The night after Iwaizumi found his soulmate, Tooru cried himself to sleep.
The next morning, he stared up at the blurry ceiling of his borrowed bedroom and took a few deep breaths. This was happening. He would have to cope with the explosive death of the hope he had been daring to cultivate. It had been stupid of him to think they could maybe be… that is, if he had been Iwa-chan’s soulmate, he should have known it by now. Deep down Tooru must have known that it had to be someone else. And yet. And yet…
Soulmates were complicated things. There were hundreds, even thousands, of different soulmate marks. They ranged from the ever popular ‘first words’ to the convenient ‘timers’ to the ‘colorizers’. Sometimes people knew who their soulmate was from the moment they meet, but sometimes it took a little longer. Sometimes it took months to stumble across the link that would mark two people as soulmates.
Was it so much to think-- to hope-- that sometimes it took years? Neither Tooru nor Hajime had been born with any physical sign of their soulmate. Wasn’t it reasonable to believe that one day something would happen that would mark them as each other’s?
He had never hated the words ‘Thank you, and you are a very dependable spiker' as much as he did reading them-- red and raw-- off Iwa-chan’s back. (He felt like he was being mocked. Words that he must have said to Iwa-chan a million times over, but all in vain. It didn’t help that Iwa-chan words of ‘You’ll be first string setter in no time’ proceeded them. It wasn’t fair. That could have been Tooru, it could have been).
Looking back, he should have known. It was stupid. It was his own fault for hoping. His own fault for thinking even for a moment that he and Iwa-chan might...
Tooru swallowed a sob and snapped around so that he could growl into the pillow. He held the sheets bunched up tight to his chest. He wondered bitterly if Iwa-chan would give the bed he was sleeping in to him as soon as Tooru went back home. Or maybe they wouldn’t even bother. Iwa-chan’s bed was a few steps away; they could skip straight to sharing.
Tooru stuck out his tongue in disgust but only succeeded in making his mouth taste like salt and laundry detergent.
It wasn’t fair.
He knew no one else would ever compliment Iwa-chan’s serious, but also somewhat restless, personality the same way Tooru did. Tooru knew he would never feel this comfortable letting someone else see all his rampant insecurities. He knew he would never love anyone else this much. So why…?
Tooru remembered the end of their second year of high school. He remembered that moment of grief and high tension in the privacy of his bedroom where they had put their hands on each other’s cheeks and Hajime had leaned in and... Would Iwa-chan look at him that way now?
It wasn’t fair.
All Tooru had wanted was to see Iwa-chan’s new volleyball courts. He hadn’t signed up to watch his own heart shatter. He hadn’t signed up to watch himself lose Iwa-chan; especially not to someone with whom he was a personality away from being the same person. It felt like the universe was telling him he and Iwa-chan were incompatible in a way that Tooru couldn't fix. His superficial traits were fine, but his personality-- his own fundamental being-- had lost him Iwa-chan. He hadn’t signed up for all that. He hadn’t signed up for people to no longer think of Tooru when they thought of Iwa-chan’s gorgeous gifted setter.
He hadn’t signed up for Akaashi Keiji.
He hated Akaashi Keiji.
He hated that Akaashi Keiji was tall (only a centimeter away from Tooru and with room to grow). He hated that Akaashi Keiji was a setter (and a good one, at that). He hated that Akaashi Keiji was beautiful (Tooru had spent the time before bed examining the mirror trying to, objectively, decide who was prettier. In the end, he was forced to admit it was all a matter of taste, and fate had made Iwa-chan’s clear).
He hated that Akaashi Keiji was Iwaizumi Hajime’s soulmate (Because he hated that he and Akaashi Keiji were a personality away from being the same person. He hated that he couldn’t tell himself that Iwa-chan’s soulmate wasn’t meant to be a man, or pretty, or taller than him, or even that they weren't meant to be athletic. Tooru hated that he could no longer deny that, to Iwa-chan, for Iwa-chan, Tooru’s fundamental personality was… lacking.)
“Oi! I’m heading off to practice. Don’t burn down my apartment while I’m gone! You’ll have to explain it to my roommates!” Iwa-chan shouted through the door. He didn’t sound any different than usual, and for some reason that eased some of the hurt in Tooru’s chest. But Iwa-chan was going to practice… practice where Akaashi Keiji (who Iwa-chan had spent the whole night talking to, only glancing at Tooru) was.
“Wait!” Tooru ignored the shiver that ran through his body as his bare feet hit the cold floor of his borrowed room. “I’ll go watch!”
“Wha--” Tooru cut off Iwa-chan’s response by throwing open the door and rushing straight past him in a dive to the bathroom. Tooru never spent less than half an hour styling his hair, but drastic times called for drastic measures.
“Oikawa, it’s just a normal morning practice, you don’t have to--”
“But Iwa-chan! What kind of best friend would I be if I didn’t support you in front of your team!” Half the sentence came out gurgled from the toothbrush Tooru stuck in his mouth, but the loud sigh and the thump of a bag that traveled through the door told him he had communicated his point.
“A normal one?... Ugh. I’m giving you five minutes and then I’m leaving without you.”
Tooru yelped and brushed faster. He didn’t want to imagine what he looked like when he stumbled back to the room to shrug on some clothes. His hair was only sparingly teased. He didn’t even take the time to pop in his contacts, instead sliding his glasses over the bridge of his nose. When Tooru made it to the front door after a total of fifteen minutes, Iwa-chan was still there looking annoyed but not leaving. It made something warm crawl through Tooru.
“Let’s go, Iwa-chan~!”
Iwa-chan blinked at him twice. Without thinking about it, Tooru reached his hand up to fix his hair some more since it was probably awful and maybe it would be worth it to go back for the contacts and scrub his face and put some concealer under his eyes... What if he was oily and gross and his eyes were still irritated from crying and--?
“Why the hell do you always take years to get ready in the morning if you could just--” Iwa-chan cut off both his words and the vague gesture he was making with his hand towards Tooru. “Nevermind.” He about-faced to the door and started out without giving Tooru another look.
His ears were a little red though.
That warm feeling in Tooru's chest escalated.
Fifteen minutes later, when they were in the gymnasium and Iwa-chan shoved Tooru towards the stands to made a beeline for his new pretty setter, the warmth vanished.
Akaashi and Iwa-chan couldn't spend much time together once practice started, much to Tooru's grim satisfaction (he was maybe starting to see why Iwa-chan so often unfairly accused him of sometimes having a less than angelic personality). Iwa-chan was second string now, and Akaashi had only recently joined. They didn't practice with each other and they were often on separate courts even for drills. And yet... Tooru was far from satisfied. Every break the two found a way to stand close, looking content as they absorbed each other’s company. Tooru couldn't say much about Akaashi, who had a face that showed as much emotion as a brick wall (who would even like that? Clearly he had dodged a bullet since Iwa-chan had such bad taste), but he knew that being with Akaashi made Iwa-chan happy. There was something relaxed in Iwa-chan's stance when he stood next to his new soulmate.
Tooru couldn’t help but note how different it was from when he stood next to Iwa-chan. It was clear Akaashi and Iwa-chan were congruent rather than complimentary soulmates. Rather than fitting into each other’s empty spaces, they overlapped and reinforced each other's strengths. Most soulmates were classified as congruent, so it shouldn't have surprised Tooru, but… as clearly as Iwa-chan and Akaashi were congruent, Iwa-chan and Tooru would have been complimentary. Their friendship was complimentary. It was explosive and quiet in turn, always filling in each other’s silences. But between Akaashi and Iwa-chan there was no noise. Akaashi didn’t bombard Iwa-chan with ‘trivial’ (excuse me, Iwa-chan, but all his questions were of utmost immediate importance, okay?) questions. Iwa-chan never rolled his eyes or threw volleyballs at Akaashi.
… was that what Iwa-chan preferred? Had all Tooru’s little quirks been annoyances that Iwa-chan put up with for the sake of their friendship? Tooru had thought… well, Tooru was good at reading people, double so for Iwa-chan. He had thought, maybe, that Iwa-chan had been secretly fond of all those things. That he had liked them. That they had entertained him.
Tooru wished Iwa-chan would look more bored.
He knew he wasn't being fair. This was Iwa-chan's soulmate. What kind of person could he be that he wanted to make his best friend stop talking to their soulmate? What kind of person would want them to have a disagreement, or to be awkward around each other, or to show any obvious signs of their incompatibility? What kind of person would look for anything that would make Iwa-chan decide that the universe had made a mistake and Akaashi Keiji wasn't actually the one for him?
A person a lot like Tooru, apparently.
It didn't matter, though, because there was nothing. They got along great, from what Tooru could tell from his spot watching their backs in the stands. He tightened his arms against his legs where he had bunched them up on the seat. It hurt, but it wasn't like he could go down there and demand Iwa-chan stop speaking with his soulmate. Even Tooru could recognize, through the hurt throbbing in his chest, that it would be a terrible thing to do; and despite what Iwa-chan thought, he wasn’t that shitty of a person… or at the very least, not that shitty of a friend… not to Iwa-chan.
After a somehow much shorter and a much longer amount of time than Tooru felt like it had been, practice ended. He shuffled his way outside to meet up again with Iwa-chan as he exited the locker room. As he walked down the steps, Tooru practiced contorting his face into a perfect relaxed smile. He was determined not to let Akaashi Keiji see him at anything less than one-hundred percent. The least he could do was milk some jealousy out of that stoic face. Being taken as a threat might make Tooru feel better.
"Oh, Iwa-chan!" he called as he saddled over to his friend's side, interrupting his conversation with Akaashi as they walked out... together. Iwa-chan rolled his eyes. Even though Tooru knew it was playful (or did he?), it still caused something painful in his chest.
"Akaashi, you remember Oikawa, from yesterday,"
Akaashi nodded, his stoic expression not even bothering to twitch at the arm Tooru had thrown over Iwa-chan’s shoulder. Tooru felt a different sort of fiery heat in his gut. He should have brought his contacts with him to change while Iwa-chan practiced. Tooru had used the cute 'nerd chic' look to his advantage before, but for this, he would have preferred to dazzle with the force of a physical blow. (Would it even work against someone as comparably stunning as Akaashi Keiji, with his thick eyelashes and natural ‘come-hither’ expression? Would he look at Tooru and see an equal?).
"It would be difficult to forget The Grand King."
Tooru was momentarily thrown from his not-jealous plotting. He blinked at Akaashi. Iwa-chan chuckled with a smile, "You’ve meet Karasuno's number ten?"
"Our schools held training camps together in my second and third year. My... Bokuto-san, my ace, grew attached to Hinata-kun, number ten."
As if Tooru needed more reason to dislike Akaashi. Akaashi's second year would have been Tooru's last. Anyone who trained with Karasuno was no friend of his.
"Yes, well, Iwa-chan and I head home down this road so--"
"Uh, actually, Oikawa, Akaashi and I were going to get some coffee."
Tooru stiffened. That pretty much settled it. That was it, it was starting. This was real. Iwa-chan had found his real soulmate and now Tooru was destined to be forever second string in his best friend's life.
“Oh!” Tooru put on his brightest smile. Iwa-chan frowned at him.
“You can come too,” he offered. It embarrassed Tooru that his disappointment had been so obvious. Would Iwa-chan put two and two together? He hoped not. The only thing more pathetic than being in love with his soulmated best friend would be if said best friend knew about it. At least this way Tooru could pretend to have some dignity left.
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to interrupt your date~” Tooru winked and Iwa-chan scowled at him.
“It’s not a date, Shittykawa,”
“Iwaizumi-san is right. Please join us, Oikawa-san. I would like to get to know the both of you better,” Akaashi added.
The offer tempted Tooru. If he was there, nothing could progress. It wasn’t below him-- as his involvement in Iwa-chan’s other attempts at relationships in high school proved-- but… this was his soulmate. Tooru could convince himself that Iwa-chan's other relationships weren’t right for him (and that was the excuse he had given himself long before he recognized his own feelings). That wasn’t the case here. There would be no justification for ruining this for Iwa-chan (if he even could, he wasn’t that egotistical); no justification for inserting himself into a relationship that was never meant to be his.
“Oh, it’s okay, Aka-chan.” The displeasure that crossed Akaashi’s face from his new (permanent) nickname filled Tooru with satisfaction.
“Please don’t call me--”
“--I have things to get done before I go back to school. Have fun!” He gave his flirtiest wink and wave and was less pleased when he saw displeasure cross Iwa-chan’s face. But that disapproval was nothing new. How could he have ever thought they were made for each other?
A few days later, Tooru went to his own school on the other side of the district and expected that to be the end of things. He wondered how long it would be before contact with Iwa-chan went from every week to every month to teetering off altogether.