Iwaizumi Hajime has a ring on his finger.
A simple gold band with modest silver trimming resting snuggly on the fourth finger of his left hand.
Hajime is only 23 years old, is only in the midst of the second year of his post-graduate degree, and to Charlie’s apparently outdated knowledge, has been single at the very least since his move to America a little over a year ago.
Imagine his surprise when the dude came waltzing back after a month-long break, with a wedding ring on his finger, legally wed, and not speaking a word about it. It’s nearing the end of the sports science lecture, the only lesson they share, and Charlie has been agonizing over how to bring it up for, oh the past hour since he’d first seen it. The clock ticks away mercilessly, each passing second exacerbating Charlie’s anxiety for the awkward conversation he’s about to initiate, and he hopes to god Hajime has been taking notes this whole time because he sure as hell hasn’t absorbed a single iota of the professor’s spiel on – Charlie glances at the projector – hypertrophy? What in the flying fuck is that?
No matter, Hajime’s notes will clarify. And Hajime himself will clarify what exactly had happened to his relationship status over the last few weeks. Charlie, and the rest of their friendship group by extension, had been counting on him for single status after the break, in order to soothe their own emotional wounds. Getting married certainly breaks the unspoken pact. He is sourly hurt to be betrayed in this way.
By the time the professor wraps up her lecture, Charlie is buzzing with nervous energy. Hajime is taking his damn time with packing his highlighters and pens back into his pencil case and his pencil case into his bag as this was presumably his last class of the evening and Charlie has half the mind to yell at him to hurry up. He needs answers. Desperately.
He side-eyes the way Hajime seems to fidget with the ring as they made their way out of the lecture hall, unused to its weight on his finger and its insistent presence there. He doesn’t even seem to be aware he's doing it.
Charlie is about to explode.
“You’re married?” he half-shouts, suddenly viciously glad he had the patience and forethought to clear out of the building because if a stranger had heard him scream that with a voice crack he would have certainly combusted on the spot.
Hajime is too fucking composed – Charlie has it in him to be pissed at this – as he turns his head to him and honest-to-god smirks. “Yeah,” he says simply.
And that’s it.
He doesn’t bother to expand, just walks on towards the library where they're meeting all their other friends, his smirk settling into a grin as Charlie scrambles to catch up.
They’re at the library and everyone knows that Iwaizumi Hajime had a ring.
It’s a bit redundant to keep repeating that line in his head like a mantra but Charlie feels like this is important information that needs to be stressed so he keeps at it.
Hajime has a ring and everyone knows.
And everyone is curious.
Not a single soul had known that Hajime had a girlfriend until this point.
It’s no secret that Hajime is something of a looker and certainly could’ve gotten a girlfriend if he so wished. Maybe in hindsight that was an indication that he was taken. In hindsight, perhaps, there were a lot of hints that they all should have noticed.
When Hajime steps outside to take a call, the table explodes into poorly hushed chatter.
“What the fuck, he’s married?” Jack whisper-shouts. “I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend!”
Well, if that doesn’t summarise the situation. The rest of their rag-tag group – Liam, Rahul, Arianna, and Cassandra – don’t even need to vocally agree for their similar confusion to be understood.
“Well, do we ask…” Arianna trails off, worrying her lip. “But that makes it sound like we don’t know anything about him.”
“Well, we don’t,” Charlie deadpans. “Or at least, about his wife. Oh my god, wife. He has a wife and I don’t even have a damn girlfriend.”
A pensive silence falls over them. They’re all in the throes of their early twenties and that comment helps the reality settles in a bit more heavily. While they all whine and whinge over assignments and finals (which to be fair are both incredibly valid concerns), Hajime has been committing himself to a serious relationship on top of that, if the result is any indication. It’s a fact of surprise that Hajime, of all people, was the first to get married since he was often the most sensible and practical amongst his friends. That he would impulsively get hitched at the tender age of twenty-three is a shock to everyone.
But then again, perhaps that speaks more to his dedication to this relationship, in which case why don’t any of them know about it?
And who in the world is his wife?
Hajime returns to a table of friends, now tight-lipped and deep in existential thought. “What the hell are you all thinking so hard about?” he asks, as if he hasn’t presented them with a cosmic problem on his left hand.
“Your wife,” Liam says because his existential ponderings had destroyed his brain to mouth filter. At once, everyone’s ear perk up to see how Hajime will respond, despite their ongoing crises.
Hajime scowls. “I don’t have a wife,” he grumbles, and then his face falls like he’s done something horrible or said something he hadn’t meant to say.
“How the hell can you not have a wife?” Rahul says. “You have a wedding ring on right now.”
“You’re right. I do have a wife,” Hajime quickly corrects and everyone is left even more befuddled than before.
Rahul corners him the next day when he catches sight of him the next day on the way to his own immunology class.
Hajime looks unbothered at Rahul’s puzzlement.
“You have a ring,” Rahul says, intensity far out-rivaling the amount needed for the obvious question slash statement. Hajime nods, so he continues, with more emphasis, “A wedding ring.”
Hajime raises an eyebrow. “That’s right.”
“So do you or do you not have a wife?” Rahul asks, stressing each and every word.
Hajime lets his eyes wander contemplatively for, and it’s possible Rahul is actually timing this pause in his head, say ten seconds before bursting out into laughter, short, loud gasping laughs that rack his shoulders and scream to Rahul that he finds this genuinely hilarious. He wipes a phantom – or real, who knows? – tear from his eye and hikes up his messenger bag before replying. Before throwing an answer over his shoulder and fucking off into the sunset, or to his human biology lecture more likely. There’s still a rumbling chuckle in his voice when he replies.
“Of course I have a wife.”
Despite being a post-graduate student, Hajime lives in the university dorms and not his own apartment due to being an international student. Attached with this comes the constant reminder that Hajime will eventually return to Japan and not live indefinitely in America, which is definitely a point of disappointment for his friends, who have grown so attached in the mere year and a half, but also a fact that urges them to take every opportunity so they don’t later regret their misplaced time.
While they know of Hajime’s roommate for his second post-grad year, they aren’t exactly friends with the guy, but one can go to extreme lengths to satiate curiosity since the direct-confrontation route is supposedly off-limits.
They know his name is Evan Miller and that he is doing a computing degree so, hoping to god for luck that they find him, Liam, Rahul and Arianna make a trek to the Computer Sciences building to catch him. Much like one would catch a rare Pokémon. With careful planning and execution. Jack and Cassandra had parted ways to go their respective afternoon lectures with much difficulty and not without very clearly expressing their regret that they could not join the expedition. Charlie had to be bodily dragged to the Sports Science building for his own, such was his lamentation for his absence from the journey.
Liam had promised them that he would find the answers if only to honor their sacrifice of putting aside their burning curiosity for academics.
As the three of them linger around the Computer Science building, iced coffees in hand almost empty after two hours of careful rationing, they wonder if they had taken this investigation too seriously. Then they remember the gold band on Hajime’s finger and see Evan Miller walking out of the building and those thoughts evaporate like mist into the mid-summer heat.
They have close to zero regrets when they corner Evan a ways from the entrance, whose eyes betray his fear.
“We’re not here to hurt you, we just want answers,” Liam says and then bites his tongue, because that had kind of come out like a mafia boss line from one of his cheap b-rated crime films. He has to cringe at himself a little and is thankful when Arianna takes over.
“Ignore that idiot,” she says, elbowing Liam to demonstrate her meaning. “We want to know about Hajime, your roommate.”
“I’m not gonna tell you his bank account number,” Evan says, paling. “I don’t even know his bank account number.”
“We’re not-“ Arianna pauses to glare at Rahul, who’s howling peals of laughter too loud to speak past. “Shut up!” She faces Evan again. “We’re not scammers or hitmen or anything. We’re Hajime’s friends. Did you know he got married?”
Evan seems to calm down drastically with both the admission and the direction of the conversation, which is decidedly not veering towards security questions and bank account numbers. His shoulders sag with relief.
“Yeah, I saw the ring. Didn’t look like he wanted to talk about it so I didn’t ask but I assumed the wife was the person he calls every night and skypes weekly. I usually leave the room for a while to let give them some privacy.”
Hajime had most definitely looked like he hadn’t wanted to talk about it but they bulldoze through that and listen raptly to the latter details. Sure, Hajime calls more often than anyone of their generation is wont to but weekly Skype calls? How had they not known about this?
“Hajime knows what skype is?” Liam says, which is admittedly a pretty stupid question. His next is debatably more realistic. “He calls someone every night? Are you sure it’s the same person every night?”
“Well, it’s always at the same time, like routine,” Evan defends.
An idea is forming in Arianna’s mind and she grins as it takes root.
“Do you know when Hajime has these skype sessions?”
Now that Hajime’s significant other is a known development, all of his actions become suspicious. Most especially, his addiction to his phone, which at first had been written off as a generational hazard, but now reeks of clues.
Upon further analysis of character that had not been previously performed purely by lack of motivation, it becomes evident that Hajime is not wont to let technology rule his life, discernible in how he maintains a strict workout out routine (and has drool-worthy muscles to show for it), and a diligent study schedule. Thus, combined with Evan’s startling contribution, the only acceptable conclusion: a long-distance relationship.
The group of friends make a conscious effort to hang out a handful of times every week if only to combat the crippling lethargy and laziness, and subsequent social falling out, that is a side effect of most post-grad students. As such there are multiple outings between now and their date of the ambush to observe Hajime’s habits more thoroughly. It is the most glaring thing, so much that it leaves them all feeling a bit brain-dead when they realize.
Hajime is really attached to his phone.
When they go out for lunch at a diner nearby the campus on Wednesday, the only day all of their timetables luckily coincided, Cassandra finds Hajime checking his phone at least ten times within the hour. His face lights up, presumably he’s received a reply, and it’s so fucking obvious. The smile he has on his face is whipped, crinkles around his eyes, holding a hand up to his mouth as if he’s trying to smother a laugh. Without conscious thought, he fiddles with his ring intermittently after typing, as his wife texts back.
He’s a formidable enemy to corner though. Trying to catch him in the act, Cassandra pokes him, intending to startle him back into the conversation. “So, do you wanna go?” she asks. If he hadn’t been listening to their conversation, it’s the perfect segue to inquire as to who had stolen his attention. It’s a genius plan, honestly.
“Sure,” he says. Cucumbers have nothing on Hajime’s smooth collectedness. “I’ve seen reviews for that exhibit online. I mean, it goes to show how nerdy we are that we’d go to a science museum in our free time but, well, that’s what we became science majors for, huh?”
Cassandra’s jaw would’ve dropped had she not possessed commendable reflexes and a debilitating awareness of social situations. Jaw-dropping is awkward, not cool, certainly not on a cucumber level.
“The fuck, you were listening?” escapes her though, before she can snap her mouth shut the whole way.
Hajime eyes her like he knows what she’s getting at. In response, he merely clicks off his phone, tucking it into his pocket and smiles.
The jury is still out on whether Hajime is an A+, ten out of ten, would marry again, glowing reviews kind of husband, or a D-, two out of ten, horrible reviews that span pages to cover the scope of dissatisfaction sort of husband.
Surely though, the debate leans in the favor of the former, since he’s all-around a great guy and a greater friend, oftentimes volunteering for sober duty on club or bar nights, the perfect balance of an enabler and a protector, voice of reason and somehow simultaneously two-thirds of the brain and brawn amongst the seven friends. Jack himself, is an avid advocate for model husband Hajime in this ongoing discourse.
This opinion only stands to grow stronger after Thursday night.
Though Jack and Hajime belong to wildly different disciplines of study – Hajime inclined to sport science while Jack prefers economics – they both employ similar methods of study, in that first, they actually study, and second, they enjoy doing so for extended periods of time in quiet spaces.
AKA, libraries. The sanctuary for the nerdy. Jack’s saving grace. Had UC Irvine had anything less than an ambient, pleasant library, his grades would’ve definitely suffered. Severely. And continuously. He would have failed that recent business management test with the wordy questions. He should take this as a reminder to pay his respects to the library gods in the near future.
Jack has a tendency to spiral. Library gods would appreciate the offering, but that’s assuming they exist. This is why he needs libraries. The moment he steps in and inhales the musk of new paper, and immerses himself in the soothing white noise, his overactive brain shuts off and he can actually concentrate.
Which is why he almost doesn’t register Hajime excusing himself to find a reference book he needs an hour into their session. He’d forgotten his phone, troublesome in case he needed to re-check the book’s listing but Hajime’s got a good memory so it likely isn’t an inconvenience.
Except the phone lights up while he’s gone.
And once more, after a minute.
And Jack is concentrating dammit, but curiosity consumes his brain's metaphorical cat and he finds himself leaning forward anyway, breaking his focus but most of all eager for any morsel of information he can gain about the mystery spouse.
Something happened. I want to talk to you.
Can I call?
Jack shoots up from his seat, immediate instinct to summon Hajime from wherever he is, but he’s already walking back with a book in hand so Jack drops back into his chair, boneless.
Hajime clicks on his phone to check the time but worry takes over his face as soon as he sees the texts.
As Jack watches, Hajime hurriedly thumbs to the phone app, mumbling an excuse to leave again, and he hears the tail end of Hajime’s sentence before the door closes behind him. He might not know a lick of Japanese but the shuddering voice and the concern are clear as day.
There is no doubt in Jack’s mind, that if husbands could be split into plane classes, Hajime would be a solid first class.
The jury doesn’t need deliberate a second longer.
Arianna catches Hajime at a café for breakfast, although it’s closer to brunch time, on the morning of her master plan.
Hajime is a black coffee no sugar kind of guy, not as a show of macho-ness to establish his dominance in the male hierarchy (which Arianna thinks is a ridiculous concept, it’s just caffeine), but because sometimes he genuinely needs the kick to keep him going. So suffice to say, with a cursory glance at the darkness under his eyes, she expects the very drink on him today.
Instead, when her gaze travels down, she’s met with a large caramel frappuccino topped with mountainous whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. The order sticker on the cup even specifies extra sugar. Re-examining his gaunt face, Arianna supposes that it isn't too far-fetched that his exhaustion had caused him to cross the threshold of hysteria overnight.
But he merely takes a long sip, sighing contentedly with the intake, and continues on with his morning as normal, no delirious sleep madness whatsoever. He certainly looks tired, but as he finishes the drink, he parts ways with Arianna with a spring in his step.
It’s Friday night, and all six of Hajime friends have signed into the dorm visitation for the next few hours and are all presently packed into the common room closest to his room, waiting for six p.m. to hit.
Because Hajime calls his wife at six p.m. on Friday nights when the rest of them are too busy getting prepared to spend the rest of the night guzzling down beer and getting abysmally drunk at parties.
It’s currently 5:56. Truthfully, they don’t have to wait until seven on the dot to burst in – surely Hajime doesn’t call up his wife strictly on the hour, surely he wants to talk to her as soon as possible – but they tamp down their eagerness and wait for the hour to turn. And a few minutes more, in case the wife is running late. (Despite their investigation and investment in the matter, it is still strange for them to think of Hajime’s wife and him as married at their age.)
Six o’clock passes and they send Cassandra on scout, to drop past the room as subtly as possible and gauge if there’s any talking taking place. Sure enough, when she passes by, she hears soft, muffled words and the slightly staticky response, high-pitched and excited.
She returns to the group jittery and pumped. It bleeds into the rest of them.
They scramble onto their feet and, taking much care to be quiet, and crowd around the door to Hajime’s room. It’s not a breach of privacy, they tell themselves. They only want to see their friend’s beloved wife.
It’s 6:04 and Hajime’s friends are the most morbidly curious they have ever been in their lives. They’re waiting for a lull in the conversation, to make a suitably dramatic entrance. Even if Hajime is going to kill them for it. They have long since accepted death as part of this deal, and they are still curious.
It’s 6:07 and Hajime has gone quiet, but his wife hasn’t. From the terrible sound quality of an ear pressed to a door listening to a quiet computer speaker, her voice sounds high, but peculiarly not tinny. Rather it's a cheerful lilting, almost melodic thing. It sounds pretty, never mind the grating audio of ear to door to tiny laptop speaker.
It’s 6:10 and finally, there seems to be an awaited lull, a comfortable silence. The newly-weds are probably smiling sappily at each other or whatever else it is long-term, committed couples do.
It’s 6:11 and the silence seems to be lasting. This is their chance.
Jack throws the door open with an embarrassingly loud cry of, “Hajime, show us your wife!”
This is met with an affronted gasp and subsequent rapid-fire Japanese from Hajime’s laptop. Hajime himself takes one (read: multiple) seconds to assess the situation he’s gotten himself into and says something back to the laptop in a long-suffering tone. After several weighted moments, Hajime turns his attention back to his friends, now falling into his room and piling themselves haphazardly on Evan’s bed pushed up against the opposite wall and the two empty desk chairs. It’s a small room, so it makes for quite a tight fit with six people. No one dares to seat themselves on Hajime’s bed, where he already is.
Hajime fixes them with a deadly glare all the while. They have the common sense to flinch.
“We just want to see your wife,” Charlie says, looking most pitiful.
Hajime sighs. “I don’t have a wife.”
They all gape at him. After a few stunned seconds, Arianna gestures wildly - mostly vaguely but give her some credit she’s trying - at the laptop. At his ring.
This prompts another sigh, following which Hajime switches back to Japanese to talk to- The Wife. It has to be The Wife. Liam catches the word tomodachi which he knows to mean ‘friend’ among other words from his dark weeb days and reflexively straightens up, assuming they’re about to be introduced to- fuck, by the fond look in Hajime’s eyes it has to be his wife.
After sighing for the third time in the past two minutes, Hajime turns the laptop to face his friends. “I don’t have a wife. I have a husband. Tooru Oikawa, professional volleyball player in Argentina, my best friend since we were kids. Apologies in advance for his bad English.”
True enough on the screen is a man, though alarmingly beautiful for it. Brown hair perfectly mussed, wide perceptive eyes and a face that yells aesthetic superiority. The only light in his room is the blue light of his own laptop. Hajime’s friends can’t help but feel like they’re in the presence of a king, even though said royalty is wearing a faded neon green shirt and, is that alien print?
The boy on the screens giggles, and when he speaks next, he does so in English. “Nice to meet you! I’m Iwa-chan’s husband!” he says, waving wildly. “Is Iwa-chan a mean person to his friends there too? I’ve heard so much about you all but I think he doesn’t says the bad stories.” His English is heavily accented, but it’s understandable, unlike their Japanese which is a dumpster fire at best, and the lilting melody that he had in Japanese carries over, like it’s intrinsic to himself.
“Husband,” Liam repeats slowly.
“Husband,” Hajime agrees.
“We didn’t even know you were gay.”
“Look,” his speech speeds up then, as if to deliberately keep Tooru out of the loop. “Look, Tooru didn’t have a great time after his coming out back at home and he dealt with a lot of shit before we could even get together so we decided to keep it on the down low when we moved out of the country and… He has a pretty public persona as an athlete in Argentina and I didn’t want it to be any trouble for his career. It means so much to him. It wasn’t like I was intentionally keeping you guys out of the loop or anything but this- This is about more than just me.”
He doesn’t look repentant at all. His expression is more… fiercely protective. And Tooru, on the screen, without even understanding exactly what Hajime is saying, senses the turn of the conversation and his face is something darkly serious, as if he’s daring them to badmouth his husband.
They’re so ridiculously in sync and it makes Liam think, so this is why Hajime got married so young. Because they fit. Because they’re thousands of miles apart and they make it work. Because they had made it through a disastrous coming out in a conservative country and dated despite it, got married despite it, and they obviously care so much about each other. Trust Hajime to make sound decisions because now that Liam has all the facts, it sure seems like a great one.
“We understand,” he says, enunciating carefully so Tooru can pick it up too. “We’re sorry for pushing you guys.”
Concurring telepathically, Hajime's friends all stand up and make to leave when Tooru shouts, arms reaching out as if he could actually grab hold of them. “Wait! I’ve put off meeting Iwa-chan’s friends for so long. I wanna talk to you all now,” he says. His eyes are trained upwards though, not on them, in a fairly accurate guess of where Hajime is, holding the laptop. “Can we?”
Hajime looks reluctant to share his husband in his once-a-week skype call but eventually acquiesces to the puppy eyes he can only see in his peripheral vision. He is not enthusiastic for his friends to know exactly how weak he is.
They jump back onto Evan’s bed, Jack about to take a seat next to Hajime on his own before beholding how magnificently Tooru’s face screws up at that and swiftly avoiding a fate as a home-breaker by sitting on the floor. As the conversation drags longer and longer, Tooru gets more confident in his English, which somehow translates into an almost native accent and ready replies. He’s almost as good at English as Hajime, who doesn’t seem the least bit surprised at this development.
Tooru wrings every detail about all of them over the course of the next few hours, without even using an awkward investigative method that would normally be required to acquire such large amounts of information. He weasels it out of them, leads them, and lets them talk themselves into monologues, all the while making them feel special and not at all obnoxious for rambling on. Something about his perfect smiles and bright voice and happy demeanor soothes them into a gentle mood and banter comes so easy and it’s hard to believe they’ve just met him today.
Rahul watches this all and watches Hajime watch it all and it’s an Experience. He’s never seen that kind of enamored gaze outside of movies. If anyone in the world could truly look as if another had hung the moon in the sky or like they’d breathed the stars into existence, it would be Hajime sleepily staring at Tooru’s pixelated face on the screen chattering animatedly about why aliens definitely exist and looking as if he was seeing everything good about the world.
Rahul wonders what it's like to love someone like that.
Hajime finally tears his eyes away from the magic boy on the laptop some two hours later and his eyes bug out comically in his head upon noticing the time.
“Fuck, Tooru,” he swears, an odd combination, before switching back to Japanese. Tooru lets out a high whine before arguing back. After many beats of heated, not hateful but annoyed, squabbling, Hajime lowers his laptop screen to indignant protests. “Get out, all of you. It’s like one o’clock over there and he has morning training. He needs to sleep but he won’t.”
A huffed rebuttal of “Don’t listen to Iwa-chan, he’s lyinggg” is all they hear before Hajime shoves them out of his room and shuts the door with finality.
Well, at least they found out about the wi- husband.
“Iwa-chan, are you jealous? Do you need some quality time with Oikawa-san?”
“No, I need you to sleep.”
“Rude! Are you saying you don’t want to talk to me?”
“…is that an ‘I’m insecure’ question or an ‘I want to tease you’ question?”
“Answering a question with a question. Typical deflection, Iwa-chan.”
“You know I want to talk to you. I always want to talk to you. But you have to get up for practice at six and that’s barely five hours of sleep. That’s not healthy.”
“But I want to talk to you. I want to see you. Even if I have to stay up late.”
“And I do too. Twenty minutes more and you'll sleep?”
“Okay… You’re the best husband, Iwa-chan.”
“Are you not going to reciprocate? I can hear you smiling Iwaizumi Hajime! I take it back, I am the best husband.”
“Yeah, you are.”
“Such a good husband.”
“So good for me.”
“I love you.”
“… I love you, too.”