Midorima isn't quite like the other boys who dig and play in the mud and grass. He'd much rather be looking at his book, filled with pictures of stars and wisdom they offer.
Akashi isn't quite like the other boys either. He's never really played with them before. They're rambunctious, sticky, dull creatures. He's more intrigued by the one sitting alone at the edge of the sandbox, flipping through a book.
"What's that?" He asks, booming a little too loudly in Midorima's ear.
"Nothing." Midorima shields the book from Akashi before he can get a proper look at it.
"Is it a secret?" Akashi asks, eyes lighting up like gems. He likes secrets. There are many things he knows about that he's not allowed to tell. Like where the key to his mother's jewelry box is hidden. Like the cat that lives in the maid's apartment. Like the auntie who comes to visit father when mother's not around.
"No," Midorima replies, and Akashi looks a little disappointed.
"Then what is it?"
"None of your business."
But Akashi is persistent.
"Is that the same book?" He asks on another day when he sees Midorima rifling through the pages.
Midorima is equally stubborn, and so he ignores him.
There's a piano sitting in the family room when Midorima arrives home. It's not new, and though the keys are slightly yellowed with age, Midorima likes how it sounds when he presses down on them.
It's for you, his parents tell him.
"What's it about?"
"...Stars." Midorima replies reluctantly, hoping it's enough to shut the other boy up.
"I know about stars." Akashi brightens. "They're balls of really, really, really hot gas out in space." And he stretches his fingers, molding them around an invisible sphere.
Midorima adjusts his glasses and buries his nose deeper into the book.
"What else does it say about stars?" Akashi likes to know things. If there's something about stars that he doesn't know, he figures he ought to find out.
Midorima gives him an annoyed look. "Nothing," he lies.
"Is it a picture book, then?" Akashi tries to sneak another peek with little success.
His first piano instructor is a young female, a high school student.
His feet barely reach the ground when he sits on the bench, and the notes come hesitant and soft, but she's patient with Midorima. She encourages him with sweet words, and guides his tiny fingers with her long, pretty ones. He likes the way they glide over the keys, effortless. She smells nice, too.
He works harder for her praise, labors hours a day over those keys and over time, his fingers gain strength and reach.
"I saw a shooting star last night," Akashi informs the bespectacled boy, hunched over his book in his usual spot.
Midorima looks up fully. "You did?" For all the reading he's done on stars, he's never seen a shooting star before.
Akashi nods. "Yea. It fell like this." Green eyes follow as Akashi traces an imaginary path in the air with his finger. "And then it was gone. You're supposed to make a wish when you see a shooting star," Akashi explains.
"No. It doesn't work."
"How do you know?"
"Because I've tried."
"Well, that's stupid." Midorima huffs, suddenly remembering that he doesn't like other children.
For the next few days, recess is strangely quiet for Midorima. He even glances away from his book several times, scanning the playground for signs of vivid red hair. Maybe he gave up. His fingers feel strangely restless as they tap to the rhythm of his latest practice piece.
Akashi finally returns a week later, but he doesn't speak to Midorima, nor to anyone else. He sits by himself on the swings, legs dangling just short of contact with the ground.
Midway through recess, it's Midorima that trots up to Akashi. It's...not that he wants to know where the red-haired boy has been or anything. He just wants to know why Akashi isn't pestering him about his book, like he normally does.
"Hi." Akashi's eyes are red and puffy. He looks a little sick, and maybe a little sad.
"Are you okay?" Midorima finds himself asking, and the line of Akashi's lips quiver at the question. "Uhm, do you want to see my book?" He blurts.
He doesn't look as interested as Midorima would've expected, but Akashi nods slowly and slides off of the swing.
They sit together at the corner of the sandbox and Midorima opens the book across their laps. Akashi sees for the first time just how fragile the book is. The edges are worn, particularly the corners of each page where Midorima flips them. The spine of the book no longer holds the pages together. Midorima has to balance the book in a way so that nothing falls out.
The first page is Midorima's favorite. It's an image of the galaxy and its many stars spanning across the entire spread. He turns the page, revealing diagrams of constellations.
"If you connect the stars the right way, sometimes they make pictures." He points to a constellation. "This one's called Gemini. They're twin brothers."
Akashi knows what constellations are, but as he tilts his head this way and that, he can't seem to see what Midorima's talking about. Maybe one day, he will. For now, he listens.
The class sings for Akashi on his birthday.
"I can play 'happy birthday' on the piano," Midorima informs Akashi.
Midorima nods. He can play many things now. He thinks about inviting Akashi to his recital, even.
At lunchtime, they huddle over Midorima's book as he flips to the page about Sagittarius to show Akashi. "You're a Sagittarius. Your element is fire, see?" He rattles off a list of traits that apply to a Sagittarius. Akashi listens carefully, because Midorima knows many things that Akashi doesn't.
"So you know what a person is like if you know their sign?"
"I'm Cancer. My element is water."
"If you're water and I'm fire, does that mean we're opposites?"
"Well, we don't get along best."
"Really?" Akashi blinks, confused. "'Cause I think we do."
Midorima doesn't really have an argument against that, so he shrugs, fidgeting with tasseled ends of his scarf.
"The book must be wrong," Akashi says solemnly, scanning the page on Cancer.
"It's not." Midorima bristles, suddenly defensive. It's a grave accusation. "We don't get along best," He retorts.
"But we do." Akashi looks at him with an air of certainty that only irritates Midorima.
"You can't just change what the book says."
It's the first of their many disagreements. Midorima decides not to invite Akashi to his recital.
On the day Midorima's mother tosses away the old book, Midorima is so upset that he doesn't touch his lunch.
"We have lots of books at my house. One of them has to be about stars." Akashi invites Midorima over to see them. Midorima's really not interested in any other book, but when he arrives at Akashi's house his grief is momentarily forgotten. He didn't know Akashi had a whole library in his house.
They spend the afternoon pulling books at random, but they find nothing like Midorima's book.
They do find a dusty shogi set stored high on one of the shelves.
"Did you forget to brush your teeth?" Akashi asks when Midorima comes to class holding a toothbrush. Akashi keeps his distance, just in case.
"No. It's my lucky item of the day." Reluctantly, Midorima reaches into his bag and pulls out a yellow yo-yo. "Here's yours."
Akashi takes the toy from him, giving it a thorough examination. "I don't get it. Is there something special about it?" He gives the yo-yo a hard flick and it spins back into his hand.
"Don't break it," Midorima warns sharply. "It's the lucky item of the day for Sagittarius. Oha Asa said so."
Akashi manages to lose it by the end of the day.
"I didn't break it," Akashi shrugs, and Midorima is angry with him for the rest of the week.
Midorima is tall for his age, and awkwardly so. His weight has yet to catch up with his impressive height, but he's slowly getting there. Already, his arms are shaping up nicely from dedicated sessions of shooting practice, and muscle definition seems to be quickly filling the bony structure of his ribs.
Akashi isn't nearly as tall, but he too is changing—particularly the places his eyes are drawn.
The way those hamstrings contract, those calves flex, and the curve that forms when Midorima bends at the waist and knees in shooting position...very nice, indeed.
There are other things Akashi has started to observe, like how Aomine moves so fluidly on court like fish in water, or how it should be physically impossible for a person of Murasakibara's size to possess the reflexes he does. He's fascinated by the effortless confidence Nijimura seems to emanate—how his presence gathers and twists these individual fibers into the rope that binds their opposition.
Midorima, aside from the distance from where he stands to the net, mainly measures Akashi's interaction with everyone else.
Nijimura rolls his eyes, wonders how much more obvious these two could be, and kicks their oblivious asses a little harder.
They nearly miss the train, but they squeeze in at the last second. It's packed, uncomfortable, and hard to talk when their shoulders are jammed together. They twist their heads in awkward angles to avoid eye contact with the strangers they're too close to. Occasionally, the back of their hands bump on the train. Midorima wonders if Akashi notices, and Akashi wonders what it'd feel like to twine their fingers together. Neither curl their hands away.
"They think you've made me vice captain because you—," he tries his best to look unaffected, "because you have feelings for me." It's the mildest way he can put it.
"When have you batted a lash at anything anyone's ever said about you?" Akashi doesn't bother to lift his gaze from the meeting agenda.
"Because," and Midorima gropes helplessly for a reason.
"I do have feelings for you." Akashi looks him bluntly in the eye. "But that's not why I chose you. Would it appease you if I were to clear that up with the team tomorrow?"
Midorima stammers a little, possibly redder than Akashi's hair. "J-Just the second part is enough."
The first time Akashi slips his hand into Midorima's, it feels large and clammy, and entirely too stiff. But he marvels at how well his hand fits.
"I always thought your fingers looked prettiest when you played piano, but I think I like them here best."
His long fringe sweeps into his eyes as Midorima dips his head down and looks the other way. Akashi did have this growing tendency to say really embarrassing things.
He doesn't know why Akashi chose this movie. It's slow, boring, and so far all they've done is kiss through it.
That was exactly why Akashi chose it.
Their lips miss at first in the dark, but they quickly find their mark. Their hands lay awkwardly, uselessly to the side until Midorima shifts over and Akashi takes it as a cue to maneuver onto his back, tugging Midorima down with him as he does. Akashi's mouth is warm and pliant and soft, but he's so hard between their stomachs. They move in slow exploration, a slow grind, to the rustle of their clothes. Akashi rubs circles deeper and deeper into Midorima's back, while Midorima maps the inside of Akashi's mouth with his tongue.
When Akashi has to stifle a moan, Midorima reaches over to turn up the volume of the television.
Two days before Akashi leaves for Kyoto, he sits cross legged on Midorima's bed. "You'll meet new people," he states, matter of fact. There's a childishness in the way he's hugging Midorima's pillow. He doesn't say, but Midorima knows what Akashi means by it. Look only at me.
"So will you." Midorima's distress is a little more apparent.
"Who is he?" Akashi asks when he first visits Midorima at Shuutoku. They watch as a raven-haired boy tears through two defenders before passing to a teammate at the edge of his peripherals.
An annoyance. A trusted teammate. A friend.
"Someone who has more reason to fear you than you him," Midorima says diplomatically. "You can stop picturing his violent demise now."
Akashi studies Takao's movements on the court for another minute before quirking a brow at Midorima. "I was only curious. I'm glad you've made friends."
Liar. You're glad he's not competition.
Akashi's mouth is better than Midorima remembers when Akashi sucks him off in Shuutoku's locker room later that day.
Sometimes Midorima just wants to say something—anything to impose himself on Akashi's life in some small way. To remind him that he still exists. He knows Akashi doesn't forget, but that doesn't stop him from checking the weather in Kyoto before shooting off a text. It's cold tonight. Make sure you keep warm.
Sometimes Akashi calls. When he does, there's always a hint of breathless panic in Midorima's voice when Midorima answers. It's amusing to Akashi that Midorima worries so unnecessarily. He has never called for important reasons except to hear the reassurance of Midorima's voice, though it's usually Akashi who ends up dominating the conversation.
Midorima doesn't mind spending an hour to listen to Akashi talk. Akashi's voice is silk and honey with a composure he'd like to wreck. Even as Akashi speaks about the most mundane things, Midorima finds himself palming at his shorts.
"Are you...touching yourself?" Akashi's voice drops in a way that fills Midorima's head with indecent thoughts.
"Let me hear you more."
No word is spoken over the line for a long time, only the sound of their breaths and pants.
Even if Akashi doesn't especially like red bean, he likes the things that remind him of Midorima. The drink dispenses from the machine, and Akashi holds the chilled can in his hands for a few nostalgic moments. He pulls out his phone and snaps a picture, sending it off to Midorima.
I bought this for you, so hurry up and come here.
When Midorima receives the image and teasing caption, he responds in kind the next night with a photo of tofu soup.
It's going to get cold and go to waste if you let it sit here.
Their war begins.
Akashi hunts through Kyoto for all the red bean drink varieties that he can find, and Midorima scours the menus of Tokyo for tofu.
One day, Akashi sends a puzzling picture without caption. It's not of red bean, Midorima quickly realizes—it's more tantalizing than any item Akashi can find.
It's Akashi's abs, and they're more defined than Midorima pictures. Then again, it's been too long, and this time the bait works.
When Midorima visits Akashi that weekend, Akashi wastes no time in pressing him into a bed and tugging his belt loose. There's nothing sweet about their first time, not like how Midorima's envisioned or planned a hundred times in his head. They're desperate, and hungry, and so willing.
Want you now, Akashi whispers, no room left for argument as he positions himself over Midorima and slowly works his hips down. Midorima's guilt-stricken as he watches Akashi's face twist in pain, but he can't stop Akashi now, not with this incredible heat swallowing him.
When Akashi adjusts enough to begin moving, it doesn't take long for Midorima to approach his limit.
Wait, Midorima insists, completely mortified as he tightens his hold on Akashi's hips to still him. I'm sorry, I can't—I'm about to—. His stomach caves as Akashi suddenly squeezes around him, his wet, lewd mouth curling.
Fill me, complete me, he begs. His eyes are soft in a way they never are for anyone else. I want to see your face as you come in me.
"Don't hold back," Akashi tells Midorima the night before their match. "Don't disappoint me. I want to be your enemy."
But all Midorima hears is, I want to be yours.
On the court, Midorima is focused. He doesn't see Akashi, the overwhelming players on Rakuzan's team, their odds of winning, or even how obscenely raw Akashi's knees look every time they peek from under the hem of his shorts.
He sees Shuutoku, and every drop of sweat they've exerted to be where they are now. He can feel the weight of their trust as Takao passes to him, the flutter of collective victory as he sinks his shot.
It's not enough.
The tears are frustrating, but the loss stings worse.
"My father's remarrying."
Midorima is silent as he struggles to answer. He's not sure what Akashi needs to hear, if he needs to hear anything at all.
"I'm sorry." He thinks about visiting Akashi that weekend.
"Don't be." There's a chill in Akashi's voice that reminds Midorima that Akashi is not this small, helpless creature who requires Midorima's protection. "She'll be gone soon."
He wants to protect him anyway.
Still, needy, so needy Akashi can be at times, lips latched to Midorima's neck as he confines him to bed on one of his visits.
"You're leaving me," Akashi accuses, nosing along his warm pulse and taking in his scent.
"Me?" Midorima flips them over, sudden and rough. He knows Akashi likes it when he flexes his strength. "Not coming with you is not the same as leaving you."
"How long have we played this game?" Akashi raises his hips to meet Midorima's.
"Which?" Midorima mutters, the head of his cock teasing his entrance.
"This. Us." His legs wrap and tighten with demand around Midorima's waist, lips parting with a soft plead as Midorima obliges him.
Wooden pieces clatter to the floor as Midorima thrusts into him, hard enough to shake the bedframe. "First, you fled to Kyoto, and now you flee even farther. Are you tired of me?"
Akashi stops him with a biting, unamused look. "The end game is clear to me. I—we do not know defeat."
Tomorrow, Akashi leaves for America.
It's snowing when Midorima sees Akashi next, rosy-cheeked and completely unreal standing in Midorima's doorway.
"I didn't know you were returning for Christmas." Midorima finally remembers it's freezing out, and he steps aside to let Akashi in.
"Yes, well. I wanted to surprise you."
When Midorima returns from the kitchen with two mugs of hot chocolate, Akashi's already settled on the couch.
"This is for you." Akashi is positively glowing despite the calmness of his voice as he hands Midorima a wrapped gift. Midorima gives Akashi a curious look before tearing open the present.
It's a book. A strangely familiar one.
"How did you—." Midorima is stunned as he flips open the cover, a sea of stars glittering up at him. No, it's a little different, Midorima thinks, as he carefully turns the pages. He stops on the page about Sagittarius.
Sagittarius is most compatible with Cancer. While Sagittarius require the freedom to pursue their dreams and vision, Cancers are an anchoring force that inspires patience and stability for Sagittarius...
He looks for the section on Cancers.
Akashi laughs, looking extraordinarily pleased with himself. "You can't just change what the book says," he echoes. "I consulted the expertise of respected astrologists and had this commissioned."
"You mean, you paid them to tell you what you wanted to hear." Midorima says dryly, though even he cannot resist the urge to smile.
"If that's the case, then tell me the book is wrong," Akashi murmurs, mouthing Midorima's jawline. "You have hindsight on your side."
"I suppose it's right," Midorima admits, setting the book aside so that he can better kiss Akashi.