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Crisis Converted

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Akaashi Keiji did not sign up for this.

In the most literal sense, he really hadn’t. Common, run-of-the-mill cops weren’t really expected to go chasing after armed drug dealers with records longer than the Bible, but that’s what he had done anyway.

“You certainly went above and beyond the call of duty, huh?” The cop that he’d worked with the most over the last several years grinned and twirled a pen between his fingers. Akaashi was at the desk of the tiny station on the corner, slumped against a wall; the right knee of his pants was torn and muddied with dirt and a little blood from where he’d hit the pavement during the scuffle. “You know, anyone else would’ve left that for Special Investigations. Let the guys with the bulletproof vests handle it.”

“He would’ve been gone by then, Sarukui,” Akaashi replied quietly. “Who knows what else he would’ve done in the time it took a detective to take him down?”

“Your dedication is really next level,” the other man said with a smile. “Most anyone else would’ve been too worried about dying to think about all of that, especially since he was waving a gun around.”

“And that’s exactly what makes him stand out from the rest of the force.” The man leaning in the doorway was someone Akaashi couldn’t recall seeing before; tall and dressed in an immaculate, crisp suit, with a lazy smile. His hair is... an impressive disaster, though. What a strange contrast. “Hey there, officers. I’m Detective Kuroo with Special Investigations 1st Unit, here to collect the shining star of this patrol group.” He smirked a little at their blank stares. “That would be you, Officer Akaashi. The Chief of Police wants a word with you.”

“...About what?” he asked carefully as he stood. “I’ve filled out all the paperwork on the arrest.”

“You engaged with an armed, wanted gang member that Special Investigations has been keeping tabs on for the last five months and got him like it was nothing. You’re gonna have to deal with a little more than the usual paperwork this time,” he grinned. “Come on, follow me. Hope you like promotions, because you’re probably gonna get one.”

Sarukui waved at him with wide eyes as Akaashi excused himself to follow Kuroo outside. “A promotion?” he asked, more than a little skeptical. “For a single arrest?”

“Nah, the Chief’s not that sloppy. Give him a little credit,” he laughed. “It’s not the first time you’ve done something like this... or even the second, or third. You’ve got a penchant for getting yourself into stuff that we should be taking care of, you know? And we noticed. Be kinda hard not to, honestly.”

He stopped in front of an unmarked black car and opened the driver side door; silently, Akaashi got in the passenger seat. “You didn’t get checked out by a doctor yet?” Kuroo asked with a quick glance to the shorter man’s knee as he started the car and pulled smoothly away from the curb.

“No. Things have been a little hectic.”

Kuroo hummed in response. “Chief’s probably gonna tell you to go see one after he talks to you.”

Akaashi nodded, but didn’t say anything in response. “Quiet guy, huh?” Kuroo asked with a grin. “That’s cool. Nothing 1st Unit isn’t used to. My partner is the same way... well. He’s a little meaner, though.”

“Is that so?” Akaashi asked, in an effort to be polite.

“Yup. For someone as quiet and disinterested as he usually is, he’s got a hell of a mouth on him sometimes. You’ll see.”

Akaashi quirked a single eyebrow at the man beside him. “You’re saying it like I’m getting promoted for sure, Detective.”

Kuroo flashed him a smile, but didn’t take his eyes off of the road. “I’m pretty sure you are. Chief’s had his eye on you for the last year. You can say no if you want, but if you’re gonna be tackling guys with guns anyway, might as well get the benefits that come along with it, right?”

“I suppose a bulletproof vest would have been a little reassuring in that situation, yes.”

Kuroo laughed as he took another turn. “I meant a pay raise, but yeah, those too. If he does offer you a promotion, you can turn it down... don’t see why you would, though, honestly.”

Akaashi didn’t say anything else, and Kuroo was silent as well as he drove the last few minutes towards their destination. As he pulled up to the curb, Akaashi unbuckled his seatbelt and stepped out, his eyes drawn to the enormous office building that loomed in front of them.

“Welcome to the Metropolitan Police Department,” Kuroo grinned. “Let’s get going. Chief Nekomata’s pretty excited to finally meet you face-to-face.”

Akaashi nodded and followed him as he walked in through the large glass doors out front; he made a lazy pace across the marble floors towards a set of elevators to the side, and pressed a button for the 18th floor once they were both inside. Akaashi was still quiet as they reached the 18th floor and the door opened to let them into the hallway; he took a deep breath, and did his best to quash his slight feeling of uneasiness as the detective led him to a room further down the hall.

“Here we are,” Kuroo said as he knocked on the door. “Chief? It’s Kuroo. Got the golden boy you wanted to see.”

“Come in,” a man called out from the other side.

Kuroo opened the door and ushered Akaashi inside. The room was large, furnished with a plush couch and various plants and paintings, but the most noticeable thing was the elderly man seated at a huge desk stacked with paperwork.

Akaashi felt a little awkward as he bowed, but the man smiled warmly and beckoned him closer. “Officer Akaashi, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person. I’m Nekomata Yasufumi, the Chief of Police.”

Akaashi already knew that, but he was a little surprised at how polite and welcoming he was. I expected him to be... rougher, I guess. “The pleasure is mine, sir.”

Nekomata smiled. “Well, I’m assuming Kuroo’s told you why you’re here. We’ve had our eye on you for a while, and the arrest you pulled off today was particularly impressive.”

“Thank you,” Akaashi replied quietly. “He... did mention a few things.”

He could swear that Nekomata’s smile turned a little predatory. “Well, then you know that we’d like you on our team. You’re an excellent officer. Too excellent to be wasted on things like purse snatching and checking foreigner IDs. Consider this your official invitation to become a detective of Special Investigations 1st Unit.”

“I accept,” he said immediately. “Thank you again. I’ll do my best.”

Nekomata and Kuroo both blinked at him, and Kuroo cracked a smile as Nekoma leaned back in his chair. “You can take some time to think about it, you know. I don’t need an answer right away.”

“That’s fine,” Akaashi replied smoothly. “A day or a week from now, I know the answer would still be the same. Extra time to consider it wouldn’t really be necessary.”

Nekomata laughed. “I like you, kid! You’ll do great here... well, in that case, welcome aboard, Detective Akaashi. We’ll have a badge ready for you tomorrow morning. Kuroo, please introduce him to the rest of 1st Unit. And, Akaashi? Please have your knee examined before you head home tonight.”

Akaashi nodded politely before following Kuroo back out of the room. “Next stop is 1st Unit’s office, I guess.” He snickered a little. “Oh, man, and you’re gonna get partnered up with the star of the show himself. We’ve had an uneven number of people since our last hire, so he’s been flying solo.”

“I see,” Akaashi said cautiously.

“He’s an interesting guy. Best detective in the city, honestly. Just a little weird, is all, but I mean. Who isn’t, right?”

“...Weird.” Akaashi repeated the word suspiciously. “How is he weird, exactly?”

“You’ll see,” Kuroo grinned. “Hope you’ve got a lot of patience. And here we are,” he said as he stopped in front of a door and swung it open. “Hey, everyone! I’m back, and I’ve got a new friend with me. This is Detective Akaashi; he’s part of 1st Unit now.”

Akaashi closed the door behind him, and took in every detail of the room in the span of half a second; there was a large desk, long enough to seat at least ten people and covered with various stacks of paperwork, half-full mugs of coffee, and several laptops, a large couch facing the glass wall that overlooked the city... and several sets of curious eyes all resting on him.

“Nice to meet you,” he said with a polite bow. “It’s an honor to be here. I’ll do my best.”

“Hey hey heyyy!” A detective sitting on the couch sprung up, his pork bun forgotten on the cushions beside where he’d been sitting a moment before. He was tall, and his eyes were so striking, and...

It seems Kuroo-san isn’t the only one with an unusual hairstyle here. His hair was streaked with black and white, and Akaashi was pretty sure there should be a law on how much gel he probably had to use every morning to get it to spike the way it did. “You’re Akaashi, right?” he asked as he took the shorter man’s hands into his own and shook them enthusiastically. “So you accepted the promotion! Awesome! I’m Bokuto Koutarou, the head of 1st Unit, and your new partner!”

“It’s nice to meet you, Bokuto-san,” he replied coolly; his lips quirked into a smile despite himself and his still slightly aching knee.

“Hey, Kenma,” Kuroo called to a short man sitting at the desk with a laptop. Another guy with interesting hair... “Stop playing Minesweeper, and say hi to the new detective.”

“I’m not playing Minesweeper,” he said quietly, still clicking away. “I’m playing Solitaire, and I’m about to win.”

Kuroo let out a long-suffering sigh, but he still smiled with exasperated fondness. “Got bored with Minesweeper, huh?”

“It was barely even a game, anyway. More like a science. It’s not fun anymore.”

“Solitaire isn’t fun either.”

“No,” he agreed. His eyes hadn’t left his screen once during the entire exchange. “But it’s better than paperwork.”

Kuroo chuckled and shook his head. “Anyway, that’s Kenma. He’s my partner, the guy with the rude streak I was telling you about in the car.”

“And that guy over there is Yaku!” Bokuto said excitedly. A man that was even shorter than Kenma waved at Akaashi from his own spot at the desk. “And next to him is his partner, Lev.”

“He’s even weirder than Bokuto is,” Kuroo said. His grin grew wider at the two men’s sudden protests.

“Rude,” Bokuto pouted.

“Yeah, yeah. Anyway, those guys over there eating at the desk are Inuoka and Yamamoto. And the last team of two at the coffee pot is Konoha and Washio.” They waved politely, and smiled knowingly as Bokuto threw an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders without warning. 

“It’s a lot to remember, but you’ll get it eventually!” he said brightly.

For his part, Akaashi looked mostly unperturbed by the unexpected closeness of the other man. He... smells like sandalwood,  he noted distantly. “...Shouldn’t you be saying that about the work itself, and not the names of my coworkers, Bokuto-san?”

Kuroo laughed as Bokuto pouted once more. “Y’know, I think you’re gonna be the perfect partner for him. Welcome aboard, Akaashi.”

Akaashi nodded in reply; Bokuto’s arm was still around his shoulder, and when he looked over at his brand new partner, he realized he was so close that he could see the flecks of gold color in the other man’s amber eyes.

“All right, I guess I gotta show you the ropes of detective work! It’ll be fun!” Bokuto promised with a warm smile. He broke away and playfully punched Akaashi in the arm. “First, though, let’s get you to a doctor for a checkup. You got that from the arrest, right?”

With a quick nod, Akaashi replied, “Yeah. It’s not that urgent, though. I’m only a little scraped up.”

“Still, still! Let’s get going!” He took hold of Akaashi’s hand and practically dragged him from the office; the other men looked after the pair as the door swung shut behind them.

“Things are about to get interesting,” Kuroo grinned.

“We’ve all heard a lot about you!” Bokuto said with a smile as he started his car up. “I’m glad you’re finally in our unit! We’re gonna be a great team.”

“Hearing everyone say that they know a lot about me is a little disconcerting,” Akaashi said coolly as he watched Bokuto drive. “I don’t know anything about the rest of you.”

“That’ll change over time, don’t worry! The most vital information you need right now is that my favorite food is yakiniku!”

“Is that so,” Akaashi said with a small smile. “All right, so now I know three things about you. Your favorite food, that you have the weirdest hair I’ve ever seen on an officer of the law, and that according to Kuroo-san, you’re the best detective in the city. In that sense, I guess I’m pretty honored to be partnered up with you.”

Bokuto’s grip on the wheel tightened with excitement. “Did he really say that?! Wait, what’s so weird about my hair?”

“He really did. And your hair is very unusual. Not that it’s a bad thing,” he said. “It’s... interesting. Unique.”

Bokuto looked a little sullen as he stopped at a red light. “You’re not just saying that, right? Hey, I’m great all around, I promise! You’ll see! We should spar together sometime while we work out!”

“...All right,” Akaashi conceded. “How often do you exercise, Bokuto-san?”

“At least every other day!” he grinned. “Unless a big case or something else comes up, anyway. I’ve gotta stay in top shape if I wanna be the best, right? We should go together! Nobody else will stay late with me,” he pouted. “They all get too tired too quickly!”

“That’s too bad. I’ll come with you next time, then. I could use an exercise partner as well.”

Bokuto’s entire face lit up with what Akaashi was pretty sure way too much happiness for such a simple agreement. “Awesome! As long as the doctor says you’re fine, maybe we could even go tonight if you want? As long as we don’t get any cases, anyway. We could totally--”

“That sounds good to me. Sure.”

“Hey hey hey, now that’s what I like to hear!” He pulled smoothly into the parking lot of the nearby hospital, and had the car parked and his seatbelt unbuckled in the blink of an eye. “Come on, let’s go!”

“You’re a very excitable person, aren’t you, Bokuto-san?” Akaashi asked wryly as he got out and closed the car door. “Most people wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about going to the hospital.”

“I’m not excited about the hospital part, but as long as you’re fine, we get to work out and stuff!”

“You’re only worried because you want someone to exercise with. I see how it is.” Bokuto looked over, brow furrowed in worry and mouth opened and ready to protest when he saw the smile curving at the corners of Akaashi’s mouth.

“Was that a joke? Akaashi! You were teasing me now, weren’t you?”

“Maybe,” he admitted as they walked towards the reception area. “Is that a bad thing?”

“Only if you think I’m annoying or something,” Bokuto laughed. “You don’t, right? I’m great! I’ll prove it later tonight when we spar!”

“I barely know you,” Akaashi said with an edge of exasperation and amusement. “But I’m sure you’re as wonderful as you say, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto’s smile was as bright as the sun. “That’s right! Don’t you doubt it!”

After a short wait, they were led to a side room where a doctor sat down and poked experimentally at Akaashi’s knee as he asked various questions.

“Well, Detective, I think you’re right. It looks like you just scraped it up a little. If it was sprained or other damage was present, you’d be in a lot more pain than you are now.” He smiled as he reached behind him for supplies. “I’ll just get it cleaned up and bandaged, and then you can be on your way. It shouldn’t affect your duties at all, but if you feel pain or discomfort, come on back and I’ll take a look.”

“Thank you,” Akaashi said as the older man disinfected the scrapes.

“Awesome! I know some great places we can work out,” Bokuto grinned.

“Don’t we have other things to do first?” Akaashi asked flatly.

Bokuto seemed to deflate a little. “Oh, yeah... I guess you’re right. We can head back to the office, and I’ll show you how to do all the boring stuff, like the paperwork and filing and where we keep the coffee.”

“Coffee is vital to our operation. That’s not boring at all,” Akaashi said serenely as the doctor wrapped gauze around his knee.

Bokuto’s grin was infectious. “You know, I like you a lot already. I’ve got a good feeling about you, Akaashi! We’re gonna be great together!”

Akaashi’s smile was wide and genuine as he stood up and tested his knee with the new bandage. “I think so too, Bokuto-san.”

Almost as soon as they got back to the office, Chief Nekomata called Bokuto into a one-on-one meeting, which left Akaashi alone in the office with Kuroo and Kenma.

“How are you liking being partnered up with the leader of this little band of misfits?” Kuroo asked with a lazy smile. He was sprawled out over the couch, typing away at his laptop; Kenma sat on the end, engrossed in a spreadsheet with a game of Solitaire open in the corner of his screen.

“He’s very... enthusiastic.” Akaashi said evenly. “I’m sure he’ll be... interesting to work with.”

Kuroo barked out a short laugh. “Yeah, that’s one way of putting it. Dude’s seriously the best detective in the city, even if he doesn’t look like it. He’s got the highest close rate for cases by a mile, and his sense of fairness and making sure he doesn’t bag the wrong guy are so intense they’ve gotten him on the shitlist of some higher ups more than once.”

“His downswings are where the real trouble starts,” Kenma said without looking away from his screen, “if you don’t know how to deal with them.”

Akaashi’s brow furrowed. “...Downswings?”

“He’s got... moods,” Kuroo explained carefully. He stopped typing and looked up at Akaashi; the new detective felt almost felt like he was being sized up. “He plays it like a joke a lot, but sometimes it’s bad. Like he gets it in his head that he’s worthless garbage or something. And he turns into a mess until he can snap out of it.” His dark eyes narrowed dangerously. “But he’s a good guy. One of the best I know. And a damn good detective. Just so we’re clear.”

Akaashi nodded. “That’s fine,” he said cautiously. “We’ve all got our inner demons. I don’t mind if Bokuto-san has some as well.”

The tension in the room evaporated as Kuroo’s frown transformed into a carefree grin. “Good man,” he laughed as he went back to his work.

It had gone unsaid, but Akaashi was relatively certain that in a way, he’d just been tested -- and luckily, managed to pass.

Bokuto was right: learning the paperwork and filing systems and regulations wasn’t particularly thrilling. But Akaashi paid attention anyway, and took in every detail with surprising speed.

“Wow, you’re sharp, aren’t you?” Bokuto asked, a little awed. “It took me a week to remember those codes and you just recited them like it was nothing! Chief Nekomata told me you were smart as hell, but I’m still really impressed!”

“Thank you,” Akaashi said, a little awkwardly. “I suppose it’s one of my strengths.”

“What do you think mine are?” Bokuto asked brightly as he unceremoniously shoved a stack of completed paperwork to the side.

Akaashi gave him a flat look. To the side, the coffee maker beeped as it finished brewing a new pot, and Kenma absentmindedly poured himself a cup while he texted someone on his phone. “Bokuto-san, we’ve only known each other for a few hours. I have no idea.”

“At least say that I’m charismatic or something,” he said a little sullenly.

“...I suppose that’s true,” Akaashi said with a tiny smile. “You’re very energetic.”

Bokuto’s entire demeanor brightened almost immediately. “Hey, that’s more like it! All right, you know the filing systems and the codes and all that stuff, so why don’t we get to the good part? Wanna go to the gym?”

Akaashi hummed quietly. “Sure, I don’t see why not. But I’ll need to stop by my apartment to get something to wear.”

“Awesome!” The unit leader twirled his keys on his fingers with a bright smile. “I keep mine in the car since I go all the time anyway. You should too, from now on!”

Akaashi nodded. “All right. I can give you directions to my place. Lead the way, Bokuto-san.”

As he followed the other man’s quick, sure pace, Akaashi couldn’t help but smile once more. I have a good feeling about this job.

As luck would have it, Akaashi’s apartment was right down the street from the gym that Bokuto liked to frequent.

Bokuto’s fingers tapped an impatient, erratic rhythm against the steering wheel as Akaashi climbed back into the passenger seat and tossed a small sports bag into the back. “All right. Sorry for the wait, Bokuto-san.”

“You’re so formal, Akaashi!” Bokuto said with a laugh as he pulled away from the curb. “Have you ever been to this gym before?”

“No,” he admitted. “I just moved to this apartment a few months ago and never got around to looking at it. I’ve been doing most of my exercise on the job, or by jogging in the mornings.”

“Ooh!! I jog every morning too! Let’s go together! It’ll be like partner bonding time, right?”

“...Sure,” he agreed. “When do you normally go?”

“Five to six in the morning, if nothing comes up. It gets my blood pumping!”

Akaashi hummed. “Do things come up a lot? You’ve mentioned it more than once.”

“Hmm, kinda,” he replied, a little subdued and thoughtful. “Especially around important events, like ambassadors visiting, or even things like high-profile concerts, or just drawn-out investigations. Stuff like that. Then the usual schedule gets disrupted... so there’s often not even much of a schedule in the first place.”

Akaashi was silent for a moment as he watched him. Bokuto’s profile was sharp, and even when he was serious, his charisma was oddly magnetic. “Does that bother you?” he asked quietly.

“Nah.” The car bounced just slightly as they pulled into the parking lot for the gym. “Work’s more important to me than anything. I’ve lived for this job since before I even had it, you know? So everything else comes in second place anyway.” He flashed Akaashi a smile as he parked and turned the car off. “Doesn’t matter to me if I jog at five or eleven, as long as cases get solved in the end! Right?”

“Yeah,” Akaashi said, even though he wasn’t sure exactly what he was agreeing with. The sentiment in general, I guess. He really is dedicated. I wonder if there’s a reason?

But now’s probably not an appropriate time to ask, he thought as they got out of the car with their respective bags. Maybe once we know each other a little bit better.

As he walked out of the locker room and caught sight of his partner, Akaashi was a little bit embarrassed, not that you could tell by looking at him. Bokuto’s workout clothes were pretty standard; a loose white t-shirt and black shorts.

But he was also wearing the most interesting combination of knee pads and thigh compression sleeves.

They stopped at his knees, and ended somewhere high up on his thighs, covered by the hem of his shorts. The sharp, muscular lines of his legs were accentuated, and Akaashi found it almost unpleasantly difficult to look away.

Bokuto had really nice legs.

He managed to tear his eyes away and focused on looking at nothing in particular as he took in the various details of the gym and stretched to warm up. He focused on his arms, then bent down to touch his toes; when he stood up and straightened out, he looked up to see something strange.

Bokuto was staring at him, with his mouth slightly open.

“Is... something wrong, Bokuto-san?” he asked, a little hesitant.

Immediately, Bokuto flushed and looked away. “N-nope! Everything’s great!” He launched into his stretches with his back to Akaashi, but the shorter man could see that the tips of his ears were faintly pink.


After a few minutes of awkward silence, Bokuto turned back around with a grin, as if nothing strange had happened at all. “All right! Are you ready?”

Akaashi nodded, and followed him out towards the opposite corner of the gym; it was mostly empty, with only a few other people training near the punching bags. Protective mats covered the entire floor, slightly soft beneath the heels of his feet.

Once they were in a good spot, Bokuto stopped, and once again Akaashi saw his entire demeanor change.

He dropped into a fighting stance so fluidly that the younger detective was caught off guard, and they hadn’t even actually started yet. Bokuto radiated a chilling intensity, his face alight with an excited, almost predatory smile. “I’m not gonna go easy on you, Akaashi. Is that okay?”

A split second later, Akaashi snapped to his senses, and dropped into his own stance, relaxed and at ease. Bokuto’s eyes widened a little, and the smaller detective nodded.

“Ready when you are, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto took a deep breath in and lunged; his fist soared towards Akaashi’s face, and for a moment, he was certain that he was going to make contact. He was just about to pull the force of the strike...

...and then Akaashi moved.

He sidestepped so quickly and so fluidly that for a second, Bokuto was disoriented. His hand went past Akaashi’s nose, and a moment later, he barely avoided being struck as he stepped back; the shorter man had dropped close to the ground and attempted to sweep Bokuto’s feet from underneath him, and he’d damn near succeeded.

“Holy shit,” he said breathlessly. Akaashi was standing again in a moment, the picture of composure as he carefully strafed his partner.

This time, Akaashi moved first; he reached forward to grapple Bokuto’s right arm, but Bokuto moved with him, twisted his body, and applied just enough pressure to Akaashi’s wrist to get him to let go. With a smile, Akaashi stepped back into his stance; he watched Bokuto with observant eyes, and the captain of the unit felt like every part of his soul was suddenly being laid bare.

“You’re very skilled, Bokuto-san. Your speed and power are both impressive,” Akaashi said quietly. “I can tell that if you really wanted to hit me, and did, it would hurt. Probably because you’d break something.”

“Are you kidding me?” he blurted. He relaxed into a normal standing position, and smiled so hard that it nearly hurt; Akaashi lowered his arms and stood up straighter, since sparring clearly wasn’t on Bokuto’s mind any longer. “Akaashi, you’re so fast that I can hardly see what you’re doing! You could mess me up good if you really wanted! No wonder you’ve been able to take down so many dangerous guys.”

Akaashi smiled, and Bokuto felt butterflies in his stomach as his thoughts began to race. Holy shit. He’s so hot. My partner is hot and I’m really gay. He tried not to cringe. Kuroo will never let me hear the end of it! Damn it! 

“I think we balance each other very well,” Akaashi said. The praise crawled along every inch of Bokuto’s skin like electricity, and in that moment, he knew he was totally fucked. “I’m looking forward to this, Bokuto-san. Both the exercise, and working together in general.”

He held out his hand, and for a moment, Bokuto just stared at him before he smiled and grabbed onto it and shook vigorously. I don’t think anyone’s ever been so excited to shake my hand before, the smaller man thought with amusement.

“Akaashi, you’re awesome!” he laughed, a little breathless. “Hey, want me to show you some martial arts forms? I took Tang Soo Do for a while!”

“So did I,” Akaashi grinned. “I’m a fourth degree black belt.”

It had taken him twenty seven years of living, but in that moment, Bokuto Koutarou was pretty sure he’d finally met the perfect man.

>bro seriously you barely know him. what if he’s a dick? he could be a total asshole, and we just havent realized it

Bokuto frowned at the text from Kuroo and typed back at a furious pace. >dude, he’s a 4th degree black belt! in the exact same martial arts style that i studied!! it’s gotta be tru love ok.

His phone vibrated a moment later with several more incoming texts.
>just cool your jets man. give it some time. take it easy
>you don’t wanna scare him off or anything. see how it works out. maybe he’ll be into you before too long ok

>i wasn’t planning on asking him out yet!! or anytime soon! i’m just saying. he’s hot and i’m so screwed. i gotta be on my best behavior.
>shit. what if he thinks i’m weird? when i get all... you know?
>it hasn’t happened in a while but it will eventually.

His hands shook a little as he typed frantically.

>it always does.

He felt a growing, unpleasant coldness inside of him as he hugged his knees. A moment later, Kuroo texted him back, much more quickly than he normally did.

>nah. i talked to him about that already. don’t be mad. but i don’t think you have anything to worry about.
>just take it easy. i think he understands. i get the feeling it’s from personal experience for him.
>you’ll be fine.

A deep sigh and full-body stretch later, Bokuto picked up his phone and wandered into his kitchen to have a snack before he passed out. He didn’t mind waiting to see if there could be something between him and Akaashi.

I just hope I don’t fuck it all up with my stupid problems.

Faint shimmers rippled through the bathwater as Akaashi sank into his tub with a sigh. Tonight was a good night for a bath bomb, he thought with a wry smile. He felt all the tension go out of his sore muscles as he came close to dozing off; he’d ended up sparring and doing exercises with Bokuto for upwards of three hours before his partner had finally called it quits for the night.

His stamina is ridiculous. No wonder nobody else wants to go to the gym with him. He focused on the feeling of the water against his skin as his thoughts continued to wander. And he wants to go jogging at five in the morning tomorrow... I guess I’ll be in top form before too long. Not that I was in bad shape anyway.

To the side, his phone vibrated against the floor. With a sigh, he dried his hands on a towel and picked it up to see a text from Sarukui, asking how his day had been.

>It still feels a little surreal, honestly. It was pretty exciting and tiring, even though I haven’t actually worked a case yet.
>I did end up working out at the gym for three hours with my new partner, though.

He paused in thought before sending another text.

>He’s very... interesting. Eccentric. But not in a bad way. He’s good at his job and loves the work. He didn’t add that Bokuto’s legs were absurdly attractive, much like the rest of him. After their workout, he’d pulled his shirt up to wipe sweat off his his forehead, and Akaashi had needed a moment to collect himself.

Sarukui didn’t really need to know that; he teased Akaashi enough as it was about being sexually frustrated, no matter how much he insisted that he didn’t mind being ‘eternally single’, as the other cop had so jokingly put it. And hopefully Bokuto was oblivious to Akaashi’s quick and slightly inappropriate stares.

But of course, Sarukui was pretty sharp in his own right.

>ok, so tell me the important thing: is he hot?

Akaashi sighed. >I’ve known him for all of 12 hours. I’m not asking my partner out on a date.

>look, give it a few weeks and report back to me ok. im invested in this. i wanna see you find love. my heart aches for you.
>work isnt everything akaashi!! let down the armor! live a little!

Akaashi rolled his eyes and set his phone back down without responding, and sank back into the water, determined to enjoy his bath.

After the long day he’d just had, he’d earned a little relaxation.

As soon as the clock hit five in the morning, Akaashi heard a sharp knock on his door.

He finished off the last of his coffee and placed the mug in the sink, and ran a hand through his slightly mussed hair one last time before he opened the door to see Bokuto standing there in his workout clothes, grinning as though it wasn’t disgustingly early.

“Hey hey hey, good morning! Ready to go?”

“Yes. I just need to put my shoes on; one moment.” He turned away to slip into his sneakers; Bokuto took the chance to peer into his apartment for a second as his curiosity got the better of him.

“Whoa, your place is pretty cozy looking! Not that it’s a bad thing,” Bokuto grinned. Akaashi shrugged as he closed and locked the door behind him.

“It’s a nice place for one person. I almost never have any guests, and I live alone, so it serves its purpose, I suppose.” He took the lead as he walked down the hall. “You know, you didn’t need to come inside the building. I would have met you outside and saved you the trouble.”

“It’s fine! I like seeing new places!” he exclaimed as they reached the elevator and got inside. “...You don’t mind, right?”

“No,” Akaashi said as he hit the button for the ground level. “I just don’t want to bother you, is all.”

“You’re not bothering me!” Bokuto said with a smile. “Don’t worry about that! You’re already the best partner I’ve ever had!”

“You’re just saying that because I stayed at the gym for three hours last night,” Akaashi said flatly. He tried not to smile, but still felt one tug at the corners of his mouth despite himself.

Bokuto grinned a little sheepishly. “Well, it definitely didn’t hurt my opinion of you! Nobody else in the office likes to work out that much, not even Lev!”

“I don’t like working out that much either,” Akaashi said drily as the doors opened and they walked out side by side. “But I’m not opposed to it, I guess.”

Bokuto laughed and slapped him on the back as they exited through the front doors. Outside, it was just as quiet as it had been inside the apartment building; most of the city was still fast asleep, and the sky was only just barely showing the first light of dawn.

“October is my favorite month to run,” Akaashi said with a small smile as they made their way to the street, and started their route with walking to warm up. “Cold, but not too cold. It’s very pleasant.”

“Yeah, yeah!” Bokuto agreed. “Summer’s the worst. It’s just hot and miserable!” He laughed as he said it, and Akaashi chuckled.

What a strange guy. “How far did you want to run today?”

“To the office and back!” he said brightly. “About eight kilometers altogether!”

“Eight kilometers... seriously, Bokuto-san, is it any wonder that nobody else wants to work out with you?” Akaashi’s pace had become more brisk, but he nearly stumbled when Bokuto slowed down, his eyes downcast.

“I mean, you don’t have to be here. If you don’t want. I don’t mind,” he said quietly. He smiled again, but it was hollow and fake in a way that Akaashi found vaguely unsettling. “It’s fine! You’re not obligated to run with me and stuff just because we’re partners, you know!”

Akaashi shook his head, and before he could think better of it, he grasped one of Bokuto’s hands and started walking again, pulling the other man along behind him. “I know that. I’m still here anyway, though, and I plan to be here whenever you need me. Please don’t let it bother you, Bokuto-san.” He turned, just enough so that Bokuto could see the weight of promise in his dark eyes and the small smile that curved at the corners of his mouth. “After all, isn’t that what partners are for?”

Speechless, Bokuto simply nodded in reply. For a long while, he was unusually quiet; but as the dawn grew brighter, so did his mood.

I guess Kuroo was probably right after all.

Later that day, Akaashi found himself thrown into his first case: investigating a smuggling ring that was likely responsible for a rash of fine art theft in one of the wealthier districts of the city.

Being part of Special Investigations involved a lot more footwork than just standing around a booth all day and responding to radio calls -- not that he minded. Life felt more fulfilling than it had before, like everything had suddenly clicked into place. He was much more active and involved with his work in 1st Unit than he’d ever been as a regular officer... and to him, it was perfect.

Two weeks, three all nighters, and countless cups of coffee later, they’d officially closed the case and made twelve arrests altogether. All that was left at the end was a mountain of paperwork -- something that Bokuto insisted they could worry about tomorrow.

“You should go home and get some sleep!” Bokuto said brightly. “Feel free to take the car!”

“But what about you, Bokuto-san?” Akaashi peered at him, a little suspicious. “You usually just drop me off. Why not do that tonight as well?”

“I’ve still got a few things to take care of, and I can just take a cab! Seriously! Go take a bath and get some rest, you definitely earned it!” He clapped him on the back and beamed at him, and Akaashi figured that was the end of it.

Once he gets an idea in his head, he’s impressively stubborn,  Akaashi thought with an exasperated fondness that was quickly becoming routine. “All right. I’ll meet you back here in the morning, then, right? At six, just to go over the last few details.”

“Sounds good! Enjoy the rest of your night!”

“You too, Bokuto-san.”

The drive back felt downright weird without Bokuto’s endless animated chatter. Just over two weeks, and he’s already become such a huge part of my life. I guess that’s part of the deal when you have a partner you work around the clock with, though.  Once he got back to his apartment, he found he didn’t even have the energy to shower; he collapsed into bed, still in his work clothes, and passed out almost immediately.

He slept deeply, and had the most pleasant dreams about familiar golden eyes.

Akaashi woke a full half hour before his alarm went off.

With a huge yawn, he shuffled into the bathroom, brushed his teeth and took a hot shower before he ate a little leftover takeout from the previous day. He washed it down with a quick cup of coffee, got dressed and was on his way, still slightly off-kilter with the unusual silence that came with the lack of Bokuto’s presence.

The streets were still mostly empty as he drove to the office; it was just before six in the morning when he entered the building, which was just as subdued as the rest of the city began to wake. He fiddled with the strap of his messenger bag as he got in the elevator and waited to get to the 18th floor.

His footsteps echoed through the empty hallway; as he stepped inside 1st Unit’s office, he blinked. It was completely silent; there was no loud greeting waiting for him, no typing, no coffee brewing.

As the door closed behind him, he felt himself smile as his eyes landed on Bokuto, slumped over a stack of paperwork, snoring lightly. He wanted to spare me the trouble of the final paperwork and filing, and ended up staying so late he fell asleep. Ridiculous.

A few moments later, he had a pot of coffee ready and waiting to be consumed as he opened his laptop and began looking over new reports, content to let his partner sleep a little while longer.

When Bokuto woke thirty minutes later, he was momentarily disoriented. The blanket that was normally on the couch was now firmly tucked around his shoulders; it fell to the floor as he sat up straight and rubbed his eyes. Huh? I didn’t get that last night... Who...?  “What... Akaashi? Shit, what time is it?”

Dark eyes crinkled with quiet mirth as Akaashi took a sip from his mug. “Just past six thirty, Bokuto-san. Good morning. And don’t worry about it. There’s coffee for you when you’d like some.”

Bokuto’s smile was as bright as the sun itself. “Akaashi, you’re seriously the best partner ever.”

The smile he got in return was quiet, but genuine. “I could say the same to you, Bokuto-san.”

to be continued in chapter 2


Chapter Text

“All right, today, let’s skip the gym! Or at least, let’s not go right away.”

Akaashi squinted at his partner as the leader of the unit downed the rest of the coffee in his mug with one huge gulp. “...Are you feeling okay, Bokuto-san?”

“Very funny,” he said as he spun his chair around. “I just wanna take you to the firing range first, is all! You probably haven’t done as much shooting practice as the rest of us have, even if you had a revolver while you were a cop. Right?”

“...That is true,” he admitted. “Are you a good marksman, Bokuto-san?”

“Of course!” he grinned. “I can give you some great tips if you need them, and you can just fire off a few clips from time to time to stay sharp! Come on, there’s a place that everyone here goes to brush up at sometimes!”

Akaashi followed him out of the office, and Bokuto rambled all the while about the training he’d done when he first became a detective. Kuroo smiled from his spot on the couch. “Seems they’re getting along pretty well,” he said as Kenma poured over a stack of paperwork.

“Yep,” the smaller man agreed as he signed a form. “Looks like he finally hit the jackpot. I was starting to think nobody would ever be able to handle him.”

“You can stick with the .38 revolver, if you want! Most of us do. ‘Sides, it’s not like we use guns all that often anyway.”

Akaashi nodded as he slipped a pair of noise cancelling ear muffs over his head; Bokuto did the same. The firing range, like the gym, was mostly empty; apparently weeknights were generally pretty slow. “Does anyone specialize in anything else?” the smaller man asked curiously.

“Yep!” Bokuto said brightly. “Kuroo’s a hell of a sniper! His accuracy is crazy, even with a normal revolver.”

“I see.” He walked towards the shooting booth at the very end, with Bokuto close behind. “...Aren’t you going to practice too, Bokuto-san?”

“That’s not my priority this time!” he smiled. “Tonight it’s all about you! I wanna help you out.”

“If you insist.” He faced the target several feet away, took a deep breath and raised the gun; a moment later, he fired off several rounds until the clip was half empty. All of them hit relatively close to the bullseye, but his lips still twisted into a displeased frown.

“Hey hey hey, not too bad! Your aim is honestly pretty good! Here, let me show you a little trick or two, though.” Bokuto stepped closer, and adjusted the angle of Akaashi’s arms just slightly; his palms were warm against the other detective’s skin as he leaned in some more, and Akaashi suddenly found it was three times as difficult to concentrate. Bokuto’s hair brushed against his partner’s cheek as he moved the smaller man’s arms a little more and brought his lips close to speak close to his ear, still covered by the earmuffs. “Keep your shoulders back here, like this, but your arms out like that... exactly! Awesome. Okay, look down the sight and try again!”

The advice was sound, but Akaashi couldn’t help but shiver a little at the feeling of Bokuto’s warm breath against his neck. He breathed in slowly, and pulled the trigger three more times, just as Bokuto exhaled against his skin yet again; the shots went just a little wide, slightly worse than his first attempt.

“...Huh.” Bokuto squinted at the target, clearly confused. “That’s so weird. It was probably just a fluke, though! Let’s try again!”

“Right,” Akaashi mumbled with flushed cheeks as he put in a new clip and took aim once more. Bokuto drew close and ran his hands over Akaashi’s arms, slow and sure to help steady and perfect his stance. “There, just like that! It should be better this time!”

Deep breath... Focus. He pulled the trigger once, twice, and then a third time; a smile broke across his features as they both looked at the target, and Bokuto whooped with joy. “Hell yeah, those were all almost dead center! See! I’m a good teacher, but you’re also a great shot!”

“Right. Thank you, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto gave him a thumbs up. “Okay, try a few more times! I’ll just watch from over here!” As he stepped out of Akaashi’s personal space, the newer detective found that he missed the closeness and warmth of his partner... even if it had made it difficult to focus on the task at hand.

But he wasn’t the only one who felt that way. A tiny thread of guilt prickled at the back of Bokuto’s mind; he knew he hadn’t needed to be quite so close, or quite so touchy. Yet... Akaashi hadn’t seemed to mind all that much.

His skin is so soft, Bokuto thought dreamily as Akaashi unloaded three more bullets into the target. It was all too easy just to sit back and watch the other man practice; after a while, Akaashi’s posture relaxed, and he turned back towards Bokuto as he removed his ear muffs.

“I think I’m done for now. But I’ve improved a lot already with your advice. Thank you, Bokuto-san.”

“You’re welcome!” he beamed. “Wanna head to the gym now, since it’s not that late yet? We could probably get an hour or two in, right?”

Akaashi laughed quietly as he holstered his gun and walked back towards the front of the building. “You’re insatiable, aren’t you. Of course I’ll go.”

“Awesome! You’re the best, Akaashi!” Bokuto laughed as he threw an arm around the younger man’s shoulders.

Akaashi smiled again, hoping that his face didn’t look as warm as it felt. “...Right. You’re not so bad yourself, Bokuto-san.”

“It’s unusually quiet without Bokuto-san or Kuroo-san here,” Akaashi commented as he filled out yet another form that afternoon. “Even when the others are gone, they’re usually so noisy that the room feels full anyway.”

Kenma hummed his agreement. Both of their partners had left just a few minutes earlier, insisting that they were going to get awesome lunches to bring back and share while they sorted through an unpleasantly large backlog of paperwork. “It’s not so bad to have some quiet time, though.”

“Yeah,” Akaashi nodded as he took a sip of lukewarm coffee. “I’m sorry if it sounded like I don’t like being here with you. It wasn’t what I meant.”

“I know,” Kenma said as he spun his chair around. It was a habit that everyone except Akaashi and Yaku seemed to indulge in. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t dislike you either.” He shrugged. “Just making sure you know, since a lot of people take my personality the wrong way.”

“I figured as much. You’re not even particularly rude to me, or anything.” He rested his chin on the palm of his hand as he looked at the smaller man. “You and Kuroo-san seem to be really in sync, despite your differences. Have you known each other a long time?”

“Childhood friends,” Kenma answered with a shrug.

“I see.” Akaashi caught a glimpse of a Solitaire window open on Kenma’s screen as he spun his chair one more time, idly clicking away. “What kind of games do you play in your free time?” he asked, curious. “Kuroo-san said you hate Solitaire.”

“Yeah. It’s just a crappy way to pass time between filling out this mountain of forms. Kuroo hauled in some Yakuza last week... it’s endless,” he groaned quietly. “I play all sorts of stuff, though... I really like Dragon Quest in particular.”

“Oh, I played those when I was younger,” Akaashi replied. “Does Kuroo-san play games, too?”

“He usually just watches,” Kenma said as a soft smile curled at his lips. “Not sure how he has so much fun doing it, but it’s been that way for years.”

“You two are really close, aren’t you?” Akaashi asked.

Kenma shrugged, but his smile grew just a little larger. “Yeah.”

Akaashi finished filling out the form he was working on, and added it to a nearby stack before he turned back to his laptop. His attention was mostly on Kenma, though. “That’s good. It seems like you work well together, and...” He shrugged a little awkwardly. “It’s important to have close people in your life.”

Kenma looked up from his screen, and in that moment, Akaashi felt like an open book; the other man’s eyes were knowing as he nodded. “Yeah... I’m glad you came to 1st Unit.”

Akaashi smiled a little. “So am I.”

Just then, Kuroo and Bokuto came barreling back into the room, their arms full of various bags of takeout; Kenma’s partner fell quiet as soon as his eyes landed on the smaller man and Akaashi. “Huh. He’s unusually happy. Did you ask him about videogames, or something?”

Akaashi looked at Kenma, then back towards Kuroo. “...He doesn’t even look any different than usual, Kuroo-san. How could you tell?”

“Years of experience,” he grinned as he set down his armload of food onto the desk. “Good job. Everyone thinks Kenma is unapproachable, so everyone assumes he hates them, and he never talks to anyone.”

Kenma ignored him, and Akaashi shrugged. “That’s their loss, if they don’t take the time to understand him.”

“Hey, that’s right! Good answer,” Kuroo smiled as he opened a soda and sat beside his partner.

Kenma met Akaashi’s eyes again, and he smiled once more as he reached for a drink. Akaashi was silent as he opened the bag that Bokuto placed in front of him, but he felt a little warmth in his chest as he mulled over the last several minutes.

1st Unit really does feel like home.

“So, there’s word that there’s been some guys selling drugs around the area that you used to patrol, Akaashi. The dangerous stuff, too; they cut it with cheap shit like chemicals to make a better profit.” Kuroo stretched out in his chair as he looked over the papers he had in his hands; to his left, Kenma was typing away at his laptop.

“I’m making a spreadsheet of the information we have so far,” he mumbled. “Hopefully it’s not indicative of a larger operation, but we can’t be too careful, especially since you busted that guy around there a few weeks ago when you got promoted.”

Bokuto spun in his chair as he sipped at his coffee. “Sounds like it’s time for a stakeout!”

“Who said it was your case?” Kuroo smirked.

“Come on, man! It’s around Akaashi’s old station. That’s like, immediate dibs if he wants to go.”

Kuroo laughed. “I’m just messing with you. You know you’re the boss, right? Even if you don’t act like it. Just go.”

“Rude,” Bokuto pouted. “Why are we friends?”

“Beats me,” Kuroo grinned. “Anyway, get going. Take some coffee with you. Don’t drive Akaashi nuts.”

“Neither of you actually asked Akaashi if he wants to check it out,” Kenma said without looking up from his screen. Bokuto and Kuroo looked up at the newer detective expectantly, waiting for his response.

He rolled his eyes and sighed. “I don’t mind. Let’s get going, Bokuto-san.”

“All right, that’s what I like to hear!” Without another word, the captain of the unit marched out of the office with his partner close behind, followed by the smiles of their coworkers.

Bokuto was unusually quiet as they pulled into an open parking space in an alleyway in the area.

“Something on your mind, Bokuto-san?”

“Just wondering stuff, I guess. What...” He chewed on his bottom lip a little as he stared out the window, at nothing in particular. “What do you think of all this? People that sell drugs. People that buy them.”

Akaashi was silent for a long moment. “...It depends,” he said quietly. “It’s not always a matter of black and white.”

“I was looking over your file the other day,” Bokuto blurted. “Don’t be mad! I was just... wondering, I guess? Because it said that you got in trouble, once.”

Akaashi nodded. “I did,” he said hesitantly. “Because I caught someone around here selling to a high schooler. But I didn’t arrest the high schooler.” His mouth twisted into a wry smile. “You already know that, though. What you want to know is why. Am I right?”

Bokuto nodded, and Akaashi sighed and looked away. “I think a lot of people don’t understand that sometimes, staying away from things like drugs has less to do with addiction, or your morals, and more to do with sanity.” His fingers tapped idly at his knee, an anxious habit that Bokuto’s eyes picked up on immediately. “If someone’s life is difficult, they may turn to unfortunate things to make it bearable. Throwing them in a cell won’t fix anything.”

He shrugged. “Sometimes, it’s like that for people selling it, too. Maybe they’re trying to make ends meet. Maybe we can help them some other way. As long as they’re not actively preying on people, or trying to hurt them, like the guy that I arrested last month, or whoever’s out here selling things laced with chemicals.”

“Exactly!” Bokuto was smiling when Akaashi’s gaze snapped over to him in mild surprise. “That’s what I think, too! It’s seriously pissed off some of the higher ups sometimes,” he laughed. “What about like... other drugs?”

“What, like... alcohol? Or... antidepressants?” Akaashi asked carefully. Bokuto nodded, so the younger detective continued. “Well, it’s the same thing, really... and things like antidepressants are necessary. Those save lives. There’s nothing wrong with people taking them, so the fact that people think they’re controversial is ridiculous.”

“I know, right? See, I knew I liked you for a reason! You’re a good guy, Akaashi. You think outside the box!” Bokuto grinned.

Akaashi smiled a little in return, but wondered if he was imagining the shadow he sensed behind his partner’s sunny expression. Bokuto plowed on, though, seemingly oblivious to the other man’s probing gaze.

“So, you’re only like a year younger than me, right? But you live alone?”

“That’s right. I’m turning twenty six in December.” He glanced out of the window again. “Why do you ask?”

“I mean, what does your family think of you living alone? Like, don’t you have a girlfriend, or something?”

“No,” Akaashi said cautiously, “I don’t. And my parents are fine with it. They don’t expect me to get married.”

Bokuto grinned a little sheepishly. “Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to pry! I was just wondering if you were like me, is all.”

Akaashi looked over at him expectantly. “What do you mean, Bokuto-san?”

“Well.” He was smiling, but it felt just a little fake, and seemed a little too much like armor instead of a genuine expression; it left Akaashi feeling a bit uneasy. “I don’t like girls! And I make enough to have my own apartment. So I’ve always lived alone.”

“Oh.” Akaashi tapped at his knee. “You don’t have to be so nervous about that, Bokuto-san. I’m gay, too.”

“I wasn’t nervous -- okay, I was a little nervous,” he admitted with a strained laugh. “Really, though? You too, huh?” Distantly, he hoped he didn’t sound as excited as he actually was. Yes! Fuck yes!!  “That’s so cool! You said your parents don’t mind?”

“They got used to the idea eventually. We had other things to worry about, anyway,” he said cryptically. “What about you, Bokuto-san? If you don’t mind telling me.”

Bokuto laughed weakly. “They had other things to worry about, too. There’s friction, I guess? They don’t like... the moods, that I get.” He looked away, and stared resolutely at the street. “Kuroo said he told you about them.”

“...A little, yes,” Akaashi admitted.

“So what?” Bokuto asked, eyes still on the road. “Do you think I’m weird?”

“No.” Akaashi hoped he sounded reassuring. “There’s nothing weird about that. It doesn’t bother me.”

“But it will,” Bokuto insisted. “Eventually. When you actually have to deal with it, and you realize how useless I get.”

Akaashi watched him, caught a little off guard by the uncharacteristically harsh words. “Please don’t underestimate me, Bokuto-san. I’m not going anywhere, and that’s final. It’s not so easy to get rid of me.”

Bokuto looked tired, but he still tried to grin regardless. “I wanna believe you, Akaashi. Maybe I will. You’re pretty different from all the guys I’ve partnered up with before, so maybe my luck’s finally turned around!”

“Thank you,” he replied with a small smile. “Have you had many partners before, Bokuto-san?”

“Oh... uh... you know, a few! They just transferred to different units or departments, is all!” His laughter sounded forced and uncomfortable.

“I see. Because of your negative moods, right?” Akaashi sighed. “Well, I’m not your old partners, Bokuto-san. I’m here to stay, unless you don’t want me to, for some reason.”

“No! You’re fine! Better than fine!” Bokuto said quickly.

“I wasn’t looking for reassurance. But thank you anyway.” Again, his fingers tapped idly against his knee. “If you get lonely or down sometime, you’re welcome to come over to my place for a while. I wouldn’t mind.” The offer was mostly out of concern and kindness, but a part of Akaashi’s mind knew there was a selfish motive in there as well. Later. I can think about that later.

“Whoa, seriously?” Bokuto’s eyes almost seemed to glow with surprised happiness. “What, like to eat and hang out and stuff?”

Akaashi smiled. “Isn’t that what people normally do when they visit friends?”

“Oh, yeah... I guess so.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Oh! Whenever I come over, I’ve gotta show you some of these great YouTube videos! There’s this one of an owl dancing, and it’s probably one of the coolest things in the universe.”

Akaashi covered his mouth with his hand as he laughed. “An owl... dancing. Sure. Do you like any certain types of movies, Bokuto-san? Maybe we could watch some together.”

“Are you kidding?! That would be awesome! Do you like American movies? There’s this one called ‘The Princess Bride’, and it’s so good.”

Bokuto continued to talk, animated and bright; if Akaashi didn’t know better, he would assume that the serious topic earlier in their conversation was completely forgotten. But he did know better -- and he also knew that he had meant what he’d said.

He knew the sort of darkness that plagued Bokuto’s mind far too well, and he also knew that Kuroo had been absolutely right; Bokuto was an incredible detective, and an even more inspiring person. Akaashi was certain that he could help him, both as a partner and a friend -- and once he put his mind to something, he wasn’t too keen on giving up.

On the second day of the stakeout, Bokuto and Akaashi were standing near a stone fence when the dealer they’d been trailing started walking in their direction.

“Shit,”  Bokuto hissed. Suddenly, he pushed Akaashi against the grey stone behind him; the smaller detective could feel vines digging into his back as his partner put his hands on either side of Akaashi’s head and leaned in closer and closer. “Pretend we’re a couple,” he whispered.

“You didn’t exactly give me much choice,” Akaashi replied just as quietly. Frustrated, he took a deep breath; he could feel the heat on his cheeks, and knew there was no way Bokuto hadn’t noticed.

But Bokuto’s were just as pink as his.

“...Hey.” Bokuto’s voice was curious and just slightly hesitant; his face dipped closer to Akaashi’s, just slightly to the side, and the rookie could feel the taller man’s warm breath against his neck. “...You smell really good.”

“Seriously, Bokuto-san?”

“Shh, don’t sound mad! At least not until they’re gone. Really, though... what do you use? Is that cologne? It’s sweet...” He leaned even closer, and took a deep breath through his nose; Akaashi shivered as he tried to control himself.

“I... I use bath bombs, sometimes,” he whispered back. “And they smell very nice.”

“A bath bomb?” He tipped forward a bit on accident; the ends of Akaashi’s hair tickled his nose. “What’s that?”

Akaashi’s eyes slipped closed. This was definitely not how I imagined this happening. “They’re these things you put in a bath... they dissolve and make the water different colors. The one I used last night makes it purple and--” Bokuto’s hands fell to his hips as they heard the footsteps of the buyer and seller come closer. “--shimmery,” he said, blatantly flustered. “Can we talk about this later?”

“Yeah,” Bokuto whispered breathlessly. His lips just barely grazed Akaashi’s jaw as he spoke, and the smaller detective was surprised he didn’t melt on the spot.

There is no way in hell that he’s completely oblivious to what he’s doing. “Bokuto-san... do you really have to be so close?”

“It has to look genuine.” The voices and footsteps were almost right next to them now; Akaashi fell silent, and gasped a little as Bokuto spoke just a little more loudly, as if he was putting on a show. “Mm, you look so good,” he said, voice heavy with lust. “Come back home with me tonight, at least for a while...”

“I...” Play along. Getting caught now would be embarrassing... not to mention dangerous. “I’d like that.” He brought his hands up and put them on Bokuto’s hips, and drew him closer. “I’d like that a lot.”

Bokuto whined and closed his eyes as he took a deep, shaky breath; the footsteps and voices started to fade as the two men walked further and further past their position. “Yeah?”

Akaashi had the distinct feeling that Bokuto wasn’t acting as much as he was pretending to -- but if he was being entirely honest, neither was he. “Yeah.”

Bokuto took in another deep lungful of air, and had to resist the incredibly strong urge to kiss his partner senseless. He’s just pretending, he reminded himself harshly, Akaashi’s just playing along, this isn’t real, I can’t push it too far...

“I... I think they’re gone, Bokuto-san. I can’t see them anymore,” Akaashi said quietly.

“Oh... uh... right.” He stepped back and immediately turned away; he made a beeline for their parked car, and tugged discreetly at his collar. Holy shit. Holy shit! I can’t tell Kuroo or he’ll never let me hear the end of it. Oh my god. I’m gonna remember that for the rest of my life.

Akaashi followed slowly behind him; his own cheeks were still tinged slightly red as he sat in the passenger seat and looked pointedly out of the window. Not that Bokuto would notice his blush, since he was doing the exact same thing. “I suppose we’re done with surveillance for today,” he said in a conversational tone. “But now we know that there definitely has been activity around here. We should keep doing this, to see if we can find some more info.” He finally looked over at Bokuto, who was staring into space with his hand over his mouth. “Bokuto-san,” he said sternly. “Are you even listening to me?”

“What? Yeah! Uh... yeah. Let’s come back tomorrow.”

Akaashi sighed. “You’re clearly distracted.”

No shit, Bokuto thought a little wildly. “Maybe? I was just wondering... uh, about those bath bombs! You should tell me more about those!”

Akaashi squinted at him. “If you’d like, I can give you one of mine, and you can try it out. They’re very nice.”

Bokuto’s face brightened into its usual cheer. “Seriously? That’d be awesome! Are there different kinds? What’s the one you used last night, that one smells really good on you.”

A fond smile twitched on Akaashi’s lips. “There are different kinds, yes. The one I used last night is my favorite. It’s called ‘Space Girl’.” His fingers tapped out an erratic rhythm against his knee. “I’ll give you a few different ones. I usually have a lot of them, since I like them a lot.”

“Akaashi! You’re awesome!” Bokuto said loudly with a huge smile as he leaned over and hooked one arm around Akaashi’s shoulders. “Let’s do some paperwork and get our data sorted out on this case, and then we can get some dinner and I’ll drop you off!”

“You’re easily pleased, aren’t you, Bokuto-san?” Akaashi asked with a smile.

Bokuto was grinning as he leaned away to buckle his seatbelt and start the car. When he looked back at Akaashi, the expression on his face was still there, but there was a hint of that chilling intensity he’d seen the very first day they’d sparred together. “With most things, yeah. But not when it comes to work.”

“I see,” Akaashi said quietly. “Do I measure up, Bokuto-san?”

“Huh?” The older man seemed a little confused. “‘Course you do, Akaashi! You’re impressive as hell! That’s why we wanted you on the team in the first place!” He pulled away from the curb and kept his eyes on the road as he continued talking. “And you haven’t disappointed me at all! I’m glad you’re my partner. If you were someone else’s, I’d probably be jealous!”

Akaashi felt a small heat, low in his stomach, as he turned the words over in his mind and thought about their narrow escape from getting caught during the stakeout. “And why is that?”

“Because you’re so incredible!” Bokuto gushed. “Seriously, just the 4th degree black belt is enough to impress me for like, the rest of my life! But you’re amazing in tons of ways. So, uh, as much as I like everyone in 1st Unit, you’re definitely the person I wanna work with the most.” He scratched his head awkwardly, and slowed down as he approached a red light. “Hopefully the feeling goes both ways, at least a little bit.”

“It does,” Akaashi said without missing a beat. “You’re very eccentric--”

“Hey!” Bokuto protested.

“--but that’s not a bad thing,” the younger detective said evenly. “I like working with you.”

Bokuto was quiet for a moment. “I hope you still feel the same way, when things get harder.”

“I will,” Akaashi said reassuringly. “I’ll weather the storm with you, Bokuto-san. And I know you’d do the same for me.”

“There could be a connection to the man I arrested last month,” Akaashi said quietly as he looked over their data. Kenma’s spreadsheet was done; it was a list of recent deals reported by locals, and arrests or incidents filed by police, all focused in the area they’d checked out earlier.

“Yep. You two might have more than some simple dealing to take care of,” Kuroo drawled as he twirled a pencil between his fingers. “That guy was part of a relatively new operation, but he’s the only one we bagged. If they’re serious -- and let’s be real, they probably are if he was armed -- then I doubt they just gave up because we got a single member of their group.”

“You should be careful,” Kenma said quietly as he typed something on his laptop.

“They’ll be fine!” Lev said with a bright smile as he ruffled Akaashi’s hair. The shorter detective fixed him with a flat look, and Lev wilted a little under his stare; a second later, he yelped as Yaku smacked him in the side.

“Don’t bother Akaashi-kun,” he said sternly. “Sorry about him, he’s an idiot.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Akaashi agreed. Lev pouted, and to the side, Kuroo snickered.

“Now, now, kids,” he said with a smirk, “let’s all be nice.” His tone became more serious, and he fixed Akaashi and Bokuto both with an intense gaze. “Seriously, though. Play it safe. If it gets more dangerous, Kenma and I are right here. We can collaborate and work the case together.”

Bokuto gave him a thumbs up and his sunniest smile. “Right! You’ve always got my back, Kuroo. Thanks!”

Kenma leaned towards Akaashi, his voice not much more than a whisper. “Take care of him. Kuroo worries about him a lot, even if he does have a great record.”

Akaashi nodded, his face solemn and serious. “You can count on me.”

“Whoa, you really do have a lot of these! Do you like them that much?” Bokuto asked.

They were standing in Akaashi’s bathroom; the cabinets above and below the sink were both open, filled with almost nothing but various bath bombs.

“They were on sale recently,” Akaashi explained quietly, “and yes, I do.” He picked a few up and held them in his hands as he closed the small doors, and handed them over to Bokuto. “Here. Try that one first,” he said as he pointed to one shaped like Saturn. “It’s the one I used last night.”

Bokuto’s answering smile made his stomach flip. He’s so genuine about everything, Akaashi thought fondly as the other detective studied the items in his hands.

“Thank you so much, Akaashi! I’ll try it out tonight!” he grinned. “I’ve never been so excited to take a bath. I’ll let you know what I think tomorrow!”

“Good. I hope you enjoy it,” Akaashi said with a small smile. “Would you like to watch some of those videos you mentioned and eat the take out we got before you go home? You mentioned something about... an owl dancing?”

Bokuto’s smile was brighter than the sun, and Akaashi had the distinct feeling that his attraction to the veteran detective was snowballing into something much, much bigger. “Yeah, you bet! Where’s your computer? Oh man, wait ‘til I show you the owl compilation video.”

“You seem to like owls a lot,” Akaashi laughed as he walked out of the bathroom and made his way to the living room.

“Yeah, they’re awesome! They’ve been my favorite animal since I was a kid,” he explained as Akaashi picked up his laptop from the couch and sat down. Bokuto plopped down beside him, and put the bath bombs and bags of food on the table nearby before scooting closer than was probably necessary.

“I like them a lot too,” Akaashi smiled as he logged on and opened a new internet tab. “What’s your favorite kind?”

Bokuto’s eyes practically glowed with happiness as he began chattering away, stopping here and there to tell Akaashi what to look up next, or to haphazardly shove noodles into his mouth. They stayed like that for hours, until Akaashi started nodding off; they’d both lost track of time.

Bokuto excused himself with a sheepish smile and made a hasty exit, and for a moment, Akaashi just stared at the door after his partner had left.

Life had gotten much more interesting, but he certainly didn’t have any complaints.

Bokuto paced his bathroom restlessly as he waited for the tub to finish filling with warm water. His damp hair tickled the back of his neck as he checked his phone for the twentieth time; he’d just finished taking a shower beforehand.

As soon as the water was high enough, he shut the faucet off and sat down inside the tub; he only hesitated for a moment before he dropped the bath bomb in front of him. He gasped in surprised delight as it began to fizz and spread in swirls of shimmering color, and watched until it had entirely dissolved. With a sigh, he leaned back and relaxed; idly, he swirled his hand through the water, entranced by the way it looked against his skin.

His eyes slipped closed after a few more moments, and he didn’t resist the urge to doze off as his thoughts began to wander.

Akaashi wasn’t kidding... these things are so cool! A smile tugged at the corners of his lips as he thought about the other man, and a tinge of pink found his cheeks as he replayed the moments from the stakeout earlier in the day. He’s amazing. He’s amazing, and I’m falling way too fast.

As he stretched, Akaashi yawned; he rubbed at his eyes as he reached for his pajamas. It had been a long day, even if nothing physically strenuous had happened; the looming hints of a large, and potentially dangerous drug ring case weighed heavily on his mind.

And he couldn’t stop thinking about just how close Bokuto had been on that side street. The heat of the other man, his breath warm against Akaashi’s skin, the faint smell of his shampoo -- the grip of his hands against Akaashi’s hips -- the memories left him feeling flushed and embarrassed, and he wasn’t at all ignorant as to why.

I’ll just... let the feelings sit for a while, and see where it goes, he thought as he laid down and curled up into his blankets. I’m patient enough. And we have other things to worry about right now, anyway.

As tired as he was, it wasn’t long before he fell asleep, and dreamed once more of the eccentric detective with bright eyes and a charismatic smile.

to be continued in chapter 3


Chapter Text

A week passed without any new information -- then two weeks. Then three. And four.

Almost two months later, they had little new information to go on, and Bokuto and Akaashi were growing frustrated.

“It’s weird,” Kuroo said one afternoon. He kicked his feet up on the shared desk. “As far as we know, we didn’t really tip them off or anything, but it’s almost like they realized we were onto them, and they’re avoiding being seen.”

Kenma sighed and rubbed his temples. “It’s almost like they’re the ones watching you, instead of the other way around.”

Kuroo looked at him curiously. “Like they were doing their own stakeout, in a way?”

Kenma shrugged in response. “It’s just the feeling I get. Too bad that the guy that Akaashi arrested three months ago gave us almost no information during the interrogation. Even behind bars, Hanamiya Yuuto is slippery.”

Akaashi looked troubled as he read over their compiled data. “If they have been playing us, this might be a lot harder than we thought.”

“Ugh,” Bokuto groaned. “Akaashi, forget the case for tonight. We can come back in the morning! Don’t think I don’t know what day it is. Let’s celebrate, and then get back to this refreshed and energized!”

Akaashi sighed as the others all looked at him, obviously waiting for an explanation. “I didn’t think you’d remember my birthday, Bokuto-san. It’s not that important, though--”

“Don’t be silly!” he laughed as he threw an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders. “Come on, we’ll go grab dinner wherever you want, and then we can watch a movie or something. Live a little!” He hardly gave Akaashi a chance to respond before he grabbed him by the hand and dragged him from the office; Akaashi sighed, but smiled and followed after him.

“They’re so cute,” Lev said with a dreamy sigh. Yaku punched him in the side of the head. “Ow! What’d I do this time?” he pouted.

“Existed,” Yaku replied with a frown.

“Don’t worry, Yaku-san, I think you’re cute, too!” Lev said with his best smile. He yelped when Yaku smacked him again; Kuroo grinned at the blush on the shorter detective’s cheeks.

“Come on, lovebirds, we’ve all got some work to do.” He ruffled Kenma’s hair as he sat beside his partner, and ignored the glare the other man shot at him. “Let’s get ahead on our paperwork and then think of something nice to get Akaashi when he comes in tomorrow.”

“I’ve got a great idea!” Lev suggested.

Kuroo narrowed his eyes. “No. You’re not allowed to have those anymore. I still can’t believe you got me a brush for my birthday. What the hell, man.”

Kenma snorted quietly, and Lev looked bashful. “I just thought you could use one, is all--”

“I know what you thought, and it’s rude. You’re an asshole without even trying to be.”

“I thought you said we had work to do, and here you are getting sensitive about your hair,” Kenma mumbled with a barely-repressed smile.

“Hey,”  Kuroo said defensively. “Stop playing Solitaire. Let’s finish these forms.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Kenma smiled quietly, his fondness evident in his catlike eyes. “We’ll grab dinner later too. Cheer up.”

Kuroo grinned, and ruffled his hair again; Kenma huffed and tried to dodge his hand, to no avail. “Now that’s what I like to hear!”

“All right, where do you wanna go?” Bokuto asked with obvious excitement as they both buckled their seatbelts.

Akaashi smiled. “It’s almost as if you’re looking forward to this more than I am, Bokuto-san.” He flipped his phone open and began typing away. “Let me find somewhere good.”

“I’m not being... overbearing, or anything, right?” At the question, Akaashi looked up, and Bokuto’s expression was tinged with uncertainty. “I mean, we don’t have to, or--”

“It’s fine, Bokuto-san. Really. I’m glad you want to celebrate with me,” he said reassuringly. “I was just going to go home and treat it as just another night, but... it’ll be nice to spend it with someone, instead.” He smiled as something on his phone caught his eye. “Perfect. Do you know where a place called Fukuro Grill is?”

“Oh,” Bokuto said, obviously pleased at Akaashi’s response. “Huh... Fukuro Grill... Isn’t that a few blocks past the gym?”

“It is. They make both of our favorite foods, so we should check it out,” he said warmly.

Bokuto’s cheeks turned bright pink as he started the car and maneuvered out of the parking lot. “Are... are you sure, Akaashi? We can always go somewhere else--”

“You deserve a nice dinner too, Bokuto-san. Besides, I just barely missed your birthday when I got promoted. This can make up for it a little until next year, when I can celebrate it properly.” They stopped at a red light; the streets were quieter now, since it was later in the evening. Akaashi looked over, and caught Bokuto staring at him, open-mouthed.

Flustered, the veteran detective looked away, and stared intently at the road ahead of him as Akaashi smiled.

Next year! That’s so far away, but he’s saying it so confidently. He really doesn’t plan on going anywhere at all.  “You’re pretty great, Akaashi,” Bokuto said quietly. “Thanks for everything.”

“I haven’t done anything deserving of thanks,” he said as he tapped his fingers against his knee.

Bokuto shook his head. “Nope! That’s not true, and you know it! Come on, don’t be so modest.” He accelerated as the light changed color, and his eyes flickered across the road to make sure it was safe; Akaashi had noticed long ago that he was a surprisingly cautious driver. “You’re one in a million, seriously.”

“One in a million what, exactly?” Akaashi asked with a smile.

“Shit, I don’t know, everything!” Bokuto laughed, slightly flustered. “One in a million partners, one in a million guys. You’re perfect. It’s unreal.”

“I’m far from perfect, Bokuto-san. We all have our flaws,” Akaashi said sagely.

“Who cares? I sure as hell don’t.” He turned onto a side street; they were almost there. “You’re perfect for me. So I don’t mind your flaws.”

Akaashi felt himself flush a little, but almost immediately, Bokuto’s entire face turned crimson as he realized what he’d just said. “I mean -- uh. As... as a partner and a friend!”

“Right,” Akaashi said with a smirk. He let it drop, though; Bokuto seized the opportunity, and changed the subject to a new show he’d started watching recently. Akaashi listened to him talk, and realized that when he was with Bokuto, just listening to him and watching him smile... he felt strangely at peace.

The restaurant was relatively small; the two detectives squeezed into a tiny wooden booth in the corner. The lighting was a little dim, but warm, and Akaashi found the atmosphere to be charming and cozy.

“This is a nice place,” he said with a quiet smile as he looked over the menu. “Thanks for suggesting that we go somewhere, Bokuto-san.”

“Hey, no problem!” he said with a bright smile. At that moment, the waiter came over; they both already knew what they wanted, so they placed their orders, then sat back and waited.

“This case has been so frustrating,” Bokuto groaned quietly. “And all that stuff that Kuroo and Kenma said is kind of unsettling, you know?”

Akaashi hummed in agreement. “Yes... I’m a little worried, honestly. We should definitely be careful as we proceed. I’ll be counting on you, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto blinked; the statement had caught him off guard. “What?”

“Isn’t that what partners do?” Akaashi asked with a wry smile. “But especially because I’m still rather new at this. I don’t have nearly as much experience as you do, and as we all know, you’re considered one of the best. And I know as well as anyone that it’s not all talk. You earned that reputation.”

A splash of pink dusted Bokuto’s cheeks, and he looked unusually shy and bashful. “Thanks, Akaashi. I’ll be counting on you too, you know?”

Akaashi’s smile grew larger, and Bokuto knew that if given half a chance, he could easily lose himself in just looking at Akaashi’s face for days on end. God, he’s gorgeous, the veteran thought helplessly. What the hell. He’s seriously so hot, and I am still so gay. Gayer than ever. Damn it.

“Thank you, Bokuto-san. That’s very flattering, especially coming from you. I respect you a lot.”

Bokuto felt like he was flying. “Thank you, Akaashi! I mean, I know I’m great, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to hear, especially from you!” He laughed as their waiter came over and set their drinks down, before promising their food would be ready shortly. He bowed and left the two men to their conversation; as usual, Bokuto found himself chattering away while Akaashi listened, with no hint of exasperation.

“Hey,” Bokuto said through a mouthful of food about half an hour later, “you’re not bored, are you?”

Akaashi blinked at him. “Of course not. Why would I be bored, Bokuto-san?” He took a sip of water. “And why worry about it now? It’s not the first time we’ve eaten together after work.”

“Yeah, but I mean, it’s your birthday! So it has to be better than usual! It’s different.”

“Not really. But thank you for worrying about me, I guess.” He smiled a little. “Don’t worry about it. Like I said, I was just going to go home, and it would just be another regular night to me. Getting a nice dinner with you isn’t bad at all. I’m happy like this.”

“Well, okay. But next year, let’s plan ahead a little! That way we can do something really special! It’ll be great!”

Akaashi felt a rush of warmth and fondness. “That sounds good. I’d like that a lot, Bokuto-san. We’ll celebrate both of our birthdays together, if you like.”

“Hell yeah!” Bokuto cheered. “That’s what I’m talking about! Come on, let’s finish up and I’ll take you home. Are you tired?”

“A little,” Akaashi admitted, “but if you’d like to watch an episode of that show you keep talking about, I wouldn’t mind. I know you want me to see it.”

Bokuto laughed. “Hey, it’s not my birthday. We’re supposed to be doing what you wanna do!”

“Well,” Akaashi said, mirth obvious in his voice, “I’d like to watch an episode of that show with you at my apartment, after I change into something that’s not a suit. So let’s pay and be on our way.”

Bokuto practically bounced out of the booth to go pay their bill, and with another small smile, Akaashi reflected that it was already the best birthday he’d had in years.

As soon as they got back to Akaashi’s apartment, he wandered into his bedroom and changed into his pajamas; tonight, it was a plain grey t-shirt and loose black pants that fell just a little low on his hips. Bokuto forcefully tore his eyes away from the tiny strip of skin that showed below the shirt as his partner stretched; a moment later, the shorter man sat down on his end of the couch, and made himself comfortable before he reached for his laptop.

Bokuto scooted close to him again, heedless of personal space; he’d made a habit of it since his first night in Akaashi’s apartment, and the other man had yet to complain. In fact... Bokuto was pretty sure he enjoyed it.

He did his best to shove the thoughts of whether or not Akaashi liked him into the back of his mind as he told him what website to go to in order to watch the first episode of the show -- a superhero anime that Bokuto swore was one of the best things he’d ever seen in his life.

Akaashi had no problems indulging most of Bokuto’s whims, this one included; even when he hadn’t ended up being all that interested in some of the things he’d suggested in the past, it was worth it just to see the other man smile. One episode became two, and then three, and Bokuto convinced him to start the fourth as well.

But halfway through, Akaashi had dozed off, slumped against his partner’s shoulder.

“Hey,” Bokuto said as he touched Akaashi’s shoulder gently. “It’s late, so I’ll go home so you can get some sleep, okay?”

“Mm,” Akaashi replied wordlessly. He yawned behind one hand and rubbed blearily at his eyes.

Before Bokuto could think better of it, he reached out and hugged the other man, warm and gentle. Akaashi stilled in his arms, but tentatively returned the embrace; he took a deep breath and relaxed like it was second nature, as if they’d done this a million times before. Bokuto’s heart felt like it was beating twice as fast as it normally did as he pulled back, and waved with his signature smile.

“Happy birthday, Akaashi. Get some rest, I’ll see you in the morning!”

“All right,” he said with a small smile. “Thank you, Bokuto-san.”

When Akaashi fell asleep that night, his dreams were there to remind him that Bokuto’s arms felt like home.

“I feel stupid,” Bokuto said with a downcast look.

“It’s just a hat, Bokuto-san.”

“Still,” he said with a frown. He was wearing a plain black baseball cap, and all of his hair was tucked up under it, with the exception of a few stray strands. His normal suit was gone, and instead he was wearing jeans and a hoodie with sneakers. Akaashi was dressed almost the exact same way, but Bokuto found the way the shorter man’s jeans hugged his legs really distracting.

Akaashi gave him a flat look. “It looks fine. It’s just for this stakeout. Your hair is very distinct. If they have been keeping an eye on us, then it’s a necessity.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. But hey!” he said, brightening almost immediately. “You look really nice with a cap! I like how you’ve got it sideways. That’s so cool!”

Akaashi flushed, just a little, despite his best efforts. “Thank you. Now let’s take up our positions at the opposite ends of the street. If you see something, whisper it into your headset.”

Bokuto gave him a mock salute along with a bright smile, and turned to take up his position near a brick wall directly behind a street light. Akaashi jogged in the opposite direction for about a block before he stopped, and sat down on a bench near the corner. He adjusted the huge sunglasses he was wearing and pulled out his phone, and opened up an ebook on owls that he’d just bought recently. He began reading a paragraph or two at a time before letting his eyes flicker up to survey the area for anyone suspicious.

“This is so much more boring when I’m not right next to you,” Bokuto whined over the headset.

Akaashi sighed. “There’s nothing we can do about that. Hopefully it won’t take too long.”

About forty five minutes later, a tall man in a business suit rounded the corner near Akaashi, with a similarly dressed man at his side. Both of them spoke in hushed tones; the taller one looked familiar, and Akaashi was certain he’d seen his face in some of the data that Kenma had assembled just a few days before.

“Bokuto-san,” he whispered. “I think we found our targets.” He rolled his eyes as the excited squeak he heard through his earpiece. “I’m going to wait until they’re a little closer to you... I’ll take the shorter one. Okay?”

“Roger that. Count of three?”

“Yes. All right... Three.” He put his phone away, still outwardly casual. “Two.” He stood up and stretched; to anyone watching, he probably just looked like a tired college student. “One.” He took a deep breath. “Go.”

In a flurry of sudden motion, he and Bokuto ran towards the men from opposite directions. “Freeze!” Bokuto roared. The taller man stilled in surprise, just for a split second; it was enough for Bokuto to dive towards him, and a moment later, he had him on the ground with his hands pinned behind his back.

The shorter one, however, immediately started running.

Akaashi didn’t waste his breath to tell him to stop; he knew whoever this guy was, he wasn’t likely to listen. Instead, he ran as fast as his legs would carry him, his heart pounding a steady and rapid beat in his chest as he sped up. The other man scrambled clumsily over a short fence to cut through a park; half a breath later, Akaashi vaulted over it gracefully, as if it was the easiest thing in the world.

He was close now -- close enough to dive forward and tackle him to the ground.

So he did.

The suspect landed face down with Akaashi balanced on his back, with one knee putting pressure between his shoulder blades. “I’m Detective Akaashi with Metropolitan PD Special Investigations. You’re coming with me for questioning.”

“Fuck you,” the man seethed through gritted teeth as Akaashi cuffed him.

“Holy shit,”  Bokuto said over their headsets with unmistakable awe in his voice. “Akaashi, that was -- that was awesome.” Oh my god, the way he just... jumped over that fence, and...

“Thank you, Bokuto-san,” he said with a wry smile. “Did you call for backup?”

“Yep! They’ll be here in a few more minutes!”

“Good.” He stood up and dusted off the knees of his jeans before hauling up the man he’d arrested. “Come on,” he said coldly. With sure steps, he led him back towards Bokuto and the taller of the two suspects.

Anticipation and adrenaline kept both of the detectives sharp. If the two men were related to the other incidents in the area, it would be their first big break on the case in a while.

“Kuroo’s doing the interrogation of the dealer right now. Wanna go see?” Bokuto asked.

“Hmm.” Akaashi poured himself a fresh cup of coffee. “Not particularly. I get the feeling that Kuroo-san won’t get much out of him. At least not until crime lab has finished analyzing the substances he was carrying. I think the second interrogations will be a lot more fruitful.”

Bokuto sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re probably right. Ugh.”

Akaashi gave him a wry smile as he sat down at the desk, in front of a fresh new stack of paperwork on the two arrests. “You just don’t want to fill out all these forms.”

“Guilty as charged,” Bokuto said with a sheepish grin as he sat beside his partner. “Bleh! Okay, okay. Let’s take care of the boring stuff, I guess. Then we can go grab some dinner, go home and clean ourselves up, and enjoy the rest of the night!”

“I suppose we’ve earned it, haven’t we... and we have been here all day. All right. Here’s your half.” He pushed a stack of papers towards Bokuto, who sighed loudly.

“You really are amazing, Akaashi. You make the worst parts of this job so much more bearable,” he said with a grin as he hooked one arm around his partner’s neck.

Akaashi smiled back with exasperated fondness. “I suppose I could say the same to you, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto breathed a huge sigh of relief when he finally closed the door of his apartment behind him.

Even with -- or maybe because Akaashi had been there -- filling out paperwork had never been so difficult, despite what he’d said to him earlier. He kicked off his shoes and immediately made his way to the bathroom; he undid the button on his jeans as he turned the water on, just shy of scalding hot. A moment later, he’d finished undressing, and stepped under the spray with another sigh.

Akaashi was really hot in action. Scratch that -- Akaashi was just really hot in general. It had been about three months since he’d become Bokuto’s partner, and the more time they spent together, the harder it was for Bokuto to stop thinking about him.

Especially when he was alone.

His eyes slipped shut as he thought of how good Akaashi always smelled, how soft his skin was, how nice his legs looked no matter what he was wearing. The sound of his voice, the way he laughed whenever Bokuto did something ridiculous... the way his eyelashes fell against his cheeks whenever his eyes slipped shut.

One of Bokuto’s hands drifted downward before he’d even realized it. The way Akaashi had reacted during that stakeout two months ago... that little gasp of surprise. What would he sound like if Bokuto dropped to his knees in front of him?

He shivered despite the warmth of the water as his hand curled around his aching cock. Fantasies of Akaashi staring down at him, flushed and desperate, blinded his thoughts. He imagined dragging his hands down Akaashi’s bare hips, taking him into his mouth and staring upwards; what would Akaashi sound like, if he moaned Bokuto’s name?

His breath came just a little faster as he began to stroke himself. What if Akaashi brought a hand up to his hair, clutched at the strands as Bokuto sucked him off? What if his hips stuttered forward, and... 

Bokuto imagined Akaashi’s cock hitting the back of his throat, and felt himself twitch in his hand. He bit his lip as he quickened his pace. I bet he tastes so good... He wanted the other man to moan his name, to beg for more, to whisper I’m so close, Bokuto-san, I’m going to...

Another gasp spilled over his lips as he imagined Akaashi coming in his mouth, thought of it spilling down his throat; his hand stroked over his length again, slick with water and his own precome as he drew closer and closer to the edge.

A heartbeat later, he came so hard that his toes curled as he slumped against the shower wall, gasping quietly as he tried to regain his breath. His heart pounded in his ears, and he felt dizzy and vaguely guilty.

But the guilt was nothing compared to the satisfaction, and with the cool tile against his cheek, he knew without a doubt that he was head over heels in love with his partner. He let the water rinse him clean, and lazily washed his hair before he turned the water off and changed into his pajamas. As he laid down in bed and pulled his blanket up to his chin, he thought of what he’d done, and of the detective with dark eyes and a gorgeous everything.

I’m so fucked, he thought, but he couldn’t even bring himself to care. I want him so much. But I’m pretty sure... unless I’m stupid, I’m pretty sure he might feel the same way...

I just hope that doesn’t change, when he sees me at my worst.

Unbeknownst to him, just a couple of miles away, Akaashi was finishing up his own shower, flustered about the fantasies he’d just indulged in.

The paperwork really was endless.

“This is so boring,” Bokuto groaned in obvious frustration as he stood up and walked over to the coffee pot. “I’m seriously so sick of paperwork. If I have to fill out another form or read another spreadsheet, I think I’m gonna go blind.”

Akaashi sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Come on, Bokuto-san. We’re nearly done for the day. The crime lab should be done with their analysis tomorrow or the day after, and we can start trying to move the case forward with whatever they give us.”

“I know, I’m just...” He shook his head as he filled the pot with water, and dumped it into the back of the machine. “I dunno, I feel restless, I guess. It feels like we’ve been doing nothing for the last fourteen hours! I’m tired of it!”

Akaashi watched him thoughtfully. He’s been unusually high strung and distracted today, he thought as Bokuto switched the coffee maker on. A moment later, the pot began to brew -- but then a weird smell began to spread through the office.

“What the hell, it smells like old cigarettes or something--”

“Did you change the old grounds from the last pot?”

Bokuto swore, which was enough of an answer to Akaashi’s question. But then he reached forward towards the pot, as if he was about to... “Wait, Bokuto-san--”

Bokuto pulled the pot out without even looking at it, and then immediately realized his mistake when the brewer continued its cycle; watered down coffee began to sizzle as it covered the burner, and the smell worsened. “Shit--” He set the pot down, but with too much force, and the bottom suddenly shattered; he yelped a little as the boiling liquid covered the front of his suit.

Akaashi was at his side in an instant. “Are you all right? Did you get burned?”

“I’m so stupid,” Bokuto whispered harshly as he threw the remnants of the pot in the trash. “No. I’m not all right, because I’m an idiot.”

Akaashi watched him, and when he spoke, he was careful with his words. “You’re not an idiot. You’re just a little on edge because of the case. That’s totally normal.”

“You’re giving me too much credit.” He refused to meet Akaashi’s eyes, and turned away as he looked forlornly at the mess he’d made.

“That’s not true. Here, I’ll help you clean up.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time someone’s had to help me clean up my own mess,” he muttered darkly. “It always comes down to this, in the end.”

Akaashi was quiet for a moment as he switched the coffee machine off and got some paper towels from the sink. He began to clean up the liquid that had spilled over the desk when he spoke. “I don’t mind this. It’s no trouble to me.”

“But you will, eventually. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to get like this since you started here, honestly!” He laughed, but there was no mirth in it; Akaashi felt a chill. “I’m seriously just a piece of shit, Akaashi. When are you finally gonna realize it?”

Akaashi knew, with absolute clarity, that this wasn’t just about the spilled coffee and the broken pot, and he was grateful that they were the only ones in the office for a change. “Never, I guess,” he said quietly. “Because it’s not true.”

Bokuto was oddly silent as he leaned over the sink. “I can’t do this right now,” he said eventually, his voice quiet and oddly small. “I need to leave. I’m going home.”

“...All right. Would you like me to drive you, Bokuto-san?”

“No. Don’t even look at me, I’m not... I’m below you, Akaashi. Don’t waste your time on me.” He walked quickly towards the door without bothering to put his blazer on, heedless of the huge stain that covered the front of his shirt. “I’ll just call a cab,” he muttered. “Or walk.”

Akaashi’s brow furrowed in concern. “Please take care. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Maybe. Who knows,” he said darkly.

He shut the door behind him, and suddenly, Akaashi was standing alone in the office, feeling very much like he’d just witnessed what Kuroo had warned him about three months earlier.

Bokuto ended up walking back to his apartment.

As soon as he shut the door behind him, he slid down to the floor, completely still for a moment before he slowly tugged his shoes off. He threw them haphazardly to the side, and a moment later managed to find the energy to stand and walk towards his bedroom.

He felt so, so tired.

It wasn’t a normal exhaustion; it seeped into his very bones, into his soul, the core of his being as he flopped down onto the mattress, still fully clothed. He closed his eyes as he thought of the case, of the mess he’d made with the coffee pot, and of Akaashi’s dark eyes and soothing voice.

Akaashi. Fuck. I looked like an idiot. And then I made it worse! He curled up into a tiny ball. God, I wish I could just... disappear. How am I gonna look him in the eyes anymore? He probably regrets ever accepting that promotion. He felt tears burn at the corner of his eyes, and his breath catch in his throat.

There’s no way he could ever feel the same way about me. I’ve just been fooling myself this whole time. Or if I ever did have a chance, I just totally fucking ruined it! An ugly, familiar darkness seemed to rise up and grip his heart and mind as he wrestled with his thoughts. Not that I didn’t see this coming, right? I warned him. But it had been so long, I was hoping... it wouldn’t happen. But it did.

It always does.

The next morning, Akaashi’s phone was unusually quiet.

He looked at it uneasily. Normally, Bokuto texted him about ten times over the course of the morning before he came over to jog and take him to work. But this time, it was silent; Akaashi wasn’t totally surprised, but nevertheless felt uncomfortable and off-balance.

He took a quick shower and made coffee; he glanced at his workout clothes, and decided that he’d skip his morning run. It would feel too weird right now without him, he thought as he put his shoes on and locked the door behind him.

It felt weird to drive in by himself, too; it wasn’t the first time he’d done it, but considering the circumstances, it was definitely the strangest. When he walked into the office, Kuroo was already there with Kenma, and they both looked at him knowingly.

“Hey there,” Kuroo said, quiet and unusually serious. “No sign of him this morning, huh?”

“No. I haven’t heard from him since he left yesterday,” Akaashi replied as he set his bag down and poured himself a cup of coffee.

Kuroo watched him with an appraising look in his eye. “Is that so. What’s your plan, then?”

“I’m going to give him some space for today,” Akaashi said quietly, “and if he still doesn’t show up tomorrow, I’ll start texting him every so often, and stop by his place with dinner to make sure he’s eating something.”

“Oh? And what if it doesn’t clear up in just a day or two?” Kuroo asked as he leaned back and propped his feet on the desk. “What if he’s like this for a week? Or two weeks? A month?”

“Well, it would definitely be troublesome,” Akaashi admitted. “I won’t lie about that. But I can still make it day-to-day without him, as much as I prefer him with me.” He thought for a moment, as though he was carefully choosing his next words. “If it took a long time, it would probably be a little stressful. But that’s fine. I’ll wait, and help him as much as I can, for as long as it takes.”

Kuroo whistled, and gave Akaashi his signature grin. “So patient. And why is that, Akaashi-kun?”

“It’s like you said when I first started,” he replied as though the answer was obvious. “Bokuto-san is a good man, and an amazing detective. We all have our own inner demons, and I won’t leave him in the cold just because he’s struggling.”

“Oh, I see. Is that all?” Kuroo asked with a knowing smirk.

Akaashi gave him a flat, unimpressed look. “I would do this for anyone in the unit, Kuroo-san.”

“Leave him alone,” Kenma muttered from the couch. “Just because he’s in love with Bokuto doesn’t mean you have to tease him about it.”

Akaashi felt his face turn bright red as Kuroo burst out in surprised laughter. “Oh my god, Kenma. The look on his face. You’re worse than I am.”

“You two deserve each other,” Akaashi said darkly as he sat down and drank his coffee.

Kuroo just laughed again in response, and hooked his arm around Kenma’s shoulders as he leaned in close to the smaller man. “We are a pretty good team, aren’t we? But that’s been true for as long as we can remember.”

Kenma didn’t say anything, but Akaashi saw the faintest hint of a smile at the corner of his lips.

The rest of the day was unimaginably boring. As loud as Bokuto had a habit of being, the silence left in the wake of his absence was uncomfortable for Akaashi. He’d grown used to his boisterous partner, and it wasn’t the same without him.

By nightfall, the crime lab still hadn’t gotten around to finishing up their work on the substances that they’d gotten from the recent arrest. If nothing else, at least I made some more headway in the paperwork and organizing our data, Akaashi thought as he rinsed his coffee mug out.

“I’m heading home,” he announced quietly as he walked back to the desk. He put his laptop back in his messenger back and slung it over his shoulders; he waved at Lev and Yaku and then made his way to the elevator, his thoughts heavy with concern. He hadn’t gone this long without seeing or hearing from Bokuto since they’d first met, and he had no idea how severe his downswings actually were.

He went straight home and made himself instant noodles for dinner; he ate them almost mechanically as he tried, and failed, to focus on the book he’d started reading during the stakeout. With a sigh, he went to take a quick shower and went to bed immediately after.

He fell asleep with his phone in his hands, and his dreams were restless and troublesome.

The next morning, he still hadn’t heard anything from Bokuto.

Akaashi got ready for work, and decided to skip his morning jog again; he’d save his energy for later. With a sigh, he headed out the door, half awake and wondering what he could do to make Bokuto’s life just a little bit easier.

To him, it didn’t feel entirely unlike drowning.

He hadn’t showered since the other day, but he still couldn’t find the energy to actually move. His appetite had vanished, and even if it hadn’t, he wasn’t sure he cared enough about anything enough to bring himself to eat.

He almost felt kind of dead inside.

His thoughts were like a hurricane as he curled up in bed, drifting in and out of sleep. How long would it be before Akaashi finally got sick of him, and decided to transfer somewhere else? Would Kuroo finally get tired of him after all these years, too? Why did people insist he was one of the best detectives in the area, when every so often, he became less than useless?

Were they all just lying to him, for some reason?

No, he told himself desperately. I’m thinking too much into it. Right? They would’ve booted me out a long time ago if it was all just a lie... right? At that moment, his phone vibrated with the sound of an incoming text. He glanced at the clock with bleary, unfocused eyes; it was just a little bit before noon. With a sigh and a sense of dread, he reached for the cell and flipped it open.

It was from Akaashi.

>Hi, Bokuto-san. I’m going to stop by later with dinner. I’ll bring your favorite from Fukuro Grill.
>The case is at a standstill right now, so I don’t have as much to do right now. I’ll be there around 6.

He read it over and over. Why is he bothering? Why isn’t he pissed off? Restlessly, he turned over on his other side, with the phone still clutched between his sweaty palms. Did he really mean it when he said this sort of thing didn’t matter?

Immediately, he felt guilty and disgusted with himself. Haha. Pathetic. I’m so desperate and it’s probably really obvious. Maybe he just wants to make sure I’m worthless before he transfers, or something...

But... was he being fair to Akaashi? Was he being insulting by thinking these things?

He stayed in bed for hours, feeling very, very small.

Akaashi knocked on the door right after 6.

For a moment, he was worried that Bokuto might not answer. He hadn’t replied to Akaashi’s earlier texts, but it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from showing up anyway.

About thirty seconds later, the door opened, and Akaashi did his best to keep his expression at its usual level of stoicism. It was obvious that Bokuto had just gotten out of the shower, but he still looked worse for wear; he was tired in a way Akaashi had never seen him, like it had seeped into his very core.

“Hey,” he said quietly. “Come in.”

Akaashi was silent as he took off his shoes and followed Bokuto into his living room. His apartment was noticeably larger than Akaashi’s, clean but with clutter here and there. Almost lifelessly, he sat down on a plush couch and motioned for Akaashi to sit beside him.

The younger detective put the bags he was holding on the table that was beside the couch before taking his seat. “I’m not doing this out of pity or because I want to see how bad it is,” Akaashi said quietly. “I’m doing this because I care about you. Just so we’re clear, Bokuto-san.” At the surprised look he got in return, he said, “I figured you might be concerned about that. Instinct from personal experience, I guess.”

Bokuto peered at him, his eyes sharp and searching as Akaashi took their food from the bags. “Akaashi,” he began quietly. “I...”

“I know you’ve seen my file.” He said it with no hint of nervousness or anger; it just sounded like a simple statement. “So you know why I understand.” Bokuto still looked guilty, despite the reassurance. Without warning, Akaashi put a plate of grilled meat in front of him. “Here. Please eat. It’ll keep your strength up.”

“You’re not sick of me?” Bokuto blurted.

“Of course not,” Akaashi replied. “As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason that I would be.”

“But...” Bokuto looked conflicted, and gestured to himself wildly. “I’m like this.”

Akaashi shrugged. “I said before that you wouldn’t get rid of me so easily. Do you want to watch more Gatchaman Crowds while we eat? I brought my laptop, just in case.”

He didn’t wait for a response before he reached for his bag and started his computer up; he balanced it on his lap, and scooted closer to Bokuto. Their legs knocked together lightly as he clicked around and started the episode they’d left off on while he ate.

At first, Bokuto’s attention was on Akaashi, instead of the show; a warm feeling burned in his heart, like comforting embers coming alight in a cold winter night. His presence, his words and his actions weren’t enough to banish the darkness completely, but they were a reassurance that he’d desperately wanted.

He was still unusually quiet as he slowly ate and watched the show with Akaashi. One episode became two, then three, then four and five; Akaashi finally started nodding off halfway through the finale.

For a while, Bokuto just sat there, content to watch the other man sleep against him. Gently, he shook Akaashi awake, already missing his presence despite the fact that he hadn’t even left yet. “Hey,” he whispered, “it’s late. You should get some rest.”

Akaashi made a wordless noise as he sat up straight and stretched; a small smile found its way to Bokuto’s lips. He’s so cute...

“Sorry for staying so late, Bokuto-san.” Akaashi put his laptop back in his bag and slipped it over his shoulders gracefully. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“I...” Bokuto wilted a little. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to go in tomorrow.”

Akaashi shook his head. “No, I understand. But I’ll see you regardless.” He smiled, and hesitated for a moment before he stepped forward and gave Bokuto a quick, loose hug. “Please take care, Bokuto-san. Good night.”

Bokuto watched him leave, a little stunned. He really is completely different than anyone I’ve partnered up with before.

Around seven in the morning, Bokuto’s phone vibrated with an incoming text from Akaashi.

>I saw a little barn owl outside my apartment this morning. It reminded me of you.

He didn’t reply; he wasn’t sure of what to say. But he read it over and over, touched that the other man was thinking of him. He got another text two hours later, around nine.

>Lev called Yaku-san short again, and Yaku-san hit him in the head as usual. You’d think he would have learned by now.

Bokuto laughed, despite the fatigue in his bones and the fog in his heart. Forty five minutes later, Akaashi texted him yet again.

>Kenma was playing a BL game on his laptop when the Chief of Police walked in...
>Nekomata-san just seemed to think it was really funny. Kenma wasn’t even embarrassed, though.

He couldn’t help but laugh out loud a little at that. Yeah, sounds like Kenma.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, Akaashi texted him periodically; not necessarily asking if he was okay, but just random tidbits of things going on or thoughts that he had about various topics. Bokuto finally replied about an hour before Akaashi was due to leave the office; he started up a small conversation about his favorite characters in the anime they were watching.

Akaashi kept up the conversation, and not once did he seem disinterested or annoyed. Around five, he sent another text about dinner.

>I’ll be over around 6 again with food, like last night. See you soon, Bokuto-san.

Bokuto looked down at the screen, and a faint smile curved at the edge of his lips.

>thanks, Akaashi. I appreciate it.

Their night ended up being a repeat of the previous one, but this time, Bokuto was just a little more like his usual self. They finished the series they’d been watching and had an animated discussion about it as they ate, and Akaashi searched up yet another owl video at Bokuto’s insistence.

By the time Akaashi was ready to leave, Bokuto seemed a little hesitant again. “Are you... uh.”

Akaashi looked at him knowingly. “I’ll see you again tomorrow, if that’s what you were wondering. There’s no cause for worry.”

“No, I mean... well, yeah,” he said with a quiet, sheepish laugh. “I... I feel a little better. Maybe I just need another day or two, you know? They don’t usually last... too long. And I think you’re helping, too.” He looked away as shame colored his features. “I think it’s worse when I just sit here by myself and wallow in it, you know? I dunno. That’s what I’ve always done, but it feels different with you around. It’s... not as hard as it was before.”

Akaashi smiled, then stepped forward and gave him another hug like he had the night before. Bokuto took a deep breath and relaxed; for a moment, he just enjoyed the closeness and warmth of the other man.

Akaashi stepped back; his eyes were full of warmth and understanding. “I’m glad to hear it. Please get some rest. I’ll talk to you again tomorrow morning, okay?”

“Y-yeah. Yeah!” Bokuto replied with a sunny smile. “All right. Thanks! Have a good night, Akaashi!”

Akaashi smiled. “You too, Bokuto-san.”

He was awake and showered the next morning when he got his first text from Akaashi at 7:30.

>I had a dream about you last night. You had these huge owl wings. They were incredible.

Bokuto put a hand to his chest. Akaashi’s having dreams about me?  This time, he replied, insistent on asking for details as he made himself a simple breakfast. He took it as a good sign; if he had the energy to move, and be productive, then maybe the downswing was almost over.

Akaashi texted him again an hour later about Kuroo complaining about paperwork, and once again, Bokuto responded to him. It was easier, now that some of the fog had lifted from his mind. Bolstered by his positive feelings, he began to clean his apartment a little as he waited for Akaashi to text him again.

An hour later, he still hadn’t heard from him, but his living room looked relatively nicer. Two hours later, there were still no new messages, but the kitchen and bathroom sparkled and smelled pretty nice. Three hours later, his phone sat untouched, and he rolled onto the couch, bored out of his mind. Maybe something came up, he thought glumly. I shouldn’t bother him, though... maybe I’ll just take a nap.

Around four in the afternoon, he finally got a text -- several, in fact.

But they weren’t from Akaashi.

Kuroo’s name flashed on his screen as he received several messages back-to-back. Concerned, he opened his cell; Kuroo usually left him alone when he needed time off of work.

>Listen. sorry to bother you, but we need you. right now. like, immediately.
>I’m serious. already called a cab. it’s gonna be at your place in the next five minutes, so be ready.

Anxiety and dread simmered in his mind as he reached for his bag and shoved his shoes on, all while trying to type out a response.

>got it. I’ll be there. what’s up? did something happen?

Kuroo didn’t reply immediately; Bokuto’s phone didn’t vibrate again until he was standing outside of his apartment complex, and what he read next made his blood run cold.

>There was a shooting at Akaashi’s old station.

to be continued in chapter 4


Chapter Text

Bokuto felt like the earth had been pulled out from under his feet.

When the cab arrived, he got inside silently, his movements mechanical and strained. His thoughts went a million miles an hour, and his heart clenched with fear.

As the driver made her way to the station, he desperately hoped that Akaashi was doing okay.

Detectives and members of the forensic team were at the station when Bokuto arrived; almost all of 1st Unit was present. The glass windows were shattered; sharp pieces were strewn across the inside of the tiny room, and an ominous red splatter decorated the desk and computer.

Akaashi was standing next to it, staring at the blood with empty eyes, completely motionless.

“Hey,” Bokuto said softly. Gently, he put a hand on Akaashi’s shoulder; the smaller man jumped for a moment, clearly startled.

“Bokuto-san.” His voice was quiet, edged with a fear that filled Bokuto’s heart with grief.

“What happened?” he asked softly.

Akaashi was silent for a moment; the noise of everyone around them faded into the background as Bokuto focused all of his attention on his partner. “Someone came by, and stopped in front of the station. Sarukui -- I worked with him here for years. We got out of the Academy at the same time.” He hesitated; outwardly, he appeared perfectly calm, but Bokuto could feel a faint tremor beneath his palm. “The stranger pulled out a gun and opened fire with no warning. He shot three times, and then ran. The first bullet missed. The other two rounds hit Sarukui in the shoulder and arm.”

“Shit. Is he...?”

“He’s alive.” Akaashi took a deep, shaky breath. “They got here before he could bleed out. He’s in the hospital, getting his wounds treated. He’ll be okay.”

Bokuto breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s good. Is there any data on the guy with the gun?”

“Just some camera footage. But we think he was wearing a wig, and he had large sunglasses and baggy clothing, including what looked like a scarf. So identifying him with the video would be next to impossible. All we know is that it was likely a male, probably around 190 cm.”

“Dammit.” His eyes scanned the scene, but his hand didn’t leave Akaashi’s shoulder. “Shootings are so rare here, too... what are the odds of this place getting targeted? Why was it a target?”

“From an outside perspective, it almost seems like a senseless, random act of violence.” Kuroo’s arms were crossed as he walked up to the pair; Kenma was off to the side, speaking in hushed tones with one of the forensic team members. “But I don’t like to believe in sheer coincidence or luck. It’s sloppy. And dangerous.”

“Yeah, I’m with you on that. Wanna work this case with us?” Bokuto asked quietly.

Kuroo barked out a short laugh. “Like you even have to ask. Kenma and I are on this one, and the drug ring case too. There’s no way I’m letting you two shoulder all of this alone. We have your back.” He gave Bokuto a meaningful look and nodded his head towards Akaashi without ever taking his eyes off of the captain of the unit. Take care of him, he seemed to say.

“We need to make sure we have our bulletproof vests on at all times during this investigation,” Kenma said quietly as he appeared at Kuroo’s side. “Until the case is closed.”

“No kidding,” Bokuto said quietly. “All right. Any close witnesses? Aren’t there usually at least two guys in these stations?”

“Yeah.” Akaashi’s voice was strained as he looked up, but he still seemed outwardly calm. “Onaga Wataru. Another officer I worked with for a long time. He’s outside, getting some fresh air.”

Kuroo looked at him thoughtfully. “You two should go question him, since you know him. You’re probably gonna visit your buddy in the hospital, right?” At Akaashi’s nod, he scrubbed a hand through his unkempt hair. “It sucks, but you should ask him some stuff when you go see him, too. Might help the case, and we’re gonna need all the help we can get.”

“That’s reasonable,” Akaashi agreed quietly. “Thank you, Kuroo-san.”

“Hey, don’t thank me, I didn’t even do anything yet. Let’s meet back up in the office after this. Kenma and I will get some vests while you talk to Onaga.” He lazily saluted him with two fingers and offered him his best grin before he turned to talk to his partner.

Gently, Bokuto tugged at Akaashi’s hand to get his attention; his gaze had momentarily drifted back towards the bloodstain. “Come on,” he said quietly. “Let’s go talk to Onaga, okay?”

Akaashi blinked at him; he seemed a little dazed. “Sure. How are you feeling today, Bokuto-san?”

Bokuto laughed in disbelief. “Seriously? How can you be worried about me at a time like this?”

Akaashi’s head tilted to the side, just a little. “Of course I’m worried about you. I can be concerned about more than one thing at a time.”

Bokuto glanced away. “But my problems are--”

“I’m guessing you’re about to say that they’re stupid. They’re not, though.” He shrugged. “Let’s go question Onaga, and then we can talk some more when we head back to the office.”

“...Sure,” Bokuto agreed, just a little hesitant. This time, it was Akaashi that tugged him by the hand; they made their way outside into the sunlight as broken glass crunched under their shoes.

“Onaga.” The man that Akaashi addressed was even taller than Bokuto, with a receding hairline despite his obvious youth. He was slumped against the wall of the building, and looked beyond exhausted. “I’m sorry to bother you.”

“Hey, Akaashi.” He smiled back at the detective, but it was weak and wobbly. “Bad circumstances to say hi in, huh? I’m guessing you’ve gotta ask me what I saw. Not that I really wanna think about it all that much.”

“Yes. I’m sorry.” His voice was quiet; behind him, Bokuto squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.

Onaga sighed heavily, and looked into the distance. “Around 10:30, the suspect stopped in front of the station. He looked... kinda weird, I guess? About my height, maybe a little taller. I’m pretty sure he was wearing a wig, too. Shoulder length, kind of gnarly looking, and blonde? He was wearing these huge sunglasses and a baggy coat over sweaters, and a scarf.” He paused, and his eyes seemed glassy and far away. “He looked in at Sarukui, and raised a gun. And then he just fired three times, and immediately ran.”

Akaashi’s voice was calm and quiet. “And you didn’t chase him, right?”

Onaga shook his head. “No... I called the paramedics and hit the silent alarm. Then I just stayed with Sarukui ‘til the ambulance came.”

“That’s understandable,” Akaashi said. “Do you have any idea why someone might have done this?”

“No way. I mean, I haven’t seriously pissed anyone off that I can think of, and Sarukui’s one of the nicest, most relaxed guys... you know. Can you imagine anyone wanting to kill him?” He shrugged, obviously uncomfortable. “I dunno, Akaashi. I can’t think of anyone with a grudge against either of us. And even if we made someone that angry, I can’t... I don’t understand why they’d do something like this.”

Akaashi was quiet for a long, long moment before he spoke. “I don’t know either. You’re both good men. You’re... you’re very good friends to me. You always have been.”

Onaga looked back at him with another weak smile. “Hey, same to you. When are you gonna visit him? I was thinking of stopping by later tonight, when all this is cleaned up.”

“I don’t know. Tomorrow, maybe... Bokuto-san and I will have a lot to do tonight. I’m going to do my best with this case.”

A small laugh tumbled past Onaga’s lips. “Thanks, Akaashi... I appreciate it, and I’m sure Sarukui does too. Take care of yourself, though, okay? Seriously.” He looked past Akaashi and made eye contact with Bokuto. “You’re his new partner, right? Keep an eye on him for us, will you?”

“Huh? Yeah, you got it!” Bokuto gave him a thumbs up and a sunny smile, but concern for his partner tickled at the corners of his mind.

“You seem like a nice guy. Thanks.” He waved at them both. “Stay safe, all right?”

Akaashi nodded. “We’ll do our best.”

Akaashi was silent as they made their way back to the car.

For a moment, Bokuto just sat there; he didn’t move to put his seatbelt on, or put the key in the ignition. He just stared at the steering wheel before he finally turned to look at Akaashi, who had an empty, numb expression on his face.

“Akaashi,” he said carefully. “I’m... I’m sorry about what happened. But we’ll figure everything out. Okay?”

Akaashi seemed to come back to himself a little, then, and he shook his head and met Bokuto’s gaze. “I’m fine, Bokuto-san. I’m worried about you, though. Are you feeling okay?”

Bokuto laughed a little, and hooked his arm around Akaashi’s shoulders. “You’re ridiculous, you know that?” he said with a fond smile as he rested his head against the other man’s cheek. “Something terrible just happened, and you’re still worried about me acting like a baby.”

“You weren’t acting like a baby,” he said with absolute seriousness. “What you struggle with is a real problem, and I understand it. I don’t hold it against you, or think less of you for it.” He took a deep breath, and some of the tension seemed to ease out of his posture as he closed his eyes. “I care about you, Bokuto-san. So of course I’m concerned.”

A flush creeped onto Bokuto’s face. “Look,” he whispered seriously. His breath ghosted across Akaashi’s cheek as he spoke. “I’ll be fine. I mean, I’m not gonna lie... I’m still kinda tired. Not the normal kind, but the one where you just... you know? But I’m feeling a little better.” He sighed. “I’ll be fine, for real. Enough to focus on this case. We’ve gotta get some justice for your friend. I care about you too, you know?! And I know this is important to you.”

Slowly, Akaashi nodded his agreement. “All right. Thank you. It means a lot to me.”

Bokuto let him go so that he could put his seatbelt on. “Don’t worry about it! That’s what partners are for.” He offered Akaashi his best smile as he started the car. “You said a while back that you’d weather the storm with me, right? Well, that goes both ways. I’m here for you too.”

Akaashi looked up to meet Bokuto’s eyes, and for the first time since that morning, he had a genuine smile on his face.

“Welcome back,” Kuroo grinned as Bokuto and Akaashi walked into the office. “We’ve got gifts! Merry Christmas.” He gestured to the desk in the middle of the room; two vests were stacked on top of each other, right next to Akaashi’s laptop.

“Man, Christmas isn’t for like two more weeks. And what kind of present is a bulletproof vest, anyway?” Bokuto laughed.

“Right now? The best kind of gift. Those are brand new, top-of-the-line. The real good shit.”

Bokuto grinned as he picked on up off the table and examined it. “Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talking about. Come here, Akaashi. Have you ever worn one of these before?”

“Not since I left the Academy, no.” He shrugged off his blazer, put it over a chair, and loosened his tie. “It’s not all that difficult, though, is it?”

Bokuto watched him with sharp eyes, and felt his mouth go a little dry as Akaashi finished with the tie and began unbuttoning his shirt. Flustered, he took off his own blazer and tie, desperately hoping that he hadn’t just gotten caught staring. “Uh... nope! Not really. Still, I’ll make sure you’ve got it on right, just in case. That okay?”

“Sure, thank you.” He finished with his buttons, and draped the shirt over the chair as well; he was wearing a white, sleeveless t-shirt under it, which wasn’t sensual in any way, but it still made heat simmer low in Bokuto’s stomach. “All right, I’m ready when you are.”

Bokuto swallowed as he stripped down to his own undershirt, and stepped forward to wrap the vest around him; his fingers brushed against the skin of Akaashi’s arms as he secured the straps around his sides. “You wanna make sure the straps are tight, but not uncomfortable.” He pulled the straps at his shoulders and made sure they were in place. “How’s that feel?”

Akaashi blinked, caught a little off guard. “Oh. It... it feels great. It’s fine. Thank you, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto watched him curiously for a moment before he turned away to grab his own vest. Was he... was he staring at my biceps just now?! He tightened the straps around his waist, and glanced up at Akaashi, who was looking at him closely; the other man flushed a little and glanced away when Bokuto met his eyes. Oh my god, I’m about eight hundred percent sure he was just checking me out.

“All right,” Bokuto said as he did his best to stay calm, “all set! We just put our clothes back on over them, and we’re good to go.” From the corner of his eye, he could see Kuroo with a shit eating grin on his face. “Hey, what’re you looking at?”

“Oh, nothing,” the other man smirked. “Nothing at all.”

Bokuto gave him his best glare. “All right, whatever. Hey, if you find anything new, text us! Akaashi and I were thinking about checking out the area tonight, to see if we can learn anything new. Connect the dots, and all that!”

“Yeah, yeah.” Kuroo’s smile vanished, and his expression suddenly became much more serious. “Look. If you get into trouble, give me or Kenma a call or something. We’ll be there in an instant if you need us.”

“We’re going to stay here to gather data on the station and crimes in the area around it recently, and talk to the forensic team,” Kenma mumbled from behind his laptop. “We got results back from the drugs you picked up from that arrest, too.”

“But don’t worry about that. Go check stuff out, and talk to Akaashi’s friend tomorrow morning. We’ve got everything taken care of on this end,” Kuroo said.

Akaashi smiled, and Bokuto threw an arm around his shoulders as he gave Kuroo and Kenma a playful salute. “Thanks a bunch! I appreciate it a lot!”

Bokuto hummed as he left the office with Akaashi, and Kuroo watched them go with a thoughtful expression on his face. He sighed, stood up, and walked over to the coffee pot to refill his mug. “I’m worried about this case, Kenma. I just have a bad feeling, you know?” He took a sip, then walked back over to plop down on the couch beside his partner. “We’ve gotta stay sharp.”

Kenma looked up at him and nodded before he turned back to his screen. “Don’t worry. We’ve all got each other’s backs.”

“How would you suggest we balance these cases, Bokuto-san?” Akaashi buckled his seatbelt and wiggled a little; he was still getting used to the feeling of wearing the bulletproof vest. “We haven’t worked two big ones at the same time before.”

“Well, different detectives would tell you different things,” he replied as he started the car. “but I say we focus on the big one! The drug ring is all potential and what-ifs, right? And we already got some guys in custody. A shooting, though... that’s a lot more immediate danger. Especially since we didn’t actually find whoever did it.” He grimaced as he pulled out of the lot. “I don’t wanna risk having him do anything else, you know?”

“Fair enough,” Akaashi agreed quietly. “I have the list of additional witnesses on my phone, if you’d like to go visit them.”

“Hmm.” Bokuto chewed thoughtfully at his lip as his eyes scanned the road. “Usually I’d say we should talk to Sarukui first, but I don’t really wanna bother him until tomorrow. He probably needs at least one night to recuperate a little.”

Akaashi’s fingers tapped at his knee. “Yes. As much as I’d like to visit him now, I’d prefer to wait as well.”

“All right! In that case, let’s go find some of those witnesses!” He grinned and turned down a side street. “Let’s get some snacks and then be on our way!”

Akaashi smiled at him, tired but fond. “Sounds good to me, Bokuto-san.”

Questioning witnesses went about as well as they’d expected it to.

Nobody could tell them anything that Onaga hadn’t already reported. After hours of going to different houses and shops, they slumped in the seats of the car, exhausted and frustrated.

“This sucks,” Bokuto groaned. “But I guess at least it makes it obvious that it was premeditated. This guy planned it out so good that we can’t get anything decent on him.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky, and the forensic team will find something.” Akaashi’s tone was hopeful, but laden with uncertainty. “It’ll take several days for them to finish analyzing everything they got from the scene, right?”

“Yeah, it usually takes them a week. Maybe a little less if they move something up in their queue.” He put his head in his hands and sighed. “Ugh, I’m so tired. I need more coffee as of like, four hours ago.”

Akaashi glanced out at the sky. “It’s getting late,” he said quietly. “Would you like to go home?”

Bokuto wilted a little, and guilt flickered across his face. “Sorry, I don’t mean to be a burden--”

“You’re not,” Akaashi replied easily. “It’s been a long day, and you’re still... recovering. And our next step is to visit Sarukui, which we agreed we would do tomorrow anyways.”

“I’m fine, seriously! Don’t worry about me.” Akaashi gave him a flat look, and his shoulders slumped a little. “I really do feel a little better, but... I wouldn’t mind going to bed, I guess, if I’m being honest.”

“Come on.” Akaashi’s voice was kind. “We can go home for tonight, and start again in the morning. I need a break, too.”

Bokuto looked at him; his heart ached with sympathy. “Yeah, it’s been a hell of a long day for you, huh? All right. I’ll take you to your place, and be back to get you bright and early. How does six in the morning sound?”

Akaashi smiled, just a little. “That’s fine with me. Thank you.”

Bokuto blinked as his alarm started to ring, and he fumbled in the dark to shut it off.

He was still tired, but not nearly as much as he had been earlier in the week. Well, he thought unhappily as he made his way to the bathroom for a quick shower, if I need motivation to get in gear, I sure as hell have it. I can’t let Akaashi down.

The warm water helped wake him up a little more; he dried off quickly and haphazardly spiked his hair up after he finished getting dressed. He made a quick stop at his fridge and grabbed an energy drink; it only took him a few moments to chug it, and he tossed the empty can in his recycling before he dashed out the door.

Even if they weren’t able to do their morning jog together, even if he still felt the lingering uneasiness of his downswing, and even if the situation was serious... he couldn’t deny that he was happy to be getting back to his old routine with Akaashi.

To Bokuto, everything seemed brighter with the other man at his side, no matter how much the world had gone to hell around them.

“Are you nervous?”

Akaashi was quiet for a moment; he finished buckling his seatbelt and made himself comfortable before he replied. “...A little,” he admitted quietly. “I’ve never dealt with a case this serious or personal before. I’m not used to...” He paused for a second, and looked away, clearly uncomfortable. “I’m not used to seeing people I care about get hurt. Not like that.”

Bokuto turned into the street, and stopped for a stray cat that crossed the road in front of them before continuing on. “Yeah, that makes sense. You said Sarukui and Onaga are both good friends of yours, right?” he asked carefully.

“Yeah.” Akaashi’s fingers tapped at his knee. “Sarukui and I went to high school together, and went to the Academy at the same time. So he’s... been there for me, during some rough times in my life.”

“...You mean the...?”

“The depression, yes. It’s not something I talk about much,” he said quietly. “A lot of people think it’s shameful. I don’t, but it’s still not something I want spread around.”

“I mean, I won’t tell anyone! I was kind of surprised to see it mentioned in your file, honestly,” Bokuto admitted.

Akaashi shrugged, and stared out the window as Bokuto continued driving. “I’ve been treated for it well. So I’m lucky, in that regard. But Sarukui knew me when my family and I were still figuring it out. Onaga hasn’t known me as long, but he became an officer about a year after we did, and he’s been around our station since. So we’ve all worked together for years.”

“Oh. Damn.” Bokuto was unusually quiet as he processed everything Akaashi had told him. Treated for it... “Was it, uh. Hard? To get help.”

“At first. But if you know where to look, and you have the resources available, it isn’t so bad, if people support you.” He turned, and gave Bokuto a calculating look. “You’ve never gotten treatment for your moods, have you, Bokuto-san?”

Bokuto immediately flushed with shame. “Uh... no. It always seemed stupid to me. Or like I didn’t deserve it? Or that it would be a waste of time, or just. I dunno, pointless?” His hands clutched just a little too tightly at the steering wheel. “I mean, I’d never say that stuff about you, or anyone else! But I always seem to find a reason not to?”

“That’s not unusual,” Akaashi replied calmly. “But if you want, I could tell you about what I did to sort of... combat it, I guess. When we’re less busy, perhaps.”

“Really?” Bokuto asked with a bright smile. “You’d do that for me?”

Akaashi’s lips curled up in a faint smile of his own, and Bokuto felt his heart flutter wildly in his chest. “Of course, Bokuto-san. I would do anything for you.”

There was little to do at the office, aside from drinking an unreasonable amount of coffee and doing an absurd amount of paperwork. Finally, around lunchtime, they got their chance to leave and get something to eat before they went to the hospital.

Akaashi’s fingers tapped at his knee as Bokuto drove; the place that Sarukui was at wasn’t too far from the office, so it didn’t take long to get there.

In a way, he almost wished it had taken longer. As he stepped out of the car with Bokuto, his palms felt clammy with sweat. He jumped a bit, startled from his thoughts as Bokuto put a reassuring hand on the small of his back.

“Hey, don’t look so down. It’ll be okay.” He gave him his best smile, but it was subdued with the weight of his own worries.

Akaashi nodded, and they stepped through the doors together. A few questions later, they had Sarukui’s room number, and were making their way down a quiet, empty hallway. Akaashi stopped in front of the door they’d been directed to; with a deep breath, he knocked and then stepped inside, with Bokuto close behind him.

Sarukui was awake, but lying down in his bed. His bandages were hidden by his hospital gown, but the IV in his hand was visible; a heart monitor beeped softly to the side as he blinked up at Akaashi.

“Hey!” he said with a tired smile. Dark circles sat under his eyes like bruises, a disconcerting contrast to the expression on his face. “What’s up, Akaashi? I figured you’d be by eventually. Onaga was here last night and mentioned you.”

“If I said ‘not much’, I’m afraid I’d be lying,” he replied with a small smile as he sat in a chair. Bokuto plopped down beside him and leaned back. “This is Bokuto-san, my partner in Special Investigations.”

“Hey hey hey, nice to meet you! Sorry the circumstances suck so much, though,” Bokuto offered a little awkwardly.

Sarukui laughed a little. “No kidding, huh? But I mean, it could be worse. I’m not dead, you know?” His smile was strained. “You have to ask me what I saw, right? But honestly, I’m even less help than Onaga was. I didn’t even get a look at the guy before I got shot, since I was looking over a police report about a stolen purse.”

“Damn,” Bokuto said quietly. “We kind of expected that, but still.”

“Yeah, sorry. Maybe the ballistics report will help, though?”

“We were thinking that too,” Akaashi said quietly. “The forensic team recovered one bullet at the scene, and now they have the two from you, since they were removed last night. We’re also going through sales records of firearms recently, as well as background checks and the psychological evaluations of people that have legally purchased them.”

“Nice, nice.” Sarukui laughed a bit sadly. “I get a bad feeling about that, though, you know?”

“Yes, me too,” Akaashi sighed. “Whoever did this certainly planned it in advance, and they obviously didn’t want to be caught, or kill themselves afterwards. So they probably wouldn’t leave an easy paperwork trail for us to find, either.”

“Yeah... sorry I can’t help you guys with a motive or anything, either. I have no idea why anyone would do this to me. The worst thing I’ve done to anyone recently was arrest a guy for harassing women on the subway near our station.”

“I figured as much. Try not to worry, though. We’ll do our best with what we have,” Akaashi said, his voice quiet but heavy with promise. He glanced over at the table near Sarukui’s bed, and took note of the empty cup there. “Would you like me to stop at the vending machine in the hallway? I could get us all drinks, and we can catch up a little, if you’d like.”

“Sure! I wanna hear all about your adventures as a detective,” he laughed. “You still know my favorite, right?”

Akaashi smiled and nodded his head a bit. “I could never forget. I’ll get you something too, Bokuto-san. Excuse me for a moment; I’ll be right back.”

Bokuto watched him leave before he turned back to Sarukui. “He’s a hell of a guy, huh?” he asked the wounded man.

“He really is,” Sarukui grinned. “But from what he tells me, so are you.”

Bokuto flushed a little. “He talks about me? What does he say?”

“Nothing bad,”  Sarukui smirked. “Actually, he has nothing but praise for you. Which is pretty surprising. Not that Akaashi is really all that hard to please, or anything, but he’s just so reserved most of the time. I’ve never seen him take such a shine to someone so quickly before.”

“Really?” Bokuto asked with a huge smile. “That’s so awesome! He’s told me a little about you, too. I mean. I guess for Akaashi, though, it’s more like a lot!”

Sarukui laughed at that. “Yeah, that sounds like Akaashi. Hey, before he comes back, though, I wanted to ask you something really quick.”

“Oh?” Bokuto leaned forward a little, obviously curious. “What is it?”

“Just... take care of him, okay?” Sarukui scratched at his chin a bit. “He’s a really good guy. We’ve been friends for ages. But he sucks at asking for help when he needs it, and he shoulders burdens all on his own without even meaning to. And something like this is...” He seemed to deflate a little, and for the first time, Bokuto could see just how tired and scared the other man really was. “I’m trying to sort of... play it off, you know? For his sake. Because I don’t want him to fall apart. But I’m really...”

“Hey, man, it’s okay. I know.” Bokuto was serious, but his charisma gave him an air of calm that seemed to reassure the bedridden officer. “We’ll figure this whole thing out. And I’ll be by Akaashi’s side no matter what. You’ve got my word on that.” He fidgeted with his sleeve a little. “I mean... not just for this, but for anything in the future, too. He means a lot to me.”

“The feeling’s mutual, you know. He cares about you a lot, too.” He managed another tired, worn out smile. “Thanks, Detective. I appreciate it a lot. More than I can say.”

“No problem! Just call me Bokuto, by the way--”

The door opened then as Akaashi came back into the room with four different cans in his arms. “You two seem to be getting along well,” he smiled. “Here you go. I got you two, Sarukui, in case you want one after we’ve left.”

“Hey, you’re the best! Thanks, Akaashi!” Sarukui’s expression seemed to brighten Akaashi’s mood a little, and Bokuto found himself feeling profoundly grateful towards a man he hardly even knew.

Akaashi slumped against the cold tile of his shower as steam began to fill the room.

The water was warm and relaxing against his tense frame, but a dull sense of despair and panic still lingered in his mind. As he concentrated, he took a deep breath and did his best to shove the feeling and thoughts away; he needed to relax, and he knew it. Think of something good, he told himself sternly.

And the first thing that came to mind was Bokuto.

His eyes slipped shut as he thought of his bright smile, and how he’d been at Akaashi’s side like glue for the last two days despite his own problems. He’s pushing himself so hard. For... for the job, and for me. He remembered when Bokuto had helped him into the bulletproof vest, and felt his breath catch in his throat a little; it was the first time he’d seen his partner in a sleeveless undershirt, and Bokuto’s arms were nothing short of godlike.

He bit his lip as he remembered how sculpted they were, how the muscles moved under his skin as he’d reached into Akaashi’s personal space and strapped his own vest on as well. How would they look after a workout? Akaashi had yet to actually see him change after they’d finished jogging or sparring at the gym.

Images of Bokuto without a shirt on and gleaming with sweat rose into his thoughts, and he bit his lip as he felt his cock twitch. With almost no hesitation at all, he let his hand fall south; at the first touch of his palm against his aching length, a tiny gasp spilled past his lips.

How would it feel, to be held in those arms? He already knew a little; he and Bokuto had embraced several times in the past. But never when the other man was hardly wearing anything. What would it be like, skin against skin? What would Bokuto’s eyes look like, as he stared at Akaashi, pupils blown wide with lust?

As he began to stroke himself, he couldn’t help but moan against the tiles, quiet and desperate. He thought of Bokuto showering, of the way his arms would look under the water --

What would it look like if Bokuto touched himself?

He moaned again, and his cheek pressed harder against the tile as he quickened his pace. He ached as he thought of Bokuto stroking himself, flushed and muscular and so gorgeous that it was entirely unfair. What would Bokuto sound like when he moaned? How would he say Akaashi’s name with his cock in his hand? What would he sound like when he came?

His eyes squeezed shut as he felt himself begin to tip over the edge; his vision whited out as pleasure spread through his body, and he gasped quietly against the wall as he came.

For a moment, he stood there as bliss washed over him. Well, he thought with embarrassed amusement, I suppose that’s one way to relax.

Eventually, he rinsed himself off and finished getting clean; he changed into his pajamas and brushed his teeth, and felt a little more at ease as he climbed into bed.

After another hour, he finally managed to fall into a restless, uneasy sleep.

The second interrogation of the dealer they’d arrested went about as well as the first.

The only thing Kuroo got him to admit to was that he’d been cutting his stock with cheaper materials to make a better profit. Forty five minutes after it started, Kuroo stalked back into 1st Unit’s office, obviously displeased as he downed an entire cup of coffee in a matter of seconds.

“That guy is like a fortress,” he muttered darkly.

“He’s definitely hiding something,” Kenma said from behind his laptop screen. “There’s no reason for a normal drug dealer to be so tight lipped. He wouldn’t even accept any bargains for info. That’s ridiculous, unless he’s keeping something from us.”

Bokuto groaned and put his head on the desk. “And it’s still gonna be a while before we get anything from forensics on the shooting. And there’s nobody left to question. Which means looking over firearm sales records and more patrolling.”

“Yes. But we should also get dinner soon, because it’s late,” Akaashi reminded him sternly. “Don’t work yourself sick, Bokuto-san.”

Bokuto gave him his signature smile and hooked an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders. “All right, all right. Let’s go get yakiniku again!”

“Sure.” Akaashi followed along as Bokuto left the office, not entirely unlike a hurricane of energy.

“He seems to be feeling better,” Kenma remarked quietly from the couch.

“Hmm.” Kuroo looked thoughtful as he stared at the closed door. “Yeah. I’m just glad Akaashi’s here to keep an eye on him. All that energy is great, until he pushes himself too hard and ends up in a hospital bed. And this would be pretty much the absolute worst time for that to happen.”

The following several days were filled with an endless amount of paperwork and scouring over records.

To keep Bokuto from feeling too restless, they went out and patrolled around the station and the area where they’d made their recent arrest for at least an hour each afternoon -- but nothing ever seemed to come of it.

A week after the shooting, he was eating lunch on the couch in 1st Unit’s office with Akaashi. “I can’t wait for forensics to get those results back to us. What’s taking so damn long?” he grumbled around a mouthful of instant noodles.

“There’s a lot to go over,” Akaashi said quietly, “and it takes time to process.” He sipped at an energy drink; he’d been looking more tired as of late, and Bokuto was growing concerned. Their knees knocked together as he reached for a pork bun on the table in front of them; Bokuto was sitting as close as he always did, but Akaashi didn’t seem to mind at all.

“Yeah, I know,” Bokuto pouted. “I’m just tired of paperwork and data hunting, you know? It gives me a headache! I’m a man of action,” he said with a grin.

“Yes, yes, I know,” Akaashi said with fond exasperation. On the table, his phone vibrated with an incoming call; Sarukui’s name appeared on the screen. With a furrowed brow, he flipped it open to answer. “Sarukui? Is everything okay?”

“No.” The officer sounded shaken, like he was on the verge of tears. “Akaashi -- I just got out of the hospital. I was -- I was going by the station, because I thought I’d say hi to Onaga, you know, and let him know I’m okay.”

“What’s the matter?” he asked quickly. “Are you hurt again?”

“No, it’s not me.” His voice wavered with fear. “Onaga’s not here. He’s in the emergency room.”

“What?” Akaashi clenched the cell so hard that his knuckles went white with tension. “Why?”

“He’s... he’s in critical condition, Akaashi. He was involved in a hit and run.” The other man took a deep breath, and Akaashi nearly dropped his phone. “Somebody tried to kill him.”

to be continued in chapter 5


Chapter Text

“I... I understand.” Akaashi’s voice wavered, and he stared out of the window with wide, unseeing eyes as he spoke.

“He’s in the same hospital I was at. Akaashi... there’s no way this was a coincidence. Please... No, I’m being selfish. You guys are already doing your best, right? But at least promise me. Promise me you’ll be careful,” Sarukui whispered. “I don’t want to see something happen to you, too.”

“Yes. I’ll... I’ll be careful. I promise. I’ll visit him soon. Thank you, Sarukui.”

“No problem... I’ll email you the report so you can look over it, I guess. I’m... I’m gonna go home. See you around.”

Akaashi’s hands shook as he slowly closed his phone and put it back on the table. He stared blankly at the floor; Bokuto looked at him with wide eyes. Near the shared desk, Kuroo and Kenma watched carefully.

“Onaga has been hospitalized,” Akaashi said after a long, heavy moment. “Currently, he’s in critical condition, from a hit and run. Sarukui says someone tried to kill him.”

“Damn,” Kuroo swore quietly. “We need more info. I’ll start making calls.”

Kenma pinched the bridge of his nose. “This is bad. The incidents are probably linked. Violent crime is rare in this area. We need to come up with a motive... maybe something against the police in that area.” He started clicking and typing. “I’ll go through the arrest records for the past year and see if I can find anything interesting.”

“Akaashi.” Bokuto’s voice was quiet and calm as he put a gentle hand on his partner’s knee. “Hey. I’m right here, okay?”

He nodded in response, but the motion was shaky, and his eyes still seemed unsettlingly empty. I can’t lose it here. I can’t fall apart. We can’t afford it. “I’ll forward Sarukui’s email to Kuroo-san and Kenma once he sends it,” he said, his voice quiet and monotone. As if on cue, his phone vibrated, and the screen notification was an alert for a new message. Bokuto’s eyes watched his hands as Akaashi opened the phone, and he didn’t miss the subtle tremors in his fingers.

“Akaashi, let’s go get lunch, okay? We’ll get some fresh air, and come back to coordinate everything. C’mon.” He stood, and after a moment, Akaashi nodded and got up as well. “We’ll be back in a little bit! Don’t have too much fun without us,” he called to the other two detectives.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Kuroo drawled. “Stay safe, kids.”

They were silent all the way back to the car.

“Listen,” Bokuto said carefully. There was a power to his voice that Akaashi had never heard before; it was like a beacon, a point of stability in a gathering storm. “We’re gonna find the guy that’s doing this, okay? But I want you to stay close to me until we figure it out.”

“...We’re always close together, Bokuto-san.”

“I know, I just mean...” He gripped the steering wheel tightly and frowned. “I don’t want you to get hurt, Akaashi.” He looked uneasy. “We don’t know yet if this asshole is gonna target anyone else. And the idea of the stuff that happened to Sarukui and Onaga happening to you...” He looked a little green. “It makes me sick.”

Akaashi stared at him, his mouth open slightly in shock. “...I’ll be fine,” he said after a moment. “Even if he wants more targets, I might not be in danger, since I don’t work at the station anymore, and it seems as if his vendetta -- or whatever it is -- is against the officers there.”

“I get that,” Bokuto replied quietly. “But if we get the data to go after this guy, we’re probably gonna make him mad. And that means putting ourselves in danger.”

Akaashi watched him, his eyes unreadable. “...I understand. I’ll be as careful as I can. But I want you to promise me the same thing, all right?” There was a hint of desperation and fear in his gaze, gone so suddenly that Bokuto thought he might have imagined it. “Promise me you’ll be careful.”

Bokuto nodded. “I promise. And I promise that I have your back, too. No matter what happens.”

“Yeah.” Akaashi smiled, but it seemed tired and heavy in a way that made Bokuto’s heart ache. “I know.”

The drive into the office the next morning was unusually tense. Bokuto hadn’t missed the dark circles under Akaashi’s eyes; there was no doubt in his mind that his partner had hardly slept at all the night before.

“Anything new since I dropped you off last night?” he asked quietly.

“Yes. I’ve been in contact with Kenma.” He rubbed at his eyes and sighed. “The hit and run took place on a side street. There were no witnesses, aside from the security camera at a small hole-in-the-wall convenience store. Kenma said they analyzed that, but the car had tinted windows and no plates. All they could pull from it was the make and model.” Akaashi looked more tired and frustrated than Bokuto had ever seen him before. “There’s no way this was an accident. It was definitely premeditated, just like the shooting.”

“Ugh.” Bokuto kept his eyes on the road, but his mouth was twisted into a displeased scowl. “You said they got the make and model of the car, though, right? And the color too?”

“That’s right.”

“We can cross reference that with vehicle registrations and see if we can find any matches. Knowing this asshole’s streak, though, the car’s probably stolen and modified.” He rolled to a careful stop at a red light, and took a moment to glance over at Akaashi. “How are you feeling? Did you sleep enough last night?” Pretty sure I already know the answer, but...

Akaashi was quiet for a moment. “I’ll be fine, Bokuto-san.”

“C’mon, Akaashi, that’s not what I asked.” His eyes flickered back to the road as the light changed, and he began driving again. “If you need to take a break to catch a little sleep at some point in the day, let us know, all right? We can clear off the couch for you! It’s pretty comfortable, we’ve all used it sometimes. Usually when we’re pulling all-nighters.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I don’t see myself doing that. I’ll try taking a sleeping pill to rest better.” His fingers tapped quickly at his knee. “I just... don’t want to waste time sleeping, when I could be working on the case instead.”

Bokuto frowned, obviously unhappy. “Akaashi, if you make yourself sick, it’s only gonna be harder to work the case. Seriously, take it from the guy that’s collapsed from exhaustion more than once. And it’s not like I’m in bad health, either, but it still happened!”

Akaashi’s brow furrowed in concern. “You’ve actually collapsed from working too much?”

“Yeah, a few times over the years. Like sometimes, instead of not even being able to get out of bed, I just can’t stop working, or I get really intense about a case? And if I end up pulling more than three all nighters in a week, it’s usually trouble,” he said with a weak laugh. “I just... don’t wanna see that happen to you, you know? ‘Cause it’s not good for you, and I know it’d just frustrate you even more if you got stuck on bedrest instead of being able to work right now.”

“...I suppose you have a point,” he admitted. “But I--”

“Okay, hey, how about this,” Bokuto said with a smile. “Let’s compromise! What are you doing on Christmas?”

“Oh.” Akaashi blinked, a little taken aback by the question. “I was just going to work.”

Bokuto’s smile turned into an almost exaggerated frown. “Akaashi,”  he said sternly, “that’s no good. What about your parents?”

“I insisted that they have a nice vacation together this year, since I’ve been busy. They’re going to be coming back from out of town the morning after.” He looked at his partner curiously. “What about you, Bokuto-san? Do you have plans with your family?”

“Nope!” he answered brightly, without elaborating at all. “So we should totally do something together. Let’s have a nice, relaxed Christmas night. No investigating. No work. Then you can come into the case with more energy! How about it?”

Despite the weight of everything on his shoulders, Akaashi managed a genuine smile as a pleasant warmth spread through his chest. “I’d really like that a lot, honestly. Thank you.”

The next morning, Bokuto had breakfast with him when he showed up at Akaashi’s door.

“Here, eat this!” Without thinking, he shoved the bag into one of Akaashi’s arms, and then grabbed his free hand to pull him back towards the elevator. “I got some awesome new coffee beans when I stopped by the store, too, so we can have the good stuff today!”

“Oh.” Akaashi blinked, still a little groggy. “Thank you, Bokuto-san. That’s very thoughtful of you.”

Bokuto gave him his most radiant smile as he pushed the button to open the elevator doors. “No problem! By the way, the ballistics report came back. Seems the guy used a .38 revolver. But they haven’t been able to find any records matching a sale, so...”

“In addition to being frustrating, the implications are bad.” Akaashi was quiet as he thought; Bokuto stood so close to him that their arms brushed as the elevator began to descend. He still hadn’t let go of Akaashi’s hand. “Whoever this is knows what he’s doing, and he likely has a decent knowledge of the black market.”

“Yeah. Might even be more than one person. At least, that’s what I think!” He checked his spikes in the reflective surface of the door just before it opened. “Like a puppetmaster, maybe. Some guy controlling a bunch of pawns.”

Akaashi looked thoughtful as they made their way through the lobby and to the car. “That’s an interesting idea.”

“Right? Hey, eat that! It’s good.”

Akaashi offered him a warm, if exhausted smile. “Are you worried about me, Bokuto-san?”

Bokuto smiled, equal parts amused and sad. “Akaashi, seriously. Duh? Of course I’m worried about you, are you kidding me?” He blushed a little as he buckled his seatbelt, and wouldn’t meet Akaashi’s eyes. “You mean a lot to me, and... I mean, I know this has been hard on you lately. So like, how could I not be worried?”

Pink dusted Akaashi’s cheeks as he adjusted his scarf. “...Thank you. I’m sorry that I’ve been concerning you.”

“Come on, don’t give me that! You’ve got nothing to apologize for,” Bokuto said brightly as he started the car.

“No, I do. I’ve been selfish lately. You hardly had time to feel better before this entire thing started, and I should’ve taken more care to be sure that you’ve been feeling all right.” Guilt marred his features. “I’ve been worried about you, but...”

Bokuto shook his head, and then pulled out of the lot. “Nah, seriously, I’m fine. I was shaky for a few days after I came back, but like... you helped me a lot, you know? I dunno if you realize that, but it’s true! Especially those few days before the first incident, when I could barely get out of bed.” His eyes scanned the road as he spoke. “It didn’t cure it completely or anything, but it made it a lot more bearable. So I’m really grateful, and you shouldn’t worry about it!”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Akaashi said warmly. “Really.”

Bokuto’s smile was bright enough to chase away some of the shadows lingering in his heart.

Onaga was still unconscious.

Akaashi wasn’t entirely surprised, but seeing his friend lying in a hospital bed, covered in casts and bandages and wires, was hard to bear.

Bokuto’s hand on the small of his back was a reassuring warmth as they stood together quietly. “At least he stabilized, right?” he whispered to the smaller man. “That’s good news.”

“Yes,” Akaashi agreed. “He’ll recover with time, and I’m grateful for that.” His eyes seemed sad and far away. “But I wish he didn’t have to suffer so much... and it was a very close call. It’s... it’s unsettling. In the space of a week, I’ve almost lost two of my best friends to violence.” He sucked in a deep breath and closed his eyes. “I don’t know how to deal with that. So I’ve just been working nonstop, so that I don’t have to.”

“Akaashi.” Bokuto’s voice was soft as he stepped closer; he rested his hands on his shoulders for a moment, and then pulled him into a warm hug. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. Their ears brushed, and the ends of his hair tickled Akaashi’s nose as their cheeks rested against one another. “I’m gonna be here every step of the way, even after it’s over.”

Akaashi was quiet for a moment, but he wrapped his arms around Bokuto and closed his eyes. Some of the tension ebbed out of his posture as he relaxed, and his heart felt just a little less heavy. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “Thank you for everything.”

Bokuto hugged him just a little more tightly, and smiled against the crook of his neck. “Hey, no problem. Remember how you said... you would do anything for me?” He laughed, and Akaashi couldn’t help but smile a little at the sound. “Well, that’s a two way street. I’d do anything for you, Akaashi. You can count on me.”

“I know,” Akaashi whispered. “I know.”

His hope was that if they couldn’t find any physical evidence, maybe they could find something if they analyzed enough data.

But there was just so much of it.

Over the next several days, Akaashi poured over so many graphs, spreadsheets, and reports that he wondered if his growing, persistent headache would ever go away.

“Hey, it’s pretty late! Let’s go home!” Bokuto shut his laptop and stretched before he gave Akaashi his most charismatic grin. “Do you want any snacks before I take you back?”

“Hmm.” Akaashi kept scrolling through the email he had open. “You can go on without me, Bokuto-san. I think I might be a while longer; I still have a few things I want to go over before I leave.”

With little warning, Bokuto leaned over, heedless of Akaashi’s personal space as he hooked his arm around his shoulders. “C’mon, Akaashi! It’s almost midnight, and we’ve been here since seven this morning! I told you, I’m not gonna let you work yourself sick. Please?”

Akaashi sighed and shut his laptop. “You’re right. You know, though... you don’t have to stay here so late with me. I can catch a cab home.”

“Nuh-uh. No way.” Bokuto still had his arm around his shoulders; he was so close that the other man could smell the faint hint of his cologne. “If I leave you here, then there’s not gonna be anyone to make sure you don’t stay here ‘til the sun rises! I said I’d stick close to you for the duration of this case, and I meant it.”

Akaashi smiled, fond and exasperated. “You see right through me, don’t you? I guess you know me too well.”

Bokuto grinned. “Guess so! Come on, let’s get you home. We should come in a little late tomorrow so you can get some extra sleep!”

“That won’t be necessary,” Akaashi insisted. “But I appreciate your concern.”

Bokuto pouted as he stood up and reached for his coat and scarf, which he’d thrown over the back of the couch earlier that morning. “All right, okay. But I’m definitely getting you to leave early with me tomorrow! We’re gonna have a great Christmas together!”

Akaashi couldn’t help but chuckle a little as he packed his laptop up, and put on his own coat and scarf. “I did agree to that, didn’t I? But honestly, I’m looking forward to it.”

“That’s what I like to hear! Come on, let’s go!” He grabbed at Akaashi’s hand and pulled him towards the door, enthusiastic and flushed with happiness. “Did you wanna do anything specific tomorrow?”

Akaashi smiled, warm and genuine; for a moment, the exhaustion almost seemed to vanish from his face. “Anything is fine with me. I’m just glad that I’ll get to spend it with you, Bokuto-san.”

Akaashi’s sleep was restless and uneasy.

When his alarm began to ring at five in the morning, for a moment, it didn’t even fully register. Groggily, he reached over and shut it off; for several seconds, he just stayed still and tried to get his bearings. He rubbed his eyes before throwing the blankets off and standing up; he swayed just a little, and then made his way to the bathroom for a quick shower.

His movements were mechanical, driven by routine and reflex as he got dressed and grabbed an energy drink from his refrigerator. He’d been drinking them more and more often as of late, and it showed. All this caffeine is making me jittery... and it’s even harder to sleep. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. Or maybe that’s just stress.

He paused to pick up a small package from the kitchen counter, and carefully placed it in his bag with his laptop. It would be a shame if I forgot Bokuto-san’s gift. A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips. I hope he likes it. I’m really glad he wants to spend tonight together... it’ll be nice.

Just then, the sound of Bokuto knocking rang through the room; Akaashi flushed a little, like he’d been caught thinking something he shouldn’t have been. Crushes are embarrassing, he thought with exasperation as he slung his bag over his shoulders and grabbed his keys.

“Morning, Akaashi!” Bokuto’s smile was radiant as ever; he looked like he’d had a full night’s sleep, instead of the scant three hours that he’d actually gotten.

“Good morning. You’re certainly energetic today,” he said as he locked his door.

Bokuto hooked an arm around his shoulders as he laughed. “Damn right! We’re gonna have a great Christmas together after work! I was thinking we could grab a little cake from the bakery down the street, order some sushi and just hang out at my place. How’s that sound?”

“Sure,” Akaashi said with a small smile. Their footsteps echoed down the hallway as they reached the elevator. “I’d like that a lot.”

“Actually...” Bokuto scratched his chin and looked away; Akaashi noticed that the tips of his ears were a faint, charming shade of pink. “I was thinking you could stay over? Since we go to work together in the morning anyway, I mean, because it would save time! If... you want?”

Akaashi’s own cheeks warmed up a little. “That sounds nice, too. I’d like that, if it’s not too much trouble.”

Bokuto pumped his fist in excitement. “Awesome! You’re the best, Akaashi! It’s gonna be great, just you wait and see!”

“You know, there’s only been one really big arrest from the officers at that station in the last several months,” Bokuto said as he peered at his laptop and drank coffee with his free hand. “And it was yours! That dealer was already on our radar for like, half a year before you cuffed him.”

“...Hanamiya Yuuto,” Akaashi whispered. His brow furrowed in thought. “Sly, but he was messy, and I caught him in the act... do you think there’s a possibility that the attacks against Sarukui and Onaga were motivated by revenge, maybe by a compatriot of his?”

Bokuto shrugged. “Hard to say, with so little to go on! I mean, maybe? But you haven’t worked at that station in ages, and they would probably notice that, if they were pissed at you. Or maybe it’s just a message to that station in general, if it’s a bigger operation? But there hasn’t been any sort of note, so... it’s probably not a warning?”

With a great sigh, Bokuto drained the last of the coffee in his mug, put his laptop to the side, and sprang up from his spot on the couch. He grabbed Akaashi’s empty cup and made his way over to the coffee pot, all while humming an aimless tune. “Just wish they’d have dropped more evidence, or that we could get something out of Hanamiya. He’s definitely hiding something, but we can’t be sure it’s related, you know?”

“Still, that’s worth pressing,” Kuroo said from the desk. He leaned back in his chair, with his hands clasped behind his head. “It’s an interesting angle. I’ll go talk to him again tomorrow.”

“Awesome! You’re the best, Kuroo.”

“Yeah, I know,” Kuroo said with a grin. “Don’t you forget it, either.”

With a laugh, Bokuto set down the two mugs he was holding and filled them both with coffee from the pot, and then made Akaashi’s just the way he liked it. Gently, he set it down on the table in front of his partner; Akaashi blinked as Bokuto took his seat beside him once more. “Drink up! You look sleepy,” he smiled. “Wanna take a break and go get lunch soon? My treat!”

“You’re being very generous,” Akaashi chuckled as he picked up his mug. “Sure, I don’t see why not.”

“That’s what I like to hear!” He sat close enough that his thigh brushed against Akaashi’s as he put down his own mug of coffee and reached for his laptop again. “Lemme finish pulling up all the info we’ve got on Hanamiya, and then we can hit up the ramen stand a few blocks away. What do you think?”

“That’s fine with me.” When he glanced at Bokuto, he saw the older man looking at him with a sad smile. “...Is something wrong, Bokuto-san?”

“...Nah,” he replied after a moment. “You just don’t look so good, is all. You can tell that you haven’t been sleeping enough!”

Akaashi sighed, and sipped at his coffee. “You and I have been getting about the same amount of rest, you know. If you’re worried about me, you should be worried about yourself, too.”

Bokuto’s smile grew just a little bit wider. “Hey hey, is that your way of saying you’re concerned? It totally is!” Playfully, he ruffled the other man’s hair with a surprisingly gentle touch. “There it is! I like it when you smile.”

“Get a room,” Kuroo laughed from the desk. Bokuto and Akaashi both flushed a little; Akaashi pretended like he didn’t hear, and tried to play it cool as he stared at his laptop screen. Bokuto turned to the detective with wild hair and stuck his tongue out. “Mature as ever, huh?” Kuroo teased again.

“Like you’re one to talk,” Bokuto pouted.

Kuroo placed a hand on his chest with a mock serious look. “I am the pinnacle of maturity.” To his other side, Kenma snorted quietly as he stapled a set of documents together. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be on my side?”

“I am on your side... even if you’re kind of weird.”

Kuroo grinned, and leaned into the smaller man. “That’s pretty funny, coming from you.”

“Hey hey hey, maybe you should get a room!” Bokuto laughed. Kuroo rolled his eyes and went back to his work, but Bokuto’s sharp gaze didn’t miss the faint hint of pink on his cheeks.

Akaashi pulled his dark red scarf over his nose as he walked side by side with Bokuto during their lunch break. Bokuto had talked almost nonstop about various things, like when he broke his hand during a martial arts test, a funny comic he’d seen Kenma reading (‘Seriously, it’s about this guy that draws manga, but it’s so funny’), and his current tale -- a recounting of Lev tearing a huge hole in the back of his pants during a chase.

He laughed into the warm, soft fabric around his neck when it really hit him just how much Bokuto was looking out for him.

“Seriously, Yaku didn’t let him live it down for like, a year. I think Kuroo still has a picture somewhere!”

Akaashi’s eyes were full of warmth as he glanced over; their shoulders knocked together for a moment as he smiled. “Thank you.”

Bokuto seemed confused. “Huh? For what?”

“For trying so hard to take care of me, I guess.” His gaze fell to the sidewalk in front of them as they walked. “You have your own things to deal with, and this case is serious enough already. But you’ve been doing a lot for me.”

He turned his head a little, and Bokuto felt his heart flutter; framed by sunlight, and with a soft smile on his lips, he was certain that Akaashi was the most beautiful person to ever grace the earth. “I appreciate it, Bokuto-san. It means a lot to me.”

“Hey, no problem.” He threw an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders with a laugh. “I said I’d be here for you, and I meant it! I’m a man of my word!”

“I know,” Akaashi said easily. He leaned slightly into the other man’s warmth without even realizing he’d done it. “I’ve never doubted you. And I never will.”

“Ooh, Akaashi! Check out this cake, let’s get this one! The strawberries look awesome!”

Akaashi looked at where he was pointing; the cake did look nice, but it was relatively large. “Are we going to be able to eat all of that? We’re getting sushi after this, too.”

“We can save some of it for later! We don’t have to eat it all at once!” Bokuto grinned. “Let’s get it! I’m paying!”

“If you insist,” Akaashi said with a hint of a smile. “All right. Let’s pay for that, and then pick up the sushi we ordered. Should we get anything to drink?”

“Nah, I’ve got a ton of stuff in my fridge. C’mon, c’mon!” He picked up the cake with one arm, and then pulled Akaashi by the hand toward the registers. The smaller man voiced no protest; he’d long since grown used to Bokuto’s antics, and if he was honest with himself, enjoyed them quite a bit.

As Bokuto paid for the cake, Akaashi’s phone vibrated with an incoming message; it was from Kenma. Curious, he flipped his cell open to check it.

>You’ve been pushing yourself hard lately. I know the case has been difficult for you.
>Just remember, we’re all in this together. It’s cheesy, and embarrassing to say, but it’s true.
>You should try and enjoy tonight with Bokuto. Merry Christmas, Akaashi.

A sense of overwhelming fondness warmed his heart as he thought of what to say in return. He’s not the type to say things like that very often...

>Thank you. I appreciate all that you’ve done for me.
>I hope you and Kuroo-san have a good evening as well. Merry Christmas.

As Bokuto laughed with the cashier, Akaashi had the feeling that maybe, just maybe, everything really would be all right.

“Bokuto-san... this is a ridiculous amount of food.”

Several trays of sushi sat beside the cake on the table in front of Bokuto’s couch, but the older man didn’t seem the least bit bothered. “Good! That means we’ll definitely have enough to eat!”

“How much did you pay for all of this?” Akaashi asked with a sigh as he squinted at the spread in disbelief. “I had no idea you ordered so much.”

“That’s not the important thing! Don’t worry about it,” he said brightly. “Are you hungry now?”

“A little,” Akaashi admitted. “Here. I have something for you, first.” Bokuto’s face lit up with excited curiosity as Akaashi began to dig in his bag. “Ah. Here it is.” He handed the slender package to his partner; Bokuto’s fingers brushed against his as he took it, and Akaashi inhaled just a little sharply.

“You got something for me?! Akaashi, you’re the best!”

“You don’t even know what it is yet,” he said with a wry smile.

Bokuto had already started to tear into the wrapping paper. “I’m just so pumped that you got me something! I’m sure it’s gonna be awesome...” His eyes widened as the paper fell away. “Holy shit, Akaashi, how much did you spend--”

“I had no idea that anime box sets were so expensive,” he said with an awkward laugh. “But that’s not important. I did some research after we finished those last two shows, and this sounds like something you would really enjoy. And I managed to find a good deal on this, anyway.”

“Are you kidding me?! Akaashi, you really are the best!” Bokuto launched himself forward and wrapped his arms around Akaashi’s neck, with the box set still in his hand; his cheek was warm against Akaashi’s neck. “Thank you so much! We should totally watch some of this together tonight!” he said with a brilliant smile as he pulled away.

“Sure. I’m glad you like it,” he smiled.

“Hey hey hey, I got something for you, too!” Bokuto looked a little sheepish as he reached into his shirt pocket. “It’s uh... not as good as what you got me, but... Close your eyes! And hold out your hand!”

“Okay.” Akaashi smiled a little as he shut his eyes. A moment later, he felt Bokuto’s fingers brush against the skin of his wrist and palm; the touch felt almost electric. He slid something over Akaashi’s fingers and moved it down his hand, and then lingered for a moment before he pulled away.

“Okay, you can look!” he said brightly.

A small bracelet was on his wrist; it was simple, a little elastic string with black beads and tiny charms of various owls. “Uh, I wasn’t sure what to get, but I heard bracelets can be comforting, and they can be really special, so I just--”

“It’s perfect,” Akaashi said softly. He smiled at Bokuto, and the other man almost felt his heart stop as Akaashi leaned forward and hugged him. “Thank you so much,” he whispered into Bokuto’s ear.

Slowly, Bokuto wrapped his arms around Akaashi again to return the embrace; he rested his head in the crook of the smaller man’s neck and relaxed.

From his current position, he couldn’t see the hint of tears shining in Akaashi’s eyes.

They ate until they were stuffed, and watched the show together late into the night; Akaashi was pleased to see that Bokuto enjoyed it just as much as he’d hoped. They sat closer than they ever had before; Bokuto shamelessly leaned against him, with their legs overlapping.

During the seventh episode, Bokuto’s hand found his way to Akaashi’s; his fingers brushed against his knuckles, and a moment later, Akaashi turned his hand over and twined their fingers together without saying a word.

Three episodes later, Akaashi finally began to doze off; he slumped against Bokuto’s shoulder, hand still firmly entwined with his partner’s.

Bokuto smiled, and brushed a stray strand of hair from Akaashi’s eyes before he gently touched his shoulder. “Hey,” he said softly. “You’re exhausted, right? Come on, go sleep in my bed. I’ll take the couch.”

“What?” Akaashi asked blearily. “No, I can’t agree to that... I’m not taking your bed, Bokuto-san.”

“No, you’re totally taking my bed! This couch is super comfortable, as you can tell, since you fell asleep on it,” he grinned. “Don’t worry about it! Come on, I insist!”

He stood, and pulled Akaashi up by the hand; he still didn’t let go as he led Akaashi over to his bedroom. It was dark enough in the apartment that neither of them could tell that they were both blushing a little. “Okay, here you go!” Bokuto smiled as he flipped on the light. Akaashi cringed a little at the sudden brightness, and covered his eyes; a moment later, his other hand felt suddenly colder as Bokuto reluctantly let it go. “Right, your bag with your change of clothes. I’ll go get it!”

Akaashi glanced around the room as Bokuto bounded back to the kitchen. It was cluttered, but not unfathomably messy; clothes were strewn here and there, the clear sign of a man with little time and attention to spare for keeping a place spotless. His bed was large and looked incredibly comfortable, with several huge, fluffy pillows and blankets that looked absurdly soft.

Are... are those owl print pillowcases?  he thought with amusement just as Bokuto came back.

“Here you go, Akaashi!” he said brightly as he set his bag on the bed. “I’ll leave you to it, okay? Um... thanks for coming over tonight,” he continued, unusually shy. “It was awesome! I had a lot of fun.”

Akaashi smiled in return. “I did too. Thank you for inviting me,” he said warmly.

Bokuto laughed, a little bashful. “Yeah, of course! Okay, I’m gonna go pass out now too. I’ve got my alarm on my phone set for the morning, so don’t worry about that; I’ll come wake you up! ‘Night!”

“Good night, Bokuto-san.”

Akaashi didn’t waste any time; he changed into his pajamas, turned the light off, and climbed into Bokuto’s bed, and was happy to find that it was exactly as comfortable as it looked. He breathed deep; it smelled like the taller man, a pleasant, earthy scent that made Akaashi’s heart beat just a little faster.

As he fell asleep, he realized that, despite the pressure of the case, he hadn’t felt so at peace -- or at home -- in a very long time.

“Hey, good morning, sleepyhead.”

Bokuto’s voice was pleasant and quiet as he gently woke Akaashi up. “C’mon, it’s time to get up! I let you sleep a little late... don’t be mad, though!” he said with a smile as Akaashi rubbed his eyes.

The smaller man blinked; he was still groggy, since he’d never been great at waking up so early in the mornings. “...Bokuto-san? Did you already shower?” he asked curiously as he slowly got out of the bed and stood up to stretch.

“Yep! C’mon, I have a towel in the bathroom for you, and we can have some leftover cake for breakfast!”

Akaashi smiled, and then stifled a yawn. “Cake for breakfast, Bokuto-san? Really?”

“It’s totally the perfect time of the year to have cake for breakfast,” Bokuto grinned. “I’ll go make coffee while you get ready!”

“Okay. I’ll be quick.”

He made his way to the bathroom with his clean change of clothes and toothbrush in hand. The shower helped wake him up a little; he felt just a little more alert as he pulled on the clean clothes and met Bokuto in the kitchen, who already had a mug of coffee waiting for him, made just the way he liked it.

“You’re too good to me,” Akaashi smiled as he took a sip.

“Nah,” Bokuto grinned, “If anything, I should be doing more for you, because you deserve the best I can give.”

They were relaxed and at ease as they made their way to the office; everyone seemed to be in good spirits as the day began.

“We’re totally gonna crack this case wide open soon, I can feel it!” Bokuto said enthusiastically as he drained another cup of coffee. “Hey, Kuroo -- oh, is he on the phone?”

“You were too busy talking to even hear it ring, weren’t you.”

He gave Akaashi his best pout. “Seriously, though, I--”

Kuroo slammed his cell on the table with enough force that everyone immediately fell silent.

“...Hey, what’s wrong?” Bokuto asked quietly after a moment. The other detective turned away with a scowl, and ran his hands through his perpetually messy hair.

“There was a fire at a house a couple blocks from the river. Arson, definitely attempted murder. The people who lived there had just gotten back from a trip out of town. Both in the hospital, being treated for second degree burns and smoke inhalation.”

Akaashi felt dread seep into his heart as Kuroo turned to look at him.

“The victims are your parents, Akaashi.”

to be continued in chapter 6


Chapter Text

The silence in the room was uneasy and heavy with tension.

Akaashi looked back at Kuroo with wide eyes, completely speechless.

“They’ll be all right,” Kuroo said quietly, “but this pretty much confirms something we’d already started to suspect. This can’t be a coincidence. Someone’s targeting people that you care about.” He crossed his arms, and watched him with a calculating look. “Any idea who he might go after next, if he keeps this up?”

“I...” He seemed to come back to himself a little, then, and ran a hand through his hair. “No... I don’t know. I’m sorry, Kuroo-san. Sarukui and Onaga were my only real friends outside of the department here, and my parents are the only members of my family that I keep even semi-regular contact with.”

Kenma sighed. “Maybe we’ll be targets, too.”

Bokuto put a comforting hand on Akaashi’s shoulder as reflexive tension rippled through him like a shockwave. “Akaashi,” he said gently. “We’ll be fine. Okay? Let’s stick together until we get this case closed.” His voice carried a weight of authority that he rarely used, but that everyone respected regardless. “From now until we get this guy behind bars, I want partners to be together 24/7. Don’t go anywhere alone, including your apartments.”

“Ohh, mandatory sleepovers, huh? Sounds good to me.” There was an edge in Kuroo’s voice. “All right. I’m gonna go have a chat with our friend Hanamiya, and see what I can find out. Wanna come watch before you head out?”

“Good idea. C’mon, Akaashi, let’s go. We can stop by the hospital afterwards, and go talk to forensics tonight. How’s that sound?”

“...Yes. That’s fine.” His eyes were far away, empty and cold in a way that made Bokuto’s heart ache. “Sorry, I think I’m just a little distracted. I’ll focus.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Bokuto said gently. “You guys ready?”

“I was born ready,” Kuroo replied. “Let’s do this.”

“So,” Kuroo drawled as he kicked his feet up on the table. Across from him, Hanamiya sat in a chair, his posture guarded and wary. He was about Akaashi’s height, with close cropped hair and unremarkable features. “Feel like talking yet? We really wanna know why one of your boys is going around trying to kill people.”

In the room adjacent to them, Kenma, Akaashi and Bokuto watched through a one-way mirror. For the first time since his arrest, they saw Hanamiya smile, slow and unpleasant.

“If you figured out that much, then you know your new little golden boy is in for a world of pain.”

Kuroo crossed his arms behind his head, and leaned back. “Sure seems like it. But what I wanna know is what the big deal is. You weren’t working solo, we know that much. No reason for you to be armed and so secretive otherwise, right?” He smiled, but it was cold and unfriendly. “So it stands to reason you were part of a larger operation, and now someone on your end is throwing a temper tantrum. But what I wanna know is why, and when he’s gonna stop, and what his goddamn name is.”

“Why?”  he repeated back in a mocking tone. He laughed. “You’re not that much of an idiot, are you, Detective? You sound like you got this shit all figured out already. How about you tell me what’s happening?”

Kuroo’s expression radiated danger. “That’s not what I’m here for. Why are you protecting him so much?”

Hanamiya’s smile grew wider. “You really don’t get it, do you? You keep offering me all these damn plea bargains, but you never once fucking considered that maybe I don’t want to leave. Maybe it’s safer for me here, instead of out there, where he can find me and fucking ruin me.”

Kuroo narrowed his eyes. “Ever think about asking for our help instead of antagonizing us and staying behind bars? We can give you protection--”

Hanamiya laughed again, harder than before. “That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard since you threw me in jail. No. He’s not gonna stop until you guys get the message to leave him alone. He’s not gonna stop until that rookie won’t ever recover. And if he sees me again, he’s probably gonna shoot me in the face. So no thanks. I’ll pass.”

“Oh, I see.” Kuroo smiled again, like he’d just struck gold. “Let me guess. All those other arrests we’ve processed in the area since you came in are his men, aren’t they? And he’s not happy about it.”

Hanamiya laughed, but it was an empty, unpleasant sound. “Man’s got a business to run. And you keep getting in his way... the guy that got me in the first place. Akaashi, right? The one that helped the other guy arrest Ikeda recently. Oh, he’s gonna regret ever being born by the time Kunimoto-san is done with him.”

Kuroo’s smile grew wider. “Kunimoto-san, huh? And Ikeda was part of your ring as well.”

Hanamiya shrugged, seemingly unbothered by his slip up. “Chase him down if you want. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Not all of his men are loyal -- like me, a lot of us took on the work ‘cause we weren’t worth anything else, and we wanted to make money to eat. And he knows that. But the guy is so fucking terrifying that he still commands respect, obedience and fear.” He mirrored Kuroo’s smile. “Go on, Detective. Hunt him, if you can. But there’s a reason he’s got that reputation. And if you go after him, you’re probably gonna find out first hand.”

The smile on Kuroo’s face turned predatory as he stood up; his chair scraped loudly against the floor as he pushed it under the table and turned to leave. “We’ll see about that. Thanks for the info, Hanamiya. Don’t worry, we’ll let you rot in jail, safe and sound.”

“Damn,” Bokuto whispered from the adjacent room. He glanced over; Kenma was taking notes, but Akaashi was just staring at his clenched hands, wide-eyed and seemingly oblivious to the world around him. “Hey... Akaashi,” he called softly. He put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey. It’s gonna be fine.”

He let out a slow, unsteady breath and closed his eyes for a moment. “It’s not going to be fine. They’re targeting people that I know. This is my fault.”

“No.” Bokuto’s voice was unusually serious, and left no room for argument. “There’s no way that this is your fault, Akaashi. I don’t care what this asshole’s motive is. It’s his fault. Not yours.”

Akaashi nodded, and Bokuto could feel faint tremors beneath his palm. “I’m sorry, Bokuto-san. I’ll try to keep it together. Please forgive my weakness.”

“Akaashi, seriously, there’s nothing to forgive. Any of us would be torn up about this. We’re not gonna blame you or anything, okay? This isn’t your fault.” Bokuto gave him a quick hug, and then ruffled his hair. “Seriously, I mean it.”

“He’s right, you know.” Kenma stopped writing in his notepad for a moment, and looked at Akaashi. “None of us are going to hold this against you. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you that Kuroo and I are both pretty pissed off. But not at you. That’d be stupid.”

For the briefest of moments, Akaashi smiled, though it was weak and weighed down with anxiety. “Thank you, Kenma. I appreciate it. And you too, Bokuto-san.”

Kenma just nodded, and Bokuto threw his arm around Akaashi’s shoulders. “It’s no trouble at all. Wanna get going to the hospital? Let’s get lunch afterwards, okay? I’ll pay again!”

Kenma watched them leave; the entire way out, Bokuto chattered on about his theories and opinions for the anime they’d started watching, and he was animated and theatrical as ever. A moment later, Kuroo walked into the room just as Kenma stood up with his materials; he gave the smaller man a blank look as he leaned against the cold metal wall.

“This is getting dangerous, huh? What do you think? Feeling fired up?”

Kenma sighed, and wiggled his toes in his shoes. “Yeah, I guess. But I’d rather be bored than charged up because of something like this.”

Kuroo hummed as they left the room together; they made their way back to the office, side-by-side. “Fair enough,” he agreed. “Wanna start scoping out the area where all the busts have been made after we hunt for data on Kunimoto? I think it’s time to take a more active role in this case.” He grinned. “Nobody gives one of our guys hell on our watch, right?”

“Yeah,” Kenma agreed. “Let’s finish this before anything else happens.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Kuroo said as he held the door open for his partner. “Time to get to work.”


An older woman with long silver hair in a bun was in the hospital bed when they entered the room they’d been directed to; as soon as her eyes landed on Akaashi, a large, bright smile spread over her face. “Keiji, it is you! Thank you for visiting me. I know you’ve been very busy lately.”

Akaashi swallowed as he looked at his mother; bandages covered almost all the visible parts of her arms. “Yes,” he said quietly. “I’m actually investigating the fire with my coworkers, as well.”

“I see. Well, I’m glad that work could bring you by!” she said warmly. “Is this one of the men you work with?”

“Yes. This is Detective Bokuto. He’s my partner in 1st Unit; we’ve been together since I was promoted.” Akaashi couldn’t help but smile as Bokuto leaned forward and waved with a huge, sunny smile of his own.

“It’s nice to meet you, Akaashi-san!” he said politely.

“Oh, he’s so handsome!” she chuckled. “It’s nice to meet you, too.” Some of her happiness seemed to slip away as she paused. “I’m sorry, but your father is actually asleep right now, Keiji. His burns were worse than mine, so...”

“I understand,” Akaashi said quietly. “It’s okay. I’ll come visit again when he’s awake. Why don’t I ask you a few questions first? We can get the unpleasant part out of the way, and then you can tell us a little about your trip next time.”

“Of course!” Quietly, Bokuto took a seat beside his partner as Akaashi’s mother continued speaking. “Did you want to know our version of the story, I guess?”

“If you don’t mind,” Akaashi said quietly. “We read the report, but I’d like to hear it from you, as well.”

She smiled. “I don’t mind at all. Well, your father and I got back a little after seven in the morning... We decided that coming back early might help us avoid some of the traffic, and figured we could just nap a little when we got back to the house.” She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear as she spoke. “We didn’t even unpack immediately... we changed our clothes, and then went right to sleep. We woke up to the smoke detector going off, but by that point, the room was already starting to fill with it. And when your father opened the door, he burned his hand.”

“Because the fire was outside the door?” Akaashi asked quietly.

“Yes, that’s right. We looked towards the window, but there was even fire outside of the house, right beneath the window... And then part of the ceiling of the bedroom collapsed!” she said dramatically. “A beam missed your father’s head by inches; it was terrifying. The firefighters got us out a few minutes later, but.” She became very quiet for a moment, and her hands gripped the sheets weakly. “We thought we were going to die there, honestly.”

“Our forensic team has determined it was an arson,” Akaashi explained quietly. “Traces of gasoline and discarded matches were found at the scene.”

“Yes, they did mention that earlier, when they called me,” she said. She seemed very tired as she smiled at her son. “I don’t know why anyone would do this... maybe just some delinquents, or something? Your father and I keep to ourselves, so. Ah, but the house is badly damaged, too. Rebuilding will be a headache.”

Guilt seemed to bend Akaashi’s shoulders as he clasped his hands together. “About that. Our unit recommends that you stay out of town for a while. This may be part of a larger case, and we don’t want the danger to come circling back around to you.”

Her knuckles went white as she clutched at the sheets harder than before. Fear flickered in her eyes. “Are you saying someone might try to hurt us again? Why? Once was... once was bad enough, but...”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I don’t want to say too much. But, please... once you’re both released from the hospital, please go elsewhere for a while. Just until we contact you and let you know the case is closed.”

She seemed to hesitate for a moment. “...All right. I trust you, Keiji. But please be careful. We worry about you, you know?”

He nodded. “I will. Bokuto-san is looking out for me, and he’s one of the best detectives in the entire area. I’ll be fine.”

She turned and looked directly at Bokuto then, and managed a shaky smile as she sighed and dabbled at her eyes. “That’s reassuring. I’m so glad Keiji has a good partner to work with. Is he doing well, Detective? We don’t see him very often, and we’ve had difficulties in the past, but we still love him a lot. We’re so proud that he was promoted to such a prestigious position.”

Bokuto gave her his most dazzling smile again. “Nothing to worry about there, Akaashi-san! He’s blown us away. I’ve been a detective for years, and worked with a lot of people, but he’s the best partner I’ve ever had! We’re all proud of him, too! Your son is really amazing, and I feel so lucky to know him and see him almost every day!”

“Oh my goodness. That’s so wonderful to hear! Keiji, I’m so happy for you!” she beamed. “You should call more often, and let us know! Oh, Detective, maybe you can come over for dinner one night with Keiji once everything settles down. What do you think?”

“Seriously?! I’d like that a lot! Thank you, Akaashi-san!”

Akaashi smiled as he stood up. “Thank you for talking with us for a while. We have to get going, but I’ll try to stay in contact.”

“Okay,” his mother replied with a smile of her own. “Please be safe, Keiji. That’s all I ask.”

“I will,” he promised. “I’ll see you later.”

Be safe... As they walked away, Akaashi couldn’t help but feel like he’d been lying through his teeth.

“Well,” Onaga said with a tired grin, “the diagnoses was ridiculous. Get this: I broke four ribs, my right arm in two places, my hip, and my right leg was broken in three places as well. Huge cut on my arm and leg, too. More bruises than I can count.”

Akaashi’s eyes widened. “You look like hell,” he said quietly.

Onaga shrugged. “Can’t deny that. Could be worse, though, right? At least I’m not dead.” There was no mirth in his smile. “Someone sure tried to make that a reality, though, huh? Sarukui told me a little bit about what’s been going on when he stopped by. He left just a few minutes before you got here... said you texted him some crazy stuff, and then he just unloaded on me.”

“Yes.” Akaashi looked uneasy. “I’m sorry, Onaga. I never wanted you to get caught up in this. I never imagined--”

Onaga sighed loudly. “You don’t need to apologize, Akaashi. We’re scared more than we can even say, but we know it’s not your fault.” He looked uncomfortable. “Honestly, though, I dunno what to do. What if they come after me again?”

“You should be safe in the hospital,” Akaashi said reassuringly. “And he doesn’t seem to choose the same target twice. He’s tried to kill four different people so far, but never gone back to any of his failures.” He stared down at his hands as he spoke. “We recommend that you and Sarukui stick together, even after hours, until the case is closed. Take some vacation time if you can, and leave the city. Just in case.”

Onaga sighed. “Dunno if I can pull that off... I’ve been sitting in the hospital for a week now,” he said with a weak laugh. “We’ll see, though. Thanks for looking out for us. You’ve been running yourself ragged, right? You look like you haven’t slept in days.”

Akaashi tapped his fingers against his knee. “I haven’t really had time for it, honestly.”

Onaga glanced over at Bokuto, then. “Hey, Detective. Can you please make sure Akaashi doesn’t work himself into an early grave?”

Bokuto grinned and saluted him. “Don’t worry, I’m doing my best. We’re taking a mandatory day off on New Year’s, anyway!”

Akaashi looked at him sharply. “Seriously? You didn’t tell me that.”

Bokuto shrugged. “Sorry, Akaashi! You’ve been averaging, like what, three hours of sleep a night? You need to rest! Otherwise you’re gonna fall apart. We’ll take January 1st off, and then come back the next day, and I’ll keep making you coffee and making sure you don’t fall over,” he said with a fond grin.

Akaashi sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose as Onaga laughed. “You’re a good guy,” the injured officer said with a tired smile. “Thanks for looking out for him. We worry about him a lot, you know? He throws himself into work too much, sometimes. Always has. But I guess that’s how you guys noticed him for a promotion in the first place, huh?”

“I’m sitting right here, you know. I can hear you,” Akaashi said drily.

“Yeah, yeah. Go get lunch or something. You’ve been here for ages, right?” His face softened for a moment as he regarded his old coworker. “Sorry about your parents, though. I hope they recover fast.”

Akaashi nodded as he stood up. “Thank you, Onaga. Please text me if you need anything.”

“You got it. Give me some updates every now and then if you can.” He smiled, but it was tinged with sadness. “Take care.”

A hollow feeling settled in Akaashi’s chest, like a weight that he’d never be free of. “I’ll do my best.”

“Okay, that’s enough!” Bokuto announced. “Let’s call it a day, Akaashi!”

Akaashi rubbed his eyes and glanced up at the clock -- it was just fifteen minutes before midnight, and everyone else had left hours before. “Oh... I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it had gotten so late.” He closed his laptop and put it into his bag before he stood up and stretched; he rubbed at his eyes again, and wobbled on his feet a little.

“Hey, are you okay?” Bokuto asked, concern clear in his voice. His hands were a warm, reassuring weight as he put them on Akaashi’s arms to steady him. “You really gotta get some rest, Akaashi! And lay off the coffee and energy drinks a little bit! You’re gonna wipe out if you don’t!”

“I’ll be fine, Bokuto-san... oh. Whose apartment should we stay at until the case is closed?”

Bokuto frowned. He’s pushing himself too hard. As hard as I do when I go into those bad upswings. “Let’s stay at my place! It’s bigger, and they probably know where you live.” Uneasiness settled into his gaze. “It makes me kinda nervous.”

Akaashi nodded. “We’ll need to go by my place so that I can get some clothes and other things.” His gaze fell to the floor, and for a moment, the full weight of his exhaustion was clear in his expression. “I’m... I’m sorry for the trouble, Bokuto-san. I wish I didn’t have to burden you like this.”

“Hey, you’re not a burden,” Bokuto said softly. “I know you’d do the same thing for me. Two way street, remember? And you did actually help me out already!” His smile was just a little sad. “Remember how pathetic I was? You’re one of the few people that hasn’t looked at me like I was garbage when I was having a downswing. And you were there for me, in a way nobody else ever has been, aside from Kuroo. Now I’m returning the favor.”

Akaashi frowned. “This is a little more serious than helping someone that struggles with downswings.”

“Akaashi,” he said firmly. “It’s not a problem, seriously. I wouldn’t mind having you stay at my apartment at all. I really liked it when you spent the night on Christmas, honestly,” he said a little bashfully. “You staying over is pretty much the total opposite of a problem.”

A hint of warmth crept into the smaller man’s expression as he looked into Bokuto’s eyes. He was silent for a moment before he reached down and took his partner by the hand, the way Bokuto always did to him when they were about to leave the office. “All right,” he said softly. “Then let’s go. We’ll make the best of it. I’m... I’m looking forward to it, if I’m being honest.”

Bokuto couldn’t stop the huge smile that spread across his face. “Yes! That’s what I like to hear! Come on, Akaashi, it’s gonna be great!”

They made their way back to the car, hand in hand; Bokuto told funny stories the whole way back, and for a while, Akaashi was able to forget just how on edge he really was.

Akaashi looked around awkwardly as he followed Bokuto into his apartment, two bags of clothes in hand. “Where should I put my things?” he asked quietly.

“Oh! Just leave that stuff in my room, I guess. That’s where you’ll be most of the time you’re here anyway, right?” When Akaashi didn’t reply immediately, he turned back and saw the other man staring at him; it was then that the implication of what he said hit him, and his entire face turned bright red. “I mean... uh... because I’m letting you take the bed? Obviously!” he said with an awkward laugh. “I’m not letting you sleep on the couch!”

“Bokuto-san, I--”

“Nope, nope, nope!” With a grin, he walked towards the bedroom. “Come on! I’m serious. You need the rest more than I do!”

“You need to sleep well, too.” Too tired to put much spirit into his objection, he followed Bokuto; his movements were sluggish and just a little unbalanced. “It’s important for you too,” he said quietly as Bokuto turned the light on.

“Nah. This has been a lot harder on you, and I’ve got, you know... the energy from the upswing to fuel me.” He took Akaashi’s bags from his hands and set them beside the bed before he turned to face him again; he was standing so close that Akaashi could smell the lingering hints of his cologne. “I’m really worried about you,” he said softly.

“I’m worried about you, too,” Akaashi insisted as he wavered on his feet. “You said yourself that you’ve ended up in the hospital when you get like that. I don’t... I don’t want to see anyone else that I care about in the hospital.” His voice broke for a moment, and he looked at the floor. “Even if it’s just for exhaustion.”

Shame crept into his mind as he felt his eyes burn with the beginnings of tears. Bokuto steadied him by the arm with a warm hand; his other came up to Akaashi’s face, gentle and tender as he brushed several strands of hair from his eyes. “Hey,” he said softly. “I’ll be okay, Akaashi. I’m sorry... I was being inconsiderate, huh?”

“No. You’re fine, Bokuto-san. I’m just... sorry. I don’t know.” He wouldn’t meet Bokuto’s eyes, and the frustration he felt was clear in his voice.

“It’s fine! It’s fine. How about this... uh, if you don’t mind, I guess? We could... we could share the bed?” Bokuto offered awkwardly. “I mean -- it’s pretty big! Definitely big enough for two people! And that way neither one of us has to sleep on the couch and feel bad about it! What do you say?”

“I...” Akaashi’s cheeks were faintly pink as he glanced over at the bed. “I guess? If you don’t mind, I have no objections.”

“All right! Come on, it’s late. I’ll go change in the bathroom and brush my teeth while you make yourself comfortable!”

He was gone before Akaashi could reply. With a tired sigh, he shrugged his coat off and began to undress; getting into his pajamas had never felt so good. A moment later, Bokuto bounded back into the room. “Bathroom’s all yours!” he said with a smile.

Akaashi nodded, and made his way to the there with slow steps; he felt lightheaded and unsteady, and had to lean on the sink as he brushed his teeth and rinsed his face off. I’m a mess, he thought unhappily. How is it possible that Bokuto-san hasn’t gotten sick of me?

He shook his head and rubbed at his eyes, then shut the light off. No, he thought as he walked back towards the bedroom. That’s not going to happen. He wouldn’t be... inviting me to sleep in his bed with him, otherwise. Oh, god, we’re going to share a bed.

...Not that I mind, honestly, he thought, a little embarrassed as he walked back into the room. Bokuto was already under the blankets on the side closer to the wall, stretched out with his arms behind his head, and sure enough, there was still plenty of space for Akaashi.

“Is it okay if I turn out the light?” the smaller man asked quietly.

“Sure, go ahead!” Bokuto replied cheerfully. Akaashi flipped the switch, and carefully made his way back towards the bed; slowly, he climbed in under the blankets, and almost immediately felt his entire body relax. Bokuto’s presence was warm and reassuring; as he drifted off, Akaashi realized that he actually felt safe, despite everything that had been happening.

“Sleep well,” Bokuto whispered softly.

The next morning, Akaashi woke to the sound of Bokuto’s alarm.

He was so warm; as he began to regain awareness, he realized it was because Bokuto had ended up hugging him close, almost protectively, in the middle of the night. Their legs were tangled together, and one of Bokuto’s arms was wrapped firmly around his waist; Akaashi had curled into the embrace at some point, with his face resting gently against the other man’s chest.

Bokuto became alert almost the instant the alarm started to ring; he used the arm that had been around Akaashi to reach over to the night stand and shut it off before he turned on the lamp beside it. A dim, but warm light illuminated the room; Akaashi winced and rubbed at his eyes as he stifled a yawn.

“Hey, good morning,” Bokuto said with a soft smile. He could feel heat bloom across his cheeks as his thoughts began to race with the reality of the position they’d woken up in. Oh my god. Let’s pretend like I wasn’t just snuggled up to him like he’s a life size teddy bear. Maybe he didn’t notice. Am I blushing?! “How do you feel?”

“Tired,” Akaashi said honestly. His voice was quiet and raw, and his hair stuck out in an impressive number of directions. “I’m not a morning person,” he elaborated.

He’s so cute when he’s sleepy. And all the time, really, but especially now. How is it possible to be so adorable?  Bokuto thought to himself as he grinned. “How about this? I’ll go take a quick shower while you wake up a little, and then go make some coffee while you shower after me!”

“Okay,” Akaashi agreed with a yawn. “Sure. Thank you, Bokuto-san.”

“No problem!” He hummed as he got clean clothes from his closet; he was in good spirits as he brushed his teeth and got into the shower. Hope he doesn’t mind that I set the alarm an hour late... oops. He really needs the sleep, though... He sighed as he washed his hair, his movements quick and efficient. Even with the extra hour, we only got like five altogether! That’s not good, especially with all the extra stress.

A moment later, he shut the water off; he toweled himself off quickly and got dressed, and haphazardly ran his fingers through his hair after coating them with a liberal amount of gel from the tube sitting on the sink.

“Hey, bathroom’s free! I’ll have some coffee waiting for you when you’re done!” he said brightly as he popped his head back into the bedroom. Akaashi was sitting on the bed, and still looked just as groggy as when Bokuto had left ten minutes earlier. Adorable, he thought again as Akaashi stood up and stretched with his towel and clothes in hand.

“Thank you. I’ll be quick,” Akaashi replied as he passed by him.

“Nah, don’t worry about it! Take your time!”

“You already let me sleep for an extra hour, Bokuto-san. I’ll rest on New Year’s, I promise. I won’t do any work that day. But for now, I’ll be quick.”

“All right, all right,” Bokuto said with a pout.

As he turned the water on, Akaashi could hear the faint sound of the coffee maker from the kitchen. A vague sense of guilt settled on him as he realized that Bokuto absolutely would not be able to get any more sleep than he did until the case was complete.

The harder I push myself, the harder he has to push himself too... I’m being too selfish, he thought miserably. I need to slow down. I need to be careful. He took a deep, shuddering breath, and tried to ignore the fear and unease simmering in his mind like a poison. I can’t slip up, but I can’t drive us to exhaustion. Especially not him... not after what he’s been through lately.

After he finished washing up, he turned the water off, and dried himself quickly. As he got dressed and brushed his teeth, he had the uncomfortable feeling that all his years of treatment and progress of dealing with his depressive episodes was slowly slipping through his fingers like sand.

No, he told himself sternly, I can’t think like that. Not now. There’s no room for weakness... no room for error. I can’t fall apart right now.

Not until this is finished.

When he got to the kitchen, Bokuto had a mug of coffee ready and waiting for him. “How’d you sleep?” the taller man asked with a bright smile.

“...Better than I have in a while,” Akaashi admitted as he sipped at his coffee. “Thank you for letting me stay here,” he said quietly.

“Hey, it’s no trouble! Anything for you, Akaashi!”

As they stood there and finished their drinks, Akaashi turned the words over and over in his head. The memory of Bokuto’s closeness when they first woke up was still fresh and vivid in his mind; there in his bed, with his arm around Akaashi’s waist, felt like home in a way nothing else ever really had.

In that moment, he knew, without a doubt, that what he felt was no longer just a simple crush.

On New Year’s Eve, Bokuto’s concerns became a reality when, quite suddenly, Akaashi passed out in the middle of talking to him.

He’d been mid-sentence when his eyes began to flutter; he wavered unsteadily, despite the fact that he was sitting down. A second later, he pitched forward; the mug that had been in his hand slipped from his fingers and shattered on the floor as Bokuto caught him and pushed him back into a sitting position.

“Akaashi? Hey. Akaashi.”

“Is he okay?” Kuroo asked. He stood up and watched them with a flicker of concern in his eyes; Bokuto scooted off of the couch, and moved Akaashi so that he was lying down. A moment later, he opened his eyes; he rubbed them, and was silent for a moment as he tried to get his bearings.

“Did I... did I fall asleep?” he asked quietly.

“Yeah,” Bokuto frowned, “you sure did.”

“More like passed the hell out,” Kuroo said from the side.

Bokuto looked conflicted. “Ugh! If the circumstances were different, we’d take you to the hospital, but I know you’d probably never forgive me for that, huh?” he asked with a lopsided smile. And I’m more scared than I’ve been letting on, he thought uneasily. I don’t want him far away right now. For both our sakes. “Come on, we’re going back to the apartment for the rest of the night. Let’s get an early start on our little holiday!”

“But... it’s barely past noon,” Akaashi protested quietly.

“You’re not the only two working this case,” Kuroo said as he crossed his arms. “Leave whatever you were gonna do today for us. You’re no good if you’re on the verge of collapsing.”

“He’s right, Akaashi,” Bokuto said quietly. “Seriously, let’s go. You need to sleep. Like, really bad.”

Akaashi rubbed his eyes again. “...You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“No reason to apologize!” Bokuto said brightly as he held out a hand. “Here, I’ll help you up!” He reached forward; Akaashi pulled himself up on one of Bokuto’s hands. The captain’s touch was firm but gentle as he put an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders and let him lean against his body for support. “Sorry, would you mind cleaning that up?” Bokuto asked sheepishly.

“Yeah, it’s no big deal. Go home already,” Kuroo smiled. “Kenma and I are almost done compiling a ton of data on our big bad guy. We’ll send you an update sometime early on the 2nd.”

“Thanks, Kuroo! You’re the best!” Bokuto said enthusiastically.

Kuroo grinned. “I know, right?” His expression became just a little more serious in the span of a single heartbeat. “Be careful. Enjoy the new year, if you can.”

Akaashi smiled through his exhaustion. “We’ll try. Thank you for everything, Kuroo-san.”

Kuroo laughed and linked his hands behind his head. “Don’t think anything of it. It’s no trouble at all.”

“Kunimoto is a real piece of work, isn’t he,” Kuroo drawled as he looked over the report that Kenma had put in front of him.

“He’s an asshole,” Kenma agreed quietly. “Came from the Miyagi prefecture because there were more desperate people to target here. More pawns to rope into his business. He’s got a long record, but the police have never gotten anything concrete enough to actually put him away.”

“But from the looks of it, he’s never been challenged as much as he has been here, either,” Kuroo said as he flipped to the next page.

“And Akaashi’s been the one inadvertently doing most of that challenging,” Kenma said. “So he’s really pissed. And that’s probably why he’s trying to make an example out of him.”

“No way am I letting this dangerous piece of shit set up camp in our backyard,” Kuroo said darkly. “We’re gonna take him out. For everyone’s sake, but especially Akaashi’s.”

“Yeah.” Kenma’s eyes fell to the floor, and his brow furrowed just a little; the expression wouldn’t mean much to most people, but to Kuroo, it was clear that he was upset and frustrated. “He’s doing pretty badly.”

“Can’t really blame him, though.” Kuroo peered at a photo that was clipped to the last page; it was a picture of Kunimoto. He was wearing a dark suit and a small hoop earring in his left ear; he had broad shoulders and a chiseled jaw, with a pinched, unfriendly look on his face. Short, dark, and messy hair reached just past his eyebrows. As Kuroo looked at the physical data printed beside the picture, he whistled. “This guy is built. 195 cm and 95 kg.”

“Yeah. He’s strong, and it backs up his preference for firearms.” Kenma sighed as he sat down beside Kuroo, and twirled a pen on the desk between his fingers. “We can probably track him down. But if we do, he’ll be ready for us, if he doesn’t find one of us first.”

“Fine by me,” he said with a cocky smile. “Let’s grab some food and then do some asking around, and then we can go back home and rest.”

Kenma nodded his agreement, and then drained the rest of his mug. “Sure. Sounds good to me.”

“Hey, what do you want for dinner? I can get something delivered while you take a nap!” Bokuto said brightly.

Akaashi frowned. “I don’t want to take a nap. It’s too early... if I wake up when it’s dark, my sleeping schedule will be ruined.”

“Akaashi, come on! I’ll wake you up before then, so it won’t be so late! How about three hours, at least? That’s two whole sleep cycles! You’ll feel a lot better then!”

Akaashi managed to smile as Bokuto helped him stay steady on his feet; he’d wobbled again, for the briefest of moments. “Sleep cycles?”

“Yep! A sleep cycle is an hour and a half. So you’ll feel better if you get whole sleep cycles instead of just getting up whenever!” With a smile, he took Akaashi by the hand and led him back to the bedroom. “Come on. I’ll make some toshikoshi soba while you sleep, how does that sound?”

“You’re too generous, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi said fondly as Bokuto flipped the light switch and led Akaashi to the bed. Carefully, he sat down and then looked back up at his partner; Bokuto’s gaze was full of affection that he didn’t even bother trying to hide.

“Nah. You mean the world to me, so... it’s really no big deal. I don’t think I could just sit by and let this happen to you, you know? It’d be wrong. I couldn’t... I couldn’t do that,” he finished quietly. His face brightened again a moment later as he clapped his hands together. “Okay! I’ll go get stuff ready for tonight! I’ll wake you up in three hours, okay?”

“All right... thank you. For everything,” Akaashi smiled.

Bokuto gave him a bright smile and a playful salute. “Anything for you, Akaashi!”

Bokuto took a long, hot shower after he left the room.

His heart and mind were a conflicted mess of emotions. The case was taking a heavy toll on Akaashi, and now they were all in danger -- but if nothing else, at least it was drawing them closer.

Just wish the circumstances were different! I’d rather be more distant and not see him go through all this shit... I have to do my best for him! I don’t wanna see him suffer any more... With a sigh, he went to the kitchen after he finished getting dressed in his pajamas, without bothering to spike his hair back up, and drank an entire glass of water in a matter of seconds. That hit the spot, he thought happily as he began to poke around his cabinets for the ingredients he needed for dinner. All right! Time to figure out how I’m gonna do this! Tonight’s gotta be special!

With the help of instructions found on the internet, he spent the next few hours alternating between watching owl videos and getting dinner ready. When three hours had passed, he looked at the table in front of the couch with pride. He wasn’t a master chef by any means, but he’d picked up enough over the years to make a good dinner for two people on New Year’s.

He went back to the bedroom, and took a moment to smile fondly at his sleeping partner. I’ll be strong for you, Akaashi. I’ll keep you safe. “Hey,” he whispered as he softly shook him awake. “It’s been three hours. Dinner’s ready whenever you wanna eat it.”

“Oh.” He was still for a moment, and blinked several times before rubbing his eyes. Bokuto smiled at him; Akaashi’s hair was messy again, and it made him -- in Bokuto’s extremely professional opinion -- almost unbearably adorable. “I’m... going to shower first. And then I’ll join you.”

“Gotcha. I’ll leave you to it!” he said with a bright smile. He went back to the couch and kept himself busy with more owl videos until Akaashi came out about fifteen minutes later, freshly showered in his pajamas.

“Hey!” he said happily as Akaashi sat down beside him on the couch. “How are you feeling?”

“Much better,” Akaashi admitted. “Thank you for looking out for me, Bokuto-san.” He fell silent for a moment; he tapped his fingers against his knee, clearly uneasy. “I’m sorry about earlier.”

“For what? The thing in the office? Don’t even worry about it!”

“No,” Akaashi said firmly, “I am going to worry about it. It was embarrassing, but worst of all, by pushing myself this hard, I’ve been doing it to you as well.”

Bokuto frowned, and scooted a little closer. “Hey, I don’t mind, though.”

“It’s not just about whether or not you mind. You would -- you have been -- pushing yourself to great lengths for me. And I would do the same for you. But I also want to look out for you, and make sure that you don’t fall ill or put yourself in unnecessary danger.” He looked down at his hands as he continued speaking. “It’s bad enough that even just... being alive is making the people that I care about targets. I don’t want to make things worse by being overzealous as well.”

Bokuto shrugged. “It’s not like the situation doesn’t call for it, right? I mean, this is one of the most serious cases in 1st Unit’s recent history. And it’s personal, too.”

“I know, I just--” His voice broke for a moment as he put his head in his hands; alarmed, Bokuto put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I don’t know,” he continued, his words barely more than a whisper. “I’m sorry. I’m not handling the pressure very well. I’m falling apart.” He shivered. “It’s a long way down, but I’m getting there fast.”

“Akaashi, seriously, I’m pretty sure anyone else in the unit would feel the same way right now.” Bokuto moved his hand over Akaashi’s back in soothing circles. “It doesn’t bother me, you know?”

“I know. I just wish I was stronger, and didn’t feel so helpless to keep this whole situation from escalating.” Bokuto felt a faint tremor beneath his hand, and his breath caught in his throat as he noticed a hint of unshed tears glimmer in Akaashi’s eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey, it’s okay.” Bokuto’s voice was soft as he pulled Akaashi towards him in a gentle hug; Akaashi paused for a moment before he turned his body so that the angle was less awkward. “It’s really okay,” he repeated soothingly. He carded his fingers through Akaashi’s hair without even realizing it at first; when the reality of their position sank in a second later, he felt the tips of his ears turn pink.

But he didn’t stop, and a moment later, Akaashi snuggled in closer and pillowed his face against Bokuto’s chest.

“It’s funny, in a way,” Akaashi said quietly. “I was helping you at first, but now our roles have reversed.” He pulled away a little, just enough so that he could look at Bokuto, but kept his arms loosely around the other man’s waist. “I... nobody has seen me so vulnerable in a long time, Bokuto-san.”

“Oh. That’s... that’s kinda flattering? But I wish the circumstances were different!” he added quickly. “It doesn’t make me think any less of you, either! I mean, if anything, I’m even more...” He stopped, suddenly, and turned bright red. “Uh, never mind.”

Akaashi studied him for a long, quiet moment; when Bokuto finally got the nerve to look at him, he could see Akaashi was smiling. “What were you going to say? You seem a little flustered.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” he blurted out. “Akaashi, you’re so... I don’t know, ‘amazing’ doesn’t even begin to cover it!”

“I could say the same to you, you know.” Some of the exhaustion on his face seemed to fade as his smile grew. “You know, you’re much more... casually affectionate with me than anyone else in 1st Unit. You’re always touching me in some way. Why is that?”

“Come on, that’s totally obvious too,” Bokuto grumbled as he blushed harder.

“Yes,” Akaashi agreed with a small chuckle, “but I wouldn’t mind hearing you say it, either.”

Bokuto’s eyes widened a little. “So... was I right? You feel the same way I do?”

“I don’t know, Bokuto-san, how exactly do you feel?” Akaashi asked playfully.

“Are you seriously teasing me?! You’re blushing too!” Bokuto pouted. Without thinking, he gently cupped Akaashi’s face and ran his thumb over one cheek, seemingly distracted by his flushed skin. “So cute,” he whispered.

“Bokuto-san... you’re very close,” Akaashi said quietly.

“Oh.” He looked a little nervous, but Akaashi was still smiling. “Is... is that okay?”


Bolstered by the answer, he leaned in even closer; Akaashi could feel his breath ghost against his face. “Then... would it be okay if I kissed you?”

Akaashi’s eyes almost seemed to glow with affection. “I’ve wanted you to for months, honestly.”

Bokuto took in a sharp breath, his face alight with pleasant surprise. He hesitated for a moment, but then slowly, carefully closed the distance between them. Akaashi felt as if time had come to a standstill as Bokuto’s lips touched his own; the kiss was soft and warm, and he felt like his blood was on fire as his heart began to beat faster. His eyes slipped closed, and he pushed back into the contact with a tiny, content sigh.

Bokuto’s hand was still gently touching his face when he finally broke away several moments later. His eyes glowed with the same radiance as his smile as he placed another quick kiss to the tip of Akaashi’s nose.

“I really, really like you, Akaashi,” he said quietly. “You... you mean the world to me.”

Akaashi smiled back at him. “I feel the same way, Bokuto-san. I have for a while.”

Bokuto took him into his arms in a warm, comfortable embrace. “I’m so glad,” he whispered, his lips close to Akaashi’s ear. “I’m seriously so glad. Oh my god, this is definitely the best New Year’s Eve ever.”

A sense of peace washed over Akaashi’s heart. “I think so too. Happy New Year, Bokuto-san.”

“Do your parents not want to see you?” Akaashi asked quietly, several hours later. They were still on the couch; Akaashi was sitting normally, but Bokuto was sprawled out on the cushions with his head in Akaashi’s lap as the other man gently ran his fingers through Bokuto’s hair.

“Not really,” he admitted, a little uncomfortable. “I mean, they’re not as angry with me as they were before, since I’ve got such a good job now? But I think they’re still kind of, you know... ashamed of me.” He sighed. “It’s still kinda tense, though, so we don’t usually spend New Year’s together. I always use work as an excuse, I guess... what about you?”

“I usually go see mine, at least for a little bit. But they understand that I’ve been busy lately.” His fingers brushed over the shell of one of Bokuto’s ears, and the other man shivered a little beneath his touch. “I... don’t mind spending it with you, though. I like this a lot. And I’ve never been much of a party person, anyway.”

Bokuto smiled up at him, and Akaashi’s heart fluttered in his chest. From the table, Akaashi’s phone vibrated with the sound of an incoming text. Careful not to move Bokuto too much, he reached over and flipped it open. “It’s from Kenma,” he said with a small smile.

“Oh? What’d he say?” Bokuto asked with a grin.

“He told me to rest well and have a good holiday with you,” Akaashi said as he typed out a reply.

“You two get along really great! It makes Kuroo really happy,” Bokuto smiled.

“It makes me happy, too. He’s become very dear to me over the last several months. All of 1st Unit has,” Akaashi said warmly. For a moment, his hand stilled in Bokuto’s hair as he put his phone away. “Thank you for being here for me,” he said quietly. “Bokuto-san... I wanted to help you, at first, but I’m glad you’ve been able to help me, too.”

Bokuto took hold of Akaashi’s hand and pressed a gentle kiss against his fingertips; the owl charms on the bracelet he’d given him caught the light and seemed to sparkle with the movement. He looked up at Akaashi with nothing but adoration. “It’s no problem at all, Akaashi. I’m always gonna be here for you. I promise.”

The following night was cold, but the city was alive with celebration.

“Visiting shrines is such a pain,” Kenma grumbled. “There’s too many people. Let’s stay inside next time.”

“You’re such a hermit,” Kuroo laughed as they walked side by side. “We’re almost back. Then you can go back to playing Love Live, or whatever.”

“There’s no way I can play Love Live on New Year’s Day. Everyone keeps texting me. Keeping my combos would be impossible.” The lights of their apartment complex were a welcome sight; they made their way from the sidewalk to the entrance walkway in front of the building, with Kuroo’s arm slung casually around Kenma’s shoulders.

From the darkness, a flash of motion caught Kenma’s eye. He glanced towards the side and felt a burst of adrenaline rush through him -- in one fluid motion, he shoved Kuroo aside with his left hand, and drew his revolver with his right.

Between one heartbeat and the next, six rounds were fired -- but only two of them were from Kenma’s gun. A cry of pain reached his ears, and then the sound of footsteps -- whoever he’d shot at was running, and fast. A burning, unbearable pain washed over his body like a tidal wave; he felt hot all over as agony clouded his senses.

His revolver slipped from his fingers just as Kuroo came back to his side.

“Kenma?! Kenma! Holy shit!”  Warm, strong arms lowered him to the ground; a moment later, Kuroo was on the phone, his voice frantic and edged with hysteria.

It hurts... “Kuro,” he said softly. His voice shook, and tears spilled down his cheeks. “Kuro?”

“I’m right here, Kenma.” Kuroo’s hands were warm as he held Kenma’s; the smaller man’s hands were slick with blood. “You’re gonna be fine. Paramedics are coming. You’re gonna be fine.”

Kenma laughed weakly. “You don’t... know that.”

“Yeah, I sure as hell do.” His voice was thick with emotion, and he didn’t bother trying to hide the tears that ran down his face. “Stay with me, all right? You’re gonna be fine.”

Kenma was quiet for a moment as he took in ragged lungfuls of air. “I’m scared,” he admitted quietly. “I’m scared.”

“I know. But you’re gonna be fine,” Kuroo insisted, even as more tears fell from his eyes. He felt his stomach churn when he realized the darkness around Kenma’s form was the detective’s blood soaking into the grass. “Kenma, you’re gonna be okay. I’m here. Stay here with me. Help is on the way.”

“I’m glad you’re... I’m glad you’re not hurt,” he said weakly. “I’m glad...”

His eyes slipped shut, and the last thing he remembered was the feeling of Kuroo still holding his hand.

to be continued in chapter 7


Chapter Text

Bokuto woke up on the morning of the 2nd, rested and happy, fifteen minutes before his alarm went off.

A soft smile curved at the corners of his lips as he looked at Akaashi; once again, he was cuddled up against Bokuto, with Bokuto’s arm thrown around his waist, holding him close. Bokuto was content to just watch him for a while; even in the darkness, barely visible, his boyfriend was absolutely gorgeous.

Boyfriend, he thought with a surge of happiness. Boyfriend! Hell yes! I’m the luckiest guy in the world!  Slowly, Bokuto ran his fingertips down Akaashi’s arm as he admired the contours of his face, and the way his eyelashes looked against his cheeks; a moment later, his partner began to stir as he slowly started to wake up.

“Hey, good morning,” Bokuto said with a gentle smile.

Akaashi rubbed his eyes and groaned quietly. “‘morning,” he whispered in reply. Bokuto just smiled, and pressed a quick kiss to the tip of his nose.

Waking up together and being able to stay there beside one another felt so natural, and so right -- like something had clicked into place. They took their time getting ready, and Akaashi listened to Bokuto talk animatedly about the new jogging route he wanted to try sometime as they both drank their coffee in the kitchen.

As they gathered their things to leave, Akaashi checked his phone with a furrowed brow. “Didn’t Kuroo-san say he was going to message us?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Maybe he slept in a little late with Kenma. They do that sometimes.” He scratched his head. “This is such a serious case, though... I dunno. That is pretty weird.” He secured his bag over his shoulders, and held the door open for Akaashi. “If he doesn’t message you by the time we get to the office, shoot him a text!”

“Okay. That’s reasonable.” He took a deep breath, and tried to steady his nerves. It’s fine, he reassured himself. It’s fine. Nothing happened. I’m just being paranoid.

The mood in the office was more tense than Bokuto had ever seen in all his years working there.

“Uh... hey,” he said awkwardly as he set his bag down. Akaashi followed suit; he was visibly uneasy as he glanced around at the expressions of the other members of 1st Unit. “Did something happen?” Bokuto asked.

Yaku pinched the bridge of his nose. “Someone tried to kill Kuroo and Kenma last night, right outside of their apartment complex. Kuroo’s uninjured, but Kenma was just brought out of critical condition a couple hours ago. He was shot four times.” He sighed. “One of the shots hit his bulletproof vest. It saved his life. Another round hit him right below the vest in his lower abdomen, and the final ones hit him in the left arm and right shoulder.”

Akaashi felt his legs start to give out. Bokuto’s arms reached out to steady him, and Akaashi’s stomach churned violently; he very nearly threw up right on the floor.

“Fuck,” Bokuto whispered. “Akaashi, come on. Come sit down.” He led him to the couch; as soon as he was seated, Akaashi put his head in his hands and pressed his fingers against his eyes, in a futile attempt to keep himself from crying.

“I want to see Kenma,” he whispered.

“I know,” Bokuto replied softly. He kept his hand on Akaashi’s shoulder as he looked back at Yaku. “Kuroo’s still at the hospital, right?”

“Yeah. He was totally losing it and refused to leave last night,” he said with tired exasperation. “You should go meet up with them. I have the report that Kuroo wanted to send you, and some additional data about the crime scene from last night; I’ll email it to Akaashi right now, and you can look over it later.” He crossed his arms. “There’s one critical detail that I noticed when I was going over it, though. I want you to know.”

“What is it?” Bokuto asked quietly. Dread simmered in his heart like a poison.

“One week,” Yaku replied solemnly. “Every incident in this case has happened a week apart. So if the pattern holds up... you have about six days left before someone gets hurt again.”

Akaashi’s face drained of color, and Bokuto could feel the trembling beneath his palm grow more intense. “Dammit,” he whispered harshly. “All right. Thanks for the heads up. Can you and Lev help with the data analysis? Find anything you can on the guy behind this, and let me know when you do.”

“Definitely,” Yaku replied immediately. “Hey, Lev, we have work to do. Let’s get to it.”

“Right, Yaku-san! You can count on me!”

“Take care,” Yaku said to Bokuto and Akaashi. “And be careful.”

Akaashi was silent as they made their way to the car.

“Hey,” Bokuto said quietly, after they had their seatbelts on. “It’s--”

“It’s not going to be okay, Bokuto-san,” he said quietly. His voice held the faintest hint of a tremor. “We have six days left, and Kenma almost died. I don’t even want to think about who could be next.” Guilt was heavy on his shoulders as he stared out of the window. “I can’t... I can’t even imagine what Kuroo-san must be feeling right now.”

“...Yeah,” Bokuto agreed quietly. “All right. Let’s go talk to them, and see what we can find out, okay? Look over that report while I drive, and tell me what’s in it. We’ll figure something out, okay? We’re closer than ever before.”

Silently, Akaashi reached for his phone to check his email. Bokuto gripped the steering wheel just a little too tightly as he pulled out of the parking lot.

We’re closer than ever to getting Kunimoto, but this... this was a close call. The worst one yet.

We can’t afford to fail.

When they reached the hospital room, they stood for a moment in silence.

Kenma was hooked up to multiple machines, covered in bandages, and frighteningly pale. Kuroo was slumped over his bed with his eyes closed; at the sound of footsteps, though, his eyes shot open and he was sitting in an instant.

“Hey,” Bokuto greeted him quietly. “How’s he doing?”

“He’s stabilized.” Kuroo’s voice was rough with lack of sleep, and his eyes were bloodshot and faintly swollen from crying. “Did Yaku tell you the damage?”

“Yeah. Vest saved him, huh?”

“Sure did. But you know what else? He saved me, too. I don’t know if the guy was aiming for just me, or just him, or both of us, but he shoved me out of the way and opened fire without a second thought.” He laughed, but it was a cold, empty sound, devoid of happiness. “He shot the bastard, though. He got away, but his blood was left at the scene. Forensics is on it right now.”

Akaashi finally spoke up, and looked Kuroo right in the eyes. “We’re going to do everything we can, Kuroo-san. We’ll get him.” His voice shook with the words, just a little, and the sudden wave of guilt and shame that he felt nearly brought him to his knees.

A hint of rage flashed across Kuroo’s eyes, like a brewing storm; Bokuto felt goosebumps as he spoke. “Yeah, I know. And I’m gonna help you.” His smile was cold and ruthless. “I’m not letting him get away with this. He’s not gonna hurt anyone else.”

Akaashi’s palms were clammy and cold as he tried to get his thoughts under control. “Will you coordinate with us?” he asked quietly.

“Yeah. But... I wanna stay here, at least for a little bit. At least until Kenma wakes up.” His eyes softened as he looked back at his unconscious partner. “After that, it’s do or die, all or nothing. But I don’t want him to regain consciousness in a cold hospital room all alone.”

“Got it. Let us know how he’s doing, okay?” Gently, Bokuto punched him on the shoulder. “Don’t be a stranger.”

Kuroo smiled up at him. “Oh, don’t worry. After I’m done here? I’m with this case every step of the way.”

Bokuto gave him a quick salute before he took Akaashi by the hand and led him from the room. With a heavy sigh, Kuroo turned back to Kenma’s still form, and gently held his hand between his own.

“I’m right here, Kenma,” he whispered. “I’m gonna take this guy down, but for now, I’m right here with you.”

Akaashi stared at his untouched lunch with an empty expression.

“Come on,” Bokuto said softly. He was sitting beside Akaashi on the couch in Bokuto’s living room; he’d insisted that they go back to the apartment for a little bit to calm down and collect themselves. “You gotta eat, Akaashi. I know this case is horrible, but if you don’t take care of yourself--”

“I know,” Akaashi said quietly. “I just... I don’t know if I can right now, without being sick. I almost... I almost threw up back in the office, when Yaku first told us.” He took a deep, shaky breath as Bokuto put his energy drink down and scooted closer. “I feel pathetic. I’m always so -- everyone always thinks of me as calm and collected, but I’m falling apart.”

“I’m kinda scared, too. We all are,” Bokuto said softly. “Kenma is -- he’s a really good friend of mine, you know? We’ve worked together for so long, and... yeah,” he finished, obviously troubled. “I don’t really wanna think about it too much. But we’re all scared. There’s nothing wrong with that!”

Akaashi tapped at his knee with a conflicted expression. “This is five people now. And he’s probably not done. We have no idea when he’s going to stop. And I can’t help but feel responsible.”

“You’re not, though,” Bokuto said. He put a warm, steadying hand on Akaashi’s arm. “Nobody blames you for this!”

“I know, but I also know that if I died, he probably wouldn’t come after anyone else.” He began to tremble again as Bokuto’s eyes widened with fear and shock, and felt the weight of an old, familiar shame as his eyes burned with tears. I probably shouldn’t have admitted I’ve been thinking about that...

“Akaashi, what are you saying? You can’t mean that you’re thinking about... you’re not thinking about killing yourself,” he said with a slightly hysterical laugh. “I mean, don’t bother. Because I won’t let you. So it’s not a solution at all.” A tear fell down Akaashi’s cheek, and with a gentle touch, Bokuto wiped it away. “And we don’t know if he’d stop anyway. That’s not a guarantee. But it doesn’t matter! Because we’re gonna take him out before he can do anything else. Okay?”

“Aren’t you scared?” he asked quietly. “You could be next. You could...” His face went pale again as he held a hand to his stomach. “I can’t... I can’t deal with that, I couldn’t bear to be responsible for that...”

“I’m not gonna die,” Bokuto said in a reassuring whisper. “We’re together, okay? We have each other’s backs, and Kuroo isn’t a guy that anyone wants to mess with. And the rest of 1st Unit is supporting us, too. Everything’s gonna be okay, Akaashi.” He pressed a soft kiss to his forehead. “I promise. Everything’s gonna be fine.”

As Bokuto held him close, Akaashi wished with all his heart that he could bring himself to believe him.


Kuroo’s eyes snapped open at the sound of a quiet, weak voice; he sat up and blinked in the darkness. The lights of the machines bathed the room in a dim, eerie glow, and he could see Kenma watching him; the smaller man seemed disoriented.

“Kenma. I’m right here,” he said softly. Gently, he reached forward, and touched his cheek, almost like a reassurance that he wasn’t imagining things. “I’m right here.”

He was silent for a moment as he tried to get his bearings. “I’m in the hospital?” he asked quietly.

“Yeah. It’s been a little over 24 hours since you were brought here.” He pushed stray strands of hair from Kenma’s eyes, his touch gentle and tender as his eyes filled with tears of relief. “See?” he asked with a small smile. “I told you that you’d be fine.”

Kenma smiled, just a little. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“Are you kidding me? I should be the one thanking you,” Kuroo said with a small laugh. “You saved my ass without even thinking about it. And you stayed with me. You’re still here. You’re still alive.”

Kenma touched the hand that Kuroo had on his cheek. His fingers were cold as ice, but the other man didn’t even seem to notice. “You’ve been here the whole time, haven’t you? Didn’t the staff try to kick you out?”

“‘Tried’ is the key word,” he grinned. “Like I was gonna leave you alone after that. No way. Do you need something to drink?”

“Ah... yeah. That’d be great.” He frowned a little. “You’re going to have to leave, right? To work the case.”

Kuroo seemed to deflate a little. “Yeah,” he admitted. “I’ll help them close it as fast as we can, though, and then I’ll help you recover. I’ll be here every day until you’re out, and I’ll help you at home, too.”

“That’s not necessary,” Kenma protested quietly. “You don’t have to do that.”

Kuroo just smiled in response, and ruffled his hair. “Come on, Kenma. I’d do anything for you. You should know that by now.” His eyes seemed to soften. “Just like you’d do anything for me.”

Kenma smiled back. “All right,” he said quietly, “fair enough.”

Akaashi’s sleep was restless and plagued with nightmares.

Not that Bokuto was particularly surprised. But every time Akaashi woke up screaming, Bokuto soothed him back to sleep with reassuring whispers and gentle touches with no trace of resentment. He didn’t have a single complaint when their alarm went off, despite how exhausted he still was; he just made sure that Akaashi was awake, and went to shower and make them coffee.

When they got into the office, Kuroo was already there waiting for them. The dark circles under his eyes rivalled Akaashi’s own; he had a mug of coffee firmly in hand, and was looking over a report on his laptop, with various papers spread out in front of him.

“Morning,” he said without looking up. “Kenma woke up about four hours ago. Figured I’d let you lovebirds sleep and just tell you when you got here.”

“How is he?” Akaashi asked quietly.

Kuroo shrugged, but his expression held the faintest hint of inner turmoil. “He’s alive. He’ll recover with bedrest.” He took a sip of coffee. “I wanna help him do that, but I need to close this case, first. So the sooner we bring this asshole in, the better for Kenma, too.”

“We’ve got five more days, right? Then he’ll go for someone on the sixth,” Bokuto said as he put his bag down next to the couch. “In theory, anyway.”

“Right,” Kuroo replied. “Nothing is stopping this guy from making a move before then. So we need to track him down, and take the fight to him instead.” He looked up from his screen, and met Bokuto’s gaze head on. “But we need to be careful. He’s a soulless piece of shit, and he’s tried to kill five people now and failed every single time by sheer chance. So he’s probably more serious than ever.”

Akaashi visibly paled, but nodded his head. “I understand,” he said quietly. “What information do we have on his whereabouts?”

“He likes to hang around the southern parts of the city a lot,” he drawled as he stood up and slid some documents across the desk towards Akaashi. “And we think he might live around there, too. If we can find him where he’s staying, that’s probably the easiest, but most dangerous option for cornering him.”

“He’d be the safest there,” Akaashi agreed quietly as he looked over the data.

“You’re not planning on running solo, right?” Bokuto asked Kuroo with a calculating look. “Even if you’re working with us, going around by yourself would be dangerous as hell right now!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he sighed in response. “I’m gonna be teaming up with Lev and Yaku until we finish this.” He ran his hand through his hair and glared at his screen. “We’ve got a few leads, so I think all five of us should go out today and start asking questions. But you need to be on high alert. We’re not messing around, but neither is Kunimoto.”

“No kidding,” Bokuto muttered. “All right! Let’s look over this and get moving. What do you say, Akaashi?”

“Sounds good,” he agreed quietly. “I’m with you the whole way.”

“Hey, how are you holding up?”

Bokuto’s face was the picture of concern as they climbed back into the car; several hours of footwork and questioning later, and they’d basically come up empty handed. “Are you feeling all right?”

“You don’t need to worry about me,” Akaashi said quietly. “I’m more worried about you, honestly.” His eyes scanned the area outside as he spoke; every stray moment, every deep shadow, made his heart beat just a little bit faster with fear.

“I’ll be fine, Akaashi, seriously!” Bokuto said with a bright smile. “Don’t worry! Let’s go get some dinner, then head back to the office for some data, and go home. How does that sound?”

“Something tells me that you’re not giving me much of a choice,” he said with a wry smile.

“Nope!” Bokuto grinned. “I’m not letting you work yourself to collapse again. Especially not right now. So, dinner first, then some data, and then my apartment!”

Akaashi was silent for a moment as Bokuto started the car and began to pull out of the parking spot. “I’m just... worried,” he said quietly. Guilt weighed heavy on his heart, and his stomach trembled with nausea. “It feels like we’re running out of time. Well... it felt like that a while, honestly. And... we only have a handful of days before Kunimoto makes another move, if even that.”

“I know,” Bokuto replied, his tone unusually somber and serious. “I know, Akaashi. I’m sorry. I wish I could do more!” He sighed as they reached a red light, and gripped the steering wheel just a little too tightly. “I don’t like sitting around when things are so bad, either. This is the worst case that 1st Unit has dealt with since I started there five years ago. It’s unnerving as hell! But... we’re no good if we run into Kunimoto, and we can hardly stand up ‘cause we haven’t been sleeping or eating.”

Akaashi ran a hand through his hair. “I know that. Logically, that makes sense to me. But I can’t seem to get my heart to rest, despite that. I can’t... I can barely even sleep right now. I keep having nightmares about him killing us while we sleep, or Kenma dying, or Kuroo being shot, or...” He bit his bottom lip a little as his fingers tapped against his knee. “I don’t think I’d get any rest at all, if I wasn’t with you, to be honest. You make me feel... safer. And you’ve been keeping me grounded. Thank you for that.”

Bokuto’s smile seemed genuine from the outside, but his chest ached with anxiety. I have to protect him. We have to end this. I’ll do anything... I can’t stand to see him fall apart.  “No problem, Akaashi! I’m just glad I can help!”

Akaashi didn’t reply. He was silent the rest of the way back, fingers tapping steadily at his knee as he desperately tried to stay calm and collected.

The next few days were excruciating.

Every tiny lead they managed to find seemed only to take them in circles, until finally, Kuroo came up with something -- he decided to interrogate Hanamiya one more time. Bokuto and the others were watching in the adjacent room through the one-way mirror as it began.

“Listen.” He sounded dangerous in a way Bokuto and the others had never heard before as he looked at Hanamiya. Hanamiya seemed more amused than anything. “We already know you don’t wanna go back out there, because you’re afraid of this guy. But if you give me one piece of information, we can take him down, and put him away. And then you don’t have to worry about that anymore. Deal?”

Hanamiya leaned back in his chair, and a slow smile spread across his face. “He got one of your guys, didn’t he? When’s the funeral?”

Faster than lightning, Kuroo leaned across the table and grabbed him by the collar. His face was only a few centimeters from the other man’s as he spoke. “I’m not fucking around, Hanamiya. Work with me, or I’m releasing you from custody, and making a statement to the press about you being free.” His smile was cold and full of hostility. “Wouldn’t want Kunimoto to get word of that, now would you?”

“Okay. Holy shit,” he gasped as Kuroo shoved him back and sat down again. “What do you wanna know?”

“Tell me where he lives,” Kuroo replied quietly, “and when he’s usually home.”

“Look, I don’t know the guy’s schedule. Your best bet it probably between, I dunno, 4 and 8 in the morning, though. Not much going on then for anyone.” He shrugged. “As far as where he lives, last I knew, it was the Kakyuu complex. Room 818.” He gave Kuroo an unpleasant, sour look. “Listen, if you don’t take him down, he’s gonna be after me like you wouldn’t believe. He’ll definitely think I betrayed him if I go walking free, and he’s got cops sniffing around his place.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Kuroo said with a smile that promised misfortune. “I’ll be taking care of him personally.”

“Hey hey heeey! So, do you wanna hit the place tonight?” Bokuto asked as they all gathered back in their office.

Kuroo finished the rest of his cold coffee in one big gulp. “Yeah. Otherwise, we’ve only got one more day before something happens. So let’s not waste time.” He began pulling up information and maps of the complex that Hanamiya had pointed them to. “We need to be careful going into this. The last thing we want is for him to know we’re coming.” He was quiet for a moment as he looked back at Bokuto and Akaashi. “Be ready, though. He might get tipped off before we even get there. He’s good at coming across info when he needs it.”

“Let’s split into two teams!” Bokuto suggested. “Akaashi and I can enter in through the parking garage. You, Yaku and Lev can go in through the front door.” He peered at the map that Kuroo had open on his screen. “In fact, you three can hang around the front entrance! That way, if he runs, we’ll pincer him between both teams!”

“Good idea,” Kuroo said. “We need to rest first, though. Hanamiya said the best time to hit would probably be around four in the morning. Let’s not go in without any sleep.”

Bokuto nodded. “All right! Let’s go home! I’ve got no objections!” He slung an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders and ruffled his hair with a wide smile on his face. “Wanna stop by Fukuro Grill on the way back home, Akaashi? What do you say?”

“That’s fine with me,” he said, smiling despite the weight in his heart. Bokuto cheered, and moved away so that he could pack his laptop back into his bag.

A cold feeling of dread settled into the pit of Akaashi’s stomach as he packed his own things up. There’s five of us. We’ll be fine.

This ends tonight.

He couldn’t seem to fall asleep.

Bokuto was there beside him, with an arm wrapped around Akaashi’s waist, warm and wonderful. His face was peaceful, and completely at ease as he snored softly beside his boyfriend.

But as Akaashi looked at his face in the darkness, all he felt was fear.

The alarm would go off in another two hours; at two in the morning, they would get ready for the operation. Their goal was to be in position right around 4. And as exhausted as he was, as comfortable as it was there beside Bokuto...

He couldn’t seem to rest.

His mind was like a hurricane, a whirlwind of guilt and dread. Kunimoto had proven himself to be incredibly dangerous -- and now, the stakes were higher than ever. Everything could go right -- but Akaashi knew it could all go horribly, horribly wrong.

When he finally did fall asleep, it was uneasy and filled with nightmares of a man whose face he barely knew.

“This is it,” Kuroo said grimly as he adjusted his earpiece. Lev and Yaku stood beside him, and Akaashi and Bokuto were a couple feet away, finishing up their own checks to make sure all their gear was ready. “Headsets on, weapons ready?”

“Yep!” Bokuto smiled as he patted the gun in his holster. “All right. You three, you’re taking the front. Spread out in the entrance a bit, just in case Kunimoto comes running! Akaashi and I will enter in through the parking garage, like we decided earlier, and make our way up to the 8th floor. I’ll take point as we approach the room, since I’ve got more raiding experience!”

Akaashi wanted to protest, but a quick look from Bokuto led him to a resigned sigh instead. “All right. I’ll alert the other three over the earpiece once we make contact or reach the room, whichever happens first.”

“Good! He might not even be here, but let’s be ready for contact. Everyone stay alert!” Bokuto said brightly. “All right, on the count of three! One... two... three!”

Quiet as the darkness itself, they spread out as they made their way through the complex’s entryway. Kuroo, Yaku and Lev split off from them and walked towards the dimly lit front doors; Akaashi felt his heart start to beat faster as he and Bokuto opened the garage.

Cold air washed over them as they stepped inside; Bokuto visibly cringed at the way their footsteps echoed through the open space. “Damn,” he whispered. “Hey, you with me, Akaashi?”

“Yes. Don’t worry about me.” He followed Bokuto as quietly as he could; they moved slowly and stayed alert as they weaved their way through cars, towards the stairwell door on the other side of the area. Akaashi took a deep breath to steady himself; he felt unsteady on his feet, since he hadn’t been sleeping well, despite his best efforts.

The quiet of the cold winter night was unnerving. Akaashi’s mind whirled with doubts and possibilities as Bokuto reached towards the handle of the door towards the stairwell. Were they overlooking something? Were they underestimating Kunimoto? Surely it can’t be as easy as walking up to his apartment...

“Bokuto-san,” he said quietly, “I think we must be missing something. Kunimoto has proven himself to be adept at gathering data on his targets. He probably knows we’re coming.”

Distantly, they heard a shuffling noise; Bokuto glanced around in alarm for a moment before he visibly relaxed, and his gaze settled on Akaashi again. “Probably just a stray or something. Anyway, don’t worry about it,” he whispered. “We already know that! But this is our best chance right now.” He turned back towards the door, and gripped the handle to open it. “It’s gonna be fine--”

Akaashi’s blood ran cold as he felt something press into the back of his head.

“Don’t move,” someone said in a low voice, “or it’s all over.”

Akaashi’s reflexes kicked in too slowly; he felt an arm around his throat, and suddenly, he was dragged backwards as Bokuto turned back around and reached for his weapon.

“Oh, no no no. Put that away for now, detective,” the man sneered. Akaashi struggled for air; he was several feet from Bokuto now, who was looking at him with a shocked expression. The rookie felt a rush of relief as the man removed the arm around his neck; but a moment later, as he struggled to regain his breath, he felt his arms being roughly grabbed and pinned behind his back as he was forced to his knees. The cold, hard pressure against the back of his head returned, and he knew, without a shred of doubt, that a gun was being pointed at him.

“Kunimoto?” Bokuto asked quietly. He didn’t move at all, but stared with open fear on his face.

“The one and only,” the man behind Akaashi replied. He laughed, but there was no mirth in it. “You guys really don’t know when to quit, do you? You didn’t get the message with the first five people?”

Bokuto didn’t reply, and Akaashi stayed silent; his breathing was speeding up, rapid and shallow as adrenaline and anxiety twisted through his veins. Kunimoto laughed again. “Seriously. You’ve had some luck until now, I’ll give you that. But I was only gonna do one more attempt, and then hope you understood what you were dealing with. Figured this guy here would lose his shit for good if I put a few rounds in you,” he said with an unpleasant smile.

Bokuto felt a bead of sweat run down his face. “That’s not true,” he said quietly. “I don’t mean anything to--”

“Don’t even try to give me that,” Kunimoto sneered. “Are you kidding me? Do you think I’m stupid? All the information I’ve gotten on this guy’s friends and family, and you honestly think I couldn’t tell that you two are a thing?”  he asked in disgust. “Your little boyfriend was right, though. I’ve had my eyes on you like you wouldn’t believe since your other friend -- Kozume, was it? -- ended up in ICU.”

Bokuto was quiet for a moment as he assessed the situation. “Okay,” he said slowly, “so what do you want right now? What can I do?”

Kunimoto laughed again, louder than before. “Oh, so now you want to bargain? It would be such a shame to see Akaashi die in front of you, wouldn’t it.” He smiled, and pressed the muzzle harder against Akaashi’s head. “Seriously tragic, huh?”

“Please,” Bokuto whispered. “I’ll do anything.”

Akaashi felt sick as he began to tremble. “Bokuto-san, no--”

“Hey, stay out of this,” Kunimoto said. Akaashi bit down on his lip as the other man yanked painfully at his arms; he was completely helpless. “This is between me and the captain now.” He looked back towards Bokuto, who was obviously terrified; tears brimmed in his eyes, but it only seemed to make Kunimoto happier. “This is great,” he smirked, “honestly better than I ever imagined this situation going. You know what? I just got the best idea I’ve had since this whole thing started.” His chuckle sent a new wave of fear through Bokuto as their eyes met. “I’ll let Detective Akaashi go, on one condition.”

“...What is it?” Bokuto asked. His voice shook, just a little. “I’ll do anything.”

Kunimoto’s smile grew wider. “Kill yourself.”

All the blood drained from Akaashi’s face, and his stomach clenched with terror and nausea as Bokuto met his eyes. But just as quickly, the captain looked away, back up at the man that had been terrorizing them for the last month. “...What?”

“You heard me.” Kunimoto chuckled. “That’s the choice I’m giving you. You’ve got a gun, right? Use it. Shoot yourself, right here, right now, and I’ll let him walk free. But if you don’t, I’ll kill him, and then I’ll injure you and leave. Either way, someone dies, and I get to send my message loud and clear.”

Bokuto met Akaashi’s eyes again, and for just a moment, Akaashi felt a surge of terrified hope. Finally, it’s over -- I can just... I can die here and it’ll be over, nobody else will be hurt because of me--

But then, Bokuto began to reach for his gun.

“What?” Akaashi asked quietly. “Bokuto-san, what are you--”

“Shh,” Kunimoto said with a condescending lilt as he pulled at Akaashi’s arms again. “Stay quiet. Hey, no sudden moves, captain. You got it?”

“Yeah.” He pulled his revolver from its holster, and looked at it for a long, tense moment. “I understand.”

“Bokuto-san, please, don’t do this, just run. Please.” Akaashi’s voice broke as he tried to hold back a sob. “Please, I couldn’t -- I can’t -- don’t do this. Please don’t do this.”

Bokuto smiled sadly. “I can’t watch you die in front of me, Akaashi. You can’t expect me to do that.” He looked down at the gun in his hands. “I can’t do that. I won’t let you die.”

“So you’ve made your choice? That was fast,” Kunimoto smiled. “How tragic. Feel free to say some more last words, though. I’m really enjoying the show.”

Akaashi trembled as tears began to spill over his cheeks. “Please,” he begged quietly. “Bokuto-san, I’m not worth it. Please. Please don’t do this -- please. I can’t lose you like this. He might kill me anyway after you pull the trigger. It’s not worth it. We can’t trust him--”

“Oh, you can trust me on this, I promise,” Kunimoto said with a wicked smile. “The whole point of this was to send a message, and make you suffer. I’d feel a lot better knowing you were still walking around afterwards, honestly.”

Slowly, Bokuto began to raise his revolver. Akaashi felt his stomach churn, and tasted bile in the back of his throat as he tried not to throw up. “Please, Bokuto-san, please. Please don’t do this.”

The captain of 1st Unit took a deep, slow breath as he held his firearm against the side of his head, and looked at Akaashi as tears began to fall freely down his face. “There’s no alternative, though. I can’t... there’s no other way out. The others are all in the front... we have no way to call for help without him knowing, Akaashi. I have to do this, or you’ll die.” He smiled, but the expression was weak, edged in terror and desperation. “I have to do this.”

“No. You don’t. Don’t, please... please...” His eyes burned, and his chest ached as his heart beat too hard, too fast -- it was becoming more and more difficult to breathe. “Please... please don’t do this...”

“I’m sorry,” Bokuto said quietly. “I... I said it before, didn’t I? That I’d do anything for you.”

“I know that, but I don’t want you to do this -- please --”

“Sorry,” he said ruefully, his voice barely more than a whisper. “I also said I’d always be here for you. I guess I have to break one promise to keep another.” His eyes glimmered in the dim light. “I’m so sorry. I failed you. I’m sorry it came down to this.”

“Don’t be. This isn’t your fault,” Akaashi insisted. “Please... please, I’m begging you, please don’t--”

“I would do anything for you, Keiji.” Bokuto closed his eyes, and took another deep breath. “I’ll protect you, no matter what.”

Akaashi sobbed, desperate and broken, as the sound of a single gunshot echoed through the darkness.

to be continued in chapter 8


Chapter Text

Blood splattered across Akaashi’s cheek.

He almost felt his heart stop as Kunimoto screamed in pain behind him. From the corner of his eye, Akaashi saw the man’s blood-smeared revolver hit the ground -- was he shot in the hand?  --  and he could see Bokuto lower his gun with wide eyes. Immediately, he took the opportunity to slip from Kunimoto’s weakened hold and sweep his feet out from under him; he stumbled towards Bokuto as the sound of rushing footsteps came closer and closer.

“Don’t move!” The voice was loud and familiar, full of cold rage. Kuroo emerged from behind a large SUV at the other end of the garage, slung his sniper rifle over his shoulder, and drew his revolver -- he was headed straight for Kunimoto, who was desperately trying to regain his footing and reach for his gun with his uninjured hand.

With no hesitation, Kuroo pulled the trigger, and hit Kunimoto in the same hand he’d already shot a moment before; the man screamed in pain as another spray of blood decorated the concrete.

He stood up straight as Kuroo rushed him; he tried to swing at the detective with his good hand, but the motion was weak and had no power behind it. Kuroo sidestepped it easily, drew his fist back, and hit Kunimoto right in the face; he smiled viciously at the sound of crunching bone as the man’s nose broke beneath his fist.

Bokuto holstered his weapon and helped Akaashi stay standing; he led him several steps back to get them both out of the way.

“You done yet?” Kuroo asked as Kunimoto clutched at his face with his good hand. Without a shred of mercy, he drew his arm back and hit him in the jaw -- Kunimoto screamed, and fell to his knees.

Kuroo took the opportunity to glance over at Bokuto and Akaashi. “Yaku and Lev are at the entrance to the garage. Backup is on the way.” He paused for a moment with a considering look in his narrowed eyes as he stared down at Kunimoto, who was still kneeling on the ground and clutching his bloody face. “Hey there, Kunimoto. Nice to finally meet you.”

In one smooth motion, he punched him in the side of the face once again. Kunimoto doubled over in pain, but then Kuroo hauled him up with one hand and jammed his revolver against his throat with the other.

“You’re lucky,” he whispered dangerously, “that I don’t just blow your fucking head off.” He smiled, but there was no kindness in the expression as he reached for his handcuffs. He wasted no time in putting them on the injured man, and then, for a moment, he stared down at him silently before he turned to his friends.

“How are you two holding up?” he asked, a little more softly.

Bokuto rubbed soothing circles over Akaashi’s back as he held him. The younger man was still trying to get his breathing under control as he wiped the blood from his face; both of them were shaking from the remnants of too much adrenaline coursing through their systems.

“We’ve been better,” Bokuto admitted quietly. He gave Kuroo a shaky smile. “Nice timing, though! Thanks.”

“Hey, no problem. Like I said, I’m not gonna let him hurt anyone else.”

“Backup is already here,”  Yaku said over the headsets. “Lev and I are coming inside the garage now.”  A moment later, they could hear the door opening, and then rapid footsteps as the two other detectives sprinted towards them.

“Is everyone okay?!” Lev asked cheerfully. “You look terrible!” he said to Bokuto and Akaashi with a bright, innocent smile. He yelped as Yaku smacked him in the side of the head with an exasperated sigh.

“Oblivious as ever,” Akaashi muttered as he wiped at his eyes. Slowly, he tried to stand; Bokuto helped him as much as he could, and they leaned on each other as their legs still shook. Akaashi looked at Kuroo, thoughtful and curious. “...Why did you come into the garage, Kuroo-san?”

“The cameras and microphone we found planted near the entryway in our initial surveillance gave me a bad feeling. So I set Bokuto’s headset to stay on the whole time, just in case.” He smirked, sly and obviously pleased with himself. “Figured our friend here would want to go after you, instead of the three of us. Looks like I was right.”

“I see.” Akaashi closed his eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. “I think... I think Bokuto-san and I might need to leave.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” Kuroo smiled. “You’ve been through a lot tonight. And the last five weeks in general, really. Go home and chill out.” He peered at both of them with searching eyes. “As long as you’re not hurt, anyway. Do you need to see a doctor?”

“Nope!” Bokuto said with a bright smile. It was plastic and fake, a mask that Akaashi could see through as easily as glass. “Neither one of us is hurt!”

Kuroo narrowed his eyes, not fooled by the facade in the least. “Right. Well, then you should get going.” His smiled; it was his usual cat-like expression, which was oddly reassuring in its familiarity. “You two are gonna need all the rest you can get. There’s gonna be a mountain of paperwork to close this case.”

Bokuto groaned theatrically. “Gross! All right, let’s head out, Akaashi. We’ll see you guys sometime in the afternoon!” Akaashi nodded his agreement, and the two men turned and began to make their way out from the garage, still leaning on one another as they walked.

Kuroo turned back towards Kunimoto; Lev and Yaku watched, curious and then caught slightly off guard as he kicked him once more, albeit with far less force than he had before.

“You’re a real sick piece of shit, you know that?” He was smiling, but his eyes were cold and full of hatred. “I knew damn well that you were garbage already, but that little stunt you tried to pull was really something else.”

“Admittedly, the brutality of what he was suggesting was pretty shocking, even considering the things he’s already tried to do,” Yaku agreed quietly. Lev nodded beside him, and gave Kunimoto the nastiest look he could muster.

Kuroo grinned again, cold and unfriendly as he dug his heel into Kunimoto’s hip; the other man cried out weakly in pain. “Oh, does that hurt? You wouldn’t happen to have a healing gunshot wound there, would you, from several days ago?” His eyes glittered with malice. “My mistake.”

“How the fuck did you know where it was?” Kunimoto gasped.

A satisfied smirk curled at the edges of Kuroo’s lips. “Your stance. I saw it through my scope. You were favoring your left side in an interesting way.” He ground his heel down again, and Kunimoto screamed.

“Will you tell him to knock it off?!” he shouted brokenly at Yaku and Lev.

“Normally, I’d say this type of thing is seriously out of line, and beyond uncalled for,” Yaku said slowly. “But right now, as far as I’m concerned, I haven’t seen anything.”

Kuroo winked at him, and Yaku rolled his eyes.

The drive to Bokuto’s apartment was heavy with silence.

As soon as they got back, and the door closed behind him, all the tension seemed to go out of Bokuto’s body as he sagged against the door and kicked his shoes off. Akaashi toed his shoes off as well, and put their bags on the cluttered desk near the wall; he placed his palms on the wood, and leaned heavily against it as he took a deep, slow breath.

“I can’t believe how close that was,” he whispered into the dark room.

Bokuto was slow and careful as he approached Akaashi, and wound his arms around his waist from behind. He rested his cheek against his shoulder and sighed. “I’m sorry. But I’m glad, too.” He nuzzled against him a little as he mumbled. “I’m glad you’re safe. I... I didn’t wanna lose you.”

“I didn’t want to lose you, either,” Akaashi said as he turned around to look him in the eye. He rested his hands on Bokuto’s hips, and the captain found himself turned and pushed back against the desk. Akaashi’s breath ghosted over his face as he spoke again. “Do you have any idea how I... I couldn’t live with myself if I watched you do something like that. It would destroy me.”

Bokuto opened his mouth to reply, but then stopped when he noticed the faint trembling in Akaashi’s arms. His own mask seemed to fall away completely as he realized that the other man was still just as shaken as he was. “I’m sorry. I didn’t wanna die, Akaashi.” He felt his expression start to crumple, and he felt the warmth of tears that he’d been holding back for weeks fall down his cheeks. “I didn’t wanna die! But more than anything, I wanted... I wanted you to live!” He cupped Akaashi’s cheek with one warm hand, and stared deeply into his eyes, open and vulnerable in a way that Akaashi had never seen before. “I’d make the same choice again if I had to.”

Akaashi closed his eyes, and their foreheads touched as he leaned in closer. He was quiet for a moment, and then he whispered with complete sincerity, “I can’t be too angry, I guess. I would’ve done the same thing, in your position.”

Bokuto’s eyes widened in shock. “You would... you would do that? For me?” He laughed quietly, just the slightest bit hysterical. “That’s... that’s... why would you do that for me?”

Akaashi leaned back, just enough so that he could look into Bokuto’s eyes again. He reached up with one hand, and brushed away another tear that spilled over the other man’s cheek. “Isn’t it obvious? For the exact same reason that you would.” He took a deep breath, and tried to blink back tears. “You’re always talking about two way streets, right? You’re always saying that you’d do anything for me.” The smile that appeared on his face was shaky and weak. “Well, don’t forget about the two way part. I’d do anything for you, too.”

Bokuto looked into Akaashi’s eyes, momentarily speechless with the gravity of what he’d just been told. “I...” His cheeks darkened as he grew flustered. “I love you, Keiji!” The words were rushed, blurted in something more like his usual demeanor, but sincere all the same. “I love you so much,” he whispered. “Sorry -- that’s probably weird, isn’t it? I mean--”

“I love you too, Koutarou.” He pushed himself closer, effectively pinning Bokuto against the desk behind him. “It’s not weird at all. I love you too.”

The tips of Bokuto’s ears turned pink. “Keiji...” His gaze flickered down to Akaashi’s mouth for a moment, then back up to his eyes.

It didn’t escape Akaashi’s notice. “...Can I kiss you?” he asked quietly.

“Like you really have to ask,” Bokuto laughed breathlessly.

He’d barely finished the sentence when Akaashi’s lips pressed against his own, warm and faintly desperate with lingering adrenaline. Their noses brushed briefly, and then Akaashi angled his head and pushed in harder; Bokuto sighed against his mouth, and then gasped quietly as their hips moved against one another.

“H-hey,” he whispered as he tried to hold back a moan. “Uh...”

“Is this okay?” Akaashi asked. He stroked Bokuto’s hip slowly as he asked, and kissed him gently on the corner of his mouth.

“Yeah,” Bokuto said breathlessly, “hell yeah it is, please--”

Akaashi’s lips slid against his, warm and wet; the pressure of his hips returned as he pushed his whole body closer to Bokuto. “You should take your blazer off,” he whispered, “because you’re not going to need it.”

Without another word, Bokuto shrugged it off, and threw it unceremoniously to the side. Akaashi wasted no time; with one hand still on Bokuto’s hip, he brought his other up to the captain’s tie, and loosened it in one smooth motion before he began to work at the buttons of his shirt.

Bokuto took the opportunity to push his boyfriend’s blazer off of his shoulders and onto the floor; his hands shook, just a little, as he loosened Akaashi’s tie and began to undo the buttons of the shirt beneath it. “Keiji -- Keiji, you’re so beautiful, I want--”

Akaashi nipped at Bokuto’s lower lip before he kissed him again, more desperate than before. “I want you too,” he whispered, his voice rough and his eyes blown dark with lust. He finished with the last button of Bokuto’s shirt, and pushed it open; his fingers trailed down Bokuto’s stomach, and the other man shivered at the intimate touch. Akaashi tilted his head slightly, and his lips brushed against the shell of Bokuto’s ear as he whispered, “Take that off.”

Bokuto didn’t have to be told twice; he pulled his shirt off as quickly as he could, and watched Akaashi with hungry eyes as he leaned back to take his off as well. “Holy shit,” he whispered as Akaashi tossed it somewhere behind him. He was shameless as his eyes roamed Akaashi’s body, and then a small smile curled at the corners of his mouth when he realized the other man was blushing. “Seriously,” he grinned, “it’s not fair. How can someone be cute and sexy at the same time?”

“You tell me,” Akaashi smiled as he trailed his fingertips along one of Bokuto’s arms; the captain shivered again at the heat left in the wake of his hands. A moment later, he gasped as Akaashi’s lips met with his own once again, hungry and desperate for more.

He placed his palm against Bokuto’s chest, right over his heart; their hips moved together, and a tiny moan tumbled past his lips as they simultaneously realized just how excited both of them really were. Akaashi rolled his hips forward again, and Bokuto felt his heart speed up as desire flared inside of him.

“Keiji,”  he whispered. He ran his hands over Akaashi’s hips, and let them drift back until he could squeeze his ass. “Oh my god.” His breath came faster as he leaned forward and kissed him; first on the lips, then the corner of his mouth, and then along his jaw. “Keiji, Keiji...”

Akaashi whimpered in response, and one of his hands drifted to the buckle of Bokuto’s belt; Bokuto twisted himself and turned them around, until he was pressing Akaashi back against the desk. He felt his cock twitch with excitement as he trailed hot kisses down Akaashi’s neck; the other detective moaned again, and shuddered as Bokuto nipped gently at the sensitive skin beneath his mouth.

“I want to touch you,” Bokuto whispered, “I want to feel you.”

“Please.” Akaashi’s fingers deftly undid Bokuto’s belt in a few smooth motions; Bokuto felt himself flush as he fumbled with Akaashi’s, until the other man laughed softly and unhooked it himself. “You want to touch me, so touch me.” As he spoke, he slowly slid his fingers down Bokuto’s stomach, lower and lower until they rested at the edge of his briefs. “I... I want to feel you too. I want you, Koutarou. Please.”

Bokuto surged forward as he kissed Akaashi again, shameless as he grinded against the other man with a needy gasp. Slowly, he slipped his fingers into the waistband of Akaashi’s boxers; for a moment, he let his touch linger, teasing and soft, before he pushed them and Akaashi’s slacks down around his thighs.

Akaashi gasped quietly as Bokuto trailed his hand over his length; he nipped at his ear again, and Akaashi’s eyes closed as Bokuto’s hand finally curled around his cock. He slid his hands up Bokuto’s back, fingers splayed across his shoulder blades as the other man nibbled teasingly at his neck.

“I’ve wanted to do this for months,” Bokuto admitted, as he whispered quietly into Akaashi’s ear. He pumped his hand, slowly, and Akaashi arched into the touch with a gasp. He left a trail of damp kisses along Akaashi’s neck and across his collarbone; a moment later, he sank to his knees without warning.

Akaashi’s eyes widened as Bokuto trailed his hands down the outside of his thighs; he looked up at him with bright eyes as he stroked along his length with a single finger.

“Can I...”

“Please,” Akaashi whispered hoarsely, “please...”

A smile spread across Bokuto’s face. He held Akaashi’s cock with a loose grip, and slowly, without breaking eye contact, licked a long, wet stripe from the base all the way up to the tip.

Akaashi gripped at the edge of the desk as hard as he could to steady himself. With a small smirk, Bokuto took him into his mouth in one smooth motion; Akaashi’s knees trembled as he felt himself hit the back of Bokuto’s throat.

Bokuto hummed as he pulled back slowly, and began to bob his head in a steady rhythm, with his hand loosely gripping at the base of Akaashi’s cock. A bead of sweat rolled down Akaashi’s face as he tried not to rock his hips forward; he bit at his lower lip and rested one hand in Bokuto’s hair, just as the other man pulled back and slowly, teasingly licked at his tip with an obscenely pleased look on his face.

Akaashi moaned as Bokuto bobbed his head down again, this time with a faster rhythm, hot and slick. Bokuto’s cheeks hollowed as he sucked and moaned around Akaashi’s cock, making him shiver as he arched into his mouth without even meaning to.

His hand tightened its grip in Bokuto’s hair as he felt a steadily building pressure within him, coiling low and pleasant in his stomach. His hips stuttered forward as Bokuto increased his pace once again, his eyes hungry and bright even in the darkness.

“I’m... I’m almost...” Akaashi choked on the words, and his head fell back as another euphoric moan tumbled over his lips. “I’m--”

Bokuto hummed again, and once again, Akaashi felt his knees tremble violently as his length hit the back of the other man’s throat, over and over and over again. The tension rose in his body like a wave, and then broke; his toes curled as he sobbed in pleasure, and came in Bokuto’s mouth with a breathy whimper.

Bokuto moaned quietly as he swallowed, and gave the head of his cock one final lick to get the last drop; Akaashi shivered as he gently kissed the tip and stood up again to press a wet, heavy kiss against his lips. He could still taste himself on Bokuto’s tongue, but he didn’t mind -- it was intimate in a way that he found strangely thrilling.

“How was that?” Bokuto whispered against his mouth.

“Perfect,” Akaashi replied, still a little dazed. He smiled as he licked his palm, and then slipped a hand into Bokuto’s waistband; the other man gasped and pitched forward a little, and steadied himself on the table as Akaashi wrapped his slick fingers around his cock. “Now,” he whispered into Bokuto’s ear, “it’s your turn, Koutarou.”

Bokuto’s heart was pounding so hard that he was surprised Akaashi couldn’t hear it. As Akaashi began to stroke him with a smooth, even rhythm, he leaned forward to kiss Bokuto, his breathing heavy as he ran his tongue over the other man’s lower lip.

Bokuto gasped into the kiss as Akaashi’s free hand came up to his chest, and rested right over his heart. Akaashi continued stroking, his pace just a little faster as he felt the pulse of life beneath his palm; he took comfort in the rapid heartbeat, the proof that they were still alive and together.

“I love you,” he whispered against Bokuto’s mouth, “I love you so, so much...”

Bokuto moaned quietly against his lips as tears prickled at the corners of his eyes. “I love you too, Keiji, I--”

Akaashi kissed him deeply, his breath hot as their lips slid together and his pace increased even more. Bokuto whimpered as heat began to coil within him, and he couldn’t help but rock forward into Akaashi’s palm, desperate for more delicious friction. “I’m not... I don’t think I’m gonna last much longer, I’m--”

“That’s fine,” Akaashi whispered, “that’s fine. Come for me, Koutarou.”

Bokuto trembled as the heat inside of him reached a breaking point; he nuzzled against Akaashi neck, and moaned against his skin as his fingers curled against the edge of the desk. He felt his cock twitch as he came in Akaashi’s hand; pulses of pleasure ran through him like waves, each one smaller, but no less wonderful than the last.

“Holy shit,” he whispered after a moment, dazed and flushed with bliss. “That was... that was amazing. A million times better than everything I imagined.”

Akaashi was flustered, but smiled. “You... fantasized about me?”

“Are you kidding? Of course I did!” He laughed, obviously embarrassed as he leaned his forehead against Akaashi’s. “You drive me crazy. You have since the day I met you, and the more time I spent around you, the more I fell in love with you. Like, I’d think, okay, I can’t possibly love Akaashi any more than I already do, right? But then another day comes along, and I fall for you even more!”

Akaashi’s smile grew wider, and his thumb traced tiny lines over Bokuto’s skin where his palm still rested over his heart. “You’re so genuine. And brave,” he said quietly. He kissed the tip of Bokuto’s nose. “I’m glad that we still have a future together. I’m...” His eyes glimmered with unshed tears, and Bokuto placed a gentle kiss on his cheek before placing his hand over the one Akaashi had on his chest.

“It’s okay,” he smiled. “It’s okay. I’m still here, see?” He moved his hand to Akaashi’s chest, and seemed to relax as he felt the other man’s heartbeat under his palm. “We’re both alive, Keiji. We’re okay.”

Akaashi smiled, so wide and genuine that Bokuto’s breath caught in his throat at the sheer beauty of it. “Yes. We really owe Kuroo-san our thanks, don’t we? He saved you. He saved both of us.”

“Hell yeah he did! Told you he was a hell of a sniper, right? He’s so crafty!” He looked down at the hand that Akaashi didn’t have on his chest, and laughed a little. “Wanna take a shower?”

Akaashi flushed a bit. “Are you suggesting we take one together?”

“Well, why not?” Bokuto grinned. “Streamline the process, right? It’ll save time!”

“You’re a pervert, Bokuto-san.” He smiled as he said it, though, and pulled away to walk towards the bathroom.

“Hey, I’m not trying to be perverted!” he objected with a laugh as he followed him. “Ooh, ooh, let’s take a bath afterwards! We can use a bath bomb! Doesn’t that sound great?!”

“Wouldn’t two people in the tub be cramped?” Akaashi asked as he flipped the light on in the bathroom.

“It’s fine! We’ll just get cozy!” Bokuto said with a bright smile. “Come on, Akaashi, it would be awesome, right? Cuddling in a nice bath together?”

“I don’t see why not.” His cheeks flushed pink again as he hesitated for a moment before he slid his pants and boxers the rest of the way off.

Bokuto stared, open-mouthed and shameless with his appreciative gaze. Akaashi blushed harder, and ignored him to turn on the water. “Aren’t you going to finish getting undressed?” he asked flatly as he rinsed his hands under the stream and tested the temperature.

“Yeah, I was just enjoying the view!” Bokuto said cheerfully as he quickly took the rest of his clothes off.

Akaashi sighed with fond exasperation as he stepped under the water, and motioned for Bokuto to join him. The captain didn’t hesitate at all as he got in and closed the sliding glass door shut behind him.

“So...” Bokuto said slowly, with a growing, enthusiastic grin. “Fancy meeting you here!”

Akaashi rolled his eyes as he smiled and leaned back into the water so that his hair would get wet. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Yeah, but you love it,” Bokuto beamed.

“Yes,” Akaashi agreed as he reached for the shampoo a moment later, “I do.”

Bokuto was clearly delighted by the blunt response. Akaashi rubbed some shampoo into his damp hair, but then the other man reached forward, and gently touched Akaashi’s face for a moment before sliding his hands upward. Gently, he began to massage the shampoo into his hair, and Akaashi’s eyes slipped shut as he let out a content sigh.

“That feels really nice,” he said with a quiet smile.

Bokuto hummed happily in response, and continued; they stayed like that for several long moments, and Akaashi could feel the last remnants of tension begin to melt away under his boyfriend’s tender touch. When he finished, Bokuto gently angled Akaashi’s head beneath the water, careful not to get anything in his eyes as he gently rinsed the suds away.

“Thank you,” Akaashi said, before he pressed a quick kiss to the tip of Bokuto’s nose. “Would you like me to do that for you, too?”

“Seriously?” Bokuto grinned. “That’d be great! You’re the best!”

“Well, I’m glad you think so,” Akaashi laughed quietly as they switched spots.

Bokuto stuck his hair under the water, and scrubbed at it a little to make sure it was wet enough. “I don’t think so, I know so,” he said with his usual bright smile.

Akaashi didn’t reply, but Bokuto saw the corners of his lips twitch upwards in a tiny smile as he squirted some shampoo into one palm. He put the bottle back in the corner of the tub, then rubbed it between his hands, and slowly began to work it through Bokuto’s hair.

“You look very different with your hair down,” he said quietly, as he gently massaged Bokuto’s scalp with his fingertips.

Bokuto’s eyes slipped shut in bliss. “But still cool, right? What do you think of my hair?”

Akaashi felt his lips curve upward. It’s so easy to smile with him. “Yes, it’s amazing.”

Bokuto’s answering laughter was warm and deep. He laughs with his whole body, Akaashi thought fondly.

“I like your hair too!” Bokuto said enthusiastically. “It’s great!”

“...There’s nothing special about it, though.”

“No, really.” Bokuto opened his eyes, and watched him with open adoration. “It suits you! You’re seriously the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever seen in my life!”

Akaashi felt himself flush a little. “How can you say such embarrassing things with a straight face all the time?”

Bokuto just laughed. “It’s the truth, though! I mean it.”

“I know,” Akaashi said with a wry smile as he began to gently rinse Bokuto’s hair, “that’s why it’s so embarrassing.”

Bokuto laughed again, delighted and ecstatic as he leaned forward to place a soft kiss on Akaashi’s cheek. “This is great,” he said, a little more quiet than he’d been a moment before. “I’m glad I’m here with you. It’s perfect.”

Akaashi looked into his eyes, and smiled. “It is, yes. I’m glad I’m here too.”

“Which bath bomb would you like to use?” Akaashi asked as he shut the water off.

The tub had just finished filling; he stood up from his seat on the edge, and walked past Bokuto towards the cabinet below the sink. “Do you have a preference?”

“Ooh! Space Girl! It’s my favorite!”

Akaashi smiled. “I had a feeling,” he said as he picked it up from the shelf. “All right. You get in first, since you’re bigger than I am.”

Bokuto didn’t have to be told twice. He stepped in gingerly; Akaashi was more than happy to take the opportunity to silently admire him from behind, until he sat down against the back of the tub. “Come on in!” he smiled.

Carefully, Akaashi stepped in as well, and made himself comfortable; he relaxed, and felt Bokuto’s warm chest against his back.

“See? It’s not too cramped at all, right?” Bokuto asked with a smile, as he nuzzled into Akaashi’s still-damp hair.

Akaashi hummed in response. “Are you ready for me to put the bath bomb in?”

“Yeah, do it!” Bokuto grinned.

Akaashi placed the small, purple sphere gently in the water in front of them; they both watched quietly as it began to fizz, and the water began to swirl with rich, deep color. “I never get tired of seeing this,” Akaashi admitted quietly.

“Right? These things are amazing! I’m so glad you told me about them.” Bokuto’s hands were warm as he rested them on Akaashi’s thighs. “...Are you tired?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, very,” Akaashi admitted with a small laugh. “I’ve barely slept at all over the last several weeks, and tonight was... it was terrifying.” He relaxed against Bokuto’s chest, and all the remaining tension in his body seemed to disappear as he took in a deep breath. “But this is really nice. It’s... soothing. I’m glad we’re doing it.”

“Me too!” Bokuto wiggled his toes in the water, and watched the color swirl and shimmer around them. Casually, he pressed a kiss against Akaashi’s ear, and relaxed against the wall; he brought a hand up to Akaashi’s chest, over his heart, and took comfort in the steady rhythm beating beneath his fingers.

They stayed there like that for a while, quiet and comfortable in their silence. Eventually, they both dozed off, and Bokuto woke when the water was just beginning to become cold.

“Hey,” he whispered, as he gently touched his boyfriend’s arm. “Let’s go to bed,” he smiled.

“Mm,” Akaashi agreed, his voice heavy with fatigue. He yawned as he sat up and took the plug out of the drain, and then carefully got up and stepped out of the tub as he reached for a towel hanging nearby. Bokuto stood up and got one as well; they dried off quickly, and shared the sink as they brushed their teeth together.

Bokuto kept his arm around Akaashi’s shoulders as they walked back to the bedroom. Akaashi didn’t even bother changing into his pajamas; he just crawled into bed and got under the blankets immediately. With a smile, Bokuto followed him, and snuggled up close as he put an arm around his waist.

“Aren’t you going to set an alarm?” Akaashi asked groggily.

“Nope,” Bokuto replied with a quick kiss to Akaashi’s ear. “We’re gonna sleep in as much as we want today.”

Akaashi didn’t argue, and moments later, he was already asleep.

“We got him.”

Kenma paused his game, looked up from his DS, and blinked at Kuroo as he walked into the room and took a seat. “When?”

“A few hours ago. He’s in custody now.” He smiled, obviously pleased with himself. “Nobody was injured... except for him, anyway.” The chair beside Kenma’s bed squeaked a little as Kuroo sat in it; he propped his elbows on the edge of the mattress, close enough that his arms brushed against Kenma’s side. “It was a close call, though,” he admitted.

Kenma’s brow furrowed. “What happened?”

Absentmindedly, Kuroo picked up the hand that Kenma wasn’t using to hold the DS, and held it between his own. His thumb traced tiny lines against his skin as he spoke, and recounted the events from earlier.

Kenma was quiet for a long moment as he stared at his partner. “...You haven’t slept at all,” he said eventually.

“That wasn’t a question, was it? Yeah, you’re right.” He met Kenma’s eyes, and a soft, gentle smile curved at his lips. “But I’ll be fine, now that the worst is over. I had to make sure we were all okay first, you know?”

Kenma sighed. “I’m being released later today. We can go back, and get some rest.”

Kuroo’s smile grew. “Oh? Good. I’ll stay here until they let you out,” he grinned. “By the way, I got the new game you wanted on the way over here...” Immediately, Kenma’s expression brightened, and Kuroo laughed a little as he pulled it from a pocket on the inside of his coat. “Here. Let me watch you play it?”

“Yeah. Come sit on the bed.” He moved over, and Kuroo blinked before a slow smile spread on his face.

“You’ve always got the best ideas,” he laughed. He handed the game to Kenma and stood up, then carefully sat in the open spot his partner had made. “Are you comfortable?”

“Mhm,” he hummed in response as he opened the box. He wasted no time in swapping the games in his DS; within moments, the opening video had started, and he was entranced.

Kuroo leaned his head against Kenma’s, still careful not to aggravate his injuries. In that moment of familiar intimacy, for the first time since Kenma had been shot, he felt truly at peace.

Bokuto was the first one to wake up.

He blinked slowly as he got his bearings; his arm was around Akaashi’s waist as usual, and the other man was facing him, still asleep. Bokuto was content to just stay there for a moment and admire Akaashi’s features, and the way the sunlight drifted through the blinds -- it lit up the ends of his hair like gold.

He’s... ethereal, he thought lovingly. He’s seriously so hot, and smart, and just... wow, I am really the luckiest guy in the world.

A few minutes later, Akaashi began to stir. He rubbed his eyes as he tried to focus his vision, and snuggled closer to Bokuto with a soft smile on his lips.

“Good morning,” he whispered, his voice rough from sleep.

“More like afternoon,” Bokuto grinned. “It’s already past lunch!”

Akaashi groaned a little in response; Bokuto laughed, and gave him a quick kiss before he rolled out of bed. “I’ll make some coffee!” he said brightly. Akaashi watched him go, amused that he hadn’t even bothered to put on clothes; he’d just walked out of the room completely naked, without a care in the world.

I could get used to this, Akaashi thought as he rummaged in his bag for a clean set of clothes.

“Huh? Where’s Kuroo?” Bokuto asked curiously as he set his laptop case down on the desk.

Yaku looked up from his laptop with a smile. “He’s at home right now. Kenma just got released from the hospital about half an hour ago. He’ll be in for a little bit later, though.” He pushed a stack of papers towards Bokuto, who regarded it with a sour look. “Those are all yours.”

Bokuto groaned theatrically, and Akaashi took the first document off of the pile to glance over it. “Is there anything new that we should know right away?” he asked.

“Well, Lev and I made sure that everyone will be safe. Hanamiya said during one of his previous interrogations that Kunimoto’s subordinates weren’t loyal out of love, but fear. So we probably don’t need to worry about retaliation of any sort.” He smiled, obviously satisfied with himself. “We did a press release while you were resting. So word is definitely out among his rank and file that he’s going behind bars, and staying there for good.”

“We should get the names of the people that were working under him, if we can,” Akaashi said as he read over the paper in his hands. “Hanamiya told Kuroo-san that a lot of them were just trying to get by. Perhaps we can point them in the direction of more honest work, to get them back on their feet.”

“...As a show of goodwill?” Yaku asked curiously.

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” Akaashi replied. “But I suppose it would have that effect, as well.” He squinted at the paper. “...Was Kunimoto seriously called the ‘Street Shark of Miyagi’?”

Bokuto snickered behind him. “I’d leave Miyagi too, if I had a nickname that stupid.”

Yaku rolled his eyes, but smiled as he went back to work. “Don’t stay in too late. You two need some rest. You’ve been through a lot.”

“Seriously! Hey, we should all get Kenma something nice for when he comes back to work.” Bokuto crossed his arms, and stared up at the ceiling in thought. “Maybe a videogame?”

“Kuroo-san already got him one that came out recently,” Akaashi said. At Bokuto’s curious look, he shrugged. “He texted me about it. But we could always ask him what he thinks Kenma would like.”

“Something old might be your best bet,” Yaku said as he stood up to refill his cup with more coffee. “You’ll probably want to ask Kuroo, though. He’d know better than anyone else.”

“Good idea,” Akaashi agreed. He took his phone out, and typed out a quick text. “Maybe we can pick something up on the way home, Bokuto-san?”

The tips of Bokuto’s ears turned pink. Home. He called my place home!  “What? Oh, uh, yeah! That’s a great idea, Akaashi!” He grinned and threw his arm around his shoulders. “Let’s go get yakiniku after work!”

“Sure,” he said. “But you have to let me pay, this time.”

Yaku looked back at them with a knowing smile on his face as he sipped at his coffee.

Dinner with Bokuto was as animated as ever. Akaashi found himself listening as the other man rambled about various topics almost the entire time they ate.

After they paid, they made their way to a nearby game store, hand in hand, to look for a gift for Kenma. The shopkeeper greeted them as they walked through the doors; they took their time as they looked for the things that Kuroo had suggested, and after about ten minutes, managed to find what they’d been searching for.

This time, Bokuto insisted that he would be the one to pay for it; Akaashi relented with a sigh, and Bokuto took out his wallet with a flourish and his trademark grin.

They were still holding hands when they left, and didn’t let go until they reached the car, which was parked several blocks away. Bokuto was as talkative as he’d been over dinner as they drove back to his apartment, but Akaashi found it familiar and endearing.

“Let’s take another bath tonight! I wanna use another bath bomb!” he said enthusiastically as he kicked his shoes off and threw his blazer and bag over the back of the nearest chair.

Akaashi sighed as he set his own bag down. “Those are expensive.”

“It’s fine! I’ll buy some more!” he grinned. “Come on, let’s relax!”

“All right.” Akaashi shrugged his blazer off and loosened his tie. “You don’t mind me staying another night?”

Bokuto stepped forward, and wrapped his arms loosely around Akaashi’s waist before giving him a soft kiss. “‘Course not! You’re welcome here any time, as much as you want,” he said warmly. “I like it when you’re here.”

Akaashi’s slow smile was as beautiful as the rest of him; Bokuto felt his heart flutter in his chest as the sight took his breath away. “All right. Let’s go, then.”

He reached forward and took Bokuto’s hand, and twined their fingers together as he led the way.

to be continued in chapter 9 - finale.


Chapter Text

Akaashi slept more soundly than he had since the end of November.

When the alarm went off at five in the morning, it wasn’t nearly as hard for him to get moving as it had been for the last several weeks. He felt lighter, like a huge burden had been lifted from his shoulders. By the time he’d finished taking a quick shower, he could smell the coffee that Bokuto had already made, and as he walked into the kitchen, his boyfriend greeted him with a quick kiss to the tip of his nose and his signature smile.

“We should start jogging again tomorrow!” he suggested. “What do you think?”

“Sure,” Akaashi agreed as he sipped at his coffee. “It has been a while, hasn’t it?”

“Yeah, I miss it! It was a lot of fun!” Bokuto beamed.

Akaashi sighed with exasperated fondness. “Running eight kilometers in the morning is a weird idea of fun.”

“You don’t mind, though, right?” Bokuto asked quietly.

“If I did, I wouldn’t go with you,” Akaashi replied easily. “You said recently that you had a new route in mind, right?” He finished the last of his coffee, and then rinsed his mug in the sink. “You should tell me about it.”

Bokuto didn’t need any more prompting than that; he talked about it all the way to the office, seemingly as enthusiastic and spirited as he usually was.

But as he listened, Akaashi couldn’t help but think that he looked just a little bit tired.

“All right! Yaku, Lev, come with me. You two have been cramped up in the office too long! We’re gonna go get lunch for everyone!” Bokuto said brightly. “Kuroo can do the interrogation after we all get some food!”

“Where should we get food from?” Yaku asked as he stood up.

Kuroo shrugged. “You know what we like. Surprise us.”

“How helpful,” Yaku sighed as he shrugged his coat on. “All right, let’s go.” He followed Bokuto out of the office, with Lev trailing behind like an excited puppy. Suddenly, it had become much quieter; Akaashi and Kuroo were the only two still in the room.

“So,” Kuroo said with a Cheshire grin as he sat down beside Akaashi on the couch, “how are things with you and the dear captain?”

“...They’re fine.” Akaashi’s tone was neutral, but the slight flush on his cheeks betrayed him.

“Oh? Seems more than just ‘fine’, from where I’m sitting.”

Akaashi gave him a flat look. “I’m assuming Bokuto-san already talked to you about it, since you’re best friends.”

“Bingo.” He sipped at his coffee to hide his growing smirk. “Seriously, though. How are you doing? It’s been hard for both of you.”

Akaashi sighed. “Better than before. But it may take some time for me to get back to 100%. It was... this case was incredibly difficult.”

Kuroo kicked his feet up on the table. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. You sure kept at it, though. Pretty commendable.”

“Thank you.” He looked out of the window in front of them that overlooked the city. “I’m worried about Bokuto-san, though. He’s energetic, but it seems a little forced.”

“That’s not surprising,” Kuroo said easily. “He was working that case on manic energy. Seems great in theory, but it has its drawbacks, like I said before.” He took another sip of coffee, and followed Akaashi’s gaze out of the window. “He’ll get too fired up, and gets reckless and hyperactive, and forget that he actually needs things like sleep or food. For like, weeks sometimes. He’s gotten better recently about not pushing himself too hard when that happens, but, well.” He shrugged. “This case was a little too serious for any of us to take it easy. So he’s probably exhausted and burned out right now.”

Akaashi looked over at him with a considering look in his eyes. “I see. Do you think he’ll have another one of his negative moods again?”

“What, like as a result of burning out? Maybe. Wouldn’t be the first time.” He met Akaashi’s stare with a smile. “You know, I had my doubts about you at first. Figured you’d ditch him and request a transfer, ‘cause you’d think he wasn’t worth the trouble or something. Glad to see I was wrong.”

Akaashi smiled a little, and looked away. “I meant it when I said that Bokuto-san is a great man. We work well together, and I consider myself lucky to be his partner.”

“Yeah, you two are a pretty good team. You’ve got my blessings,” Kuroo said as he drained the rest of his coffee. “Take care of each other.”

Akaashi’s smile was genuine and reassuring. “We will. Thank you, Kuroo-san.”

“Gotta say, I’m honored to have the Street Shark of Miyagi in custody,” Kuroo said with an unfriendly smile.

Across the desk, Kunimoto glowered at him. “Don’t call me that.”

“Whatever you say, Shark-san.” Kuroo kicked his feet up on the desk, and leaned back in his chair like he didn’t have a care in the world. “So, do you feel like fessing up? I’d offer you a deal, but I’m not all that interested in giving you one, to be entirely honest.”

“Why the hell would I tell you anything if you’re not even gonna give me something in return? Are you an idiot?” he sneered.

Kuroo’s grin was predatory. “Well, we already have you on camera attempting to murder one of our detectives, assaulting another one, and trying to coerce the captain of our unit into committing suicide by holding his partner hostage after the assault in question. So you might as well, because as far as we’re concerned, you’re already beyond screwed.”

Kunimoto’s eyes widened, and Kuroo laughed. “Body cameras are incredible things. We’ve all been wearing them for the last few weeks, just in case. And now that we’ve got you in custody, we can match our long, long list of forensic evidence to you as well.”

“If you already have proof of what I did, then why are you even interrogating me?!” Kunimoto asked as his jaw clenched in rage.

Kuroo’s smile grew even larger. “Honestly? I just wanted to gloat.”

Kunimoto slammed his head down on the table in frustration, and the detective laughed once again.

Bokuto was oddly quiet as he drove Akaashi back to his place several hours later.

“You really don’t mind me staying again?” Akaashi asked as he shut the door behind him.

“Nope, of course not! And a lot of your stuff is here right now anyways, right?” Bokuto kicked his shoes off and walked over to the couch; as soon as he sat down, he seemed to deflate, as though he were still exhausted.

Akaashi was silent as he took off his shoes and blazer; he loosened his tie as he put his bag down on the table in front of the couch, and sat beside his boyfriend. “Is something wrong?” he asked quietly.

Bokuto was silent for a moment as he considered his answer. “I don’t want you to think... that yesterday morning... was a mistake,” he said slowly. “I don’t want you to think I’m annoying. Or crazy.”

“...I don’t think any of that,” Akaashi said patiently. “At all.”

“But I’m such a mess!” he protested. “Right before Kunimoto started trying to kill people, I was totally useless. And then, the only reason I got through the first couple weeks was because I was still a mess, just... kind of in the opposite way, I guess?” He laughed, but there was no mirth in it. “And now I’m so tired again. And I can’t help but think you’re gonna see me fall apart again, and... and you’re gonna see how weak and terrible I really am.”

Akaashi scooted closer, and gently touched his cheek. “You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for, Koutarou.” Bokuto’s eyes widened as Akaashi kept talking. “You’re not weak at all. The opposite is true, honestly.”

“...What do you mean?” he asked quietly.

Akaashi smiled wistfully. “You’re one of the best detectives around. And I know how bad those low moods can be, because that’s the same thing I struggled with when I was younger, too. I still do, sometimes, though it’s not often so severe anymore.” His eyes held no judgement as he met Bokuto’s gaze. “That’s part of why I think you’re brave. Because I know how hard it can be to make it through those, sometimes... let alone face people afterwards.”


“And what you did yesterday, during that confrontation with Kunimoto. What you were willing to do.” The fingers he held against Bokuto’s cheek trembled slightly with the memory. “No coward would be able to do that.”

Bokuto shifted a little so he could face Akaashi better. “I just...” He looked a little bashful as he leaned into Akaashi’s hand and closed his eyes. “You really think so?”

“I don’t think so, I know so.” He smiled as Bokuto’s eyes flew open, and the captain’s face brightened, just a little. “You’re kind, strong, and brave, and very good at what you do. You’re so... you’re so genuine, and bright, and... really, really attractive,” Akaashi said quietly as a slight flush came to his cheeks. “You are the most incredible person I’ve ever had the fortune to meet. Your inner struggles are not going to turn me away from you.”

Bokuto looked at Akaashi in wonder, as if he could hardly believe what the other man had just said. He stared for a moment, completely speechless, before he buried his face in the crook of Akaashi’s neck in embarrassment. “You’re the amazing one,” he mumbled against his skin. “Seriously!”

“This isn’t about me,” Akaashi said with an amused smile.

“I’m making it about you!” Bokuto laughed. His breath was warm against Akaashi’s neck as he wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s waist, and made himself comfortable. “You’re incredible!”

“Well, I’m certainly glad you feel that way,” Akaashi said with a small laugh. He paused for a moment in thought. “...Do you remember, when the case was still in its beginning stages, I said I could tell you what I’ve done to ease the depression?” Bokuto nodded against him, without raising his head. “Well, part of it involved talking to someone. His name is Komi Haruki.”

At that, Bokuto did look up a little, enough so that he could meet Akaashi’s eyes. “What, like a... a therapist?”

Akaashi nodded. “Sometimes, just talking helps. And he has useful tricks you can use when you feel your mind getting out of hand, as well as medicine that you can take to regulate it. Like those antidepressants we talked about, back when we were doing stakeouts.” Idly, he traced his fingers along the muscles of one of Bokuto’s arms. “I take them, actually. They help me a lot.”

Bokuto was quiet for a moment as he thought about it, and then he nodded. “Okay! I trust you, and it sounds good! I’ll give it a shot.”

Akaashi smiled. “All right. Here, I’ll give you his phone number, so you can call him whenever you’re ready.”

Bokuto reached into his pocket without leaving his spot in Akaashi’s lap, and took out his cell with a grin. He typed in the number as Akaashi recited it, and then saved it in his contacts. “Awesome, thanks! Oh, I should do something else, before I forget,” he beamed. He pushed a few more buttons, and Akaashi felt his curiosity get the better of him.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Changing your name in my address book! See?” With a bright smile, he turned his phone around; instead of [Akaashi], it now read [Keiji ~♥]. Immediately, Akaashi felt himself flush as a pleased smile curved at the corners of his lips.

“I guess we match now,” he said with a small laugh. At Bokuto’s look of confusion, he flipped his own phone open, pushed a few buttons, and turned it so that his boyfriend could see the screen.

[Koutarou ♥]

“Oh my god,” Bokuto whispered as the tips of his ears turned pink. “That is so cute!”

“...It’s literally the exact same thing you just did.”

“But it’s cuter when it’s you!” Bokuto said brightly.

Akaashi sighed with fond exasperation. “You seem to be feeling better. I’m glad.”

“Yeah,” he smiled, “I am. I guess it’s just... it’s really comforting! You know? Being reminded that you understand, and that there are ways to make it suck less.” He tossed his phone on the table, and then nuzzled his face against Akaashi’s chest. “I... I’m not as afraid that you’re going to leave because of it, and it’s awesome.”

Akaashi ran his fingers through Bokuto’s hair with a small smile. “Of course I won’t. I’ll be there for you, like you were there for me. We can make it easier for each other. Like a balanced scale.”

“Yeah! I like the way you think!” He pressed a soft kiss against Akaashi’s jawline, and looked at him with nothing but adoration. “You’re amazing. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

Akaashi leaned down a little to kiss him on the nose, and as he did, a thought occurred to him -- a question that he’d wanted to ask Bokuto months and months before.

“I’m curious... why did you decide to become a detective?” he asked quietly. “Was there any particular reason?”

Bokuto blinked at him, and then smiled sheepishly. “It sounds so dumb. You’re totally gonna laugh at me if I tell you!”

“I doubt it’s dumb. I won’t laugh,” Akaashi promised.

Bokuto grinned back at him in response. “Well, I wanted to make a difference! ‘Cause I figured, you know, then I wouldn’t be so worthless, if I could change peoples’ lives! And I figured I wasn’t good enough at anything else to do it any other way.”

Akaashi’s brow furrowed as he kept running his fingers through Bokuto’s hair, who sighed happily into the touch. “You’re not worthless,” Akaashi said firmly. “Even if you weren’t a detective, you wouldn’t be worthless.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Bokuto admitted slowly. “But I didn’t know that back then. I sucked at school, and my family thought I was weird and terrible ‘cause of the... the mood stuff? So yeah! That’s why. I don’t regret it at all, though, especially since it led me to meeting you!” he smiled.

Akaashi trailed his fingertips over Bokuto’s jaw. “That’s not a stupid reason at all, you know. Mine was almost the same as yours.”

“Really?” he asked, openly curious. “Tell me!”

“I didn’t have bad grades, but I felt... empty, I guess. Like my life lacked any sort of meaningful direction, and I had no real worth or purpose.” His fingers made their way back into Bokuto’s hair. “Like I could die, and nobody would miss me if I did.”

Bokuto’s expression instantly became serious. “Keiji--”

“I know. I don’t think that way anymore. But at the time... I wanted to make a difference. More than anything. So I became an officer, and figured I’d work my way up the ladder, to do as much as I could.” Idly, he played with the ends of Bokuto’s hair. “I thought that if I could help people, I could have a place in the world, and be less of a burden.”

“You’re not a burden!” Bokuto insisted. “You could never be a burden. You’re so important, Keiji! Not just to me, but to a lot of people!”

Akaashi’s smile was warm with fondness. “Thank you. The same is true about you, you know.” He placed a soft kiss against Bokuto’s forehead. “You mean a lot to many different people. Not just me. Your friends and coworkers all think highly of you for many reasons.”

Bokuto’s smile was as radiant as the sun itself as he pressed a warm kiss to Akaashi’s lips. “You’re a hell of a smooth talker, Keiji!” His eyes brightened as an idea came to him. “Oh! Hey, let’s go take a shower!”

“You know, we don’t always have to take them together.”

“But I like taking them with you,” Bokuto insisted. “It’s better with both of us!”

“...I suppose I can’t argue with that,” Akaashi said with a wry smile. “All right, let’s go. My legs are falling asleep under you, anyway.”

Bokuto got up with a cheer, and held out his hand to Akaashi. His chest felt warm as he took it and stood up; Bokuto linked their fingers together, and led the way to the bathroom. In the end, he managed to convince Akaashi to take another bath with him, too -- and the younger detective had no complaints when the captain snuck a few kisses in the shower as well.

The next two months went by in a blur.

With a few exceptions here and there, Akaashi and Bokuto’s schedules mostly went back to normal, including their morning jogs and evening visits to the gym. At that point, the damage that Kunimoto had caused during the case had mostly been repaired; Kenma, Onaga, Sarukui, and Akaashi’s parents had all recovered, though Onaga was still going to physical therapy sessions and taking it easy at work. The parts of the house that Kunimoto had burned down were rebuilt, Kunimoto was safely behind bars, and several of his subordinates had managed to find work, with Akaashi’s help.

Akaashi slowed to a stop as he thought about it, and looked to the still mostly-dark sky to see the rising sun just peeking over the horizon. Beside him, Bokuto came to a halt when he realized that Akaashi wasn’t moving anymore, and followed his gaze upwards as he casually wrapped an arm around his waist.

“Everything okay?” he asked curiously.

“Yeah. I was just thinking about the Kunimoto case.” He leaned on the railing at the edge of the sidewalk; the streetlight beside them bathed them in a soft glow.

“What about it?” Bokuto asked. He grinned playfully as he leaned against his boyfriend. “Oho, maybe about how dashing I was, right?”

“You were amazing, yes,” Akaashi replied with an amused sigh. “We all were, I think. Kuroo-san and Kenma were especially incredible. We all worked together, and you and I endured the final confrontation, but... if it wasn’t for the two of them, it would have turned out very differently.” Idly, he played with the bracelet on his wrist; the owl charms gleamed in the soft light, cool against his skin. “And I’m glad that Kunimoto can’t hurt people anymore.”

Bokuto pressed a quick kiss to Akaashi’s temple; Akaashi promptly wrinkled his nose. “I’m sweaty,” he protested.

“Doesn’t bother me!” Bokuto said with a smile. “You’re right, though. Everyone was great! That was definitely the most dangerous, personal case our unit has had to deal with since I started working there!” He looked up at the sky, entranced by the colors of the approaching dawn. “Hell of a way to start the new year, huh?”

“Yeah,” Akaashi agreed quietly. “Especially for Kenma.”

“Oh, yeah, he got shot on the night of New Year’s,” Bokuto said, a bit somber with the memory. “Hey, though! You totally sound like you still feel guilty about it! That’s totally your ‘feeling guilty’ face!”

“It’s just my face,” Akaashi said with a flat look.

“C’mon, you can’t fool me,” Bokuto said with a grin. He nudged Akaashi’s shoulder with his own, playful and energetic as usual. “You know, he seriously doesn’t blame you for that. Neither does Kuroo, or anyone else!”

“I know.” He watched the sky with Bokuto, quiet and thoughtful. “Logically, I understand that. But our emotions don’t always line up with logic, unfortunately.” He shrugged. “I know it wasn’t my fault. But sometimes, I still can’t help feeling a little guilty about it, I guess.”

Bokuto leaned over and gave him another kiss, and looked at him with nothing but adoration. “It’ll fade with time. Right?” he asked with a smile. “Life goes on! And Kenma and Kuroo both really like you, so that probably helps too!”

“You seem very certain about it.”

“I am! Because I know I’m right!” He tousled Akaashi’s hair with a grin. “I’ve been best friends with Kuroo for like, ages, so I totally know. He thinks you’re great! And if Kenma didn’t like you, you’d definitely know it,” he laughed.

“I suppose so,” Akaashi said as a small smile curved at his lips. “I’m sorry. It was just something I’ve been thinking about today, I guess.”

“No worries! You’ve got nothing to apologize for!” Bokuto said brightly. “Come on, wanna finish the rest of the route? We can get breakfast afterwards, and maybe that’ll help you feel better! But if not, we could totally talk about it some more, too. I don’t mind either way!”

“Breakfast sounds good. Let’s go, Koutarou.”

As the sun rose higher in the sky, Akaashi’s worries seemed to fade into the back of his mind, and he felt his anxieties begin to melt away.

“Another long night at home together?” Kuroo asked from his spot next to Kenma as Akaashi and Bokuto walked into the office together.

It was still early, and they were the only ones there, which meant less witnesses to see Bokuto immediately turned bright red as he began to splutter indignantly. Akaashi sighed as he set his bag on the long desk. “Are you trying to imply something, Kuroo-san?”

“Oh, I’m not implying anything,” he grinned. “I mean, it’s pretty obvious that you stay at his place more than you stay at your own.”

Akaashi’s cheeks began to turn pink. “I fail to see the point you’re making.”

“My place is bigger! And nicer!” Bokuto insisted. “That’s why!”

“Uh huh,” Kuroo smiled. “Serious question: why even pay rent on a place when you’re never there anyway, Akaashi? Seems like a waste of money, if you ask me.”

Akaashi’s blush grew darker as he turned away to busy himself with making a pot of coffee. “It’s not entirely my decision to make. Kenma, how’s your new game coming along?”

Kuroo laughed, and Bokuto plopped down on the couch next to him. “A masterful subject change.” He plucked his cellphone from the front pocket of his shirt and flipped it open as Akaashi and Kenma began to talk, and quickly pushed several buttons. A moment later, Bokuto’s phone vibrated; he glanced at Kuroo suspiciously, and then opened it to see a message from the other man.

>so, for real, are you gonna ask him to move in or what

Bokuto shot a quick glance to Akaashi before he began to reply; his partner wasn’t even looking in his direction.

>are you kidding! what if he says no?! i’m scared ok

Kuroo rolled his eyes as he replied immediately.

>did you hear what he just said? he’s not gonna say no. don’t make me meddle any more than i already have

“Bokuto-san, what are you doing?” Akaashi asked with a wary look as he sat down beside Kenma at the desk. “You’re being unusually quiet.”

“Oh! Uh, nothing!” he said with a forced laugh. “Nothing at all!”

“...Right,” Akaashi said. He clearly didn’t believe him. “Don’t forget that we still have paperwork left over from the painting theft.”

Bokuto groaned loudly, and Kuroo just laughed. “Tough luck.”

“Hey hey heeey, so! Where do you wanna go for lunch?” Bokuto asked as he threw an arm around Akaashi’s shoulder. “How about that cool little cafe that just opened down near the river? Yaku said their food is awesome! And they have little tables that you can sit at outside!”

“Sure. Let’s get going, then.”

“Have fun, kids,” Kuroo called out with a smile. Bokuto stuck his tongue out at him, and blushed when he saw Akaashi giving him a flat look.


“Nothing, Bokuto-san. I was just thinking about how mature you are.”

“I can’t tell if you’re serious or not!” he complained as they left the room.

Kuroo laughed as he watched them leave, and leaned against Kenma, who was sitting next to him on the couch with his laptop. “The captain’s looking better than ever these days.”

Kenma hummed his agreement. “Less self-destructive than he used to be. But somehow, even louder than before.” He paused for a moment. “...But it’s good to see him so happy.”

“Wow, it’s unusual for you to be so sappy,” Kuroo teased. “Are you turning into a big softie?”

He glared at the taller man. “You make it sound like I’m really mean.”

“Nah, you’re not mean. Just kind of a hermit,” he smiled as he ruffled Kenma’s hair. “Not that I mind. I wouldn’t change you for the world,” he said softly.

Kenma didn’t reply, but Kuroo didn’t miss the slight tint of pink on his face.

Bokuto was unusually quiet the entire way to the cafe, and it didn’t escape Akaashi’s notice.

After they’d been sitting outside at one of the tables for several minutes, he got tired of Bokuto poking at his food and staring into space. “What’s on your mind?”

Bokuto’s eyes snapped back to meet his gaze, and he looked almost guilty, like he’d been caught thinking about something he shouldn’t. “Uh... what?”

“Something is on your mind. You’re not usually so distracted. So what is it?” Akaashi asked. He took a sip of water, and watched Bokuto quietly.

Bokuto grinned sheepishly in response. “You’re so observant! And you know me so well! But I guess that’s not too surprising, right?” He fiddled with his napkin nervously. “I was just thinking, you know... about the stuff Kuroo said this morning!”

“Kuroo-san? He said a lot of things this morning. What do you mean?”

“You should move in with me!” Bokuto blurted. His entire face immediately turned red. “I mean! He was right? You spend most nights there anyway, so I just thought, maybe, I dunno--”

He stopped when he noticed the small smile that curved at Akaashi’s lips, accompanied with a small flush on his cheeks.

“I’d like that a lot, Koutarou.”

Bokuto’s eyes widened with sheer joy as he grasped both of Akaashi’s hands between his own. “Seriously?! You mean it? This is awesome! Oh man, I was so scared to ask, and Kuroo wouldn’t stop teasing me about it, that bastard -- ooh, I’m gonna have to get a key made for you. When do you wanna move in?!”

“One thing at a time,” Akaashi said with exasperated fondness. “We have a day off in a few days. I can start moving my stuff around then. A key isn’t a priority, since we’re together so often anyway because of work.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess you have a point. Okay!! This is gonna be so awesome, I can’t believe you agreed so quickly! I was so nervous!” He let go of Akaashi’s hands, and downed the rest of his drink. “This is great!”

“There’s no reason for me to say no,” Akaashi said as he took another sip of his water. “Besides,” he continued wryly, “I can use the money I save on rent to buy more bath bombs, since you seem to be incapable of not using one almost every single night now.”

Bokuto laughed a little sheepishly. “Hey, you’re not mad about that, right? They’re just so amazing! I can’t help myself!”

“I got used to it months ago. You’re insatiable.” Bokuto wiggled his eyebrows suggestively in response, and Akaashi blushed a little and rolled his eyes. “In more ways than one,” he said with a flat look.

Bokuto grinned as he picked up one of Akaashi’s hands again. Gently, he brought it up to his lips, and pressed a soft kiss against his fingers. “I can’t help it. I just love you so much, Keiji!”

Akaashi’s smile made him feel like he was soaring. “I love you too, Koutarou.”

“Hey hey heeey!” Bokuto said with a bright, happy smile as he walked back into the office with Akaashi. “I brought snacks for everyone!”

“You’re in an even better mood than usual,” Yaku observed. “Did something happen?”

Bokuto was beaming as he set the bag he was holding down on the desk. “Yup! Akaashi’s gonna move in with me! How awesome is that?!”

Lev looked at him, then at Akaashi, and then back to Bokuto. “Oh. You’re not already? I thought you were! You’re practically married!” he said with innocent enthusiasm. “Don’t you sleep together almost every night anyway?”

“Oh my god.” Akaashi put his face in his hands and turned towards the coffee pot to hide the fact that he was blushing; Bokuto’s own flush reached all the way to his ears as Kuroo started laughing so hard that he was almost crying.

Lev yelped as Yaku smacked him in the side of the head. “Ow! What was that for?” he pouted.

“We’re supposed to at least pretend that we don’t know they’re dating, you know,” he said with a sour look. “You’re the most oblivious guy in the world. Unbelievable.”

“Poor Akaashi,” Kuroo grinned, “I think you gave him heart failure.” Akaashi shot him a dirty look, but said nothing as Kuroo kept chuckling to himself. “Hey, don’t look so mad. I’m happy for you two, really. You’re a good team. Right, Kenma?”

“Yeah,” he agreed quietly, without looking up from his laptop. “You were right, when you said he was the best vice-captain we could have hoped for.”

Akaashi squinted at him in disbelief. “...Vice-captain? When did I become a vice-captain?”

Kuroo shrugged, and gave him his most charming grin. “Technically, in about thirty minutes, when Chief Nekomata calls you for a meeting. But in a spiritual sense, I’d say about six months ago.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Akaashi grumbled as he stirred sweetener into his coffee.

Bokuto had recovered from his initial embarrassment, and threw an arm around Akaashi’s shoulders; the smaller man gave him a dirty look when he nearly spilled his drink from being jostled so suddenly. “Hey, they have a point! You’re a great vice-captain, Akaashi!”

“Is that even a real position?”

“It totally is,” Kuroo grinned. “You are officially -- well, in half an hour you will be -- Vice-Captain of Special Investigations 1st Unit. No joke.”

“I don’t understand why it’s me. I’m the newest member of the unit,” he said with half-hearted protest.

Kuroo gave him the most genuine smile Akaashi had ever seen from him. “You’re our beloved captain’s partner, and you’re damn good at what you do. Which is why I recommended you personally when Chief Nekomata created the position last week.”

“...Oh.” He bowed his head a little in respect, caught off guard by the honest words. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “That means a lot from you, Kuroo-san.”

Kuroo winked, and gave him a lazy salute. “Think nothing of it, Vice-Captain.”

Bokuto plopped down on the couch beside Akaashi and let out a deep breath. “Whew! I’m beat! Moving is hard work.” He smiled as he said it, though, and placed a quick kiss on Akaashi’s temple. “But we’re all done! Isn’t that great?”

“Yeah.” He gave Bokuto a soft, chaste kiss on the lips when his phone vibrated on the table. He reached over to grab it, settled back into Bokuto’s arms, and flipped it open to read the text he’d received. “Oh, it’s from Sarukui. A congratulations on moving in with you.”

“Sarukui is a really cool guy!” Bokuto said as Akaashi typed out a response. “We should all hang out sometime!”

“Yes, that would be nice.” A moment later, his phone vibrated yet again. “...Oh. It’s from Onaga this time.” He smiled. “He just talked to Sarukui on the way back from physical therapy, and wanted to congratulate us as well.”

Bokuto snuggled against Akaashi as he texted back and forth for a bit; he was more than content to enjoy the warmth of the other man. When he’d finished, Akaashi put the cell on his lap, and leaned back against Bokuto’s chest. With a smile, the captain began placing tiny kisses everywhere he could reach; Akaashi’s ears, his neck, his shoulders, and even his hair.

“I can’t kiss you back in this position.” The words sounded like a complaint, but he smiled as he said them.

“I guess that is a pretty big flaw in my plan, isn’t it?” Bokuto asked with a playful grin.

Akaashi sat up and turned before crawling forward; he was practically in Bokuto’s lap, with his face mere centimeters from the other man’s. “And what plan would that be?”

“To seduce you with my awesome charisma and manly charms!” he proclaimed. “Is it working?”

“Well,” Akaashi said with a quiet smile, as his breath tickled Bokuto’s lips, “it’s not as if you have to try particularly hard.”

Bokuto smiled, and leaned forward to close the remaining distance between them.

“My father wants to meet you, and my parents both want you to come over for dinner,” Akaashi said quietly, later that same evening.

Bokuto blinked at him, and set his drink down on the table. “Oh.” He looked nervous. “They, uh, know we’re a thing now, right?”

“Yes. But they don’t mind.” He smiled a little, and softly kissed the tip of Bokuto’s nose. “In fact, they’re very pleased, in all honesty.”

“Really?” Bokuto asked with a bright smile. “I mean, I met your mom briefly in the hospital, but that was before we got together!”

“They’re very impressed with you. I’ve told them about your title as captain, and your skills as a detective at length.” Bokuto seemed to perk up at this, and Akaashi sighed and shook his head. “Your love of praise is never going to fade, is it?”

“Well, I mean, I know I’m awesome, but it sure doesn’t hurt to hear it!” he laughed. “I can’t wait! When should we go over?”

“We’ll have to coordinate our schedules. Maybe sometime in the next couple of weeks.” He reached for his laptop, and made himself comfortable on the couch as he opened it up. “Now, didn’t you say you wanted to find another show to watch?”

“Oh, yeah! But first, I need to show you this really cool video that Lev told me about earlier today! It’s an owl on a skateboard!”

“...An owl on a skateboard,” he repeated flatly. “That sounds cumbersome.”

“No, not like, a regular skateboard. It’s, I dunno, an owl-sized one? It’s so cool, we have to watch it, lemme pull it up!” He leaned into Akaashi and started typing away at his keyboard. “I think this is what he typed into the search...? Oh! There it is!!”

Akaashi smiled as they watched the video; Bokuto was overjoyed. “Look! It’s so cute! Oh my god, Keiji, it’s so cute. Look at it go!”

“It is very cute,” he admitted. “Oh, look. The next video here is of an owl cafe.”

Bokuto’s eyes widened. “An owl cafe. Keiji. Keiji.”

Akaashi’s eyes crinkled as he smiled. “You know, I think there’s one about a ten minute drive from work. We could look it up, if you wanted to visit it sometime.”

“Please. Please. Oh my god, look, you can pet them. Keiji, you can pet them!”  He practically vibrated with excitement as the video played, completely captivated. “They’re so cute! How have we not been to one of these already?! Is the one nearby open? We should go right now!”

“Let’s go tomorrow,” Akaashi laughed. “It’s late. But tomorrow, we can stay as long as you’d like.”

“Seriously?! You’re the best! Hey, do they have a website? Let’s check it out!” Akaashi smiled fondly as Bokuto typed away; the captain’s eyes lit up again as he found what he was searching for. “This place looks so cool!”

“You have to be calm while we’re there, or you might scare the owls,” Akaashi said sternly. “Don’t be so loud when you’re handling them.”

“I know, I know! We should have a bunch of pictures together while we're there!” he said with a bright smile.

“I somehow get the feeling that we’re going to become regulars at this place,” Akaashi replied with a wry smile. “All right. We’ll take plenty of pictures, too.”

Bokuto kissed him, hard, and threw his arms around Akaashi’s neck as he nuzzled into the side of his face. “Awesome! I’m looking forward to it! You’re the best, Keiji!”

The following day, when they made it to the owl cafe, Akaashi ended up having to remind Bokuto to quiet down multiple times. The captain of 1st Unit was so happy, though, that he couldn’t find it in himself to be even the slightest bit irritated.

They left several hours later with almost a hundred new pictures on Bokuto’s phone, and Akaashi wondered if the smile on his face was in danger of becoming a permanent fixture.

Akaashi wasn’t sure he could pick one particular thing as his favorite part of living together with Bokuto, because there were so many to choose from.

He liked the way Bokuto kissed him, constantly, for almost every little thing -- almost as if he was making up for not being able to kiss him at work. On the nose, the ear, the cheek, his mouth -- anywhere was fair game, regardless of what Akaashi had done, or if he’d even done anything at all. He particularly liked when Bokuto would pick up his hand, and gently kiss his fingers, like he was some kind of royalty that Bokuto treasured above all else.

He liked watching Bokuto cook, and helping him -- he enjoyed their conversations as the captain would poke at whatever he was doing, and how he’d casually hold his hand at any given opportunity. The way Bokuto fished for compliments after every meal was a comforting familiarity, a routine that Akaashi found amusing.

He enjoyed the way Bokuto’s enthusiasm permeated even more aspects of his life; their supply of bath bombs never ran low, and on their days off together, they always found a way to have fun, regardless of whether they went to the owl cafe, explored the city together, or just stayed home and watched videos online. Even grocery shopping, something that Akaashi had always thought of as an annoying task of necessity, became entertaining when he was doing it with Bokuto instead of by himself.

And in their darker moments, when sometimes their own minds worked against them, it was a great comfort to have the other there, as a steady rock, and a reliable presence to keep them grounded. The shadows didn’t completely disappear, but they were much easier to bear and recover from. Akaashi knew that wasn’t always the case with relationships, so he felt lucky indeed that they complimented one another so well.

Being able to fall asleep beside Bokuto every night, and wake up to his warmth and sleepy smiles every morning, was another thing that Akaashi came to enjoy. Being held by each other as they slept felt as natural as breathing, and brought them a sense of peace and warmth.

As they stood in the kitchen together one morning, drinking coffee and holding hands, Bokuto leaned over to kiss him softly on the nose and ruffle his hair, still messy from sleep.

“I love you so much, Keiji,” he said quietly. His smile lit up his entire face, not unlike the sun climbing into the sky at dawn.

Akaashi smiled back at him, still groggy but content. “I love you too, Koutarou.”

Bokuto’s lips were warm and sweet with the taste of his coffee as Akaashi kissed him, slow and tender. A profound sense of peace washed over him, and settled deep into the corners of his soul.

Individually, we are both strong in our own rights, but together, we become something incredible. Their noses touched as he looked deep into Bokuto’s golden eyes with a soft, affectionate smile. We help each other grow and stay grounded, and every day is something to look forward to now. Bokuto beamed at him, eyes glowing with love and adoration as he pressed another soft kiss to Akaashi’s lips.

I really feel a sense of belonging that I never felt before I accepted that promotion... as if all the gears in life finally clicked together.

Bokuto threaded their fingers together, brought Akaashi’s hand up to his face, and kissed his wrist, right over his pulse. The charms of the owl bracelet he’d given him for Christmas twinkled in warm light, and Akaashi felt his heart flutter as Bokuto leaned forward to kiss him on the lips.

My name is Akaashi Keiji, Vice Captain of Metropolitan PD Special Investigations, 1st Unit. I’m dating my partner, the captain. I’ve been through hell and back, but I’m still here. I’m still standing, despite it all, and I’ve finally found true happiness.

I’m finally home.

[in the midst of winter, i found that there was, within me, an invincible summer. -albert camus]