Chapter 1: Cereal Saturday
Kei's karma is balanced in the form of the world's worst neighbors and a box of knock-off cereal.
On what had started by all means as a fine and holy Saturday afternoon, Tsukishima Kei is very suddenly and unexpectedly faced with the reality that God had abandoned him in the parking lot of his new apartment building.
He ponders his unfortunate fate in the same way a man falsely accused of murder might ponder his own, and then he screams into the echoey abyss of his own mind hoping for an answer. Was it payback for the time he’d laughed when Yamaguchi puked on the backseat of Kageyama’s brand new car? Or was karma finally getting its dues on the general assholery he had displayed over his twenty-one years of life?
Whatever the reason (Kei doesn’t really care to examine it further), he finds himself squished between two hot bodies on a tiny couch in the middle of July – a couch that is not his, he might add, and bodies that belong to people he met not ten minutes prior to this very unfortunate situation coming to pass.
The room smells of warm Doritos and Red Bull – a smell Kei desperately hopes will dissipate for fear of the slight churning of his stomach turning into something far more sinister – and the entire apartment has an oppressive aura that Kei can only describe as prolonged anarchy resulting from the lack of any vaguely responsible adult.
On any normal day, Kei would like to meet and interact with exactly zero new people; but on the days where it absolutely cannot be helped, one or two is acceptable. Kei finds himself, on this very cursed day, surrounded by four new people in a room with no clear escape. The four of them had been loitering in the parking lot like delinquents when he had been unfortunate enough to come across them, and then even more unfortunate when they’d decided he was a fine victim for whatever nonsense they had planned for the day. Now he sits, miserable and hot, in what is apparently some sort of orientation for new apartment owners, wishing that he’d chosen literally any other apartment building on the planet.
“Oh, watch out for Oikawa,” Kuroo-san says, in addition to all of the tips, tricks and ‘facts’ that he’d already graced Kei with this afternoon, “He stalks the halls at night searching for fresh young lovers to drain the life force out of – that’s how he keeps that pretty face of his so young and blemish free.”
Bokuto-san nods sagely as though that isn’t one of the most ridiculous things Kei has ever heard.
A scandalized gasp escapes the mouth of Oikawa the night-stalker.
“I do not! That is blatantly untrue Tetsu-chan, and I demand that you take it back right now!” A very interesting pout has formed on the night-stalker’s mouth, making him appear very suspiciously youthful.
“Sorry dude, you kind of do. I mean…” Bokuto-san – whose hair makes him look rather like Frankenstein’s bride, in Kei’s opinion – says, gesturing vaguely around the room.
While Kei is having trouble interpreting the meaning of this gesture, Oikawa-san is already playing defense.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t seem to recall the nights on which I’d apparently stalked the halls propositioning any of you – in fact, if I’m remembering correctly, you specifically propositioned me-”
“Okay! That’s enough of that, thank you.” The last of the strangers interjects, dark hair and calm demeanor making him easily the most normal-looking of the bunch – well, if not for the fact that he manages to be strikingly beautiful even in a room full of exceptionally good-looking people.
“I’m sure, uh… Tsukishima-kun, was it?” He asks, holding the quiet attention of the entire room. Kei offers a quick nod, “Tsukishima-kun would prefer not to hear any more about Oikawa-san’s sexual escapades, propositioned or otherwise.”
“Akaashi is right – Tsukishima absolutely does not need to know that Oikawa has slept with everyone in this building at least once.” Kuroo-san says, eliciting yet another scandalized gasp from the night-stalker and some wheezy laughter from Frankenstein’s bride.
Kei finds that his annoyance at having been dragged into this situation is being slowly overtaken by a mix of curiosity and disbelief.
“Everyone?” He asks nobody in particular.
“Yep, and all within the last six months.” Frankenstein’s bride says proudly, though of what exactly Kei cannot be sure.
The night-stalker himself remains silent, apparently allowing his deeds to speak for themselves – or burning in shame, though Kei doesn’t really care which. The fact that this seemingly outrageous piece of information had actually turned out to be true has shocked him into silence.
“Are you studying, Tsukishima-kun?” Akaashi-san asks, apparently determined to get the conversation back to a state of normalcy that had possibly never existed in the first place.
The collective gaze of the room has once again fallen onto the newest member of the group, leaving Kei feeling exposed and even more uncomfortable than he had been when this had all started out.
“Yeah, uh… as nice as this is, I’m going to have to take a pass on whatever cult it is that you guys are trying to recruit me into.”
Kuroo-san lets out an undignified snort, “Funny guy! I like you already.”
“I don’t know how to feel about that.”
“I’m moving out, effective immediately.” Kei says, his determination cemented further with every sticky step he takes toward his own apartment.
“You’re being overdramatic.” Yamaguchi replies, ever the voice of reason Kei would prefer not to hear when he is, indeed, being overdramatic.
“Yeah, well I have no sheets on my bed, no curtains, no food, and the most annoying neighbors on the planet – I feel like that warrants a certain level of drama on my part.”
Kei’s apartment happens to be exactly one floor above Kuroo-san’s, and while it comforts him somewhat that they aren’t immediate neighbors, he can’t help but feel a sense of building dread as he pushes his door open at the realization that he has no idea where any of the other three live.
Though he may not be too opposed to living next to Akaashi-san.
“I fear for my sanity.”
Yamaguchi sighs, “Okay, well I’ve got work tomorrow morning so… keep me posted and all that.”
And just like that, Kei finds himself alone (not just in the physical sense this time) in his apartment – as he had planned to be from earlier in the afternoon – at a complete loss for what to do, and with newfound abandonment issues following Yamaguchi’s swift departure from their phone call.
He sits on the floor of this semi-furnished, brand-new apartment – neglecting the couch only because, if he’s really being honest with himself, it doesn’t quite hold the same amount of drama that sitting on the floor does. Kei really enjoys a fair amount of drama when the time calls for it.
He sits there for a good twenty minutes feeling sorry for himself and internally cursing the universe out. It does suck that he has no curtains or bedsheets, and even more so that he has no food…
Kei thinks long and hard about this very unfortunate set of facts, and the fact that all of this is the result of an arguably more unfortunate set of events – all of which were triggered by a certain group of people that Kei had come to know on this very unfortunate afternoon.
So, in his starvation-weakened state, Kei does the unthinkable – he marches downstairs at a pace that he himself considers a little bit sad, and knocks on the door of the only other person he knows within a ten-kilometer radius.
“Kuroo-san? You busy?”
The door swings open with surprising force, leaving Kei briefly concerned that its fragile wooden frame may not be able to take the impending impact with the wall.
“Back for more, are we?” Kuroo-san says, the smirk on his face suggesting that he had known Kei would be back well before even Kei himself had known.
Kei instantly regrets his decision.
“Actually, I-” He begins to turn away from the door, his fight or flight instinct kicking in as soon as he catches a glimpse of the actual anarchy going down within Kuroo-san’s apartment.
“Not so fast big guy, we just cracked open a fresh carton of milk and I’ll be damned if you don’t get to be a part of that.”
Kei takes a moment to process that sentence, and then another to accept the absurdity of it.
“Wait. What the fuck?”
He has made a huge mistake.
“It’s Cereal Saturday!” Kuroo-san says, as if that makes any sense at all.
He is dragged into the apartment before he can protest and Kei once again finds himself on the tiny couch that had started it all – but this time, an entire box of what appears to be off-brand Cheerios (simply labeled ‘Crispy Circles’ in bold black font) and a carton of milk have been shoved into his limp arms.
He feels his loose grip on reality slip even more.
“Just pour it in. Like normal cereal.” Bokuto-san helpfully suggests between mouthfuls of his own ‘dinner’.
Kei looks to Akaashi-san for help, only to be met with the face of a broken man who has been subjected to far too many a box of Crispy Circles. He knows then what he must do, and hesitantly pours half the carton into his box.
“Um… spoon?” He requests despite his better judgment – he’d seen the way Bokuto-san had poured his soggy cereal right into his mouth from the box, and he’d been faced with Akaashi-san’s broken stare, but he was desperate to cling on to any semblance of normalcy. Any at all.
“Don’t got any.” Kuroo-san says, and Kei feels his soul leave his body.
“No spoon?” Kei asks in complete disbelief, having been reduced to single syllable words by his own shock and consternation.
“It’s easier to just go with it than it is to argue with them.” Akaashi-san says in his infinite wisdom, taking handfuls of cereal out of his own box with only the slightest amount of hesitation each time.
Oikawa-san is nowhere to be seen, but Kei chooses not to ask on account of his absolutely just not wanting to know – even if he is curious, having his suspicions confirmed would only cause his fragile heart an amount of distress that he cannot afford at this point in the evening.
He stares despondently into his box of quickly softening cereal and throws caution and common sense to the wind, tilting the box into his mouth and crunching on the contents like a wild animal.
Maybe he should be a better person, starting today.
Chapter 2: A Lesson in Chaos Theory
Bokuto and Kuroo's fantastic idea to go shopping cart racing goes awry.
Following the Cereal Saturday incident, Kei finds himself repeatedly and inexplicably going back to Kuroo-san’s apartment. He really doesn’t want to examine the hows and whys of it all further than he already has, choosing instead to participate in the seemingly increasingly ridiculous antics of the boy from apartment 209 and his friends with a reckless abandon that he hadn’t known he was capable of not two weeks ago.
Kei maintains, though, that his apartment is sacred ground – not to be touched by the likes of Kuroo-san the Terrible and his partners in crime (which they had insisted was unfair on account of his and Akaashi-san’s lovely Sunday afternoon tea held in Kei’s apartment, and which Kei had quickly explained was on account of Akaashi-san having manners and common decency).
All is well until Kei’s peaceful Friday night studying is rudely interrupted by an unnecessarily loud and enthusiastic knocking on his front door, which he knows for a fact is not Akaashi-san. Even the simplest of rules seems to escape the unholy heathens occupying the downstairs apartments.
He swings his door open with the full force of his annoyance.
Standing in front of him is the odd combination of Akaashi-san and Kuroo-san – a combination that Kei had yet to witness in the wild. His confusion, however, is very short lived as he hears Bokuto-san’s unmistakable screaming coming from the parking lot.
“Get in loser, we’re going shopping!” He calls, definitely disturbing all of the normal people occupying the apartment complex. Kei wonders how long they had to practice to get him to yell that on cue.
And so it goes that Kei is yanked out of his apartment and shoved into the back of Bokuto-san’s 1999 Toyota Corolla before he even has the time to protest. He is then firmly squished between Kuroo-san, sporting the smirk of the century, and a very apologetic-looking Akaashi-san.
Oikawa-san had called shotgun and is now smugly occupying the front seat, which Kei truly believes is a safety hazard for other drivers due to how appalling his outfit is – even if it is dark out.
“My god, Oikawa, you’ve outdone yourself.” Kuroo-san says, eyeing the neon pink monstrosity with an admiration that Kei really hopes is ironic.
“I know,” The man replies, a smile on his face that speaks of complete blissful ignorance to the fact that he looks like a bad 80s acid trip.
Kei is forced to look away as he smooths down his shirt because the pattern is making him dizzy.
“What are we even doing? It’s like, 8pm.” Kei complains, fully aware that he isn’t going to like the answer.
“You’ll see.” Kuroo-san says in a very annoying attempt at sounding mysterious.
He doesn’t like that answer.
Kei is no expert in chaos theory, but the unfolding events of the evening make him feel as though he might be getting close. Indeed, the worst combination of any three people to ever exist had brought into being an evening of unpredictable chaos the likes of which Kei will never live to see repeated (if he can help it, anyway).
Those three (Kei refuses to implicate Akaashi-san in any of this) had apparently gotten it into their pea-sized brains that it would be a good idea to go ‘shopping cart racing’, which honestly hadn’t sounded like the worst thing they could possibly think of – at the time.
Kei would quickly live to regret the momentary relief he felt upon hearing their plan for the evening.
“You’re all fucking idiots.” He says, choosing to stand on the pavement with Akaashi-san so as to avoid being accidentally mistaken for an accomplice in this nonsense if someone were to walk by and see them.
Bokuto-san grins at them from inside the shopping cart, apparently not at all concerned about the amount of duct tape being applied to his arm.
“Remind me – why is it that they’re duct taping him to the cart?” Akaashi-san asks, a tiredness in his voice that has been cultivated over years of nonsense that Kei had thankfully not been around to witness.
“It’s so he doesn’t fall out!” Kuroo-san yells.
“Don’t yell!” Kei yells back.
“Safety first!” Bokuto-san says, smacking his janky helmet with his free hand.
“Oh my god.” Akaashi-san all but whispers, clearly picturing at least one of the ways this could possibly go wrong – and there are a lot of them.
“It’ll be fine!” Kuroo-san reassures them, though neither Kei nor Akaashi-san are comforted in the least.
Kuroo-san stands back to admire his handy work as soon as Bokuto-san’s second arm is strapped securely to the side of the cart. The cart begins to roll away – which Kei had expected, but the actual event is no less alarming for it. Luckily, Kuroo-san is quick to catch the handle of the cart and roll it to the safety of a flat surface.
“Oh my god.” Akaashi-san repeats. Kei nods in solidarity as they watch Kuroo-san get into position next to the cart.
He hears Akaashi-san suck in a large breath.
Kuroo-san does a once-over of the situation before launch.
“Wait! Where’s Oikawa?”
They all quickly look around the empty parking lot, verifying for themselves that Oikawa-san is, in fact, nowhere to be seen.
Both Kei and Akaashi-san let out their held breaths.
“Um… did anyone see him leave?” Akaashi-san asks, not even attempting to hide the almost giddy relief in his voice.
“No? What the fuck,” Bokuto-san says, desperately trying to get a full 360 view despite being firmly strapped to a shopping cart, “Where’d he go?”
“I’ve got an idea.” Kuroo-san says, annoyed.
He runs toward the convenience store across the street with a speed Kei hadn’t previously thought him capable of, and Kei puts two and two together at a speed he wished he wasn’t capable of.
“I’m actually going to kill you. Like physically, with my hands.” Kuroo-san is saying as he returns from the store.
Oikawa-san is trailing somewhat shamefully behind him, no shopping bags in hand.
“OH MY GOD,” Bokuto-san yells, his duct tape restraints the only thing holding him back, “YOU WERE FLIRTING WITH THE CASHIER!”
His voice echoes through the empty parking lot.
The look on Kuroo-san’s face as he approaches heavily suggests that Bokuto-san was one hundred percent correct, and Kei would be lying if he said he wasn’t at least a little amused.
Akaashi-san, though, is far more than just a little amused.
“Stop laughing, Keiji-chan!” Oikawa-san says, cheeks bright red and lips pouted in that way of his, “It’s not funny!”
“It kind of is,” Kei laughs, influenced by Akaashi-san’s now hysterical display – they may have to pick him up off the ground soon.
“You guys are horrible to me!”
“Well, maybe if you were capable of keeping it in your pants for more than an hour, we wouldn’t have to be!” Kuroo-san says.
The three of them bicker back and forth for a while, and Kei takes the opportunity to help Akaashi-san back to his feet.
“Are you okay?” Kei asks, still fighting off a bit of a giggling fit himself. Akaashi-san nods and wipes away a few tears, leaning against Kei to steady his weak knees.
“Are you guys done?” Kei asks, catching their attention. He wouldn’t be surprised if they’d forgotten he and Akaashi-san were even there.
The three stooges look at each other in silence for a long moment, and the lot of them begin communicating telepathically on their shared idiot wavelength. Well, that or they just stand there looking at each other for upwards of three minutes – which is just as likely.
Akaashi-san is still leaning on Kei for support, a little wheezy from his laughing fit. At the very least, someone had fun during the whole Oikawa-san fiasco.
“Yeah, we’re done.” Kuroo-san says, and the other two nod in agreement.
Much to Akaashi-san’s dismay though, their telepathic communication had apparently included plans to resume the night’s scheduled nonsense. Akaashi-san attempts to argue with them, but to no avail.
They once again take their positions – Oikawa-san behind Bokuto-san’s cart and Kuroo-san next to it – and ready themselves for the actual event.
Honestly, Kei has no idea what the hell is going on.
“Is… is Kuroo-san going to race the shopping cart?” He asks.
“Oh my god.”
Akaashi-san does a countdown before calling out a reluctant, “Go!” and the events unfold as follows:
- Oikawa-san pushes Bokuto-san’s shopping cart a little too hard and entirely in the wrong direction.
- Kuroo-san stops mid-run to watch the cart veer off into the road.
- The cart careens across the street at amazing speeds, but not nearly fast enough to have made it all the way across before a car zooms over the horizon.
- Kei looks away and hears a single, drawn-out hoot.
When Kei finally gathers the courage to open his eyes again, he is filled simultaneously with immense relief and unadulterated rage.
“You guys are all fucking idiots!” He yells.
The cart, going at the speeds that it was, had made it across the street just in time to avoid being hit by the car and had tipped over into the bushes, leaving Bokuto-san (mostly) unharmed.
Though perhaps not for very long.
If Kei is angry, Akaashi-san is stone-cold homicidal.
“Let’s not be hasty, Akaashi,” Kuroo-san pleads from across the street, “Look! He’s fine! He’s okay!”
Kei’s legs are a little shaky following Bokuto-san’s near-death experience (though he’d be loathe to admit he was that affected by the event) and he finds himself still reeling a bit from what had happened, but Akaashi-san had taken only a moment to process the whole thing before acting on his instinct – which Kei finds both impressive and terrifying. He walks toward the wreckage with intention that sends a shiver down Kei’s spine.
Oikawa-san had apparently fled the scene the second he’d seen the look on Akaashi-san’s face, happy to leave Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san to fend for themselves. Years of friendship apparently mean nothing in the face of Akaashi-san’s wrath.
Kuroo-san is standing in front of the fallen cart protectively, though Kei can see his already shaky conviction wavering with every determined step Akaashi-san takes (he looks both ways before crossing the street though, which Kei finds extremely endearing despite the circumstances). Bokuto-san’s attempts to free himself are getting more frantic by the second.
“Get in the car Kuroo.” Akaashi-san orders. Kuroo-san follows the direction as though he were in a trance. Seeing his last hope abandon him in his time of need is a little too much for Bokuto-san to handle.
“Akaaaashiii,” He whines, his desperation almost (almost) making Kei feel bad for him “Please, I-”
Bokuto-san hiccups and the tears in his eyes as he looks up at Akaashi-san actually do make Kei feel a little bad for him this time.
Akaashi-san kneels down next to the cart with a practiced grace that Kei can’t bring himself to look away from, and immediately begins to remove Bokuto-san’s duct tape constraints. When he finishes gently helping Bokuto-san out of his plastic prison (much to the surprise of everyone watching, and Bokuto-san himself), they sit opposite each other and say nothing for a long while.
“You scared me.” Akaashi-san says, placing his now visibly shaking hands in his lap.
“I know,” Bokuto-san carefully takes one of Akaashi-san’s hands in his, “I’m sorry.”
Kei looks toward the car.
‘What’s going on?’ Kuroo-san mouths in a ridiculously exaggerated manner, fogging up the back window with his breath. Kei squints at him and removes his glasses, waving his hands in front of his face in an equally exaggerated way.
‘Sorry, I can’t fucking see.’ He mouths back. The look on Kuroo-san’s face when Kei puts his glasses back on is priceless, and totally worth the smudges.
When Kei looks back, Bokuto-san is holding Akaashi-san in his lap and whispering things to him that Kei can’t make out, but Akaashi-san seems happy so Kei leaves them be.
“Well, let’s get this show on the road kids!” Kei hears Oikawa-san say from somewhere behind him. He’d venture to suggest that Oikawa-san is once again returning from the convenience store, as evidenced by his appearance. He’s visibly disheveled (which Kei chooses not to think about) and missing his sparkly silver belt (which Kei, again, chooses not to think about).
Kei quickly makes a break for the car, deciding that Kuroo-san is the lesser of two evils in this case.
“He’s-” Kuroo-san says, looking at Oikawa-san through the back window.
Oikawa-san soon returns to the vehicle himself, and the three of them watch as Bokuto-san princess-carries Akaashi-san back to the car. Nobody says anything about it, and Kei feels as though he’s missed something, but he doesn’t ask.
“Well, that was fun!” Bokuto-san says as soon as he’s deposited Akaashi-san into the back seat and taken his place behind the wheel.
“You’re a fucking idiot.” Kei replies.
Chapter 3: Kuroo-san is Not Funny
Kuroo tries his hand at stand up comedy and Oikawa Tooru might have a tragic backstory.
This chapter may or may not have some surprise character building semi-angst so just a warning for that. Otherwise, thanks so much for all the positive feedback! Your comments and kudos mean the world to me and I hope you continue enjoying this project!
On occasion, Kei feels as though he might really be losing his mind. This – the night on which he’d been handed an honest to god coupon for the comedy club that Kuroo-san is performing his first set at – is one of those occasions. Is it the weirdest thing that has happened in the month he’s been living in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? Perhaps not, but it is the thing that has him feeling by far the most affronted.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Kei says, wondering how any benevolent god could have allowed this to happen.
Kuroo-san is not a comedian – not by a long shot. He isn’t even funny, in Kei’s opinion.
“Are you crying?” Kuroo-san asks, and Kei looks up to the ceiling in search of answers. Is it a bit dramatic of him to be brought to tears over the fact that this is happening? Some might say so. Yamaguchi would definitely say so. But Yamaguchi isn’t here, and Kei will not be shamed for a perfectly valid reaction to the worst news he’s heard in months.
Kei pats his tears away with his ring finger so as to simultaneously maintain his dignity and live out his dramatic fantasy of being an aristocratic widow. He looks Kuroo-san in the eyes with an intensity and purpose he hopes will penetrate that thick skull of his.
“Look, I don’t really know how to put this in a way that won’t scar you for life, so I’ll just come out and say it,” Kei says, having decided to take it upon himself to end this nonsense, “You’re not funny.”
“Yeah he is!” Bokuto-san interjects, and Kei instantly realizes what the problem is. Kuroo-san is like one of those people on Idols whose parents told them they could sing when they couldn’t, and just like those people he will get up on stage and embarrass himself spectacularly. Kei is doing a kindhearted and selfless deed in telling him the truth before that happens.
Naturally, Kei’s deeds go unappreciated, and his warnings once again go unheeded.
“Yeah! And Oikawa thinks I’m funny!” Kuroo-san says. Kei feels his eye twitch.
“Does he now?”
The idiot brigade never ceases to amaze him. Is Kei shocked that Oikawa-san and Bokuto-san are in on this extremely unfortunate product of misguided good intentions? Not really. If anything, he’s a little mad he didn’t see this coming.
“It could be fun,” Akaashi-san says, and Kei looks to the boy sitting next to him with the betrayal he feels written all over his face.
“Yeah, Tsukishima! It’ll be fun!” Bokuto-san exclaims.
Kei looks to Akaashi-san again for answers. He is met with a facial expression that he instantly recognizes as, ‘If I have to go, so do you.’
Curse him and his pretty face.
“Fine, I’ll go.” He says.
Akaashi-san’s smile is a triumphant one, and Kei can’t help but feel as though he’s been duped.
“You won’t regret this, Tsukishima” Kuroo-san ensures him. He isn’t convinced in the least, but he’d been tricked into joining in on the adventures of the Not-So-Fantastic Four at some point and it seems that there’s no turning back.
“You’d better be fucking funny.”
Kuroo-san is not funny. Not in the least.
First of all, Kei is upset at the fact that he has to be in this shitty little comedy club at all. The whole thing reeks of desperation and cheap alcohol, and the first three acts were so awful he thought he might not even make it to Kuroo-san’s set. He’d been forced to listen to a joke about airplane food in 2018, which he thinks speaks for itself.
Secondly, Kuroo-san’s set itself is just as awful as he’d anticipated – if not worse. It had started off pretty okay with a generic joke about how bad the traffic in Tokyo is, which elicited a general chuckle from the audience, but it all went downhill from there.
“So my good buddy Bo and I went down to the pet shop the other day,” He begins, and Bokuto-san is already laughing, “And we meant to just look at some of the kittens they’d gotten in, right?”
Oikawa-san has caught the attention of the only two audience members that aren’t a part of the unfortunate group of misfits that Kei has been adopted into, which might be because he can’t help but exude copious amounts of sexual energy literally all the time, but it also might be because he’s wearing a set of plastic neon-orange overalls. It’s really a coin toss as to which one.
“But when we’re in there, Bo starts tearing up a little. So I’m like, ‘Bro, what’s the matter?’ and he’s like, ‘Dude, remember that movie about the cat? Oliver and Company?’ and now we’re both crying in the pet store. Now, we can’t just leave the cats there, right? That would be totally fucked up. So we come home like two hours later with six new cats, and let me tell you our roommate Akaashi was pissed! What a CAT-tastrophe, am I right?”
“Oh my god,” Kei says, and Akaashi-san pats his hand to comfort him.
“I REMEMBER THAT!” Bokuto-san screams, laughing himself to tears. Oikawa-san stops his flirting from across the bar to cackle so loudly that Kei very nearly knocks his drink over in surprise.
“Thank you, thank you. This next one goes out to a new friend of ours-”
“No. Please no.”
“Tsukishima! Man, this guy is miserable all the time. He gives lemons a run for their money with how sour he is! I mean, he’d steal Christmas himself if the Grinch weren’t already on it! But seriously, Tsukishima is the very definition of grouchy. Ebenezer Scrooge? He’s afraid of pissing Tsukishima off! If you were on fire, Tsukishima would pour his water onto the ground right in front of you!”
Kei quietly goes through the five stages of grief as Kuroo-san finishes his set, and Akaashi-san keeps his hand over Kei’s the entire time – whether for his benefit or Kei’s, he may never know.
Oikawa-san and Bokuto-san are practically on the floor by the end. Part of Kei is envious of their ability to enjoy almost anything regardless of how entertaining it actually is, but the other part is glad he’ll never once have the thought that body shots in a comedy club are a good idea. Kuroo-san receives an enthusiastic kiss on the lips from Bokuto-san for his efforts, and Kei decides there and then not to think too hard about it for the sake of his own mental health.
It’s near impossible to gather everyone at the end of the evening, and eventually they have to leave Oikawa-san at the bar with his two suitors, but the rest of them manage to leave in one piece and only a little tipsy.
Akaashi-san doesn’t stop holding his hand when they leave, which makes Kei’s heart beat a little too fast for his liking – but that’s a problem for future Kei to deal with. For now, Kei is a little pissed that the entire second half of Kuroo-san’s set was dedicated to roasting him.
“That wasn’t so bad,” Akaashi-san says, giving Kei’s hand a little squeeze. If the intention was to convince him, Akaashi-san is sadly unsuccessful. Kei won’t be so easily manipulated this time.
“Your total lack of regard for your own life is awe-inspiring, Kuroo-san.” Kei tells him, smiling sweetly. The fear on Kuroo-san’s face makes him feel a smidge better.
“I’m sorry,” Kuroo-san apologizes, and Kei might actually have been willing to let it go because he’s in a good mood, but of course Kuroo-san doesn’t stop there, “It was funny though.”
They’re a good five-minute walk from the apartment complex, and Kuroo-san can sense Kei’s hostility, so he looks to Akaashi-san for a rescue. Akaashi-san just shakes his head.
Kei does not forgive, and he certainly does not forget.
“I think I’m in love!” Oikawa-san declares, having joined the group for lunch after his associate from the comedy club the night before finally vacated the premises. His hair is still perfectly coiffed – which pisses Kei off a little because his own hair is eternally a tightly coiled mess – and he’d apparently chosen not to change his clothes (an unfortunate choice, but one that at the very least saves Kei from witnessing another one of Oikawa-san’s ensembles before he’s had time to recover from this one).
“Oh?” Kuroo-san says with a mouth full of noodles, “With whom?”
“Don’t encourage him,” Kei says, mouth free of noodles when he speaks because he’s a civilized human being. He shoots Kuroo-san a look indicating his feelings on the matter.
“That guy from last night,” Oikawa-san replies, completely ignoring Kei’s interjection. His dreamy heart eyes make Kei want to gag.
“Mmhmm, and I suppose you know what his name is then?” Kuroo-san taunts.
“Of course I do!” Oikawa-san gasps, offended at Kuroo-san’s insinuation. He pauses for a second, contemplating his next statement, “His name is Hajime.”
The energy in the room changes instantly. Kuroo-san nearly chokes on his noodles.
“Oikawa-san…” Akaashi-san says, his pained expression making Kei feel as though he’s definitely out of the loop on whatever is currently going on. Bokuto-san frowns and starts picking at his food nervously. Oikawa-san looks around the room, his smile becoming more forced by the second.
“I know what you’re thinking Keiji-chan, but that was a long time ago and I’m totally over it! This is just a weird coinkidink.”
Bokuto-san clears his throat loudly.
“Um… It’s just a bit, like, you know?” He says. The discomfort of everyone in the room is making Kei feel restless.
“I know, but it’s not like that! I’m really okay now, I swear.”
Even Kei finds that hard to believe, and he doesn’t know what’s going on. Oikawa-san is avoiding any and all eye contact. Kuroo-san is strangely quiet.
“Okay,” Akaashi-san sighs, taking a moment to choose his words, “We’re still here though, if you need to talk about it.”
“I’m fine! It was literally five months ago!” He snaps, and everyone in the room flinches.
“Seven.” Kuroo-san says, finally breaking his silence, “It was seven months ago.”
The room falls silent for a good thirty seconds, and everyone’s eyes are on Oikawa-san. He huffs and storms out of the room, leaving the rest of them to stew in the oppressive mood he’d created. Kuroo-san gets up to follow him, but Akaashi-san tugs on his shirt questioningly.
“I’m just… I’m gonna check if he’s okay.”
Akaashi-san reluctantly lets go, giving Kuroo-san a fragile smile.
Chapter 4: Stolen Wisdoms
Bokuto is getting his wisdom teeth removed, and Tsukishima finally admits a few things to himself.
Kei wakes up on the Sunday following Oikawa-san’s outburst feeling much the same as he does on any other Sunday, though perhaps a little colder. The beginning of September has brought with it a chill that Kei is not entirely opposed to, even if it does slow his morning routine somewhat. He goes about his routine methodically – waking up, making his bed, having breakfast, and then running outside in his pajamas to yell at Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san for making too much noise in the parking lot at 10am when other people are trying to sleep – just as he normally would.
Kei has no idea what it is that Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are trying to do this time, but it somehow involves several plastic chairs and a jump-rope. They pause their ruckus to look up at him, and Kuroo-san the Terrible immediately decides to live up to the nickname Kei had given him just a few days after their very first encounter.
“Are those little pink strawberries?!” Kuroo-san asks, already cackling like a maniac.
Kei had forgotten that he was wearing the pajamas his mother had gotten him as a going away present for university. Unsure of what to do from there and burning with a unique little-pink-strawberry flavored shame, Kei decides to just walk back into his apartment like nothing happened and hope they forget about it.
“IT’S CUTE!” Bokuto-san yells, making him feel infinitely worse.
When he tells Akaashi-san about the incident (save the little pink strawberries part), he shrugs and says, “At least they’re doing the laundry.”
Everything carries on as normal and nobody acts any different, but even so, Kei finds himself looking at Oikawa-san’s more frequently empty seat and thinking. He thinks about the look on Akaashi-san’s face when Oikawa-san had said that man’s name, he thinks about the soft little tug on Kuroo-san’s shirt when he got up, and he thinks about how quickly Kuroo-san had run after Oikawa-san afterward. He knows he’s not privy to these things – these soft little interactions that have a context Kei may never know – but he thinks about them anyway, even when he’s trying not to. He will never ask though, because whatever happened before Kei moved in is none of his business and he decides to leave it at that.
Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are holding each other and crying on the couch. Akaashi-san’s face when he opens the door sums the situation up in a spectacular lack of expression that Kei himself could never hope to achieve, but that he strives for nonetheless.
“Bokuto-san is getting his wisdom teeth removed.” Akaashi-san explains, ushering Kei into the apartment.
“Ah, my condolences.”
Kei had gotten his wisdom teeth removed at the ripe young age of eighteen – an event that resulted in a four-minute-long video of him saying the word, “Kachow!” and making finger guns over and over again, for some reason. Yamaguchi is endlessly entertained by this particular low-point in Kei’s life, to the point where he took it upon himself to play it at Kei’s 21st (which Kei is still a little teed off about). He shudders at the memory.
“You’re coming with.” Akaashi-san informs him, pulling Kei out of his thoughts.
“Kuroo-san has a practical tomorrow and I’m not going alone, so you’re coming with.”
Akaashi-san leaves no room for arguments, and Kei would be lying if he said he wasn’t a little bit intrigued by this more assertive side of Akaashi-san, but he is a little apprehensive about dealing with a severely inebriated Bokuto-san. Sober Bokuto-san is already a handful.
“Tsukishima’s coming with?” Bokuto-san asks loudly from his position on the couch. He and Kuroo-san are still intertwined, and Kei suddenly finds himself fighting off a headache.
“I didn’t say-” Kei starts, but Akaashi-san beats him to it.
“Yes. He’s replacing Kuroo-san.”
“Hey!” Kuroo-san pouts, and Kei is suddenly a lot more willing to allow this to happen.
“Tough luck, Kuroo-san.” He says, making sure to savor the moment Kuroo-san realizes why this is happening. Kei does not forgive, and he certainly does not forget.
“This is bullying! I’m being bullied!” Kuroo-san complains, wiping away fake tears.
“Oh, how the turns have tabled,” Kei replies, forgetting himself for a moment. Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san try to make eye contact with him in an attempt to find out if he knows what he just said, but Kei pretends not to notice. In any case, Akaashi-san is ignorant to the exchange, so his image is safe for now.
“We leave at dawn!” Bokuto-san declares.
They actually leave at 9:30, but at Kei’s age it might as well be dawn. Bokuto-san cries only slightly less than expected, and Kei has to sit in the back of the car with him to hold his hand, but the whole operation goes about as smoothly as it can, all things considered. On a far more surprising note, however, Kei has to hold Akaashi-san’s hand outside of the operating theatre as well. Akaashi-san’s leg had been bouncing like crazy from the moment Bokuto-san had gone in, and his poor fingernails were being chewed to nubs, so Kei had to intervene eventually.
“Sorry,” Akaashi-san says, his fingers slotted between Kei’s like they belong there (which Kei desperately tries not to think about), “I’m a little nervous.”
“He’ll be fine.” Kei replies. It’s times like these when he wishes he were better at comforting people, but luckily, Akaashi-san doesn’t seem too bothered by his poor people skills.
“Thank you, Tsukishima-kun.”
Bokuto-san is out within an hour, and back to his yelling within ten minutes. Kei and Akaashi-san diligently listen to the nurse’s instructions as Bokuto-san bops up and down to the music in his mind behind them, which leaves Kei fighting off a bit of a giggling fit.
“How are you feeling?” Akaashi-san asks, holding onto Bokuto-san as they walk to the car in the same way he might an elderly person. Or a toddler. In any case, the image is pretty funny.
“BAD!” Bokuto-san yells, “I DON’T LIKE THE EXTRA TEETH!”
“Those are cotton balls, Bokuto-san.”
Kei is barely holding it together by the time they get to the car.
“Please make sure he doesn’t bleed on the seats.” Akaashi-san says, buckling Bokuto-san’s seatbelt for him. Kei sits as far away from Bokuto-san as the car’s back seat will allow – to give him some space for healing (and definitely not because he’s squeamish or anything).
“WHAT?” Bokuto-san screams, apparently unaware of the blood dripping out of his mouth.
“Don’t worry, Bokuto-san. Tsukishima-kun is going to take care of you, okay?” Akaashi-san shoots Kei a pointed look, so he reluctantly scoots closer to Bokuto-san and takes the towel Akaashi-san is holding out for him.
“Can I go to sleep?” Bokuto-san asks as soon as Akaashi-san pulls out of the parking spot.
“Please don’t,” Kei says, wiping Bokuto-san’s mouth with a look on his face that he’s glad Akaashi-san can’t see, “Akaashi-san and I can’t carry you up the stairs.”
“I want juice.”
“We’ll get you some juice when we get home.”
After about two minutes of blissful silence, Bokuto-san starts to cry – which is extremely alarming to Kei because he’s already having trouble keeping track of the fluids coming out of Bokuto-san’s face.
“What’s the matter Bokuto-san?” Akaashi-san asks, desperately trying to keep his eyes on the road despite the wailing coming from the back seat.
“They took my teeth, Akaashi! They stole my teeth!”
“No, they didn’t, Bokuto-san. I have your teeth.” Bokuto-san takes a moment to digest this information before gasping dramatically and nearly swallowing his gauze in the process.
“Why did you take my teeth Akaashi? Why would you do this to me?”
“Hey! Look, Bokuto-san, we’re home!” Kei says, attempting to calm Bokuto-san down some, “Let’s go get some juice.”
“Juice?” He hiccups, and Kei nods in agreement.
Getting Bokuto-san up the stairs was a nightmare. Calling him uncooperative would be the understatement of the century, and if it weren’t for how patient Akaashi-san was, Kei would have left him out there to fend for himself after minute five. Akaashi-san hadn’t slept very well, so he was exhausted by the time they got Bokuto-san into bed and Kei (stupidly) insisted that he take a nap. At first, Akaashi-san was adamant that that was a bad idea (and he was right), but his exhaustion got the better of him after about ten minutes and a lot of convincing on Kei’s part, so he’s currently passed out on the couch – leaving Kei to take care of Bokuto-san alone.
“That juice didn’t give me any superpowers,” Bokuto-san whines, and Kei is extremely distressed to find that the majority of said superpower-less juice has ended up on Bokuto-san’s shirt.
“Why did you pour the juice on your shirt?” Kei asks, trying to get Bokuto-san to sit up by himself in the bed.
“It was taking too long.” He replies, and Kei wishes he knew what that meant, but he settles on smiling and nodding to appease Bokuto-san before he starts crying again.
“Okay, well Akaashi-san is going to be very upset if he wakes up and you’re all sticky, so you’re going to have to change.” Of course, this is easier said than done when dealing with the equivalent of a sleepy toddler inhabiting the body of a fully grown man.
After several extremely frustrating minutes (during which Bokuto-san cried three separate times), Kei gives up on trying to get Bokuto-san to change his shirt by himself and just sits him down in the shower to wash him off. Is it the most responsible move? Definitely not, but Kei is not a nurse and his patience has worn thin. He sets the water to lukewarm and lets Bokuto-san sit there until he’s sufficiently clean, which gets the job done (albeit in a morally grey fashion).
Now to get the wet clothes off. Kei really didn’t think this through.
“Oh my god,” He says, beholding the consequences of his actions in the form of a six foot one, sopping wet disaster. Bokuto-san is about as willing and able to undress himself as he was after the juice, which leaves Kei in an arguably worse position than he was ten minutes ago. He sorts through his options and comes to the conclusion that he only has one.
He’ll have to undress Bokuto-san himself.
Bokuto-san is far more compliant after his ‘shower’, though this comes with its own set of challenges because he’s also extremely sleepy. Kei feels like a major creep, but that’s somewhat secondary to the task at hand. He really hopes Bokuto-san won’t remember this.
After a grueling five minutes, Kei has Bokuto-san down to his shorts.
“Now, where do you keep your clothes?” He asks, more to the room than to the man himself – mostly because he’s fallen asleep half naked on the bed.
Kei had never really thought about it before, but now that he’s (more or less) alone in their apartment, it strikes him all at once that there’s only one bed. A barrage of questions floods his mind all at once. Do they all sleep in the same bed? Why do three people live in a one-bedroom apartment in the first place? How had he not thought about this before?
No, he needs to focus. Clothes.
He tries the set of drawers opposite the bed, but the size and nature of the clothes indicate to him that those are definitely Akaashi-san’s, so he checks the large built-in closet. He finds a shirt that he thinks he’s seen Bokuto-san wear before and carefully starts to put it on him.
“What are you doing?” Kei jolts, surprised to hear Akaashi-san’s voice from behind him and feeling as though he’s been caught red-handed.
“Uh…” He turns around to see Akaashi-san standing in the doorway of the bedroom, bathed in the late morning sunlight and running his fingers through his sleep-tousled hair. Kei stops breathing for a second.
“Is he wet?” Akaashi-san asks, one eyebrow raised.
“He, uh- He spilled juice on his shirt, so I-”
Akaashi-san smiles, clearly a little amused by how tongue-tied Kei is.
“Ah, let me help you then.”
Akaashi-san walks over and quietly takes over the task with far more grace than Kei could have hoped to do it with. He’s so gentle that Kei is half mesmerized by the time he’s finished.
“I’m still tired,” Akaashi-san yawns, and Kei’s body mirrors the action without his permission. Akaashi-san laughs quietly, “Come lie with me.”
Kei’s last brain cell malfunctions. He must be dreaming.
Akaashi-san takes his hand and leads him to the other side of the bed, lifting the covers and scooting inward so that he’s back to back with Bokuto-san (who is snoring rather loudly). Kei can’t find the will to question whatever is currently happening, so he lies down next to Akaashi-san and tries not to breathe too loudly. Akaashi-san falls asleep just as quickly as Bokuto-san had, but Kei finds himself too caught up in his own thoughts to do the same.
He looks at Akaashi-san’s sleeping face, and he thinks that he might like to know more about these people – these people who took him in despite his abrasive exterior, and who allowed him to feel a part of something (even when that something was completely nonsensical). He thinks that he might actually like them, no matter how ridiculous they can be.
And even more than that, Kei thinks that he might be in love with Akaashi-san.
Chapter 5: A Freak For Teeth
Yamaguchi comes for a visit and it goes about as well as you'd expect.
Kei happens not to be a very patient person on the best of days (and there aren’t very many of those to begin with), but he’d found a soft spot for Yamaguchi over their many years of friendship – a soft spot that he is very aware of, and one that Yamaguchi feels the need to exploit quite regularly. So, upon receiving a phone call from the man himself, Kei is all but forced to allow a visit.
A visit that Kei now dreads more than Monopoly Mondays.
It’s not that he specifically dreads Yamaguchi’s visit – in fact, if he were more inclined to expressing what he was actually feeling at any given time, he might say that he was genuinely excited to see Yamaguchi again. It’s that he dreads Yamaguchi’s visit to this particular apartment building – an apartment building that may appear harmless and ordinary from the outside, but in reality houses several twenty-something-year-old goblins in human suits.
Well, several twenty-something-year-old goblins in human suits and Akaashi-san.
Kei decides (just three days before Yamaguchi’s scheduled arrival) that the only course of action that he can possibly take is to completely avoid Kuroo-san and co for the entirety of Yamaguchi’s stay. How he might go about this is beyond him, but at this point in time his karma must surely have balanced itself in his favor, right?
“I need you to leave me alone for two days.” Kei says, truly believing this to be a reasonable thing to ask of the three people in front of him.
“Hmmm… Context?” Kuroo-san asks, never looking up from the herculean task that is the bi-weekly coloring of Bokuto-san’s roots – which Kei really wishes he wouldn’t do in the parking lot, but it is what it is and Akaashi-san seems fine with it, so he lets it slide.
“I’m having a friend over.” He says, hoping that he can leave it at that and not have it be a big deal.
Of course, he was completely stupid to think that and the instant change in both Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san’s facial expressions has him feeling like Boo Boo the Fool.
“You have friends?” They ask simultaneously, wounding Kei’s pride more than he’d like to admit and creeping him out only a little.
“Yes.” He replies through gritted teeth, though neither boy seems bothered.
“Alright, if that’s what you want,” Akaashi-san says, “But we’d love to meet your friend if you wouldn’t mind bringing them over for a few minutes.”
Akaashi-san smiles at him and Kei feels himself melt a little.
“Um… yeah, I’ll uh- I’ll do that.”
“Great, I’ll make tea.”
Kei tries really hard not to let anything slip when he picks Yamaguchi up from the train station. It’s not like his life is any different now that he’s realized his feelings for Akaashi-san or anything, so he doesn’t really think it’s worth mentioning – and if he mentions it at all it’ll be long after Yamaguchi has gone home and there’s no longer a possibility that he could ‘help’ Kei win Akaashi-san’s heart or whatever other stupid idea he might have. Kei is perfectly content with keeping things the way that they are, and anyone else knowing his feelings would only throw a wrench into the works at this point, best friend or not.
“My neighbors are… a lot. To put it mildly.” Kei says, not mentioning anyone in particular just in case Yamaguchi ‘senses’ anything. He’s super perceptive when Kei least wants him to be.
“How bad could they possibly be?” Yamaguchi asks, and his naivety very nearly brings a tear to Kei’s cynical eye.
“You’ll see.” Kei replies, and he very briefly laments the fact that he sounded almost exactly like Kuroo-san when he said that.
There’s only so much that Kei can say to prepare Yamaguchi for what is to come, and none of it will ever be enough.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY SWAMP?” Bokuto-san screams as soon as Akaashi-san answers the door. Kei had texted ahead just in case after dropping Yamaguchi’s things in his apartment, but it seems that no amount of forewarning could tame the beasts (even under the firm and watchful eye of the ever benevolent Akaashi-san).
“We just watched all four Shrek movies.” Akaashi-san explains, rubbing his temples like an exhausted single mother.
“Huh, well if this is a bad time we can-” Kei is stopped mid-sentence by the incredible image of Bokuto-san sliding down the hallway in his socks and hitting the wall.
“IS THAT TSUKISHIMA?” He yells, unbothered by the fact that his face was just made aware of Newton’s Third Law of motion by a slab of concrete.
“Oh my god, Kuroo-san please entertain him for a minute.”
Kuroo-san slides in to retrieve his boy and Akaashi-san watches with the eyes of an exhausted war veteran. Yamaguchi looks shell-shocked already.
“Anyway,” Akaashi-san says, shaking his disillusionment off and smiling sweetly at Yamaguchi, “You must be Yamaguchi-san. It’s very nice to meet you.”
“Please, come in.”
Akaashi-san leads the way into the apartment (which is much cleaner than usual, thank god) and Yamaguchi follows, looking back at Kei every few seconds to make sure he hasn’t been abandoned. Kei desperately wants to say, ‘I told you so,’ during their brief introductions, but Yamaguchi looks shaken enough as it is, so he makes a mental note to say it later.
“So how did you two meet?” Akaashi-san asks, having served tea and gotten his two rowdy toddlers under control.
“Uh… we’re childhood friends.” Yamaguchi says, stirring his tea with his finger and avoiding eye contact like the plague.
“You’re making him nervous, Akaashi!” Bokuto-san scolds, reaching across the table with his entire body to retrieve the sugar. On his way back to his seat, he tries to pat Yamaguchi’s hand reassuringly – which may have been a nice gesture, were it not for the fact that he’d picked the hand Yamaguchi was stirring his tea with. At the end of this exchange, Yamaguchi is left with finger flavored tea all over his lap, and Akaashi-san is left trying to clean up a broken cup and a soaked carpet.
“I am so sorry.” Akaashi-san says, carefully patting Yamaguchi’s shirt with the tablecloth.
“No, really it’s-”
“Oh my god, Bo you’re bleeding!” Kuroo-san screams, apparently bringing Bokuto-san’s attention to this for the first time as well. He takes a moment to look at his wound before promptly sticking it in his mouth.
Kuroo-san looks a bit faint.
“Bokuto-san, please don’t do that. Kuroo-san go fetch the first aid kit.” He turns back to Yamaguchi, “Again, I am so sorry about this.”
Kei manages to get Akaashi-san to stop apologizing by reluctantly promising their return for dinner after a change of clothes, allowing Akaashi-san the time to tend to his idiot roommates.
The visit had lasted just under fifteen minutes.
“Well,” Yamaguchi says on their way up to Kei’s apartment, “That was interesting.”
“I told you so.” Kei replies, “Though that was admittedly a little worse than usual.”
Dinner is less chaotic by a long shot – though that isn’t really saying much considering how badly their attempt at afternoon tea had gone. In rather an unforeseen twist, however, Yamaguchi is getting along with their hosts swimmingly now that his nerves have died down.
“Tsukki, huh?” Kuroo-san says, the most obnoxious grin on his face.
“Yep! I’ve been calling him that since we were kids.”
“Don’t you dare,” Kei warns, holding his plastic fork in Kuroo-san’s direction in the most threatening way possible. Bokuto-san has already taken to yelling, ‘Tsukki’ over and over again like those seagulls from Finding Nemo (but a lot more annoying).
“You said you were studying to become a vet?” Akaashi-san asks, completely ignoring his roommates’ attempts to provoke Kei, “That’s incredible. Kuroo-san here is currently studying dentistry, isn’t that right?”
“Oh yeah,” Bokuto-san says, taking a brief break from yelling, “Kuro’s a freak for teeth.”
“Yup, that’s my catchphrase!” Kuroo-san agrees, grinning proudly.
The entire table goes quiet. The look on Akaashi-san’s face says it all.
“I wish you wouldn’t,” Akaashi-san says, clearly regretting his decision to bring it up, “We’ve talked about this.”
“Come on, Akaashi, it’s catchy!” Bokuto-san insists, but Akaashi-san seems set in his dislike of the ‘catchphrase’ and simply shakes his head until they stop mentioning it.
The rest of the dinner is fairly peaceful – that is, minus all of the times Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san insist on calling Kei, ‘Tsukki’ despite his protests. Yamaguchi does send Kei some suspicious looks throughout the meal – which Kei hopes are ‘why the hell do you hang out with these people’ looks and not ‘oh my god you have a crush on Akaashi-san’ looks – but nobody is bleeding by the end so Kei would call it an overall success.
“Night, Tsukki!” Kuroo-san calls as they leave. Kei’s eye twitches.
“Yeah, night Tsukki!” Bokuto-san repeats, and Kei can hear the faint sound of a high-five.
“You did this, and I’m going to have to bear the consequences.” Kei says, his annoyance growing with every utterance of the word ‘Tsukki’ from below.
“They’re quite nice though, don’t you think?”
“I envy you, Yamaguchi.”
Just as promised, Kei and Yamaguchi don’t see very much of the downstairs neighbors over Yamaguchi’s weekend stay at la casa idiota – save late Saturday night, on which Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san show up at Kei’s door looking like lost puppies.
“Akaashi kicked us out,” Bokuto-san whines, and Kei very reluctantly lets them in.
“What did you two do this time?” He asks, immediately regretting his compassion as Bokuto-san crashes onto his couch and starts eating his and Yamaguchi’s movie popcorn by the fistful.
“Nothing! He got a phone call and told us to leave.” Kuroo-san explains.
Kei’s curiosity is piqued.
“Dunno. He just didn’t want us to be there, I guess.” Neither Bokuto-san nor Kuroo-san seem very concerned by this, which Kei finds odd.
“What’cha watching?” Bokuto-san asks, mouth full of popcorn and greasy hands making Kei cringe every time they come close to making contact with his couch.
“Does it matter?” Kei asks, shoving Bokuto-san further towards the middle of the couch so that he can sit in his spot.
“The original Halloween movie. The one with young Jamie Lee Curtis.” Yamaguchi chimes in, getting up to make more popcorn. Kei shoots him a betrayed look and Yamaguchi shrugs, unperturbed by Kei’s sour attitude.
The four of them end up watching the rest of the movie together. There was only about a half an hour left anyway, and Akaashi-san only shows up ten minutes after it finishes (which Kei is very curious about). His expression is one that Kei doesn’t recognize, but he’s very quick to retrieve his roommates and leave.
“What do you think happened?” Yamaguchi asks after they’re safely down the stairs. Kei stands by the door a little longer than necessary, thinking about the look on Akaashi-san’s face.
“Wish I knew.”
Yamaguchi’s visit ends not with a bang (as Kei had come to expect having the neighbors that he does), but a whimper. Akaashi-san stands in the parking lot looking a lot less shaken than he had the night before, one idiot in each hand. They all wave Yamaguchi goodbye as Kei drives away. Kei thinks he might have heard the beginnings of a ‘Tsukki’ being yelled out, but Akaashi-san stomps on the offender’s foot as soon as the thought enters his head – hence the whimper.
Yamaguchi looks out the back window until Akaashi-san and them are completely out of sight before turning around to look at Kei.
“I’m glad you’re having fun,” He says, and Kei scoffs.
“Yeah, right. I’ll have gone grey by your next visit.”
“You’re not coming home for your birthday?”
Kei feels a bit of a pang in his chest. He’d almost forgotten.
“Uh… I don’t think so.” He doesn’t look to see what Yamaguchi’s expression is like. If Yamaguchi thinks anything of it, he doesn’t say anything.
“Akaashi-san is quite nice.” He says instead, leaning further back in his seat and looking out the window. Kei tries to keep a straight face.
“Yeah… I guess.”
“Your parents would like him.”
This time, Kei is the one who doesn’t say anything.
Chapter 6: The Start of Something New
Bokuto's birthday bash leads to unexpected revelations and questions with no clear answers.
Oikawa-san seamlessly reintegrates himself into the group shortly after Yamaguchi’s visit. He shows up for the scheduled Wednesday through Thursday free for all nonsense like he’d never been gone, behaving like his usual self and wearing an absolutely atrocious SpongeBob themed dress and baby pink crocs – or a really long shirt with no pants and baby pink crocs. The fact is that his legs are very much on display (and that he’s wearing crocs), and Kei hates every second of it.
All of that aside, everyone is happy to have him back (Kei included – not that he’d ever admit it out loud).
“I’ve returned, peasants!” Oikawa-san declares, taking a seat on the stairs overlooking the parking lot as though they were a throne.
“Hey, Oikawa! We brought the kiddie pool out!” Bokuto-san yells, taking a quick jog towards the pavement that Kei and Akaashi-san are seated on. Kuroo-san is currently attempting to blow up said kiddie pool with his mouth, which Kei had thought to be impossible, but he’s about halfway there and only looking a little bluer than usual. He waves at Oikawa-san and says something unintelligible with the nozzle still in his mouth.
“Is it wrestling season already?” Oikawa-san gasps, crossing and then uncrossing his legs for dramatic effect. Kei stares disdainfully at Oikawa-san’s crocs – which are decorated with little stars and aliens, unfortunately - and realizes far too late that he is now associated with someone who owns baby pink crocs unironically. He averts his gaze in favor of watching Kuroo-san blow the pool up. Kuroo-san's eyes roll back a little following a particularly long exhale and Kei is momentarily worried, but Kuroo-san shakes it off right after, so Kei doesn’t do anything about it.
According to Akaashi-san, they have a long-running tradition for Bokuto-san’s birthday that includes wrestling in a kiddie pool for some reason, as well as many other ridiculous activities that Kei is not very keen on but that he will no doubt participate in anyway. Considering all of this, Kei very much doubts that Oikawa-san’s timing is as coincidental as he wants to make it seem.
Once Kuroo-san is done blowing the pool up (which takes another twenty minutes and several near-death experiences on Kuroo-san’s part), he and Bokuto-san drag it further towards the center of the parking lot.
“You’d better not piss on me this time,” Kuroo-san warns, climbing into the pool and taking a fighting stance even though he’s still out of breath from blowing up the pool (Kei really doesn’t know why they didn’t just use a bicycle pump or something).
“That was three years ago! Let it go!” Bokuto-san whines, starting to take his shirt off. This confuses Kei greatly, but it falls short in comparison to the bizarre information he'd just overheard.
“Kou-chan laughed so hard when Tetsu-chan had him pinned that time that he peed and wet the both of them,” Oikawa-san explains, sliding down a few stairs to get closer to where Kei and Akaashi-san are sitting.
Akaashi-san just shakes his head.
“It’s so easy to forget that I used to live like a normal person,” He says to nobody in particular, staring through Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san and into the distance, “I used to have proper utensils.”
Kei pats him comfortingly on the back.
“My bets are on Kou-chan,” Oikawa-san says, ignoring the solemn display (which isn’t surprising, given that he probably doesn’t even know what it means to be vaguely normal and therefore cannot sympathize with their plight), “He’s more aerodynamic with his shirt off.”
That isn’t really a criteria Kei would take into account when betting, but he wants no insight into the inner machinations of Oikawa-san’s mind either, so he chooses to keep that opinion to himself. He’s silently betting on Bokuto-san too, anyway.
The fight starts and within ten seconds Kei realizes that: a. He was right to bet on Bokuto-san (even if it was based on a purely superficial assessment of his musculature), and b. Both Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san fight like drunk college girl stereotypes. The ‘fight’ consists of a lot of shoving and hair pulling – which, while super entertaining to watch, also makes Kei want to put as much distance between himself and this situation as physically possible on the off chance that one of their neighbors sees them.
“What the fuck was that?” He asks once Bokuto-san is declared the definitive winner and Kuroo-san is left to wallow in his embarrassing defeat. He lies in the kiddie pool for a good five minutes after the fight is over, and Kei is briefly concerned that the combination of the pool inflation and the fight finally did him in, but his arm twitches over the side of the pool to alleviate Kei’s worries.
“The beginning of the best birthday ever!” Bokuto-san promises, holding his hands out and yanking Kei and Akaashi-san to their feet simultaneously.
“God, I hope that’s by normal standards.”
It goes without saying that Bokuto-san’s definition of ‘the best birthday ever’ does not follow normal standards. Kei was a fool to hope for anything different, and he has spent the last hour of awful karaoke – consisting of tracks exclusively from the High School Musical franchise – reaching into his dark, cynical heart and crushing what was left of his misplaced optimism.
“Akaashi, it’s your turn!” Bokuto-san says, just having finished an incredibly bad duet with Kuroo-san (the song was I Don’t Dance, and the fact that it was so badly butchered is an honest-to-god tragedy in Kei’s opinion).
“You can do a duet with Tsukki!” Kuroo-san says, ignoring Akaashi-san’s protests and shoving a plastic microphone into his hands.
“Why me?” Kei complains, suffering much the same fate as Akaashi-san, but by Bokuto-san’s hand. He'd really been hoping he could avoid actively participating in karaoke.
“You two haven’t sung anything yet! It’ll be fun!” Bokuto-san insists. Kei takes care to glare at both Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san with as much distaste as he can muster while his nervous system is shutting down. They ignore him, naturally.
“Oh my god, this is perfect!” Kuroo-san says. Bokuto-san enthusiastically indicates his approval of the song choice and they press the button together, which annoys Kei even further.
The Start of Something New starts playing.
“Oh my god,” Kei groans, avoiding looking directly at Akaashi-san’s face as much as he can. His own face feels hotter than the surface of the sun and is no doubt an embarrassingly bright shade of red. Thank god it's dark.
Those two would do this to him, the spiteful bastards. Of course it’s a love song, and of course it’s a duet with Akaashi-san. Of fucking course.
“You be Troy.” Akaashi-san says over the opening notes, much to Kei’s surprise - he'd sort of been expecting an equal amount of annoyance and protest from the only other sane person in the room. Akaashi-san looks a little nervous too, which is... adorable, really. Kei nods. His heart is beating a million miles a minute.
He almost misses his cue, starting his verse rather hesitantly at first. He looks at the words intently despite his familiarity with the song if only to have something besides Akaashi-san to look at.
Living in my own world
That anything can happen
When you take a chance
He hears whoops of approval from the Alvin and the Chipmunks over on the couch, but his heart is pounding so loud in his ears that they almost sound as though they’re in a different room.
And then Akaashi-san starts singing.
I never believed in
What I couldn’t see
I never opened my heart
To all the possibilities
Kei feels as though he’s been punched. Akaashi-san sounds like an angel, or a siren or something. Of course he does. It’s only natural that he would. Kei is shell-shocked and on autopilot for the rest of the song, only able to go on because he already knew the lyrics. He wants to hear Akaashi-san sing forever.
“You’re good,” Akaashi-san says at the end, tugging on Kei’s shirt-sleeve to get his attention and pull him back to reality. Kei would swear that Akaashi-san was glowing if he wasn’t certain that his own brain would definitely manufacture something like that just to fuck with him.
“You- uh… Thank you. You were amazing.” Kei breathes, feeling like an idiot stumbling through such a simple sentence.
Life isn’t fair.
“That was so romantic!” Oikawa-san gushes, “Just like in the movie!”
“Encore! Encore!” The other two chant, and Akaashi-san’s giggles sound like wedding bells in Kei’s head.
He isn’t strong enough for this.
Kei wakes up in the apartment 209 trio’s shared bed with said trio and Oikawa-san haphazardly arranged around him. He has vague memories of ‘one shot for every year Bokuto-san has been alive’ at around midnight, but almost nothing past shot number seven (he doesn’t even think consuming twenty-four shots is physically possible anyway, but god did they try). He feels like garbage. Hot, steaming garbage. He silently vows to never drink again.
At the peak of his self-pity party, the heavy arm of reality flops down onto his stomach. He feels himself heave, releasing an almost inhuman groan and curling in on himself protectively.
“Sorry, didn’t think you were awake.” Kuroo-san apologizes, removing Bokuto-san’s arm from Kei’s abdomen.
“Even if I wasn’t, that definitely would have done the job,” Kei whispers as aggressively as he can manage, but his vocal cords are fried. He settles for a lazy, unfocused glare to get his point across.
“Want some painkillers?” Kuroo-san offers, carefully untangling his legs from Oikawa-san’s and sliding off the bed with as little disturbance as possible.
Kei’s opinion of him suddenly improves tremendously.
“I would personally murder Oikawa-san for some painkillers,” Kei deadpans.
“I don’t doubt that, but please don't.” Kuroo-san chuckles, pulling on a large sweater that is almost certainly Bokuto-san's. He wraps his arms around himself, and Kei feels a bit weird watching him. It almost feels like Kuroo-san forgot he was there for a moment.
Kei attempts to copy Kuroo-san’s graceful exit from the bed with moderate success, only accidentally kicking Oikawa-san once. He stands there for a second, finding his bearings and trying not to throw up. Bokuto-san murmurs in his sleep and wraps his loose arm around Akaashi-san.
Akaashi-san looks so peaceful when he’s asleep.
“You coming?” Kuroo-san asks, snapping Kei out of his daze.
They don’t talk much, for obvious reasons, but Kei finds that Kuroo-san is pleasant company regardless. He feels infinitely better after a few painkillers and what had amounted to almost an entire liter of water, both of which had been graciously provided by Kuroo-san the Great – savior of the hungover and Kei’s personal hero. They sit at the kitchen table in tranquil silence for upwards of fifteen minutes, recovering from a night of epic mistakes that won't be repeated for at least a week.
“Safe to say I’m not going to class today.” Kuroo-san sighs, resting his head on his folded arms, “Not that I expected any different, really.”
“You’re not on break?” Kei rasps, clearing his throat and taking another sip of his water.
“Nah. The dental school is private, so our breaks are a little weird.”
Their conversation is quiet and easy - consisting of fairly generic small-talk and banter - but Kuroo-san’s calm energy and demeanor take Kei entirely by surprise, if he’s being honest. He’s much less… out there than Kei is used to him being. It’s kind of nice.
“You’re different when you’re not with Bokuto-san.” Kei says after a long pause, cursing himself out a little for saying exactly what he was thinking. Clearly the alcohol hasn’t made its way all the way out of his system yet.
Kuroo-san lets out a pleasant-sounding chuckle, “Yeah, well Bo kinda brings out the best and worst in me, I guess.”
“He’s… a lot, energy-wise.”
Kuroo-san smiles a soft little smile that makes Kei’s breath catch in his throat.
“He’s a bit of an idiot, but he’s so magnetic. Like... as long as I've known him, he's always had this thing about him that makes you want to see what he's gonna do next," He pauses, thinking about it, "He's so unapologetically himself that it kinda makes you fall in love a little, y’know?”
Kei chokes on his water.
“Are you still drunk?” He asks, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.
“Only a little."
"Explains the good mood," Kei teases.
"I'm always in a good mood." Kuroo-san shoots back, manually pulling the corners of his mouth up into a smile to prove it.
"You look like the Joker when you do that." Kei laughs, wincing with the movement. Kuroo-san smiles and leans back in his seat.
"Yeah, well I made you laugh, so I'm winning."
Kuroo-san looks over his shoulder at the bedroom door, ignoring Kei's question.
"Hey, can I ask you something?” He asks, eyes flicking over to the door every couple of seconds, "I want you to be super honest."
Kei shifts in his seat, “Sure.”
Kuroo-san looks over at the door one last time before looking Kei right in the eyes and asking a question that hadn't even crossed Kei's mind.
“Do you think Bo is in love with Akaashi?”
Kei’s heart stops.
The question is so genuine that it hurts, and Kuroo-san's face is so open and vulnerable.
Why him? What could he possibly say? He wants to say no, for both of them.
“I don’t know.” He says instead, feeling the weight of Kuroo-san's sad almost-smile like a ton of bricks.
Kuroo-san sighs and drops his gaze. Maybe things are a little more complicated than they seem.
"I thought so."
Chapter 7: Ya Like Jazz?
Bokuto and Akaashi are away for the evening and Kuroo and Tsukishima have something to talk about.
Kuroo gets his own chapter! Thanks so much for the support! Comments and kudos are my lifeblood and they inspire me to keep writing, so please do let me know if you like the chapter! Enjoy!
Kei receives an unexpected phone call from an unknown number just as he sits down to watch some comedy special on a Saturday evening that had been preceded by the most peaceful day he’d experienced in months. He sighs and gets up to retrieve his phone. Such is Murphy’s law, and such is the nature of his awful luck.
“Do you have a moment for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?” Kuroo-san asks immediately, leaving no room for doubt in Kei’s mind that his peaceful Saturday is over and that he is about to be ruthlessly antagonized for at least a few hours. Such is the nature of Kuroo-san the Terrible.
“How did you get my number?” Kei does not recall handing his number out to any of the three members of the ‘make Tsukishima Kei’s life a living hell’ club – at least not directly.
“Akaashi has it up on the fridge for emergencies.” Kuroo-san replies, and Kei makes a mental note to change his number as soon as possible.
“And I take it this is an emergency of the highest order then?”
“Come over,” Kuroo-san says simply, as though that would be something that Kei might conceivably do by choice.
“My parents aren’t home.” Kei rolls his eyes, lamenting the fact that the gesture can’t be properly communicated over the phone.
“What do you want?”
“Bo and Akaashi aren’t home, I’m bored, Oikawa has someone over, and… I have to talk to you about something.” Kei’s breath hitches a little, which is ridiculous – it’s not like he has anything to be worried about.
“One of those things is not like the others, Kuroo-san.”
“Just come over.”
Kei puts the phone down. He feels stupid for being as nervous as he is, especially considering he has no idea why he’s nervous in the first place. He hesitantly pulls on a jacket and takes his time descending the stairs, taking note of his visible breath in the chilly September air – it’s always cold around his birthday.
“Took you long enough.” Kuroo-san says when he gets to the bottom, apparently having waited outside for Kei like a creep.
“Yeah, well I didn’t want to slip and fall to my death before I got the chance to enjoy your company,” He replies, walking right past Kuroo-san and into the apartment like he lives there. He might as well at this point. “Where are they anyway?”
“Bo and Akaashi?” Kei nods and throws his jacket over one of the kitchen chairs, “Some art thing. I stopped asking a while ago.”
Kei finds that its embarrassingly easy to fall into silences with Kuroo-san. Not awkward silences per se, but definitely loaded ones. They sit there for a long while, considering what the other might say next and then never saying anything themselves – which Kei finds simultaneously incredibly frustrating (if only because he’d come here for a purpose) and somewhat comforting because he knows that Kuroo-san is in the same position he is.
“So…” Kuroo-san says, finally breaking the silence, “Ya like jazz?”
“How easy it would be for you to say something normal – you know, like a respectable human being.” Kuroo-san’s mouth falls into a lopsided grin and Kei finds himself (not for the first time, mind you) thinking that Kuroo-san is sort of… handsome, in an interesting sort of way.
“Sorry, I just didn’t know what else to say.”
Another short silence falls between them, and this time Kei takes the initiative.
“Wanna grab a drink?”
Kei doesn’t regularly partake in the consumption of the devil’s nectar (not very regularly anyway – Bokuto-san’s birthday was a special occasion, after all), but he keeps a bottle or two of rosé in his fridge because he enjoys the taste – and a bottle or two of vodka in the cupboard because he’s in university, for god’s sake. He isn’t sure what Kuroo-san’s drinking habits are like and he doesn’t really care to ask, but the two of them manage half a bottle of vodka and a full bottle of rosé between them before 10pm.
They’d gone to lie down on Kei’s kitchen floor around 9:30 – when it had really become too hot to bear lying on the couch for a single second longer – and if Kei’s being honest, he’s been having a really good time.
“Wanna play Uno?” He asks, finally growing tired of laying on the floor and arguing about whether Star Wars or Star Trek is the superior series (it’s Star Trek and Kuroo-san is just delusional).
“Yeah, but that won’t save you from your trash taste.” Kuroo-san says, pushing himself off the floor with an amount of effort that suggests Kei isn’t the only one whose head is swimming.
“Star Trek has more compelling characters,” Kei shoots back, rifling through his cabinet for the deck of cards. He has to sift through a frankly embarrassing amount of loose board game pieces and birthday cards that he doesn’t have the heart to throw away, but he finds it somewhere near the back of the shelf.
“You just like it because you think the new Kirk is hot.”
“Excuse me? I’ll have you know that I was a fan of the original series long before I watched any of the new installments,” He plops himself down on the floor in front of Kuroo-san and starts shuffling the deck with as much care and precision as his clumsy drunk hands can manage, “And Spock’s the hot one.”
Kuroo-san takes a moment to study Kei’s face for any sign of sarcasm, and upon finding nothing of the sort he begins a cackling fit with a slap on his knee like an old man, which forces a laugh out of Kei as well.
“So you have weird taste in men too, huh?”
“What? Spock is hot! Name one hotter sci-fi main character.”
“Spock’s not the main character!”
“He is in my heart.” Kuroo-san starts a fresh bout of laughter, and Kei fights back a smile as he deals the cards.
“Uh… Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap.” Kuroo-san answers once he’s stopped laughing and Kei gasps like some sort of middle-school girl.
“You’ve seen that show?” Kuroo-san perks up a little, clearly just as surprised as Kei was.
“Yeah, my dad and I used to watch it together.”
Kei slaps a card down onto the floor to start the game, “I used to watch it with my brother – he had the whole thing on tape.”
Kuroo-san plays his turn, “My god we’re old.”
Kei hesitates for a second before placing another card.
“Speak for yourself, old man.”
Kuroo-san smiles and places another card. Kei has to pick up.
“You’re good at this,” Kei says, wondering how on god’s green earth he managed to get an entirely green and blue hand out of a shuffled deck.
“Nah, just lucky.” Kuroo-san says softly, doing a quick once-over of his hand before sliding a card off of the top of the pick-up pile and slotting it into place between his fingers. Kei stops examining his own cards for a moment to look at Kuroo-san again.
“Hey, uh…” He begins, and Kuroo-san looks up, his eyes meeting Kei’s properly for the first time. His gaze is so intense that it makes Kei squirm a little. “What did you want to talk about? Earlier, that is.”
Kuroo-san takes a moment to consider the question, as though he’s completely forgotten why he and Kei were even here together in the first place. Kei had forgotten too up until a minute ago, so he wouldn’t be surprised.
“I said some things,” He begins, clearing his throat and looking back down at his cards, “That I didn’t really mean to say.”
“But you meant what you said – what you asked.” Kei insists, recalling the conversation so clearly in his head that it may as well have happened minutes ago. His chest still feels like it’s filled with wet sand.
“I- yeah. But I shouldn’t have said it.” Kuroo-san’s hair falls into his face, obscuring one of his eyes. Kei desperately wants to push it back for him, but he shakes the feeling as quickly as it had come.
“What’s going on?” He asks, tired of tip-toeing around all of this. He wants to know, and he’s not going to trick himself into not saying anything like he did last time.
“I don’t care.”
Forcing eight years of pent-up feelings out of someone (especially when they’re mildly intoxicated) can be a bit messy, in Kei’s experience – this isn’t his first rodeo and all that. Granted, it’s only his second rodeo but that’s irrelevant information in the grander scheme of things. The point is that Kuroo-san is apparently in love with his roommates. Both of them. And Kei doesn’t know what to say about it.
“How does that even happen?” He asks, trying to comprehend what he’s just been told. As far as he’s aware that doesn’t just happen, but his expertise in all things love and romance is… somewhat limited, to say the least.
“You’ve met them.” Kuroo-san replies, framing the whole ordeal as self-explanatory when it could be considered anything but – by most people anyway.
“What are you going to do?” Kuroo-san’s eyes wander around the kitchen searching for something that isn’t Kei’s face to look at.
“Nothing, obviously.” He says. Kei wants to physically shake some sense into him.
“That isn’t really the obvious choice here.” He says instead. Kuroo-san finally meets his eyes again, and Kei almost visibly shudders. He feels like he’s being mentally searched.
“Alright,” Kuroo-san stops searching, “What are you going to do?”
He must have found what he was looking for.
“I don’t really have a vested interest in how this turns out.” Kei lies, the words coming out far more defensive than he’d intended.
“I don’t believe that.”
Kei feels stripped bare by Kuroo-san’s gaze. The alcoholic haze that had comforted him earlier in the evening now has him clawing at his own brain for coherent thoughts.
“I need you to believe that.”
Kuroo-san breaks the eye contact, freeing Kei all at once.
“Sorry.” Kuroo-san says, picking up the discarded Uno cards and shuffling them again.
“Me too. I shouldn’t have forced you.”
Kuroo-san shakes his head, “I needed to say it.”
His hair falls into his face again and Kei leans forward to brush it away this time. Kuroo-san startles a bit at the sudden contact but lets him do it anyway. Kei pulls back as quickly as he’d come.
“You should get a haircut.” Kei says, hoping to make what he just did seem a little less weird. Kuroo-san brings his own hand up to run through the hair that Kei had just brushed away, leaving it to linger a bit.
“Yeah. It’s been a while.”
Chapter 8: The Butterfly Effect
The group celebrates Tsukishima's birthday in the only way they know how, and Tsukishima appreciates it a whole lot more than he's willing to let on.
In hindsight, Kei believes his biggest mistake to have been his failure to yell for help when Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san had dragged him into their apartment the day he’d moved in. All of this – every single part of it – could have been avoided if he’d just followed the stranger danger rules they were all taught in elementary school. But he didn’t, and so followed a butterfly effect that leaves him where he is now – on his neighbors’ couch, birthday wishes forced upon him (courtesy of Yamaguchi’s big mouth) and faced with Oikawa-san’s exposed nipples.
“And you thought nipple cutouts were a good idea… why?” He asks, attempting as best he can not to look directly at the nipples – for his own sanity, and also because a small part of him believes he might go blind if he does. Oikawa-san’s nipples are like the sun, and Kei is like Icarus – except that he is really the polar opposite of Icarus because he wants absolutely nothing to do with the sun (or Oikawa-san’s nipples).
“It’s a special occasion!” Oikawa-san explains, pulling the sleeves on his mesh shirt containing the DIY cutouts further down, as though his wrists being exposed to the world bothers him in the least. Kei hears a yelp from the kitchen followed by several crashes, yelling, and eventually an eerie silence. Bokuto-san sprints out of the kitchen with a sense of urgency Kei hasn’t seen in him since Akaashi-san’s three-year Monopoly winning streak was broken – a.k.a. the day Kei found out why Akaashi-san had a three-year Monopoly winning streak in the first place (hint: it isn’t because he’s actually any good at Monopoly).
“EVERYTHING IS FINE!” Bokuto-san screams on his way back to the kitchen.
“I’m choosing to accept that.” Kei says, turning his attention back to the most pressing matter at hand, “You make me wish I’d been born blind.”
Oikawa-san seems unperturbed by the offense Kei has taken toward his outfit choice, draping himself over the couch to further taunt the innocent victim of his awful wardrobe.
“Help!” Kei yells, remembering his elementary school training this time. The thin thread holding his sanity is wearing thinner by the second. Being alone in a room with Oikawa-san can drive a person to extremes they’d never thought possible in Kei’s experience, and Kei himself is no exception.
Bokuto-san’s head pops around the corner, “Yes?”
“Are you almost done?”
Bokuto-san’s head disappears, followed by some scream-whispering, and then again by the reappearance of his head, “Yeah, we’re done!”
Kei's sigh of relief is short lived as he is quickly grabbed by the shoulders and seated at the kitchen table. Oikawa-san struts in after him and Kei has to restrain his urge to sprint out of the apartment and never look back. Maybe he could fake his own death and live a peaceful life in the countryside. He'd never have to see another nipple again.
“Ta-da!” Kuroo-san declares, dropping a large tray onto the table in front of Kei and forcing him out of his Gone Girl-esque fantasies.
“Why are your hands bandaged?” Kei asks, ignoring the contents of the tray for now.
“That’s not important!” Kuroo-san replies, shoving his bandaged hands into the large front pocket of his ‘World’s Coolest Stepdad’ apron. Every day Kei is tested in new ways.
“They’re dinosaur shaped nuggets!” Bokuto-san explains excitedly, apparently forgetting that Kei has eyes. Kei’s love for dinosaur shaped nuggets is very well known amongst those few people he chooses to associate with on a regular basis, and his excitement upon being presented with so many of them is on par with the excitement he’d felt as a child for the very same reason. He attempts (in vain) to keep this fact under wraps in the presence of his neighbors, for no other reason than that he is a little ashamed that he can still manage that level of excitement over anything – let alone something as trivial as dinosaur shaped nuggets.
He pushes his glasses further up his nose in what he hopes is a display of cool stoicism, “I see, thank you Bokuto-san.”
Kei does not request any sort of utensil or dish to eat off of this time – having learned his lesson a long time ago regarding the baffling absence of any such civilized tools in an otherwise (semi) functional household – but he does request assistance in finishing the frankly absurd number of nuggets that have been placed before him. He is but one man after all and can only eat so many anything-shaped nuggets in one sitting. He assumed (wrong, as appears to be the case any time Kei assumes anything regarding the level of normalcy that any one member of this group is capable of) that they could all eat the nuggets like civilized people, in relative silence, and with no mishaps.
It was really only a matter of time before one of them did something to break the careful balance, and who better than Kei’s main antagonist on this particular day.
“Oh my god, what are you doing?” Kei asks, his blissful nugget eating interrupted by behavior he can only describe as maniacal and pure evil.
“Eating?” Oikawa-san replies, his large brown eyes the picture of innocence even despite the gruesome scene that lies before him. Kuroo-san is cackling before any of them can say another word, “What? What did I do?”
In front of Oikawa-san lies a massacre – over a dozen dinosaur shaped nuggets, headless and covered in ketchup from the tiny packets that Akaashi-san had pulled out of his bag earlier.
“You mean to tell me… that you didn’t do that on purpose?” Kei asks in disbelief. There is no conceivable way in Kei’s mind that Oikawa-san could have done that by accident. The whole thing looks staged, like a murder scene from CSI or something. The only things missing are chalk outlines for the victims and police tape, “Are you an actual psychopath?”
“No! I just like to eat them like that!”
“That really isn’t helping your case,” Kuroo-san wheezes. Akaashi-san is preoccupied slapping Bokuto-san on the back after he’d managed to choke on a piece of nugget.
“You guys are horrible to me!” Oikawa-san whines, circling his arms around his food protectively. Kei accidentally makes eye-contact with one of his nipples and physically shudders.
“Didn’t anybody ever tell you not to play with your food?” Akaashi-san asks, having ensured Bokuto-san is no longer at risk of death by nugget.
“This is a disaster.” Kei says. He finds himself not really in the mood for any more nuggets.
“Don’t write it off too soon, princess,” Kuroo-san says, and Kei very nearly chokes as well, “We’re just getting started!”
Kei feels a few grey hairs coming in.
“Hear me out!” Kuroo-san says, ass planted firmly on the wooden plank he’d sincerely suggested Kei sit on as well just seconds prior.
Kei sighs and resigns himself to the fact that this is most definitely going to happen – whether he endorses it or not.
“Alright, so what I’m hearing is that my idiot best friend told you that it was my birthday, right, and you thought, ‘Oh yeah, you know what Tsukishima would like? Sliding down the fucking stairs on a wooden plank at noon on a Thursday.’ Is that right?”
Bokuto-san looks up from the very involved task of taping the long piece of ripped-up carpet that they’d found in the trash earlier in the week to the stairs, “Pretty much, yeah.”
“I told them it was a bad idea.” Akaashi-san says, “You’re just lucky you weren’t around when parkour was popular.”
Kei’s mind conjures so many hyper-vivid images that he feels like he might as well have been around. Akaashi-san gives him that look – the one that says without words that it was much, much worse than his imagination could ever hope to comprehend. Kei carefully puts away any further thoughts he might have on that issue and decides never to think about it again.
Bokuto-san’s face lights up, “Oh man! We should-”
As cynical as Kei had been about the idea, the actual execution doesn’t go half as badly as he’d anticipated. Are there a few scraped knees and elbows? Sure, but that was to be expected. Did Bokuto-san sympathy cry when Kuroo-san faceplanted? Of course. Did Kei’s heart stop beating when he and Akaashi-san shared a plank? Absolutely. Such is the nature of love, and loving Akaashi-san makes Kei want to be a better person – but it also makes him feel like he might be dying.
Kuroo-san gives him a soft sort of look when they’re all sitting in the parking lot afterward – carpet long since ripped off the stairs and planks long retired – and Kei thinks for a moment that it might have been him if things were a little different. If one more butterfly had flapped its wings, or so the saying goes.
When Kei leaves for the night (after yet another failed attempt at finishing the mountain of nuggets), he finds himself enveloped by four pairs of arms. He smiles despite himself, even when Bokuto-san insists on twirling him around and Oikawa-san cries about how cold his nipples are in the evening air.
He is truly happy then, even on the worst day of the year.
Kei has six notifications on his phone when he gets back to his apartment – three from the group chat that he shares with Kageyama, Hinata, Yachi, and Yamaguchi (renamed ‘Elon Musk’s Booty Shorts’ as of two weeks ago), one personal message from Yamaguchi indicating his intention to call after his shift at work, one from Akiteru, and one from his mother. Akiteru’s message reads more like an apology than a birthday wish – which Kei supposes is on brand for his older brother – and his mother’s reads like an obituary, signed at the bottom for both of his parents even though he knows for a fact that his father had nothing to do with it. He ignores the family messages and replies to both Yamaguchi and the group chat with a brief, ‘Thanks for the wishes.’
It’s easier that way.
Looking at Akiteru’s message, Kei feels a brief pang of nostalgia – memories of his brother waking him up at midnight and placing little birthday gifts in his lap before sneaking back to his room so as to avoid waking their parents flooding his mind all at once, like a favorite childhood movie that he never got tired of watching. He tries to convince himself that it’s gotten easier, that he doesn’t care as much anymore, but deep down he still feels it like it was only yesterday. He wonders if Akiteru does too.
Chapter 9: Halloween Part 1
Akaashi has a problem that isn't easily fixed and comes to Tsukishima for help.
This is the first of a two-part Halloween special - the second of which will (hopefully) be out on Halloween. Thank you so much for the positive feedback! I love to hear what you thought about the events of my chapters and whether or not you like them, so please do let me know! Enjoy!
Kei has never been very interested in Halloween as a concept. His family never celebrated it and living in a smallish rural town in the Japanese countryside most of his life certainly didn’t help either. Unfortunately for him, that kind of mindset didn’t fly with the other residents of Hotel Transylvania. From the very first day of October Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san were enthusiastically buying decorations for their apartment, and Akaashi-san seemed perfectly content to meticulously put each and every one of them up. In fact, further investigation of the matter revealed that Akaashi-san may in fact be the most Halloween-crazed of them all (albeit in rather a quiet and unassuming way). By mid-October, there wasn’t a spare inch of wall or shelf left to decorate, and the trio moved right on to Kei’s apartment with the insistence that having it bare this time of year would be nothing short of blasphemy. Kei allowed it like he allows most things when it comes to his neighbors, and watching them all work so tirelessly made him feel a sense of pride he can’t make sense of to this day. Akaashi-san’s eye for decorating is nothing short of spectacular – as one might expect of an interior designer – and Kei’s apartment (while it does give him a good fright every once in a while) feels all the more lived in for the careful placement of every ornament. Kei likes it, all things considered – it makes the place feel like somebody actually lives there now. He’s always had trouble with things like that.
As the days get shorter and Kei’s use of his space heaters and blankets becomes more frequent, he finds himself feeling more and more comfortable. Not only in his love for the colder weather, but in the warmth that he feels under the way-too-small kotatsu in his downstairs neighbors’ apartment, in Akaashi-san’s kind of shitty instant hot chocolate, and in Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san’s insistence that Kei be a part of every one of their odd traditions as well. He finds solace in fake spiderwebs and cheesy horror films in a way that he never did in plain white walls and silent family dinners.
The day before Halloween rolls around before Kei can even process that it’s already October, and he half expects to be dragged out of his apartment for another horror movie before the evening is out – so when he hears a knock on his door he isn’t surprised in the least. He is, however, surprised to note that Akaashi-san is standing all alone outside his door instead of with his regular entourage.
“Hello, Tsukishima-kun.” He says, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet with his hands firmly clasped in front of him. His nervous energy is driving Kei crazy, which is… odd for him, in Kei’s experience.
“May I come in, please?”
“Yes, of course,” Kei carefully leads Akaashi-san into the apartment, glancing back at him every few seconds.
“You haven’t, um… You haven’t changed anything.” Kei frowns, taking a seat on the couch and indicating that Akaashi-san should do the same.
“Yeah… no, I haven’t. Why-”
“No reason! It’s nice! Still- I mean, um,” Akaashi-san takes a shaky breath, “Not to imply that I- I mean I’m the one, um… Nevermind.”
Kei feels like astral projecting. Not knowing why Akaashi-san is so anxious is leaving Kei on edge as well but asking him is out of the question – he doesn’t want to embarrass Akaashi-san by accident. Reeling for an appropriate response, Kei falls back on an old-faithful.
“Tea?” Kei asks, already getting up. Akaashi-san shoots up so unexpectedly that Kei almost loses his balance.
“Sorry! I-” He begins, holding his hands out as though he were trying to hold Kei up without actually touching him. His eyes lock onto the ground in front of Kei’s feet, “Sorry.”
Kei’s body moves without his permission, closing the distance between him and Akaashi-san before he can fully process the action.
“Is something wrong?” He asks, taking Akaashi-san’s hands in his.
Akaashi-san looks up at him in surprise and then back down at their joined hands. Kei can still feel him shaking.
“I need your help.”
If you had asked Kei twenty minutes ago who the sanest one amongst his odd group of neighbors was, he would say Akaashi-san without hesitation. Now though? He might hesitate.
“As much as it pains me to say this Akaashi-san, it can’t be helped,” He says, and Akaashi-san nods solemnly, “You did this to yourself and it was really stupid of you to let it get this bad.”
The fact of the matter is that Akaashi-san had been fully aware of some very important, time-sensitive information for almost a month before it would become a problem and he left dealing with it for the day before it would become a problem. Kei vividly recalls the night on which Akaashi-san had received the then-mysterious phone call – that he now knows was from none other than the infamous Iwaizumi Hajime-san (why he is infamous has yet to be fully explained to Kei, but he would venture to suggest that it has something to do with Oikawa-san). Akaashi-san doesn’t dive into very much detail regarding how and why this Iwaizumi-san person coming to town will be a major problem – only indicating in clear terms that it is very much a major problem. And that Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are not to know about it.
“Why not?” Kei asks, having trouble wrapping his head around all of this given so little information. Akaashi-san had insisted that the information was not his to tell and Kei can respect that, but it doesn’t make the situation any less frustrating.
Kei is struck with déjà vu all of a sudden. Only this time the situation appears much larger, and so the simple insistence on more information may be less appropriate. Kei stays quiet for a long moment.
“I don’t know what to do.” He says, slumping forward and resting his head on the kitchen table.
“Likewise.” Akaashi-san says, sticking his finger into his cold tea to stir it. Kei raises an eyebrow in amusement.
“You have a spoon,” He says, and Akaashi-san slowly removes his finger in favor of the spoon beside his cup, “I have proper utensils.”
“Force of habit.” Akaashi-san replies, the slight coloration of his cheeks only adding to Kei’s amusement.
“Maybe we should have tea up here more often – to help reintegrate you into civilized society.”
“Or I could steal all of your spoons and redistribute it amongst us less fortunate folk,” Akaashi-san retorts. Kei is certain that he has the goofiest smile of all time plastered on his face, “I’d be the Robin Hood to your Ebenezer Scrooge.”
“Pearls before swine, Akaashi-san. I’m sure they’ve forgotten how to use a spoon by now.”
Akaashi-san’s laughter is nothing short of magical. Kei basks in it like sunlight on the first true day of spring, and he wonders if Akaashi-san would allow him to have this if he knew of Kei’s feelings. He almost feels guilty for enjoying it without permission.
“I think they’ll adjust eventually.”
“I’m going to say something,” Kei announces suddenly as he and Akaashi-san are halfway through their second bag of microwave popcorn (Kei may have spoons, but he falls short in the food department more often than he’d like to admit). Akaashi-san perks up and pauses his popcorn munching for a moment, “I think – and feel free to completely disagree with me on this – I think we should just allow this to happen.”
Akaashi-san swallows the mass of popcorn that he’d stuffed into his mouth and frowns.
“I don’t- I’m not sure that’s the best option here. I don’t know if that even is an option.”
“Alright, but you’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. Like, it’s either you tell Iwaizumi-san that this isn’t a good time – but it’s a bit late for that, I think – or he comes over for the Halloween party and we deal with the consequences from there.”
Kei feels half-delusional with sleep deprivation, but he’s pretty sure that his suggestion made sense. It’s getting to be the early hours of the morning and he and Akaashi-san are four hours deep into a spiraling mess of elaborate suggestions – the highlights of which included buying a full body costume and forcing Iwaizumi-san to wear it the entire night, somehow ensuring that Iwaizumi-san was never in the same room as the others (which was struck out only because the apartment has an open floor plan), and cancelling the party altogether with no notice – and at this point, Kei is beginning to think that a simpler solution may be in order.
“Consequences…” Akaashi-san repeats thoughtfully, and just as Kei is beginning to think he got through to Akaashi-san with his logic, his exhausted eyes suddenly light up, “I could fake my own death.”
“They’d still meet at the funeral.”
“Oh, yeah I guess that doesn’t solve anything.” Kei attempts to catch a piece of popcorn with his mouth while he waits for Akaashi-san to once again tire himself out, “We could run away together?”
“I’d love to, but Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san would die without you.”
“Mmm… true.” Akaashi-san’s thoughtful pause lasts far longer this time, “Okay. Alright. I mean, how bad could this possibly be, right? I’m probably overreacting.”
“Exactly! Iwaizumi-san probably knows what he’s getting himself into – who are we to question his judgment?”
“Yes. He is a rational person, and he knows what the situation is.” Kei nods enthusiastically (or as enthusiastically as he can after being awake for twenty hours). Akaashi-san looks about ready to crash as well.
They hadn’t really established what the sleeping arrangement was going to be when Akaashi-san had walked in – given that Kei hadn’t anticipated being up until three in the morning concocting solutions to a problem he hadn’t been aware of until just now – but it’s just a little too late for Akaashi-san to return home without disturbing his roommates and Kei has slept in his neighbors’ bed far too many times to justify offering Akaashi-san his shitty couch and a blanket. It’s not weird if he doesn’t think too hard about it, so he chooses not to think about it at all.
Akaashi-san follows him to the bed with a comfortable familiarity that has Kei stepping more than a little lighter (one might even say that he could be skipping, if they were to watch closely enough), but just as they’ve both settled in Akaashi-san sits up and looks at Kei with eyes so wide Kei thinks he might be hallucinating.
“Oikawa-san… Oh my god.”
“What?” Kei asks, realizing that his view of Akaashi-san is a little too crisp for this time of night. He’d forgotten to take off his glasses.
“He’s… He likes to start unnecessary conflict.” Akaashi-san says grimly.
“Because he’s gay?” Kei suggests with an equally serious tone.
“Oh, nothing. I’m sure he’ll behave himself – he’s a grown man.”
Akaashi-san takes a deep breath, “Yes, you’re right. I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m worried for nothing.”
Akaashi-san falls asleep almost immediately – no doubt just as exhausted as Kei is at this point – but Kei lies awake thinking for a few minutes.
He really has no idea how this is going to turn out.
Chapter 10: Halloween Part 2
The Halloween party Akaashi planned turns out to be a lot more interesting than even he could have anticipated.
Oh boy, this is a long one. Feedback is as always appreciated!! Happy Halloween!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kei wakes up alone just before midday. He feels like he’s been hit by a freight train, but that isn’t really a new thing for him at all. He’s half surprised that Akaashi-san didn’t wake him up, given that he’s supposed to help with the party setup, but that’s somewhat of a secondary concern. Kei’s primary concern upon waking up is presented to him in the form of a long grey cloak and ridiculous looking hat sitting at the end of his bed. Kei had been adamant from day one that he would not be participating in the costume portion of the Halloween celebrations – he has some remaining dignity, after all – but it honestly doesn’t surprise him that it’s come to this. Every single one of his protests regarding Halloween related events and traditions has been soundly ignored by the Ghostbusters, and it was always inevitable that this one would be as well. Kei resolves to put it on if only to show his tormentors how stupid it looks.
Staring into the mirror, Kei is faced with his reflection and the sudden urge to crawl right back into bed and pretend none of this had ever happened. The costume he’s been provided with is none other than that of Gandalf the Grey – a character that Kei is intimately familiar with due to his love of Tolkien's books, and one that he is almost certain was picked out by Kuroo-san as an attempt to provoke him.
Kuroo-san the Terrible Bastard.
Before he’s fully able to work through the complex web of feelings that wearing a synthetic white beard has brought him, he hears a soft knock on his bedroom door. Speak of the devil.
“Knock knock,” Kuroo-san says, entering Kei’s room with his hand over his eyes, “Are you decent?”
“Depends on your definition of decent.”
“Are you wearing pants?”
Kuroo-san removes the hand over his eyes and cracks one of them open a fraction. Upon giving Kei a quick up and down look, both of his eyes fly open and his face lights up. Kei feels like melting into the floor.
“It’s even better than I thought!” Kuroo-san exclaims, his delight only pissing Kei off further.
“How did you get into my apartment?” He asks, foolishly hoping that not addressing his attire will cause Kuroo-san to forget about it.
“Akaashi-san took your keys when he left this morning and he told me to come check if you were awake,” He explains, eyes still practically sparkling as he examines every inch of Kei’s outfit, “Honestly the resemblance is uncanny. Bo and Akaashi are going to love this!”
“Yeah, nobody is going to love anything. I look ridiculous and I’m taking this off.” Kei says, pulling his beard down to hang around his neck.
“Oh no you don’t, you’re coming with me.”
Kei is yanked by the arm and pulled through his apartment and down the stairs, almost tripping on his cloak a few times in the process. He wonders why he even bothers trying to argue with them anymore.
“He’s wearing it!” Kuroo-san yells into the apartment, much to Kei’s dismay, “He actually put it on!”
“OOOOOH LET ME SEE!” Bokuto-san screams, literally dropping whatever it was that he was doing (Kei can hear the crash and Akaashi-san’s subsequent complaining), “OH MY GOD!”
“You were right Kuroo-san,” Akaashi-san says, rounding the corner, “It looks good on him.”
Kei pulls the beard back up to hide his stupid blush. Akaashi-san is also already in costume – a witch, by the looks of it. A very, very pretty witch.
“You, um- you also look, uh… nice. Um… witch?”
“Yeah, he’s a witch every year,” Kuroo-san says, and Akaashi-san shoots him a look, “What? You are.”
“He’s been a witch all morning too.” Bokuto-san stage-whispers. Kei doesn’t feel bad for him when he’s on the receiving end of a far more pointed look.
“How can I help?” Kei asks hastily, hoping to diffuse the situation somewhat.
“Uh… we need some things from the grocery store, so if you and Bokuto-san could go pick those up that would be great.”
Kei hesitantly turns to look at his errand partner.
“Road trip!” Bokuto-san declares, throwing an arm around Kei’s shoulders and leading him towards the door.
It’s pretty safe to say that Kei is well-acquainted with the absurd, given his very impressive track record for attracting idiots and the like. However, the absurdity born of the endless energy that Bokuto-san possesses baffles him time and time again without fail. He’d managed to perform every single part in the first half of The Book of Mormon’s first act singlehandedly (harmonies included) during the car ride and he even sang through the parking fiasco (which was definitely not Kei’s fault).
“You have no power here Gandalf the Kei!” Bokuto-san scream whispers as Kei pushes their shopping cart down the aisle. He feels stupid enough as it is wearing this stupid costume in public without extra attention being brought to him in the grocery store - Bokuto-san had insisted that they didn’t have the time for him to change, though he’d taken the beard and hat off in the car despite Bokuto-san’s protests. Whatever remaining dignity he’d clung onto at the beginning of the day has long since abandoned him.
“Why do we need the tiny umbrellas?” Kei asks, eyeing the list suspiciously. The first half had been pretty generic – soda, assorted snacks, red food dye etc. – but the latter half contains items that Kei repeatedly has to double takes on to ensure he didn’t misread.
“Akaashi likes them because they make him feel fancy.”
“And the baby powder?”
“Sometimes the costumes chafe.”
They collect the requested cotton balls, three types of hot sauce, dry ice and liquid latex (though they do have to go into separate stores for the last two) with minimal incident and only two minor injuries on Bokuto-san’s part. Kei might feel accomplished if he weren’t so confused.
“Promise not to yell this time?” Bokuto-san pleads as he loads the car. He’s wearing an incredibly tight t-shirt despite the fact that it’s well below the temperature for which that might be appropriate, but the way it clings to his muscles is kind of nice to look at, so Kei doesn’t complain.
“She was taking too long to pull out! What was I supposed to do?”
“Not yell at an old lady?”
“If we don’t have the time for a costume change we don’t have the time to wait for some old lady to remember how to drive!”
The parking lot is essentially empty by the time the car is packed, so they manage to pull out without incident. Bokuto-san continues his grand performance on the way home, and Kei may or may not join in for a few of his absolute favorite songs. All in all Kei kind of gets it by the time they pull into the apartment complex and he and Bokuto-san are screaming the lyrics to ‘Man Up’ – the energy that Bokuto-san brings out in people, Kei included. Kuroo-san might have been on to something.
Akaashi-san had insisted that Kei not see the finished product before the actual party began, so he was kicked out of the apartment shortly after he and Bokuto-san returned with the ‘groceries.’ He isn’t too bothered by this development purely because almost always being the tallest in a group of people had subjected him to years of hanging things up in uncomfortably high places, and the fact that he can avoid being exploited even just this once is refreshing. All of that aside, for the hour and a half that Kei has to spend sitting alone in his apartment dressed as Gandalf, his mind is consumed by every single possible outcome of the evening. Being vaguely aware of the situation with Iwaizumi-san (sans more than a few key details) has Kei a little on edge – he can hardly imagine how Akaashi-san feels, given the state he’d been in less than twenty-four hours before.
The time ticks by at a pace that has Kei wondering how on earth he’d ever managed to spend this much time alone – it’s excruciating, to say the least, and all he really wants to do is hang around the apartment with Akaashi-san and co. It should be impossible to feel lonely when left alone for only a little over an hour, but somehow Kei manages it.
Finally, the time comes, and Akaashi-san comes up to fetch him looking even more breathtaking than he had this morning. He’s in all black, complete with a hat not unlike Kei’s own and a little wand tucked into the belt around his waist. Kei has to force himself not to stare too much.
“Here goes nothing,” Akaashi-san says, linking his and Kei’s arms, “It was a pleasure serving with you.”
“And with you,” Kei replies, taking a deep breath. They walk down the stairs in silence, but Kei is almost sure he can hear Akaashi-san’s heart beating. He squeezes Akaashi-san’s hand to comfort him.
“You guys look like a magical power couple!” Oikawa-san exclaims as they walk into the apartment. He’s dressed as… well, Kei isn’t actually sure what he’s dressed as. It’s unexpectedly less offensive than his regular attire though.
“What are you supposed to be?” Kei asks, eyeing the black and white mess.
“I’m a sexy snowman, see?” Oikawa-san says, twirling around so that Kei can get the full picture. The full picture doesn’t help, and Kei instantly takes back what he thought about it being less offensive.
Just as Kei is about to point this out to him, Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san join the group from their bedroom.
“Um… you look interesting,” Kei says, looking the both of them up and down, “Very… spooky?”
They’re dressed as the twins from the Shining. A classic Halloween costume for sure, but kind of odd to see on two rather muscular grown men. Regardless, it kind of is spooky with all the fake blood and awful synthetic wigs.
“Thanks!” They say in unison, which really does creep Kei out.
Akaashi-san unlinks their arms to go and attend to a few more things before the rest of the partygoers arrive, and Kei is struck with the realization that he doesn’t actually know anybody else that is attending the party - a realization that he definitely should have had earlier, but the Iwaizumi-san thing had him distracted. He quickly follows after Akaashi-san with the intention of following him around most of the night – as childish as it makes him feel, he isn’t exactly what one might call a social butterfly. Akaashi-san doesn’t seem bothered about it, which makes Kei feel a little better if still a little uncomfortable.
“Koushi-chan! You look horrible!” Kei overhears Oikawa-san say a few minutes later, presumably greeting some newly arrived guest.
Akaashi-san pauses in straightening the bright orange tablecloth on the kitchen table.
“We should go,” He says, examining Kei and removing a few stray synthetic hairs from his cloak, “Ready?”
Kei nods and follows him out into the living room. Already, there are four unfamiliar faces. Akaashi-san gravitates toward the two chatting with Oikawa-san.
“Hello Suga-san, I’m glad you could make it,” He greets, and the silver-haired man looks in their direction.
“Akaashi, this place looks great! You outdo yourself every year.” Akaashi-san and Suga-san engage in very pleasant conversation, and Akaashi-san introduces Kei to Suga-san and his partner Sawamura-san.
“Woah, you’re tall! What, like 6’2’’ at least right?” Sawamura-san asks, standing on his tip-toes for some reason. Suga-san puts a hand on his shoulder to pull him back down.
“Uh, yeah. Around there.”
“Man, and I thought Kuroo was as tall as it gets. You play any sports?”
Suga-san smiles apologetically, patting Sawamura-san on the shoulder, “Sorry about him.”
“Hey, Yaku! Get over here! This guy is 6’2’’ and I wanna size you two up!” Sawamura calls to a very small looking man who instantly looks pissed off.
“Shut your mouth Sawamura, before I shut it for you!”
“Oh my god,” Suga-san says, “Again, so sorry about him.”
“Come on, Suga! It’s not every day you see a guy this tall!” Suga-san laughs and leads Sawamura-san towards the other side of the room, leaving Kei and Akaashi-san alone once more.
“Well, that was interesting,” Kei says.
Akaashi-san smiles, “Ready for more?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
In less than an hour, Kei is introduced to six more people – four of which felt the need to comment on Kei’s height, despite the fact that he really isn’t that much taller than Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san, whom all of these people are presumably friends with. Nishinoya-san and Tanaka-san were particularly interesting for all of their piercings and tattoos, and for managing to give Bokuto-san a run for his money in being the loudest people in the room. Asahi-san stood out for the opposite reason. The person he’s most interested in, however, is nowhere to be seen and he can tell that it has Akaashi-san on edge.
“Maybe he got lost?” Kei suggests, watching Akaashi-san down his third glass of alcoholic punch. Bokuto-san had refused to tell him exactly what type of alcohol is in the punch, referring to the ingredients as part of his ‘secret recipe’, but the taste suggests that it’s a mix of almost every alcohol in existence. Kei takes Akaashi-san’s glass away before he can have a fourth.
“Unlikely. He used to live here.” Kei takes a sip of Akaashi-san’s punch and screws up his face – it’s even worse the second time. Akaashi-san takes to chewing on his thumb nail.
“Hey. It’s going to be fine.”
Akaashi-san nods and takes a deep breath.
Everyone’s eyes immediately fall on the man standing at the door. He’s wearing navy blue suit pants and a white button up – which Kei assumes isn’t a costume – and he’s sporting a perma-frown that puts Kageyama's to shame. Kei feels the energy in the room shift, just like it had when Oikawa-san had mentioned his name for the first time. Kei could swear the guy is Voldemort himself or something with the way everyone reacts to him.
“Oikawa,” He says, scanning the room and avoiding Oikawa-san’s dumbstruck face for all he’s worth, “You look well.”
“Yo, what the fuck,” Bokuto-san says, but Iwaizumi-san seems not to hear him - or pretends not to, at least. If the music weren’t still playing the room would be completely silent.
“Iwaizumi-san, it’s nice to see you again,” Akaashi-san says loudly, bolting across the room. Kei stays frozen where he stands, watching the scene unfold in what might as well be slow motion. A few others greet Iwaizumi-san as well, and the room returns to relative normalcy in less than a minute – but the energy remains uneasy. Oikawa-san appears frozen in place as well.
“This place hasn’t changed at all,” Iwaizumi-san says, “I half expected everything to be completely different.”
“You haven’t been gone that long,” Akaashi-san says, his laugh a little uncomfortable, “It’s only been a few months.”
“It’s been long enough,” Iwaizumi-san replies. Kei can’t help but glance over at Oikawa-san every few seconds to gauge his reaction, but he appears steadfast in his expressionlessness.
Kei is beginning to think that this was a bad idea.
Kuroo-san approaches him with a sense of urgency that has Kei thinking that they’re probably on the same page.
“You knew about this,” He whispers, tugging Kei towards the bedroom as Bokuto-san follows behind, “Akaashi told you.”
Kei nods, taking one last glimpse at Oikawa-san’s face. Bokuto-san closes the door behind them.
“Shouldn’t we bring Oikawa?” Bokuto-san asks, looking more than a little shaken.
“Fuck. Uh… yeah, go get him.”
Bokuto-san leaves quickly to fetch Oikawa-san, while Kei takes a seat on the bed. Kuroo-san turns his attention back to Kei.
“Did you two seriously not think about how fucked up this is? In what universe would this ever be okay?” Kei doesn’t answer, mostly because he has no idea what to say. He didn’t know? Bullshit – he knew something. He should have stopped this. Bokuto-san returns, tugging a still-dumbstruck-looking Oikawa-san behind him.
“Hey, are you okay?” Kuroo-san asks, placing a gentle hand on Oikawa-san’s upper arm. Kei feels horribly out of place.
“I’m fine. I just need a minute.”
Kuroo-san shoots Kei a look as Oikawa-san goes to sit on the other side of the bed.
“Okay, what the fuck is he doing here?” Kuroo-san asks Kei, beginning to pace back and forth at the foot of the bed.
“He called Akaashi-san that time – when Yamaguchi was here. He said he was going to be in town.”
“And Akaashi told you about it?”
“Yeah, yesterday,” Kei replies. Kuroo-san rips his wig off and throws it onto the bed, “What happened?”
“What do you mean ‘what happened’?”
“Akaashi-san didn’t tell me.”
Kuroo-san stops pacing, “What?”
“It’s fine, stop interrogating him.” Oikawa-san pipes up. All three of them turn to look at him, “This is my problem. You’re still allowed to be friends with him.”
“But-” Bokuto-san begins, holding his own discarded wig in his hands.
“I know what I said.”
They sit in silence for a few minutes, the muffled sounds of the party filtering through the walls. Kei flops back onto the bed and ends up getting some of Kuroo-san’s wig hair in his mouth somehow.
“What should we do?” Bokuto-san asks, sliding down against the wall. Kuroo-san’s eyes remain locked on Oikawa-san.
“Go back out there,” Oikawa-san says, his tone impossibly even, “I’ll be out in a minute.”
Kuroo-san’s expression sends shivers down Kei’s spine.
“I’m not leaving.” He says firmly, and Oikawa-san finally looks at him.
“I want you to leave.”
“No.” Kei feels like he’s watching something he absolutely shouldn’t be, and Kuroo-san evidently feels the same. He looks at Bokuto-san, “Go back out there with Tsukishima.”
Bokuto-san nods and gets up off the floor. Kei follows him out of the room with no protest.
“What happened?” He asks again once they’re firmly out of hearing range of Oikawa-san and Kuroo-san. Bokuto-san sighs.
“Everything is fucking complicated with you people! I just want a straight answer for goddamn once! What happened?” Kei snaps, his frustration getting the best of him. He made the wrong decision partly due to lack of information – a decision that he can’t take back, but one that he wants to understand the magnitude of anyway. He’s so tired of being out of the loop. Bokuto-san seems taken aback by Kei’s outburst, and Kei feels partly compelled to apologize, but he stands his ground until Bokuto-san concedes.
“Iwaizumi and Oikawa were together when we met them,” He begins, delivery a little shaky, “Had been for four years. I guess… like, they were soulmates is the best way I can describe it. Childhood best friends like me and Kuro, but like… I don’t wanna say it was different, but- y’know… it was something else. I thought they’d be together forever, I guess. But they fought a lot, after New Years last year. Something happened – I think it had something to do with Oikawa’s parents, but I’m not sure. Anyway. Iwaizumi packed up and left after a really bad one and… it was fucked up. Oikawa didn’t really take it well.”
“I-” Kei starts, but Oikawa-san and Kuroo-san walk out of the bedroom just then.
“Hey, you okay Oikawa?” Bokuto-san asks, but Oikawa-san doesn’t hear him. He makes a bee-line for the main party and everyone stops to look at him, Iwaizumi-san included, “What’s he doing?”
Kuroo-san shrugs, eyes still fixed on Oikawa-san, “He needed closure.”
Closure is one way to put it, Kei thinks.
To be continued, I guess?
Chapter 11: Aftermath
Tsukishima recalls Halloween night and Kuroo gets asked out on a date.
Thank you so much for the support on the Halloween special!! As promised, a continuation is here! Please do let me know if you like it! Also, this is kind of sad I guess, so a warning for that. Please enjoy!
Kei has been privy to a few public fights before – strangers at a bar, some couple at the train station, a few delinquents at school, etcetera – but never one of the magnitude and raw emotion that he’d witnessed at his neighbors’ Halloween party. He hadn’t thought Oikawa-san capable of such a thing, in all honesty. In Kei’s mind, Oikawa-san was a kind of goofy casual friend with a mysterious past, which was admittedly shallow of him – it helps to think of everyone you meet as a three-dimensional individual, after all, even if it is difficult sometimes. Kei admits now that he was wrong for encouraging Akaashi-san’s poor, stress-induced decisions (blinded by love and curiosity as he may have been at the time, failing to consider Oikawa-san’s very real feelings was a mistake he intends not to make again in the future). But oh boy was his curiosity satisfied in the span of a little less than five minutes. He’d be a fool to suggest that his memory is waterproof, but an event like that isn’t easily forgotten, so his recollection of it is in shiny 1080p and all but completely accurate down to the letter.
So follows Kei’s personal recollection of the night Oikawa Tooru-san shocked an entire room full of people and himself:
Oikawa-san walked confidently up to the man at the center of the room – Iwaizumi-san, as Kei has come to know him. Said man had been speaking with Akaashi-san and Suga-san – longtime friends of his, or so Kei has since been told. The entire room, Iwaizumi-san included, stopped their casual conversation in favor of witnessing Oikawa-san’s not-so-slow descent into madness (or pure genius – the jury is still out on that one). Oikawa-san stopped dead not two meters from where Iwaizumi-san was standing. They sized each other up for a moment, two people intimately familiar with one another but never familiar enough. People change every second they are alive, after all, and they appeared to have been drinking in every minute change the other had undergone during their separation – though that might be romantic conjecture on Kei’s part.
“Tooru, what are you-” Iwaizumi-san began, and Kei noted his use of Oikawa-san’s first name as opposed to his greeting from earlier in the evening.
“You changed your number.” Oikawa-san interrupted, his tone ice cold – but, like a frozen over lake, not without its cracks.
“Don’t do this. Not here. We can-” Iwaizumi-san pleaded, looking around at his other friends for help or support. He found neither. Oikawa-san appeared to them like a dying star, collapsing in on itself and destroying everything in its wake – inevitable, beautiful, but not something you witness from so short a distance that you might get burned.
“Do you want to know how I know that, Hajime?” He didn’t wait for an answer, “Your mother called me. She wanted to know where you were. Do you know what I had to tell her?”
Everyone had cleared a space around them, leaving them alone at the center of the room and at the center of attention. Iwaizumi-san struggled to keep his expression even. Oikawa-san had given up altogether, tears welling up in his eyes and spilling over his fiery red cheeks.
“I-” Iwaizumi-san tried again, clearly uncomfortable.
“I had to tell her that I didn’t know! Because you didn’t tell me! Where do you get off changing your fucking number and not telling your own goddamn mother where you are? Huh? I couldn’t give less of a fuck how you treat me, but it’s a real bastard move to change your fucking number two days after you leave! It sends a real clear message!”
He was hysterical by then, and the exchange was getting difficult to watch. Everyone kept watching anyway.
“And I waited for you anyway! I waited in that apartment, the very same one you left me in! Do you know what it’s like to be in there? It feels like I’m sitting in my own tomb. I hate it. I hate looking at our things, I hate sitting in our apartment, and I hated waiting for you to come back when I knew that you wouldn’t. But here you are! And I hate that the most!”
He was shaking, and nobody was sure what they should do. Bokuto-san was holding Kuroo-san’s hand so tightly that both of their knuckles’ had turned white. In a moment of pure selfishness, Kei wished that he could be afforded the same comfort. But Oikawa-san was not finished.
“What did you expect me to do with all of this love, Hajime? With two decades worth of love? What was I supposed to do?” He sobbed. Kei looked away, “What am I supposed to do? I can’t just pack it away like you did, so tell me – what am I supposed to do now?”
“It’s freshly November, give it some time to breathe!” Kei complains. The Halloween decorations were down by 5pm November first, and Kei thought it was just a matter of the holiday being over and Akaashi-san being prompt both in his decorating and in his demolition. He was right about one of those things.
“And? The holidays wait for no man.” Akaashi-san replies, holding his hand out. Kei hands him another ornament.
“Alright, but I think that two months early is a bit extreme,” Akaashi-san scoffs and holds his hand out again, “What?”
“First of all, there’s no such thing as too early for Christmas. You’re going to have to get used to this.” Kei’s heart flutters a bit at the implication.
“We’ve got the stuff, Akaashi!” Kuroo-san calls, and Kei hears the familiar rustling of shopping bags in the entrance way. Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san walk into the living room and Kei can instantly tell that something is off. Well, more off.
“What happened?” Akaashi-san asks, apparently having also picked up the odd aura his roommates are giving off.
“Nothing!” Kuroo-san says a little too quickly. Bokuto-san remains quiet, which only adds to Kei and Akaashi-san’s suspicions. Akaashi-san climbs off of his mini ladder, “It’s really nothing! Bo’s just overreacting.”
Kuroo-san nudges Bokuto-san with his elbow, but it appears that this particular bad mood is here to stay for the moment.
“What happened?” Akaashi-san repeats, not at all satisfied with Kuroo-san’s attempts at deflecting. Kuroo-san’s eyes dart around the room before settling on the neutral spot right between Kei and Akaashi-san.
“Fine. Some girl at the supermarket asked me out, okay? That’s all that happened.” Kuroo-san says dismissively.
“Oh.” Akaashi-san says.
“What? It’s really not a big deal!” Kuroo-san insists, shifting his weight to compensate for how heavy the bags must be getting – or because he’s just generally uncomfortable. Kuroo-san isn’t as easy to read as his roommates are.
“Well, what did you say?” Kei asks. It seems that Bokuto-san and Akaashi-san are out of commission for the rest of the conversation. Kei would like to say that he knows what Kuroo-san’s answer would be, given his understanding of Kuroo-san’s situation, but in all honesty, he’s never quite sure what the other man is thinking.
“I- well no, obviously.”
“Obviously?” Akaashi-san asks.
“I mean, uh- Um…” He looks to Kei for help, but Kei has no idea what to do either, so he just shrugs and tries his best to look apologetic, “Uh… These bags sure are heavy! I’m going to go put them down now!”
“I’ll help!” Kei says, following Kuroo-san into the kitchen.
“Help. Me.” Kuroo-san whispers, rustling the packets to cover their conversation.
“I don’t know, do something!”
Kei frowns, also at a complete loss for what to do. To be quite frank, he’s not sure what the big deal is here. Why should anyone care if Kuroo-san turned down some random girl at the supermarket? Kuroo-san’s subsequent digging of his own grave phrasing-wise could probably have been brushed off too if it weren’t for his obviously suspicious hasty exit. A single solitary idea floats to the top of Kei’s consciousness.
“Maybe you could tell them? I don’t know. Seems like as good a time as any to me.” The packets instantly stop rustling.
“What?” Kei hears unintelligible whispering coming from the living room as well.
“You know, like- just tell them you’re in love with them.”
“Are you out of your mind?”
Kuroo-san lets out a heavy sigh and rubs at the red indents in his forearm left behind by the shopping bags. Kei is once again left frustrated by how difficult he is to read.
“I don’t think this is a good time.” He says, staring at the grocery store logo on the packets like they might give him all the answers.
“I don’t know, it’s… I don’t think it’s ever a good time to drop a friendship-ruining bomb onto two of my best friends,” Now Kei feels kind of bad for bringing it up. Kuroo-san might be a bastard, but at the very least he’s kind of considerate sometimes, “Plus I’m still mad at Akaashi.”
“Oh my god.”
“Hey, you’re just saying that because you were complicit. From my perspective you two fucked up big time – like at least a month worth of dirty looks big time.”
They stay silent for a moment, and Kei attempts to hear what the other two are saying, but they too fall silent not too long afterward.
“Well?” Kuroo-san asks, rifling through one of the packets as though he were trying to find something. He never does find what he is looking for.
“Well what? I told you what I thought you should do.”
“And I told you that your idea was bullshit, but that doesn’t mean you should stop thinking of ideas!”
Sometimes Kei really wants to smack that smirk off his face, “What about you, Casanova? This isn’t my problem.”
“But you offered to help, asshole. So help me.”
“I could tell them for you.”
“You’re full of it today.”
“I’m full of it every day. I don’t know what you expected.”
“Neither do I to be honest,” He concedes, sighing again, “Maybe if I just don’t mention it again they’ll forget about it?”
“That never works but knock yourself out I guess.”
“You’re a real delight, you know that?”
Kuroo-san rolls his eyes. Kei raises a taunting eyebrow in return.
“We should stop buying the five-liter cartons of milk, those things are heavy as fuck.” Kuroo-san says loudly on his way out of the kitchen, trying his best to seem nonchalant.
“What were you two whispering about?” Akaashi-san asks bluntly, completely ignoring Kuroo-san’s attempts to derail the conversation. Kei wasn’t really expecting an outright accusation of co-conspiring (which is what was going on, but still).
“Nothing-” Kuroo-san replies immediately.
“We could ask you the same thing.” Kei interrupts.
Kei looks at his partner in crime disapprovingly, but Kuroo-san doesn’t seem willing to give up his defensive position. Unfortunately for him, Kei is equally as stubborn and repeats himself.
“We could ask you the same thing.” It sounds really stupid the second time (it had sounded way cooler and more intimidating in his head), but he lets it stand.
Akaashi-san is just as taken aback as they had been, clearly not having anticipated his power move being turned on him so quickly. Kei feels like he’s been caught in a Mexican stand-off.
“Well,” Kuroo-san says after a moment, “This is weird.”
Akaashi-san lowers his metaphorical guns, and Kei does the same. Nobody was going to win in that situation anyway.
“Anyone up for a movie?” Kuroo-san asks.
They all kept standing there, minutes after Oikawa-san had said his last word – minutes after Iwaizumi-san had left him sitting on his knees in the middle of the floor. Nobody said anything when he did because nobody knew what to say. The damage was done, and Oikawa-san was left exhausted and dry heaving from the intensity of the moment. Kei’s own heart hurt from having witnessed it.
Akaashi-san was the one to pick him up. He was the one to indicate that everyone should probably leave, to silently drop to his knees next to a good friend that he’d done wrong with good intentions. Kei watched this too, because part of him felt responsible and because part of him felt like leaving would be doing his friends a disservice – whether he was right or not remains to be seen. Whether it was selfish of him to think that he is that important remains to be seen.
The door was left open long after the last guest had gone, and long after Kuroo-san had taken Oikawa-san to their bedroom. It seemed cruel, after all, to allow him to sleep in his own apartment after all of that. Bokuto-san and Akaashi-san slept with Kei that night, in his bed that was not built for more than two people but fit them all with room to spare. Kei wondered what it must have been like for Iwaizumi-san, and even more so for Oikawa-san and Kuroo-san but he would not ask. None of them would. That too seemed far too cruel.
Kei felt like crying – a weird sensation for him in almost any situation, but even weirder for having nothing to do with him on a personal level. Bokuto-san allowed himself to cry without reservation, and Kei envied him for his honesty. Akaashi-san only cried when he thought Kei and Bokuto-san were asleep.
Nobody talked about it afterward either. Kei wondered if that was because they didn’t know what to say – in comforting someone you often apologize, not on your behalf, but on the behalf of the universe or of the powers that be. In this case, they were all hurt, but no apologies were owed to them. It was odd to live through something so viscerally painful and have nothing to show for it. Kei doubted that he was the only one who felt that way, and also that he was the only one that felt guilty for feeling it.
He wouldn’t wish any of this on even his worst enemy.
Chapter 12: On Loving and Being Loved Part 1
Oikawa explores what it means to love and be loved, featuring Iwaizumi and Kuroo.
We take a break from the Tsukishima only perspective and focus on what’s going on in Oikawa’s life. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy this chapter even though it’s a bit different both in tone and character focus. As always, I’d love to hear from you!
Tooru often fantasized about what he would say if he ever saw Hajime again – he imagined that anybody would if they were in his position. Sometimes he would act it out loud in the shower, or while he was making dinner. A lot of times he lay awake in bed thinking up as many scenarios as his mind was capable of before sleep finally took him. It made him feel less lonely, in a way – to imagine Hajime was right there with him all the time, ready to explain himself. Ready to tell Tooru that he’d made a terrible mistake in leaving like he did. All of that was just fantasy, though. Tooru is no fool, nor is he delusional. He’s just lonely and heartbroken.
Right after Hajime left, Tooru half expected him to be back within a week – that quickly turned into two weeks, and then a month. He’d count the days, make bets with himself. He was obsessed with time passing, with the little indications that things were becoming different. He wanted everything to remain the same so that when Hajime came back it would be like he’d never even left. He still wants that, in the deepest, most embarrassing parts of himself. It’s hard to let go of those little habits, even now that he’s gotten his ‘closure’. He looks deep inside himself for answers – why does he still feel so awful? He should feel liberated. He should feel ready to move on. But he doesn’t. He looks inside himself for answers and all he finds are more questions and insecurities. All he finds is what Hajime left behind.
Hajime had always been difficult – a different kind than Tooru’s own, but difficult nonetheless. It felt like they were always trying to one-up each other in stubbornness, always pushing and prodding each other to test the limits. Sometimes one of them would push a little too hard. Even so, Tooru knew where the line was – a large cliff face that he knew meant the end for them – and he was careful never to push Hajime to that point. They found themselves on that edge more than Tooru would like to admit, but for all of Tooru’s pushing and all of Hajime’s teetering, he never once imagined that Hajime might jump.
“Do you ever wonder what else there might be?” Hajime asked him as they lay in Tooru’s childhood bed. It was a tight fit, but the freezing cold weather around new year’s made it so that they didn’t really mind a little less space between them.
“What do you mean?” Tooru replied, staring intently at their intertwined fingers.
“Like- besides this,” Hajime said, gesturing vaguely at their surroundings, “Besides us.”
Tooru frowned and sat up in the bed, his exposed skin instantly covered in goosebumps. Hajime continued looking up at the glow-in-the-dark stars Tooru had haphazardly stuck onto his roof when he was ten.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t know… I guess I’m just thinking about it a little more – like the way everyone says that they knew we would be together. That they all knew this was going to happen. It’s making me think that I kind of want to know what it’s like to be a whole person.”
“You are a whole person.” Tooru insisted, shifting so that his body was further under the blankets but less intertwined with Hajime’s. The lack of skin-to-skin contact instantly made him feel frozen.
“That’s the thing – I don’t feel like a whole person. I feel like I’ve always just been half of something. Half of Tooru and Hajime, never just… Hajime.”
Tooru’s heart sank into his stomach, “What are you saying?”
“I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud, ignore me.”
They slept farther apart than Tooru would have liked from then on.
“I buy the groceries so that you can eat them, not because I want to clean out a fridge full of rotting greens.” Tetsu-chan complains, shoving yet another bag of uneaten something-or-other into the bin. Tooru rolls over on the couch to watch him.
“Mmm yes, but I told you to stop buying things for me. I’m fine.”
“He says, not having eaten anything but single-serving cup noodles once a day for almost a week. If you get scurvy I’m going to laugh at you.”
“Ha! Like you’re one to talk.”
“Hey, Akaashi might not be the best cook but he throws a head of lettuce into the curry sometimes. Besides, this isn’t about me. You’re the one I’m worried about.” Tetsu-chan holds up a little purple container filled with soup and looks at Tooru quizzically, “Why do you have our rainbow containers?”
“Oh! Keiji-chan keeps bringing me apology soup. Please tell him that I’m genuinely not mad. He won’t believe me, and I feel bad every time I look at those little containers. It’s a real downer.”
“Eat the damn soup and I’ll tell him to stop.”
“Was it not you that just told me Keiji-chan can’t cook?”
“I said he’s not the best cook, not that he can’t.”
Tooru ignores him, squinting at his visitor, “Did you cut your hair?”
Tetsu-chan’s face goes an interesting shade of red – clearly visible to Tooru now that his hair isn’t obstructing half of it.
“Somebody told me that I should,” He says, brushing what little remains of his bangs out of his eyes, “It’s not a big deal.”
What Tooru wouldn’t give to be able to read Tetsu-chan’s mind on occasion. He really is an interesting one.
“Fine, I won’t prod you too much. I’m too lonely to risk scaring you off anyway.” Tooru teases. Tetsu-chan pauses in his fridge raiding, and Tooru wonders if he’ll react this time.
“You should sleep more.” He says instead.
“Come lie with me then.” Tooru says, pushing himself off the couch. Tetsu-chan huffs and slams the fridge shut but follows him to the bedroom anyway.
“Clean sheets?” He asks, eyeing the hastily made bed suspiciously. Tooru does his best impression of a laugh.
“Shockingly enough, Tetsu-chan, my sheets have been clean for quite some time.”
“Turned your back on your degenerate ways, have you?”
“Something like that.”
Contrary to their somewhat cheery and light-hearted banter, the look on Tetsu-chan’s face makes Tooru want to cry.
“I hope the long face isn’t for me, Tetsu-chan. I’d hate to see you so sad because of me.”
“I’m just thinking.”
“Oh?” Tooru climbs onto the bed and throws the duvet to the side, allowing Tetsu-chan to lie next to him and cover them both, “And what is it that you’re thinking about?”
“Nothing,” Tetsu-chan replies, shifting onto his back and grabbing Tooru’s hand under the covers.
“Come now, Tetsu-chan. I’m interested.”
“I wish it didn’t need to be like this,” He says, staring up at the little grey star-shaped patches on Tooru’s ceiling, “I want you to be happy, Tooru.”
Tooru turns over to look at him – at those brown eyes that are filled with more love than even Tooru can take – and he feels his heart break a little. Tooru might have found it in himself to love Tetsu-chan were they both not destined for other things.
“You fall in love too easily, darling.”
“You don’t fall in love easily enough.”
“You might be right,” Tooru says, squeezing his companion’s hand, “But I won’t let you waste your love on me.”
Tooru receives an unexpected knock on his door at midday. Ordinarily, he might brush it off as Keiji-chan forgetting to text ahead or Tetsu-chan having forgotten his key, but both of them have been quite good about that since the Halloween party (and Tetsu-chan is only scheduled for his daily visit at 6pm), so his curiosity is instantly piqued. He throws his blanket over his shoulders and shuffles over to the door, opening it and then shutting it again.
“Tooru, wait!” He hears Hajime yell from the other side of the door. His heart is instantly pounding a million kilometers a minute, “Please!”
“Please leave.” He says, and he’s momentarily afraid that his soft little plea didn’t make it to the other side.
“I- Tooru, please just… I just want to talk.”
“I can’t,” He says, “I really- I can’t.”
“I’ve been thinking about what you said,” Hajime begins, apparently no longer concerned about the barrier between them, “I don’t want that to be the end for us, Tooru. Please.”
Tooru doesn’t reply, feeling the familiar tightening of his chest as Hajime continues speaking. He’s glad for the barrier between them.
“I know you’re angry, I understand that. I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean for it to happen this way,” Tooru wipes his eyes with the blanket, “I want to make things right. Please.”
Tooru cracks the door open and Hajime instantly perks up. He’s wearing the same thing he had at the Halloween party.
“You changed your number,” Hajime says matter-of-factly.
“That I did.” Tooru replies, hand still firmly on the doorknob.
“I tried to call you, but the number changed and Akaashi wouldn’t give me the new one. I didn’t think- I mean… Why did you change it?”
“I lost my phone at a club.”
Hajime deflates a little, and Tooru wonders what he was hoping for.
“A club, huh? You never really were a club person.”
“Yeah… I guess they do,” Tooru gets ready to shut the door again, “Wait! I wanted to see you.”
“Well you’ve seen me, so you can go now.”
“Good for you,” Tooru says, and Hajime seems taken aback for a moment, “I’m sure Keiji-chan would love to hear all about it, so if you’ll kindly just head on down the stairs-”
“Can’t we just talk this out, please?”
“I’m tired, Hajime. Please leave me alone.”
“Fine, but I’ll be back.” He promises, and Tooru shuts the door.
That wasn't how it'd gone in his head at all.
"Please tell me why Iwaizumi is in my apartment saying you slammed your door in his face?"
"Because that's exactly what happened Tetsu-chan, but as to why he's in your apartment right now - that's a mystery."
"I'm coming up."
Tetsu-chan puts the phone down and is unlocking Tooru's door within five minutes.
"If you brought Iwa-chan with you, don't bother coming in!" Tooru yells, and Tetsu-chan hesitates for a moment before closing the door behind him. Tooru flops his head over the arm of the couch so that he can watch Tetsu-chan walk down the hallway.
"You look like you're modeling for a shampoo ad," Tetsu-chan says, tucking his keys into the pocket of his jeans.
"Even though my hair is greasy?"
"Even though your hair is greasy. I think it's the attitude that sells it, the whole 'I know I'm incredibly attractive' aura you've got going on." Tooru sits up and runs his hand through his hair, trying to get his bearings after all the blood had rushed to his head.
"You could have it too, Tetsu-chan," He says, pulling his friend onto the couch next to him, "You're too modest."
"I'll keep that in mind," Tooru stretches his legs over Tetsu-chan's lap, "Now, care to explain yourself?"
"What is there to explain, dearest? That man showed up at my door unannounced after leaving me here for almost ten months, and I rightfully declined his entry into my home."
"Yes, but if I remember correctly - and I'm sure I do - you were crying about how much you loved him just last week."
"A sensitive topic, Tetsu-chan, but that was last week. Today is a new day, and today I am too tired to be showered with excuses or to have another emotional outburst."
Tetsu-chan raises an eyebrow, "Is that so?"
"It is. But tomorrow is also a new day."
They both remain silent for a moment, and Tetsu-chan taps out a little rhythm onto one of Tooru's knees.
"I'm happy for you, Tooru."
"Let's not be too hasty, Tetsu-chan. I've yet to make up my mind." Tetsu-chan laughs and lets his hand rest where it had been tapping just a moment before.
"And yet I know what the outcome will be. Curious how that works."
"Curious how I have three phone numbers in my possession that could speed your outcome up considerably."
"An empty threat for the fourth year running."
"Funny how the number has tripled in that time. Should I be expecting another?"
"You always say I fall in love too easy."
"That you do, my love. Never change."
Chapter 13: The Jail for Iwaizumi Related Crimes
The gang gets reacquainted with Iwaizumi - or just acquainted in Tsukishima's case - and Akaashi finds that even his most mild-mannered associate can be a bit of a handful.
Back to your regularly scheduled programming! From here on it's right back to shenanigans and romantic misunderstandings, so buckle up kids! Thanks for the support!
Of all of the things Kei had expected to be doing on his Thursday evening (and it might’ve been anything at this point), playing relationship therapist to a man he’d just formally met was not one of them.
“Honestly? I probably would’ve done the same thing.” He says, feeling very little in the way of sympathy for Iwaizumi-san.
“You would’ve slammed the door in my face?”
“You did traumatize him emotionally.”
Iwaizumi-san sighs and rubs his temples. In all honesty, Kei’s opinion of the man in front of him had been low since before they’d even met – Kei’s reluctant fondness for Oikawa-san having influenced him more than a little over the past few months – and their introduction earlier in the evening had certainly not helped his case. Kei had very nearly decked him on his and Oikawa-san’s behalf the moment Iwaizumi-san had turned to Akaashi-san and asked, “You found another one?”
Needless to say, Kei might require some convincing of Iwaizumi-san’s alleged good character going forward.
“I feel like I’ve walked into the lion’s den,” Iwaizumi-san complains, “I’m trying my best here.”
“I’m sure Oikawa-san will come around eventually,” Akaashi-san reassures him, sipping at his probably lukewarm tea, “He’s very forgiving.”
Iwaizumi-san scoffs in disbelief, “Are we talking about the same person? Tooru was still holding grudges from the second grade the last time we spoke.”
“Should’ve thought about that before you left then, huh?” Kei says, and Akaashi-san sends a disapproving look his way.
“Your new boyfriend is delightful, Akaashi.”
Akaashi-san chokes on his tea.
“I mean no disrespect when I say this Iwaizumi-san,” Kei says, patting Akaashi-san on the back and trying his best to ignore what the other man just said, “But it seems to me like you shot yourself in the foot here.”
“You might be right.” Iwaizumi-san concedes.
“Well,” Akaashi-san says, cheeks still red from his coughing fit, “I doubt very much that Oikawa-san would even have bothered to give you the time of day if he had no intention of forgiving you at some point.”
“I don't know. He could be leading you on for revenge purposes,” Kei suggests, and the look on Iwaizumi-san’s face cements that as a definite possibility. Akaashi-san is once again visibly very unhappy with Kei’s bluntness.
“All of that aside, I think it’s very sweet that you’re taking the time to properly apologize.”
“Even though it was completely unplanned. I’m sure he didn’t notice that you’ve been wearing the exact same clothes for over a week.”
"I'm back!" Kuroo-san calls, and the look of pure relief on Akaashi-san's face has Kei a little offended. Usually, Kei is the reason for that look.
"In the kitchen!" Akaashi-san yells back. Kei has to resist the urge to get up and leave the moment he sees Kuroo-san skip into the kitchen wearing what is surely one of Oikawa-san's many feather boas.
"Well, ain't this an interesting little gathering," Kuroo-san says, eyeing the three of them, "You kids playing nice?"
"That's debatable," Iwaizumi-san grumbles, but he's largely ignored by the room, “How’s Tooru?”
Kuroo-san grabs a chair and turns it around, sitting on it backward for some reason. Regardless of the lack of comfort and functionality, Kei can appreciate the air of nonchalance it gives him.
“Well that’s just none of your business, but I’ll tell ya that he’s definitely not your biggest fan at the moment – not that that’s a surprise. How was Sendai?”
Akaashi-san’s expression quickly morphs back to mortified, and the satisfaction Kuroo-san clearly gets out of Iwaizumi-san’s shock only exacerbates the situation.
“I guess nobody here is my biggest fan,” Iwaizumi-san says, and Kei might agree with him if Akaashi-san didn’t have a vice-grip on his knee under the table. Kuroo-san has no such limitations.
“No sir, not in the least.”
“Well, fuck me. This is going to be more difficult than I thought.”
Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are staying the night at Kei’s apartment. All three of them have been symbolically kicked out for the time being (though it’s only symbolic in Kei’s case – the other two really were kicked out). Akaashi-san had apparently grown tired of their collective attitude towards their guest (who will be staying on the couch until he can win back the heart of his beloved or whatever). The final straw was Bokuto-san’s exclamation of, ‘dude, you’re fucked then’ when Iwaizumi-san had explained his purpose in staying, following which Akaashi-san had told them all to vacate the apartment until such time that they could, ‘learn to behave themselves in front of company’. Kei’s inclusion in that sentiment stings a little, but he supposes that it’s at least somewhat deserved.
“I kind of forgot how mean you can be,” Bokuto-san says, his head on Kei’s lap. Ordinarily, Kei isn’t one for physical contact or affection, but it’s near freezing and Bokuto-san is the equivalent of two space heaters in terms of the heat he gives off.
“Honestly? Me too. It’s been a while.” Kei replies, flicking through tv channels more to pass the time than to actually find something to watch.
“Do you think heelys will ever be cool again?” Kuroo-san asks, scrolling through his phone. Kei squints at him from across the room.
“They were never cool in the first place.”
“I had a pair of heelys when I was seventeen,” Bokuto-san says, “That’s how I broke my clavicle.”
“I thought you broke your clavicle when you tried to stand on that exercise ball.”
“Other clavicle, bro.”
“You two are insufferable.”
Kei lands on some cheesy looking movie that catches his attention long enough for the other two to quieten down and watch as well. They manage about twenty minutes of blissful silence before Bokuto-san starts getting restless again. Kei might just start charging Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san for every peaceful moment they ruin by saying something stupid.
“Man, I’m gonna be so pissed when Oikawa and Iwaizumi start acting all coupley again. Remember that, Kuro? Even Akaashi thought they were gross.”
“Couples are only annoying to lonely people.” Kei says.
Kuroo-san immediately starts cackling, “He got you bro! No hesitation!”
“Like you’re one to talk, Kuroo-san.”
“Pointing fingers is a dangerous game, Tsukki. I don’t see you bringing anybody home.”
“I’m single by choice.”
“I am too.”
“I’m not.” Bokuto-san suddenly pipes up, causing Kei and Kuroo-san to stop their arguing.
Kuroo-san immediately puts his phone down, “Dude, the world’s your oyster. You could totally get a date if you tried.”
“I hate that you just said that unironically.”
“The oyster thing or the date thing?” Bokuto-san asks, and Kei pats him on the head.
“The oyster thing,” Kei replies, and Kuroo-san grumbles something about classic metaphors, “He’s actually right about the date thing.”
Bokuto-san sits up suddenly and grabs Kei by the shoulders excitedly, “You mean that?”
The sincerity in the question makes Kei feel a little weird, “Uh, yeah.”
“You think I’m attractive? Like, boyfriend material and all that?”
“Of course you are bro, what-”
“Shhh, I wanna hear it from Tsukki.”
“Why?” Kei asks, trying to move further back into the couch to no avail.
“Honest answer,” Bokuto-san insists, his face so close to Kei’s that he wonders if his glasses are fogging up from Bokuto-san’s breath or if his vision is finally failing him completely, “You really think I’m attractive?”
“Ye-yeah, okay yes.”
Bokuto-san nods, letting Kei’s shoulders go and finally moving out of his personal space, “I knew it!”
Kei might argue with him over what that’s supposed to mean if he wasn’t still trying to remember how to breathe and deal with how hot his face feels, even now that they aren’t so close anymore. To say that he’s confused about what just happened would be a massive understatement.
“I’m boyfriend material bro! Tsukki certified!” Bokuto-san yells, and he and Kuroo-san high five over Kei’s head.
“Yeah, you are!”
“Akaashi-san is stronger than I will ever be.”
Six in the morning is the devil’s hour. No sane person is up at six in the morning. Very fitting then, that Oikawa-san is up at six in the goddamn morning knocking on Kei’s door like the zombie fucking apocalypse has finally arrived – though, even if it had, Kei would rather accept the sweet release of death (or afterlife) than be woken up at six in the morning.
“If the sun isn’t up, I’m not up. Actually, scratch that. Even if the sun is up, wait like three hours and I might be up.” Kei says, taking in Oikawa-san in all of his blurry, booty-short and hoodie-clad glory. Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san sleep like actual hibernating bears (lucky them, the bastards), and Kei was more than a little reluctant to remove himself from the arms of two incredibly warm young men to answer the door. But here he is. Oikawa-san sniffs and rubs his eyes with the back of his hoodie sleeve.
“I’m cold.” He says, and Kei once again takes special note of his booty shorts. Though he supposes the fuzzy socks sort of balance the ensemble out a bit.
“Nice to meet you cold, I’m tired. What about it?”
“Is that a dad joke? Did you just make a dad joke?” Oikawa-san prods, suddenly looking a lot livelier. Kei isn’t having it.
“What is it that you want exactly?” Kei asks, “It’s still dark out, it’s so cold I can feel my body deciding which of my limbs should be sacrificed first and frankly I feel as if I physically peaked at seventeen because my joints are screaming at me. Which great and powerful force could possibly have summoned you from the netherworlds to antagonize me at the ass-crack of dawn, hm?”
Oikawa-san’s looks positively delighted after Kei’s tragic monologue.
“I can see why they like you so much, Kei-chan.” He says, “You’re very funny.”
“Alright, well I’m cold just looking at you so I’m going to make an executive decision here and tell you to come in before you get sick.”
Much to Kei’s dismay, the back of the booty shorts say, ‘Property of Texas’.
“Is that Oikawa?” Bokuto-san asks, bumping into more than a few of Kei’s furniture items on his journey towards the entrance way. Each collision – which individually would have ruined Kei’s day were he the victim of their sharp corners – seems not to bother Bokuto-san in the least, as he either takes no notice or soldiers through it. The man is truly a medical and scientific mystery.
“Hello Kou-chan, it’s nice to see you without a shirt on.”
Kei really wishes he was above such observations and even more so that he was above blushing over it at the ripe old age of twenty-two, but life is rarely fair.
“You avoiding Iwaizumi?” Bokuto-san asks, finally arriving at his destination. Kei turns his attention back to Oikawa-san.
Oikawa-san considers the question for a moment.
“Am I?” He frowns, “Maybe I am.”
“Well join the club then, kiddo,” Kuroo-san says, suddenly popping his head out of Kei’s bedroom doorway, “This is the jail for Iwaizumi related crimes.”
“If you don’t like it, you can leave.” Kei huffs and Kuroo-san waltzes out of the bedroom to throw an arm around his shoulders.
“Relax, princess. I quite like your jail.”
“Call me that again and I just might become acquainted with a real jail.”
“You’d risk capital punishment for little old me?”
“You two are quite sweet,” Oikawa-san interrupts before Kei can retaliate, and Kei is once again reminded of the reason they’re all up at this godforsaken time of day in the first place.
“You woke me up at six in the morning because you’re avoiding Iwaizumi-san?”
“It appears so,” Oikawa-san says, “Though I will admit my more conscious motivations mostly included the fact that I don’t have any heaters and I can see my breath in my apartment.”
“Why don’t you have any heaters?” Kei asks.
“I’ve never needed them before.” Oikawa-san says with a wink.
“I’m not going to entertain that,” Kei says, feeling himself begin to shiver, “You think four people can fit into a queen-sized bed?”
Oikawa-san gets a sparkle in his eye, “Oh, I know four people can fit into a queen-sized bed.”
“Everything that comes out of your mouth makes me sad. Every. Single. Thing.”
Chapter 14: Moments
Tsukishima and the rest have an unconventional babysitting gig, and Tsukishima has to reflect on a few key moments in his life - including a very new, very important one.
Kei’s concept of what is normal and what isn’t has been slowly eroded over the five months that he’s been living amongst what is surely the top percentile of strangest people on the planet. Even so, he knows for a fact that this is anything but normal.
“Wait. No, I-no. No. What the fuck?” Kei stutters, “I can’t- how- what the fuck? I think I’m actually having a stroke. No. This is… this is the final straw. Like, I’m actually done now. I must be living in the mirror dimension or something. Maybe it’s opposite day. Is it opposite day? That is something you guys would take a little too seriously. When’s opposite day?”
“Dude, you just hit like four out of five stages of grief.” Kuroo-san says, clearly delighted beyond Kei’s comprehension at the turn this day has taken.
“I… Okay. You know what? This might as well happen.”
“Aaaand there’s the fifth. We’re good to go, you guys.”
Kei looks around – first at Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san, practically sitting on each other’s laps (though that’s pretty much standard practice for them), then at Akaashi-san, silently contemplating but not doing anything about the situation, and then at Oikawa-san, the ringmaster. He finds nothing. Not a single indication from anyone in his immediate vicinity that there’s even a single brain cell shared between them (or, in Akaashi-san’s case, a goddamn spine). Kei pushes his glasses up and leans forward, looking right into Oikawa-san’s vacant eyes.
“I want – just for the record – I want you to know that I personally think you might be the dumbest person alive. It’s truly a medical mystery that someone with a negative IQ has managed to survive as long as you have.”
“Ooooh, looks like someone’s in a mood.” Oikawa-san says, and Kei can feel his blood boiling.
“I am not in a mood!”
To be fair, he might be in a little bit of a mood. But that has nothing to do with the fact that Oikawa-san has seriously suggested they all sit in on his and Iwaizumi-san’s ‘relationship rebuilding sessions’. Kei feels like throwing up.
“Are you a fucking toddler? You need me to supervise your fucking playdates?”
“I think someone needs a timeout.” Kuroo-san says, and Bokuto-san grimaces.
“I do not need a fucking time out! Do you people not see how insane this is? Normal people don’t live like this! You know what this is? Bullshit! I’m not doing this!”
“Alright, we’re back on anger. How about we bring it right on back around to some of that sweet, sweet acceptance?” Kuroo-san says.
“The day I babysit two grown men on some convoluted journey towards the realization that one of them is just a giant asshole is the day I lose all self-respect.”
Kei and Akaashi-san are first on babysitting duty. Does Kei like it? Absolutely not. He’d even had the teeniest, tiniest sliver of hope that Iwaizumi-san would call this whole thing crazy and fuck right off to whatever swamp he’d crawled out of on Halloween night, but no such luck. ‘If that’s what Tooru wants’ he’d said. To be fair to Iwaizumi-san (even though Kei doesn’t really care to be), he had been trying for five whole days to have a productive conversation with Oikawa-san with very little success. Desperate times call for desperate measures, Kei supposes.
“So… how’s this going to work?” Iwaizumi-san asks, sat on the floor opposite Oikawa-san. Kei and Akaashi-san are given the privilege of sitting on the couch, but the whole setup makes Kei feel even more like a glorified babysitter.
“Um, you and Oikawa-san are just going to talk normally. Tsukishima-kun and I are just here to moderate.” Akaashi-san explains.
“Are we getting a divorce?” Iwaizumi-san jokes, but Oikawa-san doesn’t seem amused.
“Maybe.” He says gravely. Iwaizumi-san looks more than a little nervous.
“Uh… okay. Alright. Um, hello Tooru.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Okay… Oikawa then.”
The exchange is painful to watch. Kei might even feel a spark of sympathy for Iwaizumi-san somewhere deep down in his cold, dead heart. Maybe.
“Where do we start?” Iwaizumi-san asks, though Kei isn’t certain whether the question was aimed at Oikawa-san or the ‘moderators’. When no answer comes from Oikawa-san, Iwaizumi-san looks to Kei and Akaashi-san.
“Um, why don’t you start with how you feel?” Akaashi-san suggests, looking to Kei for confirmation. Kei just shrugs.
“Okay. I feel like I’m, uh… I feel like I’m sorry.” Iwaizumi-san says.
“Oikawa-san?” Akaashi-san prompts.
“I feel like I don’t understand why you’re here,” Oikawa-san says, looking right through Iwaizumi-san.
“I feel like I made a mistake.”
“I feel like that’s a stupid excuse and if it really was a mistake then I went through the worst ten months of my life for nothing.”
Iwaizumi-san takes a deep breath.
“I feel like I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“What the fuck did you think was going to happen? That I was going to be okay after my fucking best friend left and never called me again?”
“Should we intervene?” Akaashi-san whispers, but Kei shakes his head.
“I thought… I thought it might be better for both of us to be apart for once.”
“You couldn’t have told me that? You couldn’t have said, ‘Tooru, I think we should be apart for a while, but I still love and respect you enough to not disappear off the face of the planet in case you need me’?”
“I didn’t think-”
“That’s right! You didn’t think!”
“Okay! I think we’re done here.” Akaashi-san says, and Oikawa-san gets up and walks out of the apartment.
“I don’t think that went very well.” Iwaizumi-san sighs.
“Well, maybe you’ll have more luck on Thursday.” Kei says, giving Akaashi-san the captain’s solute and following Oikawa-san out the door. The ‘session’ had lasted six minutes.
Following Iwaizumi-san’s massive and embarrassing failure at reconciling with Oikawa-san, Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san came knocking on Kei’s door for all the juicy details they probably wouldn’t get out of Akaashi-san. Kei might be annoyed if they hadn’t been kind enough to bring food into his wasteland of an apartment.
“It’s macaroni m-Tuesday!” Kuroo-san announces, pulling the ingredients out of his backpack.
“Shouldn’t it be macaroni Monday?” Kei asks, eyeing the unmarked plastic bags on the counter.
“Yeah, but we already called it Monopoly Monday, so we had to improvise.”
“Okay, but why macaroni? Why not, like… taco Tuesday, or tagliatelle Tuesday, or… I don’t know. Tofu, tuna, tomato-”
“Why must you rub my failures in my face like this? It’s not that deep, Tsukki. Bo just likes macaroni.”
Bokuto-san nods enthusiastically, and Kei feels like he’s already lost.
“You’re the one who tried to change the name of one of the days of the week to fit your stupid alliteration, don’t hate me for pointing out how dumb it is.”
“If you guys are getting a divorce, I wanna live with Tsukki.” Bokuto-san says.
“Bro, that’s fucked up.” Kuroo-san complains, but Bokuto-san just shrugs.
“I don’t make the rules.” He replies.
Kei narrows his eyes, “You literally do make the rules. You chose- we’re not even getting divorced so I’m not going to-”
“You two are staying together? Sweet.” Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san high-five.
“Aw, I knew we could make it work. Don’t worry, honey, I’ll try even harder for us and the kids from now on.”
“Do you two ever shut up?”
“Actually, if I don’t get enough attention I’ll disappear,” Kuroo-san says.
“Like Tinkerbell.” Bokuto-san adds gravely.
Kei wonders if Akaashi-san’s offer to run away together is still valid.
“Anyway!” Kei says, clapping his hands together, “Why are all of the ingredients in unmarked bags loose in your backpack?”
Kuroo-san gets that glint in his eye that Kei knows means he won’t like what’s coming.
“Akaashi gets the ingredients. I don’t ask questions.” Kuroo-san says matter-of-factly.
“He brings things home in his bag – sometimes it’s plastic utensils, sometimes it’s condiments, sometimes it’s unmarked bags of food. I don’t ask questions.”
“Should I be afraid of him?” Kei asks.
“I am.” Bokuto-san says, lifting the black bag that sounds like macaroni, but the empty sound of the shells hitting one another gives Kei flashbacks to a war he never even fought in.
“I think a healthy amount of fear is warranted when it comes to Akaashi.” Kuroo-san replies.
“Well, that’s our Akaashi!” Bokuto-san says loudly, “Probably part of the mafia, but we love him anyway!”
Kei is starting to think he’s been the only normal one all along.
Kei likes to think of life as a series of moments – some good, some bad, some not so significant and some life-changing. He often finds that moments he’d thought insignificant at the time end up being life-changing in the long run, though that might be because he’s oblivious to his own feelings most of the time. Yamaguchi calls him an idiot for it all the time – that his feelings are so blatantly obvious to other people but not at all to him. Kei disagrees with that sentiment only in that he’s pretty sure his stoic façade is well-maintained and difficult to get through, and that it’s really only Yamaguchi that can read him like an open book. Fifteen years of friendship allows you to get to know a person quite well, after all, even for all of their oddities and emotional walls.
Sometimes a moment will pop into his head, crystal clear and in slow motion for reasons Kei can’t possibly understand. He’ll see Yamaguchi running toward him on the first day of high school with his backpack bouncing up and down behind him, or Hinata and Kageyama racing each other to class, or Yachi handing him a little pink band-aid for a papercut. Sometimes he’ll see his mother patting ten-year-old Akiteru on the head for a good grade. More often than he’d like he sees eighteen-year-old Akiteru packing the last of his bags into the trunk of the car their parents let him keep, patting Kei on the head and saying, ‘Don’t worry about me, Kei. This isn’t forever. I promise.’
Often Kei can’t tell which moments will be important – which ones will stick with him – until long after they’re over. Sometimes though, a moment comes along that Kei recognizes immediately as being life-changingly important.
“Man, I miss Akaashi,” Bokuto-san complains, “I feel like he’s been gone for three years.”
“First of all, you’ve only known him for three years-”
“It’ll be four in April!”
“And second of all, he’s not even gone. He’s downstairs right now. He was literally in bed with us last night.” Kuroo-san finishes. Bokuto-san doesn’t seem convinced.
“Yeah, well he’s missing out on white wine Wednesday. He loves white wine Wednesday!”
“Don’t we all,” Kei says, finishing his own glass with two large gulps, “Alcohol makes the world go ‘round.”
“I think you’ve had enough,” Kuroo-san says, removing Kei’s glass from his admittedly loose grip.
“I miss him too.” Kei sighs.
“He’s downstairs! You guys are acting like he’s dead or something!”
“Sometimes I feel like I can still smell his shitty burnt fish sticks.”
“You can! He’s down there right now burning them!”
“You guys think I could take Iwaizumi in a fight?” Bokuto-san asks suddenly. Kei thinks about it for a moment.
“You don’t think I’m strong enough?” Bokuto-san pouts.
“I just don’t think Iwaizumi-san is as susceptible to hair-pulling as Kuroo-san is.”
“He’s right. The man has follicles of steel.” Kuroo-san says, patting Bokuto-san on the back comfortingly.
“Who’s gonna win Akaashi back then?”
“He’s not gone! He’s downstairs!” Kuroo-san looks about ready to pull his weak-follicled hair out.
“Kuroo-san’s right. Akaashi-san isn’t gone – he was in our hearts the whole time.”
“Wow,” Bokuto-san says, placing his hand over his heart and nodding, “Thanks Tsukki.”
Kuroo-san throws his head back and starts laughing.
“What’s funny, bro?” Bokuto-san asks, already laughing as well.
Kei finds himself smiling too, for how warm the room is now that Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san are both laughing, and for the fuzzy feeling he gets in his chest. It must be the alcohol, he thinks.
“Nothing, I just like you guys,” Kuroo-san says, his cheeks pink from laughter.
Kei leans forward on the table, and Kuroo-san smiles that soft little smile at him again. Bokuto-san throws an arm around his shoulders.
“I love you guys!” Bokuto-san exclaims, kissing Kei on the cheek.
Kei’s breath hitches.
Kei looks at Kuroo-san, and he feels Bokuto-san’s strong arm around his shoulders. The whole thing is in slow motion, and every little detail of the moment feels like it’s being ingrained into Kei’s mind. Kuroo-san’s hair falling into his eyes, and his hand lingering there for a moment as he brushes it away. Bokuto-san’s ridiculously long eyelashes wet with tears from how much he was laughing just now. Kei’s own hands trembling as he pushes his glasses back up.
This is a moment, Kei thinks. A life-changingly important moment.
It took a long time to get here, but here we are! Please let me know if you liked it!
Chapter 15: Warm Hands
It's Kuroo's birthday, and Tsukishima is surprised in far more ways than one by what happens.
“I’m dying,” Kuroo-san whines, clutching one of his many birthday presents to his chest, “My cells are multiplying slower as we speak.”
“Oh suck it up, we’re all dying. Now smile for the pictures.” Akaashi-san says, taking what must surely be approaching the hundredth picture of Kuroo-san in his stupid little birthday hat. Kei is thoroughly amused, both by Kuroo-san’s sudden consideration of his own mortality and by Akaashi-san’s no-bullshit attitude when it comes to commemorative pictures. The man cares a lot about his scrapbooks.
“Easy for you to say, Akaashi. You’re still at the ripe young age of twenty-two. You can’t possibly understand what I’m going through.”
“Call me ripe in any capacity even one more time, Kuroo-san, and I’ll see to it that your cells stop multiplying immediately.”
Kuroo-san’s jaw goes slack, and Bokuto-san is practically pissing himself laughing on the other side of the room. Kuroo-san’s birthday has really gotten off to a fantastic start, in Kei’s opinion.
The birthday boy smiles for the rest of the pictures. Well, most of them anyway. Kei wonders if Akaashi-san got a picture of the face Kuroo-san made when he opened Kei’s gift. Kei had decided at 2am that the cactus he was going to give Kuroo-san wasn’t going to fly as a decent birthday gift anymore and had hastily wrapped the tapes sitting at the bottom of his bedroom closet. Akiteru had wanted him to have them, but Kei couldn’t bring himself to watch them after he left. Hopefully, the new memories attached to those tapes won’t hurt as much as the old ones.
Kei catches Kuroo-san staring at him more than once after that, but he doesn’t have to worry about it for too long because Oikawa-san manages to grab the attention of the entire room anyway when he pops in at around 10am wearing a full-body sequined jumpsuit.
Kei can only sigh at this point.
“You, uh… You look good.” Iwaizumi-san breathes, clearly enamored. He very nearly drops his paper plate.
“I know.” Oikawa-san replies, walking straight past Iwaizumi-san toward where Kuroo-san is sitting on the couch. He never looks at Iwaizumi-san straight on, but Iwaizumi-san seems content enough with just the verbal acknowledgment.
Kei is starting to think that they really do deserve each other.
“I can’t believe my dear Tetsu-chan is already twenty-four!” Oikawa-san exclaims, ruffling Kuroo-san’s already extremely messy hair and knocking his little hat off in the process, “It feels like just yesterday that you were a fresh-faced little baby!”
“Oh my god.” Akaashi-san groans. Kuroo-san’s face has morphed right back into an expression of existential despair.
“This is it, guys. I’m really on death’s door,” He says, draping himself over the side of the couch dramatically, “Oh to have been born a lobster, or a jellyfish! Oh to be biologically immortal!”
“Dear god, he’s on about the lobsters again.” Akaashi-san says, smacking a pancake Bokuto-san had just picked up off the floor out of his hand.
“It’s a fascinating area of biology!”
“It’s a pain in my ass.”
Kei looks once more at Iwaizumi-san – shamelessly staring at Oikawa-san from across the room like a schoolboy with a crush – and thinks that he might not be in a position to judge his taste in men. Kei’s own taste appears to be pretty questionable as well, after all.
Kei has gotten quite used to a certain minimum standard for nonsense when it comes to his neighbors – that minimum being way too much but usually (usually) not life-threatening. On special occasions the standard is ramped up to a ten – Kuroo-san has managed something approaching a black eye on both Bokuto-san and Kei’s birthdays, which… speaks for itself, Kei thinks. Color Kei surprised then when the main activity for Kuroo-san’s big day is a regular old picnic.
“You’ve really mellowed in your old age,” Kei tells him, “If you’re still alive next year, we can book you out of the old age home for a little visit to the aquarium.”
“To see the lobsters?” Bokuto-san asks, buckling Kuroo-san’s seatbelt for him.
“They’ll rub their biological immortality in his face one last time.”
“Akaashi! Help! I’m being bullied!” Kuroo-san yells. Akaashi-san doesn’t seem concerned in the least.
“If you kids don’t keep quiet back there, I’ll turn this car around.”
“What did I just say?”
They arrive at the picnic spot unscathed, for the most part – Iwaizumi-san was forced to sit in the trunk of Akaashi-san’s mini-van with the picnic supplies and sustained one or two basket related injuries, but that’s just collateral damage so Kei won’t count it for their Akaashi-san mandated ‘days without injury’ rewards board. He won’t be cheated out of his branded Cheerios just because Iwaizumi-san got a little banged up in the back of the van.
“It’s cold!” Oikawa-san complains, jumping up and down with his arms wrapped around him.
“Yeah, well you knew it was going to be cold and you still decided to wear that, so it’s your own fault.” Kei says, nice and toasty in Bokuto-san’s jacket.
Oikawa-san purses his lips but doesn’t argue.
Kei thinks he hears Iwaizumi-san mumble something about Oikawa-san not taking him up on his offer to use his jacket, but Kei honestly doesn’t care enough to actually eavesdrop on that particular little monologue.
Looking out on the city from the hill Kuroo-san chose for his birthday picnic makes Kei feel strange. On one hand, he’s still a little surprised at the simplicity of the request – given that Bokuto-san had wanted to do a million and one things on his special day, including but not limited to wrestling his childhood best friend in a kiddie pool in the middle of the parking lot, but also because Kuroo-san hadn’t really struck Kei as the simple type. The man himself seems oddly… complex. Always full of surprises in ways Kei can’t anticipate. Bokuto-san is at least predictably full of surprises.
“What are you thinking about?” Akaashi-san asks suddenly from behind him. Kei turns to look at him and smiles – he’s completely bundled up, having added what must be at least four additional scarves and a thick jacket to what he’d been wearing in the car.
“Are you that cold?” Kei laughs, picking up the tail end of one of the scarves and wrapping it around Akaashi-san once more. Akaashi-san nods and buries himself further into the mountain of wool around his neck.
“I hate winter.” He grumbles, barely audible through his fortress.
“But winter is when all the holidays happen.” Kei reminds him.
“And if they happened in summer I’d be a lot happier, but until the globe warms to the point that it’s never below twenty-five degrees out, I’ll just have to deal with it.”
Kei looks back out at the city, shivering a bit himself when some particularly icy wind hits. Akaashi-san comes up next to him and intertwines their fingers.
“Your hands are cold.” He says.
“Not for long.”
The calm simplicity of the afternoon bleeds into an evening that fits Kei’s expectations of his neighbors a lot better. As Bokuto-san had put it, ‘No bro of mine is going to turn twenty-four without a party’. Kei is surprised they haven't received any noise complaints.
Akaashi-san is passed out by midnight on three glasses of whiskey, which Bokuto-san laughs about for ten minutes before carrying him to bed and subsequently passing out himself (though on far more than three glasses of whiskey, in his defense). Oikawa-san retires to his own apartment not twenty minutes later – with Iwaizumi-san. Three tequila shots in, Oikawa-san had taken to referring to Iwaizumi-san as Iwa-chan and giggling. Five shots in, he was on Iwaizumi-san's lap. Kei doesn’t comment about it, but he’s quite sure that he and Kuroo-san are on the same page anyway. Two ‘relationship rebuilding sessions’ did them a world of good (or really, really bad) apparently.
“Just you and me then, huh?” Kuroo-san says, taking a seat next to Kei on the couch, “Unless you’re gonna get going too?”
“I’ll stay if you want me to.”
“I want you to. I do so look forward to our little talks.”
“Do you?” Kuroo-san nods, “Glutton for punishment, are you?”
“In only the best ways.”
Kei smiles despite himself. After a long silence, during which Kei is almost certain that Kuroo-san had fallen asleep, Kuroo-san pipes back up.
“I-” He begins, “You, um…”
“Those tapes,” He says, and Kei feels his heart start to beat a little faster, “They-”
“Well, not exactly. They’re… they’re mine, now. Have been for- I wanna say, like ten years?” Kei thinks about it for a moment, “Yeah, almost ten years to the day, actually.”
“You… you don’t want to keep them? They gotta be pretty important to you if you kept them for that long.”
“Yeah, well… they mean something different than they used to, to me. I- I wanted someone to love them again, I guess. The way I used to love them.”
Kuroo-san frowns and shifts so that he’s facing Kei, “Why me?”
“I, um- that… that’s more difficult to answer.”
Kei takes a deep breath.
“You… you’re- Oh my god this is embarrassing. You mean a lot, uh- you mean a lot to me. I guess.”
To say that Kuroo-san seems surprised by Kei’s confession would be a massive understatement. Kei can hear his heart in his ears.
“Oh, um-” Kuroo-san stutters, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. Kei feels panicky.
“Sorry, did that- did that freak you out? Sorry.”
“No! No, I- well… you mean a lot to me too?”
“Are you asking me?”
Kuroo-san lets out a frustrated huff, “No. No. I’m… you- I’m very-”
“You don’t have to get sappy if you don’t want to.” Kei reassures him, scooting further back on the couch. Kuroo-san holds his hands out as if pleading Kei not to run away like a scared deer or something.
“I want to! I want to. I’m just afraid.”
Kei frowns, “Of?”
“You, I guess.” Kuroo-san sighs. Kei scoots back forward to make up the space between them again.
“I’m afraid of a lot of things, but… that’s not- well, that’s not important. I don’t want to scare you off.”
“Ha! That’d be difficult, after everything.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Kuroo-san rubs his face with his hand.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m…” Kuroo-san looks right into Kei’s eyes with that gaze of his that sends shivers down Kei’s spine every time, “I want- I shouldn’t.”
Kei leans forward, “Who says you shouldn’t?”
“Well, tell me and I’ll tell you if I think you’re right about that.”
Kuroo-san keeps looking – searching Kei’s eyes. Kei attempts to do the same, but all he can really think about is how close they are. Kuroo-san leans closer.
“I don’t want you to hate me.”
Kei can feel how warm Kuroo-san’s face is for how close they are. Kei leans closer.
“I don’t think I could.”
Kuroo-san’s gaze flicks downwards for a second, and Kei is certain he wouldn’t be able to hear a bomb go off next door for how loud and fast his heart is beating.
“Are you sure?” Kuroo-san whispers, his hand finding Kei’s and then making its way up to his shoulder.
“Yes.” Kei breathes, his brain screaming at him about how close they are. About how Kei can make out individual little freckles on the bridge of Kuroo-san’s nose. About how warm his hand is, and how it’s making its way up to cup Kei’s cheek. About how slow everything feels like it’s going, and how Kuroo-san’s fingers are rough but so, so warm now that Kei has leaned into the touch. About how Kuroo-san’s thumb is stroking his cheek, and Kei’s whole body is covered in goosebumps. About how pretty Kuroo-san’s eyes are this close, and how soft his hair looks if only Kei could just-
Kuroo-san closes the gap.
Chapter 16: The Single Most Interesting Person on the Planet
Tsukishima and Kuroo have a series of important conversations, Bokuto surprises Tuskishima once again, and Iwaizumi feels sorry for himself.
“Stop staring at my knees!” Kuroo-san complains, pulling at his jacket to try and get it to cover more of his legs.
“You wore ripped jeans into my home on a Sunday night, Kuroo-san. If you didn’t want me to look at your bare knees, then you shouldn’t have exposed them to me.”
“They’re my best jeans!” Kuroo-san pouts, giving up on the jacket and accepting his bare-kneed fate, “And Bo likes them!”
“I never said I didn’t like them.”
Kuroo-san wiggles his eyebrows, “Oh, so you like them?”
“I never said that either.”
Kuroo-san sighs and sinks into the couch, looking at Kei with that easy smile that makes Kei’s heart flutter a little.
“So…” Kuroo-san says.
“So…” Kei repeats, cursing himself for not having anything else to say. This is more or less uncharted territory for him.
“You, um… like me?” Kuroo-san asks, and Kei almost laughs for how ridiculous it sounds coming out of a grown man’s mouth.
“Are we in middle school?” He asks, raising an eyebrow.
“How else am I supposed to say it?” Kuroo-san huffs, though the smile doesn’t leave his face.
Kei thinks for a moment, “Yeah.”
“Yeah, I like you, okay?”
“But do you like like me?”
“Sorry,” Kuroo-san laughs, tugging at the end of the blanket that Kei has on his couch for when he watches movies, “It’s just that nobody’s ever… you know. Liked me before.”
“Now that’s just blatantly untrue.”
“No, it’s not! I’m serious!” Kuroo-san insists, and Kei wonders if he’s blind or if he’s just stupid.
“You got asked out this month.”
Kuroo-san pauses in his blanket abuse, “She didn’t like like me.”
“She wouldn’t have asked you out if she didn’t.”
“She doesn’t even know me.” Kuroo-san says softly, his hand stopping mid-tug as if he’s forgotten what he was doing.
“And I do?” Kei asks.
Kuroo-san considers this for a second, looking Kei in the eye properly for the first time this evening.
“I’d like to think so,” He says, “You make me feel like you know me.”
Kei feels like all the air in his lungs has somehow escaped.
“How am I supposed to reply to that?” Kei asks, feeling his cheeks heat up. Kuroo-san smiles and lays his hand palm up in the space between them, “What?”
“You’ve got hands… I’ve got a hand… interesting stuff.”
“I hate you.”
He takes Kuroo-san’s hand anyway.
“You know, Oikawa once told me something interesting.” Kuroo-san begins, looking at their joined hands, “He said, ‘Tetsu-chan~ sometimes I eat glitter so that I can be as pretty inside as I am outside~’ and I think about that every day.”
“Your impression of Oikawa-san is horrible,” Kei laughs, scooting a little closer to Kuroo-san so that their hands can rest more comfortably between them.
“I disagree, but that’s just show business I guess.”
“You’re the worst.”
“But you like me anyway.”
Kei smiles, “Truly unfortunate, that is.”
Bokuto-san is holding a fake leg. Kei might be more alarmed if he weren’t so confused and just generally desensitized to the bullshit that tends to follow his neighbors around. It really wouldn’t even surprise him if this apartment complex somehow became the landing site for the first aliens on earth. He sighs and tries to gather up as much patience as he’s capable of.
“Why do you have a fake leg, Bokuto-san?” He asks, trying his best to sound casual.
“A nice man gave it to me at the bus stop.”
“Okay.” Kei replies, turning back to his textbook. Akaashi-san can deal with that little situation when he gets out of the shower.
Bokuto-san puts the fake leg on the coffee table.
“Does Kuro seem… different to you?” He asks, apparently not at all concerned that there’s a fake leg between them. Kei keeps looking at it out the corner of his eye.
“Um… different how?” Bokuto-san starts pacing.
“I don’t know, he’s- well he’s just different! It’s like he’s… different! Y’know?”
“I can’t say I do.” The pacing gets faster, which Kei finds rather alarming.
“I know Kuro, and he’s… different!”
“Use your words, Bokuto-san.”
Bokuto-san stops dead mid-pace, “Something must’ve happened.”
Now, Kei knows of a thing or two that may or may not have happened – whether or not those particular things have something to do with Kuroo-san’s apparent shift (which Kei has most certainly not personally noticed), he has no idea. Bokuto-san plops down on the couch, jolting Kei out of his own thoughts rather suddenly.
“Don’t do that! You scared me.” Kei says, bringing his hand to his chest to clutch his metaphorical pearls. Bokuto-san ignores him.
“You haven’t noticed?”
“Kuro. Different. We’ve been over this.”
“Oh. No, I haven’t.” Bokuto-san nods and rubs his chin thoughtfully, as though he were attempting to solve a crime or something.
Just then, Akaashi-san walks out of the bathroom and Kei is momentarily stunned by how cute he looks with his hair wet.
“Bokuto-san, you’re home,” He says. It takes a split second for his eyes to fix onto the leg, “And there’s a fake leg on the table.”
“That man at the bus stop gave it to me,” Bokuto-san explains again, picking the leg up and holding it in the air like in that scene from the Lion King.
“Bokuto-san, I don’t know how I feel about you bringing home the things that man gives you.”
“But Akaashi! He called me a ‘nice young man’! I can’t reject his gifts!”
“Fine.” Akaashi-san sighs, “But I thought we decided that you weren’t going to hang around the bus stop after work anymore.”
Kei thinks about it for a moment, “Why were you at the bus stop? Don’t you have a car?”
“He likes the atmosphere,” Akaashi-san replies on Bokuto-san’s behalf. He suddenly looks exhausted.
“Yeah! It’s very calming.” Bokuto-san adds.
“So, you drive in your car to the bus stop… to sit at the bus stop?” Kei asks.
“You know, you might just be the single most interesting person on the planet, Bokuto-san.”
Oh to spend a day in Bokuto-san’s mind, Kei thinks. Akaashi-san looks like he’s already been and didn’t like it one bit.
“Thanks! Oh! Akaashi, Kuro’s different, right?” Bokuto-san asks, apparently eager to get the conversation back on track.
“Kuroo-san?” Bokuto-san nods, and Akaashi-san takes a moment to contemplate, “He has been a little strange the past few days.”
Maybe Kei is the stupid one.
Iwaizumi-san is like a ghost – the ghost of self-pity’s past or whatever. In any case, his mopey face and attitude are a real downer and overall just a pain in Kei’s butt.
“Can you stop that, please?” Kei asks. Iwaizumi-san looks up from his repeated setting up and knocking down of the same three dominos with those dark circles and messy hair that make Kei want to smack him for being an idiot.
“He cries after every hookup, it’s really not a big deal.” Kuroo-san reassures him, “Well… it kind of is a big deal, but I wouldn’t take it personally anyway.”
Iwaizumi-san doesn’t seem reassured in the least.
“If anything, it’s a step in the right direction that he didn’t kick you out before he started crying. That kinda thing doesn’t usually happen. Lucky you.” Kuroo-san continues. The line between Iwaizumi-san’s eyebrows deepens even further.
“Look, there’s no use in moping about it at this point,” Kei says, “The fact that he spoke to you at all is an improvement.”
“Yeah! It’s all about the little steps, buddy.”
“Am I a bad person?” Iwaizumi-san asks, and Kei thinks that he’s definitely asked the wrong two people about their opinion on his character.
“I think you’re stupid and that Oikawa deserves better, but no. I don’t think you’re a bad person. Not on purpose, anyway.” Kuroo-san says, picking one of the dominos up and balancing it on top of the other two.
“Still hate your guts though.”
“Yeah… well. I’ll have to work on that too, I guess.”
“Speaking of,” Kuroo-san says, pushing himself off the couch, “It’s about that time. I oughta pay our little Tooru-chan a visit.”
“Do you do that a lot?” Iwaizumi-san asks. Kuroo-san grins mischievously.
“What? Sleep with your boyfriend? Yeah, I guess you could say that.”
Iwaizumi-san turns to Kei, “Is he kidding?”
“This place is somehow even more of a shitshow than when I left.”
“What are you smiling about?” Kei asks, also smiling like a goofy idiot. He presses the spacebar on his laptop to pause the movie.
Kuroo-san props himself up on his elbow so that half his face is being squished by his hand.
“You just make me happy.” He says, and Kei has suddenly forgotten which movie they were even watching.
“Yeah, well.” He sighs, pausing for a moment, “Do you… what do you want to do?”
“What do you mean?”
“I know you- I know that you like Akaashi, and you know that I- well, you know. It’s… I like you. A lot. Obviously. But-”
Kei pushes his laptop off his lap – he doesn’t think they’ll be watching the rest of their movie any time soon. Not with this topic of conversation anyway.
“If I’m being honest,” He says, “I don’t even really understand what this means. Like… loving more than one person, I-”
“Yeah, it’s confusing. Trust me, I know.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Alright, I’m gonna lay it all out on the table. Okay?” Kei nods, “You have a chance with Akaashi.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Well I do, and I’m telling you. So, if you- say, if you wanted that… instead, that is. Instead of- instead of me. I get that.”
Kei swallows thickly, “And you? You’re-”
“Eight years deep into a crush on my best friend? Yeah. That ship pretty much sailed.”
The look on Kuroo-san’s face makes Kei more than a little sad, though he can’t exactly pinpoint why. He sighs and shifts so that he’s laying down on his side as well, able to look Kuroo-san properly in the face.
“I don’t know either of them that well,” He admits, “But… they love you. I know they do.”
Kuroo-san bites his lip, “Yeah, we’re not really on the same page though. Relationship wise.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.”
“Either way it’s up to you.” Kuroo-san says, “I know how much you like Akaashi.”
“Yeah, and I know how much you like both of them.”
“That doesn’t matter.” Kuroo-san insists, and Kei lays his hand palm up between them.
“It matters to me, Kuroo-san. How you feel matters to me.”
Kuroo-san takes his hand, “I feel… like I really like you.”
“I, uh… likewise.”
“Likewise?” Kuroo-san laughs. Kei feels like he might be falling a little bit more in love every second.
“Feelings aren’t exactly your thing, I guess.” Kuroo-san teases.
“It might be fair to say that,” Kei admits.
Kuroo-san smiles, stroking the side of Kei’s hand with his thumb.
“So…” Kuroo-san prompts. Kei still doesn’t really know what to say.
“So I- um… you-” He stammers, feeling like a love-struck idiot.
Kuroo-san’s gaze flicks quickly away, and his cheeks begin to color a little – which Kei finds strangely… adorable.
“Would you… I mean, if you want-” Kuroo-san begins.
“Uh, yeah. Yeah… I do. Want, that is.”
Kuroo-san laughs again, “Why do I feel like I lost fifty charisma points between Saturday and now?”
“Alcohol,” Kei replies simply.
Kei has never felt so clumsy and awkward in his life, but he manages to scoot closer to Kuroo-san without disjoining their hands.
“So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that… you know. I want this.” Kei says.
“You sure?” Kuroo-san asks, his voice a little lower and quieter now that they’re so close again.
“God, uh… yes. Yes, I am so sure.”
Kuroo-san smiles that big, goofy smile again, “Yeah."
Kuroo-san leans in so that their foreheads are almost touching, “Then… I’m just gonna-”
If every kiss is going to feel like this, Kei thinks, then he might just forget how to breathe altogether.
Chapter 17: Not Too Old to Die Young
Oikawa gets sick.
Thank you so much for the support on the past few chapters!! It makes me so happy to know that you're enjoying what I'm putting out!! I hope you enjoy this too!
“Oh my god, what if he dies?” Bokuto-san asks seriously. Kei smacks his upper arm.
“Don’t say that!”
So, Oikawa-san may or may not have recently puked his guts up in the parking lot. The whole event was nothing to write home about, really – that is, except for the fact that Kuroo-san had apparently not been joking when he told Kei about the glitter thing. It was like watching a cartoon character puke, what with all the sparkles. Oikawa-san is truly a mystery of a man, and the rest of them can only hope to bear witness and spread his legend to future generations.
“Oikawa-san will be fine,” Akaashi-san says, “Kuroo-san said it’s just a mild case of food poisoning.”
“How do you get food poisoning from cup noodles?” Bokuto-san asks, and Kei very nearly smacks him again.
“I’m sure that Oikawa-san doesn’t just eat cup noodles,” Akaashi-san says, though he doesn’t sound that convinced himself.
“I’ve seen his garbage, Akaashi.” Bokuto-san says gravely, “It really is just cup noodles.”
“He likes cup noodles now?” Iwaizumi-san asks as he enters the kitchen wearing the same pajamas he’s been wearing for four days now. Kei would like not to judge him, but the man could at least take a shower if he’s going to be sleeping in the living room.
“No,” Bokuto-san replies.
“Is he okay?” Kei asks.
Bokuto-san shakes his head, “Yeah… no.”
“Wow, Iwaizumi-san. Looks like you actually broke him.” Kei says, and Akaashi-san doesn’t even give him a dirty look this time. Kei wonders if he’s just given up on trying to defend Iwaizumi-san altogether.
“Do you actually hate me or are you just an ass because you can be?” Iwaizumi-san asks.
“Can’t we all just get along like we used to in middle school?” Bokuto-san says, batting his eyelashes. Akaashi-san cracks a bit of a smile.
A hush falls over the room as they all hear the sound of Kuroo-san’s keys in the door.
“What’s up fuckers?” Kuroo-san yells, strolling into the kitchen and chucking his keys onto the counter, “You guys holding a town hall meeting? It looks like the knights of the round table in here.”
“Hello, Kuroo-san,” Akaashi-san says.
“How’s Tooru?” Iwaizumi-san asks immediately. Kei might find that kind of sweet if the guy hadn’t just called him an ass.
“Passed out, thanks for asking. He’ll probably be fine, but I’m gonna have to spend the night just to make sure.”
“You don’t need any help?” Akaashi-san asks.
“Nah, it’s one night. How bad could it be?” Kuroo-san says dismissively.
Iwaizumi-san frowns, “Have you… he hasn’t been sick since I’ve been gone, has he?”
Iwaizumi-san gets a look on his face that Kei doesn’t like one bit.
“Good luck.” He says ominously, shuffling his way back to the couch. Akaashi-san just sighs.
“Tsukiiiii,” Kuroo-san whines. Kei pulls his phone away from his ear until the whining stops, “I need help.”
“It’s 2am, Kuroo-san.”
“I know, that’s why I didn’t wake Akaashi.”
Kei squints into the darkness, patting his bedside table for his glasses, “Nice to know I’m your second choice.”
“Aw, it’s not like that. It’s just that… you know. Akaashi has a good bedside manner.”
“And I don’t?” Kuroo-san stays silent, “Fine. Do you need me to come over?”
“Yes, please. Also, do you have any bottled water by chance? Oh, and some painkillers.”
“Yeah… I- quick question.”
“Uh… where does Oikawa-san live?”
Kuroo-san pauses for a long moment, “What?”
“I don’t know where his apartment is,” Kei says, trying to decide whether he should get dressed or just go in his pajamas.
“Are you kidding me?”
Another long pause, “He lives two doors down from you.”
“Yeah. Apartment 213.”
“I- stop laughing!”
Kuroo-san keeps laughing.
“Sorry, I’m just- that’s so fucking funny.” He wheezes. Kei’s eye twitches.
“Shut it, or I leave you to deal with Oikawa-san alone.” He warns. Kuroo-san stops laughing.
“You wouldn’t.” He says.
Immediately upon arriving at apartment 213 – which is, indeed, just two doors down from Kei’s apartment at 211 – Kei notices three things:
- That the door is completely unlocked.
- The apartment itself is covered floor to ceiling with picture frames – most of which contain photos of Oikawa-san and Iwaizumi-san looking impossibly happy together. Kei decides not to think about this too much for the time being.
- It sounds like a stock haunted mental hospital from a cheap video game with all the groaning coming from the living room. Kei is suddenly very afraid of what he’s gotten himself into.
“Kuroo-san?” Kei whisper-shouts. He feels like a million little eyes are watching him take his shoes off in the entryway. It’s unsettling, to say the least.
“You brought water!” Kuroo-san exclaims, walking over and kissing Kei chastely on the lips. He’s really going to have to get used to that.
“Yeah, uh… is he- is that him?” Kei asks, referring to the increasingly loud groaning.
“Oh… yeah. He doesn’t deal well with pain, apparently.”
“Painkillers?” Kuroo-san asks, and Kei places the half-empty box into his open hand, “Thank god.”
“That bad, huh?”
“It’s been six hours.”
“He hasn’t slept?”
“Not for more than ten minutes.”
Kei goes to set his things down on Oikawa-san’s kitchen table while Kuroo-san attempts to get some painkillers into their patient. Kei is immediately struck by the sheer amount of cup noodles Oikawa-san owns. Every surface is covered in them, each cabinet stacked to the top with the little plastic cups - Kei may or may not spend five or so minutes verifying that fact. He is starting to think that Oikawa-san might have a problem.
“Don’t look so stunned,” Kuroo-san laughs, giving Kei a bit of a fright, “He told me once that he stocks them for the apocalypse.”
Kei frowns, “Why cup noodles? Why not, like… canned beans or something.”
Kuroo-san shrugs, “As if I ever know what’s going on in his mind.”
“This must be- it’s gotta be at least approaching the biggest collection of cup noodles like… ever. Right?”
“You’d be surprised.”
The groaning suddenly stops.
“Did he fall asleep?” Kei whispers.
“God, I hope so.”
Kei follows Kuroo-san into the living room to check.
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” Kei says, laying eyes on the ‘deathly ill’ Oikawa-san for the first time.
“He… he still looks like he could model for fucking vogue or something.”
Honestly, it pisses Kei off that Oikawa-san can look that good with no color in his face and his hair plastered to his forehead from fever sweats when Kei has to spend upwards of twenty minutes doing his hair in the morning just to look presentable. The world isn’t fair and Oikawa-san is consistently a prime example of that fact.
“Oh, yeah.” Kuroo-san sighs, “You get used to it.”
Oikawa-san is awake again within an hour.
“You know, I’m not too old to die young.” He groans, arms wrapped around himself like he’s been shot.
“Nobody’s dying,” Kei reassures him, scrolling through his phone with his back against the couch. Though one might be understandably fooled into thinking he is actually dying by the dramatic performance Oikawa-san manages to put on even in his weakened state.
“Actually, we’re all dying,” Kuroo-san says, walking into the room with a fresh fever rag for Oikawa-san’s forehead. Kei glares at him.
“Not the time.”
Oikawa-san doesn’t seem bothered, “Some of us are dying faster than others, Tetsu-chan.”
Kuroo-san smiles and carefully places the rag.
“Yeah, but you’re not one of them.” He says.
“Who’s to say?”
“Your doctor, you dramatic idiot.”
“Mean, Tetsu-chan!” Oikawa-san gasps, “And in front of your new boyfriend, no less!”
Kei very nearly drops his phone. He whips his head around to look at Kuroo-san.
“You told him?” He asks, feeling like they definitely should’ve talked about this.
Oikawa-san slowly pushes himself into a sitting position, “You didn’t have to Tetsu-chan. You two are as obvious as they come.”
“Really?” Kei asks in all seriousness.
Oikawa-san rolls his eyes, “No, not really. I saw you two kiss in my entryway. So much for subtle.”
Kei purses his lips, “Yeah… yeah, okay.”
“I’m honestly offended that you didn’t tell me, Tetsu-chan. I thought we were friends.” Oikawa-san says, pouting for effect.
“It’s been like two days. We were gonna get to it eventually.” Kuroo-san replies, looking at Kei a little apologetically.
“Hmm… Well, I don’t know how Keiji-chan and Kou-chan are going to feel about it, but I’m happy for you two.” Oikawa-san says, and Kei is kind of taken aback by how sincere he sounds.
“Now,” Oikawa-san says, clapping his hands together and wincing, “Not to be a downer or anything but I have literally never felt worse in my life.”
Kuroo-san fell asleep. Kei can’t blame him, really – he had been up for like twenty hours, and Kei himself had at least gotten a little sleep before Kuroo-san had called him at 2am. Oikawa-san curls into the fetal position to give Kuroo-san a little more room on the couch, which Kei finds kind of sweet, especially given that Oikawa-san is in the process of trying not to die of his fever (which is still worryingly high, but it’s four in the morning so there isn’t really much Kei can do about it except watch him and change his fever rag every half hour).
“Kei-chan?” Oikawa-san whispers just after Kuroo-san officially nods off.
“I love you, but if you hurt him I will not hesitate to kill you.”
Kei follows Oikawa-san’s gaze to where Kuroo-san is sleeping with his head between his knees.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Kei finds himself looking around the apartment while he waits – having never been in here before, he’s more than a little curious. The whole place is surprisingly understated for what Kei has come to expect of Oikawa-san. One might understandably not expect a cool beige and neutral toned interior from the man who shamelessly wears sequins during the daytime, but perhaps that has more to do with Iwaizumi-san having lived here once. The most unique thing about the place remains the hundreds of pictures plastering the walls. Photos ranging from Oikawa-san and Iwaizumi-san at what must be no older than four years old, all the way to high school graduation photos and more recent pictures of Oikawa-san kissing a sunburnt Iwaizumi-san on the beach.
“Curious?” Oikawa-san asks from behind him. Kei jolts, nearly knocking some of the photos on the mantle over. He spins around to face Oikawa-san, who is wearing a blanket cape and still looking as pale as a ghost.
“What are you doing up? You should be resting.” Kei chastises, feeling like he’s been caught red-handed for some reason. It’s not like he was doing anything wrong.
“Yes, but I feel like I really will die if I don’t stretch myself out a little,” Oikawa-san says. The blanket slips a little and he attempts to pull it back up, wincing at the movement.
“You’re not helping your case.” Kei replies, repositioning the blanket for him.
“You’re too kind, Kei-chan.”
Kei leads him back to the couch, replacing the fever rag and insisting that Oikawa-san drink some more water. He manages to keep it down this time, thank god. After a long silence, Oikawa-san pipes back up.
“You don’t have to be afraid to ask questions if you’re curious, Kei-chan.”
“They’re sensitive questions.”
“The most pressing ones always are.”
Kei isn’t quite sure what Oikawa-san’s motive is in doing this, but he honestly wouldn’t mind having a few of his questions answered since Oikawa-san seems so willing.
“Okay, then… why?” He asks, gesturing around the room.
“Why so many or why keep them up?”
Oikawa-san closes his eyes and smiles softly, “Ah, well the simple answer to both is that I love him.”
“Once you love someone with your whole heart like that, you never really stop.”
Kei thinks about it for a moment, “Isn’t that kind of… sad?”
“Maybe. I like to think it means that he also still loves me, somewhere deep down.”
Kei scoffs, “It’s not deep down. That guy looks like he might die every time you’re not around.”
Oikawa-san lets out a little giggle, “Is that so?”
“He literally has not showered since Sunday.”
“Well, that certainly is interesting.”
Kei takes a deep breath, “Mind if I ask another question, Oikawa-san?”
“Not at all.”
“If- well, if you love him so much and he… you know. Then why not just take him back?”
“That’s far more complicated.”
“I’ve got time.”
Chapter 18: Natural Selection
Kuroo and Tsukishima attempt to tell Akaashi and Bokuto that they're dating and Oikawa receives a letter.
Literally am an idiot and replied to the previous chapter's comments from my weird angst account, so thanks for putting up with me - the dumbest bitch alive. In any case, sorry this took a little longer I was super conflicted on whether or not I wanted to move right into the next plot point or have a more filler-y chapter so here's a mix! Thanks as always for the support!
“We could… oh! We could leave a note and just go away for a few days.” Kuroo-san suggests excitedly, as if that’s an actually decent idea.
“Are you secretly an idiot?”
“Not secretly, no.”
It’s been over a week of sneaky handholding and suspicious looks at this point, and Kei is tired of it. What should by all means have been an easy five-minute conversation ended up being a series of elaborate cover-ups and stealth operations. Why? Kei has no idea. He might be inclined to call them both idiot cowards (which might be accurate) if he weren’t already so convinced that he, at the very least, is not an idiot. Most of the time, anyway. Oikawa-san finds the whole thing very amusing, though Kei is quick to remind him that he too has yet to get to his own very important conversation regarding his relationship. He is unperturbed by this, simply replying each time with, ‘I haven’t found the right outfit yet.’
Sometimes Kei wonders how Oikawa-san has managed to survive in the real world all this time.
“If what comes out of your mouth next is not a simple, ‘just tell them’ then I don’t want to hear it.”
Kuroo-san shuts his mouth.
Kei sighs, “Why are we making this so complicated?”
“Yeah… no idea.”
“Maybe we really should just tell them. Like, just rip the band-aid off or whatever.”
Kuroo-san nods, “Okay. Okay, what if… what if we slap a condition on it? Like, ‘if we don’t do it by the end of dinner tonight, we’ll-’”
“What? Break up?”
“No! Jesus. I was going to say like watch the Minion Movie or something.”
Kei frowns, “Why would we do that?”
“Maybe we’re both idiots.”
Kei thinks for a moment.
“What are we even so afraid of?” He asks, not expecting any sort of answer. Kuroo-san is apparently unfamiliar with the concept of a rhetorical question and answers anyway.
“That our entire dynamic as a group is going to change and that they’re going to be awkward around us for as long as we’re together, or that they’ll interpret this as an ‘us and them’ situation and stop spending as much time with us under the guise of ‘allowing us alone time’ because they can’t stand spending time around a couple. Not to mention that if we break up, they’re going to have to pick sides and the entire group as we know it will fall apart.” He says, his tone serious and expression dark.
“Oh my god, why would you say that?”
“I just thought we should consider all the possibilities.”
“And your idea of ‘considering all the possibilities’ jumped right into apocalyptic, friendship-ruining territory why?”
Kuroo-san shrugs, “Yeah, I don’t have very much control over my own trains of thought.”
“Okay… on that note, I think we should consider that the most probable possibility is that they won’t mind at all and everything will be fine.” Kei says, attempting to comfort himself as well after Kuroo-san’s terrifying trip off the deep end.
“When did you become such an optimist?” Kuroo-san teases.
“When you decided to take my role as pessimist. Balance has to be restored somehow.” Kei replies.
“Fair enough. So… dinner tonight?”
“What? To tell them?”
Kei takes a deep breath, “I… Yeah, okay. Dinner then.”
“No Minion Movie?” Kuroo-san asks, sounding a little disappointed. Kei narrows his eyes.
“Do you actually just want to watch the Minion Movie?”
“I may or may not be a little curious.”
“You may or may not be insufferable.”
Something else came up.
“Oh my god,” Akaashi-san says, looking as if he’s on the verge of passing out.
Kuroo-san leans in for a closer look, “I like it!”
“Honestly?” Kei chimes in, “I kinda like it too.”
“See, Akaashi? Tsukki and Kuro like it!”
Akaashi-san is not swayed in the least.
“Oh my god.” He says again, “You’re literally a preschool teacher! This- this is so stupid I don’t even know what to say. I’m… oh my god.”
Bokuto-san got his eyebrow pierced. Why? Kei has no idea. But it really does look good. Sort of… dangerous and edgy. Admittedly not the sort of look one might want in their young child’s preschool teacher, but it is what it is.
“It’ll be fine, Akaashi! I’ll just take it out for school!”
Akaashi-san looks up at the ceiling as if to appeal to some higher power for strength. It doesn’t work, apparently.
“You know what?” He says, throwing his hands up, “I’m not dealing with this. This isn’t my problem, and I’m not dealing with it.”
“Good for you, Akaashi-san!” Kei says, and Bokuto-san looks betrayed.
“Whose side are you even on?” Kuroo-san asks.
Kei shrugs, “I’m a neutral party.”
“That wasn’t very neutral,” Bokuto-san grumbles.
“Hey, I already said I liked it. Support for both parties technically makes me neutral.”
“Actually,” Akaashi-san says, having managed his don’t-care attitude for all of ten seconds, “What made you think this was a good idea?”
“I don’t know,” Bokuto-san says sincerely. Kei admires his nerve.
Akaashi-san’s jaw goes slack for a moment. He attempts to say something a few times – each time stopping on the first syllable out of frustration or maybe just pure disbelief. Eventually, he just presses his lips into a thin line, nods, and walks into their bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
“He’ll get over it,” Kuroo-san says, though he doesn’t sound convinced.
Akaashi-san refuses to look at or talk to Bokuto-san directly at dinner, even when Bokuto-san compliments his creative use of chicken nuggets in a stir-fry. Kei has to bite his bottom lip to keep from laughing at the childish display more than once, and most of all when Akaashi-san gets up to fetch his bag from the room and dumps over a dozen tiny takeaway salt packets out onto the table just to avoid asking Bokuto-san to pass the salt shaker. Frankly, Kei has all but completely forgotten that he and Kuroo-san were meant to tell Akaashi-san and Bokuto-san about their dating until Akaashi-san accidentally reminds him again.
“So, will Kuroo-san be spending the night with Tsukishima-kun again tonight?”
The question catches Kei a little off guard.
“Um… maybe?” He says, looking to Kuroo-san for confirmation only to be met with the very encouraging sight of his boyfriend stuffing food into his mouth and holding it in his cheeks like a chipmunk. Kei shakes his head at him and is only slightly comforted by the fact that Kuroo-san at least has the decency to look a little ashamed about it. Bokuto-san seems to be trying not to laugh for fear of choking on the food stored in his own cheeks.
“Well, it’s nice to see that you and Kuroo-san have become so close,” Akaashi-san says, ignoring the (very on brand) stupid and reckless activities of his roommates. Kei wonders what it must have been like for him in the time before Kei arrived, when he’d been left alone to deal with this. He might ask someday.
“Uhm… yes. We, uh- we sure are… close. In fact, it could be said that- oh my god would you like to eat like a normal person? If you guys choke, I’m not even going to attempt to save you.”
Kuroo-san opens his mouth and lets the food fall onto the table all at once, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his hoodie. Kei begins rubbing his temples. Honestly, he isn’t sure he wants Akaashi-san to know that he has chosen to date such an idiot. Bokuto-san follows Kuroo-san’s lead less successfully, ending up with chewed-up stir-fry all over his lap.
Kei can see what little light was left in Akaashi-san’s eyes fading, but Akaashi-san still manages to stand his ground in ignoring Bokuto-san. His self-discipline is, as always, extremely impressive.
“As nice as it is that you guys have once again managed to avoid natural selection, if you don’t clean this up real quick, I am going to puke,” Kei says, averting his eyes. Akaashi-san seems to have abandoned this plane entirely in an attempt to hang on to his sanity if his vacant looking at the wall is any indication.
“I should’ve gone to Sendai for the weekend with Iwaizumi-san.” Akaashi-san muses. Kei can only pat his hand comfortingly.
Oikawa-san receives the first letter just after Iwaizumi-san returns on Sunday afternoon. Kei knows this because the man is knocking on his door with such enthusiasm that Kei is half concerned the neighbors really will complain this time.
“What?” Kei asks the second he opens his door. Oikawa-san invites himself in with the confidence of someone who has never had to face a single consequence for his actions in his entire life.
“I need you to tell me what to do.” He says, flopping onto the couch like he owns it.
“I told you my life story last week and Tetsu-chan is too soft to give me a proper opinion.”
“Hey!” Kuroo-san says, returning from the kitchen with his tea.
“I love you, darling, but it’s true,” Oikawa-san says.
Kei crosses his arms, “Fine. What is it?”
Oikawa-san holds the piece of paper up over his head. Kuroo-san takes it from him and brings it over to where Kei is standing so that they can read it together. It’s a double-sided wall of text.
“Oh my god,” Kei says once he’s finished reading five minutes later. He might have finished faster, were it not for the fact that Kuroo-san apparently reads at a snail’s pace, but that’s neither here nor there. For now, Kei looks to Oikawa-san, “He really does love you, huh?”
The letter reads like something out of a Shakespeare play (but with normal language, thank god – Kei honestly wouldn’t put it past someone who dated Oikawa-san for seven years to be dramatic enough to actually write it with Shakespearean language). Kei might even have cried if he had a little less pride.
He takes the page from Kuroo-san and scans over it again.
If I could live forever, I’d spend the whole time loving you.
“Okay, I’m sorry that is literally the sweetest thing I have ever read,” Kuroo-san says.
Oikawa-san sighs, “Right?”
“Yeah, it’s certainly… something.” Kei says, walking over to the couch and handing the letter back to Oikawa-san, who immediately clutches it to his chest like it might fly away.
“So, what should I do?” He asks.
“Didn’t we agree that you were going to talk to him anyway? You said you were going to talk to him.” Kei says.
“Yes, but in a tough love sort of way! I can’t do that now! I’ll melt right into his big, manly arms!”
Kei rolls his eyes, “Look, it’s clear to me that this is going to happen eventually. You might as well make it short and sweet and figure the rest out later.”
“I wonder if he’ll send me another one if I ignore him?” Oikawa-san ponders out loud.
“What is wrong with you?” Kei asks.
“Plenty, but that’s a whole different 4am conversation, Kei-chan,” Oikawa-san says with a wink.
“Just… go talk to him.” Kei says, exasperated.
“Fine,” Oikawa-san pouts, looking the letter over again, “Tomorrow.”
"Is that a promise?" Kuroo-san asks.
"That is indeed a promise, Tetsu-chan. Now, how's the telling Keiji-chan and Kou-chan thing going?"
"Oh boy," Kuroo-san says.
Kei can only agree.
Chapter 19: A Light in the Dark
Akaashi pays Tsukishima a long overdue visit, and Tsukishima re-realizes a few things that make him feel weird.
Tsukishima Kei is not afraid of the dark. He sleeps with the bathroom lights on so that he can find his glasses when he wakes up in the middle of the night to pee, and definitely not because he’s afraid of the dark. Because he isn’t.
In any case, it’s dark. As in pitch black, all-consuming, soul-sucking dark. And Kei is only a little afraid.
He’d decided to take a nap around 3pm when he’d really started feeling the all-nighter he’d pulled to get his sociology essay done. Unfortunately for him, he slept three hours too long and its now 8pm and capital D dark. Which doesn’t concern him in the least.
Not two seconds after Kei has finally come to terms with his own mortality, a loud knock on his front door tears the most high-pitched scream he’s ever heard in his life from his own throat. Kei honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he’d woken the whole neighborhood up, but the knocker seems undisturbed by his outburst. After having regulated his heart beat once again, Kei attempts to switch on a light on his way to answer the door.
“What the fuck?”
The light won’t switch on. He tries a different switch, only to be met with the same result. The knocking is persistent.
“I’m coming!” He yells, stumbling to the front door like a newborn foal. Upon opening said door, Kei is faced with Akaashi-san’s blurry figure and the realization that he’d forgotten to put his glasses on in his panic.
“Tsukishima-kun, are you alright?” Akaashi-san asks softly, almost as though he expects that Kei might be startled by any loud sounds – like a wild rabbit or something.
“Um… yes? Yes, thank you. I’m just fine.”
God, Akaashi-san probably heard him scream. That would make sense.
“I, um… I just heard you-”
“Yes, that was… it’s- the lights aren’t working.” Kei stammers. He has to wonder what exactly it is about Akaashi-san that makes him forget how to speak every time.
“Oh, yes. The electricity went out not too long ago,” Akaashi-san explains, “That’s partly the reason for my visit. I… well, Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are out and I- it’s dark. I thought, maybe… if you don’t mind-”
“Of course, yes. I… honestly, I’d have probably come down there myself in a minute if you hadn’t already come up.”
They have to sit in the dark on Kei’s couch, and Kei doesn’t bother putting his glasses on because they’d be all but completely useless anyway. Akaashi-san doesn’t comment on his naked face.
“Where’s Iwaizumi-san?” Kei asks for lack of anything better to say. He already knows that Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are off planning Akaashi-san’s birthday celebration (though what they could possibly be doing at this time of night is a mystery). He really wishes he could see Akaashi-san’s facial expressions.
“As far as I know, he’s still with Oikawa-san.”
“Ah. Then I’d venture to suggest their talk either went very, very well or very, very badly.”
“Should we check for a body?” Akaashi-san jokes.
“I’d give it at least another twenty-four hours.”
Akaashi-san lets out a breathy little laugh, and Kei finds himself smiling as well. A short silence follows before Akaashi-san sighs and Kei hears him lean back into the couch.
“I hope they’re happy,” Akaashi-san says.
“I have no doubt that they will be, if that letter was anything to go by.”
Kei pauses for a moment, “Did Oikawa-san not tell you?”
“I don’t believe he did.”
Kei considers for a moment whether or not he should tell Akaashi-san himself, given that Oikawa-san hadn’t – though he doesn’t think it’s classified information. He decides that it’s probably alright to say. He’s already indicated that the letter exists anyway.
“Iwaizumi-san wrote Oikawa-san a letter yesterday. A very… romantic letter, I guess you could say.”
“Oh, wow.” Akaashi-san says, “I wonder what it said.”
“I don’t remember much of it, but-”
“You read it?”
“Oikawa-san showed it to me. He needed advice, I guess.” Kei shrugs, though he’s quite sure Akaashi-san can’t see either, so the gesture means almost nothing, “I don’t think I was much help.”
Akaashi-san stays silent for a long moment.
“You’re quite close with him too, then.” He says, his tone a little off. Kei wishes he could see.
“I guess you could say that.”
Kei hears Akaashi-san shift in his seat again. He frowns.
“Anyway, you were saying?” Akaashi-san says, his tone lighter now.
“Oh… yeah. I don’t remember much of it, but there was this one line… what was it? Um- oh! If I could live forever, I’d spend the whole time loving you – or something like that anyway. Surprisingly cheesy, but quite sweet I think.”
“Yes… quite sweet.”
Kei doesn’t know what to say after that. He somehow feels as though he’s said something wrong, or that Akaashi-san seems a little strange. He can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that makes him feel that way, so he doesn’t bring it up.
It’s probably all in his mind anyway.
The lights come back on just after 10pm. Kei physically recoils at how bright they are – he might’ve hissed too if he had a little less self-control. Akaashi-san lets out a bit of a chuckle at his dramatic display.
“You’re not wearing your glasses.” He says when he stops laughing. He sounds a little surprised. Now that the lights are back on, Kei curses his past self for his poor decision making – despite all the light he could hope for, Kei can still barely make out Akaashi-san’s facial expressions.
“Yeah, I woke up just before you came so I didn’t see any need for them.” He explains.
“It really was very dark.” Akaashi-san agrees.
“I’ll, uh- I’ll just go put them on then.”
As much time as he’d been spending with Kuroo-san lately, Kei had kind of forgotten how much he liked Akaashi-san. It seems strange to him, as he puts his glasses on and stares at himself in the mirror for a moment, that it’s been less than two weeks. It feels like it’s been years, but also like no time has passed at all. He wonders if Akaashi-san feels the same.
“Maybe I should-” Akaashi-san says as Kei exits his bedroom, gesturing toward the door.
Kei misses him all of a sudden, even before he’s left.
“If you want to, I… You can stay, if- since nobody else is home. You don’t have to! I’m just- you can, if you want.”
Akaashi-san smiles, and Kei is so glad to be able to see it. Akaashi-san has the cutest little dimple on the left side of his mouth that’s only visible when he smiles like that.
“Okay.” He says, his voice almost too soft for Kei to hear, “If you’ll have me.”
“Tea?” Kei asks quickly. He’s walking toward the kitchen before Akaashi-san can answer. He hears Akaashi-san follow.
“It’s been a while,” Akaashi-san says, and Kei knows then that he felt it too. All of the time that Kei might otherwise have spent in their apartment spent in his with Kuroo-san – time Kei wouldn’t have spent any other way, but that he feels the absence of anyway. The feeling settles deep in his chest, that he’s missed something important. He doesn’t understand it at all.
“Not too long.” He insists, mostly to himself. The kitchen feels like it’s still so far away.
“Long enough for me to miss it.”
Kei doesn’t know what to say, or if there even is anything to say.
“I’m glad to see that you’re keeping proper food now,” Akaashi-san says, sitting at Kei’s kitchen table with his tea. Kei has a bit of déjà vu looking at him.
“Yeah, Kuroo-san is super pedantic about that kind of thing, so it was just easier to do what he wanted than to argue with him.”
“He spends a lot of time here lately.”
Kei clears his throat, “Uh, yeah. I guess he does.”
Kei really wishes he could read minds at times like these. Akaashi-san is strangely direct with his words but almost never with his intentions, and it makes Kei nervous.
“Yeah, it is. Really… nice.”
In the battle of wits between Kei and Akaashi-san, Kei will almost certainly lose. He knows this. Not because Akaashi-san is necessarily smarter than he is, but because Kei is almost comically stupid when it comes to feelings. And god, does he have a lot of them right now.
“If Kuroo-san were to…” Akaashi-san begins, “That is if you two-”
Kei feels himself go into panic mode.
“Um, cup noodles! Do you want any? I’ve got a lot of them!” He says, loud and in rapid-fire. Akaashi-san looks momentarily stunned, but he quickly shakes it off.
“Okay. Alright, if that’s- sorry. I didn’t mean-”
“No! I- don’t worry about it, I’m just… I’m just stupid.”
“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, Tsukishima-kun,” Akaashi-san says gently. This time, Kei really does feel like he might startle at any loud noise. Or decently invasive question, apparently.
“Yeah, I… thanks. Sorry.”
Akaashi-san shakes his head, “No need.”
It should be so simple. In theory, all Kei has to do is casually mention to Akaashi-san that he and Kuroo-san are together. But the mere thought makes him want to puke from nerves. He feels weird. He often doesn’t understand his own feelings, but this time…
He wants to talk to Kuroo-san or Yamaguchi. Maybe even Oikawa-san. Though it’s always a coin toss as to whether speaking to Oikawa-san will get you actual advice from the man who sometimes speaks with the wisdom of someone who has lived one hundred lives, or the complete buffoon who’ll just fucking laugh at you for daring to have a feeling in the first place. That guy genuinely makes Kei feel like he might be going crazy.
“Tsukishima-kun?” Akaashi-san asks, and Kei feels a gentle hand on his back. He’s been staring into his cup noodles like they might give him all the answers he needs for god knows how long, which… probably looked a little weird to Akaashi-san. His glasses have fogged up.
“Oh, yes. I was just thinking. Sorry.”
Akaashi-san frowns, “Are you okay?”
Kei takes his glasses off to clean with the bottom of his shirt, “That’s debatable.”
“Do you… we can talk about it if you want.”
“Yeah… that’s- it’s complicated.”
Kei nearly gags at the fact that he’s become the type of person who says ‘it’s complicated’ in reference to anything, let alone his own itty-bitty little feelings. The difference six months can make is wild.
“Alright, um… how about you speak in hypotheticals? That way you don’t have to spill absolutely everything.”
Kei thinks about it for a moment, putting his glasses back on and looking at Akaashi-san’s earnest face. What’s the worst that could happen?
“Okay. Say there’s these two people, right? Um… god, I can’t think of any names.”
Akaashi-san teepees his fingers in thought, “How about… do you have any friends?”
Kei isn’t sure if that was meant to be an insult or not. Either way, it stings a little more than Kei would care to admit.
“Okay, uh… say Yamaguchi met a group of people, and he got super close with them over time, right? And one day he, um… he started liking one of them a little more than he should have.” Kei pauses, “Um… I don’t know if this is going to work. It’s like… way too obvious.”
Akaashi-san stares into his own cup noodles for a minute.
“If it makes you feel any better,” He says, “I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
“You will if I keep going.” Kei sighs.
Akaashi-san looks up from his noodles, “Is that… would that be such a bad thing?”
“Let’s just say that there’s a fifty-fifty chance that if I keep going all of you are going to hate me.”
“I don’t think that’s even possible, Tsukishima-kun.”
“What if I murdered somebody?”
“I’m sure there would be a good reason for it.”
Kei laughs despite the growing pit in his stomach.
“I… I’ll tell you after your birthday, okay? I want us to have that, just in case.”
Akaashi-san smiles a sad little smile that makes Kei feel like the worst person in the world.
“Okay, but I want you to believe that I won’t hate you. No matter what.”
Kei nods, “I want to believe that.”
Next time: Akaashi's birthday is somehow the event of the year despite having very tough competition.
Chapter 20: Pavlovian Bullshit Conditioning (Akaashi's Birthday Part 1)
Tsukishima entrusted the planning for Akaashi's birthday to the wrong people.
Happy (belated) birthday to one of my favorite boys! Feedback is as always appreciated!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What the fuck is this?” Kei asks in total disbelief.
Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san shoot up off the floor of the apartment building’s common room, the looks on their faces clearly those of two people who know they’ve been caught red-handed.
“I know how this looks,” Kuroo-san begins, holding his hands up in front of him defensively. Kei raises an eyebrow, “I-”
“It looks bad, Kuroo-san.” Kei finishes for him, growing more and more livid by the second, “It looks like an absolute disaster.”
Kuroo-san presses his lips into a thin line and nods, “Yeah, it… it’s not exactly-”
“I left you two in charge because you told me you could handle it. ‘Tsukki’ you said, ‘Tsukki we’ve got it all under control. You get your essay done, we’ll take care of it!’ Isn’t that what you said?”
“But nothing! We’ve got…” Kei takes a look at the time on his phone. He feels faint, “Four fucking hours to make this work and we’ve got… what? Nothing!”
“Not nothing!” Bokuto-san insists, the flimsy smile on his face wavering, “Oikawa gave us balloons!”
Kei looks over at the pile of barely inflated ‘balloons’ in the corner of the room. He feels like he might have an aneurysm where he stands.
“Bokuto-san, I want you to look me in the eye and tell me what those are.”
Bokuto-san looks to Kuroo-san for help, but his friend just shakes his head.
“Balloon?” Bokuto-san squeaks, looking nearly on the verge of tears.
Kuroo-san is still shaking his head.
“No, Bokuto-san.” Kei says slowly, trying his darndest to remain calm, “Those are not balloons. Kuroo-san?”
Kuroo-san stiffens at the mention of his name.
“Kuroo-san, can you tell Bokuto-san what those are?”
Kuroo-san closes his eyes and audibly swallows before looking to the boy beside him and whispering almost unintelligibly the word, “Condoms.”
“What?” Kei asks, leaning forward, “What was that? I couldn’t quite hear you.”
“They’re blown up condoms,” Kuroo-san says, much louder this time. Kei smiles his most sickly-sweet smile and turns to Bokuto-san as well.
“Condoms, Bokuto-san. That’s what those are. But you knew that already.”
This is almost entirely Kei’s fault. He knows this. Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are agents of chaos and destruction by nature and there was no way in hell they were going to make this work. Kei was dumb enough to fall for their puppy dog eyes and insistence that they were capable of planning an entire event without the supervision of either Kei or Akaashi-san and there’s no way around taking the blame for it.
Kei takes a look around the mostly empty room, tearing through every metaphorical file and cabinet in his brain for a solution. He almost laughs when he sees the badly made banner with just the word ‘BIRTH’ written on it lying discarded on the floor amongst the condom balloons like the worn battle flag of the losing side in a war. The war between Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san’s chaos halves and their good intentions.
Kei takes a deep breath.
“Okay.” He says, turning his attention back to Thing 1 and Thing 2, “We’ve still got four hours, right?”
They nod in unison.
“Okay. I… we’re going to make this work.”
“We’re really sorry, Tsukki-” Bokuto-san says, but Kei raises his index finger to stop him.
“We don’t have time for apologies, Bokuto-san. We only have time for ideas.”
They descend upon the mall like a pack of ravenous animals with Kei in the lead. Bokuto-san makes a comment in passing about how he used to work in one of the boutiques, but Kei shushes him with the assertion that they do not have the time for anecdotes. Kei takes Bokuto-san with him, leaving Kuroo-san to his own devices with the hope that the fear Kei had managed to strike into his boyfriend’s heart earlier would be enough to keep him in line without supervision.
Bokuto-san is a whole other beast – one that Kei isn’t even certain he can handle alone, but he has no choice for the moment. Plus, Bokuto-san himself is still working through the mood he’s been in since Kei reprimanded them earlier so he’s more manageable (in the absolute loosest sense of the word).
After their split up, Kei’s adrenaline and confidence run dry.
Despite his unwavering and, on occasion, extremely guilty infatuation with Akaashi-san, Kei is faced with the difficult realization that he knows next to jack shit about the guy. The only vaguely useful piece of information he has is that Akaashi-san likes those mini umbrellas they sometimes put into cocktails, so Kei (in his desperation) puts his pride aside and turns to his shopping companion for help.
“Bokuto-san,” He says, grabbing the other man’s shoulders and looking into his glassy eyes, “You know Akaashi-san the best, so I need you to tell me what to do here.”
Kei can see the gears turning in Bokuto-san’s head and he wonders if perhaps the request was a little too broad.
“Akaashi…” Bokuto-san muses, his eyebrows knitted together, “He…”
“Take your time.”
“He likes to draw! And he’s like, really good at it. Oikawa’s his favorite for that but he draws really nice pictures of all of us.” Just before Kei can stop him and insist that he cut non-essential information, Bokuto-san finishes the thought in a more than surprising way, “He really likes drawing pictures of you lately, actually.”
As Bokuto-san pauses to think of something else to say, Kei is overtaken by an indescribable feeling of… something. He knows that Akaashi-san draws as a hobby – he’s seen him do it sometimes, sketchbook out on a rainy day while they all sit around and do nothing for a few hours – but he didn’t know that Akaashi-san draws him . He isn’t even sure what to do with that information.
“And he really likes the holidays – all of them. Like, Valentine's day, Christmas, Halloween. All of it. But I think that’s just ‘cause he never really got to celebrate those as a kid.” Bokuto-san continues, biting the inside of his cheek every so often when he gets stuck, “Oh, yeah! He likes music on vinyl and all of that super retro stuff. He even makes mixtapes sometimes, but he made me promise not to tell.”
It takes him a moment, but Bokuto-san realizes his mistake with a grimace, “Forget I said that?”
Kei can’t help a bit of a smile at how endearingly stupid that is.
“Lucky for you, today happens to be ‘don’t tell Akaashi-san about any of this’ day.” He says, resisting the urge to wink. He really needs to spend less time with Oikawa-san.
“Wow, kind of a weird coincidence that that’s the day before his birthday, huh?”
Endearingly stupid suits Bokuto-san just fine, Kei thinks.
In a shocking turn of events, Kuroo-san managed to get himself detained by mall security all by himself while Kei and Bokuto-san had an adequately uneventful and productive shopping excursion. Bokuto-san seems more than a little chuffed that it wasn’t him this time.
Kei is anything but chuffed.
“I have half a mind to leave you in there,” Kei says, looking at his pathetic boyfriend through the thin just-for-show bars of mall jail.
“Tsukiiii,” Kuroo-san whines, squishing his face between the bars as far as it’ll go (which ends up making him look like the world’s dumbest blowfish), “It was an accident, I swear!”
“Tell that to mall security.”
“It’s okay bro, we’ll get you outta there! Dead or alive!” Bokuto-san yells, well within earshot of the mall security that had taken Kuroo-san in in the first place. Thankfully, they seem relatively unperturbed by Bokuto-san’s outburst.
“Alive, please,” Kuroo-san says, desperation straining his voice.
Kei would laugh if they weren’t already behind schedule.
“Okay, what’s it gonna take to get him out of there?” Kei asks the nearest security guy. The bleach blonde hair and piercings the guy is sporting instantly profile him as not worth arguing with in Kei’s mind. If he puts up a fight, Kei has other options boyfriend-wise and Kuroo-san will just have to adjust to the life of a convict.
“Honestly? He can walk.” The guys says, his nonchalant gum chewing getting on Kei’s nerves a little.
Kei feels his eye twitch, “Why detain him in the first place if you’re just going to let him go?”
The guy blows a huge bubble and lets it pop, “Look, I don’t have any reason to keep him much longer for a minor misdemeanor. If you wanna take him, take him. If you don’t… I don’t know. I just don’t want him here anymore. The dude cries too much. He’s not worth it.”
“Hey! I cried the normal amount!”
“What did you even do?” Kei asks. Kuroo-san looks at the ground.
“He knocked four sales racks over and the assistant sales manager said that he looked shady.” The security guy supplies. Kei feels the corner of his mouth being tugged into an amused smile.
Kuroo-san is not amused.
“Tsukki! It’s not funny!”
“Is it the hair? Did she think he was shady because of the hair?” Kei asks, ignoring his boyfriend’s complaints, “Or maybe the delinquent face? The ripped jeans?”
“This is defamation!”
“I think you mean slander.” Kei corrects. Kuroo-san doesn’t seem to appreciate it.
“Hey, can we keep the handcuffs?” Bokuto-san asks, forcefully jingling the restraint connecting Kuroo-san’s wrist to the bars.
“Sure. Want me to tase ya too?” The security guy asks, suddenly a lot more interested in his guests.
“God, please don’t encourage him,” Kei says. He is thoroughly ignored.
“Nah, I’m immune.”
“Haha, no way! That’s sick!”
“Not to rain on this parade or anything,” Kei says, a little louder and with more authority, “But we really don’t have the time for this. So, if you could kindly uncuff my, uh… associate here, that’d be great.”
“Yeah, yeah. Don’t get your panties in a twist.” Security guys says, waving Kei off dismissively.
Never in his life has Kei wanted to see someone else on the receiving end of a taser so badly.
Upon being released (minus the cuff hanging loosely off his left wrist), Kuroo-san apparently feels the need to attach himself to Kei’s side like a small child would with his mother. Kei is too busy watching Bokuto-san get tased to mind it too much.
“I’m a hardened criminal now, baby,” Kuroo-san says amongst the wonderful ambient sounds of crackling electricity and laughing.
“Yeah, and you’ll be single too if you don’t pick your idiot friend up off the ground so we can leave.” Kei warns.
“Okay, yeah. I respect that.”
Some might be tempted to say, looking around the now fully decorated and catered for common room, that Kei pulled a miracle out of his ass in a matter of four short hours. Kei’s blood, sweat, and tears (and maybe Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san’s as well) might be inclined to disagree. In any case, they managed it. A semi-retro themed birthday party with no condom balloons in sight.
Kei feels like he might pass out from a mixture of exhaustion and relief.
“How did you two even get this done last year?” Kei asks, bent over one of the foldable tables they’d set up for snacks.
“Iwaizumi and Oikawa used to plan all the group events.” Kuroo-san says in between puffs of blowing up a real balloon. The handcuffs still attached to his wrist jingle every so often as a reminder that the three of them were collectively dumb enough not to get the key from bleach blonde security guy. Every jingle pisses Kei off anew, like some sort of Pavlovian bullshit conditioning.
All of the balloons have ‘80’ printed on them in giant white print, but they were the only ones that went with the color scheme Kei had in mind, so Akaashi-san will just have to deal with it.
“Damn, that’s… kind of unexpected.” Kei says. He isn’t really sure what else to say.
“Bo, that’s not how you tie a balloon,” Kuroo-san says, getting up to help his friend – who is busy attempting to tie the balloon by biting the end for some reason (Kei’s understanding of the logic behind Bokuto-san’s actions is extremely limited), “Here, like this. Wait, no!”
Kei hears one more jingle before an ominous clicking sound silences the room.
“You didn’t.” Kei says, already certain that Bokuto-san did the unthinkable before he can witness it for himself. Kuroo-san moves out of Kei’s view and holds his left wrist up.
“He did.” Kuroo-san says solemnly.
Bokuto-san’s arm hangs loosely from the handcuff connecting his right wrist to Kuroo-san’s left.
P.S: This chapter was edited by the lovely Dumbestdragon! Thank you so much for all the support!
Chapter 21: A Birthday Wish (Akaashi's Birthday Part 2)
Akaashi's birthday party commences and Tsukishima is forced to confront a few things long before he thought he'd have to.
Once again edited and beta'd by Dumbestdragon! Thanks a ton!
Kei takes a moment to stare at the product of this terrible, no good, very bad day. He looks first at Kuroo-san’s face – the face of disappointed acceptance. He looks at Bokuto-san’s face – the face of confusion, mostly. He looks at their joined wrists, hanging loosely between them. Finally, he looks to the ceiling, searching desperately inside himself for even a fraction of the acceptance and patience his poor boyfriend has.
He is sadly completely out of stock of both.
Kuroo-san sighs heavily, “Bo, for fuck’s sake. Why’d you do that?”
Bokuto-san takes a moment to consider the question, and then another to stare dumbly at the consequences of his actions.
“I… don’t know.” He says with a shrug. Kuroo-san yanks uselessly at the chain connecting them with this look on his face that kind of makes Kei want to laugh, but also kind of makes him want to cry.
Of all of the things Kei had expected to have to deal with – and oh boy, was his mental list of possible scenarios ever extensive – this (shockingly enough) had not been one of them. Kei wants to take his past self by the shoulders and shake him for not seeing this coming.
“Your impulse control is worse than that of a toddler.” He says, being absolutely sure to look Bokuto-san in the eye as he says it.
Bokuto-san just shrugs again.
On the other hand, Kei thinks, this might not actually be so bad. Now that Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are handcuffed together, they only count as one person. That’s half the troublemakers that Kei used to have to deal with. Half the locations he has to be aware of. Half the search time.
A serene smile finds its way onto his face.
“Hey, Tsukki? Are you okay?” Kuroo-san asks apprehensively.
“Never better, Kuroo-san.” Kei replies, still smiling.
“Think we broke him?” Bokuto-san asks, nudging Kuroo-san with his elbow. The sound of the handcuff chain jingling is music to Kei’s ears.
Kuroo-san narrows his eyes at his companion, “We? I think you mean you!”
“Hey, I think you’re forgetting whose handcuffs these are in the first place!” Bokuto-san says, yanking the chain.
“Sorry if I don’t interpret an accident and poor profiling as on par with deliberately handcuffing yourself to someone!”
Kei feels his hard-earned serenity slipping from his grasp.
“You’re the one who brought an open handcuff near me! What was I supposed to do?”
“Not fucking handcuff yourself to me!?”
“Now that’s just unrealistic.”
“Are you stupid or something?”
Kei slaps his hand down on the table, “You’re both stupid and that’s final.”
“Tsukki! That’s not fair!” Kuroo-san complains.
“Life isn’t fair.”
“Come on! Where’s that optimistic attitude gone?”
“It died along with your dignity when I caught you two blowing up condoms earlier.”
Kuroo-san takes a pause.
“He’s got a point,” Bokuto-san says.
“Shut up! I refuse to take criticism from you of all people right now.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bokuto-san asks, attempting to take a step back only to be caught by the handcuff chain.
“It means that I’m handcuffed to the world’s biggest idiot!”
“The both of you better shut the fuck up before I decide that this is my fight to end,” Kei warns through gritted teeth, his patience completely run out.
The room falls blessedly silent as Dumb and Dumber turn (as best they can with the handcuffs restricting their movements) to look at each other.
“Sorry dude. I shouldn’t have said that.” Kuroo-san says softly.
“Nah, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have handcuffed myself to you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Kuroo-san brings his right hand up, “Wanna know something?”
“Sure,” Bokuto-san replies, bringing his left hand up to join Kuroo-san’s right. They intertwine their fingers.
“There’s literally nobody I’d rather be handcuffed to right now,” Kuroo-san says, looking into his friend’s eyes meaningfully.
“Stop, dude. I’m gonna cry.”
Kei almost gags.
“I love you, Bo.”
“I love you too!”
What follows is the most awkward attempt at a hug Kei has ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san free their previously joined hands, each sliding his arm around the other. Their cuffed hands are forced into a weird angled join, leaving them in a pose not dissimilar to that of ballroom dancers.
“Oh my god. You two are disgusting.”
“No need to be jealous, Tsukki. C’mere!” Kuroo-san says, opening the ‘hug’ for Kei to join.
“Come on, Tsukki!” Bokuto-san prompts.
The puppy dog eyes make a frustratingly convincing reappearance.
“Fine, but I’m not going to like it.” Kei huffs, walking toward his idiots and becoming a part of the idiot sandwich himself.
Kuroo-san lays his head on Kei’s shoulder, and Bokuto-san squishes his face against Kei’s cheek.
“I looooveee you, Tsukki.” Kuroo-san says.
“Mmm, me too. I love you to the moon and back.” Bokuto-san adds.
Kei may have spoken too soon when he said he wouldn’t like it.
Akaashi-san, having spent the entire day with his sister, is not amongst the first to arrive to his own birthday celebration. Nor is Oikawa-san, despite literally living in the very same building the party is being hosted in. Something about being fashionably late, Kei is certain.
When Oikawa-san does arrive, his eyes immediately lock onto the handcuffs – even as Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san are all the way across the room talking to Tanaka-san animatedly. Kei really doesn't want to think about the implications of Oikawa-san's handcuff-senses.
“Is that some sort of kinky sex thing?” Oikawa-san asks, a little too much hope in his voice for Kei’s liking.
“Honestly, it would be less embarrassing if it was.” Kei replies.
“Aw, it’s not? And here I was thinking you all had finally made some progress.”
Kei refuses to ask for clarification on what exactly that is supposed to mean, so he turns instead to Oikawa-san’s accompanying emotional support bastard.
“You look… interesting, Iwaizumi-san.” He says, eyeing the clearly oversized cheetah print dress shirt the man is wearing with a level of baffled amusement that Iwaizumi-san clearly does not appreciate.
“Tooru threw out all of the clothes I left here.” He explains sullenly, tugging at the bottom of the shirt in discomfort.
Oikawa-san doesn’t seem phased in the least, dazzling smile firmly fixed on his face. He himself is wearing a lovely bedazzled suit jacket over a t-shirt that reads, ‘It’s Britney Bitch!’.
“Well,” Kei says, averting his gaze from the pair as politely as he can, “Enjoy, uh… this.”
Oikawa-san immediately drags Iwaizumi-san toward the alcoholic punch.
“Are they-” Kuroo-san starts, having dragged his own partner over to where Kei is standing almost as soon as their conversation had ended.
“Yeah… no clue. I chose not to ask.” Kei says, staring after the pair and watching as Iwaizumi-san almost chokes on his first sip of punch. Oikawa-san gets a pretty solid scowl aimed at him for laughing.
“I’m gonna vote yes.”
Kuroo-san continues looking at Iwaizumi-san and Oikawa-san long after Kei has lost interest, and Kei finds himself looking at Kuroo-san far longer than perhaps he should given that they’re amongst company. There’s a fondness in Kuroo-san’s eyes that makes Kei smile. He can’t help it, after all – the warm feeling in his chest when he looks at Kuroo-san these days.
The unmistakable jingle of the handcuffs pulls Kei out of his lovestruck stupor, and he is suddenly made very aware that he wasn’t the only one staring.
He and Bokuto-san make eye contact for a second – only a second – and Kei feels it, deep down. He wonders if Bokuto-san does too.
Kei is only made aware of Akaashi-san’s arrival when the man himself taps Kei lightly on the shoulder.
“Akaashi-san,” Kei half-whispers (though for what reason, even he is unsure), “Hello, um… happy birthday?”
“Why are you confused?” Akaashi-san asks, appearing mildly amused.
“Why are you sneaking around?”
“I am not sneaking around . I’m just trying to avoid making a scene.”
Kei lifts an eyebrow, “Making a scene? It’s your birthday party.”
“AKAASHI!” Bokuto-san yells, running toward the man in question at near-top speed (hindered only slightly by the fully-grown man being yanked along behind him), “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
Everyone in the room turns to look at their little group. So much for not making a scene.
“Yes, thank you Bokuto-san,” Akaashi-san sighs, clearly a little annoyed at having his cover blown.
“Why didn’t you tell us you were here?” Kuroo-san asks, rubbing at his cuffed wrist after it’s sudden and violent yanking across the room. Unfortunately for him (and Bokuto-san), this little gesture catches Akaashi-san’s attention as well.
“What is that?” He asks, tone indicating in clear terms that the clown duo has gotten themselves into deep trouble.
Kuroo-san looks desperately to Kei for help. Kei smiles the smile of revenge.
“Akaashi, I-” Bokuto-san begins, eyes wide with (warranted) fear.
Kuroo-san swallows thickly and forces a smile, “Well, you see, when two people really love each other-”
“Finish that joke, Kuroo-san. I dare you.”
Kuroo-san shuts his mouth immediately.
Bokuto-san takes a shaky breath, “Okay, um… I’ll tell you if you promise not to get mad.”
“I’m not mad, Bokuto-san. I’m just disappointed.”
“That’s worse!” Bokuto-san cries. Kuroo-san’s mouth is still sealed shut.
“I’m gone for one day-”
“And we missed you terribly, Akaashi-san.” Kei says, finding it in his tiny Grinch heart to intervene. Maybe he’s been possessed by the spirit of Christmas or whatever.
Akaashi-san looks just as surprised at Kei’s act of generosity as Kei feels.
After a moment, Akaashi-san gathers himself again, “Alright. I’ll be expecting a proper explanation later though.”
Bokuto-san nods vigorously.
“Aye aye cap’n!” Kuroo-san says, attempting a salute only to have his cuffed wrist get caught halfway.
Kei lets out a long-suffering sigh, “That wasn’t worth it at all.”
Kei finds himself watching Bokuto-san more and more throughout the night. Even he isn’t sure why, exactly. Maybe it’s to prove to himself that That Look from earlier had been a fluke or a figment of his overactive imagination. Part of him wonders if it’s jealousy – though it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Not exactly like it anyway.
Maybe it’s pure scientific interest. After all, Kei knows for a fact that Kuroo-san was (or still is) in love with Bokuto-san. Kei’s own fondness for the both of them aside, knowing whether or not that love is reciprocated is important information. Right?
What would he even do if That Look wasn’t a fluke? Tell Kuroo-san?
And if he did, then what?
Regardless of reasoning or consequence, Kei watches Bokuto-san like his life depends on it. Every little interaction, every little touch and look.
Twenty minutes into his watching, Kei is certain that That Look was not a fluke. An hour in, he starts to feel a little strange. Two hours in, he has to excuse himself to the parking lot.
“You okay?” Akaashi-san asks, taking a seat next to Kei on the pavement. He’s shaking like crazy because of how cold it is, and Kei is more than a little tempted to give in to his urge to throw an arm around his shoulders to keep him warm, but that’s… well. A feeling he shouldn’t be having.
Like most of the feelings he’s currently having.
“Yeah, just… needed some air.”
“Lots of people,” Akaashi-san says, wrapping his arms around himself.
Kei nods, stretching his legs out in front of him. His breath is coming out in giant white clouds.
“Having fun?” He asks, wanting to smack himself right after for starting stupid small talk.
Akaashi-san doesn’t seem to mind.
“Plenty,” He says, throwing his head back to look at the sky, “Though I’d admittedly have preferred a more… private affair.”
“Like Kuroo-san’s?” Kei asks without thinking. His mind is immediately flooded with memories – of warm hands, slightly chapped lips and the taste of alcohol.
Kei looks up at the sky as well. Completely cloudless, and yet containing only one or two visible stars because of the light pollution. Life’s kind of a bitch sometimes, he thinks.
“Sorry about the other night.” He blurts out, feeling stupid for bringing it up at all. He can’t even blame it on the alcohol this time.
“Still afraid I’ll hate you?”
Kei hears Akaashi-san take a deep breath.
“It’s my birthday.” Akaashi-san says softly, “Can I have a wish?”
Akaashi-san takes one last, long look at the sky before turning to look at Kei with a look in those dark blue eyes that makes Kei feel like the world is ending.
Chapter 22: The Grinch Caper
Tsukishima's guilt is at an all-time high, Oikawa has questions, and it turns out that it's not illegal to have feelings.
Sorry this one took so long! I was on a trip this past week and I had about six drafts for this one before I got one that I was happy with. In any case, I hope you enjoy it!
Kei knows a lot of things.
He knows what Yamaguchi’s favorite song was when they were fifteen. He knows that Bokuto-san doesn’t have a favorite color because he can’t choose just one. He knows that Kuroo-san likes to sing in the shower and that he’s only good when he thinks nobody is listening. He knows that Akaashi-san likes to take pictures but doesn’t like to be in them.
Kei knows so, so many things.
He knows what it feels like to have Kuroo-san’s warm hands on his skin and warm breath on his back when Kei can’t sleep because the giddy happiness won’t leave him. He knows that Bokuto-san gives the best hugs in the world and that no matter how bad Kei is feeling Bokuto-san can always make him smile. He knows that Akaashi-san has the cutest little dimples when he smiles that smile that makes Kei feel like he might not be a bad person, if he can make Akaashi-san smile like that.
Kei knows so many things that sometimes he feels like his head might burst.
He knows that he isn’t drunk right now, but that Akaashi-san is. He knows that Kuroo-san and Bokuto-san are inside, handcuffed together and in love. He knows that the way Akaashi-san is looking at him right now makes him feel invincible.
And yet, it seems as though Kei can never know enough.
“Akaashi-san, I-” Kei begins, looking for all of the words he needs to say what he means.
Akaashi-san’s eyes widen for a second before he bows his head, hands clasped tight in his lap.
“Sorry, that- I’m not sure what that was. Sorry.” He says quickly. Kei feels this moment slipping through his fingers.
“No, I… no. That’s not what I meant.”
Akaashi-san looks back up at him, his eyes filled with something like fear. Kei feels it all slipping through his fingers like sand.
“What… what do you mean?” Akaashi-san asks, voice shakier than Kei has ever heard it. He knows why, and he hates himself for not being able to do anything about it. For being too much of a coward to do anything about it.
“I want to tell you so many things, Akaashi-san.” He says instead.
Akaashi-san looks back down at his clasped hands, “Why don’t you?”
He feels Akaashi-san’s feelings slipping through his fingers like water.
“Oi, Akaashi, Tsukki! It’s cold! Come inside!” Kuroo-san calls suddenly from the door to the common room.
Kei doesn’t know what his face looks like at that moment, when he hears Kuroo-san’s voice. He doesn’t know what expression he has. He doesn’t know how long they’ve been outside. He doesn’t know what Akaashi-san is thinking.
“He’s right. Let’s go inside, Tsukishima-kun.”
Kei feels like his hands are empty. Tragically, tragically empty.
You left early
Felt a bit sick.
Want me to come over?
I don’t know
Kuroo-san doesn’t ask why Kei was waiting for him at the door. He simply shrugs his jacket off and throws it onto Kei’s couch without a word, following Kei to the kitchen and sitting across from him with that look in his eyes that makes Kei feel like a bit of an asshole for making him worry.
“No handcuffs?” Kei asks quietly, nursing his still too-hot tea between his cold hands. Kuroo-san rubs at the back of his neck and Kei can see that the cuffs left some light purple bruises around his left wrist. He feels bad about it, for some reason.
“Yeah, Oikawa knows how to pick the lock on handcuffs apparently.”
Kei rolls his eyes, “Of course he does.”
A tiny smile creeps its way onto Kuroo-san’s face, “Wanna know why?”
“Am I going to like the answer?”
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
“Yeah, I’m not playing Russian roulette with my mental health this morning so I’m going to give that a hard pass,” Kuroo-san pouts a little, “For now.”
“Speaking of now… you feeling better?”
Kei feels a pang in his chest.
“Yeah.” He lies.
Kuroo-san studies him for a moment, “You know, Akaashi was also feeling sick.”
“Oh, that’s- that sucks.”
“You two were out in the cold for a while, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the reason.”
Kei knows where this is going. He’s not stupid, and Kuroo-san isn’t either. Even so, he lets Kuroo-san ask.
“What were you two talking about?”
The question is as casual as it can be – as casual as Kuroo-san can possibly make it sound. Kei tries to answer it as casually as he can as well.
Kuroo-san doesn’t believe him, “Yeah? It just seemed like… I don’t know. You guys seemed weird afterward.”
Kei sighs, “Can I ask you something?”
“Do you… do you still love Bokuto-san?”
Kuroo-san frowns, “Why this, all of a sudden?”
“Just… it’s important.”
Kuroo-san hesitates for a second, “Uh… yeah. I- yeah. I do.”
Kei lets the answer sink in for a long moment. Honestly, he hadn’t known what he’d feel when he asked it. Hadn’t known how he’d feel about the answer either way. He’d learned to stop expecting things of himself over the past few months – he was almost always surprised, these days. Though, even having expected nothing at all, Kei is still surprised.
“Does it bother you?” Kuroo-san asks softly, carefully.
Kei shakes his head, “Does it bother you ?”
Kuroo-san tilts his head to the side and lets his eyes wander from Kei’s own eyes down to his hands – still firmly clasped around his cup – and then back up again.
“A little.” He admits.
“I think…” Kei starts, “I think we should tell them.”
Kuroo-san seems surprised, “You sure?”
“Yeah, but… but I have a few things to tell you first.”
Kuroo-san’s eyes seem to sparkle, “Oh boy.”
“Might I ask what it is that you’re doing in my apartment?” Kei asks, having been very recently shoved aside so that Oikawa-san could gain quick entry into said apartment. Kuroo-san doesn’t seem bothered in the least and continues snacking on Kei’s cold leftover white rice as though nothing is out of the ordinary. Which, Kei supposes, it isn’t. Not really.
He may have to turn to using training methods to prevent this sort of thing from becoming a habit. Perhaps invest in a spray bottle or two? A little positive punishment never hurt anybody.
“I need advice!” Oikawa-san declares, carefully moving his calf-length cape(?) to the side so that he can safely drape himself over Kei’s couch.
“Is that a cape?” Kuroo-san asks, mouth still full of rice. Kei scowls at him and he pouts but swallows the rice without another word.
Oikawa-san clicks his tongue indignantly, “No! It’s a shawl, you uncultured swine.”
Kei is glad he wasn’t the one to ask. Kuroo-san just shrugs.
“Um… advice?” Kei asks. Oikawa-san turns his attention back to his host.
“On?” Kei prompts when Oikawa-san doesn’t elaborate.
“It’s Iwa-chan.” Oikawa-san sighs dramatically, as though that might be seen as a shocking turn of events. Kei’s face remains neutral even as Oikawa-san cracks an eye open to gauge their reactions to his ‘news’.
“Well, duh. Of course it is.” Kuroo-san says, shattering Oikawa-san’s delusion. Oikawa-san shoots him a dissatisfied look, “What? Like we expected you to come in here and ask for advice on how to catch Spider-Man or something? Get real.”
“You know what, Tetsu-chan? You’re not my favorite anymore!”
“Oh, yeah? And who is? The fucking Grinch over there? Sure. Come cry to him when the supermarket stops selling your favorite face wash and we’ll see just how long that lasts.”
“Hey!” Kei squawks.
“Some boyfriend you’ve got here, Kei-chan. Calling you the Grinch.” Oikawa-san prods, delighted at the opportunity for fresh drama that doesn’t involve him (for once).
“It’s a compliment! I love the Grinch!” Kuroo-san insists.
“I don’t know, Tetsu-chan… the Grinch isn’t exactly the most attractive comparison for your boyfriend.” Oikawa-san all but sings in that sickly-sweet way of his. Kuroo-san looks between Oikawa-san and Kei. Kei says nothing.
“I- that’s not- ugh! What- what if I find the Grinch sexy, huh? What if I think the Grinch is a total babe? What then?”
Kei’s jaw drops. Of all of the things he had expected to come out of Kuroo-san’s mouth to try and dig himself out of this (rather shallow) hole, an admission to wanting to fuck the Grinch was not one of them.
Oikawa-san is just as surprised, apparently, but also thoroughly amused.
He cackles loudly, “Oh my god! Are you a Grinch fucker? An absolute freak?” He gasps, “I might die! I might really die!”
“Die faster then!” Kuroo-san yells, face beet-red.
Kei can’t help but laugh as well.
“Tsukki! Don’t encourage him!” Kuroo-san complains.
“This is all your fault for calling me the Grinch again.” Kei reminds him.
“What do you mean again? I’ve never called you the Grinch before!”
Kei raises an amused eyebrow, “I never forget, Kuroo-san. And I never forgive.”
Though Kei is secretly relieved that Kuroo-san has apparently forgotten about his comedy dreams. He doesn’t think he could handle another of those god awful sets.
When Oikawa-san finally stops cackling and Kuroo-san’s face returns to its normal color, they once again return to the issue at hand (the slightly more recent one, anyway).
“So, Iwa-ch- I mean, Iwaizumi-san. What about him?” Kei asks, eager to get this over and done with. He has slightly more pressing matters to attend to.
“Yes. As you know, Iwa-chan is staying in our apartment again.”
“Did not know that but keep going, I guess.” Kuroo-san interrupts.
“Okay, well he is.”
“Isn’t that a bit…” Kei starts, “You know? Quick?”
“I don’t think so. It’s been two months since he’s been back.” Oikawa-san says. Kei chews his lip awkwardly.
“Yeah, but you’ve only been on proper speaking terms for like… four days?”
“Okay, but what I think you’re failing to understand here, Kei-chan, is that I love him.”
Kei sighs, “Alright. Fair enough. You were saying?”
Oikawa-san repositions his shawl, “He’s still giving me letters.”
“Oh yeah? Good for you.” Kuroo-san says. Oikawa-san huffs.
“No, not good for me. He’s making me crazy with all this super mushy stuff.”
Kei frowns, “Um… wait. Isn’t that what you wanted though? Remember?”
“It’s just… weird to see him like that. I feel like he thinks he’ll scare me off or like, break me or something.”
Kei finds himself at a bit of a loss on that one. He shoots Kuroo-san a quick look in the hopes that he’ll have something of substance to say.
“Is he wrong?”
Kuroo-san looks straight into Oikawa-san’s Bambi eyes, “Would he be wrong to think that?”
“I…” Oikawa-san stops to think, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“Why don’t you just… ask him about it?” Kei offers, deciding to free Oikawa-san from Kuroo-san’s intense gaze. Oikawa-san still seems a little taken aback.
“Yeah, I’ll… I’ll do that.”
“Any idea how this is going to go?” Kei asks as he and Kuroo-san prepare to go down to apartment 209 for dinner. Akaashi-san is making spaghetti and Kei hopes against hope that it’ll be cooked this time. There’s nothing worse than crunchy spaghetti, and that’s an experience Kei never thought he’d live to talk about.
In any case, he’s so nervous he feels like he might not be able to eat anyway. It’s been two days since he last saw Akaashi-san and that… they left a lot of things unresolved. He hadn’t even fully told Kuroo-san what happened.
“No clue. This is… kind of new territory for me too, you know?”
Kei nods, joining his hands to try and prevent them from shaking so much. Kuroo-san smiles at him reassuringly.
“There’s nothing to worry about.” He says, walking over and freeing Kei’s hands in favor of holding them in his own.
“You’re right, I’m just… I don’t want to ruin anything.”
“You could never ruin anything with your true feelings, okay? I’m right here with you.”
Kei feels his phone buzz in his pocket and pulls it out to check who it is.
Dinner is ready.
Kei smiles a little despite himself, feeling vaguely reassured by the message for some reason. A second buzz follows shortly after.
I cooked it properly this time.
“What are you smiling about?” Kuroo-san asks, looking a little cheerier himself for Kei’s shifted mood.
Kei taps out a quick message.
Be down now
Looking at his phone once more, Akiteru’s most recent and still unopened messages catch his attention.
Let me know if you’re okay when you can?
He closes his phone quickly and puts it back in his pocket, turning to look at Kuroo-san with that little smile still on his face.
“I think it’s going to be okay.”
Chapter 23: The Talking Stick
There are some complications.
Kei doesn’t know what he expected walking into apartment 209 for the hundredth-or-so time. Maybe less chaos, given that he’d removed one of the two chaos agents living there from the equation. Maybe a calm, quiet dinner setup (that would be almost immediately ruined upon reintroducing said previously mentioned agent of chaos). Maybe slightly less screaming.
Of course, to have any expectations at all is to be naïve when it comes to the capabilities of Kei’s neighbors. Every time Kei thinks that he is jaded to the point where he won’t be surprised anymore, he is surprised once again. Such is the nature of the devils downstairs.
Akaashi-san is the one screaming this time. Bokuto-san has managed to get some gum stuck in his hair and is running around the apartment (putting his parkour skills to good use) with a pair of scissors trying to evade Akaashi-san’s sensible grasp. It goes without saying that Bokuto-san is screaming as well.
“When did this happen? You texted me three minutes ago!” Kei says when Akaashi-san has stopped long enough to be engaged in conversation.
“He did it while I was texting you.”
“That makes sense.”
“Bo, dude! Put the scissors down!” Kuroo-san yells, having taken up Akaashi-san’s role in chasing Bokuto-san around the apartment.
“He’s been acting out without Kuroo-san around,” Akaashi-san pants, casually using Kei as support. Kei is hyper-aware of every point of contact between them. “This morning he insisted on chugging a liter of milk.”
“Isn’t he lactose intolerant?”
Before Kei can say anything further, Bokuto-san catches their attention once again with his screaming.
“I’VE ALMOST GOT IT! I SWEAR, JUST GIVE ME A SEC- oh my god.”
Bokuto-san stops dead in his tracks and Kuroo-san halts the chase. All four of them stare at the giant clump of hair in Bokuto-san’s hand.
Kei is the first to work up the courage to look at the actual damage that’s been done. While the others are still staring at the clump, Kei’s eyes drift up to Bokuto-san’s head.
“Oh my god.” He breathes, bringing a hand up to cover his gaping mouth.
“What? How bad is it?” Bokuto-san asks frantically. Kei keeps staring wordlessly.
Akaashi-san and Kuroo-san look up almost simultaneously after Kei’s exclamation. Kuroo-san sucks in a large breath that Kei never hears come back out again and Akaashi-san’s normally half-lidded eyes look almost as if they might pop out of his head.
“Well, it’s… certainly not completely unfixable.” Akaashi-san says reassuringly, though all three of them know he’s lying for Bokuto-san’s sake. “Right, Kuroo-san?”
“Right. It’s… like, hair grows back. Y’know? It’ll be fine.”
“Tsukki! How bad is it?” Bokuto-san whines, scissors and the clump of hair dropping unceremoniously onto the couch as Bokuto-san’s grip weakens – from loss of hope or dignity, Kei would imagine.
“Why me?” Kei asks, wishing he could just leave or maybe even lie to spare Bokuto-san’s feelings like the other two. He really has grown soft these past few months.
“I know you won’t lie,” Bokuto-san says matter-of-factly. His lip is trembling a bit.
Kei looks back up.
“I… Look, Bokuto-san. There are- well, bald people exist, right? Bald people can be attractive. You could just… brush your other hair over it, maybe? You’ve got a lot of other hair! Wow, so much- so much hair! Right? But also the bald thing is- well, it’s an option. You could pull off bald, I think. Right?”
Bokuto-san looks more and more distraught by the second.
“He’s right dude. I saw a hot bald guy once. Tell him, Akaashi!”
Akaashi-san looks a little pale.
“Um, yes. Yes. I know, um… My granddad is bald.”
“Oh my god, don’t compare me to your granddad! Akaashi!”
Akaashi-san shrugs apologetically, eyes firmly fixed on Bokuto-san’s bald spot.
“Dinner, um… spag-haaaa the spaghetti. Cold.”
“Are you having a stroke?” Kuroo-san asks, placing a hand on Akaashi-san’s shoulder. Akaashi-san shakes his head vigorously and wanders off into the kitchen looking completely dead behind the eyes.
Bokuto-san brings a shaky hand up to his head to feel his hair. He finds the bald spot almost immediately. His eyes well up with tears.
“Am I- am I ugly now?” He asks, arm falling limply to his side, “Is this it?”
“No, dude! No way! You’re like… just as hot as you were with hair!” Kuroo-san insists, doing the exact opposite of what Akaashi-san did and avoids looking at the bald spot altogether.
“Promise?” Bokuto-san sniffles, wiping at his eyes roughly and leaving a trail of short multi-colored hairs across his cheeks. Kei feels the beginnings of a sympathy-itch.
“Promise. We’ll deal with it after dinner, okay?”
Bokuto-san sniffs again, “Okay.”
They got him a hat. Mostly for Akaashi-san’s sake, but Kei’s not complaining either. The alternative was, well… distracting, to say the least. Is the pink cowboy hat a little distracting as well? Sure, but in a less sad sort of way.
“The spaghetti is lovely, Akaashi-san,” Kei says after a long period of awkward plate scraping and slurping sounds.
“Thank you. I-uh, I read the instructions this time.”
“Well, it’s really great.”
“Can I say something?” Kuroo-san pipes up suddenly, sauce dripping down his chin. Kei hands him a paper towel.
“By all means, Kuroo-san,” Akaashi-san replies politely.
Kei isn’t one hundred percent sure where he’s going with this, but that doesn’t stop his heart from going a million kilometers an hour. Maybe going off of the vague instruction of ‘whatever feels natural’ was a bad idea.
“Tsukki and I have an announcement!” Kuroo-san declares and now Kei is one hundred percent sure where he’s going with this. Unfortunately, the certainty creates more of a sense of impending doom than comfort.
“Are you two getting married or something?” Bokuto-san jokes halfheartedly, clearly still feeling rather down and out about the whole being bald thing. Kei winces.
“That’s not funny, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi-san says seriously. Kei winces again.
“Kuro thinks it’s funny,” Bokuto-san mumbles, picking at his spaghetti with his spork.
“Well, yeah, but-”
“Whether or not Kuroo-san thinks it’s funny is irrelevant. He’s trying to tell us something important and the joke was inappropriate in this context.”
“About that important thing-”
“You’re no fun now that Kuro’s gone,” Bokuto-san says. Akaashi-san’s eyes narrow.
“This is not the time for that, Bokuto-san.” He says firmly, putting his own spork down and crossing his arms.
“Guys, I’m not-”
“When is the time? You never want to talk about it!”
“I told you that I needed some time, Bokuto-san. I expect you to respect that.”
“How much time?” Bokuto-san asks, crossing his own arms.
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, ‘I don’t know’?”
“I mean what I said.”
“Oh my god, just listen for one-”
“You can’t avoid it forever, Akaashi!”
“I can if I want to!”
“GUYS!” Kuroo-san yells, finally having grown tired of being interrupted every time he tries to speak. He looks between them, both still sitting with crossed arms. “What’s going on?”
They both stay silent and Kuroo-san sighs. Come to think of it, Kei doesn’t think he’s ever seen them argue before.
“Alright!” Kuroo-san says, pushing his plate forward and standing up, “I think we need to talk.”
Kei feels like he’s back in preschool. After a tumultuous back and forth during which a lot was said but absolutely no consensus was reached, Kuroo-san decided to implement a talking stick. ‘Since nobody knows how to have a normal conversation, apparently,’ he’d reasoned.
Bokuto-san is the first to pick up the stick (the actual ‘stick’ being deodorant that they’d all agreed to call a stick for simplicity’s sake).
“Hello, my name is Bokuto Koutarou.” He says, knuckles turning white for how firm his grip on the stick is.
“Bo, this isn’t an AA meeting.” Kuroo-san sighs, “And you don’t have to hold it that tight.”
“I don’t want anyone to steal it!” Bokuto-san argues, clutching the stick even tighter.
“Nobody is going to steal the stick from you, okay? We all agreed to act civil about the stick.”
Bokuto-san’s grip loosens slightly at the reassurance. Kuroo-san nods in approval.
“Now say your thing, man. No judgments.”
“Okay. I… I feel like Akaashi’s been acting weird.” Bokuto-san says, placing the stick in the middle of the talking circle again.
Nobody picks it up.
“Akaashi?” Kuroo-san prompts.
“You’ve got a lot to say for someone who isn’t holding the talking stick,” Akaashi-san mumbles, reluctantly picking the stick up. Kuroo-san pouts about it but doesn’t say anything after that.
“I haven’t been acting weird,” Akaashi-san says simply, putting the stick back in the middle.
Kuroo-san picks the stick up, “That sounded a bit defensive, Akaashi.”
Akaashi-san takes the stick straight from Kuroo-san’s hands, “I’m allowed to defend myself.”
Kuroo-san takes it back, “Nobody is saying that you aren’t. I’m just saying that I think we should hear Bo out.”
“All he said was that I was acting weird. You gave me the stick and I said what I needed to say about that. I thought that’s what we were doing.”
“It is, but- you know what? Why don’t we give the stick to Bo and ask him why he’s feeling that way?”
Bokuto-san receives the stick from Akaashi-san.
“Um… okay. It just seems like you’re like… distant? Like, after your birthday you said you were sick but then you just spent the whole day in the bedroom and then the day after that you barely spoke to me. It just feels like you’re not telling me something, and I care about you so I’m just… I don’t know. I’m worried about you, Akaashi.”
Bokuto-san places the stick in front of Akaashi-san and to say that Kei feels bad right now would be the understatement of the century. Kuroo-san is giving him a look from across the circle and all he can think about is how badly he fucked that night up. Akaashi-san all but completely confessed his feelings and all Kei could do was fumble his way through the rest of the conversation. He feels like a complete idiot.
Akaashi-san picks the stick up.
“I’m… sorry, Bokuto-san.”
Kei wants to scream. Literally all of this is his fault. If he hadn’t been too much of a coward to tell Akaashi-san and Bokuto-san that he and Kuroo-san are dating, the conversation at Akaashi-san’s birthday would never have happened. If the conversation at Akaashi-san’s birthday had never happened, Akaashi-san wouldn’t have felt so bad about it and he and Bokuto-san wouldn’t be fighting.
Kei picks the stick up.
“I think I know how to fix this.”
He looks to Kuroo-san for confirmation. Kuroo-san nods.
“Okay. I… Kuroo-san and I are together.”
After a long silence, he puts the stick back into the center of the circle.
Oh another cliffhanger! I really can't stop with these lately, but I hope you'll bear with me! Thank you for all of the support!
Chapter 24: On Loving and Being Loved Part 2
Iwaizumi finds love all over again through Oikawa.
Oikawa Tooru is an addiction. Hajime would be a fool to think he’s the only one who knows this, and not by any fault of Tooru’s either. He can’t help it – the way he is. Addictive, in the truest sense of the word. Inescapably addictive.
“Is it me?” Hajime asks, elbows on his knees and hands in his hair. This isn’t the first time, but it hurts like it is.
“No, I- it’s me. This is… sorry.” Tooru sniffs, eyes still red and puffy. It’s not the first time, but it breaks Hajime’s heart like it is.
“I don’t like seeing you like that, Tooru.” He says, mostly out of desperation.
“I know, I… sorry. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. It’s not your fault.”
The question, ‘then whose fault is it?’ hangs in the air between them. Hajime knows the answer, but he knows that Tooru doesn’t. Or refuses to, anyway. Part of him wants Tooru to scream at him like he had that night at the Halloween party. Some ridiculous, masochistic, guilt-ridden part of him wants Tooru to be angry, still. The selfish part of him. The part of him that caused this whole mess in the first place.
He wonders, as he lies awake next to Tooru in their bed that used to feel too big but now feels somewhere in between too small and so big that Hajime can’t even feel Tooru’s presence in it sometimes, if it really is too late for them. If this distance between them will ever get any smaller. If Tooru can ever learn to love the Hajime who put himself first in the absolute worst way possible.
“Did you find it?” Tooru asks, breaking the careful silence that had fallen when they’d both pretended to go to sleep three or so hours ago.
“What you were looking for.” When he doesn’t answer, Tooru asks a different question, “Are you a whole person now?”
It seems harsh, to ask him that after all this time. Surely he knows the answer by now. Hajime looks up at their bare ceiling and misses the presence of the untouchable. Innocence. Security. Unquestioned codependence. All of these things that they had to give up for him to learn something that had been obvious to Tooru from the start.
It seems harsh, but Tooru has never been kind. Never claimed to be gentle.
“I was a whole person the entire time,” Hajime replies, knowing that the answer will satisfy Tooru in more ways than one but also that it will never make him happy. “I just needed to become less to see that.”
Tooru doesn’t like to be touched. He never has. That was something that Hajime had to get used to, all the way back then – when they were little, and Hajime had to stop himself from throwing an arm around Tooru’s shoulders before asking. There was no reason for it, really. That’s just the way Tooru is. A little thing that Hajime loves about him because you can’t love Tooru without loving all of him, and Hajime has never been one to half-ass anything. Neither has Tooru, for that matter, but at least Hajime knows when to stop.
Tooru startles when Hajime puts a hand on his shoulder. That’s new – for them, at least. Tooru doesn’t like to be touched but living with someone who feels love through contact had taught him to give and receive touches like currency. Maybe ten months is long enough to forget four years of learned behavior. Maybe ten months is long enough to stop feeling lonely and start feeling alone instead.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” Hajime says, retracting his hand. Tooru shakes his head, the little brown curls of his unstyled hair bouncing with the movement. He’s beautiful, Hajime thinks. Beautiful like a dream, and just as intangible.
“I just need to get used to that again.”
Hajime has to wonder when it was that Tooru had become unused to it. Unused to casual little touches around their apartment. Sometimes, when he would lie awake on Maki and Mattsun’s couch in Sendai, he would wonder if Tooru had found someone else. Someone else to share casual little touches with. Someone else to grow used to. Realistically, he thought, it would be easy for Tooru to find someone else to love him. He’s the type of person people fall in love with. Beautiful and complex, like those galaxies Tooru is so fond of.
“You didn’t have to wait for me,” Hajime says in all of his insecurity. Tooru doesn’t look up from his computer.
“I only get one soulmate, Hajime. I did have to wait.”
He’d asked about the pictures that night, when Tooru had allowed him back into their apartment for the first time since his return. Kuroo’s birthday. Hajime remembers it like it was yesterday, even though he’d had more than a few of whatever alcoholic drinks Bokuto had been laying out on the table. One could call the man a genius at mixing drinks – not in that you can’t taste the alcohol, but in that he somehow makes the alcohol taste infinitely worse just by mixing it.
Tooru had stumbled into their apartment, laughing like he didn’t have a care in the world. That’s a rare laugh, Hajime knows. Once in a lifetime, almost. He’d slipped his arms around Hajime’s neck and pushed him against the door, smiling against his lips like he had so many times before.
“You kept them up.” Hajime had said, looking around the room as though it might be completely different than when he’d left. It was almost exactly the same as he remembered it, and he still isn’t sure whether that made him feel better or worse.
Tooru shook his head.
“I had Tetsu-chan take them down for a while, but… I missed seeing them. They make me feel less alone.”
Hajime didn’t reply. He couldn’t. If they’d both been sober, that might have started a fight. Hajime might have let his guilt eat him alive again. Right then, though, all Hajime could think was how much he’d missed it. Tooru’s body wrapped around his like he might fall apart if Hajime weren’t holding him together. He was at his most beautiful when he was like that – fragile enough for Hajime to feel needed. Stripped completely bare and vulnerable.
The guilt did eat at him, afterward. He felt it in every tear that slid down Tooru’s cheeks, in every apology that fell out of Tooru’s mouth. He felt it in Kuroo’s disapproving gaze when he slunk back downstairs. That gaze that said, ‘I’d love him better than you ever could.’
Hajime believed that too, at that moment.
Anybody would be able to love Tooru better than he could.
“I need you to stop with all this mushy romance stuff,” Tooru says to him when he returns from the blonde kid’s apartment.
“What do you mean?” Hajime asks, feigning ignorance. He’d been gentle with Tooru lately – asking before touching him, touching him like he might disappear if something went wrong, being much kinder with his words. He hadn’t thought Tooru would notice, in all honesty.
“You know exactly what I mean. It makes me feel bad.” Tooru falls onto the bed, covering his eyes with his arm.
“Want me to switch the lights off?” Tooru lives with the lights off lately. Hajime would ask him why if he wasn’t so afraid of the answer.
“No, it’s fine.” Tooru sighs and cracks one eye open to look at Hajime, “I’m not going anywhere.”
“So, what are you afraid of?”
Hajime thinks for a moment.
“That it’s already too late.”
Tooru considers this, looking up at the ceiling like there’s something up there to see. Hajime looks up and sees nothing but sad, grey, star-shaped patches.
“Do you think it’s too late?”
“Of course not.”
Tooru pauses, thinking dangerous thoughts in that dangerous head of his, no doubt.
“Why did you come back?” He asks. Dozens of possible answers flood Hajime’s mind. He settles on the least complicated one.
“All I ever did was miss you.”
Tooru scoffs, “That’s not why you came back.”
“It’s why I stayed. Isn’t that more important?”
He’s feeling vindictive today. That’s fine. Hajime can do vindictive – much more easily than he can do heartbroken, anyway.
“Want to start with why I left, then?”
Tooru glances at him briefly from across the bed – to figure out his motive, most likely.
“I know why you left.”
Hajime raises an eyebrow, “Oh? Why, then?”
Tooru looks almost pained for a second, and Hajime regrets his tone immediately. Tooru soldiers on anyway.
“You wanted to see if this is as good as it gets. Right?” His voice cracks at the end. Hajime could double over for how painful that is.
“I left because I wanted to see if I could live without you.”
“I came back because I thought I could, and I wanted to test it.” Tooru stays silent but rolls over onto his side so that he can look Hajime in the eye. Hajime’s gaze softens, “I can live without you, Tooru, but I don’t want to.”
Things are better. Hajime can feel it – how different everything is. How things are changing. Tooru laughs when he tells Hajime about everything that he’s missed. How that blonde kid moved in and changed everything all at once with that sour look on his face and that bad attitude of his. They’ll be okay, Tooru insists, he can feel it in his bones – and his bones are never wrong. Hajime had never considered that four people could love each other like that. After all, Hajime has only ever been able to love Tooru and that takes up everything he has already.
“Why not just tell them?” Hajime asks, his fingers perfectly intertwined with Tooru’s.
Tooru smiles mischievously, “Well, that’s no fun, is it? They’ve got to figure it out themselves.”
Hajime shoves him playfully, “Some friend you are! How long’s it been?”
“Six months?” Tooru holds his free pinkie out, “Wanna bet on it?”
Hajime thinks about it before linking their pinkies, “Sure. Loser sleeps on the couch for a week?”
“No way!” Tooru says, still smiling, “I couldn’t stand a single night without you.”
“You’re just saying that because you don’t want to sleep on the couch.”
“Mmm… partly. Maybe… loser does the dishes for a week?”
Hajime pretends to think about it again.
“Okay. What’s your bet?”
“Within the next week.”
Tooru tilts his head to the side, “I have reason to believe that things are moving along rather quickly, Iwa-chan.”
“That’s not fair! You have insider information!”
“Maybe so.” Tooru teases, “What’s your bet?”
“Tomorrow,” Hajime says confidently.
“I’ve got nothing to lose.”
“Except having to do the dishes for a week straight.” Tooru reminds him.
“All we eat is cup noodles and takeout.” Hajime counters.
“I’ll start making proper food then.”
“Isn’t that more of a loss for you? You hate cooking.”
“Yes, but I also hate cup noodles.”
Hajime laughs his most genuine laugh in what feels like years. Tooru keeps smiling like he’s forgotten how to stop, and Hajime loves him more every second.
“I love you.” He says, almost on instinct. Tooru’s face goes a bit pink.
“I thought we agreed to stop with the mushy stuff!” He complains.
“It’s not mushy. I was just thinkin’ it.”
“Maybe I’m mushy now.”
Tooru raises an eyebrow, “Yeah?”
“You’re gonna have to learn to love it, babe.” Hajime jokes.
“Lucky you, I’m a fast learner.”
Things are changing like they always do. Inevitably, things change. Hajime doesn’t mind it as much as he used to – he has Tooru, and Tooru doesn’t change. Not really. He can love Tooru through all of this change, just like he always has. Oikawa Tooru is an addiction, and Hajime has never been so glad to be addicted to anything in his life.
When Hajime wins the bet, he and Tooru spend the day sticking the little glow in the dark stars back onto their bedroom ceiling.
A cutaway at the most pivotal part of the fic? It's more likely than you think. In any case, their story needed to be wrapped up as well, so I thought giving Iwaizumi and Oikawa some (more) love would be appropriate. Happy holidays y'all!
Chapter 25: That's a Whole Lotta Love You Got There
A lot of confessions.
Following Kei’s grand declaration of his and Kuroo-san’s ongoing courtship, a short silence fills the room. Kei can’t help but think that the silence is a bad one, regardless of his better judgment and Kuroo-san’s encouraging half-smile. Despite being less than a minute long, the silence feels as though it’s dragging on for an eternity just to spite Kei for keeping secrets in the first place.
Akaashi-san picks the talking stick up.
“I… suspected as much.” He says, face painfully neutral. “Thank you for telling us though, Tsukishima-kun.”
“How long?” Bokuto-san asks shortly after Akaashi-san has replaced the talking stick and returned to his seat. Naturally, Bokuto-san himself does not think to pick the stick up before talking. Kei would be more annoyed if Kuroo-san (the mastermind behind the stick) had not previously, on several occasions, also ignored the stick’s power.
“Like two and a half weeks,” Kuroo-san replies, ignoring the stick as well and proving Kei’s point.
As per usual, Kei and Akaashi-san are the only ones with any semblance of respect for the natural (and not-so-natural) order of things.
Bokuto-san makes meaningful eye contact with Kuroo-san for a long moment.
“Dude. Why didn’t you just tell me?” Kuroo-san grimaces at the disappointed tone of Bokuto-san’s voice.
Bokuto-san seems less than satisfied with that answer and picks the talking stick up, shoving it into Kuroo-san’s hands.
“You said we needed to talk, bro. So, talk.” He says, leaving no room for arguments. Kuroo-san looks surprised, to say the least, gripping onto the stick like a lifeline as he processes Bokuto-san’s words.
“I don’t know if-” He begins, but Bokuto-san isn’t hearing it.
“You’re my best friend dude, and you didn’t tell me something super important for like, three weeks.”
“Two and a half.” Kuroo-san corrects weakly.
“Still. I wanna know what makes you feel like you can’t talk to me. I wanna know what makes you all feel like you can’t talk to me.” He sounds kind of defeated, and Kei can see the pain on Kuroo-san’s face because of it.
Akaashi-san looks down at his hands, “Bokuto-san, it’s not like that.”
“Yeah, Bo, it’s-”
“I’m not mad, guys. I’m just… you guys are my best friends, you know? All of you, Tsukki included. That means something to me, and I want you guys to be able to tell me anything. No matter how big or small it is. Because I trust you guys with a lot of things, and I want you to trust me the same. Okay?”
Kuroo-san has tears in his eyes. Bokuto-san instantly looks panicked.
“Woah, sorry dude! I didn’t mean-”
Kuroo-san shakes his head, a watery smile on his face.
“No, Bo. You’re right. I should just- it’s not fair for me to keep secrets like that. Not from you.” He takes a deep breath and looks Bokuto-san in the eye as best he can, “And I’ve been hiding something from you for a while, dude. Like… since we were sixteen. This is scary as shit for me to say out loud, so I want- bear with me, okay? I just don’t want it to make anything weird or-”
“Kuro. Nothing you could ever say would make things weird between us, okay?” Bokuto-san reassures him. Kuroo-san nods, rubbing the back of his neck like he does when he’s nervous.
“Okay. Yeah. Thanks. I’m… You know I love you, right?” He asks, his voice a little unsteady.
Bokuto-san smiles that huge, blinding smile of his. “Of course! I love you too!”
“Yeah… I’m, like, in love with you dude.”
The whole world feels frozen around them as Kei watches Kuroo-san close his eyes and sigh in something parallel to relief. Bokuto-san’s mouth has fallen open just a little, and Kei can see the beginnings of tears welling up in his eyes as well.
“Kuro,” Bokuto-san breathes, finally. Kuroo-san opens his eyes. “Kuro, are you for real?”
“Yes, I- you have no idea. I am so, so for real.”
Bokuto-san cries with reckless abandon now, tears streaming down his face faster than he can wipe them away.
“You love me?” He asks again, and Kuroo-san smiles with that soft look in his eyes that Kei has grown used to but never gets tired of seeing.
“Yeah. For the longest time, man.”
Kuroo-san puts the stick down and crawls over to where Bokuto-san is sitting, pulling him into a hug. Bokuto-san buries his face into Kuroo-san’s shoulder.
“I love you too, Kuro.” He cries, his voice muffled by the fabric of Kuroo-san’s sweater. “So, so much dude.”
Kuroo-san’s tearful confession brings about a unique set of issues for the group. Namely, that Kei is now in the position of dating the long-time love of Bokuto-san’s life (or one of them, anyway) and that Kei and Kuroo-san have done very little in the way of discussing what they might do about it.
“So…” Bokuto-san says in an attempt to draw clarification out of either Kei or Kuroo-san.
“Here’s the thing,” Kuroo-san begins, “This is actually very complicated.”
“How so?” Akaashi-san asks, speaking up for the first time in quite a while. Kei can imagine that this must be quite a lot processing wise for Akaashi-san to deal with.
“Uh… it’s just that there are- well, there are a lot of moving parts to deal with here. For starters, there’s you, which-”
“What about me?”
Kuroo-san’s mouth clamps shut as he realizes how fucking stupid what he just said was. Kei starts counting backward from ten in his head in an attempt to keep calm.
“Can I take a raincheck on that one?”
“Please think before you speak, Kuroo-san,” Kei says through gritted teeth. He’d reached zero far quicker than he thought and with little to no results.
“I’m thinking as hard as I can!” Kuroo-san insists.
“Maybe try growing a few more brain cells then!” Kei suggests.
“Come on Tsukki, that’s not fair! You know I lost them in the war!”
Kei can feel what little patience he had wearing dangerously thin, “Shut up!”
“Stop fighting!” Bokuto-san pleads.
“We’re not fighting, this is just how Tsukki shows his love,” Kuroo-san says, smiling that mischievous smile of his.
Kei narrows his eyes at him, “Will you ever learn how to take anything seriously ever?”
“Perhaps,” Kuroo-san replies, still smiling.
“Can we please get back to the matter at hand?” Akaashi-san asks calmly. Kei can’t blame him for looking as tired as he does.
“That’s easier said than done, Akaashi,” Kuroo-san says, his smile turning less mischievous and more apologetic.
“I believe I have a right to know what place I have in any of this.”
“You do, but-”
“So, tell me.”
Kuroo-san looks to Kei, his eyes filled with desperation. Kei might feel bad for him, were it not his own idiocy that got him into this position in the first place. Akaashi-san waits patiently for somebody to get their shit together and clue him in, and Kei very briefly thinks that maybe that somebody should be him, but he waves the thought away as quickly as it comes.
Kuroo-san throws his head back in defeat.
“I’m not strong enough to do two confessions in one night,” He whines.
Akaashi-san’s eyes widen, and Kei lets a surprised laugh escape his lips.
“You just did, idiot.” He says, and Kuroo-san snaps into an upright position.
“Akaashi too? Dude!” Bokuto-san laughs, “You in love with everyone? Shit, man!”
Kuroo-san covers his face with his hands and groans. Akaashi-san stays completely silent.
“You in love with Oikawa too?” Bokuto-san teases. Kuroo-san doesn’t say anything, and Bokuto-san takes that as a firm yes, “Kuro! You can’t just fall in love with everyone who breathes near you, dude!”
“It’s not like that!” Kuroo-san insists, defeat settling between his shoulder blades and seemingly weighing his whole body down.
Bokuto-san wiggles his eyebrows, “Iwaizumi?”
“Aw, what’s wrong with him?”
“Nothing! I don’t just- ugh!”
“You got criteria? Like-”
“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi-san says, just loud enough for all of them to hear it and with just enough authority to stop Bokuto-san mid-sentence. Kei can see it dawning on each of them that that was probably… important, for Akaashi-san. Kuroo-san’s entire face goes red.
Akaashi-san holds his hand up to stop him, “I think… I think we have far more to talk about than we initially anticipated.”
Kuroo-san sighs, “No kidding.”
Things never work out the way Kei wants them to. That isn’t to say that they don’t work out – on the contrary, Kei’s life has a funny way of just falling into place no matter how badly he thinks he’s fucked things up, or how hopeless the situation seems. Some might call it good luck. Kei would call it rightful compensation for all of the bullshit he has to go through as a natural attractor of trouble, dumbasses, and troublesome dumbasses.
All of that said, Kei isn’t quite sure whether to categorize the events and outcomes of The Night of the Talking stick as bullshit or compensation.
“So, what should we do now?” Bokuto-san asks, his hat’s silver tassels bobbing with every minute movement. Kei would have completely forgotten about Bokuto-san’s unfortunate mishap were it not for the gaudiness of that hat, and he’s yet to decide if that’s a good thing.
Kuroo-san shrugs, “Well, it’s… can you even date three people at once? Is that a thing?”
Akaashi-san nods, “My sister has two partners.”
“Woah, really? Runs in the family then, huh?”
“Don’t test me, Kuroo-san.”
“Okay, then! I guess… is that what we wanna do?” Kuroo-san asks, looking around the room at each of his prospective partners.
“Who said I wanted to date you?” Kei asks, completely deadpan. Kuroo-san clutches at his heart as though he’s been mortally wounded.
“Tsukki!” He gasps. Kei joins Bokuto-san in laughing at him, and even Akaashi-san cracks a bit of a smile.
“Sorry, dude,” Bokuto-san gasps, “He got you.”
“Tsukishima-kun makes a good point, Kuroo-san. Nobody here even said they wanted to date anyone.”
“Okay, well let’s get that out of the way then,” Kuroo-san says, clapping his hands for emphasis. “I am firmly interested in dating all three of you.”
“Firmly?” Kei asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Are you going to bully me all night?”
Kei smiles sweetly, “It’s how I show my love.”
Kuroo-san ignores him, “Bo?”
“Oh, yeah! Me too!” Bokuto-san says enthusiastically. The three of them look to Akaashi-san, whose face instantly goes the most adorable shade of pink.
“I, uh- likewise.”
Kuroo-san smiles and sighs dreamily, “Ah, déjà vu,”
“What?” Akaashi-san asks.
“Yeah, I guess… if I have to, I’ll date you Kuroo-san.”
“Tsukki!” Kuroo-san gasps again. Bokuto-san starts a fresh laughing fit.
“Yeah, okay. Fine. I’d, uh… I’ll date the three of you.”
Kuroo-san suddenly looks so happy that the room seems brighter. Kei isn’t really the mushy romance type, but he finds himself thinking that he’d like to see Kuroo-san that happy forever. That he’d like to see all three of them that happy forever.
“Is everyone sure?” Kuroo-san asks, a huge, goofy smile taking up like half of his face. Kei bites the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling the same way – he has somewhat of an image to uphold, after all.
All three of them nod, and Kuroo-san suddenly throws his arms around them, squishing them together in an uncomfortable but very warm group hug.
“This is gonna be awesome,” He whispers into Bokuto-san’s shoulder, just loud enough for all of them to hear. Kei allows himself to smile, face pressed firmly against Akaashi-san’s shoulder.
“Sleepover at Tsukki’s?” Bokuto-san asks, the hope in his voice making Kei more than a little suspicious.
“That’s not going to get you out of doing the dishes, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi-san says, his voice muffled by Kuroo-san’s unruly hair.
“But, Akaashi! We’re celebrating! Doing the dishes would be a total bummer right now!”
“I’ll help you.” Kei mumbles and Bokuto-san breaks the group hug to plant a sloppy, but very enthusiastic kiss on his cheek. Kei makes a point of wiping it off with the sleeve of his cardigan.
“Oikawa’s gonna have a field day,” Kuroo-san says, still smiling. Kei grimaces at the thought.
Things never really work out the way Kei wants them to, but this is okay too, he thinks. Better, maybe. He'll just have to find out.
What's up my dudes! Sorry this took super long! I was really stuck on how to make ten whole confessions in one night seem natural, so I hope it makes any sense at all. All of that aside, I absolutely do not care that Christmas is over and that New Years is upon us - I have every intention of posting a Christmas special anyway. Probably soon. Thank you for the support, and happy holidays!
Chapter 26: Introspection? Without My Mood Ring? It's Less Likely Than You Think
Bokuto's new haircut is hit or miss, Oikawa is the embarrassing crush you had in middle school that your friends still tease you about and Tsukishima might just deal with his family issues before the year is out.
Listen... we're all going to pretend that it's still December and enjoy these holiday-themed events like they were meant to be enjoyed. Thanks as always for the support and happy new year!
“It looks good, Bo! I swear!” Kuroo-san insists, trying desperately to rip off the beanie Bokuto-san is tugging onto his head.
“I look like someone who owns a vape, Kuro!” Bokuto-san yells, pulling the beanie down so far that his ears are completely covered.
“Tsukki, stop laughing! You’re making him feel worse!” Kuroo-san complains, looking pointedly at Kei. He stops trying to snatch the beanie, apparently having deemed it a lost cause. Kei can’t blame him either – if Bokuto-san tugs any harder on the damn thing, it’ll become a permanent part of his scalp.
“Sorry, it’s just- he’s right about the vape thing.” Kei laughs, and Kuroo-san looks absolutely affronted. Bokuto-san seems not to have heard him, now that his ears are shielded from the outside world.
“See no evil, hear no evil,” Akaashi-san says, looking just as upset as Bokuto-san is but for entirely different reasons. Even with almost every item of warm clothing the four of them own on him, he still somehow manages to be cold. Kei had thought it a bit excessive when he’d walked out of the bedroom looking like the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters, but Akaashi-san’s uncontrollable shivering as soon as he was exposed to the cold air quickly proved him wrong.
“Is it evil if it’s the truth, Akaashi-san?”
“He looks good!” Kuroo-san yells, throwing his hands in the air out of exasperation.
“I never said he doesn’t look good, I just said he was right about the vape thing.”
In all honesty, Kei is half grateful for the beanie. Bokuto-san’s new haircut looks almost criminally good on him – the sides having been completely shaved to disguise the bald spot (which Nishinoya-san had laughed about for ten minutes before finally getting down to cutting Bokuto-san’s hair, wounding his fragile pride even further) and the rest is completely free of any of that godawful gel (read: glue) that Bokuto-san usually uses to give his hair its gravity-defying height that Kei still doesn’t understand the aesthetic value of. Complete with his infamous eyebrow piercing, Bokuto-san could slap on a leather jacket, jump on a motorcycle and ride into the distance with Kei’s heart in tow and Kei wouldn’t even be mad about it – but that little thought will remain safely tucked away in Kei’s mind until the day he dies, if he can help it.
“He’s sensitive! Would it kill you to say something nice for once?”
“Maybe,” Kei says with a shrug.
“God, you’re impossible!”
“Bokuto-san will get over it in time,” Akaashi-san says calmly, ever the mediator.
“I won’t! I’m wearing this beanie forever!” Bokuto-san informs them rather loudly. Two people walking past them on the street turn their heads to stare – which, while not appreciated by someone such as Kei who prefers nobody so much as think about him unless he explicitly allows it, is understandable given the way their little group looks at the moment. If Kei saw three six foot plus boys and the marshmallow man walking down the street and arguing, he would probably stare as well.
“I’ll kiss you when we get home if you promise to take it off,” Kei says, mostly to appease Kuroo-san. Bokuto-san’s grip on the beanie loosens a bit.
“You were gonna do that anyway, you seductress!” Kuroo-san yells at him.
Kuroo-san had taken to calling him a seductress after Oikawa-san laughed at him for taking eight years to confess his feelings when it only took Kei half a year. As funny as it was to watch Kuroo-san be mercilessly bullied, Kei doesn’t appreciate the label that came as a result of it at all.
“Oh, yeah? Well, guess who’s never getting kissed again?” He says, joining hands with Bokuto-san to prove a point.
“Ha! Tough luck bro.”
Kuroo-san shoves his own hands into his pockets, making him look like a mopey teenager.
“You guys are the worst.”
“Would it be too much for me to ask him to come home with me for new years?” Oikawa-san asks the four of them – or three if you don’t count Bokuto-san. He’d fallen asleep almost immediately when Kei started running his hands through his hair. He’ll be a nightmare later when he can’t get to sleep, but they’d all agreed that waking him up would be an absolutely monstrous act given how cute he looks when he’s sleeping.
“Are you serious?” Kuroo-san asks. Oikawa-san nods and bats his eyelashes innocently. Kuroo-san narrows his eyes at him, “His parents literally live in the same goddamn neighborhood as yours, first of all. Second of all, you two have been dating for almost eight years! He goes home with you every year! What in the honest fuck could you possibly mean by, ‘too much’?”
Akaashi-san rubs a gentle hand on his back in an attempt to calm him. Oikawa-san is, as always, unperturbed by the logic of Kuroo-san’s statements.
“Actually, Iwa-chan and I have decided to treat this as a new relationship!” Oikawa-san informs them excitedly, “So we’ve technically only been dating for eleven days and fourteen hours.”
Kuroo-san looks at him for a moment, trying to gauge whether or not he’s actually serious about that. Naturally, he is. Kei can see the moment all the life leaves Kuroo-san’s eyes as he projects his soul onto another plane to cope. Kei feels like he might join him in a second.
“Well, Oikawa-san,” Akaashi-san says, still rubbing comforting little circles on Kuroo-san’s back. “Considering the circumstances, I’m sure it would be perfectly fine to invite him home with you.”
“Thank you, Keiji-chan!” Oikawa-san says sweetly, sticking his tongue out at Kuroo-san. “You ought to instill some of those good manners into that troublesome boyfriend of yours.”
Kuroo-san very graciously ignores him.
“Anyway,” Oikawa-san sings, “What are you four up to during the holidays? I imagine that organizing that must be quite complicated.”
Kei’s hands stop dead mid hair stroke. In all of the chaos since Akaashi-san’s birthday, he’d kind of forgotten that the holidays were even a thing. He hadn’t even considered that things might be different now that he’s got boyfriends.
Akaashi-san’s eyes widen, apparently also considering this for the very first time and for a moment Kei is afraid that he’s short-circuited or something, but he quickly snaps right back into action.
“Actually we, uh… we haven’t talked about that yet.” He says, hands already performing the contemplative dance they do when he’s thinking really hard about something. Kei can see his brain working overtime behind those steel blue eyes.
“Ah, well good luck with that!” Oikawa-san says, picking his rose gold fanny pack up and putting it back on. “I’ll be off! Iwa-chan and I are going ring shopping!”
Before Kei can even process that sentence, Kuroo-san is yanked out of the spirit realm and already asking the question they’re all probably thinking.
Oikawa-san runs a dramatic hand through his hair and sighs.
“My mood ring stopped working!” He complains, “It’s always black now! How am I supposed to know how I’m feeling without a mood ring?”
Kuroo-san frowns, “Introspection?”
“Be serious, Tetsu-chan!” Oikawa-san scolds. Kuroo-san closes his eyes for a second before opening them again and donning his best customer service smile.
“No, sorry. You’re absolutely right! How silly of me to suggest something as useless as introspection when your mood ring is broken!” He says, every word dripping with sarcasm.
Oikawa-san seems not to read it as sarcastic, though.
“Thank you! Maybe I’ll get you one too, Mr. Grumpy Pants – it seems like you need it.”
Kuroo-san’s eye twitches but his smile remains firmly in place.
“God, Oikawa! You’re so right! How better to get my mood in check than a plastic ring that measures my body temperature?”
“Exactly! I’ll see you guys later for Monopoly then!”
They all wave him out, and Kei turns to Kuroo-san with a look on his face that he knows Kuroo-san instantly recognizes as the, ‘you’re about to be mercilessly teased’ face. Kei can see him brace for impact.
“You had a crush on that guy?”
“Okay gang, what’s the sitch?” Kuroo-san asks, already shoving pizza into his mouth.
“Two different shows, Kuroo-san.” Kei sighs, watching warily as Akaashi-san starts pulling something out of his backpack.
“It’s called postmodernism, Tsukki. Pastiche.”
“It’s called – get this – pretentious.”
Kuroo-san doesn’t reply, only pouting pathetically and wiping pizza crumbs off of his mouth with the back of his hand. Akaashi-san drops what looks to be a full-length novel onto the table in the form of three color-coded folders. Kei was right to be wary of the power hidden within Akaashi-san's backpack of secrets.
“As lovely as this little exchange has been, we have more pressing matters to attend to,” Akaashi-san says, spreading the folders out and handing one to each of them. “Now, can each of you please give me a comprehensive list of your family members and what your plans are from the twentieth of December through the tenth of January?”
Bokuto-san picks his folder up to examine it.
“Why do I get the red one?” He asks, eyeing Kuroo-san’s purple and Kei’s yellow.
“It’s blood orange, Bokuto-san, and I picked the folder colors based on a number of factors.”
“Why is mine the only cool-toned one? Is that bad? Akaashi, is that bad?” Kuroo-san asks frantically.
“We can discuss the folder colors at another time, Kuroo-san. For now, I’d like you each to remove the documents inside – wipe your hands first, I won’t be accepting grease-stained ones – and turn to the privacy disclaimer on page one.”
“This seems… a bit excessive, don’t you think?” Kei asks, doing as Akaashi-san instructed and being met with a wall of text he knows he won’t be reading.
“Do you hate Christmas, Tsukishima-kun?” Akaashi-san asks, looking straight through Kei's eyes and into his soul, “Or do you just hate me?”
“Now, now, Akaashi,” Bokuto-san says, putting a gentle hand on Akaashi-san’s shoulder. When Akaashi-san relaxes his posture a bit, Bokuto-san smiles at Kei, “Don’t worry about it, he just gets touchy around the holidays.”
“I am not touchy, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi-san says sharply, tensing his shoulders again.
Bokuto-san nods, “Sorry. He’s sensitive.”
“I am not- you know what? Just fill in the forms starting on page four. We can discuss the privacy disclaimer after dinner.”
Kei flips to page four, and when the very first question is a request for his full legal name, he knows he’s in for a wild ride.
“Why do you need a copy of my birth certificate?” He asks, flipping to the back of the document to check the number of pages.
“Insurance,” Akaashi-san replies matter-of-factly.
‘It’s for the mafia.’ Bokuto-san mouths rather obviously, not even trying to hide it from Akaashi-san – who is sitting right next to him and can clearly see that he’s mouthing something.
“What was that, Bokuto-san?” Akaashi-san asks, tilting his head to the side.
“I-uh… I said, ‘ow! My cochlea!’” Bokuto-san replies, clutching at his left ear with both hands to sell the lie. Kei rolls his eyes.
“Is your ear infection back? Did you not finish the antibiotics?” Akaashi-san asks, the concern in his voice extremely endearing even while Kei is finding it difficult to remember why it is that he’d agreed to date two massive idiots and an alleged mafioso.
“No, I- I just put one of your pencils in my ear earlier, so-”
“Stop talking, Bo! Stop! Talking!” Kuroo-san yells. Akaashi-san ignores his outburst completely.
“Do I have to take you to the emergency room?”
“No! I’m not- I’m fine!” Bokuto-san says, dropping his hands in defeat. “I’m just dumb, okay?”
“Aw, Bo that’s not-” Kuroo-san begins. Bokuto-san holds a hand up to stop him.
“No, it’s okay. It’s okay to be dumb.”
Kuroo-san frowns, “Yeah, but-”
“Not everyone can be a dentist, Kuro. I’ll be okay.”
“You tell him, Bokuto-san!” Kei says, high-fiving Bokuto-san over Akaashi-san’s head.
“What is this? What’s going on?” Kuroo-san asks, looking desperately between the three of them.
Akaashi-san slides Kuroo-san’s folder closer toward him, “Your initials on each page, hopefully.”
After two hours of grueling paperwork, Akaashi-san collects their folders and flips through each of them individually to check the information.
“Why is the ‘relatives’ page of your form empty, Tsukishima-kun?” He asks, scanning the page curiously.
“I don’t have any family,” Kei tells him, shrugging the question off like it didn’t hit him like a ton of bricks.
Akaashi-san looks up from the page to study him, his face sheet white. Kei swallows hard, and he can feel how the energy in the room has shifted as Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san pick up on their distress.
“That’s- uh… did they-” Akaashi-san stammers, the sad look in his eyes making Kei feel bad.
“No, it’s not like that!” He says quickly, “It’s just… I don’t talk to them, anymore.”
Akaashi-san places the folder down on the table.
“Oh. Sorry, I-”
“It’s really not a big deal.” Kei interrupts, taking his glasses off to clean them so that he doesn’t have to look at any of the other three in the eye. “They didn’t kick me out or anything, I just- I don’t… it’s complicated.”
Bokuto-san takes a deep breath and places a warm hand on Kei’s back.
“That’s fine!” He says brightly, “We’re your family now, anyway! Right?”
Kei puts his glasses back on and both Akaashi-san and Kuroo-san nod.
“Yeah." Kei replies, smiling as best he can, "Yeah, you are.”
Later, when Kei finds himself lying awake in bed at 2am, he wonders if this really is the way it was meant to be. He'd cut himself off from his parents for a reason - one that he remembers well, despite years spent trying to forget it and Akiteru's soft reassurances that it was okay, that he didn't think about it anymore, that it didn't hurt him anymore. Kei doesn't believe that, even now. Akiteru is too kind, too forgiving. Kei isn't either of those things, even at his best. Kei cut his parents off for a reason, but Akiteru... well. That's a whole different can of worms.
Kei lies awake and thinks about it for hours after everyone else has gone to bed, and he comes to a conclusion he never even would have considered not too long ago.
Maybe, just this once, he’ll reply to one of Akiteru’s messages. Maybe.
Chapter 27: Home
Tsukishima gets a persuasive phone call, the gang plays truth or dare and Tsukishima starts trying to get better.
This took a bit longer than I thought, but the chapter is also a bit longer than I thought so I guess it balances out. Thank you so much for the kind comments, they make my entire day every time! Sometimes they even remind me to keep writing, so dropping a comment about anything at all is always appreciated!! I hope you enjoy this one!
“I honestly don’t know why you’re so interested, Yamaguchi,” Kei says, tapping his fingers rhythmically against the desk just to have something to do with his hands.
“Come on, Tsukki! It’s not every day that your best friend calls out of the blue to tell you he has three boyfriends!”
Kei rolls his eyes, “I didn’t call you. You called me.”
“Okay, fine. But that brings up an even more interesting point – what kind of person just texts someone- wait. Let me pull up the exact text. I’m gonna quote you exactly so that you can hear how ridiculous it is. Hinata! Come see this!”
“Please don’t call Hinata.” Kei pleads. He can already hear the overly-excitable redhead bounding towards Yamaguchi at what is surely an incredible speed.
“Too late. Hinata!”
“Who’s that?” Hinata asks, panting a little.
“Tsukki,” Yamaguchi informs him, and Kei can hear Hinata wrestle the phone from Yamaguchi’s hands.
“Oh! Hi, Tsukishima! How’s Tokyo? Is it cold? It’s really cold here! You gotta come visit soon!” He says in rapid fire. Kei sighs, suddenly exhausted. There are days when Kei wonders why he hadn’t stayed in Miyagi with Yamaguchi, but then he remembers that Yamaguchi shares an apartment with Hinata and Kageyama and it comes rushing back to him all at once.
“Yeah, yeah. Hi, Hinata. Yamaguchi, I swear to god if-”
Yamaguchi wrestles the phone back from his little friend.
“Let me put it on speaker real quick. Okay, look at the text he sent me this morning, just- just look at this.”
“Don’t bother. Hinata can’t read.” Kei says, cracking a little smile at the long-running joke that he’s been tragically unable to use since he’s been in Tokyo.
“Hey! I graduated with a tenth-grade reading level!” Hinata yells, loudly and way too close to the receiver. Kei grimaces and puts his own phone down on the table to avoid such an incident occurring a second time. His poor eardrums wouldn’t be able to take it.
“Oh, yeah? And how’s the noodle shop treating you?” Kei teases.
“It’s temporary!” Hinata yells again. Kei might not even need to use the speaker at this rate.
“God, you guys- ah ha! I found it!” Yamaguchi interrupts, “Hinata, look at this! This asshole sent me this shit at eight in the morning like it was a casual thing!”
“It is!” Kei insists, his cheeks coloring a little. “I don’t know why you’re making it such a big deal, anyway.”
“It’s a huge deal! Hinata, are you done?”
“Give me a minute!”
Kei snorts, “Tenth-grade reading level my ass.”
Hinata gasps, and a short silence follows.
“Right?!” Yamaguchi exclaims.
“What?” Kei huffs. The phone changes hands again.
“How did- what?” Hinata gasps again.
“I’m going to hang up,” Kei says, a little tired of hearing all of the commotion but not getting to see any of it.
“Don’t you dare!” Yamaguchi warns, and then – presumably to Hinata – he repeats, “Right?!”
“Are they okay? How-” Hinata begins, and Kei picks his phone up.
“Aaaand I’m hanging up for real this time.” He says, thumb hovering over the screen.
Hinata is apparently too dumbstruck to hear him, “Three? Three whole people decided to date you? At the same time?”
Kei feels dangerously close to seriously considering a homicide.
“Look, it’s really not-” He tries to say, but Yamaguchi cuts him off before he can get a full sentence out.
“Have you told your mom? Or Akiteru?” He asks.
Kei closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, “God, no. And I never will. Now, can I please-”
“You know, Akiteru just got a new boyfriend too. Your mom seems to really like him.” Yamaguchi says, using That Tone that he uses whenever he’s trying to convince Kei of something. Kei almost finds it funny that Yamaguchi thinks that the two situations are even vaguely comparable.
“Okay, well one boyfriend and three are completely different in terms of acceptability – especially when it comes to my parents,” Kei says, hoping that a little bit of common sense might worm its way into Yamaguchi’s brain.
“Hinata, can we have a moment?”
“Okidoki! Don’t forget to visit! Also, I’m going to tell Yachi and Kageyama about this!”
“Please don’t!” Kei begs, sounding a lot more desperate than he’d anticipated. His phone buzzes.
“It’s already on the group chat!” Hinata yells, sounding at least a room away – though it’s difficult to tell.
“And he’s gone.” Yamaguchi says, “Let me just- okay. You can talk now.”
“I’d love to say that I miss Miyagi. I’d really love to.”
“Yeah, we miss you too. Now-”
Kei starts his tapping on the table again, “Can we do this another time? It’s white wine Wednesday so-”
“Okay. First of all, that’s adorable. Second of all, no we cannot do this another time. It’s important.” Yamaguchi says, his serious tone immediately putting Kei in a weird mood.
“I don’t care what my parents think anymore.” He says, not for the first time. “I’m way past that. Whether or not Akiteru forgives them is completely irrelevant.”
Yamaguchi sighs, and Kei can hear a little bit of static over the line.
“Come on, Tsukki. It’s been four years. You know they’re not like that anymore.”
Kei scoffs, “Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“So, come see it! I’m sure they’d love to meet-”
“Yeah, no. Not a chance in hell.”
“Come on! You can meet Kai and your family can meet-”
Kei frowns, “Who’s Kai?”
“Akiteru’s boyfriend. I’m sure he told you about it.”
Kei thinks back to the fifty or so unopened messages Akiteru has sent him.
“He… might have.”
“You can’t avoid them forever,” Yamaguchi says softly.
Kei feels the weird feeling from earlier developing into full-blown pissed off – like it does most times that Yamaguchi brings up the family thing. Kei hates that he’s still so emotional about it.
“I love you but you’re such a stubborn bastard sometimes, you know that?” Yamaguchi says, “At least consider-”
“Why should I? I don’t owe them anything! You of all people know how long it took me to get here, so why-”
“Because I care about you. And Akiteru cares about you. And your parents-”
Yamaguchi sighs again, “Look. I know I’m not going to change your mind, but… people make mistakes, Tsukki. People grow and change, and sometimes that does take longer than it should. I’m not saying that you should forgive them, okay? I’m just asking that you give them a chance. If not for them, then for Akiteru.”
Kei could swear that Yamaguchi can read minds sometimes. Just when he’s been genuinely considering contacting his brother for the first time in four years, Yamaguchi finds a way to bring it up. If Kei believed in fate, this would sure as hell be a convincing sign.
“That’s… I’ll, uh- I’ve gotta go. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Yamaguchi hesitates for a moment, “Okay. Just… yeah. Yeah, tomorrow then.”
Kei sits back in his desk chair and thinks that he might start white wine Wednesday a little early.
“Truth or dare?” Kuroo-san asks as the empty bottle of wine at the center of their circle finally comes to a halt, choosing Akaashi-san as its next victim.
“Truth,” Akaashi-san says without thinking about it for even a second.
“Come on, Akaashi! I’m running out of questions to ask you! You gotta pick dare at least once.” Kuroo-san complains.
“It’s not my fault you’re not creative enough to come up with interesting questions, Kuroo-san.”
Kuroo-san gasps dramatically, “You wound me!”
Akaashi-san shrugs and continues to enjoy the attention Kei is giving him in the form of little sharpie tattoos on his arm.
“Okay, uh…” Kuroo-san begins, eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he tries to think of a suitable question. “How about… one thing you’ve always wanted to do but have been too afraid to?”
Akaashi-san looks up for a second in quiet contemplation, “Maybe… get a piercing?”
“Ooooh, you totally should! It’s really not that bad!” Bokuto-san assures him, wiggling his eyebrows – presumably to show off his own piercing (as if any of them could forget it). Akaashi-san shakes his head.
“It’s not- I’m not afraid of the pain, per se. It’s more… that the shops are seedy looking, I guess? I don’t know how I feel about letting one of those people near my soft ear flesh with a needle.” He says, shuddering a bit when Kei gets too close to the sensitive pit of his elbow.
“You could let Oikawa do it. He did mine.” Bokuto-san says, and Akaashi-san’s eyes fly wide open.
“Jack of all trades, master of… well, kind of a surprising amount of things, actually.” Kuroo-san says, and Bokuto-san nods – both of them completely ignoring Akaashi-san’s (rightful) concern about Oikawa-san’s supposed back-street piercing parlor.
Kei briefly pauses in his doodling, “What doesn’t that man know how to do?”
“Healthy processing of his own emotions,” Kuroo-san replies, completely serious. Just before Kei can comment on this, Akaashi-san desperately tries to change the subject.
“Okay! It’s my turn to spin, so…” He spins the bottle with a fervor that could only have been born of Akaashi-san’s dedication to avoiding awkward topics of conversation. It lands squarely on Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san.
“Sweet! Truth or dare, bro?”
Kuroo-san doesn’t think very long about it either, “Truth.”
“After you just chastised Akaashi-san for choosing truth?” Kei asks, raising an eyebrow.
“I just pointed out that he’s chosen truth every round! I’m alternating!”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, I guess,” Kei says, frowning at his shitty dinosaur doodle and hoping against hope that Akaashi-san is too intoxicated to notice how badly Kei has fucked his arm up.
“What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done that none of us know about?” Bokuto-san asks, and Kuroo-san thinks about it for all of twenty seconds before his face turns red.
“Oh, that’s-” He tries, his facial expression falling squarely into the, ‘I’m having war flashbacks’ category of things. Bokuto-san is already laughing.
“You’ve got something in mind! I can see it on your face! Come out with it man, it can’t be that bad!”
Kuroo-san shakes his head, “It’s, uh… it’s pretty bad.”
“Yeah, well it’s truth or dare Kuroo-san. No chickening out.” Kei tells him, trying desperately to salvage his little dinosaur – though it’s starting to look more like a burnt dinosaur shaped nugget at this point.
“Fine,” Kuroo-san concedes, his hands clutching his knees. “In July, Oikawa and I… no. Nope. I can’t. You guys are going to laugh at me.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I was probably going to laugh at you no matter what it was,” Kei says, giving up on his doodle altogether and beginning a new one on Akaashi-san’s bicep.
“Yeah, that doesn’t make me feel better at all. Shockingly.” Kuroo-san replies sarcastically.
“I support you, Kuroo-san,” Akaashi-san says, giving him a lazy thumbs up for encouragement. Not surprisingly (as Kuroo-san is a notorious softy for his boyfriends), Kuroo-san caves almost immediately.
“Alright.” He says, taking a deep breath and screwing his eyes shut. It better be good, for all of the suspense and theatrics, Kei thinks. “Oikawa and I got matching tattoos.”
Bokuto-san spits his wine out in a fantastic spray that will almost certainly make the entire living room sticky tomorrow morning, “What?”
Kei nearly drops his sharpie and all but completely abandons his little art project in favor of leaning into Kuroo-san’s personal space.
“Are you fucking serious? Where?” He asks, thoroughly amused already. God only knows what a tattoo chosen by Oikawa-san would look like, and Kei is so ready to find out that he’s basically vibrating.
Kuroo-san recoils and wraps his arms around himself protectively.
“I knew it! I knew you guys were going to bully me!”
“We’re gonna see it sooner or later dude, just show us!” Bokuto-san says, crawling further toward where Kuroo-san is as well.
“As long as it wasn’t Oikawa-san who tattooed you, I won’t pry any further,” Akaashi-san says, still leaning against the couch away from all of the commotion.
“Come on, Akaashi! You’re not even a little bit curious?” Bokuto-san asks.
“Kuroo-san is as squeamish about taking his shirt off as a teenage girl, so curiosity is likely pointless in this situation.”
“Akaashi!” Kuroo-san whines. Kei stops to think about it for a moment.
“Actually,” He says, “Why are you so weird about taking your shirt off? You even made me switch the lights off when we-”
“Let’s change the subject!” Kuroo-san begs.
“Just tell us why you won’t let us see the goods, dude,” Bokuto-san says, hands creeping ever closer to Kuroo-san.
“Is it because you feel weird about your nipples?” Akaashi-san asks nonchalantly, rolling his sleeves down and looking into Kuroo-san’s soul with the wise gaze of an old god.
“Akaashi!” Kuroo-san yells again, arms tightening further around his torso to ensure no shirt-lifting incidents might occur.
“Well, is it?” Kei asks.
Kuroo-san frowns, sporting a pout to rival even that of the great Oikawa Tooru-san.
“Yeah, okay? It is. It’s because I feel weird about my nipples.”
Bokuto-san tilts his head to the side, “What’s wrong with them?”
“I’m not talking about this!”
“The people have a right to know,” Kei says, wondering for the first time since he was sixteen whether or not he should be concerned about his own nipples – what with Kuroo-san and co’s apparent nipple fixation. Maybe he’ll google it later.
“Fine!” Kuroo-san concedes, sighing heavily. “When I was seventeen, I shaved one of my nipples off by accident, okay?”
“So? Nipples grow back. Mine did.” Bokuto-san tells him, and Kei has to wonder what it is with his boyfriends and nipple trauma.
“Yeah, but it’s darker than the other one now.”
Bokuto-san slaps Kuroo-san heartily on the back, smiling his signature blinding smile.
“Who cares dude?” He says, “We accept nipples of every shape, size, and color in this home!”
Kuroo-san briefly looks as though he might cry, which… is on brand, but Kei doesn’t really feel like having two overly-emotional boys to deal with tonight. Akaashi-san is on the same page, apparently, as he appears next to Bokuto-san looking like a man on a mission.
“Now let’s see the tattoo.” He says, the anticipation in his voice crystal clear contrary to his earlier apathy about the whole thing.
“Fine.” Kuroo-san sighs, eyeing each of them before slowly removing his shirt. Their collective gaze immediately falls onto Kuroo-san’s infamous nipples.
“Woah, you were right. It is darker.” Bokuto-san says. Kei smacks him on the arm for his lack of tact.
“I’ll put my shirt right back on if you’re just going to make fun of my nipples,” Kuroo-san warns, shirt already back in hand. Akaashi-san all but rips it away from him.
“Okay, okay. Sorry,” Kei says, eyes roaming Kuroo-san’s entire (very pale) torso. “Now, where- oh my god.”
The tattoo itself is tiny. Barely any bigger than Kuroo-san’s nipple, if Kei were to estimate. It sits neatly on the left side of Kuroo-san’s rib cage, a collection of neat black lines in the form of… an alien in a little spaceship. Kei has to bite his lip to keep from laughing too hard.
“You really let him talk you into getting an alien tattoo?” He asks, voice shaking with pure mirth.
“You’re whipped as shit dude,” Bokuto-san informs him, inspecting the tattoo like one might expect a jewelry appraiser to inspect a family heirloom. “I kinda like it though.”
“It’s cute.” Akaashi-san agrees, still holding Kuroo-san’s shirt hostage.
“Okay, great. Can I put my shirt back on now?” Kuroo-san asks, eyeing Akaashi-san’s death-grip on the garment.
“Maybe later, Kuroo-san.”
Let me know if you’re okay when you can?
New boyfriend, huh?
You’d like him
He likes Queen and Star Trek
Better than mine
That’s not hard
How is everything?
“Mmm… Tsukishima-kun?” Akaashi-san mumbles, half-asleep. “What are you doing?”
Kei dims his phone screen as low as it will go, “Just… replying to some messages.”
Akaashi-san nods, rubbing at his eye sleepily.
“Okay, don’t stay up too late.” He whispers, flopping an arm over Kuroo-san’s back and immediately falling asleep again. Kei smiles and shifts further down in the bed to allow Akaashi-san the space to assume his ultimate form – The Starfish. Maybe not super comfortable for the rest of them, but certainly adorable enough to make up for it.
He looks back down at his phone. Akiteru would like them, he thinks. Akiteru would definitely like them.
Can I ask you something?
Would it be weird if I came home?
You’ll always be welcome home
Kei pauses for a moment before typing out his next message.
I’ll think about it
Chapter 28: Room for Four
Tsukishima finds the guts to ask his boyfriends to go home with him for the holidays, Yamaguchi drops some more questions into Tsukishima's head, and a tornado of an afternoon hits apartment 209.
This took really, really long and I am so sorry for that! I injured my wrist and got stuck in a cast for six weeks (which makes it a bit difficult to type, but I'm no quitter) and I've been fighting the worst writer's block so this took way longer than I'd intended. In any case, and as much as I'd like it to be better, please enjoy! I do so love to hear from you, so if you don't mind I'd love a comment about anything and everything! Thanks, as always!
Kei brings up the idea of going home like he might the idea of going out to watch a movie on a Tuesday afternoon – like he doesn’t really mean it, like it was just a wacky idea he had while he was making tea. All three of the other men in the room pause their activities almost simultaneously as soon as the words leave Kei’s mouth, and with good reason, Kei supposes. Saying the words that he just said, in that order… well, some might call it crazy. Just the other day he’d insisted that he didn’t have any family, and now here he is, suggesting that they all pack up and visit this non-existent family all the way in Miyagi for a week.
Akaashi-san looks up from the book he’s been reading – something about modern Japanese minimalism – and studies Kei’s expression and body language with an interesting mix of concern and surprise coloring his face.
“Has something come up?” He asks, carefully placing his bookmark between the pages of his book and folding it closed, giving Kei his full, undivided attention. Kei desperately wishes he wouldn’t, if only because he isn’t sure he can keep up his cool and apathetic façade for an entire conversation.
“Not… not really, I just- I’ve just been thinking about it for a while.”
“Ah, does this mean we’ve finally unlocked the tragic backstory?” Kuroo-san asks from his and Bokuto-san’s shared blanket fort between the couch and the kotatsu. Akaashi-san glares at him and slides his hand over to where one of the blankets has been tucked under a pile of books to keep it taught, the threat of total blanket fort collapse clear to the fort’s inhabitants and apparently convincing enough to warrant an apology, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to trivialize a serious issue.”
Akaashi-san retracts his hand and nods approvingly at Kuroo-san’s use of their Good Communication Words. Akaashi-san is nothing if not thorough and had insisted upon implementing several of the relationship tools he’d read about in those books he’d borrowed from his sister.
“It’s not that serious.” Kei insists.
“Can I get a sticker anyway? Akaashi takes one away every time I make a joke and it’s really bumming me out to see Bo getting more communication points than me.”
“Bokuto-san doesn’t purposefully provoke people,” Akaashi-san says matter-of-factly, opening his notebook and writing something down. Kuroo-san’s eyes widen, but he stays silent to avoid further damage to his chart.
“Maybe you should practice using your words to say kinder things, bro,” Bokuto-san says, patting Kuroo-san on the back. Akaashi-san writes something in his notebook again, which causes Kuroo-san to throw his hands up in exasperation.
Akaashi-san ignores him, “Alright, back to the matter at hand. Tsukishima-kun has something to say.”
“I don’t really, I was just-”
“If you’ve been thinking about it, we’d like to hear it. Right?” Akaashi-san says, looking to the blanket fort and receiving very enthusiastic nods from the two men inside.
“Okay," Kei takes a deep breath, "Okay, yeah… I- well, I’ve been texting my brother and-”
“You have a brother?” Bokuto-san asks earnestly, and Kei feels himself teetering between feeling guilty about his secrecy and being charmed by Bokuto-san’s enthusiastic curiosity.
“Yes.” Kei replies, watching as Bokuto-san’s face lights up at the simple pleasure of knowing just that little bit more about him.
“Aw man, that’s awesome!”
“Please save the questions for later, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi-san says, and suddenly all eyes are back on Kei.
Kei flops down onto the armchair and sighs, feeling so many things at once that he can barely make sense of individual thoughts. None of his boyfriends push him for information, even as he stays silent for what feels like forever thinking of something to say – wondering how he could possibly make his thought process make sense to the people in front of him.
“Can I…” He starts, grasping at every coherent thought that enters his head in the hopes that his explanation might make any sense at all, “I’m going to be completely honest, and I want you to make of the information what you will, okay?”
“Tragic backstory time?” Kuroo-san asks, forcing a breathy laugh out of Kei even as his heart is pounding. Akaashi-san writes something in his notebook.
“Tragic backstory time,” Kei confirms.
“As excited as I am that you’ve decided to visit, I do have my concerns,” Yamaguchi says, and Kei can hear the faint sounds of a tv left on in another room over the phone.
“That you’re only coming back to exact revenge and be petty.”
“That’s not the only reason I’m coming back.”
“Tsukki,” Yamaguchi says, the disapproval clear in his voice.
“Yamaguchi.” Kei mimics.
Yamaguchi sighs, “Can’t you at least be civil?”
“I never said anything about not being civil.” Kei says, tugging at his pillowcase, “All I’m going down there to do is spend some time with my estranged brother and introduce the miracle of healthy gay polyamory to my bigoted parents. If they think either of those things is petty or vengeful, that’s entirely their problem.”
Yamaguchi pauses for so long that Kei almost checks his phone to make sure the phone call hasn’t been disconnected.
“God, I can’t even argue with you.” Yamaguchi huffs.
“Because I’m never wrong.”
“You really grind my gears sometimes, you know that?” Kei makes an affirmative sound, having heard that particular line from his friend countless times and never with any bite to it. “Regardless, I’m expecting at least a three-hour visit to our humble abode so that the others can meet your um… uh-”
“Partners, boyfriends, whatever.”
“Partners? Okay, uh… partners, then.” Yamaguchi repeats, sounding unsure.
Kei frowns, “Don’t make it weird. It really doesn’t have to be weird.”
“No, not- not weird. Just… new, I guess.”
“Anyway, as much as I’d hate to deprive your family of such… fun people, Hinata and the others are dying to meet your partners.” Kei can’t help but laugh at the phrasing Yamaguchi chose to encapsulate his boyfriends’ eccentric personalities.
“Too bad, because it’s my current life mission to ensure that Bokuto-san and Hinata never meet.”
The image in Kei’s head of those two interacting makes him physically tired. He’s almost certain they could create a black hole with all of the energy they have combined. Yamaguchi doesn’t comment on his very legitimate fears though, choosing instead to fixate on something Kei hadn’t even thought about.
“Still at it with the honorifics, huh?” He asks, his tone a little more mischievous than usual.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Yamaguchi says dismissively.
“It’s not weird,” Kei tells him, his tone more defensive than he would have liked.
“I never said it was.”
“You implied it.” Kei insists.
“I think the lady doth protest too much.”
“I think you doth speak too much.”
Yamaguchi laughs loudly enough that Kei lifts the phone away from his ear a bit.
“I’ve got to go,” He says when he’s finished laughing, “But I do so look forward to meeting Bokuto-san and the others again.”
“Why did you say it like that?”
“Like that.” Kei huffs, “You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“Your imagination is as active as ever, Tsukki,” Yamaguchi chuckles, much to Kei’s chagrin, “I’ll text you about dinner plans later.”
Having left no room for argument on Kei’s part, Yamaguchi puts the phone down and leaves Kei in relative silence on his own bed. That damned boy always seems to leave Kei with more to think about every time he opens that mouth of his.
“If I die of a heart attack at twenty-two, I want you to know that it’ll have been your fault,” Kei says, unable to take his eyes off of the crime scene in front of him.
“I didn’t even do anything wrong this time!” Kuroo-san whines.
“I find that very hard to believe.”
From what he can gather, three things happened while Kei was upstairs taking his phone call from Yamaguchi:
- Oikawa-san returned from a shopping trip, during which he’d purchased some very ugly, ornate wooden clogs.
- A replica Spider-Man suit that the four of them had purchased off of the internet one drunken night the previous week arrived at Kuroo-san’s mail slot.
- Akaashi-san had apparently briefly lost his mind and accepted Oikawa-san’s offer to pierce his ears.
Each and every one of these three things has spawned previously unimaginable chaos, and all Kei can do for now is deal with the aftermath. Coincidentally, Kei’s mental list of things he needs to do is also three items long:
- Deal with Oikawa-san's possible clog-induced concussion.
- Somehow remove the skin-tight, spandex Spider-Man suit from Bokuto-san’s body before he suffocates.
- Wake Akaashi-san and prevent him from bleeding to death due to the tiny holes in his earlobes and his apparent anemia.
Kei has already decided that Bokuto-san’s inevitable suffocation should take priority over Oikawa-san’s possible concussion and Akaashi-san’s excruciatingly slow bleeding out (and possible fainting spell), but he’s yet to decide who to kill over this. So far, he’s leaning toward Oikawa-san.
“Kuroo,” Kei says, taking great care and effort to leave off the honorific. Damn that Yamaguchi, making him second guess the relative normalcy around what he calls his partners. “Scissors.”
Kuroo-san blinks in confusion for a moment, trying to process Kei’s sentence. Kei snaps his fingers in front of Kuroo-san’s face in an attempt to help him along.
“Uh, right. Scissors.”
Kuroo-san returns with the tiniest scissors Kei has ever laid eyes on.
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”
Kuroo-san shrugs, “I was kind of surprised we even had scissors, so-”
“Just… hold him, please.” Kei instructs, gesturing toward the very sexy Spider-Man screaming muffled curses and crawling blindly around the apartment.
Kuroo-san nods and walks slowly toward Bokuto-san, getting to his knees and holding his hands up as soon as he gets close.
“Bo? Bo, I need you to listen to me, okay?”
More muffled screaming. Kuroo-san looks back at Kei with a look of desperate fear in his eyes. Kei knows why, too – it’s the very same reason he’s standing ten feet away.
“He can’t hear me,” Kuroo-san says, his lip quivering.
“Just do what you need to do.”
Kuroo-san nods and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath before screaming, “BO, PLEASE! I’M GOING TO TOUCH YOU NOW, OKAY? IT’S ME! IT’S KURO! PLEASE DON’T-”
Unfortunately, Kuroo-san is elbowed rather unceremoniously in the face by his blind prey, causing him to fall back onto his haunches.
“I think he broke my nose!” Kuroo-san cries, cupping his hands over the impact site. From the terrible crunching sound Kuroo-san’s face had just produced, Kei would venture to suggest that he may be correct on that front.
- Take Kuroo-san to the emergency room.
“Okay, just- just grab him quickly, while he knows you’re there. We’ll… oh my god, okay. We’ll deal with that as soon as- ah fuck this is bad.”
“You don’t get to say that right now!” Kuroo-san yells, and Kei can see some blood dripping onto the carpet from his nose. Bokuto-san is still screaming.
“I’m the only one who gets to say that right now!” Kei yells back, “Grab him!”
Kuroo-san drops his hands to wrap his arms around Bokuto-san and luckily there aren’t any more breakages as he settles into Kuroo-san’s arms. Kei rushes over and immediately gets to work cutting Bokuto-san free of his spandex prison.
“FUCK!” Bokuto-san screams as soon as the mask is safely around his neck and no longer covering his breathing apparatus, “I CAN BREATHE!”
“I can’t!” Kuroo-san yells, hands back over his injury. Kei feels faint.
“Jesus, dude! What happened?” Bokuto-san asks as soon as he lays eyes on Kuroo-san’s quickly bruising face.
“You elbowed me in the fucking face!”
“Ah, shit! That was you?”
“Yes, that was-”
Kei slaps the top of the kotatsu, “Shut up, I’m trying to think!”
“What’s going on?” Oikawa-san asks, having propped himself up on his elbow to look down at the three men on the floor.
“You,” Kei hisses, rage flowing through his veins, “This is all your fault! God fucking damnit, where’s Akaashi-s- Akaashi?”
“How am I supposed to know- ow!” Oikawa-san clutches the very obvious red bump forming on his head from the apparent clog-collision that had occurred shortly after Bokuto-san had gotten stuck in the suit.
“How did we lose a whole person? He was fucking unconscious three minutes ago!” Kei says, searching the room rather frantically for his lost boyfriend.
“So was I!” Oikawa-san reminds them, laying back down on the couch.
“Don’t fall asleep, or so help me I will make it permanent! Kuroo-san watch him. Bokuto-san, help me find Akaashi-san.”
“Roger!” Bokuto-san says, frowning a little but following Kei anyway.
“Oh, thank god,” Kei breathes when he sees Akaashi-san leaning against the back of the fallen armchair.
How’s the 23rd at six?
I’ll get back to you on that
I’m in the emergency room
OMG ARE YOU OK
Oikawa-san just has a mild concussion
And Kuroo-san broke his nose
But we’re fine
The 23rd is fine but can we do 7 instead?
Akaashi just prefers a later dinner
Yeah I’ll call you later
I’ll be home from the 22nd through the 28th
If that’s okay
It’s more than okay
Mom said she’ll be happy to have you (*^▽^*)
I’ve got some people I want you to meet
Make room for four
Chapter 29: Shading Practice
Several important conversations take place leading up to the gang's stay at the Tsukishima household.
Okay, so I'm kind of a dumbass and I thought I could get this fic wrapped up in thirty chapters - a nice, clean, round number. I was so very wrong that people generations down the line will laugh at my naivete. So... I'm not sure whether this counts as good or bad news, but there will be a few more chapters! Also thank you so much for your understanding regarding my wrist injury - the cast isn't bothering me nearly as much as it was in the beginning, so writing is a lot easier. In any case, please enjoy! Feedback is always appreciated!
“Oh, thank god,” Kuroo-san sighs, “I thought you were doing that thing that Akaashi does when he’s angry, and it was really freaking me out.”
Kuroo-san winces at Kei’s clumsy attempt at reapplying the bandages on his face. The poor boy looks like he’s been in a street fight, and with the group’s departure for Miyagi fast approaching (around eighteen hours away, to be exact), Kei has to wonder what his family will think of his thug boyfriends. The thought makes Kei wince as well.
“Like… Akaashi doesn’t get mad a lot, but when he does get really, genuinely mad… you know. Shit’s real when he calls me Kuroo. Cold shoulder for a week – at least.”
Akaashi-san raises an eyebrow even as he continues his sketch of Kuroo-san’s profile. ‘Shading practice’ he’d called it.
Kei finishes his hack job of an attempt at first aid and steps back to examine it, “Oh. Yeah, no. Yamaguchi’s just a dick sometimes.”
“If it makes you feel better, we can get a little more intimate with what we call each other.” Akaashi-san suggests, putting his sketchbook down and leaning forward to adjust the position of Kuroo-san’s head, “I really don’t mind either way.”
“Really?” Kuroo-san asks, “You’ve been calling us the same things for four years, though. If I’d known it was that easy, I would’ve asked you to drop the honorific years ago.”
“You did,” Akaashi-san informs him casually, sitting back down. Kei catches a glimpse of the sketch as Akaashi-san picks his book up and smiles a little at how kind the drawing is. Beautiful, even despite the bruising and bandages.
“Huh?” Kuroo-san asks, struggling not to turn his head now that Akaashi-san has repositioned it.
“You asked me to drop it once when you were drunk.”
“Spite,” Akaashi-san says, tapping his pencil against the paper, “Oh, and habit. Mostly spite, though.”
“You scare the shit out of me sometimes,” Kuroo-san tells him.
“Good. Now, back to what we were talking about.”
Akaashi-san makes a few more minor adjustments to his drawing before closing his sketchbook and tapping Kuroo-san on the arm to let him know that he’s finished. Kuroo-san’s entire body deflates like a balloon.
“Shouldn’t we wait for Bo to get home?” He asks, rubbing the back of his neck. “He’ll have a heart attack if Akaashi starts calling him something other than Bokuto-san with no warning.”
“I don’t even know why this is a conversation anyway,” Akaashi-san says, cracking his knuckles. “If it makes Tsukishima-kun more comfortable-”
“I’m fine, really.”
Kuroo-san’s face falls into a lopsided grin, “I can start calling you darling, or love, or honey bunches-”
“God, please don’t. It’s embarrassing.” Kei complains, already able to picture the harassment he would receive from his friends were Kuroo-san to call him any of those things in front of them.
“You’re not saying it with enough confidence.” Akaashi-san critiques, “It needs to sound natural.”
“Oh, yeah.” Kuroo-san says like he’s had a revelation, “Like when Oikawa does it.”
“Not quite,” Akaashi-san replies, sounding somewhat amused, “Oikawa-san does it to condescend people.”
“Not all the time.” Kuroo-san pouts.
“Sore spot?” Kei asks smugly.
“Can I make a suggestion?” Akaashi-san asks, and when neither Kei nor Kuroo-san offers any protest, he continues, “Why don’t we try first names? It might be more comfortable for Tsukishima-kun and me especially to do that instead of trying to drop the habit of using an honorific.”
“I mean… yeah.” Kuroo-san shrugs, “I don’t see why not.”
Both Akaashi-san and Kuroo-san turn to Kei for confirmation, which makes him feel even weirder about it than when the topic had been brought up in the first place. Logically, the transition would make sense – they’re dating now, and Kei is definitely familiar enough with them for the change not to be too weird but… the whole thing just seems like it’s moving a little fast.
“You guys really don’t have to if you don’t want to.” He says, looking down at his fidgeting hands for some relief from his boyfriends’ stares.
“I want to,” Akaashi-san reassures him, and Kei feels a warmth bloom in his chest for how sincere he sounds.
Just as Kei is about to reply, all three of them turn their heads to the door like a family of meerkats at the sound of Bokuto-san’s keys in the door. When Bokuto-san rounds the corner, Akaashi-san gets a not entirely unfamiliar but definitely rare mischievous look in his eye.
“Oh, hello Koutarou.” He says sweetly.
Loving Akaashi-san gets easier and easier every day, Kei thinks.
“He’s overreacting!” Oikawa-san insists for the fifth-or-so time – Kei has completely lost count, but it’s no less annoying the fifth or sixth time than it was the second.
“How the hell am I supposed to react?” Iwaizumi-san asks, clearly pissed off.
“You’re not! This is literally so stupid, it’s not even worth arguing about!” Oikawa-san yells, not looking his boyfriend in the face even as they sit not thirty centimeters apart on the couch.
“The only reason we’re even arguing in the first place is because you refuse to acknowledge what happened!”
“Because it wasn’t a big deal! Right? Tell him he’s overreacting!”
Kuroo-san looks between them with the most impassive expression Kei has ever seen on his face, “You guys know that none of us are like… relationship councilors, right?”
“Duh, I just need someone to tell him he’s overreacting so that we can move on because he’s stubborn as hell.” Oikawa-san huffs, pouting like a spoiled child.
Iwaizumi-san’s expression is one of pure disbelief, “Me? I’m stubborn?”
From what Kei had gathered during their brief and rather messy explanation of what had caused the altercation in the first place, one of Oikawa-san’s former suitors had shown up at their door and proclaimed his undying love. Kei finds this rather funny. Iwaizumi-san, evidently, does not.
“Not to be that guy or anything but… why are you mad exactly?” Kuroo-san asks, looking at Iwaizumi-san.
“I’m not. I just wanted to know why he wanted to pretend it didn’t happen, and he got defensive about it.”
The room turns its attention back to Oikawa-san.
“Ah, that’s on you then, Oikawa,” Kuroo-san says, shrugging apologetically.
“That’s not fair, Tetsu-chan! I came down here so that you could defend me!” Oikawa-san whines, something more fragile than pride in his voice.
“You don’t need defending.”
Oikawa-san’s mouth clamps shut before he can get another word out. The sentence seems to have resonated with him in a way that Kei would bet even Kuroo-san hadn’t anticipated when he’d said it.
The silence that falls over the room hardly feels silent at all. They’re all looking at Oikawa-san, hearing the thoughts run through his head. What he’s actually thinking, none of them may ever know – though the look on his face is pretty telling in and of itself. The little frown that turns into a lip quiver. The little shake of his head, not directed at Kuroo-san’s words, but at something entirely different that none of them could ever hope to understand. Kei almost feels bad for him – the man with so many feelings but none of the words to express them. The man with so many people around him but none to understand him. Kei wishes he could do that – understand Oikawa-san. The others no doubt feel the same. Oikawa-san is a man that begs to be understood.
Kuroo-san is right. Oikawa-san does not need defending – he’s done nothing wrong. The question hanging in the air, however, is why he feels as though he has.
Kei feels like he might throw up for the entire train ride. Even before they’d gotten onto the train anxiety was eating him alive. The night before, he’d tossed and turned, dreading the next week and cursing his past self for even considering that this trip might be a good idea. He feels like a foolish, lovestruck teenager bringing his boyfriends home after only about a week or two of dating. It’s more complicated than that, he knows, but the thoughts stick to his consciousness like glue anyway. Reducing the importance of these people and this relationship only serves to do each and every one of them a disservice in the end.
Maybe he’s just trying to protect himself, he reasons – his parents will probably think all of that and worse anyway, so if he thinks them ahead of time it won’t hurt as badly. Right?
“Are you okay?” Bokuto-san asks, leaning over to whisper in Kei’s ear almost softly enough to be drowned out by the other sounds filling the train. Pulled so abruptly from his thoughts, Kei doesn’t reply immediately, so Bokuto-san adds, “You look a bit nervous.”
Kei makes a conscious effort to relax his facial features and the tension in his muscles.
“I’m fine, thank you.” He says, sounding tense anyway.
Bokuto-san’s forehead creases into a frown that Kei immediately wants to smooth off of his face, “Are you sure?”
Kei takes a deep breath and nods, trying to focus on the steady movement of the train to distract himself. Bokuto-san scoots closer, sitting so that his and Kei’s thighs are touching, and Kei can feel the warmth of his skin seeping through his jeans.
“You know, I think you might be more sensitive than you look,” Bokuto-san says, looking out the window at all of the dead trees and dry grass rushing by. Kei wonders what he’s thinking as he looks out there. All Kei can think is how every second is bringing them closer and closer to a place he thought he’d never go back to.
“I’ve never been sensitive a day in my life.” Kei asserts, sounding rather childish. Bokuto-san doesn’t seem to mind.
“You’re allowed to be sensitive. I know you think you need to be brave all the time, but you have us now – you can be as sensitive as you want and we’ll be right there to pick you up, okay?”
Kei considers Bokuto-san’s words for a moment, feeling the solid warmth of Bokuto-san’s body pressed against him. At that moment, Kei wonders for the very first time if he can unlearn it – his aversion to sensitivity. He’d learned it so early. His brother had been sensitive and vulnerable, and he was punished for it. In some ways, Kei feels as though he was punished for it too. If Akiteru hadn’t been so open and vulnerable with their parents, Kei would still have grown up with an older brother. Kei wouldn’t have felt the need to repress his own feelings for the entirety of his teen years. Kei wouldn’t still find it so painful that even the thought of seeing his brother sends him spiraling right back into his darkest thought processes.
But there is no sense in blaming Akiteru. Their parents were the ones who were wrong.
Kei leans a little more into the warmth provided by Bokuto-san and his fluffy jacket, certain of his partner’s stability even as he feels his own falter with every passing kilometer.
“Being sensitive takes a lot more courage than being brave does.” He says wistfully, not paying much mind to how paradoxical his words are. They make sense to him, anyway.
Bokuto-san stays silent for a few minutes, allowing Kei to leech all of his warmth from him without so much as a passing comment on how cold Kei’s skin is. Kei struggles not to mention it himself. Even so, Bokuto-san seems to be deep in thought – not minding Kei’s parasitism in the least.
“Can I tell you something?” Bokuto-san says eventually, looking at Kei with those big eyes that make him want to say, ‘yes, anything.’
Kei clears his throat, “Sure.”
“Your parents fucking suck and I don’t like them at all.”
He’s dead serious and it’s all Kei can do not to laugh out loud in surprise.
“I appreciate that,” Kei says, smiling because he is a lovestruck idiot and there’s no use denying it any longer, “Thank you, Koutarou.”
Bokuto-san beams at him and Kei would kiss him were they not on a public train.
“Get a room!” Kuroo-san whisper-shouts, apparently having awoken from his nap. Akaashi-san is still asleep, face squished against Kuroo-san’s shoulder. He’s drooling a bit, but Kuroo-san either hasn’t noticed or doesn’t care.
“Says you! Keiji is practically on your lap!” Kei retorts.
"Yeah, he is." Kuroo-san grins and rests his head atop Akaashi-san’s, “And he’s drooling on me.”
Loving them gets easier and easier every day, Kei thinks.
Chapter 30: Four Sons for the Price of One
Tsukishima's mom meets her son's boyfriends.
Kei doesn’t ring the doorbell – he doesn’t have to. The second they’re all out of the taxi, Kei’s mother is all but sprinting down the path. She leaps at Kei, nearly knocking him over with the force of her hug and burying her face in his chest like she hasn’t seen him in ten years. It has been a solid four, in her defense, but Kei can’t help the way he stiffens in her arms anyway.
Kei doesn’t really know what he expected coming out here after so long. Maybe the very same half-hearted hugs from his mother and curt nods of acknowledgment from his father that he’d grown used to over Akiteru’s six-year absence. Maybe something even colder – a punishment of sorts for abandoning his family after high school. Maybe outright hostility.
Whatever he’d expected, it wasn’t this. Not the bone-crushing embrace he’s been in for probably over a minute now, nor the tears seeping into his shirt and making it damper with every passing second.
“Mom?” He prompts, feeling somewhat awkward for how long he’s been standing here with his mother clinging to his shirt like he might float away if she didn’t keep him grounded herself. “Mom, it’s cold outside.”
She takes one more shaky breath before she lets him go, taking a step back and looking at him with puffy red eyes.
“You’re even taller than I remember,” She sniffs, smiling and wiping her tears away with her sleeve now that Kei’s shirt isn’t there to soak them up. “And your hair is so long now.”
Is it? Come to think of it, Kei can’t remember the last time he’d gotten a proper haircut. He brings a hand up to tug on one of the blonde curls, verifying for himself that yes, she’s right. His hair is longer. He wonders why she mentioned it, whether she’s going to rattle off all of the little things that have changed about him since he’s been gone. She doesn’t, thankfully – he honestly doesn’t know if he could handle her telling him that he looks four years older.
His mother turns her attention to the three men standing awkwardly behind Kei in the street and beams, “You must be the people Kei wanted us to meet.”
“Um, yes,” Kei says quickly, moving to stand between them and his mother. He points to Bokuto-san first, “This is Koutarou, Keiji, and Tetsurou. They’re, uh…”
“Wait, we should go inside!” His mother interrupts, gesturing toward Akaashi-san in his impressive bundle of jackets, “Keiji-kun is freezing to death out here!”
She’s right, of course. Akaashi-san is shaking like a chihuahua and looks as though the polite smile is frozen onto his face. Kei nods and his mother takes it as an invitation to take Akaashi-san by the shoulders and steer him inside with all of her five-foot-two might. It looks ridiculous, really, what with Akaashi-san being close to a foot taller than her. It’s all he can do to look back at the three of them that had been left outside with a look of confused panic in his eyes before he and Kei’s mother disappear into the house.
“She seems nice,” Kuroo-san says, hoisting one of their two giant suitcases onto the pavement with more than a little difficulty.
“Tiny,” Bokuto-san adds eloquently, staring after their kidnapped partner in awe. “Like a middle-schooler.”
“You guys are just giants.” Kei reminds them.
Kuroo-san raises an eyebrow, “Says the tallest among us.”
“By half an inch.”
“Uh, guys? We should probably go inside too.” Bokuto-san says, glancing up at the still wide-open door to Kei’s childhood home. It looks almost eerie, creaking with every fresh gust of wind.
“Ah fuck, you’re right! We’ve abandoned Keiji!” Kuroo-san yells, maneuvering the suitcase with a little more urgency now. Kei rolls his eyes and grabs Bokuto-san by the arm to lead him out of the street.
“He’ll be fine. My mother will probably just coddle him for a bit.”
“Ah, yes,” Kuroo-san says, nodding wisely. “Empty nest syndrome.”
Kei doesn’t dignify that with a response, choosing instead to grab onto the handle of the second suitcase. He nearly falls over as he tries to pull it up onto the pavement, as heavy as it is. Neither of the other two says anything about it, but Kei can see Kuroo-san save it into his mental file of ‘Things to Tease Kei About Later.’ Bokuto-san graciously offers to take the suitcase from there.
When they reach the door, Kei turns around to look at the disaster duo with fierce intent. He’s already said it many times, but lord knows that his boyfriends have the thickest skulls in existence and somehow manage to get by sharing only one brain cell between them (on a good day).
“Behave yourselves,” Kei warns one last time, attempting Akaashi-san’s infamous soul-stare for emphasis. He has a feeling it isn’t nearly as effective or intimidating on him as it is on Akaashi-san, but that can’t be helped.
Kuroo-san grins that signature shit-eating grin of his and Kei can instantly tell that he hasn’t taken the warning to heart. To make matters worse, he decides to open his mouth.
“That’s kinda hot,” Kuroo-san says, and Kei feels the dormant urge to throttle him rise from the ashes of his self-control.
“And you’ve already fucked up.”
“Damn, um… redo?” Kuroo-san asks, an unremorseful grin still firmly plastered on his bastard face.
Kei clenches his teeth and leans closer, “If you say anything even approaching that level of stupid in front of my family, I will eviscerate you.”
Kuroo-san does a two-finger salute, “Noted.”
“Kei come inside! There’s no need to bully those sweet young men!” Kei’s mother yells from inside the house, and Kei feels his entire body go cold.
“Did she…?” Kuroo-san asks tentatively.
“For your sake, I hope the answer is no.”
Akaashi-san is in heaven – bundled up like a baby in at least five blankets and settled in front of two space heaters for good measure. Kei might call it excessive were he not all too familiar with Akaashi-san’s aversion to the cold and his mother’s aversion to criticism.
“Your father and Akiteru are coming home in an hour or two,” She says, sitting down in the armchair across from where Kei and his boyfriends are. It’s set up like an interrogation, and Kei would venture to suggest that that’s exactly what’s about to go down. He feels almost faint just thinking about what order of bullshit might leave his partners’ mouths – with the exception of Akaashi-san, angel that he is. All Kei can do is pray and hope that the other two even remembered to bring their brain cell with them.
“But before they do, I’d like to meet you all properly. It isn’t very often that Kei brings a friend home, so you three must be very special.”
It isn’t too often that I come home, Kei thinks, but he decides to leave that alone – for now, at least. His mother seems… different. Not excessively so – she’s always been a little forceful, and she’s always been sweet in the way that most mothers are. Kei likes to remember her like that, sometimes. When Yamaguchi had insisted time and time again that they’d changed, Kei would indulge in fantasies where that was true. Where his mom was sweet and that was all there was to it. Nothing darker, no hushed conversations with his father about Akiteru’s influence on Kei, no twisted perspectives. Just sweet.
None of the others answer his mother, so Kei regathers the courage that he’s been gathering for this moment specifically. The courage to be a foolish, lovestruck teenager in his early twenties because he never got to be one when he was actually a teenager. The courage to take back everything his parents took from him.
He takes a deep breath, reminds himself that he’s got family regardless of how this goes, and rips the band-aid off full force.
“These are my boyfriends, mom.”
The world seems to completely still for a moment. Kei doesn’t move, his mother doesn’t move, and his boyfriends don’t move. Kei studies his mother’s face for the adverse reaction he’s been expecting, but he doesn’t exactly find what he’s looking for. Her soft features never harden like he expects them to.
“Well!” She says, straightening up after a minute of silence that felt to Kei like it was stretching out into eternity. “How about that!”
“Sorry?” Kei asks, completely in shock.
His mother smiles at him again – though it’s a far cry from the beaming smiles they’d seen earlier. It’s paper-thin, wavering more and more with every passing second.
“Frankly, darling, I thought… well, I thought that I might never see you again.” She says, crossing and then uncrossing her legs as though she can’t find a position comfortable enough to settle down in. “I- we have a lot to talk about. Too much, maybe. But the most important thing is that you’re here!”
She pauses, and for a moment Kei is worried that she might want him to fill the space. Or that she’ll cry. Kei isn’t prepared for either of those things. Finally, she settles into the armchair, legs crossed daintily at the ankles.
“Anyway, I want you to know that I support you no matter what.” She tells him, far more confidence in her voice now that she’s gotten her bearings. “I decided that a while ago – that if you ever came back, I’d… You could have come in here and told me you’d killed somebody, and I’d have helped you hide the body, so… this is good news, isn’t it? You haven’t killed anybody, and I get four sons for the price of one!”
“You’re really okay with this?” Kei asks, still feeling a little skeptical. She's taking it too well, as ridiculous as that sounds. Kei would expect even a historically supportive parent to give that kind of thing a little bit of pause - three boyfriends? It sounds absurd even to Kei sometimes.
“Am I not supposed to be?” She asks, and Kei doesn’t even know what to say. She sighs, “I was preparing myself for you to tell me you never wanted to see me again, and… I suppose that would be- it’s understandable. I really- your father and I did some unspeakable things because we thought we were doing what was best for you, but… obviously, that’s not- I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am, baby. I was a horrible mother to you and Akiteru, and… we’ll do this a bit later, I think.”
Kei nods slowly, processing her words. She sounds sincere, he thinks, completely sincere. He feels a weight lift off of him that he hadn’t realized was even there. Maybe Yamaguchi was right.
His mother claps her hands, startling Kei out of his thoughts.
“These poor boys must be completely shell-shocked!” She says, looking at the three in question. Her smile softens when she reaches Akaashi-san’s blanket swaddle, “Though, I think Keiji-kun may have fallen asleep there.”
He has indeed. Kei could swear that he’d just slept for two hours on the train as well, but Akaashi-san seems to have paid his earlier nap no mind and fallen right to sleep on the couch. Kei can't help but smile as well, looking at Akaashi-san's perfectly content face. They'll have a lot of explaining to do when he wakes up, though.
“He’s like a bear in the winter,” Bokuto-san, resident Akaashi-san expert, tells them. “He’s like… hibernating and shit.”
“Koutarou.” Kei says, the warning clear.
“Sorry, and stuff.” Bokuto-san amends.
Kei puts his face in his hands and sighs – this is going to be a long week.
A lot less angsty than we were all expecting! And a lot quicker than the last couple of updates! Holy shit this was cheesy as hell though, so... sorry, I guess? I just want the boys to be happy! Feedback is as always appreciated!
Chapter 31: Claude Debussy
More shenanigans with Tsukishima's mom and the boys, more shenanigans with just the boys, and Tsukishima faces a harsh reality.
Kei’s mother is a witch. She must be. Not for having convinced Kei’s boyfriends to help cook dinner – oh no, Kei had predicted that the second the conversation had turned toward the topic of dinner in the first place – but rather for having convinced Kei to allow it to happen. There are only so many outcomes for situations involving Kei and his boyfriends, and ninety-seven percent of them just so happen to be some shade of absolutely disastrous. Even more unfortunately, the percentage of absolutely disastrous outcomes increases to one hundred when any sort of cooking is involved.
“I assume at least one of you can cook,” Kei’s mother says with the utmost confidence, and Kei winces. “Now, which-”
A million memories flash by in Kei’s head – of Kuroo-san’s burnt hands when he took a tray out of the oven with no protection because ‘I just need to put it on the counter, right? It’s not that far’, of Akaashi-san’s crunchy spaghetti and burnt fish sticks, of Bokuto-san’s enthusiastic chopping of an onion that resulted in a trip to the emergency room because he was crying too hard to see but refused to stop chopping. And none of that is even to mention that Kei himself had lived off of popcorn and Oikawa-san’s donated cup noodles for over three months at one point. Kei winces again.
“Mom,” He blurts in his desperation, “Mommy, um… you’re such a good cook already, it’d be a shame to let one of us novices ruin perfectly good-”
“Nonsense, Kei! Just because you’re useless in the kitchen doesn’t mean that these handsome young men are as well. Which one of you typically does the cooking?”
Akaashi-san tentatively raises a hand, “I do, ma’am.”
“My word, so polite!” She gushes, placing a hand on Akaashi-san’s shoulder, “You can call me mom as well, sweetheart, no need to be shy.”
Akaashi-san nods, looking white as a sheet – from Kei’s mother’s forwardness or the fact that he may have to put his cooking prowess on display, Kei can’t be sure. Perhaps a healthy mix of both. Either way, Kei takes it upon himself to stand behind Akaashi-san in the event of another fainting spell (which has only happened once, to be fair, and under extraordinary – read: Oikawa-san induced – circumstances, but still it doesn’t hurt to be careful).
Akaashi-san does not faint, luckily, but in a separate and no less alarming development, Kei has to physically stop himself from kissing Akaashi-san’s sweet little bedhead.
Without pause or consideration for their exhaustion from traveling four hours, Kei’s mother designates kitchen and cooking tasks to each of them. Poor Akaashi-san is made to be her second in command, despite his evident lack of familiarity with many of the tools and techniques she uses over the course of the cooking process. Thankfully, though, she seems not to notice any of their incompetence at all in her enthusiasm for the task at hand.
That is until Bokuto-san is tasked with whisking one of the dessert components and, upon being asked to taste test it, proceeds to stick the entire head of the whisk into his gaping mouth like it isn’t the size of a decently large orange.
“Christ, Bo,” Kuroo-san breathes, more in awe of the physical feat of it than anything. Kei can’t blame him either – he’s rather confused about how it happened himself. Realistically, if Kei were to replicate the action, he’d have to unhinge his jaw like a snake to get the thing back out. Bokuto-san is, as always, a medical and scientific mystery.
When Kei finally snaps out of his shocked silence, he remembers his mother’s presence in the room and feels the overwhelming urge to melt into a puddle right then and there so that he can seep into the floorboards and never be seen again. How bold of him to have even dared to hope that his boyfriends would be able to behave in any manner approaching ‘normal’ around his family. How bold of him to have not considered the possibility that Bokuto-san might deep-throat a whisk in front of his unsuspecting mother.
He won’t make that naïve mistake again.
“What?” Bokuto-san asks, looking at the people around him with big, innocent eyes.
“Koutarou, for the love of god-” Kei begins, the weight of his mother’s silence weighing him down further every second.
Until she starts laughing.
“Well, that’s certainly not something you see every day!” She giggles, slapping Bokuto-san heartily on the back.
‘I’m going to kill you,’ Kei mouths when he and Bokuto-san make eye-contact, and Bokuto-san looks like he believes it.
Kei’s father and Akiteru do not take an hour or two doing whatever it is that they were doing away from the house – they take closer to four. Kei is secretly relieved when his mother gets the text saying they’ll be late just as the five of them are finishing dinner prep – relief that he’d rather not examine, but that he knows he’ll have to eventually. Akaashi-san notices it, the shift in Kei’s demeanor – the visible relaxation of his tensed muscles when Kei’s mother tells them to go upstairs and settle in while they wait.
“Your room is so cute!” Bokuto-san exclaims, examining every shelf and drawer like they might be holding anything even remotely interesting. Kei knows they aren’t – he remembers where everything is, even four years later. Even so, he verifies it for himself – that everything is exactly the way he left it.
His mother hasn’t changed anything at all, strangely. Not a single book or pen is out of place.
Or maybe it’s not so strange. Kei notices a picture album on his bed and imagines his mother sitting there like parents sometimes do in movies when their child has died. Kei’s not dead, obviously, but… he really hadn’t planned on coming back, and maybe that’s close enough to the same thing.
Kei feels a gentle hand on his lower back that he instantly recognizes as Akaashi-san’s, snapping him out of his morbid thoughts.
“If you ever need a break, you need only tell one of us,” Akaashi-san tells him softly.
Kei smiles at the gesture, “I should be saying that to you, mister master chef.”
Akaashi-san lets out a breathy laugh, “Your mother is unexpectedly spunky.”
“Unexpectedly? She raised me.”
“Fair point,” Akaashi-san concedes, “Though I did mean what I said. If it’s ever too much for you-”
“You have a fucking cat?!” Kuroo-san yells excitedly, interrupting Akaashi-san mid-sentence (not that he’d know it).
Kei’s eyes follow Kuroo-san’s gaze and settle on the fluffy little bastard, bathing in the late afternoon sunlight on Kei’s windowsill as though he hasn’t even noticed their presence in the room. Kei had almost forgotten about him, in all honesty – he was more of a regular houseguest than a pet cat, after all, and he and Kei had kept their relationship strictly professional.
Though he would be lying if he said he wasn’t at least a little happy to see his cat alive and well after all these years.
“Oh, yeah. That’s Claude Debussy.” Kei says, thinking nothing of it and fully ready to move on and resume his and Akaashi-san’s heartfelt conversation.
No such luck.
“Excuse me?” Kuroo-san asks, pausing in his attempt to charm Claude into some petting. Kei doesn’t like the look on his face one bit.
“Claude Debussy?” Kuroo-san repeats, sounding completely dumbfounded.
“Yes. That’s his name.”
Kuroo-san looks between Kei and Claude, apparently still not getting it. Kei doesn’t know what there is not to get.
“Why?” Kuroo-san asks.
“I was a fan of his work as a child,” Kei tells him matter-of-factly, hoping to lay whatever stupid thoughts are running through Kuroo-san’s head to rest. The attempt is sadly unsuccessful.
Kuroo-san’s face spreads into an obnoxiously rapturous smile that Kei knows means trouble.
“Kei.” Kuroo-san breathes, “Sweetheart, darling, pumpkin, light of my life-”
Kei’s eye twitches, “I swear to god if you don’t-”
“You are the funniest person on the whole planet, and I have never been more in love than I am right now,” Kuroo-san says, and the worst part about the whole ordeal is that he looks like he means it.
Behind those sparkling, lovestruck eyes is the mind of an evil provocateur and Kei can feel the years of relentless mocking ahead of him like he feels a storm in the air in the late afternoon. Who could possibly have known that the decision he made as a young boy of nine to name his cat after a legendary classical composer would come back to bite him thirteen years later?
“Great, now stop harassing my cat.”
“I’m not harassing him! We’re bonding!” Kuroo-san insists, lying on his stomach in front of Claude and trying to look as non-threatening as possible.
“Mmhmm, don’t come crying to me when he bites you.”
Kuroo-san grins, “A little biting never hurt anybody.”
“I’m going to ignore that you said that.”
“Claude Debussy… as in Claire de Lune?” Akaashi-san muses and Kei is certain that when he turns to look at him, his eyes are the very same brand of sparkling and lovestruck as Kuroo-san’s had been.
“He looks like a Claude.”
“I would kill people for you, Keiji.”
“I love you so much, Koutarou, but if I have to hear you say that coconuts are mammals even one more time, I will kill you,” Kuroo-san says in an attempt to finish off an immensely entertaining debate that has lasted over twenty minutes at this point.
“Fur and milk,” Bokuto-san says defiantly, remaining steadfast in his assertion that coconuts are indeed mammals despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that Kuroo-san has provided to the contrary. Kuroo-san looks about ready to start frothing at the mouth.
“On what planet would you classify a coconut a vertebrate? Huh? Fur and milk mean jack fucking shit if it doesn’t have a spinal cord and I-”
The barely-there request for entry floats into the room like a leaf on a particularly gentle breeze. Even still, it halts the activity in the room like the sound of a gunshot.
Kei’s heart sinks into his stomach.
“Akiteru,” Kei says in a way of greeting, feeling each syllable of the name fall out of his mouth individually. He feels slow, dumb. Captured by an offensively intense emotion he can’t find a name for. Akiteru seems not to notice.
“Mom says dinner’s ready in two.”
And just like that, Kei can hear Akiteru’s footsteps on the hardwood outside of his bedroom door, becoming softer with every passing second.
He hadn’t turned to look. He’d remained where he sat, back towards the door. He wonders if Akiteru thought anything of it, if he even noticed. As dumb as it is, and as dumb as he feels admitting it to himself, Kei hadn’t really considered a lot of things that are now flooding his mind.
I really haven’t seen him in ten years.
They’d talked, sure. Kei had given and received birthday cards through the mail for years. He’d gotten the very first text from his brother in six years two weeks after he’d moved into the dorms of his university, away from their parents for the first time and with enough bitterness in his heart to avoid every call and text his mother sent. He’d even picked up a phone call or two from his brother before he’d been swallowed by academic work and a strange guilt that wouldn’t go away. He’d regularly texted Akiteru before he realized what the source of his guilt was, and then he’d decided not to think about it – like he did with most things.
Holy shit, I haven’t seen him in ten years.
How strange, that he hadn’t considered it. Even stranger that, when faced with the opportunity to look his brother in the eye for the first time since he was twelve, he chose instead to stare straight forward. Chose to barely acknowledge his existence.
He’s twenty-eight now. I wonder what he looks like.
And yet, none of it is very strange at all.
Sorry for the late update! I was really stumped on transitions, but I hope you like it! Your comments keep me alive, so thank you as always for the support!
Chapter 32: Hot in a Perfume Model Kind of Way
It turns out that Tsukki and Akiteru were just regular siblings the entire time despite their shared trauma and also that Bokuto, Kuroo and Tsukishima's mother all suffer from the terrible disease of having no goddamn filter.
When Kei finally reaches the bottom of the stairs after what feels like minutes, filled with dread and a strange sense of impending doom, he’s presented with an image so familiar he almost believes he’s been teleported ten years into the past.
“How old did you say your brother was?” Kuroo-san whispers, tugging on the elbow of Kei’s sweater.
“Twenty-eight,” Kei replies, his gaze boring a hole through his poor brother’s skull.
Akiteru freezes, hands stopping mid-utensil-adjustment.
“Don’t glare at me like that, Kei, it’s unsettling.” He whines, abandoning his task and closing the gap between himself and the clown posse with just a few short steps.
“I’m not glaring at you.” Kei insists, knowing full well that he was indeed glaring.
“Could have fooled me. You were looking at me like I’d grown an extra limb.” Akiteru says, and Kei shrugs. It’s not every day that you meet your brother again for the first time in ten years only to find that he doesn’t look a day over nineteen – only perhaps with the undereye bags of a twenty-three-year-old. Kei can vouch because he, at twenty-two, has the very same undereye bags.
“I might have been less surprised if you had.” Kei tells him. It’s jarring, really – the way that he looks. Almost as if all of that time that they hadn’t seen each other never happened. Almost as if Kei is twelve again, coming down for a regular dinner with his family, yet unaware of what is to come.
“What does that mean?” Akiteru asks, tilting his head to the side.
Kei has to wonder where the casual attitude is coming from. Kei himself would be absolutely livid if he were in Akiteru’s position – forcibly estranged from his family under unfair circumstances, cut off by his younger brother for seemingly no good reason. And yet here he stands, smiling and talking with Kei as though none of that had even happened. Or that it means nothing to him.
When they were still talking – when Kei was freshly eighteen and out of the house – he’d asked Akiteru some of the hard questions. Perhaps in an attempt to cope with it himself, perhaps because he'd wanted his brother to be just as angry and bitter about the whole thing as he was. In any case, Akiteru had simply replied that he wasn’t angry in the least. That he understood. That it hurt at first, but… that he was over it.
Kei hadn’t believed him back then. He couldn’t, really. If Kei was as bitter and hurt about it as he was, having not been nearly as directly affected, surely Akiteru had to be too? Surely. It was only natural.
Looking at him now, though… Kei believes him. He looks happy, Kei thinks. Happy in a way Kei never thought either of them ever would be. Kei wishes he could understand that.
Akiteru turns to Kei’s boyfriends with that bright smile that resembles their mother’s so much that it almost freaks Kei out.
“I’m Akiteru, by the way. Kei’s brother.”
“Oh, we know.” Kuroo-san says ominously, giving Akiteru the old ‘up and down’ look. Kei could strangle him.
Akiteru chuckles nervously.
“Never mind him, he’s an idiot,” Kei says, clenching his fist at his side.
Akiteru smiles politely at Kuroo-san, ignoring Kei’s beratement, “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier, I didn’t really want to interrupt your, uh… debate? For longer than necessary.”
Kei sighs, “Don’t dignify it by calling it that, please.”
“Kei, don’t be so rude!” Their mother yells, making her way into the dining area with a mysterious dish in hand. “Now hug your brother and get those butts in these seats pronto.”
Akiteru’s eyes widen, and Kei himself feels weighed down by the sudden pressure to follow his mother’s orders.
“Um…” Akiteru begins awkwardly, avoiding Kei’s eyes for all he’s worth.
Just before Akiteru can make a move, Kei panics and takes a step back, shoving his boyfriends forward and presenting them to his brother like some award-winning rabbits at a state fair. Akiteru looks as though he’s been randomly presented with award-winning rabbits – confused and a little startled.
“Koutarou, Keiji and Tetsurou.” Kei rattles off, giving each man a quick pat to indicate to Akiteru which name belongs to whom.
Akiteru smiles again, much more relaxed now that Kei has placed them back into a social convention comfort zone, “Nice to meet you all.”
“Sorry about the coconuts.” Kuroo-san blurts, apparently unable to keep his mouth shut today. Kei can see his vulnerable neck from his position behind him and it takes everything in him not to straight up throttle Kuroo-san right there.
“You know what? You’re not allowed to speak anymore.” Kei says instead, tucking his murderous thoughts away for later.
Akiteru laughs and continues with polite platitudes as Kei’s eyes wander to his father’s empty seat at the table.
Their mother wipes her hands on her apron and, almost as if she’s read his mind, loudly announces, “There was an emergency at work, so your father won’t be joining us for dinner.”
Kei doesn’t have to look at either his mother’s or Akiteru’s faces to know that that’s complete bullshit, but he does anyway. His mother’s eyebrows are furrowed guiltily as she continues Akiteru’s abandoned task of straightening everything up, and Akiteru looks almost in pain when Kei looks at him.
Not that Kei cares. He hadn’t particularly wanted to see his father either.
“Boyfriends, huh? That’s interesting.” Akiteru says conversationally, having had to be pat on the back by their mother after choking in his surprise mere moments ago.
“Not really.” Kei mumbles, picking at his food with his fork and looking nothing short of miserable.
“Oh, yes, it is!” Their mother insists, “I can’t wait to see the look on Nakamura-san’s face when I tell her that my son has three boyfriends and that every single one of them is employed. God, she’ll be absolutely fuming! You know, she’s been bragging non-stop about how her son is a lawyer and it really grinds my gears. Well, her stupid son doesn’t have three boyfriends, now does he? He couldn’t get a partner if he tried, not with that nasty attitude of his.”
“Kei managed,” Kuroo-san says under his breath.
“Every time you open your mouth, I get one step closer to killing you in your sleep,” Kei informs him.
Akaashi-san stomps on Kuroo-san’s foot under the table and shoots Kei a warning look, though for what reason Kei has absolutely no idea. He’s the innocent party here – bullied in front of his own family by his idiot boyfriend. Not that he’s going to argue with Akaashi-san.
A lull in the conversation follows – either due to their collective fear of Akaashi-san’s wrath, Bokuto-san being too busy stuffing his face to talk, or because none of them even know what to say. The lull is short-lived, however, because Kei’s mother is nothing if not too persistent and completely shameless.
“So, how did you all fall for Kei?” She asks, hands clasped under her chin like an overly excitable school girl about to hear some hot gossip. Kei decides then and there to retreat so far into himself out of embarrassment that he can barely hear anything over the sound of his soul shattering. His mother continues, “He can be a little difficult to get along with, so-”
“Mom,” Akiteru interrupts hurriedly, looking just as desperate as Kei feels, “Let’s not-”
“You two are so sensitive! There’s no harm in asking a question, Akiteru. Isn’t that right, Koutarou-kun?”
Why his mother chose to call upon Bokuto-san of all people, Kei has no idea. Even in his shattered state, Kei manages to place a warning hand on Bokuto-san’s knee before the man can swallow the massive amount of rice he’d shoveled into his mouth.
Bokuto-san beams at Kei and gives him a not-at-all subtle thumbs up before excitedly answering, “Of course not!”
Kei’s mother rattles on for a few minutes about the importance of being open with family, blah, blah, blah – Kei stops listening ten seconds in, and by the time he tunes back in his mother is back on her bullshit. Akiteru looks absolutely mortified, and Kei appreciates the sibling solidarity in the moment. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at it – Bokuto-san is more than happy to indulge their mother’s far-too-invasive-for-a-first-meeting question.
“I can’t speak for everyone,” He begins, and Kei can tell by the way he puts his utensils down and straightens up in his chair that they’re in it for the long haul. “But that day he moved in I was like, ‘woah, he’s super hot.’ But like, in a perfume model kind of way, you know? And then I was like, ‘he’s got kind of a nasty attitude,’ but also in the, ‘oh my god, he’s super hot’ way.”
Kei sighs and allows the shame of being referred to as ‘super hot in a perfume model kind of way’ (whatever the fuck that’s even supposed to mean) in front of his family to wash over him in waves.
“Anyway,” Bokuto-san continues, chugging along like a steam engine despite Kei's mortification. “One time we were all talking, and he said that I was kinda hot too, so I was like… oh. You know? Like I thought he was hot from the start, but then I really started considering it – which was weird, because I really thought it was just gonna be me and Kuro and Akaashi forever, you know? But I guess it’s not that weird because before that I thought it was just gonna be me and Kuro, or… uh- Tetsurou. Sorry. Gotta get used to that still.”
Kei’s grip loosens slightly on Bokuto-san’s knee. He’s still embarrassed as hell that his mother even asked the question in the first place, and even more so that Bokuto-san is answering it as sincerely as he is (and with no filter to speak of), but Kei realizes as Bokuto-san is talking that he kind of wants to hear it too.
“I realized I was in love with him when we went shopping for Keiji’s birthday and… I don’t really remember what I said, but we were talking about Keiji and all the stuff he likes and Kei kind of looked at me – like, really looked – and I was like… woah. I want him to keep looking at me like that.”
Kei watches Bokuto-san as he talks, feeling warm inside all over again and almost forgetting where they are for a moment. He remembers it too – the conversation they had that day. Kind of strange that something that is so mundane for one person could mean everything has changed for someone else.
Just as Kei’s mind is filling with rainbows and sparkles and all of the lovely things that come with loving someone like he loves Bokuto-san right now, Bokuto-san chucks a metaphorical dead fish into his lap.
“He got mad at me later for handcuffing myself to Tetsu, but he’s kind of sexy when he’s angry anyway so it wasn’t that bad.”
“You’re giving me whiplash here, Kou.” Kuroo-san laughs, thoroughly and visibly amused despite his apparent whiplash.
Kei's mother launches into a monologue about something or other, but Kei isn't listening. He's got one thought and one thought only running through his mind right now, and it's all he can do not melt into a useless puddle right where he sits. He squeezes Bokuto-san’s knee again, much less in warning and more out of affection this time. Bokuto-san looks at him curiously and Kei smiles that soft little smile at him - the one that's reserved for moments like this.
I love you, Koutarou.
It’s silent because Kei isn’t as loud or bombastic with his expressions as Bokuto-san is, but he hopes that Bokuto-san understands anyway. Because Kei does love him, and he often wonders how he manages to fit so much love inside of himself. He sometimes feels like he's near bursting with it.
Bokuto-san squeezes the hand on his knee with the same affectionate intent, and Kei doesn’t have a care in the world anymore.
Chapter 33: Are Froot Loops Safe for Cats?
After a long day with (most of) Tsukishima's family, the boys settle in for the night - or do they? A filler chapter of pure shenanigans.
This one is looooong for some reason. I don't know - I'm just rolling with whatever spawns out of my fingers at this point. The plot is still chugging along, and the next chapter will include the visit to the Yams/Hinata/Kags household. The dad stuff is coming too, just a bit later. Oikawa has not been forgotten (not that he ever could be) and my god do I have Plans. Thanks as always for the support! Comments are my lifeblood and give me a little boost in writing the chapters, believe it or not. I'm always open to suggestions, so if you have one feel free to drop it in the comments or at my tumblr, @ohnoitsoikawa
Anyway, please enjoy!
After dinner, Kei’s mother subtly suggested that the four of them sleep separately, given that if they all slept together, they’d have to sleep on the floor of Kei’s room (next to a perfectly good single bed, no less) in a futon designed for three people at most. Logically, the suggestion was perfectly valid and even perhaps advisable – it’s near freezing outside, and even with the fully functioning heating system, the house is pretty chilly. Splitting into pairs, or even having one of them sleep in the single bed while the others slept in the futon would make perfect sense.
What Kei’s mother failed to take into account – and what she would soon find out – is that there isn’t a bit of sense to be found between the four of them, perfect or otherwise.
“Not to be that guy, but your brother is kinda hot,” Kuroo-san says, tugging lightly on the blanket they’re all sharing to cover himself a little better.
“I don’t have an opinion on that,” Kei tells him, despite having a rather strong opinion on that, to say the least. He tugs not-so-lightly in retaliation and nearly whacks Bokuto-san in the face for it.
“He’s surprisingly nice,” Akaashi-san suggests gently, unperturbed by the tug-of-war going on on either side of him. Kei greatly envies his ability to drown out and/or ignore bullshit and shenanigans, and in the very same breath laments the fact that he has come to contribute in fair part to the bullshit and shenanigans Akaashi-san has to drown out. But that just cannot be helped, unfortunately.
“Why surprisingly?” Kei asks despite his better judgement, his tone far more accusatory than he’d intended. Akaashi-san’s face remains blissfully neutral, and his mouth trained shut – to protect Kei’s dignity and ego, no doubt. Kuroo-san cares very little for Kei’s dignity and even less for his ego, though.
“Because he grew up in the same house as you.” Kuroo-san quips, pulling the blanket hard enough to leave poor Bokuto-san half-naked and afraid with nothing to keep him warm but Akaashi-san’s admiring gaze.
Kei tugs it back, “Shut up.”
Akaashi-san’s eye twitches. Even he, in his great wisdom and patience, has his limits.
“Switch places with me.” He instructs, looking at Kei with those eyes that say, ‘you really don’t have a choice.’
“Why?” Kei asks anyway, in an admittedly petty mood. Unfortunately for him, Akaashi-san is not nearly as tolerant of his pettiness as the others.
“Koutarou is warmer than either of you.” Akaashi-san offers as his only explanation, already mid-way through climbing over Kei and assuming his rightful place in Bokuto-san’s open arms.
“If this is about the sexual tension, you can just say it.” Kuroo-san jokes, finally letting the goddamn blanket go.
“It’s about the sexual tension.”
“Keiji!” Kei gasps, downright scandalized. Akaashi-san ignores him.
“Spoon me Koutarou.” He orders, shifting onto his side and allowing Bokuto-san to assume the position.
“Yes, sir.” Bokuto-san breathes, and Kei has half a mind to call Akaashi-san a hypocrite. If he and Kuroo-san have sexual tension, Kei would love to know what the fuck Akaashi-san would call what is going on between himself and Bokuto-san.
Of course, Kei is a coward and says none of this to Akaashi-san’s face.
Instead, he resolves to sulking about it and shifts into his own sleeping position between Kuroo-san and a very content looking Akaashi-san.
“Sexual tension, huh?” Kuroo-san grins, willfully ignorant of Kei’s sulky mood.
“Nope,” Kei says sternly, “Nothing sexual happens in this house.”
“Aw, why not?”
“My mom is in this house, dumbass.”
Kuroo-san rolls his eyes, “Oh, come on. Like you never brought home a-”
“No. Nope. Never.”
The look of genuine surprise on Kuroo-san’s face confuses Kei greatly.
“You did?” He asks, and Kuroo-san shrugs.
“Really?” Bokuto-san asks, his voice muffled by Akaashi-san’s hair. “Your mom woulda killed you if she knew, dude.”
Facing Kuroo-san and being as close as they are, Kei has the perfect vantage point for the face journey his boyfriend goes on following Bokuto-san’s seemingly harmless remark. After a long moment of silence and many, many emotions, Kuroo-san settles on something resembling mild exasperation.
“Koutarou,” He sighs, “I don’t know how to tell you this but I’m talking about you.”
After another beat of silence, Bokuto-san makes a noise of affirmation – which Kei knows as the sound he makes when he has finally successfully traversed that vast plain he calls a mind, “Ooooh… yeah. Yeah.”
Kei sits up suddenly, yanking the blanket off of all four of them at once. Akaashi-san makes a sound of total indignation and roughly reclaims the blanket, leaving absolutely none of it to cover Kuroo-san and Kei – not that Kei cares very much about the blanket at the moment.
He looks between Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san with narrowed eyes, “What?”
“You never made out with your best friend?” Kuroo-san asks innocently.
“You two are the densest people I have ever met,” Akaashi-san says.
Kuroo-san frowns, “Says you.”
“I’m strategic, not stupid.”
“You know what?” Kei sighs, falling back onto the futon, “I’m too tired to have this conversation – it’ll just piss me off.”
“It’s called bonding, Kei. It’s what friends do.” Kuroo-san insists.
“What did I just say?”
“I think you two have a messed-up idea of what bonding is,” Akaashi-san says, and Kei thanks whatever deity or universal power gifted him with a partner with common sense.
“I think you guys are just jealous of how strong our friendship is.” Bokuto-san says, (unsurprisingly) joining the ‘no common sense at all’ camp with Kuroo-san.
Akaashi-san sighs, resigning himself to having this ridiculous conversation with patience and grace that Kei just does not possess.
“Did you ever ‘bond’ with any of your other friends?” Akaashi-san asks.
“No,” Kuroo-san replies, his tone suggesting that he thinks the question is ridiculous.
“And you’re dating now, right?”
“What kind of a question is that?”
“I rest my case.”
They don’t get to bed until well after midnight.
Kei awakens, confused and a little groggy, from one of the strangest dreams he’s ever had. It’s still dark when he opens his eyes save a bright light on the other side of the room. Kei squints at the source of the light for a few seconds, willing his eyes to focus even a little bit in his half-asleep state, only to be startled fully awake by the image of a hunched over figure bathed in shadow munching rather loudly on something smelling vaguely of artificial fruit flavoring.
Kei’s first thought, embarrassingly enough, is that some sort of animal has somehow snuck into his room and is crunching away rather happily on at least one of his boyfriends’ bones. It being probably somewhere around four in the morning and Kei having just woken up doesn’t help much in the logical thinking department, unfortunately.
The figure turns rather suddenly to look Kei right in the eyes. He’s completely frozen in fear – a chill running up his spine as it studies him rather intensely. After a moment of chilling silence, during which Kei had accepted the inevitability of his own death, the figure crawls quietly across the gap between the top of the futon and Kei’s built-in closet only to stop dead just before reaching Kei’s sleeping spot.
The reality of the situation sinks in all at once. Kei can’t see shit, and his fight or flight instinct is activated in an instant.
“Ow!” The figure – who sounds suspiciously like Bokuto-san – whisper yells. Kei had used all of the strength left in his shaky, fear-stricken limbs to jump up and bop it on the head. “Kei, it’s me!”
“Yeah, fuck,” Bokuto-san says, rubbing the spot that Kei’s fists had presumably made contact with.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Kei asks, suddenly feeling very bad about the amount of force he’d put into that blow. Bokuto-san is like one of those indestructible rubber dog toys though, so Kei is comforted by the knowledge that his very feeble attempt at self-defense probably did minimal damage.
“Eating Froot Loops,” Bokuto-san replies easily, as though that were a normal thing to be doing in the wee hours of the morning.
“It’s four a.m.”
“Okay, four a.m. snack then.”
Kei decides not to argue with him too much on the snack thing – he’s learned to pick his battles by now, and this isn’t one that he’s going to win.
He settles on another point of contention, “You scared the shit out of me!”
“Yeah,” Bokuto-san shrugs, “Well you gave me a concussion, so we’re even.”
“I wouldn’t have smacked you so hard if you weren’t hunched over in the corner like some sort of wild animal.”
“What kind of wild animal hunches over in the corner of rooms?”
Kei squints at him – for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because he’s a little pissed that Bokuto-san is somehow making more sense in the middle of the night than he ever does otherwise. And perhaps also because Kei is a little pissed that Bokuto-san is making more sense in the middle of the night than Kei himself is.
“I don’t know!” He huffs, crossing his arms over his chest like a petulant child. “I can’t fucking see!”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot that you’re blind.”
“I’m not- whatever. Why are you awake?”
“I told you – four a.m. snack. Why are you awake?”
Bokuto-san’s blurry figure leans back against the built-in closet, startling a little at the sound it makes.
“Weird dream. Do you do that a lot?”
“God- no.” Kei sighs, “No. Snack. Four a.m. snack.”
“Oh. Yeah. Almost every night.”
Kei frowns, thinking back to all of the nights he’d spent in the same bed as Bokuto-san and, being rather a light sleeper, apparently not noticed his getting out of bed specifically to… eat Froot Loops or something.
“Really?” Kei asks, his surprise clear.
“Yeah,” Bokuto-san answers simply, “What was it about?”
“You said you had a weird dream. What was it about?”
“Oh. That’s- that’s not important.”
Kei cringes internally as his dream comes flooding back to him. He knows that he has no control of his subconscious, he knows that everyone has weird dreams, but… god, are his dreams weird. Perhaps even too weird for Bokuto-san.
“You sleepy?” Bokuto-san asks, interrupting Kei’s train of thought.
“What? No. Not anymore anyway. You shot like ten tons of adrenaline through my body at once crawling around in the dark like that.”
“Sorry,” Bokuto-san says, not sounding apologetic at all in Kei’s opinion. “Froot Loops?”
“If you’re not sleepy you should come eat some loops with me.”
“I…” Kei begins, getting ready to argue with him over what time it is, and whether he should be eating sugary cereals in the middle of the night in the first place, etcetera, etcetera, but he decides against it at the last second. He kind of feels like some Froot Loops. “Yeah, okay.”
Bokuto-san crawls back across the gap between the futon and the closet and Kei follows suit, eyes fixed on the light coming from the torch on Bokuto-san’s phone. Despite his protests at being called blind earlier, Kei is essentially fully night blind and has to rely on Bokuto-san’s navigation to get to the phone without bumping into anything.
They get to their destination without incident and settle around the phone like a campfire. Bokuto-san pours some loops into Kei’s open hands from a Ziploc bag in his backpack, and Kei finds himself hoping that neither Kuroo-san nor Akaashi-san awakens for fear of the humiliation of being caught grazing Froot Loops out of his own hands like a horse.
“So, what was it about?” Bokuto-san asks after several minutes of quiet crunching. Kei assumes he means the dream and sighs, wiping some excess loop crumbs off of his mouth.
“It wasn’t about anything. It was just weird.”
“Fine,” Kei concedes. Bokuto-san isn’t going to judge him anyway. “I was at my old high school, but I was… still me. Like, me right now, I mean. Anyway, we had to vote in some sort of election, and I told the person next to me – I think it might have been Yamaguchi – that I was going to vote for Obama-”
“Obama?” Bokuto-san interrupts.
“Yeah, I don’t know.” Kei shrugs, “Dreams are weird.”
“I know that.”
“So, why Obama?”
“I don’t know!” Kei whisper-yells, exasperated.
Bokuto-san puts his hands up defensively, “Alright, jeez.”
“Anyway,” Kei continues, “I got sniped from the second floor right after and then when I fell my whole body turned into those little surprise balls you get out of those machines at arcades. You know, like the ones with tiny plastic Pikachus in them?”
“I’m familiar,” Bokuto-san says, his tone weirdly dark. Kei decides not to look too much into it.
“Yeah. So that was my dream.”
Bokuto-san pauses for a moment, shoving a few more loops into his mouth and crunching in contemplation.
“No offense,” He says, loops still in his mouth, “But that was the weirdest shit I’ve ever heard.”
“Yeah, my dreams are really weird.”
“You ever think about getting them interpreted?”
“I don’t know. People say dreams mean things, so maybe your dreams mean something? Like, when your teeth fall out in a dream it means that your parents didn’t give you enough new years’ money.”
Kei frowns, thinking about it for a second, “That doesn’t sound right.”
“Tetsu told me that,” Bokuto-san says, apparently confident that Kuroo-san is a reputable source. He’s not, of course, but Kei finds it sort of sweet that Bokuto-sans still believes that after the years’ worth of teasing and stupidity that have come out of that man’s mouth.
“Yeah, he was messing with you.”
“Oh. So, what does it mean if your teeth fall out then?”
“I don’t know,” Kei admits. He’s no dream interpreter himself, but the running-on-less-than-four-hours-of-sleep part of his brain assures him that it’s probably common sense. “Maybe that you don’t brush your teeth enough?”
Bokuto-san nods, “That makes sense.”
“You’re dumber than you look,” Kuroo-san says, his voice startling both of them.
“Oh, yeah?” Kei says, “Then what does it mean if your teeth fall out, oh great dentist and dream interpreter?”
“It means you could stand to be a little less sassy, princess.”
Kuroo-san chuckles quietly and crawls his way out of the futon as well to join them, “Something about anxiety and self-esteem issues, actually, but brushing your teeth is important if you don’t want them to fall out while you’re awake.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Kuroo-san requests some loops, and Kei has to bite his lip to stop himself from laughing too loud at the image of Bokuto-san standing above Kuroo-san and pouring Froot Loops into his cupped hands. It looks like some sort of renaissance painting, with the two of them bathed in the holy light of Bokuto-san’s phone and posed just so. It’s utterly ruined when Kuroo-san stuffs all of the loops into his mouth at once, though.
“What are you guys doing?” Akaashi-san asks, his voice rough with sleep. Kuroo-san spits the majority of the loops back into his cupped hands, and whatever fondness Kei had held for him after their back and forth starts to dwindle.
“Ah, another one bites the dust.” He says, unperturbed by the moist loops in his hands.
Akaashi-san pauses mid-eye-rub, “Huh?”
“Nothing. It just seems that some people haven’t been able to get to sleep.”
“I was asleep, thank you very much,” Kei says, refusing Bokuto-san’s silent offer for more loops. He honestly doesn’t think he could stomach it at this point.
Kuroo-san raises an eyebrow, “Oh? Then why were you and Kou huddled around his phone for warmth at four in the morning?”
“Witty, as always,” Kei says sarcastically.
Bokuto-san returns his bag of loops to his backpack and wipes his no doubt very sticky hands on his boxers, “Obama sniped him in a dream and then he hit me over the head because he thought I was a wild animal chomping on your bones.”
“What?” Akaashi-san asks, sounding only slightly less groggy.
“Obama didn’t snipe me, I got sniped because I voted for Obama.” Kei corrects.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.”
“That is literally the most incomprehensible thing either of you have ever said,” Kuroo-san says, understandably.
Akaashi-san yawns and rolls back over, pulling the blanket up to his neck, “Okay, well tell Mr. Obama that you’re needed in bed. It’s cold.”
Kei immediately obliges, taking Bokuto-san’s place on the futon and wrapping his arms around Akaashi-san. He doesn’t want to know what Kuroo-san is going to do with his wet loops, and he had absolutely no intention of sticking around to find out. Akaashi-san sighs happily and intertwines their fingers, kissing the back of Kei’s hand so softly that Kei might not have felt it at all if he weren’t paying attention.
“Why Obama?” Akaashi-san whispers, “We’re Japanese.”
Kei can hear the other two shuffling around behind them and tightens his hold on Akaashi-san, “Dreams are weird.”
Akaashi-san lets out a breathy little laugh, “Maybe you’re the one who’s weird.”
The distinct sound of Froot Loops scattering across the floor fills the room for a brief moment, followed by soft footsteps and even softer crunching.
“When did you get in here?” Bokuto-san asks, “No! Don’t- oh my god. Are Froot Loops safe for cats?”
Kei closes his eyes and decides to ignore them for his own sanity, burying his head in Akaashi-san’s shoulder, “Yeah, maybe.”
Chapter 34: Hatsune Miku Sends Kuroo to Filthy Liars' Jail
A lot happens, including but not limited to: apparently getting five hours of sleep doesn't feel too great, Tsukishima and Kuroo have a fundamental disagreement on the appeal of Hatsune Miku, a lot of group chat shenanigans, smoochies, someone not following the nothing sexual rule of the house, cool mom Tsukishima helps the boys out and saves her son from years of relentless bullying at the hands of his friends, Tsukishima is late for the first time in his life, and Yachi takes charge.
Another long one. I really wanted to get to the visit in this chapter, but as it stands it's almost the length of two chapters by itself so... Yamaguchi and the others next time. Anyway, enjoy this clusterfuck of a chapter lmao
Also thanks as always for the support, it really means the world to me and keeps me going! Ilysm guys
Kei groans way too loudly as he sits up, rubbing at his bleary eyes and feeling like death warmed over – or maybe not. He’s fucking freezing. So maybe death slightly chilled would be a better way to put how he feels.
The knocking that woke him up stops briefly following his unenthusiastic resurrection but starts right back up when the groan isn’t followed by a response of any kind.
“Come back with a warrant!” Bokuto-san yells, making Kei jump. He hadn’t even known that Bokuto-san was awake. The knocking stops.
Kei smacks Bokuto-san on his bare shoulder, “Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know,” He shrugs, “Instinct, I guess.”
Kei narrows his eyes at him, but he really has no idea what to say to that – if there even is anything to say to that.
“Um,” Akiteru says, just loudly enough for Kei to hear him through the door. Kei can hear the hesitation in his voice. “Food’s downstairs if you want it.”
“In a minute, thanks!” Kei yells back, hoping against hope that Akiteru will just forget this whole interaction and go about his day without thinking about it. He won’t, but a man can dream.
Akiteru power walks down the hall and, from the way it sounds, jumps the entire staircase to land with a loud thump at the bottom.
Some things never change, Kei thinks.
“What time is it?” Akaashi-san groans, mirroring Kei’s own awakening almost exactly. Fondness blooms in Kei’s chest as he watches Akaashi-san scrunch up his nose in displeasure, lamenting his place on this mortal coil and cursing at the universe as the sun falls in ribbons across his tired face.
“Nine thirty.” Kuroo-san supplies, looking just as worn out as Akaashi-san but far less pissed off about it. Kei has yet to see his own, but he’d be willing to bet that they’re all sporting very impressive matching dark circles under their eyes. Well, all of them except for Bokuto-san. Bokuto-san doesn’t get tired, he simply dips into his endless energy reserves and goes about his day as normal.
Akaashi-san frowns, “It’s the fucking asscrack of dawn.”
“This is normal wake up time, Keiji,” Kei informs him gently, brushing a stray dark curl out of his face and placing a little kiss against his temple.
“For who?” He asks, slightly less disgruntled now that he’s received some gentle affection.
“Normal people,” Kei replies, “I sometimes have classes at eight.”
“You don’t go to those.”
“Yeah, but I have them.”
Kuroo-san yawns loudly and rests his awful nest of a bedhead on Bokuto-san’s shoulder, “Koutarou starts work at seven.”
“Koutarou isn’t human,” Akaashi-san says, resting his head on Kuroo-san’s shoulder. They look like fallen dominoes, Kei thinks, smiling at his private joke and ultimately deciding to complete the set.
“Hey!” Bokuto-san pouts, having taken a second to process what Akaashi-san said.
“Because you’re an angel,” Kuroo-san reassures him, “Isn’t that right Keiji?”
Bokuto-san seems content with that explanation despite Akaashi-san’s unenthusiastic agreement – but, to his credit, Akaashi-san isn’t really enthusiastic about anything first thing in the morning (or early afternoon, in some cases).
Sitting like they are – strangely comfortable, despite Akaashi-san’s shoulder being rather bony – starts making Kei sleepy all over again, so he makes the executive decision to cut the cuddling short and rip his curtains open to bathe the entire room in sunlight before any of them actually do fall back to sleep. Akaashi-san straight up hisses when the sunlight makes contact with his sensitive retinas and Kuroo-san doesn’t seem far off the exact same reaction, but Bokuto-san at least seems grateful for the warmth the life-giving rays provide and takes it upon himself to roll around on the newly lit up futon like a small child, or someone who was just on fire.
Kei hates the sunlight just as much as the other two, but he puts on a brave face in the name of getting Bokuto-san fed before they have to deal with a mood swing. They’ll thank him later, he’s certain – once the seething hatred dies down.
Kei heads over to where their phones are charging – all plugged into one outlet and sitting on the floor next to the futon – and picks up a phone he assumes to be his, only to quickly discover that it definitely is not his.
“Hatsune Miku,” He muses, and Kuroo-san snaps to attention.
“It’s ironic!” He says quickly, sounding a lot more panicked than Kei would think is warranted.
Kei looks back at the phone, and more specifically at the background – a rather inoffensive picture of Miku pulling a peace sign – and decides that there’s no point in delving further into whatever is going on there. If Kuroo-san wants to lie about setting Hatsune Miku as his phone background ‘ironically’ then that’s his right as a filthy, dirty liar. Kei silently apologizes to Miss Miku for his boyfriend’s insolence and picks his own phone up as he had intended to the first time.
He is immediately faced with an absolute wall of messages from the group chat. Kei sighs and resigns himself to the fate that every person in a group chat with their friends shares – the one that begins with the dreaded 257 messages ribbon. It’s all he can do to skim the messages and get the gist of the conversation at this point.
From the top, it appears as though they’d started a countdown to Kei and co’s arrival at the YamaHinaKage residence (the last entry was eleven hours at eight that morning by Hinata), made several wild speculations as to the personalities and appearances of Kei’s partners (which Yamaguchi had made absolutely no effort to reign in, and even encouraged on several different occasions), and finally decided upon a four-course menu for dinner that evening.
Were these people not his best friends (outside of his partners, but Kei isn’t really one to make grand romantic speeches about ‘dating his best friends’), Kei would be far more teed off than he is. As it stands, he’d label his mood as ‘absolutely mortified’ and ‘willing to call this whole thing off and move to Mexico with a new identity’. Dramatic? Absolutely, but Kei is nothing if not overly dramatic.
His phone buzzes in his hands, snapping him out of his thoughts and scaring him half to death in the process.
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Stop wuwking Tsukki uwu
It’s youw big day uwu
Shut the fuck up
You guys are embarrassing
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
It’s onwy because we wove you uwu
And because we’we excited uwu!!
This is just a normal dinner where you’re going to meet my normal partners and act completely normal
Idiot No.1 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
How is that normal
U r dating 3 ppl
I know that, dumbass
It’s normal because I say it is and you’re going to act accordingly
Yachi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
I think it’s wonderful that you’ve found so many people who love you ❀
Idiot No.2 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
HOW COME TSUKISHIKA GETS THREE BOYFRIENDS AND INDONT EVEN GET ONE
THAT’S NOT FAIR
Idiot No.1 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Tsukishima isnt an idiot
Idiot No.2 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
YOU DON’T GET TO SAY THAT TO ME
Idiot No.1 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Ya I do
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Why awe you fighting ovew text uwu
You’we witewawwy wight next to each othew uwu
I don’t have the time or patience for this
See you guys later
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Bye bye Tsukki uwu
Be safe uwu!!
What the fuck is that supposed to mean
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Need I wemind the couwt of the incident that happened wess than a week ago uwu
Need I remind you to shut up
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Aww I’m saying is that you and youw pawtnews have a tendency to attwact twoubwe uwu
They don’t attract trouble, they are the trouble
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
BE SAFE uwu!!
Is that a thing now?
Are you just going to keep doing that?
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
I have no idea what you’we tawking about uwu
You guys are on thin fucking ice
See you later
For real this time
“On a scale from one to ten, how mad would you be if I told you that there’s a drawer filled with moist Froot Loops in your room right now?” Kuroo-san asks, smiling sweetly but looking almost like he’s in pain.
Kei takes a deep breath, “Seven, but because you used the word moist, I’m bumping it up to a nine.”
“Can we do a six plus some smoochies?”
“We’re not negotiating.”
Kuroo-san puts on an exaggerated pout, “So that’s a no on the smoochies then?”
“I never said that,” The smile makes a triumphant return, and upon receiving Kuroo-san’s ‘smoochies’, Kei feels his heart soften a bit. “I’ll bring it down to a seven if you wear the red sweater tonight.”
Kuroo-san thinks about it for a second before planting another quick kiss on Kei’s lips.
“Oh my god, is that a hickey?”
Kei hears the fateful words leave Kuroo-san’s mouth and instantly feels his blood run cold. And then hot. With rage, that is.
“I’m going to come into the room, and when I do, you’ve got approximately ten seconds to explain yourselves before I kill one of you where you stand.”
The scene is a sweet one – Kuroo-san buttoning Bokuto-san’s only decent shirt for him, hands resting near the second last button by his collar bones as though they were frozen mid-action – but all potential charm is lost when Kei takes a few steps toward the duo.
The offending mark sits on the left side of Bokuto-san’s neck, large and dark purple and blatantly fucking obvious to anybody who may so much as look in that direction.
“Okay, I know it looks-” Kuroo-san begins.
“Button the shirt.” Kei orders, placing his hands on his hips and shifting his brain into panicked overdrive.
Kei very nearly breathes an audible sigh of relief when the shirt is buttoned to the neck (which Bokuto-san is not happy about, but one evening won’t kill him so Kei is willing to make him make some sacrifices) and the hickey is completely covered. But the crisis is not yet fully averted.
“Turn your head to the side.”
Bokuto-san does as he is told, turning his head ever so slightly at first and then all the way. Crisis definitely not averted. Crisis even worse now, somehow. Kei grits his teeth.
“How did this happen?” He asks, mostly as a cry for help to whoever might be listening. It’s futile, he knows – even Akaashi-san can’t do anything about this one.
“Well, you see, when two people love each other-”
“Did you not learn your lesson the first time, Tetsurou?” Akaashi-san asks, joining them now that he’s fully dressed and looking absolutely breath-taking in his own button-up and sweater combo – but they don’t have time for that right now. Right now is hickey time.
“It’s bad,” Kei says, gesturing toward the mark so that Akaashi-san may give his appraisal. His cheeks color a little at the sight of it, but Kei chocks that up to Akaashi-san’s delicate sensibilities.
“Uhm… that’s- well, uh-”
“Your friends are all adults, right?” Kuroo-san interrupts. Akaashi-san’s face seems only to grow redder by the second. “They know what a hickey is.”
“If you’re suggesting that I allow my partner to show up to a first meeting with my friends – whom I have known since I was SEVEN in some cases – with a goddamn hickey on his neck then you must be out of your fucking mind, Tetsurou!”
“What? Afraid that they’ll know we fuck?”
“SHUT UP!” Kei yells, almost wanting to plug his ears with his fingers like a small child. Bokuto-san places a firm hand on his shoulder.
“Fighting about it isn’t helping.”
Kei leans into the touch and allows himself a few seconds to calm down.
“He’s right,” Kei concedes, running a hand through his hair and taking a deep breath. “What we need is a legitimate solution.”
A lightbulb goes off in his head almost immediately as the words leave his mouth.
“Mommy? I need your help with something.”
Okay, so maybe going to his mother for help covering a hickey isn’t something he should be doing – nor would he be doing it under normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances, and Kei figures that she kind of owes him one anyway.
Kei’s first thought had been just… wrapping a scarf around the problem. A perfect solution, if he does say so himself. The only problem was that a. Bokuto-san was immediately in a weird mood upon the introduction of the scarf to his ensemble, and b. Akaashi-san brought up the fair (if extremely inconvenient) point that it would look odd for Bokuto-san to wear a scarf all night indoors. To put it simply, with his haircut, eyebrow piercing and scarf over a button-up, he’d look like a hipster. A full-blown black coffee hipster.
Bokuto-san was not fond of that in the least.
So, here Kei is – asking his mother for help covering a hickey. He’s desperate at this point. They’ve got less than a half an hour to get out of the house before they’ll officially be late and Kei cares more than he’d like to admit about giving off a good impression. It’s ridiculous when he thinks about it – whatever impression his friends have of him after years of friendship isn’t going to change just because he’s late, one of his partners has a very visible hickey, the other is still nursing a very recently broken nose and… well, actually it might. Kei’s pride is riding on this.
Akaashi-san was very against the idea of involving Kei’s mother in any way shape or form from the beginning when Kuroo-san had suggested that, in place of the All-Knowing Oikawa-san, Kei’s mother might have a decent solution. Or makeup. Probably makeup.
Even as Kei’s mother is ushered into the room by her son, Akaashi-san is positively burning in shame. Kei is sympathetic to his plight on some level – he’d probably be just as mortified were it any of their mothers – but frankly, he cares far more about the ridicule he might receive from his friends over the group chat for the next few months/years were he to let them see the hickey than he does his mother’s slightly lowered opinion of him. Not that she seems to have lowered her opinion of any of them, even at the sight of the mark.
“Mmm, well that’s- it’s not the worst I’ve seen, let’s put it that way.” She says, inspecting the thing with the corner of her mouth twitching up occasionally in amusement. “It’s certainly not something a little concealer won’t fix.”
“See? Problem solved.” Kuroo-san says triumphantly, patting Akaashi-san on the back. Akaashi-san is the brightest shade of red Kei has ever seen on human skin and somehow still getting redder by the second.
“You know, back in my day we would pop a little ice on that sucker and hope that our parents didn’t look too much into it,” His mother tells them conversationally. Kei really doesn’t know how he feels about hearing his mother talk about having hickeys, but if this is the price he has to pay to have a ridicule free (well, hickey-related ridicule free) evening with his friends, then so be it. “Lucky you, I just learned about color correctors, so this should be so close to invisible in the next few minutes that even my mother wouldn’t say anything about it.”
As promised, the mark is so well covered by the time she’s finished that Kei can’t see it at all. Kuroo-san insists that if you look closely enough it still has a purple undertone, but Kei says nothing about it because his eyesight really isn’t the best even with his insanely strong prescription glasses, and he doesn’t want to be caught in an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ kind of situation where he says something and looks like an idiot.
His mother stands back to admire her handiwork and squeezes several cheeks on her way out of the room, leaving them all a little pinker than when she’d arrived (well, except for Akaashi-san, who may need medical attention if he doesn’t stop blushing soon).
“God, your mom is kind of cool,” Kuroo-san says, rubbing the site of his cheek pinch.
“I guess she is.” Kei replies, but he decides to deal with that after dinner. Even so, he finds himself thinking those same words all over again.
Maybe Yamaguchi was right.
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
I’m awways wight uwu
We’re literally only four minutes late
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
And counting uwu
Fuck you this is just a coincidence
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
You’we a contwow fweak Tsukki uwu
I onwy knew you wouwd be wate because having fouw peopwe to mwicwomanage takes a wot mwowe time than just one uwu
I’m going to physically throttle you
That fucking uwu filter bullshit pisses me off
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
I wouwd uninstaww it if I knew how uwu
Twust me, it’s just as fwustwating fow me as it is fow you uwu
I highly doubt that
Only five minutes late you insufferable prick
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
You wove me uwu
Idiot No.2 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS THEY’RE HERE
Idiot No.1 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
I know that Hinata I can read
Idiot No.2 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Oh can you?
Yamaguchi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
What did I say about fighting on the gwoup chat uwu?
Yachi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Put your phones down it’s rude to be on your phones in front of company
Idiot No.1 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Idiot No.2 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
OH MY GOD THEY’RE SO TALL
Yachi @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
What did I just say?
Idiot No.2 @ Tsukki’s Epic Gay Adventure
Kei groans and stuffs his phone back into his pocket. This is going to be a long night.
Chapter 35: Where Did Tsukishima Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
The gang visits Tsukishima's school friends.
Had to rewrite this one four times because I hated it, but I hope this version is worth the blood, sweat, and tears! Thanks so much for the support guys!
Yamaguchi buzzes them into the building with a quick, ‘I’ll meet you in the lobby’ over the little intercom.
The building is nice, Kei thinks. Nicer than the cheap student accommodation building he and his boyfriends reside in, anyway. There’s an elevator, which Kei might not have noticed were it not for Bokuto-san pointing it out and gushing over it like it’s the seventh wonder of the world or something. The tiling is sleek and modern looking, all of the lights work, there aren’t any suspicious stains on the walls or sad looking twenty-somethings skulking the area, and the overall vibe of the place is much less… ‘someone would puke up glitter in the parking lot’ than their residence.
Maybe they should move.
Yamaguchi meets them at the bottom of the large, central staircase, beaming and practically giddy with excitement. Much to his surprise – and Kei’s as well, when he realizes what he’s done in his absentminded awe of his friends’ actually decent living environment – Kei greets his best friend with a hug. After a brief moment spent frozen in shock, Yamaguchi jumps right into action and squeezes Kei tightly enough to make him wheeze, his ribs feeling like they might crack under the pressure.
“If you’re going to do that every time, I’ll never hug you again,” Kei warns, wrapping his arms around his fragile torso as though to protect it from a further onslaught of overzealous affection. Yamaguchi doesn’t seem bothered by his reaction in the least.
“It’s just that… I’ve never felt so loved, Tsukki," He says, making fake sniffling noises. "I might cry.”
Kei rolls his eyes as Yamaguchi emphasizes his point by wiping a fake tear from his overdramatic eye.
After a few general pleasantries and some extremely embarrassing gushing on Yamaguchi’s part about how he ‘knew all along that there was something going on’ and how he’s ‘so glad Tsukki has finally opened up’, they manage to make it up the stairs and to the front door of Yamaguchi and co’s apartment.
“The others are very excited to meet you,” Yamaguchi tells them, knocking a few times on the door before opening it – presumably as a warning, though for whom Kei can't be sure. “Guys, come-”
“OH MY GOD, THERE REALLY ARE THREE OF THEM!” Hinata yells, bounding into the entranceway and skidding to a stop just in front of the group. “THERE ARE THREE OF YOU!”
“Hinata, stop yelling!” Kageyama yells, following shortly behind the little orange idiot.
“Sorry! I’m just- there are three of them!”
“Yes, Hinata, I can count.”
“Sorry, Yamaguchi, I really tried to-” Yachi starts to say, trailing behind her overly excitable puppies and stopping dead just before reaching the entranceway herself. Her gaze (having fallen first on the group's yet unremoved shoes) slowly makes its way up, eyes widening with every passing inch, before finally settling on the general area that their heads occupy – more than a full foot above her own. She suddenly looks faint.
“Don’t worry about it,” Yamaguchi says, taking a step to the side so that each of the newcomers is fully in view, “Guys, these are Tsukki’s partners. Bokuto-san, Akaashi-san, and Kuroo-san.”
Yachi visibly swallows at the sight of them, but Hinata seems not to be perturbed at all by the height difference.
“You guys are tall!” He yells, jumping up and down as if to try and make up the difference with his insane amount of energy alone.
“Um, thank you?” Kuroo-san replies, cracking an amused smile. “You must be Hinata.”
“YEP!” Hinata replies enthusiastically, stopping his jumping momentarily only to pull his two reluctant companions forward for introduction. “These two are Kageyama and Yachi!”
“Ah, the tiny lesbian and grumpy milk boy,” Kuroo-san says, and Kei feels like an idiot for believing even for a second that this evening would be anything less than disastrous.
“Why would you say that?” He hisses, not nearly softly enough to prevent the others from hearing it, but Kei honestly couldn’t give a shit anymore.
“What?” Kuroo-san asks, wide-eyed in an attempt to look innocent, as if he doesn’t know what he’s just done wrong.
“I can’t take you anywhere.”
“They’re not scary, Yachi, I promise.” Kei tries, having seated his boyfriends on the couch and taken a firm stance between her and them in an attempt to calm her somewhat. If the look on her face is anything to go by, though, he wasn't very successful.
“They’re a foot taller than her, Tsukki, give her some time!” Yamaguchi yells from the kitchen. Kei never ceases to be amazed by his best friend’s superhuman hearing.
“I’m fine!” Yachi insists, still white as a sheet. “Really, I’m just- I’m fine!”
“If it helps, we can crawl around on all fours until you get used to us.” Kuroo-san jokes, Cheshire Cat-like grin on his face. Kei smacks his upper arm.
“Horses…” Bokuto-san muses, off in his own world. Kei sighs.
“Sorry, I meant that Keiji isn’t scary.” He corrects, placing a hand on Akaashi-san’s shoulder and presenting him to Yachi like the shining ray of hope in this dark, dark world that he is.
“I don’t know,” Kuroo-san says, opening his bastard mouth once again just to make Kei’s life more difficult. “I think Keiji would be the second most likely out of the four of us to murder somebody.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Kei says, eyes narrowed.
“I didn’t even have to say it, Kei. I think that speaks for itself.”
“You’re right! Who knows what the future holds?”
“That’s enough of that, you two,” Akaashi-san says firmly, returning his gaze to Yachi. “It’s lovely to meet you, Yachi-san.”
Yachi startles a bit, as though she too had forgotten why they were having this conversation amidst the bickering.
“You too!” She says, bowing in Akaashi-san’s general direction and startling him quite a bit too. “Um, thank you for taking such good care of Tsukishima.”
“Relax, Yachi. There’s no need to-” Kei begins, but it seems that Hinata has other plans.
“DO YOU ALL SLEEP IN THE SAME BED?!” He asks loudly and with no shame at all, doing what Kei would loosely categorize as a backflip onto the couch beside them.
“Hinata!” Yachi gasps, absolutely scandalized at the only minimally intrusive question.
“Nah,” Kuroo-san says, ignoring Yachi’s protests. Kei can tell by the twinkle in his eye that he’s about to say something obnoxious. “Keiji sleeps in the bed. The rest of us just have to make a plan.”
“Funny, Tetsurou,” Akaashi-san says, his tone indicating very strongly that he does not, in fact, think that Kuroo-san is very funny at all. “Very funny. I’ll remember that.”
“Oh, you’ve done it now.” Kei snickers.
Kuroo-san sticks his tongue out at Kei like a child before draping himself dramatically over Akaashi-san’s right shoulder. Akaashi-san seems entirely unfazed by this, staring steadfastly forward and ignoring the fully grown man clinging to him like he's Jack from Titanic and Akaashi-san is the door.
“Please don’t be mad, Keiji," Kuroo-san whines, "I love you more than my own life.”
Akaashi-san looks down on the man hanging onto his shoulder through half-lidded, uncaring eyes and says nothing.
It’s a bit delayed, but Bokuto-san and Hinata hit it off just like Kei thought they would. Right off the bat, the screaming is unbearable. Kei is a relatively smart guy – he’d seen this coming. He’d seen it coming, and yet he never considered that it might be this bad. Or this loud. Or… god, this tiring to watch. Predicting something and living through it are two completely different things, and Kei’s smart-ass ways aren’t going to save any of them now.
“I am so sorry about this,” Yamaguchi says, despite absolutely none of it being even remotely his fault, “He’s a lot more energetic now that his scurvy is under control, so-”
“I’m sorry, his what?” Akaashi-san asks, politely placing his glass onto the ‘got milk?’ coasters Kageyama bought for the apartment when they’d first moved in, apparently not having noticed that the slogan was printed across the gigantic boobs of some nondescript anime girl. Kei still can’t believe that Yamaguchi hasn’t thrown them out.
Yamaguchi pinches the bridge of his nose and Kei can see the pain and humiliation color his face for a brief moment before he regains his composure.
“He, uh- a few weeks ago, Hinata got scurvy and- Tsukki, stop laughing!”
Kei can’t help himself. He really can’t. The second Yamaguchi had mentioned the scurvy, the entire ordeal came flooding right back into Kei’s mind like it had happened yesterday. The pictures on the group chat, the googling of the symptoms, the visit to the doctor because ‘it can’t be scurvy, right? That makes no sense.’ When Yamaguchi had returned from the doctor with vitamin C supplements and a defeated attitude, Kei hadn’t stopped laughing over that phone call either.
‘I had to look his sweet mother in the face and tell her that her son got scurvy on my watch! Do you know how humiliating that is, Tsukki? I’ll never be able to show my face in that house again!’ Yamaguchi had said, powering through the merciless laughing on the other end. Kei was wheezing by the time the phone call was over, and he’ll be damned if he can’t laugh about it two weeks later with the exact same level of mirth.
“What? I’m not supposed to laugh at the idiot who got fucking scurvy in the twenty-first century?” He asks, very nearly crying with laughter.
“HEY!” Hinata yells from across the room, despite the fact that Bokuto-san has him caught in a headlock on the floor.
“He’s right,” Kageyama says, just loudly enough for Hinata to hear him. Yachi elbows him for that, but Kageyama barely reacts at all.
“SHUT UP KAGEYAMA, WHAT DO YOU KNOW ANYWAY?!”
“Enough not to get scurvy, apparently.” Kei teases.
“Guys, please,” Yamaguchi begs, looking absolutely mortified on behalf of his roommates (and possibly Kei as well). They all ignore him, of course, but the conflict dies down on its own anyway – just as it usually does.
As ridiculous as it sounds (even to him), Kei finds himself filled with a strange sense of pride following the scurvy conversation. It’s not much, but at least his idiots have never gotten scurvy. At least they’re not that stupid. The bar is so low – almost humiliatingly low – but it’s nice to have a bar at all.
As with most things, though, Kei gets his pride thrown right back in his face just seconds later. It’s almost like the universe is taunting him, he thinks, like it sees his pride and aims to humble him in the worst ways it can think of. He makes a mental note to curse the universe for at least ten minutes when they get home.
It starts when Hinata and Bokuto-san head back to the table, Hinata sweating a great deal and so red in the face it’s almost comical. Bokuto-san looks pretty proud of himself for managing to repeatedly pin a young man the size of an average sixth grader to the ground, but who is Kei to strip him of that achievement? He’s felt pretty proud of himself for managing to talk circles around the same guy – who, coincidentally, also has the mental capacity of an average sixth grader.
“Yeah, so I’ve been a lot more careful about just letting them eat whatever they want,” Yamaguchi continues, Akaashi-san nodding along knowingly. “I kind of thought they’d be able to handle that kind of thing on their own, but obviously the scurvy says otherwise. Five servings of fruit a day keeps the scurvy away, or so they say.”
Bokuto-san plops down heavily in the free chair beside Kei, “Aw man, yeah. Scurvy sucks, dude, and it’s a lot easier to get than you think.”
Kei feels the unmistakable feeling of the universe sinking its teeth into his ass.
“What?” He asks, naively hoping that this is a misunderstanding. That Bokuto-san just… knows a lot about scurvy, for some reason.
“Scurvy. You know, like the pirate disease?” Bokuto-san elaborates, looking confused about Kei’s question.
“I’m familiar,” Kei says carefully, “I’m just wondering how you are.”
Ah, yes. Nothing quite like a big ol’ bite in the ass from the universe itself.
“Got it right after Tetsu and I moved into the dorms at uni,” Bokuto-san tells him cheerfully, and Kei feels his entire world come crashing down around him. “Freshly eighteen, thought I was invincible and could live off of Oreos and chicken nuggets. Yeah, no. Also, apparently fruit flavored soda doesn’t count – had to find that out the hard way.”
“No,” Kei says, softly but with a lot of feeling. He’s starting to think ten minutes cursing the universe won’t be nearly enough.
Bokuto-san tilts his head to the side, “Huh?”
Kei shakes his head, “Nothing, just feeling a little deader inside. Yamaguchi, stop laughing or so help me, I-”
“Irony is such a cruel mistress, Tsukki,” Yamaguchi laughs, “It was only a matter of time.”
“You know,” Kageyama says, sitting with Kei on the couch as the others engage in a Mario Kart tournament that neither of them was interested in, “I kind of thought Hinata was joking when he told us about… this.”
The gesture he makes is vague – about as vague as the sentence itself – but Kei has a feeling he knows exactly what Kageyama is trying to get at. It’s not like it could be very many other things anyway.
“Oh, yeah? You didn’t think it was in character for me to start dating three men at once after being single for five years?”
“That too.” Kageyama shrugs, “I just didn’t think you were the type to actually fall in love with someone.”
That gives Kei pause. Being so focused on the fact that there are three of them sort of left the idea that even one of them was something he’d never expected for himself on the backburner. He thinks about it for a while, a little confused now that Kageyama has mentioned it. It had all felt so natural, he just hadn't bothered to question it.
“Yeah, me neither.” He says eventually, folding his hands in his lap and watching Kageyama out of the corner of his eye.
Kageyama is quiet for a long moment before he straightens up and opens his mouth again.
“It’s…” He begins, clearing his throat, “It’s nice.”
“Thanks?” Kei says, not really sure what else to say.
“Just take it, Tsukishima,” Hinata says, suddenly popping up behind the couch and damn near sending Kei to an early grave. “He’s trying to tell you that he cares about you.”
“Shut UP, dumbass,” Kageyama growls, but Kei is far more concerned with the fact that he isn’t sure he has a pulse anymore.
“It’s not my fault that you’re emotionally stunted, asshole,” Hinata replies, sticking his tongue out.
Kei sighs, hand still clutching his chest, “Hinata, what are you doing here?”
“Oh!” Hinata says, face lighting up. Kei can almost see the lightbulb above his head. “Bokuto-san wanted me to tell you that we’re roasting marshmallows over the gas stove now and that you should come watch him put a marshmallow that’s still on fire in his mouth.”
“What?” Kei asks, hoping that he hadn’t heard his little friend right. Hinata just nods. “No, please tell him not to do that!”
“Tell him yourself, mom!” Hinata says, scurrying off to the kitchen (presumably to watch Bokuto-san give himself second-degree burns).
Kei groans and rests his head in his hands, “Oh my god.”
Bokuto-san escapes with his life and only first-degree burns, thankfully. Kei had arrived just in time to watch him actually place the flaming marshmallow into his gaping maw, and then he watched as the gooey aftermath ended up on Yamaguchi's immaculate kitchen floor. Unfortunate, but far better than the alternative - Kei may not have much in the way of medical expertise to begin with (though he's picked up a thing or two recently, thanks to a certain disaster trio), but a burnt throat is certainly not something he would know how to deal with. Another trip to the emergency room (while very, very possible) isn't exactly on his wishlist of things to do while visiting home.
When questioned about why he would allow Bokuto-san the freedom to engage in such dangerous and stupid shenanigans, Akaashi-san shrugs and says, “He’s like a child with a hot plate. You have to let him burn himself for him to learn the lesson.”
Kei and Yamaguchi nod at Akaashi-san’s wisdom, but then his face darkens, and he adds, “Except he won’t learn the lesson, and he will do it again.”
It sounds like a promise, or a prophecy. Kei shudders at the inevitable truth of it.
After Bokuto-san is treated for his wounds using some burn gel from Yamaguchi’s very large and extensive first aid kit (over which Yamaguchi and Akaashi-san have a bonding moment), the entire group has the pleasure of watching Yamaguchi force feed a fruit salad to a grown man. Hinata complains about it the whole time, but Kei can see the fire and determination in his best friend’s eyes and knows that that fruit salad is going to be finished one way or another by the end of the night. Hinata probably knows it too.
Kageyama eats his fruit salad in silence.
They leave around eleven when Akaashi-san is visibly trying not to fall asleep standing up. It's been an eventful enough evening to call it quits, Kei thinks, so he's quite happy to use Akaashi-san's tiredness as an excuse to book it on out. Yamaguchi complains at him for not spending more time with them, but Kei reassures him with the promise of further visits - minus the four-year interval, this time.
Bokuto-san picks Hinata up at the door, and Kei shuts down Bokuto-san’s suggestion that they adopt Hinata and take him with them to Tokyo as soon as it comes out of his mouth.
“But whyyy?” They whine in unison, very much the unstoppable duo of chaos and destruction that Kei had predicted they'd be (like Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san, but with fewer brain cells).
“I can’t believe I have to say this, but Hinata and I are literally the same age.”
“Not mentally!” Bokuto-san insists, and Hinata nods enthusiastically.
Kei narrows his eyes at Hinata, “You’re insulting yourself. You know that, right?”
Kei can see the gears turning behind Hinata’s eyes, but absolutely nothing of value appears to be happening so he cuts it short, “Just- don’t worry about it. You’ll hurt yourself.”
It’s a tearful goodbye, but Kei and Kuroo-san manage to pry the duo apart and get Bokuto-san into the car with the promise that they’ll keep in touch. Kei finds it kind of sweet, actually, but he decides to keep that little thought to himself.
Just as he’s nodding off in the car, Kei’s phone buzzes in his pocket. When he said they'd keep in touch, he didn't think it meant quite so soon.
23 DECEMBER 2018
Idiot No.2 created group “Where Did Tsukishima Find Such Cool Boyfrien”
Idiot No.2 added you
Idiot No.2 @ Where Did Tsukishima Find Such Cool Boyfrien
Idiot No.2 @ Where Did Tsukishima Find Such Cool Boyfrien
The whole thing wouldnt fit
Theres a character limit
So pick something shorter?
Idiot No.2 @ Where Did Tsukishima Find Such Cool Boyfrien
Koutarou (<3) @ Where Did Tsukishima Find Such Cool Boyfrien
Change his name to Kei
That way itll fit
Idiot No.2 @ Where Did Tsukishima Find Such Cool Boyfrien
GIMME A SEC
Idiot No.2 changed the subject from “Where Did Tsukishima Find Such Cool Boyfrien” to “Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??”
Idiot No.2 @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Koutarou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Also HI HINATA
Tetsurou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Why am I on here
Idiot No.2 @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Bc youre one of Tsukishimas cool bfs obviously
Tetsurou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
That’s kind of sweet, ngl
Idiot No.1 @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Wat does ngl mean
Keiji (<3 emergency) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Not gonna lie.
Koutarou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Keiji (<3 emergency) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Not so loud Koutarou.
Ily Keiji but that makes no sense
Keiji (<3 emergency) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Idiot No.1 @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Wat does ily mean
Yachi @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
I love you
Idiot No.1 @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Tetsurou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
@Keiji (<3) @you @Koutarou (<3)
Tetsurou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
DOESN'T THIS LOOK FAMILIAR
It's the convenience store by my mom's house
Why'd you take a picture of it?
Tetsurou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Oh my god
Testurou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Keiji (<3 emergency) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Why are you sending this on the group?
We're in the car together.
Testurou (<3) @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
Idiot No.1 @ Where Did Kei Find Such Cool Boyfriends??
"Oh my god," Kei says, leaning over to get a better look at Kuroo-san's phone - or, more specifically, at his conversation with Oikawa-san.
"I know," Kuroo-san whispers, clicking back onto the picture of the convenience store. It's fully decked out for Christmas, and Kei would recognize that fake snowman anywhere - he grew up with it. Oikawa-san's blurry peace sign can just be made out in the lower left corner.
"Wait, what's going on?" Bokuto-san asks from the front seat, desperately craning his neck to get a better view of the action.
"Kei has lived five minutes away from Oikawa his entire life and didn't know it," Kuroo-san informs him, pure glee coloring his voice.
"Should we tell him?" Kei asks, studying the picture again just to make sure. There's no denying it - that's the convenience store Kei's mother has been frequenting as long as he can remember.
"Wait," Kuroo-san says, "Wasn't he only supposed to come down here on the twenty-eighth?"
Kei frowns, "Yeah, for New Years, right? With Iwaizumi-san."
Kuroo-san switches chats, "Something's not right."
Chapter 36: On Loving and Being Loved Part 3
Oikawa finally lays it all out in the open and has several very important conversations that help him get to the place he needs to be to heal from his issues.
Looks like the new standard for chapters has been upped to over three thousand words because I can't stop myself, apparently. Anyway, I kind of meant for this one to be out yesterday already but my friends were over the whole day for my birthday (the Homestuck baby, I know) and whipping out my monster of a fic in front of them to write some sad shit just didn't really fit the festive spirit, you know? Sorry for the delay, but please enjoy regardless! I really like this one, so I hope you do too! (That has absolutely nothing to do with my bias toward Oikawa at all, I promise... or does it?)
Feedback is as always appreciated! Love you guys!
You’re so dramatic Tetsu-chan （￣ε￣）
Excuse me for having reasonable suspicion when you show up to your parents’ house almost a week early without Iwaizumi
You guys aren’t exactly the picture-perfect couple at the moment
How dare you??
Iwa-chan and I are couple goals!!
Oh my god
Please never say that ever again
But for real
You would tell me if something was really wrong, right?
You’re so sweet to me
I just worry about you
You’re so bad at taking care of yourself
I have no idea what you’re talking about （￣＾￣）
Tell the others that Uncle Tooru loves and misses them very much (◕‿◕✿)
Hmmm... that emoji kind of looks like you to be honest
But I will
Kou says hi
Keiji said nothing but I’m sure he appreciates it
Kei says that if you ever call yourself Uncle Tooru again he’s going to unfollow you on Instagram
After I made him make that account just to follow me?
The betrayal (╥_╥)
Oh my god
I’m about to change your life
You already have darling ;)
You’re going to kill me one day
You’ve been living in the same area as Kei your entire life
Literally, your parents’ house is five minutes away from Kei’s
We’re within walking distance as we speak
Fate throws us together once again! (*＞ｖ＜)ゞ*゜+
It’s a sign, Tetsu-chan! We’re all spiritually connected!
Like the red string of fate!
Kei says that it’s a coincidence at best
Oh, boo! Tell him to lighten up （￣ε￣）
Romanticize the little things, Kei-chan!
You’ll be much happier if you do
Little grumpy pants
He’s unfollowing you on Instagram
Okay I take it back
He’s not grumpy
He’s beautiful and I love him
Flattery will get you nowhere Oikawa-san
Hello, Kei-chan! (ㆁᴗㆁ✿)
Have you unfollowed me?
Then flattery has gotten me somewhere after all (ノ￣ω￣)ノ
The validation I receive from your likes is very important to me, you know
It’s like hearing, ‘Oh, Tooru! You are truly the most magnificent creature to ever have graced the earth!’
And THAT is the reason I wake up in the morning
You’ve got 4000 other people for that
Yes, but your opinion as my friend means far more to me than any of them ever will
I hear we’re home town buddies!
I always knew we had a connection!
If that connection you felt was you constantly entering my home without an invite then I felt it too
You love me I know you do
You guys should keep me company sometime!
I’m so bored I’m going crazy (∋д∈)
Why are you here early if you’re bored?
That’s a secret (~￣³￣)~
That I might tell you if you spend some time with me
For fuck’s sake
This is why you’re my favorite
Come over at 11
Not that I can guarantee Keiji will be awake by then
He’s on the winter schedule so it can’t be helped
Love you ❤❤
Why are you nicer to Kei than you are to me?
Because if I’m too nice to you, I might have to take responsibility for your feelings
See you at 11
Tooru doesn’t regret very many things – it’s just not in his nature to do something he’s not sure of. That being said, he wholeheartedly regrets the snap decision he made to get on a train and wallow in self-pity alone at his parents’ house for five days.
“I want to be alone for a while,” He’d said, already packing his things into his and Hajime’s big travel suitcase that Tooru had picked out specifically for their trip to Okinawa four years ago. Hajime had watched him, leaning against the doorframe with that tired look in his eyes that Tooru is slowly starting to resent.
“I won’t stop you.” Hajime had replied, and Tooru could almost have screamed for how frustrated he felt. He hated the implication that that’s what it was about – that he wanted to be stopped, or that he was just being dramatic for attention.
“I’ll see you in a few days then,” He’d said instead, zipping the half-empty bag and yanking it off of their bed. One of the picture frames on his bedside table fell over with the force of it, and Tooru paused for far too long to look at it. In the end, he decided not to pick it up, but he thought about it for the whole train ride afterward. It was their high school graduation picture – the one that Tooru’s mother had taken. They looked so happy there, with Tooru’s arms wrapped around Hajime’s shoulders and both of their diplomas in Hajime’s hands.
“Alright. I love you.” Hajime said, moving out of the doorway so that Tooru could lug the suitcase out of their room and fuck off to his parents’ house like a child throwing a tantrum. And he felt like one, sitting on the train all by himself with his earphones in and that playlist Keiji-chan had made him as a birthday gift playing at an almost uncomfortably high volume so that he didn’t have to think about anything too much.
He wasn’t sure why he was doing it at the time, and now that he’s lying in his childhood bed with the same playlist lulling him to sleep, he’s somehow even less sure. He feels like garbage, all alone and staring at his ceiling like a moody teenager – and even that reminds him of Hajime because those stupid glow-in-the-dark stars will always remind him of Hajime.
He doesn’t know for sure why he’s here, or why he didn’t take Hajime with him. All he knows for sure at this point is that he’s mad.
He’s mad that Hide-chan showed up at his door that day. He’s mad that people who don’t know anything about him think that they can just throw around the word ‘love’ like it means anything. He’s mad that Hajime asked him if he was okay afterward like it should mean something to him that someone was naïve and stupid enough to fall in love with him in the first place. Like he should feel responsible for someone else’s dumb choices.
But, most of all, he’s mad that he wasn’t okay afterward. That it did mean something to him that someone was naïve and stupid enough to fall in love with him. That he does feel responsible for other people’s dumb choices.
Because he could have done something to prevent it, but he didn’t.
“Oh my god, you look normal for once,” Kei-chan says the second Tooru makes it within earshot.
“Your criticism cuts me deep, Kei-chan, but I will be sure to do better in the future,” Tooru replies, suddenly feeling rather strange in his modest hoodie and jeans. He hadn’t really expected to be leaving the house at all before Hajime joined him in a few days, and even then, he hadn’t really expected to be seeing anyone.
“Nobody said you don’t look good,” Tetsu-chan reassures him, and Tooru takes note of the up and down look he receives just like he does every time. “You’re still putting half the world to shame.”
Tooru raises an eyebrow, “Only half?”
“I don’t want to stroke your ego too much before Keiji gets his hands on you.”
Tooru smiles at the implication. As much as Keiji-chan loves to draw him, Tooru is sure that he loves to be drawn far more. A strange part of him feels understood by Keiji-chan’s pencil in a way he never does otherwise.
“Oh? It’s been a minute.” He says, starting to get cold again now that the warmth from the ten-minute walk here is wearing off.
“You know he likes your poses.”
“Yes, and my face. What did he say?” Tooru grins, pretending to think about it. “Oh! ‘He doesn’t have a bad angle’ – I’m sure that was it.”
Amusement tugs at the right side of Tetsu-chan’s mouth, “This is why I refuse to stroke your ego. You’re already so good at doing it yourself.”
“Good at that, good at so many other things.” Tooru sighs, tilting his head ever so slightly. “My, I just never rest.”
“Alright, get your ass inside before you catch a cold,” Kei-chan interjects before Tetsu-chan can get another word in. “I wouldn’t want to subject your poor mother to that.”
“Very funny, Kei-chan.”
“Why do you always draw me looking so sad, Keiji-chan?” Tooru whines, draped over the side of Kei-chan’s bed. Keiji-chan blows excess eraser shavings off of his sketchbook and snaps it shut, finally satisfied with his work.
“You always look sad when I draw you.” He counters, never one to sugarcoat things no matter how much Tooru might need to hear it.
“I smile for the pictures,” Tooru huffs, knowing full well that Keiji-chan isn’t nearly as forgiving of nonsense as his boyfriends are. He reminds Tooru of Hajime in that way. Of course, Hajime is far less prone to eventually giving in to whatever shenanigans might be going on than Keiji-chan is.
“Smiling and looking happy are two entirely different things.”
They’re alone in Kei-chan’s bedroom. Keiji-chan prefers minimal distraction when he’s drawing, which is just fine by Tooru – as much as he’d complained of boredom just last night, he quickly found himself a little overwhelmed being out and about without much in the way of prep time. Unfortunately for him, the persona he’s trying so desperately to maintain has quite a lot of upkeep.
Tooru gives Keiji-chan a once-over – his monotone statement bouncing around in Tooru’s head and making him feel a little crazy. He feels like he has something to prove in the most childish, ridiculous way. It’s not like Keiji-chan cares, or like either of them is going to come out of this conversation a winner – they aren’t even competing. But Tooru is childish and ridiculous when he least wants to be, so he tries to get the last word in anyway.
“I am happy.”
Keiji-chan looks momentarily surprised – whether at the content of Tooru’s statement or at the fact that he said anything at all Tooru can’t be sure. Either way, Keiji-chan quickly collects himself, laying his hands neatly in his lap and looking Tooru in the eye from his position on the floor.
“I know.” He says, and Tooru feels immediately that he lost somehow.
“Yo, Oikawa,” Kou-chan says, elbowing Tooru to get his attention, “You alright?”
Tooru startles at the sudden contact – having dissociated a bit over the lunch that Kei-chan’s delightful mother had insisted they eat at the table.
He’d noted that no father figure was present or mentioned at all during the admittedly brief conversation they’d had. Rather strange, considering that Tooru knows for a fact that Kei-chan has a present father figure. He decides not to ask about it.
“You alright? You seem a little out of it.”
When he’d asked the group how the family visit was going, there had (thankfully) been a resoundingly positive answer – well, except from Kei-chan, who said nothing at all despite the fact that it’s his family they’re visiting. Strange indeed. Tooru decides not to ask about it.
“Fine, thank you. I just slept badly.” He lies.
He didn’t sleep a wink. He misses Hajime already, as stupid as it may sound. They spend ten months apart and suddenly Tooru is pining like a schoolgirl after less than a day. Maybe it’s the way he left things. Hajime had seemed so confused and worried, trailing Tooru around the apartment like a lost puppy until he’d stepped out the door.
He owes Hajime some sort of explanation. He doesn’t deserve this. Maybe if Tooru were just to call, they could patch things up and he could sleep better knowing that Hajime isn’t tossing and turning worrying that Tooru might end their relationship for good over some petty argument.
“Yeah, I- I’m sure. Thank you, Kou-chan.”
He can’t stop thinking about it. Even when Tetsu-chan puts a hand on his shoulder and looks him right in the eye, saying something that Tooru is sure is important, somehow. But he doesn’t hear it – he can’t hear anything over the thoughts running rampant in his head and his overwhelming desire to just go home. To talk to Hajime and have him say that it’s all going to be alright. Because it is going to be alright. Tooru knows it like he knows the sun is going to come up tomorrow morning.
For him, it’s just a matter of whether he is going to be alright.
Tetsu-chan offers to walk him home after they all watch some Christmas movie that Tooru couldn’t recall a single thing about even if you were to hold a gun to his head. Tooru gets the distinct feeling that it’s less an offer and more an, ‘I’ll walk you home’ with none of the usual room for refusal or polite insistence that it’s far too cold and nearly dark anyway. That isn’t to say he doesn’t try, but it ends up being four (or five if you count Kei-chan’s mother) against one and Tooru knows he won’t win so he gives in.
Kou-chan hugs him a little tighter than usual when he leaves (which Tooru hadn’t thought possible, but at least his spine is firmly realigned). Kei-chan and Keiji-chan take turns giving him feeble (in comparison and in general) hugs as well, which makes Tooru feel twice as bad because he didn’t even have to bully them into it this time. Tetsu-chan tugs him out of the door by his sleeve, and Tooru stumbles along behind him before they settle into their usual rhythm of walking far slower than normal because Tooru would be lying if he said he didn’t find Tetsu-chan’s presence comforting. He wonders briefly if Tetsu-chan feels the same, but the thought fills him with so much guilt that his chest tightens, and he feels like he’d rather sit down on the sidewalk and freeze than know the answer.
“So,” Tetsu-chan begins, hands shoved firmly into his pockets and breath coming out it white clouds in front of him, “You’ve been avoiding it all day, and I’m not sure if that’s because you’re in denial, or if it’s because you’re afraid to talk about it.”
“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Tooru says, kicking a stray rock off of the sidewalk.
“You frustrate me sometimes, you know that?” Tetsu-chan tells him, but his tone doesn’t match his supposed frustration. He pauses, watching Tooru drag his dirty sneakers across the cement as they walk, before finally giving in and asking, “What’s going on with Iwaizumi?”
Tooru could laugh, really.
Tetsu-chan’s brow creases in that overly serious way of his, “Yeah, that.”
“Would you believe me if I told you that it’s nothing and that you shouldn’t worry about it?”
“You know me better than that.”
The words are slow to form in Tooru’s brain. He could lie and insist that it’s some frivolous thing that started a stupid argument, but Tetsu-chan also knows him better than that, so Tooru doubts that he’d believe it.
“So?” Tetsu-chan prompts, stopping suddenly. Tooru stops too, but he doesn’t turn around.
“What exactly do you want me to say?” He asks, feeling himself unravel further with every word that falls out of his mouth. “That he’s perfect and hasn’t done anything wrong but that I still feel like I want to scream because a part of me can’t trust him? That I feel so insanely guilty over the fact that… god! You’re right, I don’t want to say it. I don’t-”
He’d given up on trying not to cry less than halfway. Tetsu-chan has seen him at his worst anyway.
“Hey,” Tetsu-chan says softly, apparently just as surprised at Tooru’s outburst as Tooru is. “No, don’t- it’s okay. It’s fine, just-”
Tooru feels Tetsu-chan’s hand brush against his, but he can’t stop himself at this point and he needs to get it all off his chest if any of them are going to move forward from here.
“No!” He yells, pulling his hand away before Tetsu-chan can attempt to comfort him. “It’s not fine! None of this is fine! Least of all whatever the fuck this is!”
“Okay. Okay, I- calm down for a second, okay? I need you to tell me why you’re upset.” Tetsu-chan stutters, and Tooru can hear the panic in his voice.
“Because I led you on!” Tooru says before he can stop himself, “And I led Hide-chan on! And I- everyone thinks that I’m something that I’m not and it’s my fault! It’s all my fucking fault.”
Tetsu-chan’s hand finds Tooru's shoulder again, “What are you talking about?”
Tooru stays silent.
“Tooru, please. Look at me.”
He doesn’t turn to look at Tetsu-chan like he’s asked, but he doesn’t turn away when Tetsu-chan steps in front of him either.
“Is that what this is about?” Tetsu-chan asks, searching Tooru’s face for confirmation. “Is that seriously what you’re worried about?”
Tooru nods, eyes fixed on the ground.
“God, you’re like- you’re the worst, you know that? You’re even worse than me, and I’m- you and I both know I’m pretty bad.”
He is. Tooru berates him for it all the time – the weird guilt complex he has. His feeling guilty for having feelings, his feeling guilty for acting on his feelings, his feeling guilty for not acting on his feelings. Tooru isn’t sure what any of that has to do with his predicament, but he has a feeling that Tetsu-chan is going to explain it to him point by point just like he always does. Tooru opens his mouth to say something, but Tetsu-chan beats him to it.
“But you know what? If I have to say this to your face for you to believe me, I will.” He says, stepping closer. “Tooru, it is not your fault that I have feelings for you. Or that whatshisname has feelings for you. Or even that Iwaizumi has feelings for you. Okay?”
Tooru frowns and looks up, ready to argue with him, “But-”
“Don’t. If you’re going to bring up that time, I don’t want to hear it.” Tetsu-chan says firmly, and Tooru feels a little guilty again for even considering bringing it up. “I… truthfully, I feel like shit about it. I’m not stupid, Tooru, I knew I didn’t have a chance in hell with you. I knew- God, you were just… it was so hard to see you like that, y’know? I never wanted to see you that- I could’ve punched Iwaizumi, I really… I hated him. I really, really hated him. But you… I don’t know.”
Tooru watches Tetsu-chan intently as he looks everywhere but Tooru’s eyes, running a hand through that messy hair of his and stuttering through his sentences. It’s a confession, in a way. Tooru already knew, but… he feels like he owes it to Tetsu-chan to listen anyway.
“You’re, like- I know you’re tired of hearing it, but you’re so beautiful. And you’re funny, and you let me be there for you when I felt like nobody would ever need me, and… god, you’re literally the best movie commentator on the planet.” He chuckles nervously, rubbing the back of his neck now that he’s done with his hair. “I had fun with you, you know? Even when we were both miserable, and you were telling me that you’d never love again, and I was telling you about how I was going crazy not being able to tell my best friends that I loved them.”
Tooru remembers. He can picture those nights crystal clear in his head – the way they’d talked for hours, and Tetsu-chan had been exactly what Tooru needed. He’d really thought that he was in love with Tetsu-chan then, with his pretty face and messy hair and stupid sense of humor.
Tetsu-chan takes a deep breath, “And then you kissed me, and you didn’t- you said you wanted me, and I didn’t believe you but… that wasn’t your fault. We both knew it was fucked up. But that time wasn’t the reason that I fell in love with you, Tooru. I never- not for even a second believed that we were going to go anywhere. I didn’t love you because I thought we had a chance. I loved you because you’re you, and none of that is your fault.”
Tooru feels ridiculous, but he can’t help the tears welling up in his eyes all over again. Tetsu-chan keeps going.
“You don’t have to take responsibility for other people’s feelings,” He says, finally meeting Tooru’s gaze, “And you sure as hell don’t have to feel so guilty about every little thing. Seriously, you’re making me look like a chump in that department. I can’t tell you this enough, but you don’t owe me anything. You don’t owe the other guy anything. We’ll be fine, I promise. I just… I want you to be happy, you know? That’s- that’s really all I want.”
He looks like he has more to say, but Tooru cuts him short. He steps forward and wraps his arms around him, burying his face in Tetsu-chan’s shoulder.
“Thank you.” He mumbles, voice muffled by Tetsu-chan’s jacket. Tetsu-chan relaxes in Tooru’s arms, returning the embrace and chuckling into Tooru’s hair.
“Do you want to walk around for a bit, or are you cool with going home all red-faced and puffy-eyed?” He asks, back to his goofy self now that they’re done with the feelings portion of things.
“Oh, ha ha. My mom probably wouldn’t even be surprised, to be honest, but…”
“Sure.” Tetsu-chan agrees, squeezing Tooru a little. “You know, it’s not gay if we keep our socks on.”
“I hate you, oh my god.” Tooru laughs, squeezing him back.
After a long moment, Tetsu-chan whispers, “As much as I love this, and as much as I love you, Iwaizumi’s a mess right now, so I’m going to have to begrudgingly request that you call him before he implodes.”
“You’re texting Iwa-chan?”
Tetsu-chan shrugs, “Somebody has to.”
“You’re so nice that it almost pisses me off.”
“Hey! Moping around all nice-guy in the friend zone style doesn’t really suit me, and I’ve got my own boyfriends now anyway.”
“Mmm, yeah. I’m happy for you, Tetsu-chan.”
“Yeah, me too. Now go call your knight in shining armor or whatever.”