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Iwaizumi, contrary to popular belief, likes to think of himself as an easygoing guy.

The rest of Seijoh wouldn’t exactly agree with him; somewhere along the way, he’s accidentally earned a reputation for being a bit of a troublemaker. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. He works hard, gets good grades, and has never thrown a punch in his life.

So maybe he misses more school than the majority of his classmates, but that’s only because his immune system is unnaturally weak and he gets sick far more often than should be allowed by the laws of nature. And sure, he’s not the most outgoing of people, but he’s friendly enough once you get to know him. It’s just that, thanks to the aforementioned reputation, no one bothers to get to know him.

Iwaizumi is fine with that. He has Hanamaki, who he’s known since middle school, and a few other friends he talks to regularly, and his teachers like him. He doesn’t need to meet new people. There are only a couple of months before he leaves for college, and he can work on expanding his social circle once he gets there. On his own. If he wants to.

On the other hand, though, he’ll go to extreme lengths to ensure that the friends he does have are happy. Which is how he’s gotten himself into his current predicament.

“Iwaizumi-san,” Kageyama says, dipping his head in a formal, if slightly stiff, bow. On the first day of school, Iwaizumi had encountered the first-year wandering around campus, looking lost, and helped him figure out where his class was located. He hasn’t been able to rid himself of the kid ever since. “Can I talk to you alone?”

Iwaizumi glances up from his food. He and Hanamaki are eating lunch in their usual spot: an abandoned corner of the school roof. The jury’s still out on whether students are actually allowed up here, but no one’s complained about them so far.

He climbs to his feet, dusting off the pants of his school uniform. “Sure thing,” he says. “Hanamaki, you better not steal any of my food.”

“Uh huh,” Hanamaki mumbles, in a way that means he’s definitely going to. Iwaizumi rolls his eyes and follows Kageyama inside.

The door clicks closed behind them, and Iwaizumi crosses his arms as he waits for Kageyama to speak up. He looks… well, he doesn’t look nervous, exactly, because it’s Kageyama and Iwaizumi isn’t even sure whether he’s capable of showing that much emotion, but still. He’s more jittery than Iwaizumi has ever known him to be, and that’s enough to be concerning.

“So,” Iwaizumi prompts, when it becomes clear that Kageyama is having trouble figuring out how to spit it out on his own. “What did you need?”

“I,” Kageyama says, “I want to ask Hinata on a date.”

Iwaizumi furrows his brow. “Hinata?” The name conjures the mental image of a short, orange-haired boy with an ever-present smile and seemingly boundless energy. Iwaizumi’s noticed him hovering around Kageyama once or twice. Kageyama, for his part, tends to look more annoyed than anything when Hinata’s around, but what does Iwaizumi know? Considering he’s never been in a serious relationship, he’s hardly an expert on romance.

“Alright,” Iwaizumi says slowly. “Are you asking for advice? Because I don’t know if I can help you there.”

“If I wanted advice I would ask Suga-san,” Kageyama says. Then: “No offense.”

“None taken.”

Kageyama sighs. “Hinata’s parents won’t let him date because of Oikawa.”

“Oikawa?” Oikawa Tooru? A bad feeling starts to pool in Iwaizumi’s gut. Any situation Oikawa is involved in can mean nothing but trouble for Iwaizumi. “What does he have to do with any of this?”

“They’re cousins,” Kageyama says. “Hinata told me that his parents want to make sure Oikawa sets a good example for him, so he has to be in a relationship before Hinata is allowed to date.”

“That’s a stupid idea,” Iwaizumi says. Kageyama just shrugs. “I mean, that can’t be too hard, right?” Iwaizumi asks. “Oikawa literally has a fan club. He gets a dozen confessions a week.”

“But he doesn’t take any of them,” Kageyama says, beginning to get visibly frustrated. And it’s true. Iwaizumi may not run in the same circles as Oikawa and his friends, but he knows that much. It’s a source of infinite consternation for all the girls in their grade that Oikawa, who flirts like he breathes, has never been interested in dating any of them. The only person he’s shown the remotest interest in is—

“No,” Iwaizumi says immediately. “Absolutely not.”

“You’re the only person he’s ever asked out,” Kageyama insists. Iwaizumi is reminded of how stubborn his underclassman can get when he’s determined to get something, and he doesn’t appreciate it.

“Cornering me in a stairwell and telling me I should feel lucky I caught his eye is not asking me out,” Iwaizumi says.

“It’s Oikawa-san,” Kageyama says. “No one understands how his mind works.” Which, fair.

“I understand enough to know I want no part of it,” Iwaizumi says. He and Oikawa hate each other, or at least he had thought they hated each other until three weeks ago, when Oikawa had decided out of the blue that Iwaizumi was worth bestowing his affections upon.

Iwaizumi still hasn’t gotten around to processing it. Right now, he’s sticking to his previous motto of keeping his head down and coasting until graduation.

“Besides,” Iwaizumi says, “I turned him down, so if he didn’t hate me already, he does now. You’re wasting your time.”

“Please, Iwaizumi-san,” Kageyama says, looking like he’s just bitten into a lemon. Iwaizumi winces. In the first place, he’s bad at saying no to people he cares about, and Kageyama never says please, so this must mean a lot to him.

“It would mean a lot to me,” Kageyama adds, and Iwaizumi can feel himself crumbling. “And Hinata.”

“Look, Kageyama, I like you,” Iwaizumi says. “But not enough to fake-date Oikawa just so you can for-real-date Hinata.”

“Why not? Oikawa-san is…” Kageyama’s nose scrunches as he mulls it over. “… very dateable.”

Iwaizumi scoffs. “You can’t even say it with a straight face.”

“He’s charismatic,” Kageyama insists.

“Loud and annoying,” Iwaizumi rebuts.

“Confident.”

“Arrogant.”

“Smart.”

“Know-it-all.”

“He’s… handsome?” Kageyama tries.

Iwaizumi has no response to that because he might dislike the guy with a burning passion, but he still has eyes. Kageyama, seeing an opening in his moment of hesitation, pounces. “Will you at least think about it?” he asks.

Damn it. A kid as overgrown and stoic and emotionally constipated as Kageyama should not be able to have such expressive puppy-dog eyes. “...I’ll think about it,” Iwaizumi says at last.

Kageyama lights up—again, as much as Kageyama is capable of lighting up, which isn’t a lot—and bows again. “Thank you, Iwaizumi-san!” He turns and heads down the stairs, presumably to find Hinata and update him.

“Oi!” Iwaizumi calls after him. “I haven’t agreed to anything yet!”

He listens for a second, but there’s no response. Kageyama is gone.

With a groan, Iwaizumi returns to his spot on the roof. He notices, as he sits down, that two tempura shrimp are missing from his bento, but he opts not to call Hanamaki out on it.

“What was that all about?” Hanamaki asks, trying and failing to hide his curiosity.

“Nothing,” Iwaizumi says. He takes a bite of his last remaining shrimp, chews meditatively, and swallows. “Actually, I don’t even know. I’ll tell you later.”

Hanamaki shrugs, turning to his own meal. “Oh, mysterious. Fine, have it your way.”

“Mhm.”

“We still on for movie night next Friday?”

Preoccupied as he is, it takes a moment for the question to register. “Hm? Oh, yeah. For sure.”

Hanamaki raises his eyebrows at that but mercifully says nothing.

 


 

Thanks to Kageyama’s distraction, Iwaizumi has to eat quickly to ensure that he makes it back to the classroom on time. Not that it matters, in the end, because even as he ducks into his desk in the last row half a minute after he’s supposed to be seated, their class president is nowhere to be found.

He’s late. Again.

Iwaizumi sighs and, like everyone else in the class, watches as the second hand on the clock above the doorway ticks away. It makes one full circle, then another, and it’s five minutes after the bell rings before the door swings open and Oikawa Tooru steps inside, as unbothered as usual. He’s flanked by his equally unabashed friends, two guys who seem to be competing to win first prize for the worst hair Iwaizumi has ever seen.

“You’re late, Oikawa,” their teacher mutters from her desk.

As usual, Oikawa flashes a grin at her. “Sorry, sensei. Won’t happen again.” And as usual, she lets him off easy with little more than an impatient wave.

Kuroo and Bokuto take their seats, and Oikawa takes his own position in front of the white board in front of everyone. “Good afternoon, class,” he says, picking up a marker. “Here are today’s announcements. Preparations for the end-of-year school festival will begin soon, and I’m looking for one girl and one guy to volunteer to lead the planning committee…”

From that point on, Iwaizumi tunes out the words Oikawa’s saying. There’s no particular reason that the two of them don’t get along. Iwaizumi assumes it’s just a matter of contradictory personalities. Since the day they were paired up to complete a lab in their first year and ended up fighting and failing the assignment, Iwaizumi has gone out of his way to avoid interacting with the younger man. He’s always thought that Oikawa felt the same way.

Oikawa is good-looking, but he’s also cocky and flashy, with a blatant aura of self-importance that Iwaizumi finds difficult to stomach. He’s always late, and he doesn’t seem to take anything seriously, and—

—And he’s looking right at Iwaizumi.

Upon realizing that he’s been caught staring, Iwaizumi stiffens. Oikawa raises an eyebrow, a motion so miniscule you’d have to be looking for it to catch it. To any other onlooker, he would appear to be completely focused in reading out his guidelines for the festival. It is, however, the first time he’s acknowledged Iwaizumi since his impromptu confession-slash-disaster three weeks ago.

Iwaizumi, who’s never been one to back down from a challenge, stares back, doing his best to keep his expression impassive. The corner of Oikawa’s lips curl up into a small smile, and he shoots Iwaizumi a quick wink before turning to scribble something on the board.

The spell breaks, and Iwaizumi scowls. The tips of his ears burn strangely hot. Part of him is annoyed that Oikawa doesn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed in the face of someone who just rejected him. No way, Iwaizumi thinks. Sorry, Kageyama. This is not happening. Nope.

Oikawa claps his hands together once, which snaps Iwaizumi out of his reverie. “And that does it for today’s announcements!” He says. “Does anyone have anything they’d like to add?” He scans the crowd, his eyes lingering on Iwaizumi for two seconds too long. But finding no takers, he shrugs and finally—thankfully—makes his way to his own desk.

Iwaizumi zones out for the rest of the class. It doesn’t help that Oikawa sits in the same row as he does, four spots forward, and because he’s so tall Iwaizumi has a direct line of vision to the back of his head and the soft-looking brown curls that sway when he raises his hand to answer a question, and oh my god Hajime, shut the fuck up now.

Whatever. He’ll make sure to ask Hanamaki for his notes later.

Soon enough they’re dismissed, and Iwaizumi shakes himself free of the unwelcome thoughts he’s having. He stuffs his pencils and books back into his backpack, then stands and slings it over one shoulder. In fact, he’s so distracted trying to leave the room as soon as possible that he doesn’t realize that Oikawa and his friends are blocking his path until he almost collides with him.

“Sorry, excuse me,” Iwaizumi says, stumbling backward. Oikawa turns around, giving him a once-over, and Iwaizumi’s fingers tighten on the strap of his backpack. It frustrates Iwaizumi to no end that Oikawa is slightly taller and that he never ceases to use it to his advantage.

“Oops,” Oikawa says, too cheerfully. “My bad, Iwaizumi-kun. Bo-chan, you big lug, be a dear and get out of the way?” He slaps Bokuto Koutarou on the back, and Bokuto chuckles good-naturedly as he ambles out of the way.

Iwaizumi maneuvers past them without further comment, but he can feel Oikawa’s eyes, hawklike, trained on him as he passes by. The hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Kuroo Tetsurou jabs Oikawa in the side and whispers something in his ear, whispering something, which Iwaizumi ignores, before breaking out into his trademark hyena laughter.

Iwaizumi grimaces. No, definitely not his scene.

Hanamaki follows after him, catching up once they’re out of the classroom. They walk side by side down the hallway, and Hanamaki has the grace to wait until they get down to the first floor before breaking the silence.

“So,” he says, casual, “what’s wrong with you?”

Iwaizumi groans, passing a hand through his hair. “I don’t know,” he says. He does his best to explain the favor Kageyama asked of him. It only sounds more ridiculous when he says it out loud.

Hanamaki starts laughing at him before he’s finished explaining, and Iwaizumi glares at him and waits for him to shut up. “It’s not funny,” he says.

“It’s kind of funny,” Hanamaki disagrees. “From where I’m standing. Anyway, I think it’ll be good for you.”

“Not you too,” Iwaizumi says. “I am not going to fake-date Oikawa. He’s not even my type.”

“All due respect,” Hanamaki says, “but you’ve never dated anyone, unless we count that time in middle school when you kissed a girl and made her cry because you said you hated it. You don’t  know what your type is.”

“Thanks for the reminder.” Iwaizumi shudders at the memory. It wasn’t his fault she’d used so much tongue he thought he was going to drown. “And whatever my type is, it wouldn’t be him, I can tell you that much.”

“What’s wrong with Oikawa?” Hanamaki asks. “He can be intense, maybe, but he seems like a cool guy. Smart. Funny. Pretty, too. I know you have a thing for the pretty ones, Iwaizumi. Don’t lie.”

“I don’t—” Hanamaki shoots him a look, and Iwaizumi decides to change the topic. “I just… we’ve never gotten along. And isn’t it kind of weird, dating someone who doesn’t know you don’t actually like them?”

They make their way out of the school building and into the courtyard, taking a moment to enjoy the gentle spring breeze before starting toward the parking lot. “Look,” Hanamaki says, “all I’m saying is that you could do worse. And meeting new people isn’t always a bad thing—”

“Not this again,” Iwaizumi says. “I don’t need to make new friends. I’m fine.”

“You might learn something new about him, or yourself,” Hanamaki continues, undeterred. “Seriously, man, all I’m saying is it might be a good way to start putting yourself out there more.”

“Hmm,” Iwaizumi says noncommittally. He steps out onto the asphalt of the student parking lot and reaches into his pocket to fish out his keys.

“You know what I think?” Hanamaki asks. “I think you’re scared of being a cliche.”

That gets Iwaizumi’s attention. He looks up, frowning, and meets Hanamaki’s eyes. “What?”

“You know. The whole golden boy-and-rebel stereotype.” Iwaizumi doesn’t choke on his spit, but it’s a near thing. Hanamaki barrels forward despite his spluttered protests. “It’s overdone, yeah, but stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, you know? Maybe you just don’t want to find out you actually like Oikawa and feed into the trope.”

“That’s—that’s not—you’re so full of shit,” Iwaizumi says.

Hanamaki grins at him. “Whoops, this is me,” he says, jerking his head toward the beat-up white Mitsubishi beside him. “Looks like you’re on your own, buddy. Let me know what you decide ‘kay?”

Iwaizumi resists the very strong urge to flip Hanamaki off as he walks away. “Whatever,” he says. “See you tomorrow, man.”

His motorcycle—dear god, he has a motorcycle, maybe Hanamaki is right, maybe he is a stereotype—is parked further from the building than Hanamaki’s car. He’s always enjoyed the rush of exhilaration he gets when he drives it, but this time, the ride home gives him far too much alone time with his thoughts.

Oikawa is… too talkative. Difficult to read. High-maintenance. Iwaizumi gets a headache just thinking about dating him. And he’s not pretty, thank you very much… okay, well, he is, Iwaizumi’s not going to lie to himself. But he’s attractive in an objective way, in a frame-and-put-in-a-museum way, not an attainable-as-a-romantic-prospect-for-normal-people way. And most of all, Oikawa is no longer interested in Iwaizumi, not after Iwaizumi made it explicitly clear where they stand, and that’s the only part that really matters.

He pulls into his garage and parks and removes his helmet. Taking out his phone, he’s fully prepared to text Kageyama and inform him that he’s not playing along with his plans.

 

You: hey kageyama

You: i’ll do it.

 

Iwaizumi stares at his traitorous fingers in disbelief. “What the fuck,” he hisses out loud.

He tugs at his hair, trying to come up with a way to take it back, but it’s too late. Read appears under the messages less than two seconds after he sends them, and soon a gray typing bubble shows up on the other side of the screen.

 

Kageyama: wahhhhh!!!!!!!!!

Kageyama: iwaizumi-san to the rescue!!!!!!! so cool!!!!!!!!!!!

Kageyama: sorry, that was Hinata. idiot.

Kageyama: but thank you, Iwaizumi-senpai.

 

Damn it. Not for the first or last time, Iwaizumi curses his aversion to seeing his friends unhappy. He can’t just back out now in the face of Kageyama and Hinata’s obvious gratitude.

Well. How hard can this be, right?



 

 

Chapter Text

The hardest part, of course, is that Iwaizumi has no idea how he would begin to talk to someone he actually likes, much less someone he’s pretending to be interested in. He says as much to Hanamaki, who, like the useless friend he is, laughs at him.

“You’ve been complaining about this all morning,” Hanamaki says. “Less talking, more doing. Just, fucking—I don’t know, go over there and kabedon him or something.”

Iwaizumi glares balefully at Hanamaki, then directs his gaze across the courtyard at Oikawa, who’s standing with his back to the two of them. Kuroo and Bokuto are with him, as always, laughing at something he said, and Kuroo glances up and meets Iwaizumi’s eyes before he can look away. A sly grin spreads over his face, and Iwaizumi’s ears are burning when he tears his eyes back to Hanamaki.

“No way,” Iwaizumi says, belatedly. “I have some dignity.”

“Okay, fine.” Hanamaki dumps his bento on the grass in front of them and starts unpacking it. They’ve decided to eat in the courtyard today instead of on the roof like usual. Something about scoping out the target, something about forming a plan of attack. Iwaizumi had informed Hanamaki that he was making this whole thing sound more like a military operation than an attempt at courtship, but the complaints fell on deaf ears. “But my point still stands,” Hanamaki says. “He’s the one who asked you out the first time, and three weeks isn’t enough to get over someone completely, y’know? You have nothing to worry about. Just go up to him and ask if he wants to get coffee sometime.”

“I can’t do that,” Iwaizumi says. He takes out his own lunch.

Hanamaki blows a raspberry at him. “I don’t get why this is so hard for you to understand,” he complains. He points at Oikawa, then Iwaizumi, with his chopsticks. “Boy likes you. Boy is rejected by you. Boy would be ecstatic at the prospect of you changing your mind and agreeing to date him. See?”

“No,” Iwaizumi says, stabbing through a piece of tamagoyaki with too much force. “I wish it were that easy, but I really, really don’t think that would work.”

“Okay,” Hanamaki says. “Then enlighten me. Why not?”

Iwaizumi sighs, leaning closer and pitching his voice low. Hanamaki mirrors him with growing curiosity. “You know how I said he confronted me and confessed and I said no and that was it?” He waits for Hanamaki to nod before continuing. “I… may have been underselling it. A little bit.”

Hanamaki sits back, frowning. “So what happened?”

“… It’s possible,” Iwaizumi says, through grit teeth, “that he kept asking why I wouldn’t go out with him. It’s also possible that I said some things to him that I now regret. A lot.”

They’re quiet for a few moments as that sinks in. Hanamaki clears his throat, looking less enthusiastic than he had appeared a second earlier. “This would have been good to know before I told you to take Kageyama up on that offer,” he says.

“Well.” Iwaizumi picks at his fried rice. He’s lost most of his appetite. “It’s not like I’m proud of it.”

“How bad?” Hanamaki asks. “On a scale from one to that time you found a lost kid in the supermarket and made her cry because she thought you were going to kidnap her?”

Iwaizumi scowls. “That was not my fault, and her mom was nice about it,” he says. Hanamaki raises an eyebrow at him, and he switches gears. “Maybe an eight?”

Hanamaki winces. “Ouch. Okay. So approaching him like nothing happened is off the table.”

“Yep,” Iwaizumi says.

“You know what you have to do, then, right?”

“Call Kageyama and tell him I give up?” Iwaizumi asks hopefully.

Hanamaki levels him with a flat stare. “Go apologize,” he says.

Iwaizumi groans and, in a fit of uncharacteristic melodrama, throws himself backward onto the grass. “I hate you,” he says from his supine position.

“Uh huh.”

“I hate that you’re right.”

“Uh huh."

 


 

Considering how well-liked he is by the student body, it’s hard to catch Oikawa alone. It’s even harder to catch him without his two ever-present shadows, bad bedhead and all. After school, though, Iwaizumi is lucky enough to run into Sugawara, who informs him that he’s on his way to the gym for a festival planning meeting led by Oikawa.

Iwaizumi follows him there, but he ushers Sugawara in before him and stops at the doorframe.  Leaning against it and peering through the window, he decides to watch the proceedings alone. Suga and Kiyoko, the co-chairs of the festival committee, take their places at the front of the room, two dozen chairs arranged in front of them in a half circle. Seated in them, and clustered in groups in various spots around the gym, are volunteer members of the committee and a few representatives from each club at the school. Oikawa is in the middle of it all, clipboard in hand, going down a checklist of names and tasks. He crosses off boxes and barks out commands with ruthless efficiency; Iwaizumi is almost impressed.

But it soon becomes clear that as high as Oikawa’s expectations are for the festival, he’s going to be relatively hands-off when it comes to the actual execution. “I want you to report to me if there are any major issues or conflicts,” he informs everyone. “But for the most part, I trust Suga-chan and Kiyoko-chan to handle everything. They’ll be providing me with routine updates about the work you’re doing, and I’m sure the festival will be a great success. Understand?”

There’s a chorus of yes’ s from around the room, and Oikawa nods and says something to Kiyoko and Sugawara that’s too low for Iwaizumi to hear. Then he grabs his backpack and makes his way out of the gym, stopping and turning around at the top of the stairs to wave goodbye to its occupants. Quickly and quietly, Iwaizumi ducks out of the entryway and backs into the hallway around the corner. It’s abandoned. Everyone who’s not on the committee has gone home for the day.

Oikawa’s shoulders slump as soon as he thinks he’s alone. All of a sudden he looks much older than he is, and he heaves a sigh as he tucks a disobedient strand of hair back into place behind his ear. Iwaizumi, who had intended to speak up and get this conversation over with as soon as possible, hesitates. For some reason, he doesn’t want Oikawa to know that he’s seen him in such an obviously personal moment.

So he waits until Oikawa collects himself, taking a few deep breaths before pulling himself upright again. He continues on his way, turns the next corner, and stops in his tracks when he spots Iwaizumi against the wall. Surprise flashes over his face for a brief moment before it’s wiped away.

“Oh, Iwaizumi-kun,” Oikawa says. “Can I help you?”

Iwaizumi’s mouth is dry. He clears his throat. “I wanted to talk to you,” he says. “About what I said the last time we spoke—”

“Do you mean yesterday, when you had to say three words to me and acted like it was the worst experience of your life?” Oikawa asks. His voice is deceptively light. “Or three weeks ago, when you told me… what was it again?”

Iwaizumi cringes. “You don’t have to repeat it—”

“Ah, right. When you told me that I’m a shallow douchebag who’s going to peak in high school.” It’s almost scary, really, how nonchalant Oikawa manages to sound saying that.

“Yes?” Iwaizumi says. He doesn’t intend for it to come out sounding like a question, but it does. God, he’s such an asshole. “Look, I’m really sor—”

“Ah, ah.” Oikawa holds up his hand, cutting him off. “Apologies bore me.”

“Oikawa, seriously, I—”

“But since I’m such a kind and magnanimous person,” Oikawa continues, ignoring him, “I’ll give you the opportunity to make it up to me. Let me drive your motorcyle, and I might forgive you.”

Iwaizumi blinks at him, astounded by the abrupt one-eighty. “What?” He asks.

Oikawa shrugs. “Or else I’ll hold it against you forever and the guilt will haunt you until the day you die. Your choice.”

“You’re—what—you’re unbelievable,” Iwaizumi splutters. “I’m trying to apologize—”

“And sucking at it,” Oikawa interrupts. “I don’t know if you know this, Iwaizumi-kun, but when you apologize to someone, you’re not supposed to insult them more.”

What is Iwaizumi getting himself into here? He takes a deep breath. “Oikawa,” he says. “I am not letting you drive my motorcycle.” Oikawa’s teasing smile twists into a frown, and Iwaizumi rushes to finish the offer. “I’ll let you ride behind me while I drive,” he says. “That’s the best you get.”

Oikawa chews on his bottom lip, a tiny crease appearing between his eyebrows as he thinks. Iwaizumi gets the most bizarre urge to smooth it out with his thumb.

“You take me home from school on the motorcycle for a week,” Oikawa says. “Final offer.”

“What am I, a chauffeur?”

Oikawa leans forward to poke Iwaizumi in the chest with his pointer finger. “Guilt, remember?” he asks. “Haunting you. Forever.”

“Fine,” Iwaizumi relents with a groan.

“Starting today,” Oikawa chirps.

“You’re the worst,” Iwaizumi says. Still, he starts walking down the hallway, with Oikawa trailing not too far behind him.

“Yep,” Oikawa says, popping the ‘p.’ “Do you want my address now, or should I give you directions when we get close?”

“I want to hit you so bad right now,” Iwaizumi tells him.

“Ooh, strike two. You’re not supposed to threaten bodily harm in apologies either.”

Iwaizumi doesn’t even acknowledge that with a comeback, just shakes his head and leads them the rest of the way toward his parking space in silence.

Luckily, he has a spare helmet handy for when Hanamaki hitches a ride with him every so often, and because his mom drilled the importance of safety and preparedness into him from an early age. Or maybe that’s unlucky, considering he now has no excuse for being unable to take Oikawa anywhere.

Oikawa eyes his motorcycle appreciatively as soon as they draw near, brown eyes going big and shiny at the smooth handlebars and leather padding. Iwaizumi grabs the spare helmet and holds it out to him. Oikawa offers it a blank stare. “Oh, but Iwaizumi-kun,” he says sweetly, “I don’t know how to put this on. You’re the expert here.”

“It’s a helmet,” Iwaizumi informs him, unimpressed. “Have you never worn a helmet before? Because that might explain a few things about your personality.”

“Ouch, Iwaizumi-kun. Just for that I’m going to make you help me.”

Iwaizumi’s jaw clenches in frustration, but he doesn’t argue. He wants to get home as soon as possible and spend as little time in Oikawa’s presence as possible. Holding the helmet in both hands, he reaches up to fit it around Oikawa’s head. The helmet flattens his usually springy curls, causing them to stick out in awkward directions, and Iwaizumi snickers. Then his hands move to buckle the clasp, eyes drifting down from Oikawa’s head to the bridge of his nose, his cupid’s bow, his lips— getting into dangerous territory there, Hajime. He closes the clasp and tightens the helmet and steps away, coughing into his fist.

Oikawa, for his part, looks undeterred and shoots him a sunny smile. He waits with his hands tucked behind his back for Iwaizumi to pus his own helmet on and swing one leg over the motorcycle.

“Okay,” Iwaizumi says. “Get on behind me, and hold on to my waist. Tight.”

“Aye-aye, captain,” Oikawa says. He clambers on.

Iwaizumi feels his weight settle on the bike, their thighs touching, and then a pair of sweater-clad arms are snaking around his waist. Oikawa’s fingers link together loosely, tentatively, around his torso, like they’re a couple in a high school movie posing for bad prom pictures. Shaking off the uncomfortable prickly feeling on his skin everywhere he and Oikawa touch, Iwaizumi says, “You’re going to need to grab on a lot tighter than that unless you want to fly off.”

“Um.” Oikawa swallows. “Okay.” His arms tighten, and he leans forward enough to press his chest flush to Iwaizumi’s back.

Iwaizumi revs the motorcycle and starts pulling out of the parking space, and all he hopes is that he’s not too distracted to pay attention to the road.

Oikawa lets out a small yelp when they leave the parking lot and merge into actual traffic, and Iwaizumi grins. So maybe there’s a small sadistic part of him that likes seeing Oikawa so out of his element, sue him. “Wanna tell me where I’m headed now?” He asks.

Oikawa mutters something that Iwaizumi doesn’t quite catch, but it sounds less like a street address and more like a string of unflattering remarks aimed at Iwaizumi himself. “What was that?” he asks.

“Nothing!” Oikawa shouts. “Turn left in three intersections!”

Iwaizumi complies, and then he turns left again where Oikawa directs him to, and then right, and pretty soon he realizes that Oikawa is taking him close to his own address. Sure enough, they come to a stop two blocks away from where he lives, and Iwaizumi takes note of the uniform traditional-style houses and neatly trimmed bushes as he tugs his helmet off and dismounts. It’s all familiar, and he thinks he may have passed Oikawa’s house on a few of his morning jogs.

“Well, this is me,” Oikawa says. He hands Iwaizumi his spare helmet and promptly shakes his hair out, combing his fingers through it to return it to its previous immaculate state. “I hope I didn’t make you go too far out of your way.”

“Nah,” Iwaizumi says. He gestures vaguely to his left. “I actually live a few streets down.” Then questions what he’s thinking giving that information to Oikawa, who will doubtless not use it for anything good.

“Oh?” Oikawa asks. Then his expression of mild interest melts into a coy one. “You want me to know where you live, huh? Hoping I’ll drop by?”

“You wish,” Iwaizumi says. “Having to see your face at school is enough.”

“Suuure it is.” Oikawa grins. “Speaking of, I’ll see you tomorrow, Iwa-chan. Same place, same time.”

“Fine,” Iwaizumi says. Then he asks, “Wait, Iwa-chan?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Oikawa clasps his hands behind his back and turns to walk away. “I give nicknames to all my friends.”

Iwaizumi watches him leave. “Is that what we are?” He asks.

Oikawa laughs, lifting a hand and waving it over his shoulder. “That’s up to you, Iwa-chan!” He calls. “Isn’t it?”

 


 

After school the next day, Iwaizumi tells Hanamaki to go home without him. He walks outside and waits in the courtyard for a while; he manages to complete most of his homework for the day sitting out there. Ten minutes before the committee meeting ends, he stands up, stretches, groans, and returns to the gym.

The doors are wide open this time, and he spots Oikawa sitting in a chair in the back row, taking notes in a yellow legal pad. Shrugging, he ambles in and plops down in the seat next to him.

“We’re doing an arm wrestling contest,” a gruff voice says. Iwaizumi cranes his head to look for the source, who turns out to be a second-year from the baseball club named Kyoutani Kentarou. Iwaizumi has subbed in as a batter once or twice when there have been absences on the team.

“How original,” someone else snipes back. Iwaizumi recognizes him from the baking club—Yahaba something, maybe? “You do an arm wrestling contest every year, and it’s always boring.”

“Yeah?” Kyoutani says. “Well it’s not going to be this year, because no one’s going to beat me.”

Maybe-Yahaba scoffs. “Arrogant, much?”

Sugawara and Kiyoko haven’t intervened yet, but both are beginning to get antsy as Kyoutani visibly bristles. Iwaizumi glances at Oikawa, who’s given up on his notes in favor of cupping his face in his hands and watching the exchange with interest. “What’s going on?” Iwaizumi asks.

“The clubs are pitching their fundraiser ideas,” Oikawa whispers. “You came just in time. I can never tell if Yahaba-chan and Kyouken-chan are about to fight or make out.”

Iwaizumi looks at Kyoutani, who’s practically foaming at the mouth, and Yahaba, with his crossed arms and the tight smile on his face. He frowns. Make out? He doesn’t see it.

“—criticizing our club? I bet your idea sucks ass,” Kyoutani is saying when Iwaizumi tunes back into the conversation.

“For your information,” Yahaba says, scowling, “we’re selling homemade chocolates—”

“Boring.”

“—to people who are too scared to confess on their own,” Yahaba finishes. “They pay us, and we send them a custom note and chocolates.”

Oikawa pretends to wipe away a tear. “Exploiting emotionally vulnerable teens,” he says. “I’ve taught him so well.”

Iwaizumi doesn’t know what to say to that.

Kyoutani is gearing up to voice a response to that, but Sugawara cuts him off. “All right!” He says. “Both very good ideas, and I’m sure you’ll pull them off just fine. I think that’s all I have for today. Kiyoko?”

“Remember that ten percent of your earnings go into the class treasury, and be sure to update us if any of your plans change,” Kiyoko says. “That’s all.”

Oikawa tucks his legal notepad into his messenger bag, and then he turns to Iwaizumi. “Ready to go?” he asks.

“You’re the one who’s been holding us up,” Iwaizumi says as they stand up. “I was ready half an hour ago.”

“Excuse me for being involved within the school,” Oikawa protests. “We can’t all blow off our responsibilities like you, Mr. Delinquent.”

Iwaizumi walks faster, hoping to outpace Oikawa. “For the last time,” he says, “I just get sick a lot, okay?”

Unfortunately, Oikawa keeps up with ease. He chuckles. “That might be even worse,” he says. “Big, bad Iwa-chan, whose worst enemy is a little case of the sniffles.”

They bicker all the way to the parking lot, and Iwaizumi finds himself lingering for a stretch too long after he drops Oikawa off, all to keep talking with him. I could get used to this, he thinks, and then he banishes the thought to the depths of his subconscious where he will never have to analyze what it might mean.

When he gets home, his mom is in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Why have you been coming home so late, huh?” She asks, a teasing gleam in her eye. “Something you’re not telling me?”

“C’mon, mom,” Iwaizumi complains. He bends down to kiss her on the cheek. “Nothing like that.”

His mom tuts knowingly. “Okay, then. Wash your hands and come help me with these green beans.”

Iwaizumi goes to do so, and then she adds, “Oh, and if you ever feel like telling me who this special person is, I’m here.”

“Mom,” Iwaizumi groans.

The next day follows a similar pattern, but then Friday arrives, and Iwaizumi comes to the conclusion that if things with Oikawa continue to progress at this rate, Kageyama and Hinata won’t be allowed to be together until they’re eighty. It’s up to Iwaizumi to move their relationship along, but he doesn’t know where to start. He still doesn’t know much about Oikawa’s likes and dislikes, only that he’s annoying and unfairly clever and… that’s not the point.

The point is that Iwaizumi isn’t familiar with Oikawa’s tastes yet, so he has to rely on intel from the people who are. So after school on Friday, instead of adhering to his usual routine of doing his work while he waits for Oikawa, he seeks out the guy’s cousin.

“Psst! Iwaizumi-san!”

Iwaizumi glances around, eyes coming to rest on a conspicuous fake tree with a conspicuous head of orange hair attempting to hide behind it. Kageyama is standing several feet away, looking torn between deathly annoyed and terribly infatuated.

“Um,” Iwaizumi says. “Hinata?”

Hinata makes a show of glancing to the right, then the left, to ensure that the hall is clear. Then he slips out from behind the plastic palm fronds. He hands a folded piece of paper to Iwaizumi, who takes it.

“What’s this?” He asks, unfolding the creases.

“The stuff you asked me about Oikawa,” Hinata says. He drops the pretense of espionage in favor of a sunny smile and his usual cheery, if louder than necessary, tone.

“Oh, all right,” Iwaizumi says. He slips the note into the pocket of his blazer. “Thanks.”

“Yup! And thank you! Because I haven’t gotten a chance to thank you in person yet, you know. We owe you big time!”

“No worries,” Iwaizumi says. He finds himself smiling too. Maybe Hinata is contagious. “I’m glad to be of service.”

“Cool!” Hinata says. “Well, we have to go. Kageyama promised to buy me meat buns.”

“Fine,” Kageyama says, “but don’t buy more than three because I won’t have enough money to pay for all of them.” He grabs Hinata’s wrist and pulls him away, turning his head back to nod at Iwaizumi.

“So stingy!” Hinata is complaining as they walk off.

Once they’re gone, Iwaizumi unfolds the note and scans it carefully. Hinata’s awful handwriting is an impediment, but he works past it.

 

OIKAWA TOORU FACT SHEET

  • Favorite food: milk bread
  • Favorite drink: hot chocolate
  • Favorite movie: Alien or E.T. depending on his mood
  • Likes: space, barbeque, Korean skincare, tight jeans, telling people what to do, kaomoji
  • Dislikes: Kageyama ☹, coffee, being ignored, babies, public bathrooms with those air-drying machine things instead of towels

 

“Hey, hey, hey, whatcha doing?” someone asks.

Iwaizumi jumps, spinning around, and comes face to face with—

“Woah, man, sorry if I scared you,” Bokuto says, holding his hands up.

“You’re good,” Iwaizumi says. He hides the note behind his back, keeping it away from Bokuto’s prying eyes as he refolds it.

“You’re that guy who Oikawa’s been hanging out with,” Bokuto says. He frowns, snapping his fingers. “Izu—Ima—Iwa—”

“Iwaizumi Hajime,” Iwaizumi says. He dips his head.

Bokuto returns the nod. “Bokuto Koutarou,” he says, which Iwaizumi already knew. “Oikawa’s pretty cool, right?”

“That’s one way to put it.”

In response, he gets a blinding smile. “Yeah, totally,” Bokuto says. “He’s so funny. The other day he told me a story, I don’t know if I can remember it, but it was hilarious, trust me—"

An idea comes to Iwaizumi, and he interrupts Bokuto’s rant. “Is Kuroo around?” he asks.

Bokuto pauses to remember. “I think he went home early,” he says. He reaches into his pocket. “But I can call him if you—”

“No, no, that’s fine.” To be honest, Iwaizumi would rather not have to deal with Kuroo right now. Having to deal with one of Oikawa’s friends is enough. Bokuto is high-energy, but at least he’s straightforward. Talking to Kuroo is like navigating an active minefield, and he’s been giving Iwaizumi indecipherable looks in class ever since he and Oikawa made up. “I was thinking,” Iwaizumi says, “about inviting Oikawa to. Do something.”

“Do something,” Bokuto repeats. “Like… a date?”

A patch of red starts to bloom on the back of Iwaizumi’s neck, which is ridiculous because dating Oikawa is his job, it’s a favor to a friend, and the prospect shouldn’t be surprising or intriguing to him in any way whatsoever. “Kind of like a date.”

Bokuto breaks into an even bigger smile, rubbing his palms together. “Oh man, I’m so excited,” he says. “You know Oikawa’s never gone out with anyone? Kuroo and I keep telling him he should, but he always… wait, sorry, what were you asking?”

“I dunno.” Iwaizumi shrugs. “D’you have any suggestions for what to do?”

“Hmm,” Bokuto says. “If it was me, I would want to go somewhere I could show off at something and totally impress my date.”

Iwaizumi swallows his objection that it’s not about Bokuto. “Do you think that’ll work on Oikawa?” he asks, trying to hide the skepticism in his voice.

Bokuto waves a dismissive hand at the question. “He’s more competitive than any of us,” he says. “He keeps trying to get us to call him the Grand King because it’s what Hinata calls him, but Kuroo says we shouldn’t feed his ego or else he’ll explode.”

“Kuroo’s right,” Iwaizumi mutters under his breath. Louder, he says, “Thanks for your help, dude.”

“Just looking out for a friend,” Bokuto says. He offers Iwaizumi a fist-bump before stepping around him and continuing down the hall, whistling an unfamiliar jaunty tune.

Iwaizumi, for his part, checks his watch and realizes that he’s almost late to meet Oikawa. He books it down to the gym and arrives to find Oikawa already waiting outside the doors with an impatient expression, tapping his foot. “Look who decided to show up,” he says. “I guess Iwa-chan isn’t so heartless as to completely abandon me after all.”

“I’m two minutes late, asshole,” Iwaizumi points out.

“Two minutes of my valuable time wasted waiting for you, you mean.” Oikawa crosses his arms and pouts. “What are you going to do to make it up to me?”

Iwaizumi’s palms start to sweat, and he surreptitiously wipes them on his pants. It’s now or never. “Actually,” he says, “I was thinking of taking you out tomorrow. If that’s sufficient repayment.”

Oikawa squints at him long enough that he begins to question everything he’s done leading up to this point. “Are you doing this because I bitched about it?” he asks. So he’s self-aware, Iwaizumi thinks. “Because I was joking. You don’t actually have to.”

Iwaizumi almost rolls his eyes, then he realizes that might not be the right body language right now and stops. “If I said I really just wanted to ask you out, would you say yes?”

“I don’t know,” Oikawa says. He smirks. “Are you going to say it?”

For a second, Iwaizumi looks at him. Then he turns and stomps down the hallway, Kageyama’s stupid plan be damned. Oikawa runs after him, laughing. “Wait, wait, stop,” he says between giggles. “I’ll go out with you!”

“Tomorrow at three,” Iwaizumi says. He refuses to look at Oikawa, but he can still feel the amusement radiating from him. “I’ll pick you up. Wear something comfortable.”

“You’re the boss,” Oikawa says.

“If I were, I’d have you fired for insubordination,” Iwaizumi informs him. Then he picks up the pace and grins when Oikawa squawks and trips over himself to catch up.

 


 

“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa whispers. He sounds… reverent? His eyes are wide with disbelief and, quite possibly, wonder. “Iwa-chan, is this what I think it is?”

“Oh, good,” Iwaizumi says. “I was worried you wouldn’t like laser tag.”

“I don’t like laser tag,” Oikawa says. “I breathe laser tag. But don’t worry, I’ll go easy on you. Don’t want to scare poor Iwa-chan off after one date, right?”

Iwaizumi scoffs. “Come on,” he says. “You think you can beat me, pretty boy?”

“Okay.” Oikawa holds up two fingers. “One: I’m going to remember that you called me pretty. And two: fine, I won’t go easy on you. But you’ve been warned.”

“I’m pretty sure the only thing I have to be scared of is those fumes from all the hairspray you use,” Iwaizumi teases. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans and leads Oikawa into the arena.

Oikawa gasps, offended. “You take that back!” He all but shrieks. “My hair naturally looks this good!”

“Sure it does.” Iwaizumi hands his credit card to the bored-looking college student at the front desk and gets two sets of vests and blasters in return, one of which he offers to Oikawa. The attendant waves them through to a room that splits off into two corridors. Iwaizumi and Oikawa make eye contact, grin, and each split off toward one side without another word.

The waiting room he ends up in is dark: small space, dim lights, black walls with neon blue signage. There are several other players waiting around, already strapped into their gear, and Iwaizumi joins them in suiting up. They wait around for a few minutes, and Iwaizumi is considering whether he should say something to any of his teammates when a large screen above the door lights up with flashy colors. It’s an instructional video. Iwaizumi, who’s been here before, ignores the woman’s voice explaining instructions to them and uses the time to inspect his gun instead.

Soon enough the video ends and they’re told to enter the arena. Iwaizumi is one of the last ones in on his team, and he immediately darts to his right and ducks behind a wall. It’s as hard to see here as it was in the waiting room, and Iwaizumi cautiously lifts his gun and points it in front of him while he waits for his vision to adjust.

Half a minute later, he ventures out from his hiding spot and sneaks toward the center, where most of the other players have gathered, making sure to stick close to the walls. In the distance, he hears yelling and the science fiction-esque sound of laser guns going off. He takes a deep breath and is preparing to run around a corner into the fray when a bright red dot appears in the center of his vest.

Iwaizumi has mere seconds to react. His eyes widen, and he throws himself out of harm’s way. Grunting as his knee hits the ground, he scrambles to climb to his feet and return fire, only to find one smug Oikawa Tooru leaning against the opposite wall with his arms crossed. His vest is similar to Iwaizumi’s, but in red instead of blue.

“There you are, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says. “I had to take out three of your teammates before I found you.”

Iwaizumi scowls, opting to aim at Oikawa’s chestplate and fire in lieu of a response. Oikawa evades him with a series of deft maneuvers and lifts his own gun in retaliation. Iwaizumi curses, dashing to the left. He ends up barrelling through a maze-like network of corridors and picks directions at random in the hopes of confusing Oikawa.

It seems to pay off; the footsteps behind him grow weaker, and he emerges into a narrow room where a blue player and a red one are firing at each other and missing. Iwaizumi shoots the opposing team member in the back, spares a second to nod at his teammate, and leaves to find another hiding spot.

He ends up in a cramped lookout tower with perfect view of the center of the arena. There are few signs of life visible below. It’s likely that most of the players have been eliminated already.

A blue player wanders into the clear—it’s possible they’re the last other surviving player on Iwaizumi’s team. They survey the space with intense caution, head swivelling this way and that. A blur of motion in the corner of Iwaizumi’s vision catches his eye, and he barely has time to shout “Look out!” before Oikawa springs out from a conical structure he’d concealed himself behind and eliminates them.

Then he turns to stare right at Iwaizumi, who realizes belatedly that he gave his position away with his failed warning attempt. Cursing, he jumps down from the tower and weaves through the mess of neon obstacles in his way, hoping to find Oikawa before he’s found.

“Iwa-chan!” he hears—much closer than he was expecting, shit. “Iwa-chan, come out and let’s settle this face to face!”

Iwaizumi doesn’t respond, but he shuffles closer to the source of Oikawa’s voice.

“Let’s end this with honor, Iwa-chan! We can do that thing where we stand back to back and turn around and fire on the count of ten! I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Iwaizumi figures that what Oikawa’s proposing might be his best chance to win this thing. Oikawa’s performance earlier had been intimidating—and, he admits begrudgingly, impressive—and he stands more of a chance if they face off on equal footing. Resolved, he leaves the relative safety of the maze and steps into the center where Oikawa is waiting—

Only to be promptly shot in the chest.

His vest’s sensor lights up, Oikawa pumps a fist in the air, and all the neon piping all around them flickers red to celebrate the victory. Iwaizumi stares down at his vest for a moment, not comprehending what happened. Then, betrayed, he glares at Oikawa. “What happened to ‘let’s end this with honor?’” he asks. “Cheater.”

Oikawa, the bastard, doesn’t look remorseful in the least. He laughs, walking up to Iwaizumi and patting him on the shoulder. “Rules are for the weak, Iwa-chan.”

Iwaizumi scowls. “We’re playing again,” he says, “and I’m beating you into the ground.”

“Kinky,” Oikawa says. This close, his hair is a sweaty, tangled mess, with his bangs plastered to his forehead. And he’s smiling: not the perfect, pearly smile he deploys on a daily basis, but a smile that wrinkles his eyes and dimples his cheeks.

Despite himself, Iwaizumi wants to keep him smiling like that. “Best of three,” he says. “Loser buys dinner. I know a good Korean barbeque place nearby.”

Oikawa’s eyes light up. “You’re on,” he says.

And if they lose track of time and Oikawa wins two more games before Iwaizumi finally manages one—and if they decide to play on the same team and Iwaizumi is taken down by two enemy snipers at once because he’s distracted by Oikawa laughing—and if they eat dinner together and linger at the table, talking, for a full hour before they go home—

Well, that’s none of Kageyama’s business, is it?

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

How long am I supposed to wait before I text him? Iwaizumi wonders.

After the date, he was tired enough that he had crawled into bed as soon as he got home and fallen into a blissful, dreamless sleep. But eventually morning came and brought with it its own slew of problems. Going on dates is one thing, but trying to navigate a relationship is another learning curve entirely. And a relationship is what Iwaizumi is aiming for, so he has to start figuring out all the unspoken rules that come with one.

He’s currently sprawled on his back on the couch, phone in hand. It’s open to Oikawa’s LINE page. His profile picture is a candid shot of himself laughing in his school uniform. That is, it looks candid, but knowing Oikawa, Iwaizumi would bet anything that he spent at least thirty minutes taking the picture before he was satisfied with it. Which, sadly, doesn’t mean he doesn’t look good in it.

There’s a status under Oikawa’s name that helpfully informs his friends that he’s online.

Iwaizumi groans. Worrying about texting etiquette is for children, and he’s a legal adult who’s supposedly mature enough to move to Tokyo to live on his own in a few months. This is ridiculous.

Steeling his resolve, and without giving himself time to overthink things, he fires off a quick message.

 

You: don’t make me regret this but how are you doing?

Oikawa: iwa-chan!!

Oikawa: i was wondering if u’d have the nerve to text me after being CRUSHED at laser tag yesterday

You: this was a mistake bye.

Oikawa: nooooo come back o(><;)○

Oikawa: i was just about to message u actually

You: why?

Oikawa: tetsu’s throwing a party at his tonight

Oikawa: come with? (ノ´ з `)ノ

You: what kind of party?

Oikawa: just a small get together!!

Oikawa: nothing illegal

Oikawa: probably

Oikawa: you’ll have fun promise ☆ ~('▽^人)

You: i dunno

You: i feel like Kuroo hates me

Oikawa: whaaat? pffft. no.

You: Oikawa.

Oikawa: ok ok

Oikawa: tetsu-chan is just being weird, i’ll work on him

Oikawa: but i want you there and that’s all that matters

You: fine

Oikawa: yay!!! i’ll send the address + time

Oikawa: meet you there ヾ(*'▽'*)

 


 

Oikawa’s definition of ‘a small get-together,’ Iwaizumi decides, needs some serious work. The party is already in full swing by the time Iwaizumi manages to find a parking space, taking extra care to avoid hitting the cars in front of and behind him. The music is so loud it’s audible from outside the house with the door closed. And when he does finally make it inside, half the guests are already drunk, clinging to each other and giggling and dancing with no apparent sense of rhythm.

Iwaizumi finds Oikawa amidst a throng of partygoers in the living room. He’s found a perch on the arm of a couch, and he’s nursing a can of beer and glaring at something beyond Iwaizumi’s field of vision.

Grinning, mostly with relief at seeing a familiar face, Iwaizumi walks over and sits down next to him. “What’s eating you?” he asks.

Oikawa doesn’t bother to acknowledge Iwaizumi with so much as a glance. He jerks his chin at the scene in front of them. In one corner of the room, half-hidden by a potted plant, are Kageyama and Hinata. Iwaizumi hadn’t known that they were going to be here. He’s a bit worried about how young they are, but nothing about their pose or expressions suggests evidence of any improper goings-on. They look innocent—cute, even. Especially considering the number of other couples already making out in various locations around the room.

“Kageyama and Hinata?” Iwaizumi asks. “They look like they’re having fun.”

“Sure,” Oikawa says. He takes a vindictive sip of his beer. “I bet Tobio is having a blast wasting Hinata’s time with his awkwardness and tragic lack of likeability.”

Iwaizumi hides a laugh behind his hand, and then he feels bad for laughing. “What do you have against Kageyama?”

“I don’t have anything against him,” Oikawa says. “I’m just looking out for Chibi-chan, and Tobio’s mean to him all the time. He’s not good enough for him.”

“I’m mean to you all the time, and you still like me,” Iwaizumi points out.

Hearing that, Oikawa blushes. Iwaizumi watches with interest as spots of pink appear against his otherwise fair skin. “I don’t like you,” he argues. “Who would like beef-for-brains Iwa-chan? I have better taste than that.”

Maybe it’s the relaxed atmosphere or the hazy light, but Iwaizumi can’t pretend to be annoyed. He reaches over and flicks Oikawa in the forehead. “You’re so shitty,” he says, not bothering to keep the fondness out of his voice. “Shittykawa.”

“Am not,” Oikawa says. He sounds distracted, and Iwaizumi realizes that he’s checking out of the conversation in favor of once again glaring at Kageyama from across the room.

Iwaizumi sighs. “Not this again. Come on, how about we go outside and leave poor Kageyama alone?”

“Fine,” Oikawa relents. He makes no move to stand up on his own, so Iwaizumi wraps an arm around his shoulders and helps him to his feet. Oikawa overbalances and stumbles into Iwaizumi’s chest before righting himself with a small grunt.

“Fuck, are you okay?” Iwaizumi asks. “How drunk are you?”

“Not drunk,” Oikawa insists, though Iwaizumi has his doubts about the truth of that statement. “Just dizzy. Was sitting there for a long time.”

“Whatever you say.”

Careful to keep him steady, Iwaizumi supports Oikawa’s weight as they stagger out of the front door. They settle onto the porch steps, and Oikawa plops his beer down beside him. Faint music and conversation filter out from the closed screen door, but it all sounds faraway, as if they’re underwater. The two of them are the only people out here. If Iwaizumi blocks everything out and focuses enough on Oikawa, on the pale curve of moonlight against his skin and the soft rhythm of his breathing, he can almost pretend they’re the only two people in the universe.

“Sorry, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says.

Iwaizumi blinks at him, wondering if he heard that right. “Huh?” he asks. “Sorry for what?”

Oikawa sighs. His eyes droop, and he shuffles closer and rests his head on Iwaizumi’s shoulder. Soft hair tickles Iwaizumi’s chin. “Sorry for making you come to a party with me and then getting drunk before you even got here and then making you come outside with me. You didn’t even get a drink.”

“That’s okay,” Iwaizumi says. “I’m driving, anyway. And I like it better out here.”

“Hmm.” A puff of warm air hits Iwaizumi’s collarbone when Oikawa exhales. He shivers. “Me too.”

“Yeah?”

“Uh huh.” Oikawa pauses. “Th’ stars are pretty.”

“They’re really bright tonight,” Iwaizumi agrees. He points at a line of stars directly above them. “There’s the big dipper. Those four stars right there are the cup. You see it?”

“I see it,” Oikawa says. “And there’s Leo underneath it, and Boötes to the left over there. And that’s Arcturus, the fourth-brightest star in the sky and one of the three points of the spring triangle.” A slow, smug smile appears on his lips. “Please, Iwa-chan, don’t try to impress me with the big dipper.”

Iwaizumi lets out a sheepish laugh. “Okay, damn. Point taken. I didn’t know you knew so much about them.”

“Not as much as I want to,” Oikawa says. “Seijoh doesn’t teach astronomy. College will be different, maybe. I wanna—I’m gonna study astrophysics and work for JAXA or something. Who knows.”

A cricket chirps in the distance. Iwaizumi turns Oikawa’s words over in his head.

There are so many things about Oikawa, he realizes, that he doesn’t know. Worse, there are so many things about Oikawa that he brushed over or ignored or didn’t care enough to get to know. For years, he’s dismissed Oikawa out of hand as some golden boy with everything handed to him on a silver platter and no real aspirations. Which was stupid, in retrospect: Oikawa isn’t their class president just for kicks. He’s worked harder for it than anyone else in their grade.

“Wow,” Iwaizumi says, at last. It falls wildly short of what he actually wants to say, and he hopes it doesn’t come off as sarcastic.

“I’m full of surprises, Iwa-chan.”

“No, really—seriously. Good luck. You’ll do great.”

“Well,” Oikawa says. He blinks, taken aback. “Thanks, then.”

Iwaizumi hums in response, lifting his head to gaze at the moon overhead. It’s not quite full, but almost there.

“What about you, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asks after a few seconds.

“Huh?”

“What’s next for you, after graduation? You said you wanted to get out of here.” Oikawa pauses. “Biker gang?”

A startled laugh escapes Iwaizumi, and he whips around to look at Oikawa. He’s smiling too, wide enough for his dimples to show. They’re a little lopsided, and Iwaizumi, unfortunately, thinks they’re charming.

“Is that what you think of me?” Iwaizumi asks. “No, I… I was thinking of med school, actually.”

“Oh?” Oikawa’s smile softens. “Going to fix everyone’s problems for them, are you? How noble.”

Iwaizumi rubs the back of his neck, where a light blush is blooming. “Nothing like that. I just… I like taking care of people, I guess.”

“I can see that,” Oikawa says.

Surprised, Iwaizumi glances over at him. “You can?”

“I mean, you did drag me out here. Thanks for that, by the way. I feel a lot better.”

“No problem.”

The quiet that next envelops them is soothing. Neither of them feel pressured to keep up a constant stream of conversation, but the silence between them is just as comfortable as the occasional comments they break it with. Iwaizumi doesn’t know whether it’s thirty minutes or an hour that he sits out there with his knee pressing into Oikawa’s thigh and Oikawa’s head tucked on his shoulder, but he wouldn’t mind if the moment lasted forever.

“Are you still drunk?” Iwaizumi asks after a while.

“I don’t think so,” Oikawa says. He picks up the can of beer, long forgotten by his side, and swirls it around, stares into it. Then he reconsiders. “Well, maybe a little.”

“Don’t drink so quickly next time, dumbass. Here, I’ll go get you some water.” Iwaizumi goes to stand up, but he’s stopped by the hand that wraps around his wrist and squeezes.

“Wait,” Oikawa says.

Iwaizumi waits.

“I was just thinking,” Oikawa says. “Don’t laugh at me—I’m drunk, you know, so I can’t take responsibility for anything I say.”

“You told me you weren’t drunk,” Iwaizumi reminds him.

“I was just thinking,” Oikawa starts again, “that isn’t it funny? If someone told me two years ago I’d be able to talk to you without wanting to punch something I wouldn’ta believed them.”

Iwaizumi lets out a wry laugh. “Not even,” he scoffs. “I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that two months ago.”

“I guess,” Oikawa says. With a small frown, he eyes his beer and, after a moment of consideration, downs the rest of it in one gulp. The gleam that enters his eyes is… not sad, exactly, but pensive.

“Hey.” Iwaizumi bumps Oikawa’s shoulder with his own. “For what it’s worth, I underestimated you.” He cringes now when he looks back on the years he spent convinced that Oikawa was all sparkle and no substance. “So, you know. Sorry.”

Oikawa doesn’t respond, so Iwaizumi takes it as a sign that he’s free to leave. “About that water?” He prods.

“Oh, right.” Oikawa’s grip around his wrist loosens. “Sure, go ahead.”

“Be right back.” Iwaizumi climbs to his feet. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“Yes, mom.” Oikawa rolls his eyes.

With a sigh, Iwaizumi walks away from him. He hesitates when he reaches the front door, one hand already on the knob, and turns to look at Oikawa one more time. He’s right where Iwaizumi left him: slouched on the porch step, empty beer can dangling loosely from his fingers, silhouetted against the stars. A gentle breeze passes by and ruffles his hair, and a foreign emotion clogs up Iwaizumi’s chest at the sight.

Half of him hates Kageyama for this: the lies, the illusions, the pretense that’s growing more and more genuine with every passing second. And the other half of him is grateful all the same, because who knows whether he’d ever have bothered to talk to Oikawa if Kageyama hadn’t asked him to.

A knot grows tight in his throat, and he tears his eyes away from Oikawa and reenters the house.

 


 

Everything is too loud and too bright, the world around him devolving into a cacophony of screaming and flashing lights and trashy music. Compared to the relative safety of the porch, it’s like stepping into an alternate dimension. Iwaizumi grits his teeth and shoulders through the fray. He’s only here to find the kitchen and get water so Oikawa can sober up.

( And then what? his traitorous subconscious asks. Drive him home? Walk him up to the door to make sure he gets inside safely? Kiss him goodnight on the porch the way you were too scared to do after your date ?)

No, Iwaizumi tells himself firmly. None of this is real, and also Oikawa may or may not be drunk and Iwaizumi is not going to take advantage of him.

After stumbling into an unlocked bathroom where two girls are making out, and then passing through the middle of a giant game of spin the bottle in the living room, Iwaizumi finds the kitchen. As soon as he walks in, he immediately wishes he could walk back out.

All the drinks—sake, beer, some expensive-looking glass bottles that probably belong to Kuroo’s parents—have been spread out on the dining table, and standing in front of it, like a pair of guard dogs or something, are Kuroo and Bokuto.

Before he can make his escape, Bokuto spots him and waves him over. Biting back a groan of frustration, Iwaizumi walks across the room to them. He does his best to act nonchalant.

“Iwaizumi, good to see you!” Bokuto cheers. His cheeks are flushed a bright red, and it seems he’s had enough to drink to make him more exuberant than he usually is, which is saying something.

“What are you having?” Kuroo asks, gesturing toward the row of bottles. He, unlike his friend, is either clear-headed or a good enough actor to fake it. His eyes bore into Iwaizumi, who resists the urge to take a step back.

“Soda is fine,” Iwaizumi says. “I’m driving.”

Kuroo shrugs and pours Iwaizumi a cup of coke. “Your loss.”

Iwaizumi takes it from him and takes a sip, glad to have something to do with his hands. Something tells him this conversation is far from over. As much as he wants to find Oikawa and leave, he stays rooted to the ground.

“So,” Kuroo says, “a little birdie told me something interesting.”

“I was the little birdie,” Bokuto pipes up. Iwaizumi hides his snort behind another sip of his drink.

“Right,” Kuroo says, with a wry smile. “Bokuto told me all about how you came to him for advice on dating Oikawa.”

Iwaizumi raises an eyebrow. “Really? I ran into him in the hallway and asked because it was on my mind. That’s all.”

“I see,” Kuroo says. But if anything, his stare hardens.

“Uh huh,” Iwaizumi agrees. He raises a bored eyebrow, trying to project boredom, but he’s afraid that Kuroo can see right through him.

Kuroo straightens, taking advantage of his height to glare down at Iwaizumi. “Any particular reason for the change of heart?” he asks. “Since, you know, you were the one who broke his heart the first time around.”

Iwaizumi’s throat drops into his stomach. Broke his heart? He has to swallow a few times before finding his voice. “What? I didn’t… it wasn’t like that,” he protests. “It’s not that serious.”

“Not that serious,” Kuroo repeats. Disbelief colors his tone. “Bo, could you give us a second?”

“You got it,” Bokuto says. He dutifully heads out of the kitchen, but not before grabbing three random bottles off the table and pouring a mixture of their contents into his cup.

They watch him leave, and then Kuroo’s attention returns to Iwaizumi. “I don’t know what you’re planning,” he spits, “but if I have my way, Oikawa is never going to cry over some shitty guy like you ever again. I’ll make sure of it.”

Fuck, Iwaizumi thinks. Kuroo has to be lying to get to him. Except that he sounds far too angry to be lying, sounds like this actually matters to him, and—there’s no way. There’s no way Oikawa actually cried over him, right? He thinks about Oikawa, alone on the porch. He thinks about the oddly wistful look that had appeared on Oikawa’s face near the end of their conversation. He thinks that he might be a bad person.

“I’m not planning anything,” Iwaizumi says. His voice sounds distant in his own head. He’s surprised that the cup he’s holding hasn’t slipped out of his fingers, they feel so numb.

“Sure you aren’t,” Kuroo scoffs. “You know, Oikawa was the same person three weeks ago that he is now. He was just as worthy of your fucking attention three weeks ago as he is now. Your mind’s the only thing that’s changed here.” Kuroo steps closer, never breaking eye contact. “So what changed it?”

Iwaizumi stays shock still. And no, he’s never thrown a punch before, but god does he want to punch Kuroo in his stupid, sneaky face. The only thing stopping him is the shame of knowing that Kuroo’s right. He is up to something, and he doesn’t deserve Oikawa, and Oikawa can never, never know about any of this.

Then Kuroo closes his eyes, and the spell is broken. He leans back against the table, and he no longer looks conniving or accusatory or anything of the sort. Just tired. “Look, Iwaizumi,” he says. “I want to like you. But I don’t know you, and I put my friends first. Always.”

Iwaizumi clears his throat. “I respect that,” he says carefully.

Kuroo scoffs. “Uh huh.” He pauses, then says, “Oikawa’s his own person. I’m not gonna fucking… forbid him from dating you, or anything. But hurt him again, and I can promise that you won’t be getting within ten feet of him ever again.”

“That’s fair,” Iwaizumi says.

“Great.” Kuroo smiles, sharklike. “Good talk. Glad we’re in agreement, Iwaizumi-kun.”

“Right. Um, excuse me…”

Iwaizumi leaves Kuroo alone in the kitchen. His legs feel like pudding. He barely registers pushing back through the crowds of people between him and the exit. The only thought running through is mind is that he has to find Oikawa, has to explain, has to ask him—

“Oikawa!” Iwaizumi half-shouts, stumbling back out onto the porch.

Bleary with surprise, Oikawa pulls himself upright, rubbing his eyes. “Iwa-chan?” he mumbles. “What’s happening? Did you get me water?”

“Oh—shit, no, I forgot,” Iwaizumi says. “I, uh… I ran into Kuroo.”

“What’d he say?” Oikawa asks. “Don’t believe anything he says about me, he’s a big fat liar.”

“Right,” Iwaizumi says. You have no idea, he thinks.

“Mmh.” Oikawa gropes blindly at the banister for a handhold and pulls himself to his feet. He wobbles a little, and Iwaizumi grabs his elbow to steady him. “Are you going to take me home, Iwa-chan?”

“Sure.” Iwaizumi finds himself agreeing before he can think twice. He’d really rather be alone right now; he’d been planning on talking to Oikawa about what he heard from Kuroo, but he’s conflicted at the prospect of bringing it up when Oikawa isn’t thinking normally. But he has a perfectly serviceable car, and Oikawa lives close to him, and he can’t just abandon him for no good reason.

Their path to Iwaizumi’s mom’s black SUV, parked across the street, is a slow and painstaking one. Oikawa seems mostly sober by now, but drunkenness has been replaced with tiredness, and he’s half asleep on his feet. He shuffles along every now and again but is otherwise mostly dead weight, and Iwaizumi struggles to balance him. However, Oikawa does perk up when he hears the click of the car unlocking, and he lets himself be shepherded into the passenger seat.

“Didn’t know you drove,” Oikawa says once Iwaizumi climbs in on the other side.

Iwaizumi shrugs. “I was worried something like this might happen. The motorcycle isn’t great for hauling drunk passengers around.”

“Ah.”

They drive in silence until the silence becomes unbearable. Oikawa seems to have picked up on the change in the mood because Iwaizumi can feel his eyes on him, waiting for him to say something. He carefully avoids making eye contact. This is going to be awkward enough without it.

“Hey,” Iwaizumi says. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry if I—”

He stops in his tracks when Oikawa lets out a heavy sigh. “What did Kuroo tell you?” he asks.

“…What?”

“You said you talked to him,” Oikawa reminds him. “I love him and all, but he treats me like I’m a fucking child sometimes.”

“Oh,” Iwaizumi says.

“So?” Oikawa asks. “What’d he tell you?”

“He,” Iwaizumi says, “might have implied that you took it harder when I rejected you than I thought you did.”

Oikawa doesn’t say anything for a long moment, and Iwaizumi glances over to make sure he hasn’t fallen asleep. Then: “I’m going to kill him.”

“What? No. He was just looking out for you, and I—he’s right, I feel like shit—”

“No,” Oikawa says, vehement. “Don’t make it sound like you pity me or something. Yeah, it sucks to get shot down, but I can take care of myself.”

“Still,” Iwaizumi insists. “Even if it didn’t bother you at all, I shouldn’t have said what I said, and I want to apologize, so just—”

“Iwa-chan.” Oikawa cuts him off again. “I told you, don’t bother, you’re terrible at apologies. Take me home and we’ll call it even.”

Iwaizumi’s fingers tighten on the steering wheel. “That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Oikawa confirms. “Don’t bother waiting for me next week. I’ll catch a ride with Suga or something.”

“Oikawa."

“I won’t bother you again,” Oikawa says. “Thanks for humoring me, or whatever you’ve been doing the past week.”

“I wasn’t humoring you,” Iwaizumi starts to say. But he realizes that what he’s actually been doing is far worse, and he shuts up.

“Turn left at the next sign,” Oikawa says. He turns away from Iwaizumi, staring out of the car window into the darkness.

Iwaizumi already has the route to Oikawa’s house memorized, but he doesn’t say that. He’s embarrassed, he realizes, noting the way Oikawa resolutely avoids meeting his gaze. And, hell, why wouldn’t he be? This is Oikawa, who’s never shown a modicum of genuine interest in anybody, who finally decided to put himself out there and confess to someone in his third year of high school, only for Iwaizumi to not only turn him down but also insult him in the process. Of course he would take it hard, even if he pretended to brush it off.

Iwaizumi is a fucking asshole.

He turns left, then pulls into Oikawa’s driveway a couple of houses down. Oikawa has the door open the moment they’re parked, and Iwaizumi’s heart sinks at how obvious it is that Oikawa wants nothing to do with him anymore.

“Oikawa, wait,” Iwaizumi says.

To be honest, he expects to be ignored entirely, but Oikawa comes to a stop with one leg already out of the car. He turns back to Iwaizumi with an expectant expression on his face.

“I…” Iwaizumi hesitates. Oikawa looks torn between confusion and hope and fear, desperate to leave as soon as possible and equally desperate to stay and hear Iwaizumi out.

“I don’t want to stop talking to you,” Iwaizumi finally says, and it’s not what he wants to say at all.

Oikawa frowns. “I never said you had to.”

Iwaizumi nods, but he doesn’t believe it. Something about this moment is so definitive, like Iwaizumi could snap whatever tenuous link between them with one wrong word. And then that would be it, the end, no take-backs or do-overs.

“I don’t know what you want from me,” Oikawa says.

“I want to spend time with you,” Iwaizumi tries. His hands ball into fists; he wants to reach out and touch Oikawa, but that would be a bad idea. “We were fine before today, weren’t we?”

“Yes?” Oikawa says. It comes out uncertain. “I don’t fucking know, Iwaizumi. It feels like you always have something over me.”

Iwaizumi goes stiff with panic. “Oikawa—”

But Oikawa doesn’t stop to listen to him. “You know where I stand, you know? And I have no idea what’s going on in your head. I don’t know if you’re spending time with me and—and saying these things to me for fun, or for some prank, or because you mean them—I just want you to be straightforward with me for once.”

The first thing Iwaizumi feels is relief that Oikawa doesn’t know about his agreement with Kageyama. Less than a second later, he feels guilty for feeling relieved. “Honestly?” he says.

Oikawa watches him, waiting.

“I—” Iwaizumi falters. “I really want to kiss you right now,” he says, which isn’t a real answer, but he means it, and it’s the only thing he can think of.

It’s not good enough, though, and he knows it. Oikawa offers him a confused smile. “See you, Iwa-chan,” he says, and then he hops out of Iwaizumi’s car, and he’s gone.

Iwaizumi waits around to make sure he gets to his door safely, but Oikawa doesn’t look back once.

Not that Iwaizumi was expecting him to. He curses himself into oblivion the whole way home.

 


 

“Iwaizumi-kun!”

Iwaizumi shudders when he hears that voice, gratingly familiar, call out to him. He hunches his shoulders and keeps walking down the stairs, determined to ignore it, but Oikawa refuses to let himself be ignored.

“Iwaizumi-kun!”

The sound of footsteps speeds up behind him, and Iwaizumi feels a tap on his shoulder. Hanamaki snickers and walks on without him. With no other option, Iwaizumi clenches his jaw and turns around. “Can you make this quick?” he asks.

“I’ll be out of your way before you know it,” Oikawa chirps.

A few passing students shoot them curious looks, but they all have places to be, and the stairwell soon empties out. Iwaizumi crosses his arms and waits for Oikawa to speak up.

To his surprise, Oikawa is… fidgety? He clasps his hands in front of him, eyes darting from side to side to make sure they’re alone. “Iwaizumi-kun,” he says for the third time. “Did you know I’ve gotten four confessions already this week?”

Iwaizumi is tempted to walk away then and there, but part of him is curious. Oikawa’s body language is odd. “Am I supposed to be impressed?” he asks.

“Well, yes,” Oikawa says. “I’m a highly sought-after specimen, which is why you should feel honored that I’m letting you take me out. On a date. How’s Saturday?”

Iwaizumi levels a blank stare at him for all of fifteen seconds. And then he walks away without a word.

“Wha wait!” Oikawa runs after him. “Is that a no?”

Obviously, it’s a no,” Iwaizumi says.

“Why not?” Oikawa dashes down the stairs, out of breath by the time he reaches the bottom from trying to keep up with Iwaizumi’s pace.

“You know, I distinctly remember telling you to leave me alone,” Iwaizumi says. “I think I said that ten minutes after we met, actually.”

“And I don’t remember ever agreeing to that,” Oikawa says. “Besides, it was a memorable first impression, wasn’t it?”

“You spilled acid on me because you were trying too hard to impress a girl,” Iwaizumi deadpans. “It was stupid and reckless.”

“And charming?” Oikawa asks hopefully.

“I said no. When are you going to drop it?”

“Technically you never said no,” Oikawa points out. By now, the parking lot is in sight, and Iwaizumi prays for the patience to ignore Oikawa until he can get on his motorcycle and drive away.

“Fine: no. Now leave.”

“Wait, but —”

“Oikawa.” Iwaizumi stops walking and faces him. “We have never gotten along, we never will get along, and for all I know this is part of some stupid fucking joke that all your friends are in on, so I suggest you stop wasting your time. I wouldn’t go out with you even if you weren’t a shallow douchebag who’s going to peak in high school, because I want to get out of here as soon as possible. Got it?”

For the first time in as long as Iwaizumi has known him, Oikawa is speechless. He walks away without waiting for a response.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Hey.” Kageyama’s quiet voice breaks him out of his reverie.

Iwaizumi offers him the briefest glance of acknowledgement. Then he sighs and lets his head drop against the brick wall behind him with a thump. Leaning against the back of the gym building with his hands in his pockets, staring off into the empty field in front of him, he feels like main character in a teen drama. Oh, well, he thinks. It could be worse. At least Kageyama is the only person around to see him like this. He’s fairly certain there’s nothing he could do short of murder that would get the kid to stop idolizing him.

“Hinata and I are officially dating,” Kageyama tells him. There’s hesitation in his tone, like he’s not sure Iwaizumi will want to hear about it. “Thank you.”

“That’s good,” Iwaizumi says. “I’m glad.” He’s not even lying; he may not be proud of what he did to get them here, but there’s no doubt that Hinata and Kageyama are good for each other. They look happier together.

Not like him and Oikawa, apparently, who only serve to make each other miserable.

Speak of the devil: “How are things going with Oikawa?” Kageyama asks.

Iwaizumi lets out a noncommittal grunt. “Fine,” he lies.

He senses more than he sees Kageyama’s answering frown. “Hinata said he was really upset after the party yesterday,” he says.

Iwaizumi’s lips twist into a scowl, and he doesn’t bother to hide it. “Tell Hinata,” he grouses, “that Oikawa probably tells him those kinds of things in confidence, and he should stop gossiping. It’s none of his business. Or yours.”

Kageyama is silent long enough that Iwaizumi starts to feel bad. He’s overstepped. What right does he have, anyway, to be telling other people how to treat Oikawa? He’s been the biggest dick of them all. “Sorry,” he says belatedly. “I’m… not in a good mood.”

“No, you’re right,” Kageyama says. “Hinata has been feeling bad about going behind Oikawa’s back all this time.” Iwaizumi hears the unspoken admission that the guilt is starting to eat at Kageyama, too.

“So, what?” Iwaizumi asks. “Call the whole thing off?”

“I’m going to meet Hinata’s parents,” Kageyama says. Surprised, Iwaizumi’s eyes flicker over to him. “We’re trying to convince him that he’s ready to date. It’s what we should have done in the beginning.”

“Good luck,” Iwaizumi offers.

Kageyama inclines his head in thanks. Then both of them stand there for a long moment, neither sure what to say next. In that stretch of time, Iwaizumi gains a new appreciation for why people smoke. He needs something to occupy his hands with other than balling them up into fists in his pockets.

“This is your first relationship, isn’t it, Iwaizumi-san?” Kageyama asks finally.

“Yeah. Some relationship,” Iwaizumi says bitterly. “I hope he never talks to me again. For his sake. All I do is fuck with his head.”

Kageyama clears his throat. If he’s put off by Iwaizumi’s vehemence, he doesn’t give it away. “And it’s Oikawa-san’s first, too,” he points out. “It makes sense if neither of you know what to do.”

Shrugging, Iwaizumi says, “I guess.”

“You have to keep trying,” Kageyama says. “Right now he thinks you don’t care about him.”

Iwaizumi furrows his brow as he mulls that over. “I don’t even know how I feel about him.”

“I think,” Kageyama says, “that you care about him enough to be willing to stay away from him forever to avoid hurting him.” He pauses. “It’s a start.”

“Maybe,” Iwaizumi replies, noncommittal. Then he changes the topic. “Hey, isn’t your class on the other side of the school? You should get going before you’re late.”

Kageyama groans. “I don’t think my grade will improve even if I’m on time.”

That draws a genuine smile out of Iwaizumi; he’s listened to far too many rants from Kageyama about how much he hates all his classes. He pats Kageyama on the back in a show of support and nudges him in the direction of the first-year classrooms. “Hang in there, kid,” he says, and Kageyama’s shoulders slump as he trudges off.

As soon as he’s gone, the smile drops from Iwaizumi’s face. He kicks at a rock lying on the sidewalk; it bounces once, twice, and then lands in a patch of grass growing out of a crack in the pavement. He considers skipping school for the afternoon, which wouldn’t help counteract the delinquent reputation he’s somehow managed to acquire, but he remembers a second later that he has a math quiz today. And if he’s going to be in class for math, he might as well suffer through all the rest.

Iwaizumi slouches into his seat next to Hanamaki moments before the bell rings. He made it a point to avoid being late today because Oikawa and his posse are chronically late, and the last thing Iwaizumi needs right now is to give himself more opportunities to run into them.

Today is no exception: this time, Oikawa doesn’t bother to show up until seven minutes into class, after they’ve already been instructed to open their textbooks and start independent work on review questions. Oikawa flashes a charming smile at the class when he finally slinks inside, makes his usual excuses, and their teacher motions for him to proceed with an exasperated warning.

“Good afternoon, class,” Oikawa says, standing with his hands clasped behind his back beside the board. He sounds cheerful—too cheerful to be believable, if Iwaizumi bothers to read that far into it. “First on the agenda: Bokuto-kun has informed me that he brought his lucky baseball cap to school last week, and it’s now missing. If anyone has seen a white baseball cap with a blue brim, please report to him immediately.” From his desk in the front row, Bokuto flashes Oikawa a grateful thumbs-up. Iwaizumi rolls his eyes. “Now, with less than two weeks until the school festival, I’d like to invite your planning committee chairs, Sugawara Koushi and Shimizu Kiyoko, to update us on their progress.”

Kiyoko and Suga stand and make their way to either side of Oikawa. “Preparations for the festival are almost complete,” Suga begins in a loud, clear voice. “All decorations are currently being stored in Gym Two, so if you need to go in there for any reason, we ask that you please try not to disturb anything and watch out for wet paint. The festival will officially take place next Saturday from nine to four, and every club at the school is expected to have a booth. Make sure to bring pocket money for games and food.”

Kiyoko coughs delicately into her fist and steps forward. “Several clubs offer services that will need to be pre-ordered before the festival,” she announces. “The art club is selling pet portraits for fifteen dollars each and requires a reference photo. The eSports team is holding a Super Smash Bros. tournament and has a limited amount of consoles; they ask that participants pay to reserve entry slots beforehand. And finally, the baking club is selling handmade chocolates that they will deliver to a person of your choice on the day of the festival. If you are interested in any of these, please contact the club representatives within the next two weeks: Yachi Hitoka, Kozume Kenma, and Yahaba Shigeru respectively.”

“Great!” Oikawa beams at them as they conclude their presentations and sit down. “Thank you for that, Suga-chan, Kiyoko-chan. I think that’s all the announcements we have. As you all know, we will begin to prepare for graduation as soon as the festival is over, so please work hard and stay out of trouble until then. Does anyone have anything they would like to add?” His gaze sweeps over the class, and this time, it glosses over Iwaizumi like he doesn’t exist. A heavy lump slides down his throat and into the pit of his stomach, and it stays there.

 


 

Over the next days, Iwaizumi gets used to being ignored by Oikawa. No more stolen glances in the middle of class, no flicker of recognition in those brown eyes when they pass each other on their separate ways to class, and no overbearing class president waiting by Iwaizumi’s motorcycle at the end of the day, demanding to be driven home. Iwaizumi tries to ignore how much he misses it.

Hanamaki often gets this strange look on his face around him now, like he wants to say something but can’t figure out how. Iwaizumi has his suspicions as to what—or, rather, who —the conversation is going to be about, and he’s careful to change the subject whenever there’s an opening for Hanamaki to bring it up.

He can’t keep this up forever, he knows; pretending that nothing’s wrong, pretending he hasn’t just ruined his chances with the one person he’s ever been possibly-maybe-probably interested in.

It all blows up in his face on Thursday afternoon when Iwaizumi is hanging out in the middle of the courtyard. It’s empty; their class is in the middle of a big test, and he’d been dismissed by the teacher after finishing early, but he can’t go home yet because he’d promised to drive Hanamaki home. So he finds a shady, grassy spot under a big oak tree and sits there, stretching his legs out in front of him.

It would be so easy for him to fall asleep like this, with the gentle spring breeze stirring against his face and patches of sunlight dancing over him. In the middle of dozing off, though, he hears two voices pipe up from somewhere behind him.

“Damn, that sucks,” someone says. “Sorry to hear it, man.”

“Whatever. ’S not your fault. It’s that asshole’s,” comes the reply.

Iwaizumi pokes his head out from behind the tree trunk. Two boys who he recognizes as second-years are standing there, having a conversation and not bothering to keep their voices down. There goes Iwaizumi’s peace and quiet.

“Forget about her. She’s not worth it,” says the first voice. He’s much taller than his conversation partner, limbs gangly and awkward like he hasn’t grown into them yet.

The second guy is in possession of an overgrown bowl cut and an impressively fierce scowl. He scuffs his sneakers against the pavement, eliciting a repetitive scraping sound. Iwaizumi is about to speak up to ask him to tone it down when he says, “It’s all Oikawa this, Oikawa that. I don’t know what all those girls see in him.”

Lanky shrugs. “It does seem unfair,” he agrees. “He has his pick of girls, and he doesn’t even want any of them.”

Iwaizumi ducks back behind the tree. He frowns to himself, a sort of nausea churning in his stomach as he listens in.

“He’s not even that good-looking,” Bowl Cut grumbles. Rich, coming from someone with hair that looks like that, Iwaizumi thinks. “And he’s such a dick, too. I don’t know why girls always go for the assholes who treat them like shit.”

Yikes. Iwaizumi cringes. Who actually thinks like this? He feels embarrassed for the guy.

“I don’t know, he doesn’t seem like that type,” Lanky says carefully. “It’s not his fault how people feel about him.”

“Are you on my side or not?” Bowl Cut demands. “And it totally is. Do you see the way he flirts with everyone who looks at him? He’s leading all those girls on, and he doesn’t even care."

“Maybe you’re right,” Lanky says. “Yeah, come to think of it, I have noticed that.”

Every word Iwaizumi is hearing pricks into his skin like a needle. Truth be told, they’re uncomfortably reminiscent of thoughts he himself would have had not two months ago. He hates it.

“Took you long enough,” Bowl Cut says. “He probably gets off on playing with their feelings, too. Guys like him never give a shit about anyone else. It’s so—“

And that’s when Iwaizumi can’t take it anymore. “Do you ever shut up?” he asks, getting to his feet and stepping out from behind the tree. The two second-years turn to him in surprise.

Bowl Cut scowls at him. “What’s it to you?” he asks.

Iwaizumi scoffs. His heart hammers away in his chest like he’s getting ready to run a marathon. “It sounds like you’re pissy you got rejected, and you’re taking it out on someone who has nothing to do with it.”

He hadn’t thought Bowl Cut’s face could get any darker, but he somehow manages. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, man,” he says. “Kaori would be with me if it weren’t for that piece of shit—“

Iwaizumi Hajime has never thrown a punch in his life. But recently, he’s been doing a lot of things he thought he would never do.

Bowl Cut is flat on his back in a split second, pressing a hand to his face and groaning. Lanky shouts in alarm and dashes off toward the school building, presumably to grab an adult. Iwaizumi’s breathing is ragged, and his vision spins, and he stares down at his clenched fist with intense disbelief.

“What the fuck? What’s wrong with you?” Bowl Cut yells, pain lacing through his voice.

“Shut up,” Iwaizumi tells him. He sounds hoarse.

“Jesus, who are you?” Bowl Cut pulls himself into a sitting position. His nose is bleeding, and he cups a hand under it to catch the blood, but otherwise he looks like he’s in possession of all his faculties. “Some crazy Oikawa fanboy or something? Ow, fuck.”

“Shut up,” Iwaizumi says. “And keep his name out of your mouth.”

He picks up on the quick patter of footsteps against concrete and lifts his head to see Lanky and Mizoguchi-sensei running toward him. Well, he thinks, time to face the music. Taking a deep breath, Iwaizumi lets his arms drop to his sides and waits for them to arrive.

 


 

“Iwaizumi,” Irihata says with a grave expression, hands folded on the smooth wood of the desk in front of him. “You are very fortunate that Yamashita wasn’t hurt too badly. Otherwise, things would look much, much worse for you right now.”

“Yes, sir,” Iwaizumi agrees. His chair is much lower than Irihata’s high-backed one, forcing him to angle his head up to meet the principal’s eyes. He wants to disappear, wants to sink through the floor and out of sight forever.

Irihata sighs and unclasps his hands, using them to rub his tembles. “I just don’t understand where this came from,” he says. “You’re the last person I would have expected to be involved in something like this.”

Iwaizumi remains silent, but he privately thinks that Irihata is alone in having such a high opinion of him. All the other students are probably having a field day; gossip spreads around this school like wildfire.

Receiving no response, Irihata adds, “Typically, hitting another student would be grounds for suspension. But you have no prior disciplinary history, and none of us want that on your permanent record so close to graduation.” He lets out a heavy sigh. “Can you tell me why you did it?”

“I’m… not sure,” Iwaizumi says. His recollection of the fight is detached, like he’s watching a scene in a movie instead of than reliving his own actions.

Irihata frowns. “Iwaizumi,” he says, disapproving. “We want you to graduate and to succeed, but I can’t justify giving you a lighter punishment if you don’t explain what happened.”

Iwaizumi sets his jaw. “Yawashita,” he says, “was saying some… unsavory things about one of my classmates. I confronted him about it.”

“Is this classmate a friend of yours?”

Irihata’s gaze bores into him, and Iwaizumi squirms. He grips onto the sides of his chair to hold himself still. “Something like that.”

“I don’t suppose you’re going to go into any more detail than that.”

Iwaizumi shrugs in a way that Irihata correctly interprets as probably not. The principal sighs again, resigned this time. “Go home after this is over. And then report to after-school detention every day for the next two weeks,” he says. “If you do anything that lands you here again, you won’t be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” Iwaizumi says. Irihata gestures for him to leave the office, which he does with a low, relieved exhale. Two weeks’ detention isn’t bad, all things considered.

But he gets no time to be grateful for Irihata’s lenience because as soon as he steps into the hallway, he comes face to face with a glowering Hanamaki. His face is thunderous, and he grabs Iwaizumi by the collar, stepping into his personal space. “What the fuck is going on, Iwaizumi?” he asks.

Iwaizumi flinches, taken aback. He tries to dodge out of Hanamaki’s grip, but his friend refuses to be shaken off. “Get off me. The punk was talking shit,” Iwaizumi says.

“Seriously?” Hanamaki throws both hands in the air. “You don’t punch someone in the face for that, holy shit. I know I like to joke about you turning into a stereotypical bad boy, but that doesn’t mean you have to go and prove me right.”

“I wasn’t thinking, okay?” Iwaizumi, unlike Hanamaki, is careful to keep the volume down. He glances both ways down the hall, wary of eavesdroppers, but they appear to be alone. “Is that what you want me to say? I just—I heard that kid saying those things about Oikawa, and I couldn’t stand it ‘cause—“

He stops dead in his tracks.

“Because?” Hanamaki prods.

Iwaizumi grits his teeth, rubs a hand over his face. “Because I used to think the same things he was saying, okay?” he hisses. “And I fucking hated that, I hate how I treated him back then, and having to stand there and listen to some dick remind me of how shitty I was… I lost it. That’s all.”

Some of the anger drains out of Hanamaki’s body. He takes a small step back. “Oh, man,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m saying this for your sake, I promise, but… I think you need to forget about Oikawa.”

Iwaizumi blinks at him. “You’re the one who told me to go for it, when this whole thing started.”

“Yeah, because I thought it might be a good way to force you to put yourself out there more.” Hanamaki runs a hand through his short hair, the motion tight with frustration. “I didn’t know about any of your history, or that it would get this serious.”

“Tell me about it.” Iwaizumi offers him a humorless chuckle.

Hanamaki doesn’t laugh. Unusual, for him. “I’m not saying I’m in the right here, either,” he says. “I wasn’t considering how Oikawa would feel at all, and I should have. But I’m asking you to help make things right. Don’t you think this has gone on for too long?”

“So what are you saying? Tell Oikawa the truth about why I’m doing this?” Iwaizumi’s hands curl into fists; his nails dig sharp crescents into his palms. He remembers the way his knuckles had bruised themselves against bone and skin. “He’d never forgive me.”

“And maybe you have to learn to be okay with that.”

The two of them hold each others’ eyes for one long, piercing moment. Hanamaki looks more serious than Iwaizumi has ever seen him.

Iwaizumi is the first to break eye contact, casting his eyes to the ground. “I can’t,” he mumbles.

“Oh my god—why not?” Hanamaki asks. He seems to be an inch away from grabbing Iwaizumi again and shaking him.

“Because… I don’t think it’s the full truth anymore,” Iwaizumi admits. “I talked to Kageyama, and he agreed that it’s not just about keeping a promise to him anymore. I care about Oikawa.” He meets Hanamaki’s gaze again, which is inscrutable. “And I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt him again.”

“The longer you wait to tell him, the worse it’s going to be.” Hanamaki doesn’t budge. “It’s going to come out sometime. It better be from you.”

“I know.”

Hanamaki levels him with one last hard look before turning away. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” he says.

“Me, too.” Iwaizumi watches him leave, wondering if this whole tangled mess is going to screw him out of his closest friend on top of everything else.

 


 

You: hey

You: can we meet up?

 

With a huff, Iwaizumi tosses his phone on his bed and collapses beside it. Having been sent home early so Irihata could deal with the fallout without him around to distract the other students, he’s spent most of the day since then bored in his room, waiting for the school day to end. His mom had been disappointed when she caught him trying to sneak into his bedroom and made him explain what was going on. She only let him go after chewing him out within an inch of his life and securing a promise from him never to do anything of the sort again.

Tomorrow, Iwaizumi is sure people will be talking about it. He’s not looking forward to the whispered conversations that halt abruptly every time he enters a new room, the intense side-eye glances, and especially not the confrontations with the few souls brave enough to come up to him directly and ask what happened.

But he can deal with all of that later. Right now, the only person he wants to clear things up with isn’t responding to his messages. 

It’s no more than he expected; Oikawa has every right to continue to be upset with him, and it would be ridiculous for him to expect to fix things by punching some poor kid in the face. Even so, Iwaizumi has to at least try. He figures there’s an unwritten rule that if you get into a fight for someone, you at least owe them an explanation.

 

You: you know the park down the street from your house?

You: i’ll be there if you’re willing to hear me out.

 

Iwaizumi waits ten, fifteen seconds before shutting off his phone and slipping it into his pocket. He refuses to stress himself out by waiting for a reply that might never materialize. Instead, he’s going to head down to the park in question and hope for the best. And if Oikawa ends up being a no-show, he’ll know where they stand.

After a quick shower, and swapping out his thin t-shirt for a hoodie and jeans, he’s dashing down the stairs and out of the house.

“Where do you think you’re going?” his mom calls after him as he rushes past her office.

“Be right back!” Iwaizumi shouts in lieu of a real answer. He hears a heavy sigh, but she doesn’t chase after him, so he assumes he’s in the clear.

The park is a park in name only; other than that, it’s barely anything at all. Just a grove of sparse trees; a small, grassy field; and a few scattered benches. Iwaizumi tucks his hands in his pockets, sits down on one of them, and waits. It’s half past six, and the sun is already starting to go down. A loud gust of wind blows past him, biting at his nose and ears, and he puts his hood up, glad that he had the foresight to change into something warmer.

The seconds tick past, and Iwaizumi waits. He puzzles over what to say to Oikawa when—if—he gets here but soon gives up and decides to play it by ear.

One hour passes, then another. Iwaizumi nearly nods off once or twice, and his fingers are freezing, but other than that, sitting among the trees for so long is a meditative experience. He gets time to untangle his thoughts from each other, to figure out how best to move on from here.

If Oikawa doesn’t show, he’ll do his best to put all of this behind him. To hold onto the lessons he’s learned and take them with him as he moves on with his life. Maybe, in a decade or so, he’ll look back on his choices and cringe and laugh about it.

Then he spots a slim figure walking toward him in the near-dark, and those plans are tossed out the window. Iwaizumi stands to greet him, anxiety bubbling under his skin. He doesn’t know if he’s supposed to shake his hand or nod at him or something, so in the end he just stands still. “Oikawa,” he says. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Hey,” Oikawa says. His voice is careful, neutral. He steps closer, and Iwaizumi notices that he’s wearing a navy peacoat, a red scarf, and a pair of glasses he’s never seen before.

Oikawa’s gaze lands on him briefly before darting away to the bench behind him. He takes a seat, and Iwaizumi sits back down once he’s settled.

A moment of awkwardness passes between them as Iwaizumi tries to figure out what to say. Half of him—most of him—hadn’t expected Oikawa to come.

“You know,” Oikawa says, making him jump, “I’ve always wanted people to fight over me. Never pictured it like this, though.”

A rueful grin pulls at Iwaizumi’s mouth. “Yeah, sorry,” he says. “I don’t know what came over me.”

“By Monday they’re going to be saying that you put Yamashita-kun in the E.R.,” Oikawa tells him. “Word to the wise: if you ever decide to deck someone again, don’t do it in front of witnesses.”

“Yeah.” Iwaizumi lifts one shoulder and drops it in a slight shrug. “I think this was more of a one-time thing.”

“Hmm.”

They lapse into silence again. Iwaizumi fidgets.

“I know you don’t like it when I try to apologize,” Iwaizumi begins, “but I think I have to this time.”

For once, Oikawa doesn’t fight him on it. “Go ahead,” he says.

Hesitating, Iwaizumi steals a glance at his profile. He stares straight ahead, warm breath fogging up part of his glasses, with his mouth set into a blank line. Still, he looks beautiful. Iwaizumi tears his eyes away.

“I’m sorry for not being straightforward with you,” Iwaizumi says. “I just… I’ve never done this before, and I couldn’t even figure out how I felt about you in time—which isn’t an excuse. I shouldn’t have kept you guessing.”

Oikawa says nothing. So he continues, nerves tightening his throat and making it hard to speak. “The truth is, I do care about you,” he admits quietly. “I didn’t want to admit it, but I do. You’re nothing like what I expected, and… I like that about you. I want to get to know you better.”

A long, painful second passes, and then Oikawa nods his head slowly. “Okay,” he says. “And you decide to prove that by punching a guy?”

Iwaizumi bites the inside of his cheek. “There was a time I would have agreed with what he was saying, “ he says. “I guess I used to have this image of you in my head, and I never gave you a chance to prove me wrong. He… reminded me too much of how I used to treat you, and I didn’t want to listen to anything else he had to say.”

“I see,” Oikawa says. He pauses, turning that over. Then, he says, “Not bad, Iwa-chan. Seven out of ten apology. I could’ve done with a little more grovelling.”

Iwaizumi very nearly melts with relief upon hearing the return of the nickname. “In your dreams,” he shoots back. “Are we okay, though?”

Oikawa faces him—fully, unflinchingly—for the first time in what feels like ages. There’s a slight tilt to his lips. “We’re okay,” he says.

He stands and pulls Iwaizumi up as well. He drops Iwaizumi’s hand as soon as they’re both on their feet, and Iwaizumi’s fingers twitch with the desire to lace themselves through Oikawa’s again.

Iwaizumi restrains himself, though. It’s about time he lets Oikawa set the pace.

“It’s dark,” Oikawa points out. The sun had indeed sunk below the horizon long ago, and the night sky is a murky blue-gray. “Walk me home, Iwa-chan.”

“Sure.” They fall into step beside each other. Both of them are cognizant of the proximity of their bodies, careful to stay far enough apart that their arms only brush together occasionally.

“I’m glad I decided to come,” Oikawa says. He tips his head back to look at the stars. “I almost didn’t.”

“Yeah? I wouldn’t have blamed you.”

“I was too curious about what happened,” Oikawa admits. “Plus I was getting tired of ignoring you.”

The only sound around them is the beat of their footsteps against the pavement and the occasional mournful whistle of the wind. “I’m glad,” Iwaizumi says. “I missed talking to you.”

Surprise colors Oikawa’s features, and he doesn’t quite manage to hide it before Iwaizumi sees. He recovers fast, though, and adopts a simpering smile. “Iwa-chan missed little old me?” he asks. “I’m honored.”

Iwaizumi snorts. “This is why I don’t compliment you.”

“No, you just don’t compliment me because you’re stingy and mean,” Oikawa retorts.

They turn a corner and come to a stop in front of Oikawa’s house. Iwaizumi tucks his hands back in the front pockets of his jeans, shifting his weight from side to side. “See you tomorrow?” he says.

Oikawa raises an eyebrow. “Aren’t you going to walk me to my front door?”

Iwaizumi stares at him. “You can’t walk ten feet on your own?”

“It’s the principle,” Oikawa says with a haughty sniff. He crosses his arms. “Be a gentleman, Iwa-chan.”

“Fine, whatever.”

Iwaizumi unlocks the garden gate and gestures for Oikawa to go on in before him. He accompanies the other man up to the front porch, where a light snaps on upon sensing their movement. It bathes the area in a pale gold glow. Oikawa’s eyes shine amber, round with contentment and relief.

“Is now the part where I tell you I’ll see you tomorrow?” Iwaizumi asks, tamping down the thoughts careening around his mind. His heart races with how close their faces are, a scant few inches separating them, and he wills it to calm down.

“It could be,” Oikawa says easily. “Or it could be the part where you remember that you want to kiss me and finally do it.”

“Oh,” Iwaizumi says.

Oikawa laughs at him. “Oh?”

“Shut up,” Iwaizumi replies, automatic. Then he licks his lips.

Oikawa cocks his head, causing a lock of soft hair to fall into his face. He’s going to make Iwaizumi lose his mind one of these days, probably.

Without letting himself think twice about it, Iwaizumi leans in and slots their mouths together. The kiss is short and sweet, a promise for more to come. Iwaizumi catches a whiff of Oikawa’s mint shampoo, and his hair brushes against Iwaizumi’s cheek. When Iwaizumi pulls back, they’re both smiling.

“Good night, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi says.

“Night, Iwa-chan.”

“Get some rest, idiot,” Iwaizumi says.

A small pout forms on Oikawa’s lips, and Iwaizumi wants to kiss it. Again. “You ruined it.”

Iwaizumi rolls his eyes at him. “See you.”

“See you,” Oikawa echoes. He unlocks his door and slips inside without another word.

Iwaizumi stares after him for a time. Then he shakes his head, hardly daring to believe any of this is real, and walks down the porch steps and back out of the front yard. His lips tingle all the way home.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Iwaizumi jolts awake at the crack of dawn, riding on the coattails of a nightmare that’s already fading from his memory, and he can’t go back to sleep. Instead he stares up at the ceiling, blankly tracing over the white bumps and ridges. There’s a silky spiderweb in the corner, visible only when the light catches on it at a certain angle.

He closes his eyes, exhales, and wills himself to drag his body up and out of bed to no avail. He doesn’t want to go to school today. Not going to school means never having to know what shit they’re making up about him now, not having to deal with the sidelong glances that make him want to brain himself on a desk. No school means no detention.

But he can practically see his mom’s disapproving frown in his mind’s eye, telling him to face the consequences of his actions, and he resolves to get it over with. Groaning, he stretches an arm out toward his desk and turns off his alarm clock. He won’t be needing it today. It’s about thirty minutes earlier than when he usually wakes up, but he knows he won’t be able to doze off again no matter how hard he tries.

And that’s when he hears it: a small clack. Then another one, the sound of a solid object clattering against plastic. He stills, straining for its source. A few seconds later, it comes again, louder this time.

Careful to stay quiet so as to pick up on any further disturbances, Iwaizumi shucks his blankets and sits up, swinging his legs off the edge of the bed. Then he stands and makes his way to the middle of the room, where he pauses to listen again.

Clack. On instinct, his head swivels in the direction of the window, where it’s coming from. He frowns. Did he not close it properly? With slow, measured steps, he walks toward it and peers down…

...Only to find one Oikawa Tooru standing in his garden, with a shit-eating grin on his face and a handful of pebbles. His eyes light up once he catches sight of Iwaizumi peering down at him, and he has the audacity to wave.

Iwaizumi groans, drags a hand down his face, and eases the window open anyway.

“Finally!” Oikawa shouts at him before he gets the chance to say anything. “I’ve been doing this for the past five minutes, Iwa-chan!”

“You’re insane, and I’m not enabling this,” Iwaizumi deadpans. He goes to shut the window again, but Oikawa stops him short with an outraged yell.

“Rude, Iwa-chan! I woke up early and came all this way to surprise you, and you won’t even let me in?” He flails his arms in furious gestures as he speaks, and Iwaizumi winces when a couple of pebbles fly out of his closed fist and hit the slats on the side of his house.

“This isn’t Romeo and Juliet,” Iwaizumi retorts. “Ring the doorbell like a normal person.”

Iwaizumi can make out the pout that forms on Oikawa’s lips far too well considering he’s standing over ten feet away from the other man. Vertically. “I didn’t want to wake your parents,” Oikawa admits.

Huh, Iwaizumi thinks. That’s unexpectedly considerate of him. He lets out a long-suffering sigh, and Oikawa must recognize it for the surrender it is, because he grins. “Go around to the front door,” Iwaizumi tells him. “I’ll unlock it for you.”

“Are you sure I can’t climb up?” Oikawa points at a tree outside Iwaizumi’s room. “That branch doesn’t look too far away.”

“I’m sure,” Iwaizumi says, suppressing an exasperated eyeroll. “See you in two seconds.”

“Fine, fine,” Oikawa says. He drops the few rocks he’s still holding and wipes his palm on his jeans. He’s not in his school uniform yet, Iwaizumi notes, having opted for a cream sweater and a pair of jeans instead. “I’m going!”

Iwaizumi watches him walk backwards until he turns a corner and disappears. Then, faster than he’d like to admit, he rushes downstairs. Oikawa is already waiting when he manages to wrench the door open. “This is your house?” he asks, poking his head inside before Iwaizumi can open his mouth to invite him in. “It’s nice.”

“The layout’s probably just like yours,” Iwaizumi grumbles. He waits while Oikawa shucks his shoes and then hesitates before grabbing Oikawa’s wrist—because that’s something he can do now, he thinks with a warm shiver—and leading him back to his room.

“Iwa-chan’s taking me to his bedroom already?” Oikawa asks. He fakes a scandalized gasp. “How forward! You know I don’t put out until the third date at least.”

Iwaizumi drops Oikawa’s hand like it burned him. “This was a mistake,” he says.

“Wait, wait!” Oikawa protests. “I didn’t mean it, Iwa-chan, you can hold my hand if you want.”

“No need, we’re here already,” Iwaizumi says. They’ve made it up the top of the stairs and are standing beside his door. He pushes it open, and Oikawa gives his room a cursory sweep before making a beeline for the bed.

“What the hell are you doing?” Iwaizumi asks. He watches as Oikawa throws himself on the bed, bouncing two, three times before lying down with his hands tucked behind his head.

“This is nice,” Oikawa says. “I have a futon in my room.”

“Doesn’t mean you have to barge into mine and hog my bed,” Iwaizumi says. He crosses the room as well and shoves at Oikawa’s feet. “Move, I don’t have any space.”

Oikawa moves his legs over, and Iwaizumi sits. He gives himself five seconds to stare unabashedly at the faint shadows Oikawa’s eyelashes cast on his cheeks. Then he shakes himself and says, “Why are you here, anyway?”

“Hmph. Can’t a man visit his potential future boyfriend in peace without being interrogated for it?”

Despite himself, Iwaizumi’s lips quirk into a small grin. “‘Potential future boyfriend?’ Is that what this is?”

“You’re on probation, Iwaizumi,” Oikawa teases. He sits up, folding his long legs underneath his body. “If you really want to date me, you’re going to have to prove you mean it.”

The grin widens. “All right, Shittykawa, and how exactly do I do that?”

“Stop calling me ‘Shittykawa,’ for one.”

“You drive a hard bargain,” Iwaizumi says. Then he sobers, realizing that Oikawa had dodged the question. “Is that all? You decided to swing by for no reason?”

A small sigh escapes Oikawa’s lips, and a crease appears on his forehead as he picks at a loose thread on his sleeve. “Couldn’t sleep,” he says. “And actually, I’ve been wondering something. About you."

“What’s that?” Iwaizumi asks.

“Well, how did this start for you?” Oikawa asks. He looks up at Iwaizumi from under long, dark lashes, and Iwaizumi’s heart skips a beat. “I mean, you used to hate me. When did that change?”

How does Iwaizumi answer him without coming clean about all the mistakes he’s made? He takes the coward’s way out, decides to stick to an ungainly half-truth. “Remember when we met?” he asks. His hands start to grow clammy, and he wipes them on his blanket.

Oikawa nods. “In that lab in our first year. I never did apologize for spilling all over you, did I?”

“For spilling hydrochloric acid on me,” Iwaizumi says, a scowl gracing his features at the memory.

“Oh, right.” Oikawa laughs. “Well, Suzue-chan thought it was funny.”

“Right.” Iwaizumi rolls his eyes. “That day I thought you were the most self-absorbed, reckless asshole I’d ever met, and then I guess I spent the next three years looking for ways to prove myself right.” He reaches over and smooths a hand over Oikawa’s hair to soften the blow. Oikawa’s eyes flutter closed, and he leans into the touch.

“Mean,” Oikawa says. He sounds content, though.

“Yeah,” Iwaizumi says. “And then when you confessed to me, I was shocked, and I reacted badly—”

“That’s an understatement,” Oikawa grumbles. Iwaizumi flicks him in the middle of the forehead.

“Hush, I know. I felt awful afterward, even though I kept trying to tell myself you deserved it. Then, I guess… I guess I started paying more attention to you, and I realized you were more than the person I thought you were, and I wanted to give you another chance.”

“Hmm.” Oikawa opens his eyes again, scrunching his eyebrows together. “That’s all?”

Iwaizumi swallows the cold lump in his throat. “That’s all,” he lies.

Oikawa studies him closely for a quiet moment, and Iwaizumi tries not to shrink under his gaze. Luckily, Oikawa seems to take his words at face value, and his frown smooths out into a smile. “That’s anticlimactic, Iwa-chan. But what can one expect from a boring old man like yourself, right?”

“Dick,” Iwaizumi says, without heat. “What about you?"

“What about me, what?” Oikawa asks.

Iwaizumi returns to playing with Oikawa’s hair, twining his hands in the soft curls and letting them slip through his fingers. “How did it start for you?” Then Iwaizumi pauses and adds, “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“Nah, it’s only fair.” Oikawa chews on his bottom lip as he tries to figure out how to put it. “You know you’re the first person I’d ever met who disliked me so blatantly?”

“Sorry,” Iwaizumi apologizes again, on instinct. “What does that have to do with it?”

Oikawa continues like he didn’t hear the question. “Usually people who don’t like me play nice to my face and talk about me behind my back. You didn’t bother to do that. And you should’ve seen the look you got on your face whenever I was doing something stupid next to you.”

Iwaizumi’s hand stills, the familiar guilt settling over him again, but Oikawa nudges it with his head until he keeps going. Then he relaxes into the touch with a happy sigh. “At first, I was like, what the hell is his problem, you know? Like—fuck you, I don’t care if you don’t like me, I don’t like you either. But that stopped working.”

“Oh, my god. Don’t tell me I accidentally… reverse psychology-d you into having feelings for me, or something.”

“I couldn’t help it!” Oikawa protests. “You know I’m a contrarian at heart, Iwa-chan. One day I woke up and instead of being annoyed by your existence, I wanted to know what it was about me that turned you off so bad. Then I kept noticing you, and I found out you were a nice guy to everyone except me, and that just made me even more curious. And I didn’t really believe you’d ever feel the same way. I definitely never thought you’d punch someone over me.”

Iwaizumi groans. “Will you ever stop bringing that up?”

“Never, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa lets out a small giggle. He stretches his legs out and then crosses them, letting their knees bump together, and Iwaizumi’s hand drops from his head at the movement. “You know me better than that.”

“Unfortunately,” Iwaizumi says. He happens to glance at the clock on his bedside table, which makes him curse out loud and hop to his feet. “Fuck, how is it so late already?” He pulls his pajama shirt over his head and holds it bunched up in one hand while he takes his school uniform off of the hangers in his closet. Too late, he remembers Oikawa’s presence, and he turns to find the other boy watching him with his head cradled in his hands.

“Don’t mind me,” Oikawa says.

Iwaizumi crosses his arms in front of himself. “Don’t you need to go back to your house and change, too?”

Oikawa pouts. “Do I have to?”

“I’ll see you in class, Oikawa.”

“Fine,” Oikawa says. He takes his time getting to his feet, stretching, and walking to the door. With one hand on the doorknob, he turns to look back at Iwaizumi. “Detention is in Takeda-sensei’s room today, right?”

Iwaizumi blinks at him. “Uh, I think so. Why?”

“No reason. See you, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa offers him a little wave before slipping out of his room with a liquid grace.

With no further distractions, Iwaizumi returns to the task of dressing himself and getting ready for the day ahead. In the middle of it, he realizes that his mom is most likely awake by now, and that Oikawa probably passed her downstairs on his way out. He considers how suspicious that must look to her and reddens.

Oh, well. Here’s hoping that she has enough tact to never bring it up.

 


 

Before the day is over, Iwaizumi ends up finding out why Oikawa had asked him about detention.

School is as bad as he expected it would be. The only upside is that he doesn’t see Yamashita all day, not that he expected to; Seijoh is a big school, and Iwaizumi had never run into the second-year before their confrontation yesterday, and he never intends to see him again. However, because no one in his class knows who Yamashita is or what he looks like, either, they’re free to exaggerate the actual events into absurdity. He hears the girl in the seat next to him tell her friend that he sent the poor kid to the hospital. He considers correcting her before deciding it’s best to keep his head down and avoid adding fuel to the fire.

Lunch is supposed to be an escape, except that a group of four second and first-year boys somehow figure out that Iwaizumi likes to eat on the roof, and they congregate there, which is as annoying for him as it is for Hanamaki. Iwaizumi has no idea who they are, but he gleans from the way they glare at him with alternating expressions of hostility and awe that they must be Yamashita’s friends, and he ignores them.

After all that, detention is almost a relief, even though he’s given the task of writing Yamashita an apology letter. He thinks it’s ridiculous that he has to act like he feels bad while Yamashita gets off scot-free for running his mouth like that, but it’s fine. He’s fine. At least no one bothers to follow him to the detention classroom, and he’s looking forward to not having to deal with any more disturbances until he goes home. Plus, Takeda isn’t known for being the strictest teacher around, and he’s content to sit at his desk and read his novel while Iwaizumi works.

The silence stretches out for all of fifteen minutes before the door bursts open and someone struts inside without knocking. “Hey, hey, Takeda-sensei!” a voice booms, and Iwaizumi looks up just in time to see Bokuto plant both hands onto the teacher’s desk, leaning over a startled Takeda.

“Bokuto-kun?” Takeda asks mildly, once he’s recovered from his surprise. “What did you need?”

“The new practice balls were supposed to be delivered today, but they’re all missing,” Bokuto says. He sneaks a conspicuous glance over his shoulder to make sure that Iwaizumi is paying attention, which he is.

“Missing?” Takeda asks. “Missing how?”

“Missing, like the crates and packaging are all there, but all the baseballs are gone,” Bokuto says. Iwaizumi recalls that Takeda is the faculty sponsor for the baseball club, and that Bokuto is on the team.

“What?” Takeda frowns, aghast. He slips a bookmark between the pages of his book and stands, and Bokuto ushers him out into the hallway and toward the baseball team’s storage room. At the threshold, Takeda seems to remember that Iwaizumi is supposed to be in detention, and he pauses. “Keep working on your letter, Iwaizumi-kun,” he says, looking behind himself. “I’ll look for another teacher to come take over.”

“Okay,” Iwaizumi says.

Bokuto drags Takeda away, and the last thing Iwaizumi hears is the teacher’s fading admonishments for him to slow down.

Iwaizumi returns his focus to the sheet of paper in front of him, which currently says To Yamashita, and nothing else. He sighs and looks at the door. Then he forces himself to look away. As tempting as it is, he refuses to get up and leave and run the risk of getting into more trouble.

Or, at least, that’s what his resolution is at first. But not five seconds after Bokuto and Takeda have left, another familiar face is prying open the door and stepping inside. Iwaizumi glances up, and then his eyes widen. “Oikawa?”

“In the flesh,” Oikawa sing-songs. “I’m here to end your suffering, Iwa-chan.”

“Don’t tell me what you’re up to,” Iwaizumi says. “If I don’t know, I can’t be an accomplice.”

Oikawa tuts. “Silly Iwa-chan. We already took care of the hard part. All you have to do is come with us.”

“‘We?’” Iwaizumi repeats, lacing the single word with as much skepticism as humanly possible. A suspicion starts to form in the back of his mind.

“Don’t worry about it,” Oikawa says, waving his hand as if dismissing a pesky insect. “C’mon, you’re never going to prove that you’re boyfriend material at this point.”

“I…” Iwaizumi’s retort dies on his tongue. He looks at the paper, which is still blank and will likely remain blank no matter how long he tears his hair out over it. Then he looks at Oikawa, with his hands clasped behind his back and a hopeful gleam in his eye. His shoulders slump in defeat. “Fine.”

Oikawa cheers. “I knew you couldn’t resist my charm!”

“Yeah, whatever.” Iwaizumi shoves his things into his backpack while Oikawa pushes the door open for him. Together, they peer out into the hall to ensure that no one else is around, and then Oikawa grabs Iwaizumi by the shoulders and steers him away.

“I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” Iwaizumi asks.

“Don’t be such a downer,” Oikawa retorts. “And walk faster, Tetsu-chan is waiting.”

Iwaizumi’s suspicions are confirmed. He should really know better than to get involved with anything this particular trio has planned. For all of Oikawa’s golden boy-next-door image, he has a devious streak a mile wide, and it’s only amplified when he’s with his friends.

Sure enough, they close in on a red Mitsubishi waiting in the parking lot. Bokuto waves at them from the passenger seat, and Iwaizumi can see a telltale head of messy black hair poking out behind him. Biting down on a sigh, he climbs into the back with Oikawa.

“Floor it, Tetsu-chan!” Oikawa calls. Iwaizumi barely manages to get his seatbelt in place before they’re peeling onto the main road, all three of them cackling like they just pulled off a real heist.

“How’d you shake Takeda, Bo?” Kuroo asks.

“He was on the phone with the deliveryman when he saw that the baseballs were actually missing, and I told him I had to use the bathroom.” A proud grin spreads over Bokuto’s face. “I don’t think he even heard.”

“Smooth,” Oikawa says, fond, and he leans forward in his seat to ruffle Bokuto’s hair.

“Put your seatbelt on,” Iwaizumi tells him. Oikawa rolls his eyes but complies.

“I call being the distraction next time,” Kuroo says.

“There’s going to be a next time?” Iwaizumi asks. His voice comes out tinged with incredulity and slight horror.

“Well, you did get two weeks of detention, right?” Oikawa asks, like that answers everything.

“No, Shittykawa. This is a one-time—” He attempts to kick Oikawa’s shins but stops when his foot tangles with some sort of netting. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he looks down to find his shoelaces stuck in the holes of a mesh bag. A bag that happens to be full to bursting with brand-new baseballs. He puts his face in his hands to the sound of Oikawa’s ringing laughter.

“We’ll put them back!” Oikawa says between laughs. “Eventually.”

“Irihata is going to kill me,” Iwaizumi mumbles into the spaces between his fingers.

Oikawa pats him on the back. “Live a little, Iwa-chan. You don’t have to worry about Irihata until Monday.”

“I hate you,” Iwaizumi says.

“I thought we’d already been over this,” Oikawa says, sounding faintly amused. “No, you don’t.”

“No, I don’t,” Iwaizumi agrees, because even though it’s a joke he doesn’t want to take it too far and cause Oikawa to worry about his feelings for him again.

From up front, Kuroo and Bokuto make twin retching sounds. “Gross,” Bokuto says.

“Are you guys done making out back there?” Kuroo asks. “Don’t make me turn this car around.”

“Jealousy isn’t a good look on you, Tetsu-chan.”

Kuroo scoffs and turns the radio up, smiling when Bokuto starts to sing along, loud and off-key. Oikawa hums along as well, his lilting voice almost inaudible, and something inside Iwaizumi’s chest aches so much he has to cough to clear it away.

Then a thought occurs to him. “Where are we going, anyway?” he asks.

“Oh, right, you don’t know,” Oikawa says.

“It’s karaoke night!” Bokuto lets out a loud whoop.

“It’s tradition,” Kuroo confirms. “One Friday a month.”

“I can’t sing,” Iwaizumi informs all three of them.

“Neither can Bokuto,” Kuroo says. “You’re fine.”

“Hey!” Bokuto says.

“Don’t worry, Bokkun,” Oikawa says. “I like your singing, and my opinion is all that matters.”

He gets a cuff to the back of the head for that, courtesy of Iwaizumi, and Kuroo laughs at him as he sputters in protest.

It feels like no time at all until they pull onto the curb in an unfamiliar part of downtown Sendai. Oikawa and Bokuto hop out to reserve them a room while Kuroo finds a parking spot. Iwaizumi is about to go with them, but the glint in Kuroo’s eyes as he watches Iwaizumi from the rearview mirror convinces him to stay.

“See you, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa chirps as he leaves. “If you don’t do a duet with me tonight, I’m breaking up with you!”

“According to you, we’re not dating yet!” Iwaizumi calls after him. He doesn’t know if his words register.

Bokuto and Oikawa walk inside the karaoke place, a square building with neon kanji in the windows, gesticulating widely and nudging at each other. Then the car is driving away again, and Iwaizumi briefly worries that Kuroo’s going to forego the parking and instead murder him and dump his body somewhere.

“So,” Kuroo says. “You guys made up.”

“Uh, yeah,” Iwaizumi says. “We still need to talk some things out.” He grimaces. Talk about the understatement of the century.

“I think you could be good for him,” Kuroo says, and Iwaizumi hides his surprise. “Jury’s still out, though. I don’t need to remind you what happens if you fuck up again, do I?”

“Nope,” Iwaizumi says. Then: “You know, Oikawa thinks that you’re too protective of him.”

Kuroo lets out a bark of laughter. “Watch yourself, man.” He shakes his head and sighs. “Yeah, he’s smart and capable, but he gives too many second chances sometimes, and he’ll burn himself out trying to please other people. Someone has to be there to stop him.”

Iwaizumi is silent for a moment. “I get it,” he says. “I want to support him, if he’ll let me.”

“Then I guess we’re on the same page,” Kuroo says. He directs one last, lingering glance at Iwaizumi before looking away and focusing on the tricky business of parallel parking. “Are we?”

“We are,” Iwaizumi says. He swallows, and the lump in his throat slides down to his stomach and settles in the pit of it like lead.

“Great.” Kuroo breaks out into an eye-crinkling smile, no trace of his former wariness to be seen, and he puts the car in park. “Let’s go, then. You already got your first song picked out?"

“Uh,” Iwaizumi says, taken aback by the abrupt one-eighty in temperament. “You got any suggestions?”

Both of them climb out of the car, and Kuroo slings an arm around Iwaizumi’s shoulders as they walk. “Where do I begin?” he asks. Iwaizumi gets the impression that if his hands were free, he would be rubbing them together like the evil villain in a spy movie. “Let’s see. How much are you willing to embarrass yourself today?”

What am I getting myself into? Iwaizumi wonders, not for the first time today.

 


 

Iwaizumi suffers through several bad K-pop renditions, a few warbling ballads from Bokuto, and one surprisingly in-tune duet from Kuroo and Oikawa. Kuroo sings the girl’s part, complete with exaggerated eyelash-fluttering and crooning, and he catches the rest of them off-guard with the number of high notes he’s able to hit. Then Iwaizumi is dragged onstage to perform Cherry with Oikawa; he tries to argue that it’s not a two-person song, and that he really can’t sing, but to no avail. His self-consciousness fades somewhere around the second verse, and he ends up enjoying himself.

They end the night by piling onto the stage, too small to fit four young men dancing and jumping around, and shouting the lyrics to the One Piece opening theme at the top of their lungs.

Iwaizumi is bone-tired by the time he trudges up his front steps and into his house, but in a pleasant way. His blood is still thrumming from the exhilaration of the last song, and he mutters a tired tadaima as he enters.

“Oh, Hajime, welcome back,” his mom greets from the kitchen, where she’s busy washing the dishes. “Did you have fun? Did you have dinner already?”

“Yeah, thanks,” Iwaizumi says, pulling off his shoes and lining them up in the genkan . “And I’ll heat up some leftovers later. Don’t worry about me.”

Luckily his mom has never been the type to pry, so she leaves it at that. “One of your friends swung around earlier,” she mentions just as Iwaizumi is about to climb up the stairs and go to his room. He stops with one hand on the banister, frowning. “I told him he could wait in your room.”

Friend? Iwaizumi isn’t expecting company today, is he? He takes the stairs two at a time and finds the door to his bedroom ajar. When he inches it open and peeks inside, he spots Hanamaki spinning around in circles in his desk chair.

“Hanamaki?” Iwaizumi asks, closing the door behind him.

“Iwaizumi,” Hanamaki returns evenly. He glances at Iwaizumi out of the corner of his eye and rotates to face him. “Good, you’re back.”

“What are you doing here?” Iwaizumi asks. He feels awkward lingering right in front of the door of his own room and goes to sit on the bed.

“We were going to have a movie night today, remember?” Hanamaki asks. He keeps his voice breezy, but it must have been bothering him if he decided to come all this way to talk to Iwaizumi about it in person.

Guilt lances through Iwaizumi. “God, Makki, I’m so sorry, I totally—”

“You were out with your new boy toy, I get it.” Hanamaki rolls his eyes a little, waving a hand in the air as if to brush the apology away. “I’m not that mad. I had dinner with your mom instead, and she’s way cooler than you.”

“Uh huh,” Iwaizumi says. He can’t really dispute that. “So you’re still here why?”

Hanamaki winces. “Ouch. I can tell when I’m not wanted.” Iwaizumi shoots him an unimpressed stare, and he sighs. “Fine. Honestly, I’m worried that you’re falling in too deep. I mean, missing movie night? That’s not like you. Were you not listening to anything I said about how you should fess up to Oikawa?”

“Hanamaki, I…”

“And don’t give me any of that ‘it’s not your business’ crap.” Hanamaki cuts him off. “It’s my business as your friend because I don’t want to see you mess things up so badly you can’t fix them anymore, and it’s my business as a decent human being because Oikawa doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”

“I know,” Iwaizumi says. It’s getting too hard to look Hanamaki in the eye while they talk, so he lets himself fall back onto the bed to study the ceiling cracks instead. “I know. But telling him would ruin everything. And it’s not like I’m still doing this for Kageyama, even. I like him a lot, you know?”

He hears a heavy sigh. “So what are you going to do if Kageyama or Hinata or someone accidentally spills the beans? Or even if that never happens, what are you going to do if you keep dating, and a couple years down the line Oikawa asks you why you decided to ask him out? Would you keep up with the lie? I’m just saying, man, you’re digging yourself a hole here.”

Every word cuts deeper because Iwaizumi hears the truth in it. All of a sudden, the happy moments he and Oikawa shared all day turn bitter, clouded with the haze of deceit. He swallows, hard, and his voice is subdued when he speaks. “I’ll tell him.”

There’s a physical unwinding of the room, a release of tension. From halfway across the room, Iwaizumi can feel Hanamaki’s shoulders uncoil. “Good,” he says.

“Yeah.” Iwaizumi hums noncommittally. There’s a sour taste in his mouth.

“I’m serious, though,” Hanamaki says. “You can’t keep doing this. If you don’t tell him the truth by next week, I’m telling him myself.”

Iwaizumi closes his eyes. He envisions a timer in blazing red numbers, ticking down. A time bomb. “Okay,” he breathes.

“Okay,” Hanamaki parrots. Then there’s the sound of socked feet sliding across the carpet, then the door creaking open, and then the faint voice of Iwaizumi’s mom as she tells Hanamaki goodbye. She sounds surprised, probably at the fact that he’s leaving so soon after Iwaizumi’s return.

“Fuck,” Iwaizumi hisses. He presses the heels of his palms into his eyes until he sees red. “Fuck.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s ten in the morning, and Oikawa is vibrating with so much excitement that Iwaizumi is forced to hold his hand to keep him tethered to the earth. Not that it’s a difficult undertaking; he’s grown fairly addicted to the feeling of Oikawa’s skin against his.

After three years of cram sessions and all-nighters and memories, now is the moment when it sinks in for Iwaizumi that they’re almost done. They’ve almost made it. No one could be prouder than Oikawa to be here, witnessing the hard work of the school festival planning committee come to life.

Iwaizumi squeezes his hand; Oikawa looks at him, smiles, and squeezes back. He hasn’t been able to stop touching Oikawa for the past week, keenly aware of the ticking clock in the back of his mind, counting down the seconds until Hanamaki’s deadline. As a consequence, he’s learned that Oikawa’s fingers fit perfectly in the spaces between his, that Oikawa’s collarbones are sharp and sensitive, that Oikawa tastes the sweetest when Iwaizumi cuts him off in the middle of a bout of laughter to kiss him. It will be so much harder, Iwaizumi thinks, having to let him go with the knowledge of all these new things fresh in his mind.

“Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asks, waving his free hand in front of Iwaizumi’s face. His eyes are shining, curved into happy, crinkly crescents, and Iwaizumi pushes his thoughts away in favor of being in the present. Here, and now, with a boy he wishes he’d noticed earlier.

“Yeah.” Iwaizumi clears his throat, trying to smile back. “Big day, huh? You ready? Nervous?”

Oikawa winks at him and flashes a victory sign. “You should know better by now. I’m never nervous.”

Iwaizumi rolls his eyes. “Right. Silly me, how could I have forgotten how big your ego is?”

“It’s not ego if it’s true,” Oikawa says with a haughty sniff. Then one of the teachers calls his name, and he perks up. “Oh, that’s my cue. See you in a few minutes?”

“I’ll be right here,” Iwaizumi promises, and he can’t resist leaning in and kissing Oikawa on the cheek before letting him leave.

He waits and watches some distance away Oikawa give the opening speech of the festival. They’ve set up a raised platform in front of the outdoor track field for the occasion, complete with a podium and mic. Oikawa looks tall and self-assured standing behind it, every bit the charming, unshakeable class president. Iwaizumi’s heart twists in his chest.

“Good morning, everyone!” Oikawa chirps. “I know you’re all excited to kick things off, so I’ll keep this short. First, I want to thank the Aoba Johsai administration for cooperating with us to make this possible, and our principal, Irihata-san, for his enthusiastic support of the festival.”

He aims a sunny smile in Irihata’s direction, like he hadn’t been responsible for going against the man’s express wishes to break Iwaizumi out of detention. Luckily, Takeda couldn’t find another teacher to cover the supervision, so they were never caught, and luckily, Oikawa hadn’t tried to pull the same stunt for the remainder of Iwaizumi’s punishment.

“I also want to make it clear that I can’t take credit for any of this.” In a grand gesture, Oikawa sweeps an arm out behind him toward the booths and tents set up for the festival. “All of it is the work of your incredibly hardworking planning committee, and you, yourselves: the club members who designed, built, and will run each attraction. To you, thank you, and to the third-years leaving this year, please take the time to enjoy this last worry-free day before entering the real world.”

Oikawa pauses dramatically before launching into his closing statement. “With that, I, Oikawa Tooru, class president, declare that this year’s end-of-year festival has begun!” He dings the small silver bell on the podium, bows, and the audience breaks into loud cheers as if on cue. Naturally, Oikawa preens under the attention, which makes Iwaizumi shake his head in fond amusement.

The crowd disperses in the direction of the festival grounds, loud laughter and chatter filling the air. People split into groups of two, three, or more. Iwaizumi watches them, couples and friends strolling around without a care in the world, with no little envy.

But it dispels quickly, because Oikawa hops off the makeshift stage to invade Iwaizumi’s personal space again. With a characteristic lack of propriety, he clings onto Iwaizumi’s arm and drags him toward the festivities. “Where to first, Iwa-chan?” he asks. His head swivels from side to side, surveying their colorful surroundings as they walk, obviously pleased with how everything turned out. It’s horribly endearing, and it makes him resemble an owl, and Iwaizumi stifles a bark of laughter behind his hand.

“I dunno, Shittykawa. You’re the one who has every exhibit memorized, not me.”

“Hmm, good point. Are you hungry? We could get food—but it’s still pretty early, so maybe we’ll save that for later. They have facepainting, there’s a poetry contest, you’ve got your run-of-the-mill amusement park games…”

Iwaizumi is content to be led by him and listen to him ramble. If it were up to him, he would be satisfied walking around the school with Oikawa, talking about nothing at all.

“... and the choir has karaoke set up, but we’ve already done that— oh.” Oikawa stops dead in his tracks, and it’s so sudden that Iwaizumi stumbles forward a little before correcting himself.

“Huh?” He looks around, trying to figure out which pastime caught Oikawa’s attention, but any one of the exhibits his eyes land on could be a contender for that title.

Oikawa points straight ahead, to where a group of boys is busy setting up a volleyball net. Iwaizumi quirks a brow. “You play volleyball?”

“I used to.” Oikawa shrugs, trying and failing to achieve indifference. “I was on a team in middle school, but my parents figured I should spend my time on something more productive.” A small frown flickers across his features, gone in an instant. “Let’s play, Iwa-chan!”

“Okay,” Iwaizumi says. He’s unwilling to say no to Oikawa under normal circumstances, much less when it seems like it means this much to him. “You’ll have to show me how, though.”

“You just have to hit the ball to the other side of the net when I send it over to you,” Oikawa says. He starts to lead them over to the group, and Iwaizumi follows. “Easy.”

As they approach, they recognize several familiar faces in the crowd. Kageyama and Hinata are there; Iwaizumi recalls vaguely that they’re regulars on the volleyball team. Joining the mix is an eclectic mix of first, second, and third-years that they all seem familiar with. Iwaizumi has seen some of them around before, but he’d be hard-pressed to remember all their names.

Hinata is the first to spot them walking over, and he lights up. “Oikawa!” he calls, waving to them. “Just in time, we were looking for another setter!”

Oikawa laughs. “I don’t know if I can keep up with you guys these days,” he says, but there’s a low, rumbling hunger lining the words.

Iwaizumi smiles and nods through the introductions that come next, a series of names and faces he’ll probably forget again as soon as the day is over. He does make an effort to remember the names of the players on their team, though. Aside from him and Oikawa, there’s another hitter named Asahi, two blockers named Tsukishima and Matsukawa, and a libero who does a flashy somersault that almost gives Iwaizumi a heart attack. He introduces himself as Nishinoya.

“What’s a libero?” Iwaizumi asks.

“Don’t worry about it,” Oikawa tells him. “Just hit the ball, remember?”

“I feel like you’re just using me for my muscles,” Iwaizumi complains.

Oikawa pretends to gasp. “Oh, no, you finally figured it out.” At Iwaizumi’s glare, the fake surprise transforms into a cheeky grin. “Don’t take it personally, Iwa-chan. I just want to win. And—they are very nice muscles.”

Iwaizumi turns away before Oikawa can see his face grow hot. He busies himself fiddling with a loose string dangling from the net, grumbling under his breath.

After they finish setting up, Oikawa is pulled away by the other players to talk strategy, and Iwaizumi finds himself standing aimlessly in front of the net. Kageyama catches his eye from the other side, extricates himself from his own huddle, and walks over. “Iwaizumi-san.”

Cracking a grin, Iwaizumi returns the greeting. “Kageyama,” he says. “Good to see you.”

“You, too.” He directs a questioning glance behind Iwaizumi’s shoulder. “Are you and Oikawa-san… okay now?”

“Um.” Iwaizumi rubs the back of his neck, sheepish. “Yeah, we’re good. Thanks.”

Kageyama breaks into a small smile, and Iwaizumi feels awful for lying to him. “That’s great. You must be very relieved.”

“Iwa-chan, what are you doing fraternizing with the enemy?” Oikawa shouts, saving Iwaizumi from having to formulate a reply. “Get over here, we’re going over plays!”

“Be right there, Crappykawa!” Iwaizumi yells back, to some incredulous laughter from the rest of their team. He turns back to Kageyama. “Talk to you after we win.”

“You won’t win,” Kageyama says, eyes narrowing. A chill runs down Iwaizumi’s spine as the first-year spins on his heel and stalks away.

Minutes later, the twelve players take their positions on either side of the net. Other students have gathered on the sides to spectate. Iwaizumi glances over his shoulder at Oikawa to make some snarky comment, but it dies in his throat at the sheer determination in those brown eyes. He swallows, hard, and Oikawa serves.

There’s no referee, no whistle, and Iwaizumi can’t even tell that the game has started until the first serve flies over his head and the net. One of their opponents in the back row bumps it up into the air; the other players clear the way for Kageyama to get under the ball. He lifts his hands above his head in cradlelike fashion, and the ball seems to barely brush against his fingertips before flying off to the side, where Hinata is waiting. He hits it with a loud smack, and Iwaizumi can only stare as it whooshes past him.

Luckily, Nishinoya manages to receive it. He must be on the school team, Iwaizumi thinks, because there’s no way he could have pulled that off otherwise. He sends the ball sailing unsteadily toward Oikawa, who locks eyes with Iwaizumi the second before he tosses it toward him.

On instinct, Iwaizumi jumps, raising his right hand to spike the ball. His heart pounds in his ears, and he takes a quick breath— just hit it.

He hits the ball, and by some miracle, it lands exactly the right distance in between two players so that neither of them know who should receive it. Iwaizumi lands on his feet and stares at his hand, flexing his fingers. The first point of the game.

Someone claps him on the back, and Iwaizumi doesn’t have to look to know it’s Oikawa. He does anyway. Oikawa is beaming but clearly trying not to show it. “That was a little low on my part, Iwa-chan,” he says. “I guess I’m out of practice after all.”

“Shut up.” Iwaizumi digs his elbow into Oikawa’s ribs, earning an offended squeak. “That was great, and you know it.”

A sharp smile, all teeth, breaks through Oikawa’s veneer of nonchalance, and it’s radiant. “Yeah, I do. Let’s do it again, all right?”

He holds his hand out for a fist bump, and Iwaizumi obliges. “All right.”

 


 

Naturally, they lose. That first spike was probably a fluke; Hinata and Kageyama have been practicing together for ages, and it shows. They lose, but by a respectable margin, and everyone is having too much fun to care about keeping score.

Hinata scores the final point of the final set by spiking through Matsukawa’s block, and then he immediately jumps into Kageyama’s arms.

“Nauseating,” Oikawa says from behind him.

Without bothering to look at him, Iwaizumi reaches over and smacks him in the shoulder. “They’re good together,” he says.

Just for that comment, Iwaizumi hauls Oikawa to the dynamic duo on the other side of the court and forces him to be a good sport and congratulate them. Somehow that turns into the four of them talking, which somehow turns into them agreeing to stick together for the duration of the festival.

It’s nice. Hinata’s energy is infectious, and not even Oikawa and Kageyama’s bickering can dampen the mood. They test out the cooking club-sponsored pop-up ramen stall, which serves decent food even if the noodles are of uneven thickness. They get group and then couple pictures taken by the photography club. At the baseball team’s booth, Iwaizumi crushes Kyoutani in arm wrestling, winning Oikawa a plush hedgehog.

“It looks like you, Iwa-chan! Prickly on the outside and squishy on the inside,” Oikawa says, heedless of Iwaizumi’s threats to his person.

Bokuto is also among the baseball team members, and Iwaizumi challenges him as well, but he loses after a stalemate that lasts nearly five minutes. Oikawa and Kageyama pull him away before he can demand a rematch.

All in all, it’s a thoroughly successful day, and Iwaizumi feels closer to Oikawa for having experienced it. It’s obvious how much he adores his cousin, despite the numerous jabs he makes regarding Hinata’s poor choice in romantic partners, and it’s equally obvious how much Kageyama looks up to him. After exhausting all the booths that pique their interest, they end up seated at a picnic table a ways away from the festival itself, quieter and less crowded.

“This was fun!” Hinata says. “We should do it again sometime.”

“Iwaizumi-san and Oikawa-san aren’t going to be here after this year,” Kageyama points out. Hinata droops, and Kageyama looks like he regrets the words. He reaches under the table to, presumably, grab his boyfriend’s hand.

“Well, of course we’ll come back to visit. Don’t think you can get rid of me so easily, Tobio,” Oikawa says. He pauses, watching gleefully as Kageyama turns red and splutters a half-hearted protest. “Why haven’t we done this before, anyway?”

Iwaizumi gets a bad feeling seeing the meaningful glance that passes between Hinata and Kageyama.

“I think it’s good that we’re only all meeting up now,” Hinata says. “Since everything’s been cleared up, finally.”

“What?” Oikawa asks.

“Wait, Hinata—” Iwaizumi starts to say at the same time. Oikawa frowns at him, and he snaps his mouth shut.

Kageyama’s eyes dart between the two of them with poorly-concealed panic. “Iwaizumi-san?” He gulps. “I thought you said you were good?”

“I…” Iwaizumi wants to fall through the ground and be swallowed whole. “It’s complicated.”

“What’s complicated?” Oikawa bites his bottom lip, gaze darkened with suspicion. “Iwa-chan, what’s going on?”

Belatedly, Hinata covers his mouth with one hand. His other has Kageyama’s sleeve locked in a stranglehold under the table, and he wears an expression that can only be described as horrified. “Sorry,” he says, muffled. “Sorry, sorry. Iwaizumi-san, I thought you— sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” Oikawa demands, crossing his arms.

“I think we should go.” Kageyama stands, pulling Hinata with him, and they flee the scene. Neither of them bother to hide their relief as they leave.

“Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asks.

Against his will, Iwaizumi lifts his head to look at him. His arms are wrapped around himself like a shield, and a combination of worry and confusion play out across his features. Iwaizumi takes a deep breath. “I haven’t been completely honest with you,” he admits. Best to rip the band-aid off.

Something hardens in Oikawa’s expression. “Okay,” he says. “Explain.”

“You remember last week?” Iwaizumi asks. Maintaining eye contact is starting to become painful, but he forces himself to keep going; he owes Oikawa that much, at least. “When you asked me why I changed my mind about dating you?”

Oikawa nods. His jaw is set in a hard line.

“I didn’t tell you the whole truth then,” Iwaizumi says. He sucks an unsteady breath into his lungs. “Three weeks after you—after I turned you down that first time, Kageyama came to me. He said… he said he wanted to date Hinata, but Hinata’s parents didn’t approve.”

“Ah, they didn’t think he was mature enough,” Oikawa says. His tone is so devoid of feeling it’s scary, his mouth a neutral slant. “They never do give him enough credit.”

“Right.” Iwaizumi’s mouth is dry, and he licks his lips to wet them. He traces unconscious patterns into the wood table with his fingers. An action to ground himself with. “Well. The only way to get around it was—they agreed that if you were dating someone—if you could be a good role model for him, they’d allow it. At least, that’s what Kageyama told me.”

“Me?” Oikawa’s head tilts in faint surprise. He purses his lips, and Iwaizumi can all but see the wheels turning in his brain, putting the pieces together.

Iwaizumi knows the exact moment he figures it out, sees it in the sudden stiffening of his shoulders and the paling of his cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m so fucking sorry, Oikawa.”

“So.” Oikawa speaks slow and even, but Iwaizumi flinches anyway. “You lied to me, you made me think you actually cared about me, and the whole time you were only dating me as some sort of sick favor to Tobio?”

“I do care about you,” Iwaizumi insists. He can’t exactly deny the other accusations. “I know it’s fucked up how it started, but I got to know you, and I—I really do like you,” he finishes lamely. Even now, he can’t say the words he actually wants to say. Even now, he’s a coward.

“When you like someone,” Oikawa says, “you don’t keep them in the dark about things like this. Either you’re still lying to me, and your feelings toward me haven’t changed, or they changed weeks ago but not enough to tell me the truth. You see how neither is a good look for you?”

“...Yes,” Iwaizumi says. “I know. I’m sorry, Oikawa.”

Oikawa shakes his head. The mask of impassivity falls from his face, and the crestfallen look that replaces it is worse to see. “Honestly, when you asked me out, I thought it was too good to be true,” he says. “I guess I was right.”

“Oikawa…”

“Just… stay away from me from now on.” He swings his legs out from under the table and gets to his feet. “And figure yourself out, Iwa-chan.”

Iwaizumi has never felt as wretched as he does watching Oikawa walk away.

 


 

He isn’t sure how long he sits there, mind running circles around nothing, but after some time passes, he registers another presence behind him. There could not be a worse moment for someone to approach him, and he makes no move to acknowledge the other person.

Despite the general hostility in his body language, though, Hanamaki walks around the table and sits down across from him with a sigh.

Iwaizumi’s shoulders hunch. “Fuck off, Hanamaki,” he growls. “I don’t want to talk.”

“Kageyama and Hinata told me what happened,” Hanamaki begins. “Iwaizumi—” He doesn’t get to finish.

“He broke up with me, okay?” Iwaizumi snaps. “Or—I don’t fucking know, we weren’t dating to begin with. He said he didn’t want to see me again. Happy?”

Hearing that, the sympathy melts away from Hanamaki’s face, into anger. “You think I wanted this?” he asks, leaning forward. “You think I wanted to—to sabotage your relationship or something? Newsflash, Iwaizumi, you did that part all on your own.”

“Thank you, I’m aware.” Iwaizumi groans, tugging at his spiky hair in frustration. “I thought I had a little longer, but then Hinata had to go and run his mouth—“

“Stop blaming Hinata!” Hanamaki shouts. Then he reconsiders. “Okay, well, he isn’t off the hook either, but come on! You made your own decisions, and they landed you here. I’ve been telling you for weeks to own up to your shit.”

“Just drop it already,” Iwaizumi says. “I get it, I fucked up, and there’s nothing you can say to me that’ll make me feel worse than I already do.”

Hanamaki opens his mouth to form a response, but yet another voice pipes up and interrupts before he can speak.

“Excuse me, are you Iwaizumi Hajime, by any chance?”

Iwaizumi tenses, every fiber of his being screaming at him to get up and get out as soon as possible, before he takes his anger out on some innocent kid who doesn’t deserve to be pulled into his problems.

“Iwaizumi Hajime?” the voice asks again.

Slowly, Iwaizumi turns around. In front of him stands a short blonde girl he doesn’t recognize, looking apologetic. He plasters a smile onto his face, but if the way the girl’s concerned expression morphs into a faintly terrified one is any indication, it isn’t a convincing one. “I’m Iwaizumi,” he says gruffly. “How can I help you?” Hanamaki’s eyes sear into his back, a burning reminder of their unfinished business, and he’s so exhausted of everything.

“Uh—um,” the girl stammers. “I-Iwaizumi-san. I’m Yachi Hitoka, and… on behalf of the baking club, I would like to deliver this to you.” She bows her head, shoving a slim rectangular box at him.

With a frown, Iwaizumi takes it. The baking club… he thinks back. They were the ones delivering secret admirer chocolate, right? But who could possibly want to give Iwaizumi—

Oh.

Oh, fuck.

Dizzy, Iwaizumi nods his head in vague thanks, and Yachi scampers off. When she’s gone, he turns the chocolates over in his hands. The packaging is sleek and elegant, a single red ribbon wrapped diagonally around the black box and tied in a bow.

Best to get it over with, he decides. He’s not proud of it, but his hands shake as he slides off the top cover. A sheet of paper, folded in half one time, flutters out onto the dirt, and his heart sinks when he bends down to pick it up.

Oikawa’s handwriting is neat, slanted forward just so, messy enough to be endearing but not enough to be illegible. Iwaizumi wonders if he’ll ever stop learning all these new details about Oikawa, or if he’s doomed to spend the rest of his life falling harder and harder for someone now impossibly out of reach.

 

 

 

Dear Iwa-chan, it reads.

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it means that I, the great Oikawa-san, have deemed you fit to be my boyfriend.

That’s right: even though you were a big meanie at first, you’ve proven that you are, in fact, worthy of the immense privilege of dating me. Responsibilities of the position include buying me milk bread at least once a week, telling me I’m pretty, and bragging to everyone you know about what a catch I am.

But jokes aside, Iwa-chan, I really like you, and I’m really happy that you decided to give me a chance. Hinata likes you, and so do Kuroo and Bokuto, and I think I like the person I am when I’m around you. I know we don’t have long until graduation, and maybe the timing is all wrong, but please say we can see where this thing goes. Together.

So what are you waiting for? Ask me out already!!

- Oikawa

 

 

 

Iwaizumi doesn’t realize he’s crying until a teardrop falls on the paper, smudging the ink where it lands. He swipes at the water with his thumb, which only serves to smear the writing further, before wiping his eyes against the back of his wrist instead.

Hanamaki inhales sharply, and then a gentle hand comes to rest on Iwaizumi’s shoulder. “Iwaizumi?” he asks. His voice is soft, a voice typically reserved for wounded animals and small children.

Too drained to fight, Iwaizumi shrugs him off. “Leave me alone,” he says.

Hanamaki hesitates, apparently uncertain whether that’s the best idea with Iwaizumi in the state he’s in. Refolding the letter and slipping it into his back pocket, Iwaizumi adds, “Please. I need to be by myself.”

At last, Hanamaki acquiesces. Iwaizumi gives it a full minute after he leaves, counting the seconds down in his head, and then he pops the lid of the box open again. The shapes of most of the chocolates are generic, hearts and squares and swirly circles, but there are a few that Oikawa must have had custom made. He sees a couple of baseballs and one round lump that he assumes is supposed to be a motorcycle helmet.

That’s the one Iwaizumi settles on. He plucks it out of its niche and places it on his tongue. It’s rich and dark, coating his tongue and the hollows of his cheeks with bitterness.

He closes his eyes and lets it melt.

 


 

Plunk.

Plunk.

Plunk.

The faucet doesn’t turn off all the way. Iwaizumi twists both knobs to their highest settings, watches as the cascade of water splashes out of the sink and onto the marble countertop. Then he turns them in the opposite direction to shut them, presses his palms against the ridges of the glass until they start to sting. But it’s no use; droplets continue to leak out of the nozzle at uneven intervals, swelling until they’re too heavy to hang onto the metal, and then plunking straight down into the drain.

Plunk.

Iwaizumi stares at it. As annoying as it is, it’s not enough to distract him from memories of the cold resignation Oikawa’s face when he learned the truth. The numb silence as Iwaizumi stumbled over his words to explain, and the tight press of his lips together when he finally walked away.

It’s funny: a few weeks ago, Iwaizumi would have given anything to fast forward to graduation and leave, and now he would give anything to go back in time. Back to before he agreed to this stupid charade, or to before he turned Oikawa down. Better yet, back to their chemistry lab first year when he could have stopped himself from making assumptions in the first place.

The door squeaks on its rusty hinges as it’s pushed open. Iwaizumi doesn’t bother to look up. He keeps his head down, and another drop of water forms and falls. Plink, plonk.

“Iwaizumi-san?”

Iwaizumi lets his eyes fall shut, exhales a long breath through his nose. “Kageyama,” he says. “Why are you here?”

“Hanamaki chewed me out,” the younger boy says. “Oikawa-san probably doesn’t want anything to do with me, either. He already didn’t like me to begin with. He even ignored Hinata.”

“I don’t blame him,” Iwaizumi says. He opens his eyes, and they immediately land on Kageyama’s reflection in the mirror. He’s standing a few feet behind Iwaizumi, staring down at the ground and absently smoothing his thumbs over the rest of his fingers.

“I thought… both of us thought you already told him. That’s the only reason Hinata said it. He didn’t mean to.”

Even now, Iwaizumi marvels, Kageyama’s first instinct is to defend Hinata. “It’s fine,” he says. “I’m not mad at him.”

“And… we should never have asked you to date him,” Kageyama admits. “It wasn’t fair.”

Iwaizumi figures it’s as much of an apology as Kageyama is capable of giving, but the thought brings him little comfort. “It was my fault more than anyone’s,” he says. “I threw away something I care about because I was too scared to tell the truth. God, he deserved—deserves—so much better.”

Kageyama hums. “Do you think he would have forgiven you if you told him earlier?”

“Maybe.” Iwaizumi grimaces. “Who knows. It was always going to be a mess, wasn’t it?”

Plunk.

“What are you going to do now?” Kageyama asks.

“What can I do?” Iwaizumi lifts a shoulder and drops it in a helpless shrug. “Give him space, go to college, and try to date new people even though I don’t want anyone else. I don’t fucking know.”

A crease forms on Kageyama’s forehead. “You’re not going to try to get him back? At all?”

Iwaizumi barks out a scathing laugh and finally turns around to face Kageyama. “Hell no. All I’ve ever done is hurt him.”

The crease deepens. “That’s not true.”

“Yeah, it is. You really think the cutesy dates and flirting and what-the-fuck-ever make up for the fact that I lied to him for weeks? He’s better off without me.” Shaking his head, Iwaizumi grips the edge of the sink to either side of him and leans back against it. “Kuroo told me that Oikawa gives too many second chances, and he’s right. I’m not going to go to him and ask for another one when I can’t promise I won’t screw it up again.”

“I see,” Kageyama says. There’s disapproval in his voice.

Iwaizumi huffs another humorless laugh. “Don’t worry, I’ll get over it. Everyone’s gotta get their heart broken at least once, right?”

Kageyama blinks at him. “Is it?” he asks. “Broken? I didn’t think you felt that strongly.”

Iwaizumi pauses to consider that. “I think,” he says, “that if we met in some different way, in a different life, he could have been it for me.” He pauses. “I think that’s the sappiest thing I’ve ever said.”

“Oh,” Kageyama intones.

“Yeah, ‘oh,’ ” Iwaizumi repeats.

They lapse into silence, and Kageyama looks troubled for several seconds before he breaks it. “I’m going to go find Hinata,” he says. “Feel better, Iwaizumi-san.”

“Sure,” Iwaizumi says, though he doubts he will. Kageyama gives him a jerky nod, turns, and pulls the door open with too much force on his way out. Iwaizumi watches as the heel of his sneaker disappears, then as the heavy door slides shut with a slow thud.

Turning back to the sink, he washes and dries his hands, ignoring the faint tremors that run through them. Then, reaching into his back pocket, he pulls out Oikawa’s letter and the accompanying package of chocolates.

He stares at the kanji until they no longer look like words. By the time he snaps out of it and folds the note back up, he has every word memorized. Congratulations

I, the great Oikawa-san

Worthy of the immense privilege

Iwaizumi doesn’t feel worthy of anything. He considers tossing the note in the trash, but the thought is fleeting and passes as quickly as it came. Oikawa may never want to speak to him again, and the note may be more painful than heartwarming to read in the context of all his mistakes, but he can’t bring himself to throw away the last good memory he has of Oikawa. A souvenir from the last moment he was blameless in Oikawa’s eyes.

So the note goes back in his pocket, and Iwaizumi fishes his cell phone out of his other one.

He dials, it rings three times, and then she picks up. “Mom?” Iwaizumi says.

“Hajime? What do you need?”

“Can you come pick me up?”

There’s a small shuffling sound on the other end, and Iwaizumi imagines his mother stacking and restacking the files on her desk. “Didn’t you drive today?”

“I… don’t think I can do that right now,” Iwaizumi admits.

His mom must pick up on how subdued he sounds, because she softens. “Leave the motorcycle, then. We can get it tomorrow.” She says: “I’ll be right there.

Iwaizumi breathes out a word of thanks and hangs up. He slumps, exhaustion coiling into him down to his bones, and tries to hold off on breaking down until he gets home.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Iwaizumi retreats into himself, barely leaves his room for the rest of the weekend and doesn’t bother to rouse himself for school on Monday, either. The last thing on earth he wants is to have to see anybody, especially anybody who knows about what happened. He wonders if it’s possible for him to skip graduation entirely and get his diploma sent to him in the mail.

His mom comes in to check on him once or twice, bringing him water or hot tea or plates of cut fruit. For the most part, though, she stays in her study and leaves him be, with the quiet understanding that he’ll approach her when he’s ready to talk. She has more than enough on her plate already, what with a recent project at work eating up all her spare time, and Iwaizumi would feel guilty asking her to shoulder his own problems as well.

It’s not until late in the day, long after he would normally have been released from school, that Iwaizumi finally bothers to drags himself out of bed. After a shower and a change of clothes, he trudges downstairs to find an empty kitchen and a bright yellow sticky note plastered to the fridge.

Meeting running late! it reads. Soup warming on stove + rice in fridge. :)

With a wan smile, Iwaizumi measures out two portions of rice and heats them up in the microwave. Then he takes out two more bowls and ladles spoonfuls of wonton soup into each. He places his mother’s food across the table from him, in case her meeting ends and she decides to have dinner, and mutters a quick itadakimasu before tucking in.

Sure enough, he’s already halfway through his food when his mom joins him, ruffling his hair tiredly, and they have their meal in silence. Iwaizumi realizes that he doesn’t actually know what time it is and cranes his head to check the kitchen clock, which reads 4:23.

An odd time to be eating dinner, but Iwaizumi’s sense of time is shot, so he accepts it.

Iwaizumi finishes eating first and piles his empty dishes into a precarious stack. He pushes it into the center of the table and clears his throat twice to get his mom’s attention. “Hey, mom?” he asks, waiting until she looks up at him with a curious expression. “Can I ask you something?”

She puts her spoon down and straightens up. “Of course, Hajime. What do you need?”

“It’s about dad,” Iwaizumi says carefully. “You guys got married early, didn’t you?”

Something in her eyes softens the way it always does whenever anyone brings up her late husband. “You could say that,” she says.

“Did you ever… did you ever regret it?”

Her lips purse together as she considers that. “...No,” she says. “Well, I’m biased. We didn’t end up having a lot of time together, so… in hindsight I’m glad we didn’t waste any of it.”

“Right.” Iwaizumi taps his fingers absently on his thigh, frowning. “How did you guys do it?”

His mom laughs. “Do what?”

“How were you, I don’t know—how were you always so happy together?” A lump forms in Iwaizumi’s throat, like the rice he just ate has solidified into a mass and is refusing to slide down into his stomach.

“Oh, honey.” She rests her elbows on the table and leans forward. It feels like she can see through every inch of him, and his shoulders hunch. “We weren’t. Everyone makes mistakes when they’re young and in love, and we had our share. But in the end I chose him, and he chose me, and we cared enough to fix things when they broke apart.”

She fixes him with a meaningful look, and Iwaizumi lets his eyes drop to his lap. “I don’t know if I can,” he says. “And—you don’t even know what I did.”

“Hajime.” She reaches out, laying her hand on the table with the palm facing up. Iwaizumi takes it, and she squeezes tight. “It’ll be okay.”

The dam breaks, and everything comes flooding out. Iwaizumi swipes his free hand against his eyes, smearing angry tears against his skin. Through halting words and shaky breaths, he explains all the events of the past few weeks, every cold regret festering under his tongue. His mom listens patiently, absorbing it all, and doesn’t speak. He’s grateful for it.

When he finishes talking, his voice is raspy, and he takes a deep, shuddery breath. His mom is smoothing her thumb over his knuckles in comforting, repetitive strokes, and the gentle touch grounds him. “You did mess up,” she says. “But now you have a chance to fix it, Hajime.”

“How?” Iwaizumi asks. He feels like a little boy again, shrinking in on himself in the face of his mom’s kind disappointment.

“Do the thing you didn’t do all those times before,” she says. “Tell the truth.”

“Okay.” Iwaizumi bows his head. “What if he doesn’t forgive me?”

Another squeeze, the faint warmth of his mom’s hand around his own. “Then that’s his right, and you’ll need to respect that. But if you think this boy is worth fighting for, then you better at least try to work things out.”

Iwaizumi swallows past the lump in his throat. He thinks about Oikawa’s bright laughter, the mischievous quirk that appears at the corner of his mouth when he knows he’s up to no good. “He’s worth it,” Iwaizumi says. “And I will.”

“That’s my boy,” his mom says, which makes him feel like crying all over again.

He collects their finished dishes and puts them in the sink to soak, kisses the top of his mom’s head, and returns to his room. The first thing he does when he gets there is to sit at his desk and call Hanamaki, because Oikawa isn’t the only person who deserves an apology from him. He presses the phone to his ear, holds his breath for three torturously slow rings, wonders if his friend will even pick up.

Just as he’s losing hope, the ringing stops, and there’s a crackle on line. “Iwaizumi?” Hanamaki’s voice comes through, guarded.

“I’m sorry,” Iwaizumi says, all in a rush. “You were right all along, and I’m sorry for snapping at you, and I’m sorry for not listening to you about Oikawa.”

Hanamaki clicks his tongue. There’s a long silence, and Iwaizumi pictures him getting up to shut his door, then walking back to his bed and sinking down on it. “Slow down, Iwaizumi,” he says. “It’s okay. I get it. I was just trying to look out for you, in the end. That’s all.”

“I know. And I should have appreciated it more.”

“At least you’re finally realizing what a great friend I am.” Hanamaki huffs a laugh, staticky and oh-so-familiar. “Buy me cream puffs for a week, and we’ll call it even.”

“Are you sure?” Iwaizumi asks.

“I’m sure,” Hanamaki confirms. A wave of relief crashes over Iwaizumi, unscrewing his wound-up shoulders and making his limbs feel lighter. “Honestly, I’m sorry for ever encouraging you to go along with that stupid arrangement in the first place. If you’d seen the look on your face when you were reading Oikawa’s letter…”

“I know.” He still has the letter and the box of chocolates it came with; they’re sitting haphazardly on his desk, untouched from when he tossed them there after the disastrous festival. “I heard you yelled at Hinata and Kageyama?”

Hanamaki chuckles. “I’d say I feel bad about that, but I really don’t. If they haven’t begged for Oikawa’s forgiveness already, I’d be surprised.” Something sobers in his tone. “Speaking of, what are you going to do about him now?”

Iwaizumi sighs. It feels like that’s all he’s been doing lately. “First I’m going to find out if he still wants to talk to me, after everything. And then… I don’t know what I’m going to say if he does.”

“I think that’s good,” Hanamaki says, with a thoughtful hum. “Best not to overthink things. Take it one step at a time.”

“Yeah. Sounds good.” After all, overthinking is a lot of what got him into this mess in the first place.

Hanamaki makes an impatient noise in the back of his throat. “Okay, enough about your sad excuse for a love life. I’ve missed my best friend, man. Want to come over and play Smash or something?”

Iwaizumi’s face splits into a grin. “Hell yeah,” he says. “Prepare to get crushed, man.”

“Oh, you’re on.”

The line goes dead, and Iwaizumi throws himself out of his desk chair, rushing to wash his face and put on some real clothes. For the first time in what already feels like ages, a tentative hope rises in his chest.

 


 

Of course, making the resolution to fix things with Oikawa is the easy part. Actually setting up a time to talk to him is near impossible. First, Iwaizumi tries messaging him on line. Read receipts show up under his texts, which proves that Oikawa is at least opening them. He doesn’t receive a single response, but Oikawa hasn’t blocked him yet. He tells himself not to read too much into things, but… that has to be a good sign, right?

When he finally does return to school the next day, he finds that things are no different in person. Oikawa barely looks at him as he rattles off their daily announcements, and he seems to be taking extra steps to ensure that he’s always surrounded by people, always in the middle of a crowd. Not to mention that every time Iwaizumi so much as breathes in Oikawa’s direction, Kuroo and Bokuto are somehow there, scowling at him. Iwaizumi hates making eye contact with either of them; Bokuto looks too much like a kicked puppy, and Kuroo just glares at him so hard that Iwaizumi’s bones physically creak under the weight of his scorn.

That evening, desperate, he turns to LINE again.

 

You: Oikawa? I can see that you’re getting these.

Read 3:23 p.m.

 

You: Can we talk? I owe you an explanation.

Read 3:23 p.m.

 

You: I understand if you don’t want to. Just say the word and I’ll stop contacting you, I promise.

Read 3:24 p.m.

 

But Oikawa doesn’t give him an answer one way or the other, so Iwaizumi is left in conflicted limbo. He doesn’t want to automatically assume that Oikawa is willing to hear him out, but it also doesn’t seem like he’s not willing to hear him out. And since reaching Oikawa directly isn’t working, Iwaizumi is forced to fall back on the two people closest to him.

He is so not looking forward to this.

He tries Bokuto first because, truth be told, he’s a little scared about what Kuroo will do to him if they ever end up alone together. Iwaizumi catches him at the tail end of Wednesday’s baseball practice. “Hey, Bokuto,” he says, falling into step next to the athlete as he leaves the locker room.

Bokuto spares him a sideways glance, and his mouth droops into an unhappy frown. “Iwaizumi,” he says. “I thought you were cool, man. But what you did to Oikawa was… really uncool.”

Iwaizumi winces; that cuts deeper than it probably should. “I know, and I’m sorry,” he says. “And I want to tell him that, too, if he’ll let me. Will you ask him—”

“I mean,” Bokuto continues, like all of Iwaizumi’s words have bounced right off him, “it takes him a long time to open up to people, you know? Everyone likes him, but he doesn’t like a lot of people, not really. And when everyone likes you, it’s hard finding out that one of the only people you actually want to feel that way… doesn’t.”

Iwaizumi’s breath catches in his lungs, and his feet stall on the laminate tiles. He hadn’t expected Bokuto to say anything so thoughtful, but maybe he should have known better. Bokuto, for all his brashness and exuberance, knows people, understands them on an intrinsic level like no one else does, maybe not even Oikawa.

In the end, he’s left staring at Bokuto’s broad back as it grows smaller and smaller. Neither his legs nor his tongue seem to be functioning properly.

But I do, Iwaizumi thinks, long after Bokuto has turned the corner and disappeared. I do feel that way.

Iwaizumi goes to Kuroo next. He’s harder to pin down, more unpredictable than Bokuto is. But through a series of inquiries—by which he means asking Hinata, who seems to know everyone—he learns that Kuroo likes to spend his time hanging around a certain second-year on the eSports team.

Their next meeting happens to be at lunch the next day, and sure enough, when Iwaizumi drops in on the computer lab, Kuroo is there. He’s in a beanbag in the corner of the room, tapping on his phone, lifting his head occasionally to keep tabs on the short blond kid at the computer in front of him. And since everyone else in the room is wearing a headset and focusing intently on whatever game they’re playing, Kuroo is the only one who notices it when Iwaizumi enters.

His eyes turn flinty, and he climbs stiffly to his feet. “Iwaizumi,” he says. “Haven’t you done enough damage?”

Iwaizumi lifts both hands in surrender. “I’m just here to talk,” he says. “Please.”

“Whatever you’re doing,” the blond kid pipes up suddenly, startling both of them, “can you do it outside? We’re in the middle of a boss fight.”

Kuroo pauses, looking Iwaizumi up and down, before sighing and jerking his head toward the door. Iwaizumi leaves the room first, Kuroo following a few paces behind, and they emerge into the empty hallway.

“Oikawa doesn’t want to talk to you,” Kuroo informs him, voice hard.

Iwaizumi clenches his jaw. “Did Oikawa say that?” he asks. “Or is this you speaking for him again?”

That makes Kuroo hesitate. Only for a second, but it’s enough for Iwaizumi to notice and press in on the advantage. “If he says no, I swear to god I’ll listen, I’ll never bring it up again,” he says. “But let that be his decision. Please."

He meets Kuroo’s gaze and holds it for a long moment, and then the taller boy exhales, blowing the messy bangs out of his face. “I’ll ask him,” he says, finally. “I can’t promise anything—and, I’m not going to lie, I hope he stays away from you… but you’re right. It’s his choice.”

Iwaizumi nods. It’s the most he can expect out of Kuroo. “Thank you.”

Kuroo grunts, already detaching himself from the conversation. Iwaizumi lets him go.

Two days later, he’s busy drying his hair after an evening shower when his phone, lying unneeded on the bathroom counter, chimes with a notification. His heart kicks up several notches, and he holds his breath as he clicks into it.

 

Oikawa Tooru: okay, iwa-chan.

Oikawa Tooru: tomorrow at 7. you know the place.

 

That night, Iwaizumi sleeps the easiest he has all week.

 


 

He rereads Oikawa’s message for the thousandth time in a row, hoping he’s where he’s supposed to be. Hoping he didn’t completely misunderstand it. As soon as he tucks his phone back in his pocket, his fingers itch to take it out again, like the two short texts are a lifeline, and he’s lost at sea without them.

This is the same park—hell, even the same bench—they’d met in after their first fight, after Kuroo’s party. The two of them had managed to work things out then, albeit under false pretenses, and Iwaizumi desperately prays for a similar resolution this time around.

Giving in, he pulls out his phone again just in time to watch 6:58 turn into 6:59 on the digital clock. He gulps.

Oikawa is, for once in his life, punctual, and Iwaizumi hears the crunch of gravel and dirt underfoot the exact moment 6:59 changes to 7:00. Drawing a deep, shaky breath, he raises his head.

Oikawa moves with all the fluid confidence that Iwaizumi has come to view as his trademark, hands tucked in his pockets and chin held high. The only sign of hesitation is in the slight downward slant of his lips, but it’s enough to make the rest of his affected nonchalance feel fake.

“Iwaizumi,” he says.

“Oikawa,” Iwaizumi greets. “I want to apologize to you. For everything.”

“Am I the only one getting deja vu here?” Oikawa asks, the sides of his mouth pulling up in a sardonic smile. “How many times are you going to have to stand in front of me saying sorry for something, Iwa-chan?”

Iwaizumi flinches, but the jab is deserved. “As many times as it takes,” he says.

“Make this one good, then,” Oikawa says. He folds his arms in front of himself. The wind rustles his hair and the hem of his coat. It’s early enough in the year for a light chill to hang in the air, but Iwaizumi thinks he would be cold down to his bones even if they were having this conversation in the middle of summer.

“I’m sorry,” Iwaizumi says. That feels like a good place to start. “I know I’ve said it before, but I need you to know how much I mean it, Oikawa. I think about it so much, all the times I could have told you the truth and stopped myself, and—and I regret not being honest with you sooner. More than anything, I hate that I hurt you.”

Iwaizumi watches the bob of Oikawa’s Adam’s apple as he swallows. A complicated array of emotions flits over his features; Iwaizumi refuses to let himself stop to try and decipher them. If he does, he’ll lose his nerve. “I wanted to help Kageyama and Hinata, but I should have gone about it differently. I should have told them to talk things out with Hinata’s parents instead of trying to deceive them—and deceive you in the process.” He pauses, chokes on the next words, biting down on the inside of his cheek until he tastes copper. “The only good thing to come out of this whole convoluted mess is that I got to know you,” he says. “That’s the only thing I don’t regret.”

Oikawa inclines his head, accepting that. His eyes are so deep and unfathomable Iwaizumi could drown in them, and it’s hard to keep from letting his gaze falter. But he soldiers on. “At the festival, you accused me of not telling you the truth because I didn’t care about you enough.” Those words had sunk deep into Iwaizumi’s skin, rattled around in his skull. He doesn’t think he’ll ever forget the bitterness etched into Oikawa’s face when he said it. “That wasn’t—the thing was, I cared about you too much. I was scared, and I couldn’t stand the idea of losing you over my mistakes, and—it’s not an excuse, but it’s what I thought.”

“I don’t expect you to forgive me,” Iwaizumi says, “but I want you to know that my feelings haven’t changed. And if you are willing to given me another chance, I can promise you I’ll do anything to get you to trust me again.”

Having said his piece, Iwaizumi shifts his weight back on his heels and falls quiet. Everything is in Oikawa’s hands now, their future a tenuous string he could cut at any moment. But, Iwaizumi thinks, even if the answer he gets isn’t the one he wants, he’s glad all his cards are on the table. He spent weeks lying, digging himself into deeper and deeper holes, and it’s a relief to finally have laid his heart open.

Finally, after what feels like centuries, Oikawa sighs, and Iwaizumi’s head snaps up to look at him. “Nine out of ten,” he says, wry. “I’ll forgive you if you call me Oikawa-san.”

Iwaizumi has to fight down the urge to argue. He swallows his pride, dips his head, and says, “I’m sorry, Oikawa-san.”

Oikawa makes a conflicted noise. “Okay,” he says. He worries at his bottom lip. “Actually, that was weird. I don’t know if I liked it.”

Iwaizumi waits. He wonders if Oikawa is stretching this out on purpose, keeping him in purgatory as a form of punishment. Iwaizumi wouldn’t blame him.

“All right.” Oikawa seems to have come to a decision; the vindictive gleam fades from his eye, overtaken by a severe look. “I forgive you, Iwa-chan,” he says, and Iwaizumi is so relieved he has to stuff his hands in his pockets so Oikawa doesn’t see them shake. “That doesn’t mean we can go back to how we were before. Not right away, at least.”

Sobering, Iwaizumi nods. He’s going to make sure to listen this time, to every word Oikawa has to say. From here on out, he’s going to get it right.

“I, against all logic and common sense, still want to be around you,” Oikawa says. “And I think you mean well, really. But try to pull something like that again, and I’m gone.”

“If I ever mess up that badly again, I would want you to leave,” Iwaizumi tells him.

“Good,” Oikawa uncrosses his arms and lets them fall to his sides. “I want to be able to trust you, Iwa-chan, but I can’t do that unless you start talking to me. I want you to tell me everything: when you’re upset about something, or upset with me, or when you need help. It hurt that you kept things from me, but it also hurts when I feel like you can’t talk to me about stuff that’s on your mind.”

“I understand.” Iwaizumi clasps his hands together in front of him. He hopes Oikawa can see, in his posture and in his every word, that he means it. “I will.”

“And… Tetsu and Bokkun.” Oikawa’s brows draw together in a small frown. “I’ll explain things to them, but I can’t promise they won’t still be upset. It’s not up to me when or if they choose to want to be around you.”

That makes Iwaizumi’s heart constrict—against all odds, he’d been starting to enjoy spending time with Bokuto and Kuroo—but it’s fair enough. “I understand,” he repeats.

“I guess we can try this out, then,” Oikawa says. “For real this time.”

“For real,” Iwaizumi confirms. He takes a slow step forward, unlacing his fingers and reaching out with one hand. “Can I touch you?”

Oikawa smiles and slots his hand into Iwaizumi’s. His skin is warm and dry. “It’s getting dark,” he says. “Let’s go.”

Iwaizumi unchains the metal gate and holds it open for Oikawa. They walk in unison, out of the park and down the street. Iwaizumi can’t stop staring at their interlocked fingers. He counts the sidewalk squares beneath them: one, two, three, trying to remember exactly how many of them there are on the way to Oikawa’s house. Now that he has Oikawa for real, however tenuously, he never wants to let go.

The moon is a faint white circle in the sky, growing more pronounced with every minute. Iwaizumi cuts his eyes sideways to see Oikawa’s profile silhouetted against the sunset, fading light illuminating his cheek and the bridge of his nose.

A thought occurs to him. “Did Hinata and Kageyama already talk to you?” he asks.

He’s not expecting the wicked curve that appears along Oikawa’s lips. “Oh, they did,” he says. “I have pictures. Did you know that Tobio-chan can do a very good dogeza? Excellent form.”

Iwaizumi groans. “I can’t believe you,” he says.

“It’s what I deserve, Iwa-chan.”

There’s no denying that, he supposes.

They walk all the way to Oikawa’s front door, hands fitted together up until the moment Oikawa has to let go to fish his keys out of his messenger bag.

Oikawa doesn’t kiss Iwaizumi this time. He does smile, though, hesitant but real, and maybe that’s enough.

Iwaizumi trips over a rock on his way back to the sidewalk, and he barely even notices. He wonders if this is what love feels like. He’ll have to ask his mom if she knows.

 


 

So they relearn each other like that, slow and cautious. They are two tectonic plates colliding; they are two birds, painstakingly careful, weaving a house together out of delicate blades of grass.

Holding hands turns into short embraces turns into soft lips against cheeks, foreheads, inner wrists. One day, Iwaizumi asks if he can comb through Oikawa’s hair to pick out a fallen leaf. Oikawa lets him, ducking his head slightly, and Iwaizumi’s fingers shake as they brush against soft curls.

A week later, they’re at a cafe downtown, and Oikawa kisses him for the first time since their talk, the first kiss they’ve had with nothing between them. He tastes like coffee with too much sugar, and he smiles against Iwaizumi’s lips, and it fills Iwaizumi with so much sunlight he could burn alive from the inside out.

Kuroo and Bokuto take longer to come around, all snide comments and wary glances. But Iwaizumi goes to great lengths to avoid saying or doing anything that could hurt Oikawa again, and gradually, he proves himself to them as well.

By the time the last day of school finally rolls around, Iwaizumi feels certain that their newfound relationship is strong enough to withstand the separation that will come with graduation. And he’s glad for it. He wants to learn who Oikawa is in the summer, sticky-sweet lips and bare calves and sweat dripping down the nape of his neck. And after that he wants to learn how Oikawa sounds on the phone from a different university’s campus, how Oikawa’s clothes look strewn around his dorm room. Sometimes it scares him, how greedy he’s being already, but he wants all of it. He wants all of Oikawa.

And through it all, affection blooms in the center of Iwaizumi’s chest until ‘affection’ no longer covers the entirety of what it is.

There’s no other way to put it except that he loves Oikawa, and he knows that this is something he’s going to have to say out loud. It might be too soon, the balance between them might be too fragile, but: I want you to tell me everything, Oikawa had said, and Iwaizumi intends to.

“All right, everyone.” Their teacher heaves a long-suffering sigh, glaring at all of them over the rim of her glasses. “I know you’re all excited that it’s the last day, but we have a few more things to get through before I can dismiss you. Oikawa-kun?”

With a blinding smile, Oikawa takes his place at the front of the room. “Thank you, sensei,” he says. Then he turns to the class. “And congratulations on almost graduating, everyone! I’ll save the sappy stuff for my actual speech tomorrow, but please know that this is a great accomplishment for every single one of you.”

He breezes through several announcements about proper conduct at the ceremony: what to wear, what not to do, and when to show up. Iwaizumi is only half-listening. They’ve had this stuff drilled into their heads all year; there’s no way any of them could forget now. He’s much more interested in the way the tips of Oikawa’s hair curl over his starched uniform collar. It’s getting long, and Iwaizumi wonders if he plans to cut it anytime soon. He hopes not.

“—and that’s everything I needed to cover,” Oikawa concludes. He clears his throat, and Iwaizumi jumps, shaken out of his reverie. “And now, I’ll ask for the final time: does anyone have anything they want to add?”

It’s a formality. It’s always been a formality, for Oikawa to open the floor to the rest of the class at the end of every speech he gives. As far as Iwaizumi can remember, no one’s ever taken him up on the offer. But that changes today.

He raises his hand, hiding his delight at the surprise that takes over Oikawa’s face. “Iwa-ch—Iwaizumi-kun?” he asks. “Do you have something to share?”

“I guess so,” Iwaizumi says. He stands up.

“What are you doing?” Hanamaki hisses at him from the next seat over. Iwaizumi ignores him.

“I’m only speaking for myself here,” Iwaizumi begins, “but I think some people in this class might agree with me.” He takes a deep breath and looks straight at Oikawa.

“I hate it when you’re always late,” he says. He hears a muffled snort from the teacher, and smiles. “And how you get away with it every time. I hate how much time you spend on your hair, and I hate how all that time pays off, because it always looks so good.

“I hate—” Iwaizumi’s voice cracks, and he clears his throat. “I hate the way you’re always right, but I hate it more when you think you’re wrong. I hate it when you make me laugh. I hate crying over you, and knowing that you’ve cried over me.”

Oikawa presses a trembling hand to his mouth. His eyes are shiny with unshed tears, countless emotions pooling within them and threatening to spill out. Iwaizumi feels the same way. He says, “I hate knowing that I’ll never be able to give you what you deserve, because no one ever could.”

The next words are crawling vines, wrapping their tendrils around his throat and strangling him, but he forces them out anyway. He’s already wasted too much time backing down from the things he wants to say. “But what I hate about you the most,” Iwaizumi says, “is the way I’m so in love with you that I don’t know how to think about anything else. Oikawa Tooru, thank you for being an incredible class president, and an even better partner.”

Oikawa lets out a low sound that resembles a sob, and he crosses the room in four quick strides to launch himself at Iwaizumi. And it’s instinct, the way Iwaizumi’s arms wrap around him so easily, the way one of his hands comes up to cradle Oikawa’s head. Oikawa is teary and messy, and there are going to be damp spots on his blazer, but he can’t find it in himself to care.

Belatedly, Iwaizumi realizes that the entire class is still staring at them. Kuroo blinks once, twice, and ends up being the first to recover. “That,” he drawls, “was the cheesiest thing I have ever witnessed in my goddamn life.”

“Seconded,” Hanamaki is quick to put in.

A few other students tear their eyes away, giggling into their hands or leaning across aisles to whisper to each other. But for the first time, Iwaizumi doesn’t care what they’re saying about him. He doesn’t care that they’re talking about him at all. Everything is secondary, background noise compared to Oikawa’s arms around his neck, Oikawa’s weight against his chest.

“Thank you, Hajime,” Oikawa says into his shoulder, and Iwaizumi smiles.

They’re going to be alright.