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Of coming together (and other fuckery)

Chapter Text

Today is the day.

Fukurodani’s graduation ceremony is a boast in and of itself, golden, black, and white streamers hanging from every ceiling, banners adorn the walls giving the school a regal appearance. The cherry blossoms outside the school are near full bloom and the air is tinged with their sweetness.

It is the exact time for this.

Now or never.

Akaashi Keiji is determined, standing among the onlookers, he is ready.

He must be because this is his last chance. This is it.

There have been others, like after their last match at Nationals, or at one of the many get-togethers at either of their houses, and some others he doesn’t care to remember at the moment.

But those times he didn’t reach out and grab the chance, so there is only this, and this time he is ready.

It doesn’t matter that Bokuto has only ever -if scarcely- dated girls. It doesn’t matter that Keiji has spent the better part of the last two year nagging at him, sometimes being overbearing, sometimes underestimating the man when he’s clearly the most amazing Ace that Keiji knows.

It really doesn’t matter that he’s most likely going to get rejected.

Keiji has to believe that their friendship can stand that.

And maybe he has a bit of hope -a very small, insecure bit of hope- that he’ll be loved back.

There’s a sort of speech in the back of his throat and his stomach is a knot so tight he doesn’t think anyone would take the time to untangle it

Keiji does not even have to look, he is hyper-aware of the presence just ahead of him, tangled in a teary embrace with Konoha and Sakurui after taking their final photo together as high school students.

Bokuto wears the usual graduation robe, hat long since lost, his golden eyes shine. Keiji clutches the small box in his hands and tells himself he is shaking from the cold and not the anticipation.

As if sensing the eyes on him Bokuto turns around, light bouncing off his eyes, his golden skin and the grin on his face stretches even wider if that’s even possible. His arms release Sakurui and Konoha and he sprints towards Keiji -almost knocking down a couple of innocent bystanders – and wraps him up in what must be the warmest, tightest embrace he’s ever received from his senior. “AKAASHII!!”

Keiji wavers between never wanting to be let go and hoping he is in time to breathe.

He would feel so very special, if this wasn’t how Bokuto is with everyone.

“Congratulations Bokuto-san.” Keiji raises his hands to rest on the other man’s back and takes a deep breath, Bokuto smells like cologne and musk. “Thank you for all of this.”

“Bokuto-san!! You’re gonna crush him.” Someone calls out from the crowd and Akaashi curses them inwardly as the warm enveloping him stiffens and slowly let’s go.

Bokuto’s face comes into view, red-rimmed eyes, and a puffy nose. Keiji has never been more in love. “O-Oh yeah, sorry Akaashi. I just- You- You’re b- I’m going to miss you so much!” A small sniffle escapes him.

“Don’t worry Bokuto-san” Keiji says smiling his best smile -the reassuring one, the one he’s given Bokuto at every game- “I got you something.” He says lifting the box. “It’s not much. And I guess you can’t wear it to games, but still.”

And it isn’t, Bokuto excitedly takes the box from Keiji’s hands and opens it to reveal a small owl pendant. His eyes shine, dewy and wide and its half a second before the lid slams shut and Keiji is enveloped in his arms again. “I’m going to miss you so much Akaashi. Thank you! You didn’t have to, y'know? I wouldn’t have made it this far without you anyways!”

This is it, now, Keiji can feel it. He doesn’t say it this moment and Bokuto will go off to the rest of his life as a Pro Volleyball Player and he will never have said it.

“Bokuto-san I- “

“You’re my best friend Akaashi.” It hits like a punch in the gut, it’s not the first time he hears it, but the thought of his impending confession maybe destroying everything he and Bokuto already are is ever-present and right now, reinforced at the very worst moment. “Promise that won't stop?”

The bravery, the almost speech all but dies in his mouth, melted by Bokuto’s shaky voice. Keiji scrambles for words. “I- Kuroo-san is going to be sad if he hears you said that to me.” And somehow his voice is even.

“Nah, Kuroo is my best Bro. “A grin spreads over Bokuto’s face but is gone in a second. “But really, Akaashi, can we still- “

It hurts to see the doubt in his face, like he could ever lose Keiji.

“Of course.” Keiji blurts out before he has a chance to think. “You’ll drop by whenever anyway, Bokuto-san. And we’ll be happy to have you”

Bokuto's head tilts to the side, for a moment he looks a bit lost, a bit sadder than the situation calls for. "I mean-Yes!" But it is gone as soon as it came. “It's going to be amazing!”

And then there’s more crying, and the moment – and the confidence he so painstakingly gathered – is gone. For all that he would like to tell Bokuto that he has been in love with him for a while now, that same love holds him back, Bokuto needs Akaashi, his friend.

And Keiji can give that to him -and to himself- for a bit longer before he gambles everything they are on a confession.

Today was not the day.

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Akaashi is so beautiful.

In the split second where he opens his eyes while hugging Konoha, Koutarou can't help the thoughts and what comes with them.

The rush of the many things he already knows, that he counts on. Akaashi's curly, ink-black hair, his dark blue eyes. The way he’s slender, almost weedy, but still so nice to look at.

How his long fingers are longer than Koutarou’s own, and what he wouldn’t give to entangle them together.

Keiji stands there with pink cheeks, bundled up in a coat, and a jewel blue scarf.

And Koutarou’s heart fills, and fills so much it seems impossible.

There’s no containing himself from dashing at Akaashi and wrapping him in his arms. For today it’s okay, for today he has the excuse of emotion, and longing and nostalgia so he can do this and not feel like he’s going to fuck everything up.

Akaashi’s hands come up to circle his back.

So nice, so perfect.

If only he could say the words.

But it would be no good. Akaashi clearly just cares for him as a friend.

And that’s very fine, it’s a gift, it’s more than Koutarou could ask for. Akaashi’s patience, his constant caring, and his support, the small smiles, and sharing food, sharing friends, and sometimes a bed, it’s so much more than he deserves.

And it has to be enough.

Someone yells behind them. “Bokuto-san!! You’re gonna crush him.” And Bokuto kind of wants to punch them, but he's somehow so tense and jittery at the same time that he just manages to release Keiji for a second, and stammers something that’s half an apology and surely half gibberish.

Keiji just smiles, that centered smile that is the bedrock of Koutarou’s world “Don’t worry Bokuto-san, I got you something.” Koutarou barely sees the box, there’s a dusting of pink on Akaashi’s cheekbones and he so wants to kiss it. “It’s not much. And I guess you can’t wear it to games, but still.”

The small Owl hangs from a thin silver chain.

Koutarou is so in love with this perfect, perfect man. If only he could tell Akaashi without losing what he already has…

But he can't, so he hugs him instead.

And it’s enough, it has to be..

.

Takeda Sensei is nothing but efficient.

Or so Kei supposes.

Their shy, often stuttering club supervisor has secured an early practice match against Fukurodani, and somehow managed to convince everyone involved that the Fukurodani team should be the one driving up to Sendai and not the other way around.

Well, it’s not like Kei’s going to be complaining, 4 hours in a bus with Tanaka’s snoring and Hinata and Noya’s constant chatter are definitely not something he’s in the mood for.

Especially this early on.

Besides, if they lay the pressure of a trip or a whole new court on top of facing the team that placed second in Nationals, he’s sure that at least one of the first years is going to puke.

To his left, one of them takes a ball to the face.

Oh joy.

There are four in total, three from middle schools with decent volleyball clubs, but they range between slightly awkward to one with decent serves that cannot look at any of his seniors in the eye without going red and choking.

Fukurodani arrives in their usual, white, and black get-up, their numbers have if anything increased. In a way it is strange when everyone comes down quietly, and Bokuto’s broad form never once appears among them.

Kei feels a twinge of… something. Maybe it’s for the best that Bokuto isn’t here. He doesn’t want to know what strange thing he could end up dragged into if the man was here.

Akaashi enters the gym last, dark hair curling prettily at the nape of his neck, his new number stark against the white of his Fukurodani uniform.

The forlorn feeling that is a bit too much like longing in Kei’s stomach pulses harder.

Fukurodani’s members approach, and beside Kei, Ennoshita is already offering his hand to Akaashi. “Akaashi-san, hi.” He says, smiling. “How was the trip up? It can be a bit rough by bus.”

“It was alright,” Akaashi says. “A bit longer than we’ve traveled for a practice game before, but alright in general.”

“Well I’m glad you all made it!” Ennoshita says. “We were about to start warm-up drills.”

Akaashi nods. “We’ll join you in a bit.” And then he turns his head and his grey eyes meet Kei’s. “Tsukishima, how have you been?”

If Kei were a weaker person, he would blush, or stammer, especially after his realization from last year. But he is Kei so all that really happens is that his hand comes up to adjust his -already very well positioned- glasses. “Good, things haven’t changed much. Congratulations on becoming captain Akaashi-san”

“Thank you, I guess I’ll be telling you the same thing next year?”

As if. Kei smirks. “Probably not, I don’t have the patience.” He looks pointedly at the edge of the court where Hinata and Kageyama seem to be bickering. “I guess you had a lot of practice for it with Bokuto-san.”

Akaashi has the decency to look slightly offended for a second before chuckling. “I sure did. So, it’s going to be Yamaguchi-san?” he asks, sly eyes drifting to the back of the court where Yamaguchi is chatting with the first years. “I can see that, he’s a lot more strong-willed than he looks.”

And Kei just knows Akaashi’s thinking of that one embarrassing episode from training camp -just about everyone ended up finding out- but there’s not much he can say about that. “He is.”

 Akaashi smiles. “I’m looking forward to playing you again.” And with this, he moves on towards the rest of his teammates.

The game itself isn’t quite eventful. Both teams still getting used to both the first years in their lineups and the absence of their seniors. It’s still barely a month after practice started up again, and there is a definite gap where both Fukurodani’s and Karasuno’s cannons used to be.

It ends with a very close Karasuno victory, and Kei catches himself staring at Akaashi more than once for a player he does not go up against at the net regularly.

His form is even better. His form is all Kei should be watching.

Afterward the coaches split them and start working on different drills.

It turns out that the other team isn’t heading back until late afternoon -some issue or other with the bus they came in-so it falls to Karasuno to play hosts and show them around town after lunch.

A bunch of -mostly- taller than average highschoolers walking around a small town is probably a strange sight. But surprisingly no one pays much attention to them.

They visit the few landmarks within walking distance and all but raid a Mochi stand, Kei finds himself sandwiched in a bench between Hinata and Yamaguchi, with Akaashi sitting straight in front of them, a cup of steaming green tea in his hand.

“-but maan,” Hinata is saying, “It would’ve been awesome, we could’ve practiced like at the training camp!”

“I guess so, but Bokuto-san is very busy now,” Akaashi replies, and threads his fingers together around the cup a little too tightly. “It’s still a professional team he was scouted on, and since he isn’t in college, he’s giving it his all.”

“Man, that’s so cool!” Tanaka joins in from the side.

“I can’t believe I received spikes from a pro.” Hinata agrees. “Do you think he’ll maybe show up for the training camp?!”

Akaashi blinks, as if the possibility is something that he hasn’t considered. “He might, I don’t think he’ll have much time though.”

“Oh.” Hinata looks down, the resemblance to a kicked puppy is astounding. “Will you do night practice with us Akaashi-san? Lev will still want to, and we can drag the French Fry and the first years there.”

“I’m right here, Hinata.” Kei growls, despite suddenly being very curious as to why Akaashi seems to be uncomfortable with the current topic.

The ginger huffs. “Do I look like I don’t know that? You could help, you know? I know Kuroo-san gave you his number.”

“Of course, I'm going to harass him to practice with us. He’s in college, idiot he probably has things to do.” Kei purses his lips. “It’s not like I text him often.”

Across from him, he sees a small smile spread over Akaashi’s lips.

“But you do!” Yamaguchi protests from the other side. “I always see his name popping up in Tsukki’s phone.” He says, as if it is anyone else's business. “And if you guys are doing extra practice I want in too”

Kei rolls his eyes. “He occasionally sends me cat pictures. I mostly don’t answer.”

“Wha-rude!” Hinata quips. “You can still ask him.”

“No way.” He looks toward Akaashi in front of him, hoping for some help. But the captain just seems amused.

Hinata pokes his side, and Kei almost sees red “Then give me his number, I’ll ask him.”

“Yeah Tsukishima,” Tanaka says gruffly. “You can’t keep him to yourself.”

“Tsukiiii- “Even Yamaguchi is whining beside him.

“I am not-! You know what?” He turns toward Hinata. “Will you pester him instead of me if I do?” Better Hinata than him, anyway, he is not going to beg Kuroo to come to a training camp like some lovesick girl. No matter how many texts he sends to Kei about inane things, it really isn’t his place.

Besides the older man probably is busy.

“Well duh?”

Kei sighs and sends the number.

They head back quickly after that, Kei lives in the direction that the Fukurodani team is going in, so he is put in charge of them getting in one piece and on time to their bus, as Tadashi is walking Yachi home.

 On the way back he finds himself walking beside Akaashi, a companionable silence stretching between him and the Fukurodani captain.

Kei smiles softly to himself; he feels at ease with Akaashi, perhaps because he is used to the other being the sole island of calm around Kuroo and Bokuto, or because of his demeanor.

Either way, it's nice.

“So, you speak to Kuroo-san often?” The tone isn’t teasing, or mocking, so Kei takes a deep breath and answers.

“We text. Sometimes.”

The clipped answer doesn’t deter Akaashi. “You dislike that?”

“Not really. Most of the time it’s fine, but he is a- “Kei doesn’t know how to put it “-bit too enthusiastic sometimes.”

Akaashi chuckles. “It shows that you've never been in a chat with Bokuto-san. Even in group chats, he’s very- “

“Intense?” Kei tilts his head to the side and his eyes meet Akaashi’s.

“I was going to say hyper, but that works too.” The man smiles, but his expression turns somber not too long after. Kei does not know him all that well, but something definitely seems to be bothering him.

Another person, he might needle a bit more directly, perhaps even allude to Akaashi and Bokuto’s unusual closeness despite the gap in their ages as being more than friendship. “I can’t imagine how he’s been since he started Pro training then.” But he actually likes Akaashi and he does not seem like the kind to get flustered and spill anyways.

So, Kei goes in softly, and it works.

“I guess…” Akaashi’s voice falters a little. “He is very happy.” And there is a note of something, not unlike bitterness but leaning more toward regret, that soaks into his tone.

It is close, so Kei presses forward, voice soft and almost disinterested. “And busy, I imagine. Since he’s a new player and all.”

“Yeah, that too…” Those long, thick eyelashes lower, obscuring Akaashi’s dark eyes. “The volume of the texts has actually decreased. I didn’t think that could happen.” And the thing in Akaashi’s tone is not bitterness or regret, it’s longing.

In the dying amber light, Akaashi looks more like some actor in a movie than a high school student, his skin is painted slightly darker and his eyes shine like polished stones. Caught in his tracks by this for a second, Kei can’t find much in the way of words. “Hm.”

But it’s enough.

“And we don’t do calls often anymore either, but it’s nice he’s so happy.” Akaashi continues, and at this point, for a second Kei gets the distinct impression that he is about to cry.

A need to do something fills Kei. Not only because this was not what he initially aimed to do, but because the face Akaashi’s making is so full of resignation it’s a bit unbearable. “Fit right in, didn’t he?” He says before he can bite it back. “With all the volleyball freaks I mean.”

A watery chuckle escapes Akaashi. “Bokuto-san fits in anywhere, it’s like people can’t dislike him. Even you are fond of him, Tsukishima”

Kei’s about to rebuff, say he really dislikes the Owl, but truth be told and as much as he annoys him, Kei can’t quite say that anymore. “Hm, that is true. But only in a disgusting way.”

“Especially if it’s in a disgusting way.” Akaashi pauses, and breathes in like Hinata does when he is about to start running, or jumping, or doing something equally strenuous. But instead of dashing anywhere, the older boy’s shoulders sag, and he sighs. “I miss him” he says, and it is all Kei can do to not freeze. “It was very easy to forget he was leaving before me.”

Well fuck. Kei wonders what he should say, he has never been particularly good at comforting anyone but Tadashi -and that's more about letting him rant or cry and then giving him food-. Maybe honesty would be est, seeing as Akaashi is so direct “It shows” he blurts out, and, seeing the shine to Akaashi’s eyes, immediately amends “I mean, it sometimes looks like you're waiting for him to come on the court.”

Akaashi nods quietly. “And then he doesn’t.”

“Yeah” The forlorn feeling, the longing that he has been feeling since morning, that seems to relate to Akaashi so much unfurls in Kei’s stomach. He lets it. “It’s a shame, they were a pain in the ass, but I'm going to miss playing them.”

“So am I,” Akaashi says, a bit more composed, smiling softly at Kei “But there’s always college volleyball”

Around them, the streetlights switch on in both sides of the road, bathing the world in orange.

“Do you really think we’ll have the time?” Kei’s only partly being sarcastic, he knows the effort that kind of thing takes.

“Kuroo-san makes the time.” Akaashi says.

Kei scoffs, and turns towards the other man, a grin pulling at his cheeks. “That’s because he doesn't sleep”

A laugh escapes Akaashi, and Kei feels a bit lighter. In the scarce light of the streetlamps, the other boy seems relieved too. For the rest of the way back they settle back into that comfortable silence, the chatter of all the other Fukurodani students surrounding them.

“Well, here we are,” Akaashi says once the bus is within sight. “Thank you from making sure we got here on time Tsukishima.”

“You’re welcome Akaashi-san.”

“You can drop the honorific,” Akaashi says, softly. “It was good to see you." He pauses for a moment, eyes sharp and assessing. "May I have your number? Just in case.” At Kei’s startled look, he smiles. “I won't blow up your phone. I promise.”

“S-sure.” It comes out as more of a question than anything, the smile throwing him off balance way more than it should, but he grabs Akaashi's phone as it's offered.

Once he is done, Kei passes the phone back and the setter looks up at Kei. “Well then, see you, Tsukishima.”

Kei takes the hand that Akaashi offers him, for once feeling quite at ease with the day he has just had.

.

.

FROM: UNKNOWN NUMBER- 19:32

Tsukishima, this is Akaashi Keiji.

FROM: NEKOMA KUROO-SAN- 18:52

Tsukki, did you give Shrimpy and your Seniors my #?

Because I am suddenly in a group chat with them.

But there are so many stickers, Tsukki, SO MANY!

And I have no idea what they want.

I’m giving Bokuto your # just so you know. ;3

FROM: UNKNOWN NUMBER- 18:56

*sent a sticker*

*sent a sticker*

*sent a sticker*

YO TSUKKI!

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