Technically, Iwaizumi Hajime hasn’t done anything wrong.
On the contrary, he’s done everything right according to the expectations of his extremely demanding job. There isn’t a single rule he’s broken since he’s started at The Tokyo Herald, only the most prestigious scholarly publication released to the masses in Japan. He hasn’t offended his boss even though he does have the world’s most obvious toupee. He hasn’t even broken the coffee machine or jammed the copier.
Honestly, Iwaizumi is probably the most ideal employee in Japan so he isn’t quite sure.
Why he’s sitting.
“The Tokyo Herald is very disappointed in you, Iwaizumi-kun,” his boss says gravely, hands folded in that infuriating manner as he sits at his desk, oblivious to how lopsided his toupee really is. “You are one of our star critics and we’re very sad to find that your last article was not up to standards…”
“I’m a little confused, sir,” Iwaizumi begins slowly, cautiously. He’s wearing a winning smile—the one he practices in the mirror for when family holidays roll around and he has to combat his aunts’ pressing questions about the lack of a ring on his finger. “There was nothing out of the ordinary about the way I wrote my last book review, so I’m not quite sure what in particular you’re referring to.”
He can’t even remember what his last review was about—just that the book was absolute shit and he couldn’t even get through the first ten pages without wanting to punch the author in the jaw.
His current boss is a stand-in while the real editor-in-chief, a reliable guy by the name of Moniwa Kaname, deals with his more-than-stubborn significant other who’s suffering from a sports-induced injury. Iwaizumi wouldn’t typically care about such personal details but he and Moniwa are friends outside of the workplace, which could be more than enough explanation for why he’s contemplating the severity of the consequences of tearing this guy’s wig right off of his head because this isn’t how you run a paper.
“Ahem,” is the only response Iwaizumi gets for a good ten seconds. He would know because he’s counting to himself, wondering how long it really takes for someone to admit he’s wasting Iwaizumi’s time. “Oikawa Tooru-san, the author of the book you were supposed to review…”
Ah, he remembers now. The book he was assigned to review had seemed like a joke months ago when Iwaizumi was hunched over it in the corner of his living room. It was a self-help book of all things, passed onto him because no one else in their department wanted to read that shit and Hajime was the only one who wasn’t backlogged with late tasks.
In Oikawa Tooru’s defense, the book in itself wasn’t terrible. For example, the cover was nice and the title, FEEL INVINCIBLE, was short and succinct.
It was just.
Well, it just…
“It was shit,” Iwaizumi says without thinking. “Absolute trash.”
“Iwaizumi-kun,” his boss says gravely, sternly, like Iwaizumi can’t have that opinion. “Oikawa-san is a very popular author and we—”
“Forgive me for speaking over you, but the book was terrible,” Iwaizumi says again, expression defaulting into one of stubborn determination. He isn’t going to change his mind about this and he isn’t going to issue an apology for telling the truth in his article. He’s a journalist, a critic. He isn’t paid to mold his opinions around the public’s expectations. “And if you’re about to tell me that I made a mistake by criticizing it for what it was, I’m telling you now that I’m not going to take anything back.”
“I had a feeling you would be like this.” Iwaizumi’s boss sighs dramatically. “So I went ahead and arranged a meeting between you and Oi—”
“—it’ll be this Friday at noon.”
“—please dress appropriately and do not insult him again.”
“You are dismissed. Please prepare a formal apology for Oikawa-san so he does not badmouth The Tokyo Herald.”
“I’m not doing this,” Iwaizumi says for what he feels must be the hundredth time. He isn’t sure why his boss isn’t understanding the critical negative response Iwaizumi is displaying at the moment. He isn’t going to meet up with this Oikawa guy. He isn’t going to apologize about the comments he made. He definitely doesn’t give two shits if he badmouths the publication on some stupidly popular talk show because—
“You will do this,” his boss says smoothly, infuriatingly calm. “Please go back to your desk, Iwaizumi-kun.”
He gets up from his seat and glowers, dipping into a half-assed bow out of necessary formality and mumbling a terse farewell before exiting the office and letting the door slam shut behind him.
“You heard about your date Friday?” Kunimi calls from his desk, voice annoyingly flat for a topic so incredibly mind-blowing to Iwaizumi.
He makes a point to kick Kunimi’s chair while walking past it. “I’m not going,” he says firmly.
“But!” Inuoka pops up out of nowhere, causing Iwaizumi to ungracefully bump into his chest. He stumbles back and stares up as the younger man frowns sullenly down at him. “Don’t you have to? For the paper! For the Herald! To protect us all from Oikawa-san’s frightful popularity!” He’s pumping his fists and flailing his arms with each punctuated sentence he yelps out. The expression on his face is bright and Iwaizumi is tempted to wipe it off.
“He’s just one person. He can’t—”
Inuoka shoves a notepad into Iwaizumi hands and grins. “Plus! I want an autograph!”
“Ah, wrong move,” Kunimi says from his cubicle.
Iwaizumi shoves it back, head pulsating with aggravation, thoroughly unamused by this entire situation. “Get it yourself. I’m not going.”
“Have a nice date, Iwaizumi-san,” Kunimi replies.
“You have to go,” Moniwa says simply. “I mean, look at it this way—the guy’s a total flop when it comes to actual talent but he’s marketing his entire fan base off of this whole, ‘look at me! I am Oikawa Tooru! Handsome model, phenomenal athlete, author, and singer-songwriter! Stay tuned for next week when I buy a whole fuckin’ animal shelter and devote my time to healing puppies.’ You can’t criticize him as abrasively as you did and not expect to have to do something about it in terms of damage control.”
Iwaizumi frowns into his glass of water. “It wasn’t abrasive,” he mumbles, more to himself.
“’Oikawa-san’s grasp of the human mind, body, and soul is twisted by his ornate language and distracting personal stories. The only two redeeming merits of this book are the title, despite it having nothing to do with the actual content of the book, and the cover, which wasn’t Oikawa-san’s responsibility.’” The smile on Moniwa’s face is challenging. “Not abrasive at all, huh?”
Iwaizumi opens his mouth but closes it promptly after. “Was I wrong though?”
“Nah, you weren’t,” Moniwa replies with a shrug. “Doesn’t mean you don’t owe him an apology though. We are but tiny parts of this huge, superficial world. Don’t be responsible for singlehandedly tarnishing the Herald’s name because you’re too realistic for the world, Iwaizumi.” He pats Iwaizumi’s shoulder lightly before plucking the glass off of the living room table and depositing it in the kitchen sink.
It’s frustrating but he figures if Moniwa thinks he should too, then it’s obvious what he’s supposed to do.
“So I have to meet this asshole,” Iwaizumi says flatly.
“And I have to be cordial to him.”
“I hate this guy.”
Moniwa reseats himself across from Iwaizumi. “It’s going to be fine.” He rolls his eyes good-naturedly. “Maybe he won’t be as pompous as his writing suggests—eh, actually. Hm. Just try your best and don’t kill him. Understood?”
Iwaizumi buries his face into his hands before nodding mutely. “Understood.”
His second thought is that he should have changed before coming. He looks a little too formal for a lunch meeting (“It’s a date,” Kunimi says plainly) with his suit and tie even though Oikawa doesn’t deserve anything more than jeans and a t-shirt but—
The time it takes to get to the bistro is spent on focusing his negativity on this face he doesn’t even know.
And that’s another concern, he supposes. He doesn’t know what Oikawa Tooru looks like, or sounds like for that matter. The days leading up to today had been wasted complaining and trying to work his way out of this instead of actually looking into who this stranger really is.
It’s just a testament to how little Iwaizumi cares.
Still, he’s here, and he’s not a representative of himself but of the Herald so he puts on the most professional smile he can as soon as he enters the small restaurant to take steps toward the predetermined worst part of his week.
“The reservation should be under Iwaizumi,” he says stiffly to the host.
“Ah, your guest is waiting for you,” the host says in response, smiling brightly as he unknowingly leads Iwaizumi to war.
Oikawa’s back is turned to him and Iwaizumi wonders to himself if this is a good window of opportunity—if he should make use of this chance to escape and never look back. His feet are moving on their own, however, and before he can regain control of his own body, he’s reaching out and tapping his shoulder and—
“Excuse me?” His voice is surprisingly level, mild for the curses Iwaizumi is spewing in his mind. There’s a neutral expression maintained on his face as he retracts his hand. “I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t mean to keep you waiting.”
The meeting is off to a good start. Iwaizumi hasn’t accidentally scowled or considered investing in boxing classes or a punching bag yet, which he can only assume is a good sign.
Oikawa turns then and the expression on his face is calm, if not curious. He locks eyes with Iwaizumi and offers a practically glowing smile that makes Iwaizumi see spots because of how bright it is. He gets to his feet and looks Iwaizumi up and down and then looks back up, a faintly dazed expression on his face as he gazes at Iwaizumi’s face like he’s dumbfounded.
He recovers quickly though and the smile’s back before Iwaizumi can even question it. Oikawa extends a hand.
“Iwaizumi-san, right?” Oikawa asks, maintaining his smile as he looks at Iwaizumi intently.
Iwaizumi kind of falters, vaguely uncomfortable with the way Oikawa’s looking at him and smiling at him… like there’s some inside joke Iwaizumi isn’t aware of. He takes his hand anyway, professionalism calling to him. He shakes it firmly, as a way of nonverbally saying something along the lines of I-mean-business-so-come-at-me. “Yeah. Oikawa-san, then? I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”
Oikawa waves his hand flippantly like it’s no big deal before taking his seat again and gesturing for Iwaizumi to do the same. “Didn’t wait long at all! I hope you don’t mind, by the way—I’m not a huge fan of formality so I hope we can be comfortable from here on out, Iwa-chan~~”
And this, Iwaizumi thinks, is where it’ll all start going to hell.
This is not like Iwaizumi. He does not call people out of the blue to ask them for advice. Especially not from bathroom stalls in questionably pricey restaurants.
“Oh,” Kunimi says from the other end of the line, sounding disappointed that it isn’t a teleprompter that he can mess around with. “Hi.” There’s a pause. “Aren’t you on your—”
“Call it a date. I dare you.”
There is another silence, a wise decision. “Aren’t you busy right now?” he rephrases.
“This guy’s weird,” Iwaizumi says. He’s holding his phone between his shoulder and his ear, trying to fix the cuffs of his shirt. “Two seconds into meeting me, he started calling me Iwa-chan~ and he won’t stop. I keep telling him to call me Iwaizumi but he won’t let it go.”
“That’s.” Kunimi pauses again. “Cute.”
“I don’t know if I can do this. I’ve been trying to talk about the damn article for the past half hour and he keeps asking random questions about my horoscope and favorite color.” He stares at the bathroom mirror and tries to neutralize his expression—to ease it out of the current scowl on his face. This meeting is taking a drastic turn for the unexpected and he isn’t sure if he likes it.
There’s an indistinct noise in the background, muffled yelling followed by Kunimi sighing into the receiver.
“Inuoka would like to know if Oikawa-san is as good-looking as his pictures make him out to be.”
“That’s—that’s not the issue here, you idiot!” Iwaizumi yells (as loudly as he can inside of a communal public restroom) into the phone.
“He says Oikawa-san is very good-looking,” Kunimi instead says to Inuoka. “Smoking.”
“That’s not what I said!”
He isn’t sure why he’s still on the phone with Kunimi—why he called Kunimi of all people in the first place. The headache that’s been threatening to ruin the rest of Iwaizumi’s day is in full-bloom now and he’s wondering, just wondering, how hard life would be if he just dropped off the face of the planet and became a hermit in some distant mountain village.
“Listen,” Iwaizumi begins, massaging his head with his free hand. “Just tell the boss that I can’t do this. He won’t even let me get in a single word about the reason why we’re meeting and—”
There’s an eerie silence, typically characteristic of a phone call with Kunimi but a little too quiet for Iwaizumi’s liking.
“Are you even listening to me,” he demands flatly.
“Yes,” Kunimi replies promptly. “I just think that maybe this is good for you.”
“Good for me?”
“I mean…” Kunimi trails off and there’s more muffled shouting and conversation in the background. “Inuoka and I both think that this is a good opportunity for you to talk to someone who isn’t… me. Or Inuoka. Or Moniwa-san. Or Matsuwaka-san… about…”
“About?” Iwaizumi challenges.
“About things.” Kunimi clears his throat. “Such as your horoscope and your favorite color.”
There’s a rustling noise and Iwaizumi hears Inuoka chirp, very loudly and a little too innocently, “And your favorite position!”
“I’ll see you both at the office,” Iwaizumi says gravely.
“See you soon!” Inuoka says back, cheerful as ever. “Have a good date!”
The dial tone hits him first and Iwaizumi exhales slowly, clamping his eyes shut while gripping his phone a little too hard. His mind is a battlefield right now, conflicted between going back to the office to punch Kunimi and Inuoka into the next century versus going back to the table where Oikawa is probably admiring his own reflection to subject himself to cruel and unusual punishment.
He opens his eyes and glares at his reflection.
Iwaizumi Hajime is a good guy. He never litters, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, doesn’t do anything aside from work and occasionally watch volleyball when he’s feeling extra loving towards himself. There are worse people than him who deserve these uncomfortable situations. For example, Kunimi and Inuoka.
An aggravated sigh slips past his lips as he straightens his back and jams his phone back into the back pocket of his dress pants.
The walk back to the table is slow and painful, each step he takes administering metaphorical shocks of electricity through his spine. Oikawa is occupied with a young woman, signing a book that she’s holding in quavering hands. He flashes a smile at her and shakes her hand. They exchange a couple of words, Oikawa smiling the whole time, and by the time Iwaizumi actually gets there, the young woman is walking away with a bright grin and tears in her eyes.
“Sorry about that,” Iwaizumi says gruffly. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“You didn’t interrupt,” Oikawa replies with another wave of his hand. “Are you okay, Iwa-chan~? You were there an awfully long time!” He leans forward, propping his elbows on the table and his chin atop his hands. There’s something akin to a pout on his lips as he stares at Iwaizumi imploringly.
Iwaizumi clears his throat and looks away.
“Iwa-chan, you should smile some more. You look so angry and unapproachable when you wear thaaat face.” Oikawa sighs. “How are you going to get me to forgive you for being mean when you can’t even smile~?”
He flinches and the shock must show on his face because Oikawa laughs. The fact that Oikawa is 100% aware of why Iwaizumi is still here and not marching out shouldn’t come across as a shock but it does. Maybe it’s because Oikawa looks disarmingly simple-minded but the fact that he knows. That he knows Iwaizumi is here to earn forgiveness (that he doesn’t want) and can’t quite leave until he gets it—
“You’re,” Iwaizumi begins, almost stammers out, “horrible.”
Oikawa’s eyes widen for a second, lips parting ever-so-slightly before he purses them and pouts again. “That’s so mean, Iwa-chan!” He looks petulant as he rests his cheek against the palm of his hand. “I want to forgive you but it’s awfully hard when you’re glowering and grumbling at me like that~”
“Horrible,” Iwaizumi repeats. “Actual trash.”
Oikawa beams radiantly and rises from his seat. “I’ve already paid for the bill,” he says casually, collecting his jacket from the back of his chair and slipping it on while Iwaizumi watches, dumbfounded. “Very rude of you, Iwa-chan, inviting a handsome young man like me on a date and spending half of it in the bathroom! You’re lucky I’m a very forgiving person.”
Iwaizumi can’t even bring himself to point out that it wasn’t a date, nor was it mutual, nor is he looking for Oikawa’s forgiveness anymore. Ever.
“I’ll be on my way now.” Oikawa flashes another smile before settling a napkin in the front pocket of Iwaizumi’s shirt and patting it securely. “My number’s in there, so protect it with your life. Maybe I’ll forgive you on our next date.”
“Peonies, maybe. Or bright lights. I like flashy things. Maybe a song-and-dance measure.” Oikawa hums thoughtfully. “I’ll leave it to you, Iwa-chan. Don’t disappoint me next time!”
He leaves. He doesn’t even turn around (except at the door to blow Iwaizumi a kiss that he doesn’t catch because why the fuck would he). He just… leaves. And Iwaizumi is left to sit there, wondering what exactly just happened and why exactly it happened to him of all people. He sits there for a little while longer and contemplates whether he’s dreaming or having a nightmare.
(Nightmare, he decides conclusively.)
“What the hell,” he says to himself, staring at the door and then at the empty space in front of him.
The napkin in his shirt pocket suddenly feels heavier. He pulls it out and unfolds it, finding the number that Oikawa promised and a gratuitous amount of hearts drawn here and there. The hearts look like pretzels and they’re disgustingly cutesy. He clenches it in his fist as a sign of nonverbal protest and wonders how much it might sell for online, or alternatively, which mountain top he should hurl it from.
He sits there for a long time.
He only makes one conclusion.
“What an asshole.”
Kunimi clears his throat. “Maybe that isn’t the most mature way to go about this, Iwaizumi-san.”
Inuoka, on the other hand, thinks, “That’s hilarious! Wow, Iwaizumi-san! I wish I thought of that sooner, haha—wait.” His expression tightens as though he’s deep in thought. “Don’t insult Oikawa-san! I heard if you insult him the Gods of Flowing Hair will curse you for eternity!!”
Kunimi and Inuoka taper off into their own conversation, mostly Inuoka talking with Kunimi ignoring him effortlessly.
That’s the last time Oikawa pops up in his thoughts though. The conversation from their coffee break is long forgotten as Iwaizumi focuses on his other work, peacefully editing out exclamation points from Inuoka’s first draft. It isn’t until much later that he remembers the first encounter with Trashkawa, detailing it in full to Moniwa during his lunch break over the phone to get a good laugh and—
“So when’s the next date?”
Iwaizumi nearly chokes on his rice ball. “What,” he sputters. “Why the hell would I go on another date?” He pauses. “It wasn’t a date.”
Moniwa is quiet. “Because you have to?”
“Why do I have to.”
“Because you messed the first one up.”
“How did I mess the first one up.”
Moniwa sighs, exasperated, and Iwaizumi feels like a child being chastised by his mother. “If you didn’t mess the first one up, there wouldn’t be a need for a second date, stupid!”
Okay, so Moniwa has a point. But. “I’m not going,” Iwaizumi says firmly.
“I’m getting an odd case of déjà vu.” Kunimi hums thoughtfully as he walks past Iwaizumi’s cubicle.
“Kunimi,” Iwaizumi says warningly. He’s feeling a headache creeping up on him. It’s worsened by Kunimi’s smug smile as he retreats to his own cubicle and just. Iwaizumi is pretty positive he has the worst coworkers and should probably invest in relocating to a quieter company, maybe one without an annoyingly emphasized close-knit hierarchical structure.
“Anyways,” Moniwa says, “let me know how the second one goes. I should be back in the office soon. Don’t be so negative. You can do this.”
He doesn’t want a pep talk about a meeting with the world’s most annoying person but he takes it anyway; he concedes because he knows this is non-negotiable. “Fine.” Iwaizumi scowls. “But I’m not going to enjoy it.”
He can practically picture the grin on Moniwa’s face as he hangs up. The world is truly conspiring against him these days, all because he wasn’t a fan of the world’s worst self-help book. He’d like to pen it as karma but it’s undeserved. He’s just the struggling protagonist and he can only hope that his happy ending involves Kunimi getting hit in the face with a volleyball every single morning for the rest of his life.
Should he meet Oikawa for a second time?
There’s a large variety of shops on his walk home from the subway station to his apartment building. He’s barely paying attention to them until he walks by the flower shop and happens to look up, gaze meeting a simple, humble sign that says: PEONIES, NOW IN SEASON.
He grimaces. Peonies. Peonies. Peonies make him think of stupid people—stupid people that he’s sure he would rather not meet for a second time. Iwaizumi clamps his eyes shut briefly and counts to three, leveling his breathing before carrying on with his trek home. He needs to stop thinking about this, about Trashkawa and his absolutely annoying voice.
He’s chanted the mantra of ‘don’t think about him’ a million times by the time he actually ends up in his apartment. It’s easier then to unwind and forget about the stresses of his day. He tosses his bag on the couch and takes his time changing and migrating from his bedroom to the kitchen to make dinner.
It’s just that… the peace is alarmingly brief. He can’t stop thinking about Oikawa for some reason and it’s driving him to the brink of madness because really? Is he really going to be haunted by the image of Oikawa and his stupidly perfect smile when he looks at something as inconsequential as a lightbulb, a fluorescent run-of-the-mill lightbulb? It isn’t even half as bright as that stupid Oikawa’s smile, for Christ’s sake—
“… no,” Iwaizumi says sternly to himself. “No, Hajime. Stop thinking about him. Love yourself today and stop thinking about him.”
That works for a little while. He eats his dinner in relative peace, thumbing through a novel he’d picked up last weekend. It’s a nice, simple story. It’s nothing too dramatic or heavy and he appreciates that for when the days are particularly hard. It’s thoughtless reading, barely processing the words as he spoons rice into his mouth and—
The word mocks him from the page he’s on.
He closes the book slowly.
“I’m not doing it,” he announces to no one in particular, maybe to the deity that’s getting a kick out of ruining Iwaizumi’s life. “I’m not going. I won’t.” He won’t. He wouldn’t do that to himself. Iwaizumi Hajime is a hard worker and hard workers don’t deserve people like Oikawa Tooru.
He comforts himself with that thought for the rest of the night, watching a game of volleyball on the television screen before resigning and heading to bed.
But he can’t fall asleep because every time he closes his eyes, all he can hear echo in his mind is—
His eyes fly open. This is torture. This is wrong. Why can’t he stop thinking about this brat? It’s been two hours of this, of thrashing in his bed because he can’t stop thinking about Crappykawa and his stupid voice and his stupid hair and the stupid way he says Iwa-chan~ like he’s best friends with Iwaizumi or something.
He lets out a yell, something that he’s been suppressing since the first meeting. He feels a little better after that, like he might be able to fall asleep without having to think about peonies and the sound of laughter that he thinks is supposed to be grating.
There’s a knock on his door just as Iwaizumi is about to drift to sleep. He suppresses a curse and ponders his luck for the hundredth time today alone before he shuffles out of bed and opens the door without checking who it is.
It’s his neighbor.
“Hey,” his neighbor says. “Nice to meet you officially, neighbor. It’s been a long six months being your neighbor and I don’t think we’ve said hello.”
“Hey,” Iwaizumi says back slowly, wondering if it’s socially appropriate to point out that it’s two in the morning and not quite the most appropriate time to make friends.
“I’m Kuroo.” The grin Kuroo flashes him is unnerving for some reason.
“Yeah, okay, so, neighbor,” Kuroo begins. “My boyfriend actually stays up pretty late trying to study and the walls are surprisingly thin so he can’t really focus while you’re yelling and cursing names…”
Iwaizumi reddens subtly. The walls are thin (he knows that for other reasons) and he’s a little embarrassed he forgot about them in his worked-up rage.
“Sorry,” he says quickly. His gaze lifts from the ground to Kuroo, whose smile has defaulted into a much more unnerving smirk. Iwaizumi wonders, briefly, if it’s appropriate to ask a neighbor he’s just gotten acquainted with how to go about a forced date with the most annoying guy on the planet.
Kuroo must notice him staring because his smirk fades and his expression is faintly questioning. “Hey man,” Kuroo begins, reaching out and patting Iwaizumi on the shoulder. “I’m not trying to cramp your vibe or anything—you can still do whatever you’re doing with this guy. Just don’t be so loud. I’m glad you and your Trashkawa are having very vocal and hopefully intimate experiences with each other but if I wanted to think about strangers having sex, I’d watch porn. You understand, right?”
He doesn’t understand.
“Anyway, I’m glad we could have this talk, man. Have a good night and tell your friend back there to have a good night too. Make sure to stay hydrated.” He pats Iwaizumi’s shoulder again and winks, disappearing before Iwaizumi can even stammer out a heated denial.
He stands in the doorway for quite some time, eye twitching as he counts the months he has left on this lease.
It’s no use thinking about it anymore. He just needs to sleep and forget and forget some more until he can’t remember anything about this night or the days preceding it.
(Iwaizumi falls asleep quickly. He has an odd dream where he’s wandering through a meadow of peonies. Suddenly, Oikawa is there, smiling, laughing, and calling his name. “Iwa-chan~!”
… Iwaizumi wakes up in a cold sweat.)
Iwaizumi sighs, staring at his laptop screen as he types an email to Oikawa.
Kunimi peers over his shoulder and brandishes an annoying smile. “Iwaizumi-san, are you my dad?” He stifles a childish snicker behind his hand before gesturing to the screen. “I think my dad once emailed my mom to ask her out on a date.”
“Kunimi,” Iwaizumi begins mildly, “I will kill you.”
“Emails can be romantic,” Inuoka butts in. “It’s like an old-fashioned romantic. I heard girls love this stuff! Except, well, um… I mean, I think people usually do it with handwritten letters instead of emails but hey! Stamps are expensive and…”
Iwaizumi drags a hand down his face, salvaging the remnants of his pride as he clicks ‘send.’
He only has about ten minutes to greatly regret his decision before he gets a response.
Hello Iwaizumi Hajime-san,
Thank you for your kind email! We are very sorry, however, to let you know that while Oikawa-san is grateful to his fans for their expressed personal interest in him, he is unable to devote a day to spend with you at this time. Please come out to his upcoming book signing instead! He will be signing books at the Royal Book Palace next month, on the first Saturday, at 3pm.
“You got rejected by his PR team,” Kunimi says plainly. “That’s cold.”
This is the most embarrassing thing Iwaizumi has ever done, probably, and he has no way of taking it back or pretending it didn’t happen. He isn’t even sure where to go from here because for one, his pride is completely shot and secondly, he doesn’t even have Oikawa’s phone number anymore. So really, this entire situation has just gone from bad to absolute-worst.
“Just wait for true love’s email,” Kunimi comments unhelpfully.
“Kunimi,” Iwaizumi mutters through gritted teeth, “I will kill you.”
He leaves the email open on his laptop for a little while longer after Kunimi leaves, maybe so the embarrassment will ebb away as he gets used to the humiliation. He should have known that the email he found wasn’t a personal one. Iwaizumi lets out another pained sigh, in deep mourning for his rapidly declining desire to be human.
He mourns for a good three hours, intermittently dodging Inuoka’s pressing questions about the foolproof method of romancing through email and Kunimi’s annoying-as-fuck snickers in the background. Then, his computer pings—another email notification. It’s probably from Moniwa, demanding to know the progress of Iwaizumi’s team sacrifice.
Iwaizumi is murderous.
hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha iwa-chan i didn’t know you were so romantic as to ask people out on dates through email hahahahahahahaha my agent was making fun of ‘this weird guy who asked to have coffee with you through email’ so i had to see who it was and it was YOU hahahahahahahahahahhahahaah hahahahahaha HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA hahahahahahahaahaha
i’m okay with saturday at 2. thank you for the thoughtful email hahahahahahahaha i’m sorry if my agent discouraged you, iwa-chan :--) i will see you on saturday; please don’t be wearing that scary frown of yours.
p.s. iwa-chan i am a huge fan of purple peonies. i like them the best because purple is a regal color.
p.p.s and also you look very nice in white dress shirts so i would wear one of those
Iwaizumi spends the next two hours drafting witty email responses but ends up admitting defeat ten minutes before the work day’s over just to send a simple, concise:
Shut up, Asskawa.
He is oddly satisfied.
“Oikawa-san,” he says clearly, “I am very sorry that you were offended by my abrasive article criticizing your book. I didn’t mean for you to take it as a criticism of you, as a person. It’s just that your writing and I simply didn’t match and I went about it in an…”
It’s a pretty solid apology, well thought-out because he’s been fixing the wording (and tweaking out various curses and negative insults) since last night. It’s just that… he can’t say this to Oikawa’s face. He can hardly say this with a straight face. He can’t imagine what would happen if he tried to say this in person, in front of Oikawa. He might punch Oikawa’s head, he might explode, things might explode, he might end up in jail for flipping a table over—
So he decides to type it up, nice and neat, in a neutral font that isn’t as taunting as Comic Sans or as formal as Garamond. He even goes out of his way to put it in an envelope. He considers spitting on the envelope or wiping a dog’s ass with it or something but he doesn’t even do that. Iwaizumi seals it, stares at it, and then tucks it away during his lunch break at work.
“Is that a love letter for Oikawa-san,” Kunimi asks out of nowhere.
Iwaizumi nearly jumps out of his chair. “DON’T sneak up on me like that!”
“So it is,” says Kunimi sagely.
“That’s very romantic,” Inuoka encourages, also out of nowhere.
Iwaizumi’s heart is beating and he’s getting way too old for this shit.
“And outdated,” Kunimi adds.
Iwaizumi groans and contemplates murder charges and the pros and cons of them.
“Better than an email though!” Inuoka frowns and whacks Iwaizumi on the back encouragingly. “I got your back, Iwaizumi-san.” He grins, beams, even, and Iwaizumi can’t bring himself to say anything smart about how Inuoka is the last person he wants guarding his back.
So he’s wearing a white dress shirt but not because he wants to abide by Oikawa’s expectations, which Iwaizumi already predicts is how that self-centered asshole is going to interpret it. Maybe in the long-run it is kind of Iwaizumi’s fault for forgetting to do his laundry last night but it wouldn’t have made a difference because today’s just kind of…
A white dress shirt type of day.
Never mind the fact that he also considered buying a bouquet of peonies this afternoon on the way to the subway station. Never mind any of that because the important fact is that he didn’t because he isn’t here to impress Oikawa or… or anything like that.
These are the kinds of thoughts that fill his mind as he shuffles into the designated coffee shop two minutes before two. He doesn’t actually drink coffee, well, ever, so he buys himself a bottle of orange juice and snags a table by the windows facing the busy streets. Figures he’s early. Figures he’s going to seem all the more eager when Oikawa saunters in twenty minutes late or something.
Maybe he’s overthinking this. Yeah, he’s overthinking this.
He tries to take his mind off of the fact that he’s actually here, in the flesh, for the second meeting he had so adamantly refused to go on just a week ago. Maybe Iwaizumi is getting weak-willed. He scowls again, propping his elbow up on the table and letting his chin rest on his palm. His gaze is glued to the sidewalk, watching as people flit here and there, going about their Saturday afternoons.
From the distance, he can make out Oikawa’s familiar figure. He’s walking with an old woman by his side and as they approach, Iwaizumi can see that he’s balancing two grocery bags on both arms. Oikawa walks the old woman to the bus stop in front of the coffee shop, all smiles and laughs as he waves goodbye.
It’s kind of… nice to see. It’s nice to see that Oikawa isn’t 100% asshole or 100% fake-as-shit, the devil spawn of cutthroat public relations.
… not that nice to see though, Iwaizumi thinks sullenly to himself as he leans back in his chair and feigns casualness as Oikawa approaches him.
“Iwa-chan!” Oikawa greets brightly. “I’m sorry I’m late! I was on the phone with someone.” And it’s a lie—Iwaizumi knows that, but he doesn’t push it because he has no reason to.
“S’fine,” Iwaizumi grumbles instead as Oikawa sits down across from him and looks to and fro expectantly.
“Iwa-chan…” Oikawa trails off, looking like a dejected puppy. “I don’t see any peonies.”
Iwaizumi stiffens. He thinks about the bouquet of purple ones he actually saw on the way here and glowers a bit. “Why would I bring you flowers.”
“So mean, Iwa-chan! I was looking forward to purple peonies!”
“I’ll shove peonies up your ass—”
“You don’t have any to shove up there…”
“Shut up, Trashkawa.”
Oikawa’s jaw drops. “I can’t believe you’re calling me such a mean nickname!!”
“That’s your name.”
On second thought, Iwaizumi probably shouldn’t be so upfront and rude to the “renowned author” he’s trying to earn the forgiveness of but Oikawa doesn’t actually seem to mind so much so it’s hard to find it in him to filter himself. Plus, Oikawa really is trash and honestly? What kind of a guy expects flowers on the second date.
Not that it’s a date.
“Oh? You don’t drink coffee?” Oikawa suddenly asks, gaze focusing on the glass bottle of orange juice propped in front of Iwaizumi.
“No, I don’t.” Caffeine always gives him a headache and coffee in general is stomachache-inducing so he tries to avoid it. Iwaizumi is always a stickler for keeping his body in prime condition. “Don’t like it.”
“Ah, I can’t live without coffee. My day always starts with two cups!” Oikawa beams, like it’s something to brag about.
“It’s not… great for you.”
“It keeps me awake though!”
“Just sleep normal hours.”
“I slept four whole hours last night!!”
Iwaizumi twitches. This conversation makes him feel like he’s talking to a kindergartener about the merits of being healthy. “Four isn’t enough, you idiot!” He doesn’t even know why he gives two shits about how many hours Oikawa sleeps but four really isn't enough—and Oikawa’s making it sound like it’s more than enough.
He isn’t sure why he’s surprised anyway. Oikawa probably does work hard, probably harder than most people considering all of the different things he’s trying to tackle in an attempt to become Japan’s very own Renaissance Man, a terrifying all-rounder. Still, sleep is important and he isn’t sure why that fact alone won’t process in Oikawa’s thick skull.
“You’re such a bully, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa huffs after the third time Iwaizumi’s called him some variation of stupid. “I’m going to go get coffee.”
Iwaizumi rolls his eyes, hardly affected by the comment. “What do you want?” he finds himself saying, without even thinking. “I’ll buy it for you.”
Oikawa stares at him with this muted awe that makes Iwaizumi squirm a little. He parts his lips as though he’s about to say something unrelated to coffee but he doesn’t, and Iwaizumi finds that he’s been holding his breath for some reason.
“I want a medium white chocolate mocha with a pump of raspberry syrup and a splash of soy milk with some non-fat whipped cream and a handful of chocolate chips crushed and tossed into the drink with chocolate syrup on top.” He smiles.
Iwaizumi falters. “I, uh… ok. Let me just… repeat that. You want a…” He trails off. “Medium chocolate… cappuccino… with…”
Oikawa snickers obnoxiously and Iwaizumi shoots him a withering glare.
“I was kidding, Iwa-chan,” he says good-naturedly, smiling incredibly sweetly for someone who's probably from the ninth circle of hell. “I just want an Americano.”
“I hate you, Asskawa,” is the last thing Iwaizumi manages to say before he stalks off to get the drink.
It’s a bit of an ordeal trying to order coffee as purposefully as possible but he manages to overcome it. He picks up the cup at the end of the counter and heads back to the table, where Oikawa’s busy tapping away at the screen of his phone, looking thoroughly concentrated, smile absent from his face.
When Iwaizumi sits down across from him and settles the cup of coffee in front of Oikawa, he looks up and puts his phone away quickly.
“You can finish whatever it was you were doing,” Iwaizumi says simply. “Don’t mind me.”
Oikawa, however, frowns, looking vaguely affronted as he takes a sip of his coffee. “Iwa-chan, I am not that bad of a date!”
“It isn’t a date, you assh—never mind.” He rolls his eyes and lets Oikawa have this small victory.
This is where it gets difficult. Iwaizumi doesn’t know how to do… “dates.” He doesn’t know how to do small talk with strangers when it isn’t purely professional and Oikawa stopped being a professional acquaintance twenty seconds into their first meeting. He eyes Oikawa, contemplating what to say while the other man focuses on his coffee.
Oikawa looks less radiant than he did their first meeting. The black bags beneath his eyes are more pronounced and there’s an exhausted defeat that lingers in his lagged motions.
“You look like shit,” is the first thing that comes out of Iwaizumi’s mouth, an innocent observation.
Oikawa blinks. “… that’s… that’s so mean, Iwa-chan!!” He looks indignant, pouting as he sets his cup back down.
And really, Iwaizumi meant something along the lines of hey, you look really tired or maybe are you okay these days but—he’s… never been the best with execution and it’s showing painfully clearly now.
“Why’d you only sleep four hours last night?” Iwaizumi asks instead of apologizing or explaining himself.
The offended expression on Oikawa’s face softens and he laughs a little. “Work, work. I finished a shoot late and then I had to go to a meeting with the PR team. Just busy work. Can’t be helped when you’re a big deal like me, Iwa-chan~” He laughs, but even his laugh sounds more muted than it usually does.
Iwaizumi frowns. “Hey Crappykawa, don’t stay up so late. It’s not good for you.”
There’s that starry look in Oikawa’s eyes again, like he’s absolutely puzzled by Iwaizumi’s words. It fades quickly though, as it always does, and is replaced by a bright smile. “Are you my mom, Iwa-chan?”
“…do you want to die.”
“Ahh, Iwa-chan! You look so scary like that!” Oikawa huffs.
Iwaizumi reaches across to pinch Oikawa’s cheek hard. “Health. First. Idiot!” He releases Oikawa and sits back down, still frowning. “Don’t work yourself like a horse. Stupid. Idiot. Trashkawa.”
Oikawa looks indignant, rubbing his cheek and complaining about how Iwaizumi is completely ignorant to how much care goes into Oikawa’s skin and really, Iwa-chan, you only ever insult me!
The conversation flows freely from there, though, and it gets easier. Iwaizumi doesn’t have to think about what to say as much and Oikawa seems to brighten up a little bit too. Conversation jumps from topic to topic because Oikawa likes to ask random questions like whether Iwaizumi was born with a scowl and how admirable his mother must be to love him regardless.
Oikawa is infuriatingly annoying as per usual but Iwaizumi humors him a little more this time.
Time passes quickly and Oikawa’s sighing eventually, complaining about how he has to go to another meeting now. Iwaizumi nods his acknowledgement before he pauses.
“Wait, did I earn your forgiveness yet?” He feels like he’s done a sufficient amount to accommodate for Oikawa. The… date… went well, by Iwaizumi’s standards.
“… you called me so many mean names today.” Oikawa shakes his head dolefully. “Maybe next time if you’re nicer!”
“Are you—ARE YOU KIDDING ME, CRAPPYKAWA?”
“Bye Iwa-chan! Peonies next time, okay?”
Oikawa is already prancing out the door, laughing happily, by the time Iwaizumi even has a witty comeback to say. He groans and bangs his head against the café table, contemplating murder for the fiftieth time this week alone.
“Kunimi, I’ll end you and everything you love.”
“I’m just saying since you’re going on your third date and all.”
“We’re not going on a third date.”
“That’s what you said the first two times—”
“Congratulations to the happy couple!”
“Shut up, Inuoka.”
Iwaizumi makes it a point to ignore Kunimi and Inuoka for the rest of the day. It isn’t that hard anyway. They’re busy doing last-minute paper work and evaluations for their stand-in boss because Moniwa’s finally back as the editor-in-chief, just not physically back yet because he has his own forms to fill out.
When Moniwa does end up coming back officially, it’s an easy, natural transition. Moniwa explains that his boyfriend’s finally stopped being passive aggressive to his doctors so he no longer has to act as mediator, that he’s happy to see everyone again, that he hopes everyone’s been working hard, and—
“Iwaizumi, when’s your third date?”
“He hasn’t decided yet,” Kunimi interrupts.
“Did you know he wrote Oikawa-san a love email?” Inuoka asks brightly.
“And then Oikawa-san’s PR team turned him down…”
“Iwaizumi-san is truly the dating ace among us.” The sarcasm is thick in Kunimi's voice.
"You know," Inuoka starts thoughtfully, "I read in this magazine called Cosmopolitan that the third date is where the reeeeal magic happe—"
“I’m not going,” Iwaizumi finally manages to say after head-locking Kunimi. “It makes no sense why I should. He’s just using me to pass the time and it’s stupid, pointless, ‘cause he’s full of shit and he hasn’t even done anything to harm us publicity-wise so really, there’s no point in me going—”
“There’s this nice Italian restaurant you could take him to,” Moniwa cuts in.
“… are you even listening to me!?”
“No, not really.”
“I hate you.”
Moniwa grins and swings an arm around his shoulder. “You’ll be fine, Iwaizumi.”
Kunimi hums thoughtfully from where he remains, still head-locked. “Do you think Inuoka’s too tall to be the ring bearer?”
Iwaizumi doesn’t like texting. He doesn’t like using his phone for long periods of time in the first place because he’d much prefer having a face-to-face conversation than a phone conversation where his expressions can’t be read and he can’t read expressions on the flipside.
Hey. Are you free on Friday at 7? We can grab dinner.
Sent 9:31 PM
who is this?
Received 9:35 PM
Sent 9:36 PM
Received 9:44 PM
Iwaizumi stares at the phone dully. Of course. Of course Oikawa gave him the wrong damn number.
Is this Oikawa Tooru?
Sent 9:45 PM
yes, it is!
Received 9:50 PM
He stares again. He feels his head pulse with annoyance.
What the hell do you mean who’s iwaizumi STUPID CRAPPYKAWA
Sent 9:53 PM
Received 9:58 PM
Sent 10:00 PM
…………………….. it’s Iwa-chan.
Sent 10:01 PM
oh!! iwa-chan!! why didn’t you say so sooner? n__n
yesyes, of course i’ll meet you then~
Received 10:02 PM
Iwaizumi twitches. He thinks about texting back some choice words and maybe a lot of angry emojis but he refrains, instead tapping out a simple I loathe you and leaving it at that.
What he doesn’t expect is Oikawa to continue texting him. It’s not a nuisance—at least, not as much of a nuisance as he makes it out to be. They’re simple texts, random questions asking Iwaizumi what his favorite food, favorite movie is. One asks if he’s ever cried over a book followed by whether Iwaizumi has ever even cried in his life in general.
They’re pointless texts for the most part. Around eleven he gets a series of exclamation points and sad faces because Oikawa is convinced there’s someone haunting his apartment. The text barrage ends with a false alarm—but he brings up how his apartment’s too big for just him sometimes and how the Tokyo skyline he used to love just makes his apartment seem all that much darker.
Iwaizumi is humoring him. He replies sporadically, calls Oikawa stupid every now and then. He even answers his questions sometimes. His favorite food’s agedashi tofu and his favorite movie’s the 1978 Superman because Christopher Reeves will never not be the Clark Kent of his dreams.
It’s almost midnight when Iwaizumi finally sends him a simple go to bed, Trashkawa.
It takes a good ten minutes before Oikawa responds, claiming he can’t go to bed.
Go. To. Bed.
You need sleep and I’ll kill you if you look tired on Friday.
Sent 11:59 PM
There’s another ten minute break. This time, it isn’t a text message that greets him but Idiot Trashkawa lighting up his screen. It’s a phone call. He rolls his eyes, tempted to ignore it. He doesn’t though because he figures humoring Oikawa some more wouldn’t harm anyone in the long-run.
He accepts the call.
“Why are you calling m—”
Iwaizumi makes a face. “What.” There’s a rustling on the other end that Iwaizumi can only hope are from bed sheets. “What, Oikawa.”
“I’m going to bed now.”
“Okay,” he says plainly. “Good night, stupid.”
There’s another long pause and it’s punctuated with a laugh, soft, gentle. Iwaizumi can practically picture the dumb smile on Oikawa’s face.
“Good night, Iwa-chan.”
This is the Oikawa that makes Iwaizumi doubt himself immensely. He can’t help but wonder why this person who has virtually everything he could ever ask for is so adamant about spending time with Iwaizumi of all people, a faceless journalist in a sea of millions. The thought in itself isn’t the best way to start the date but it’s all he can really think about when Oikawa is sitting in front of him, laughing, smiling, and seeming a thousand worlds away from Iwaizumi.
He has to remind himself that he barely knows this guy, that this is the exact sort of charm that all of his fangirls fall for thoughtlessly.
It just seems a little more genuine when Oikawa’s sitting in front of him, eyes bright as he asks all sorts of questions like he really does want to know the answer—to know Iwaizumi better.
“Tell me about the kind of people who tolerate you, Iwa-chan!”
“… you—tolerate isn’t the right word, idiot!!”
Oikawa beams and Iwaizumi throws a napkin at his face. Still, despite how annoying Oikawa is, Iwaizumi indulges him in details about his coworkers—how Kunimi’s the most sarcastic shit he knows, how Inuoka’s a giant puppy when you get down to it, and how Moniwa’s reliable and a little too much like the patronizing older brother for someone who’s shorter than Iwaizumi.
He doesn’t really have many people to talk about. Most of his friends are back home, back in Miyagi. His family’s back in Miyagi.
“What about you?” he finds himself asking aloud.
Oikawa falters then, and Iwaizumi thinks he’s gotten to be pretty good at reading the minute, barely-there fluctuations in Oikawa’s expression over the past couple of encounters they’ve had with each other. It’s ridiculous, really, how he barely knows Oikawa but feels like he’s dealt with him for months, years now.
“I’m the closest with the people around me,” Oikawa says brightly. “I don’t have much time to myself so it can’t really be helped. I’m closest with the people I work with.”
He almost asks Oikawa then, almost blurts out the so why are you here then question that’s been lingering in Iwaizumi’s mind for the past couple of weeks now. He’s busy, probably swamped with shit to do, so why is he wasting his time with Iwaizumi?
He holds his tongue though. The topic in itself seems a little strained so he changes the subject, choosing instead to interrogate Oikawa about how many hours of sleep he got.
From there, the conversation’s safe. He threatens to punch Oikawa one or six times and Oikawa complains about how mean he is in between. By the time Iwaizumi’s paid for the check and they’re standing outside, idly walking shoulder-to-shoulder while maintaining their trite conversation, it’s already half past nine.
It seems a little inconclusive, a little too abrupt for them to separate here and Iwaizumi has a feeling that it’s a mutual sentiment. They don’t say anything about it. They don’t converse or convene and determine together what the next stop is. Their conversation leads them forward and their feet end up at a vacant bus stop bench of all things.
This time, they sit with a little distance between them, not quite as close as when they were walking but still close enough to feel what Iwaizumi convinces himself is body heat.
It’s silent. For all the times Iwaizumi’s insisted that he’s comfortable with silence, he really isn’t. It unnerves him, throws him off—he doesn’t like it when it’s too quiet because he starts doubting himself, starts doubting his own thoughts and that’s when it gets a little too dangerous. That’s when he feels a little too vulnerable. So he clears his throat and fumbles with his jacket pocket before procuring an envelope, neatly folded.
He extends it to Oikawa.
Oikawa stares at it and then gingerly plucks it from Iwaizumi’s grasp with his thumb and pointer finger. “What is this?” he asks.
“Formal apology,” Iwaizumi mumbles back, leaning back against the bench and staring forward as soon as Oikawa has taken the envelope from him.
Iwaizumi huffs. “What do you mean for what? For insulting your stupid book.”
“Oh.” His lips form an ‘O’ shape, a flicker of recognition phasing in and out of his eyes as he stares at the envelope again. “Hm.”
He laughs then and it might sound a little distant but Iwaizumi convinces himself that he’s overthinking it. He’s always overthinking it. “I don’t want to forgive you yet,” Oikawa replies after his laughter fades. “I guess I have to though. You didn’t call me mean names once today, Iwa-chan~” There’s a grin on Oikawa’s face when Iwaizumi dares to turn. It’s the same grin he’s seen on the magazine spreads Inuoka’s shoved in his face at the office—practiced.
“You aren’t going to read it?” Iwaizumi asks as Oikawa folds the envelope and slips it into his own pocket.
“I don’t need to.”
“What if I just insulted you fifty times in there?”
“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says reproachfully, “you wouldn’t do that when you have no problems saying them to my face!”
Iwaizumi scoffs at that. He faces forward again, gaze focusing on nothing in particular. The streets are quiet tonight. It feels a little suffocating, stifling—there’s something very restless about this situation. There’s a tension that Iwaizumi can’t quite put his finger on. Something feels incomplete, unfinished. He doesn’t know why.
“You won’t have to waste your time anymore,” Iwaizumi finally says. “With these meetings, I mean.” He still won’t call them dates. “Why the hell didn’t you forgive me sooner, Asskawa? Your schedule’s probably jam-packed and—”
“Did you enjoy any of them?” Oikawa asks instead.
“Like hell I did.”
“Iwa-chan! Always so mean~”
Iwaizumi scowls. “What do you mean did I enjoy them?”
“I mean…” And Oikawa does that thing again where he looks like he’s doubting himself for a second. It’s only for a second though. His face steels, neutralizes into something unreadable again a second later. Iwaizumi wouldn’t have noticed—but he’s always watching, keen on picking up these little details. “I mean, did you have fun? At all?”
The thing is, Iwaizumi knows that deep down the meetings weren’t a complete waste of time. He did kind of enjoy himself. He did like the change of pace. He liked talking to Oikawa (though he’d never admit it out loud). He had fun.
He knows what his answer to the question is but there’s doubt in the back of his mind because for some reason, he isn’t sure if that’s the right answer.
“You made me pay for your coffee and your dinner. Do you think I had fun?” Iwaizumi retorts. His tone is hardly malicious though.
Oikawa laughs again. There’s that grin on his face. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, Iwa-chan.”
Later, when they part, the atmosphere is even more overbearing. Iwaizumi feels like he’s supposed to do something, like Oikawa is hoping for, anticipating something. And there’s a part of him that wants something too. He’d be a fool to say he doesn’t know what. He knows. He knows, and that scares the shit out of him so he jams his hands into his pockets and ends their third and final date with, “You’re not as bad as I expected.”
Oikawa pouts and Iwaizumi rolls his eyes. He doesn’t do anything either, just mumbles something about how Iwaizumi could have been nice but had to be mean right at the end! He doesn’t do anything after that. Iwaizumi doesn’t know what he was anticipating anyway.
“It was nice,” Oikawa finally says with a bright smile. “Iwa-chan, you should stop making such scary faces though... oof.” (The punch to the arm is well-deserved.) “I hope the paper continues to do well,” he says, all while grimacing and sulking at Iwaizumi.
“Yeah,” Iwaizumi replies steadily. “I guess this is goodbye then, Crappykawa.”
Oikawa grins. “Bye Iwa-chan.”
Iwaizumi thinks, belatedly, that maybe he should have bought that bouquet of peonies for today.
“What do you mean?” Iwaizumi replies, not even looking away from his laptop screen. “He accepted my apology.”
“…What the hell, Iwaizumi.”
Moniwa lets out an exasperated sigh and starts walking away again. “God,” Iwaizumi can hear faintly, “you’re dumber than I thought.”
Tuesday isn’t any better. He tries not to act overly interested when Inuoka calls for coffee orders and Moniwa sluggishly asks for an Americano.
The rest of the week is filled with useless distractions. He can’t help but feel a little conflicted when he thinks about purple flowers and the way Oikawa drew his hearts like pretzels on the napkin with his number on it. It’s ridiculous how much emptier the day feels without stupid text messages asking random questions.
The only way he consoles himself is by remembering that it’s probably better this way. There’s no reason someone like Oikawa should be spending time with someone like him anyway and—yeah, it’s just better.
On Friday, he comes into work ten minutes late to find Inuoka and Kunimi hovering over a laptop together.
“Wah, poor Oikawa-san must be overworking himself!” Inuoka exclaims. “The press is all over him these days!”
Kunimi clicks his tongue. “It’s the downside of being famous. The line between private and public blurs.”
He’d like to ask what’s happening but he doesn’t because he convinces himself he doesn’t really care. Moniwa pops up from the copier room and gauges the situation with startling fluency.
“What are you guys talking about?” he asks instead of Iwaizumi.
“Ooh, there are news articles about Oikawa-san being seen admitted to the hospital! Then there was this post by one of his major fansites that was talking about how exhausted he seems these days! Oikawa-san must really be working hard.”
Iwaizumi tenses and Moniwa shoots him a knowing glance before nodding, patting Inuoka and Kunimi on their shoulders as a means of corralling them. “Get back to work. Oikawa-san’s business isn’t your job and Kunimi, don’t you have three late assignments to finish up…” He looks back at Iwaizumi afterwards. “Don’t worry about it—”
“Yeah,” Iwaizumi responds before Moniwa can say much else. “I’m not.”
After Moniwa returns to his own desk, Iwaizumi spends the rest of the day drafting text messages.
Hey Trashkawa, you class-A idiot. I saw the headlines.
Crappykawa, what did I say about sleeping…
-__________________- you idiot.
The final draft is simple:
Are you okay?
He doesn’t send a single one.
He goes through his text drafts again. He thinks about it a million times, thinks about sending one—it wouldn’t matter which as long as it was one of them. Just as he’s tossing his phone aside, conclusively deciding that today just won’t be the day, there’s a knock on his door and Iwaizumi drags himself up onto his feet to greet most probably his neighbor.
It’s Moniwa. He’s holding a laptop bag and looking mildly concerned, brows furrowed as they lock on Iwaizumi’s face. “What’s up with you?” he asks off the bat. “I know you’re worried and all but you left your laptop at the office. How are you going to pretend to work without this?” He lifts the bag up and dangles it in front of Iwaizumi’s face for further emphasis.
“Oh.” Iwaizumi scratches his cheek and takes the bag off of Moniwa’s hands. “Sorry. Gonna come in?” He opens the door a little wider, granting entrance.
Moniwa shakes his head. “I have someone waiting at home. But, uh, if you needed an extra push, this is me telling you to grow some balls.” It’s not unusual for Moniwa to know more than he should but Iwaizumi doesn’t even question this time around. He lets Moniwa pat him on the shoulder encouragingly before waving goodbye. “If you need anything, let me know.”
He tries to go back to work, doing exactly what Moniwa predicted—pretending to type away at the laptop while spending more time erasing the gibberish he managed to write while spacing out. It’s a grueling process, watching as he fails to avoid the pressing thoughts in his mind.
He’s thinking of stupid, simple things like Americanos, about purple peonies, about light bulbs and smiles that are brighter than them. Among other things, he’s thinking about Oikawa and it should throw him off, it should come across as a warning sign but Iwaizumi is beyond giving two shits about what he’s supposed to be thinking.
Idiot. Are you ok?
Sent 11:18 PM
He isn’t really sure what he’s expecting. A response is what he thinks he might want but he doesn’t get it—not immediately. The text message pings as it delivers and Iwaizumi tosses his phone to the side and stares dully at his laptop screen. He doesn’t want to look at the popular news sites at risk of seeing a picture of Oikawa looking dead on his feet.
Yeah, okay. So this is stupid how invested he feels in an asshole who’s more annoying than Kunimi and Inuoka combined. It’s stupid—incredibly stupid, but he finds that he cares less and less as the minutes go by and he doesn’t get a single response.
It’s a good thirty minutes later that his phone rings.
Idiot Trashkawa lights up on the screen and he doesn’t hesitate this time. He accepts the call immediately but he doesn’t say anything because he isn’t really sure what he wants to say.
“I didn’t think you’d actually pick up, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa’s voice is a welcoming sound, something Iwaizumi feels like he hasn’t heard in months. It’s a little muted, softer than usual.
“I just texted you half an hour ago, idiot.”
“Yeah, but…” Oikawa trails off. “It’s past your bedtime,” he finally says.
“It’s past your bedtime,” Iwaizumi shoots back.
Oikawa laughs and it sounds a lot weaker, quieter, more careful—but it’s familiar. It’s nice.
“You didn’t answer me,” Iwaizumi grumbles. “Are you okay?”
“Iwa-chan, are you worrying about me?” He can hear the grin in Oikawa’s voice. “You really are my mom~”
“… I’m hanging up.”
“I’m okay,” Oikawa says instead. He’s laughing again. “I’m home now.”
“You’re an idiot, you know that? You’re supposed to get some sleep every night, eat a solid breakfast, treat your body well. No one’s invincible, you know. No matter what your shitty book suggests, you can’t pretend you’re invincible and neglect yourself, stupid Trashkawa!” Iwaizumi lets out a withering sigh. “You’re an idiot. You are the world’s most annoying idiot. Get some sleep and stop being stupi—”
“Iwa-chan! How have you been?”
“… Don’t try to change the subject, Crappykawa!”
“So mean, Iwa-chan! I just want to know how your week’s been!” Oikawa huffs childishly. There’s another pause, some rustling noises. “It’s been so long since we last talked.”
Iwaizumi stiffens. “Yeah, well. I didn’t think we’d be talking again so soon.”
“Ah, does this mean you don’t want to talk to me?”
“I didn’t say that, stupid.”
This is probably when he should tell Oikawa how he’s been—how he’s been thinking about things that remind him of annoying people, how he’s been trying to convince himself out of feeling anything at all for idiots who literally pranced into his life. Stupid shit like that.
But he doesn’t. He stays quiet.
“Iwa-chan, you know what I regret about our third date?” Oikawa asks suddenly.
“Stop calling them dates.”
“Just ask me what.”
The image is clear. He can picture Oikawa sitting in a bedroom that’s much too big for one person, admiring a view that makes the world seem brighter but the room much darker—a view that makes him sadder than happier.
“I regret not kissing you.”
The complicated part about all of this is that Iwaizumi agrees. Wholeheartedly. He regrets not kissing Oikawa right then and there. It’s been fucking taunting him for the past week and he can’t quite push aside how appropriate the moment was, how perfect the timing was, and how easily he pushed it aside because he second-guessed himself.
But that doesn’t mean Oikawa has to know he agrees. Deep down, Iwaizumi’s under the impression that in this exact moment, he’d like for Oikawa to win. He isn’t sure what there is to win but he doesn’t think of himself as a prize.
Maybe he’s overthinking this again.
“You’re an idiot,” he says instead of agreeing with him, instead of offering him any semblance of affirmation.
Oikawa laughs softly. It’s succinct. “Yeah, I am.”
Or maybe he’s scared.
“Go to sleep, Trashkawa.”
He wonders if the room feels bigger now, lonelier now, emptier now to Oikawa.
“Good night, Iwa-chan.”
The pointless messages continue. Oikawa asks random questions and Iwaizumi responds to half and ignores half, only because he isn’t as good at pretending that things are normal.
“Iwaizumi,” Moniwa says one day at work, peeking into the cubicle. “You got some time?”
He turns around and pushes his phone into his pocket. “Yeah. Why?”
“Impromptu staff meeting in the break room.” Moniwa jerks a thumb over his shoulder. “Inuoka and Kunimi are already there. We’re just going to go over next month’s goals.”
Iwaizumi gets up from his seat, trailing behind Moniwa without thinking much of it. It only dawns upon him that they never really do anything like this after he enters the room and Moniwa closes the door behind him and it locks with a click.
Inuoka grabs his arm and tugs him into a chair behind the only table in the room. He stares, facing the door, as Kunimi, Inuoka, and Moniwa line up in front of him, arms crossed and expressions stern.
“What the hell,” Iwaizumi manages to get out.
“We’re staging an intervention,” Moniwa says seriously.
“We’re worried about you, Iwaizumi-san,” says Kunimi.
“Yeah, you’ve really been slacking off,” Inuoka finishes.
Kunimi and Moniwa stare at him.
“Sorry,” Inuoka says dejectedly. “I don’t know what this intervention is for. I just wanted to be included.”
After that, Inuoka stands off to the side while Kunimi and Moniwa continue to stare Iwaizumi down.
“This is ridiculous,” Iwaizumi mumbles. “I don’t need an intervention. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
“Everything that happens in this room stays in this room,” Moniwa says reassuringly.
“For example,” Kunimi starts, “if you’d like to say anything regarding people whose names include kawa, now would be an opportune time.”
While he appreciates the efforts that his coworkers are making, Iwaizumi isn’t sure if he’s in acknowledgement of the problem that they see. He doesn’t see a problem. There’s nothing wrong with his life—everything is going along smoothly as it should. If going smoothly and as it should means maybe Iwaizumi isn’t the happiest camper now, it doesn’t matter. In the long run, things will get better. Oikawa will be happier with someone else and Iwaizumi will invest in a couple of cats. Everybody wins.
“As your friends—”
“Your only friends.”
“As your friends, it’s in our best interest to make sure you aren’t making stupid decisions because you’re being an idiot.” Moniwa’s wearing his Corporate-Meeting-I-Have-To-Give-A-Monthly-Report face. Iwaizumi has seen this one being practiced one too many times. “You’re a good guy, Iwaizumi. Good guys deserve good things. The world isn’t going to give you these good things if you don’t ask for them though! You have to want them! Do you want them?”
“Yeah!” Inuoka yells.
Kunimi stares at him.
“Sorry,” Inuoka whispers.
“Iwaizumi, this isn’t a ‘good things come to those who wait’ kind of scenario. This is a stop being stupid and carpe diem kind of scenario.”
Iwaizumi sighs. Loudly.
Moniwa approaches the table Iwaizumi’s sitting behind and tosses a calendar and an envelope in front of him. “The calendar has a date circled—an important book signing I think you might want to drop by. The envelope has some coupons for a flower shop since you’ve been searching up an awful lot of them online.” He shrugs. “I won’t force you. I’ll be disappointed if you make the wrong choice but you’re not stupid so I hope you’ll do what’s best for you.”
With that, Moniwa leaves the break room. Kunimi follows behind him. Only Inuoka stays, standing idly in front of Iwaizumi as the door closes shut again.
“Iwaizumi-san,” Inuoka begins, smiling wide, “I don’t think Oikawa-san would want to meet with someone he doesn’t like three times in a row!”
Iwaizumi offers an exasperated glance up at Inuoka.
“Oikawa-san likes you as much as you like him. And it’s not fair to tell someone who they do or don’t deserve, because—Oikawa-san probably put a lot of thought into liking you! You guys are probably fated~”
Kunimi opens the door and peeks in. “Oi, your phone’s ringing,” he says to Inuoka.
“Oh! Anyway, Iwaizumi-san! I’m rooting for you!”
The door closes again and Iwaizumi is left alone with a calendar, some coupons, and a lot of decisions he isn’t sure he’s ready to make.
“Yo,” Kuroo greets him, arm wrapped around a bag of groceries as he fumbles for his keys. “Finished with work?”
“Yeah,” Iwaizumi replies simply.
“Uh.” Iwaizumi fidgets. “What about you?”
“Yep. Picked up some groceries on the way home.”
The conversation stales quickly and Iwaizumi returns his attention to finding his house key.
“So, listen,” Kuroo begins again. “I figured it’s as good a time as any to get to know each other so, uh, if you want to bring your person over sometime to have dinner with me and my boyfriend, that’d be cool. I don’t really remember the name but from what I heard through the walls, I think you were yelling Trashkawa?” There’s a smirk on Kuroo’s face that Iwaizumi thinks is supposed to be harmless.
“Yeah, I mean, if that’s up your alley, I’d be down. If not, we can be the awkward neighbors we are.” Kuroo shrugs. “Ultimately up to you and Trashkawa. Let me know though.” He lifts a hand to offer a peace sign before entering his apartment and closing the door behind him.
“What,” Iwaizumi repeats.
He stands in the hallway for a little while longer and is reminded of calendars and coupons.
“What the hell,” he groans to himself, kicking his door open.
He thinks about those meetings too, those silly dates and how Oikawa dodged the purpose of them and treated Iwaizumi like an actual person instead of the guy who tore apart his book about teaching oneself to be invincible.
The truth is, he doesn’t even remember Oikawa’s book. He doesn’t remember how bad it was or how good it might have been. He doesn’t remember how angry he felt sitting in front of Toupee, indignant and unwilling to apologize. He doesn’t remember the finer details of the past few weeks. If he squints, he can pinpoint comments—Kunimi’s snide remarks about déjà vu and Iwaizumi’s need for companionship; Inuoka’s unending optimism about a relationship Iwaizumi refused to initiate.
He doesn’t remember much.
He does remember peonies though, a purple color because purple is regal. He remembers staring at light bulbs a lot like there was something to solve about them. He remembers Americanos, hearts drawn like pretzels, and a gratingly annoying nickname he’s positive he never asked for.
He remembers thinking a lot about bigger-than-life apartment rooms and intimidating views of the Tokyo skyline.
He remembers all of this and he remembers wondering where he might fit in.
(The first Saturday of December is tomorrow. It’s circled in red on the calendar Moniwa gave him.)
i watched the 1978 superman and it was pretty bad…
but i watched the whole thing anyway
Received 11:18 PM
Sent 11:20 PM
because you said it was your favorite
Received 11:24 PM
When he manages to find a nice bouquet, he brings it to the counter, digging through his jacket pockets to procure a coupon. He’s about to hand it over when he spies the expiration date—and a sigh escapes him because it’s typical Moniwa to hand off coupons that are two years expired now. He tucks them away for safe-keeping, keeping them secure in the folds of the book.
The cashier rings him up and he says his thank-yous before leaving, checking his watch on the way out to see just how late he’s going to be.
If the line’s obscenely long by the time he gets to the Royal Book Palace, he might take it as a sign that this isn’t meant to be. But Iwaizumi has given up on trusting his superstitions. He thinks today might be a good day to wait.
So he heads over even though he’s forty-five minutes late and there are probably fangirls swarming the entrance to the bookstore. He’ll stick out like a sore thumb, probably the only guy for a mile and carrying flowers of all things to boot.
But he doesn’t care.
Yeah, he doesn’t give a shit anymore.
Thanks for the expired coupons
Sent 3:56 PM
knew you’d make the right choice!
Received 4:00 PM
It’s nearly five in the afternoon by the time Iwaizumi gets to the front of the line. He’s the second to last person. There’s a girl in front of him giggling as she gets her signature, asking to hold Oikawa’s hand for ten seconds before she leaves. He obliges. Iwaizumi can hear his laugh and it echoes in his ears even though it really isn’t that loud in the first place.
She leaves with a pleasant pink on her face and Iwaizumi starts doubting himself.
He’s a little too late though. He’s corralled to the table where Oikawa is currently talking quietly with his manager about something.
Iwaizumi has to clear his throat to get his attention.
“Sorry!” Oikawa says immediately. “Thank you for comin—”
“Hey,” Iwaizumi says stiffly. There’s a faint pink on his face.
Oikawa is quiet, eyes wide. “Iwa-chan,” he says dazedly.
Iwaizumi drops the book on the table a little rougher than intended. “Uh.” He curses to himself for how awkward this is ending up and sucks in a breath before extending the small bouquet. “Here.”
There’s a small flicker of recognition that shows in Oikawa’s face as he receives the flowers. He knows what they are and he knows why Iwaizumi’s brought them. He doesn’t say anything though, smiling sweetly instead as he sets them to the side and opens Iwaizumi’s copy of the book up to the first page.
There’s another moment of silence as Oikawa’s eyes process something scrawled on the page in front of him. He closes the book and sets it to the side as well.
“Thank you,” he says in what Iwaizumi is assuming is his professional tone of voice.
Time isn’t quite on their side. Security jostles Iwaizumi out of line after that and he doesn’t have the nerve to look back and gauge Oikawa’s reaction so he makes his way toward the exit, a little disappointed but a little confused at the same time. He isn’t sure what he was expecting—he’s never sure what to expect when it comes to Oikawa.
A part of him feels successful, like he’s done what he intended. Another part of him is bitter, upset that while he executed his actions, his words remained snugly contained at the tip of his tongue.
His phone vibrates.
i’ll be done in ten minutes
meet me by the comic books
Received 5:01 PM
This would be the perfect opportunity to run away, Iwaizumi notes. He’s good at measuring these things, at taking the right chances and this one—this one feels right.
But he stays anyway, and he tries to convince himself that it’s not because he might be on his way to being smitten but because he wants to check out the superhero comic books anyway.
He shuffles to the section, hands jammed in his pockets as he pretends to peruse through the comic books that he’s already read. It’s empty in this corner except for him, and he’s checking his watch obsessively, like he’s trying to decide whether it’s a good time to leave without being labeled as a coward.
Iwaizumi looks up from the ground and locks eyes with Oikawa.
He parts his lips, maybe to say something, maybe to apologize for coming in so unannounced, but Oikawa is already closing the distance between them, taking long strides before his hands are cupping Iwaizumi’s cheeks.
There’s nothing to be said, Iwaizumi realizes. And Oikawa must agree because he’s leaning down, sealing their lips in a kiss that Iwaizumi never quite imagined happening like this.
When he pulls away, Oikawa is smiling, beaming, glowing and Iwaizumi averts his glance because he doesn’t want it to be obvious that he’s turning pink again.
“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa repeats, “you sure are slow.”
When Iwaizumi whips his head back up to retort, Oikawa kisses him again, and again, and again until Iwaizumi doesn’t even remember what he wanted to say, much too preoccupied with the way Oikawa smiles into his kisses.
(Oikawa opens the book, half-prepared to sign it, when he sees that there’s writing on the page where his signature typically goes. This must be Iwaizumi’s handwriting. It’s neat, albeit a bit slanted. It isn’t hard to read what it says. Oikawa settles his pen down.
this time, I’m the idiot. sorry you had to wait.)
Iwaizumi opens one eye groggily, covering the other with the back of his hand. “What,” he grumbles.
“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa repeats for the fiftieth time, looking positively sullen as he peers down at Iwaizumi’s face. “Are you always going to do this?”
“Do what,” he mumbles back.
“Fall asleep on me while I’m trying to talk with you about important things after sex.”
“Yeah,” Iwaizumi says plainly, closing both of his eyes slowly again.
“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says again.
“What.” He doesn’t even bother opening his eyes this time.
Oikawa shifts in the bed and moves closer until his legs are tangled with Iwaizumi’s and his arm is underneath Iwaizumi’s head. Iwaizumi lets it happen. There’s no use resisting when it comes to Oikawa and the body heat is something he’s pretty fond of anyway.
“Do you want to know something?”
Oikawa laughs against Iwaizumi’s hair. “You say my name in your sleep.”
(“And then he kicked me!” Oikawa complains at dinner with Moniwa. “He kicked me after I said something so cute and nice! Iwa-chan is truly a monster, Moniwa-san…”)