When Akaashi Keiji attended volleyball practice for the first time in his first year in high school, he couldn’t help noticing the one second year student who had silver hair and a wide smile on his face. There was something incredibly charismatic about the older boy in spite of the easy-going atmosphere that surrounded him, and Akaashi thought that this must be a person of great value. He was partly right.
Bokuto Koutarou, Akaashi learned, was passionate and eager, and definitely not afraid of working hard. However, as Akaashi watched the older players, he noticed that many of them seemed wary around Bokuto. He couldn't understand why the upperclassmen weren't more eager to practise with him, why they sometimes bickered amongst themselves over who would set for Bokuto when the boy couldn't hear. As far as he knew, Bokuto was strong and capable, and he was good at raising everyone's spirits – until he turned his back again and someone looked at him with worry.
The reason behind the behaviour didn't stay a mystery very long. During a practise game Bokuto made a simple mistake, and immediately it seemed like he had been replaced by someone else. He was slumping, refused to spike again, and was eventually put on the bench, where he sat like a wet rug.
After the game was over, Bokuto was still sagging on the bench. Akaashi had been watching him, for reasons incomprehensible even to himself, and had seen how Bokuto looked longingly at the ball, how his eyes followed it back and forth, and how he drooped even further into himself. Akaashi hardly even realised what he was doing when he walked over to his senior and stopped right before him. Bokuto turned his head up to look at him, everything about him absolutely miserable.
“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said. “Would you, please, spike my tosses?”
Bokuto's eyes widened and his mouth opened slightly, making him look ridiculously like a fish.
“I would like to learn from my senpai,” Akaashi added.
Bokuto opened his mouth wider before closing it. His eyes shifted around.
“Is everyone else busy?” Bokuto asked suspiciously.
Akaashi shook his head, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“I don't know,” he said. “I only want the best.”
Bokuto lifted a hand to his chest. His smile was brighter than the sun.
“Yes? Of course!” Bokuto exclaimed and jumped up.
That was the first time that Akaashi Keiji received awed looks from his upperclassmen for getting Bokuto out of his dejected mode.
Akaashi was a good, solid setter, and he was great with Bokuto, but he didn't become a starter. It didn't bother him; he hadn't expected to surpass his seniors, and standing by the side-lines was a good opportunity to study how the others played, how the team worked together. Bokuto was an excellent player and spent a lot of time on the court. The longer Akaashi practised with him the closer their relationship grew, and the more Akaashi learned to read Bokuto's moods, the more the older boy could play without getting dejected. From a constant problem, it turned into an occasional inconvenience, and as the year grew older there was talk of Bokuto becoming the new ace.
Akaashi wasn't surprised to find that the positive feedback of his team mates affected Bokuto's mood for the better and gave him confidence in his indisputable skill. What did surprise him was the fact that the team also started suggesting that Akaashi become the starting setter because of the way he could so easily fine-tune Bokuto.
The only uncertainty in Akaashi’s life was also related to Bokuto; he didn't know if he could consider the older boy his friend. The line between junior and senior had long since been crossed, but the divide between team mate and friend seemed much more difficult to understand. Akaashi had spent some sleepless nights thinking about it, where to draw the line, but he could never find an answer. They played together, they chatted after practise and walked home together, but Akaashi wasn't sure if that was the extent of what their relationship should be or if he should offer to spend more time with Bokuto. Maybe the older boy was waiting for it, maybe he was disappointed by Akaashi’s inability to judge the extent of a relationship.
However, Bokuto didn't seem to get disappointed. He was his usual happy self when they said their goodbyes and when they met in school the following day. Akaashi thought that maybe it was okay, maybe he could stop worrying and instead focus on being mentally present when he was with Bokuto.
If he was being truthful, Akaashi wasn't so sure that he would even want Bokuto’s full friendship. The boy may have been a good person, but his friendship seemed tiring. This conclusion he got from watching Bokuto’s interaction with Kuroo from Nekoma high school, who appeared to be best friends with Bokuto. They were a good match, Akaashi often thought as the two had fun together, their humour perfectly in tune. When Akaashi had first seen Kuroo, he wouldn't have thought that the boy with his hair sticking up on the back and covering his other eye a lot of the time in the front would even be capable of matching Bokuto’s energy. Kuroo always had a sly grin on his face, as if there was something that he knew but the others hadn't noticed yet, but Akaashi quickly learned that beneath the calculating eyes Kuroo had a big heart and his grin could turn goofy in a fraction of a second.
By the time Akaashi's first year in high school was drawing to a close, he felt that he had found a balance between the distance and closeness towards Bokuto. He wasn't surprised to see Bokuto become their new ace, but he didn't expect for the boy to also be named captain.
“Congratulations, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi told him and smiled, and the smile he got in return was blinding in its genuine brightness.
The beginning of his second year was exactly how Akaashi expected it to be, and he was positively surprised to see the team come together with Bokuto's guidance.
However, it didn't take many weeks before something changed. Bokuto was practising more and longer than the rest of the team, and Akaashi found himself to be leaving alone every day. He brushed it off as Bokuto being nervous for being the captain and taking some extra measures to stay on top of his skill, until one day when he forgot his towel to the gym.
Akaashi had already been heading home, but decided to turn around and retrieve the towel while also checking in on Bokuto. He wasn't expecting to find the gym locked and dark, clearly not in use, even though Bokuto had specifically said he would stay behind. It hadn't been very long either, maybe 10 minutes since Akaashi left the club room.
He confronted Bokuto about it the next day, but the third year waved it off.
“I just remembered I had promised to help with some housework that day,” he said cheerfully.
“But I didn't see you at all,” Akaashi tried to argue, although he hadn't really looked.
“Maybe I was in the bathroom,” Bokuto shrugged and smiled.
Akaashi couldn't drop it just like that; Bokuto's smile hadn't reached his eyes.
As time went on, Akaashi discovered that something was very badly wrong with Bokuto. On the surface, he might have still been the energetic, joyful captain who inspired his team to perform as well as possible, but Akaashi could see that underneath the surface something was looming. It was starting to get obvious to the rest of the team as well, since Bokuto was spending more time in his dejected mode, and Akaashi had difficulties pulling him out of it.
He was proven right even more when Kuroo called him one day, very casually, until he brought up the real reason behind the call.
“Has something happened to Bokuto?” Kuroo asked.
“I'm sorry, Kuroo-san,” Akaashi replied. “I don't know.”
“Huh,” Kuroo said with an audible gulp.
Akaashi wasn't sure if he should voice his own concerns. Was it too much?
“Has he seemed normal to you?” Kuroo then asked, and Akaashi silently sighed in relief over not having to wonder any more.
“No,” he said. “He tries to appear normal, but I can tell something's bothering him.”
Kuroo hummed in thought.
“Have you asked him about it?” he then asked.
Akaashi was confused.
“Isn't that what you should do?” he asked. “No, I haven't.”
When Kuroo spoke, his voice sounded strained.
“He's avoiding me,” he said.
Akaashi wanted to ask why, but thought that it might be too nosy of him. While he had been welcomed by Kuroo, he still wasn't sure of the extent of his role in the relationship.
“Should I talk to him?” Akaashi asked instead.
Kuroo went awfully quiet for awfully long. Akaashi was starting to feel that something had gone wrong between his two seniors. He shouldn't get involved in what was not his business.
“Would you?” Kuroo asked then.
“Yes,” Akaashi said.
Kuroo was quiet again, but not for as long.
“I need to tell you something first,” he said. “I think that it might be the reason for everything, but I don't want Bokuto to be the one to tell you in case he does.”
Akaashi made a sound of understanding. He didn't know what to think.
“So, Akaashi,” Kuroo said slowly, and Akaashi knew that he was purposefully trying to delay the inevitable.
“Yes, Kuroo-san?” Akaashi replied to encourage the older boy.
“I'm gay,” he said.
It was followed by silence. Akaashi could hear Kuroo's nervousness in the silence.
“I can't say I'm not surprised,” Akaashi said.
He had never had to think about his viewpoint on gays. Honestly speaking he hadn't expected to ever face such a dilemma – if you could call it that.
“Please, don't tell anyone,” Kuroo pleaded almost desperately, and Akaashi smiled.
“I promise I won't,” he said, and he meant it.
Kuroo was still the same person he had been before: seemingly full of himself but sensitive behind his smirks.
“Thank you,” Kuroo said, and then: “I'm sorry.”
Akaashi told him to not apologise.
“Did you tell Bokuto-san?” Akaashi asked then.
Kuroo’s voice was heavy.
“Ever since then he hasn't talked to me,” he said.
Akaashi nodded to himself.
“I never thought Bokuto would take it that bad,” Kuroo added.
Akaashi considered staying silent, but then decided against it. If Kuroo thought that Bokuto might out him to Akaashi, Bokuto would probably tell him other details as well.
“Kuroo-san,” Akaashi asked calmly. “Do you have feelings for Bokuto-san?”
Kuroo made a strangled sound, and Akaashi didn't need more to know that he had gotten it right. Kuroo was breathing loudly, like his throat was on fire.
“I confessed to him,” he then said, and Akaashi thought that he sounded close to tears. “I didn't think he'd hate me for it.”
Akaashi hummed in agreement.
“Maybe I misunderstood,” Kuroo said sadly. “I thought he was flirting, but maybe I got it wrong. You know, maybe I was just so hopeful that I couldn't read him correctly.”
Akaashi didn't have anything to say. He didn't think that Bokuto would be the type to discriminate so harshly, but there were many things he didn't know about the older boy.
“I'll talk to him,” Akaashi said.
“Thank you,” Kuroo said before adding: “If it's my fault, will you tell me?”
Akaashi promised to tell him when he had talked to Bokuto.
Akaashi couldn't find a good moment to have a proper conversation with Bokuto the following day, and felt disheartened as he headed home. Bokuto's behaviour hadn't gotten any more unusual, so it was probably fine to wait.
Akaashi stopped. He thought about the distress in Kuroo’s voice. Maybe it wasn't a big deal to him, but to Kuroo it was. To Kuroo it meant a friendship with someone he truly cared about, so who was Akaashi to decide whether it was important enough or not.
He turned around and headed back to school. He had been slow to leave in the first place in the hopes that Bokuto might cut his practise early and show up, with no luck, and the school was now quiet. He headed to the gym.
Akaashi stood outside of the dark gym. Just like before, Bokuto was not there. It was so quiet you would have heard a pin drop.
In fact, Akaashi heard something. He wasn't sure if he had just imagined it, but he had no other leads so he might just as well investigate. He opened the door to the club room and looked inside. The lights were on, but he couldn't see anyone. He stepped inside and quietly closed the door behind to listen. He could hear muffled voices from the locker room next door. Akaashi stepped closer to listen.
Bokuto sounded like he was in pain. Akaashi's heart shuddered. Bokuto groaned and sniffled. Maybe he had hurt himself. Maybe he had twist his ankle and needed help.
Akaashi lifted his hand to the doorknob before it occurred to him that the sounds he was hearing could have been produced by something other than pain too.
Akaashi's heart beat louder. Did Bokuto secretly have a girlfriend?
Akaashi shook his head. Even if Bokuto did, why would he bring his girlfriend to the locker room for sex? Akaashi forced himself to smirk at the thought before taking a hold of the doorknob and quietly pulling the door open.
Nothing could have prepared Akaashi for what he saw; Bokuto was in the locker room, but not with a girl. He was kneeling on the floor between the legs of another senior that Akaashi recognised from the wrestling club. There were two more boys in the room, and Akaashi realised they were all from the same club. Bokuto’s eyes were half-lidded, tears streaming down his cheeks as he sucked the thick cock of the one boy. The two others had their cocks exposed as well, one of them stroking his while his eyes were focused on the way his friend’s cock disappeared and appeared between Bokuto’s lips, while the other was jerking his cock and kneeling behind Bokuto.
Akaashi had frozen in place. His heart was beating so loudly that he was certain it was only a matter of seconds before the boys in the room could hear it. He watched how the one boy – Himura, if his memory didn’t fail him – took a hold of Bokuto’s hips and lifted them up, pressing his cock between Bokuto’s ass cheeks. Bokuto shuddered, and his head was suddenly pulled back by the boy whose cock he had been sucking, a fist so tight in his hair that his knuckles were white.
“Fucking watch those teeth!” the boy yelled angrily and slapped Bokuto’s cheek so hard that the sound of it seemed to echo in Akaashi’s ears.
“I’m sorry,” Bokuto tried to mutter, but his head was pulled back to awkwardly bend his neck.
“I’ve told you so many times,” the boy hissed before letting go of Bokuto’s hair.
“I’m sorry,” Bokuto repeated, head falling forward.
All the while Himura was pushing inside him, as if nothing unusual was going on.
“Stupid whore,” the boy in front of Bokuto said before slapping him again.
Bokuto’s head turned to the side, and his hazy gaze fell to the tip of Akaashi’s shoe. Akaashi thought that his heart would stop beating. Bokuto’s eyes widened and he looked up in panic before turning away and facing the cock in front of him.
“If I feel your teeth even graze me again, I’ll punch them out of your mouth,” the boy said, taking a hold of Bokuto’s hair again and forcing the boy’s face to his cock.
Bokuto whimpered and obediently opened his mouth, the heavy tip of the wet cock resting on his tongue.
Akaashi felt sick, and as quietly as he possibly could, he pulled the door closed again. He backed away slowly, opened and closed the next door carefully, and turned around to walk away quickly. He didn’t stop before he was outside the gates and on his way home.
Akaashi felt sick.
What should he do?
When he saw Bokuto waiting for him by the school gate the next morning, Akaashi wasn’t surprised.
“I need to talk to you,” Bokuto said, and Akaashi followed him to an empty classroom.
Bokuto was nervously fidgeting, and Akaashi instinctively wanted to touch him to help it, but he didn’t. He didn’t know if that was what Bokuto really needed. Maybe the boy needed space.
“You should forget what you saw yesterday,” Bokuto said.
It wasn’t what Akaashi had expected, although a part of him understood where it was coming from. He didn’t want to understand it. He wanted Bokuto to ask for help.
“Why?” he asked.
Bokuto looked at him like it was the last question he would have expected.
“Why?” the boy repeated, staring at Akaashi. “Because... Because you shouldn't get involved.”
Akaashi nodded slowly.
“What if I want to get involved?” Akaashi asked.
Bokuto looked angry. Akaashi had never seen him like that, and it was disheartening. He didn't want to see Bokuto as anything but happy and elated.
“You can't,” Bokuto said with fire in his voice.
Akaashi thought for a moment. His personality made him want to back off and leave it at that – after all it was what Bokuto wanted – but defiance burnt in his gut, and just for once he decided to listen to that.
“Why’s that, Bokuto-san?” Akaashi asked.
Bokuto's anger dissolved as quickly as it had risen, and the crease between his brows was now caused by anxiety instead.
“Akaashi,” he said almost pleading. “You can't get into trouble with them.”
“With Himura and his friends?” Akaashi asked. “Are you in trouble with them?”
Bokuto took a step back and folded his arms.
“It's...” he had trouble finding words. “No?”
“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said as calmly as he could. “Are you telling me that you were willingly participating in... whatever you want to call it?”
Bokuto stood so still that he was actually swaying a bit. His chin was wobbling, although he clearly did his best to hide it.
“Yes,” he finally said.
Even if Akaashi didn't know the older boy so well, he would have been able to tell that he was lying.
“I see,” Akaashi said.
“So, you see,” Bokuto said quickly, “that's why you should drop it.”
Akaashi looked at him, but Bokuto was stubbornly staring back, not willing to back away.
“Okay,” Akaashi said. “It's your decision. If that's what you're into.”
Bokuto's face dropped before he could stop it. He opened his mouth but no voice came out. Akaashi waited, but the older boy eventually closed his mouth and nodded, eyes downcast.
“That's what I want,” he said quietly.
As Akaashi turned around and left the classroom, his heart was squeezing like it was going to shatter.
If Bokuto thought that Akaashi would buy everything he said, he was badly mistaken. After taking a few hours to think, Akaashi had decided what to do, and during lunch he went to the teachers’ lounge to meet the volleyball club's advisor.
Akaashi was well aware of how unbelievable his story sounded, but after talking about Bokuto's weird mood over the past weeks, the teacher was ready to believe it.
After club activities, Bokuto was once again dragging behind, saying that he would stay for a while longer. The teacher talked to him, but Bokuto talked his way out of it. Akaashi didn't feel right heading to the locker room and knowing what was going to happen later when everyone else had left.
Akaashi wouldn't know what the teacher decided to do, before the following day.
Akaashi slept restlessly, and when he didn't spot Bokuto in school the next day, he was far from his calm self. He forced himself to stay focused, because worrying wouldn't change anything, and during lunch he was pleasantly surprised by Bokuto showing up in his class asking for him.
He happily followed his senior to a secluded spot in the yard. Bokuto turned to look at him with a stern face.
“I told you to forget about it,” he said.
Akaashi heart skipped a beat and he wondered if he had really done Bokuto a disservice, before he caught the edge of a smile on the boy's face.
“You're a terrible liar, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said.
Bokuto's face broke into a wide smile and he pulled Akaashi into a bone-breaking hug. Akaashi hadn't expected it, but for once he was glad to let Bokuto act on his happiness. He deserved it.
“I should have known that I can count on you,” Bokuto said before releasing his junior.
Akaashi smiled gently.
“Is everything fine with Himura now?” he asked.
Bokuto nodded. Akaashi couldn't remember a moment when he would have been more relieved.