Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Here are a few things that come up in Shouyou’s mind when he thinks of summer: Natsu, giggling, her tiny fingers spattering water in her inflatable pool. The damp, humid smell and squeaking sounds of rubber soles hitting the sweat-wet court. The constant hum of the electric fan just above coach Ukai’s head, behind the cashier in the Sakanoshita store. Clammy hands and sticky lips pressing against each other, tasting sweet like Gari Gari-kun or a bottle of Ramune, softly breathing secret in silence.
Shouyou lands in Rio at the very tail-end of their summer. The air, heavy, cloys to his skin like a wetsuit he can’t quite take off. The sun relentlessly prickles at his nape and his arms; he learns it the hard way within a week of living in Rio to stock up on sunblock if he doesn’t want to wake up to sunburns and coarse bedsheets. Shouyou expected an unceasing summer, but Rio de Janeiro in May is pretty mild. He can prance around with his relatively thicker tees just fine in its evenings.
There is no Gari Gari-kun or Ramune or Sakanoshita store. Once, Shouyou asks for a “refreshing drink” at a kiosk by the Ipanema beach with his halted Portuguese, curious to know what kind of Ramune he would find here. The vendor shoves a glass filled with what seems like murky water and limes into his hands. The first gulp burns his throat with ice, sour, and something else he cannot quite place until he realises it’s an alcoholic drink.
Shouyou, stuttering, tries to explain to the vendor that he’s not old enough to drink yet. The vendor asks for his age and she laughs when Shouyou says he’s nineteen.
"That's caipirinha," Lucio later on tells him. "Quite strong stuff for your first time, eh?" he laughs.
Shouyou is indebted to Lucio in a lot of ways. Lucio was the one who handled his paperwork arriving in Rio, procuring him the taxpayer registry that would allow Shouyou to apply for part-time jobs. Shouyou had heard Lucio talking heatedly into the phone on his first day, when they were driving down from the airport to his accommodation. His Portuguese is poor still he could only make out ‘registro ’ and ‘burocracia’ and what he surmised were curse words. Lucio is also the one who informs Shouyou, on his fourth day, that he had bought his cauliflower at a way higher price than normal. Shouyou then spends the following nights poring over haggling phrases; não pode dar um desconto? ; can you give me a discount?
He plows through the first couple of weeks with mounting trepidation. He cannot apply for any jobs yet—not even legally helping the junior indoor volleyball team. So when he’s not spiking the ball—or building muscles in the gym—he spends his time hammering down his Portuguese and biking around the city, trying to familiarize himself with the slopes and the inclines. Hoping that, one day, he will be able to navigate the city with closed eyes as he did in Miyagi.
But Rio is not Miyagi. He feels stupid for only realising this once he is actually in Rio, but there is watching Rio travel videos on Youtube from his temporary dingy one-room apartment in Tokyo, and then there is experiencing the very tangible smell and touch of it: the sand, the brine, and the heat. The road signs are painted with strings of unfamiliar alphabets he sometimes cannot pronounce. The people speak in a lilt and speed that are at odds with the vapid, patient tone of his Portuguese Listening Practice CD. The sand doesn’t squeak when he runs for the falling ball.
Sometimes he puts on the playlist Tsukishima had begrudgingly made for him at his request. There are a lot of English songs on it—the songs he could faintly hear coming out of Tsukishima’s headphones while they walked down the Karasuno hill after practice with cooling sweat on their backs. They were the songs he listened to on the subway between his apartment and the beach volleyball court when he was in Tokyo—the last few months before Rio—just to fill in the lull. In Rio, he listens to them to find comfort.
He texted Tsukishima with an energetic thank you for the playlist. Tsukishima left him on read. Which, all things considered, is only to be expected. What he does not expect is the dwindling amount of messages he has with Yachi and Tadashi. In the beginning, their Karasuno 3rd Years group chat vibrated with notifications every night. But then drinking parties and deadlines happened, and every night changed into every other day, week, and—by the time they sent him off to Rio—month. Now they are 12 hours apart and it’s even harder to schedule a regular catch up. Kageyama does not text.
It becomes a little better when he can start helping the junior team’s training and apply for a job at a local food delivery service. If he gets lost trying to find an address, at least it’s on the street and not in his own mind.
The first thing Shouyou actually learns from his first non-volleyball related job is how to breathe. Often, he catches himself faltering with doubt whenever he speaks; his tongue retreating with stammers and his voice stuck somewhere between his chest and his throat. He has to constantly remind himself to inhale a deep breath and open up his mouth: from the diaphragm and out. From the diaphragm and out. Voice loud, calling forth a semblance of normalcy and not the skittishness of a tourist with a prolonged stay. He still remembers the way his lungs filled full with air for a big laugh or a loud “nice kill!” when he was surrounded by the gymnasium walls and not the drones of foreign words. He misses it terribly.
When he was flying above Rio’s mountainous range, just about to land, he thought, with the naivete of someone who had never been anywhere else but Miyagi and Tokyo: even if everything feels alien, at least he knows volleyball intimately. This land might not be his home but he would always know all the lines and space of a volleyball court. This is, evidently, not the case. The sand keeps crumbling beneath his feet, the wind wrangles the ball away from the tip of his fingers, the sky opens up and disperses the whole game.
For the first time in Shouyou’s life, the court turns against him. He feels a new kind of disconnect, one that he didn’t even taste a lifetime ago, in middle school, when his only volleyball companion was the wall of the school corridor.
Shouyou carefully folds all these feelings and places it far away from his heart, snug and heavy against his ribs. He grits his teeth, pushes his pedals, makes another jump, takes another step, eats another plate of rice and beans, muttering under his breath: don’t get impatient, don’t get impatient . He has two years.
But now two months have gone by and his wallet—Natsu’s gift—goes missing.
He sits in the corner of his bedroom and he can almost feel the wounds tucked inside him fester and spill over, manifesting in nervous energy, thrumming under his skin. The last time he felt this high-strung was when he stepped into Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium for his first Spring Interhigh. That was four years ago. By now he should be able to rein this in with practiced ease, but apparently not this time. His fingers tingle.
It’s past 8PM; both the gym and the volleyball court are closed and Lucio must have gone home to his family. Shouyou cannot sit still. He decides to take his bike out, and he speeds along Rio’s bike lane without aim, letting the wind slap his face as a sad imitation of wake up calls his friends used to give him when he was fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen. The road eventually brings him to the Flamengo beach.
There are still people playing, illuminated by the moonlight and the streetlamps. This does not surprise him; he has always known Cariocas spend their time on the beach until pretty late. Lucio told him he can freely join in any beach game if he wants to, but he never has. He can’t really figure out how to insert himself between matches and among groups of strangers speaking in a foreign language, loud and fast. It suddenly hits him that for the past couple of months his social circle only extended as far as Lucio’s team and, arguably, Pedro. This is also when a ball lobs over his head and years of deeply ingrained reflex move his body to toss the ball back into the court. Somehow he gets roped into the game because of it, just like that.
And then, just when he feels the tangled nerves inside him slowly melting into the space between and beneath the sand on his feet, Oikawa Tooru finds him.
Here are a few things that Shouyou remembers of The Grand King: Kageyama, clucking his tongue, the creases between his eyebrows even deeper than usual. The thwack of his linchpin quick getting blocked back into their side of the court. White over light teal and the mortifying sense of defeat, even when everyone had already tried their best. A smug grin on a fetching face, paired with half-lidded eyes that linger just a tad too long on the Number 4 with the white-teal uniform.
That is to say, Shouyou does not really know Oikawa Tooru that well.
But when he grabs Shouyou by the shoulder to take a photo with a sense of rapport that only comes with the absurdity of their situation, when they clasp their hands with resounding itadakimasu before devouring the feijoada in front of them, when he talks with the thinly veiled lilt of Sendai dialect interwoven in his vowels, Shouyou breathes in and he can feel Miyagi, in flesh and blood, dislodging the wedge in his chest.
“But, like, it’s super cool of you to just up and go to play pro in another country straight out of high school, Oikawa-san,” Shouyou says, his mouth full of rice and sausage pieces.
“Yeah? Hm,” Oikawa hums, indolent. “But what about you living in Rio though? How did you even get here?”
“Well,” Shouyou chews on his food. “You see,”
From there on the conversation coasts along Shouyou’s days in Rio and never Oikawa’s anything. Neither does it ever skid close to Miyagi and whatever or whomever they left behind. Shouyou does not push because he knows better than prodding at a scab that might or might not be there. But there is only so much Shouyou can say about himself, what with the last two months being nothing but sinking conviction, so he reaches out and grabs the nearest hook between the two of them: “Have you seen any of Kageyama’s matches lately?”
Kageyama is a starting setter in Schweiden Adlers at the golden age of 19. He made it into Miyagi’s local newspaper, along with Ushijima, on a volleyball special in the sports corner of a Sunday edition. Shouyou had asked his mom to send a copy to his apartment in Tokyo. He has not read it to this day.
Oikawa sees the change in the topic for what it is and he scoffs with disdain. “Nope," he says, after a considerable pause, his eyes flicking elsewhere.
Shouyou does not know Oikawa Tooru that well, but he has a feeling that his sharp reply means Oikawa did watch Kageyama’s games. He just doesn’t want to admit it.
Shouyou sees the tartness for what it is and he files it as another thing he, apparently, shares with The Grand King, to some extent. When at the end of their dinner Oikawa finally shares a piece of himself—the reason why he chose Argentina, why he chose his position on the court—Shouyou tucks it close, right on top of the scant amount of information he knows of Oikawa Tooru. He reckons the pile might get higher soon, or at least he hopes so.
Afterwards, Oikawa Tooru faceplants into the sand and completely blows over their first match with strangers. He screams out his frustration, to which Shouyou is very empathetic, and Shouyou laughs in ways he hasn't in a very long time—full body shakes, lungs swelling to the brim of his ribcage. This is the fun he is well-versed in; people, on the court, scrambling to not let the ball fall unless you smash it onto the other side. Oikawa laughs just as loud, as if he lets himself in on the joke: how easy it is to have fun when you let yourself be.
Perhaps because it’s only the two of them on that beach and no one else from their shared memory of distant high schools, or perhaps it’s because he’s buoyed by a queer concoction of kinship and ease, Shouyou confesses to Oikawa a piece of his secrets: how he can also fall into a dark pit—earlier, just for a little bit—and how Oikawa uprooted him back to his feet.
Oikawa huffs a smile at him, “Treat me to dinner next time, then.”
Shouyou pretends to not notice the way Oikawa’s voice just turned a pitch lower, or how the slant of his expression might suggest something left unsaid, and he grins back, “Yeah, of course! Tomorrow’s on me. Same time, same place?”
They part with a promise, and not before Oikawa ruffles Shouyou’s hair with a laugh. Shouyou secretly wishes they will be able to meet every night until Oikawa’s stay expires. He does not voice this out loud, and does not intend to.
But another evening comes by and Oikawa catches his wrist just after they bid farewell to the two volleyball strangers they had a dinner with. And there, right then, Shouyou feels the unceasing whirlwinds of Rio around him—the sound, the smell, the people, the confusion and the frustration and the disconnect—seem to halt to a stop.
“Chibi-chan,” he says. It’s 9PM on a Friday. The lights from the stores lining up the avenue cascade into flecks of colors on Oikawa’s blithesome face, and the thrums of Carioca funk flood from the nearby bars into the street; Rio has just woken up. “Why don’t you show me around?”
“Yeah. I’m here for an exhibition match, and the management gave us a few extra days to enjoy our time here. We’re basically on a paid vacation, isn’t it cool?”
“Uh,” Shouyou’s not sure what Oikawa expects him to say. “What kind of around?”
Oikawa chuckles. “Just how you usually have fun! I’m drinking with my teammates tomorrow and I already told them you’ve lived here for quite awhile. They’d badger me for recommendation.”
The ring of skin on his wrist, still in Oikawa’s grasp, burns hot. Shouyou has fun on the volleyball court and he tells Oikawa as much.
Oikawa regards him, his eyes flickering across his face, as if he wants to make sure Shouyou is not joking. “Right,” he finally concedes.
Shouyou gulps. “You drink?”
Oikawa blinks and throws him a teasing grin. “That doesn’t sound accusatory. Why the questioning, Chibi-chan?”
Shouyou doesn’t answer, instead he intently holds his gaze on him. Oikawa seems to pick up the jitters under Shouyou’s skin, and he blinks again, this time slow and contemplative.
“Only during off-season. We’re still pro athletes, you know,” Oikawa finally lets go of his wrist, not unkindly. “But we need to let loose sometimes. Just to have some fun, team bonding and all.”
Shouyou hums. He laces his fingers and kicks the ground with his feet, doggedly studying the asphalt. He can’t seem to look at Oikawa. His wrist still feels hotter than anywhere else in his body—except his face. He’s blushing—he’s embarrassed, he belatedly realises. Now that the question is out in the open he feels like it sounds really childish. He’s afraid he just nullified all the good points he had been trying to score over the course of the last two days on Oikawa’s book, to—to what? To replace the image of his lanky, fidgety barely-teenager self from Oikawa’s mind? But for what? Why does he even care?
He’s spiraling down with confusion until Oikawa gently tugs his ear. “Earth to Chibi,” he sniggers. Shouyou looks up and he’s greeted with that look he’s familiar with—lazy, half-lidded eyes and a lopsided smile.”Why do you sound so apprehensive, Chibi-chan?”
“Um,” Shouyou can sense the blush on his cheeks intensifies. He hopes the street is dark enough to mask any red on his tanned face.
Oikawa hugs himself and drawls in a shrill voice, “I’m soooo sorry this dirty old hag dared to ask you for a few drinks, you know,” he teases, but not mockful.
“It’s not like that!” Shouyou splutters. “It’s just—it’s just I heard that when you’re drunk you’d kind of lost control of your body and I—” His throat closes up. Tanaka’s outstretched hand, shone by the lights hanging high on the stadium ceiling, seemingly within reach, but suddenly so far away; his limbs not listening to what he had to say. “I don’t like the sound of that,” Shouyou finishes weakly.
There’s a pregnant pause and Shouyou wonders if Oikawa watched Karasuno’s match against Kamomedai during the Spring High, all those years ago. Oikawa eventually fills in, his voice softer than what Shouyou would expect of him, “but you want to try it?”
Shouyou peers at him. Oikawa continues, “it’s okay if you don’t, but you asked because you do want to know why I drink, right? Because you’ve never tried.”
Shouyou looks into the distance and he thinks back to the last month of his stay in Tokyo. He received the news that Kiyoko and Tanaka got engaged. The news rippled through the whole body of Karasuno’s volleyball club alumni like a vicious wildfire and Yachi arranged a video call conference with him and Tadashi within 5 minutes of the announcement. She demanded them to accompany her night of broken-hearted ennui while she drank herself silly with a crate of convenience store beers she snagged from her university’s club room. Tadashi complied and brought the same amount of alcohol—different brands—which made him all red, loose, happy, and giggly. Shouyou kept the call on until morning and Yachi woke up cheerful and refreshed, albeit with some dark bags under her eyes. Nishinoya’s voice soars up from the back of his mind, don’t you want to try all things and see what’s worth trying?
Oikawa is still waiting for his answer, patient. Shouyou meekly nods. At that, Oikawa hums and he moves, with some hesitation, to grab Shouyou’s hand. It's probably the brief show of hesitation there that makes Shouyou brave enough to reach out; meeting Oikawa's hand in the middle and squeezing it in reassurance. Oikawa's lips spread into an easy, pleasant smile.
“So what are we trying tonight, Chibi-chan?” he tugs their joint hands, saunters down the direction of the milling crowd in the distance, slowly dragging Shouyou with him. “Beers? Heavy stuff? Or do you want to try the pretty colorful ones first? A bar instead of a club is definitely a better choice. Ooooh this is kind of exciting.”
“Ah,” Shouyou squeaks. “Um, common stuff first?” His legs are not as short as they used to be, but he still totters to keep up with Oikawa. He thinks it might be nervousness too; how long has it been since he’s had someone holding his hand like this?
“Different people have different ‘common’,” Oikawa frowns. “Do you want it sweet or bitter or refreshing or?”
Shouyou recalls the tang of lime and ice that slid through his throat, leaving a fire trail behind the first gulp. “Um, what about that Brazilian one, uh, Ca—Cai-piranha ?”
Oikawa turns and shoots him a wide grin. “O-ho, local specialty! I like where your brain is going.”
They have reached the center of the bustle on the street; people are bursting through and into doors left and right. Most just stand outside and dance to the spillover music booming from the flanking bars and nightclubs—It’s practically impossible to walk through the crowd without rubbing shoulders. There’s only a small space wide enough for a car to go through, bisecting the crowd, and Shouyou notices a few stands selling foods and drinks dotting the periphery. Shouyou jolts with the realisation that he’s currently in the Lapa district; an area most famous for its nightlife in Rio. Lucio had mentioned that Lapa is only 20 minutes away from where he lives by bike, but he did not register that it would mean anything to him when he just arrived in Rio, all positive and bright-eyed.
Oikawa is scouring through the various exteriors of the bars on their left when he asks him, completely out of the blue, “Do you remember what’s written in Seijoh’s official banner?”
“It’s 'rule the court',” he supplies the answer himself. “And that I did, didn’t I?” Oikawa speaks with an attitude and confidence that can only flourish from hundreds of hours of hard work. And he is, indeed, undeniably a great setter. Shouyou witnessed it himself just a couple of hours ago. He tentatively nods, not sure where this is going.
“You see, I seized that authority over the court by sacrificing a lot of things. Over a very long time. And once I get hold of it I have to cling onto it so it doesn’t escape from between my fingers,” he draws Shouyou closer when a large rowdy group makes their way behind him. This close, Shouyou can feel the heat from Oikawa’s body, and the musky smell of his sweat mixing with expensive cologne. Oikawa tightens his grip, and when Shouyou cranes his neck to look up, Oikawa is leveling his gaze on him; there are only little specks of levity from before left in his eyes.
“There are different kinds of drunk; some become really annoying and potentially dangerous, but me,” Oikawa huffs, “It just makes my limbs all loose. And I can stop thinking for a while. It’s nice, some little respites.” He turns his eyes to their joined hands, and he puts his other hand on top of it; firmly clasping Shouyou. “By making myself lose control with my own consent, I can be more aware once I do have the control, if that makes sense.”
Shouyou’s heart thumps hard. But this is not the case for him, he wants to argue. He doesn’t have control at all. It has slipped through his fingers, like gripping a fist of sand; it’s pointless. But the potential of enabling his brain to stop grinding gears—to fully know how to have control once you lose it entirely—worms a modicum of excitement into his guarded anticipation.
“Yeah?” Oikawa says. He’s cautious, observing Shouyou’s minute expressions. Shouyou realises they are still standing close with their thighs almost brushing against each other, and he manages to stop himself from flinching out of surprise.
“Yeap,” He pops the ‘p’, trying to make himself sound more contained and not a bumbling mess—though the effect falls flat to his voice coming out in a high pitch.
Oikawa grins. “You’re not that much of a chibi anymore but you sure still sound like one.”
Shouyou squawks and Oikawa just barks a laugh and pats his cheek. He then pulls Shouyou along by the hand to one of the hole-in-the-wall bars with a tropical wooden exterior. The inside is packed with people, but some high-top tables are still open and the music doesn't overpower the chatters and slams of glasses. "Bi-ngo!" Oikawa exclaims with a satisfied smile.
He leaves Shouyou at the nearest table and orders their drinks from the bar while Shouyou tries to ignore the bereft feeling in his hand. Shouyou thinks, tonight—no, it has been like this since yesterday night, right before they parted ways—Oikawa is really. Tactile.
In the two months Shouyou has been living in Rio, he has made peace with the way Cariocas pull him into a friendly hug, sometimes with firm pats on his back, in every meeting. He was in a high school sports club for three years; he’s not entirely unfamiliar with physical contact. But the way the tips of Oikawa’s fingers linger for a moment before they tear away from any parts of Shouyou’s body—it reminds him of some things he doesn’t want to remember. This isn’t a game he has never played before, but he hasn’t played it enough to know if he wants to entertain the idea of Oikawa roping him into one.
“It’s Cai-pirin-ha , you know. Piranha is the fishes.”
“Buh?” Shouyou gawks.
Oikawa puts two glasses with the same murky water Shouyou remembers on the table; each glass has a slice of lime on its precipice and a sugar cane that’s been bored in the middle. “You owe me one for that, Chibi-chan, that was so embarrassing. The bartender must have pegged me an ignorant tourist,” Oikawa pouts, completely ignoring the fact that he is, indeed, a tourist. That was cute, Shouyou’s mind unhelpfully supplies.
“Right, OK, first things first,” Oikawa spreads his big hands on the table. “Remember to pace yourself. You don’t need to drink everything at once; you also don’t need to finish it if you don’t want to. We aren’t here to make you drunk, but to pop your alcohol cherry, correct?”
Shouyou blinks; he’s overwhelmed by the sudden surge of gratitude towards Oikawa. He didn’t know Oikawa would treat this with that much care. Oikawa tilts his head inquisitively, to which Shouyou finally lets out a “yeah.”
“You know what kanpai is in Portuguese?”
Shouyou shakes his head fast. Why is he this nervous?
“I’d say we can go with salud, but we aren’t in Argentina are we,” Oikawa grins, his eyes crinkle a bit and Shouyou’s heartbeat is shot. “Kanpai ?”
Shouyou clinks his glass with the one Oikawa has in the air between them, fumbling an awkward “kanpai ”. The first gulp is just as he remembers, but he cannot really revel on the feeling when Oikawa drinks with his eyes peering at Shouyou from between his long lashes. Shouyou gingerly puts his glass back. He doesn’t want to choke on his first alcohol foray, please and thank you.
“That’s unfair,” he murmurs.
“What’s unfair?” Oikawa puts his chin on the back of his hand. Shouyou is sitting on a stool while Oikawa remains standing; he’s at a slightly higher line of sight than Oikawa, so Shouyou can see the slope of Oikawa’s nose and the lines on his eyelids; no volleyball net to obstruct his view of him. His palms sweat. Ah, he absently notes, that was a familiar feeling.
“Nothing,” He sips his caipirinha, this time to hide his blush more than anything.
Oikawa then launches into stories about his teammates’ drunken shenanigans, half-filled glass cradled in his hand. Just as advised, Shouyou works on his own glass bit by bit, acquainting his taste buds with the bitter aftertaste. It’s not as bad as he expected.
When he can see the bottom of his glass, Oikawa is recounting the night his inebriated teammate frantically followed a plastic bag fully convinced it was a cat. Shouyou is aware the story doesn’t really warrant the long, gleeful giggle he lets out, but he cannot care less. He remembers Ramune; the bubbling soda and the sweetly smack. This is Ramune. But instead of tickling his ears and freezing his brain, it fills his ribcage with fizzing lights and it makes his fingers twinkle and weightless. He wonders if he’d be able to fly if he tries to jump now.
Oikawa smiles at him. “You okay there, Chibi-chan? This was stronger than I thought,” he says, somewhat apologetically.
“S’okay,” at one point in the conversation Shouyou had mirrored Oikawa’s gesture; his chin rested on his hand. “S’pretty nice, actually.”
“Do you want another glass?”
Shouyou scrunches his face, thinking.
“We can try to see how much you can take another night. I still have a couple of days here.”
That, more than anything, sends a giddy shiver down Shouyou’s spine. Oikawa wants to spend more nights with him. “Another night, then,” he resolutely decides.
“Good boy,” Oikawa coos. He reaches out and makes a mess out of Shouyou’s hair, fingers brushing on Shouyou’s pinkening cheeks. Shouyou finds he quite fancies this kind of attention. He didn’t know that about himself before. Oikawa then brings their empty glasses back to the bar only to come back with two cups of water.
“Listen here, Chibi-chan,” he mock-preaches. “Make sure to pump up lots of water to hydrate yourself in-between and after drinking. Always,” he hands one cup to Shouyou, “athlete responsibility.”
Perked up by the last note, Shouyou dutifully drinks his cup of water. Oikawa swirls his around while he thoughtfully looks out of the large window behind Shouyou’s back, enveloping them in a comfortable silence. Usually, in this kind of situation, Shouyou would pipe up and throw in some mundane questions to fill the void. But he has a hunch Oikawa is building up his voice for something else. So he waits.
“Chibi-chan,” Oikawa finally starts. “How’s Tobio?”
Shouyou tightens his grip on his cup. He can’t say this was unexpected.
“What about him?” he replies, casually.
“Well, you know, don’t you keep contact with him? How are you and him?”
You and him. Shouyou isn’t stupid, he knows where this question is going. It is not a question asking whether a high school camaraderie has survived past graduation. He thinks about Oikawa’s gaze, across the net four years ago, lingering on the wide back of Seijoh’s ace. He thinks, did Oikawa also see the direction of Shouyou’s eyes, and the confused longing he’d felt so strongly he thought it was embodied in the air on their side of the court.
“What about you and Iwaizumi-san?” he bites back.
Oikawa tips his head back and bursts out laughing. “Chibi-chan, you’re always on the offensive, huh? Is this, what, a Karasuno thing?”
Shouyou doesn’t allow himself to give Oikawa a reply. He just raises his eyebrow; so ?
“Me and Iwa-chan? Neither here nor there,” he gives Shouyou a smile, just a bit on the sly side. “He’s in the United States now,” he adds. His expression shutters for a split second; crumbles and rebuilds just as quick. Shouyou deigns him the dignity of not mentioning his flickered expression; no one else would notice the moment pass if they were not equipped with the ability to do the exact same thing. Shouyou does.
“Then it’s the same with me and Kageyama: neither here nor there,” he says. His eyes never wavering from Oikawa, Shouyou takes a quick mouthful of his water, places the glass back on the table, and he tacks on: “he’s in Japan.”
Oikawa hums. He leans forward—even closer than before—and he rests his face on his hand just so. “And we are in Brazil.”
Shouyou gulps. Their faces are so close to each other; he can see the lights from the city behind him glisten on Oikawa’s eyes, his warm breath fanning on his lips. Two can play this game. “And we are in Brazil.”
He wouldn’t say it’s liquid courage. It’s the fact that he sees what seems like a plea in Oikawa’s eyes, and he cannot be sure if it is not his own eyes being reflected there; It’s the fact that they share the same ache and carry the same burden, but rooted from the same place still; so Shouyou breathes and he closes the space between them with his lips.
The first time it happened, it was on the first day of the summer break in their second year of high school. It was when the taste of defeat from Datekou High was still fresh and sour on their tongues. Their grades were even worse than usual so Ennoshita put his foot down and forbad them from entering the volleyball court until they aced their supplementary exams. Sullen, they hunkered down at the library, trying to exhaust whatever was left of their brain after a day of extra lessons. The sweltering heat did not help. There was a heatwave that day.
Shouyou read in Natsu’s shoujo manga that your first kiss is something that you would remember your whole life. But the fact of the matter is he can’t, for the life of him, remember the sequence of events that led them to it. He remembers the baseball club shouting in the distance, the voices passed through the open windows; their limbs loose and tangled after another bout of their roughhousing routine. They were lying on the library’s floor, facing each other with their eyes closed, beaten down by the temperature, and suddenly there was a soft pressure on Shouyou’s lips.
There was no taste. It was clumsy and wet, neither of them knew what they were doing. At one point, Shouyou was lost and he forgot how to breathe. To this day, he doesn’t know who initiated it first. He and Kageyama never talked about it.
His first kiss with Oikawa is a long, unwavering press on the lips, this time on Shouyou’s terms, and it feels welcoming rather than awkward. When he opens his eyes, Oikawa still has his closed and a blush is dusting his cheeks pink. How pretty, Shouyou thinks.
“My hotel is nearby,” Oikawa breathes.
Shouyou feels his heart beat faster. He doesn’t have to take the offer. Oikawa is still in town for a few more days. But, he ponders, whether he wants to go back to his bedroom tonight is an entirely different question. This is Miyagi, standing in front of him, in the shape of an Adonis that would warrant a double take even when they were wiry high-schoolers on the opposing sides of the court, inviting him to his hotel room.
“Can you take the lead?” he asks.
Oikawa gently takes his hand, this time without a drop of reluctance, and kisses his knuckles. “Gladly.”
Oikawa’s hotel is ten minutes away from the bar. They walk down the street, unhurried, with Oikawa’s hand warm in Shouyou’s own. There are no words uttered between them during the trip. It gives Shouyou enough time to marvel how he’s actually, really sleeping with The Grand King—Oikawa Tooru—tonight.
What would 15-year old Shouyou even think about this? He’d probably squint in disbelief. He doubts he would be able to put a name to this feeling: noticing the way white shirt pulls taut across Oikawa’s wide back, the way his trimmed undercut tapers into short, spiky hair at his nape, and the distinctive scent of musk and sweat. The sharp angles of muscles and not the soft, relenting curves. By now he has had enough bearing and nights of contemplation to admit that this, the stir in his stomach, currently wracking his brain with relish, means attraction.
Oikawa snaps him back by tugging their hands as the elevator bell dings. The light from the inside floods the dark hotel hallway they’re in, casting shadows behind their figures.
“Are you coming?”
Shouyou cannot see Oikawa’s face, but he wants to believe it is hope that he hears then. Before self-doubt can numb his feet, he tiptoes and kisses Oikawa again—this time with a brush of his tongue, a silent yes, take me.
Oikawa hums from the back of his throat and pulls him along into the elevator without breaking their kiss. He pushes Shouyou’s back against the elevator’s wall and slips his tongue between his lips. The taste of alcohol is still strong in their mouths and it only makes it even more intoxicating, spurring Shouyou to swipe his tongue against Oikawa’s, chasing the taste.
Oikawa makes haste to grab Shouyou’s hips and pushes them against his, pressing their groins against each other. Shouyou gasps and reflexively throws his arms around Oikawa’s neck, yanking him to his height and taking their kiss even deeper. He rakes his nails through the short hair of Oikawa’s nape—he did not know he was dying to do this until he got to sense the wet, prickly feeling on his fingers. Oikawa, with no space between them and nowhere else to go, slithers his hand beneath Shouyou’s shirt and splays it across Shouyou’s back—his hand big enough to cover nearly the whole span of it. It’s hot, and it burns, and this is real, Oikawa’s warmth within his grasp. Shouyou whimpers. He wants more—
“Um, ‘scuse me,”
They freeze. There is a family of four standing on the elevator door. The guy that seems to be the father has his arms crossed, unamused. The mother looks dreadfully embarrassed and the teenage son appears to just want to be anywhere else but here. There is a baby carriage. They are on the 7th floor.
“We are so sorry,” Oikawa recovers first and immediately pulls Shouyou out of the elevator. The baby carriage blocks the exit they have to squeeze through the small elevator door with more sorrys and excuse mes before they finally get through.
“Sorry! Really sorry!” Shouyou bows multiple times while Oikawa tugs their hands down the hallway. “Sorry and enjoy your holiday!” Oikawa yells.
The father entering the elevator while shaking his head is the last thing Shouyou sees before he turns back, trying to keep pace with Oikawa’s large strides. Oikawa is biting his lips to contain himself and his shoulders shake from the effort.
“Is your room even on this floor,”
“No, it’s on the 8th floor,” his face breaks and the laughter finally escapes them. They’re still howling with it when Oikawa pushes the emergency exit door and drags Shouyou to climb the stairs two steps at a time. Once they reach the top, Oikawa bends him by the waist, leans in, and catches his lips for another kiss.
This is fun, Shouyou thinks. The last thread of nerves he did not realise was there eases as Oikawa snakes his hand upwards, stroking Shouyou’s back. When he finally lets go of Shouyou’s lips, Oikawa mutters, “I’m glad it wasn’t my teammates who found us.”
“Why, would they pick on you for it?” Shouyou teases.
“That, and also I don’t wanna share,” Oikawa peppers his cheeks with small kisses. “Do you have any idea how cute you look right now.”
Shouyou flushes. This is an entirely new field he has never been in before; knowing that people—Oikawa—can be attracted to him. He is not sure how to react.
Oikawa presses their lips together one last time before he practically hauls him right through the door back into the dimly lit hotel corridor. His room is the second one to the left of the emergency stairways, and he strenuously tries to procure the hotel card from his wallet without letting go of Shouyou’s hand. Shouyou tries to suppress his grin.
Delivering on his promise earlier, Oikawa completely takes the lead as they enter his hotel room: tilting Shouyou’s chin up to devour his reddening lips again and again, grounding his thigh between Shouyou’s legs, drawing lustful moans out of him. From there it is a dizzying flurry of tangled limbs and shed clothes, making a trail from the entrance to the double bed in the middle of the room. Their lips don’t part for as much as they can afford.
Oikawa gently pushes him to fall back into the bed, tapping Shouyou’s knee to make him scoot up by his elbows, opening up more space for Oikawa to follow. He makes his way up by lathering the expanse of Shouyou’s exposed skin with light kisses and caresses, humming. Shouyou is no stranger to nudity, but this is the first time he is acquainted with the sensation of skin sliding across skin; all the physicality of breathing each other’s air and sharing warmth through parts that normally never gets touched by anyone else, pooling into a glowing ember low in his stomach.
“How do you want to do this?” Oikawa asks, his lips finally arrive on the leaf of Shouyou’s ear.
Shouyou blinks. Should he tell Oikawa the truth? He recalls Oikawa’s attentiveness while making sure Shouyou feels safe drinking earlier. It’s only fair for Shouyou to open his cards now.
“I—” he stops.
That puts Oikawa on alert. “What’s wrong?”
Shouyou inhales. “Here is the extent of my experience:” he raises his fist between their faces. “We made out in the locker room or behind a store after practice sometimes,” he puts his thumb up, counting. “We dry humped,” he puts his index finger up. “Twice,” and he drops his hand back to the sheet.
Oikawa stares. He is waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that was it; Shouyou doesn’t have any more shoes to drop. His count stops at two. This is the first time he’s ever told anyone about him and Kageyama, he realises. Not even Yachi and Tadashi know, despite Shouyou having full confidence they’d be fine with it. Now that he has put it into words, it does sound like plain hormonal teenage indiscretions; the kind of story you laugh about over beers when you are 40 and balding. He tightens his grip on the sheet.
“Okay,” Oikawa says, after a beat of silence. “Okay,” he gives Shouyou a peck on the lips and he moves to rummage through the bag beside the bed. He comes back with a clear bottle half-filled with liquid. “We’re taking this slow,” he says, more of a statement than it is a command.
Shouyou wants to protest but it dies on the tip of his tongue. Tonight wasn’t supposed to be for him. Both of them need this. He understands this in the vague way his hunch always tells him whether a spiker is hitting a straight or a cross—visceral in its bone-deep familiarity. But here he is, Oikawa Tooru, in all his grace and glory of being, apparently, a gentleman on and off the bed. Shouyou would have swooned if not for the memory of the unfruitful yearnings that had landed them in bed together in the first place.
“Okay,” he concedes, and lies back into the bed in surrender.
Oikawa spurts a dollop of lube into his hand and settles above Shouyou, smattering him with kisses all across his face to make him lax again. “Hold onto me,” he husks, his dry hand guiding Shouyou’s arms to snake around his neck. He then takes the both of them in one hand and starts slowly stroking, his mouth claiming Shouyou’s into a slow, searing kiss.
Oikawa pays attention whenever a particular move pulls a peal of whimpers from between their lips, and carefully repeats it. He sucks the bottom of Shouyou’s lips and gently soothes it with his tongue. Shouyou feels like he’s drowning—not in the way his guts sink whenever he wakes up another day feeling unmoored in his bedroom in Rio, but in a novel, half-dazed state of being blanketed by a warm and heavy pressure, leaving him breathless. His hand roams across any breadth of skin he can reach, hoping it can provide Oikawa at least a fraction of the warmth he’s feeling right now.
Ever since he left Miyagi, he has had so many precious things gradually slipping away from between his fingers. Seemingly so close, but just out of reach and not as easy as they were before: his old friends, his voice, the ball, his place on the court. But this, the solid, strong muscles under his fingers, the tender ministrations he easily gives and receives; this is his.
After some time, when his ears are filled with their shared laboured breathings, Oikawa asks if he can use Shouyou’s thighs. His eyes burn with lust and his hands already move to caress the smoothness of Shouyou's inner thighs, up and down. Shouyou says, please, greedy for more.
Oikawa wastes no second and spreads more lube right below Shouyou’s crotch, making him shiver from the cold liquid. “This will feel better for the both of us later, trust me,” Oikawa says. Shouyou does.
He follows Oikawa’s guiding hands and flips his position to his knees. He feels, before he sees, Oikawa’s cock slipping between his thighs, nudging on his balls. When Shouyou tries to clench his muscles there, Oikawa hisses. Did it hurt? Was it too strong? Before Shouyou can apologize, Oikawa nips on his shoulder and whispers into his ears, low and gentle, “Yeah, that feels so good, keep it tight for me baby.”
Shouyou swallows, feeling the blood rush away from his brain straight to his cock. Oikawa starts to thrust; every slide and friction builds mounting pressure low in his belly. The room is filled with filthy squelching sounds and Oikawa’s grunts; the slap of his balls on the back of Shouyou’s legs, wet and rhythmic. There’s also a high, keening sound, needy and coming in short bursts, until Shouyou realises it’s coming from himself. He feels lightheaded; pleasure teeming through all his senses.
He jerks away when one of Oikawa’s hands releases his waist and gives his nipple a tug—too much—Oikawa silently apologizes by littering his back with biting kisses. Shouyou gasps every time he feels a new sting bloom. At one point, Oikawa picks up his pace and the momentum throws Shouyou’s elbows from holding his weight, the thrusts now grounding him into the bed.
Tears are welling up in Shouyou’s eyes; his threads of sanity starting to come undone, when Oikawa pants, “I’m so close, so close, god.”
His thrusts are turning heavy and erratic, then Oikawa pulls away and rolls Shouyou over flat onto his back. His eyes devour Shouyou—moving slow from his face, to his chest, then to his full cock and his wet twitching thighs—while he frantically tugs on his hard cock, slick with lube and his own pre-cum. The sight turns Shouyou hot all over and his mouth blabbers without his brain’s saying, “on me, do it on me, please,” he gasps.
That pushes Oikawa over the edge; his face scrunches, mouth agape, and his whole body jerks. Ropes of cum soil the ridges of Shouyou’s abs, but his mind is too muddled to pay it any heed. Oikawa, spent and breathless, slumps over his stomach.
Before Shouyou can whine for his oversensitive cock, Oikawa flicks his tongue across Shouyou's abs, collecting his own cum into his mouth. Slowly, he licks down; following the trail of his cum and then the hair growing on Shouyou’s navel.
Shouyou holds his breath—this is obscene. But he is too aroused to think about anything else but the state of his untouched dick. When finally, finally, Oikawa arrives at his crotch, he swallows the head first, sucking at the tip and gulping it down—spit and cum and lube and all. Shouyou groans. The sensation is unlike anything—his whole body is alight and Oikawa's mouth is the wet, hot beacon.
Oikawa’s head bobs progressively lower, taking more of his cock, while his tongue swirls around his shaft inside; his hand strokes what his mouth cannot cover. Shouyou can feel the beads of sweat dripping from his forehead, the tip of Oikawa’s tongue teasing his frenulum, the dampening bedsheet beneath them. Then Oikawa flicks his eyes upwards, meeting Shouyou’s, and he sucks the air to hollow his cheeks—his mouth grips Shouyou’s cock tight like a vice. Shouyou cries out from deep within his chest, and he comes with a sob—the waves of pleasure finally crash over him, roaring in his ears. Oikawa hums and calmly takes it.
Once Shouyou has released the last of his, Oikawa reaches for the tissues on the bedside table and spits what he has in his mouth into it. If Shouyou has half a mind to actually think right now he might feel some shame seeing that, but his head is too blissfully hazy to think about anything. Much less decent bedside manner.
“It’s okay because it’s me,” Oikawa chides while he lies down and snuggles closer to Shouyou, “but coming inside someone’s mouth without telling them is a no-no, ‘kay?”
Shouyou mumbles something that he hopes sounds like an apology, but he can’t be sure, though hearing Oikawa's soft laugh convinces his post-orgasmic brain he did all right. Oikawa then tugs the cover over them and Shouyou into his embrace, enveloping Shouyou in an all-encompassing warmth. Before the undertow of sleep fully pulls Shouyou into unconsciousness, he hears a thready whisper: thank you.
The first thing that Shouyou comes to is the hard, warm surface pressing against his cheek. What comes after is something large lightly combing his hair, and the measured breathing of someone who doesn’t want to rouse him from slumber. Oikawa. The chest he fell asleep on moves in cadence with his breathing—slow and steady.
Shouyou silently traces the crest of his pectorals, signalling his wake. Oikawa kisses the top of his head, good morning, and goes back to his slow strokes over Shouyou’s hair. Shouyou tries to peek up, but the angle from his place, in the crook of Oikawa’s neck, only allows him to see the way motes of light flirt with the tip of his nose and his long eyelashes. He doesn’t look down; he seems to be lost in thought. Shouyou closes his eyes and lets the quiet lull him back to the shore between sleep and wakefulness, but then Oikawa breaks the silence.
“You know,” he says. “I only told Iwa-chan I was going to Argentina a few weeks before my departure.”
Shouyou doesn’t reply, but he cuddles closer to encourage Oikawa to continue.
“He was the last one to know because I had no idea how to break the news to him. He was reaaaaally mad about it,” Shouyou can hear the grin in his voice. “But then he told me he was applying for Irvine and he wasn’t sure when would be the right time to tell me either.”
Shouyou chuckles. He does not know Iwaizumi that well, but that emotional labor that grows from the lack of communication and a shared pond of tacit affections—he’s so intimate with it, he aches.
“But that was three years ago,” he goes on. “He’s graduating next year. I heard from Mattsun he’s planning to look for a job in Tokyo.”
He falls back into silence, continuing his lazy strokes, now over Shouyou’s cheeks. He doesn’t continue.
“Are you?” Shouyou finally asks.
Oikawa hums, the tone rises at the end, inquisitive.
“Are you? Going back to Japan, I mean.”
Oikawa does not immediately reply; he stills and mulls over his answer. But the lines on his face tell Shouyou he actually already knows the answer. He just doesn’t want to voice it out loud; it would give shape to the consequences that might have already stifled him as is.
The silence stretches, and it smothers Shouyou. He doesn’t want to push Oikawa into something he is not ready for yet, so he interrupts his train of thoughts. “When I told my relatives I was going to Brazil, they asked me if I am coming here to study football.”
Oikawa lowly chuckles, his chest rumbles with it. “Like Captain Tsubasa?”
“I told them if it was for football, I wouldn't go here in the first place. Brazil ranks first in volleyball, not football,” he grins.
That sends Oikawa into hearty stitches, jostling Shouyou’s head. “Chibi-chan, I would kiss the hell out of you right now if it weren’t for my morning breath.” He kisses his temple instead. “Do you want to wash up?”
Shouyou grimaces. Now that he is wide awake, he’s alert to the stickiness on his stomach and his groin, and the overnight sweat tacky on his skin. He gets up and quickly excuses himself to wash up first; Oikawa just waves him into the direction of the bathroom.
Shouyou comes out of the shower naked. Oikawa whistles at the sight before he takes his turn entering the bathroom, making Shouyou flush all over as if they haven’t just had almost-intercourse the night before. Shouyou didn’t bring any fresh pairs, so he resorts to the briefs he wore yesterday. It’s gross, but he doesn’t think he has reached that level of friendliness to wear Oikawa’s underpants. When he picks his clothes up, they are all clammy and disgusting. He puts them back onto the floor. He’ll just ask Oikawa to lend him some clothes once he finishes showering.
Having nothing else to do, he sits down on the bed and checks on his phone notifications. Shouyou raises his eyebrows. There is an unusual amount of them.
He is in the process of opening the chat one by one when Oikawa, clad in a hotel bathrobe, plops down behind him, hugging his shoulders and nipping his neck, making him quiver a little. His attitude so casual Shouyou senses this might not be Oikawa’s first dance when it came to one-night stands. “Who’s that you’re chatting with?” he asks, though he doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in the answer when he is currently preoccupied with Shouyou’s naked clavicles.
“Oh, it’s—ah—do you know the Miya twins from Hyougo?”
Oikawa voices a knowing hum.
“This is one of the twins! He sometimes sends me some cool volleyball clips ever since we exchanged con—ah, god, ” Oikawa bites on his neck and licks the sore with his cold, minty tongue, effectively halting Shouyou’s brain from whatever he was about to say.
“Oikawa-san,” he whines in complaint.
“Mmm yeah, continue with that tone, it gets me going.”
“You got me here babe,” he giggles, infectious to even Shouyou, who’s trying his best to look exasperated.
He drags Oikawa down with him into the bed and lets him settle between his legs; Oikawa easily follows and pillows his head on Shouyou’s chest. Some droplets of water drizzle down from Oikawa’s still-damp hair, but Shouyou doesn’t mind. His skin, fresh from the shower, is cool and soft to the touch. Shouyou leans down, his lips brushing on Oikawa’s ears, making Oikawa shivers.
“Oikawa-san,” he says, “do you want to continue from last night?” he rolls his hips upwards to make a point. “Teach me the whole course?”
Oikawa sighs, though the faux resignation doesn't deceive Shouyou. If anything, he’s piqued Oikawa’s interest, at least going by something that’s starting to poke his leg right now. “What do I get in return, Chibi-chan?” he bids.
“Today’s my birthday.”
Pause. Oikawa looks up and gapes at him. “You’re kidding me.”
Shouyou produces his phone back and shows him the sludge of birthday greetings on his LINE messenger. “I turned 20 today!”
He cackles incredulously. “I really can’t beat you, can I?”
“You did, once, when we were still in high school,” Shouyou grins, mischievous. “But not anymore! Not now, not ever.”
“That’s big talk coming from you,” he throws himself to shake his wet hair all over Shouyou’s front, tickling him until Shouyou shrieks and cries uncle.
“Stop , please stop,” he wheezes. Oikawa just sniggers, satisfied, and goes back to being a dead weight over him.
They fall back into a comfortable silence. Thinking that it was Oikawa’s way of letting him down easy, Shouyou lets the matter go and he wonders if Oikawa would like to spend the afternoon with him today. He doesn’t have a teaching schedule on Saturday. But then Oikawa takes his nipple into his mouth, rolling his tongue around it, cutting Shouyou’s breath short.
“Oikawa-san,” he sighs. When he looks down, Oikawa is beaming at him. His eyes glint with amusement. Shouyou pouts.
“Free sex-ed class from Oikawa Tooru, yours truly, for your birthday,” Oikawa pats Shouyou’s hip, telling him to switch position. “Come on, come on”
“That’s such an arousing lead for sex talk, Oikawa-san,” Shouyou deadpans. But he complies.
Oikawa doesn’t deign him with a reply. Instead, he hands him the bottle of lube picked up from between the sheets and he rearranges the pillows behind him to make himself comfortable. He makes a show of disrobing himself; little by little revealing bare skin, corded muscles, and eventually his half-erect cock, under the morning light, fully entrancing Shouyou. Once no single thread is left on his body, he spreads his thighs. Beckoning.
“You like what you’re seeing?” he smirks.
Shouyou gulps and shuffles closer.
Oikawa teaches Shouyou how to open him up with encouraging whispers and reassuring touches. Shouyou is two fingers knuckles deep inside Oikawa when he bends his fingers and a loud moan tumbles from Oikawa’s lips—ah, yes, there. Eager, Shouyou moves his other hand and his tongue to roam all over Oikawa’s body, mapping the ridges and the bundles of nerves that would coax another pretty mewl from Oikawa. He’s carefully sucking the head of Oikawa’s cock, mimicking what Oikawa did to him the night before, when Oikawa tugs his hair; flushing red and demanding a kiss. It suddenly clicks in Shouyou’s mind that not only is Oikawa loud in bed, he loves to kiss to shut himself up.
All of these are endearing but also dizzying to Shouyou; he’s drunk with lust just from being able to pleasure him. Seeing Oikawa dazed and breathless almost feels like slowly peeling several coats of varnish, until he gets to see all the crooks and the dents he is being entrusted with, for him to treat with care. For him to take control over.
“Right,” Oikawa rasps. He grabs Shouyo’s cock over his briefs—hard enough to tent the fabric and indecently wet at the tip—and strokes it in the way that makes Shouyou’s breaths stutter. “I’m ready. Put it in,” he waves at the direction of the bedside table to signal where the condom is.
Even something as simple as preparing to shove your dick somewhere proves to be a challenge—why do the porn videos he watched from between his fingers make it seem so easy? Shouyou fumbles to put on the condom until Oikawa shows him mercy and gives a helping hand. He makes a few futile attempts to guide his cock into the right direction until Oikawa pipes up with “oooh, this’ll make it easier,” and shoves a pillow under his pelvis.
“Enter me slowly, yeah,” Oikawa spreads more lube over the condom, “it’s been long for me.” Shouyou nods and plants another kiss to reassure him—and maybe also himself.
At first there is only an unyielding pressure pushing him back, but then the flesh gives and the flare of his cock slips into the tight, smouldering heat; Oikawa softly sighs, his eyes closing. Shouyou tries to give tentative little pushes, paying extra attention to Oikawa’s face for any tell-tale of hurt, and it’s so good it’s a bit terrifying—the pleasure makes his scalp tingle, all the way down to the tip of his toes. When he’s fully seated inside Oikawa, his hip bones resting on Oikawa’s ass, he’s pretty convinced his brain has been completely reduced into mush.
“How’s it?” Oikawa asks, cupping Shouyou’s jaw. His eyes glazed, but still too collected for Shouyou’s liking.
“Good,” Shouyou croaks. “Can I move?”
He swiftly shifts back once Oikawa hums his permission. The muscles enveloping his length clutch tight, not letting him out easy, but once he pushes forward the plunge is maddening. He’s being sucked in and he moans, wild and broken. From then on he can’t really think straight, his hips thrust with abandon to chase the sensation. The little gasps Oikawa lets out fall into rhythm with the slaps of their skin. Shouyou doesn’t last for more than five minutes.
Shouyou gathers his breath, coming off from the high, and Oikawa combs Shouyou’s hair with an understanding smile. Shouyou is having none of that though.
“‘Scuse me,” he says, while he reaches over Oikawa’s head to retrieve the strip of condoms. He slowly pulls his cock out and takes off the filled rubber, tying it for disposal—he at least knows this much. His cock still stands stiff, throbbing; it’s even harder than before if he says so himself. It’s showing no signs of flagging anytime soon. While Shouyou puts on a new condom, Oikawa stares at it with a mixture of bemusement and arousal.
“Oikawa-san,” he bumps the head of his cock on the outer rim of Oikawa’s hole. “Can I continue?”
Oikawa sucks the air from between his teeth. “Boy, this is going to be a fun week, isn’t it?”
His second time lasts just a little bit longer, but enough to turn Oikawa’s eyes all glassy from his release. And then, after leisurely stroking his cock back to stiffness while he dips his tongue to taste the drooling lube and the faint remnants of latex straight from Oikawa’s hole, to the pretty sound of Oikawa’s frantic cries, his third time lasts until the sun is in its zenith. They’re lying in bed an arm’s length away, chest heaving, wrung completely dry. The sheet is ruined and has been kicked off into the floor long ago.
“Whoah,” Shouyou says to the ceiling. An entirely new world has been laid out in front of his eyes. He tried a few positions, one of which made Oikawa wantonly thrash around when he rolled his hips at a specific angle. How many other positions can he try to pleasure himself and his partner? How does it feel being on the other end of the deal? Contrary to how he was the night before, emotionally overwhelmed with the sudden proximity with someone after a long time and for the first time, today he feels like a boat engine being revved for its first trial run. Ready to sail.
“Whoa indeed.” Oikawa grunts and gets up on his elbows. “How are you not tired?”
“Oikawa-san,” he starts, completely serious. “I think this just means you need to put more cardio in your training.”
Oikawa whacks him on the stomach while it vibrates with laughter.
Oikawa grunts again.
“Me as well, you monster,” he whines. “Now we need to shower again. Because of you.”
Shouyou rolls off the bed and gets back onto his feet, “I didn’t hear you complaining earlier.” He drags a grumbling Oikawa to the bathroom, his feet heavy to Shouyou’s light skips. If later on his legs tremble even more from Shouyou sucking his brain out of his dick under the pretense of an extra lesson under the shower, that’s neither here nor there.
They are eating moqueca—a seafood stew dish—in a modest restaurant one block away from the hotel when Oikawa puts his spoon down with conviction and he proclaims, “I’m not drinking with my teammates tonight.”
Shouyou told him moqueca might be a bit too heavy for lunch, and they could go to try various street food sold at the barracas lining the beach instead. Oikawa insisted he needed a hearty dish to refuel because Shouyou is ruthless and abominably insatiable, so Shouyou, a little bit sheepish, makes today his cheat day for Oikawa.
“Buh?” His cheeks are bloated with rice and fish.
“I’m not going with my teammates tonight,” Oikawa repeats.
Shouyou quickly chews what’s left in his mouth ten more times and swallows it down—because he’s now 20 and he knows basic table manners—before he blurts out, “But why?”
Oikawa gives him a long-suffering look.
“Oh. Okay,” Shouyou looks back into his plate of rice. “Okay.”
He can’t say he’s displeased with this development.
“So do you have anything today?” Oikawa digs back into his shrimp stew.
“No, I don’t have any teaching or practice schedule on weekends. And I take up delivery jobs with an app. Usually I just do deliveries or hit the gym,” he trails off.
“What, you don’t play?”
Shouyou’s legs twitch. “I do, sometimes, when Lucio signs me up for scrimmages or amateur competitions. I also sneak into the team’s beach court or the indoor court to practice serves and other stuff whenever I can," He plays with the thick soup and rice around his plate.
Oikawa purses his lips, his eyes staring off into the distance. “You know, Chibi-chan,” he begins. “You do realise you’re not a pro player right?”
Shouyou glares at him, his cheeks flushing. Oikawa really had to go for his jugular. “Do you really need to point that out,” he mutters petulantly.
“No, no, you don’t get it,” Oikawa swings his spoon around—Shouyou’s mom would give him a stink eye for that. “You’re not a pro, so you’re not bound by any schedule. You can play anytime you want or—or even sign up for amateur tournaments yourself.”
Shouyou blinks. Ever since that January of his freshman year, he has curtailed the amount of days he stayed back in the gymnasium long after practice; sticking to a strict regimen, maintaining his body to be in the top form. But then—but then now he doesn’t have high school or language school or even schoolwork anymore. The thought of signing up for tournaments himself didn’t even cross his mind.
“You’re not in high school anymore, you know,” Oikawa echoes his mind.
“Huh,” he says, quite flummoxed by the revelation.
“I’m actually kinda envious of you,” Oikawa goes back to blasély chewing his food.
Shouyou blinks again. “You are?”
“When I arrived in San Juan I was literally fresh out of high school, remember? The laundry list of things I had to work on was massive.” Oikawa frowns, reminiscing. “I had to adhere to what the professionals say; strict menu and practice schedule and all that. It was infuriating not being able to practice as much as I wanted. Professional responsibilities, yada yada.”
Shouyou doesn’t know how to reply, so he pretends to marvel at the food on his plate. He never thought of it that way. When he was on the tail-end of his senior year, he had a number of offers coming his way from various universities and even a few Division 2 teams. But by then he already had his eyes set on Brazil and the plan was already put in place with too many people involved.
He’d be lying if he says he never looked back though. When he saw Tsukishima pop up in the group chat once in a blue moon, complaining about how jam-packed his days were with team practice and part-time school, or when he thought about—about Kageyama, all the way in Oita. Or when his mom hid her sigh, a wisp of worry in the middle of the night. He sometimes used to wonder: wouldn’t he play volleyball too, here, if he stays?
But now he’s already in Rio. He flicks his eyes up to see Oikawa, who’s now finishing the last scraps of his lunch. Even though the last three days have been a rush of peculiar rendezvous between them, Oikawa is both familiar and foreign still to him. If he was a pro volleyball player, and not a volleyball rōnin who did part-times on the side, would he bond with Oikawa more easily? Would he join his grousing about rigid routines and ‘professional obligations’, a mutual understanding that can only come from being on the same playing field? But then, if he was, he wouldn’t meet Oikawa here, in Brazil.
“So, what do you say?” Oikawa has his arms crossed on the table, his plate empty and put on the side. He leans forward with a smile—an imitation of what he did the night earlier, another invitation, but this time for a different kind of ball. A familiar thrill seizes Shouyou. “D’you want to play beach while I’m here?”
Shouyou exclaims his “yeah” so loudly the cashier who was nodding off behind Oikawa startles awake.
Flamengo beach, unlike the more popular Copacabana or Ipanema, is mostly frequented by Cariocas rather than tourists. They have to make a thirty minutes trek and walk through the Flamengo park to reach it. They could've taken the subway, but Oikawa insists on taking their time strolling through the city, hand in hand. If Oikawa pulls him into a quick kiss or two while they trail down from the hotel area through the park, it only inflames the excitement coursing through Shouyou.
It’s a Saturday, and any beach is a crowded beach on the weekends. Shouyou can spot a smattering of expats and tourists dotting the sands among the relaxed locals. Multiple volleyball nets have been rigged up across the beach, and a myriad of groups are playing on each.
Oikawa confidently strides over to one of the closest nets with an ongoing match and gesticulates through a negotiation with broken English for a switch over. Shouyou gawks at him in astonishment. It’s the three years he’s had in San Juan, he later tells him; even fewer people speak English there. He has always had to soldier through his daily life—his own from the diaphragm and out, hardened by the years.
He is a buffer between Shouyou and the groups they engage with. Shouyou’s position, standing behind him, taking glimpses from the side, reminds Shouyou of how he was when there was Tanaka—hiding behind a flesh fortress when he’s acting timid with new people he assesses as threats. Perhaps some things really do never change, he muses. He really needs to work on that; he knows he’s more capable than this. If Oikawa can do it on his third day in Rio, why can’t he?
When their turn comes and they enter the court, this is what he finds out: he and Oikawa do work together well on the court. They’re not the well-oiled machine he was in his three years of high school, but Oikawa’s heedfulness makes up for what years they lack. Shouyou is gleeful for every toss he gives and every spike he receives, because Oikawa's play on the court reminds him of this: he needs to be strong enough so no one’s heedfulness is needed to make up for anything whenever he stands on the court. He has been focusing on getting to know the quirks of beach volleyball too much, he forgot why he left those offers to play in the higher stage behind in the first place.
They do play pretty well, but they are still putty in mother nature’s hand—the wind especially flings them around like they’re a child chasing marbles. However, this time, with Oikawa clearing up the previously muddled goal post in front of him, with the burden of neglected opportunities being lifted up from his shoulders, Shouyou soaks up the things he didn’t notice before: the breaks and ebbs of the waves reaching his ears; the Sugarloaf Mountain towering in the distance, with Christ the Redeemer watching over them, barely visible from Flamengo beach; The surge of his voice, mingling with the whistling breeze, with the cheers of casual spectators and passersby clamoring in the background; the way his knees hit the floor but never really scrape.
He thinks, perhaps he does not need the beach to welcome him. Perhaps he just needs to be there, standing on the court.
Shouyou always thinks he is never one to cower from any challenge. What he felt just a couple of days ago though, right before Oikawa picked him off the road side, will forever reside in his memory, just like the warm porridge he ate in that lodging in Tokyo: he, too, can allow himself to feel defeat. To nurse his wounds. But there will always be something that pushes his feet forward, soars him back into the air, even if it is merely a clumsy toss from a familiar someone or a stranger.
He supposes the past two months in Rio have only been this: him, climbing a set of stairs, and just when he thinks he has reached a new height, a step vanishes under him, plummeting him down, his heart and soul first, only for him to realise that it does not actually vanish after all; it changes shape into a dune. A forgiving bed of sand, cushioning his land, and a ball lobbing over his head telling him ‘get up fast’ .
When he digs his feet and springs his legs, he ascends into the air. When he smacks that ball right in the middle, it flies past the opponents right into the sand, making a poof sound instead of the customary thwack. He ponders, why has he just realised this? Hindsight sure is 20/20. He might not have the court on his side, but he still has his body—the very body he was born with, with all its faults and its might. This is his person; the very flesh he carries himself in, regardless of the place.
The sky is clear and the ball that falls away can still be retrieved. The sand that crumbles only shifts into the mound beside it. He still has a year and ten months.
It might be the new lightness that he carries in his steps, or it’s the expanse of the unknown challenges in front of him, stretching far into the future and pumping his heart like the march of taiko drums—all these epiphanies coalesce and push him to speak, when he’s drinking coconut water straight from the hacked fruit with Oikawa in one of the beachside stands: “You know, Oikawa-san,” he says.
“Hmm?” Oikawa is busy inspecting the fruit; a hole has been bored in the middle for the straw.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t go back to Japan just yet.”
Oikawa snaps his attention to Shouyou, his eyes slightly wide.
“I mean, you’re here for something right? Coming to Argentina, I meant,” he rushes to add. “It’s better to regret stuff over and over again because you actually did something for yourself. Collaterals will always happen with whatever we do. I think.” The straightforward career path he could’ve had with his close friends, the safety net of an academic degree, the growth of his little sister. Half of his heart, eighteen thousand kilometres of ocean away and woefully incapable of holding a conversation through text. He sips his coconut water.
Oikawa already knew his answers without him nudging into whichever way. But if all he needed was validation for the future he’s choosing, Shouyou hopes he can provide him just that. If Oikawa goes back to Japan to follow his other half, then what are they doing here, half a world away, trying to carve a place for themselves?
“I see,” Oikawa cups his hand above his eyes to peer at the endless beach in front of them. “If you say so.”
“Hmm.” Shouyou finishes the last of his coconut and hands the empty fruit back to the vendor.
That is the last time they ever talk about Oikawa’s future’s anything during his stay in Rio.
Whenever Shouyou sees Oikawa standing beside him, the sharp golden daylight or the strobing bar signs as his backdrop, this is what he remembers:
On his one-way trip from Tokyo to Rio, Shouyou had to make an overnight stop at Heathrow airport in London. The hours between his arrival and the next departure were too scant to do anything other than finding a comfortable bench to sleep, so he heaved his backpack and followed the purple arrows directing him to the airport gate for his connecting flight.
The airport was much larger than Narita, and so were the people in it. At least during his flight from Tokyo, he sat among faces he would find in any corner of his neighborhood. When he disembarked from the plane and flocked into a separate crowd from those who were exiting the airport, for the very first time in his life, he found himself estranged among the kinds of people he’d only seen on TV or the cinema screen. He tried not to be too self-conscious about it—he was going to live in a foreign country for years, for crying out loud—but before he realised, his feet had brought him to the quieter side of the waiting area; his grip tight on the straps of his bag.
It wasn’t hard to seek quiet, the airport was not that busy to begin with. The late hour had blanketed the airport with a thick stillness that rang within his ears; disturbed only by some clipped snores from the sleeping bodies lying around and the receding hum of the cleaning vehicle ran by a tired-looking staff. Shouyou found an open lounge chair right in front of the floor-to-ceiling window facing the ramp. He folded himself there, around the bag in his arms. When he looked outside, where the lights from the runway lit in the distance, and a plane took off in an incongruous silence, he thought, what is this strange place I’m in.
This is also how he feels about his days with Oikawa Tooru.
Shouyou wonders why; Their time together is far from quiet, and everyone around them is anything but asleep.
For the remaining five and half days of his stay in Rio, Oikawa slots himself into Shouyou’s routine like he is a permanent fixture that has always been there all along; as if this was a life they have led for longer than a night of an intimate escapade. It always starts with them waking up in each other’s arms in the morning. Shouyou then goes to practice with Lucio or pushes his bikes for deliveries, while Oikawa meets up with his teammates, either to make the obligatory trips to tourist traps or simply traipsing along the beach. But then the day comes around and Shouyou and Oikawa get together again, under the road sign on the big crossroad between his hotel and the Flamengo beach. They team up for beach volleyball, playing against any pair who happen to pass by and are up for a challenge or a bet; the court lines their rotating door. They usually lose their bets.
The nights then find them in a bar, or on one fun, special occasion, a club. Sometimes they bring along their opponents, but Oikawa never leaves Shouyou’s side regardless. Every night, with Oikawa’s cheers and under his gentle, watchful eyes, Shouyou sleuths his way through a myriad of drinks in varying colors and to different degrees of enjoyment: the piss yellow of beers (it’s bitter, but he finds he doesn’t mind it after the second glass), the blood red of wine (it makes him feel warm), the thick white of a cocktail (apparently it has vodka? Shouyou likes it. Totally not related to the way Oikawa smirks and sweetly whispers into his ears about what the liquid reminds him of while he gropes on Shouyou’s crotch under the table. The bartender gives them a pointed look and tips his eyebrows towards the bathroom).
At the end of their day, without fail, they fall into bed together. Shouyou is pretty sure he and Oikawa have inflated their combined tallies of using god’s name in vain by a whole fucking lot. He lets Oikawa introduce him to how it feels to have a burning pressure inside his most intimate part, because at this point he just can’t imagine entrusting it to anyone else. Just like with the liquors, Oikawa lets him experiment at his own pace. Shouyou asks Oikawa to do the same in return. He learns that, more than anything, sex is the shared breaths in the small gaps between their lips, and the warmth and pleasure he gets to barter for the companionship he sorely hungers for.
Though the real Rio is a muted diorama eight floors of concrete below them, here, in Oikawa’s hotel bedroom, the Rio that he has with Oikawa is truly well and alive; It dances with the leftover sand that stubbornly cling to their bodies, the urgency and the gaiety that come from lust and booze and the beats of music that still thrum between them.
And perhaps this is why, Shouyou thinks. This Rio that dwells here, right now, in the space where Oikawa exists, is only a juncture before they take their own highways. There is an expiry date to this; the ticket for their next departure.
Perhaps this is also why, on Oikawa’s last night in Rio, Shouyou thinks back to the three years he spent at that hilltop gymnasium back in Miyagi. Their connecting flights—Oikawa’s homebound to Argentina, and his going back to Rio without Oikawa—are departing tomorrow morning. He can feel the time growing thin around them, and he thinks about his before, and after, and now.
“I love Kageyama,” Shouyou suddenly blurts out. He says it to the ceiling and particularly no one. If Oikawa is there next to him, in that epoch of time where he can feel his now and before coming to a close, it is merely a happy coincidence that he welcomes. “Loved—in love with him. I don’t know.”
They are lying naked with tangled limbs on top of a rumpled bed sheet, a picture of their typical evening. Oikawa turns his head towards him. “Does it even matter?”
That evening, at the bus station right before he parted with everything that he knew about; Kageyama was not there. He was at a training camp in Kagoshima, preparing for the Olympics. He will be in Rio in a month. But Shouyou recognises the flare that is lighting up his insides—whenever he remembers Kageyama’s upcoming visit and the reason for his trip here—not as longing. Or at least not entirely it. It’s the same torch that he felt when he yelled at Kageyama even before his before, on top of those steps in front of the gymnasium, clad in green uniform instead of black and orange. The one that propelled him to crash on the Miyagi First Years’ Training Camp and eventually, with his team, the Final of Spring Interhigh.
“No,” Shouyou finally answers. “No, I don’t think it really does.”
Oikawa smiles. He pulls Shouyou closer, and he indulges, “How does it feel, with him?”
Shouyou purses his lips. How does he feel then? How would he feel now, if Kageyama is standing in front of him, within his reach?
“You know, that feeling when the ball comes right into the middle of your arm swing, with the precise angle and height and all that, then the ball slams really loudly to the floor?” he says. “It’s like that.”
Oikawa scoffs. “What’s with that? And here I thought I was the volleyball freak.”
“But you get it, right? The guwaaaaaah feeling.”
“I guess I do?” he laughs and drags his lips to nuzzle on Shouyou’s cheeks. For the past few days he seems to have grown fond of the little baby fat left there. “But you’re playing beach volleyball now aren’t you?”
Shouyou hums to encourage him to continue. He rolls them over so he looms above Oikawa before he lightly nips on the corner of his eyebrow, then trails lower; beneath his earlobe and to the line of his jaw. Oikawa isn’t the only one who’s developed favorites during their time together.
“On the beach you gotta be able to do everything by yourself, yeah? Then you can feel way more things beside that guwaaaah you get from scoring a spike.”
Shouyou’s lips, now following the shape of Oikawa’s collarbone, split into a grin. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I am,” he scoffs again.
Shouyou chuckles and straightens his arms. “You’ve had two years head-start on me, Oikawa-san,” Shouyou says, his eyes bore into Oikawa’s. “But I will catch up to you soon, and become even stronger,” he lowers himself, slowly, until their lips are only a breath apart, “so I can be more than what I left behind.”
It’s the same plea he saw in Oikawa’s eyes from their first night together, but Shouyou can see that it is now softer around the edges compared to the jagged strain that he remembers. “I am?” he asks.
Shouyou catches his lips with his own in lieu of an answer.
On the following morning, in front of his hotel and right before his departure, Oikawa calls him ‘Shouyou’. Not ‘you’ or ‘Chibi-chan’, but his name. It feels like an olive branch, a promise, that the past seven days can be more than liminal, if he wants to. Shouyou thinks, no one in Miyagi would believe this, and he gives Oikawa an answering grin.
Shouyou doesn’t know what he’s expecting when Oikawa’s retreating back starts to disappear in the distance. The Rio around him does not magically stop to a standstill, nor does it turn its clogs into a dimmer, quieter, Oikawa-less version of Rio. It just is.
What changes, though, is the torch ablaze within him. He can feel the flame smoulder into a renewed incandescence, its tendrils licking through his ribs, all the way to the tip of his toes and fingers.
He really wants to play volleyball right now.
So he does just that. He mounts his bike and he pushes the pedals, carrying himself to the nearest beach with nets rigged up. He fumbles through a mixed bag of Portuguese and English to hit up one of the groups playing, but he manages. It definitely isn’t his best game, without Oikawa to read his moves and adjust to his play, but it’s okay. When he tips his head upwards, the cloudless sky greets him with calm.
All those years ago Shouyou proclaimed he was of those who sprouted from the concrete. Once he arrived in Rio, he wondered if exchanging the hard cracks of concrete with the dry, dense bed of sand was worth it.
But then he sees the lines of palm trees taking roots on the golden sprawling beach, and the tiny particles of sand—wet by the waves that reach the shoreline—clinging to the wiry muscles of his toned calves, and he thinks, perhaps it’s never been about the land. Perhaps it’s him, growing out and up until he can get hold of the looming wall he needs to overcome. Climbing, digging his foot to make fissures deep enough to plant roots, one at a time, until he reaches the top and he can see what’s there on the other side of the wall.