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24 Days of Christmas

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The first thing Keiji notices when he turns onto his street is the strange car parked in front of his house. The second thing he notices as he draws closer, are the boxes sitting on his porch. This doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. Tetsurou and Kenma had mentioned something about a friend of theirs staying with them through the break, Keiji just sort of expected them to move in during the break, not two weeks early. 

Not that it matters. If Kenma has agreed to this, then they couldn’t have been a bad person. Tetsurou makes some… questionable decisions on occasion, but Kenma is a good judge of character, even if he doesn't talk to people much. He has a second sense, like a cat, or so Tetsurou says - another questionable thing. Keiji just likes to believe that Kenma has good gut instincts, though he is dating and living with Tetsurou so maybe Keiji should question his logic as well.

Keiji picks his way around the boxes and drops his own bags in front of the front door to fish his keys out of his pocket with one of his gloved hands. Just as he readies himself to pick up his ridiculously heavy grocery bags again, he may have gotten carried away at Trader Joes, the door that leads to the small entryway between the duplexes flies open. 

Keiji stumbles back to avoid being hit and sends an unamused look to the perpetrator. Much to his surprise, he’s not greeted by Tetsurou’s sharp grin and ridiculous hair. Instead, he is greeted by a wide and brilliant smile and equally brilliant, golden eyes. Keiji blinks once, and then twice, trying to catch his breath and take in the tall and very, very broad stranger before him. He works out, he has to, with arms like those. And those shoulders . Keiji swallows and forces his eyes back to the stranger’s face, hoping it wasn’t clear that he was just oogling.

“You must be our new neighbor,” is what Keiji finally says when he realizes how much time as passed. Too much, the answer is too much.

“Yup!” the stranger says, his smile only grows, and it’s suddenly too warm under Keiji’s sweater, coat, scarf combo. “Koutarou Bokuto.”

The stranger holds out his hand and Keiji is forced to take a moment to set his bags down once again to shake the stranger - no Koutarou’s - hand. “Keiji Akaashi,” he introduces himself and tries not to melt under the strength of the handshake. Lord he’s been single for too long, Tooru would give him so much shit for this, but in Keiji’s defense, he was expecting a new neighbor, not an attractive new neighbor.

He takes a moment to glance at the porch roof to catch his breath. He’s focusing back on Koutarou’s face when he sees it: the white and red sitting comfortably on Koutarou’s head. Keiji blinks. How had he missed that? 

“I’m sorry, what is on your head?” The question is out before he can help himself, and sharpened with more judgment than he intended. 

If Koutarou hears it, he doesn’t mind, only laughs and pats his head like he has to remember what’s on his head. “Oh, it’s a Santa hat.”

“I know that,” Keiji mumbles, staring at the bright red hat as though it had personally offended him. Of course, he knew what it was, he knew that the moment he saw it. What he wants to know is, “Why?”

Koutarou smiles and shrugs. “Why not? It’s Christmas after all.”

Keiji stares back blankly. “It’s the first of December.”

“I know! It’s the first day of Christmas, how exciting is that!”

Keiji sighs and picks up his bag again. He walks forward, hoping Koutarou will take the hint and move, but he stays where he is, half in the doorway half in the entryway, and Keiji is forced to squeeze around him to get to his actual front door. It’s a tight squeeze, Koutarou isn’t large but he’s broad-shouldered, an athlete of sorts. Keiji ignores the way that makes his gut flutter by remembering the Santa hat.

“Christmas is only one day,” he says, fumbling with his key, trying to get it into the lock. He should have taken off his gloves, but he’s committed to this now, and he needs to get away from that hat before he loses his mind. 

“But the season isn’t,” Koutarou says with a laugh. 

Keiji finally gets the door open and pushes it with his shoulder, throwing it into the wall. “Unfortunately,” he mumbles under his breath and he fights his way into the narrow stairwell with both his overstuffed grocery bags. 

“Keiji!” Koutarou squeaks as though he’s been personally offended. “Don’t tell me... you dislike Christmas!?”

Keiji is saved from having to explain himself by a gasp and heavy footsteps pounding down the stairs. Touro’s head peers around the corner. “Do my ears deceive me or has Keiji returned with my coffee?”

“I’ve returned with groceries, your coffee is only one part of that.”

Tooru must only hear the coffee-bit because his eyes light up and he throws himself down the rest of the stairs and into Keiji’s arms. Or, on to Keiji’s arms really. He peers over Keiji’s shoulder, and Keiji can tell when he sees Koutarou because he stiffens slightly and physically perks up like a big, pesky, oversized dog.

“You’re our new neighbor!”

Koutarou laughs. “Keiji said the same thing. I’m Koutarou.”

“Tooru,” Tooru replies, reaching around Keiji’s body to shake Koutarous hand.

In this position, more of his weight is on Keiji, and as thin as Tooru is he’s all packed muscle, which isn’t light. “Get off me and help me carry these groceries upstairs.”

Tooru takes a step back but makes no move to grab one of the bags. “Why should I? My coffee is only one part of your groceries.”

“A very heavy part,” Keiji says, shoving the bags into Tooru’s chest and letting go of one set of straps. 

Tooru fumbles for a moment but catches the bag with a huff. “Mean, Keiji, mean. You’re making me do all of the heavy lifting!”

Keiji rolls his eyes and glances over his shoulder, inclining his head slightly. “It was nice meeting you, Koutarou,” he says.

“You never answered my question!” Koutarou says in lieu of a goodbye 

Keiji raises an eyebrow. “What question?”

“Do you dislike Christmas?”

Keiji sighs. He had hoped they were passed this. Apparently not. He studies Koutarou’s face for a moment. Wide and expectant golden eyes blink back at him, and that stupid, red hat sits slightly lopsided on his head. He chews at his lip and chooses his words carefully, “It’s not my favorite holiday.”

Behind him, Tooru snorts. “That’s one way to put it.”

Koutarou’s attention snaps to somewhere over Keiji’s shoulder. “What do you mean?”

Keiji turns around, but Tooru must have expected this because his one free hand is already out and ready to block Keiji’s onslaught of jabs with ease. “Keiji hates Christmas, always has.”

“I don’t hate it!” Keiji snaps, changing his tactic from trying to cover Tooru’s mouth to try to smack him.

Tooru finally catches his wrist and holds if off to the side. He tilts his head slightly to peer around Keiji. “He strongly dislikes it.”

“Why?” Keiji can hear the pout in Koutarou’s words.

“It’s annoying,” Keiji says just as Tooru says, “bad memories.”

Koutarou is quiet for a moment, then asks very softly, “what bad memories could anyone have of Christmas?”

“It’s just not my season,” Keiji says, voice stern. His glare is fixed on Tooru. He doesn’t like talking about this, not with his friends and certainly not with attractive strangers he just met.

Tooru, as much as a pain in the ass as he can be, isn’t an asshole and releases Keiji’s wrist to hoist the bag up some more. He frowns at the bag and then at Keiji. “What did you buy?”

“Your coffee,” Keiji says, softer, a silent thank you for the topic change. 

Tooru rolls his eyes and turns around to head back up the stairs. “Nice meeting you, new neighbor!” he calls over his shoulders.

Keiji hoists his own bag up, getting ready to follow him into their home, but Koutarou’s voice keeps him in place. “I bet I can make it your season,” he says, with so much confidence, Keiji actually chokes on his own saliva and has to look over his shoulder to see if the other man is serious.

“What?”

When he meets Koutarou’s gaze, the happy smile is gone, replaced by pure determination and strength that does something funny to Keiji’s gut. “I bet I can make Christmas your season!” Koutarou says. He smiles at that, his eyes lighting up like he’s just thought of something that would make even Einstein jump for joy. “I bet I can make you like Christmas.” 

He says it with such assurance and insistence, Keiji isn’t sure whether to be humored or horrified. 

Tooru decides for him by laughing, cackling really. The loud and real kind that has him snorting and hiccuping. “I would pay you if you could get Keiji to even voluntarily listen to Christmas music. I’d buy you drinks. I’d do your laundry for an entire year!” 

“I bet I could,” Koutarou replies to Tooru, but his gaze remains on Keiji.

Keiji can feel the sweat building up in his armpits. It’s unpleasant. He really needs to take his layers off, and then turn down the thermostat, Tooru probably turned it up again while Keiji was out. “That’s unnecessary,” Keiji says stiffly. “Besides, it doesn’t matter.”

“It does!” Koutarou insists. “By Christmas Eve, I’ll have you singing Christmas carols and wishing the season won’t end.”

Keiji rolls his eyes at that. “Please don’t waste your efforts.”

“I won’t,” Koutarou says with a nod that only further skewed his pointy red hat. “Watch me.”

“Goodbye, Koutarou,” Keijis says with a sigh, and finally turns around to actually walk upstairs to his apartment. 

There’s a pause, and Keiji can feel the eyes on him. For a moment he wonders if Koutarou is going to try and maintain this ridiculous conversation, instead he just says, “see you later, Keiji!”

The front door finally falls shut behind Keiji, and with a sigh he starts up the stairs, trying to best to ignore Tooru’s barely contained giggles. At the top of the stairs, he drops his bag and lets out a long sigh, leaning back against the wall and closing his eyes to catch his breath. He should probably start joining Tooru at the gym again, but that thought is far out of his mind, for all he can see behind his eyelids is that stupid, red and puffy Santa hat.