i want your lips
but we both know the world
ain't ready for that yet
i want the limelight with you
want the world to see you're mine
Oikawa is a friendless, subdued child until Iwaizumi Hajime comes crashing into his life in the form of a baseball struck straight through his living room window.
It just barely misses Oikawa, who's playing innocently with his toy train until he's showered with broken glass from behind and a stray ball goes whizzing into a nearby painting and cracks the frame in two. The little six-year old blinks twice, eyes wide, but then the shock hits him full-force and he can't stop the big blobs of tears pooling in his eyes. He throws his head back, and he cries.
His mother is absolutely hysterical when she comes running in, thinking that her son's been impaled by shards of glass and that's why he just won't stop wailing, and the hectic atmosphere is not helped by the sudden ring of the doorbell. Iwaizumi and his mother stand on the other side, the former looking gloomy, and the latter, flustered.
It's amazing how quickly the two mothers become friends; soon they're laughing like they're childhood friends, even though Iwaizumi-san tells them they'd just moved in down the street a few days ago. Oikawa's mother even lets the entire incident slide once she's sure her son isn't injured, but Oikawa himself just won't stop wailing behind her back, and Iwaizumi finds himself forcefully being pushed towards the boy.
"Apologize, Hajime," his mother scolds him, lightly shoving his shoulder again, and he looks off to the side and huffs an apology that is no doubt insincere.
"Oh, he's shy," Oikawa's mother croons, smiling down at him warmly.
The two women turn back to their conversation, and while Iwaizumi's mother insists that they'll pay for everything to be fixed, her son quietly sidles up next to Oikawa, who's still sniffling and clinging to his mother's skirt, and pinches him hard on the arm.
"Ow!" Oikawa whines, rubbing at the sore, reddening spot.
Iwaizumi glowers at him. "You got me in trouble, you crybaby."
"You got yourself in trouble," he sneers back, sticking out his tongue, then dodges in a panic when Iwaizumi lunges to pinch his other arm.
Unlike their mothers, the two boys start off on a very bad note.
It's not even been seven days when the two run into each other again. Apparently when Iwaizumi's mother had said they'd moved in "down the street," she'd meant just two houses away, and that's how Oikawa returns from his piano lesson to find Iwaizumi standing near his front lawn, tossing a volleyball and just lazily receiving it into the air in a bored sort of monotony.
They catch each other's eye, and Oikawa is all set to huff and ignore him despite his initial thrill to learn that now there's another boy on his street who likes volleyball besides him. He's a serial pincher after all, and Oikawa has already decided that that'snot the kind of boy he could be teammates with.
Except Iwaizumi scratches the back of his neck, fidgets where he stands for a moment, glances away before immediately flitting his gaze back, and finally mumbles, "You wanna play?"
Oikawa blinks and points to himself rather dumbly. "Me?"
"You see anyone else?" Iwaizumi snaps impatiently, then seems to instantly regret his outburst. Shuffling his feet some more, obviously far out of his comfort zone, he mutters, "Yeah, you." Before Oikawa can ask why, he shyly adds, "I don't know anyone else here..."
Oikawa looks down at his feet, wiggles his toes inside his sneakers as he thinks, and tries to keep himself from feeling too over-elated. No one's ever asked him to join in and play before, ever extended an invite or thought to ask him if he's lonely. The boys in school all like to keep their distance and throw taunts from afar about how much he looks like a girl – dainty and soft – and there's always been petty jealousy in the air because Oikawa's parents can afford to and do buy him all the latest toys in the shops. So he doesn't care if it's for a reason as simple as not knowing anyone else in the neighborhood; Iwaizumi's invitation still has butterflies erupting in his stomach, and suddenly the sore, pinched spot on his arm he'd been complaining about for days doesn't ache anymore.
Not wanting to seem over-eager, he pretends to mull it over, then puffs out his chest and declares grandly, "Well... I guess I can forgive you."
"H-Hey!" Red-faced, Iwaizumi splutters and points an accusing finger at him. "I wasn't apologizing!"
"Even so, I forgive you, Iwa-chan," he proclaims, happily bouncing over to join the boy on the lawn, scooping up the stray ball along the way.
It's too interesting watching his face turn an alarming shade of scarlet, surpassing any color Oikawa has ever seen dye a face before. Whether it's from anger or from embarrassment, he can't tell, but he decides that it's Iwa-chan's most endearing trait and he'll do anything to see it again and again.
Iwaizumi is the kind of person who's popular with the other boys. Oikawa supposes he should have predicted it; he's stellar at any sport he tries, and he's even dashing in his own way, with a face set into impressive apathy and the kind of charisma that can win over any teammate.
They enjoy the break by spending practically all of it together, becoming fast friends like the window-smashing incident had never happened, and once school starts again, Oikawa is inwardly thrilled when they're placed into the same class. But come lunch break, the other boys immediately monopolize him, dragging him off to the playground in the middle of their circle and leaving Oikawa in the dust.
They want to know anything and everything, fascinated by the latest addition to their class, and as Oikawa shuffles after them and listens in on their inquiries, all he can think about is how he knows all the answers already, like he's some contestant on an Iwaizumi Hajime quiz show.
Iwa-chan is his friend. They've been inseparable all break, and if Oikawa could have had it his way, they would have been inseparable from the moment he'd entered class for the first time as well. He looks at each and every one of the boys, the very same to shun him all these years, and feels irritation prickle his skin.
Perhaps what hurts the most is watching Iwa-chan laugh with them, like it doesn't matter that Oikawa isn't right by his side, like he can have fun even without his first friend. He might not have any right to – Iwaizumi is his own person, after all, and he doesn't even know of their tense history – but Oikawa feels betrayed, abandoned.
He slides against a tree, knees curled to his chest, and just watches the boys while the same thoughts run through his head again and again. Look at me, Iwa-chan. Remember me. Think about me. Look at me, look at me, look at me...
But Iwaizumi's so deep inside the circle of boys that he couldn't have looked even if he'd wanted to, even if he had remembered his very first friend in this town, and suddenly the two boys are worlds apart.
Oikawa doesn't have to wallow in self-pity for long.
He looks back at this moment months from now, and he's regretful that he'd ever doubted Iwa-chan. If he could go back to this moment, he thinks months later, he would have forced his way into the group of boys and taken Iwa-chan's hand, and he knows that Iwa-chan would have undoubtedly squeezed back.
It's when the boys suggest an impromptu game of baseball that Iwaizumi finally peers out at the expansive playground in search of something – someone.
"What's wrong, Iwaizumi-kun?" someone asks, attempting to drag him towards the baseball diamond, but he wrenches his arm away and resists, cupping his hands over his eyes instead for a better view as he searches the many faces surrounding him.
"Where's Oikawa?" he demands, frowning. "Anyone seen him?"
The boys look at one another in surprise, some murmuring amongst themselves at the unexpected question. Oikawa, who's still sitting far away enough to not be a part of the group but close enough to overhear them, looks up.
"Uh..." One of the boys wrings his hands, laughing weakly as he throws an arm around Iwaizumi's shoulder and once again attempts to steer him away. "Let's go play for now. I'm sure Oikawa will turn up somewhere."
Iwaizumi scowls, and it's one of his more impressive, truck-driver scowls that Oikawa often wonders where he picked up, as he wrestles himself away from the hold and huffs impatiently, "Well, we can't just start the game without him. 'Sides, I want him on my team."
"Forget about Oika–"
It's at that exact moment that Iwaizumi spots him, still sitting frozen in his corner of self-pity and watching the scene play out in surprise, finger paused over the dirt on which he'd been drawing lazy circles to pass the time. His face lights up, though it's so slight that no one but Oikawa even realizes he's definitely perkier. Waving an arm over his head, he abandons the other boys and rushes over.
"Oi! There you are, you idiot!" He sounds exasperated, like he hadn't just been ignoring his friend for the better half of the lunch hour. "What are you doing all the way over here anyway?"
Oikawa thinks about telling him everything – about his petty jealousy and about feeling abandoned and about wishing the other boys wouldn't put their grubby hands all over his Iwa-chan. But he's always been a little childish, so he decides that if Iwaizumi hasn't figured all this out on his own, then he doesn't want to tell him at all.
Iwaizumi rolls his eyes when he looks away without a word, already so used to his theatrics. "All right, fine. Don't tell me," he grumbles, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder. "Come on. We're gonna go play baseball."
It's just like the first week of winter break; Iwa-chan is the only one who'll ever extend an invitation towards him, who'll think about including him in games when others won't spare him a thought. Feeling a lump forming in his throat, Oikawa looks over his shoulder and finally realizes that the other boys are watching the scene with slackened jaws. His throat tightens. He sees the malicious intent flash across their eyes – they're going to tell Iwaizumi, "We don't want him to play with us!" and humiliate him in front of his first ever friend, who has no idea about how he's been ostracized all year – so even though he wants to join in, he decides to stick with pettiness and sniffs haughtily.
"I don't want to play," he declares, still determinedly looking away.
A crease forms between Iwaizumi's eyebrows, and though he draws breath to retaliate, he's spoken over by the boys waiting behind them. "You heard him!" they call. "He doesn't wanna play. He's probably awful at baseball anyway, Iwaizumi-kun!"
Before they can make some joke about his twig-like arms as they often do, Iwaizumi throws a glare over his shoulder, and it's the kind of impressive glare that shuts everyone up in an instant.
"What are you talking about?" he huffs, lips slanting in thought. Maybe he's starting to realize that there's definitely animosity sparking between his first friend and his new ones. "Have you ever seen him play? He's really good."
Even Oikawa's eyes widen at that. Iwa-chan's never paid him a compliment before. There had even often been times over break when he would make some haughty joke about how he's practically the king of baseball, and Iwaizumi would just snap at him to get off his high horse. Was Iwa-chan sticking up for him?
He watches the boys once again murmur in disbelief, and he realizes with horror that they're about to play off Iwaizumi, too, all just for sticking up for him. They're going to ostracize him and probably never invite him to play again, all because he'd clearly just chosen Oikawa over them just now.
He swallows thickly, his heart hammering in his chest. Iwa-chan's too good for that, he thinks desperately, as the atmosphere tenses. Iwa-chan doesn't deserve to be shunned. Iwa-chan's the first ever friend he's made. And maybe it's at that exact moment that he realizes, even though they've only been friends for two weeks, Iwaizumi's happiness already means much, much more to him than his own.
"Iwa-chan..." he pipes up quietly, once again drawing circles in the dirt. "Just go. I really don't want to play. Seriously."
He doesn't dare glance up to meet his eyes, but he has a feeling Iwaizumi is frowning down at him, probably trying to figure whether he really means what he says. The silence between them stretches out so long that it turns deafening, and Oikawa wonders whether he's left already, to go be with the other boys who can give him much more happiness than he can.
So he's struck dumb when Iwa-chan suddenly plops down beside him on the grass, arms and legs folded tightly and back pressed against the tree, a gruff scowl hardening his expression.
"What are you doing?"
"If you're not playing, then I'm not playing," he announces, loud enough so that even the waiting boys can hear. The murmurs turn into furious whispers, some sounding outraged or even disgusted by his choice, but still he doesn't budge.
Oikawa blinks rapidly, trying to work out whether this is really happening. "Don't be stupid–"
"You're the stupid one, stupid," he immediately snaps back, but that determined gleam in his eyes only gets more intense, until the message is clear to the other boys from class: he's chosen Oikawa. One by one, they turn their backs and stalk away, leaving behind their new classmate for their game of baseball.
Oikawa watches them – Iwaizumi's last chance – walk away and almost panics. "I'm fine here by myself, Iwa-chan!" he insists, pounding a fist against the dirt.
But Iwaizumi only sighs, once again rolling his eyes at his friend. "This is why I called you an idiot," he grouses, and when Oikawa slants his head in confusion, he punches his arm playfully. "You think I can't see through you? Don't say you're fine when you're so obviously not, moron."
His lips part, words failing him in shock, and Iwaizumi smirks since it's the very first time Oikawa's ever been speechless since he's known him. And maybe he realizes how much this moment means to Oikawa, because he doesn't even tease him about it.
"Iwa-chan, you're my best friend. You know that, right?"
Iwaizumi narrows his eyes at him, looking thoroughly disgusted. "God. How can you say such gross, sappy things like that all the time?"
"I just wanted you to know," Oikawa insists, mindlessly tossing his volleyball into the air again and again.
They're in his backyard, practicing their receives on each other before their team's volleyball match next week, and it had just hit him that with the coming of the new school year and getting assigned a whole new class – but still together, thank god – they're no longer the shunned class duo like they were last year. They've found new friends in their new classmates, those who aren't petty enough to make fun of Oikawa for his looks or of Iwaizumi for sticking by his friend.
But then it had also hit him that maybe, just maybe, he and Iwa-chan might start to slip away from each other if they don't have something there to strengthen their solidarity, even if that something up until now had been the whole class turning against them. He suddenly needs Iwa-chan to know that he's still number one in his heart.
"I'm your best friend, too, right?" he asks urgently, glancing over as Iwaizumi spikes a volleyball against the back wall of his house.
He fumbles and misses the ball altogether at the unexpected question, and he's red-faced and sputtering as he turns on him. "Stop asking stupid questions, dumbass!"
'Dumbass' is his newest insult, something he'd picked up watching some late-night movie without his parents' permission. The first time he'd said it, Oikawa had gasped scandalously.
"You're so vulgar, Iwa-chan!" he'd said with a shudder, and it had earned him a punch to the arm and another 'dumbass!' thrown his way. Now, it's such old news that he doesn't even falter when it leaves Iwaizumi's lips.
He just pouts, curling out his bottom lip as far as it will go, and whines, "I am, right?"
Iwaizumi's eye twitches, as if he's physically pained by the entire question, and it's actually quite amusing to watch. But he wants confirmation and he wants it now, so he can sleep easy that night knowing that Iwa-chan won't slip through his fingers just because they have a few other friends to give their time to.
"...Of course, dumbass," Iwaizumi finally grumbles, and Oikawa almost misses it since he barely moves his lips in his embarrassment. "You see anyone else in the running?"
Oikawa beams at him, and realizes that even something as monotonous as repeatedly tossing a ball into the air suddenly feels thrilling when he has his best friend by his side. He just knows that he wants to be with Iwaizumi forever and always, even if he might get another punch to his arm for saying so.
Oikawa is nine when he first hears the word.
Iwaizumi is still changing into his outdoor shoes, so Oikawa's alone with their newest friends, an accepted part of their huddle in a corner of the school grounds as they wait for the rest of the boys to catch up. He leans in and simply listens to them talk with interest, just elated that he now has friends to call his own. They don't seem to mind his lack of contribution because they're so immersed in the latest gossip, and Oikawa's relieved since he wouldn't have known what to say anyway.
It's a word he's never heard before, and the boys on the playground whisper it like it's dirty, like the way they daringly mutter the word fuck and then look over their shoulders to check that their parents hadn't heard.
"You know Abe-kun from class?" they snicker, hands cupped around their mouths like they're passing along a filthy secret. Oikawa thinks of the skinny, bespectacled boy who sits in the back of the class, the one who'd been kind enough to help him find his misplaced shoe once. He's a nice kid, one Oikawa has never had a problem with, but he has a feeling the boys have nothing nice to say by the sinister edge to their whispers. "I hear his older brother is... gay."
"...Gay?" he repeats, cocking his head to the side. There's confusion coloring his tone since it's his first time hearing the word, but most of all, he can't understand why it's a word that needs to be said with such malicious intent, and he wonders whether being gay is something that's not allowed.
"He likes boys," one of them explains, turning his nose into the air. "Like, holding their hands and kissing them and stuff."
The rest of the boys immediately let out soft whines of disgust, and Oikawa feels lost, confused, when he's the only one who doesn't. Not wanting to be left out, he does his best to copy their grossed out expressions and act like Abe-kun's older brother is as weird and as foreign as the aliens on TV. But he doesn't really understand at all, and he wishes desperately that Iwa-chan was by his side.
He repeats the word to Iwaizumi on their way home, and it tumbles past his lips in that same disgusted way that the other boys had uttered it, because he thinks that's the way it's supposed to be said.
"Abe-kun's older brother is gay," he whispers, taking care to lower his voice, so no one can overhear them speaking of something he'd learned that afternoon was taboo.
He thinks about the boys and their exaggerated, disgusted reactions, and he's surprised when Iwaizumi doesn't react the same way. He's unfazed, that same apathetic frown still arching his lips, and after a moment he mumbles, "Maybe one of those two boys I saw holding hands at the ice-cream shop was Abe's older brother."
Oikawa's lips part in surprise. "Iwa-chan, aren't you grossed out? I mean, he likes boys."
"So?" Iwaizumi is as blunt as always as he shrugs. "Besides, how is it any of our business, Oikawa?" He shoots his friend a strange look, frowning more deeply, almost in disbelief. "Are you grossed out?"
"I... I don't know..."
But even as he says it, he realizes that he isn't at all. He'd only acted repulsed because the other boys had all reacted the same way and he'd thought rejecting it was more normal than accepting it. The idea of Abe-kun's older brother holding hands with another boy isn't gross at all; it's actually kind of nice, and it makes Oikawa's stomach feel warm and jittery, like a belly full of warm milk right before bedtime.
And if he could, he would have loved to hold Iwa-chan's hand all day long.
In middle school, Oikawa is the apple of everyone's eye.
It's such a big change from elementary school that he's actually rather stunned at first, but he falls into the role of handsome volleyball prince easily, until there's no girl in school who can resist his charm.
Iwaizumi particularly hates it, and he listens to him complain every practice about how his ego needs to be taken down a notch.
"Don't be jealous, Iwa-chan," Oikawa likes to sing. "It makes you uglier than you already are." Having to dodge volleyballs to his face only makes him laugh, because Iwaizumi's red face and popping forehead vein are such familiar sights. While Oikawa's changed a lot in middle school, Iwaizumi has stayed almost the same, and that might just be what he loves most about his childhood friend.
But his carefree middle school days vanish before his eyes when Kageyama Tobio joins the team, a genius setter extraordinaire. He's got natural talent that sets him above the rest even before he starts putting in twice the effort of all the other first-years, and when Oikawa watches him at practice, he goes back to feeling like the abandoned little kid on the school playground who drew circles in the dirt and wished desperately that his only friend would spare him a glance.
No one can see more clearly than Iwaizumi how it's eating away at him. He's always been able to tell when Oikawa's putting on a mask, so all through practice, he's aware of a hard stare following his every move from behind as he laughs with his teammates and tries not to look at Kageyama any more than necessary.
"You all right?" he asks gruffly on the way home from practice, gym bag slung over his shoulder.
Oikawa rubs the back of his neck, smiling sheepishly at the ground. "Guess you got your wish, huh, Iwa-chan? Maybe Tobio will be exactly what my ego needs."
In hindsight, he should have expected the punch to his arm. Even he can tell he's spewing idiotic words, words he knows Iwaizumi wouldn't approve of and words he knows are only stalling the conversation, and Iwaizumi's never had much patience with him when it comes to putting on a show.
"I thought we went over this," he barks, kicking Oikawa in the side to accompany the punch. "Don't say stupid things, moron, and don't pretend you're fine when you're not."
"...Sorry, Iwa-chan," he chuckles, rubbing at the aching spot on his arm that would no doubt bruise. Iwaizumi's stopped holding back on his punches as the years go by; he says it's all because Oikawa has somehow gotten stupider.
While Oikawa might like to complain about his best friend's violent tendencies, he's actually relieved he has Iwa-chan around to take care of him, to hold him back from attacking Kageyama, to remind him that he has a whole team on his side, to beat sense into him about taking care of himself.
"Are you my mom, Iwa-chan?" he likes to joke often, just to watch him get red in the face and furious, but he also knows that Iwaizumi is someone even better.
His sister comes into town for his middle school graduation, her son in tow, and Oikawa spends all his time at Iwaizumi's just to avoid the madness in his home. It's so hard to find silence these days, but somehow just sitting quietly in Iwa-chan's room, lounging on his bed while he does homework at his study table, is all he needs to feel at peace again.
It's a rare evening when he comes home to find the house empty; his practice had run so long that he'd urged his family to go out to dinner without him, so he eats dinner in a silent kitchen for once and actually has the chance to relax on the couch for the first time in days.
When he turns on the TV, he finds that his sister had left some random movie in the DVD player when it instantly starts to play. He contemplates changing it for a moment, but then decides he really doesn't care enough and settles down to watch.
Watching that movie is his first call-back to that day on the school playground when he'd been nine – when all the kids had made fun of boys who liked boys and Oikawa hadn't understood their talk at all.
The innocent action flick takes a sudden turn with the start of an explicit scene, and Oikawa watches with wide, transfixed eyes as the two men on-screen wrap their tongues together in a heated kiss, hands running all over each other's bodies and under each other's clothes, desperately needing to feel more and more and more skin.
While Oikawa likes to pretend he's suave when girls run up to him in the school hallway, at fourteen he's still very innocent, and this is the first time he's ever seen two men kiss.
He watches the scene play out in its entirety, inching closer and closer to the television to appease his own curiosity. He doesn't realize he's holding his breath, but the churning in his stomach – the hot, intense coiling of his gut – is a sensation he can't ignore, especially when shirts are discarded and he clutches his knees like a lifeline.
The rest of the scene is very vanilla, fading out before things go too far, but Oikawa knows what had happened between them, can tell by the way they wake up the next morning cuddling under the covers, and the lump stuck in his throat refuses to be swallowed.
What's left of the movie, he watches in a fidgety mess; nail biting, finger tapping, knee shaking, quick breathing. He's still thinking about all the kissing and the panting and the touching each other all over. His stomach has yet to untwist and his heart's beating so heavily and so loudly against his ribcage that he can hear it in his ears and feel it all the way down in his knees.
His sudden jitters don't fade even when the credits roll, and with his mind foggy from what he had witnessed, he makes the mistake of going to bed.
He dreams in flashes that night.
Each one is so quick that they begin and end before he's even realized it, but they're all so similar that he starts to make sense of them – of heavy breathing, and lips against lips, and lips against skin, and kisses on thighs, and hickeys on collarbones, and tangled limbs. There's no face, but one dream is vivid enough that he can tell he's caressing broad shoulders, kissing a flat, expansive chest, being held in strong arms. There's a tent between their legs much like his own.
The white hot coil in his gut suddenly dissipates into intense, indescribable pleasure, and Oikawa's eyes snap open.
A name tumbles past his lips. Even if his lover hadn't had a face, he knows there's a face he wishes he'd seen in his dreams, and there's no denying it when he can't stop himself from whimpering out into the room.
Instantly, his eyes sting with the presence of tears, because how could he dream such a thing?
He stares at the ceiling, wide-eyed and unblinking, willing the tears to evaporate and the dread pooling in his stomach to stop stealing his breath. He doesn't have luck with either, and it's only made much worse when he lifts his blankets and peers into the darkness. His bed's sticky and soiled, and he feels sweaty and gross and absolutely humiliated as he changes clothes and strips the sheets off his bed, tears still stinging his eyes that he refuses to let fall.
He spends the rest of the night biting his trembling lip and willing himself to forget it had ever happened.
Iwaizumi purses his lips at the bags under Oikawa's eyes the next morning, the picture of disapproval. Before he clubs him over the head, however, like his temper no doubt tells him to do, he has the mind to ask, "Did you get any sleep last night?"
Oikawa thinks of his dream-ridden sleep and about lying awake in bed until the sun had come up, then sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "I... had a nightmare." He'd known Iwaizumi would notice his bags and immediately ask, so it's a prepared excuse.
Iwaizumi stares at him for a moment longer, searching his face and his small smile, before he sighs. "Shiratorizawa again? Or was it Kageyama this time?"
It's neither. It's Iwa-chan. But Oikawa can't say that, so he cups his neck and admits, "Both? It was about Tobio going to Shiratorizawa and teaming up with Ushiwaka to beat me."
Iwaizumi scoffs indignantly, massaging the side of his temple from what looks to be an Oikawa-induced headache. "Goddamn it, you're worrying that far into the future now?"
"I can't help it if I'm a worrier," he whines, linking his hands behind his head and peering at the sky. "I won't be satisfied until I've completely crushed Tobio-chan."
His best friend is obviously unamused if his flat, incredulous stare is any indication, but he skips over Oikawa's fantasy of crushing first-years and instead focuses on another issue, one that's been bothering him all morning.
"Why didn't you call me?" he asks in a low voice.
He's always been the first person Oikawa calls when plagued by worries, especially nightmares, because he always knows the words to ease him again. Oikawa doesn't pay much attention to what ungodly time of the night it is or whether he'll be waking Iwaizumi from a peaceful sleep, so there shouldn't be any reason he hadn't called last night.
Oikawa rolls his eyes. "Because I already knew you would have called me a dumbass and told me to live in the present." He scrunches his nose, whining, "I swear, you have no delicacy, Iwa-chan!"
The sharp response is immediate. "If you wanted delicacy, you shouldn't have made friends with the kid who almost killed you with a baseball."
Neither of them can keep from snickering, and that's how Oikawa manages to avoid telling Iwa-chan that last night he had come very, very close to ending their friendship.
High school life is reminiscent to his early middle school life, from before Kageyama had appeared and unknowingly destroyed everything. He has Iwa-chan by his side, girls flocking him everywhere he goes, and a volleyball team he can put complete trust into.
He's also gotten the hang of delicately turning down confessions, never completely turning away any girl but never completely committing himself to one either. Iwaizumi calls him a player, calling him out for stringing all these girls along, but it's still the system that works best – because he likes the attention, he likes making them happy, but somehow accepting a confession from any one of them just feels wrong.
"I'm just not a one woman kind of man, I guess," he chirps brightly. "Besides, volleyball is my first love."
"You sound like one of those people on the news who married their favorite doll or something," Iwaizumi responds flatly, showing no mercy when he cuts him down.
"How rude, Iwa-chan," he whines, draping himself over his shoulders just because he knows it would piss him off, especially when he's trying to sweep the gymnasium floor.
"Get off me," he snaps through gritted teeth, so of course Oikawa just laughs and hangs on tighter, and he ends up having to drag the setter around for the rest of clean-up, muttering angrily to himself about how that baseball should have shattered his head instead of his window.
For Oikawa, life is good.
But maybe karma decides he needs to pay for keeping his filthy night a secret from Iwa-chan, because it's during his third year in Aobajousai that he gets his second call-back to being nine and trapped in a huddle of boys on the school playground.
It's become common for girls to bring Oikawa lunch and fight over whose cooking he would sample each day, and he's caught in the middle of one such argument, attempting to appease his fans in the middle of the courtyard, when there's a scuffle nearby that puts an end to their bickering. They all watch as a skinny, baby-faced boy is shoved hard into the wall, surrounded by third-years twice his size with faces marred by savage grins.
"Oh! They're picking on poor Sahara-kun again," one of the girls sighs, watching in sympathy as the boy tries to escape the huddle and is violently shoved right back into place again. Oikawa watches it happen with a firm set to his jaw, frowning even more deeply as the third-years laugh at the look of pure terror on the boy's face and crowd in even closer.
"I can't remember the last time I saw the kid and he wasn't being bullied," someone else adds, covering her mouth in silent horror. "Someone should do something."
Several pairs of eyes swivel towards Oikawa, but he's already taken a step towards the group of boys, because he can't stand the way those third-years are laughing as they kick a boy so much younger and so much smaller than themselves, as if they think they're on top of the world and they can't see that they're really at the bottom of the barrel.
But he's only taken that one, single step before another girl pipes up, "How terrible. And all just because he's gay."
Sahara takes a kick to his stomach, spluttering and gasping from the pain, and all Oikawa can think about is Abe-kun – standing up for his brother, being ridiculed for something he could not control, finding his backpack at the bottom of a pond, washing off the cruel writing on his desk, taking everything in silence in the name of his brother even though he'd become the class joke.
Sahara whines as pudgy, harsh fingers yank at his curls, and for a brief flicker of a moment, Oikawa imagines himself in his place.
He takes that one, single step back.
"Let's... go tell a teacher," he suggests softly, looking away as the poor boy is blatantly dragged away for who knew what kind of torture. "Fighting is dangerous. A teacher will know how to stop it."
"Good thinking, Oikawa-san!" A gaggle of girls rush off together to find a faculty member, but probably everyone knows somewhere inside them that it'll be too late.
That afternoon finds him on the school roof, on the end of yet another confession from yet another hopeful girl. It's just like any other confession he's received, except when she ducks into a bow, a love letter clutched in her trembling hands, Oikawa thinks about being nine and learning that boys liking boys is not allowed, and about Abe-kun's older brother holding hands with another boy at the ice-cream shop, and about Abe-kun crying at the words written on his desk because he loves his brother so much, and about Sahara being dragged away by the hair and looking terrified at the pain that awaits him, and it's almost on instinct that he accepts.
Iwaizumi tracks him down in the middle of practice as he's resting, back pressed against one end of the gym and a water bottle clutched in his hand, and he assumes a similar position on his side, close enough that their thighs touch.
"Tell me I'm dreaming," he says in fake wonder. "Did you actually accept a confession from a girl or is that just a rumor?"
"No need to sound so surprised, Iwa-chan." He scoffs. "Even a rugged lone wolf such as myself craves company every now and then."
"Lone wolf, my ass," Iwaizumi grumbles with a scoff of his own. There's no one who's terrified of being alone more than Oikawa, and there's no one who knows that better than him. He spins the volleyball in his hand, then snickers quietly. "Does she know you sleep in alien pajamas?"
"Iwa-chan!" he instantly whines, banging their shoulders together. "That's when we were kids!"
"Please. Do you think that just because you stopped wearing them when you sleep over at my place, I wouldn't find out that you still wear them at home?"
"Who told you?" he demands, eyes widening in horror.
Iwaizumi smirks. "A little birdie told me."
His nephew. It's so obvious. "I knew my sister moving back to the neighborhood with that little brat would be trouble," he seethes, narrowing his eyes dangerously while Iwaizumi laughs at his expense.
"But, seriously, Oikawa," he says once his laughter's settled down. "I think this'll be good for you. You always kind of string them along but never commit. Maybe a girlfriend can change that."
"When did you become such an expert on relationships, you virgin?" he replies coolly, then howls in pain at the punch to his side. It had been worth it. Still, he knows Iwaizumi means well, that he's looking out for him. He probably thinks that a girlfriend would mean Oikawa might even feel less lonely now, because no one worries more about Oikawa's loneliness than Iwaizumi.
But he can't bring himself to feel thankful. Normally Iwaizumi's concern makes him feel warm all over, like he's got his very own protector watching out for him and his interests and his feelings. But not on this issue. Hearing Iwa-chan tell him that a girlfriend would do him good only makes him want to curl in on himself under a tree and draw circles in the dirt.
"Hey... Iwa-chan?" he mumbles quietly, staring at his sneakers.
"I won't–" He pauses, unsure and hesitant, draws circles around his water bottle, then moistens his lips and tries again. "I won't go out with her if you tell me not to."
It's a long-shot, he knows. He's not even sure why he says it. Maybe he wants to know that Iwa-chan wants him all to himself, even a little bit, just like he wants Iwa-chan all to himself too. Because he knows that if Iwa-chan asked, he would have dumped his one-hour girlfriend in a heartbeat.
But Iwaizumi shoots him a strange look. "Why would I do that?" he asks, still aimlessly playing with his volleyball. "I meant what I said, Oikawa. I think she'll be good for you."
"Yeah. I know."
He keeps staring at his shoes so that he won't have to fake a smile, because Iwaizumi can always see right through them. But he also inches his leg away, so that their thighs are no longer touching.
Oikawa has never told a soul, but in the last year of middle school, he'd seen Abe-kun's older brother for himself.
He'd stepped onto the sidewalk, yawning from the exhaustion of vigorous practice and a little sad that Iwaizumi had to go on ahead for a doctor's appointment, when he'd glanced across the street per chance and spotted two boys on the sidewalk opposite. They hadn't been in an ice-cream shop, hadn't even been near one, but still they'd been holding hands, fingers tightly clasped together. And they'd been laughing, their heads bent together, flushes on their cheeks as they leaned in a little closer than they really needed to.
Oikawa hadn't been able to explain how warm he'd suddenly felt all over – like the kind of warm after a service ace, or the kind when he aced an exam he'd forgotten to study for, or the kind when he'd held an infant Takeru in his arms for the first time, or the kind when he'd woken up one morning to find that he and Iwaizumi had accidentally dozed off together the night before. It started at his toes, curling them with pleasure, and then traveled up his spine and made his head daze from the thrill, like he'd been floating.
There had been something about watching these two college boys clumsily bump shoulders as they walked, smothering grins on their pursed lips, like they loved each other so much that it made them fumble over simple things, that had made Oikawa's heart race. And it hadn't been in that terrifying way when he'd watched those two men kiss in his sister's movie, or when he'd woken from that horrible dream with soiled sheets and his best friend's name on his tongue. It had been pure, like he wanted to be in their place.
But reality had been harsh, and that afternoon, it had found him in the form of a group of high schoolers he passed on the sidewalk.
"Look at those two," they snickered, shoving each other to point out the couple across the street, and Oikawa's heart had missed a beat as their words fell to his ears.
The things they'd said had been nothing less than vile, dirtying their tongues in ways Oikawa could never have imagined until he heard them for himself. The filthiest of names fell from their lips, made out to be jokes, like they couldn't hurt a soul if they laughed about it, like the fourteen-year-old boy listening in wasn't absorbing them all with a heart that suddenly felt too heavy to bear. They took something beautiful, and they tainted it with their obscene words, their vulgar jokes, their shrill laughter that echoed in Oikawa's head for days after.
Nausea rolled through him. He wanted to throw up. He didn't want to be here. He wanted to be far away. He wanted Iwa-chan at his side, but at the same time, he didn't, because he was afraid people would see them together and say those same vile things in the same flippant way that they made knock-knock jokes – but with a punchline that stomped on things that were pure.
Oikawa had watched the couple round the corner, watched them finally sneak a kiss when they thought no one was looking, and he'd sworn to himself, I'm not like that.
He doesn't like holding hands with his girlfriend. He doesn't like kissing his girlfriend. He doesn't like being with his girlfriend.
Her chapstick smeared all over his lips just feels wrong, and her hands are uncomfortably dainty and soft, so unlike the rough, calloused palms of his teammates that he's used to high-fiving. Oikawa wonders if dating is supposed to make him feel like an outsider, like he's doing something entirely sickening every time she bats her pretty eyelashes at him. It just feels all wrong.
Throwing himself into volleyball is just as much an excuse as it is real. He really does want to improve, especially after their crushing defeat against Ushiwaka at the Inter-High, so all that extra time and sweat he puts in on the court are fueled by drive and dedication. But he also likes having an excuse not to walk his girlfriend home from school, her dainty hand in his, or having an excuse to turn off his cellphone when her number flashes across the screen, or having an excuse as to why he can't take her on her dream date every weekend.
It's not much later that he has to practice his sheepish expression in the mirror, so that when Iwaizumi asks why his girlfriend isn't around so much these days, he wears it convincingly and laughs, "Oh, she dumped me. Said I was too focused on volleyball."
"Unbelievable." Iwaizumi shakes his head, the picture of disapproval. "I should have beaten some sense into you more often. Were you dating your girlfriend or were you dating volleyball?"
"How mean, Iwa-chan," he pouts. "I just went through a break up! At least try to be sensitive for once in your life." But his tone's so light and free, like he's flying, and Iwaizumi rolls his eyes at how he's not even trying to pretend to be hurt.
"Well, at least we've got something to show for it," he grumbles, shrugging away his concerns. "We did win the practice match last week."
"See? There you go!" he exclaims cheerfully, linking his hands behind his head and beaming at the sky. He can't remember the last time he'd genuinely smiled like this. His girlfriend had never been able to pick out his fake smiles from his sincere ones, not like Iwa-chan.
Iwaizumi eyes his grin incredulously. "Yup, you're definitely gonna marry a volleyball and end up on the news one day," he quips, killing Oikawa's good mood in a flash.
"Iwa-chan, how cruel!"
Just because he's stopped pretending it doesn't exist doesn't mean the problem of poor, bullied Sahara ever goes away. On some level the whole school knows, and every once in a while a kind soul will step in and ask the bullies to stop, but most people just avoid looking directly at the scene and scurry away before they can be caught up in something dangerous. Sahara might have a baby face and doe-like eyes that plead for help, but it says something about the student body when most of them can act like they never saw anything in the first place.
Oikawa considers stepping in on a few occasions. He's realized now, after having a brief girlfriend himself, that the boy had only ever had two options: admit that he is who he is, or live life going through the motions with a girl and trying to pretend it doesn't feel entirely, completely wrong. That's what makes him brave.
And maybe that's why Oikawa never intervenes – because he can't stand him, can't stand that he's not a coward and can't stand that he's the image of what Oikawa would become if he wasn't so cowardly either.
"How terrible," he simply drawls when they pass by those horrendous scenes, draping his arms around his admirers and avoiding eye-contact. "Let's go get a teacher, shall we?"
It's what all anybody has done, and it's what everyone does one afternoon, not long after the Spring High, when Sahara's getting pummeled by those same third-years right in the middle of the courtyard, with half the school sitting outside for lunch. Oikawa just grins widely when he spots Iwaizumi finally making his way over and waves a hand over his head.
"Iwa-chan!" he calls, grinning like he doesn't have a care in the world because he's just so excited to be having lunch with his best friend.
But Iwaizumi stalks right by him, and when he looks closely in his surprise, he realizes that the scowl on his face is just a tint darker than usual, that his back's tense like he's steeling himself for a confrontation rather than a nice lunch. Oikawa watches in gut-clenching terror as he walks up to Sahara and those bullies, just wanders up to them breezily like it's perfectly normal, and slams a right hook into a third-year's face.
The courtyard goes quiet, the collective shock ringing in the silence, and Oikawa watches everything happen in slow motion as the attention shifts from battered and bruised Sahara onto his Iwa-chan.
He's not really sure who's the first one to land a punch on him – the brawl is a messy tangle of limbs and punches and kicks – but Iwaizumi spits and flecks of blood from his split lip splatter on the ground, and then he's right back into the fight, eyes steeled, jaw hardened, fists clenched.
Oikawa jumps to his feet without a thought, because of course he'll have Iwa-chan's back no matter what, because no one punches him and gets away with it, because between watching Iwa-chan hurt from afar and hurting right alongside him, the choice is obvious. He jumps into the fray, and they've got each other's backs.
The nurse presses ice against Iwaizumi's swollen lip and leaves to tend to the other injured third-years, and Oikawa takes the opportunity to slip into the room and sit on the bed beside him.
"How the hell do you not have a scratch on you?" Iwaizumi grumbles, flashing him a sideways glance.
Oikawa grins, holding up a peace sign just because he knows he'll hate it. "I'm a black belt, didn't you know, Iwa-chan?"
But Oikawa knows the truth – that Iwaizumi had looked out for him during their brief fight, making sure that not a single punch landed on his best friend even if it meant taking more for himself. Oikawa doesn't want to make some joke about it like he always does, but he also doesn't know how to bring it up otherwise, so he stays silent.
Iwaizumi's not too bad himself, complaining and the week of detention aside. The split lip is his only serious injury, while the third-years he'd beaten up are worse for wear in the next room. They're only lucky that a teacher had intervened not too long after Oikawa jumped in, or Iwaizumi might just have sent them to the hospital. Watching him fight had almost been like watching art: enthralling.
"How's the kid?" he grunts around his ice pack. Apparently he doesn't know the name.
"Sahara," Oikawa fills him in quietly, dangling his legs just slightly above the floor. "He's fine, I think. I heard the nurse say he didn't get hurt during the fight. His only injuries were, you know, what those bastards did to him."
"That's good." They sit in silence for a while, both just aimlessly staring at the floor tiles and lost in their own thoughts. Oikawa wants so badly to ask why he did it – why he jumped into a fight for a kid he barely knew when everyone else had pretended not to see it – but before he can even begin to form the thought, Iwaizumi exhales loudly, gruffly. Clenching his fist on his thigh, he glowers dangerously at empty space and mumbles, "I'm... a bad person."
Of all the things he might have expected Iwaizumi to say, that doesn't meet his expectations even slightly, and he's visibly taken aback when a crease forms between his eyebrows.
"I knew it was happening, you know," Iwaizumi continues in a low voice. "I saw it in the halls all the time. Poor kid didn't deserve it. And I stopped it every once in a while, sure, but I'd just step in and tell them to lay off, maybe take him away. Never anything concrete, though. Never anything to make it stop completely. I... didn't want to get suspended from the team for fighting and let everybody down."
Teeth clenched, he squeezes his fist until it starts to quiver, that's how disappointed he is in himself, and Oikawa can't even fathom that someone as selfless as Iwa-chan would ever, ever think he's a bad person.
"Iwa-chan," he says sharply, glaring at the ground. "You like to call me a dumbass so much that you haven't realized you're one, too."
Iwaizumi instantly scowls, upper lip baring back over his teeth. "Oika–"
"No one else stopped for that kid, Iwa-chan. Only you."
The whole school had pretended like it wasn't happening. The whole school had let it carry on because no one had wanted to get involved in something messy. Even he'd never intervened, even though a poor first-year had needed his help, because of his own petty reasons. But Iwa-chan had stepped in like some gallant hero when no one else had, and Oikawa is reminded of how he'd gruffly handed Abe-kun a tissue to dry his tears with and threatened everyone in class to lay off the boy when they'd been nine. He's always been a hero. And it's not fair that he thinks of himself as a bad person for it, not when he'd only been thinking of his teammates. If Oikawa wants to find a worse person in the world, he knows he needs only to look at himself.
"Let's just be happy everyone's safe, 'kay?" he chirps, smiling and kicking his legs against the tiles.
Iwaizumi smirks, though it's half-covered by the ice. "Even you can say something good every now and then, huh?"
They grin and bump shoulders.
When they arrive at school the next morning, Sahara is there waiting by the front entrance. He spots Iwaizumi, who almost misses his skinny frame because he's too busy berating Oikawa for staying up late to watch match videos, and his face perks up.
"Good morning, Iwaizumi-san!" he chirps, falling into step beside the two third-years.
Both Oikawa and Iwaizumi glance down at him in surprise. He doesn't look too good; there's a worrisome gash on his cheek and one of his eyes has blackened overnight. Even so, he's positively beaming.
"Oh, hey, kid," Iwaizumi replies, and after a moment of hesitation, he reaches out and ruffles his hair. Sahara's face could have lit up the sky. "You doing all right?"
"Those third-years who were picking on me got suspended," he practically sings, then gestures towards his cheek. "And this is nothing. I've had worse."
It's a disturbing admittance, made even worse by his blasé attitude about it, and though Oikawa and Iwaizumi glance at each other, they really have no idea how to respond. Sahara saves them the trouble by eagerly pointing to Iwaizumi's bag, casually slung over his shoulder.
"Can I carry that to your classroom for you?" he offers, looking hopeful.
Iwaizumi glances between him and his bag, tensing from discomfort. "Er, no, that's all right. I've got it."
"Oh." He deflates a little, but it's not long before he perks up again. Hopping a few steps away from the boys, he points over his shoulder and adds, "I should get to class, but let me know if there's anything I can do for you, okay? See ya, Iwaizumi-san!" With a cheerful wave, he bounces into the school building.
The two watch him go, surprise written on their faces, before Oikawa claps a hand over his mouth and barely contains his snickers.
"Looks like you have your own fan club now, Iwa-chan," he teases, a sly smile stretching across his lips. "Maybe now you'll stop being so jealous of mine."
"Oh, shut up." Iwaizumi flushes from all the sudden attention, and when Oikawa makes the mistake of finally belting out a laugh, he smacks his back with his bag, knocking him out of breath and sending him stumbling forward a few paces.
Despite Oikawa's joking, however, there seems to be truth in his words, because after that morning, Sahara is everywhere.
He's there every morning, waiting at the front gate to ask without fail whether he can carry Iwaizumi's bag. He's there between classes, offering to run out and buy Iwaizumi juice from the vending machines before his next subject. He's there every lunch hour, shyly asking if he can join the two boys and then giddily sitting as close as possible to Iwaizumi without actually getting in his personal space.
Oikawa is only annoyed at first, since his alone time with Iwa-chan is constantly interrupted and they haven't had much time these days to be alone with their futures fast approaching. But then he starts to notice things, like the way Sahara's face perks up at the first sight of Iwaizumi rounding the corner in the morning, or the way he stares intently any time Iwaizumi dares to smile one of his rare smiles, or the way he seems breathless whenever Iwaizumi laughs, or the way he has to stop himself from instinctively grasping Iwaizumi's hand as they walk, or the way he secretly looks at Iwaizumi like he's the sun and the moon and the stars.
And Oikawa realizes all at once that, oh, god, the kid has a crush on Iwa-chan.
He should have seen it coming, because Iwaizumi is his savior, his knight in shining armor – the only one to treat him like he matters, like it's okay for him to be the way he is.
And Oikawa knows it's awful – just awful – but suddenly he hates Sahara. Suddenly he can't stand the way he smiles when Iwaizumi smiles, or the way he laughs when Iwaizumi laughs. He can't stand how content he looks whenever Iwaizumi ruffles his hair in a playful way. He can't stand the way he brings Iwaizumi a juice box every morning after Chemistry without fail, beaming whenever he's rewarded with a chuckle and a word of thanks.
Iwaizumi must see it. The kid's like a lovesick puppy, following him around with his tail wagging, and it's obvious to everyone. Iwaizumi must know, but he doesn't seem to mind at all, because he goes on ruffling the kid's hair and thanking him for the juice and smiling his way.
Oikawa watches them sit close together one lunch break, just grinning together over something mindless, and suddenly his chest feels tight and he can't breathe and he wants to lean into Iwa-chan's ear and beg him, Look at me, Iwa-chan. Remember me. Think about me. Look at me, look at me, look at me...
But just like that lonely day on the school playground, he can't seem to bring himself to take Iwaizumi's hand.
A lazy afternoon finds the two loafing in Oikawa's room, occasionally punctuating the silence with volleyball talk but otherwise just enjoying being so near each other. Oikawa lounges on his bed, staring at the ceiling and listening to the squeak of Iwaizumi spinning aimlessly in his computer chair, or to the thunk of him repeatedly throwing and catching a baseball. It's days like these that remind Oikawa how lucky he is to have someone he can have comfortable silences with.
Then Iwaizumi decides to break that silence by clearing his throat, not just once, but multiple times, like he's got something to say but can't seem to get out the words lodged in his throat.
"Listen... Oikawa..." he begins awkwardly, hesitantly, then apparently decides to just come out with it, like ripping off a band-aid. "If you... don't want Sahara around anymore, you can tell me, you know."
Oikawa's heart skips a beat, then thuds loudly in his ears. He turns and props himself up on his elbows, so they can see eye-to-eye, and hopes he sounds casual when he asks, "Why would I want that?"
Iwaizumi frowns. He's always hated being answered with a question, almost as much as someone beating around the bush in a conversation. "Look, I can tell you're not his biggest fan, all right? I've told you a million times, your fake smiles don't fool me." Before Oikawa can interrupt, he plows on. "But it's not a problem, okay? If you don't like the kid, I mean. Despite the stupid act you always put on, I know you're not... the best at getting close to strangers."
Oikawa parts his lips, just staring at him in his surprise, and it seems to embarrass him because he turns gruff and rubs the back of his neck.
"Look," he snaps, getting defensive like he often does in stressful situations. "All I'm saying is, if you're uncomfortable and you're asking me to choose between you or the kid... then, well, of course it's you, dumbass."
"He likes you, you know," Oikawa suddenly blurts out, then instantly regrets it when the red on Iwaizumi's cheeks makes his stomach twist. But it's too late to turn back. "Sahara has a crush on you, Iwa-chan."
"Yeah, I... I know." He scratches his hair out of frustration. "I-I mean, I figured."
"And you're going to reject the poor kid just because of me?" His voice is low, almost betraying how abandoned he's felt the past few weeks. "He hero-worships you."
"Why do you think I even saved him?" He huffs so loudly that it jostles his shoulders, and he can't seem to meet Oikawa's eyes out of embarrassment. "Sure, it bothered me that he was getting bullied for no good reason. But he... the kid kinda reminded me of... you."
Oikawa almost stops breathing for a moment. "Me?"
"Yeah. I mean, he kind of reminded me of you when you were little, you know? Kinda lonely and stuff. I figured he needed a friend and he'd be all right. Like you were. You know?"
He swallows, moistens his lips with a quick flick of his tongue, then breathes out, "You saved him because of me?"
"Something like that? Just know that you can tell me stuff... dummy." The insult seems to work as a nullifier, making him less tense, and he exhales loudly. "Okay?"
Oikawa's heart is drumming in his ears and his palms have gone sweaty and his lips feel dry even though he'd just licked them, and he wonders just how much he's allowed to tell Iwa-chan before their eleven years of friendship end in devastation.
Because it feels like a weight has been lifted off his chest, and he's realized finally just why he hates Sahara. It has nothing to do with how he can't get close to strangers and everything to do with Iwa-chan being his knight in shining armor since they were kids. It has to do with how much he wants it to always stay that way. It has to do with how he wants to have Iwa-chan all to himself, how he wants Iwa-chan to be his and only his. And, he realizes, a pang in his heart, it has to do with how he wants to hold Iwa-chan's hand in the ice-cream shop and kiss him when he thinks no one is watching.
He thinks about the way he always perks up when he finds Iwa-chan waiting for him on the doorstep in the mornings, or the way he tries to soak up every one of Iwa-chan's smiles and hold them close to his heart, or the way it feels like he's been punched in the gut whenever Iwa-chan laughs, or the way he always aches to hold Iwa-chan's hand but just can't bring himself to. He thinks about how Iwa-chan is his sun and his moon and his stars.
"Okay," he replies softly, looking down at his hands. "I don't mind Sahara. Just... make sure you don't forget that I'm your best friend, okay? I'm number one in your heart."
Iwaizumi shakes his head, his eyes rolling dryly in response to the typical answer. "You're an idiot," he huffs, once again tossing his baseball in the air. But there's a light shade of red creeping up his neck and that's enough.
Oikawa lies flat on his back, stares numbly at the ceiling, and wonders what those nine-year-olds on the playground would have said if they'd known he was in love with Iwa-chan.
In the weeks leading up to graduation, Oikawa really, properly looks at Iwaizumi.
He stops filtering his thoughts, stops forcing himself to pretend they're only best friends, and for the first time, he really sees him. He sees the gruffness of his unpracticed smile, the broadness of his steady back, the kind of reassuring posture that comes with being Seijou's ace.
The juniors on the team are dedicated enough that they're already practicing for next year, and the third-years find time to join them when they're not in parent-teacher conferences or study groups. That's when he gets to see Iwaizumi in those muscle shirts he loves so much, sleeves past his shoulders to put his arms on display, and while Oikawa would often tease him about his gross, beefy muscles through high school, now he just pictures running his tongue up their length.
And he doesn't stop those kinds of thoughts anymore. He's not ashamed and he's not frightened, and he'll admit it: he wants Iwa-chan, all of him.
But he also wants to keep their easy friendship the way it's always been, so he pokes at his arms and jeers, "Wow, you sure love your gross muscles, don't you, Iwa-chan?"
He finds that he loves the wrinkles that form on Iwaizumi's forehead or the way his face gets red from anger. He's always loved it, ever since their childhood. That's why he's always loved riling up Iwaizumi more than anyone else. It's only now that he's finally realizing it, finally admitting it. Like he's admitting all sorts of things to himself lately.
In the weeks leading up to graduation, they're both also busy scrambling to figure out their futures.
Oikawa gets offered volleyball scholarships from schools all over the country that are dying to get their hands on the star setter, but he waits until Iwaizumi makes a choice and then chooses that one. Iwaizumi doesn't talk to him for days after, grumbling about stupid reasons and wasted opportunities and a future that could have been.
"But I want to keep playing volleyball with Iwa-chan!" he finally bursts out, clearly distressed when Iwaizumi won't even acknowledge him on their walk home together.
That's when Iwaizumi finally looks at him, rolls his eyes, and mutters, "You really are an idiot." But there's red creeping up his neck like usual, and that's how Oikawa knows he's forgiven.
"Besides, Iwa-chan!" he chirps, a spring returning to his steps. "We've been together for so long, how would you ever live without me?"
"I think it's the other way around, dumbass," he grouses, rolling his eyes and swinging his bag over his shoulder. A thought seems to occur to him, because he pauses for a step before a frown arches his lips. "Is that what this is about?" he demands roughly. "Are you thinking that I'll cook and clean for you, and be your alarm clock, and let you copy my homework? Because then you've got another thing coming, Assikawa!"
"I'm hurt that you think so badly of me," he pretends to sniffle, hand over his heart as he somehow manages to keep a straight face. "I just want to be together forever with my best friend. Don't you want to be together forever with me, too?"
"You're sappy and disgusting!" Iwaizumi barks, and Oikawa laughs like he doesn't have a care in the world as he dodges the swipe of his bag, skipping a few paces ahead and then sticking out his tongue in retaliation. The carefree moment is so familiar that it's like he hasn't even been ignored for days up until this point.
Even so, he can't help but wonder, Well, don't you?
Graduation comes and goes in a whirlwind of tears and farewells and cherry blossoms, and a few days into their break, the third-years of the volleyball team meet for ramen for possibly the last time in a long while.
"So," Hanamaki drawls, knuckles tucked under his chin, "you two are staying together, huh?" He flits his gaze between the two of them, then smiles in a bit of amusement. "Figures."
Matsukawa nods along in agreement. "I'm more amazed that both of you managed to pass the entrance exam."
Oikawa makes a noise of indignation when both their gazes flicker towards him, while Iwaizumi suppresses a snicker behind his palm. "I'm plenty smart, I'll have you know!" he snaps defensively, folding his arms and looking away. "We both took the same exam, didn't we?"
The two mumble something intangible to gloss over the topic, but there are smiles playing on their faces as they dig into their ramen. Oikawa briefly considers kicking up a fuss, but it's always been this way with the Seijou third-years and he knows by now it gets him nowhere.
"The two of you are staying in Miyagi?" Iwaizumi pipes up, briefly looking over the edge of his bowl.
"That's the plan. Come visit us some time, won't you?"
"Don't be strangers," Matsukawa adds quietly, and a lull falls over their table, broken only by the periodic slurps of ramen being eaten.
Oikawa and Iwaizumi glance at each other, matching melancholy in their eyes, and for that brief moment they're sure they're both remembering the same things; all four of them quivering from slight nerves as they joined the team in their first year; the training camps they've attended together every year of high school, and a different, memorable mishap for each one; the matches they've played, both official and practice, and even those impromptu games when the four had happened to stay late in the gym and couldn't resist; and getting ramen together just like this after every tournament, Oikawa somehow always burdened with the payment.
He finds it difficult to swallow the sudden lump in his throat, so Iwaizumi turns back to his food and casually says the words for both of them. "Kind of impossible for us to ever be strangers, don't you think?"
Both boys smile subtly from across the table. "Yeah."
The walk home after is one like so many from their past, with talk of volleyball and their beloved team and teasing Oikawa any chance they get. For that tiny patch of time, they even manage to forget that this is their last meeting for a long while, and it doesn't hit them until they reach that splitting point where Matsukawa and Hanamaki go one way and Oikawa and Iwaizumi go the other. A hush falls over them, as the four boys stare at the ground or at the wall, not sure what to say because it'll be the last thing said between them.
Hanamaki is the one to finally grin, a soft smile, and drawl in his usual way, "Well, captain, vice-captain." His gaze flits between the two of them. "It's been a pleasure."
The boys smirk and bump fists, Oikawa and Hanamaki, Iwaizumi and Matsukawa. Then they cross their arms over and bump fists with the other. And then, they part ways.
The two lounge in Iwaizumi's room after, both lost in memories of the past three years and the teammates they're leaving behind, trying their best to engrave Hanamaki's and Matsukawa's faces into their minds. Going their separate paths, never knowing when they're to meet again – Oikawa doesn't say it, but he's also lost in the dreadful fantasy that this could just as easily have been his and Iwaizumi's fate as well.
"You really think we'll see them again?" he asks quietly, lounging on the bed and taking up all the space with his splayed limbs.
"They're not dying, stupid."
Solemnity always brings out irritation in Iwaizumi, so while he had surprisingly not kicked up a fuss about Oikawa claiming his bed and getting booted to his desk chair, he's also been angrily pressing buttons on his computer. Oikawa listens to the rhythmic click, click, click for as long as he can bear the silence, but curiosity's always been one of his weaknesses and he can't resist rolling over on the bed to watch. Iwaizumi looks so engrossed in his task that he seems to have even forgotten he's not alone, and Oikawa loses himself in his face; in the hard set of his jaw, the blue screen reflection in his eyes, the light wrinkles spread across his forehead as he concentrates. He wonders when Iwa-chan had become so handsome.
Springing off the bed, he lazily strides across the room and leans over Iwaizumi's shoulder, close enough that he can smell the faint ramen scent still on his skin, but just far enough that his chest can't press into his back.
"What are you up to anyway?" he asks, curiously running his gaze down the computer screen.
Iwaizumi startles at their sudden closeness, not having heard his light footsteps, and a dull shade of red colors his cheeks as he quickly lunges for his computer in an attempt to cover the screen. But it's too late.
"Apartment listings?" Oikawa frowns, confused as to the reason Iwaizumi would need to look up such a thing in the first place, until he makes the connection between their common link. "Two bedroom apartments in Tokyo?" Jaw slacking, he stares at the back of Iwaizumi's head and notices how pink his ears have turned. "Iwa-chan?"
There's a small stretch of tense silence, and then Iwaizumi slowly peels himself away from his computer, exhaling loudly as he does so at the embarrassment of being discovered. "Guess there's no point in hiding it now," he grunts, scratching his scalp in frustration.
Oikawa spins his chair around and watches him become a gruff, sheepish mess before his eyes.
"I just thought it'd be cheaper this way, you know?" he grunts, looking about the room. "Sharing the rent and all. And neither of us has lived alone before. And, well, looking for strangers to board with is a pain from what I hear. I-I mean, you're already a pain, but at least you're pain I know how to handle. And, fuck, I couldn't live with myself, setting you on some other poor bastard. And it'll be like training camp, but a lot longer, so technically it won't even be anything new–"
"Iwa-chan," he interrupts him, a buzz in his ears because he can barely believe what he's hearing. And, oh, he hopes he's hearing right. His breathing is suddenly so very loud. "Are you... asking me to move in with you?"
Iwaizumi visibly tenses, almost curling in on himself. "Don't... say it like that," he grumbles, running a hand down his flushed face.
Oikawa shakes his head, clears his throat, wiggles his toes, and tries to think through the fog in his mind. He tries again, "Are you saying that you want to live together?"
He just looks at him expectantly, an anxious tick in his leg, and asks, "So, what do you say?"
Oikawa doesn't want to say anything. He just wants to crawl onto Iwa-chan's lap, wants to straddle his hips, wants to kiss him all over his face, wants to leave them both breathless and panting and wanting more. He wants to suggest that maybe instead of two bedrooms they could rent an apartment with just one, a room they could share with a bed they could sleep together and wake up next to each other in.
Instead, a sly grin erupts on his face. "I knew you couldn't live without me," he drawls, playfully tapping Iwaizumi's nose. "You want to be together forever with me, don't you, Iwa-chan?"
"Oh, fuck off, Assikawa," he snaps, angrily spinning back around in his chair and returning to his computer. He's clenching his teeth so hard he can almost hear them grinding down in size.
But he continues scrolling down the page of listings, carefully considering each one, and Oikawa wordlessly brings in another chair and joins him so they can choose a place they'll both like. They'll be roommates after all.
Tokyo is nothing new to either of them. They've had practice matches they've attended and trips their families have taken together, and Oikawa's sister had even lived in the city for a short while, before moving back to Miyagi with Takeru, so he's visited enough times that he knows his way around.
But standing in their empty apartment, nothing but clear walls around them and soft carpet under their feet, is like discovering the city all over again. It's a Tokyo where he and Iwaizumi are roommates and it's guaranteed that they'll be together for at least four more years.
It's a Tokyo where he can wake up, rubbing at his groggy eyes as he shuffles out of his bedroom, and find Iwaizumi shirtless in the kitchen first thing in the morning. He's seen him shirtless countless of times, but now he has a folded apron wrapped around his waist as he cooks them breakfast, his back muscles pulling as he flips an omelette, and Oikawa realizes he's not salivating because of the delicious smell.
Iwaizumi looks over his shoulder and finds him leaning against the fridge, arms folded, just watching him silently.
He scowls. "Don't just stand there, dumbass. Set the table or something. Our first morning here and you're already slacking, but don't think for a second that that's gonna cut it."
"Iwa-chan, don't look away or you might burn our food," he teases instead, grinning lazily despite the scolding he'd received. He strides over and peers around Iwaizumi's shoulder to watch him work. Just one step closer and he could have touched taut, inviting skin, but he needs to show some constraint; it's practice for the next four years, and he realizes that this is what his life is going to be from now on – just moments of wanting Iwa-chan and having to keep a hair's width distance.
"I won't," he snaps, rolling his eyes. "I know better. Have you forgotten just who you've pushed your training camp kitchen duty off to every year since we were kids?"
"My hands are too beautiful to risk injury," he chirps, then dodges when Iwaizumi swipes the spatula at him.
Iwaizumi has nice hands, too, he thinks to himself later, in the middle of breakfast at the table. They're large and calloused, much like Oikawa's – the hands of a volleyball player. But they're also tan, and the skin across his knuckles is taut and sturdy. Oikawa notices the way he holds his cup of tea; he doesn't bother with the dainty handle, but instead grips it fully round the middle, his thumb absentmindedly roving over the edge. Suddenly it's hard to swallow.
"Eat your breakfast, stupid," Iwaizumi snaps at him, when he notices he's staring. "And don't think I didn't notice how late you went to bed last night. Damn it, Oikawa, when're you gonna kick those bad habits? They'll kill you someday now that you'll have a college workload."
"Even my own mother doesn't lecture me this much, Iwa-chan," he laughs, but dutifully pops a bite of omelette into his mouth. It's delicious.
"Have you forgotten we need to clean out the apartment and pack away all the boxes and run errands all day?" Iwaizumi scowls. "If you're half dead on your feet, what exactly are you gonna get done?"
"Mmm, I'm not worried." He grins, playful but sure of himself. "Because you'd carry me if you had to!"
Iwaizumi specially leans over to smack the side of his head. "Carry your own damn self, stupid."
I don't know if I know how to, Iwa-chan, he wants to tell him. I'm so used to you always being there to help me carry at least half. But he doesn't say it aloud, because he has a feeling it would only irk Iwaizumi more. And maybe then he'd stop, so that Oikawa would learn to carry himself without Iwaizumi around as a crutch. And, well, he doesn't want to think of a world where Iwa-chan isn't by his side.
He watches Iwaizumi's Adam's apple bob as he gulps his tea, tries not to think about what it might be like to kiss it, and hums, "You wouldn't let me collapse in the first place."
Their college campus is pretty but expansive, and so they don't get many chances to see each other on the days their classes end up on opposite ends of the school ground. But they find reasons to see each other. They take their breaks at the same time, though mostly that's done by Oikawa taking it upon himself to break into Iwaizumi's student account (he's used the same password since they were kids) and scheduling it for him. Oikawa often forgets his textbooks back at the apartment and has to text Iwaizumi to please, please, pretty please drop it off in between classes. And, of course, they have volleyball.
The new team is okay, for the most part. Oikawa has mastered the art of fake cheer and has already started attracting girls to practice, so he's welcomed by his new teammates. And Iwaizumi seems gruff and uninviting at first, but it doesn't take long for most to realize he's a stand-up guy. The new team gets off to a good start and gets along well, and it's nice. But they're no Matsukawa and Hanamaki, no Seijou, and for the first few weeks of practice, homesickness burns in both of their stomachs.
It makes them cling to each other more tightly, old and familiar friends in this new place, and Oikawa is secretly thrilled. Some days he has to remind himself not to stick too close, or not to ignore his other teammates during practice just because Iwaizumi is the only one who knows the way he plays and the way he functions. They can laugh about old memories, but they can't forget to make new ones.
Maybe he fails at following his own advice, though, because their captain turns to them one day, watches them laugh together, and muses, "You two are... unusually close."
Iwaizumi looks over, his smile faltering somewhat. "Old friends," he mutters, shrugging.
Oikawa is the one to drape an arm over his shoulder, ignoring the way he tries to escape, and chirp, "We've been together since grade school!"
"Ah. That explains it. I'd wondered... Well..." With an amused shake of his head, he spares them one last glance before stalking back onto the court.
Oikawa slowly uncoils his arm from around Iwaizumi, thinking about that glance. "I wonder... what he was thinking," he murmurs, his voice low, hollow. The look doesn't sit well with him; he has a feeling he knows what it had meant, what his captain's unspoken words were going to be. He doesn't think he and Iwa-chan have been acting any differently than they always have, since they were children. He's been making sure of it.
Iwaizumi huffs, not looking the least bit bothered. "Probably wondering how I can possibly put up with you."
"Iwa-chan, that's mean," he immediately whines, bumping their shoulders together. But his heart's not in it, and maybe even Iwaizumi can tell, because he shoots him a strange look.
Oikawa spends the rest of practice lingering on that last glance, thinking about every possible thing it could have meant and only coming to one conclusion. And it's a conclusion he doesn't want to draw, because it means they're obvious. He's obvious. Even to outsiders looking in, they're obviously unusually close and he's obviously so in love with Iwa-chan. And if outsiders can tell, then there's no way Iwaizumi hasn't noticed something. The thought makes him sick.
"What's up with you?" Iwaizumi asks him after practice, on the route back to their apartment. It's dark and cold, the cool air drawing breath from their mouths in a white fog, and they walk with their hands in their pockets rather than side-by-side, not close enough to brush as they usually are.
Oikawa shrugs. "Nothing. Just... thinking about what Capt was saying." He can't lie, because Iwaizumi can always tell. There needs to be some truth in his words for him to say them believably enough to pass, and so he chooses his mildest worry. "I was just wondering if there was something wrong with... how 'unusually close' we are."
"Why would there be?" Iwaizumi demands, looking put out.
"I mean, he went out of his way to make a comment about it, didn't he?" Oikawa points out, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets. "So it must be weird. Right?"
He thinks about being in middle school and hearing those older kids make sick jokes about the two boys holding hands across the street, and he doesn't want their new team looking at them like that.
Iwaizumi purposely bumps his shoulder as they walk. "Stu-pid. Almost twelve years of friendship and you're choosing now to think we're weird?" He sees Oikawa furiously open his mouth to retaliate and speaks over him, insisting, "We're fine."
He sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, mulling over the words, ignoring the way Iwaizumi glares at him for taking so long to agree. "I... guess. Maybe Capt was just jealous he's never had his own Tooru to brighten up his life," he suggests, grinning.
Iwaizumi snorts at that, but doesn't say anything biting back now that Oikawa is smiling again. Maybe it's because it's so dark or maybe it's because they're both so exhausted from practice, but this is one of those rare times he doesn't manage to catch the plasticity in Oikawa's grin.
A month into their semester, they both earnestly slip into their studies. Iwaizumi had chosen this college for a reason after all, and he's not here to waste time or his tuition. Oikawa hits the books alongside him, aware that one failed class or even a slight hiccup could lead to a dismissal from the volleyball team.
He wishes they could study together like they've done since they were children – point out tough problems to each other and circle equations on each other's workbooks and quiz one another using messy flash cards they had made together – but they've chosen different paths and for the first time their studies differ. It's not all lost, however, because they still enjoy those quiet nights in the living room, books spread out over the coffee table and blankets draped over their shoulders. Oikawa is often not without a pen tucked over his ear, and Iwaizumi will even occasionally take a break to bring them both steaming mugs of hot cocoa. They're quiet moments, even more intimate than study sessions in high school because they're alone in their own place, and so they make up for the idea of the two boys splitting at a fork in the road for the first time.
Despite all the joking he had done on their moving day, Oikawa really does throw himself into helping around the apartment. Mostly he can see how hard Iwaizumi's pushing himself for his grades, having come from a family not as wealthy as his, and since he can't insist he take a break to make out with him on the couch, instead he'll do what he can to ease Iwaizumi's burden. He's not stellar with their money, since budgeting has never been his strong point, and so he does simple things; wash the dishes before Iwaizumi can get to them, fold the blankets they left discarded in the living room the night before, take Iwaizumi's laundry when he plans to do his own.
And maybe Iwaizumi notices these things and appreciates them in his silent way, because even Oikawa can tell when he softens.
His phone buzzes in his pocket, screen lighting up from a text, and he smiles down at the message. It's Iwa-chan, telling him he's decided to spend his break at the coffee shop on campus, and he wouldn't even mind having a certain idiot chirping around him today if the so-called idiot chose to join him. He's definitely softened, Oikawa thinks to himself cheerfully as he picks up his backpack and heads for his childhood friend.
"You missed me," is the first thing he says as he slides into a chair at Iwaizumi's table. The smile on his face is the picture of conceit. "Admit it."
"As if, stupid," Iwaizumi huffs, barely glancing up from his textbook. "I saw you just this morning. With drool on your face."
He's willing to wave the quip away this one time, and hums, "Deny all you want, but you used to hide from me during break. Remember? Something silly about invading your privacy or hacking into your account or whatever. And now you're calling me up to join you. In a coffee shop."
Iwaizumi is unimpressed by his deduction. Glancing over his notebook, pen pressed against his cheek, he says, "I saw how little you ate for breakfast, Oikawa. You always don't eat properly when you're stressed. So now you're going to sit here and eat something, where I can watch you and make sure you finish every last bite. Got it? Now go buy something from the counter, and you can tell me how your test went while you're eating."
Oikawa allows the surprise to show on his face as he obediently slips out of his chair and shuffles towards the cashier. The girl behind the counter blushes, maybe at the little smile on his lips, but he doesn't really notice. When he plops back down in his seat, he slides a muffin across the tabletop.
"Brain food," he elaborates, when Iwaizumi looks at him in confusion. "For you."
"...Thanks." With a shrug, he bites into it, all the while shrewdly watching Oikawa as he unwraps his sandwich. He only looks satisfied when he sees him take a bite. "So how was your test?"
"Easy," he says around his mouthful, grinning with his cheeks full. "Iwa-chan, you don't have to make conversation, you know. You have your own test to study for."
With a grateful smile, one that makes his stomach flip, Iwaizumi turns back to his textbook. Oikawa is perfectly content in their silence, comfortable as it always is, and even relishes in how he can sneak glances at Iwaizumi's concentrated face as he studies. It's like dining in a restaurant with a much nicer view than just some dumb old skyline.
It's when he's moved onto the second half of his sandwich that a girl pauses at their table.
She's someone he doesn't recognize, even as pretty as she is, but her eyes are on Iwa-chan anyway. "Iwaizumi-san?" she inquires, stepping close to their table and leaning in curiously. He pauses with his pen halfway to marking an answer on his paper and looks up, and she grins at the surprise on his face. "I'm glad I ran into you! Sorry to be a bother, but did you happen to catch the things sensei said in lecture this morning? About what will be on the test?"
"Huh? Oh! Uh..." He scrambles through his notes, shoving aside papers in search of something specific. "Yeah, hang on, I wrote it down."
She continues to smile, the curve fixed on her face, as he searches for his notes, and Oikawa leans back in his chair. He's not really sure which class they're talking about, but he's not bothered. Iwaizumi has tons of classes they don't share, and sometimes he even spends his weekends with a study group Oikawa has never met. He thinks that he might have grown, and this is a testament to it; in high school it might have bothered him if Iwaizumi had friends he didn't know and a life outside of Oikawa, but in college, the setter has learned that distance doesn't always mean severance.
He chews thoughtfully on his sandwich and lets the two talk over what their test might entail, fond of the way Iwaizumi's forehead wrinkles as the girl tells him new information he hadn't managed to catch himself, and considers getting himself a cup of coffee. But he's stopped by her departure, and it's not that she's leaving, but that he can't help staring at her hand.
"Thanks, Iwaizumi-san," she says cheerfully, and her hand comes to rest on his shoulder for a moment, squeezing it in the same way Oikawa's heart squeezes at the sight.
"Mmm," Iwaizumi hums vaguely, allowing himself a small smile before turning back to his notes. His eyes flicker almost unconsciously across the table, where he finds Oikawa watching him with a disturbed look on his face, and frowns. "What?" There's a hint of worry in his voice.
Oikawa grips his sandwich tightly, indenting the shape of his thumbs into the bread, and says rather bluntly, "Iwa-chan, she touched your arm."
"Hm?" Taken aback, he spares his arm a quick glance, before shrugging. There's a frown on his face, though, that he would notice something so strange. "Yeah, I guess?"
"I thought... you didn't like to be touched?" he says softly, glancing down. It's not that Iwaizumi doesn't like to be touched, just that he's never been a handsy person. Strangers have always found him hard to approach as well, which has only ever added to his particular quirk. Oikawa can't count the number of times he's been shrugged off, even if it hadn't been in a particularly rough or abrasive way. He doesn't like knowing that someone else can touch him so easily.
Iwaizumi snorts, turning back to his notes without another thought. "It's only you I don't like being touched by, stupid."
He says nothing, but suddenly it's hard to swallow as he stares down at his food, at the marks he's made into his bread. He wants to throw it away because his mouth feels grainy and dry and all wrong, but he's afraid that if he looks up Iwa-chan will see the reason for why his vision has gone so blurry all of a sudden. He can't stop thinking about that hand on his shoulder, so casual and free. Iwa-chan wouldn't let him do that. It's only him Iwa-chan doesn't like to be touched by.
Iwaizumi looks up curiously when his quip doesn't earn him some aggravating response back, and the question on his face melts into disbelief when he sees Oikawa's pinched face. He'd unintentionally upset him, he realizes, then sighs as he runs a hand down his face. "Stu-pid." Reaching across the table, arm outstretched, he flicks Oikawa's nose in an affectionate way. "I didn't mean that."
Suddenly he can swallow again, and he does so, even though it's a lumpy action as he dares to peek back up at Iwaizumi. "Really?"
"Yeah." The vague smile on his face thins slightly. "But what's up with you? Normally you would never believe it."
He shrugs, casual as he uses just one shoulder. But he looks away, so that he misses the frown on Iwaizumi's face, and murmurs, "I'm gonna get some coffee."
Slipping out of his chair slowly, he doesn't look back as he departs for the counter, even though he can feel the stare on him. When he finally returns, Iwaizumi has turned back to poring over his books and only looks up when he slides a second cup of coffee across the table for him. They say nothing, but he holds it up in gratitude before taking a sip.
A line of whipped cream on his upper lip goes unnoticed as he returns to his books, and Oikawa stares at it and resists the urge to bend across the table to kiss it off.
For all his games of pretend, for all his suppressed emotions, for all those moments of wanting to feel along Iwa-chan's skin and taking a step back, for all those imaginings of a life where he can hold Iwa-chan's hand and kiss the back of his palm and hold it against his face, it's Iwaizumi who comes to him first.
Saturday nights are standard routine for them: horrible takeout food and terrible movies, wasting the night on their lumpy couch, and possibly falling asleep with the TV still on. Neither of them has missed it even once. It's routine, after all.
Tonight, Iwaizumi breaks the routine for the first time.
Maybe it's Oikawa who breaks it first, when Iwaizumi leans in for the food on his chopstick after dropping his own and he jerks away, surprised and flushed and wondering whether this counts as an indirect kiss. He'd like to know for his tally.
But it's Iwaizumi who, upon returning from the kitchen with a new pair of chopsticks and dropping back on the couch, asks, "What's been up with you these days?"
Oikawa freezes with his hand halfway reaching for a carton, meeting Iwaizumi's hard eyes for a quick second before flitting his own away. He stalls, fumbling with his food and moving it in circles with his chopsticks, staring adamantly at the rising steam.
"What... do you mean?"
The scowl translates well through Iwaizumi's gravelly voice. "Cut the crap, Oikawa," he barks. "Did you think I wouldn't notice? Something has been up with you since graduation. At first I thought it homesickness, but it's been months now and you haven't said a word about home. So why have you been acting so weird?"
"I'm always weird, Iwa-chan," he laughs, and swirls and swirls and swirls his food around in his carton. Anything to avoid his eyes.
Fed up, Iwaizumi snatches it from his hand, to toss it aside. There's a loud explosion on the TV screen, cutting into their sudden tension, so he angrily mutes their terrible movie and it's the first time they've ever broken their weekly tradition.
So now it's just the two of them in the silence, a boy whose glare could have pierced metal and a boy who refuses to meet his eyes. The couch creaks beneath them when Iwaizumi shifts, propping a leg underneath himself and leaning close to his oldest friend, a hand finding Oikawa's arm.
"Talk to me," he says, and he's almost pleading.
"There's... nothing to talk about, Iwa-chan," he chuckles, shaking his head, leaning away. It's a breathless kind of laughter, but it's laughter all the same and he's proud of himself for managing it.
"Oikawa," he insists, shuffling even closer, and presses his fingers against his face this time. There's no turning away. "I can always tell when there's something to talk about. Tell me what's on your mind."
There's no escaping from this, and he knows that. Iwaizumi has always been able to tell when there are worries on his mind, and he'll always let Oikawa come to him on his own when he's ready – until he can tell it's eating away at him, until he can tell Oikawa won't ever come to him on his own no matter how much he needs to. Then he's persistent, and he's always, always managed to coax it out of him in the end.
He rubs his sweaty palms on his sweatpants, swallowing, trying to breathe. "There... is something," he croaks, and wonders if his breathing is really as loud as it sounds to his own ears. "Something I realized near graduation. I... didn't know how to tell you."
"You can tell me anything," Iwaizumi says, in that patient way that's so unusual for him, that he reserves only for moments like these. "You know that, stupid. Come on. Tell me."
His lungs seem to constrict. His heart hammers in his ears, so loudly that the cramped, quiet room doesn't seem silent anymore. His throat runs dry, and no matter how much he swallows, no matter how desperately he licks his lips, it only tightens up further. This is the first time he'll say the words out loud, he realizes, in this cramped, little room he shares with his childhood friend. It seems only fitting that Iwaizumi should be here to hear them.
He whispers, "I'm gay."
If they hadn't muted the TV, maybe an explosion would have broken through the silence. But maybe they don't need one, because Oikawa feels like one ignited inside him anyway. The words – they feel so right, yet at the same time, so terrifying. He wonders how that's possible.
Iwaizumi stares back at him, fingers still lingering on his face, his own face frozen.
"B-But you..." he stammers, trying to find the right words. "You dated those girls in high school–"
"None of them ever felt right, Iwa-chan," he admits, delicately. "Dating them. Kissing them. It always felt so wrong."
"...So that's why... you always put volleyball first?" he muses, and life seems to return to his eyes when they're lit with understanding. "I always thought that was strange. I-I mean, you're not the type to..."
"Make girls cry?" he finishes, and smiles sadly. It's his greatest regret; if he'd realized sooner, if he hadn't been such a coward and admitted it sooner, he could have spared their feelings. He twiddles his fingers. "So... now you know."
Iwaizumi glances at him sharply.
"Does it change anything?" Oikawa asks, hoping his voice doesn't sound like he wants to cry as much as he does.
But the answer is immediate, accompanied by a knock to his head. "Of course not, dummy," he huffs, and smiles a bit gruffly as reassurance. It's that same rough, unpracticed grin that always melts Oikawa's heart. "We're best friends. And teammates. And if you'd just confessed to me that you'd killed a man, I would help you bury the body. You know that, right?"
He ducks his head, biting away a smile. "...Yes. I do know that."
"Then nothing changes," he insists, already reaching for their food once again. "And you can talk to me any time about anything, okay?" He shoves Oikawa's take-out carton back in his hand, then reaches for the remote to finally unmute their movie.
Nothing really has changed.
And Oikawa wishes he'd been happy with everything he'd been given already – with his best friend accepting him wholeheartedly for who he was, treating him as he always had, staying by his side. He wishes he'd stopped there and hadn't spoiled everything.
But Iwaizumi reaches for the remote, and he thinks of all his pent-up courage. He thinks of years of running away. He thinks of the relief of acceptance, of Iwaizumi loving him unconditionally. The consequences slip from his mind for that single moment, and he blurts out the words before he can choke them back and tuck them away in a dark corner of his mind.
"I found out I'm gay because I realized I'm in love with you."
This time an explosion really does detonate in their movie, blowing everything in its path into unsalvageable pieces, but Iwaizumi freezes with his finger just barely hovering over the mute button. They have their own explosion to deal with.
"I'm in love with you, Iwa-chan," he repeats, breathless.
Still, there's no response. But Iwaizumi faces him slowly, like a machine that needs to be oiled, his eyes rounded much like his lips. The shock is too strong for any other emotion to shine through, but still Oikawa searches his face, desperately hoping to find an answer.
"What do you say?" he asks quietly, and his voice wavers – but that's okay, because this is Iwa-chan and he's never been afraid to lay himself and his insecurities bare before Iwa-chan.
Iwaizumi swallows, a loud, lumpy action, aimlessly setting down the remote and struggling to find words. "Oikawa..."
He's foolish enough to hope. He's foolish enough to think he'll get a happy ending so easily.
As a kid he was a dreamer, or so Iwaizumi used to tell him. And Iwaizumi would also say that it would only get him in trouble one day. Oikawa used to laugh, used to stick out his tongue, used to lament that poor Iwa-chan had no hope to speak of.
Tonight he hopes the hardest he ever has, and tonight he loses it all because of a broken, incomplete answer from a boy who's been the single most greatest reason for his happiness for as long as he can remember.
"Oikawa, I-I can't–"
The world stops. Time stops. His breathing stops.
His whole life crumbles before him. Like his hope. Like his heart.
I can't love you the same way you love me.
He doesn't need to hear it, doesn't need to hear Iwaizumi say he doesn't love him back.
Iwaizumi is still struggling with his words, still stammering all over his own tongue. "I-I mean, I just can't–"
"...It's okay, Iwa-chan," he says quietly, and his voice sounds so far away, so disconnected with his own body. The whistling in his ears is a stronger sound than his own words, but still, he needs to speak – to salvage what he can. "You don't have to say anything more. I understand. Iwa-chan, I... won't force anything on you."
Iwaizumi looks away, unable to look him in the eyes. Oikawa is glad for it, or else he might actually have cried.
"These are my own feelings," he carries on, and it feels so automatic, like he'd picked everything up from a cheesy manga. But this is how he truly feels, how he's prepared himself to feel. "Let's still be friends, okay?"
Iwaizumi shakes his head. "But how can we...?"
"We can because I say we can," he chuckles. It's nothing to laugh over at all, yet still he does. And it doesn't even sound like crying. "We've been doing this for most of our lives, and we'll keep doing it. I'll get over you. I will, I promise. So let's stay together."
Iwaizumi looks unsure, hesitant, like he can't believe such optimistic words. "Oikawa, I don't know if–"
"Nothing has to change, okay, Iwa-chan?" he insists, smiling wide. "We're still best friends, okay? We still tell each other everything, okay? Okay?"
He's desperate now, to save their friendship, to keep Iwaizumi by his side. Because even if he's hopelessly in love, even if he suffers heartbreak for months or years to come still, a life where Iwaizumi is not by his side is not a life at all. He doesn't want such a bleak world, such an empty existence. He wants Iwa-chan, all of him, even the parts that don't love him back.
"...Okay," Iwaizumi says hesitantly, face shrouded with concern. He's watching Oikawa closely, trying to discern whether he truly means these things, whether he's hiding his sadness as he often does. But the smile he sees is genuine.
"Best friends for life," Oikawa confirms, and his smile widens. They sit in silence for a moment, and then he hurries to ask, "Should we continue our movie, Iwa-chan? I think we're getting close to the kiss scene."
"Mmm..." He rubs the back of his neck. "No, I... think I'll go to bed early."
"But you didn't even finish your food," Oikawa observes, concerned.
"Yeah, I'm not... that hungry any more." He flashes him a gruff smile, abandoning the couch. The remote slides off his lap and falls onto the couch cushion, and Oikawa stares at it so he won't have to watch his back get farther and farther away, disappearing around the corner. "Good night," he calls.
"Good night," he mumbles back, and when the couple on-screen kisses one another for the first time, he resists the urge to fling the remote at them.
A knock on his door wakes Oikawa the next morning.
"Get up!" Iwaizumi barks from the other end. "We're cleaning out the apartment today, and I damn well am not going to start while you're still asleep."
The twist in his stomach so early in the morning is an unpleasant feeling, one that persists as he washes up and tentatively peeks into the kitchen, heart hammering in his chest. He just watches Iwaizumi prepare breakfast for a moment, quietly keeping out of view, wondering what kind of face he should make – wondering whether he's even welcome around his own best friend anymore.
Looking increasingly annoyed, Iwaizumi suddenly whips his head around and snaps, "Oikaw–"
Their eyes meet, before Oikawa can yank his head back out of view, and he tapers off.
"Oh. Well, what the hell are you just standing there for?" he huffs, turning back to the stove. "Why do you always need an invitation to set the table, dumbass? Get to it."
Silent, curled in on himself, and possibly the most hesitant he's ever been in his own home, Oikawa fully steps into the kitchen. Sirens don't blare. The world doesn't shatter. The kitchen doesn't dissolve. But Iwaizumi also doesn't turn to look at him as he reaches for their dish cabinet.
The morning is quiet. It's possibly the most subdued morning they've ever shared; Oikawa doesn't have the courage to make silly jokes as he often does, so unsure and jilted and self-conscious after the events of last night, and Iwaizumi doesn't offer a peep, as always. He wonders whether he even can joke anymore, or whether everything would forever be tainted by his confession.
When they sit down for breakfast, at their usual spots like any other morning, Iwaizumi looks him calmly in the eye and says, "You take the living room."
He nods once. "Okay."
He quietly chews his food, keeping his eyes trained on his plate, while Iwaizumi loses himself in the paper. It really is like any other morning, albeit quieter than past mornings they've shared.
Their mess of take-out food cartons greets him in the living room after, littered all over the table just as the cushions litter the floor. As he shoves them into a trash bag and neatly rearranges the sofa cushions back in their proper place, he wonders whether ordering fish rather than meat would have dulled his confidence and he never would have confessed.
"Oikawa, I'm throwing out these magazines of yours," Iwaizumi calls from the hallway, where he's busied himself with reorganizing their one linen closet. "You don't even read them, you pack rat!"
"Okay," he agrees, and wonders whether Iwaizumi even knows he'd only kept every single one because they featured their Seijou team.
For dinner they eat out, at the one ramen shop they're both already fond of. Halfway through their meal, Oikawa opens a text to find a picture of Hanamaki and Matsukawa smiling at him in a blurry photo, steaming bowls of ramen placed between them. The two boys grin at each other, joke about Seijou telepathy with their old teammates, and their meal ends on a quiet but nostalgic note.
When he slips into bed that night, Oikawa realizes nothing really has changed, not even a little, just as Iwaizumi had promised. It should be a good thing, so he wonders why instead it makes him feel like crying.
So life carries on much in the way it had, and Oikawa learns how to dull the ache in his heart, not to where it's vanished completely, but to where it doesn't hurt anymore when he sees Iwaizumi laugh and thinks about kissing the corners of his smile.
"It's getting cold out," he notes one afternoon, during their trek back to the apartment after practice. "I heard it's supposed to snow soon, too."
"I think of it as the season when I have to carry two scarves around with me, since you always forget yours," Iwaizumi growls, rolling his eyes.
"Not that ugly thing!" Oikawa whines, making a face. "Why don't you carry one of my nicer scarves around, Iwa-chan? That ratty old thing never matches any of my outfits."
"It's your punishment!" he snaps back. "And shouldn't you be promising me you'll remember to bring your own scarf?"
He shrugs, laughing, "Old habits die hard, Iwa-chan."
"Must be why I can't throw that darn thing away," he grumbles, and it makes Oikawa's stomach twist to know he's become an old habit.
"By the way," he adds a moment later, pursing his lips in thought. "Do we really have to go to that thing Captain invited us to?"
"The party?" Oikawa recalls, thinking of last week's practice, when their captain had offhandedly extended them an invite during one of their warm-ups. "Definitely! The whole team's going, you know."
"But it's not really a team event, is it?" He pinches his lips in distaste.
"If Captain's throwing it, it would be rude not to go," Oikawa insists, bumping his arm with his own. "Come on, Iwa-chan. We can leave early if you want, but not going at all would be awful of us."
He groans softly under his breath, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Yeah, I guess."
Oikawa mirrors him and shoves his own hands into his pockets, protecting them from the cold wind, and wonders whether he'll ever have someone who'll hold them to keep them warm.
At the intersection, a car rounds the corner of the street just as they do, coming so dangerously close to the curb that it almost climbs it, and Iwaizumi fists the back of his jacket and abruptly yanks him back. He stumbles, whining softly at the complete lack of warning as he just barely catches his balance, but realizes they've switched sides with one another.
"Stay away from the road," Iwaizumi grunts, rolling his eyes, and doesn't pause for a single step.
Oikawa watches his back, so sturdy, so dependable, and tapers down that crippling rush of longing in the pit of his stomach. Suddenly he feels both warm and cold all over, and he's not entirely sure how that's possible.
The warm air of the coffee shop is welcomed relief after the biting wind outside, but Oikawa warms even further when he spots Iwaizumi's head at a table in the back. Yanking off his gloves, he slips into the seat across and hums cheerily, "Found you!"
Iwaizumi glances up only briefly, pausing with his pen over the paper. "How did you know I was here?"
"This is your usual spot now, Iwa-chan," he laughs, shrugging out of his jacket. "Maybe you don't even realize it yourself, but it is. All that coffee's gonna stunt your growth, you know, and can you really afford that? You're so tiny to begin with–"
"Oh, stuff it," he growls, while Oikawa belts out a laugh. "We agreed you don't talk about my height as long as I don't send anyone a picture of you wearing that hideous avocado mask." The reminder shuts Oikawa up quick, who looks absolutely horrified. It leaves Iwaizumi smirking. "Well, it's gonna cost you. You're paying for my next cup of coffee."
"That's not fair!"
"I have the picture saved in my phone," he says flippantly, already turning back to his notes, and though Oikawa scowls, he reluctantly slides out of his chair and heads for the counter. Even the girl working the shop has memorized Iwaizumi's usual order by now, and they grin secretly at one another as he returns to their table with cups of coffee in hand.
"What can I do to get you to delete the picture?" he asks, gently blowing on his drink, causing the steam to violently whip off track.
"Give me seven millimeters of your height," he replies immediately, reaching for his coffee.
"Be reasonable," Oikawa whines, tentatively taking a sip. "What if I clean the apartment for a month?"
"That'd be pointless for me, since you can't clean without my supervision anyway." He rolls his eyes. "It's seven millimeters or no deal."
He mulls over the ultimatum, sulking a bit in his seat as he twists the cup of coffee round and round in his hands. "What if I buy you seven millimeter heels?" he offers after a moment.
Iwaizumi chokes on his coffee, hacking out a burst of laughter, and when he catches Oikawa's amused eyes, they bend their heads together and just snicker over the absurd image of Iwaizumi attempting to spike a volleyball in heels.
"Now I'm definitely never deleting it," he scoffs after, shaking his head, and ignores Oikawa's soft whine. Blowing on his own coffee, he finally takes a proper sip of his drink.
A line of whipped cream rubs off across his upper lip, resting innocently over his mouth and drawing Oikawa's gaze. He doesn't seem to notice once again, as he continues jotting down formulas, but Oikawa can't seem to tear his eyes away.
He imagines sliding across the table, imagines cupping Iwaizumi's chin firmly in his hand, imagines running his tongue slowly, purposefully across the width of his upper lip, licking off every last smudge of that cream and stealing a sweet, whipped cream kiss in the process.
Iwaizumi looks up curiously at the sudden silence and notices his intrigue, realizes he can't seem to look away from his mouth. Discomfort colors his face, especially when he sees that want in his eyes, that impulse he can barely contain – like he can read Oikawa's mind, like he can see the kiss that's waiting to happen.
He hesitates, just once, then hastily smears off the cream with the back of his hand.
The party is already in full swing by the time they arrive.
They spy various teammates littered about the crowded room, some who meet their eyes and nod in greeting, and a few students they've seen in classes or around campus, but mostly it's people they don't know and so they stick together at first.
Oikawa watches a dark-haired boy blatantly dump a flask full of some mysterious drink into the bowl of punch, and hums, "Well, don't drink the punch."
The boy overhears him, abruptly catching his eyes as his own glint deviously. He seems to like what he sees, for his eyes drift from Oikawa's face and down to his body, thoroughly taking in every inch of him. Oikawa shivers and huddles closer to his best friend.
"I hate crowds," Iwaizumi grumbles under his breath, snaking his way between two groups of people.
Oikawa laughs, trailing after him. "You're such an old man, Iwa-chan. That's why you need this."
"I have an exam to study for and–"
"You can study tomorrow," Oikawa persists, rolling his eyes. "Besides, are you just going to turn down Captain's kind invitation? We had to at least drop by. Try to be more social, would you?"
For once the tables are turned, as Iwaizumi mutters, "What are you, my mother?"
He seems to take Oikawa's words to heart, however, because soon they bump into the libero from their team and strike up an easy exchange, drowning out the obnoxious noise around them. Soon they're joined by a myriad of students, and the boys lose themselves in conversation. Iwaizumi's scowl even slowly dissipates, something Oikawa observes when he watches him laugh and his stomach flips. He's so dashing.
Oikawa is not the only one who seems to notice Iwaizumi's handsome features, it seems, because he glances over for a quick second during his chat with a business student and his stomach flips in a different, unwelcome way when he finds a pretty girl engrossed in a private talk with Iwaizumi. She giggles at something he says, playfully batting his arm in a ploy Oikawa's seen dozens of girls use in his lifetime, and the most painful thing of all is how proud Iwaizumi looks of himself for it.
"Oikawa-san? Are you listening to me?"
He jumps, his eyes wildly turning back to the boy he had unconsciously forgotten, and ducks his head in apology. "Ah, sorry. Would you excuse me?"
Following his dismissal, he pushes his way to Iwaizumi and, just as he's in the middle of a sentence, throws his arm around his old friend. Both pairs of eyes swivel in his direction, and while Iwaizumi only seems annoyed, Oikawa is satisfied to see the girl take him in in all of his glory, from his pretty face to his windswept hair. She seems at a loss for words.
"Who's this pretty young lady and why is she talking to you, Iwa-chan?" he laughs, and, delicately taking her palm in his own, he places a kiss on the back of her hand.
She reddens, like it's suddenly difficult for her to breathe at all, especially when Oikawa flashes her a sultry smile under the dull, apartment lights. Fanning herself with her hand, the other clutching her heart, she squeaks out, "I-I'm no one. I-I mean, w-would you excuse me?"
They watch her stumble through the crowd, making a beeline for the punch, and Oikawa grins, exceptionally proud of himself.
Iwaizumi frowns. "What was that about? You're not even interested in girls."
"Doesn't mean I can't appreciate their beauty, Iwa-chan," he hums, shrugging. "Just because you're too much of a brute to appreciate beauty–"
He only laughs when he's thrown off, dutifully following Iwaizumi through the crowd once again. He can't let him out of his sight after what had just happened. Iwaizumi doesn't seem to truly mind anyway, because he unconsciously grips Oikawa's arm to protect him in the more lively crowds of people.
A pair of students stop them in the living room, a boy majoring in law and a girl majoring in economics, and they delve into conversation about their studies. It's an intriguing exchange, but as Iwaizumi launches into his classes and his future plans and his goals in life, Oikawa notices the girl watching him in awe.
"Wow," she breathes a moment later, looking him up and down. "You're so mature."
"He wasn't so mature when he wet the bed until he was nine," Oikawa quickly interjects, and the two students just barely manage to suppress their burst of laughter while Iwaizumi reddens with rage beside him. She's not looking at him with that same sort of wonder any more, Oikawa notes with satisfaction.
"I only wet the bed once when I was nine," he hisses once they've left, "and that's only because you stuck my hand in warm water."
Oikawa only grins cheekily.
Iwaizumi knows better than to engage him in his silly tendencies, so even if he looks ready to snap at him, he chokes back his annoyance and huffily turns away, ignoring Oikawa's snickers. They return to aimlessly wandering through the crowd, eventually slipping into a large group of their teammates and, for the first time that night, engaging in volleyball talk.
"Let's practice the new move together again next week!" Iwaizumi's fellow wing spiker suggests enthusiastically, and the two launch into a wholehearted discussion of the mechanics of their newest tactic and how to integrate their latest move into an upcoming match.
Oikawa watches them talk with a small smile, entranced by Iwaizumi's eagerness, before catching sight of their Captain a little ways down the room. Feeling safe enough to leave his best friend for a moment, he slips away to extend his gratitude for the invite.
"No need to be so polite!" he laughs in return, batting Oikawa's arm. "You and Iwaizumi, you're good guys. The team's happy to have you. We didn't have as much luck with the first-years last year, you know? So it's nice having you two. Everyone's grateful, I can tell."
He scratches the back of his neck, pleased with such blatant praise, and hopes to catch Iwaizumi's eyes; he wants to share a smile, share this happiness.
Instead, his stomach flips. He'd left only for a few minutes, and already another girl had sidled up to his Iwa-chan, getting closer than anyone else before her. He's never known Iwaizumi to be so popular, he thinks, watching her playfully punch his arm, and it's hard to swallow.
"Would you, uh, excuse me?" he asks gruffly, never tearing his eyes away, and already makes a beeline for the opposite end of the room. Their captain seems confused, and follows his line of sight to Iwaizumi. A knowing gleam settles in his eyes, one Oikawa misses when he's so desperately rushing back to the couple.
The girl breaks off in surprise at the sudden interruption, even if all Oikawa does is throw his arm around Iwaizumi and flash her a dashing smile. It doesn't work like with the first girl; she doesn't blush, doesn't stutter, but instead looks back at Iwaizumi in question.
"I'm Oikawa," he introduces himself, when Iwaizumi only rolls his eyes.
"Kanade," she replies, sparing him a smile, but when it becomes obvious he's here to stay, she turns her attention back to Iwaizumi. "So, tell me more? Playing volleyball since grade school. That's such commitment."
Iwaizumi shrugs, but Oikawa sees the red creeping up his face and the color clouds his own vision.
"Uh, yeah. Me and Oikawa started at the same time, actually," he explains, and he's always been shy and unpracticed talking to girls, so Oikawa can't translate the meaning behind his bashfulness.
She spares Oikawa only a quick glance and a thoughtful hum, before asking, "So, Hajime, what position do you play?"
Oikawa sees red, hears red, tastes red.
Even Iwaizumi seems surprised by her forwardness, but he doesn't protest. "Wing spiker."
"Iwa-chan was the ace on our high school team," Oikawa boasts loudly, the name oily and possessive on his tongue. His jaw hardens, almost in challenge, even as he smiles at her.
"Wow. Ace," she marvels, looking impressed. "That sounds so cool."
"I guess?" Iwaizumi mumbles, embarrassed by the attention.
"When we lost our last tournament, he cried, and I held him all night," he tells her, coiling an arm around Iwaizumi's, pulling him even closer.
The conversation halts abruptly, turning instead into thick silence even despite the noise of the party around them.
She seems at a loss for words, looking between them, not knowing what to say. "Um..."
Even Iwaizumi stares at him with unbridled shock, appalled that he would share something so private with a stranger, like he's sprouted wings or blathered the country's war secrets. "What the hell, Oikawa...?"
Their teammates look over curiously.
Kanade continues to flit her gaze back and forth in between the two boys, carefully taking in their coiled arms, their plastered hips, Oikawa's possessive hold, the way they're so clearly comfortable with one another. "Um, I'm sorry?" she says weakly, nonplussed. "Are you two..."
Iwaizumi startles at the question, looking alarmed. "No–"
"Maybe," Oikawa says haughtily, and rests his head on his shoulder.
There's silence once again. Kanade takes a step back, a dash of red running across her cheeks. Their teammates glance at each other, disbelief written on their faces. But no one stiffens like Iwaizumi, fury in his clenched jaw and fiery eyes.
"Would you... excuse us for a moment?" he spits out, waiting for Kanade's nod, then abruptly throws Oikawa off himself. He grips him tightly by the wrist and, not at all taking care to be gentle, drags him through the crowd of people. Oikawa just barely matches his stride, making futile attempts to twist out of his strong grip.
He hauls them out of the apartment, into the deserted, noiseless hallway, around the corner where they wouldn't be spotted, and slams him furiously against the wall. Oikawa winces a bit when he's pushed against the flat surface, his back pressed almost painfully hard against it as Iwaizumi's grip holds him there. They're alone in the hallway, just them and the silence and the flickering lights, but still Iwaizumi leans in close when he snarls, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
He clutches his wrist and yanks on it dryly, huffing, "That hurts, Iwa-chan. Let go."
"Why the fuck have you been following me around the whole night, making it your goddamn mission to embarrass me in front of everyone I talk to?" he growls, and his grips only tightens, caging Oikawa in place and demanding answers. "And now this shit? I get it. You love making stupid little jokes and teasing people. I fucking get it, okay, because you've always been like this. But don't you think you're taking it too damn far–"
"Don't you think you're taking it too far, Iwa-chan?" Oikawa cuts across him coldly, still twisting his wrist. And Iwaizumi seems confused, on the brink of retaliation, when he adds, "Pretending like I never confessed?"
The low hum of the light bulbs suddenly seem deafening, the only noise in the entire hallway. Iwaizumi falters, looking stricken; his grip on Oikawa's shirt loosens, and those wide eyes take in his best friend's face, so icy and blank and unlike him that it's terrifying.
"What did you think would happen, Iwa-chan?" he continues in a low voice, never breaking his gaze. "Did you think that once you rejected me the feelings would magically go away? That if you pretended like they didn't exist your wish would come true? It didn't occur to you that seeing you flirt with some girl right in front of me would make me jealous? Didn't you think about how... how hurt I'd be?"
"We weren't..." His breath comes out in a pant, and his tongue sweeps across his bottom lip in an antsy move. "We weren't flirting–"
"Call it what you will, Iwa-chan," he scoffs, "but you knew I was there and you knew how I felt. And you still..." He turns his head away, yanking off his hand one last time. And Iwaizumi lets him. "Do you even know how much courage it took to confess, Iwa-chan? Don't insult that by pretending I never did. Please, Iwa-chan," he begs, his mouth trembling. "That's all I'm asking. Don't insult my feelings."
He heads back to the party, leaving Iwaizumi alone in that lonely hallway with the flickering lights and the silence and his thoughts.
He's only just stepped back into the apartment when a cup almost slams into his face, and he follows the hand attached to an oily smile and dark hair. It's the same boy he'd caught looking him up and down only an hour ago, his own cup in his other hand.
"Punch?" he offers, tongue running over his teeth as his grin widens.
He has an ugly smile, Oikawa thinks. He remembers catching him pouring a flask into the juice and knows he's being offered more than punch; it explains the boy's flushed cheeks, tipsy stance, and the far-off look in his eyes. Oikawa wonders if putting himself in such a state would help him forget about the boy he'd left in the hallway, even for a short while.
He curls his fingers around the offered cup, flashing a polite smile at the boy. "Don't mind if I do."
That ugly smile stretches even further, and Oikawa allows himself to be ushered to a nearby couch, where he's sandwiched between his admirer and the armrest he tries to glue himself to. The strong taste hits his taste buds from the very first sip, and his eyes almost water. He has no clue what he's drinking, not knowledgeable at all in the art of alcohol, but he finds he likes that fuzzy feeling that fogs his brain once he's downed the entire thing. It makes it hard to concentrate on anything.
No sooner has he finished his first cup that a second replaces it. He downs that, too, then accepts a third. And if the boy seems to have gotten even closer by the time he's finished, he doesn't notice.
"A fourth?" he asks desperately, and he's obliged. That ugly smile invades his vision, though he finds it a little difficult to focus on.
He doesn't know when Iwaizumi returns to the party, and he doesn't care. For the first time, possibly ever, he realizes, he doesn't care where Iwaizumi is or what Iwaizumi is doing or whether Iwaizumi will ever love him back the way he so desperately wants him to. He asks for a fifth.
The armrest digs into his back. He can't back up into it anymore, but the space on the couch has never seemed smaller. He doesn't remember the boy's thighs touching him when they'd sat down, but suddenly they're practically on top of his. Confused, a little dazed and far away, he flutters his long lashes up at him and realizes he's not smiling that ugly smile anymore. He's leaning in.
If his head hadn't felt so fuzzy, if he hadn't felt so buzzed, he might have had the sense to lean away. He doesn't want to kiss the boy. He really doesn't. A hand lands on his thigh, slides up into dangerous territory, makes him shudder. He doesn't want this. He really doesn't. Their noses touch. He feels warm breath on his mouth and feels like he's inhaling alcohol when the smell hits his nose, dizzying him further, clouding his senses.
But he's accepted his fate, and he almost leans in himself, tipsy from the drink and not at all thinking clearly and just hoping it'll be over quick.
The boy yelps when he's suddenly yanked away, thrown from the couch and sent tumbling to the floor, landing ungracefully on the carpet as his drink tumbles after him.
Oikawa feels a cool hand on his cheek, and he frowns. It feels familiar, but he doesn't recognize the dark-skinned blur when he cracks open his blurry eyes. "Hm?"
"Get your coat," Iwaizumi hisses, gripping his shoulder and hoisting him up on his feet. Oikawa stumbles, clumsy in his state, and just barely manages to catch himself by using his best friend as a clutch. Strong arms wrap around his middle, and he shudders for a completely different reason.
"Fuck, I'll get it for you, then," Iwaizumi growls, and doesn't release him as they wade through the crowd in search of the front door.
"What the fuck is your deal?" they hear from behind, the words laced with venom as they're spit out at their retreating backs.
"He's drunk," Iwaizumi snarls back, and Oikawa's not sure if he only imagines his grip tightening or if he just wishes it so.
They stumble awkwardly through the throng of people, somehow finding Oikawa's coat along the way, before they're back once again in that silent hallway where just moments ago Oikawa had been sure Iwaizumi would sever their friendship forever. It's quiet, untouched, still bathed in flickering light, but this time they're silent because he sees the pinched anger on Iwaizumi's face, like he's too enraged to even say a word. Oikawa looks away, ashamed.
The cool air does nothing to clear his head, but he realizes it had snowed during the last few hours and their shoes crunch against the snow as they soldier through it, still awkwardly clinging to one another. Oikawa sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, contemplating just how angry his best friend might be, before tentatively laying his head on Iwaizumi's shoulder.
It seems to bring him to life; he inhales sharply, breath shaking with rage.
"What," he hisses, just barely spitting out the words through clenched teeth, "were you thinking?"
Oikawa chews on his lip, unable to meet his eyes.
"Why would you accept the drink in the first place?" he continues to snarl, keeping his voice soft and between just them, even though they're alone on the street in this late hour and in the middle of snowfall. "Don't you have any sense, Oikawa? What if he hadn't stopped at just a kiss? What then?"
And Oikawa wants to rage right back, wants to spew hurtful words at him, like it's not his business anymore, like he can't control Oikawa after everything that had happened only hours ago, like Oikawa is free to kiss whom he wants and Iwaizumi has no say in it any longer.
But the fingers gripping his jacket tremble. It's for a single instant, like a moment of weakness he'd accidentally let show through his rage. But it's clear Iwaizumi's not really angry. Suddenly his death grip makes sense. Suddenly Oikawa loses the fight in him.
"I-I'm sorry," he tries to apologize, ashamed of himself for worrying his oldest, most trusted friend – for ever wanting to kick him out of his life. He can get over a first love; he could never get over not having Iwaizumi by his side. "I'm sorry, Iwa-chan, I... I know I messed up."
"You did more than just mess up–"
"I know," he whimpers, still desperately clinging to Iwaizumi to keep his balance. Through his hazy mind, he tries to find the right words. He just wants Iwaizumi's fingers to stop trembling, for his eyes to lose that menacing glint, for him to relax that dangerous scowl. "I know I did. I just... I hurt and I-I... didn't want to care about you anymore."
Iwaizumi's face freezes. The tense silence between them has become too familiar these days. They never used to have such cutting silences before.
"I-If I could take back the confession, I would, Iwa-chan," he chokes out, and he doesn't think the sting in his eyes has anything to do with the cold wind. He can't remember the last time he cried in front of Iwaizumi, and he doesn't want this to become the newest, so he blinks and desperately holds back the tears. "I would take it all back. I'd make my feelings stop if I could, Iwa-chan. I know I messed up. I messed everything up. I-It's just–"
They stop under a streetlight, snow falling into their shoes and the orange light throwing shadows over their faces. The snow drifts like glitter raining from the sky, and Oikawa's shaky breath comes out as white fog.
"I've been in love with you for so long, Iwa-chan. I don't know how not to be."
And Iwaizumi stands stunned, somehow seeing all those tears streaking down Oikawa's pink cheeks even as they remain unshed. He lets his most dear friend bury his face in his neck, clutching him like a lifeline, falling apart at the seams.
The snow continues to drift. The silence carries on. And the two boys hold each other like it's the very last time.
Oikawa awakens to soft sheets, fluffed pillows, and a pounding in his head.
He cracks open his weary eyes with a groan, watching shadows dance on the ceiling, and thanks every being imaginable that someone had shut his drapes to obstruct the light from outside. When he moves to sit, however, a hand gently pushes him back onto his pillow. His frantic eyes find Iwaizumi's face not much later.
"Lie down," he murmurs, purposely keeping his voice low. "Your head can't be in good condition right now. You need to rest."
"M'kay..." he mumbles lazily, the words slurring together.
"Can you remember last night?" Iwaizumi asks, settling down at his bedside. The mattress dips under his weight.
Oikawa meets his steady gaze, sees the serious glint in his eyes, and resists the urge to look away. "Yeah. I remember." He licks his dry lips, just a quick flick of his tongue, but suddenly his voice croaks. "Listen, Iwa-chan, about last night–"
"Shh," he soothes him, and rubs the back of his hand in a comforting gesture. Oikawa almost frowns. He's being too gentle, especially for what he remembers from last night. "I just wanted to let you know that Captain called. You left your wallet at his apartment last night. Luckily he found it in time and put it somewhere safe. I was on my way to pick it up for you, but I thought I should wait until you were awake first, so you wouldn't be confused."
"Oh." Oikawa wiggles his toes, then realizes Iwaizumi had switched out his snow-drenched socks from last night with a warm, dry pair. "Iwa-chan, why are you being so nice?" he asks straight out, then swallows lumpishly, thinking of the things he'd said. "I mean, after what I... Well, I thought you'd be mad."
"I'm not mad," he insists gently. But there's a firm set to his jaw.
Hope bubbles in Oikawa's chest. "Really?" He grins hazily up at his best friend.
But Iwaizumi stares down at him seriously, his lips thinned into a frown, his eyes flitting across Oikawa's face in contemplation. He seems to hesitate once, shrinking back, but then sighs and scratches his scalp in frustration. The other hand still has Oikawa's in its grip.
"Listen... Oikawa," he says softly, solemnly, his voice never breaking. "I need to say some things. And I want you to listen. And I need you to not interrupt me. I know you'll want to, because it's the way you are and you'll want to get your own piece in. But I need you to just keep quiet and let me finish saying what I need to say. Okay?"
"Iwa-chan?" Oikawa whispers, terror gripping his heart. He wonders if this is it, if this is the moment they sever their friendship and Iwaizumi never returns to his side again.
Iwaizumi shakes his head, silences him, but his hand on Oikawa's never pulls away.
"We were six when we first met," he begins, his voice quiet. "You were so whiny, so annoying, and you got me in trouble. But you were a good kid. Even I could see that. And I thought it was a shame that other people couldn't. When I looked at you, I just knew that I would rather have spent my time with one person who would mean the world to me, than with twenty people I could never count on to not turn against me. And you never did turn against me."
"Iwa-chan, what's this about?" he tries to ask, so confused, but he doesn't receive an answer. Iwaizumi silences him with a stern look.
"When we were nine a kid in our class started getting picked on. Abe was his name, I think. And I saw what that did to you. I saw how you wanted to step in and stop it but couldn't find your courage. And I saw that, for some reason, seeing him bullied made you want to cry." He breathes out slowly, lost in their childhood. "At the time I thought it just reminded you of the time you were bullied. It didn't occur to me that it was the reason behind the bullying in the first place. Because he was picked on for his brother being gay, wasn't he?"
Oikawa bites his lip but doesn't say a word, heart hammering in his ears.
"When we were fourteen Kageyama joined the team, and Shiratorizawa was always on your mind, and that's when I first started worrying for you. Later I realized it was as more than a friend. I realized that the way I was always, always thinking about you wasn't normal for a best friend. But I didn't say anything about it, because I knew you needed me. But our middle school graduation, when you told me you had decided to follow me to Seijou, was the first time I realized not having you around felt like a sickness."
"In high school you got your first girlfriend. And I remember thinking that it might make things easier for me – to forget, to move on, to act like it never happened. I cheered you on because that's what best friends do. I didn't want you to know."
Oikawa realizes he's not breathing, too busy hanging on to every word, too busy trying to squash his sudden hope. Iwaizumi won't meet his eyes anymore, staring instead at the blank wall behind his bed.
"After we lost at the Spring High, you spent the night at my place. You didn't want me to be alone. I told you to go home a bunch of times, told you I was fine, but still you didn't leave. You knew I wasn't fine. You knew I needed you. That night was the first time I ever thought I wanted to kiss you."
"Before we graduated high school, we stopped those third-years who used to pick on Sahara. I told you that I saw you in him, that I saw he was lonely and needed friends. But it was more than that. I... saw myself in him, too."
"And a few weeks ago, you told me you loved me. And the first thing I thought of wasn't you and me, or how great it would be. The first thing I thought of was Abe getting picked on in grade school, and Sahara getting picked on in high school, and how I couldn't let that happen to you. Not ever."
Finally they lock eyes again, and Iwaizumi's are like steel, hard and serious and burning with resolve. And Oikawa stares back at him, with round, dumbfounded eyes.
"Iwa-chan," he breathes, and still he doesn't dare to hope just yet, not even after everything he's just heard. "A-Are you telling me you...?"
The answer is light, simple, but it mends his broken heart like Iwaizumi had personally stitched each piece back together with great care. "Yeah."
Even he can feel how hesitantly the smile creeps onto on his face, but it's still a smile. "S-So we can... I-I mean, if you love me too, then why did you...?" He trails off, confused, because suddenly nothing makes sense. Why haven't he and Iwa-chan been living in their happily ever after? Why has he nursed a crushed heart for the past few weeks?
Iwaizumi scowls, his hand fisting his jeans. "Don't you see? Abe and Sahara, two totally different boys who suffered for the same thing. How could I do that to you, Oikawa? I couldn't do that to – how could I live with myself if I –" He shakes his head. "Not for my selfish reasons. I wasn't going to have the world turn against you just because of me. I wasn't going to ruin your life just so I could be happy."
"But that's not for you to decide!" Oikawa argues, then winces at the sudden ache in his forehead.
"My priority has always been your happiness, dumbass," he says sadly, and finally his hand slides away. "I need to think of these things, because I know you sure as hell won't."
By the time Oikawa cracks his eyes open again, however wearily, he's already at the door.
"I'll get groceries on the way back, to make you some breakfast, so it'll take me a while," he calls, without turning around. Oikawa desperately wants to see the face he's making, but it's a futile wish. "You rest up, stupid."
He shuts the bedroom door behind him, leaving Oikawa to dwell in the silence.
He thinks of more nostalgic times, of Iwaizumi choosing him over the other boys on the playground and sticking to him even as they both found themselves ostracized. He thinks of learning that boys liking boys is not allowed from grubby children who hadn't even grasped the concept of love.
He thinks of middle school, of recurring dreams of kissing Iwa-chan, and holding Iwa-chan, and running his hands all over Iwa-chan. He thinks of his family worriedly asking him if he's sick after the night he had soiled his sheets, and he remembers his disappointment when his sister had taken her movie with her when she returned to her apartment.
He thinks of high school, of kissing a girl and feeling sick to his stomach. He thinks of kids who were bullied for things they couldn't help, and he remembers that exact moment when he'd realized he couldn't help himself either – back pressed into his mattress, and that crystal-clear realization that he'd fallen in love with a boy who'd always been his sun and his moon and his stars.
He thinks of his confession, of that night when pieces of his heart had broken away. Not I can't love you the same way you love me, he finally realizes.
I can't be the reason the world turns against you. I can't be the reason for your unhappiness. I love you, too, but I can't be with you.
A quick glance towards his bedside table, and he finds a tray resting innocently on the surface that he'd overlooked before. Iwaizumi had left him a glass of water and pain medication, to help with his hangover. He pops the pills, downs the water, and nestles back onto his fluffed pillow.
The goofy smile on his face, however, has nothing to do with the relief of sleep claiming him once more.
He wakes to the clanking of dishes and the rustling of grocery bags, and props himself up with significantly less difficulty than before. Maybe it's the excitement, the rush. Iwa-chan is home.
Still he takes his time cleaning himself up, splashing water on his face and rubbing at his red eyes. He doesn't want this moment to be tainted by temporary hideousness. When he finds Iwa-chan at the stove, apron-clad and whipping an egg for his breakfast, his smile feels shaky but truer than it has in days.
"Iwa-chan," he sings, and watches him stiffen, hands stilling, shoulders tensing. He doesn't let it upset him. "What took you so long?"
"...Long lines," he grunts, very casually returning to breakfast. "It's the weekend, you know. Busy time for shopping. Oh, I guess you wouldn't know, would you? Since you never help."
He keeps moving his hands, never pausing, rapidly prepping for breakfast. He's nervous, Oikawa thinks lovingly, catching the flash of red on the tips of his ears. Maybe his whole face has flushed red. He really wants to see it.
Fed up with stalling – it's what he's done his whole life – he crosses the kitchen in three strides and leaves his hesitation where he'd left his insecurity the moment he'd learned Iwa-chan loved him back.
Iwaizumi tenses when arms wrap around his torso, when Oikawa presses his cheek against the back of his neck and hums contently.
"What... are you doing?" he breathes, fingers tapping against the counter. The eggs lay forgotten already.
"Iwa-chan," he croons, smiling hazily, and holds on that much tighter. "Tell me you love me again."
He curls into himself. "What–"
"Well, you really didn't say it properly the first time, you know," Oikawa points out, in a matter-of-fact tone. "I said it really clearly. I. Love. You. Shouldn't you return the sentiment?"
That familiar scowl overtakes his vision, flashed from over Iwaizumi's shoulder. "Oikawa, did you not listen to a word I said? It doesn't matter how I feel, okay? Because we can't–"
"Sure we can," he interjects pointedly, the loopy grin never dissolving. "Because I say we can. And I get a say in this, too." And he laughs, a small chuckle that ruffles the little hairs on Iwaizumi's neck. "Don't you know by now, Iwa-chan? My happiness is what you care about most, but... your happiness is what I care about most." He grins cheekily. "That's why we're going to be the best couple in the world!"
"C-Coup..." A dribble of pink runs across the bridge of his nose, and like his bad habit of embarrassment, he shrugs Oikawa off and keeps his distance, busying himself instead with shuffling across the kitchen to put groceries away. "Don't be stupid. You're not the only one who gets a say–"
He's only just opened the fridge when a hand snakes past his head and slams it shut, effectively shutting up his dismissal as well. He stammers off, and when he turns, it's to find Oikawa hovering over him, not a hint of that loopy smile remaining on his face.
"Iwa-chan..." he murmurs, low, careful. The back of his fingers flutter down Iwaizumi's reddening cheek, stroking his skin with care, but he never tears his sharp gaze away from brown eyes. "I love you," he says, his mouth twisting lovingly around the words. "Don't you love me?"
Iwaizumi's not breathing, not while at the end of such intensity from his best friend for the very first time. "Y-Yeah..."
The softest of smiles flickers across his lips, as he takes Iwaizumi's face into his hold, fingers fanning into his hair as his thumbs stroke the path above his jawline. "Then let's be together, m'kay?" he mumbles, the words faint like a purr.
And, maybe for the first time, Iwaizumi looks at him, considers him, thinks of him as a potential lover. He flutters his eyes shut, breathing out slowly and carefully, and knocks their foreheads together. His hands grip Oikawa's arms as desperately as Oikawa held his face.
"Okay," he agrees, and one corner of his mouth twitches, like an almost-smile that he couldn't contain.
"We'll show the world?" Oikawa breathes, nose knocking against his, his smile wobbly.
This time, he grins – that dashingly handsome quirk of his lips that reaches his eyes, saved normally for victory on a volleyball court – and lays a hand over his.
"We'll show everyone."
Oikawa grins cheerily when that dry gaze bores into him, a corner of Iwaizumi's mouth twitching with barely suppressed annoyance.
"What," he snaps, "are you doing?"
Oikawa eagerly pats the spot on the mattress beside him, beckoning him over. "Come join me, Iwa-chan."
"Don't go around offering other people's beds like they're your own," he snarls in reply, slipping the towel over his wet hair around his neck. "Go back to your own room, dumbass."
An all too familiar pout twists Oikawa's mouth, a sign of stubborn denial. He whines, "Iwa-chan, you ignored me all day. I can't believe you. I'm your boyfriend now and the first thing you do is act like I don't even exist."
Iwaizumi dryly rolls his eyes, draping his towel over a nearby chair. Beads of water from his evening shower trail down his neck, dampening the collar of his shirt, but he pays it no mind. "I had an exam to study for. I can't go around fulfilling your every wish all damn day. Don't expect that from me."
Oikawa makes a noise of protest, similar to his complaints all day when Iwaizumi had turned away from him with textbooks in hand and asked not to be disturbed. His many attempts at garnering his lover's attention had been unfruitful, leaving him aggravated and put out and so much more clingy than usual, especially when he'd only just successfully achieved his life-long love, but Iwaizumi had been unimpressed and unsympathetic. It had been a frustratingly unromantic first day as lovers.
Determined to make the most of the day before its end, Oikawa pats the mattress once more. "But you're not studying now, Iwa-chan. And I don't want to go back to my room."
"I'm not sleeping with you, idiot," he growls, and a telling dash of red lights up the back of his neck.
"Your mind is so naughty, Iwa-chan," Oikawa drawls, and then, when he's threatened with a chair, hurries on to insist, "We'll just sleep, I promise! I just... I want to hold you for a little while. Isn't that allowed?"
Iwaizumi watches him gnaw on his lip, watches him look at him with pleading eyes, and slowly sets down the chair. He breathes out. "Fine. One night."
Perking up, Oikawa makes room on the bed to be joined by his lover, beckoning him over with open arms. There's only a single moment of hesitation, then Iwaizumi indulges him, sliding onto the mattress and allowing Oikawa to loosely drape an arm over his chest.
"See? It's not the end of the world, is it?" Oikawa chuckles affectionately against his ear, and for good measure, he places a delicate kiss at the junction where his neck meets his jawline.
Iwaizumi almost resorts to habit, almost snaps something rough back at him. But instead he flutters his eyes shut at the kiss, sinking into the embrace. "No," he admits.
Oikawa makes a noise of contentment, pressing his lips against his neck and breathing in the scent of his soap. They delve into silence, comfortable and familiar, like those silences they often shared before love reared its ugly head. It's warm enough and peaceful enough for the two to doze off.
Iwaizumi breaks it first.
"Get your hand off my ass."
"Oops!" he laughs, not sounding the least bit apologetic, and immediately retracts his hand. At Iwaizumi's scowl, he insists, "Sorry, sorry! I'll behave, I promise."
Grumbling under his breath, Iwaizumi lays his head back down and shuts his eyes with difficulty. But he allows Oikawa to snuggle into his back without protest, his hand touching more innocent places. Once more, they succumb to a peaceful silence.
Again, Iwaizumi is the first to break it.
"You didn't mess anything up."
Oikawa smiles against his skin, nuzzling against his warmth and tightening his hold. "Thank you, Iwa-chan."
Finally, they doze off, pressed against each other in ways both have dreamed of for a lifetime. Somehow the expectations ruin nothing. Somehow it's everything they've both ever imagined. They could do this for a lifetime to come, they both think, and they give in to sleep.
"Why do we have to hold hands?"
"It's making a statement!"
"Why can't we just tell them? Isn't that enough of a statement?"
Oikawa pinches his lips, curling his fingers more tightly around Iwaizumi's, and matches his huff with one of his own. "Where's the love in that, Iwa-chan?"
"For fuck's sake..." He sighs, rubbing his forehead like he feels a headache coming on. "Let's just get this over with."
It's a bold move, starting Monday morning practice with a declaration of their relationship. There's no time for the message to sink in, no time for anyone to come to terms. For the rest of the week there's a chance they'll be shunned by their teammates. But, they'd decided, they wouldn't want teammates who needed the time anyway.
"Ready?" Oikawa murmurs, catching his gaze through a sideways glance.
There's a firm set to his jaw. "Come on."
The noise in the gym dies down when they enter, and several pairs of eyes trail down to their linked fingers. They see shock more than anything else, but it's too early to tell anything.
"Morning, Captain!" Oikawa chirps, waggling his fingers. "We're gonna go change, okay?"
Eyes bore into them as they cross the court until the moment they disappear into the changing room, when the door clangs shut behind them. They breathe out at once, hands falling apart, and listen.
There are whispers, low murmurs, and even light snickers here and there, hard to make out even as they change in silence. They overhear the captain hiss "not a word" and glance at each other, unsure what to make of it. All noise dies away once more when they step out, and again, they find themselves under the line of scrutiny.
But there's no disgust anywhere. No anger. No rejection.
They see light, knowing smiles. They see delighted laughter waiting to burst, held back only by pursed lips. They even see awe, like the kind when the two main characters in a movie finally kiss for the first time after dodging their feelings all this time.
But there's no rejection.
"We're gonna play a practice match," Captain tells them, volleyball in hand. "Oikawa and Iwaizumi, you two can, uh, stay on the same team. You play perfectly together, after all."
The team turns away, breaking off into groups and warming up for their game, and the two join them without a fuss.
Their team loses the practice match, but they pull off a combo they've been practicing for weeks and their teammates ruffle their hair in elation, almost bowling them over in their enthusiasm.
On the walk home, Oikawa looks up at the dreary sky, and he grins.
"We should call our parents," he hums, his breath coming out like white fog. "And my sister. And Makki and Mattsun. They'll be so happy for us."
"When we get home," Iwaizumi promises, and his hand reaches out for Oikawa's. They share warmth even through the fabric of their gloves, holding each other as they trek through the clear, fallen snow.
Oikawa looks across the street for a single moment, and he spies a group of boys on the sidewalk opposite: tiny fourth-graders who watch the two pass, staring at their joined hands with eyes that have widened in wonder. He winks at them, just barely smothering a smile when they seem to flush giddily in return, and shuffles closer to his lover.
He's finally happy, he thinks, with Iwaizumi by his side. He hopes the rest of the world can see it, too.