summary: Learning to love life again is a bittersweet journey and recovery is not a linear process. Thankfully, Bokuto Koutarou is more than willing to lend a helping hand.
warnings: suicidal ideation, depression, swearing, character death (not reader)
a/n: this is part of a BTS songfic collab with five other amazing writers! a huge shout out to both @mooshua and @astereim for beta reading and dealing with my crackheadedness haha. be sure to read all the other works :) this is a heafty fic but I’m so incredibly proud of it and very excited to share it with you guys. enjoy!!
I’ll admit, it’s taken quite a few crumpled pieces of paper and staring blankly into space to think of what I wanted to write, but I finally have it figured out. I’ve never written a love letter before, so I hope this isn’t disappointing. I also don’t know if this counts as a confession (in more ways than one) or a thank you letter... I suppose it can be both, neither, or just one, depending on what you’d like it to be. But enough of that, I should start this, shouldn’t I?
Do you remember the first time we met? And I mean properly met. You were there one moment and gone the next, a whirlwind of a person, and yet those few moments— something that had likely been minuscule to you —meant everything to me.
You stand in a wavering ray of light, the streetlamp overhead casting you into a haze of opalescent yellow, reminiscent of the darkening sky above. It’s a small pocket of space cut from the rest of the city, leaving you in your own, tiny world world that has come to a screeching halt.
You're at a standstill. Tokyo is not.
Despite the waning hour and the splattering of stars slowly appearing against the sunset sky being consumed by darkness, the city is alive; cars pumping through highway arteries, neon lights beckoning customers towards crooked door frames, a cacophony of sounds blending together to create a chorus of white noise. On and on it goes, always moving, never stopping, leaving behind those who can’t keep up without remorse.
You don’t move from your place beneath the streetlamp, staring at the worn konibi just a few feet away. Through the recently cleaned glass doors and windows, you can see a wide selection of items available for purchase. You’ve been standing outside for some time now (twenty seconds? twenty minutes? you’re honestly not sure) and the cashier has yet to look up from the textbook propped on the counter.
Should you go in? (You should. You shouldn’t.) The summer air feels stifling.
You settle for exhaling softly, fingers curling and uncurling against your palms. You want to sigh, but you’re too tired to even do that.
Tired. That’s all you felt these days. It was a weariness that had settled deep within your body, making its home in the spaces between your bones and spreading through your veins. Nothing you did could extract the feeling from your bones, and so, at some point you’d stopped fighting it and simply accepted it.
Your gaze flickers to the side. Two street lamps down from you is a vending machine, which required no human interaction. You decide to go there instead of the konibi.
You squint through the dirty glass before fishing out some loose change laying in the bottom of your purse. The clink! of each coin as you slide it in is satisfying and your fingers hover over the buttons as you debate on which drink to choose. You make your selection and lean down to fish the can out from the machine, cold biting at your fingers as you pull it out.
“Hey! I know you!”
The loud voice makes you jump and you turn, clutching the cold can as though it’s an anchor and not a cheap carbonated drink.
A tall man stands in front of you wearing athletisure gear, a grocery bag resting in one hand, the rest of him washed out by the sun setting behind him. A vague memory tugs at the recesses of your subconscious and you hold a hand up to your face to shield your eyes from the sunlight illuminating him. His hair is a wild mess of gray and black spikes, golden eyes crinkled from the wide smile cast your way.
He nods enthusiastically. “That’s me! Man, it’s been ages, how are you? Do you live around here too? I thought you went out of the country to study abroad, but I guess it’s been long enough that you’d back—”
You’re confused. Bokuto Kotarou was the kind of guy everyone knew, it was simply impossible to not take notice of him back when you’d attended Fukurodani, and you’d seen him in passing. He had a presence that took over a room, a kind of infectious energy that drew plenty of people in. Paired with his volleyball prowess and towering height, he’d tended to be the topic of conversation a few times a week. You’d even seen him lingering outside your classroom a handful of times, waiting for one of his teammates.
But you’d never actually interacted with him. The more you think, the more you're certain you’d never said a single word to him, and so you can’t understand his sudden enthusiasm upon sighting you.
“—and Tsum-Tsum beat me at rock paper scissors so I had to be the one to get the cleaning supplies, but I’m glad I lost since I ran into you.”
You smile hesitantly, the action feeling false on your face as you pretend you hadn’t zoned out while he was talking. “I see.”
He scratches the back of his neck, chuckling. “Sorry, this is probably weird, huh? It’s just that I saw you around school a few times, my friend Konoha was in your class, and sometimes when we left practice I saw you walking home from your club but you were always with your friend and I didn’t want to bother you, but you seemed cool and I totally meant to approach you to become friends but then… I didn’t.”
Another laugh, this one a little nervous.
Again, you’re confused. It’s been a little over five years since you graduated high school, and while your memory wasn’t half bad, even you weren’t sure you’d remember all that. Especially, if you had been almost complete strangers with someone.
“Anyway! I have to run before Omi-Omi kills everyone else, but we could swap numbers and grab something to eat tomorrow?”
You can feel the condensation on the can beading beneath your fingertips.
Tomorrow. You hated that word. And yet…
You stare at Bokuto, at the wide smile that never falters, energy pouring from every seam of his body. Slowly, you nod. Just when you thought his smile couldn’t get any brighter, it does, and he quickly takes his phone out, offering it to you. You fumble a bit to insert your number one handed, but you manage and give him back his phone.
“Great! I can’t wait to become proper friends with you this time!”
Then he’s off. He waves before breaking into a jog, disappearing behind a nearby corner and fading back into the city.
The condensation rolls down your wrist and you move the can into your other hand, wiping the droplets on your shirt. You turn around and start walking in the opposite direction, taking the long route home. Cars roar past you as you get into a busier section of the city, and you come to a stop in front of railings, staring out at the Sumida river below. It looks as though it’s been bruised, ochre purple and honey gold melting into one another as the ink of night overtakes it.
You tap the top of the can absentmindedly before cracking it open, taking a sip and leaning against the railing. Bubbles fizz in your mouth but it tastes like nothing, just like everything else. It still tastes like nothing a few half-hearted sips later. Straightening up, you toss the mostly full can into a nearby trash, reaching inside yourself to see if you had any bitterness left.
All you can find is cobwebs.
You look back at the river, at the discolored sky and it’s shimmering reflection. You hesitate, debating turning back around. Your phone buzzes in your pocket and your lips thin into a line, but you take it out, glancing down.
[ 1 new message! ]
[ UNKNOWN NUMBER: Hey!! This is Bokuto! ]
You don’t move for a moment, staring down at the message. It would be easy to delete it. It would be easy to ignore it. You were strangers, surely he didn’t expect anything to come out of your run-in, no matter how happy he appeared to see you.
[ UNKNOWN NUMBER: Just let me know what time works for dinner tomorrow! ]
You look up at the sky once more, as though you could find an answer written above. All that meets your searching gaze are stars blurred by both pollution and the lingering sun.
One more tomorrow, you promise yourself, just one more and I can be done.
[ >> I get off work at 5 ]
[ UNKNOWN NUMBER: I’ll be done with practice by then, we could meet at 5:30? I know a good ramen bar! ]
[ >> sounds good ]
[ UNKNOWN NUMBER: *attachment 1 location* ]
[ UNKNOWN NUMBER: See you then!! ]
You pocket your phone, taking once more glance at the river, eyes lingering on the peaceful ebb and flow of the water.
Then you walk away.
There’s no way you could’ve known what I had been planning to do that night you ran into me; that I had a neatly written letter on my desk as an explanation for my soon-to-be disappearance, that my apartment was the cleanest it had been in weeks, that all I felt was a consuming numbness from head to toe. I was so sick of tomorrow’s, but it turns out, all I needed was even the simplest reason to convince myself to see another. So thank you, for giving me that reason, no matter how small it may have seemed. One tomorrow turned into two, two into three, three into four; they kept coming despite my artificial assurances to myself that each one would be the last. Granted, I’d never put much worth in promises, they’re easily broken.
There’s a Western saying, “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile.” I’ve always struggled picking apart meanings in literature, but I think it’s meant to be seen in a negative light, that others will take advantage of your kindness, of your compliance. However, in this case, I believe it can be applied in a positive light. You’ve always been an all or nothing type of person, the kind to dive in head first and give everything— no matter how big or small the task is —all you’ve got.
I gave you an inch. You took a mile. I’m glad you did.
If there’s one thing you learned early on, it was that Bokuto was a new breed of persistent. It was as though that one dinner— which had focused primarily on his blooming volleyball career and your careful manipulation of the conversation to keep from getting into the details of your own life —had opened a floodgate of sorts.
Every day, without fail, he would contact you in some way; whether it was texts about mundane things or random pictures of dogs he saw on his runs, it didn’t seem to matter to him, so long as he got a single hint of interest he’d keep going. He also didn’t seem dissuaded by your lackluster replies, more than making up for your lack of punctuation and capitalization with all caps and exclamation marks on his end.
Even on a digital screen, Bokuto’s endless energy shined through.
You learned quickly that the way Bokuto talked reflected in his texts, he jumped easily from subject to subject, getting lost on tangents and sending multiple texts in a row before finally circling around to finish his original thought.
It was chaotic and messy, but rather entertaining, requiring most of your attention and drawing your thoughts away from less savory places.
While he seemed inclined to text more than talk at the beginning, the more days that passed with consistent communication between you two— admittedly with most of the conversation being carried by Bokuto —the bolder he grew and the more times his contact photo appears on your screen a split second before your phone would start buzzing.
Tonight was no different.
You were laying on top of your comforter, still in your work clothes staring up at your ceiling. Your hands are resting on your stomach, your phone tucked beneath them, and you can feel every shallow breath you take.
Is it possible to drown on dry land?
Perhaps you’ll be the first.
The tightness in your throat and the sting in your eyes has been accompanying you since the middle of the afternoon. Despite this feeling of needing to cry, no tears came, and instead you were left struggling to breathe as the tightness in your chest made each inhale more painful than the last.
It takes you a moment to realize your phone is buzzing. You swallow thickly and lift your phone off your stomach, swiping your thumb across the screen and lifting it up to your ear.
There’s the faint crackle of static and then Bokuto’s voice reaches your ears. “—I’m sorry if I’m bothering you, I know it’s late! I just didn’t know who else to call. See Akaashi is out of town, Tsum-Tsum had to go pick up his brother because his car broke down, Hinata was looking really queasy from all the blood, my neighbor never gave me their number, and—”
You blink, overwhelmed as he continues to talk quickly, a few words tripping and stumbling into one another. “Bokuto?”
“—so then I called my mom, oh, yeah?”
You stare up at your textured ceiling. “Can you just tell me what’s wrong?”
Bokuto laughs. “Right, my bad! So Hinata and Tsum-Tsum were practicing a new variation of their quick attack, and it’s really cool, so I decided to watch. The only problem is that since it’s new, it’s not super accurate and there’s a lot of room for error. I was pretty tired when I was watching them and all I could think about was how awesome it was and then it hit me.”
“...is that a metaphor?”
“Oh no, the volleyball hit me. In the face. I have a fractured nose and I’m at the hospital, and I was wondering if you could come get me? They gave me some medication and said I couldn’t drive. I’ll make it up to you, I swear! I’ll buy you food or boba, do you like boba? If not it can be something else, whatever you want.”
You sigh quietly, slowly getting up despite your body’s protests. “Yeah, I’ll come.”
A profuse string of thank you’s and I owe you’s later, you find yourself driving through Tokyo. It’s late enough in the evening that the congested traffic has cleared out, leaving you to cruise through the normally bustling streets with relative ease. You reach out to turn the music trickling through the speakers off, the normally pleasant sound grating to your ears.
Cold air washes over you when you walk through the hospital doors, blinding fluorescent lights bouncing off of sterilized tile. Your nose wrinkles as the scent of antiseptics and other chemicals greet you. You’d never liked how hospitals smelled.
Bokuto is sitting on one of the chairs in the waiting room, bruising spreading across his face like watercolors on a canvas, the hues brushing heavily underneath his left eye and becoming fainter underneath his right. A concoction of gauze and splints rests over his nose, which does little to distract from the dried blood on the front of his shirt. Despite his rather pitiful state, Bokuto perks up when he spots you, getting to his feet and waving enthusiastically.
It turns out that Bokuto on pain medication is nearly identical to regular Bokuto; happy-go-lucky, talks a million miles an hour, and all around a bright presence. The only difference was that he seemed more affectionate than normal and his balance was a bit questionable, shown by the way he stumbled a handful of times on the short walk to your car. Each time he’d catch himself and laugh as though it was the funniest thing.
“Did you work late?” he blurts out as he gets into your passenger seat. You raise an eyebrow in response to his question only to glance down, realizing you were still wearing your office clothes, although they were rumpled.
“A little.” Is your response as you get into the driver's seat. That wasn’t a lie, you had stayed behind today to attempt and get a report done, but the words had swam across the screen and you’d ended up leaving with nothing accomplished.
He doesn’t seem to notice, or perhaps care, about the lack of music as he directs you to his apartment. He ends up rolling his window down and sticking his hand out it, claiming that he liked the feeling of wind slipping through his fingers. A few more thank you’s were thrown in between his rambling.
It turns out that he lived in an apartment complex a few streets over from yours, making it easy for you to find it considering his directions were typically given after you’d already passed the turn you needed to take.
You only meant to walk him up to his door, a bit concerned about his balance, but somehow you found yourself inside his apartment making sure he had everything he needed.
“Is there anything else I can do?” It’s not a wholehearted offer, but it’s not empty either.
You may feel like complete and utter shit at the moment, but you weren’t going to take that out on Bokuto. Besides, it would be hard to do that considering his personality made it difficult to even think about getting mad. So you settled for the timid olive branch, trying not to show that you’re relieved when he shakes his head, only to stop midway and scrunch up his mouth from the movement.
“Nope! Thanks though.” He grins and you only realize how close you are when he reaches out to pat your head, eyes drooping slightly. “You’re an angel, you know? Text me when you get back home.”
You bid him goodbye and hurry back to your car, humorlessly running over his words in your mind. You were likely the furthest thing from an angel, granted Bokuto didn’t know that. You wore your mask well, no matter how chipped it had become.
It’s only when you’re laying back in your bed, this time in pajamas, staring up at you ceiling once more that you realize you hadn’t texted Bokuto. You lean over and scoop your phone off the nightstand, typing out a short message. You hit send and turn your phone on silent, placing it face down on the faux wood, too drained to even look at Bokuto’s quick reply. You go back to staring at the ceiling.
At some point, sleep claims you, and you welcome the nothingness with open arms.
You were a consistent presence, one that helped me start rebuilding the crumbling foundation that I stood on. After that night, you started calling me angel in various fashions. From anyone else, I think I would’ve found it abhorrent. From you, it was endearing.
I’ll admit, the way you dived headfirst into our budding friendship was jarring. It had been a while since I felt like someone wanted to give me everything and didn’t mind that I wasn’t ready to do the same in return. I often wondered how you were able to be so open, so quickly. Were you not afraid of getting hurt? Were you not afraid of becoming a burden to others? Not that you were a burden, you were a blessing, but still, that is a thought that crossed my mind a few times. I envied you for how easily you were accepted and how easily you accepted others. What was that like, being able to take a leap of faith and still be able to stand if the other person didn’t catch you?
Of course, it wouldn’t be until later that you confided in me that you were, in fact, afraid of sometimes coming off too much, of being left behind or abandoned as you were in middle school. We all have our problems, but unlike me, you had worked past yours and had left them in the past.
Through our conversations, I was forced to acknowledge something that I had been putting off for quite some time: the way I thought wasn’t healthy, and I had dug myself into such a deep hole I was going to need help climbing back out. It was my envy of your outlook on life that eventually brought me to call the number my mother had given me months ago. There was a small part of me that had refused going to therapy for a long time because I didn’t think I needed help. I thought I’d get back up on my own eventually. Besides, what would people think if they found out I went? Even then, I cared too much about how others saw me. I may have been vacant inside, but that didn’t mean I stopped pretending to be whole around strangers.
The chair is surprisingly comfortable and you sink deeply into the cushion the second you sit down. The woman sitting in front of you has a kind face decorated with fine lines. She keeps the left side of her bob pinned back with a few decorative clips and the rims of her glasses are hot pink. Despite having gone to see this particular therapist once a week for a little over a month, you still felt the nerves coiling in your stomach. The necessities were always the easiest part, but now that those were over, you knew you could no longer hide behind them.
“At the end of your last session, we were just finishing up talking about your high school experience.” Her voice is smooth, soothing, like waves crashing rhythmically against a distant beach. “Do you want to revisit any of that? Did you come to any new conclusions on your own time?”
You tap your right foot softly. “I- well I thought about what you said about placing a lot of pressure on myself.”
Your therapist hums in acknowledgment, giving you the space to complete your thought while still letting you know she’s actively listening.
“And I think,” the words stick in your throat, “I think you were right. My parents, they wanted me to succeed but they also did their best to make sure I knew they were supporting my choices. But I… see I was never good at sports like my older brother so…”
She waits a moment, but when it’s clear you’re not going to continue, she gently prompts you. “So you threw yourself into academics?”
“I know high school was a while ago, but do you remember how much time you would dedicate to your studies?”
Your eyebrows pull together as you think. The three years you spent at Fukurodani had blurred together with only a handful of moments that stood out to you. You remembered that the sky was typically darkening or already dark by the time you left, the hours you spent alone in your club room working on projects, the nights you’d stay up until your eyes burned as you consumed materials.
“... a lot. I’m not sure of a precise estimate, but maybe 6 or 7 hours a night?”
She hums softly. “Do you think that after pushing yourself to excel for so long, that by the time you made it to college, you’d exhausted your inner resources?”
“I suppose so.”
“Tell me, were you ever satisfied with what you accomplished in high school? Did it ever feel like enough? Similarly, what about what you did in college?”
You instinctively want to say yes, but you hold your tongue. In your first session, your therapist had stressed the importance of acknowledging that certain answers had been ingrained within you from societal expectations, and to take a moment to actually think about your answer.
So, that’s what you do.
Running back through your high school career, you remember the things your parents had praised you for; joining two academic based clubs, becoming president of one your third year, being at the top of your class every year, and the cherry on top, being accepted into a university abroad. You remembered the fleeting moment of pride, followed by the crushing realization that the next step was only going to be harder.
Moving out of Japan had been exciting at first, but then homesickness had slammed into you without remorse. You stumbled over your words and flushed as your once perfect pronunciation went down the drain. You floated between friend groups that dissolved within a year and found yourself with a handful of people you could talk to, but never fully lean on. So, once again, you’d thrown yourself into your studies.
But it had been lonely without your best friend by your side, without your family at your back, and your goals kept skyrocketing higher and higher while your feet got heavier and heavier. The feelings of accomplishment faded quicker and quicker, while the feelings of not being enough got lingered longer and longer. Classes you’d once been excited to stake became chores, the competitive nature that once spurred you on became exhausting, and your final year you’d barely managed to hold onto your so-called perfect grades.
And in the end, you’d taken the diploma and felt absolutely nothing.
“No. I mean, in high school, I felt proud of what I was doing, but it never felt like enough. And in college, well…”
She smiles softly in understanding, cross one dress pant clad leg over the other. “Have you heard of burnout syndrome before?”
“It sounds vaguely familiar.”
“Burnout syndrome can be broken down into three categories; individual, interpersonal, and categorizational. I believe you may have experienced individual burnout near the end of your college career, and it’s still affecting you today. It is caused when an individual places extremely high standards on themselves and, even if they manage to reach those standards, they often believe it is not enough.”
You sit in silence, listening intently.
“Symptoms of burnout can include chronic fatigue, emotional exhaustion, a feeling of detachment, and feeling ineffective at work. Something important about burnout syndrome is that it’s a slow fix, but it can still be fixed. Things like setting boundaries, giving yourself the proper time and space to recharge both physically and mentally, acknowledging that you’re placing impossible standards on yourself. Do you think that when you moved back here from college, that you were given the time to help find your footing?”
You shrug. Then you shake your head.
You didn’t mind the job you currently had. It was perfectly adequate and there was potential for you to get promoted and, eventually, secure the job you’d always told people you wanted. But, that required a lot of work and you weren’t even sure if that was your dream job anymore.
She continues to speak, offering a few ideas for ways that you could attempt to alleviate your stress and also recharge mentally. You take in the information quietly. To be honest, all of the things she had given you sounded like more work, though logically, you knew they were actually small steps. Still, you didn’t know if you wanted to try them out when all it didn’t seem like you would benefit from them.
“—and of course, you could maybe reach out to one of your friends.”
You felt stuck in a strange sense of limbo. You had no particular attachment to one place after moving around, and no place properly felt like home. It was hard to keep up with your friends from abroad, and most of your friendships from high school had faded away. There was your best friend, but she’s often traveling for work and you felt like your downcast attitude only served to burden her.
She didn’t need to be dragged down by your sluggish thoughts and expired ambitions.
“Last session, you mentioned you had plans to go out to dinner with your friend…” She flips through a few pages of the notebook propped open on her lap.
Ah. There was someone else though.
She squints. “Bokuto?”
She looks up, smiling. “And how was it.”
“It was… good. A little tiring. The food tasted all the same flavor like usual, but I was able to eat more than I normally do.”
Her eyes narrow slightly in thought. It’s not intimidating, more analytical. In a sense, that’s almost worse. “Is there something on your mind about that dinner? Or perhaps your friend? I won’t force you to talk about it if you’re not ready, but we still have a little bit of time left if you’d like to get something off your chest.”
The quiet presses against your skin and words crawl up the back of your throat. The bouncing of your leg becomes more prominent and you press down on your thigh to try and still it.
“I’m worried I’m… relying too much on him.”
She leans back into her chair. “In what way?”
“I-” You’d never actually expressed your darker thoughts and they tangle in your throat. You swallow to shove them back down, tightness sewing your lips closed.
How did you explain to her that Bokuto was slowly becoming a living tether for you? That his consistency gave you a sense of comfort, that food may taste like sand to you but it was worth it to be in his company. That you felt relieved someone seemed to want you around. That, some times, you found yourself glancing at your phone to see if he’d texted you and you felt… something when he did. Not happiness, but a faded remembrance of that.
And it scared you. What if he left? What if he grew sick of your less than sunny disposition? What if you became a burden and he only stayed out of obligation? What if you grew too dependent upon his presence?
I’m not a mind reader. She’d told you in the first session. I want to help you, but I need as much information as you're willing to give me so I can get the best understanding of the situation.
You bounce your leg. You tap your fingers. Then you exhale and finally start talking.
I’ll admit, it was rather naive of me to assume that you were immune to the stresses of life. Just like me, you felt an immense amount of pressure to be the best in high school. But unlike me, you’d been able to manage it rather than crumble beneath the weight.
The day you asked me if I was having a “gray day” was the day I realized how blind-sighted I’d become. You’d called me, cheerfully asking if I wanted to go for a walk around the park that was almost perfectly halfway between our apartment buildings. It had been sunny outside, so it had come as a surprise when the skies started to cry. We’d run over to the playground, squeezing side by side into a circular tube. Your legs were sticking out one side while mine were curled up to my chest. I could feel the heat radiating from your body every time your shoulder brushed against mine from the movement of your breath. Your laughter as you peered out one of the cut outs was infectious and I remember smiling slightly.
Sunshowers are rare but beautiful, entrancing even. You hadn’t minded my silence as I watched the rain fall, you’ve never minded it really, and it’s only when the rain was starting to lighten up you asked if I wanted to leave the tube and stand in the soft drizzle.
The rain had been warm. I stood on the platform of the playground and tilted my head back, not minding, closing my eyes to feel each drop as it hit my face. When I felt the rain stop I finally opened my eyes again, only to realize you’d been looking at me. There was something serene about the expression on your face, and you didn’t look away, instead you’d just looked… satisfied.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen you smile.” Was all you’d said before we continued on our walk, rain splattered and smelling of petrichor.
Only when we were about to part ways did you ask if I was having a gray day. Upon seeing my confused expression, you were quick to elaborate, explaining that back in high school, there’d been days where the world seemed quieter, more monochromatic, more exhausting than normal. You’d created a system with your best friend where, if you were having one of those days, you’d tell him it was a ‘gray’ day and he’d act accordingly.
You’d expressed that you didn’t wish to overstep any bounds, but that if I was having a gray day, you’d be happy to help in any way, whether it’s a distraction or company that I desired. Somehow, this morphed into our daily routine, with you asking me what kind of day it was and then if there was anything you could do to help.
It was hard to admit that I wasn’t well at first. Gray was the color I saw most often, and I confess, there were days I lied because I felt embarrassed. But the days I told the truth, you held true to your word. It was… refreshing. You were still the Bokuto I knew, but you were also a lot more.
I saw sides of you I never knew existed, and I’m happy you were willing to share them with me.
Today was a gray day, just like the day before and the day before that. But this time, instead of declining Bokuto’s offer of keeping you company, you’d accepted. You weren’t sure what to expect from the naturally loud man, but it definitely wasn’t him showing up on your doorstep, a paper bag hanging off one arm and the other holding a drink caddy from a nearby cafe. And you most certainly weren’t expecting him to have knitting supplies that he dumped over your coffee table after asking you if it was okay.
“I’m not very good at sitting still and being quiet.” Bokuto smiled sheepishly. “But I’ve found if I keep my hands busy I do alright! I hope you don’t mind. I just don’t want to bother you with all my fidgeting.”
“That’s fine.” You managed, eyes roving over the concerningly bright yarn.
“I also brought drinks! Hot chocolate is good for the soul, you know.” He pointed proudly at the drinks, chest puffed up slightly. “And this cafe has the best hot chocolate, hands down, trust me.”
You picked up the drink he pushed towards you, hand burning slightly from the hot paper mug, steam rising from the small opening in the lid. It smelled amazing. You can feel the heat of the liquid as it goes down your throat, warming you up from the inside out.
It tasted… like liquid. With a hint of sweetness. But you couldn’t bring yourself to tell Bokuto everything you ate and drank tasted the same, so you confirmed his previous statement. “It’s good.”
He beams. “Right?”
You sit down on the other end of your couch, curling your feet up underneath your thighs. You cradle the drink in your hands. You may not be able to taste it properly, but you craved the temporary warmth it provided.
You resume the movie that had been playing before Bokuto had showed up, submerging yourself into the false reality to alleviate the heaviness you felt from the current one. It’s mind numbing, but in the best way, and just beneath the movie you can make out the soft click of Bokuto’s knitting needles as he works. During a slower part of the movie, you glance over at him.
His face is pinched with concentration as he knits slowly, the bright blue yarn vibrant against the backdrop of his black fitted sweats and slightly holey hoodie. You blink, realizing that his hair is pushed back by a thin neon green headband instead of up in its usual spikes.
Realizing you’re staring, you quickly look away, tuning back into your movie. Thankfully, he seemed enraptured enough by his knitting to not notice.
Bokuto always seemed in a state of perpetual comfort, no matter when you saw him. He seemed to favor atheltisure gear, which made sense considering he had several sponsorships that ended up providing him with more than enough clothes. For some reason, the fact that he tended to live in fitted joggers, sweats, and the occasional compression legging and shorts combo, made you feel less conscious of how many times he’d seen you in wrinkled blouses or lost in an oversized hoodie.
He leaves after you finish your second movie, carefully wrapping the yarn up and sliding the square he’d made into the bag. You walk him to the door and watch silently as he slides his shoes in.
Finally, you muster up a quiet, “Thanks for stopping by.”
Bokuto grins. “Thanks for inviting me! I’ll talk to you tomorrow!”
You close the door after he leaves, leaning your weight back against the cool metal. A sudden knock on the door makes you jump and you whirl around, heart in your throat. You slowly open the door, then catch sight of Bokuto and quickly open it the rest of the way.
“Sorry! I realized I forgot to ask you, there’s an autumn festival tomorrow night I wanted to explore. Wanna go with me?”
“I—” You blink, confused as to why he’d come back to your apartment to ask you when he could’ve just as easily texted or called you. “Sure.”
Bokuto smiles, rock back and forth on the balls of his feet. “Awesome! I’ll text you the details, bye!”
Then he’s off and you’re left alone, starting at your closed door as you mull over the tightness in your chest. It felt… different for some reason. Shaking your head slightly as though that’d dislodged your sluggish thoughts, you mindlessly go through your evening routine, straightening up your living room and throwing away the now empty paper mugs.
Perhaps because you’d become so accustomed to one state of Bokuto, you weren’t prepared to see him looking like anything other than the athlete he is.
But when you get into his car the next day, you’re surprised to see him wearing actual clothes. His hair is back in its usual spiked fashion and he chats animatedly as he drives, gesturing with one hand and occasionally using his knee to help steer. From what you can see, he’s wearing olive green cargo pants with a gray hoodie, a jean jacket on top of the hoodie with several sections of the original material replaced by a multitude of patches. In all honesty, on anyone else, the outfit would’ve looked off. But for some reason, it fit Bokuto perfectly.
The festival is in full swing by the time you two arrive, lanterns being lit as the sky overhead darkness and the chattering of the crowd reaching your ears as you get closer. You stuff your hands into your jacket to keep them from freezing, trailing after Bokuto as you walk down the neat pathways.
The smell of fresh takoyaki and other treats curls around you as you get deeper in, soon catching the attention of Bokuto.
He chatters to you excitedly about the practice game his team has lined up for next week, the names of all the different players flying over your head. His love for the sport shines as it always does, so even though you don’t know that much about it, you find yourself hanging onto every word as he goes into detail about his plans for the game. You make small comments as he talks, content to listen to him so you don’t have to scrounge up anything interesting to tell him about.
Hold the piping hot takoyaki in your hand once you get it, you only eat half before offering the rest to Bokuto, dumping the paper tray into a nearby garbage can. Walking down the main pathway, Bokuto convinces you to try a variety of games; ring tossing (both of you fail miserably), senbon biki (Bokuto pouts when he pulls the shortest stick in the lot, much to the amusement of the worker), and a dart game (neither of you are particularly good at aiming). By the time you’re finished, you hold a small package of candy in hand.
It’s only when you’re nearly done walking through the festival that Bokuto finally spies a game that makes him perk up. He turns to look at you. “I’m going to redeem myself.”
You can’t help but let out a breathy laugh at his proclamation. His eyes are shining with determination as he makes his way over to a punch striker game. You stand a little off to the side, watching in interest as the worker gestures to him before pointing at the little bag hanging from the machine. It’s one of the few electronic games at the festival, the blinking red lights moving to their own rhythm.
Bokuto moves his right foot a half step back before throwing his weight forward, punching the bag with enough force the sound seems to echo. Your eyebrows raise as the numbers on the counter skyrocket before flashing, showing that he’d just set the new record.
The worker congratulates him and gives him a prize bag. As soon as it's in his hand, Bokuto looks over his shoulder at you and lifts it slightly smiling, as though to say did you see?
You smile back and nod slightly, yes I did.
Bokuto thanks the worker and jogs over, soft translucent plumes rising in front of his face as he exhales in the frigid air.
“I want to open this but it’s getting pretty cold, want to head back to my car?”
You nod, shivering as a particular strong gust of wind brushes past the two of you. Despite the waning hour, the festival is packed, and you find yourself holding onto the sleeve of Bokuto’s jean jacket to make sure you didn’t lose him in the crowd.
Once you’re in his car, the heat blasting, Bokuto twists in his seat so he’s somewhat facing you, opening the bag. In a way, he reminds you of your niece on Christmas morning as he peeks inside.
“Ooh, check this out, angel!”
He pulls out the contents, showing you a coupon booklet for local restaurants, a voucher for a free jiu-jitsu lesson, a package of bandaids that are superhero themed, hand wraps, and then two keychains. They’re nearly identical, fashioned after certain victory charms, but in this case they read strength and one is red with white lettering and the other is white with red lettering.
Bokuto holds them up, then looks at you. He looks back and forth a few times before slowly extending the red one. “Here, for accompanying me!”
You take it, feeling the cold metal ring bite into your palm. “Thank you.”
He puts the rest of the items back and tosses it into his backseat before starting his car. Bokuto taps his fingers in rhythm to the music and you sway slightly in your seat, watching the city lights blur into neon streaks as you fly by.
You bid Bokuto goodbye when he drops you off at your apartment, and you yawn widely when you enter. It’s not even that late, but it’d been a long time since you’d gone out for several hours like that.
You twirl the keychain around on your finger as you walk through your dark apartment. Moonlight pools on your bedroom floor, giving you enough light to make your way around. You set the keychain on your desk and stand there for a moment, staring down at it. After a moment, you open the attached drawer. Inside, three objects greet you: an open box of incense, a lighter, and a plain envelope with a letter inside.
Wind rattles your window and, after a moment, you take out the letter and the lighter. You replace the former with the keychain and close the drawer, making your way to your balcony.
A small tray you used to burn incense sits on a lopsided table, and you gnaw at your lower lip before lifting the lighter. With a flick and woosh, the edge of the envelope catches on fire. You hold the letter as it burns, watching silently as the flames consume the paper greedily, edges curling brown before fading to ash. You weren’t scared of getting burned and you only drop it once the flame licks your fingers, watching as what you’d once considered your final words became nothing.
You go to bed soon after, and despite you washing your hands twice, your fingertips still smell like ash. For a brief moment, regret coils in your stomach. You manage to dismiss it.
After all, you could always write another one.
There were times when it felt like for every step I took forward, I stumbled back two.
The bright days shined louder when all I’d been used to was darkness, making me crave them when I was in the midst of a sea of grey. Some days it was harder to get out of bed than others, to keep moving forward, to breath without my chest aching, to exist without feeling the entire world trying to drag me down. But, throughout it all, you were there, even if it wasn’t in person.
The first time I found the sticky note you left, I didn’t think much of it. It was on my fridge, a yellow square with a blob that I later realized was a drawing of a whale taking up half of it. The words “everything whale be okay” were on top of the blob and, while I didn’t smile, I did appreciate it. I just didn’t expect you to keep leaving them. I know it’s likely you thought I was throwing them away after a while, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve kept every single one. All the “nothing is impopsicle!”’s and the “here’s a BOOst of positivity!”’s with equally entertaining drawings beneath. All the short reminders with “I believe in you”’s and the “just do what your best looks like today”’s. And, of course, the short letters written in your barely readable handwriting.
My favorite one is still on the mirror in my bedroom, because it reminds me of the first day where I felt as though I could finally breathe without the weight on my chest suffocating me. I remember listening to your laugh, how it was wild and carefree. Then I saw your smile and the dimples that framed it. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
I know I never want to.
When you call Bokuto that night, you don’t understand why he greets you with twice the usual amount of enthusiasm. Without thinking, you voice your thoughts aloud.
“You called me first!” Is his bright reponse. “You never call first!”
“Oh.” Standing by the sliding doors of your balcony, you lean against the frigid glass, staring out at the city lights sprawled before you. Despite it being spring, winter clings stubbornly to Tokyo, frost raking it’s fingers across the landscape in obscure patches, crawling up the sides of buildings and taking over windshields. “Sorry. I’ll try to call more.”
Bokuto laughs. “Don’t feel like you have to! I don’t mind calling first. Hold on, let me go somewhere else so I can hear you better.”
Faint sounds trickle in from his end of the call and he shushes someone. This only serves to make them louder, followed by another voice piping up. Their words are distorted and then silenced as the sound of a door cuts them off.
“Is this a bad time?”
“Nah, Kuroo eats all my food whenever he comes over, I don’t feel bad for leaving him alone for a bit. Plus, he’s got ‘Kaashi and Kenma to keep him company!”
“Ah.” An uncomfortable feeling swells beneath your ribs. It’s times like these that you’re painfully aware of just how isolated you’d become. “Still I don’t want to keep you from your friends.”
“Well, you’re my friend too! Keep me as long as you want.”
The feeling pops. “... Thanks, I guess?”
He laughs again. “So, what’s up?”
“I—” You pause. Worry winds around your throat and your lips thin into a line. Reaching out, you trace mindless shapes on the glass fogged up by your breath. “I have a question. It’s… silly now that I’m thinking about it… and you don’t have to answer it, I was just… thinking.”
Somehow, you can hear Bokuto’s grin as he speaks. “Well you can’t call and say something vague like that, then hang up. Ask away!”
A light flickers in the distance. Clearing your throat, you rush out, “What’s your favorite thing about living?”
Bokuto is surprisingly quiet after you speak and you reach up, clutching at the fabric over your heart as though that could quell it’s sudden spike. Regret washes over you and your thoughts tumble over one another.
I shouldn’t have asked, I shouldn’t have asked, I shouldn’thaveasked, Ishouldn’thaveasked—
Bokuto’s voice breaks through your spiraling thoughts and you freeze. Thinking you misheard him, you tentatively reply. “Sunrises?”
“Yeah!” His voice is quieter than normal, though still bright. He sounds… thoughtful, like he’s mulling over his words. “There’s nothing better than sitting and watching the sunrise, especially after a run. You’re all tired and sweaty and feeling like you’re going to pass out, but then there’s the beautiful sight, and you can just relax and watch it.”
Surprise replaces the worry. Honestly, some part of you had been expecting him to mention volleyball, not something as simple as a sunrise.
You shake your head as though that will dislodge the sudden thought. “That sounds nice.”
“It is.” His voice is still soft.
Keeping conversations going, particularly over the phone, had never been your speciality, so after a few minutes of aimless chatter, you hang up.
You weren’t lying when you said watching the sunrise would be nice, but that didn’t mean you’d been expecting Bokuto to show up at your apartment the next morning. Knocking had roused you from your slumber and you’d yanked open the door after seeing the tall man through your peephole.
“It’s five in the morning.”
Bokuto beams at you, a light sheen of sweat visible on his forehead, earbuds hanging around his neck. His smile isn’t the only blinding thing. He’s dressed in a pair of white camo compression pants and black running shorts, with a matching white hoodie that has reflective panels on it, one of which was currently reflecting your kitchen light back into your eyes.
You squint. “Seriously, what are you doing here?”
“We’re going to go watch the sunrise!” When you just stare at him in disbelief, he makes a shooing motion. “Hurry and go put on running clothes or we’re going to miss it.” When you still don’t move, he props his hands on his hips, smiling slyly. “I’ll just come back tomorrow morning if you don’t.”
You go put on running clothes.
In hindsight, you should’ve realized this was going to be a struggle. Bokuto is a six foot two athlete that runs every morning for fun, and this obvious fact only hit you once found yourself out of breath less than a block away from your apartment.
It’s clear that he’s barely breaking a sweat and you inwardly wince as you wheeze your way up a hill, legs burning. There’s a literal spring in Bokuto’s step as he ‘jogs’— he’s speed walking to match your pace at this point —and you try to match his enthusiasm as you let him lead you through the neighborhood. No one else is out and a glance up the sky shows that it’s just barely beginning to lighten, though the stars have been smeared by the city smog.
A few cars drive past at random intervals, but for the most part it feels as though you’re the only two people in the world.
It’s a strange sensation in the city that usually makes you feel invisible.
You make it to the nearby park before having to pause, hunching over your legs and gulping down air. Bokuto hesitantly pats your back.
“Are you okay?”
You hold up a finger as you catch your breath. When you straighten up, you find him looking at you equally amused and concerned by your apparent lack of stamina. “Not everyone is a pro athlete like you. Some of us sit on our asses all day.”
He chuckles. He looks up at the sky, eyebrows pinching together slightly, then checks the watch on his left wrist. “The hill isn’t too far but we only have three minutes until the sunrise.”
“Three minutes?” Your voice squeaks and you flush.
Bokuto laughs again. “Yeah, let’s race!”
He grabs your hand, not giving you time to respond as he breaks out into a sprint. You stumble, letting out a string of curses as he leads you deeper into the park. He lets go at some point and you barely manage to keep pace with him, though you figure he’s not actually running as fast as he can. There is something strangely liberating about the moment as you sprint, arms and legs pumping, heat creeping up your calves and pulsating through your lungs like a second heartbeat.
You feel completely and utterly alive.
A hill rises in the distance and you start to slow. You make it up a little ways before having to stop, legs shaking.
“C’mon we’re so close!”
You splutter indignantly, “Let me just catch my breath— ah!” You shriek in surprise when Bokuto scoops you up without warning, flailing a little. “Bokuto what are you doing?”
“Making sure we reach the top!”
He starts running again and you wrap your arms around his neck for a sense of stability, heart hammering in your chest and cheeks flushed as cold air stings your eyes.
Bokuto crests the top of the hill with such ease you feel mildly offended for no good reason. He gently sets you on the ground and laughs as you blink owlishly up at him. “I wasn’t gonna drop you!” He nudges you with his foot and then jerks his chin towards the distance. “I just didn’t want you to miss it.”
A lover’s palette has been swathed over the horizon. Gentle pinks fill in the gaps between lavender and rogue. The bellies of the clouds are a deep mauve, the cumulus peaks white before turning into multi color gradients as they soak in the colors around them. The sun shines through a thin gauze, and despite the chill that still clings to the air, you can feel sunlight kiss your cheeks.
The words on the tip of your tongue fizzle out when you turn to express your contentment with the sight. Bokuto is sitting next to you, leaning back on his hands and staring at the sky, smiling so widely dimples frame the corners of his lips. His eyes are flickering across the horizon, tracing the different clouds, and there’s an almost childlike sense of wonder on his face. A few strands of hair hang over the blue headband in his hair and his earbuds threaten to tumble off his right shoulder.
He turns to look at you and you manage to not flinch. The sunlight refracts in his eyes and you understand why poets will spin an ode about a single feature.
“Is there something on my face?”
You shake your head. Then, still holding onto the lingering adrenaline in your veins, you blurt out. “You have a nice smile.”
Bokuto’s answering smile is quite possibly the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.
A little less than a year after we met, I found myself in your friend’s apartment.
He introduced himself as Akaashi before being shoved out of the way by a slightly taller man, Kuroo, who proceeded to bombard me with a variety of questions— ranging from if I ate enough docosahexaenoic acid to where I worked to if you’d coherenced me into coming and if so to blink twice —before you were there, wrangling him into a headlock. It was interesting to see your dynamic with your close friends. Where you and Kuroo were loud and chaotic, Akaashi and Kenma were quiet and reserved. Though that didn’t stop either of them from making snide comments that shut down both of your egos quickly. All of them were kind, and I never once felt out of place, which was a welcome surprise.
I don’t remember the particular reason why you’d invited me, but it was fun. I was surprised to find out Akaashi and I worked for the same company, albeit in different departments. I don’t know if he ever told you, but we started eating together once a week. His dry humor was a welcome change to my otherwise silent breaks. Kenma may not have talked much but he was still welcoming in his own way.
It was near the end of the night when it clicked for me that Akaashi was the friend who’d first coined ‘grey days’. Somehow, realizing that you had someone like him in your life as a pillar of support made me happy. Mostly, because I realized that you were one for me.
It turns out, sometimes you just need to look at things through a different perspective, and sometimes, you need extra support, and both of those things are perfectly normal. There’s a simple comfort in many things that I had never noticed before. Things like running in the rain. Things like the view from my office in the middle of the day when the city is thriving. Things like a home cooked meal that’s charred around the edges but makes your apartment smell divine. Things like everything no longer tasting the same.
Ever so slowly, I began to fall back in love with life again.
That realization wasn’t the only one to occur that night. Seeing you and your friends; hearing the stories of how rare it was for all of you to be together, but that you still managed to keep in contact… It made me think, a lot. About myself, about my friends, about the self-isolation I’d placed myself in and the proverbial prison it had become.
The next morning, I met up with my best friend for the first time in months.
I guess this is just a long winded way of saying thank you for supporting me until I was ready to walk on my own two feet, and then for sticking around when I finally did.
Reaching your arms overhead, you stretch, muscles quivering after spending so long sedentary. The desktop in front of you gradually fades to black as the system shuts down and you tilt your head from side to side, a satisfying pop! reaching your ears from the movement. Dropping your arms, you push yourself back from your desk and gather a few folders, putting them into your bag.
After watering the plant resting on the slightly crooked windowsill, you leave your office, locking the door behind you.
A few of your coworkers shout goodbyes as you leave and you find the smile on your face comes naturally now. Standing in the elevator as it descends, you check your phone and quickly type out a few replies to your mom, assuring her that you were just working and hadn’t been kidnapped, and then your best friend, who you wished good luck since she was going to some fancy meeting in England.
This summer has been cooler than previous ones and you enjoyed the weather, grateful that you weren’t drowning in sweat. You drive with your windows rolled down and sunglasses perched on your nose, swaying your head to the upbeat music Akaashi had recommended to you.
The song stays stuck in your head as you make your way into your apartment, humming along to the tune.
You slide across the tile in your kitchen after changing out of your work clothes, opening your fridge door and peering inside. Narrowing your eyes at the random ingredients inside, you finally fished out the ingredients for omurice, one of the things you knew you could make without setting your smoke alarm off.
Putting the song that’s stuck in your head on, you bop your head and wiggle your body as you move around your kitchen. Burning your mouth on the omurice, you fan your tongue with your hand before plating the rest of it up.
Dinner is a quiet affair, but the silence doesn’t smother you as much as it used to.
Glancing at your clock, you curse and hurry to put the dirty dishes in the sink, realizing you’re running late. Hopping on one foot, you wrestle your tennis shoes on and then dash out the door, phone in hand.
Bokuto is leaning against the chain link fence that leads into a section of the park and he straightens up when you get closer. He slings an arm over your shoulder when you reach him, grinning. “Are you excited?”
“Don’t be!” His chest puffs out slightly. “I’m an excellent teacher.”
“I can still be nervous!”
He laughs and moves away from you, grabbing the bike that is next to him. “I guess so. I still can’t believe you don’t know how to ride a bike though.”
You frown good-naturedly, falling into step next to him as he walks the bike to the park entrance. “Hush, it was easier to walk everywhere in high school and college, no one wants to deal with a bike on a train. Besides, better late than never.”
Bokuto comes to a stop, kicking the stand down and leaning the bike against it. “Sure sure, whatever helps you sleep at night.” He offers you a helmet and you put it on, fumbling with the chin strap and dropping your hands when it gets closer. Bokuto tugs it gently until it’s snug. “Good?”
You give him a thumbs up.
He gestures to the bike. “Okay you can get on. I’ll walk alongside you and make sure you’ve got the motions down. You’re smart, I’m sure it’ll be easy!”
You hesitantly get on the bike, knuckles blanching white as the frame wobbles. The seat is a bit high, despite it being on the lowest notch, and your tiptoes skim the ground. Bokuto grabs the edge of the bike handle closest to him, steadying it.
“First, put one foot on a pedal.”
Your left foot finds its designated pedal.
“Now, push down with that foot. At the same time, lift your right foot and then press down as your left foot comes up.”
The frame shakes as you do what he suggests and you tense up as the bike starts to move. The front wheel zigzags a bit and you can feel yourself starting to tip to the side. Bokuto’s grip tightens and you continue to pedal slowly, getting used to the movement. After making it a few feet, you come to a step, letting out a breath you didn’t realize you’d been holding.
A finger pokes your cheek and you startle. Bokuto guwaffs. “Lighten up! You’re learning how to ride a bike, not take a test. It’ll take a bit to get used to. You’re doing great, I promise!”
“It’s trickier than I thought it would be,” you grumble before pushing off again.
Bokuto is patient, sticking by your side as you bike in a hazardous manner. A balmy summer breeze ruffles your hair as you start to get the hang of it, Bokuto walking alongside you, hand lightly on the edge of the handle. You carefully brake and grin when you coast to a stop.
“Want to try going faster?”
“Maybe.” You tug at your lower lip with your teeth.
“Just think if it like walking! Take one step at a time and the next thing you know, you’ll be cruising.”
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try.”
“That’s the spirit.” He lets go of the handle bar and a spike of panic shots through you.
Bokuto winks. “Trust me, you’ve got this. Just go to the other end and back.”
It’s an unsteady start but soon you find a rhythm, pumping your legs slowly.
“That’s it, angel! Just one step after another!”
The bike sways as you go over a rougher patch of gravel and you call over your shoulder, voice mirroring the stance of your bike, “I don’t know if this is a good idea…”
“Just don’t look back!”
You register his words a moment too late, glancing over your shoulder. His eyes widen and he shakes his head, breaking into a jog. “Look ahead, look ahead!”
Too late, you turn back around in time to see a small divot in the ground. You break too hard and the front tire skids, the bike flipping onto its side. You tumble to the ground with it, legs tangled in the frame. The air is knocked out of you and you blink, stunned as you stare up at the clear sky. Bokuto’s face comes into focus and then steady hands are helping you sit up, pushing the bike off of you.
“Are you okay?” His voice is pinched with worry and he grabs your arms, gently brushing pieces of gravel off before running a critical eye over you.
Your heart is beating in your ears. The summer air is soft against your skin. The tightness in your chest eases slightly. You learned to ride a bike at twenty-four. The helmet is a bit warm and you know when you take it off, your hair is going to be a mess.
You laugh and Bokuto’s head snaps up, golden eyes roaming over your face quizzically. He relaxes slightly at whatever he sees, eyes softening.
Your smile is so wide, your cheeks hurt. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay.”
Have you ever had a moment, where you’re with someone and something just… clicks, and suddenly instead of them being part of the background, they’re suddenly the center? Like a camera lens struggling to focus until it finally sharpens, honing in on the subject. That’s what happened to me that day you taught me to ride a bike.
I already knew I cherished you, but something shifted that day, and suddenly all I could think about was you; all I could notice was you. I had all these pieces of you— pieces like your left dimple is deeper than the right, you put your right shoe on first, you can’t stand the texture of styrofoam, you sneeze in sets of four, you love listening to podcasts, you always tap your left knee twice before a volleyball game—on and on and on they went. Each one I gathered, I put together, and eventually, I had a whole picture. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
There are certain mindsets I had a hard time unlearning, and I likely will keep unlearning them for the rest of my life. I don’t wish to dig into all that right now, but it all boiled down to one thing: I was scared.
I was scared of not being able to love you the way you deserved. I was scared of not being enough. I was scared of relapsing and dragging you down with me. I wanted to be in a good place before I told you about my feelings, but doubt ate away at me every time I thought I may be ready.
Maybe it was selfish of me to keep it hidden for so long, but you taught me it was okay to be selfish from time to time.
Twirling the pen between your fingers, you stare down at the page. Ink is smeared along the side of your hand and the words have smudged together slightly. You sigh. At first, you figured writing a letter would be a good idea to figure out the tangled mess of emotions in your chest, but nothing you’ve written sounds right.
Lines are crossed out, words reduced into incoherent scribbles, and you’re not sure if you spelled half of it right. An exaggerated sigh echoes in your room and you pick up your phone, checking the time.
Bokuto had texted you to see if he could drop by after his weekend practice, claiming he had a surprise. While you didn’t mind surprises, the problem with Bokuto’s is that you never quite knew what to expect. His surprises ranged anywhere from a cup of hot chocolate to an extra train ticket that would take you halfway across the country
Realizing he’d be arriving any minute, you’re quick to click your pen and set it aside. Opening the drawer of your desk, you slide the draft letter inside, where it rests on top of several identical pieces of paper, each filled with your thoughts.
Washing your hands does little to help get the ink off, but by the time Bokuto knocks, you’ve managed to get it to fade a decent amount. Drying your hands off, you close the door to your room before making your way to the living room. Upon opening the door you’re greeted by a red nosed Bokuto and a blast of cold air from the sudden autumnal chill that had descended over the city like a wet blanket, condensation clinging to window panes.
Unsurprisingly, he has two paper mugs from the now familiar cafe. Surprisingly, he has another bag with him, hooked into the crook of his elbow.
Bokuto’s familiar with your apartment and navigates it with ease as you sit down on the couch. He joins you a minute later, placing one of the hot chocolates on the coffee table in front of you. He then plops the paper bag he’d been carrying in front of you before taking a seat.
You’re sitting perpendicular to him, legs criss-crossed and back wedged in the corner where the arm of the couch meets the back. You point at the bag. “Is that for me?”
Bokuto nods. One of the things that you loved about Bokuto was how expressive he was, it made it easy to pick up on what he was feeling. Even if he wasn’t bouncing his leg slightly, the way he kept pulling at the sleeve of his sweater was enough to tell you that he was nervous.
You lean forward to grab the bag and pull it onto your lap, peeking inside. Brightly colored fabric greets you and you pull it out, fingers sinking into the soft wool. It’s a hodgepodge of colors; mustard yellow, washed out purple, cobalt blue, orange a shade too dark to be neon and a shade too bright to be normal. As you run your fingers over the knitted material, you realize it’s a scarf.
“It’s supposed to be a sunrise,” Bokuto blurts out and you look up. He’s tugging at his sleeve, looking at the scarf in your lap. “I’m not very good at knitting though, or picking out colors, so it’s not much, but it was fun to make—”
“I love it.”
He freezes mid sentence, mouth half formed around a vowel. His mouth opens and closes a few times before he asks timidly, “Really?”
“Really.” You can’t stop touching the fluffy material. “It’s soft and seems warm. Plus I’ve been needing a new scarf for a while, you saved me the trouble of getting a new one. And this one is one of a kind, which makes it better than anything I could’ve bought.”
Bokuto leans forward, eyes shining. “I’m glad you like it!”
You subconsciously mirror him. “Seriously, thank you.”
His head tilts to the side as he smiles, and you’re struck with the similarity between him and a puppy. “You’re welcome!”
The following morning, you wear the scarf to the park to watch the sunrise. It's just as warm as you thought it’d be and it smells faintly of cinnamon. When Bokuto jogs up the hill, his eyes zone in on the brightly colored material wrapped around your neck.
His smile rivals the sun rising behind him.
It’s interesting how much can change given time. Two years ago, if someone had told me where I ended up, I would’ve laughed; I would’ve told them, “That’s a nice dream.” Except, this isn’t a dream, this is my reality and, for once, I feel content.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have grey days. I still have things that I regret doing and not doing. I still find that there are days where it’s hard to breathe, days where I want to simply fade, even if it’s just for a moment, days where I lay in bed and stare at my ceiling, unable to muster the strength to get out. But those are not the only days I have nor the only feelings I have. There are days when I found myself twirling throughout my apartment simply because I want to. There are days I deviate from my normal path to work and try something new, days where I laugh so hard my ribs ache, days where I get up before the sun and watch the sunrise from my balcony, watch as the city yawns awake.
But, I think my favorite days are when you are in them.
I always found it easier to breathe when you were around.
The aftermath of movie night is shown in the sheer amount of take out containers littering your coffee table and the end credits blinking on your tv screen. The artificial light casts Bokuto into a haze of blue light as he stacks the containers neatly before standing up from your couch to throw them away.
Untangling yourself from the blanket, you get up and stretch, hearing your back crack. You fold the blanket and place it in the basket next to the couch, looking around to make sure there’s no garbage left.
“I still think they shouldn’t have ended the movie like that.” Bokuto pouts slightly as he walks back in, hands tucked into the front of his hoodie pockets. “Like I understand why but still, it’s frustrating.”
You grin. Just twenty minutes ago, Bokuto had been flipping out on your couch over the ending, fuming at the ambiguity of it. He’d ended up pacing for a few minutes and you’d watched, resting your chin on the back of the couch and following him as he moved across your floor, trying to talk out the ending. It had taken another ten minutes before he found some semblance of peace with the end.
“At least we figured it out,” you pause then mutter under your breath, “or at least I think we figured it out.”
Bokuto points a finger at you. “No, no we are not going back down that path. We did figure it out, no second guessing!”
Raising your hands in mock surrender, you concede. “Alright, alright. We figured it out.”
He nods in satisfaction, typing on his phone. “That’s right.”
“Are you heading over to Akaashi’s now?”
Bokuto pockets his phone. “Yep! He still needs help moving a few things around.” He walks around, gathering his things, and you lean against the wall as he crouches down to put on his shoes.
There’s nothing particularly special about tonight. Bokuto came over frequently nowadays, despite having moved a little further away to a nicer apartment complex, and half of the nights he spent were filled with the two of you randomly picking movies and hoping for the best. He’s wearing what you’d consider a typical Bokuto outfit; joggers and a hoodie, both gifts from sponsors, and his hair is down due to him showering after practice before coming over.
He stands up, turning to open the door.
“Hey, Ko?” You speak without thinking and your nerves crackle to life when he turns around.
Your brain short circuits and what little bravery you’d managed to scrounge up is wiped out. Words refuse to form— I like you; I love you; your presence makes everything brighter —and you fumble a bit.
Finally, you blurt out, “We should do something tomorrow.”
Bokuto grins. “Yeah!”
The lingering imprint of courage spurts you to move forward without thinking, wrapping your arms around him.
Hugging Bokuto is comforting and familiar. His arms wrap around you, and if he thinks anything of the way you hug him a little tighter than normal, he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he seems to reciprocate, arms tightening a bit. You breathe in softly, the scent of cinnamon and a hint of sweet, campfire smoke enveloping you.
“Have a good night,” you whisper into his chest.
Bokuto leans his head against the top of yours, “You too, angel.” His voice rumbles in his chest and you feel it reverberate throughout your body.
You stand in your doorway as he walks to his car. He waves before getting in and you watch as he leaves before going inside. A silly smile has wormed its way onto your face and you stand in the hallway for a moment, gathering yourself.
Tomorrow. You would finally tell him tomorrow how you felt. You weren’t blind, you were almost certain he felt the same way, and if for some reason he didn’t, Bokuto wasn’t the kind of guy to end your friendship over it. All the letters filled with half formed thoughts and emotions you couldn’t properly label, they’d finally be spoken, even if it turned into a mess.
Grabbing a bottle of nail polish, you sit back down on the couch, playing music as you paint your fingernails a shimmering gold.
Once they’ve dried, you head into your bathroom, getting ready for the night. Yawning, you go through your routine, struggling to keep your eyes awake. A faint smile appears when your eyes land on the new sticky note on your mirror. Bokuto must’ve placed it just before he left. Over the years, his drawings had gotten better to the point you could typically tell what they were without thinking too hard about it. You run a finger over the little cartoon peach, warmth blossoming in your chest.
I AP-PEACH-IATE YOU!
You laugh. It may be cheesy, but you love when he left these notes for you.
Trudging into your bedroom, you turn off the lights and flop unceremoniously onto your bed. You roll onto your side, pulling the cover over yourself, sleep already beginning to take you into its arms. You drift in and out of consciousness, the world around you dwindling away.
The vibration of your phone jolts you awake and your heart jumps in your chest.
Blindly reaching out, you snag it off your nightstand and answer it without looking at the contact name, assuming it was Bokuto since you’d been on the receiving end of his late night calls plenty of times before. “Hello?” Your voice is groggy and you roll onto your back, rubbing sleep from your eyes.
“It’s me.” Akaashi’s voice is strained, hesitant.
You sit up, a shiver of anxiety rolling down your spine. “What’s going on, is everything alright?”
You can’t tell if the static in your ears is coming from the other end of the call or if it’s a side effect of your heartbeat pulsating throughout your body. Trepidation curls around you and you grab your comfort, seeking something, anything to anchor you.
Akaashi’s composed voice cracks as he speaks. “It’s Bokuto.”
The world goes still.
There’s a lot of things I could say to you. There’s a lot of things that I’ve already said. I could go on for a while talking about you, listing everything I love and all the wonderful memories you star in. But honestly, all I want to say is thank you, and so that’s what I’m going to do:
Thank you, for being that stepping stone. Thank you for being yourself. Thank you for the grey days, the bright days, the regular days. Thank you for the sunrises and sunsets and sunshowers. Most of all, thank you for showing me what it was like to love living again, to want to live again. You were a guiding hand and, even when I was finally able to walk forward on my own, thank you for still sticking by my side. I will cherish these memories no matter how worn they may become. How ironic, that you were the one to call me an angel, and in the end, it was you who became one.
I don’t make promises, you know how hollow the ones I craft are, but I will say this:
I will forever be grateful to have known and loved you. I will forever be grateful that you loved me in your own way. I like to think that one day we will meet again.
I hope you don’t mind waiting for me, I’ll be sure to have lots of stories to tell you.
The coldness of the earth has long since seeped through the fabric of your jeans and you bury your nose into the well-worn fabric of the scarf, seeking a bit more warmth as you stare down at the last line. The letter had turned out much longer than you’d expected, and admittedly, your handwriting had deteriorated from the careful print to a lilting scrawl, words threatening to run into one another.
It didn’t matter. Your parting words had long since been burned into your memory.
You take a moment to lift your gaze to stare at the horizon, taking in the dreamer’s hues that had overtaken it. This sunrise was no more notable than the dozens of others you’d seen, but nevertheless, the sight of it caused your breath to hitch in your throat.
You take a deep breath. Count your heartbeats.
For a moment, you can pretend that Bokuto is sitting next to you in the corner of your eye, leaning back against his palms, breathing heavily from sprinting to find a good spot to watch the sunrise.
You look over. He smiles wide enough, his dimples appear.
You blink and he vanishes, leaving a gravestone in his place. The sky looks as though it’s on fire, but you’ve never feared getting burned.
Your parting words are a whisper. “Until then.”
Paper crinkles softly as you move the last page to the back before carefully folding the letter back up. You slide it into the plain envelope and tuck the seal flap into the back. You sit there for a while, watching as the sky softens and the fiery colors are put out by a sea of gentle blue. The tip of your nose stings from the cold and you tug your scarf further up.
Finally, you get to your feet, stumbling a little from the stiffness in your limbs. You brush your fingers along the top of the headstone and lean down to fix the flowers you’d brought before setting the envelope down.
You stare at the engraving of his name for a moment longer before straightening up, rubbing your hands together to bring some circulation into them. Once you’ve got some feeling back, you stuff your hands into the pockets of your jacket. You roll your shoulders back, correcting your posture, and take another deep breath.
What should you do? (You could stay one more minute. You could leave.) The fall air is liberating.
“That’s it, angel! Just one step after another, keep moving forward!”
“I don’t know if this is a good idea...”
“Just don’t look back!”
The corners of your lips curl up. You take a deep breath, then step forward, walking away.
(And this time, you listen.)
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