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Sincerely Yours

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Saturday October 17, 2015 7:55 am

Some random high school, in a boring town, in the middle of nowhere

Tooru Oikawa stares at the building in front of him and groans. The latte in his hand keeps his left hand warm while his right is shoved deep in the pocket of his blue pea coat.

“You’ve really fucking done it now, Tooru,” he mutters to himself before moving towards the front doors to his high school. “Senior class president, homecoming king, activities social chair of student council, and best dressed in school. Now here you are, Saturday detention.”

He pushes his glasses up on top of his head and rubs his eyes, too little sleep again. The barista gave him a funny look when he’d asked for triple espresso. Jokes on her, he usually had four shots during the school week, as well as an energy drink most days.

Former Senior Class President,” he reminds himself glumly. It had been a difficult decision, but a necessary one. Suga, his vice president, had fought his resignation at first; using everything from flattery to outright bribery to get him to stay on. But in the end Tooru would not be swayed. He couldn't fake the smile anymore, and knew that Suga would start asking questions that Tooru knew he didn’t want to answer. Instead he claimed that his class load for senior year was proving to be too much to handle in addition to his duties as class president and social chair for the student council. He’d give himself one month before he resigned from social chair as well. Yukie would be thrilled, she’d fought against him hard for that position. He’d keep the title of Homecoming King, no way was he giving that up. Not that they could take it away from him anyway.

He enters the library and is happy to see he was the only one. Six tables make up a study near the front desk and he assumes that's where they are meant to sit. He’d never been in detention before, and definitely not Saturday detention. He decides on the left most table in front and slumps into the chair, he pulls in his arms from his coat and tries to smooth the sleeves of his pink button up. He'd already managed to spill a bit of his latte on his pants, his only saving grace was that the coffee practically matched the color.

Tetsurou Kuroo strolls in soon after, hair looking like he’s just rolled out of bed, with three paperbacks in hand. He’s wearing black skinny jeans with rips in the knees, a black and white checkered flannel, and a blue shirt that reads “Because Science”. Highest GPA in the senior class, MIT bound, and already guaranteed to be Valedictorian. He nods in Tooru’s direction and chuckles.

“Your nerd is showing Oikawa,” he says jutting his chin in the direction of Tooru’s chest.

Tooru looks down and sees a splash of neon green on black peeking out above the top two buttons of his shirt. He’d thrown his “I believe” shirt on underneath instead of a plain black one. Too little sleep indeed. “Matches my shoes,” he says with a shrug, gesturing to his galaxy print converse. His eyes widen quickly at the figure walking in behind Kuroo and he quickly buttons his shirt covering up the the alien head threatening to reveal his guilty pleasure.

Hajime Iwaizumi, class “criminal”, and the last person Tooru wanted to see, storms into the library. His beat up brown jacket looks as though it should have been tossed two years ago. His dark jeans are almost worn through in the knees and the toes of his boots are so scuffed the steel toe is starting to show. He makes three seconds of eye contact with Tooru before making sure to take a seat as far away from him as possible. The momentary glance between the two does not go unnoticed by Kuroo, and as he is readying himself for a comment the next person to walk in catches his attention.

Koutarou Bokuto walks in with his shoulder bag strap hanging from his head, his unmistakable black and silver hair styled as always to resemble a horned owl. Running back on the football team and the only team member who can double for their mascot. The black and white varsity jacket he’s wearing blends into the black cargo pants slung low on his hips. The yellow of his banana print boxers just peeking out and matching the black and yellow Air Jordans on his feet. He and Kuroo eye each other warily, their lips curled into almost matching sneers.

“You…” Bokuto begins, before getting jostled to the side by a small figure in a grey hoodie and baggy black pants. They brush past him with whispered apologies and trips over their feet trying to get to the back of the library and away from the group of detention attendees.

“Excuse me,” a voice pipes up from behind Bokuto, prompting him to turn. He freezes and stares at the boy in front of him.

Keiji Akaashi, new student from the ‘big city’, whose attitude doesn’t quite fit in with his new suburban classmates. Especially given his wardrobe, which today consists of a black utilikilt, baggy black sweater with a silver geometric owl, and knee high buckled combat boots. His legs are kept from being bare by way of a pair of midnight blue leggings with constellations printed on them. His gaze locks with Bokuto’s and they stare at one another, saying nothing.

“Nice of you to all show up on time,” an angry voice trills from behind Akaashi causing him to jump and nearly crash into Bokuto. Vice Principal Washijou enters the library and casts a disdainful look at all of them. “Take your seats and let's get this started.”

Bokuto steps aside and gestures for Akaashi to walk ahead of him. Kuroo takes a seat at the other front table, across from Tooru. Akaashi sits behind him, which then prompts Bokuto to sit at the table across from him.

“You are all here because you have done something that warrants losing a day of freedom. You might be under the impression that you do not belong here,” he says eyeing Akaashi, who merely meets his gaze and does not look away. “Some of you definitely do belong here.” His eyes fell on Iwaizumi huddled in the back row. His chin is now resting on his folded arms, the black sleeves of his baseball tee faded enough to make his hair look darker by comparison.

“Some of my other contemporaries think you should be allowed to use this time to study, to continue learning, or find other useless activities to fill your time with,” his gaze falls on the stack of well worn paperbacks on the table in front of Kuroo. “I do not follow those ideologies. You are here to be punished. Not rewarded with study time that you should have used while in class.”

He pauses in front of Oikawa and looks down at the paper he’s holding in his hands. “Tooru Oikawa, attempting to leave school property. I guess you thought your status as class president made you exempt from the rules. Throw that away, beverages aren’t allowed in the library.”

Oikawa looks at his barely drank coffee and balks. “Sir there’s a sign there saying beverages are allowed only up until a certain area of the library and we are in the…”

“Are you talking back to me Oikawa?”

“No sir, I am merely pointing out that—.”

“Oikawa throw that coffee away or I will schedule you for Saturday detention for the rest of the month and then we’ll see how long you hold your position as class president.”

“I resigned earlier this week sir, so there’s no position to be threatened.”

“Throw away your beverage.”

Oikawa glares at Washijou and proceeds to chug his coffee without breaking eye contact. Bokuto bites back a squawk and Akaashi’s bored expression briefly registers as impressed. Kuroo just stares at him wide eyed while Iwaizumi rolls his.

If Washijou is affected by Oikawa’s actions his eyes give away nothing, instead he looks to Bokuto who's trying to hide in his chair behind Oikawa.

“Koutarou Bokuto, I had hoped I’d be able to see you here one day. Your brothers caused trouble too. Typical athlete, think you're above the rules just because you bring home a shiny trophy. It's a shame you’re missing the game today, though I’m sure the team can do well without its clown—I mean second string running back.”

Washijou misses the murderous gaze Akaashi is sending his way as he is too busy eyeing Iwaizumi. “Attempting to leave school property as well, Mr. Iwaizumi I do hope you’re not trying to spread your influences to Mr. Oikawa. We don't need a second criminal in this school.”

His words barely seem to have an affect on the stoic young man, but Tooru’s fingers are turning white as he digs them into the table in front of him.

“Keiji Akaashi,” Washijou begins.

“Vice Principal Washijou, my father is an attorney,” he grits out, his black lined eyes filled with anger. “A very, very good attorney. I would advise you to take that into consideration before you finish what you are about to say to me. I was told by Mr. Takeda if I showed up today with a signed form from my mother allowing me to attend in-school suspension during my study halls I would be allowed to skip this.”

Washijou blanches for a moment before matching Akaashi’s glare with a scoff of triumph. “Counselor Takeda is not here, thus it is left to me to run detention. I would never allow such a deal to be made, so you will remain here for detention.”

“I have a train to catch,” Akaashi pleads, his anger now replaced with despondence.

“I don’t care what you have, you were assigned Saturday detention for insubordination and obscenities in class.”

“But… I.”

“That’s enough or I will assign you Saturday detention for the rest of the month do I make myself clear.”

“Yes,” Akaashi replies, his shoulders slumping.

“Yes, sir.”

“There’s no need to call me sir, vice principal,” he says with all the pride he has left.

Kuroo bursts out laughing, clutching his stomach and nearly falling out of his chair. He wipes tears from his eyes and lets his body shake the last of his laughter out.

“Kyoutani Kentarou…” Washijo says, looking over his paper, trying not to burn through Kuroo with his glare.

“I don’t think he’s…” Kuroo offers before Washijou’s attention is drawn to the person who’d shoved their way past Bokuto earlier. He’s walking the far wall of the library gazing up at the top shelf of books, searching.

“You!” he yells, gesturing angrily at the boy. “What do you think you are doing?”

“What?” he says, pulling the earbuds from his ears. His golden eyes are wide with confusion as he brushes a stray blonde hair from his eyes, hood still drawn firmly over his head.

“No headphones in detention!”

“I’m not in detention,” he says with a tilt to his head.

“Then what are you doing here?”

“I…”

“Sit down!” Washijou yells, causing the young man to quake.

“But…” he says, wide eyed and looking like he's ready to run.

“Mr. Kentarou, sit down!”

“He’s not Kyoutani!” Kuroo yells, jumping up to the young man’s defense. “Can’t you see he’s trying to tell you something, or are you too busy hating him just for being a student here?”

“Tetsurou, if you want any chance of that recommendation letter even reaching MIT you will sit down and shut your mouth!”

Kuroo balks and his face goes pale. He slowly sinks back into his chair but keeps his back ramrod straight. He eyes the young man still trying to hide behind his curtain of hair. Their eyes meet long enough for him to tilt his head in direction towards the seat next to him.

“I don't know what sort of shenanigans you are pulling being here on a Saturday but until I find out why you are here, you will remain with the rest of the delinquents,” Washijou says as the blonde sits down next to Kuroo and stares down at his lap. His hood falls and black roots fading to brown are revealed. He pulls his knees up to his chest and wipes a tear away from his face.

Washijou departs and Kuroo lets out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. He puts a hand on the shoulder of the boy next to him, who startles at the contact. “Hey, you alright?”

“M’ fine,” he mumbles. “I didn’t know I couldn’t study today. Mr. Takeda said…”

“Yeah, he’s not here.”

The boy buries his face into his knees and sighs. He mumbles something about the worst day ever and Kuroo can’t help but feel for him. “I’m Kuroo,” he says extending a hand out.

“Kenma Kozume.” He takes his fingers and squeezes them briefly before resuming his huddled position.

“Nice to meet you Kenma.”

“You as well… Kuro.”

Chapter Text

Koutarou Bokuto shifts in his seat before pulling off his Varsity jacket and laying it on the chair next to him. The sleeveless grey hoodie he’s wearing underneath does nothing to cover the large expanse of muscle that grace his arms. He reaches into the kangaroo pocket in front and finds a protein bar he’d grabbed on the way out the door this morning. Right… his mom hadn’t made him breakfast like she usually did. He twists the bar back and forth in his hands making the wrapper crinkle. Eventually the sound causes Tooru Oikawa to turn around and glare at him. He pockets the protein bar with a sheepish expression and slumps down in his chair.

This is going to be hell…

Koutarou has never been good at sitting still for long periods of time. Nor is he accustomed to dealing with silence. His mother always tells him that he’s just got so much sunshine in him that he bursts with energy. His teachers tell him he needs to focus, his guidance counselor says he might want to consider seeing a specialist, and his father… his father doesn’t want to hear any of that silly talk. Boys have energy, that's just how it is. That's why they play sports and the girls… they do the girl things.

He doesn't want to think about his father right now. He doesn't want to think about his mother either. But soon enough the disappointment on her face is all he can see in his mind right now. She hadn’t even let him cook dinner with her the night before.

It had been a tradition since his freshmen year of high school. Every friday night—if he didn’t have a game—they would cook something together. At first it was real simple dishes. She taught him how to make the hayashi rice her grandmother made for her when she was a little girl. Then she taught him the recipe for stuffed peppers his father’s mother had taught her to make. Simple foods, with simple comforts. Koutarou loved cooking with his mother. Especially when they started trying more complicated dishes.

He smiles when he remembers the time they tried to make duck a l'orange and had failed so badly that the kitchen smelled like burnt orange for days. His father always liked to bring that up whenever he didn’t like a dinner his mother made.

“At least it didn’t make the kitchen reek this time.”

Mom would just smile and laugh quietly at the little joke. Koutarou never laughed at the joke, he didn’t like it. At least his father remembered to compliment his mother's cooking from time to time. He never complimented the food if he knew Koutarou had made it. Mom always pressed, how was it, do you like the flavor, did you notice the extra spice? His father would always just shrug and say it was fine.

He didn't like Koutarou doing the “household chores”. Said it wasn’t something Koutarou needed to be worrying himself with. But he liked helping his mother around the house. His mind was never more clear than when they were folding laundry, or when he’d wipe all the streaks away from the windows and mirrors. At least he knew when he went to college he wouldn’t ruin every single item of clothing he owned, like his older brother Ichiro had. His mother was so angry when Ichiro came home with his white clothes turned pink, his jeans shrunk, and all of his t-shirts covered in bleach stains. Dad just laughed and said he shouldn’t worry himself with something as trivial as laundry. He’d pay the extra money for Ichiro to bring his clothes to a wash and fold, they could take care of it for him.

“That privilege ends once you find yourself a wife though. So you better marry a girl who knows her way around the house.”

Koutarou doesn’t know why his father is always saying things like that. He doesn't like that Ichiro and his other brother, Otojiro, say similar things too. Otojiro had gone off to college the year before and ended things with his high school sweetheart because, she wanted to have a career before having a family. He remembers how sad his mother had been when they split up. Isobel was nice, nicer than any of the girls Ichiro had brought home. He hates seeing the sadness in his mother’s eyes, even more than he hated seeing the disappointment.

Refocus… change your thoughts… don’t fall into a funk.

He looks to his left at the bookshelf on the far wall. He tries to see if he can read any of the titles. He squints really hard but he can’t seem to focus well enough. He should read more, reading is good for you. Maybe if he read more he’d be smarter. Then he could do the smart classes and be too busy being super smart to worry about doing sports, like Kuroo. Or maybe just different sports. He misses volleyball, football is… not as fun.

“You’re not playing to have fun Koutarou, you’re playing to win! The scholarships for football are better. Volleyball isn’t gonna get you into college.”

It could though… Daichi was being scouted by a big name college. He was gonna get a full ride to a really good school and go into engineering, all thanks to volleyball. He only knew of two of his teammates who’d been scouted so far, and neither had been guaranteed a spot.

God, the team, they gotta hate him right now. He screwed everything up. He almost got all of them caught...

But doesn’t that mean they shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing? Hazing is bad. There were always news stories about people getting hurt or killed. Chad swore up and down it was just an initiation.

“Come on man, everyone’s gotta get initiated into the team. Don't you remember yours?”

Bokuto remembered getting a bucket of cold water dumped on him after he’d come out of the shower and a lot of laughter. That had been his initiation, Chad’s as well. They’d gotten three of the freshmen members with that one…

But when it came time to get Ollie… something changed. Someone had hooked up a hose and they kept hitting him with a stream of water. And then someone else charged in with a bar of soap wrapped in a towel. They kept smacking him with it, saying they needed to clean the… he doesn’t want think about the word that came next.

Koutarou looks over at Kuroo and frowns. If he hadn’t have shown up…

Koutarou nurses the soreness in his jaw. Kuroo had gotten a really good shot on him that’s for sure. Not that he could blame him. Kuroo had burst in and tried to scare off everyone and had gotten sucker punched in the gut for his trouble. When Koutarou had tried to help him up he’d reacted as anyone would when cornered. Koutarou is still in shock at how strong Kuroo’s punch was.

They hadn’t spoken in two years. Not since Kotarou had dropped volleyball and stuck to just football his sophomore year. Kuroo’d been out of school because of a lab accident. It was one of the reasons Koutarou had agreed to give up volleyball… knowing Kuroo wouldn’t be able to play. He’s still not even sure what happened, only that he came out of the locker room one day after football practice and saw Kuroo’s retreating figure. After that he stopped answering texts and wouldn’t even look at him when they passed each other in the hall.

Does he still hate me?

He catches Kuroo’s gaze and is met with a glare that chills him to his core. That answers that question. Kuroo looks away and leans over to whisper something to the blonde guy next to him.

Who the hell is that guy anyway?

Koutarou knows Kyoutani, he might be blond too but he’s got a buzz cut and a penchant for black eyeliner and defacement of public property. As much as you can call painting murals in the school hallways defacement. There’s no way Kyoutani is gonna show up for Saturday detention, he’s not here in protest. Too bad the little dude is taking the punishment instead.

A pair of gold eyes peek around Kuroo and stare at him with an almost gentle intensity. He’s not being studied, but observed. Still its unnerving and he breaks the eye contact and lets his sights settle instead on Akaashi.

He can’t remember ever seeing Akaashi look so sad. Not even when he first transferred to their school last year.

Akaashi was, as his friend Tanaka would say “a city boy”. He’d moved to their boring little town with his mother and didn’t quite settle in. There were rumors going on about him and the life he had lived before being uprooted and dropped into their world. Koutarou heard a rumor circulating that Akaashi took a train back to the city every Friday night and spent the weekend with his older lover. That he was going to graduate early so he could run away and live a ‘Bohemian lifestyle’.

Koutarou isn’t sure what that means exactly. He wonders if it's anything like that song from the that cool movie he watched with his mom. The one where Rosario Dawson did the strip dance while howling about going out. Oh and there was that one actor whose name he can never remember. He played Roger… such a nice voice… and his hair too. Thick hair is so nice.

Akaashi has thick hair. He wonders what it would be like to run his fingers through it. It's probably really soft and so nice to touch. He thinks of Akaashi a lot. They have a few classes together. Koutarou likes hearing Akaashi argue with their Shakespeare teacher. Akaashi sounds like he knows what he talking about a lot more than Mr. Timbald does. He wonders if that’s the teacher who gave Akaashi detention and made him sad.

Sad Akaashi is not something Koutarou likes one bit.

His gaze falls to Akaashi’s feet where is owl backpack rests. He loves Akaashi’s bag. It's made of black leather and it looks just like an owl. The strap is beat up because Akaashi had sewn a bunch of patches to it. Each patch had a really good, or depending on your opinion, a really bad pun on it. The first time Koutarou had seen Akaashi’s bag he’d picked it up and stared at it in awe.

“Excuse me, but that’s my bag.”

“It's amazing!”

“Ummmm… thank you?”

“I love your bag!”

Akaashi had politely pulled it from Koutarou’s grasp and blushed before thanking him again and running off. Owls were one of the few things Koutarou knew he had in common with Akaashi. He thought about him a lot, just never had the courage to talk to him for more than two sentences at a time.

Hey! Akaashi’s wearing his owl sweater today!

Koutarou loves that sweater. He then remembers that he’s wearing an owl shirt today too. His favorite one! He and Akaashi match… sort of. He should show him. It might make him happy! But how…

There’s gotta be a way to get Akaashi’s attention long enough for him to point to his shirt. Koutarou taps his fingers on the desk trying to imagine a scenario that would get Akaashi to look over long enough to achieve his goal. His leg shakes while he ponders the possibility of throwing a note to him that says “Hey we match!”

Wait he can’t take out his notebooks cause stupid Washijou says they gotta just sit there. Which is stupid. How are they supposed to just sit there and do nothing at all? What is the point of that?

This is torture… What time is is anywa—oh my fucking god it's only 8:30!

This is never going to end. He’s only been in hell for thirty minutes and now he knows he’s never going to escape. He must have died from sadness at disappointing his mother and now he’s in hell and he’s never going to…

“Bokuto!” comes a harsh whisper.

“Huh?” he replies almost too loudly looking up to see Akaashi staring at him.

“You’re making a lot of noise,” he whispers, but his voice does not sound unkind. In fact there seems to be a touch of sympathy.

“I’m… I’m sorry I was just.”

“Here,” he says tossing something that Koutarou easily catches.

Koutarou studies the cube Akaashi tossed to him. It has different little functions on each side. A roller ball, something like a light switch, gears, a joystick, a spinner, some button, and a smooth side which he guesses is for rubbing.

“What is this?”

“Just, put it in your pocket and find a side to play with. It should keep you occupied which might help you relax.”

“Thanks Akaash!”

Akaashi puts a finger to his lips but nods his head to say you’re welcome. Koutarou rolls the cube around in his pocket and after several tests decides he likes the rollerball the best. Its an endless loop and reminds him of how he used to run the computer mouse back and forth over the pad.

He’s almost so lost in his thoughts he forgets what he had been trying to do before he’d been distracted. He was supposed to be getting Akaashi’s attention.

Well he’d managed to succeed in doing that but not for the reasons he’d wanted to.

Oh! He’s looking over at me again.

Koutarou points at the owl on his shirt and gives a huge smile. Akaashi tilts his head and narrows his eyes. Koutarou gestures again, moving his hand in a way to show the decal across his shirt.

“Are you asking if I like your chest?” Akaashi asks and Koutarou sputters. He looks down and realizes that he still wearing his hoodie. He’s been gesturing to nothing but his own chest and now Akaashi is staring at him with that same look his teachers get when he tries to explain where he’d gotten his answer from.

“I...”

“Are you asking if I find you attractive?”

“Ummm.”

“I find you physically attractive, but at times mentally taxing,” Akaashi offers and Koutarou listens intently. “However, judging from the look on your face, I suspect this is not the question you were asking me.”

Koutarou ponders Akaashi’s words for a moment before his eyes widen in surprise. “You think I’m cute?”

“In the purely physical sense, you match several of my aesthetic desires.”

Koutarou finds himself vibrating with excitement. Keiji Akaashi, smart, beautiful, mysterious, elegant Keiji Akaashi, thinks he’s cute. This was amazing. This was the best day ever. It didn’t matter that he was in detention and that he suspected he might be dead cause he’s sure this is what hell will be. Akaashi is there with him, and he thinks he’s cute.

There’s a snort of derision and he catches Kuroo chuckling and the blonde next to him biting back giggles.

“Was that… was that flirting? Or am I having a stroke? Seriously I need confirmation.”

“You wouldn’t know flirting if it was presented to you with data, theory and hypothesis!” Bokuto snipes and Kuroo scoffs.

“I know how to flirt,” Kuroo retorts before turning to the boy next to him. He brushes his hair back and give him a crooked smile. “Hey, what are you doing tomorrow?”

The blonde looks back at him and responds in the most deadpan tone Koutarou has ever heard in his life. “Going to a wedding and hiding in a stairwell at the first available opportunity.”

Kuroo deflates with a quiet ‘oh’. Koutarou can’t be bothered to even gloat. He’s too busy beaming at Akaashi who keeps blushing every time they make eye contact.

“You think I’m cute!”

Chapter Text

Kenma Kozume wishes he had stayed in bed. In fact he would like to have a complete reset of the last two days, because he would like to remain in bed yesterday as well. Because sitting with his hands in his lap fighting back the urge to cry might very be the most horrific thing that has happened to him in the last sixteen years of his life…

Seventeen years actually.

He’s been seventeen for twenty four hours now. Not that anyone seemed to give a damn about that. In fact, no one had even wished him a happy birthday yesterday. Not a single person. God it was like some awful cliche from an old movie. His entire family forgot his birthday.

Well, he did tell his mother not to make a big deal out of it, and he spent most of his time trying to go as unnoticed as possible. Especially with everyone being in town that weekend anyway. He hadn’t had a moment to himself in over a week.

Whatever, it's not a big deal. It's just one more year. Besides it's not like he needed a birthday hug from his mother. He could get apple pie from the grocery store any day, he didn't need one to be baked for him. He’d always said he’d rather be left alone than have everyone make a big deal over one day…

This is all Lev’s fault.

Well… to be fair it’s Alisa’s fault. But he likes her, so Lev is gonna take the blame.

It’s just a wedding, why is everyone making such a big deal over it?

Because it’s Alisa’s wedding and Alisa is pretty awesome, he reminds himself. He puts up with Lev because doing so makes Alisa happy, and he’s never one for making Alisa upset. She’s more like a big sister than a cousin to him-- she might be the only member of his incredibly large family who understands him at all. She was the only one to let Kenma be Kenma without question.

“Kenma you need to touch up your roots for the wedding.” his mother had been on him for weeks about it.

“No no no! He doesn’t need to do that! Whats a wedding without a little pudding? Kenma wouldn't look like himself if his roots aren't showing. I’ll look back in five years and say ‘Who is this blonde boy? Where is my Little Pudding?’”

“Little Pudding,” he both loathed and adored the nickname. Alisa was nine years older than him; she’d called him her Little Jellybean for years because when he was born his tiny pink fingers made her think of jellybeans, and the name stuck. It wasn’t until he was fifteen that he’d finally had enough of the name.

“I’m not your Little Jellybean, Alisa! I’m fifteen! I’m too old for these stupid nicknames!”

Alisa had smiled and patted him on the head. The Haiba side of the family was always taller than average and Alisa had four inches on him.

“Ok then, instead you are my Little Pudding.” she said, stroking her fingers through his two toned hair. Kenma didn’t have the energy to fight her on that one, god forbid she come up with something worse for him.

Kenma decides he’s gonna keep it to himself that everyone forgot his birthday, at least for a few more days. Alisa would be heartbroken if she thought her wedding caused him to be forgotten, and Lev would bend over backwards trying to fix things. Best to just keep it to himself for now.

He grimaces at the feeling in his stomach. Somehow he is still full from all the foods Lev kept pushing him to try at the rehearsal dinner last night. Alisa had been adamant that the rehearsal be two days before the wedding, because she didn't want to think about her wedding the day before her wedding. He’d venture to call her odd but knows it wouldn’t be fair given his own quirks-- maybe that's why they get along so well, they’re the weird cousins in the family. Lev is just Lev, there’s no real explanation for him. Kenma supposes he can be one of the weird cousins too, it’s only fair.

He still can't believe he’s been mistaken for a stranger and made to sit in Saturday detention…

He’s gonna fail this test, he’s never gonna have a chance to study now. Why did he decide to take chemistry? Why?!

So you could lighten your class load for senior year and only have half days?

Oh... right…

Kenma knows he’s what many would consider lazy. And he’s fine with that. He also knows he spends more time playing video games than many would deem healthy-- again, he’s perfectly fine with this assessment. The video game world has always and will always be more easy to navigate than the real world.

He can reload a save if he makes a mistake and says the wrong thing, he doesn’t need to worry about waiting for facial cues and mannerisms of the NPCs he interacts with. He can relax with games. He can let his mind go with games. He can… just be when he games.

If he can cut himself to half days senior year he can apply to be an at home beta tester. He can start a career in gaming before even going to college. It would be a huge opportunity for him, not that anyone is taking him seriously about it. His father thinks a career in what should be a hobby is a mistake and his mother smiles that brittle smile she gets when she has zero idea why her son is the way that he is.

He should have stayed in bed…

Kenma pulls his knees to his chest and tries his damndest not to cry. He is seventeen years old and he refuses to allow himself to cry. He’s startled when he feels someone's hand rest on his shoulder and he flinches at the touch for a moment. He looks past the fringe of messy black hair and sees kind hazel eyes staring back at him.

“Are you alright?”

“M’ fine,” he mumbles. “I didn’t know I couldn’t study today. Mr. Takeda said…”

“Yeah, he’s not here.”

Kenma buries his face into his knees and sighs.

“Worst birthday ever,” he mumbles.

“I’m Kuroo,” the boy next to him says, extending out a hand. Kenma looks at his hand and then back again to his face. This stranger stood up for him and offered him an escape route, despite not even knowing who he is. Kenma feels as though he should be uncomfortable with the attention and yet… somehow he’s actually quite comfortable with him.

“Kenma Kozume.” He takes Kuroo’s fingers and squeezes them for a moment, not quite shaking his hand. Still Kuroo smiles at him and doesn’t attempt to hold his fingers a moment longer and Kenma resumes his huddled pose.

“Nice to meet you, Kenma,” he says quietly, the smile he’s wearing is evident in his voice.

“You as well… Kuro.” Kenma winces at the mistake. But Kuroo doesn’t correct him or make note of it. He thinks he catches the eye of the football player sitting across from them but looks away before further eye contact can continue.

“Kozume? Don’t you live on Nebelung Street? Big house with the bright red door?”

Kenma looks up, eyes narrowed.

“...Yes…”

Kuroo smiles again and Kenma realizes with a slight flush that he likes it. Its calculating and yet… calming. “I live across the street from you. I’ve seen you before. You always crawl out of your window and sit in that huge elm tree that looks like its gonna fall on your house any day now.”

Kenma huffs out a quiet laugh.

“That’s why I sit on the far side. That way when it takes me out it will leave the house intact.”

Kuroo stares at him wide eyed.

“You’re a morbid little kitten aren’t you?”

“A what now?”

“Kitten,” Kuroo states plainly, he’s not even daring Kenma to argue, just stating fact. “You remind me of one.”

“How?”

“It's the hair and the way you’re studying me as I speak. Reminds me of my calico, Mickey.”

“Calicos are girl cats,” he remarks pragmatically, though doesn’t mind the comparison.

“Mickey is a boy,” Kuroo counters. “He’s special, one in three thousand special.”

“Are you trying to be funny? Naming your cat after a mouse?” Kenma asks with a shy smile and Kuroo grins wide.

“I thought it was less obvious than Jerry.”

“You’re weird.”

“Yeah, but you smiled.”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“Did not.”

“Totally did.”

“Bokuto!”

Kenma looks up and sees the guy with the weird two toned hair staring at Akaashi with an alarmed expression that soon turns sheepish. He decides to ignore whatever conversation they are having and returns to staring at the table in front of him.

He’s actually really surprised to see Akaashi here. Had he not been so preoccupied with escaping from Washijou he might have sat next to him instead, but Kuroo had been the one he’d seen gesturing first and so it was next to him where he sought refuge.

He met Akaashi last year when he transferred to their school. Akaashi had been quiet, sullen, and unsociable; Kenma liked him immediately. They had developed an acquaintanceship built on comfortable silence.

The only class they share this year is Home Economics, and they are both horrible at it. The only thing keeping their grade above a B at this point is their lab partners Shouyou Hinata and Yuu Nishinoya. The fact that they keep them from failing is the only reason he and Akaashi put up with half their antics. Hinata has the amazing ability to whip a meringue by hand without losing energy. Noya didn’t have Hinata’s abilities in the kitchen, but he took direction so well Kenma wondered if he was merely a robot powered by Redbull and cupcake batter.

Bokuto seems to suffer from the same sort of energy that powers his classmates. What must it be like to never need to stop? Seems tiring. He can hear Akaashi saying something to Bokuto and he finds himself eavesdropping.

“Are you asking if I find you attractive?”

“Ummm.”

“I find you physically attractive, but at times mentally taxing,” Akaashi explains. “However, judging from the look on your face, I suspect this is not the question you were asking me.”

Bokuto looks as though he’s processing Akaashi’s words for a moment before a huge grin overtakes his face. “You think I’m cute!”

“In the purely physical sense you match several of my aesthetic desires, yes.”

Kuroo lets out an inelegant snort and Kenma tries to bite back the giggles threatening to spill out of him.

“Was that… was that flirting? Or am I having a stroke? Seriously I need confirmation,” Kuroo asks.

“You wouldn’t know flirting if it was presented to you with data, theory and hypothesis!” Bokuto snipes at him. Kenma bites back a snort, that was a good one.

“I know how to flirt,” Kuroo retorts before turning to Kenma. He flashes a smile and brushes his hair out of his eyes for a moment. Kenma tries not to laugh in his face, this is ridiculous whatever he is doing. “Hey, what are you doing tomorrow?”

“Going to a wedding and hiding in a stairwell at the first available opportunity,” Kenma states in the flattest tone he can manage.

“Oh,” Kuroo says, his posture deflating. Kenma watches him quizzically. That was not the response he thought he would get. Was he supposed to flirt back? That was a joke wasn’t it? He’s never been good at knowing when someone is flirting with him and when someone is just joking around.

“You think I’m cute!” Bokuto says with unabashed enthusiasm. Kenma peeks behind him and is shocked to see Akaashi actually looking away with a flush to his cheeks. It spreads across his cheeks to his ears and Kenma can’t help but be intrigued. In the two years he has known Akaashi he has never seen a hint of embarrassment cross the boys face. And yet… he’s blushing and trying so hard to hide it.

“Wow…”

Chapter Text

“You think I’m cute!”

Keiji mentally smacks himself while attempting to maintain what little composure he has left. He takes a moment to asses the situation and tries to determine if perhaps he hallucinated the last five minutes. But the adoring look on Bokuto’s face is enough evidence to prove that yes; he really did just blurt out that he finds Koutarou Bokuto to be cute.

Idiot…

Months of keeping those thoughts to himself. So much practice at not staring every time the guy flexes. Constant reminders that the last thing he needs to do is flirt with a member of the football team.

His bluntness is going to get him into trouble someday. Actually, it already has. Because instead of being on a train to the one safe haven he has left, he is in Saturday detention. All because he couldn't keep his mouth shut and just let his teacher be a pedantic ass.

Keiji had been overjoyed to be taking Shakespeare; hadn't expected it to be an option at this school, until he realized the kind of teacher Mr. Timbald was. It had taken less than two months of listening to the man drone on in absolute ignorance before Keiji lost it.

It's a fucking dick joke you ignorant twat!

Real fucking smooth Keiji,” he thinks to himself before glancing to his left. Bokuto is still staring at him with that stupid grin of his.

Stupid, yeah, stupidly adorable and you love it!!

Love was a bit strong but this was a year long crush that was becoming over saturated in his mind. He needed to stop this train of thought before it derailed again and he said something even more ridiculous than “I find you physically attractive, but mentally taxing.”

Now who's the pedantic ass?

He mentally berates himself. This is ridiculous, he’s not supposed to care about any of this. He’s not supposed to want to interact with anyone at this school. Interaction leads to connections, which leads to relationships, which means he’s tied to a place where he doesn’t even belong. He just needs to finish school and he can leave, go back to where he does belong.

Does he really belong there?

Of course he does. He grew up in the city, had spent the better part of fifteen years there. It was his home until his mother decided that her childhood home was the best place to forget about her failed marriage. She didn't even give Keiji a choice in the matter and his father didn’t attempt to fight to keep him.

But it's not like anyone there has bothered to keep in touch…

Haruki does… well Haruki tries. Keiji isn’t the best at responding to texts. Often waiting days to actually give an answer. By that point Haruki would move onto a new subject to talk about and the cycle repeated over and over. He didn’t even want to venture a guess at how long it had been since he’d heard from Milo.

The blame for that was entirely Keiji's and he knew it. He and Milo had never gone beyond, hell they had never even had a title for whatever it was they were. Friends? Lovers? Friends who occasionally made out and or engaged in sexual activity?

They were… never together. Because, despite his blunt nature, Keiji was nearly incapable of allowing himself to be vulnerable long enough to let anyone in. He had spent years seeing what that vulnerability had done to his parents. If anyone asked him to describe his parents marriage he would quote them Robert Frost, verbatim.

Some say the world will end in fire.

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold to those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice

Frost had it about half right. Fire might be strong but in the end ice would always win out. He’d watched the cold demeanor of his mother dwindle away the fire of his father until there was nothing left for either of them.

Keiji was more than aware that he was his mother’s son, though not for lack of trying on his part. It was all too easy to fall back into his natural state of cold and distant, but most importantly separate. He had friendships, some even close enough to know him on a personal level. He wasn't an entirely closed off person, just hesitant to allow anyone within his comfort zone.

Bokuto was definitely someone who was better off staying out of that zone entirely. Too bright, too loud, too--my god he is still looking

Keiji’s eyes widen and his breath catches in his throat when he realizes that Bokuto is removing his hoodie. He finds himself absolutely torn as to whether or not he wants there to be a shirt on underneath it. Logically he knows Bokuto is not about to strip down in the library, but he has admired those biceps long enough to wonder what the rest of him looks like.

He breathes a sigh of relief (disappointment) when he sees a bright yellow shirt fall to cover up what brief flashes of abdominals were revealed.

“Akaashi, psst.”

He’s broken out of his reverie and sees Bokuto smiling at him and once again gesturing to his chest. Displayed on his shirt is a graphic of an owl dressed in a magician's outfit, and underneath in bright bold letters it says “Hoodini”. Keiji snorts for a moment at the ridiculousness.

“An owl pun,” he remarks dryly and before he can stop himself. “What a hoot.”

Keiji knows he’s messed up because suddenly Bokuto’s eyes widen and he then drops his head onto his arms. The gaze he is casting on Keiji can only be described as dreamy, and Keiji needs to look away because he can feel his face going flush.

He needs to put a stop to this. The flirting has to stop, though when it started he has no idea. Perhaps keeping Bokuto at arm's length is what has done this. He’s been denying himself any sort of relationship with the man and now his subconscious is rebelling against him and making him say whatever pops into his head. A friendship would undoubtedly dispel half of the fantasies he’s built up in his mind. Most of them revolving around being pulled into those arms and pressed against what must be an incredibly…

Oh for fucks sake will you calm yourself down!

Milo would be beside himself with glee if he knew that Keiji Akaashi, the coldest asshole south of the Arctic, was allowing himself to daydream about muscle bound athletes pressing him up against a wall while he ground himself down on their leg.

Because in the end that's exactly what Keiji was. A cold-hearted asshole, or at least that’s how he preferred to be perceived. He was blunt, sarcastic, and at times so honest it was considered hurtful by many. That facade was his armor, his only protection at not falling apart and asking why mom and dad stopped loving each other. Not that he cared...

Apathy had become his armor sometime around the first night he laid awake listening to a screaming match.

His room was too far down the hall from the living room to understand what they were fighting about, and so his lullaby for years was merely an echo of his mother’s tone rising minute by minute until his father reached his breaking point.

She always had to push and prod and push and prod, until his father would snap and that would be the end of the fight. Once his father yelled his mother seemingly lost all her fervor. There would be a brief muffled assent and soon her footsteps would echo down the hall. The bedroom door would close and his father’s sigh would soon follow.

Keiji had no desire to learn the reasons behind their seperation. He was simply relieved to be freed of the endless arguing. However, the upheaval that followed their separation was one he wished he had been allowed a say in.

Due the change in scenery he doesn’t sleep well. The suburbs are far too quiet. He misses the sounds of the city at night. Of cars passing over pavement at all hours, of groups laughing as they traverse the sidewalks, he even misses the faint hum of the subway, humming underground.

The only time he sleeps well anymore is the weekends. Because he leaves the suffocating silence of the suburbs and relaxes in the comforts of what is familiar to him. Every Friday he ventures to the only train station in a twenty mile radius and takes a two hour long train ride to the only place he considers home. He won’t lie and say it's to spend time with his father. Because his father is hardly home, his office is where he lives half the time. Burying himself in his work, much like his mother has hidden herself away in her past.

Keiji spends his weekends alone. None of his old friends know he’s there. He makes it a point to avoid frequenting their old haunts. Instead he finds places he never knew existed. Coffee shops with names that beg to be made fun of. Internet cafes whose only signs of life are the taps on the keyboards and the occasional mutterings of its patrons. He sits in the little parks that pop up every ten blocks, put there to remind the cities inhabitants that nature still exists beyond their concrete and steel confinement.

He spends his weekends alone wishing he could care and also wishing he cared less. Because in a year he’s going to leave. He’s going to gather what little belongings he wishes to keep and he is going to leave. Because what he lacks emotionally is only marginally made up for financially. Old money, that’s what his grandfather always said when he talked about Keiji’s future.

“You’ve got the world at your feet Keiji. Your great-great-great grandfather made sure of it. You can have anything you want.”

What Keiji wants money cannot buy. What it can buy is a plane ticket to anywhere. What it can buy is a new life. What it can buy is an escape. But that escape is still more than a year away. He’s adamant about graduating, he won’t be the first Akaashi to drop out of high school, he’s still got some pride left after all.

It’s just another year, he can make it. He’s putting on a show at this point. His mother will suspect something if he doesn’t take the SATs. So he’ll apply to the schools he’s expected to apply to. He’ll have the talks with his counselors about what he wants for his future.

Haven’t you heard? He’s going to be a lawyer just like his father. Won’t he be so proud to hear it?

Yes, so proud. His mother is overjoyed to know that her son will follow in the steps of the man she divorced with such fervor, they needed to reprint the documents, because she ripped the paper in her haste to sign.

Soon he will be free. Soon he can stop caring. Soon… soon… soon.

“Kenma, what are you doing in detention? You said you were coming in to study?”

For the first time in Keiji’s life he is actually happy to see Mr. Takeda.

“Oh thank god you are here,” comes a gruff voice from behind him. Everyone turns to see Hajime Iwaizumi looking at Takeda like he might be his own personal savior.

“Why do I get the feeling that this morning has been rough on all of you?”

“I’ll give you three guesses as to who took on detention duties when you couldn't make it in,” Kuroo remarks folding his arms.

Takeda takes a deep breath and sighs. “Vice Principal Washijou.”

There’s a collective hum of assent from all six of the libraries unwilling inhabitants and Takeda rubs a finger between his eyes. “I will find him and relieve him of detention duties. You may all take ten minutes to stand up and stretch and find a book. When I come back we will discuss how the rest of detention will continue. Kenma, you may of course continue with what we agreed on. Please excuse me.”

“Mr. Takeda, you said we would discuss…” Iwaizumi calls to the retreating back of the guidance counselor. Mr. Takeda turned and the expression on his face was solemn.

“Yes, we will discuss that matter when I return. Please excuse me in the meantime.”

“What’s that all about Iwa-chan?” Tooru Oikawa pipes up, earning a glare from Iwaizumi.

“None of your business so back off.”

“Rude.”

Akaashi sighs and watches Bokuto scamper off to the opposite end of the library. Friendship… who needs it?

Chapter Text

“What was that about Iwa-chan?” Tooru asks without thinking. The glare he receives is enough to make him regret it. Hajime and he and have barely shared more than ten words with one another since August.

“None of your business so back off,” he growls and puts his chin back on his folded arms, staring out in front of him.

“Rude,” Tooru retorts before pushing his chair back and heading off to find a trashy science fiction novel to occupy himself with. Hajime remains in his seat, as does Kuroo who hands one of his books to Kenma. Kenma looks at the title and then gives Kuroo a look which prompts one of his horrible laughs.

Tooru can see Bokuto all the way on the other side of the library and its obvious he is doing all he can to avoid being in the same vicinity as Akaashi. After all that ridiculous flirting he’s doing all he can to stay away from him. Tooru smiles because he can’t help but find it cute. He looks up and catches Hajime’s eyes for a moment before the scowl returns and Tooru feels his heart break as Hajime looks away… again.

Does he really hate me that much?

Tooru can’t remember a time in his life that Hajime wasn’t there. Their parents had been neighbors before they’d been born. His father had grown up with Hajime’s mother. He’d been the one to set up the blind date that led to Hajime’s parents meeting. Of all the people in the world who could hate him, it had to be his best friend. It had to be Iwa-chan.

Tooru’s chest aches just thinking of the name. It had been given to Hajime by Tooru’s grandma. Toto and Iwa-chan, her little princes, she’d called them. Tooru had been devastated when his grandma passed on. He was eight at the time. Hajime had found him hiding in the pool house the day of the funeral, refusing to go to the service.

“I can’t Hajime, I can’t see her in the box.”

“Tooru, you gotta say goodbye.”

“If I say goodbye then that means she’s gone and I might forget her someday.”

“You won’t forget her.”

“How will I remember her Hajime? What do I do?”

“Call me Iwa-chan.”

“But?”

“That’s one way to always remember her right? I like the name, I don’t want to lose it.”

“Okay… Iwa-chan.”

Their friendship had survived being separated when Hajime’s father lost his job and the Iwaizumi’s moved away. Tooru was never too clear on the details. His father never liked to talk about it, they worked together after all. But from what he had gathered Hajime’s father had either made a huge mistake, or had taken the fall for someone else’s. Either way it meant that the Iwaizumi’s had to leave. It was the summer before eighth grade, the boys had just turned thirteen.

That year had been especially rough for Hajime. He had to go to transfer to a new school. Was picked on by the other kids when they learned he was a former rich kid. He’d gotten into so many fights. He would call Tooru up at least three times a week and they’d talk. They’d talk about school, homework, what sports they played, anything in the world they talked about it. Tooru had been the one thing of his old life Hajime had been able to hold onto.

Tooru’s eighth grade graduation party had been a joint affair. He’d refused to have a party unless he could share it with Iwa-chan. His mother had fought him on it repeatedly, stating that it wouldn’t be fair to ask Hajime’s mother to help pay for something they obviously couldn't afford. Tooru hadn’t thrown a tantrum since he was six, but that day he threw one until both his parents relented and agreed to pay for the party. He knew money was hard for the Iwaizumi’s and he didn't understand why his parents were so unwilling to share a little bit of the money they always seemed to have. Wasn't that what friends did for each other? Share?

That wouldn't be the first fight he’d have with his mother that year. The next came when Tooru declared he would not be going to the private high school the rest of the kids in his neighborhood would be attending.

“You are going to be the only one attending public school if you do this,” his mother argued. “Why would you want to do this? You could be attending an elite high school, have better opportunities, more contacts for your future.”

“Will Iwa-chan be going?”

“Tooru Oikawa. You need to stop worrying yourself with Hajime and focus on yourself. Besides, he’s not going to the high school here. They aren’t in the right neighborhood.”

“Mrs. Iwaizumi found them an apartment in the district, he is going there, he told me!”

“Even still.”

“Enough both of you,” Oikawa’s father silenced them, his hand striking the table, “If Tooru wants to go to the public high school then he can go. God knows we’d save thousands on tuition alone if he does.”

“You’re denying him the opportunity to go to a better school so he can do what?” Tooru’s mother’s attention was immediately drawn from him and focused solely on his father.

But that’s how it always went. One of his parents would always disagree with the other when it came to him. They’d soon forget whatever it was he wanted, give it to him, and then focus on arguing with each other. Tooru used it to his advantage occasionally in the beginning, until he started to see that at times they were almost using him to get at each other.

“If he doesn’t want to go there, I am not going to force him.”

“Does Abida know about this? That her son is forcing my son to give up an opportunity to excel?”

“I wouldn't know, I haven’t spoken to her since the party,” his father's voice carried a warning.

“Oh I am sure you haven't.”

“I am not having this conversation with you again Emily.”

“Of course, how dare I speak ill of Abida Iwaizumi. Tell me how much longer is she going to stay an Iwaizumi? Surely, at this point she must be sick of Hanshiro and the fact that he’d rather drink himself to death than hold a steady job.”

“Enough!”

His mother had left for a retreat to some foreign country a few weeks after that fight. Tooru can’t even remember the name, he hasn’t bothered keeping track of all the places she keeps disappearing off to. Nor can he keep track of how many business trips his father takes every year. The only constant presence in the house anymore is their housekeeper Zorya; and while she has done a wonderful job taking care of him, she’s not much of a conversationalist. Still, she makes sure he has breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not to mention clean clothes, clean sheets, and a clean home.

Tooru looks down at the bulge where his knee brace pushes out against the fabric of his pants. They hadn’t managed to even set aside their differences long enough to both be there for him when he woke up from his surgery. Hajime and Abida Iwaizumi had been the first faces he’d seen when he came to. There was a teddy bear dressed as a baseball player next to his bed with a card from his father. Abida had joked that the company must not have volleyball player bears, and his dad wanted to at least send a sports related get well present.

Tooru knew if he googled the company, chances were they’d have volleyball bears. He wasn’t masochistic enough to find out, at least not back then.

His mother managed to be home a record three days to help get him home from the hospital, set up a service to drive him to physical therapy, and complain that Zorya was using the lemon scented soaps again. Tooru came close to asking why she cared, since she was never home to smell it anyways. But he was too addled on painkillers to quip with her. What he wouldn’t give to be addled on painkillers now. Zorya keeps them under lock and key. He only gets them for sleep, doctors orders. He wonders how many it would take for him to sleep for a day… or two.

Oikawa knows he’s depressed, but to be fair his entire life has been careening into a tailspin since the end of his junior year. Anyone else in his shoes would be falling apart as well. He’s just happy that he seems to be crumbling slowly. The added joy that the one person he could always count on seemingly wants nothing to do with him is not helping his mental state at all.

They haven't spoken properly since the night Hajime called him from jail, of all places, begging to be bailed out. Tooru came, paid, and even drove him home. Hajime had been quiet in the car, refusing to say what had happened. When they got to his apartment, all he could say was that he would pay Tooru back.

“It's only money Iwa-chan. I would never hold that over you.”

That had been the last words shared between them. Tooru had texted, called, showed up at his job, his apartment; he’d even gone to visit Hajime’s mother at the hospital where she worked. Hajime refused to see him, speak to him, or even allow a message to be sent through his mother.

“Is it because of what we did? He promised me it didn’t change anything and yet…”

Tooru has laid awake many nights reminiscing the night when he’d begged Hajime to help him forget. Help him think of anything but the pain in his knee. Help him forget that he missed his parents. Help him forget that he felt so alone. Hajime had helped him forget and gave him something entirely different to think about.

Instead of his knee, all he could think of was their lips pressed together hesitantly. Instead of trying to remember when he’d last seen his parents smile, he thought of the way Hajime’s hands ran over his body. They’d spent the night kissing, touching, and losing themselves in each other. The next morning, Hajime had kissed him and said he loved him. But then…

Tooru’s drawn out of his memories by Kuroo popping up from behind him. “Did you know Iwaizumi is planning on dropping out?”

Kuroo’s words hit him in the gut and he thinks he might throw up. Were it anyone but Kuroo he could hide his reaction, but the scheming jackass knows all his facial cues, and even if he didn’t, he’d figure them out in seconds. Kuroo’s eyes narrow as Tooru’s silence gives everything away.

“So you didn’t know.”

“Fucking hell Kuroo, is there anyone at this school's business you don’t know?” he chokes out.

“I have two free periods after lunch so I help out in the library and guidance office. Takeda left his door cracked by mistake and I caught their conversation. Takeda has been dancing around the subject with him since the start of school. Iwaizumi says he’s tired of hearing Takeda’s excuses and that he’s not going to change his mind.”

Tooru bites back the bile building in the back of his throat.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you’re his best friend and I thought you’d like to know. Seeing as how you’re only here because he is.”

Torru feels like ice is running down his spine with every word out of Kuroo’s mouth.

“I don’t know how you know that, and yet you don’t know know that he and I aren’t speaking anymore. Or was that beyond your notice?”

“I notice a lot of things, but I usually wait for confirmation before I allow assumption to take over.”

“Wouldn’t want to make more of an ass out of yourself now, would you?”

Kuroo blinks once and sighs, “It hasn't gone beyond my notice that you haven't shown up to physics club once, despite you single handedly reviving it sophmore year. I noticed that you gave up your presidential title to Suga. I also noticed that Yukie had to cancel a movie date with Akinori because you unexpectedly asked her to handle some social chair responsibilities.”

“Fuck off Kuroo,” Tooru seethes, “Don't you have anything better to do than pay attention to everyone’s lives? Is yours so boring you have to poke and prod at the rest of ours?”

Kuroo’s expression never falters and Tooru wishes he would just go away. He doesn’t need Kuroo’s care and consideration. Despite sharing several classes together and heading physics club, he and Kuroo never quite saw eye to eye. Tooru found himself always uneasy in his presence. Kuroo saw the world like it was under his own person microscope. Poking, prodding, and see what sort of reactions he could get by adding unknown or foreign substances. Simply put, Kuroo saw through Tooru’s facade and was all too good at breaking it apart piece by piece.

“Oikawa…” he starts, but Tooru puts a hand up to silence him.

“Please don’t--I get it--But don’t. I’m just not in the right frame of mind for your brand of help,” Tooru tries to minimize the hitch in his voice., “Just… find another project.”

“You’re not a project… you’re my--”

“We are not friends Kuroo,” Tooru says harshly, “We share common interests but we have never been friends. Don’t pretend that we have ever been.”

Kuroo shakes his head. “Ah, assumption before confirmation. You got me there. I’ll leave you to your self destruction then.”

Oikawa glares as Kuroo saunters away. He sits down next to Kenma and says something to him that garners a laugh. Oikawa hates them. He hates their happiness. He hates the smiles that Akaashi and Bokuto keep sharing. He hates them because they get to talk to the person they have feelings for. Because it hasn’t been ruined for them yet. They’re still blissfully unaware of the repercussions of being vulnerable.

He catches Hajime staring at him again. He knows that look. It's the look he had when his father left. It's the look he had when Tooru was laying in a hospital bed being told by the doctor the extent of his injury. It's the look he had when Tooru picked him up from the police station. Hajime looks defeated, and yet Tooru can’t bring himself to care, because he’s felt that way for months. It's about time someone else felt that way too.

Chapter Text

“Kenma, what are you doing in detention? You said you were coming in to study?”

Takeda’s presence brings a sense of relief to Kuroo. He wasn’t sure he would last the rest of the day without lashing out at Washijou again. Recommendation letter be damned. It wasn’t like he needed one anyway. His mother had been a professor at MIT before she and his father had decided their hometown was a better place to raise their son.

“Oh thank god you are here,” comes a gruff voice from behind him, that Kuroo immediately recognizes as Iwaizumi.

“Why do I get the feeling that this morning has been rough on all of you?”

“I’ll give you three guesses as to who took on detention duties when you couldn't make it in,” Kuroo remarks, folding his arms and leaning back in his chair.

Takeda takes a deep breath and sighs. “Vice Principal Washijou.”

There’s a collective hum of assent from all six of the libraries unwilling inhabitants and Takeda rubs a finger between his eyes, “I will find him and relieve him of detention duties. You may all take ten minutes to stand up and stretch and find a book. When I come back we will discuss how the rest of detention will continue. Kenma, you may of course continue with what we agreed on. Please excuse me.”

“Mr. Takeda, you said we would discuss…” Iwaizumi calls to the retreating back of the guidance counselor. Mr. Takeda turns and the expression on his face is solemn.

“Yes, we will discuss that matter when I return. Please excuse me in the meantime.”

“What’s that all about Iwa-chan?” Tooru Oikawa inquires, earning a glare from Iwaizumi.

“None of your business so back off.”

“Rude.”

Kuroo lifts his arms and rolls his neck, trying to work out the kinks he’s got from his horrible sleeping habits. He reaches over to the stack of paperbacks he brought with him and hands the middle one to Kenma. ‘The Champion and The Fugitive’, it's a trashy romance novel with a decent plot. But the half naked tattooed elf and the raven haired woman bursting out of her corset on the cover suggest otherwise. Kenma scrunches his nose and glares at Kuroo, who laughs loudly not caring who he bothers.

“I’m gonna get the books I need for studying, have fun, with that,” Kenma says with a poorly concealed grin and Kuroo watches him walk away. He bites his lip to stop the goofy smile that’s crossing his face. Fuck if he doesn’t find this guy to be absolutely captivating. He’s not sure if it's the dry humor or the deadpan answers to his flirting, but he’s intrigued. He’s also definitely walking him home if he can get him to stick with them for the rest of detention. Maybe he can change tactic and be a little less leering when he flirts this time.

He’ll do a hell of a much better job than that stupid meathead Bokuto, that’s for fucking sure. Kuroo catches himself watching Akaashi and Bokuto actively avoid being near each other as they look for books. Kuroo glares at Bokuto’s back but looks away before he can turn to see him. It’s his fault Kuroo is even here in the first place. He still can’t believe that asshole sucker punched him in the gut and then had the nerve to try and help him up.

Leaving that friendship behind was the best decision he ever made for himself. Of all the people to participate in a hazing, especially one that was motivated by such bigotry, it goes to show you really don’t know people.

Then again, Kuroo does know people, which is why he’s still in shock.

His favorite pastime is studying the people around him, poking them with a proverbial stick, and seeing the results. His father has suggested more than once that his observant nature would be better moved towards helping others, rather than provocation. Kuroo argues that he is helping, just not in the way that people necessarily want him to. Besides, if he became a therapist, he’d likely go crazy trying to help every person who comes to him with the restraint of not being able to use his preferred methods.

His mother understands, or at least she likes to brag that he takes after her in the end. He’s going to study chemistry, just like she did. He may not become a professor like her, but he’s following in her footsteps.

“The only difference between science and just fucking around is writing down your results, Tetsu.”

Ayame loved chemistry. He wonders if he gets that from her. It can’t only be his eyes and height. She had to have passed something onto him that he can grasp onto and claim is hers. He wants to have been given something more than her life in exchange for his own.

“You didn’t kill her, Tetsu,” his mother tells him yet again. He’s gotten into the habit of blaming himself for Ayame’s death.

“I know,” he lies. Because he’s not sure that it isn’t his fault anymore.

“Then why do you say that?”

“I don’t know.” That part isn’t a lie. He’s not sure where this idea has come from. Only that it's arrived recently and won’t seem to go away.

“We love you.”

“I know”

“She loved you.”

“I know that too”

“Never forget it.”

“I try not to.”

Kuroo shakes away the thoughts of his birth mother and her passing and instead addresses the feeling creeping down his neck. He turns and catches an intense look from Iwaizumi, who sits up when he realizes he’s been staring at the back of Kuroo’s head with a death glare. He rubs the back of his neck before burying his face into his arms. Kuroo knows exactly what Iwaizumi wants to talk to Takeda about. In fact, he’s still in shock a month after learning about it; frankly, he’s getting a little perturbed that things are managing to surprise him these days.

He’s never been what one would call close with Iwaizumi. They have mutual friends because Iwaizumi was on the volleyball team and Kuroo still maintains the friendships he made with the team before he’d been forced to quit. So, they’ve interacted enough that Kuroo feels he has an idea of what the guy is like. Straightforward, ridiculously strong, fiercely loyal; but most of all someone who doesn’t like to quit. So needless to say, the fact that he’s looking to quit school is about as expected as Kuroo suddenly deciding he wants to try out for the football team.

“I want to drop out.”

Kuroo nearly dropped the ream of paper he’d been loading into the printer for Miss Ana. Takeda had left his door open just a crack. Barely ajar and yet it was open enough for him to hear the entire conversation.

“Hajime, it is your senior year.”

“I’m eighteen, I can do this without parental permission. In fact, I don’t even need to fill out the paperwork. I can just stop showing up. But I would rather do this officially.”

“You are so close, why would you quit now? Is this about your arrest? Has someone been bothering you?”

“I need money more than I need to be in school. My sister is twelve now, she’s…” there’s a hitch in Iwaizumi’s voice and it hurts Kuroo to hear it, “She’s hitting that age where she’s growing fast and my mom can’t keep up with all the bills and everything else. I gotta be able to work full time.”

“Please reconsider. I’ll shift your classes around so you can leave early. Give me another month with a new schedule, Hajime, please. Just give me a chance to make this work for you.”

“You have a month. If I can't pull in the hours to help my mom, then I’m out. I’m sorry but she and my sister are more important.”

He’d heard that conversation at the beginning of the school year and now he can only assume that Takeda’s month is up. Kuroo hates making assumptions, but if Iwazumi got caught leaving school then obviously he’s choosing a full time job over finishing his high school career. Though why Oikawa was with him is a mystery.

Kuroo slides out of his chair and walks over to Oikawa. Maybe he can shed some light on what the hell is going through Iwaizumi's mind. It's bad enough all the rumors going around about his arrest back in August. Kuroo dislikes rumors, most of them tend to only hold a small shred of the truth. But from what he has heard, Iwaizumi had been arrested for either shoplifting or assault, or some strange combination of the two. He’s not about to ask the guy himself, and frankly he doesn’t care. Iwaizumi is a good guy, whatever caused him to be arrested was likely far from his fault.

“Did you know Iwaizumi is planning on dropping out?” Kuroo watches Oikawa’s face and notes the brief flash in his eyes. Oikawa is trying to hide it but he’s in shock, and judging from the hitch in his shoulders, a bit hurt too, “So you didn’t know.”

“Fucking hell Kuroo, is there anyone at this school's business you don’t know?” he chokes out.

“I have two free periods after lunch so I help out in the library and guidance office. Takeda left his door cracked by mistake and I caught their conversation. Takeda has been dancing around the subject with him since the start of school.”

“Why are you telling me this?” There’s a clench to his jaw as he speaks.

“Because you’re his best friend and I thought you’d like to know. Seeing as how you’re only here because he is.”

“I don’t know how you know that, and yet you don’t know know that he and I aren’t speaking anymore. Or was that beyond your notice?”

Kuroo bites back the urge to smirk. He had noticed… but hadn’t seen enough evidence to support the theory they weren’t talking anymore. He knew Oikawa came from the area of town where most parents sent their kids to the upscale private academy. Iwaizumi lived right on the border of their district, a mere block away from having to go to the high school in the unsavory neighborhood. They had been joined at the hip since the start of freshmen year and had claimed to have known each other since childhood, despite their opposite backgrounds.

“I notice a lot of things, but I usually wait for confirmation before I allow assumption to take over.”

“Wouldn’t want to make more of an ass out of yourself now, would you?”

Kuroo blinks once and sighs, “It hasn't gone beyond my notice that you haven't shown up to physics club once, despite you single handedly reviving it sophmore year. I noticed that you gave up your presidential title to Suga. I also noticed that Yukie had to cancel a movie date with Akinori because you unexpectedly asked her to handle some social chair responsibilities.”

“Fuck off, Kuroo,” Oikawa seethes, “Don't you have anything better to do than pay attention to everyone’s lives? Is yours so boring you have to poke and prod at the rest of ours?”

“Oikawa…” he starts, but he’s silenced and he knows he’s gone too far this time.

“Please don’t--I get it--But don’t. I’m just not in the right frame of mind for your brand of help,” There is a hitch in Oikawa’s tone, “Just… find another project.”

“You’re not a project… you’re my--”

“We are not friends, Kuroo,” Oikawa declares with a sneer, “We share common interests but we have never been friends. Don’t pretend that we have ever been.”

Kuroo shakes his head, “Ah, assumption before confirmation. You got me there. I’ll leave you to your self destruction then.”

He mentally smacks himself as he walks away. So much for that. This is why he’s better off as a scientist. He’s not cut out for dealing with emotions. Or at least he’s not cut out for people reacting differently than he anticipates. Chemicals react exactly how you expect them to. And if they don't, well then you need to go back over your notes. Otherwise you end up with some interesting scars and possibly see your entire high school career drastically changed.

Oikawa seems to be in need of someone to reach out to, apparently Kuroo just wasn’t the right one for it. When he gets back to his table, he sees a stack of very familiar books in front of Kenma.

“Oh, what's this?” he asks, and Kenma stares up at him a mildly amused look on his face.

“Studying,” he says, “It’s this thing people who aren’t geniuses need to do.”

“Really?”

“Yup,” he says with a noticeable pop at the end.

“Need help?”

“Yes,” he says earnestly, “Please.”

“Well you are in luck cause I happen to be very, very good at chemistry.”

There’s the sound of a broken laugh and he sees Bokuto smirking. Kuroo bites back the urge to tell him to fuck off.

The worst part is he knows why Bokuto is laughing. Kuroo saying he is very good at chemistry is like saying Gordon Ramsay is pretty good at cooking. Kuroo was very good when he was twelve, and he’s only getting better. But screw that asshole for being privy to that information.

They haven’t spoken since sophomore year, not since Kuroo came back to school after the lab accident that nearly blinded him, to find that his best friend thought he was a joke.

"I just hate when he says stuff like that, ya know? I mean, it makes him sound so stupid"

Kuroo still feels the sting when he remembers those words spoken quietly in a locker room to the ones who had already dared question his and Bokuto’s friendship.

“You’re friends with that guy? He’s such a fucking nerd, man. Who fucking talks like that?”

“Who? Kuroo?”

“Yeah, man, how do you handle dealing with that?”

Kuroo had stood there with the locker room door held open listening for a moment before being called by Daichi Sawamura.

“Kuroo, you’re back!”

Kuroo let the door shut and went to shake hands with Daichi, “Yeah, won’t be on the team this year though.”

Daichi’s eyes swung down to the bandages wrapped over Kuroo’s forearms and quickly back up, “That sucks man, that really sucks. How is it?”

Kuroo shrugged and gave a smile. “My mom says every good scientist has one kick ass scar and a decent story behind it. At least I get to say I kinda saved someone’s life.”

“Fukunaga says he’s signing up for the team in your place... that it’s the least he can do.”

“He did?”

“Yeah, says he owes it to you, I guess.”

“That’s pretty cool of him. Don’t worry, I’ll still come and watch the games. I’ve gotta cheer on Bo.”

“He didn't tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“He’s not trying out. Says he’s sticking to football.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“Afraid not,” Daichi said with a sigh, “Maybe you can…”

Kuroo nodded and shook hands with Daichi one more time, trying to hide the wince at the shift of the bandages on his arm. He turned back to the locker room and opened the door cautiously.

"I just hate when he says stuff like that ya know? I mean it makes him sound so stupid.”

Kuroo winced, and his stomach twisted with anger and grief, as he shut the door on the last words out of Bokuto’s mouth. "I don’t know if we’ve ever seen eye to eye… ever.”

“Kuro?”

Kenma stares at him and Kuroo smiles weakly, “Sorry kitten, let myself get lost in a memory there.”

“I’m sorry,” Kenma remarks and Kuroo looks at him quizzically. He lifts a hand and wipes away a stray tear from Kuroo’s cheek. Kuroo’s breath catches and he can’t look away from the amber gaze that’s locked on his, “I’m sorry you’ve remembered something that hurts.”

“It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sometimes.”

Chapter Text

“Rude!”

Oikawa can’t just keep his thoughts to himself for five minutes and leave him alone? Hasn’t he gotten the fucking hint?

He’s your best friend

Not anymore

Whose choice was that?

Mine, and for several very good reasons. I’ve made this choice and i am sticking to it.

He’s a fucking criminal isn't he? That's what everyone likes to remind him of at least every other day. Whether it's a hushed comment, a sideways look, or even blatantly grabbing at personal property when he walks within a two foot radius. Funny what a simple rumor can do to an entire school. Make every single one of them look at him like either a piece of trash, or some legend to speculate about.

He doesn’t bother trying to change their minds. The moniker allows him to stay angry. Anger is his shield, keeps him from falling apart, keeps him from giving into the desire to think about what his life used to be like. When dinner wasn’t a question of what can we afford but what are we in the mood for. When new clothes meant a trip to the mall, instead of how much longer can you make that jacket last?

Hajime stares at the metal shining through on the toes of his boots. He’d picked them up second hand from a thrift store after a box fell and nearly broke his foot. His mother had criticized him working in someones old boots. Saying she’d find a way to buy him a new pair. He told her to use her money to buy Nasha new shoes instead. He did that a lot, went without so his little sister didn’t have to.

Nasha barely remembered what life was like when they had money. She didn’t need to know just how little they had now. It was bad enough she had to grow up knowing her father abandoned her. Hajime tried to fill the empty space left behind when Hanshiro Iwaizumi slipped out in the dead of night without even a goodbye to his children.

He does his best, working as many hours as possible while still going to school. Not for much longer though. He’s going to drop out. He needs to focus on working and he can’t work full time if he’s stuck in classes trying to finish out his senior year. Takeda has been putting him off for too long, making up so many excuses and getting him to relent on this idea.

“I want to drop out.”

“Hajime, it is your senior year.”

“I’m eighteen, I can do this without parental permission. In fact, I don’t even need to fill out the paperwork. I can just stop showing up. But I would rather do this officially.”

“You are so close, why would you quit now? Is this about your arrest? Has someone been bothering you?”

Hajime sighed and buried his hands in his pockets. Leave it to Takeda to automatically come to his defense. The man was a walking bleeding heart.

“I need money more than I need to be in school. My sister is twelve now, she’s…” Hajime’s voice cracked, and he bit back on the memories that always threatened to surface when he talked about Nasha.

“She’s hitting that age where she’s growing fast and my mom can’t keep up with all the bills and everything else. I gotta be able to work full time.”

“Please reconsider. I’ll shift your classes around so you can leave early. Give me another month with a new schedule, Hajime, please. Just give me a chance to make this work for you.”

“You have a month. If I can't pull in the hours to help my mom, then I’m out. I’m sorry but she and my sister are more important.”

He had given Takeda a month and the man had delivered. Hajime was able to work two part time jobs and still get through school. He only occasionally overslept his alarm, thankfully Nasha always woke him up when that happened. His homeroom teacher would mark him present so long as he managed to get his butt in the seat five minutes before the bell for first period. He even found a route into the school that bypassed the front office. A wooded area near the back of the building was the spot where the teachers snuck off for their smoke breaks. It was next to the teachers lounge, which was always empty during homeroom.

Unfortunately the day before things had gone in every which way but the right one for Hajime. It all started when Nasha also overslept. She had practically screamed in the doorway of his bedroom that they were both gonna be late, waking him up from a dream about Tooru… again. To make matters worse a text message from Takahiro put Tooru in his thoughts… again.

Makki 7:45am

Whatever fight is happening between you and Oiks needs to end. He’s on some sort of self destructive path today and Issei and I have given up.

Iwaizumi 7:55am

I’m not his caretaker

Makki 7:57am

No you’re his best friend. Or at least you used to be.

Iwaizumi 8:01am

I don’t have time for this.

Makki 8:03am

Fine

That text should have been a warning bell for Hajime that something was going to go wrong. Between the dream, his wandering thoughts, and Takahiro’s text… he should have known Tooru was going to do something to fuck his whole day up.

He managed to get Nasha to school and was steps away from getting inside the building when lo and behold the door swung open and he was planted flat on the ground, with none other than Tooru Oikawa on top of him.

“Iwa-chan?” he said wincing as he went to stand and used his bad leg. He caught himself from falling on his knee and Hajime went to help him stand without thinking.

“What the fuck are you doing here Tooru?”

“Sneaking out, what are you doing?”

“Sneaking in, and you’re blowing my chances of not getting caught.”

“Why are you so late?”

“None of your business,” he said brushing him aside and heading for the door. But not before Tooru grabbed him, forcing him to turn back.

“Why is everything that has to do with you none of my business now?” He demanded, his grip on Hajime’s wrist tightening.

“Because I said so damn it!” he answered wrenching his arm away.

“Why?”

“Because it's fucking better this way and you know it!”

“What did I do?” Tooru pleaded walking forward, Hajime backed up for every step Tooru took towards him. “Just tell me what I did and I’ll leave you alone. I’ll never bother you again if you just tell me why? Is it because of the kissing? We never talked about it and now I think it's…”

“It's not the kissing ok.”

“Then why are you--”

“What are you two doing out here?”

They'd been accused of trying to cut school and Hajime knew if he admitted to sneaking in he’d never be able to use the back entrance again. Of course once his punishment was handed over he wished he’d just gone with the truth.

“Saturday detention?”

“You’re lucky it's not suspension.”

“Suspension wouldn’t cost me a day of work. This detention will.”

“You should have thought of that before you went sneaking out with your buddy to do god knows what.”

He’s done now. He’s done with trying to make work and school coincide. He’s not going to college that much is obvious, so why should he even bother with graduating high school. He can maybe apprentice in a trade. They’re always looking for young guys to start in the ironworkers union in the city. He can go there and bring home good money to take care of his family. His mother won’t have to work as much to keep them clothed and fed with a roof over their heads.

What would Tooru say if he knew?

As always his thoughts stray back to Tooru. No matter what’s on his mind it always betrays him and makes him think of the last person he wants to. Ending his friendship with Tooru had been the hardest decision of his life but he knew at the end of the day it was what was best for both of them; trying to pretend that they could stay friends despite the difference in their lots in life was a mistake. Tooru should never have come to this school. He should have gone to the private academy like his mother wanted him to.

He looks up and finds Tooru staring at him again. For once he allows the gaze to linger, it’s been hard keeping him at a distance. The one person he could always talk to was Tooru. The only person who never changed the way they treated him was Tooru. The only person he loved as much as his own family was Tooru.

Tooru deserved better, and since he couldn’t let Hajime go… Hajime had to do it for him.

“Ahem,” Counselor Takeda has returned to the library and looks like he might have aged in the thirty minutes he’s been gone. Hajime had been so busy staring at Tooru that he didn’t even notice everyone had returned to their seats.

“I have talked to Vice Principal Washijou and have settled some issues. I am very sorry about what he may have said to any of you, and for what happened to you Kenma.”

“Is he allowed to just announce to the room what we did to get put in here?” Akaashi asks. Hajime is glad someone brought it up, not that he gave a damn if anyone knew why he was here. It was the way he had spoken to everyone else that had gotten under his skin.

Takeda sighs and purses his lips together. “Again, I apologize for what has transpired. I cannot let you out though because you are still being punished and that doesn’t go away simply because Vice Principal Washijou--”

“Is a fuckhead who hates every single student in this building,” Kuroo quips, as usual, unafraid to speak his mind. There’s a hum of agreement amongst the rest of the libraries denizens and Takeda sighs again.

“Perhaps, we can be given something in a way of apology?” Tooru asks, plastering a saccharine smile on his face. Hajime can’t help but grin a little.

“What did you have in mind?”

“You make the call to order us subs from Fukuro Deli?”

There’s a chorus of positive murmurs, one that Hajme does not join in on. He doesn’t have the money for frivolous spending. He’ll make do with the small lunch he brought from home.

“Takeda,” Iwaizumi chokes out, wanting to get his attention. Takeda nods and gestures for Iwaizumi to follow him out of the library. He gets up and avoids looking at Tooru as he passes by. If he knew what he was doing…

Takeda stops him in the hallway and hands him a sheet of paper. Hajime takes it and sees the form for withdrawing. “Is there any chance you will reconsider?”

Hajime stares at the form and scans over the details. “Doubtful. I can fill this out now and be done before monday?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

“Hajime…”

“Do you know how much money I am losing being here right now? Do you have any idea what it has taken for me to even get that job, now that I have a record?”

Takeda shakes his head.

“Exactly, you don’t know what I have been through for the last five years. What my sister has been through. What my mother has been through.”

“My office has always been open.”

“For someone who wants your help. I don’t.”

“You are turning your back on your future.”

“I am facing the facts of my life!” Hajime barks. “I am doing what I have to do. Because my family needs this. My future is making sure my sister doesn't have to make this choice. I am making this choice so she never has to.”

He walks away before Takeda can give him some speech. He’s tired of being told all the reasons this is a bad idea. He knows it's a bad idea. Every idea he has had since making that phone call from a jail cell has been a bad one. But he’s had no other options, so he makes the choices he can. Because it’s all the control he has left in his life.

He passes Tooru as he enters the library and their eyes meet again. This time it’s Tooru who looks away and Hajime bites back the impulse to reach out to him. To grab him by the hand and tell him he misses him. To pull him into a hug and say how much he has needed his best friend. To forget the divide that exists between them, just long enough to tell him that he loves him. That he’s loved him for years, and that its killing him to let him go. But that he knows… in the end he’s better off alone.

Chapter Text

“I only make bad chemistry jokes because the good ones Argon.”

Tooru rolls his eyes and does his best to ignore the chatter coming from the table across from him. Kuroo has been peppering most of his tutoring with horrible jokes. Kenma tends to either laugh quietly or respond with an equally horrible joke. Frankly, it’s both sickening and adorable all at once and Tooru would like to tell them to flirt elsewhere.

“I’ll rate that one a 10.”

“Oh?”

“On the ph scale.”

“Are you calling my jokes basic?” Kuroo asks as though he is deeply offended.

“Am I wrong?”

Tooru sighs and tries to once again bury himself in the sci-fi novel he found buried on one of the shelves in the back. ‘Unlocking the Box of Xey’, he manages to read the first paragraph five times before realizing he’s read the word cosmos repeatedly as though he had forgotten what it meant. He shuts the book with a snap and tosses it onto the table next to him. His knee twinges and he chokes on a whine.

He’d made an almost full recovery from his surgery and was well on his way to no longer needing his knee brace around August, but sometime at the start of school near mid September, his knee began to remind him it existed in the most painful manner possible. His doctor said he was likely over-using it and to refrain from physical activity. As if he hadn’t spent the summer laid up either in bed, on the couch, or poolside. He’d had three months of nearly zero activity.

His physical therapist has no explanation for why his knee is acting up, only that it shouldn’t have after the recovery period he’s gone through. Tooru has chalked it up to the universe punishing him further for considering returning to the volleyball team. It wasn’t like he had planned on going back to his old practice regimen. He was going to take it easy, let his body get used to the activity again… there had been zero plans at all to stay in the gym for hours just to avoid going home.

After all that’s what had put him in the hospital in the first place. It had been another one of his late night practice sessions that hadn’t ended even after Tobio Kageyama had called it a night. Tooru should have realized that if Tobio had gone home, that he probably should as well. It had stopped becoming about being the best and more about not wanting to be alone. The world of course is a cruel place and will punish those who attempt to escape that cruelty.

The sickening pop and the sudden wave of pain was something Tooru knew he would never forget.

“Tooru, the ambulance is coming, you gotta stay calm.”

“It hurts! Oh god, it hurts! Iwa-chan, it hurts!”

He leans back and tries to surreptitiously look at Hajime. He’s staring at the paper in front of him with a grave look on his face. Tooru is now aware what that sheet of paper is. It makes him angry. He looks away when Hajime leans forward to tap Akaashi on the shoulder.

“Do you have a pen?”

There’s a hum and a quiet thank you. Tooru refuses to look back again. He won’t give Hajime the satisfaction of knowing he still cares since obviously he’s the only one who does. He sighs loudly, “I’m bored.”

He carefully flips himself around and straddles the back of the chair, tapping his fingers on the table he draws the attention of the man in front of him.

“Hi?” he says, lip quirked to the side.

“Hello,” he introduces himself with an outstretched hand, “Tooru Oikawa.”

“I know who you are,” he says as he takes the offered hand, “Koutarou Bokuto, since you’ve apparently forgotten.”

“When did we meet? The name's familiar.”

“Come on,” he laughs, “we used to play volleyball together.”

“Did we?” Tooru knows he’s being an ass, but frankly this is entertaining. Bokuto’s confused looks and the constipated expression Hajime is wearing as he tries to ignore them makes it even more so.

“Oh come on, man, why are you messing with me? You know we played! we would stay late with Iwaizumi and Kuroo,” he says the second name with a hitch in his tone, “until Coach would make us go home.

“You know,” Tooru remarks, resting his chin on his hand, “I am having such a hard time remembering freshman year these days. Feels like the time is just passing us by.”

“Oh yeah,” Bokuto nods in agreement, “I know what you mean. I can’t believe we are seniors already. Like… feels like yesterday I was graduating 8th grade and tripping over my robe cause it was too long. Too bad I didn’t get tall ‘til sophomore year huh?”

“Maybe that's why I don't recognize you,” Tooru exclaims like it's some amazing epiphany, “You got taller!”

“Yeah! Grew a whole eight inches over the summer before I turned sixteen.”

“And yet, you didn’t stay on the volleyball team. We could have used someone with height.”

“You’ve got tall players now,” Bokuto pouts, arms folded as he falls back in his chair.

“I’m not on the team anymore.”

“Oh… yeah,” Bokuto breaks eye contact and his hands tighten over his arms, “I forgot, I’m sorry. Does it still hurt?”

“It got better and then got worse. Doctor won’t give me anything strong because ‘I might get addicted’”, his tone is meant to be one of mockery and it makes Bokuto snort, “So tell me, what tall players are on the team now? God knows a good middle blocker needs height.”

Tooru catches Kuroo glaring at him momentarily and he smirks. Good. be angry, it’s what I want.

“Well, there's Tsukishima,” Bokuto counts off on his hands, “He's pretty good.”

“Made starting line freshmen year and he keeps getting better,” Tooru confirms.

“Ummm, there's the Russian kid, but I never remember his name.”

“Lev Haiba,” Kenma’s voice interrupts their conversation, “Ridiculously tall and pale hair? That's Lev Haiba. He’s only half Russian though… he’s my cousin.” Kenma adds the last fact in a reluctant tone.

“I never would have guessed you were even related,” Tooru notes, taking stock of Kenma’s appearance. Despite the warmth of the library, he’s still zipped up in the hoodie he’d been wearing when he walked in, “If your hair wasn’t so obviously dyed I might have given it a thought.”

Kenma’s expression flits from passive to annoyed then back in a matter of seconds.

“Nothing wrong with dying your hair. Solidarity, man,” Bokuto adds with a raised hand. Kenma’s lips quirk in what might be a smile before his attention is drawn back to Kuroo. Tooru can’t help but wear a smug smile watching Kuroo attempt to pretend Bokuto isn’t in the room with them.

Interesting...

“So how's football,” Tooru asks and is shocked at the sad look on Bokuto’s face. So much that it nearly throws him off, “I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?”

“It's fine,” Bokuto insists quickly with rapid hand gestures, “I got to play in last week’s game which was great. I don’t get to play a lot. Guess being good at volleyball, baseball, and basketball means I have to be not so great at football. Sort of a trade up, you know.”:

“I didn’t realize you played all of those sports.”

“Well I dabble in a bit of everything,” Bokuto muses like it’s nothing new, “Kinda had to growing up, my dad loves sports, especially football. He was almost scouted for the professionals in college, but he was in a car accident and messed his leg up real bad. So, he couldn’t play anymore.”

There’s a beat of silence that Tooru nearly shatters with a scream, regaining his composure quickly to continue their conversation. He will not think about his knee, he will not think about his knee, he will not think about...

“That must have been terrible for him... to see his career ended just like that.”

“Yeah, but he had my mom. They’d been datin' six whole months,” Bokuto recites his story in a way that shows he has heard it many times, “Mom was at his bedside as often as the nurses would let her. She got him through physical therapy and all the other hardships, and the day he could walk on his own again, he stood up for her to propose. Mostly cause he couldn't bend down on one knee. But mom didn’t mind that,” he ends with a wistful smile.

Tooru flashes his best smile, even though it practically kills him inside. From the corner of his eye, he catches Akaashi with a soft look on his face, watching them intently.

“Thats so sweet. And your parents are still together?”

Bokuto ‘s head tilts at an odd angle and Tooru sees why they call him the Owl, “Yeah, ‘course they are.”

“Mine aren’t,” he states bluntly, unafraid to announce it to anyone who will listen, “I haven't seen them in the same room for nearly three years. You know, at first when they used me to fight each other’s battles, I saw an opportunity to get the things I wanted- a double party for my 8th grade graduation, the ability to go to the school I wanted- I even got a car out of the deal when I was 16 and couldn't even drive it on my own yet. My nanny got to drive my car before I did.”

“That's… ummm... yeah,” again Bokuto breaks eye contact when the conversation turns awkward. Tooru knows he should feel just a little bad for how uncomfortable he is making Bokuto, but frankly, he’s had no one to talk to about any of this and it's merely the luck of the draw that Bokuto is sitting behind him. Lucky for Tooru at least, because he suspects Akaashi would have cut him off before their conversation could ever get going.

“I guess now they’ve just grown bored of using me as a pawn in their fights. Hell, not even me getting injured and requiring surgery got both of them in the same room.”

He sees Akaashi staring at him and sneers. “I’m not announcing this for pity so stop looking at me like that.”

Akaashi’s lips settle into a fine line. “It wasn’t pity. Pity is wasted on those who rarely need it.”

“My, aren’t you quite the philosopher. Any more words of wisdom for me?”

“The failings of your parents are not a mark on you as their child,” he states after a moment of thought. Tooru wants to wipe the look off of Bokuto’s face. He’s not even trying to hide his stares anymore.

“What would you know of it,” Tooru seethes.

“My parents are divorced, or hadn’t you heard that about me in the never ending rumor mill of this place?” Akaashi’s expression has always reminded Tooru of someone who has been done with the world since birth. His tone of voice matches his expression so well he’s almost positive he’s practiced it.

“I have heard a lot of rumors about you.”

“Oh? Which one?” His arms are folded together, resting on the table in front of him. All of his mannerisms are expressed within his face, his tone bordering on simpering. “The one where I am a flaming homosexual who runs off to be with my older lover every weekend? Or the one where I am a basket case whose mother brought him here in hopes that I might become normal? You can see how well that is going, I am sure,” he gestures with a wave to his entire self.

“I’ve heard both of those,” Bokuto interjects, “But I don’t believe either of them.”

The smile he gives Bokuto is small but noticeable, and is gone the moment his steely gaze returns to Tooru. Its nearly frightening how much he can express with eye movement alone.

“So? Which one?”

“I heard your parents are actually related. That’s why they got divorced and why you’re so goddamn weird,” Tooru taunts, his chin jutting out.

Akaashi’s eyes widen before his chest starts to vibrate subtly. He chuckles quietly and it sounds ominous. Bokuto stares open mouthed and even Kuroo and Kenma stop and watch. Akaashi covers his mouth with his hand to muffle the last of his laughter before looking up at Tooru with an almost evil grin.

“My mother is from here and met my father in the city while she was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, much like that ridiculous 80’s song. Though, it took longer than five years for her to decide that, no, she didn’t want him.”

“Ohhhhh,” Kuroo sings with a snicker and Kenma smacks him in the arm.

“Contrary to popular opinion, my mother brought me here because one of them had to take custody of me, and my father is and has always been married only to his work. As for me being a flaming homosexual who spends his weekends with an older lover… only one part of that sentence is true.”

A deafening silence overtakes in the library in the wake of a fatal victory. Akaashi has a look on his face as though he is daring anyone to comment. Bokuto clears his throat, drawing the immediate attention of everyone.

“I’m not--”

He’s cut off by the sound of the library doors swinging open as Takeda walks in with a large bag. He puts it on the table in front of Kuroo and Kenma, pulls a sandwich and a can of soda out and nods to the rest of them before walking out. Kenma immediately sits up to start pulling everything out of the bag.

“BLT,” he says, reading the letters on the wrapping, Tooru holds out his hand hoping that he won’t need to stand up. Kenma looks over and his eyes glance over Tooru’s knee, causing him to flinch on reflex. He passes the sandwich to Kuroo with a can of soda to hand over. If there’s pity in the action, Tooru is unable to find it.

Bokuto jumps at the mention of spicy Italian and loudly thanks Kenma earning yet another glare from Kuroo. Akaashi’s practically snatches the meatball sub from Kenma with hardly an apology and is devouring it before Tooru even finishes unwrapping his. There’s an extra sandwich left and Tooru realizes too late that Kenma is already standing at Hajime’s table with it in hand.

“I didn’t order anything,” Hajime rebuffs him with a grunt.

“Well, there’s an extra so…”

“I don’t have any money.”

“Well, they’ve already been paid for.”

“I said, I didn’t order anything,” Hajime’s voice goes up in volume, Kenma glares at him and mutters ‘stubborn’.

“I did,” Akaashi interjects quickly, turning around, “I totally forgot that I brought extra food and ordered two sandwiches.”

Kenma makes his way back to his seat and pulls Kuroo to sit down with him. He’d risen from his chair as quickly as Hajime’s voice had. Hajime and Akaashi stare each other down and Tooru realizes that in some way Akaashi knows. Akaashi knows Tooru ordered a sandwich for Hajime and that it’s going over about as well as anyone could have expected.

“What did you order?”

“A grilled vegetable sub on whole wheat with provolone, extra oil and vinegar,” he says without missing a beat. Hajime’s eyes trail over to Tooru and he glares at him. He takes the sandwich from Akaashi and appears to hesitate before opening up the wrapper and angrily devouring it. Tooru doesn’t know how Akaashi managed to figure out which sandwich order belonged to Hajime but he hopes the look on his face registers the thanks he has at dispelling the situation. He receives a nod before Akaashi resumes digging into the feast he has laid out before him.

“You know, I always forget that you’re vegetarian,” Bokuto comments in between bites, “What do you use for proteins for bulking up?”

“Tofu,” Hajime grunts.

“Ehhh, is that any good?”

“If you make it right. There’s protein in plenty of things. Not just meat.”

“Yeah… but meat is,” Bokuto’s hand gestures vaguely.

“Delicious,” Hajime dryly adds, “So I have heard. My mother raised me vegetarian and I’ve never seen the need to be anything else.”

“Hey, that’s cool. Sorry, you probably get that all the time.”

“You have no idea.”

Tooru stares down at his sandwich and feels a twinge of hunger. Each bite is torture as his mind fights with his stomach over his desire to consume food.

“You really should eat. Otherwise those pain killers are going to rip through your stomach lining,” Kuroo points out, “Just in case you weren’t informed by your doctor.”

“I am well aware of the side effects of the painkillers they had me on,” Tooru replies with an eye roll. “I’m not on anything though. Just something to help me sleep at night, if I choose to take it.”

“You… you don’t take painkillers?” Hajime loudly asks.

Tooru shrugs. “I did in the beginning because I had to. But the doctor and my nanny worried I would become addicted so they cut back my doses. I don’t even bother taking anything more than an over-the-counter.”

“Does it help at all?” Bokuto asks and the sympathy in his voice is too genuine for Tooru to even be angry about.

Tooru stares down at his sandwich and shrugs before forcing himself to eat. He knows if he doesn’t the pain will increase. It was one of the first things he discovered in the weeks after Hajime stopped speaking to him.

“I might have something to ease it that is less, harmful than whatever it was they had you on,” Akaashi says.

Tooru turns to look at Akaashi. “Go on?”

Akaashi reaches into his bag and pulls out what looks like an e-cigarette. Kuroo stares at him dumbfounded. “You’ve gotta be shitting me. You keep that in your fucking bag?” he seethes.

“I was supposed to be on a train on my way into the city. Not here.”

“Still, are you insane?”

“I have a prescription for it.”

“Bullshit!”

Akaashi pulls a slip of paper from his bag and holds it out with a smug look. Kuroo takes it from him and reads it over over several times. “How the fuck did you get a doctor to prescribe you a marijuana vape?”

“If you have enough money and know which doctor to see you can acquire just about anything you want.”

“How much money do you have?” Bokuto says and blanches when everyone turns to stare at him “What?”

“You don’t ask someone how much money they have, you idiot.”

“Well, he said it first!”

“It's fine,” Akaashi interjects carefully, “I have quite a bit.”

Kuroo scoffs. “That’s an understatement.”

“Excuse me?”

Kuroo looks away quickly and resumes eating, ignoring the daggers being glared into the back of his head.

“Are you interested?” he resumes turning to face Tooru again. “I can give you enough to relax you for… about two to three hours.”

“Can I try too?” Bokuto asks excitedly vibrating out of his chair

Akaashi shrugs and looks at the rest of them. “Anyone else?”

Kuroo turns and gives Akaashi a nod. “I’ve only ever smoked it before, so this should be interesting.”

“I’m on probation and they test me every time,” Hajime says, his head turned away.

“I think I have enough problems of my own without adding to it,” Kenma remarks, shaking his head.

“This might help,” Akaashi counters.

“Or it could make it worse.”

“True.”

“I’ll pass then,” Kuroo adds quickly and Kenma shakes his head.

“I don’t care if you do it. I just know it's probably best if I don’t. Besides, I know you want to record the differences between this and smoking. You can even tell them to me. My handwriting sucks, but I’ll try to make it legible for you.”

“Are we all seriously going to sit around and get high in the middle of Saturday detention?” Tooru asks, completely in shock at the turn of events. He laughs and shakes his head, “Well fuck, let’s do it. I could use some relaxation.”

Chapter Text

Kenma is surprised that the vaporizer smells less like weed and more like campfire and popcorn. Akaashi explains that the blend itself is made to have less of a noticeable odor, hence why he’s not concerned with Takeda smelling it. Within thirty minutes, Oikawa is smiling widely and leaning back in his chair with his arms hung limply at his sides. Bokuto and Akaashi pass a bag of chips back and forth between each other, eating one at a time. Kuroo has been oddly silent next to him, just sitting with his chin pressed to his chest, eyes shut.

“I don’t want to sit here anymore,” Oikawa announces, suddenly standing up, “I would like a change of scenery.”

“Where you goin’?” Bokuto slurs, watching him intently.

Oikawa looks around the place and his gaze goes to the back of the library where a set of stairs lead to the upper floor. There’s a small balcony midway between floors where students tend to congregate to read quietly and he makes his way there. Bokuto and Akaashi eventually follow and after a momentary glance between each other, Kuroo and Kenma follow as well. Iwaizumi glares at all of them as they walk by.a

Time passes slowly, but Kenma doesn’t mind. He’s pretty content where he is right now, pressed up against the wall with Kuroo leaning against his chest. Kenma absent mindedly scratches Kuroo’s scalp as he explains the science aspects of baking to no one in particular. His voice is soothing and Kenma has to stop himself from falling asleep.

“Am I boring you, kitten?” he drawls.

“No, your voice is just really nice.”

“Yeah,” Bokuto agrees with a quiet hum. He’s leaned up against the other side of the balcony with Oikawa and Akaashi. He’s got one arm wrapped around Akaashi who is softly stroking his fingers over the muscles running up and down his forearm. The soft smile on his face is hard to miss. Oikawa has his head in Bokuto’s lap, his eyes shut, looking almost serene. “It’s nice even when you don’t understand what he’s talking about.”

“Shut up,” Kuroo mutters.

“Why do you hate me so much?” Bokuto asks, voice vulnerable.

“I don’t hate you. I just want nothing to do with you.”

Bokuto sighs and leans his head on top of Akaashi’s. “Do you dislike me?”

Akaashi looks up and shakes his head. “No, I find you to be… compelling.”

“That’s a good word. I like compelling.”

Kuroo snorts and Kenma pinches him in the side. “Don’t be mean.”

“No, let him be mean,” Bokuto hums, “I’m not sure what I did to make him hate me, but you know, I probably deserve it.”

“Just shut the fuck up, man.”

“Hey!” Akaashi says, his voice rising ever so slightly, yet enough to draw the attention of everyone. “What the hell is your problem?”

“I don’t have a problem. I just want to sit in silence and enjoy this, not listen to him babble on--.”

“Oh my god, Kuroo, stop being such a dick,” Oikawa whines, “You are killing the first good mood I have been in for months.”

Kenma wraps his arms across Kuroo’s chest and pulls him back to him. He resumes combing his fingers through Kuroo’s thick hair. Kuroo lets out an involuntary trill and Oikawa snorts in response.

“You, who are you, anyways?” Oikawa asks, eyes open staring straight at him, “You’re not even supposed to be here.”

“Not in detention, no,” Kenma replies. “I came in to study.”

“On a Saturday?”

“It’s better than being at home.”

Oikawa stills momentarily, his eyes blink slowly. “I know that feeling very well. Is it lonely there for you?”

“Hardly,” Kenma gripes, “My entire family is in town for my cousin's wedding. It’s been a week of non-stop chaos. Everyone has been so preoccupied that for once I’m invisible to them. Just like I always wanted. So invisible in fact…”

Kuroo’s head turns and he looks at him with a soft gaze, “Tell us, Kitten.”

“Yesterday was my birthday… and they all forgot it.”

All eyes are suddenly on him and Kenma wants nothing more than to pull his hood back up. Kuroo lifts himself from Kenma’s chest and sits up with his arms held open. Kenma looks at the gesture, then back down to the ground, then back up again before allowing himself to be enveloped in a warm embrace. Their positions are quickly shifted and Kenma is now the one leaning back… against a solid wall of muscle. The sheer strength of Kuroo is surprising, but Kenma isn’t complaining.

“How could your family forget your birthday,” Bokuto says with a pout, “That’s the freaking worst.”

“Happy Birthday, Kenma,” Akaashi acknowledges, “Why didn’t you say something yesterday?”

Kenma shrugs, “Shouyou knew it was my birthday, but I don’t like a lot of attention, so he always sends me a text in the morning and gives me a hug when he sees me.”

Kenma realizes everyone is watching him again, waiting for him to continue. He sighs and pushes his hands into his pockets before continuing. “I’ve always hated standing out. I dyed my hair blonde because in every photo, I stuck out. My cousin Taketora used to say I looked like a ghost, just haunting the family photos.”

“I like your hair,” Bokuto adds filling the silence that settled, “It looks cool like that. Reminds me of pudding.”

Kenma laughs softly, “That’s what my cousin Alisa says. I’m her Little Pudding,” he stares down at his hands, almost unused to seeing them unoccupied, “She’s Lev’s older sister.”

He feels warm and unzips his hoodie. Bokuto shoots him a thumbs up, and he looks down at the graphic on his red t-shirt. ‘Old school gamer’ with an Atari game system plastered above it. The gesture gives him a boost and allows him to continue.

“I used to think it didn’t really matter if anyone understood me. I wasn’t looking to be acknowledged or accepted. I just wanted to be left alone…” he sighs and a realization overtakes him, “Yesterday sucked!”

He pulls his knees to his chest and crosses his arms over them. Kuroo’s arms enfold him and lock on tight, “I know they didn’t mean to forget me. I know it’s because of the wedding. But just… I didn’t like it. I didn’t like being forgotten.”

He quickly wipes his eyes of the few tears he’d shed and takes a deep breath, happy to see that all eyes are not on him anymore. Bokuto is staring down at his lap and Akaashi is fiddling with the hem on his kilt. Oikawa is staring blankly at the ceiling with a few tears of his own.

“You want to know why I came here to study today?” Kenma asks, Akaashi looks up and nods, “I decided to drop all study halls this year and load up on the courses I would be taking senior year. I’m only going to have half days next year because I was hired to be an at-home beta tester for Nekomagic Games.”

“That’s so cool!” Bokuto exclaims, “That’s gotta be like, the coolest job ever. You’re getting paid to play video games!”

Kenma beams brightly, “I’m really excited about it. I’ve known for awhile that I wanted to pursue something in games when I graduated. I just didn’t think I’d get the chance to get my foot in the door while still in high school.”

“So few people know what they want to do with their lives when they are only in high school,” Akaashi notes wistfully, “It’s good that you have an idea of what you want for your own future.”

“Congratulations,” Kuroo’s voice rumbles behind Kenma, “Consider me your permanent tutor for the rest of the year.”

Kenma’s eyes widen and he turns to look at Kuroo.

“Are you serious?”

“Totally,” he replies with a half grin, “You’ve got the job, right?” Kenma nods, “Then let’s make sure you’ll be able to do it. I’ll get you through chemistry and whatever else you might have trouble with. Except Literature, my god what are those assholes thinking?”

Akaashi snorts, “Are they too whimsical in their prose for you Kuroo?”

“I just don’t get why there needs to be symbolism in everything. Sometimes a guy wears a hat because he doesn’t like the way his hair looks in the morning. There doesn’t need to be an allegory for how the terrors of war have forced him to keep his eyes shielded from the sun because it sheds light on the atrocities of the world.”

Oikawa bursts into giggles that soon became contagious. When the laughter dies down there are tears falling down his cheeks, “Thank you for that. I haven’t laughed… God, I really can’t remember the last time I laughed.”

“I know that feeling,” Bokuto adds, giving Oikawa’s shoulder a squeeze.

“I can’t remember either,” Akaashi notes. Bokuto puts an arm over him and pulls him into an awkward hug.

“Just hang around me then. I can guarantee I’ll say or do something to make you laugh.”

“You are good at being comic relief,” Kuroo drawls. Kenma can feel him stiffen immediately after the words spill from his mouth. Bokuto looks up and Kenma isn’t sure what the expression on his face is.

“I never failed to make you laugh,” he declares boastfully, “Name one time I ever failed to make you laugh.”

Kenma can hear the sound Kuroo’s throat makes as he swallows and he’s not sure he wants to be in his lap at that moment. Though, he’s almost positive Kuroo doesn’t want him moving away. He covers Kuroo’s hand with his own where it rests on his knee.

“You’re right,” Kuroo chokes out, “You’ve never failed to make me laugh, when you were trying.”

Silence hangs over them, broken only by the sound of the library door opening. They all freeze and look to see who has walked in.

Coach Ukai stands in the doorway and scans the room. He and Iwaizumi make eye contact before his gaze moves up to the balcony where the five of them sit. He smiles a little and shakes his head.

“They’re all accounted for, can probably leave them alone until three when they’re finished. No reason to keep coming back in.”

He winks at the group on the balcony and gives a nod to Iwaizumi before shutting the door. This time the silence is broken by Bokuto.

“What did I do?” he’s staring at Kuroo, eyes sad and vulnerable, as though this question has been thought many, many times, “Just please, tell me why we stopped being friends.”

“You seriously have no idea?”

“I wouldn’t be asking if I did. You gonna keep dancing around it, or are you gonna man up and tell me the truth.”

“You’d know a lot about manning up.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Tell me, was Ollie not man enough for the team? Is that why you and the rest of those assholes decided to pound some into him.”

“I didn’t lay a single hand on Ollie.”

“No, you just watched, and then sucker punched me for getting involved.”

“You think I hit you? Are you serious? I was trying to help you up when you hit me!” He leans forward and is pulled back by Akaashi who tries to calm him down.

“If you start yelling there is no way Takeda isn’t going to come in to check. You guys can hash this out but you need to do it quietly,” Kenma says, squeezing Kuroo’s hand tightly. Oikawa sits up with a groan and shifts to lean against the railing.

“Do you know why they were beating Ollie?” Kuroo asks, his voice wavering.

“Yes,” Bokuto answers, his head hanging, “I know why.”

“And you stood by, and did nothing.”

“I’m confused, what happened?” Oikawa asks., “Is this anything to do with why you two are in here?”

“Ollie as in Oliver Pentrose?” Akaashi adds, “I heard he got hazed by the football team.”

“Hazing is a far cry from what they were doing to him,” Kuroo gripes, “Chad Wellings and a few others on the team were spraying him down with a hose and smacking him with soap stuffed socks. Apparently, Chad didn’t like having a gay guy on the football team. At least not one that he knew about.”

Bokuto’s head hangs in shame and he sniffs, “I know I should have stopped them. My feet were stuck, no matter how many times my brain screamed to me to stop them.”

“I thought this school was accepting of LGBTQ students. It was one of my mother’s many declarations when I was arguing about us moving here.”

“It is,” Oikawa states, “The student council has been working with the faculty to ensure it is for years. Vice-- I mean President of the Student Council, Koushi Sugawara has been heading the Gay and Straight Alliance for the last four years. Unfortunately, people like Chad sometimes slip under the radar, because he and other athletes often think themselves above all that.”

“I hate them,” Bokuto bemoans, “I hate the team so much. I hate football. I never wanted to do it. But my dad… he kept saying it was the only way I was gonna get a good scholarship for college. But I’m not even a starter, I barely get to play.”

“You never should have quit volleyball,” Oikawa states, “You were the best wing spiker our team had in years.”

“Bokuto’s dad seemed to think that him dedicating himself to two sports was the reason he wasn’t making first string. It never occurred to him that maybe Bo was just better at volleyball,” Kuroo sneered.

“You didn’t come back to the team either, Kuroo,” Oikawa retorts.

“I had my reasons.”

“You could have come back, you swore you’d come back.”

“Drop it, Oikawa.”

“No, this is bullshit. The two of you had the worst excuses ever for leaving the damn team. Yours worse than his,” Oikawa barked, angrily jabbing a finger in Bokuto’s direction.

“I don’t see you playing with your injury,” Kuroo jibes.

“I had major surgery! You had some burns.”

Kuroo’s arms pull back and Kenma immediately misses the warmth. He begins angrily unbuttoning the cuffs of his flannel.

“Shut up,” Bokuto says, “Don’t fucking draw attention to shit people don’t want attention drawn to.”

“I don’t need you to defend me,” Kuroo snaps, “I’m sorry if I decided scar tissue was best left not being slammed into repeatedly by balls.”

He yanks his sleeves up and Kenma sees burn scars running along Kuroo’s forearms. They look like candle wax, white in some places and lumpy, they are criss crossed in some spots by long white lines that look like they were made by deep cuts. The moment is meant to be serious, he knows it is, but he also knows that Kuroo’s last statement might have been taken seriously were it not for the state of mind of everyone present.

It starts with Akaashi giggling quietly, his hand pressed to his mouth. Oikawa is crying from the effort to not double over and Bokuto looks like he’s stopped breathing.

“Oh, fuck all of you,” Kuroo says before succumbing to laughter as well, “You guys are so fucking high.”

“So are you!” the other three say in unison, causing another round of raucous laughter to overtake everyone.

Kuroo lets out a sigh and smacks his head back into the wall behind him, “You guys suck.”

Kenma tries not to stare at Kuroo’s arms, but since they are practically wrapped around him it's hard.

“What happened?” he asks, turning back to look at Kuroo.

Kuroo looks down at him and his lips curl into a smile. “Oho, have you not heard the heroic tale?”

“Oh, fuck me!” Oikawa whines, “Not again!”

“You’ve only heard the story twice to my recollection.”

“From you maybe! Fukunaga never fails to fucking tell people how the great Kuroo saved his life.”

Kuroo cackles, “He still tells people that?”

Ugh, yes!”

“Tell me,” Kenma says, poking Kuroo in the chest, “Don’t just allude to it.”

“Ok, ok. First of all, what you need to know is that chemicals are fucking dangerous. Even more so when someone decides that despite the teacher’s warnings… they wanna try something, and that something was making flamethrowers.”

Chapter Text

“A standard chemistry experiment is the electrolysis of water,” Kuroo explains, relishing the chance to tell this story to someone who has never heard it before, “Which basically breaks the bonds between the oxygen and hydrogen,” He holds his palms out in front of him as he goes on, “Since oxygen and hydrogen don't party well alone, they group as O2 and H2, and to make a long story short, if you do it right you can end up with a beaker full of oxygen gas and one of hydrogen gas.”

“I’ve seen that experiment done,” Kenma says. “But the teacher said only he would be doing the demo, because of past incidents which indicated teenagers are not to be trusted.”

Kuroo guffaws loudly and buries his face into Kenma’s shoulder, “I am pretty sure Mr. Wedge has lost about ten years off his life, I’m responsible for at least five. You see, the way to test which beaker has oxygen and which has hydrogen is to set them on fire.”

“Is this the fiery death at the hands of teenagers he’s always mumbling about?” Akaashi asks, still tucked into Bokuto’s side. Kuroo nods and notices that Oikawa is slowly falling asleep, arms folded with his mouth curled into a pout.

“Omar Biggs would be the one mostly responsible for Mr. Wedge’s paranoia and stress levels. You see, Omar is like me, insatiably curious about how things work. So, he saw the flames spurting from the little beaker of hydrogen and thought to himself… little beaker means little flame. Big beaker means…” his hand hangs in the air for dramatic effect and Oikawa is awake enough to scoff. Kenma however eagerly pokes him to continue.

“Now had I been Omar’s lab partner this story would have ended with me telling him, bad plan, dude, no way. But Shouhei Fukunaga was his lab partner and while he thought this was a bad idea, he was a bit too curious to see what would happen to stop him.”

Kuroo can feel Bokuto’s eyes on him as he tells the story. He wonders to himself what would have happened if he had been Omar’s partner that day. The accident never would have happened… and maybe he’d be left in the dark forever about what Bokuto really thought of him.

“Anyways, so as expected things went wrong. I saw what was happening and unfortunately I’m a bleeding heart hero who shoved Shouhei out of the way and had about three seconds to stop myself from being blinded in the explosion.” he holds his arms up and watches as Kenma hesitates before running a finger over one of the scars.

“The beaker exploded, I got some pretty nasty burns and cuts. Had to go to the hospital. Mr Wedge rode in the ambulance with me hooked up to a damn oxygen mask. Pretty sure he was more panicked than I was.”

“So, that’s why you quit volleyball?” Akaashi asks, “Because you were injured?”

Kuroo nods and watches as Kenma runs his fingers over his forearms softly. “I probably could have come back my junior year,” he looks up at Bokuto, “But by then my only reason for returning… wasn’t there anymore.”

“I know that’s why we stopped being friends,” Bokuto says, forlornly staring down at his hands, “I told you I was gonna stand up to my dad, and I folded.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The day before you got hurt,” he pauses, and Kuroo instinctively pulls his arms in. “I told you I was gonna tell my dad that I didn’t want to do football anymore. That I wanted to play volleyball. But then… you got hurt and you missed tryouts and I… went home. I’m sorry I let you down. It's just… I don’t know how to be brave like you. At least not when it comes to him.”

Bokuto leans back and looks up to the ceiling before taking a deep breath, “He says these things and I just… I know they’re wrong. I hate that I don’t speak up when he’s talking over my mom. I hate that when my brother ruined his clothes because he doesn’t know how to do laundry… that I didn’t tell him he should learn so that Mom has less work. That when my he stops me from dusting that I don’t disagree when he calls it women’s work. I’m a coward around him and around the team… I’m a coward, man. I’m sorry.”

Kuroo’s jaw clenches and he jams the heel of his hand into his eye. “You’re not the only one.”

“What?”

“I’m not as brave as I appear to be.”

“Of course you are… you’re not afraid to speak your mind like… you never back down.”

“Look where it’s got me. A limited social circle of a few acquaintances who tolerate me in spite of my flawed personality,” Kuroo gripes. “I’m a failure of the high school experience.”

“How?” Akaashi asks.

“I don’t fucking fit is how,” he laments, “I don’t fit here, I’m… I just don’t fit. They keep telling me ‘Oh you’ll find yourself in college Kuroo. Don’t worry, college is where you will blossom,’” he condescends. Kenma shifts then and moves to sit next to him. “What if I don’t? What if I am always meant to just never fit anywhere? Sure, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get into MIT, but what’s there for me? The unknown, which three months ago I would have jumped at the chance to experience. But now… now all I know is that at MIT is…”

Kuroo buries his face in his hands and lets out a whimper, “I found him Bo.”

“Found who?” Bokuto asks baffled.

Him,” he chokes out, “I hired a private investigator and he found the guy. He was a TA in one of her classes and everyone who knew both of them said they had a thing going on. I saw a picture of him… I’m not saying I’m the spitting image of him, but fuck, man.”

Bokuto stares ahead in stunned silence. “Dude…”

“I’m just as much a coward as you. You’re afraid to stand up to your dad. I’m afraid to talk to the man who might be mine.”

Lee is your dad,” Bokuto interjects. Kuroo breaks into a whine. “Lee Kuroo is your dad!”

“I know! Oh god, I know!”

“Do they know you… hired someone.”

“I couldn’t tell them. Mom would- she would understand, but my dad- Oh god, I can’t believe I did that to my dad. I’m such a fucking hypocrite. I told you to be brave and to stand up and look at me… too cowardly to tell his own father he wants to find his birth father. Then too cowardly to--”

He feels himself yanked forward into a hug that feels familiar despite having not felt it for nearly three years. He sobs openly and his words are garbled and at most all that can be made out is ‘so sorry’ and ‘Bo’. Eventually they pull apart and Bokuto ruffles Kuroo’s hair affectionately.

“You’re not a coward man,” he laughs, “Just a normal human like the rest of us. Sorry to disappoint you. But hey, now you fit in.”

Kuroo laughs and cries all at once and rubs his eyes furiously. “You really thought this whole time I stopped being friends with you cause you quit volleyball?”

Bokuto‘s head tilts to the side and he gapes at Kuroo. “That’s not it?”

“No man, its for all those shitty things you said about me in the locker room.”

“What shitty things?”

“The day I came back to school. I got to the locker room, opened the door and heard Chad asking you why you were friends with me. Then, later I hear you say I just hate when he says stuff like that, it makes him sound so stupid, and I don’t know if we’ve ever seen eye to eye… ever.’ What the hell else was I gonna do but walk away.”

Bokuto giggles for a moment and stops himself, then another escapes, finally he clutches his stomach as he is overtaken by laughter. “Oh… my… god!”

“What is so fucking funny?” Kuroo asks, his anger resurfacing.

“You… thought… I was talking… about you!” he chokes out between breaths.

“Who the hell else would you be talking about?”

“My dad!”

“How in the…” Kuroo thinks back to the day in question and remembers being pulled away momentarily by Daichi. Of the revelation of Bokuto quitting the volleyball team and how… “Oh my fucking god.”

“You mean to tell me, that the two of you haven’t spoken for over three years because you didn’t have the balls to confront him over some shitty stuff he said which would have been revealed to have not even been about you in the first place?” Iwaizumi stands at the top of the stairs with a judgmental look on his face, “You guys are morons.”

Kuroo looks at Bokuto and starts laughing hysterically.

“Three… years!”

“How could you think I would ever say that shit about you?”

“I don’t know, man,” Kuroo answers with a shake of his head, “It was so easy to believe that you were giving me up along with volleyball. I was so mad about you quitting. I hated what he put you through that summer. And when you let him make you quit.”

“Wasn’t so bad…” Bokuto mumbled.

“Dude, it was!”

“What did he do to you?” Akaashi asks, head tilted to the side with concern in his pose.

“Made him eat constantly,” Kuroo begins, a rant already planned, “We would be out and he would pull out a protein bar and I’d see him try to eat it even though he’d eaten right before we left. He was trying to force him to grow. The worst part was Bo was going through his damn growth spurt, and his dad decided he needed bulk as well as height.”

“It worked, didn’t it?”

“Bo, you were sick for almost all of the summer! You were in pain! I could see it!”

“I know alright!”

“This is why I was trying to get you to stand up to him.”

“I get it, ok!”

“Kenma,” Akaashi states, his voice barely raised and yet it snaps both Kuroo and Bokuto to attention, “I just think you should know… I hate your hair.”

“You look dumb in that skirt,” Kenma deadpans.

“It's not a skirt, it's a kilt.”

“My mistake.”

“I forgive you.”

“Can we be silent acquaintances again?”

“Yes, I missed our quiet memories.”

“Should we hug?”

“If we must.”

Kenma and Akaashi embrace one another. Kuroo turns to Bokuto and laughs, “Bo, I do believe we are being mocked.”

“At least we’re being mocked together.”

“I fucking missed you,” he says wrapping an arm over his shoulder.

“Me too!”

“Oh good god, do not start crying again,” Iwaizumi barks, having sat down at the top of the stairs, resting on his hand on the ground by Oikawas hip.

“Oh, pipe it down, Hajime,” Bokuto teases.

“Dude…”

“You’re not on the team anymore, you don’t get last name privileges.”

“He’s not on the team either!” Iwaizumi angrily points out, jabbing a finger in Kuroo’s direction. Oikawa startles but doesn't wake up.

“He started that trend,” Bokuto retorts.

“I’m confused,” Kenma interrupts, “Is this about the volleyball team all insisting on calling each other by their last names?”

Kuroo chuckles, “It was my one and only contribution to the team freshmen year. Well, that and my astounding height and blocking skills. I don’t use my first name, ever. It has... connections I don’t want.”

“You’re adopted?” Akaashi asks hesitantly.

“Yeah,” Kuroo nods. “My birth mother was a student at MIT who got pregnant during her last semester. My mom was her professor. She ah, she walked in on Ayame puking her guts out in the bathroom. Took her out to lunch and… well, Mom had recently learned that she and my Dad wouldn’t be able to have kids the traditional way. So, this was some sort of miracle because Ayame didn’t want to terminate, but she knew wasn’t ready for me. But, she was so scared of where I would end up if she just up and handed me over to the state.”

“Ayame loved him before he even had a heartbeat,” Bokuto says with a smile.

“Shut up, man,” Kuroo smacks him on the arm, “You’ve heard this story too many times I think.”

“It's your mom’s favorite.”

“Don’t I know it. Anyways, Ayame and my parents had everything planned. Everything was perfect, which should have been the first sign I guess that something was gonna happen.”

Kenma slides himself back to Kuroo’s side and takes his hand. Kuroo smiles and interlocks their fingers together. “She died, shortly after I was born. Saw me open my eyes, named me… Tetsurou and then… she was gone.”

Kuroo breathes deep, in and out. He’s known this story for years. Has repeated to himself over and over that it wasn’t his fault, until he could almost believe it was true.

“The strain of giving birth to me, she had an aneurysm and just gone. She never told my parents who my father was, only that he wouldn’t object to them adopting me.”

“Why do you go by Kuroo?”

“Tetsurou is my biological grandfather’s name, and I found out a few years ago that… well, there was a reason I never met him or Ayame’s mother. They didn’t know about me. In fact, they found out about me the day they found out their daughter was dead, because of me.”

Kuroo swallows hard and meets Bokuto's eyes. He'd been there the day he learned the truth of his name. Where it had come from. “My biological grandparents want nothing to do with me. In fact, when they found out that Ayame had gotten pregnant and chose to carry me to term, they were appalled that she hadn't just terminated and saved herself the trouble. They didn't want to even see me.”

Kenma lays his head on Kuroo's shoulder and tightens his grip on his hand. “You're wanted.”

“Oh, I know that. My parents have never once regretted adopting me and have never once made me feel as though they didn't want me. I am loved and I will always know that. But… I refuse to use the name Ayame gave me. My parents call me Tetsu and everyone else calls me Kuroo,” his voice cracks, “That's how it's going to be from now on. I won't use the name of a man who didn't even want to know what I looked like.”

Akaashi and Bokuto slide over to Kuroo and Kenma and seat themselves on either side of them. Akaashi lays his head on Kuroo's shoulder and loops his arms through the gap between both Kuroo and Kenma's. Bokuto manages to wrap himself around all three of them.

“I don't know if I will ever want to be called Tetsurou again. The idea of being named after someone who thought I was better off not being alive… it's too much.”

“I don't blame you,” Kenma whispers, “I’m sorry he never got the chance to know you.”

“He is truly missing out on a wonderful person,” Akaashi adds.

“Heck yeah,” Bokuto finishes and Kuroo lets himself cry. Across from them Oikawa slowly opens his eyes.

“Mmmm, Iwa-chan… when did you decide to join us?” Oikawa says sitting up with a yawn. He stares at the four them and narrows his eyes, “What did I miss?”

“Three years of unnecessary drama that culminated in the cuddle pile you see in front of you,” Iwaizumi mutters.

Chapter Text

Keiji was warm, but warm in a way that was so comfortable he couldn’t find it in him to complain. Bokuto radiated warmth in more ways than one, and Keiji was finding his arms to be exceptionally pleasant. For now, he only had one of those impressive arms wrapped around him. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t considering just climbing into his lap. Bokuto was openly affectionate enough that it would be completely normal for him. At most, he’d have to deal with a look from Kuroo.

Worth it…

“I’m curious,” Oikawa interrupts his thoughts of muscles and what they’d feel like as pillows, “Why do you go by your last name?”

“They don’t use first names at my old school. It’s become habit for me. My father’s colleagues all call him Akaashi as well. Keiji is for family and close personal friends only,” he replies with a shrug.

“I think the private school here is like that too,” Kenma adds.

“I almost went to Shiratorizawa,” Oikawa notes, “Or well, would have gone if my mother had her way.”

“I had considered it briefly, but my mother was the opposite. She wanted me going to the public school. Strange, since I’ve always been in private schools. I think she’s trying to distance me from our old life, not just herself.”

Silence hangs around them once again. Keiji is about to slide himself ever so slightly into Bokuto’s lap when Oikawa interrupts him again.

“How long until you stop blaming yourself for their split?”

Keiji’s head snaps up and he regards Oikawa warily. His face is open and expressive, his eyes wide and incredibly vulnerable. “What do you mean?”

“How long does it take before you stop asking yourself if it was your fault?”

“I never blamed myself, though I was privy to enough evidence to know that it wasn’t my fault,” he remarks. Oikawa is still regarding him with an open stare and he decides perhaps this one time, he will dispense with his own experiences to help someone else.

“They started fighting when I was twelve. Nothing major, just an argument or two, sometimes my mother would sleep in the guest bedroom. My father had just been made partner at his law firm, -his promises of how much more time he would have for us- it didn’t last.”

Bokuto shifts and pulls him in tighter, somehow knowing he needs it.

“The way our apartment is laid out allows the sounds of the living room to carry down the hall. My bedroom sat at the end of that hall. The words were always hard to make out. Sometimes I could tell they were having the same exact argument--the sounds--they became very familiar to me.”

Keiji breathes, shifts himself so he’s leaning into Bokuto and has his legs thrown over his lap. Bokuto’s warmth seeps into his chest, biting back the cold and hurt he’s allowing himself to experience again.

“You asked what rumor about me was true?”

Oikawa nods. He and Iwaizumi shift just a little bit closer to one another. Its subtle, Keiji isn’t even sure they realize they are doing it, but every so often one of them changes position and it moves them closer and closer.

“I am gay, we can clear that up immediately, but there’s no older lover in the city waiting for me. Only my dad,” Keiji chokes on the lie at the end. He’s seen his father a total of four times since he and his mother split. He knows Keiji comes back every weekend. He used to leave a note saying sorry for not being there, a lingering promise to make it up to him, but then the notes stopped. Instead, he might find a fifty or hundred dollar bill on the counter... something for Keiji to order dinner with.

Kenma’s hand finds his and squeezes it briefly.

“It's easier to sleep there than it is here,” Keiji adds, if only because now that he’s started he doesn’t know how to stop. It's been so easy keeping all of this to himself; building a wall around himself that no one else wanted, or even tried to break. But, he’s so warm and it's so easy now to just get it out. Why had he been holding onto this?

“It’s too quiet here. Every night I hope that maybe the quiet will become normal to me, that it won’t feel like this heavy pressing weight that keeps me wide awake. I miss the city sounds at night... the cars running over pavement, the clacking of train cars, the cacophony of hundreds of voices. I can’t sleep in this silence.”

Bokuto pulls him and Keiji finds himself in the man's lap, arms encircling him from behind as Bokuto rests his head on his shoulder. Keiji leans leans into the embrace and lets himself be held.

“My parents didn’t tell me they got divorced,” Oikawa practically whispers. The space between him and Iwaizumi closes a fraction more with no hesitation. Keiji almost smirks. He’s not the only one who’s been aching for contact. “I found the paperwork the other day in my father’s office.”

Oikawa rubs his eyes and keeps his gaze on his hands as he speaks, “They signed it the day after my eighteenth birthday. I was in my bedroom, laid up with a busted knee, wishing someone would just… and they were….”

He weeps openly and whatever wall or divide that had existed between him and Iwaizumi was gone. Oikawa buries himself in Iwaizumi’s chest and sobs bitter, broken tears. Keiji finds himself weeping as well, his a more quiet, stoic cry. At least, that’s what he tells himself. His hand finds Kenma’s again and he can feel another hand stroke through his hair. He realizes it must be Bokuto, because Kuroo is on Oikawa’s other side now. Not quite hugging so much as whispering soft words and resting his head on Oikawa’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry, I derailed your first show of emotions in how many years?” Oikawa says with a half hearted laugh that breaks with every sob he’s eking out.

“I think I stopped feeling things when I decided I was going to run away,” Keiji says and his eyes widen, “That is… what I mean to say is that-,” he shuts his eyes and sighs. Too warm now, he’s left himself vulnerable. He wants to crawl out of Bokuto’s embrace and go curl up in a corner somewhere. Somewhere alone preferably. No one needs know his sad story and the hollow future he has planned for himself.

“You’re gonna run away?” Bokuto’s voice is soft. It's almost like he actually cares. Kenma’s hand hasn’t moved once, instead gripping it tighter. Three pairs of eyes regard him from across the balcony, and he feels trapped.

“It's not like I’m gonna pack up and leave tomorrow,” he dismisses with a casual wave, “My bag isn’t chock full of stolen cash and what little essentials I need. I’m waiting until I turn eighteen, and even after that I am waiting until I graduate.”

“Where you gonna go?” Kuroo asks, still keeping his head resting on Oikawa’s shoulder.

“Does it matter?”

“Maybe yes, maybe no. But have you thought about it at all?”

“There’s no need to. I have the means to go anywhere I want to,” he’s being flippant, but who cares? They want to see that side of him apparently. What with their fake lines of questioning, pretending to want to know his pain. It's a ruse. So, let them see the bitter side of his pain. The small shred of emotion he has left. “I’m sure someone as smart and as nosy as you has already realized who my family is. So, you know I can literally go wherever I would like.”

Kuroo swallows but says nothing. Oikawa regards him with a raised chin and a curious gaze. “Oh my god, you’re an Akaashi!”

“Well spotted,” he remarks dryly, disentangling himself from Bokuto and shifting to lean back against the railing. He resists the urge to pull his knees to his chest, to show how scared he feels. “It is my last name after all.”

“I’m sorry but what?” Iwaizumi asks.

Keiji Akaashi,” Oikawa declares and Keiji barely suppressed a flinch, “I can’t believe I didn’t realize it.”

“What’s he talking about?” Bokuto is obviously oblivious and for that, Keiji is thankful, “You someone like, special or somethin’?”

Keiji shrugs. “My family is very wealthy. I come from a long line of people who knew how to make money and how to keep making money for generation after generation. When I turn eighteen I will inherit a large sum of money that will allow me to go make a new life somewhere else. Somewhere that I can bury Keiji Akaashi and pretend that the life he lived was some god awful dream that I woke up from the day after my high school graduation.”

“So, what you’re saying is--.”

“Bokuto my family is rich enough that if I wanted to, I could buy half the town, raze it to the ground and build high priced ugly condos.”

“So that explains your shoes,” Bokuto notes. “I was always wondering how you managed to have such expensive shoes.”

Keiji regarded his boots and took Bokuto’s words to heart. They weren’t even his most expensive pair.

“I like shoes,” he answered quietly.

“I can tell, you always have like, the nicest shoes Agaashi. I really like those purple ones you’ve got. The weird like giraffe print ones.”

Keiji laughed and curled his fingers in his lap. “Those are probably the most uncomfortable things I have ever worn, but they look so good with my skinny jeans that I refuse to get rid of them.”

“Aww man, I had a pair of sneakers like that. See I’ve got like wide feet you know. Not like super wide, but like my one pinky toe pushes out a little so it makes my foot wide,” Bokuto gestures to his left foot, “So, I have these converse sneakers and I love them; because come on, who doesn’t love a good pair of chucks?” he points to both Oikawa and Kuroo’s feet to prove his point. “The problem is they’re too narrow. So my one foot is always hurting a bit when I wear ‘em.”

“They make custom chucks,” Oikawa informs him, “It’s a little pricey. But worth it.”

“Says the guy whose parents bought him a Beemer for his birthday,” Iwaizumi mutters quietly. Oikawa flinches but doesn’t quip back.

“So, I could get like yellow converse with black trim? That would be so cool. I would really be showing school spirit then!”

“Always the optimist,” Kuroo remarks with a smirk as he lays down to stretch himself out like a cat. He reaches forward and grabs at Kenma’s feet, using them to pull himself across the floor before laying his head in Kenma’s lap. Keiji can practically hear the purr of satisfaction that resonates from his chest when Kenma begins stroking his fingers through his hair.

“I’m just trying to get everyone to stop talking about the sad stuff that’s gonna ruin the rest of our nice day,” Bokuto shrugs. “Is it working? Am I distracting you from the bad stuff Akaaaashi?”

“You know… there is something you could do to distract me,” Keiji muses, his eyes roving over Bokuto’s bare arms, his muscles flex as though they know he’s admiring them.

“Yeah?”

“How much can you bench?”

Bokuto scrunches his lips together and taps his chin. “Two-ten the last time they tested me.”

“Do you… think you could bench press me?”

“Uhhh sure, probably. But you gotta like hold really still, ya know. Last time one of the guys tried to bench press his girlfriend, he like grabbed a spot that was ticklish and she wiggled and fell on his chest.”

“Oh, I am sure I can find a way to hold absolutely still.”

“Ummm ok, so yeah,” Bokuto shifts and lays himself down on the floor. “So what you’re gonna want to do is uhhh lay down, sort of.”

“I have an idea of how I need to position myself.”

“Ok cool,” Bokuto braces his arms and lets Keiji position himself. He can practically hear Bokuto blush as his hand presses into Keiji’s ass. He’s thankful that Bokuto cannot see the look of absolute bliss he is wearing as he feels a strong hand palm him between his shoulder blades. He crosses his arms and his ankles and gives a signal that he is ready.

Bokuto struggles at first simply because he’s used to holding onto a bar and not a human, but eventually he gets the hang of the positioning and lifts Keiji in a set of ten reps before lowering him back to his chest.

“Wanna go again?”

Keiji hums and grins. “One more set of ten.”

“You gotta thing for muscles?” Bokuto asks, the eyebrow waggle evident in his tone.

“What gave it away?”

Bokuto huffs a laugh and lifts Keiji again for another ten reps. He’s almost out of breath on the last one and has to laugh when Keiji loses his balance and nearly tumbles onto his chest. He catches him by palming the middle of his back and helping him into a sitting position… back on his lap.

“You’re smiling,” he says, gazing at Keiji with such open affection that it's near overwhelming.

“I am,” he answers, because why lie?

“Good.”

“Iwa-chan, how come we never tried that?” Oikawa asks, earning an eye roll.

“Because you are the most ticklish person I have ever met in my life. There is no way you could hold still for that.”

“I don’t know, that sounds like a miserable excuse to me,” Kuroo interjects with a wicked grin. “Akaashi was able to hold still and he’s in a skirt.”

“Kilt,” Keiji corrects automatically. He’s lost track of how many times he has uttered that phrase.

“What’s the difference?”

“You don’t wear underwear with a kilt,” Keiji says examining his nails. Bokuto’s hand had been resting on his knee when suddenly it lifts, comes back down again, lifts, and then with the slightest hesitation rests back on his knee, with a light squeeze. Kenma suppresses a giggle.

“Well then, I’ll take things I never needed to know about Akaashi’s underwear habits for 400, Alex.”

“We don't need to talk about Akaashi’s underwear,” Bokuto interjects.

“Or lack thereof,” Kenma snickers.

“Oh my god,” Iwaizumi sighs, looking up to the ceiling in hopes some remorseful god will put him out of his misery. “Here, Trashy Kawa, try to actually hold still for this.” he lays down and lets Oikawa get into position. After a few struggles, several giggles and jumps from Oikawa, he manages a set of ten reps.

“Yay, Iwa-Chan!” Oikawa cheers as he rises up and down.

“Ha!” Bokuto says, “I did two sets of ten.”

Iwaizumi falls back and snatches up Oikawa who shrieks in shock before quickly getting into position. Iwaizumi does an additional twenty reps, and then gives Bokuto the finger once his hands are free.

“You gonna let him challenge you like that?” Akaashi asks and Bokuto snaps to attention.

“No, I am not!” Bokuto shifts Akaashi off of his lap and lays down on the floor.

“Get on my back.”

“Gladly.”

“This is the weirdest flirting I have ever seen in my life.”

“Shut up, Kuroo!” comes a chorus of voices while Oikawa and Akaashi position themselves on the backs of Iwaizumi and Bokuto respectively.

“Two sets of ten, Iwa-chan,” Bokuto chirps.

“Make it three asshole,” Iwaizumi grunts.

Iwaizumi and Bokuto both make it to the last set of reps when Iwazumi begins to flag and isn’t coming up as quickly. Oikawa keeps trying to cheer him on but after the seventh he drops to the ground in a huff. Oikawa rolls off and tries to help him sit up, but is rebuffed.

“I’m fine,” he grunts, leaning back against the railing. “Your knee all right?”

“It's fine.”

“Good.”

Bokuto lays with his face in the carpet and a fist raised in the air in victory.

“I’m the best,” he wheezes.

“Yes, you are,” Keiji agrees, shamelessly resting himself on the pillow that is Bokuto's toned bottom.