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daisy rings and frivolous things (i am deliriously in love with you)

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Bokuto and Akaashi definitely are not dating. Akaashi would know if they were. Bokuto is just cuddly, that’s all. Akaashi has seen him holding hands with Kuroo, thoroughly slapping Konoha on the back, ruffling Tsukishima’s hair roughly, and even sweeping Hinata in a celebratory hug after he’d mastered the “special attack” Bokuto had taught him. Bokuto is a tactile person. It’s just his nature. And since Akaashi and Bokuto are especially close, it’s only natural Bokuto is especially tactile with Akaashi. 

They’re all innocent things, really. Interlacing their fingers on the subway ride home, falling asleep on Akaashi’s shoulder on the bus rides to and from games, pulling Akaashi into lingering hugs before they said goodbye each day. 

Akaashi tries not to read too much into it. 

But he does... indulge in Bokuto’s generosity. He can’t help it. It’s too much of a thrill, too much of what he so desperately desires. He pampers himself in Bokuto’s affection and has consequently become terribly addicted to touching Bokuto this way-- casually and with great frequency. The thought of going back makes him feel physically ill. It’s as if just being around Bokuto has created an all new sort of need within him. The need to be close, the need for a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, or to have arms wrapped around him. If they went too long apart, Akaashi would start to feel achy and empty-- like he’s having withdrawals. 

It’s silly, but Akaashi can’t help but feel a thrill low in his belly whenever he remembers it’s The Bokuto Koutarou who is tugging on his jacket to get his attention. It’s Bokuto Koutarou that insists on cuddling during movie nights. It’s Bokuto Koutarou’s head dropping onto Akaashi’s shoulder and demanding his attention when they’ve been studying too long. It’s almost unbelievable that this person is his teammate let alone that he’s in his arms. This... this star of a boy, breathtaking and beautiful, an adventure in everything he did. The world came to life around Bokuto, and here he was, carding a hand through Akaashi’s hair, pulling Akaashi’s head into his chest before they drifted off together, sharing a bed because at this point they’ve had so many sleepovers that pulling out the futon just felt like a chore.

Akaashi will wake up during these sleepovers sometimes, Bokuto inches from his face and fast asleep. It’s a rare sight, seeing Bokuto at peace like that. Akaashi could lie awake for hours, just watching Bokuto dream, drinking in the slow rise and fall of his shoulders, enraptured in how his eyelashes flutter in his sleep. 

Bokuto Koutarou is in my bed. Akaashi would think to himself, somewhat wonderingly. Like he has so many times over their relatively short time together. Bokuto Koutarou likes my tosses, Bokuto Koutarou bought me lunch, Bokuto Koutarou is walking me home. Every moment with him is so precious, each new milestone is a marvel for him to wonder at. 

Akaashi has never been so in love. 

He didn’t know love could be like this. All his mother’s pleadings for him not to worry about falling in love until after college suddenly make perfect sense. Love wasn’t roses and chocolates and a hand to hold during Valentine’s Day-- It was devotion. How was he supposed to understand words like devotion before feeling the gravity of it? The way it holds Akaashi’s heart in its fist, squeezing just too tightly, just riding the line between pleasure and pain. Akaashi understands too deeply how someone could throw their lives away for this. For even a fraction of this. The rest of the world seems so trivial now that he’s beheld a star.

Knowing he’s in love is good. If he didn’t know he might have not taken these feelings with the seriousness they deserved. Love wasn’t something to play around with, people could get hurt. He’s seen countless high school relationships come and go, burning through themselves quickly and meaninglessly. He knows better than to be greedy. More often than not teenagers experimented with the idea of love then it’s actuality; it was smarter for Akaashi to wait, to make sure he’s found the real thing before jumping into a relationship that could tear them apart forever. 

“You’re my best friend, you know,” Bokuto says, once, while they’re splayed out on Bokuto’s living room floor. Their empty popcorn bowl is tipped over in the corner and the house quiet with night. Bokuto’s mother and sisters still at his aunts for a wedding Bokuto would've had to miss the Prelim Qualifiers for. 

Anything resembling a pillow or blanket has been stripped from Bokuto’s room, is sisters' rooms, the linen closets, and the living room to construct their fort. And while Akaashi had been reluctant at first ( really Bokuto-san, aren’t we a little old for pillow forts? ) by the end he couldn’t help but be proud of their little construction. It was small, forcing them to share space, but cozy. They had been watching a Black Jackals game, framed in the window they made for the TV as they lounge together on the pillowy floor of their fort. The cramped size forces them to cuddle. Bokuto’s arm is around Akaashi, and Akaashi’s head tucked into Bokuto’s chest. Akaashi isn’t so much watching the game as he is listening to his darling Koutarou’s heartbeat and chiming in whenever Koutarou comments on the game. 

Bokuto shifts a little lower, pulling Akaashi a little closer to him and resting his cheek on Akaashi’s temple when he whispers it.

“You’re my best friend, you know,” Bokuto says and Akaashi feels the words rumble through him, feels his chin move against him. 

Akaashi’s heart breaks. And yet it’s the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to him. His heart shatters so sweetly, and through the fragments floods everything that’s been building inside him since the moment they met. As if a damn inside him has been obliterated with a single sentence-- and it’s all crashing over him wave after wave, striking him directly in the chest. His heart is filled with seafoam, his eyes are filled with salt water, and the waves are churning in his belly. The most tender love he has ever felt creates an ocean inside him and he has never been so fond of drowning. 

“Hey, hey, whoa, Akaashi.” Bokuto is sitting up a little, looming over him. Shit, he’s crying isn’t he? Akaashi covers his face with his hands.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Akaashi says, because it seems only right to apologize for weeping at such an innocent, earnest declaration. He wipes his tears away messily. “I’ve… I’ve never been someone’s best friend before.” 

The light from the television leaves their fort dim. Akaashi can only just make out Bokuto’s expression. He looks so sad, Akaashi thinks. And yet he’s smiling. 

“That’s okay,” Bokuto whispers. “Me neither.” 

Akaashi sniffs. “Really?” 

Bokuto gives him a half shrug. He looks away, scratching his cheek absentmindedly. 

“Well people like me,” Bokuto admits, “I have plenty of friends and everything. But-- I dunno. Even Kuroo has Kenma, you know? Everyone always has someone… closer. I’m never-- I’m never anyone’s first choice.” 

It’s quiet between them and Akaashi’s heart is breaking again, only this time it’s painful. His ocean of love rises within him and carries his body to Bokuto, pulling Bokuto toward him. He doesn’t know what he wants to do, he doesn’t know what gesture could possibly express the enormity of what is going on inside him, but he has to do something. So he throws his arms around him, tangling their legs together, coiling around him in any way he’s able to manage. 

“You’re my first choice,” Akaashi tells him, with all the conviction he has. 

Bokuto is only still for a moment before his arms come to slide around Akaashi. His embrace is so sure, so secure. Bokuto repositions them, his hand coming to cup Akaashi’s cheek, turning his face to get a good look at him. At first his gaze is examinative, like he’s searching for Akaashi’s sincerity. Akaashi leans into the palm of Bokuto’s hand, nuzzling him with his cheek, and suddenly Bokuto is grinning, his impossibly golden eyes sparkling. 

“You’re my first choice too, Akaashi!” he declares. He presses their foreheads together for a brief moment. “You’ve always been my first choice!!”

Bokuto squeezes Akaashi to his chest again and Akaashi knows, in some deep unknowable part of his ocean-sized heart that he would do anything, absolutely anything to make this boy happy. Silly things, meaningless things, things he didn’t have to do. And he would do them joyfully, just to keep this. Just to keep Bokuto Koutarou smiling at him.

Akaashi promises himself to see this sight as much as possible, Bokuto smiling at him, his eyes glassy and happy. He wants much as much of this as he can be allowed. He apologizes to his mother in his head, but it seems he just wasn’t able to help himself. 

 

 

Things were different after that. Better different. 

There was no need to limit how much time they spent together, nor to avoid touching one another to preserve some unspoken social boundary. They were best friends . Each other’s first choice. Sometimes Akaashi catches Bokuto staring at him, smiling for no reason. Akaashi smiles back. Just because he can. 

Despite claiming never to have a best friend before, Bokuto has many opinions as to what best friends should be doing. 

“Best friends buy each other lunch!” Bokuto exclaims, intercepting Akaashi’s attempt to pay for his own meal. 

“Best friends share clothes!” Bokuto assures him, pulling his jacket over a shivering Akaashi and zipping it up. 

“Best friends share secrets, Akaashi,” Bokuto lectures him, pulling Akaashi close once when his grades had dropped and his father had yelled at him for an hour about how important his education was. Bokuto didn’t accuse him of overreacting, or tell him to stop crying, or berate him on how much he had to be grateful for. He just listened, and held him. 

He never stops being a star. He is always a breathtaking sight to behold on the court, always with the unique radiance of someone doing what they were born to do. Akaashi thinks everybody falls a little bit in love with Bokuto Koutarou once they see him this way-- filled with joy, unmistakably gifted, being the brightest object in the universe. 

But somewhere along the line Bokuto Koutarou had become so much more than a star Akaashi had happened to stumble upon. He had become a real friend, a true companion. A partner both on and off the court. His safe place, the first person he thinks about when he wakes up, the last one he checks in on before going to sleep. His father calls Bokuto’s constant presence claustrophobic, their team snickers and take pictures when they’re discovered spooning in Bokuto’s futon, but Akaashi doesn’t expect any of them to understand. He might not have understood it himself if he hadn’t been living it. 

“Hey, hey, Akaashi,” Bokuto says, throwing his arm around Akaashi’s shoulder, nuzzling his forehead into Akaashi’s cheek. Stray volleyballs thud in the gym behind them as Konoha and Sarukui start individual practice, their serves ricocheting off the court and slamming against the far wall. Gym shoes squeak as first years hustle to mop off the floors and take down nets, occasionally their chatter bursting into laughter as practice wraps up. 

But all Akaashi hears is Bokuto’s voice, all he feels is Bokuto’s warmth settling against him, the whisper of a caress as his breath brushes against him. 

“Let’s go home early today,” Bokuto says. 

“Okay,” Akaashi agrees easily. It’s a Saturday, which meant practice was twice as long as usual, and tomorrow a rest day. A rest day they would need if they intended to attend another training camp next week. Akaashi’s body feels weary just thinking of it and he sighs, resting his temple against Bokuto’s. 

“Come over,” Bokuto says, not a question, but a demand. 

“Okay,” Akaashi says again, and there’s that thrill in his stomach. Bokuto Koutarou wants me to come over. Ridiculous. He’s been over to Bokuto’s house countless times. (Something Bokuto's sisters were always quick to point out.) Akaashi should have more sense than this. Yet he can’t stop himself from smiling at Bokuto.

“Don’t you want a few extra tosses before we go?” Akaashi asks, and then remembers. “Before or after your one-hundred serves?” 

“Akaaaaaaashiiiii!!” Bokuto whines, and he buries his face in the crook of Akaashi’s neck. Akaashi has no choice but to embrace him to keep them from toppling over. “I wanted practice to end early .” 

Akaashi grins. “I thought you said Ubugawa's daily one-hundred serves wasn’t that impressive?” 

Bokuto huffs and Akaashi can feel his breathing warming the skin of his neck. 

“It’s not impressive,” Bokuto mumbles grumpily. “I could do it easily.” 

There it is. Akaashi laughs, breathing Bokuto in one last time, making sure his words hush through the shell of Bokuto’s ear, “Better hurry up then.” 

He pushes Bokuto away from him playfully and Bokuto sighs, disgruntled.

“Fine!” Bokuto relents. “I’ll do the fastest one-hundred serves you’ve ever seen Akaashi!” 

He stands with his hands on his hips, his chest puffed out, and he’s just so handsome it’s unfair. All Akaashi wants is to reclaim him in his arms and kiss the silly grin off his face. Just the fantasy makes him shudder. 

“Hey, hey.” Bokuto’s attention returns to Akaashi all at once. His hands come to rest on Akaashi’s shoulders, his golden eyes wide and serious. “Are you cold? You’re not getting sick are you?” 

How embarrassing. He really needs to get this crush under control. Akaashi shakes his head, but Bokuto takes his temperature with the back of his hand anyway.  

“You’re warm,” Bokuto says, pouting. 

Akaashi rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “Yes, Bokuto-san, that’s normal after a strenuous workout.” 

Bokuto brightens, his interest diverted as easily as it was caught.

“Oooh!!” he says. “Strenuous??” 

Akaashi nods. “Like rigorous. Highly exhaustive. Intense.”

“Wow,” Bokuto says softly. “Add those to my list, Akaashi!!”  

Akaashi laughs. “All of them?” 

“All of them!!”  

Akaashi can see Sarukui and Konoha whispering over their cart of volleyballs, their eyes dart away quickly and service practice starting up again when they catch Akaashi looking. Akaashi filters his sigh through his nose. He supposes he can’t be irritated when he is the one snuggling his co-captain in the gym room.

“I’ll be sure to do that, Bokuto-san,” he says, turning back to him. Bokuto is grinning at him again and Akaashi lowers his lashes shyly. 

And then Bokuto does something he has never done before. 

Akaashi feels Bokuto’s fingers slide up his neck, always so soft on him despite their squarish shape and their brutal strength. His hands are calloused, but they cup Akaashi’s face gently. Akaashi doesn’t know if it’s Bokuto pulling him, or if it's the natural gravity of wanting him that has Akaashi drawing nearer until Bokuto’s lips meet his forehead in a sweet kiss.

“Go shower,” Bokuto murmurs into Akaashi’s hair, “Before you do catch a cold.” 

And then, as if nothing extraordinary had occurred, Bokuto swivels around-- turning on Konoha and Saru and challenging them to a serving contest. Saru answers him by smacking the ball his way and Bokuto squacks. Konoha and Saru begin chasing him and soon they’re laughing, tripping over themselves to hurl balls at one another, decidedly not practicing at all. 

All Akaashi can do is stand there. He can’t even bring himself to snap at them to get back to serving practice. His lips are parted, his expression frozen. His eyes are so wide he thinks his contacts might pop out. He must look ridiculous, staring and gaping like that. He has to move. He has to breathe. Where is he? What was he doing here? Suddenly his body feels alien unto himself; his limbs are loose and wobbly. 

Some small part of him remembers what he’s supposed to be doing and his legs carry him to the locker room, though he feels very detached from it. He trips over Onaga’s gym bag on the way to his locker and slips again just before getting in his shower. Washio calls out to him as Akaashi half-slides his way into the shower, swinging himself into the stall and hastily locking it behind him. 

He sinks to his knees, burying his face in his towel. What the hell was wrong with him? He was seriously freaking out. And over what? A kiss? Bokuto didn’t just kiss him. 

Except he did. He did kiss him. Akaashi can feel it burning what feels like a bright spot on his forehead. His hand rises to brush it with his fingertips. 

Bokuto Koutarou kissed me.  

He doesn’t notice Washio’s looming shadow, but he does hear his sharp knock, followed by his deep voice, low with concern. 

“Akaashi-kun? Is everything okay?” 

“Yes,” Akaashi yelps and, oh god, he’s yelping. Get your shit together. “Yes. Yes, I’m okay, thank you Washio-san.”

Akaashi, curled up in a ball on the floor of a shower stall, was very obviously not okay. Akaashi can hardly blame Washio for his hesitancy to take him at his word, but that doesn’t stop Akaashi from cursing him for it anyway. 

Washio’s voice gets even lower, gentler. “Do you want me to get Bokuto?”

“NO!” Akaashi screams without meaning to. He scrambles to his feet. “I mean, no. Washio-san, thank you, but I’m just. Distracted.” 

Distracted . The kiss left on him blazes like a star. Akaashi covers it with his palm.  

Washio’s feet shift uncomfortably. “Did… did you… did you two get in a fight?” 

“No, no, nothing like that,” Akaashi says. God, no. Fighting with Bokuto was much easier than this. Fights with Bokuto generally lasted no longer than a few minutes and ended with many ‘reconciliation hugs.’ Still one of Bokuto’s favorite learned-words, and Akaashi’s, if only for the allowed indulgence of holding the one he loves most. Whatever this was, however, was much more complicated. 

Washio sniffs. “Well… if you ever need someone… To talk to… You know. About stuff. Well. I’m here.” 

Akaashi’s heart softens. He really is glad he had chosen to come to Fukurodani. Even if Bokuto wasn’t here, he can’t think of a better team to be surrounded by. He is so moved that he wishes he had a less embarrassing problem to confide in him. What is he supposed to say? Bokuto kissed me? Ridiculous. Bokuto didn’t kiss him, he kissed his forehead. Surely that was different. Something familial, team-like, and he was just overreacting about it. Wasn’t he? 

Akaashi takes a steadying breath. 

“Washio-san,” Akaashi says, softly.

Washio clears his throat to show he’s listening. 

“If… If someone kissed you,” Akaashi says, and he’s already cringing at how stupid he must sound. “But… you aren’t sure… It wasn’t like… It could be like a friend-kiss…” 

Washio makes another, strangled kind of noise, and shit, he’s definitely laughing at him. Though Akaashi does concede it must be difficult not to. Akaashi had just crawled across a bathroom floor, screamed at him, and now is asking about kissing. Akaashi supposes he does see, how from alternate perspective, this situation might be considered funny. To some people. Maybe. 

“Um,” Washio says, his next words are slow. “Was it Bokuto?” 

Akaashi’s kissed-forehead collides with the stall door. “Yes.” 

“What?!” Komi screeches, his voice echoing from somewhere in the locker room. “Did Bokuto kiss you and we missed it?”

“Komi-san!” Onaga cries. “Shh!!” 

Akaashi is never going to recover from his embarrassment. Akaashi hates every part of this conversation. He’s never talking about his feelings ever again. 

“Ignore them,” Washio says. 

“I’m sorry,” Akaashi blurts out at the same time. “I shouldn’t have troubled you with it, it’s nothing I don’t know why--” 

“Akaashi-kun,” Washio says. “It’s okay.” 

Washio takes a deep breath. 

“I, um.” Akaashi doesn’t think he’s ever heard Washio sound this nervous. Akaashi didn’t know Washio could feel nervous, he always seemed like such a pillar of strength to Akaashi. Unmovable and reliable. “It’s understandable to be confused by Bokuto. He’s a pretty confusing guy.”  

He hesitates again. 

“You… Just know you’re allowed to be happy, Akaashi,” Washio says. “We all know you worry a lot. But I don’t think you have to worry about this.” 

Akaashi’s jaw works, but no sound comes out. He finds Washio’s words strangely profound. He thinks he might be tearing up. 

“Bokuto is literally in love with you!” Komi yells out again. “Every week you don’t get together I owe Konoha three-hundred yen!” 

“Komi-san!” Onaga gasps, clearly affronted. 

In love with you . Akaashi can feel his throat closing up, he thinks his heart might have stopped beating.

“Th-thank you, Washio-san,” Akaashi says, dutifully ignoring Komi and Onaga. “I’ll… I’ll think about what you said.” 

Akaashi’s glad he cannot slip a third time, having steady stall walls to hold onto as he reaches for the faucet. The word love strikes him so acutely he can feel it thread through his flesh. It punctures his heart with tiny little needles, each one of them echoing back the word at him. Love, love love . Their encouragement is somehow both mortifying and enthralling all at once. Did they really believe in them that much?

He turns on the faucet and hears Washio’s footsteps retreating. Komi shouts a little more on having money on them getting together before graduation while Onaga desperately tries to shush him lest they get accused of cheating. 

Akaashi tunes them out, focusing on the sound of rushing water instead. He soaks himself thoroughly, staring at the wall in front of him without really seeing it. Bokuto loved him. Washio knew it. Komi and Onaga readily admitted to knowing it. And here Akaashi was, readily accepting it. He’s trembling. He’s euphoric. Of course Bokuto loves him, he belonged to him, they belonged together. It should have been obvious. He has never felt such complete peace. Such perfect wholeness. 

He’s gone through too many extreme emotions within the past few minutes, that is why he’s tearing up. He’s not crying because his teammates told him Bokuto loved him. He's not. That would be ridiculous.

He scrubs himself clean as a war rages on in his head. There is such incredible happiness inside him that it seems criminal to deny himself pursuing it. But his anxious thoughts are quick to come back to gnaw at him. Maybe all lovers feel this way. Maybe all new couples think their love outweighs the world of knowledge that’s been given to them. He’s been reading lots of love poems lately, and writing quite a few too. Love made people reckless. They find strange power in the vulnerability of it. Plenty of lovers think their love is different and special, and end up in heartbreak anyway. Love isn’t magic. All relationships had problems, unforseen misfortunes. Perhaps it was less of a risk if Akaashi ignored this new revelation, if they remained friends. Akaashi would never forgive himself if he lost his connection with Bokuto. His best friend. How could he risk losing his best friend? 

But then he thinks of Koutarou. Of his hopeful grin, his easy laugh. He thinks of Koutarou wanting him, craving him like Akaashi craves Koutarou. Wanting to reach out to Akaashi, but hesitating, unsure if he’s wanted back. Unsure if he’s loved. 

He rinses himself clean, finally shutting off the water and grabbing the towel draped across the stall door. He was wrong; this isn’t complicated at all. Bokuto Koutarou is in love with him. And Akaashi will never be able to bring himself to intentionally break Bokuto’s heart. 

Bokuto Koutarou is in love with him. A wave of dizziness crashes over Akaashi. He clasps his hands over his blushing face. 

It takes much longer than usual for him to get dried and dressed. His thoughts are racing at a million miles an hour. He has to confess. But how? How would Koutarou want to be confessed to? Does this mean they will-- Akaashi chokes-- kiss? His heart is absolutely pounding. He’s gotten so worked up he doesn’t realize he’s been trying to stick his legs through the arms of his sweatshirt for the last five minutes. 

By the time he’s finished getting dressed, Saru, Konoha, and Koutarou are clamoring through the door into the locker room-- arguing and laughing simultaneously. 

“That doesn’t count!” Koutarou whines.  

They don’t notice Akaashi, stopping at the third year’s row of lockers nearest the door. Akaashi can passively observe them from his own locker, two rows up on the opposite side of the isle. Koutarou’s back is turned toward him and it strikes Akaashi how easy it was to slip into thinking of him as Koutarou in his mind.  

Konoha and Saru exchange a devious look and Akaashi knows Bokuto isn’t winning whatever game they’re playing this time. They were much too cunning when they decided to put their heads together. 

“Oh?” Konoha says, scratching his chin. “And did you say we had to do one-hundred serves individually?”

Bokuto sputters. “Well! I meant to!” 

“Mmm,” Saru says, tapping his chin with his pointer finger. “No, nope, nope, I remember exactly what he said. He said ‘I will get one-hundred serves before both of you!’” 

“Both of you individually!” Bokuto wails. “I meant both of you individually!” 

“Mm, but you didn’t specify that, did you?” Konoha says, grimacing.

“Specified, he did not,” Saru says, shaking his head sagely. 

“But!!” Bokuto fails to interject.

“You have to be careful with verbal agreements,” Konoha says, wagging a lecturing finger. “It’s about what you said not what you intended.”

“And what you said would just so happen to imply that we were to do our one-hundred serves together, of course,” Saru goes on. “Therefore, as agreed upon by handshake, you owe us a dozen meat buns which we would like to cash in now, thank you.” 

“Yes, yes, cash in now please,” Konoha agrees, holding out his hands greedily. 

“But!!” 

“No buts!” Konoha shouts, he’s laughing as he ruffles Bokuto’s hair. Akaashi can tell by the way Bokuto’s shoulders are slumping that he’s pouting. “We shook on it!”

“Shook on it!” Saru repeats for emphasis and Akaashi has to admit it’s a pretty effective tactic. Bokuto lets out a wail of total despair, falling to his knees, clutching his owl horns in grief. He’s still protesting, but most of it usual Bokuto-ramble and full of the tell-tale signs of him losing ground. Konoha pats Bokuto’s head with a smirk. Akaashi loves Bokuto too much just to leave him like that. 

“Bokuto-san,” he says, slamming his locker closed for effect. 

Bokuto whirls around. 

“Akaashi!” he says, like he’s saved. He leaps toward him, grabbing Akaashi by the shoulders. “Oh Akaashi! I’ve ruined everything, I had such a good plan and I ruined it, ruined it!” 

He loves me. It’s so obvious now. Unmissable. His eyes are shining with it, his voice strained with it, his hands are squeezing it into Akaashi’s flesh. He’s sweaty and stinky from practice, and yet Akaashi can’t help reaching back to embrace him. Akaashi can’t stop looking at him, drinking in the sight of a Bokuto Koutarou who loved him.

Akaashi’s hand comes to cup Bokuto’s cheek 

“You could never ruin anything,” Akaashi says. “You’re wonderful.”

It’s too much, too honest. And said with as much earnestness as Akaashi can muster. He sees the weight of it fall over Bokuto, his expression turning confused before settling into a soft sort of awe as he understands. 

“Akaashi…” he says, his lips form an uncertain smile before frowning again. “No! Wait! You’re distracting me! Um.” 

He’s blushing. Akaashi is the reason why Bokuto Koutarou is blushing. Akaashi can feel his skin heating up under his hand. It’s only Akaashi’s good sense that is kicking him to remember Konoha and Saru are still in the room or else he might have announced his affections by kissing him senseless, then and there. 

Instead he strokes Bokuto’s cheek with his thumb.

“Meat buns sound pretty good," Akaashi says. "Should we all get some together?” 

Akaashi turns to look at Konoha and Saru. Saru has his phone out, and is very transparently taking a photo of them. Akaashi’s glare makes him jolt and lose his grip, almost dropping his phone entirely. Konoha hovers over him, whispering frantically, “ Oh my god, please tell me you got that. ” 

Akaashi dismisses them with a roll of his eyes. Bokuto’s gaze hasn't left him, his face a lovely rosey color, still somewhat awestruck. 

“Go shower,” Akaashi tells him, amused. “Remember?” 

Bokuto’s jaw clamps shut. 

“Yeah!” he says, springing into action. “Everyone shower! We’re all showering!” 

Saru and Konoha are barely concealing their laughter, but Akaashi refuses to lose his composure. The two of them will have plenty of time to tease them once Bokuto and Akaashi are together, but they don’t get to rob Akaashi of his romantic moment to confess. The third years retrieve their towels and bicker as they head toward the showers. Bokuto glances back at Akaashi twice, flushing both times their eyes meet. 

He really does love me , Akaashi can’t help but think. It’s startlingly obvious. How has he missed it all this time? He feels filled with it. He might be glowing. He has half a mind to chase Bokuto down right then and kiss him now, Konoha and Sarukui be damned. 

Akaashi heads for the exit before he can do anything reckless. The spring air is still warm and only the occasional breeze betrays the coming chill of night. Usually the stars are already out before Bokuto has exhausted his extra spiking practice and the sun feels heavenly on him. He should bully Bokuto into letting them go out earlier more often. 

There’s a stairwell not far that basks in the sun for the better part of the day and Akaashi settles himself there. The concrete is still warm. Akaashi closes his eyes, tilting his head back to absorb as much of the sunshine as he can, while he can. 

How to confess to his Koutarou? He knows he probably doesn’t have to say it. If he takes Koutarou’s hand on their way to the convenience shop, surely he will know what Akaashi means. As soon as they get rid of Saru and Konoha, Akaashi could take Koutarou’s smiling face in his hands and kiss him like he was always meant to. The butterflies in his stomach seem determined to flip his stomach over as many times as they can and Akaashi curls his knees up into his chest. 

But no, Koutarou deserves a proper confession. In theory, Akaashi should be ready for this. Koutarou has been the subject of many of his latest creative musings. His literature instructor has given them no shortage of poetry assignments lately and always leaves comments on how flowery his language is. Besides, how many times has he whipped up an inspirational speech about the hidden glory of a sub-arena or how it was their friendship that was Koutarou’s true Battle Armour all along? Bokuto loves his dramatic speeches. Akaashi can do this. Akaashi can absolutely do this. 

He has to think it through carefully, though. If he does this right, and everything goes the way he plans, this will be the beginning of the rest of their lives together. A story they will tell all their friends and relatives, reiterating for everyone on their wedding day-- but wait, no, he was getting way too ahead of himself. Wedding? There’s a deep lurch in his navel. What was thinking fantasizing about their wedding when he can barely bring himself to confess to the guy? Okay, he has to think. Think.  

He chooses a few lines from some poems he liked. There is one he wrote once, in a fever of stream-of-consciousness, that he thinks sound about right. Not too desperate, with just the right amount of earnestness. He will naturally lead into it somehow. Maybe bring up the kiss and how he would like to do that more often. As much as possible. For the rest of their lives preferably. But there he goes getting ahead of himself again. 

Akaashi hears the door to the locker room unlatch and suddenly his heart is pounding sharply. Oh god, can he really do this? He hears Koutarou’s laughter and the butterflies have reached the back of Akaashi’s throat. His mouth is filled with the dry taste of adrenaline. 

“Akaaaashi!!” Bokuto cries, and Akaashi only has a moment to hear rapid footsteps before there’s a warm body thrown around him. Bokuto’s arms encircle his torso, his head dropping on Akaashi’s shoulder and his hair is noticeably damp. The cold water on him sends a shiver down Akaashi’s spine.

Akaashi turns to frown at him. “You didn’t try your hair properly, Bokuto-san.” 

“Akaaaashiiii, greet me nicely next time!” Bokuto demands. His wet hair is wilted and drips dark spots onto his post-practice sweatshirt. Akaashi grabs for his own towel in his bag, using it to wrangle Bokuto to sit by him and drying his hair roughly. 

“Heyyyy!” Bokuto whines. “Akaashi! Be more gentle!” 

Akaashi laughs, but adjusts accordingly. He massages Bokuto’s scalp with his fingers as he dries him off, slowly pushing the towel back to see his face. Bokuto is leaning close. His silver eye lashes are still dark and damp with water. 

Akaashi tuts, disapproving. “Did you dry off at all before coming out here?” 

No ,” Konoha says, sounding sour. Akaashi turns to see that both Saru and Konoha are half-dressed in the doorway with towels wrapped around their heads and looking rather disgruntled.

“Let me put my sweater on,” Saru complains. “It gets cold out at night, y’know!” 

Sometimes Akaashi wonders if his Koutarou ever gets cold. He must, he does wear his jacket sometimes. Although other times Akaashi has to bully him before he’ll wrap up properly. Bokuto is looking at Akaashi rather bashfully. He looks younger with his hair down, Akaashi thinks. Vulnerable somehow. The towel falls around his shoulders and Akaashi can see Bokuto’s cheeks coloring. 

“Hey uh,” Bokuto says. “So. I have been meaning to talk to you about something.” 

What? No way. Here? Now? Bokuto does not get to beat Akaashi to the punch on this, and definitely not in Konoha and Saru’s presence. Akaashi looks at him in alarm, shaking his head. 

“What? Now?” Akaashi says, shooting Saru and Konoha a sharp look. They aren’t listening, Konoha is much too busy laughing at Saru struggling to get his sweater on without removing the towel from his head. 

But Bokuto isn’t listening to either. He draws a flimsy notebook from his backpack, flipping it open so it drapes across both their knees. The pages are filled with Bokuto’s handwriting. He’s drawn up a little chart filled with names and addresses. There’s a Google Map printed out and taped in the corner with three shops circled and an underlying route connecting them. 

“Remember when I told you Kuroo and I were going to do some endurance training? Well, we have found lots of good paths to jog along in the city!” Bokuto says. He points to the map in the corner. “And while we were out there I was thinking, hey! You really liked that onigiri place down in Hyogo, right? Well, what if they have a place here in Tokyo and we just haven’t found it yet!” 

Akaashi suddenly recognizes the kanji as names of onigiri stops, some he’s familiar with and some he isn’t. It strikes Akaashi just how many names are there and Bokuto flips the page to show even more, including more printed out more maps and routes. 

“I don’t remember what that place looked like,” Bokuto says, and he frowns in thought. “I think the signs were red? Anyway, I started making a little note every time Kuroo and I ran past an onigiri stop to see if we could find it! Like a treasure hunt! For food!” 

Bokuto gives Akaashi an eager grin. 

“Bokuto-san….” Akaashi says as he leans in to rest his cheek on Bokuto’s shoulder. He runs over the listed restaurants with a finger. “Is this why you wanted to wrap up practice early?” 

Bokuto nods, his whole body bouncing along with him. “And even if we don’t find the same place, maybe we could find one even better! Or at least pretty close!”

Akaashi goes over all the names. There had to be dozens of places, at least four or five routes mapped out.

“Going to all these places will be very expensive, Bokuto-san…”

“We don’t have to do them all at once, Akaashi!” Bokuto cries. “We can spread them out! It’s an adventure! A grand quest for the very best onigiri in Tokyo!” 

Akaashi laughs, he looks up at Bokuto wonderingly.

“You would do that for me?” Akaashi asks.

Bokuto’s breath hitches, he scratches his cheek as he looks away. 

“Well, and the onigiri,” Bokuto’s laughter is somewhat nervous. He clears his throat as he flips through a few more pages to reveal another hand-drawn chart at the back, a little crown doodled around the number one spot. “Look Akaashi! I thought we could rank them in order of tastiest! I know how much you like making lists!” 

Bokuto gives him a quick little glance and Akaashi wonders how it’s even possible to love someone so much. He feels like he’s bursting with it. He wishes he had confessed to Bokuto much earlier so he can kiss him now and plenty without causing a scene. How could anyone not notice being loved like this? So intimately and so absolutely. Bokuto better be prepared to love him all his life, because there was no way he was ever going to be able to settle for anyone else. Who could follow up after Bokuto Koutarou? Akaashi loops their arms together and snuggles into the crook of Bokuto’s neck. 

“Besides,” Bokuto says, softer now, resting his cheek on Akaashi’s forehead. “When I graduate… I mean… It would give me an excuse to come back and keep seeing you.” 

Here it is. His perfect moment to confess. But of course, Saru is breaking the moment by calling out to them. 

“Oi! Lovebirds!” Saru says. “Bokuto still owes us meat buns!” 

“We should hurry before it gets dark!” Konoha adds. 

Akaashi sighs. Strange how the boy who has just given him the most romantic gesture of his life is the same one who was just tricked into gambling all his money away. Then again, he wouldn’t be Koutarou if he wasn’t so ridiculous. 

“Let’s do it,” Akaashi says, holding Bokuto close for another moment. “After we get Konoha-san and Sarukui-san their meat buns.” 

“Okay,” Bokuto says, and Akaashi doesn’t have to see his face to know he’s grinning. “Do you like my notebook? Doesn’t it look so official?” 

“Very official, Bokuto-san.” 

"My sisters drew an onigiri throne on one of these pages."

"Really?"

“Come on ,” Sarukui moans. “I’m starving .” 

Bokuto sighs, closing the notebook and Akaashi detangles from him reluctantly. He turns back to scowl at his senpai only to find they both have their phones drawn on them. More goddamn pictures. Akaashi sends them his blankest look. 

“I can’t believe Coach hasn’t caught you two yet,” Konoha says, and Akaashi can see him pinching the screen to zoom in. “Hey, how many meat buns should we charge for keeping quiet about their secret dating?”

Saru rolls his eyes. “As if them dating is any secret. They were hugging for, like, half an hour earlier today.”

“Ugh!” Bokuto huffs, he returns Akaashi’s towel and tucks his notebook back into his gym bag. “Alright, you big cry babies, we’re going already!” 

When he turns back to Akaashi, he looks apologetic. 

“Sorry, Keiji,” he says. “I’ll make it up to you later.” 

Akaashi’s eyebrows raise. Keiji? When had that happened? Had he somehow accidentally confessed, so swept up in the moment he didn’t even realize? But no, that couldn’t be right. Surely Bokuto would have reacted if the one he was in love with confessed to him so suddenly. Then again, Koutarou was so hard to predict sometimes. 

They make their way toward the convenience store closest to Fukurodani. It’s a frequent stop on their way to the train station that carried them all home. Konoha and Saru argue with Bokuto some more about implications in a verbal agreement, but for the most part they’re laughing. Konoha reveals his parents have hired him a tutor from Toudai to help him with the entrance exam. Saru laughs like he’s just said the funniest thing in the world. 

“You think you’re going to get into Toudai ?” he wheezes. “Come on.” 

“Well, it’s worth a try, Saru,” Konoha says, obviously flustered. “Anyway, I only bring it up because my tutor is super hot. Like. Crazy hot. Like he’s tall, dark, and handsome and everything! If everyone at college is going to be this hot, I’m gonna have a serious problem.” 

“Don’t date your tutor ,” Saru orders, karate-chopping Konoha on the back of the neck. “I swear to god.” 

“Hey, hey I’m not, I’m not!” Konoha says. “He’s not really my type anyway.” 

“Konoha, your type is anyone within a three foot radius of you,” Saru says, unforgivably blunt. He nudges Konoha with his knee and Konoha smacks him with his gym bag. 

Bokuto and Akaashi exchange giggling glances. Konoha sticks his tongue out at them as he elbows Saru away. 

“Hey, get out of my date-zone, man, I’ll get you next,” Konoha threatens, and they are all laughing uproariously as they approach the convenience store. 

The unfriendly cashier is tending the store today. He only grunts when Bokuto waves to him and greets him cheerily. They make their way toward the warm-food section and-- incredibly-- there are only two measly meat buns left, cramped in the back corner. 

“What?! How?!” Saru says, pressing his face against the glass. 

The cashier gives him a dull look. “Soccer team just came in. Sorry, kid.” 

Akaashi and Bokuto exchange another glance and dissolve into full-on giggles as Konoha rounds on them. 

“We’ll get our meat buns!” he declares, jabbing a finger in their direction as though he suspects they had somehow conspired for this to happen. “We’ll come back another day!” 

The cashier packages up the final meat buns. “That’ll be four-hundred yen.” 

Bokuto forks over the cash happily while Konoha and Saru grumble. The train stop is only about a block away and there they can see the soccer team, passing out their meat buns and munching. 

“Interlopers!” Konoha cries, waving his measly prize at them angrily and the four of them laugh. Akaashi is suddenly very grateful that they had taken the time to do this. This team was something to be cherished. Saru has a friend on the soccer team, with curly hair and bright eyes. He calls out to Saru and runs over. 

“Oh! I’m sorry!” Saru’s friend, who’s name turns out to be Kazuma, exclaims. He clutches his face in distress when he sees Bokuto and Akaashi are empty handed. “There might be a couple leftover if you want one?” 

He swivels around to look at his team, but the bags are already crumpled up, wrappers being collected and tossed into a nearby trash bin. Saru gives a great sigh. 

“That’s okay, we got dinner plans!” Bokuto says brightly, wrapping an arm around Akaashi’s waist. “But thank you!” 

Akaashi nods his thanks, feeling a great thrill up his spine where Bokuto’s hand rests. Konoha gives them a pointed look. 

“Are we really just gonna let them do this?” Konoha asks Saru. He folds his arms across his chest. “After all the shit I’ve gotten over the years for wanting to date someone on the team?” 

“Yup,” Saru says. Kazuma looks between all of them, confused. 

“Then what the fuck, I’m asking Washio out right now,” Konoha says, tucking his meat bun into his arm pit and digging for his phone. “If they can date, then so can we!” 

“What?” Saru screeches. Kazuma and Akaashi flinch. “ Washio?! ” 

Bokuto gasps. He looks at Akaashi, who shakes his head, because no he hadn’t known either. Bokuto jumps over to Konoha excitedly. He slaps Konoha on the back and nearly knocks the phone out of his hands. 

“Konoha!!” Bokuto cries. “You didn’t tell me you had a thing for Washio!!” 

Konoha isn’t listening to either of them, shrugging off Bokuto’s hand and dialing Washio’s number seemingly from memory. Saru looks between all of them, gaping as if he’s shocked they aren’t all affronted as he is. Only Kazuma matches his level of distress.

“Are we-- are we just gonna--?” Saru grips his hair and tugs. “Oh my god, you’re actually calling him?” 

“Yeah!!” Bokuto cries, jumping up and down, pumping his fists in the air. “Call him, call him, call him!” 

“Shut up, I’m literally already doing it,” Konoha snaps. “Ah, hello?” 

He answered. They all lean in. Kazuma turns to Akaashi, as if hoping he was the reasonable one, but Akaashi doesn’t meet his gaze. He finds this incredibly investing. Konoha had mentioned very early on that he was bi to Akaashi, but Washio? Washio was a good choice to have a crush on, Akaashi thinks. If Bokuto wasn’t his whole world, he thinks he could see himself having a crush on Washio. He hopes he says yes. There would be three gay couples on Fukurodani if Washio and Konoha got together, including Yukie and Kaori, and-- soon to be-- himself and Bokuto. What are the odds of that? Akaashi wonders. 

“Yeah, uh, good, good I’m good,” Konoha continues. He takes a few steps away from the noisy soccer team, facing away from them and scratching the back of his head. Kazuma, Akaashi, Bokuto, and Saru shuffle after him, straining to hear. “Hey… you doing anything tonight?” 

Bokuto is practically vibrating. He’s making small, excited noises and Akaashi shushes him gently. Bokuto grabs Akaashi’s hand, squeezing. 

“For luck,” he explains in a whisper.

Akaashi gazes at him fondly. He almost forgets to keep listening. 

“I wanna take you on a date,” Konoha says into the phone. “Like a real date, yeah.” 

There’s a pregnant pause. Akaashi holds his breath. Saru is still clutching his hair. Bokuto buries his face in the crook of Akaashi’s neck. 

“I can’t look!” he says, strained. 

Akaashi doesn’t know what looking has to do with it, but he watches Konoha’s back for him anyway. Konoha takes in a sharp breath. 

“Tonight? Yeah, tonight works! Tonight is perfect!” Konoha says, his tone painfully light. He swivels back to give them all a big thumbs up. Akaashi prods Bokuto to look and he gasps delightedly.

“Oh my god! ” he yells before Saru and Akaashi furiously hush him. Konoha fixes him with a look that could kill, making a cutting gesture across his throat. 

“I’ll pick you up,” Konoha says, and his voice couldn't be more unlike the nasty glare on his face. “Yeah! Looking forward to it, see you soon!” 

He flips his phone shut, his fist clenching around it tightly. He purses his lips, his furious face becoming a smile, his eyes squeezed shut. Bokuto lurches, pulling away from Akaashi suddenly. 

“Oooh!!!” he says. “He said yes??” 

“Yes!” Konoha says, and they jump into a double high five, Bokuto whoops along with him joyously. “Yes, yes, yes!” 

Raising his arms frees Konoha’s tucked away meat bun and it splats on the ground, utterly ruined. Saru gasps. 

“No!” he cries, falling to his knees. He scoops up the fallen bun, half the filling falling out as he does. “Konoha, your--” 

“Dude, it’s fine!” Konoha beams. “I gotta hot date tonight!” 

The betrayal on Saru’s face is utterly heartbreaking. He clutches the fallen meat bun to his chest.

“Konoha!” he cries. “What about Smash Bros Saturday?” 

Konoha isn’t listening, he’s already walking backwards. 

“Hang on, I gotta get him something,” Konoha says. “Holy shit, he’s so cute. He wants to go to that cafe I liked, with the strawberries? I can’t believe he remembered that. That was months ago! Do they sell flowers at the corner shop? I think I saw some at the front, right?” 

The stop sign nearest them starts flashing red. The long guardrails slowly come down to block traffic from crossing the tracks. Akaashi turns and sees the train approaching in the distance. 

“Konoha!” Saru cries. “Konoha, you’re gonna miss the train!”  

Konoha waves him off. He cups his hands over his mouth to shout at him. “I’ll see you on Monday!” 

Saru slumps, still on his knees. Kazuma pats him on the shoulder consolingly. 

“Hey I’ll play Smash with you,” he offers. “There’s another convenience store by your house with meat buns too. I dunno. If that helps.” 

Saru looks up at Kazuma gratefully. “Thanks, man.” 

“That was so exciting!” Bokuto cries, turning to Akaashi and retaking his hand. “Confessing is so cool! He looks so happy!” 

He does, Akaashi thinks. Konoha is running back toward the convenience store. Kazuma pulls Saru to his feet just as the train pulls to a stop in front of them. 

Akaashi moves to go with them out of habit, but Bokuto squeezes his hand to stop him. 

“We gotta get onigiri before going home!” Bokuto says. “Remember?”

Sarukui rolls his eyes. 

“Fine, I’ll see you Monday,” Sarukui says, flatly. “Shit, I’m gonna be the only single guy on the team at this rate.” 

Kazuma laughs, punching Saru on the arm encouragingly. They wave to Bokuto and Akaashi as they board the train with the clamoring soccer team and are whisked away. Bokuto waves back until they disappear and the new quiet of the station envelopes them. It was just them now. At last. Akaashi’s heart begins to pound again, his pulse loud in his ears. Should he confess now? Or wait until they get to Bokuto’s where they can kiss to his heart's content? He doesn’t know how much longer he can hold it in. 

Akaashi takes a steadying breath. He shouldn't hold it in. He's forced his Koutarou to wait too long already. He recites his confession in his head once more, just to make sure it sounds right. 

Bokuto turns to him, his loose hair blowing in the wind. He’s never looked more calm and serious. 

“Akaashi,” Bokuto says evenly. “I love you.” 

“Bokuto-san there’s--” Akaashi says, already beginning his speech, not fully comprehending what Bokuto has just told him. He jolts. He swings his head around to stare at him. “What?” 

“I’m in love with you,” Bokuto says, even though that’s not what he said the first time. “I want our onigiri adventure to be a date. I want to be your boyfriend.” 

Akaashi is stammering. Komi’s warning hasn’t prepared him at all. He takes a step back, covering his face with his hands. 

“Y--You!” Akaashi exclaims, sputtering. “You just-- Right now?”

“Wh-- What? Yes right now!” Bokuto cries, indignantly. “I love you all the time!” 

Akaashi is flushing gloriously red. He covers his face with his hands, but Bokuto catches his wrists, pulling Akaashi to him. His eyes are pleading. He holds Akaashi’s hands to his face and kisses his knuckles. 

“I’m sorry!” Bokuto wails. “I couldn’t hold it in anymore! I was going to wait until after I retired as your captain! But Konoha just looked so happy and--” 

Bokuto presses his forehead to Akaashi’s curled fists. 

“I want as many days with Akaashi Keiji as I can get,” Bokuto says. “Every moment with you is a happy one, but we could have been happier all this time! I don’t know what I was waiting for! I don’t want to waste anymore time not loving you. I promise I’ll be a good boyfriend! Please accept my feelings!” 

Akaashi stares at him. Has he done this? Made his Koutarou so desperate? Bokuto’s hands are clutching him, he’s nuzzling his head into Akaashi’s fingers, begging to be held. Akaashi loosens for him, framing Bokuto’s face in his hands. His gel-free hair is soft on his fingertips. Bokuto looks up at him hopefully.

Akaashi loves him so much. And yet.

He pinches Bokuto’s cheek. 

“I had a speech! ” he cries. 

Bokuto yelps. “Ow! Hey!”

“I can’t believe you! You couldn’t wait five seconds?” Akaashi is practically shouting, his voice echoing through the abandoned station. But anger is impossible. Laughter is bubbling up in him, unbidden and controllable. His poor Koutarou looks up at him, confused. Akaashi pulls Koutarou’s face toward him and kisses the pink patch his pinch left. 

“I love you,” Akaashi tells him. 

In the end, he supposes those were the only three words he ever needed. Bokuto turns his head, capturing Akaashi’s mouth in his own. Once, twice-- and then Akaashi can’t keep count because his body has gone boneless. He’s less embracing Koutarou as he is clutching to him like a lifeline. Bokuto surges up to hold him, one arm wrapping around Akaashi’s torso while his other hand cards through Akaashi’s hair, pulling him even closer. Akaashi’s heart has expanded beyond his chest, filling every particle of his body. It’s perfect. It’s euphoria. He is absolutely crying now because it’s just too much, being held and kissed and loved so much all at once. 

Bokuto Koutarou is kissing me.  

“I love you,” Akaashi gasps, pulling back for just a moment. “I love you, I love you--” 

Bokuto shushes him with another kiss. He is wrapped so firmly around him, Akaashi wonders how they’ll ever separate. Bokuto’s body is so warm, his mouth is so sweet, sweeter than Akaashi had ever imagined. It’s indecent to kiss this way in public, but then it was indecent for them to have not been kissing along. Akaashi likes to think the gods are kind enough to overlook mild social transgressions. Akaashi drags his tongue along Bokuto’s bottom lip. 

Click!

“I got it!” Konoha cries. “I fucking knew it!” 

They swivel to look at him. Akaashi can see Bokuto is thoroughly flushed, though he makes no move to release him. Konoha is cradling a bouquet in one hand and is texting on his phone with the other. 

Bokuto turns to look at Akaashi apologetically. “Whoops.” 

Akaashi hopes he doesn’t look too gross licking Bokuto’s mouth like that. Whatever, the team would just have to get used to it. He gives Bokuto a shrug and a mischievous smile. When Akaashi leans in again, Bokuto meets him halfway, kissing him slow and soft. 

“Hey, what the hell, don’t just keep going!” Konoha yells. 

Akaashi grins against Bokuto’s mouth, kissing him and kissing him… and then once more, lingering. When he pulls back, Bokuto’s eyes are glassy with tears. He presses his forehead to Akaashi’s. 

“This is the third best day of my life,” Bokuto says, softly. 

Akaashi almost laughs. He wipes the tears from his face. “What? The third best... of your life?” 

Bokuto nods. He steals another kiss like he just can’t help it. 

“The second best day of my life will be when I win gold at the Olympics,” Bokuto continues, and he sniffs. “And the first is when I marry you.” 

Akaashi has always wanted to kiss that secret dimple that Bokuto only has on his left cheek. Akaashi indulges himself now; sinking his lips into the dip, relishing the way Bokuto’s breath stutters when he does. 

“When that day comes,” Akaashi answers slowly. “It will be the best day of my life too.” 

Bokuto breaks into the widest grin Akaashi has ever seen from him. He leaps from Akaashi, throwing his arms in the air, spinning around and whooping in delight. His backpack falls from his shoulder and he lets it, far too busy dancing throughout the empty station. 

“So what, you’re just going to ignore me?” Konoha hollers at them. Akaashi had almost forgotten he was still there. “That’s so rude!” 

“Konoha!” Bokuto cries, as if just now seeing him. He flings himself at him, grasping Konoha by the shoulders and shaking him. “Let me have a flower!” 

“What? No-- hey!” 

Bokuto yanks a daisy from his bouquet anyway. He wraps the stem around his thumb, coiling it, and then tying it securely. In his haste, the daisy sits a little crooked, not quite facing upright, but Bokuto presents it to Akaashi with flushed pride nonetheless. 

“Then it’s official,” he says. He slips the make-shift ring onto Akaashi’s finger. “You’ll marry me.” 

It isn’t a question. Akaashi supposes it never really was. He’s been locked into this since the moment he’d set eyes on Bokuto Koutarou. His teammate, his best friend, his star. He looks at the tilted daisy on his left hand and can’t force down his smile, even if he wanted to.

“Bokuto-san,” Akaashi says, trying to sound unconvinced despite himself. “You’re supposed to date someone before proposing to them.” 

“That’s fine though, isn’t it?” Bokuto asks, desperate. “I mean, we’ve basically been dating this whole time anyway, right?” 

Konoha is taking more pictures. Well. This is certainly one story to tell at the wedding, Akaashi thinks. The wedding , he still wants to chastise himself for toying with the notion, but then he can’t, can he? How ridiculous. Strange how despite how ahead of himself Akaashi might feel, Bokuto is always right there to meet him. Akaashi had never considered Bokuto’s love could be as intense and life-altering on his own. 

“Alright,” Akaashi agrees. “I’ll marry you.” 

“What the fuck,” Konoha whispers. 

Bokuto recaptures him in a kiss. He clings to the front of Akaashi’s sweatshirt, their kisses becoming increasingly more frantic until they have to part, gasping. Perhaps they owed Konoha a lot of meat buns for subjecting him to this, but then again he could leave at any time. Tears are trailing down Bokuto’s cheeks and Akaashi wipes them away with his sleeve. 

“After the Olympics,” Akaashi clarifies. As if that made getting engaged at sixteen any more reasonable. His mother was going to kill him. “As soon as you achieve that dream first then I’ll marry you.”

“I’ll do it!” Bokuto declares. He sniffs. Akaashi knows he’s tearing up too. “You’re the one. I’ll do it all for you, Akaashi Keiji, I promise!” 

Akaashi grins. “I look forward to it… Koutarou.” 

Bokuto is bouncing up and down. “Say my name again!” 

It’s only right to indulge one’s fiancé, Akaashi thinks. He places a swift kiss to Bokuto’s cheek, whispering, “Koutarou.” 

Koutarou gives a shaky little laugh at that, like he didn’t really expect Akaashi to comply. It’s the loveliest sound Akaashi has ever heard. He begins peppering the entirety of Bokuto’s face with kisses, murmuring Koutarou between each one. Just because he can. Just to hear that giggle he loves so much. Akaashi didn’t know such glorious elation could exist. Bokuto Koutarou was his. It was his love that Bokuto Koutarou wanted. They were in love with each other. What an incredible miracle for Akaashi to stumble into. 

Konoha marches up to them, the bouquet tucked under his arm as he texts rapidly. 

“Wait hang on,” Konoha says. “When did you start dating? We need to know who won the pool.” 

Akaashi didn’t care if Konoha was going to be the best man at his wedding, he was going to kill him if he didn’t just let Akaashi have his over-the-top magically romantic moment with Kotuarou right now. Konoha physically recoils from his glare. 

“Oi, oi, listen I wanna get out of here too!” Konoha says, shaking the bouquet a little as he does. “But there’s like two-thousand yen on the line! I think Komi is crying.” 

Akaashi rolls his eyes. “Seriously?” 

“What?” Konoha says. “Don’t get mad at me! Saru started it!” 

Bokuto presses a kiss to Akaashi’s temple. “Hm. So everyone was gambling on us dating, huh.” 

Akaashi is very careful not to smile. Look at his Koutarou, becoming devious. Akaashi shakes his head. 

“And what, exactly, were you betting on?” Akaashi asks, trying to sound scornful. “How long have we been dating? If we have been dating in secret? When we started dating?” 

“Just that you would be dating,” Konoha says, waving a dismissive hand. “Like. If Bokuto was going to ask you out or whatever.” 

“Ask me out or whatever,” Akaashi repeats disdainfully. “Wow.” 

“Don’t lecture me! It’s not a big deal!” Konoha says, predictably defensive. “We all just wanted you to get together, you obviously are crazy about each other!” 

Akaashi ignores the pleased feeling hearing that brings him.

Bokuto tuts. “And gambling about us dating was the way to do that?” 

“Well, we weren’t wrong!” Konoha says, throwing his arms out in exasperation. “Unless you just platonically suck face now? Tell me you’re finally dating.” 

Bokuto and Akaashi exchange a look. Bokuto smiles deviously. 

“Sorry, we aren’t dating,” Bokuto says with a shrug. 

“And never were dating either.” Akaashi rests his ringed-hand on Bokuto’s chest. “We’re engaged.” 

Konoha snorts. “Shut up. You’re not engaged.” 

“Konoha!” Bokuto cries. “You were there!” 

“Are you for real?” Konoha says, looking between the two of them. “You’re seriously engaged right now?” 

“I have every intention of marrying Koutarou,” Akaashi says matter-of-factly. Bokuto brightens at that, looking at Akaashi with moony-eyed affection.

“Really?” Bokuto says breathlessly. 

Akaashi shakes with laughter, kissing him again. 

“Koutarou,” Akaashi chides. “ You were there .” 

“So, like,” Konoha says. “What does this mean? You were never dating? You just skipped to proposing?” 

“Yup!” Bokuto says at the same time Akaashi says, “Pretty much.” Konoha gapes at them disbelievingly. 

“You’re sixteen!” he yells at Akaashi.

“I am aware,” Akaashi says. No one is more aware of how ridiculous this situation is than he. He isn’t worried though. He’s beginning to believe in impossible things like true love and happy endings. It’s hard not to, looking up at his Koutarou now, with starry eyes and an ever-present smile. His gaze dips down to Akaashi’s lips again and oh, how Akaashi wants to kiss him. 

“Hey,” Konoha says, snapping his fingers between their faces. “I’m serious!” 

“What?” Bokuto wrinkles his nose at him. “We’re serious!” 

Akaashi nods vigorously. Konoha huffs. 

“So… so what?” Konoha’s hands settle on his hips. “I’m just supposed to tell them nobody won? Because you decided to skipped that step to be engaged high schoolers?”  

Bokuto shrugs.

“You have to be very careful with verbal agreements!” Bokuto repeats Konoha’s own words from earlier with delight. “It’s about what you said, not what you intended!”

“You should know, Konoha-san,” Akaashi adds, lowering his lashes slyly. 

Konoha closes his eyes. He pinches the bridge of his nose. His phone starts buzzing and he gives it a withering look. 

“There are so many things wrong about this,” he says. “Consider yourselves lucky I have a handsome man waiting for me or I’d wring your necks over this nonsense.” 

“Have fun!” Bokuto says cheerily. “Hey! We should double sometime!” 

The guardrails are lowering once again; they have lingered long enough for another train to make their way toward the station. Konoha grimaces. 

“Don’t think this conversation is over,” he warns. “I don’t care if you’ll probably get married anyway! You shouldn’t leap into an engagement so impulsively!” 

Akaashi doesn’t think it was that impulsive. If it was inevitable anyway, what was the point of waiting? It was just a label. As long as he could spend the rest of his life with Koutarou, they could be called anything they liked. Konoha must see he isn’t persuaded because his scowl deepens.

“Don’t rush through your milestones too quickly!” Konoha says, pointing a finger at them as he boards the train. “Don’t think I won’t be looking for hickies!” 

Akaashi rolls his eyes. “Thanks for that, Konoha-san.” 

“That’s way weirder than being engaged in high school!” Bokuto protests. “People used to get engaged young all the time!” 

Konoha sticks his tongue out at him. 

“Don’t snoop on my fiancé!” Bokuto yells. “What we do is our business!” 

But the train is already pulling away. Just to spite him, Akaashi makes sure to bring Bokuto down for a kiss in lieu of waving Konoha off. He can hear Konoha’s fists bang on the glass window, his voice angry and muffled. 

They’re still exchanging kisses long after the train has passed. Slow kisses, savoring kisses. Kisses where they breathe each other in before pressing into one another. Kisses that steal a low moan from the back of Bokuto’s throat. 

“So, um,” Bokuto says, when Akaashi is too dizzy to keep going. Bokuto Koutarou is in love with me , is all Akaashi can think when he looks up at his cherry-red lips and blown-out pupils. “Did you, uh, wanna get onigiri?” 

All the world seems fuzzy. Everything but Koutarou’s face is a blur. Akaashi didn’t know such perfect happiness could make someone delirious. He kisses Bokuto’s mouth once more. 

“Yes,” Akaashi answers. He laces their fingers together. “Lead the way.” 

 

 

Bokuto bounces happily, swinging their hands as they head back the way they came, walking past Fukurodani Academy and heading deeper into the city. 

“Keiji! You really scared me when you pinched me!” Bokuto whines. “I thought you were rejecting me!” 

Akaashi’s gaze snaps over to him. 

“Koutarou,” Akaashi whispers, horrified. “No, no, of course not. How could I ever reject you? You’re wonderful.”

Bokuto makes a strangled noise. His lips are pursed like he’s trying to stay mad, but a smile keeps pulling at them. 

“But you pinched me!” Bokuto complains. “And yelled at me!” 

Akaashi pulls him a little closer, resting his head on his shoulder and gripping Bokuto’s bicep. 

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I should never have yelled at you. I was just…. Annoyed that you beat me to the punch.” 

“What? Beat you to the punch?” Bokuto gasps. “I knew it, Akaashi! I knew there was something up with you today!”

Bokuto’s accusing finger wags at Akaashi before booping his nose softly. 

“You were going to confess, weren’t you?” 

Akaashi makes a little irritated noise, batting Bokuto’s hand away. “ Yes .”

Bokuto swoops in to place a kiss to Akaashi’s cheek. “I love you!” 

It draws a few disapproving glances, but Akaashi barely sees them. Bokuto is shining too brightly for anyone to possibly look away. Akaashi didn’t think there was a better sight than seeing Bokuto Koutarou at the top of his game, but he was wrong. This Bokuto Koutarou-- flushed with love, his eyes sparkling, inches from kissing him-- was his new favorite. Akaashi has never felt such adoration. He’s never felt more alive than he does now, looking at his Koutarou, with their happiest days ahead of them and a whole future to spend together.

Bokuto Koutarou loves me

“I love you too,” Akaashi assures him. 

Bokuto hums happily. “Really?” 

Akaashi laughs. “Yes, really.” 

“Really, really?” 

“Really, really, really,” Akaashi confirms. “Really times infinity.” 

“Times infinity?” Bokuto repeats. “That’s… wow, oh wow.” 

Akaashi laughs. He doesn’t remember the last time he’s laughed so much; his face is beginning to hurt with the strain of it. Bokuto releases Akaashi’s hand to pinch himself.

“I’m not dreaming!” Bokuto cries, almost disbelieving. “This is all real!” 

They’re definitely drawing gazes now, and whispers too. Akaashi tries to shush Bokuto through his laughter, but Bokuto only kisses the finger Akaashi presses into his lips. 

“Koutarou…” Akaashi says, when Bokuto sinks to kiss his palm, then lower to kiss his wrist. “I’m hungry.” 

Bokuto straightens up. “Oh! Right! We should hurry, I’m starving!” 

“Feeding me is a very, very important part of being my fiancé, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi says with grave seriousness. 

Bokuto bursts into laughter at that and, on second thought, maybe this is Akaashi’s favorite version of him. One alight with the mirth Akaashi brings him, laughing so hard he’s snorting and dragging Akaashi into giggling along with him. 

Bokuto insists they hold the notebook as they follow along the routes. It’s more adventure-like that way, Bokuto tells him, and Akaashi has to admit it does make the whole thing feel very official. They refuse to stop holding hands however, so Akaashi holds the notebook while Bokuto marks off the landmarks toward their destinations with a pen from Akaashi’s gym bag. 

The first two stops are actual restaurants, with a wait staff and a special area for them to wait for their to-go order. Neither of them particularly remind Akaashi of the place they visited in Hyogo, but then again, his attention is somewhat diverted. Bokuto swings their hands between them, occasionally arcing all the way up to kiss the back of Akaashi's palm. Akaashi supposes they could be a little more subtle, but the more people are looking at them, the more Akaashi begins to realize there isn’t so much distain as there is… curiosity. Which wasn't so surprising. Bokuto has become somewhat of a local legend afterall. People can’t help but notice when there is a star in their midst. 

As soon as they pick up their orders, Bokuto crosses them off the list. Their third and final location is a food truck. Akaashi can hear it’s lively music long before it comes into view. The truck is painted in neon colors and it’s name is painted in bold black lettering. There’s already a crowd surrounding it, just as noisy as the music that blasts from the truck’s speakers.

“I asked to make sure they parked here every Saturday,” Bokuto tells him. “It’s right near two big theatres so people stop here after the movies!” 

Being in a crowd so large has Akaashi a little on edge, but the line is already moving quickly. Besides, a crowd like this gives Akaashi every excuse to press closer to Bokuto. He rests his cheek on Bokuto’s chest, letting Bokuto’s arms surround him.

When they reach the front of the line, Bokuto orders a half-dozen more onigiri from them than the first two stops they made. Akaashi raises his brow at him quizzically. 

“I promised Kasumi and Kahoko I’d bring them some,” Bokuto tells him. 

Kasumi and Kahoko are Bokuto’s little sisters. Kasumi is nine, Kahoko barely five. Akaashi is terribly fond of both of them. He has no siblings of his own, so watching them bicker and play was like stealing something out of someone else's life. Though Akaashi is grateful he has the added benefit of being able to go home and take a break from the three siblings' endless energy. They would often cajole Bokuto and Akaashi into playing with them and Bokuto did almost everything they asked. If Akaashi didn’t love Koutarou so much, it might be annoying that his sisters stole his attention away so easily. But Kasumi and Kahoko made Bokuto happy, and that wasn’t something Akaashi could take for granted.

They would be his sisters too when Bokuto and Akaashi married, Akaashi realizes. He’s awash in new butterflies. 

“Ah, I see,” Akaashi says. He kisses Bokuto’s cheek, lingering to whisper, “You’re a good big brother.” 

Bokuto brightens at that. “Thanks! They’re the ones who taught me to make flower-rings!” 

Bokuto holds up Akaashi’s left hand to kiss his fingers. Akaashi shakes his head. 

“I should’ve known,” he says. 

Bokuto examines his handiwork, frowning as the daisy head tilts as when turns Akaashi’s hand back and forth.

“I’ll get you a better ring,” Bokuto vows. “When I win big at the Olympics, I’ll get you the best ring ever.” 

“Mmm.” Akaashi ponders this for a moment. “Well, actually. If you don’t mind, I want to be the one who proposes to you.” 

Bokuto’s eyebrows raise. “What? Propose? We’re already engaged though!” 

Akaashi tuts at him. “So greedy. Getting both the confession and the proposal... We will need to stage another proposal anyway. If my parents caught wind I agreed to marry you now, they would never let me see you again.” 

Bokuto gasps. “ What?! ” 

Akaashi hushes him, pressing the notebook over his mouth. 

“I won’t let that happen,” Akaashi tells him fiercely. “But we can’t let them know.”

Bokuto nods. His nose slides over the top of the page and he cries out. 

“Ow!” Bokuto clutches his nose. “Paper cut!”      

“Bokuto Koutarou?”

The food truck employee is hanging out the Pick Up window with their order in her hands. Bokuto is too busy wiping his nose and hissing in pain, so Akaashi collects their food for them. He hands over his own bills when she rings up their total, despite Bokuto’s squawking protests. 

“It’s an Onigiri Quest ,” Akaashi reminds him. “Quests are meant to be completed together.” 

“Ugh! It’s supposed to be your special treat, Akaashi!” Bokuto cries. A drop of blood dribbles down his lip and Akaashi licks his thumb before wiping it away for him. 

“You’re my special treat,” Akaashi says, and he kisses the small cut on his nose. 

Bokuto sputters. He clutches his heart, hunching over, his gym back nearly hitting the ground as it swings forward. 

“Where did you learn to get so smooth?!” Bokuto demands. 

After Akaashi pays, Bokuto takes the third bag of onigiri and slides it with the others in the nook of his elbow. He shifts his gym bag to rest on the opposite shoulder to balance out the weight. It couldn’t be comfortable to carry that much, so Akaashi extends a hand to offer help. Bokuto lights up. He slides his backpack back over again and takes Akaashi’s hand. 

“Boku-- Koutarou,” Akaashi sputters, flustered and amused despite himself. Bokuto only gives him a doe-eyed grin, completely oblivious. “That’s-- not what I-- let me take your bag.” 

It takes a little more arguing, but Bokuto relents as walking back toward the bus station proves difficult with all the extra baggage. Akaashi takes one of the bags of onigiri off him too, not liking the red line it was leaving indented in Bokuto’s elbow. He makes a note to rub the skin out on the bus and to have Bokuto swap arms on the walk home. 

The sun is finally setting by the time they reach the bus stop and Bokuto is getting antsy. He shifts his weight from foot to foot, worrying aloud that Kohoko might be asleep by the time they get home. Akaashi is getting fidgety too. The smell of all that rice is wafting through the takeaway bags and making his empty stomach twist in agony. 

They find the bus startlingly sparse, much more sparse than the train would have been. Maybe they should take this route home more often. Or maybe it’s only sparse because it was a Saturday and everyone is still out, making the most of the night in the city. There are only a few students who look about their age, all huddled over the same textbook, and an old man who is fast asleep, his head tilted all the way back and snoring. 

They settle themselves as far away from the others as they can. The place is so empty they can sit their gym bags and food on the cushioned seats beside them. Akaashi’s stomach growls again, fiercely. 

Bokuto pats Akaashi’s tummy again. “Aww almost there, baby.” 

“Baby?” Akaashi snorts. “What? Am I pregnant now too?”

 Bokuto laughs. “No! You’re my baby.” 

Akaashi has never liked that term of endearment, but hearing it from Bokuto makes it unbearably sexy somehow. His toes curl in his shoes, his mouth going dry. His face must make that obvious because Bokuto giggles and presses a kiss into Akaashi’s hair. 

It’s only a short walk from the drop off to the Bokuto household. The blue hour is fully upon them by the time they turn onto his street. All residual light from the sun is fading fast, the lanterns lining pavement are flickering to life. Akaashi can see the window’s over Bokuto’s house are washed in gold light, looking cozy and warm as the air chills quickly without the sun. 

They’re nearly up the path, when the door swings open. Kasumi stands there, barely a head taller than the doorknob she’s clutching, her golden eyes are as identical to Koutarou’s as her grin is-- though hers is missing quite a few teeth. Her hair is in messy pigtails, her black bangs cropped just below her eyebrows. 

“Nii-san!” she cries, flinging herself at him. Her head collides with Bokuto’s stomach and knocks the breath from him. 

“Hey, Sumi,” Bokuto wheezes. “Help me and Keiji take these inside.” 

Kasumi snatches the bags of onigiri from him, sprinting inside and yelling. 

“Hooookoooo!” Kasumi sings out the ‘o’ sounds in her sister's name. “Look! It’s nii-san and Kei-chan!” 

Kahoko, who is only five, momentarily stops sucking on her blanket, turning away from the TV and gasping when she sees them. 

“Kei-chan, Kei-chan!” Kahoko calls when she sees him. She pushes herself off the couch and runs to them, her little feet pattering against the hardwood floor. Akaashi sinks to his knees to embrace her. 

“Hey you,” he says. He tugs on the blanket still clutched in her hand. “I thought big girls didn’t suck on blankies anymore?” 

Kahoko huffs. Her hair is silvery like Bokuto’s, but curly. It tickles Akaashi’s nose as she shakes her head into his shoulder. 

“Will you play with me?” she asks, ignoring his question. “Please, please, please!” 

“Geez, Kahoko!” Bokuto says, returning from the kitchen. “We just got home, let him eat!” 

Akaashi hands their gym bags over to him, and Bokuto disappears up the flight of stairs to drop them off in his room. Kahoko’s little hand clasps Akaashi’s as she drags him toward the kitchen. 

“Where’s your mom?” Akaashi asks. 

“Upstairs,” Kasumi chimes in. She lifts the skirt of the kotatsu and turns on the heater underneath the short legged table. She pats the cushion beside her eagerly. “Kei-chan, sit by me!” 

Kahoko whines. “Nooo, Kei-chan sit with me!” 

Akaashi pets the top of Kahoko’s head gently. 

“Now, now, I can sit between both of you,” he assures them. “Should we set the table for dinner?” 

Kahoko nods eagerly. “Dinner!”  

But Kasumi doesn't hear. She gasps, her eyes fixed on Akaashi’s hand still atop her sister’s head and he daisy ring still spun around his finger. 

“Kei-chan!” she cries. “You’re married?! ”  

Akaashi flushes. Shit, shit, shit. He turns away from her, making a beeline for the cabinets with plates and silverware. Kohoko follows after him and he hands her plates to lay out on the kotatsu. 

“Kasumi,” he manages, clearing his throat a little when it comes out a little too airy. “Why don’t you get water glasses for everyone?” 

“Why don’t you tell me why you have a ring on?” Kasumi throws back. Akaashi can hear her foot stamp the floor. “On the marriage finger.” 

“Marriage?!” Kohoko repeats the word in a yell. She spins toward Akaashi and the plates slip from her little fingers. Two of them shatter when they hit the floor. Kasumi screams at the noise and Kohoko begins bawling. 

“Hoko!” Kasumi yells. “Look what you’ve done!”

“Nooooo,” Kohoko sobs, wiping her tears with tiny fists. “Nooo, Kei-chan was supposed to marry meeeee.”  

Akaashi grabs Kohoko before she can move and injure herself on the broken glass. He lifts to set her on the counter, but she clings to him again. Her snotty nose and teary face rubbing into Akaashi’s shoulder. 

“Kei-chan!” she sobs. 

“It’s alright, it’s alright,” Akaashi says, rubbing her back soothingly. He glances at Kasumi who is inspecting the mess with a look of disgust. 

“You broke two of mom’s good plates!” she cries. 

“Don’t move,” Akaashi orders. “Broken glass is really dangerous. You could need stitches if you step on it.” 

Kasumi recoils at the word stitches. She’d gotten her first stitches only a month ago when she crashed Bokuto’s bike trying to show off. Her bangs hide the scar now, but the memory seems to be enough to deter her. She curls up onto a ball on her cushion and watches anxiously. Kohoko takes deep, shuddering breaths, and keeps wailing, utterly unconsoled. 

Thankfully, Bokuto is thundering back down the stairs to rescue him, drawn by the noise. He fixed his hair into his usual owl horns again and swapped his sweatshirt for a tight-fitting black t-shirt. Akaashi’s heart lurches. He’s incredible. This is the man who loved him, gave him a daisy ring and promised to marry him, and he was just so hot . Truly Akaashi has hit the jackpot. 

“What happened?” Bokuto asks. He opens his arms to take Kohoko from Akaashi. Akaashi edges around the shattered glass toward him. 

“It was an accident,” Akaashi explains. “Kohoko was helping me set the table for dinner and lost her grip.” 

He tries to give her to Bokuto, but Kohoko doesn’t let go. She clings to Akaashi, legs locked around his torso, crying even louder when he tries to pry her off. She’s left a snotty stain on his sweatshirt and his neck is damp with her breath and tears. When Bokuto touches her, she smacks his hand away and Bokuto sighs. 

“Okay, none of you move, I’ll get the broom,” Bokuto says. 

Bokuto leaps over the pile of broken glass easily, retrieving the broom and dustpan from behind the fridge. 

“Kasumi, empty out all the bags we brought in and hand them to me,” Bokuto orders. 

Kasumi obediently upends all the plastic takeout bags, a few of the boxes flipping open as she does, one even teetering off the table and splatting on the ground. She tosses the empty sacks to Bokuto and he dumps the glass inside, triple bagging it before dropping it in the trash. 

“Alright, that should keep it from tearing the trash open,” Bokuto says. “Do you see any pieces I missed?” 

He probably should have asked before tossing the bags out, but he’s done a thorough job. Akaashi leans over Kohoko’s head to examine it, but it’s perfectly spotless. 

“See?” Bokuto asks, walking over to them and rubbing Kohoko’s back reassuringly. “It’s all better now. No need to cry.” 

Kohoko sniffs wetly and huffs.

“I don’t care about the plates,” she declares, her voice muffled in Akaashi’s shoulder. “Kei-chan was supposed to marry me .”

Bokuto blinks at her. Then glances up at Akaashi. 

I’m sorry, ” Akaashi mouths at him. “ They saw the ring.

But Kasumi had been watching him too. She leaps from her cushion, squashing over a fallen onigiri as she marches up to them, pointing a finger at Akaashi accusingly. 

“So it’s true!” Kasumi cries out in betrayal. “You are married!” 

What was he supposed to say? That he was engaged? What kind of example would that be setting for two very impressionable young girls? He looks to Bokuto, but Bokuto’s jaw is hanging open, just at a loss for words as Akaashi is. 

“Who is it?!” Kasumi demands, her hands on her hips in a gesture that’s just so Bokuto that Akaashi can’t help but feel fondness when he looks at her. “How did you even meet her when you’re at our house all the time!?” 

Kohoko breaks out into fresh sobs. 

“Kei-chan, don’t get married,” she blubbers. “I’ll miss you.” 

Akaashi kisses the top of Kohoko’s head briefly. She looks up at him, her eyes are more brown than the gold of her siblings, but no less striking. Her baby-fat cheeks are flushed from crying, her silvery curls are smushed. 

“I’m not going to get married for a long, long time,” he says, brushing the curls from her face. 

“Well not that long--” Bokuto begins and Akaashi aims a kick at him. 

“You’ll be used to the idea by the time it actually happens,” Akaashi goes on. “This is an engagement ring, it just means I promise to marry them in the future. Nothing is happening right away.” 

Kasumi wraps her skinny arms around Akaashi’s waist, and Akaashi adjusts his grip on Kohoko to wrap an arm around her too. Kasumi blinks up at him, her lower lip trembling. 

“You’ll still visit us lots, right?” she says. “Even after you get married?” 

Akaashi grins. “I’ll be around a lot even after I get married, I promise.”

Kohoko sits up, pulling Akaashi’s ringed-hand toward her and eyeing it skeptically. She pokes at the middle of the daisy and watches how it tilts from side to side. 

“It’s broken,” she says. “Don’t marry her, she gave you a ring that’s broken.” 

“Hey, hey! It’s a perfectly good ring!” Bokuto denies. He comes up to gather all three of them in his arms, squeezing until the girls wheeze and laugh. “Enough of this! Keiji is starving.” 

As if on cue, Akaashi’s stomach rumbles and the girls laugh like it’s the funniest thing they have ever heard. Kohoko finally allows herself to be set down, but refuses to let go of Akaashi’s hand. Bokuto huffs when his sisters quickly steal the cushions on either side of Akaashi. 

“No fair!” he complains. “Keiji!” 

Akaashi shrugs. “They called dibs.”

He looks at Bokuto through his lashes, almost daring him to admit he was jealous of his kid sisters. Bokuto grumbles a little more, but then quickly forgets his irritation as he remembers all the food waiting for them. They pull out the notebook again, turning to a fresh page before retrieving the onigiri from the first stop. They’re pretty cold by now, so Bokuto heats them in the microwave before dropping one onto each of their plates. 

“Alright, don’t eat it yet!” Bokuto cries as Kasumi nearly lunges on hers. “This isn’t just eating, it’s science!” 

Akaashi hides his giggle behind his palm. 

“Keiji, would you be our scribe?” Bokuto asks. 

“I would love to,” Akaashi says, sending Bokuto a secret sort of smile. 

Kasumi looks between the two of them suspiciously. Akaashi clears his throat before writing the name of the first shop and spacing their names out. Kohoko gasps. 

“Kei-chan’s writing is so pretty!” she exclaims. 

Bokuto’s eyes don’t leave Akaashi’s face, his chin resting atop his knuckles and his gaze warm. 

“Yeah,” he agrees. “Beautiful.” 

Akaashi flushes. He can feel Kasumi squinting at both of them. 

“Alright,” Akaashi says. “Ready?” 

The first onigiris are just okay. Akaashi scarfs his down because he’s starving, but it’s clear there wasn’t enough seasoning and the shrimp was somewhat chewy. Akaashi doesn’t even want to know what has to happen to shrimp to make it chewy. Kasumi and Kohoko refuse to finish theirs after the first bite and give them to Bokuto to polish off. 

“More for me!” Bokuto exclaims. “These suck though.”

“Zero stars!” Kasumi yells, banging her fists on the table. “I hated it!”  

Akaashi dutifully takes notes, writing their scores down for each one and any comment he thinks might be important for final judging. He tells Bokuto next time they should save the receipts so they can note how expensive each onigiri stop was as well, just to compare. Bokuto lights up at the idea. 

“You’re so smart, Keiji!” he says, beaming at him brilliantly. 

The next onigiri is better. Kasumi devours three of them, with speed only Yukie could rival. Kohoko munches on a smoked salmon onigiri happily, her eyes closed in bliss.  

“Is it that good?” Akaashi teases. 

“Yummy, yummy!” she answers. She holds the half-eaten onigiri out to him. “Bite?” 

Bokuto’s glare could shoot daggers. Akaashi shakes his head, smoothing her curls back into place with a grin. 

“Thank you, but I’m okay,” he says. “I have my own, see?” 

He gestures to his own onigiri before him. Bokuto leans over the kotatsu, shaking the whole table as he snatches Akaashi’s onigiri off his plate. 

“Here, Keiji!” he says, holding it up for him. “Lemme help you!” 

Akaashi gives him a pointed look. “Really?”

Bokuto nods. Kasumi whines. 

“Stop shaking the table! You have such bad manners, nii-san!” 

Akaashi doesn’t break eye contact with Bokuto as he lowers his head to take a bite. Bokuto’s cheeks go pink, but he doesn’t dare look away either. Akaashi makes a deeply satisfied noise as he chews. 

“It’s good,” he says. “Thank you.” 

Bokuto doesn’t blink. Akaashi isn’t sure he’s even breathing. Akaashi takes another bite, making sure his lower lip drags over Bokuto’s fingers. 

“Kasumi!” Bokuto commands suddenly. “You have to move!” 

What?! ” Kasumi shrieks, pounding her fists on the table. “What did I do?!” 

“I said move!” Bokuto orders again, scrambling off his cushion to take her place. “Keiji is my guest, he should sit by me!” 

Akaashi aches to be near him, to touch him, and snuggle up together under the kotatsu, but already he can see Kasumi is on the verge of a full-on meltdown. Her eyes are shiny with rage.

“No!” she shouts. “I called dibs!” 

“It’s alright, Kasumi,” Akaashi says, before Bokuto can interrupt. He coaxes Kohoko to sit on his knee. She’s petite for her age, Akaashi might have mistaken her for a toddler if Bokuto hadn’t told him otherwise, and fits on the cushion with him comfortably. She leans her head back against him, still munching and content. He pats the newly freed seat. “Sit here, Koutarou.” 

It’s a little overwhelming, having three Bokuto siblings vying for his attention. But Bokuto’s look of gratitude makes the mild claustrophobia worth it. He slides a hand around Akaashi’s waist, pressing his cheek to Akaashi’s shoulder. 

Kasumi peers at them for a moment. And then her eyes widen. 

“IT’S YOU!” she bellows, spitting rice on all of them, jabbing a finger in Bokuto’s face. 

Bokuto staggers back as if she had struck him. Kohoko presses her hands over her ears. Akaashi wipes the rice off his face. 

“That’s why you’re using first names all of a sudden!” she yells. “I taught you how to make flower-rings and yours are always terrible, just like Kei-chan’s is!” 

“H-hey!” Bokuto stammers. “They’re not-- not terrible .” 

Kasumi grabs Akaashi’s ringed hand, shaking it in Bokuto’s face. 

“Look at this!” she wails. “It’s horrible! You need a better one!” 

She sprints away then, throwing the back door open and running outside. Bokuto chases after her. 

“Sumi!” he calls, stopping at the doorway. “Sumi, It’s dark out!” 

“Hang on!” Her voice is faint. “I’ll be right back!” 

Bokuto grimaces. “ Sumi! ” 

He gives Akaashi an apologetic look. 

“Sorry,” he says. “She’s so… Excitable.” 

“Mm,” Akaashi says, a surge of fondness rising within him. “Yes, I know someone like that.” 

Bokuto’s expression softens, smiling at Akaashi faintly. Kohoko looks between the two of them. She rests her sticky little hands on top of Akaashi’s. 

“You really want to marry nii-san?” she asks.

Akaashi takes a deep breath through his nose. “Yes. I do.” 

Bokuto’s breath hitches a little at that, even though it has to be at least the third time Akaashi has confirmed it for him, like he still doesn’t quite believe it. Kohoko frowns up at Akaashi. 

“Even though he’s so goofy? ” she presses.

Akaashi laughs. He kisses her forehead. 

“Especially because he’s goofy,” he tells her. 

She shakes her head, clearly disappointed.   

“Boys,” she mutters disdainfully. 

Kasumi reappears with muddy feet and with an armful of wildflowers, presenting each of them to Akaashi and asking which he liked best. He chooses another daisy, for Koutarou’s sake, but then she decides the only way to know for sure which one would be the most beautiful was to craft them all into rings and see which one looked best. Kohoko leaps out of Akaashi’s lap to help her work on them, but when Bokuto offers his services he’s very rudely denied. 

With Kohoko otherwise occupied, Akaashi looks down and sees her snot has crusted on his sweatshirt and her fingers left oily trails along the fabric. He fights not to make a retching sound. 

He catches Bokuto by the sleeve, pulling him down to whisper in his ear. 

“Can I borrow something else to wear?” he asks.

Bokuto nods, obviously eager to get out of there. Kasumi and Kohoko are too wrapped up in their protect to notice them slipping away. Bokuto tangles their fingers together and leads him up to his bedroom, even though Akaashi knows the way by heart. Bokuto’s room is a little messy and he almost always leaves his bed unmade, but Akaashi settles himself on it anyway. Bokuto throws open his closet for Akaashi with a flourish. 

“Take anything you like!” Bokuto says, gesturing grandly. 

Akaashi’s brows raise at him. “ Anything I like?” 

He can see Bokuto’s pupils widen. Akaashi has heard that happens when looking at someone you love, but he’s never witnessed it until now. Akaashi sits up on the edge of the bed, reaching for him, and Bokuto is all too eager to fill himself in Akaashi’s arms. Bokuto settles between Akaashi’s legs, snaking his arms around his waist, pulling him in for a kiss. At last, at last , a kiss where they were alone. Bokuto’s mouth opens for him immediately; his hands cradling Akaashi’s face, his tongue swiping along the inside of Akaashi’s teeth. 

“Wait,” Akaashi says. “I’m still covered in your sister’s snot.” 

“Oh my god, did she get snot on you?” Bokuto asks, examining him and then wrinkling his nose. “I’m so sorry, thanks for always putting up with them.” 

Akaashi shakes his head. “It’s no trouble.” 

Akaashi removes his sweater and tosses it into Bokuto’s hamper in one smooth motion. The loss brings an immediate chill and he shivers, folding his arms across his chest. 

Bokuto drinks in the sight of him, his eyes gleaming and predatory. He just ate, but at this moment he looks ravenous. His gaze rakes across Akaashi’s body, his fingers tracing the line of Akaashi’s collarbone ever so softly. 

“You’re so beautiful, Keiji,” he murmurs. 

Akaashi shivers, but this time it has nothing to do with the cold. “Thank you.” 

Bokuto’s warm hands wander his body, skimming over the dips and ripples of his muscles, hands flat against the smooth expanse of Akaashi’s skin. 

“Your skin is so clear,” Bokuto says, wonderingly. 

“I have a few freckles,” Akaashi counters. “Just not many.” 

“Show me.” 

Akaashi does, guiding Bokuto’s hands to caress the top of his shoulder, then gliding next to the one at the center of his sternum, dipping to the one just before the jut of his hip bone, and then skimming up his spine to the one on the back of Akaashi’s neck. When he’s finished, Bokuto captures each one with a kiss, his mouth open and hot against his skin. 

“Nii-saaaaan!!” Kasumi cries, twisting the doorknob in vain and banging on the door loudly. When had Bokuto locked it? “Nii-san you huge jerk! We didn’t finish the onigiri tasting and you didn’t even look at my rings!” 

Bokuto sighs against Akaashi’s chest, his breath so warm the rest of Akaashi’s skin rises with goosebumps. 

“Alright, maybe they’re a little trouble,” Akaashi admits quietly and Bokuto laughs. 

“Later?” Bokuto asks, hopeful.

Akaashi hums. “Later.” 

They ignore Kasumi for a little longer, holding each other. Exchanging a few more lazy kisses, breathing each other in and savoring. 

There was no need to hurry. They had all the time in the world.