perceptive, and he didn’t seem to notice the tension in Kuroo’s shoulders. He perked up a little. “Akaashi is the new setter on my team,” he said. He sat up straighter and straighter as he talked, his face lighting up and his eyes practically turning into hearts. “He’s like... He’s like really cool. He’s always so relaxed –I don’t even think his eyes open all the way- and he’s super pretty, and cute, and talented. But-“ Bokuto slumped again. “I don’t think he likes me.”
Kuroo poured out their disgusting smoothie into the glass. “And why is that?” he asked, his hands tight around the pitcher. This was no good. Bokuto and crushes did not go well together; they always ended poorly. Japan didn’t have enough ice cream left to cure Bokuto of yet another broken heart, and frankly, Kuroo’s bedroom had already seen far too many tears.
“Because I’m a mess.”
“Bokuto, you’re not a mess,” Kuroo promised even though God, yes, Bokuto was such a mess. “You let a lot of stuff upset you, but you’re not a mess.”
“But I am,” Bokuto whined. “Like, I wanna look cool in front of him because he’s so cool. Like... like so, so cool. And mature and manly, but also really beautiful and awesome. But sometimes when I miss a lot of spikes in a row, I get all sad, and then I don’t even want to try anymore, and I know that’s stupid, but I’m a mess so I can’t help it,” he explained.
Kuroo’s frown only deepened. He didn’t want to worry too much about Bokuto: he could handle himself. But his heart was just so big and soft; it was hard not to be concerned when they had conversations like these.
Bokuto was a lot to handle. It took special people like Kuroo to understand him and keep him happy. It sounded like Bokuto might be setting himself up for failure with this Akaashi kid.
“Getting spikes blocked is frustrating. If Akaashi doesn’t understand why that would upset you, then screw him.”
Bokuto cocked his head to the side. His wide eyes stared at Kuroo, but for once, he didn’t know what Bokuto was thinking. “Akaashi understands me,” Bokuto said. “I’m just embarrassed about it.”
“Then stop being embarrassed. You’re too good for that,” he said, pulling a single yen out of his pocket. “Now pick a side. Do you want heads or tails?”
“Tails,” Bokuto said, the weird look wiping off his face. He looked at Kuroo expectantly, practically vibrating in his seat with excitement. Kuroo flipped the coin, and caught it. When he slapped it down on his arm, the tree side looked up at them. “No!”
“Ha, bottoms up, kid,” Kuroo said, sliding the glass to Bokuto across the counter.
Bokuto coughed and sputtered as he tried to drink the whole cup’s worth, and Kuroo snickered all the while. Bokuto may have been gagging, but at least his attention was off of Akaashi.
Kuroo groaned when the doorbell started to go off. He didn’t even need to look through his peephole to see who was outside. There was only one person Kuroo knew who would ring his doorbell over and over without stopping.
“What are you doing here, Bokuto?” Kuroo asked as he swung open the door.
“Shitsurei shimasu!” Bokuto yelped, stepping into Kuroo’s house without asking. He kicked off his shoes and shoved a package into Kuroo’s hands. “Look what Akaashi got me for my birthday!” he yelped.
Kuroo managed to catch the box, but just barely. “You came all the way to Tokyo just to show me one of your presents?” he asked.
Bokuto nodded, his cheeks flushed. It was unusually cold for late September, and Bokuto was wearing his hair down so he could fit a beanie on top. Kuroo was still having a hard time believing he had come all the way here on a moment’s notice, just to show him one of his gifts. He looked so excited, though.
This had better be good.
Kuroo opened up the box. He had to nudge some of the tissue paper out of the way to find the t-shirt folded nicely inside. He set the box on the floor so he could hold the shirt up and look at the design.
Kuroo crinkled his nose. “Bo, this is hideous,” he said.
The shirt was awful. There was a giant picture of a cartoon owl on the front with a caption written in English underneath: “Well owl be!” If that wasn’t ugly enough, the owl was also wearing a bowtie and a top hat.
Bokuto gasped, affronted, and ripped the shirt from Kuroo’s hands. “How dare you!” he exclaimed, holding the t-shirt close to him. “It’s a perfect present. I’m going to wear it every day for the rest of my life!”
Kuroo snorted. “Every day?”
“Yeah, of course!” Bokuto replied. “Akaashi bought it for me with his own money, and he wrapped it, and he remembered my birthday, and I want to show him how grateful I am for such an amazing gift.” He sounded determined.
“I guess this Akaashi has better taste in shirts than I do, huh?” Kuroo asked, knowing it was better to go along with Bokuto in moments like these. Bokuto nodded frantically.
“Yeah, Akaashi always dresses really cool! Sometimes he wears weird t-shirts like this one, but he also has really awesome fashion taste when he’s not just going to practice, you know? Like he dresses nice on the weekends.”
Kuroo smirked. “Bokuto, you’re just racing along with this Akaashi kid, huh? You already hang out on the weekends,” he nearly purred. One of his greatest joys in life was teasing Bokuto about his love life, even if he was anxious about the inevitable fall out.
Bokuto blushed and shoved Kuroo as hard as he could. “Shut up, man, it’s not like that.”
“Sure, it isn’t.”
“It’s not!” Bokuto yelped. He balled his t-shirt back up and shoved it into the box it came in. “Akaashi is just the best. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh, I understand all right. You like him.”
“Shut up! No, I don’t!”
“Nope, you do. You’re in love with him, and you can’t go a weekend without seeing him. You have to be with him all of the time,” Kuroo teased, poking Bokuto in the side.
Bokuto didn’t seem to appreciate getting riled up, though, because he started to stuff his feet into his shoes to go home. “That’s it. I’m leaving.”
Guilt immediately pooled in Kuroo’s stomach. He liked messing with Bokuto, but he didn’t like Bokuto actually getting his feelings hurt. “No, no, come on, you came all the way here,” Kuroo said. “Play Portal with me for a little while, I’m stuck on level 15.”
“Are you going to buy me a birthday dinner?” Bokuto asked.
“Bro, I thought we were going to the aquarium on Saturday for your birthday,” Kuroo said. “You’ve ambushed me with this visit, I’m not ready to celebrate.”
Bokuto pouted. “Then at least let me pick the video game. You always pick,” he whined, sticking out his bottom lip.
Kuroo rolled his eyes. “Only because you only ever wanna play-“
“Super Smash Bros!” Bokuto yelled, jumping up on Kuroo’s back and thrusting an arm forward to spur Kuroo on. Kuroo yelped, but he managed to catch Bokuto. He would rather die than play Smash Bros with Bokuto again, but he piggybacked him into the house anyway. It was his birthday, after all.
“Odds you jump in that fountain?” Kuroo asked as they walked into town. When Bokuto didn’t answer, Kuroo turned to glance at him, only to find him missing.
He whirled around, eyes searching, until he found Bokuto a couple paces back. He was bent over, taking pictures of something in the grass.
“Bo!” he called, urging him to hurry up. Bokuto didn’t seem to pay him any attention though. He stuck out his tongue as he took a couple more snapshots. “Bokuto, come on,” Kuroo demanded.
“Hold on!” he yelped, playing around on his phone before pressing it to his ear.
Kuroo walked over to Bokuto to try and listen in. Who could he possibly be calling? He watched as Bokuto’s face lit up like a Christmas tree as soon as whoever was on the other line picked up. “Hai, Bokuto-san?”
“Moshi moshi, Akaashi!” Bokuto yelped. Kuroo scowled. Of course. “Guess what I just saw on the sidewalk!”
“A stag beetle?”
All of Bokuto’s excitement seemed to wash away. “What? How did you guess?” he whined, and Kuroo patted his back in a poor attempt at consoling him. He leaned a little closer to hear Akaashi better.
“Because you just sent me six pictures of it,” Akaashi replied, his voice tinny through the phone’s speakers. Akaashi –whoever he was- sounded incredibly uninterested, like he couldn’t care less about what Bokuto had to say. Meanwhile, Bokuto was standing there pouting, and Kuroo winced as he tried to think of a way to make him feel better. Fortunately, Akaashi cut in with a sigh before Kuroo had to. “But you know, the picture makes it hard to tell how big it is. What size is it?”
Bokuto stood up so straight and so fast, that Kuroo had to step back to dodge the back of Bokuto’s head as it flew towards his nose. “It’s huge, Akaashi! Like maybe as big as my foot!”
Kuroo snorted, bending over to look at the average-sized beetle in the grass. He spoke up, trying to interrupt his phone call. “Bro, it’s definitely not that-“
“Really?” Akaashi asked before Kuroo could finish. His voice was still flat, but Kuroo couldn’t help but blink in surprise. As bored as he sounded, he also sounded... Well, patient.
Bokuto needed a lot of patience.
“Yeah, really! I think its pincers could wrap around my wrist!” Bokuto exclaimed, exaggerating per usual.
Kuroo snickered, and he could hear Akaashi snort through the phone. “Wow. Amazing,” Akaashi replied, somehow managing to mask his sarcasm. Kuroo grinned. This kid was smooth. “Good job finding it, Bokuto. And thank you for the pictures.”
“Really? You liked them?!” Bokuto asked, his eyes sparkling.
“I’ll send you more!”
“No, that’s okay,” Akaashi was quick to say. “The ones I have are enough. And anyway, aren’t you supposed to be spending the day with Kuroo-san?”
Bokuto’s eyes widened and he turned to Kuroo. “Oh, right... Well, he’s right here! Say hi to Akaashi, Kuroo!” he demanded, pressing the phone to Kuroo’s ear before he could say no. He cleared his throat awkwardly.
Akaashi sighed. “You must be Kuroo-san.”
“Yes, he is!” Bokuto yelped, leaning way too close into Kuroo’s personal space so that the phone’s microphone would pick him up.
Kuroo shoved Bokuto’s head away with one hand. “Yeah, that’s me.”
“It’s good to speak with you. Bokuto-san talks about you constantly,” Akaashi said politely, although he sounded just as apathetic as ever. Kuroo couldn’t tell what to make of it. Akaashi made him nervous, and he didn’t want to put his guard down.
“Actually, he talks about you constantly,” Kuroo complained. “We’re supposed to be playing ‘What are the Odds’ and instead, he’s calling you about bugs.”
Akaashi hummed. “If you put me back on with Bokuto, I’ll say goodbye and you two can continue your game.”
Kuroo pressed his lips together and passed the phone to Bokuto without a word. He wondered what Akaashi looked like to have Bokuto this worked up about him. He didn’t sound like the kind of person Bokuto would have a crush on. His voice made him seem rather low energy, and he spoke very formally.
Kuroo spaced out as Bokuto and Akaashi said their goodbyes. It took a couple minutes, but that didn’t surprise Kuroo. It was almost impossible to get off the phone with Bokuto once you started talking. He always had something else to say.
Eventually, Bokuto stuffed his phone into his pocket, and Kuroo threw an arm around his shoulders. “Right! So where were we?”
Bokuto hardly seemed to hear him. Instead he jumped a little and turned to look at Kuroo. “Hey! Akaashi’s great, right? Did you like him?”
Kuroo closed his eyes and tried to school his expression into something neutral. He wasn’t sure if he liked Akaashi or not. At first, he had hated him. Bokuto had made it sound like Akaashi was disapproving and judgmental. But now he wasn’t sure.
He didn’t like how Akaashi seemed bored by Bokuto, but he did like how patient and fond he sounded over the phone.
“He’s okay,” Kuroo settled on saying.
Bokuto jumped at least six feet in the air. “Yes! I knew you would like him!” he exclaimed. His eyes fell on the fountain in the middle of the public park they were walking along. “Hey, wait, what are the odds you jump in the fountain? Like polar plunge, right here and now.”
Kuroo snorted and gave Bokuto a shove. “Dude, I asked you that, but you weren’t paying attention.”
“Wanna both do it then?”
Kuroo shook his head, laughing. “Bo, that’s not how the game works.”
“Fine. What are the odds you jump in that fountain with me?” he asked, already stripping off his socks and shoes. There was no stopping him like this. Kuroo gave in and started untying his sneakers.
“We’re getting out before the cops get called on us,” he stipulated, and Bokuto smirked.
“I’m not making any promises.”
“So then Akaashi said that if I wanted to get better at straights, then I would have to practice. And I was all upset because you can’t just practice straights by yourself, otherwise I would have been doing that for ages by now because all of the upperclassmen make fun of me for being so inconsistent. But then Akaashi promised that he would toss for me so I could practice, and Watari said he would hold up a block for me so that I can have something to go up against, and like... Kuroo, I think it’s working! Akaashi is so helpful!”
Bokuto was sprawled out upside down on Kuroo’s bed, while Kuroo sat on the floor and leaned up against his dresser. Kuroo had been half-listening to Bokuto talk about Akaashi and half texting his team for the better part of an hour.
“Well, of course, Bo. Practice only makes you better, not worse,” Kuroo replied, taking a close up picture of his nipple. He texted it to Yamamoto with the caption “Nip or lip?”
“That’s what Akaashi says, too!”
Kuroo groaned. “Bokuto. Bo. Babe. Baby. I love you. I do. But can we talk about something or someone other than Akaashi for, like, two minutes? I’m only asking for two minutes,” he promised, taking another zoomed in picture of his mouth. It was so close to his lip, it only looked like a field of pink.
He texted it to Kai with the same caption: “Nip or lip?”
“Well, I only talk about him because you haven’t met him!” Bokuto complained. “Akaashi wants to meet you so bad, but you always say you’re busy!”
Kuroo sent another up close picture of his nipple to the group chat he had with the team and put his phone down when his messaging app started to fill up with ‘lip’ and ‘nip’ answers. He sighed. “I am busy, Bo. I have morning practice, and afternoon practice, and personal practice, and weekend practice, and also sometimes I go to school,” he listed. “My schedule is tight.”
“Well, what about really early in the morning? Like, what if we got breakfast? I know you don’t have anything to do at 6 AM on Saturday!”
Kuroo threw a dirty sock at Boktuo. “That’s because I’m sleeping at 6 AM on Saturday.”
“But you could wake up! Just once!” Bokuto said. “Please, please, please. For me? For Akaashi? Please, please, please?”
Kuroo sighed. He didn’t want to meet Akaashi. He didn’t want to be expected to like him. Eventually, Akaashi was going to break Bokuto’s heart, and Kuroo wanted to be able to hate him when that happened. It was his duty as the overprotective mom friend to hate Akaashi until Bokuto did, too.
But Bokuto was persistent, and Kuroo was running out of excuses to keep avoiding Akaashi.
“Ugh, fine, okay. I’ll wake up at ass o’clock in the morning –the literal butt crack of dawn- to go to breakfast with you and your Akaashi.”
“Whoop!” Bokuto said, throwing a fist in the air so hard he flipped off the bed. Kuroo laughed, while Bokuto pouted. Even if he was convinced Bokuto would be sad later, at least he was overly happy and energetic now.
Kuroo collapsed face first into the bakery door. His brain was so hot it felt like his face was melting off. He had to wake up at 5:30 AM to meet Bokuto and Akaashi for breakfast at 6, and he was exhausted.
He stumbled blindly into the bakery –it was so bright in here- and winced when he heard Bokuto shouting for him.
“Kuroo, you made it!” Bokuto exclaimed, latching onto his arm within seconds of him stepping through the door. Kuroo let Bokuto pull him to a table in the far corner of the restaurant. He fell into a booth when Bokuto pushed him. He was too disoriented and confused to fight him on it.
Bokuto started to try to pry his eyelids open. “Bo,” Kuroo groaned. If there was one drawback to being friends with Bokuto, it was that he was a morning person. It was disgusting.
“Come on, Kuroo! You have to open your eyes to meet Akaashi!”
Kuroo froze. That was true. He was here to meet Akaashi, and he would be lying if he said he wasn’t interested to see what he looked like. He let Bokuto peel his eyelids apart and almost jumped back when he found himself face to face with Akaashi’s glare.
Akaashi did not look happy to see him. The first thing Kuroo noticed was how narrow his eyes were. He looked furious. The second thing Kuroo noticed were the bags underneath Akaashi’s eyes.
He seemed just as exhausted as Kuroo was, which was saying something. Meanwhile, Bokuto climbed over Akaashi’s lap to sit on the inside of the booth. He seemed completely impervious to the tension between Kuroo and Akaashi.
“Kuroo, Akaashi! Akaashi, Kuroo!” he said, gesturing between them.
Kuroo sighed and let his head drop onto the table. He should have just made plans with Bokuto to meet Akaashi at a normal time instead of telling him he was busy. Then, maybe, they could have met later in the day, when Kuroo would have had the energy to deal with him.
“It’s too early to care,” Kuroo whined.
“Nice to meet you, too,” Akaashi replied, clearly annoyed. Before, he may have just been mad about how early it was. (After all, Bokuto and Akaashi had to wake up way earlier than Kuroo did to catch a train and make it out here.) Now, however, he was obviously mad at Kuroo.
To be fair, Kuroo had been pretty transparent about avoiding Akaashi. He had probably realized he didn’t want to meet him, even if Bokuto hadn’t. This meeting was destined to be awkward, and it certainly was.
Their waiter came to take their order, and Bokuto ordered doughnuts and coffee before anyone could argue.
“You know,” Bokuto started, his eyes flicking between his two friends nervously. He seemed to finally notice the heavy atmosphere between them. “I think you guys would have a lot to talk about! You have a lot in common,” he promised.
Kuroo grunted. He felt around for his coffee. Once he found it, he chugged it in a couple swallows, not caring if it burned his tongue (which it did).
Akaashi was the only one to indulge Bokuto. His face softened a little bit. “Yeah? Like what?” he asked.
“Like everything!” Bokuto shouted. Both Akaashi and Kuroo winced at his volume. “You both play volleyball, and you both have really messy hair, and you both like cats more than dogs, and you both like your coffee black, and you’re both friends with me!” he exclaimed.
Kuroo rolled his eyes. “And sometimes I wonder why,” he muttered. Akaashi glared at him again, but when Bokuto nudged Akaashi’s arm as he reached for the cream and sugar, Akaashi’s expression turned to something a little fonder.
Kuroo nearly gagged when a tiny smile snuck onto Akaashi’s face. Ew. Why was this morning so gross?
Their doughnuts were brought out, and Bokuto shoved no less than four into his mouth. Akaashi had five. He was slender, but apparently he ate a lot. Kuroo watched with disgust as Akaashi bit into a sixth, listening with his cold and distant expression as Bokuto talked about how Akaashi and Kuroo could better style their hair if they started using the same gel Bokuto used.
When Bokuto was finished, Kuroo expected Akaashi to tell him off for being so rude, but he didn’t. Instead he blinked at Bokuto, the picture of patience, and smiled a little at him. “You always have such good advice, Bokuto-san. Thank you.”
Bokuto brightened. He sat up straighter, his shoulder brushing Akaashi’s. “You think?” he asked expectantly. Meanwhile, Akaashi’s grin only grew bigger when his shoulder touched Bokuto’s.
“I know,” he promised.
“Akaashi!” Bokuto yelped, throwing his arms around Akaashi. He almost choked on the last bite of his sixth doughnut, Bokuto was hugging him so fiercely, and Kuroo snickered. Just what he deserved for being such an angry jerk.
(Kuroo conveniently ignored the fact that he was also being an angry jerk.)
“Please let go, I need to use the restroom,” Akaashi said, and Bokuto immediately scrambled away.
Both Bokuto and Kuroo watched Akaashi get up from the table and find the bathroom. Bokuto whirled on Kuroo the second he was out of sight. “Hey, hey, hey! So what do you think? Isn’t he great?!”
“... Sure,” Kuroo answered.
He couldn’t lie. He did like how calm Akaashi was. He balanced Bokuto out a little bit. It was also obvious that Akaashi liked Bokuto as much as Bokuto liked him, if his dopey smile was anything to go by. Every time Bokuto nudged him –be it accidentally or on purpose- Akaashi practically melted under his touch. It would have been cute if it wasn’t so gross.
However, Akaashi wasn’t the warmest person. He seemed cold, analytical. He looked at Bokuto critically, and he hardly reacted to any of Bokuto’s jokes or anecdotes.
Maybe it was just too early in the morning –it certainly was for Kuroo- but Akaashi had sounded just as distant on the phone. It would be easy for Akaashi’s cool personality to turn cruel.
Kuroo’s stomach twisted up in worry. Bokuto grabbed on of his hands. “It’s just... He really is the nicest guy. He helps me so much, and he’s always looking out for me, and fixing things, and making sure I’m happy. You can’t find someone better than Akaashi, you really can’t,” he promised.
Kuroo sighed. He pushed through his crankiness for Bokuto. “Yeah, buddy. He seems to be really good for you.”
It was a lie, but at least no one could say Kuroo was an unsupportive friend.
“So how was meeting Akaashi?” Kenma asked later at practice. He was holding onto the towel around his neck with both hands, his knuckles white. Even if Kenma had known Kuroo for his entire life, he still got nervous to talk to him.
Nothing made Kuroo sadder than Kenma’s social anxiety.
“It was dismal,” Kuroo answered casually, taking a long sip from his water bottle. It was best to ignore Kenma’s anxiety until he asked for help. It was important for him to work through some things on his own. “I’m pretty sure he hates me.”
“Yeah,” Kuroo said with a shrug. He looked off into the gym, frowning when he thought about the next set of drills they would have to do. He was so tired, he didn’t know if his body could take it. He let out an exasperated sigh when his thoughts fell back to Akaashi. “I don’t know. The kid’s such a tool. Like, how did Bokuto get involved with such a jerk?”
Kenma crinkled his nose and hid his face under his towel. “Bokuto wouldn’t get involved with a jerk,” Kenma replied, his words heavy with meaning. Kuroo ran a hand through this hair.
“What’s your point?” he asked, gently lifting the towel so he could see Kenma’s face. Kenma blushed bright pink.
“It’s just... Well, Bokuto has good taste, even if it’s been awhile since one of his crushes liked him back. Maybe this Akaashi is actually a good guy,” he explained.
Kuroo rolled his eyes. “Listen, you don’t know him like I do. He was awful.”
Kenma squirmed and tugged the towel back down. “No offense, Kuroo, but when you’ve made up your mind about someone, you can be pretty standoffish. Are you sure he was as terrible as you’re making him out to be?”
Kuroo thought back to Akaashi’s gentle smiles and immeasurable patience. He thought about how happy Bokuto was whenever he talked about Akaashi, and the t-shirt Akaashi gave Bokuto for his birthday.
Kuroo groaned. “Ugh, no. He’s not that bad. I just... I hate him. I hate him, and I’m always going to hate him. He’s too terrible to not hate.”
Kenma sighed. He stopped hiding his face under his towel, only too pull Kuroo onto the floor and sit in his lap. He shoved his face into Kuroo’s chest. “You know, Bokuto was really nice when he met me,” he pointed out.
“But that’s different,” Kuroo said. “You’ve always been around. When I met Bokuto, we were already... Well, you know,” he said vaguely. Frankly, he wasn’t even sure what he and Kenma were, but it seemed similar to what Bokuto and Akaashi might be.
Kenma huffed out another sigh. His arms were tight around Kuroo’s rib cage, and his face was pressed so far into his chest, he was worried Kenma might give himself a nose bleed. “It’s not different. Bokuto is finally making real friends who like him for who he is. You should be encouraging him for finding someone else who treats him well, not hating Akaashi for being closer to Bokuto than you are.”
“Hey, that is not what’s happening,” Kuroo complained.
Kenma tilted his head up at him just long enough to fix him with a glare before burying into Kuroo’s t-shirt again. Kuroo squeezed his eyes clothes.
“Okay,” he said, finally hugging Kenma back. “Maybe part of it is jealousy... But... But, Kenma, you don’t get it. You’ve never had a dejected Bokuto crying puddles into your carpet after a failed confession. It’s awful. I don’t want to see him sad like that again.”
“You know what will really make him sad?”
Kuroo frowned. “What?”
“His kind-of-maybe-one-day-boyfriend and his best friend hating each other.”
Kuroo blinked –floored for a moment- before a proud smirk pulled at his lips. “You know, Kenma, you’re pretty sneaky. I think I’m rubbing off on you,” he said.
He yelped with Kenma pinched his hip. He was certainly sneaky, all right.
When they got to practice camp, Kuroo decided to take things with Akaashi once step at a time.
The first thing he needed to do was cleanse his heart, and the best way to do that was spend some time with Bokuto without Akaashi involved. Of course, the only thing Bokuto wanted to talk about these days was Akaashi, so Kuroo would need to distract him.
A quick three-on-three game at the end of Day 1 would be a perfect way to get Bokuto’s head off Akaashi for a while.
“Chance!” Kuroo yelled, watching the ball arch over his head. Kai easily got into position to receive the ball and sent it to Kenma.
“Kuroo,” Kenma said in his usual soft voice. He hardly ever spoke above a whisper these days, but Kuroo would be able to hear him no matter what time it was. He jumped for the spike, and swore when it met Bokuto’s sturdy block. Kenma dived to receive it before it hit the ground, but he was a second too late.
Komi –Fukurodani’s libero- straightened up. “Nice block, Bokuto-san!”
“Bokuto, good job!” their wing-spiker Sarukui agreed.
Kuroo waited for Bokuto to beam under his teammates’ praise, but he never did. Instead he just landed back on his feet and stared at his toes. He looked defeated, even though Kuroo, Kenma, and Kai were the ones to just lose a point.
“Hey, Bo. What’s up? Are you all right?” Kuroo asked, lifting up the net so there was nothing between them.
Bokuto just shrugged.
The ball was tossed over for Sarukui to serve. Kuroo bumped his chin on the ground in an effort to receive it, while Kai got ready for Kenma’s toss. Kai ended up sending a rather impressive spike over the net, but it was easily received by Komi.
Bokuto slammed a straight spike onto Kuroo’s side of the court. Kai whistled, while Kuroo wiped sweat from his brow with the bottom hem of his pinny. “Wow, Bokuto, you meant it when you said you’ve been practicing,” he exclaimed, looking over to Bokuto, only to find him on the brink of tears. “Hey, what’s-“
“I don’t want to play anymore!” Bokuto yelled, cutting him off. Kuroo gaped like a fish.
“Um, okay, buddy. What’s wrong? Are you hurt?” he asked, scrambling to think of a reason Bokuto might get this upset mid-game. After all, he was winning. And while his team was supportive and much better than Nekoma, Bokuto was doing it all rather single handedly. He should feel proud, not discouraged.
Bokuto hid his face in his elbow. “No.”
“Do you feel like you’re not playing well enough?”
“Well... Well, I don’t know what else could be upsetting you, Bo. Why don’t you talk to me?” he asked, ducking under the net. Their three on three could wait until Bokuto was feeling better.
When Bokuto didn’t answer, much less look at Kuroo, his two teammates –Komi and Sarukui- turned to each other. “... I’ll get Akaashi,” Komi said, sounding weary. Sarukui waved him off.
“Nah. I’ll get him. I have longer legs than you, anyway, shorty. I can run faster.”
Komi kicked Sarukui’s calf as he ran out of the gym. Meanwhile Kuroo held onto Bokuto’s shoulders and glared at the libero. “Really? Akaashi? What’s he going to do?” he asked, forcing Bokuto into a hug and rubbing his back.
Komi smirked. “You’ll see,” he promised. “Akaashi is a miracle worker. He’s amazing with Bokuto.”
Kuroo rolled his eyes. “I’ll have to see it to believe it,” he said, not willing to give Akaashi any undeserved credit. Yes, the purpose of this game had been to clear his mind and help him be more open towards Akaashi, but he wasn’t ready just yet.
He was rubbing Bokuto’s arm, trying to get him to open up, when Akaashi came into the gym. Kuroo felt annoyed just looking at him.
Meanwhile, Akaashi didn’t pay Kuroo any attention at all. Instead, his eyes locked on Bokuto, who was wilted near the volleyball net, and he immediately ran towards him. He slowed his pace when he was a couple steps away. “Ah, Bokuto-san,” he said coolly, like he hadn’t just come running because he saw Bokuto’s shoulders slumped. “What’s wrong?”
Bokuto made a whining noise, and Akaashi hummed. His eyes raked Bokuto up and down a couple times, and Kuroo snorted. So far, he hadn’t done anything to help Bokuto. All he was doing was staring. Why did Komi say he was good at this?
After a second, Akaashi’s eyes widened fractionally and he reached out to fix a couple strands of hair that had fallen out of Bokuto’s usual style. “You know, I told you to go to sleep early, but you didn’t listen. And then you didn’t sleep on the bus ride here, either.”
“I was too excited, Akaashi,” Bokuto whined, and Akaashi took a deep breath.
“Right, but now you’re all tired and sad,” he pointed out, gently pulling Bokuto into a hug. Bokuto closed his eyes, and rested his red sweaty face on Akaashi’s shoulders. Kuroo frowned. Only Bokuto would cry like a two-year-old because he was tired.
It didn’t seem to bother Akaashi, though. He watched as Akaashi lightly dragged his fingernails up and down Bokuto’s spine.
“How about this? How about you finish your game with your friends so you don’t miss anything-” Bokuto seemed to perk up a little. “-And then you and me can go roll out our futons early, and I’ll hang out with you while you take a nap before dinner?”
Bokuto stopped leaning on Akaashi only to give him a giant smile and an extra-strong hug. He squeezed Akaashi so tight, that his feet left the ground. “Okay, Akaashi! We’re six points from the end!”
“Good job, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi puffed out in one breath while Bokuto hugged the air out of him.
Kuroo watched –amazed- as Bokuto bounced back onto the court, his mood restored. Maybe he had been too harsh with Akaashi before. Sure, they didn’t get along during their first meeting, but clearly he was just as great with Bokuto as Komi said he was.
Kuroo had to admit. He was impressed.
Later at dinner, Bokuto insisted that Kuroo and Kenma eat with him and Akaashi. Kuroo had been worried about it. After all, Kenma didn’t do well with new people. However, once again, Akaashi left him pleasantly surprised.
“What is your favorite game, then?” Akaashi asked, his voice just as soft and monotone as ever. At first, Akaashi’s voice had made Kuroo distrust him, but it was perfect for Kenma. Other people’s emotions and noise volume tended to overwhelm him. He had been a mess when he first met Bokuto, but he seemed to genuinely be enjoying Akaashi.
“Probably Pokémon Omega Ruby,” Kenma answered just as quietly. He seemed shy with his shoulders scrunched inwards, but he was actually going to the trouble of making eye contact with Akaashi. Even Bokuto seemed to realize how rare this was, and he was smiling at both Akaashi and Kenma encouragingly.
“Yeah? And why do you like it so much?” Akaashi asked politely. He was so kind. Even if he was a little too formal, at least he was kind enough to indulge Kenma’s interests. Kuroo was starting to realize that Akaashi was good at humoring people. He was overwhelmingly nice, and his unending patience made it possible for him to talk to people for a long time about one thing, even if he wasn’t personally interested.
“I like the graphics. They’re... I mean... It’s...” Kenma struggled to find words. “It’s a very pretty game, I guess.”
Akaashi nodded. “I hear you. I like games with good art, too.”
Kuroo smiled proudly at Kenma, but he looked away when Bokuto kicked his knee under the table. “Isn’t Akaashi just the best?” he whispered (or at least tried to whisper).
Akaashi looked over and Kuroo met his stare. He froze for a second before a genuine smile slipped up his face. “Yeah, Bo. You’re right... He is the best,” he promised.
Akaashi blinked once, but he soon smiled at Kuroo, the same little thing he gave Bokuto day in and day out.
Kuroo hid another smile of his own by taking a sip of water. He approved of Akaashi. All there was left to do was make sure that he and Bokuto actually got together. (He wasn’t going to let the first of Bokuto’s potential crushes-turned-relationships slip through his fingers, especially not after earning his approval.)
“Oh my gosh, Bokuto, I just want to talk to him for –like- three seconds, let go ,” Kuroo demanded, trying to pull Akaashi by the arm. Meanwhile, Bokuto was clinging to the back of Akaashi’s t-shirt, trying to stop him from going with Kuroo.
“No! I want-“
“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said calmly. He was the picture of peace despite two muscular volleyball players tugging him in opposite directions. “Let me go talk with Kuroo-san, and I will come find you as soon as he’s done.”
“You mean like right after?” Bokuto asked. He looked so fragile and small, but for once, Kuroo trusted Akaashi to take care of him.
“Right after,” Akaashi promised, removing Bokuto’s hands from his t-shirt.
Bokuto wilted. “Okay, fine. I’ll wait,” he promised.
And Akaashi patted his shoulder. “Thank you. That’s very mature of you,” he promised. It was enough to make Bokuto stand up tall, even if he wasn’t smiling. Kuroo pulled Akaashi away before Bokuto had the chance to change his mind or get upset again.
“So I take it that you’re either about to give me your blessing or tell me to stop talking to Bokuto,” Akaashi said as Kuroo pulled him outside of the lodge. “My guess is the latter.”
“You guess wrong,” Kuroo said, smirking. He took a seat on the edge of the porch, while Akaashi froze.
Akaashi hesitantly sat down next to Kuroo. “I... Really?” he asked, looking at Kuroo with wide eyes. For the first time since meeting him, Akaashi’s expression was something other than bored or worried. He looked so surprised.
But then again, Akaashi seemed like the type of person who could pick up patterns and make predictions about other people. He was almost as observant as Kenma. Kuroo doing a 180 flip and going from hating him to approving of him probably came as a shock to Akaashi.
“Yeah, really,” Kuroo promised. “I mean... As long as you like him, anyway. You do like him, right? Like, you want to go out with him?”
Akaashi turned pink. First surprised and now embarrassed. Kuroo had been wrong about Akaashi; he wasn’t as expressionless as he thought he was. “Am I that obvious?”
“Yes. Probably even worse than what you’re thinking.”
“Ugh.” Akaashi buried his head between his knees, and Kuroo clapped him on the back.
“Hey, it’s not so bad. For what it’s worth, Bokuto likes you, too!” he said, trying to perk Akaashi up a little.
“I know,” Akaashi mumbled, pulling on his hair a little bit. He sat up, still tugging on his messy black tresses. “Of course I know. I mean... He’s not exactly subtle about it. He’s not subtle about anything; he walks in the room and immediately throws every thought and feeling he has in your face, but I’m... I’m...”
“Not like that?” Kuroo guessed.
Akaashi glared at him for a second before his face crumbled. “No, I’m not,” he said. “I don’t... I don’t like putting my heart on the line.”
Kuroo hummed in understanding. “So that’s why you haven’t asked him out yet.”
“Well...” Akaashi paused, as if debating to say anything more. “That amongst other things.” Kuroo waited for Akaashi to continue. He looked at him expectantly, but Akaashi only shoved him, almost knocking him over.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Kuroo said, quoting Bokuto. It was enough to get a tiny smile from Akaashi. “I’m his best friend. If you’re worried about dating Bokuto, then I’m the one to talk to.”
Akaashi’s smile fell, and he looked at Kuroo skeptically for a moment. Kuroo did his best to look as honest and trustworthy as possible. Akaashi really had no reason to talk to him. Kuroo had been pretty apparent about how much he hated Akaashi at first; he would understand if Akaashi didn’t want to open up to him. After all, he had just said that he didn’t like to wear his heart on his sleeve.
So Kuroo was shocked when Akaashi sighed and started talking. “Well... Bokuto-san gives me a lot of attention,” he started. “Like, you know... He’s always talking to me, and staring at me, and trying to get me to notice him, and...” Akaashi started wringing his hands. “If I do notice him, if I start dating him, then maybe... Maybe he’ll stop trying.”
Kuroo frowned. “Akaashi... You know Bokuto isn’t like that.”
Akaashi winced. “I mean... Do I?” he asked, still wringing his hands over and over.
“Obviously,” Kuroo replied. “It’s Bokuto. He’d never stop paying attention to you; he’s obsessed with you. And anyways, he doesn’t give up on the people he cares about. Once Bokuto latches on, he never lets go. Never.”
Akaashi’s knuckles turned white, but his face looked as neutral as ever. He seemed to play with his fingers a lot, especially when he was worried. “How can you be so sure?”
Kuroo smirked. “Personal experience,” he replied. “I met Bokuto at a training camp back in middle school. I literally knew him for less than week, and he started visiting me, like... every weekend. He took train ride after train ride, just to hang out, and like... I call him ‘bro’ all the time, but I mean it when I say he’s like a brother to me.” Kuroo put a hand over his heart and was quiet for a moment, giving his friendship with Bokuto a moment of silence.
“Bokuto-san is certainly... tenacious.”
“Yeah. And he’s even more determined when it comes to crushes,” Kuroo said. “He falls so hard so fast, and he’s always devastated when things end poorly for him. He gets his heart broken really easy, which is why I may have been a little mean to you at first,” he said sheepishly.
Akaashi arched an eyebrow. “A little?”
“Well, I was never outright mean!”
Akaashi rolled his eyes. “Just passively mean,” he said. Kuroo turned his nose up, and Akaashi leaned back, kicking his legs over the edge of the porch. “You’d make faces, refuse to talk to me, act disgusted by my very presence... But at least you didn’t insult me to my face,” he said dryly.
Kuroo snorted. “Listen,” he said. “Fuck you.”
Akaashi laughed, throwing his head back. He struggled to pull himself together, and Kuroo felt oddly proud for making Akaashi laugh. He had a feeling that didn’t happen very often.
As soon as Akaashi had sobered up, Kuroo nudged his arm. “But hey, okay, seriously. Bokuto is really important to me, and I want him with someone who treats him well. ...Who’s good for him, you know? And as much as it pains me to admit it-“ Akaashi shoved him again. “-That’s you.”
Akaashi hummed and looked at his toes.
Kuroo cleared his throat and opened up his phone, feeling awkward and needing a distraction. “You should ask him out,” he said as casually as possible. “He won’t make you regret it.”
Akaashi started wringing his hands together again. “Are you sure?”
Kuroo huffed out a sigh and tilted his phone towards Akaashi. He scrolled through at least 15 texts from Bokuto, begging him to return Akaashi to him.
Akaashi won’t answer any of my texts!
Tell Akaashi I miss him!
What are you two talking about?
Tell Akaashi to come hoooooooooooome.
“Something tells me that he’s never going to stop paying attention to you, Akaashi,” Kuroo said, as Akaashi thumbed through the texts. He looked exhausted for a moment, before a fond smile took over his face.
“I guess I should go find him then, huh?” he asked, and Kuroo pumped a fist in the air and hollered.
“Go get him, tiger!” Kuroo cheered, smacking Akaashi’s butt as he got up to go find Bokuto. Akaashi kicked his ribs, but Kuroo couldn’t be bothered. For once, one of Bokuto’s crushes was going to end well.
“Kuroo, you’re such a creep,” Kenma complained as Kuroo pushed him out onto the balcony.
“Shhhh, they’ll hear you!” he hissed.
Kenma pouted, but he looked over the edge of the deck anyway. In the yard below, Akaashi and Bokuto were sitting side by side in two Adirondack chairs. Akaashi was wringing his hands, and Bokuto’s head was tilted in confusion. Kenma pressed his lips together and rested his elbows on the balcony railing with his head in his hands. “How do you think it’s going down there?” he asked.
“It seems awkward right now, but any second now, Akaashi’s gonna spit it out, and Bo is gonna start screaming,” he said, leaning back on the railing next to Kenma. His back was to Bokuto and Akaashi but his eyes were locked on Kenma’s profile. His nose was so cute. His face was so cute. His goofy long hair and his big brown eyes were so cute. “Hey, you think we’ll ever have what they do?” he asked before he could censor himself.
Kenma looked at him and blinked once before turning back to Bokuto and Akaashi, his face unchanging. “We can talk about it,” he said.
Kuroo tried to ignore the feeling of his heart exploding.
There was a smile on his face when he heard shouts from the yard below. He turned around to watch Bokuto throw himself at Akaashi, knocking both of their chairs over and Akaashi into the grass. Bokuto laughed as they rolled halfway down the hill.
“Aw, Bo...” Kuroo cooed, distracting himself from the idea of dating Kenma by focusing on how happy Bokuto was. “He loves Akaashi so much, I have no idea why he was so worried about Bokuto not paying attention to him anymore.”
Kenma hummed. “You know you don’t have anything to worry about either, right?”
Kuroo shifted, his smile wiping off his face. Now that Bokuto was dating Akaashi, he would probably be even more distracted by him. While he was excited for Bokuto to get a boyfriend, it felt like bro time was coming to an end. “I don’t know...”
“He’s never going to stop visiting you, Kuroo. You guys are attached at the hip. He hasn’t stopped spending time with you yet, has he?” he asked, and Kuroo sighed.
“No, but I mean-“
“Hey, hey, hey! Kuroo!”
Kuroo cut himself off when he realized Bokuto had spotted him from his spot standing with Akaashi in the yard. He watched as Bokuto wrapped his arms around Akaashi’s arms and chest and lifted him up into the air. Kuroo snorted as he watched Akaashi struggle for breath. “Hey, Bo! What’s up?”
Bokuto positively beamed. “I have a boyfriend, man! And look how cute he is!”
“I see!” Kuroo shouted back. Meanwhile, Kenma smirked at him. Kuroo groaned. “Don’t say anything.”
“I won’t,” Kenma promised. “...But it seems to me that no matter what Akaashi does, Bokuto won’t forget about you.”
“Ugh, shut up. You don’t know that,” Kuroo complained.
Kenma rolled his eyes and started walking back into the house, pulling out his PSP. “Actually, I do.”
“No, you don’t.”
“No, actually, I do.”
“No, you don’t!”
“... I do.”