Akiteru gets up before Kei, which is a first. It’s a rude awakening that leaves Kei staring wide-eyed at his older brother. His gaze flickers between Akiteru and his alarm clock that reads an awful hour even for him, the family insomniac. It’s the weekend yet Akiteru seems wide awake at the tender hour of five in the morning. From the pink lightness in the sky, he can tell the sun hasn’t even risen yet.

“What do you need?” Kei signs out of irritation. The sooner he solves whatever problem his brother is experiencing, the sooner he can [attempt to] go back to sleep. “Hurry up,” he adds when the other man fidgets for a minute.

“I’m going to do something incredibly smart today,” Akiteru signs in a rush. “Want to tag along?”

Kei can practically visualize the questions floating around his head as he waits for an answer. Groaning from sleep deprivation, Kei falls into his pillow. “If it’s more intelligent than waking me up before seven, then I will.”

There’s a hand enthusiastically patting his side then Akiteru is hugging him. His chest vibrates as his brother speaks and, although they both know it’s lost on him at the time, he appreciates the sentiment.

The regret in so readily agreeing to accommodate Akiteru without his full capacity is quickly setting in. Kei wants to say the doubt begins to take root when he and Akiteru meet Tanaka, Saeko, and Yamaguchi at an ice cream bar. It’s a small one by Tanaka’s apartment that Kei remembers Saeko inviting him to a couple of times since he’s been home. Each time he’s had to turn her down and hear her tell him dramatically that she’s “been stood up by so many boys these past couple weeks” followed by the question of “why is everyone so damn busy on summer break?”

An old woman is sitting on a stool at the front counter. Her round, wrinkled face is sweet to look at, her chin smudged with persimmon ice cream. Akiteru orders for them all after taking everyone’s orders. The woman likes seeing him the most because he apparently reminds her of her son. Kei can attest that the resemblance is truly uncanny. He’s seen the aforementioned son but never when Akiteru is around nor with his cellphone.

Sitting next to him in the metal chairs, Yamaguchi laughs as the woman pinches Akiteru’s cheek. “I swear if we don’t pay attention, she’s going to steal him away.”

“Shut up, Yamaguchi,” he says, huffing out a small breath of air.

“Sorry, Tsukki!”

Kei has to physically look away from the bright smile that overtakes Yamaguchi’s face. Just at the perfect time too because Akiteru shows up with all the ice cream on a tray. They all have plastic covers on them to protect them from the heat. The shortened flavor names are written across the tops. Everyone reaches for theirs.


“What is it,” Yamaguchi asks.

Kei grabs a spoon, popping off the cover. “This one just says Tsukishima. They normally just put my name.”

Yamaguchi presses his lips together, eyes squinting, which Kei knows means he’s humming in recognition. Somewhere behind him, Kei almost hears a garbled shout. He doesn’t think anything of it as he digs into his ice cream.

And finds a ring.

Saeko is the first one to notice. It’s probably because she’s right across from him and has a front-row seat to the myriad of colors his face turns in the span of seconds. “Oh!” she shouts. “How forward, Tadashi-kun! I thought you two weren’t dating.”

Yamaguchi blanches. If Kei moves to stare at anything other than the ring on his spoon, then he would see Akiteru seemingly losing his spirit. Tanaka, who has been very respectful the past twenty minutes since they arrived, busts out into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

“You’ve really done it now, Tsukishima-san,” he manages to shout between gasps for air. “I think my lung’s gonna burst! Holy shit!”

“Ryuu!” Saeko tries to reprimand him but it fails in its execution as her own giggles join her brother’s laughter.

Akiteru finally snatches the spoon from Kei’s hand. “This isn’t yours. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He bows, ears a bright red, and manages to smack his forehead against the table hard enough to startle Yamaguchi who drops his ice cream directly onto Kei’s lap. “Holy shit.”

Tanaka and Saeko laugh even harder at the three’s misfortune as they scramble to clean up the mess they’ve made. A good fifteen minutes pass before they can all settle down. The old woman’s grandson had to step in at one point to offer Kei a towel from the back room. Suffice to say, they decide to finish their ice cream in silence.

“I’m sorry,” Akiteru says again once they’re all done. “I should have done something smarter than this.” He fiddles with the ring. It’s still covered in ice cream but Kei can tell it’s a simple wedding band peeking out under the pink. Akiteru turns to Saeko, waiting for her eyes to flutter open and focus on him. “Saeko, will you marry me?”

It’s in the middle of summer. The air is so humid that even the small store doesn’t feel cool. There’s the noisy rattling of three different metal fans going at the same time. All of them smell kind of gross from the time spent in the heat. Yet…

Saeko smiles from ear to ear, eyes watering. “Yeah, Akiteru. Of course.”

And Kei isn’t surprised at all.

Tanaka heads back to his apartment first. His excuse is that Kiyoko is waiting for him so that they can watch the Sunday reruns of their favorite variety show. A couple minutes pass before Yamaguchi says something about a documentary Kei wants to watch. He can’t even deny knowing of any such documentary because Yamaguchi practically manhandles him outside.

“I’m sorry about that,” Yamaguchi starts. He doesn’t let go of Kei’s arm. Kei half thinks they’ve been melded together from how hot it is. “They looked like they needed to have time to themselves.”

Tilting his head back, Kei looks up at the abrasive noon sun. “It’s too early for this.”

His shoulder moves with the motion of Yamaguchi’s silent laughter. “I guess you’re right about that.” Then Yamaguchi presses his fingers to his cheek to bring his attention back down towards earth. “Sorry I didn’t propose to you.”

“I’m tired of everyone apologizing today,” Kei says instead of getting flustered. However, his blush tells a different story.

They stand there for a minute in silence. It slowly reaches Kei’s heat-addled brain that they’re actually standing in front of his house, hidden behind the high hedges his mother planted when he was six. He’s slightly disappointed in himself for thinking the pause was leading up to something. This moment feels like everything to him under the bright summer sun.

Just as he’s about to invite Yamaguchi inside to enjoy the air conditioning, he’s tugged downwards again. This time it’s enough so that his face is level with Yamaguchi’s. “Then should I profess my undying love and desire to stay by your side forever?”

“What,” Kei says intelligently.

Yamaguchi smiles, his cheek grazing against Kei’s. It’s only a little bit but it’s so warm outside, Kei might melt. “I like you,” Yamaguchi responds. He says it like it’s nothing. Does he not know how much it means to Kei to hear that? As muffled or garbled as it is, it's something he's wanted since they were kids. “I like you, Kei.”

The sun is beating down on them. That's why, he reasons, that's why his face is so warm. And he's so desperate for the shade that he hides against Yamaguchi's shirt collar.

"I like you too, Tadashi."

It's as simple as that. All the waiting and anticipation of nearly twelve years, compressed into three sentences. It's all Kei could hope for. Just because it's the two of them, easy, simple, even if it's under the harsh sun of late July.

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