“Bokuto-san, can you please not take pictures right—” Click! Akaashi shot him a withering glare.
“C’mon, it’s funny! You look so tired. Even more tired than usual.”
“Thanks a lot.” Akaashi yawned, proving Bokuto’s point. “It’s five in the morning. How are you not tired?”
“Oh, I didn’t sleep at all. I’m too excited. I drank a bunch of coffee and decided to stay up!”
Bokuto had a lot to be excited about. Fukurodani’s annual ski trip to Hokkaido came a few weeks after Nationals — which he did not want to think about, thank you very much — and while Bokuto had no idea how to ski, Akaashi did. Bokuto somehow managed to convince him both to come on the trip and to spend it teaching Bokuto the ropes. He felt lucky to have this time to spend with Akaashi, especially considering the fact that he was graduating in two months and wouldn’t get to see him every day anymore. Which Bokuto also didn’t want to think about.
“Ugh,” Akaashi muttered. “I’m getting exhausted just watching you.” Bokuto tried to stop his legs from bouncing, but the caffeine had a hold on him. “And don’t put that photo on the Internet.”
“But it’s the first picture from our trip together! And you’re so cute in your glasses—”
“Don’t be cranky ‘cause you’re sleepy—”
He pouted. “Fine.”
He was trying to think of a way to convince Akaashi to let him post the picture when their rows were called for boarding. Bokuto jumped up, causing an older couple to glower at him. He grabbed his and Akaashi’s carry-ons and ran to line up at the gate.
Akaashi followed with their tickets and identification, which Bokuto had forgotten on the bench. They let the attendant scan them and headed onto the jet bridge.
“Are you nervous, Akaashi?”
Akaashi made a face, probably because this was not the first time Bokuto had asked him that this morning. “People go on airplanes every day. I’m sure it will be fine.”
“Yeah, but you’ve never been on one before.”
“And you’ve never skied. Are you nervous about that?”
“Of course not!”
Despite his mood, Akaashi smiled. “Figures.”
Bokuto wasn’t worried about skiing — he’d be great at it, obviously — but that didn’t mean he wasn’t nervous. He had decided to confess to Akaashi on the trip, and he was terrified. It seemed like the perfect time; they’d be wrapped up in a romantic, winter cabin, drinking hot chocolate and watching the snow fall. He hoped Akaashi might agree to go out with him, or even tell him he liked him back, but there was no way to be sure what would happen.
They found their seats, and Bokuto placed both of their carry-ons in the overhead compartment as a gentlemanly gesture. “Do you want aisle or window?” Thankfully, the seats were grouped in rows of two, so they wouldn’t have a random person sitting with them.
Akaashi studied his ticket. “It says I get the aisle.”
“Yeah, but what do you want?”
“It might be nice to look out the window, I guess.”
“Okay! You can sit there. That’s better anyway, since I’ll have to go to the bathroom a bunch of times.” Bokuto had drunk a lot of coffee. Akaashi gave him a look that suggested he’d have preferred not knowing about Bokuto’s bathroom needs and folded himself into the window seat.
Bokuto hadn’t taken many flights; he’d been to Okinawa a few times, and to Hawaii, once, when he was a toddler. But he knew this was the worst part, waiting and waiting and waiting for takeoff. He tried to talk to Akaashi, but Akaashi still seemed tired, his answers clipped, and Bokuto didn’t want to bother him. He flipped through the in-flight magazine, remembered it was the most boring thing in the world, and put it back. Checked his phone. Tapped his foot. Played with the tray table until the guy in the seat in front of him asked him to stop. Made a hat out of his airsick bag.
The plane started moving as he was trying on the hat. “Hey, Akaashi, do you like my— Akaashi? What’s wrong?”
Akaashi sat with his shoulders drawn together, hands clenched on the armrests. His seatbelt was fastened so tight that it cut into his stomach.
“Bokuto-san.” he said, his voice strange and high, “I need to get off the plane.”
“Because I’m freaking. Out.” He unbuckled his seatbelt. “I have to get up—”
“Akaashi, no! You can’t!”
Akaashi ignored him and tried to climb over him into the aisle. Bokuto wrestled him back into his seat and rebuckled his belt. He kept a hand on it so Akaashi couldn’t move and offered a hopefully-reassuring smile to the people staring across the aisle.
“Bokuto-san, let me go!”
“I can’t! You’ll get in trouble.” The plane was still on the ground, but from what Bokuto understood of air travel, running around the cabin like a crazy person was a bad idea. “It’s gonna be okay. You need to relax.”
“I can’t relax! That’s the problem. It’s— I didn’t know it would be so small , and there’s so many people, what if something happens—” Akaashi looked around wildly, as if searching for an exit. Bokuto smacked at the call button, but the light didn’t come on.
“We are now approaching the runway.” The pilot’s voice was smooth as butter over the radio. “Crew members, please take your seats and prepare for takeoff.”
Akaashi started hyperventilating.
“It’s okay! It’s okay!” Honestly, Bokuto was not sure it was okay. Usually, he was the one freaking out while Akaashi talked him down. He didn’t know how to do this. But he had to, for Akaashi’s sake. “You just gotta breathe. Can you breathe?”
Akaashi took a few ragged breaths. “I think… I’m having… a panic… attack.”
“Does that happen often?”
“This is… the first one.”
Bokuto’s hand was still on Akaashi’s seatbelt. “You’re not gonna try to run again, right?”
Akaashi shook his head, his chest heaving.
“Then hold my hand.”
Akaashi grabbed it and held onto it like a life preserver as they gathered speed. The plane took to the air, the ground falling away behind them.
“It’s gonna be okay,” Bokuto repeated. “You just have to breathe.” He puffed up his cheeks and demonstrated breathing, in case Akaashi had forgotten how. “You wanna look out the window?”
“Fuck no,” Akaashi spat between gasps.
“Okay, no window.” Bokuto reached over and pulled down the shade. “Keep breathing.”
They ascended, the awful part of takeoff where the plane is tilted back at an ungodly angle seeming to take forever. Akaashi just needed to get through this. Once the plane levelled off, he’d be okay, Bokuto thought. All he could do was hold Akaashi’s hand and wait it out with him.
“Bokuto-san.” Akaashi’s hair was glued to his forehead with sweat, but his breathing seemed easier. “Distract me.”
“Okay! I can do that! Let’s see… I’ll turn on the screen thingy. It says we’re travelling at 4000 metres—”
Akaashi squeezed his eyes shut. “Not like that.”
“Right, sorry. Um.” Bokuto’s mouth hung open. Why could he not think of a single thing to say? “The trip! We’re gonna go skiing! I bet you’re really good at it. You’re probably a really good teacher, too. That’s good, ‘cause I have no idea what I’m doing, but I definitely wanna go on at least one black slope before the weekend is over!”
“Like that’s gonna happen,” Akaashi said through gritted teeth.
“Hey, you made a joke! Kind of! That’s better!”
“Okay, fine, maybe not a black slope, but at least like a really hard red one—”
The plane jolted to the right and down. Akaashi’s eyes shot open. “What the hell was that?!”
“It’s okay, it was just turbulence.”
“Is there supposed to be turbulence during takeoff?”
Bokuto considered. “I dunno. It’s never happened to me before.” Akaashi looked like he might scream. “But I’m sure everything is fine!”
Another bump rattled the plane. Akaashi gripped Bokuto’s hand tight enough to cut off circulation. “Bokuto-san—” He broke off coughing, his breath shortening again.
Oh god. Bokuto had to do something to distract him. He couldn’t let Akaashi start panicking again. He said the first thing that came to mind.
“I like you!”
Akaashi stopped coughing and stared up at him. “What?”
Bokuto kept going. “I think you’re awesome, and I have for a really long time. You’re my best friend, but I also wanna kiss you and stuff!” Akaashi blinked at him. Bokuto thought his breath was slowing.
“You’re really smart, and sweet, and fun. I was gonna tell you this weekend but, uh… I guess I’m telling you now.” He grimaced as the plane levelled off. There hadn’t been any more turbulence. “Sorry. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.”
Akaashi sucked in a deep breath. “Well. That certainly was distracting.”
“Are you okay now? The scary part is over!” The seatbelt light flickered off above them. “And we’ll get breakfast soon!”
“Just give me a second,” Akaashi said. He pulled his hand from Bokuto’s, leaving a clammy sweat behind, and wiped his glasses with his shirt. Bokuto reached out to take his hand when he finished, and Akaashi let him. He let Bokuto rub his thumb back and forth over his knuckles, too, to calm him. Bokuto thought his fingers felt more fragile without the athletic tape.
“Okay.” Akaashi let out one last deep breath. “I’m good.”
Bokuto laughed, hysterical with relief. “Oh, thank god!”
“Thank you for helping me, Bokuto-san. You were so calm.”
“Um, yeah…” Bokuto didn’t mention the fact that his heart was hammering, not only because of the panic attack, but also because of his confession. “About what I said—”
“Oh, right.” Akaashi sounded like he’d forgotten. Bokuto was a little insulted — okay, it wasn’t a great confession, but he thought he’d done alright in the heat of the moment — until Akaashi said, “I like you too.”
Bokuto’s eyes bugged out. “Really?”
“Why do you think I agreed to come on this trip in the first place? I don’t just enjoy giving skiing lessons. I wanted to spend time with you.” He ran one hand through his sweaty hair; the other stayed clasped in Bokuto’s. “I mean, look how supportive you were just now while I was losing it. Of course I like you.” He leaned close to whisper in Bokuto’s ear. “And I want to kiss you, too. Though maybe not here.”
“Definitely not here.” Bokuto still had romantic aspirations for this trip, wrapped in ski shacks and warm sweaters. His confession might not have gone as planned, but the rest of their time together would. “I’m so happy you like me back. And I’m happy you’re okay now. You are okay, right?”
Akaashi nodded. “I feel a lot better.”
“Would it make you panic if you looked out the window now?” Bokuto asked. “‘Cause I think you’ll wanna see the view. I’ll keep holding your hand the whole time.”
Akaashi agreed, so Bokuto leaned over him and lifted the shade. The sun had just risen over the clouds they were flying through, painting the sky in pink and blue and pearly white. It was a fantasy world, candy skies and cottony clouds.
Akaashi squeezed Bokuto’s hand as he leaned closer to the window. “It really is beautiful. You were right, Bokuto-san—”
“That better not have been a picture.”
“But you looked so nice watching the sunrise!”
“Give me the phone, Bokuto-san.”