It all started the day Bokuto met Kuroo.
Their mothers, who were classmates when they were still in university, had coincidentally met each other during a quick trip to the convenience store at the foot of the small hill where Bokuto lives and spotted each other, before catching up with each other and promising to set up a play date for their sons to meet. After all, it was like their sons are destined to be best friends like they were.
So like they agreed, little Bokuto Koutarou comes out behind his mom's leg, holding her skirt as the kid with the really weird hair grins at him. Kuroo's grin when he was young wasn't as sly as it was now- it's bright and cheerful and shows his missing front tooth. After the initial awkward exchange of names and twittering from their moms, they got over each other's shyness and raced off to the playground.
And then Kuroo said, "Hey, can you play volleyball?"
And that's how it begins.
"Do you ever talk to your neighbor?" Kuroo, aged six, asks, volleying the volleyball between Bokuto and himself in his backyard, Kenma sitting in the shade of the patio with his little hand held console. His little hands bump the volleyball awkwardly, almost slapping it to Bokuto. It's an early sign that Kuroo's skills lies somewhere else of setting. "You know- the really quiet one."
"No, stupid. Akaashi."
Bokuto catches the volleyball in his hands much to Kuroo's dismay. "Akaashi?" He repeats, hearing the name for the first time. Even though he passes the name every day to school with Kuroo and Iwaizumi and sometimes Sawamura, it's not like his kanji is up to par with Sawamura's. "I don't know. Do they even have a kid?" He's only six. The things running around his head is mostly about owls and Ponyo and what dinner will be and whether Kuroo is going to come over to play volleyball with him- not kanji.
"Yea." Kuroo scoffs, sitting on the grass and plopping his back on the green carpet and spreading his limbs so he resembles a starfish. "Their son's Akaashi Keiji. You should know this, dumdum. He's your neighbor."
Bokuto blames Kuroo entirely for his new found curiosity about the Akaashi household. He's drawn to it like a moth to a flame after school is over, looking at the window that mirrors Bokuto's bedroom window and wondering what Akaashi Keiji is like. He doesn't attend the school Bokuto and everyone else attends, strangely enough. More often than not, the nice big house would be dark.
And Bokuto wonders if Akaashi is lonely.
Fueled with the urge to save Akaashi from boredom (Bokuto knows all about boredom. His doodles and C minuses in class is proof of it), he gathers up the courage one day to knock on the nice polished door and ring the doorbell for good measure.
The door doesn't open.
Bokuto stands at the door for fifteen minutes, before giving up and going back into his house to sulk at his window before practicing his volleying skills. Maybe the Akaashi's are out. Maybe the son goes to a private school up on the crest of the hill-
Bokuto gives an indignant squawk when the front doors open (yes he's pressing his face right in his window to see this) and a boy with dark hair slips out before going up the hill.
Akaashi Keiji was home. He just didn't want to answer the door, and Bokuto rants this to Kuroo when his family comes over for dinner with Kenma in tow, missing the shared look between the two as he pouts about Akaashi being a mean neighbor.
"Do you ever think about your neighbor?" Says Kuroo from Bokuto's floor. Bokuto sticks his head out and props an elbow to look down at the ten year old sleeping over. "He's playing really loudly right now."
Bokuto frowns before angling his ears towards his window and catching a few bars worth of music. "He plays really quietly..."
"Never mind. Your ears suck."
Bokuto throws a pillow at Kuroo.
But after that night Bokuto would strain his ears towards the lonely house. The music is different each week, and they vary from slow and languid to deathly fast and angry. He wants to befriend this Akaashi because they've been neighbors for what, ten years and they haven't met each other? (Iwaizumi warns him that he shouldn't befriend neighbors easily, look at what Oikawa has done to him)
He knows nothing about music and violins, and even less about Classical Literature and kanji, but the music Akaashi is playing...
"...sounds really sad." Bokuto mumbles as he looks at the moon.
Sometimes Bokuto forgets that the Akaashi's even have a son. He's not trying to be rude, but Akaashi probably goes to the fancy private school or is home-schooled, but the latter is unlikely because his parents aren't even home that often, he finds out from Sawamura's mom in the U-13 volleyball camp over Golden Week. But lo and behold- Bokuto goes out for a run early in the morning and finally meets Akaashi face to face.
He's running around his neighborhood as usual, since he needs to be in tip top shape to annihilate Kitagawa Daiichi and gloat to Oikawa and Iwaizumi his victory. Mornings are definitely his favorite time of the day- it's cool enough that he can wear a long sleeve and shorts and still see his breath puffing ahead of him as he circles around the park. But it'll heat up soon and he'll be back to fanning himself and wishing he can practice in the gym's air conditioned air when he runs into someone.
That someone is a little shorter than him, with dark curls and a half dazed look in his eyes as he drops to the ground.
And Bokuto is pulling out his ear buds and bending his knee down, "OHMYGOD I AM SO SORRY! DID I HURT YOU?! YOU'RE NOT DEAD RIGHT? CAN YOU STAND? HEY HEY-"
"Please stop screaming." The boy mutters, and Bokuto's brain makes a note that this quiet kid should meet Kenma. "It's too early in the morning-"
"What are you talking about?" Bokuto asks loudly, "It's not even seven yet."
"It's early." The boy huffs, getting to his feet without Bokuto's hand and brushing the dust off his black shorts before hiking a bag of apples and snacks from the convenience store onto his shoulder. Bokuto frowns when he gives the boy a quick look over. Skinny shoulders, thin limbs, pale face and eyes too serious for his face. "And you're loud."
"I am not!" Bokuto whispers angrily. "You're just too quiet!"
"Okay, Bokuto-san. See you."
"Fine." Bokuto huffs angrily, jamming in his ear buds before running once more. It wasn't until he got home and is in the process of tugging his shoes off when he realizes Akaashi knows his name.
One day, in a series of coincidences, Bokuto and Kuroo meets Akaashi's parents at the front of their house.
"Oh, Bokuto-kun...right?" Akaashi's mom (or he thinks it's Akaashi's mom. She has his dark hair and nice eyebrows but not the curls) has laugh lines around her eyes already, but Bokuto stiffens, because she's wearing a suit so sharp it can probably puncture his volleyball. And that she looks like all his teachers who glare at his refusal to hand in his homework. "We've never met, correct?"
"Erm. No- no we haven't." He splutters, before receiving a soft nudge from Kuroo. "N-Nice to finally meet you! This is- this is Kuroo Tetsurou, my friend. Is Akaashi home?"
The last part was completely unintentional but Akaashi's mom smiles nonetheless, waving a manicured hand towards the big house. "He is. Won't you go say hi to him? I'll bring in some snacks when I'm finish unloading these suitcases."
Bukoto's thirteen year old brain is still trying to catch up to the situation, so he lets Kuroo drag him to the door of the Akaashi household, meeting Akaashi himself, dragging a suitcase past the threshold with his wiry arms.
"Oh it's the loud person." Is the first thing that comes out of Akaashi's mouth.
"IT'S BOKUTO!" He stomps his foot.
"Still loud." Kuroo is howling with laughter, and Bokuto grunts angrily before taking in the Akaashi's living room. It's mostly empty save for the couch and grand, shiny, black piano with a music stand beside it and violin resting on the hood. Maybe Akaashi's eyes are flickering between he and Kuroo, but- "Is that a volleyball?"
Kuroo's eyebrows shoots up. "Oho? You know what this is?" He asks, holding the orange ball up before spinning it around his finger like a basketball. Bokuto nudges the taller boy in the ribs, because Akaashi doesn't look all that pleased, but he can't really tell when Akaashi is pleased or not because he always has that resting bitch face-
"I do. My cousins came over last time and asked me to volley for them." Is Akaashi's blunt answer, before he drops the luggage at the foot of the stairs leading to the second floor.
"You toss?" Bokuto couldn't resist butting in. "Can you toss it really high and make it fall down- like make it so it falls right into my hand? Like whoosh?" He demonstrates this by accidentally knocking over a vase, to which Kuroo's hands shoots out to grab the porcelain expensive thing before it scatters all over the nice floors. "Oopssorry."
Akaashi has a pained expression on his face before he saying, "Let's go to the backyard before you break anything."
Bokuto follows suit, picking up his sneakers with a big, big grin.
Akaashi is setter god and everything Bokuto ever wanted in a teammate.
They drag Iwaizumi out on his rare day unattached to Oikawa ("He's at the dentist's today.") and Bokuto makes the introductions between he and Akaashi before splitting them two on two, Kuroo with Iwaizumi and he with Akaashi. Bokuto sends spike after spike through Kuroo's stretched arms and turns to see Akaashi, panting with his hands hanging by his side before he tackles him to the grass.
"YOU'RE SO GOOD! PLEASE BE MY TEAMMATE NEXT YEAR!" Out of the corner of his eyes he sees Kuroo dismantle the met they've erected between his and Akasshi's backyard. Bokuto releases the boy to sit on the grass. "Does your school have a volleyball team? Does your school even have sports as a club? Who taught you how to toss like that? Hey, hey, hey, you should join the U-14 club next summer! Oh- oh! The high school down the street is REALLY strong! Fukurodani Academy!"
"Maybe. If you get off my legs." Grumbles Akaashi. He splays out, arms behind his head as Bokuto copies him. "Why do you even like volleyball? It's so sweaty."
"Man, you're so pompous." Bokuto laughs. "Sweat and feeling gross is just one small price to pay!" He turns his head and unexpectedly meets Akaashi's childish yet serious eyes already staring at him.
"Well, I don't like to sweat."
"I don't sweat when I play the violin. Not that much."
"I like volleyball." Bokuto says. "It's simpler than classical lit. What's your school like?"
"....pompous." Akaashi decides firmly as Kuroo and Iwaizumi walks towards them, "Do you want to stay dinner?"
Bokuto's chest bubbles with laughter, because Akaashi is interesting. He never had a friend so blunt and up right to the point before- not even Oikawa would dare to say what's on his mind unless he's speaking to Iwaizumi.
Desperate times calls for desperate measures.
"A-ka-a-shi!" He hisses, leaning over the space between their houses to rap urgently on Akaashi's bedroom window. "Oi! Akaashi!"
The curtains are yanked to the side and Bokuto grins in relief as Akaashi lets a little surprised, "geh!" before slowly unlocking the window and opening it.
"Hey are you good at English?"
"Bokuto-san, do you know how late it is already?" Akaashi scowls, and Bokuto peers at his face, which has more dark circles than it did before, and looks behind him, to the cozy looking room with a few textbooks propped around the floor and pages upon pages of loose sheet music carpeting his floor. It looks exactly like his room, except the dimensions are reversed.
"Hm, never pegged you for a messy person-" He grins, not missing Akaashi's eye roll. "-so, are you good at English or do I need to wake someone else up?"
Akaashi sighs, before putting his elbows on the window ledge and placing his chin in his hands. "Let me see the worksheet."
Bokuto whips out his homework, "You're awesome."
"Right." Akaashi glances down at his work for a few seconds. "So, these are a list of irregular verbs that have different endings from the regular verbs...." Bokuto has never notice before, but Akaashi is ridiculously pretty for a guy. His hands shouldn't be that smooth, his eyebrows shouldn't even be that dark, his collarbones aren't even suppose to peek scandalously out of his t-shirt. Oh god even his hair is seriously adorable- sticking up in little tufts highlighted by the moon- "Bokuto-san!"
Akaashi narrows his eyes. "You're not listening to me."
"I have a short attention span." Not true. "I'm really sorry, can you explain it to me again? Erm, slower?"
His eyes narrows even more into slits, but Akaashi complies anyway, and Bokuto presses his fingernails into his fists to focus- he needs the 60% in English tomorrow or he's so screwed.
He loves coincidences really.
"HEY HEY HEY AKAASHI!" Bokuto hops forward and swings an arm around the boy, dressed in probably three jackets as Akaashi tries to glare through the toque and scarf swaddling his whole neck. Akaashi looks like a marshmallow compared to him in his light jersey and sweats. "Whatcha got there? Oh- cake? Is it your birthday?"
It's hard to see through the snow whirling around them, but he swears Akaashi's ears are red. "...yes."
"How come you're buying cake all by yourself?" Usually Kuroo would come over and they would have an all night marathon of Super Mario Kart before they knock themselves out on the futon. "Are you by yourself?"
A shrug. "My parents are working in another country for a few weeks- it's normal."
"WHAT?! OF COURSE IT'S NOT NORMAL! COME ON- YOU'RE COMING TO MY HOUSE AND I'M DRAGGING IWAIZUMI AND ASSKAWA AND SAWAMURA AND KENMA AND KUROO TO COME OVER!" Bokuto picks Akaashi up (because he's just that strong and Akaashi is really light for his age surprisingly) and ignores the flying limbs and aggravated anger coming from his neighbor. "We're gonna have so much fun you'll remember this birthday for the rest of your life! By the way, how old are you?"
"No." Bokuto gasps as he opens the gate and closes it, minding his mother's bushes. "You're a year younger?"
"Kenma-san didn't tell you?" Akaashi mumbles through his scarf. They enter his house and Bokuto proceeds to find enough coat hangers for Akaashi.
"Well it's not like I know what grade you're in since you go to that fancy school." Bokuto grumbles, before introducing his mom and sister to Akaashi and pushing him to the living room. His cellphone is sitting on the couch, so he grabs it and sends a mass text. "Have you thought about Fukurodani?"
"I'm only a second year, Bokuto-san." Is Akaashi's dry reply. He looks around the traditional house until his eyes lands to a bookcase filled with photos and movies. "Ah- this must be Kuroo-san."
He joins him, before dusting off the picture frame to see Kuroo's missing tooth in the old picture. "Oh hey! I haven't seen this picture in a long time! Man, he's so short back then. Look at that innocent smile. He's all grown up now." He mimics a tear leaking from his eye and Akaashi suddenly bursts into laughter. An honest, deep laughter that isn't sarcastic and instead comes from his soul. The kind of laugh that makes someone like him even more. Like how ridiculous is that, falling for someone for their laugh and being dragged into Akaashi hell because he looks so beautiful and handsome-
Bokuto bolts out of the room.
His cellphone rings, and he sits on his front yard as the snow pelts him. "Hello?"
"BROKUTO MAN!" Kuroo yells into his ear. "Akaashi's birthday is today- wait you sound angsty. What's wrong? Tell me your woes."
He's standing in three feet of snow with wet socks, as the blizzard attacks his hair. It's December 5th and Bokuto is fourteen when he says, "....I think I'm gay for Akaashi."
Bokuto sips his hot chocolate across the room as he watches Kenma obliterate Iwaizumi and Akaashi on Rainbow Road. Kuroo is probably watching him watch Akaashi. They didn't speak much after Bokuto confessed his feelings. Rather, he's feeling pretty agitated since Kuroo hasn't even said a word. Like does he hate him or is he okay with him liking a guy-
Bokuto looks from his sulking position and sees a fist being suspended. Then he looks at Kuroo, snow still melting in his ridiculous hair as Oikawa yells before bodily swerving into Iwaizumi, and looks back at Kuroo's fists. "What?"
"I don't care if you like girls or guys or Asskawa or even a god damn goat." Bokuto chokes on his drink as Kuroo goes on quietly. "Why the hell should it even matter? Kenma doesn't even like people. Asskawa likes Iwaizumi but Iwaizumi is too daft to see it and I'm pretty sure I'm hella gay for Daichi too. No one is going to stop being friends with you because you like dudes. So. I got your back, bro."
Bokuto's heart swells, and he touches fists with Kuroo as his voice breaks a little. "Bro. I am so happy."
"Bokuto-san." Akaashi calls from his living room floor, eyes alight with joy as the scoreboard flashes. Oh, how did Kenma get second place? "Do you want a turn?"
"Nah, it's alright." He says, eyes still watering from Kuroo's declaration before his sister pops into the room. "Sis?"
His sister is taller than him, white hair covering the 'Niiyama' of her school volleyball jersey. She grins. "Mom was cleaning the attic and undusted a lot of DVDs. I found Ponyo, do you want to watch it with your friends?"
Ponyo? "OF COURSE I WANT TO WATCH PONYO! HAND IT OVER, SISSY!" While Bokuto gently tugs the controller from Kenma, he hears Akaashi ask Kuroo what Ponyo is, and Iwaizumi gapes.
"You don't know what Studio Ghibli is?"
"How ignorant of you- ow Iwa-chan that hurts! Oh thank you for the snacks Nee-san!" Bokuto looks back to see his sister coming in with slices of Akaashi's store bought cake on a tray. Oikawa is flustering like a hen over her as Iwaizumi snorts. "That looks heavy. Do you need some help?"
"I'm good, thanks." She wryly smiles before congratulating Akaashi and leaving the room. Bokuto gives the Little VCR That Could a firm thump on the side and is pleased when the screen starts the credits.
Kuroo pats the space beside him, grinning too widely. "Oi, loser, sit here. I got you cake."
It's right beside birthday boy.
Iwaizumi shuts off the lights.
Bokuto picks his way between the legs and hands before plopping beside Kuroo, mumbling, "You jackass" and holding his piece of cake, which smells of mocha and probably chocolate. Having the light stripped away from him makes his other sense on edge. He can feel Akaashi's leg pressed against his and Kuroo's long arms poking into his side.
Bokuto's brain shuts down. Akaashi is beside him. His knee is emitting heat against his and he's picking up his fork to cut a small piece of his cake to fork into his mouth- face being illuminated by the opening credits and he sees his Adam's apple bob up and down as he swallows his cake- "Bokuto-san, are you okay?"
"Yeah-YEAH!" He whips back to watch Ponyo to let out the fakest laugh he's ever had to force. "I'm fine. HAHA!"
Kuroo snickers beside him and Bokuto stomps on his foot.
"What's this Bokuto-san?"
He shoves the wrapped package into Akaashi's empty hands before entering the foyer. "Open it! Open it!"
"...piano...book? What's Final Fantasy?"
"They have really nice tunes...and I haven't gotten you anything even though we're been friends for...a long time." Bokuto guesses as he rubs his chin, "Anyway! Thank you for helping me with my homework and for tossing to me! You're awesome!"
Akaashi has always been a person of few emotions to Bokuto, but his faces twists before settling for a bright eyed look with his cheekbones lifted. "...thank you."
At that, Bokuto had to hug the younger boy.
(They spend spring break organizing a two on two volleyball championships where they set up a net between Bokuto's and Iwaizumi's backyard. Kuroo grins wickedly as Sawamura draws the same colored straw as him, and Bokuto picks Akaashi up and swings him around when the younger boy reluctantly says yes to joining them.
"Kenma-san help me..." Akaashi says as he's dragged away by an overexcited Bokuto who's rambling about cross spikes and gwah and fwoom and the woohoo! of victory.
Kenma only smiles behind his Pokemon game and waves.)
One thing Bokuto may possibly love more than owls and volleyball and Akaashi is summer.
And he loves it even more if all three are somehow combined.
Thank god for his mom's and Kuroos' mom friendship, because they agreed to take he and Kuroo to the beach, but then Kuroo's mom bumped into Sawamura's mom who was shopping with Kenma's mom and they agreed to plan a beach day, but not before they invite Iwaizumi's, Oikawa's and Akaashi's family as well.
"Let's go to the beach, each. Let's go get away, they say, what they gonna say. Have a drink, clink, found the Bud Light, bad bitches like me is hard to come by. The patron own, let's go get it on. The zone own, yes I'm in the zo- OW IWA-CHAN THAT'S MY FOOT!"
Bokuto howls with laughter as Iwaizumi flings Oikawa off him in order to shrug off his t-shirt. "Keep your shitty pop music to yourself, Oikawa!" Then he makes a run for the sea before being dragged back by his mom, who immediately slaps on sunscreen to his back and starts lecturing him about his use of language.
After a quick dance where he tries to avoid his mom's hands (and fails), Bokuto runs to the water, tugging a very reluctant (and completely sunblocked) Akaashi and Sawamura in his hands. "TO THE SEA!"
"Why can't I sit out like Kenma-san...." Goes Akaashi, flinching when Bokuto flicks water at him. He has his arms around his skinny body, as if to ward off the morning cold. Bokuto feels a little guilty for dragging him into the sea when he clearly feel uncomfortable, and looks at Kuroo dunking in an outraged Oikawa before dragging Akaashi back to the shore.
Akaashi looks quizzically at him, watching him come back with a shovel, rake and many, many buckets.
"What are you doing, Bokuto-san?" Akaashi quickly snatches his sweater being thrown at him with his amazing reflexes, before crouching beside Bokuto, who starts eagerly digging in the sand.
Bokuto grins as wide as he can. "Building a sandcastle!"
(By the end of the day, Bokuto has build roughly around six sandcastles, each of them having it's own owl shelter, music room with a mound that's suppose to resemble a piano (because Akaashi insists) and a large yard with a perfect sphere representing a volleyball. Oikawa and Iwaizumi makes their own sandcastle, where Oikawa makes a sand figurine with a crown and Iwaizumi rolls his eyes before being tackled into the sand.
Kenma, Kuroo and Sawamura joins them, all three of them molding sand figurines of pokemons (Kenma is excited when Bokuto makes an owl but realizes abruptly that he wasn't aiming to shape a Noctowl).
Sawamura explains what Pokemon is, and Bokuto is excited when he hears there are owl pokemons, and asks his mom if he could have that game for his birthday, pretty please with yakiniku on top!
They all clamber into the vans and cars with exhaustion, and Bokuto falls asleep, drooling all over Sawamura's sun-burnt shoulders before waking up to see Akaashi's eye a lit with wonder as the moon shines down on the beaches.)
"GOOD MORNING AKAASHI!-"
"Beach again, Bokuto-san?"
"OF COURSE! IT'S SUMMER! WHAT ARE SUMMERS FOR?"
Sigh. "I'll get my backpack."
(He attends Akaashi's concerts and is awed by how fast his finger moves and the sheer force he puts behind his bowing. Never throughout the piece does he even open his eyes. They stay shut, fingers moving all completely by muscles memory as they response to the piano player.
Bokuto is fascinated.
"Did you like it?"
"Did I like it? I LOVED IT! YOU WERE SO COOL- AND YOUR FINGERS WERE REALLY FAST! When's your next one? I want to go!")
Life is great, Bokuto thinks, there's nothing that can change his happiness. He and Kuroo and Sawamura are going to go to different schools so they can verse each other. Iwaizumi and Oikawa are debating Aoba Johsai and another school, and Kenma will follow Kuroo to Nekoma. So as a last celebration before their last semester as third years start, they spend it at a festival.
Akaashi is dragged along with them, of course.
Bokuto blinks as Akaashi opens his door dressed in a white yukata.
He has never felt so aware of his ratty shorts and t-shirt and inwardly gives himself a pat on the back for gelling his hair.
"...you look nice?" He manages to strangle out with Akaashi's full gaze on him, gesturing to his yukata. Clavicles shouldn't look that scandalous- ever. "I never actually worn one."
"They're pretty comfortable." Is all Akaashi says before leading the way in flip flops. Bokuto watches him throughout the festival, trying to keep Kuroo in check while simultaneously not checking Akaashi out. He hovers around Kenma and Iwaizumi most of the time, and Bokuto feels a little dragon growing inside of him and tells himself to get over it.
"Yeah?" He replies, taking his time to walk back from the festival. Oikawa and Iwaizumi have gone ahead for something along the lines of alien movies and UFOs. "What's up?"
"You're going to Fukurodani, correct?"
"Yep! They're one of the strongest around here! Why? Are you really considering it?"
Akaashi looks up to the moon. "Just wondering why you chose it."
"Well, I like volleyball, that's one thing about Fukurodani I wanted- a strong team. And it's pretty close too- unlike Karasuno- which I still can't believe Sawamura is going to. I promised Kuroo and everyone that we could verse each other in high school, so Fukurodani is part of the reason, see?"
"How simple." Akaashi half smiles.
"Are you choosing school too?"
"Yes. They make us consider it earlier in private academies."
"Go what with your heart wants," Bokuto advises, stopping in front of the Akaashi residence. "If you're still wondering you can ask me when school starts- we'll all by leaving for the U-14 camp tomorrow."
Bokuto thinks it's just his vision that's going bad from all times he spends snapchatting Kuroo at night, but Akaashi's eyes darken and turns serious before the waver is gone.
"Okay. Have fun spiking, Bokuto-san."
Bokuto is entering high school when he sees the moving truck outside the Akaashi Residence and runs past the workers and into the big, empty house before meeting Akaashi, who drops a stack of music books and stares blankly at him.
He's already running late since his alarm didn't go off on time and Fukurodani's tie is too complicated to work with, so it dangles between them like a grandfather clock moving back and forth. "You're leaving?" Even his own voice sounds painfully strangled, and for a brief second, he sees Akaashi's composure crack.
Then he's bending down to pick up his books. "Not exactly. My parents still live here."
"So you're leaving."
"Yes. To study music in Cologne." Bokuto sees a collection of Chopin and Liszt in Akaashi's hands. A year ago, those names didn't matter to him, but he bets his entire volleyball collection that he knows more about dead composers than Kuroo and Sawamura and maybe even Tsukishima. Akaashi dumps those books into an empty box, sighing tiredly.
"Were you just going to leave without saying anything?" There's a piano book that Bokuto gave to Akaashi that's propped on the piano. The book is opened to "Melodies of Life" from Final Fantasy IX. "Didn't you think of telling me- your neighbor for nearly a decade and a half?!"
Then Akaashi whirls around, blistering anger in his dark eyes as Bokuto takes a step back, because he has never seen Akaashi angry. Sure he's seen him tired, irritated, exhausted, happy, or generally expressionless, but never angry. His furious eyes is clenching Bokuto's heart tightly as he opens his mouth. "It's much more complicated than that, Bokuto-san!"
"What can be more complicated than telling your neighbor you have to move to some foreign country? I thought we're friends! HEY! Look me in the eye!"
Akaashi's lips are being pressed so forcefully it's turning white as he clenches his fists. "Maybe it's because I haven't figured out how to tell you!"
"Huh?! Why's it so hard to tell someone you're moving? I'm more hurt by the fact that I'm finding out you're leaving this house today out of all days. It's like coming to your concert just for you and then realizing you pulled out at the very last minute!" Bokuto stops momentarily to take a breath and stops. "Ah-"
His mom slowly walks forward, "...I'm sorry...for interrupting? Keiji, I thought you told him-"
Bokuto's blood slowly freezes as he starts to walk backwards, minding of the porcelain vase he nearly broke years ago on his first time in Akaashi's house. "No. No, it's fine, I-I need to go- I have to go to school."
His mom still looks worried, head swiveling between her son and Bokuto. "Oh- Bokuto, I can drive you-"
He avoids looking at Akaashi's red eyes and the fact that he's busy rubbing his nose onto his shirt. Instead, Bokuto plasters on a smile and bows politely to Akaashi's mom. "It's completely fine, I'm a fast runner! Sorry for intruding."
Just before he leaves to go to the door, he pauses. This is the last time he'll ever say something to Akaashi. Akaashi, who has been the center of his childhood ever since he was a tiny tot. Who braved the sea every time Bokuto drags him to the beach before being covered in sand and dirt. Who Bokuto sees outgrow his dress shirts and suit jackets every time he attends Akaashi's concerts. Who Bokuto listens to and watches and is awed- his neighbor of nearly two decades. Somewhere in the memories of hot, breezy summers and warm, raging winters, Bokuto's feelings towards Akaashi changes.
Akaashi, the person whom Bokuto loves.
"Have fun, Akaashi."
Maybe it would have sounded comforting to him if Bokuto didn't lace bitterness into his words.
(Later, much later when Akaashi is gone, Bokuto can't get rid of the bitterness, and instead, it spreads into his head, slowly suffocating him.)
Bokuto sees Akaashi everywhere. He's the presence that still lurks around the Akaashi family residence and the park where Bokuto bumped into him. He's the window Bokuto forces himself to not look at because every time he does it brings nothing but bitter memories and anger. He's the ghost of his memories floating around Bokuto's head. He's in the music Bokuto picks out of reflexively from Fukurodani's music room. Chopin. Bach. Debussy. Liszt. Ravel.
He sees Akaashi in Iwaizumi's downcast eyes and Kuroo's worried ones. It's a reminder that Akaashi still haunts him even though he's miles and miles away in some foreign country free of Bokuto hanging off his back.
Worst of all, Akaashi's presence is always strongest when Bokuto plays volleyball.
When they all come to Bokuto's house for a catch up day, Iwaizumi takes him aside since Oikawa is being distracted by Sawamura. "Hey, can we talk for a second?"
"Sure." He leads Iwaizumi to the kitchen and pokes his sister who's eating cereal with no milk to head upstairs. She frowns at him, before complying. Bokuto turns to Iwaizumi, "What's up?"
"Have you gotten a letter from Akaashi?"
"He writes letters?" Iwaizumi's face turns pale, "You know what? Don't even answer that. He's probably communicating with you, am I right?"
Iwaizumi fidgets uncomfortably under Bokuto's serious gaze. "I thought you knew why he left."
"IWA-CHAN!" Oikawa bursts into the kitchen, completely ignorant of the tense atmosphere. "Kenma-chan wants to verse you again in Rainbow Road! Let's go, let's go!"
Oikawa spares a glance at Bokuto before he leaves, but Bokuto puts his head into his hands and sighs.
He attends the first of many practices with the top five teams in Tokyo in preparation for Spring High. Bokuto spikes for all his worth and tries to regain his energetic self, except his balance is still not right. It's frustrating and all he wants is to feel like he's on top of the world before that person left.
Kuroo insistently tugs on Bokuto's arms, "Come on man! You gotta get over it! It's just a concert hall!"
"I'm not stepping inside you jackass let me go!"
Kuroo sighs, before rubbing a hand through his hair to make it even more messy. They skirt around the building to sit on a picnic bench. "Okay- I'm sorry for doing that but you gotta get over him-"
"I am over him." When Bokuto sees Kuroo's yeah-right-as-if expression, he riles up. "What do you want from me, Tetsu?" Tell it to him straight, because Bokuto has spend the last four months guessing that person's methods and reasons and in the end it's just a waste of time to discern Akaashi's motives. "Grow some balls to tell me! I'm tired of Sawamura's passive-aggressive methods and Kenma's look towards me during Golden Week!"
"Okay." Kuroo says, before saying in a flat voice, "Do you ever regret Akaashi?"
He's done it.
A reporter shoves a mike up his face one day when he leaves his house, "Good morning, Bokuto-kun, what does it feel to be one of the top 5 spikers in the country?"
Bokuto, alarmed, takes a step back, "Erm, are you recording this?"
"It feels amazing." Is his generic answer. To be honest he hasn't even thought much of it. His past self would probably be jumping up and down and scaring the reporter and his camera friend away, "I'm happy that my hard work will be recognized throughout the country. I hope to make everyone proud."
The reporter says thank you, and takes a few candid shots of Bokuto wearing his school jersey before bowing and leaving. Bokuto hikes his gym bag and backpack across his shoulders and jogs to Fukurodani.
"Do you ever regret Akaashi?"
Without that person to help him in his subjects, Bokuto naturally has to work harder in school than he likes. His marks are floating around the 70s category but it's enough to make him look pretty decent next to Sakurui and Komi, both whom Bokuto tutors after practice is over in return for them to toss to him. Nekoma visits their school for official practice matches and it's that day when Bokuto hears it.
The answer is no, he doesn't regret meeting Akaashi. He doesn't hate him, even though he was going to leave without a trace if Bokuto's alarm rang on time. Bokuto knows that he won't ever forget Akaashi even though the years will start to pass by like a freight train going full speed towards the future. Akaashi was a part of his childhood like Kuroo was, and there was no way he could ever loath the boy.
But some days, Bokuto does feel like the world is turning against him and picks Akaashi to blame for it. Blames Akaashi for his failure in Classical Lit since his past self has depended on the boy for his help during the late nights. Blames Akaashi for his obsession with angry classical music. Blames him for his knowledge of composers who are past their time of prime. Blames him for being a spiker who has no amazing setter in Fukurodani.
Blames him for the person Bokuto has become- the present Bokuto who is filled with anger, despair and hatred. The Bokuto Kuroo doesn't like to see, the Kou-kun his sister looks with pitiful eyes, the Koutarou his mom is disappointed in, the ace spiker that is suppose to lead his team to victory but instead they fall short of the Inter High title, and Bokuto spends two weeks cooped up in his room before his sister drags him outside to toss to him, saying that he shouldn't be so hard with himself.
But it's hard.
Some days, it's hard.
Bokuto lifts one headphone away from his ear and looks up from the official match of Shinzen, who they're going to play next week. "Yeah?" She's grinning too broadly at him and he suspiciously purses his lips.
"Guess what?" Oh no, she sounds way too happy.
"What?" He taps the space bar on his laptop to pause the game and turns his head to fully look at her. This is going to be long, he can tell.
She waves a familiar looking black and white jersey in his face. "Guess who's the assistant coach at Fukurodani?"
He springs up from his chair and grabs the jersey, before checking the 'assistant coach' stitched on the left and gawping at his sister. "NO WAY! WH- HOW?!"
"I was jogging past your school and your coach flagged me down since I was wearing my Niiyama jersey." She sticks out her tongue at him. "And then he realized that I'm one of the top setters in the country and asks if I could train some of you brats- which I agreed since I can see my dear brother play and spike all day long." The end is full of sarcasm, but he sees the mirth in her eyes and pouts. She ruffles a hand through his hair, which has drooped since his gel has melted in the snow. "I'll get you an excellent setter, Kou. Don't worry."
Bokuto is half a head taller and has at least 25kg advantage on his sister who's three years older, but he hugs her anyway, to show that he appreciates it. Sometimes, he can't put his feelings into words.
"Nee-san! Are you really from Niiyama Girls High?"
"I was, Sakurui-san." Bokuto rolls his eyes as his teammates surround his sister- even his sempais are interested.
"What position do you play?!"
"Setter." Then she points at Bokuto, wearing an identical grin as him, "Which makes me and this dork an unbeatable sibling combo! Brilliant setter and ace spiker!"
Kuroo drops by his house one day and talks about his team and his plans for Inter High next year once they're both vice-captains. "Your sister is amazing you know. Fukurodani's an offering a program to international students to come there just for a chance for its scholarship."
Bokuto snorts. "No way some genius setter is going to apply. Shiratorizawa is where all the powerhouses go to- not Fukurodani."
"That's what you think." Kuroo munches a rice cracker as he lies upside down on Bokuto's bed. "I met her on her way home from meeting the dean and she said twenty people already applied, from all over the world too- Germany, United States...."
".....I guess." He mumbles. "But we've been doing fine with our setter-"
"Isn't he graduating this year?"
"That means you need a first year setter, who has no experience in the type of games we go to and who needs to adjust to the team." Kuroo says sagely. "Oikawa and I were talking about it since Aoba Johsai's thinking about bringing international students too. He says it's bad for the team if a first year comes in."
Huffing, Bokuto shoves some crackers into his mouth, "Yeah but we sort of need a setter next year. Washio's a middle blocker, Sakurui isn't good at setting and Komi is the libero."
"I pray for your sister."
"I pray for her too."
He's in front of him.
Bokuto drops the new jersey for their newest team member onto the floor along with his gym bag, which falls down his shoulder and makes a loud thump in the loud gymnasium. But it didn't matter whether all the first years now turn quiet, because his ears suddenly is roaring with anger, his heartbeat pounding through his skull as he sees red-
He's spitting Akaashi's name and watches as the first year flinches.
It can't be Akaashi. Akaashi isn't that tall. The Akaashi in his memories is paler than the one standing in front of him. This Akaashi is wearing black shorts and a light t-shirt soaked with sweat, something Bokuto would wear often. The Akaashi in his memories doesn't show fear ever, but this one- the imposer standing in front of him has his pupils so wide it's swallowing his dark brown irises. Bokuto sees himself reflected in them, but this isn't how he's suppose to look! He's not suppose to be snarling at Akaashi! He's suppose to welcome him with open arms and hug him and is glad that he's holding a volleyball in his hands because he can be his setter-
The Akaashi in front of him turns his back and runs away from him.
And Bokuto sees his rib cage envelope him like gnarled hands waiting to drag the boy away.
"Nee-san." Goes Kuroo's voice outside his bedroom door. "That was a stupid move."
His sister doesn't speak for a long time. "It was a stupid move...I shouldn't have gotten him flown back so early- I even pulled him away from his final exams."
"How is he?"
"Kou? Went absolutely berserk. Ran away from practice."
"I sent Konoha to find him. He says he's at the beach, just sitting around the logs and drawing on the sand with a stick."
Bokuto covers his ears with his pillow, closing his eyes so the stinging sensation will go away. He's numb. Too numb to even move the blanket to cover his toes and too numb to listen to his sister's and Kuroo's conversation. Too numb to realize that Akaashi escaped to where they had the most memories- the good ones at least.
His rights as captain should be stripped away from him.
His sister doesn't ask where he goes when he skips practices, mostly because she's guilty. He knows that Akaashi is attending their practices now. Bokuto hears his sister and him talk outside their houses in hushed whispers in the middle of the night about strategies and hand signals. The Akaashi Residence is alight again, mostly at night because Bokuto knows Akaashi doesn't come to morning classes because of his massive jet lag and the long one-on-one practices he has with Bokuto's sister.
He goes to the cliffs beside the beaches.
It's peaceful there, and he trades the loud honking of city life for the peace from his noise canceling headphones. He picks out the Northern Star and Orion's Belt from the thousands of constellations glittering in the sky, and thinks of his placement in the universe and how insignificant they really are.
Iwaizumi is the one that finds him.
He's panting haggardly, holding a stitch in his side and rubbing the sweat that has gathered over his eyebrows as Bokuto frees the headphones from his head, "Iwaizumi? What are you doing here?"
"Finding you, idiot." The vice captain of Aoba Johsai plops down right next to him, still breathing hard. "Your sister's freaking out- Kuroo and Kenma are trying to console her."
"She knows where to find me." He sulks. "As does Kuroo and probably Akaashi if he lifts his head from the beach."
"You didn't come here to look at him, did you- nope. Never mind." Iwaizumi backpedals when Bokuto shoots him a look. "I know you don't like having people worried about you, but your sister really is out of her mind worrying right now."
"What am I suppose to say to her? That it's perfectly fine to drag Akaashi all the way here from wherever he went so he can toss to me? Akaashi doesn't even like volleyball! I don't even know why he's here- right here in Japan attending Fukurodani. He's suppose to be standing on world stage playing music and forgetting about us!"
"He abandoned me, Iwaizumi! What if I never woke up late? What if I went to Fukurodani and came home and see his house empty of him? What am I suppose to feel?"
Iwaizumi is very quiet after Bokuto's outburst. The setter plucks one of the dandelions and plays with the stem as Bokuto runs a hand through his hair. It continues until he raises his head up, and Iwaizumi says, "You have to talk to him." and motions him to turn.
He does turn, and sees Akaashi standing with Fukurodani's jersey around his shoulders.
(Iwaizumi threatens him as he dusts off his pants to leave them alone. "I'm going to punch you if you run away, Bokuto.")
Bokuto doesn't look at Akaashi as the setter takes Iwaizumi's place on the grass. The long grass is tickling his knees, so Bokuto draws them in his chests as he watches the wave crash repeatedly on the beach.
"You came back." He says dully.
Akaashi's voice is lower than he remembers it, and more even, skipping the stage where it went through puberty. It's stable, unlike his when he Kuroo comes to his house one day rasping like a broken record and they spend a whole weekend absolutely terrified at the prospect of having an uneven tone. "I was recommended by Fukurodani to come here as a setter."
"Why did you do it?" Why are you back here? Why aren't you in Germany playing on a stage that's not orange? Why did you endure a long flight to come back to Japan knowing that I would hate you? I want to hate you but I want to not hate you. Help me, Akaashi. Help me. What am I suppose to feel?
Why, why, why.
"My heart never enjoyed music like you enjoyed volleyball, Bokuto-san."
Bokuto feels his heart twinge at the way Akaashi says his name, because it still has the same gentle caress Akaashi has when he polishes his violin and piano free of his finger print oil. It's too gentle for what he deserves. He doesn't deserve Akaashi's kindness, not after he growled at him and went out of his way to avoid him.
"So? You came back all the way here for what?"
"....I received an invitation to that music school."
"I heard from Kenma." Bokuto fills in the awkward silences. Or at least he tries to. Akaashi looks like he's going to cry any moment now. "I never realized how good you were."
"I didn't know if I wanted to go there. My parents wanted me to go, of course. It's a good chance to be exposed to other musicians in my category and a chance to see another country, but I didn't want to go." Akaashi puts his head between his knees. "I'm sorry for not telling you. It's confusing to me and I couldn't talk to anyone about it-"
Bokuto holds up a hand. "Wait- wait. Confusing about what? Akaashi," He laughs a little, wondering why his chest is so light now, "if you like music you should definitely go there. We talked about this remember? How I want to go to Fukurodani because I love volleyball?"
Akaashi's shoulders are tensing, and Bokuto sees another thing that's different from the Akaashi in his memories. This Akaashi has more or less grown into his gangly body, muscles gained from violin arm work wrapping around his shoulders. It reminds him of how he's one day looking at Kuroo, and the next he has to stretch up his neck to look at his best friend.
"Bokuto-san," Akaashi goes, "I was confused because I like you."
"Yes." Is Akaashi's miserable reply. "See- I knew you'd find it weird. I figured if I went overseas the feeling would disappear but it didn't. It just multiplied and I was so distracted that I lost my spot in the program. I tried asking Kenma-san and Iwaizumi-san how you were doing but they didn't give me a straight answer. Then your sister calls my school because Cologne has a few sports centered programs in high school and she thought she could find someone and fly them to Japan. I contacted her and she was so happy because she thought this could bring you out of your funk."
"I'll get you an excellent setter, Kou. Don't worry."
"I'm sorry, Bokuto-san."
"Hey, can you stand up?"
Bokuto confirms Akaashi's growth spurt when he hugs the shorter boy. "My sister went through all of that to make me happy, huh?" He half mumbles to himself. Akaashi is stiff, unwilling to bring his arms around Bokuto and he remembers that the boy usually likes his personal space.
"Your sister loves you a lot."
"I know." He says into Akaashi's hair. "I'm not going to lie, Akaashi, you hurt me."
Akaashi squirms out of his grip, and looks up. "But everyone leaves, Bokuto-san. You barely see Sawamura-san around anymore."
"Sawamura still tries his best to keep in touch with us, though. I like you, Akaashi. I was upset because I thought there was nothing that can break us and when you were going to leave me....well, who wouldn't be hurt when the love of your life leaves, right?"
He's studying Akaashi and Akaashi is studying him. It's a second when Bokuto realizes what he just said, and he feels heat rising from his collarbones and remembers that Iwaizumi is only a few feet away from them! "Oh god that was embarrassing please don't remember that." He mumbles to his shoes. Bokuto sneaks a look at Iwaizumi and finds him making daisy crowns and humming Starships.
"Yes way!" Bokuto stubbornly says. "I can't believe I'm telling you this right now but I've like, liked you since the day you watched Ponyo. At my house. With Asskawa and the others. And then we went to that festival and I thought you looked really, really good in that yukata and I was really excited that you were really considering Fukurodani as your high school because we could be teammates and we could take the National Title and taste what victory is like and be the unbeatable combo of ace spiker and genius setter!"
"You're a dork, Bokuto-san." Akaashi mumbles, a smile easing its way onto his lips and Bokuto sees the straight edge of Akaashi's teeth and figures he must have had retainers because he doesn't remember it being that straight ever. "I like you too." He firmly says.
So they stand there for the longest time, before Bokuto hears a rustle and sees Iwaizumi smile at them, waving his arm back and forth in a wave as he jogs back towards town.
Bokuto makes a reminder to himself to apologize to his sister and Kuroo and Kenma and Iwaizumi for troubling them and for staying with him even though he's an angsty brat who focused too much on the sad, angry feelings instead of the happy ones. Akaashi rustles for something in his pockets, and Bokuto shrugs into his jersey as he hands him a piece of paper. "What's this?"
"Official Club Registration form." Akaashi says. "I want to be a setter, Bokuto-san."
Bokuto really wants to say something cliched, like maybe and a setter you shall be, Akaashi, but he refrains from doing so and pockets the paper before following Iwaizumi back to their neighborhood, taking his time walking to catch up with Akaashi. How are you? Was Cologne cold? Did you miss the food here? Do they have nice beaches? What music do you listen to these days? Are you still going to play the violin? Did you practice with a team in Cologne?
"Yes?" Their pinkies brush and Bokuto lifts his cheeks as Akaashi slowly curls his hand with his.
Bokuto is sixteen when he promises Akaashi that he will bring Fukurodani the banner. "We're going to the Nationals this year."
"Of course, Bokuto-san."
Bokuto arrives with his sister to Fukurodani's morning practice one Wednesday morning, and gathers his team around and apologizes for the way he's been acting. The first years all look at him with awe when he sticks to his promise of showing them his straight spike, and he catches his sister blowing her nose into a tissue.
"Vice-captain!" Bokuto pokes Akaashi's side lightly, as he watches the second years do a lap of flying falls. "I want to talk to you after practice."
Akaashi is still cautious around him, even though he's mostly relaxed from their very long talk from the beach. "Ah, sure, ace." Then he continues diving into the floor, and Bokuto goes back to coaching the first years how to think in mid-air when choosing a spike.
When the warning bells go off for morning classes, they all file out of the club room, and Bokuto comes up to where Akaashi is talking with his sister.
"-so these are the hand signals the current setter uses. I think it'll do you good if you memorize this as soon as you can- oh hey bro. I'll talk to you later, Akaashi."
"Thank you, Bokuto-san." Bokuto grins when Akaashi turns to him. He still can't believe he's wearing Fukurodani's uniform! "Did you want something from me?"
"I do." He puts on his sternest face- the one that makes the first years sweat immediately in dread. He hands Akaashi a pair of knee pads and waves his Club Registration Form. "Welcome to the team, Akaashi."
(Bokuto regrets the kneepads immediately and slaps himself multiple times at practice later on that day when he misses seven tosses in a row because he's drawn to Akaashi's legs.)
They have a captain's meeting one afternoon.
"Nationals." Oikawa states, as he brings his bowl of ramen closer to him. "No hard feelings, okay?"
"None at all." Daichi says, smirking like Kuroo. "Karasuno is going to win."
"Ladies, ladies, we all know who's going to win- Fukurodani!"
Kuroo jabs him in the ribs and Bokuto wheezes as Oikawa laughs.
"Tell me what victory is like."
It becomes apparent to Bokuto that the coveted banner is so close to his grasp. He's pacing around their locker room on the final round of Spring High- the winner of this become representatives in the Nationals. Bokuto runs up and down stairs to burn off his nervous energy and has a mild freak out when Akaashi grabs his elbow, and looks him straight in the eye.
"Do you remember the promise?"
He nods frantically.
"Then you'll do fine. You'll lead us to the banner." Sakurui and Konoha appears behind Akaashi, and they huddle before the whistle blows, and Bokuto scans the crowd and spots Nekoma, Karasuno and Aoba Johsai sitting on the front row of the audience, cheering them on against Shiratorizawa.
Sakurui receives the ball and Bokuto is tired. His legs feel like lead and his lungs are on fire and all he wants is to stop the deuce. The banner is so, so close.
Bokuto is sixteen. Akaashi is fifteen, and Bokuto jumps for what he hopes is the final time, and glares at Ushiwaka as he slams his arm down, ball breaking through Shiratorizawa's block. The ball lands with a finality and bounces off the wall, and then his teammates are piling onto him.
The banner is silky. There are tears coming out of his eyes and he wipes them on his jersey and sniffs hard when his sister and coach comes up running to them- screaming and hollering and yelling in his ears and what a great job and how proud they are for them.
Victory tastes like Pocari Sweat and protein bars. He kisses Akaashi on the orange court as their teammates wrap the banner around them, covering them from the audience's eyes.